This is me:
What Is Your Animal Personality?

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Do you remember when it was possible to be an expert in several computer languages? Between about 1980, when high-level languages started to be commonly studied, and around 1995, a student of computing might be highly competent in Pascal, Ada, Cobol and Basic. They might also have a working knowledge of Fortran, 68000 assembler and Forth, and they'd at least be aware of Awk, Oberon, and BCPL.

Now it's almost impossible to be a genuine expert in just one language, like C++. There's lots of people who have expertise in one or two kinds of application in C++, but I'd think less than 50 in the world who could use it to create any application - and most of them incapable of explaining it to the rest of us. The same goes for Linux.

In the relatively small field I'm looking at now - solid dymanics modelling applied to musical sound - there's Csound, Max/MSP, PureData and others, all powerful, flexible, and with their own philosophies and communities.

And there's me, struggling with introductions to pointers, structs and classes in C++, after a decade in the wilderness. Was that really me who used to spend every spare hour making graphics and games on a 48K Spectrum?


Well, I have installed MS Visual C++ 4, and it's typical Microsoft. Very powerful but utterly impenetrable and unusable for the non-expert, making it about as much use as a concrete paintbrush.

All I want is a simple combined text editor for writing the code, debugger for checking errors, and compiler for making exes and dlls. Such a beast is called an IDE (Integrated Development Environment), and there's several good free ones around.

I tried Dev-C++, from the intriguingly named Bloodshed Software. It comes recommended from a lot of users, but I couldn't get it to compile for some reason.

Another is Quincy, on which I've written my very first successful C++ program. I bet you can't guess what it does...

using namespace std;

int main()
cout<<"Hello World.\n";
return 0;


I seem to be living on the only part of the south coast without snow. It's still bloody cold, forecast to last another week.

My brother and Debbie stayed for the evening and night, before leaving this morning, for two hours of mutual carsickness back to Redhill. Other families eat leftover christmas dinner till the new year - no chance of that with us five.

Note in passing that i'm feeling stuffed, bloated, weak, heavy and unhealthy. In a word, polluted.

Exactly what prompted my brother to suddenly shack up with a young woman after two decades of zero interest in relationships, I don't know. But he did, and I like his choice - she's funny, smart, unpretentious and politically switched on.
I'm looking at C++ again. It's been 12 years since I officially left the world of computer programming, and I'm still confused by details of pointers and object orientation, but it doesn't look like it would be too difficult to program a simulation of a vibrating sonic membrane - a drumhead.

Samples of real drums are the next best thing to actually having the real drums, unless the real thing can be modelled to vary in ways that samples can't match.

The physics of drumskins isn't that different from the physics of resonating boards in stringed instruments, so an algorothm for one should be adaptable for the other.
Paul T has no one to be christmassy with this year, so I'm off to cycle through the freezing air for a plate of pasta and detailed accounts of how no one else is talking to him.
UPDATE: I don't think you're supposed to collapse after ten minutes riding a bike. I didn't lose consciousness - just got the dizzyness, blurred vision and a strong desire to lie down on the pavement and not get up again for an hour.

In the event, we managed to walk to Paul's place, and I lay on his nice warm floor for an hour.

It's 1345 the next day, and I'm not feeling fully recovered. I think the problem is transmission of oxygen from the lungs to the bloodstream, as opposed to lung capacity or muscle strength.

...Oh Bugger

Or possibly Bah Humblog.

I don't want to think about all the calories we've consumed over the last three days. Chocolates, cheese, chocolates, christmas cake, chocolates and christmas dinner. Interspeced with mince pies and cream. And chocolates.

My brother and his girlfriend Debbie are visiting tomorrow, and their capacity for rich food is even greater than ours.

However, after boxing day it's back on the metaphorical and literal treadmill, for me at least. Soft belly, hard arteries, fat eating and thin breathing are not things I want to carry with me for the next 20 years to a death at 53.
My camcorder was good value at UKP650 in 2000, with Hi-8 recording at 320x240, double that resolution for stills, and a rechargable battery that lasts 6 hours. But now the remote control doesn't work, the battery cuts out at odd moments, and the still resolution is less than the lowest setting on a UKP50 camera. The operation now seems clunky, slow, and inflexible. Pictures now look grainy and noisy.

So I've fallen prey to impulse, and spent UKP40 on ebay, on a camera/camcorder with still resolution up to 2048x1536 and truely digital storage instead of Hi-8 tape.

The thing is, I didn't absolutely need to buy it yet - the old one is still more-or-less adaquate, and I've spent rather a lot already recently.

Money doesn't just burn a hole in my pocket, it burns its way out of my paypal account too. Maybe it shouldn't be so easy to spend money.
The long awaited Dr Who special "The Christmas Invasion" was something of a disappointment. It wasn't especially bad, just painfully generic, as well as overacted by the new lead. With the usual smattering of 'broad' humour and pseudo-thoughtful soliloquey.

The episode seemed to serve as an introduction to the spinoff series "Torchwood" (anagram of "Doctor Who") which is supposedly darker and more adult.
6 days till 2006, about three weeks till the expected unpleasantness of the SWP party conference (and my 34th birthday), about 6 week till my father's 70th birthday, 9 months till I (maybe) have to move out of this town, and 365 days till it's boxing day again. And 8 hours till I have to deal with any of it.


Some things about me. Including why I need a better camera.

My Eyes:

My Ears:

The Ghost of Music Past:

The Ghost of Music Future:

Things for Ebay:

Dino (brown ears) and Spock:


Isn't christmas supposed to be a time of exhausted parents and hyperactively excited children? If so, the dogs are frantically running around shouting all the time, and I'm a foster daddy.

Dino is enjoying his squeaking pink plastic hedgehog. And I challenge you to find that sentence in any other blog in the world.
I had been working on an EP of Nick's songs, as a small suprise for him. As it turned out, I had neither the voice nor the time to complete any but one track. However, he's rather pleased with the one song. It really does feel good to give.
Due to our slightly strange way of watching television, we played highlights from the last week today, and recorded films that we'll probably watch in the new year. Or possibly next July.

Right now, there are two computers doing nothing but fill tens of gigbytes with seasonal TV by day, and recode them at night.
Mother's home made hats, scarves and jackets are a little on the small side. Or rather, we're a lot too large for them. Which is fortunate in a way, because I've never seen anyone wearing anything quite like them.
For months, I've kept meaning to re-establish regular contact with H, but could never think of anything interesting to say over email. But I'm thinking it's better to say anything at all than to have anything at all to say. If you see what I mean.

It's the same with CW, and others. I know they're the same as me - better at cooperation than conversation.
I really must find out exactly what Hanukkah is.

Four Blessings, No Funeral

I'm drunk, overstuffed, exhausted and happy. This is the way christmas should feel. Goodnight, warm hugs and happy sleighbells to you.

Say Aaah

My vocal range is from about A2 to around F3. That's 21 semitones in the low baritone range. My singing voice is rubbish at the moment - all quavering and creaky - and I have sung higher in the past, so the actual range is probably about two octaves.
We have four lowish spec PCs - ranging from 1 to 1.3 GHz, 128 to 1024 MB or RAM, and hard disks from 8 to 70GB. The plan is to canibalise them into one for DAB recording and cassette/vinyl digitisation, and another as a general 'spare'. And then put the pile of 6GB drives, slow memory, unstable motherboards, obsolete PCI cards and great big plastic boxes into a skip.

One of those tasks which is simple but time consuming. Cataloguing which bits are in which box, working out which bits are compatable with which other bits, and having four computers disembowled on the floor without losing track of what is going where.
I've been looking into the murky world of credit cards. So far, I've lived 33 years without ever feeling the need for plastic borrowing, and the only reason I'm considering it now is the number of useful things purchasable online that don't use paypal. Mainly some extremely cool VSTs and DirectX plugins at a fraction of the market price.

What? You don't trust the sellers? Neither do I.

So, sometime in the new year, I could find a card with a 0% APR introductory offer and no annual fee, make a small flurry of purchases, and pay off the interest immidiately, after cutting the card into small pieces with scissors.

What? You don't trust the banks? Neither do I.
My services are again required as anenuensis (yes, dictation secretary) to John M tomorrow afternoon, transcribing an article for his 'other' career as world renowned art critic.

Followed by the annual christmas party where I drink too much rum punch and join in the midnight garden jam session of hand drums.

Boo and Hiss

I'm told everyone should eat six pieces of fruit a day. This must be the first time in my life I've done it - albeit pureed into something that resembles weak porridge.

On the one hand, I don't feel heavy, ill or lethargic. On the other, I've got big cravings for foods that make me feel that way. An enormous cheese sandwich, fried english breakfast, crisps and chocolate. Especially chocolate.
I have a few stacks of Paul T's vinyl records, some up to twenty years old. My parents have a stack of their own vinyl, some up to fifty years old. Trying to digitise them and clean up the signal, I have come to the conclusion that a variable width groove cut into plastic is a truely abysmal way to record sound.

Analogue tape - reel-to-reel or compact cassette - has a constant red noise in the background and a tendency to saturation distortion (together described as 'analogue warmth' by enthusiasts). But at least you don't get crackles, skips, and a sound like you're sitting in a tin shed. You do, of course, get frequency dropout in quiet sounds with both tape and vinyl.

So, in digitising wax, I'm trying to improve on what the needle reads. First sample the whole record into Audition, making sure the signal peaks at around -3dB. Second, identify an area with nothing but hiss and crackles (usually right at the start), and use that as a template for what to remove in Audition's crackle remover. Third, create a noise profile for the pre-amp hum, and attenuate it by 75-100%.

Forth, the clever bit. Apply high levels of excitation (I use the Xcita VST from Elolonga) to the remaining tinny sound. The result almost certainly doesn't recreate the sound of pristine vinyl, let alone the studio tapes, but it is listenable to my jaded ears.
Seven days till turkey day. We have no tree, tinsel or lights, and the presents never saw wrapping paper, but there will at least be a turkey, with trimmings, and gathered family to eat too much of it.

Not that any of us especially likes turkey, or being in the same room as relatives. But that's the meaning of tradition - you don't remember why you do it, you don't like doing it, and it all seems faintly absurd, but it somehow makes you feel comfortable and safe that you do it anyway.

In other words: Bah Humbug.

Smoothie Does It

It's not often you get a few hundred drums in the morning mail. But the 'World Drums' sample CD has arrived. So far, no time to check it out.
My christmas present to the family is a juicer/blender/smoothie maker thing. The idea is to replace the morning fry-up with a pint of mixed fruit, as part of our intermittantly observed health kick.

Fried eggs and bacon on buttered toast smells wonderful, tastes great, and induces hours of lethergy followed by extra lbs on the scales. A large mug of freshly blended yoghurt and citrus fruits is supposed to be have the opposite effect.

UPDATE: An apple, a banana, a blob of honey, some yoghurt and some milk, when pulverised together, produce something that tastes of all these things at once. Two mugs of it, which is more filling than a breakfast fry-up, and so far doesn't provoke the enormous chocolate cravings.

Can you make smoothies with carrots? What about Brocolli?
I have actually got some recording done today. I'm not sure whether it's having this low-level cold or what, but in the upper registers of my baritone range my voice sounds...well, effiminate.

Not high pitched and squeaky, not lispy and camp - but it's as though singing 'high' (high for me, that is) pushes the vowel articulation forward in the mouth, creating a 'small' and unresonant sound.
Pre-christmas social get together tonight for the Portsmouth political left. Ken Loach film and buffet, in the company of people I already see often enough. It's our equivalent of the office party - where you spend the evening being civil to your collegues as though you were being comfortable with your friends.

I have to go, because...wait for it...they need me to operate the VCR.
UPDATE: Well, I did operate the VCR, showing the film "Bread and Roses", about latino janitors forming a trade union against corporate bullying, which sounds a lot more dull and worthy than it was.

One new face in the room was a rastafarian photography student called Craig. Sure, he's tall, young and handsome - in a grungy student sort of way - but more than that he's smart and likable. We discussed the derivation of photographic aesthetics from painting, while munching on too much really bad party food.

Joe R was a little more out of his shell than usual, joining in the photographic discussion, and asking me for advice on making short films. He's got some interesting ideas, but not really the hardware to realise them - we'll talk about it later when he's "not quite so half cut...three quarters cut".

Ich Habe Neue Brillen

I have new spectacles. The concensus is they make me look like an evil mastermind - and probably german.

However, I can now see things clearly. In fact, I hadn't realised how blurred my vision had become. I can now read clocks across rooms, read posters without peering, and gape at cute students on the other side of the road. So I'm quite enjoying my eyes right now.

Of course, whereas I used to get sprains misjudging distances because I couldn't see the ground, I now do it because everything seems nearer :-).
Apart from that, today was a day for starting to do stuff, then deciding not to finish.

The search for cheap mobile phone handsets ended (as I knew it would) with the discovery that all those in secondhand shop windows either:
(a) are overpriced and/or
(b) aren't compatable with the simcard and/or
(c) are of doubtful reliability

When the cheapest is UKP10 less than a new complete package, and is only needed for a month anyway, and there's still my old ringless phone which texts just fine...then it makes sense to make do with that.

In the evening, it would have taken at least 2 hours to reinstall an uncorrupted OS and software on Nobby, and the room was perishingly cold, so we sat in the warm and watched 30 year old TV shows instead. While consuming enough sweet calories to feed Rwanda.

Good Day at the Office, Dear?

I did not especially need most of today.

After the nasty, sniping tone of the pre-conference aggregate last night - which will only be magnified at the conference itself in January - I was looking forward to making some music today.

But that was interrupted by the jobcentre interview spent discovering there are precisely zero new jobs I can do since two weeks ago. Then the slightly panicked phone call from Max - on this occasion not about his computer, but about how he needs a DVD player (and someone who knows which buttons to push) to show a documentary to his theatre company tonight. The fact that I couldn't walk to the DVD showing because my ankle is still too painful. The hurried arrangement to taxi there with Simon M and the fact that he decided at the last minute he was too exhausted. The content of the documentary on the holocaust - by turns bizarre, horrifying, and depressing. And that three people out of the thirty invited turned up to watch it.

Oh yes, Paul T called while I was out and left a message saying he'd be at my house later, but not saying why. Turns out the old phone he'd been given to replace the knackered one I'd given him...wasn't working. But that my knackered one now works sometimes, but with quiet reception and no ringing. So he wants me to guide him around second hand shops tomorrow to find a new handset - which I suspect is a doomed idea, but he can't afford a new one. Gah!

And Simon M needs Nobby fixing properly tomorrow evening. He can't afford new technology either. So not only were my plans for today buggered up, but tomorrow is now fully booked with making cheap technojunk work for broke technophobes.

My glasses are ready to be picked up, but my CD of drums hasn't arrived from the company that prides itself on next-day delivery.

The plumbing in the bathroom has gone wrong, I have caught another cold, and Dino has food poisoning.

The Man with No Past

I have some diffuculty giving referrees on job application forms. They want you to give the address of your last employer. In my case the last person to employ me was me. Before that it was someone who would rather die than help me out. Before that it was a man who died a year ago, and before that it was a company that hasn't existed for fifteen years.

The post of IT Technician at the university is obviously for internal recruitment and the application pack is to fulfil the legal requirement for one. So it would probably be okay to refer them to a dead man and dead company. As I remember, both had the same tolerance for beaurocratic procedure as I do.
I have ebayed myself a CD of ethnic drum samples. Djembes, dumbeks, seguns, shakers, talking drums, taikos and logs, plus percussion I've never even heard of.

Ambient electronic soundscapes with world music drums and melancholy songs. Sound like a nice formula?
Mother is knitting all of her christmas presents. In red and gold psychadelic eyelash yarn. So the family get-together on boxing day will at least have a memorable colour scheme.
District meeting this evening in Southampton, and I have the house to myself tomorrow evening - the parents are at a classical concert at Covent Garden. So after a night spent being reminded why the public think socialists are wierd, there'll be hours free for vocal recording.


Mother is collecting unusual kinds of wool on ebay to knit clothes. Father is collecting crockery and oil lamps for somewhat more mysterious reasons. I'm thinking about getting a CD of exotic drum samples.

They haven't got around yet to selling anything. They keep asking me to tell them how to set up an auction. We've got five guitars, two mandolins, an electric piano, two violins and an accordian - which should we try to sell first?
It can take most of a day to fill out a job application. There's one today that requires me to give anecdotes proving that I have Organisational Effectiveness, can Construct Regimes (which I think means 'make timetables'), and understand Health and Safety.

I also have to describe in detail why I spent five months in jail (but not the real reasons), and then get the signature of a civil servant or other "respected member of the communuity" (hah!) to prove that I'm middle class and therefore trustworthy.

The job? Something called an Instructional Officer in a prison. Teaching basic IT skills to lifers.

Oh and I also have to know what Braille is.

The other job I'm applying for is one I'm emminently suitable for. Because it's the last one I had. Having once created a department from scratch at the university, then been forced out and watched it get slowly closed down, I now find they need someone to create it from scratch again.

Once, people told me I should get back to Russia. Now I don't need to - Soviet surrealism has come to me.
Oh yes, there's also a banjo, a concertina, two ceromonial brass horns, a string synth, two saxophones, a bugle, two picolos and a bassoon (canibalised from two). None of which any of us can play.
I have a UKP10 simcard, and a cardboard box full of defunct mobile phone handsets, none of which are usable. One doesn't charge, another won't switch on. There's one won't switch off, and another that would probably work perfectly if only we knew the "secret password" (aka PIN).

Most are just inert lumps of plastic which might make a nice novelty wall decoration. Or an art installation about how the human race needs to communicate more.

So, why don't I just buy a cheap new handset to go with the simcard? Because you can't buy new handsets on their own - you need to buy a complete package for UKP50+. You can get secondhand handsets from the fleamarket, presumably stolen, but in general they don't work either.

I Can See Clearly Now

I had my eyes tested today, and apart from the looks of reproof that I hadn't had a test for 8 years, the news is that I have a severe corneal astigmatism in the right eye. Level 8, apparantly, with risk of glaucoma in middle age.

In about a week, my specs should be ready. And then I shall look like a proper intellectual, or perhaps a creepy pervert. Or both.
The Strict Machines have a website. It's not finished yet, as Fabio the site designer (aka "Buzz" the drummer) has zero free time. It is, however, infinitely more complete than the Kapitano website.
Stop the Cavalry is a christmas anti-war song by Jonah Louis. The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood is a song about spirituality and, well, love, with a nativity story in the video. Do They Know It's Christmas? by Band Aid is about death and famine at christmas.

Leaving aside Mr Blobby, There's No One Quite Like Grandma, and three utterly forgotten songs by the Spice Girls, there's Only You (Flying Pickets), Don't You Want Me? (Human League) and Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd).

Okay, so for every chrismas number one pop song by the Beatles, Mud or Pet Shop Boys there's a Jimmy Osmond, Benny Hill or Rolf Harris, with Renee & Renato, Boney M and Johnny Mathis being ambigious cases. But there's some good music and intelligent songs in there amongst the dross, showing the cliche of crap crimbo copout pop isn't entirely accurate.

Except that any song that's being played in a shop simply because it was number one on December 25th one year, loses any and all meaning. I heard Stop the Cavalry, The Power of Love and Do They Know It's Christmas? played in the shopping precinct. Songs whose actual content is diametrically opposed to the saccharine window dressing it has somehow become.

It's an anti-fucking-war song! And we're at war! It's a song about thousands starving to death! And they are! Where's your sense of irony?

Fun with Gadgets

Gadget No 1: Gymform Total Fitness Electronic Muscle Stimulator

On Friday morning my muscle twitching thing arrived. So after half an hour of changing around straps and batteries, I was able to switch it on and try it out.

If you want to know what it feels like to have your arm muscles twitched from the outside by tiny electrical impulses, imagine two mice sitting on your arm, repeatedly hitting it with miniature hammers. A succession of slightly stinging impacts, each followed by an involuntary jerk.

After ten minutes, I had sore biceps and two days later they still ache. I suspect, rather than sitting in front of the television having my muscles slapped by invisible mice, it may be easier to stand in front of the television lifting a weight.
Gadget No 2: Nokia 1100 (1)

Later on Friday I bought a new simcard for my old, redundant mobile phone. It wasn't for me - it was for Paul T to have a temporary phoneline for a month before BT can install a landline.

After changing around batteries and chargers, it started working. It did everything he needed - basic talk and text. Except ring. If fact it made no bleeps at all. A small detail.

Waiting for the phone shop to open (three hours late), I made an appointment in SpecSavers to have my eyes tested for spectacles. My distance vision has been getting more and more blurred for months now.
Gadget No 3: Nokia 1100 (2)

The new phone is actually identical to the old one, except that it beeps and the built-in torch works. Precisely why a cheap, bottom-of-the-range phone should have a torch, I'm not sure. But for the first time in 17 months owning either, it came in useful - reading meters in an unlit cellar.

Paul T had called me on the newer handset to arrange helping him move house. So on Saturday we transported seven rooms worth of boxes and furniture down stairs and into a gigantic removals lorry. And then up different stairs into two rooms halfway across town. The result was slightly cramped.

We did have help. The three-man removals firm who took the traditional care in transporting breakables like houseplants and irreplacible vinyl records. I say 'three-man' - more like two men and a boy of about 10 with the strength of an ox on steroids.

In retrospect, doing all this with a sprained ankle may not have been a brilliant idea.
Gadget No 4: Motorola Talkabout

One of the power contacts of my old phone seemed to be bent slightly out of place, which might explain it's ringinglessness. so, carefully with tweezers I bent it back. And now it won't switch on at all. So having replaced a nonworking simcard in a working handset, I now needed to get a new handset to go with the simcard.

The card is currently sitting in my brother's old handset - a comparatively bricklike affair - while I wait to see whether it's 14 hour charging procedure still works.
Gadget No 5: Nobby (Simon's Computer)

Simon M greeted me with the news that Richard Briers had died. It was only after he mentioned exploding cocaine that I realised he'd said Richard Pryor. Another of those small details.

He made us some tagliatelle with avocado sauce (as always, excellent and not enough) while I locked horns with the computer I built for him months ago. Somehow, in spite of cleanup software and a firewall, both the main and backup windows installations had become infected and slow.

I tried:
(1) Running antivirus software. It failed to find any viruses, trojans or spyware. Despite being slowed right down by them.
(2) Using Novastor Recover to install my basic Windows 2000 setup. Didn't work - the ghost file simply not recognised.
(3) The same to install my baseline W2K setup. Nope - same problem.
(4) Using the W2K disc to install the OS from scratch. Huh - speaking of scratch, the disc was damaged.
(5) Installing Windows 98. No - the computer folded it's arms, looked haughty and said "Shan't".
(6) Downloading more antivirus software. Unfortunately, a virus (whichever it was) instantly redircted Explorer to a dead URL, wherever I tried to go - sort of Catch 22.
(7) Reinstalling the old antivirus software from disc. For some reason, it worked - more or less. Still some popups, still some slowing, but it works well enough to be used until I can fix it properly.

So we ate ice cream in front of a roaring log fire, watching a TV show about burly young men in shorts fighting in mud. Apparantly it's called "Rugby" and it's a field game with rules. The rule about pushing your head into the buttocks of the man in front is a little unclear, and I'm not sure how many points you get for forming a human pyramid, but it all looks very macho.

Sleeping by the Phone

My mobile phone provider has decided that it's Pay-as-you-Go system put customers off by being too complicated. It is therefore changing to a top-up system, making it indestinguishable from it's competitors.

Precisely why recieving a direct debit notification at the end of each month for minutes used is more complicated than buying minutes in advance is unclear. And precisely why it's easier to walk to the post office to swipe a card every few weeks than have an automatic debit system is also unclear. Considering the PAYG system is exactly why I'm with this provider in the first place.

All this is according to the assistant in the phone shop. The website just talks about PAYG phones that need to be topped up. An interesting way to square the circle - sell circles but call them squares.
I have sometimes wondered how Paypal finance themselves. Now that someone has bought an ebay item from me using a credit card, I know.

It works like this: Basic paypal accounts can handle transactions to and from other paypal accounts instantly, and transactions to and from the user's bank account with a delay of 10 days, all with no charge. Premier and Business paypal accounts can handle credit and debit card transactions instantly, with a charge of 3.4% plus UKP0.20.
I have managed to spend 13.5 out of the last 17 hours asleep, which doesn't sound terribly healthy to me. 0400-1400 fast asleep, 1400-1700 awake stuff, 1700-2030 fast asleep again.

I might easily spend the next 24 hours wide awake and doing stuff, which is 'balanced' in a way. But I don't know anyone else with sleeping patterns like that - some who manage on 2 or 3 hours sleep a night, but it's not quite the same.
Annual Socialist Worker District Aggregate Meeting in Southampton next week. Which is just as interesting as it sounds, only slightly less so. However, as John M is going to need all the support he can get, I'll be along to be my usual cynical-but-loyal self.
UPDATE: Nearly 0100, and I'm sleepy eyed again. I'll probably be joined soon by a small affectionate ball of white hair, who will want to sleep on the exact centre of the bed. So, from Spock and me, it's goodnight.

Oh Bum and Hell!

I woke up yesterday morning to find I had a large bruise on my right buttock, and no recollection of how it got there.

There are some parts of the body it's difficult to inspect visually. Tactile inspection yields information like "bump...smooth bit...smaller!"
Late lunch (supper) with Paul T, who's moving out of his house on Saturday. I have two bags of books and magazines to store, and some more to collect after the meeting tomorrow night.

He has a different take on the Porritt article. He notes that people who espouse "capitalism without competition" use the same reasoning as those who supported State Capitalism i.e Stalinist Russia. They are Left Authoritarians - the equal and opposite of the Right Libertarians currently reincarnated as Neoconservatives.
Another bloody meeting tonight. Oh, I enjoy the company of the people who'll be there, and the subject ("Decent Housing - A Basic Human Right") is important. But I know what's going to be said and by who in advance.

In that respect it's just like all those pointless meetings about art, culture and urban regeration that I sat through years ago. There it was tweedy women with dangly earrings using terms like "community" and "strengthening links" to "the culturally disadvantaged".

Here at least there aren't the insipid euphemisms, and there is at least the intention to actually do something. It's just someone once almost said, "Hell is being trapped in a room with your comrades".
In the event, I didn't go to the meeting, stopped by a wall of rain and an ankle that's getting worse rather than better. I should rest it - give it time to heal - but now is not the time to be literally putting my feet up - not that there ever is a good time.

But I did take the shorter walk to pick up Paul T's boxes of paper for storage in my attic. Plus a half-dozen books on linguistics, which should make some nice light reading over christmas. I'll be over there on Saturday to disassemble his computer for transport and make sure all the data is backed up.

It's Well Weapon

The Absolutely Nothing has gone from ebay. Presumably it went the way of the man who sold his soul there, or the one who offered his virginity - removed by management for not being serious enough.
Text from Simon M - "Help!". Which here means "I've forgotten my password! Help!". While waiting for NTL to answer his phone, I finally had the chance to skim through Johnathan Porritt's article on "Why Capitalism Can Save The World".

Most of it just proves again that there is environmental distruction and greed is responsible, but his argument looks like this:

(1) If all the corporations in the world could be persuaded to simultainiously adopt clean and renewable energy sources
(2) and manufacturing were shifted from profitable production of rapid-obselence necessities and fashoion-driven fripperies to durable necessities
(3) and the culture of the consuming world changed to suit
(4) and all companies refrained from profitable cheating

...then industry driven by "sustainable capitalism" won't destroy the planet. Nor will it be driven by competition. In effect he wants competing corporations to behave as though they were part of a socialist collective.

It looks like Mr Porrit ("Britain's Leading Environmentalist") doesn't grasp what capitalism is.
Channel 4 are reshowing Nathan Barley over this week. I hated episode 1 and didn't watch the rest, but I'm recording it this time round. If nothing else to go with The Day Today, Brass Eye and Jam. I like completeness.
What's it called when you write music to go with a song, only to find it doesn't fit at all, but it's good music, and now you have to find a song to go with it?

Something and Nothing

My book of children's stories has recieved no bids on ebay. However, someone is selling "ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for Christmas in an empty box", and has four bids up to UKP5, plus UKP1 postage and packing.

I've written to the seller, asking whether their Absolutely Nothing is compatibe with my Void Mk2 and Hole Deluxe (Home Edition). or do I need to upgrade to MT.

I've thought about including pictures in this blog, so here's the first. The product shot of the Absolutely Nothing.

Maybe I should try selling "Packet of Waitrose Chocolate Biscuits with Free Big Book I Never Got Around to Reading".
I forgot about the old portable computer - from the days when "portable" meant "Just fits in a large rucksack". It's an Amstrad PPC640, with two 3.5" drives and no hard disk. I used to sit up late at night writing short stories on it using WordPerfect 4.2. It's got an unbacklit LCD mono monitor, which is only readable in the dark from exactly the right angle.

So, that makes thirteen computers in the house. Fortunately we threw out the two QLs, BBC Model B, ZX81 and three Spectrums some years ago. Otherwise it would be a silly number.
Speaking of silly, a week after George Bush announced his "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq", he's offering a billion dollar grant to anyone who can "design and implement a social and economic stabilization program [for Iraq]"

So last week he told the world he had a cunning plan, though what it was never quite became clear, and now he's advertising for one. The military have failed, lets send in the marketing analysts.

Through Rain or Snow, the Post Must Go

My ankle is quite painful - I can walk but not very far. So instead of traipsing ("marching") through central london in the rain and wind today, I sat at home in the damp and cold.

A grand total of six packages arrived in the post - all from ebay sellers, including one for me - the 'Abgymnic' device. Which doesn't even switch on. Hah.

The seller offered a refund but I prefer to keep it as a box of extra accessories for the next one I get. Between them, my parents are bidding in at least another five auctions, and have won about fifteen, which allows me to feel quite frugal in comparison.

There's suddenly no room for ten computers in the house (I wonder why), so some will be canibalised to upgrade others and make some more space. And anyone we know who wants a free low spec second hand PC can probably have one.

Anyway, that's about all there is to say about today, since I spent most of it drowsy or asleep.
EDIT: Actually it's twelve computers - I forgot about some.

The night was spent writing music, but I won't say any more's a surprise.

What's Yours Called?

Tommorow will most likely be spent walking through London on a climate change demo, in weather that illustrates the point. Wind, rain, cold. Unless of course the ankle I've managed to twist today feels significantly worse.

Simon M can't go because he's injured his leg, and tells me if one of us doesn't go there'll be no one to represnt the fat old queen contingent from Portsmouth. This vote of confidence as I was patching up his computer ('Nobby') once again this evening.

His TV ('Nigel') is also not working, so I've lent him mine ('Boris') till he can bankrupt himself again in the January sales on a new set (as yet unnamed).

I have a rucksackfull of old Socialist Review magazines to store, read through and scan selected bits of, from Paul T.

I'm always interested in urban myths and false beliefs, but had completely forgotten about Snopes.Com.

I'm mapping out a possible story to write, but there's nothing on paper yet. If I am stuck in bed unable to walk tomorrow, I'll be able to make some preliminary notes.

Uh! I Feel Good!

Well, the runny nose, headpains and aching muscles seem to have finally gone, so I'm feeling bouyed up. It may be cold and raining outside, which means there may be ice on the roads tomorrow, which means there may be more car crashes, but I'm cheered up.

Still exhausted half the time, and still sleeping what dear fathercalls "uncivilised hours", but feeling better.
It had to happen sooner or later - a program to cheat on ebay. Final Bid, by VCom, enters auctions in the final seconds and outbids the last bidder. Of course, the last bidder might be another copy of the program or a fast human, so the two escalate till one reaches their maximum bid, or the auction ends.

Of course, the point it that all this happens without user intervention - it "bids for you while you work, sleep or play". Perhaps it isn't so much a cheat as a software version of employing someone to gazump on your behalf.

I tried it out on a cheap item, and found my super duper high tech bidding technology won because it had no one to bid against. The seller seems to be flogging off his entire house contents - most of it women's clothes and shoes (hmmm). The item was one of those electrical muscle stimulators - nice to have for me if it works, and a cheap-and-tacky christmas prezzie for someone if it doesn't.
Franic call from Max (all of Max's calls are frantic) about his computer not working (they're all about that too). I think someone had installed an extra firewall which prevented him booking plane flights from the BA website. I booked his tickets from my computer.

He's spending christmas in his native Deutchland - I should have asked him to bring me back some of those germanic gingerbread teddybears.

I'll have to drop by and sort out his system again - in return for an hour of marxist historical discussion and a slap-up meal cooked with his usual...enthusiasm.
The jobcentre interview was painless - largely because staffing cuts mean no one has time to do their job thoroughly anymore. Those who haven't been downsized seem to be kept going by professional pride. That and having nowhere else to go.
I want to start writing again. It's been about a decade since I stopped, and there's some ideas rattling around in my head. The NaNoWriMo idea of churning out 50,000 words in a month is interesting as a way of quickly producing a first draft.


One thing I'm absolutely no good at is sleep management. Going to sleep when you're wide awake so you'll be rested in twelve hours when you need to be alert, and staying awake when you're exhausted so you don't wake up at three in the morning and spend the next four hours frustratedly awake. I can't do it. I sleep only when I'm tierd, and I'm alert only when properly rested.

That's how I can be awake for 36 straight hours, then sleep for 14. My parents assure me this is unhealthy and in some mysterious way immoral.
An exchange of texts with H. Nothing said beyond "Hi I'm still here How are you?", but I note it simply because it made me happy.
I've been watching a show called "Timecop". It is possibly the worst heap of corpulating horsewank I've ever sat through. A grinning smartalec cop travels back in time to solve crimes and meets famous people. Women find him irresistable, and his adversary is a born genius-psychopath who's bad simply because he likes it.

The show is 9 whole seasons of cliched gormless shit, and it's remarkably addictive. Unlike 'Dark Skies', which is boring cliched gormless shit.
I need to prove the I've been looking for a job. This is difficult, because there aren't any. It's a bit like searching for Atlantis - some people find nothing and conclude it doesn't exist, and others conclude it must be extremely hidden and all the more abundant for it. We shall see which kind of person reviews my case at the jobcentre on Thursday.

Das Buch

Creativity comes in bursts. Nick has read my story - noting quite correctly that it's too short to be called a novel - and will send a review soon. This has prompted me to think again about a piece of fiction I started working around eight years ago.

It's a kind of sci-fi spy thriller, set onboard a giant station in deep space. Instead of different groups of humans represented by different alien species, all the characters are human, but alien and strange to each other. Like Tolkein, I'm working mainly on the customs, history and languages spoken, before filling out details of plot. One important thing: there are no heroes and villains, only antiheroes and adversaries.

There's a few beaurocratic documents I'll have to lend my burst of creativity to in the next few days, which is always annoying. But I'm also tweaking some old lyrics, and hope to start recording again by the end of the week.

Before that, try to do something I haven't done for a month - try to get to sleep when it's dark so I can be awake when it's light. Gute Nacht.

Happiness is a Warm Bed

My net access is back. I just don't know why. One of those cases where you try out cables, hubs and drivers until it mysteriously starts working.
In 2001 I was getting interested in downtempo electronic music - triphop and ambient, which later spawned the chillout movement and dozens of hybrid genres. In March of that year I spent a few days downloading some of the more interesting songs in the 'Down Tempo' category of MP3.Com, and putting them on two CDRs - 324 of them, as a kind of time capsule.

It wasn't clear that at the time that MP3.Com was going to become progressively unfriendly and unusable, but it seemed possible.

The discs have turned up, and the tracks sound pretty good and inspired.
I now have an electric blanket. The instructions warn me sternly to unplug it before putting it in the washing machine, and implicitly not to wet the bed.
Carrying the blanket home, I let myself be stopped by a Dianetics stall in the market.

I asked about Thetans and auditing for repressed memories, which made the nice bespectacled young man at the stall nervous. He explained that those things are part of Scientology, not Dianetics. Because Dianetics is therapeutic ("It enables you to gain control of your life"), while Scientology is a whole philosophy, aiming at spiritual rebirth.

He clarified the difference by saying "Dianetics is 1950; Scientology is 1951".

I had a go on the stress measuring device, which apparantly is nothing at all like a lie detector. A lie detector measures electrical conductivity of skin surface, wheras the stress measuring device (he didn't call it an 'auditor' is...erm...completely different.

It wasn't terribly good at detecting untruth or stress though, because I told a pack of lies and the needle only moved when I wasn't talking.


The ethernet connection to my computer has mysteriously stopped again. Fortunately, there are advantages to having too many computers. This room has three - one recording from DAB, one sampling from cassette, and this one, with scanner attatched. Actually there's also a laptop found in a skip, and the guts of two old PCs canibalised to fix other PCs.

So I'm still connected to the outside world, but at a greater distance.
I know what I'm going to get myself for Christmas. An electric blanket! I am sick of sitting in a cold room in front of a cold ketboard before getting into a cold bed. Though bedtime this last week has been 7am.
Nick asked to read my novel (well, novella, or maybe just very long short story). So I've been going through it, tidying up the clumsier dialogue and descriptions. It stands up fairly well, considering it was written by a rather pretentious 19 year old with aspirations to write science fiction about first love and social problems.

Another quick read through, a few minor changes, and I'll send it off. Before I can find an excuse not to.
Remember Kevin Trudeau? He's the great American infomercial huckster salesman who repackaged the old 'visual mnemonic' memory trick, which you can learn in ten minutes from a UKP5 book, in a UKP150 cassette course and sold it by the truckload on both sides of the atlantic. Mega Memory, he called it.

And then...he charged another UKP150 for a few extra tips disguised as a second course.

And then, he got speedreader Howard Berg and 'human calculator' Scott Flansberg to make their own home-study cassette courses for him to sell. Berg in particular completely failed to explain his technique speed skimming cohearantly.

But then, after an ill advised branching out into golfing tips, and a highly suspect business selling 'brian enhancement foods', the shine started to come off. He tried to repackage the Atkins diet, just as serious concerns about it's health risks entered the public domain. Then it became known that he's been convicted for credit card fraud, and prosecuted for airing fraudulent infomercials and being involved in a multilevel marketing scam.

I know this because I'm one of the people he conned, back in 1996. I bought the memory, maths and speedreading courses, in a moment of insane blind optimism. I learned far more about all these techniques from Tony Buzan's books, and they do work. They're just very difficult to use, require constant practice, and don't turn you into a superman.

Well, I've found the cassette courses in a dusty cardboard box, oddly enough, next to some soft porn VHSs - a gift from a surprisingly nice man I met in a park. The courses weren't useless, just grossly overpriced. So they're going on ebay for UKP5 each. The vids are going in the dustbin, with Kevin Trudeau's reputation.


So now it's official, John M is standing for Central Committee membership of the SWP. The fact that there hasn't been an independant candidate (i.e one not proposed by the existing CC) for years (decades?) in a party that's all about democracy and freedom of ideas, shows why it's high time someone did this.

John's been a loyal but critical member and activist since 1968, and has watched organisational structures become slowly ossified during the 80s and 90s, and a culture of willful overoptimism develop in parallel with shrinking membership.

He's extremely unlikely to get elected, but the idea is to promote some much needed facing of hard reality and reintroduce some genuine democracy by encouraging others to take similar stands.

The existing CC and their immidiate subordinates will, I suspect, initially respond by saying, "John has a few valid points, though he exagerates greatly, and we are taking care of the problems internally, so there's no cause for fuss."

This won't work, largely because a lot of the party old guard have the same concerns as John, and won't let the issue lie. Also, he's a highly respected theorist and commentator, so isn't that easy to dismiss.

Then the gloves come off, and we get insinuations and accusations that "Comrade M has gone strange in his dotage". "He's making a personal grab for power", and "He's causing trouble and splits just when we don't need it."

I doubt very much that's he'll be expelled, but he'll certainly be sidelined, ostracised, marginalised - if the CC behave as I expect.

All this is a footnote in the affairs of a party who are a footnote in British history. My small contribution is that I do the typing of his more important documents - including his CC membership submission - and OCR his 30 years worth of publishing history for an online audiance.

Disposable Music

Kapitano's Second Rule of Tidying Stuff Up: If you want to need something today, throw it away yesterday.

Still, Greebo (my desktop computer) is as pristine and neat and fully installed as it's ever likely to be, so...time for that baseline ghost backup. For only the third time in four days.
There is probably something slightly perverse about buying second hand albums on CD for fifty pence, ripping them to MP3, and throwing away the discs. Though for some reason it doesn't feel so strange for albums withdrawn and sold off from the stock of the local library. It makes sense - I own two MP3 players and no CD player at all that isn't part of a desktop computer.

I have four compilations of early 90s hiphouse and pop remixes (sans boxes and sleevenotes), an album of Depeche Mode covers, the soundtrack to Queer as Folk (which is painfully generic), and a compilation of ambient classics. All of which I will probably only hear in their entirity in MP3 form - possibly months from now.

All very postmodern. Music composed of references to other music, resold outside the intended retail context, made 'weightless' by abstraction from graspable physical media into a plastic box half the size of my fist, and called into performance in places and times alien to their original meaning.

See? A decade getting degrees in Cultural Theory wasn't completely wasted. Though I'm reliably informed that Cultural Theory/Studies (or as it's known in less exhaulted institutions 'Media Studies') is now well and truely out of fashion.
Unexpected email from Abel - the asian guy I corresponded with about a year ago but never got to meet. I'm not sure what kind of relationship he's after - actually I don't think he knows either - but I'll give it a go.

Another unexpected email from Tyler (aka 'Plat' aka 'The Cow Exchange'), who wants help with the phonological theory behind the next stage in development of his online rhyme finder for songwriters.


Kapitano's Law of Organising Stuff: Just when you think you've finished, something crops up that means you've got to do it again.

I've got seven years worth of software and documents, spread across dozens of CDs, to prune down to what I actually need (or are likely to need in the near future). It's mostly done - in the sense that most of the needed files have been copied and most of the old discs thrown away. But, as with so much else, the final ten percent of the task takes ninety percent of the time.

Seven years worth of accumulated sitting in front of computers amounts, after pruning, to four gigabytes of data and programs I actually have a use for. Plus, admittedly, probably the same again in commercial software.

Ah well, in other news:

* The local job market has shrunk even further. The extra seasonal work (post office, sales) has been much more than counterbalanced by a general downturn. In the last five weeks, there have been 56 new vacancies in Hampshire - mostly in specialist areas. There's not even vacancies for cleaners or drivers, which is highly surprising.

* Dino is now extremely confident in his ability to climb stairs. He just can't begin to climb down stairs. The breeder wants to breed from him, and in lieu of stud fees, has offered...another dog! It's not for six months, so we've plenty of time to decide.

* Clear skies, bright sunlight, and piercing cold. With me going out in two teeshirts, jumper, heavy leather jacket, jogging bottoms under jeans, two pairs of socks under trainers, and a wooly hat. At least I think I was under there somewhere. Simon M is escaping the weather for a week spent relaxing and overeating in Italy with his brother.

* I heard a Czech joke. It goes "How do you get a hippo into a fridge? First, open the fridge. Second, put the hippo in. Third, Close the fridge. How do you get a giraffe into a fridge? First, open the fridge. Second, take out the hippo..."

* Paul T is moving out of the 'ancestral home' (3 generations over 46 years) in the next few weeks, and into the first decent flat he can find. The books, magazines, records and bric-a-brac are being farmed out to friends for temporary storage - so I'll probably get a box of his stuff to go in the space left by the stuff I've just thrown away.

Error 666: Computer Cursed

Right. Just so you know what kind of day I've had, most of it was spent installing Windows and application drivers. And taking the computer apart and putting it back together again. And trying to find a way to install the video capture software without crashing halfway through.

Well, I found ways around all the little obstacles, and installed Norton Ghost so I could make a baseline disk of a nice, clean, minimal but perfectly working operating system. Something went wrong with Norton and the entire system partition got corrupted.

So, once again I installed Windows and the drivers and the software. With what I'd learned about what procedures caused crashes during the day, it only took two hours. And now I have the baseline back. And I'm going to try to make a ghost image of it, so I don't have to go through all this again.

Yes, the irony does not escape me. Wish me luck.

Error 505: Sniff

My computer's caught my cold. Well, there might be a virus, but for whatever reason it progressively slowed down, and last night became unusable. It's a bit difficult to diagnose or fix a problem when the relevent software won't hangs with everything else. Anyway, I'm writing this on mother's computer, and today is a day for reformatting and reinstalling Windows 2000.

Be seeing you.

Dream Off

Not the most successful gig in the world. I arrived during the second band - The Suburbian, who turned out to be a teenage artschool foursome of serious musos. They put me in mind of Led Zeppelin trying to be Pink Floyd - stadium rockers doing jazz-influenced introspective pop.

Probably they were very good, but the sound system and accoustics of The Front Room are abysmal. So the grungier sound of Strict Machines was smeared into thrash metal.

Afterwards, Fabio B was depressed because he'd made some minor mistakes on drums, and Paul T was depressed because the small audiance dwindled during 'his' set. Anna F was depressed because of the surly and incompetent sound technicians, and the fact that the venue lie about doing publicity.

There was, for me, a single bright spot. Russian Anna - who is petite and delicate (and Russian) in contrast to the tough and vampiric Anna F - brought along her boyfriend, Justin. Who is equally petite and just jawdroppingly gorgeous. As well as a good hearted, down to earth fellow. With deep brown eyes to get lost in. [Cough].

Dream On

I'm recovering from the cold, just as a several others are catching one, but I'm sleeping 15 or 16 hours a day.

This afternoom, I dreamed I was in a big old house - actually the house my maternal grandparents lived in - with a friendly couple in their 60s. We sat in the dim glow of a television, eating tea and cake.

There was a storm coming - a big one. One that might flatten the houses in the district if it didn't submerge them. But the experts weren't absolutely sure how hard it would hit.

I was trying to persuade the couple to take some kind of precautions, but all they did was drape the furniture with waxen sheets to protect it from rainwater when the roof started to leak. The storm was gathering outside and they sat munching an endless procession of biscuits, as the same items were advertised on the television.

They told me the house had survived a storm last year, so it would survive this one. And anyway, if it didn't, they'd had a good life, they were old, and it would all be over quickly. But not to worry, because the experts on the television aren't certain.

It was so tempting to give up trying to persuade them. They nodded in sage agreement that the government lied about everything and it looked a really bad storm, but continued to sit in contentment.

I knew there was almost nothing that we could do to protect us from the storm, and if it did kill us, wasn't it better to spend our last few hours enjoying ourselves, instead of hard work that was probably pointless?

In the final few seconds, the voiceover from the commercial for the brand of buscuits they were eating seemed to come from everywhere, as though we were now inside the advert.
Having been asleep for most of the night and most of the day (isn't there a song about that?) I have the strength to go and see Strict Machines playing in The Front Room against The Suburbian - described to me as 'sweet young boys and also pretty good." Hmmm.
I've been made a moderator of MusicInTheMachine, a yahoo discussion group about making electronic music. It's not very active, and has been having problems with spam lately.

Bang Goes Another Kanga

Not much musical progress with Paul T, mainly because we were both too tierd to do much except lie on the floor eating cheese sandwiches rediscovering Kate Bush albums from the late 70s.

Peter Gabriel, Georgio Moroder, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk and Vengellis are noted today as experimenters and innovators from that period. Even Bill Nelson, Philip Glass and for that matter Human League get namechecked. But for some reason Kate Bush gets remembered for extraordinary voice and lyrics, but not for soundscapes.
Tonight's forum was on 'Globalisation and Resistance', but somehow turned into 'Why my boss makes it impossible for me to do my job'. I think the political climate of 'radical watertreading' is due to a confluence of 'longhaul blues', 'christmas drag' and 'brassmonkey syndrome'.

The weather today stopped being just 'cold' and became 'bloody freezing'. Which is why I'm still shivering with two teeshirts and jogging gear under the jeans.

I Could Murder a Hamburger

We expected around 30 at 1200, and got 20 at half past. The McDonnald's management had, of course, been tipped off and spent minutes glaring out of the top floor window at us as we assembled. For some reason, they immidiately stopped when I filmed them doing it.

The masterplan of protest was to conga through McDs, handing out leaflets and playing drums, then stand outside leafletting and drumming until the nice men in blue moved us on. And my alloted task was to film the whole thing.

Most of the public were receptive in that they actually read the leaflets - sometimes while tucking to their cheeseburgers - instead of throwing them away. A dozen or so stopped to discuss the issues.

As regards hostile public comments, there were two. One was "They need to get out more", said of 20 young people dancing in the street to conga drums. The other was "Lowlife", shouted several times from a man who felt the need to square up for a fight he would obviously lose when he found his eloquence was being filmed.

The police took their sweet time (about 40 minutes) arriving, and when they did there was the traditional combination of buzzcut belligerent threatening to confiscate and arrest, friendly bobby who essentially said "It's find but don't harrangue anyone", and token silent WPC hiding in the background.

We retired to the pub, where I filmed some interviews with participants.

I was pretty nervous before the event, and afterwards the stomatological lepidoptera returned, but during was fine.
Apparantly I have a voice like Orson Wells at the moment (though with more sniffs). So it's almost a pity I won't have it by the time I do any voiceovers for the edited footage.

I want to get the committments of political filmmaking, ebay selling, and forum organisation out of the way as quickly as possible over the next day or two (or three), and get back to music, after much deferrment.

The portable 8-track has lain almost unused since I shelled out for it what seems like months ago. My main computer has been mainly occupied recording and encoding TV shows - 7 hours sheduled recording today.

Tonight will be spent in the loquacious company of Paul T, working on the instrumental christmas album.

A Pint of Lemsip, Please

Coughing, sniffing, croaking, cattarrh, headache, muzzyness and lethargy. Yep, sounds like a cold to me.

I managed to get through summarising the conference, though I was criticised for presenting a series of political problems without varnishing them with encouragement and hope.

Afterwards, against my better judgement, I let myself get dragged around by a gang of slightly drunk young socialists. We sat at Gareth E's place - Gareth, myself, Paddy U, Lee S and Eddie C - and decided to hold an impropmtu debate on Human Nature.

What other political group would you expect to do that? I can't imagine a group of Lib Dems getting drunk and holding a debate on monarchism.

I improvised an introductory presentation on the various meanings of 'human' - anthropoid species, person, community componant - and how 'nature' means something different in each case.

Paddy took the view that recognising socialisation is suffient to escape it, but Lee argued that being aware of emotional programming is only the first and smallest step to overcomming it, and Gareth added that the concrete forces of money and law still enforce the status quo when ideology fails.

I got to home and bed after 0300, and I'm suffering for the night out now.
There's a protest on Saturday, which I've been asked to film, and make a short (15 mins) video presentation out of. Let's see if I can still remember how to use Premiere.

Ways of Not Seeing

A somewhat mixed seminar on global climate change, showing the sharpest and fuzziest thinking on the subject. The former got me thinking about the latter. There seems to be a broad typology of bad thinking about problems:

1) There is no problem.
1a) The problem is a myth, or only believed by cranks and enemies.
- It could never happen.
- The evidence is flawed.
- It's all tree-hugging nonsense.
- The Nazi's were environmentalists, you know.

1b) The real problem is something else.
- It's not corporations, it's greedy car drivers.
- It's not economics, it's lack of spirituality.

1c) There is a problem, but don't worry because the solution is in hand.
- All we need to do to combat climate change is use non-bio washing powder. Or put up car tax.
- The free market will develop new technology to cope, so we just need to keep doing what we're doing already.
- Our company is researching wind turbines.
- Climate change is gradual, so we'll have time to adapt.

2) There is no solution.
2a) There's nothing we can do.
- The corporations will never switch to ecological methods, because it's too expensive.
- There's not enough time to build a world movement.
- Pollution is a result of industrial capitalism, which is the result of human nature.
- If we solve Global Warming, we get Global Dimming, which is even worse.
- Global Warming is natural and therefore unstoppable, not manmade and therefore controllable.

2b) It turns out there was something we could have done, but it's too late now.
- The process has gone too far to be reversible.

Anyway, I've got it on tape, so can dissect it further later.
I think I have a cold. I don't especially need to be snuffling with a muzzy head tomorrow, adding new items to Simon M's ebay business and and summarising the SWP conference at a meeting in the evening.

Gareth E wants advice in running a website - starting with web page design. My advice - to hand code where possible and keep the layout simple - will be diametrically opposed to most of the advice he recieves.

I Wanna Really Really Really Really Zigazig Ha

One of the oddities of spending a few days intensively wrestling with politics, is that you lose touch with what's happening politically. So I've been trying to catch up.

France has had ten days of riots. The newspapers noted the racial element (i.e. that most of rioters were black) and initially concluded that the issues were religious (i.e Muslim).

In fact, these riots followed a familliar pattern. The first generation of immigrants are overwhelmingly poor, and are housed by the government in selected poor areas. They experience the usual attitudes of contempt from police. blame from authority, and a strange combination of vilification and invisibility in the media.

However, these are at a higher temperature because racism is added to the mix (especially in a highly racist culture like France). The result is that many re-emmigrate, but those who don't generally stay where they are first settled, forming a racial ghetto within the poverty ghetto.

Their offspring - the second generation immigants - are the ones who fight back. So, 20-30 years after a racial influx, resentment boils over.

Here, the trigger was seemingly two deaths that were probably genuinely accidental. But the police response - for instance, storming a mosque with CS gas, allegedly investigating a parking violation - has fanned the flames. Perhaps deliberately.

Compare with the parallel (though much smaller) trouble in Birmingham, where an allegation of rape was the trigger. That the girl and the 2 or 3 (or at the last count, 19) men probably don't exist isn't really the issue. You may as well say WW2 wouldn't have happened without a single assassin's bullet.

There's something similar in the (worse) ghettos of Leeds. The sudden appearance of British suicide bombers isn't inexplicable.
George Galloway isn't flavour of the month on the left at the moment. Blair won an extremely unpopular vote by one - if Gorgeous George had been doing his job instead of on holiday, the motion would have been defeated.

The vote was on whether to give police the right to detain suspects for 90 days without charge instead of the usual 14, if any kind of connection to terrorism is suspected. Apparantly because it takes two weeks to investigate the connections of an ordinary person, but three months for a suicidal fanatic.

There's another vote coming up to give police powers to disperse any gathering of any number of people because it might develop into a disturbance, and arrest anyone to prevent a hypothetical crime from occuring.

Can you prove you'll never break any law in the future? No? Then you're under suspicion and arrest.
Back in the reassuringly graspable personal sphere...

CW texted me as I was attempting to take a short cut on the London Tube. The short cut eventually involved me going from Euston to Victoria via Hammersmith, so was not an unqualified success. However, CW said it's nearly a year since our 'reunion' and aren't we overdue for another one. And I don't need to worry about having put on weight's he!

I met some interesting people at the philosophical conference, including an unreasonably modest American professor of ecology. He's given me URLs to some of his published work, asking for feedback. I think I'm rather honoured.

I'm recording hours and hours of ITV4. Randall and Hopkirk, Department S, UFO, Alien Nation and Larry Sanders. The irony is, I haven't had time to watch any of it yet.

Oh yes, I have made a somewhat unexpected sale on ebay. "The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawn & Profressor Branestawm Round the Bend" will go to a woman in Fleet Street who advises investment bankers.

I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want. Apart from the obvious worldwide death of hatred and bigotry and a future worth living for. I want time to make music. That's all, really (really really). A good boyfriend, a slim svelte figure, and lots of money would be nice. But recording a great album would be more...satisfying.

Well It Sounded Like a Plan

Back. Exhausted. Three days of highbrow jargon, and the kind of overpriced junk that passes for food in central London.

Got several hours of footage shot of presentations and discussions at the philosphical conference - need to transfer it to digital, store, and rewatch when my attention isn't taken up by holding a video camera steady. Also got some TV captures of 'vintage' shows to encode.

Lot of stuff to do over the next week - political, organisational, domestic, technological blah blah explain later. Right now, I just need to sleep. For a week.

It was worth doing. I just never want to do it again.

That Sounds Like A Plan

Right. The easy things I have to do tomorrow (today) are: Sign on, take some CDs back to the library, charge the phone and camera.

The more difficult things involve negotiating with John M about our both attending different bits of two simultainious conferences in London, finding train routes there (and back) that require less than two changes, and trying to help out with Paul T's financial dire straits.

And then arranging accommodation for Friday and Saturday night. Yes, I know, John was going to arrange it but couldn't. I can put up with one night on a park bench - though that won't do for a 55 year old man with health problems - but I don't especially want to discuss the finer points of Hegel's logic after two nights in the open.

There's three days of stuff on TV to schecule for recording, and encoding when I get back. I'll have to pack a change of clothes, a charged MP3 player, and camera plus tapes to film some presentations.

The easiest bit is casually telling my parents that I'm going away for a while. The weather has finally turned cold, windy and rainy, and I can expect the same weather over the next three days. Oh god.

Anyway. Just to say, the bedroom is still a mess, Dino needs a bath, no one's bid for my books, and I'll be without blog access for a few days.


Today's update is all about money.
Paul T is in the shit. His grandmother dying while living in their house means he gets tennancy, but changes in the law means the landlord can change the rent. The new rent would be 80-90% of Paul's income.

If he pays the new rent, he'll need to work more hours at his teaching job, and get another job. Which makes the exercise pointless.

If he tries but fails to pay the new rent, he gets evicted, and classified as 'Voluntarily Homeless' - having volutarily not robbed a bank - and therefore ineligible for any financial assistance.

He could take in lodgers, but it's unclear whether he has the legal right.

He could find somewhere else to live. Except he's broke, his grandmother had no money to leave, and his family are about as much help as a chocolate toothbrush.

In fact, his mother accuses him of bringing the whole situation upon himself, because he didn't set out a career plan when he was nineteen. Guess how old she was when she got pregnant with him.

So now it's a matter of claifying issue with the landlord, and finding out which friends are friendly enough and able enough to put him up (and put up with him) for a few months.

Oh, and he's pulled a major muscle in his back and is in agony.
Simon M has actually sold a bottle of testosterone stuff on his ebay shop, and I've put my mad inventor children's stories up for sale.

Here's my sales pitch:

Professor Branestawm is the great British eccentric genius.

In his shed, he invents machines that travel through air, underwater, and backwards in time. He created the portable car park, the floating supermarket, an inflatable home, indestructible architecture, and a piano the does the housework.

And of course, they all go wrong. The inflatable home gets a puncture, the housework machine gets stuck into doing all the housework all the time, the time machine changes history, and most of them explode.

As the sleevenotes have it: "Who got trapped up a pear tree by an army of wild waste paper? Who gummed his housekeeper to the carpet (by mistake) with a three-foot pancake two inches thick? Whose inventive brain produced a burglar catcher, a spring cleaning machine and half a policeman? The answer, of course, is Professor Branestawm, the erratic genius of Great Pagwell..."

Norman Hunter wrote these classic short stories in the 1930s, and they've remained favourites of generations of young children ever since.

And if these turn out to be collector's items going for a song, I shall be moderately irritated.
There's a giro to pay into the bank (which I'll do on the way to signing on for the next giro). And I owe mother seventy-something pounds for the scanner.
Two overlapping conferences at the weekend. One on the philosophy of Dialectical Materialism, one on what the hell the Socialist Workers Party is supposed to do with itself now.

Entrance to both is free. The expensive bit is getting there - the train service is 'patchy', so it's a combination of busses, trains, maybe a coach and walking.

Box of Delights

The joys of sorting stuff out.

Going through boxes of CDRs, I've found lyrics to songs I'd either forgotten writing, or thought I'd lost. Soundfonts, samples and drumkits that I stuck on discs thinking "they'll be useful sometime" five years ago and promptly forgot. I discover that I have over ten thousand pictures of naked men, which is always nice. And now they're all in one place.

I'm about to throw away 35 CDRs, and reuse ten CDRWs. having put the bits I want to keep on three DVDs. I've made five playable CDs of music made with stuff thrown away last week, and another four of MP3s that were lying around - making a total of 62 CDRs of albums and miscelanious tracks.

There's probably another hundred or so CDs to go, which could take a while. And about 200 betamax videotapes, which probably won't.
When my age was still in single figures, I more-or-less taught myself to read with novelisations of Dr Who adventures, and the stories of Norman Hunter. The latter concerned the perilous malfunctionings of Professor Branestawm's impossible inventions (illustrated by Heath Robinson). Machines designed to travel through air, water or time threatened the sleepy town of Great Pagwell by going mad before exploding.

Devices to allow push-button shopping, automatically do the housework, or apprehend burglars always managed to turn on their users. So nothing like real life then.

I've scanned and PDF'd two 300 page Branestawm books, each of which took about 90 minutes. This gave me the chance to catch up with the week's radio. Almost all the radio I hear is recorded from DAB - days, weeks or months previous. Among the stuff I've been sorting through is some Radio 1 dance music shows from March last year.

Anyway, with the originals copied and compressed to a little more than a megabyte, the books are going on ebay. Just as soon as I can find my dratted bank details.
Apart from all that, a distinctly uneventful halloween.

A Good Hart

Being all alone in the house is the freedom to eat poached eggs on toast at four in the morning. Even if it's really at three because the clocks went back at midnight.

It is also the freedom to sleep at 0600, wake up at 1400, and eat poached eggs on toast again for breakfast.
The parents and dogs are back, equally exhausted from runs on the beach and encounters with enormous labradors.

At the time, I was attempting to hand-edit spaghetti HTML code for Simon M's ebay business. The wholesaler provides ready-written code for ebay sellers, but some is not applicable, some gives prices (in dollars) we want to change, and some is just OTT rubbish.

His first sale me! Seeing as no one's bid yet for his ebay stuff, I bought a bottle of Chrysin. With free delivery to my pocket.

As I understand it, the male body normally converts some of it's tesosterone to estrogen - a process called aromatisation - which stimulates the pituitary to reduce testosterone production, which means there's less testosterone aroud to be aromatised, so less stimulation to the pituitary to reduce testosterone production, which means testosterone levels rise etc. It's a feedback-based thermostat system. Chrysin reduces aromatisation, raising average testosterone levels.

That's the idea, but tests on rats find it to have no effect on estrogen levels. So perhaps the state of current knowledge is: It probably doesn't work, but no on knows why.
I'm told this is the hottest final week in October since records began. Certainly it's a surprise to see people on the street in shorts and teeshirts when it's almost November.

The local newspaper reassures us that unusually intense rainfall and unusually high temperatures are not unusual in Autumn. Which if nothing else tells you something about journalists.

It also says December will be much colder than normal.
Goodhart's Law. Named after it's proposer Charles Goodhart, an economist who worked for Margarat Thatcher's project of Moneterist economic planning.

The project was an attempt to eliminate the patterns of boom and bust, seesawing inflation and unemployment, and unpredictable growth in capitalism.

There were two obvious problems. First, that a planned capitalist economy is a contradiction in terms. Second, that Milton Friedman's equations of Moneterism don't add up.

Which may be why an attempt to stop inflation by reducing the money supply led to increased unemployment and inflation. And, amazingly, more money in the system.

Anyway, the law states that when an indicator gets used as a target, it ceases to be an indicator. The law's applicability goes far beyond economics.

Exam results are an indicator of educational quality in a school. So the school sets targets for exam results, and in doing so educates students to pass exams rather than understand the subject. Result: exam result no longer indicate education quality - the former rises and the latter falls.

Arrests and convictions are two indicators (incomplete and misleading in isolation) of success in law enforcement. So police get arrest quotas and the courts feel pressured to convict more. Result: pointless arrests, and overcrowded prisons full of innocent people.

It works under state capitalism too. Soviet furniture manufacturers measured their productivity by the amount of raw materials used. So, not having the option over overproduction, they used more and more raw materials to make bigger and bigger furniture, which then wouldn't fit into people's rooms.

Goodhart's Law makes sense of a lot of cultural history. If I'd known about it while getting degrees in Cultural Theory, it might have been less puzzling.

Home Alone 2

My parents are spending Sunday (from midnight) on the Isle of Wight with the dogs. As minor landlords, they own three extra properties which they rent out to students and families taking weekend breaks. And they maintain that they barely break even doing it - which is I suppose not completely implausibe, given the highly seasonal renting pattern.

Anyway, the little holiday cottage on the Isle of Wight is vacant, so they're spending 36 hours there. Leaving me alone to 'mind the shop' (or 'hold the fort').

So I'm holding a wild party with lots of drugs and sex as soon as they leave. Oh alright, no I'm not. I did think of phoning up an old friend with an invitation along the lines of "My folks are away tonight, do you fancy coming over for a shag?" But I think I'd perfer to be alone on this occasion. Just don't tell anyone - I have a reputation as a sex fiend to maintain.
I got Paul T's internet connection working just fine. Unfortunately - as you know, there is always an 'unfortunately' - the account is in the name of his grandmother, who's just died, and whose bank account no longer exists.

We might sort something out, but he's in an "I'm sick of technology and can't face the hassle' mood.

We've got a provisional plan of working on our 'instrumental synthpop and guitars' EP. I come up with backing tracks, he improvises over them for a weeek or two till he's got songs, then suggests minor modifications, and we record.

The only real criterea are that it should be upbeat, and not sound like Strict Machines.

It's been years since I worked like that - more-or-less finishing the backing before even thinking about the lead parts.

Most synth-and-guitar tracks wind up like Bjorn Lynne - technically impressive but cheesy. These...probably won't.
I can't fit into my size 36W jeans. Waaaah! I feel like pigging out on chocolate to feel better, but suspect - just a vague feeling, you understand - that it wouldn't help. It wouldn't adress the nub of the problem, somehow.

Well, I've got the whole night to kill. And an hour of cardiovascular exercise always passes the time.

Is This a Game or is It Real?

How to prepare your laptop for a jam session the following day:

1) Find that Reason is not, as you thought, installed. And that both partitions are full of stuff that needs to be cleared off, but backed up first. Four DVD-Rs of it.
2) Try to burn a DVD-RW. Fail. Try twice more with the same result.
3) Try to format the DVD-RW on the laptop. Find that it won't. Try to format it on a different computer. Succeed.
4) Try to burn to the formatted DVD-RW. Find that the laptop still can't.
5) Grudgingly decide to use four DVD-Rs. It takes roughly an hour per disc.
6) Delete the files from the hard drive. Dig around the piles of CDRs, in search of the latest Reason. Install.
7) Test the speakers at 0600. Remember they'll need to be good and loud to be heard over the guitar.
8) Try desperately to get some sleep, because the jam starts at 1200.

As I write, It's 0430 and I'm nearly at (6).
Dino has learned to climb stairs. But only when no one's looking.

Also, as mother and I have independantly discovered, he doesn't 'get' singing. If you sing to him, he gets puzzled and unnerved.
I'll have to look at OpenOffice for Christina C's computer (thanks to Nick for the recommendation). I may end up using it on my own.
While burning those DVD-Rs, I'm reading PDF excerpts from books on politics and history that I came across while researching Herman Kahn.

Kahn was a big wheel in the RAND Corporation and founder of the Hudson Institute - both American early think tanks concerned with the cold war 'balance of terror', and with using game theory to work out strategies for a possible nuclear war.

He was a phenomenally bright man, with an IQ reckoned at 200 or 220 and a head teeming with ideas. Some plausible (that the Russians weren't stupid monsters, that nuclear war was possible), some a bit daft (that there could be a winner, and life afterwards would be bearable), and some completely barking (that game theory could win it by modelling the Soviet mindset). In fact, a normal person, but writ very large.

Intriguing site. Though appalingly catalogued - perhaps it's a replacement for the photocopied handouts usually given to students in lectures.
Reading on, I'm reintroducing myself to game theory, starting with the famous Prisoner's Dilemma. If taken literally, it should be impossible to buy a bar of chocolate in a shop, because the customer will shoplift, and the assistant will refuse sale for fear the money may be counterfeit.

In fact, the well known 'system of trust' in banking institutions couldn't exist. And the IPD extensions of revoked and restored trust don't help.

Speaking vaguely of which, three ebay fraudsters were jailed today for conning small amounts from hundreds of bidders.

If a stranger walked up to you in a shop and said they'd undercut the shop's prices by sending you the item in a week if you paid cash now, would you trust them?

Maybe greed creates gullibility, but only for small gains. The 'Nigerian' email is still a failure, and it promises wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.

Like a Dog

Christina C wants MS Office replacing with MS Works, because it crashes less often on her old PC. Fair enough - my emoluement will be the usual vegetarian meal, endless cups of tea, and eccentric company.

Last time I was there, I was attempting get Matthew the youngest son out from under the coffee table (what?) when Buster, the family's elderly dog, decided to relive his frisky youth. I've never had a Great Dane attempt to mate with me before.

Matthew let of a squeal of delight and started shouting "GBS! GBS!". It took us a few minutes to get the nine-year-old to tell us what it meant. Gay Bum Sex. Yep.

I'll find time sometime next week - hopefully Hailey will have had her baby by then. And Buster will be asleep.
Simon M and I do not actually live together. It's just that every time his burgeoning ebay business needs technical help - which can be two or three times a week - I'm the I.T department.

The plan is: Spend two hours setting up auctions for bodybuilding pills (Creatine and Krysin, I think), then explore the mysteries of cooking, and watch The Wicker Man - a film which offends everyone who believes in religious tolerance.
Paul T on Saturday. Composing instrumental techno and guitar tracks. I'm supposed to have come up with some basslines and beats.
Is this clever? As a way of translating endnote references in articles into their HTML equivalents. Make a macro that does the following:

(1) Cut the currently highlighted text
(2) write <a href="#
(3) paste the cut text (presumably a number)
(4) write >[
(5) paste the number again
(6) write ]</a>

When you find a footnote number, select it, and press the assigned function key, turning (say) 36 into <a href="#36">[36]</a> in one keystroke.

Something similar for bold, italic, blockquote sections, subheadings and the endnotes themselves. It took me two days trying out various systems of macros to come up with it. I think it's quite neat.
Pestalozzi have sent me their christmas catalogue. Asking me to fund their charity by buying their kitchy christmas cards. Included is their Village News magazine, full of breezy reader's-digest-type articles, and pictures of happy smiling youngsters from many nations in their national dress.

It's all a bit spooky. The way they spell Village with a capital V, the insistance on Harmony and Tolerance, the way everyone is smiling, the complete lack of content in the articles.

Where am I?
In The Village.
What do you want?
Multicultural paradise, westernised diversity and a strange kind of officious blandness.
Gareth E consulted me last night about his ferociously philosophical PHd on the notion of Play, and it's relation to unalienated labour.

Taking his cue from the aphorism that Sport is alienated adult Play, he's trying to reconstruct the unalienated form from clues found in artistic expression, displacement activity, experiences of joy and hobbies.

I'm thinking about 'Dark Play' - bullying, self harm, and fighting.

No one seems to have gone down this precise road before, but there's a lot of parallel routes and intersections with other disiplines.

Post Interruptus

It seems the 'comments' option on the blog had got turned off somehow. Presumably I was just careless changing settings when I turned word-verification on. It should be back from this post on.

Prisoners of Childhood

Tomorrow morning, probably before I'm awake, some electrical items will be thrown into skips at a recycling point.

The Cheetah MK5 Midi Keyboard, bought for me by my mother in 1983 when I was 11. Five octaves of unweighted half-size keys, a pitch-bend wheel and a single button for adjusting octaves, channels and things. Powered by a 9V adaptor, with a serial DIN midi-out socket.

This controller keyboard was marketed to owners of the ZX Spectrum who wanted to play it's beeper with a real piano keyboard. Amazingly, it still works - except for the pitch wheel sending random signals and the power socket being loose.

No fancy velocity sense or aftertouch of course, and no sliders that can be patched into softsynth parameters on your PC - unlike the shiny silver keyboard leaning against my bedroom wall.

There's no real reason to keep the MK5 - it's functional but obsolete, taking up space, and a sentimental reminder of a childhood that I hated, except when making music.

The same goes for the Tascam 244 4-track cassette portastudio. £400 second-hand in 1990, from the same man who sold me the Kawai R50 drum machine - currently used by Sion R's band when practicing without a drummer.

I'm holding on to the other 4-track. With 8 inputs it can still function as a mixing desk for piping a fully mic-ed up drumkit into a stereo track on a modern, digital 8-track recorder.

There's other items - a mono cassette player supposedly designed for loading games into computers. I really did sit for five minutes and watch flashing primary colours on a TV screen connected to a Spectrum, waiting for a game to load from cassette. I remember wondering what computers of the future would be capable of, whether it might be possible to link several computers together somehow over large distances, and play games with other users.

The television I played the games on. Bought cheap and second-hand from an electrical repair shop that did a nice sideline in items whose owners hadn't collected them after six months. The shop shared premises with a software design company where I got my first job at age 15. Writing a program in BASIC to control a robot arm on a BBC Model B.

My very first music playing system - the size of three shoeboxes end-to-end, with double cassette deck and FM radio. Inspired by the house and sample-based music breaking through in 1985-86, I recorded snippets of tracks from one deck to the other, mixing and rearranging.

Other accoutrements and symbols of the past wait to be discarded. Twenty years worth of mindmaps, lecture notes and photocopies sit in binbags. The cassette 'master tapes' of a dozen home-made albums - the surviving ones now cleaned up mixed down to CD. There's hundreds of videotapes, slowly decomposing in cardboad boxes, and never mind all the novels and textbooks dealing with programming systems not used in years. VMS, C, QL BASIC, Utah COBOL, even Ada circa 1990.

I wouldn't want those years back. Patronised for being young, bullied for being queer, hated for being smart, and not understanding why. There's only one thing I miss - the sense of being a pioneer.

John, Paul, George and Ri-

A quick update because I'm knackered...

Three of John M's articles (two short one long) scanned, OCRed, hand converted to HTML and Proofed. With each stage taking longer than the one before. Four hours continious work last night for one thirty five page article - the minor classic of the British left What is the Real Marxist Tradition?. Four more shorter pieces awaiting my loving hand conversion to HTML. It may be tedious, but the result is files literally half the size and very easy to deciper and edit.

Dinner and routine computer maintence with Simon M this evening. It's never occured to me that you can boil pasta in milk with herbs - the result looks a bit like tapioca, but tastes lovely and rich. More culinary discovery and computer assistance on Thursday. He's setting up a business as middleman selling 'Nutritional Supplements' (pills and powders for muscle building) on ebay.

Strict Machines have two projects in early stages - an unplugged album (possibly full length) and an electronic EP (instrumental or nearly so). Which at least shows the band's versitility. So I get to be what Paul T calls the "Three and a halfth member".