We're so screwed

Today was a day of screwups.

I set some TV programmes up to record, but forgot that the 10 minute capture limit I'd put in place while testing the system, was still there. And I forgot to change the default capture resolution to the full 720x576.

I did manage to record vocals for Gallows Hill, but my voice wasn't very good. And listening back, the mixing isn't as good as I thought it was.

I messed up big time with the night's forum. It was on 'Why Immigration is not a Problem'. At least it would have been, if I hadn't completely forgotten that the room was double booked. I knew this a week ago, and meant to make alternative arrangements but, well, I was so wrapped up in getting people there, that I forgot to arrange it somewhere else.

Kapitano is thus not terribly popular with the local politicos at this moment.

H and I are both feeling a bit awful - we've got these lingering colds, and I think I've eaten something that doesn't like me.

Being a cultured sort, he wants to see a production of 'Going Dutch' that's on at the theatre next week. Seeing as this month he's the more bankrupt of us, I'll look at getting tickets.
JS called. He's got an elderly, sick computer, which I'll be either reviving or pronouncing dead on Wednesday. The price for my profession services - cost of any new software, and one of his famous slap-up curries.

Home Alone

My parents are away for most of today, so there's plenty of uninterrupted opportunity to record vocals for Gallows Hill and mix it right.

Tonight is a forum on immigration - which, as a good, loyal and committed socialist, I might skip to see H if he's feeling better. Though as the one charged with reminding others to turn up, there'll be an hour on the phone persuading others to be there.

I've stumbled across the notebooks I kept in the early 1990s. I kept them to record any philosophical questions and ideas that occured to me. About two thirds of the entries either trivially true or obviously false, but there's some interesting stuff in there. When I find a bit of time, I plan to transcribe some of the more interesting mini-essays here.

Three quarters of the stuff from my bedroom is in boxes in another room. So why has one quarter of the mass produced the same level of mess as before?

Is the pope in a coma?

Before you do anything, you've got to do six other things first. And any unexpected free time will immidiately be occupied by something that wasn't urgent when you didn't have time to do it.

Anyway, I've got my secondary TV and film recording system set up and running nicely, plus a filing system for it. I found the dictaphone while looking for something else, so perhaps my blatherings will go into that instead of this blog for all the see.

Oh, and the studio is now finally set up to record. I just haven't actually given myself time to record the song I set it up to record. Do it tommorrow. Yeah.

H is feeling rotten again - either he's got my recurrant cold or I've got his. Hence he's lying in bed sniffing and studying, while I'm sitting here sniffing and surfing. Seeing each other is the other thing that's being put off till tomorrow.

Oh yes, there's a documentary soon called 'Is torture a good idea?'. Watch out for 'Eugenics: The forgotten ideal', 'Why we have too much freedom', 'Homosexuals: Sick or just criminal?' and 'Should we gas gypsy scum?'

Happy Now

I have reached a small conclusion. That trying to run an old capture card with old drivers through experimental third party software running a notoriously buggy codec...is unlikely to start working soon. And that by spending 24UKP on a new card with it's own software I can save myself some headaches. So that's what I've done. A Leadtek Winfast 2000XP-RM.

The other reason I'm happy is that a 6'2 19 year old wants to have sex with me. I just want to stop sniffing and lose a stone before meeting him.

Blah, Blah, Blah

It's bloody cold, and I'm sick of technology that doesn't work. I'm sick of hardware that doesn't do what it says on the box, and software that crashes.

And while we're in the mood, I'm not entirely happy with being trapped living here with my parents because the only job I can find doesn't pay enough to let me move away. I'm tierd of feeling too fat and self concious to have the sex or relationships that are offered me. And I'm bored with a commumnity of people who seem congenitally incapable of thinking.

Yes, I know. I'm not living on the streets, I have parents to come home to, I have enough to eat, friends and lovers are within reach, and I'm not yet living in a police state. I'm grateful that I have the chance to get fat, use computers, have sex, fall in love, read books and persue what interests me - don't think I'm not.

It would just be nice if my life weren't mostly taken up with trying to sort out my life. End of rant.
There's almost always a point in the production of a song, where you think it's 95% finished, with just a few elements to tweak. And you spend 50% of the total production time tweaking. Which sometimes results in the entire track being rewritten.

I've been 'tweaking' Gallow's Hill. Taking out a synth line, adding a third guitar, rewriting the middle 8 several times, and inserting extra bars here and there. The lyrics are still the same, but sung in a different way, and hopefully they'll get recorded today.

As sometimes happens when everything gets planned except the essentials, I have three good microphones, and no microphone stand. This is probably synechdochic. Unless I mean metonymic. Or indicative. Or just bloody typical.
On a whim, I checked my gaydar account. M left me a message last week. He just wants to know if I'm alright. He can't possibly still be holding a candle for me. I'm not sure if I should even respond.
Tomorrow night I'm seeing H. Must see if there's any decent films or bands playing.

Open Channel D

I did something this morning I haven't done for weeks. I went to bed before 0700, and woke up before midday. Then I did something I haven't done for years. Watched a Man from U.N.C.L.E film - The Spy in the Green Hat.

It's one of those movies I grew up with, but could never remember anything about. Great fun - cold war, high camp, low plot, high tech, James Bond spoof. Oddly, it's worn better than Get Smart.

I tried to capture it, but once again the software locked up, as I half expected it would. So from now on, all captures in MPEG2, at least until I can get more stable software. Or a mac.
Nick has recorded a song for Gallow's Hill. It's fairly typical of his stuff - the lyrics are the most important part, the melody is piano led, and the whole track could do with a damn good remix.

Nick is a good songwriter who wants to be a better producer. I'm a good producer who wants to be a better songwriter. Sounds like a team to me.

It remains to be seen whether his song about a vengeful god or my song about terrorism gets the most hostile response from American's who think they're liberal.
If I'm going to be self employed, I'd much rather it be as a remixer than a technician. I'll have to investigate the possibility.

However, right now it's nearly 1700, and, having got up at 0800 for the first time in a month, my eyelids are drooping and my mouth is yawning. Time for a little nap.

Pluck, strum, distort

I've come up with a backing track for this week's Songfight. It's mainly an excuse to get familliar with the Revitar guitar synthesiser - which is lucky, as the four available titles are complete rubbish, and so's the track.

No lyrics yet, and indeed no choice of title. And I'm not sure I'll be able to sing it anyway - the effects of my cold are still lingering. So, this is probably a 'learning experience' i.e. an exercise that's pointless in itself, but generates skills useful for the future.

Love is...

Night out with H. We disagreed about radio comedy, british attitudes to royalty, and the precise meaning of 'neotony'. Rather worryingly, we agreed completely on George Monbiot, David Bellamy, and the stresses of school trips :-). Same again next week.

Six months ago, I could happily go for a two hour bike ride and not get out of breath. Last night, I was breathless and in pain after a minute. That the pain was sharp, stabbing, and in the chest is not a good sign - and taking 30 minutes to fade isn't encouraging either. H said I should go the the GP about it, though I imagine the response will be "You're fat and unfit - take some exercise".

Baseline and Bassline

I've got a 4 CD backup of my system with all programs installed and running correctly, and a 1 CD backup of just Windows 2000, Service Pack 4, Internet Explorer 6, and the various security fixes. So now, if it all goes disasterously wrong, I can go back to one or the other.
Nick and I spoke on IRC for nearly two hours. The upshot is that
(1) We are now in positions to start writing more material but without pressuring ourselves with deadlines.
(2) The idea is to produce music mastered to professional level, not just demo tracks. In (1) and (2), the intent is to produce quality over quantity.
(3) We aim to perform live at a music festival in June.

He described our target musical feel as 'Electronica with soul'. I could add 'Synthpop with intelligence'.
I've dug out my old SK5 sampler - amazing that after nearly two decades, my seminal toy synthesiser works perfectly. I'm halfway through sampling it's onboard sounds - I want to submit them to the wonderful Hollow Sun site.

They've already got SK1 samples, and a whole raft of sounds from classic and obscure analog synths.

I made music with that keyboard for about a decade, with it's 8-bit sampling and 6 predefined ADSR envelopes. It seems incredible now. But it also seems incredible that I paid £400 for a drum machine (the Kawai R50 - also at Hollow Sun) in 1990, and upgraded to a Gravis Ultrasound soundcard on a 200MHz machine.

But now, guided by horrible old cassette recordings of music made with this stuff, I can recreate the best of it, and make it like it was supposed to be. The strange thing is, when I was pottering around with a Tascam 244, a Casio SK1 and a Kawai R50, I knew that I was creating demo versions of tracks that wouldn't exist for years to come, maybe even decades.

Definitely working now. Promise.

Never overlook the little things. Like checking to make sure the 'Line In' and 'Line Out' ports in your video capture card weren't labeled the wrong way round by the manufacturer. That way, you stand less chance of recording a week's worth of television with no sound.
Tonight was the second classroom lecture on my course. I learned more in an hour about greenhouse gasses than in the past decade. It's not surprising people get confused.

Trying to explain to someone on the street that the window of Infra-Red absorbtion between CO2 and H2O is filled by N2O and CCI3F, which let through high frequency IR but partially absorb and re-emit reflected low frequency IR, but that CCI3F (aka CFC) destroys O3, which filters UVA...

Anyone who understand that paragraph will already be aware of the danger. So that presumably excludes David Bellamy.
On the way home, I listened to a cold war spy thriller on my (slightly buggy) N-Pod. While gently lusting after the procession of young men in track suits getting on and off the bus.

Oh, and resisting the impulse to put bricks through the Tory party's election posters. "If you put more police on the streets, they'll catch more criminals." "It isn't racist to restrict immigration." "No one has an absolute right to freedom."

One of these sentences isn't being used on the posters. Which one?
H really is stupendously overworked right now. Writing a textbook and simultainously doing intensive teacher training and learning French would tax anyone - and amazingly, he thinks he's the disorganised one. If he's got the strength, and if we're both feeling okay, we'll have the chance to veg out to a dumb movie on Saturday.

And then we can drink, disagree on a political issue, hug, and part happy till next time.
Possible song title: Deaf In The Family


I can breathe again. My nostrils are (mostly) unblocked, my throat no longer rattles (much), and the headache is (almost) gone. Feels wonderful. Nose is still a bit sore though.

One reason I record all those science fiction serials is so I can watch them while ill or too tired to do anything else. This virus got me through the first two seasons of Farscape.
The N-Pod seems to have a bug. After it's been fully charged, the MP3s on it all play silently, until it gets connected via USB to a computer, after which they play as before. Very strange, and rather annoying. The FM radio and other functions still work fine, but the most important one - playback - doesn't.

This, and the rather limited fastforward and rewind, and the small number of filename characters displayed, and the lack of delete or move functions, and the relative quietness of playback, mean I'm not completely over the moon about it. It is a good piece of kit - with some annoying ideosyncrasies.
Nick has recorded a good little song for SongFight, titled Hollywood Fantasy. Imagine a melancholy grungy reggae lounge ballad. No, I can't either, and I've heard it :-). It's good, and it makes me realise how much I've missed making music for the last few months.

One lyric I must work into a song someday: "One night of cockbang makes a strong man stumble."
Oh lord, it's 0500. How did it get to be five in the morning?


Right. I'm tanked up on Day Nurse and Lemsip and one or two other cold treatments. And I've still got a head full of cotton wool, a mouth full of wood shavings, and a nose full of concrete.

The plan is to do all the professional stuff and get the cold over, by Friday. Then see H and start writing music again. I've given my immune system the deadline, and I'll have a word with God about time later.


I've found a way to prevent the computer crashing when I capture TV. It's to use the software that came with the capture card. Yes, I know.

The thing is, the software captures only in MPEG2, which is one of the least friendly formats for editing and transcoding. I want to capture in MJPEG - one letter different, big usability difference.

I'll even settle for low-ish quality realtime DivX captures, but they crash too.


I've completed the first assignment on my course. Question 3 was "Describe briefly the process of sweating in humans and explain how sweating cools the human body." Here's my answer:

When heat is fed into liquid water, it can either increase in temperature, or retain the same temperature but become vapour.

The latter is evaporation, which can occur at any temperature below boiling point (approximately 97 degrees Celsius). At boiling point, the probability of evaporation is 100%, but it can occur at levels below this, the probability decreasing with heat level.

Sweating is the secretion of water (and dissolved salts) onto the external surface of the skin. When humans sweat for any reason, the water in it will be warmed by the skin. Given time, the probability is that the water will evaporate, drawing a comparatively large amount of heat from the skin to do so.

Thus when sweat evaporates, skin cools.

I'm not quite sure what else I could have said.


Here's the plan:
1) Format the disks, then Reinstall Windows 2000, with Service Pack 4, Internet Explorer 6, and the various bugfixes currently available from (spit) Microsoft. Then use NovaBackup to make a snapshot of a completely clean basic Windows installation.

2) Install all the drivers and software that I use, and take a second snapshop.

3) If the system goes the way of the pear again, take the system and program partitions back to the second backup - to a time when they were working but not pear shaped.

4) If there's a serious problem, go back to the basic installation.

If I had any sense, I'd have done this a year or more ago. Speaking of which, I'm listening on my N-Pod to a recording of The Breezeblock from the fourth of January, 2004. I've been recording radio shows since the beginning of last year, but it's taken me this long to get around to getting a portable device to play them back.


Two things I don't especially need at the moment are a bad cold and mysterious computer problems. However, intermittantly crashing software and a voice like a thrash singer is just what I have.

The forum last night was quite a success. Pete Morgan (editor of Socialist Review) spoke about the elections in Iraq, and the continued resistance to occupation. Five new people turned up - who asked intelligent questions and actually listened to the answers.

Still got that dratted essay to write. But as that requires thought, and my head is full of treacle, I'll do something that requires no thought whatsoever - just some patience. I'm going reinstall all my nonworking software.

You can't make it up

I switch on the television. There's an advert for some female beauty product - moisturiser or make up, I don't remember. The music is a classic piece of 80s synthpop.

It's Tainted Love. A product that hides blemishes, with a song about imperfections. A product about romance, with a song about a failed relationship.

There's not a trace of irony in the presentation. It's not one of those 'clever' adverts that exploits people's mistrust of advertising by pretending to subvert itself.


I've got an N-Pod. £128.00 for a combined MP3 player, dictaphone, FM Radio reciever and recorder, basic ebook reader, and portable 20GB hard disk.

So now, with a bit of forward planning, I can record what I want from DAB, and listen to it during those hours spent on busses, trains and pavements.


Nathan Barley was rubbish. Just horrible. Fresh as an egyptian mummy, subversive as Phil Collins, eloquent as George Bush, and subtle as a lead brick.

I've probably used the quote before, but, I think it was Tom Paulin who said, "It's a horrible thing when an artist's work matures."


I've got to phone around to remind people of the forum tomorrow. It's about the fraudulence of the Iraq elections.

I know that my list of telephone numbers is somewhere in one of five boxes of stuff that I moved when clearing out my bedroom. So I think I'll listen to some of last week's radio while rifleing through it all.

This is how it begins

I don't have many childhood memories. Almost nothing before ten, and not much before 15. Three of them occur in 1985, when I was 13, and they're musical.

The first was while watching a TV programme about pop music - an article about what was breaking in the american charts. They played a minute or so of a very dense and chaotic animated video - too many things happening to take in at once. And the music was...bizarre. I remember thinking something like "This should not be music. But it is music, and it's fascinating.".

I was captivated by the sonic possibilities that opened up. There was no structure of verses and chorues, nonsensical lyrics, and sounds that belonged in scrapyards, streets and factories.

The voiceover went on to introduce other acts, but I didn't notice them. I knew nothing of samplers and little of synthesisers - it seemed miraculous that music could be made without pianos, or electric guitars, or singers. The band was The Art of Noise, and the track was Close (to the Edit).

The second was when my cousin Mark made a cassette copy for me of The Art of Noise's album. Every weekday I came home from school for lunch with my parents, and went back in the afternoon. This lunchtime some cassettes had arrived in the post, with a letter from Mark.

I put the cassette into a crummy old mono tape player, and felt those same sensations again. A whole album of impossible music. Going back to the little world of Status Quo strumming their guitars and endless blond woman singers singing about love - it was like going back to a pogo stick after flying a fighter plane. Functional but dull and so limited.

All this probably seems quite strange now to anyone reading it. Perhaps I was nieve, but it's a wonderful feeling when the world suddenly seems to get bigger, and there are exotic new terratories to explore.

The third was the same feeling again. The show was Top Of The Pops, and the song was '19' by Paul Hardcastle. Minimal production, all syntheised sounds, and - the audacity! - recorded speech where the singer should be. Plus, there was an actual message in the song.

I discovered a lot of other things when I was 13. I found that I liked boys more than girls. And that for some reason, other people had a problem with that. And, even more baffling, they didn't know why they had a problem.

1985. This was the year that made me. I stumbled upon sexuality, began to ask questions about philosophy, science, and what made people tick, and decided that what I really wanted to do was make music. Music from sound.


Today I tried to transfer a gigabyte of data from a desktop to a laptop. Sounds reasonably simple. The laptop (called 'Rincewind') can't be networked. The desktop (called 'Greebo') can be - and is - networked, but only on one network at a time.

So, I disconnect the BNC cable from Greebo, and connect the RJ45 to both. Nothing. I reset both, and Greebo mysteriously asks several times for the MS-Office 2000 installation disk. But...Rincewind recognises Greebo, and they spend a happy half hour copying files.

I switch off Rincewind, and try to disconenct Greebo. And can't. The RJ45 cable is stuck fast in it's slot. And half the icons have disappeared from the desktop. And all my emails have vanished, together the Internet Explorer favourites list, and all Outlook Express settings. GAH!

All the software seems installed, but reset. Even the windows colour scheme is back to default. Mysterious, annoying, and worrying. Is this going to happen every time I move files to my little laptop?

Anyway. I'm set to record the first episode of Nathan Barley. I haven't seen a single positive review, but hey, this is a Chris Morris project. He's my absolute favourite commedian, and it generally takes the mainstream media a few months to 'get' his work. Before they copy it badly.

Also to be recorded - The Rocky Horror Picture Show! It all looks curiously innocent and harmless now. It might just be me getting old, but I now enjoy the music more than the costumes, jokes, and attitude. Nick? Are you reading this? Bet you'll be watching it! "I'm just a beat trance-vestite."

Oh yes, and I'm thinking of getting an N-Pod. Not an I-Pod, an N-Pod. Half the price, none of the cool, and more of the functionality. I'm recording all these radio music shows and documentaries, but can only listen to them with a computer. There's no shortage of time to hear them, but most of it's spent traveling or sitting in waiting rooms. So, a portable MP3 player seems a good idea.

Who watches the royal watchers?

Charles Winsor is to marry Camilla Parker-Bowles. The media is full of it (so to speak), but the public don't seem very interested. Compare the general public reaction to this engagement, with the last time Charles got engaged.

Then, reactions from the mainstream in the main street ranged from mild approval to tearful joy. Now, they range from mild disapproval to a shrug of the shoulders.

Royal-watching - taking great interest in royalty, their public appearances, and their commemorative mugs - was considered a mild eccentricity in the early 1980s. Most people were pro-royal in a vague, noncommittal sort of way, but collecting royal facts and memorabilia was thought a little strange. Now, the dominant attitude seems to be disinterest. Strong anti-monarchism is rare, but so is any strong attitude at all about the royal family.

When Charles married Diana (1981?) most people in Britain didn't realise it was a sham. Anyone used to thinking critically about politics and the media of course saw that it was arranged, and probably loveless from the outset. But way back then, that kind of thinking was vanishingly rare.

When Diana died (1996?), there was a vast manufactured public outpuring of grief. Real emotions, but artificially stimulated. In just a few years since then, the public have become less easy to manipulate, as demonstrated by the completely lack of public interest at the deaths of Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother.

We are not now living in a nation of skeptics. If we were the support for Tony Blair and the occupation of Iraq would be nonexistent, as opposed to just low. Nor (I believe) are we living in a nation of apathetics.

Think of the compassionate reaction to the asian tsunami, the virulent wave of racism against immigrants, the anti-war demonstrations, the mouthfoaming about terrorists, and the exaggerated fear of street crime. The politics in people's heads may be confused, contradictory, and sometimes repellent, but there is strong political consciousness.

So, the public don't care, and the media is trying to make them enthusiastic. What will be interesting is to see how far public attitude can now be changed by television, radio, newspapers and magazines. Can the general public be whipped up into yet another frenzy, like they were when Diana died? Can they be made to support this marriage, even if only weakly?

The marriage of two upper-class twits is of no consequence in itself. But the maleability of the public on this issue will be an index of their stubbornness, gullibility, and capacity for independent thought on other issues.

Thanks Mum

Aren't mother's wonderful? This morning I woke up briefly when she looked in on me. I mumbled something about needing to upgrade computers with RAM. She agreed, and I went back to sleep. Then I wake up at midday to find she's gone and bought us both some RAM for our computers.

With my memory capacity doubled to 1024MB, I run a few tests. And find the same crashes with the same error messages as before. So, stuck for anything else to try, I install a different MJPEG codec, and now it's all running perfectly.

So now it's all set up to record Farscape and Anatomy for Beginners - an intetesting combination.

Oh, I notice a new Freeview channel - Teachers TV. From the website it looks crushingly dull, patronising, but occasionally useful for someone who might end up being a teacher - like me or H. I'll offer to record some programmes for H, though something tells me the opportunity to study even more rubbish about teaching theory won't appeal to him.

Right. I have eight days to write a short essay on the role of water in human biology. It's not difficult, and is therefore not very interesting, and will therefore be left until the night before the deadline. But I can at least read the source book.

Capturing those golden TV moments

Guess what time it is? That's right. It's exactly four in the morning. Again.

Today, I have tried to capture five television programmes. The software (WinVDR Pro and VirtualDub) crashed during four of them. And I think I know why. I need more RAM.

To capture TV broadcasts in real time you need:
* A lot of hard disk space. I recommend an empty partition of at least 50GB, if possible on a seperate physical drive from the OS. If you're going to recode the capture, it helps if the destination drive of the transcoding is on a seperate physical drive. Write speed and read speed is less important than lack of data fragmentation.

* A fast CPU. In principle, a 1.7GHz machine can do realtime MPEG4 encoding of a full resolution capture while encoding the sound to MP3. In practice, 3GH is probably needed.

* Lots of RAM. You might get away with 512MB - though today I didn't. 1024MB should be enough. Speed of RAM is less important than size.

If your RAM is too slow to process the incoming signal, your capture will drop frames. This also happens if your CPU is too slow. If your RAM is too small to handle the large amount of data involved, even for a single frame, you will probably get a crash.

So, I'm going to spend some more of that money I don't really have, and get me some extra RAM chips. And this is one of those cases where too much is far preferable to too little, because too much is merely redundant at worst, while too little is worthless.

A Lewd Act

An actor is performing onstage as a character in a play. At some point, the character cleans their teeth, and therefore so does the actor. In a sense, therefore, the actor isn't pretending to clean his or her teeth - they are actually doing it.

The same goes for smoking a cigarette, being naked, shouting, dancing, and kissing. Indeed, most of what the actor does on stage isn't actually faked.

There are a few cases where the real thing can be substituted with something that is 'near enough'. A high-tar cigarette might be replaced with a herbal cigarette, a punch will narrowly miss it's target, melodramatic crying might have all the right external componants except the tears - or the tears might be chemically induced. Obviously dying and (usually) the harming of others or oneself are simulated.

However, most of what occurs can't be simulated. The acts of moving and walking, talking and showing emotion, entering, exiting, and handling objects are all 'real'. The objects handled might be fake, but the handling itself isn't - except where 'slight of hand' is involved.

So what about a performance is always fake? In other words, what factors are always present in all acting that distinguish it from the real thing? What is it about acting that makes it acting?

An actor can pretend to cry, but even if they produce real tears from their own sorrow, it isn't the character's sorrow. They can display rage, love, lust, insanity, or even apathy, but even the method actor who generates these emotions inside himself for greater believability, doesn't display the characters emotion - he displays his own.

The interiority of the actor - their emotions, thoughts and history - can never be those of the character they play. There's two things to say about this.

The first is that it doesn't leave us with much fiction in our portrayals. If everything happening on stage can, in principle, be real, then there isn't much that distinguishes viewing a stage production from viewing a real event - even if the event is highly surreal.

The second comment is that the vast majority of acting never approaches this high level of realism. Props are made of cardboard, gestures are somewhat overdone, lines get fluffed, and actors muck about as much as they can get away with.


How did it get to be four in the morning again? Oh well, no sooner do I get a system of video capture set up, than BBC3 start showing Farscape - a show I always enjoyed, but only saw patchily.

I've got a two-tier system for capturing video from Freeview. For programs like documentaries where crystal clarity of picture isn't essential, a realtime encoding of the live signal into DivX (925kbps, 'Standard' speed, Deinterlacing source) and MP3 (128kbps, 44.1KHz, Mono). For films and special serials, an encoding of the signal to MJPEG (quality level 18) and PCM WAV (44.1KHz, Mono), then a recoding of that to the same settings as the realtime capture, except at 'Slow' speed, with Psychovisual processing and cropping as necessary.

That paragraph will mean nothing to anyone who hasn't run a similar operation.

What's it called when you're tierd and want to sleep, but mysteriously can't? I lie down in bed and completely fail to drift off. Whatever it's called, I've got it. And my brain is too fuzzy to do any useful reading.

AS has sent me an email again. He's asian, shy, and wants to have sex with me. If I hadn't put on so much weight and got so busy the last few weeks, I'd do it without hesitation. As it is, I have an essay to write by the 17th, and something like 35 pounds to somehow lose.

Remind me why I'm doing this?

The afternoon nap managed to last nearly 5 hours, and I awoke refreshed and alert. It's now four in the morning again, and after spending several hours installing and deinstalling codecs and drivers and software, my head is again full of porridge. BUT I now know the cause of the problem.

Of two identical looking but slightly different PCI cards, I've got the wrong one installed! So it's just a simple matter of deinstalling all the drivers, opening up the computer, changing over the cards, reinstalling the drivers, and going through all the tests again to make sure it works properly.

Unfortunately, I've lost the screwdriver.

So I think I'll go and have some early breakfast instead. H said I ought to look after myself - sleep regular hours, exercise, and eat sensibly. I'm sure it is possible to do all these things and not turn into a person so boring it would turn a Jehovis Witness to stone. It's just...as Saint Augustine said, "Oh Lord, make me pure. But not yet."

EDIT: It's 0645 and all the hardware is working perfectly with all it's software. So now I can turn it off until I actually have a reason to use it. H is right about sleep, but as it's another 18 hours until normal people go to sleep, I think I'll do it now.

Typing and Typolgy

I've just finished transcribing 5972 handwritten words - some of it not entirely legible, some of it about things I don't understand. As a result, my head is currently full of porridge. When the porridge turns back into brain, I may be able to think better.

Last night I went out with H. There were no decent films on, so we sat in Portsmouth's two gay pubs, he with his cider and me with my bacardi-and-coke, disagreeing about everything from theories of teaching to the justifyability of war. We sat drinking tea in his room afterwards having a very interesting discussion on the concept of 'subspecies' - I'll write about that at some point later.

H is a very switched on and educated man, and, like a lot of people with detailed knowledge and good skeptical attitudes in his specialisms, he's curiously nieve in other areas. He knows more than me about tribal conflict in Africa and religious tension in the Middle East, but can't explain where these problems come from, or why tensions can be dormant for generations, then suddenly flare up into genocide.

I suppose it's unsurprising. If the history books you read attribute tyranny to the evil of the tyrant, economic revival to the charisma of a president, and war to the spontainous collective insanity of the country, then you'll get a picture of history as one mysterious event after another. A tale told by a madman, full of anacdote and hand waving, signifying nothing.

Right. I now have backache from hunching over this keyboard for hours, and a computer that needs a few dozen programs reinstalling. I could do that, or I could have an afternoon nap. Hmmm.

Don't You Wish You Were More Like Me? I Do.

It's 0431. The entire room is cleaned and rearranged. The computer has a brand new installation of Windows 2000. And after four straight hours of running through permutations of cables, cards and drivers, I can record TV programs on the computer. Or could if the right codecs were installed.

Unfortunately, I've no idea which combination made it suddenly start working after hours of nothing. If there's one thing I hate almost as much as being unable to solve a problem, it's not knowing exactly how I solved it. I have a perverse urge to deinstall everything and start again, just so I can know what I did right.

Time for sleep. The downside of tomorrow (later today, after sleep) is that I have 6000 words of almost illegible handwriting to deciper and transcribe. And it's urgent. The upside is that I'm seeing H afterwards. Goodnight.

Not the Theory of Human Labour

I think work expands by meiosis and mutation. Every task divides into several smaller tasks, which then grow to the size of the original the more you examine them, before dividing again. They also change, so an idea about recording freeview broadcasts on your bedroom computer becomes a plan to rearrange the entire room so the arial can go next to the window.

There are also recessive tasks that suddenly become dominant. A few days ago I said I wouldn't mind transcribing a handwritten essay into digital form. This morning I get a quietly panicked phone call that the essay is finished, but late. And 6000 words. And neither of us can think of anyone else who (a) knows their way around a keyboard and (b) could actually understand the essay.

Note to self: You're much better at diagnosing technical problems than political ones. Your task in history is act as technical support and amenuensis to much greater thinkers. Some day, after the revolution, someone will write a slim biography of you - Kapitano: Screwdriver Of The Masses.

DIary of Wasted Time

Not the most productive day in the world.

It started at 01:00, when I tried to install a video capture card in my computer, and set up a freeview reciever box with my arial booster. My family already have a system for capturing television to divx, and my idea was to set up a secondary capture system - for recording the occasional programme which they can't capture because it clashes with another one.

The Freeview box couldn't detect any digital signals at all, one of the pins on the S-Video cable broke, and the soundcard stopped working. I did, however, tune in to BBC1, which was relaying George Bush's address to the nation. As my metaphorical jaw descended towards the rhetorical floor, Baby Bush spouted a stream of unconnected sentences, seemingly generated by a Chomsky grammar machine.

My particular favourite sentence was "Freedom will ensure Peace." It wouldn't be difficult to recreate the algorithm, a produced sentences like "God gives Succour to Eye-Ran.", "Terror shall destroy Democracy.", and "The enemies of Justice shall not prevail against the right to Vote."

Okay, if it really was meaningless, it wouldn't be scary. Specific threats against Iran and Syria, and ageneral threats against any country that 'gives suppport' to 'terror'. Plus a committment to keep troops in Iraq until the population stops killing them.

After all that I went to sleep. And woke at 0900 to the news that I had a pointless meeting booked for 1030. After the pointless meeting, I walked home, buying a new S-Video cable and some microphone clips on the 2 hour journey.

What was I saying about the personal and the political?

After an afternoon spent failing to get the sound and video cards to work, I went to the first lecture of my new physics course. Like all introductory lectures, it was all about the course structure, essay writing, and the importance of deadlines. So no actual physics.

Walking to the bus stop, I realised I'd forgotten to bring any money. So, to get money for the bus, I walked to the nearest cashpoint. Which was out of order. So I bought some junk food from the co-op with my debit card, asking for £10 'cashback'. They were happy to do this, provided I bought a minimum of £3 worth of junk food.

After first mistyping my withdrawl was £20, and then as £1, I got my £10 in loose change. And sat at the bus stop munching my crisps and chocolate. The last bus of the night arrived, and took me to within 20 minutes walk of where I wanted to go. Along the same route I'd walked earlier.

The plan for today was to tidy up and rearrange my bedroom, reinstall peripheral drivers, and get the Freeview box working. It's now 0011, and I'm about ready to begin. Just as soon as I drink the Red Square from the co-op.

I haven't seen H for nearly 3 weeks. He should be reasonably free on Friday (today), or the weekend. I hope so - even if it's just to see a dumb movie and disagree about genetic reductionism.

Red Square is vodka, caffine, and taurine. Cheers.

EDIT: It made me want to dance, while removing the co-ordination to do so.

I now have a number of things to do. Set up a business account, speak to the Job Centre about Tax Credits, Rearrange my bedroom, finish digitising the 4-track archives of music I made years ago, continue digitising the cassettes of music made by other people, edit this week's DAB recordings, learn to use Sonar 4, apply for the Media Technician job at the university, get an exercise regime together, finish the maths course, do the first assignment of the physics course, call up H and spend some time with him away from all this insanity.

Stupid White Men

Just when I feel like giving up completely, I stumble on something like this. It's a photo essay of protests against Bush, his wars, and policies.

You can judge an idea from the calibre of attacks made on it. In this case, the attacks made on the essay looked like this:

Comment #7 from 'Mike'
I think you folks have bats in your belfries.[...]
Socialism is roundly
[sic] considered a complete failure. It is a dead system which has no political capitol [sic] anymore. It has ceased to exist. It is a non-parrot. It has joined the choir invisible. If you idjits hadn't nailed it to the perch it would be pushing up daisies already!

Comment #38 from 'Paul':
Capitalism creates wealth. Without wealth, no money for tsunami victims.
You liberals are "either or" people.[...]
Nice pictures, but billions are not protesting!!!!!!!

Comment #216 from 'Brad':
OMG, get over yourself you libral idiots.[...]
Pull you heads out of your idealogical asses and smell the realism.[...]

So this is what the pro-Bush camp can produce. Non-sequiteurs, misspelled insults, strawmen, a Monty Python reference, and a row of seven exclamation points.


Last night I had one of my 'Soap Opera' dreams. The kind where you wake up several times, then go back to sleep, and the story continues with a new episode of an endless story.

In the dream, I'm a teenager at college. Hundreds of students are gathered in a large audatorium, for some kind of 'talent night'. One of the acts is a young fellow singing to backing tapes.

He's singing one of my songs. It's 'Let It Be', which I wrote for and about D. I generally say it's the only sincere song I've ever written - about being completely in love while knowing the relationship can't work. It's a disco/rave version of my ballad.

I meet a boy in the crowd. He's probably sightly younger than me. He's small and frail looking, bitter and resentful about being bullied by his peers.

Although I'm not much more sorted in my mind that he is in his, I take him under my wing. All I can do is listen, give what little advice I can drag from my limited experience, and hug him close.

I get to know his family. They're a crowded group of ground-down working class folk - decent but weary. They guardedly accept me as friend and awkward mentor for the boy.

Then I lose him. After carrying him back from somewhere to his family, carrying him like a sleeping child, I find that what I've been carrying home isn't him at all. It's a collection of small mysterious objects.

Years later, we meet again by accident, but somehow we're the same age as before. We renew our friendship. Again, the only things I can do to make his life more bearable are listen, talk, and hold him.

Then, while randomly reading other people's weblogs, I find one from his boyfriend. He never mentioned that he had one. It describes him as shallow, manipulative and a liar. I'm shocked and don't know whether to confront my nameless friend with what I found.

Then I woke up, and couldn't get back to sleep.


On the relationship between the personal and the political - a stream of late night philosophical conciousness.

The political situation - be it local, national, or international - has one kind of furniture. Economics and ideology, trade unions and governments, guns and bombs, media and mass opinion, elections and big business.

The personal situation - be it professional, sexual, social, or intellectual - has a different kind of furniture. Friends and associates, loyalties and family, hopes and fears, music, conversation, and work.

However, these are not two autonomous worlds. Each can be collapsed into the other - treating 3rd world debt as essentially an extension of the meannes of the local bank manager, or interpreting the racism of a neighbour as a product of alienation from the means of production.

The former of these - treating the political as the personal, but writ large - leads to resistance taking the form of lifestyle politics. Ecodisaster is 'prevented' by using 'ecofriendly' washing powder, and 3rd world hunger 'combated' by boycotting cirtain brands of fruit in the supermarket.

The latter - treating people's personal lives and psychologies as determined by the global situation - leads to the view that depression, apathy and pathology can only be effectively combatted by removing their ultimate cause, which may be labeled Globalisation, Capitalism, or even Human Nature.

The relationship between the personal and the political is possibly that the divide between the two is false. They could be viewed as two sides of the same coin.

This is half an answer - the other half needs a lot more work.


The componants of a police state are now in place. Surveilance, trial without jury, and 'emergency' police powers in the state aparatus. Paranoia, scapegoating and patriotism in the ideological sphere.

As with Naziism and MaCarthyism, the great majority of the population display no resistance at all, or even conciousness of what is occuring.

It is not too late to reverse the tide, and this time the left is not complacent, but it may be too weak.