It's a Type of Car, Apparantly


My mobile phone is my alarm clock. It's supposed to wake me up with loud annoying beeps in the morning. Nowadays though, it wakes me up with a loud annoying ringtone from someone with computer problems.

On Monday it was dear old Max. With words to the effect of "The printer's buggered again and I can't send emails and I need to print stuff out and send some important things over the net by today at the latest so please come and make everything alright."

So I bicycled up to see him, and fixed the printer using my secret magical method of turning it off...and then back on again. The email problem was hotmail's stupid verification system. That's where they make your hotmail inaccessible at random intervals, requiring you to log on to their site and enter a reactivation code to get access back.

However, this led to something more interesting. A few months ago, John M and I discussed the possibility of making his published work availaible on a website. He's written five books and a shedload of articles over the last thirty years, mostly now out of print but still relavant.

So, seeing as his books were there, I borrowed one, and spent the evening messing around with OCR software. It's been nearly a decade since I tried to use OCR seriously, and wasn't terribly impressed at the time - 99% accuracy sounds good, until you realise it means labourious proofreading to find the one out of every hundred letters that are wrong. And it took you longer to scan a page than to read it.

Things have improved a lot. After two hours experimentaion, I produced a near-perfect PDF of a two hundred page book in ninety minutes.
Strict Machines had a gig arranged at Portsmouth's latest music venue, uninspiringly named "The Front Room". They were headlining, with two support bands. But then one of the other bands dropped out, then so did the other one, then the gig was cancelled by the management because it would be pointless having just one band onstage, then one of the support acts de-cancelled, so there was just one band onstage.

They were bloody awful too. Instrumental blues-rock without the soul of blues or the drive of rock. Good musical ideas, just performed like a finger exercise.
Back up to the cluttered living space of John and Max, to discuss getting John's thirty-year back catalogue of articles and books into cyberspace. A lot of his more influential articles are already there, but it's a tiny selection and scattered.

The Marxist Internet Archive has an extremely large collection of theoretical writings, including some by rather insignificant thinkers. But nothing there from John, who's been an influential figure on the British left for as long as I've been alive.

We found about twenty periodicals containing stuff he's written, and I carried it back home in a taxi driven by a charming young Turkish man (married of course, hah!) who left the sun of Istanbul to drive through the rain in Portsmouth.


Scanning and OCR are the easy bits. Proofreading and correcting will drive any normal man to drink. The superscript footnote references tend to be OCRed as commas - because they're small and in the right place. And as converting a two-column scan into a single column HTML page, with correct formatting, it ought to be easy. It's so easy I'm seriously considering saving the whole thing as plain text and hand coding the HTML to format it.

At least that way the HTM files won't be several times the size they need to be - as they are in Word or Dreamweaver. I have an instinctive dislike of bloatware and almost always code HTML by hand in the original oldschool editor - Windows Notepad.

Anyway, I now have about twenty articles on political philosophy OCRed, ranging from 4000 words to 25000. Maybe proofing and correcting is a good way to get more familliar with their content?
Paul T's grandmother is buried tomorrow. Or more likely cremated, I don't know. He didn't invite me to the funeral, but did invite me to the gig the day after. He wants to borrow a microphone.

While he's reading out the speech (which is much too long, of course), I will be signing on. No, I didn't remember it this time - I've just been reminded.
Love to be dancing
At the disco
Where you buy your

- Goldfrapp, "Ride A White Horse"

What kind of deranged songwriting is that? And what the hell is a winniebago anyway? Is it the kind of item commonly purchasable from a discoteque?