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.