About last night

There's a french term which translates as 'Wooden Mouth'. It refers to the furred dusty feeling in your mouth the morning after a night of drinking. In my case, good wine and bad vodka. Really really bad vodka.

I was awake at three in the morning, alert enough to be typing notes about how it made me feel, but clumsy enough to delete the notes. For the record, it made music seem warmer, deeper, more enveloping. With a relaxed (and slightly blurred) mind, I could let the music just happen to me in it's own time and in it's own way.
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Last night, I finally got Simon M's computer up and running, with enough memory to prevent crawling, and reliable net access. It was him who fed me the wine. Then, after a slightly wobbly and ill-advised bicycle trip, I fixed the security on John M's computer. The vodka was a mad impulse on the way.

I also have a vague recollection of phoning H while knocking over some plates. We're probably meeting up on Monday.
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Tonight Strict Machines are playing a smallish gig, and I'm invited. That's 'invited' as in 'you will come won't you'.

Tomorrow, election leafleting. Not for a party - against one. The BNP are standing in a nearby ward, and this is to try to reduce their small predicted turnout into a miniscule one.

My back catalogue

I've come up with a backing for 'One More' - more complex and dancable than the initial demo. Unfortunately the new backing works best as slow evolving acid/industrial house, which doesn't really fit with the song. Looks like I've got a promising song without a backing, and a promising backing without a song.

Nevermind, it's all useful.
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Here is a list of songs I've written or been involved in up till now. This list goes back to about 1995. There are maybe a dozen that I wrote in previous years and have since been lost.

SONGFIGHT:
Elvis in Space
Gallows Hill
Goodbye Monster
Half a Stone
Jimmy Hat (cutup of Ginsberg's Howl)
Let It Be (Sub: Song for N, aka Forever)
Man Speaking German (sub: Ein Libeslied)
Motor Psycho (as Down With Ginger)
New Sex (sub: Fornication in Church)
Nothing Less Than Everything
Run Faster (sub: Zen Wisdom)
The Puppet's Dream
Under the Wagon

SONGFIGHT COLLABORATIONS:
12 Monkeys (written by Kamakura)
Dark All Day (written by TV's Kyle)
In the Gutter (written Liechty)
Piece of My Heat (aka Zero to Phantom, with Andy Balham, written by me)
Systematic Panic (written by Kamakura)
Talk About Your Feelings (written by Poor June)
Texas (with Kamakura, written by me)

The K Twins:
Does She
Friend
Have You Ever
One More

OTHER:
All White in the Whiteness
Chemeleon Man
Dealer Man
Heretic
Midnight / Midnokto
My Computer's Found God
Pride (written by Jon Gilbert Leavitt)
Red Hot
Ring of Steel
Riverrun (Part 1)
Riverrun (Part 2)
The Man (aka The One)
Videodrome
Video Sex Bomb

Most of these could benefit from being rerecorded.

Me = Mess

Strict Machines got knocked out in the first round, unsurprisingly losing to two bands with much more commercial sounds. No one seems upset about it.
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I have an impulse to write a song, even though there's nothing I especially want to write about.
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Reason 3.0 is in the shops. The new 'Mastering Suite' looks suitably amazing and plugs one of the two big gaps in Reason's abilities. The other one being sampling for vocals.

Oh, and the faders are now automatable - a strange omission from earlier versions. There is still no VST support, which does make sense within the Reason philosophy, but is still a little annoying.

The Equaliser, Stereo Imager, Compressor and Maximiser look up to the usual high standards. Obviously there are other things it would be nice to have - an exciter, a multiple band phaser, a reverse delay unit. But some of these should be constructable using the new Combinator.

Whenever I think I've reached the edge of Reason (so to speak), I find some new application for one of the modules, or there's a new version out.
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EDIT: Just done it again. Discovered the advanced delay unit can be configured to reverse in a dropdown unit. How could I have missed that? Doh.
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I managed a grand total of seven minutes on the exercise bike today. Plenty of sweat, lots of laboured breathing and high tempo heart thumping, just not much good.

My cholesterol and blood sugar are on the high side of normal, and I'm overweight without being actually obese. So it feels like I should able to manage climbing stairs without needing ten minutes to recover.

Alright. If it's going to take a slightly crash diet and a more definite routine, that's what will have to happen. There's about six weeks till the Marxism2005 conference - aim to lose two stone and climb stairs without difficulty by then.

Born under a blundering star

I was born in the Chinese Year of the Pig: Jan 27,1971 - Feb 14,1972. Hmmm.

According to this site, the following describes me:

If you were born during the Chinese sign of the Pig, you will make a great pal. Pigs are everything you would want in a friend: kind hearted and easy going, they forgive easily and don't bear grudges. They prefer to be generous and have sunny natures, preferring to be calm and cheerful.

People born under this sign work hard to secure their own comfort. Although not very ambitious, they can be successful because they prefer to do a job well. They accept advice so tasks are usually accomplished without difficulty.

Pigs enjoy their food and have healthy appetites.

This is a lucky sign and good things often happen to the happy pig.


Oh well. I think I can live with that. Oink oink.

The usual, only better

I'm feeling a lot better today. As though some problem had been solved.

I'm working on a 'full' version of Does She, though at the moment it looks like an extended mix of the demo. No real problem if that's what it turns out to be. The track feels like a B-Side to me (or 'bonus track' for those who were teenagers after CDs became common).

The Open University have for some reason squeezed Geology and Astronomy into a single integrated unit. So I'm reading about rocks and stars at the moment.

Plan to read at least one section tonight, and as a reward there's an old Dr Who adventure - Warrior's Gate - waiting on a DVDRW.

Oh joy of joys. Simon M's computer is finally finished and ready. Well, ready for me to spend an afternoon installing his internet connection and printer software.

Where am I? How did I get here?

Just finished IRCing with Nick. I made a bit of a twit of myself, letting forward a stream of emotion that he shouldn't have to deal with. Seeing as I'm still feeling them, here they are:

I'm pretty good at whatever I do. Because I don't start a project unless I'm fairly sure I can make a good job of it, and I can be a perfectionist. I have a feeling for machines, and ideas.

The other side of this is that I've led a sheltered life - courtesy of overprotective parents and the fear of strangers they instilled in me - and have no real emotional maturity.

I existed quite happily for three decades being passionate about all sorts of subjects, without much human contact. You don't need human contact if your company is a pile of books and a procession of computers. Companionship comes from similar people, and sex comes from an endless supply of shadows in parks.

Then, in the space of a year, I meet two people who somehow touch me in ways I can't deal with. I fell headlong in love with D before I'd even met him face to face, and I had no emotional tools to control the fall. Thanks to his kindness and support (which of course were partly what made me fall for him in the first place) I was able to climb out of that particular hole.

You can call it a crush, or an infatuation, or puppy love, or even the real thing. I don't know and it doesn't matter. The important thing is I was completely unprepared to the strength of feeling, and completely unable to cope.

That strength of feeling leaves marks that don't fade. Though I can say now that I'm not in love with D, the fact that I was makes his friendship...different. Special, more intense, less casual, and more trusting.

Well, after I've mostly got over D, I meet H. We spent more than ten hours together on that first day, and the spark was there. He was intelligent, gentle, and actually quite vulnurable. Just like D - they even looked somewhat alike.

I wasn't a complete idiot. Having recently given my heart away to someone who had no space for it, I hesitated to do so again. Especially as he was in the same position - still feeling the aftershocks of an intense but doomed relationship.

So we didn't rush into love. we circled around it, and several times decided not to dive in. We just sort of drifted towards it anyway.

One reason we we cautious is that next year we will probably not be in the same part of the country. Long distance relationships are more trouble than either of us needs, and relocating for the sake of one relationship that is not garrunteed is not a good gamble.

So that's where I am now. The story isn't over, and only some of the issues are resolved. Before tonight, I hadn't cried about D for months. But an hour ago, for some reason, the memories all came back.

My devotion to D was childish as well as hopeless. I am no longer quite so much of a child, and probably no longer capable of feeling the same way again. But if the fears and hopes of childhood become background to those of the adult, then the same is true of a child's love.

Even if that particular child was 32 years old.
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I feel much better now.

I'm meeting up with Nick on Saturday 9th of July, in the middle of the Marxism2005 conference. He's still interested in The K Twins project, so at some point soon we can make our stage debut, and then a studio album.

Backwards

I won a songfight. With a song I wasn't going to enter. Bloody hell. 27 people actually voted for little old me.

I once told Nick I'd never win because the SF community was so heavy with musical snobs who think synthesisers aren't real instruments. So, either they've got less snobbish, or I've gone native. Which is more likely? Oh dear.
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I've got the DAB system finally up and running again. It's set up to record music shows and documentaries over the next week.

This means most of the radio I hear is at least a week old. Sometimes it's more than a year old. So I sometimes hear the next big thing when it's already been and gone.
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As a teenager, all I wanted to do was study the world, read books, and occasionally have sex with strange men. Now I'm in my thirties, all I want to do is be with my friends, make and hear music...erm, and occasionally have sex with strange men.

Well what do you expect? From someone who got into politics at 27,, and started listening to 70s prog rock this year. Perhaps I'll start wanting to be a steam train driver when I'm 40.

R.E.S.P.E.C...Tierd

On the plus side, I spent most of today in a car with John M. As ever, a fascinating man - probably the clearest thinker I know.

On the minus side, I spent most of the day in hot car, or pushing electoral junk mail through letterboxes. And in the evening chaired a seminar with...the same people I'd spent the day with.

So, having just got home, my head rings with interesting political discusssions, crowded out by the needs for food and sleep. And mindless TV.
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Oh god. Stupid forms to fill out, and difficult books to read. Both overdue.

"Space, is big"

I always feel like this after a night out with H. Happy and uplifted at what we have, but regretful that we can't have more.

In the event we didn't go to see the depressing film about nazi war criminals. Instead we sat in a the Old Vic, discussing the history of dog breeding, legends involving damsels in distress, and past boyfriends.

We never seem to hug until we're saying goodbye. And when we hug, we don't want to say goodbye. We just want to go on hugging.

Next week...The Bloody Awful Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy Movie. With Stephen Fry as the (probably camp) book.
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In some insane moment of weakness, I agreed to do some more electioneering in Hove again on Sunday. I will therefore probably be awakened (again) by a telephone call to that effect.

And then there's the forum in the evening. So, a day of seeing my comrades, followed by an evening of seeing the same comrades.

Must get some sleep.

Headlines to deadlines

Big headline in today's local rag: SEX SCARE. Below a half page picture of a football manager.

The byline explains that one in eight women 'may' have an STD. And the picture relates to another story. It would save time if the headline every day was ASYLUM PORN CELEBRITY PROBE DRUG TERROR SHOCK, accompanied by a random picture.

It should be possible to specify a tabloid story in BNF, and write a chomsky grammar to generate them on demand. Another little project to try when all the other little projects are done.
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Arranged a night out with H tomorrow - probably involving a depressing film about nazi war criminals called 'Downfall'. Just what I need after a stageplay about concentration camps.
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I still haven't filled out the GTTR application form yet. Still can't think of a few (moderately truthful) paragraphs which would convine a besuited jarhead I'd make a good teacher.
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I may have seemed a bit predatory about Brin, but I wasn't being serious. It's just that, at age 19 he reminds me so much of me when I was that age. Mistrustful of authority, worried about getting 'old' (being nearly 20), fascinated by the entire universe and everything in it, and faintly resentful that there's only one lifetime to see it.

Perhaps we all get to see ourselves as others see us, but 14 years after the fact.
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I spent this evening with the cast of the play, helping them agonize over details of their performance, and slag off the director. As is traditional.

It's now nearly 2300, and I don't think Nick will make IRC tonight. I'll leave the room open for a while, read some James Burke (that's James 'Connections' Burke, not James Lee Burke) and probably doze off as the computer automatically captures Event Horizon on BBC1, my phone recharges, and all my deadlines get one more day overdue.

A Weakness for Paleontologists

Tonight's SWP organisational meeting was uneventful, except for a new member. Brin, 19, student of paleontology and biology, politically active and astute. And he's got lovely hair too.

No, he's happily straight and we'd make lousy lovers and the contents of his head is far more interesting than the contents of his baggy jeans.

We sat in the pub with John M and Joe R, outlining marxist views on epistemology, scientific method, cultural influence on metaphors in cosmology, the psychology of religion and a whole load of related stuff that I enjoyed immensely.

Then Brin and I walked around Portsmouth for nearly two hours discussing it more. I think I overwhelmed him slightly by having read more about his specialism than he had - I got a bit carried away. Bad of me.

But he's a really passionate broad ranging intellectual, and it was a wonderful stimulating night out like I haven't had since...well, since meeting H. Who, if I haven't mentioned it, is in the same field.

Okay, short version: I'm happy to have met a kindred spirit.
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Watched 'The Face of Evil' - adventure of the old Doctor Who - while eating an unpleasantly large quantity of chocolate. I feel slightly sick.

With luck, Nick will be on IRC tonight. It's been a long while. Looking forward to it.

Why indeed

Paul T has found his backup. But has remembered there's some files he forgot to put onto it, so can I find the old hard disk anyway.

Max has seen the footage I edited together, and has decided he wants 40 (that's fourty) copies to disseminate. He'll bear the cost of the videotapes and I'll spend a week copying nonstop onto them.

The showing is on Friday, though I don't know if I'll be able to make it. Not that my presence is necessary - it's just that a free lunch is always welcome.

Signing on today, I was told "It's no wonder you can't find a job - our [search] system is crap." Not all civil servants are like Sir Humphrey Appleby.

I've got myself £20 of recording accessories. So no more singing into socks tied together with elastic bands.

Why do I bother?

I recorded Strict Machines playing some acoustic tracks, through my £100+ external soundcard and £25 microphones. And then found they recorded better through the laptop's onboard microphone.

That USB sound box, complete with mysteriously mono recording capabilities, random dropouts, and low signal level is going on Ebay soon. I'm sure some game player can find a use for it.

Then they play another few songs, decide they don't want the takes, before thinking an hour later maybe they did. So why had I thrown away their takes. Gah.

Following a late night surge of energy, they play five songs straight through without a hitch. And ask for eleven CDs of it for their friends. Okay, I'll burn eleven CDRs tomorrow.
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Paul T backed up his files - including the two novels he's written - just before I upgraded his computer. I replaced his 2GB hard drive with a new 6GB one.

Now he can't find the backups he made, and I don't know which 2GB hard drive is his.
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Max and his theatre company expect to watch themselves on video tomorrow afternoon (this afternoon). The cleaned up audio has so many artifacts it's unlistenable, so I have to find a different way to improve the audio. And then transfer the result to VHS.
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Oh yes, and John M called to say his computer wasn't working. Unfortunately halfway through his description, his phone stopped working too.
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Well, at least I know what tonight holds. Cleaning up video sound, making a videotape, plugging in small hard disks, and wondering I became 'old reliable'.

You are my future self. Perhaps you know what I've been doing wrong.

Sound off, vision a bit off

The footage I shot of The Investigation looks and sounds a lot better than I expected. I'll still have to process the sound - reduce noise and normalise volume.

The cast have arranged to meet, view their performances, and work on anything they don't like, tomorrow at 1pm. So that gives me a deadline for producing a cleaned up VHS. It also gives me a free lunch and a chance to contribute to a project I didn't have time to be part of fully.

They want to produce a four hour audiobook of the play. I could certainly take care of the technical sides of such a project, but the university have sympathetic technicians and students who can do it better.
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This evening I'm finishing off the installation of Paul T's computer, hearing the latest songs of Strict Machines...and getting another free lunch.
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Before that, read the chapter on Statistics. I've barely studied any statistical methods at all since Stephen Jay Gould's 'Mismeasure of Man' - and that was 15 years ago.

I must have been 18. I can remember it, but I can't imagine it.

The Pope Must Die

Once again I was woken up by a telephone call. This time it was MS. Masturbating.

Well it was midday, and he has nothing if not a healthy libido. I've never actually experienced phone sex before. But he seemed happy.

What he really called about, though, was to arrange a meet this evening. I said yeah, why not.
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Most of the day was spent without internet connection. The problem (as usual) turned out to be a cable not-quite-plugged-in.

Not that I needed to bother - no worthwhile email or songfight board activity.
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Oh yes, maths and science. Been reading about probability.

The most likely outcome is the one that can occur in the most ways.

The probability of several independant events occuring is the product of their individual probabilities.

The probability of several mutually exclusive events occuring is the sum of their individual probabilities.

Mendel's Peas. Ratios. Mean, median and Mode. Sample and population. Standard Deviation. X-bar and Mu.

It's quite lucky (so to speak) that I did most of this in GCSE maths.
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I've just switched on the news as I was writing that.

My god. Oh my fucking god. I haven't been paying attention to the media speculation about the next pope, and I didn't think the vatican could be so barefaced as to elect Ratzinger as the new pope. A pseudomoderate puppet he could manipulate, yes. A far right, hate filled ideologue representing him, cirtainly.

But this...this is like electing Dick Cheney to replace Bush. Which I suppose could happen.

There ought to be a word for this kind of experience - one of shock but not surprise. A combination of fury at what those people do, with a resignation that this is exactly the kind of thing they always do.
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I could have been a priest in that church.

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EDIT: MS cancelled. He has to babysit for a friend. You know you're getting old when your friends have children. I suppose you know you've got old when they have grown up children.

So I'm all alone with a maths book and a pad of notepaper. Being lonely with a book doesn't make you much less lonely.

Investigation/Cover up

A lot of little things happened today, but they're all overshadowed by going to see a play in the evening. A play I was initially in, but couldn't go through with because of time constraints.

The Investigation, by Peter Weiss, is a stageplay composed of edited transcripts from the 1963 Auschwitz war crimes trial. It's about how the holocaust was denied by it's perpetrators, in the face of testimony from survivors.

Now that most of the original nazis are dead, the new wave are again denying the reality of something both irrefutable and unimaginable.

The play is so harrowing because it doesn't shout. It simply reports - what happened at the camp, how barefacedly it was denied, and how a nation simply tried to forget. Using only the words spoken in a courtroom, and recorded by government officials.

H told me it can't happen again because the cultural memory is too strong to let it happen again. For such a careful thinker it's a very nieve thing to say - but a very comforting thing to believe.

Now I have to forget for a few days. So that I can manage my own small life.

The Role of Letterboxes in Progressive Politics

I was woken up this morning by a telephone call reminding me that I was supposed to be electioneering in Hove.

Five minutes later I was munching breakfast (a golden syrup sandwich and bottle of water) in a car, with John W (socialist social worker), Jan (socialist nonworker), Donna S (socialist artworker), and Daisy (Donna's three month old baby).

Two hours spent in one of the more genteel parts of Hove, pushing RESPECT election leaflets through letterboxes. The houses all had names like 'Lavender Cottage', and the streets were full of dogwalkers.

You know you're in Hyacinth-Buckett-Land when you see men walking corgis, and couples in casual slacks washing already shiny cars in driveways big enough for three.

I returned home to find some positive reviews for 'Nothing Less Than Everything', The Andromeda Strain nicely encoded overday in my absence, and no new emails. I've tried to arrange IRC chat times with Nick, but he's being silent at the moment - probably enormously busy. As I should be, in fact.

Right. If the next few entries mention topics in maths and/or science, you'll know I've been doing my studying.

Oh, you know, the usual

The replacement Teacher Training submission forms have finally arrived, and just as soon as I can think of something sincere sounding to write in the 'Why I Want To Be A Teacher' box, I'll send it off.
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There is a 'reading' - as opposed to full perfomance - of The Investigation in the D-Day Museum on Monday. As usual with all events organised by the left, it isn't very organised. Publicity is late and limited to say the least. I'll probably video the event because - to be honest for a moment - the camcorder they have is rubbish, and this may turn out to be the only performance the company puts on.
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It is entirely possible that everyone I know either hates the new Doctor Who, or is supremely apathetic towards it. Well I thought tonight's episode (Aliens of London, Part 1) was childish, silly, cheap, cliched and wonderful fun.
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An evening spent with H, nursing alchoholic beverages and not quite seeing eye to eye on all matters political and philosophical. We were both rather tierd - he from a day out touring the galleries of Bournmouth, me just because I'm tierd all the time.

Oh, we did agree that the Hitch-Hiker movie will almost cirtainly be dire.

Tea back at his place. It felt strange because I really like being with him, but conversation is sometimes difficult. We can talk honestly about pretty much anything, including how we feel, without worrying about offending each other. It's just that...we're right for each other, and completely wrong.

I said one thing which he latched onto, and seemed impressed by. "Sometimes you meet someone and think, 'You are the brother I should have had.'"
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I am, as usual, behind on academic work. All the other little projects - music, DSP, C++, DAB and computer building - all go on hold for at least one week so I can catch up.

I don't really exist

Am I invisible or something? Yesterday the OU finance department had all my details and a standing order, Today I contact them again and all they know is I'm on a course and haven't paid them anything.

HSBC processed my standing order, and now (after half an hour on the phone to India) find they have no record of it.

The GTTR lost my application form, and I've just asked for the second time for another one.

Jesus christ. After decades of disappearing from databases I've got used to it. Occasionally it's even been useful, as when a book club forgot I existed.

I had to tell the local council seven times over five years about a change of address, and the university three times.

I've got used to it, but it still makes me want to scream down the phone that the most basic level of competence seems beyond the largest corporations.

Actually, the only organisation who've never given me any paperwork trouble is the one with the most chaotic finances and the most undermanning. And that's the bloody Socialist Workers.
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Sigh. I recorded 'Everything' through a pair of my mother's socks over the microphones. She's greatly amused that I sing into her footwear. Which fit over the mics like a pair of white fluffy condoms, and are fixed to a camera tripod with elastic bands.

There's the old trick of slinging a pair of tights over a wire coathanger. I'm not sure whether that's more absurd than my system.

While recording the debut EP of Strict Machines (who seem to have dropped their definite article), I was sound recordist, microphone stand, and coathanger prop. So when we did a take, I pressed 'Record', and rushed to hold the mic and coathanger in front of Anna's mouth. She provided the tights.

Essay: Sex and Guns

When we think about sexuality, we tend to think in terms of it's goals, it's results, it's effects and ramifications, it's ends and products.

I think this is misguided. I think this is the error sometimes called 'functionalism'. To show why, imagine thinking about guns and firepower in the same as we think about sex and sexuality.

Sexual desire occasionally results in the birth of a baby. Therefore we reason that sexual desire has a nature designed to bring about this result. But this is to confuse a description of the effect with a description of the cause. In this case, a physiological description of a newborn baby would tell us nothing about the emotions which infrequently lead to procreation.

The mechanical operation of a pistol occasionally brings about the death of a person. This tells us about one of the effects that a gun is capable of producing, but it doesn't tell us anything about the explosive nature of gunpowder, the hardness of bullets, or the engineering of boreholes. In short, an examination of a corpse won't tell us much about what a gun looks like.

Sexual desire is 'short circuited' for a few hours by an orgasm, so we think the purpose of sexual desire is to produce an orgasm.

But do we reason that the purpose of firing a gun is to empty the cylinder? That the motive behind using a gun is to render the gun incapable of further functioning as a gun?

Emptying the gun temporarily turns in into something powerless, and emptying the testicles temporarily removes sexual energy.

Because sexuality ends for a while with orgasm, we think that the point of sexuality is orgasm. But this is like saying the point of a train journey is to stop at the terminus, or the purpose of living is to die.

Sexuality creates emotional bonds, and the gun changes the power structure of a society.
The bonds and the change are real, but to describe the ways that a knot can be tied is not to describe the machine that makes the rope.

No, a description of how a gun operates - the kinetic energy of the hammer, the exothermic reaction of gunpowder, the screwthread of a barrel - is mechanical, not social. And likewise a description of human sexual impulse is not to be found in disections of monogamous frienships, prepackaged pornography, peristaltic ejaculation, embryo fertilisation, or songs about love.

Tell us about yourself

I was born to solve problems. To make things work, to fix what's broken, and get the world functioning smoothly.

And like everyone else born with the technician's gene, I tend to treat other people as problems to be solved, or at least riddles to be understood. Which means when I somehow become 'involved' with someone - as a friend or lover, mentor or student - I can understand the dynamics of the relationship just fine. I just can't cope with them.

And also like everyone else of my strange tribe, I'm no good whatsoever at solving my own problems. I fall in love with a wonderful man, and my emotions collapse in a wriggling heap on the floor. They won't listen to reason, they won't calm down, and they won't resolve themselves into a neat, stable, pleasant relationship.

It's also just bloody typical that this happens for the first time in my 30s, instead of my teens. Still, at least the second time it happens, I have the wit to let the genie out of the bottle slowly, so there's time for us both to find out whether it's a good idea. Well, the wit to try, anyway.
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This train of thought started when I noticed how intense and irritable I was when frustrated in recording a song, and how cheerful and 'released' I felt when it was completed.

Nothing Less Than Everything is recorded and submitted to the fightmaster, and I'm going to take time off songfighting to concentrate on other things. Like finding a viable job, studying for the OU, getting into teacher training, fixing up the remaining computers in the pile, reading the big stack of books on my 'to read' list, learning some more C++ and DSP, and doing some proper exercise. And seeing H.

Oh yes, and maybe sorting out all those emotions that I understand, but can't deal with.

Croak

Typical. I find a way to make recorded vocal sound better, and next day I can barely sing at all. I sound like a cat with emphasema - weedy and out of tune. Gah!

It wouldn't matter so much if I didn't think the backing and lyrics were pretty good.

Perhaps it's not surprising, as a flight of stairs leaves me out of breath. I'm hoping this is just a result of me being even more out of condition than I thought. If it isn't, well, we'll see.

Plan of action. Wait an hour or so and try again. Try to get some more exercise for several weeks. If that doesn't help at all, see a doctor.
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My father is getting delusions of grandeur - he thinks he's a pillar of the community, based on his involvement with neighbourhood watch and local social orgainisations.

He's proudly telling everyone of how he threatened a woman with legal action if she parked in 'his' space. And now he's bothering the council about the presence of 'undesirables' and 'nutters' in 'his' road.

Idiot man.
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EDIT: Three hours later, trying to record vocals, and it just isn't working. God this is frustrating.

If I were just a terrible musician, lousy songwriter, and awful vocalist, I could give up music with a clear conscionce and only small regret.

But I'm an okay musician, reasonable songwriter, and usually an adaquate vocalist. Except that today I can't sing.

I have no trouble with walking away from what I could never be good at. But it's just unbearable to walk away from what I could do well, but can't.

Try again. For another half hour at least. If it won't work today, and fails tomorrow, then I'll give up on this track.

A song about 'Everything'

On Saturday I wrote a song inspired by Massive Attack's Teardrop. On Sunday I wrote a backing track to go with it...and hated it. On Monday I wrote another one based around a synth patch I'd come up with but didn't use on Sunday. I hated the second track too. Today (Tuesday) I wrote a third backing based around a synth patch I came up with accidentally while working on Monday's track.

It's almost finished and I like it. It sounds an early New Order B-side - grungy synths, dominant beat, and too much reverb on effects. I haven't recorded the vocals yet - and they're going to be difficult. But I'm messing around with multiband compressors, so I can hopefully get a clear vocal over the lo-fi backing.

This bit of production - EQ and compression - is the bit I need to get a lot better at. It's also the trickiest. These are preliminary settings for vocal multiband comprssion:

0Hz-200Hz - reduce by 6dB
201-1kHz - unchanged
1kHz-5kHz - increase by 3dB
5kHz-10kH - increase by 9dB
10kHz-24kHz - increase by 6dB

I've been using them on Nick's and my vocals for Systematic Panic - they do give a 'light', 'airy' sort of feel to vocals, but sibilants (/s/ and /t/ especially) can be overemphasied.
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Oh yes, the lyrics.

VERSE 1:
Make a circle in wet sand
Trace it over with your hand
Are there one or two?
No answer
Say your name a hundred times
Then once more and you will find
Only sound remains
No meaning

CHORUS 1:
Your life is not a waking dream
Your soul is made of flesh and bone
Your eyes reach out and touch the world
Snd see you're not alone

VERSE 2:
Chose one door, choose one of three
Million dollars in your reach
Should you change your mind?
No problem
One was saved and one was damned
Faith is not to understand
Why do you believe?

CHORUS 2:
Your time is not a pointless joke
Your soul is made of hair and skin
Your hands reach out and grasp the world
And hope for truth within

CHORUS 3:
Nothing less than everything
Nothing more that you can hold
Nothing matters anymore
When you're bought and sold

Featuring references to Jaques Derrida's denial of the aristotelian law of identity, the Monty Hall problem of probability inheritance, and Waiting for Godot. Ha!

De-filed

A good filing system isn't difficult to come up with, and with a bit of forward planning not difficult to implement. To sort out a badly implemented version, though, is another matter. My dear mother, god bless her, has many admirable qualities, but carefulness is not one of them.

It's going to take days (maybe weeks) to sort out her inconsistant version of my system for naming and filing video recordings. Still, if more people were as annoyingly fixated on detail as myself, there would be little need for technicians and problem-solvers like me to make it right.

I've just spent six hours burning new CDRs and recatalogueing old ones. Barely a dent made in the task, but I'm exhausted. So...time for bed. It always seems to be time for bed when I write the day's blog entry.

Set the phone to give me five hours sleep, so I wake up at midday like an art student. And be bright and alert and musical, not remotely like an art student.

Saturday Night Fever

It's Saturday night, and I have a small fever. Well, actually it's Saturday night and Sunday morning, but that's a different film. But seeing as the John Travolta film was shown a few hours ago, and is sitting on my hard disk, and I am a bit ill...yes.

Most of today was spent trying to transfer a VHS recording to DVD for the RESPECT 'Italian Night'. It ought to be simple, but as always, problems crop up - the VHS turns out to be severely degraded so we manage to get hold of another copy, Nero and Roxio both refuse to either compress or divide the MPEG2 file, and the cables to connect the projector to the DVD player go mysteriously missing.

However, with half an hour to spare, the DVD was ready. About 35 people turned up, paid their £10, ate 3 rather good courses and watched the result of my day's labours.

Rome, Open City. Made in 1945, directed by Roberto Rossolini, in Italian and German. Acted and filmed by amateurs, in bad light on a mish-mash of substandard films. Then degraded by time, transferred to videotape and played on my battererd VCR into a capture card.

The result ought to be unwatchable, but the film shone through it's technical imperfections. It's the story of resistors to nazi occupation. The catholic priest who conspires with people who would ordinarily shun, simply because it's the right thing to do, even if it costs his own life. The communist who can't be broken under torture, making his interrogators doubt the superiority of their german blood. And the children, deadly serious freedom fighters in their shorts and torn shirts.
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Back to the full colour world of monochrome. Dr Who, Farscape, Open Your Eyes, Cat Ballou, and that John Travolta film encoding overnight. The Henry Ford school of media - you can have any flavour you like, as long as it's saccharine.

I have a song to finish. Tomorrow.

Writing but not sleeping

I came up with some lyrics last night, written more-or-less to the tune of Massive Attack's Teardrop. I'm working on the music, under the working title 'Illusion', trying to keep the Massive Attack feel of minimal instrumentation taking up a lot of space.

I've not been feeling good lately, and spent most of the day with stomach cramps for no apparant reason. H says I breathe like a smoker.

Certainly I'm in remarkably poor voice at the moment, subject to odd pains, and tierd most of the time.

It took more than an hour to disembowel Simon M's computer - while unscrewing and disconnecting endless bolts and cables, we chuntered away about who is currently tolerating who in the party, and comparing the relative merits of Angela Lansbury and Dame Edna Everage as the new pope.

(Seriously, I suspect the next one will be a bland compromise. He thinks it'll be a right wing shit. We'll know soon enough.)

But I now have a bag full of hard disks and memory chips, soon to find a new home in a Dell box. There's another bag of bits from Paul T's computer somewhere.

Tomorrow night is the 'Italian Evening', which means a plate of pasta in a resteraunt, followed by a subtitled film. It's my job to transfer the VHS of the movie to DVD, and set up the projector, and generally make sure the 'film' side of the evening works.

Sometimes it's nice to have your expertise valued. This is not one of those times.

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EDIT: The film is Rome, Open City. And the picture quality of the VHS is just abysmal. I'll do what I can to clean it up, and try to arrange a last minute replacement if I can't.

The new songfight titles are up. 'Nothing Less Than Everything' fits quite well with what I have for 'Illusion', so I'll rewrite it in that direction.

There was some kind of cockup with my application for teacher training some months ago. I've requested a new application form. It's late for a submission, but there are still plenty of vacancies - some even in fairly nearby universities.

Four O'Clock exactly. I keep wanting to hear H's voice on the telephone, but there's nothing to call him about. I hope Nick is okay, he's been quite quiet lately. My body is failing and my mind is clouded. There's far too much to do, no time to do it, and sometimes it's difficult to care.

Not much to say

There's a lot I could say about today and tonight. But 'waste of time' sums it up.

Today's aphorism: A friend is someone who makes the day bearable. A partner is someone who helps you forget it.

I haven't written a song for two or three weeks. Do you think there's already too many songs about 'for two pins I could fall stupidly in love but I shouldn't because it wouldn't work for purely practical reasons'? Maybe the next songfight will offer an appropriate title.

Hmmm

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. I've just said goodnight to H. We spent far too long hugging and kissing before he cycled away from my house. We didn't want to stop, so we just...kept on doing it.

I feel lightfooted and lightheaded. The same way I felt after D and I spent that weekend in London. I don't often get to feel like this, but it's a destinctive sensation. Like contentment but with caffine overdrive.

Oh bugger. There's absolutely no way a full blown relationship could work between us - we're two very different kinds of people, both busy with things the other has no real interest in, with different outlooks, and different aspirations. The only thing we have in common is being terrible at relationships.

We went to see a stage play called 'Going Dutch'. It wasn't actually very good - cardboard characters, obvious jokes, and a saccharine feelgood message. Not badly acted or scripted, just very...middle class, middle of the road, middle aged and mediocre.

We retired to the pub, perused the porn magazines on display, and proceeded to disagree amicably about the nature of drama, the advisability of a science of comedy, and the difference in mindset between physics and biology.

I asked him about aquatic ape theory - he didn't know much about it, but felt it explains a few strange facts about human biology at the expense of the great mass of common facts explained by the savanah theory.

Oh, we did agree about The Passionate Ape. Two pairs of eyes rolling in unison.

What am I going to do? Probably just what he said - get some sleep, and call him later.

The Insomniac Post

It's half past four in the morning, and it looks like I have no hope of getting to sleep. Well, I probably will be sleepy by 9, when I'll be sorting through software CDRs and preparing the overhaul John M's computer. Which will probably take several hours.

Given luck, there'll be time for a snooze in the afternoon, before a genteel night out at the theatre with the man I'm going out with, but not exactly going out with.
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The songfight boards have temporarily turned into a forum for arguing theology. That's arguing, not discussing. One troll has metamorphosed into an intelligent and thoughtful young man, some hitherto likable posters have developed a sudden impulse to idolise a polish man in a silly hat on the occasion of his death, and some of the more frivolous posters turn out to be well informed and skeptical.

All very surprising.
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I've read a little more on DSP. My god, the subject gets bigger and more complex each time I look at it. I must ask my little brother whether he's got any 'idiot's guide to sound processing' type books. 'ABC of DSP' would be nice, followed by 'FIR, FFT and LPF in C++'.
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Oh well. There's only one thing for it. Get dressed, and finish season 4 of Babylon 5.

Less Music, More Apes

MS postponed meeting tonight till thursday. Seeing as I'd completely forgotten we were due to meet, this is probably a good thing.
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John M's computer is, once again, as expected, fucked. Popups, what sounds like spyware, and what could be a corrupted registry. So, I'll be there tomorrow morning, probably to invalidate some warrantees by reinstalling XP - but doing it properly.

Which means I actually need to get some sleep tonight. This is my contribution to the english left - I keep the computers working.
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Reading some more about Aquatic Ape theory led me here. The Passionate Ape, by Craig Hagstrom. The biggest pile of dren I've read in months. Here's a small quote:

When women lost reliable coital orgasms, they evolved passion as a partial replacement. That is, if you don't have a climax, you can still enjoy the intimacy if you love the guy. Passion can't cope with the partner's promiscuity, so passion demands monogamy.

Later we 'learn' that evolution has made the male of the human species stupid, because smart men can see beyond their current sexual relationships with women towards potential others, which makes them promiscuous, The trouble is that promiscuity erodes social bonds. So, nature makes men dull to preserve society.

Unfortunately, women are so sickened by how stupid men are, that they refuse to reproduce, preferring to masturbate. Thus the only women who do reproduce are the most repressed ones, who make their children repressed.

You think I'm exagerating? From the horse's mouth:
Male intelligence declined after our return to land, because intuitive and perceptive men understood women too well, and could too easily see prospects beyond their own hearth.

Men share self-repression, inherited from their mothers...We did not evolve to rape, but a couple cannot mate until the sum of their enthusiasms exceeds the sum of their fears. If women evolve reluctance, men must evolve pushiness.

On it's own, this is harmless cretinism - one man rationalising why his lovelife doesn't exist. The trouble is, it seems to be popular cretinism - the Amazon reviewers found this dreck profound and insightful.

Feed your ears

Not a great deal happened today (yesterday). Crawled out of bed at 1pm, so I could get to the theatre to get tickets for me and H, for wednesday evening.

Burned a load of movies and episodes of detective serials to DVDR. Encoding 'The Man With Two Brains' as I type. While listening to Status Quo and Squarepusher - interesting combination.
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Got around to watching episode 2 of the new Doctor Who. Very silly, but charmingly so. Intriguing to hear that Gallifrey was destroyed in war - by implication civil war.

Nothing like 'classic' who, which could be just as silly, but was never self consciously (reflexively) silly. And unlike 'classic' who, I don't think it'll become a classic.
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I spent last night reading up on the basics of DSP. Quantization errors, sampling rate errors, filter ripple unpredictability...And similar. With a little maths and some concentration, none of the individual ideas seem especially difficult.

The thing is, the same is true of everything in computing. 250 easy-to-assimilate ideas is still 250 ideas to get through, and to keep straight once learned.

In this case, I have to learn in some detail about structured C++ programming, digital signal processing, and Steinberg's software development kit for VSTs. Plus a revision of my slightly rusty skills in graphic design, and some more on synthesizer architecture.
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My parents have discovered eBay recently. Mother has got herself an electric violin, and Father an 'investment' in the form of a jazz 78 record.

There is an irony in this. All the family are musical, though most of us aren't especially good at it. The irony is that the one who has no musical pretentions at all is my brother. And he's a world class expert in exactly the area I'm researching - DSP algorithms.

The Longer Version

Right. Let's see if I can put yesterday and today into some kind of order.

Yesterday I got gaydar message back from M saying, in effect, he didn't want a renewed relationship but a friendship with occasional visits would be most welcome.

It sounds okay, but the trouble is the 'frienship and visits' was what he said he wanted when he did want a relationship. Well, I don't dislike the man, and if things get difficult I can always just walk out of his door.

I'll send him a message saying, in paraphrase, "Okay, seeing as you're a nice guy and a great cook and pretty good in bed, I'll come up to see you soon. But it can't be that soon, because I'm broke and snowed under with stuff." All of which is true.

MS also phoned. Says he wants to meet for a chat and a drink. Which generally means meet for him to tell me he's still smoking any and every drug he can find, and still can't get a decent girlfriend, and by the way do I feel like some 'fun'. 'Fun' is spelt 'blowjob' and pronounced 'kneeling in the rain wondering how much longer he's going to take'.

Like I said to H later, I've always had a soft spot for lame ducks, and MS is certainly one of those. As I am myself. I agreed to meet up on Tuesday, and we'll see how I feel about (a) the oral sex thing and (b) the seeing him again thing.
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I met up with H in the evening. He was in one of his slightly annoying cheery summery optimistic moods. In spite of this, it always feels good to be in his company. We sat in a pub, compared failed lovelives, and listened to a very good pub band.

A blues-rock 4-piece called Mustang, playing genre standards from 'Peter Gunn' to 'All Along The Watchtower'. Even their own stuff sounded like old standards.

After two pints and a Howling Wolf impersonation, we went back to H's room, and talked for maybe an hour. Getting gradually closer and more intimate. And we somehow ended up cuddling naked on his bed. I've never met anyone who could cuddle quite so much as H. We must have spent two hours kissing, stroking, but mostly just hugging.

H can get an erection at the slightest opportunity but doesnt't feel compelled to use it. I was unnecessarily embarrassed because I couldn't, and felt that I should have. Well, that's my neuroses.

I sucked him and he came in under 30 seconds. Then back to the cuddling. This is not the kind of sex I'm used to, and it childishly disconcerted me. The real problem though, was...antipation of the morning after.

H and I rushed into a relationship the first day we met. Then realised we should be more slow and cautious - cultivate a friendship and see when that went. Now we seemed to be rushing again.

As we said goodnight - with more hugs - I said to him, "I'm not quite sure what just happened". He laughed and replied, "Neither am I."

I cycled home, and gave myself time to think with a plate of takeaway chicken and chips (chicken shared with the dog), and some Babylon 5 DivXes.

I managed to wake up today at 1530 hours, to find a text message waiting. "Hi There. Interesting night last night...." I called him, and we had a mature and sensible 'about last night' discussion.

We're both awful at relationships, and there still someone he's involved with. Like I said to D all those months ago, "We make better friends than lovers." Friends are there for each other, friends can hug, friends can even have sex if they want.

Friends can also go and see theatre plays together. I'm getting the tickets tomorrow, and we're going on wednesday. And it's not a date.

It's not a date. Even if it feels a bit like one.

The Short Version

I'll write more when I'm not exhausted. M wrote back saying he just wants to be friends. MS phoned months after I asked him to stay away - I didn't have the heart to tell him to get lost.

H and I became unexpectedly rather intimate. As we parted I said "I'm not sure what just happened." He replied "Neither am I."

Oh yeah. The pope's dead.

M for Message. Message for M

On impulse, I checked my gaydar messages. I haven't logged on to that site for months, but when I did there was a message from M. He'd left it on Feb 25th.

He wanted to know if I was single again. Oh god. We had a ten day relationship, and managed to break up twice. Six months ago. And he's still thinking of me?!

I sent him a message back, saying we just weren't right for each other. I don't know how he'll respond. Perhaps since he sent the message he's ceased to hold a candle for me, in which case...fine. Maybe he'll just take what I said as another cruel rejection.

Hey, maybe I misunderstood his message and I just rejected him needlessly. In which case I've made a pillock of myself, but there's no great harm done.

I think I do know what will happen if we meet again though. He'll cook something excellent for me - which is great. Then we'll end up in bed together, which is good. And I'll be persuaded to stay the night, which is okay. And in the morning he'll want me to come back soon and do it again, which is bad.

Gah!

It's a mad world world world world

The songfight admins decided to pretend the site was closed down and up for auction. An obvious fraud, and inevitable considering the culture of the place. Most of the denizens of the board are baying their delight like the bunch of fucking sychophants they are.
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The TV news is that the pope is still dying, and in other news the world is still doomed and there's a new film out. Sometimes I think I should pay more attention to the (quote) factual media. Then I do and remember why I don't.
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I've got a fair theoretical grasp of C++ now, and I've found the SDK for VSTs and VSTIs. Next I'll have to look at the mathematics of DSP.

That's likely to be a lot more difficult. Partly because it's more complex, and partly because my background in programming helped me get to grips with C++, but I don't have a background in maths to help me out.

And meanwhile get some practice writing C++ programs. Even though I don't have other projects that I can use to practice with.

First though, there's more OU work to catch up on. The chapters on earth sciences.-----In case you haven't noticed, I'm feeling stressed. Well, trapped and frustrated. I really need to spend some hours with H tomorrow. He can be infuriating, but he's never stupid.

Actually he can be bloody infuriating, but never through mindless spewing of cliches or playing childish games. He treats me like an intelligent adult.
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Why am I in a strange organisation like the Socialist Workers Party? It's because they treat me like an intelligent adult too. And because they are mostly worthy of just the same respect in return.

The most recent recruit to the local branch is Eddie C. He's been working with us as part of Veterans For Peace and the Stop The War Coalition for months, so he's not a new face.

Eddie is an ex-soldier, and looks for all the world like a handsome, weatherbeaten thug. He was stationed in Northern Ireland, sometimes doing nothing for months at a time but check passports and papers at checkpoints.

Sometimes he was hiding behind bushes and spying on local politicians, reporting their dull daily routine through a radio for someone else to transcribe and put in a folder.

And occasionally diving for cover at any loud bang that could be a bomb or a gun. Interminable hours of the most incredibly pointless, boring pseudoactivity, and random minutes of blind screaming panic.

He's on antidepressants and antipsychotics. It almost drove him mad. Eddie is a kind, intelligent, self aware man. He thinks and reads deeply. Without the drugs he's subject to unpredictable rages, and crushing depression. With them, he's a pale shadow.

This is something worth getting angry about.
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What else is there? Oh yes. The Strict Machines are in an international 'battle of the bands' type of competition. So the practice sessions are frequent and intense.

This is not the time for Paul T to finally get a girlfriend. But that's exactly what he's doing.
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It felt good to write that lot. Or rather, it feels better now having written it. Perhaps I'll even go to bed now.

C and H

I'm ploughing through the C++ tutorials here.

It's a very elegant language, more abstract than BASIC or Pascal, and certainly more gnomic in it's form. I'm still a bit vague on classes and OOP - and I have no intention ever of using recursion - but it's surprising how quickly it all comes back.

Arrays, pointers, types of loop, linked lists, binary trees...most of the concepts in programming are almost the same as they were 25 years ago.
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I'm seeing H tomorrow. There's no decent films on at the moment, so I imagine we'll be sitting in a pub, disagreeing about things we almost agree about.
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I am only impressed by things I can't do or don't understand.

I envied people who could sing, until I started singing myself. Now I only envy people who sing well. I was only interested in religion until I understood why people believed it, and why all religions are functionally identical. Once, I searched for a faith worth embracing, now they all seem equally tedious and childish.

Mnemonic memory tricks fail to impress because I know how they're done, but magic tricks are still intriguing because I haven't studied magic.

Ideology as encoded in film and television serials seemed a fascinating subject for study while I was at university. Now that I know the subject quite well - though I'm certainly not a great expert - the 'deeper meanings' in television drama seem obvious and incoherent.

Oh there's still plenty around to impress. Mathematics, physics, biology and earth sciences. Dialectical logic and history. Aspects of acoustics, and many parts of music theory.

Actually, bricklaying and coalmining are two subjects that I know almost nothing about. Next to cryptography and the finer details of evolution.

They're all interesting. It's just that the mundane seems to have been exhausted.

Back out

If you spend hours hunched over a computer unit, more hours hunched over a keyboard, and then some more hours curled up in front of the television, expect to wake up one morning and think, "My back hurts quite a lot. I think I need a new spinal column. Ouch."

A lot of American christians are up in arms because a woman in a persistant vegetative state has been allowed to die. A lot of European christians are praying that a terminally ill man not be allowed to die. Terri Schiavo and Karel Wojtyla.

This morning's newspapers will containly slightly more bullshit than usual. Just for one day of the year, some people read the papers sceptically.