Me to Play

Today's full cast rehearsal was attended by about half the cast. Of the 15, about half were drama students I'd never met before - they seem sound enough.

It's a little unclear how we're all getting to the dratted community centre where the performance is scheduled on Thursday. In fact, most of us don't know exactly where it is.

Though with luck the final version of the script - with cuts and rearrangements made tonight - should be ready by then.
The 100th british soldier has been killed in Iraq. A few months ago, the Portsmouth left agreed to gather for a service and wreath placing when that happened. So tomorrow that's what we're doing.

A quiet, dignified discharge of duty that I for one have no desire to perform. But I suppose that's part of what 'duty' means.
A line from a film has been running through my mind all day - "It's a headless blunder operating under the illusion of a master plan."

The line is from 'Cube' - a reincarnation of Theatre of the Absurd for a generation of video game players. Low budget, minimal sets and broad characterisation, just like the original absurdist plays.

And with exactly the same unhelpful political subtext: The world is incomprehensible, hostile, and unbeatable. You can't fight it, you can't understand it, and you can't change it. You can only hope to survive it.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the absursist playwrights immensely. Samuel Beckett is still one of my favourite writers. I'm just aware that the message of the genre is a dead end.

In philosophy it's called Irrationalism, in politics it's Fatalism, and in ordinary parlance it's Defeatism. It's also a suspiciously convenient justification for giving up or selling out, as well as demonstrably false.

The trouble is, it's exactly how I feel at the moment. Left politics, with its token gestures like laying a wreath, constant stream of misfires like Galloway and Respect, and oddly self-regarding exercises like this play I'm in, feels like a headless blunder. And Marxism, with its infinitely flexible dialectical method, resembles the illusion of a master plan.

But then, I always feel like that, at this time of year.

But Is It Art?

Theatrical update: I was playing the Defence, then it was the Prosecution, and after a few more flipflops I'm definitely playing the Defence.

There was to be a full cast rehearsal today at 1715. At 1655, as I was about to leave, Max called to say it's now on tomorrow at 1800. There are little things like forward planning and advance notice that seem somewhat absent here.
In a box of VHS tapes, I've found a copy of a film I made of an event at the gallery I co-ran, shortly before it closed, in 2001.

A group of local artists, mostly students, had got together with the idea of each making some work within an 8 hour period, using whatever material they could lay their hands on within that time, and having no plans for what they were to make before the event started. The next day a different group of artists would do the same thing, and then more for a week. Then all the works would be displayed together.

Apart from being nominal host to the event, I was asked to make a video record of what happened, just pointing the camera at whatever looked interesting at the time, and absolutely not editing afterwards. The result was to be shown as an exhibit.

I cast myself as investigative reporter/guide - the husky voiced TV presenter Cnut Clitorides, sniffing scandals that weren't there and interviewing artists in search of a tabloid story.

Among the exhibits there was:
* A white gorilla suit 'adorned' with 'marital aids', from a couple who were on friendly terms with a sex shop owner.
* A map of the solar system with a "Best of Perry Como" album as the sun.
* A video work of a human chalk outline drawn on the ground, that changed position at long intervals.
* A drawing of a girl, fitted with flashing red LEDs for eyes.
* An enormous pile of women's shoes
...and a load of other stuff, even wierder.

Five years ago. Seems like another world.
EDIT: I'd completely forgotten about one of the exhibits - mine. A series of 12 images, so blurred and discoloured it was impossible to make them out, captioned with improbable descriptions, as through from a photograph album of incredible events.

"Me and the boys storming the gates of paradise","Me and dad standing on Neptune","Mum and Aunt Mabel setting Lenin right on Imperialism" etc.

My other contribution was a 12 minute techno track written 'on impulse' for the film. I'd been toying with the idea of composing some short pieces, with a common key and tempo, then mixing them into a longer track. A pseudomix, I called it.

3 of the 5 had vocals of some sort, and one of them seems worth reproducing for today's lyric.

Pseudomix 1, Part 4 - "Dealer Man"

Take a long walk
Don't go near the red light
Walk away this time
It's someone else's fight

Take your time in your hand
Standing on a street corner
Waiting for the dealer man

Take a chance, take a car
Put your foot down hard
Freedom on the motorway
But you won't get far

Take a magic carpet ride
Fly around a dead world
Think about suicide

Take a moment, think about
The last time you did this
Give your money, paying for
Another rock of bliss

Marching to a Faster Pace

I tried to cycle the 20 minute journey to the rehearsal, but ended up taking an hour to walk half of it. The weather was too cold, the wind too strong, and me too unfit to manage it. So I arrived slightly frozn to find, once again, just me, Max and some more modifications to the script.

Oh, and me playing a different role. Having spent yesterday getting into the Prosecutor character, Max now thinks I'm perfect for the Defence. I know the subject of the play is deadly serious - concentration camps, genocide, national denial - but...Springtime for Hitler anyone?

Tomorrow is a rehearsal with the full cast (hah!). At least that will only be a 10 minute walk, and it'll be in a proper theatre studio. So I can practice projecting my new 'crooked lawyer with gravitas' voice.


I was late to the rehearsal studio, not that it mattered much because only Max was there. About a dozen players, but only me and the director turn up to a rehearsal 4 days before the performance. This may not bode well.

Still, we got some practicing done. I'm not at all used to 'projecting' into an auditorium, but Max says he's happy with my voice and delivery. Apparantly I have churchillian intonations!

I have a copy of the cut-down play to familliarise myself with - and a hopefully better populated read through tomorrow (today).
Dinner at 1900 with Simon M, who is supposed to be playing the Prosecution, but has neither the time nor the inclination to come to the read-through.

He cooked us a scrumptious roast duck in cherry sauce with stuffing and vegetables. Followed by a black forest gateau allegedly large enough for 12 servings - we had a third each so I don't want to think about my cholesterol.

While cooking, we indulged our prurient passion for weird and cranky internet sites. One should not mock the afflicted, but I felt compelled to leave the following comment on this blog:

Eight Tons of Geese said...

You're a loon. A fruitcake, bonkers, nuts, insane in the brain, two sandwiches short of a picnic, a total and utter spongemonkey, a long weekend in a purple mineshaft, the chocolate paintbrush and gorbelling feltchblanket of Satan.

You, old girl, are a bit mad.

Today's lyrics are from around 2000. I described it at the time as a simple song about addiction to pornography. The words and music were written and recorded in a single afternoon - part of an experiment in making tracks from start to finish as quickly as possible.

The story behind the song is that I was living on my own, with a steady job, getting fit at the gym and I was off the anti-depressants. Sounds pretty good.

I had discovered a much more effective way to cheer myself up than paroxetine hydeochloride - cruising for sex in the park. I also found that working out at the gym sent my libido through the ceiling, so in all I was having quite a lot of sex.

I'm not sure it's true to say I became dependant on it, but it gave me a sense of being in control of my life for the first time at age 28. Some people indulged in retail therapy; I had sex with unknown men in the bushes at night. I wrote a song about it, called 'Midnight'.

Then one night I met a man and my first thought wasn't "I want to do sex with him" - it was "I would like to cook this man breakfast". Maybe it was my romantic soul resurfacing. Well, he took me home, we did sex, slept, and I did indeed cook him a full english breakfast in the morning.

Then we talked for hours about music, politics, past relationships and other stuff. Niether was looking for a relationship, or even regular sex - we just enjoyed the company. As I was leaving, he gave me a gift - six VHS porn tapes that he didn't want anymore.

So, the song isn't exactly autobiographical, but was 'inspired by events'.

Video Sex Bomb

Video sex bomb
In my eyes all night long
Perfect lover just for me
On my mind, on my TV
Hit 'play' and we're together
Flesh, denim and leather
Pleasure shades into pain
And come again

There's no good recording, but at some point I'd like to make one.

My Computer's Found God

It's 0450 and I haven't been to sleep yet. There's a rushed and intensive rehearsal tomorrow (today), followed by a small social engagement, so rest would be a good idea. However, there's two good reasons why I'm not in bed.

First, I'm not remotely tierd (though I will be later) and I can never sleep unless I'm actually sleepy. Second, the only way to lie on my bed is to be in a region of space looped and tormented by a black hole - mattress against the wall and bedding in the washing machine.

So I'm retranscribing my back catalogue of song lyrics. The song below isn't the first one I wrote, but it's the oldest one of which there are any recordings, notes or much memory. I wrote half a dozen songs in 1988 for a band that never even got around to finding a name, nevermind recording. But this one is from about 1998.

I had spent hours trying to come up with lyrics that were deep and meaningful, when I suddenly said to myself, "It's a bunch of words with a tune, not a philosophical treatise! Write something quick, quirky and dumb!"

So, I did. A silly song about a computer getting religion, and very definitely not a meditation on the ramifications of artificial intelligence. The rap was added months later, when remixing the track as a gift for a fan. Yes, my music had a fan. He was tall, dark, handsome, greek, friendly, extremely intelligent and completely heterosexual.

Oh well, I'll post other lyrics at intervals, but this seemed a good one to start with. And then perhaps I will go to bed.

My Computer's Found God

Rap 1
Silicon soul, a pulse in the wire
Holy ghost in the machine, a new devine fire
If religion is a virus it's a terminal infection
A.I. conversion. Reboot, then resurrection

Rap 2
Let there be light from a flashing green diode
Higher consciousness emergent in binary code
Electonic miracle you might think it's odd
Our post human future, my computer's found god

Verse 1
My computer's found god
He tells me Jesus is his savior
I'm very happy for him
He says he loves me but he hates my sin

Verse 2
My computer's found god
And now my PC is a christian
Wants to convert me as well
Says if i don't repent i'll go to hell

Verse 3
My computer's found god
At night he reads he online bible
Goes to a virtual church, sings electric hymns
Says synthesised prayers with his hardware

An Actor's Life for Me

I spent the entire night sorting out piles of CDRs. Some redundant, some unreadable, some not what the label said, and some with no label at all. At the end, there was a bin full of CDs, a pile of 80 containing nothing but mp3s (now nicely catalogued), and similar number with video, and about 40 with software (both still to be catalogued).

The folder in one of the big backup DVDs containing my collected lyrics turned out to be...empty. I can reconstruct most of the 30 or so songs from memory or recordings, but I'm not especially pleased about it. Gah!

I then had breakfast at 0700, went to bed, and woke up at 1600.
The Investigation is a play by Peter Weiss, consisting of edited transcripts from nazi war criminal trials. Max is a theatre director who put on a performance of the play several months ago. In October, he booked a venue for a second performance, and in December got around to assembling a cast, which began rehearsals in January.

Today at 1730, Max telephoned me, saying the performance is on Thursday and there's no one to play the Defence lawyer. So could I do it. So I say alright. Max is a very laid back director.

So I have five days to rehearse a pivotal role in a 90 minute stageplay (cut down from 4 hours). This should be interesting.

Still, I've found my specs (under boxes of dead computer peripherals), so I should be able to (a) read the script and (b) look like an evil lawyer.
No more Galloway on the radio, though the feeling is now that his carreer may not be irrevocably damaged. He's been shoved off the airwaves by the situation in Palastine. In summary, Hamas (a political party that used to be a terrorist group) won an election over Fata (a political party that used to be a different terrorist group), causing America (a country that funds terrorists) to threaten cutting off aid.

It seems a democratic election in the middle east is an obstacle to spreading democracy in the middle east.


Good Things about Today
* I picked up some books on calculus and some mindless electronic dance music CDs from the library on the way back from signing on.

* The new series of House. Okay, I know it's the same forumula every week, and the characters are only slightly more complex than in Will and Grace, but I enjoy it.

The weekly forumula looks something like this:
(1) Patient enters the hospital with a severe but seemingly inexplicable condition.
(2) The team make a diagnosis during which a parenthetical remark goes unnoticed. They start treatment.
(3) The patient gets worse and/or develops new symptoms, even worse than the first ones. An unrelated case is quicbkly treated.
(4) House clashes with a figure of authority.
(5) The team run some elaborate tests, make a new diagnosis, and change treatment. The patient's condition gets worse. The unrelated case returns, and turns out to have a humourous twist.
(6) House has a heart-to-heart with the patient, discovering something life affirming, and sometimes somethings medically important.
(7) The team realise the forgotten parenthetical remark is the key to the whole mystery, and start on a third course of treatment. The patient recovers.

Bad Things about Today
* My freeview box keeps changing channel for no apparant reason. It's not the wireless network interferring, and the room isn't close enough to anyone else with a remote channel changer, so I'm stumped. And recording lots of half programs, which is moderately irksome.

* I have taken to having Radio 4 or the World Service in the background while doing things that don't require much attention. This means, after discussing George Galloway to death, I've heard him discussed to death on the radio too.

* I could do with finding my spectacles, because my eyesight is definitely getting worse.

* How did my room get back into a mess again?

Hey There Georgie Boy

Tonight was the SWP district aggregate to summerise and assess the recent conference. Or for the cynical, a meeting whose only point was to allow a member of the Central Committee to give us another bloody peptalk.

I got to the community centre early, so bought a secondhand book from their endlessly replenished supply of bric-a-brac and read it waiting for the 20+ comrades to arrive.

The Beaver Book of Horror Stories. A 1981 collection of psychological chillers about lurking unseen 'things' at the bottom of the well, and strange men who live in the upstairs room. Great Stuff.

I also picked up a cassette album of 'Living in a Box' - self titled and should be full of 80s synthpop goodness. A nice haul for 40 pence total - more than the plastic cup of vended hot chocolate I drank reading the book.

The meeting itself fell into two parts. First, after the obligatory blather about how recuitment is up (it isn't) and a wave of strikes is imminent (almost cirtainly not), the speaker (Candy Udwin) tried to dismiss the criticisms of the party John M had made at the recent conference.

She called his points 'right wing' and 'pessimistic', saying he was arguing about nothing for its own sake. To the credit of the audiance, they didn't let her get away with it. Since when is a calm appraisal of a dire situation right wing or pointless?

The second half was more unified, centering on what Respect can, should, and might do about George Galloway, and the fallout from his appearance on Big Brother. While he's roundly derided on the left at the moment, it seems he is getting some of his message across to the political centre ground, and to the ordinarily apolitical.

He's still a damn fool though, and has done a lot of damage to Respect's credibility - even without the slew of vaccuous tabloid stories against him. In the pub afterwards, news came through that he'd been evicted.

Local News for Local People

I wrote this on impulse, then decided on mature reflection that I shouldn't post it. But here it is anyway.
I don't often read the local newspaper. It's shallow, prejudiced, lying and vacillating, but above all crushingly dull.

However, one story caught my eye today. The council is planning to bulldoze the local shopping centre, and on the site build...a shopping centre. Nowhere in the three pages on the story does the paper glimpse the irony of this.

I've lost count of how many times Portsmouth has gone through projects of 'economic development' and 'cultural rejuvenation'.

There was the Millenium Tower - a giant purposeless spike in the harbour, designed to attract tourists. The idea was that people would pay to travel up in the lift, look down on the city, and then go straight down again because there was exactly nothing else to do up there.

When the tower was completed, five years too late and three times overbudget, no one was entirely surprised that the elevator didn't work. Or that the contractor had used substandard cement, meaning the structure was cracking before it was even complete.

At some point, I expect a chunk will fall off. Onto the shops and tourists directly underneath.

The shops in question are in Gunwharf - another attempt at getting the local economy moving. Luxury flats, a cinema, pubs, nightclubs and shops. Most of the flats are empty because almost no one can afford to rent them, and the other amenities are likewise too expensive to use often.

Here the idea was apparantly to create jobs for local people. In fact, one was created - the night watchman. Everyone else working there was bought in from outside.

I was involved in one small 'cultural rujuvenation' project myself - when I co-managed an art gallery. The woman in charge of a different cultural project (evening classes in crystals and aromatherapy) got in a huff when we wouldn't let her take us over, so pulled some strings to get us closed down. Then she went bankrupt.

Every so often an entrepreneur notices that Portsmouth is a student town without much for students to do, and invests in a live music venue or something similar. And becomes the latest to discover that students don't have much disposable income to fleece.

However, the prevailing wisdom is that my home town can only be turned into a decent place to live by Building More Shops. There's the Cascades Centre, the Bridge Centre and one or two others - indoor multiplexes with white walls, floors and ceilings, and row upon row of neon fronted, generally empty retail outlets.

Of course, the actual number of shops doesn't go up by much - the new ones in multiplexes force the old ones in the street out of business.

There was a plan, after the failure of Gunwharf, to build Gunwharf Stage Two - on the grounds that a failing stratgy will start to succeed if you try it enough times. One small problem with Stage Two was the lack of anywhere to build it, so I think it's still on the drawing board.

But now someone has solved the problem of space. If you have nowhere to build your new shopping precinct, what better than to knock down the old one, and use the site. Place the existing 70 shops under Compulsory Purchase Orders, knock them down, triple the land rent, and wait eagerly for new businesses to appear from thin air.

In practice of course, the new businesses would be those from the old ones who can afford the new rent.

We have a phrase around here - NFP. Normal For Portsmouth.

My Eyes are Dim, I Cannot See

The thing about spring cleaning is, you lose stuff as well as finding it. I have found an old microphone, a pile of 3.5'' disks, a music stand, several remote controllers, some boots, a dictaphone...and some dumbells.

I have also managed to lose my spectacles. And the mouse of this laptop. Which means although the wireless network is largely behaving itself, it's a pain to use, and although Greebo is recording TV shows like a lamb, I can't see them very well.

Oh yes, it seems the cure for the wireless cards was to install Windows XP - it worked for both me and mother, though neither of us know why.

Greebo works now I've taken off the casing, which means it was probably crashing through overheating, which means I didn't need to disconnect it from the intranet, reinstall the OS, and wipe the hard disc at all. Hah!

Anyway, I was going to make some music, before technology got in the way.

The God Diet

I know what the world needs! A christian diet book!

Lose weight the holy way. Let god make you thin. How to get the figure you want by following the levitical food laws. It's all laid out in a few chapters of the old testament.

If an animal 'cheweth the cud' - i.e. is a ruminant - and has cloven hooves, then you're allowed to eat it (Lev 11:13).

Camels are ruminants, but have uncloven feet, so they're forbidden (Lev 11:13). The same goes for pigs (Lev 11:17), so ham is out, and anyone who's eaten bacon is going to hell. Hares and rabbits (Lev 11:15-16) chew the cud but don't have hooves, cloven or otherwise, so they're forbidden.

I suspect the devil is not a ruminant, so even though he has hooves, you probably can't eat him.

No matter how hungry you get, you must not eat cats or dogs. Or in fact anything with paws (Lev 11:27).

As for seafood, there's a simple test. If it's got fins and/or scales, you can eat it. If it doesn't you can't (Lev 11:9-12, Deu 14:9-10). Clams, oysters, crabs, lobsters, and shrimp are abominations. So are prawns, probably. But dolphins are okay, and sushi should be just fine.

If you like eating birds, there's a wide choice. Eagles, ossifrages and ospreys (Lev 11:13), vultures and kites (Lev 11:14), ravens (11:15), owls, hawks and cookoos (11:16), cormorants, swans, pelicans, storks, herons, lapwings and bats (Lev 11:17-19) - all these are permitted.

Bats aren't actually birds, but god doesn't know that, only being their creator.

Weasels, mice, tortoises, ferrets, chameleons, moles and all lizards are forbidden. So are snails, even if you're french (Lev 11:30). Fruit from trees less than three years old is 'uncircumcised' (Lev 19:23). Black pudding is extremely bad, as is anything containing blood (Lev 19:26).

If you're hungry for 'flying creeping things', you can eat insects that have four feet, provided their legs are above their feet (Lev 11:21). Should you find an insect that keeps it's legs underneath it's feet, don't eat it.

You can eat all the locusts, beetles and grasshoppers you like (Lev 11:22). However, all other four legged insects are out of bounds. As it happens there's no such thing as a four legged insect, so the issue is unlikely to arise.

And now for the healthy bit. When cooking meat, cut off all the fat and give it to god (Lev 3:16, Lev 7:23-25).

If all this should become too much for you, don't worry, because elsewhere in the bible it says you can eat whatever you want (Gen 9:3, Mk 7:18-20, Acts 10:9-13, Rom 14:2, 1 Tim 4:1-3).

Unfortunately, there are no biblical references to chocolate.

I Love Technology

What I do have, after much installing, crashing, reinstalling, shouting and swearing, is a working digital VCR system. A computer largely dedicated to recording tv shows, encoding them to DivX, and putting the result on DVD. We'll see whether I'm still saying that tomorrow.

I also have (more or less) a makeshift recording studio, a tidy bedroom, and a backlog of things to do with the former and in the latter.

What I don't have is a working internet connection - wired or wireless. I'm borrowing one to post this. There's a couple of slightly Heath Robinson ideas I could try to get a connection back - not least is sitting with the laptop within ten feet of the WAP (Wireless Access Point) whenever I want to surf of post. Which might be construed as slightly missing the entire point of wireless networking.

Neat and Tidy, Tidy and Neat

I'm writing this on my laptop, in my bedroom, over a wireless network. The floor is cleared of clutter, carpet vacuumed, furniture moved around, books neatly stacked on shelves or in boxes, and lots of useless paper and junk sealed in binbags.

Unfortunately. You knew there's be an "unfortunately" didn't you?

Unfortunately, the bed is piled high with stuff from the floor, my new wired world seems to require more wires than the old wired one - even though the old wired network refuses to work - and there's another two days worth of little jobs to do before the room is inhabitable.

And the wireless may be fast, but it's not reliable. Either fast connection or no connection. I'm not as pleased as I might be.
The Mysterious Thing in the Post probably the title of a really low budget horror movie. But the mysterious package waiting for us in the Post Office turns out to be a pair of springs. Big, suspension springs for a car. So my father will probably spend the next day or so dismantling a car, getting covered in oil, and moaning about how all the bitss won't fit back together.

He turns 70 on February 1st, and like his parents has no business being still quite so fit or active. But at least he's curmudgeonly, opinionated, and ignorant, enabling me to claim the moral high ground as an educated, openminded slob.

My grandfather was (I think) 98 when he died, and he was mucking about with machines and electronics almost until the day he was suddenly paralysed by a stroke, and killed by a hospital bronchial infection a week later.
An unexpected presence online - Spephen P, the student who helped me out a lot with the graphics for my MA film. He's about to begin the final semester of his animation BA, and is looking for help with the sound for his graduation project - voice recording, effects, music etc.

Well, I'm happy to return the favour. I'm a lot better at making noises than I was three years ago.

Kapitano's Guide to Wireless Networking (Part 2)

(1) Get another lift for the half-hour journey to the warehouse, and swap the faulty card for one that looks identical.
(2) Get home to find the installation procedure, configuration options and instruction manual are different. And not just because the instructions are written in english this time.
(3) Find that both cards (your new one and mother's old one), plugged into both laptops (yours and hers), seem to function and sense the network hub, but can't see the other computers on the network, or access the internet. And incidentally your ISP intermittantly isn't working from any of the computers.
(4) Be distracted by a house call from the local avuncular annoyance with an ancient computer. He tells you "The light on the thing isn't going", which turns out to mean his modem isn't working, and furthermore he'd like you to drop everything and fix it right now, because he's decided he's your friend.
(4a) Half an hour later, sigh gently when he's back at the door, saying he's done everything you suggested, and the light on the thing still isn't going. But mentions in passing that it goes perfectly on his laptop. Remind him gently yet again that his PC is old and crap and has been since 1995. Get rid of the twit.
(5) Tinker around some more without success, before giving up for the while. Lie on your bed and doze, with the dog sitting on the end, crunching biscuits.
(6) Wake up 90 minutes later to find both cards work fine in both computers. And you've absolutely no idea why.

And that, my friends, is Kapitano's guide to home wireless networking your laptop. I hope it was useful.
As for the other reticular saga, here's the condensed version:

Last year, Christina C bought a secondhand laptop for her son. It was sold as 'nearly new' and 'internet ready'. It ran Windows 97 (yes, that's what I told them), and came with a big bundle of software installed, all for UKP100.

No one in the house could figure out how make it surf the information superhighway, so I took it home to examine and/or mend.

The computer was 'nearly new' in about 1996, runs Windows 98SE at 133MHz on a 2GB disk, has MS Powerpoint installed (that's the big bundle of software), contains a now-unrechargable battery, and has a card to connect to a LAN - which, if they had a LAN, they could indeed connect to the internet. No CD drive, one floppy drive.

It also has drivers for a modem, running at a magnificent 28kbps, and no ports or cables to connect it. And in fact no trace of modem. Presumably there was once a PCMCIA modem card. Presumably. Oh and it's also a horrible colour.

Now, how do you tell a bright eyed 9 year old child that his computer is so rubbish even other rubbish calls it rubbish? And his permanantly short-of-cash mum that she's been conned?

Answer: You describe the problems in simplified language, and then mum says, "So what you're saying is, it's a heap of crap and that man in the shop ripped us off."
There was a note from the postman saying a mysterious parcel wouldn't fit through the letterbox, and it was waiting to be collected from the Post Office. The Post Office can't find it, and I'm not even sure who it's for. Go again tomorrow and see if they've found it. Whatever it is.

Kapitano's Guide to Wireless Networking (Part 1)

(1) Order your wireless network card from the local supplier. It's actually a warehouse in the middle of a dingy industrial estate.
(2) Get a lift from your father to pick it up the next morning.
(3) Install the driver, then watch in puzzlement as your laptop reboots as soon as you plug the card in.
(3a) Watch in annoyance as it reboots several more times.
(4) Try it out on your mother's laptop, with the same result. As soon as you put the card into the PCMCIA slot, the machine resets.
(5) Phone the supplier, whose automated system puts you through to the manufacturer. Speak to a sales rep who, while charming, knows nothing about computer stuff. She says she'll send you an email explaining returns and replacements. She doesn't send it.
(6) Phone the supplier again, this time the technical department.
(6a) Spend 15 minutes reading Private Eye, as they pipe old songs by 10CC down the line at you.
(7) Speak to a techie who you just know is a fellow friend of dorothy, explaining your problem.
(7a) He will pinpoint the cause of your trouble by saying "Hmmm. Sounds like it's faulty."
(7b) He will then arrange for a replacement. This will seem breezily effortless compared to the manufacturer.

So, tommorow morning I'm exchanging my bad card for an identical looking one. And we'll see how part 2 goes.
As the first half of the day was taken up with my networking problems, the second half concerned...someone else's networking problems. But that particular saga is much longer, and not yet over. But it did involve an extremely large and occasionally amorous dog.

What Tiggers Do Best

Simon called me up to sing Happy Birthday down the phone at me, and invite me out for a little drinkypoo. But seeing as I'd overdone the 'scoff chocolate and watch Blake's 7 all night' thing, I declined.

This birthday will be spent doing what I do best. Feeling slightly ill...and tinkering with computers. You see, of the 13+ in the house, I own three, named after Terry Pratchett characters:

Greebo - 3GHz PC, used for video recording, editing and recoding, music composition, vocal recording, mixing, surfing, email, and a load of other miscellaneous stuff.

Desiderata - 1GHz PC, used for recording DAB and transferring vinyl and cassette recording to digital form.

Rincewind - 3GHz laptop, used for...erm...occasionally making CDs, occasionally watching films, but mostly sitting halfway up the stairs gathering dust.

The thing is, Greebo does most of the work, and Rincewind barely gets switched on. And Greebo has decided to frequently crash when processing video - I think the video software or codecs are in some kind of conflict with something in the loads of other stuff that's installed, because it works fine when they're not installed.

So, the plan is to reduce Greebo's system and workload to recording, recoding and burning video material, plus recording vocals and probably mixing.

The rest can be transferred to Rincewind, leaving Greebo uncluttered and Rincewind actually in use. It also means I can do stuff on Rincewind while the video work is hogging the CPU on Greebo.

The recording of vocal tracks will have to stay on Greebo, because it's the only computer that (a) has the speed and (b) can accommodate the super-duper soundcard I bought specially for the purpose.

All of which requires lots of reformatting, installation, and movement of furniture. I will be incommunicado for a little while.

One small irony. I bought Rincewind as a portable recording studio - which turns out to be the one thing it's no good at.

Older than Jesus

I'm 34. How did that happen?
The camera has arrived. It's a dinky little thing, smaller than my fist, and quite capable of being accidentally dropped into a mug of tea. Or as the manual has it: 86x40x68mm

I'm actually very impressed with the picture quality for the price - the highest resolution is 2048x1836, and apparantly non-interpolated. Even my test pictures are crisp and clear.

It takes MMC/SD cards, and should you wish to use is as a dictaphone, will record sound.

Of course it's still a toy, nothing like a professional affair. There's two focal lengths - near and far. It takes 8 seconds to take a snap (while displaying the word 'Snap' on the LCD). There's no mains supply socket. And there seems no way to prevent it putting a date and time stamp on each image.
Most of last evening was spent (once again) reinstalling windows on Simon M's computer. And most of this evening was spent putting on software and security that will hopefully be effective this time.

He cooked us the now traditional health-conscious and sensible meal. Followed by two big helpings of chocolate profiteroles. I think I have chocolate poisioning.

We watched Richard Dawkins telling us why religion is "The Root of All Evil", followed by some pseudo-historian (Michael Burleigh) telling us why atheism causes all the world's problems in "Dark Enlightenment".

The central argument of the latter was: Religion makes people moral, so faithless people are all immoral, so all immorality is due to faithlessness.

Also, some regimes that don't use religion as propaganda are tyranies, therefore irreligion causes tyrany, and religion prevents it. But only if it's catholic. Here it is from the horse's mouth.

The programme was spectacularly inept, and quite possibly broadcast simply to stir up a debate. Where "debate" means "shouting match".
So, what should I do for my birthday? Be really self-indulgent and get chocolate poisoning again? Have a quiet day-in reading calculus? Watch 12 solid hours of 70s science fiction? There's no end of little jobs need doing.

Hmmm. I'll let you know.


I'll post more about what's happening at the moment when I'm not exhausted, what's happening at the moment. In the meantime I learned three things last night, in ascending order of surprise:

(1) Most mathematicians can't explain maths to the rest of us.
(2) Once you find one who can, it actually becomes enjoyable.
(3) Calculus is interesting!

Is this a kind of mid-life crisis? Is it common for arts graduates in their thirties to get into numbers and graphs? Is this the equivalent of accountants taking up skydiving, or having an office romance?

May Contain Nuts

Today's word is: Glurge

Glurge refers to sacharrine anacdotes whose 'uplifing' message is undermined by their own subtext.

You know the kind of thing - stories whose ostensive message is "Friends are more important than money" and "Honour above acolade" but which really say "Stop whinging about your poverty" and "Obey the rules".

There's the one about Robert the Bruce and the Spider, lots of stuff about how prayer and hope overcome impossible odds, and generally something about a disabled athlete who suceeds through sheer determination.

In primary school, I remember the whole class being made to memorise "If at first you don't succeed, try try try again" and to repeat it mantralike, with the assurance that it was an important, life changing truth.

The headmaster often addressed the school during morning assemblies, telling stories about how two monks averted a war between Argentina and Chile by pleading with the generals, or how plants (and therefore people) have to suffer to become strong.

It never occured to me to argue against this wash of gibberish. I could see through it, and assumed everyone else could too. It was just vaguely puzzling that adults kept producing it, so I just sat and ignored it.

The school, noticing this, paid for me to have a battery of tests to find out if I was deaf or subnormal. Good hearing, IQ of 130+. Which was nice.

I also have vague recollections of sessions with a psychologist, trying to find out why I was 'withdrawn'. He concluded I wasn't withdrawn - I was "bright but shy", which is probably accurate.

So much for childhood. Good word though.
Written on my packet of chocolate biscuits: "Warning: Insert May Form Small Parts".

Once someone tells me what that means, I shall be duly warned.
ScienceBlogs is a new home for...scientific blogs. Not much there yet, but it looks like it could become a very good 'one stop shop' for science writing that is comprehensible to the layman (e.g. me) without being pitched at complete novices.

It's that field between beginner and advanced again. Esperantists have a phrase, "Eterna Komenculo" - Eternal Beginner, one who is completely competent in the basics, but doesn't have the resources, time or energy to go further.
I'm attempting to revise maths, especially algebra. Most of which I haven't done since I was 10 years old.

Indicies, Standard form, number bases, modulo, types of average - No problem. Lemon squeezy.

Simultainious equations - I used to know how to solve them. That is, I spent a week doing them in 1983, but never outside of a classroom, and never since.

Difference of two squares - I used to know what it meant.

Mantissa - Give me a minute, and I'll remember. Make it five minutes.

Binomials - Found out what it meant last night.

Antilogarithms, quadratic functions, codomains, volume of a sphere, tangent curve - Um.

Smiling Makes My Face Ache

Working on Science Fiction, Double Feature. At first I thought the song was written in A#, which is a downright peculiar key for anyone to compose in. It's:

B# (=C)
C## (=D)
E# (=F)
F## (=G)
G## (=A)

Then it turns out the entire album isn't tuned to concert pitch - the instruments are in tune with each other, but not with any correctly tuned instrument. Which presents problems when I jump between the recording and my version - it's like wrenching gears.

Anyway, assuming the song is in A-Major, the chords are, more or less:
Verses: A G# F# E
Choruses: D E A F#
I've decided I rather like all the Mozilla software - it's close enough to the microsoft stuff to make the transition easy, but it's what the microsoft stuff should have been.

I think I'll hang on to Outlook Express for the moment though - just so I can download hotmail at the same time as other mail.

The HTML 'Composer' will be useful for the Respect site - the other two want training and I think DreamWeaver is a little complex. That's if we ever get around to training and/or design - I'm quite happy and able to do the site myself, but being collectivists, they want to work collectively. Well, fair enough.
On the question of whether we, as minions of George Galloway, should vote to keep him in the Big Brother household or not, a decision has it seems been reached.

Should we try to keep him in the house to give him further exposure and the impression of public support, or prevent him making a damn fool of himself any longer? The branch leaders have met in secret closed session, and over three pints of beer decided that we should all vote to have him evicted.

Should news of our actions reach high levels, there may be 'questions asked' and even 'steps taken'. And yes, I am joking.
I find, when trying to make music, there are several points when I think "This track isn't working at all" or "It was a really bad idea to take this approach".

There's a feeling that there's something fundamentally wrong with the track. Like the intonation of singing doesn't match with my voice, or the chords are horrible, or the basic sounds clash with each other. But I never know whether it's because the track isn't finished and polished, or because I've gone down a musical blind alley.

Well, if SFDF doesn't work out this time, I'll just treat this version as a demo. Something for the rareties CD.

Dammit, Jannit

There was a Power cut this morning at 0030, and another at 0200. Which rather interrupted TV and computer activities, but gave me time to sit in the dark working out chord structures for a song I'm thinking of covering.

I've never actually covered a commercial song before. I mean, one that's written and performed by paid professionals, and published to be sold on the market - a song you'd expect to find sold in a record shop.

So what's the song? Science Fiction, Double Feature - the opening song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Though I have no plans to do my RifRaf impersonation on it.

Incidentally, Strict Machines have been toying with the idea of covering Don't Dream It, Be It.
Branch SWP meeting last night with discussion about the conference I missed.

From a low turnout of 300, 57 votes for John M's wakeup call disguised as candidacy isn't such a bad result. It shows there is some awareness that there are problems with current habits of optimism.

One odd side issue is a young comrade who wrote up his own (hostile) impressions of the conference, and posted them to a bulletin board before the party's official report was published. He was publicly censured, and his branch stiffly warned.

What the hell is that all about? The SWP is supposed to be open, accountable, democratic and honest. Now it's effectively forced out a member for what was at the most a minor breach of etiquette.

Anyway, the concensus here is that George Galloway's appearance on Big Brother really is as badly thought out as it seems. He didn't reckon on housemates who (inevitably) didn't understand or follow politics, Channel 4's (entirely predictable) censoring of the few political discussions he did have, or the public perception that being in a dumb TV show, cut off from events, isn't the place for a serious politician. Well, duh.

Perhaps if he'd thought to tell the leadership of his own party of his plans, they'd have warned him of what would happen. But he really seems to regard Respect as his band of loyal followers - as though he made their activity possible, and not the other way around.
I've switched from Explorer to Firefox. So now pages display correctly, most popups are blocked, and I can configure the browser better.

I can't actually deinstall Explorer (thank you, Microsoft), but it's gone from the desktop. Now I just need to find a good email reader - I'm not too fond of Pegasus or Agent, but there's plenty out there to try.
I've found a series of articles on sound synthesis at the Sound on Sound website. There must be over sixty of them, and the one's I've read so far have been very useful. They occupy the often neglected space between 'elementary' and 'advanced'. The lack of good 'intermediate' source materials is one reason it's so difficult to progress beyond basic understanding.
Police are questioning the head of the Muslim Council of Britain for making homophobic remarks on radio 4. The police show no inclination to question members of the tory party who hold the same views, or the BNP, who are much worse.

Abu Hamza, the leader of Hizbut-Tarir, is on trial for soliciting murder and incitment to racial hatred. Or to put it another way, a miniscule and isolated sect with neither the facilities nor the will to turn it's mad rhetoric into action, is being identified with the whole of Islam.

Oh, and the BNP, who are pretty big on incitement to murder and racial hatred, are still being left alone. Anyone would think all this was really about religion or something.

What a Difference, a Comma Makes

I should really install a spam filter. But that would deprive me of subject lines like this:

Only 1% men have a dick, with a measure of 8 inches.

and this:

Get your body in gear inverse

With content like this:

Our penis enIargement pills Virility P@tch RX will m@ke your penis so long that you will be able to reach to your neighbor’s window to borrow some condoms without leaving home.
Do you want to have a huge penis like Rasputin did?

I can't find the hundreds of exotic drums - well, the disc of samples thereof. No doubt it's under a pile of other discs under a pile of paper. Another reason to continue with the spring clean.

On the synthesised drum front, I have finally figured out how to make analog style handclaps. It's only taken me about eight years to find the insultingly simple formula.

In case I forget tomorrow morning: Here's how you make a synthetic handclap in the style of an 80s analog drum machine:
(1) Take some white noise
(2) Fade out the first twelve milliseconds, then the second twelve, then the third twelve. It doesn't have to be twelve - it can be between ten and fifteen, but I think twelve works best.
(3) From the 36th (or whichever) millisecond, fade out the final 48 (or therabouts) milliseconds. The result is three sharp clicks, together sounding like a camera shutter, immidiately followed by a longer click. (This is the bit I was missing.)

The curve of fadeout makes a significant difference - I suggest between 1 (linier) and 0.5. You might want to try noise generated at low bandwidths, or lower bitrates, for that 'grainy' feel the original machines had.

I'm still working on hihats. TR909 hihats were samples, so I can't really synthesise them, but TR808 ones sounds like narrow band blue noise over a triangle wave.
New comedy show: TittyBangBang. I only mention it because it is genuinely the worst comedy I have ever seen. Far and away. Period.

If the League of Gentlemen did a sketch about a necrophilliac pathologist, it might work. They can get humour out of the grotesque - TBB can't. And seeing as all TBB's sketches are about making grotesque things funny, this is a problem for the show.

If The Fast Show presented us with a flirtatious maid who tried vainly to be seductive while being knowingly coy, it might raise a laugh. The Fast Show could get a lot of milage from frequently repeated catchphrases and broadly drawn character types. TBB can't, and given that TBB endlessly repeats and revisits the same characters and catchphrases, this doesn't bode well.

Little Britain might even make something from a ladies sewing circle who are naked below the waist and have to keep brushing past each other. Their improbable characters can be fun. But guess what, TBB can't even reach that level.

The notion of bad plastic surgery leaking is not challenging. Inappropriate background music is not meaningful. An elderly hiphop homeboy is not original. A boorish and bullying darts player who can't play darts is not funny.

Jesus Christ it was crap.


Yesterday, two emails. One saying my orange low-res camera has been dispatched. The other than my replacement silver high-res replacement camera is on it's way.

Today, a small (blue) low-res camera arrives by registered post. A CD130E2NG - pretty much what it says on the tin, er, box. A point-and-click camera that doubles as a webcam. Doesn't actually have an off button - just leave it for 60 seconds and it closes down. It's an absolute pig to transfer the photos to PC.

The manual contains useful advice, like "Don't Open the battey box at will, and the power cut will cause the photos in the camera misssing.", "The storage of light wills affect the quality of picture.", and "Please don't put the battery into fire for fear of explosion to cause."
I've started work on the album by recreating the bare bones of some tracks I made in the mid 1990s. There will probably be some entirely new material, but at the moment I'm trying to keep what worked from old tracks, and do with it now what I couldn't do then.

Of course, they're instrumental, and likely to stay thay way. There's some songs written by other people that I'm thinking of covering, and some of my own songs that would definitely benefit from rerecording.

Oh yes, the title. I rather like Magnitogorsk.

It's My Party

The SWP conference was today, or possibly yesterday, I can't be sure. Heh! It's not often I get to misquote Albert Camus in an online diary.

Anyway, I didn't get to go - no room in the car, more useful people took the seats etc. But John M got to make his candidacy speech, about how the existing leadership is deliberately failing to face the reality that left politics is in the shithouse.

Strikes are at their lowest level since records began (1880ish), Socialist Worker sales are disastrous, recruitment of new members is minimal and retention even worse. Oh, and the internal democracy is tokenistic.

He got 57 votes, though I don't know out of how many. I'd guess 300-500.
The party have given a job to Gareth E - District Organiser, or something similar. So he's left his post as sociology lecturer for a significant cut in wages and a job that essentially involves co-ordinating between south east branches and the party apparatus.

I think he's a damn fool, considering irreconcilable pressures he'll be under from all wings, and the way the party tends to treat it's full time members. It's no accident that 'apparatchiks' tend to burn out in five years or so.

But, to misquote a different author (John Le Carre), "I'd rather be his kind of fool than theirs.
I bought a simple 'point and click' camera/webcam on ebay for UKP25 - it should arrive monday or tuesday. 3.1M pixels, internal storage, JPGG/MJPEG AVI 15fps, and a slightly horrible orange case. Enough for my small immediate needs - a camera that won't reboot at random intervals.
Right. Time to start on that album. Ha!

Self Facilitating Media Node

Back from the skeptical interlude. More of mother's gadgets arrived in the post today, with my latest job rejection letter.

My probable favourite is the "Media Hub", which has the slogan "Create Convenient Multimedia Lifestyle". So what does a Media Hub do, and what is a Multimedia Lifestyle, and is there an Inconvenient Multimedia Lifestyle?

The Media Hub turns out to be...a headphone and microphone cord extension. One end plugs into the soundcard, and the other end (the Hub part) sits on your desk, with your phones and mic plugged into it.

There's also some bluetooth stuff - a headset with earpiece and microphone, a transmitter/reciever which plugs into a USB port, and another worn on a chain around the neck - it looks like a high-tech medallion. As soon as we can figure out which is the 'On' button, we'll be able to...actually, I'm not sure what we'll be able to do.
I've trawled my way through Ebay's official complaints service. I tell PayPal about the camera, and they tell Ebay, who tell the vendor, who tell the supplier, who either send me another camera, or tell the vendor to refund, or decide to be awkward.

How are you supposed to prove that an envelope arrived empty? Presumably Ebay's legal eagles recognise an intractable epistemological problem when they see one.

These things can take months, so I'll probably get another camera in the meantime.
It seems there are two Media Hubs, and one of them is for my birthday on the 17th. Mother's are good, aren't they?

Tap, Tap, Tap

I've been looking at EFT - Emotional Freedom Techniques. The idea is that unwanted emotions (fear, hunger pangs, nervousness etc.) can be removed by rechanelling 'energy' around the body, which is done by tapping key points on the surface. There's a detailed free PDF on the background science and method.

I was asked to 'hold the scoffing' till I'd read it, so I dutifully did. And it's a pile of absolute rubbish. I've tried three times to write a critique of some of it's major points, and each time it would have ended as a 10,000 word essay. So here's a brief version:

Gary Craig, the author of EFT, has this to say on the scientific basis of his therapy.

Our bodies have a profound electrical nature. [...] If you touch a hot stove you will feel the pain instantly because it is electrically transmitted along the nerves to your brain. The pain travels at the speed of electricity and that is why you feel pain so quickly. Electrical messages are constantly sent throughout your body to keep it informed of what is going on. Without this energy flow you would not be able to see, hear, feel, taste or smell.

So is the energy channeled by EFT electricity? This question is consistently dodged throughout the paper - the word 'energy' is always used, without specifying what type of energy it is.

If EFT is a method of moving electrical nerve impulses around the body, of rerouting it on it's journeys to and from the central nervous system, then EFT is scientifically testable. Nerves, neurons and axons are visible, understood, and their activity can be measured.

This means the claim that, for instance, there is an endpoint of the stomach meridian just under the eyes can be tested. We just have to ask:

* Is there a nerve pathway from the stomach terminating under the eyes? Or at least a 'junction box' under the eyes, connecting the stomach to the brain or spinal cord? In both cases the answer is 'No'.
* Can nerve impulses be stimulated or stopped by tapping on the skin? Sensory impulses related to pressure, temperature and pain obviously can - that's the whole point of a sense of touch.

But could you for instance make your right leg go numb, make your face feel hot, or induce thirst by pressure on certain 'special points' on the skin. Ask yourself: what would be the point of a nervous system set up in such a way as to (say) make you high by clicking your heels, make you nauseous by stroking your neck, or send you to sleep if you upset something hot on your lap?

EFT posits a body design by an insane electrician, where to switch on the light in the hall you have to turn on the shower, and you boil the kettle by slamming the front door.

If the energy that EFT claims to channel is not electricity, then the paragraphs describing the electrical nature of the human body are completely irrelevant.

That's the choice. False or irrelevant.

When the energy stops flowing....we die. Ask your doctor about this. No one disputes it.

Ah yes, this is one of the points where the author slips and slides between anatomical science and fantasy. When nerves no longer fire, life ceases - true. This does not mean that when his undefined life energy stops moving around, death results.

At this point, he is slipping gently between two different senses of the word 'energy', hoping we won't notice the switch. It's like the old joke about the preacher who says to the churchgoer, "God needs your love! I'm your path to God, so give ME your love!". Two rather different kinds of love.

In fact, civilization has known about this for millenniums. About 5,000 years ago, the Chinese discovered a complex system of energy circuits that run throughout the body. These energy circuits...or meridians as they are called...are the centerpiece of Eastern health practices and form the basis for modern day acupuncture, acupressure and a wide variety of other healing techniques.

If you search long enough, you might find two acupuncture or accupressureists who use identical techniques. There are hundreds of widely different maps of the body's 'energy lines', all incompatible. And whether the practicing says the energy from the left foot travels through the neck, hip or shoulder, the success rate is the same.

Some use electrified needles, or magnetised, or soaked in 'sanctified water'. Sometimes the needle is pushed into the skin, sometimes twiddled, for 5 minutes, 20 minutes or an hour. Anesthetic may or may not be used. Some claim to use gold needles, though that's close to impossible - gold won't take an edge sharp enough.

So, for 5000 years, EFT-like methods have been continuously practiced in a place called The East. Which East is this? Pakistan, Tibet, Vietnam, Korea, North China, West India, or what? Well, it's just The East. That is, The Mysterious East.

Anyway, it's demonstrably false that any therapy based on the flow of life energy has held continuous sway in any part of the world for 500 years, nevermind 5000.

Where did that idea come from that ancient wisdom is wiser than recent knowledge? Or that exotic foreign wisdom is truer than the local kind? Some people really do seem to think the older and more foreign an idea gets, the deeper and truer it becomes.

This energy courses through the body and is invisible to the eye. It cannot be seen without high tech equipment. By analogy, you do not see the energy flowing through a TV set either. You know it is there, however, by its effects.
The sounds and pictures are your ever present evidence that the energy flow exists. In the same way, EFT gives you striking evidence that energy flows within your body because it provides the effects that let you know it is there. By simply tapping near the end points of your energy meridians you can experience some profound changes in your emotional and physical health.

In other words, nevermind the details of theory, what matters is that it works. So how do we know it works? The only 'evidence' is a series of wild anecdotes from people who say they've has phobias and addictions cured.

You get the same smattering of isolated stories for every alternative therapy going. Colonic irrigation cured one man's depression, rebirthing helped a woman lose weight, prayer cured someone's diabetes (except that the devil makes them still take insulin) and scientology cured one case of cancer - even though the patient died soon afterwards and all the doctors are in denial because they say it was cancer.

You can prove anything you like by quoting three anecdotes of apparant success, ignoring hundreds of failure stories. For some reason, people are more inclined to put their faith in something that one person in thousand says changed their life than in a drug with a 70% success rate.

EFT is not a pernicious cult like scientology, and although it's a pseudoscience, it's not a dangerous pseudomedicine like chelation therapy. It has roots in NLP, taking the panacea aspect but dropping the EST mind control elements.

There's a thin line between using EFT for dealing with emotions and trying to apply it to medical problems. Until that line is crossed, EFT is a harmless waste of time.

Philosophy and Binbags

In a nuclear bomb, fission will not occur unless there is enough Uranium 235 to sustain a reaction once triggered. This quantity is called Critical Mass.

In my bedroom, practical activity will cease unless there is enough organisation to let me work without spending an hour sorting through heaps of stuff to find anything. This level is called Critical Mess.

The stuff in my room is about to reach Critical Mess. If I don't do something about it now, it'll probably collapse into a blue hole and destabilise the universe.

In other words: Urgent spring clean. Before I do anything else. At all.
Well, I think an hour of filling binbags with paper is enough for anyone.

Aside from a lot of missing CDRs and DVDRs, I re-rediscovered four of my old philosophical notebooks. I kept them in my early 20s, thinking they'd be a way to keep hold of all the insights and ideas that I'd forget otherwise.

Some entries now seem obvious, others confused, and some I've no idea what I meant. Here's an undated entry (probably mid 1994), chosen at random from near the end of book 1:

If a person comes accross a simple object with no apparant purpose, e.g. a stone, this discovery produces little other knowledge.

If a person comes across a complex object with some apparant purpose, e.g. a wristwatch, this discovery produces the inference of a craftsman [sic]. Indeed, the craftsman inferred is one to be noted for skill and wisdom in the science of design.

If a person comes across a simple object with some apparant purpose, e.g. a slingshot, a craftsman can again be inferred, but not one of any great skill or wisdom.

If a person comes across a complex object with no apparant purpose - call such an object a 'Widget' - what kind of inference could be made? An insane craftsman who creates purposeless curiosities? A chance creation of nature like, say, a statue created by errosion of rock? A craftsman who began to create a machine but left it incomplete? An abstract artist? A joker?

Now ask the question: Which of the above does the world [universe] resemble? The world is complex, yet seems to achieve nothing.

William Paley's Teleological Argument is not invalid [sic], but it is incomplete.

I suppose it does contain a possible refutation of the Argument from Design, which is being resurrected again by creationists. Not that the argument needs any further disproof, though I seem to have considered that it may be valid in 1994. What I wrote back then wasn't (all) stupid, but it does feel rather elementary.

I should scan the notebooks before they get any more dog-eared, dump the originals, and keep a disc of the scans for the odd occasions when I'm curious about what I wrote.
Until Nick mentioned it, I had no idea that Gorgeous George Galloway was on Celebrity Big Brother. But it turns out he's in the house with Michael Barrymore, Rula Lenska and the rapper from Goldie Lookin' Chain.

A few weeks ago, our glorious leader addressed the party, telling them we must appeal to the kind of people who watch Love Island and Big Brother. I didn't think he meant it quite so literally.

Ah well, I still have no intention of ever watching a reality TV show, in roughly the same way as I have no intention of putting dogfood up my nose.
My camcorder is a DCR-TRV340E, with three infolithium batteries, two memory sticks, and 18 or so Hi-8 tapes. The power switch keeps slipping momentarily to 'off', meaning the whole unit resets at random intervals, which means, even though everything else works fine, it's pretty useless.

And that's why I wanted a replacement - still no word on that, though I don't expect rapid progress.

It seems Sony don't even make Hi-8 cameras anymore, though the sticks and batteries should fit into their newer stuff. There is a local sony repair shop - who charge UKP90 just to look for a fault.

All I want is something to take decent pictures with. And maybe some indecent pictures too.


In response to a request for shorter posts, here's one that doesn't tell you much about my day, but is almost cirtainly shorter than tomorrow's.
It looks like I'll be managing the Respect site for Portsmouth. Actually, there's three of us on the 'board', but Dave freely admits he knows nothing about HTML or design and doesn't have the software, and Gareth is in the same situation and doesn't have the time anyway. So, in the party of the unskilled the dabbler is technician, and that's me.
Dino has decided the best game in the world is called "Toehunt". This involves involves jumping up onto the bed covers, finding the bit that contains human feet, and savaging them.

Whining, barking, digging and gnawing at the bedclothes, chasing moving feet around, and searching for a way in. Should he find a way under the covers, he will then heppily spend hours treating each toe as though it were a rat to be cornered, growled at, gripped and shaken. He is of course completely incapable of doing damage or causing pain.

Toehunt is best played at 0130 when everyone's trying to sleep, or 0630 in the morning, at least an hour before they want to wake up. In the daytime, he can always play tug-of-war with a sock.
The adjective "Foodal" scores 320 hits on Google. As opposed to an impressive 13,900 for "Foodaholic" but a mere 2 for "Foodomaniac" and "Foodiferous".

Passing quickly over Foodality and Foodoo, Related terms include Foodalism, Foodalicious, Rude Food. and Ruder Food.

That Don't Impress Me Much

There were plenty of things today that were not terribly impressive.

Norton Ghost 2003
The last time I tried this program, I had to reinstall Windows from scratch. But I thought I'd give it another go, to make periodic backups of my system so I wouldn't have to reinstall everything each time something went seriously wrong.

On this occasion, Norton decided to format drive C: to FAT32, destroying 15 hours worth of mp3s ripped from CD, and a lot of other miscelanious data. It also did the same to the partition I used for applications. And erase the windows partition.

So, in all, I wasn't impressed.

The Invisible Camera
An empty package arrived today from Hong Kong. Presumably this was supposed to be the camera I bought on ebay. I've sent the seller a stiffly worded note - we'll see what it takes to get a refund or the item sent.

The Hypnosis Diet
There's a new fashion in weight loss diets. Or rather, the wheel of fashion has turned again. Some health systems concentrate on avoiding certain foods, or food groups, or combinations of food groups, while advising moderate exercise. Others are exercise programs accompanied by the advice to eat sensibly but not neurotically. Then there's the idea of changing lifestyle, or psychology, or habit, as a way to 'bypass' food cravings and 'energise' for exercise.

The 'lifestyle' method is back, with books, TV advice shows, magazine columns, motivational gurus and other paraphenalia.

I got the chance today to skim through Paul McKenna's book "I Can Make You Thin", and I can summerise it's astounding revelations for you:

* Thin people don't think much about food, fat people are obsessed with it.
* Most of us eat, not out of physical hunger, but from what McKenna calls "emotional hunger" - lonliness, boredom, depression etc. Or just habit.
* There are four golden rules. Only eat when your stomach feels empty, eat what you feel like when you do so, enjoy every mouthful slowly, and stop when you're full.
* Imagination is stronger than willpower. So to put you off bad food like chocolate cake, imagine it covered in maggots.
* You can use acupressure taps on the eyebrow ridge and collarbone to remove cravings. Yeah, right.

The End of the World is Nigh. Absolutely Right Nigh.
Speaking of astounding revelations, my favourite television for the past week has been "Revelations". A paranoid conspiracy miniserial about the biblical End of Days. An astonomer whose children have been kidnapped by satanists, accompanied by a nun backed by a mysterious businessman, seek the returned and abducted baby jesus through the world's capital cities, hindered by the supernatural world conspiracy of devil worshippers.

If taken literally, it's far right biblical literalism, linking the devil, terrorism and atheism into one evil mass. If read as spectacular hokum, it's utter drivel, but highly enjoyable.

The final episode still managed to disappoint - not so much the book of prophecies written in braille predicting a sabotaged peace conference when a moon of Saturn entered eclipse. Or the threat of an army of eight million convicts who, being prisoners, were evil and therefore satanists.

It was the way the great fight of good against evil was reduced to a father fighting to get his son back, and god's victory achieved by sticking a knife in the ringleader.

People in Pubs
Those who stride around announcing to the world in general that Britain should solve all its problems by invading the Falkland Islands. Apparantly because it worked once before.

Those who try to pick a fight with the barmaid.

Those who insist on arguing about nothing with total strangers for an hour after closing time.

Can You Fix It?
Tomorrow will be largely spent trying to make a laptop connect to the internet. All I know is, it won't connect, and the disc drive won't work. I therefore have to figure out what's wrong, and mend it, without installing any software or drivers.

I enjoy practical puzzles, but only the kind with solutions.
Remember, in the last entry, I said I had a pristine basic windows installation? Well, I've got another one.

Things to Do, People to See

Grumpy? Me? Moi?

Well, yes. But as someone much wiser than me once said, "Scratch a cynic and you'll find a romantic."
The year may be new, but some things don't change. Like computers going wrong. Mine crashed a few times while processing video so I tried installing updated drivers - a process which somehow deinstalled almost all the systems device drivers. Huh!

I tried to use NovaStor ghost images to roll the system back to when it was stable in November - and found all my ghost images were unreadable. I didn't know what had been causing the crashes, or the extent of the damage done by the deinstaller, so the best bet seemed a complete reinstall.

Meanwhile, one of Mother's computers refuses to recognise it's largest hard drive, and it's slowing down. Simon M's computer has contracted some really sneaky spyware, Christina C's laptop won't network anymore, and John M loses his internet access at odd times.

In short: I have a full social calender right now.
Right, New Year's Resolutions:

(1) Eat properly
(1.1) Minimal chocolate
(1.2) Lots of fruit and vegetables
(1.3) Less snacking and fried junk

(2) Exercise
(2.1) Bicycle
(2.2) Weights
(2.3) The gym stuff in the basement

(3) Learn C++
(3.1) Make a start on those VST and sound projects
(3.2) Revise the necessary maths

(4) All that reading stuff I keep meaning to do. Do some of it.

(5) Record an album. So there.
(6) Don't leave it till tomorrow.
UPDATE: Five hours later. I thought it might be a nice idea, seeing as I was doing an OS installation from scratch, to try Windows XP. Well I did. And after I got it through the 'copying files' stage by swapping backup discs around until it found a readable copy of all the kept crashing in the final 'stretch' of setup.

So now I'm once again back with Windows 2000. Nothing installed except Sevice Pack 4 and a load of drivers for the peripherals. It's working perfectly, and I'm afraid to do anything in case it explodes. Here goes.

Finish with a Bang

I feel rather sick.

Saturday 30th December 2005
My recollections are vague, because I drank so much alchohol. I remember a call from John M at 1800, inviting me to a new year's drink in the pub, where there are several comrades and friends. I go with some of them afterwards to a small late night party, and afterwards I sit with John, alone in his home - he is exhausted and very drunk, but I think just wants some company.

At 0230 we get to discussing the nature of art as opposed to design (aesthetic/decorative versus utilitarian/functional), when he suddenly starts snoring and didn't wake till 0700.

Sunday 31st December 2005
I wake up in John's spare bed at around ten. I read downstairs till he appears at midday, to cook us some breakfast, talk philosophy, play internet poker and relax on this, one of the rare days when he's not juggling three dozen political and academic committments.

At 1900, Lee gives us a lift to a party held by his friend Francis. Thirty members of working class families from an estate, crammed into a tiny flat filled with pounding music, screaming children, bawdy jokes and really really cheap finger food.

I circulate among the crowd of strangers, using my one social skill - getting people to give impromptu tutorials on whatever specialist knowledge they have. I can't usually do friendly, and cirtainly not fun, but flatteringly inquisitive I can do. Lee can socialise (or as he says, "talk bollocks") with just about anyone - he's a social chameleon - and John has a lifetime of practice being polite. I can get people to hold forth on what interests them. In this case, mainly a grandfather who's spent his whole professional life driving trucks and lorries - a lot of expertise.

I also drank quite a lot of vodka and lemonade, ate a lot of snacks, and quickly got somewhat drunk and dyspeptic. That always happens at parties too.

After 90 minutes or two hours, John and I left for another, different type of party. Same food, but served with cocktails and the chit-chat of middle class intellectuals who read The Guardian. I did extract a spiel from a young sociology student, but she was so ignorant and stupid it was hardly worth it.

Monday 1st January 2006
For some reason I stayed until 0200, watching four married couples bicker and eventually throw food at each other. There was cracker pulling, games of charades, and communal dancing to the Greese soundtrack.

I left with a minimum of fuss, got some completely unnecessary chips on the way home, and plugged in my depleted phone to recharge. Simon's been trying to get in touch while the battery's been dead for a day.

I feel rather sick from so much bad party food and different flavours of alchohol. I also feel sad, for reasons I can't quite determine.