Just Me

Western music is out of tune. There's good reasons for this, if you want to play music on mechanical instruments and don't want to spend hours retuning them every time you change key. If, however, you don't need to change key, or you're using synthesisers that can retune in an instant, the only reason to use the western system is habit.

A musical scale is an ordered set of notes with mathematically related frequencies. Usually a scale is split into equal sized blocks, and the lowst note of each block is double the frequency of the lowest note of the block below. In almost all the music you hear in the western world, there are 12 notes in each block - confusingly called an octave - and each frequency is 2^(n/12) where n is the place of each note in the block, starting at 0.

This system is the result of centuries of compromise between mathematics, the practicalities of instrument manufacture, and fashions followed by composers and performers. There don't need to be 12 notes in a block, and their frequencies don't have to be related in this way.

Other systems are possible. One common alternative has five notes to each octave, where the frequency of the 2nd note is one and one eigth times the frequency of the first, the third 1+(1/4) times the first, the fourth 1+(1/3), the fifth 1+(2/3), and the first note of the octave above twice the one below.

Here's a slightly mad hypothetical 11 note octave:
Note 1: Frequency is f, where f=500
Note 2: f*(1+(1/7)) = f*(8/7) = 500*1.4286 = 571.42857
Note 3: f*(1+1/4)) = f*(5/4)= 500*1.25 = 625
Note 4: f*(1+(2/7)) = f*(9/7) = 500*1.28571 = 642.85714
Note 5: f*(1+(3/7)) = f*(10/7) = 500*1.42857 = 714.28571
Note 6: f*(1+(2/4)) = f*(6/4) = 500*.5 = 750
Note 7: f*(1+(4/7)) = f*(11/7) = 500*1.57143 = 785.71429
Note 8: f*(1+(5/7)) = f*(12/7) = 500*1.71429= 857.14286
Note 9: f*(1+(3/4)) = f*(7/4) = 500*1.75 = 875
Note 10: f*(1+(6/7)) = f*(13/7) = 500*1.85714 = 928.57143
Note 11: f*1+(7/7)) = f*(14/7) = 500*2 = 1000

I say it's mad, but it's quite usable, if a little strange-sounding to our ears. It's based on simple integer fractions (in this case with 7 and 4 as the denominators), just like most musical scales.

When we hear two simultainious frequencies, they sound pleasant together if their frequencies have a simple frational mathematical relation - if one is one third of the other, or two fifths, or three quarters, or something similar. Of course, the simplest relation (apart from the two frequencies being identical) is where one is half or double the other.

But, the standard western system isn't like that. f*2^(n/12) is a progression of fractional indices, not of fractions. So why do we use it?

The answer is that, if you're playing a tune in A Major, where the A note is 440Hz and the D note above it is one and a quarter times A (i.e 586.66Hz), then so long as you stay in A Major, your chords and harmonies will be sweet. But then you change to C Major, where C is tuned to 5/4 times A (making C 528Hz), and D is 9/8 times C. Unfortunately, the correct value for D in the key of C is now 594Hz.

But your instrument is still tuned to A Major, where D is 586Hz. It's 8Hz out - not a vast amount, but noticible, and the difference doubles if you go up an octave. Plus, the difference gets larger as the relative keys get more distant.

One solution to this probem is simply not to change keys - but that is quite a sacrifice to make. Another is to have several pianos onstage with you, all tuned to different keys - but that requires a big stage and a bigger bank account. You could make sure that when you change keys, you change to ones that won't be too out of tune - but that's a compromise that pleases no one.

A different approach is to make all keys slightly out of tune, but in such a way that none (or few) of them will go much more out of tune when you change keys. This means you can change key in the middle of a concert without offending your listener's ears too much - though they'll be slightly offended all the time.

There are several such systems, but the one which allows for any key change, each with equal dischordance, and which distorts all keys equally, is called Equal Temperament or Equal Tuning, and it's the one based on f*2^(n/12).

However, with music made using computers, there's no need to stick with Equal Temperament, and the only reason we generally do so it habit. The only great difficulties in adopting a 15 note octave are shoehorning them into 12 note midi keyboards and persuading your sequencer to be more broadminded. If you don't mind sticking with 12 notes it's not hard to use software to make the intervals 'correct'.

There is, though, one small issue with tuning your synthesiser to Just Temperament, as it's called. There are many possible Just Temperaments - many systems of fractional note relationships that could be used.

Even if we stay with the 17th century Just system which Equal Temperament approximates, the Minor Second interval (between the root note and the semitone above) could equally well be 16/15 (1.066) or 17/16 (1.062). The Minor Seventh interval (10 semitones up from the root) is sometimes given as 9/5 (1.8), sometimes 7/4 (1.75) or 16/9 (1.77). All three fractions give almost the same result, but not quite, and they're all equally viable.

I favour the system below, because it keeps the numbers low, and keeps them simply related to each other:

Note 1:f*(1/1) = 440*1=440
Note 2: f*(17/16) = 440*1.0625=467.50000
Note 3: f*(9/8) = 440*1.125=495
Note 4: f*( 6/5) = 440*1.2=528
Note 5: f*(5/4) = 440*1.25=550
Note 6: f*(4/3) = 440*1.33333=586.66667
Note 7: f*(7/5) = 440*1.4=616
Note 8: f*(3/2) = 440*1.5=660
Note 9: f*(8/5) = 440*1.6=704
Note 10: f*(5/3) = 440*1.66667=733.33333
Note 11: f*(7/4) = 440*1.75=770
Note 12: f*(9/5) = 440*1.8=792
Note 13: f*(2/1) = 440*2=880

Friends and Frustrations

There are 4-5000 languages currently spoken on Earth, plus several times that number of dead languages that exist in written form. Most of them don't use the ASCII system of 48 letters and 25 or so punctuation symbols, and most of those that do include some letters modified with haceks, umlauts, circimflexes, tildes, acutes, braves, strikes and other marks.

Given that every country in the world now uses wordprocessors, and most users in most countries use more than one language, why is it so bloody difficult to make your wordprocessor work with non-ASCII text?

Esperanto includes 12 characters - six upper and six lower case - that are modified slightly from the familliar roman alphabet. With today's advanced software, in today's world that's so aware of global diversity, why can't I get OpenOffice Writer to display "Æ" when I type ALT+C?

That symbol is a capital C with a circumflex (hat) over the top if your system is configured to recognise the Latin-3 coding, though it'll show as an AE digraph if you're using the default Latin-1. Go here to download "SudEuro" (Southern European) Latin-3 fonts that display Esperanto characters correctly, as well as most European languages - The English part of the coding is, of course, unchanged, so your English will display as normal.

Now, given that it's a 5 second operation to install the fonts, and typing in alphabets other than pure ASCII is what most of the world needs to do...how come I've spent two hours unsuccessfully trying to set my globally aware wordprocessor to do what a typewriter can do with the "backspace" key?

Perhaps you're asking why don't I use Alt Codes? Hold down the Alt key and type in a four digit code for the character you need. Two reasons why not: First, I don't really want to use five keystrokes to get one character, and second, it only works on the numeric keypad to the right of the keyboard - and I'm using a laptop, which doesn't have the extra number keys.

Why not create a macro to insert (say) a C with a circumflex when you press CTRL+C? I've tried. I've spent an hour trying to get OpenOffice to do just that. And it won't. I don't know why, but it won't. I think I recall that MS Word can do it, so I may install that.

I haven't seen Mark S in around nine months. He's someone I went to school with (far too many years ago), who drops back into my life at unpredictable intervals. He's not very bright, thinks I'm an absolute genius, sympathetic and understanding, not successful but eternally optimistic with women, smokes enough tabacco to give a herd of elephants lung cancer, and spent his 20s trying to decide whether he was gay. I had sex with him a few times before he decided he wasn't.

His other main characteristic is complete unreliability. If he arranges to meet at 8pm, he might turn up at 9:30 - or else phone two weeks later to say he was delayed and promises to call later that evening to arrange meeting up, which usually doesn't happen.

As I write this at 10pm, he's two hours late and his phone's switched off - or else he just forgot to recharge it again.

Paul T spent 40 minutes on the phone telling me why the most wonderful woman he's ever been involved with is about to dump him. The short version is: he can feel it coming.

He spent the early 90s (before I knew him) madly in love with her, and she with him. It was a chaotic, but ecstatic time. Then she dumped him, and he spent a decade recovering. Three months ago, she divorced her terminally boring husband, got back in contact with Paul, and they spent two months being madly happy again. Then he started to get worried that it was all going wrong.

Something happened in her life (a crisis - I don't know what) that took her attention away from him. She responded to his letters and text messages with brief, noncommittal replies. He has a chioce between going stir crazy with not knowing whether they have a future, and becoming wrist-slittingly depressed at the prospect of being alone for the rest of his life. He says he's chosen the latter option.

So far as I can see, what's really happening is: He always expects things to go wrong. So he gets paranoid that his unexpected second chance of happiness is slipping away because she's losing interest. So he fires off a series of communications verbosely detailing his fears and asking for reassurance. She doesn't have the time or energy to deal with his insecurities on top of whatever's messing up her own life at the moment, so she becomes temporarily distant. Which makes him more paranoid than ever. So he writes off more and more desperately, she she responds more and more perfunctorily.

In short: He can't live without her, and she can't live with him needing her so badly right now.

I'm tempted to pick him up and shake him, shouting "Listen, you great dozy pillock! You love her and she loves you! She doesn't care that you've got no money, she doesn't care that you're over 40, and she doesn't care that you're an overemotional twit who refuses to believe anyone genuinely likes them! She really does love you and really does want to be with you. Now stop working yourself into a suicidal state, and stop bombarding her with demands for the love you know she already feels!"

But there's two reasons why I can't do this. First, he's too heavy for me to lift. Second, he wouldn't listen. He never listens, not to me, not to his other friends, not even to her when she says she loves him.

A friend is someone you spend a lot of time quietly forgiving, but don't mind doing it. An old friend is someone you still forgive, but you've been doing it so long you're forgotten why you started. Your best friend is either the one who annoys you least, or who you forgive most quickly - hopefully both.

More than one person has advised me: "If in doubt, marry your best friend." Not someone you'd walk on hot coals for, not someone who makes you feel like a silly, giddy 16 year old. But someone who you can always forgive, who always forgives you, who you don't absolutely need to be with, but whose company you always enjoy.

Well, that rules out Mark and Paul, so I won't be marrying them anytime soon. But I am looking forward to spending an evening with C tomorrow, possibly watching some of the worst and cheapest horror movies ever made.

I'll have to introduce him to Angoroj - probably the only horror movie filmed in Esperanto.

Update: It's an hour later, and Mark has just called. He'd fallen asleep. Gah!

Plumb Job

Today's little bit of Esperanto:

Ni ne havas varman akvon. Hieraux la pipoj por varma akvo krevis, inundanta la kuirejo. Dum du tagoj ni lavas en malvarma akvo - krom unu ocasio, kiam mi brulis akvo en la kaldrono kaj usis gxin. Sed la akvo estis tro varma, kaj mi brogis mian manon. Ga!

(We don't have hot water. Yesterday the hot water pipes burst, flooding the kitchen. For two day we have been washing in cold water - except for one ocasion, when I boiled some water in the kettle, and used that. But the water was too hot, and I scalded my hand. Gah!)

There are dozens of plumbers in the phone book, and none of them can start work till tomorrow.

I can remember the rules for converting verb transitivity, but I didn't know the words for "kettle" and "scald" without looking them up. So, I've joined some mailing lists for beginners (komencantoj) to get some practice - Esperanto 102 was useful last time I brushed up. Esperanto-l is the mailing list mirror of the soc.culture.esperanto newsgroup, which is quite active.

Before I forget, this is a masters degree thesis, but is essentially a textbook of Esperanto grammar.

This afternoon was spent helping out with the arrangements for Dunkan's funeral. It will be on the 5th of October, a completely nonreligious and somewhat unconvenetional service in one Portsmouth's two unitarian churches.

I'm not clear on the finer points of unitarianism, but it seems to be the kind of impersonal pantheism that's functionally indistinguishable from spiritual atheism. If you believe the universe is holy but that it doesn't love or punish you, you're a unitarian. Or a humanist - there's probably an abstruse difference.

We'll be carrying placards instead of wreaths, and the coffin will be painted white with red polkadots. It will be carried to the stage to a song by the Sex Pistols, and possibly The Pogues. My job is to take care of the music, and be a substitute speaker if one of the proper speakers doesn't turn up.

Dress is - of course - casual. Donna would like C to come along - actually, she said "Your lovely manfriend is absolutely welcome to come". For some reason, C thinks being invited to a funeral for someone he didn't know is bizarre. Dunkan would have liked him - they could both talk surrealist nonsense for hours.

Actually, C now reads this blog occasionally. Hello C. I'm writing a song about you.

It looks like Dino will be a daddy. According the breeder, Millie looks to be "in whelp" - impregnated, gravid, preggers.


The post half in Esperanto will have a wait a day, because I'm too exhausted to ramble in anything but English. Which is odd really, because English is so complicated and inconsistant it shouldn't be possible to speak it at all. However...

Tonight was the first round of Portsmouth's "Battle of the Bands" contest. Five bands played two songs each to an audiance and a panel of three judges, in a school classroom.

The first band was The Three Stooges - three cleancut teenage boys who namechecked Green Day and White Stripes, but sounded like The Monkees. Except neither of the singers could sing in tune. They had some good and varied musical ideas, but not the skill or talent to put them into practice.

You are a Beautiful Robot were the opposite - three hairy teenage boys with a lot of skill and no imagination. Very competently performed grungy skatepunk-influenced rock, with rhythms, chord changes and lyrics as interesting and original as...well, as most of what you hear on the radio.

There's always one band who don't turn up, and tonight it was Promise Unknown. But I imagine they were three teenage boys with guitars - just a wild guess.

Fourth on were...Strict Machines! Three of them, but not teenagers, only one guitar...and one is a girl! I know I'm biased, being their friend (and producer), but even when badly amplified and improvising to cover up each other's mistakes - as happened here - they have both the breadth of ideas and the mechanical skill to make them work.

Finally, Misunderstood admit quite candidly that they can't sing or play, but like The Three Stooges they were willing to experiment. They got the best audiance reaction - possibly because they had brought along a dozen friends to cheer them wildly.

It may have also helped that one of the judges looked suspiciously like the lead singer with an extra 25 years, and led the applause enthusiastically. Not that I'm suggesting nepotism. Not at all.

The judges were split between You are a Beautiful Robot (competent but forgettable) and Strict Machines (inventive but underrehearsed) - and surprised everyone by not playing safe. Strict Machines are through to the next round - same time, next week.

We went for celebratory drinks in the local "continental style" bar, which is why I am currently full of two pints of hot chocolate with whipped cream and extra chocolate, and Anna the singer is sleeping off quite a lot of beer.

Do, nun mi devas dormi, ĉar mi estas laca, nepova skribi plu, kaj plena da tro ĉokolado. Bonan nokton.

Hope for Tomorrow

After four attempts, I've discovered how to install Windows XP without hassle or crashes. Just take out all the peripheral cards first, go through the installation, then install the cards and their drivers one by one, switching off the machine after each one.

And remember, this is for the top-of-the-line, Professional VLK (whatever that stands for) edition, which even boasts that it has the quickest and easiest installation process ever. And so it may have, provided your computer has empty PCI slots.

Then there's just the simple matter of a two hour defrag and general cleanup before you can install any software.

Derek Thompson (Hoodlum Priest) has written back - just a short thankyou note, with news that hopefully there'll be a brand spanking new album online by early next year.

I'll be spending Tuesday afternoon in a basement, with a tape measure and a cute Italian marathon runner.

Strict Machines have finally agreed to record a live album for their fans - though considering they have 45+ songs and keep writing more, it may be a tripple album.

The cute Italian guy is Fabio the drummer, and he really does run marathons, when not getting a degree in graphic design. We like to say he's the glamour element. The basement is his, and I reckon I can set up a reasonable semi-permanant recording studio, using all the old tape machines and microphones I don't use anymore.

They'll be playing a quick gig in a school hall later, and C says he'll be there if he's feeling up to it.

His doctor says he might (just possibly might) have colitis. Which in any of it's forms is not good news.

This post was going to be half in Esperanto. And there was a perfectly good reason for it. But, not having used it extensively for several years, I need to check a few words of the vocabulary, and some grammatical points. So...the next post should be Esperantista.

Ancestor Worship

The closest I have to an ancestral home is a Yorkshire town called Selby. Apparantly one of my great great grandfathers was the duke (or possibly earl) of the place.

It's famous for being the site of a particularly bad rail crash in 2001, though as the residents will indignantly tell you, the train actually crashed in a nearby village - the wonderfully named Great Heck. It's also famous for producing one particularly violent serial killer, and having a very large and unpopular coal power station which gave it's name to a James Bond villain - Drax.

So, clearly a place with a heritage. It also has a football club, a rugby club, and a newspaper to report on them.

The paper also covers potential acts of terrorism agsinst the power plant by "hardcore activists":

Police and power chiefs remain on stand-by alert after intelligence revealed up to 50 eco-warriors from across Europe may launch a second raid to halt plant production. [...]

Assistant Chief Constable Peter Bagshaw [...] revealed: "Intelligence has confirmed there was a hardcore group of 40 or 50 activists determined to cause a shut down at Drax. They were prepared to use tools, weapons and life-threatening techniques to achieve their aims.

"Intelligence indicates the group were disappointed at not being able to achieve their publicly-stated intention of shutting Drax and may still attempt to do so." [...]

Station head of external affairs Melanie Wedgbury said yesterday: "The safety of our employees, all visitors to the site and security of supply are always our top priorities. If we hear of any plans to disrupt operations we will take all necessary advice and act accordingly.

Evil European fanatics, fancy weapons, and "Intelligence" with a capital "I". This really is James Bond country. But if you fear for the future, Russell Grant has the answer:

Call me on the Capricorn line 0905 062 3549 to hear why a new friend might try to interfere in matters that are none of their business and you'll need to keep them in line in a tactful and diplomatic manner towards the end of the week or risk losing your new pal.

And when you've learned that "RESIDENTS breathed a sigh of relief after plans to move a phone mast near their homes as part of Selby town centre redevelopment were turned down", you can read the classified ads, but not for anything so undignified as lonely hearts.

Inevitably, Selby has local radio - still due to start 2 months ago...as soon as they get a frequency allocated. There's a college too, but the website is down.

The town council site keeps locals up to date on such things as the Selby Watercolour Society Annual Exhibition, the "Sloppy Slipper" campaign to persuade old people to buy new slippers because their old ones might cause accidents, and by-election results where - unbelievably and astoundingly - the conservative party won again.

So that's were my forefathers swore their mighty deeds, and that's where my birthright lies unclaimed. Now you know why.

Tony Blair and My Part in His Downfall

I actually got some sleep - around 4 hours.

0630 at the meeting point, we found that if everyone who promised to turn up actually did turn up, there wouldn't be room on the coach. Fortunately (and predictably) there were a dozen oversleeps and people who decided they couldn't face getting up that early to spend the 12 hours on a coach punctuated by 6 hours walking and waiting. So with 24 from Portsmouth and 25 from Southampton, there was even 1 spare seat.

Richard L had been thoroughly "briefed" to not sing on the coach, but got the chance to do so anyway. Dunkan - who'd really wanted to live long enough to go on this demo - had suggested "a minute's noise" as a suitable tribute to his passing. So Richard sang "We Will Overcome".

If any of us had been sensible, we would have worn shorts for the hot stuffy coach, and taken sunblock for bright sunny Manchester. But amazingly, none of us were sensible. So I sat for 6 hours in the pathetic air conditioning, wishing I was somewhere else, consoling my ears with albums of Enigma and Hoodlum Priest - European religious chillout and British sci-fi hip-hop.

We stopped at a horrible plastic service station, where I amazed myself and others be being prepared to pay UKP4 for a chicken wrap, and UKP1.5 for a cardboard mug of tea. Depression inhibits judgement, and the road has it's own special kind of depression.

Central Manchester looks...exactly like central London. Old big architecture next to new big business estates, shopping centres disguised as spiffy bus and train stations, and a chinatown. There's even placenames like Picadilly and Oxford Street - though it's somewhat less polluted.

The route of the march was basically a loop around the town hall and city centre where the Labour Party are about to hold their conference. It was only 3 or 4 kilometres, but took 3 hours because (as anticipated) movement was so slow.

The town council had tried to ban us on "health and safety" grounds, but the police refused to co-operate, preferring to let it go ahead as planned, which meant the organisers and police could control it. The trouble with trying to ban a big event is, a lot of people might decide to go ahead anyway, without clear plans or demarkations. And if the police tried to stop them, there might be a riot, which no one wants - not even the hardnut riot police, because they might lose.

The vibe was cheerful and energetic, and the turnout nicely mixed. Grungy alternative students, more staid types maybe influenced by the flood of revelations about turture, various Jewish groups drawn into the antiwar movement by the events in Lebanon, muslim families in full traditional garb, and us old reliable socialist types.

There were some new chants. As well as the familliar "This is what democracy looks like!", "What do we want? Blair out! When do we want it? Now!" and "Who's street? Our street! Who's world? Our world!", there was...

Bush, Blair, shame on you!
Tony boy is turning blue!

And a similar sentiment from the slightly risque (sung to the tune of "Glory Glory Halleluja"):
"Tony Tony you're a tory!
Tony Tony you're a tory!
Tony Tony you're a tory!
And you're head's up Bush's arse!

I think some were made up on the spot. My own modest contribution was well recieved...

(To the tune of "Shout" by Tears for Fears):
Shout! Shout!
Tony Blair out!
You are the one we can do without!
Go on!
We're talking to you!
Go on!

I have a famously loud and brash chanting voice - it's especially tuneless and gutteral, a bit like a Dalek gargling, and is permanantly set to withering contempt.

As is traditional, the maps provided for us to find our way to our return coaches in their car park was unhelpfully incomplete. But these were also completely wrong. It's a miracle we all managed to find it, only an hour late.

The journey home was one of fitful snoozing and wishing we were home in bed already. I fed my ears with Enya and Jean Michel Jarre - trippy Celtic ambience and cheesy French orchestral sci-fi.

we stopped at...the same horrible plastic service station, where I paid UKP1.85 for another mug of tea, and ate the chicken wrap. They were now selling for UKP4.5.

On Sky News, there was a brief note that 10,000 protesters had been in Manchester. The BBC news simply said "thousands". The organisers had been talking about 70,000. Reliable estimates put it at 30-40,000.

Back in my dingy home town at the other end of the country, the thought of me walking through a strange city, giving myself a sore throat with rhyming abuse directed at massmurdering warmongers, joined by thousands of strangers who feel the same way, and hundreds of oddly cheerful police...it all seems slightly unbelievable. But it all happened 12 hours ago.


I have to be awake at 0500 on Saturday. I usually am awake then, but this time I need to be asleep beforehand, which is the tricky part. Though I've no doubt there will be much snoozing on the coach.

If dear darling Richard L decides to liven our spirits by wailing jolly songs and strumming that dratted guitar, I shall be forced to do something he'll regret.

So, things I'll need:
* A big sealed plastic pot of precooked pasta, to munch at intervals.
* A big sealed plastic bottle of water, to be consumed similarly.
* A fork
* An mp3 player full of varied music
* A spare battery for it
* And headphones
* Possibly an unchallenging paperback that I can read for hours.
* Something to be sick into, just in case
* Another one for someone else to be sick into, just in case
* Tissues
* Headache pills
* A bag to put it all in

I have Windows 2000 working perfectly, a meticulously partitioned and defragmented hard drive, and all the software I need installed and set up the way I want it. All except the MIDI sequencing software, which, when I try to install it, tells me it'll only work in Windows XP.

So, Sunday will be spent uprooting everything I've spent the last week getting to work just right, installing Windows Bloody XP, and starting again.

Excuse me while I feel moderately irritated.

I still don't know why turning forces are called moments. But I do know that Work = Force x Distance, and I think I've got the difference between Joules and Watts sorted out.

Doors to the Pleasures of Heaven or Hell

There's a fleamarket which I pass on the way home from signing on. There's stalls selling pet toys, teenage clothes, mobile phone accessories, rucksacks, rugs and all kinds of stuff you never knew you didn't want - all at knockdown prices, and and all sold by vaguely shifty men who just might get some of their stock by breaking into warehouses.

One I usually stop at is moving away from comics and music CDs, into games and DVDs - so the man in charge (and his son, who has loud conversations with girls about his boyfriends) are selling off CDs on special offer - 3 for UKP1. Well, for 33 pence a disc, I can afford to check out new music.

One CD is "Fireworks" by an acoustic folk/pop band (or solo performer?) called Pele. It's packaged like an album (which I thought it was), but has "CD single" printed in tiny letters, but consists of 2 discs with 7 songs between them. Oh well, there you go.

The second is This is techno, Volume 4. If I were feeling pedantic, I'd point out that it's actually 12 tracks of rave, not techno. The sleevenotes tell me Volume 2 is still available, but no sign of volumes 1 or 3 - I wonder if some bright young marketing executive thought it was a really cool gimmick to issue a series with missing numbers.

Maybe I should call my first album Kapitano, Greatest Hits, Volume 3?

The third is the kind of real find that's the whole point of trawling fleamarket music stalls. It's an album called "Dressing for Pleasure" by Bluescreen - and I bought it because I once spent 6 months researching the subtlties of bluescreen technology.

It's 13 tracks of downtempo acid jazz/cool instrumental triphop/sample based chillout, and it's my current musical squeeze.

Spock is now on steroids. They don't turn him into supermutt, but he has regained some alertness. The vet isn't optimistic - we'll just have to see what happens.

A night out with Simon M, slightly hampered by both gay pubs having karaoke nights - one themed as crap disco from the 70s, the other as crap showtunes from the 50s (as covered by Robbie Williams).

There is a 3rd gay pub, scheduled for demolition in the council's scheme to revitalise the economy by knocking down the current shopping presinct (so called) in the town centre (so called), and building in it's place a more expensive shopping presinct in the town centre. It's the same place as the fleamarket.

I thought the plan would go the same way as the national plan to merge all regional police forces - into the dustbin after an expensive feasability study showing what anyone with half a brain cell could tell you in ten seconds. But no. We are destined for yet another revitalised local economy. Be still my fart.

Simon says I'm turning into a curmudgeon, by the way.

On the way home, a call from CW. He missed me, wished I was there to give him a big hug and, well, so did I. I almost got a taxi there just to meet him at 0200 in the rain.

I really don't need to feel this way. H and I almost fell in love 2 or 3 times, but were sensible enough not to - it was bad timing for us both. M tried to engineer a romance with excellent home cooking and strenuous denials that he was lonely and looking for a relationship.

The way D made me feel - I'd mug old ladies in the street to feel the highs again, and mug a dozen old ladies to avoid the lows. I really don't need to feel like that again.

S and R both fell for me (don't ask me why) and I felt obliged to try to reciprocate, which led to all the bitterness you'd expect. Before them all there was P - and I felt frightfully mature at 19 dumping him because I was supposed to be his (and his partner's) bit on the side, and we were getting a little too close.

Now with C - I think he deserves the single letter - there's no big operatic crashing of emotion, and sex isn't really important, we just feel incomplete when seperate.

Sixteen years ago, I was swapping cassette copies of interesting music with my cousin, Mark.

One tape he sent me (it might have been the last one) contained tracks from the album "Heart of Darkness" by Hoodlum Priest. An album of rap music...that wasn't like any other rap I'd heard.

Mysogeny, glorification of violence, hatred of gays or jews - all were absent. Oh, there were lyrics about some of these, but they were thoughtful, self-doubting, sometimes ironic. And I don't mean the pseudoironic provocations of Eminem.

Instead of the usual gangsta-crap, there was imaginative use of samples, futuristic and dark themes, and an experimental attitude to sound that you just didn't hear in pop music.

I tried occasionally over the years to find the album - the tape copy wasn't good quality - but always drew a blank. Now I find it, and the second album, are available for free download in high quality mp3. And which copyright infringing pirate has done this? It's the man behind Hoodlum Priest - Derek Thompson, who turns out to be (a) not black (b) not American and (c) the actor I fancied off Casualty in the 80s! (Well, almost. Same name. Cough).

I've sent him an ever-so-slightly gushing fan email, and I'm listening to the album now.

Goodbye, Dunkan

Just as I was posting that last entry, I got a call with some news.

Dunkan died this morning. He was semi-conscious and in a lot of pain. His partner Donna was with him, and a district nurse. They - and almost certainly he - knew he was very close to the end, and he drifted away as peacefully as possible under the circumstances.

Donna is spending time with old friends, and us comrades are keeping a respectful distance. The funeral details haven't been finalised yet, but it'll be something as wacky, eco-friendly and fun as Dunkan himself.

The last proper conversation I had with him was after a performance of The Investigation, when the cast had a celebratory chinese resteraunt meal. I had played the slimy defence lawyer, and he was a bombastic villain.

He persuaded me to try the deep fried seaweed, and we talked for two hours, not about politics or art or acting, but about food. He'd been in the army catering core, and had picked up an endless stream of trade secrets for perparing every kind of food you could think of.

So that's my final memory of him. Slightly more eratic than usual, being on strong painkillers for as-yet undiagnosed cancer, gesticulating animatedly in between mouthfuls, describing esoteric details from one of many past trades.

Torque, Torque, Torque

The first installment of my physics course has arrived. I get a ring binder, dividers, instructions on how to answer exam questions, encouragement to join the community of postal students...and the actual first block of the course, covering kinematics, energy and electricity.

I'm not terribly impressed with the writing style - it reminds me of the turgid science books of 30 years ago, complete with their infuriating habit of using technical terms several pages before explaining them. Here's an example from the first chapter:

The parallelogram law for the addition of forces can be expressed as follows:

If two forces acting on a point (that is, COPLANAR FORCES) are represented in magnitude and direction by the sides of a parallelogram drawn from the point, their resultant is represented by the diagonal drawn from the point.

It makes perfect sense, but only if (a) you can stay awake till the end of the sentence and (b) you've already worked out what it means by looking at the diagram.

When two equal but opposite forces, which are offset by a distance d, act tangentially on a wheel, they produce a turning effect or moment.

Two equal and opposite forces acting in this way constitute a couple. The turning effect of each force is called a torque.

What this means is: When two forces of equal magnitude, pushing in opposite directions, act on different parts of a wheel, the wheel turns. We say the forces are "coupled" or "a couple". The turning produced by each of the two forces is called it's Torque.

I have never understood why rotation motion is called a "moment", and after reading this, I still have no idea. I've asked my mother (who has several degrees in maths and physics) and my father (who studied this stuff for an abortive career in architecture), and neither of them know either.

A stray thought about the upcoming MOBO awards:

MOBO stands for "Music Of Black Origin", which I thought was another way of saying "Pop Music". That, plus rock, jazz, soul, reggae, blues and most forms of music not written for western orchestral instruments.

But no, "Black" music apparantly means music from "urban culture". Which means poor working class areas. So music made by people without money, is "Black".

I am frequently told that I need to "sort out my sleeping patterns" and "go to bed at a sensible time". Now, I thought a sensible time to go to sleep is when you're too tierd to stay awake, and a sensibe time to wake up is when you wake up naturally because don't need to sleep anymore. Reasonable, no?

Working when you've got the energy and sleeping when you haven't seems an emminently sensible way to work and sleep, removing both sleepless nights and productless work.

On the other hand, I'm starting to wonder whether it may be a good idea to train my brain to sleep when it's dark and wake when it's light. Seeing as I haven't been a teenager for 15 years, and whenever I try to function on two hours sleep I always find myself sleeping the other 6 sometime in the next 24. Seeing as the times I'm generally needed to do stuff (even by other night owls) are when the moon isn't visible.

Well, it's something to sleep on anyway.

Will Work for Food

The coach for the demo leaves at 0630 on Saturday, and I'm reliably informed that the journey each way is 6 hours. If I were getting paid to do this, I'd have found another job years ago.

I now have a nice clean floor, books neatly stacked on shelves, data CDs numbered and catalogued, small electronic gizmos in labeled small clear plastic bags with their associated cables and attatchments, and a neat bank of computers and keyboards placed where I can use them.

There's the small details that one computer keeps crashing for no reason, some of the cables won't quite reach, and everything not tidied is in a big heap on the bed, but I'm getting there.

John M called to ask me about his new printer, which had locked up in just the same way as the old printer it replaced. In return for a shared takeaway curry and an impromptu presentation on the history of British colonialism in Asia, I fixed the problem using my special secret method of pulling out the plug, waiting a minute, and putting it back in again.

The printer now works perfectly. Well, a bit better than the old one.

All of which got me within 5 minutes walk from where CW lives. So I texted, asking him if he felt up to a gentle stroll and a chat. An impromptu date, in other words.

He's shaved his head. More by accident than design - the accident being with electric hair clippers with misleading settings. So there we were, two podgy bespectacled skinheads, sitting in some armpit of a pub, somehow obviously on a gaydate.

I still can't believe that this relationship...works. There's no fireworks, no intense sexual chemistry, no soppy love songs. We're just instantly relaxed with each other, and don't need to explain our thoughts when we express them.

Bang, Crash

As promised, my head is full of maths. Though not the kind you generally find in highschool physics. I've been developing algorothms for generating drum sounds using bandpass filtered white noise.

If anyone wants to know the details about frequency contours, resonance, gain etc, I'll post them. But it turns out to be a remarkably good way to make noises that sound real and physical, though often not the kind you'd expect to use as drums.

From the muffled tapping of a finger on a wooden casket, through slamming doors and submarine pings, to a metal garage door being hit with a sledgehammer. As well as classic cheesy synth swooshes and rumbles, and a host of the domestic knocks and clicks that The Beta Band (1, 2) use so distinctively.

Though they actually do bang broomhandles and plastic containers - I painstakingly synthesise them, which is possibly quite perverse.

I'm worried about CW. Food poisoning isn't supposed to last a month - not without multiple self reinfections. He says he's never been this ill for this long.

There's a big, important demo in Manchester on the 23rd. None of us are looking forward to spending 4 hours on a coach to get there (or another 4 hours coming back). But with Blair and everything he stands for being such a public fiasco, we need to be visible.

T(r)opic of Cancer

Dunkan is home from hospital, with a prognosis of just a few weeks. He's too ill to do anything and doesn't want to see anyone.

I managed to spend the first three decades of life without knowing anyone with cancer. Now in the last 3 or 4 years, it seems to be making up for lost time.

First Emily, now Dunkan. In between, mother, who didn't have cancer as such, but a "benign" growth that almost killed her. And tomorrow Spock is getting a checkup from the vet, on the growth on his neck.

Then I log onto a chatroom tonight, and find a man who's on edge because his sister might have the same cancer as their father.

Oh I forgot - Nelly, my father's mother. But she was senile long before they found lymphoma, and I didn't see her at all for the last decade of her existence.

The council have sent me a letter, suggesting I might have paid too much tax on my earnings. I appreciate the sentiment but, seeing as I've had no earnings and no tax for the last two years, a rebate seems unlikely.

They've also sent me a P45, confirming that, after doing 2 days work in a theatre 3 months ago, I am again available to do a job. Should one ever become available.

I could once again explain to them the payscale of voluntary work, but there doesn't seem a lot of point.

Right, the first module of a physics course will be arriving in something under two weeks, so it would be a jolly good idea if I had a headful of revised maths and a tidy work area by the time it's here.

Odd how learning is so much more enjoyable when you're supposed to be learning something else. I started reading Teach Yourself Serbo-Croat just so I didn't have to revise GCSE maths.

Let's Get Physical

I'm going to do A-Level Physics, by post. I'll give the maths a miss, because I didn't understand half the terms in the syllabus.

Poisson Distribution, Expectation Algebra, Linear Programming? Oh dear. As for the physics, although I can't remember Planck's Constant, or exactly what a Newton or a Coulomb is, I do know it wasn't difficult to understand when I was 16.

It would be fascinating to spend a TEFLing year in Vietnam (or South Korea, or the Czech republic, or wherever), teaching my truely bizarre native tongue to classes of wannabe tycoons.

But I'd much rather stay at home and make music.

On the front page of the local rag today, two stories. One about how a "torrential downpour" caused "flooding", forcing some schools to close for the day.

The "monsoon" was a few minutes worth of heavy rain, which the drains were too pathetic to cope with. This has become an annual event around Portsmouth - the sewers overflowing due to "freak weather", followed by a press conference where the council tell us this kind of thing only happens once every 500 years, so there's no urgent need to repair the drains.

The other story is headed "He didn't deserve to die. He was too young". Apart from the intriguing implication that some people do deserve to die, and some people are old enough for it not to matter, details are inside.

The 19 year old boy died in a brawl when "a fight broke out between staff and young men at the Spice of India resteraunt". So, staff and customers inexplicably started fighting, and poor Dan was an innocent caught in the middle.

The small detail that he was part of the gang that went around picking fights with asians, was glossed over. Odd that the newspaper should lie about this, when everyone knows what happened. His mother wants the perpetrators caught, presumably including the dead one. Meanwhile "the entire community is in mourning".

Spock is having trouble breathing. There are better days and worse days, and he still seems to be in no pain, but my parents are taking in that evasive middle-class way about "letting the vet have a look at him".

I reckon I've come up with a pretty good title for an anti-war song: Texan Guns and Shock and Awe.

Now all I need is an anti-war song to go with it. If anyone wants to use the title, feel free.

The Center Cannot Hold

The disc drive on this laptop is failing. Some discs now simply refuse to read, others give CRC errors or stutter.

Given that I've had it for 3 (or is it 4?) years, and have done a great deal of installing and CD burning, it's not surprising. The one thing I really have against laptops is: they're almost impossible to repair or upgrade. Oh I'm sure I could replace the drive, but for not much more money I could get a new laptop.

Do they make laptops yet with dual-core processors? Probably. I haven't been keeping up.

My USB memory stick has stopped working. It stores 2GB and I bought it for UKP30 - on a "Special Offer while stocks last" which is, of course, still running months later. Except it's now UKP25.

My brother says they can only be used for maybe 10,000 write-operations, which can be all used up in a week if you're a heavy user transferring lots of small files. Which makes rather a nonsense of the 10-year data retention warrantee.

He is stopping over for the night, between a conference somewhere in Europe (Germany?) and a conference 10 miles up the main road. Last time he was here he was stopping over before catching a plane to Japan - to sell souped-up palmpilots to technophile businessmen.

He's made a very healthy career out of computing. I was always just a hobbyist.

Whatever CW in infected with, it's lasting longer than the average gastroenteritis. His habit of living on soup, cigarettes and red wine wouldn't help - any more than my habit of living on tea and biscuits - but it is worrying.

BTW, I've had a sore throat for the last five days, so you can add lemsip and strepsils to the things I'm living on.

I suspected that the complete lack of adult education courses in Portsmouth was part of something wider, and it turns out it is. The university are closing down Access courses and foundation degrees - and from what I read and hear, the trend is nationwide.

Access to university education, which widened in the 1990s, is now contracting. The various ways that adults who didn't get university entrance quallifications at school could get them, or equivalents, are being removed.

Results: Dropouts and late developers (and I'm both) don't get a second chance. Adults (like me) who are quallified to work in one field can't get a grounding in another field for a career change. And the whole "lifelong learning" spiel is revealed as a sham.

That said, there are some distance learning institutes that aren't complete ripoff merchants. I'm looking at one called ICS which offers the courses I'm after.

My parents want me to do a TEFL course. Largely because it would get me out of the house - indeed, the country - for several months.

Sleep on it before deciding.

Sweet Harmony

My wakeup call today was from the M brothers, who have a great big rickety old house containing lots of antiques they'd like to sell. They needed my help to get some of the items downstairs so a buyer could inspect them all in one room.

There's a highbacked chair 300 years old, and a charcoal sketch 400 years old, but I rather liked the harmonium. Less than a hundred years old, and small enough to carry in a wheelbarrow, it's oddly difficult to keep pedalling a steady stream of air through the bellows while changing chords in rhythm.

In a break, I looked for local TEFL courses on the net. With a town full of 20+ schools, about 10 colleges, and around 40 university sites, plus TEFL being a longtime growth industry, could I find any? Could I bollocks.

Last year, loads. This year, nothing. Zero, zip, nil. I found a course in NLP, several in Reiki, and reams of basic introductions to IT. If you want to study the bleeding obvious or total crap, there's no end of courses.

All I want is a reasonably stable career doing something I don't hate! It can't be that difficult, surely.

In the evening, a public meeting, with Craig Murray (1, 2) presenting and answering questions. I can't claim to remember everything he said, or to have all the details perfect, because it was quite complex. But here's what I do recall:

The assignment
Murray had a 21 year career in the British Foreign Office, most of it posted overseas as ambassador. He is an expert in African matters, but for the last 3 years of the job was posted without explanation as ambassador to Uzbekistan - before being sacked for questioning British policy there.

He was given no official brief wider than to look after British business interests in Uzbekistan. In practice his job was to manage British involvement with American business dealings there.

The first trial
Unlike most ambassadors, he took an interest in Uzbek people and culture. He attended a trial as an observer, of six men charged with a series of robberies to fund terrorist activity.

The defendants sat in a cage, surrounded by guards with kalashnikov rifles. The judge spent most of his time shouting - either anti-muslim abuse at the prisoners, or intimidation at witnesses who got their lines wrong.

Three of the men were charged with holding up a jewelery shop, but the witness managed to confidently indentify the three others as the prepetrators. The judge screamed insults at him, then pointed out the three who were accused, asking him to confirm that they were the robbers. The witness got it right this time.

All six defendants were sentences to death.

The Body
Murray's silent presence at the trial started to get him a reputation among the ordinary people as someone who cared, and might be able to help. So he started to get a lot of visitors in his office - victims of the Uzbek regime who thought the British government might intervene on their behalf.

One of the first was a widow in her 60s. Her son had been a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a pacifist islamic organisation which campaigns for a united arabic islamic world. He had died under police interrogation, and the body returned to her in a sealed coffin, with strict instructions that it not be opened.

There were local customs about cleaning bodies prior to burial, and she was an independant lady, so she prised open the lid. After she got over the shock, she got angry, and took detailed photos of her son's corpse, and it was copies of these she gave to Murray.

He sent the photos to the pathology lab at Glasgow university, and they sent back a report. The son had been beaten severely around the face, his fingernails had been torn out, and the cause of death was immersion in boiling liquid. He had been boiled to death.

Murray also recieved a note from the Foreign Office in London, saying he was becoming "overly concerned with human rights issues".

The second trial
At another trial, a witness was asked to confirm the statement he'd made in police custody. After a pause, he stood up straight and said "No, it is not true. They beat my children until I signed it". He must have known he was signing his own death warrant.

Does Al-Quaida exist?
At the time of 9/11, there was no organisation using that name. There was an organisation, with Osama bin Laden as one major player, with 500 - 800 members. It is currently believed to have 2000 - 3000 members. There is no reason to believe it was connected with 9/11.

Since 9/11, hundreds of individuals and small groups have adopted the name, or claim to be inspired by the group.

The CIA claims that in Iraq alone, there are 30,000 Al-Quaida activists. By which they mean, they have the names of 30,000 Iraqi indiviuals who have opposed the occupation in one way or another.

The point was raised that the occupation of Iraq can't just be about profits, because it has cost USD300,000 so far, but projected profits are only 25,000.

Murray answered: You can't think of the American economy as a single block of wealth. It's got groups and layers. The occupation has cost the American taxpayers USD300,000, but the profits (if they ever materialise) will go to the big oil corporations. Who pay negligable tax.

David Kelly 1
There were two questions from the floor about Dr David Kelly, the WMD expert and inspector who, after telling the BBC there never had been WMDs in Iraq, was found dead in a field, with slit wrists and a 10 paracemols in his stomach. First, was it really suicide?

Murray said plainly that he had no special information here. But he did note it's almost impossible to kill yourself by slashing your wrists - the veins (not arteries) don't bleed nearly enough, even in warm water.

People attempting suicide in this way often swallow asprin to thin the blood to make it flow better, but paracemol doesn't have this effect, and in any case it would take more than 20. Kelly, being a scientist, would know this.

David Kelly 2
The second question: Did Murray fear the same might happen to him?

After he officially complained about the use of information gained through torture, the Foreign Office instigated an investigation into his competence. He was not permitted to know it's deliberations, or to defend himself.

The embassy decided the investigation was making him stressed and depressed (true), and suicidal (false). So he was placed in psychiatric care for a few months, under constant supervision.

After his release, he was hospitalised with severe pulmonery embolism - several large bloodclots in both lungs. The doctors admitted they had no idea what could cause such a severe case so suddenly and with no history. Except possibly poison.

Murray feels it's now unlikely he will be suicided.

The nature of the famous "special relationship" between the US and the UK is all about military intelligence. The CIA, NSA, MI6 and GCHQ all share whatever information they have with each other. No other pair of countries has this agreement.

Some of this information comes from spies, and is somewhat less reliable than the daily newspapers. But most comes from two sources - informers and interrogation. Informers are members of a regime (which may be an ally or an enemy) who betray state secrets in return for money. The trouble is, a disgruntled general or civil servant, recieving a suitcase full of cash in a hotel room, tends to embellish what they have to tell. Or simply invent it all.

The intelligence on WMDs was real, in that it was paid for and given by a real source. It's just that it was all a pack of lies, told by an Iraqi general with a cashflow problem.

Interrogation is torturing suspects (who may have been picked up on the word of informers) to get them to reveal secrets. Obviously, fanatics won't spill the beans if you just ask them, so the thinking is they have to be persuaded. The trouble is, torture makes people say anything and sign anything just to make the pain stop.

The intelligence which led to the various well publicised police operations in the UK was genuine. The police kicked down the door of a house, arrested whoever was inside, and detained them for weeks to extract confessions. Then forensics found no evidence and the detainees retracted their confessions, saying they'd been pressured and beaten into it. Then a few weeks later the police do it again, somewhere else, on new information.

On each occasion, the police were genuinely acting on tip-offs provided by police elsewhere in the world, interrogating suspects - the last tip-off came from Pakistan. It's just that it's always a pack of lies, told by someone giving the interrogator what he thinks they want.

Critereon of truth
MI6 doesn't have a station in Uzbekistan - it's deemed too dangerous. But the CIA does, and Murray asked an American collegue about the reliability of information obtained from informers and interrogation. The response was that the information is "Operationally Useful".

Surprised, Murray asked how they verified the truth of the information. He was told the information was treated as true if it was..."Operationally Useful".

That's right. We believe it if it justifies what we wanted to do anyway.

Justice and justification
On another occasion, Murray asked a British colleage and friend (name of Michael Wood) about whether interrogation breached international law on human rights. The line (formulated by the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw) is that we (Brits and Americans) are outside the remit of the law, if we use information gained through torture, provided (1) our nationals didn't do the actual torturing and (2) our governments didn't specifically request that the individual be tortured.

Governments have always used torture to gather information
It's cirtainly true that governments all over the world consistantly turn a blind eye to the torturing of political prisoners, and always have done.

However, it's not since the time of Charles I that the British government has openly endorsed it. Bush and Blair are quite candid and unashamed about it, which is a big change.

Our newspapers told us the Taliban planted vast opium fields, and sold the drug to the west to finance their reign. This is an inversion of the truth. Prior to the Mujahideen (and specifically Taliban) gaining power, there were significant, but not vast, opium fields. The Taliban - being zealously anti-drugs - destroyed the fields.

The current puppet government of Afganistan, patched together from "moderate" Mujahideen groups by the US and UK, now presides over opium fields much larger than there were before. Last year, opium yield was up 60% from the previous year - which had broken all Afgan records.

Indeed, wheras previously the opium was sold to western drug cartels for processing into heroin, now the Afgans do it themselves - in factories whose building and running could hardly escape the notice of the government.

Careless talk costs lives
Murray has lived and worked under several totalitarian regimes. Most just control the economy, censor the media and ban opposing political groups. But in Uzbekistan the government also micromanages people's daily lives, and makes them live in constant fear.

The city of Tashkent has a population of 2 million, of which 20 thousand are police. In addition, there is an extensive network of secret police and snitches - it's estimated that 1 in 8 people in Tashkent belong to this group on some level.

There is a palpable sense that everyone is afraid to engage in coversation that veers anywhere near political subjects, for fear it could be construed as criticism. It's common to see people in the streets with disfigurements and missing limbs - ordinary members of the public who at some point have been guests of the secret service.

So why don't we in Britain hear about this? Why are the mad tinpot dictators of Iraq and Iran front page news, but Karimov barely gets a mention? The answer of course is that, just as we in the free west worked with Saddam Hussein, and indeed Osama bin Laden, for decades while they were useful to us, we keep our noses out of Karimov's regime while Uzbek lends us it's troops in Iraq and Afganistan.

The Uzbek government did a deal with Enron for it's oil, just before Enron collapsed. Other American companies tried to reinstate the deal with themselves, but Uzbekistan got a better offer from a Russian oil company, much to American annoyance. If they do something like that again, I suspect we'll suddenly hear about the Uzbek tyrany on the BBC news.

If they pull out of the "coalition of the willing", we cirtainly will, and the axis of evil will gain a new member.

Happy Deathday to You

It's September the 11th! A day that's a lot like Christmas.

* It seems to come around more quickly each year.
* The TV is full of extremely crap, ill informed documentaries about it.
* No one's quite sure what really happened all those years ago, but they know it's important.
* People like to say it changed the world forever, even though they're a bit unclear on what changed.
* There's daft conspiracy theories about it. And an even dafter official line.

Oh yes, and

* It's all tied up with being a good christian. But only according to the worst christians.

After phoning round all the schools and colleges in the area, I can confirm that none of them run science courses for adults. Okay, there's one, an hour's drive away, that does an AS-Level in chemistry. But that's it.

There's a desperate shortage of science teachers, but I can't get a qualification that would help me lessen that shortage by becoming one because...well, there's a desperate shortage of people who can teach me science.

That, and the government that's so intent on increasing the number of educators, has cut funding for adult education.

So what else can I try? Distance Learning is expensive, and the qualifications are often worth not one tenth of the money I can't afford to pay for them. I used the Open University last year, but - largely for my own fault - I dropped out, and they now have rules about not letting dropouts try again without "good reason".

I'm going to look at TEFL. Teaching English as a Foreign Language, aka "teaching Business English to the sons of foreign rich bastards". It won't qualify me to teach science, but it will (I'm told) give me the teaching experience that universities with Teacher Training courses like their applicants to have. If you follow me.

Grant has got back to me. My fears were groundless - he's not been scared off by me being a fat faggy old trotskyist at all. In fact he's very cool.

Smart, bankrupt, aimless, eclectic, laidback and honest. A bit like me, I think.

Right. My tidying of the bedroom has reached that halfway stage when there's more things on top of other things than when it was all in a big heap.

My bed used to just have a pile of clothes on it. Now there's assorted cups, bottles and cutlery too. Instead of miscellaneous bits of paper everywhere, there's three binbags full of it, which somehow take up more space.

So, seeing as I can't lie down, I'll tidy up some more.

And for relaxation, I'm figuring out how to make vintage analog drum-machine-type sounds using moving High-Q narrow-band-pass filtered white noise. And if you understood that, you've probably done the same thing.

Extra! Read All About It!

I'm installing Windows 2000 on my computers. Partly because it's smaller and more easily configurable than XP, partly because it's more stable and doesn't slow down or crash quite so much, and partly because the XP disk produces a wierd error halfway through installation, before locking up.

I find Overdetermination to be a very useful concept.

The internet in the place where you can read news from all over the world. Or rather, newspapers and magazines from lots of places, which isn't quite the same thing. Here's a random selection of stuff from the UK.

The Barnsley Chronicle has a lead story on how "racial tension has rocketed...by 40 per cent, to 220 [attacks]". This is "even though the number of immigrants and asylum seekers in the borough is tiny". Eventually someone will notice the areas with the most racism are also the whitest.

The British Audio Journal has, by the kind of alchemy possible only on the internet, become a page of links to bisexual porn. With titles like Bi and Large (featuring some of the worst photoshopping I've seen recently) and the subtlely named Three Pillows.

The local newspaper Newbury Today features a row over whether a place called "Swan's Bottom" should get a new name, and a survey on "Have we seen the last of summer?", with three choices: Yes, No and Don't Care.

Old Bike Mart has a report on a (new) motorcycle that communicates with satellites to determine the speed limit of the road you're on, and won't let you go faster. There's also a brief history of the Clady Circuit, home of the Ulster Grand Prix 1922 - 1956. Actually quite interesting.

Petrolium Economist reports on how oil prices and demand remain high, so suppliers of oil drilling hardware can hike up their prices. Also the demand for cleaner fuels is rising while oil quality is declining, so intensive refining is a growth industry. Unfortunately I can't tell you much more without subscribing.

The Yorkshire Post informs us that, with the closing down of two of the three Roman Catholic schools, there won't be enough places for catholic children. But apparantly this isn't because one school has fewer places than three. No no no, it's because there's too many children from Eastern Europe in Yorkshire. In other kiddy news, a boy was sent home from school for having a non-regulation short-back-and-sides hairdo.

And finally, The Sun, home of soft porn, hard right politics and everything you never wanted to know about footballers and their fucking wives. Ian Huntley, convicted of a double child murder, recorded a detailed horrific confession on cassette before suiciding in jail last week. Maybe. Or maybe not. The Sun hasn't heard the tape yet. But they do have a photo of it. They can shockingly revael that it's got "Queen" written on one side...and "Meatloaf" on the other.

Oh yes, and Prince William has got a girlfriend. The Sun has a picture of this too, saying it proves they're going to get married.

Bloody typical. Last night it took two complete reinstallation of Windows 2000, plus several reinitialisations of the master boot record, before I got it booting up reliably. Looks like it'll be the same on the other computer tonight.

God I love computers. They make life so easy. And the internet has changed everything, because everyone has instant access to high quality information.


Okay, I've got a cold and I'm sleeping 18 hours a day. CW has something much worse - gastroenteritis or salmonella - and can't sleep at all.

I've just got off the phone to him, spending 35 minutes comparing symptoms and cheering each other up. He's sitting up in bed wearing arabian style pyjamas (complete with fez) and cuddling a stuffed toy camel, watching really low budget horror movies.

It would be quite useless (and infectious) to be there with him, but I do miss having him in the same room.

I've set up a small parallel blog to this one, just to keep track of my lyrics and music notes. Given my computer's habit of crashing and losing data (I've lost my back catalogue several times), and the drudge of trawling through this blog to find songs, I think the best place to store this kind of thing is online.

Those parts of my life which don't rhyme will stay here, of course.

So much to do. Reinstall Windows (again) on this laptop - probably 2000 this time. Check out the latest version of Cubase. Resume cataloguing the net's free VSTs. See if I can find out about science A-Levels. Get familliar with Nuendo's rather unhelpful system of drum programming. Read some more synthedit. Check that my bedroom floor is still there under the piles of stuff. And put most of the stuff in big black plastic bags.

Unfortunately I don't have the strength for any of it. Bedtime again. Even though I've spent the last month sleeping on top of a pile of clothes that won't fit anywhere else. 'Night.

A Window on My World

I can't afford to do teacher training this year, but I might be able to next year. And a good way to spend the intervening time would be to get some A-Levels in the sciences I'm thinking of teaching. Portsmouth is a university town with lots of schools and colleges offering evening courses and distance learning things...so can I find any science courses? Can I bollocks.

There's loads of courses. And they're all shit like aromatherapy, crystal healing, Indian bloody head massage, and "A New Woman at 50". That's not quite true - in other circumstances I'd be interested in Urdu or British Sign Language, in fact I learned some BSL years ago, and can still be quite rude in it.

At least I know what's planned for tomorrow. Get brochures from all the school and colleges I can find, and phone up the rest, asking each in tuen if they'll take my money. That seems backwards, somehow.

Have I mentioned recently how much I dislike Windows XP? Microsoft in general of course, but right now XP specifically. It manages to be bogged down in it's own security measures, but is hopelessly insecure. It's full of features, but impossible to configure unless you know it to degree level. It plans for every concievable combination of drivers and devices, but gets tangled up in just these combinations. It's designed to be fast, but gets so clogged up in "temporary" files and system restores and indexes that it gets unusably slow.

Each successive Windows release has at first been a triumph of inguniuty over previous incompetence, then a triumph of complexity and rushed coding over ingenuity. Just as each successive Windows version bought by you and me begins as a triumph of hope over experience, and ends as a triumph of Microsoft over the public.

So, why aren't I with Linux? Several reasons, but the main one is: Most of the programs I use require Windows. They don't have Linux versions, and some are in that 10% of programs that won't run under Linux emulating Windows.

My FriendsReunited contact has gone silent. Either he's busy and/or can't think of anything to say, which is understandable. Or he's decided he doesn't want to talk to a gay trotskyist, in which case he's just a bit of an arsehole and therefore no great loss. But it would be nice to know which it is.

I have a cold. Again. The kind that makes you feel like you've got a tennis ball stuck in your throat. I wonder if I caught it from CW while I was giving him my gastroenteritis.

He's promised to give me thrush next time we meet.

Jubias Kiss

Dino is back - bright, bushy and bonny after a few days with 6 other papillions, all female. No breeding was observed, but they weren't under constant surveilance. It'll be 6 weeks before we know whether any pregnancy has occured.

I managed to miss an especially pointless meeting tonight. The Respect party annual conference is coming up, where policies will be debated and ammended. Which means some of us going as delegates feel obliged to suggest new policies or changes to existing ones. Which means we hold a local meeting to discuss suggestions for policy changes to be suggested and discussed at the national meeting. If you see what I mean.

Anyway, in my view Respect has quite enough policies, especially for a party that has no chance of putting them into effect. It is I suppose better than the major parties, where policies are declared by the leaders and debated tokenistically if at all by the members at conference. But it does make Respect look less like a vibrant new party with genuinely progressive policies, and more like a bunch of quibbling navel-gazers.

Though the meeting was officially about policy, the big topic of discussion was probably the same as the newspapers. Seven MPs have resigned in protest simply over Tony Blair being still around.

For years Blair has had zero grassroots support and party branches have been empty. Last month it became common knowledge that his own cabinet collegues disliked his policies and authoritarianism - and these people are in the cabinet because of their gung-ho support of Blairism. Yesterday he refused once again to discuss stepping down at any point, and today seven career politicians publicly declare they can't work under this man.

It's hard to think of a single New Labour policy that hasn't been a complete disaster - from the NHS through Education to Iraq. It's long past time to go.

After a night's careful work with screwdriver and installation discs, my two computers are now working perfectly. I'm afraid to use them in case it makes them go wrong again.

I'm getting to grips with Nuendo, which is probably the most powerful integrated studio software in the world, and the one with the daftest name. It's designed mainly for scoring film music, but with plenty of functions for small fry like me who just want a stable sequencer that supports automated VSTs and audio multitracking.

Sonar and Cubase will do the same jobs quite adaquately, but I'm not fond of the way either of them make you work.

Two rediscoveries.

The first is the debut album of a band called Laptop, which I borrowed in 2000, ripped to MP3, and promptly forgot about. Listening now, it's like Human League singing Neil Merritt - synthpop with the kind of sarcastic, self-doubting lyrics you'd only expect to hear in a British accent, though it's American.

The second is the entire computerised Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, given free on a disc with a magazine in 1999. It's searchable by word, anagram, phonetics and rhyme - so I've been using it as a rhyming dictionary.

I was especially impressed by Laptop's cover of Still Rock and Roll to Me, given a backing and tone of voice a million miles from Billy Joel's nievely cheerful version. So, with my electronic rhyming dictionary, I started work on a version of my own:

What's the problem with the pace I'm pumping
Can't you tell it's been done before
What's the problem with the bass I'm thumping
Don't you know I'm a meeja whore
A whole lot of makeup and a little bit of dental
You spend a lot of money and you go a little mental
Everybody's talking 'bout the hip hop
Don't stop, still rock and roll to me

What's the problem with the drugs I'm making
Can't you see that my life's a wreck
What's the problem with my smug pisstaking
I'm a rebel till I cash my cheque
You take a golden oldie and you loop a little sample
You snort a wad of cocaine and you set a bad example
Smash hits, off tits, sad gits, remix
Still rock and roll to me

Yes, well. Some of the rhymes are quite clever, at least.

CW has gastroenteritis. Yes.

He is, as he puts it "shitting out satan", and most likely he caught it from me after I thought I'd got rid of it. I wonder which kiss was the infected one.

Nothing for Ages...

...then three come at once. Not busses; computer crashes. One slowed to a crawl, one just refused to run some programs, and one was working perfectly but was long overdue for software upgrade. Now the first is barely stable after two complete XP reinstalls, the second resets whenever USB devices are connected...and the one that had nothing wrong with it has been locking up with increasing frequency, till now it's every five minutes.

Mother and me have spent the entire day yelling at computers. I'm about to start again.

I found someone on Friends Reunited - someone I haven't seen since I was 10 years old. It's one thing to relive glory days of youth through the internet, but prepuberty is going a bit far. His name is Grant, and we're exchanging emails.

Most old friends on the site have become decidedly boring in the years since I knew them. The singing out-gay politico is married with children. The DJ is an electrician. The ballet dancer is now an accountant, for christ's sake. But Grant has turned out rather well - "a drifter and a dreamer" as he puts it.

Mother's latest techno-toy is rather nice. It's a USB DAB radio - the size of two matchboxes and powered by your computer. There's no speakers - the sound goes through the USB port too, so you either listen through your laptop's speakers, or record direct to MP3 or AAC.

I've got a pair of speakers powered by USB port. So I could pipe the radio in through one port, through the laptop, and out the other. Or would that just be silly, when there's a DAB radio with it's own speakers, sitting on the floor?


Last night, Simon and Jeremy, the M brothers, took me out for a restrained Saturday night pub crawl. And they presented me with a lovingly giftwrapped late birthday present for the blog - The 2005 Unauthorised McFly Annual.

It's so unauthorised, the four members of the boyband give interviews on what kind of girls they like, and pose for a load of glossy photos, looking like the loveliest cuddliest little puppydogs in the whole wide world.

All just right for 15 year old girls and paedophilles of all ages. In fact, anyone who fantasises about having group sex with Tom, Harry, Danny and Dougie, but wouldn't actually want to talk with them.

My promise to avoid fast food weakened with amazing ease. I got chicken and chips, and ate them at 0100 in the park, sharing the chicken with a cat that adopted me for the meal.

Then, drunk and guilty on the way home, I found a rather nice burgundy fleece in the gutter, half covered with autumn leaves and rain. It's logoed with "Bell's Scottish Football League", and fits me rather well.

You find all sorts of things on the pavements of Portsmouth after midnight - people without possessions and possessions without people. A few months ago I found a shoulderbag full of tools - hammer, file, spirit level, tape measure, spanners and a lot of nails and wallplugs.

Today, Dino got to meet his "ladyfriend" Millie. Who is a 100% thoroughbred bitch. As well as a total dog.

It seems he'll spend a few days with the breeder (a human lady called Sandra), and several of his family members.

There was a forum tonight on China - will it be the next world superpower, when, and with what effect? We reached no particular conclusions, except that the current occupations in the middle east are less to do with securing American oil supplies than a failed attempt to surround and isolate China. That, and a Chinese empire would be more likely economic than military.

Rox and Tom were there, sitting together and asking smart questions, having got over their breakup like sensible adults, and settled down to being good friends. Odd how many unhappy relationships turn into happy friendships when then break down.

With Joe, we went for the now traditional post-forum drink and eat, with me trying to be virtuously teetotal and vegetarian with plain coke and meatless kebab.

Friday Night Dive

Several people have remarked on how much a black eye suits me. In fact, some thought it was a stylish experiment with makeup.

No one has commented on how much weight I've lost. Humph.

Every band that plays gigs knows the feeling. You've played a dozen or two venues, you're getting a following and a reputation, then you turn up to the latest place expecting the upward curve to continue.

And it's a grotty old dancehall in some neglected armpit of a municipal building, and your audiance is three gluesniffers, a whippet, and a bouncer who's also the barman. The walls are a uniform horrible shade of magnolia, the broken furniture comes from a 1970s canteen, and the acoustics turn every song into a soup of tinkly reverberation.

This was the scene of last night's gig by Strict Machines. And therefore the scene of my date with CW.

The Happy Mondays Club is the upstairs hall of what used to be the Portsmouth Liberal Club. And there really is a whippet (crossbred with something else, I don't know what) and a bald fat bloke in a suit, who I think is the owner too. Entrance is 3 english pounds sterling, and the club is an established workingmen's drinking place trying to metamorphose into a lively music venue and hip place to be.

The audiance grew to about 15, who as it turned out weren't friends of the other bands - they were the other bands. Not the first gig I've been to where three bands played to each other, but the first where no one seemed to mind.

CW and me sat in a corner, getting rapidly drunk - him on his guiness, me on my something-or-other-possibly-rum and coke - and canoodling. No one minded two strange men holding hands at a table - though some were too busy breakdancing to Jimi Hendrix covers or moshing to what were probably Pink Floyd songs to pay attention.

The dancing returned when Strict Machines played their funkier numbers, and the band seemed to be enjoying themselves greatly, on and off stage. All drunken/stoned musos together, enjoying each other's company and wall of sound.

CW and me left as the third band played - quite good melodic blues rock, though the disco lights were in permanant Donna Summer mode - stopping for an extended hug and kiss in the corridor outside.

Back in our respective homes, he called me, and we agreed it had been a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

My Ma Won't Admit It

How did it get to be September again so quickly? This time last year, the UK was full of anti-war sentiment but even more full of political apathy, New Orleans was in ruins, and I was fixing a lot of computers while trying to lose weight. My how things have changed.

Still, in a few days the TV will be awash with pundits solomnly reminding us that the world changed forever five years ago. This was when 3000 yuppies died, and we blamed a Syrian with friends in Pakistan and America. So we looked for him in Afganistan and Iraq.

I've taken a leaf out of Tony's blog, and spent a very pleasant the evening (yesterday) on YouTube, watching pop videos from my youth. Including:

* Close to the Edit by the late great Art of Noise. This is the only video that looks as fantastic now as it did then.

* Various tracks by Paul Hardcastle - at the time it didn't seem obvious he was a late New Romantic. Or jazz influenced. He was just amazingly cool for 2 or 3 years, and used magic boxes called "samplers".

I got a sampler - or rather, pestered my parents to buy me a sampler - largely because of him. His was an Emulator II, costing UKP2000+. Mine was a Casio SK5, costing (I think) UKP89.95. It was 8-bit, could store 4 samples of 1.2 seconds (or 2 of 1.4 seconds), and had no MIDI or backing store capability. It's sitting behind me on a shelf.

* True Faith by New Order. Okay, it looks almost as good as when it was new. And it means absolutely nothing.

Recently someone tried to persuade me David Bowie's Ashes to Ashes video - the one with the nuns, mechanical digger, purple sky, harlequin costume and old woman - was not just meaningful but deeply meaningful.

As opposed to the pile of lovable old toss everyone else knows it to be. But I doubt if even he would see deeper meaning in True Faith.

* Various stuff by Wang Chung - because I know someone who knows someone who was in them before they became Wang Chung. Which was their video that had Wilson and Keppel's sand-dance in it? I think I like Dancehall Days best.

* Living on Video by Trans-X. The song (or rather, the synth) was a great favourite of mine when I was about 15, but I never saw the video till now. It's cyberpunk on a shoestring budget.

* The Race by Yello. Featuring a Swiss bloke rapping into a large spanner, some motor race crashes, and deliberately awful back projection. Love it.

A half hour lovey-dovey phone conversation with CW last night. He says he loves me - oh he knows it's early days and we shouldn't rush into things and we should be careful etc, but he still feels that way anyway.

And, well...I'm afraid so do I. I know it's bad idea to let my hopes run away with my emotions, and I'm trying to take it slow and cautious, but...it just feels right. Is that dumb?

Strict Machines are playing a hastily arranged gig this evening, and we two will be there. And my god it's only our second proper date. It's definitely wrong to think about spending your life with someone after one date, even if you've both spent the past 15 years not quite being able to forget each other.

I think I'll ask for a song to be dedicated to us - maybe their new cover of I'm a Boy, originally by The Who.

Anyhow, setting off to see them and him now.