Health (Part 2)

My cold is dragging out, and now both parents have it. MY brother has been ill with something similar since christmas. C is living on beecham's powders. John M is convalescing from a small heart attack.

It doesn't help that the air is cold, light levels are low and the sky is a sick shade of grey. It's like the world itself has the flu.

I had an doctors appointment today to hear the results on a raft of blood tests. Short version: cholesterol, pressure, sugar and everything else is fine, so my getting out of breath from climbing a flight of stairs is simply down to being unfit. But I did get a prescription of antibiotics for the cough.

GlaxoSmithKline are finally being sued over their antidepressant Paroxetine - trade name Seroxat. According to some leaked memos, they knew from their own trials that it had at best no effect on depression, and sometimes actually increased suicidal tendencies in the test subjects.

Twelve years ago I went to see a counsellor about depression. He wasn't very interested until I mentioned I was gay - then he spent half an hour trying to persuade me I wanted to abduct young boys. From talking to other people, I now know this kind of practice from counsellors is quite common.

Eventually he agreed to refer me to a specialist about depression. The specialist turned out to be psychiatrist who worked with paedophiles. But he, seeing what had happened, referred me to a third man who specialised in depression.

This man prescribed me an antidepressant newly on the market. It was called Paroxetine, and apparently it had none of the usual side effects. So, no dizziness, nausea, strange thoughts and dreams, vagueness of intellect, impotence etc.

Except it had all these effects, and made no impact on the depression. I was young enough and stupid enough to let the doctor persuade me it would work eventually.

It's difficult now to describe how the drug made me feel. Slow, muzzy, disconnected. Ill but apathetic and will-less. Rather like having a permanent headcold, ironically. I spent four years on various dosages of this drug, wandering dreamlike through courses in computing and theology, plus a really bad relationship and a consequent prison term. There was at least one seriously incompetent suicide attempt, but details of the entire period are very hazy.

I threw away all my pills at age 27, together with most of the junk in my head about counsellors, doctors, academia and relationships.

And now it's finally come out that GSK knew all about the effects of Seroxat, but put it on the market anyway, selling it as the safe new wonderdrug.

Decisive Moments

As I'm about to reinstall Windows (yes, again), and clear a lot of junk off the hard disk...I thought I'd share some of it with you before I dump it. Enjoy.

Me on The Simpsons:

Me on South Park:

How women watch Star Trek:

How men watch Star Trek:

Underwear Part 1 (The impact of revolutionary socialism on popular culture):

Underwear Part 2 (Sex is a mental thing):

Underwear Part 3 (Love is a physical thing):

High carbohydrate diet:

High fat diet:

High protein diet:

Women's Lib (c1950)

Women's Lib (c1960)

Women's Lib (c1970)

Women's Lib (c1980):

Women's Lib (c1990):

Women's Lib (c2000):

Women's Lib (c2007):


My cold has migrated away from my nose, through my throat and into my ears. And also into my mother - she's not very pleased about that. So I can breathe but mother is complaining - but I can't hear her because my ears are blocked.

Still, on the dubious plus side I weighed 224 lbs before christmas, a few more than that after christmas, and now 223 lbs. And that's why being ill is good for your health.

Maybe I could set up a health farm where the guests pay me to make them too ill to eat. There's got to be people rich and dumb enough to try it.

Actually, the big breakthrough in dieting could be the first lab to concoct a drug with either makes celery taste like sugar, or sugar taste like celery. Anyway...

Last night I was invited out for a few drinks and an informal discussion of political tactics. I was feeling a bit rotten, but went anyway.

Item 1 on the agenda: Pale Greens.

Many people interested in environmental issues are rather muddled about what can and should be done to counter climate change. They talk about "doing their bit" by installing solar panels on their roofs and paying to have their beer cans recycled. Others say cars and plane flights should be made more expensive, to force people who aren't quite as switched on as them to reduce their carbon footprints.

On the surface, it's ironic that people can devote so much energy to saving the whole world don't really grasp how big the world is in comparison to them, or the scale and inefficiency of industry, or the economic forces that make dirty industry cheaper than clean industry.

Of course, on some level they do know how big the world is, and how the real issues are large scale economic and political, and just how enormous the task is to change these things. So, faced with a seemingly impossible global task, they console themselves with minute personal ones.

You can't stop industrial pollution? Nevermind, you can do your bit by putting insulation in your loft, and take comfort in the TV adverts where oil companies tell you they're researching wind turbines. You can even get a warm glow of moral superiority about council estate dwellers too lazy to follow your example.

So, how should we argue with these people? Should we stick to our guns and argue each issue openly, winning over as many as possible?

For example:
* "There's too many people in the world. That's why there's so much starvation."

The planet can support 7 billion people - or even twice that. There's no lack of food, only extremely uneven distribution driven by profit not need.

* "We should make cars more expensive to reduce exhaust emissions."

And make sure only the rich can use a car when they really need to? We should increase and cheapen public transport, reducing emissions and making most car travel unnecessary.

* "Everyone should be issued with a permitted carbon footprint, which if they're poor they can sell to redistribute wealth."

I see. So pretend I'm a businessman buyer and you and your friend are poor sellers. I'll have to buy from your friend because he's undercutting you...unless you want to undercut him? Oh sorry gentlemen, the deal's off - I've found a some carbon credits on the black market. What? You've sold half your credits and you need to buy some more for an unexpected emergency? Well, how much can you pay for mine?

Or should we present them with more clearly thought out versions of their own goals, and trust that in fighting for them they'll learn the nature and scale of the problems and solutions for themselves? For example:

* "We need to persuade local people to recycle more"
We need to pressure the government to make recycling cheap and available to everyone.

* "There should be local green businesses to compete with global nongreen ones."

Good idea, if you're sure you can make it stick. (As opposed to: There's a reason humane businesses like the co-op and the bodyshop either sold out or went bankrupt - the market rewards rapid productivity and cost cutting, not ethics.)

And on to item 2 on the agenda: Big red.

Portsmouth has 150,000 people. It's densely populated, mostly by apathetics. For the biggest of political demonstrations there might be 200 people mobilised, but usually it's around 50. There are various overlapping groups of students, christians, socialists, CND, trade unionists and others, concerned with various overlapping issues like the environment, education, the health service, anti-racism, and the middle east war.

The socialists in Portsmouth are around 50 members of the SWP, a dozen student members of the SP, and around another 50 occasionally seen individuals affiliated to tiny groups or none. Of the 50 SWPers, 30 are frequently active. Of the 30, 15 do the organisational work, arrange public debates, push leaflets through letterboxes, produce and distribute newsletters, speak at debates etc.

Of the 15, one man is involved is heavily involved in all of these. He's also the most important theoretician, though not the only one. My friend John M.

As he's the first to admit, he's approaching retirement age and not in the best of health. There's no individual who's such a linchpin that we couldn't function without him, but he comes close.

So the 15, and indeed the 30, and even the 50, need to redistribute the work more evenly.

I mention this because when I got back home John telephoned me. From hospital. It's a heart condition and we'll know more in a few days.

Typically, he was more concerned with my feeling ill than his, and spent five minutes easily rattling off the answers three of us had worked on so diligently in the pub.

One Damn Thing After Another

Things I didn't need today:
* To still have a cold, with all attendant symptoms.
* To get a call asking me to please please help out with some important academic work that's half written and due in tomorrow.
* The weather to be bloody freezing on the way there.
* The help to last six hours instead of the expected two.
* To be asked to put some video onto a DVD by tomorrow because the student's ex-boyfriend's dad who was going to do it can't.
* To have a computer back home that isn't yet set up to do it.
* To find the video and audio programs both refuse to install properly, so I can't make the DVD. Or do anything else.

So what else don't I need to happen? How about a nosebleed?

Yep, got one of those too.

Oh, and another one, just as I was writing that.

Cold in the Dose

Why is it, whenever I start to do something, the universe puts me on hold?

I start to record some music, and the computer crashes, needing a complete reinstallation. I start going out with C, and the next day we both have food poisoning, or something like it. I start to adopt a slightly less self-destructive lifestyle, and the next day...a virus ties me to the bed, giving me a head full of cotton wool, a nose full of concrete, and muscles full of treacle. Plus the usual hot and cold flushes, headaches, and joint pains.

I really hate having a cold. As a child it was an opportunity to stay in bed for a few days and read comicbooks. Now it's like having a hangover for a week.

Though I have been rereading comicbooks - Herge's Adventures of Tintin. There are religious nutcases who think the Harry Potter books encourage witchcraft - what would they make of a supernaturally lucky and ageless teenager, living with a sailor and a scientist, traveling the world with his talking dog?

Thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday. I haven't been able to reply because both my computers are as sick as I am.

Taken for a Ride

Taxi drivers can be interesting people. I've been driven by an ex-prizefighter, a mystic with ideas about Atlantis, and a Turkish immigrant who loved everything about Britain except the weather.

Tonight I was driven home by a techno-cabbie. He had a super-compact mobile phone and a bluetooth device permanently attached to one ear.

At an age where most people are settling down to a retirement of nostalgia and complaining about the youth of today, this fellow was voraciously devouring software, computer languages, miniature wireless devices and applications. And playing music from Blade Runner on his car CD system.

We swapped opinions on Windows Vista (it won't sell because it offers nothing new), the earliest days of computing (when programmers were electricians) and how it's difficult to learn new stuff when you're old enough to value education.

And he gave me a URL. Of a site promoting a free ebook - "Dotcomology - The Science of Making Money Online". It promises to tell you (and I quote):

*How to use expired domains to skyrocket your traffic
*How to set up back-end and cross-selling campaigns to explode your profits
*How to launch a profit-pulling reciprocal links campaign
*How to attract super-affiliates and earn auto-pilot profits online
*How to build a massive opt-in mailing list... and profit from it like crazy
*Why having a positive mental attitude is your greatest online business asset

...and my personal favourite:

*How to publish your own best-selling book even if you hate writing

Good eh? Just a few questions that spring to mind, in no particular order:

* Why is there a picture of Einstein on the front cover?
* Why do some people think the more words you throw at the reader the more persuasive you're being?
* Just how many people who email gushing testimonials of success to the author attach pictures of themselves to the message? Judging from this site, all of them.
* Why do they all write in the same style as the book's author?
* Do I really have to read the whole book to find out where the scam is?
* If the book contains the secret of unlimited wealth for zero work, why is this man driving a taxi for a living and asking passengers how to fix his second-hand computer?

In the Midcourse of Our Life

Good News: It's my birthday! :-)
Bad News: I'm 35! :-(

Being 35 isn't the problem. And it isn't really that I reached this age without acquiring a career, a home of my own, or the prospect of either. The problem is that my misspent youth wasn't misspent enough to justify living in such a precarious position.

Being raised multilingually until age 15, then another 15 years intermittently traveling around the world in a truck, reading great books, swallowing fascinating drugs and having clinically dangerous amounts of sex...that would have been a worthwhile early life.

Instead, I got the traditionally useless English schooling, an abortive career programming computers, and I've never been further afield than the Latin Quarter of Paris. Most of the books had "introduction" in the title, the drugs were antidepressants and the sex is more a way of making up for the rest.

Still, now seems a good time to do something about those aspects of my life which I can change. There's a list of songs in front of me, and a computer with enough music software to make any sound I've got the patience to engineer. The basement is full of exercise machines and the kitchen is full of healthy food with no chocolate at all - me and mother are on the same diet.

But before all that, a celebratory night out with some of my more debauched comrades. There shall be much drinking, bitching, and telling of bad jokes. And possibly some singing, philosophical discussion, and half-serious offers of oral sex, depending on just how much we drink.

And tomorrow I start being a better person.

You don't believe me, do you? I'm not sure I do. But I'm going to try hard.

A nice present from mother - a digital dictaphone. The modern equivalent of carrying around pen and paper to record inspirations that hit you at odd moments. Much as the text messages and virtual greetings cards I've received today are the modern version of telegrams and printed cards.

It's also an alarm clock, and a reminder system - so I can record a message for myself to play back at a certain time, and remind me to do things. I've a feeling the irony is that anyone organised enough to use such a system is too organised to need it.

UPDATE: I think that's what they call a blowout. I am now so full of rich food and alcoholic drink, I never want to see another buscuit ever again.

Simon M gave me a birthday gift, and this is one occasion when I wish I had a working camera. Because it's a tardis. A foot high plastic tardis, together with two editions of Dr Who magazine and some stickers. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with it, especially as it broke as soon as I put it together. But after a little dab of superglue, I'll have to find somewhere prominant to display it.

Anyway, I don't like talk about new beginnings, because they lose their plausibility from there being so many of them. But it's high time I took more care of this structure of flesh that houses my thoughts.

Live, Kicking

Right. Here's a selection from the night.

Click on each link, then click "Next"...3 times. It'll take you through 3 pages of links to sponsors, before eventually geting to the download screen. Clunky, but it seems to work.

Bodygurn - Happy House
Bodygurn - High Rise Sex Trap
David Allen - Strange Fruit
Kapitano - Army Dreamers
Kapitano - The Dreaming
Kapitano - Girl U Want
Strict Machines - Oh Bondage, Up Yours!
Strict Machines - Into the Sea

Let me know what you think.

Trouble Getting It Up

I've made mp3s of selected songs from the party on Saturday - but I can't post them to the ftp site I use for such things, because I can't log in. Judging from the host site, they're having a few maintenance problems at the moment.

There's free file hosting services - rather a lot of them, in fact - so I'll have a browse through them for alternatives. Any recommendations from anyone?

I tried yahoo briefcase years ago, then decided to get an FTP site instead. Having tried it again...I think UKP12 a year is worth the ease of use and lack of restrictions. Or it would be if the FTP site was working.

I registered with KeepMyFile, gave it a file to upload...and my browser timed out waiting for it to begin. Colour me unimpressed.

The ability to queue several files for upload would be very good - if the uploading actually worked.

PutStuff doesn't have registration, and there's no way to delete files once uploaded - they're just automatically deleted if they're not downloaded for 30 days.

I thought it was going to timeout too, but no. It does however place a limit of 32 characters on filenames, and there's no way to retrieve file URLs if you lose them. I do like the name though.

Broomhosting looks similar.

Multiply looks interesting, even if it does try to double as a MySpace-style community. I may use it in future.

FreeFileHosting looks useful if (a) you need a few more services than simple hosting and (b) you have specific downloaders in mind.

I'm uploading to PutStuff at the moment. It's taking a long time on my currently slow connection.

Ladies Night

I don't remember much about last night. I got rather drunk in a pub after setting up sound and video recording equipment, then found myself surrounded by around 70 famous people from the last 200 years. All of them women. Some had beards, but all were identified by name tags.

Some stood up to give speeches, and some played music.

First up were Siouxsie and the Banshees (reincarnated for the night by Bodygurn), playing surprisingly reggae-influenced versions of some greatest hits.

Then a speech from the great revolutionary and martyr, Rosa Luxemburg. In the voice of a gruff 6'6 man, she paid tribute to many of the women present who'd fought oppression over the decades, only to be half airbrushed out of official history.

Billie Holiday dropped by, in the guise of a folk singer called David Allen. She sang "Strange Fruit", unaccompanied and to a hushed audiance.

Edith Piaf also sang an acapella guest spot - "je ne Regrette Rien". Then ten minutes later decided she'd had such a good time that an encore was in order. She's like that.

Then there was Kate Bush - from her little known fat skinhead techno period. I thought the pissed bloke with her nametag sang abysmally, though a lot of lady luminaries from the past said they'd enjoyed it. Marlene Dietrich said it was "alright".

The final act was X-Ray Spex, disguised as Strict Machines, belting out their intense mix of punk styles.

There were others who spoke, but I didn't catch their names. Yoko Ono wandered around asking guests to polish an orange.

As the evening drew to a close, I sat eating nuts with an argumentative Tracy Emin, wondering how the night would seem in the morning.

The Dogs and War

Big speech from Tony Blair today. Short version: We're in for the long haul.

Slightly longer version: It took a generation for the evil in the middle east to develop, and it'll take us as long to quell it. So don't even suggest pulling the troops out. No one else is strong and rightous enough to do it, so we will. Oh, and America too.

He said "we" can beat climate change, global poverty and S.P.E.C.T.R.E with a combination of "hard force" (guns and bombs) and "soft force" (sanctions and diplomacy). So it looks like the White Man's Burdan is back in fashion.

I thought the injection of 21,000+ troops into Iraq was for a symbolic and fraudulent last ditch attempt to gain control, allowing the occupiers to leave claiming they'd done all they could. But no, it seems the American ruling class really are determined to go for broke - control the world or destroy it trying.

Meanwhile, on the principle of "think global, act local", I get to spend tomorrow pushing election leaflets through towerblock letterboxes.

Tune in tomorrow for the Mutt Report. That's my statistical summery of dog ownership in Portsmouth. There's 5 basic types, namely dogs that:

1) ...bark from the hallway when you post stuff through the letterbox
2) ...try to batter their way through the door
3) ...try to scratch their way through
4) ...are asleep
5) the leaflets

And then in the evening, I'm singing! Yesterday I was solomnly advised that I shouldn't try to sing like Kate Bush, because her voice has four octaves around the tennor range while mine has two around the baritone. Obviously I hadn't worked this out for myself, only having spent the last month working on a series of Kate Bush covers.

I've never quite understood the need intelligent people have to explain the bleeding obvious to each other.

Looking Back and Forward

I think there's a mouse under my bed. There's an occasional sound of something scrabbling around in rustling plastic - maybe it's trying to eat some packing material.

We have some mousetraps - "humane" ones that trap the mouse in a box instead of smashing it with a spring loaded mechanism. But I prefer to use the ultrasonic repellants - I've got one here somewhere.

I learned to read before I went to school. At age 3 and 4 my parents sat me on their knees and read me stories, and I followed the words on the page. Sometimes we reversed the process, and I read to them.

The Mr Men stories of Roger Hargreaves, Norman Hunter's adventures of Professor Branestawn and the Kingdom of Incrediblania. And a bit later the comicbook adventures of Tintin (from where I later took my name) and Asterix the Gaul.

At around age 7 I took to staying up all night, hiding under the bedclothes with a lamp, reading novelisations of Dr Who adventures. This led to some occasionally singed bedclothes. I was constantly reprimanded for this, and told I should sleep at night so as not to fall asleep at school. But school was boring and pointless, so I didn't see that it mattered if I was half asleep in lessons.

At 12 I ploughed through all the novels published at the time by David Eddings and Piers Anthony.

Through the second half of puberty I presumably had other things than books on my mind - though my grandmother was horrified to find me reading Desmond Morris. It wasn't "suitable".

At 17 I read everything I could find about Greek philosophy - largely to live up to the expectations of a teacher who'd decided I was intelligent, and to have something to talk about with a frightfully clever boy who I thought was just gorgeous.

Ah well, after "doing" everything from the Milesians to the Stoics, I jumped to Empiricism and Positivism, taking detours into Kant, Augustine and Descartes. And to this day I've never managed to read a full page of Hegel.

At around 20 I discovered Samuel Beckett and the other absurdist playwrights. Then James Baldwin, Stanislaw Lem, John LeCarre and William Burroughs. In each case, I gorged myself on the entire back catalogue of each writer, before stumbling over a new one.

Unfortunately then I went to university so stopped reading much. Though I did go through the 10 volumes of Stephen Jay Gould's essays while supposedly studying art history.

So now, with the electronic miracles of OCR and quasi-legal ebook newsgroups, I can revisit my personal bibliograhy, and this time I can speedread it. Oh yes, there was a period when I read nothing but books on speedreading too.

I've re-read some Piers Anthony overnight, and have decided...

...that he can't do dialogue at all. All his characters speak in the same stilted patronising tone, all his women balance intelligence and self-sacrificing integrity with big boobs and the need for a strong man, and all his men make the journey from sensitive boy to confident adult, obsessing over the boobs all the way.

It's got buckets of imagination and skilled pacing - just rubbish characters and speech. Which I somehow didn't notice the first time around.

So what's on the menu for tonight? Another writer to re-evaluate or re-experience. But probably not Roger Hargreaves.

Three days to go before the party/gig/performance art piece, and there's an extra speaker and another singer added to the bill, the running times and order is uncertain...and a certain member of Strict Machines is trying to turn the whole thing into a personal ego trip.

So I expect last minute revisions on the night, arguments, hissy fits, last minute re-revisions, frayed nerves and resentment.

I plan to turn up an hour early, set up the amplifiers, drums and recording equipment, then stay drunk until it's time for me to sing.


C is spending a week in Prague.

Several weeks ago, things were not going well for him. He was off work and in a lot of physical pain from a mysterious and persistant intestinal disorder. A brief, intense and chaotic relationship (with me) had just ended badly. He'd been mugged at knife point with GBP200 stolen, and his prescription of prozac had been doubled.

He dealt with all this by getting enormously drunk. Unfortunately alcohol don't mix too well with prozac. He has no recollection of doing it, but it seems he made a series of phone calls to his boss, telling her exactly what he thought of her and what she deserved.

She proved him right by pressing criminal charges, and pushing for a jail sentence. The police were their usual sensitive and diplomatic selves when they turned over his room, which didn't help his depression one bit.

He's the kind of person who, once he's decided to do something, will do all that's humanly possible to achieve it. That's how he managed to spend 2 weeks on a frantic tour of Peru, sampling everything it had to offer from hang-gliding to paddling down a pirhana infested river in a thin little boat - with the bowel infection but without any medication.

So, when he decided he'd kill himself if sent down, there's no doubt he'd do it. It's his right, and there's nothing I could do to stop him, but I'd still rather he didn't - I like him.

A prison term for a trivial first offence seemed unlikely. But then, I spent five months in a stone box for no intelligent reason a decade ago, and since then the courts have been seized by a mania to overfill prisons even more.

He went to court on the 4th.

Now he's touring the great architectural sites of Prague, taking endless photos and trying every bit of local cuisine and culture available.

When he gets back on the 14th, there's 60 hours "community service" to do, apparantly working in a charity shop - the kind of work he likes to do. He's on a new antidepressant - one that actually works - and I'll see him in about a week.

So, he won't get to see me do my drunken karaoke (kapitoke?) on the 13th. 50 others will though, so I'm practicing my cadaverous baritone and gutteral hiphop

Although I can't get Gloomy Sunday to work, Strict Machines want to have a go. A punk-funk-blues version of the Hungarian suicide song should be interesting.

I've got my murder mystery planned out, now it's just a matter of writing it. Just the little matter of a few thousand words that get read beyond the first hundred. How's this for page one?

Detective Inspector Brandt snored as the telephone rang. For a full minute the two sounds competed, until the shape next to him in the bed nudged him awake. With a long suffering grunt, he awkwardly sat up, swiped on the bedside light, and grabbed the receiver.

“And a merry fucking Christmas to you too, whoever you are”, he growled down the phone without giving the caller time to speak, “and if this isn’t important, you can shove the tree…”

He was interrupted by a middle-aged male voice on the other end. It spoke rapidly for 10 seconds, and Brandt listened intently, not interrupting. When the voice stopped, Brandt spoke much more quietly.

He said, “I’ll be there in half an hour” and hung up.

“Or maybe 45 minutes”, he added, heaving his bulk out of the bed and starting to get dressed.

“Sorry love”, he said to the other form in the bed, “It’s a murder.”

The car park of Mallich police station one hour later, coated with drizzling rain at six ‘o’ clock on boxing day morning. Someone had optimistically strung multicoloured lights over the station’s front entrance – they worked but the illuminated blue police sign over the door didn’t. A dented brown skoda, dragged by it’s headlights in the gloom, pulled arthritically into a random parking space, and out stepped Brandt.

DI Brandt, 48, 6’1’’, 250lbs, wearing his version of smart casual grey trousers and white shirt under a black trenchcoat and broad brimmed fedora. He stood for a moment, tired eyes looking at nothing, droplets collecting on his dark brown beard somewhere between stubble and proper growth. Then he gave a grunt and marched purposefully through the front doors.

Just Me Too

A few extra thoughts on musical scale systems.

If you want to play a melody, you need a scale with notes that are more-or-less evenly spaced along the exponential curve of subjective pitch.

For example, here's a scale where the frequency of each note is one and one eighth of the previous:

Note 1: 100Hz
Note 2: 112.5Hz
Note 3: 126.563Hz
Note 4: 142.383Hz
Note 5: 160.181Hz
Note 6: 180.202Hz
Note 7: 202.729Hz

If you want to play harmonies and chords, you need a scale whose notes have simple mathematical relationships.

For example, here's one where all the notes are fractional fifths, quarters and thirds above the base frequency:

Note 1: 100Hz = 100*1/1 [unison]
Note 2: 120Hz = 100*6/5 [one and one fifth]
Note 3: 125Hz = 100*5/4 [one and a quarter]
Note 4: 140Hz = 100*7/5 [one and two fifths]
Note 5: 150Hz = 100*3/2 [one and a half]
Note 6: 160Hz = 100*8/5 [one and three fifths]
Note 7: 175Hz = 100*7/4 [one and three quarters]
Note 8: 180Hz = 100*9/5 [one and four fifths]
Note 9: 200Hz = 100*2/1 [double]

If you want to play both chords and melody, you need to find a compromise - a system of simple ratios that approximates a linear scale closely enough to enable melodies, or conversely a linear scale that approximates a ratio-based one.

The ratio-based scale above produces some very pleasant chords, but it's almost impossible to play a tune on it. There's a big jump between the 8th and 9th notes, but almost no jump between the 7th and 8th, or the 1st and 2nd. The spaces are fairly even in the middle of the scale, but are badly "squashed" at either end.

Conversely, the linear scale I give barely contains any notes that sound pleasant together, and doesn't even have an exact octave relation.

The "Equal Temperament" linear system used over most of the western world is a pretty good compromise, but it is still a compromise. If we're playing in C, then in the tonic chord C-E-G, the E and G are both slightly sharp, the G and G# are squeezed together, and the gap between F and G is oddly wide. Also it contains no approximation of the 7/4 ratio.

So, I've been thinking. Given that western music relies more on harmony, counterpoint and chords than on melody, might it be better to use a ratio-based system that approximates a linear one, rather than the other way around?

And also, could there be a different ratio-based system specifically for making chord-centric ambient music, where there may not even be a melody line?

For the former, I've come up with the table below.

The figures in square brackets are the note measured in cents - 100ths of a semitone, as defined in Equal Temperament - and the deviation of the note from the ET equivalent. These numbers can be used in retuning synthesisers that have "microtuning" capabilities.

Note 1: 1/1 = 1 [0,0]
Note 2: 17/16 = 1.0625 [104.995, -4.995]
Note 3: 9/8 = 1.125 [203.91, -3.91]
Note 4: 6/5 = 1.2 [315.641, -15.641]
Note 5: 5/4 = 1.25 [386.314, +13.686]
Note 6: 4/3 = 1.33333 [498.045, +1.955]
Note 7: 7/5 = 1.4 [582.512, +17.488]
Note 8: 3/2 = 1.5 [701.955, -1.955]
Note 9: 8/5 = 1.6 [813.686, +13.686]
Note 10: 5/3 = 1.66667 [884.359, +15.641]
Note 11: 9/5 = 1.8 [1017.596, -17.596]
Note 12: 15/8 = 1.875 [1088.269, +11.731]
Note 13: 2/1 = 2 [1200, 0]

As you can see, ET notes deviate by up to 17.6 cents from the "ideal" - that's nearly a sixth of a semitone. That may not sound like much, but it's enough to give a harsh edge to chords - which is there is probably all the music you hear, including the most relaxing.

Here's the numbers for the "ambient scale", which is designed purely for chords, and doesn't conform to the familiar layout of intervals:

Note 1: 1/1 = 1 [0, 0]
Note 2: 7/6 = 1.16667 [266.871, -166.871]
Note 3: 6/5 = 1.2 [315.641, -115.641]
Note 4: 5/4 = 1.25 [386.314, -86.314]
Note 5: 4/3 = 1.33333 [498.045, -98.045]
Note 6: 7/5 = 1.4 [582.512, -82.512]
Note 7: 3/2 = 1.5 [701.955, -101.955]
Note 8: 8/5 = 1.6 [813.868, -113.868]
Note 9: 5/3 = 1.66667 [884.359, -84.359]
Note 10: 7/4 = 1.75 [986.826, -68.826]
Note 11: 9/5 = 1.8 [1017.596, -17.596]
Note 11: 11/6 = 1.83333 [1049.362, +50.638]
Note 13: 2/1 = 2 [1200, 0]

I may revise this one to make it a little less "strange".

Alta Native: Getting There

1) Army Dreamers (in the style of New Order at their synthiest)
2) Acid Groove Thing ("Fascist Groove Thang" with acid bassline and reworked lyrics)
3) The Dreaming (started off as a Clash pasticle, ended up...punk goth)
4) Cool for Cats (done as a gutteral rap over a backing Aphrodite might have done - with a slightly, er, rewritten final verse)
5) Experiment IV (vaguely Massive Attack-like)
6) Science Fiction, Double Feature (with lots of pulsating frequency modulation)
7) Them Heavy People (with cutup triphop beat and string quartet)
8) Girl U Want (imagine Shawaddywaddy as remixed by 2 Unlimited)

23 minutes, plus another 2 or 3 for an intro track and links between songs, seems a reasonable running time.

The intro and links are samples from films and TV shows - pithy fragments from Vladek Sheybal, Peter Wyngarde and Jello Biafra.

The one song which persistantly refuses to gel is "Gloomy Sunday". Judging from the half dozen or so covers of it I've stumbled upon, it's not easy to make music that "works" with the lyrics and vocal rhythm. There's jazz and techno versions that resort to a chaotic mess of honks and bleeps - though the ones that (IMO) work are the simplest, with just strings or piano following the voice, and minimal or no drums.

Okay, the backings for the live performance are as sorted as they're going to get, so I can now spend a week practicing, then do the actual gig, and then start work on the "proper" recorded versions.

The Oral Tradition

There's gold in my mouth. But not in my pocket.

Yes, Kapitano now has a gold tooth, fitted without anaesthetic and with a free tutorial on the history of false teeth thrown in.

Bone, ivory, wood, plastics and ceramics have all been used - but it seems the worst material to make false teeth out of is...real teeth.

Prior to roundabout the 1600s, peasants often sold their teeth to aristocrats, who with their diet of sugary molasses and acidic wine were prone to tooth decay.

The obvious irony is that the peasants with their diet of half-rotten vegetables and low protein had ground-down but solid teeth. Indeed, it was only when sugar became plentiful and cheap enough for poor people to get addicted to it that their dental health of got as bad as the rich.

But the other irony is that teeth taken out of living gums and stuck in the mouth of a lord, fall apart in weeks. Other substitutes lasted longer, but were more expensive and difficult to produce. The aristocracy constantly needed new false teeth, but they wanted them cheap - so it's fortunate for them there were so many peasants around, undercutting each other's prices.

I bet you thought I was going to write about something else, didn't you?

Well anyway, the whole operation cost UKP300, which means on the one hand I really need to get some kind of job, and on the other means I'll be able to chew on the right side of my mouth in 10 years.

One of the other things I do with my mouth is sing. With 10 days to go till I have to perform half an hour's worth of cover versions for a pub full of tipsy lefties, some of the backings need work and I still haven't memorised some of the lyrics.

I have a method of practicing for a performance: I record rough versions of the songs, and play them back at frequent intervals on an mp3 player while doing other things. And sometimes sing along with myself in a vaguely narcissistic way.

This gets the lyrics more firmly implanted, and tells me which bits of which songs I need to work on. It means I can practice at odd spare moments, and hopefully by the time I do it for real I'm almost on automatic pilot.

I am informed the "H" from Steps has come out of the closet. Following in the footsteps of John Inman, Boy George and Danny La Rue, a former celebrity has finally acknowledged what even their parents must have figured out, years after they drifted out of mainstream consciousness.

Dirk Bogarde and Raymond Burr were posthumously outed to no effect, Ian MacKellen and Rupert Everett became professional homosexuals, Holly Johnson and Pete Burns failed to do the same, Liberace and Malcom Forbes were outed on the days of their deaths and all the newspapers pretended to be shocked - as well as surprised.

Neil Tennant came out formally when there was no longer any point in pretending to be closted, George Micheal turned his outing into a smart career move, Truman Capote was never really in and Barry Humpries has never come completely out.

Graham Norton and Julian Clary neutralise their out status by adopting the sexless camp of Larry Grayson - who made his living as a gay man pretending to be a straight man pretending to be a gay man. Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams did something similar.

Will Young, Stephen Gately and even Richard Fairbass can be popular with teens and their mums, and can even have boyfriends. They just can't officially have sex.

Outing Susan Sontag was pointless. Outing John Guilgud backfired. Outing Mishima felt like an explanation for his life, but wasn't.

And Jeff Stryker, who became famous for having sex with other men on video, isn't actually gay.

I wonder if this is really about "H" trying to relaunch his pop career.

Start as You Mean to Go On

How I spent New Year's Eve:

1) Getting rather drunk with comrades.

2) Spending an hour waiting for someone to turn up for a sex date. He's lonely, affectionate, and absolutely always late.

3) Having my back pressed against a brick wall for 90 minutes, thinking "It's nice, but I'm cold, my feet hurt and I kind of wish you'd get jawache so I can go home."

4) Making a new year's resolution not to do this again.

5) Sleeping from 4 till 2.

6) Getting lost in side streets on my way to a new year's party.

How I spent New Year's Day:

1) Getting rather drunk and eating too much at a party. And being part of a chorus of banging saucepans with rolling pins to greet 2007.

2) Chasing a lot of children around going "Grrr!" and "I'm going to eat you!". And getting tied up with tinsel by some of the girls.

3) Talking with comrades until...nine in the morning.

4) Being a pillow for one of them when she went to sleep.

5) Walking home looking like I'd been awake for 20 hours and hungover for 6.

6) Sleeping the rest of the day.

7) Eating the absolutely final last bits of the leftover turkey.

Well, as Alan Plater once wrote, "Back to abnormal".