"So many ways to lose your skin in it,
The number of ways to die is infinite."
- The World is a Very Scary Place, Magnetic Fields

Happy Halloween. The time of year when we like to scare ourselves with things that can't hurt us because they don't exist. So we can briefly forget about the things that really are scary and can hurt us.

You know. AIDS. Cancer. The planet becoming uninhabitable for profit. Poverty. Fascism. The words "President McCain". The words "President Palin". People who want to blow us up because our government bombed them to stop them wanting to blow us up. Even though they didn't.

How much nicer to be scared of bird flu, rap lyrics, and other people.

Have you ever wondered why the term "Wanker" is used as an insult? I mean, there's two kinds of people in the world - those who masturbate, and those who lie about it.

Everyone does it. Even your parents - unless your dad's spent a night with Kapitano, in which case...yeah, well ANYWAY.

But "Breather" isn't an insult (though "Mouthbreather" is). You'd never call someone a lousy stinker "Eater" (even when they're a "Bottom Feeder"). "Breeder" only applies to someone who thinks their heterosexuality makes them a higher being. Someone like your dad in fact.

But now I think I understand. Watch these wankers and see what you think.

NaNoWriMo is about to start.

Could you write a 50,000 word novel in a month? Or at least the first draft of one? Could you just plunge ahead and write 2000 words a day with the minimum of planning and plotting, just to prove you really do have that book in you?

I'm kind of tempted to find out. With three hours to go till midnight and "Day 1", and the barest outline of a story in my head...well, I've got three hours to decide.

That's scary too, in it's way.

A Nark in the UK

Which LolCat are you? The test is here. I am:

Your result for The Which Lolcat Are You? Test...

Sad Cookie Cat

You are the classic Shakespearean tragedy of the lolcat universe. The sad story of a baking a cookie, succumbing to gluttony, and in turn consuming the very cookie that was to be offered. Bad grammar ensues.

To see all possible results, checka dis.

Take The Which Lolcat Are You? Test at HelloQuizzy

I was teaching today. Which is to say, I was sitting in a classroom quite a lot.

First Lesson: I have eleven students on paper - and one turned up.

Second Lesson: My one student needs to go somewhere else, so I have a gloriously empty class.

Fortunately - or not - the school library (or "Resource Center") needs sorting out. So I spend a fascinating ninety minutes cataloging it. Really, really fascinating.

Third Lesson: On paper, five. In the room, one. Sitting an exam.

Fourth Lesson: He bunks off.

More cataloging.

Elsewhere on the testing site, there are reputedly eight kinds of intelligence. And I'm:

Your result for Howard Gardner's Eight Types of Intelligence Test...



"This area has to do with introspective and self-reflective capacities. Those who are strongest in this intelligence are typically introverts and prefer to work alone. They are usually highly self-aware and capable of understanding their own emotions, goals and motivations. They often have an affinity for thought-based pursuits such as philosophy. They learn best when allowed to concentrate on the subject by themselves. There is often a high level of perfectionism associated with this intelligence.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include philosophers, psychologists, theologians, writers and scientists." (Wikipedia)

Take Howard Gardner's Eight Types of Intelligence Test at HelloQuizzy

8% Logical
24% Spatial
35% Linguistic
63% Intrapersonal
16% Interpersonal
45% Musical
14% Kinesthetic
22% Naturalistic (Instinctive)

One of these is used by psychologists and supposedly by modern teachers. The other's a silly bit of fun. You decide which tells you more about me.

Johnny Rotten is appearing in an advert. The product is butter. The advert is nationalistic.

Let me put this another way. The man whose career is built on his absolute refusal to sell out, is a sellout. The rebel who hated family values, is letting himself be used in a family friendly campaign. The boy who got into the Sex Pistols because he was wearing an "I Hate Pink Floyd" t-shirt, has fallen into self-mockery.

The face of danger is now safe. The pottymouth you couldn't dismiss is now trivial. The laughing harlequin is a laughingstock. The sneering spitting rebel has spat on his own rebellion.

The enfant terrible who got Bill Grundy sacked by saying "Fuck" on live TV...will probably soon be hosting a live daytime chatshow.

Most of the punks were knobs, truth be told, however much we cheered their jabs against complacency. This one turns out to be a knob of butter.


Yes, there's a theme to this post.

There's a whining dog on my bed.

The reason he's on my bed is to keep him separate from the bitch downstairs, who's in heat and sending out pheromones like a perfume factory.

The reason he's whining is...he's being kept separate etc.

Sadie, the shady lady in question, is seven months old, and timidly baffled by all the bounding and barking attention she's suddenly getting from the boy dogs.

Estrus is the period of two to six weeks when a female dog wafts out lots of sexy chemicals from her rear end. The same word is used to refer to her period of fertility. And it's also used to refer to the period when all she can think about is chasing the boys.

Unfortunately, these three periods are not the same thing. They're only approximately synchronised, and of variable lengths. Result: Up to six weeks of whining frantic mutts and bitches that may - or may not - suddenly go the same way.

The thing about breeding dogs isn't how to get them to do it. It's how to live with them when you won't let them.

On Friday night I had sex. We lay on the floor for an hour till we both got jawache - standard stuff.

On Saturday night he sent me a cheery message - and a picture of his pecker. No, I'm not going to show you. If you want smutty pictures, scroll down to the next section.

The gist of the message was, "My willy's got these weird red splotches on it. Isn't that funny? LOL!"

Oh Christ, thinks me. Just what I really frelling need. Either he's given me something red and nasty in my mouth, or my mouth's given it to him, and he doesn't even realise.

And the moral of the story is: Don't suck off morons. Only give gobjobs to knobs of smart yobs.

Well, it turned out not to be VD - just good old fashioned friction burns and nothing to do with me at all. Which was...erm, nice.

I blew breathed a sigh of relief.

I know what you're thinking. Kapitano's all talk and no action. Show us some sex!

Okay, I will. Here's a selection of stills from the 1981 erotic historical flick - and I do mean flick - The Centurians of Rome. With annotations. And I hope you're ready.

Can't you just taste the high production values?

This isn't just a video to wank to. It's got emotional depth. It's got plot. It's got a ten minute opening scene of ancient Britons telling each other how hard (fnarr) life is since the Romans came (fnarr) and invaded (fnarr).

See? Romans.

The imperialist pigs kidnap our hero, to sell him into a life of hellish slavery.

But there's two sides to every story. The Romans brought civilisation you know. And the art of ten minutes conversations about it.

Sometimes the pleasure is just in looking. And looking.

Local colour at the (meat) market.

The public don't know a bargain when they see one.

I'm getting an intertextual flavour of religions symbolism. Not sure why.

Did you ever see Caligula?

Let's talk about politics.

I need to talk about how I feel about being in this movie.

Yes! I'm an effete and corrupt Roman with a pervy taste for manflesh! Mmmm! Yes, I saw John Hurt in I, Claudius too!

What's a really good freeze-frame to end the movie on?

Rong iz Rit

Curried cheese on toast.

Lightly toasted bread, spread with butter and layered with mature chedder, topped with a sprinkling of mild curry powder, and put under the grill for two minutes. A good idea? An interesting culinary experience? A blasphemous abomination? A wonderful discovery? A disgusting mistake?

Having been seized with a desire to find out this evening, I can report my findings as follows:

1) It is possible to turn your toaster on it's side and use it as a grill. Just remember to set the ejection timer to maximum and eject manually - or else it'll fire a hot splashy projectile at you after an unpredictable interval. Just remember that napalm, like melted cheese, is hot and oily.

2) Melted things that fall off your toast into the toaster can burn and smoke for up to three minutes.

3) Yellow cheese does indeed stain orange.

4) The result tastes of cheese on toast and raw curry powder. The tastes, while not exactly in conflict, fail to coalesce. You know those weddings where the two families ignore each other? Imagine one of those in your mouth.

5) An hour later, I still feel a little sick.

Last week I asked: Which is more boring - teaching graph reading for two hours or being taught graph reading for two hours.

I can now reveal the answer is:

1) If the student has no need for the lesson at all because they're an expert on statistics and a science teacher, they'll enjoy teaching the others.

2) If the student has never met words like "incline" and "trend" before, they'll bunk off halfway through.

3) If the teacher is Kapitano, he'll discover a nerdish delight in talking maths.

Have you ever noticed, people proud of their impeccable spelling write nothing worth reading?

Two interviews today. One with my boss about how my teaching would be a whole lot better if I talked less...and one for a job at a different school. Synchronicity?

Oh, and apparently I flap my hands around too much.

I am quite certain that I do not.

It's The Real Thing

How much music is a guilty pleasure for you?

How often does one half of your mind get into the groove and throw it's hands in the air, while the other half points out how naff the noise is. Unoriginal, derivative, limited, badly written, badly mixed, badly produced, pretentious, silly, pseudo-profound, and actually a little bit embarrassing to like.

Remember Tatu, the fake lesbian schoolgirls from Russia? Stiltskin, the equally fake rock band formed around a jeans commercial? Boney M? 2 Unlimited? Queen? All been guilty listens for me. And I'm sure you've got a list too. Quite probably with ELO in it.

The latest for me is Autokratz. Synth sounds and lines that must be the result of ten second doodles. Meaningless lyrics that are only there so they can be processed to have a disjointed cutup feel. And an odd strutting self-mockery in live performance.

Yes they're in my ears right now.

How would you describe one of these?

Yes, it's a graph. Three graphs and a yellow histogram. But if you had to describe the shape of the lines as though you cared about whatever they represent? Then you've got words like "rise", "fall", "sink" and "plummet", plus collocations like "steady increment", "underlying upward trend" and "sharp knee".

Now which is more boring - two solid hours of learning this stuff, or two of teaching it? I'll know next week,

If you're in America, here's two reasons to vote for Obama.

1) What's on the board.

2) That it was put there by McCain supporters.

Thanks to the miracle that is Google, you can now make it harder to send email - for your own good.

Mail Goggles will challenge you do do maths before it'll let you send emails. So if you're too drunk to do basic maths, you must be too drunk to write sensible emails, so your late night drunken rants won't embarrass you later.

Coming soon, BearAware (the software that checks your Body Mass Index before it lets you do a striptease on webcam), FundieNot (which checks your blog posts for spurious logic, biblical misquotes and racism, and if you're at "Whackjob" level, won't let you send) and MythAway (which listens for urban myths in your conversation, and mechanically forces your mouth closed if you start repeating one).

I'm not good at people. I've only got two real skills:

1) Getting people to talk about themselves - not the most difficult thing in the world.

2) Spotting a fake.

It took two minutes of reading this fellow to go from 5% suspicion to 95% certainty that he's a 100% full-on bullshitter. That's "Augean Stable" on the bullshitometer. Just above "Lobsang Rampa". It's the combination of airy generalities (some inaccurate) and defensive tone that does it for me.

But then, he's talking about Windows 7, where just about everything you read is uninformed guesswork dressed up as top secret leaks.

Which only leaves the question of why some people need so much to give impressions of their own importance that the construct elaborate, time-expensive fantasies - and then try to live in them. It's probably obvious to you, but like I say, I'm no good at people.

I'm writing this on a minimal XP distro (call it XP3), running on a virtual machine (VM1), running on the the same distro as host (XP2), running as second OS on a dual boot (on XP1).

XP3 is running a virtualisation procedure on free software downloaded under XP1, while XP2...plays the greatest hits of Adam Ant.

This is so I can run a portable version of the program under XP1, using it to put together a virtual synthesiser that will use a mathematical model of vibrating membranes to simulate the sound of real drums. Which I can play on a virtual recreation of a drum machine that hasn't been manufactured since 1983.

So, keep it virtually real.

Lingo Dancing

My bent is academic, apparently.

The positive upshot of this is that, one day a week for the next two months or so, I'll be teaching "Academic English". The downside is that "Academic English" is the kind of tedious noncommunication used in academic papers.

Specifically I'm teaching IELTS. No one can remember what it stands for, but it's both a syllabus and a system of grading student's ability in the English they'll need for university education. There's nine levels, from 1 (barely able to communicate) to 9 (better than most native speakers).

To get into an anglophone university you'll need at least a 5 - or 7 if it's a posh one.

Considering that today's class gleefully produced sentences like "When will the television have been being watched by you tomorrow night?" - but had never come across "Debit Card" or "Traffic Jam" before - it may not be a difficult assignment.

I ought to take an IELTS test myself. To determine what actual level I needed to come top of the class in two degrees. I might scrape a 4.

In the meantime, if you look to the column of delicious links to the left, you might see five different programs and two scripting languages for creating new - and new kinds of - soundmaking software. And seeing as I don't know which, if any of them, is best for the slightly unusual projects I have in mind, I'm having to look at all of them.

The trouble with trying to invent something no one's tried before is, you don't know what the suitable tools are. I wonder how many materials were tried for silicon chips before someone hit on silicon?

I just started to write that I'd be seeing C tomorrow. Then there was an exchange of txts casting doubt on this and postponing the meet. Then after I deleted the sentence, more txts to the effect that we can meet tomorrow after all.

Have I mentioned my frequent suspicion that as soon as you write something on your blog, it ceases to be true?

Ship of Fools

Tomorrow morning I have to teach two students for three hours. I have no idea exactly what I'm supposed to teach them - I'll be told half an hour beforehand.

Now, one student is passionately interested in history and politics, enjoys grammar, wants to learn English for business and learns best when lessons are skewed this way. The other doesn't seem to be passionate about anything, and isn't clear on why he's learning English at all. Nice fellow, bad student.

So, problem 1: How am I supposed to teach both simultaneously?

I'll be observed for this lesson, by a senior teacher with, shall we say, well formed ideas about what's good teaching and what's bad. Specifically:

* Good teaching always involves the students talking as much as possible and the teacher as little.

* All interesting topics (eg, history and politics) are forbidden, because someone might get offended.

* Never teach grammar, always teach "functions" - ie. set phrases, ie. what the profession calls "chunks", ie. mindless cliches that people in real life never use.

So, problem 2: How am I supposed to teach anything at all?

The observer will be my boss, with who I attended a teaching workshop at the weekend. After which the guy presenting it...asked me to write an article for the magazine he edits.

Which rather annoyed the boss, who's got twenty years experience over my six months, a load of qualifications, and nothing published.

So, problem 3: How can I find a new school where only the first of these problems is likely to crop up?

Flicking through news channels I had a thought.

Sarah Palin. Why is she popular? She's corrupt (misusing public funds), a hypocrite (illegitimate granddaughter), a bully (the Monegan affair), a wingnut (on creationism and abortion) but most of all she's an idiot - as shown on even the tiny number of softball interviews she's been allowed to give.

So is she popular in spite of her idiocy...or because of it? I've no doubt a few of her supporters genuinely believe all the press bullshit about her being "fresh" and "dynamic", despite the lack of corroboration. But perhaps the majority want someone who appears to be one of them.

I don't mean Republican voters think of themselves as idiots - or indeed are. I mean they hold the usual vague broth of contradictory views on "America", "Foreigners", "Terror", "Guns", "Taxes", "God" and of course "Sex", and are reassured by a leader who's as cloudy as they are.

And seeing as she's got to match the cloudiness of many demographic groups, that's real cloudy.

Obama's equally vague talk of "Change" works the same way. When the public wants an impossible blend of greatness and mediocrity, competence and blankness, fuzzy is the only way to go.

Personally I'd want to be led in a field by someone who knows it better than I do - otherwise there'd be no point in being led. But that's just me.

Regan knew nothing and had exactly one talent - he could fake sincerity. Bush Sr was complacent where Regan was paranoid, but had the same non-grasp of the issues. And it's easy to see why an ignorant nominal leader is useful to advisors a few rungs down.

But it can't be as simple as that. Dan Quale and Gerald Ford were both famously dumb, and it didn't exactly win them admirers. JFK and Clinton were both famously smart, but it didn't count against them, and the founding fathers are revered as immensely able.

I'm not sure. I just know "President Palin" is slightly more terrifying than "President McCain", because the promises may be a fog, but the intentions are not.

I am attempting to delve into the innards of Max. They go quite deep.

It had to happen eventually. Someone turns up unannounced on my doorstep, clutching a nonfunctional laptop, asking that I fix it there and then.

While finishing my lunch with one hand.

And could I do it quickly please, 'cos they've got to go in five minutes.

And Wi-Fi is the same thing as broadcom wireless, right? No it didn't come with any software for the drivers. My dad's got a dongle and it works perfectly.

Yes, I'm sure it does. Sometimes I'm so diplomatic it hurts.


A short story about the near future.

"What is the difference between living a thousand years, and living twenty, but with the memory of a thousand?"
- Chou Takamuri, Identity and Time

I remember my first implant, though it seems a strange thing to say.

I was ten years old, an American boy who'd never left Chicago until then. I'd been flown to a Chinese city whose name I couldn't pronounce, then left to lie on a table in a bare white room, listening to the sounds of the doctors getting ready.

When I woke up I didn't feel any different. I was still confused, and I was still a frightened boy in a foreign country. Then within an hour I knew I had been a Korean teenage girl. I'd been a child prodigy in mathematics, spending each day studying field equations, chaos and string theory, learning each thoroughly under pressure from my family and my own fear of failure.

Calculus, Maxwell's equations, Schroedinger, Born and Plank, they were all in my head, all so beautiful and obvious, all fitting together so neatly.

But there was more, and there was also less. There was the time my mother cut her hand preparing an evening meal of rice and soup, and the time I came home bubbling with excitement about my exam results, only to be told my grandfather had died while I was taking it.

I'd had a crush on a movie star, and when I confessed it to a friend he'd laughed and told me his secret love, much more scandalous than mine. One time I'd got separated on a shopping trip and ran around panicking until a man with a deformed face took me to the manager.

But before the age of seven, nothing. And after signing the consent forms to be used for implanting, nothing. It was as though I'd been one person till a specific day at the age of seven, then two till fifteen, and now I and a half, and still only ten.

I wanted to meet my parents - that is, the girl's parents - to show them how well I'd done, but the doctors wouldn't allow it.

I stayed in the clinic for several weeks, watched closely by ever-changing staff in identical blue robes, and crying every night. I wanted to go home, but home was two different places. I wanted my comic books, but I hated comic books and wanted the science books that I'd read in a language I didn't understand.

Gradually it became easier, and after returning "home" I could enjoy basketball and quadratic equations in their own ways. Baseball statistics I could appreciate from both sides.

I found I could understand most Korean and a little Chinese, but I couldn't speak them, because I remembered using the languages, but I'd never been through the process of learning them.

I was told I'd be able to separate my American self from my Korean self, but that never happened. I had, and still have, conflicting sets of memories - plus attitudes, aspirations and even religious beliefs. I can't reconcile them, but the truth is I don't need to.

My psychologist once asked me who I really was. I replied that I was myself, and it didn't matter what we called it. I thought that was quite good for an American/Korean boy/girl of 12/17.

"To believe in a True Self requires belief in a False Self. But if a False Self is not a Self, what is it?"
- Tanith Wolf, Whose Me?

I remember my first implant, and now so do a hundred others.

The girl's name was Chan-Sook. I never met her, but I first met another Chan-Sook implant when I was seventeen. She was Canadian, and I met her on the internet, as we all did in those days.

Personal contact between co-implants was strictly forbidden, simply because no one knew what would happen. Would we go mad? Fall in love? How would an already fractured mind cope with seeing itself in a mirror that talked back?

But we were young, we were clever - because that was the the point of implanting - and we were determined. And so, as a minor celebrity and teacher of higher mathematics, I got myself booked into a conference in Canada.

Sally was nineteen. Overweight and sexy, talkative and with a wild sense of humour, she was nothing like me, and we instantly liked each other. We'd been reminiscing about our childhood for half an hour before we realised, with astonishment, that we'd been remembering the same childhood. Chan-Sook was with us both.

I think it was at that moment that we both understood what it really is to be an implant.

Do you recall what they used to say about identical twins raised apart? How they live their lives in subtle parallel, make the same decisions, share an almost telepathic bond? How, when they find each other, it's like the refusing of two halves of one soul?

It was largely media hype about twins. But it's true about us. I didn't fall in love with Sally, she didn't feel threatened by our partially shared identity, and neither of us went mad. But we were like distorting mirrors of each other.

I now have hundreds of sisters - male and female - like Sally, all over the world. We are different, we are independent, but to me, they are my family.

"A person is an actor who moves from one role to the next, without ever taking off their makeup."
- Aimee X, Multilife

I remember my second implant.

I was one of the first multiple implants, and all the paranoid media speculation of the first was repeated about it. With three or more persons "blended", would the "real" person get lost? Etc, etc.

It's true that Ramon and I were quite different - much more so than I and Chan-Sook. He was fifty years old, a world-class engineer, and I was twenty eight, a theoretical physicist. He was white and I was black. He was homosexual, whereas I was not. He was also dying of cancer, and volunteering to be an implant template was his way of continuing to work.

He'd spent twelve years - longer than anyone at the time- having his memory formation recorded. He was also one of the very few adults being recorded.

I actually had the pleasure of meeting Ramon, shortly before his record was copied into me, so I have two versions of our conversation. I was nervous and a little in awe of him. He thought I was tired but charming.

When Ramon died his family asked me to speak at his funeral. A surprising request, but quite flattering in its way. I think they wanted confirmation that he lived on in me, even to the extent that he could deliver a eulogy for himself.

I had to tell them it wasn't quite like that, but I could tell them how much they meant to him, and they were quite satisfied with that.

Emotional attachments can get tricky with implants. I heard about one case where a woman tried to adopt the girl who'd been implanted with her dead husband. Fortunately she was turned down, but society is still adjusting to the technology after four decades.

"The amnesiac has no past. The senile has only the past. The implant has the wrong past. Perhaps they also have the future."
- Sam Revok, Reflection/Reflexion

Every implant module placed in the brain is also a recorder, which means the interactions between the template and the host are recorded, as are subsequent implantations, and can themselves be implanted.

I myself have five facets, including my original self. Others have as many as thirteen, and people are now starting to record entire lifespans for later implantation.

It is no longer just the most eminent who get preserved, or the richest. There are families which plan to implant each whole generation in the next. If you work for a major corporation, you may be asked to receive your predecessor's memories, and to have yours placed in your successors when you leave.

Technology never gives us what it promises, but it always gives something unexpected. The IT revolution didn't increase productivity, but it did change the kind of work people do. The atom bomb didn't make peace, but it turned war cold.

Implantation has not created a master-race of schizophrenic multi-geniuses, nor a sub-species of incomprehensible freaks, nor an army of mental clones. It hasn't drawn the peoples of the world together, or pushed them further apart. It may have made people less afraid of each other, but governments still thrive on fear.

I - or should it be "We" - can't tell you what will happen. Perhaps those who inherit me/us through my/our memories will see more clearly.

Not a Rant

I was going to post a rant about, you know, politics an' stuff. But you know what's wrong with the world as well as I do, so instead, here's the song I just wrote. Maybe you'll like it.

Broken Hearts

There we were
    In a bus stop, in the midnight
Rain again
Holding hands
    You said something, and I nodded
Now and then

There we sat
    Got a secret, and the secret's
Yours to tell, you
Turn and smile
    With a question, and I thought
What the hell

You like
Songs about broken hearts, and
You remember
Words from the forgotten past, and
You read
Books about being happy, you know
Nothing about me
Nothing about me

There we stayed
    In a shelter, with the early
Morning sky
Squeeze my hand
    You say you love me, and I tell
One more lie

There we were
    Making big plans, for our future
All that stuff, I'll
Run away
    Go tomorrow, 'cos I'm not
Strong enough

It's Oh So Quiet

My ears are full of cooking oil.

There is a perfectly good reason for this. We don't have any eardrops.

Yesterday I was trying to design a sound like the synth-strings at the start of Shine on You Crazy Diamond, but no matter what I did, it sounded muffled and crap.

After an hour I took a break and put on some music. Which also sounded muffled and crap. The little grey cells told me there might be a connection, and after sluicing out my ears with warm water - which turned a notably darker shade - my Crazy Diamonds regained some of their shine.

So with luck tomorrow I'll be able to hear a pin drop on a fur rug in a thunderstorm in Saskatchewan. But in the meantime you'll have to shout.

I said...You'll Have To Shout!

I read in other blogs that the secret to blogging success is to post little but often. Lots of short, snappy articles, and a new one at least every day.

Of course, I read this in blogs that don't have many readers, but maybe I should give it a go. Just not today.

I've had my 12,000th visit. But I don't know who the visitor was.

They were in Brighton in the UK on September 27th. They're running Opera 9.52 under XP with Javascript 1.4, running a monitor with a resolution of 1024x768 and 32-bit colour depth. Their ISP is Easynet, and they were looking for info on the Dillfrog Rhymer - a sadly defunct rhyme-finding tool for songwriters, which I helped design three years ago.

Who were you, mystery man?

Question from a student on Tuesday:

"Teacher, which kind of Christianity is true?


It's been one of those weeks where nothing comes easily.

I decided that I'd like to make a little piece of music based on scratching. Turntablism. Vinyl abuse. Dragging a record backwards and forwards under a needle with the speakers switched on.

To scratch a record you need:
(1) A turntable - or deck as they're known to people who actually use them. It should have

* a slipmat instead of the rubber plate you find on domestic record players

* a continuous-run motor so the record won't spend a few painful seconds gathering speed when you release it

* top quality needles (probably made by by the Shure company) mounted on a heavy "head", and

* a rock solid build. A second-hand deck mounted on your kitchen table won't make anything except a squeaky table.

(2) A high quality vinyl pressing, probably with the "fresh" sample that absolutely all turntablists seem to love. I think it's from a Grandmaster Flash B-side, but don't quote me on that.

(3) About five years of constant practice.

(4) Lots of time for the practice.

(5) Lots of money for everything else.

(6) A birthdate sometime in the last fifteen years.

(7) A posse with similar birthdates.

You can get equipment which works just like a scratching deck, but which connects to your computer, instructing it to manipulate a sound file as though you were scratching it. For this you don't need the first two above.

The common alternative to having a deck on your to scratch with your mouse, and there's lots of cheap (and free) software to do this.

I've tried DyScratcher, MouseScratcher, Turntablist Pro, Sxratch, Vinyl Boy, and Fruity Scratcher. And I can confidently reveal they're all about as crap as each other. Mice are just not good scratching tools.

If your laptop has a touchpad, they're a bit easier. In the sense that it's easier to prepare a banquet with one hand tied behind your back than two.

So, what about software that lets you program scratches off-line, then play them in real time?

There's Scratcher, which works pretty well but is limited to four bar sequences and is IMO rather unintuitive. The same programmer is working on Turntable Surgeon, which should be astounding...when it's finished.

There's also Fruity WaveTraveller, which impressed me so much I've just spent three days figuring out why it won't quite do what I want.

The thing is, I know exactly what I want. I want a piano-roll sequencer that lets me arrange scratches by note pitch and duration, with controls for crossfader, skipback, transform, and the other tools in the scratcher's box.

Such a beast does not exist.

So what do you do when something you need doesn't exist? You invent it!

Invent it how, exactly?

I could program a VST in C++. But my programming skills are buried under fifteen years of rust, and I was never much good at C++.

There's SynthMaker, which creates VSTs from graphical modules...and can't make sequencers. There's SynthEdit, with less flourishes and more support...which can't do sequencers eithers.

MAX is a language while lets you design practically anything musical from the ground up...if you have a degree in algebra and a year to spare.

Tassman can probably do it, but last time I tried to use it, there was a distinct feeling of building a modest house one brick at a time...firing each brick individually.

Reaktor can definitely do it, and may not even need the algebra degree. Though it probably needs the year. And it's godsmackingly expensive.

There's is one other possibility which occurs to my awkward mind. Find a sample, feed it into Stomper, let it mangle the sound in the dozen most common ways used by scratchers, and assign each scratch to one note on a midi keyboard.

It should only take about three hours before I can start using it. The earliest synthesisers could take even longer to set up.

So, welcome to the world of digital music, where you can make sound any way you want, and innovate in any way your imagination desires - provided you want to recreate an old way on a computer.