You are viewing the most recent 25 entries.
22nd June 2015
Herring Gulls float in rotten egg Over the gas works, watching: /Bird's Eye/ forklifts, Gulliver's blades, Frozen in the first light of England. Bright men hang in cloudless sky, Paragliding, a frozen rapture. A Sikorski frantically beats the air, Grounding pylons on the heights of Abraham. Entombed with swabs and steel as grave goods, air to carry me sweetly under, a shaft of second daybreak on a sharps bin; Philae's icy gate.
19th May 2015
Moldova Are Talent!
While looking for an old Eurovision Video on YouTube, I was recommended this clip from "Moldova Are Talent", which is "Britain's Got Talent" transplanted to Moldova, sponsored my "Moldcell"! Moldova's mobile provider (I suspect they have strong organic growth). Now, I thought this was probably some kind of Borat type thing: the kid in the cute penguin tux,;the dad in one of those Soviet-era leather jackets from Heroic Zhukov PlastiLeather Garment Factory No. 7, Kaliningrad; the grammatical error in the title; the way in the West we use Moldova as a placeholder plucky East European country. But it seems that it's for real: the kid is so earnest and frightened, poor love, the judges so unable to hit their buzzers for him. I hope it remains a good memory and that he ends up leading a normal, unpressured life with a nice Moldovan beauty driving a truck round Slobozia or Floresti, untroubled by the tyrant to his east, and by poverty. :
15th May 2015
"The human body represents a highly challenging and non-structured environment, where the capabilities of the octopus can provide several advantages with respect to traditional surgical tools" :
That must be the quote of the day from BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-32734979
9th May 2015
How much does a memory weigh?
There's an advert for a suitcase which asks "How much does a memory weigh?". That got me thinking. The kind of memories they're talking about are things like seeing the sunset in Andalusia and so on. I reckon that you can express them reasonably well in a single sentence, or maybe two, of about ten to twenty words, that's 500-1000 characters. English has about one bit of information per character, and I'm guessing you'd start to max out alternative possible expressions put into a pool at around the 10^3 (2^10) mark. So if the total space is around 2^1000 bits, that's still about 500-1000 bits as that division is way inside the margin of error. Assuming this information needs to erase its space from a statistically random precursor, 250-500 bits need to be flipped, or (250to500)(ln2)kT Joules, assuming we're working close to room temperature, (0.0172eV)(250to500) = 4 to 9 eV. Using mass/energy equivalence, that's equivalent to a mass of 10^-35kg. So that's how much a memory weighs, I think, about the mass of a neutrino. :
Neil Kinnock, Election 2015: the guy who said something worth hearing in the first 4 hours
* What is your reaction to what seems like very bad news for Labour? :
If it continues like this it is one of great disappointment. Not so much for the party, but for what it means for millions of people in Britain who needed a government that would be committed to housing, to the Health Service, to jobs and fresh opportunities for the youngsters. And if that government is not at the end of the day formed, then I think that Britain will pay a very severe price for the division in our society and the weakness in our economy. If that's how it turns out but, of course, as everyone on your programme has thus-far said, it's going to be a long night.
* If that's how it turns out, how could it have happened?
Well, it's a combination of things. If it is the fact that there's been a tory surge, it will be attributable to the usual reality that people, whatever they tell the opinion pollsters will, in that ballot booth/box, think that their security -- their financial security -- will be enhanced because of the tory reputation (one that they've never earned in reality) for reducing taxes and giving people more money in their pocket.
Even recent experience demonstrates the contrary of that. But there are enough people who are willing to accept that myth and then think that they're voting for their own security by voting for Conservative candidates. The reality is different, as I said, and the awful thing is that it's not simply those people who relatively innocently are working against their own interests, the real price will be paid by those who truly are innocent who have sought a different path and will be met with the costs of another Conservative government, even a minority government.
* You suggest that a whole electorate can be duped by the Conservatives when they had Ed Miliband as your newly elected leader out there, day-by-day, fighting Labour's cause. So he doesn't seem to have done too well if he can't counter what you think of as Conservative lies about the economy.
He's done very well. But what we're really up against in the scenario that I describe, and of course I may be wrong, and this may not be the out-turn. But if I am right about it, and there's any amount of analysis, literature and experience over many decades that demonstrates the veracity of what I'm saying to you, it is a matter of mood and self-delusion that makes people eventually, -- regardless what they feel they should be doing when they speak to the opinion pollsters -- taking a different view with that stub of pencil in the privacy of the ballot booth. And that's what you're up against and in many ways, of course, that whole drift of opinion, that whole movement in psychology, is assisted, less than it used to be, by parts of the press and it does mean, therefore, that any opposition to that established attitude, any radicalism, any effort to undertake a different path, not just by Labour but indeed by other parties, is always going to have difficulty countering that established myth.
And that appears to be the case in the 2015 election.
-- Neil Kinnock
28th April 2015
The Other Things
Kennedy famously said "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard". Among the "other things" were Rice playing Texas at American football. So I was wondering quite how hard that was. It turns out that over the 103 matches they've played, Rice have won 21 and tied one more, with 71 loses. Most recently they lost 34-9. So pretty hard, then. :
8th April 2015
The Great Goat Chase
E has a book which he insists we read each night called The Great Goat Chase. :
This involves a farmer and various of his animals trying to get some goats out of a field. After all else have failed, a bee arrives and shoos the goats out of the field with a threat of stinging them. The moral of the story apparently is that Small folk can sometimes do things much better than big folk.
In my eyes it seems to have demonstrated that in asymmetric warfare the mere threat of the use of unconventional weapons can overcome vastly superior physical forces, so I'm not sure whether the book is soon going to be banned by the Home Office, ;-) . But maybe that's just because I've read the same book every night for two months and its prohibition just wishful thinking.
6th April 2015
Re break: That seemed to work quite well, really. FB made the biggest difference but, annoyingly, there are still a couple of people there who aren't anywhere else despite me really disliking its cacophony now. I think I'll try to restrict here and there to weekends or something like that! :
Not a lot has happened in the meantime. E has grown up a bit. He's getting a real imagination now, or at least is making up random sentences. It's a bit of a shock when he first shouted, apropos of nothing, Oh my word! Elephants in the trees!.
He's also a bit obsessed with robot owls. We're trying to think if he's seen Clash of The Titans. I think we showed it to him when he was a baby, but L doesn't remember, but it was definitely yonks ago. My favourite, though, is when he sees chocolate or ice cream or something on the telly and shouts Open the telly!, because it reminds me of something out of The Young Ones.
I watch very little telly these days, but L likes dramas and E has an endless list of tedious kids shows. There's three quizzes I watch and that's pretty much it (University Challenge, Only Connect, Mastermind). We watched Planet Earth the other day, which he seems to like, but our old telly can only play single-layer DVDs so conked out half way through.
While I was away I spent too much time doing stack-exchange, which I never really got into. Interesting looking back at my top sites, though (in decreasing order): English Language, Electrical Engineering, Buddhism, Mathematics, Parenting. No computer ones in sight (mainly because the community vibe in those is much more irritating, it's just not a fun place to be: this is the same reason that I spend more time in the Buddhism site than the Christianity one).
The Germanwings thing was terribly affecting. I do wish this kind of thing wasn't instantly splashed everywhere like we're all gossiping fishwives. I was thinking about in terms of my earlier post about our residual "fear of evil" (not that such a characterisation is untroubled in the case of murder-suicide, as with all these sad family shootings that you hear about almost weekly). It's interesting how it affects and troubles people much more than, say, had the pilot had a heart-attack over the door controls.
I'm increasingly tired of the status quo. I don't mean politically, particularly (at least not in terms of Westminster politics), and I don't mean rationally. I'm just much more inclined to put a bucket on the head of any statues which I pass. I worry about the world which we're bringing E up in: the things I was taught as a kid which were wrong and the new wrong thoughts which have happened between now and then (the former mainly about class, gender, poverty, race and so on; the latter about "security", the supremacy of the state, intermediation in personal relationships, and so on). The only thing that really frustrates me is the unwillingness to admit that as a society we are in a bad place, that we have failed, that our parents have failed, that our children have failed: it's the lack of acknowledgement that annoys me most. It's the human condition to fail, but on we go piling on the twiddles to the fanfare each year, becoming ever more shrill like Shepard tones.
14th March 2015
As I'm having a little break from tomorrow, some random things: :
* When I see people walking along with selfie-sticks, I imagine it as a kind of strut which is required to separate that person even by a few feet from the magnetic attraction of their phone and their own image. Just think if Narcissus had one, he could have prised himself free and overcome his Nemesis.
* It is a true sign of spring when you go out in the early evening and see the horses flying home for summer.
* E created a song: "Pa-pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa-pa-pa! Pa pa pa pa pa Pa pa-pa-pa pa pa pa-pa pa-pa pa-pa-pa! Pa-pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa-pa-pa! Pa pa pa pa pa Pa pa-pa-pa pa pa pa-pa pa-pa pa-pa-pa! CHIPSHOP!"
* The watch market really is pathological. They're either tiny or gigantic or jewel-encrusted or disposable, anything except watch-sized things for telling the time and which can be bought from a shop. I'm trying to find something a bit like a Swatch, comprising two or three hands on a single dial of reasonable size, but made of a durable but unostentatious material, in reasonably subdued colours, and which isn't ridiculously thick, large, or small, and available for prior inspection in an actual shop. This doesn't sound like it should be an amazingly difficult challenge.
12th March 2015
Faith (in railway preservation)
[I'm sorry that a great many of my posts here in recent days have been quasi-religious. I know that a lot of you don't care about that, and that it doesn't really reflect on what I spend time thinking about most of the time. These things just go in runs for some reason]. :
I was thinking about the word faith and the odd sense in which it's used by many christians, and people in critiquing christianity, which doesn't really match how the word seems to be used more widely, particularly stuff derived from fidere (fiduciary, "Fide ...", etc). This is something which I've been vaguely aware of, but not really been able to put my finger on, for a few years.
The other night I was watching a programme on the telly about railway enthusiasts and a guy threw into conversation the word "faith" (concerning work carried out in advance of some kind of permission being granted) which put the matter into clear relief.
It seems that the two ways in which the word is used seem to come down to: EITHER, an assuredness of the correctness of certain axioms (which would be irrational for any given axioms, given they /are/ axioms) or in outcomes as a result of those axioms; OR ELSE, the placing of trust, in the sense of a willingness to rely upon a particular outcome or conduct of another individual.
It seems to me that these two ideas are only at all close when you have a certain, not at all universal, model of a human being which is rather utilitarian in character. In other lights, the two ideas are actually contradictory. Other reasons for trust without certainty include the utter hopelessness of the alternative, complete abdicative love, empathic altruism, etc. These can be variously excellent and disastrous things, but the latter use of the word "faith" is at least reasonable to discuss and not quite so easily dismissed, by Pastafarianisation, into Russell's Teapot.
10th March 2015
So I swore off Facebook for lent (for space to think, not to forgo a luxury) and I seem to have ended up posting a lot here. I'm trying just to post more thoughtful and personal things only (forgot a couple of times), but it's getting a bit too daft, so after Mother's Day (being half-way-ish), I'm going to try to forswear LJ as well. I'm learning a lot about how difficult it is and what it means to me, if nothing else (and what a mess I am!). :
8th March 2015
TW: what to do about it?
I see a few things marked with TW, which I assume means trigger warning. The problem, though, is that they then go on to immediately mention stuff and trigger it. Because it's usually prominent, for obvious reasons, even if I'm just scanning, I end up seeing it. :
I think it's a great idea in principle, I might start doing it myself. But I assume that there must be some pieces of software that people use to hide things which match certain phrases so that they never see them? Am I just out of the loop on this?
7th March 2015
Yea! (Fear of Evil)
The way people talk about the recent IS attacks, (I don't mean the media, but people you talk to) have led me to an odd conclusion, that people very much fear evil, even those who you would think of as being thoroughly secular. I suppose the idea came in contrast to the many recent deaths we've been near due to accident, illness, or injury. (For example Nimoy's unenviable death from COPD which is a horrible end has barely touched people's consciousness). :
There are other explanations, but I think each of those words is the best for what I've observed: it's fear rather than revulsion, indignation, longing, desire, &c; and it's evil rather than pain, death, torture, injustice, &c.
By fear I mean, well, fear: being frightened. And by evil I mean some kind of motivating principle with many of the properties of independent volition and which is seen as immoral.
It seems surprising to me that this idea still has such a strong hold in such a secular country. It's an unenviable position to be in: to abolish god but retain the devil. It's odd and sad to see this so strong in so many people.
Drawing the idea out more widely, a "fear of evil" motivation seems to explain things that are commonly dismissed as irrational (ie lack of being as superbly clever as the interlocutor) like a dislike of things radioactive, or preferences for instant death by certain kinds of weaponry over others.
(I'm not here to win a silver cup, and don't feel particularly inclined to enter into a debate about things like this. It's not a conclusion I can justify to three decimal places with accompanying enfilade machine-gun fire, howitzers, and cavalry charges, and if that's the only way you believe stuff, I suggest you ignore this post. I am interested in your opinions and observations if you are inclined to provide them, and will accept them as your conclusions, equal in weight to mine. But I will not defend my own. The eighteenth century is over there).
4th March 2015
A flight to Japan
That post has reminded me of a story about Rostropovich. :
He was good friends with a very successful Sumo wrestler, Chiyonofuji Mitsugu. When Rostropovich heard that the wrestler's infant daughter had suddely died (of SIDS), unannounced he took a plane from Europe to Tokyo, took an hour long taxi ride from the airport and played the piece of music in this video outside Mitsugu's house. He then went home. It was the same piece which he played as an encore when he found himself at the Proms the night after the soviets had rolled tanks into Prague to put down the Prague spring.
2nd March 2015
Deanna Troi is now director of Mossad
Deanna Troi is now director of Mossad. Just thought you'd like to know. :
28th February 2015
There seems to be something about daughters and their fathers, and clocks. It's just something that pops up over and again both in literature and in real life conversations. I don't know where it comes from. Often people will keep stopped watches. :
My grandfather worked for EMEB reading electricity meters (when he was too infirm to do anything more exciting for them). He was bald and wore thick black "NHS" glasses, and loved dominoes and wrestling on TV, and you could imagine him sitting at the back of a working man's club with his halves of mild in D H Lawrence, or James Joyce, or Phoenix Nights.
They themselves lived in a house which was fitted out for electricity some time after it was built and had a massive plyboard panel onto which was nailed all manner of fuses, and so on, placed right by their main door (which was the back door, Lincoln is far enough "north" for that). I was fascinated by the whirring meter (which hadn't been oiled since installation by the noises it made). It was of the electromechanical kind, with the Aluminium disk and the dials, encased in a thick Bakelite bonnet.
We have a meter like that at our house at the moment. We got a letter today asking us to contact our electricity supplier with some urgency and for us to take a meter reading. Having taken the reading, I see why. The meter is reading exactly the same value as it did eight months ago, to the tenth of a kWh.
I suppose we'll be getting a soulless, new-fangled smart meter with all kinds of stupid genuine people personality.
My grandfather died when I was fourteen. He had angina for many of his later years. My mother has a wheelbarrow which he got from saving up tokens from John Player Specials. She is angry that he smoked so heavily, and takes it out on the wheelbarrow.
The only other things my mother really says about him is that she didn't get on with him particularly well, and that I remind her of him more than anyone else she's known.
Sic transit gloria mundi.
27th February 2015
The Four Square Internet Affair
For a while I've been having a funny feeling when I see updates from "Foursquare" which I realise means that there's an association that's almost there. Today, I was slowly losing my mind arguing with Amazon's EC2 web interface which has "North Virginia" as one of its locations (and one we use a lot). Well, we all know how "North Virginia" in the US is a bit like "Cheltenham" in the UK, it's a place where a lot of technical people work doing things which are a bit vague and a Foursquare update came in. :
That's when I remembered, the Four Square Laundry affair. This was an army operation in Northern Ireland in the seventies when intelligence officers disguised themselves as laundry workers and offered ridiculously cheap laundry services. They'd take the laundry and check it for gunpowder and explosive residues and also the measurements of clothes so that they can see when people might be harbouring visitors on the run. They also photographed folk from the van, and tried to befriend them.
Now I see why social networking and Foursquare had this additional background connection in my head. For all anyone knows, Amazon EC2 could even be a Four Square Laundry type operation! Even if not, someone must have thought of it: offering ridiculously cheap hosting at scale as an intelligence gathering operation and, hey, it's just down the road from Langley.
I'm also guessing, given its privacy-busting offerings, that the Foursquare Inc guys either aren't from the UK, are whippersnappers, or have a very, very dark sense of humour.
(In the end, the IRA found out about the laundry and a massage parlour [which was a similar set up], and killed an undisclosed number of people operating them).
26th February 2015
This picture (by Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO) is among my favourites. Eve and Mary must be among the most human people in the whole bible (as archetypes rather than characters). :
It's always amazed me how Mary, in tradition, took with such good grace being screwed over (I mean she was hardly involved with the family planning, was she?). So when I see the statues I often wonder at the good humour she seems to be taking it in. I can't help thinking that sitting round the table eating that there wouldn't have been loads of weird, scary The Omen type moments or vaguely unsettling sort of Alien or parasitism type things going on in her head, I don't mean rationally, I kind of mean, I dunno, insert mumbo-jumbo word here (subconsciously, dreamingly, ...). Maybe there wasn't (because she was marvellous?). I know it's not a desirable life goal (I doubt it was hers!) but anyway, if you're round our way, Mary, feel free to pop in for a cup of tea.
I also love the way (as she often is), Mary is treading on the snake barefoot. It seems like a totally Mary thing to do. Just in a kind of, "Oh, let me kill that snake for you" kind of way.
I've got a lot of time for Eve, as well. I mean who hasn't been taken in by, or engaged in, a bit of razzle-dazzle? It would be hard to understand what a human would be without it. A bit like those tiny quantum wobbles at the start of the Universe being magnified to intergalactic scales, it's more than a bit hard on the lass to place the weight of the world on her shoulders particularly, as an innocent lass, she wouldn't really know the weight of the world until it's too late. She must also be a bit screwed up with the whole weird origin story thing, and the weird, sick-inducing genital modification as punishment thing.
So they both seem like they're in a kind of "on behalf of the reader" kind of role in a book filled with weird shit, whacky goings on and really strange people. I doubt a real Eve would be Evey all the time, or a real Mary Maryey, but we all have moments! I can't really ever say that I've had a Noah moment or a Jonah phase, but maybe that's just because I didn't Join Up, :-).
In this picture I can sense a real something passing between the two of them with the bump and the apple because of the whole "Look guys, this shit is way above my pay-grade" kind of thing, which basically summarizes what life is mainly like, :-).
And the wonderful thing is that the thing exchanged (which I am unable to find the words for) doesn't seem one way at all. It could easily be, you know, Mary parachuted in with a blue hat, twig, and pigeon, but it doesn't seem like that at all. There doesn't seem to be judging going on at all because I think they see each other as each other.
But in the bump, of course, there's also the consolation of, I suppose, new beginning, not as a kind of abdication (which is all too common in parents), but as a proxy for the deeply spooky ideas of selves and others which really provides a kind of escape and refuge from endless masturbatory self-justification and which people find in sex, birth, death, meditation, drugs, etc.
I know there's been a lot of traffic over our lifetimes which is rarely positive for these two lasses as archetypes, but I see them more as temperamental humours, so I hope that I haven't created an humoral reaction in you, :-) [see what I did there?].
Today my counsellor said that he thought I could be extremely bleak sometimes, which brought me up short, so I thought of this picture as a kind of reaction to this, as a kind of sentimentality?
14th February 2015
Last one for a While, Promise!
I'll try to put something useful here soon, I rpomise, even if it's only more fanfic! :
13th February 2015
Not a good day again, so I decided to try scribbling without any plan or letting any censorship or thought or anything get in the way, not even trying for particular shapes. Somehow I ended up with lesbian vampires, like you do. Not sure if it does any good, but can't be as bad as hitting refresh in a browser endlessly. I'll just be the one sitting in the corner drawing pictures, :-) . :