Tuesday, August 30, 2005

2005-07-14 006 Magnetic fridge lettersDamn Dan (coincidentally, having been playing round with RSS, I am fully aware that I've been over doing the Dan-ness quotient. It's just that he posts good stuff regularly). He played with the fridge magnets, I played with the fridge magnets. He stopped, I forgot to.

This led to me producing a whole slew of mock-Ono musings [see end of post for a selection], most of which where defined by the available words (which are much less adaptable than single letters, where one can rotate an n for a c). However, I found it much more interesting to watch the patterns of use of the words.

Some people will go in and grab anything they want, regardless of whether it's in use already. Some scavenge from the edges and sentences already broken. Some pull a word backwards and forwards between them. Some seek to create full paragraphs, complete with punctuation. Some make short phrases. Some just make patterns out of the tiles. And some sort the words by type.

Most people only use words close to their sentence. The rate of drift of words is slow, as proved by the clustering of farming related words which lingered for days (I'd collected them all into something haiku-esque. The sentences changed, the words didn't). Some words stay fixed in position, with sentences ebbing and flowing around them.

It's odd how the patterns rapidly became much more interesting than the sentences made (an internet word toy containing the words sheep, beans and computer is pretty much a forgone conclusion). What surprised me is the development of analogous to genetic change. A sentence forms, but soon the verbs start flickering through other options. It grows as someone inserts a couple of adjectives. Someone else reorders the end and extends it. It splits; three words cling on together, the first chunk of the sentence is dragged off elsewhere, and the rest is pillaged for anything useful, as words buried beneath the changes reappear. The process starts again.

Moving on from unexpected evolution (is it evolution?) to geeky funkiness. LD has incorporated on his grown-up site a chunk of Google Maps to show the positions and topics of various sets of his photographs (hmm, not a good topic for something which is part of the internet, as I'm studiously avoiding posting a direct link which makes it too easy to match up the pseudonym and real him. Anyway, the other Dan is not too hard to find). I'm far too impressed and have no idea how he did it. Well, I know it's something to do with Javascript because he said so, but like most computer stuff, I only know things through peering at someone else's code, prodding it a bit, pulling stuff out and seeing what happens (usually not a lot).

So I browsed his site, wondering whether I should start up a commercial Anyhoo photography site (closely followed by a whole chain including the BOGOF-pavlova-heavy AnyFood; the DIY site, AnyGlued; the dating site, AnyDude; the porn site, AnyLewd; and the Google busting whois site, Anywho. I'm also considering the A-Team tribute site, AnyFoo'), although if I was actually paying for stuff I might have to do in in my own name (but then I'd have to lose all the potential referrals from here, unless I merge the two, which given how problematic the overlap of professional and not-in-[the-same]-public selves appears to be... Decisions, decisions).

Anyway, the commercial entity is currently filed under mañana, mañana (and I just so happen to have some wildlife shots taken near Lake Manyara - POA), with possibly a vague hint of "I might actually do it".

While perusing Dan's site, I was surprised to find that he didn't have his beer promotion shot filed under Brighton (just realised that all his geographical sets tended to be the local church or similar, rather than local people who could be anywhere [for some values of anywhere]. Besides, I'm not sure how it'd sell).

It's cheesy and daft, but that's why it works. But it is the wrong beer. Surely, given the event, the tagline ought to be "Whatever You Do, Take Pride"?

(Which happens to be a monumentally unfulfilled advertising campaign. I actually had to add "Fullers" before Google could get past "Take Pride in Mansfield, Ohio!", which considering they've been running the series since 1996.... For more information, try Fuller's frames-laden [how nineties; even I can code those] website)

Oh, and Dan, sorry to have to do this again, but Brighton's beach is not "it's beach", but "its beach". And being ultra pedantic, is it a good idea to list in one's portfolio a site whose first page states that the 2004 version is under construction and then in the same sentence entreats the viewer to "please come back soon"? It rather suggests that there's nothing to see here, move along please. I know content may not be your department (and that the period of your jurisdiction is rapidly waning), but there must be something less off putting one could use. And another thing [sic], the dogs under Features on your photo site aren't. But other than that...

In events elsewhere, this site turned up in the stats. I have no idea why she's linked to me (under the heading "Random Blogs" and the proviso "Blogs that could lead to anywhere or perhaps nowhere"), and to be completely honest, I'm just not sure. It hasn't grabbed me yet, but there is such a maelstrom of topics and stances that something might still. I'm just bewildered by how a blog founded last month could have over 5,000 visitors in August. I know I'm not exactly mainstream fodder (prolefeed?), but how is it possible? Or does she use the industrial recip-me approach, or perhaps a traffic inducing company or network?

There now follows a Ono-ist interlude/a load nonsensical, aspiring to be pretentious near random amalgamations of words [DAA].
cut seven now
help small dog first
plant the gingerbread close
build said sound where ! may move
- Note the improv.
ground should follow number
- Expressing my latent surveyorness.
thresh while playing answer
- I didn't say they made sense.
live for never like infinity
write about who is here
- That stayed up for a long time.
take any old thought
find point change story
- Each time I went back someone had swapped the parts round, but the four words lingered together.
let me be
& y mill man
- Referencing slightly patchy comedy? Oh dear.

Best line not by me (and just because it made me smile):
make pie not food


London - Revolution[This post has been overtaken by events. Guess that's what happens when something is left as a draft for half a month].

I've obviously harangued a bit too much. InAcFa's joined Flickr. He's stuck one picture on his account (it's people singing in a river. I don't know either). However, due to the wonder that is Exif data I know that he owns a Canon Eos 1D Mark II.

Is that one of the series where as the model number loses a zero the price gains one? So that would mean it's [Google-ing] about $4,000 or £3,000 pounds (or £2.2k on eBay, ex. VAT. They've come down a lot since I lasted looked, unless I've got models mixed up). That's the sort of camera I'd lust after, but wouldn't actually want because I'd be too scared to take it out of the packaging in case I break it (unless I had no-holds-barred insurance, which would probably cost about half the value of the camera). Then there's the lens to think of. His was on 125 mm. My zoom only goes up to 70. So his is 55 mm more. That's a whole lens on its own!

The other settings don't tell me much, except that the Canon doesn't bother with any imprecise rounding. Why say a third when you can say 11184811/33554432?

I have to admit to being confused by the differing values of the shutter speed and the exposure. Surely one is the other? Unless they actually mean the speed at which the shutter travels. I didn't even know one could vary that.

But other than finding myself becoming supremely jealous, his exif data has finally spurred me to look up what that YCbCr thing is. Now I know, just don't ask me to explain it.

I've just noticed the original image dimensions: 3,512 x 2340 = 8.2 million pixels = about three monitor widths (although I've just noticed my monitor isn't on the very highest setting. I'm sure there's a reason for this, I just can't remember it). Ok so the camera I routinely borrow churns out 5 million. Maybe it's just the SLR-dom that awes me.

Anyway, enough of the envy. Onto other stuff. WS has returned and taken to writing boyband orientated gay porn (which suffers from a slight excess of throbbingness, but other than that is fairly amusing [it is meant to be crap, isn't it? We are laughing with, not at, aren't we?]. Of course only I would be reading sniggerably badly written fetish fiction and midway through think "Does it?" - the burning comment).

There goes any hope of MSN letting me back into their search results. Well, if they're stupid enough to use MSN (currently featuring "7 cool compliments that aren't corny")...

And now we continue our occasion series on Dan related items; this time with a different Dan. [Er, I can't remember what this was. Probably something to do with he of City of Sound].

Other asides:
Those "7 Million Londoners, 1 London" banners which are everywhere round London (well, central London). As sponsored by e or EDF energy, otherwise known as Électricité de France. Just an observation.

Flickr on the BBC. Sorry, but I was just surprised that something I've known about for a while popped up on the BBC News website. News is what happens to other people, isn't it? Good use of colloquialisms though.


Friday, August 26, 2005

CF8 600 - People - 32 TemptationDan commented on his blog that he'd sold some prints. His other website says he sells his pictures at £10.99 for 10x8 print. He mentions using Photobox printing. Photobox's website shows they charge £1.99 for a single 10x8 print, plus £1.50 for 1st class post and packaging. £10.99 less £1.99 is £9.00. Take away postage that's £7.50.

Seven pounds fifty [short term*] profit on one image? I think I ought to take up selling mine. He also mentions selling rights to images for reproduction elsewhere. Suddenly I'm interested (well, I was anyway, but...). So how much does he charge? Does print come at different from electronic copies? Does he charge a blanket rate? A graduated scale depending on number of copies or pageviews? Is there a minimum charge? Does he give discounts and freebies if he thinks it will increase his kudos (for want of a better word)? Being able to include the City of New York amongst one's customers does have a certain appeal.

Not that I'm asking because I want to buy his pictures (although...), but mostly because I'm curious and completely unaware of the commercial side. Part of me thinks "I could do that", and then the rest of me remembers I'm not that good, and, oh, what's this? Someone on Flickr has just invited me to join a group where, as far as I can tell, the point is to encourage other people to delete their photographs, when not heaping insults and criticism upon them. Like I need any one else to do that. Depressingly the photographs subjected to such treatment all seem to be pretty good. Besides, I'm getting better (at not posting the truly awful). I think I have come to accept the unusual weather features do not necessarily make the best subjects (especially not when the I only notice two thirds of the way through that the exposure compensation is on +2, so the sunset looks distinctly more nuclear than normal).

2005-07-13 016 Striped GazaniaAnd have I mentioned Flickr to you? Because it has come to my notice that if I mention a good photograph of mine, and provide a link to it, very few people follow it. Whereas if I provide a small version, with a link to a larger version, then about 5 times as many people follow it. How lazy are you people? Don't you actually read this? Er... don't answer that. But anyway, do you really need big colourful splodges, which preferably say "Click here", before you'll either notice something or click on it?


PS. Will they never learn? The link was sent out to a group in an effort to cheer up someone who was complaining about most things American and: imagine Milton Keynes in the middle of a sauna during a golfing convention and this is Augusta.

I'm not sure how the article was supposed to cheer up her (worse things happen in Texas?), but it made a change from the unable-to-be-repeated-in-public jokes.

*Because I'm overlooking the costs of equipment, time, archiving, website creation and hosting, tax, insurance and God knows what else. Although camera equipment and time spent taking photographs can be written off under hobby/preserving sanity. His website is a glorified CV holder and sampler of his computing skills, so has benefits in terms of his future career (and, Dan, you might want to stick an apostrophe in "peoples" - it's on the first line of ~/photography/usage/). I'm not sure quite what tax applies, so I'll just ignore it (nice healthy attitude to have). And insurance is usually a good thing to have anyway. [Up]

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

IMGP0242 Portsmouth Spinnaker TowerGiven the content of the last post, do you think I might have had phones on my mind? Blame South West Trains.

On Friday when leaving London, I did the usual charge down the platform at Waterloo. Why? It's amazing how many people pile into the first carriage, then find themselves standing for the whole journey. Whereas people used to Waterloo speed off down the platform, ignoring half empty carriages until they get to a nearly empty carriage. Why avoid the half empty carriage? Because most other people coming down grab the first seat they see, so the train fills from the back. So the half empty carriage becomes yet another carriage filled with damply harried men dropping briefcase on other people.

This technique works superbly until one suddenly discovers the stupid thing only has 5 carriages. In which case one takes the nearest, still fairly empty carriage. Which happened to be the "quiet" one (it never is; usually it's full of people tutting and ostentatiously clearing their throats - don't they know that it's supposed to be quiet?).

So being a good little boy, I duly obeyed the signs banning mobile phones and stuck my phone on silent.

Cut to late on Sunday:
Having finished charging my razor (rule number 4: never ever let anyone "borrow" the two round pins to three rectangular ones adaptor, no matter how fleetingly they claim it will be), I realised my phone was probably running low as well. So... oh. It's not there. Maybe, I left it o... no. Unless it w... no. Er...

Think, think! When did I last have it? Did X ring mobile or landline? Mobile I think, so it must be just... no. Where could it have fallen? Not there. I know, I'll do the clever thing; I'll ring it.

Ring ring, ring ring... invented the phone.
Nothing. At least it's ringing, even if I can't hear it.

Try again, but running into a different room this time.
Still nothing.

But it must be here, because I had it in the pocket of my bag on the train, and no one came near me for the whole journey. I'll check the pocket again. I'll check all the other pockets as well.


It must have fallen down somewhere, so I can't hear it. Where would I leave it? So where could it fall? But I didn't hear the buzzing, and if was down the back of something whatever it was behind would be shaking.

"...can't hear it" equals...
[internal thunking as I get lemon-lemon-bell, which is about as close as I ever get]

I put it on silent when I got on the train, and I put in the inside pocket of my jacket because then I'd feel it.

Open wardrobe, insert hand, two missed calls, both me.

But at least I didn't feel as foolish as I did when going out on Friday. Left slightly late, bit worried about various things. Realised I hadn't got my phone. Ran back, then back in, nearly leaving my keys in the door. Hare round frantically looking for my phone. I can't find it. Ring myself. I can hear it ringing, but I can't tell where it's from. It sounds like it's in the kitchen, but as I enter it, it obviously isn't. Maybe it's coming through from my bedroom. I run, and as I turn the corner the sound apparently shifts and it's coming from back where I was. It must be in something. It stops as I scurrying back to hang up.

It's about at that point I feel my rucksack bouncing against my back. My rucksack which I normally put my phone in. And yes it's in there, although it's fallen out of the smaller internal pocket. At least a dog chasing its own tail only runs in one direction.

This is why friends are important. Especially those with problems. A constant stream of people ringing you does at least mean you're constantly being reminded where your phone is (even if it is at 4.20 am [Hello? Huh? Oh. Hel... No, listen. Remember we talked about this drunk-dialling thing. You're not drunk? Right... M-mmm. Did he? Good-o. Oh, not good? Yeah. Well... thanks for sharing, yes, I know, but I'm sure you'll get over it, I'm going to hang up now, but I suspect you're so far gone you won't notice for at least half an hour, and when you ring up to complain that I hung up on you, you'll probably ring your parents instead. Ok then, bye]).

But enough of proving just how thick I can be and on to trying to pull the world sideways. I had a slight "Google maps does, do why don't the BBC weather maps" incident in each I cruelly manhandled East Anglia. Trying to drag the country doesn't work. You can't even use directional arrows (and how passé are they?) like the bad old Streetmap/Multimap. I know sticking in the coding would probably kill the un-broadbanded, but if the BBC can ditch half the detail because it discourages the hard of thinking, then surely they have the power to counterbalance the increased television audience with a slimmed down web user base? And if the new weather maps haven't increased the number of people watching them then remind me why they had to ditch isobars.

I heard on the news earlier something about the surge in crime on public transport (following 7th July). Apparently the powers that be are worried that revised licensing laws will increase alcohol related crime on public transport.

So let me get this straight; they're worried that later closing times in pubs will lead to more aggressive drunk people on buses and trains?

I think I can see their fatal assumption; that there are buses and trains at that time of night.

And when is the last train home? I'm investigating trains because thetrainline.com makes it easy (and they usually run later than the buses, although I can think of obvious examples where this is reversed). I've taken reciprocal pairs, just to balance out any differences. These trains are the last trains leaving on Friday night (and into early Saturday morning); the last trains on Saturdays tend to be significantly earlier (2304 versus 0020). I've chosen mainline trains between major stations to demonstrate the absolute limit; heaven help you if you're not on the mainline.

2226 [0540] Exeter to Bristol.
2330 Bristol to Exeter.
2300 Southampton to Basingstoke.
0055 Basingstoke to Southampton.
2302 [0400] Brighton to London.
0100 London to Brighton.
2319 Portsmouth to London.
2345 London to Portsmouth.
2334 Reading to Guildford.
0001 Guildford to Reading.
0020 Oxford to Reading - Friday.
(2304 Oxford to Reading - Saturday)

0102 Reading to Oxford.

Now let's pretend that we've gone to pub, but each of us in different towns and cities. We've all just finished our drinks, and are leaving our respective pubs at quarter past eleven.

Mr Exeter, I'm sorry, but you are going to have to lie in car park in front of St David's until twenty to six tomorrow morning. I suggest you go and find a friendly student who lives in the university accommodation next door to sleep with.
Miss Southampton, assuming you've even found the station, you too are stuck until the morrow.
As is Mr Brighton, who will be spending a long time contemplating the view.
Mr Portsmouth you'd better run, although I'm fairly sure anywhere decent is beyond 4 minutes away from the station.
Miss Reading, you've got quarter of an hour. Except you're in Reading, so nowhere actually shuts at eleven.
Mr Oxford, congratulations you might be able to catch your train. Just as long as you only go out on Fridays.

The people travelling the other way get the better deal, but even then some of them don't leave much staggering time. So in about half the sample towns you'd need to be fairly uninebriated to actually catch the train.

That's how everything stands now. Come November and pubs staying open later, what proportion of the last trains (assuming no extended services from the train companies, which based on past experience I think is a fairly safe assumption) will leave before the pubs close? So how many more drunk people will be taking the trains, and consequently what rise in alcohol related crime on public transport should we expect to see?

So was this improbable news story just the result of some PR person frantically spinning something vaguely related? Now let's play guess the spun-upon (unfortunately I can't think of anything connected).

I've just noticed, the 2319 from Portsmouth to London arrives at 0453, with a stop-over in Guildford. The latest direct train is at 2219. So if you're off gigging at the Pyramids (it's a swimming pool!), you'd probably better leave just before the warm up act finish.

The astute may also notice that I don't mention how many trains run before the last train home; in some cases they're like the Tube, in others there may be a train about 1 am, but the last train before that leaves at quarter past ten. It's all very irregular.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

2005-08-16 057 Sunlit SailSo I'm gone for a week, and what happens?

Er, Mr I've-forgotten-what-I'm-currently-calling-him over at InAcFa tells me to have patience, but still hasn't answered the question. At this juncture I would just like to remind everyone of the NIAM part of PIAVPIIYCSIAWNIAM*. I also wish to draw your attention to the presence of a post about the Whingealot Club** which was written after I was told to have patience (I am aware it's not actually called that, but I misread it at first).

And finally, being horrifically ill is no excuse.

* Patience is a virtue,
Possess it if you can,
Seldom in a woman,
Never in a man.

My mother used to say if I was impatient. It usually made things worse.

** Although it has inspired me to add the tag "England" where relevant to most of my photographs on Flickr. Admittedly it's not so much about anti-Prescott-regionalism, more due to my annoyance that nobody is looking at stuff on Flickr, and so becoming a complete link-whoring-tag-spammer (although it's not spam per se, merely excessive use of tags). This paragraph makes no sense if you do not use Flickr. You should (despite the creeping Yahoo-isation), and it will.

I think my record is this little picture, but the tags contain the transcription of the contents, so it's not surprising. And that picture was taken purely from a documentative stand point (with a smidge of "ooh, nice light" thrown in), because I'd never noticed the plaque before.

What else?

London Dan has been staying in suprising kinder. Two words: Bill Bailey.

Ok, so those two words lead into quite a few more, as BB explains the English predeliction for Kinder Surprise. It's because we like disappointment. The chocolate tastes awful, the toy either has a bit missing or is profoundly pointless.

Hang on, someone out there quotes the relevant bit:
"I'm English, and as such I crave disappointment. That's why I buy Kinder Surprise. Horrible chocolate; nasty little toy. A double whammy of disillusionment! Sometimes I eat the toy out of sheer despair."

Somebody else's BB quote:
"Crap chocolate, crap toy. In fact, I prefer to call them the eggs of numbing inevitability. Tell you what WOULD be good... open it up, there's a creme egg in there. Oooh! The wonder!"

Where was I?

And the first person to say "here/there" gets a slap.

As does anyone who tries arguing that I've probably been in quite a few places, and so answering the question honestly my take some time.

In fact, anyone attempting to answer rhetorical questions deserves to be force fed Kinder Surprises - toys, capsules and all - until such time as they open one and can truthfully say "That's just what I've always wanted".

Of course the same punishment applies to anyone not answering any question which is not rhetorical.

Anyway, so I go away for a week and what happens? I manage to keep missing the news, so I end up relying on Ceefax. In turn I see each day yet another Madonna related headline:
Woman falls off horse. Not Queen Shock!
Madonna to give up yoga for months. We must brace ourselves.
Madonna faring well. But how's the horse doing?
Madonna leaves hospital. chapel; cleaner suspected of statue theft. Or She dead then? I didn't know she owned a hospital.
Madonna to ride again. Just as well; Pestilence wouldn't go without her.

Ok, easy target, so I'll move on.

Talking of, erm, well, I was talking about other people and their blogs earlier, so returning to that theme, I've updated the sidebar. A slight bit of rejigging, and several new blogs. Some are reciprocating, some simply things I've stuck into the bookmarks at this end for one reason or another.

American Robin works in Bamako and generally travels around Mali.
Bomba News is a blatant recip. I have no idea why he linked to me, and have only just discovered that he had. Hence posting a link to an apparently very recently extinct blog. He's a trainee maths teacher who was in Tanzania for a few months. I'm working my way through his writing from that time.
City of Sound. Yet another Dan in London. This one works for the BBC, writes about lots of things, all of which are interesting, and is generally annoyingly good. He also posts writing from his friend in Shanghai.
I didn't mean to but... tells the story of the restoration and conversion of a trawler currently moored on Fareham Creek. Worth it if only for this quote (which he attributes to a book): If it's supposed to move and doesn't, use WD40. If it's not supposed to move and does, use duct tape.
Rachel's Blog. Recip of a resurrected blog. And why's she know what TWOC means? I had to look it up.
Random musings and life. Ignore the spelling mistake in the description, and the Edit-Me links (although if you're struggling to think of what to put in them... ay en why dash); the posts are good.
The Kyle West. Revamped blog, which I originally bookmarked under the original name (and location) of Ethnoblog. I kept the link because I wanted to find out what happened in the security guard saga, and then promptly forgot to go back.

Anyway, so I was elsewhere briefly. I managed to do some sailing, which largely consisted of discovering I sound exactly like my brother when the crew or the helm is not doing something properly, or is being pathetic, deliberately obtuse, or keeps forgetting that when sailing in light wind, the boom tends to sit above the heaviest person the boat (and at several pounds underweight I've got no hope of balancing out 15st of wronging positioned person), so would they kindly stop tacking us by perpetually trying to be on the windward side of the boat.

But then I also sailed a Laser for the first time. I haven't singlehanded in ages, and I'm used to aft-sheeting. When I got back to shore I was congratulated for performing a series of excellent roll tacks. It's a bit late now, but when should I have mentioned that I'd got in such a muddle trying to tack with an unfamiliar tiller extension and the sheet coming from the wrong end that I'd dropped the extension and lost control of the rudder, so the tacks were involuntary, and the rolling was mostly my attempts to avoid the boom.

It was like being a 6 year old at Rockley again. I got taught that when in trouble drop everything. While sailing an Oppy, I thought I was, so I did. The Oppy promptly sailed in very small, rapid circles until I stopped cowering in the bottom of the boat and grabbed the centred the tiller (and which point it started sailing backwards). Obviously whoever thought of the drop everything advice didn't intend it to be applied in the top end of a six, and they probably didn't think anyone would be foolish enough to let the tiller go hard over.

Back to now-ish, and the Laser is ridiculously tippy. My habitual response to any "I don't like this" situation still mirrors the "let everything go". Except now I don't, but instead ease off the sheet and maybe head up a bit. Which in a Laser only changes the side of the boat you're about to fall off.

Eventually I get some confidence, enough to start hiking out and hoping it doesn't capsize, rather than deliberately stalling it. But in doing so I realise I have to strain to see anything past the sail, which is giving me a crick in my neck, and that the constant stomach crunches needed to keep the boat at the same angle are gradually increasing the size of my dinghy sailor's crescent (like builder's bum, except it starts and ends higher up, and is usually scorched red against the rest of a pale white body). No wonder sailors always have bad backs (although I hurt mine trying to get the Highfield lever on in the Wayfarer, when I wasn't in it).

So I go back in, having not yet capsized (well, I am me). The wind round the sailing club is weak, and I'm scarcely making headway. Coming through the moored boats I see two swimmers, and so give them a fairly wide berth. Unfortunately because I was going so slowly I forgot to keep an eye on everything. I'd positioned myself well, knew where everything was and would be. So I carried on along the same course. Something shifted slightly. I didn't notice. I'm just passing the swimmers, thinking of my course round the next boat, when suddenly echoing out across the becalmed beach is a single dong.

Very end of boom versus stern quarter of large bright orange safety boat. Equals no noticeable damage, except the lingering sound of a tubular bell. Equals the entire population hearing it. Equals my pride sinking quicker than a Dory without the bungs in.

And I thought having to play Roger with a helm who turned the wrong way coming into shore was bad enough.

Explanations: Roger, in Swallows and Amazons, leaps over the bow to stop Swallow grounding. When coming into shore, it is preferable to end up head to wind, to reduce way and eventually stop the boat. This is because fibreglass versus hard abrasive materials like sand or stones is not a good thing (even if I have seen someone sail a Dart several metres beyond the end of the sea). So the helm turns the boat into the wind, as the crew jumps off the bow into shallow water to hold her off the shore. So when the helm bears away, when the wind is blowing along the shore, the sails gain power and boat gains speed, and yet the boat still heading towards the beach. So the Roger has to take a running jump over the bow, land ahead of the boat, get a secure footing, and then stop and hold the boat which is still trying to sail forward.

Thankfully there was hardly any wind, so it wasn't very hard (and of course I waited till I knew I wasn't going to disappear into the sea and then under the boat. It's always fun watching visitors who don't realise the shore shelves).

So that was fun. As was the conversation with the man who is the man who interupted his set to start singing Jerusalem, only didn't know the words (and who soundly slightly stoned. I'm not sure if it was voluntary or residual). Then came the great act of business inducing raising of the Wayfarer. Heavy boat which needs to be pulled uphill, and oh look, all the sunbathers are suddenly leaving or feigning intense interest in the bottom of some bag. Most of said sunbathers take umbrage if no-one comes to help them move their boats. Heaven forfend if a boat should be [part] made of wood.

What else? I rediscovered the joy of swimming with fins (I did get a mask and snorkel, but they had to go back as the strap didn't work. Helpful design feature), so tested my new fins by kicking on my back. It's quite fun riding your own bow wave.

I swam round the old pier umpteen times, including manhandling an ensnared windsurfer with boy on it through the piles.

I took just a few photographs, some of which maybe be better than the Hampshire lot.

I got summoned back. Which wasn't as nice.

I drove back, with slightly too much accelerating when already going quite fast. Personally I blame the other drivers (especially Bloody Mindless Wankers who realise they're being overtaken by a C-reg and so accelerate). I'll just have to claim that I thought I was in Germany.

Anyway, 90's not that fast (in case any policemen are reading, I am of course referring to Joe 90, and his running, which is quite fast for a puppet. Yes, it does appear to be an abrupt change of topic, but then that is in keeping with the erratic style of this blog).

Having said that, I'm fairly sure every member of this family who was able to drive (and we're going back a least a couple of generations) has done a ton, some of them legally. (Once again Mr Policeperson [Mr Policeperson? I'll never get this PC thing], I am not referring to that which it may appear I am referring to, but instead I mean that each of my relatives has done a ton of something else, such as cocaine, although I am aware that it is very remiss of me not to provide metric equivalents).

So are speed limits (well, the very upper speed limits, or "Derestricted" as my mother calls it; you can see where I get it, can't you?) merely for the lesser mortals?

(Hello Mr Policeyman-sir, "speed limits" in this case denoting the total amount of speed which can be safely consumed by one individual in a 24 hour period).

Spot who has just finished Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and wasn't quite sure what to make of it (and didn't know what half the drugs were).

Other recent books include:
"The Heart of the Matter" by Graham Greene. About a Catholic in a West African colony. Odd, but I don't understand Catholicism.
"Bush Falls" by someone or other. Ronseal-ish (does exactly what it says on the back cover).
"The Laments". Weird. A bit crap. Not even entertaining.

I've just started an Iain M Banks (The Algebraist), and am up to Baroque in the Pevesner thing I must have mentioned before.

Anyway, so did London stuff at the end of last week, as I had to be there while wondering whether it really was a good idea (the specific thing, not London generally, unlike a certain daft friend. Anyway reason for being in London gets complicated, so forgive me if I just gloss right over the whole thing).

So what is a boy stuck in the hinterland of Bloomsbury to do when he finishes whatever it was at 5 pm. Get the tube and the train home? No! Especially not in rush hour (which while it sounds misnamed actually isn't. Time passes slower the faster an object moves [or something vaguely like that]. The hour of rush hour is measured from the perspective of the people rushing everywhere. Therefore because they are moving fast time is slower for them, and so a single hour of their time lasts 3 and half hours of the sedentary external observer's time. Hence while it appears to last longer than an hour, to those at the epicentre of the rush it is only an hour).

Wander round despising the rain (Good afternoon, could I speak to God please? Is he? Oh. Do you know when he'll be back? Right. I was ringing up because I ordered a summer back in April, and then got it quite a lot later, which I wasn't too happy about. Since I received, it's hardly gone a week without some problem or other. It keeps breaking down and leaking rain everywhere. Yesterday it just churned this grey stuff that covered everything, and I couldn't get any of it off all day. Basically it's simply not what I expected. You advertise yourselves as a quality brand, and then deliver such... Oh? Well, either a new one or a refund. I'd prefer a new one, because I wanted a summer, and I can't go the entirety of August having rain every other day. Ah, so, how bad is this backlog? Oh, I see. So no hope of one this side of Christmas? Oh dear. So do you want me to send this one back to get the refund? You only do store credit? But I don't want anything else. I don't care if November's on multibuy. I don't want a free February. I want my money back. Look, is there some way I can leave a message for God; does he have a direct line? Voicemail? You started giving contracts to the competition then? What? No, the Devil. Er, never mind. You'll put me through? Right, thanks, bye. Your call is important to us. Please hold. #Greensleves#. Welcome to the Heaven answerphone. Your call cannot be taken right now. To leave a message please speak after the tone. To re-record your message at any time, please press 1. Click... do-Do-DO The number you have dialled has not been recognised. Please replace the handset and try again. do-Do-DO. The number...). Find out exactly where the British Museum is. Go in. Discover it's open till fairly late (different bits of it shut at different times). Go back out to try and take photographs. End up hokey-cokeying on the portico.

Then back in, round the courtyard - I like museums where they've taken the "ah, sod it" approach to photography. However I don't like it when I get a very arch look (from a woman whose eyebrows already arch a suspicious amount) for kneeing
before Polixenes (or whoever) while photographing him. Look it was Friday afternoon I wasn't going to be at my most "The early Magimix period you say? I thought it was post-Kenwood".

Admittedly, I was aware that I walked into a museum with the sole intentions (ignore the single-plural dichotomy there) of taking photographs, seeing the scary horse (my grandfather had a model of the knackered horse from the Elgin Marbles. I always hated it. I thought I ought to see it before they get shipped off to Greece), and maybe buying a postcard.

I walked up the outside of the Rotunda, found I was on the third floor, checked the map, tried to walk into the Greece and Rome gallery, discovered it was look, was a bit disappointed, walked down to the ground floor, found the blockbuster galleries where still open, sought out the Marbles (complete with some very fine arses), was far too amused the combination of classical and neoclassical stonework, found the horse, wandered a bit more, went out, struggled not to laugh at the following exchange.
Fat, probably Canadian, woman (with husband): Excuse me, where is the such-and-such?
Attendant: On the third floor, [something] the north.
Fat woman: And how do we get there?
Attendant: Through the double doors here. Take the stairs round...
Fat couple in unison: Stairs?
Attendant: Round the outside of the Rotunda. It's just at the top. There is a...
Fat woman, to her husband, ignoring the attendant as they just walk off: My goodness, I don't know, this country, can you believe they have stairs? It's...
Attendant, in the same even, calm, patient voice as before: Well goodbye then. I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit. It was really great to meet you. Have a nice day. Enjoy the rest of your life.

I shouldn't have been laughing, because the surliness at the end was incredibly rude, but then he had just had two people ignore the fact he was a human (and walk off just as he was telling them where the lifts were).

So I went on to poke my head into a few darkened galleries, before entering a Syrian hall, which was empty except for the pigeons. I have to admit to wondering about the type of mind which demands his own tag in cuneiform bands on every stone. But I was soon distracted by seeing a carved figure and thinking "Walk like an Assyrian", because he didn't have his spout hand in the right place.

Anyway, so then left, wander vaguely east, but without A-Z, so not quite sure of the route, through the bottom of one of the Inns, then eastwards a bit more, seeking out photographs (oh, did I mention the fun of changing film in the forecourt of the British Museum when it's raining and the film shreds?), eventually catching site of the reflection of a golden statue, and thinking that A. there's sun up there, and B. I recognise that.

I eventually followed the angles and came out at the Old Bailey. So I now know where that is. Ok, so I don't know how to get there again, but I've seen it. Then wandered more, and suddenly came out on a gorgeous sunlit stone tower, glowing gloriously. A couple of shots later, and I realise that it's the west end of St Paul's, seen across Paternoster Square. Probably should have twigged sooner.

Lots of St Paul's in low sun shots, then southeast, wishing I had faster film, tripod or a nice digital camera with adjustable ISO (BTW, does that effect the quality of the shots, like film does, or it just change how much light blinds it?).

Then nearly home, but on the spur of the moment decided I'd try to get urban night shots, so I thought "where's got neon? Soho!"

I then realised I was being rather fantastical, as without a tripod all I'll get is the red blur district. Anyway, I discovered that wearing a suit makes all the difference in terms of the flyers. Normally I get past ignored. I wear I suit and I get solicitations from all directions. And why I'm on it, does anyone else think it's odd that one street can be very, very gay, and the next is full of near-brothels (random thought: do gay brothels exist? Never occurred to me).

On that thought...


PS. Just realised. That BT invalid number message is a bit landline-ist: replace the handset. What's wrong with "please try to hit the red telephone button, or whatever the equivalent is on your phone, only to discover that you've in fact hit something else and have just taken a fantastic, if rather dark, photograph of the inside of your index finger; unless you have opened that text message from an unrecognised number you got sent at 3 am, which you suspect was sent while the texter was a bit drunk; or maybe you've started that game which was one of the two pre-programmed into the phone, and which consists of making the small coloured blobs change colour, and which also has not point whatsoever, other that earn someone somewhere a small programming fee, and which also has a strange mind numbing prole-feed quality to it. If you are unsure which of these options you have chosen, then you've probably just put your phone menus into Cantonese. Yes, they do do that now. And there you were wondering where the Suomi Islands where. Congratulations. You will be pleased to know that in racking up your mobile bill by listening to all this, that your network provider has just overtaken Papua New Guinea in revenues. And if you listen very carefully, you will soon hear no change as the network you are using switches to being Orange France, or O2 Eire, and so you are now being charged for making an international call from a foreign country. Please hang up now, so you friend can call you back and we can charge both them and you minute rates which match the entire CAP budget. If you would like to receive hourly status updates via text message [cost £3 per message, minimum duration 12 months. To stop, text 'STOP' to 888recurring, then chuck your phone down a black hole] then text "ME THICK" to eight-oh-one-oh-one. Please press one. To delete the message, press three. Ha-ha! You like a fool, with your listening-to-voicemail dance, as your arm bounces randomly between your ear and in front of your eyes. To listen to next message press four, to... Oh, you didn't get that? You were pressing four were you? So you missed the bit where we said just after 'press four' that by pressing four you are authorising the transfer of the deeds to your house to Pirate Telecom? Ah, well, now you see, you pressed four, so you actually did give us your house. You have been evicted; please leave the Tel Co house. Please hold, there now follows an important announcement. We are sorry. This call will be terminated. The galaxy is currently being destroyed. Some idiot brought the black hole to his phone. Please hang up and try again. Please hang up and try again. Please hang yourself and try again."

Saturday, August 20, 2005

2005-08-16 068 Broken waterWho changed Google?

For some reason, if I'm egocentric (typoed as ecogentric. Is that a word? If so, what does it mean?) enough to stick the name of the this site into Google, instead of listing 1-10 results containing "Anyhoo", it does this (with a little editing):

Anyhoo! Zekes animation showoff page.
Place your bets on a rigged ASCII drag race.
www.anyhoo.com/ - 9k - 18 Aug 2005 - Cached - Similar pages

Anyhoo (yes "anyway" was already taken).
The one and only.
any-hoo.blogspot.com/ - 85k - 18 Aug 2005 - Cached - Similar pages

Anyhoo (yes "anyway" was already taken).
The one and only, again.
any-hoo.blogspot.com/2005/07/there-must-be-airshow.html - 31k - Cached - Similar pages
[ More results from any-hoo.blogspot.com ]

Weebl and Bob - anyhoo
Mmmmmm pie! (bizarrely Weebl is the first result on Google for "pie").
www.weebl.jolt.co.uk/anyhoo.htm - 8k - Cached - Similar pages

Anyroad is not a word.
cgi.peak.org/~jeremy/retort.cgi?American=anyhoo - 6k - Cached - Similar pages
See results for: anywho

AnyWho: Internet Directory Assistance; Yellow Pages, White Pages ...
Excuse me, I asked for "Anyhoo". How long can it be before Google asks "Does he take sugar?"


AT&T: Directory: Directory Assistance
Can I have the number for Charles Gotha, of Marlborough Road, SW1? He might be listed under Saxe.
アートメイクとまつげパーマのエニフー 出張アートメイク ネイルアート ... - [ Translate this page ]
What film does "Can you not tell that I am serious?" come from?
anyhoo.main.jp/ - 42k - 18 Aug 2005 - Cached - Similar pages

Flickr: Photos from Anyhoo
"Nice" Drift Words, "Nice" Triggerfinger, "Nice" Bookmonger, "Nice" Dark Skies, "Nice" Nicola168, "Nice" Burning Champa, "Nice" cjelli, "Nice" florriebassingbourn, "Lovely" London Dan. I won't even bother counting the beautifuls.
www.flickr.com/photos/anyhoo/ - 27k - Cached - Similar pages

Um, yeah, thanks for the "new and improved" goodness guys. It's, er, just what I always wanted, because as everyone knows I am quite incapable of typing the right words into the text box (although judging by the number of people who come here seeking "Hexidemical"...), so it really is very nice to have a computer not only suggest that I mean something else, but also treat me as if I did mean something else. It's not even as if the anywho section is one of those magic hideable things which I can folded away into nothingness; instead it gives three irrelevant results, and means the next page gives results 8-17 (but fortunately does not repeat the nannying thing).

Actually I wonder what Google would do if I stuck some really rude word in it*. Did I mean French Connection UK? Here are some results on the failed Conservative Party Youth initiative with the dire name of Conservative Front UK [Ed: That should Conservative Future UK. Freud haunts me].

*Trying not to use said word as MSN has decided I am unclean. Naturally, I will forget this and say something like "bugger" or "sodding hell" which Microsoft, being all American, wouldn't consider swearing. Although mention of hell surely counts of blasphemy to those who spell a certain word G-d. Just to be on the safe side I'd better start using bl-sph-my instead.

I, of course, haven't even ventured into considering just where on the Safe For America scale the idea of sodomy comes. As I've just had someone finding my site by searching for a term which included "SEX", complete with quotation marks, I'd probably better not (although the other parts of the search term did suggest that the searcher, from Arkansas, was not a total innocent).

But then I could be cruel and cause Mountain View to implode by searching for "Cnut". Well, if it overrides my words with a more popular option, but doesn't do swearing... Californians better start hoping it remembers the many spellings of Canute.

Other searchers are slightly less NSFA:
"manu chao me gustas tu traduction francais". Er, I thought part of the song already was in French? Basically he lists of things which he gustas [likes], so it's a bit like My Favourite Things from the Sound of Music, only in Spanish and French, and with a few less kittens (and slightly more drugs, although this is contestable).

"Fillum definition". Fillum is a Northumbrian dialect word originally derived from the word film, and having much the same meaning. I use it occasionally, usually in a very self-aware way, partly because some relatives used to say film like that, and partly because I'm far too easily amused each time one of the Channel 4 continuity announcers uses it.

"Foxtons film". Please God, no.

"[Censored] and Matt Barbet [censored]". Because I believe that counts as libel, Mr Person at NTL. And anyway I only do his nostrils, or ears, or any other bit of anatomy I feel like pondering upon. Besides, the BBC London website says he lives with his girlfriend, which might, one hopes, limit the possibilities.

I'm now trying to work out when I mentioned Alistair Appleton; Google is now claiming I haven't ever. Very odd.

Coincidentally he did part of the Prom last night. Which I ended up watching, largely due to a distinct lack of either a social life, or there being anything better on. It even had shrieking women, for God's sake. And why is it that the cameramen at things like the Proms always manage to pick out the youngest and least ugly member of any choir or orchestra? They might not have all been cameramen as there were quite a few returns shots to a young guy in the choir (although I suppose it could still have been a man controlling the camera).

Which brings me to my next point. Which would you choose: Alistair Appleton or Verity Sharp?

I'd better stop, as I'm getting distracted by AA's superb blog, and in the process wondering if the person I whose eye I caught across a crowded room, pre-Perdita (I would point you in the direction of the right post, but it's been sitting as a draft since April), was a certain television presenter (I thought he looked familiar). Now let's see... two weeks before the 8th May... a draft saved on the 24th April... the same production of the same play.




Saturday, August 13, 2005

GF2 600 - 18 St Swithun WindowsWhy does he have to be so good?

[Spot the misquoted lyric*].

Stairs once again excels himself in taking incredible photographs. This time he turns on a UNESCO'd town in Morroco. And somehow the trees become painted bits of sponge on broken paper clips. The fortified town is apparently made of card. And yet it's the real thing with no sign of hardboard or papier-mâché.

The power of Vaseline. I gotta get me some. Although I too have discovered the effect of smears on a plane in front of the lens. Except rather than making a ring around the point of interest I captured perfectly a ring of clarity surrounding the greasy smudge. I think nose-window contact may have previously occurred. And it was taken from the window of a tatty coach with a basic point-and-click several years ago, and I was trying to avoid reflections, and I'm making excuses, aren't I?

Oddly this image is one of my most viewed on Flickr. Whereas if I try using Flickr's new sort-by-interestingness Flickr proceeds to tell me that a not very good image which has not been seen by anyone else, and so has had no comments or favorite-ing, is in the top ten percent of all my photographs.

Now would probably be a good time to mention the latest batch put onto Flickr, except they're mostly disappointing. Not the right light, and mostly not the right subject. I was feeling a bit uninspired.

Anyway, they're filed under Alton, Winchester and the tag end of Florid. But I've taken better.

While I remember, check out the Banksy stuff Stairs plugs.

* Bond. So now I've hauled out (can one haul an MP3?) the contents of a folder labelled themes. ...Oh why ask me-e-e-e? Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes...

Which segues into Bananaman [29 Acacia Road]. Might not have wanted all the contents of the folder. Buffy now. Have I no shame? Der-de... der-de... der-de der-de der-de-der-de

It gets better: Bergerac. It's no wonder I've no room left on this computer. Hmm, but now Winamp's getting confused, playing odd sections of the songs instead. Dr Who now. In my defence I would just like to [the Bond theme] pointed out that they were probably ported over unedited back in the days of the internal uni network.

I must type very slowly given the number of themes playing during this entry (though finger clicking to Fraggle Rock doesn't help).

Anyway, the main point of this post was to say I'm about to get busy, so might become a bit intermittent for a fair while.

Dance your cares away, worries for another day.

And to really prove I have no dignity, I would just state for the record that I always thought Fraggle Rock was in Cornwall.

Ah thangue un gornigh!


PS. Did anyone else think the beginning of Dungeons and Dragons was horribly sad? The bit where they go over the waterfall and get trapped? Just me (and my brother) being far too sensitive then?
PPS. John Williams is quite good, isn't he?
PPPS. I'm still putting off doing something (I hate selling myself. I'm me. If I have to put more than that it just sounds so false. And it's bloody raining. Can't I just curl up and go to sleep instead?).

Thursday, August 11, 2005

GF3 600 - 07 Low Road AdaptationDan has unintentionally coerced me into blogging.

His dissertation is about store-finders on websites. As he was confused by some of the conflicting results he was getting, he asked his readers to describe their use of store-finders in the hope of gaining insight.

I read his post. I read the comments. I start writing my own comment, and realised upon pasting it into Word to spellcheck, that's over a page long, which might be overdoing it for a comment.

So you get the amended version.

Personal uses of store finders.
- If there's a functioning bank in Lalaland.
- The address of a shop in Neverland.
- The opening times of the Nomansland branch.
- If there's an alternative to the one in Camberley (who the hell wants to go to Camberley?).
- If the shop in Pituitarygland does service X, or stocks product, or type of product, Y. It's amazing how many "don't do that here".

Information I provide in using storefinders
- Various parts of my home address, e.g. postcode, partial postcode, town or dialling code.
- Any other address I can lay my hands on. So friends' and relatives' addresses. Or even just borrow one from a business on the High Street (Google is handy like that).

The last action is usually in response to sites which insist on full valid* postcodes and only full valid postcodes. Often they demand seven characters or the postcode without a space in the middle or that every postcode must have a space. The sites usually do not say this until it returns an error message. I've even met some with a helpful limit of six characters (only for the very local people then?).

I know the companies see it as a cheap way to gather information on where there customers come from, but firstly it immensely pisses of quite a lot of the customers before they start (they spell out in big red letters "You are wrong", which is about as welcoming as the locked door with the small sign saying "Please use other door"). Secondly if the other customers are anything like me, they just nick a local address from elsewhere (and surely there can't be that many people living in one diving shop?).

And it does help if you can just type the name of the town, or even something like "Hove Station" and then be asked if I mean bus, railway or even lifeboat station. [Deviation: when will Gmaps do stations? It marks railways, but not any way of getting onto them]. However it gets even more annoying when they let you enter the name of the town, and then be informed that they've never heard of Swanage, and did I mean Swanwick, or would I like to find branches in Switzerland?

Another problem is as-the-crow-flies reckoning. I've been told to go to a branch on the Isle of Wight because it was 3 miles closer than a mainland shop. But I'm not sure how one teaches computers that there's something in the way, be it the Solent, Dartmoor, an army range or Heathrow, or simply a lack of decent roads or other infrastructure.

But I suspect I wouldn't be happy until the store-finder plans your route, issues live weather and traffic information and tells you where to park and how much parking costs (or where there is free parking on the road behind the car park). And it would nice if they gave information about when they usually get exceptionally busy and when they have lulls. Oh, and status reports on the staff so I know if my attempt to be charming is just going to be wasted on the surly assistant, so I needn't bother. As would providing the company position on refunds so I would know if I have to ramp up the persuasiveness or bile, or just wave the receipt and smile.

Vaguely related. Why are any public transport sites (TfL excepted) so uniformly crap? There's government run national journey planner thing (whose URL I strange haven't bothered remembering. Go Google, and if it's got bad graphics, paradoxical layout, atrophied interface and a slight lack of usability, then you've probably got it). The last time I tried using it, the site had great problems finding the start town. Eventually I found it (well, I found the name of bus stop in the town, but only got that through searching for a street name. Going well so far, isn't it?). I entered the destination very specifically. It got confused so I kept trying variants by leaving out different parts of the address. Despite the fact the destination has dedicated bus routes, the nearest bus stop it could find was a mile away.

Having selected both the start and end points, I commanded it to find me a route. I knew I could either walk-train-walk, walk-bus-walk, walk-train-bus, bus-bus, bus-walk-bus, bus-bus-bus, drive-bus-walk, or drive-walk (or cycle but that wasn't really an option). If I knew all this, they why look up the route? Because I didn't know departure, arrival nor total journey times, and I didn't know the costs.

The results came back. At the time I wanted to leave I had four options. The shortest was 6 hours and something like 42 minutes. I know public transport round here is dire, but...

Hang on, make that 3 days, six hours and 42 minutes. Er, something's not right here. I clicked on the details. Apparently I spend one night lying in a bus shelter in a Birmingham suburb, and the next in a station in Birmingham suburb. I can't find the third night. I don't live near Birmingham, and it wasn't really on the direct route.

I fiddle with all the options I can find. I keep hitting the find routes button. It's like a fruit machine. Most of the time it brings up junk, but sometimes something good comes back. Well not very good, and it did consistently produce different results with the same input data (how is that physically possible?).

Eventually it seems to settle down to journey times of between 2 hours and 4. I could walk it in that. It doesn't seem to know about some of the alternatives. It uses a different timetable to the one the local bus company claims to use (which doesn't match what their bus stops say. Obviously someone's been learning from National Rail Enquiries).

Eventually I did something it could not imagine, and drove (and then got on bus, then walked. I could have driven further and walked from there, but I would have had to endure gridlock every morning, plus parking was more expensive and filled up earlier).

But why are so many information systems so atrocious? If you're going to do something do it well; otherwise don't bother, as you'll only do more harm than good (if I'd obeyed the website either I would be convinced the journey is not possible, or I'd still be waiting for a non-existent bus).

Sorry, ranting/indulging in gross flights of fantasy in other people's comments on my own blog. Poor form. Won't happen again (too much).

Why is it in the comments but on a blog? Presumably it's something to do with the blog being on screen automatically, but the comments usually have to be opened.

And a prize to the person who guesses where the comment ends and the blog post begins (but not much of a prize).

Very pink sky.

Sorry, that was sort of meteorological Tourette's.


*By this I mean it will only accept BH19 1BT, rather than BH19 or a half-guessed BH19 1AA (although in some places 1AA exists, so it might work). [Up]

PS. It's not one sees a Newsnight interviewer lost for words. Kirsty Wark was interviewing Anjem Choudray, the former UK head of Al Mujahiroun, about Omar Bakri Mohammed, the man currently detained in Lebanon. She was asking about the clerics' comments that he would not report knowledge of a terrorist plot if it would implicate muslims [It's early on in the programme, about 9 minutes in, which can be seen until 22.30 tomorrow. Click Today's Programme on the right. I can't get a direct link].

Kirsty asked the spokesman for his personal views. He revealed that "It is not allowed for me to cooperate with the police. It is not allowed for me to cooperate with the government."

What if lives were at risk? Then he would work with his fellow muslims to prevent the killing of innocents (he didn't clarify who he classes as innocents).

Kirsty is a little stunned by this. She tries pointing out that the spokesman is a British Citizen. His response is that he doesn't see the connection. To him a British passport is just a travel document which allows him to come and go as he pleases.

My god (and I mean that in an entirely secular way). I'm ashamed to admit my immediate response was "well bugger off then". It's worrying when I fall into the Daily Mail stance of "Send them home", especially as I'm not sure whether they have another home. But how should one react to people who expect to work outside the law?
Normally those who choose to live outside the law either end up living strongly within the law in a rather small place, or they live so far outside the law they live beyond the realm of extradition treaties.

So which should it be? And yet it was only words.

Except there's something about those words which suggests they just don't get it. If man looks on British Citizenship as a glorified travelcard, then a large part of me responds that he shouldn't be allowed it until he knows what it means (but another part of me worries that I don't, which is also unsettling). But that makes it sound as if he is a child not to be trusted with the good china. To me, relegating the opponent to the status of a child is just insulting, and yet I just don't know what to do. Tell him not to be so silly, maybe?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

[This is a rehashed version of part of an earlier post].

GF2 600 - 12 Alton Library SouthwestAlton Library.

A few months ago I read an article in the Guardian about Alton Library. David Sucher had commented on his blog, City Comforts, about the building. As I'm much closer to Alton than he is, and I discovered that it had won a RIBA award, I decided to visit it.

After spending a long time trying to find the library, I walked down into the small valley in which it rests. My initial reaction was one of dismay. I was expecting something grander, or perhaps something in a more suitable environment.

The library stands on a wide corner of a sweeping road. On one side it is flanked by a disused pebbledashed structure. Up the hill behind it is a car park belonging to another organisation and beyond that robust brick-built blocks of flats. On the other side of the hill are more monolithic flats, set back behind a very wide pavement and the perimeter wall. Facing the main axis of the building, across the wide pavements, bus stop and wide road, are an office of some sort, and a dry cleaners, both housed in buildings at least a century old. But most of the opposing side of the street is a car park or access to another car park.

GF2 600 - 11 Alton Library WestThe library has been described as by others as barn-like. I can understand how they got to that conclusion, but I cannot agree with it. I see a large wall with huge square windows, all of which are covered by blinds or some material which achieves an even white wash effect. They create a similar appearance to plywood boards covering the openings on the neighbouring building.

Between the two buildings is a small corral in front of a new, yet partially rebuilt, brick shed which I assume contains a transformer. The corral is surrounded by black wooden fencing complete with latched 5-bar gate. It looks like the sort of place smokers gather. It's even got space age ashtrays; closer inspection reveals these to bike racks with saddle covering disks. These are mounted too close the fence to be useful, yet the also apparently block the full-width gate, even when unused. Assuming the gate swings outwards, over the pavement, nothing near the full width of the gate could pass the bike racks. As there is a small gate beside it, the main gate is apparently pointless.

The bike racks are unused.

I try to find an awe-inspiring view from the hill behind the library. I am not much inspired by anything, let alone awestruck. I find the church, and am told to go to the library to gain more information about events in its history.

I return down the hill, taking the other route, which leads me out at the other end of the library. From the hill it is still smooth brick walls one way, shaded windows the other, but now seen from the undesigned angle. I think I know what the architect was trying, but it's not quite there. It is architectural monkey-see-monkey-do, an outsider's take like Thames Town in Shanghai.

I think it is just too clean, in both senses. One sense stems from age, so I need not worry, and fake old is worse than new. But the lines are too clean. It is a box, presumably steel girder bound, with a brick skin. I'm borrowing a term from Stewart Brand's How Buildings Learn (and he in turn had borrowed it), but it is apt.

When I first read his book, and saw the diagram of layers, I wondered how structure and skin could be separate. Masonry does both things at the same time. Now I'm more aware of different techniques and that structure and skin do diverge.

GF2 600 - 14 Alton Library SoutheastAlton library unsettles me through this apparent divorce. The brick is too smooth, too sleek. It is a computer rendering; a flat plane of a tiled pattern. It has been praised for barn-like qualities, but barns are either massive chunky buildings - with ramparts, beams and buttress - or they are steel frames hung with corrugated steel and plastic with gaps where the builder could not devise a join. And this is the latter hung in the clothing of the former.

Perhaps it is more architecturally honest than aping solidity, but if that was part of the design brief then why not leave it at steel frame and breezeblock? Leave the outside built like the inner face of a cavity wall.

It doesn't quite work. For me.

But the purpose of my visit was not to critique the modern slant on the rural urban style. It was assessment in the light of David Sucher's 3 rules.

1. Build to the sidewalk
It was. But I think mountain came to Mohammed. The property lines of all the neighbouring buildings suggest that the road was originally far narrower with a much sharper corner. As the library sits on the inside of the bend, and the corner of the site forms the apex of the bend, reducing the site eases the bend. The other end of the main face, has is a very deep pavement [sidewalk] beside an inset bus stop and a normal two lane road. The boundary wall on the neighbour would enclose the pavement and most of the bus-stop if extended.

- Make the building front permeable:
Physically: The only public entrance is at the south-eastern corner.
Visually: A third of the southern edge of the site is blank wall or fenced-in blank space. The rest of that face is a series of large plate-glass windows. Due to the lighting when I visited (an overcast day in summer), all I saw when I walked past was a reflection of me, the traffic, and the car park over the road. All I could see inside the building was the leg of one table near a window. As for the other street face, it was largely blank brick wall for the depth of the building.

- Prohibit parking lots in front of the building
Parking was beside, behind, across and round, but not in front of the building. The only things allowed to stop in front were buses (not that I saw one). But parking between the pavement and the building is rare in this country (Alton Con. Club, and most other buildings along the road south excepted). But to compensate much of the surrounding street-face was the edge of car parks. Both immediately neighbouring sites are car parks, as is the site opposing the main facade (access to which restricts pedestrian access).

On all three rules it vaguely corresponds.

Inside the library.
I entered to find the display about the Battle of Alton which happened in the church. I found a display on the civil war. But do not find any mention of Alton. Instead it referred only to The Sealed Knot (LARPing in the name of history).

A quick scan round revealed that it was a library, with standard library fare. Bookcases, displays, a couple of trolleys of ex-library items for sale. I passed up the opportunity to get "The Best of Gary Glitter Live" for 50p. The interior itself was even more non-descript than the outside. Flat white everywhere. Down the far end was a hole through to an even flatter whiteness, presumably housing the stairs and lift.

An island in front of the door holds the forlorn looking librarians. To the right of the door is an inviting walled-in wooden staircase, with computer printed A4 stating "Staff Only". Beyond that a cubbyhole with wall mounted CD player and industrial headphones juxtaposed with exposed brick. It's occupied solely by a bored boy flicking through a magazine. It's not quite small enough to be for one person, but it's not big enough for adults to ignore each other. It might supposed to be for children (but why do they get the CD player?) but the bright, low furniture could just mean furbishers went to IKEA.

The Guardian piece mentions of innovative use of oak joinery, and yet I saw only plaster; presumably they nestle in the private offices at the top. The only wood I saw was on the forbidden staircase, and the slats on the louvres.

I leave feeling foolish and bemused, taking the alleyway back to the High Street. The alley is about as nice as anything the neighbours try to block out; blank brick canyons are obviously the answer. I emerge onto the High Street with a face full of industrial frying fumes. I am opposite a shop which has gone bust, and yet confusing shares the same colourscheme with its neighbour, so the shop has apparently half closed down.

Compared to the rest of the town the library is good; compared with elsewhere, or its own potential, it is not.


PS. Editing is quite hard, especially when I end up having to cut out some of the best lines, and still leave in so much dross, simply for want of a better way with words. And does anyone know how trackbacks work, or even if they work in Blogger? I'm experimenting, which is probably not a good thing.

Friday, August 05, 2005

XanthicSenses are odd things aren't they?

Why, for example, can I visualise things while still seeing something else, and yet be incapable of internally hearing* something when subjected to external sounds? In that silly thing with stage directions on Wednesday (in which I proved that I have no friends, or least none that ring me, and that my phone beeps more because the battery is dieing than it does because someone wants me. The battery lasts for days and days. But then over the past year I have spent just under £5** on it. Ok, six months of free texts helped, and anyway everyone's got email haven't they?) it's quite noticeable the difference between the bit written with general background noise, and the bit written with the radio on. If I'm surrounded in music I can't imagine it; I can't not-listen.

*Is there a word for the notion akin to "visualise"? There ought to be and yet my mind is blank. Maybe there isn't a word for it because it's so hard to do without controlled intent.

** Not related other than by the symbol, but did you know Flickr places the pound sign, comme ca £, between A and B in alphanumeric lists? Lumped in with the symbols I could understand, or even filed under L perhaps. But A-post-z? Maybe they class it as British Pound Symbol, but what symbol denoted Irish punts? And what was the mark of the Italian Lira?

Oh, and be wary of displaying one's mould seeking skills in front of other people. Eating a roll hurriedly made with less than fresh bread, I became aware that all was not well. So I stopped eating and looked it over, taking off the obvious mould (what? Most of it's still edible, and being seen to remove the mould from bread, jam or cheese, and then put it away is a brilliant way to stop flatmates nicking it. Anyway, it's only mould; a little thing like that never killed anyone*** hasn't killed me yet). And then I start sniffing it.

If removing the less palatable sections doesn't get people reacting oddly, smelling a the entire surface of a bread roll will. But I don't understand the shock. Surely if I have two types of testing equipment both of which detect substance M, but each have different strengths and weaknesses - set A picks up obvious cases and can be used with great precision in resultant activities, set B is much more sensitive, picking up smaller cases set A frequently misses, and clarifying status in ambiguous cases (flour or mould?) although it does not work well if used alone in the subsequent action - then what is wrong with using both?

And have had food poisoning a grand total of once. And that was couscous left uncovered overnight in shared fridge, on the shelf below that on which one of my flatmates discovered that marinading doesn't work too well if the bowl the marinading meat is in then has another bowl stacked on top of it, but mostly inside it, so instead of flavouring half a pound of cow it added an extra quality to half the contents of the fridge. The couscous already had tomato in it, so I didn't notice the extra reddish brown liquid which I later noticed streaked the fridge and had frozen where it had got into the top of the freezer. So stuck in the microwave, but something wasn't right, so I get adding spices to try and improve the taste. Eventually I gave up and ate it, quite slowly, literally forcing myself to eat it. About a minute after calling it quits, and putting the fork back on the half empty plate, I decided I needed to run quite urgently out of the room and down the corridor.

Oddly the only difference on the return trip, as it were, was that there was more water around the couscous. It didn't even take very long. There was no crouching down for hours, thinking that I feel sick and am about to be sick; simply one deft movement and "oh, I have been sick. Now what?" Closely followed by "Water, would probably be a good idea. I'm still hungry. But I whenever I was sick when I was young I wasn't allowed to eat for the next 24 hours, although that might just have been my mother retaliating because I'd just eaten a whole packet of Refreshers****.

*** I don't know if it has or it hasn't, but someone probably has succumbed.

**** But they were so tempting. Although frothy vomit did slightly subdue my desire for them. And did anyone else used to eat those Cream of Magnesia tablets because of liking the taste, rather than having indigestion or heartburn? I recently discovered that my brother did that too. But I think we both drew the line at eating actual chalk, or at least I did, although I have sampled green wax crayon, but that was more because I'd forget it wasn't a pencil than curiosity. No idea why I used to chew pencils (and getting the flakes on paint on my lips wasn't nice). But then I always used to (and still do if I forget not to) chew the stick once I'd finished an ice-lolly (either it was a way of extending the very rare experience, or it was a destructive act rebuking the lolly company for not putting a joke on it, or maybe I just eat anything I put my mouth. Unless of course it was a manifestation of my mother's perpetual dieting and I was subconsciously striving to burn off the calories I'd just consumed).

So, hands up if you're coming to a dinner party prepared by me. To start we will have couscous potage a la Blinkboy. The main course be a Chinese inspired, so you can eat the chopsticks as well after you finish the rest of it. And for dessert will be a range of art materials (but remember that the Cadmium Yellow is just for show, so please do not eat it). After dinner a range of antacid and effervescent pills will be presented for your delectation.

Drinks for the evening will be a collection of vintage Soda Stream syrups (circa 1983) to either be drunk neat or fully Soda Streamed. A jar of Marmite and a kettle will also be available for those guests wishing to concoct their own drinks (I profess to being ignorant of the value of fluids generated in such way, and their method of production). In honour of this same guest (assuming she graces us with her presence) a special cocktail know as the "Oh", made to a secret recipe, whose only known ingredients are Baileys and orange juice, will be given to each guest as they arrive. Refills of Oh may be requested throughout, although we usually find one glass is sufficient.

It is with regret that I am as yet unable to off a famous family recipe, as I have yet to discover it, and my mother refuses to divulge it. All that I have been able ascertain about it is that the first [and possibly only] appearance was sometime in early eighties (calculated the relative position of door handles), during one summer. It was a time when microwaves were seen as wonderful new machines, entering kitchens as part of a suite of time saving appliances and ideas. My mother combined two of these ideas; the wholesome and easy-to-use squirty cream, and a brand new recipe for microwave-able meringues. I remember her making a trial batch, and they were nice, like normal meringue. So for the party she prepared many batches of small meringues, each cooked rapidly in the Bejam microwave. Once the guests had arrived and where safely corralled in back garden, my mother returned to the house, to quickly invert half the meringues, cover the flat surface with cream and then complete the sandwich by placing another meringue with the flat side down on top.

Having created dozens of these desserts, my mother enslaves her children in ferrying them round the adults outside. They quickly are taken up, and my brother and I both return rapidly for the next batch.

But then we realise all is not well. Actually it is very well for a while, as there's a lot of laughter. My mother leaves the kitchen, and my brother and I "clear" the platters used for the savoury foods before taking our next load out. But the laughing attracts us, so we peer out of the open door.

At first we cannot see what is causing the commotion, and then realise that one of the adults is miming the cream flying out of a meringue, while the man opposite wipes his shoe. From similar activities in the other clusters, this is a widespread incident. Next time we must remember that squirty cream doesn't have the stability of whipped double cream.

My brother and I return to rationalising the leftovers, when once again we are disturbed by noises from outside. One woman is standing looking shocked while her husband is contorted in laughter. To our left there's another outburst, and another. Eventually we see the reason. A man, having already jettisoned the cream, bit into a meringue, and it was gone.

This is the best magic trick ever. They have food, they try it eat, but it's not there. And then my brother noticed the ground. The lawn looked like David had exploded over it.

Wow. Snow in June. Although it was rather large, jagged, and quite sharp snow as my brother and I found out as we took the next round of meringues out. This time they don't seem be going anywhere near as quickly. We make repeated rounds of the garden, but still no one takes any. And again and still no change.

Eventually I mother sends us indoors to busy ourselves with something else. By the time we get round to moving onto sampling the meringues the squirty cream has melted away into the lower meringue, and the upper one has softened as it gets stale. My brother and I can't understand why the adults were having such problems. They're a bit big, but adults have bigger mouths. And they're sticky, in a cloying way. They're stubbornly not exploding into dust. Adults are odd.

So if you found yourself caught in the false winter of June 1984, dreadfully sorry, but well, these things happen you see.

Moving on to the main distraction of recent days: Photography. Not actual doing, merely the stuff round the edges.

I've updated the photographic index on this site after realising I could crib much of the code generated by Flickr for a set (and if you're the one person who clicked on the "Ignore this" set then I hope you're happy now). I, of course, neglected to realise that 326 is quite a lot, especially when Flickr presents things in various bits of unBloggerable code, and so each image code requires quite a lot of editing (I did it as one change to all, then the next change to all). Add in Flickr losing the ability to count (well it never had it, as lots of sequences run 30,31,32,33,34,35,36,24,25... or worse), and that's quite a lot of mindless editing. All longhand.

I'm sure there must be things out there which I can set to remove every X from every line, or to move Y to be an attribute of Z not A, or to convert all the relative links to absolute links. But unfortunately I don't know what they are nor how to use them, so instead I remove every extraneous " /" by hand, cut and paste bits between brackets, and get so good at deleting the borders code that by the end I know precisely how long to hold the delete key down to avoid having to retype things (and using highlight first was more hassle than it was worth as Wordpad [Notepad was too smallminded to cope] decided that a sequence ending in -xxx"> should split into -xxx and "> no matter what one does with the mouse.

Also while on photography (investigating using a flash. I went on a reccy to various shops, and came out thoroughly bewildered; they've all got tables and dials on the back, and no one seems to know what they mean nor how to use them) I found, via the RPS website, an online photography course. It's quite good (although the author of the online course hasn't quite understood some of the physics), covering some things my tutor never quite got round to such as various aspects of composition (not that I intend to make every shot an arrangement, nor can I, but it's nice now about such things).


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

2005-07-28 008Has anyone else noticed how the only guaranteed way to drive up the number of daily hits is by not posting for a while? I guess it's something to do with letting the search engines catch up with a stable set of pages. But it is a little dispiriting to think that by the very act of blogging I'm ensuring that fewer people see it.

So what has been happening since the last bloggage. Um, well, I still haven't done the write up for the two exhibitions I saw at the Tate. Although I suspect both are now fairly unlikely, as the BBC spin-off Picture of Britain was a bit like the series (the digital photography version on BBC4 was better) except lacking in Land Rovers and Dimblebys.

I remember liking some of the pictures, but one of the problems with themed exhibitions is that it can be any combination of artists, collected in whatever way some gallery worker sees fit. And if one has read some of the blurb accompanying the images, then one knows that those who work in a gallery do not necessarily share the same thought processes as the rest of us. Or maybe I'm just a philistine.

One interesting note was the impact of the Tate's inclusively drive; they now have forms one can use to write new descriptions for the artworks (and presumably return completed for the Tate to print up if they choose). I only saw one of the final results, yet this DIY approach seems to have encouraged someone armed with a red pen to amend some of descriptions mounted next to the pictures. Dubious grammar was overruled, as was a reference to magnesium. I can't remember what the reference was about (presumably the chemicals used in the paint), except that someone had corrected it to magnesia, which as the picture didn't feature bits of metal probably was more accurate than just the elemental name. I'm sure a more accurate description could be found; I didn't find it as I stopped searching after I realised I was calculating oxidation states in an art gallery.

But I wasn't the only one calculating. Last week when wandering round the ancient capital I constantly heard references to two things inextricably linked (in my mind) to the current capital: Tate Modern and Wagamama's. Ok, so I know the latter has spread into the Home Counties now, but I still think of it as a place in Camden (or just off Lecky Square). And yet when wandering round the modern capital (or just a small Millbankish part of Pimlico) what was it that the natives concerned themselves with? Sudoku.

Every single member of staff in the Tate, who wasn't actively selling something, was huddled over a small scrap of paper with a pencil copy of a nine-by-nine square. Occasionally one would sidle up to a wall and have a whispered conversation which in another age would have communicated co-ordinates and sunk battleships. Suddenly an unobserved gap would grow an arm clutching bits of paper, and the latest task would be seized, as the spares are carried across the room and hooked backwards through a doorway. Unfortunately watching the workers was often more interesting than looking at the art.

And the sudoku mania possessed all the staff except, of course, one man who very obviously kept falling asleep.

So I wasn't that impressed with the Picture of Britain at Tate Britain. I liked the 1700s coloured ink drawings which could have been from the 1930s, but I forgot who did them. I liked the Hepworth chunk of wood at the end, but I'd seen it before, displayed better. I liked photographs of people in Norfolk (it could have been Suffolk, but it's all the same; big, flat, empty, with not enough trees nor hills), but that was mostly because they were huge and allowed me to compare how film and digital photography produce images on average differently (digital is like impressionistic pastels; the image is there, but it all blends into off-average noise. Instead of having A ,A ,A ,B ,B it renders it as A+,A ,A-,B+,B . Film is much more binary. Either the crystal is there or it isn't. It leads to cleaner, sharper images. They may not be any more accurate in depicting just where the edge is, but the graininess suggests strong forms, which creates more contrast and so more dramatic, more appealing images. But this could all be artefacts of the different printing processes. Think of what the human eyes likes. When you read a book, is it pools of grey creeping into a slightly less grey background? Or is it black on white?).

Reverting to the pictures at an exhibition, I found the theme too weak to carry through. The organisers had tried to create schools in the areas, so we saw how one style treating one landscape and another treated another landscape. There was no control group; there was no painter or style carried between the differing landscapes, so there was no effective comparison of what could be attributed to the style and the painter, and what to the landscape. And as showing the same picture of sheep on cliff which they've hauled out for either the pre-Raphaelites or the Art in the Garden (or possibly both), and which supposedly depicts the moral degradation threatening society in the wake of some church rift; it's stupid Victorian sheep. It's cloying, twee, determinedly moralistic and paternalistic, and it is unrealistic in that immensely detailed and cluttered way which only the ultra-Gothic Victorians could manage. Is it wrong to wish an ancient ram had just butted the artist over the edge?

Moving on. While in London, and in the Tate, I also went round the Reynolds exhibition. Much more fun. Better laid out (no more crowds looking at right angles through other crowds) and better lit. And there's a unifying theme to it all other than because some unknown entity decided it should be so. Because there is similarity in the work displayed the differences and influences can be seen more clearly.

The exhibition is a collection of Reynolds' works detailing the great and the good and associated daughters, wives, prostitutes and actresses. Some of them are pompously aggrandising (actually make that most of them), some are fun, and some seem to have a hint of mockery. And some just make the sitter look rather drunk (I can't find a copy of the picture I am referring to, but it shows a young woman leaning forward with the end of her finger in the corner of her mouth, in a style later adapted by Dr Evil, but with the most ridiculous expression of [false] naivety on her face).

EDIT: Found it. It's suitably titled The Hon. Miss Monckton. There's something eminently slappable about her*.

*Not that...condone...recommend...der de-der de-derr.

Anyway I much prefer she of her husband's uniform or one of the actresses (who looked better in the profiteering print of the picture than the actual picture).

One probably ought to see both exhibitions, but do Reynolds afterwards, as to put him before A Picture of Britain would be like drinking wine after tasting the dessert; the good is drowned in the comparatively bad.

There now be a minor comic interlude in which Anyhoo realises he has lost his phone. [During the following scene the set reacts to the protagonist's actions, drawers opening when a door is closed, books shifting a shelf when files are moved]
Anyhoo searches frantically for his phone, cursing his ability to tessellate shapes and thereby exist in an environment more interlocked than a bedlam cube, although one which contains a great many small holes and niches ideal for holding small and expensive items either fallen, dropped or left in periods displaced attention [indicated by small spots of golden light tracking down the backdrop, stopping and fading out at fixed points].

Anyhoo continues his search as his mind enters a frenzied quest to remember when he last had it [the parallel lights falling vertically over the backdrop multiply and speed up, becoming cyan tinted green. Rip-off? Let them sue. The music rises in pitch with a battle between a piano and violin, both staccato].

Anyhoo thinks of the obvious [pulse of bright light as dropping spots turn off, replaced by low reddish pink blanket across stage. Staccato music ceases, low cello and bass build slowly together]. Anyhoo walks to a phone [lights rise up the backdrop, yellowing as they brighten]. Anyhoo picks it up and dials [the stage is lit as if in sunlight].

Anyhoo discovers it has gone straight to the answerphone [lights collapse to stage level, in a jumble of crooked angles and red and yellow hues. Bass and cello strummed, ending in single screech from violin].

[Low lights diffuse and become sludgy green. Cello and violin play dolefully] Anyhoo emails brother asking if he's send it in his car [stage lit from strong blue-white entering from stage right wing. Triangle tinged erratically].

Anyhoo paces [lit only at ankle height by diffuse off-green lights. A small red spot slowly fades in as it travels up his body] Anyhoo realises there might be somewhere unchecked. Anyhoo runs off [stage left, in red spot]. Anyhoo returns shortly afterwards holding car keys to someone else's car, walks across and leans over [into stage right wing, music gradually builds as more instruments start to play].

Anyhoo turns back [pulse of light, thunder], throws keys off to the left and raises phone now in his hand [music mounts as lights brighten and whiten into a cone centred over Anyhoo].

[Music quietens and becomes tremulous] Anyhoo turns the phone on [choir appears out of nowhere and starts singing something suitably epic]. Anyhoo is startled as the phone beeps [music and choir staccato]. Anyhoo is confused, and then with another beep the phone turns off again [complete darkness and silence]. Anyhoo plugs the phone into the charger [stage lit only by the lights of the phone and charger, curtain slowly descends, two minute bell sounds].

And now that you are all sitting comfortably again (it's a figure of speech ok? We all know that half the audience have their legs jammed in at odd angles because the seats are too tightly packed. Blame the malnourished ancestors, the miserly builders, and people working on averages), I'll begin.

So, reverting way back up the page, why have I not posted anything for a while?
A. Because all the emails following on from those I gleaned some of last week's topics from have all been full of really awful "I'm not putting my name on this" jokes.

B. Because Archgirl was so effusive in her praise for this recently discovered blog that whatever I posted was always going to be a disappointment (but in mitigation, the original stimulus for last week's postings on jittery police and CITC cases on trains hasn't been repeated, which is probably a good thing).

C. Because I still had to do the Tate thing which I had been putting off.

D. Because I was converted into a not so little bundle of rage by some blatant plagiarism on Flickr. I would point you to my initial cringe-makingly pompous response, but fortunately it's been wiped when the copied image it was attached was belatedly removed. And I'm not sticking the back-up email on here as it's embarrassingly over the top (threatening criminal and civil prosecution was a bit too much, except I didn't explicitly say that. I merely wrote "you may be liable to...", which doesn't say it will be by me, and anyway he may also drown in an accident with a vat of molten mint choc chip (or have his suitcase flung off a train)). Speaking of people writing to complain, was anyone else surprised by David Sucher's effort? Somehow I expected more from him. Maybe it just means he's too nice (and never had two obsessive parents teaching him to write letters). And yes I'm fully aware that here is not the place to pick on someone else's grammar and structure, and yes I did just start this run-on sentence with an "And" and then compounded it by adding "yes" which I then latter repeated within the same line, which is possibly why correcting other people might seem a little hypocritical (even if most of the time I'm hypercritical, but usually only about myself).

E. Because I was feeling foolish for only just connecting the name of Anchorage (Alaska) with the fact it had a port (who knew?).

F. Because I was thrown by someone from long ago (not that long, but it's the modern age; one has to keep up with the times, yah, dahlings? And fashion drives us ever forward into the vortex of hedonism and consumption [and suddenly I've gone from over-priced "retro is so passe"* shoes to TB). This someone turned up because I apparently made mention of her misspelt name (well honey, if it's in the bit that says Name: who are we to argue?). Anyway, she posted the following on her new site: [Anyhoo] reminds me of an annoying habit an ex-boyfriend of mine used to have...

Nice. I dread to think what it is, so I won't ask.

Oooh, gorgeous sunset (well, gorgeous light from said sunset), but at a distinctly less gorgeous time of 8.38 (BST). I know compared to midwinter that's very late, but compared to midsummer it does rather ram home the point midsummer was way back when.

Another interlude. The [landline] phone rings. I run to beat the machine. I'm greeted with a very nasal American "Hi, this is Diane from Holiday Rewards". Click. Oh no, not again. I thought they'd given up.

But now I'm feeling remorse for not actually bothering to find out if it was a pre-recorded message or a highly practised person, and not just leaving the handset beside the phone to try racking up their phone bill by some fractional amount (how long before they start using SkypeOut or some other VoIP?).

Oh, and while I remember, through sticking more pictures on Flickr (hence the plagiarism problem) I have discovered it's not the quality of the pictures taken, nor the quantity that matters: it's merely the act of uploading them. No one says anything for weeks, or even looks at them, and then as soon as I start uploading new pictures people comment.

Flickr also seems to have added yet more functions, including ranking pictures according to their interestingness (and I've yet to figure out the formula behind it) and allowing clustering when searching tags. But LondonDan covers this better.


* Someone I knew at college once said that. Irony didn't even appear on the list of trace elements. And she was a goth (a fashionista goth: who'd have thunk a movement harking back to the Late Georgians could be capable of spawning such a thing?). [BMUS]

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