Friday, November 25, 2005

2005-08-31 040In lieu of either describing recent happenings, or reacting to things found on other people's blogs, and not wanting to delve into the stats quite yet, here's a little amusement:

Forwarded by email, and from CNNNN (I don't get the extra N either), is a little adventure in "where next".

Best line (after the final one) "I think there's a revolution going on pretty soon". Actually it's just been postponed. It was going to be on 27th December, but they realised that most people would still be on their Christmas holidays*. So now it's on 10th January to keep the Victorious Tuesday idea (well, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday already have extra names, and what's the point in having an event which will turn into a bank holiday at the weekend?).

Back to the video, and I won't admit how many misplaced pins I saw going in before I realised that the programme had its own cartographers.

* Yes I know.

As someone has already sent me an email with "Merry Christmas" as the title, and other people are putting the decorations up (er, it's November still. It's not even Advent yet), here's a little something to get you in the mood: Wizards of Winter, hosted on this site.

Something in me thinks that if Steven Spielberg wanted to make a house look possessed, a la Poltergeist, he should have gone to the guy who did this. What's the betting that half the children who see that burst into tears and are traumatised for life?

And now that I've got overblown guitars in my head I'd better stop.


PS. I wonder what Bohemian Rhapsody would look like at that house?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

2005-08-31 004 In limboYou know you're getting old when...

even the forgotten password link can't remember.

From Amazon just now: Assistance

We're sorry. We're unable to offer online password assistance for you.

We recommend that you create a new account. When placing your next order through the Shopping Basket, select the "I am a new customer" option and create a new account as you place your order. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

I assume there's something wrong with the database as the password I thought it was won't work, nor will any other password I use.

I was only trying to log in to find out how much more the postage would be on a USB data stick which they seemed to have fairly cheap (by which I mean about £10 cheaper than PCWorld's net-only offers). I know there's probably far better deals out there, but I don't know where to start, so I was taking the lazy-male-paying-too-much-for-ease/technologically-inept route. Except now that's not working it looks like I might have to brave the haze of condescension over Tottenham Court Road.

Oddly, in the past few minutes the price of the USB stick has dropped by three-pence.

All this because I forgot to email myself a file. A file which I spent most of yesterday working on. In an underpopulated office with large single-glazed windows, false floor and ceiling, combined heaters and coolers without power, but with the central air conditioning still on. I ended up trying to type with the cuffs on my coat bashing the spacebar. So basically I spent most of Saturday sitting in a fridge. When I'd finished the modelling (not finished as in completed, but finished as in "my eyelids are twitching and thinking has become hard") I ended up going into Heals purely for the purposes of warming up (but I like that table).

I had considered turning on all the computers in the room just to act as heaters, but I discovered they already were, along with the lights in all the locked rooms. Just as well I'm not paying their electricity bill (except in a way I am, and in the longer term we all are).

Of course as I type it's only just warmer than yesterday, but that's because I'm in a cold flat where I'm not at liberty to use the central heating. Brother out, flatmate in. Flatmate been making comments about why I'm still here. Flatmate had strop when he got back from New York at the beginning of the week. Flatmate probably hungover today. Flatmate also told girlfriend, with whom he'd been making those curiously pathetic noises during most of the night, that basically she was too clingy. Girlfriend left to go home and think about "the future of the relationship". I've been in hiding, and pretending to be working, all day.

Pretending because I ought to have been working, but I forgot to email the right file. I remembered to send the 32MB thing by YouSendIt, but forgot the 32kB one. The kB one makes the MB one, and has problems in it that I realised I may be able to fix (which therefore renders the data in the 32MB thing meaningless). I hadn't sorted out all the problems yesterday as a third of the time was taken up remembering how to use the programme, and about half the time was taken up trying to get rid of the errors. It got to the stage that although I still had a few screenfuls of warnings to work through, I was ignoring those just in case amendments triggered more errors (the simulation will run with warnings, but not with errors. But the warnings reduce the accuracy of the simulation). And it's really discouraging to see someone else doing something similar on the other side of the room only to realise that they're complaining because they've got 3 warning messages.

Hence looking for a USB memory stick thing.

So what else? I went to the Tate again on Friday night, but once I got there realised I was too tired to troll round the Rousseau exhibition, so went round the shop instead. Could have cheerfully bought enough books to sink a bank or two, and the problem is most of them are too expensive to ask for as Christmas presents. Not that asking for specific items as Christmas presents works as usually providing an ISBN just means that this year's present will be even more useless than last year's, but at least I'll spend longer trying to guess what it is than last year (it's when the guessing continues after it gets unwrapped that one ought to worry. Oh, and should anyone be thinking useless glasses, such as champagne flutes or martini glasses*, try to remember when packing them that it's something of a Christmas tradition to shake all box shaped presents to see if it's Lego. My cousin obviously picked it up from my brother and I, and keen to impress us tried it at the next family gathering. Which was Easter. I can confirm that Cadbury eggs are better engineered than Nestle).

* Reasons not to: big nose and too talkative respectively. The nose means I have to tip my head rather that the glass when drinking from things with narrow rims. Being talkative isn't so much the problem as what I do with my hands when I talk; I demonstrate and clarify. Which combined with holding a glass with straight sides angled at forty-five degrees means that once the drink starts moving there's nothing to stop it. Oh, well caught madam with the handbag. I think you got nearly all of it. But oh, the bag's not watertight and it seems to be oozing a bit. What an odd colour it's coming out.

Oh - at eleven minutes past seven on Saturday night in Selfridges (and freezers too); the first Last Christmas of the year. And oddly I was too cold, tired and hungry to mind.

After a bit of pointless milling, I left to go back to the flat (mustn't call it home in earshot of the flatmate, but then I've called a temporary-base-for-the-day "home" before). Immediately outside I saw a proper bus with where I wanted to go on the front. It has to be easier than getting the tube in these crowds only to have to change where it gets more crowded. So I hopped on (A. Cliché. B. Technically it was more of a skip as I landed on the other leg), waved the wrong card* at the conductor and went upstairs.

* Bane of my life. I know it would lead to all sorts of big-brother problems, but why can't there just be the one card for everything? Instead of a card for the building, a card for getting to the building, a card for living, a card for driving, a card for breaking down, a card for insuring, a card for belonging and keys for half of these as well (and most of the time it's not the one card). And the card for the building is part of a wallet which is rapidly dying, and which contains more magnetic and radio swipecards and barcodes than I can remember what they do.

Back to the bus. I've found a seat near the front, next to guy depleting his mobile balance. Diagonally behind me are two Germans getting sehr getrunken (yeah, wrapping it in a Sainsbury's bag will disguise your breathe catching fire, sure it will). Which reminds me: why is Congolese French so much easier to understand than that spoken by the French? The connection is overheard and understandable conversation on public transport - the French was on the Victoria line, so it must have been easy.

It's quite nice, I'm far enough forward to be able to see out of the front. I'm quite impressed with this. Normally buses take forever and involve changing umpteen times, whereas this one is from door to near door. We're soon off and making good progress down Oxford Street.

We slow down a bit as we get to Oxford Circus, but that's because New Oxford Street's closed (there's a crane in the middle of it). Then right onto Regent Street. Suddenly the progress isn't so good. In fact we're not progress. The engine bounces and shudders to silence as most of the lights go off. Er... Did something just go a bit wrong? There's some commotion from below. People upstairs offer their own opinions. One thing about bus passengers; they're a heck of a lot more vocal than people on the Tube. There's probably about the same level of interaction, but the people on the bus don't seem care whether anyone is listening.

The engine comes back on. I think the driver was just saving fuel or trying to cut down on the cloud of pollution which encircles the bus. Connected thought: why are bendy buses so loud? They sound like streetsweepers; they spend the whole time whooshing at everything.

We edge forward, but only when the lights are red. Once we reach second gear, but that was by driving through a red light. And so much for the view; the front windows are streaming with condensation. Through a patch not etched beyond clarity, distorted with smeared hair gel and with low levels of condensation, I get a good view into various shops. Hamley's have gone all out for Postman Pat this Christmas, which makes me wonder if it'll be Wizbit next year. Next think the future definitely is orange, and the girl opposite leaves to go and buy some jeans. I think she managed to get back on the same bus. Further down and I can see the renovations occurring in a gutted shop over the top of the hoardings.

It's now half an hour after I got on and we've only just reached Piccadilly Circus (I never understand the allure. It's just Boots, McDonald's, small branch of Gap, and some painfully bright things). This why I don't use buses. I can walk quicker, but once I'm on I'm too much of an optimist to get off. I'm sure it'll move in a minute.

We would make more headway, but we miss on set of lights because, hey guess what, there's a bus sitting on the yellow hatching across the junction. When he sees our bus approach he edges a few inches closer to the van in front (also partially on the hatching) in the hope that'll allow room for people to pass.

They move, we get through, and out again to see geysers of steam emanating from the contraptions used in Red Bull's event. We also get to see the happy people standing by a car with the bonnet open (though fortunately with an attendant AA van). Yeah, the edge of Trafalgar square, that'll be a fun place to breakdown.

Then down Whitehall, which from the driving felt as if it was too far round. Out over Westminster Bridge (only somewhere over 45 minutes), then southwards. I get a little confused as I could have sworn it said Vauxhall on the front, and one the other places it apparently went to, it didn't.

Anyway, then southwards, recognising bits and then plunging back into the unknown. I'm ashamed to admit the unfathomable route had be worried enough to check passing street names in my A-Z.

I hurriedly packed it away as I realised I knew the bridge ahead, and scurry downstairs, bound off the rear platform just as the bus accelerates away (so misjudging it paid off), deftly swing across the road in convenient breaks in traffic. Hurry down past the god-botherers who have a PA system loud enough to bother the most absent-minded god. And then remember I need milk (I don't know why I always end up needing milk on a Saturday, and therefore usually end up taking it to social events too). So back to the other side of the road, into the "shop for men or people who think like men", as known as, Sainsbury's Local (where they have one till reserved only for people buying five or more items). In fairness I did have a thoroughly thrilling Friday night of shopping, which consisted of buying 20 p per pound sausages (reduced and on "buy two get one pound off") along with everything else I needed, bar chips, because they'd sold out of every brand.

Then back onto the street, over the road, and into a dark alley where I am asked if I want Motorhead tickets. I have never been so insulted in all my life. Does explain the slightly odd queue in Sainsbury's though.

Then home to chicken pie, mock chips and peas. I probably shouldn't have had the whole pie. But it didn't say how many it was supposed to serve. It merely gave the nutrients present in a third of it. Anyway, I hadn't had enough to eat, and I didn't eat it all in one go. No, I cut it into quarters so I could pretend I had no intention of eating more than was on the plate, and then pause Citizen Kane to go back for more. Anyway, it's not even as if I felt full after all of it (I knew I should have used another potato).

Now there's a good Saturday night; pass up the invitation to a party in Camden (beginning at 10 pm on the wrong side of town, and being given by someone I've met 3 times and hardly know, but have already been annoyed by), sit alone in a house overeating unhealthy food watching a borrowed DVD of a film that's supposed to be good yet which I find doesn't quite work.

Next week reading a book with a glass of red wine, some chocolate and an optional cat.

And then today not much at all. House-hunting on the internet, because I'm feeling socially inept, and I'm not good at sounding sane on the phone.

Random thoughts from this week.
- Does the intensity of the city heat island effect vary at weekends?
- Why does TfL's Journey Planner refuse to admit the bus I used yesterday exists?
- Has anyone made a digital music player which slots onto to a USB plug (so would be the socket)? I know you can get dual data sticks and players, because the flatmate was given one by work (full of motivational gush he deleted unheard). But can you get one which you just pop over the end of the data stick? Ok, so I'm not quite sure what would be the point, but there's always an application, even if it's not apparent. I think it might just be flexibility, like those kettles, mixers and juicers which all run off the same power supply.
- KUBB (Reef + Rootjoose, which sounds like an alcopop cocktail) were on Top of the Pops last week (guess who's only just found where they've moved it and has missed it again this week). The caption on the bottom said that Dido's brother gave the lead singer his first break in the music business. Ignoring the veracity of that, does anyone else remember when Dido was "Rollo from Faithless's sister"? The music was nice enough, but forgettable. Probably soon to become the soundtrack for the ad for the Vauxhall Mondeo-alike.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

20051115 - 06 Just a facadeDoing things I've never done before, part II.

So after drinks and dried fish, I left with one of the guys I'd been talking to. He comes out, turns his phone on, which beeps with a backlog of messages. Something big's on in Camden. He seems to think it'll be worthwhile. He'll see me up there maybe. He goes to get his bike, I head for the tube.

Emerging at Mornington Crescent, I swing round the corner to see pink lights reaching high over the dark mass of the crowd. I wander round slightly confused. Turns out it's a Madonna concert. Er, and why did he think I'd be interested in that? One of the guys I work with (spend half my life battling against) is the one that inflicts Madonna's latest upon everybody each and every day (he even has a Madonna pen).

Anyway, figuring I've never been to any events where the sole point is to see famous people, I hang round and merge into the surprisingly meagre crowd.

Pumping the girl beside me for information, although she got most of it from the police she was flirting with, it turns out that it's Madonna's UK homecoming gig or something like that. KOKO's used to be something different which is where she first played in the UK. Major wowage, huh?

Apparently I could have got a ticket if I'd queued up all night. I also could have got one if I hadn't queued up all night and just turned up earlier in the day. The last 200 tickets had been released to the waiting fans, of which there were 60 (not that this stopped the media talking about people queueing overnight for the last 200 tickets).

But apparently there were no more tickets. Oh well. So what are all these people standing outside for? They're waiting for famous people and/or celebrities.

Seen any yet?
Oh. Who's supposed to be coming?
Real A-listers.
Don't know.

So I stood chatting to a thoroughly nice anthropology student who was also claiming that this was her first stargazing experience. I think we were both fairly unlikely candidates for being there, but judging by the cynicism rising from the crowd, maybe most people were.

Anyway, so first real actual famous person of the evening: Will Young. Blurry picture of him here. Wearing hat. But looking less Cosmo/Dibbs-y than expected. But shorter. So woo, yay, and, er, oh, hang on, he's just a guy. A guy who got a 2ii from Exeter. So rather less impressive if one looks at it like that.

So back to the cynical chat. Gradually realise that amongst the newly formed queue in front of us is Sara Cox. Less woo, yay-age. Small, excessively blonde, looks a bit ill. Being completely ignored by everyone except the guys she was with. Have no idea who they were but we had fun trying to guess which was the husband and which the friend; she displayed very similar behaviour towards both.

About this point excitable girl with microphone runs up to our part of the crowd and is saying something ending in "the excitement of the fans here" as lunges the microphone towards us. Resounding silence. I was too distracted by realising I know her to attempt a sarcastic "Woo!"

If it was who I think it is, and she did look exactly like this person, then it's the girl who used to live up the road from me when I was growing up. Year above, remember having to go to their house to get lifts to school one term (can't remember why), remember playing with her baby sister, elder sister was in my brother's year, all sorts of stuff happened involving her mother and husbands/boyfriends. And I all can remember if her first name and that last I heard she was working for a radio station. So she probably is her.

But the radio girl has run off to the other side to find more vocal pastures.

So back to the cynical chatting. The flurry of flashes down the other end tells us something's going on, but it's only Chris Evans being interviewed. As I said to the anthropology student (probably about the same time I tried figure out how many top-ups make a glass of wine) "I've seen his arse". In lycra. Not sure that made it better. He was cycling, annoyingly slowly, I couldn't overtake. But as he used to easily found either in the wine section of Waitrose, or at the pub on the corner I drive past everytime I go to see a friend, he doesn't really count as a true rarity. My brother points out that he also used to sell stuff in Camden Market.

So after this yet another small blonde woman in a Geldof hat gets out of a car (isn't it strange how they all seem to be getting out of the same 3 cars? And that the same cars circle the block until all attention will be focussed on the arriving celebrity?). Other than the two lone paparazzi flashing away in a brief abortive spurt, she's either ignored or accompanied by quizzical looks. Someone behind me is explaining to the loudly enthusiastic New Zealand girl that's it's Donna Air, who used to be in Byker Grove (did she? Really?). Cue the NZ girl plaintively declaring, in full interisland communication voice, which also has that strange ability to penetrate common to all Kiwis: "But I don't even know who she is"

Cue resulting silence. Cue Donna Air, who couldn't have not heard, carrying on her jaunty walk with the same fixed expression.

Mass hilarity ensued. Maybe we were all cold and tired, and therefore finding things funnier than it should be, but still it was the most entertaining thing all night.

Oh, and the two paparazzi also had no idea who she was, but they just go back over the digital photos and try to guess.

Another thunderstorm from the other end tells us someone has arrived. I can't work out what the media scrum are chanting by it sounds like something-LY. Considering how far away she was, and that I was looking through the crowd, I found myself with quite a good, if fleeting view. Which told me two things. One that whoever it was had [currently] dark hair and very arched eyebrows. The other was that the crowd was surprisingly thin. Judging by Google News, I think the LY was a LA and that it was Stella MacCartney. Not that I have the foggiest idea what she looks like.

Oh, I just remembered. At some point Dermot O'Leary turned up as did Frankie Dettori soon afterwards (well, I am informed it was the jockey, but all I saw was a small bit of dark hair). Both about the same size. One I expected, but I had no idea the other was so small. I know it's a cliché that people look bigger on television, but it's true.

Soon after this my friendly up-the-road girl returned to ask us who we'd seen so far. People either side of me chant "Will Young, Sara Cox, Chris Evans. Oh, and Dermot".
Radio girl: "Anyone people in America would have heard of?"
Us, in unison "Er... No."

At some point scraggly hair and an hat bounded up the steps, which we took to be Bob Geldof. And I think that was about it for supposedly famous people. Oh, I think there was a girl from Hollioaks, who may have been with more members of the cast, but I haven't seen it in years.

At some point we must have looked straight through one of the guys from the Pet Shop Boys, but then I can't visualise him, so that's not surprising.

So we stood round chatting, wondering if that's it (they could at least work like fireworks, so they have a cluster of really well-known people then nothing, so we know that's it). And then the leftover tickets started getting handed out. Clipboard girls came out, all with the same uniform posture, regardless of the presence of a clipboard. One starts doing eeny-meeny-miny-mo with the crowd, or pointing to people, inspecting them and then dismissing them. She occasionally gave out tickets but spent more time toying with people, teasing them with the prospect. The anthropologist used the truly technical terms of "power trip" and "bitch".

But the PR girls got bored with playing with their food and soon it was the bouncers handing them out. I nearly got handed one, but some slightly too fanatical fan lunged in from behind me and scared the bouncer off. Not that I cared all that much, because I was wondering what I'd do for food and it was quite late by this point.

It was quite funny seeing the venue's usual workers come out to pick up rubbish. They'd been Madonna'd up, and so had big panda eyes full of glitter. Yeah, they were real impressed.

And to the person who rang me, and who I cut off with "I'm in Camden, but I'm in the middle of something right now", then I can only apologise but you can see why I didn't really want to get into explaining the fact that I was waiting to see famous people outside a Madonna concert. It is just a bit embarrassing.

And that's about it, except to say that fans are just a wee bit daft, with dubious concepts of hygiene. The paving slabs had been covered with stickers carrying emblems and lettering which when recombined would spell Madonna (or ADAMNON as it apparently spelt out). Soon after it became obvious that it had started, people began ripping the stickers off the pavement. Some held them disdainfully, having discovered that they were a cunning ploy by Camden to make the streets cleaner, while trying to get the full set. Others grabbed what they could, and hugged and kissed whatever they scavenged, which even in the low level light we could see was not a good idea.

So while discussing the evenings proceedings, we were wondering why there was such a low turn out. It was at this point I found out that I'd missed seeing the Oxford Street Lights turned on (well, turned on all at once, as they've been up for ages and obviously on solely for testing purposes). And that's when it struck me just how tragic my life can be. I had a choice of waiting outside a Madonna concert in case I saw famous people or waiting for someone to turn the electricity on. I think I ought to pretend that I went straight home after the EEA lecture.

Not that I could have gone to the lights, because, well, it'd be nowhere near as good as home. There we usually either had Brian Blessed and whoever was in pantomime nearby, or just whoever was in pantomime nearby. Although recent years haven't been as good as they replaced the lights a few years ago, so instead of trying to guess if the rabbit was meant to be a camel we now have to work out if the rabbit is a reindeer (no, wait, it's a snowman, or possibly a wiseman). That and the lights are more reliable, as it was always fun waiting for people in shops and flats all the way down the high street to realise the first set has gone on and that they ought to turn their on too.

I remember one year particularly well. There was power cut. Not a comic 3-2-1-Now-bang-fizz-er... but just a normal get home and find there's no electricity and it's staying off for several hours power cut. Record turn out that year, just to see what the organisers would do. Borrow candles I think, and have a slightly daft countdown just in case the power came back on in time. It didn't, but it was fun hoping.

And that's about it for Tuesday. More Madonnage can be found on Flickr.


2005-09-18 [1] 004Doing things I've never done before, part 1.

Yesterday, in a break from the usual perpetually radically reassessed, I when to yet another evening lecture on the environment. This time the executive director of the European Environment Agency, Jacqueline McGlade (and what does it say about me that my opinion of her went up when I found out she was the former head of Biological Sciences at Warwick?).

Fascinating lecture, which trounced the UKEA's effort (probably mentioned a fortnight ago if I blogged it at all). Although it was a bit obvious that her style has adapted to presenting to governments rather than to students. She went through a lot of it so fast that I have annoying instances where I got down three out of five bullet points. And given I have no reason to think she was pushed for time, this suggests her usual audience doesn't actually expect to pay attention. Which possibly isn't the best realisation to come to when it concerns the people that run a fair chunk of the world.

Some of the implications about Barroso were none too flattering. JMcG was adept in pointing out flaws in the kindest way possible, but some of the conclusions left to be drawn... Barroso believes there are 3 pillars supporting sustainable development; economy, society and environment. And he takes the view that the EU should be nursing the ailing one, and only the ailing one, which he considers to be the economy. So he'll be trying to stimulate struggling development, which isn't sustainable and therefore can't be maintained, and which will need even more input in the future to produce a sufficient response. So taking short-term action which will worsen all future long and short-term actions, and each successive layer of short-term action will make the next layer more difficult. Anyone else thinking "none too bright"?

Some of the lecture repeated the content of previous lectures (i.e. why environmental regulation is good - but I only got 4 of the 5 reasons), other parts provide more information or a different standpoint (apparently some European nations are unhappy that the EEA encourages environmental regulation on the Anglo-Saxon model, which is therefore all the fault of the UK. It's odd the way people who use the term Anglo-Saxon often forget just where the Saxons came from. And anyway, apart from being common to Northwestern Europe, Eastern Europe has proved remarkably receptive to this model. So by Anglo-Saxon they mean that common in the British Isles, le Pays Bas, the Baltic, the Balkans, Asia Minor and most of the area inbetween. Wouldn't NOT-NW_Med be easier? I should probably mention that Anglo-Saxon in this context means market-driven, so working with the economy rather than pretending capitalism doesn't exist (I would make some pointed comment about Liberté, Fraternité et Egalité here, but as we've all seen Egalité doesn't mean equality as we usually understand it)).

Although looking at the site I've realised that quite of lot of what she said matches precisely what's on the website (barring the Barroso bit). But then again, before the lecture I'd never heard of the EEA (and neither had anyone else I talked to).

The website also doesn't include all the currently embargoed things we where told about. I'll now pretend I can remember what was embargoed and what wasn't and that it would be impossible for me to break any embargo, hence I couldn't possibly tell you about this very important and riveting bit of information.

Although one feature which she stressed quite heavily was the revelation that treating the end results of a process rather than controlling the input was far more inefficient and expensive (in the 1970s the Netherlands realised they would have a problem with waste water and sought to mitigate this by encouraging curtailment of use, reducing the input. At the same time Denmark had a similar problem. They choose to invest in large scale technologically innovative treatment. Cut to 30 years later, and spending per capita on waste water is 6 times in Denmark that in Holland. The Danes aren't too happy about this). As revelations go... it is something that anyone who has done chemistry, engineering, medicine, biology, geography or even psychology would probably already know.

And how come environment lectures always pivot around the word "decoupled". By the end of the environmental improvement process (is there one?) even the economy will be decoupled from GDP. It is quite interesting to discover that the new member states, actually far out perform the older core of the EU in terms of decoupling things like waste production and GDP or fossil fuel use and construction (although the hopeful yet-to-be-MS are managing to go in the wrong direction). The NMS are quicker acting, more effective and more innovative. Which rather highlights the fact we are not. Shouldn't we be? Oughtn't we be?

The older MS apparently are scraping through Kyoto because of the impact of the newer ones (I'm not sure how this works, as I thought each country is allowed X much and that it was country specific).

In waste production the EU has produces twice the volume of the nearest comparable competitor. The IT revolution had no impact on the levels of paper waste produced. Spain somehow manages to have nearly 3 times the rubbish production of other EU countries. And most of it comes from construction and demolition.

The desired response to this is to shift the burden of taxation upstream. If a material costs more per yard then fewer bits will cut of the end and chucked away. But the newer member states are more effective because they can and do introduce this shift in taxation patterns. If your economy used to be communist, and you've spent the past few years rewriting the legislation to allow it not to be, what's another amendment? Whereas if you try mentioning the words "new tax" in this country, Murdoch's minions will cremate you before you even get the pie charts out. Oh and there's the fact that five sixths (spelt out longhand because superscripts are a pain and mess up the formatting. Except it would be 5/6, with the -th adding mentally. Really should get round to learning how to write. But then I did remember to edit someone else's "Tuesday the 15th of November" earlier today).

Anyway, another reason for governmental reluctance over shifting the burden of taxation upstream is that 5/6 of the resources consumed in the EU come from beyond its borders. So any shift looks like an increase in import tax and suddenly we're back squabbling over where we buy bananas, agricultural subsidies, steel price-fixing and how many jumpers people can import. Which reminds me; someone out there must have written a history of America under the title "Protestantism, Prohibition and Protectionism".

Which brings me onto land. Demographic changes mean that the new member states are facing chronic land abandonment. The average age of farmers in the region is far older than in Western Europe. As the population becomes more urbanised, rural communities break down encouraging further migration. The remaining population declines through ill health and death. The land is too far away from a town to be swallowed by suburbs. The children are working in towns and cities. The land is worthless. It is left to its own devices, which, after generations of being farmed in a set way, are devastating. A couple of years in and biodiversity has slumped. The land has reverted to poor scrubland. Fires increase. Floods increase. Diseases increase.

You, like someone asking questions at the end of the lecture, might see this as a good thing, a recovery perhaps. But bear in mind that the species are adapted to their environment and form that environment. Just think of the number species with field or hedge in their common names. Fields and hedges aren't naturally occurring features. The environments are manmade. This isn't inherently bad. Entire species rely on human behaviour. So if the humans disappear, so do the environments, so do the species.

But just to take the truly self-centred view, if the place catches fire, what stops the fire. If no-one lives there, and no-one cares, the fire burns. And it will keep burning until it reaches an area people do care about. Like a town. At which point people will try to control it, except like any battle it is a result of many gains and loses. Those whose houses, offices and factories were the losses won't be too happy (and the gains will be making firefree areas where there was fire, which probably ought to be counted as loses as well). And neither will their banks and insurance companies. And neither will be the investors and shareholders in those banks and insurance companies. Which ends up meaning the entire economy is now unhappy, and unhappy economies make more unhappy people. Unhappy people donate less to environmental charities and are less willing to spend money to make changes to improve the environment; think of Barroso's 3 pillars. But hey, what's that matter? Because after all there are now a heck of a lot more gorse bushes than there used to be. Yeah, sure they can't be grazed, and don't support as many species as whatever it was they replaced, but they're wild. Wild in a post-human environment that is, so not technically wild, but that's still a sort of wild. And wild is good.

Now run through the same system with flooding. For generations Vernon, Viktor, Vladimir or Vassilli has opened the sluice gates to flood his meadows in winter. Each autumn he spends time digging out trenches, rebuilding terraces, shoring up walls, replanting hedgerows or generally tinkering with his pet engineering project. Every so often a bit fails. He comes out and repairs it. He puts it back to pretty much how it was. Then socio-economics kicks in. V leaves to live with his children. He misses the farm, but not the freezing mornings hefting cold earth. The farm begins to miss him. Mice feast on the remaining food, on the wheat coming up a couple of years too late. One of the new burrows is behind the loose wall holding the hill out of the ditch. Water seeping through the earth finds this new hole, and takes the easy route out. As it does it carries out the unobstructed earth. The hole grows. More rain increases the water flowing through until the wall can no longer hold up the roof of the emerging cave. The stone and earth tumble into the ditch. Water backs up behind it, causing the land upstream to become more sodden and more unstable. Surface runoff increases from this saturated area, and penned in water finds any new way out. A new trickle grows, undercutting a different hill. Parts of that too slump into the water. Up and down the valley water is pulling earth down ontop of it or simply sweeping earth into it. The valley is slowing filling with small pools amongst muddy, saturated ground.

And then the rains really come. They always come at the same time every year. But that's what the sluices are for, that's what the ditches are for. But they don't work anymore. The valley has gone from being like an ice cube tray to being a mousemat. Slope it slightly and pour water into one end and what happens? Each compartment on the icecube tray fills, and then the water drains into the next one. Pour water on a mousemat and where does it go? Straight off the bottom. So this year, instead of the rains falling and overspilling into the watermeadows, or going off to top up the fishponds, and spending much of the year leaking back out again, the rains fall onto sodden ground and run across the surface. And they'll run across the surface until they can find somewhere which isn't sodden. Towns do quite well on not being sodden, but usually any earth capable of absorbing the water is covered beneath roads or buildings. So the water will flow in and across. Occasionally it will get lucky and find a basement, which is just a compartment on a ice cube tray punched through a mousemat (although pumping out will start the moment flooding starts to subside, so the peak lopped off is deposited onto the back of the wave of flooding, instead of spread over the next few weeks or months). And the water will carry on flowing until it finds something which can accept that volume of water. Which if the retaining capacity was the fields far upstream probably won't be found until this block of water reaches the sea (why have something which is only needed if something else fails? Do people go out and buy 2 loaves in case one has gone off?), so the flooding sweeps through every town until it reaches the mouth of the river. Which applied to relatively little rivers can be devastating, but when applied to things the size of the Danube... (guess whose geographic knowledge runs out of big rivers east of the Danube).

Now add in the effects of global warming: more frequent severe weather. More mini-monsoons, more sudden cloudbursts: more flashflooding (and damage from that will probably include more erosion, increasing normal flooding). More freak periods of high temperatures and no rainfall: more widespread fires (and of course fires damage or destroy surface cover, leading to greater soil instability, promoting greater movement and so more flooding).

So if you want a farm near the Romanian border, wait a couple of years, then buy it for next to nothing. If you maintain it, not only can you live in a rural idyll, but you are fulfilling your civic duty (and I know civic is not the right word).

Of course what will happen is that everyone will buy the places as holiday homes, minimal maintenance to the land will be done (no doubt newspaper supplements will talk of people creating eco-havens by buying an underused farm and letting it revert, so providing a brand new habitat for wildlife which can be viewed from the patio/loggia/veranda/terrace/deck [depending which is the current vogue] while drinking imported wine), and then there'll be a big hoo-ha about property investors being ripped off by unscrupulous locals and incompetent local administrations when people drive out from the airport to find the place has either been redecorated with a chocolate brown up to about 4 ft which comes with its own unique odour, or that the house the owners jokily call "the ruin" has scorched walls containing piles of shattered blackened tiles and some dramatically positioned charred beams.

Sorry, slight lecture there (that carried on past the peak), but I was getting increasingly annoyed by the environmentalist at the back asking the same questions in a loop and not listening to the answers. This is why much of the scientific community (oxymoron I know, but I'll ignore it for the time being) takes a dim, and slightly sneering, view of environmentalists; because they're dim. They are thick. Gross oversimplification, but for the majority it's true (and rather depressingly so - some of what they say is good, and they have a point, and then they go and ruin it).

But getting back to property investors. Apparently Europeans appreciate indigenous biodiversity. So much so that people go on safaris. And then return home to the immaculately kept luxury villa on an estate built round a golf course. So that's appreciate biodiversity in other places, so much so that they'll happily campaign (or pay someone else to campaign) against logging in Burma, while looking out over the expanse of gravel to the greater expanse of one single species of rye grass.

Probably ought to remind people at this point that the total number of households is rising and likely to continue. And where do people want to live? In a nice big house with a nice big garden on a quiet little road somewhere in the country (but which is still within reach of towns). So a big house is a large area with limited biodiversity (being the human occupants, whatever's in the maid's spit, the contents of a couple of jars of Yakult (other sources of charlatanism are available) and three sticks of bamboo). A big garden often is (so monoculture of grass, plus thoroughly cleansed swimming pool, plus hard tennis court, plus a few selected shrubs, all fenced in with the same species of conifer). On a quiet road demands that the traffic is carried on other roads, which increases the area of paving and thus biodiversity. And somewhere in the country invariably assumes that someone else does the country (which if you can retire by selling the land off to become more prestigious housing...). Within reach of towns means that the customers for a shop come from areas with too low a density to support mass transport, so that's an endless series of car journeys. It also means that out of town developments become ever more popular as they cut out the traffic and parking problems of going into town. Except each new out of town development draws part of the town round it, creating its own little hub, which means another development even further out is more accessible to the customers beyond the town. Let this process continue, and it's not so much the string of pearls model of development, more a beaded dress.

But then moving out of towns will probably be a good thing, as current indicators show that urban air pollution is continuing to rise, while in the rest of the place it is likely to decline (except if the whole place becomes suburbia...). Which given the long-term greenhouse gas targets are continuing to be exceeded, with the bulk of the increase coming from transport (that whole house not near services thing).

But the good news is that water use is set to decrease. In northern Europe. In southern Europe it has been increasingly dramatically and this is unabated. Which has caused damage to infrastructure and buildings through water extraction generated subsidence. It has damaged or wiped out habitats (marshland tends not to work so well without water). It has generated huge scale diversion away from natural watercourses (But China's not in Europe. Oh, yes I forgot Spain was doing that too).

Moving on, the EEA has developed a landcover database which allows them to measure the effect of policies. They can see the impact of flooding throughout the area, so there's not disjointedness at the borders. They've seen a 40% increase in sprawl in the peri-urban area around Berlin (not sure on what timescale, think it's 10 years, so post-wall). They can plot out the impacts of schemes, and suggest to places like Estonia, who were connecting every dot to every other dot on the map with EU funded roads, that completely fragmenting their unique environment might not be such a good idea (Estonia scaled back their plans to include green corridors).

But the data for all this isn't instantaneous. There are problems with sensing. There are problems with recording in an accessible and uniform way. There are problems with reporting (apparently all member countries of the EEA have to submit data and statistics on things like ozone. We were told 4 countries regularly did this, often going beyond what was necessary. The rest didn't. They missed deadlines. The EEA's response was to announce that they would publish a map for public use showing things like localised ozone levels across the whole continent. Individual countries figured out that the EEA would be guessing when it came to their country, but their citizens would see the guesses, which might not be good if it overestimates [Oh, but it's not really that bad. We know it's not that bad. Yes, I know the map says it is, but it's just the people who made the map didn't have access to the same information we do. Because we didn't send it in. Because, er... No, it's not that we are trying to hide things from the public, it's just... What do you mean you believe the map not me? But I have the information here. Well, I don't, but I could, if we can find it. No, I'm not just stalling to give someone time to make it up. Look, would we lie to you? Trust me, I'm a politician. Oh, where are you going?]. So suddenly there are only 4 who haven't sent the data in yet, and they've all given promises and excuses.

And here she got into a complex bit, which I think included embargoed stuff (I can't find it on the website), about datanets, NASA's Sensornet system which only responds to changes (cheap, but limited use, as ozone is about the only thing it can be used for, other data being too noisy or the machines too insensitive to be used effectively), GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security - it's the and Security which sounds a bit odd) and a whole swathe of other stuff leading into things like PRELUDE (prospective land use model, quite fun, but awful scenarios titles, but half of it isn't on the website yet).

Basically they don't have enough equipment or sensing sites to be able to do what they want and what people want them to do. It's a bit hard to model something which varies from street to street when there are only 3 measuring sites in the country. And of course analysis and modelling takes time, when most applications demand immediate response. She mentioned Turkey using live ozone data to launch public health alerts (basically stay indoors and try not to breathe) as an example of the result of the data monitoring system, but I got the impression that was about it in terms of rapid feedback.

Of course my view is biased by adjourning to the drinks [yay free alcohol, boo not drinking much because I have to listen to things and sound intelligent. Less yay to the slightly desiccated buffet. It was seafood heavy (always comforting in a buffet) with much rubbery sushi; the pickled ginger was beginning to curl] afterwards and finding myself talking to the head of the EEA's "partner" (thank god for keeping quiet and not asking how long they've been working together. Memo to self: partner can also mean not-yet-married) and a lecturer I know. I was mostly an impartial observer, occasionally confusing the guy who spends his life tracking lampposts by being able to cover the entire gambit between sensing nets, benthic worms and head versus flow tidal generation, with a little PV thrown in for good measure. Hmm, biologist who sails (with a physicist for a brother); that'll cover most of it.

Anyway, so a fascinating discussion, with occasional instances of biting my lip caused by both sides (oceanic consulting engineer trying to underplay the importance of tidal estuaries to fisheries: you see muddy water, I see suspended particles and dissolved organic matter. Oh, and if it's in the tidal range it's not really benthic. I'll ignore entirely the built environment scientist's misunderstandings).

And then after that the important people were dragged off to eat worse food, and I left discovering along the way (via the BE guy) that there was some big thing going on in Camden that might be worth checking out. But that's another post.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

LR - London - RW Lost in GothamA plague on all your hosen*.

I indulged in a little lunchtime shopping. I went out to buy a hat, as I've only got one and it was what might be politely termed mushroom (and I tended to look like one in it too), which after a few years of wear and insufficient washes was starting to go the same colour as actual mushrooms go after a couple of months in the back of the fridge.

So an expedition to Oxford Street in the rain. From observations there, I can safely proclaim that faded black denim is definitely back in. Either that or everyone else was wearing 8 year old jeans as well (why do the least flattering, most disliked clothes always outlast all the others? And why am I too miserly to buy new trousers when I've got a perfectly good pair, albeit a pair with 4 under-used inches round the waist).

So I went hat hunting. I stormed out of Next in disgust, not only for their superb lack of taste or imagination, but because they started playing infuriatingly jazzy Christmas songs at lunchtime on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Gap is better, but I leave after the shop tries to kill me. For some reason the barriers round the stairs started descending, which caught the "sale" sign. This was on the top shelf, and consisted of a piece of printed board clipt into a hefty weight to hold it upright. This falls over onto the top shelf, out of sight of the innocent shop investigating reductions below. I heard a clunk, then a rapidly accelerating rasping clatter. At this point my subconscious kicks in, and I step diagonally backwards. A blur and a flutter followed by thud which travels through the fabric of the building.

On the floor are three separate items laid out like a memory test for the very young; the sign, the clip and the weight. I look around and fail to see any staff. The partially lowered barriers trundle back up into the ceiling. I walk away, not quite as dazed as I might have been, but still a little bemused. I do an uninterested tour of the shop, then return to the spot. The sign has been reassembled and is sitting on a different shelf. There's a noticeable dent in the floor. But there's no sign of any member of staff, so I can only conclude that the shop is a battleground between mischievous little elves and the long suffering fairies, who magically maintain everything as it always has been.

Then back out, then in to some shop simply because I'd never heard of the name, and it was playing the Chemical Brother's Galvanise (I defy anyone to move while that song is playing and not find themselves in time with it at some point). So while I liked the music, and quite liked the lighting (once upon a time I had to... don't ask), I even liked some of the clothes, just not at those prices. £29.50 for a t-shirt? I know there are places where one can pay considerably more, but then I'm used to dividing that figure by 10 and adding fourpence to get the normal price for t-shirts. Admittedly these do tend to go a bit odd and fall apart if one microwaves them, but I suspect that's more the excessive microwaving that the t-shirt.

So then out, and into H&M. Home of the £2.99 t-shirt, which I guess makes them the modern C&A. So where would they fit on the and scale of shopping? It used to run C&A, M&S, A&N (House of Fraser). Beneath M&S? Yes, because it's poorer quality, but it is cheaper, and a damn sight more wearable. But better or worse than C&A? Well, C&A was like M&S but cheaper and more cheaply made, so it was cheap as well as dreary. So somewhere between the two. But as C&A is no more (except, oddly in the rest of Europe, which does cast aspersions on the taste of the consumers therein) this probably isn't important.

So I walk in, wander round, get weirded out by the manikins (it doesn't happen in any other shop, so it must be something to do with the positioning and lighting, but I invariably nearly apologise for nearly walking into them) and see a red hooded top that looks remarkably like my poor pinkish clay one did several years and holes ago. I'm very tempted to buy it then and there just for sheer regression purposes (and it has drawstrings too, so I can do my Kenny from South Park impression [sans the hair] but this time actually know why yanking the hood tighter brings immediate laughter to those who had Sky). But I'm not seventeen and at college, and how many hooded tops does one guy need? So tempting though, just for the expected feelings of youth, warmth and happiness (which will vanish if I see a mirror).

Further on I'm dismayed to discover that the price of their basic t-shirts has gone up. Until I realise it's a cunning ploy to trick people habituated to the usual positioning of the shop to buy more expensive t-shirts, and that the £2.99 ones are round the corner. Admittedly the more expensive t-shirts come in a nicer range of colours (is very pale pink really the best colour for winter? But one's skin will end up matching it, albeit as an average of pale blue face with a red nose).

So, having intended to get a replacement black t-shirt, for am I wearing the original black one, hidden under a jumper, as it's starting to look like work of a Topman designer (slightly too distressed, although I think flakey is definitely an highly personalised look), I end up getting one yellow and one orange one. I've now realised that the yellow one is exactly the same colour as the study at my parent's (and my childhood) home, which is also the same colour as the front door of my grandparent's house, and the inherited book on Shakespeare which is sitting in my brother's bookshelf beside my elbow, as well as being suspiciously similar to the colour of both Selfridge's and half of Midhurst (thanks to the Cowdray estate).

And because I'm wearing it now, under a brown cardigan (the label claims it's a tang; I thought that was fish), I've also come to realise that it is the same colour as part of my first ever school uniform (which was a very fetching brown with yellow stripes). I've also just remembered that I already own a t-shirt and a top this colour, but both are definitely of their era and both where bought on the assumption that I'd grow into them, which never quite happens as I intended (the shoulders grew, the rest didn't, so if I wear them it looks like they're still on the hanger).

And the orange is that curiously muddy orange which happens to the same as that muddy orange t-shirt I had years ago, and which was originally bought so I could be a Viking (it was big (and tunicable), I wasn't. I did grow into that one).

And I thought it was worrying when over the summer I was very tempted to be a checked shirt I really liked, until I realised it was the same colour and pattern as the one I was wearing in that photograph where I was just a small, smiling mass of blonde curls on a trike (And why did the blonde have to change, but not the curls?).

It's bad enough that my brother has a new phone, and it looks oh-so-early-eighties. I know fashion recycles, but does it have to recycle stuff I can just about remember from the first time round? I refuse to be so old that my memory is full of ideas which are so outdated that they can be rediscovered. That and I know what's coming next, and widespread day-glo was never a good idea. Do you think clothes which show wear you are hot but not yet sweaty will ever make a comeback?

Bloody hell. I just realised that some of you out there might be too young to know about the horrors of the past. In which case, I strongly urge you on all matters concerning geometric prints to just say no. Just remember the dwarf with learning difficulties.

After the two t-shirts came the woollen jumper. I would have bought one last year, but for some reason H&M saw fit to make them in such a shape that would allow accurate indication of syllables in charades without any encumberment. This year however the sleeves-as-gloves look is obviously in, so I can wear them without having to invest in wristbands. I very nearly didn't get on as the options were bright red, dark green, or black, but the only black jumpers were round necked. Except for the one dumped between the piles, which just happened to be a medium. Ok, so I look like my brother with it on, but worse things happen (well, technically can happen if one believes there being an infinite number of possibilities for everything).

Oh, and a tip for the distracted hat buyer: when trying on jumpers, do try not to wear artistically adapted t-shirts. The line of brown mock bullet holes is not really a good look, and it gets somewhat worse when the middle of these start crumbling.

And then I found a half-zipped high-collared jumper (look, I know that's getting complicated, but if I said it was just like my Fatface one, then while being accurate that wouldn't really help you visualise) in the same slightly orangey-red as the hooded top. But it's five pounds more than the hooded top. Drat. But it is more versatile than the hooded top (I probably should have realised that once I'd started thinking in terms of when I could wear it, the battle would be lost).

And it was then I remembered I was looking for a hat. I was intending to go for stripy, but all they had where mixtures of not very nice colours. So I went for the slightly orangey-red one, with the little tag I intended to cut off [but didn't because it allows me to put it on the right way round]. But why that red? Because, up until the adventurous foray into mushroom, my hats have been red. It's been that way ever since I was very small. It's like colour-coded toothbrushes (although oddly, my brother's toothbrush was always red). Except of course, I'm not called Roger, nor I am a French detective (I would suggest Googling, but Linux tends to confuse the results. Roger Red-Hat was a character in a book that taught children to read. The other characters where Billy Blue-Hat and the slightly odd Jonny and Jennifer Yellow-hat [plus a unhatted Indian family], who all lived in the Village with Three Corners [which oddly I've always had mixed up with that "my hat it has three corners" song]. The French detective is le Chapeau Rouge, a character in a series of books aimed at teaching children to read in French).

Anyway, so I went shopping and I bought two t-shirts, because I probably should have done some washing instead, two jumpers because one is like one I already own, and the other was the first thin woollen jumper I've seen in ages with was trying to inflict Argyle on the world (Why are the worst patterns named after bits of Scotland? Argyle, Paisley, etc. [et cetera in this case meaning I can't think of any more but if you can, then I'll just imply I'm already aware of those]).

I am concerned that I managed to spend £50 in H&M, which is known for being cheap. I suppose I had the reddish jumper down as being 5 pounds less because an earlier item the same colour was, and the world's finest (in one sense, but possibly not the way one normally expects) merino wool jumper was another £20, but cheap for a merino wool jumper (and M&S's are just as thin).

I'm tired and rambling, and therefore am in (or "and im" as originally typed) the perfect mode to begin my review of Friday evening at the Tate. Firstly, after a quick, cheap and fairly mediocre haircut (have hat, need more hatable hair), I headed Tatewards and into Rachel Whitbread's, she of the not-so-empty-house, turbine hall installation. Many boxes, each made from the mould of many cardboard boxes. It's like walking through a world built of sugarcubes (fairly apt for the Tate. So what did Mr Lyle do with his money?). All of the boxes are translucent, and so there are great similarities to the boxes of light bursting through the walls on the gallery side of the hall (well, there would be if the lights in the light boxes were on).

And I've never been in Tate Modern when it's been raining; you can hear it hissing, gushing and gurgling through the walls, apeing that sound installation of a few months ago (although all the sound means is someone messed up the design of the drainpipes).

So the installation is a mildly entertaining diversion, mostly because of the people within it, but I wasn't really sure where it was taking us. Most art tries to control the viewer, but this seemed just indifferent.

And I must be fairly tired; it took me far too long to figure out that Whitebread was not the artist's surname.

Then up to the exhibitions. Photography or painting. Photography finishes earlier, and I'm going to be dragged round the paintings at least once before they finish, and to be completely honest, modern photography on a huge scale just appeals far more than stylised tigers in stylised jungles. So Jeff Wall it is then.

All his images, except for the room of black and white, are presented as transparencies on huge lightboxes (another occurrence of boxes of light. Did I mention walking past the lit up National Theatre as well?). I'll skip adding my usual comments on each individual piece, as I later discovered the free booklet says much the same things. And I'll state at the outset that my view is skewed by the information contained within the pictures. Grand landscapes may have artistic merit and may make cultural nods to other artists, some of which I appreciate (and some I miss completely), but I'll always be drawn in to the details; the building structures, the different wharves for piles of different colour minerals, the angled ship being half-sunk under the weight of the unbalanced cargo, the contrast between epic mountains and grossly industrialised rivers, the unabashed blocks of houses punching at regular intervals through the wood. It all fascinates me.

And then there are the incidentals; the far off Canadian flag in Steveston (it's worse than Where's Wally?), the uncontrollable Harry Potter poster, the happened upon reflection in a television of a better view than the one shown. All rewarding in that "I looked longer and harder than Chris Morris and this is what I found".

Oh, and a guy that looked like Chris Morris (The Day Today, amongst other things) but a bit older, possibly beginning to be balder, and whose accompanying friend/probably wife (bedecked in every pattern going) called him Chris, was going round the exhibition at the same time. But having concluded that it probably was him, the "oh it's him, or is it?" novelty wore off and I went back to the pictures (and they went round quicker). Anyway, what should one say to someone who is technically a complete stranger, but is familiar to me from his work, although the stuff I remember was a while ago and I've no idea what he's been doing since.

Googling suggests it was his wife (due to the fact he has one, and she looked like pictures I've found), and she is called Jo Unwin, comedy-actress/writer. And in comedy-actress I'm including her appearance in The Bill, for fairly obvious reasons.

Anyway, that was another incidence of "famous people are just people". Although I'm not sure whether it ranks up there with being emailed by Matt Barbet (wonky nostrils, ears and dress sense, and in this flattering picture, lips too). But Matt Babret doesn't have his own Wikipedia page, so maybe it does.

Getting back to Jeff Wall, I'm still surprised at just how easily images can be melded together. I know technically it's possible, and that every single day I am confronted by examples which show it; it's just that somehow I never quite connected obviously photographic, right down to the grain, with the massively edited. It makes no sense, yet I didn't think of it. I expect it in films, yet am surprised when it happens in a single frame. Odd.

Anyway, for the most part I'd happily heap superlatives upon him. And then come the black and white images. Whether it was an effect of the display, or whether it was due to the lack of backlighting, these images just didn't appeal. Black and white can be simple and powerful. It's easier to take a good photograph in black and white (the Toffee-Crisp wrapper on the church steps effect). Yet his weren't. They were complex shades of grey which fade to black at just the wrong point, leaving a cluttered yet undifferentiated image. They can't have been very good, because I was more intrigued by the effects occurring within the reflection of the lighting (perspex polarises, so depending on angle, apparently white lights come out green, purple or blue. Which reminded me of trying to view slides on a lightbox; partially polarised light turned the reds black). Although in fairness there were problems caused by reflections of lightboxes in different rooms, which wrecked any chance of seeing the images as a whole.

After the photographs, I decided the tiger could wait until another time, and wandered southwards towards Southwark tube station. So when I found Borough High Street, and followed it to Elephant and Castle (I thought they were meant to be redesigning the area around it, or was that only for traffic?), I realised I might have gone in slightly the wrong direction.

Then back to here, and discovering that QI is as much a hazard to cooking as (the very Day Today-ish) Broken News is.

And after that action packed day (walking is an action, just not a very exciting one), I've managed to achieve very little today, and now I've got to decide if I want to hike halfway across town to go to something which I'll have to leave 3 hours (or knowing what the others are like at standing around outside waiting for people, 2 hours) after I get there, unless I wait for the thing to finish, in which case I'm stranded for an hour, and then take 4 times as long to get back as it does to get there.

I'd like to go, but it just seems like such a waste of time for so little gain. Said he who's just spent a silly amount of time typing when I should have been out buying food I now want to eat but don't have.


* I of course do need trousers, just didn't even attempt the despair inducing process of trying to find just jeans, or whichever trousers I wanted. It's always easy to find things splattered in acid, or emblazoned with lewdness, but if I ever want normal, dull, mundane run-of-the-mill I find the mill won't be doing anything like that for the next 5 seasons. Especially not in 32.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Oh dear.

While engaging in a little mild displacement activity (stats checking), I happened upon the search term "Matt Barbet" gay. So far, so uninteresting (the BBC claim he's not and with his taste in ties...). But what caught my attention was the result a few up from me. It reads:
BBC NEWS | England | London | Twin boys die in house fire
... WATCH AND LISTEN. BBC London''s Matt Barbet "Neighbours are devastated by the tragedy". BBC London Travel, features and more from ... - 28k - Supplemental Result - Cached - Similar pages

Ok, now go back and reread that.
...die in house fire ...WATCH AND LISTEN.

And you thought Big Brother plumbed new depths.


Antigua - Shirley Heights sunset 1Rumours of my demise have been... pretty non-existent. I go all incommunicado on you and nobody notices. Which is a bit more incommunicado than I intended.

Anyway busyness, like demises, abounds. But it would take way to long to explain things (there's a half written full write up of part of it, which is currently clogging up Blogger), and I haven't time. Besides which I need to be quick and post with Blogger's servers are still working. Google, I'm not impressed when Blogger, all blogspot sites and Gmail simultaneously keel over. I'm also not to impressed by the way you managed to be crap enough at trademarks and brandnames meaning I might have to become

BTW, what's the betting on Gmail ever leaving Beta? Have they decided that the "by invitation only" aspect not only adds a certain caché (poor word choice) but also does reduce the tendency towards pornout which usually results in mutual degradation by competing email providers (hands up if you've had Hotmail routinely chuck legit mail in with the spam, and hands up again if your outgoing Hotmail is treated as spam when it gets to the other end).

Speaking of which, of the past couple of days I've had to give a certain site a good pounding, and it uses images on rotation on the main screen. Except with me it appears to have got stuck on the same one. This one. Just what I want to see when it's not even 9 o'clock yet on a Monday morning. [If the link shifts to something newer, a wider angle version is available here].

Other amusing items:
Heard on the radio (brother + washing = Radio 4) was the following corollary to the oft quoted "the early bird catches the worm*":
"But the second mouse gets the cheese".

Far too easily amused.

*Or indeed "word" as I just typed. It would of course have to be very early to catch the Word seeing as how that disappeared sometime in the previous decade, and it was on very, very early. Unless it was the other "the Word", in which case that too would have to very, very early, because it was in the beginning.

Being able to look out of window, and see rockets screeching parallel to the road is fun, especially when it's not my street. Fireworks night was spent indoors having been at the Nelson and Napoleon exhibition at the National Maritime Museumall day (and having been enjoying the delights of Wimbledon Village [you call that a village?] the night before). We went in at 12.45, and came out when it closed at 5. But when they start announcing the imminent closure, I wondered why it was closing at 3. So quite absorbing then. Some bits where fascinating, some intriguing, some delightful and some just a bit cheesy (but that fact it was in both English and French did seem to have tempered any bias).

Became slightly too engrossed by the maps of everything (Portsmouth Harbour; not what it was), and surprised by seeing Napoleon's neatly handwritten verbs translating French into English. I know I should have considered it before, given that officers happily dined with the foe, which rather suggests they could speak to each other, but Napoleon is the archetypal plus-francais Gallic leader. Tout le monde sera francais, donc la langue seule est francais (apologies to anyone who knows french, and thus has just winced at the grammar).

Oh, yes. The Grauniad's magazine thing leads with an article on Derek Draper and Kate Garraway. That'll be who?-squared then.

And one problem with things run by dyslexics for dyslexics is that no one has the remotest soupcon of organisational ability. Which lead to interesting phone confusion, as I tried to contact them, as they tried to get me.

The sirens outside remind me: that whole France brulé is a bit weird, non? It does rather suggest that outlawing the concept of differentness, ne marche terribly well pas, as well as having bizarre similarities to the type of logic which ends in doubleplusungood.

You know that whole dyslexic thing? Double-ply-sun-god.

But anyway, fourteen hundred cars cremated in one night is bloody petrifying. Although part of me wonders if perhaps there is a local Citroen factory under threat of closure. It's an easy way to bump up sales (and it does save turning the central heating on for a few more nights yet).

Going back to the NMM thing - I took some photographs after we left, but I haven't got copies of them yet (not my camera, uploaded [hopefully by now] onto not my computer, not yet emailed to me, thus not yet on Flickr. Yes, I know I have a fridgeful of films [pre the Portmerioning of my camera], but I haven't had time to get them developed, scanned and uploaded. Scanning's a bit of a bottleneck at the mo). So watch the space just over there.

That better be it, as it is far to late, and I have really anal stuff to wade through (and that really was a poor choice of words).


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