Friday, June 02, 2006

CF5 600 - Flashless - 20 National Gallery ShutterJe suis fatigué.

I was sort of supposed to blog up the new exhibition on invention and innovation at the Building Centre, which I saw on Saturday, but somehow never quite got round to it. Some of it is fairly good, some fairly pointless, some laughably misguided, some tediously optimistic and some downright worrying.

[While you're in there, look at Yerbury's architectural photographs dotted round the cafe. Superb].

Go and have a play with the electric window, and then try to work out if the energy to run the thing (and have it sitting on standby) is saved by the insulative properties of the glass, or why, if you've got your hand on the handle, it is better for you to press a button and wait for the mechanism to kick in than it is to pull. I can understand that electrical actuators are useful if the window is 30 ft above the floor, or that disabled people might need help opening the window, but neither of which demands the controls to be on the handle of the system.

It's also entertaining to watch others trying to use it, and see how unintuitive the controls are (standard comments "It's flashing, what does that mean?" - it means the user has turned the handle to the wrong position for the current opening mode). Then have fun trying to read the grey-on-glass blurb, when it's backed by an off-white wall (all it needs is a sheet of A4 and some masking tape).

And hands up if you want to be surrounded by something which burrs, buzzes, clatters, grinds and clunks with every adjustment made. It takes longer than a normal window too, plus I can't help wondering how quickly it would break, and how long and costly the repair would be.

I also had to resist the temptation to turn the power off and see how it handles, and how quickly it reboots (there's a nice tempting socket on the wall), but I suspect it might not take too kindly too that, nor the staff to me.

Other whys include scented concrete (how long does it last, do we really need to embed VOCs in our buildings?), concrete made from oil (courtesy of Shell, because as we know, we have so much we can't think what to do with it all), and some dreadfully badly designed powerpoint presentations, which suggest they were compiled on computers with different screen sizes, by someone who didn't think white-on-white would be a bad idea, and that red on multi-coloured collage is even better. It doesn't help some of the presentations are obviously corporate promotion slideshows which are dependent on the accompanying speech, and are aimed at a variety of audiences. Plus whoever installed them set each slide to last the same amount of time, so six words of truism are given equal time as the cluttered slide which explores all the complex maths behind one of the proposed towers in the city (bye-bye Gherkin). Basically look at the pretty pictures and try not to think. Incidentally the pictures round the outside are the best bit.

If you do go, and someone hasn't filched all the samples yet, beware of two things; the big black booklets fall out of the display stack with amazing regularity (usually about every 8 minutes, as someone tries to pick one up; take one from the pile dumped on top of the case), and the edges of the orange Perspex used to back all the objects are sharp. I cut my thumb by just brushing past the edge of a table, and saw someone do the same a few minutes later, so the mass of people sucking their hands aren't reverting to insecure childhood, it's just that world is out to get them.

[Continued later]

Does anyone know why the latest version of Firefox starts searching the text of the current page every time I try to enter an apostrophe? In the settings control section there is a toggle for automatic searching, and turning that off seems to kill the problems. But each time it restarts the error comes back, even though that option remains deselected (but clicking OK seems to remind Firefox).

It is just a niggle, but like all niggles it is getting really irritating, especially as I keep having to say "it is".

I think I may have to start inventing some code for the apostrophe, as the lack continues to annoy. How about [ni], because it does look like it ought to sound like "ni", although that is four keystrokes rather than one. Of course, I could just look up the HTML code for the character, but that wouldn[ni]t be as much fun, would it?

While I am at it, does anyone know of anything, like the Gmaps pedometer, which can produce a track between points? I literally need something which can do dot-to-dot. The pedometer can do it for named places, and for hand selected points, but it cannot apparently cope with coordinates. So while the search term "Hamilton" in the category "Bermuda", brings up a big blue screen (although the satellite shows a cruise ship docked, so it's probably right), sticking "32° 20'N, 64° 45'W" in the search box doesn't. Oh, apparently the apostrophe is fixed. So ni-ing obviously works (as long as I remain insensitive to it).

The lat-long doesn't apparently work regardless of which area one selects, such as "Oceans" or "No Mans Land". It'd be nice to be able to input longitude and latitude, and to link up sequential points, as at the moment I have a friend somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, and am getting daily position reports, yet they all only bring up much blueness, so a comparative system that didn't rely on having several windows open all with Nova Scotia lined up in the top corner would be great.

At moment I've tried most of the likely suspects which appear in Google or GMDir, but they either don't have text input boxes, want airport codes or meekly return "Location not found".

Blast. I just tried getting a link to the starting point, but Bermuda is too close to the edge of the map, so system automatically scoots it all over to fit the label bubble in. Time to zoom out.

200605251200, 200605261200, 200605271200, 200605281200, 200605291200, 200605301200, 200605311200, and that's all I have. It looks like she's midway to the Azores. But now I'm getting worried about the lack of posts in June (although she's had less of it so far). And having just checked the weather, they should be getting the tag end of an anticyclone blowing from the NW.

And how inconsiderate is it of the Americans to name a strip of their coastline (sorry, seaboard) "Mid-Atlantic"? Not unless there's severe global warming will Virginia ever be mid-Atlantic, however much one might wish it.

What else?

Oh yes, from Firefox to Opera. Bartok and somebody else. A parental thing, but none of us could identify the language of the first one (wasn't the composer Hungarian; that explains why it sounds like nothing else).

A tip: never leave a bit late, then catch a bus because the bus turned up as I was on the way to the Tube (it's a rule of thumb that if I ignore a waiting bus, the Tube will go down the tubes with me on it). Because the bus will trundle slowly under the control of the world's happiest bus driver, who I think was called Marvin Eeyore, round unexpected diversions, and then, as you near your destination, Marvin will become both deaf and blind, and so, after stopping at every stop for the last couple of miles, will skip three stops in a row, while managing to miss the lights for every set of traffic lights encountered in between. So the bus stops just beyond a bus stop, but no one can get off.

So I ended up running to Convent Garden. One advantage of London traffic is that one can run down an empty Charing Cross Road without fear of harm as there's a void between two lumps of gridlock. For once I took the right road at Seven Dials, deftly skimming past taxis on ankles just loose enough to survive the cobbles. Swinging in past Covent Garden station, I flit through the loose crowd. Ahead there's three guys with a large gap between the one on the left and the other two leading through to a hollow down to the busker at the junction. I level out and head for the wide gap. Just as I'm nearly there, the guy on the left jumps in towards me arms braced across his chest as his shoulder aims for my sternum. I try to stop, arms out to cushion the blow.

I didn't manage it. So I ran at nearly full pelt into him, forcing beery breath to thud from his body. I sail backwards and sideways through the air, my right foot nearly collecting the head of one of his friends as I pass. I land fingers, palm, wrist, elbow, shoulder, tumbling towards some startled Americans, as I get up onto my neck before losing momentum and rolling back down.

Guy one the right looks stunned and asks "are you alright mate?"
Guy in the middle is only just beginning to regist how narrowly escaped having his cheek branded M for Merrell.
Guy on the left, who is somewhere behind me now, still twisting from the impact, says "You shouldn't run".

I get up, too late and bewildered to think of getting cross and entertaining the crowds with vivisection (although I'm armed only with a mobile phone, wallet, keys, entry cards of myriad forms, Oystercard and deodorant (I have Sure and I'm not afraid to use it, although mine was the cream form, unlike his), the latter in response to my mother's call for reinforcements. I suppose I could use his rib cage as a postbox for AA or similar cards, but I might need some of them later). As I start off again, leaving the crowds to murmur "he jumped" and "it was deliberate", the one the right is still looking confused, the one in the middle is now looking daggers at the one the left, who is smirking. Yep, your friend nearly caused you to be badly injured (I can't imagine a fast moving ten or eleven stone applied diagonally upwards to the neck would be a terribly good thing). Yep, your friend thinks that's funny. Yep, you're fully justified in badly injuring him.

I disappear in towards the Opera House, as my mother starts to ring. Answering I enter, loathing the revolving door that shuts down any time anyone gets too close, which always means everyone then gets too close prompting another shutdown. Before I can get my head into making-sense mode, I can see her.

19.26 isn't late. It just means we avoid most of the crowds, and still beat my brother and father to the seats. It's only on the way up that the post-mortem can happen, and I think of checking my coat for damage. I think I'm quite glad early in the week was miserably cold, thanks to the northerly spilling high over Ireland. It meant I'd given up on summer, and so was wearing my thick and a bit-big leather jacket over a woollen jumper. So the impact was padded and I skidded inside the coat, rather than over the cobbles.

And then it begins, and the only word I can decipher is Judit, who is a bit demanding. So I watch, liking some of the music but not really appreciating the singing, trying to be grown up enough not snigger as the surtitles come up with double entendres, although some of them might be single, but with the whole Hungarian thing it's hard to check. One particularly good line was "silken pasture, velvet forest", which either brought a sob of overwrought emotion from the woman next to me (who preferred intimate contact with a stranger to any contact with the man she was with. I wouldn't mind, but the seats are narrow enough as it is) or a childish reaction unbecoming to a lady of such age. It didn't help it help the entire thing was doused in blood, and who made this big salty lake, and there was a lot of singing about the laying on of hands.

It didn't help I guessed the end on about the third door (of seven). So that was Captain Bluebeard's Castle, which isn't quite as much fun as the Pirates of Penzance.

Then came the interval, with ginger ice cream all round (bar my brother, due to the lactovomit thing), in which my father very successfully sneaked the ice creams into the theatre, due to not knowing it was banned. An usher belatedly stopped him, and made sure he went back outside, so I dutifully followed, having already started and the usher not even noticing I, or my ice cream, existed.

My brother scrounged some cough sweets off a different usher, although we both kept them for later in case we ever need to bore our way out of a bank vault using breath alone.

Then off to scrounge some water from the bar, then to the loo, the passage to which appeared to have had recent rain, as the Royal Opera House doesn't run to anything to dry one's hands. And so back to the show, which went all paranoid German, Ewartung apparently being a form of die Schizophrenie.

And then that was it, as people walk out while the cast are still bowing onstage. Maybe the tendency to run off quickly at the end of a show to catch the last train home is so ingrained that it works even when they can probably still get a train to Glasgow. It was a very short show.

And then out into the scarcely night, not saying much, and having a silly waving fest as the earlier northbound train draws me away from the waiting southbounders.

The next day involved chaos, a hurry, milling, more chaos, distraction, trying not fall asleep in a fascinating lecture on creating legislation (which featured stuff I'm sure would have been interesting and useful, had I been awake, just like I'm sure I could have networked frantically with the woman representing the GLA and the man from the ODPMOWIICN, had I not end up sitting on to the table next to the coffee and biscuits, which I finished off. I needed the sugar), then being slightly too awake to not doing anything, so sitting the department emailing, then went back home, then set about transferring music from my computer to SG's with the intention of putting it on CD so I can clear some space on my hard drive (lesser men might just buy another hard drive, rather than USB stick it over in half gigs), while introducing her to "Call Me Please" [her words] by Radiohead, and then milling round aimless on the internet for a while (until nearly 3; can you tell I don't drink coffee?), followed by reading without much headway the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Then waking up, then not getting much done for the entirety of Thursday, then not meeting someone when I might have done, then coming back, doing dull houseworky stuff, having SG turn up with a copy of Pride and Prejudice she'd just bought (she has no region 2 DVD player, I do; I'm not sure how she copes when she goes back to China with it), tactfully saying "oh, you bought that version", and thereby having to explain that different versions exist, and the one other people had been talking about was the wet-shirted Darcy BBC one. Then leaving her to it, while I got on with other stuff, occasionally coming in to mock the Ameriscope bucolic rural idyllness, the completely incongruous objects, manners, behaviour, make up and hair (there's one scene where hair changes colour between shots, and another actress has an interesting divergence between her hair and eyebrows). My mother rings up to discuss various things, ranging from cameras to keyhole surgery of large structures. It's probably indicative of our family that my mother's impending hysterectomy can prompt me to say "well, that's one way of losing weight", completely without repercussions.

Oh, and she saw the Keira Knightley version and agrees it's rubbish - absolutely awful, which is the one bit of the phone call which gets passed on when SG asks. Although it is just shockingly bad, while somehow managing to be a good old romp through the centuries (it's just a pity none of the characters said "Fy sir, thou art nought but a time travel'd knave" or Mrs Bennett isn't seen drinking Dr Pepper's Patented Remedy from the can). It doesn't help I can't see half the faces without thinking of the people in other roles (is Penelope Wilton ever not worried?). But I think the worst of it has to be the timing and delivery. You can see KK walk into a room, and count to three before picking up a book, clutch it for another 3, sigh and replace it, walk to the window and wait there for 4 seconds.

When she speaks some of the words get through, but when in ardent duel with Darcy neither of them seem to notice the words, or that the lines are meant to fit together. The actors seem to be chewing the words simply because they taste better than the scenery. It must take some special power to slay some of the most popular lines in the language.

But better yet are the add-ons, the bits where the script veers from Austen, Jane to Austin, Texas. Not only do the shifts come in with such an obvious jerk that one wonders if they've only ever driven an automatic before, but they seem designed to convey the meaning of the preceding lines for the more hard of thinking audience. Which leads a bit inevitably to wondering why someone is adapting a great work of literature when they don't trust the words. Because they get to have a jolly around this green and pleasant and strangely perpetual dawn-or-is-that-sunset land. Except for the lonely woe-is-me bit where of course it's lashing down with rain.

And this from someone who's never read the book, so doesn't have that extra layer of infuriation, and finds the story slightly pompous and annoying anyway. I'm not a fan and still I wince. But hey, it's a great ad for the England that never was, and if that brings more Americans tourists here, then great, as they'll soften any future landings.

This is long, I'm still tired.

And I've just discovered Australia.

On Google maps. It wasn't there last time I looked.

I think I'm going to declare Darwin to the be world's oddest city (some of the suburbs are bigger than the city).

But then up there does seem a bit odd, as the next peninsula (the one that almost touches Papua New Guinea) has such delights as "Peninsula Development Road" "Old Telegraph Track" and "Northern Bypass Road", the latter of which does make me wonder that there is that needs bypassing. I'm intrigued the three different sets of data Google provides. There's the roads, rivers and parks, mapped out as usual. There's satellite images which roughly fit. And then, if you zoom in a bit, there's a load of grey lines, which illustrated coasts, roads and rivers which don't match. The sort of do, as you can see the same rough features, but it's as if they drew the map and then found the satellite data didn't fit.

I'd better stop now, as I've just managed to miss Ayer's Rock. I thought I found it, but then noticed this lump of red had a river running through it.

I just Googled; it's green and nowhere near Alice Springs. Admittedly Alice is the nearest town, it's just that...oooh, I've noticed the scoured looking bits, and I know why it does that.

Hmm, it can't find a friend's house in Canberra, and it's helpfully returning not-found despite the search term being one of the labels on screen. But I've found it anyway. Does the UK map show individual lots?

Maps are addictive, and I haven't done the stuff I saw in the Telegraph yesterday. 13 Amp, especially the travel-time things.


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