The International Space Station has taken a photo of London at night. Is this progress?
On one level, I don’t care, I like the fact of the picture.
Then again, if I had my way*, I would have maps pretty much everywhere at home. One of my most recent moments of little-boy-level enthusiasm was visiting a very pleasant, large townhouse where the ‘cloakroom’ (i.e. the toilet behind the kitchen) had been wallpapered with an A-Z of London. How wonderful.
I blame at least some of this on being given an illuminated globe at age about five, and my excitement, later in my childhood, on realising that it was slowly going out of date.
Update: Oh my, if I thought the picture itself was good, just look what Steve has done with it instead of doing some real work. Requires Flash. Requires applause. If you could get that in a box I’d buy it.
The cashpoint machine at Swiss Cottage tube has been robbed again, making for a long slog home for me tonight as police swarm all over the station like slow, upright ants.
Why the repeated hitting of this cashpoint, though? Is it a copycat robbery, peer pressure, a particularly easy mark, or something else.
I’m wondering if it’s a very precise demonstration of the saying that a criminal always returns to the scene of the crime. Otherwise, maybe it’s a graduate from burglary who hasn’t really understood banks yet. Burglars are notoriously supposed to come back a couple of months after their first visit to collect the new kit that the homeowner has bought with the insurance money. I’m imagining this armed robber waiting at home through January and February, thinking “I wonder if the insurers have paid out enough to fill up the cashpoint again. I’ll give it another week to be sure.”
Too busy today to look much further than my own navel, so it’s a blog stats moment. My domain host has (happily) move to Webtrends, so I now get proper stats, with graphs and all.
Except it reckons that on Monday I got one solitary hit, and yesterday something like three times my previous record for a day. I can understand the single hit if, as seems possible, they moved to Webtrends late on Monday evening. But Re_invigorate, which I’ve been using for stats information, resolutely has yesterday as one of normal activity.
Perhaps Re_invigorate doesn’t know that Sexy Sadie visited yesterday:
“For example: whose ever heard of a knitting stitch ‘present for Christmas’? Why is there an exclamation mark after the song ‘Hey Jude’?”
(Courtesy of A Blog’s Life)
This Labour government’s pursuit of illiberal legal measures continues unabated.
The Telegraph points out that, all quiet like, the law on the confiscation of proceeds of criminal activities changed yesterday. The new Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) now only needs to show that goods or money were illictly obtained, on the balance of probability. This means that citizens found not guilty in a court of law can still have their assets seized. Lovely.
Diamond Dave Blunkett himself is quoted as saying:
“The agency is coming after the homes, yachts, mansions and luxury cars of the crime barons. But this is also about cracking down on local crooks - well known within their communities for their flash cars, designer clothes and expensive jewellery . . .”
Had this report been anywhere else but the Torygraph, it would undoubtedly have mentioned that this move is certainly going to lead to targeting of supposed criminals along racial lines. Unless you imagine that the ARA is going to be impounding BMW convertibles throughout Surrey, it’s clear that the primary target of this is going to be young black men wearing expensive-looking jewellery and driving fast cars around Brixton.
That’ll make a change, don’t you think? If this was being done by a Conservative administration, there would be a righteous uproar. Why nothing now?
I had a microrevelation this morning on the journey in to work. It came after I’d finished my daily 10 minutes of commuter train hell, now made worse by the presence of fat, sweaty Jag drivers complaining about the smelly, overcrowded train (here’s a clue for them: it’s probably the fault of the fat, sweaty passengers, isn’t it?).
Anyway, walking down the escalators to the underground, I was thinking something along the lines of “No need to be glum, I’ll buzz into work, make sure I smile at people, crack a joke maybe, it’ll make the day more pleasant for everybody. After all, work’s what you make of it”.
Then it struck me. I’d had the almost identical internal monologue yesterday. And possibly the day before. And certainly a few times in the weeks before. Moreover, each time it had been on the down escalator at London Bridge station.
Now, London Bridge is one of the better and architecturally more pleasant of the London mainline stations, but even the cavernous ceilings of its underground aren’t enough to explain my sudden daily upturn in mood.
So I’m left struggling to explain what’s going on.
One option is that I’m far more of a robot than I like to think. By about 8am, I’ve finally woken up and had a chance to get some air in my lungs. I’ve stared at someone’s still-wet hair on a cramped train for a few minutes, and by the time I’m at the top of the escalators my mind has had a chance to re-engage and chivvy itself along.
Another is that standing at the top of the huge downward sloping tunnel, with its barrel vault and gentle intimations of infinity, actually is good for the soul.
A third option is that I really really like walking down escalators. I’m being serious. I can’t bear to stand on the right. I must bustle down. The benefit comes from the feeling of going faster than everyone else, coupled with the speed at which the wall whips past.
I’m guessing that it’s a combination of all three (although I’m open to further suggestions). I could see all this as evidence that I am no more than an ant blindly responding to the stimuli of my environment, but for some reason it doesn’t seem that bad.
Perhaps, on some deep level, I like the idea that my thought processes aren’t completely random, that they bear some relationship to my external environment.
I don’t have the relevant work with me, but I remember reading the philosopher of mind Charles Sanders Peirce writing that surely the reason the human brain is capable of comprehending so much of the natural world is that the brain is patterned after nature. This would help to explain why our intuitions are so often right: they’re not intuitions, they’re hardwired brain patterns that reflect exactly the patterns out there in the external world.
Normally I’d consider that dangerous hogwash, but sometimes, sometimes I do wonder.
When I posted about Google search referrers on here last week, I missed out a string that had then come up once: “Oggy, oggy, oggy, oi, oi, oi” (I used it as a post title a while back).
I was watching the Baftas on Sunday when Catherine Zeta-Jones received an award for Best Supporting Actress. As she gleefully chanted “Oggy oggy oggy, oi oi oi” to the bemused audience, I thought (blogger’s ego) “Hm, wonder if I get any search hits off that?”
I’d had two by 9am yesterday morning. Then The Sun put it on their front page, and since then I’ve had another three and counting.
Incidentally, if that’s why you’re here, the best I can offer is that “oi” is possibly a corruption of “oik”, meaning a street urchin or yob (which is itself, of course, just backslang for “boy”). It’s a nonsense verse used by everyone from boy scouts to football hooligans, including, presumably the Swansea massive. If you want more, search me (or rather, don’t).
No, not another crossword clue. From As Above:
Think of a word that has some sort of meaning in a business context, however vague or trivial. Add the letter “e” to the front. Search for that new word in Google. Try and find a word that gets zero results. It cannot be done.
eOutsourcing, eSynergy, even eEnterprise… Sheesh.
The Quatermass TV series and, later, the Hammer films of the same stories, pretty much invented the sci-fi invasion story. I remember as a child hearing adults talking with a shiver about ‘Quatermass and the Pit’, and that was twenty years after being shown by the BBC.
I’ve only seen the films, but I’d love to see the TV shows, even knowing that they would look ham-fisted and stilted now (they were broadcast live, of course).
I don’t know why the BBC site only covers Quatermass II, by the way. I’d guess they’ve lost any tapes of the other two series.
All this provoked by Diamond Geezer’s quick guide to TV nostalgia. Other highlights were the theme from Bod and the LWT ident.
I think there must be very few people in Britain under 40 who wouldn’t like to have John Peel for an uncle. I’m assuming that his actual nephews and neices might have a slightly more informed view of the matter, but for the rest of us he appears to be just about the coolest and most laid back sextaguanarian around.
I’m still enjoying Word, and its interview with the old boy just served to confirm my prejudices about him. Not least of his endearing qualities is the fact that you have to listen closely to work out that he’s actually pretty well-informed about a host of unexpected things. This, as opposed to most Radio 1 DJs, where you’d just have to listen for a very long time.
In the course of the ambling interview, Peel amiably sums up his attitude to life with the wholesome throwaway, “Do as you would be done by is all of the law”.
Nothing new there, you’d think. And you’d be right, except that he’s arriving at this well-thumbed Home Truths-style homily via the words of the self-proclaimed most evil man in the world, and Leaminton Spa’s most famous son, Aleister Crowley. It takes a particular and delightfully ironic mind to recoup “Do as thou wilt is the whole of the law” and slot it into something the Women’s Institute would find bland.
And, now that Mr Peel has been reinvented as a Radio 4 presenter on the indescribably cosy Home Truths, it makes a decent metaphor for his career, to boot.
I suspect the site is an annoying “beat the congestion charge” deal, and I’m therefore reluctant to give them more airtime, but this congestion charge beating game is quite fun. I particularly like the teensy tiny graphics.
(via Halfway House)
I don’t know what’s happened to my taste in music.
This morning I packed three CDs for work-listening, Nick Drake, Norah Jones and Lemon Jelly. Only the latter could be seen as in any sense “groovy”, and none provide much evidence of my having my finger on the pulse.
Contrast my late teens and early twenties, when everything about my musical landscape could be triangulated from the first Stone Roses album, early Pixies and Lou Reed’s fabulous New York album. (Note that I’m taking this as a high-water mark: go further back and you will find a baroque mixture of naff and the unpleasantly unlistenable.)
Now, even my taste in garage would receive approval from polo-necked Guardianistas.
Disturbingly, this may be part of a larger pattern. The other day I expressed interest in a pair of courduroy jeans. My other half has started taking the mickey out of my taste in TV programmes, noting that all I watch are “Long Ago” documentaries.
Maybe I should kick out and spend a whole weekend listening to all those old Metallica and Mudhoney albums.
Maybe it’s too late. My current number one annoyance is that all of my Frank Sinatra CDs have been nicked…by my mum.
What has happened to my taste in music?
“A rather well-known example is Raymond Queneau’s Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes (A hundred thousand billion poems; see Queneau 1961), which is a sonnet machine book of 10 [lozenge] 14 lines, capable of producing 1014 sonnets. Several novels have been identified as ergodic over the years: B. S. Johnson’s The Unfortunates (1969), Milorad Pavic’s Landscape Painted With Tea (1990), and many others. The variety and ingenuity of devices used in these texts demonstrate that paper can hold its own against the computer as a technology of ergodic texts.”
(Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature by Espen J. Aarseth (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997)
“Ergodic” is being used here to mean literature where “nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text”. In other words, literature where the reader is either encouraged or forced to actively participate in the progress of the text. In The Unfortunates, famously, the ‘novel’ is a sheaf of 32 sections in a box. The reader is instructed to shuffle them into any order desired before reading. I’ve never seen Landscape Painted with Tea, but Pavic’s prior novel, The Dictionary of the Khazars, is presented as a set of encyclopaediae, with readers encouraged to follow the cross-references as fancy takes them.
Aarseth also mentions Nabokov’s extraordinary Pale Fire, surely one of most cunningly constructed novels in the English language. ‘Pale Fire’ is a 999-line poem, presented with an introduction, extensive footnotes and other editorial apparatus. It is only when you read all of them in combination that the novel starts to reveal its secrets. Oh, and it’s got one of the only two narratively interesting indexes in literature (to my knowledge: the other being a Ballard short story).
More recently, the new Toby Litt collection, Exhibitionism, has a short story where the reader is instructed to read the sections, labelled A-Z, “in any order except the order in which they are presented” (I paraphrase).
There is more, but not that much more out there. Some of Calvino may be classed as ergodic, and certainly some of the OuLiPo group, such as Georges Perec and Harry Mathews.
It turns out that Aarseth is concerned with how to read Multi-User Dungeons and other computer adventures as fiction, but I won’t hold that against him, because he’s rightly suspicious of Umberto Eco’s rather shady discussion of the various types of labyrinths.
(via Interconnected, as you’d imagine)
Correction: I originally assumed that Espen Aarseth is female. Jay Steichmann was able to correct me on this. Mea culpa.
Aside from the usual disappointed philosophers searching for detailed information on semiotics, recent Google searchers arriving here have included the strings:
slog movable type
website free kick
and my favourite,
noel whelan lunch London
Sadly, I suspect that this Googler was after Professor Whelan of Limerick, not a city rendezvous with the Middlesborough and ex-Coventry City clogger best known for kicking in restaurant windows in Royal Leamington Spa.
Then again, maybe it was a glazier anticipating where he might find some easy business…
Neurolinguistic programming, face shapes through history and baroque combinations of typefaces all leading to a consideration of how haircuts may be classified as verbal, aural or tactile.
This is why I enjoy reading Interconnected.
Another great UpMyStreet conversation, this time about urban foxes.
The conversation neatly divides three ways: between those who are frightened both by the foxes’ human-sounding bark and for the safety of their domestic animals; those who think that we should accept this as a inevitable consequence of urbna humans being a lazy, littering species; and those who suggest a Wandsworth hunt.
The hunt will presumably start with the traditional double cappuccino before the hunters mount their trusty Subaru jeeps and set off, accompanied by professional dog-walkers each holding ten leads.
Ah, you can almost hear the braying of the stockbrokers now.
Steve of My Ace Life is reconstructing some astonishing Russian colour photographs from the start of the 20th century.
See his Photoshop wizardry in action here and here.
Ooh. Amphetadesk has completely changed the way I use the web.
But I think I’m going to have to try NewsMonster for size (tip-off from Mr Hammersley). It’s optimised for Mozilla, is very standards compliant, and:
“NewsMonster is backed by a Semantic Web enabled RDF database which allows us to preserve the semantic relationship within documents. This allows NewsMonster to act as an agent on your behalf and help you barter goods and services online. Want to sell your used guitar? No problem. Just create a new advertisement and publish it on your blog. Other NewsMonster users which have agents looking for a similar service will discovery your publication. Throughout the whole process reputation is involved so that you know who you are dealing with!”
This could be where it all kicks off…
Stunning. I can’t remember the last time I looked at a web page and my jaw fell open.*
The London Underground weblog is a diary of one woman’s commuter journeys on the tube. Really. Just that.
It’s by the author of the London Underground Guide and Underground Etiquette, which, I admit, I haven’t explored yet.
Sometimes you see, with perfect clarity, what blogs are for. Shame it’s so banal.
* Actually, it might have been that psychic card gimmick last Friday.
Banner ads for blogs?
Well, not quite. But BlogSnob is an ad exchange for blogs.
I don’t know, but this feels uncomfortably different to the community-based blogrings.
I’m becoming aware that over the last few week I’ve been measuring my level of busyness as an inverse proportion of the time I have free to blog. My lunchtimes seem to have disappeared recently, so there’s only the briefest, partially digested posting going on. Sorry.
Of course, this might be seen as ‘purer’ blogging than writing screeds of opinion, but I’m really interested in the way that my blog is, for me, acting as a kind of surrogate in-work social life.
One of the bitter conclusions I make is that work, in all but the rarest circumstances, just doesn’t provide the social structure and interaction I look for.
Don’t get me wrong, I work with nice, decent people. But the bloody work itself irrevocably colours most work friendships. I find that the friendships I have with workmates tend to be very tightly delimited - some stuff is just completely out of bounds. This is understandable, and probably necessary, where power and money relationships are involved.
But I can’t help but think about the niche that blogging fills. I sometimes wonder if two of the most basic human drives are curiosity and the need to connect with others.
Funny how blogs can (if you like) be reduced to two basic operations:
- Showing people what you’ve found (links) or thought (commentary) - i.e. displaying and encouraging curiosity and, implicitly, connecting with readers
- Receiving their comments - i.e. readers connecting back and rewarding curiosity with more information
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