Let's say you wanted to find out where a place was in the global or regional scheme of things. You're part of a community and folks volunteer their whereabouts and wanna know where they are. How far, what would it cost to travel and hang out, basic stuff like that. For argument's sake let's say you wanted to find out where County Tyrone is. I know a priori it's in Ireland. How would you do it? Of course, you'd probably lean on your favorite search engine, or if you were particularly savvy their map product. But even that probably wouldn't help as gmaps is regionalized and doesn't yet "do" Ireland too well.
But that's besides the point. The point is, when people make websites about themselves they often miss their own position in their regional or even global context. Pick a random place that's not a whole country (because Google Maps does that quite well; make it harder!) and try to get a sense of where it is, e.g. Bracknell Forest. Often you'll end up with a bunch of maps of the immediate area with absolutely no sense of where it is in its country or even the world.
It's incredibly frustrating. So it got me thinking why is this? And is it any insight into who we are at this moment in time, or as a species?
Ken Wilbur talks about levels of awareness from self to tribe to region to global consciousness, how actions and behaviors impact on others within that catchment. Landmark are another group who of all the people I've interacted with over the years seem to have this spiralling-out awareness of how we can affect our environment. Evolution of society and culture seems to proceed out through these spirals encompassing increasingly wider scope at the same time subsuming the inner spirals (this is the genius of spiral dynamics, that perception of our universe consists of viewing concepts as being whole and complete by themselves yet containing and being contained by others in that universe. For example, an atom contains quarks while being contained by molecules, but an atom is something on its own without being "subjugated" or necessarily categorised in a hierarchy).
So my takeaway from my lack of success in finding how regions are located within the world suggests first off people aren't too concerned about the world beyond their immediate borders, unless those on the other side of the border are particularly troublesome. (If you are inclined, check out the Slovenian coastline and ponder what the Croatians and Italians are up to. Yeah, you're still in Europe. Have fun.)
But also the tools to express any awareness are not particularly well understood either. Gmaps covers the world but in varying degrees. I am a great believer in tools enabling folks to consider and deal with concepts much like words in language enable chunking of ideas. But.. what else is there? What's the gap between local and global awareness? Why do some folks care about this and others not?
Where's the gap?
Thanks to a tip-off from Marta I snagged a SkypeIn number that fronts as, costs the same as, and is otherwise identical to a native Greater London landline +44 20 ... Dialling it connects you to my Mac in Dublin that's running Skype and I even get to see caller-id. Neat. What's really groovy though is that you can pick your own digits so long as they're in Skype's bank of available numbers. So my new phone ends in 7265 which spells PAUL. For the 2600 k1ddies, the number also contains the digits 1337. $\/\/33+!
This time last year I was in hospital with two feet looking much like this,
That'll learn ya to go climbin' up the side a' houses after sluggin' 40s ya stoopid dumb shit!
One month in hospital, few months in a wheelchair, and since then gradually being in less and less pain walking. I can pretty much walk like a pro these days although it is still uncomfortable. Which sucks. Walking's a pretty basic activity, as is getting out of bed (although I don't do that so much these days) and being in pain the whole time is irritating. Still it's getting gradually better but I'm definitely into the long tail of recovery.
On the plus side, I can do about everything else again, even "running" very short distances. So, if you've got a calcaneal fracture it ain't
I heard from someone that after a neurological trauma learning to walk is the second last thing people manage - it's really pretty difficult. The first? Brushing your teeth.
Whoa. According to the gym scales here I weigh 84kg / 186lb / 13st 3lb. This is the heaviest I've been in my life, and that was when I was training and eating like a freak at Gold's in California in '01-'02 (and I definitely don't have the body I did then). I haven't really done any aerobic work since my accident last year, and no strength work for a few months. Coupled with the free & decent food in google.ie this weight gain is looking like it has some solid foundations...
The food here in Google Mountain View is exceedingly good. It's mid-range restaurant quality, sometimes better, and there's a strong emphasis on using organic produce. The cartons you can use to take food away are recycled cardboard. I've come away from meal times feeling stuffed, which is very rare as apart from the occasional fried breakfast in London I tend to eat small meals.
So combined with the gym here and free, excellent meals I think I'll train for size & strength and leave the slimming to somewhere where the food's not as good :-) Ireland, for example.
As a random aside, I dropped by a local supplements shop and I was reminded the stuff you can buy in America is pretty amazing: over the counter hormones, powerful stimulants, and a range of "ordinary" supplements that boggles the mind. I stuck to a tub of blended protein and some glutamine (a particularly "good" protein). Leave the endocrine experiments to the freaks...
I remember having two reactions to the Segway shipping, after all its hype. First was "wow, that's really technically impressive". Having a computer balance like that is seriously neat, and from an engineering perspective quite an accomplishment. The other was a sort of disappointment in a sense because I had a feeling it wouldn't catch on even though I wanted it to. They're really expensive. It's quite rare to meet people who've even tried one.
So there's one as an office toy here, on the secretive fourth floor. And after mucking around with it I'm even more impressed. It's one of those experiences where the real life physical experience goes way beyond the intellectual understanding of it. Also, it goes alarmingly fast. 12.5mph is not particularly fast on a bike, but when you're standing on it and can get up to that speed in almost no time, in an office, it's ... fun :-) I don't think I'm breaching any Google confidentiality by revealing there's a waaay dented metal plant pot on one of the back straights, er, office corridors.
One of the engineers here is rumoured to have hacked the starter key to release its speed restriction beyond the three factory settings. The plant pots and photocopier no doubt aren't delighted to hear this...
Spent 13hrs straight packing the house yesterday with the help of Sophie March, the Order Restorer, and Dom Pannell. Dom was (and is!) an absolute star, arriving before 9am and leaving after 9pm.
Nearly 60 medium to large size boxes. Where did it all come from?! And more to the point, where's it all going? :-)
Plane flight was a little close for comfort, and had to empty one of my suitcases as it was too heavy. Not the case that I could just pay an extra fee, it was simply deemed too heavy for the personnel to lift! 36kg.
So as I write this, I'm sitting in the Gasworks, a new development adjacent to Google, snarfing a wireless connection from one of the apartments (node name, "NETGEAR", haha). Oh, and I have to be in reception in a few minutes so best go...
Rows upon rows of two-person tables filling every terrasse, coy newly-minted couples looking anxious to those in adoring mutually-gazing relationships. It was disturbingly like a production line, the sheer number of couples in rows spookily reminiscent of scenes of the aliens harvesting humans' energy in The Matrix.
The day was spent mostly wandering around various sites, chatting, eating, and drinking. A thoroughly enjoyable time in great company. I turned out easily a day's work during the six hours back & forth on the Eurostar too. It's astonishing what more can be done without a network connection :-)
Apart from the aforementioned Love Factory, we could see virtually no commercialism of Valentine's Day at all in Paris. Almost to the extent that we were wondering if it were actually celebrated here, as though V Day was an English speaking-only phenomenon. This is probably a saddening reflection of how much these events are hijacked by corporate marketeers in the US and UK.
I stayed at Le Grand Hotel (at a heavily discounted rate; thanks guys!). It was absolutely bloody amazing, opulence on a grand and absurd scale, only fractionally let down by having to actually pay for a network connection. It was free in the lobby at The Westin (where Karen was staying).
One final scene that sticks in my mind as a sign of the times was watching a tour boat pass under the bridge by Notre Dame. As the cathedral came into view a sea of little LCDs lit up in parallel the dim shadows around the boat, the soft glow of several dozen digital cameras reporting on their owners' soon-to-be masterpiece.
Somehow I managed to forget my camera but will like to K's when they're online.
I've just learnt (ok, been told, and not bothered to look it up since its only mention here is as a lead-in to the main guts of this blog, but anyway...) that Google & Gillette were voted best places to work for. This got me thinking of an old The Onion story, one of their, IMO, best: Fuck everything, we're doing five blades. Fantastic!
Just booked a day (and night) in Paris on Valentine's Day and the fare came to £69. I dunno, I thought it was amusing...
Emir came up with the idea of having a 10000th day party on your 10,000th day alive. A bit like a birthday but far less frequent, and much more decimal-centric.
Curious when mine was, since I knew it'd long since passed, I wrote a little calculator: find your 10K Day. If like me you're older than 27.5 you can check your 20K day. I don't think anyone's made it quite to 40K days...
Couple of amusing stories about the quest for love (or lurrve).
``A parrot owner was alerted to his girlfriend's infidelity when his talkative pet let the cat out of the bag by squawking "I love you Gary".''
(Thanks Claire for that!)
This came up last month,
``MARSEILLES, France -- Skirt-chasing playboy Daniel Anceneaux spent weeks talking with a sensual woman on the Internet before arranging a romantic rendezvous at a remote beach -- and discovering that his
on-line sweetie of six months was his own mother!''
This one is staggering. Just mulling it over and how it would affect a family's dynamic blows my mind. Imagine what the father must think. Not a good one!
A couple of years ago it occurred to me that one of the first pages I hit on finding an interesting website is its "about" page. Not always being the quickest on the uptake, it just occurred to me 'I'1 don't have a specific "about" page. Thanks to the power of polyphasic sleep and procrastination of more important tasks (i.e. all of them) I now do: about paulm.com.
I've documented plenty of chance meetings and randomness in this city of seven million people. Here's another that I found quite spooky. I met up with Eva a couple of evenings ago and she texted me the address. It was my brother's in Victoria, except not quite. It was the flat above.
My new juicer arrived today after its holding period at a neighbour's house. It's fantastic!
I assembled it in a matter of seconds (here's how) and proceeded to juice pretty much the entire contents of my fridge. The 509's a masticating (literally "chewing") juicer as you can see by the big screw,
The masticating type are low friction and low heat-producing which apparently preserves the nutrients.
An extrusion of veg pulp oozes out the end in synchrony with the satisfying chewing sound. It's surprisingly quiet. The amount of juice that comes out is not huge, but damn it's rich & tasty. The tubes of pulp look strange, I definitely need to get a pic up. Out of curiosity I boiled some water and cooked up the pulp - making an entirely pleasant pint of brothed veggies.
The whole thing cleaned up quite quickly too. This is the aspect I was most worried about, without equipment that's easy to clean it's hard to muster the continued motivation to actually use it.
And it makes pasta, sausages, and sorbet too...
Google made me an offer, and part of that discussion included a link to a comparison of the cost-of-living in major cities. It's based on a basket of goods typical of Western consumer habits (see also purchasing power parity). London's markedly more expensive than even the second place city, Oslo. Dublin, one of Google's homes, is broadly similar to Zurich and Paris. Some surprises for me were Brussels and Sydney, both a quarter less than the Zurich benchmark! I thought they'd be much pricier. What's perhaps even more amazing is that you can live on a quarter of what you would in London, in major cities in Eastern Europe. Wonder how long that'll last...
Seems like they're in the air right now... Got a call, yes a phone call, from a guy in Nigeria who "could use my expertise down [t]here". I would really like to go and do some IT work in a developing country; it feels like I would probably make more of a difference, say, getting some school networked with a linux system than any amount of small-pond projects in the UK.
What's sad is that Nigeria has such a reputation for fraud, kidnapping, and death that I would never ever get involved in a randomly solicited offer like that. There's just far, far too much risk :-(
Somehow I've managed not to skate since my accident but tonight I was invited to a local-ish ice rink in Queensway. It was surprisingly un-packed despite all of London seemingly crammed with (I'm guessing) Christmas traffic. I used the rink's hire skates. And therein was the problem - they were so unbelievably painful I had to come off after about ten minutes. The reception rather graciously gave me my money back. I'm not yet sure whether this pain is down to disfigured feet or awful plastic boots. Nonetheless it was quite fun skating about on ice, something I haven't done for years (a brief ice crash at Santacon 2003 doesn't count).
After that we headed back and ate half a tray of Ferrero Rocher. It's a playboy lifestyle but someone has to live it...
In other news a certain search engine company reported my interview scores were "good", and now want references.
So tonight I went to my first catwalk fashion show, after being kindly invited by photographic ace and friend, Tom. The show was at the ever-fab V&A for a menswear collection by Ozwald Boateng, so parading back and forth the catwalk were quite the most tall, pouty, high cheek-boned, preternaturally beautiful guys I've ever seen. I bet they're a nightmare. Actually they didn't seem to be at all; rather, quite friendly & personable. I walked up to a group of them at the end and, craning my neck, asked about their moods and expressions: were they told to be like that? Did they have to saunter and swagger on cue? Was looking bored a consequence or decision? The answer: yes, the designer prompts them for a particular vibe, this time a little attitude but not to be centre stage. This made total sense as Ozwald himself came on at the end and was quite obviously all about soaking up the limelight.
With all this work on now I hardly go out much these days (er, besides to Sweden, Bali, Vienna, Brighton, Leeds, ...) so it was cool to bump into another friend Rita I haven't seen in a while. "It's a small London." I saw a couple of other people in the crowd who I think were Cambridge, ex-Kings even. Memory's going...
I've whinged about this before but still struggling with email... I've recently acquired an extremely sexy new Mac laptop and been playing with Apple Mail, lured by the promise of full text indexing of all my mail. The truth is, it just can't cope. The best minds of Cupertino haven't yet written a mail client that'll deal with 5.1GB of email. That's right, I have the equivalent of two full Gmail accounts.
I've fired up the new v1.5 Thunderbird and it's a relief after Apple Mail: responsive, does what I expect, checks folders quickly, searches adequately fast, has an interface that I can drive off the keyboard. It's not that Apple Mail's bad it's just so goddam slow. There's some truly bizarre aspects to Mail too, like not being able to filter on unread messages, and switching a message from marked read/unread is a three key chord rather than a single keystroke. It doesn't feel like Apple have dogfooded this product too much, or maybe I just like a different flavour.
Anyway, I've spent six hours reading & replying to old emails and shuffling stuff about with Tbird's decent filtering system so am down over a 1,000 messages unread now. If I haven't replied, please just, er, email me :)
So were one to go to another country to see a festival with lots of fancy robots one might expect to report on that. Well, instead here's a technique to make yourself look freaky with a digital camera.
It's quite straightforward: persuade your camera to take a long exposure shot, e.g. no flash in a relatively low light environment. On my mid-range compact there's an option to allow a slow shutter up to 1s. Second, wiggle your eyes back 'n forth while the shot's being taken. The wiggling requires your eyes to move quite fast - the trick is not to think of the actual process of eyes moving (any more than you manual coordinate your limbs picking up a cup) but rather focus, so to speak, on alternately and quickly looking at two objects at either ends of your horizontal awareness.
Click on to see the effect, it's not super pleasant...
PS I do have some pics of robots and Viennese cake I'll get up here as soon as I learn my way around iPhoto...
Four years ago I applied for a job at Google and never even heard a reply. Turns out however my email stayed in their system and a few weeks ago they invited me to apply for a senior sysadmin position. (As Nik said, four years is a long time for a search engine company to return a result...) Anyway, after two hours of the most in-depth and technically demanding job interviews I've ever experienced they're flying me out to Dublin for five more hours of interview in a couple of weeks.
Would it be a CV/résumé entry that would render all the others as so much printer ink? Absolutely. Would it be a unique, incredible, and probably life-altering experience? Almost certainly. So do I actually want to work for Google? Don't know yet. Life is incredibly sweet right here right now. Besides they haven't actually offered me it yet anyway ;-)
Assisted by Eva, today was spent starting to clear my house up. Anyone who's been here or, god forbid, into my bedroom knows of the truly epic task ahead of anyone even merely conceiving of such a project. I shan't bother describing it. It's a lot, and it's all shuffled.
A few things have so far ended up on ebay. This picture I quite liked,
Woo hoo, my Rover 216 SLi, which has been sitting around for the last year untaxed, uninsured, and uninspected, passed its MOT today! This basically means I can sell it; apparently without an MOT an older used car is pretty much worthless.
I seem to have a habit for acquiring expensive-to-insure cars: this one'd be £600/year for liability & theft despite my age and having held a license for a long time. Definitely time to sell...
Last night I had the, er, experience of being auctioned at my friend Dino's speed dating event. He's in the process of raising £3,000 for charity supporting post-Tsunami reconstrution plus he'll be going to Sri Lanka to actually help the rebuilding itself. How cool is that?
I sold for the princely sum of £25, which, while not a staggering amount, was flattering inasmuch as it was more than anyone else raised (besides funnily enough the quirky Italian girl I am now bound to go on a date with). I promised to take my shirt off if the bidding hit 25 which I suppose helped. Less flattering perhaps is the bidding didn't continue afterwards ;-)
Latest addition to the fleet:
Once I'd got it into my head that I could avoid the literal pain of public transport with a scooter I've developed a single-mindedness to not have to take the tube or train again. (Cycling leaves my feet in a bad way, and besides, the weather...)
Watched closing prices on ebay for a while and then approached an unsuccessful seller with an offer. Ended up with this 3year old Piaggio Skipper 125, 7050 miles, for £780. The guy I bought it from only told me the battery was dead after I'd taken the train 25 miles out to his place in Essex. This "oversight" cost him by the sword of my persistent haggling - he had wanted a thousand quid for the bike. In the end, I took a risk of riding it all the way back to SW London without stalling. Truth is, if it'd stalled in East London and I'd had to catch a tube home it wouldn't've been there in the morning...
Suffice to say even on one rainy home journey I'm sure it beats the crap out of public transport ;-) And it definitely does not accelerate as fast as Jessie...
It's not often I get to hear "necrotic flesh" in non-Goth conversation.
A few days into the Bali trip pretty much my entire gum line lit up in moderate pain. I suffered some inflammation, discomfort chewing from the pressure on my teeth, and gum bleeding. About two weeks later it was essentially fine with some residual gobs of blood from time to time, if I sucked on my teeth.
Went to the dentist today, Dr Lu, a particularly geek-tolerant chap who went to some length to explain this all to me, and discovered I had a case of acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG). What happens is opportunistic bacteria attack when normal dental hygiene is disrupted (I forgot my tooth brush and for some reason didn't ask the 5-star hotel for one for a few days) and a gum infection occurs. The 'necrotizing' bit is effecting localized tissue death, in this case the tips of the gums between the teeth. Dr Lu was literally picking out bits, albeit really tiny bits, of dead flesh. Funnily enough this disease tends to only affect people with good oral hygiene who lapse.
The annoying aspect is that this flesh only partly grows back and I'll be missing a small bit of the triangular tip of protective gum on some teeth. This means I'll have to, after 31 years of not doing so, have to floss. Gah!
Ever a lesson in remembering one's toothbrush on holiday...
PS did you really want to read about all that? :-)
Have you ever... had something that doesn't work, taken it apart, gazed into its innards, shrugged, reassembled it... and then found it to mysteriously work again?
Some time back in March I had my digicam seize up after a nasty drop. Sent it to Canon who responded with a £96 fixed price bill. Turns out they have this peculiar gambling game where you can, if you choose, opt for an à la carte repair which upon deeper inspection by one of their nimble fingered repair-peeps may or may not cost more. Whatever the outcome of this investigation, you can't back down to the £96 fixed price. It's a bit weird, but there we go.
Anyway, thinking it's probably just a case of whipping off the case, tweaking a cog, job done I opted for the gamble despite strong warnings from the guy on the phone. Bill came back in due course: £112 or so. A little later that month I burst my heels, spent a month in hospital, etc, etc and forgot about my camera. So it arrived back today with an apology for it not working and reassurance that yes, on the whole Canon cameras are very reliable etc, etc, but sorry we couldn't fix it this time, hope everything works out with your new Panasonic...
Remembering the principle of whipping the hood open and everything mysteriously working, I put the battery back in the camera ... and whaddya know, the lens open and closes perfectly.
So I'm off to Bali primarily for Roger Hamilton's Entrepreneur Business School and a whole load of lounging on beaches and scootering about villages.
In other news, danced for a few hours on Saturday night which included 13km of cycling to get there/home too, so good news there. My feet absolutely f'king killed but hey, it's all good, and they feel well solid today.
I benchpressed 105kg on the machine today hitting my 100+ target two weeks early. Leg extension also saw 105kg lifted yesterday (there's only two more plates left on that one, ha). Gonna have to get onto the real weights soon...
And I'm doing so much work I can barely think straight (no sleep for Paulie tonight, that's for sure). £250K House purchase target: Jan 2006.
I've just been working on a code bug that's taken probably 30 minutes to resolve. I finally tracked it down but even when I used tools to help me pinpoint it it still wasn't obvious. I've been programming on and off for twenty years and have, naturally, developed the ability to pick out these kinds of things at 30yds. I've generally found the notion that you can look at two things and not see the difference or not be able to instantly see that "independant" is spelt wrong as particularly odd. So I guess this experience was an insight into that condition. Yikes.
See if you can spot the bug! The issue is that headlines are being repeated.
[% MACRO show_newspoints(nps, co, show_little) BLOCK %] <ul> [% count = 0; FOREACH np = nps %] [% IF np.headline != last_headine %] <li>[% format_date(np.date) %] - [% np.publication %]: <strong>[% np.headline %]</strong> [% END %] [% IF np.synopsis %] <br /> [%+ np.synopsis %] [% END %] [% IF cgi.param('debug') %] Importance: [% np.importance %]</br /> Sentiment: [% np.sentiment %]<br/> Subject: [% np.subject %]<br/> Subject UID: [% np.subject_uid %]<br/> [%+ END %] </li> [%+ count = count + 1 %] [% last_headline = np.headline %] [%+ END %] [% IF count == 0 AND show_little %] <li>There was little coverage for [% co.name %] in the sources reviewed in this period.</li> [% END %] </ul> [% END %]
Since getting back from hospital and not being able to go upstairs to my PC I've been downstairs on the sofa (inadvertently) using the "laptop method" of contraception. This is a bit of a bugger as I no longer have any desire to sit at a desk and code. I haven't quite figured out ergonomically exactly what it is about desk v sofa but I waaay prefer the sofa and (it feels) get a helluva lot more done.
Work's been going outstandingly well - am on fire right now, all sorts falling into place, and solving genuinely tough problems. Our little enterprise is having a delivery problem, i.e. too many sales. Good problem to have. Music practice is a fantastic distraction and really helps clear my mind for another code onslaught.
And it's been raining, the fertilizer's been mopped up by the grass, and the garden at last doesn't look like parched brushfelt. Time for a party...
Chris just produced a 10-point how to do meetings plan. Some especially good notes on enforcing start times, and the more radical suggestion of preventing latecomers from joining. This would be a tough move but kudos if you can pull it off and not politically sabotage yourself... I would add "there's no excuse not to at the very least communicate impending lateness". There really isn't.
Reminds me of something I learnt from Chris Adams at Southwestern when selling books: specify odd start times like 9:58am for the simple reason it makes people think and re-examine the implicit assumption that "10am" means "around, usually after, 10am".
Ian Fetterley passed on the idea when I was working at Schlumberger of having an applet running during the meeting that was a real-time listing of the financial cost of the meeting calculated from the group's cumulative salaries. Ten people in a room for a couple of hours can easily run to thousands of dollars.
But the best advice of all is at the end, "don't go to meetings" :-)
I've been trialling Wordpress the blogging software recently and despite its slightly self-congratulatory tone I have to say, it definitely gives Movable Type, the software that powers this bit of the site, a run for its money.First impressions are good; installing "themes" was a total snap, and certainly way easier than with MT.
Anyway, I have a second blog now I guess which is far more day-to-day and at workdiary.net, cunningly sectioned off in its own domain so no-one notices unless they really, really want to...
Random history: I chanced upon a technique for beating procrastination and thought it was worth putting online. workdiary.net was to be that site. Since then I've kicked the procrastination habit (partly also with hypnosis) so its original vision never materialised. Maybe I'll get 'round to it one day :)
Spent a couple of productive afternoons recently with Michael Linton, creator of the LETS community currency system. I've been involved in this since meeting Michael in 2002 and have done odds and ends: writing bits of software, evangelising, organising a workshop, and hosting lets.net and openmoney.org.
Unfortunately my effort on these has been patchy and sporadic which is a bit lame considering how much potential I think the project has. It could have an enormous impact in Making Poverty History. Part of the problem is it's just so bloody far out of most people's familiar space: "money you don't have to get a loan for?!" "Money that doesn't run out?!" "Wait, so who loses?" and so on. Which is a shame since it's an amazingly simple concept: what is community currency?
A big part of the solution to education and adoption in my opinion is simply to get people using it. This tenet Michael has shown time and again to be true with his LETSplay game where people trade goods in a mixed currency setting. The game is good to "get" it but how about actually using it? Well, that's possible too. But.. the interface is ugly by modern web standards, and is kinda clunky. That needs an overhaul. What's also needed is implementation of a community currency server, effectively a "bank in a box" that can provide transaction i.e. money transfer services online. Some developments happening here just recently with spurred on by recent meetings. It's not yet clear what will come of this but certainly it's looking promising at the moment and there's a lot more activity than I've ever seen before. Go team! :) Shame I can't make Thursday's meeting; when I'm walking again I'll stumble over.
Michael and I have been going over what a blue-sky spec of what a CC server might entail, ways of implementing a modern interface, techniques for driving adoption and so on. I've been in contact with a designer for some kind of paypal-alike system, and thinking hard about ways of leveraging existing Internet infrastructure to support it all. Looking pretty exciting, and with all these free evenings who knows what might be possible... Watch this space.
It's starting to get ridiculous.. For 2005, I have literally hundreds of unanswered personal emails (over a thousand actually), and many of these are from good friends who've written paragraphs to me, and me only, with yet no reply. Not good. If you're one of those, I'm sorry! Changes are being made...
The counter-intuitive result is that the throwaway emails are replied to, while the substantial careful ones aren't. Crazy!
So perhaps the solution is to realise when I'm in the right state of mind to answer these kinds of emails and stick with it and pile through a whole load there and then. It's the awareness of being on a roll and sticking with it. I've been doing that today with some success; this roll's been over three hours straight... *wipes eyes*
One thing I've realised from being ill is that there's just a desire for contact, the content of which is less important than the content. So, in a sense, screw it and write anything because it's better to get something than nothing. Besides who hasn't had the experience of handing in an essay and thinking it'll get panned and then getting a great mark for it, and vice versa. One's own perception of one's creation isn't all that hot, at least speaking for myself :-)
I dunno, what do you do?
September 11th for Americans is written as 9/11 - the month goes first. In more other places than not it's written 11/9. So, given that they happened, isn't it fortunate for all the London bombings to have happened on 7/7?
This stuff ain't a joke; mix-ups of international measuring standards have taken part in spaceships blowing up,
[...] engineers who built the Mars Climate Orbiter had provided a data table in "pound-force" rather than newtons, the metric measure of force (about equivalent to the downward weight of an apple in your hand). NASA flight controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., had used the faulty table for their navigation calculations [...]
We (the family) have a new kitten:
Seven weeks old and already in the stash
It's very lively but not really a terror. The terror is a local pest cat that invades the house through the cat flap! I suggested sending it to Catanamo Bay...
Terror task - a mindless, highly interruptible background activity that's possible to perform and feel vaguely useful since you're sure as hell not doing any real work while responding to the stream of "are you OK?" emails & SMSs, and refreshing RSS on various news sources.
My terror task right now: ripping hundreds of rock/pop promo CDs I scored off a freecycling music journalist. NP: Shoka on Stunt Girl, by A. C. Acoustics. I have a ton of NiN singles now too; never hurts to revisit the classics.
The world had changed; so had relationships. Now, just about everyone she knew was having what she and her friends call "terror sex."
After today, can we expect someone in Britain now to actually copulate?
The blasted bus is the one causing most consternation, here is a pic of it buried in the Beeb's site London blast pics; it's no. 7.
A sign of UK resilience (London's been under threat of terrorism for years; it's normal here): UK share indexes fall 2.26% but other countries' fall more.
This shouldn't be funny, but I involuntarily laughed at this,
The shockwaves were felt as far away as South Africa, where shares dropped more than 1.9%.
"This is all on the back on the London underground incidents, and particularly the bus blast," said one Johannesburg trader.
And that from a city where flamethrowers are used to prevent carjacking.
Don't let the bastards get you down!
No doubt many poor Americans shaking their heads right now at their globally ridiculed Administration, ruing the day they decided to leave progressive Europe :-) Still, the fireworks are good! Happy Independence Day!
I recently had to clear out 2,500+ comment spams from our Movable Type install after a couple of our authors had MT-Blacklist and comment notification turned off... The task was achingly tedious as I wanted to be sure everything MTBL was showing up was in fact spam; last thing I want is for it to generate a "false positive" and wipe out some legit blog commentary. Yeah, I looked at 2,500+ comment spams. Ergh.
Towards the end I saw a few I thought were false +ves:
whose text claims,
Jennifer Richards Connor, PhD Candidate
The Oxford Internet Institute
Wadham College, Oxford
Fair enough I thought, and read the comment text: a rather un-erudite "hi". So I unchecked the box and was about to remove jenniferconnor.com from the blacklist. Then I saw,
http://www.johnhuron.com/with an identical format. OK, getting odd now, and my alarm bells went off.
Scanning more closely now I found elsewhere on the caught-spam list,
http://www.andrewlace.com/ http://www.sarahsterling.com/ http://www.jimtayler.com/ http://www.mingholee.com/ http://www.stephjones.com/
All with identically laid out pages, differing only in the alleged owner's name. Looking into it some more it turns out they're all hosted at webair.net in Jericho, NY; nowhere near Oxford University.
The idea I suspect is that by masquerading as a home page, not posting ads, and only posting once or twice, most people won't suspect anything and thus not delete the comments, even though the text of the comment might be banal or irrelevant (all were, IMO). What happens then is that a lot of these links from all over the place persist and build the site's Google PageRank, a measure of a site's "worth". All of those sites are at least PR4 with a couple a very respectable PR5.
A high pagerank equates to better search listings which equates to an opportunity for making money either through advertising or affiliate schemes. So at some point I suspect these sites will cast off their cloaks and reveal overtly commercial operations. Watch that space.
Someone once told me using the Net to find family members and tracing family history (genealogy) is the #1 use of search engines. I thought it was for finding info on good-looking people and current events but hey...
In the last week I've had three Makepeaces contact me, Jose, Ariel, and another Paul (who works at This England magazine)! How cool! Last week a visit from a cousin, Caroline, on the Storrar side, who happens to live about 50m from my house. Out of city of 7million that's bizarre, especially since our family is splattered all over the US, South Africa, England, and Holland.
Perhaps I can finally persuade our resident genealogist (my Mum) to start putting her vast collection of family history online at our Makepeace family home page...
I've been dreading some kind of server failure while I've been in hospital since I can't realistically do anything about it. Now I'm out but can't walk, it's still firmly in the "very difficult" category. A couple of machines had a rash of teething problems a while back; mercifully they were still in test and new sideways-blowing fans seemed to fix them.
Until today, when first around 3am one box died, then around 12am another one seem to become crippled, and as if that wasn't unlucky enough, wham, kernel panic for the third. The whole time I'm stuck either at home waiting for a scheduled hospital-taxi or in the hospital in various states of radio silence, i.e. hard to call or log in over GPRS. GAH! Fortunately Nik saved the day on two of them and I held the fort on the third in the orthopaedic waiting room, later putting in a fix.
Every day, managed servers look more and more appealing...
Apart from the ambulance ride home, which was heavily assisted, I took my first trip into the Real World in six weeks: a taxi up to a course in Earl's Court. The day was entirely unassisted, just kindly escorted by Tom. I've had an amazing amount of fussing around me over getting about but as I suspected it was trivial. Book a taxi, get into it. Next question?
First bit of networking and heavy people interaction for weeks too. Definitely leaning towards the introverted end again. Extroversion is like a muscle I have to work. Clearly atrophied recently :)
Notable bit for Friday will be a party on the way home involving being carried upstairs...
A neat idea to help paramedics find next of kin: put a suitable contact in your phone's address book with the "ICE" prefix. Original idea by a Cambridgeshire para, supported by Vodafone and probably others to follow, here. More detail here.
Pass it on!
Pity the paramedic that has to deal with a PDA phone - vastly more complex, and in my case being a Microsoft Outlook-esque product shows "Last name, First name": my first attempt had the ICE displayed at the end of the name! To be readily visible on a Pocket PC phone select the name as:
First Name: Eira Makepeace
Last name: ICE
I've been learning about the currency trading (foreign exchange) trading markets since I have some more spare time these days.
In an alternative life I'm sure I would've had a lot more to do with money, trading definitely clicks with some fairly deep part of me, I get that powerful feeling of enjoyment doing it for no other reason than the process is fun (same as with software and learning). Anyway, most of what I've learnt has been from Refco's "News" source; it seems to be mostly background educational material for their $500 interactive trading course.
This also prompted me to at last read a book I've had for a while, A Mathematician Plays the Market by John Allen Paulos. It's a sobering account about how a clearly intelligent rational person can get so hamstrung by their psychology, fear, and greed. The book also, so far as I've read about halfway through, is laced with some really fascinating anecdotes about seemingly irrational human behaviour like demonstrations that show how humans will take many times more risk to avoid loss than to achieve gain.
What's interesting to me from a trader perspective is that he pans "Technical Analysis", the technique of attempting to predict the future from previous trend data. His stance derives from the Efficient Market Hypothesis which states, as I understand it, that if all the information about a stock (or currency) is reflected in its current price then the past data has no bearing on the future. This effectively says the whole field of TA is bunk. I haven't finished the book and he promises a more nuanced assessment but certainly the obvious feeling I have so far is that information (e.g. reportage about last quarter's earnings) about something plays at best equal standing with the participants' psychology. Furthermore, since there are specific techniques that are taught in TA (Relative Strength Index, Fibonacci Retracements, Double Bottom, Support, Resistance, and on and on) then that means there are a ton of people trading using these methods, and thus emergent properties of group behaviour will presumably manifest themselves quite apart from any real life information.
The hardest task in this endeavour to learn about trading has been to find decent literature. The half dozen or so books I've looked up on Amazon have all got very mixed reviews, and online Google is so polluted with affiliate linkage to ebooks I haven't got a straight answer yet. Any suggestions? By contrast, one of the joys of the Open Source/Free Software community is that when you ask of an opinion ("what's the best book to get started on developing ecommerce sites in Perl?") you can be almost completely sure that the answer doesn't have a background agenda (for if it did an entirely open flamewar would shortly ensue :-).
Anyway, this joke via David Rosam -
I had a bunch of Canadian dollars I needed to exchange so I went to the
currency exchange window at the local bank.
Short line... just one guy in front of me.
He was an Asian guy who was trying to exchange yen for dollars and he
was a little agitated. He asked the teller.."Why it change, yestoday I
get two hunat dolla fo yen - today I get hunat eighty?"
The teller says, "Fluctuations."
The Asian guy says, "Fluc you white guys too!"
An incredibly last minute decision and the house (really, two of my flatmates) organised an impromptu BBQ on Sunday afternoon from 1pm. Last of the guests were showing up at 11pm. Was fantastic - sun was blazing, indeed half the garden had the sun self-abusers, while the other, shaded, had the more safety conscious of us. We definitely need to do this more often, it was really fun.
One of the guys had a recognisable scar on his foot, very much like mine. Apparently he'd had a minor ankle fracture six years ago. He still can't run or get involved in any impact sports. Hope springs eternal, eh? (His rehab consisted of ignoring the injury 'til there was a golfball-sized cyst around the joint, beer immediately post-op [which thins the blood], and it was the actual ankle joint rather than a less mobility-affecting one that's the problem on my feet.)
Had my current account statement arrive today. It'd occurred to me in hospital that with me making absolutely no purchases my statement would look a little odd this month. I jokingly suspected the bank's automatic fraud detection to kick in if I even attempted to use it... "Hello, Sir, it appears someone has attempted to actually use your card. Our systems report this would disturb the e-cobwebs collecting..."
But actually seeing this absence of use today was quite strange: not only, after Friday 13th May when I collided with planet earth, was there only direct debits in and out, but in the period before, the busy financial life of someone who could walk and normally transact starkly documented.
I think the surplus of cash (ha! guess what a freelancer on morphine's earnings cap is...) plus my inability to go out is solved by frequent and elaborate parties chez moi... Watch this space.
I have in the past raved about my keyboard volume control, an example of a frequently used interface "widget" made available in hardware.
What to do with them?
By default the buttons are bound to forwards and back in the browser. The back button is so commonly used I think it's a great use for an extra button. (Other ways of achieving a quick back are right click->Back, or mouse gestures.) I spent some time thinking which actions I perform when I'm "on the mouse". The first thought was "Minimize" since I do that quite a bit. Then I realised I actually tend to close windows (or tabs) more often than minimizing. There's a certain symmertry too in having the middle (wheel) button click to "open a link in a new tab", and another button to close it. Similarly, we have a pairing with "open a link in current window" and another button to go back.
Having used it configured as such the last few days I can say, it's really useful. Extra buttons that would be nice (and require more intelligence) "click OK wherever it is" and "submit form".
PS Look in download the MS mouse software, and select a product. A little image comes up so you know whether you've selected the right product. Beautiful! Such an obvious and effective idea, I'm amazed not to have seen it elsewhere.
(More dressing up pix)
Skating crew (minus Maria):
The final--and happy--chapter in the issue with unsolicited SMS. Toward the end of last week I received a couple of calls from the 82277 guys (Tyrone Technologies Ltd, as it happens) who checked their call log, discovered my number had been transcribed incorrectly, apologised, and have sent a cheque to cover the full amount.
Anyone received unsolicited SMS from 82277 should call 0870 4050406, repeatedly if necessary. Mention you found this advice online (i.e. here), too.
What happened was that apparently someone else had signed up for their weekly competition service and the person taking the call transposed digits in the number, ending up by accident with my number. The explanation the chap gave me was pretty detailed and it sounded like a genuine error. So no harm, no foul. Just wish they'd got back to me a little quicker...
Despite having learnt all about the process, I'll have to wait for someone else to do me wrong before heading to the small claims court! :-)
Read The Time Capsule Arrives first.
A pair of G-clamps
And why not.
Boxes upon boxes of my old stuff has after three years been opened. Amidst wondering where on earth I'll even put it all, the ten hours I've spent with it has provided me with some reflections and a couple of surprises.
The first surprise was really fairly shortly after arriving in the UK. I just demonstrably didn't need all that crap. My life was continuing largely unaffected without it. The only things that I had a persistent hankering or even need for were my UK driving license, GPS unit (really), and a crazy furry coat.
It was when I moved to Southfields and had the run of a three story house the tacit decision to stay in the UK "for a while" was openly admitted. The practical upshot of this was typical of a middle class young professional: a humungous trip to IKEA.
Even so, my life of material moderation if not frugality somewhat persisted. Our living room was so bare it was partially cause for one of our (admittedly pretty wacko) flatmates to leave. The house wasn't "homely" enough. OK, OK, I'll buy a freakin' television, sheesh...
During the last two years, probably in part prompted by the upheaval of leaving the US and that continuing question about what-the-hell-am-I-or-indeed-anyone-doing-and-here-for? I read and participated in a pile of self-development from provocative confrontation to being qualified in a therapeutic discipline. Along the way I've somehow managed to more or less completely excise any substantial interest in better, faster, bigger and just kind of got on with it. Material acquisition except insofar as it genuinely assists in what I'm doing, e.g. a decent monitor, really isn't that interesting anymore. Driving a Ferrari would be fun, but only if I got to rent it and give it back after. Thinking back, and even feeling back, to how as a teenager I used to drool and yearn for expensive gadgety hi-fi and how now I couldn't give a shit is quite odd. It is a core, visceral change. If I posted how much I live on each year I would probably be investigated.
So two reflections from that: I genuinely don't need this crap, and the follow-on: so why have it back? First off it was easy. Jez did a wonderful job of just Sorting It Out and I pretty much just had to push the button. Second there are some sentimental things in there, and paperwork that legally I'm required to keep for a few more years. Thirdly and this is probably ecologically illogical considering the fuel required to ship it, I have a deep, deep aversion to putting stuff on landfill. I'm planning to freecycle and ebay a lot of it. Finally, I'm surprised to say there've been a few things that I think will be useful: a large Pyrex salad bowl and some pint glasses...
Three years isn't such a long time, and having fullly cleared out in the last year childhood stuff from Bristol I've had all the "oh wow look at that" emotional bases covered. That said, being quickly immersed in the accoutrements of three lives, Texas, California and London before those, was poignant. Opening a bag and seeing moisturiser you were using seven years ago is weird. Finding medication whose expiry date at the time one'd mentally file in "distant future" (what does 2008 feel like to you?) being now in the not even recent past is weird. Each object has a context and those contexts, at least for me, are all shot through with quite intense and in many cases widely sometimes wildly differing emotions. Having the brain scramble to assimilate and integrate these with every opened box was quite a rush.
... a little walkie-talkie covered in playa dust from Burning Man
... large olive green cushion I used to rest on and fall asleep reading in front of the fire in Monterey
... a Rarotongan driving license from a trip to the Cook Islands, and riding a moped two-up in the moist tropical evening
... some peculiar gargoyle gothic candlestick holders from a fantastic bleached-hot day out at a Texas Renaissance fare with Houston buddies
...a teddy bear from a conference where I met my then future employer in California
... thermogenic training pills and all my experimentation with bodybuilding. Actually I necked a few of these and spent the next five hours in a neurologically excited giggly warpspeed. So much for that long-past expiry date...
OK, bed time!
You know the cute idea of taking a little box, filling it with knick-knacks, burying it in the ground, then years later "finding" it again, fascinatedly & coyly remarking "oh, cool! What crap interested me then!" ?
Well, I have done just that, except it was a 750kg box of everything I owned, and "buried" in a garage in Wellington, NZ. This Life Experiment cost me at least US$4,500 between two shipping companies, an unused work visa, and Customs. But at least I now have three woks, six pairs of skates, and some out-of-date painkillers.
The Time Capsules
What is this all about?
Back in 2002 I left California with the intention of working in New Zealand. I had a job lined up 'n everything, thanks to Jez and my unstoppable interview techniques. Indeed, my final telephone interview was a seven-way conference call with everyone at the target company assessing me. I had got myself locked out of Karen's flat in San Francisco so was calling from a payphone in a local grocers in the Haight on a calling card. More entertainingly, before the call I had some time to kill so (obviously) hit a local bar. Unfortunately they had a Jägermeister happy hour...
Anyway, I got the job, shipped all my gear to Wellington, and took a return flight to UK for three weeks. For reasons involving pay, T&Cs, timing, and a girl I stayed beyond the three weeks. And am still here over three years later. My US life however then was on the High Seas at a shipping cost of, if I recall correctly, around US$2,300. It arrived in Wellington and since I didn't have a work visa Customs slammed me for import, compounded as it were by the incompetence of American Movers / Monterey Peninsula Movers I was slammed again for customs storage charges before finally having the whole lot very kindly hosted by Jez in his garage.
In 2002 I was Frequently Asked why are you not in NZ yet? That piece, written in May 2002, has some more stories altho' not the one here, at least revealed, about me getting sozzled before a final interview ;-)
Since then, a combination of simply having no space in the UK for all my junk, no solid idea if I was ever going to NZ, and a strong sense of not wanting to think about it anymore goddammit I just left it there. And left it there, ... and left it there... It was like having my finger stuck in a tin can: it hurts from cutting it on the lid, but I know it'll hurt more to get it out. Having spent so much money on shipping etc already, and not wanting to spend any more to retrieve it, irrationally I just left it. Jez however recently moved into a smaller place and it had to go somewhere; the decision forced. The shipping cost as it turned out was astonishingly much less than its outward journey. So here it all is: my life three years ago.
I've spent the last ten hours or so opening it up. The contents and the memories have been intriguing. To follow...
Update 2005-05-08: This issue has been resolved
Last month I wrote about unsolicited (spam) SMS from 82277 and how over the course of seven such messages I have been billed £10.50. Not a staggering amount of money but money that isn't rightfully theirs.
So I'm finding out what it takes to get it back. Here's what I've done so far...
Recap: First off I called my phone provider (Orange)'s support line, 150, which mercifully doesn't cost anything from the handset. To get through to a human requires pressing 2 then 4 which broadly relates to questions about the bill. They told me the company name is MNT Wilson, phone number 0870 4050406, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Orange also suggested texting STOP ALL to 82277 which I duly did, and the SMS stream ceased. Grumbletext also suggest this.
Called MNT Wilson's number 22/04, heard back 25/04 saying they'd call back 28/04 with information on how I subscribed. Didn't hear back so called 29/04. Still haven't heard back as of 04/05. Their quoted reply time is two business days.
So today: Following the suggestions on Grumbletext's page on junk texts I visited the ICSTIS and entered 82277 in their check a premium rate number facility. Slightly oddly the company name and address they returned was that of UK mobile operator O2. Not to pre-judge, I called them and they were extremely helpful but ultimately directed me back to Orange. They didn't, couldn't, or wouldn't reveal whether they were just a conduit or more involved. I don't think it matters.
Called Orange. Generally I'm really happy with Orange's support but this conversation was frustrating. My goal was to find out the path between here and getting my money back, who's involved, timescales, and so on. There really does seem to be only one path through which, at least according to the slightly unsure-sounding rep, is for them to send a form (doesn't have a name) to someone (doesn't know whom) that registers a query (doesn't know what type) about the company in question (MNT Wilson) and they'll get back to me. Essentially they're attempting to ascertain how my number ended up on 82277's subscription, something also that MNT Wilson should've provided but haven't.
So that's where I'm left right now.
Incidently, Grumbletext think TPS (Telephone Preference Service) is a waste of time as an angle to pursue.
1. text STOP ALL to 82277
2. call phone service provider and register a complaint and ask them to find out how you were subscribed
3. call 0870 4050406, press 2, and leave a message asking them to call you back with how you subscribed
4. call One World Interactive 020 72588700 and register a complaint
5. email email@example.com and register a complaint
6. go to Grumbletext's SMS Spam reporting page and leave a complaint. Alternatively forward the spam in question to 07810 838383 with the word SPAM at the front of the message. Details here.
7. Let me know how you get on!
Assuming nothing particularly startling appears back from Orange, my next move is legal action through the county court.
Been riding around on this seriously unsafe back tyre for several months (well, several months before my several months layoff from cycling ;-).
The worst bit was that the sidewall attachment to the rim beading was almost torn through for about 8cm which gave rise to this alarming sideways drift every wheel rotation on corners...
It took me a while to figure out how on earth that tyre managed to become that worn in less than a year, just road riding. What I finally realised was that I, riding a fixed gear bike with no freewheel, had got into a habit of lifting the back wheel (front brake on, lean forward), spinning the pedal to set the crank position, and dropping the back wheel back down mid-spin.
While I was changing the tyre I dropped the gear ratio (using about every muscle fibre in my entire being, jesus wept) from 42/12t to 42/14t, a much more pleasant experience especially after the big gap out of the saddle. Oddly I'm doing about the same speeds as the larger gear, just spinning more, and being fatigued less with all the stop/start/nail-it of urban traffic cycling. I must've looked pretty funny doing 120+rpm tailgating a bus the other day though...
Oh boy, legal rip-off. I ordered US$38.98 (£20.36) of crap from Cafepress and managed to incur £7.55 Customs and Royal Mail clearance fee, so 37% of the original cost ended up in the laps of Customs and Royal Mail. Why? The maximum declared value of imported goods is £18 before it's subject to tax. So £3.55 was VAT (fair, accurate, no problems), and the remaining £4.00 was a charge by the Royal Mail to clear it through Customs and deliver it. Except they don't, they take it to the local holding P.O. for collection. I guess my objection is a) having to pay for a service I didn't request and b) for which I have to do extra work myself, work I see as firmly in the remit of the service provider, i.e. deliver it to the labelled address(!) c) paying £7.55 on £20.36 worth of goods(!!)
Grr, just checked my phone bill and a whole series of unsolicited £1.50 reverse-billed SMSs ("text spam") have been charged to my account:
Sunshine Quiz Wkly Q! Win a top Sony DVD player if u know which country Liverpool played in mid week? Txt ansr to 82277. £1.50 SP:Tyrone
Naively I figured this meant I'd be charged a buck fifty for the privilege of replying and so ignored it. But oh no, that's to receive it. So somehow I've "signed up" for this service, as that's the only legal way to be charged like this AFAIK.
Orange (my phone provider) suggested:
1. immediately text STOP to 82277; this will only cost standard SMS rate
2. Call the company's number, 0870 4050406 and ask for a refund
By law they must keep a record of the original request for this service. That particular phone number goes to an answer phone so I'll have to wait to find out how I enrolled...
I'm quite certain I didn't knowingly sign up for this. What's annoying is the marginal benefit of getting that nine quid refunded is almost certainly beyond most people's hassle so these guys get away with it. Grr.
The joy of Internet publishing however is that I can spend four minutes writing this blog entry, it'll be indexed by search engines, and other folk will find it: a gift to that company that will keep on giving...
Update 2005-04-29: Got a call from MNT Wilson Ltd on Monday assuring me I'd hear back by Thursday for the source of "my" original subscription. Friday now, still no word from them. Left another message.
Update 2005-05-08: This issue has been resolved
Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2005 00:01:04 +0100 (BST)
Hello Paul's various usernames,
We at various forums would like to wish you a happy birthday today!
Ah, how sweet. A computer is thinking of me. The "00:01:04" is a bit needy though. Relax dude, I'll be 31 and 0 days for a few hours yet...
Random IM thoughts...
I think there's a market for taking boring services like free webmail and just somehow making them erotic
even if it means being really self-indulgently silly about it.
Your private, secure shemail
exactly! "tagged for her pleasure"
"all email under plain cover, your discretion assured"
search options: cursory glance [X] good solid gawp [ ]
Wink at recipient: click here!
There are some services that are so thoroughly commoditized and homogenized you have to be an ultra-provider to make the wafer-thin margins make sense.
But throw in a bit of something extra appealing but unrelated to the core product (e.g. add sex to email) and immediately it's a niche product, catapulted into an almost entirely different market segment. So the consumer previously presented with a baffling array of essentially identical services is both able to identify with an idea and make a highly differentiated choice.
What's interesting is that these "niche" providers charge considerably more than their commoditized counterparts. I wonder if it's the sense of relief of consumers feeling like are making choice between obviously differing products, thus not feeling obliged to exhaustively compare reams of otherwise crushingly similar specs, and the possibility of identification with the product one might have? (I wonder if the marketers have a name for this?)
This afternoon I got a call from my bank about some attempted transaction using "my" debit card. Now, I haven't lost my card so someone's got hold of the details somehow, presumably by running the card through some device that records the magnetic strip and can write that onto a dummy card.
When at a restaurant last week I paid on my debit card and entered my PIN but apparently it was wrong. I was pretty sure it wasn't but whatever, retyped it and the transaction went through.
There are computer programs that look exactly like normal "login" boxes which people type in their details to and then the program reports a "wrong password, please retry" and then hands over to the real login program. This way the intruder program, or "man-in-the-middle" as the security folks call this type of attack, records the password.
Now, doesn't this sound exactly like what happened in the restaurant? Ironically, the PIN system not requiring a signature might be more susceptible to a man-in-the-middle attack: you would need a modified card reader that records the PIN. It'd be interesting to hear from someone who knows more about how the card "chip & PIN" system works and how it could defeat that attack. I'm sure they've thought of this(?!)
I'm not of course saying this is what happened, nor am I going to name the restaurant (OK, it was on Brick Lane) despite, looking at my transaction history, it looks such a likely candidate.
What's interesting about this is that I've never had this happen before and it's just after I've started being asked for my PIN when using my card, as opposed to being asked for a signature.
Paying for restaurant bills on debit cards is generally not recommended as debit cards have less liability coverage than credit cards which are automatically covered. For some reason they wouldn't take my credit card as its PIN is (legitimately) locked. Normally I should just be able to sign for that, and have done on many occasions, but they wouldn't take it.
The good news is that none of the dodgy transactions hit my account, so well done HSBC.
As an aside, this isn't exactly the same but the technical accomplishment and neatness of the sting is quite impressive: modifying ATMs with pictures to skim cards in real time. Has pictures too.
Phew.. not much in the journal of late.. Plenty happening for sure however. Friday before last five of us gathered at my place for a kettlebell / gymnastics / strength training session. It was really good fun. Everyone totally caned. Ken wrote about it.
Last week saw a particularly geeky dorkbot london, lots of interesting human connections at wirelesslondon, and the highlight, a huge posse of us going to see Chemical Brothers play at Brixton Academy followed by a police-nearly-called afterparty at Stuart's. Finishing that night of SSRI and then JD abuse at Stu's I got into a particularly bizarre mood managing to improv about 10mins of literally no-pause gay schoolboy comic erotica while walking along the South Bank plus dirty talk using a second-hand car sale as a sexual metaphor... There's a surprising amount possible there! I nearly threw myself into the Thames just for the experience too. It was that close, I swear. (Ultimately mitigated by sudden realisation of having to walk 500m, in March, in England, before being indoors again...)
Jack Daniels seems linked to happenings like this, the insanity of Santacon, scampering around a Texas apartment complex wet&almost-naked chasing a big-boobed girl a fellow bodybuilder and I particularly liked (it was mutual; we both liked her), and several other borderline-sociopathic-but-invariably-entertaining experiences.
I may be forced to "schedule" JD along with Tequila, itself a scheduled (i.e. self-banned) liquor and facilitator of, er, rich personal experience for me for some years now...
Tonight I had the honour of teaching a Shakespearian actor, of the Royal Shakespeare Company no less, to move around the stage. Unbelievable? I was helping the chap playing Puck the fairy to roll on the stage using Heelys, the shoes with the wheel in the heel. There's a scene where Puck floats across the stage and then turns around and walks to the middle. The great thing about Heelys is their, I think unique, capacity to enable nearly seamless transitions between walking and heeling. Even when you know what's going on it looks slick, when you don't it's mind-poppingly odd. I would be surprised if a single person in the audience has any idea how the RSC pull off this fabulous little move...
Anyway, thanks to Andreas at Citiskate whom RSC originally contacted I stepped in, hopped along to the RSC audition rooms, and rolled around with Jonathan/Puck. I'll be back end of next week to see how he's getting on and troubleshoot. Great fun, and satisfying seeing an improvement.
Does this make me the first professional UK Heelys instructor?!
Back just before Christmas before I taped up its blade I was practising with my Balisong (aka Butterfly) knife and managed to mess up a catch:
It's not actually as bad as it looks - I was just carrying some luggage and it opened up the cut and smeared everywhere.
The blade's taped up now anyway ;-)
This page dedicated to Emir who is a very bad boy.
As if by some form of manifestation chance meetings have continued: Friday, on the Tube spotted a Southfields inhabitant Kate (nowhere nr Southfields) who once gave me a pile of info on street hockey in Hyde Park. Saturday John Howitt in Leics Sq. Meeting John resulted in a whole pile of us getting pretty cut the whole afternoon in the Lowlander pub in Covent Garden. Superb!
Late Sunday night in Highbury Corner after I'd thought "there's just no way I'm going to meet someone else": ran into the "flirtatious city" architect Sarah I met at Wireless London.
This is all getting a bit creepy. I may stay in today.
There's a urban lore that in London people tend not to bump into each other by accident. In the kind of city that's 30+miles across and has over 7million people it's not hard to see where this idea comes from.
A few months ago I started recognising people I knew, quite randomly from travels in and around London. Sometimes in obvious transport nexuses, other times in far off parts. I thought this was an anomaly, but it kept happening, more and more frequently. I recently wondered, jokingly, when I might meet someone each day for seven days straight. Now I don't think it's a joke. I met three people in one day on Saturday, including a very cool guy (downstairs in a reserved area in a pub in Notting Hill Gate, while waiting for friends) from Bristol I was remotely acquainted with 13 years ago. Quite how my neuro-circuitry pulled off that recognition move is beyond me. But lord knows, I'm grateful for it.
Tonight, walking past a bar in Farringdon—an area I essentially don't frequent—I spotted a friend giving someone a massage. Literally twenty minutes before that I bumped into a friend from university. Yesterday in Bethnal Green I met a guy I have only ever seen once a year ago. Couple of weeks ago in Tooting, Tooting f'chrissakes, I spotted a guy I sort of know through a social circle on the Tube going the same direction and we swapped numbers. And so on.
London doesn't have to be an anonymous city.
A little while back someone on FreeCycle London, a group that offers up their unwanted stuff for free, posted their entire house contents! Being FreeCycle that means it's well, free. The entire booty of a house. A news hound at The Independent picked it up and thanks to my blog got in contact with me. So if you read a story there you heard it here first ;-)
But wow, a whole frickin' house.
I am lucky to have a few friends who really like my voice. It's nice to be liked, even if just for the patterns of one's laryngeal oscillations. An idea struck me the other day after a combination of some encouragement from a new friend, and thoroughly enjoying reading out loud to another friend (from "What do women want?", oddly enough). The idea is this: how about reading a book and putting it online, maybe a chapter a week?
Then I thought, if the chosen book had characters in it, how about having friends and other blog readers do the voices! I would be happy to stitch the recordings all together.
A free (as in freedom) book from Project Gutenberg would be ideal so everyone has the same text, easily readable, and copyright-free.
The only firm requirement is the text is in English (maybe Esperanto next time...). My own preference is fiction; reasonably modern; well thought of; not too heavy; and broadly appealing. Drop a comment down or email me!
PS Don't think by not volunteering to read you'll be any more likely to hear me speaking in falsetto for female parts...
I had originally written in the list of delicious experiences, "Been privy to the most depraved halogen-lit whipped-cream-enhanced parking-lot sleaze of my life. So far." But decided against including it in the context of some guy talking about his daughter on IM. Heh. Who knows whom you might meet online... :-)
You know you've been hanging around computers too much when...
Dave Gould says: 6 OR 7? paulm says: 7 Dave Gould says: scuse caps lock paulm says: oh, in that case I don't know
Felt a little shaky this afternoon and so, thanks to the joy of a freelance lifestyle (freestyle life-stance?) crashed for a few hours, woke up around 20:00 and dragged myself to a Beermat Monday networking do. I've repeatedly learnt even when I don't feel like it to force myself to go out, if I'd previously planned it. 80+% of the time it works out. Certainly did tonight, despite a far from promising start...
Those that can wake up, sit on transport, and then network effectively without any preparation: my hat's off to you. Met up with a friend, and then she left, leaving me all on my own in a room full of strange people. Awww.
Feeling random, I went to chat with an astrologer friend Dennis and learnt all about working for Mystic Meg, the dial-a-psychic £1.50/min service mostly associated with The Sun and News of the World. When you dial Mystic Meg they multiplex it through to one of their psychic agents, usually at home doing something that's easily interruptible. You know, like when you dial a "live chat" porn line and get through to a middle-aged housewife doing her ironing. Ooh, YES, baby! Strange as it may seem, applicants for this part-time clairvoyant occupation are tested to ensure only the highest grade of mind-readers are at your service.
Elsehwere in the room although I didn't talk to them unfortunately there were a couple of guys sporting "AQA 63336" orange, black, and white T-shirts reminiscent of Penguin Books' Classic line. You can, for a pound, SMS a question to 63336 and they'll provide Any Question Answered. Neat.
This, talking with Dennis, and Mysticism reminded me of an idea I'd had in the summer but not acted on, the Spiritual Message Service (SMS) whereupon for a small sum plus your mobile operator's network charge you may ask questions of God. Inspired perhaps by reading Conversations with God. For added silliness: being able to set up a web profile and select a default deity... "Hey, Shiva, are four legs really better than two?"
Anyway, I'd at the time thought (my) SMS would be a laugh, not be too serious, and quite honestly get no-one using it. Apparently however the AQA guys get a huge amount of traffic, not to mention winning a "Best Mobile Service" award last year. And Mystic Meg is a long-running high-profile success. So this might be a go-er!
To top off the evening, asking for a female opinion about this crazy idea from a leaving networker resulted in a very pleasant dinner at, and discovery of, a 24h diner in London: Tinseltown. Ace.
Chalk another for getting out of bed and meeting people!
Well, this is a first. Random surfers occasionally get in contact about stuff I've written from mathematical curios like base twelve to asking the names of cute girls. I was once flamed for having written any positive about Landmark (self development) but that's about it in terms of negative feedback. I've never intended to piss people off either in real life or online (there's plenty of amusing examples of that already).
But check this out...
Someone actually wants me to remove a page I wrote:
I was pleased to read that osteopenia was mentioned in the advert for your site as there is so little info about it. Is it me or is it you? but I could find nothing serious on your various pages so have decided to write to ask you to delate the reference so not to wastwe further people's time
(Perhaps you Mary would like to learn to type & spell so as not to waste your readers' time.)
The page in question is about an interesting [to me!] linguistic/mythological connection between the terms "osteoporosis" and "osteopenia". Google lists this page in the rarely-visited depths of page five and six of its search results for [osteoporosis and] osteopenia. The previous fifty search results links contain more information about osteopenia than anyone besides a specialist would likely ever want.
So how bizarre to whinge about it (anonymously no less). Imagine a world without esoteric meandering web diversions...
(The irony is that the page in question has as decent an explanation of osteopenia as I've read anywhere and I even go to the trouble of explaining that, one day, I'll put up an article about how to test yourself for bone density drop - something everyone should be doing.)
There is a site on the Internet that people upload pictures of mattresses they find abandoned in the street. It's called Street Mattress .com. That something like this exists is probably no surprise to anyone these days. Still, it's kind of funny realising one of your good friends is a top poster there.
So, eyes open to the possibility of street mattress action ...
right by Wyllen Close, Bethnal Green
somewhere else in E2-ish
Stephen's ninja mattress spotting skills bagged both of these ;-)
It's always fun to have people guess your age. Most guess under, which I suppose is the polite social norm. Today was wild though: met a Finnish girl (24) on the Tube home who guessed at ... 19. That's right folks, me, a teenager. After I allowed her a second guess it crept up to "no way are you older than 21". Yeah, baby! Needless to say she received the kiss she so richly deserved at that point...
Tom and Me
So, stood around chatting with Dom, we were approached by a chap and our conversation went roughly like this:
Him: Hi, are you organising this?
-- I'd turned up to the gig in an increasingly dishevelled velvet jacket, a Santa outfit, an enormous pink afro, and of course with a pillow. I looked ridiculous. And out of a crowd of a thousand people he'd picked me.
Me: Not this one, no. Anything I can help with?
-- I know the organisers but my involvement for this event was absolutely nothing. Still, try to be of assistance, right?
Him: Is there a Lost Property place?
-- OK, now this is funny. A few hundred people thwapping the stuffing out of each other at the top of the stairs in Trafalgar Square does not automatically imply existence of a field-tested municipal infrastructure. Still, worth a shot, eh?
Me: Heh. No. What are you looking for?
Him: The hood to this jacket, it's come off somewhere.
Me: Ah, like this one? *points to hood of jacket I'd been looking after for a bit*
Him (suddenly delirious): Yes, that's it! Er, here, have some chewing gum!
I love how the world works out like that ;-)
In other news that night... I was interviewed on Mexican TV and asked whether we risked arrest spreading feathers all over a public place. Quite off the cuff I said, if it's legal for pigeons to do so why not humans? Can you tell I'm not a lawyer.
(By the way, quite a number of people put in a solid effort clearing up the feathers, including an imaginative technique by one of the Skatefresh crew skating along with a pillow held to the ground, which others on foot then picked up and used quite effectively. I found a large bag and had been using my hands 'til that point. Bravo skaters!)
Here it is, people.
That's right, a volume control on the keyboard. This has proved really useful for dropping the volume for incoming calls, unobtrusively trimming the sound levels when folks visit, and pumping up the volume when a decent riff kicks in. I love it. It should be standard.
The larger button, also useful, brings the music app to the foreground. The other ones do the usual play/pause/stop etc although with winamp, iTunes, and WMPlayer all competing it's got a bit weird on this machine.
Contrast the other custom buttons on this keyboard: browser controls (back, stop, refresh, etc) and Mail, My Computer, Calculator. The last one I've used maybe three times and that's more than the others. Waste of time. I wonder if others like them.
Further mods I'd like to see: a large scroll wheel that works identically to the wheelmouse. That alongside page up/down buttons would make a relaxing document reader.
Sartorial preparations for Santacon took a leap today. I bought no less than four Santa suits for friends, plus a variety of props to theme up two of them (that'll be the Makepeace brothers). I'm going as Santa Austin Powers: frills, velvet, bad teeth; and Nik's Satan Claws: trident, horns, tail. Wandering around Camden searching for a red/burgundy velvet jacket seemed almost in vain 'til I got seriously lucky and picked up something passable for a tenner. (Purple velvet jackets are two-a-penny; add in a little more red though and they're gone.)
I ended up with some tacky fake ruffs à la these. Was tempted however in a gothshop by a proper sumptuous frilly silk lace-up-front shirt that would be spectacular. I'm gonna see what I can do with extra lace and fledgling attempts at needlework first...
Showing up immediately after this at a dinner of possible future work colleagues, all suited, with me carrying four santa suits and a conspicious cheap plastic devil's trident drew some raised eyebrows. Heh.
It occurred to me on the bus home that I used no less than seven modes of transport getting to and from a party tonight.
Walked to the Earlsfield station, caught the train to London Bridge. Picked up my Strida folding bike and popped my heely-wheels back in. Cycled back to London Bridge and heeled around in the station. Took the Tube to Tower Hill and then the DLR to Limehouse. Cycled to the party. Heeled around for the amusement of everyone else. Cycled back to DLR, heeled (pushing the folded bike - two at once!) through Tower Hill, taking the Tube to Embankment. Cycled up Villier's Passage and spotted the N77 bus which I rode ahead of and caught back to Southfields. Pulled wheelies in the driveway.
Didn't use a car: excellent.
In America people wonder "how do I drive there?". In Europe we wonder "which combination of public transport do I use to get there?"
From the Dept of Amusingly Profane Town Names... The girlfriend Karin of our exceedingly kind host just told me about the village of Fucking in Austria. also on Wikipedia "A considerable portion of Fucking's budget is spent on replacing stolen signs"!
Karin's work's pretty wacky - for example...
A fresh episode in my history of run-ins with bus drivers...
Catching the bus earlier this evening with friends while on the phone (another friend had just spotted me in the street while driving by on her bus!) piled on and the bus driver said "You're not taking that bike on the bus". Being on the phone and trying not to hold anything up I basically ignored the dude and pulled the bike into the gangway, finishing up the phone convo. Bus driver unimpressed and shut the lights of the entire bus down; friends of mine are surprised and start questioning the driver. I fold up the Strida which I have down to about four seconds now (eat that, Brompton!), return to the cab and say "you can't seriously object to this". Folded, the Strida takes up almost no space, less than a sax case. Surprised and bemused the bus driver said "OK" and fired his rig up again. Dave laughed and said that the scene would've made an awesome Strida marketing video....
I love this bike!
Woohoo, my favorite browser officially had its 1.0 release earlier today. It's time to party! The last month has seen a money raising campaign operated from Spread Firefox to take out a full page NY Times ad for Firefox. They were after $50,000. They got $250,000.
With 5million people downloading the 1.0 Preview last time you can imagine the servers are completely caned right now with an official release. However there is at least one site that's still serving over 200KB/s: found via the Switch to Firefox site.
Get Firefox: http://fcdnet.org/firefox/Firefox-Setup-1.0.exe
If you're still using IE you're really missing out. 1,000+ testimonials seem to agree. Don't be left behind!
Firefox at Mozilla.org - the original Firefox homepage
Get Firefox - a simple Mozilla.org site you can pass on to your friends
Spread Firefox - Firefox campaign site
Switch to Firefox - borrowing Apple's "Switch" advertising theme with plenty of info for new and potential users
Mozilla Release Party - any excuse to party! UK locations
A fantastic London resource to "freecycle" (i.e. give away) your unwanted goods, and occasionally request stuff: FreeCycleLondon.
There are over 1,300 London members at time of writing and despite this the group order is really good - manageable traffic, well administered, useful subject lines with local idioms like "OFFERED", "TAKEN", "WANTED" (links go to examples I've posted). Recommended!
The umbrella site which includes other places besides London of course is FreeCycle .org. Some cities have membership into five figures...
So, if anyone has any spare French language learning material... :-)
N.B. Please do not post your items to this blog! I am not freecycle support; do not email me about anything to do with freecycle (I will just delete it). Join the mailing list and post there.
In fact, I have turned comments off on this blog owing to the sheer number of people who don't actually read it and seem to post here anyway.
After starting to learn Teeline shorthand a little over a week ago I'm on page 47 out of 60 of Ann Dix's "Teeline Fast" book thanks to a week's travelling on the Tube. I've learnt a few surprising things from the experience.
First off the amount of information about Teeline online is almost nothing; even the Wikipedia barely mentions it. About the only info online are book and course listings and the Goldsmiths audio files. Odd.
So. My idea of using an established shorthand as an input method for small computers/phones has a harsh reality: learning shorthand is no joke. My tube journeys are about an hour at a time of which let's say thirty minutes is productively spent learning. So I'm putting in an hour's work a day and I've been disciplined enough to work on it for ten days straight. In ten hours I've covered 80% of a course book and that's even before any substantial writing practice, dictation, speed drills, word lists, word groupings, etc.
Explorations on the web left me with the idea of about 80hours to become reasonably proficient. That is two weeks full time effort. Like I said, no joke. I suppose viewed as learning a whole new way of reading and writing, which it is, this isn't that surprising.
With the context of shorthand as an input method I've been thinking while learning about how to recognise and display shorthand. Handwriting OCR is a technology that's been worked on for many years and is still being developed; it's not a solved problem. And compared to longhand handwriting, shorthand recognition has got to be hard. Even displaying it without the aid of a massive look-up table would be a challenge. In essence those challenges are:
* vowel and double letter removals. These leave a considerable amount of ambiguity, e.g. "lk" = like, look, leak, leek. I'm often finding myself thinking WTF does "chrfl" mean and having to read on and then realise retrospectively from the context, "cheerful". Without a doubt, this is a learning stage I'm going through before recognising the outlines, but for the shorter outlines like "lk" the computer has some work to do
* word groupings. To aid speed many common phrases like "dear sir" and "as soon as possible" are shortened. Not a major issue but extra workload for the would-be implementor of a shorthand input system
* fine subtlety in shape. A letter "o" is distinguishable from a letter "u" by the barest of margins. Several vowel forms are actually identical. The TN/DN blend rounds off a corner, again with an astonishingly subtle difference.
One solution to deciding which out of several possibilities an outline refers to could be statistically derived from what other words precede and follow it. For example the easily readable phrase "got out of control" informs a reading of "fr" as probably "fire" (versus "for") which furthers suggests reading "flms" as "flames" rather than "films". Fortunately such an analysis is relatively straightforward using Bayes Theorem. The challenge then becomes experimenting with where to calculate the probabilities (immediately after, in the same sentence, three words behind, looking at whole phrases, rest of the paragraph(s), etc). As usual I suspect someone more learned than me has already checked this out. What tweaked my curiosity would be using this technology for predictive text - my PDA prints up four possible word completions while I'm typing a word (e.g. "complete", "completely", "completing", "completion" for "complet") but often they're crap guesses. They could be much better taking into account context and words I'd already just typed. Again, some smarter researcher probably has the answers here ;-)
That all said, it's been a fun and engaging exercise learning shorthand and I'd like to persevere to the point of some degree of proficiency; I've already had one experience in the last week where being able to transcribe a speech, Stephen Hawking at Naming of the Dead, would've been quite cool. Despite ready access to voice recording—my phone does it with a single button press—being able to write fast will be useful all over the place. Not to mention a great party trick and I've certainly spent longer hours learning dumber party tricks :-)
Recently brother Nik received an astonishing email from the new husband of an ex of his. There's nothing I can really add on top of his eloquent description, you have just got to read it yourself: Hello, Aaron Benedek. Be sure to check out Nik's reply and the alternative that was never sent...
I'm not sure Nik's site's ranking with Google but if I published something on this blog it'd be indexed by Google in less than 24 hours. In that time this guy's name in Google will be #1 for his, IMO, ill-considered piece of piffle. Makes ya think, huh?
While I am strongly opposed to revealing private correspondence and have never forwarded private email, seeing this kind of nonsense really makes me think publishing truly aberrant and abhorrent material can act as a regulator over time. Reputation is a powerful persuader.
(These days, after ongoing and repeated casual violation of what I consider private correspondence (forwarding my emails, including others in a reply with quoted text, Bcc, etc) by both business colleagues and friends I now pretty much assume everything I write is public. Fortunately this hasn't had much impact as there's not much to hide in my life but as a shift in perception it's potentially dramatic in its scope.)
"Nothing encourages good behavior like public scrutiny" -- Neale Walsch aka "God"
Oh my god. The angels in my mouth are singing!
This midnight snack turned into the kind of culinary creation that if deployed could heal centuries-long national conflicts, bring about unbridled happiness to humanity, and maybe even prevent the Republicans stitching up the election again.
It started out innocently enough...
Some left over mini-baguette from a lovely lunch with Rossi, lightly toasted and generously buttered1, layered with thinly sliced Irish cheddar, a polite but robust splash of Hellman's Extra Light Mayo, and a suitably prudent smattering of Belevin Chili Paste (salsa piccante!). An open sandwich, of course, you pleb. Finalized for consumption by 10s in the microwave: just enough to warm and soften the cheese, bring the bread back to heat, but not so much as to bring about hotspots or release excessive starch moisture, bubble or otherwise desecrate the holy turf of this marvellous creation. In all seriousness, the microwave is the secret weapon of home sandwich making.
Out-standing. The rights to this one have already been bought for millions.
But all that was merely a warm-up, a tip of the hat, a casual chink, a toast, if you will, for what was to follow.
With the hubris of imagining it possible to improve on Beethoven's Fifth, the olive bread was sliced and dropped by my trembling but certain hand into the toaster.
Out came the Creamy Stilton whose age predates the fridge itself, a wedge I'm reliably informed by one of the neighborhood elders that was once a piece of cheese from decades past. So, nothing but the best. A single Babybel cheese, sliced, was the only worthy complement. Thus, the multi-national holy "tre formaggi" was complete. I swear I could hear a chorus of Welsh choirboys in the middle distance.
The mayo was re-invited to the party. It gladly accepted and effortlessly mingled with the crowd with all the grace and panache one could reasonably expect from a product with only 6% fat, a light purple presentation design, and a penchant for 50s lounge jazz (what?? -Ed).
The chili condiment too was willing, providing the bite and balance to the creation's spectrum with its refined piquancy.
With all the likelihood of Elton John behaving at a celebrity gathering, out sprang the Sainsbury's Wholenut peanut butter. Gasps from the audience; surely this is the work of a sandwich savant? No, merely a brave and cocksure experimenter. The second half of the sandwich was respectfully anointed in Gale's Pure (set) Honey. Sixteen seconds in the nukilla oven and ....
Well, let's just say look outside, can you see a steady comet in the sky, and detect a distinct whiff of frankincense?
A muse on adaption to circumstance.
Last night I headed over to 491 Gallery to check out their space for a party. This involved a ride from Shoreditch E1 to Leytonstone E11, a trip I'm really familiar with and have covered regularly since I used to live about half a km from 491 for about a year and a half.
What was interesting was how quick I perceived the journey to be.
Contrasting with my memory of it being as you'd expect "the usual", with occasional bitching to myself about how far it was. The ride last night took less than 25 mins, and I wasn't particularly hammering it. At the end I thought "ooh, that was quick, what was I bitching about?" Now I live on the other side of London in SW18 which is quite a bit further into town than E11, ~15km. I am used to that now and merely occasionally bitch to myself about it.
When I was living in Reading and commuting to Oxford St in London which could take 2hrs on a bad day I got used to that (I also slept on the couch at work quite a lot), and would occasionally bitch to myself about it. Whereas now the thought of a 2hr commute, even a one hour commute, appalls me.
So at the same time as we resist change we seem to get used to our situation and accept it as normal remarkably easily. I have a suspicion this is a big part of explaining why we remain in our social positions as entrenchedly as we do. There is resistance to moving up or down (comfort zone) and no perceived push, since it's all quite normal, just occasional bitching to ourselves. Only when the situation actually generates pain does the revolution ensue.
This all must be quite a relief to those at the top of society's food chain...
Here's the direct link to the archived stream (copy to clipboard and open with the player): http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/rpms/hitchhikers.ram
The rest of this entry is a whinge about Real Player and the BBC website; ignore at leisure.
You can listen to the last week's episode online: great; it's in Real Player format: sucks; it just doesn't work: sucks harder. Why do people broadcast in Real? It requires an annoying proprietary player, costs the broadcaster money to license, the sound quality is not great, often just does not work, and is piloted by a truly loathed and deceptive company.
The Beeb's own site is broken: in Firefox (considered by many the best browser currently available for any platform) on Mac OS X clicking the "Radio Player" for this week's episode produces a pop-up player. Which doesn't work. Even with Real Player installed. Attempting to click the empty player buttons auto-downloads a Windows version of Real Player. Useless. After I manually searched out a Mac version and got it to install the pop-up player still doesn't work. Still useless.
The only way forward was to dig around in the HTML source code of the page and extract the URL of the stream, then load that via Real Player itself ("Open Location", Apple-L).
Save yourself from crappy players and poorly tested websites, here's the link:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/rpms/hitchhikers.ram (live stream is http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/realplayer/media/fmg2.ram).
I encourage you to leave feedback for the BBC here.
...wherein earplugs1 were donned, instruments grabbed, and then pounded rhythmically (by everyone except me) for the next couple of hours. So much fun and energy! The noise of 30-40 people pounding away is literally deafening. My ears would not have survived sans protection. Even though some of the folk there have been going for years there were still plenty of grins when we did the high energy intro.
The local pub had a lock-in too afterwards and I had a music theory lesson from a 8-yr Samba veteran. Really cool! The scrawling and re-scrawling on beermats tells me software could help. That PDA drum-machine idea I've had brewing seems closer to actually implementing...
What a great Saturday night. In bed at 21:00 feeling the demotivating edge of flu symptoms, Emir called and gave me exactly the needed impulse to get out of the house. The Euroburners (Yoms & Pete) had put on a party in Holborn and if there was ever an excuse to wear the Blue Fluffy Coat and hat this was it.
Met some great people there, putting mailing list names to faces. Looking forward to catching up with them some more.
Your DJs and hosts for the evening, live and direct...from Guantanamo Bay!
Next up was Slimelight (and meeting Dean) via Emir's place: about an hour of chat at 2am and checking out pictures ... and buying a ticket to Geneva. When your mate says "I have a flat in Val Thorens, fancying coming skiing?" it's a five nanosecond decision... Buy. The. Ticket.
One thing hitting Slimelight has done for me is galvanized my already pretty strong desire to get a sewing machine and start making my own clothes. After a semi-random meeting with Catherine on Friday a sewing-machine shopping trip is coming up. Woohoo!
It's fantastic being around high-energy creative people. Some clothing brainstorming with Emir while face painting we came up with a bazillion ideas to put years of software and electronics fiddling to deviant use that are so goddam cool they probably ought to be patented... Watch this space.
Right, quick fry-up and then bed.
Pics © Emir; cheers!
This one direct from the Department of D'oh.
Friday night, was expecting a call and had my phone in my pocket so I could feel the vibes whilst cycling. To facilitate from-pocket extraction I hadn't totally stuffed the phone right down. Which sadly facilitated the phone popping out into traffic around Westminster Bridge just before an unofficial Circle Line Party. And then immediately being run over by at least three vehicles.
The resultant carnage looked like....
Amazingly the phone itself still works, and I've just synced its filesystem contents before I wrap it up and send it to the repair company.
(Handy Tip: to back up a Pocket PC phone simply select ActiveSync's Backup/Restore option from the Tools menu.)
The Circle Line Party website seems to have grown a announcements mailing list. Handy. Pass it on... It seems even the very first CLP 2 report from the old CLP site [via Wayback] has migrated into the new blog format.
For about a week now I have had a folding bike, the rather odd-looking triangular framed Strida.
Well, it kicks ass. Not only does it eliminate the need to walk even sub-kilometer distances it goes in cloakrooms. On Thursday last week I took the Strida on its maiden voyage to an opening at the Hayward Gallery. Rather than search around for (usually inadequate and distant) bike parking facilities I spent ten seconds folding it, and then wheeled it into the gallery lobby...
Along with my coat and sweater I checked it into the cloakroom at the Hayward. The woman behind the counter and the ancienter-than-god dude barely flinched. If anything I felt the most awkward, asking to coatcheck my vehicle. It leant down discreetly behind the door. Even cooler, when the event was over I skipped the queue and walked in through the side-door to the cloakroom and picked it (and my coat) up, and then was immediately opened by this quite cute Aussie. Bonus.
It gets better. Confidence boosted, on Tuesday I took it to a nightclub in Leics Sq, past the bouncer (again, no flinching) and into the cloakroom. A bike, in a cloakroom, in a West End nightclub. Fantastic!
Pic taken of the side of a N36 bus in south London tonight. (Graininess due to low-light & phone camera.) A popular bus route inspired by a famous footballer's wife?
(Mouse over the image if you still don't get it.)
For one reason and another, I don't give money to folks who come up and ask me for it. Instead I quite often share my food e.g. half a sandwich or something; I find it quite hard to not do something.
So I had an idea to tidy this filthy city and help beggars at the same time.
While having lunch in Spit's Market on the public benches, I spotted this guy was wandering around asking for money with quite frankly limited success. All about the tabletops, there were piles of discarded lunchy litter left behind: polystyrene plates, plastic forks, napkins, etc left over from the previous few hours munching.
It occurred to me, why not ask the dude to clear up the tables for a pound or two? The amount there could've been cleaned in less than a minute, so one pound isn't a bad score being effectively £60/hr. (Heck, I would do that since I occasionally clear up other people's trash anyway.)
I don't see anything demeaning about this at all, after all for thousands of city workers it's a full-time job. I think if I was effectively paid to do something for a small amount of money I would feel a lot better about it: it'd be an exchange rather than a gift. Not only that it provides people a pretext to hand over some money, bypassing that nagging sensation you're being conned borne from reports about professional beggars making quite a tidy yearly earning. I don't know yet but I suspect it would also weed out the chancers from the genuinely in need.
(I remember being asked by this well dressed guy in the street for some money. "I really need it bad," so he claimed. I offered, "how about twenty pounds?" He looked at me strangely and I continued, "yeah, I'll buy your headphones for twenty quid." He laughed and said no way. I had seen they were a set of Sennheiser HD-25s, world-renowned DJ 'phones, retailing in the UK for >£130. Sleazy bastard.)
So as of today I'll be employing beggars on ultra-short term contracts, reporting back in a month or so. Join in! Tidy up the city with your "spare" change!
As part of a six week coding contract with these fine gents I'm commuting from south west London to east central. This takes about 70mins assisted by public transport and slightly under 40mins when I ride. For the first time in a while I really didn't want to cycle this morning, it felt like a drag, and how much I'd rather just sit in a train reading a book. Odd, I thought, it's not that far (15km), what's the problem?
Then it dawned on me...
...it's not the physical effort involved, it's the mental effort. Cycling in London during commute periods is hard because the brain has to be constantly running recognition for dangerous traffic patterns amongst the short mini-movies of vehicle, driver, pedestrian, lights sequences and interactions. A stock trader on the exchange floor monitoring market shifts while fielding buys and sells yelled from every direction, a ceaseless unrelenting cacophony of neural activity.
Riding at home typically late at night there's very little of that. The jaunt back usually consists of a brutal but purely physiological pounding along the Embankment, flat-out intervals of muscular acidosis; cerebral activity more akin to the late-night security guard occasionally scanning the infrequently changing cameras, sipping coffee and reading comics.
Which all just makes me conclude I should really be working at home ;-)
The MSDN subscription I've been eagerly anticipating to allow me to create phone apps arrived in a carry-case of DVDs a little while back. Giddily trying to install it, I realised my PC doesn't have a DVD drive (I really pay so little attention to computer hardware these days). A trip to Dabs and one NEC 3500 later I can play!
Why that DVD drive? Because it had a black front, and "16x" and "dual layer" sounded impressive. Buying hardware based on its colour scheme? Don't say I'm not in touch with my feminine side...
Hmm, haven't really done a true diary style "Today, I did this, and this, and this, and this!" entry but today was been so much fun I think I will anyway.
After not being able to sleep, watched Dogville on DVD this morning on the suggestion it is apparently quite soporific. Quite the opposite, I was gripped and intrigued: arty, challenging, moral, and somewhat depressing-because-it's-hard-to-deny film. Worth seeing.
In the morning-proper, met up with Simon and will be working with him on an interesting XML/SOAP/Postgres/Bricolage/HTML::Mason implementation (in other words, programming :-). Knowledge from that will directly feed into the main project I'm working on, not to mention help me save.
Flushed with success of being "hired" (two month part-time contract), I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around town dragging loved ones from their offices, an activity that turned out to be a great way to spend a few hours. On nice days (which today certainly was) I will definitely do more of this. An amusing side-effect was collecting various visitor badges, the best of which was from Nik's place at Sony which informs others I have "VIP ACCESS" - hell yes I do!
Met with Giles at Proboscis HQ and we caught up. More amusement and admiration from seeing a press release about the soon-to-be-released RSS feeds for Urban Tapestries. This was a two-day hack I executed for them last week for peanuts and now the "project" has its own full-page press release! I guess this is why Giles is running a hugely successful research non-profit and I'm just turning out random bits of code. I wonder if I don't appreciate what I'm doing, matter of perception?
One solid score was completing the Microsoft Partner Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Empower Program enrolment through Proboscis. In essence this snags a small org access to a 12-month license to a pile of MS goodies for £260; an enormous savings (the dev environment is thousands of $ alone). Key for me is that it offers up access to a C#.NET compiler for PDA/phone devices. That in essence means I can write software for my phone.
I am bursting out of my skin with excitement about being able to write a phone app. I'm finding the whole emotional aspect I'm experiencing delightful. Not having wanted to program this much for so long is inspiring; I thought being paid to write web-apps was going to put the knife in for my programming career. Ah well, I hope it's as much fun as I'm anticipating.
Spent the evening "coming down" off the anticipation of a DVD full of MS development tools (Microsoft, for chrissakes! The company I swore I'd never work for) and reading about an offshoot of EFT which claims to be a therapy even more capable of deep change at warp speeds. (Its name is Be Set Free Fast [BSFF].) More on that later when I finish the e-book and if I find some residual emotional issue for me to test it with... (I'm running out of them, honest!)
I was looking for a replacement for the audio notes recorder on my Orange SPV PDA/phone when I discovered this first-person 3D fly-through game, Flux Challenge. Usually with PDA/phone games they're generally boring barely-animated block pushing exercises. I've seen some cool-ish 3D games on the P800 so I had some idea what a game could be like on a modern PDA. But holy cow, I wasn't prepared for this.
The game is to fly your race-ship through a tube, like a 2D car game but with the 3D element of steering it up and down. There are the standard game variations like picking your ship from amongst variously-abled craft, buying boosters, time trials, practice mode, and the usual cheesy back-story.
Right off the bat the game has a pretty kickin' opening menu sequence and audio track. Tapping quickly through the intro menu I start a game up. Wow: high speed colorful smooth 3D animation, more solid in-game music, intuitive controls (up, down, left, right on the phone's pad) and gameplay that rewards practice.
Fiddling with settings I turn on all the high quality graphics and sound options. The former includes higher poly models (i.e. fewer rough edges) and dithering. Put it this way, the graphics feel smoother and snappier than Descent 1 on a desktop PC back in the mid-90s.
If someone has a mobile phone with any game on it besides this one, safe to say, they are owned ;-)
Put aside that games are for fun, and instead look at what they are demonstrating. Games put huge demands on a computer; in a sense they are the cutting edge of what a device is capable of. To me, Flux Challenge and games of its technical and design caliber point to a viable future of sophisticated well-designed responsive PDA/phone applications, providing us with genuinely useful facility we can carry around with us. Pretty exciting stuff!
If your Bluetooth phone headset went missing in a pub, what could you do to get it back?
The setting: around 21:00 with a couple of girlfriends trying to get into Cheers! on Piccadilly severely under-dressed (I'd come straight from an ultra-casual on-site coding job). Just for the record, both of them were looking quite spiffy. At first I thought the bouncer was objecting to my HBH-200 headset which was wrapped around my shoulders; it was looking kinda tatty. So I started taking it off, when it turned out the rip in my t-shirt was the problem.
At this point one of the girls offered me her jacket which I comically wore (she's about a size -6), she dragged me in past the dude in the blur, and we ordered drinks. Then I noticed my headset was gone. Heading back to the door both guys were bizarrely polite and empathetic "honestly we didn't see anything". Ehhh.
Anyway, I thought how could I use the technology to get it back. I'm sad to say I didn't pull it off but here's what I tried:
First off I did a device discovery. My Orange M1000 often presents Bluetooth "MAC" (proper term?) addresses rather than their human-readable ID. Now, I didn't remember what my headset's is so couldn't be sure the phone'd found it.
Next idea was to call my phone with the bluetooth headset enabled and hope that it picked it up. Even if I didn't hear the device the phone would report a transfer to headset. No signal in the back of the bar, so I borrowed Aini's phone and reasonably surreptitiously went out front near the boys on the door. No lock, nor device discovery. (I think, stupidly, I'd switched the headset off in the movie just beforehand. There is no need to do this: just silence the phone as no other phone will make it ring.)
So some lessons, besides obviously paying attention stashing gadgets. Make a note of the device's MAC address. Never switch if off. Develop a utility that will run on the phone to "call" the headset without needing an incoming call. Thinking about this, this is a really obvious one and I'm (now, having thought of it ;-) a little surprised phone's don't offer this feature themselves. Develop an app that continously discovers devices and reports on the signal strength (if this is possible). I'm sure something like that is out there, e.g. Bluestumbler.
The "beasts" exhibit has a mix of oil paintings and huge electron microscope blow-ups of insects, from ladybirds to praying mantises. The microscope photos I found enthralling; delicately leaning over the "don't touch" barrier and squinting at the photo from mere inches didn't seem to exhaust the detail captured on the enormous inkjet prints. (I guess since my file's declassified it's no secret anymore my eyesight has been cybernetically augmented by a prosthetic chip implant with an active optic nerve amp and intraocular muscle regulator).
It's a shame the same can't be said of my taste in hairstyle. The L'Oréal-sponsored Hair exhibit featured videos, samples, games, even a virtual salon. There is a section on how hair products are designed with all the remarkably sophisticated (and amusing-looking) machinery used to thrash-test everything from strength improvement to quantifying how long a spray helps hair keep its hold. A product ad will never seem the same.
One of several things I was surprised by is that permanent hair dye actually chemically alters the entire hair, the dye really permeates and reacts all the way through. Oh, and some of the fantasy hair designs are outstanding.
Virtual Hair Salon: (you can do this yourself!)
...dedicated to the Legg, and a new friend I met on the Tube tonight ;-)
Been playing with my new Orange M1000 Pocket PC phone. Found some secret audio recordings; realized my phone's a higher spec machine than my laptop; and discovered the coolest portable tunes player...
Poking around the phone's file system, chanced upon some unexpected WAV recordings in My Documents. Investigating, there turned out to be a couple of long accidently created recordings of the second party that happened during the Circle Line Party ("CLP3 v2"). Fun listening to the screaming, shouting, shhh-ing, and celebration as the party went through several stops. I was surprised to hear my brother in so many conversations before finally realising it was me. Intonations, inflections, idioms. Bit odd that, since we've been apart effectively since I left for uni (gulp) eleven years ago.
Anyway. So this phone can play mp3s. Well, that's cool except mp3s are kinda old tech with pricey patent restrictions, lower sound quality and higher storage needs than modern audio encoding systems like OGG. Windows Media Player that ships with the phone doesn't play them, hardly surprising since OGG is Open Source and doesn't include DRM--two things not enticing to the corporate giant Microsoft.
Anyway. A search for "pocket pc ogg" turned up an exceedingly groovy player, TodayPlayer. Free, featured, easy install, skins(!), and Just Works™. It runs on the PDA's main "Today" screen ultra-compact, or full screen with a neat form of "skin". The idea is elegant: you can set the background with an image file or photo, and then position the buttons around it. To reskin the buttons, simply draw them into the image file and switch off the real button's visibility so the image shows through. In other words, have a completely clear "button" over the "fake" drawn-in one. Clever!
You can see all this in Full Screen mode instructions.
My trusty Sony Vaio PCG735 laptop sports a P266 (yes, that's Pentium [one]) processor with 128MB RAM. The phone is a 400MHz job with 128MB and 512MB Flash storage. The day will come when our phones sport faster, cooler, less power hungry chips than our desktops.
Flash RAM is so cheap! The half gig I got from digimem for £60 or so. Exciting - carrying around endless e-books, party photos, favorite tunes, quickly snatched videos, ...
Who says tech ain't fun...
Needed a suit at short notice for an interview with some posh Asset Management Fund. Fine, except I don't have a suit. Well, not in this country anyway (long story). Nik kindly offered but first I wanted to feed that little cheeky personality trait that says "beat the system!".
Can I get hold of a tight suit for less than fifty quid with only hours left?
I'm a great fan of charity shops, and I had a few possibilities lined up to raid in succession until the outfit was complete or, beaten, I'd slink into the grim clutches of clothing retail (80%+ markup, gah!).
Apart from obviously being charitable, Oxfam and the like are a source of amazing bargains. I didn't even have to leave my postcode for the entire mission to be completed. Check it:
Yep, walked out with everything. All I needed to supply were the underpants and socks.
Total cost: £45.96
(Elvis shades: priceless)
Serving suggestion only. Triple Aggressor not recommended for financial institution interview.
From: Jez Weston <jezweston@y...> Date: Mon, 2 Aug 2004 23:19:52 +0100 (BST) To: Paul Makepeace <Paul.Makepeace@r...> Subject: Re: historical question --- Paul Makepeace wrote: > Were we at the Backyard Jam in 97? Yup. > It's on the cover of Mat Hoffman's autobiog "Ride of my life". > The back jacket has the ramp and a pile of cars in the background, one of > which next to the white Sierra looks remarkably like my Citroen GSA... That's your car*. I remember it being parked at that angle to the ramp. Woo! We are famous! * For strange and complex values of 'your'.
Starting a trend for acquiring cars for free or way below market, I was given a car in Cambridge which was then the lubricant* for a number of crazy adventures. One of which was trekking to an insane BMX ramp jam in Hastings in 1997. Jez and I snagged a great spot overlooking the ramp. And the car has ended up on the back cover of Mat Hoffman's excellent autobiography "Ride of my Life".
Wanna see some "street" BMX? Here's a video from the '04 Backyard Jam. The second swirly trick is a 360° double tailwhip.
* If you know anything at all about my Citroen GSA and its maiden voyage under my "ownership" you'll get this.
After having my imagination captured by free-running / parkour I've started looking at urban street architecture in terms of running and jumping around and over it. And wondering how I'd train for this. By some bizarre fortune it turns out there are seven outdoor exercise stations spread out around a playing field almost adjacent to home! (I'd seen it before but not with the eyes of a budding freerunner...)
This evening, after a one km warm-up run I spent a very pleasant 45mins jumping, twisting, handstanding, pull-up'ing and generally taxing my ankles, wrists, and shoulders. What fun! And with a pull-up bar I have pretty much everything I need to hammer most muscle groups and thus avoid a gym membership... Woo-hoo!
I've been pondering my finances quite a lot recently, and how to escape the rat race i.e. have enough residual income ("earning while sleeping") not to have to work. I've read plenty of theory on this Rich Dad, Poor Dad etc but as yet not put a lot of it into practice (on account of simply not having a stable enough-looking income to get a house).
And then I found a book with some immediately applicable goodies...
A short book I've was enjoying a earlier this year, Richest Man in Babylon is written as a tale of how a wealthy man imparted the secrets of his success to other city dwellers. Despite its mildly irritating "and I thus did do..." mock-ancient writing style it's pretty dense with observations and suggestions I could relate to.
I'll note just one now and how it's worked out. The author talks about what is almost a truism: that we spend whatever our income permits us to. Whether serf or sultan we manage to just use it all up. Our bank balances have a comfort zone. My comfort zone when my work supply is erratic has been "slightly in debt". It's amazingly consistent.
Now, the book's strongest recommendation comes early: save at least 10% and under no circumstances touch it. Treat it as though you don't have it. So I tried this, boldly setting up a savings account (having inexplicably closed my ten-year old one in 2002) and a monthly standing order for a pretty decent amount. Enough for me to be aware of but not cause any especial consideration.
Well, what happened? Several months down the line I'm still slightly in debt. But I have several thousand quid saved up!
So the obvious thing for me to do is to double the standing order and continue the experiment...
Found this in the garden just now. When I was looking I expected to find one.
Although that could just be evidence of being slack mowing the lawn and letting too many of its friends get it on :-)
...based on the crazy 60 year old idea of an Hare & Hounds paper chase or hunt. The "Hare" pre-lays a trail of flour and the "Hounds" follow in pursuit. Breaks in the trail - called "Checks" or "False Trails" - help to divert the faster runners whilst allowing the slower runners to catch up and have a short rest. The whole emphasis is on having fun, socialising, getting moderate exercise and working up a thirst.
Which is very loose code for at least one pub being visited. The general tone of the harriers can be quite fruity, if you know what I mean.
My first, and indeed only, experience was in Rome with Polly back in 1997. It sounds like hard work but is really great fun. I saw and ran around parts of Wimbledon and Southfields I would not normally ever venture upon unless I was specifically out to explore random roads and fields–it's a beautiful place. Some intriguing little shortcuts and paths through places I thought I knew reasonably well, too.
There were quite a few out-of-towners present (of which of course Tommy was one) on their way to the massive annual Interhash, this time in Cardiff. After people introducing themselves from Chicago, Baltimore, DC, New York my intro of being from Southfields, all of about a mile away, drew some laughs.
During the run I managed to sustain an annoying minor injury to my right adductor and ilio-tibial band (i.e. knee), probably thanks to being quite badly fatigued after a rather unpleasant 30km ride to Reigate the night before. Nothing specifically seemed to cause it; it kind of arrived, and after some (probably foolish) persistence running I had to walk back. Good job the hash harriers mark the trails!
And no, I wasn't drinking ;-)
PS someone else has since edited it and added me to it! It wasn't me, honest! You're too kind, whoever you are.
When I first moved to London after the States I really enjoyed the couple of Salsa nights with Peter V in Islington's la finca. In one of those unexplained followings, we stopped doing it. "Hey, this is fun. Er, let's not keep going."
So at last after a search for "Salsa Wimbledon" revealed a class just up the road. Deciding on the spot to go, I invited a new friend and we were taught in the newbie class at D-Bar for an hour. Advantages: small (six) class, disadvantage: teacher seemed to have inconsistent focus, like drilled some aspects and barely covered others. Ah well, I think it'll work averaged over time and the other beginners were fun. Will do business again.
Met another guy there, swapped numbers with a plan to check out other salsa venues, e.g. Wessex House by Clapham Junction.
I ate some fillet steak tonight (blue cheese sauce, veggies, roast potato slices). The first red meat ordered in a restaurant since I was, I think, twelve. Before the last couple of years the total red meat I've eaten has probably been 200g at most. I've occasionally scarfed down sausages when there was almost nothing else to eat (i.e. other living humans' welfare was threatened, heh) or meat that would've been thrown out anyway. Dunno why I did it this time, it just sort of happened. I suppose partly the option in this meat-oriented restaurant was a couple of boring looking almost token chicken dishes I could've probably bettered with my eyes shut. The steak was quite tasty.
On the way to a late night rendezvous I was cycling at ambling pace through Hyde Park along Serpentine Rd. The full moon was casting its light dappling on the lake, little boats, and occasional other silent observers on the benches. The whole park was oddly empty, probably due to the fallout from the Tube strike. Enjoying the view I continued past, slowed, stopped, SMS'ed a blow-off, and cycled back to the lake. Sat watching the moon, bats, and little boats, enthralled. Gorgeous.
Feeling no particular pressure to belt home as I usually do I rode almost conspiratorially slowly around the empty park with a slightly altered moonstruck outlook. Completely and effortlessly lost, ending up at Lancaster Gate, thought of two friends who would've really appreciated the whole experience. SMSed one, wishing I could've SMSed the other.
Bristol is about 120miles away. I absolutely detest using a 1,300kg car to move my 75kg body around so splitting gas and ride-sharing helps ease my eco-guilt and push the train v. car economics firmly in my favour. (It's bananas that buying a train ticket on Friday [peak period in the week] without oddles of notice costs more than the equivalent petrol cost. Of course, a car costs a lot more to operate than just the gas, but still.)
Random challenge: see how fast you can discover the weight of a typical 4-door family car using a search engine.
Click below for my answer.
The trick for me was searching for "car weight lbs" - the lbs snagged me an answer. A kg is 2.2(046226) lb.
For fresh & exciting reasons each time, I've managed to consistently miss Orbital live since first seeing them at the 2nd UK Tribal Gathering with Jez in '95. Which is a damn shame since their stage shows in particular the lights are incredible, more rock concert than dance/trance gig.
Well, anyway, on the Tube back from LHR a guest ticket fell into my grateful lap thanks to Sam & Tessa (poor Tessa's kidney is temporarily sick). It was Orbital's final ever gig after 15years of performing. Wow. It was great, and especially to reconnect with Sam who's doing all sorts of insane programmer things with phones. Going out dancing with similarly-energetic people really is a treat.
Some of the most bizarre events of my life happened in San Francisco around my first trip c. 1998 pre- and post-Burning Man. To the extent it almost, in my mind, became a nearly mythological confluence of randomness and experience, unlikely to be repeated.
And yet, more or less out of nowhere, around 3am this morning some truly surreal shit started happening.
Putting aside the improv class in the morning and the frenetic mobile clubbing pimping in the afternoon. I hope to write those up separately as they're more than worthy of their own entries (thanks Joe & Carolyn in the meantime).
After a night at a French private party at Boulevard wherein I guested a new sandle-wearing hippie friend into a ragingly smart-casual event, and took my level of calling bullshit bullshit (from some Haitian chick) to unprecedented levels, Joe & I headed to APT.
Adam & Raw/becca flingin' it.
So first contact is a coke dealer (yeah, that'll be the pepsi analog of course, duh) into which I swap numbers so we can talk about some other blissful substance. My exchange for this vague promise seems to be a rather unusual New York woman who is so unbelievably into me I can't shake the idea I'm dealing with a whore. Welcome to the world of recreational pharma. Some serious Tango/Salsa hybrid later, I head to the bathroom (aka toilet) whereupon I'm fucking joined by my 27yr old psychology major friend who proceeds to well... Head back into the dancefloor for some more shit-testing from me (I still can't believe what I'm hearing; I rarely meet English people who are so au fait with English trivia, damn this chick is good).
After pressing into my hand her email she has to leave so I start talking to the two DJs in lab technicians coats. About pluralistic relativism, (sub|obj)ectivity of truth, Sartre. This guy could seriously hang with that kind of conversation for over five mins. Impressing each other more contact details swapped including the mobile clubbing happening in, er, less than 12hrs.
Outside, more homeless dude & coke dealership action,
Darryl & Paul
...followed by picking up this Colorado homeboy...
The impromptu APT posse
...and two Aussies for a cruise into a somewhat less than legit bar (i.e. where can you buy a drink at 5:15am? Here).
Beat this pizzeria owner at pool, sunk a beer, and listened to the interminable chatter of a drunken Australian chick on the way under Holland Tunnel.
This really has turned out to be an absolutely outstanding trip.
PS for the alcoholic historians, we started the evening with British Airways 187ml bottle of Bordeaux red, followed by pre-venue Cobra 16oz malt liquor, fortified mid-event by 5cl of British Airways Gordon's gin. Apart from raiding a table of high-rolling vodka drinkers... oh well it doesn't matter. I had, literally, a two minute lecture from the dude running the grocery store about the likelihood of ending up institutionalized simply by dint of being in possession of a can of 75c Cobra. I don't think he'd ever seen a guy in a tie buying that skank in his life. Goddam, Crazyleg & Texas has a lot to answer for.
Right then, 7:34am: bedtime.
Here's how to make it:
Put a couple of teaspoons of dried yeast in a glass, and add about 100ml of warm water and a few teaspoons of sugar to it. Mix well
Wrap a dishcloth around your glass and leave for about 20mins
Meanwhile, copiously grease a baking tin
Come back to your yeast and it should've frothed up somewhat
Pour in three or four mugfuls of wholewheat flour. It doesn't matter too much for now. Pour in the yeasty water and mix, bit by bit. Eventually it'll end up a ball of dough.
At this point transfer to a board and start kneading it, adding flour 'til it's slightly tacky but not peeling away and leaving itself on the board. I kneed for a few minutes. This bit is fun!
Place the doughball back in the bowl, cover with a damp cloth, leave in a warm place for about 30mins, turn the oven on as high as it'll go - usually around 200°C
After that 30mins, it will've risen somewhat. Place it in the baking tray, put in the oven for about 35-45mins depending on its size. Check after 35: if the crust is dense and there's a hollow sound when you tap it with a knife, it's good.
Transfer back to the board on an oven shelf or proper rack so it can cool off.
Resist eating it 'til it's reasonably cool. This is the hard bit.
The point is it's not rocket science. I have baked a ton of bread while at university and it's almost impossible to screw up, and even when it doesn't rise, is too tacky, too dry, there's always something tasty you can do with it: toast it, add to soup, drench in butter, jam, ...
Try switching water for orange juice, add chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, sun-dried tomatoes, bananas, herbs, whatever else you feel like experimenting with. It always seems to end up delicious!
I was almost immediately suspicious of it, and my intuition proved correct. I was being scammed. What follows is an email-by-email account of my conversation with "Bayo Morgan", and how I'm trying to turn the tables on the scammer. I'll be updating this entry as the conversation progresses...
(Include links to more scam pranks; have you seen an African guy in a bra?)
From: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com> Date: Sat, 12 Jun 2004 18:57:35 +0100
i'm Bayo Morgan.I am interested in your advert.and i wish to let you know that i
am really interested in renting the place.please get back to me as soon as
possible with the price list of per/week or monthly basis rental and also the
weeks and months available in this year.please send me in details the health or
condittion of the place and also your initial period of rental.
Anticipating towards your letter.
I've since learnt that "Bayo" is a male African name. So our correspondent is a "he".
What's immediately odd here is that he's asking questions which are all answered in the webpage. If you're going to scam someone, at least pay attention. This garners a terse reply from me:
From: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com> Date: Sat, 12 Jun 2004 19:14:42 +0100 (BST)Paul Makepeace wrote:
All info at http://paulm.com/house/
Thanks for your concern,i appreciate your mail,the price is okay for me .and i
really love the place, please i will want you to get back to me so that we can
arrange for fast payment because i really love it.i will appreciate it if you
can do everything under your control so as to help me secure this place cos i
really like it and i will want you to know that i will be staying for 16weeks
starting from july. please confirm the price for the 16weeks duration,also
payment will me made in UK,i will want you to get back to me so that we can
arrange for the payment fast because it has been long time that i have been
searching for the place. i will be waiting for your mail as soon as possible
So this time the guy signs off as Morrin. There's very little content in his email aside from asking what the total amount for the whole 16week period is. Now that is weird: I've never heard of anyone pre-paying residential rent. Still, I wouldn't complain ;-)
(Let's forgive that anyone with 30s spare and a calculator could work out that amount–all the info is on the webpage!)
Curious, I dig a little and suggest switching to voice:
From: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com> Date: Sat, 12 Jun 2004 19:26:48 +0100 (BST)Paul Makepeace wrote:
Whereabouts are you right now? I think it would be a good idea if you
saw the place and we met first. We can arrange the details if everything
Cheers, Paul (07814 728381)
i got your mail,i amin the usa right now and i am coming over there to school.i
will be arriving assoon as this transaction is through if i caome now i will
not havea place to stay before you hand overthe keys to me so i will like you
help me through out this time please.
hope to hearfrom you asap.
More oddness. What UK school operates July through October? If the guy's in the US, what's with the yahoo.co.uk address? If the person was actually from the UK I think that would've leaked into the conversation somehow. There's a discrepancy around "arriving assoon as this transaction is through" and "i will be staying for 16weeks starting from july".
I do his math for him, and solicit some feedback on the webpage.
From: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com> Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004 01:22:38 +0100 (BST)Paul Makepeace wrote:
What is the earliest you are looking to move in?
The prices etc are all on the webpage. Are they clear enough?
It would be one month's deposit = 720pounds + one month's rent up front.
(rent (650) + bills (70) = 720)
It might be easiest to call me - 011 44 7814 728381
Thanks for your concern,i appreciate your mail the price is okay for me .and i
really love the place, i am a student,i will not be able to come and view the
place since i am not in uk so i will like you to do everything under your
control so as to help me secure this place cos i really like it and i will want
you to know that i will be staying for 4months starting from july. please
confirm the price for the 4months duration,also payment will me made in
UK,please do not hesitate to ask any question if there is any. i will be
waiting for your mail as soon as possible.
Still no calculator. I'm almost certain intuitively it's a scam but there's nothing concrete yet. Let's continue and help the guy through his grade-school arithmetic:
From: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com> Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004 02:09:36 +0100 (BST)Paul Makepeace wrote: Hi Bayo,
Four months = 720 * 4 = 2880
One month's deposit = 720 (returnable when you leave of course).
Total = 3,600.
My only concern is that if you want it from July 1 then the room will be
empty for two weeks (now 'til then). I have to pay rent on the room.
Is 1st July earliest for you?
Many thanks for your mail. I am ready to pay 3,600pounds .
As regards payment,this is what i am going to do. I have one of my
uncle who was oweing my dad $7,500pounds before he passed
away.I will instruct him to make out a check to you in that amount
and as soon as it clears in your bank you can now deduct your money
from it and send my balance via western union international transfer.
Although the value of the check is more than the money for the
rental duration. but i think i should be able to trust you with my balance.
the reason why i am doing this is that it will take a check sent from
over here in U.S.A, 32days to clear over there, whereas check sent
from within the UK would clear tops within 3days because immediately
you receive it you are going to take it to the cashing point or
deposite it .I will also use part of the balance to move from my
present location to your place and some of my belongings,so if my terms are
acceptable to you,i will like you to deduct the western union international
transfer charges from my balance as well.so give me your full name address and
phone numbers so that i can instruct my uncle
to make out the check to you. Pls get back to me as
soon as you get this mail so that i can know my stand.i will want
you to provide this information so that i can forward it to my uncle
in U.K so that you can receive the payment earlier okay. Reply ASAP.
OFFICE PHONE #..................
FAX NUMBER ................
What is "$7,500pounds"? So we're into some bizarre transaction involving family, differing amounts, Western Union (notable for providing no recompense whatsoever), international transfers, requesting lots of personal information, ...
Now I'm sure it's a scam so I kick in with a search engine, looking for the guy's name: wisenut: bayo morgan". One result: Virago Star Owners Club - VSOC News - Scams - Beware.
Ding, ding, ding!
So how does this scam work? Taken from this page on cheque (check) over-payment scam, the target arranges a cheque for the victim. The victim deposits it, it appears in the victim's account whereupon they're pressured into providing the difference. Inevitably the cheque will later bounce.
Anyway, let's see if I can speak direct to "uncle":
From: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com> Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004 02:09:36 +0100 (BST)Paul Makepeace wrote:
Hey Bayo - this sounds good.
Give me your uncle's phone number and I'll call him direct with the info.
What's his name?
What's your phone number in US, btw?
thanks for your urgent responce this is my uncles number
234 80 56149262 please feel free to call him.
What kind of number is that? It's certainly not a UK number. (Ironically, I've written a page, how to write a phone number). Maybe 234 is a country code? Let's look: wisenut: 234 country code. Just skimming those results, "Nigeria country code 234", "234 country code] As a fellow Nigerian, I hate to see the abuse of the internet for cheap money making schemes and SPAM.", there's really no doubt at this point.
I push it a little,
From: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com> Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004 04:54:27 +0100 (BST)Paul Makepeace wrote:
Hi again - this doesn't look like a UK number. You sure it's right?
just call the number and tell hime about his cousin that is moving to uk.
and he will know wat to tell you.
So, Bayo, you're the cousin of your uncle? There was me thinking it's usually a nephew.
In the traditional 419 scam (so named as 419 is the code of the Nigerian fraud statutes; read more), the perp asks for a few thousand to lubricate the transfer of several million. I'm going to try something similar, have him pay my transfer costs. The structure of this email is almost identical to ones they send out:
Dear Bayo -
This is great, looking forward to it!
Spoke with him and we're going to need your help for the transfer. My
bank is going to charge me $25 to accept the cheque. I need you to send
me $25 ASAP so I can take the cheque. We could use Western Union
International transfer or a US paypal account or similar.
It's just a small amount, no-one should worry, but it would help me out
cashing the cheque.
Let me know!
And that's where we leave our story for now... Watch this space!
If you're dying for more, check out the 419 scambaiting site where they have 419'ers perform silly tricks... Similar sites: Scamorama - Lads from Lagos including this hilarious one where they have 419ers wear bras(!). Also funy: Bait-A-Mugu, and What's the bloody point?
Gah.. my favorite Internet radio station is down for some maintenance. The problem is that you then have to repeatedly go back and do a browser "refresh" to check if it's up again (gotta have them tunes!). So I mailed Felix there and suggested they put in an automatic refresh on the webpage and change the page <title> so "Downtime" appears early in the browser/taskbar/tab. That way a casual glance will reveal when Last.FM's back up. (It's these kinds of attention to detail that really make a site. Last.FM is full of them.)
Fifteen minutes later he'd implemented it. How cool is that?
Outstanding night out Wednesday with Courtney at Heaven, preceded by excellent-as-ever meal at Sarkhel's across the street despite various amounts of psycho-noise in my head. Mercifully drowned out later by club music, spirits, flesh, and dancing (wherein I learnt a move from C. I have promised only to use for the Power of Good).
I was definitely in an altered state when I got back; there's a shrub being "trained" into a tree in the back garden. It doesn't apparently like this happening to it, although the mile-a-minute vines are quite down with being pruned regularly, in a "really bwoss, we jus' cayn't help ourselves!" kind of way. Honestly, I was not on drugs.
So. 5am. In the garden.
Dawn moon. Pure magic.
Do not put either of these men in charge of your webserver.
I am developing, after three decades absent appreciation, an abiding fascination with nature and its relentless growing. Having a garden is such a pleasure. Although this photo doesn't really show it well, the vine has somehow grabbed onto the top of this tomato plant frame, entwined itself and continued on with its rampant domination of the shed. Really, there is this inexplicable metre or so where the vine appears to have grown horizontally through thin air to catch onto the frame. Nature, and probably our cocky resident blackbird, only know how it managed this. Awe inspiring.
(Mention must go to Chris who I think unintentionally outdid himself and probably 90+% of commercial catering establishments by producing this, and I'm going to use the word again dammit, outstanding , pesto, sun-dried tomato, and wafer salami dish. C. & I polished off the leftovers off at 4:30am with appropriate reverence.)
The old lady gave birth to several million of these guys in the shed a few weeks ago. I guess when you can jump so fast a human eye (well, mine, anyway :-) can't even register it, making the trek from the shed to the conservatory is no sweat. Even for a lickle spider like this.
I'm pretty sure those little black dots are eyes...
So our local Greggs baker franchise outlet sells chicken, vegetable, and cheese & onion pasties at 90p, 80p, and 80p respectively. If you buy two of the same you save 20p, e.g. 1.60 for two chicken pasties, or 1.40 for two veggie versions.
What if you want one chicken and one cheese & onion? Yep, you pay 90p+80p=1.70. I.e. more than had you bought two more expensive chicken pasties. Even the person serving me when I pointed this out agreed it was silly. Being a franchise of course the employees have as much creative interpretation as you would expect from a system with a typically multi-thousand page operations manual...
Just read this entry and as far as I could glean some T-shirt in NZ was banned. Anyone living in the rest of the English speaking world might initially guess it was inciting racial hatred, gay bashing, or any of the other stereotypically (and quite rightly so, goddamit!) verboten subjects.
No, it says ...
"Boys are stupid. Throw Stone at them". Riiight. Now, if they'd banned it for being just plain lame that would've been worthy of at least some respect.
"Dear sir/madam, owing to the following reasons you must immediate cease and desist production of the above referenced products:
[X] Not funny
[X] Not clever
[X] Causes the wearer to appear bitter, emotionally undeveloped, sad
[X] Causes the wearer to make faltering, embarrassed excuses about "all my other garments were in the wash", "a friend sent me it, and I had to wear it for them", "je ne parle pas anglais", etc
[X] Not making any other particular point
[X] Indeed free of any other redeeming characteristic
Yours, Someone with more Power and Taste than you."
It must rule to live in a country where people get steamed up about that kind of "message". When cats get stuck up trees I bet that makes the papers too :-) Oh come on, I'm just teasing.
Snapping entertaining (to me) pics of T-shirts in the last couple of months:
Now those are T-shirts to take advice from.
The title on the right of the party flyer was my first ever use of Adobe Illustrator.
I've been told it's a hard chunk of software to use; I must admit I really had no idea what was going on. For that reason it was oddly fun, like the first ever trip as a kid to a science museum just batting away at the baffling array of random buttons and menu items. Except with my gaudy "creation" they had to be interspersed with an almost equal number of times batting Undo :-)
Like most of my cooking, looking back I couldn't honestly say how it all happened...
Homage to a unique, so far as I know, UK product.
So walk into a take-away late at night and you may never be aware of the undocumented skanky creations called 'chip kebabs'.
These impossibly delicious concoctions, rarely on the menu, consist, ideally, of chips, salad, burger joint mayo (the variety that is only available in bulk from wholesalers: mostly vinegar, virtually no egg - mmm-mmm!), and shitloads of chili sauce, often in pita bread. They're about £1.30 or so and are the ULTIMATE late night meal. Bar none.
The hardest part of cycling home this evening was simply not stopping at a kebab shop and succumbing to my overwhelming desire to scarf down a chip kebab. Arriving home it occurred to me: I have all the ingredients. So help me god I will make one. OK, bar the biohazard chili sauce; the Cajun marinade substituted admirably. And indeed it came to pass, frozen chips microwaved and grilled, mayo slathered with playschool abandon, all on a vinegary salad. Dee-fucking-vine.
The physicist in me was agitated: the creation of said shouldn't strictly be possible since they are only able to summoned into existence by special request in the shady quasi-demonic portals of late night British kebab shops. The pragmatist (i.e. stomach) was satisfied however: my creation was a sufficiently revolting facsimile.
I didn't pull, but god damn I had a great kebab.
Recently sucked into a debate about car usage and petrol prices, I ended what I thought was a reasonably well constructed comment (given the 60-odd seconds I spent on it) with a single flip line referring to women as chicks. This "innocent" remark was blogged by one of the more entertaining provocateuses and generated an enormous amount of traffic...
I host a bunch of Movable Type sites but in a "hands off" manner. The expectation is that users will fend for themselves, RTFM, use the paulm.com mt-users list and so on. On the other hand, I'm a sucker for helping people out. So to that end I have installed my own MT weblog so I can at least say I'm not completely clueless about it.
Of course, I had to set all the MT permissions for my account to 11 :-)