tannoy
twenty ten

tannoy tooted

Not happy with the possible new blog. This one stays.

19.12.10

yobbo adverters

When I drove frequently, one of the most unpleasant experiences was seeing movement from the corner of your eye where movement shouldn’t be. It suggested, in an instant, something moving, rather close, maybe going to collide: a threat. If I do not check, then I risk failing to avoid a dangerous hazard, such as an accident in progress. Being alert to the unexpected movement, assessing it, avoiding it, has got me away from trouble more than once. The worse case was a pile–up just starting on the M25 in the rain; had I not reacted immediately, and correctly, I’ve have been in it. The second worse was a pile–up on an Austrian motorway in the snow that killed many people; I had to stop my car quickly in the snow to avoid becoming another after–smash incident, then get out of the way quickly of a too–fast juggernaut coming up behind (who did just manage to stop in time). The instinctive response to movement at the edge of vision where there shouldn’t be movement is life–saving and essential.

image: drone

But because I have to check, it means taking my attention away from the road at that moment. If the road, at that moment, also contained a hazard to be negotiated, then the risk of an accident became significant even if the threat is no such thing. That did happen to me once. I was driving at night, round an awkward bend. It significantly changed in sharpness part way round. As I was entering that bend once, which I had driven many times before, I saw some unexpected car lights off to my left, quite close, moving. There was no road there. I had to check, did so, but in consequence misjudged the bend, and hit a wall. The lights were new glass, a reflection where there had been no reflection before. The wall, it turns out, was frequently demolished; I was not the only victim of the road layout and the greenhouse.

The point here is that unexpected movement when I’m concentrating on something is instinctively unpleasant, even threatening. It’s not something to learn to ignore, it’s a response to preserve life. It signals threat, it signals tension, getting alert, changing your body state to fight or flight. To be put through it unnecessarily is nasty.

So you can probably understand why I detest out of place animations on computer screens. Unexpected movement where there should not be movement is a threat. Now, of course, on computer screens, this can be quite intentional and correct when chosen intentionally: they’re called computer games. They are designed to be there, part of the context: they’re the direct equivalent of driving, they’re quite often a threat, although the consequences of failing to take them into account is loss of ego rather than loss of wealth (or even life).

The problem is animation that contributes nothing, in a context where such things are wrong, in a context when I am not spending effort paying attention because no threat should be there. It’s the equivalent of the movement in the shadows at the back of the room when you’re alone in your own house.

image: drone

This is why I detest animated adverts. They are the monster in the shadows of the web. I consider deliberately causing someone such an unpleasant experience to be extremely rude.

Fortunately, at least one browser, Firefox, has features to block animated adverts. I realise that a good number of interesting websites raise revenue from adverts, so I don’t have to pay to see them. I have no problem at all with adverts that are not nasty, indeed I welcome them and have even bought products from them. If, however, advertisers insist of unpleasant arrogance by intruding animated adverts onto my day, well, they can sod off. They shouldn’t be so damned rude. I will happily use free sides supported by civilised adverts, I will not allow animated thugs to threaten me with violence.

The problem is those yobbos break the terms of the deal. The free site with adverts deal is a classic mutual backscratchers, a civilised arrangement that gives both sides what they need. But if one gets too greedy and attempts to do more than scratch, the arrangement breaks down. And that is the vandalism of the animation asbos; they don’t scratch, they draw blood. They can fuck off.

Unfortunately, these yobbos mean I have to block the technology used to show them, flash. I’ve written in the past how flash is used by a site to declare itself to be poor quality. That’s still the case, but times have moved on, clips from TV shows, movies, indeed many things, are now shown on the internet. But they’re shown in flash, so I don’t get to see them because of the advertising thugs. I don’t like being prevented from seeing things of mild interest because of the psychological violence of a bunch of uncivilised, selfish yobbos, but I can’t see a way round this one for now.

24.11.10

hitchins

I’ve heard someone called Peter Hitchins on the Today Programme podcast yesterday.

He was commenting on Professor Nutt et al’s piece in the Lancet about the impact of alcohol (BBC summary). This peer reviewed article concluded that alcohol is the drug that has the most harmful impact on society. Even more, this impact on society is so significant that, despite being less harmful on the individual than Heroin or Crack Cocaine, alcohol is the most harmful drug there is. The article was based on official government figures.

image: drone

The paper weighed those figures up to come to it’s conclusion. You could argue that the weighing was dubious, so the conclusion was dubious.

You certainly can’t argue, as Peter Hitchins did, that because the paper uses language he doesn’t understand, it must be pseudo–science. He really did do that. He claimed because he didn’t understand the terminology, e.g. that because he is too lazy or too incapable to have done the work to understand it, the conclusion was nonsense. This is the “I don’t understand, therefore it can’t be so”, the argument from arrogance (ok, officially, it’s the Argument from Personal Incredulity).

So who is correct? Medical science or Peter Hitchens? Are the big words of medical science nonsense, as he claims, or is he wrong? Let us look at the evidence. The job of medical science is to improve peoples’ health, so they'll live longer. There is lots of data around showing people live a lot longer now than historically. Now, either there’s a giant conspiracy filling the world with false evidence, or people live longer. So everything’s fake, or just Peter Hitchens is fake.

He did sound like he’d been put on the spot. He did sound like he was a last minute substitute for someone else. But, really, when you don’t know, you shut up.

4.11.10

tannoy too

I’m trying out an experimental new blog format, which I’ll be using for the time being.

25.10.10

lack of presentational skills

Are all tech companies incompetent at presenting information internally, or have I just had a run of bad luck?

image: drone

Every presentation I’ve had the misfortune to attend over the last few years has been presented by someone who hasn’t got a clue about the basic techniques. They drone. They don’t break their droning up. They communicate nothing beyond their own inability. I don’t know what they were doing when they were supposed to be learning how to present at college, but whatever they were doing involved forgetting this essential part of their education. This lack of leadership skill extends from team leaders to senior management; it’s as though no one in a tech company knows how to do this part of their job. If they can’t do something simple like this, what else do they get so badly wrong? What other facts and evidence essential to their job do they ignore? How will their incompetence affect my prospects? Should I move on?

It’s not very difficult to use some basic techniques to make information presentation bearable to the people forced to listen. That the average internal company presentation does not use any of them suggests they’re not interesting in communicating the information, just being able to claim they have. It’s not communication that concerns them, it’s watching their back. They insult those forced to listen.

image: drone

After all, it’s a mere 4,250 years or so since techniques have been written down, by the Akkadians in 2250 BC, so you’d have expected one or two technical companies might have got round to noticing this body of knowledge and taking it into account. The slight detail that the greatest philosophers, such has Aristotle and Hobbes, and leaders, such as Cicero and Bacon, dedicated volumes to the matter might give a hint that perhaps it has some import. That many great modern thinkers, including McLuhan, have devoted energy to the matter suggests, even today, there might be something to it. But, oh no, upstart ignorant little sound–of–their–own–droning incompetents ignore all this knowledge, clearly thinking they know better (because if they didn’t think they knew better they’d damn well learn it up). Their ignorance of the greatest thinkers reveals an intense arrogance.

Well, I personally have got so sick with this incompetence that I’ve just forgone a day’s income rather than attend another two hours of interminable droning.

Incidentally, I’m not suggesting engineers develop presentation skills to match those of professional presenters. I’m merely suggesting they develop sufficient presentation skills so they actually communicate what they want to say.

22.10.10

more facebook

I found facebook a lot less satisfying than fora, and have been wondering why. On facebook, before I kicked the habit, my friends were mostly people i knew or had known in real life; my social interaction with them was originally real. On the other hand, in the few internet fora I frequent, I’ve met very few in real life: most of other forumites insist on living more than a bus ride away. So perhaps fora feel more real because my interaction there is built from the net.

image: abstract

Even so, I find the time spent in those fora far more satisfying than facebook interaction, compared directly. I suspect that is a matter of format and expectation. With facebook, it’s not just farmville and other equivalents of having a nasty smell, it’s that an in–depth conversation is hardly possible. In those fora I inhabit, it’s both possible and frequent. Of course, that ‘in–depth’ is subjective, my in–depth might well be superficial to many others.

I suspect it’s partially because, in facebook, there’s no mechanism of identifying conversations without first reading them. They’re not labelled beyond the who. So if I’m looking to join in something substantive, how I do I know where it is? On fora, I go to the appropriate forum, in real life, I go to the appropriate bash.

I’d prefer to socialise with people in real life, always, not just because physical presence is always one hell of a lot better than virtual for communication, not just because we’d be able to knock back a decent plonk in a decent café (in the French sense), but, well, people getting together is way human communication evolved, it’s how it works best. It can go to many places than an internet conversation can’t.

10.10.10

confession

The decision to ban Islamic veils by a few European governments has been promoted as non–racist for a number of perfectly plausible reasons.

In Belgium, for example, they are a very bureaucratic state, they do find proof of identity very important, so the argument about preventing concealment of identity made sense.

When I moved to Belgium, I found that to be officially recognised as being a resident, I had to post my name on my letterbox at the entrance to the block of flats, and then have a policemen come and visit to make sure that my name was there and I really did live in that flat. This is surprising given that taxes are mostly administered locally there, and that you only get to pay tax when it’s confirmed you’re a resident; it’s as though the locals put all kinds of things in the way to discourage that. Identity, and proof of identity, is very important to the Belgian system.

image: abstract

In France, the argument to ban the veil is presented as the French taking sides in an internal Islamic debate. For example Fadela Amara, a French minister, is an Islamic feminist, and she has very strong, and very sensible, opinions regarding the fascism that underlies the extremists who abuse the religion. She is very much in favour of banning the veil.

But recent events in Holland make it clear that these reasons can be used as excuses to create the ban. The VVD wishes to form a government, but their coalition is short of the necessary seats. So they’ve come to a provisional agreement with the extreme right, and the policy they’ve agreed to enable that agreement is the introduction of a ban. This makes clear that the Dutch ban, at least, presuming it happens, will be put in place for racist reasons.

Which brings me back to the French. Sarkozy has carried out some quite nasty racist policies, such as the expulsion of Roma. This policy is so much against European principles that the European Union is taking the French government to court over this policy. There are other policies from Sarkozy that stink of racism, although none appear quite so starkly bigotted as this expulsion.

Now, a while ago, I had an argument with an old polical friend who stated, starkly, that the reason the ban was being introduced in some European countries was simple racism. I challenged her over this at the time. What’s happened in Holland now convinces me she was right, in part at least: a major motivation for these bans is racism. In all cases, there seems to be some kind of political alliance which also supports the ban, but I now accept that the bans would not be enacted if racism was not one of the motivations: I was wrong.

2.10.10

facebook

image: abstract

I’ve had enough of facebook. I’ve deleted my account.

I got hacked off with their lax information security. Their everyone gets opted–in attitude so resembles the old pre–security Microsoft.

Anyway, the place feels like social porn. If I’m going to do porn, I’m going to do the real thing. It’s just as shallow, but it doesn’t involve shallow pretension. Actually, it isn’t as shallow. Anyway, if anyone wants a conversation, or for that matter a troll, I’m inquisitor on boncom.

19.8.10

edgar quinet

image: abstract

my photography’s poor

i’ve wandered parisien
contemporary vision
found my work ordinary
i’d not surveyed
i’d not explored

a challenge
i can

i have unique
my poetry
i’ll not depend

3.8.10

soundeye

This week has been most odd.

First of all, I’ve been looking for a particular brand of brolly for years, since I lost my last one in Bremen. Well, I knew where the wine had me leave it, but that place was unlocked hours after my train departed. I found mon nouveau paraplu in, of all places, La Défense metro. These brollies are tough little beasts that should easily withstand Irish winds.

I travelled across to Cork for the SoundEye poetry festival, where, despite the list of readers on their site, I gave a reading. I think the way to describe my reception is—well, I got applause, enough to get to my seat, sit down and look nonchalant—but no groupies, no acolytes, basically I don’t think anyone really actually noticed. That’s not quite true, of course, but, really, I made no impact.

image: abstract

Then I split from wurm im apfel, citing geographical differences. I think the wurm collective wanted me to hang around, but living in Paris is not practical for running a series of events in Dublin. I pulled out of wurmfest and wurm press too. I wish them well.

Then someone I’m rather fond of told me, in effect, to eff off. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you know how it is. It’ll come out in the poetry.

You can probably understand why I didn’t quite absorb the poetry I should have absorbed. Mind you, Eleni Sikelianos, from the US, showed some concrete poetry which really stood out for me.

I hardly sold any poetry—grand total one chapbook—although I did commit a couple of swapsies. But, to my delight, I did sell a couple of photo books. They were put out to see what would happen, and a couple of people really liked them. Well, I say sold. One person was going to buy, but, since she’d organised the conference, I gave her a copy. I did sell the other one, to the lady dancer; but I was going to give her a copy, but she insisted on paying a token amount. All the same, I think I’ll make some more combined photo poetry books. It’s not practical to use Apple to print them, they’re too expensive, but Lulu have introduced photo books, and that look likes a cost fellow poets might be able to afford.

Hey, City of Light, wait for me …

19.7.10

scott’s lyrics

Hey, I’ve been sent some lyrics by Scott from the Thunderbirds!

image: abstract

driving is the greatest thrill
got myself the greatest wheels
going on a trip tonight
travelling right out of sight

baby you can ride my car
tho’ it don’t go very far
only at eight miles an hour
baby you can ride my car

driving on a dusty plain
where you’ll never see the rain
where it’s day or darkest night
where you’ll always feel so light

baby you can ride my car
tho’ it don’t go very far
only at eight miles an hour
baby you can ride my car

back from my ride far away
and there’s something I have to say
i had to leave the car behind
abandoned it’s no longer mine

baby you can ride my car
tho’ it don’t go very far
only at eight miles an hour
baby you can ride my car

5.7.10

is facebook socially inept

image: abstract

Having used Facebook for a while, I am finding it useful, but deeply unsatisfying. It allows me to keep in closer touch with movements of family and old friends, but, with them, it delivers the kind of empty conversations you get with strangers over hotel breakfast.

I have to admit I don’t like facebook's stupidities. I suspect that might be part of the problem, actually: they filter out, indeed have sneered at, some of the complexities that make social interaction more interesting. For example, they don’t grasp places, things, can have multiple names. They don’t permit interests that are more than the simply literal. They don’t understand people have different personas for different circles. In fact, I suspect they’re socially inept, anal even; they suppress these examples of the poetry of being.

Here’s one example of their enforced mass-blandness. This is the one that gets my goat, I’m quite sure there are others that will annoy other people. What's wrong is not that they get my goat, what’s wrong is that they enforce blandness. I don’t tell facebook where I live because they won’t let me. I live in the City of Light, which is another name for Paris, a name I much prefer. People who understand my chosen name are the kind of people I want to talk with. But the inepts at facebook don’t understand the City of Light, so won’t let me enter it, so prevent me from finding similarly–minded people on the site. I find the name poetic, and it so happens it’s technologically significant. That’s me, pretty much.

Now, I don’t mind if they use Paris internally, so when someone search for Dylans in Paris, I get found. I do mind that when people look at my profile, they see “Paris, France”, and not “the City of Light”.

image: abstract

That reveals another facebook error. I live in Paris. I don’t live in “Paris, France”, because calling it “Paris, France” would imply I don’t know Paris is the capital of France. If you’re Brit, it’s the kind of thing you know unless you’re intensely dense, or have suffered the misfortune of a very poor education. I know Paris is the capital of France because I am well educated, & I don’t wish to insult those people who educated me by suggesting they did a bad job, which I would be doing if I called it “Paris, France”. Equally, I don’t enjoy conversations where I have to keep explaining the obvious, such as Paris is the capital of France, unless the other person in the conversation is a young child. That’s why I call it Paris, that’s why I will not call it “Paris, France”. There are all kinds of subtle social signals in naming things, and Facebook do not seem to understand this. This is another reason why I think Facebook is socially inept.

For those who aren’t Brit, here’s one way to work out whether you need to specify the location of somewhere. If the place name is used for the first time in this list, and the name is unique, it should be used unqualified:

Is it in context?
Otherwise, is it local?
Otherwise, is it the name of a continent?
… a country?
… a region or state?
… a capital city?
… a major city?
… a famous place, real or imaginary?

So, for example, Paris is not the name of a continent, country, or region, but is the unique name of a capital city, so it should be used unqualified. On the other hand, Congo is the name of two countries, so needs qualifying (e.g. Brazzaville, Kinshasa or Leopoldville). Luxembourg the country does not need qualifying, but Luxembourg the region does (e.g. Luxembourg, Belgium), as does Luxembourg the capital city (e.g. Luxembourg City). California is the name of a state, so does not need qualifying, whereas California the village does (e.g. California, Norfolk)—unless you are local to south–west Norfolk, in which case California refers to the village. Georgia was the name of a state of the USA and a state of the USSR, so always had to be qualified, unless you were in an associated block. Now, following the collapse of the USSR, & unless you’re in the USA, the name refers to the country.

1.7.10

image: abstract

figure

I’m living in Montmartre for a few months. I’d like to get some photos of the place which aren’t typical tourist photos of the place. Now, there are a gadzillion typical tourist photos to take, and a gadzillion typical tourists taking them, so this is going to be a challenge.

I’ve tried the night shots, and I like them, but … . I’m trying the anti–horizon shots, and I like them, but … . But look at this, look at the way I (accidentally) created a figure in the light. There’s scope here.

18.4.10

last weekend

For about a year, until the middle of last month, I seemed to be throwing up poems. I was writing far more than I was editing. The results were not very good. I have to reconsider them with fresh eye, and I certainly need to edit them, so I could be wrong: but that’s how I feel now.

image: abstract

I’d wanted, well, more hoped, the splurge of writing would stop; I’d hoped for six months. But the damned things kept coming. Now, though, I’ve not written a poem in a fortnight. That doesn’t mean I won’t write; more want to be expressed. If I sit down somewhere quiet, computer free and beer enabled …

Two things have happened. My eye is returning, I’m taking some relatively good photos. This weekend, for example, I liked. Secondly, probably more significantly, I’m returning to coding. It’s weird how those two very different things interact, programming and poetry, as though using language heavily to express conceptually takes a lot of energy from using language heavily to express conceptually.

My poetry breaks new ground. I count that as an achievement. I’ve not been so successful at getting it out there … but I’m launching my collection in Cambridge, Dublin, and possibly Paris this year, so my efforts aren’t entirely unsuccessful. Neither are they, erm, stunning.

My photos aren’t as significant as my poems. I take photos to please my minds’ eye, I experiment with various forms, and tools, but what I have not done is explore contemporary photography. I don’t steal, I don’t know other peoples’, better photographers’, good ideas. I don’t know where to look. Most photography out there is like most poetry out there, as original as adam. Yes, there are books, but which photographer? Which style? Yes, there are clubs, but they seem to concentrate on technique rather than art. Technique is vital, but it is the servant, I’ve not been to a club that didn’t treat it as master. On the other hand, contemporary photography is everywhere, so I must unconsciously absorb des modes. Perhaps I should google “photography as art”.

6.4.10

portable

A fascinating thing about France is the corrupting power of (some) corporates. For example, there are three mobile phone companies. In my three months here, I’ve personally experienced behaviour from two of them that in the UK would be considered criminal.

Orange sold me a contract for a laptop dongle as “illimité”. They didn’t get round to telling me the little detail that the word “illimité” was an outright lie; the dongle is limited to a very impractical 1G a month. One Microsoft update and that bar is reached. Orange committed the UK crime of misselling.

image: abstract

I bought an SFR SIM card for use on a pay–as–you–go basis; buy the credit, use it. However, it turns out that I have to use it very quickly. If I do as I like to do in all other countries, buy a lot of credit in case I need to make a long international call, and then don’t use that credit, SFR steal the money. In other countries, it stays around to be used. I had €15 stolen because I didn’t use it in March. When I challenged one of their representatives, they told me I’d ‘lost’ the money. That’s the language of the playground bully. SFR committed the UK crime of theft.

I haven’t used the third mobile company, Bourgnyes, although the fact they don’t totally dominate the market suggests they’re just as criminal as the other two.

My solution? Well, I don’t make many phone calls. Having had €15 out of €25 stolen by SFR, it may well be cheaper for me to use my existing Belgian number than a French one while here in France. However, that still gives money to the phone networks, so I’m going to try and reduce my fairly low phone use by switching to email and online messengers when I can. I will keep the SFR phone number for as long as I can, though buying no credit, so people can still phone me.

The bigger matter is that it seems perfectly acceptable for large French corporates to behave this way. The French government is notorious for giving in to public pressure, suggesting it is relatively weak. The behaviour of these corporates, that they are not controlled, also suggest the government is relatively weak. The weakness is perhaps indicated by a whiff of the smelly stuff between French politicians and large corporates, far more so than in the UK (even with the current expenses scandal). Here, politicos buy post–political income for themselves and their friends in the form of fat “post–retirement jobs” at the top of those corporates, if the whiff is to be believed. No wonder those corporates misbehave.

6.4.10

& was

She said it was all my fault we didn’t get together. That was at least a decade ago. She was referring to fifteen years ago.

image: abstract

My thoughts have returned to then. Never mind I don’t understand how not following my lead was my fault, never mind that I became grateful we didn’t combine; what’s interesting to me now is my thoughts return to then. I’ve got recent poems out of it. And this elderly blunderbuss.

I guess they return because I’d like some feminine company. Bit obvious that one, really. Perhaps they return because there’s an anniversary coming up, but I think not; they returned before I knew of the reunion.

There was an intense attraction. There would have been an intense personality clash. My need to lead, her pride not to be led. It would have been a few weeks of delicious lust, then until–we–gave–up unrepairable horrible disaster. The lust would have dragged it. I’m grateful we didn’t get together. I was grateful even before my invitations stopped. But it wasn’t my decision to always answer no, or nothing. Apparently that was my fault.

But let me admit something. I’ve been in a few, only a few, relationships. They’ve all failed pretty badly. The common factor in those failures is me. I’m not, as my prescriptive cousin presumes, commitment shy. I’m just crap. I’m crap at the creation, at the construction, at the development, at the doing. It’s not that I’m Groucho Marx & the relationship is the club.

I’ve not lived with anyone for thirty–five years. I hated it. Discouragement, discouragement, repression. Ugly. The blind power of big blunder foot. I wonder if I’m over it. Damn Larkin.

21.3.10

ebooks

My record collection used to take a wall, it now takes a pocket. I want the same for books. I’ve done my bit to encourage the market by buying an ebook reader.

image: snowdrops

I have little sympathy with those people who claim they prefer the feel and smell of traditional books. Despite this article, my concern is the content, reading the words; not the technology, nor sniffing the binding glue.

I was disappointed with the iPad, as launched. It seems to repeat the faults of the iPod/iPhone, particularly the corporate censorship. I dislike censorship, but if it has to happen, then the limits absolutely have to be decided by democratic debate in parliament, not by corporate surrender to pressure from self–appointed übermenschen. No matter how well–designed, the iP(o/a)d range has become a maiden aunt.

So I decided to buy the Sony PRS–600. This ebook reader feels underinvested, although given the size of the ebook market I don’t suppose I can blame Sony. It is good for reading, but essential concepts are missing. For example, it doesn’t tell me how much free space there is, so I don’t know how many books it might hold. I can ask the operating system when it’s plugged in to my computer, of course, but something as simple as that should be shown by the device itself. I know, I know, Sony claim that it holds x books, but that information has been near a marketing department, thus is corrupt.

image: abstract

But the real disappointment are the booksellers, Waterstones and WH Smiths. They sell the same book in paperback and ebook format. Yet, despite the lack of preparation costs (given most modern books are prepared electronically, all that’s needed is an appropriate “Save As …” to produce an ebook), despite the lack of production costs, despite the lack of distribution costs, despite the lack of storage costs, despite the lack of paper, they usually seem to sell an ebook for around half as much again as the paper book. Yes, it costs money to add tweaks for ebooks to their existing website, but not twice the total cost of running warehouses and lorries. FFS, it should take one programmer a week, not dozens of men with their trucks and pollution.

And then, having overcharged for a cheaper product, they reduce the rights: no selling an ebook second hand; no backing up, or any form of copying; no guarantee, so far as I could find, that a purchaser will still be able to access an ebook if the distributor goes bust, a disaster that happened in the music industry. I don’t mind paying over the odds for a new product to encourage it, I do mind being ripped off. This market is currently out of order. My ebooks are not as expensive as my paper books, and they come with sensible rights.

Incidentally, there is a third bookseller, Mills & Boon. I’ve not looked at them. I think it’s fair to say I don’t consider myself to be in their target market.

Fortunately, the Sony comes with a 100 books, including Dickens and Shakespeare. Project Gutenberg provides hundreds of thousands more for free. I’ve a lot of reading.

12.3.10

podcasts

image: pepper pot and candle

There are a good number of interesting podcasts out there.

For those who dislike the medical con, I’d recommend the QuackCast, which surveys the medical literature on quack medical treatments, and it comes free with a delicious dry sense of humour. I particularly enjoyed Quackcast 26, which admittedly was just a piss–take.

For those who dislike common ignorance, try the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. This is more entertainment than survey, but all the same there are often good, well–informed & entertaining discussions.

I’d be interested to find more good science & engineering podcasts, ideally surveys with a sense of humour a la Quackcast. For example, Microsoft produce some very interesting computing science podcasts, but unsurprisingly these are orientated towards their products.

10.1.10

dinner party

I went along to a dinner party on Sunday. Richard Berengarten had put me in touch with Jim Haynes, who organises pay–for dinner parties from his weenie flat. It was absolutely ace. The food was good, the people there were excellent. No music, no telly, no distracting crap at all. I passed the poet test: yes, I’ve heard of xxx, yes, I like his work a lot, actually.

The place was packed, it was impossible not to talk to people, the “oops sorry” repeated a few times soon grew into “hello” and “…”. All had something interesting. Conversatees included a concert pianist, a cinema scriptwriter, a fellow computer nerd, and … well, a pretty young lady asked me who I was, so I told her I was her brother. She said she obviously needed to see a head doctor, because she’d forgotten me, so I told her no wonder, I was her head doctor too, and she’d forgotten me in psychological self defence. She then revealed that, actually, she was the doctor. Ooops. First order oops. Thank God she was flying off to India the next day. Er … she may have just told me that to get rid of me.

image: pepper pot and candle

Ach, I enjoyed the evening, it was great fun, my insane inventions were generally enjoyed :-)

The script writer invited me along to a premier of a play tonight, a new translation of a classic Swedish play by … er … balls, I can’t remember the name, 19th century, highly original at the time, new translation from the original Swedish, you get the picture. Anyway, I barely understood a word, but the main purpose of the invite was the social gathering afterwards. Now, in relative terms, I failed at that. Unlike the dinner party, I felt a little awkward, as normal. However, I did the right thing, I told the leading actor he was superb, and he went all lovey on me, and there is somewhere a photo of me and him being fan and fanned.

One of the play’s actresses was a little old lady. She let her long–haired Yorkshire Terrier wandering around the social. I’m always wary of these yappy little things, although I’ll give this one, it was silent. I fear I’d only notice one do the doggy territory thing when my foot got wet.

I have noticed that roughly half the little old ladies in Paris have Yorkshire Terriers, often in a handbag. I think modern little old English ladies ought to have a dog, say a Great Whippet, to use as steeds to get about the place at barking mad speeds. Mind you, they’d be slower than they could be, the dog would be slowed down by the emergency barrel of sherry.

6.1.10

new year

image: pepper pot and candle

This is my family and friends press release, which I send out because I’m fashionable. You can tell that by looking at me. I love this fashion for corporate press releases from riders of the clapham omnibus, it gives a wonderful opportunity to fib like a rocket whilst whistling the devil’s honesty music.

I’m no good with idiots; I left my job in April to avoid decking one. In retrospect, the poor atmosphere was pretty obviously a corporate ploy to get shot of people without paying redundancy. Despite these economic times, most of the team has walked; I was neither first nor last. Anyway, the months out of work were well spent. I even redesigned my website.

Kit Fryatt and I organised the Wurm im Apfel poetry reading series, which ran well, especially Jaap Blonk’s brilliant performance in summer. Most of all, we organised wurmfest, an avant garde poetry festival. That worked a treat.

After months of no work, I was offered three jobs to start on December 14th, two in Ireland, one in Paris. Grumble, bloody typical, mumble, jobs, bumble, busses, blahdy blahdy blah … so I’m establishing myself in the city of light.

image: pepper pot and candle

The things I won’t miss about Dublin include the prices, the Britishness, the relative isolation. Those I will include the Irish people, the damn good pub music, & the general atmosphere of fun. Most of all, I’ll miss Kit & wurm; I wonder how life will be with neither around.

What I’m looking forward to in Paris includes the language, the culture, the epoetry, the cuisine. If you’d have asked me thirty years ago where I’d end up, I’d have said France. Now, I don’t know. I'm going to give the place a chance, make no mistake, but I’m not moving here having already decided to stay. I hanker for Berlin.

The year started with some very pleasant words about my chapbook Europe. antwerp, the poetry collection I intend to launch in the first quarter, has gathered positive reviews too.

Personal projects this year, beyond getting to know Paris and Parisien(ne)s, include more photography, and exploring a book of photography and poetry based on big town blues.

31.12.9

paris

New blog. New job. New city. New culture. New country. New language.

image: pepper pot and candle

Before wurmfest, I was interviewed for work in France. I thought I’d fluffed it; I certainly fluffed some simple stuff I should have wellied. But, apparently, I was good on the complex stuff; I was offered the job within a couple of hours.

Actually, after eight months out of work, I was offered three roles all to start on the same day: two in Ireland, one in France. To be honest, I don’t fit Ireland, it’s too British for me. When I was spotty youth, I seriously wanted to live in France, and still fancy the place. Even so, one of the Irish jobs was the best. I seriously considered it, but it was let down by location. The ramshackle Irish transport system means Galway is days away from centres of cultural innovation.

So now I’m living and working in Paris. Despite having moved abroad a number of times, I always find it difficult. It’s not the bureaucracy, it’s not the finding a place to live, it’s the rebuilding of social contact.

19.12.9






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