Monday, October 30, 2006

Slaughterhouse 5

I have just finished reading "Slaughterhouse 5" by Kurt Vongegut. I have felt for a long time that this was a book I should have read. I thought the book was going to be hard to read. Look I have no one to guide me. The book involves time travel, possible madness and the destruction of Dresden. So it has all the elements that appeal to a person like me (ok, apart from the destruction of Dresden in World War II, that was a bit mean and nasty). The emotion in the book didn't strike me as being too real, but I am not someone who is well known for sharing my feelings. People tell me this is a problem. So it goes.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The art of deception

I have just read a book called the art of deception by Kevin Mitnick. Mitnick was a legendary hacker who was such a bad person that he got himself banned from using the internet as well as some jail time. Sometime ago I read a book about various hackers who broke into computer systems and messed with the phone system. I have forgotten why he made FBI's most wanted list for computer crimes. It wasn't as if he was one of those nasty spammers. What I did remember was that at some Mitnick stopped his bad hacking ways for a bit and then ended up with a girlfriend, who he later married. He started hacking again and neglected his wife and stuff. As this is the only thing I can remember from the book, then this is bad. On the back of the book is a picture of Mitnick. He is wearing a suit and has that kind of expensive haircut that says I am en exec. I was appalled. This guy was a computer hacker. He should be wearing jeans and a T-shirt (just like me). However the book is all about how to break into computer systems. This involves talking to users (humans) and getting them to reveal passwords and other important data. Wearing a suit and having an expensive haircut was one way of getting into buildings. There were a lot of good tricks in the book. I have not felt so excited by knowledge since I learnt how to open a Yale lock with a credit card. I wonder if Mitnick is banned for life from using the internet. That seems cruel.

King Tut's

After living in Glasgow for almost 6 months it seemed about the right time to see some live bands play. I went out to the famous venue called King Tut's. It is a pretty small place with just a room above a pub. There is a quote from Hunter S. Thompson in the urinal. It takes me about 40 minutes to walk to the venue, so not so bad. There were a huge number of people wearing fancy dress in the general area of King Tut's. Probably something to do with halloween, but why then were people dressed up as pirates? The first band on where called Gents. They were a more arty version of the petshop boys. The lead singer wore a suit. They had a video playing as the backdrop for the entire set. This was really cool. I have not seen many bands play with clever videos behind them. The headliners were also a Glasgow band called Parka. The lead singer played the guitar as though he was on speed. I think I should get out more.

Friday, October 27, 2006

the design of everyday things

I have just finished reading "the design of everyday things" by Donald Norman. This is classic book about the design of things for "users". Donald complains about the bad design of things where you need to read many pages of the manual to know how to do simple things. He gives many examples of bad designs of things such as doors and water taps. The sections on computers are now very out of date, although his description of his ideal diary is getting close to the functionality provided by yahoo calender. The next time someone tells you to RTFM (read the f*cking manual) about some software, tell them that Craig says program that need manuals are wa*k. If they tell you to look at the source code, then give them a slap.

Monday, October 23, 2006


I watched a DVD called 36 on Saturday night. This is a great crime thriller from France. I liked some of the sleazy bars that the characters spent some of the time in. The sleazy bars I have been in Glasgow always have karoke and many old guys drinkinh whisky with their half pints. I never understand why people don't like watching films with subtitles, I have seen so many good foreign films recently.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Thed last year I lived in Salt Lake City I shared a flat. As far as I remember the TV mostly just showed the Seinfeld TV program all the time. This is of course a good thing. However, there are many epsiodes that I have not seen and the ones I have seen I need to see again. For some time I could buy the DVDs. However, I feel somehow that this is not enough. I watched some documentary by Gervais about "curb your enthusiasm". One of the writers for the Seinfeld series is the main person behind this show. I don't watch it that much, partly because it can be very painful to watch. In fact the show is on now on one of the digital channels, but I can't be bothererd to log off and watch. The main character is so ugly. Perhaps, I can be bothered.

Close to the machine

I have just finished reading a book called "Close to the machine" by Ellen Ullman. Ellen is a software engineer who owns a virtual company that writes code for people who want it. The book is a strange mixture of literate musing of being alone in an electronic world and about the joys of hacking code. Her company is a small start up with essentially no staff. If she needs people for a contract she hires some temps for a while. I particulary liked the parts where she is worried about being left behind in the software world. The ever changing world of computers and software takes it toll. There are also some good scenes where she is managimg projects and has to prove herself to a coder who is stick with a bug with his visual basic program. At some point, she just seems to lose the need to learn new things when a company come in with some new technolgy that she can't be bothered to learn. Luckily she gets a grip and carries on. Now that I have more free time, I feel bad because I still don't have time to learn about the latest fads, such as Ruby and schematron. It doesn't help matters when Amazon keep recommending books about the Ruby programming language. As Ellen notes the fear keeps us going, even when it is clear we are being out hacked. The book is also political. When she was young she was a communist and feminist activist. However, as she gets older she drifts more to Anachro-Capitalism and kindness. Perhaps as we all do. In the post I got a copy of the "the art of unix programming" by Eric Rayomnd. Even if I read this I am nore I can catch up.

Monday, October 16, 2006

wet patch

There was a US punk band whose name I have forgotten who played a song called "sleeping in the wet patch.". I went to see them play in Salt Lake City, but they didn't play that song. I was reminded of their song when I was about to go to bed last night. There was a wet patch on my bed. I looked to the ceiling, but there was no leak. Perhaps, a couple had sneaked into my bedroom and done the dead. The door on my flat is fairly strong, so I doubt that anyone could have sneaked in. Perhaps, some kind of witch or beast from a different dimension telported in. Seems kind of mean to despoil my bed with out the common curtesy of allowing me to watch. After some thought I decided that the wet patch was due to the towel I had left on my bed after my shower earlier in the day. The trouble with being a scientist is that occult always has to give way to the common place. Many people tell me that blogs are trivial and full of weak and bad writing, but it is clear that blogs sometimes contain a deeper Freudian truth.

Enron -- the smartest guys in the room

I just watched a great documentary about the collapse of Enron. The film was called "Enron: the smartest guys in the room". This was a huge oil and gas company that collapsed very quickly when it was found that the senior execs were cooking the books. Anyway it was fun to watch the suits in action. Needless to say many of them were good friends with the Bush father and son. I was particularly impressed to watch the enron people screw California out of electricity. California had twice as much capacity as demand, but the Enron people made money by creating an energy crisis. When the CEO was a student at Harvard he was asked "are you smart?". He replied "No I am fucking smart". There was one really smart senior executive who liked going to strip clubs. He left way before the company collapsed with 250 million dollars. Smart, but evil.. A proper review.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

book of blood

When I moved I found that a huge collection of books that I intended to read, before they were buried under a huge mound of dust. One such book was Clive Barker's book of blood IV. This is a collection of cool horror stories. I am glad I finnally read this book. I wonder what Clive Barker is doing now? I could try google, but do I want to find that he has disappeared to a not so private hell. I can't be bothered to follow and investigate. I enjoyed the book, but I just don't feel the need to get tortured for it.


In the book "the human zoo", Desmond Morris notes that it is important to fell under some pressure to do things, otherwise you find that you get nothine done. When I first moved to Glasgow, I was quite tired from the long move so I didn't push myself, so I din't get much done. After I imposed some deadlines, I found myself doing things, but my stress levels went up. I find that if I want to start crying when I walk home from work then I am probably trying to push myself too far. I was thinking that I need to take up some kind of hobby to keep the stress beast at bay. One thought was gardening. This is meant to be relaxing. But first, before I can start my new hobby, I thought I need to buy some new tools. So I went on ebay and bourght a machete. When I look out of mt third floor flat I see a couple of trees stuck in the concrete of a Glasgow tenment block. They are some clumps of grass stuck in the concrete, but you can never tell when weeds take over. My sword was stolen when I lived in Liverpool, so I feel I am owed some really sharp gardening equipment.

human zoo

Someone recommended that I read some Desmond Morris. I started on the "Naked Ape" and I have just finished "the human zoo". Morris applied the lesson of zoology to humans. He notes that you can understand humans better if you compare people in a big city to animals stuck in the zoo. I enjoyed the book, but some of the latter parts seemed a bit preachy and based on early 70's hippy prejuidice. I was sitting in a Glasgow coffee shop reading the book, thinking that people who looked at the book I was reading, may of thought I was one of these intellectuals. However, as I was thinking this in a sort of smug way I noted that I was actually reading about the number of farm workers who had sex with animals. Umm, I should have read some Dan Brown.


I just happened to walk into fopps in the glorious West End of Glasgow, when I saw a cheap CD by Christy Moore. I used to listen to Chrisrty Moore a lot when I lived in Edinburgh, maybe 15 years ago. A couple of years ago he was playing a festival in Dublin, and I really wanted to see him play, but there were some problems and the show got cancelled. The CD is great, so I am going to have to go back and buy the other two cheap CDs. Christy Moore is an Irish folk singer whose voice makes me feel relaxed. Talking of folk, I was watching some TV program about the folk movement in the UK. It was a history of the folk revival in the UK. (This was when folk was hip before Dylan went electric in the late 60s). One band called pentagle was called Ewan MacColl's worst nightmare, because they were folk without the political edge. As much as I love Ewan Macoll, I am going to have to listen to some pentangle. In some sense getting old means getting less political and wacking someone around the head when you seen them reading a copy of the economist. Part of the problem is that I feel honour bound to listen to the "freakzone" on radio 6 every sunday. Amongst other things Stuart is trying to build support for people like Vashti Bunyan, Davy Graham, and Bert Jansch. Does he think I am made of money? On the TV program, I actually liked pentangle play. Sorry dead Ewan. When Stuart gets these old broken folk singer in to play, they can still can play.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Departed

I went to see "The Departed" at the local cinema. This is Scorsese's latest film. Jack Nicolson is in it as a fairly insane crime boss. I wasn't sure whether to go and see it because it is a remake of "infernal affairs" a cool Korean film. This is a great film, with hard core violence and humanity.

CD buying rules

I went into Fopps in the West End of Glasgow to buy a Richard Hawley CD. I saw Richard on TV, so it seemed like a sane thing to do. Then for a variety of reasons, involving me dropping a CD on the floor, I ended up with "speak for yourself" by Imogen Heap. When I lived in the US, my rule was I had to buy one CD by someone I had never heard of for every CD I wanted. If you don't have rules then you become like some staid Beatles fan listening to the White album for the rest of your life. Well rules are mean to be broken, especially when you move back to the UK, and CD prices are £14. Anyway CD prices are low again in the UK, so perhaps I should reinstate my rule. The thing that convinced me to buy the Imogen Heap Cd was that the first track was called "headlock". I thought I had found another angry chick singer. The sad thing is that the CD doesn't do anything for me. Still, maybe next time ....