Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I speak out on world music

I speak out on World music. There was a record fare in Hillhead library. This was an execuse for some people to sell second hand CDs and records in an upstairs room. I just happened to be browsing. I ddn't see anything I really needed, but I did buy a CD called "Cafe Instanbul". This a sampler of the music of Istanbul and I like it a lot. I remember listening to a radio program about music called "arabesque". The music was about doomed love and terrible sadness. Taxi drivers would listen to it while they drove around and they thought what heros they were. There is a popular dance like band called Beirut, who made a really fantastic CD called "Gulag Orkestar". The CD is described as Balkan folk music, which is a bit strange because it was made by a teenager in the US. A track was played on the freakzone radio show, but Stuart worried about integrity because it was not made in the Balkans. The Cafe Istanbul CD sounds like Beirut, but is more authentic. I feel I must speak out about integrity in world music, but I am not sure what to say. So I have thought up an action plan: 1) demonstrate for authenticity in world music by buying the latest CD by Beirut called The Flying Club Cup, because God told me it was OK. 2) visit Istanbul to hang out. This is a bit expensive though. 3) Buy more arabesque CDs from the record fair in the Glasgow library. Let my voice be heard! Some people think that listening to CDs is easy, but it can be stressful.

holiday reading

I managed to do some reading while I was on my travels. I read double vision by Tricia Sullivan. I didn't realize when I bought it, but I had also read one of her other books called Maul (yeah well this happens when you buy books based on liking the cover). This was a strange book. A woman had a job that involved watching a battle on far away planet that may not be happening. The company she worked for used her information to market products in some unspecified away. At some stage she stopped eating. After work she was also going to karate classes. She gave one of the best descriptions about being in the lower levels of a martial arts club. She was sparring some senior student who was "injured", so she didn't allow the weaker student to hit many targets. I know how to have fun when I am on holiday, because I also finished "concepts of mass" by Max Jammer. This was a historical and philosophical to the concept of mass in physics. I enjoyed the historical parts more than the parts on the concept of mass after relativity had been introduced. Some of the contemporary stuff Jammer thought was interesting is now viewed as crap (by me at least). I also read "Rim" by Alexander Besher while I was on my Polish trip. This was about virtual reality with a bit of Tibetan mysticism thrown in. Neo-Tokyo disappeared every night after some big earthquake. A big virtual reality system crashed and put a lot of people in a coma. Yep, lots of good geeky stuff.

Polish vodka

I was on a vodka quest. I wanted to try some Polish vodka. There was none in Tesco. I deaded going to oddbins and asking for Polish Vodka. Then they would ask "what brand?", and I would ask for the cheapest bottle. Anyway I found that the Somerfields supermarket sells Polish vodka I am so classy sometimes, I surprise myself.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

conclusion to Warsaw trip

So to conclude my tale of my trip to Warsaw. Have I learnt anything? Am I a better person for seeing a small section of Poland? Of course I have not changed one little bit. I am now more interested in vodka. I am not sure I will be able to drink Smirnoff (not that I did that much anyway). I like the idea of becoming a vodka snob in the land of whisky. I did buy a bottle of absolute citrus vodka in Tesco. Tesco don't sell any Polish vodka. I will have to try odbins for vodka from Eastern Europe. In the past, I have had some bad experiences drinking spirits at home. Now I have some small shot glasses, things may go better this time. I like the idea of drinking a shot of icy Polish vodka with a sausage. Some people may not regard my trip to Poland as a success.

Warsaw IV

On Saturday I didn't feel like doing the tourist thing. It wasn't raining. There are some nice parks and palaces in Warsaw, but I didn't feel like seeing some green trees and sh*t. I wandered around where the hotel was. I found a big shopping mall. There were a surprising large number of bike paths around. In the evening I had a traditional Polish meal of sushi and sake at a restaurant in the Mall. I watched a dubbed kung fu movie at night. The film had an American comedian who inserted himself an old style kung fu movie from China. This was then dubbed into Polish, so it was a bit weird. When I waiting for the Taxi at 5:00 in the morning, I watched a Samurai movie. At the end of the film a Samurai cut a tree with blossom with his sword. A perfect (if somewhat strange) way to end a holiday.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Warsaw III

On Friday I went into Warsaw to do some sightseeing. The hotel was about 5 km from the center of Warsaw. I asked at reception and they told me some information about a good bus to get me to the action. It rained fairly steadily on Friday, so that is not optimal weather to wonder around a city. I got on the bus OK, and payed by the traditional way, when you can't speak any of the local language, of offering the driver some coins and letting him give me a ticket. I looked at the rainy city out of the bus window. At some stage, the view looked centerish, so I decided to get off. I wondered around for a couple of hours. I was aiming to go the old town, but somehow I kept getting my left and right mixed up. Warsaw is a big city. The main part is not ugly, but it is not particularly interesting. There were obviously "MacDondalds", but I didn't see the standard Boots, Waterstones, and Tesco stores, that stain every single British town. At lunch I had a kebab. The old town is meant to be the more interesting part of the city. The map I was given at the tourist information site started playing mind games with me and I just couldn't find the old time. The rain was getting on my nerves as well. Normally I would have gone to a mesuem or something, but when I went to what looked like a museum, it was actually an IMAX cinema. (Damm that map of Warsaw). Eventually, I had to seek inspration from a glas of Polish beer in a local bar Just I was about to go and find a taxi, I suddenly found that I was moving into an older area. Warsaw was largely destroyed during the second world war, so the old section of the city is largely rebuild in the style of the old city. It has lots of cobbled streets where no nasty cars are allowed. This is the area where the British stag nights happen I believe. I had a meat and potato type meal in a bar. Apparently, flavored Vodka is a Polish specialty. I tried a shot of Cherry vodka. It tasted like cough medicine. (I had a sudden vision of the man throwing up what looked like cough medicine onto the streets of Glasgow at the start of this trip). I banged my hand onto the table to keep the flow of time forward and flash back free. I got a taxi back to the hotel. I went to the garage over the road from the hotel to get beer. Many Poles were doing the same. Later on I did hear, what sounded like wolves howling outside, but I never let a minor thing like that get in way of buying beer. The next day I saw black crows circulating the garage. I am considered a hero by many people.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Warsaw II

My flight was scheduled to land in Warsaw at 18:00. When I booked my hotel from Expedia, I found that they had an option to get driven to the hotel from the Airport. It seemed a bit expensive, but as I was only going to be in Warsaw for 3 nights, I didn't want the stress of trying to figure how to get to my hotel, and the self loathing from getting ripped off by the taxi ride.. When I got into departures, there was a guy with my name on it. I almost stood up and shouted, "that mcneile is such a hot shot" to the hot Polish babes. In the car, I missed the feeling of quiet despair as you wait in an unfamilar taxi, hoping that you will be taken to the hotel, rather to some dark alley for a good kicking. At least if I got murdered in a car ride purchased from Expedia, I could at least sue. I booked to stay at the Atos hotel in Warsaw. This seemed like a good idea when I was saw the price was 24 pounds a night, but it is really a hotel at the edge of the city. There is no wireless Internet access. The information claimed that there was a bistro and a bar. I couldn't find the bar or bistro. I had not eaten all day, so I needed food. Being a skilled traveller I had noticed a steady stream of people walking over to the garage over the road. So I followed them and found beer, chocolate, and hot dogs, so I will not starve during my visit here. I did find the bar eventually that was in a separate building There were 3 people in the bar. I ordered beer, but I wanted vodka. Baring in mind that this hotel complex has 3 buildings each of which has 10 floors with 20 rooms, then just having 3 people in the bar, says something about the Polish pub culture. There is nothing much around here. If I wanted to buy a car, I would be OK. I think I saw a Macdonalds 1 km away. So ended my first day in Warsaw.

Warsaw I

After almost hitting a number of deadlines at work, my body decided to hit the exhaustion button. So I needed a break outside Glasgow. Whizz air fly from Prestwick airport to Warsaw, so since I have never been to Poland, here I am. I had to do some chores in Glasgow before I left. I walking behind some guy who was casually throwing up all over the street. This was at 10:00 in the morning. What worried me the most was that his puke looked green and purple, like some cough or methadone medicine. He was not bothering anyone, but was walking in the same direction as me. Anyway he got on a bus going to the city center. I didn't view this as a good omen for the start of a holiday, where the temptation of Polish vodka will be ever present. I the went for a hair cut. The woman who was cutting my hair was complaining a little bit about her boyfriend who had fallen off his motor bike for the fifth time. As I am the kind of person who can fall over in the street and hurt themselves just walking about, I doubted that I would be much of an improvement (apart from not having to pay for the bike repairs). I am not good around happy people. She was telling me about a holiday in Paris. I have been to Paris for a conference, but I was depressed on my day off, because of what had happened at the conference. I decided that this wasn't going to help the faltering conversation along. Anyway I got to the airport with no problems, and I ended up in Warsaw.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

2 Miike Takashi DVDs

I rented two DVDs directed by Miike Takashi from the library. Takashi is famous for films such as "audition" and "ichi the killer", that are the most violent thing I have ever seen. The first film I watched was Ley Lines. This was a film about three Chinese youths who move to Tokoyo and get involved with gangs. These are clealy Takashi films, but everything is more grimy and real. But you can the beginnings of the weirdness and violence. I liked the start, where one of the youths is trying to get a work permir or something, he gets rejected, so he throws a big potted plant over the counter. The second DVD was called "Rainy Dog". THis was about a hitman, who has a son dropped off with him. The action was set in Taiwan, where it rains a lot. This was probably one of the best action films I have ever seen, even though it was very bleak and cheap. It also contains a scene where a father is shot in front of his child. The killer then says, "if you want you can come after me, when you get older.". Umm, that is strange that is very similar to a scene in Kill Bill volume I. I am sure that Tarrintino meant it as a homage and not a rip off in any way.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I finished a book called "sleepfaring" by Jim Horne. This was a book about the science of sleep. The book loops over the research about sleep. I learnt that you don't need to pay back much sleep debt. I probably need an extra 15 to 30 minutes a night to fine tune my sleep habits. At the moment I am dead tired that is more exhaustion that additional hours of sleep will not help. I am going on holiday to Warsaw next weekend, so that should help freshen me up. He doesn't have a lot of time for people who have insomnia. The scary stuff was about people who fall asleep at the wheel and problems with having a fat neck.

Hillhead library

I took the day off today to do normal stuff. For example I joined Hillhead libary. I have always loved libraries. I used to use the library in Knutsford a lot, although I was never a superhuge reader. Part of the problem that that books were not really part of my family experience. My evil father did like books by Wilbur Smith, but the less said about that the better. You need a reading guide sometimes. I found a book by Kafka in Knutsford library, and that warped and mutated by synapses. I can still see the bookshelf where my hand pulled "America" down. The huge University libraries tend to depress me, because there are usually just too many books and I get overwhelmed by my lack of knowledge. Of course, the University libraries still don't always have the books I need so I end up buying my own copy. The contradiction here is removed because some technical books are crap and not useful to me. Anyway Hillhead library is a small library. They have a good selection of fiction books. I have joined and this is what I checked out: Ley Lines (DVD), Rainy Dog (DVD), Rashomon (book). Anyway Hillhead library is a small library. They have a good selection of fiction books. I have joined and this is what I checked out: Ley Lines (DVD), Rainy Dog (DVD), Rashomon (book). OK, so I got two DVD as well, but look the films were directed by Miike Takashi. The book Rashomon I believe was the basis of the Akira Kurosawa film of the same name. The book also featured in the film Ghost dog, although the main book that influences Ghost dog is "book of the Samuri". I was going to buy the Rashomon book from Amazon, so I saved five pounds. Well I would have saved five pounds, but for the 6 pounds I spent on checking out the DVDs. I can also rent a DVD about making cocktails from the library. "Sex on the beach" anyone?. I can see my mind improving, once the bottles of vodka, rum, and gin are in my cupboards.

Capital Ideas and Market Realities

This week I finished the book "Capital Ideas and Market Realities" by Bruce Jacobs. This was a set of essays about modern finance. Bruce was complaining about "Portfolio Insurance". This is a strategy to move from stocks into safer cash or bonds, when the stock market starts to go into decline. This is meant to help stop loses. This is theoretical idea behind automated selling that was a cause of the stock market crash in 1986. I am still learning the financial jargon, but the book was a good introduction to the ideas of financial mathematics

Air by Geoff Ryman

Hey ring the church bells for I have finished reading a book! While I was away somewhere I read Air by Geoff Ryman. This is a book about the effect of a new type of wireless network that plugs into people's brains. The story is about the effect of this new Internet on the lives of a remote village close to China. There was a small amount of science fiction in it, but it was mostly about the effect of the Internet on a small rural village. Although this Internet was easier to use than the one we have. I enjoyed this clever book. The copyright for the book is 2004, so it is post the first dotcom bubble.

some unread books by Doris Lessing

When I tried to follow literature in some way I decided to try and read something by the person who won the Nobel Prize in literature for that year. The first year I tried this I read "A Personal Matter" by Kenzaburo Oe. I thought the book was fantastic, but the review of the book on Amazon makes me feel like a crude guy. The next year a poet won the Nobel prize in literature, so I easily gave up on my quest for self improvement. This year Doris Lessing has won the Nobel prize in Literature. I already own two Lessing books: The good terrorist and the golden notebook. Needless to say I had not read either of them. Now that my half shattered brain is rested enough, I think I can blast through some new books. We shall see. I am pleased that Lessing has won the prize, because she has a streak of science fiction in her. Anyway I just glad that nasty Salmon Rushdie didn't win. He is too loved by the literary establishment, and I didn't get "Midnight's Children"

Sunday, October 07, 2007

PJ Harvey and me

PJ Harvey has a new CD out. The CD is called "white chalk". There is no guitar or drums on this new record, she mostly just plays the piano. It is very different from her normal guitar based man hating output. I was frankly stunned by the new sound, although that might have been due to the cans of the 8% Tesco lager. There are some really haunting tunes on this record. PJ looks like some Victorian governess on the photo for the CD. She doesn't look like the cool governess, who reads French novels, but more like a governess in a Henry James novel. I was going to say that secretly that I loved PJ Harvey, but I doubt that it much of a secret. Most men of my age love PJ. Somehow she is beyond style and cool. If I did go up and try and talk to her, I would end up rambling about extra DVD features and pyramids as I do around pretty women. Then the air would get hazy and I would lose sight of PJ as semi-transparent pictures of Picasso would dismiss me from her presence in a cool and educational way.

public enemy versus PJ Harvey

When I was growing up I listend a lot to public enemy. They just had such a fantastic sound, that was both positive and gun related. I don't tend to buy a lot of hiphop or rap, but that is because I never know who to buy. The closest to hiphop I have been recently is Mike Skinner's the streets (that I really love). I don't know why I don't listen to too much hiphop: the guns, drugs, loose women, and guns are so relevant to my life. Anyway I heard a public enemy track on the radio, so I went out and got the new album: How You Sell Soul To A Souless People Who Sold Their Soul I still love their sound. I got PJ Harveys latest CD at the same time, but I put public enemy on first.

Two walks in Ruchill park in Glasgow

Now that I am slowly finishing off various deadlines, I have been trying to take it a bit easy. Behind me there is a big park. I would not have noticed it, until I looked for my flat on google maps.
View Larger Map The name of the park is Ruchill park. I went for a walk there today (and last Sunday too). It is a big park, but it is almost deserted. There are way less people in Ruchill park than there are in Kelvingrove park, or the Botanic gardens. I walked up a hill on my own and looked at unkempt bushes. The first person I met last week, was carrying a bottle of Tennants, but wasn't a tramp. Its a good place to die I thought, there are so few people that muggers can get your cash and slit your veins before anyone notices your screams. There was a good climing frame, that was 4 or 5 m high. There is a good view at the top of the hill. Through the high rise buildings you can see the hills. Also the University of Glasgow looks grand.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Day watch

I went out see the film called "Day Watch" last night. This was a Russian film mostly set in Moscow. What was it about? Good question, I wasn't so clear what was going on. There were forces of good versus the forces of darkness. There was a truce of some kind. Moscow got destroyed, but they turned time back with the 'chalk of destiny'. Anyway it was a reasonable action fantasy film set in Russia. The film is the second part of a trilogy. The first film was called Night watch.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The equation that couldn't be solved

When I was a graduate student at Edinburgh during a seminar by someone in the maths department. He mentioned that he had an 8th order polynomial to solve, so he said "so by an elementary application of Galois theory I factored the polynomial in two quartic equations." Woow. We were all deeply impressed by this. (Of course I would have just used maple to solve the equations numerically). I have always felt that I should be able to solve equations by Galois theory. I have just read the book "The equation that couldn't be solved" by Livio. This is a popular mathematics book about Galois's theory. There was a lot of generic stuff about symmetry in the book. As usual strings make an unwelcome appearance. Galois died young in a duel, so he is a romantic figure as well. There wasn't enough detail for me to understand why there is no closed solution to polynomials with order higher than 4. I should have read the 79 pages of Galois theory by Emil Artin instead. This is a more hard core book on sums.