Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Rather depressingly I feel that the highlight of 2008 for me is getting into graphic novels and comics. There is a big section for graphic novels in Hillhead library, so at least I am not losing any money by reading these books. Although I need to get a guide to graphic novels, as well as a seminal batman graphics novel, so Amazon will get some more of my money. One of the graphics novels I realy like is about a magician called Constantine. Constantine was born in Liverpool, so a lot of the stories are based around the UK. So when they made the Constantine film they set it in the US and got Keanu Reeves to do his robot acting thing. I sort of liked the Constantine film when it came out, but after reading the comic, I feel reverse betrayed.
About the good thing about the financial crisis, is that I no longer need to worry that I don't understand what "fiscal derivatives" are for, now that these dumb f*ck bankers have destroyed the economy. However I have done a small amount of reading about the current credit crunch. About a month ago I read "The great crash 1929" by Galbraith. I have to admit I didn't really get to much from the book, as to why the crash in the 20s happened. It did make me laugh that at the time people kept saying "the fundamentals of the economy were firm", as the economy imploded. My cousin gave me "does anything eat bankers" by Andy Zaltman. This is book of amusing explanations of the current mess. So I am now educated, but still poor. I still have to read the book called "the tulip" by Anna Pavord. This book was about the speculation on tulips in the C18th.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I feel that I am really not reading much these days. However, I have managed to finish "woken furies" by Richard Morgan. The book is an action/science fiction book. I didn't fancy the book when I saw it in the library, but I really enjoyed reading the first book, so I have ended up reading the whole series. I was going to say that this book is a real page turner with no ideas. It is certainly true that the book is easy to read, but there are some interesting points abouts revolutionary movements.
So we are coming up to another new year again. It is time to start to make some new years resolutions. Obviously I mean new new years resolutions, rather than old new years resolutions, such as cutting down on the drinking. My new new year's resolution is to walk faster. I am frankly getting tired of being overtaken by people waking faster than me. It is particularly humilating when I am overtaken by some old person with white hair. The only time I walk faster than anyone, is when a couple is slowmy making the way down the road filled with love and enjoyment of the world. I of course snear at them, muttering "credit crunch", as I march past them.
Monday, December 29, 2008
I am obviously well known for my temperance work in the bars and clubs of Glasgow. I have often felt that I would quite like a hip flask to store some fruit juice, so I could pass around in my crusade, or to moisten my lips at the end of a hard days work, when I am staying in some hotel. In a store in Burnley I saw a hip flask for 5 pounds. I looked at it and it looked at me and I decided I was not ready to carry a hip flask and lose afternoon to the haze. Also, it would be a nightmare to take a hip flask on an airplane. I am sure that the security people would be thrilled to see a metal flask with liquid in it.
My brother gave me the book "F**k it" by John Parkin for Christmas. This is a self help book, based on the idea of "letting go", using the swear word as a metaphor. I read it on the train back from Burnley to Glasgow. On the section on relationships, there was a section on testing partner problems. One of the toxic questions was "will you wtill love me when I am old or cripled?" This made me think that we really need is a computer modelling program, that would allow a more definite test. Rather than your partner asking annoying questions, it would be much better to put both people in a virtual environment and really test the relationship to breaking point. Want to know whether your partner will still love you if you get sent to prison, or lose your left leg, then all you need to do is to sit in my virtual simulator, and in an about you will know the truth. Why waste a decade of your life? One possible disadvantage would be that marriage would really fall off. Of course I would be very rich, so it would not all be bad news. Since I usually say totally the wrong thing, I would build in a hidden AI into the simulator, so the AI would say the right things, while I cleaned the sheets on my bed and made sure that I had enough condoms. Now that I am feeling a bit more refreshed, I can finally start writing my own self help book called "Can't be arsed!"
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Well, I was actually looking forward to being snowed in. I could take some time to detox, perhaps read a few books. I kept peeking out my window through out the night, but there was no snow. In the morning, it was just cold rain. I was happy that all the nasty ice had been washed away. I am not very stable on my feet at the best of times, so I feel trapped by ice.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
The storm is coming! The last 2 months of stress filled work has stopped me blogging. Perhaps, more importantly, I didn't hassle my landlord enough to fix my boiler. I moved into a new place a couple of months ago. The boiler never worked. There was one attempt to fix the pilot light. I should have hassled them more, but I assumed things were happening when they were not. Now the snow is coming and there is no heating in flat (apart from a small electric fire keeping my butt warm). It all seems like the penultimate scene from the film "The Day After Tomorrow", where the young kids huddle in a library as some new super cold weather comes in and tries to freeze them. I got a couple of extra cans of beans at the store, just in case I get frozen in. If the ice storm lasts longer, I will just go around to another flat in the building and eat a resident.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I have now arranged that all my unread books sit on two bookshelves. I now own so many unread books that there is no reason for me to buy more, and yet .... One dusty old paperback book is "Cakes and Ale" by W.Somerset Maugham . This looked like a worth book that I should read. However I was tempted at the Hillhead library to read "The Magician" by Maugham instead. This book was one of his earlier ones, but was loosly based on Aleister Crowley, although Crowley was never possessed any real magical powers (sorry guys). As many of the reviewers note the book starts very slowly, but gradually it speeds up, with black magic, possession and human sacrifice. What I need to read now is "Of Human Bondage", that is described by amazon as "Of Human Bondage" is the first and most autobiographical of Maugham's masterpieces. It is the story of Philip Carey, an orphan eager for life, love and adventure. After a few months studying in Heidelberg, and a brief spell in Paris as would-be artist, Philip settles in London to train as a doctor. And that is where he meets Mildred, the loud but irresistible waitress with whom he plunges into a formative, tortured and masochistic affair which very nearly ruins him.
Umm, somehow all the deadlines I have had recently have joined together into a couple of months of stress. I have hardly managed to write anything at all. Although I have been able to regularly watch "numb3rs" on TV. I would like to point out that I view watching numb3rs is actually work, because it is about mathematics and Universities.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Sunday, September 07, 2008
I have just finished reading "Broken Angels" by Richard Morgan. This was a science fiction novel centered around Takeshi Kovacs: the main character in Altered Carbon. I really enjoyed the book. If you are interested in the plot, there is stuff you can look at. Yeah it was brutal. I was beginning to get an annoyed about the number of times he told everyone that he was an "envoy". Envoys were some kind of super soldier, because they had been mentally trained. After while, he did begin to sound like an Oxbridge graduate, as he he let slip that he was an ex-Envoy to another bunch of new people. At least with Oxbridge graduates they all wear ties and scarves, so you can think about strangling them while they describe their ancient teduim of college life. Not because I am jealous, but as city dweller I pity those simple town folk. For reasons still not clear to me Hillhead library tempted me to check out a book by Primo Levi. That is perhaps more worthy, but less fun. There used to be an attampt to get people to put down "Jedi Knight" as religon on the census form. Now, thanks to the crap recent films, this is no longer cool. Anyway I am now a quellist!
Saturday, September 06, 2008
I was listening to the freakzone on radio6 last week. Stuart played a song by Jandek, and talked a bit about his history. Jandek had put out a huge number of albums since the late 70s. He never gave interviews and you you could only get his work from a PO box in Austin Texas. No one really knew who he was. I obviously find this kind of mystique way cool. but I also really like his crazed playing. You can only get second hand Jandek CDs on Amazon. I just ordered a recording of a set he did in Glasgow, but the review on wikipedia, claimed that this CD was not his normal style. Boo hoo, this is going to get complicated. I want Jandek crazy playing CDs and I want them now!
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
I have just been out to see a band play at "The Mill". This is what the Oran Mor (on great Western Road) venue is called on Wednesday. You have to text them to get free tickets. The event is sponsered by Miller beer of course, but I was perhaps naively hoping that there might be some other kind beer available. When I hit the bar all the pumps were covered up with Miller signs and the fridge was full of miller beer glaring at me. The future perahos. Anyway the tickets were free, so what did I expect. Tonight Tokyoblu played. I enjoyed them, but I wasn't really in the mood. They opened the season at the Mill with Thomas Tanturm playing. I really wanted to see them play, but the tickets were not made generally available. Oh well perhaps I will get another chance.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
In the past I know I have infuriated people because I don't like to tell people where I am. Particularly when I am on holiday. So it surprises me by how much I am enjoying using twitter. Twitter allows me to make small posts of 140 characters. This sounds pretty dull, until you find yourself writing a post on what you have for breakfast (pop tarts). The full tedium of life will be available for all to see and wallow in. I have signed up my mobile phone so that I can post from anywhere. This is a stalkers dream. Of course some people are posting their progress as they leave New Orleans before the storm hits, while I tell people when I am going shopping in Tesco. My cunning plan is to provide "information overload". I say I am doing X, while in fact I am enjoying a little bit of Y.
There is a famous Artificial Intelligence (AI) test by Alan Turing that involves a computer trying to convince you that it is human via a teletype. Given that AI has a reputation for non achievement and bullshit, the Turing test seemed very impractical. Of course who could have predicted that people's need to sell penis enlargement pills could have driven such dramatic progress in computer science over that made by dullards working in Universities. Amazon tempted me to buy "The annotated Turing -- a guide through Alan Turing's historic paper on computability and the Turing machine". I am not an AI loser, this book is about computing.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Although I regularly listen to the freakzone on radio6, I never really got the section on library music. Luckily the guardian has an explanation. I tried to get buy some of the books from Amazon, but I note how expensive the radiophonic CDs are. Bah collectors.
Friday, August 29, 2008
While on my travels I read "What does China think" by Mark Leonard. The book was a set of interviews with Chinese intellectuals about the future of China. Perhaps rather depressingly, many of them seemed to have a vision of what they wanted for the future China.
God damm Hillhead library. I didn't go to the pub after work tonight. I thought I could read a few more chapters from "Mind Performance Hacks", but instead I read the graphics novel "Sin City 6" by Frank Miller. Guilty pleasures indeed. I was so sad when Marv was killed in the Sin City film. When I was looking for graphic novel in the library, I thuink to read some guide on graphic novels, in case I ended up reading some crap.
A couple of weeks agao I walked into a pub close to Queen street railway station in Glasgow. There were two guys at the bar, probably both of them in their late thirties. One of the guys with an Irish accent started talking to me. To celebrate this I ordered Guinness. He and his friend were interesting to talk to. I am not good at holding up a conversation unless the content has a lot of DVD and book references. This type of thing is a "cheers" moment where you go to the local pub to meet people. On my own I normally just drink my beer, practise non-existence and try to avoid eye contact. One of the guys wanted to buy my drink. I wasn't so keen, partly because I was just having a beer after watching a film. He was going "what could happen?". I was not worried that I would drink too much and wake up the next day to hear some Irish snoring and an ache in my backside. More it was that I know that when alchol is involed, it doesn't take long until the good cheer leaves, and things get weird. As it turned the guy had been unfaithful to his wife who kept ringing. His friend took him off back home. Didn't I tell that you things always end weird. To end on a more positive note, I found a place to buy Guinness for two pounds in the center of Glasgow.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
I went out to see Jeffrey Lewis play last night at the Captain's nest venue in Glasgow. In my biased opinion Jeff is probably the best song writer in the US at the moment. He is famous for "last time I did acid I went insane". He is a mellow folk singer who also writes and draws comics. During his set he shows one of his comics. Last night he showed a comic for history of communism in Korea. The last album he and his band did was a bunch of covers of crass songs. Crass was a famous UK anarchist punk band, but his folky renditions sound both powerful and mellow. He only played 2 songs from the crass album. Over 50% of the set was new material. I liked the venue, but it was totally full. I turned up with no tickets, but the barman sold me a ticket. It was really hot as well, but everyone was into the music and there was no drunk people to shout and scream during the quiet bits. After the gig I had to re-hydrate myself with a beer in the upstairs bar before I headed home. Some guy talked to me. He had been to see Jeffrey Lewis, and also he had been to see another here of mine Daniel Johnston. The guy finished his beer and announced he was getting the bus to Edinburgh to go to a party full of lesbians. He also told me that he had spent three hours the day before trying to chat up a lesbian and it was difficult to tell if a woman was a lesbian. After he imparted this knowledge he left. I finished my beer and started to pub my way home, humming "punk is dead."
Saturday, August 23, 2008
I had planned to do some work today, but I actually spent the day reading "watchmen" by by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. This one of the most famous graphics novels. It always gets mentioned, whenever there is a film adaptation of other graphic novels. A film of the book was meant to be released next year, but it looks as though there are some legal problems. At a superficial level the book is about "super heros". You can read the wikepedia article to get some idea of the complexity of the plot. I liked the many levels in the book. I was amused to see that one of the characters was looking for evidence for gluino. The science super hero (and the only one with any powers), called Doctor Manhattan comes across as emotionally cold and more interested in quarks than people (very good). After reading this novel I am now convinced that graphic novels are a new art form. I am not ashamed to tell people this.
I guess that, dear reader, you know me well enough, that you feel my longing to see the new hellboy movie. However, I am not someone who can take simple pleasures, with out a heady dose of guilt and self imposed suffering. I have an addictive personality so I am careful what new vices I pick up. I have not tried, whoring, smoking crack, or look at porn on the Internet, because I know that if start I will not be able to stop. I do allow myself, smaller more manageable vices. There is graphic novel section in Hillhead public library. I have tried to avoid comics and graphic novels, because I don't want to end up as one of these old bald guys explaining to some disinterested chick that "graphic novels are a new art form". However, since I can check books out from the library for free, I decided I would see if I had the attention span to read a comic book. So I slid up to the graphics novel part of the library. Another single guy was looking at the books. I hovered some more and the guy moved off. Later on I saw him at the checkout desk. He had the graphic novel for Ironman. I stopped myself from saying "mine" and grabbing the Ironman comic, but I limited myself to thinking bast*ard. I checked a comic/graphic novel from the hellboy series drawn and written by Mike Mignola. The book was called "strange journeys". Later that Thursday evening I found that I did indeed have the attention span to read comic books again. I devoured the book, rather than doing any chores on Thursday. On Friday morning I had to get another comic book from the library. I am already a sad comic junkie.
I have just finished reading "Founders at Work" by Jessica Livingston. This is a large collection of interview of people who founded computer companies. Some of the products/companies that were founded by the interviewers were: firefox, paypal, hotmail, blogger, adobe, and many more. There is definitely a different culture around Stanford. People as undergraduates were thinking of forming companies. It all seemed very exciting. People formed a company with no real idea what they wanted to produce. Amazing and exciting stuff.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
I went to see the latest batman film, the dark knight, last Monday. The joker, what a cool guy. Obviously this film was full of ideas about morality. My mind was full when I left the cinema, mostly with thoughts about how I wanted to see the film again, but in 3D, to get an even better philosophical perspective.
I have spent the day reading "The Atrocity Archives" by Charles Stross. A nice bit of R and R as I waited for my hangover to abate. One of the system administrators of a secret goverment agancy that deals with the occult is allowed to go on active field missions. The book had lots of nice computing terms for the geek reader (not me of course). In the after wood Charles claim that the hacker is the trickster god in the realm of computing.
Complete strangers are coming up to me and complaining that I don't smile enough. Are there an rules for the amount of time a person should smile? Wikipedia is of no real help, apart from same vague comments about happiness. If there are rules for the amount of time I should be smiling, I will keep my face in the throes of a fixed grin for the standard normal time. I just want to fit in. My friend Mark says
I went out to see the "wave pictures" play at the Glasgow barfly last night. I really like the the sound that the wave pictures make. They sound like Jonathan Richman and the modern lovers (famous for the song roadrunner). Their songs can be dense and confusing -- but I like that. One song was about the day Johnny Cash died. The song ends with his girlfriend saying "its not as if it was Elvis". I would have ended the song with "it is over bitch". There were not too many people in the barfly last night. On my way home I stopped off at the Oran Mor for more beer. This place is close enough to my flat, that I walk home with out having to find an outside toilet. I had two sets of women come and talk to me. I had not drunk too much beer, so I could still talk, but I think they found me boring and moved onto more interesting prospects. Anyway I didn't start ranting on about pyramids or why there are two canisters of shaving foam in bathroom trying to brainwash me. I got home about 3:00. I should go out more.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Rajan Gupta gave an interesting talk at the lattice 2008 conference on the oil issue. After that I decided I should know more about energy. Amazon kindly sold me the book "the end of oil" by Paul Roberts. The book explained many of the issues about the oil supply. Roberts doesn't come over as a member of the left, this made the book refreshing and depressing. I know have a better idea about the issues in drilling for oil in Alaska Although he just casually mentions "of course the Iraq war was about oil". In some sense I would have been happy if Blair had admitted that the Iraq war was about the oil. It was clear that Bush's people thought this, but Blair essentially has no idea what he was doing. The Iraq was only a small part of the book. My bet is that in the future people will view their ancestors who used SUVs to travel around cities in the same way as slave owners. It will be hidden shame of the family history. It is good thing that everyone is now taking digital photographs, because it will be easy to paste out a SUV with a nice bicycle. I didn't realize that oil production could be starting to peak. Things are getting so bad that Arthur Scargill is back. (No state funeral for Thatcher because she closed down most of the coal mines). The book discusses clean technology for coal.
Before I was 20 I used to read series of books. This might have been partly because I didn't know what new authors to dip into, so it was hard to find new authors to read. Yes this was the way we lived before the internet. (Perhaps I should have read a literary magazine of some kind). As I get older I seem to be reverting back to the reading habits of my youth. On some of the trips I took recently I read two more books in the Dresden files series: Death Masks and Summer Knights. There were faries, vampires, swords, and wizards set in Chicago. Not deep stuff, but kept me happy on trains and planes.
As part of my Istanbul trip I thought I should try reading a book by a modern Turkish author. The guide book recommended "The White castle" by Orham Pamuk. This was a fantastic book. A young scholar from Venice is captured and sold as a slave to person who looks like him in Istanbul. Knowledge and insanity is passed between the master and slave until neither seem sure who is who.
I was in the chess club at school for while. I was never very good at chess. I certainly didn't think about it too much. I can't say that even now that I would want to invest any effort in the game. I am too old to do anything as nerdy as playing chess, I would rather invest my declining energy in doing something more practical such as learning LISP. So having ranted all the above out, I am not sure why I read "Bobby Fischer Goes to War" by Edmonds and Eidinow. This was the story of how the American Bobby Fischer won the world chess championship in the 70s. It was interesting to read about the Soviet chess system. The Fischer guy was just a total nut case. He was rude in an amazing way that people only knew how to give into. What also interested me was that the chess players took their fitness very seriously. Fischer goes bowling with some "friends". Some stranger tries to help him bowl better, because he wasn't knocking down many pins. Fischer just says, I am not really interested in bowling. I am just throwing the ball to improve the strength in my arm to help my chess playing. Wow, showing how to be a sh*t and total dedication at the same time.
While I was in Istanbul I felt I should be doing tourist things all the time, such as going rounds things. Some what guiltily I did spend some reading "Altered Carbon" by Richard Morgan. This was a science fiction book, where the hero is downloaded into a new body on an Earth in the future. There are shooting, more bodies, and an a hotel owned by an AI. There was a nice park (called Gillhane park) near my hotel that was good for reading in. There were lots of seats and no one bothered me. Sometimes people would come round and sell cheap cups of tea. When I looked at Richard Morgan's web page I found out that he lives in Glasgow. He had his first job in Istanbul teaching English. So in a way I wasn't just reading a science fiction book, but I was really learning about Istanbul. Guilt is a terrible thing.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
While I was in Istanbul I saw a book called Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam by Bernard Lewis. However, it was so expensive that I decided I would wait until I got back to the UK to buy the book. Even better I found that the book was listed in the catalogue of the University of Glasgow library . As I searched the dusty shelves of the library I didn't find the book above, but ended up with "history of the order of the assassins" by Franzius. Before reading this book, all I knew about the assassins was that there was some old man in a mountain in the Middle East, who kept some of his followers in a valley full of hashish and beautiful maidens. When he wanted someone killed he would tell one of his people that they were in heaven. To get back into heaven, they had to kill their target. After speed reading the book, I now know that the assassins were actually a sect of the Sunnite part of Islam. Apparently the assassins still exist today. At various stages the assassins used murder to accomplish political ends. The number of political alliances they made was very complicated. They didn't just fight the crusaders. I do expect to get visited by officers from Special Branch, since it is clear that some of the suicide bombers were influenced by the early assassin philosophy. Anyway I will just say nothing and they will think I would not hurt a fly. I also learnt that the word thugs actually comes from India. There was some kind of criminal gang called the Thuggees who used to strangle people to steal their goods. As he died one leader of the assassins, Sanjah (1118 -1124) whispered "nothing was true, that everything was permitted" and then departed to hell. This book changed my life.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The Aya Sofya church was close to my hotel in Istanbul. The Aya Sofya church was built around 537 AS by emperor Julian. No I got that wrong it was emperor Justinian. There is a great book by Gore Vidal called Julian. The book was about a Roman emperor who wanted to turn back the tide of Christainity, back to a more gentle and tolerant pagan relegon. I was surprised that he had founded a church. It had been a while since I read the book. I don't usually like going on holy ground (unless I am chased by vampires of course). I liked the black scaffolding in the centre of the church. It looked so cool and modern, in such an ancient building.
During my trip to Istanbul I went to the Basilica Cistern. This is an underground storage area built by the Romans. It was forgotten about, until a Frenchman found it. I am not sure I agree that he rediscovered it, because somebody took him fishing there. It was a big cavern with water and a wooden platform people can walk on. It is nice and cool, which is good after a warm day in Istanbul. If I read by guide book right it featured in "From Russia in Love". There is a part of the film, where they bug the Russian embassy via an underground river of some sort. I just liked looking at the fishes swirling in the cool gloom.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
This has been my last day in Istanbul. I had not been to the grand bazaar, so I thought I would do that today. However my heart wasn't really in it. I don't want a carpet (true) or a new jacket (I don't wear the leather jacket I own). So instead I thought i would go to the Istanbul modern, a new art gallery close to the river. I started out OK, but got distracted by someone trying to sell me a carpet, so I ended up taking a different route to what I planned. I always knew that I just had to go right to hit the river. I did find a nice looking University. After somehow paying 10 euros for a street map I didn't need. I headed right towards the river. I thought this is so peaceful, away from the tourists. In fact as I walked around the back streets I suddenly thought this is a bit too peaceful. There was no one around. No nice Tourist policeman in his blue uniform. I was alone. I thought I am going to get my throat cut here. I started to hope for a welcoming sign of a carpet shop, where I would be safe, but poor. Anyway I found the river at last. I couldn't find the Istanbul modern. I saw no signs for it either. After looking at my map, I saw that I was actually on the wrong side of the river. In Istanbul one side of the river is in Asia and the other in Europe. This was the first time I got the continent wrong when I went looking for something. I walked over to the correct side of the river. Somehow in Istanbul they don't like to put the name of the bridge near it. Also Istanbul had one more bridge than my map! I wanted Galata bridge. I eventually decided i knew where I was, but I still could not find "Istanbul modern". After going from a tourist area, into what only be called "a derelict dockland area", fully of empt cafes and broken boats, I eventually saw a sign for the gallery. The building has been opened in 2005 so it was big and clean with lots of space. When I bought my ticket they put a red sticker on my chest with no explanation. The sticker fell off when I went to the toilet and i couldn't find it. This is the only way to view an art exhibition, when you are nervous that security will throw yo out for not having a red sticker. Everyone else had a red sticker. I didn't see any other stickers of a different colour. I found my self clutching at pieces of red on the floor in case it was red sticker. Anyway no one payed any notice to me. Perhaps I will bring the "red sticker idea" to Tate Modern in London. As you may imagine I didn't focus on the pictures so much. I did see some nice green and blues ones, but no really red pictures. The first floor contained pictures of twentieth century artists from Turkey. I found them all interesting without any of the anal theory stuff from the West. The basement had video installation type things, that don't do anything for me. (OK I did like the video of some eggs with some words on that kept moving. Janis Joplin sang in the background, but whether that was art, so something i could have done given three spare weeks).
Saturday, August 02, 2008
I am spending a huge amount of money in Istanbul. Normally if I want to eat cheaply in France or Germany I will have a kebab. Here somehow a kebab is authentic local food, so I always end up spending over ten pounds for every meal., Also no chilli source! I am off for beer and french fries. It is a good thing that the beer is expensive here, otherwise there would be Britsh stag parties around and frankly that would suck.
I spent some part of today reading a book called A Passion for Killing by Barbara Nadel. The book is a detective story set in Istanbul. I agree with the amazon reviewer to some extent in that the book was uneven in plotting. I did enjoy the setting and atmosphere. Turks hate carpet sellers as well. I will read one of the books earlier in the series. I got the book in a local bookshop for essentially twice the amount of money I could have got it in the UK. The guy at the bookstore tried to sell me a book about growing up in Istanbul (recommended in a guide book). This was about real people he said. My pseudo-intellectual cover was blown, because I really just wanted to read a detective novel. The park by the palace is good to read in. The light is good but is shady, so not too hot. I have not been bothered by anyone.
I went round the Topkapi palace in Istanbul today. This palace used to be used by the Sultans as they ruled their empire. The place is huge. I started at 9:40 and I left about 14:50. I am not someone who spends all his time listening to the audio tour guide. There were many rooms in the palace. One had a large number of swords and knifes. I saw a father talk to his some about the difference between a mace and an axe. At least i think that is what he was talking about because he spoke in French. I was touched by this. I also would like to know when to use a mace rather than an axe, perhaps I should have asked him. In the treasury there was a lot of gold. I was not too impressed with some of the pieces. There was a famous dagger that had featured in a famous film. The dagger had two or three rubies in it and it probably went missing. There was also a big diamond that impressed me. I would have liked to steal two large candlesticks made of gold, but they looked too heavy for me to pick up. There was a harem there as well. I was really excited by this. I had not released any sexual energy for some days. I had put on clean underwear. I was ready for some actions. Inside, I thought "where are the women? Where is the silk and fur? Who will fill my glass and feed me grapes?". The answer was f*cking no one. It was just another museum. Sure there was some cute American chick with a white skirt on and a black berry on, but I wanted dancing girls. In one room they had a couple of plastic models. What ever happened to living history. One Sultan satisfied 24 women in 24 hours there, but you would never guess that. At the en of the tour of the harem I had excess unfilled energy and I didn't feel like going back to my hotel room for some release. I did try to find the circumcision room in the main part of the palace. The lonely planet guide noted that the circumcision room had beautiful blue tiles. I couldn't find the room and was getting hungry. Perhaps if I had found the circumcision room, I could have finally forgiven my parents for what they ordered the surgeon to do 30 years ago. So I will keep that little flame of bitterness alive for a few more years.
Friday, August 01, 2008
I can't say I am a huge fan of organized tours. They do force me to do more tourist things that I would do on my own. Mostly becaue I don't get lost so much, or tempted by the evil drink. Today I booked a boat trip on a river called Bosphorus that sits between the European and Asian sections of Istanbul. There were about 40 people on the boat, essentially a coach load. It was small enough to roack up and dow, but I didn't feel too queezy. There were some nice palaces at the side of the river and one big fortrest that the Otmann built to seige to Constantinpole. I didn't realize that Jason and the Argonauts also went along one of these rivers when they went in search of the golden fleece. This made the trip more like history, rather than the Christian stuff lying around. I wish I had a sword so I could shake it at the monsters on the shore. The car driving here is a bit crazy. We took a tour bus to the river side. It was one the red buses that are used for city tours. At point a car cut into the side of the bus. There was the loud sound of scraping as the car and bus mingled. I thought this will take ages to sort out. Insurance numbers will have to be exchanged. The police will have to be called. A police car went past totally ignoring us. The driver and tour leader got out. A minute later they got back into bus and we were on our way. The tour leader said "there are lots of cars in Istanbul, but not many good drivers". Given the amount of cutting in and out, I am not surprised that they don't all obey hard core insurance rules.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
One problem with going to places where I don't speak the language is that I always worry that I will not be understood enough to buy food, so I end up starving to death. Once i have got that first meal, then I know i will live. i usually stand in front of the counter like a sad stray dog *clutchng a 20 euro note) and point. The servers take pity and a bowl of hot food comes my way. In Istanbul on the bus ride to my hotel i saw all those kebab shops. I knew was in heaven and that I would certainly not starve. After 2 straight days of kebabs, I tried some fish today. Yet another country where they don't serve chilli source with kebabs. I am off to try some more raki.
I have had a pleasent day wondering around some of the sites in Istanbul. I will post more about this later. A slight pain are the number of people trying to sell me carpets. i am minding my own business totally lost just trying to find something that is usually in front of me. Then someone will kindly help, and the start asking "where are you from?" The conversation will then end up them wanting to give me their card for a shop that sells carpets. This is not a big deal, but I have learnt many useful things. When I say I am living in Glasgow they immediatley say "Glasgow Rangers" and laugh. This tells me that not many people from Glasgow visit Istanbul, because any celtic fan would make sure they never say "Glasgow rangers" with a smile ever again. Also, when someone asked about the capital of Scotland, and I said "Edinburgh", he didn't look convinced that the city existed. I assume he didn't know of any famous football teams from Edinburgh. I decided not to tell him that Edinburgh is famous for "Trainspotting", "Rebus2, and "Dr Jykll and mr Hyde": junkies, drunks and murderers, but I doubted that would have helped, I made the mistake of saying one time "that I don't like carpets". As he said what does that mean.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I can't help feeling that God was against this holiday in istanbul. First off two days before I left there was a big bomb in Istanbull. They didn't hit the tourist areas. Since we get bombs in London and flaming cars going into Glasgow airport, it didn't make much difference. There seemed to be many other problems that seemed designed to stop me. As I got on the bus to go to the railway station, some kind spat on me by mistake. At the railway station they sold me a ticket to Newton instead of Luton. I didn't look at the ticket until I nearly got on the train. The bus driver from Luton to Luton airport didn't know the route. The people on the bus had to tell one time he was going the wrong way, I flew from Luton via Easyjet. One hour into the journey, the pilot reported that one passenger didn't have anough oxgyen to make it to Istanbul, so we had to turn back to Luton. I was all for letting the guy take his chances, but company rules are company rules. So instead of getting to Istanbul at 16:00 I was there at 19:00. I missed my ride to the hotel. So I got a shuttle with another company. They dropped me at the wrong hotel (with a similar name). Luckily it was close to te hotel I was meant to be at. To top it all, there was no minibar in the room. Just en empty fridge. So when I meet the devil in hell after some big bombing, he will no doubt say "we did try to warn you off, but you missed the omens. We don't want your whining in hell."
Saturday, July 26, 2008
I have just finished reading "the highway men" by Ken MacLeod. This is short novel set in a postwar Scotland. The dialogue and descriptions of the green bits of Scotland were good. I probably would never have found this book with out the buying choices made by the clever librarians at Hillhead library. (Perhaps they will excuse the fine now).
Friday, July 18, 2008
I find that as I get older I am definitely getting more right wing. I have just finished reading "Parliament of whores" by P.J. O'Rourke. O'Rourke is a right wing humorist and journalist. The book is about the American politics around the early 90s. O'Rourke is not a fan of government, particularly of welfare, although he seems happy enough with the military.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
I sit in a hotel room in Marseilles. I am on the way to a conference in a nearby city. Easy-jet run a route from from Glasgow to Marseilles and this turned out the easiest way to go the conference. About the only research I did for visiting Marseilles was watching the film French Connection II sometime ago. I should go out and order Jack Daniels at a bar like Popeye did in the film. I got a hotel near the port area. It is a very civilized city, although there do seem to be some gangster types wondering about. The weather is not and sunny, certainly much better than Glasgow, where it was threatening to rain almost all the time. The women here are beautiful and sexy. I am probably not used to seeing a woman not wearing a thick rain coat, but I felt things in my loin stirring as I wondered around the busy streets. I was amused to see a Durex machines on the side of buildings. They would get destroyed in the UK. Why have some pleasurable sex when you can have more fun smashing a box of metal up? I still seem to be on heat. There are a lot of nice cafes around here, so I am not sure why I had dinner in a kebab shop. The French take their food very seriously. I got chips with the meat in my kebab. Classy. The hotel has decorated each hotel room in the theme of a different painter. I am in room for Paul Gauguin. Needless I can only afford to stay here for one night.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I am totally stressed out with upcoming conferences, but somehow I managed to find time to read "The quark machines how Europe fought the particle physics war" by Gordon Fraser. The book contained an account of the building of the various particle accelerators around the world. Perhaps I should have known some of this stuff. I now know who John Adams is. Some HEP people would be shocked that I didn't know that before. The reason I read this book so fast was because it is almost written like a thriller as one country goes ahead, and then another catches up. I didn't realise the long history of the LHC, that they even were planning to start it 10 years ago. It is interesting to reread about what happened with the SSC when there are current problems with particle physics in the US and UK.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
I have so much too do, but somehow last night I decided that rather than do work, I would finish of reading "The hacker and the ants" by Rudy Rucker. I can't be bothered explaining the plot, but it involved writing software for robots in various Silicon Valley start ups. Some quotes
"I sighed heavily. Look Ben I want to use a real language, not a LISP language. A language with documentation and support would be nice too, a language faminar to more than thirteen Taiwanese graduate students? Can I keep woking with SuperC?"(There was a high level language to program the robots in one of the companys he worked at, that he started to like a bit later). Title of chapter seven "Bloodlust hacking frenzy". Another quote
"Even though Ross and I were still exchanging scientific information, we were at the same time in the throes of a flame war. But it didn't really matter. As Roger Coolridge had once told me, if you are a serious hacker you don't let flames bother you. Instead you grow thick scales."Anyway the novel has a subplot of him breaking up with how wife that was not so interesting as the computer science stuff. Rucker has had an interesting career. He started by getting a PhD in maths. Then he wrote many Science fiction novels. After 10 years of that he got a job a University teaching computer science, with out an experience in programming. He then converted him self into c++/java hacker. (This explains some of his rants against LISP in his book, that surprised me for a Professor in a computer science department). Anyway I will checkout more work by Rudy Rucker. It looks like some of his work is infected by the hippie virus, but that is just the "pot talking" -- the hacker maths background seems sound.
Friday, June 20, 2008
I borrowed "Krav Maga" by David Kahn from Hillhead library. Krava Maga is a martial art developed for the Israeli self defense forces. The book emphasized punches from boxing and low kicks. There was a small amount of work on grappling. I thought that some of the blocks looked a bit weird and slow. It seemed fairly practical, but I guess a more experienced eye would see faults in the technique.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I am really tired and burn out at the moment. A week's holiday would sort me out, but I don't have time for a vacation until mid July. So I wonder around like some zombie and yawn a lot. So that is my excuse for going to see the latest Hulk movie last night. The first hulk movie gets dissed a lot for being too art house, but I think I enjoyed it more than the latest one. In the latest Hulk film there is a fight between the hulk and an artificially engineered soldier. I think that this is some kind of metaphor for the fight between physics and biology. The hulk stands for physics, because he has been injured by good clean honest gamma radiation. The nasty soldier was infected by some kind of nasty biological sh*t. My cousin's son put me onto a book called "the hero with a thousand faces". This book was meant to influence George Lucas when he wrote the original star wars movies. The idea in the book was that the heroes quest is really a quest for improvement of an individual's mental health. Anyway perhaps I shouldn't have jumped up and shouted "take that you mother fu*cking biologists for stealing our grant money" when the hulk trashed the super-soldier in the cinema.
I have just been to see "Melt Banana" play at the Oran Mor, a venue a mere twenty minutes walk from where I live. Melt Banana are a famous Japanese hard core punk band. The lead singer is female. Among the many crimes against humanity that George Bush has committed, the trivialization of the the word awesome, may perhaps be the smallest one. Anyway melt Banana were totally awesome tonight. The lead singer had a huge amount of charisma. She wore a white sweatshirt and moved in a slow controlled way. The last tour of the band in the UK seemed to do 20 gigs in 21 days. Outside the Oran Mor I saw a small blue minivan, those guys are really hard core. I had been to see the band play before. John Peel used to champion them. He read out a pub they were meant to be playing at in Liverpool. I went there, but the gig had been moved to another pub. When I got to the new pub, the place was packed. At some stage the bar staff decided to not serve any more drinks. They would pull pints and then vanish. I think they had a secret stash of regular drinkers who had to be watered first. The pub was so full of people I could only see a little bit of black hair jumping up and down. All the people who used to go to punk shows seemed to be there.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Chuck Palahnick is one sick f*ck. I just finished reading his novel "diary". Frankly the book is almost too bizzare for me to explain the plot. It does involve a failed painter, starting painting again. It was a clever book moved went along at a fast place. I don't think that Chuck teaches writing, so the book didn't contain any Profs. It is not clear how they could film this book, but then that was true of his book "fight club" and that turned out to be a great f
A couple of week's ago I read "managing humans" by Michael Lopp. This is a great book about managing software projects. It is essentially a bunch of stories, since I believe the book started out some BLOG entries. There is extremely useful advice for getting the most out of a meeting. Also there is the "Monday morning freakout". I was happy to learn that I can now read a book, listen to music, an-ed watch TV at the same time because this is just NADD (nerd attention deficiency disorder). I am no longer alone. It has a useful glossary. I was amused to see his definition of collaboration, as "a word used to convince you to work with people you would rather avoid."
I finished reading "unleash the warrior within". This is a self help book based on the author's experience of being a navy SEAL for ten years Even though I have a pessimistic and fatalistic attitude to life, I still like reading self help books. It is not so clear to me that insight gained fighting in the snow is going to help me in civvy street. I guess I should be more focussed. Perhaps less time writing blog entries and more time doing physics calculations.
I was amused to see what Tesco was selling for father's day: beer and car stuff. I still feel guilty that when I was a child I bought my mum, some clothes pegs for mother's day. I wish I could remember her response. If I was an emotional kind of person, father's day would make me think of why I don't have children. I can imagine my son giving a me present, such as something I really want, such a baseball bat. "What is the ball for?" "I thought we could play in park.". "No, boring", as I politely toss the ball out of the window. I would test the bat by hitting the door frame. "So son, let's go out. I want to teach you about responsible vengeance." For Father's day I got myself a Duvel glass. Duvel is a strong Belgium beer. I look so classy with my Duvel glass full of golden beer, not like a sad TV drinker in any way at all. Tesco have discounted the beer by 20%. I once payed five pounds for a bottle of Duvel in London town. Just another reason not to go further south than Manchester.
I had just got to the bottom of the hill on Queen Margret drive, when I saw a white van for a cleaning company. A cloud of black soot jumped out of the exhaust and headed for me. I turned my head to the left and saw the crossroads pub has long thing stain glass windows. The wind dispersed the dirty cloud, so I continued on. Further on I saw a house with a long set of steps leading to an door. As I looked up the door slowly closed.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
People always seem to complain when bands reform and start touring again. When I was maybe 19 the last sane boyfriend my sister went out with suggested that since the butthole surfers were playing in Manchester we should go seem them. At that time I didn't go out to gigs much, so I didn't bother to go. I regretted not seeing them play. If I can get my act together, I can make this good, since the butthole surfers are playing Glasgow next month.
I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull last night at the Grosvner cinema in the West End of Glasgow. I am wondering around in haze of work stress mixed up with a slight dash of depression, with a topping of pure rage, so I almost had the shakes when I was buying the ticket for the film. There is a great line in Leonard Cohen song that goes something like "you stumble into the movie house to take away the pain." One of the friendly ticket sellers was trying to be helpful by showing me the seat number on the ticket, but he must of thought I was in a bad way, if couldn't find the word seat on a piece of paper. I did have enough energy to buy a beer for the film and limp to my seat. I enjoyed the film. It didn't suck and it passed the time.
There was aa quote from a famous America author that no matter where you travel you are still the same odious boring person. This quote haunts me as I spent the last week in Berlin. Somehow this was not so full of adventure as perhaps it should have been. I am sure there was a lot of decadence in Berlin, but it moves to a too a techno beat for my indie heart. I was also staying in Zeuthen. It took a while to get into the center via the S-Bahn. Somehow getting to Zeuthen involved changing trains even though there was one line. Any way I was actually there to work at DESY Zeuthen. Cat power was playing Berlin one of the nights I was there, but the show was sold out. It was incredibly hot in Berlin, I had to keep drinking to keep from evaporating. There is a nice lake at Zeuthen and lots of big trees. On the Friday there was a barbecue by the lake. There wasn't much cutlery, so they used a few pocket knives. I was happy I didn't bring one of knives, because I don't have useful things on it such a bottle opener, but it does have a single blade and a good solid lock to keep the blade from closing on the fingers. After lunch we walked to the edge of the lake and stared at it. I foolishly mentioned that it was too peaceful in Zeuthen for me. I need to work in a city where I can get mugged or murdered -- just to get that creative edge. Unfortunately just as I left Glasgow, there was a terrible murder at an Italian restaurant that our work group used to go to a lot on Friday lunch time. A new manager was knifed to death late at night. She may have served and perhaps even flirted with members of our group (but not me). When I was thinking of writing this, I was worried that the police might read this blog entry. Then they would come around and interview me. I had a great alibi ready in that I don't really like Italian food. Although I did like the mussels at this particular restaurant. They have found the people who did this (ok people have been arrested). One was a Spanish waiter who used to work at the same restaurant. We think he may have served us too. The guy was very jolly and used to complain that we didn't talk enough. Friendly people get on my nerves, but perhaps I should have not told the manager that. The butterfly effect and all that. Of course if the waiter I am thinking of is a different person to the one being prosecuted than I am going to crap myself if he serves us again. I will be able to show my martial arts skills to my work colleagues by going to the toilet and sneaking out the window to go the subway shop on Byers Rd to get a sandwich I could safely eat at my desk. Anyway the woman murdered was 25 and clearly didn't deserve that terrible end to her young life.
I just read "on late style" by Edward Said. I often wonder why I read books of this type. Ed operates on a much higher intellectual plane than me. Not withstanding that the book discussed operas. Frankly I would have to be dragged kicking and screaming to see an opera, even when bribed with some extreme sexual favors. The book was about the style of famous composers, writers and film makes in their final years before death. Ed is famous for a book about western attitudes in the middle east hidden in literature. Anyway that book is really big, so by reading "on late style" I can say I have read Said, by only struggling through 160 pages. I am not sure who I am trying to impress.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I went to Tesco's on Saturday to get some provisions. Because it was father's day, they had a lot of beer on sale. They had a bottle of beer called "Punk IPA". In my mid twenties I used to listen to a lot of hard core punk, so the "do it yourself ethic" was part of my mind set -- although I am not sure I actually did anything myself. This beer was called "a post modern classic pale ale" The beer was tasty, don't get me wrong, but is nothing sacred. Punk has been turned into a marketing tool. I was planning a few more paragraphs of ranting about marketing of something as important as punk. However, when I looked the beer up on the Internet, I see that it is produced by a micro brewery in Scotland. Also they have a beer called "Physics". Yummy. Ok I forgive them. Now I just need to figure how to get more.
Monday, June 09, 2008
The hillhead library tempted to me to check out "street fighting years" by Tariq Ali. This was a memoir of his time as a political activist in the 60s. Ali was born in Pakistan, but came o London to study. He was a leader in the movement against the war in Vietnam in the UK. As part of that he was (and perhaps still is) a Marxist. He organized meetings and did speaking tours. He also did a lot of traveling. For instance he went to Vietnam with a group to inspect the situation. Given that the passing of years, everyone has become very cynical about the 60s, fu*cking hippies and all that, but Ali was part of the committed political wing. The Vietcong clearly viewed the antiwar movement as a second front in their war. Although I work at a University I don't seem to meet any Marxists. Where they all gone. Perhaps to wallstreet? My one complaint about the book is that the cover features John Lennon and Yoko Ono, but they actually appear for a page or two. I have nothing against Yoko Ono. I really enjoyed her last CD. However Lennon worked with that McCartney bloke who is still filling the airwaves with his sound puke.
Monday, May 26, 2008
It is another bank holiday weekend. I see the bluish sky outside and vague hints of the remains of the sun. Yesterday I walked out to the Botantical gardens in Glasgow when I had enough of my computer. It was a bit windy, but the park was full of people hanging out enjoying the weather. I certainly am enjoying the weekend more, knowing that it is probably raining in the south of England.
I never used to like to read newspapers. However the internet allows me to just browse a few stories. Attention span and all that. After reading a recent story about a woman who finds out that her husband has been looking at a lot of porn on the internet, my impression was that she was pretty annoying kind of person. I can't help feeling that spending weeks in therapy, talking together, and screaming, is not time efficient. What the husband should have said was "I have needs too, so you need to use your mouth more or it is over bitch" or "get a job, we need a plasma screen TV." What we really need is a book on safe web browsig. How do you clear the web history. I didn't realise that firefox stored passwords in a way that can easily be looked at by other people. I do have some information on how to surf with out giving out the IP address. Perhaps I should get a book deal for this important topic. I could also do a newspaper column on relationships, I think I have real talent in that department.
I just finished reading Polystom by Adam Roberts. I found this book in the scifi section of Hillhead library. The subtitle to the book is "two universes one reality". This made no sense to me what so ever as I read the first half of the book. The first half of the book seemed to be about some rich guy who picked a crazy wife, who knocked herself out by running head first against a locked door. Anyway this seemed a bit dull to me, so I stopped reading for a couple of weeks. Anyway his wife dies, frankly much to my relief, although I think I would have liked her if I ever got to hook up. The hero goes of to war on something called the mud planet. Somehow the novel changes. It slowly becomes a novel about computer simulations and reality. Things that I found annoying about the first half of the book, made more sense, or at the very least were more interesting. Surprise is good.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Last week I was sitting at my desk at work trying to decide on a quiet evening of contemplation, or to go out to see some bands play in a dark stinking room with a tempting bar in it.. Anyway last Tuesday I decided on a night of music with Jesse Sykes at the Glasgow Barfly. The place only had about twenty people in it. The support acts were local, and they had brought a large part of the audience. Even though the audience was small, they seemed fanatically devoted to her. She sounded like a Portishead from Amsterdam, which surprised me because I thought she was based in Seattle.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I went out to see the "iron man" film at the Grosvner cinema (in the fabulous West End of Glasgow) on Tuesday. Unfortunately their website is bust, so I got confused about the time, so I ended up going to see "Speedracer" instead. This film was made by the same people who made the matrix films. It was a very beautiful film to look at, but was a standard plot. There was a car driver and some crooks. Good wins in the end. I was the only person in the cinema, which would have been a bit spooky, but I had a beer with me, so I had hoppy company. The review in the Guardian said that you would enjoy the film if you were 12.
Although no one is kicking sand in my face I still worry about it. I have started taking the dreaded white powder to get stronger and fitter to mash heads. I have started taking the odd teas spoon of creatine in the morning. The martial arts club I used to train has folded so I need to get hard on my own. Too much soft living has slowed me down. Even though creatine is legal I like the idea of taking performamce enhancing drugs. My olympic ambitions have been gone for a long time, mostly because of my deep hatred of any kind of competitive sport. I have been doing more pressups, because I spent 14 quid on the big tub of creatine, so I want to get my money's worth. I am sure it is all going to end in tears.
Monday, May 05, 2008
I first found out about the fall around 1986. There was a video on TV for "Mr Pharmacist" and someone in the room said "Mark E. Smith he never changes". I was just watching the video thinking who the f*ck is Mark E. Smith. I am not a hard core fall fan, but I have been to see them three times. There is so much music to get that I can't afford to get every CD produced by bands I grew up with up. However I was pretty excited by the latest Fall CD, "Imperial Wax Solvent". The first track is called "Allton Towers", so I had to buy the CD just for that. Somehow I really like the sound. I watched some old videos of Mark on the tube in early 80s. He looked handsome, not the rugged shell that he is now.
I went to the Gym this morning. I was feeling pretty good about myself as I walked out of the Stephenson building and turned into University avenue. The sun was bright and people were wearing their summer best to worship the first sighting of the blue sky this year. On the other side of the road I saw a guy with blue sweat pants on and no shirt. His body had taught muscles. He looked almost threatening. He stood on some railings about 1/2 meter in height. He then walked on them for a bit and jumped across the pavement. If I went to the Gym regularly and even hired a personal trainer, there is no way I could do what he did.
I went to Hillhead public library today to return some books and get some more. I was fumbling with my wallet trying to find my library card. The person dealing with me didn't ask for my library card. I think he was just being helpful, but maybe he just wanted me out of the library as quick possible. The books I was getting were "street fighting years" by Tariq Ali and Krav Maga by David Kahn. Somehow this was an unfortunate choice of books to borrow at the same time. Nowadays Tariq Ali is an intellectual who gets interviewed on channel 4. During the 60s I believe he was a political activist. I don't really know what Krav Maga is, but the quick look at the book shows it is a martial art from Israel. Somehow Krav Maga always comes up quite high in the martial arts book section of Amazon.
I was pretty depressed after reading "dreaming in code" by Scott Rosenberg. This was the story of a group trying to write an information organizer called Chandler. The book was like a thriller, because it wasn't clear after half the book, that the project produced any working code. In fact it wasn't clear at the end of the book that they were ever going to getting anything working. Before I finished reading it, I did look at the web page to see the status of the software. Ummm The team who were building chandler seemingly did everything right. They used python to write the code. The project was open source. All their programmers and managers were very experienced. Still the project seemed to do very slowly. Scott also included some history of software engineering, with a lot of quotes from the book "Mythical Man Month". So the book also contains a good popular history of software engineering.
People believe the weirdist shit. After reading through "the rough guide to conspiracy theories", I feel unclean intellectually. I was so excited to read that some people feel that Paul McCartney is dead, but was replaced before the Abbey Road album. A very reasonable hypothesis given his recent (last 20 years) work. The book contained all kinds of fantasies. The font on the book was incredibly small, so reading the book strained my eyes. As you may have noticed I am not leading an excited life at the moment. If you see me shambling down the street, I will now grab your hand stare you in eye and say "let me tell you about the Philadelphia Experiment." In my more lucid moments, I suggest you run.
Over the weekend I read "the Poicare conjecture" by Donal O'Shea. This was a book about the recent proving of the Poincare conjecture. It claimed to have some history about the reclusive Grigori Perelman who recently proved it, however there was little detail about Perelman at all (that is what reclusive means). The did a good job of explaining the history and background to the Poincare conjecture. I was feeling that I should have some idea about what this conjecture is about. What thing I never thought about was that if you continued forever on a journey you would eventually return to your starting point. Perhaps there is some subtle topological strangeness in the Universe. Given that nothing can go faster than the speed of light, this is a totally impractical insight. Such is the use of topology.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Last week I went out to see Adam Green play at the Oran Mor venue in the fabulous venue in Glasgow. Adam Green was supported by Noah and the Whale. I was excited to see "Noah and the whale" because they get played a lot on radio 6. However, their set didn't do too much for me. Adam Green is a crooner. At the start of his set I thought his voice was going to get lost in the instruments. I like his songs and singing style. At the end of the set, there was a little mosh pit near the front of the stage. Adam Green was part of a band called "The Moldy Peaches". There is a new film, called Juno, out that uses some Moldy Peaches songs. This has made them more famous. The sound track for the film made number 1 in some US chart. Unfortunately, the filthy critic really hates both the film Juno and soundtrack by the Moldy Peaches. What am I to think? The filthy critic is like my style guru. I am so confused.
I have just read "the under cover economist" by Tim Harford. This book is about the economics of everyday living. It deals a lot with the price of coffee, an important issue if you spend your life in dire need of hot caffeine fuel. He made some good points about the price of goods in a supermarket. He claimed that the price of basic things at a fancy supermarket (Marks and Spencer or Waitrose) were pretty similar to those in a more basic supermarket such as Morrisons. However, in Waitrose the basic food is hidden by the more expensive stuff (freshly squeezed mango juice e.c.t.). This example was used to illustrate the idea of "scarcity".
Last week I finished reading "Nuclear Energy in the 21st century". This book is a popular level book about nuclear power. It deals with all aspects of nuclear power, including mining the ore, transporting material, and the all important getting rid of the waste. It is clearly written by an enthusiast for nuclear power. The explanation of the science is brief but clear. In this age, where the LHC is sold as a telescope or a black hole factory, by Brian Cox and his merry band of publicists, it is pleasant to read something basic but clear. If feel slightly bad about even thinking about working in the nuclear industry, but it is not clear what else is going to power the modern world. Wind farms spoil the view from people's houses, so bring down property prices, hence are clearly no longer an option in the middle England. As for bio fuels, well what can I say.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
I have just read "the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker" by Suzanne Portnoy. This is a book about "swinging". At 39, she finds she wants more sex, so leaves her loveless marriage, and start to sleep around in a very serious and dedicated way. This kind of book is advertised at "adult", but I didn't read it for arousal. A huge part of her life was dedicated to picking up men. She was raising a family and running a PR firm at the same time. I don't see how she had the time. Perhaps being the boss of a PR firm is pretty easy (a couple of hours a day). It was interesting to watch her rate men. I now know that giving someone a meal on a paper plate is a reason to break up. Also watching her thoughts as she went back to a man's flat, made me much more motivated to Hoover the carpet in the next (month or so). Also, she had a great comment about the advantage of dating geeky web guys: "they are so happy to be with anyone, that they are happy to please their partners". Good to know. Anyway I got more out of this book than "women are from Venus and men are from Mars". In that book I learnt that women like sharp knives
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
On Sunday I saw a woman, wearing a black suit, leave the card shop on Maryhill Rd. She was carrying a large number of red balloons of various sizes and shapes. She walked to her small car that was 30 yards from the shop. One of the little red balloons broke free and started to follow the wind down the road. The balloon was close enough to me that I thought perhaps I should go running after it, to give it back her, and perhaps get a reward. However, frankly I couldn't be bothered. I didn't feel guilty, even if the balloons were for a shattered shaven headed little girl, sick in a white sterile bed. Losing one balloon out of ten could not make a difference to her life Run free little balloon, I thought, you too need to be happy. And the balloon followed the the eddies of the wind to a land free of grasping little hands. I suddenly thought that this was the mechanism that produced the white balloon rolling down the road that greeted me on Saturday morning. Run free little balloon, I thought as I headed to my flat to sip tea and forget the fate of balloons. I then heard a short bang. I turned to see the exploded little balloon "asleep" on the road. The car didn't even stop to check its tires.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
I have just finished reading "introduction to the personal software process" by Watts Humphrey. I have owned this book for a long time, but since I have not read a book on software development for a while, so this weekend was a good time to read it. My understanding is that Humphrey was a manager at IBM when they first produced mainframes. When he started his job, many of the projects he inherited were not completing on time, so he introduced processes to improve that. In the book he is very big on timing the amount of time people spend doing things during the week. This provides data that can be used to estimate the amount of time it would take to complete a task in the future. He also likes programmers to review their code before they even try to compile it. There was a lot of discussion about "defect" (known as bugs) removal. This is an old fashioned book. It used software metrics such as LOC (lines of code), but he talked about the c++ language. Also his discussion of diagrams involved flow charts, with no mention of UML. However, I think the book was clearer for not introducing more modern terms. Some of the basic ideas, such as using measurements to estimate time to do things are basically sound.
Although I was sad to hear about the death of Arthur C Clarke, I have not read much of his work for over twenty years. If you have been following closely, I have been reading a lot of science fiction recently, but I have no interest in (re)reading the work of the old masters. I did used to read a lot of science fiction when I was in late teens. Then I used to read Clarke and Asimov, and Michael Moorcock. I moved away from science fiction, to try more literary fare. Also at that time I didn't know how to get hold of the stuff of more modern writers. I might have been a bit ashamed of my nerdy past. When I started living in Liverpool I got into Philip H. Dick, and the weirder outlaw side of science fiction. I am still fond of the work of Michael Moorcock, but I saw him on TV a couple of weeks ago. He was wearing a bow tie. I know he is old, but in my experience, only wa*kers wear bow ties. Look Michael, you used to play with Hawkwind! I remember a radio interview with Arthur C Clarke, where he said something like: "some day in the future everyone will have a portable power supply as powerful as a nuclear reactor". Frank Close was also in the same interview and he said "there has to be some evidence for that type of claim." Those black obelisks!
Before I got went away and got sick, I watched a documentary called "Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives" via the BBC Iplayer. This was a strange documentary about Hugh Everett III who invented the many world interpretation of quantum mechanics. The documentary was narrated by Hugh's son Mark Everett (known by some as E). The documentary was weird in some sense, because it was both a celebration of his father's life, as well as a settling of scores. There was not a lot of love in Mark's life. The only time he held his father was when he picked up his father when he died. There was a lot of sarcasm in the way the family talked. Mark hadn't done well (as in flunked) in maths or science. So part of the trip was him traveling to famous physics places such as Princeton to ask about quantum mechanics and his father's work. Everett did the work on the many Universe theory iof quantum mechanics when he was a graduate student. This interpratation of quantum mechanics was not popular, so he left academia to join industry. As time passed the many universes theory of quantum mechanics gained in popularity (not with me though of course), so before he died Hugh started to get invited to conferences. Reading between the lines, it was clear that Hugh was a bit bitter that his revolutionary theory had not taken off. However, he also seemed the classic Prof. type who was not very talkative. Some part of the documentary was sad. One of Hugh's daughters committed sucide. In her sucide note she said that "she would meet her father in a parallel Universe." Mark Everett is a singer and musician in the band called the Eels. The Eels are an alternative country band, who are famous enough to make the soundtrack for one of the Shrek movies. They are famous enough to have their CDs in the discount section of fopp. As part of my research I bourght a copy of the eels CD "beautiful freak". I didn't like it as much as some of the live tracks I saw on the documentary. The one problem I did see with the documentary was that it didn't mention that many physicists still feel that the multi universe interpratation of quantum mechanics is bollocks (and that includes the multiverse that the stringers like).
Saturday, March 22, 2008
I have just read a biography of Isaac Newton by Peter Ackroyd. I had read "Hawksmoor" by Ackroyd, that led me to expect that the book would focus on Newton's interest in alchemy and his nonstandard view on Jesus. However, the book gave a good overview of all aspect of Newton's life, from his development of mechanics and calculus, to him leaving Cambridge to become Master of the Mint. I didn't pick up on connection of Newton's story about thinking about gravity after watching an apple fall, to "the fall" due to an apple in the Garden of Eden, until I read this book.
When I got up today I looked out of the front window to the road below. I saw a piece of paper blown by the wind straight along the dead center of the road. When I put my full attention to it, the paper stopped moving. I very naturally assumed that I was telekinetic. Before lunch I looked at the road again. This time there was a white balloon blown by wind. I stared at the balloon with all my might, but it kept on moving. So I am just normal, the paper in the morning stopped by chance. Similar to the same random coincidence that I thought about telekinetic powers after watching the "The Medusa Touch" DVD (with Richard Burton in) last night.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Normally, like many people I look at DVDs that cost 15 pounds and say what kind of loser spends that much money for a new DVD. Normally I don't pay over 5 pounds for a DVD. However, last Tuesday I was in fopp on Byers Rd and I saw looking to give myself a birthday treat. Also I was sick with some kind of plague, so watching a DVD from my warm front room was going to be the height of excitement for me. What I decided to buy was "Cronus" directed by Guillermo Del Toro (This cost me 8 pounds, so I am almost half a DVD loser). Del Torro directed the fantastic "Pans Labyrinth", and also did blade II and Hellboy. The film "Cronus" is a vampire movie with a new family twist. An antique seller finds a mechanical beatle built by an alchemist. His life goes down hill from there.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I am starting to think that my greatest contribution to science will be the flu-flight connection. If I take a quick trip to the US, I spend a week and half in brain dead flue mode, while I try to recover. It was my birthday on Tuesday and I wanted to go out and party. However, I was so sensitive to cold that I couldn't travel far. I went to Oddbins to buy a bottle of sake. The staff at the Byers Rd store told me they didn't have any in, but phoned a close by store to reserve me a bottle. I got the time and space thing mixed up, partly because I can't remember exactly the name of every off license in a 3 mile radius. The store with the bottle of sake with my name on it turned out to be a lot further down Great Western Rd than I thought. But I dragged my shivering flu wrecked body in search of rice wine. In the Oddbins store on Great Western Rd, the staff were very friendly. When they gave me my bottle, I clutched it to my chest. They told me that they usually don't sell any sake for months. But today as soon as my bottle was reserved, two other people came in to buy sake. "Did I know why that was?". I started to mumble something about wave function collapse, and that there was an amplitude for various people to buy bottles of sake. One person decides he needs sake, so the wave function collapses, and two more have to buy sake. But then I thought I haven't told them I am a physicist, so I can get away with saying "f*ck knows why. It is weird though". Of course the sake buying choices of the people of Glasgow may be further evidence that I am being followed and studied. As I walked back up the great western Road I saw a Chinese restaurant appear before by cough racked body. Its my birthday I thought, must have fun. I ordered chicken in a pot, because someone had told me this was authentic in someway. The food was nice, but the chicken just came in a saucepan. At the end of the meal I was given a fortune cookie. This is my fortune: "Eat something you have never tried before". Anyway not love and wealth again. The fortune cookie knows how to humble one. If I hadn't been sick, I might have wanted to try here. A nice bit of caviar and a cocktail of some kind. (If I had been well I would have gone to the barfly to watch a female Japanese drone metal band). Still I think this shows that you don't need a party (or your health) to have a good time on your birthday.
I always thought it was rude to stare. As I walked into work this morning, I saw a man in a battered denim jacket carrying a large pink stuffed dinosaur with garish green eyes. In his other hand he carried a large potted plant about a meter high. He walked unsteadily with a degree of quiet despair. He looked to be over 40 with a face that had seen many pint pots of beer. As he walked out of door of the shop all eyes followed him.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
While travelling somewhere I read Market Forces by Richard Morgan. This novel was set in the not too distant future. Wars and rebellions are traded as we trade stocks and shares. When executives have big arguments they fight duels in their cars on the highway. The story was based on a new junior executive joining a company. He became more aggressive and wild as the corporate culture sucked him in. There was a bit too much action for a good novel with a strong philosophical core, if I may make such a pompous statement. On a similar theme. I watched a documentary over the weekend about corporations. Everything went crooked, when corporations got the same rights as human beings under antislavery laws. The documentary had commentary by left figures such as Noam Chomsky. I liked the part where some anarchist had a demo at the house of the CEO of shell. His wife told them off, and later served them tea and biscuits.
Many weeks ago I rented the DVD "tales From Earthsea" from blockbuster. I had another incoherent conversation with the clerk at the Blockbuster about anime, mostly because I was full of after work Friday night beer. The same people who were involved in the wonderful (my parents are greedy pigs) "spirited away" did this film as well. I had read The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin and this is what attracted me to the film. I read the book some time ago, so I couldn't remember exactly what happened. However, this film seemed very different to that book. Looks like it was based on a book she wrote much later. Some of the film was about the "balance", which is some hippy sh*t for loving nature. The boy hero of the book murders his father for some unspecified reason, perhaps he was possessed, or perhaps his father was evil as many are. The history of these earthsea novels looks interesting, at least from the amazon reviews. Le Guin seemed to have a problem with the world she created. Ummm.
Friday, February 22, 2008
I watched the DVD for the film "Saw" a couple of nights. This was a a violent horror film with a good deal of torturing on it. On the other hand it was well made and had some philosophical core idea behind it. Of course if you find nothing of merit in the writings of Marquis De Sade, then you will not enjoy the film. The film was popular enough to have them create a number of sequels. I think I have seen enough of the jigsaw killer.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
I have been trying to encourage everyone at work to buy a high definition TV. I will be looking for a job soon, and the economy is not very healthy. Frankly now that Blue ray has won the high definition video format war (go Sony), I feel that people should also get a PS/3 just to be sure the wheels of UK consumerism don't stop turning. As I walked to work down Queen Margret Drive, I saw a tandem bike with a man at the front and a little girl about 6 years old in a pink coat at the rear. They were peddling hard and the girls pigtails were almost left behind. The silvery bike sparkled in the frosty air. Given, how fast children grow, I am not sure how long they would ride together on that particular bike. Still I should have told the little girl that if her dad is so cheap not to buy her a bike for herself, then he should get a TV for herself. Unfortunately, the happy family were cycling too fast for me to infect them with my cynicism.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I went on a stag night out yesterday. I had some pleasant drinks in the counting house pub in the center of Glasgow. I bailed when the group decided to go to a casino. I don't really like gambling so much. I did enjoy putting quarters in slot machines when I was in the US (for the crashing sounding and crazy colours), but I don't have the patience to play cards or watch the roulette wheel spin. Playing cards requires skill and knowledge that I don't have. Most British casinos don't allow Russian roulette, so they really are no fun. After the casino there was talk of going to a strip bar. I don't have a moral problem with strip bars, but I have never gone to one. Part of the reason was that I worry that I would get the fear and sweats, and not in a positive erotic way, more in a crazy emotional problem way. I could barely breath when I was taken to see a belly dancer. Actually it was before a meal in a Greek restaurant. But as the flesh gyrated and wobbled, my own flesh became icy and pale. I tried to hide the shakes from the relatively normal couple I was with. Since Richard Feynman sometimes did calculations in a strip bar, I don't think that there would be any professional problems if anyone found out. Although I have had some association with the catholic faith, I don't think that traditional guilt is causing me problems. In that case I would have gone to the strip bar had a great time, but then felt a bit guilty the morning afterwards. Anyway after browsing on Amazon I have bourght the book by Belle de Jour. My path to mental health is assured.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
On Friday night I went into Blockbusters to rent a video. I have been waiting to see "Eastern Promises", but either it is not out yet, or they don't have it at blockbusters on Byers Rd. So instead I decided to rent "Steam Boy" a Japanese anime film. As everyone know anime is totally different to cartoons, because even though it is animated it is made in Japan, and hence counts as world cinema. The clerk asked me "do you like anime?" I panicked a bit, because the question "do you like anime?" could also actually mean "do you like cartoons". He was just being friendly, and recommended some new titles. I was full of post work beer so was less than coherenet in my replies. The next day I was wondering around Tesco I saw two things that interested me. One was a DVD of the trasnformers film for 3 pounds. The other was a blond woman, perhaps in the early 30s, in a jean dress. She looked sensible and in command of local reality, but not the kind of person you could invite around for some world cinema. I whispered "I like cartoons" to the cashier as I payed for my DVD, and walked out alone. I would like to point out that the steam boy DVD was very clever, and had Stephenson of steam engine fame in it (not a sympathetic character though). I am not sure that science came out well from the film.
I went out to see the film cloverfield last night. A bunch of annoying New Yorkers get attacked by a giant monster. The film is shot from the perspective of a dorky camera man. Perhaps not as profound as Godzilla, but a good way to spend the evening.
Friday, February 15, 2008
While travelling to Ohio I read "Death in the Afternoon" by Ernest Hemingway. This was a book about bull fighting. One time I was in Spain and another time I was in Mexico, I watched a bull fight on TV. Frankly I had no idea what was going on, whether that was a bad thing is open to debate. Ernest's book is a history about bull fighting and a guide to the spectacle. I now know the cowardly way t kill a bull. Hemingway got the nobel prize for literature, but he is not the kind of writer who uses big words. His writing always floats in a lot of alcohol. Eevn in this book, you can feel the pull of death and suicide, but somehow Hemingway makes it very sociable.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
I think I bought "days between stations" in the Oxfam book shop on Byers Rd in the fabulous West End of Glasgow. The book had very good blurbs on the back (Thomas Pynchon), so it wasn't your normal science fiction novel. I started reading it, but then stopped for maybe a year. It was a confusing novel, even with out the long lay off of reading the book. Somehow there was a black and white film that was never released. Also the desert was seeping everywhere. Various people were in and out love. What was it all about? Good question, I think somehow the film was reborn into reality. It was very well written, but it was not clear what he theme was. Anyway a sweet piece of literary fiction.
Another Valentine's day, another evening alone. I would feel sorry for myself, but my entire system is feeling diseased and wasted. Hopefully this is just due to the change on time zones and not all the people sneezing on the plane. I awoke with a splitting headache. I had to sleep more to get the pain from my head. I went to the post office to pick up two parcels: a shiny new tanto and a book on sexual technique. It would have been hard to explain the coincidence of the contents of the two parcels. I did order them at different times, but fate and the hand of God does strange things. As I said difficult to explain. Since I went to the post office, I tried walking down the Kelvin Way to Botanical gardens. There is an entrance to the park behind Tesco. It is a pleasant walk by the river. The vegetation is grey and partly rotting. The Kelvin way is a slice of country through the modern city. It is so quiet, in fact too quiet. Somehow people look happier on Valentines day. There is an air of expectancy in people's faces. The hippies have won, everyone carries flowers. I just limp and slink along. I finished off reading "Grave Peril" by Jim Butcher. These tales of a wizard in Chicago are slightly better for me than the steady diet of violence I watch on TV. Although various people get eaten and burnt, the words "I love you" are important to character growth, so it was a good book to close the final pages on, on Valentines day.