Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The quark machines

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

The hacker and the ants

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

Krav Maga

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

the hulk

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.

Melt Banana

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

managing humans

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."

unleash the warrior within

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.

father's day

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.

On Friday

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

butthole surfers - a second chance

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.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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.

a week in Berlin

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.

On late style

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

Punk IPA

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

street fighting years

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.