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.

Istanbul beaches

This article in the Guardian has humiliated me. There were beaches in Istanbul? Although I live a child free life, even I know that children are bored doing tourist things.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I finally get library music

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

What does China think

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.

Sin City

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.

drinking stuff

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

Jeffrey lewis gig

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.

Founders at Work

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

The Dark Knight

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.

The Atrocity Archives

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.

die smilers die

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

The wave pictures

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

The end of oil

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.

Death Masks and Summer Knights

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.

The white Castle

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.

Bobby Fischer goes to war

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.

Altered Carbon

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

history of the order of the assassins

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

Aya Sofya

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.

Istanbul and water below the ground

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

Istanbul modern

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.

A Passion for Killing

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.

Topkapi palace

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

river tour in Istanbul

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.