Sunday, February 14, 2010


I once read a memoir by some guy who was on the outer fringes of the beat movement. He worked in a book shop, and perhaps inevitably he had some problems with alcohol. He wrote he was an optimistic person, because he started reading "War and Peace" in his middle 20s, but he finished it in his 30s.

I sort of feel the same thing about the book Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. I am pretty sure I started reading this when I was living in Liverpool over 3 years ago. I finished it this afternoon. I has forgotten some of the characters, during my long period of not reading it. I think I stopped reading when one of my favorite characters got addicted to morphine (Iam romantic like that).

The book is very hacker friendly. It has not dated that badly, apart from a section where he stores some data onto a floppy disk. If I was more keen I would have played with the perl script included.

I did enjoy one section, where one of the mathematicians writes down an equation for the amount of sex he needs to work effectively.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


So it is start of Carnival time around here in Germany. I am still slightly confused what this involves. There is some tradition that women are allowed to cut men's ties off and they have to kiss the man. This almost gave me a third reason to wear a tie, beyond funerals and job interviews. Apparently now some women only cut a man's tie off, but they don't give a kiss. I blame feminism.

Below are some carnival related songs. Tim put me on to Jackson Frank.

Monday, February 08, 2010

dreams and strokes

This freezing winter has meant that I have not really been out much this year so far. There has been to much ice and snow on the road for me to want to explore. So I go to work, come home and maybe go to the supermarket when I am out of vitals and beer. So I just dream.

However last night I dreamt I had a small part in a film. I was a bit worried that I didn't have a script for my part. But I mostly seemed to go into hotels for breakfast with people. At the end of the dream, I found out that there was no script, but I was going to read the part from a prompter. My acting role was in German, so I think I was worried about the German test I did today.

However, in my dream was a friend I grew up with. He had a stroke and was having problems talking, because of the stroke. I like this person, but I didn't seemed to bothered by his illness. (In real life they are healthy). All day I felt guilty about my treatment of my friend in the dream, but then I thought if I didn't actually do anything to harm him (apart from the binge drinking I did with him in my teens and early 20s), then perhaps I didn't do anything wrong. I would have forgotten about the dream, if I had not forced myself to remember it, so I would write about it. I have felt bad all day, because of the guilt my friend exposed me to, and this is probably the reason I have failed my German exam. I will send an email to him, to try and get the bastard to apologize to me.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

On tea

Sometimes I am just such a slob. I was happy to find a reasonable priced variety of Tea at my local supermarket. I was getting sick of paying 3 Euros for a packet of 50 teabags. I am happy now that I can buy 50 Ceylon-Assam tea bags made by "Ja" for under 1 Euro.

Unfortunately there was an essay on tea in the Guardian, so perhaps I should explore different types of tea, and perhaps even clean my mug more often. I like the idea that a cup of tea was is a comfort. Perhaps that is why I drink so much tea.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Mad, Bad and dangerous

I have just finished reading "Mad, Bad and dangerous --the scientist and the cinema", by Christopher Frayling. In my first draft of the post I had a sentence of the form: "Among us hard science types we don't much like media studies type degrees". When I thought about I couldn't remember actually having a discussion about "media studies" with anyone, and in fact I have no idea what the field of media studies actually involves. The tabloid press (via google news) are always complaining about the number of people taking degrees in media studies.

Anyway I thought Frayling's book was a great study of the scientist portrayed in the cinema. He discusses both the mad scientist film and the biopic (of Madame Curie for example). Given that some attempts to do outreach of research can be misrepresented by the press, it is important to understand how science is portrayed in the media. (Of course I can't blame the media for talking about the "God particle", that is bullshit from certain section of the physics community).

The end of the book is now slightly out of date, because of shows like: CSI, big bang theory, and num3ers, show scientists in a slightly more realistic light.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Gil Scott-Heron

When I used to work in Wembley around 1985, a person I worked with took me to see a gig that was part of the red wedge tour. (This was a bunch of artists supporting the labour party -- pre-Blair of course). We wanted too see Billy Bragg play, but he played first, so we missed him because we were in the pub.

What I actually only remember about the gig was hearing "the revolution will not be televised" by Gil Scott-Heron. This was an amazing track, that I spent a lot of time tracking down, by buying CDs and looking in cool record shops.

Nowadays I would just do a google search, or look on Amazon for a track I wanted The guardian are streaming his new album. I was so sad to see that he had a lot of alcohol and coke problems. His early songs seemed positive to me -- even the one about living in the bottle.