Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My tribute to Alan Turing

So I see a lot of stuff about celebrating the life of Alan Turing. I have always wanted to better understand ideas such as "Turing Complete."

When I was at University I read a book called "The Enigma of Intelligence." This was a book about the life of Alan Turing, who is famous for breaking Nazi code and developing computer science. I like computer and maths and things, so why would I not like this book.

I read the book around the late 90s or late 80s. What shocked me most was that Turing was gay. In those times, there was less exposure to the life of a gay person -- apart from as a figure of fun or ridicule. Ok one of our neighbours was gay, but there wasn't Torchwood on the telly. Things are more civilized now. Turing was charged for being a homosexual and was chemically treated. He might of killed himself, because of that

Anyway there are campaigns to get him pardoned, but a better idea would be for Alan Turing to feature in a Dr. Who episode!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on the radio

Today I listened to a great radio adaption of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance from the BBC. I first met this book in a lecture theater in the physics department of Imperial college. Halfway through the lecture a student went to the front row of the lecture. He was carrying a flower and a copy of the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He stayed in the lecture maybe 5 minutes, before walking out. After reading the book, I am so happy he didn't ask any questions about quality or any other hippy shit, because I think it was a good lecture on classical mechanics.

I enjoyed reading the book, partly because it was about mental illness and redemption. It has a nice fusion of philosophy and "old time American values." . I read book maybe over 10 years ago. I wasn't sure I wanted to hear the radio play, but it was well done.

I was sorry to read on wikipedia that the guy's son was stabbed to death outside a Zen center in the US.

A dream about a weird job

Last night was unusal because although I drank a few beers before going to bed, I still had a vivid dream. I was with a group of people hired to do a job. We were not told what the job was. We didn't know who the employers were. The work was organized by a spreadsheet. Various people in the group were put into different teams and assigned various roles.

At the  end of the dream the bosses started to ask for progress on what we had done. This was done in a similar manner to the Saw movie, but without the killing.

I am not sure what it meant, but it has probably something to do with working at a place different to a University.

I used to think people were interested in my dreams, but perhaps not everyone is.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Espresso and modernity

I was in the supermarket looking for the instant coffee I like, but there was none there. I did see some instant espresso packets. I have already got a little cup. I keep meaning to get a fancy coffee maker, but why bother when I can open a little packet. So clean and no fuss. This is modernity.

I am a phone snob

I was at a meeting in Edinburgh. Before we went to eat we were sitting in the pub. One of the other people  said  "I am going to phone my wife. I warn you that my phone is very old." He then pulled out some brick like phone. I am like, dude please stand away from us, if you are going to use such a phone. I was embarrassed.

A couple of week ago I was in a pub with some friends., They pulled out their mobile phones. These were old basic models -- that didn't look to even have a camera. As I am a smart phone owner I looked down on them and felt pity that they would never enjoy the fun of downloading apps.

Yep, I am phone snob, and probably a phone bore as well, because I obsess over important things such as battery life.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Last night I watched Haywire on Itunes. This was an atmospheric action move, the star of which was a woman.  The fight and chase scenes were all fast and exciting. The heroine was a very good fighter with both good punching and kicking, but also her ground work looked highly functional as well. Although she didn't always pick stable positions to choke people out.

As a number of people have noted the ending was a bit lame. The film just seemed to stop. I thought her dad would do something clever and cool, but he didn't. Although perhaps the beer and Ouzo that I had drunk, made me confused. Umm, I see now that I watched it again, it made more sense, but still it was a rushed ending.

She didn't have a lot of luck with men. She would be chatting with them one moment and the next they would be hitting her. What a lot of sneaky guys! I have wanted to date a woman whio is handy with their elbows, so she would be perfect. It is a pity she likes wine though.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

On deception

I spent part of the weekend reading "On deception" by Harry Houdini -- the famous magician. This is a short book where he describes various tricks for getting out of padlocks and prison cells. I now know how to get out of a straitjacket , but whether I could do it in practice. But still it might come in handy if I get sent to an insane asylum. I now know that fire breathing and sword swallowing is
dangerous. You never know when I might need to know this.

I was actually looking for a book on begging. Whenever I have talked to beggars around the world, they always seem to be using the same techniques to extract money. So there must be some book that has all the hidden begging knowledge in it. I want that book. Unfortunately, amazon seems only to sell books with titles "begging for it." Interesting, but not what I want.

What my scales told me today

I am still 88kgs. Given that I was ill for almost a week and a half after a holiday in land where by law you have to eat a bacon roll for breakfast. I had some vain hope that by not drinking beer on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday I would magically lose 1 kg, but no. After finding out that by not drinking 3 beers I can lose more calories than by by half hour speed walk.

I have read in the Guardian that it is not my fault that I am fat. I liked the idea that the original anti-sugar book is very expensive to by and is even collectible.

Exploring fundamental Particles

I have just read exploring fundamental particles by Wolfenstein and Silva.  I know the name of Wolfenstein because there is a famous parametrization of the CKM matrix that he invented, but  I never understood.  When I purchased the book I didn't realize that it was a popular science, but is more my failings than the authors.

The book describes old school particle physics, which most of the people who do particle physics worry about. There is no "mind of God" or multiverse hype, just the real physics problems such is there CP violation in neutrino physics or is there more than one Higgs boson. All the explanations are very clear and provide good insight.

They even complain that a paper by two Nobel prize winners on the same topic as one by a theorist who didn't win the prize on the same topic had 5 times more citations.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Some fading dreams of being a gangster

I slept badly last night. I feel bad this morning. I have been awake for 35 minutes, but already my dreams are starting to fade. I have some vague recollection of firing guns in a forest. I was some kind of gangster. I may have shot someone while I was doing some target practice.

I hour later the dreams are gone. I just feel very tired.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A dream about getting home

It took me a long time to get to sleep last night. I did dream, but not refreshing dreams. There were a group of young scientists staying in the house of a senior scientist. Small groups of us went out into town for drinks. The guy I was with was a bit loud. He shouted a little bit before he left the pub, one person rushed after him when he left the bar and he was given a kicking. I didn't do anything to help the guy, partly because he provoked the people, but then only with words. Anyway perhaps I was a coward.

I then spent a long time getting back to the house. I went to many bus stops. But eventually I got back to the house we were staying at. A little later the guy who was beaten up got back to the house. He was upset that we didn't look after him.

Not a very interesting dream, but you can see how much I worry about getting home after a night out.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Physics for Future Presidents

I have just read "Physics for Future Presidents" by Richard A. A. Muller. This was a really great popular book on physics. As with many other people I am not happy with so many popular physics books about cosmology and super high energy physics. This book was great, because it explained the basic physics behind many important policy issue. The topics covered were: terrorism, space, energy (oil, coal) and global warming. There science behind each of the topics was explained in a proper hand way physics way.

One of things I worry about is energy supply after the oil runs out, but Muller made me feel positive for the future.

I was slightly annoyed to see him write that the US shared its nuclear secrets with the UK during the war. Did the UK and US collaborate to create a bomb. It would be good to have a similar book that explains the science issues behind policy decisions, with a more European slant.

Does drinking beer make you fat.?

Knowledge is a terrible thing. I was just thinking how any calories were in a pint of beer. According to drinkaware a pint of lager has between 200 and 250 calories. I didn't realize it was so much. I  have been trying to lose weight, but I was hoping not to have to cut back on all tasty things.

As  a benchmark a Wopper burger has 670 calories.

But do I really need to know the above information. I was happy drinking beer, but now when I look at
a pint, all I will see is a third of a Wopper burger. Why did I look at those sites? Perhaps I should try to forget.

I mostly just wanted to make sure that alcohol free beer didn't contain much sugar, That at least seems to be true.

Textbook on Theosphy

I have always wondered what Theosophy is. So I got A Textbook of Theosophy by Leadbeater from
Amazon. I was enjoying the first chapter, but soon the book started describing a model of the Universe. I don't mind reincarnation or talking with ghosts, but I can't accept having an aether.  Mostly because it is ruled out experimentally.

I though that I could develop "special theosophy" that would be consistent with special relativity. But then I had visions of my special theosophy supporters fighting with standard  theosophy
believers. I saw meeting rooms in flames and  many bashed heads. So I will not share my ideas on "special  theosophy" with the world. I will hide the documents in a dusty dropbox folder and my unborn son will find. People will call him the master!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

In praise of Dr Feel good

I watching Punk Britania on the Iplayer. Personally I have seen so many histories of punk in the UK that I don't find it that interesting. Particularly as they never mention bands influential bands such as can. Also these program tend to stop at punk, but never mention post punk bands such as wire, that I now think are more interesting.

I enjoyed the first episode that featured "pub rock". There was a clip of Dr Feel Good. For some reason I though that Dr Feel Good was a black soul band for a time, but I heard a track by them in the past and I thought it was fantastic. I liked their stage presence even more. Although it is a little bit bluesy for my taste.

Beer wins out over aspirin

The weather is very unsettled at the moment. I went shopping yesterday. I was still feeling a little woozy from my bad bout of flu. I was just walking to the supermarket, when a big rain shower started. I was passing a chemist. In my pocket there was about 6 Euros in coins. I saw some aspirin in the window for about 4 Euros, but then it was raining. I decided it was better for my health to sit in a bar and wait for the rain to stop. I drank two small beers, but I didn't get any aspirin. I take my health seriously. What would happen if I got soaked? Another week in bed.

Friday, June 08, 2012

On the 7th Doctor

I like to listen to the plays on the BBC Iplayer. Last week they had a collection of Dr Who episodes with the 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoy.  I don't remember McCoy at all. I was at University in London, when he was on TV from 1987 to 1989. Also I am of the generation that the best Dr Who was played by Tom Baker, so everything went downhill after that.  Somehow then Dr Who was not the essential viewing that it is now. I am clearly not maturing as i get older.

However, I really enjoyed the radio series. I just liked his voice, which is very gravelly. The person introducing the show said that McCoy was the best Doctor Who for him.

So I downloaded from Itunes an episode called Ghost Light  This was a very confusing, but really great, set of episodes. There was a mad man, aliens spaceships, plots to kill Queen Victoria, and just lots of weird stuff. The show also features an adult saying "wicked" in a believable way.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

On being cool without getting arrested at the US border

Once I knew how to check the background on my PC, I changed it to the picture below.
I thought I was so cool, until a customs officer in the US asked me to turn on my laptop, after he he swabbed it. Luckily he didn't really look at it hard, otherwise I might have to do a lot of explaining.

I  was just thinking it would be cool to read this book on my kindle, however I could believe that the US border control would check a kindle.


While my brain is rotted with flu there is not much I can do but watch films. Last night I watched The Revenant, a really great zombie movie. A soldier gets killed in Iraq. He is buried in the US, but comes back as a Zombie. To keep his shit together he needs blood, but he has a conscience. Luckily his stoner friend is there to help him. It made me laugh anyway.

I felt sorry for the zombies in this film. There didn't seem to be a way for zombies to get their arm back if they lost it.

Of course the funnist line I have ever heard in a zombie movie was "if you really loved me you would let me eat your brains". Perhaps it was this one.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

PGP, email and Lovecraft.

When your mind is full of flu, it is difficult to think of things to do.

So part of my day I finally worked out how to digitally sign an email, so now I have a
pgp public key. I am not completely sure that I need this, but a lot of the cool hackers (or want to be hackers) have one. There is a brief introduction here. Well I can now send encrypted email, I think that I can.

I also spent part of the afternoon reading an essay by HP Lovecraft on weird and horror literature. He clearly likes a story with a lot of atmosphere, but with little physical explanation. I was amused to see him complain about the moralistic elements of the Frankenstein novel.

Illness and German day time TV

I am sitting at home trying to burn out a cold/flu that I picked up in England. My brain is full of some sewage, so there is not much can do, apart from scrawl a few blog postings of course.
(I hope the illness is real and not just hay fever and a hangover).

I do watch a bit of day time German TV shows. Most of the programs seem to be about families arguing with each other. Typically the parent comes into a bedroom where the son and daughter are watching TV. The parents shouts at them and turns the TV off, with more shouting.  Is this the way they think they can drag my body back to work.

Oh, I should say that the Tele5 channel shows some good stuff in the afternoon.

My friend Thongor

In many bookshops there is a section for science fiction and fantasy. That is like putting gasoline and fire together. Us hard science fiction types look down on those people who like fantasy books. As soon as you start reading fantasy, very shortly you are playing dungeons and dragons, and speaking elfish.

Tolkien has a lot to answer for!

Having said while I was thinking about Conan, I remember when I was younger reading stories about Lemuria In fact the main time that I was reading these stories was when my cousin's father had died in a car accident. We were staying in New Market, while the funeral was sorted out. After some searching on Amazon I found that the books dealt with a character called Thongor. All the books on Thongor seem to be out of date. In fact there are many books on Lemuria at Amazon but they all seem to be more to do with New Age type hippy madness.

As wikipedia notes a lot of the Thongor stories are derivative, so perhaps I don't need to revisit them.

Solomon Kane

I am in a Lovecraft kind of mood. However, I thought I would read some of the people in his scene. One of which was  Robert E. Howard. Howard was a pulp writer who is most famous for the Conan stories.

The short book I downloaded was: Solomon Kane and Other Works. I had never heard of the Solomon Kane character, but the three stories in the book were great. Solomon Kane was a puritan vigilante. Although the stories were essentially all about fighting, I thought they were very well written. That might be more a reflection of the level of writing in the cheap fiction in the kindle store. I see that there is a film based on the exploits of Solomon Kane.

Monday, June 04, 2012

On Royality

Because I was ill today I downloaded some short books, one of which was "The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain's Favourite Fetish" by the late Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens destroys all the standard arguments for the Monarchy. The issue of political neutrality of the Royal family will be ab issue when Prince Charles becomes King, given his views on alternative medicine.

Hitchens mentioned a really vicious obituary of the George IV King. As he notes we will never see an obituary like that..

I know it is the Queen's Jubilee celebrations this weekend and a lot of people are having fun. During the last celebration of the Royal rule 10 years ago, I was at a  school in Russia. I was sitting in a hotel room watching the crowds wave flags in London. I kept thinking why were they supporting this old fashion institution. And then concorde and the red arrows flew over London. I got up and said "God bless the queen."

At the end of the book Hitchens asks whether you want to be a subject or a citizen?

On being ill

I picked up some kind of flu/cold when I was in England. I have been unable to do anything, but read (and make a new CV) for last 4 days. I intended to try to go to work today, but I didn't feel up to it. I thought I was getting better yesterday, but somehow I feel worse today.

I hate being ill.  I can't concentrate. Still I just need to wait and the illness will burn out and I will be able normal again. I was hoping that I would be fresh after my short holiday, but I could not even face going to work this morning.

I stare at my small collection of dumbbells but my body has no energy to lift them. I feel strength bleeding out of my body. I even have a new book to learn better technique.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Retraining to be English

So one of things I wanted to do on my holiday in the sunny South of England, was to recalibrate my English identity. When you live abroad for a while, many things change and if you don't keep up with the slang and jargon you become an outsider. So below are some areas where I need to work on more, so that I fit in.

I was in a small Tesco Express in Bristol. There were no people at the tills, but everyone was using the automatic tills. I have never used automatic tills before. All I wanted was 80 tea bags. After 5 minutes I got the machine to scan the tea bags, but there was no coin slot, so I had to use the  cashier who had suddenly appeared. I need to practice more with automatic tills.

One of my complaints about German food is that it is not spicy enough. The very few times that I have been in an Indian restaurant in Germany I have tried the Vindaloo curry, but it has never been too
spicy. When I was staying in Notting Hill Gate in London I spent a long time looking for an Indian Restaurant. There has clearly been too much immigration, if I can't get the national food of Britain, a curry. I did find an empty curry house close to my hotel. But even then the Vindaloo curry in London was not very spicy. Perhaps I have destroyed my taste buds with too many chillies.

The Holy Machine

I have just read "The Holy MachineChris Beckett. This was a great book! There is city based on scientific principles, which is surrounded by religious fundamentalists. They try to replace workers with robots.  To make the robots easier to live with, they allow them to learn a little bit, but sometimes the robots try to escape. There is virtual reality and a woman addicted to the safety of the virtual worlds. The hero escapes the city with his robot prostitute and goes on the run between the fanatics of the various churches and sects.

Everyone is scared and looking for meaning.

 The Return Of The Sorcerer

I have just read The Return Of The Sorcerer: by Clark Ashton Smith Smith was in the same writing scene as HP Lovecraft. All the stories were some mixture of horror or fantasy. There were many wizards and parallel Universes.

One story even involved a little bit of necrophilia, but only as part of story about two necromancers.

199 items on my kindle

So I have 199 items on my kindle. It is a big decision as to what to buy for the 200 book? Unfortunately I have already got "Man's search for meaning" by Viktor E Frank. On reflection I have some items on the kindle cloud, so I am already over the 200 books level.

I want a life changing book. OK, sod it I just got:

Post English breakfast weight

So these recollections of my short trip to the South of England are slowly getting squeezed from my brain. But I am back in Wuppertal. Needless to say, I managed to get sick when I got back. I am not used to the English germs.

I have been dreading looking at the scales. Because I was staying mostly in guest houses I had to eat a full English breakfast almost every day. In some of the more posher places around Notting Hill Gate, I couldn't find a place that sold bacon rolls, so I had to make do with some very expensive cheese roll.

Anyway even after eating lots of sausage and bacon I am still at 88 kg. I now need to focus on getting down to 85 kg.

Lunch in Bristol.

Breakfast in Bristol.

Breakfast in Bournemouth

Friday, June 01, 2012

Iron sky

There is a rule of thumb  that every argument by English undergraduates about politics ends up with one person calling the opposing side a Nazi of some kind. Now that I am living in Germany I try to be careful, but it is a strain to remember that talking about those Nazi Tories may not be understood in Germany

I downloaded from Itunes "Iron Sky" The basic idea was that there was a secret Nazi base on the moon, which was set up at the end of the second world war. The base is accidentally found by American astronauts, and obviously the Nazis want to invade the earth again. The film is funny and a light satire. There is Sara Palin like person who is president. Now that Palin has imploded there is less possibility of her being president,  this may not be still as relevant as 2 years ago (it is still funny though)

I love Linda Wallander

Taking a break from my notes of my holiday in the South of England, because I want to talk about TV. On Wednesday evening around 11:00 there is a crime TV program on WDR station in this part of Germany. I really like the Tatort program, but perhaps I will post about that at a different time.

However, sometimes they show an episode from Wallander -- usually from the series made in Sweden. I like this show, but fuck there is too much countryside and Forests. This criminal drama is well acted, but all that grass freaks me out. I was watching the daughter of Wallander. She started out looking  sensible and wholesome, but as the series has progressed she is starting to looking messed up.

I remember a documentary, where they said that the actress who played Linda Wallander committed suicide. Now that I check the web, I see that she did kill her self. It is so sad, she was so beautiful.

State Capitalism

As a child of Thatcher I know I need no philosophy or morality. All I need is to set up  a free market and that will decide on the optimal course of action. The Labour party used to believe in things such as nationalization, however for many years

I downloaded a short book called "State Capitalism" that is part of the Penguin short collection. This was an interesting book. A lot of the countries that have economic growth, such as China and Singapore actually have many industries owned by the state. Although the author claimed that things could be better organized in the private sector, but the grow achieved by state capitalism is still impressive. The countries in the developing world have already seen the effect of austerity. For example Russia tried extreme free market reform when communism ended. The results was an economic disaster. Somehow politicians in the developing world have learned from these experiences, bot our western politicians are still pushing the free market ideology, as Europe and the US slowly sink.

Fu-Manchu my hero

I was looking at a review of the best Dr Who episodes. One called THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG was inspired by the Fu-Manchu character. I had sort of heard of Fu-Manchu and
I had recently watched a Fu-Manchu film in German

So I downloaded "The Insidious Dr Fu-Manchu" by Sax Rohner
The book was very exciting. With the two British characters rushing around, smoking pipes and being very proper. Fu-Manchu was a master criminal, who wants to destroy the UK.

Of course it was  racist as fuck with The "yellow peril" and all that. Nowadays we worry about China
because of its functioning and growing economy. As a Sherlock Holmes fan I know that if I need opium then I go to China town. However now that I know a little more history I find that England sold the opium to the Chinese and even went to war when the Emperor objected to the Brits getting rich by creating Chinese junkies.

The trailer for the film is below.

because of their economy