i use windows a lot of the day (and hate it), a mac at home in the kitchen (and hate it), but my OS of choice is Ubuntu. I’ve said before how much i like it, so i’m not going there now. Yesterday I updated to hardy heron. i lost flash immediately but, after 30 minutes or so of googling got it back. today i find that amarok doesn’t work, i can’t stream radio and other more minor things. i haven’t tested skype yet but would put money on it not working. i know i can fix them all after several hours of dicking about, but fuck!
April 28, 2008
I walk through the Barbican most days. To begin with I disliked it. But after a while it began to grow on me. Eventually I learned to love it. The Barbican estate was built on an area of central London that was heavily bombed during the war. It was called the Barbican because of its close proximity to London Wall, a barbican being an outpost or gateway.
Built in the 1960s in the brutalist style, bare concrete everywhere, many Londoners despise it. But over the years it has softened. There is greenery everywhere, running water, wildlife even. Last week I saw a heron happily fishing whilst being overlooked by 2000 apartments.
The flats aren’t cheap, running to $1m or more a pop. But you do get several cinemas, concert halls, cafes and restaurants, all within 5 minutes walk of St Pauls. I eat there in one of the cheaper cafes 2 or 3 times a week, in Searcy’s restaurant when I entertain on business, catch the odd movie or concert. I’m looking forward to seeing Laurie Anderson there next week. In many ways it’s an ideal central London location. If I wanted to live in an apartment, that’s where I’d be looking.
April 21, 2008
today zoe asked me if i’d go on the smokehouse.
this is a bbc tv show featuring kids forcing their parents to give up smoking. as far as i understand it the kids get to impose whatever regime on their parents that they feel might work. step one, of course, is to take away the fags. they also get to find out in what horrible ways mummy or daddy might die. even better, parents with nothing in common except smoking have to live in one house.
some of the parent s give emergency supplies to the kids to look after, but the bbc overseers don’t like this. they force the kids to destroy them, sweep the house for fags. kids that don’t want to disobey their parents are forced to do so, almost to the point of tears.
lovely isn’t it?
it used to be hard to be real. i’m talking, of course, about the media. it’s got a lot easier and the more real, the more genuine, the more popular it is.
moving representations of the real world, as far as we know, began in the rituals of ancient greece. the performances were open to initiates only and were participatory. the revelers in the orchestra were a part of the proceedings. in the years since, the revelers moved back into the theatre (audience) and watched the professionals. and the best professionals made us believe that what was happening on the stage was real, or at least we were willing to suspend disbelief. radio and television helped this naturalisation. on a good day, with good writing and good acting, we could almost be hoodwinked. we wanted shows about everyday life, soap-operas, in particular. in any case it was all that was available. old technology couldn’t deliver what people really craved.
a glance at the rating nowadays shows that the top spots are occupied by “reality” shows. these are scenario-led programs involving real people. shows like “the apprentice”, “wife swap”, “location, location”, “big brother”, “survival”, “dragons den”, “i’d do anything”. this is not a time for writers, but a time for provocateurs. innovations like youtube have democratised this process. people still want heightened reality, but they want genuineness, too. why? because it’s useful. it’s scenario-testing, error-correction.
April 19, 2008
more food gloom, including people in Haiti buying sugar-flavoured mud to eat. and you’ve got to love the news reports stating that this might mean political trouble, starving people not being enough impetus for your average westerner. as bob marley said, a hungry man is a angry man. and yes, in other news (again), i ate at a rather nice michelin-starred restaurant in berlin this week (the quail consumme was rather good).
i was thinking about this the other day and considering something i’d read in a farewell to alms. i’m going to get this all wrong, but in this book clark says that, actually, an oligargical leadership (like a monarch) that wastes resources on ridiculous things is actually much better than some egalitarian regime spreading wealth. in the latter scenario population rises in line with resources and the standard of living never increases. in the former, the economy generates greater resources than it requires to sustain its population and, stastistics show, standards of living are higher.
i had a conversation the other day about someone spending 5m building a house. apparently it’s going to be really nice.
April 18, 2008
I had the misfortune to travel, this week, via the new Heathrow Terminal 5. I assumed i would be ok since the problems i had heard about seemed to relate to baggage handling, and i had carry-on luggage only. i was wrong. T5 supposedly cost 4.3 billion sterling. it is extraordinary that such an investment could have resulted in such a disorganised mess. I’m willing to be charitable about teething problems with baggage systems, staff unfamiliarity with systems etc, but what is inexcusable is the flawed design.
i have never had to walk so far within one building. at one point i was staring at the departure board 30 minutes before my departure time, which told me to wait in lounge. the next minute i’m told to go to gate B something. signage is awful, but eventually i discover the direction to walk in. i get to a sign which says, please allow 15 minutes to reach B gates. I then have to get a transit. sure enough i arrive at the B gates 15 minutes after being told to go there, only to find another sign saying to allow 10 minutes to walk to my actual gate, B6 or whatever. so that’s 25 minutes journey time, 30 minutes prior to departure. and the gate, or course, closes 10 minutes prior. luckily (inevitably) the flight is delayed.
on the return journey it takes an age to get through passport control. several hundred people mill about unsure of where to go. there are dozens of staff ushering people around, one line of desks checking passports and a separate queue for the new-fangled iris-scanner. in the (plenty of) time i had, i timed people going through the iris scanner, and those going through the human passport control. the averages were 15 seconds and 3 seconds respectively. so the only reason to choose the iris route is because fewer people do so.
but what is infuriating are the small details. there are signs saying things like “the quickest route to departures is via the lifts”. so you go to the lifts, which have doors on both sides, only to find that only the doors on the other side open. once you get in, there are three raised buttons for the respective floors. only when you go to press one you discover that they aren’t buttons at all, just indicators. i stood there watching person after person pressing them and tutting.
frankly, it’s a £4.3 billion disaster. i would never travel out of there again unless i absolutely couldn’t help it. it’s only redeeming factor is that it looks quite nice at night.
April 15, 2008
this graph tells it’s own story. a statistic i heard the other day is that US investment banks are currently borrowing from the federal reserve around $35bn each and every day.
April 11, 2008
In the corner of the Science Museum in London is a plastic case containing the realisation of Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine. To get to this corner you have to make your way through bright shiny interactive things designed to grab your attention. It is not surprising, then, that this corner is a pretty lonely place to be. You would have to be pretty clued-up in order to understand what you were even looking at. There is no fanfare. no indication as to the importance of what you are looking at. I always thought that, if this were an American invention, and in an American museum, then it would be on a dias nine feet high surrounded by strobe lighting, or somesuch. But not here.
I was interested to read, therefore, that another difference engine has been built. This time for a microsoft multi-millionaire who plans to display it in his front room. I’m sure Babbage would have approved. Babbage used to invite the great and the good to his house to see his latest inventions and collection of mechanical toys.
There is no mention, in the link above, of whether it works well. The version in the Science Museum does not. The small note that accompanies it states that it is almost impossible to crank by hand. It reads as though it were a flaw in the original design. However, it does not mention the possibility that it is a flaw with the build. It would be interesting to know how the new one cranks.
April 10, 2008
it’s april madness once again. i drove to a few places close to home today. it took me 45 minutes to do one 5 minute journey, then something similar on the next trip. why? because of the government funding system. it’s plain nuts. the government used to operate a “vote” accounting system. basically, an amount was “voted” to a department, council, project etc. this is cash accounting. you spend the cash by the deadline or next year you lose it. the government financial year runs to 5th April and you have a small carry-over period. so in march and april you get councils digging up roads everywhere just to get rid of the money.
i’m not sure what has happened. vote accounting was supposedly phased out and accruals accounting introduced a few years ago. however, at this time of year everything goes nuts. there are plastic bollards and closed roads everywhere. it may just be that spring heralds roadworks, and that this merely correlated with the financial system. but i’d be interested to find out just how these allocations work now. perhaps april roadworks is a habit not easily broken.
April 6, 2008
two days ago it was 18 degrees C in London and people were walking around in t-shirts. Today it is snowing.