Monday, April 30, 2007

To Be Precise, One Has No Frets

Daughter was much taken with the Dalek on a stick which was used by the Doctor Who Crew to provide an eye-line for the cast when filming some special-effects shots. She is allowed to stay up late for Doctor Who Confidential which my wife says means that she is less scared of the monsters – it is difficult to be frightened of a Cyberman when you have seen it ask to be excused like Private Godfrey. I was especially amused by the two conspiratorial Daleks discussing whether they no longer trusted Dalek Sec. One of them looked around furtively to see if he was overheard before replying to his brother. And “First floor – perfumery” – how camp is that?

I have lost my copy of
Godel, Escher Bach. I am sure it used to be in the bedroom and I have been wanting to read bits of it again recently. I cannot think where it has gone. I want to get the new edition but one of the Amazon reviews complains about the quality of the paper and the old hardback edition is £30. Maybe it had a fight with one of Rudy Rucker’s books and they fell into a wormhole between this set of dimensions and another. You may enjoy

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Project

Her profile is almost perfect – she is sitting to the side of me, eating a sandwich from a plastic box, gently and unobtrusively sweeping up loose crumbs and consuming them much in the same way the vicar finishes off the bread after communion. While she does this, she is reading the ingredients list from the box, a long list which must contain so much that is bad for her, though it does not seem to have affected her yet. This gentle meal seems so perfect here among the fumes and noise of a British City centre and yet the thought of how anonymous this woman is to me brings on a wave of depression. I cannot know anything more than an infinitesimal fraction of what happens in the world or of all the people who exist and all of the rest is beyond my control. On the other side of me, an older woman, over-made-up, is causing me more annoyance simply by being there. Her perfume is strong and unsubtle, like waves of some chemical WMD which masks its destructiveness by trying to fake “niceness”. And what do they both think of me? They think nothing because most of us just do not see anything either side of us. We think in groups of two or three and leave anything else for the mathematicians because they like fives and complicated numbers with decimal points. The beautiful woman finishes her sandwich and I wonder which perfect number describes her. She is the sum of her factors, a balance of eyes and mouth that makes her face just right while the complicated formula of the ersatz perfume on my other side is defined in some patent from hell.

My mind is empty of anything outside of what I cannot see. I live in a world that expands as I get higher above it so when I sleep even I cease to exist. My own proprioception may well tell me where bits of me are relative to my head but when I sleep even this sense goes and I do not exist. Sometimes I wonder if some form of illness could steal away the bits of my mind that make me who I am just when I sleep so that waking up I am blank again, having only the memories of the day I inhabit. Is it worrying that this possibility of the effective end of my existence seems comforting? Who would vote for immortality? Who would want to live forever? That young woman might while she still can enjoy herself without worrying about fatigue and the failure of her pretty skin but I could not. I want a standard span and sometimes think in my irrational moments that I know when that will end. But that can never be. I can give you results without even being switched on, like a quantum computer. I can tell you the future while asleep, in that delicious, black zone of no space and no time, only divided up by random and intense dreams about people I thought I had forgotten about forever.

Like a TV screen looks black until compared with something white, this place seems to be silent, despite the traffic and the continuous background hum. No one in this little area speaks to anyone else; they keep eyes on nothing, the far distance or on papers or the ingredients of sandwich packs. I am lost to all of them, so obviously not connected in any dimension. We are all separate consciousnesses, never trapped or linked but broken from each other the moment our gametes are created by mitosis or whatever special process gametes use to create themselves. Understand the world and understand other people and you have the world before you. Sometimes I feel like a machine, wishing to know my exact response to every stimulus and erroring out whenever something new causes the following on an unknown path. It is all chemicals in the brain, little molecules manufactured by the body from mundane things like sandwiches that keep those neurons and synapses firing happily and keeping us happy too. If it is all so chemical, then why to good things makes us happy and bad things make us sad? The body is too complex to leave us with an answer to that. Some day we will understand how those little gaps between brain cells link into creating our minds and consciousness but for now we have only theory of mind and psychology. Thinking about it makes me happy; I have stepped out of the melancholia that sometimes covers everything and by analysing it have made it fade into the general grey that marks all the background to here. That perfect profile is a single positive in my day, a beautiful thing made from nothing, made for no more reason than to cheer me up in this haze of fumes and commerce.

Everything in boxes, kept out of sight with lids; that’s the way to live. Open only one box at a time; read only one book at a time and do not be distracted by the pretty labels of others. They all scream for attention, sometimes through claiming to be positively good and sometimes by demanding a response in order to avoid some terrible disaster. I know that the good and the disastrous happen anyway. We cannot avoid them other than in most basic ways and yet I live a super-cautious life, not doing things that are dangerous at all. Maybe that is what happens in super-depression, the desire to avoid doing anything that might remotely lead to a negative outcome leaves you under the duvet for ever. I’ve never been that bad but I can see why it happens. And then the duality of not wanting to move and not being able to sleep bites at me with vigour. While I am awake I can still at least think that the rest of the world exists even if I cannot see it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

This is all just Logical Positvism - or is it really Moral Relativism?

My wife says that Mr Pooter in BBC4’s adaptation of
The Diary of a Nobody is a cross between me and my father. Nice to know. Secretly I have always suspected that I was like him and to be honest his uncomplicated lifestyle is quite appealing but then again there is nothing outside the text. I am afraid that I wish I could live my life with “nothing outside the text” and indeed compartmentalising is the only way I can get on with things at the moment. I am taking things as they come.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Much Ado About Nothing

As I have mentioned before I love the way that Sefton Library service allow you to reserve books from any of their branches using the web. For some time now I have been looking at a book called
“Critical Mass” by Philip Ball and yesterday I finally reserved it. They have to go and get it from Ashworth Hospital library so I am looking forward to some interesting annotations. Actually, that is a joke because they have another copy at a nearer branch. I was going to reserve Iain Banks’ new book The Steep Approach To Garbadale but I actually found it in the local library, it having only been booked out once. The Amazon reviews do use the word “Pants” but I still have a 100% record with Mr Banks’ non-sci-fi books so I will probably finish it. These reviews have also revealed that he likes to alternate “nice” and “nasty” books. Not that I had noticed.

I am into poetry a lot at the moment though I haven’t managed to write any of mine own for ages. I am taking
“Staying Alive” with me on the bus because I can’t manage to read longer texts with all the stop-start. The poems seem to alternate between the trendy prose stuff that Stephen Fry rants about and proper, rhythmic things. Now while the former can have spirit and deep meaning, the latter ones always seem to be superior even if they are written about an egg-mayonnaise sandwich.
The title for today is because that very play is on in Liverpool, set in the forties so I look forward to the watch being based on the Warmington-on-Sea platoon of the Home Guard as they were in the
Illyria version we saw in the grounds of Speke Hall. Not sure current commitments will allow us to go but it’s nice to dream.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Why All Things Are Connected

Listening to Music in Twelve Parts – All of them.

As part of a bit of experimenting with Neural Nets I have read about how Neurons transmit their signals between each other. One of the major chemicals involved in this is Serotonin which is manufactured in the body from Tryptophan. This is found in all sorts of things that I gave up after seeing my fat face in the company phone directory. I stopped taking change into work to avoid buying chocolate from the machines. Low serotonin levels are responsible for low moods – antidepressants work by stopping the re-absorption of serotonin rather than by increasing its production. I suppose I should increase my levels of exercise if I want to start eating loads of chocolate and peanuts again. Strangely I got a sudden and overwhelming desire for a bag of dry-roasted yesterday but I couldn’t find any in any of the shops outside the station so I made do with Word magazine instead, which may or may not have any affect on serotonin levels.

My move to this new site let me avoid the fatal crash which blocked the M6 for 8 hours yesterday. It took place at junction 27 at 06:50 which is about the time I normally pass it. Now the butterfly effect or some element of our quantum universe might well have meant that had I been on the motorway, the crash would not have happened at all so I cannot tell whether my life has been saved or that the accident was my fault entirely but as Julie Birchill seems to say in Word this month, what is the point of worrying about things like this. Things may be connected and you can analyse what happens and what the cause and effect is right down to the day of judgement or the big crunch or even to the infinity of existence that might somehow be created in the finite and infinitesimal seconds before the complete destruction of the universe. None of this will make the tiniest bit of difference to what you experience. Be as cautious as you like but you will be bored for ever so drink that fully-caffeinated attempt at coffee that the machines produce – sink as many
bacon butties as you like – your allotted time will be the same. That damn butterfly somewhere in Ecuador probably will flap his wings and that will be all it takes to send your serotonin levels plummeting. Rant away.

The baby wrote the following paragraph while I was away from the keyboard.



Already using more ‘I’s than Michael Winner and more '9's than Ian Paisley on a trip to Germany.

Och A vey

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pitch Perfect I Think

My journey to work is by public transport at the moment and I thought you might like to know that my recent return of calmness was somewhat assaulted by the loud argument between some aged lout and the bus driver. I’m not sure what the problem was but the idiot ended up challenging the driver to a fight. Luckily potential pugilism was avoided, largely by the driver ignoring the man, though he still let him on board. I suppose this could only be expected being that the stop was just outside a shop called “Not Drunk Enough?”. This is on what must be one of the main routes into Liverpool and therefore probably the first thoroughfare that many people will see when they visit us for The Capital Of Culture events next year. You may remember I defended Liverpool against the detractors when it was announced that it had won COC but the headlong rush into architectural vandalism that has resulted has made me think again. The main roads into the city are still lined with defunct shops and boarded-up houses and the numbers seem to have increased since the first trip I made here in 1982 when the after-affects of the Toxteth riots were still evident.

Anyway, the point of this post was not to abuse the city but to indicate the return of my depression though I seem to be simply unhappy at the moment and I am much happier being just unhappy. No letters please. Well the sun is shining and I’m not involved in the crash that occurred on the route I used to travel to work at about the time I would have been there so if I just have to wince at some bad language, I suppose I’m not too bothered.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Some Books I Forgot.

Something about Life On Mars in this so don’t read if you are relying on Tapes, Discs or Sky+ etc.

I have been reading a lot recently. Best of the lot was
Pies and Prejudice by that nice Stuart Maconie which is very much like Miranda Sawyer’s Park and Ride except that Maconie’s book focuses on the North – actually a narrow band between Hadrian’s wall and some of the Northern bits of Cheshire – not a problem for me really because he could write 300 pages about an alley behind the market and it would still be interesting and pithy and socially responsible – a good man. This has reminded me to look at when the third instalment of Andrew Collins Autobiography is out. The answer is the 3rd of May and it is available for Pre-Order here. This is of course much more anticipated than Harry Potter 7. I read somewhere that this book was no good and that the publishers had been discussing rewrites by other authors but this may have been in a Sunday paper from April 1st. With this in my head and the mention of The Doctor having read HP7 already in last week’s Doctor Who (Brilliant by the way) I dreamt that I had a copy and that it was short with large text and lots of pictures meaning that it could be read in less than an hour. Not sure what it means but it was not the disappointment I might have expected. I have been encouraged to try Cloud Atlas again and this seems a much more worthy book than HP7 which is of course just something that has to be got out of the way so that you know the ending before someone spoils it.

Talking of which, Life on Mars finished in the only way possible. The sense of anti-climax after the expected resolution almost shouted out the ultimate ending and still lets all the message-boarders discuss the real meaning without ever reaching a definite conclusion. Satisfying in the extreme.

I have also bean Reading Swallows and Amazons to my daughter who loved it. I have all the books but the ones I bought myself seem to be cheap and nasty and have begun to fall apart so I have started buying the
wonderful hard-back versions to replace them. Swallowdale has just arrived and now the only question will be who gets to keep them when my daughter leaves home. Luvverly.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I am in a shiny, new building, looking out over trees and ponds rather than the brown-fields of a recently-demolished ordnance factory as before. Of course this is all you are going to get by way of identification other than the fact that my drive is less than half what it was, which has gone a long way to helping my sanity. In my line of work, it is completely possible to do everything from home and I do so envy all those computer consultants who have broadband installed in some croft on the Outer Hebrides and save the world remotely. However, as John Cleese told me all those years ago when I started work, the meeting is still an important part of business and this means that travel is always a necessity. I’m thinking of having the garage converted to be a technology hub which will mean I can stay at home for the rest of my life but that may well be an unachievable dream. We see all those nice shiny office suites in the Sunday Supps but the reality of home life is one of clutter unless you have managed to convince the kids to be totally silent by pretending to be some sort of B-Movie monster if they so much as squeak.

There is a column in the “Family” section of the Saturday Guardian, which I think is called Living with teenagers. These particular 13-19-year olds seem to have a troopers vocabulary which is making me fear for the future somewhat though I suppose a few swear words should come way down the list of things to worry about when it comes to offspring. However, I don’t think I would be putting up with it. Maybe it is just the standard lax and liberal nature of whichever Guardianista writes it.

All of this is to prove correct, the colleagues of mine who assert that I am less depressed when I am ranting. Trying to be calm and not shout about the problems I see around me, leaves me internalising everything which is of course no good at all. I should go the gym I suppose or at least swimming which might help me become as physically tired as I am mentally. Much problem sleeping recently and that has become the only worry - a circle of the highest possible order of viciousness there. I am also trying not to read anything particularly exciting or nasty though I seem to have failed there by managing to finish Dead Air by Iain Banks which was a lot better than his previous book – The Business. Bloom County seems to be my limit at the moment, though the politics is very dated.