Friday, November 27, 2009

Five Miles Out

Surveying the outlying woodland, Jason Q. felt secure, like feeling secure under blankets on a dark night, quite happy that he was safe but intellectually aware that should anyone desperately want to try and get through to the house, this mass of tall, elegant trees would do nothing to stop them. This feeling perhaps confirmed his general ease with life, the fact of his distance from the really troubling bits of the world, the insulation of rural communal spirit. Nothing of the nightly news ever got through here and, he thought, none of this utopia had been created by anyone with a bunker, a regiment's-worth of armament and enough tinned food to last until the "invaders left after we give them a good kicking." In his head Jay heard his neighbour's voice saying this, the rabid rantings of a man angry with himself yet blaming it all on others. Confronted with an angry red-clad soldier rampaging through the lower field, Mr. Blether would run a mile rather than put a bullet in him. Humans of every political colour are different from critters; you can't wipe out people like you do with the critters. Mr. Blether was a pussycat.

Jay could see Mr. Blether at his vegetable patch, operating more slowly than he remembered him doing all those years ago when they first met, but still with the same strange jerky movements that the other locals put down to shell-shock. Jay could not imagine Mr. Blether in the army, at least not in any fighting part of it; the old man's armoury was his voice, still loud and strong, though the meaning now, was lost, just random ranting and proof of the nationalism long-ago forgotten by most of the people round here. Mr Blether was like a ghost, visible to some, heard by all and tolerated by most. It was strange that despite the remoteness of the area, the politics leaned towards the centre so Mr Blether called almost everyone "liberal" by way of insult and was not wrong.

The day was dreamy, early still but building up to a heavy mass of air pressing down on everyone. The children in the school would not concentrate and the teacher would get angry but find no energy for discipline and so again lessons would decamp outside, and less and less would be taught and less and less would be learned until the school day fizzled out in a less-than-enthusiastic reading from a favourite book, the children lying back, hands over their eyes against the sun, somewhere between sleep and dreaming, with the buzzy voice of the teacher skimming their brains. Jay remembered these days and wished he was back there.

A plane flew high above them, silent at this distance, half-way to space possibly, its trail only just visible against the hazy-blue sky, competing with the lazy paths of insects dodging the swallows below. So many layers of flight, the bees in the flowers below his head, the various unidentified etymology just out of reach, the swallows, the gulls further up and then the random sketches made by the airliners five miles out. A crescent moon was just visible, completing the logarithmic scale of things, a graph getting ever steeper as we travel to the stars. All of this was just there; it had no meaning, none of it would matter in a few minutes when he went inside for juice and cookies. All around the trees protected this little group of houses, the sky was the window to everything outside, and everything outside was just what could be seen, a happy sky of blue and aircraft, of birds and insects, floating silently. The cold war ended.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Here be Data Dragons!

Big article in the Guardian about the Dark Matter that apparently constitutes the majority of data on the Internet. It all made me think how close we are to this strange world as we type - all people at any machine - just a few clicks away from shady and dangerous things so out of the comfort zone of our normal experience. I couldn't help feeling that it was all a bit of conspiracy theory though of course in certain countries being anonymous is not just convenient; it is absolutely necessary to avoid being arrested/tortured/executed for having views differing from the Government in ways far less than mine differ from this Government. The question is if this allows anonymity for dissidents then it also allows it for everyone else, good or bad. Of course this simply reflects the make-up of the real world - debating the constitution of a user-group on the Internet, trying to decide what restrictions to place on them is exactly analogous to the whole population of the world - the question is one of Government. What system of Government is right for the whole world? You cannot decide until culture is homogenised, until we all look roughly the same, until our values merge. Bearing in mind that even if we could work out some sort of psychological/sociological equation to reconcile the views of just two people, I am sure that extending that to three would be impossible, like The Three Body Problem. Imagine trying to reach a compromise that involves 7 billion people.

Oh dear. I like to think of myself as an internationalist (maybe with a small i) but this suggests I'm all for nationalistic boundaries. Maybe I should emphasise Small is Beautiful. We had this book - I still see it in the bookcase when I visit. I can't say I read it but i did look at the pictures. I did read Papanek which I hope absolves me of any responsibility for the unstructured opinions in the first paragraph.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

/ˈlɪnʌks/ (/ˈlɪnʊks/) /ˈsəks/

Book Log - The Rachel papers - popped 22/11/2009
An Impartial History of Britain by John O'Farrell - pushed 22/11/2009

Dear oh dear - more pushing but then again same amount of popping which makes it all square. The Rachel Papers was excellently written, heavily fruity and ultimately pointless other than for the delight in language that it contained. So in best vicar-speak - life's a bit like that isn't it. I suppose you could describe the book as the work of a literary courtesan - all teasing but departing before the logical conclusion. However, the idea that it is autobiographical just makes you realise that any books which follow are just more windows on a life which will one day end without complete fulfillment. And on that dreary thought we move on to a funny history book which still gets its fact right - a sort of Horrible History for grown-ups. While we're here, a link to JoF's website.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Cloudy Panorama

This starts with the word random - really random things start this and we are off into the far-off kingdoms, the lands and times that times and lands forgot, Jurassic plains, flowerless plants to the horizon, and broken time lines from before life existed, showing us glimpses of how we came to be like light through a fence around a construction site we speed by on the motorway. This is the time of Americanisms used for the sake of it, to sound cool, for no outlay, just to be with girls we like back in the days when girls we liked liked us back - sometimes.

Now it's all trying to keep the anxieties back, Canute-like on the edge of the ocean of worry, pouring in from the exotic, the distant, colourful, hot lands we imagine must exist but for which we have no proof because we have never been there. Maybe some of us have, recalling dreamlike walks through screaming heat, the sweat trailing down to earth inside our clothes, making us seem simultaneously dirty and cool, dirty, pretty and young in the worlds we inhabited then. And they might as well be different universes, for there is no method of crossing to them these days. We are stuck here in the present, without the technology or the imagination to return to those days. The memories are just a cloudy panorama, a vista seen through the self-cleaning glass on stainless concrete buildings, places of no soul, of no raised voices and no oceans.

This is our lot, the sea of worry, the desire for routine in our obsessive corridors of chaos. We will have no closure of the stacks, popped and pushed outside the rules until there is no track of anything. And here is the struggle to get past the wish to finish, the cliche of the ending without ending, the giving up of everything. And I'll go off and listen to some loud music, some rock and roll made by someone just trying to be as cool as me but succeeding. I volunteer as the accused, the call to arms, to be the tester of new methods of trail in the green shade of the trees around the courtroom complex. Out on the lawn, the classes lie in rapture to their teachers, eyes not rolling but fixed and pointed at the beautiful faces of these clever men and women. And here in the depths of this prose I decide on the best way to say things, the subtle ways to make prose become poetry and in the collapse of the wave equations, everything that is not verse becomes just words with no hooks, a river of meaning and no-meaning without form and void.

Speak forever in verse, stream poetry into the air, out into the universe for ever. Post this and it travels to servers in far continents - maybe up to the geo-synchronous satellites and back down to sunny streets in California. But in this hop and hoopla, it leaks from the paths, the straight lines up and down, fizzing off and out of this locality - all the protons subject to Special and General Theories age not in their journey, time shrunk to nothing so that they retain meaning from big-bang to heat-death, throughout the steady state and the breathless tales of human history, tales that are no more than dots in the scale of all time.

All these stories of passion, the mundanity of obsession, streams of numbers, train serials, aircraft serials, bus serials, details of the strangest collections, the poems and letters of love and lust, the proclamations of desire, the descent into the darker avenues of half the Internet, all streaking away out in a 3d wave front that takes this information to anyone who might be looking for it. And this is no sentence but maybe it is poetry, and in this poetry lies hidden other meanings, random patterns so that in a pornographic picture beamed from soulless warehouses in yellowing concrete estates we find a profession of love, a random rearrangement of the empty wilderness of one life into the depth of being at one with another. We love everybody, dream of everything beautiful and everyone happy, a stream of smiling faces brought happy into this world and leaving it contented with what happens in between.

But in all this we know that time goes not one way but two, a continuous traffic in both directions, and though we know this we cannot sense it, like we know how to calculate in more than three dimensions, we cannot see any more than three. And so we end limited in a limitless world.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why Can't We Be Cheese and Onion Beetles?

It is nice to see that Mrs Trellis has got her own website though I have to say that so much ISIHAC humour in one place does place a strain on whichever part of the mind that Jonathan Miller identified as the centre of humour (and in the process analysed all laughs into oblivion).

I have to admit the following PUSH on the book stack.

Reading log - PUSHED The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis - Saturday 14th November - so Doctor Alice is having to wait though I am whistling through it and I am sure, missing some of the subtleties in amongst all that teenage lust and intellectualism. Will I be shouted at for saying that Charles Highway can be rather like Adrian Mole? Of course not! Adrian Mole is just like Charles Highway. Now of course the question is how autobiographical is The Rachel Papers? I think I managed to get through the whole of Experience (probably because of the obvious grief for his missing cousin - a victim of Fred West) and it seems that Charles Highway and Martin Amis are pretty much the same person at a particular point in time. Wiki pretty much confirms this but what do I know? I should be able to POP by the weekend at the current rate.

This reminds me that I might just be able to get a 90% accurate list of all the books I have not finished. Unfortunately I suspect that the bookmarks have been removed so I won't be able to go back and retrieve them which means a lack of closure but then again life is not that smooth corridor. I will die with the book stack ragged and unpopped, my lifetime list of coffee cups like Toilets' coffee spoons - measuring a stuttering regime of back-and-forth, no sense and no reason other than to be happy and to minimise the negatives.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ten feet of steel combination, made in Liverpool. Magnificent workmanship

(The small one - second from left - third if you include Uranus itself)

We are much taken with Miranda, the epitome of Radio Comedy made into a TV show. It reminds me both of seventies sitcoms and the peak of radio comedy from the mid 90s. Asides to camera, general play-acting from the whole cast as the credits role (only half of them - you cannot fully get past the BBC guidelines which allow the continuity announcer to break the mood by talking over the end-title music), and the tribute to Dad's Army with the "You Have Been Watching ...." caption. Our review is almost continuous giggles punctuated with roll-on-the-floor guffaws. Set-dressers have gone a bit mad but you can't have everything.

And introducing professional segue of the week in the form of Peter Davison, one of The Doctors along with David Tennant who surpassed himself on Satur...... - er ..... sorry ... Sunday, with The Waters of Mars, showing him Time-Lording over us with the realisation that he thinks he can play God. As with all Doctor Who specials, I start off thinking how naff it all is and then being smacked about the head with the energy and inventiveness of it all. Who exactly are the people who complain about the clunkiness of the scripts? It is after all a kid's show, though after Sunday, I'm not so sure. Punched the air at the Liverpool line. Damn you all!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pluto and Dido

Believe it or not, this is where I have mostly been this week. But more on that later.

Hoping to go and see Bright Star at FACT this weekend though everything seems to be a bit hectic at the moment so that may not happen.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Pavlov's Geek

Every time Sarah-Jane Smith's phone rings my hand goes to my pocket because the ring is the same as my "Bontempi" phone. Talking of The SJA, I do so like the snarky dialogue between K9 and Mr Smith - how do you make it clear that two robots don't like each other?

And now the yearly Goose Report from North Liverpool. I've just seen and heard what I estimated as around 2000 geese flying North, probably to Martin Mere.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Suffering From Long Exposure

Hot off the SD card from a few minutes ago. The rain held off for long enough to go outside and waste hundreds of matches that seem to have got damp since the last power cuts. Happy time was had by all though I warned about the possible side-effects of sparklers which apparently cause users to grow extra heads and legs.

Friday, November 06, 2009


Logicomix - Completed 5/11/2009

The Incredible Human Journey - Started 6/11/2009

Logicomix is finished - even the notes section which did get a bit heavy. Of course my suspicion that Russell would come out explicitly in favour of declaring war on Germany in 1939 was wrong - he simply appealed for the audience at the lecture to use logic to come to their own conclusions, which gives the impression that the lesson is that logic cannot be applied to real life. Listening to some of the conversations here, I have come to the conclusion that Project Management is an acceptance of the failure of logic to be applied to the modern business world; that everything needs smoothing along a rocky path, strewn with illogic and, worse still, deliberate obstacles placed in the road by people with agendas that might not gel entirely with yours. It has taken me n years to realise this, overcoming my autism in the process. I am now swimming gently downstream instead of trying to power fruitlessly towards the source of the river.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Wintry Hill ...

... or When Technology Works Too Well

We are currently in the chaotic times between two major shake-ups of the digital TV signal in this area, meaning we are retuning almost daily it seems. However, now analogue BBC2 has been switched off, the signals from several transmitters seems to have been boosted to such an extent that our rinky-dinky little boxes are showing three channels for every one we had before and indeed showing the programmes on them as well. However, this means that unless we want to watch programmes from Wales (or heaven forbid the hinterland that is The Wirral though I'm not sure they have their own regional programming yet) I have to go through the channel lists pressing many coloured buttons to get rid of the channels we don't want. However, a bit of browsing has shown me that I can just find the UHF channels of the Multiplexers (ors?) that come from our main transmitter (mistyped as TramSitter in an IM earlier today) and tune each of these in individually. I think there is possibly a software download to my PVR which will do this automatically but as I blew the USB port on it months ago I have to resort to standard methods. Sad and lonely am I!

However, in other wireless developments we now have TWO PCs wireless enabled in the house after I was given a free USB wireless stick. Still - Sad and lonely am I!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Big Bang Boom

More on the enigmatic Siegfried "Mad Jack" Sassoon in this article in the Guardian. It is of course a good thing that Sassoon's papers look likely to stay in the country but I don't often get excited about such archives. They must only cause excitement in hard-core scholars of the person concerned. I suppose I might like scouring Ted Hughes' papers for signs of the lost Sylvia Plath journal but that would be literary groupyism (nice word - I shall use it again). Sassoon and Owen were indeed the real thing when it came to war poetry. Moving as some of the stuff by other poets was, Sassoon and Owen's words both celebrate the bravery and recognise the stupidity of the war they fought in.

This links nicely with Logicomix which uses the device of a lecture given at an American University by Bertrand Russell (a pacifist who had been jailed during WWI for his campaigning against the war) on the day Britain declared war on Germany in 1939 to describe his life story. Russell was claimed as their own by US isolationists who said that America should stay out of the war. However, and I have yet to read the final section, I think he actually came out in favour of the declaration which must have caused a riot. Final report hopefully tomorrow.

I'm not sure what the next book will be - I'm not sure whether to class Logicomix as light relief or heavy learning so it's not clear whether I need a palate-cleanser or a weighty tome. Comment me up!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Incompleteness Theor....

I hadn't actually read the section of Logicomix which contained the picture I posted as the heading for yesterday's entry and so did not realise that it was the moment that Russell discovered the self-containing set paradox - Does the set of sets which do not contain themselves contain itself? The answer being the simultaneously rather glib and profound - If it does it doesn't and if it doesn't is does! A lovely bit of self-reference. Actually I was going to write "deeply, profoundly" but that would be what I hope is a tautology.

My hypnagogic dreams for last night involved quite a lot about the Incompleteness Theorem. Principia Mathematica is Russell and Whitehead's attempt to define logic completely; it contains 362 pages that prove that 1+1 =2 and yet Kurt Godel proved that proof would always require something outside the proof meaning that mathematics will always be reliant on something else - see God Over Djinn etc. Of course this applies to the whole universe. Not that any of us will ever be able to define all knowledge but I have the nagging feeling that no matter what we try to do to extend our knowledge, something will always be out of our reach - an analogy to the "something outside the system" that Godel realised. This suggests that there is an infinity of extras outside any defined system. Is the whole Universe like this - is there always going to be an infinity of knowledge outside what we already know? If we assume there is a finite number of particles in the Universe, then there must be a finite amount of information in it - realising of course that a large finite number used as the basis for combinations to describe information results in a much greater number; however it is still finite. Then of course extending the system might apply to whatever there is outside the Universe that we have access to, though this seems to knock over whatever is considered the current First Cause. All this has given me a headache which seems well within the system and therefore probably on page 2 or 3 of PM so I think it is time to go off and think of something slightly simpler.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Turtles All The Way Down

Well this is the first time I have actually got hold of a version of Windows in the same month it came out and very impressive it is. I have to admit that somewhere I think there is still an application I wrote still running under Windows 3.1 so to be on Windows 7 this early is a big thing at deWeyden towers. It starts up in seconds, displays myriad wireless networks belonging to the neighbours and connects automatically giving for wire-free working (darn those pesky power cables) and looks and feels like the future. I know that Apple people have been used to this sort of shiny, happy interface for a long time (and on such dinky devices) but let me revel in this quantum leap. Youngest was most happy to find out that all his Thomas games would run on the new machine though I was disappointed to discover that my disk of Stephen Hawking reading all of A Brief History of Time does not have the requisite number of bits to run at all and so we must just imagine that gravelly computer voice as we read the words on boring old paper.

I only tried the Stephen Hawking program because it opens with Bertrand Russell making a speech in the style of Monty Python as part of a dialogue with a lady who believed that the universe was "turtles all the way down" and indeed there is a Turtle pictured in Logicomix where it supports four Elephants who in turn hold up the Earth on their backs. Logicomix also has a beautifully measured scene of Russell seeking out Cantor who has gone mad as Guass predicted of anyone who stared directly at infinity. Cantor of course found that there was more than one type of infinity and so maybe his madness was compounded by this - infinity squared anyone - we've not got past infinity-plus-one in our house. Youngest uses infinity-out-of-ten to describe how happy he is which is technically infinity so all hunky-dory here then.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Swine Flu notwithstanding, I have finally finished Annie's Box - the official date is last night - 31st October 2009 and the next book is that illustrated above - Logicomix - a Graphic Novel of the life and work of Bertrand Russell and various other big thinkers of the 20th Century. This is a beautifully drawn work stuffed with the elements that made Godel, Escher, Bach such a great book. The fact that the writers and artists exist in their own work is part of this but then again anything written in the first person is just so and therefore far more common that some post-modernists would like you to think.