Seldo.Weblog: February 2005

Fajita madness

In the absence of anything else to blog, and a desire to kick into February so we can finally get rid of the 10 megs of photos down the page that have been slowing everyone down, a brief rundown of my day today. Warning: this will be dull, unless it turns out that I had some kind of amazing insight today that I forgot about.

  • Woke up, to the sound of waves breaking on shingle from expensive CD alarm clock bought because I hated harsh electronic alarms. Now hate sound of waves breaking on shingle; total waste of money.
  • Hit tube platform with breakfast: a bottle of lucozade. Northern line has delays. Trains pull up full of crude oil, formerly people who metamorphosed under heat and pressure.
  • Arrive at work to discover new guy forgot to return my entrycard, so cannot get into building.
  • Get into building to discover new guy has made coffee in My Special Mug. New guy does not take hint to immediately relinquish mug.
  • Go hunting for bug in code. Find portion of code which seems to indicate that we have failed to bill several thousand customers to the tune of £50,000.
  • Have heart attack. Consider catching next flight to Tahiti. Vein in temple begins to throb painfully.
  • Discover that I am misreading line of code. £50,000 pounds not lost. Everything fine. Annoyed that I have used up my entire day's supply of adrenaline in one go. Vein refuses to stop throbbing.
  • Am reading one page of code on left screen, a database query on a second screen, am listening to a conversation on the right of me while trying to remember the set-up lines of a joke the guy to the left of me was telling before he got interrupted, and following an internal IRC chat. Email arrives. Total mental collapse ensues. Vein throb continues.
  • Go to lunch. Buy toasted bagel for roughly twice the cost of a similar sandwich without the hole in the centre, but am served by a friendly Barbadian woman who remembers me even though I only come into the shop once every three months due to aforementioned ludicrous cost of food with holes.
  • Speculate on why polos are not more expensive than softmints. Buy 18-pack of Creme eggs with obligatory recollection of Izzard routine questioning what part chocolate egg-laying bunnies played in the crucifixion.
  • Return from lunch to discover tester has been at work on my beautiful code from yesterday. Beautiful code from yesterday mysteriously metamorphosed into steaming dung-heap overnight; code has big chunks missing and syntax errors. Will not compile, let alone run.
  • Spend several hours repairing code across site and listening to endless stream of jokes haphazardly translated from the original Polish (co-worker is extremely good comedian, somewhat hit-or-miss translator). Discover Polish people know all about Polish jokes; Polish people make jokes about policemen.
  • No-one can tell me who Polish policemen make jokes about.
  • Review development time estimate for upcoming project to discover estimate has omitted a major portion of the project entirely. Vein in temple increases tempo of throb.
  • Attempt to leave office at 7pm. Get caught up in half-hour long conversation at entrance to building with estimator and boss about the utility of development estimates in general.
  • Arrive at home of future housemates, 8pm.
  • Eat several metric tonnes of fajita. Forget all about code, estimates and polish policeman jokes. Vein in forehead finally stops throbbing.
  • Pretty good day.

Ghost fancier

I saw By the Bog Of Cats this evening with A. I thought it was excellent. You had to buy into her crazy, tortured soul, but since she reminded me of several people I knew, it was a bit easier (I know so many crazy, tortured people!). Mild spoilers, so if you're seeing it before it ends its run on the 26th, stop reading now.

It could have been acted better. I think she's an excellent actress, but maintaining the accent took up too much of her energy -- if they'd dropped the accents and just had the same plot I think it might have been an equally good if not better play. Only the jokes relied on the accents and they're easily substituted.

They also could have made it clearer that she was mad. It's one thing to be a sympathetic villain, but her actions seemed less deranged, more stupid -- in particular, they didn't stress enough how much abandonment by her mother had unhinged her until far too late in the play.

On the other hand, she was really hot, so that's good :-) Although she did rather overdo the sultry stalking around in transparent gown; we get it, you're really sexy, now get on with the acting, dear. Only the waiter was at all interesting out of the rest of them.


02 February 2005
So you are doing well on the saving money, not going out this week then :-)

Looking fwd to next friday! Wheee!


Oh hell yes


03 February 2005
Which Family Guy character are you?



03 February 2005
well that didnt work..

im brian..


Scissor Story

Below, the order of the tracks on the album Scissor Sisters, as first released, without bonus tracks.

  1. Laura
  2. Take Your Mama Out
  3. Comfortably Numb
  4. Mary
  5. Lovers In The Backseat
  6. Tits On The Radio
  7. Filthy/Gorgeous
  8. Music Is The Victim
  9. Better Luck Next Time
  10. It Can't Come Quickly Enough
  11. Return To Oz

Is there a pattern to these? I think so. Specifically, it's the lifecycle of The Gay Pop Artist, from innocent twink with fag-hag through clubmonkey to scene queen and tired dried-out bitter bitch. Although Laura is about starting the band itself, and doesn't fit into the sequence.

I was going to analyse more, but I'm too tired. Run with this for now.


06 February 2005
Very possibly. Aah, I wish I'd thought of that. Damn you Voss, damn you and your "reading too much into an item of popular culture before Matt could get chance to do it first" eyes.

I reckon you can fit the two (excellent) bonus tracks into the equation, too, mind, by way of Cher-like rebirth and plastic surgery. Just listen to those vocal effects.

(P.S. Yes, working at a music store has had long-lasting and severe effects on me. I can now recount any album released between September 2004 and January 2005, track by track. [looks into camera]: It's a living.*)

*Except for, it's not.**

**I'll go now.

It's another boring What I Did Today Post

Sorry, all my deep conversation was had offline today. Maybe I'll blog about the things I discussed today with random but extremely pleasant (and fiercely attractive) American boy J this afternoon. These included:

  • Heisenburg's uncertainty principle (I didn't understand it properly until today)
  • The increasing emotional maturity of gay men (we decided there's at least one dissertation to be had out of that)
  • the use of Che Guevara as a merchandising brand (including an entire dinette set at Urban Outfitters, featuring a couch, a table, and coasters)
  • the possibility of producing Margaret Thatcher-branded goods as a retaliation for the above
  • The US versus the UK, in general (us: bad teeth, good clothes. them: everything is cheaper, ruled by idiot)
  • my philistinic attitude to art, including scepticism towards some photographic art and my preference for songs lyrics to rhyme
  • the joy of the Madollah, a Madonna-branded currency featured in a gallery we visited
  • the likelihood of an american invasion of Iran (J: it would be crazy. Me: he did all the other stuff we said it would be crazy to do already; why would he stop now?)
  • US foreign policy, the curse of a superpower being blamed whether it intervenes or not, and whether it's annoying to have to constantly defend a country you love due to the actions of an administration you loathe
  • the usefulness of religion
  • Bayesian spam filtering, and how it works (J explaining to me, not the other way around)

And then with I, Ge, J, A, and Ga at A's dinner party this evening:

  • the geekiness level of blogging
  • why it's not a good idea to set up FTP servers when on valium
  • the emotional state of Tom Coates
  • other stuff, but I'm really tired now.

Brother, can you spare £50?

So, commenting has been broken on all the MovableType instances on recently. These include (mentioning only sites that have been updated in the last 30 days):

The commenting would be most easily fixed by getting the new version of MovableType. Unfortunately, for more than 1 author, the new version costs money. In fact, it costs quite a lot of money: US$99.95, in fact, or GBP£53. Given that I'm already paying £90 a year to host you all for free and I don't use MovableType myself, I'm not going shell out another fifty quid. But you can!

Yep, that's right. If each of you shells out a one-off payment of £9 using PayPal, I can upgrade MovableType to the shiny new spam-free version and all the new shiny plugins will become available, too.

And of course, if you just like and want to see all those blogs kept going, feel free do donate just for the hell of it! And if you'd like your own blog, a donation would be a great way to ask for one ;-)

I'm sorry to sound all money-grubbing and salesmanlike about this, but I'm entirely broke at the moment, and buying a piece of quite expensive software that I don't use is just not something I can justify at the moment. There are free alternatives, but none of them quite as nice as MovableType and considerably more trouble, which would mean your comments stay broken for longer. So come on, people: don't be a free rider.

Update 2pm: Hurrah, somebody actually donated! Say hello to Ade, everybody. Now click that donate button! :-)

Update 7.20pm: Another donation received, thank you. 4 more to go...


06 February 2005
Give me 'til the end of the week. Just paid tuition, so I'm kinda broke :-)

Commanding the tide not to rise

I got really annoyed by this BBC article about one man giving up broadband because his "information habit" -- an addiction to web surfing, email, and the countless distractions of the Internet -- was ruining his life.

While developing an information habit can be a problem if uncontrolled -- I've suffered this problem myself -- cutting off your broadband connection is the wrong way of dealing with. It's like saying that cars cause traffic, so you're going back to the horse and buggy -- cars solved the problems of the horse and buggy, but have problems of their own. The trick is to go forwards, not backwards, using things like RSS aggregators and e-mail filters to stem the tide of useless information into a quiet little trickly of truly useful information.

Put more briefly, I think this guy is an idiot.

It feels like years since it's been here

Today I was walking from my office to Broadgate Circle, where I buy lunch every day, and something hit me: a beam of sunlight. A bright shaft of light was squeezing between two buildings and running across the plaza. And so in the midst of the huge, grey, concrete plaza full of people in winter coats bustling to and fro, there was a long line of people standing facing the sun.

Spring is coming. Oh yes.


09 February 2005
I say they won't attack.

If you like I'll explain why in the terms you used, but not while I'm at work :P

At This Point: the case for attacking Iran

I've been having this conversation with a few people recently, in fairly similar formats, so I thought I'd post it.

Recently Condoleeza Rice was asked about whether the US was planning to attack Iran. Her absolutely practiced response, in full, was: "The question is simply not on the agenda at this point. We have many diplomatic tools still at our disposal and we intend to pursue them fully." There are several notable things about these statements:

  • That's definitely not a denial
  • "At this point" means it could be on the agenda in future, or has already been in the past
  • "The question of whether to attack" is not the same as "plans for attack". If you've already decided to attack, then the question certainly isn't on the agenda anymore.
  • The talk about using diplomatic options is exactly what was used in the run-up to attacking Iraq

So as far as I'm concerned, the Ayatollah needs to start building some spider-holes, and quickly. Bring on the counter-arguments!

But that's crazy!

Of course it is. When did that stop them before? Insinuating that Saddam was linked to 9/11 was ludicrous. Attacking based on intelligence about WMD that turned out to come from an Iranian spy previously convicted of fraud was crazy. He can and DOES do completely ridiculous unthinkable shit, like attacking Iraq when Osama's from S.Arabia, and not firing Rumsfeld when he sanctioned torture. All of their domestic policies are nuts, too. In fact, given the history of this administration to date, the fact that it's a crazily dangerous thing to do actually increases the likelihoood of them doing it.

They could never afford it

What's another $80 billion when you're already $3 trillion in the hole? The Bushies have decided that Deficits Don't Matter™ again. They'll just cut more programs and raise the defence budget yet again.

They don't have enough soldiers

This one is pretty hard to refute. Even moving the Korean-based ones back and calling up ever-older reserves and veterans, they're running out of manpower down there. But they've been bringing the draft machinery quietly back into life: if that kicks in, they're suddenly going to have a lot of new, if extremely unhappy, soldiers.

They're still busy in Iraq!

Oh, there you go being all rational again. They didn't hesitate to attack Iraq when Afghanistan was (and largely is) still a warzone, why would it stop them now?

The international community wouldn't stand for it

Hello, Coalition Of The Willing™! Note: that's willing, not able. Afghanistan is part of the CotW, as is Micronesia, which, according to the CIA world factbook, "is totally dependent on the US for its defense". So, basically, they're helping out by giving back that military we were lending them. Thanks, guys!

Blair will never support the war

See, Blair's position is really hard to understand on Iraq. I'm not entirely sure he knows why he agreed, but he's far too deep to back out now. But his stated reasons for attacking Iraq are the cruelties of Saddam Hussein, the treatment of women, etc., and that freeing Iraq has made things better there. Those reasons are extremely tenuous reasons for war, and can in any case be easily applied to about 75% of Africa, as I have said before. They can also, of course, be applied pretty easily to Iran -- they do have some kind of democracy, but only in the way that Nepal has democracy -- i.e. a bunch of people are elected, but can't do anything. So really, if Dubya decides the next lot of brown people he wants to pay Halliburton to blow up are Iran, Blair is going to find it tricky to disagree.

But Iran doesn't have any oil!

Ah, this is the hardest of all. My stated belief is that attacking Iraq was all about garnering a friendly, oil-rich state in the middle east to sort out the problem that Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer by a long way, is a hostile state that sponsors terrorists, including the ones who perpetrated September 11th. We can't piss of the Saudis, 'cause they have a quarter of the world's oil all by themselves. Iraq, on the other hand, is second-largest with 11%, and has a crazy dictator. Bombs away!

So why attack Iran?

Because there is a persuasive Iraq-based argument for attacking Iran. Clearly, Iran is the force and the funding behind the insurgents in Iraq. Chalabi, who gave us all the fake intelligence about the WMDs, was an Iranian spy. Iran wanted us to attack Iraq, because they wanted to take over, and that's still their plan. As long as Iran has a free hand, Iraq will be hard to keep stable. The Bush administration must know this: so, if they want to win in Iraq, they must attack Iran.

So they will. If I were a betting man, I'd say inside of twelve months.


I won free tickets to Popstarz -- again! Actually, in my entry I said I'd won before and not used my tickets, which is true, so could I please get in again? I'm not sure if that's what did it, or if they just don't have many requests. Either way, Popstarz on Friday for me. Come along! I'll have spent the whole day moving house so I'll either be mega-energized, or totally knackered, but I haven't been dancing for absolutely ages so it's going to happen. And I'll get to find out exactly how far away Popstarz Finsbury Park is...

Moving day

Right, I'm off to Finsbury Park. Tonight I'm packing, tomorrow I'm moving, and there may not be Internet access at the new house yet, so there may be brief break in blogging.

See you on the flipside!

Update: The best conversation I've had for today produced a great line that I'm writing down so you can all use it in future and pretend you thought of it:

D: I hate it when people are talking about being gay and they say "It is a choice"
L: It is a choice, in the same way that opening your eyes is a choice. You could choose to not do it, but you'd be blind your whole life.


11 February 2005
Been meaning to write something about that for ages now :-)


My new house is truly fabulous! Total party-house in every way. My bedroom is only about 60% of the size of the cavern I currently/used to (what tense to use on moving day? interesting) live in, but that's still plenty big. And it has a comfortable bed. And a double wardrobe! Housemate J's room is the same size as mine, and housemate T's room is stupidly, ridiculously large with an ensuite bathroom.

The road is a quiet residential street lined with actual, honest-to-god trees and gardens. 5 mins walk away is a street full of shops -- apparently mainly selling women's fashion, but I'm sure there are more -- and the tube is another 5 minutes past that. Popstarz is a delicious 4 minutes away from there, Oxford Circus is 10. There's also a good-sized Tesco 5 minutes from the house. Generally, I'm enormously pleased with the location.

But back to it being a party-house: the living room is cavernous, with three sofas and enormous rolling plains of carpet across which herds of buffalo frolic (okay, so I'm exaggerating slightly here). There's also a completely random extra room, which we're currently thinking should probably be the Media room full of speakers and music and general electronic goodness -- also on that floor are the kitchen (only slightly smaller than my current one) and a bathroom: so basically one whole floor of communal space for a kick-ass party. (I'm sure that "no loud music after 11pm" thing on the contract is just there for show...).

Oh, and it's got lovely high ceilings and all the woodwork is painted my favourite shade of sky blue! Talk about lucky.

So that's it. I love my new place. Hurrah. There's no ADSL until around Wednesday though, so there will be little or no blogging until then. I'm sure you'll all cope; just read PlasticBag and wibble at the sheer awesomeness of Tom Coates, my personal hero.

Tom Williams

11 February 2005
Wait a minute... the kitchen's smaller than your old one and you still think it's a better house for parties? :oP


11 February 2005
Glad you like it, shall expect my consultants fee in the post ;)

Chris Purcell

11 February 2005
"I have been living in," I think.

...and we're back

A full 2 days without Internet access, and then my cunning housemates' pre-planning paid off and our ADSL has kicked in early. Woo! I haven't actually set up my computer yet (no wireless card, and it's rather far away from the router) but rest assured that will all be happening quite quickly.

No matter the test, I come out as "geek"

Gabriel. You're most like the ArchAngel of
Communication, in charge of things like
telephones, libraries, internet, and the 411
phone menu. You're organised and are not shy
about inflicting that organisation on others.

Which ArchAngel are you most like?
brought to you by Quizilla


14 February 2005
Ummm...organised? ;-)


15 February 2005
I *am* organized... I'm just also very forgetful...

Welcome to MT3

As of 11.59pm 2005-02-14, MoveableType 3.15 has been installed and commenting has been reinstated. Thank you to everyone who donated (in chronological order):

  • Adey
  • Mikey
  • Matt (who doesn't even have a blog with me, but is apparently just supernaturally nice)
  • M
  • PlanetCH
  • Update 2005.11.16: Ed
  • Update 2005.11.16: Jamie

This post may also be considered a pointed *cough* in the direction of certain bloggers who shall remain unnamed who live in NYC and earn shitloads more cash than I do to cough up, thank you, which will bring the amount to exactly what it cost to upgrade (some donated more than £9, but PayPal takes 50p per donation). Public shaming is so effective!

What's new

Apart from the whiz-bang new interface, commenting now universally requires registration. Please do not enable unregistered commenting as that will simply break things all over again. In order to allow people to register on your blog, you will need to visit TypeKey and register. They will give you a "TypeKey token" for your website. Then go to your blog -> weblog config (on the left) -> preferences (at the top) -> comment configuration, paste the token into the space provided and hit "save". Once you've done that, let me know and I will modify your templates so that typekey users can post. Until then, anyone can post but the comments won't appear unless you approve them, which you can do using the new whiz-bang MT interface, which also lets you do bloody useful, bloody obvious things that the last version should have done, like mass-delete comments, ban IPs, and generally kick arse comment-wise.

Unfortunately, I haven't actually managed to get the bloody TypeKey stuff working anywhere yet... but it's late now and I'm going to bed :-) Those of you who have donated will find your templates mysteriously fix themselves faster ;-)


15 February 2005


15 February 2005
Some of us have been extremely busy, and have been keeping schedules that have consisted entirely of eating, sleeping and working constantly, and really have had zero time to run around finding bank account numbers to open up a Paypal account. But you'll have your money soon enough.

The track and the highway

Roads form in the following way:
A track is formed by people walking that way. The track becomes a path. Houses are built along the path. The path is paved and becomes a road. Houses along the road are rezoned and replaced. The road is expanded and becomes a highway. Buildings are bulldozed and rebuilt new locations that suit the highway's layout.

Software is built in the following way:
A demo is written. The demo is adapted to handle more cases. Software is written to make use of the demo. The demo is tweaked for speed. More features are added. Software is written to adapt to the quirks of the demo, and the demo is written so that the older software will continue to work. Massive levels of inefficiency and waste are tolerated to allow this backwards-compatibility to continue.

If roads were built like software is built, then all roads would be exactly as wide the original dirt track, and follow exactly the same twisting path. To handle the volume of traffic, cars would travel enormously quickly, say mach 1. To handle the size of loads they would need to carry, they would also be three stories high, and loads would be cut into tall, thin packages to fit into them. To handle the enormous aerodynamic problems of three-storey-high boxes travelling at mach 1 and executing hairpin turns, they would be built of titanium and fitted with stabilising rockets on both sides and a booster rocket at the back, and of course a heat shield at the front to handle the heat of the booster rocket of the car in front.

And that's your computer at the moment: a patently ridiculous rectangular titanium rocket ship travelling along a dirt track at mach 1. Sure it's fast, but at what point are we going to decide that it's time to build a new road?

Chris Purcell

15 February 2005
I thought you were critiquing roads at first. The way you put the first paragraph, it sounds rather like the tail wagging the dog: a road, designed to get people from A to B, ends up replacing both A and B...


17 February 2005
I feel I should point you (again) at
, and maybe
(though I feel he has missed some of the points of the original essay...)

Closer, but no cigar

Ooopsie, failed to blog yesterday. So take a bonus extra-long blog today.

So, I went to see Closer with Ade yesterday. I can't say I thought much of it. If you've yet to see this movie, stop reading, because spoilers start now.

So, what was in this movie?

  • Three extremely pretty people
  • Some extremely good acting on the part of Natalie Portman
  • Excellently written dialogue

So why didn't I like it? I had a few minor gripes, like Julia Roberts being entirely unconvincing as a photographer, and Jude Law entirely too energetic and focussed to be a failed anything, far less an obituary writer. And overall, it was just blah. The plot rolled along in a 100% predictable fashion. I mean, it was a play before it was a movie, so lots of people would have known the plot already going in. But even the plot of the play was predictable. Nothing surprised me, no new ideas were presented, no emotion was provoked. It was just watching an excellently-portrayed slice of some other people's not particularly believable lives, and life is an endlessly tedious affair.

I often feel obscurely guilty about not liking "good" movies: the ones people say are great, like Apocalypse Now, often just don't do anything to me. I've always felt that this is because movies, like books, can do two things: they can tell a story, or they can introduce new ideas. If they are very good, they can do both at the same time, but usually they concentrate on one or the other. However, I only like the latter.

The thing about stories that bores me is that there's nothing new in them. They take a kaleidoscope of elements and give it a shake: sure, it's different every time, and it can even be pretty, but ultimately it's limited unless you but something else into the can. The new ideas are the new sparkles in the can, and a story with no new sparkles is just boring. Stories set in the real world, and the current day, are the absolute worst: they deliberately refuse to add any sparkles. The best that a story set in the present day can do is be 100% believable. But once this mark is reached -- although it's quite difficult -- there's nowhere to go, and in fact you've not gone very far. You've just rearranged bits of other people's lives into a new shape. Whereas when you start adding new ideas, there's no limit to how far you can take things.

Anyone who knows me has heard this argument time and again, as justification of my reading nearly exclusively science fiction, but actually that's not my genre: my genre is stories with new ideas, which are found predominantly in science fiction, but also in other genres -- the genre-busting work of Neal Stephenson, whose book Quicksilver I am currently reading, being a good example.

So that's what I didn't like about Closer: the lack of anything new. But then, Ade pointed out a few things, like the cigarettes being a metaphor for their relationships. And it made me think: maybe it's not that it was a crap movie. Maybe I just didn't get it. Maybe I'm a philistine. Maybe the reason I miss things (like the emotions of others) in real life is that, like movies, I think I understand everything I see but am really not even scratching the surface. Maybe there were new things to see in there, and I didn't see them.

I may be overreacting. But I often feel about songs, the way that people who love movies say they feel when explaining movies to me: that people miss huge chunks of hidden meaning and extra references and homages and double entendres and clever ideas and imaginative changes. Because people don't listen to music, they just hear the pretty noises. So am I a movie philistine? Do I just watch the pretty pictures instead of seeing the story? It's a horrible thought for someone who's as much of an intellectual snob as I am, I can tell you. And of course, there's the implication that I may be doing it in real life as well: seeing the obvious but missing the subtext. An even more regrettable loss.

So what to do about it? How can I be sure that I'm not missing the clever bits in movies? Suggestions on a postcard (or in the comment box at the top-right of this post) please...

Time dilation

(There you go, a bonus blog to make up for yesterday. Apologies to Neal Stephenson for nicking his writing style for this entire piece. This is what happens when you write trilogies of 500-page books, Steve)

It's often remarked that time speeds up as you get older. People always say this as if it's some unknowable aspect of life, but actually the explanation is not only known, but also really simple. Time doesn't speed up, but your memory of time passing does.

Your brain is a great big information processing device designed to help you survive long enough to pump some sperm into something if you are male, or drop a sprog if you are female. It's phenomenally complicated, and for a sack of grey goo, amazingly good at its job. One of the major side-effects of its sperm-protection ability is that it provides us with memory. This allows us to observe the world based on what we have already seen, and thus react more quickly to everyday occurences like the sun rising and rain being cold, saving expensive think-time for more complex problems, like finding someone who will agree to accept our sperm.

Because memory is also expensive, your brain does it very efficiently, making extensive use of deltas. Take, for instance, a sunrise: a gigantic spherical thermonuclear bomb in a constant state of explosion, contained only by the gravitational force of its own fuel, going off right next door, far enough away not to roast us all instantly, but exactly close enough to be pleasantly warm. That's all stunning, but once you've seen one sunrise, you have, essentially, seen them all: you know it's not going to fall down, and that in a certain amount of time it will go away again, and then rise the next day. Your brain, therefore, does not waste precious goo remembering every sunrise you have ever seen in your life. Instead, having remembered one, it then compares any subsequent sunrises to that one, and only bothers to note the difference, or delta, between any subsequent sunrise and your "base" sunrise. So while you may remember a few exceptional sunrises, the majority will just be remembered as a generic "I saw a sunrise" pointing back to that original memory of what a sunrise looks like.

And it is this habit of remembering only differences that produces the strange effects of time that we so often remark upon. When we are children, practically everything is new to us. Therefore, the brain lays down a lot of new memories. Our first taste of jam, our first day of school, our birthday parties, our bicycles: all of these things are radically different to our previous experiences when we are five years old, so our brain spends some time on them.

But as you get older, the proportion of new things that you run into every year gets rapidly smaller. By the time you're in your mid-twenties, in fact, the only time something genuinely new happens to you is when there's a major upheaval in life: you get a new job, or a new partner, or a new house, or you go on a vacation to somewhere you've never been before. These events are months apart.

Where the fault lies is that our perception of our memories is that they are linear -- i.e., in any two periods of time of equal length, there should be an equal number of memories. This is because, perversely, our brain does not understand its own manner of operation. Our memories are not at all linear. When we are five years old, the time for five brand new memories to accumulate is perhaps a few weeks. When we are twenty-five years old, that many new things might not happen in a whole year. So to us, it seems like time is passing more quickly.

It also explains other effects. When one moves into a new house -- as I have just done, which is why I thought to blog about this phenomenon -- one often remarks, after only a day or two, that "it seems like we've been here forever, doesn't it?" This is sometimes taken as proof that the house is a good one. But actually it's just because you're in a new location: lots of new rooms, furniture, streets, shops and public transport links to remember, so your perception of all these memories makes it seem like a lot of time has passed. The same effect happens on vacations to exotic locations: lots of new experiences make the vacation seem longer, so you feel you had a great time. But remembering this, next year you go again and do all the same stuff, and you remark "the time just flew by!" because your brain has seen this all before.

So looked at one way, time stays constant, and it is your perception of it is what is changing. But if you're going to get really metaphysical about things, what is time but our perception that things in the universe happen one after the other? We cannot observe the past or the future: therefore, time exists only in our memories. Therefore, in another sense, time does speed up and slow down, all the time, at different rates for everyone.

So if you feel like life is rushing past you, do something entirely new: the world will skid to a halt, and you can jump back on.


18 February 2005
That works for the past and the retrospective, but what about perceptions of the present and "time flies when you're having fun"? I'd write that bit myself, but I don't have time. Tempus fugit after all :-)


18 February 2005
Thanks for the link to the book--I'm taking a seminar on novel time this semester, and I like what this adds to consideration of the books

I am mortified

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My life is, apparently, unbearably tame! I need to get up to something naughty right away!


No proper blogs since Thursday! Sorry about that. Since I've decided a good tactic for generating a blog entry when I haven't got something Deep™ to talk about is to mention whatever I've been chatting to people on MSN about, here's a quickie:

  • I can't believe my life (which I formerly considered quite debauched) only counts as 12A. But the saddest part is that it really is an accurate summary of my life at the moment. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't do drugs, and I have sex so seldom as to be statistically insignificant*. I work five days and don't go clubbing mid-week. My life is vanilla. And I don't even have a very strong desire to change that. I mean, I wish I could say "my life is wild and crazy" without having to actually do anything extra. But no wild-and-crazy things appeal to me. I'd do them if they did -- no catholic guilt restrains me -- but they don't. Dan says this is because I'm a right-wing conservative.
  • I had a chat with a random guy on a train, which, as odd conversations with strangers have a tendency to do sometimes, turned really deep and meaningful. I started off talking about how much technology excites me and how artificial intelligence is going to change the world and how I nearly did a master's at Edinburgh in it but didn't, and how I really wanted to change the world... and then I said I worked in the development team at a company that sells ringtones to 13 year old girls who don't know the value of money. The contrast was brought home quite sharply. Perhaps I need to re-evaluate further education opportunities...
  • My house is nearly unpacked now! At least, the boxes that are mine are now variously unpacked and largely stowed away. I have a bedside table, thanks to diligent flat-pack activity, a fact which pleases me far more than a tiny bit of furniture has any right to do. But it gives my room a nice "finished" look, not to mention the three wardrobes (I have so much clothing, and yet I always wear the same stuff! How is this possible?) This is good because (a) it means we can have a house party reasonably soon and (b) I can do something with my weekends other than repeatedly visit Argos (which, like IKEA, is full of cheaply-constructed flat pack stuff of dubious design worth, but costs half as much).

* I'm working on fixing this problem. Volunteers wanted.


21 February 2005
I got R18.. lol. Mpegs available soon.

The universe has had it's revenge though.. at least on my tonsils. ouch.

*Change your ways while your young*

Not trying to make up blog entries at all

Dubya and Bride of Dracula

Why does this photo (of Bush arriving in Belgium) look like it's been badly photoshopped? And why does Laura Bush look like one of Dracula's brides?


21 February 2005
Hmm, well I tried to add a comment to one of your articles (the one about friendship), but it didn't seem to work. Would you rather me email it or post it on your blog?


22 February 2005
It's up to you :-) I wish I knew why my comments keep breaking for other people, they work fine for me!

Perhaps it's popup-blockers?

red bottom shoes

17 August 2012

Over-analysis ahoy!

My linklog is really a lot more interesting than the stuff I put here, and significantly more prolific. I should probably put them in as blog entries occasionally, but does such a good job.

My only real thing to talk about this evening is that my growing sense of dissatisfaction has resolved itself into what I think is sexual frustration. It's been more than six weeks since the last time, which is traditionally when my desire for sex overtakes my desire for a long term partner.

Because I'm a bit bored, and because analyzing to the point of psychosis everyday phenomena is one of the hallmarks of good blogging (as much as there can be said to be such a thing), I have produced a rough graph representing this situation:

Graph of rising horniness versus constant desire for life partner, and resulting drop in standards

As you can see, the desire for a life partner remains constant, and initially very high compared to horniness. My desire for sex, on the other hand, grows exponentially. My "standards" of choosing a partner are my desire for a partner, minus my horniness. Thus, in the seventh week, my standards drop below zero, into "shag anything that moves" territory, and things deteriorate ever more rapidly from that point.

I believe after a certain length of time the horniness curve flattens out and, with time, even decreases again, as my memory of what sex is like fades (yes, my memory really is that poor). More updates as events warrant.

In the meantime: I'm not doing anything this weekend.


21 February 2005
Just 6 weeks! My past behaviour patterns v closely mirrors that graph of yours - scary stuff. However, have been "good" through choice, ignoring/avoiding temptation - does wonders for the psyche, apparently. So yes it's been 9 weeks for me, and I'm not going mad, really really really not going mad. Honest! Need a new distraction, argh.

Life on Mars

As far as I'm aware, this isn't being shouted from the rooftops or anything, but the discovery of a frozen sea near the Martian equator is big news. Sorry for geeking out on you for a bit here*, but I feel the need to talk about this.

In the realms of science fiction, where I spend most of my reading time, the possibility of life on Mars is extensively discussed. And I don't mean native life -- intelligent or otherwise. I mean the possibility of human life sustaining itself on Mars, with Kim Stanley Robinson's amazing Mars trilogy being pre-eminent among these. The ability for human beings to live a self-sustaining existence on Mars has not just been the premise of these stories, but the focus: the resources required, the technology that would be needed, the maths and the physics of getting people there and providing them with energy, the geology and the chemistry involved in making it work without requiring regular infusions of raw materials, the biology of providing them with food and ensuring they aren't roasted by hard radiation. All of these things have been extensively investigated, and written about not just in science fiction, but as serious proposals. There is even a Mars Society, founded with the eventual aim of human exploration of Mars (they debate whether they want to colonize it or not -- believe it or not, there is a significant ecological movement to keep Mars untouched).

And as far as all the people who care about life on Mars are concerned, the discovery of a large body of water on Mars -- frozen or otherwise -- is an achievement, which is why they got excited when it was confirmed that a large portion of the Martian icecaps is water-ice (large chunks of it are frozen CO2, aka dry ice). At the poles, however, the extreme temperatures and low levels of sunlight make human life difficult. Thus, the discovery of this ocean at the equator is a get-out-of-jail-free card. A human colony on Mars is no longer a dream: it is a distinct possibility. Water, in addition to being vital in itself, can be electrolysed (using aforementioned solar energy) into oxygen -- the other biggie for survival -- and hydrogen, which is a relatively convenient source of fuel for vehicles and other machinery. Once you've found water, the hard problems simply go away.

We can live on Mars now. Screw the microbes, we have a whole new planet to screw up. And really, I'm ready to go.

* What am I talking about? I'm not sorry at all.

Some minor meta-blogging

So Kottke is now blogging as a full-time job. This raises a bunch of interesting questions, foremost among them being "will it work?" but also: what exactly is a blogger, anyway?

To my mind, the difference between a journalist and a blogger is generally the same as between an amateur and a professional athlete. Thus despite having zillions of readers, BoingBoing and Waxy are blogs, while Slashdot, Wonkette (no matter how cutesy she tries to be) and the rest of Gawker Media are journalists, even if they started off being bloggers. I don't buy the stuff about standards and fact-checking: when the New York Times apologizes for not checking its facts properly and most young Americans rely on a comedy show for their news (and one which considers bloggers the best source of news, at that) I think the idea that fact-checking is something only the grown-ups do is false. Fact-checking is something that nobody does properly: just always consider your sources.

So what does that make Kottke? He's certainly a blogger in the old school: he does it for the love, and loves it so much he's taking a 66% salary cut to do it. But now he's doing it for the money, too. Will his content suffer, or improve? And is blogging to be considered always a stepping stone to something bigger, like a book, or can it be an occupation in itself?

More importantly, given how surprisingly easy it was to raise the money to pay for MT, is there any way I can use this thing to supplement my income? I mean, if people are gonna start paying for blogs, they may as well start paying for one of mine.

Gabi and the Whoremoans

My new favourite band have given me special permission -- yes, actual permission to host a couple of their demo tracks! So here they are, in all their 128kbps, completely legal glory:


19 March 2005

Hey dude - I don't mind you hosting our songs on your site, but neither me nor any of my bandmates remember who u r or sayin to u that u cud put our songs on your site!

So not tryin to be rude or nethin, but hu r u and how did u get hold of our songs if we havent even put them out yet?

Cheers dude!



I just turned my phone on after charging it overnight and received a week's worth of accumulated text messages. So if I've failed to reply to your texts in the last 7 days, it's because O2 are, apparently, unbelievably shit.

That is all.




I'd blog about what I've been talking to people about today, except that it's been basically been nothing. I have been completely sapped of energy, and I'm not sure why.

At least the house is now a bit more orderly than it was, and my computer has stopped randomly turning itself off... a habit I'm hoping never repeats itself.

Oh dear god

From an energyless weekend straight into an energy-sapping week; it's only Monday, and folks, it's not looking good. People of a nervous disposition, such as myself, should not be put into a position of responsibility over a project with such terrifyingly large possible financial consequences as the one I am currently working on. It's going to kill me, I swear.

On an unrelated note, I have a crappy 366Mhz laptop with 32MB of RAM. I want it for my room upstairs of my machine, connected via the wireless to play MP3s and maybe some TV if it can hack it. Thus, it needs a better operating system than Windows (which won't even recognize that it has a wireless card). So far I have tried:

  • Suse Personal 9.1 (derided by #suse on EFnet as rubbish; 9.2 pro is being downloaded)
  • the latest copy of Ubuntu

And both have crashed during the install and proved resistant to debugging. Anybody got any recommendations for a better build of Linux, possibly better suited to low-spec machines and/or older hardware? C'mon, geeks, help me out here.


01 March 2005
I had no trouble whatsoever installing debian on that crappy P166 (IIRC) we used in Epsom Road (once I'd got it to POST, that is). You could also try Knoppix, if it's got a CD drive. My recommendation would be gentoo, of course, but you probably wouldn't have much fun building a whole system on a machine that size, and cross-building for install on another machine is not entirely straightforward.


03 March 2005
After trying another flavour of SuSE and then FreeBSD (which failed for a totally different reason), Debian (woody) was the winner, and I now have a working (ish) Linux system. Woo! Now to get X working properly and sort out the wireless drivers...