Seldo.Weblog: July 2005

Second helpings

There should be more impromptu barbecues (hosted by M or otherwise) that result in entire evenings on intense conversation, ranging from debate on whether evolutionary impulses or social conditioning are a better explanation of human behaviour to several hours on Bob Bloody Geldof, Live 8, and poverty reduction in general. Extra points to D for attempting to link the two by claiming evolutionary impulses produce right-wing behaviour while social conditioning produces impulses towards the left, since it implies that Republicans and Tories are somehow more primitive than liberals. Further kudos to J for using extremely long words and quoting Dawkins while intoxicated, and dishonourable mention to the trio in the corner who took 3 hours to decide that they were not arguing about the same thing and were probably both right.

I love giving my brain a good workout. The fact that all these conversations were in fact started by a debate over whether it was fair that Saskia be painted as the villain for manipulating Maxwell (in Big Brother 5) will be overlooked. Roses bloom out of mud, after all.

More of the same, please.

Chez

02 July 2005
Can I come by yours for a night, next time I'm in London?

Last 10 songs

I've been hitting up my "Never played" playlist in iTunes (these are the 3000+ songs I've not played since October 2004, when I got iTunes). Ten random tunes I decided not to skip:

  1. If you were my girl - JC Chasez
  2. Church - Big Boi
  3. Let's dance - David Bowie
  4. Summer's gone - Placebo
  5. C U when U get there - Coolio feat. 40 Thevz
  6. I need your lovin' - Marc et Claude
  7. Marmalade - System of a Down
  8. Filmstar - Suede
  9. Stick 'em up - Quarashi
  10. Tragic Kingdom - No Doubt

It's a meme, people. I'm laying the smackdown on Dan and Dom to take it onwards.

Graham

06 July 2005
Jeez. You must not get a lot of spam. In the last couple of weeks, I have about 20 "from" ebay, another 10 from paypal, and a load from LaSalle bank (who?). At the momeny, I just filter everything from these places into spam, since I really don't care if my paypal account that I don't use gets suspended or whatever. Also, use a text only mailreader that understands that HTML in an email is a violation of far too many RFCs.

One of the most convincing spams I've seen in ages

I received this email today (click to see at readable size)

In tone, look, and profusion of serial numbers, it looks entirely plausible. The reason for contacting me is entirely plausible, too. The only things that tipped me off that it isn't really a PayPal mail is that the recipient address -- dreams@seldo.com -- is a honeypot address I use specifically for catching spam. That led me to pay more attention to the link in the email, discovering that it wasn't just a link, but an anchor tag, the actual destination of the link being the anonymous IP shown in the red ring.

Scary. Be wary, people.

Moz

07 July 2005
Another way of knowing is that both PayPal and EBay have both stopped including links in offical e-mails. Instead they now just send you a message asking you to log into your account.

Which Guru are you?

9rules is awesome, so I'm flattered. You are Scrivs

This is a test of my emergency broadcast system

I'm okay, everybody. All the mobile networks are down, so I can't respond to your concerned text messages. The best way to get in touch until I get home is my work email, "laurie at boltbluecorp dot com". My regular addresses will work once I get home this evening -- which might take some time, as I intend to walk.

All three of my routes to work were bombed this morning. Not just "I take buses, and buses were bombed": my bus route, my train stations, and my tube lines were directly hit. I'm a very nervous bunny right now.

Right now I'm hearing reports of multiple explosions on buses and trains, multiple fatalities. I really hope it's all just unnecessary panic and exaggeration.

Update 11.32am:

Remains of bus at Russell Square

Not just panic, not just exaggeration. FUCK.

Update 7.10pm:

Home now, really shaken up. Longer blog about this when I can think straight. Just in case you weren't terrified enough, Londoners, that image again:

Moz

07 July 2005
So glad to hear your ok. Have you heard from any of the other London bods?

Rob was on the M25 earlier apparently all the message boards are simply saying "London Closed"

Love to you all.

Moz

Laurie

07 July 2005
So far most people have checked in as being okay. Things around Liverpool Street have calmed down. And it's raining, which is somehow reassuring and British.

Getting home today is going to be a lot of fun.

7.7.2005

My thoughts are still scattered.

2. 7. 33. 38. 45.

By themselves, those are not big numbers. There's nothing scary about those numbers. But it's different when the number is the number of people dead, in London, today. And very different when you know the only difference between you and those people is what time you got on your train this morning.

Even so, they're not big numbers. Not close to 191, say: the death toll in Madrid. And we dismissed even that number as nothing close to the 2,752 of September 11th. Even in the UK, on an average day, more than twice as many people die in traffic accidents.

But the effect is different. Traffic accidents do not dramatically change the way we feel about the city, the way we carry on our daily lives. The September 11th bombings were shocking and world-changing, but half a world away. They left me horrified, but still able to function. Today, my mind has been unable to focus on anything except that the bombings were aimed at me.

Not just me in the abstract, as a Westerner, as a Briton (and boy do I feel British today), or even as a Londoner. That bomb in Liverpool Street was 200m away from where I sit at my desk, 100m from where I buy my lunch every day, the same station I use several times a week to get around London. Moorgate, also affected today (although it's not clear how), is where I catch my train most mornings. If I don't go that way, I go through King's Cross on the Victoria line -- also bombed today. And when I'm not catching tubes or trains, I catch a bus -- and they got those too. It was not some abstract person cowering at his desk today, it was me, as the police cordoned off our street and told us to stay inside and move away from the windows. I've not been so scared in a long time.

Only now do I understand what it was like to be from Madrid on March 11th, or New York on 9-11. It is personal. London is my city, my home. I love it, and they hurt it. That's the reason for the shock and anger and grief that I feel, the reason I have been on the edge of tears all day, the reason they are running down my face as I type this. As callous as it may sound, the images that hurt me most are not the dead and the injured -- though there have been plenty of tears for them too -- but the images of empty streets, halted trains, lines of stopped cars and empty bus lanes. My loved ones are so far all, thankfully, unharmed, but my beloved city is reeling, her heartbeat slowed, her movements stopped, her body damaged. And it hurts me to see the city like this, and to be unable to do anything. The whole city is grieving, not just for the 700+ Londoners who are injured, but for itself, for the idea of London.

Olympic win headline next to terrorist attack headlineIt hurts especially because of the contrast from yesterday. The city was in high spirits, people were smiling and pointing at the headlines. The red arrows flew over my head trailing smoke in three colours. The mood was celebration, a city that was about to get a flood of new jobs and investment and excitement from hosting the Olympics. No one is smiling at the headlines today. Instead, as I walked all the way home along with thousands of others, there was a shared expression: not panic, not grief, not even anger. Just a grim determination to get home, to move on, to put this behind us as soon as possible.

I can see myself going through all the well known stages of recovery. This morning, riding my bus and hearing rumours from other passengers and text messages of power outages and explosions on the tube, I was certain the word "bomb" was just nervous people overreacting to something that has happened before: a power outage. Explosions can be associated with power outages, when transformers overload -- even three at once isn't that unusual, since one failing can trigger more.

Then I got to work, and heard about the bus. Or the two buses. Or the three buses. (People heard Travistock Street and Russell Square, and counted these as two, not realizing Travistock road leads away from Russell Square). This was not a power failure. It was the same moment of horrible realisation that I experienced as I watched the second plane hit the world trade centre: the instant transition from accident to attack.

The next stages are anger and depression. I have been profoundly depressed all afternoon, that something so horrible could ruin my city for me. That this could happen here. That people had died. That things were not right. Now that grief is beginning to slowly turn to anger.

But the overwhelming feeling is, unfortunately, one of fear. This was an act of terrorism, and it was an effective one. I'm terrified at the thought of going to work tomorrow, of getting on a train, of catching a bus. I missed today's attacks, but only by time, not route or location. I know it is an act of cowardice, an admission of defeat, to change my behaviour in response to these attacks. I know I should go into work tomorrow. But I'm afraid.

London goes on At the same time, the news tonight has been encouraging. On the one hand, it has been full of carnage and disruption, of shocked people and heartbreaking scenes. But there have been predictably human responses: doctors running down the street from nearby hospitals; pub owners handing out free cups of tea to shaken customers; an old man, waiting for a ferry to take him home, said what I wanted to hear: "London goes on."

And it was also encouraging to hear repeatedly how remarkably unpanicked everyone was. Even in suddenly-dark tube tunnels, with smoke and heat and wreckage, people were filing out slowly. London's emergency services knew what they were doing: buses were commandeered to ferry the injured around, the air ambulance they've been plugging so heavily shifted doctors to the scene, hospitals instantly switched onto prepared disaster plans, cancelling nonessential activities and recalling key staff. We've had exercises to prepare for this, and despite 1,500 police lured away to Gleneagles for the G8, it all seemed to work. Unhappy as it is, this could have been so much worse, and we have their preparation to thank for that.

So now, I cling to the final stages of recovery: understanding and acceptance. That's why I can't stop watching the news and reading the reports. I need to understand this, get a grip on it, and that will make it less scary. I need to know everything about how it happened and who did it, what they did. And I need to write about it, here. None of what I have written here is news to anybody. In fact, you could almost have copied this over from another blogger's description of the attacks in Madrid or New York. The world already knows, alas, the shape of these attacks, and the feelings they engender. I'm not writing for you, I'm writing for me.

And maybe soon I can stop weeping for my city.

matt

07 July 2005
Weep, by all means, but not for our city. She's a tough old bird, London, far stronger than you or I, and she's barely blinking at this.

You'll work it out

As I was walking home this evening, a little girl was riding her bike in the middle of the street. She still had the training wheels on as she wobbled and struggled to peddle. It reminded me of when I was little and how badly I wanted a bicycle but couldn't get one. My parents wouldn't let me have a bike until I was 12; my mom was too afraid I'd hurt myself. I'd pass the bike section in the store and just look, having given up asking my parents about it long ago. I eventually did get one after much pleading and begging. Amazingly, getting my driver's license at 16 and the subsequent borrowing of the family car passed without incident.

ed

08 July 2005
Surely you were 17 when you got your license.

Laurie

08 July 2005
Think harder.

jb

08 July 2005
you were in America? You have to be 17 in T'n'T to get a license, don't you..?

jb

08 July 2005
-- at least that's when I went through the bureaucracy that is Trini' Licensing

?

08 July 2005
i don't know which is sadder - you writing that or me knowing the relevance of it

*cough*plasticbag*cough*kottke

Recovery

In a sign that things are going to be okay, and that I'm going to be okay, London is recovering its sense of humour, and I'm beginning to find them funny again. No lack of respect or trivialisation of the horror is intended -- this is just us coping. Jokes heard so far (updated as people send me more):

It's been an odd week

My mind is still all over the place.

Even before Thursday came and rocked my world, I'd been having an odd week, full of possible sweeping changes to my life. Then I had a week of being alone in the house every night to think about stuff -- never a good thing for me. It makes me think too hard, and then I start waxing poetic, like I'm quite possibly about to do now.

Nothing makes you feel more alive, Terry Pratchett wrote, than knowing someone is trying to kill you. My life's been cruising along a bit recently; I've been letting myself think in longer and longer time frames about getting stuff done. It's not procrastination so much as deceleration, maybe, or maybe just getting a better handle on estimating how long the things I always plan to do will realistically take.

Then Thursday came and reminded me that I don't necessarily have all the time in the world. For the unlucky souls of Thursday, it all ended immediately, suddenly, pointlessly, through no fault of their own.

It has been my goal for as long as I can remember to create something, write something, design something, develop something, that people will remember and will last. But I need to remember that planning these things isn't going to get them done. I need to do them, now. No waiting around until conditions are right, or the timing is better, or I've got more time. You've got to make time for getting things done, or you will fritter away your time having an full, enjoyable, and inconsequential life.

For many people, that is a goal in itself. And I'm not here to say that it's not a worthy goal to have a full and happy life and raise a bunch of happy children. But it's not my goal. I need to leave the world richer, and fate has seen fit that I'm not well suited to do that through my children. I need to think of it, build it, and do it now.

This extended weekend has, for me, been a knee-jerk reaction to the realization of the horrors of Thursday. No matter how distant I really was, objectively speaking, from the danger, it didn't feel remote. It felt like somebody had tried to kill me, personally. Suddenly, immediate primal urges became imperative. I cried because I felt like it, slept when I wanted to, ate when I felt like it, danced because it felt good, and indulged in the physical, immediate demands of the body with my brain stuck in neutral.

Now is the time to emerge, reconnect, and get those urges back under long-term control. It's time to channel them into something good that will last. Not because if I don't, the terrorists win. Not because "life goes on". Life, this week has proven, definitely does not always go on. So it's time to make sure I don't fritter away the life I have on just living.

Another busy week

So much to talk about after Thursday, and no time in which to talk about it.

From the horse's mouth

When I first joined my current company, I had a co-worker -- who has since moved on to another job -- who I'll call M. M is a muslim, and from what I've learned, prior to the September 11th attacks, M was fairly relaxed about his faith. After the attacks, he became much more serious about it, attending mosque regularly and, most noticeably, cultivating a large and luxuriant beard -- provoking a certain amount of good-natured teasing that "he's the one in the corner who looks like a terrorist".

From what I've heard, this pattern of increased attention to faith, and increasingly visible faith, was fairly common for young British muslims after 2001. M and I still keep in touch occasionally, so following July 7th we started talking about the attacks via email. I thought I'd give you guys a snippet of the conversation, which I think is very illuminating, coming as it does from somebody who is not a community leader, a cleric, or anyone else who has a vested interest in painting a rosy picture of religious relations in the UK.

This text has been trimmed of various bits at the beginning and ends, but is otherwise unedited. I will let his choice of words and phrasing pass without the filter of my interpretation, as this is such a sensitive topic.

I wrote:

So, I'm sure you're tired of people asking you carefully-phrased questions recently, but since I used to sit across the desk from you and call you a terrorist, I think you can expect less tact from me...

Do you think there's a large number of British Muslims who are angry enough and radicalized enough to think Thursday was a good idea, or justified in some way? In short: are there more where the bombers came from, or were they just isolated crazies?

He wrote:

Whether there are enough British Muslims angry enough - Big Yes. I guess that also goes for non muslims judging my the turnout for the anti-war march. Now whether these muslims are radicalized enough to commit murder - I have no idea. From all the muslims I know - they wouldn't even think about it.

I think these guys are brainwashed big time. Technically speaking they are not even Muslims - because suicide is completely forbidden - even if you kill soldiers. Suicide is basically a one way ticket to hell in Islam period.

Whether it happens again or not - I'm guessing it will.

Whatever happens from now on - remember what I told you, suicide and killing innocent people is completely NOT allowed - anytime, anywhere.

These guys are in hell now.

I wrote:

I'm well aware that their actions are incompatible with Islam, but it's reassuring to hear it so vehemently stated. And good point about the anti-war march. It's terrible to think that there are so many so angry, though.

Again, I feel like I'm asking you as if you could somehow speak for all Muslims, which I know isn't true, in the same way that people ask me questions about gay people as if we all think alike and feel the same way about everything. But given that caveat, from what you know of those who are angry, what is it that they're angry about? Iraq specifically? Israel vs. Palestine? The general situation in the middle east? All of the above? What would make them less angry, in your opinion? Is there some big, obvious move that would help this situation that nobody is making -- like pulling out of Iraq, say?

He wrote:

(in order of importance)

1) Palestine/Israel problem - US gives billions of $ + weapons to Israel who have killed thousands of innocent palestinians who want their land back. According to UN what Israel are doing is illegal btu no one gives a shit in the west.

2) Kashmir problem - thousands of muslims getting killed by India in Kashmir but no on gives a shit in the west.

3) War on Iraq - if they wanted to get Saddam why not send in the SAS to smoke him out rather than kill 100,000* civilians. Speaking of regime change why not do Zimbabwe next who kill and torture just as much?

* you never really hear about this figure in the media do you?

4) Bosnia - 9000 Muslims got massacred while the whole world watched.

5) Terminology - what's the difference between a US/Israel army officer killing a 10 year old muslim boy point blank range and a suicide bomber killing a innocent 10 year old israeli boy? Nothing, but one of them is called a "Terrorist" while the other isn't.

6) Hypocrisy - US have killed millions around the world - vietnam, cuba, iraq, japan, etc yet they are made to look like honorable

So for those of you who are wondering, after July 7th, what it is that could make people so angry, don't get brainwashed by glib rhetoric about "evil hates freedom" and "they hate our way of life". These guys are angry at stuff we did to them -- Kashmir in particular can be blamed pretty squarely on Britain -- and although their methods remain abhorrent, their anger cannot be painted as unjustified.

Update 2005-07-18: M informs me that what I've heard from other co-workers is incorrect, and that he actually became increasingly interested in Islam well after 9-11; more like 2003. Nevertheless, the general pattern in British muslims still exists.

Tom Williams

16 July 2005
LOTS of things I could say, about the simplistic views of Iraq and Israel amongst other stuff, but mostly just wanted to say that the main reason you don't see the 100,000 figure much in the media is there is no proof of it. It comes from a Lancet article that estimated the deaths as between 2,000 and 198,000. The 100,000 figure is just a convenient one to use, as the midpoint of that range, and isn't at all accurate.

Laurie

17 July 2005
It was not my intention to give an impartial view of the matter (if an impartial view of such complicated issues is even possible) but rather to give the view of one British muslim, hopefully to give an insight into the views of young British muslims as a whole -- though of course I have no way of knowing whether M's views are representative.

Perspective

On Saturday, a bombing in Baghdad killed more than 90 people, almost twice as many as were killed in the London bombings. But it's not "16/7" over there.

Summary

Yes, yes, you shouldn't blog when you're tired, but if I don't I won't blog at all. An update on me, for those who care.

Things that are good right now:

  • Pizza
  • Harry Potter (it's so exciting!)
  • The Dissociatives
  • Books on Java
  • Getting free tickets to things
  • Sunshine
  • Walking around London on a summer evening (in this case, from Liverpool St. to St. James' Park, with a stop for aforementioned pizza on the way)
  • Having days off next week
  • No bombs this week Fuck!

Dom

21 July 2005
spoke too soon...

Stop bombing us, dammit

Not scared this time, just angry.

M was 100% right, and much sooner than anybody, I think, was expecting. There are others around who think it was a good enough idea not just to support it, but to try it again. This lot seem amateurish by comparison, but only by comparison -- they still had a plan, they still had the timing, they had detonators and just because their bombs didn't ignite whatever explosives may have been around doesn't mean they didn't completely panic the city for a couple of hours again. And, incidentally, knocking out the only tube line left linking me to London -- bugger! Better hope the Victoria line gets back online faster than it looks like the Picadilly will manage, or it's going to be very difficult getting anywhere from north London.

*sigh*. I'm just going to continue reading Harry Potter, where the bad guys are obvious and you're sure they'll be beaten in the end.

Fantastic Four

First thought: man, he was unbelievably hot even before he turned into a living ball of flame.

Super-fun summer movie, full of stupid plot holes -- I mean, you can't really ask for believability in a movie about four people whose powers represent fire, earth, wind and water and are battling a man who is living metal: this is myth, people, so treat it as such.

The company was good, too, especially acting out the first 20 minutes of the movie in the pub afterwards. Remember: your ass can be a fire engine, if everyone is prepared to get involved.

And in other news...

On the way home, I saw something funny: a horrible scraping noise came up the street behind me, and I turned to see a car with a parking clamp still attached driving full speed up Tottenham Court Road, trailing sparks. I was still laughing at his audacity two minutes later, who three police cars shot past me even faster, in persuit. Less funny.

The city is full of sirens. This morning a helicopter was hovering over my office and there were police cars circling the block. People are a bit jumpy -- the panic on the trains this morning and people getting shot in the head on the northern line being justifiable cause. But it doesn't seem to be stopping us getting on with our lives. We're just a little bit more careful.

Bite me, terrorists. All you've done is make me late for work every day for two weeks, and I usually manage that quite well on my own.

Very geeky question

Something on my computer is binding to port 80. Short of manually turning on and off every process on my computer, how do I find out what process is binding to what port? (Windows XP, SP1)

Update: Thanks for your responses (mainly via MSN). It turns out it was Skype, the pesky thing, but at least it wasn't some sinister spyware. Thanks to Steve (he's a fan of uber-minimalist web design) for the pointer to the thoroughly useful TCPview, which was exactly the tool for the job. SysInternals seem to do a lot of other useful stuff, too.

I love my blog. I could've gone looking for that answer, or just sat here until somebody popped along and answered it for me.

sadiq

25 July 2005
netstat -a ?

Laurie

25 July 2005
netstat says something is listening, but not what.

Stephen

25 July 2005
or more the more point-n-click at heart, www.sysinternals.com do tcpmon, as well as rafts of other system-probing tools

Ben

25 July 2005
Or you could just RTFM (http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/windows/xp/all/proddocs/en-us/netstat.mspx) which says netstat -o will do what you want :)

ANGRY MOSHING REQUIRED

I'm having a very frustrating week, through no fault of anybody's, so I'm left with an undirected feeling of wanting to hit something, or somebody, very hard, with a hammer, until I am trembling and exhausted and, preferably, covered in blood.

This is, needless to say, not a great state for me to be in for a prolonged period.

So to burn off the energy, I'm gonna try to hang on until Friday night and then wear as much spiky black shit as I can find and go to Rock at the Mean Fiddler, where I intend, if things go well, to be screaming along to the vocal stylings of Zack de la Rocha at some point. Anyone fancy coming along with me?

In the meantime, I'm just going to be listening to angry music on my iPod at full volume and scowling at random people on the tube. Apologies in advance for snapping at you.

Update: Okay, random moment of incandescent rage passed. Still think the rock night is a good plan, though.

Summer Party

My company had its summer party today. Man, my co-workers are funny when they're drunk.

Will

29 July 2005
You mean to say it's summer? Man, I wish someone would tell the weather forecasters.