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4/10/17 08:24 pm - Finally switching over

OK, so I've posted barely at all in the last decade, but I do still read LJ, mostly to keep up with non-FB friends.

After the latest ToS update, I'm off with everyone else to DW (example22@, just in case I ever start posting again).

7/29/08 08:34 pm - It's not the Messiah...

I may be the last person to know about this, but Eric Idle has written an oratorio.

(I just heard an excerpt on NPR Shuffle, which had me giggling for 10 minutes or so. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a UK tour, or at the very least a CD....)

7/7/08 08:35 pm - Web 2.0

While my delegates do their labs, I sit at the front of the class and browse the web. I feel guilty about this, so I try to avoid giggling, unless I can reasonably show them what I'm laughing about (like little Bobby Tables, for instance).

This week, I am mostly talking about web development, but Verity Stob has beaten me to it... (snicker)Collapse )

7/6/08 10:33 pm - Thomas M Disch, 1940-2008

More bad news. Dammit.


5/27/08 08:52 pm - Orchestration: tip #1 (of 1)

Some instruments just don't sound threatening enough...

5/25/08 01:51 am - U. Utah Phillips, 1935-2008


5/17/08 09:20 pm - It was 20 years ago today...

So, I just got back from an event commemorating the 20th Anniversary of Section 28, which was nowhere near as dreary as it sounds. There was even a raffle -- alas, I didn't win the signed photo of Sue Lawley.

The whole thing was funny (abseiling lesbians! insider tips on crashing the six o'clock news!), thoughtful (how come we lost, when everyone was on our side?), and incidentally also a sobering reminder of what a Conservative government looks like. An eyewitness report from one of the presenters sums it up nicely: "A Conservative [Haringey] councillor spent the whole council meeting flicking sugar cubes at Bernie Grant, chanting 'Die, you diabetic bastard'." Mmm, lovely. Can't wait until they're running the country again.

5/17/08 01:18 am - Sightseeing without sights

Some while ago, when I first started getting interested in the history of London, I came across George Vertue's map of the Civil War defences of London. (Teeny image here.) I live right next to the site of one of the forts, so this map caught my attention.

I've walked around the Roman walls fairly often; it's a pleasant stroll, and there are remnants of the wall to be seen. The Civil War defences are a more substantial walking proposition: from Wapping in the east to Buckingham Palace in the west, from the New River Head in the north to the Imperial War Museum in the south. Not only that, but there's nothing left to see: the defences were torn down almost immediately after the war, and Vertue drew his map nearly a century later.

There are primary sources, of course: Acts of Parliament, for a start, and apparently William Lithgow wrote a contemporary account (although he seems to have been nicknamed "Lying Lithgow", which is hardly encouraging). But who needs primary sources? There are no remains above ground, and I'm not about to start digging, so what difference does it make if I'm a hundred yards out?

At least, that's what I thought. I walked along the defences (ish) last weekend, took photos, and may even upload them eventually -- but now I'm starting to consider buying books about Civil War London. Just to, you know, make sure I was in the right place. This is presumably how OCD starts...

5/17/08 12:16 am - Late-night Linky

The Greenwich and Docklands International Festival is back. It's free, and the last two years have been brilliant; the evening events tend to be particularly good. 19-22 June. Anyone else going?

The Wellcome Collection hasn't been open for very long, but it hasn't put a foot wrong yet. Upstairs is a bonkers anthropological collection, a bit like the Pitt-Rivers Museum but with waaaay more money. Downstairs they've had a succession of ace exhibitions; lately, "Life Before Death" has had all the press (and deservedly so), but "From Atoms to Patterns" is more fascinating. It's about crystallography, art, design and the Festival of Britain... oh, just go and see it if you're passing by, you won't regret it.

Islington also has a new museum, though this is probably of no interest unless you live here. Still, it's a big step up from the previous "museum" (two rooms in the town hall), so yay for the innumeracy tax Heritage Lottery Fund!

Lastly, there is officially no such thing as too many Leonard Cohen covers. MyOldKYHome hosts dozens of cover versions of Hallelujah alone, and there's even a whole article on the subject. Anyway, I now have an album of Hallelujahs: 42 versions of the same song, and they're different enough that I can listen all the way through without getting sick of it. YMMV, I suppose.

1/16/08 03:30 pm - Musical Commandments

Thou Shalt Not...

...record a demo tape if you make Florence Foster Jenkins sound like Karen Carpenter (O Nightingale).

...record Maxwell's Silver Hammer under any circumstances, but particularly not if Jessica Mitford is singing it.

...release Christian propaganda in the form of earworms with ridiculous titles (Harry the Hamster sings the 10 Commandments: The Sabbath Song, which I've been humming for the last three days, dammit).

...play anything by Bach using only non-melodic instruments (Bach for Percussion).

(Via aprilwinchell.com, Music for Maniacs and Beware of the Blog.) The Bach percussion appears to be entirely Serious and Artistic, but personally I'd never have guessed it was Bach. Those who know their Bach better than I do (teaparty.net, are you there?), what do you reckon?

1/10/08 12:58 pm - In which I am driven into the arms of Steve Jobs

Creative are a bunch of idiots; tedious ill-tempered rant behind cutCollapse )

1/4/08 01:11 pm - How To Go For A Walk

Some while ago, in a comment, I mentioned to juggzy that I'd written a program that used M*cr*s*ft Live Earth to generate random walks on a real map. It's great for photography practice: "go for this walk, and take five photos as near as you can to each of the stops". In a moment of unwarranted enthusiasm, I even promised to supply the code, but then I looked at the code, and, er, well.

Anyway, I rediscovered the application over Christmas. After I'd thrown it away and started again from scratch, I had a web page that could generate random walks, beer-glass walks and even themed walks (of which pub-crawls would be the canonical example, but you could do church-crawls or even Dixons-crawls if you really wanted to).

The user interface is appalling, and I make no claims for the code, other than "if you think that's bad, you should have seen version one", but it seems to more or less work. Try it out for yourself. Oh, and if it auto-generates you a suicidal walk: say "down the M4, across a minefield and then over a cliff", I disclaim all responsibility.

1/4/08 09:26 am - The Fenton T Armbrewster Restaurant Guide, 2007

In The Tummy Trilogy, the humorist Calvin Trillin complains that whenever he comes to town to give readings, his hosts always take him to the "Casa de la Maison House" for the best French food in <insert Midwestern town here>, but he really wants to go to the place where they went with their buddies when they got back from Vietnam. My motivations for avoiding the Casa de la Maison House are even more compelling: no way would my boss ever sign off on the expense claim.

Anyhow, there's no point in my reviewing posh restaurants -- you don't need me to tell you that the Fat Duck will put a big stupid grin on your face, or that Anthony's in Leeds has fabulous food but less atmosphere than Mars, or that if you're after the platonic ideal of "dinner with friends" then you should leave your cave and proceed directly to Chez Bruce. But what about if you're on a budget? Where can you eat and still plausibly claim the bill on expenses afterwards? Herewith my personal lone-traveller-with-limited-expense-account awards...

Best Restaurant AwardCollapse )

Overworked But Useful Idea AwardCollapse )

Not That Kind of Indian AwardCollapse )

Home From Home AwardCollapse )

Billy No-Mates AwardCollapse )

Pub Heaven AwardCollapse )

Gastro Desert AwardCollapse )

Surprising Breakfast AwardCollapse )

Wildly Eccentric Breakfast AwardCollapse )

Got any city-centre recommendations for me to try in 2008? Of course you have! Go on, post a comment...

2/7/07 09:34 pm - Another dreary post about the weather

Once again, I'm missing all the fun. I love London in the snow, but I'm currently in Edinburgh (where it is bastard cold, but not a single flake so far). Bah! Feh! Grumble!

I'm loving Edinburgh, though. Haven't been here since I was ten, so it's all new to me. And all the pubs are smoke-free, and it seems like most of them have free wireless access. What's not to like?

1/27/07 11:45 pm - Armageddon!

"In retrospect, lighting the match was my big mistake, but I was only trying to retrieve the gerbil..." Puerile-but-fun link: Armageddon It On / The Gaye-Pride Apocalypso.

(PS: From the same album, not nearly so silly, and I absolutely love it: Laid Bamba)

1/26/07 01:50 am - Is the early morning flapjack market lucrative enough to fund a bassoon?

...an imponderable question from this week's London by London. I almost don't dare to read the text; it can't live up to the title.

I missed the weather! I was Up North all week, and never saw a single flake of snow. Bah. On the other hand, I have now seen Ayr (in the dark), Glasgow (in the dark) and Newcastle (in the dark). And I have blithered about SharePoint to literally dozens of people, most of them working for the NHS. For a treat, I'm now going to Stop Bloody Talking for the next few days....

1/9/07 11:44 pm - You've come a long way, baby

Lord Tebbit said: "Black is about being. Sexual orientation is about being. And we would not wish to discriminate against people for being black nor on grounds of their sexual orientation."

Norman Tebbit said that. I have apparently wandered into a parallel universe.

(Normal service was swiftly resumed: the old bigot went on to say "The concerns which are being expressed this evening are primarily about sodomy rather than about sexual orientation", and to vote exactly the way you'd expect him to.)

1/2/07 07:08 pm - Seven pounds eight ounces of joy

The world is divided into Mozart fans and Wagner fans, and I am definitely a Mozart fan. Even so, I dithered for quite a while in HMV before I had an attack of box-set-ism and bought the complete Mozart. Only fifty quid in the sales, and it's one hundred and seventy CDs. That's a thirty-centimetre stack, weighing 3.4 kilos (and that's in paper envelopes; if they were in jewel cases, you'd have to build an extension to your house).

I'm all partied out (thanks, smallbeasts, for the New Year party, and purpletigron and purplecthulhu for the open house), and I now have the perfect reason to hibernate. 10 down, 160 to go...

12/20/06 08:30 pm - Get Yer Christmas Groove On

For your listening pleasure, may I suggest Otis Fodder's Holiday FreakIn, featuring Northern Telecom's "I Want An OC192 For Christmas", a Cantonese version of Hark The Herald Angels, and Quacky the Singing Duck. Not to mention the inimitable stylings of the Inpatient Music Therapy Program at the UMich Children's Psychiatric Hospital.

If that's a bit eccentric for your taste, then DJ Riko's Mixmas 2006 is closer to normal, without actually including anything you've heard before. And there's a new Santastic, though it's not as good as last year's...

12/8/06 10:36 pm - Goodbye

The last train to North Woolwich is tomorrow night. And good riddance to it, though I'll miss the romantic middle-of-nowhere feeling of North Woolwich station itself...

12/8/06 09:58 pm - A local opera/exhibition/magazine for local people

And While London Burns: it's an opera about climate change. And an audio tour of London. And the most depressing guided walk in history. And (for all I know) a floor wax and a dessert topping. If you're in London, why not download it to your MP3 player and go for a walk? There are some emotionally powerful moments, though I could have done with a bit more story and a bit less preaching. One tiny thing: to completely follow the walk, you'll need to do it during working hours.

Or you could stay indoors where it's warm, and go to London: A Life in Maps, at the British Library. Described by Time Out, correctly, as "guaranteed to get a certain kind of Londoner quivering in anticipation". Plan to spend several hours in there, and to buy the book afterwards, and to go back a week or two later for another look. Top tip: they've hidden the free guide/brochures by the till, rather than putting them at the entrance to the exhibition -- it's worth getting one, because it folds out to an A1-sized reproduction of Newcourt's map from 1658. But you'll be buying the book anyway. Trust me.

On, and there's a new edition of Smoke. Because you can never know too much about London...

11/10/06 08:26 pm - Cretification and Incompatible Mousemats

Microsoft have sent me some certificates. Apparently I am now a Technical Specialist in, among other things, SQL Server 2005 and BizTalk Server 2003. Now, I know nothing about the former, and the latter doesn't even exist, so I felt the need to complain. After an exchange of emails, corrected certificates are on their way. In the process, though, I've discovered a new Freudian slip: my mind insists on typing "Microsoft Cretification". Am I trying to tell myself something?

Meanwhile, this week's course was plagued by problems with the mouse behaviour in Virtual PC: the mouse pointer kept jumping round the screen at random. After a while, we tracked it down to the effect of the company's old shiny starburst-design mousemats on the new optical mice. And so I had to go and tell our facilities people that our mousemats were incompatible and needed replacing...

11/6/06 02:23 pm - Under Torch Wood

Verity Stob has been channelling Dylan Thomas and Russell T Davies...

9/14/06 01:00 am - Aaargh! Bleaaaah!

olivepixel has been posting some fabulous photos from Tokyo over the last few days. Of course, I'm going to link to one of the least artistic photos he's posted; you can check out the rest for yourself. Anyway, CAMRA members on my flist should avert their eyes from this monstrosity.

9/13/06 11:59 pm - Canto-Pop Bonanza!

So, Ping has been clearing out. We now have a big pile of books and CDs to be got rid of, and most of them are in Chinese. The general desirability level is not high, at least if the English parts are anything to go by (Ace of Base? Roxette?). Your advice is sought. This would be a poll, if I knew how to do polls (they may be a paid-member-only feature, I suppose).

Anyhow, tell us what to do. We should:

1. bin the lot
2. give the English-language stuff to Oxfam and bin the rest
3. give it all to Oxfam and let them deal with it

Ping was going for 1; I've got us as far as 2. Anyone who can authoritatively push us to 3, please do. Alternatively, if you yourself want a carrier-bag full, just say the word...

9/13/06 11:32 pm - Great Denials of our Time, # 47543

The US State Department would like you to know:

Reverend George Bush did write a book titled Life of Mohammed in 1830. Reverend Bush was NOT the grandfather or a direct ancestor of the current president.

Word searches find no instances of the words "insect, insects, rat, rats, or snake," although in one section Reverend Bush does compare Muslims to locusts...

9/4/06 04:52 pm - In the year 2000...

Popular Mechanics, 1950:

"Because everything in her home is waterproof, the housewife of 2000 can do her daily cleaning with a hose".

8/30/06 06:34 pm - Heads up!

Space Soon: Art and Human Spaceflight takes place at the Camden Roundhouse in a couple of weeks' time.

There's quite a few intriguing events scheduled, though the two-day seminar, which is decidedly Not Cheap, looks to be the most interesting part... (Was the Apollo programme, its origins in Cold War posturing, ultimately the most successful art project in history? What do we really gain from human space exploration, culturally and scientifically? How do we design long-term space missions, such as the mooted trip to Mars, so that astronauts are able to have a humanising experience? In an unstable world, who should be the decision makers in the quest for space?).

8/21/06 11:54 pm - Want Cool New Toy! Want! Now!

3-D Virtual London in Google Earth is coming soon. (Minimal information via a blog here.)

8/19/06 07:03 pm - Wales!

...where men are men, sheep are sheep, and cyclists are baffled.

(You expected a post about our group holiday to Snowdonia? I'll put some pictures up on Flickr eventually...)

8/11/06 03:36 pm - Pffft

(from Wondermark)

8/7/06 07:43 pm - Trek / Python mashup

Given my flist, I can't believe nobody has linked to this yet. Maybe I missed it...

8/4/06 09:12 am - Ho for hoggwarts!

"Hullo clouds, Hullo sky, hullo pumpkins, hullo powdered root of asfodel."

(Via Flatlander.)

6/1/06 12:00 am - World Wind

I just noticed NASA's World Wind. It's like Google Earth for geeks -- animations and overlays for Earth at night, earthquakes, hurricanes, temperatures, pressures, all sorts of stuff. Plus it has maps for Venus, Mars, Jupiter and the Moon. Plus the Sloan Digital Sky Server, if you'd rather look at a celestial globe instead. Plus it's free...

5/28/06 10:35 pm - Culture, high and low

This weekend at the Tate Modern: a Thai market -- everything £1, apparently it's a critique of consumer culture -- and a puppet show based on the blobby shapes drawn by Joan Miró: .

Meanwhile, in Tower Hamlets, it's been a fortnight since the last party, so it must be time for another one. They may be the poorest borough in London, but they know how to have fun (I can't remember the last fun event arranged by the lemon-suckers on Islington council). So there's bands and exotic food stalls and beer and a village-fete-ish thing and a proper steam-powered fairground and a brilliant maze that I couldn't take photographs of because it's all in darkness but it was absolutely worth the hour's wait to get in, and well, gosh it was fun.

And on the walk home, I discovered the kitschest statue everCollapse )

5/24/06 12:09 am - Fight Fiercely, Harvard

In Which I Relive My College Years...Collapse )

5/23/06 11:47 pm - Red, red, red, red, red

Yet another musical!Collapse )

5/15/06 11:41 pm - The Changeling

There's theatre that you remember, and theatre that you forget.Collapse )

5/15/06 10:43 pm - Bungle and K9

So anyway, Ping and I are doing a wine course on Monday evenings. Today, the instructor mentioned that one of his colleagues is (when not running wine tastings) the voice of K9. Not only is he the voice of K9, but he also used to be the voice of Bungle.

Naturally, I didn't believe a word of it, but it seems to be true. That's right: K9 and Bungle were the same guy. Am I the only one who didn't know about this?

(Obligatory filthy YouTube / Rainbow link here.)

5/15/06 12:17 am - The Urban Jungle, part 2

Last week, elephants in Westminster. This week, tigers in Bethnal Green:

It's the Baishakhi Mela in Brick Lane: the largest Asian festival in Europe, now in its ninth year, with over a hundred thousand attendees last year. I'm reading all this from the booklet; it may happen only half an hour's walk from my flat, but I've never heard of it before. Anyway, happy Bengali New Year 1413!

Next week, giant clockwork penguins in Willesden. Probably.
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