March 28, 2003
Goodbye West Pier...
That'll be then end of plans to restore it then i guess...
March 27, 2003
Brilliant Jeeves, Brilliant!
Matt Webb has been revisiting old internet worm technology to overthrow the congestion charge.
I'm going to hijack DVD technology to create special double-layer fake irises!
I Woo Women With My Sensuous And Godlike Trombone Playing
You'll probably have had this silly word-document-with-embedded-bitmap in your inbox, but here it is in lighter (84K Gif) form.
Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don't perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have appeared on "Through The Keyhole" and won the gold plaque. Last summer I toured Eastern Europe with a travelling centrifugal-force demonstration. I run the 100m in 9.65 secs. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles.
Children trust me.
Read it, and forget the war for a few minutes.
There should be an IRC channel somewhere that just has someone leaning on the "a" key for the duration of the conflict. That's what war sounds like, even from a safe distance.
Let's hope the "rgh!" comes sooner rather than later.
Today, for the first time, I played this chord:
Not so impressive in itself. But it is the last chord of Debussy's "Claire De Lune", which has been giving me enormous grief over the last few weeks, and will continue to for many weeks to come.
Don't misunderstand me, it's not like I can actually play the piece properly or anything - it still sounds like a bunch of bits that don't quite work together, and that peter out around the end of the fourth page, but I have now actually picked my way through to the end from that point.
All the notes in the piece have now been played. I now just need to play them better. An achievement, and progress over which I have control - an important thing in my current position.
March 26, 2003
London By London, by those nice people who do The Friday Thing, has gone a bit quiet recently.
I'm not sure if it's just that they don't like me, or that nobody's got any london-related gossip at the moment.
So subscribe, and send them information!
March 25, 2003
Bad Puns Alive And Well
More reasons to visit the audi olympics
Wife: Wow! Look at the scan of our baby. Do you think it's a boy or a girl?
Me: A boy.
Wife: What makes you say that?
Me: It's not tidied its womb.
Nigel - how long has it taken you to get this silly?
While reading through the MOD site about Iraq, I found a page on Details of British Casualties.
The military seem to have a fairly good grasp of what's likely to happen, so I took heart that they are naming files based purely on surname, rather than numbers, or long combinations of rank/firstname/surname.
The other day I found a friend and I trying to sum up a particularly grim bit of relationship rubbish by playing tracks at eachother. And over time we realised that we were playing music *the other person didn't know* to illustrate a point, and *they couldn't hear it*. How strangely anthropomorphic - we treat this little avatar as so 'there' we can play songs to it. (Even though mine is a pic of my cat).
But today it got wierder. I actually got an IM from Simon@Mutual Misunderstanding saying simply:
And there, in iChatStatus, we were both playing 'Talk Talk', by Talk Talk.
Two avatars connecting? Is this the beginning of The Matrix?
Now I'm a doley blagger, I get cheap membership of the ICA. Sadly not the Tate though. Pah.
A bunch of people sitting around making music and video, collaboratively, with their laptops and minimal other gear - sounds very cool indeed. But I also enjoyed reading between the lines about their protocols - and imagining how out of hand the various egos have got at previous ones.
Perhaps they should organise a get-together with Matt Jones and his iPod parties?
This arrest comes as something of a relief.
On Saturday, Vicky and I drove past the police tape three roads away and faintly said 'oooh, I wonder what that is'.
We can now relax our 'taxis everywhere' policy...and hopefully they've got the right person!
March 24, 2003
At Bloody Last
Well, it's jolly good news to know that the Central Line will be reopened by Easter.
If you believe the press release, the reason service is so limited at the moment is because they don't physically have enough trains to run any of the other bits yet.
In which case, what was all that 'we are working as hard as we possibly can' about back in Feb, if they have still only got about four trains working?
I've noticed the saturation advertising of Qinetiq around London with their 'test us' campaign.
I'd never heard of them before, but something in my heart knew that, with a name like that, they had to have been someone a bit unsavoury previously.
"Price Waterhouse?" ventured the missus.
"The Androids formerly known as Accenture?" I said.
So it came as no suprise to find out they're a public-private-partnership based around DERA.
You do have to question how the minds of PR people work if we can already see through their fluffy name and know grimness is at work. And it's a sad day when such a forward-thinking and innovative organisation ends up getting to the party when all the decent names have gone.
A few design points though:
1) Their "in this section" rh nav is pretty useful, giving you a real sense of where you are in a linear journey.
2) Most of the men seem really intense and serious, and the women seem contemplative and smiley.
3) Some of their pages don't work on a mac. Arses.
March 23, 2003
Ghost of Bitrate
Enjoyed the flash trails of the new BBC online drama Ghosts of Albion but found the encoding of the TV Trail a little odd. All that bitrate wasted on a moving tv background, making the actual online bit harder to read? Would have made a lot more sense to take a still screenshot and place it as an overlay...
March 21, 2003
No such thing as a new idea...
After reading the second one of those guardian cricket reports I've realised why the format works so well.
It's test match special, isn't it?
The only thing that's missing is people talking about the lovely cakes that have been sent in!
(Oh and a link to Scott Murray's fabulous original just so i've got the link for posterity.
March 20, 2003
Worse than mystery meat...
Okay, so I only went to look at it because I'm torturing myself about not going for the first time in ages, but the site forMILIA 2003 has the least navigable top navigation the world has ever seen. The idea of it having inertia must have seemed great, but I'm amazed they didn't ask anyone to actually try and get to item 6 on the navigation.
Go on, try it.
Before Jakob spots it!
March 19, 2003
Martin's being cunning with search again.
I'm continually amazed at some of the cleverness that Martin 'currybet' Belam gets up to on his trawls through bbc search data. He's recently been working on identifying real names within bbc search terms.
He's got some interesting thoughts on algorithms, but seems stymied by issues of context. I'm concerned that he seems to be building vast lookup tables to solve these problems - surely, if you're trying to get validity from search terms, the best thing to judge it against is the data you're searching? It's a huge statistical sample, so it can tell you whether you should be grouping 'William' 'S' and 'Burrows' together in search terms, just because those words occur more often in the corpus of what's being searched.
As far as I'm concerned, there's only one 'special case' algorithms like this should have - for the band that committed internet suicide - 'The The'. That must have seemed pretty clever before search engines came along and declared your entire name redundant data.
March 18, 2003
Cook hits nail on head.
Ironically, it is only because Iraq's military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion. Some advocates of conflict claim that Saddam's forces are so weak, so demoralised and so badly equipped that the war will be over in a few days.
We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.
He may look pretty funny, but there's one hell of a brain in there. I heartily recommend you read the full text. You'll be amazed just how much of what he says you agree with.
March 17, 2003
Media Moguls Take Note?
It's been very interesting reading the wisdom in the Guardian's interview with Malcolm Richards, the editor of the Richmond and Twickenham Times.
Here's paragraph 2:
"What I'm proudest of having done is being a true chronicler. If a jumbo jet crashed on Richmond Green, a cub reporter could write it, but to sort out a complicated local issue, for instance a story running now in the paper about public lavatories, it's not easy to cover that," says Richards. "You need much more skill as a journalist to keep getting the niceties out of that local story, to keep it fresh, to keep the debate going, to stimulate people to write letters, to make sure every aspect of the argument is put forward."
The BBC, and many other media organisations, seem to be moving further away from 'content' and more into 'community' - the job of connecting their audience to the organisation and to eachother.
If you need much more skill to get a local story going and get the audience talking about it, you do wonder whether they are underestimating the task, and the skillset ahead of them.
As has been widely covered, they are about to lose about 100 staff from the new media department. Lets hope the ones who are left are experts in speaking to the audience and stimulating debate, not just two silos - programmers, and content-monkeys.
There's another warning buried in there too:
We had to stand at the church door and take the names of everyone that came in. That sold newspapers. Everybody who went to that funeral wanted to see their name in the paper
That sort of thing just isn't seen as efficient in today's media landscape. But it does make you wonder if, without a financial return, 'community' as a way of inspiring 'loyalty' is just too damn expensive?
From londonbylondon the rather fab new mailout from those folks who do The Friday Thing and Popped Clogs.
I fell asleep on the train from Victoria to Brighton the other
evening. The only problem was, I was going to Croydon, not
Brighton. When I woke up I did the maths in my head and decided
a) to stay in Brighton and b) to phone in sick the next day. I
made the right decision. I had a fantastic time, and got
incredibly drunk at the pub just by the bottom of the pier, and
spent the next day jollying around like a 15 year old. I felt a
fantastic sense of independence and self-respect as a result of
being stranded there - even though I contributed almost nothing
to the experience except getting drunk, and eating lots of
haddock. Which brings me to the main point of why I was writing:
I had a really great time in Brighton - one of the best times
since bunking off school - I felt carefree and naughty, and when
I think about it, I reckon there's a place for institutionalised
bunking-off in today's society. So, if someone wants to join me
on a trip round some cafés and amusement arcades one day next
week, when you should be tucked away in a meeting, then please do
drop me a line:
If you want to find out more, like the email address needed, then you'll have to sign up. It's free.
Useful (to some) plugin ahoy!
My piano teacher has been nagging me to learn some Chopin - I think he's sick of all this Debussy I keep making him listen to. So I went off on his advice to track down some midi files of the Preludes. (I'm not up to the Nocturnes - I know my limits!)
I managed to find a midi file and mp3 of the 'Raindrop' Prelude (No 15 in Db major) on mfiles, but was fascinated by the enormous area of blank space in the actual page. Particularly as it was just sending text/html data.
It turns out it was using the rather fab Scorch plugin from Sibelius. Think PDFs for manuscript. However they have the added advantage that they also know they are midi data...so you can hit play and listen while a little cursor works its way along the score, showing you what it's currently doing.
Really really smart.
March 11, 2003
The patience of saints
(This fills me with both joy - at all the positive side - and lots of dread. I hate small talk at the best of times, but the idea of having to spend several years of my life making conversation with something that can't/won't answer back sends shivers down my spine. I've been to some pretty grim meetings and some grimmer parties, but they were still better than this.)
Late to the fray, as ever.
blogrolling.com really is rather fabulous. No, really, it is. In a "gosh I'm actually pleased I made the effort because this is immediately rewarding" way, rather than in a "hmmm, well that's another cute toy I've stuck on my blog" kind of way.
I'm just starting to take this blog by the scruff of the neck and work out what it *is*.
Someone (it may have been Gary Turner) once said that a blog was the online manifestation of their intellectual life, and I've often noticed that mine seems to act as a cerebral divining rod...
I had recently started thinking this writing had been maudlin and self-centred for a bit too long, and it was time to sort it out - give everything a bit of a kick up the arse and take positions on a few things other than my own misery.
About a week later I noticed that I was thinking in the future tense again. Evaluating opportunities, information and people in terms of what they might be, rather than what they would have meant in My Old Life.
Remember when you break up with (well, are dumped by) a long-term partner, there's the day when you realise you haven't throught about them for several hours? It's how I feel now.
I was involved in a lot of very unpleasant things at work, both with recent events, and also spending years battling for existence in a structure that didn't particularly want me there.
And it now *doesn't matter*. Odd how much brainspace that frees up!
A bizarre side-effect is that I've found my reading has slowed down, because I'm looking for new information, rather than skimming for keyphrases that will enable me to evaluate things in my existing framework of the world.
I'm learning, excited, and my mind is slowly waking up...
Euan does it again
Euan's found, and editedsome brilliant bits of an email from the founder of Visa to Joi Ito. (Euan, where do you keep finding this stuff?)
I'm glad Euan did the subbing, and included so much, because - despite being a long read even in quoted form - I'd never have dreamed of tackling the full thing without knowing that was in there.
It's a big long article, but keep going even through the comments.
US Satire In Reasonable Health
I've been enjoying the CNN Global Edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (and check out the length of this url!). I just hope more pople in the states are listening in to 'Saddam is once again goading us into war, taunting us with his total compliance' and US officials making arguments that imply "if we don't attack north korea, it'll attack itself. Self-war!"
Shame about the celebrity interviews though - needs to be more political. The show loses focus as a result. (Vicky correctly pointed out. You see why I'm worried?)
Vicky, my wife, now has a blog. I'm not going to link to it till she gets going properly, but I am filled with many parental-jealousy-style worries.
1) Now she's posting all those witty thoughts, I'm not going to be able to pass them off as my own ideas.
2) Given my opinions tended to go through her highly-trained idiocy filters, thanks to instant messenger, I'm much more likely to mess up now.
3) I bet she's going to get more hits than I do.
All of which shouldn't matter. But do. :-)
Humanitarian Aid to Business
I've got to admit that I've not been too huge a fan of the US in recent months. And I guess I'm not alone.
However, I was puzzled by the difference between how the Today programme and BBC News Online reported the story of how Iraq will be rebuilt by the US, and preferably only the US.
The Today programme made out in their headlines that 'only US firms will be allowed to bid for contracts in the rebuilding of Iraq'. But I didn't hear them mention that it was US, rather than international aid money that they were talking about.
I was all ready to rush to the blog this morning, post a link and look like a smug smartarse, with a nice coda about 'shouldn't the people of Iraq decide who gets to rebuild them?'. Only now I can't.
But there is a serious issue here - where does 'aid' become 'investment'. While I can't see the sense of spending a hundred billion dollars on a war to provide just under a billion of construction work, I can see the merits of being first in there when the loan repayments become due.
A UN development programme spokesperson said "any idea that Iraq can pay its own way without a substantial period of reinvestment is very wide of the mark". They also noted that oil production is 2m barrels/day, when it has been 3.5m barrels/day. That's a lot of room for interest payments!
Bush said "It's Iraq's oil". That's as may be, but they may have to use it as the US tells them.
March 10, 2003
If you don't know him, this won't make sense.
But I love these photos of ben moor with a beard
March 09, 2003
Cheddar Man Online Witchcraft
Then it struck me, I was sitting in a Pizza Express on my own, playing Scrabble on a Gameboy, wearing a Scrabble T-shirt. How much of a sad idiot must I look?
Two quotes that really seem to summarise where they're coming from:
the Internet was designed to be the simplest conceivable way to get bits from any A to any B
But because its designers were smart, they made the Net too stupid for that
I'm not sure how the people who do something great and get it on b3ta feel about 'anyone can add value to an edge' when their hosting provider closes them down for hitting their bandwidth limits though...
March 07, 2003
Didn't get it.
Found out by email.
Pretty upset actually.
Five...Books I could write in my spare time
Breaking the Groove
A partwork on strategies for discovering, and liking, new music once you hit your mid-thirties.
Nielsen and Neilson, How Jakob destroyed online showbiz
Manifesto: Let's remove the blockages in organisatons caused by usability experts and try and make things *useful* first, and then usable second. The world is full or perfectly usable stuff that's actually not particularly useful. And I'd far rather the other way round as you can fix that.
The Dole Office for Smart People
A brief guide to help you deal with some of the mind-numbing beauracracy and poor information you're going to receive. Chapter titles: Opening hours and how to find them. JSA and Social Services - two different beasts. JSA interview judo - how to turn undermining tactics back on people while seeming nice. Jargon Compounder - how to know more about the process than the person you're talking to. Bugs and Beauracracy - frustrations of the enemy, and how to exploit them for sympathy. Appearance - how to turn up look motivated and professional while knowing you'll be sitting between two people with facial tattoos.
Leftbrain thinking for Righthanders
For gods sake stop encroaching on our territory. Let us come up with the mad stuff - we'll need you guys to actually do it for us. We certainly can't. Concentrate on getting the bit you're good at right.
A brief history of interactive narrative
Not really a book, more a collaborative multimedia experience, which would only work on a platform and delivery infrastructure yet to be devised.
Waiting to find out.
Phone call/letter/something should turn up today. (But probably won't, leaving me with a weekend from hell)
At times of great stress, don't underestimate the calming power of a cat acting like a loon!
March 06, 2003
Thanks for the confidence boost...
The fabulous tale of the rise and fall of ArsDigita, basically describing how VC and bad management screwed over a working company, has me running for my recent job application to see whether I can actually do the thing I've just applied for...
Well worth reading, including the comments at the end.
(Via the fab Paul at Paranoid Fish)
March 05, 2003
That night view
(If you ctrl-click/right-click/whatever on the image and choose 'open in new browser' you'll see it full-size)
The security there was really impressive. It was like going to an airport - metal detectors, id, the lot.
About Last Night...
Well, that has to be one of the nicest evenings of my entire life.
Meeting up with a wonderful selection of former colleagues for a Wine Society tasting of 26 Rhones.
Then on to drink champagne in Vertigo 42, the bar at the top of the former Natwest Tower - it was like walking into the set of Blade Runner, with the view of the lights of london.
Then a wonderful meal at Pizza Express, with a nice drop of chianti. In a rafia bottle. Class.
I was a little groggy this morning it has to be said. But full of smiles.
So, they may have already decided whether I'm going to get The Big Job at the beeb.
And today I applied for a job at Thus. (formerly demon)
And Endemol may still ring back...
So *who* rang my answerphone at home earlier today and didn't leave a message, calling from an anonymous number?
March 04, 2003
On a lighter note...sort of
While checking through the list of recent NESTA awardees, I found a reference to Phelim McDermott, who I saw many years ago in Sandi Toksvig's fab play "The Pocket Dream".
After a bit more googleage I found the entry of his comedy partner Lee Simpson on the male voice-over artistes page of International Artistes Ltd. See all these famous people, then download mp3s of them voice-overing their little hearts out.
And then, just to rub the hawking in, make sure you have a listen to the clip of Madness 2nd-in-vocal-command Carl Smyth.
Our heroes know they are just a commodity.
One...thing they could have sold TiVo on.
You can play back at the same time as you're recording.
(That would have been enough for most people. Back then.)
Five...myths about TiVo
(This one kind of bugs me. Lots of people in telly, particularly US commercial telly, started ranting on ages ago about how TiVo was going to destroy everything, and these terrible things would happen. Without, as far as i can tell, asking the right questions.)
People skip adverts - yes, they do. But once you've seen an advert once, you remember it, and its message, while watching it on fastforward.
People skip adverts - yes, they do. But they also rewind to look at adverts that looked interesting.
People don't look at trailers for other shows - yes, they do. Without picking up a listings magazine, it's one of the key ways of finding out what other programmes are on. So please make sure that the time and date are clearly in vision so we can pause and programme!
It's the death of the channel. Erm, EPGs need to get a *lot* more smart before they offer the browsing experience of paper. When i get the radio times, I know which channels the things I like are on, and I'll look at those channels in that order.
People only watch the shows they already know. Well, that's possibly true in the US. But then there's much more of a big-season-and-sprint-to-syndication model there. Series are 13 episodes at least, and there's a large archive of old stuff to be plundered for lots of the big hits. In the UK we are used to things only being on for 6 weeks, and then having to find out what's going to be on next. That 'appointment to watch' is only ever transitory. Grazing is in our blood. Oh, and I now delete episodes of 'will and grace' I've seen before.
March 03, 2003
Five things...I invented ages ago that are now new
Hifi-separate MP3 players that have an ethernet port on the back, and know how to connect to servers on your home network.
That the BBC licence fee is, in many ways, a slightly screwed-up but at least working model of a creative commons (in the style of Jamie King and Alan Toner). Though you have to get Larry Lessig in to tell you that, because I didn't count.
Interactive drama needs to pay the bills - lets do mainstream first, and then worry about those lovely scifi ideas *we* get our rocks off on later.
Asynchronous chat around content is really useful, and utterly public service.
With the application of moore's law, your average tivo/dvd-ram system will mean that people can store around 2000 hours of video at home for watching on-demand - that's not broadcasting, that's software licensing.
Five things...I wish I'd said in my interview
I translate between coders and editorial without either side noticing.
The project management proto-methodology I invented has now been adopted for loads of other projects in my department (didn't find this out till after the interview though)
I want to advertise for programmers in newsletters like 'ouch' - I think it would be good for coders to have to deal with disabled people face-to-face
To save duplication and waste, why not make all public service development work (internally) open source?
You can't get much more involved with editorial policy than arguing about whether the BBC was allowed to call the netaid concerts 'NetAid'.
Five things...my cats are scared of
My ability to move furniture
The vacuum cleaner
My using the stairs at anything other than a crawl
Five things...an introduction
I've been thinking for a while about ways to structure some of my thoughts. I'm too flippant to write well-argued articles, and too bloody lazy to do loads of research on links.
It's one of the problems with blogging - there are things you can become fascinated with, but unless you're going to turn it into a fully-argued, well-reasoned piece, it doesn't count. (Thats why songwriters get more money than sequencer programmers!)
For example, I've been thinking a lot about the Total Cost To The Environment about various activities recently.
Hot air hand dryers - how can using all that electricity be more efficient than just having a towel there? (Ah, well, if you bear in mind that the towel has to be dried, which uses just as much heat as drying your hands, and it doesn't use detergents; and as for paper towels - do you know how much it costs to dry wood pulp?)
Petrol lawnmowers vs electric lawnmowers - surely the fact that I'm using fuel locally, rather than down a big long wire, is more efficient? (Ah, well, but you have to bear in mind the cost of transporting that petrol to the texaco garage down the road, and also do you know how much more expensive it is to distil petrol than the heavy fuel oil that power stations use?)
The answer to the final questions in both of these examples is: I can't be arsed to find out. I know I should, but I just can't be bothered. Sorry, I guess that makes me a bad blogger. But then I know that, in this arena, I'm never going to be a Tom Coates.
So I'm going to be doing lists instead. Small lists. That might inspire, but might not. Might be funny, might not. That could be much bigger, but really don't deserve a www.thingsthatihappentohavethoughtoflotsof.com domain name. Because, again, I can't be arsed.