Monday, December 18, 2006

Ligua Franca


Loic Lemeur wrongly assumed that conference attendees would not object to Le Web 3 morphing into a platform for French pre-election chest-beating (with keynotes delivered in French, natch);


I slightly worry about an industry that turns out in force to a french organised conference in france, and expects english to be spoken. It seems just the tiniest bit arrogant.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Unfed

So I'm trying to embed a list of things I find on YouTube in the sidebar over yonder.

YouTube doesn't seem to publish any feeds.

No RSS. No Atom.

Eh?

Madness.

Listal

mildlydiverting on Listal

I've been trying on and off for a month or two to upload our records from delicious library on to listal. Not for any particular reason, just because it seems fun to have a list of my (Our! God, I've actually allowed the boyfriend to comingle his CDs and Books with mine, which explains the Prog and some of the History of Apple stuff...) huge physical media library up with the virtual library that places like last.fm and amazon generate.

Listal itself is fun, but a bit... pointless, so far. It doesn't seem to encourage sharing and loans, nor resale, nor easy discovery of reccomendations. It might just be that until this evening it hasn't known enough about me, so I'll withhold judgement for a bit. What I really need is a site that I can easily query from my mobile phone when I'm trying to remember if I actually own that particular discounted David Bowie advert, or a site that tracks my ownership behaviours and instantly improves my reccomendations on any given eCommerce site. I'd like a bit of promiscuity with my data, please.

What I will say is that the profile page that you're encouraged to use as your linking presence on the site doesn't feature your collection nearly prominently enough - it's well below the fold. Profiles on social networks are beginning to look so similar - here's the box with the picture and location, here's the favourite stuff box, blah blah - that getting the 'killer app' above the fold on the page that people are likely to enter at seems ever more important.

On a related note - actually, an entirely unrelated note - YouTube and Twitter, what's up with your error messages? They don't appear next to the submit button I've just clicked, but in a banner at the top of the page. They're sufficiently far in to my peripheral vision that I literally don't see them, and just sit there thinking 'Hmn, this doesn't work... I wonder what happened?'. I finally understand why my mother has problems remembering to check status bars. Please fix!

Back to listal. Other niggles are that there's no view that allows you to just see everything - it's always broken in to music, books, dvds... I'm too used to thinking in terms of streams of stuff these days, and, well, that seems artificial. I'm really confused by the Movies / TV / DVD categories too - are they assuming that they'll track download purchaces? Otherwise, how do I reclassify all my DVDs into movies or telly or other?

They provide the now ubiquitous tagging for organising your stuff, but really, with 400 odd books (and that's less than a third of my total library, at a guess) I simply don't have the ability to go through and usefully classify stuff. I could do with a batch processor, or a use of Amazon's classification system to broadly indicate the topics of my books. A cross between that and Amazon US's 'Statistically Improbable Phrases' would tell you a great ammount about the actual content in there, and be a good starting point for better organisation. Folksonomy is all very well, but only works contiguously - you need proper librarianship foo to retrospecively work through that ammount of data. Use the API's available to you! I can acutally see a multiple-select-drag and drop interface like flickr's organizr working well for that ammount of representation-of-things in this context. Some of the CD metadata is a bit borken too; more likely the fault of delicious monster, but perhaps its the time for a project like musicbrainz to take Amazon's dirty data on books and physical media instantiations and expose it publicly for community cleaning? I think the combining, cross referencing and curating of this kind of data is one of the most useful things to have come out of the open source wikipedia / freedb ethic of the last few years.

So, anyway; Listal useful in that it has let me get physical objects in to a virtual space. That's less impressive once you understand that I compiled the list by waving barcodes in front of the boyfriend's macbook, but it's another link in the chain of making my life networked, and finally becoming little more than a set of public data streams. Hmn.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Boing Boing: Airplane-Treadmill problem

Boing Boing: Airplane-Treadmill problem

Surely - and I may be wrong - planes derive their lift from the bernouille effect of air moving very fast over the aerofoil of their wings. As the plane would not be moving forward in space, there would be no airflow over the wings - the point of runways is to get sufficient speed of airflow to produce enough lift to let the plane take off.

What you have here, is a jet powered thing revolver?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Arresting

Sometimes, there are thoughts, that when you first encounter them are so very arresting that your world changes in a way that's initially imperceptible, but that you know will grow in to something extraordinary. They're literally dumbfounding; there's no response to them, and you feel a whole bunch of concepts slip into a new position as they settle in to your head. That is, provided your brain doesn't spit them out like so much conceptual ambergris.

I've just stumbled across one such though. What if, by 2010, there is no address window in your browser? What if a user never has to see another URL again, ever? What if the web chooses to put its skeleton on the inside?

My god, it's full of stars.

Designweenie: Weblog

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Twitterati

russell davies: johnson v eno: "twitterati"

Today's Neologism. Nice.

Keeping things in Perspective

Google Trends: Second life, YouTube

An interesting little search terms graph.

I find it rather extraordinary that there are two talk events running in London this evening about Second Life and virtual worlds. One is more academic, about identity formation and sociability in worlds; the other appears to be about generating PR for the music industry. The Immersion / Augmentation split couldn't be better illustrated if you tried.

Also, last night, Steven Johnson and Brian Eno went off on to an agreeable little diversion about SL in their ICA talk about 'The Ghost Map'. It has given me an idea, a little like Jones the Wireframes', but with more bottoms. Of which, more anon.

Friday, December 01, 2006

BBC NEWS | Politics | Voluntary code for blogs 'needed'

BBC NEWS | Politics | Voluntary code for blogs 'needed':
"Blogs and other internet sites should be covered by a voluntary code of practice similar to that for newspapers in the UK, a conference has been told.

Press Complaints Commission director Tim Toulmin said he opposed government regulation of the internet, saying it should a place 'in which views bloom'.

But unless there was a voluntary code of conduct there would be no form of redress for people angered at content.

He spoke during a session on free speech at a London race conference."


Oh. Oh. Oh dear me.

/me giggles at the silly man who doesn't really understand.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Terra Nova: cyber-sexdaq

Terra Nova: cyber-sexdaq

Just a little follow up from the post about SL sex the other day. Ren Reynolds has a very interesting discussion of virtual prostitution rates being a good indicator of cross-world coin worth - like the economics 'mars bar' rate.

RPI goes from Retail price Index to... Role Play... something...

I made you a cookie... but I eated it on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

I made you a cookie... but I eated it on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Just occasionally I hate my other half.

He took a terrible, terrible photo of me pulling a face with his shiny new cameraphoneblackberryofevil, and it is now the number two google result for 'I made you a cookie... but I eated it.'

Great. Welcome to posterity.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Alan Yentob watches Deathline in Second Life

Alan Yentob Flies in Second life

Imagine... herecomeseverybody.co.uk

BBC - Press Office - Network TV Programme Information Week 49 Tuesday 5 December 2006: Imagine... herecomeseverybody.co.uk, BBC One, 10:35pm

Over the last couple of months, I've been occasionally helping out Zoe Silver, a director from the BBC Arts department, as she's been working on the latest edition of the arts show, Imagine...

Skipping to the end first.... Zoe's put together a really excellent programme about the creative culture of the web. It's not hardcore geek - that wouldn't be right for the audience of the show - but it's a great overview of the way the MySpace generation are changing cultural consumption.

The list of heavy hitter interviewees should give you a good flavour of how right she's got it: Tim Berners Lee, David Weinberger, Clay Shirky, Jimmy Wales, Henry Jenkins, Chris Anderson... I hope you'll agree that's a good mix of people, all of whom have really sound insights into the way the web is permeating everyday life, and how media is getting democratised.

There are some real grassroots voices in there too - David Firth, creator of Salad Fingers, was reccomended by m'estimable colleague David Thair, and looks to be in the final cut. There's Dickon Edwards, Girl with a One Track Mind, and some modern beat combo called the Horrors, too.

I'm eagerly awaiting a preview DVD - at the moment I've just read an edit draft of the script.

I got involved with the project back in July; someone somewhere asked someone else if anyone knew about the internet and might be able to find a UK video blogger, and that someone asked someone else, yada yada, and that person put Zoe in touch with me. It turns out I don't know any videobloggers (at least, I didn't at the time) but what I do know about is stuff on the internet, generally.

We sat down a week or so later in the rubbish wine bar under my offices, and I proceeded to empty my head of the history of what, back in my day, we knew as cyberculture. Poor girl; two hours with me after a couple of glasses of wine, talking about the internet... I think I must have terrified her; I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Anyway; I've been acting as an informal 'web native' advisor - every so often being around when the production team has wanted to check the wording on the voiceover is right, or when they've wanted to set up a blog, or register a domain name.

I have to say, though, that the most enjoyable thing about the whole experience happened about a month ago after Alan Yentob, the presenter (and notionally my boss' boss, or possibly my boss' boss' boss), had a chance meeting with the DG in a lift.

According to rumour, they chatted briefly about the show, and as he left the lift, Mark Thompson said 'Oh, have you heard about Second Life?' The next day, I got a phonecall:

Zoe: Hello, me again. Now, do you know about Second Life?
Me: /laughs
Me: Yes, yes I do. I was wondering when you'd ask that.

So - Alan wanted an Avatar, and to visit the world for the show. My attempt was frankly rubbish, but Alan liked it enough to commission Kisa Naumova to create a proper version for him, and to manage the shoot in world. She did a fantastic job (I'm really proud of her!) - even getting K's new band Deathline to put on a gig for the film. Apparently, Kisa gets mentioned by name!

I'll pop a couple of screenshots up on Flickr, and link to them later. But for now, I urge you all to watch BBC One on 5th December at 10:35 pm.

And if you look really closely, you'll see 'me' in the background of one of the shots...

EDIT: 9 Dec

Natalie d'Arbeloff got in touch to point out I'd missed her off; so here she is. Stuart at Feeling Listless has gathered together all of the relevant links from the show in a stirling display of public service spirit, too.



Tuesday, November 28, 2006

BBC - Video Nation - Filming Skills - Recording Sound

BBC - Video Nation - Filming Skills - Recording Sound

Hey! Kids! Making video for YouTube?

Watch these useful guides from the BBC, on how to make your footage look better.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Musiccubes

BBC - Radio 1 - Musicubes - Constructor

M'estimable colleagues at Radio 1 are up to bonkersness again.

Super Public, Super Sexy

I'm making my Monday rounds of my RSS feeds, catching up on a few long-unread folders. David Hayward, at Functional Autonomy, is running a very interesting series of thoughts on privacy, and transparency, in a world where social networks and online behaviour destroy conventional notions of the public/private sphere.

His discussion of Danah Boyd's apophenia: super publics, and her throwaway comments about sexual privacy in a recent talk caught my attention.

I've recently become an 'expert' in Second Life. By expert, I mean someone who spends time there, actively thinks about the experience, and reads enough secondary literature around the subject (blogs!) to be able to contextualise it for busy media executives in a series of pithy soundbites. So, not especially expert by my own standards (I'd want some kind of PHD in the area to really consider myself approaching an expert in any field), but more than enough expert for the purposes of my job - moreso when you consider it to be an extension of the social aspects of living an internet-mediated life.

When I opened my Second Life account, I had the intention of keeping it very, very seperate from the rest of my online identity. After all, the fun of an alternate existence is playing with the boundaries of your behaviour, and exploring what it might feel like to be a different version of yourself.

Any internet identity used to be good for this kind of self-extension/obfuscation; Usenet of yore was full of nobody-knowing-you're-a-dog. I suspect the compressed, disembodied nature of online communication coupled with the being-someone-else-ness of the online space goes some way to explaining why heated arguments and griefing are more frequent in virtual commons than in real world public spaces. I should incidentally relate that someone-elseness to the disembodiment of the internet experience; the having your head in a different place to the rest of you.

Anyway; it turns out that the ideal position of keeping part of my online life seperate is untenable.

I shouldn't be surprised, really; I'm not noted for public discretion about what would be considered to be my private life*. Furthermore, I suspect that the more 'real' an avatar or alternate identity feels - and that's strongly related to the (visual, rendered, realised, identified) tangibility of the representation - the harder it is to partition off the existence of that self-shard. I think that Danah Boyd probably reached that conclusion well before I did.

Ishi - my current otherself - got off to a wobbly start in the seperation stakes. A comedy misunderstanding between myself and Alice meant my real name got attached to a Second Life product. Picofame followed, and I met a few people in Second Life who understood where my other Mildly Diverting internet identity lived. A friend who only knew me in world* could attach my real name to my avatar after seeing BoingBoing, and use google to find me elsewhere. My notoriety at work as being 'girl who knows about the internet' led to helping out on a machinima shoot for a fairly well known arts presenter, and more admissions to in-world friends about my out-world life.

But why seperate? Well, basically, sex. I'm fascinated by smut; those who know me well** know this. As I started spending time in Second Life whilst on holiday (both literally away from home, and on holiday from the work-play and social work-play of Warcraft) I had the time to investigate (indluge in?) the seedier aspects of the world. It's nothing unusual for me; I've investigated (indluged in!) some of the seedier aspects of first life too; luckily there are few permanent digital records of this though.***

David Hayman is perceptive around the intersection between shame and privacy:
If there?s anything in my life I?m really, actually ashamed of, it usually indicates that I don?t understand it well enough. Subsequent investigation shifts myself around that thing, either eradicating it from me or giving me a more confident foundation in that aspect of myself.


Whilst most aspects of my sexuality have shifted myself around them over time - I'm most of the way through adjusting to being post-gay (or, if you like, have come out and gone back in again) at the moment - there are still some aspects that I feel not exactly shame, but more... insecurity about. These are precisely the areas of self-formation that become attractive loci of exploration in a safe, alternate identity-space; playing with the thing that frightens you renders it powerless. When you couple that with the colourful group of people I hang out with, some of whom are much more concerned with privacy and seperation than I am and trust me not to violate their boundaries, then also consider that I am being asked to expose my online identity in a professional context, it becomes more of a tricky course to negotiate.

It does revolve around trust.

Giving a presentation over the summer, I was asked to demonstrate embedding a youtube video in a blog. I did; this blog sat on the projector behind me. Someone made a casual joke about my self description in the sidebar. Not about liking girls, but about being too serious. Does that person now have significant information about me that might affect my future career? It depends how prejudiced she is against serious people, I suppose; I do not have enough one-to-one experience of the way she thinks (either through talking to her, or through her online presence) to make a decision about the amount I trust her. Ages ago, I demoed Bittorrent to a producer here; my dowload list was rife with smut; embarrasing, but I trusted him just enough to make a nervous joke of it. I gave an adhoc demo of Bloglines to another group of people; they probably noticed the folder of feeds labelled 'smut', but in this case I trusted them all enough that I didn't compulsively make a joke of it. I've joined a few networking groups in SL that might impact on my professional life; I wonder, occaionally, if anyone might raise an eyebrow at the other groups I belong to. Which one do I worry about? The one whose honest reaction I can't judge.


The moments of flustered embarrassed panic I have each time this happens boil down to:-

  • having exposed something that transgresses a perceived societal taboo (etiquette breaches)

  • the potential this exposure might be used against me professionally

  • in ways I might not be aware of in a system where reputation is hidden

  • do I thus trust these people enough not to weild that power over my professional reputation I have just inadvertantly given them in ways that might negatively impact me?



Then, last week, I was asked to demo Second Life to a producer, and also to make a few clips to illustrate another talk. I made an alt, fresh and clean and innocent. But I didn't use her.

Why? Practically, because it was too much fuss to send through money and objects and yada yada. But also because I realised that, you know, Ishi is me now. That's me; the more salacious things I get up to online are probably more fun for being a bit secret and furtive, but shame is probably not a healthy reaction to the situation. It's not to everyone's taste, admittedly, but each to their own. The fact I'm out there enjoying these spaces and playing at the edges means my colleagues don't have to; in a funny way, it's valuable experience. It makes my presence in Second Life authentic. I hope, in some way, that my willingness to expose vulnerability there renders a reciprocal trust dynamic.

More from Danah Boyd:
A reporter recently asked me why kids today have no shame. I told her it was her fault. Media is obsessed with revealing the backstage of people in the public eye - celebrities, politicians, etc. More recently, they've created a public eye to put people into - Survivor, Real World, etc. Open digital expression systems coupled with global networks took it one step farther by saying that anyone could operate as media and expose anyone else. What's juicy is what people want to hide and thus, the media (all media) goes after this like hawks. Add the post-9/11 attitude that if you hide something, you are clearly a terrorist. Should it surprise anyone that teenagers have responded by exposing everything with pride? What better way to react to a super public where everyone is working as paparazzi? There's nothing juicy about exposing what?s already exposed. Do it yourself and you have nothing to worry about. These are the kinds of things that are emerging as people face life in super publics.


I'm not deliberately foregrounding my sexuality in these professional situations, you understand; it's incidental. It's just one aspect of the cloud of data on me, my tastes, my behaviours that is now present for all time on the internet. In that stew of data on me, my sexual life is as weighted as my musical tastes, or my reading materials; it's all noise, just data points and only relevant if you want to make it so. Added together, though, it will probably tell you if I am someone you'd find entertaining to have a chat with in the pub.


It's just crystalised gossip. How terribly, terribly significant.



* Much to my Mother's disgust, and I suspect my father's amusement. Hi Dad!
* I suspect findable on Google due to an unusual nickname, but trying would invade her privacy; this is about my relationship with my otherlives. It's all about me. Me me me.
** And in some cases, for values of well approaching 'met me whilst a little too drunk once, and heard it all anyway'
*** My ex was less lucky. I'm not doing *that* google search in the office though.

Call for Papers: Women in Games from Guardian Unlimited: Gamesblog

Call for Papers: Women in Games from Guardian Unlimited: Gamesblog

I would really, really like to prepare a paper for this on gender performance / perfomative gender and virtual worlds.

It's a shame my academic knowledge is ten years out of date.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Honest in a Second Life Article

FT.com / Arts & weekend / Magazine - Get a (second) life: "Given the camaraderie that had developed between us and my looming deadline, I decided to ask if either of them wanted to have sex with me. Laura immediately offered to ?give me the full works? in return for L$1,200 upfront - about $5 in real money. Things quickly came unstuck. For one thing, I had neglected to buy any virtual genitalia, which came as a disappointment to Laura when I took off my pants."

From an article in the FT - quite a nice, honest view of the world that doesn't shy away from mentioning that yes, a lot of it is about sex. I think this is one of the only mentions of the more adult aspects of the world I've seen in big media...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Are You an Average YouTube User? - Mashable!

Are You an Average YouTube User? - Mashable!

An interesting - and cleverly done - study of user behaviour on YouTube.

The foregrounding and public nature of social networking sites should, theoretically, make this kind of information much easier to come across.

I particularly like the fact that these average active users spend about an hour a day watching clips.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Crystalising a line's walk

Sketch Furniture by FRONT

This is extraordinary. I love the looseness of the lines they make (which, of course, are invisible to them) and the way the slightly tentative shapes still feel wobbly in the plastic furniture produced.

God, we live in interesting times.

More Cats

More Cats

This is an important public service, you know. Particularly this one.

http://www.knitemare.org/cats/270916538_37c1904290.jpg

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A week later and this is still funny

CATS!

'Im in ur survr, steelin ur dataz'.

This kept me awake giggling at 1am this morning. Damn cats. What is it that makes today's memes so sticky, so appealing?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Book Lust pt. 2

Hill House, Publishers: Books by Neal Stephenson

Damn you, Matthew Sommerville. Damn your eyes and the £317 Pounds, shillings and ounces that I now want to spend on books.

3D Weather Data Visualization in Second Life - Second Life Insider

3D Weather Data Visualization in Second Life - Second Life Insider

Oh. My. God.

SecondLife mashups are where its at.

Box Box Box Box; Drive Drive Drive Drive; Liiiiiiiiiiift! Liiiiiiiiiiiiift!

Via Rodcorp:

A Rebel in Defense of Tradition - on Steve Reich at 70
"Reich moved back to New York, where he got to know Philip Glass. At one point they had a moving company together; Glass also worked as a plumber while Reich drove a cab." - you wonder what they hummed as they moved boxes.

Mr. Rodcorp has just made me blow coffee out of my nose laughing.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Book Lust

Penguin Designer Classics - Penguin Books Ltd.

A Sam Taylor Wood designed limited edition of F Scott Fitzgerald.

Oh, god, it's so very pretty. And a hundred pounds. But I want it so very much.

It's just outside the upper boundary of could conscionably spend on one lovely, lovely thing that will appreciate in value over time limit. Bugger.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Interesting usability error

Blogmusik | Free Internet virtual ipod for Music Albums playlist Mp3 (BETA VERSION)

Now, I have issues with flash. I really don't mind it being used appropriately, but man, it can go SO badly wrong in really subtle ways.

Here's a good example - Tae in the office just sent me this site. I went to register, and had to type in my email address. So I hit the @ sign, which is shift-' on my keyboard, just up and to the right of the full stop and slash keys.

Except it came out as ".

After a few moments of total confusion, and believing that my fingers were at fault, I thought to try my normal " key - shift-2 in this case.

Lo and behold, an @ sign appears.

The designers must work on macs, and have no idea that they've managed to hard code both mac specific, and presumably regional data into their application (I'm assuming that there are regional european differences in keyboard layout, from a brief and very confusing attempt to use WindowsXP-French Edition - which sadly is not known as Microsoft FenetreXP, boo).

Anyway, flash. Sometimes it sucks donkey balls, to coin a phrase.

Selling my Skin

SLurl: Location-Based Linking in Second Life

Hmn, not quite like that. The anatomical skin I made is finally available for sale; I'm hoping to cut a deal with a big store, but for the meantime, visit my baby parcel of land and help pay for the endless texture uploads it took to make it!

Chinhae 212, 5, 32 will get you there. And sorry about the shouting, there's nothing I can do about it...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Think Global, Act Local

outside.in

I heart Steven Johnson; he's a good and interesting writer.

His latest book, The Ghost Map, is about the Broad Street cholera outbreak, which is one of my favourite London stories, always retold to friends in the John Snow, or as I walk past the pump.

Anyway; he's launched an interesting fuzzy geolocation service, outside.in.

Lovely, but it hasn't heard of Clapham, or SW8 3JF.

Come along now, the internet is not just for 'mericans.

The Peckham Experiment

Guardian Unlimited Arts | Arts news | The truth about those iconic buildings: the roofs leak, they're dingy and too hot

I used to live in Peckham; I loved it in that part of town. There's a lovely mix of grass roots art activity, gentrification, proper pubs, african groceries and cheap poundshops that I really liked. And I only saw one shooting in two years, too.

I used Peckham library whilst I lived there. It's an incredible building to look at; an inverted L, with bright panels and real presence, hidden behind a set of older buildings and some open public space with a giant canopy over it; host to the Peckham farmer's market and a variety of Gospel Choir ministries on non market days.

As beautiful as this regenerated area was; as carefully designed, conceptually rigorous, etc etc... it was also anti human.

That sounds odd. But I'll give you a couple of stories to illustrate it.

Back in the days of building new towns, the planners laid out footpaths in Milton Keynes. These were to connect residential areas with shopping areas, and they ran through scenic parkland strips, curving, organic,paths; lovely and human, and leafy, and pastoral; the kind of paths to warm the heart of any urban pedestrian.

Except, of course, the meandering routes were not direct, so people cut across in a straight line to cut their journey times. And the trees screened the paths, so women didn't feel safe. So the layout, for all of its intentions, wasn't good in use.

Then there's Vauxhall Bus Station, by Arup Associates. It's beautiful; a cross between a club flyer logo and a 1950s airstream trailer.

Except that

  • it doesn't provide any shelter from wind, because the glass enclosures are open on two sides;

  • the seats are on the outside of the shelters;

  • the angular plains of the roof mean you get rained on as you walk around the wall to get to the stairs down to the tube;

  • one of the shelter areas has been boarded up for six months because (I assume) a bus drove in to one of the supports and ruined the aluminium cladding which has proved difficult/too expensive too replace (I assume);

  • panes of glass regularly shatter, particularly where the bus maps are mounted on frames drilled through the glass;

  • the roof is so high that it provides no shelter from the rain, which blows in at an angle;

  • the lift doesn't work;

  • the toilets don't work



    • On the plus side, it has an LUL roundel that glows and changes colour.

      And so to Peckham Library; a fantastic but not hugely functional building. The inside was covered with the usual flurry of photocopied a4 community notices that are a feature of any and all libraries; considering this, did the architects not take account of that in their plan? Walking to the entrance is intimidating; yet another windblown, semi sheltered imposing blank space to cross, rather than a lively, human, inhabited pavement. You're not *in* the space as soon as you enter; there are lifts and floors to negotiate, and it feels like visiting an unfriendly office. The furniture was looking tatty (not pleasantly worn, you'll note) when I visited, but most of all, the selection of books was really, really poor.

      Perhaps I was expecting too much; but Putney, Westminster and Battersear/Clapham libraries have been wonderful. Perhaps, then, it's an artefact of the different demographic needs in Peckham. Perhaps its an artefact of the spend on the building negatively impacting on the spend for the contents of the building.

      It makes me sad. Perhaps because I spend a lot of my time thinking about the lived experience within virtual architectures on the web, and making sure the design fits the purpose as much as possible.

      It also makes me want to retrain as an architect, in order to do better.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Accidental Poetry

List of battleships of France - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Foudroyante"

I just came across this set of names of French Ironclad battleships.

It is rather poetic.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Skin / NoSkin

Update: The Skins are now available at Chinhae 212, 5, 32 - my little parcel of land.


I've been messing around in Second Life recently; along with half of the rest of the world, it seems. There's a constant stream of wobbly-legged newbies wandering around wondering what there is 'to do'. The last week has been eventful; I made my first thousand Linden Dollars, got randomly shot at in the American Apparel shop, and bought some very pretty shoes. Aaah, shoes.

I've been in for a month or so already, and... it's interesting. It reminds me of the web back in 1996; all flashy banner ads and people making stuff just for the sake of it, because it's fun.

At the moment, I don't want to link my two selves together; my regular old internet identity and my second life. My avatar felt very strongly embodied very quickly; much more so than Kuya, my Warcraft alt. I'm slightly alarmed at the fact that, given control over my appearance, I have given myself a very tall, very thin body; no surprises about the body issues there, then. On the plus side, I can wear heels without the attendant agony, and even walk in them, so swings and roundabouts. I didn't really want to post about SecondLife here, but Alice persuaded me.

The physicality of controlling an avatar is interesting. Ages ago I did a lot of academic research into the way that medical programmes create interesting psychological relationships to the physical body. If you're at all interested in reading ten thousand odd words of impenetrable post modern theorising, I've popped my old dissertation on my site: New Romances of the Body: Television and the Somatics of Technology. Frankly, I can't quite be bothered to go back and read it myself; the essential argument was that representations of the body on screen lead to an odd state where we idealise and fetishise the body, whilst never quite being able to get away from the fact it is little more than a puny bag of fallible flesh.

There is an argument to be made about the popularity of cybersex in Second Life being a reflection of the desire to be physically embodied in the world. By sitting at your computer screen and engaging your virtual self in mutually improvised pornography, you produce real physical effect in your body. (Look, I'm so not going in to detail here. You're grown ups. Use your imagination.) It's more or less the only way to get real physical sensation from a virtual existence.

So, you should have some idea by now that actually I'm a body theory geek. I was lucky enough to study gross anatomy as part of my art degree (yes - with real dead bodies. I'll post my drawings some time); I made a short documentary about art and anatomy that I really must get round to posting on YouTube one day. And now, my first SecondLife build is an Ecorché - a flayed skin, designed to present the gross musculature of the human body. Interestingly, there's no good mention of the Ecorché in its art historical context on Wikipedia; I must get to work.

I'm in discussion at the moment to make the skins available for sale; I'll post again with an SLURL as soon as the deal is finalised. If you're interested in a copy, do leave a comment; I'll get in touch.







The skin was entirely hand drawn in Photoshop, based on my old anatomy sketchbook; i used Chip Midnight's reference PSDs to help with the allignments.

Oh; I made that garden, too, if you're in the market for a bit of Inigo Jones...

(edit: BoingBoinged! Thanks Cory!)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Lilacs out of the Dead Land

My mother and I are planning my father's 80th Birthday party

Mum: What about Music? We need music?
Me: I can sort that, that's fine. What do you want?
Mum: Oh, well, I don't know...
Me: Well, what about Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald...umm, I have some Julie London, and some Doris Day...
Mum: Oh, nobody likes that, do they? Jeannie and Laurence like... what is it...
Me: Elvis?
Mum: Coutry and Western!
Me: Oh, I have some Dolly Parton.
Mum: What about that album that we love? Manos Hadjidakis, he's called. Lilacs out of the Dead Land. It's all in greek on the back... it's on record here, we could put it on the computer? Everyone I've played it to has said how lovely it is.

I love my parents, and actually, I think it's entirely fitting that my Dad's 80th birthday celebrations will take place to a soundtrack of Balalaika Music inspired by a TS Elliot poem.

They made me who I am, and I will never, ever be sorry about that.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Magic Hour

Years ago I read a book; the images that the book created in my head are still with me.

The book in question; called 'Magic Hour' is the biography of Jack Cardiff, a cinematographer, and incidentally the first trained technicolour cameraman in the UK.

He got the job - against stiff competition - because the other camera men went in and talked about physics, and lenses, and technical issues. He went in and talked about Rembrandt.

He worked with Powell and Pressburger, shot the African Queen, produced travel documentaries, and writes eloquently about the time of day as the sun sinks, and the world turns a mysterious shade of dark blue. The hours around twilight do something magical with film; turn it into a place where the world seems somehow unreal, and precise, and sad, all at once.

Images sometimes hit me like that; either the strong mental images from good writing, or glimpsed images in books, on posters, in the street. They catch you, and niggle at you, until you pay them attention, look at them more, let themselves print themselves on you.

A few weeks ago I wandered through a bookshop, and saw a beautiful art book, with a cover that looked like a film still - a woman walking away from a spun-out, steaming car, at twilight. The image hasn't left my head since - it reminds me of William Eggleston, or Cindy Sherman, or... something from a forgotten movie. Something shot by Jack Cardiff.

It turns out it is by a photographer called
Gregory Crewdson; thanks to Dan I've just found out that his work is in an exhibition at the V&A called 'Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour.

And I now know what I'm doing this weekend.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Waiting for Taxis

It's five to one. I'm still at work. I'm really quite tired; with another late one tomorrow. I hope it's worth it.

There's a taxi on the way, but meantime, this.

Amateur astronomer photographs sun with digital camera, for fun.

Notices sunspot

Looks closer.

Realises it's the space station and the shuttle.

Nice.

iss_shuttle.jpg (JPEG Image, 2850x2850 pixels)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Your Name Deciphered: Kim

The Weekly / Your Name Here / Your Name Deciphered:

KIM

Literal meaning

'Christ, get that thing away from me.'


History

Celebrated as the first word written with the first pencil invented in 1222 AD, the name Kim was originally used by nuns to refer to warriors who died during drill practice, before being pulled from a fire that killed its variants and diminutives.


Famous Kims

1. Kim du Marl-Proms, who discovered Sock 'n' Roll;
2. Inspector Kim Quoits, haunted by an image of the nightmare cupboard;
3. Kim Millington-Ach, co-writer of INDIANA JONES AND THE MECHANICAL PONTIFF;
4. Kim Happenstance, aroused by between nine and fifteen scientific principles; ghost-writer of Thora Hird's anarchist's handbook and autobiography, DOCTOR! THE FORCEPS!;
5. Brigadier-General Kim Dindymene ('The Uncanny'), named in court as holding compromising material concerning the world's most attractive bucket;
6. Kim T O'Lilly Li, who lost a fortune on the self-aware cartoon strip; ghost-writer of Peter Lawford's compelling autobiography, I WAS KILLED IN THE WAR;
7. Kim A Thews ('The Nervous'), indifferent to the Bakelite Diet;
8. 'Terrible' Kim Chinly ('The Thing'), who owes everything to Tramp Drink;
9. Kim H Tidecatcher, MD, fascinated to death by Explode-O, the wonder bang dismantler; ghost-writer of Yootha Joyce's cousin's autobiography, SEE YOU IN HELL;
10. Kim Trabmaw, champion of the right to use thirty-one entirely new ways to kneel.


Typical Kim motto

"Let us emulate the wily Prussian."

And Lo! I am become walking cliche! Phear Me!

Two people more senior than me at work have reccomended the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain to me; within a couple of days of each other, at that.

But anyway, I can't help but think this means that Ukes are now SO OVER, and I hereby declare 2006 to be the autumn of the harmonica quartet.

YouTube - Borrah Minevitch & his Harmonica Rascals - Boxcar Rhapsody



Spring 2007 will of course be the season of the Balalaika.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tom Coates get Pwned

I'm demonstrating You Tube again. This one was a particularly good find...

Buzz and Predictions

Buzz Game: Home

Reading a post on the O'Reilly website about games, AI and captchas, I noticed there was a rated list of RSS readers in the left hand navigation, attached to 'stock market' data. It turns out to be an embed from the Yahoo! Buzz game; essentially, Celebdaq for search terms. It's not new, of course, you'll have been aware of it for a while.

I noticed, however, that it was part of Yahoo! Research; it makes sense, as a stock market game about technology trends is a good area to attract an audience to the game. But then I though... what data could Yahoo! be deriving from the players?

Watching buying trends of technology related search terms would be an invaluable guide to investing in key products and technologies, and could give quick before-the-fact tipoffs to emerging players.

Interesting.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Building A Guitar in Nowhere

As I've been on holiday this week, I decided to take a virtual holiday too; I moved multiverses from Warcraft to Second Life.

Man, does that interface blow...

I think there will be a longer post about SL sometime soon, but for now I'd just like to point at this extraordinary video of a chap using the in-game modelling tools to build a guitar for Suzanne Vega. It's breathtakingly accomplished, considering the tools used.

I know it isn't anywhere close to what the highend CGI tools can do, but at the same time, the last time I did any serious 3D modelling was on the Acorn Archimedes, and you had to use a scripting language to place all of the objects, then leave it for hours to render your animation. I genuinely can't concieve of what virtual space manipulation tools might be in another 20 years...

Second Life | Showcase

Best Thing Ever

If George Formby did the Ace of Spades

Uniforms! George Formby! Ukeleles! Rock! Yes! My life, as they say, is complete.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

The BBC License Fee Reclassified as a Tax?

One of the speakers has just raised the fact that the 'BBc License Fee has been reclassified as a tax, so why can't we access everything it does in an open way, seeing as we've already paid for it?'

Hmn. Here's what the House of Lords had to say about it:

The licence fee as a tax

22. Since our last report there has been a significant change in the position of the licence fee. In January 2006 the Office of National Statistics re-classified the licence fee as a tax. Previously, this payment had been classified in the National Accounts as a service charge. Explaining the change the Office of National Statistics (ONS) says "in line with the definition of a tax, the licence fee is a compulsory payment which is not paid solely for access to BBC services? A licence is required to receive ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, satellite, cable". [6]

23. We are not convinced by this argument not least because it has been the case that a licence has been required to view any television channel in the UK for many decades. Nevertheless the decision means that from now on the licence fee will be recognised as a form of hypothecated taxation.

24. Reclassification of the licence fee as a tax also has the consequence that the BBC is reclassified from the public non-financial corporations sub-sector to the central government sector.[7] The status of the BBC is thus also affected by this decision and it becomes a central government body. This change also affects the Welsh broadcaster S4C.

25. When announcing its decision the ONS tried to offer some reassurance that "These classifications are solely for the purpose of producing National Accounts and the statistical products based on them. This has no implication for the independence of these broadcasters".

26. In spite of this we are concerned about the consequences of the ONS' decision. The reclassification of the BBC as a central government body could have serious implications for its independence. There are various subgroups of public body that come under the title central government body. The only existing one that the BBC could conceivable fall into is the category of a non-departmental public body.

27. The Cabinet Office guidance on non-departmental public bodies shows that the sponsoring department of such a body has significant powers over it. For example the sponsoring department has a role in designating who the body's accounting officer will be, in approving the form of the annual report and accounts, in determining audit arrangements, in reviews on the grading and loading of posts and in setting pay remits.[8] The reclassification of the licence fee as a tax, and of the BBC as a central government body, could therefore have significant implications for the BBC's independence. We urge the Department of Culture, Media and Sport first to spell out the implications of these changes and second to explain how the BBC's independence will be safeguarded in light of them.

28. The licence fee is now classified as a tax and we note that for the first time the Government have started to use it as such. They are using it to cover costs that should be covered by general taxation, in particular the costs of providing targeted help with digital switchover. As we will discuss in the next chapter, over 75s are currently given a free television licence funded from general taxation as part of the Government's social policy. By proposing to fund targeted help with digital switchover through the licence fee, the Government have introduced a type of "top-slicing" for the first time. This is a profound change to the constitutional position of the BBC. By doing this the Government can raise taxation without being seen to do so.

29. As long as the licence fee is being recognised as, and treated as, a tax then our argument that Parliament should have a chance to properly scrutinise it becomes even stronger.


So - firstly, a Government department has pointed out that the license fee doesn't just pay for a BBC service - it is a payment for access to all broadcasters. No change there.

It also means that 'The BBC ... becomes a central government body.'

Which has implications for the BBC's independence.

Mind you, the chap who pointed that out as a rallying call to getting access to BBC data, rather than a blow to journalistic independence, has just shown a C64 emulator running in flash. Which redeems him.

If you're interested, here is a report comissioned by ITV about the license fee, and here is the ONS document about the reclassification.

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Snipperroo

Snipperoo

Oh, look, a homepage made almost entirely out of jpegs. Good oh.

Quite a lot of double letters to remember in that URL too...

d.construct 2006

So, I'm down in Brighton for d.construct 2006 - alas, I'd already bought my own ticket by the time that the backstage.bbc.co.uk freebies went round. There's something rather deliciously ironic about being given a schwag bag with a tshirt from your own employer in it - not least a sudden pang of guild about LFP's money... although we'll draw a discrete veil over that one, as I don't think I've yet to comply with big aunties employee blog guidelines. Cough.

We've been through three sessions so far, and I've met a few of the usual suspects, and a couple of folk I know online but not in the flesh. It's a very male audience, but that's not unpleasant as it means queues for the loos are small during breaks. Ah, Dave Winer, eat your heart out.

First up was Jeff Barr from Amazon Web Services. To be honest, it felt like a very shiny hour long sales pitch; there was little information there that I hadn't picked up from generally reading stuff on the internet (appart from some of the technical gubbins, which made a lovely X-wingy noise as it flew over my head). Best Slide: the ten thousand mechanical turk sheep were extremely fine, and it's always useful to get usage figures for big sites:

59 million active customers (logged in and purchased something in the last year)
25TB of business and historical data in warehouse
1,080,000 active seller accounts
180,000 software developers registered over 4 years on AWS.
Alexa web services have 3 100Tb web crawler indices, containing 10 billion pages, that roll over every 2 months


(Oh god, two men are sitting next to me talking about 'how widgets for your blog are the bumper stickers of the internet, and how all they need is to get a VC interested... also, there are people with a stall and matching tshirts and some kind of soft toy cows advertising some sort of JavaScript Application platform.. truly truly it is bubble2.0)

The cheerful travelling pantechnicon of Messrs. Hammond and Willison, purveyors of fine APIs to the masses were up next. They were funny, and mentioned the Yahoo Monkey. they didn't sing the song, though, which was a loss. Their facts and figures

1/2billioon users/month for Yahoo worldwide
200,000,000 have yahooid - active users
Yahoo itself is a coallition of 40 smaller product groups


Best Slide: they have one of the biggest problems with hackers in the world - they are the worlds' most hacked website. They illustrated this with a picture of a radical haxxor with his laptop, sitting on a streetcorner. The face was pixellated, yet he looked strangely familiar...

They talked about the internal benefits of a web services framework within a big company; not just the fact that the developer community love you and build stuff, but that actually it frees up innovation within a company - you can prototype stuff fast, without having to ask permission and build on something produced by another business unit. It gives you agility in your innovation and development, and makes testing ideas a quick, easy and creative process. You encourage an internal mashup culture; it allows large organisations to build new products faster, and with lower 'communication overheads'. This is an appealing thing, particularly within the BBC where we're just begining to crack open our systems internally. Nicest thing they showed was the potential to use a flash API (gasp!) for a mapping service, demonstrated by Justin Everett-Church's Pirate and Radar maps. Their key message was 'Find a way to contribute back to the ecosystem' - and that the improvements on international mapping for Yahoo maps were coming soon - in the order of months, rather than years. The most compelling argument for external APIs from a business case was that unless you unlock your data, you offer a market opportunity - and potentially market share - to your competitors. Ordinance Survey take note...

(ooh, apparently the Widget men know someone who 'did fucking insane things when the BBC were going fucking mental setting up their ISP which was madness and there was this Monkey called Babbage as the Icons... all you do is go round your mates in big corporations and bamboozle them with new tech...'. Gosh, I do hope they get the money they want from MySpace.)

An interesting point was raised in their questions; How does one ensure that web APIs remain available in the future? By comitting to build on someone else's platform, and create a business relying on that data, where do you have a long term guarantee that that source will remain there. There isn't an answer to that, but it raises interesting issues about the mayfly existence of web sites (and web2.0 ideas, perhaps). I found myself wondering if Brewster Kahle and the internet archive should start capturing back end server architecture so creative sites could be accessed in twenty, fifty, a hundred years time. Something like flickr could become the Doomesday laserdisc project of the next twenty years unless someone starts capturing script and code and server 'snapshots' going forward. I often wonder what happened to flickr's real time picture IM service...

Next up was Jeremy Keith, on the Joy of API. His talk - from the point of view of the lone developer learning to make products around others' APIs - was excellent. he made an interesting point that his joy reactions to sites over the years have been emotional reactions to the story possibilities therein - when design follows the story, and story flows from design. best slide - a ZX81. His comments on MicroFormats and classes such as hCard and hCalendar turning the whole web into an API were... inspiring. I need to do more research here, though.

So, now it's lunchtime. I'm guarding Yoz's laptop whilst we steal hot 'lectric juice to power our lightup thinking books. More later on this afternoon's sessions if the RSI holds out. And I can get the wifi to work properly on the laptop.

There is, incidentally, a horrible rising queasiness about sitting in a room full of alpha geeks, and realising that you shouldn't have brought the boyfriend's MacBookPro instead of the tablet PC - you might be getting an additional 2 hours battery life, but you'll feel like a complete twat when the rows behind you watch you struggle to work out how to make it connect to the free wifi. Thank god Yoz was there to inform me it was DHCP playing silly buggers, and not just onrushing senility...

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Queen of Puddings - History - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Queen of Puddings - History - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I wonder if that's *the* Dave Gorman who edited my contribution to the Wikipedia?

If it is... he plays Warcraft, and edits his own entry.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"I haven't been up to much these days." - Except, We Presume, Partying.

A colleague just sent me a very sweet piece of live email address phishing spam; an email inviting you to add your names to the guest list of exclusive clubnights.



From: Zoe [mailto:zoe.neslen@hotmail.co.uk]
Sent: 15 August 2006 12:47
To: Ann
Subject: Weekly Parties




Here is a list of our weekly guest list only clubs:


This weeks parties:


Wed: Movida


Wed: Pangaea


Thurs: Umbaba


Thurs: Aura


Fri: Roof Gardens


Fri: The Penthouse


Sat: Playrooms


Sat: ISIS


Sat: Roof Gardens


Please email guest lists with full names and emails by 6pm on the night of the party.


Note: All our parties are GUEST LIST ONLY.


Zoe Neslen





I think it's more grist to the mill around the Spam-achieving-sentience meme; first it has a very down week, then it decides to set up a club night and invite all its friends over to parrtay.


I also love the idea of a club called Pangea. Presumably your experience fragments as the night wears on.


Re-reading the sad Becketlike singing of loneliness, It occurred to me that you could track the spambots progress using the common phrase in the comments:



"I haven't been up to much these days." - Google Search



Over 60,000 positive hits; and some on blogs.msdn.com - nice to know that Microsoft has the same problems as the little guy when they play in our sphere...

Ruining the Whole Racket

I read a biography of Anita Loos when I was in my teens; long before I'd seen Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I suspect that I picked the book up in the library based on the photo of the interesting looking woman on the cover; in short, I quite fancied her. In retrospect she looked oddly like my ex. Judging books by their cover has stood me in good stead over the years; I've read all kinds of things I wouldn't have done just from relying on reviews, or reccomendations.

Anyway, I've just spent an inordinately long time - for me - on google, trying to track down a dimly remembered quote for a friend. It's rare I get stuck on searching for something; after diversions via Mae West and Tallulah Bankhead, I eventually got there with 'furious feminist quote' - it turned out that if I'd remembered it better, I would have used the much more charming term 'women's liberationinst'.

"I'm furious about the women's liberationists. They keep getting up on soapboxes and proclaiming that women are brighter than men. That's true, but it should be kept very quiet or it ruins the whole racket."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Language over Time

I'm not sure about this as an interface. Maybe it isn't an interface, and is in fact an experience, and it's just me making a category error, believing it to be a way of gathering information, or performing operations on content.

TagLines

I think the thing that I'm struggling with is the fact that it is a very word heavy way of looking for pictures. I know that tags are lovely, in that they let you make semantically significant inferences about something that isn't machine readable... But still. What would happen if the background was significant pictures from the day, with a much slower turnover, and the description - the words - were slightly less busy, less demanding? Is it really that significant reading the words, rather than taking in the much more information dense pictures?

It is fascinating, though, to see how the significant words change over time on flickr. Right at the start the tags are tiny, almost illegible; presumably because so few users were tagging so few pictures in relation to today's torrent of snaps. Over time the subject matter of the pictures gets less geeky - fewer tech conferences appear, the tags get more inexplicable as the softer, less librarianlike secondary adopters flood into flickr.

But there is one thing that seems sad; the names disappear. I had a moment, watching the words drift by at first, when I wondered if it was something that an acquaintance had been involved in making - there was a philgyford and a foeromeo and a tomcoateshatsproject in there. After a moment of puzzling about it, I realised that the totality of flickr is now bigger than any one individuals' significant event. I'm still seeing FathersDay and prideparade - gatherings of lots of people, all documenting the same event, but the individual voices are lost now.

How *do* you keep the massive sea of data personal?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Microsoft Live Labs: Photosynth

Microsoft Live Labs: Photosynth

There are moments when you get a kind of vertigo, looking right over the edge of technology, and in to the future.

Google's addition of SketchUp to Google Earth was one of them - as was the first play with Google Earth itself. I've had a few moments in internal presentations too - where I've seen researchers presenting locative technology, or image recognition.

But blimey, this little site from Microsoft has fried my noodle. It's the most extraordinary piece of research around image recognition and spatial reconstruction I've ever seen.

I can't help linking it up in my head - a ubiquitous, photographed earth living collaboratively across each machine attached to the web. Second Life eat your heart out.

Mind you... where would the unmapped areas be? I'd suggest they might look a little like the darker patches in the earth at night...

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Ghost Map

stevenberlinjohnson.com: The Ghost Map

So, Stephen Johnson has announced his new book - and I'm both fantastically over excited about it, and slightly miffed. I've known about John Snow and the Cholera epidemic for years, and it is a fascinating thing.

But now *everyone* will know about that mysterious pump in Broad Street, and why the kerbstone is a different colour, and why you should always drink beer, and not water.

Boo. There goes one of my entertaining yet obscure pub facts out in to the mass of popular knowledge.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Mmm... girls are pretty and not like men and some of them blog, which is cool

Scripting News: 7/31/2006

Oh, good lord.

Dave Winer went to BlogHer, and thought it was full of hott Chixxor.

I'm speechless.

Friday, July 21, 2006

YouTube - Roy Smeck - Tiger Rag



OK, so yesterday's YouTube post (which I'm off to delete shortly) was part of a demo of t3h aw3some powaaar of teh internets to some people at work. They wanted the human beatbox.

How I wish I'd known about this fantastic Ukulele playing instead. The blowing over the soundhole is particular genius.

Last summer I bought myself a ukulele, intending to pick it up again - I could play the basics when I was eight or nine years old. But, alas, I discover that like the guitar, bending my fingers around the fretboard brings on my RSI something terrible, and after five minutes I'm in pain that lasts for a day or two. I wish I'd known that using an orbital sander so intensely one summer more than ten years ago was going to permanently affect my life.

Let this be a salutory lesson to you all.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Windows Live Local

Windows Live Local

A pretty remarkably good satellite shot, this.

You can actually see my kitchen window. Blimey.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Existentialist Spam

Comment spam to blogs is approaching crazy scales. I have a good few friends who are despairing of their MoveableType installs; having to spend hours daily strimming out crude adverts for get rich quick or pharmaceutical schemes.

Any open system is eventually going to get gamed, sadly; and the web's free-for-all nature makes it especially prone to exploitation.

It's not all bad though. The comment spam on
Kevin Wen's blog has reached a Beckett like nadir of lonliness - a thousand spambots telling the world that they did nothing, and their lives are empty.

Imagine a web made up of automated scripts, singing their boredom to each other quietly in the dark of thousand server farms. Poetic, n'est-ce-pas?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Doug Engelbart 1968 Demo

Doug Engelbart 1968 Demo

A placeholder post, reminding me to watch and talk about this.

What an extraordinary piece of history.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

London Bikeathon - Simon's Supporters!

London Bikeathon - Simon's Supporters!

This is a worthy cause. Some work friends are taking part in a very, very long bikeride to raise money for Leukaemia research. Why? One of our work colleagues is currently undergoing treatment for Leukaemia.

If anyone out there is feeling generous, a few quid would really help.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Reccomended Reading

Amazon.co.uk: Listmania! - View List "New Media, Games and the Web"

So, I was searching for a book to reccomend it to a colleague. And I though, hmn, I wonder if that List will give me any helpful suggestions for alternative titles. And I scanned down it going 'Yep, read it, read it, read it, read it... yes, got, read... How odd, this is a weird coincidence, this many similar titles...'

And only at the foot of the page did I realise it was a list I'd made.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Welcome to the World of Tomorrow!

Incoming text message from the other half, who is stuck in meetings all day at a large British Telecommunications company.

Someone just showed a slide where they'd spelled "future proof" as "future poof"


A rather queer approach to business strategy, I'm sure you'll agree.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The very definition of squick

Pickled worms have always been something I've found rather unpleasant.

Written like that it sounds patently obvious - I mean, pickled worms. Pickled. Worms. Ew. You'd not expect to find people who say 'Mmm! Pickled worms! Bring it on!'. But I really have come into contact with more pickled worms than you'd expect, and than I'd like - it's a result of having studied Zoology for a bit.

Old-school A level zoology courses (and, for that matter, the bit of degree I did too) were broadly based on comparative anatomy - you know, the reason that natural history museums have all of those skeletons of different animals displayed in their main rooms; so that by looking, you can see just how similar the constructs are. It's a simple demonstration of the power of evolution to produce a smart, adaptable design (although that sentence does rather anthropomorphise 'evolution' as a thing that designs, which it absolutely isn't - it's a random process of winnowing out the chaff through breeding).

Part of studying comparative anatomy involves cutting things up. I used to be a whiz at dissecting out frog nervous systems; imagine trying to preserve a 2mm thick thread of soft cheap hot-dog meat whilst cutting away a surround with the consistency of expensive sausage skins, and you'll get an idea of the manual dexterity you need for doing that. The thing I used to find less enjoyable though, was dissecting worms.

I'm not someone who is scared of spiders. At all. But I do have an irrational dislike of maggots. Not quite a standing fixed screaming, but a definite can't-bring-myself-to-stand-near-them sort of thing. They disgust me, in that visceral, nasty, primal way. It turns out that maggot fear intersects in quite a bit way with annelid fear, too. Not earthworms, no - they're kind of cute, and harmless. Quite happy to pick them up, no problem. Even marine bristleworms are ok; some of them are quite pretty, and what's more, they explode en masse when they have sex, which is somehow almost endearing. They're definitely less cool than earthworms though, and the ones with fat jaws start to hit the squick button, too.

The fear actually intersects with a mild flatworm/fluke/leech disgust - so fat, wriggly and... Juicy, blindly seeking the chemical incline that brings them closer to your nice, tasty blood... Which should give you the clue that the fear really intersects with parasite disgust - so, roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and so on. Anything, in fact, that gets inside you and uses its nasty little prostoma to... Ugh. Well. Do whatever it is that parasites get up to inside you - squirm disgustingly inside your gut like living spaghetti, mostly, I expect. So its a disgust based on foreignness inside, on having things inside you that shouldn't be there, gestating quietly inside your body, or consuming you from within. Hmn. Freudian. Anyway.

This is where the pickled worms come in. When you're given them to dissect, they come in big jars. They've gone hard and waxy from preservation. They're bone white, and glisten slightly, pointed at each end, sort of the dimensions of a crochet needle. They smell of formaldehyde - sort of a mix between vinegar, rot and treated chipboard. You have to tweezer them up and pin them out. They're kind of springy, and leathery, and ooze fluid as you scalpel them open. And. And. And.

It used to take huge efforts of will for me to handle them. You can imagine. Of course, the fact that it was worm dissection day was never a guarantee that you wouldn't encounter them anyway - cutting into a dogfish gut reveals a tightly coiled wire wool of worms. I haven't eaten Rock from the chippy since.

And there's never a guarantee that you won't encounter the horrible things randomly elsewhere; in catsick (particularly memorable those, they were about 5 inches long and still thrashing...), or insinuating their way out of a piece of Cod you bought from Sainsbury's and kept in the fridge for a day or two too long. Their sheer ubiquity is what gets me too; they're everywhere. Inside. Ugh.

I imagine, by now, that you're feeling as unwell and jumpy as I am. So, sensitised as you are to just what it is that makes me squick about worms, I'll pass you on to this article about a new medical robot designed for investigating the gut.

I haven't been able to bring myself to watch the video.

Excuse me, I'm just off to quietly retch and pass out in the corner.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Monday, June 05, 2006

Overwhelmed

I know the internet doesn't really care about this, but I've not been posting much because I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, and under inspired.

I've got a couple of days of peace and quiet which I'm using to iron out a few crinkles in my head. And then, slowly, getting things underway again, with a bit of luck.

And to start - keep a clean house in just 19 minutes a day. Marvellous.

The Keep-It-Clean Plan | Cleaning : RealSimple.com

Monday, May 22, 2006

Among the audience | Economist.com

Among the audience | Economist.com: "Mr Diller concedes that ?all of the distribution methods get thrown up in the air, and how they land is, well, still up in the air.? Yet Mr Diller is confident that participation can never be a proper basis for the media industry. ?Self-publishing by someone of average talent is not very interesting,? he says. ?Talent is the new limited resource.?

?What an ignoramus!? says Jerry Michalski, with some exasperation. He advises companies on the uses of new media tools. ?Look around and there's tons of great stuff from rank amateurs,? he says. ?Diller is assuming that there's a finite amount of talent and that he can corner it. He's completely wrong.? Not everything in the ?blogosphere? is poetry, not every audio ?podcast? is a symphony, not every video ?vlog? would do well at Sundance, and not every entry on Wikipedia, the free and collaborative online encyclopedia, is 100% correct, concedes Mr Michalski. But exactly the same could be said about newspapers, radio, television and the Encyclopaedia Britannica."


I kind of agree with the talent as a finite resource model.

What the second argument fails to take into account is that the rank amateurs do have talent; the ones that become popular beyond their immediate social circle.

The others are only really interesting to their immediate circle of friends; because a pre-existing relationship makes their content valuable to a limited audience.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Any colour you want...

So Apple have released the new MacBook. It looks kind of sweet, and I'm nearly tempted by a Mac Laptop.

But... but... but. OK, so you look at the middle model. The White one. £899. The only difference between that and the £1029 black model is the size of the harddrive. That'll be 60gig vs 80gig.

And then on the customisation page, you get to upgrade the size of the white MacBook's harddrive to 80gig, taking the total cost to £939.00.

Um.

Ninety quid.

It costs ninety quid to have it in black.

I'm not sure what I despair more about - that Apple are doing this, or that idiots will actually buy it.

Rebecca Warren FTW!

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Turner Prize judges cast net wide

Gosh - my old Photography Tutor has just been nominated for the Turner Prize.

She rocked. Hurrah!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

AC FTW

Any description of this weekend is going to make me sound like a phenomenal geek. But hey, I am a phenomenal geek, so what's your beef? Anyway.

My Warcraft guildmates came to London. I currently have Four Danes, a Scot, and a bloke from High Wycombe sitting in my livingroom making jokes about Palladins. And it's been great.

There's more to follow, possibly, about the strange things that happen when people who've been playing together for a year finally meet - mostly about how it's impossible to call anyone by their given name. This weekend, I've been answering to 'Kuya'.

The best thing has been the interchange of jokes - both ongoing jokes from the game - More Dots! Banana Phone! - but also trading jokes between cultures.

Which brings me on to wanting to fuck your ear.

I think that the english-speaking world needs to be made aware of the sheer marvellousness of Dolph and Wulff. It's a cult comedy show in Denmark, with puppets. One of the characters is a beaver called Rocco, who is... well. He has a large libido. And wants to Fuck you in the Ear.

I thoroughly recommend listening to this clip about Bird Flu. You won't follow the Danish, but the English will make you laugh like a loon.

Uh, wear headphones in the office, guys.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Six Degrees of Muscle Strain

"The controller's got X-Y-Z, pitch, roll, yaw, lateral motion detection. The controller uses bluetooth and wireless controls. It's lighter than the PS2 controller. This is interesting, because it suddenly makes Microsoft look like the odd man out on the motion-sensing controller front. "

Engadget & Joystiq's live coverage of Sony's PlayStation 3 E3 event - Joystiqjavascript:void(0);
Publish Post

Well, that's going to completely shag my RSI, then.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Vice magazine: LONDON - A&E PATIENTS MAKE ME SICK

Vice magazine: LONDON - A&E PATIENTS MAKE ME SICK

And just whilst I'm in pointing to things mode - this is the most excellent rant by a Casualty receptionist.

We do love to complain about the falling standards of the NHS - and yes, the brave founders in the 40s would be shuddering to see what's happening to some areas of it. But on the other hand, we treat it with the kind of cavalier idiocy and helplessness that we bring to so many areas of our lives these days.

I wonder what it is that leads people to treat colds like medical emergencies? Why do we have so little faith in our ability to look after ourselves? What have we done to our collective societal common sense? When did we turn in to helpless lambs looking for someone to sort us out? Is unthinking disempowerment the malaise of our society?

I blame the media.

Soap and Flannel

eBay.co.uk: 1978/79 UNOPENED PACK OF PERSIL E3 DETERGENT! (item 7409875353 end time 01-May-06 15:22:17 BST)
"Unopened packets of retro detergent have become highly collectable and I have here a packet of PERSIL from 1978/79. It has a competition on it with a closing date of July 1979, and requests proof of purchase must date after 1 October 1978. Offered sealed."


How much do I love ebay? So very, very much.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Creative Future Day at the BBC

The following are my own views, and not necessarily those of my employer, the BBC.

(Although I am about to go and help with research on the BBC web 2.0 strategy, so hopefully the two views will coincide a bit more over the next few months...)

I thought, seeing as there's a bit of a kerfuffle around this idea that 'The BBC is building it's own version of MySpace' going around the internets, that, as a public service, I'd use a couple of quid of licensefee to transcribe the actual words uttered by Ashley Highfield in the internal BBC video.

This comes in the 'Share' section of a presentation under the headings of 'Find, Play, Share, Transform, Enable'. It was part of today's Creative Futures sessions. I've tacked on a bit about the Creative Archive too, just so you get the *whole* of the share section.


SHARE

Ashley Highfield: He's the 'big picture guy'
The ability of sharing programmes, your own thoughts, your own blogs, your own home videos along with our content - creating YOUR space.
Working out what your friends are watching, exchanging views and comments, and actually sort of building bbc.co.uk around you.

Grant Bremner
The creative archive is basically a license - its a framework the BBC has created along with other partners - including the British Film Institute, Channel Four, the Open University - that allows the public to effectively download the content from the BBC that we make available for non commercial purposes, that they can use for their creative endeavors. So basically we're allowing the public to actually download our content and use it.


And from this, you get a report in the Guardian that states (at the time of writing):
The BBC today unveiled radical plans to rebuild its website around user-generated content, including blogs and home videos, with the aim of creating a public service version of MySpace.com.


And:

Mr Highfield said the share concept would allow users to "create your own space and to build bbc.co.uk around you", encouraging them to launch ther own blogs and post home videos on the site.


I'd encourage you to make up your own mind on whether or not the BBC is actually doing its own version of MySpace. The Guardian certainly did.

What I'd like to point to instead is the Programme Archive. A couple of folk here, just for a giggle, took an enormous database of eighty odd years worth of BBC output, and plopped it out on to the web. It's amazing.

The lovely thing is the way it all links together - by people, time, concepts. You have to admire the detail the hidden unsung heroes of the BBC archives have been adding to their database over time.

Imagine that, but with clips. And possibly a wikipedia entry for each show...

Anyway. If any of you have any interesting thoughts about what the BBC should be doing in this grim meathook brave web2.0 future, do let me know.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

PIPEX System Status - System Status

PIPEX System Status - System Status

Sometimes, you suddenly get the desire to poke around in your hosting package. Specifically, when you get invoices from your hosting company.

Now, I've used my 'dedicated server administration' package about twice in the year I've had a server behind my domain. It's clunky, frankly, and I generally use FTP to squirt files on to the box, and that's it.

Surely some coincidence, then, that the two times I try and use the server admin stuff in the year, it's bloody broken.

Grr. Broken internets. Bad internets. Grr.

Ganking

60ganking.wmv (video/x-ms-wmv Object)

Heh. Human ingenuity, as applied to pwnage.

Sweet.

(Um, for those of you that don't speak fluent nerd.... that's a nice fan made warcraft video, showing a clever trick for killing high level characters when you're low level. Sort of David and Golliath, but with goblins, if you will.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Original Chinese Conjuror

Aldeburgh Productions | Series '59th Aldeburgh Festival'

My husband is - finally, after Years of very hard work, having his not-quite-an-opera performed at the Aldeburgh festival.

Hurrah!

THE ORIGINAL CHINESE CONJUROR

A Musical Diversion Suggested by the Lives of Chung Ling Soo



Music: Raymond Yiu

Libretto: Lee Warren



Director: Martin Duncan

Designer: Francis O?Connor

Lighting Designer: Chris Ellis



Almeida Ensemble

Conductor: Timothy Redmond



59th Aldeburgh Festival

Southwold Pier, Suffolk

15th, 17th and 18th of June, 2006

See: http://www.aldeburgh.co.uk/events/event_listings/series_event_display.cfm?current_row=11&catref=59th%20Aldeburgh%20Festival



Almeida Opera Season 2006

Almeida Theatre, London

1st, 2nd and 7th of July, 2006

See: http://www.almeida.co.uk/index.cfm?id=conjuror



Before the performance on the 7th July at Almeida Theatre, there is a concert given by my friend, the counter tenor Andrew Watt, who also stars in the show.

See: http://www.almeida.co.uk/index.cfm?id=concerts2006

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Lily Allen

Crikey. This is going to be huge.

www.myspace.com/lilymusic

More grist to the faux/retro mill, I guess.

In other news, I'm just back from a week at MILIA. It was odd. I have notes, they may become a post at some point.

Standout event - being harangued by a very drunk, angry dutch producer whose pitch didn't win in their category. Still trying to decide whether to be really nice and contact her for a civilised chat about it all...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Put your hands in your pockets NOW.

Justgiving - a marathon for the hospices

My friend Kass is running the Marathon.

Sponsor her, immediately.

That is all.

Friday, March 31, 2006

auctineer - Google Search

auctineer - Google Search

Carla Gianolini is a Professional Auctineer. Yes, really. Trust her with your money and valuable posessions.

Monday, March 27, 2006

What Day is it Again?

Well, I'm coming to terms with the fact that yes, my body clock is broken, broken, broken.

I'm sure it's a lot to do with bad sleep hygiene, and the ammount of time I spend underneath artificial light at work, and when I get home. Clue: all of the time. It's particularly not being helped by the clocks changing today (not going back, as I've said in three different conversations already, but actually forward...).

There's added complexity to this at the moment. As I spend a lot of time in Warcraft, arranging things on server time (which is CET, or GMT+1) I've got used to mentally performing the maths to adjust to local time. I was rather excited by the idea that finally, BST would mean that Local time and Azeroth time were the same. Oh no - it turns out that Europe jumps to summertime now. I have NO idea whether any of my PC based clocks have changed, either, so I'm in an odd time-approximate limbo. Anyway, the upshot of this was accidentally going to bed at 1am on a schoolnight. It makes the Australian's trouble with Outlook look relatively trivial.

Boing Boing: Aussie timezone switch borks Exchange Server

And then thinking, weirdly, that the London Marathon was yesterday, whereas it is in fact in a months' time. Not to mention my diary slowly creeping out of control...

Something that seems to have slipped into the entertaining curiosity section of the newspapers is Friday's Lighter Evenings (Experiment) Bill reading in the House of Lords.

Now, more sunlight in the evenings is a Good Thing. I hate dark evenings, and long for the extra sunlight of summer. It makes me happier and more productive. But I do wonder about the bill - if, for instance, the Tabliods picked it up, and realised that it is actually a way of getting us on to Central European Time by stealth - can you imagine? it would be worse than giving up avoirdupois for kilos in the shops... I don't mind about the europe bit at all, personally, but I'm always sad to leave GMT for the magic of it being the universal standard, the zero point. It pleases my sense of mathematical balance, if not my sleep patterns.

Anyway, I'm hoping that I'll have woken up by the end of the day; at some point, hopefully, willpower willing, I'll be able to report that I've taken positive action on the whole sleep patterns thing. But I wouldn't set your watch by me.