- People are stupid
I've been arguing with myself over whether to write something online for some time and this is the reason I've frequently returned to. I don't feel I've earned the right to start publishing my views on anything but whenever I hear stupid people exhibiting what passes for their knowledge I realise how low the barrier to entry is and I tell myself I should assert my ability to step over it (simply pick up the nearest Sunday paper lifestyle supplement or pick a newspaper/magazine columnist at random to realise why you too have something to say).
- It’s all coming together nicely
It's strange, but wonderful, when so many things click into place. Or, rather than clicking into place, slowly coalescing into recognisable form like some gorgeous but useless Flash interface.
- Go outside
A midday call to my sister, only slightly coherent, my brain still whirling from everything I'm reading in an effort to meet deadlines. I mentioned in passing that most of the people I met this week update their websites every day, in the same way I might have mentioned they all flew in from San Francisco or they all liked watching West Wing.
"How weird," she said.
It hadn't occurred to me this might be unusual. Perspective is good.
 They didn't all fly in from San Francisco and I don't know if they enjoy West Wing.
- The caravan
My mother sent me photos of the old caravan. For as long as I can remember, more than 25 years, my parents have owned a caravan at the Naze Marine Holiday Park in the English seaside town of Walton-on-the-Naze. 25+ years is a long time in the sea air and on my escape weekends from London over recent years it was obvious the green and white caravan was suffering. The wonderful salty smell that lingered in clothes for days after holidays, breathed in to bring back memories, was tinged with a damp more serious than that which simply caused the salt to solidify. The thin white ceiling boards were buckling, furry mould creeping from the corners; less fun than the occasional leaks from summer storms dripping into old saucepans. The vivid orange curtains (well, it was a child of the 70s), which accentuated the sun's glow, had needed occasional patches over the years but, framed by the fake wood panels peeling from the walls, they were merely doing their best to put a bright, brave face on a doomed situation.
I can clutch at straws for years. Long after a spark failed to light, a few well-read emails or letters each year is enough to fuel daydreams and bring the hopeful illusion of closeness. Five years, ten years on, I should know it was never mine to lose.
You'd think I'd got better things to do than be here at 3.30am finishing yet another rickety personal content management system. And you'd be right: three scenarios to build for Tuesday; a letter long owed to someone back home; a pile of books I really want to read but are always losing the battle for my attention to this screen; my secret web project which is nearly finished and could probably be really very nearly finished indeed now if I hadn't been diverted by this little self-indulgent project.
And I haven't looked at these colours on a PC, so they're probably dark and dingy, or scarily saturated, rather than simply uncharacteristically jolly.
- I can’t stop
Someone returned to Haddock after weeks off the list. It's strange how quickly someone you only communicated with via a mailing list can feel suddenly distant. Anyway, she said she felt strangely more cheerful after she cut herself free, and wondered whether she'd soon be back to relentless cynicism, as is customary on the list.
- Blue things, white things, pinky-brownish things
Yesterday, given that it was a gorgeous and not too humid Houston day, I went for my first open-air swim of the year. One of the worst things about swimming is that being short sighted the scene dissolves into heavy gaussian blur moments before I move from the hard white thing into the wet blue thing. This isn't really a problem until pinky-brownish things appear, moving along the hard white thing. Most of these pinky-brownish things are just passing by, and I keep my head down (well, as much as I can, given that I'm no good at putting my face in the water, a disability which I'm sure hinders my graceful swimming ability no end) and look like I'm concentrating on swimming, in an effort to avoid the obligation to exchange polite greetings.
- Never falling
Three unsatisfactory analogies for how it feels to watch films like High Fidelity when you've never fallen in or out of love.
- It's like watching a war movie when you've never even held a gun.
- It's like laughing at mother-in-law jokes when you've never been married.
- It's like finding all those Gen X references to Gilligan's Island amusing when you've never even seen a clip of the show.
- There’s no here here
Every Friday I travel into downtown Houston to see a movie or two. Since selling my car a few weeks ago I've had to restrict myself to this single day, partly as I have classes to prepare for on the other weekdays, but mainly because the Park & Ride bus doesn't run at weekends. But I'm grateful to have any public transport out here in Clear Lake (Clear Lake is a suburb of Houston, but is, I think, within the City of Webster; I'll never understand America's regional divisions).
- The Dark Ages of Renaissance
But I had a headache, not quite a wincingly bad one but bad enough that I couldn't face hearing the PowerBook's hard drive spin up again, the soundtrack to my life. Plus I was fed up, and depression + headache = spend a day in bed.
- Dream a little dream
Do you ever dream about falling in love? An instant text-book case of looking into a stranger's eyes and knowing this is it, the true once-in-a-lifetime, head-over-heels L.O.V.E.? You hold each other tight for as long as the shifting dream world will allow, believing that now life can only be good. But one alarm clock, boom of thunder, or shout in the street later and your one true love is gone forever.
I feel bad that I haven't written in a while. I've entered the final two weeks of term and I was intending to construct an ordered list of my priorities (1 Sleep/eat, 2 Read personal mail, 3 Read haddock ... 7 Write papers...) but it was one of those ideas that after more than a few minutes of thought stops being amusing and clever and simply becomes dull.
- Me, me, me
So, having almost emerged from my week or so of relentless work avoidance* I should be bursting with several days worth of insightful commentary. And I am, a bit. But it can wait.
- School’s out for, etc.
No, I've really finished all my college work this time.
And just in time to head off to the West Coast, so I'm unable to write down all the scintillating and insightful thoughts buzzing around in my head. Ah well.
I decided to get the train from Houston to the coast, and all the way up to Seattle, which I think will be fun. But I may change my mind after taking 36 hours to reach LA. Still, staying with a friend in Santa Barbara, meeting all sorts of old and new friends in San Francisco, and then seeing Seattle for the first time should be wonderful.
Um, yeah, that's it for now.
- Santa Barbara
Sun, sea, people, blue skies, distant mountains. Bars, restaurants, shops, trees, cyclists, cruising cars. Scrubbed and comfortable people strolling State Street in new and comfortable clothes. Used books, new music, browsing in Borders. Chats, walks, nostalgia, ideas, laughs, drunken friends of friends, Cinco de Mayo. California rolls with melted cheese, chicken with peanut sauce and spinach, burgers, Mexican for midday breakfast. Nearly finished films, old TV themes, music videos, Carmageddon, a bedroom stacked with the obscurest CDs.
Endless sprawl and strip malls, just like "home" only different. Being driven everywhere. Standing, swaying, while watching Gilbert play Descent for hours. Realising that net.companies actually really exist in real life with real buildings. Bus maps whose stops are Infoseek, Compaq, etc. The Quinn clan using their mobiles as walkie-talkies ("We can swing by Netscape and drop cigarettes off? cchchh", "Great. chchcch"). Drew's first day at Apple ("California allows Steve Jobs not to have license plates on his car"). Sitting in [obviously evil, but inevitably convenient] Starbucks for hours while the rest of the world worked. Getting lost but finally finding the BayCHI dinner and trying to avoid making interface jokes about every object. Jef Raskin talking at Xerox PARC about how icons, buttons... well, everything on computers, are stupid. Another guy at Xerox PARC revealing that people who spend more hours online spend less hours doing other things. Getting our heads 3D-scanned at San Jose Tech Museum (which, as Danny pointed out, is designed to get kids ready to work in chip fabrication plants, as clerical workers or machine operators.) Other stuff I've probably forgotten because I left there a couple of days ago.
- San Francisco
I'd forgotten how tastefully pretty the city is. Going to the same old stores was kind of boring though; I should make the effort to find new things to do. I've still never been to Alcatraz or over the Golden Gate Bridge. It was wonderful to see familiar faces: Nicole, Z, Alistair, Hari, Pouneh, Janelle, Peter, and, again, Danny. A shame to have missed Yoz though. Used CDs, used books, new underwear. Bumping into people I barely know in the street. Food, drinks, laughs, movies, Dreamcast Crazy Taxi, walking much too far up and down hills, not eating enough, the frustration of arranging evenings out sans mobile phones. Marvelling with equal wonderment at the Sony Metreon and the fact Nicole has her own office. Stacy's boyfriend looks very like me (he thinks so too, but she disagrees). It was like The One With Russ. Bumping into a gaggle of familiar faces from SXSW.
Things I didn't do: visit Fremont or the University District; go on a ferry; get out of the city; drink coffee; go kayaking.
Things I did: stayed in a pleasant B&B; walked; bought yet more used CDs; met Mr. Clark of Clark's shoes; read email; walked; went on the excellent underground tour; watched movies; walked; bought clothes; finally read the increasingly heartbreaking A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius in a perfect coffee shop; thought about how I could avoid returning to Houston.
- Clear Lake
That left me with a day or two to take hundreds of photos of the immediate vicinity, painfully drag them through a serial connection to the computer, and then compile them into breathtaking Hockney-esque panoramic montages to finally give friends and family an idea of where I've been living since last summer.
Now, off to get the plane to London...
- Back in Blighty
I'm now sat on the train from London to Braintree, a town at the end of a branch line off the main capital to coast route. And god damn, it's good to be back.
When I moved to suburban Houston last summer, the cynicism and grumpiness I had nurtured during five years working in London was hidden behind a thin veneer of standoffishness. I was accustomed to putting my head down, ignoring strangers and only indulging in conversation with service industry employees when it would facilitate me leaving the premises more quickly. So it was alarming when people I didn't know said "hi" as I strided past them, eyes ahead. And those service industry employees were, in a surprising number of cases, happily concerned for my welfare ("Did you find everything you needed today?", "What can I help you with today?") rather than assisting my quest to escape by being sullenly efficient. It only took me a few days to realise that while life in London was simpler if you pretended everyone but your friends were merely in your way, things would run smoother in Clear Lake if I played the game. A few weeks later and it felt natural to be nodding my head, raising my eyebrows and mumbling "hi" to every passerby, greeting college staff and supermarket checkout folk with a smile and, at the very least, more "hi"s.
I didn't realise how deep rooted this behaviour had become until I arrived back in London a week ago. I don't expect the city to be full of people greeting every stranger they pass; the place would grind to a grinning, nodding halt pretty swiftly. But as I walk to the inner-suburban tube station every morning I pass a handful of pedestrians who stare fixedly ahead without the slightest indication of wanting to greet this stranger on his way to work. This straight-faced blanking of all other humans is all the more noticeable to me as I'm so pleased to be back. I want to smile and nod to everyone, to acknowledge they exist at times other than when they're walking too slowly, racing for a seat on the tube or elbowing past, tenner in hand, at a bar. I've been walking round grinnning inwardly at how exciting it is to be in a city full of bustling and varied people, wondering when the feeling will fade, when I'll revert back to ignoring passersby and being happy that no one says "hi".
- Not enough time to think of an original title
This networked life thing is fantastic, but it takes so long to just run my life these days. I feel a little like the guy in that Borges story who spends his whole time writing detailed diaries of his life, so he doesn't have time to actually *do* anything. (That might not be a Borges story, but it sounds like it should be. I bought a cheap copy of Labyrinths a few weeks ago so I could push myself over a $40 barrier on bn.com and thus save $10, but won't get round to reading it this year.)
- The end of the, erm, thingy
So I was reading this article at McSweeney's, while our SQL server was rebooting, giving me time to browse conscience free. And I thought "what would go through your mind if the world ended like that?" Yeah, so if some cataclysmic universe-shattering event there's not going to be a lot of time for considered reflection and life passing before your eyes, but humour me; if it was like a big-budget movie climax it would be in slow motion, from multiple expensive points of view, giving us time to witness everything blinking away into nothingness. What would flash through my mind, what would I think was happening?
- You’re only young once or more
On Saturday two of my best friends were married after nearly ten years of coupledom. Is that a lot? Ten years? I'm not sure; my four other close college friends have all been with their girlfriends for at least eight years now. So I'm wondering if this marriage will set those balls rolling, despite the anti-marriage chorus (from the guys, not the girls of course).
- Fully connected with foray into network arena
I've been feeling so damned connected this year. Perhaps it's because I was living so alone that the net's become my hometown, with me as some kind of case study for the networked society. I've had more time to browse and read what's happening in this tiny little world (my intake of real news has plummeted, replaced with websites and mailing lists). All those interconnections between endlessly self-referring webloggers, putting faces to names at SXSW, jumping on and off disparate mailing lists, sending and receiving more and more personal mail, sharing photos across contintents, ICQing, forwarding, replying, responding, updating, clicking, publishing. It's been wonderful, really knowing feeling substance to the cliché of having the world at one's fingertips.
But still, a simple phone call out of the blue can have so much more effect.
- You have the power of wormholes
Last night, after the not-as-thrilling-as-it-once-was This Life we switched over to see Letterman. I've only ever watched the show while sitting in my little room in suburban Houston, and this laughing man seemed like he was hosting a direct pipe into my alternate life.
Apart from eerily coincidental friends of friends links, my lives in London and Houston are completely seperate. No one from the UK has visited me in the States. Hell, so bad is the suburban wasteland, I've been advising people not to fly over. Which is a shame in a way, as I'd like to share my world of humidity, wide roads, international students, Denny's and Seinfeld. I want to say "Look, this is where I've been all these months, isn't it different from London? Mustn't I be fantastically balanced and competent to accomodate such varied existences?"
But no one, thankfully, will visit. Until I go back I'll just have these little wormholes linking me to Houston. Emails from professors, checking voicemail, a quick listen to RealAudioed KTRU, a call to the automated class-booking system, and probably more Letterman.
- Nothing much
This is not, by any stretch of the definition, daily. Really busy at the moment, and not much to say. I feel less need to write things for 'publication' when I'm in this more social environment, so maybe this will pick up again in a couple of weeks.
That said, I've mentally written many entries while on the tube, walking to work, swimming,etc. But I'm bored of them by the time I'm near a net connection with a spot of free time. I'm sure you'll get by.
- Back in the land of the free
I've returned to Houston for the rest of the year. It's very strange to be somewhere so different and yet so familiar. I'm hoping the next five months fly by...
Anyway, here's a list of things I'll miss about being in London, written on a train while trying to avoid reading anything college-related:
John Peel, Alan Bennett, BBC TV, Channel 4, Britpop, dance music, public transport, cynicism, mild weather, British accents, history, seaside towns, black cabs, Routemaster buses, sandwiches, Branston pickle, BBC Radio, good TV ads, national papers, international sports, dense cities, smaller cars, more cyclists, French films, Jacques Peretti, number plates with the EU symbol on them, not having to translate my speech into American, lack of religion.
And friends and family, but that goes without saying really.
- FutureFocus 2000 part one
Today was the first day of the World Future Society conference (or "FutureFocus 2000" as it's officially titled). I wasn't sure what to expect from the event or my fellow attendees. Apart from a few speakers visiting college, the only futurists I've met have been on the same course as me, so I was interested to see what the rest of the field looked like. All I had to go on were the photos accompanying articles in The Futurist and those of speakers in the conference brochure. Consequently I was half expecting everyone to be badly lit and in shades of grey.
- FutureFocus 2000 part two
It's all over now, and it was exhausting. Although that was more to do with overly-long days rather than mental overload. While the event wasn't as awful as I'd feared, it wasn't as good as I'd hoped. Probably just slightly south of what I'd expected.
- Bah humbug
Me: Hi. I paid a cheque in pounds sterling into my account at the end of May and after speaking to someone on the ServiceLine last night I found that it still isn't "available" to me.
Chase Bank of Texas Customer Service Representative: Well it can take some time sir. When you paid the check in you should have been given a white receipt...
- Top Ten Email Correspondents (by volume)
Trying to avoid thesis-writing without stepping into the dripping hot air outside lead me to do two items of ehouse-keeping this weekend: (a) tidy up my bookmarks, sorting out a weekly schedule of sites to whizz through in an effort to get Futurelog up and running again; and (b) tidy up my Inbox, which had grown to a heaving and swollen mass over the past twelve months (I keep all my email, as it takes less time than working out what to throw away).
I can't be bothered to expand on anything. Is this why weblogs are so popular, because they demand no expansion, less thought and coherence? They're easy.
Paulina Borsook apparently has a book coming out that (at least in part) says how selfish the new economy is. No, not really surprising, but it's true. Everything's so apolitical, with the only worthwhile stuff focussed on civil liberties. That's a bit narrow isn't it? The rest is all American libertarianism. If not quite "I'm alright Jack, screw everyone else," little thought is given to everyone else (and I include myself in this).
I've been listening to a bit of 80s stuff. Thomas Dolby, The Associates, Propaganda. All that electronic stuff sounds so hopefully futuristic, in a similar way to HG Wells-style Victorian sci-fi. It's kind of quaint but also exciting, wide-eyed and romantic. It also reminds me that I want to read lots of Michael Moorcock; Jerry Cornelius, Oswald Bastable, Jherek Carnelian, all the non-swords-and-sorcery sagas.
- Here, have some email
I have other things to say, but, as usual, it's too much effort to compose them into coherent paragraphs while I'm wondering whether to actually carry on with this bit of the site or not. I'm not sure I have anything to say that anyone wants to hear, at least, nothing that other people can't say better. So in the meantime, have some pre-formed paragraphs from an email I just sent:
- Late to the party
I really must write things down when I think of them, and not leave them hanging in the boxroom at the back of my mind.
I was thinking the other day how sending email leaves me exhausted. You've heard of tribes that apparently believe cameras can take their soul away with every picture? That, if it's not too overblown a metaphor, is how I feel if I've sent a lot of email. Emotionally exhausted somehow. And email sent to a mailing list is a bit multiplier in the equation. My psyche seems to balance out overnight, but this can get wearing after a few days of lots of email sending. As if I've shown too much of myself, become over-exposed.
- Hard copy
So very busy. Programs to write, files to move, words to write, books to read, lists to make, emails to send, calls to make. Never mind the clothes to wash, groceries to buy, food to eat, sleep to have, and essential exercise to do.
Yesterday I briefly mentioned in an email how I find it strange hearing Americans speaking about traditionally "high culture" stuff. e.g. on NPR talking about some classical music recital in town. I didn't explain myself very well in one paragraph, so I expanded on what I meant. Lots of irrational knee-jerk reactions and unjustifiable statements ahead, but nevertheless, it's my reaction...
24 glossy ghosts of you,
I had to pay for 36.
But they had a special offer on;
I got a double set of prints.
Your first red eyes let love shine through,
But I see when it starts to fade.
It's the blurred one that that tourist took;
I think that's "13A".
The next you said "no photos please",
Covered your face up like a star.
A green sticker says the light's too low;
I peeled it off to see your bra.
The last shot is just me alone,
Blowing kisses to what was you.
To nothing but a bright white void;
The film's over before I knew.
- Back to School
Monday was the first day of my third semester, and I feel like an old hand. No stress, no rush, no hassle. I know where to find things in the library. I know which food in the cafeteria is worth eating. I know the quietest toilets.
Suddenly the place is full of students buying books, queuing (sorry, "standing in line") to pay their fees, and trying to find their classrooms. I'd like to say the university is "buzzing" but unfortunately it only ever rates a mild hum on even the most hectic days.
- Different Classes
I had my first classes this week, lumped together in a tidy but hectic cluster of six hours on Wednesday evening and three on Thursday morning. Someone, somewhere thinks starting classes at 8.30am is a good idea. It's a sick, sick world. Anyway, here's the line-up for the rest of the year:
Please return to your homes. I don't think I'll be writing any more entries here. I've never been entirely happy with this but have never been able to put my finger on why. Every time I write something I feel dissatisfied. And any day I don't write something I feel that something's not working.
- Culture Shock
I've been back in England for almost a couple of months now and it's not what I expected. You might think I'd know what to expect, having lived here for all my life apart from the thirteen months I spent in Houston (or rather its outer orbiting satellite suburb of Clear Lake). The last time I was back in Blighty was last summer, when I spent a blissful two months staying with friends, working, going out and genuinely walking around London with a smile on my face. It was then so wonderful to be back that my return has been something of an anticlimax.
- A TIZ too far
[ TIZ = Temporary Intimate Zone ]
On the train home from London a couple of weeks ago I was sitting opposite a girl who was on the phone for half an hour to her newly-ex-boyfriend, and it was like a whole week's worth of EastEnders:
- New York
I wasn't sure how it would be, arriving back in the US after being home for eight months. Surprisingly everything was reassuringly familiar -- the people, the cars, the accents, the logos. The country no longer feels like somewhere foreign, just somewhere different.
- New York - Chicago
We spent our only full day in New York seeing plenty of it. Met up with Rachel (who after six weeks of living in the city looks thoroughly the part) and took the Staten Island Ferry, watching Manhattan slowly fade into the pale grey mist. We wandered through Battery Park City which is far more Docklands than New York, before heading off to the Lower East Side where Kass had tickets to see Mike Daisey's one-man show about life as an Amazon.com employee. Actually, it would have been better if it was more about life as an Amazon.com employee, as the parts where he talked about working in the customer serivce centre and then the business development team were far more interesting and entertaining than the rambling monologues on wider and woollier topics. It was good, but it wouldn't suffer if he lost some of the shouting and talkingveryquickly.
- Denver, Burning Man, San Francisco
I wrote most of this a week ago but have only just had time to finish it...
After a 1,000 mile train journey to Denver Sam and I had 24 hours in the city. Enough time to shop for more camping equipment, wander up and down the pedestrian-friendly 16th Street (regrettably re-branded as "16th Street Mall"), hunt out used CDs and books, and see a movie ("And most accurate potrayal of a geek goes to Jamie Harrold in The Score").
- Mars and Milton Keynes
I've never been that bothered about going to Mars, not since I was a teenager who traced spaceships out of Di Fate's Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware, anyway. But when I was in Houston I was surrounded by people who were fanatical about sending people to another planet, an experience that made me wonder why I wasn't bothered about something they were obsessed with.
So I thought spending a day in Milton Keynes for The Mars Society UK's symposium, 'Mars on Earth: Life on Mars,' might be enlightening particularly as Robert Zubrin, the evangelist behind a (relatively) cheap method of getting to Mars would be speaking. He was, by some way, the most entertaining and inspiring of the speakers to talk to the hundred or so men and a handful of women. He carelessly threw each acetate on to the OHP's surface as if to confirm this rousing speech had been delivered to many roomfuls of obsessed men around the world and that he could now enthuse the faithful with little effort. By the time he'd finished delivering the sermon, polishing it off with a few slick jokes, Matt and I were sold. "When can we go?" we thought. It all made perfect sense, every possible problem had been envisaged and redundancy was everywhere (never mind the slightly worrying matter of generating gravity in the lander by swinging it in a circle on the end of a mile-long tether).
- A flat-buying diary
A couple of weeks ago I finally completed the purchase of a one-bedroom flat in London. Back in October, when I began the process, I didn't have a clue what would happen, what path an average property purchase takes. Speaking to the building society (The Woolwich), the estate agent (Winkworth) and my solicitor (an excellent recommendation from a friend) was daunting as they dealt with the bewildering process every day of the week. But for me it was like driving into thick fog, relying on the three of them for directions.
During the following four and a half months I kept notes of what was happening and these are below. While no two purchases are alike (hopefully yours will be quicker) someone else about to set out on the same foggy journey may find this a useful rough guide. The moral of the story, if you're expecting a quick trip, is not to go to The Woolwich, not to buy in Hackney, and to know the smallest legal confusion could hold you up for weeks.
- Burning Man photos
Better late than never... I've finally selected, adjusted, resized and cropped my Burning Man photos. And all my photo series now come with a sexy thumbnail view.
- "I will not tolerate infestation!"
My flat is still. The walls are white, the floors look like wood and nothing moves other than the light emitted from boxes of electronics. Maybe this is why discovering a mouse in my kitchen still has me shivering two days later. In my home I'm not used to seeing things moving over which I have no control. If I was living in the country it would make sense. Even the large suburban house in which I grew up was home to many insect escapees from the garden so a brown ball of rodent wouldn't have seemed out of place. But I live in a clean white yuppie London apartment two floors up in which even insects are unusual visitors and I don't want to share it with mammals I haven't invited.
So I'm unsure what to do. I had no idea if the council could help, and it appears they can come and put poison down. I found some pages about the many mousetraps in history and some fun things to do with traditional mousetraps but not much practical help. All possible solutions make me uneasy, but I do want my stillness back.
- On the move…
www.gyford.com may well be moving to a new server soon, so things might go a little awry. Hold on tight.
- A new home
- "Wisdom you can’t get from a terminal"
A spur of the moment decision yesterday evening resulted in going to see the film Avalon an hour after my train slowed into London. I think Matt, who pointed the movie out a while back, said afterwards it was almost exactly what he didn't expect. It was almost exactly what I did expect of an Existenz-type story shot by a Japanese anime director in Poland. I won't say more about it because you should see it knowing as little as possible.
Just like Existenz it left me on edge, unsure where or when I was, looking sideways expecting the scene to shatter into pixels at the edge. A segment of Verdi's Requiem swelled out of my iPod as I walked to the bus stop, echoing the film's overpowering choral theme. I stood waiting for the bus, glancing behind me occasionally. I stared at the buildings lining Shaftesbury Avenue, wondering if the monochrome shells separating the street's glaring neon and the angled roofline could be constructed from a small set of standardised graphic blocks without anyone noticing. The bus zipped east at unusual speed and I kept my eyes alert for every spot of light, from the string of colour traffic lights marking the route to the gentle Nokia glow on the cheek of the Japanese girl in front of me. The moment I sat at my computer I heard the rapid thuds of a helicopter outside the building.
This morning I'm still a little jumpy, ready for the world to tilt and shift into another place...
- More Pepys and me
Later that day I recorded an interview for NPR's All Things Considered show, which is now online. I'm not quite sure why old media is more exciting than new, but it's wonderful. Going into Broadcasting House, into a room packed with strange electronics and a handful of BBC engineers, into a tiny room with two microphones was thrilling. One engineer explained that, "this is going via Bush House and onto Washington," which seems a technological marvel even when I'm picking up email from a computer in California every day. And talking through a microphone to Americans in a studio in the US seems far more space-age than my daily transatlantic online communications. I've always found radio somehow more magical than any other medium; the internet, TV, movies, CDs don't seem a patch on a voice coming out of the little box in the kitchen.
But all this is beside the point. The point is, I don't hate my own voice, which is a relief.
- The stationary city
I'm pretty sure that if Londoners were ever to explode into violent anarchy it would be because the transport infrastructure had come to a halt. When everything's running smoothly tempers already flare at the traffic jams and crowded tubes. But it just takes one or two more things to go wrong to bring the city close to utter gridlock.
- Giving and the Jhai Foundation
Years ago I told myself the reason I didn't give any money to charity was because I was a poor student. After that it was because I was unemployed and still poor. Then it was because I was working for a pittance in London. And then, once it stopped being quite such a pittance, I didn't really have an excuse any longer. But it's still taken me a few more years to get round to actually giving anything.
- Books read and to be read
Lists of books I've read each year, what I'm reading now and what's sitting on the shelf waiting to be read. An aide memoire for me. There are a few gaps unfortunately, presumably resulting from years when I wasn't quite so embarrassingly anal about chronicling my life. I must catch up on writing my reviews.
- Micro marketing
If you live in Barnet or St Albans and want to learn to draw or paint then you need Insight. I spent Sunday building the site with my friend Paul, who is Insight, sitting patiently next to me. It's not perfect, but not bad for a day's work.
- Broxtt’s blog
This week a few of us at work have been giggling quietly while creating a fake weblog for our beloved friend and creative director. Well, he's the only one not to have a weblog of his own. His utter confusion when he discovered it via the company-wide unofficial mailing list was priceless. More alarming were the people who thought it was real... Anyway, it's probably less funny if you don't work here, and not at all funny if you don't know him. Next!
- Babies galore
In the past couple of weeks Danny, Quinn and Gilbert had Ada, Alex and Becky had Aasta, and Dorian and Trine had Oskar. So far Oskar has by far the best online presence, a fabulous photo-assisted weblog. Congratulations to everyone!
- New old photos
- What’s that? It’s a CV!
In case you happened to be looking for it, this is my CV in unattractive but easy to email form (my timeline is a less authoritative but more fun accompaniment). If you have any comments on the CV, I'd be glad to hear them, and I'll be thinking more about exactly what I want to do, but initial options are:
- UpMyStreet Falco
Of course, my news about geo-encoding on UpMyStreet may get a little lost in the fact that UpMyStreet is falco-ing, I mean, up for sale. The quick-witted among you may also link this to my last-but-one post pointing out my CV -- while I've been wondering whether to quit for the best part of a year, due to lack of challenge, my mind has obviously been made up for me. No doubt I'll be writing more about this soon (along with the other
webloggerspeople with weblogs who surround me and are the reason for me staying until now).
- More UpMyStreet
Tom has a round up of press about UpMyStreet's continuing administration. He misses out Mike Butcher's comprehensive analysis of the situation (although Butcher's attributions of some ideas aren't, ahem, wholly accurate).
Meanwhile, I'm trying to come up with the best analogy for having a group of stern suit-wearing strangers take over a company. Current front runners: A foreign state setting up government in a newly conquered country; and a group of Internal Affairs agents setting up office in the NYPD Blue precinct room, while Sipowicz et al continue their daily business. Any others? Collective nouns?
- Heading to EtCon
It's all very last minute, but next week I'll be attending the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference and camping in Danny's back garden, otherwise known temporarily as Emerging Man. So, if you're around and want to meet up, email me. (Thanks Stef.)
- Riding on city buses for a hobby is sad
American public transport is always a mixed experience. The vehicles themselves are usually great: the massive silver AmTrak trains, the practical buses with their clever bike racks jutting from the front bumpers; the occasional light rail or tram system. But given the country's endless sprawl and the disappointing level of demand for public transport, it can be a challenge to get from A to B. On Sunday I landed in San Francisco at 1.30pm, and five hours and two buses later (the train not working at weekends) I was picked up in San Jose and finally reached Emerging Man. The population stood at Danny, Quinn, Gilbert, Ada and Gavin, with Ben arriving in the Jones-mobile later.
- Another day in San Jose
We got a lovely reception when we arrived to register at Etcon on Tuesday morning. The lady with the badges was very pleased to see us and Ben was all excited when handed his badge and bag of goodies. But when she realised Gavin and I weren't speaking at the event she sent us to the ordinary punters' registration room. Where a glum woman told us we couldn't register for another four hours and, no, we couldn't have lunch. That would have been really annoying if we'd travelled all the way from where we were staying just to get registered or something.
- The first day of EtCon sessions
The conference proper kicked off first thing Wednesday morning. Unfortunately, so did the worst migraine I've had in several years, resulting in me spending much of the day half-comatose, throwing up or sleeping in a kindly donated hotel room. I emerged in time to catch Brewster Kahle talk about the Internet Archive's Bookmobile, the bad effects of lengthy copyright periods, and other wonderful text-related projects. It shouldn't be amazing that this much good stuff is happening in the world, but it is. Matt Webb took some notes.
- EtCon day 2
The day got off to a blinding start with Alan Kay's keynote bemoaning the direction software has taken over the past decades. He ran through some of the early developments like Spacewar on the PDP-1 computer and Douglas Engelbart's 1968 demo of collaborative computing (among other things). Early innovations that were powerful and flexible. But forty years on we've ended up with clunky and complicated operating systems and applications.
- EtCon day 3
After packing my tent in the rain I missed the first keynote on Microsoft web services, but that wasn't much of a hardship. The second was about Google and how it works... not from a technical point of view, but as a company; how new ideas are pursued, creativity encouraged, new staff hired. It was inspiring, and one can only wish that other *cough* companies followed similar principles. Some collaborative notes were taken using Hydra. (More on how Google functions in these Fast Company articles: 1, 2.)
- EtCon photos
I'll shut up about the bloody thing soon, but until then, here's the handful of photos I took last week.
- Toy shop
When I was a kid my family used to spend occasional summer weeks in London, house-sitting for some friends. Not far from the local adventure playground, where taller, harder boys played rough games on the painted wooden architecture, was a toy shop. It was a small shop, even when I was small myself, and I remember it being the kind of magical place that could only exist in a film, run by a smiling old woman and her sleepy cat. The toys filled every nook and most of the crannies and were wholesome un-marketed products that would never be rude enough to shout at you from a Saturday morning TV screen.
Amazingly, the place still exists, and my sister has written an article about it. It sounds like, for once, my little childhood memories are accurate.
- Learning biotech
Matt mentioned he's been looking into biotech a bit. A while back I was wondering how best to learn more about it. Not for a job -- hell, regular expressions can be hard -- but so I don't end up as some out-of-touch fortysomething hunched over his internet while everyone else is busy cloning and grafting and evolving and whatever else people will be doing when biotech is still the next big thing. I am, however, hindered by my teenage-level of science education, so a couple of years ago I read a biology textbook as a start. But that seemed to require more chemistry knowledge than I had. And then I thought some basic physics would be a good foundation. And, of course, at some point my maths would need brushing up...
- Paris photos and Kyupi Kyupi
Last weekend we went to Paris for a few days and I took some nice photos.
- Snow crash
A few days ago, just round the corner from Hackney police station, I noticed a car abandoned, straddling a bus lane and half the pavement. A day or two later, also from the top of a bus, I noticed someone had painted the entire car -- body, windows, tires, lights, the lot -- completely white. Given the level of obstruction I was surprised the car hadn't been towed, even in Hackney. But the white car looked very cool, beautiful even, and I was pleased by this temporary exhibit. I wondered if it was connected with the people Dan saw painting over flyposters with white paint last week, some kind of mass cleansing of London.
- Once in a lifetime offer! Employ today!
Roll up, roll up, today's your lucky day sir! We all know how hard it is to find decent staff these days don't we. Yes madam, I know what problems you've been having! Well today I can solve your problems. Because we have not one, but two, yes sir, you heard me right, two of the nation's finest, no, foremost and first-class, interweb folk available for work. Yes, you could take them away this very day!
- Soon, it will be over
I hadn't realised how few lyrics Low's songs have. I guess you don't need many words if you sing slowly.
- So, it’s over
- Arthur Brown, 1914-2003
Thankfully, I'm not used to reading obituaries of people I know, which perhaps makes it more sad to read the recent obituary of Arthur Brown, who died in March. Well, implying I knew him is overstating things a little. I remember going, when I was younger, with my parents, to the annual Christmas parties he hosted with his wife. One year, when I was small enough to do so, I had a lot of fun pretending that a furry rug on the arm of a sofa was some breed of mountable animal. Another time, during holidays from college in Bristol, an old but sharp gentleman told me about attending university there sometime in the early decades of the century. I was always too young and socially inept to feel quite at home but I remember Arthur being a great host and having a wonderful voice.
- Hire me!
Having been made redundant from UpMyStreet and enjoyed a month of working on my own projects, I'm now looking for freelance or contract work. So if you need an Information Architect type, or someone who can design and construct websites with decent HTML, CSS, PHP and MySQL, drop me a line. I build clean, usable, accessible and robust sites with well-commented code. I'm reliable, literate, a nice guy and I like baking cakes. My CV is here.
- This week’s culture
Tuesday night I went to see Douglas Coupland talk at the Bloomsbury Theatre. The prospect of seeing someone read from a book has never made me part with cash before, but this was Douglas Coupland! I was worried he'd be a disappointment, uncool and mean beyond the saviour of any irony. But it was fun. I wasn't expecting him to walk onstage wearing a grey pinstripe suit, and he looked surprisingly like a cherubic Quentin Wilson.
- Heading south for the winter
A common route through the world of journalism is, after training, to report on council meetings and school fetes for local papers while hoping for a break into, say, the national press. My sister's taking a slightly unorthodox path, however... Having done the local reporting, she's becoming news editor at the Falkland Islands Broadcasting Service.
- Family Tree
I've been using, and enjoying, Omnigraffle a lot at work recently, which made me think it was about time I got round to drawing up the Gyford family tree. My dad collated some of the information but most came Rosina in Australia.
- Delancey and 2nd St
If you happened to like early 20th century vaudeville music, and you happened to buy this CD, Eddie Morton's The Sound of Vaudeville (vol. 1), and then you flipped through its 28 page booklet, you might reach page six as Eddie sang his final "That's gratityooood!" and Just a Friend of the Family began, and there you'd see a photo taken by me, of Delancey and 2nd Street in Philadelphia, close to where Mr Morton lived over a century ago. Which is nice.
- Action Energy
I recently spent a couple of weeks working on the re-jigged version of the Action Energy website. It's "a government-funded programme, [that] helps businesses and public sector organisations save money through energy saving." Not that I'm looking for any credit (or, should you see fit, blame) for the site, as my role was purely copying and pasting text from the old site into the CMS, so if you see a sentence cut short, or a broken link, there's a less than 50 per cent chance it's my fault. Sorry.
I took a day off work yesterday to join the Anti-Bush march which was fun. I can't really add anything new to the arguments, and besides, after spending an afternoon surrounded by (generally) like-minded people, I'm left speechless by shit like this, that couldn't be more backwards if it tried.
- Ideas Bazaar redesign
I've just finished designing and building a revamped site for Ideas Bazaar, the ethnographic consultancy of choice. This was the first of my freelance projects to be a complete "end-to-end" deal: design, HTML, PHP and Movable Type (for their weblog). Even though the site is fairly small and simple, doing the entire thing and seeing it go live is enormously satisfying!
- And then the bar code reader breaks
Having spent much of the holiday fortnight in computer-free peace and quiet, getting back to the relentless stream of email, spam, weblogs, etc, while listening to the road being dug up, is less than a joy. As I wait for the 60 spams that arrived overnight to download, I can't help thinking of Newman's rant in Seinfeld:
- This year’s non-resolutions
Having dinner with Mr Sofaville at the weekend, we got on to discussing New Year Resolutions. I said I didn't have any, which is usually the case; setting rarely-achieved goals on an arbitrary day seems like one step up from superstition and religion. But I soon realised that without calling them "resolutions", there are various things I've told myself:
- Bah, kids today…
When I was young I hoped that thirteen year olds might stop picking on me by the time I was, I don't know, twentyfive. (OK, I think I've been reading too much Richard Herring.)
- Back when 1KB was more than enough
My mum just found this photo of the family gathered round our new Sinclair ZX81 in 1982. My parents bought it for Christmas and I remember my mum had already learned enough to set it up with a message scrolling up the screen. It was a big event, big enough
to send a copy of this photo to grandparentsfor grandad to capture the family in action. A year or so later we upgraded to a ZX Spectrum, which also meant buying a colour portable TV. Many happy hours spent in that corner of the dining room...
- Pre-conference fun
- Back from California
I'm now back in chilly and grey London. I can't come up with a summary of Etcon better than Fiona's NTK's, but my session highlights included illuminating talk on how kids use social software; Danny's entertaining thoughts on how geeks keep organised; David Sifry's talk on new things to do with Technorati; and Matt Webb's presentation, which filled my brain in double-quick time. I only endured a couple of really tedious sessions, and there were a lot of slightly disappointing presentations that had nothing new to say. But good, all in all. The other highlight was just hanging out with friends I don't see nearly enough of in London (even if I did do my best to escape the crowds at times).
- Goodbye email@example.com
After being a member of the Well for seven years, I've finally succumbed to the long-term doubt that it's not worth ten quid a month to me. I never really felt like part of the community, or found a huge number of conferences to immerse myself in, although I did enjoy Wired, Future and Mac (an unparalleled source of Apple Mac help and advice), all of which I'll miss.
- California photos
I've belatedly got round to sorting, filtering and sizing my photos from California. Blue skies, sun, palm trees, no work to do...
- Goodbye spam
No prizes for guessing when I started using Knowspam.net to filter my email.
- Belgrade and Novi Sad
I've just spent a few days in Serbia, mostly in Belgrade, with a night in Novi Sad, an hour or so's drive north. Belgrade was busy, with a lot of traffic (split between cranky old cars and shiny new models) and bad drivers, but there seemed to be much less litter than London. Late on Saturday evening, we were wandering around the city's main pedestrianised shopping street and the old castle that is now a lovely wooded park, marvelling at how relaxing and friendly the atmosphere was. A British city centre at 11pm on a Saturday night is only a fun place to be if you're one of the pissed teens or twentysomethings dropping kebab down your front, whereas Belgrade was far more civilised.
Last summer, between redundancy and freelancing, I decided to try my hand at painting. I've often thought how pleasant it would be to earn some money by not staring at a computer, but if I was ever going to get back into, say, illustration, I'd better prove to myself I still have what it takes.
- Big head
I went to work at Poke today, for the first time in a couple of weeks. Those cheeky chappies had Rasterbated the Guardian's profile of me from last week and stuck my face to the wall. What jolly japes.
- 1 bed flat for sale in Hackney
I'm selling my 1 bedroom flat in Hackney, London. It's a very nice flat, in a very nice art deco style building, in a very convenient location. So if you know anyone looking to buy a flat then send them to this page. Thanks!
- Adaptive design course
Rather short notice, considering I've known about it for months, but it seems to have crept up on me. I'm hosting / facilitating / running (take your pick) a course entitled "Design for Adaptation" at the new 01 Creative Learning Lab in Soho, London. It's on Tuesday afternoons for five weeks starting this coming Tuesday, so why not try and convince your boss to pay for you to come...
- My links have moved to del.icio.us
As a rule I try to keep things to myself, to stay in control. So once upon a time I was wary about posting photos to Flickr rather than keeping them safely on my own site. But I've found using Flickr an enjoyable experience, so I thought it time I took the plunge and set my links free too, and started using del.icio.us, the sociable bookmarking/link-blogging site that anyone cool started using long, long ago.
- More del.icio.us fiddling
A few changes/improvements to the way I'm doing del.icio.us stuff...
- Ten years on
Ten year anniversaries are alarming -- "Hey look," they say, "you've used a decade of your life, I hope it was worth it." Well, they do to me. They're so demanding. Ten years ago today I first went online and, for better or worse, nothing in my life now would be the same if I hadn't signed up with Demon and spent my savings on that 14.4 modem.
- Server moving…
Gyford.com (and Byliner, Overmorgen and Pepys' Diary) is moving to a new server... so there may be some broken things around over the next few days. Sorry about that.
- Flickr article for BBC News
A little after the fact, but... last week BBC News Online asked me to write a piece about Flickr and here it is. If you're familiar with Flickr, you'll find the article pretty basic, and there's plenty more I'd love to have mentioned, but space is limited and it's for an audience that hasn't necessarily heard of the site. Let alone RSS, folksonomies, social networking, etc...
- HTML wot I wrote
Unless you happen to be involved in either the energy or "life sciences" industries, it's unlikely that Wood Mackenzie's new website will make any impact on your life. But I point it out because I've spent a surprisingly large amount of time this and last year working on the HTML/CSS templates for the new site.
- Vote for me and Jamie Oliver!
JamieOliver.com, which I built last year with those marvellous Pokers has been nominated for a Webby Award. And we need YOU to go here now and vote for the site. Eddie Izzard's currently in the lead so go and fill out the laborious forms, sign over your first born, track down the correct category and vote for JamieOliver.com.
- Holidays and urban spaces
As the recent photos indicate, we spent last week in Avignon. I'm hopeless at holidays. First, I will happily put off deciding to go anywhere forever unless there's a particular event, like a conference or party, which fixes it in time. Second, once on holiday I rarely want to do much; I'm simply happy to be somewhere foreign, away from my desk, and would be content to sit on a park bench watching passers-by for a week.
- First time floating voter
I never thought I'd be a floating voter. I've never understood how anyone could be so dithery as to have no idea who to vote for. My family's always been solid Labour, but when I reached voting age my friend Carl, a Tory, suggested that as I got older I'd probably drift right and see the error of my lefty ways. I didn't believe him of course -- I couldn't imagine not being Labour. But back then I couldn't imagine Labour not being Labour.
- Royal Society of Chemistry’s new website
The Royal Society of Chemistry recently re-launched their website with tasty XHTML/CSS templates constructed by me. As with a previous project, Wood Mackenzie, design was by Wilson Fletcher and the turning of the static templates into a functioning website was done in-house.
- I’m OK too
The scariness hits home when you get SMSs and emails from friends you haven't heard from in months, asking if you're OK. I'm working from home, as usual, and won't be leaving my concrete bunker, from which I can hear sirens coming and going. Mary, who works near Liverpool Street and Aldgate, is fine too.
- If you see Sid, tell him the future’s broken
I don't remember much else from the campaign to privatise BT, other than that advertising catchline. [Update: But as Lee points out below, I even got that wrong. Doh.] But I'm sure one of the benefits of the whole sell-off -- aside from making everyone rich, RICH! -- was improved efficiency, modernisation, all that kind of thing. So why is it that, however many years on, five years into the future of the 21st century, that when our phone line goes mysteriously dead it's going to take BT a week, seven entire dial-tone-free days to do anything about it?
- Back online already
I can only assume the chairperson of BT reads my blog, as I can't think why else an engineer would have come round only hours after my last post. He couldn't quite fix the mysterious problem before knocking off on Friday, but was here bright and early this morning to not only get it working, but also fix the other phone socket that hasn't worked since we moved in.
After an enjoyable and unusually sociable weekend I spent the parts of this week I wasn't battling Movable Type for an impending deadline battling a gang of ruthless flu-like symptoms. That'll teach me to leave the flat and step out into your germ-infested world.
- My new site
Better late than never, I always say. Always. In case you haven't noticed, I've re-designed my site. Entirely re-built it in fact. This has been an exercise in how not to tackle a web project, an exercise in which I utterly flouted all the sensible rules of thumb I stick to on any work project. With no deadline, no budget, and a client (me) who kept throwing in features it's a wonder the site's finished. I'm trying hard not to be sick of the whole thing already.
- Work in 2006
A conversation last week made me realise that if you only know me through this website it looks like I’m spending all my time on acting stuff. This is far from the truth — it’s just that I’m finding the acting more interesting to write about (and I hope it’s more interesting to read). But in the interests of balance and clarity, here’s how I’ve been earning money in 2006 so far.
- Phil for hire, now
UPDATE: Thanks for the responses. I’ve now filled this immediate gap. Read more about what’s next.
Short story: If you could use a Phil for a few days (the rest of this week and/or all next week) email me at phil [at] gyford [dot] com. HTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL, Movable Type, wireframes, planning, or anything else you think I can do. Ta.
- Not available now, but in future…
Many thanks to those who responded after my previous post — I now have some work to fill up my final few days before most of my time is taken up with, well, whatever it is I’ll be doing at LISPA.
For clarification, from here on I’ll still be looking for work but I’ll have less time available for it. We have four short terms between now and July and during these I hope to find work I can do in evenings or the occasional weekend. During the two-week holidays (Christmas, Feb/Mar and Apr/May) I’ll be looking for more work and will no doubt post here again if all else fails. Come July I’ll no doubt be available full time, at least until next October… but that all seems a long way off.
- Five things you don’t know about me
Matt Webb tagged me to find out five things most people don’t know about me. Thinking about this I’ve realised how much of my life has been mentioned online, and how few things there are that people don’t know. Or, at least, couldn’t find out. But I think the following should be new to most people who read this.
- Summer plans
A quick update on what I’m up to… Term finished a couple of weeks ago and the world of prancing around in an empty room seems a long way off already. But most nights I’ve had dreams about LISPA or involving people from class, which I never did during term time. Something’s obviously happening in my brain.
- A homepage, the power of design, and "consulting"
Before I played a tiny part in the gentle launch of the BBC Programmes website I spent the first few weeks of my summer break from college on another project for the BBC. Myself and Alan Connor were charged with the task of thinking about the direction the bbc.co.uk homepage should take in a year or two’s time.
This year we have a new weekly class, Company Development. It concerns the practical issues of putting on theatre: finding collaborators, forming a company, finding space, promoting shows, applying for funding, etc. Our first homework was to write down our “dream life as a creative artist” and the obstacles in our way. This was my attempt:
- Available for work
Term ends shortly and so from Monday 17 December I’m available for work for three weeks (minus the traditional festive days). This doesn’t leave a huge amount of time and I realise most businesses go slow over this time of year. But if you have any bite-size chunks of web-oriented things that need doing, drop me a line. If you don’t know me too well, you can read about the work I’ve done in the past. Thanks.
- Completely different things
This week I’ve set up a new site for myself, PhilipGyford.com. It’s intended as a kind of shop window for me as an actor. Hmm, that sounds a bit poncy. Hell, just calling myself an actor sounds a bit poncy. But the idea is that people who might cast me in something can find out everything they need to know there without having to come to Gyford.com and wade through posts about Movable Type, music, bikes, etc.
- Making websites
With the occasional updates about performances and auditions you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m no longer making websites. Although I had little time free for real work while at college I was still able to squeeze in a few smaller projects over the year since I finished my time on BBC Programmes (which has since gone from strength to strength):
- Field Trip 1993
I’ve been going through my video cassettes and digitising (using a borrowed one of these) the handful of things that aren’t already floating around Internet. One tape was the hour long video of the field trip I went on in my final year at university, which I’ve uploaded to Vimeo.
- What am I up to?
When meeting someone for the first time in a while the “So, what are you up to these days?” question soon crops up. Because I’ve been doing an odd mixture of things for the past couple of years friends ask this of me with even less idea than they might otherwise. So, for the subset of people who also read this, here’s what I’m up to these days.
- How’s the acting going?
Fifteen months after finishing that two year course on “Creating Theatre” (read more), hardly a week goes by without a few people asking, “How’s the acting going?” If nothing else, it proves how rarely I see many people I know. Loose connections. The brief answer to that question is “It’s not”. Which is fine, but requires some expansion.
- Learning to quit
Last autumn I started a part-time Open University course, MST121 Using Mathematics. This week I decided to drop out, a decision that has left me thinking about education and making the best use of time.
- New York Holiday
After SXSW I stopped in New York for a short holiday — it seemed a waste to go all the way to the US and only go to one place. I’d been to New York three times in the past but not for long and I couldn’t remember much of it.
- Twenty-four small drawers
Twenty-four small drawers, re-organised and labelled for the first time in more than twenty years:
- Joining Really Interesting Group
One of the best things about 2010 was sharing an office with some lovely people following several years of working from home. This year some of us are taking that a step further and I’m honoured to say that I’m joining Really Interesting Group.
- My memories of Chipping Hill School
The infant school I went to, from about age five to seven, Chipping Hill School in Witham, Essex, is moving to a new location, after 109 years on its original site. They are, or were, looking for memories of ex-pupils’ time at the school. I’m not sure if they still want them, but here’s what I think I remember.
- Moving from Delicious to Pinboard
I’ve finally got round to moving from storing interesting links at Delicious and will now only be using Pinboard, where I’m still ‘philgyford’. So if you want to keep up with that, you can do it there. Here’s the RSS feed.
- Doing something
When I was a child, and I was a bored and frustrated, I’d sometimes tell my parents, “I want to DO something!” I wasn’t sure what it was I wanted to do — hence my frustration — but I knew what I didn’t want to do.
- My new(ish) job and a decade of freelancing
Four months ago I got a new job. I mentioned it on Twitter at the time but it appears that not everyone I might vaguely know reads every single one of my tweets. I know! I can’t think what you’re all doing with your time. But I’m pretty sure that everyone I have ever known, and everyone I will ever know, reads this blog. So mentioning the new job here is definitely going to clear this up, once and for all. Yes.
- More rubbish
I was going to write a blog post or two. You know, it’s a new year, with yet another ambition to start blogging again, just like in the ever-older days.
- Site back to normal
It’s entirely possible that this site is now working as well as it was before I moved it to a new server.
- Press play
I’ve started digitising some old cassettes and came across this lovely snippet at the start of what the inlay said was a collection of songs by Madness:
- Thanks Leonard
Twenty years ago I used Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man to begin a phone message on a dating service. Ridiculous. The chances of me “stepping into the ring” for anyone are remote. And few of us could match up to the sound of Leonard’s voice. Despite all that, it worked.
- What I’ve been doing recently
I felt like writing something quick, not one of those long-simmering posts that grows larger and larger until writing it requires taking a week off or something. So, hello, here are some words about what I’ve been doing recently.