rashbre central: November 2007

Friday 30 November 2007

Das Blinkenlighten

I finished last night very late again, probably still buzzing from the last cups of 'spresso lungo.

So as I headed for bed I became aware of the various scattered piece of technology in the bedroom blinking little lights back at me. Normally, if I am away, I can have nearby parties, streetbrawls and in room full screensavers blattering away through the night whilst my poor little PC defragments itself and I don't notice a thing. But last night I was aware of the various tiny flashing lights from phones charging, the radio, the bluetooth headset and a stray Powerbook in snooze mode.

So I slid into sleep thinking about the old, but still true Blinkenlights...


Thursday 29 November 2007

Un Boxing Day

D300 HH NL
I thought I'd post a picture of the rashbre central Christmas Decorations. Er...Its still November though, so they are still in the box.

Most of the area has been stealthily adding trees, lights and baubles to the public spaces since around mid October, and in some areas like Oxford Street the surreal purple trees were already on the buildings many weeks ago. Sloane Square is lit up and Peter Jones's store has had a positive cascade of lighting all down the front for weeks. Folk I know have already been to see the "Nightmare before Christmas in 3D", and others have even returned with bags laden with Christmas goodies.

Hereabouts, I shall wait until we are into December to begin the countdown. No fancy blog based-advent calendars, but maybe a twinkling light or two, probably after I've been on a bulb-expedition.

Wednesday 28 November 2007

messy? moi?

some tidying required
Sometimes its good to look at an area with fresh eyes.

Take rashbre central's holding bay for misplaced household items.

Every so often I manage to reduce its contents to a level where I can see the floor, and then ever so slowly it somehow builds up again with new stuff that is either on its way out, or on its way in. And because it is already a bit messy, the area gets used by other friends as a temporary storage depot too. Some may recall the sizzling skip sagas of '6, when I managed to rationalize the whole area quite well. It's a little troublesome that some 15 or so months later it should already be back in a similar condition.

No wonder I couldn't find a book I was looking for a few days ago.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

i'm not bad, i'm just drawn that way

I think Jessica Rabbit agrees with me that the internet is a mysterious system.

Both in my flickr account and here in rashbre central I'm often mystified by the random 'popularity' of miscellaneous posts and pictures.

Yesterday I noticed the counter had spun around somewhat on rashbre central and I thought "what wondrous, clever post did I write to cause such interest?"

Of course, the reality was more sobering when I noticed that the hits were mainly on an ancient post called "pulp powertool fantasy bunnies" (yes that well known search term) and that there seemed to be particular interest in viewing the rather suspect video that accompanies it.

Fantasy Bunnies? ... Never mind.

Monday 26 November 2007

i need more ink

Big project, NaNoWriMo and blogging are creating a backlog of words. I need more ink.

Sunday 25 November 2007

earth rush

train ride
I've been putting in very long hours over the last few days, for a current work project and I'll be back on it Sunday too. The interesting thing is trying to keep the various other plates spinning at the same time, whilst the world whizzes along.

Its kind of strange, but somehow having a lot happening seems to bend time, so that I'm still finding slots that wouldn't normally exist to do other things. In amongst shopping, laundry and even the few stolen hours to go to Thursday's gig, I seem to just be squeezing more out of the available hours.

Against the total madness of it, I seem to be keeping the wordage count tracking for the nanothingy. I admit I'm grabbing minutes of train journey and other potentially dead time to do this scripting and have written some parts into my phone or email and then sent them back to my rashbre account so that I can pipe them back into Pages.

There's less than 6 days to finish now, but as my word count is somewhere in the low 40s, I'm still hangin' in there, although I must admit its freaking me out that some people have already passed the magic 50,000.

I find the Nano process quite fascinating; this is my third year and each time its a sort of enhanced discovery journey, with characters that want to direct themselves through the action. There's also the random 'real world' things that happen to me that I insert into the story, so my various pubs, restaurants and trips, people I run into and little stories people tell me about things that are happening to them, or even tiny snippets of other folks' conversation can drift into the storyline.

I'm told that adding weather and musical soundscapes also chews through the words, although this year I think I've got enough ideas left to mean I don't need those kind of tricks. Indeed I've been pondering a couple of plot twists and a possible re-work of one setting so that certain things can happen in the right sequence.

If this all sounds obscure then it probably is, but I bet there's plenty of other Nanopeople going through the same machinations at the moment as we all prepare for the last few thousand words to get the draft in some sort of finished condition.

I'm not overly worried about quality at this stage, but at least I'll have a rough draft. That'll be two in a series by the time this one is finished - as well as last year's rather overambitious detour.

My side project to get at least the first one published continues and I'm a good way through a final, which by now is already two years old. Someone helping with a review edit even spotted that I'd used Waterloo train station for a character to go to France; a couple of weeks ago that route closed and we now need to travel from St Pancras!

Still, its all good experience and adds an extra backdrop during the season when the leaves fall and the nights get dark early.

Hollywood had better be filling their signing pens with fresh ink.

Saturday 24 November 2007

night moves

sainsburys.jpgSome kind of time warp this afternoon as I headed to the supermarket.

Broad daylight when I parked and yet, some 30 minutes later I emerged into what looked like proper night-time darkness. Somehow the shorter days are sneaking up on us and the flip from day to night is quite sudden.

And right now its still only 6pm.

camera state

The Merc had an easy grace as it slid along the motorway. The entire drive from Germany had been uneventful until he reached the British roads again. Then, a mile or two from the rail terminus, he'd been stuck in erratically moving traffic all the way back to the slow M25 encircling London.

Across France, he'd watched the mirror for the long term cars following him. It was the usual situation on this persistent drive. A small grouping of vehicles proceeding at roughly the same speed yet staying within the French law.

He'd deliberately stopped at a couple of snack areas along the way, to randomise these cars that accompanied him and now back in the UK everything was suitably mixed up again. His German temporary plates with their bright orange square did stand out from the other traffic and he knew it would take a couple of days to get them converted to British number plates.

But he was relaxed now, the paranoia from Jake and Clare was unjustified. No-one cared about him or the shiny new Mercedes.


Friday 23 November 2007

little noise

To set the scene for this one, I'd said I was very busy at work (true) and couldn't go to this. I was quite happy for someone else deserving to have the extra ticket that Julie has somehow obtained for the 600 person gig with her favourite Mr Young, supported by Newton Faulkner, Adele and another act.

Come the time, though, and I find myself heading in a taxi to the small church venue in Highbury. We'd not eaten and managed to grab a quick snack from one of the thousands of places along the buzzy road leading to the Little Noise venue. Arrival 7:30pm and the place was already full. It was advanced tickets only and then 'find a pew' so to speak. No problemo, we sneaked through a curtain and up some stairs to the gallery and bagged some prime seats looking down on the stage.
little noise
So with at least two of the acts normally playing in theatres and arenas, it was primed to be a strong evening. It did mean though, that once in place, it was a question of someone always staying at the seats to avoid being overrun.

So drinking a beer (okay, not so easy in church, but available in the room just behind) was out of the question. We settled for ice-creams from the lady selling in the aisles.

Then, Jo Whiley appeared and excellently hosted the evening, which was in support of Mencap, the charity.
adele at little noise
I'll skip over the first act and start with Adele, who is around 20 years old, has already chalked an appearance on Jools Holland in the same show that featured Bjork and McCartney.

She has a great bluesy kind of voice that's probably the wrong side of 30 cigs a day, twiddles the guitar pretty well and had a winning way with the audience, including bigging up the other acts. An enjoyable mix of mainly her own material. Most enjoyable.
newton faulkner
Then Newton Faulkner, who has a fairly naff television ad at the moment, but was a pleasant surprise when he started his set. A highly accomplished guitarist, who played acoustically with some quite virtuosic elements. This was accompanied by a beguiling line in chatter which teetered on the edge of random. Like all of the acts in the evening, he played the "unstructured" card for what, I suppose for all of the performers as a bit of a 'one off'. In addition to his own material, an acoustic version of Massive Attack's "teardrop". Performed remarkably well as a guitar only version. Then more of his own including some audience participation and finishing with (improbably) Bohemian Rhapsody also on acoustic guitar. It mainly worked as well. I was converted to this musician, whose style has a 'Roy Harper' type of feel to the guitar playing.

And then was Julie's main part of the evening, with Will Young doing his gig to 600 of whom I suspect about 550 were diehard fans. He had a small band, pretty much his regular musicians who lock together to play just about anything well and with verve. The long set was interesting. Surprisingly varied, compared with a typical touring set and certainly not a jukebox of popular hits. Most of the material was also reworked and this was quote a good showcase for the versatility of this singer and the empathy of the musicians.
After a very slightly nervous sounding start with a track from the old days of his first album, he and the band warmed to a very strong performance. Not the showiness of a set with all the dancers and lights, but a good solid performance of a wide range of material, with interesting improvisations added seamlessly into the tracks. A small moment of accidental humour when the excellent percussionist was deep in some personal reverie and needed to be flagged back into action by Will. But then snap, a new percussive rhythm started and the rest of the band just locked onto it.

The audience loved the whole performance and the atmosphere wandered from rapt attention to feet stomping and hand clapping for the loud ones. I gather Will is in the studio at present recording " Hors d'Oeuvres/Canapes" or whatever its called and he commented that being out with an audience was quite a change from singing to a wooden box.

At a gig like this, I'd have expected 45 minutes from him as the main performer, but he was on stage for probably 75 minutes. No encore, but I think he ran right up to the last minute for the audience. The verdict - excellent - and good to see an intimate and thoughtfully instrumented gig by someone who normally plays Arenas.

Then, what else but to finish the evening with a can of Red Stripe? (in the church annex, of course).

Thursday 22 November 2007

now be thankful

thanksgivingThe wires have been quiet today with our cousins in America celebrating Thanksgiving Day. Clearly an American celebration, formalised by Abe, although the roots in Harvest festival are worth noting. The Brits have been doing this since pagan times and the original haerfest is from Anglo-Saxon and means 'Autumn' (Fall). I gather the native America Indians had a similar way to celebrate the harvest.

So not surprising when a boatload of British and European religious separatists turned up on the shores of what would become Plymouth 2, that they would invoke some of the traditional festivals as a way to encourage and celebrate the harvest.

So, whatever interpretation you have for the celebration, "Happy Thanksgiving".

now be thankful

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Competition : Spot the missing CD

spot the missing CD
OK, I know its supposed to be wordless wednesday, but today, "X" marks the spot.

And tomorrow's competition will be "guess the password". (Not the most common ones like password, 123456, secret, qwerty, abc123, letmein, monkey, charlie, myspace1, password1, arsenal, (your first name))

And clue : Its none of these either...

...or is it?

Tuesday 20 November 2007

a matter of public record

I see 25 million individual UK citizen records have been mislaid when they were sent by HMRC through the internal post on a couple of CD/DVDs to the National Audit Office. Apparently the first set that were sent by TNT didn't get through but the second recorded delivery set did.

It looks to me as if some of the records must already be out there, judging by the types of inexpensive private investigation site already available.

Monday 19 November 2007

reading other peoples' papers on the tube

The big headline tonight on the tube (ie what people were reading) was about the £23bn loan that the government has given to Northern Rock out of taxpayers' money. I can't remember how much it equates to per UK adult, but it must be around £1000 per "household".

And at the moment, no-one seems to want to buy Northern Rock, presumably partly influenced by the thought that they would need to pay back the £23bn to the government (aka the taxpayers).

But the UK numbers pale into insignificance compared with the USA, where even the BBC is reporting Wall Street banks could be hit with losses of half a trillion dollars. As a number that's $500,000,000,000, which is quite a lot of wonga.
So with the recent actions by the US Treasury and to a degree by the Bank of England, there seems to have been some emphasis on deferring a crunch-point. But if all of those bundled together parcels of bad lending crash and there's a raft of foreclosures, then the US economy could be in for an amazingly rough time over the next few months, with systemic issues that could take years to resolve.

Mr Northern Rock has gone, so has Mr Citigroup ($11bn) and Mr Merrill Lynch ($8bn). They all presided over organisations which seemed to lend to markets made up of people who represented major credit risks. During the early days of this, many dealers received excellent commissions from this window-dressed business, perhaps with little awareness for the reality of the bad and dis-intermediated bets they were placing.

So if these early estimates of the damage based upon 'fair value' and hedging regulations are indicative, one wonders what will emerge when the spin -laden "Structured Investment Vehicles" finally surface from the hidden areas of the balance sheets. There's a few lumpy carpets in the board-rooms at the moment.

All of this can effect the general bond-market and move the quality of debt question to other 'packages' invented by the financial analysts. No lending, and the wheels of commerce slow down.

So whether the low end figure of $150bn from the Fed or the bleaker view of $450bn from Moody's, theres a lot of money about to go missing. These sub-prime losses, plus the loss of confidence in other loan bundles and the consequent difficulty in borrowing, could teeter the US into a pretty tough recession.

And I wonder who will pay for it all in the end?

scouting for girls

Signal remote iTunes controller on iPhone
One of my idle comments about the iPhone was that it would be good if it could also control iTunes remotely. I was thinking it would be good to replace the little white Front Row controllers with a way to do the same from the phone.

Well, five minutes on the Apple site and I discovered Signal, which does what I wanted in a rather clever way. It hooks via wifi into a networked iTunes library giving a controllable web display of all the albums and play lists on the iPhone.

Then use normal iPod style control to skip through the tracks and play them back through a Mac or Airport Express.

It was as simple as drag and drop to set up and I now have a Signal page in Safari on the iPhone, which can play either the tracks on the iMac where I'm sitting right now (Ok, kind of pointless) or on the mini mac connected to the hi-fi in the lounge. So remote music piped around the house over the airport express, driven from the phone.

Slightly mad, but surprisingly addictive.

Sunday 18 November 2007


Sunlight on Scaffold
Early Sunday dropoff at the GPS reference. Scaffolding waveguides deflecting radio. Cold limiting angles. One clear route and maybe a twenty second window. Maybe a motorbike, more likely the silence of a bicycle. It won't stop. I won't know what's in the bag and I can't stay here to open it.


Working today. At least I can have a musical soundtrack to give me some energy.
the apples in stereo

Saturday 17 November 2007


In between working and sleeping this week, (oops, and yesterday's imbibing) I've been trying to keep a few minutes for the NaNoWriMo novelling. I'm at the stage now where the story is beginning to converge, although I'm not sure whether I've been adding too many pieces into the mix.

As a way to blend in some content, I've been noting little items in my notebook and snapping interesting pictures which could somehow add into a scene. Hence this car. I sometime park in a swish London car park where there's always a selection of exotica which usually manages to make me smile. And so earlier in the week when I parked next to this Lambo I thought it should make an appearance in the story. And then a few days later, I was parked again and returned to find it next to me.

Its obviously the latest model and costs 'do not touch' amounts of money. I need to work out whether it becomes involved in a car chase ready for the film rights from the novel.
...hmmm, black or orange?

vmware running vista in OS/X

Windows Vista on Mac OS/X with VMware Window mode
Windows ON OS/X
I mainly use Mac at home and nowadays run the super slick Leopard.

For my old-school moments, I've used Parallels for Windows in Mac and recently (pre Leopard) tried VMware, which is fairly similar to Parallels, although in my case it was rather slow.
Windows Vista in Mac OS/X with VMware Unity Mode
Windows IN OS/X
In the last few days I updated VMware to the new version adn now everything seems to run quite well, with a reasonably nippy Windows Vista running inside OS/X.

No boot camp shut-downs, just click a Windows ap and a new Vista-enabled Window opens (much like a browser) with the Mac application inside. Its probably not fast enough for games, but certainly good enough for office style applications.

Though the weirdest of all is when the Mac starts to bling up Windows hassle boxes in the bottom right corner asking for updates, reboots and so forth. Its like a little separate eco-system. There... it wants to re-boot again right now whilst I'm typing this. You go ahead little vista. I'll keep working on OS/X whilst you take another nap.
how weird is this on a mac?

Friday 16 November 2007

Repair a Thinkpad's missing key

Oh dear, a missing key!
Yesterday evening, the letter 'D' just flew off of my Thinkpad keyboard.

"Oh, bother!" I thought, "What an inconvenience!" (or words to that effect).

It was actually rather late and I thought for a few minutes if it were possible to finish what I was typing without using that letter any more in any sentences. It seems to go quite a long way through a paragraph without using that letter very much. Almost unnecessary especially if one uses 'autocorrect' if it is missing (=see - whole paragraph without a single use).

So I then initially set about fixing it. Quite difficult. Other people had spent two hours and then ordered replacement keyboards. Including the key, there's four tiny pieces of fiddly plastic that need to fit together in sort of trapezoid / pantograph shape. I tried for about ten minutes and then rummaged around to find a spare keyboard to plug into the side of the laptop until the next day.

And so today:
My letter D exploded
How to replace a key on a Thinkpad

1) Don't panic
2) Have plenty of light
3) Ensure all of the pieces have been retrieved. There's four. The key, a black strip, a Small oblong piece and a slightly larger U shaped piece.
they looked like this
4)Assemble the pieces of the trapezoid first, on a sheet of white paper so things don't get lost too easily.
5) The black strip fits onto the large U shaped piece at one end. The two pieces should stay attached.
6) Then the oblong clips into the middle of the U shaped piece.
7) If the assembly is laid in the piece of paper it will look flat with no bumps, if assembled in the correct order.
8) If you lift either end, it will open out something like a miniature deck-chair (pantograph).
9) There are two little pins sticking out from this structure. They engage with the top metal hooks on the keybaord (at the top of where the missing key fits).
then into the keyboard
10) Clip them in carefully, and the little structure will open over the key's 'piston' and the black oblong piece willl remain flat.
11) Now is the time to push the key top back on. Nerves of steel required.
12) Align the key top with the others in the row, so that it lays on the black oblong.
13) Press down very firmly. There will be a tiny click when the key top engages with the other part.
14) Then normal typing can resume.

I wrote the above because I searched for articles about this on google unsuccessfully, although there were lots of people making the same enquiry.


...And my novel includes a computer fixing hint amongst the storyline. It could make an ideal gift and it's here.

repaired !

repair laptop missing or loose key on keyboard

The entry, which was originally for a Thinkpad but works for other laptop keyboards is here

Thursday 15 November 2007

the buzz of the city

Train to Cannon Street
Another logistically challenged day today. I have meetings dotted around and need to do some train travel. I also have some phone conferences where ideally I have my PC switched on, but it could all get quite difficult to fit together.

The theory of sitting in cafes in London on "the Cloud" WiFi and plugged into phone conferences sounds okay, but there is usually so much noise from expresso machines, ambient music and coffee drinkers that conference calls don't really work unless its a listen only kind of deal.

So I shall have to find somewhere quiet for the calls and be offline.

Tuesday 13 November 2007

minor character about to get a speaking part

gerald.jpgMost people who saw Gerald for the first time looked away. He normally lived in a squat around the Balls Pond Road. He called the area Hoxton - which is an up-and-coming area - but the reality was that he lived close to some deserted warehouses and by a Saturday ad hoc marketplace where mainly Polish and other middle europeans would sell minor goods directly from cardboard cartons. Gerald lived by his wits and scrounged a living from small errands and some petty crime.

He usually walked around in a grey raincoat, with a knotted scarf and a baseball cap. In a clean and well fitted version this could have made Gerald look quite respectable, but with the uncared for versions, the overall impession was desolation.

There was rain this evening, a grey, drizzling rain that had persisted all day. It had the effect of flattening the landscape, and blurring detail. Car lights were smeared and there was a deadening of sound. This was not a good rain, just a persistent one.

Gerald was shuffling back to where he normally lived. He looked as grey as the surroundings and blended well into the general misery. Things had not always been this way and Gerald had gone through a good education until the point where everything slid. He drifted South to London as a missing person. Now he was well versed in the art of street life, which was his main means of survival.

Monday 12 November 2007

tunnel vision

I travelled to Canary Wharf this afternoon and as I arrived at the train station there I glimpsed some smoke rising from across the river. It actually looked like two separate locations and I thought someone must be having a large bonfire with some rubber tyres or something.

Then I walked to my meeting and because of the stories of people wandering around lost for half an hour in Canary Wharf before they find the right building, I'd made a mental map of where I was going. It also meant I could get there completely underground - much of Canary Wharf and Canada Square are linked with underground malls and walkways.

So I arrived at my meeting and after travelling in a lift, said by way of small talk to the people I was meeting that I was disoriented and didn't know which way I was facing. So one of them said, "You're facing towards the fire"...

At this moment I realized that the smoke I'd seen earlier wasn't just a couple of pirellis but was a large warehouse at the site of the new London Olympic 2012 (c) (tm) (r) area. No prizes for my earlier lack of observation!

back of a bus?

I learned a new phrase a few days ago - 'bus wrap'. Its the technical term for what they do with London red buses now when they cover them in a large advertisement. The smaller 'taxi wrap' is the same idea.
Londoners are pretty used to being blasted with advertising from all directions and I've noticed the emergence of animation now on the sides of buses, as well as on the backs of the pedicabs (rickshaw taxis), some of which now seem to have the equivalent of flat screen televisions attached to them.

old advert
As long as the traffic advertising doesn't start to become overly distracting, like the famous 1990s advertisement around Piccadilly which created multiple minor traffic bumps the day it was first displayed.

Sunday 11 November 2007

birthday lunch

lanesborough conservatory
The Lanesborough today, at Hyde Park Corner, for my birthday lunch.

The Lanesborough is in high Bentley country and there were three or four parked outside when we arrived.

A piano and double bass type of occasion, with a traditional Sunday lunch, which included a splash of fizz and took several indulgent hours.

We dined in the conservatory and then wended our way through Belgravia, past Sloane Square and into Chelsea. An enjoyable day for all of us, and for me including the gift of a CD by Bat for Lashes and a signed copy of the latest Douglas Coupland novel, complete with the almost unobtainable Glove Pond, by Roger Thorpe. More of that later.

posh bangers

posh bangers
Saturday has been good for bringing the novel writing back towards target. I had the main story-line and the two other sections which I'd written whilst travelling during the week. I've somehow stitched them back together and the three pieces are beginnng to form the basis for the story.

I've also managed to have a few of the characters meeting in places from some of my recent travels. There's the canal-side discussions in Birmingham, action in amongst the houses of Hoxton and a scene outside the Market Porter in Southwark, although no-one actually gets to eat the posh sausages.

Its interesting to be able to base the story-line in some real and recent settings. I must admit that when I was in the Epernay bar in Birmingham the week before NaNo started, I even started to sketch a picture of the surroundings near to the window facing the canal.

Adding my original 3900, plus around 1600 in one separate piece from my flight to Nice and another 2000 waiting at the airport on the way back, plus today's exertions has got me to around 16,000 words, which is probably more or less back on track. I'm not quite ready to post an extract, but there is definitely a story forming.

Saturday 10 November 2007

not mellow

yellow lines
You can tell from the double yellow lines that I'm back in the 'no parking' areas of the metropolis. Its a beautiful sunny day, but I need to spend at least part of it tapping away if I'm to get anywhere near back on track with the November novel writing. I dare not even look at the word count until I have worked out what down-and-out Gerald and the mysterious Anya are doing, let alone why the Italians decided to meet in Birmingham.

I am just getting to that stage though, where the characters seem to start to want to do things by themselves, based upon the logic of their personalities. I still don't have a clue where the plot-line will lead, but if I follow the line long enough I hope the seemingly parallel tracks will blossom into a beautiful flower.

Friday 9 November 2007

sun, stars and you?

earth and sun
The last few days I have had be zipping around in France and publishing even a short blog entry has been a minor challenge. I usually blog from a mac and all of the drag and droppy things make everything very quick. Using my Thinkpad means a lot more button pushing and general futzing.

But one of the interesting things during my trip was running into a good friend from Ireland who is also a blogger. We've known each other for quite a few years "in real life" and over a few glasses of drink in a noisy bar, we caught up on what each other had been doing and recounted each others' twists and turns providing advice and good counsel along the way.

And amongst it, for a while, we flipped to chatting about our respective blogs. My 'twinkly eyed' friend is something of a political blogger and describes some situations affecting the Republic of Ireland World in an attention grabbing and deliberately controversial style. Part of the challenge with the political blogs is getting the audience and I suppose just as importantly getting a debate running. We've all seen the newspaper blogs such as Grauniad or Torygraph with their extensive comment chains on the items posted.

So I described a few of the techniques the politico blogs use to increase traffic (linkfests, trackbacks etc.) and some of the pieces of technology used to track who is looking at what. I even said I'd put it into an email at some point, so I'd better do that as well. The strange thing is, I don't think either my friend or I have really chatted 'in real life' about the technology of blogging to anyone else.

We both agreed that we'd started out almost whimsically and probably both taken about a day and a half to get our initial blogs working properly (with mastheads, links etc). After that, we interact with the blogosphere but seldom run into other bloggers (okay, Facebook is slightly different - and we know some F&F (family and friends) who read our blogs), but overall there really is a separate 'world' with which we interact.

In both cases we'd also selected a non personal image for our blog presence too - for differing reasons - and this operates in a different space to our other more visible internet presences.

So, I'm wondering about the experiences of others who started out and whether they know a lot of their audience directly, or whether it really is a separate world?

Thursday 8 November 2007


From sunny warm Mediterranean back to a rather wet England with enough weather to mean we had to fly around in circles several times before we could land.

Still, the delayed take-off gave me time to think of a few 'plot points' for the NaNoWriMo writing, including some unexpected inspiration from an article in the Economist. I just need to make up 9,000 words somehow this weekend.

Wednesday 7 November 2007

Tuesday 6 November 2007


Someone said 'life is a minestrone, served up with parmesan cheese'.

I think mine is more of a spaghetti carbonara this week (also served up with parmesan cheese). There's a lot of interlinked threads, some tasty bits and limited 'downtime' so as I eat this lonely meal for one, it will probably be my last alone until Friday.

Every breakfast, lunch and evening is filled with various types of meetings, in this sunny area of the south of France. I shall have to take this fleeting time to admire the view from my window, before I disappear into cafe society for a few days.

Monday 5 November 2007


It's the Fifth of November, but I'm on my way to Nice, France.
fireworks (Its the 5th of November)

Sunday 4 November 2007

back to the plot

I'm hoping to get some serious time in on the NaNoWriMo novel writing on Sunday. So far I've only written 1,900 words and my survival instincts are telling me I need to be at around 5,000 words by the end of Sunday just to be on track. Realistically I need to be further ahead than that because I expect my time in the week will be curtailed because of my need to go to the French Riviera on business.

So Sunday (which has already started) becomes a key day in plot development. I've just looked up one of my old posts about the types of errors that evil overlords make when running spaceships, empires, hidden headquarters and so forth and think I shall need to avoid these bloopers in my novel so that if I do incorporate an evil overlord, then he or she won't be knobbled by a silly mistake. Unfortunately there's quite a long list of errors, so I'm publishing them in this little scroll box, for reference.

Evil Overlord Survival Tips
Evil Overlord Survival Tips
1 My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.
2 My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.
3 My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.
4 Shooting is not too good for my enemies.
5 The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.
6 I will not gloat over my enemies' predicament before killing them.
7 When I've captured my adversary and he says, "Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?" I'll say, "No." and shoot him. No, on second thought I'll shoot him then say "No."
8 After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks' time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.
9 I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled "Danger: Do Not Push". The big red button marked "Do Not Push" will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.
10 I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum -- a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.
11 I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues in the form of riddles or leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose no threat.
12 One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.
13 All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff. The announcement of their deaths, as well as any accompanying celebration, will be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal.
14 The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other form of last request.
15 I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.
16 I will never utter the sentence "But before I kill you, there's just one thing I want to know."
17 When I employ people as advisors, I will occasionally listen to their advice.
18 I will not have a son. Although his laughably under-planned attempt to usurp power would easily fail, it would provide a fatal distraction at a crucial point in time.
19 I will not have a daughter. She would be as beautiful as she was evil, but one look at the hero's rugged countenance and she'd betray her own father.
20 Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it's too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly.
21 I will hire a talented fashion designer to create original uniforms for my Legions of Terror, as opposed to some cheap knock-offs that make them look like Nazi stormtroopers, Roman footsoldiers, or savage Mongol hordes. All were eventually defeated and I want my troops to have a more positive mind-set.
22 No matter how tempted I am with the prospect of unlimited power, I will not consume any energy field bigger than my head.
23 I will keep a special cache of low-tech weapons and train my troops in their use. That way -- even if the heroes manage to neutralize my power generator and/or render the standard-issue energy weapons useless -- my troops will not be overrun by a handful of savages armed with spears and rocks.
24 I will maintain a realistic assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. Even though this takes some of the fun out of the job, at least I will never utter the line "No, this cannot be! I AM INVINCIBLE!!!" (After that, death is usually instantaneous.)
25 No matter how well it would perform, I will never construct any sort of machinery which is completely indestructible except for one small and virtually inaccessible vulnerable spot.
26 No matter how attractive certain members of the rebellion are, there is probably someone just as attractive who is not desperate to kill me. Therefore, I will think twice before ordering a prisoner sent to my bedchamber.
27 I will never build only one of anything important. All important systems will have redundant control panels and power supplies. For the same reason I will always carry at least two fully loaded weapons at all times.
28 My pet monster will be kept in a secure cage from which it cannot escape and into which I could not accidentally stumble.
29 I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.
30 All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly thieves in the land will be preemptively put to death. My foes will surely give up and abandon their quest if they have no source of comic relief.
31 All naive, busty tavern wenches in my realm will be replaced with surly, world-weary waitresses who will provide no unexpected reinforcement and/or romantic subplot for the hero or his sidekick.
32 I will not fly into a rage and kill a messenger who brings me bad news just to illustrate how evil I really am. Good messengers are hard to come by.
33 I won't require high-ranking female members of my organization to wear a stainless-steel bustier. Morale is better with a more casual dress-code. Similarly, outfits made entirely from black leather will be reserved for formal occasions.
34 I will not turn into a snake. It never helps.
35 I will not grow a goatee. In the old days they made you look diabolic. Now they just make you look like a disaffected member of Generation X.
36 I will not imprison members of the same party in the same cell block, let alone the same cell. If they are important prisoners, I will keep the only key to the cell door on my person instead of handing out copies to every bottom-rung guard in the prison.
37 If my trusted lieutenant tells me my Legions of Terror are losing a battle, I will believe him. After all, he's my trusted lieutenant.
38 If an enemy I have just killed has a younger sibling or offspring anywhere, I will find them and have them killed immediately, instead of waiting for them to grow up harboring feelings of vengeance towards me in my old age.
39 If I absolutely must ride into battle, I will certainly not ride at the forefront of my Legions of Terror, nor will I seek out my opposite number among his army.
40 I will be neither chivalrous nor sporting. If I have an unstoppable superweapon, I will use it as early and as often as possible instead of keeping it in reserve.
41 Once my power is secure, I will destroy all those pesky time-travel devices.
42 When I capture the hero, I will make sure I also get his dog, monkey, ferret, or whatever sickeningly cute little animal capable of untying ropes and filching keys happens to follow him around.
43 I will maintain a healthy amount of skepticism when I capture the beautiful rebel and she claims she is attracted to my power and good looks and will gladly betray her companions if I just let her in on my plans.
44 I will only employ bounty hunters who work for money. Those who work for the pleasure of the hunt tend to do dumb things like even the odds to give the other guy a sporting chance.
45 I will make sure I have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what in my organization. For example, if my general screws up I will not draw my weapon, point it at him, say "And here is the price for failure," then suddenly turn and kill some random underling.
46 If an advisor says to me "My liege, he is but one man. What can one man possibly do?", I will reply "This." and kill the advisor.
47 If I learn that a callow youth has begun a quest to destroy me, I will slay him while he is still a callow youth instead of waiting for him to mature.
48 I will treat any beast which I control through magic or technology with respect and kindness. Thus if the control is ever broken, it will not immediately come after me for revenge.
49 If I learn the whereabouts of the one artifact which can destroy me, I will not send all my troops out to seize it. Instead I will send them out to seize something else and quietly put a Want-Ad in the local paper.
50 My main computers will have their own special operating system that will be completely incompatible with standard IBM and Macintosh powerbooks.
51 If one of my dungeon guards begins expressing concern over the conditions in the beautiful princess' cell, I will immediately transfer him to a less people-oriented position.
52 I will hire a team of board-certified architects and surveyors to examine my castle and inform me of any secret passages and abandoned tunnels that I might not know about.
53 If the beautiful princess that I capture says "I'll never marry you! Never, do you hear me, NEVER!!!", I will say "Oh well" and kill her.
54 I will not strike a bargain with a demonic being then attempt to double-cross it simply because I feel like being contrary.
55 The deformed mutants and odd-ball psychotics will have their place in my Legions of Terror. However before I send them out on important covert missions that require tact and subtlety, I will first see if there is anyone else equally qualified who would attract less attention.
56 My Legions of Terror will be trained in basic marksmanship. Any who cannot learn to hit a man-sized target at 10 meters will be used for target practice.
57 Before employing any captured artifacts or machinery, I will carefully read the owner's manual.
58 If it becomes necessary to escape, I will never stop to pose dramatically and toss off a one-liner.
59 I will never build a sentient computer smarter than I am.
60 My five-year-old child advisor will also be asked to decipher any code I am thinking of using. If he breaks the code in under 30 seconds, it will not be used. Note: this also applies to passwords.
61 If my advisors ask "Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?", I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.
62 I will design fortress hallways with no alcoves or protruding structural supports which intruders could use for cover in a firefight.
63 Bulk trash will be disposed of in incinerators, not compactors. And they will be kept hot, with none of that nonsense about flames going through accessible tunnels at predictable intervals.
64 I will see a competent psychiatrist and get cured of all extremely unusual phobias and bizarre compulsive habits which could prove to be a disadvantage.
65 If I must have computer systems with publically available terminals, the maps they display of my complex will have a room clearly marked as the Main Control Room. That room will be the Execution Chamber. The actual main control room will be marked as Sewage Overflow Containment.
66 My security keypad will actually be a fingerprint scanner. Anyone who watches someone press a sequence of buttons or dusts the pad for fingerprints then subsequently tries to enter by repeating that sequence will trigger the alarm system.
67 No matter how many shorts we have in the system, my guards will be instructed to treat every surveillance camera malfunction as a full-scale emergency.
68 I will spare someone who saved my life sometime in the past. This is only reasonable as it encourages others to do so. However, the offer is good one time only. If they want me to spare them again, they'd better save my life again.
69 All midwives will be banned from the realm. All babies will be delivered at state-approved hospitals. Orphans will be placed in foster-homes, not abandoned in the woods to be raised by creatures of the wild.
70 When my guards split up to search for intruders, they will always travel in groups of at least two. They will be trained so that if one of them disappears mysteriously while on patrol, the other will immediately initiate an alert and call for backup, instead of quizzically peering around a corner.
71 If I decide to test a lieutenant's loyalty and see if he/she should be made a trusted lieutenant, I will have a crack squad of marksmen standing by in case the answer is no.
72 If all the heroes are standing together around a strange device and begin to taunt me, I will pull out a conventional weapon instead of using my unstoppable superweapon on them.
73 I will not agree to let the heroes go free if they win a rigged contest, even though my advisors assure me it is impossible for them to win.
74 When I create a multimedia presentation of my plan designed so that my five-year-old advisor can easily understand the details, I will not label the disk "Project Overlord" and leave it lying on top of my desk.
75 I will instruct my Legions of Terror to attack the hero en masse, instead of standing around waiting while members break off and attack one or two at a time.
76 If the hero runs up to my roof, I will not run up after him and struggle with him in an attempt to push him over the edge. I will also not engage him at the edge of a cliff. (In the middle of a rope-bridge over a river of molten lava is not even worth considering.)
77 If I have a fit of temporary insanity and decide to give the hero the chance to reject a job as my trusted lieutentant, I will retain enough sanity to wait until my current trusted lieutenant is out of earshot before making the offer.
78 I will not tell my Legions of Terror "And he must be taken alive!" The command will be "And try to take him alive if it is reasonably practical."
79 If my doomsday device happens to come with a reverse switch, as soon as it has been employed it will be melted down and made into limited-edition commemorative coins.
80 If my weakest troops fail to eliminate a hero, I will send out my best troops instead of wasting time with progressively stronger ones as he gets closer and closer to my fortress.
81 If I am fighting with the hero atop a moving platform, have disarmed him, and am about to finish him off and he glances behind me and drops flat, I too will drop flat instead of quizzically turning around to find out what he saw.
82 I will not shoot at any of my enemies if they are standing in front of the crucial support beam to a heavy, dangerous, unbalanced structure.
83 If I'm eating dinner with the hero, put poison in his goblet, then have to leave the table for any reason, I will order new drinks for both of us instead of trying to decide whether or not to switch with him.
84 I will not have captives of one sex guarded by members of the opposite sex.
85 I will not use any plan in which the final step is horribly complicated, e.g. "Align the 12 Stones of Power on the sacred altar then activate the medallion at the moment of total eclipse." Instead it will be more along the lines of "Push the button."
86 I will make sure that my doomsday device is up to code and properly grounded.
87 My vats of hazardous chemicals will be covered when not in use. Also, I will not construct walkways above them.
88 If a group of henchmen fail miserably at a task, I will not berate them for incompetence then send the same group out to try the task again.
89 After I captures the hero's superweapon, I will not immediately disband my legions and relax my guard because I believe whoever holds the weapon is unstoppable. After all, the hero held the weapon and I took it from him.
90 I will not design my Main Control Room so that every workstation is facing away from the door.
91 I will not ignore the messenger that stumbles in exhausted and obviously agitated until my personal grooming or current entertainment is finished. It might actually be important.
92 If I ever talk to the hero on the phone, I will not taunt him. Instead I will say this his dogged perseverance has given me new insight on the futility of my evil ways and that if he leaves me alone for a few months of quiet contemplation I will likely return to the path of righteousness. (Heroes are incredibly gullible in this regard.)
93 If I decide to hold a double execution of the hero and an underling who failed or betrayed me, I will see to it that the hero is scheduled to go first.
94 When arresting prisoners, my guards will not allow them to stop and grab a useless trinket of purely sentimental value.
95 My dungeon will have its own qualified medical staff complete with bodyguards. That way if a prisoner becomes sick and his cellmate tells the guard it's an emergency, the guard will fetch a trauma team instead of opening up the cell for a look.
96 My door mechanisms will be designed so that blasting the control panel on the outside seals the door and blasting the control panel on the inside opens the door, not vice versa.
97 My dungeon cells will not be furnished with objects that contain reflective surfaces or anything that can be unravelled.
98 If an attractive young couple enters my realm, I will carefully monitor their activities. If I find they are happy and affectionate, I will ignore them. However if circumstance have forced them together against their will and they spend all their time bickering and criticizing each other except during the intermittent occasions when they are saving each others' lives at which point there are hints of sexual tension, I will immediately order their execution.
99 Any data file of crucial importance will be padded to 1.45Mb in size.
100 Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.

This Evil Overlord List is Copyright 1996-1997 by Peter Anspach. If you enjoy it, feel free to pass it along or post it anywhere, provided that (1) it is not altered in any way, and (2) this copyright notice is attached.

Thanks, Peter Anspach

a whole lotta folk

plant krauss
Last weekend in Birmingham, I was waiting for a few minutes in the record store near the corner of the Bullring. I spotted a 'folk' section and decided to take a look. It was all Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and a lavish Sandy Denny boxed set, apart from a few sampler collections. Nothing wrong with these choices, but they are from about 1970. It looked like pretty much an afterthought in a low footfall part of the store.

So quite good to hear the recent release from Alison Krauss and Robert Plant (yes, they). It mixes bluegrass songstress and the ex Zeppo frontman more in the Brony-aur acoustic territory. The 'roots music' based tracks have a surprising strong bass and drum (don't worry its not hip-hop but someone has been playing with a multicompressor) as well as a fairly broad spectrum from banjo, piano, through blues, slide and some diddly folk. The musicianship and the mix create an undercurrent that is quite tense and uses both with American style country and some British folk music influences. The production is by T-Bone Burnett, and the band includes musicians such as Marc Ribot (Tom Waits guitarist, amongst others) and the drumming of Jay Bellerose.

Some may object, but what interested me was that this treatment of the numbers had been adapted into something from the 21st century. We can have folk and country but with a modern twist.
let your loss be your lesson