Tuesday, October 26, 2004


I'm home in bed with a cold & a nagging headache, and would probably be better off shutting this laptop down and going back to sleep. In a little while. Meanwhile, I scan the tracking polls and see the race for the White House essentially even. This is interesting in itself - whoever wins cannot (although I suspect they will) pretend to lead a united country. There is too much bad feeling, and altogether too much fear, for people to happily shrug their shoulders and return to normality. At least that is what I judge. Whoever wins is also going to have to cope with the whirlwind of misfortune that has been stirred up over the past four years, and that will be an overwhelming task.

But at heart I remain optimistic. I view what has happened to America over the past three years as a necessary peeling away of a mentality of smugly cocooned superiority. The initial reactions have been very much in that vein - overwhelming force used to crush 3rd world countries. But the results have shown once again that overwhelming force is meaningless unless you win the hearts of those you oppose and conquer. That lesson has yet to be learned, but it will be. As others have said, you cannot impose freedom - and you most certainly cannot impose a Christian evangelist & materialist culture upon a society rooted in a fundamental religion as powerful, and as opposed to Christianity, as Islam.

It's America's insularity - and that insularity is built into the current Republican administration, but is really nationwide and beyond party - that is both its strength and weakness. It confers a formidable self-confidence that allows simple-minded thinking to flourish and even seem wise. Under some circumstances, it is even wise in reality. But the same insularity ill prepares the country for blows against it. Instead of seeing things for what they are, events lose proportion and take mythological aspects. Hence the frequent equation of the World Trade Center attack with Pearl Harbor - the isolated and probably unrepeatable fluke assault of a few suicidal and dedicated individuals is inflated to the same level of importance of the first single instance of a widespread and formidable attack by an entire nation. It is obvious that they are of vastly different degrees of importance and significance, yet today we are fighting a 'war' that has led to the overthrow of two sovereign governments, coincidently in two countries that are renowned throughout the history of civilization as two of the most resilient to occupation, with absolutely no way of knowing whether the actual perpetrators of the World Trade crime have been destroyed. Meanwhile, the nihilist ideals of the World Trade bombers are free to circulate among a vastly larger and more receptive pool of recruits than would have existed without the invasion of Iraq.

So I anticipate that there will be further attacks on the American homeland, probably of far less overall destructiveness - whoever wins this election - and they will lead to further societal upheaval, polarization and hostility. Then, with time and with the understanding that reality brings, those negative forces will moderate and America will finally begin to realize that is no longer a privileged stone castle built safely on a tor rising above the rest of the world, and will come down with the same crash that has brought down all prior dominant cultures. It will be a rocky ride.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Piano Sonata No. 21 in B flat major, D960

Makes a suitable soundtrack to this evening's debate which I cannot watch because hearing George Bush makes me feel ill. Better to listen to the sublime.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Continued relief

I have been feeling notably happier since the debate, more so than I expected. Seeking to understand why, I think the crucial element was witnessing Bush being pummeled for the results of his own actions. Too often, I have sensed a terrible 'with-us or against-us' mentality developing in this country. A mentality that has stifled free speech, allowed authoritarian elements to gain ground, and placed free-thinkers in a difficult position. But seeing Kerry hammer Bush in a nationwide-broadcast forum gave me a sense that it is OK to disagree with him, and not feel a social outcast for doing so. In other words, I am not alone! If Kerry achieves no more than that, he has already done good by me.


Well Kerry did well. It is refreshing to hear a person in a position of power - and seeking more - bluntly confront Bush with his own record of error, stubborness and deception. Whether it will change anyone's mind is another matter, but at least I can feel a breath of clean air.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

O Canada!

My wife asked me, as I mounted my bicycle before setting off to work, whether I would like to move to Canada if George Bush wins the election. Found myself humming 'O Canada' on the way in, and rather astonishingly realizing that I would have far fewer qualms about becoming a Canadian citizen that I would about becoming a U.S. - something I have never done despite 25 years of residence here. Now if Kerry wins...well, that might be another story because I would believe that people like me really do have a voice in the political life of what I can only judge currently to be an increasingly insular, uneducated, xenophobic and intolerant country. Tonight is the first Presidential debate - I have horrible fears that Bush will crush Kerry and seal his victory.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Kerry finds a voice

Thank God that John Kerry seems to be pulling himself out of shadowland and doing some straight talking concerning the Iraq debacle. Why did he not do this earlier - much earlier? He's going to get clobbered by the Bush MiniTru team waffling on about his changing message (which has not changed at all - unlike Bush he is capable of analyzing an issue), and I fear that unthinking folk might fall for the Bush flim-flam. But at least he got his own supporters energized for once. Maybe the fabled Kerry fighting spirit is surfacing. I hope so.

Sunday, September 05, 2004


My favourite rants include fundamentalists of all types who clearly embrace death more than life, Bush (such a good rant subject!), corporate culture & perfidy, people who refuse to face up to and do something about their mental health problems, and over-competitiveness. But I don't actually feel like preaching today - I'll just leave it as a list!

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Glory Be

I am having a musical day today. Now am engrossed by Robert Simpsons' 9th String Quartet - a set of 32 variations and fugue on a palindromic theme from Haydn's Piano Sonata No. 41 (also used in his Symphony No. 47). A wonderful work, this is, full of invention and feeling. Variations have always been a favourite compositional technique for me, starting with a love for Schoenberg's 'Variations For Orchestra', and taking in the 'Enigma', 'Goldberg', 'Diabelli' and Haydn's own Piano Variations in F minor amongst many others.


A validating New York Times article, read while listening to Easley Blackwood's extremely unstressful 3rd string quartet. Nice quote at the end -

Career consultants tell clients to examine the degree to which they themselves are the ones cracking the whip.

"Consider the possibility that you are colluding in your own demise," said Rayona Sharpnack, founder of the Institute for Women's Leadership in Redwood City, Calif. "Suffering," she said, "is optional."

Couldn't agree more. It is not necessary to throw your life away chasing empty materialist dreams - or to use work to shield yourself from facing up to your emotional obligations to yourself, family and friends.

Easley Blackwood

Perkins' "Caprice" was dedicated to and performed by Easley Blackwood, and that is one of the recordings that I was able to transcribe. A powerful 12-tone composition for piano that I found highly attractive. Blackwood himself has been a far more prolific composer - even if he is not exactly a household name - and my friend has lent me some of his commercial recordings. Not listened to yet - that pleasure awaits!

Transcribing John Perkins

Through a rather remarkable series of events involving a ruptured blood vessel, a house in need of extensive cleaning, and the intervention of the woman (a very good friend) who lives with John Perkins' ex-wife, I have had the pleasure of transcribing a number of Perkins' private recordings onto CD. From cassette tape, recordings of rather variable sound quality, but all of excellent artistic value. Considering John Perkins has been established as a composer and professor of music at Washington University for some decades now, it's really sad that there is so little music either composed or recorded. Almost none commercially recorded. It's a shame - he is a great composer.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I absently followed 'The Inquirer' mystery link today and found Troutgirl. The poor woman has just been sacked for 'blogging', although I sense rather more is going on behind the scenes (doesn't it always?). She seems bright and intelligent and will doubtless find another post soon enough, but the pain she felt in such outright rejection comes through loud and clear. Clearly a devoted 'team' player - she's probably finding out just how ephemeral and shallow so many of these corporate structures are. I am very glad I work in an environment that is about as 'real' as one can get in the work world. But I felt sad for Troutgirl.

Hmmm... Seems this little story has caused quite a stir. Found out enough to realise that Troutgirl is not going to want for a job. Looks like a small PR disaster for Friendster, mind. I joined Friendster a while ago - never followed up on it at all. I shall remain happily friendsterless.

Feeling extra contented

Perhaps because it was not my bicycle that was stolen this morning, but my wife's - and that was a bummer. But more likely, simply because I feel at ease and perfectly happy with the moment as it is. It's a very smooth work day, with everything moving along at the right pace - but this is normal for here. Upset and stress are rare occurences, I am happy to say. Plus all those lovely little computer add-ons have arrived at home, been installed, and are working perfectly and to all expectations.

None of this makes for great drama does it? It much more exciting to write about disasters and pitfalls, grudges and hurts, woes and sorrows! Certainly more exciting to read about them.

Friday, August 27, 2004


The first week back at week after a long vacation is always draggy and this one was no exception. Add to that a particularly muggy hot and humid weather pattern, and the result is one very sleepy me. Aside from that, all is well - it's Friday night, I gathered and bought enough new bits to build a new computer over the weekend, finally with a DVD writer, and treated myself to the complete Emma Peel Avengers DVD set as a slightly late birthday present. With a new nVidia 6800 GT also on the way in preparation for the upcoming release of 'Pacific Fighters', I am pretty much riding the just-sub-extravagant level of current computer hardware. Enough parts have been upgraded that I can build my son a PC of his own that would have been pretty much top-notch 18 months ago, and thus continues to remain pretty powerful even with the latest games.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Back From Vacation

Five weeks, mostly in England, and mostly without a computer. I barely missed it. I love getting such proof that my interests and obsessions can be completely switched off and rearranged. Should civilization collapse, I will survive in the ruins without too much difficulty!

Monday, July 12, 2004

Let's Bash Those Yucky Gays Again!

Few things make me madder than the despicable prejudice and hatred thrown at gay folk by straights, of whatever ilk. And now we have Bush revoltingly churning up the bile by his ever-so-euphemistic gay marriage prohibition amendment. Let's get real here - the issue isn't marriage - it's outright disgust at gays because they prefer to get involved with the genitals of someone just like them. Because marriage has always been the 'official' license to screw, the bigots are frothing at the mouth at legitimizing those acts they so paranoidly fear. Meanwhile, people dear to me are raising children in a legal environment that is profoundly anti-family because they cannot ring those wedding bells. Now that is plain injustice.

Patch Frenzy

Always astonishes me! Here we have, at most, a subtle change in the game and people are slavering to get their hands on the update as if it were manna from heaven. And this has been true with every update from the IL-2 demo onwards. Obviously, it's exciting to see improvements in your favorite game, but such obsession! It baffles me.

Something To Say?

Not really. I'm just sitting here while making some CD copies, listening in as my son watches a 'Dr. Who' in the next door room. It's a remarkably uneventful evening really, but entirely typical. Very enjoyable. I love these periods of almost meditative serenity. They don't need to carved into a schedule - they are very much part of my daily life, at home or at work. How could I have got to be so lucky? I look around at the whirlwind lives that so many here seem to live, and I can hardly believe it. Do we really all live on the same planet? Sometimes I wonder whether I would feel the same if transplanted to a truly slower culture, a Mongolian farm, a Mediterranean island, a Central African village for example. Would I then become the speed freak? No - I would fit right in without a second thought!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

A Candlelit Bath

One of the beneficial side-effects of two days without electric power earlier this week was the rediscovery of the gorgeously subtle light of the candle. So I filled up the bath tonight, lit three white candles, and lay back in that flickering yellow balm. It was most satisfying, and my thoughts roamed hither and thither. Not settling on anything substantial, but then there was no need for substance. A series of purely ephemeral moments, and very soothing.

I love baths. They are slow and deliberate. No rush. They take control of time and wrest it away from the insistent hurly-burly of clocks and schedules. Almost an altered state, but one of tranquility and resonance with life.

A Bowl Of Soup

It's been a rather dreary, sleepy sort of day, not helped by the wretched heat of a St. Louis summer or by an excess of alcohol at a very enjoyable Scrabble party last night. So I thought I would have a bowl of soup. Clam chowder. It was very good!

Considered Eccentric

My wife told me yesterday that I am considered 'eccentric' by some of our friends. I was pleased and yet rather taken aback at this characterisation. I have always regarded true eccentrics to be really weird people, and to find myself in their company put me in a position I had not really anticipated. Of course, eccentricity is a matter of degree as well, and I may well be focusing on the end of the scale. Investigating further, I gathered the root of my 'eccentricity' is my by-passing completely the competition/success/status/control paradigm which is the seeming norm for people of my class, education and generation. That was reassuring - I am proud to be eccentric that way!

Inspector Lohmann

It's always pleasant to be reminded that however unusual or unique you judge yourself to be, there is someone else out there who is much more like you than you might imagine. Hence my pleasure to be e-mailed by Inspector Lohmann

Friday, July 09, 2004

You Have To Be Obsessive

To keep a blog running. How else can you do it? It has no practical value - makes no money, cooks no meal, washes no clothes - beyond establishing a daily history (if you choose to use it that way) or recording the ramblings of the writer. Thus something beyond the blog itself has to drive you. In the past, I would have been easily caught up in the blog world, so much so that I would have felt uncomfortable if I did not post at frequent intervals. This would be a dereliction of duty! However, I am not the same. I just don't feel those old drives anymore. It's an interesting feeling - I live much more for the present these days, and whatever is happening in the present occupies me fully. In the old days, the present was to be avoided - I either dreamed about the future or yearned for the past.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


Very nice to see that. How much sweeter than the revolting 'Bush-Cheney'! The sooner those hideous conservatives are swept out of office and America returns returns to decent liberal freedom-loving values the better. It's time to move on and drag America out of the cultural, legal and social dark-ages that the current admininstration seems determined to re-establish. This has been a grim four years. Even the Supreme Court - hardly the most liberally proactive of institutions - has seen fit now to bloody Ashcroft and his authoritarian efforts. Perhaps things really are turning. I feel hope returning after a long period of despair.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

The Astonishing Athlon

I have been building my own computers for a long time now. It's really very easy - anyone who can put together a Lego toy could make one. The skill really only lies in selecting the right components.

Thus I was saddened to read recently in the The Inquirer that AMD's Athlon series is going to be phased out. I'm talking about the 32-bit Athlon K7 here - not the new Athlon 64 K8 series (in itself a wonderful processor).

Almost every machine I have built has been based around an Athlon, starting with a 850 MHz Thunderbird and ending up with an Athlon XP Mobile Barton which I am overclocking to 2.2GHz. Quite a performance leap, and they have kept pace with every game that I have chosen to play (mostly IL-2 & Forgotten Battles). I have very warm feelings towards these fabulously reasonably priced, high-performing, reliable chips. I will be sorry to see them go, but they will be powering my computers for a while yet.

Why Do I Hate SUV's So Much?

Because they are ugly, road-hogging, gas-guzzling, unsafe, ridiculously overpriced, and completely inappropriate for suburban and commuter driving. I am astonished that people can be so deluded as to actually spend (or more likely borrow) good money on such monstrosities. Not even station-wagons can challenge the sheer awfulness of the suburban SUV. A well-designed SUV (and there aren't many of those) belongs on a safari range or a ranch. No where else.

When someone does SUV-henge (along the lines of Nebraska's Carhenge), then they will have found their true destiny.


Just can't get over the beauty of Eric Satie's nocturnes. I play them over and over.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

As Before

I stopped by 'Blueberry Hill' on my bicycle way home tonight as I had no reason to get home early and drank a "Fat Tire" and ate a very fine 7 oz. hamburger.

All well and good, but an extraordinary sensation came over me during this meal that was identical to what I felt as a teenager in Guildford under similar circumstance. A wistful, thoughtful, reflective and rather lonely mode. How can it be that thirty years later I can fall into exactly the same state of mind? Thirty years of experience that have led to a career, family & house - all of my own making. None of that I had in the past, and yet it seems to have had zero effect on my mental state under this particular set of conditions. Am I really that hard-wired? Perhaps I am. I find this fascinating.

Blogging At Work

One of the many pleasures of being a research scientist is the incredible degree of autonomy that you have at work. My schedule is entirely of my own creation, tailored solely towards the completion of my experimental goals, and endlessly flexible. Currently, I am running out some DNA created in a PCR experiment on an agarose gel. This process takes about an hour. In the interim, I am looking for the ingredients for my next PCR, eating some goodies that someone brought into the lunchroom and typing this. No one looking over my shoulder, no one demanding this or that, no phone calls, no hassles at all. It's a good life.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Pet Dislikes & Likes


SUVs, McMansions, suburbs in general, wine snobs, sports fanatics, TV, Hollywood, commercials, violent movies, musak, right-wingers, status-seekers, Starbucks, siding, showers, artificial air-freshener, dentists, rush hour clogged highways, talk-radio, political pundits, bigots and racists, pollution, acne, back-ache, bad drivers, liars, mosquito bites, poseurs, sunburn, greed, high summer heat & humidity, dripping taps, 'keeping-up-with-the-Joneses' mentality, squeaky clean houses, popular magazines, coffee table books.


Old brick houses, liberals, free-thinkers, vans, fuel-efficient cars, children, small roads, creeks & streams, the sea, cities, forests, animals, computers, model aircraft, music, ivy, railways & trains, the American Constitution, the sky, the sun, bicycling, clouds, rain, flowers, intelligent conversation, love, humorous & fluffy conversation, beds, baths, candles, people-watching, cafes, restaurants, travel, narrowboats, waves, rock-pools, fresh cooked fish, newspapers, the Internet, nocturnes, the Moon, electricity, sincere people, hot & cold running water, history, England, laughter, strawberries & cream.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Not Enough Rest, But A Lot Done

Which is perhaps a good thing or perhaps a bad one. Learned a lot more about computer networking this week as I attempted to understand just how the individual computers in my network connect to the web through the proxy server. Used a nifty freeware program - Ethereal - to capture and examine the packets being sent hither and thither, and although the terminology of it all is still strange, I am at least beginning to get a sense of how these machines communicate. Which is more than I knew on Friday.

Saw 'Carmen' on Saturday. A good if not mindblowing performance. Then a baby shower that went on for too long. Not enough sleep. Spent the time before my networking discoveries building an Athlon 64 machine that works perfectly - once I got a match between the video card and the motherboard. Apert from that hiccup, it was the easiest computer build I have done. It's so quiet too, as well as being more powerful than anything I have made before. Played some 'Forgotten Battles' at the 'perfect' graphics setting and it looked fabulous and ran smoothly. Which is why I upgraded, so I am happy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Being Unread

This is public medium - and I write here on the assumption that someone might read this. On the other hand, I don't really want to be read. That generates a need - a need to satisfy the reader. You can see it in other blogs - controversial (but paradoxically safe) subjects, common hobbies & interests. All written to generate readers and comments. Comments are the prize. The proof that these words are impacting someone else. An audience. Attention. So sweet.

But why? Most writings I read in blogs are striking in their sameness. There is very little originality, certainly in blogs emanating from comfortable middle-class Western homes (where most computers are to be found), regardless of the age, occupation or political persuasion of the writer. This is certainly true of this blog! The narcisstic impulse behind these words is quite plain. I might as well be looking in the mirror.

And perhaps that is reason to go public. Mirror gazing is lonely by nature. To be acknowledged, even negatively, is to break out. But I realise that this is not really what I want. What I want is to establish a record of my thoughts from time to time, and by writing here I develop a conceit that I am somehow more important here than I would be simply writing into a private journal. That conceit is a good motivator! But it is strange that I should be absorbed with the process.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

A Touch of Ennui

I rode my bike home in 90 F heat yesterday, and it must've done me in. I feel drained and my arms and back ache! Been feeling blah all day, but it hasn't been that unpleasant. Such a day when it is better to relax rather than to do.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Haydn's Symphonies

I am applying a little of my residual compulsion to listening the complete 106 or so symphonies of Joseph Haydn in order of numbering (which is not the order of composition by any means). These are the famous 1960s/70s recordings made by Antal Dorati and his wonderful orchestra of Hungarian expatriates. At this point I am up to No. 42, and entering the 'sturm und drang' phase. I am familiar with many of these symphonies already, but hearing them en masse, rather than reducing their individuality, actually enhances it. The level of musical invention and emotional depth here is simply breathtaking - it is not for nothing that I regard Haydn as the greatest of the Classical composers.

Employee Appreciation & A Funeral

It's Employee Appreciation Day today. We all, some of us clad in corporate red t-shirts - lined up for barbecue-sauce drenched hot dogs, hamburgers and bratwurst with fake bread buns, potato chips and soggy pasta salad. Swilled down with coke products. And this in the sweltering heat of St. Louis at noon. Some of us threw fluorescent tennis balls at easily hit targets to collect the usual variety of cheerfully colored fluffy toys.

Meanwhile, during all this jollity, the state funeral of Ronald Reagan works its way through Washington D.C. No one here seemed to care very much. Personally, I thought he was a poor president (although by no means as bad as Bush the Younger), and find the media exultations all a bit puzzling. Actually, judging by the overall indifference of my co-workers, I suspect that much of the fuss is the usual media over-exaggeration. Reagan was very much a man of his time, and benefited in the past and benefits today by being cut an awful lot of slack because of his overall likabilty and charm. I don't think history will treat him so well.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Thrilling to the early Classics

And in this case, I really mean the early Classical period. The Six Grand Overtures of Johann Christian Bach, Op. 18 - three movement symphonies dating from the 1770s. And totally delightful too. J.C. Bach was one the first composers to establish deliberate thematic contrast between movements, a style that rapidly became a hallmark of the Classical style. You can hear a lot of J.C. Bach's approach in Mozart.

But sadly most people have heard Mozart, even if only Mozart's "Greatest Hits", and very few have heard Johann Christian Bach. Or his even more talented and adventurous brother, Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, who exerted equivalent influence on Haydn. I feel I am just scratching the surface of this period - these two sons of J.S. Bach dominate early Classical music but there are other composers of importance to explore. Haydn I know well already, and his early music fits right in here. Lovely stuff. Great pleasures await.

Monday, June 07, 2004

A Rather Wonderful Monday

Nothing out of the ordinary, but everything ordinary seemed unusually enjoyable. Had a fine day at work shifting and analyzing data, some of which is now rather interesting. The bike ride to and fro was invigorating. FInally noticed I am developing some muscles - I guess a 10 mile ride every work day for 6 months really does make a difference. Getting a sun tan too, something that usually escapes me over the summer. And in the evening designed a delightful and totally fanciful Forgotten Battles' mission involving Russian and American planes sinking the Tirpitz.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Why "The Four Seasons"?

The dominance of any particular piece of music in popularity always fascinates me. Earlier I was thinking about 'Stairway To Heaven'. Today, while listening to Corelli's relatively well-known yet scarcely popular Concerti Grossi, I wondered why Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" is perhaps the single best known and best selling 'Classical' work.

It's not that the Vivaldi is bad - it really is rather good. But not inherently better than much other Baroque music, most of which I feel - if it was heard - would satisfy the casual listener equally well. And there of course is the answer. "The Four Seasons" is popular because it is familiar. Every third day I hear it in the Barnes & Noble cafeteria, and that is not the only public place where I have heard it, in some version or another (and it seems to have arranged for all and every popular instrumental combination).

Sadly though for the Vivaldi work, I am enjoying this Corelli vastly more because it remains fresh and unspoiled. Just like the Led Zeppelin song, over-exposure has taken away the pleasure of hearing the 'Seasons'. Another reason why I do not watch T.V. or listen to the radio. The more time that passes since I gave up what I call the non-interactive visual and audio media, the more I realise that I am diverging from the expectations and assumptions of the T.V./radio generation. This is isolating yet also freeing. Not knowing about the latest popular T.V. commercial or 'reality' show leaves me clueless in casual conversations, but enables me to listen to these delightful Concerti Grossi without a mind full of junk thoughts.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

The Joy of IL-2

I bought the 1C:Maddox games combat flight simulator, IL-2, about 2-1/2 years ago. I followed it as it became Forgotten Battles and now the Ace Expansion Pack. I can fairly say that I have played this game on an almost daily basis over this entire time. No other PC game I possess has ever approached this degree of involvement. I've tried all the other flight simulators - EAW, Jane's WWII Fighters, Battle Of Britain, Mig Alley, SDOE, Red Baron, CFS 1,2 & 3 - and although I have enjoyed all (with the glaring exception of the shoddy Microsoft CFS 3 and the unfinished SDOE), not one has even come close to IL-2 in shear satisfaction. I am very glad we have - and it continues to improve and expand.

Getting Hotter

Oh my, looks like our week of wonderful cool summer weather is coming to a close. Mowed the front lawn this morning and it was already getting sticky by 10 a.m. Still, to have had what we just did is a bonus for St. Louis. The hot weather always wipes me out - my energy level goes down and I would probably doze all day if I could. Fortunately I now have central air conditioning - a true luxury not to be taken for granted. Especially considering I lived in this city for about 15 years without adequate air-conditioning or none at all. Didn't matter so much when I was younger.

My - what pampered people we are. And with all this, people still gripe and moan about not having a nice car or a vast salary! I have always believed - and now know from experiencing those with it - that possessions and money provide no happiness beyond a fulfillment of basic need (and that really can be pretty basic) and frequently seem to be associated with upset and distress. However, the psychological tug to get more - particularly more than your neighbor or workmate - is very strong. I think it's a substitute for a settled sense of place and destiny, and is played upon for all it is worth by commerce. Status sells, yet it is a futile race because always you focus on the one perceived to be ahead of - and hence better than - you. You can see this go to the very top with the absurd salaries and fortunes that CEO's and the like demand. Greed is a terrible and wasteful thing.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Oleg's Joystick Settings

X=0 1 4 9 16 25 36 49 64 81 100 0
Y=0 1 4 9 16 25 36 49 64 81 100 0
Z=0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
RZ=0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 0
U=0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 0
V=0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 0
1X=0 1 3 6 12 21 32 44 61 81 100 0
1Y=0 1 4 8 15 24 33 44 60 77 100 0
1RZ=0 0 10 19 32 43 54 63 74 86 100 0
1U=0 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 0
1V=0 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 0

Of course, these turn out to be the defaults!

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

A Lull

Definitely a lull. I suspected this would happen - the initial enthusiasm would wear off, and I would lose interest in posting. Not because I am thinking any less than before, but simply because writing it down seems less rewarding. Why, I wonder? Well, this diary resembles many I have written before, so there is the definite sense of simply repeating myself. And why do that, I wonder. If the repetition was an end in itself, it would be fine. But that way of thinking has long since ceased. A good thing too.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Monday Morning on a Tuesday

It's always hard to re-engage after a three day weekend, and a power outage plus a truncated night's sleep last night has not helped. Shall function in a semi-active state today. Fortunately there is not enough happening at work to make that a disadvantage.

Monday, May 31, 2004


A bloated stomach not only makes me feel like I am waddling about like a duck but also prevents me from comfortably rolling about in bed. What did I eat or drink that did it this time? The glass of cider? Cucumber & tomato sandwiches? The salsiccia sausage - seems like the most likely candidate but that was six hours ago. Maybe I will burp soon.

Education not Money

I don't have a lot of money but I do have a lot of education. Not just the formal stuff, my biology degrees. Those are very useful and have allowed me to take a current job that is almost unbelievable in its gentleness compared to the vicissitudes that others suffer, even as some bring home large salaries in the belief that will somehow compensate for the daily misery. Others don't even have that luxury. But I really mean the self-education, the reading of almost anything, listening to thousands of recordings of different music, exploring whatever interest takes my fancy.

And the great irony is that the best of that type of education occured while I was unemployed, with no money at all to speak of. Time and public libraries were instead plentiful - and much appreciated to this day. And I learned thrift during those days - a practical lesson that has never left me and one I relish for the colossal freedom it has given me.

That is why I find myself at sea when I run into people for whom education is merely a means to making money. It's a philosophy that runs so counter to my personal set of values. I find it very hard to move beyond that, and consequently I am sure I am prone to be over-dismissive of perfectly fine people who just happen to look at life differently. Oh well!

Erik Satie's Nocturnes

Erik Satie composed his six Nocturnes late in his life, during a period of melancholy, and a sad autumnal flavor permeates them all. They have a different feel from the contemplative Gymnopedies and other earlier pieces, although they are cut from very much the same mold of composition. They are very beautiful.

Never Got Used To Memorial Day

Perhaps that is because I grew up in England where Remembrance Sunday - Poppy Day - is the day of national mourning for dead. Instead in England we have a Bank Holiday today that is free of any gloomy association. Furthermore, Poppy Day, with its deliberate reference to battlefields of the Western Front during World War One, casts a different spell. WWI defined mass death for Great Britain. WWII killed a very large number of Britons but nothing approaching the wholesale slaughter of the Great War. Here WWI is almost a footnote compared to the Civil War, WWII, and Vietnam - the three American conflicts dominant in print and public awareness. Not surprising that these dominate - these were American wars, with WWII given an uniquely American flavor by Pearl Harbor and the war against Japan.

My own empathies lie with WWI - it was there that I lost three great uncles, and where my grandfather flew with the RFC. On Poppy Day, I will feel the full weight.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

The Mysteries Of Musical Taste or Why Stairway To Heaven?

Tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, millions perhaps, believe Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" to be the greatest rock song ever recorded. Maybe even the greatest song ever.

I don't find it so, but that's really beside the point here. What I am more interested in is what is it about that particular song that is so universally appealing. I first heard it myself when I was 16, on the original album shortly after its release, and I really liked it then for two very clear reasons. First was the dynamic build-up over the repeated verse structure from an acoustic folk melody to a very well-recorded and loud rock climax. And secondly the melody itself, although a simple folk-derived chord sequence, was attractive. But even then I thought the lyrics seemed clumsy and unimaginative, an impression that has radically deepened as I learned more about literature and poetry. Nonetheless, they are no more embarassing than much popular doggerel, so it is not hard to see their appeal.

But clearly this combination - and one cannot deny that it is aided by a powerful and impressive performance by the band - resonated very deeply with many people. In a way, I wish it still did with me, but I cannot listen to it today without cringing at the words. Certainly overplaying destroyed much of any residual magic the tune held for me - even today the song is ubiquitous on radio stations. Other people must be immune to this form of innoculation - and I envy them for it.

But I suspect the real reason for its popularity is that it is one of a small subset of rock recordings that have become part of the bedrock of knowledge for most people. My own interest in music expanded vastly from when I first heard 'Stairway To Heaven', and a lot of more of obscure and interesting music came my way. This led to comparisons that did not cast the song in a favorable light in my ears, and my path moved away. Not so for many others, and the fact that almost everyone is going to hear 'Stairway To Heaven' sooner or later will guarantee its continued dominance.

The Wonder That Is Aldi

When I lived in England I used to buy wine at Sainsbury's. Own brand - exquisite and often unusual European wines - that were extremely enjoyable and very reasonably priced. Just as well as I was on the dole most of that time. But it gave me my own wine buying rationale - good wines at low prices that steer well clear of fashion, and a strong dislike of a certain kind of wine snob.

Now Aldi has introduced its own line of wine, and, of course, being Aldi the price is rock bottom. But they are very good - and one could easily pay 50% to 100% more in a conventional grocery store or wine merchant. There's fine claret, and an exquisite Pino Grigio that in my opinion is the best of the lot, and a lot nicer than many more fashionable wines I have drunk at wine bars, dinner parties and restaurants. I have yet to try the latest addition, an Australian chiraz, but I have a bottle waiting to be opened. And as I do most my grocery shopping at Aldi, it is a treat to find these sitting there, displayed, as with all Aldi products, the minimum of glitz and hype.

Sunday Morning

Remains one of my favorite songs, the very first Velvet Underground track I ever heard after buying the first LP - gatefold sleeve no less - from the long gone Head Sounds (amazed I remembered that name), the hippy record shop in Guildford. This was before the band obtained its ubiquitous stellar reputation, and I distinctly remember the store clerk handling it with disdain as he slipped it into the bag. Amazing how 'hip' record shop staff are all the same - arrogant, opinionated, obsessive - no wonder I wanted to work as one when I was younger!

Anyway, this Sunday morning is cloudly and quiet and moving very slowly which is just how it should be.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Another Marvelous Day

There is a good reason why I wrote 'contented' as my description. My life really is extremely enjoyable. Today was an entertaining mix of preventing my son and two friends of his going haywire plus watching the Granada TV adaptation of "Mapp & Lucia" on DVD - First Series. No ads, you see. I last saw that program in 1986 or 1987, in a very different life setting from today, and remembered certain choice parts, but not much more. It was a treat to watch Prunella Scales and Geraldine McEwan sparring in a game of upper middle class English manners, and it was as funny as I remembered. That is not always true!

This Is A Procrastinator's Delight

I should be getting dressed and going down to Aldi - one of the seven retail wonders of the world - to get some generic Gatorade, generic potato crisps and other child friendly sundries to fortify a small gathering my son is putting together this afternoon. But am I? No. Just sitting here, still in my bath towel, with a cup of tea and tap, tap, tapping on the laptop.

I Thought I Had Something To Say

Thought of it in the bath, too - one place where I will not access a computer. That's right, I remember now. Two days in and I'm already losing active interest in this medium. Only my residual compulsiveness is pushing me forward. Trouble is, there is nothing I'm writing here that does not serve perfectly well as a thought in my mind. Except perhaps Capt. Brown's joystick settings which I would have a hard time remembering. Even so, I could access those elsewhere. I can't claim any originality - in a world full of billions of people, even allowing for what I regard as my own unique vision, there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, who think and do almost exactly as I do. Do I want to meet these people? No - why? I'll keep my ego intact.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Captain Eric Brown's FB stick settings

Pitch 0, 1, 3, 7, 9, 14, 18, 23, 27, 33
Roll 0, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 12, 17
Yaw 0, 0, 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 11, 14, 16

Seem amazingly unresponsive compared to the defaults but will have to try them out when I get home.


Too much of it. Ruining my PCR experiment. I shall have to clean it up - another phenol/chloroform and ethanol precipitation. What a pain. Too much SDS in my lysis buffer, I fear. Shall have to remake that too. Oh well!

Lost Art

I was looking forward to seeing - eventually - a good part of the Art that was lost in the London warehouse fire a couple of days ago. Now I never will except in photographs, and that is not the same thing. A deep and upsetting loss.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

I Don't Watch T.V.

I can't stand the ads anymore. They tug and jerk, compelling you buy, buy, buy, envy this and yearn for that. Same goes for radio. Even the commercial-free stations have become poisoned. At least my son is working his way through my collection of Dr. Who video recordings - I can creep down and watch over his shoulder. Funny how Internet ads don't bother me at all - except the video ones. Movement and sound - that's what I can't stand.

Are the minutiae of life really that interesting?

In truth, no. But they can be compelling to the writer. When I was an active diarist many years ago, my entries always started with what music I was playing at the time. Somehow, just recording that seemed to be essence of what I was and felt at that particular time. Seems strange now.

Music offered a good shelter - a safety blanket that worked the emotions without treading on dangerous ground.

Water in the basement

Not too much, but the carpet is sodden. Another downpour, been happening all week. Flickering lights, rolling banging thunder, the roar of torrential rain. I'm tired.

The New York Times Made Me Do It

Couldn't be left out, could I? No.