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.