Wednesday, February 22, 2006


The last few months have involved two major technological innovations for me. First, I handed my television over to the brother and told him to use it as he sees fit. I wish I could sit here and tell you that it was Galloway’s appearance on Big Brother that did it for me. I admit I was tempted to sit down and write a letter of apology to Osama Bin Laden (something along the lines of ‘you were right all along. We’re vomitorium hedonists careering around the garlanded emptiness of our lives and we deserve to be dispatched to our maker in bite-sized pieces. Here’s my address to help you bump me up the to-bump-off list. Miaow’).

But I’ve nothing so principled to announce I’m afraid. I’m just sick of watching television. Which is a good thing: I’m a total television addict. I could leave the bloody thing on all day every day and stay up late watching total unremitting shite. I was not entertained and yet I kept on watching. So it was time to give the thing away and do without. I have to say I missed it hugely for the first day or so, but after that it really was easy. I have an excellent digital radio and half a dozen entertaining channels to choose from. I have a mammoth backlog of books to read, both for fun and for work (I’ve just finished Cormac McCarthy’s blistering Border Trilogy and at the moment I’m meandering my way through Caro’s mammoth 1976 biography and character study of Robert Moses, The Power Broker). I have a huge collection of music to listen to. I have enormous amounts of work to do. So armed with myriad ways to stave off the boredom that the TV exacerbates I don’t miss it at all. Good riddance.

In a totally unrelated step, I’ve dumped Windows off my laptop. I know my way around Windows but I’m a little tired of watching its performance falling off within weeks of reformatting or first boot. I’m not too concerned about the viruses that we know about: it’s the slow log-in times pointing to the viruses we don’t know about that worry me. So, I took the opportunity of changing the hard drive on my laptop to load up Linux Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is designed precisely for people like me: the dangerous sort with enough nous to totally wreck a system but not enough to fix it again. The OS is really very impressive so far: it comes bundled with Open Office, which I’m finding a bit more stable than Office XP (and more competent when I crash it) and a huge range of other software. It’s noticeably faster than Windows XP on my machine and far more configurable, which means I can mess to my hearts content. And if I truly screw up I’ll just reinstall: it doesn’t mean sitting online for a day downloading from Microsoft Update. In fact, I can partition the drive such that my personal files are separated from the OS, so reinstalling the system doesn’t mean having to lose all the files and configurations I’ve built up. And it’s all free!

All I’ve needed was access to Google so that I could find what I needed and how to add in the various bits and pieces that I wanted.

Still, I wonder if I can wire up Linux to watch Lost?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Tour in Ruins

Callalillie has taken a rather strange tour, of 'preserved ruins.' The photos remind me (not entirely accurately) of the lovely, vaguely creepy Horta Museum on Rue Americaine in Brussels (creepy because I've always been vaguely discomfited by walking through people's houses). Still, this tour is certainly on the list for the next trip to NYC.

I must post my musings at some stage on the shift in American culture at the turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries, from emulating European (largely Francophile) aesthetics to being the focus for everyone else's artistic, architectural and musical aesthetics - from Met to Moma, in a way.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Oliver Sacks

Fascinating, charming long audio interview with Oliver Sacks over on the New Yorker.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Crumby Proclamation

Apropos of absolutely nothing, I asked a friend who has access to such things to email me copy of this 1689 proclamation by King James to the people of Dublin regarding the scarcity of bread in the city. Click on the image to zoom in. I wonder why the bakers weren't keeping the bread supply up? What could have been going on at the time? I can't imagine...

Saturday, February 11, 2006


I can't tell you how difficult it is to take long-exposure photographs on a moving ship. Thankfully I avoided accidental blurring on this one by softening the image in an artful manner. I like the result though!