Monday, April 25, 2011

Kunstler :
For those of you interested in the reality side of things, here's the scoop: The price of oil is going to go way up, and way down, and way up again, and way down again until everyone is too broke to ask for any, and companies are too ruined to go get it for them, and governments are too broken to interfere in the process.
Wow. Chemistry blogs are cool. I love the breezy tone mixed with ultra-geeky chemistry detail of this story.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq's enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair's military commitment to US plans for regime change.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Question : In Brasilia during the raining season it often starts sunny and hot in the morning, but begins changing at around mid-day. The wind picks up. Clouds appear as if from no-where. The weather turns cold. And suddenly it's raining heavily.

Right now, in London, we're seeing the same thing. Gloriously sunny mornings ... that suddenly turn. Cool breeze, clouds out of nowhere ... maybe rain. At mid-day.

My question : Brasilia is almost 1000km from the sea. And further from the Amazon basin where a lot of the water comes from. London is only thirty or so miles from the sea. Presumably water that evaporates from the sea (or Amazon) takes a very different amount of time to form into clouds and find its way to London or Brasilia.

So why the similarity of this pattern? Is it coincidence? Is it that the clouds are not "pre-formed" water carriers, but actually spontaneously form over Brasilia and London for the same reasons in response to the same conditions at around mid-day?
Cassette tape nostalgia meets business cards.

I wouldn't use one of these in a million years]1]. And yet I feel, in my gut, why this is so compelling.

[1] Partly because I make my own Moo cards. Here are a couple of classics :

The infamous "Synaesmedia : Anarchy, Abstraction ... Systems, Patterns, Form" card. The photo is actually of some kids in the street during carnival in Olinda a few years ago.

I always figured Ascii cows would make good branding for NooRanch. Here's an experiment that never made it onto a web site but did make a cool card.

This is actually a screen-shot of the original Interstar game from the late 90s. I keep wondering if I should bring it back (port it to jQuery / HTML5) ... but to be honest, I find games quite boring these days. (Both to play and to write.)

OK, so it doesn't quite work. But nevertheless, an iPhone app which takes a photo, infers 3D object, and offers you a print out of it?

That's pretty big news.

Someone wrote a few months ago that phone hardware makers should start trying to distinguish themselves by adding extra input devices to their handsets. How soon before a handset maker adds a Kinect-style depth camera to the handset? And we can all do this at home?
Nice example of a house which generates energy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hey Phil. How are you voting on the AV issue in the referendum?

Hmmm ... not 100% committed either way at the moment. I think both systems have their strengths and weaknesses.

I agree with @unloveablesteve that this is a highly misleading propaganda against AV.

If you do want to understand something about AV here's a great resource with in-browser simulation of the effects of different voting systems.

I guess I like a lot of the warm fuzzy things that AV is meant to stand for. Opening up the space for smaller parties who might challenge the status quo. Letting those nice cuddly LibDems ... oh sorry ... well, potentially letting some nice cuddly politicians into shared government to temper the excesses of the big bad main parties.

Like everyone, I'm bitterly disappointed with the LibDems in the coalition. I think that the only thing that they should do is walk out of it, today, join Labour in a vote of no confidence against the government, allow it to fall and we'll restart the whole thing. Hopefully with people giving enough power back to Labour to stop the Tory cut-machine.

But, having said that, I don't entirely blame the LibDems for their inability to resist the Tory agenda. The Conservatives played them very cleverly. And it's not clear how much power they really have as a minority party in government.

I'm guessing that the same would be the case even under AV. Remember how under Blair, power was getting increasingly centralised with him, even against the wishes of his cabinet? How much does AV for representatives matter when prime-minister is an increasingly presidential role?

Actually, you know what, I think I just talked myself into it. I haven't the energy or the heart to try to construct some kind of real rationale for voting against AV, so I guess I'll just support it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Momus: Gibbous Moon

Starting to feel that this track from the new Momus EP is one of his best. All the classic things you want from Momus : gorgeous melody, smart lyrics, esoteric references and pop trivia, silliness taken so seriously it becomes profound. Plus theremin, Lovecraft and an awesome video clip.

I don't know whether I'm howling with laughter or despair by the time we get to the fade out refrain.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Via Scribe, an excellent article about the demo of a couple of weeks ago, on the Boing Boing blog.

Worth reading the debate in the comments too.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gotta agree with Bowkett. This is awesome!

(Apart from the not so inspiring music, obviously. Intro tune is quite nice but falls off badly.

Update : Scratch that. Is that some kind of autotuned version of Beastie Boys Intergalactic? It is nice. Until it goes away.)
My God! The university of Brasilia is almost entirely destroyed by torrential rain!

Here's one of the labs where I used to teach programming :

Like most of the classrooms where I taught, this was in the basement.

The main building of the University of Brasilia, the ICC, is actually one of the worst designed modernist monstrosities I've ever encountered. Its combination of open "atrium"-type space and flat roofs conspired to funnel the rain from outside into the covered corridors and then down into the basement offices and classrooms. As Brasilia is in a region where it rains solidly and heavily for about 5 months a year this is a pretty disastrous bit of design.

I remember once my colleague showing me his underground office with water pouring through the ceiling onto his desk and computer.

However, I've never seen anything like these photos.

Best of luck to everyone trying to sort that out.
Just making a few cosmetic tweaks to my Goldsmiths page.

This is just coursework, but I guess as I evolve into an artist I need to think in terms of presenting a portfolio.

I like the "me composing" tag on this blog. But some people also like big pictures.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Apart from experimenting with input devices based on real pencils, and digital flutes, I'm still keeping half an eye on what's going on with magic wands.

Here's one that controls an LED candle.

Of course, I have a lot of thoughts and fantasies about doing a project in this direction. But not quite yet. I've got an essay to write, a masters project to do, and an application for the Goldsmiths DPhil programme to make (including a thesis proposal). Of course I want to play with it all : wands, swarm music, desktop manufacturing, magic. But I have to focus ... I think wands are out for the moment.

Still, they're coming. From someone.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Quite a surprising opinion in the Financial Times, which, despite I'm sure its ironic intention (though do you sense some genuine frustration from the author?) nails it :

It may go behind the paywall, so I'm going to quote it entirely because an extract doesn't do justice to the shape of the whole :

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There was something truly depressing about last weekend’s TUC-sponsored mass march against public spending cuts. Some 250,000 people ambled through London, picnicked in Hyde Park, listened to Ed Miliband and totally ruined the day for the serious violent minority who were trying to smash things up.

You only had to look at the coverage the next day to see the damage they had done. News reports cut away from the havoc at Fortnum & Mason to show thousands of law-abiding public sector workers wasting their Saturday afternoon. Later that day Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, rounded on the rioters who had upset his otherwise genteel protests. Next week, he’ll be on the radio wondering how ministers can ignore such a potent display of political passivism.

For it does seem a basic rule of modern British democracy that if you are marching against something you’ve already lost. Parading one’s discontent through London is the political equivalent of a fly bashing its head against a window pane. Of course there’s a terrific sense of community on a march – 250,000 flies with the same headache; it’s hugely empowering. But short of handing out placards with slogans such as “Mildly Miffed” or “I’m so angry I walked peacefully through London”, it is hard to imagine what more the protesters could have done to signal their acceptance of defeat.

Like the suicide RAF mission of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s sketch, it is the futile gesture that makes everyone feel better. One imagines the heroic marchers being interviewed many years later for one of those wretched Reunion programmes they run on Radio 4 when Kirsty Young is on holiday. “Well I just didn’t want to be one of those who sat idly by, Sue. I wanted to be able to look my children in the face and say I did something.”

“So when the Tories were slashing budgets and ratcheting up your college fees, your mother and I marched through London.”

“Did you smash anything up, Daddy?”

“No, but we listened to a speech by the political editor of the New Statesman.”

It’s irresponsible to admit it, but this kind of peaceful protest is pointless. The system has all the shock absorbers necessary to handle a law-abiding demonstration. The next day ministers were already clear they would ignore the entire event, while insisting that they would be happy to discuss the issues with marchers, though sadly not over tea at Fortnum’s as it seems to be attracting the wrong sort these days.

It’s not that I’m advocating violence and disorder, just dispassionately noting that in Britain it is more effective. What last weekend’s thugs grasped is that ministers can’t ignore anarchists daubing the Cenotaph and bringing a bit of havoc to the capital. Once or twice they might be able to turn on the rioters, but not if it keeps happening. There’s nothing like stoking voters’ fears about the rule of law and the fabric of society to get the government’s attention.

You have to think of this in management terms. On key deliverables peaceful marching just doesn’t cut it. It’s all inputs and no outputs. But violent protest can be measured on key performance indicators. How many shops did you smash up? What percentage were banks? Did you manage to scare the Duchess of Cornwall? I’m sorry Dave; you are below target; do you want to nip over the road and vandalise that RBS?”

If you actually want to change things lawfully, you don’t march; you campaign; you write to your MP. Politicians pay quite staggering attention to their postbag. A lot of letters on a subject is all it takes to worry them and their definition of a lot is, well, really rather little ... A dozen letters will do it. I’m talking genuine letters, here, not the identical ones organised by campaigns.

But there’s no cred in writing to your MP. And that’s the point. Marching is as much about the marchers as it is about the cause. It’s about their need to feel they are doing something; something responsible; something lawful – something futile that makes them all feel better.