Friday, April 29, 2011

You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance

The Royal family has truly embraced the digital age – with impressive results, says Patrick Jephson.
Now there’s an extra reason to celebrate: the palace’s big push into social networking to broaden its public appeal seems to be paying off handsomely. Words such as “deft”, “adroit”, and even “masterful” have, in recent weeks, been tossed in the direction of palace press offices more used to dealing with brickbats than bouquets. Suddenly it’s springtime and even the thorniest bushes are in bloom.
Modesty forbids. 100% recycled electrons. A significant day's work dawns, then I'm off to Somerset for the weekend to watch the bomber in a rugby tournament.

Radio silence will be maintained until Monday.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


This article on the website sent our auction site 30,000 new visitors over the last couple of days. Yesterday was its busiest day since it was on featured on prime time BBC in 2008 (Icons passim).

I'm astounded. Editorial copy on a price comparison website has generated more traffic than even the great "Bungling Cops Sell Knives on the Internet" controversy that was started in the Sun and picked up by all and sundry in December three years ago.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

the online begetter

It seems that there is a movie version of Big Sur in the works, to go with the forthcoming On the Road film and the been-and-gone Howl, see Icons passim.

And yet Kerouac's Desolation Angels is still out of print and unKindled.

As I brooded on this turn of events while shaving this morning, it struck me out of the blue that I could always ........ borrow it from the library!

That's how I used to get hold of almost every book I read, yet it the 21st century it has taken me five months to come up with this radical plan.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I love it when a pan comes together

Looking in the fridge and the veg basket last night, I had two chicken thighs, a little German hock, an onion, a red pepper, garlic, some loose coriander and nothing much else. I've got rosemary in the garden as well, so - substituting the parsley with cilantro - Angela Hartnett's pot-roast chicken recipe from the previous day's Telegraph fit the bill exactly.

All I was short of was caraway seeds for the suggested side, but still it was serendipity indeed.

I've got previous with this type of thing, see Icons passim.

(You can't really go wrong with chorizo. I will probably include it as an ingredient if I ever bring out my own line of cosmetics.)

Monday, April 25, 2011


I haven't seen last night's BBC drama "United" about the Busby Babes and the Munich air crash yet, though I am sure that the BBC IPlayer will take the strain.

David Tennant plays Jimmy Murphy, Manchester United's assistant manager. He hadn't been at Munich because he was away managing the Welsh team in a World Cup qualifying game, but took over and steered a substitute team to the FA Cup final while Matt Busby recovered from his injuries.

A Welsh Born Icon (born in Ton Pentre, Rhondda), if ever the was one.

My cousin Pat was on Man U's books in the 70s (I am hazy on the precise dates) so he may well have met Murphy, who retired in 1971.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Kingston Philosophy Café

I am disappointed to have missed Raymond Tallis explains Why Neuroscience Will Never Explain Consciousness last week as I wasn't aware of it until too late.

I'm rather pleased however to have discovered the hitherto unsuspected Kingston Philosophy Café.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

priests without altar wine

On what what would be St George's Day if it wasn't moved when it is so close to Easter, let's swerve across the Channel and celebrate the French.
France's riot police have complained about being "treated like children" following a new ban on drinking alcohol while on duty.
The CRS (Republican Security Companies), which made its name quelling student demonstrators during nationwide disturbances in 1968, has always enjoyed a glass of beer or wine with its meals.
However, following photos of riot police drinking bottles of beer during Paris street protest, police chiefs have decided to put an end to the tradition.
They were wearing body armour and carrying weapons as they sipped from beer and wine bottles. Some were also smoking.
Didier Mangione, national secretary of the police union, said bosses were "trying to turn us into priests, but without the altar wine".
"Nobody should object to a small drink on jobs," he said. "CRS officers do not have any more or less alcohol problems than anybody else in society. They should be allowed to drink in moderation."

Friday, April 22, 2011

No likey

Facebook's Like button is one year old today.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I'm only dancing

Myself: Dancing?

Prodnose: I'm having so much fun

Myself: Dancing?

Prodnose: Too bad my back has gone

Myself: Dancing?

Prodnose: Boogie down with daddy now. (I'd give my house in the country, if you'd slept it's so funky.)

Myself: Music?

Prodnose: I'm dancing in the street

Myself: Ah, music

Prodnose: I've torn the shoes from my feet

Myself: Romancing?

Prodnose: It's got me dirty and sweet

Myself: It's got you reeling and rocking ....

Prodnose: Won't you let me slam my thing?

Myself: John.....

Prodnose: I'm only dancing

Myself: She turns me on

Prodnose: But I'm only dancing

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Always try to rub up against money

Could 29 April give us the biggest live event the internet has ever seen? I’m talking of course about the Royal Wedding, which will attract a huge global television audience. But this morning St James’s Palace unveiled plans to make the day a huge interactive event - and the first Royal wedding with a Twitter hashtag #rw2011.
...quoth the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones.

A host of social media initiatives around the wedding went live yesterday.

We have sure come along way from launching the Monarchy on Twitter in 2009 - see Icons passim.

I am off to the April Facebook Developer Garage meeting tonight. I could live without it to be honest, thinking about how much better off I will be if I put in the last ten years of my life at some legitimate dodge, instead of hop-scotching from one end of the country to the other telling the tale.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Siberian shamanism

From I've just offended Jews, Catholics, women, Arab-Americans, and the entire gay and lesbian community. Who should I call?

Group offended: Catholics
Sample offense: When a woman emailed Wal-Mart in 2005 to complain that the phrase "Happy Holidays" had replaced "Merry Christmas," a customer-service representative responded, in part, that Christmas "is an ancient tradition that has its roots in Siberian shamanism." Catholic League president Bill Donohue announced a boycott of the discount chain.
Sample apology: Wal-Mart fired the customer-service rep, apologized for offending Christians, and changed its website so that the search term "Christmas" was not rerouted to "Holidays." Donohue called off the dogs.
How to apologize: Call the Catholic League at 212-371-3191.
What to say: Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.
Chuckles notwithstanding, it is getting harder and harder to be whimsical in gay pub snogging, palm cross banning, headscarf death threat Blighty.

(The heroically inclusive and multicultural Blighty is a slang term for Britain, deriving from the Hindustani word vilāyatī (विलायती) (pronounced bilāti in many Indian dialects and languages), from Persian vilayet and ultimately from Arabic wilayah, originally meaning something like "province".)

Lighten up, already.

Monday, April 18, 2011

These are dark times ...

I watched the new Harry Potter movie on DVD with Ben, and thought it was actually rather good.

I have no idea why Bill Nighy decided that Rufus Scrimgeour was Welsh, but I approve.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

All Greek to me

I went to see Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World in the British Museum yesterday and bought a fridge magnet.

Musing on the Greek influence and looking at a small statue of Heracles that had been discovered there I started - as one does - telling the Burglar how as Buddhism expanded in Central Asia, and fused with Hellenistic influences into Greco-Buddhism, Hercules was adopted to represent the Vajrapani bodhisattva, so that there is a sense in which he may be said to be the patron saint of the Shaolin monastery.

He countered by telling me that some people think that the club wielding Cerne Abbas giant is a representation of Hercules as well.

It is a long way from China to just outside Dorchester whether you go via Greece and Afghanistan or not.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The House of Love

The countdown to the royal wedding began in earnest today when Kate Middleton and Prince Harry attended a rehearsal at Westminster Abbey exactly a fortnight before the big day.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Non, je ne regrette rien

Prof. Yishay Mansour of Tel Aviv University's Blavatnik School of Computer Science launched his new project at the International Conference on Learning Theory in Haifa, Israel, earlier this year. His research will help computers minimize what Prof. Mansour calls "regret." Google recently announced that it will fund Tel Aviv University computer scientists and economists to develop this foundational research, a nexus on the cutting edge of computer science and game theory.

"If the servers and routing systems of the Internet could see and evaluate all the relevant variables in advance, they could more efficiently prioritize server resource requests, load documents and route visitors to an Internet site, for instance," Prof. Mansour says — an efficiency that Google finds very attractive.

Of course computers can't "feel" regret — but they can measure the distance between a desired outcome and the actual outcome. Prof. Mansour recently developed an algorithm based on machine learning, or "artificial intelligence," to minimize the amount of virtual regret a computer program might experience.
It's as if Charlie Suet and Dr Strabismus collaborated on an idea.

Tel Aviv, Schmel Aviv; imagine what Jesuit pedagogy could do to a could do here. We'd have network cards that were wracked with guilt over dropping a packet and virtual servers that felt like frauds.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I write the songs

Barry Manilow has a series on Radio 2 at the moment profiling the people who wrote the Great American Songbook.

I listened to an episode on Leonard Bernstein on the IPlayer in the garden last night. It was great to hear the enthusiasm of a practitioner and a fan for change instead of the condescension of a critic. Is there any more absurd a profession than that of criticism?

I wonder if Barry could explain the great Diabolus in Musica controversy? (see Icons Passim.) Listening to him discourse on Bernstein's expert use of dissonance, I think he probably could.

It's disappointing that I missed the earlier episodes and that there isn't a series catch up option.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Polecats

The Polecats are playing the West Dean Festival in August.

I find this scarcely credible. They were formed in 1977, and I remember them delivering their idiosyncratic rockabilly stylings live in concert at Swansea University when I was there.

At the end of a badly received set, some roadie or other rushed onto the stage and demanded "do you want to hear another one?" to the complete indifference of the sullen crowd, and then - as God is my judge - yelled "you'll have to shout louder than that!" into the echoing silence.

The band then returned to impose an encore on a rapidly emptying hall. It is one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

The next morning I saw them in the refectory, they had been forced to stay overnight as departing music critics had pulled the windscreen wipers off their tour bus.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Big Whimper

Britain's Government-appointed banking commission has unveiled the most radical shake-up of industry regulation in a generation in an attempt to make banks safer and better value for consumers.
You probably can't see it from this angle but I've actually got an MBA, with a particular focus on International Finance, from what was then the City University Business School. I believe that my research on Delayed Cash and Carry Arbitrage Opportunities on the New York Mercantile Exchange is still occasionally prescribed to insomniacs by GPs.

I was actually in harness 0n 27 October 1986, the the London Stock Exchange's rules changed in what was known as "Big Bang Day" because of the increase in market activity expected from an aggregation of measures designed to precipitate a complete alteration in the structure of the market.

Without labouring the point the destruction of the distinction between retail and investment banks on that day is, in essence what Sir John Vickers is blaming for a lot of 2008's fiascoes and proposing to reverse. Why doesn't anyone talk about this?

For myself; the root of the problem is massive institutions playing the markets as principals. Back in the day, if lowly capitalized merchant banks burnt their fingers doing that they were the ones getting hurt. When Lloyds did it with your granny's life savings the fallout went further.

I could write more about this but I am losing the will to live. Regulatory frameworks are tedious beyond belief.

Prodnose: If we had a wartime consigliere, a Sicilian, we wouldn't be in this shape?

Myself: It's a simplification, but yes. "Who's watching the store?" is the question to ask.

Monday, April 11, 2011

weapons, food and trust

It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.
We went to the Countryside Alliance Family Day at Ascot Racecourse yesterday. Great fun for the Bomber with a shooting gallery, climbing wall, crazy golf and a falconry demonstration etc. as well as the racing itself. He is - it must be admitted - a lousy tipster when it comes to nags.

It struck me when I was there that in the long and appalling record of the Met's egregious policing of demonstrations there is probably no more disastrous example than the hiding they gave the Alliance in Parliament Square in 2004. (You can read the subsequent whitewash at

Confucius told his disciple Tsze-kung that three things are needed for government: weapons, food and trust. If a ruler can't hold on to all three, he should give up the weapons first and the food next. Trust should be guarded to the end: "without trust we cannot stand".

Do farmers trust the police these days?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

a thousand worlds

My father is greatly given to shouting “Everybody on stage for the Hawaiian number!”

I've never been entirely sure why, but now I have stumbled on this:

If you do not know A Thousand Clowns, your life is a sad and incomplete thing and I pity you more than I have contempt for your woeful ignorance. Tomorrow rent the 1965 movie version, then we can talk.

For those of you familiar with the piece I need say nothing more than “Everybody on stage for the Hawaiian number!” to evoke the character of Murray Burns, an unemployed television writer who lived in a New York walkup apartment with his eleven-year-old nephew who was named Nick, most of the time.

Murray Burns, who never answered letters from large organizations, who threw open windows to complain to his neighbors about the poor quality of their trash requesting they throw out more champagne bottles and empty caviar tins, who was so witty and so charming women adored him at first encounter, this Murray Burns was my generation’s Peter Pan, Walter Mitty and Don Quixote, only with better material and a stronger sex drive.
I need to see it, but it doesn't seem to be available.

Saturday, April 09, 2011


The data centre we use changed premises last night.

We were told, and grudgingly accepted, that we would go dark from 8pm last night until 3am this morning.

More than four hours later there is still nothing and no-one is telling me anything.

I am just sitting here running tracert again and again.

Tracing route to []over a maximum of 30 hops:

1 1 ms <1 ms <1 ms . []
2 19 ms 19 ms 19 ms
3 20 ms 20 ms 19 ms
4 20 ms 20 ms 20 ms
5 20 ms 19 ms 19 ms
6 19 ms 20 ms 23 ms
7 20 ms 20 ms 19 ms []
8 25 ms 22 ms 24 ms []
9 20 ms 20 ms 20 ms []
10 21 ms 20 ms 20 ms []
11 20 ms 20 ms 23 ms []
12 28 ms 21 ms 32 ms
13 * * * Request timed out.
14 * * * Request timed out.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The origin of suffering is attachment

I've discovered that the Kindle is not in my pocket this morning. I imagine that I've just left it at home, but I'm surprised how uneasy its lack is making me.

Apple have informed us that yesterday they shipped:
Personalised iPad 2 with Wi-Fi + 3G 32GB - Black
Part Number: PC774B/A
Engraving: Coraider Services Ltd
So that should be in my greedy, sweaty palm next week.

Perhaps the reportedly Buddhist Steve Jobs brings out new versions of Apple's geegaws every year to warn us against attachment to transient things?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

For the good times

Back in October (Icons passim) I wrote as follows about the Bomber:
Note to my future self - the day he says he wants to quit judo or rugby, grin and bear it regardless of what you would actually prefer.
Well that day has come, and he says he wants to quit judo. For the record he is third from the right in the photo above.

Ernest Bevin’s Phoenix Judo Club, one of the most well-known in British judo, won Sports Club of The Year after excelling at events in the capital including the 2010 London Youth Games for which the club was also presented with the John WE Davis Award for making the most significant contribution to the event.
Winston, the guy on the right won gold in the under 90kg division at the Sarajevo European Cup a week or so ago.

What can I do but shrug my shoulders?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Lap it up

01:12 St Mary street

Cardiff councilors have responded to the cultural challenge of Swansea (Icons passim) by approving plans for two new lap dancing clubs.

For Your Eyes Only, which already offers topless dancing on Church Street, has applied for a sex establishment licence to open Blue Velvet at 32 St Mary Street, the old Croupiers Casino. Blue Velvet would open from 11am every day – and until 6am on Fridays and Saturdays.
I didn't even know Les Croups casino was closed. Back in the day - as a members only club - it was one of the few places you could get a late night drink.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Being for the benefit of Mr Fright

Look at the video above. The Burglar has ordered a company IPAD2 so, once it arrives I will be able to download the GarageBand application.

If it performs anything like as well the demo suggests it will be practically miraculous.

It costs £2.99 in the UK. That is two pounds and ninety nine pence; less than a pint of lager in the pub.

I am speechless.

Monday, April 04, 2011

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to start using a 10,000 pounds bullet-proof umbrella to protect him from attackers.
It follows opinion polls which portray him as the most unpopular head of state in recent Gallic history.
The umbrella will be carried by security guards who will have to be taller than the 5ft 5ins president.
The armour-plated umbrellas weigh 2.2kg compared to 500g for a normal brolly
In tests, police officers were able to break a wooden stool in two by hitting it repeatedly on top of the umbrella. They also smashed a champagne bottle in the same way.
‘He’s had all kinds of missiles aimed at him from above, especially on visits to high-rise housing estates where he’s particularly unpopular,’ said the source.

I thought this was an April Fool's joke at first, but a four year old edition of France Today suggests it might be real. I don't really mind one way or the other. I've always (as Icons Passim testify) been a sucker for weaponised umbrellas.

En Français:

Sunday, April 03, 2011

International Pillow Fight Day

Welcome to Pillow Fight Club. The first rule of Pillow Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Pillow Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Pillow Fight Club!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

a generated anomaly

The story so far; the previous incarnation of Doctor Who has had a baby by the daughter of an earlier incarnation of Doctor Who, who was actually his daughter in an episode of Doctor Who.

Cletus Spuckler is our extended family correspondent:
Don't you fret honeychile, why your uncle's your cousin too. Don't pay it no mind.
Why I 'member th' verr furst epzode - way back'n 63, day after all that JFK botheration? That good ol' Doc had him a granchile name of Suzie Foreman even then. An' he's still agoin' and gettin' hisself some good lovin' the horny ol' polecat.

Friday, April 01, 2011


Prodnose: Literature recasts the world in an intimate and productively strange light. Prose can endow us with startling power ....

Myself: I know that you're my alter ego with all that entails, but can't you just lighten up for five minutes? We should definitely go and see Sucker Punch this weekend. It's totally got like all these warrior babes with bare skills.

Prodnose: "Review: ‘Sucker Punch’ An Overstuffed, Deadening & Boring Journey Into A Zack Snyder Wet Dream."

Myself: You're saying that as if it's a bad thing. I'll throw you a bone though Darryl Louise Chastain, the flawed avatar and preterite goddess of Pynchon's Vineland, she was a Ninja. Am I right? I am.

Prodnose: So it may be cultural?

Myself: If Berressem's Lacanian examination of Pynchon's aesthetic strategies are applicable to Snyder it could well be, yes.

Prodnose: OK

Myself: Fasten your seatbelts.