The Case of The Disappearing H

That Tony Wilson just appeared on YouTube and is, like most Wilson documentaries, quite entertaining. It’s hard to imagine a documentary on an American news/current affairs presenter veering off into ‘well, he’s a twat, but we love him’ or the part where they form one of the most important UK record labels of the last 50 years or so. Obviously it covers most of the usual bases, for a change looks at his career through the lens of Granada rather than Factory Records. Highlights include Paul Ryder talking about how Wilson told the Happy Mondays how to get out of their record contract just before Factory imploded, and the tirade of a speech he gave at the RTS Awards in 20011. The documentary also includes EXTRA GORDON BURNS, so you know you’re in for a good time.

Anyway, all that nicely covers up the fact I don’t have much to say this week. Things continue, the end of 2017 begins to approach, and the nights are drawing in. Next week, though, I will have more of an update. But you might have to wait until the Monday for it…

  1. it’s never made clear exactly who Wilson was railing against in his lifetime achievement acceptance speech, but given how it is couched in terms of ‘regions’, and the timing is close to the Granada/Carlton merger I’d make a stab at somebody at the ITV Network, probably the London set. [return]

Painting All The Things

This weekend I jumpstarted my car for the first time, isolated and fixed a gas leak, and even used a roller to apply paint to a wall. Also this weekend: I spent much of it confined to a couch with a bulging neck, trying to swallow while Tammy actually did 90% of the work. But! I spray-painted things! I actually went back to a shop and bought more paint…AND IT WAS THE RIGHT PAINT. There should be medals.

Before and after.

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All credit really goes to Tammy for her long campaign to eliminate knotty pine in all its forms and for picking out the new colours (oh, and the small, small matter of doing it). I will confess that I was a touch sceptical. “How can simply changing the colours do–OH MY GOD WHY DOES THE KITCHEN LOOK SO BIG NOW?”

To sum up: probably should have done this a couple of years ago instead of leaving it until now. Everything looks so open!

I will now head back to the bed and continue watching An Ocean Apart, an Adam Curtis documentary series made before he started narrating - featuring David Dimbleby giving the required “but they were wrong” lines. And then Lemsip.

And no Vincent Black Shadow Either

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . . And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . . So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

Obviously, if you find yourself ever writing in the style of Hunter S. Thompson, especially the more misogynistic side while indulging in the excesses of 90s hyper-capitalist Russia, you should stop and think again, instead of making a career out of it. Also, you’re likely to miss the sentimental core of his work as shown above; at the end, beneath all the cynicism and the epic amounts of drugs, he was another hippie1.

But anyway, don’t emulate HST2. I say that as somebody who has a folder in the other room that at the very least has an embarrassing ‘review’ of Glastonbury 1999 that is dripping in ‘Fear & Loathing’.

Anyhow, that has been ‘your leftist journalist darlings are problematic’. As for me, still a few Things That I Can’t Talk About Yet. Which makes for a rather boring weekly update, I’m afraid. Maybe next week will be more exciting?

  1. And like many hippies, had a very male view of things like ‘free love’. [return]
  2. If you must, take the process work rather than his more famous pieces. The account of how McGovern won the floor vote in 1972, for example. [return]

Thanks, Activision. Thctivisison

I have not had the best of luck travelling by plane of late. Planes cancelled here and there, diverted flights, and all the rest. And yet I thought this weekend would go relatively smoothly. Flying out on Thursday night to give myself two clear days in San Francisco. It got off to a decent start! The flight from RDU to Charlotte took place without a hitch.

But oh, then, Charlotte. Where I watched my flight to SFO get delayed by thirty minutes. Then an hour, then an hour and a half. Then two. By the time delayed hour three came rolling around, I suspected that I wasn’t going to make the flight that night. Unfortunately, the airline agents couldn’t tell me that the plane wasn’t going to take off that evening, so the call whether to rebook was up to me.

Then we hit hour four and I gave up. I had, earlier in the week, been sent an email by Marriott, reminding me that all the hotel points I had racked up in Santa Monica six years ago were going to expire in two months. So all that time living a hotel by Marina Del Rey paid off a little in the form of a free night and a very early flight to SFO in the morning.

As a result of not getting to San Francisco until just before midday on Friday, it was a truncated visit. But still! We visited the sights of the local Target, whiskey bars, Highway 101, Santa Rosa, distilleries, and a rather terrible ITV/Netflix drama (Paranoid) which wanted to be Edge of Darkness so so badly.

But it wasn’t just a week of bourbon and farm-to-fork dining! A couple of other things happened which I can’t yet talk about. One for superstitious reasoning, the other because it’s not announced yet (or ready!). But rest assured you’ll find out about them soon enough! All sorts of fun things happening in 2018, I promise.


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 It occurred to me that this Tuesday was the first time I’ve voted in person since 2010 (all my UK votes since then have been proxy votes). My first election as a US citizen was a fairly low-key affair: primaries for the new mayor of Durham and council members. Every election is important!

(not that I’m going to be around here long enough to feel the impact of said vote, mind you. Should check out what’s on the 2018 slate up North, I guess!)

Last week, I sliced a big chunk out of my chin. On Friday, I managed to slip down the ramp on the front of my house, ripping a nasty gash up my arm and developing an impressively large purple bruise on my hip. Honestly, I’m a danger to myself and shouldn’t be left unsupervised.

To that end, I’m off to San Francisco on Thursday! Hoping my leg heals enough by then to make a six-hour flight a little more bearable.


One thing I have noticed over the past few years as my psoriasis gets worse; when I am stressed, angry, or a combination of the two, I pick at myself with much greater intensity, a sort of self-harm that isn’t exactly cutting, but causes enough pain to distract.

I almost bought two houses last week and spent Saturday trapped in Cincinnati airport watching my connecting flights tick by.

Frankly, I’m surprised I still have skin.

But, no Cincinnati house just yet (just missed both of them), and I finally got home on the flight of the day to RDU from Charlotte. I celebrated this morning by slicing off a large chunk of my chin with a Mach 3 razor and bleeding all over the house for a good 90 minutes. Hurrah!

Aside from that, though, a much calmer and more pleasant week this week. I know new Indian and Korean restaurants in the area, and a place with great views of the city to take my family when they eventually visit. That and I know exactly who would use up all our oxygen supply in an attempt to get all the deep sea treasure for themselves. Essential information.

Finally, I try to avoid being too rose-tinted with my nostalgia, but listening to the Mark & Lard Radio 1 Vintage compilation today did me pine for the days of Radio 1 being a cultural touchstone. I will never tire of their story of how they tried to avoid doing the the Breakfast Show by asking for a crazy amount of money, and how the station didn’t blink when saying ‘yes’. Oops. Still, we got High Tea and Tosspots In The Afternoon out of it.

Low-Key Kidnapping

Really, I should probably have realized something was up when I mentioned I was going across the road to get some more Diet Coke, and instead they scoured the office to find some cans lying around. Or maybe the look on everybody’s faces when I reminded them that I was scheduled to be flying out that evening…right about the time they were planning their push to production.

The low-key kidnapping, as it was described, began a short while after. Flights cancelled, hotel rearranged, and I ended up buying underwear in a Manhattan drug store at 11pm. 2017, everybody.

While almost every waking moment up to Friday morning was spent focused on work, I did manage to knock out my first entry in a Kaggle competition whilst waiting for planes in RDU and Charlotte yesterday. Even nicer, my PyTorch implementation of a ResNet50 classifier for dog breeds is currently sitting at #1 on the leaderboard. It likely won’t be there for long, but still, not bad for an afternoon’s work!

As it’s now October, I’m making plans for Thanksgiving meals and Christmas chocolates…and I guess I need to book that December flight home sooner rather than later…

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch

I am looking forward to the 12-14 hour death march days being over. Maybe on Friday.

Of course, I also thought I’d be having a rest after the extensive travel in August and September, but so far in the next four weeks I’m going to New York, Cincinnati/Kentucky, and San Francisco…so that didn’t quite work out as I’d planned.

I apologize for things being so threadbare on here of late. I do have some longer posts in mind, though they’ll mainly be of interest if you’re really into neural networks, but they all rely on me having time in the evening that is a bit more than ‘decompress for 30 minutes before taking ambien’. So…er…stay tuned…maybe?

Mushrooms won't end the pain…

It has been a terrible, no-good week, but encountering the Phantom in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle did make me laugh out loud. I still can’t believe a) this game exists, and b) it’s actually rather good.

One of the things I love about it is that it doesn’t just slap Mario graphics on top of Rebelstar-esque1 gameplay. If you play this like UFO: Enemy Unknown2, you’ll soon find yourself coming unstuck. It’s a game that encourages a whole bunch of different strategies - quite often the best approach is be as brazen and daring as possible (e.g. the time where I managed to knock off 1000+ points from a boss using a combination of Rabbid Peach and the Mario brothers’ overwatch skills. Go Luigi!).

Anyway, I can’t really talk about this week without inserting obscenities at an ever-increasing rate of volume and occurrence, so your update this week is that the Switch is pretty fancy and turn-based Mario war has never been so much fun..

  1. Okay, so Rebelstar was not the first turn-based strategy game by a longshot. But you’d be a brave person to argue against the shadow of Gollop that looms large in today’s turn-based games. [return]
  2. Call it by its proper name, dammit [return]

Going Underground

Having spent the previous week navigating the Underground1, spending multiple days in New York this week was a rude juxtaposition. The Tube is, in parts, over 150 years old. It has serious issues at times. South London is woefully covered by its links.

And yet, you just try taking an E train from Manhattan to JFK and back. You’ll be begging for Baker Street in minutes. Trains that sit still for 10-15 minutes, other trains that pull out of the station only to stop dead, absurdly hot platforms that lead onto plastic-feeling rolling stock2, station and train announcements that somehow manage to sound like electrical screeching rather than actual human voices, escalators that are so thin that the entire station grinds to a halt as the train disembarks, and ticket gates seemingly designed to be as hateful as humanly possible.

All this and the MTA map is a hideous piece of design, made even worse by knowing that they had a decent map in the 70s but discarded it because apparently New Yorkers couldn’t handle spatial maps like every other citizen of a city with an underground network.

You may infer from all this that I’m happy to be back in Durham. I couldn’t possibly comment.

  1. We went on almost every line in a week, including my first time on a DLR route. [return]
  2. Yes, the cars are air-conditioned, whereas most Tube cars aren’t. But, they’re air-conditioned in the American mall fashion, in that they’re set about 5˚C below comfortable temperatures, so you go from sweating profusely to shivering in about thirty seconds. Hurrah! [return]