Ten Years On

We will laugh
The day that Thatcher dies
Even though we know it's not right
We will sing and dance all night

Ten years ago, I was still awake. A few hours of sleep, then up again to watch the Labour Party move into Number 10, the first change of government since I was born. The night before, I began by watching The Election Night Armistice; vandalising the Blue Peter garden, watching the last Old Labour policy fly away into the night, and the climax, a celebration of ‘18 Years of Tory Arse’.

Everybody knew that the Tories were going to lose. Even they had become resigned to it. What we didn’t know was just how bad it was going to be. The race had narrowed slightly in the polls, but as the returns began coming in, it was soon clear that it was a dangerous night to be wearing a blue rosette. The Scottish got their revenge for the Poll Tax by kicking the whole party out of the country, and even the South wash swimming in a tide of red.

And then there was that moment. Was it 3am? 4? The BBC went over to Enfield Southgate for the final icing on the cake. The smug grin finally wiped from Michael Portillo’s face as a safe Conservative seat fell to Labour. After that, I went to bed. Nothing was going to top that.

When did the rot set in, then? Probably from the start, to be honest. It did begin reasonably well, though. Signing up to the Social Chapter, the minimum wage, handing interest rate control over to the Bank of England, and actually doing something about Northern Ireland. Yet, for all the new money pouring into public services, they were still wedded to the Tory ideal of targets, privatisation, league tables, and internal markets.

I began to break with them during the period they were passing the RIP Act (though, in today’s Britain, it seems almost liberal compared to the Prevention of Terrorism Act that we have), but it was the London Mayor debacle that finished my full support of Labour. It was such a waste of energy; given the purpose of the GLA and the new Mayor, there was only one person who was ever going to win that race. Despite their antipathy for him, New Labour should just have let Ken have his day. Instead, they embarked on a campaign that made them look rather stupid.

Then, of course, September 11th 2001 changed everything. Or not. Instead, it just allowed Blair to indulge in his autocratic tendencies, restricting personal freedoms, increasing the reach of the state, and lumbering us with an expensive and pointless ID card system. Oh, and the standing side-by-side with Bush even as it became clear that the neo-conservative vision was a mirage, being complicit in massaging evidence of Iraq’s WMD capability, and the importing of the ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us’ philosophy that has poisoned American politics. As a result, in 2007, Blair has finally achieved his wish: he is the Labour Party’s Thatcher. And like her, he will shuffle off the stage broken, a liability to the Party at large.

Ten years ago, I was hopeful. Now? Somewhat cynical. A shame, really.

currently playing: Stars – Set Yourself On Fire (Montag Mix)

Still Crazy After All These Years

I notice that Simon left off Tori Amos’s new album from this week’s recommendations. Obviously an oversight. Heh.

I've been a little cool on her last few albums (to be honest, I don't think anything since From The Choirgirl Hotel really worked, especially the horror that was Strange Little Girls), but American Doll Posse shows promising signs. Mainly in that she's gone completely bonkers again. I'm currently on track 11 of 23. Yes, Twenty-three. Her lead single, the 70s-rock epic Big Wheel is apparently not fit for radio because of the refrain "M-I-L-F / don't you forget" towards the end. Oh, and it appears that the album is written from the point of view of five different female characters. Who are credited with vocals in the (hilarious) liner notes.

As I said, bonkers. Oh, it also lurches from Boys For Pele-esque mandolins to full-on electronica at the the drop of a hat. A hat full of frogs and the remains of the chicken on the front cover, obviously (what happened to the original cover? That was an image up there with the infamous pig one).

There's also a DVD, but I think I need to work up to that…

currently playing: Tori Amos – Code Red (Tori)

Because If I'm Going To Be Scarred You Will Too

I give you, the in-depth investigative reporting of the Daily Mail!

(warning: high creepiness factor!)

currently playing: Feist – One Two Three Four

The Life Of A SysAdmin

Being a system administrator is a bit like being an architect, a builder, an occupant, but most of all, a caretaker. You often get to write programs of all sorts of shapes and sizes, but you can’t fob them off to second-line helpdesks. They will either be used by you and get on your nerves until you fix them, or in the hands of people who don’t want to know how a computer works or why organising timetables efficiently is a very hard computer problem; they just want to get their work done. You end up knowing all sorts of nooks and crannies of all the operating systems you have installed, because people will uncover the most obscure bugs known to mankind, normally at 4:52pm on a Friday.

Also: wireless routers are, in general much more trouble than they’re worth. Especially when they’re have a ‘Belkin’ label on them, or are being expected to service fifteen computers that suck down remote profiles from a central server…

currently playing: Idlewild – Finished It Remains

Celebrating The Greatest Computer Ever Made

The Sinclair Spectrum is 25 years old today.

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum

Just look at its rubber keys. Oooh. Thanks to Sir Clive Sinclair, Britain was spared a 1980s of the drudgery of the C64 (and gave schoolchildren all over the country an extra reason to fight on the playground). A marvel of British design that used insane memory tricks so it could use defective chips (Sir Clive was always one for a bargain), the Spectrum inspired a whole generation of British computer programmers, including myself (even if I only got as far as BASIC). While Sinclair Research only managed to make it to 1986 after a dalliance with electric cars, the Spectrum managed to continue commercial production until the early 1990s.

Bizarrely, the Spectrum also made it behind the Iron Curtain. The Russians stole the designs for the machine and produced their own versions of the machine, practically turning it into the Soviet Union’s equivalent of the IBM PC. They produced disk drives, extended the memory and other weird and wonderful extensions to drag out the life of the humble Speccy.

I got my first Spectrum when I was four; a 48K model that was converted into a Spectrum+ half-way into its life. It met a tragic end after an all-day session of Bruce Lee. The next morning, I turned the machine on, only to be greeted by smoke rising from the keyboard. It was not a good day. About a year later, though, I got a Spectrum 128K, the final Sinclair-produced model, which I still have in its box somewhere in my room. Somewhere.

The Spectrum is no longer available, but with the magic of emulation, anybody can share in the wonder of 48K; yes, even filthy C64 owners. Just head over to World of Spectrum, grab an emulator for your system (if you have the means, I heartily recommend SpeccyDS for your DS). WOS also has a very impressive selection of games to download, though sadly not complete, as some companies annoyingly refuse to allow distribution of their old games. I would suggest that you get hold of 3D Deathchase, Head Over Heels, Ant Attack, Dan Dare, Rainbow Islands, R-Type, and the peerless Chaos.

Ahh, jumpers for goalposts, C90 tapes exchanged by the wall…those were the days!

currently playing: The Rosebuds – Get Up Get Out

Last Day of April

Well, my visit to Duke was then followed by a very pleasant evening spent with Stacie and Srav at Chilis, followed by a reasonably relaxing night at Fuse…lots of dumplings, sweet potato fries, and saying good-bye to friends. Until next time, obviously!

More pictures are up on Flickr, and I’m beginning to sort some ideas out for Snappish Thoughts Version 2. Exciting, isn’t it?

To come: the Wii, the Bis post, concert poster design, and oh, yes. Work. Boo.

currently playing: The Rosebuds – Get Up Get Out

At Duke

You see, UNC’s campus is somewhat welcoming, accessible, and open.

Duke, however, presents such an air of class and wealth that you expect Sarah Michelle Gellar to walk by snorting coke from a crucifix. And then making out with Selma Blair. Obviously.

currently playing: Johnny Boy - 15 Minutes

It Can't Be Porn, It's Islamic!

Oh, Franklin Street, how we love you.

currently playing:

About Last Night (and the night before)

Some things:

  • Don’t wear flip-flops to Hell. The black sludge that ends up on your feet is very disconcerting
  • Some people have a very keen eye
  • The temperature drops considerably during a thunderstorm
  • I can never, never show my face in VisArt ever again

Firstly, I will say again that you should try and seek out Helvetica if it’s showing anywhere near you in the next few months, or try to get hold of the DVD later in the year. It proves that typographers are, in the main, somewhat crazy. I suppose if you stared at letterforms all day long, you’d go a bit nuts too.

I can also recommend Durham’s Electric Blender for your thrift store clothing needs. Lalalala. Not obsessed.

My birthday started out a little quiet, as my phone somehow managed to not keep Laura’s message when she left one the night before, but it was a fun afternoon of tracking down marzipan and other sundry items, for I remade the chocolate cornflake mushrooms (this time using milk chocolate so people would actually eat them). Still, though, I can never get it quite right; because I was using a small rectangular bowl to mix the cornflakes and chocolate together, I didn’t quite get enough cornflakes in. Which resulted in marzipan-covered chocolate blocks. Not that people complained…apart from saying that they would get diabetes…

We also had an egg scavenger/trail hunt! This was organised by Naomi, who came dressed for the occasion in a trenchcoat and plastic coat. It was a touch windy outside, and perhaps we moaned a bit too much, as we did have a lot of fun. But I can never go into VisArt again.

And Ninja v. Robots cake from Laura, who also brought balloons and a cuddly squirrel that even right now is plotting to garrotte me when I least expect it. Presents abounded, wonderful things from Laura, Stacie, and Christa. Some of which will be making short appearances here soon, others will be used by Bonnie and me with relish!

I was mocked once again for using a knife. Silly Americans. Hehehe.

A big crowd: Mandy, Wyatt, Eric, Danny, Nikki, Heather, and Margee also present alongisde the others. Oh, and Collin! Whoops! His trumpet playing and the surge of patriotism will not be forgotten soon (when asked if I knew the words to ‘God Save The Queen’, I just laughed and pointed to Irish heritage ;)). A wonderful night.

Coming into the last few days. In fact, the first goodbye tonight. It all seems to disappear so fast, but there’s little we can do about it…

currently playing: Low – In Silence

Things I Learnt Today (Brief Version)

One: Helvetica was responsible for all the American wars of the past forty years.

Two: Typographers are an amusing bunch.

Three: You can get away with wearing a full Doctor Who outfit in the middle of North Carolina, but you will get funny looks and compliments from passers-by…

Four: We’re going to Hell!

More tomorrow…providing that we get back in time for tomorrow to have a morning. Heh.

currently playing: The National – Fake Empire