hirez: (dissent)
I was going to use the line 'One instinctively knows when something is right', but I'm not a great fan of sherry and its cultural baggage of tiddly aunts and false teeth vicars. I also don't really know where to begin to describe what I'm on about, so I'm just going to make typing like a sir until the thing finally falls out of my head and lands with a spludge somewhere unfortunate. Like social media. That's pretty unfortunate.

The thing I get most out of mowing lawns is a kind of brain-off satisfaction in manual labour. Although actually not, because if you're mowing a useful sort of lawn you'll be using something with a motor and whirling sharp things and you'll either be paying attention to that or looking in the long grass for severed body parts. Also you'll be paying attention to the fuel-air mixture or where the extension lead is relative to the whirling sharp things, where small and darting animals and/or children are at any point, where the edge of any mower-consuming steep drops might be, what metallic and/or concrete objects might be hiding in that patch of long grass and your dogshit radar, largely unused while the Party of Labour were in power, will be on maximum gain.

I think this means that one's brain isn't off, it's just not thinking of bloody Ruby or bloody servers or bloody 'git log -p'. However, I was having fun mowing lawns well before the invention of git, Ruby and the development of the x86-64 server architecture as we currently understand it. Thus it's probably not that.

(What was that horrible 'competitor' to MCA with two-level slots and the requirement to configure each card from its own setup floppy? God. Remember when you had to put extra things in computers to make them do something useful? That was shit.)

I think that there's something quite pleasing about orbiting a patch of scruffy ground with a whirly sharp thing and replacing the scruffiness with an abstract figure within which there is order. Or if not order, then a marked change. Given my background, you may see also grain harvesting or ploughing.

I should also note that a rectangular lawn carefully rendered stripy by carefully going up and down, left to right is absolutely no fun at all. It's just suburban, or posby as Ma would have it.

Ironing's another good one. Also properly indented code and sensibly ordered files. Although those things don't feel anything like as nice.

What I'm attempting to get at is that I have no idea what this thing is or what to call it. It's just a thing that I imagine is Just Me. In some ways, I don't want to think too hard about what's going on, just in case it loses its magic.
hirez: (Object)
In the eighties, I used to perform in the field circus.

My actual title mutated from 'bench technician' when I was the junior oik in charge of aligning floppy drives with 'scope, test disk[1] and drive-exerciser box[2], fixing fried dot-matrix printers and otherwise waving a soldering iron at broken pre-PC computers, to 'field engineer' when I was allowed a company car, my own screwdrivers and a borrowed Interfaker[3] and sent off to be groused at by the nice customers. I don't use the term 'engineer' since being mithered at for quite some time. Not chartered == not engineer. Seems fair enough in retrospect.

Our area was The South West, which meant Swindon in one direction, the Police in Carmarthen the other way, English China Clay in Cornwall and some site in Leamington to t'north. Sod's law determined that many of the sites with a four-hour response contract (ECC and the polis, f'rinstance) were the furthest away. Bear in mind that 'four hour response' meant 'Someone on site and fixing the kit in four hours' not 'Some oik in a call centre far away will have asked you to turn it off and turn it on again four hours after you have placed a service call'.

This was before good cars (The Sierra was a revelation in comfort and speed) and useful roads (The run to Appledore Shipbuilders, who were/are(?) just down the coast from Barnstaple usually involved a 5AM start from Cheltenham in order to hit the Tiverton junction of the M5 for seven so that you'd not get caught up in the nose-to-tail caravan traffic on the A361).

It was also before the mass availability of mobile phones. When the office moved down to a trading estate in Eastville, the AA opened a car-phone fitting place opposite. One used to see a parade of expensive kit (Jag XJSes, Mercs, Granadas) being pulled to bits so someone could fit a Motorola (probably. Perhaps those came later?) and drill a hole in the roof for the aerial. We'd got BT phonecards which were so tiresomely complicated that they only ended up being used in extremis. Most people weren't bothered when you asked if you could call the office to let them know what was going on (Or to call the tech support blokes in Derby if you hit a nasty problem, usually DEC LSI or Newbury Data related), but once in a while you'd run into some office manager who really had a hate on and get told to piss off.

We all had scruffy A-Z books. Bristol, Bath and Cardiff was the one that got the most use. I don't recall if I ever found one for Swansea. I do recall having a minor meltdown in the middle of a queue of traffic because I had no bloody idea where the AA Insurance shop was and no useful way of finding out or ringing someone else to find out. (It turned out to be in some pedestrianised bit over a Spud-u-like. The pong of those places still gives me the minor horrors since I ended up being stuck there for most of a day and my clothes stank of spud-baking.

Since there was no GPS, I got quite good at just going somewhere and finding the sites by guesswork and divination. It was shit and I hated it to begin with, but after a while I started to get quite good at it. I daresay I could navigate to what used to be the Serviscope offices in Cambourne or Swansea without thinking about it too hard, even now.

Actually, it happens a lot. I have driven to places that I don't remember visiting before when a set of roads will open out into something terribly familiar and I'll be right back in time where I am nineteen or twenty and scrabbling in the footwell of a Pug 305 estate for a C90 with Big Black or New Order on it.

Some of the bits I miss - there was the one time I was soldering up a Superbrain motherboard (a bit of a departure. Usually one would haul the thing out wholesale and swap it, but I think this one had an obvious mechanical fault) in the old control tower at Rolls-Royce in Filton (that old factory has been flattened. It was a bit of a shock[4].) when a(n) F-111 took off and passed me at eye level. Those things were loud. Other bits I don't - most of the people who worked in travel agents were horrible bastards, and for some reason those in Thomas Cook shops were thick and horrible, so the jobs that called for swapping out Sony (nice kit) or Philips (dreadful rubbish) viewdata terminals were usually grim experiences.

(I think I recall what sparked all this off - my subconscious has been busily making me remember events from the distant past where I was a bit crap and therefore embarrassed. Why it thinks this is a good idea is somewhat beyond me. Perhaps it just thinks I should be having a shit time cringing at old memories instead of concentrating on useful things like remembering to change gear and avoid speeding buses? Who can say. Anyway. I was forced to recall a minor argument with the manager of the Visionhire shop in Newton Abbott, which, what?



[1] An special 5.25 floppy with a set of analogue signals recorded on or around track 20. You'd step the drive out to that track and hold it there while adjusting the heads yea and fro for maximal signal quality. The boss was less than pleased when a very buggered drive scribbled crap on the disk. Those things were expensive.

[2] A box of 7400 that could step floppy drives to given tracks. Pretty much the first program I wrote in Zorland/tech C was an emulation of that for the PC because the sods I was working for at that point didn't see why they should spring for expensive test gear. It was all BIOS calls cribbed from the first and best Norton book, which was stolen by a fizz-haired bollix from Portsmouth.

[3] The only serial break-out boxes worth having.

[4] I get the distinct impression that part of the universe is dedicated to erasing my past. It goes beyond basic entropy and wanders off into malicious destruction of buildings and the wholesale disappearance of people I rather liked. It's a bit bloody previous, frankly.
hirez: (pillock)
Weird. I am plundering the Youtubes (where all pop-cultural detritus is to be found) for the CCS version of 'Whole lot of love', 'Town Talk' by Ken Woodman & His Picadilly Brass, 'At The Sign Of The Swinging Cymba'" by Brian Fahey and his Orchestra and 'Roadwalk' by Syd Dale. Soon I will settle down in front of a Mike Yarwood programme with a nice tin of Top Deck.
hirez: (dissent)
There's something particularly gleeful, educated and terribly Scottish about this splendid item. I am reminded of the chap with the camcorder dealing with the polis at the Tower of London (somewhere on the Youtubes), and indeed of Drew-who-does-not-LJ.

I must also remember to use the word 'anent' when writing business emails.

What an uplifting panoply of language we have in this country.

Anyway. Earlier, I nearly poured milk into the microwave, instead of putting it in the bowl with the porridge oats like an uninspired person. Which then goes in the microwave because causality is actually quite boring like that. You people and your consensus reality with fixed labels for objects and an order for things. It's tedious and doesn't make the trains run on time. Assuming a common frame of reference for the notions pointed to by the names 'trains', 'run' and 'time'.

What in hell was wrong with art that people had to '(re)discover' perspective? Did no-one have the 'This one is small, but those are far away' conversation? Perhaps everyone thought they were stuck in a rubbish old computer game where people and things grew out of the ground a lot. Or we're in a simulation and that was the day that the local godlike object had come back from PC-Multiverse with a shiny new 5D accelerator card.

Geek arguments, right? I wonder if they get loud in a busy office for the same reason that I can't pay attention to someone speaking if the telly/wireless/random media-object emission device is also functioning. Perhaps it works the same way that FM reception does? (Which is 'most powerful signal wins and no-one else gets a look in.' As opposed to AM, which is 'Reception is a mixture of what's out there on that frequency')

Mind you, I've not studied wireless since R1 was on '275 and 285', so I no longer know my superheterodyne from a cat's whisker.

There has to be a word for the sheer joy of starting on some endeavour that requires skills you once had, and which come back in a lump through the medium of Just Doing. A lot like a long-tail version of muscle memory.
hirez: (tank)
Commander Raffaella Carra, the first Italian on the moon, plants the European flag and takes one step back towards the lander. Her pilot, Flt. Lt. Sabrina Salerno, takes a sequence of pictures that appear to show the flag waving in a non-existing breeze. In the future, ESA will have to publish a strongly-worded refutation of the vast and American-led campaign that holds this as proof that the moon-mission never took place.

Dr. Hazell Dean, who is a member of the geology team, will become famous for punching out one Henry Rollins, her chief critic, on live television.
hirez: (Happy cycling)
Vaguely serious point follows, but first the scores:

Serious commute/roadie types with LED-deathray lighting: Lots.
Serious types who've worked out how to dip1 said deathray: Four.

Amorphous medium-vis blobs with glow-worm-in-jar kit: Six or eight.
Glow-worm-pilots who complain they're blinded when I dip1 my own deathray: One.

Tourette's suffering roadies: One2.


I think LEDs have reached the brightness/popularity point where one really needs 'dip' and 'high-beam' modes.

It seems to me that there are two useful options and a useless one.

The useless one is 'Don't keep a LED-deathray because you're blinding other bike-pilots'. Since (Lots - (Four + Me)) other cyclists are unbothered about blinding other people, it's all a bit game-theory. I also like being able to see where I'm going and avoid dog-botherers. And stupid fucking pedestrians in black clothing.

Useful option one is 'Hack your lighting rig such that it's got a remote dip-switch.' I imagine this is theoretically possible with a L&M Vega, since repeated presses of the 'go' button cycle through the available lighting modes. However, this would require wholesale warranty-voiding and likely tying the thing to one bike.

Useful option two is to run a LED-deathray pointed up the road next to a glow-worm pointed at the front tyre (Or pair of deathrays ditto) and just turn off the bright one when approaching another cyclist.

Car drivers can whistle, frankly.



1: In this case 'dip' means 'cover right-hand-side of lens with finger such that there's enough light to still see the edge of the track, somewhat like what I remember Cibie Z-Beam headlights used to do.

2: One can only assume something unfortunate had happened to an expensive bike. He came swearing past me not far out of Bath, and vanished into the murk. Some minutes later, I come upon a high-vis pair bent over a bike not far from Bitton station. 'Fucking cunt!' one of them is going. I pedal on and stop for a half-time energy bar at Bitton. Mr. Sweary is only a few seconds behind me, since he comes steaming through the car-park as I'm pulling a glove off, yelling 'FUCKING CUNT!' at the top of his lungs.
hirez: (Default)
Ron Asheton's died and Florian Schneider's left Kraftwerk.

Bugger.

And now it appears that LJ have booted a swathe of their US-based techies. As is usual with these stories (about one a year since I joined) I'll believe it when I see it, but since it comes coincidentally close to the news about Journalspace, those of you with Unix boxes could do worse than ljsm.pl.

(May or may not work on other OSes, seems to depend on a third-party site in .ru to expand big comment-trees, so perhaps not terribly trustworthy for those of you who emit gossipmungous friends-only posts that attract pages of scurrilous commentary. There's nothing I can do for you on that score.)
hirez: (pillock)
Spent this afternoon walking the length of the Malverns with [livejournal.com profile] jarkman and am really quite tired.

I am also wondering if it's normal to feel as if I've just been unfaithful to the Cotswolds (I'm sorry. It was just a short walk. Really. They mean nothing to me.) or if I should have applied for a visa from the Worcestershire tourist board.

Falling in lust with places is a bit bloody strange too. Still. Clover, tarmac, the smell of ripe wheat. I drove back with the windows wide open so I could absorb more. Just looking isn't enough. Need more senses.

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hirez: (Default)
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