The Blog


21 Sep 2014

When we marched against the Iraq war, the demands were fairly simple even if they were ignored.

But when we march against "Climate Change" what are we asking for? What do we want to happen next?

http://peoplesclimate.org/global/#map

I suspect marching about climate change is like dancing about architecture. But if it makes us feel better, maybe it's still worth while.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/live/2014/sep/21/peoples-climate-march-live

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20 Sep 2014

New Taboos

From an essay by John Shirley.
http://www.amazon.com/Taboos-Outspoken-Authors-John-Shirley/dp/1604867612

From http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/07/21/1225129/-Sci-Fi-Fantasy-Club-New-Taboos-by-John-Shirley
What if the phrase "Obscene Profits" were not just a figure of speech?  What if the practice of amassing huge profits while exploiting one's employees, or while contaminating the environment, or while lying to the public, was actually regarded as revolting, and the people who engaged in such practices were shunned as pariahs?

We need some new taboos that we reject utterly. That make us sick. That we will not allow under any circumstances. That are never acceptable. No end ever justifies these means. In the words of Rorschach from Watchmen, "Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon".

Here's a short and incomplete list of possible new taboos:-
1) Polluting or toxifying the environment. Particularly by corporate action for profit but also by individual action.
2) Lying or deceiving for profit. Especially to manipulate children for profit.
3) Using political influence for personal gain.
4) Hiding someone else's theft, fraud, dishonesty or pollution to protect one's own part in the system.
5) Discriminating on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation.
6) Making unreasonably large profits. eg. by taking advantage of a monopoly position to price gouge, or by avoiding tax, or paying absurd top salaries
7) Exploiting workers via uneconomic wages or contracts. eg zero hour contracts or paying minimum wage as opposed to living wage.
8) Exploiting workers via unsafe workplaces and practices for profit
9) Torture under any circumstances
10) Engaging in warfare except in the most dire necessity

These aren't hard. They're just the basic kindergarten rules of behaviour we teach kids.
- Don't poison other children
- Don't lie
- Don't steal
- Don't hurt other kids just to get what you want
- Don't take more than your share of the pudding

So now apply them to adults.
 New Taboos (Outspoken Authors): John Shirley: 9781604867619: Amazon.com: Books »
New Taboos (Outspoken Authors) [John Shirley] on Amazon.com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.

Mixing outlaw humor, sci-fi adventure, and cutting social criticism


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16 Sep 2014

PM Press (2013), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 128 pages
[from: Librarything]

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I'll just leave this here.

"If there is no centre, we're all on the edge."

From this review.
http://www.residentadvisor.net/review-view.aspx?id=15628
 Review: Various - Worth The Weight Vol. 2 »
Punch Drunk's second compilation reflects the dubstep diaspora a couple of generations deep.

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I was looking for something else and just found this from 2004. Dig those forgotten cultural references! Not entirely sure where it came from so needs citation.

The revolution will be blogged.

You will be able to stay home, brother.
You will be able to plug in, turn on and get your own IP.
You will be able to lose yourself on generic V.i.a.g.r.a and Prozac,
Skip out for a Frapuccino during the free pr0n download,
Because the revolution will be blogged.

The revolution will be blogged.
The revolution will not be brought to you by the NY Times
in 4 parts with commercial popups after a one time registration.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Bush
landing on a carrier and leading a charge by John
Ashcroft, Douglas Rumsfeld and Dick Chaney to eat
the profits stolen on the way to Iraq.
The revolution will be blogged.

The revolution will not be brought to you by
the RIAA and will not star Britney
Spears and Paris Hilton or Eminem and Madonna.
The revolution will not give your iPod a new battery.
The revolution will not lock you in with DRM.
The Atkins diet will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will be blogged, Brother.

There will be a webcam of you and Winona Ryder
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
and Marsha Stewart trying to sneak the drug money past the SEC.
You will be able to predict the winner at 8:32
and get reports from 563 districts because,
The revolution will be blogged.

There will be phonecam pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers on TextAmerica.
There will be phonecam pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers on TextAmerica.
There will be pictures of Rush Limbaugh being
run out of ABC on a rail for "Addiction to prescription drugs".
There will be slow motion and 360 degree QTVR of John
Kerry strolling through Watts in a doubleknit leisure suit
that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Gap, Starbucks, and Hooters will no longer be so damned relevant,
and women will not care if Aleks finally gets down with
Carrie on Sex in the City because people of colour, or even
no colour at all, will be online looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will be blogged.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock
news and no pictures of heavily pierced women
activists or Condoleeza Rice blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Moby,
the Red Hot Chili Peppers, nor sung by Beyonce, Justin
Timberlake, Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, or R.E.M.
The revolution will be blogged.

The revolution will not be right back after a message from our leader about weapons of mass destruction, homeland security, or the axis of evil.
You will not have to worry about anthrax in your
post, armed sky marshalls, or biometric ID cards.
The revolution will not give you a transportable TV entertainment center.
The revolution will not help you to be all you want to be.
The revolution will put you in control of the keyboard.

The revolution will be blogged, will be blogged,
will be blogged, will be blogged.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.
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15 Sep 2014

Tor Books (2014), Edition: 1ST, Hardcover, 336 pages
[from: Librarything]

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Tor Books (2014), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 384 pages
[from: Librarything]

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14 Sep 2014

It's late 2014 and there are cultural critics still arguing that creativity stopped in 2003, using examples from 2004 and 2006. Arctic Monkeys vs Burial as symptom vs diagnosis? That's * so * last decade!

http://crackmagazine.net/music/mark-fisher-interviewed/

I think we fairly desperately need a Post-Retromania and Post-Hauntology in pop cultural analysis.

ps. He's got a book out. How drole.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghosts-My-Life-Depression-Hauntology/dp/1780992262/ref=sr_1_1
 Mark Fisher // - Crack Magazine »
Do you miss the future? Mark Fisher interviewed In 2002, on the band’s debut single Losing My Edge, LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy sang of “borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered ’80s”. With that line he playfully skewered the Brooklynite hipsters in “little jackets” whose instinct to look back to pop’s golden past, instead of forward,... Read more »

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13 Sep 2014

A while ago I went looking for cocktails named after places and boroughs in New York. There's really quite a lot of them from the well known Manhatten to the Harlem Mugger. That led to trying to do the same thing for London but that proved much harder. Scanning the whole of the Savoy Cocktail book only turned up the Piccadilly and the Mayfair.

This week's cocktail is the Piccadilly.
http://savoystomp.com/2009/07/27/piccadilly-cocktail/
50ml
Gin (Portobello), 25ml French Vermouth (Noilly Prat), Dash Grenadine (Monin), Dash Absinthe (No Absinthe so I used Bourdin Pastis), Shaken, Martini Glass. The end result is pink so I added one fluorescent Opies maraschino cherry as a garnish. I'm not really convinced, especially as the Pastis overpowered the other flavours. The Grenadine is really just colour. I think there might be a drink in there though where you make a wet martini (say 4:1) add a dash of grenadine for colour, stir so it doesn't dilute so much and then do a absinthe/pastis wash of the glass the way you would making a Sazerac. So there's just the smell of the Anise without so much of the flavour.
 Piccadilly Cocktail | Savoy Stomp »
Piccadilly Cocktail. 1 Dash Absinthe. (Verte de Fougerolles) 1 Dash Grenadine. (Homemade) 1/3 French Vermouth. (3/4 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth) 2/3 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Beefeater 24). Shake (I stirred) well and strain into a cocktail glass. Like the Phoebe Snow, there's nothing particularly deep ...

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10 Sep 2014

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-29136699

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly? For a Fistful of Dollars, Los Trios Paranoias ride forth. But independently, on separate trains.

Meanwhile Thatcher-Lite in the form of "Grinner" Brown tries to throw the electorate a bone.

Less than 10 days to go, postal votes are in, and now they're trying to make up Devo-Max on the fly because they hadn't planned contingencies for something they've known about for 2 years.

You couldn't make it up, could you. Are they trying to fail?

Bonus Link: http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2014/09/the-three-amigos-ride-to-scotland

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09 Sep 2014

So farewell then, iPod Classic.
http://techcrunch.com/2014/09/09/the-ipod-classic-is-dead/

Well that sucks. If Apple won't build and sell the 1TB iPod Classic I want, then maybe now somebody else will? I seem to have been saying this for quite some time. There's a small but genuine market for a high capacity, high quality personal media player. It's just not a mass market.

I could rush out and buy one of the last remaining 240GB Classics on eBay available from people that mod and upgrade the official 160. But unfortunately the firmware doesn't really support the extra space. And the extra space still isn't big enough.

So what alternatives are there for those of us with too much music in our collections? And no, storing it in the cloud and accessing it via streaming on a smartphone is not an option.
 The iPod Classic Is Dead | TechCrunch »
My friends, I come to you with sad news. Our old friend, the iPod classic, is no more. Apple unceremoniously removed the much-beloved media player from its..

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Glenn Greenwald nails it again.
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/08/lesson-americans-refuse-learn-war/
Americans Now Fear ISIS Sleeper Cells Are Living in the U.S., Overwhelmingly Support Military Action

But not with boots on the ground. And not because it will change anything. But to "flex muscles" and "show toughness" and "send a message". And because They're a "clear and present danger" because they threatened to "fly the black flag of ISIS over the White House." As he says: It’s hard to believe the fear-mongering is anything but deliberate. Because it's not just the US media and politicians because this same brand of bullshit was all over the weekend papers in the UK.

He also references a Sept 2003 poll that showed 70% of Americans polled thought Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9-11. "Is it even possible to imagine more potent evidence of systemic media failure than that (or systemic success, depending on what you think the media’s goal is)?" But here we are again, embarking on another war in the state of permanent war. This time for "1 year, 2 years maybe even 3 years but as long as it takes". 

-- Cut here --
 Americans Now Fear ISIS Sleeper Cells Are Living in the U.S., Overwhelmingly Support Military Action - The Intercept »
How long will we have to wait for the poll finding that most Americans “regret” having supported this new war in Iraq and Syria and view it as a “mistake”, as they prepare, in a frenzy of manufactured fear, to support the next proposed war?

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07 Sep 2014

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/09/07/the_club_of_romes_limits_to_growth_was_right_you_know/
vs
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/limits-to-growth-was-right-new-research-shows-were-nearing-collapse

About a new analysis of the Club of Rome's models: http://www.sustainable.unimelb.edu.au/files/mssi/MSSI-ResearchPaper-4_Turner_2014.pdf

You decide. Can you spot the logical fallacies in each viewpoint?

Or is it simply that with exponential growth, if the resource limits don't get you the pollution will? Always assuming there's enough excess energy available to fund the continued exponential growth in the first place. And if there isn't then there are other problems with a global system that borrows from the future on the basis that exponential growth can continue indefinitely.

Bonus link: http://cassandralegacy.blogspot.com/2014/09/depletion-case-of-gold-mining.html
 Limits to Growth is a pile of steaming doggy-doo based on total cobblers »
The Guardian praised it? Right, now we know for sure

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05 Sep 2014

Space, says the introduction to the guide, is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind bogglingly big it is.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v513/n7516/full/nature13674.html
Laniakea: Our home supercluster
http://www.engadget.com/2014/09/05/milky-way-galaxy-laniakea-supercluster/

But is it self similar at all scales?
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Let's party like it's 2099.
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120618-global-resources-stock-check
 Global resources stock check »
If we fail to correct current consumption trends, then when will our most valuable natural resources run out?

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03 Sep 2014

I'm a bit late commenting on this story
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28986271

You've no doubt noticed that Theresa May and David Cameron have been warning us that the UK's terror threat level has been raised from "substantial" to "severe" but that there is no imminent danger of an attack.

This feels a bit like those notices you see by the side of the road "Beware low flying planes". Well yes, but what are you supposed to do? Duck and Cover?

So instead of meaningless words like Substantial or Severe or meaningless codes like Yellow or Red, I suggest we have terror levels based on traditional British pastimes you should hurry to enjoy during the time left to you. eg

- A nice hot cup of tea
- A Pint
- A Chicken Tikka Masala and a pint of Carlsberg

And then when things get really bad, 
- Doner Kebab

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25 Aug 2014

Yet another warning
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jun/30/stephen-emmott-ten-billion

"If we discovered tomorrow that there was an asteroid on a collision course with Earth and – because physics is a fairly simple science – we were able to calculate that it was going to hit Earth on 3 June 2072, and we knew that its impact was going to wipe out 70% of all life on Earth, governments worldwide would marshal the entire planet into unprecedented action. Every scientist, engineer, university and business would be enlisted: half to find a way of stopping it, the other half to find a way for our species to survive and rebuild if the first option proved unsuccessful. We are in almost precisely that situation now, except that there isn't a specific date and there isn't an asteroid."

Then there would be a large number of people who didn't expect to be around in 2072 and didn't want to give up what they currently have in the mean time. There'd be the people who denied the asteroid existed. And then there would be the 5 Bn people who didn't even know about the asteroid and were mostly focussed on getting enough to eat and drink to survive another day.

Of course a world of 4B or 2B or 1B people in 100 years might well be a more pleasant place. But nobody will talk about the process of getting from the current 7B to the peak of 10B to a sustainable 1B. Because it ain't pretty.
 Humans: the real threat to life on Earth »
If population levels continue to rise at the current rate, our grandchildren will see the Earth plunged into an unprecedented environmental crisis, argues computational scientist Stephen Emmott in this extract from his book Ten Billion

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20 Aug 2014

I'm pleased to see that the 1000 minute Longplayer choral project has reached it's funding target.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/333361486/longplayer-for-voices-the-next-step

I still need to make the pilgrimage to the Longplayer installation at Trinity Buoy Wharf. Open at the weekends, 11am to 4/5pm. 
http://longplayer.org/visit/

Longplayer is a one thousand year long composition that's been running so far for 14 years 232 days 07 hours 52 minutes and 05 seconds and counting.
 Longplayer for Voices - the next step »
Help us to create Longplayer for 240 Voices, the next step in an incredible 1000-year-long musical journey.

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18 Aug 2014

Here's the next foodie quest. Who makes the best Chai Tea Bags?

Teapigs. Both the Chai and Chilli Chai are excellent. But I seriously baulk at £4 for 15 bags. I mean, WTF?

Natco Masala. A good spicy tea with a bit of bite. But there's a lot of pepper in there and the bags are quite low quality so you get a lot of dust. Hard to get except in the two big supermarkets at the bottom of Brick Lane. Luckily they do some big packs so you don't need to buy them too often.

Palanquin spiced tea. ISTR these are ok, although I haven't had any for a while. Seem to be quite widely available in Asian corner shops.

Twinings, Tesco, Sainsburys. These are all just a bit tasteless. Not nearly enough cardomum, clove, coriander and so on. Chai really should be at least as strong as yorkshire builder's tea with the added flavours of the spices.

Anyone tried Wagh Bakri Masala Chai?
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Things I've learned about my Aeropress
http://aerobie.com/products/aeropress.htm

Ignore all the obsessing about using it upside down, pre-watering the filter and so on. Only 3 things matter, the quality of the coffee, the temperature of the water and emptying it as soon after use as possible so the rubber bung doesn't harden and lose it's seal.

Coffee.
I like a good strong Italian style taste without it being too aggressive.

- Mainstream. Tescos Italian Blend, Lavazza Black, Carte Noire. These are all perfectly serviceable, easily available, every day, fine filter or expresso grinds that just work and are predictable.

- Algerian Coffee Shop, Soho, London at http://www.algcoffee.co.uk/

"Formula Rossa" their main blend that they use for the take away coffee they serve in the shop. Straight forwards and recommended. Ideal for an Americano 
"Cafe Torino" For a stronger Expresso/Ristretto cup, try this one. It's a bit more aggressive than the Formula Rossa.
"Velluto Nero" After Dinner Expresso. Gorgeous but too much for every day drinking.

A note about grinds. I find a straight expresso grind works best. In the Algerian Coffee shop that's a "4" on their machine. Finer than filter or french press, but not so fine that you get finings and dust in the bottom of the cup.

Water Temperature.
After the choice of coffee this is the single biggest factor in the quality of the end product. You need to aim for 80-85C. This is tricky without spending huge amounts on clever kettles or messing around with thermometers. Any higher than that and you'll "burn" the grounds and make the coffee more bitter. The simple trick is to boil about 750ml of water (1/2 a kettle?) and then wait 30-60 seconds after the kettle turns itself off. So don't start assembling the Aeropress, coffee, filter, mug and so on until the kettle has boiled and by the time you're ready to pour in the water, 60 secs will have gone by and you'll be about right. 

Spares.
http://www.hasbean.co.uk
http://ablebrewing.com
Rubber bungs, filter caps, filters, stainless filter disks, tote bags, etc, etc. The stainless filters didn't really work for me. The paper filters are cheap and easier and just work. There's a rubber travel cap but it's a bit inconvenient and only really works for storing a few days supplies of filters in the plunger. 

Cleaning.
Just empty the Aeropress immediately in the bin and wipe the base of the rubber bung under the tap. Then store it either in two pieces or with the piston all the way through so the bung isn't under pressure. Otherwise the bung will eventually take a set and won't seal any more. It's pretty much self cleaning so just a quick rinse is all that's needed.

Recipes.
Don't bother with all the complication. Don't worry about pressing air though the grounds. Don't bother with the upside down method. If your cup is too small to fit the aeropress in the top, use the hexagonal funnel.

White Americano or filter coffee.
This is the typical every day mug of coffee.  Put on your 750ml (ish) of water in the kettle. When it boils get the mug, aeropress and stuff out of the cupboard. Assemble the paper filter and cap and set it on the mug. Add a 15ml scoop of grounds. Fill slowly with hot water to the 3 mark. Give it a quick swirl with a spoon to settle the grounds. Wait till it drips so the surface is down to the 2 mark, say 20 seconds. Insert the plunger and press gently down till the grounds are squashed. Add a splash of milk. Empty the aeropress and wipe. Done! Enjoy! 

Double expresso.
As above but 30ml of coffee grounds which is the scoop that comes with the Aeropress. Fill with water to the 2 mark. Let it drop to the 1 mark and press.

Thermos.
I have a stubby 15fl oz, 400ml thermos which holds about 2 mugs worth. 30ml or 45ml of grounds, fill to the 4 mark. Press when it drops to 3. Add milk till it's the right colour. Top up with boiling water.

Improvements.
I struggle to think of any! I think there's potentially a redesign that makes it easier to travel with the kit and a week's supply of filters and coffee. Perhaps the cap could screw onto the other end of the plunger.

Just occasionally the seal doesn't quite work between the main cylinder and the cap. I'm not quite sure where it leaks from but it can lead to dribbles down the side of the mug.

Anyway. If you haven't tried one and you like coffee then get an Aeropress. for making one or two cups of coffee it's way better than Cafetieres, Mocha stove machines, drip filters and so on. And it's considerably cheaper and easier than expresso machines. And even if the pod machines are convenient, they're just WRONG. The old school filter coffee machines still work best for 4 mugs and upwards.

So I really don't think there's anything better for small quantities.
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