Saturday, November 30, 2002


Ooh Lord, another week flashes by without me noticing. Let's see, what happened? Girl friend H. (as opposed to boyfriend H.) turned up on Monday night, and in due course of conversation we got around to the subject of cyborgs, upon which H. revealed that she is good mates with Kevin Warwick, and that his detractors just don't understand him. Anyway, H. concurs with Donna Haraway that she'd rather be a cyborg than a goddess, while Sara thinks she would prefer to be a goddess.

Boyfriend H., meanwhile, has been keeping himself busy getting banned for a week from the Daily Mail chat forum for mentioning (actually, painstakingly deconstructing) the rumour about Posh and Becks. He thinks it's a PR stunt, I don't think it's even that. But the Daily Mail says it's defamatory and they've gagged him.

In other news, it's 80s fever here as H. pulls a marathon session of GTA: Vice City on the PS2. Just at the moment it's playing Wang Chung's Dancehall Days. I got H. killed the other day by insisting that he remain in the car so I could hear Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Lord only knows what the game (flash, audio) is about, but the soundtrack is ace.

Monday, November 25, 2002

H's adventuresome parents set off yesterday from Las Palmas in Gran Canaria to sail across the Atlantic, bound for St Lucia. Follow the progress of the mighty Yacht Sanjola on the Atlantic Rally website! According to the Fleet Viewer, Sanjola was last seen at N 28° 9' 0" W 15° 25' 0", travelling at 0 knots. Cap'n Dicko and First Mate Jennifer aren't going to get very far at that rate!

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Well everyone, I pulled a 10-hour studying session on the flight home from SF, and you would not believe how much my eyes have been opened by this Women, Machines and Cyborgs course I'm doing. Ideas you take for granted (what in cultural studies is called hegemony) that fall apart at the first inspection. For example, during the Enlightenment in the 18th century, Carl Linnaeus was one of the first scientists to attempt to classify living things. Looking for a category name that would bind together al those animals that were not fish, birds, insects, worms or amphibians, he picked the name mammalia, because in all species of this category, mothers suckle their young. He could equally have chosen pilosae (mammals uniquely all have hair) or aurecavigae (mammals all have a hollow ear, with three ear-bones, in common). Some people point out that he may have had personal political reasons for deliberately choosing the term "mammalia" from the range of options.

At the same time, Linnaeus classified modern humans as homo sapiens. So the implication is: it's the (uniquely) female lactating breast that provides the common link with animals, but it's the "masculine" quality of reason that sets us apart. Sexism is still alive and well in science!

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Ahhh, the lonely virtual one's posted any comments for days and all my friends are sleeping when I'm awake (apart from the indefatigable Snark). What's more, the mysterious Paranoid Android and I are *still* the only bloggers in Kentish Town. In yank-news...CNN mounts 24/7 Hans Blix hate campaign, maintaining that he's never going to find any WMDs with that jaunty liberal Swedish attitude, and what America really needs in Iraq is a cross between Sherlock Holmes and the Terminator. In an effort to compete, NBC scoops a leaked document that reveals the worst-quality roads in the Bay Area. Apparently they're in Half Moon Bay, although San Leandro is also pretty bad. Clearly a slow news day here in Silicon Valley.

Monday, November 18, 2002

I've forsaken San Francisco for the dodgy Hotel Sofitel in downtown nowhere, with a view of a fake lagoon on the far shore of which loom the menacing towers of our HQ building. Upon arrival I was greeted with a fake "bonjour" by the American receptionist whose name is Giacomo. There's a giant carpet depicting Seurat's Bathers on the wall behind the reception desk. On the wall in my room there's a plan cadastre of the Louvre, a rubbish poem called "Dualisme" which I won't reproduce here, and some other cod-French fakery. The crumbs I found on the desk were quite real, though. Apparently, our CFO actually lives here, perhaps in a super-fake suite on the top floor. Mmm, I am going to have such a lovely week.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Yay, Steven Johnson has started a blog! Everything that man says is great. And look! he's handsome too. Go Steven!

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Ohh, so much to tell, so little space....battled through jet lag to go and watch Carly Fiorina deliver a keynote speech at the Moscone Center. Gawd almighty, if I'd wanted to see an ad for HP I'd have just stayed in the hotel and watched CNN. So the tech industry's in a bit of rut, but honestly. People don't want super-hot new technology, said Carly. Good enough is good enough. What? And only HP is good enough. Harrumph. Oh, and Unix is not dead. Oh but it's Linux, Linux, Linux all the way, super-fast Linux clusters, "maximal capacity utilisation". Not a peep about Capellas and his mmm...juicy new job. Still, nice jacket, Carly.

Southwards by train to our work's headquarters, located on a stretch of reclaimed marshland and served by a godforsaken railway station with no taxis. A visiting speaker lectured us on marketing. "You don't create brand, your customers create brand" etc. It turned out that this guy was one of those old-school marketers who think that people are consumers and that therefore their only impulse is to receive. He was trying to market broadband. Making the same mistake as all the broadband marketers, everywhere, who think that success is predicated on getting people to receive stuff. Like all the other broadband marketers, he'd found by and large that people do not want to receive stuff, especially when that stuff consists of interactive buttons that show stats during basketball matches. Did he never think of finding out if people might actually want to broadcast stuff *up* the pipe? I thought, but didn't ask, cos everyone else was lapping it up.

Finally, took cab last night to the Mission (which turns out to be a bit like Hoxton but without the Nathans, or indeed any visible denizens at all) to see the Buckminster Fuller play, which was really great. Triangles rule, man. Had a bit of a shock when the actor, Ron Campbell, started on about Earth being a giant spaceship, and then came off the stage and up the stairs to where I was sitting and said to me "how was your trip last night?" I just gaped. Apparently though, my trip had been silent and beautiful. Slightly disorientated by the fact that the play is delivered as a monologue which is part autobiography, part science lecture, and there's a certain amount of audience participation (including the "Home, home in a dome" singalong). So you kind of want to start raising your hand and asking science questions, until you remember that you're not actually seeing Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller in front of you, but an actor. Weird.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Happy birthday to you/Happy birthday to you/Happy birthday dear nibus/Happy birthday to you!

Saturday, November 09, 2002

I was looking at the San Francisco City Guide trying to prepare myself a schedule of things to do while I'm there. My eye alighted on a "multimedia theater experience" type thing called Euphorium. Sounds good, I think, I'll definitely go to that. Very Bohemian. S. T. Coleridge, opium, Kubla Khan, the Man from Porlock etc. - marvellous. Investigating further, I quickly realised that this is the very same Euphorium that is currently playing in the Chalk Farm Roundhouse, just a few hundred yards from my door in Kentish Town. We were in the bar opposite only last night. Is San Francisco just like a reflection of Camden on the other side of the world?

Anyway, I've decided to go and see the Buckminster Fuller singalong experience instead.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

For the first part of my MA course, I was required to read huge long Marxist tracts about the relationships between culture and society. The part I've just finished was more into Nicholas Negroponte and Howard Rheingold. For my new course I've just had to read an article from BBC Tomorrow's World's now-defunct magazine. It included a picture of Thora Hird on her Stannah stairlift, in response to which I was asked to make notes on whether or not I believe Thora is a cyborg. Is it just me, or is academia dumbing down before my eyes?

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Abusing the Fireworks Code, Pt. 1 - Attended a fireworks party last night at the house of some friends who will remain nameless, in a south coast town that will remain nameless (clue: it is apparently distinguished by its lack of fresh fish shops).

A gigantic firework, of the "box of tricks" type, was positioned half way up the garden in a wheelbarrow. The first attempt to light it failed. Returning to the firework to light it again (don't do it kids!) also proved fruitless. At length, one of our hosts was seen to disappear into the garden shed and return with a can of petrol, douse the firework, and throw lighted newspaper into the wheelbarrow. At this point, the more rational of the party guests retreated from the conservatory into the further recesses of the house. But to no avail. The petrol burned prettily for a while, but fireworks there were none. A larger can of petrol was produced, and the process repeated. Twice. No fireworks.

Gradually, attention to the non-doing firework waned. It was raining, and the party returned to the conservatory where moules were consumed, muscadet imbibed and the issues of the day chewed over.

As the evening wore on, and more muscadet was drunk, the idea of a "Who's Got The Best Bum?" competition was floated. The male guests lined up for the female guests to judge. In an ill-thought-out attempt to bribe the panel, one of the hosts suddenly whipped down his trousers. As he did so, there was a series of huge explosions and the conservatory was illumined with a hundred fireworks igniting at once. Fully two hours after the petrol had been poured on the gigantic firework, it went off.

I like to think that there is a lesson to be learned here. Mostly about the danger of abusing fireworks, but also about the proper conduct of "Best Bum" competitions. Despite the flamboyance of our host's bid, the winning bum was eventually judged to belong to M.