Grandfather’s Bollocks Drive the Bus

T’other day, as we colloquially state here in the North of England, I was cut up, another idiom, by an old lady riding on one of those mobility scooters. Let me describe the scene to you. I was stood at a set of pedestrian crossings waiting for the lights to change, and just as they did a figure sped past me and cut across where I was walking so they could go at a right angle to my direction. It was an old lady, I would hazard at least an octogenarian, on an electric scooter.

There is a growing usage of this type of device as the cost is driven down by availability and numbers. For those who genuinely need them, because of limited mobility or health, they are a godsend. There is though a growing usage of them by the terminally lazy or indolent as well, with a particular problem with obese people, where does one draw the line, should they preserve their health by being carried everywhere resisting stressing their organs, or is this causing further health issues as they have a lack of exercise?

I also cast my mind to the thoughts of science fiction and science fact.

There are many films showing the usage of electronic devices to control and support us, from the chairs in Wall.E to the support unit that does everything in Roujin Z sic-fi authors have predicted the reliance on, and shown us an issue with, our fascination with technology as an aid to our lives.

Recently science has shown that we can start to map language using electrodes attached to the skull, as predicted in the Clint Eastwood vehicle Firefox. Charlie Brooker predicted that this form of technology would lead to the end of the world within six months. His basic premise is true, the randomness of thoughts that go through the head could imply that you’ll be sat next to your child watching kids TV and then suddenly an Internet search will reveal something similar Teletubby Porn just as an ageing relative walks in, then within six months our basic nature will lead to the end of everything.

However, I am not convinced that the researchers will not encounter this issue themselves and have to build in specified content filters. You can see the scene, the first time they hook this up to a young male researcher and tell him to think randomly or relax and let his mind wander you are going to be presented with a variety of images including such possible delights as a giant paedo bear urinating over the felating corpse of a zombie Queen Mother. So there will be restrictions and filters, there will be controls to help prevent this event from occurring.

So we will go into the future with machines increasingly being controlled by impulses from our bodies and replacing bodily functions. To be honest once we have the basic biological form we can start to replicate out the need for certain elements. We can replace lower limbs with wheels for motor location, we can take away most of the torso in fact, the only thing we really need are the brain, the spinal cord and the reproductive and sexual organs. We can feed the organs that remain using a suspension liquid with nutrients inside it, there can be electrodes that provide external stimulus such as sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, heat etc., directly to the brain. We can recreate direct visual worlds similar to proposed in the Matrix right into the brain.

There is, by the way, a good reason to save the reproductive organs as this allows us to have a good mix of DNA for the continuation of the species, but we need only keep them until they reach maturity and then the necessary parts can be harvested at regular intervals in the male and removed entirely for offsite storage if wanted by the female. We must save the sexual organs as this way we can feel actual stimulus of a pleasurable or painful nature. Although I am sure we can simulate the sensation to the brain of an orgasm it will be far better to continue to feel it. Sexual interaction forms a strong part of what defines us as a species and as individuals so losing this would be facile, especially when it can be utilised.

I don’t see the need for their to be a conscious decisions in this future made by people.  So we are developing cars that can park themselves, that can measure distances and adjust their speed, that have emergency braking systems and collision alerts. Cars and vehicles will soon drive themselves, but we as humans will worry that humans have been taken too far from the mix. We should have some form of an override, and this cannot be just a thought as you may randomly think don’t brake, or wish in a moment of anger on a phone call to a distressed lover that you would rather the car crash itself and at which point you are suddenly driving at one hundred miles an hour into the nearest concrete pillar.

The safest situation would be to wire the response to danger mechanism to the humans central nervous system. It would also be faster. If all that is needed is an affirmation, then why not have the pain or pleasure response mechanism affirm it. If it is a recognisable danger the human is alerted via the means of an electrical impulse and if it responds the action to negate the situation is taken. That way we can have no need for a conscious decision, there is in fact no need for a brain at all. We just need an acceptable organ to be in control, something that will give a response to stimulus.

The sexual organs being the part of humanity we have saved after the birth and cyborg process would be an ideal component to wire into this. Driving well, doing one’s job well, in fact any interaction that requires a human decision as a failsafe or affirmation would be a sexual sensation.

Therefore one day grandfather’s bollocks may indeed drive the bus.

01:50 on a Tuesday Night*

So it has reached that time of night when I have had a day filled with events and random come downs where my body has taken what rest it could while a fevered mind ponders the multitude of contrasting elements that is must engage with when I realise that sleep isn’t so much taken from me but confined to a wilderness that my resting soul cannot share…

In other words, it is 01:42, sleep hasn’t arrived as I have been engaged with a computer all evening and now I wish I had closed my eyes two hours ago…

On the other hand, I am lying in bed next to my young and beautiful wife, there is some classic British comedy in the background, I am catching up with writing, picture editing, and some promotion/conversation in online life and so it isn’t like I am lying here staring at the ceiling…

But I still wished I had closed my eyes…

You see these days I don’t drink caffeine, well not much, just on the special occasions when I want a really good coffee, or when I really need to perk my brain into semi-semblance of activity and it is refusing. I had to give it up, I was getting old, it was affecting my mood and my sanity, and mostly it was preventing me from sleep.

There are some people who claim that caffeine doesn’t affect them that way, biologically that is wrong, though biology can adapt as can perception and environmental adaptation (mostly biology again but this time intentional), but it is still wrong, but right with the correct mitigating factors.

For me, that has never been true. caffeine has always had the correct knock-on affect.

So I gave up drinking it and switched to decaf (please stop shuddering and claiming that you would prefer it if an elderly syphilitic goat had just urinated in your cup), and that gets me through the day. Insatnt decaf, good blends and good beans only, are an acceptable alternative to caf., eventhough they are a travesty and a rape of all things nice and bean like. Though I always did like strong blends, rich roasts, and they always contained less caffeine anyway (the richer the roast the more caf. is burned away).

I still wished I had closed my eyes…

Because then I would be dreaming (in song lyrics I would be “made winding through her hair”, or wanting you “in my arms” or even making her “the cutest that I’ve ever seen”, wait she already is that…) and I like to dream “perchance to sleep”, I have always thought of it as “what is man, what is he not, man is but the shadow of a dream” (Pinder [apologies as it should be ‘person’ not ‘man’ but it is a quote]).

I have always been a lucid dreamer, and I have noticed patterns to how my dreams form and when I can remember or engage with them, and one of those patterns is not being up this late as then the over-tiredness will kill either the conceptual space in which I am lucid or the recollection of any lucidity.

So I wished I had closed my eyes…

Thanks for reading.

——-
* Apologies to the Cure. Also it should be a Wednesday morning, but the song has night in the title not morning so I took liberties, “drip, drip drip…”

Scheduling Life

So it has come to this, we finally have such a busy life now that Leigh and I regularly sit down and have to write down the proceeding weeks times and events to see where we can negotiate who is doing what, when, where and how we can fit a social life into a now hectic family and work regime, and most important how we make the time for each other.

We were always busy, we are people who fill our lives, when we are not working, with interesting hobbies and pursuits and if we can a fair number of social events, games, and holidays.

But in the past year this has taken an extra dimension or two.

The first of these was the birth of our first son, Ben, who we both want to spend as much time with as humanly possible. The next was Leigh returning to full time work after Maternity Leave, add in her return to university (part time) and my undertaking of projects and responsibilities as part of a growing responsibility in the Perl community as an organiser and helper, and you have administatioclasm.

There is also the diverse group of people who are our friends who unfortunately bear the brunt of our disappearing time as we juggle their exposure to us on a weird rotation basis with no rules, but plenty of traps, pitfalls and the occasional Gremlin.

Then of course you have to consider family, who we are almost pathologically meran to as we shuttle engagements and apportion them meagre moments of our now precious time.

It has become a juggling act. If we sit down to watch a programme (television) or film it is a rare event, almost to be treasured, and if it is one that doesn’t fully sap our attention we also read, discuss or use a computer at the same time.

This now sounds sad. I am missing all the fun times we take Ben out for walks, or to the park and generally when we sit on the floor playing with toys and reading books.

I have not mentioned the holidays we get with Grandmas in the motorhome and visiting far flung relatives and friends and loving how they put all their attention on our son and let us rest while they entertain him.

Or the fact that we feel so much like a family, that we do all that we can to further ourselves both morally and intellectually, that the efforts we make are to strengthen and support the varying groups we belong to (not to blow our own trumpet too much but we are super).

And, we still find time to write in Nanowrimo, scriptfrenzy, run and play roleplaying games, read books and fight the occasional horde of pixelated monsters.

We just don’t watch a lot of contemporary television, and we miss a lot of theatre, concerts and films, those are the elements of our lives we had to remove to do all of the other things we want.

These days we catch up on contemporary film/theatre/music life months later, and sometimes I catch up on films when traveling. I miss seeing them first, or at the cinema, but I wouldn’t swap what I have even if you offered me a lifetime free pass to see all the music, films and theatre first.

He Bangs the Drum

“Ye Gods No!” I cried when first i heard.

“How could they be so cruel?” I followed with as the realisation sank in.

Then…

“Well it isn’t all that bad, really, at least it is electronic,” as more information was forthcoming.

The reason for all this, well Linda and Steph have bought Ben a drum. I know, I wanted him to be a musician and they buy him a drum to thwart my dreams of a son who is a Rock-Star-Movie-Scientist-Author-Poet-Model-Samaritan-Hero, if he turns out a drummer it’ll totally Ringo him is my big worry “Peace and Love,” Ringo, “Peace and Love.”

Anyway, he seems to really like it, well it makes a noise and it lights up when he hits it, what’s not to like. And at least it isn’t a tin drum, I believe my brother once got one of those for Christmas and it had disappeared by Boxing Day, something about “loud noise” and “attic” is what my mum said.

Anyway, here is an obligatory video to amuse you.


(if the video doesn’t run in your browser then please use this link: He-Bangs-The-Drum download link)

More Twittering

How fickle and pointless I have become, I found myself recently responding to various celebrities, not because I wanted to comment on something interesting they had said, but to see if I could be re-tweeted by them. All this because a few people I know had been retweet by a celeb. How sad is my behaviour.

Please, don’t answer that, it is sad. I normally just reply to whomever I follow when spurred by what they write, but I found myself watching the one or two celebs I follow more keenly and responding to them more, perhaps not as much as some of my other Tweeples, but definitely more than I had done previously.

Well, now I have caught myself I will stop. I promise, cross my heart and…ooooh a chance to respond to Ben Goldacre, gotta go…

I am teh famus, lol, wtf

I do apologise in advance for the title of this blog post and the entire sillyness of anything it points out. But, apparently I am a little bit famous in a manner I never imagined.

In 2007 I created a Trading Card game for my company Shadowcat Systems as a bit of fun to give away as a Christmas Advent calendar item. The rules of the game and the associated files are linked to here (http://www.shadowcat.co.uk/resources/).

Spin forward a few years to the entirely inappropriately named site Fuck Yeah Nouns (http://fuckyeahnouns.com) has used these cards when you type in dbix-class (http://fuckyeahnouns.com/dbix-class), not really that surprising as there are very few images for that, but if you type in Mark Keating you get another card (http://fuckyeahnouns.com/mark%20keating), also works for Lego Robot Wars (http://fuckyeahnouns.com/lego%20robot%20wars) Leigh Keating (http://fuckyeahnouns.com/Leigh%20Keating) gets a picture I took of my wife Leigh.

The idea of the site, btw, is you put in some words and it finds an image associated with them. I have no idea how it works things out, I guess it is looking for descriptive tags in the alt text or something, but it does make me happy that something I did for fun, for free and for joy is still being used now.

And I am a little bit famous for a few brief fleeting moments, a transient star still to find my full fire in the firmament…I am sure at some point other images will replace these but for now, they are mine and I shall retire to my hovel with the clarion calls of fame still ringing in my noggin.

Thanks to Ribasushi for pointing me at this 🙂

Vampire Poem for Leigh

So, Leigh has been complaining in her writing challenges (see her posts here: http://www.leighkeating.me/) that she can’t do the poetry writing part of the challenge as well, or as easily, as she does the other challenges. It also seems to annoy her that I can write poems (fairly poor ones let’s face it) at speed. In fact if the requirement is for bad, sad or mad poems, I’m your man. This latest one was written in 8 minutes while waiting for a train at Preston railway station. It is from the Vampire Week Challenge (Diary Challenge: 24th-30th Jan 2011).

I should note that the challenge was to write a poem from a Vampire’s perspective, and that I take no responsibility for you cringing at any of the words I use in this poem, I already know the quality, i wrote it 🙂

Easy Prey

Diana calls me.
I am the Huntresses’ slave.
She holds aloft the night,
And pulls me from my grave.
Well, at least that’s what I tell the girls,
To get them to behave.

So simple are these pithy words,
That bring me my delight,
I tell them of my lonely life,
Where sorrow is my plight,
And then I take them to their bed
To feed all through the night.

Born in darkness, wreathed in sin,
Come hear my words of pain,
Then loosen bodice and open thighs
You need not have your shame.
While you dream of love you’ll place in my dark heart
All your blood I’ll drain.

 

Benjamin Loves Rock

So when you have a small child but you are enormous fans of rock music for many years, and are in fact partially responsible for introducing hard rock music (including thrash/death metal/stoner rock) to nephews to the despair of their poor parents, you get a little flack. Mostly this is in the shape of the fact that you have become sad because you know all the lyrics to Fifi and the Flowerpots or every tune in order on the musical toys the child has…

In fact it is usually a time for those parents you have annoyed, by teaching their children that music should be played loud enough to break your ears (“I want you to break my ears” – Atom Seed how I loved your t-shirts), to get their just revenge, declaring that now you are sad like you their child see them…

Well, children always see their parents as sad, it happens to all of us, but we are not going down without a fight, and in that light we have been exposing our child to the joys of Metal, by making him watch Scuzz and by playing the tunes to him.

A brief video shows the results so far…


(if the video doesn’t run in your browser then please use this link: Ben-Rock

The tune is Dying in your Arms by Trivium.

Monsters (versus Aliens)[1]

**CAUTION: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT District 9, Monsters

On the flight from Manchester to Orlando recently I managed to catch up on a few films I had missed at the cinema in the past few months, amazing what a new baby does to your social life, one of these movies was Monsters. Monsters drew parallels by some critics and audiences to the previous years District 9 as they are both by first time Writer/Directors, both scifi movies and both have extraterrestrials in them. But this comparison was unfounded and unfair to both movies.

District 9 is an odd movie, it starts almost as a social parable reflecting on Alien integration in South Africa and their confinement in camps or ghettos, there is a reflection of South Africa’s turbulent past pitched into the nature of the film making it immediately thoughtful and blessing it with the commentary on the regions past and present. The aliens are misunderstood both socially and culturally and forced to move into deeper draconian control and our sympathies are directed towards them.

Once the movie has established this premise it turns into an invasion flick with an infected host[2] and then into an action movie that Arnie would be proud to be in. The movie therefore sat uneasily as its tone wasn’t balanced. Was it commentary or eye-candy, thought-provoking or mind-numbing, you could take your pick. It certainly spanned across genres and it was *very* entertaining. The direction was superb as were the performances and the sleight of hand in both film making and story telling well done with the plot events harder to determine than first imagined.

Monsters on the other hand is a drama. The sci-fi elements in this movie are used simply to highlight the director/writers motifs and allegories. He could have easily have used a zombie plague or a viral infection to achieve some of the same effect[3] in the surface notion of a world split by the need to control an aggressive enemy.

The “monsters” of the title are seemingly unthinking creatures who devastate lives and communities almost without meaning. The director uses them to portray different attitudes that can be given to the same impetus. The Mexican/South American people have learned to live with the encroachment, seasonal disturbances and death whereas the American (USA) attempt to force control or wall in the threat. The US attempts to control using force are debated upon as they are seen to aggravate the creatures, the effectiveness is called into question throughout the movie and is even seen to cause needless disruption and eventual failure of this type of approach in later scenes. The monsters are seen a forces of nature by some of the main protagonists, they are simply responding to and living with their environment, though as the movie develops the creatures and give some hint as to an unknown intellect with them analysing television performance and communicating with each other in some manner.

Into this mix we have the central drama facing the characters, a woman dislocated from a family she seems emotionally detached from and a man forced to have no attachment to a family he so clearly craves. The developing bond between the two leads and the cleverly constructed performances (though I have to say the male lead was the finer performance in my opinion) draw the audiences sympathies. It is a credit to the director that he almost unobtrusively allows these two to develop themselves as opposed to pushing onto us there evolving nature. Their approach to the creatures and the situation they witness, the male lead is a photographer whose initial stance as a journalist merely there to document is gradually eroded by the circumstances in the film as he is embroiled in the conflict.

Monsters, therefore, is a more rounded drama, the film knows where it is going and its tone stays consistent throughout. It does suffer somewhat from a lack of dramatic tension during the middle third of the film, and at times the female leads is called on to be a little too detached from her surroundings, though this does balance well with her being drawn into the real world around her and experiencing it rather than ignoring or running away.

This is by no way a judegement on either film, I would happily watch both again and would probably give them similar scores if asked to grade them as they both have a multitude of different advantages to perk my interest.

I think District9 has more immediate re-watchability as its pace is snappy and it is easy to stay focused as you are not called upon to use *too much* brain power. Monsters requires a lot more engagement from the audience as its central themes are questioned and challenged in the layered narrative[4] which left me feeling questioned and reflective.

I wish we could stop the poor comparisons that are made between films[5] and attempt to analyse them for their own worth. I have always maintained that comparative analysis is derogatory[6].

——

[1] By Aliens I am referring to District 9 as it had an identifiable intelligent Alien species whereas the alien species in Monsters was not so clearly defined.

[2] Overtones of 50s Red under the Bed socialist-sci-fi-parables mixed in with 80s re-reading of such movies.

[3] Though the use of zombies or a virus would mute the impact, it also would be at odds with some of the themes that are expressed and without as much implication and toying with our sympathies as it is easy for us to instantly be against Zombies/Virusses as they are immediately bad.

[4] I felt that in Monsters there was a slight overuse of dramatic pause that perhaps added to the feeling of a slow middle section.

[5] I guess they are encouraged by studios and marketing departments as linking your production to another that was successful rewards you with bottoms on seats, the issue for me is that degrades both films, especially films like these which are so different that the only element that links them is EBEs.

[6] Comparisons are often used as they make it easier for us to relate to things, I know they are necessary I just wish people were more aware that they are degrading the item, and themselves if the comparison is flimsy.

Coffee Tasting: Ethiopian Yingacheffe and “Yule Love It” Blend

For today’s coffee tasting[1] I wandered for the first time to The Music Rooms which is located in Sun Square in Lancaster and is the new Café owned by Atkinson‘s coffee shop and rightly deserves to name itself as the “finest coffee in the North West”[2].

The Taste

[Please note this is not a professional tasting guide, just an enthusiast, I have used language that is in the register of food & drink tasting only to sound coherent, even if there is some debate as to whether this is fully cogent]

Ethiopian Yingacheffe

I drank this coffee as a filter coffee.

Gentle on the nose which entices with scents of sweet milk chocolate notes and a roast hazelnut essence. Smooth on the palate with a nice backtaste that reminds me of caramelised prunes.

With milk this becomes beautifully choclatey. Would make a nice latte and feel more like a mocha with that milk chocolate nature on the nose and palate.

Yule Love It

A blend of:

Old Brown Java
Ethiopian Yingacheffe
High Roasted Salvador

This was today’s espresso chaser 🙂

Zesty and sharp on the nose on a deep sniff but the blend hides the dark riches to come as the Java is hidden in the chocolate-scented Ethiopian and the Salvadorian, there was a feeling of citrus present, but it was a little more astringent than usual, a little lime perhaps or more a sharp grapefruit.

The Java in this blend makes this a powerful espresso. A rich strong kick that lingers on the tongue leaving an impression of licorice and to my mind losing most of the other two coffees. Perhaps there is an impression that the Java is smoothed by the addition of the Salvador but it was lost on me, maybe because the standard “office” coffee we use is Old Brown, or maybe becuase I greedily drank my expresso down and didn’t linger too long in the smelling. To my disadvantage with both of these coffees that I tasted today was that I wasn’t able to sniff the beans both ground and unground beforehand which always helps me to scent out the delicate smells (not that I am in any way correct about what I can smell 🙂 ).

The aftertaste lingers and leaves a note of bitterness and a hint of acidity displaying some of the citrus impressions felt on the nose.

I liked the “Yule Love It” and once again I am awed by the skill of the coffee producers, i have to say that it didn’t quite ‘blow me away’ as the “Santa’s Dark Secret” (but I am a strong dark coffee whore), but it is a worthy drink nevertheless.

Sun Square as always is a quiet seclusion in a busy town, I do hope many other Lancastrians find their way there as the cafes/restaurants on the square are all excellent in value and experience and different to each other in what they offer so that one has no guilt over which to frequent and patronise as you can visit each of them.

The staff in The Music Room deserve a special note as they were friendly, helpful and chatty. it is nice to go to a shop where you are invited to sit and make yourself comfortable as they are only to happy to bring a drink to you.

[1] [1] Please note that this is an Unsolicited Blog, okay I do use the same coffee shop, and the cafés in Sun Square, but they are in the city where I live, they provide a quality local service, not a manufactured chain store customer service guidelined response, and they are a very friendly and helpful group of people, so yes, I do gush about them in glowing terms. And, if by reading this blog you visit them and purchase some of their produce I say Huzzah, one for the local businesses with dedicated and talented professional employees.

[2] This accolade is used on their signage and I believe was awarded to them, no doubt they could tell you who declared it, I am happy to second it. I haven’t in fact found a coffee supplier as good in the UK as yet. I suspect the accolade comes from FFNW (Fine Foods North West) whose awards ceremony I believe Atkinson‘s have been winners at for a few years. See the blog article here (http://www.atkinsonsteaandcoffee.co.uk/page.php?Page=100).[3]

[3] Note that this coffee is reviewed by me here (http://www.markkeating.me.uk/2010/11/24/coffee-tasting-santuario/)