Aristillus

A large crater to dump my thoughts

Archive for February 2013

Space Oddity

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I love you, London, but you too have your oddities. None of them are too big to be a problem, but some things are impossible to ignore. In two years time I’ll probably be defending these as perfectly acceptable, once the Stockholm syndrome kicks in. For now, they bother me.

I’ll start with the food. Your chips are weird. Sorry, let me misspell that for you so you understand it. Your crisps are weird. You have crisps made of non-potatoey things, like pears, turnips and carrots. And then you lack proper flavoured crisps. There’s crisps with vinegar rather than peppers. WHY??

For a city that features half a dozen different world kitchens in a single street alone, it is extremely hard to find decent bread. Most supermarkets just have soggy, soft wheat stuff packed in plastic. I’m sure you can’t tell the difference once it’s been toasted.

I won’t bother complaining about the lack of decently priced good cheese. I knew that was one of the things I had to give up when I moved here.

I realize fish and chips is hardly haute cuisine, but what’s that green goeey stuff that looks like guacomole and tastes like unfinished pea soup in my pub grub?

What’s up with the giant powerplugs? British engineers seem to take any questioning of the size of the UK power plug as a personal insult the size of, well, said power plug.

I’m sure there’ll be another installment of this in another couple of weeks.

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February 19, 2013 at 01:19

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Peak Break-Up Times

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More background in the video this chart came from: The beauty of data visualization.

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February 17, 2013 at 14:22

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London

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“The English language is like London: proudly barbaric yet deeply civilised, too, common yet royal, vulgar yet processional, sacred yet profane. Each sentence we produce, whether we know it or not, is a mongrel mouthful of Chaucerian, Shakespearean, Miltonic, Johnsonian, Dickensian and American. Military, naval, legal, corporate, criminal, jazz, rap and ghetto discourses are mingled at every turn. The French language, like Paris, has attempted, through its Academy, to retain its purity, to fight the advancing tides of Franglais and international prefabrication. English, by comparison, is a shameless whore.”
― Stephen FryThe Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within

I’m in love.

For about three weeks now I’ve been living in London. I knew I liked the place – I chose to move here after all – but it’s been even better than I had expected. Unlike the dozen times I’ve been here before – usually for between two days and a week – my stay here is now permanent, which makes it feel different. I’m not really in travel mode anymore; I cook at home (sometimes, and for certain values of “cook”), tourists have started asking me for directions (what spidey sense do they use to spot “locals”? is it the bowler hat?) and the bloody pedestrians that keep walking on the other side of the tunnel in the tube are starting to annoy me.

Londoners are an international bunch, and not as terribly reserved as their reputation makes them out to be, at least outside of public spaces. There are a handful of people here that I know, which is a great way to bootstrap my social circle. They’re not concentrated anywhere in particular, and the city is big enough that I don’t run into people who know me on every street corner. I don’t think I really understood how important that kind of anonymity is to me. It’s also good to challenge yourself and your insecurities sometimes; if anything can cure me of my shyness, it’s having to deal with lots of random strangers.

Waterstones in Oxford Street is heaven. I really should stay away from the place and stop compulsively buying more interesting books until I’ve worked my way through the current stack.

Beside that, there is enough to do here to keep me entertained. There are a handful pubs with interesting beers and people around the corner, restaurants and takeaway places in the next street over. If I so desired, I could spend every night at a good concert, play or meeting group for an obscure board game or programming language.

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February 14, 2013 at 00:54

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Reading update

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Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman

I figured that after the collectivist What We Are Fighting For I should read something on the complete opposite side of the spectrum.

No matter what you think of it – and regardless of whether it actually works in practice – this is a very good explanation of neoliberal theory.

Tickling the English by Dara O’Briain

This book describes O’Briain’s life on the road as he travels from venue to venue for one of his tours, intermixed with anecdotes, general observations about Britishness – from an Irishman – and some history.

I’m a fan of Mock the Week and Dara O’Briain’s standup, but this book disappointed. Despite being well-written, it feels unnecessarily long. It has some funny observations and good jokes, although a few I had already heard in his live show. Much of the content – like in Bill Bryson‘s Notes from a small island – is descriptions of English sea-side towns and theater architecture that I don’t really care for.

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February 10, 2013 at 19:37

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Holland House Library 1940

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Readers browsing through the damaged library of Holland House in West London, wrecked by a bomb on 22 October 1940.

Holland House, West London, England – October 22, 1940 via bookshelfporn

(they also have pictures of the B2 Boutique hotel in Zürich that I mentioned in an earlier post)

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February 7, 2013 at 23:01

Nurturing Creativity

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Before I was fifteen I had written several short stories and poetry, started two fake companies, designed and implemented a computer game, written roughly a dozen different larger computer applications and had friends join me in writing a film script, creating a board game, a gossip paper, several huts and an artificial language.

Between my fifteenth and my twentieth I tinkered with electronics and different kinds of software. I built a one-way radio and various bits of computer equipment. I co-authored and edited a book on software.

And in the seven years since? I totally immersed myself in what I had been doing earlier, numbing myself to any other creative impulses. I wrote software, the same software. Working on free software for a living was all I ever wanted to do since I discovered it in my early teens. But I’m now ready to move on, or at least ready to broaden my horizons once more.

I’d like to do more writing again. As an exercise I’m going to mimic my friend M.’s approach and write something at least every week. But, unlike him, I’m not going to pick a random word starting with a consecutive letter of the alphabet. As you might have noticed, most of the post titles on this blog are song titles that are vaguely related to the posts. In line with that I’m going to pick a random song from my music collection each week, and use its title as the subject for my writing.

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February 2, 2013 at 02:51

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