All posts made in Apr. 2001:

Currently enjoyed (and making myself slightly nauseus with) Drembels, moving abstract Windows desktop backgrounds [via MeFi].

Currently listening: Digitally Imported internet radio, for all the best in European Hi-NRG, trance and techno. Good grief man, it's 1994 all over again. Love it.

I really shouldn't listen to it first thing in the morning though. This kind of stuff is worse than a shot of caffeine, I'm not going to quieten down all day now.

New week, new Upsideclown.

For generations, the u.s. has been raised on the unhealthy diet (literally, as well as figuratively) of capitalism and its propaganda, and is now beginning to show signs of imminent violent revolution. The youth are disillusioned to a far greater extent than ever before in history. The violence at the end of Woodstock '99, the rise of the schoolroom massacre as a mode of teen expression, etc. etc. all show that the new generation are already militant and questioning the system under which they are being raised.

James has been having some profound political insights: A Letter From Prisyn. Long live the revolution. Long live the upsideclown.

Hey, this is quite cool. ShellShell is a Mac OS X application that takes a small metadata file, and wraps a lovely GUI around a shell script. This could be extremely useful if you write a command-line script and need to let someone with no Unix experience run the program. Like it.

For no good reason, here are the old five iterations that the Upsideclown went through before we settled on the current one. And here's a mockup of the first Interconnected design too, sans posts. I love the thinking, changing and tweaking process.


Blogmeet last night. Meg says all the important stuff. We were doing so well. So many people. We'd almost taken over the top floor of the Rat & Parrot - only the two sofas left - and were only a few people away from attaining critical mass, that point at which webloggers from all over London, maybe even the country, feel drawn towards Soho and spontaneously appear in the pub, a gathering the likes of which has never been seen before. But then we were moved on, saved. Some vile enemy, perhaps, had decided that the time was right to take us all out in one fell swoop, and we had to leave, an exodus, the sea of people parting before us as the column of UK-based Independent Content Providers marched through the night, foraging for food, babies being born, old women being carried by fearless leaders, tribal politics, pronouncements from Heaven, following a fire in the sky, arriving eventually at the promised land, some pub or another I can't remember the name, a place of milk and honey - but mainly beer, in fact almost exclusively beer, maybe a spirit/mixer too - and there we rested, and settled, and grew. And then went home.

Still, a good night. Apologies to all the people I was pissed at (but I still must have that tshirt), and if you weren't there why not?

Currently entertaining the office are flying giraffes [via As Above].

Presenting Thursday's Upsideclown: "And what difference does it make, what's it to me when the bombing's decided in Washington, both wanna cut my taxes and I'll be pushing up daisies before the serious flooding kicks in."

I urge you to read Neil's Voter Apathy.

Btw, check out the article on Anoto in this month's Wired. That wasn't quite urgent enough: Check out Anoto. This concept is the most important one of the last ten years, possibly more. I've talked about this before. Smart pen, dumb paper: And suddenly ticking a box on a magazine can be a trigger for anything clicking a mouse button can be. And the way the system is being implemented there's incentive for the pen manufacturers, paper producers, and the merchants. Believe me, this time next year you won't be able to move for this shit.

You know, if there were web servers in all my lights, I could write a script to run daily and check whether any bulbs were broken, then sms me at work to buy new ones. And if my phone could talk http, I could stream my answer machine messages as mp3s. If everything passively reported what state it was in - I don't care about accepting remote commands at this point - then I could write the software to integrate my house with the rest of my life. The wired life will only come about when we decouple infrastructure from implementation. And on that day, there will be adverts on my toast, and my spaghetti shapes will be Nike swooshes, cheaper than normal hoops.

Bloody hell, I sound like Dave Winer.

Fuck me, when did the Society Guardian web site start? It's pitched at the public and voluntary sectors (in the UK) and has news and comment about local government, unions, urban regeneration and the like. I'm seriously impressed. Simply repurposing the content from the various Guardian 'sites, and dynamically building them into personalised news 'sites: I could never see the benefit of this sort of stuff before, but wow, this is the wave of the future.

Metamath [permanent url] has an archive of mathematical proofs, cross-references, for you to explore. And a very odd section dedicated to translating those proofs into music.

The Encyclopaedia of Integer Sequences is a searchable database of 50000 interesting number sequences.

Hey, loads of cranky 'sites at I've been browsing the physics pages.

Human design aesthetics: It seems that each feature on the human body is either

  1. a pair, symmetric about the plane dividing the body between left and right; or
  2. a single feature, existing on this plane.

Furthermore, each double is paired with a single of comparitive scale. Singles, on the other hand, can exist on their own.

For example: The head is a single. Ears and eyes are both pairs; nose and mouth are both single of the same scale. The philtrum is paired with the nostrils. Testicles, arsehole. Arms as a pair go with the head; legs as a pair with the torso. Nipples, bellybutton. You see, on every size scale the rule is obeyed.

I don't pretend to know why, but I feel that if we are to genetically engineer humans we need to be aware of and guided by these principals so we can create something that looks "right". An extra arm placed off-centre wouldn't do, you see, but Medusa-style hair of snakes would be fine (so long as it was balanced by a single of similar scale -- say, a large beard).

Incidentally, this also explains questions of more theological concerns. Devils have horns to balance the tail. And we can even make predictions: Given that we're only adding wings to the human form to make an angel, and we aren't adding a balancing single, the wings must be enormous so as to be the right scale to use the whole body as the balancer. This means that angels can justly be regarded as superhuman rather than (if they had smaller wings and a single balance) submen, or even (if they had no balance) simply mutants.

How better to start the new week than with a fresh Upsideclown?

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And now look at us. Microsoft Word has more followers than most religions; people are more likely to lend credence to a Bill Gates press release than to the latest papal edict from the Vatican. In short, the Word just got blown out of the water.

Branding is the new religion. Jamie dishes out corporate punishment, in Show me the Logos.

The only thing odder than the topics of conversation Dan and I stumble into when out is that fact that there's more of my life documented on Venusberg, his weblog, than there is on mine.

It's worth reading up on my life simply so you can learn why so much effort is made to biograph it (Dan has a prodigious memory, or failing that - after too many beers - he tends to keep notes).

  • 22 January 2001
    Terry Pratchett being, or not being, a cunt.
  • 2 February 2001. 1, 2.
    Shaving hawks and balls, and Anglo-Saxon pronunciation.
  • 9 February 2001
    Geek nature.
  • 28 February 2001. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
    Hoxton, several bars, and even more conversation. Film and orgasmic models of writing. Alas, nothing about my theory of balance and symmetric aesthetic in the human form -- but more of that later.
  • 5 March 2001
    Comments on my beliefs.
  • 6 March 2001
    My flat.
  • 4 April 2001
    I'm not very good at slapsies.
  • 9 April 2001
    Cold, meta, wives and spunky trousers.
  • 10 April 2001. 1, 2, 3
    Extraordinarily bad American pop rock, kebabs, and far too much to drink.
  • 22 April 2001
    Knightmare (spellcasting), psychogeography, ranting at old ladies (foot! bag! prison! death!).

And people say I don't put enough personal content up here. With others to do it for me, why would I need to?

Aside: When I started hunting through Dan's weblog I thought I'd find maybe three or four references to me and my life (the two being, as you know, quite separate). As it is, I had to leave several out. Does anybody know whether I can buy Restraining Orders over the counter at the Post Office?

Urbanbite is an interesting dotcom currently advertising in London. Premise: Tap in your postcode, see a list of restaurants in your area, order online for delivery or collection. It's a good idea, I think. We tried it last night, and the UI is exceptionally brilliant. But to be honest, I can't see how they're going to make money. It's no faster than ordering by telephone, and as useful as a restaurant finder and online menu is, that's not what they're pitching as. Another difficulty - one I hadn't anticipated before using them - was that the food places themselves aren't that keen on giving a cut of what they make to Urbanbite. When I took the food, it came with a plea to order direct next time: look here's the menu, phone number there, really please order straight from us.

The only advantages I can see of ordering online are if you order the same thing continuously (which, I must confess, I do), or if you don't have cash (they accept Switch). Or maybe if you have a really difficult unpronounceable address. But apart from that... hm.

It's like that sudden realisation when shopping from Amazon that, hang on, it's not that cheap, you're going to have to wait three days, and there's a book shop just outside anyway. No wonder the tech stocks have been tumbling.

It's not quite so pissing broken now, thanks for asking, but it took most of the afternoon to fix.

It's all pissing broken.

Post-Darwinian paradise engineering. BLTC Research "was founded in 1995 to promote paradise-engineering. We are dedicated to an ambitious global technology project. BLTC seek to abolish the biological substrates of suffering. Not just in humans, but in all sentient life".

Read the manifesto at the Hedonistic Imperative: "The abolitionist project is hugely ambitious but technically feasible. It is also instrumentally rational and ethically mandatory. The metabolic pathways of pain and malaise evolved because they served the fitness of our genes in the ancestral environment. They will be replaced by a different sort of neural architecture. States of sublime well-being are destined to become the genetically pre-programmed norm of mental health".

Experience the paradise that is the future.

Awesome. It's the Green Anarchist website. I bought a copy of this once, on Cornmarket in Oxford, from a great big bloke with a huge beard and an even huger flag, half green and half black, divided at the diagonal. It cost a quid, but was free to prisoners. I seem to remember the strapline was "For the downfall of civilisation", or something along those lines.

Great quotes on this page: "TV is like a Nuremberg Rally in 50 million isolation cubicles". Fuck yeah.

Bohm's Quantum Alternative: "This theory, ignored for most of the past four decades, challenges the probabilistic, subjectivist picture of reality implicit in the standard formulation of quantum mechanics". Interesting [via Sylloge].

I wrote an essay about the quantum mechanics measurement problem as part of my university course. It was the only Physics essay I ever wrote, and I'm still happy with it. Trying to interpret the meaning of the equations (like the Talmud) really brings home the nature of science, the way it's so much more fundamental than anything else. There's a truth beyond that we understand.

bored unmotivated not enough time to do anything feel like i'm really missing some sizable chunk of what my life should be. london is draining, i'm just not a city boy. surface happy but not lasting deep-down in my soul content. i could get up and walk away right now and not care at all. i miss the forest.

The complete Ghostbusters script:

EGON: Don't cross the streams.
EGON: It would be bad.
PETER: I'm fuzzy on the whole good-bad thing. What do you mean, bad?
EGON: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
RAY: Total protonic reversal.
PETER: All right, that's bad, okay. Important safety tip, don't cross the streams. Thanks, Egon.

Don't cross the streams. It's a metaphor for life. (And for cvs, but that's another story entirely.)

In fact, here's a soundclip of that scene and a whole load more Ghostbusters sounds.

Okay, I was in the park this lunchtime, eating lunch in the warm and the sun. And now there's a fucking blizzard, an hour later. Can somebody tell me what's going on?

A url realisation: The http: designates the protocol; the // indicates that we're starting from network root (as opposed to / which is the filesystem root); the rest is simply the resource location. The machine name, of course, is completely wrong and should be the other way round, the address of this page really being //org/interconnected/www/home/index.shtml. So now you know.

Aha! A Copland screenshot [jpeg]. Why am I so obsessed with a never completed or released six year old Apple operating system? Dunno. I guess cos it represented the culmination of the GUI -- there it is, complete, finished. Perhaps we're on our way now, but it's always hard to tell what's going on up close, in the thick of it.

Paul's been digging up Copland links for me. Man, I feel all old skool. There's a fairly technical MacTech article from June 1995 which has some interesting nuggets (including the 'Assistance Engine', a kind of beefed up AppleScript to automate common tasks). But the real treat is this Byte article which discusses the features of Apple's modern OS before it was cancelled. This is the only article I've seen with a screengrab (which is what I'm really after): the file open dialogue box. Cool.

Most of Copland's features were rolled into later OSs: the new UI, the advanced search facility. Others have only come with OS X: Memory protection, good multiple users. Others were technological (like hardware independence), and we're not likely to see that. But the best features are ones that were brave refinements of an already mature GUI, enhancements that could only be done with a decade of user interface work already under the bridge: folders that could be 'Views', that is, dynamic searches, so a folder could contain all files ending in ".xls" which were "modified this week", regardless of where they were in the file system. There was to be an incredibly customisable interface, not just skins, but how it all worked, so more experienced users would have more functionality available. Wow.

I installed Mac OS X the day it came out, and it's now become my primary operating system. But there's a lot of work that needs to go in to tweaking the UI. Apple need to experiment, test, sit down with people using the interface and see how they can make it more intuitive. These barely perceptable features are what has always separated Mac OS from Windows, and making them takes time and effort. Microsoft have been tweaking since Windows 95 and they're doing a very good job. The only advantage Apple have now is a lot of lessons already learned; they just have to put them into practice.

The Church of Euthanasia. Very funny. Read the sermons.

Be warned: Mo will soon be removing the shipping forecast mp3, three minutes of weather information bliss (I find it incredibly calming). Get it while you can.

Equally beautiful is Pharaohs, a chilled out shipping forecast remix by Tears For Fears, from the highly recommended Groove Armada Back To Mine album [link to Amazon UK].

Can't be arsed to browse, you can find the good shit yourself. Pages o' links: Oputek; Hyperdoodles. Let me know if you find any gems, won't you?

It's Thursday, and here's Dan with a new essay at Upsideclown:

There was a brief vogue for "talking cars", automobiles that would take the information on the dash and represent, or re-present, that data through a series of recorded messages in a neutral, faintly feminine computerised voice. At the time, you wondered whether drivers unable to interpret the dash signals on their own should strictly be known as drivers, or indeed allowed anywhere near the driver's side of a car.

Dan's gone driving in his car. Fresh today: Maintaining the Driving Line.

Okay, so there was this guy on a messageboard about who-knows-what, and for his personal picture he'd referenced a picture of a duck from one of my pages. Hey, that's quite cheeky. So now there's a miniature contorted lady on his profile page instead. I wonder how long it'll be before someone notices.

The great hope for the future: Apple's Copland OS, from 1995. Heh.

Yuck. The Contortion Home Page is "dedicated to the beautiful art of contortion", but I prefer to look at the photo library and mutter "surely not, surely not" under my breath as I do so.

Looks handy. scrml, "screenscrape mark-up language," is an xml language and Java API to scrape the web for content; it outputs xml [via haddock].

Monday, and stinking fresh Upsideclown. It's finally all got too much for James.

You're sure you can actually feel the gradual increase of internal pressure, but suspect that it is just an illusion created by a vindictive subconscious. You shift from one leg to the other, but know that that is a fairly futile attempt to relieve your discomfort. Only one, but in your current location, unthinkable, action could possibly end your torment. There is just no escaping the fact that you're stuck on a bus, really needing a shit.

James tackles one of the deepest and hardest problems in life, in I Quit.

We seem to have compressed Christ's life into a single year. Born, blah blah miracles, parables blah, murdered - then, 72 hours - resurrected, and who knows what for the rest of the year but as John said right at the end: "Jesus did many other things as well".

But we only mark the transition points. Why? For two whole days out the year we are without the Son of God on Earth; what about those? And at what point did humanity, en masse, become absolved of Original Sin? From December 27th (we'll give the poor boy a day to stop mewling and another to get baptised) to the day before Good Friday, that being the Thursday before the Sunday nearest the first full moon after the 21st of March - or something -, the great magician wraps up all of mankind's badness in a silk 'kerchief and stuffs it in his fist.

My question: Does he open his fist and show Sin gone at the point of death, or the point of sitting up and going, Oh just a bump on the head after all? And in either case, why is Lent a time to be pious, rather than a time to cut loose, enjoy it all, knowing it's all going to be Forgiven in four weeks, or less? Pancakes aren't that evil that we need to spent a month feeling guilty, no matter how much sugar and lemon.

That aside, why aren't we celebrating this? This is the the real date of Halloween. Why aren't we really making something out of these rare days of freedom, the Triumph of Man over Creator, these sinful times, these lone two days without the man-who-isn't-a-man and the god-who-isn't-a-god peering over our shoulders?

Ding dong, the witch is dead. Happy Easter.

For later reference: Open source MUD projects.

There's a whole community here I've not really seen before. has collected an enormous amount of material, and they're not the only ones.

Unlike certain other folk, I don't quite get fan fiction. Surely the enjoyment of fiction by only the author is that, like life, it's out of your control. Perhaps part of it is the mental challenge of writing within a constraint. Or, um, without any constraints at all, in certain cases.

Still, if Little Johnny has had all four books read to him a dozen times a-piece and is simply screaming for more, I suppose you could do worse than Diagon Alley, a Harry Potter fan fiction repository. But take care you stop reading before A Weather of the Heart, in which Harry is finally brought to his knees. In a most literal sense.

Let nobody ever say that the internet is not a valuable information resource. Before you next go travelling, be sure to check Toilets of the World to ensure those loos of foreign lands meet your high Western standards. And whatever you do, don't go to Tokyo.

Thursday's Upsideclown is a little different.

Doors can open inwards;
Doors can open outwards;
Daws are attracted to shiny things and fat women with crêpes.

I can't explain it but I love it. You'll just have to go and read that very special thing Victor has created just for you: Tricolon with anaphora?

You can download the entire Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series in plaintext, should that take your fancy.

A good, not very technical, concepts article on the Semantic Web (in Scientific American) [via slashdot]. Recommended. I think half the reason why people aren't more excited about the semantic web is that there's no way to make money out of it: The way it scales is that it's better the more people are involved (until that number is too many and the category tree breaks). It's interesting to see the development model of the www trying to engineer a culture movement by way of new specs. What is it? Quote: "The Semantic Web is not a separate Web but an extension of the current one, in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation".

Is it just me, or does that sound like: ""I spare not a single unit of thought on these cybernetic simpletons!" he boomed. "I speak of none but the computer that is to come after me!"" [Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.]

Monday is fresh Upsideclown. Fresh Upsideclown is Monday. Today... "In cyberspace I am faceless. Having now recognised this, I am devoting my clown to some truths about myself; not necessarily ego-massaging but enough to define my personality for those who care to know or imagine. This is all true."

Oh dear, someone has weblog envy. Tired of the anonymity of the clown world George has decided to spill the beans. It's the truth and nothing but the truth, today in Eight Hundred and Forty-Three.

Venture capitalists? Please, please, please acquire this company:, because otherwise they might not survive past April 30th.

There need to be companies like this. Books are fantastic, and access to low-run printing is a must -- for me, anyway. I've never seen anything like this before. Are there other companies that do online low-run printing? Where can I find them?

This is a fucking brilliant idea (consider the implications). A small slice of design: A toaster that gets the weather reports from the internet and puts an impression of them on your bread. I want!

Bilbana is brilliant [via Brainsluice].

Goblin Market - I love this poem.

She cried, "Laura," up the garden,
"Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeez'd from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me;
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men."

The poem was used to great effect in Grant Morrison and Ryan Hughes' Dare.

Whom scares me. What kind of freak has a spaghetti shapes archive? Or 471 photographs of chocolate in a database? Bloody hell.

I wish I'd thought of it first.

Anti-Americanism Worldwide at the Anti-American Network.

EQuill has come on a long way. Their product is still based around annotating web pages, but now it includes facility for team working, signoff, approvals and so on. The free version is still easy to use.

Child Pornography Price List [disinformation].

There's a hidden London. It's found in closed tube stations, the muddy banks of the Thames. And after you roll up all the roads and the buildings and put them away, London is low rolling hills, gentle and almost flat.

I took a different route into work today: map and route (annoted with EQuill). Walking down Ludgate Hill I was suddenly struck with the landscape beneath London -- looking across to Holborn Viaduct you can't help but realise that the earth is still here, influencing how we build and live, even though the city's been here for a thousand years and more.

Walking through Lincoln's Inn and New Square was beautiful. A sudden oasis of green, gulls calling from the top of the red chapel. Wonderful.

There are parts of the City of London like this: around and about Bank tube station, great grey buildings towering around narrow streets. The sense of money and power is in the very rock here.

There's something magical about these hidden places. Something that makes London worth it, even after the crowds and the traffic and the horrendous main roads. It just has to be found.

You know what'd be really good? A gateway between UBB and Usenet. If you post with a newsgroup client, it gets mirrored to the group; if you post to the board it goes out to the group. (I guess this is like the way the xmlrpc discussion group is synched with an email list.) You'd only need only utility: It would understand NNTP and feed news in to Usenet (or even operate outside Usenet but using the same protocols on a different network), and you'd need drop-in modules to understand different brands of bulletin board.

Face it: News clients have had decades of evolution into applications that are powerful, easy to use, and easy to read. Newsgroups handle threading and so on extremely well. Plus, messages you post in are written using a dedicated editor (often an email client) which is so much better than using textforms. What's not to like? Now I just have to write it.

You could have guessed there'd be fresh Upsideclown today, given it's a Thursday. But what you wouldn't have guessed is that it's my clown, and I'm discussing the nature of time, the invention thereof by the human brain, and how now - more than ever - it's extremely confused.

So time goes fast, slow, fast, slow, never at the right speed. And if, for a moment, it does go at the right speed, that's not going to last forever. So it's going too fast. You'll live your life alternately bored and frustrated, too bad. And from something you created too. Well done.

Learn what it's all about in today's Upsideclown: The increasing nonlinearity of time.

Good and funny article about the differences between Europe and the USA: The great divide. It also spawned this ludicrous MeFi thread (no comment necessary), only outdone by this ludicrous MeFi thread, which completely proves the arguments in the first one.

Two things: Firstly, once upon a time people used to be a little bit embarrassed about spying. If caught you'd have the decency to feel a bit ashamed, even though everyone does it. A bit like wanking in the garage.

Secondly, I used the think the www was self-selecting for enlightened, tolerant liberals. Sadly I'm not sure that is any longer the case. And I think it's growing so quickly that newcomers can't be absorbed into the culture.

William Gibson discusses Japan and it's perpetual residence in the future: Modern boys and mobile girls.

"Perhaps that is what our life is, the execution of code left by the previous universe."

Oh, this looks extremely handy. The Sigmund utility is a small free-to-use php program that dynamically generates those tiny font webtype images that are so popular. Kerning, colour, and which of the typeface family to use are all adjustable. No more making, cropping, exporting with Photoshop. Very cool.

The BSD Family Tree (BSD being a UNIX derivative with separate branches, like Linux but with a great server and security emphasis) [also via slashdot]. Good, readable article. Some shot but interesting points about the different development models for BSD and Linux.

Apocalypse 1: The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good is the first in a series of articles by Larry Wall about the ongoing design of Perl 6 [via slashdot]. Perl has lost a lot of ground on the www; its string processing isn't as far ahead as it was, and not so important either since other languages have better xml handling. The object orientation isn't great, and as much as Perl is a language I very much enjoy programming in (there's a lot of flexibility, and the code can be elegant, concise and readable) it certainly needs an overhaul. Perl 6's object orientation should let it become more lightweight and streamlined when that's required, but the stuff they're planning... well, I'll be impressed if it actually all comes together.

xrefer looks interesting, useful and well made. It's a whole load of material cross-referenced in handy and interesting ways. See: Gold standard. Interesting points are the hyperlinks in the body text, and I love the 'adjacent entries' (bottom right). Just like those good old days, flicking through the encyclopaedia.

Interesting Britannica article about the gold standard. When I was young I thought a paper backed currency was one in which you could go and trade your cash for the equivalent in paper. The Bank of England as a great big newsagent, if you like.

Once again Monday, once again fresh Upsideclown: I reached into the centre of the image and began to turn the dial, expanding the projection, but then I's struck by the memory of when I'd first taken it, before I'd dared hope we'd become lovers, when I used to blow it up till he was almost life-size and I spun it back down to its default proportions. Five years was it now? Two since I'd so much as seen him. I reached out a trembling finger but it passed through his cheek and I felt nothing.

Neil is going scifi today, in his own wonderful, quiet way. Today's Upsideclown is ET.

Brilliant, just brilliant. And the amount of public support for the equal rights bill is something that would never be matched in the UK, and that makes me ashamed.