I really shouldn't like this kind of thing

but I do.

"There was a little old lady she was walkin' down the road she was struggling with bags from Tesco
There were people from the city having lunch in the park I believe that is called al fresco"


"all the magazines talk about weight loss
if I buy those jeans I can look like kate moss"

I mean, the home page is on Mice Pace, for goodness sake.


The iPod Economy

I am impelled (or possibly compelled) to ask, when did we enter an iPod based economy? Over the past year or so, I've noticed a gradual trend in the economy in which all goods and services are gradually becoming replaced by iPods.

It all started in terms of incentives: suddenly, the prize to every competition is an iPod. Enter this simple text quiz (only 50p per message) and win an iPod! Call this premium rate phone number and win an iPod! At work, there was a system set up to encourage new product ideas to be submitted. To encourage participation, all suggestions were put into a raffle, and the winner got... an iPod. I'm going to a one day research workshop tomorrow where students are encouraged to put up posters on their work. The best poster will win a prize -- which is an iPod. Check out all those borderline-illegal websites, that used to popupad you with claims that you could "get a free laptop" or whatever; nowadays these are uniformly all "get a free iPod".

Why? Who decided that it was better to have an iPod than the equivalent amount of cash (a few hundred dollars)? Why do people seem to find it more exciting to get an iPod when, if the statistics are to be believed, we all own 0.9 iPods each already. I have my own (non-apple produced) digital music hard-disk player, which I carefully chose after deciding that the iPod didn't have the combination of features that I wanted. Why should I feel that it's worth dropping everything to enter a competition to win an iPod? What if I already had one, why would I want another? If things carry on like this, we'll all have a hundred iPods each.

And then I realized -- we are entering an iPod economy. At some point in the next few years, we'll reach a point where we all do have a hundred iPods, and so they will lose all value as a music player, and instead take on a new value as a novel currency. The dollar and the Yen will crumble and fall, and we will instead transact all our business by exchanging iPods (worth approximately $300 each). For smaller units of currency, the sub-unit of the iPod will be the iTunes, conveniently pegged to 0.99USD, for relatively easy convenience of exchange.

Shortly after, we'll get fed up of humping around these large lumps of plastic and metal, and start issuing convenient paper/plastic based-iPod surrogates, readings "I promise to pay the bearer the sum of 0.5 iPods and 99 iTunes", with the grinning face of Steve Jobs glistening in a hologram on one side, and custom messages from U2 engraved onto the back. And so the whole evil scheme will come to pass, and apple's secret masterplan will finally take effect. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to head off now -- don't suppose you could lend me an album* till the weekend?

1 album = 10 iTunes = $9.90


Tomb Aker

Mobile phones, eh? Apparently not content with making people's lives a misery by encouraging people to shout in public, the latest gimmick is to broadcast loud annoying tinny music in public places. The US is a few years behind the UK, and is more inclined to seclude people off, so it was something of a shock to get on a bus in Manchester, and be accompanied by a soundtrack of badly reproduced hip-hop. Maybe what made this particularly unexpected was that it was emanating from the device of a young fellow in the company of his son, which isn't the behaviour you expect from parents. It was surprisingly invasive, but my british heritage meant that I did not ask him to reduce his volume. Besides, apparently simple requests like this are practically an invitation to have your fingers hacked off with a machete.

Another way in which britain is leading the world is the ability to send a text message to a landline, and a clever system arranges it so that the text message is read out by Tom Baker. Obviously, it's not actually read out by the real Tom Baker, sitting in a box calling numbers and reading them out himself, that would be ridiculous. It's actually read out by Jon Culshaw. This was initially such a success that I began to worry that this would spread further: imagine every recorded announcement in the country being read by Tom Baker: the "Please listen carefully as our options have changed" message, the "Cashier number two please" messages, the "we apologize that the 3.17 to Cleethorpes is running seven hours later, we are truly very sorry indeed". I had visions of fleeing through a town centre, pursued by the incorporeal spectre of Tom Baker in every shop and on every corner.

But apparently this is not to be; apparently, Tom Baker has been axed (although, thankfully, not macheted). Alas, poor Tom.

I wonder if you can get his voice for computers? The idea of the Doctor instructing me to "In 0.3 miles, turn left" on the GPS system rather appeals.


This is not a game

I'm back from my European Vacation. I have just won at getting out of the airport. I am the best at this.

I used to be quite relaxed about getting out of the airport. When air travel was novel, I wouldn't rush, but would take my time. These days, I find travel increasingly tedious (to the extent of fantasizing of a Nero Wolfe-style existence where I never have to leave my own home), and so aim to minimize the time between wheels-down and getting my backside onto my couch at home. I suppose it's a result of living so close to the airport, that I know that it should be possible that leads me to strive to optimize the journey. I think I've now almost perfected it, since on this trip I managed to get back to my home roughly thirty minutes after the scheduled arrival time. I got a little help from an early arrival, but was otherwise unaided.

There are a couple of fairly obvious steps involved. First, is to only bring carry on luggage. This means no waiting around at baggage reclaim, and also reduces the opportunity for evil thieving airline operatives for stealing your stuff. Next is to make sure you get from the plane to immigration as quickly as possible. Partly this reduces the time, but mostly because if you hit immigration at the back of three hundred people off a 767 you can have a very long wait. So walk swiftly from the plane to immigration, and you can usually get almost to the front (don't run; this looks suspicious, and they may shoot you). Because the trip is a long one (this gives the airline more time to shift baggage to reclaim, a recent trick), you can usually overtake a lot of people here. Look out for shortcuts: I haven't spotted any at EWR, but I know of two at LGW, where you can take a side route, and go up or down some stairs, instead of going along a very long and gently sloping ramp (this bit always reminds of a Doom level, at least in the abstract).

So, having set a new record for getting home from the airport, I'm still knackered with jet lag, and probably will be so for the rest of the week. Ah well.

Other observations:
* The woman next to me on the flight spent the entire seven hours working her way steadily through a giant book of Sudoku puzzles, all of which (that she did) were categorized "easy". Why? What's the point of that? Surely the appeal of following the very simple procedure required to solve 'easy' puzzles must pall after a few hours?

* The in-flight entertainment had an entire channel devoted to House. Yippee! Of course, I'd seen all the episodes (they had three episodes from the end of season one on a continuous loop), but it was good to see them again. Points of note: for some reason (rights?) they had changed the theme music to something that didn't even remotely sound like Teardrop. You occasionally see DVDs of TV shows where they note that they don't have the original music, but this is the first time I've really noticed it.
Second, in one episode House sends his team to check out something in Short Hills (which is close to where I live, and one of the most expensive towns in America), and they complain, since it is a two hour trip. He also intructs them to keep the receipts from the tolls. This is weird, since to get from Princeton to Short Hills is much more like a 1 hour drive, and there's no need to go on a toll road: you can do 202/206 to 287, then along 78. I suppose they are thinking of Route 1 to the Garden State, but then you spend so short a time on the Garden State, that the toll is only about 70c, so it's hard to see why it would be worth keeping the receipt. Maybe that was the joke, but I think it's just another example of the pitfalls of pretending that House takes place in New Jersey when it's made in California.


I'm not here

As of, ooh, about now, I'm offline with only sporadic attempts at checking stuff. I certainly won't bother to update this thing until the end of the month.


Halcali Stike Back!

You'll remember that my favourite Japanese J-pop/hip-hop/rap/female duo is Halcali, a pair of boiler-suit wearing young things who rock out with an awesome mix of smooth grooves and English/Japanese lyrics that make little sense in either language.

I first mentioned them back in December '03 (wow, such a long time ago!). When I got the chance to visit Japan in 2005, I made sure to buy a copy of their second album (for about $29, CDs are expensive in Japan), but I've still never managed to give you a good idea of what they sound like or how ace they really are.

Well, now thanks to the magic of the internet you can. Prompted by a recent Boing-boing post (I read it to keep abreast of what was posted on digg the week before), I discovered that while there aren't many places you can easily download their music, if you check out YouTube and related sites you can find loads of their videos painstakingly digitized by obsessive fans typing in codes to recreate the music and visuals needlework-style. Head over there right now, and see what you've been missing!

So much to say, but no time, no time

Evening all. As I have repeatedly told you, yet still you don't listen, I'll be travelling from Monday, and hence have too much to get done before then to waste my time talking to you. I did have a lot of things stacked up to mention, but I can't be bothered to say these in any detail, so I shall make brief notes and allow you to fill in the rest:

* The White House, like most US homes, is surprisingly open in contrast to the UK preference for fences and hedges surrounding to ensure privacy. Standing either in front or behind the thing, you can pretty much see all the way in. There are, however, snipers patrolling nearby rooves in case you get any funny ideas.

* The NSA have a big sign on the highway that says "NSA - this way". I thought that they were more circumspect than that. But, I didn't follow it, so maybe it was a trick.

* Babies really do look like Winston Churchill

* Speaking for three hours starting at 6.30 in the evening is less exhausting than you would think, at least at the time. I had expected to feel remarkably tired by the end, but was actually quite awake. When I got home, I was happy to sleep for hours on end and do no work the next day.

* Getting minor fixes to teeth at the dentist is actually less painful than a regular checkup, since they give you anaesthetic for the work, whereas there is no relief from the scraping they do when checking for problems.

* It is possible to put twice as much work into a five minute presentation than for a three hour one.

* I am in the process of being bought by the French.

* Going to important meetings means that you don't actually get any work done since you spend a long time preparing and travelling, so you still feel tired and worn out as if you had. But you realize at the end that you've accomplished nothing useful in a couple of weeks, which is frustrating. It therefore seems a good idea to take some time off and restart on return.

* People who don't indicate when changing lanes really annoy me. Are there some places in the world where this activity is not illegal?

* Despite all these asterisks, I don't actually have anything much to say.


Bad Memories

Or, to be more precise, bad memory. Regular readers will recall the excitement a few months back surrounding my inestimable computing device, and a stick of faulty memory, which led to monotonously regular encounters with the fabled BSOD. (I wonder if you can get a BSOD on BSD?). Well, I still have the dodgy stick, although it currently resides on a table rather than in the computer, and consequently leads to gar fewer crashes.

I really ought to get around to complaining to someone that this memory broke -- after all, it did set me back a fair amount (about $80, I think). But the process is just so long and ill-defined that I'm not sure I can be bothered to initiate it. And then after a while, it becomes to late to do anything. I have a similar problem with one of my credit cards, who ripped me off for 25 GBQ (Great British Quid) when I failed to pay the minimum balance one month -- as best as I can reconstruct events, I had set the payment up in a web browser, but must have failed to click through the half-dozen or so "confirm" screens that seem tobe required, and instead got distracted with something else. Such is the danger of today's multi-tasking world. I meant to get around to calling them up and demanding that the fee be reimbursed, lest I take my custom elsewhere. But, I never did, and it's now been too many weeks to reasonably get away with this trick.

This is how businesses make money: the rely on the laziness and ineptness of their customers. The old couple who still pay $20 / month to rent a phone because they never check their bill. The credit card fraudsters who post spurious charges. Unscrupulous service providers who move you onto a higher service tier that you don't really need.

Someone messed around with time today (they did it last week in Europe), and my body is thoroughly confused as a result. I think I'll take a nap. See you later or, as I must now perforce say, au revoir.