Monday, 29 December 2014

Those In-Between Days

Sunday Evening; I'm watching Celine and Julie Go Boating - though I may have to do it in two parts because I'm going into work Monday. If you haven't seen this film, do so and you will understand something has been missing from your life.


Also I've spent a couple of days immersed in complex analysis and Riemann-Roch and finally found the simple proof. Not a holomorphic one-form, divisor or sheaf in sight. Well, there is for the projective case, but that's another proof.

Next post will be 2015. That is not a real year. For the first twenty years of my life, 2015 was a different world. Where's my interstellar transport?

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Ruby Rose: Transformation

(Props to Fashion Copious)

Ruby is supposed to be "genderfluid", which only make sense if you think that gender is determined by where you buy your shirts. Basically. 80-proof nonsense, but who cares? If only the average British TV drama had these production values and photography.

Happy Christmas.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Why You Drink

Someone circulated this at work.

It could also be why you buy lottery tickets. Or it could be a good example of how capitalism uses humour to disguise victim-blaming. You shouldn't need to drink because you're not scrambling up the greasy pole. You should have a meaningful, satisfying life instead. But you don't, because capitalism, commuting and socialist-state level taxes. But it's still your fault you drink. Because you could put up with all that shit sober, and therefore have a choice.

But I think they thought they were being funny.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

It's Carl Jung's Colours Time Again!

Every now and then, we do Colours. It’s supposed to make us aware of each others' differing personal styles and so help us work better together. It was invented by C G Jung and is based on two scales: introversion – extraversion and intellectual – feeling.

It looks plausible and it’s fun. But it’s also based on a misleading concept of human action and personality. Here’s my take on it:

If I’m Cautious it’s because this is the kind of stuff that can wind me up in the shit , and I want to be sure I’m not going to wind up in the ….

If I’m Meticulous, it’s because wrong details will wind me up in the shit

I’m not Deliberate

If I’m Systematic, it’s because it saves effort when I have to do it again

I’m not Formal

If I’m Candid it’s because that’s what I think it might take to get the results I want

I’m Straightforward, because I’m a man

If I’m Single- minded, it’s because I want to get this shit done and out of my life

I’m not Purposeful

If I’m Persevering, it’s because this shit won’t go away so we may as well get done with it

If I’m Diplomatic, it’s because I think you’ve got thin skin or a bad sense of entitlement

I’m Nurturing, Supportive and Patient it’s because I’m a decent person, and you deserve it

I’m Dependable, because I’m a man, and you haven’t done anything to disqualify yourself

If I’m Impulsive, it’s because the sun is shining

I’m not Energetic, I just grind this shit out

I’m Optimistic when the odds justify it, which is not often

I’m not Lively

I’m Persuasive when I think you can be persuaded and I give a shit about whatever it is

People have styles, but these are superficial. The transition into adulthood is about living a life that is about achieving results, in a broad sense that includes raising children, making and nurturing friendships and having fun. So our actions are directed towards those ends, and the style with which we do them reflects the people with whom and the circumstances in which we’re doing them. We do what’s needed to get the job done. People who say “I can’t do that” or “I can’t be like that” might be having a childish moment, but mostly we say things like “Really? Is it worth it?” which is about risk/effort vs reward. That’s a very adult view of the world. So I’m meticulous when I need to be, but not otherwise, as are most people. Some people are just super-control freaky (I am meticulous, you are a little obsessed with details, he/she is a control freak) most of the time, and they have psychological problems. That’s why you need to be careful round them, not because they are detail freaks.

In other words, being an adult is exactly not about being at the mercy of whatever whimsical character genetics you were born with. It’s about transcending those to be someone who gets the shit they need doing, done. And Colours measure the residual stuff that we do when we’re not thinking about how we’re acting.

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Recovering Beta

I can’t remember how I found the Sphere - probably through Roissy in DC after reading The Game - and fell down it like Alice into the rabbit-hole. Here were people saying what I’d always known about women, but thought myself wrong for thinking it; people who had practical advice about handling relationships and pick-up that felt right, not like the wishy-washy stuff of the mainstream; men who had had the same re-buffs, disappointments and shocks at the behaviour of women as I had. Here was confirmation that “being a nice guy” was not a good thing, but the kiss of death to one’s sex life. After prolonged exposure to the Sphere, all the things I did that I thought I was wrong for doing, I now know were the right things to do.

The Sphere is where men who have been worked over by women go to share. It’s recovery for men who realised they were powerless over women and that their lives had become unmanageable as a result. We have to be shown and then reject the fairy-stories we are told about women and relationships in the mainstream media, and often in the advice of parents, friends, and by the women in our lives.

Recovery is about going back to living as rewarding a life as you can, given the damage you’ve sustained. For drunks and drug addicts, it means abstinence from mood-altering chemicals, and learning how to cope with life without using anything to ease the feelings; for a co-dependent, it means getting over the last batch of hurt, shame and pain, learning to avoid relationships with the wrong people, and trying to have relationships with healthy people, which means, given the ability of healthy people to avoid getting into relationships with screw-ups, learning to live without close relationships at all. For someone coming out of a dead relationship, it means… a movie cliche, the one about “learning to trust and love again”. Or not. It depends on age. The older he is, the longer he’s been experiencing the reality of live-in relationships, the less likely he is to want to go back into another one. Some men are serial husbands, even into late age, but not many. Most of us get over the shock, and then breathe a huge sigh of relief. As this man did:
We are conditioned to believe that happiness is only possible being in a committed relationship with a good woman. Not true. The fact is that being married in your late 50's or 60's can be OK or hell. I notice that a lot of my married friends who are married to women their own age (women past 55) are not all that happy. They are looking old and tired. And the problem is more with their minds than their bodies. These guys have just given up and are trying to enjoy what they can (food, grandchildren, a cruise) while they enter a decline to old age. They hardly ever spend any time in a gym or getting out of the comfort zone… Being divorced since age 49, I actually feel more adventurous, physically stronger and eager to pick up new hobbies and knowledge. With a (very few) bucks a man can buy good food served with a smile (not bitterness), buy cleaning, and sex.
It took the Red Pill for me to understand what happened in my one and only LTR, in which the last three years were sexless and decreasingly affectionate. I turned Beta, and women in a relationship need Alpha like men need sex. If they don’t get it, they get tetchy, irritable, distant and ultimately contemptuous. Take the sex away, and the man doesn’t consider he’s in a relationship: take the Alpha away, and the woman doesn’t consider she is.

You don't keep a dog unless you're prepared to feed and exercise it, and a woman shouldn't keep a man unless she's prepared to have sex with him, as a man shouldn't keep a woman unless he's prepared to meet her need for Alpha and attention. About a third of men and women don't want to do that, for reasons that don't matter. These are the ones who divorce in ten years, or remain lifetime bachelor boys and girls while having a series of not-quite convincing relationships. The other two-thirds don't do it very well, fall ill, put on weight, lose their jobs, get fat after having children, and all those other things that people do to make themselves undesirable but not to the point of divorce-worthiness. There's a small number of people who make it work, but so few nobody has ever met one.

So let’s assume, one way or another, you’ve accepted that women are not saints; and more, that they have their own plans, in which you are a resource, not a beneficiary; and that you have even accepted the truth of Briffualt’s Law. What do you do next?

Game. Not cheesy opening lines, but the whole thing from self-improvement, to pick-up and follow-through tactics, handling relationships, and getting the right state of mind. There are different schools, from the London day gamers and Roosh at one extreme, through Roissy , and out to the self-improvers of whom Mark Manson is for regular guys and Mike Cernovich is more in the Tony Robbins style. Sphere / Game blogs are like 12-Step meetings: if you don’t like the one you’re at, go to another one the next time, one of them will be what you need. Game works. I have tried the simplest tricks from Roissy on women half my age and watched them perk up and pay attention. I wish someone had told me when I was fifteen, that when women ask you a question, they don’t care what you say, they are looking to see how confidently you handle it.

Game or not, unless he’s in some very specific circumstances which most men are not, the amount of work a man needs to do to meet a woman who will have sex with him is horrible: a man who knows what he’s doing needs to approach forty women to find one who will have sex with him. If he’s got very good radar, the number he needs to approach reduces, but the time between girls stays the same, as his more accurate radar pings less often. This assumes that he has forty women to approach. When a man excludes the damaged goods, and has been excluded by the entitled, the value-seekers and the celibacy-club members , and if he decides that his self-respect does not allow him to date overweight or weird-looking girls, he may find himself with no choice at all on any night of the week in any town. Many women consider four out of five men to be unattractive, unexciting or low-value, so the majority of men are likely to get bad-tempered rejections and flaky behaviour. It’s easy to see why many of them take the first decent offer that comes along.

Catch is, it turns out a man who gets married thinking he doesn’t have to try anymore is an idiot. He has to game the same woman for the rest of his life, without break, pause, rest or respite while his single friends can take a break now and again. Esther Perel, Roissy and Rollo the Rational Male, all agree that “gaming the wife” is essential to keeping a marriage from turning into a sexless, empty routine at best and actual hell at worst.

For reasons that don’t matter, women don’t think they are there to support men. They don’t ask what they can do for you, but what you can do for them. This is how one commentator sees it:
For the past, at least, 25 years, I've been told to do more and more to keep a woman. But nobody's told me what they're doing to keep me. I can tell you as a heterosexual married male in management, who didn’t drop out of society, the message from the chicks is: 'It's not just preferable that you should fuck off, but imperative. You must pay for everything and make everything work; but you yourself and your preferences and needs can fuck off and die.'
Given all this, some men decide to not bother chasing after women. If one comes along, sure, but to expend energy and money on the chase? That seems dumber than buying a lottery ticket. This brings us to the idea that a man should construct his life around an ambition, profession, skill, project or discipline of his choosing, not around marriage-mortgage-children-salary. If a woman wants to accompany him, that may make both their lives more interesting and enjoyable, but women are strictly an add-on. This doesn’t mean he gives up sex: one-night stands, prostitutes, short-term relationships, are all okay. It means he does not put sex, or women’s needs, at the centre of his life. He is not working to provide her with a new kitchen and a long-haul holiday. Men can Go Their Own Way and still get laid like tile, or they can live like Cistercian monks: the point is that they aren’t in hock to the bank for some gee-gaw their wife wanted.

One group of men give sex, and women, an importance it simply doesn’t have. These are the emotionally wounded young men raised in dysfunctional circumstances, from actual abuse to absent fathers, poor mothers, substance abuse, co-dependency and onwards. Those are the source of the pain, emptiness, confusion and hollowness they experience. M3's Incel piece describes that emotional hell, and reading it reminded me of my sex-parched 20's. Some use drugs, some turn to spiritual disciplines, and others look to women for validation, emotional wholeness and some ease from the pain. That’s a mistake. Women can’t provide those things. No-one can. That pain comes from a messed-up hormone balance they got from their messed-up family life, and nobody can cuddle or fuck it away. That takes some fairly serious therapy, or a thorough Steps Four though Nine, and with the guidance of someone who is on their side as a man. Good luck with that.

I’ve used the phrase “for reasons that don’t matter” twice. We learn in recovery that the reasons we drank, or took drugs, or cut ourselves, don’t matter. Sometimes naming and describing what happened can be therapeutic, but not always. We can’t undo the past, but we can undo the dysfunctional behaviours and thoughts we learned in the past and still practice now. We can learn basic Alpha and to watch ourselves for those moments of weakness when we turn Beta. I’ve discussed what are the right behaviour and attitudes for a man and the only things you won’t find there are the idea that a man should be married and a father, and that he should sacrifice himself and be selfless for others, and especially women. Where I come from, that’s called "being a White Knight”.

Alcoholics don’t drink; addicts don’t use; co-dependents learn to live without close relationships. Foodies have to learn emotional management, because that’s their real enemy, not food itself. The interesting thing is that a lot of advice is common to all problems. Abstain from your drug-of-choice - booze, heroin, food bingeing, needy people, the gender wars in the media, and anything where women are advising men about how to be men - and then get on the self-improvement train. Here’s the Reverend Laurence Shannon:
Condition yourself physically and mentally. Most people look like gunnysacks full of doorknobs. This is partially due to heavy doses of dependency on predatory females. Work out every day and get yourself into good physical shape. Take up a sport and start running. Do what predatory females have done for thousands of years — concentrate completely on yourself. Rid your mind of the garbage dumped into it by the matriarchal society. Occupy it instead with good books, films, and a hobby that benefits you, that you enjoy.
12-Step fellowships have never identified the corporations who make alcohol and drugs as "the enemy”. As the preamble to their meetings reminds them, they focus on aiding individual recovery:
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
Recovery is always personal. Never political. Seeking political solutions for personal problems is futile at worst and excessively long-term at best. The alcoholic has to stay sober today, the co-dependent has to avoid being sucked in by that needy person today, and the Beta has to avoid the Friendzone and “relationships are hard work” hell while getting his needs met. We alcoholics learn to avoid bars, off-licenses, pubs, office parties and other wet places, and when we see the civilians staggering around on Saturday night, hear the inanity of their overheard chatter, their shrill, insecure laughter, and the wear and tear showing on their faces, we thank God that isn’t us anymore.

Recovering Betas take many different paths. For all of them, women have lost their magic and power to validate, and are simply one more option for the use of time and energy. Once they start demanding a man’s resources within a relationship, the recovering Beta judges them on risk-cost-reward, exactly because they no longer have the magic to deceive him nor the power to shame him through denied validation. And many are found wanting. In the middle of one of the world’s great cities, I look around at the hard, tired faces of the career girls, and see their graceless movements, puffy skin, drab clothes, flabby muscle tone, the inanity of their overheard chatter, and their shrill, insecure laughter. Other men think this is normal, and that such women are worth the huge one-sided risk of marriage. I don’t, and never did. Recovery has taught me that I wasn’t at fault for feeling that way.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Sitting in Soho Square One Afternoon

Someone please tell me WTF is it with those huge tubs of nasty smelly noodles from Wasabi? The fuel of choice for people who treat food as fuel. She looks like such a nice girl otherwise. And when she stood up, those legs were very good.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Why I Stopped Drafting Resolutions for 2015

I started to jot some New Year’s Resolution during a particularly optional meeting. When I looked at them again after half an hour, I realised they were all fiddling wound with the basic shape of my life. NO. If I’m not prepared to set something like “Move into flat in Soho” or “Approach 30 girls” or “Visit (exotic location)”, I’m not going to make any resolutions for 2015. The previous year's resolutions have been fine-tuning. I can fine-tune my life on the fly just fine. I'm lacking ambition. I can live with that, but not with pretending that fine-tuning is actually ambition.

This photograph has nothing to do with anything. I just like the red flowers. Click for enlargement.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Blanca Bar

Explanation: I'm posting these single pictures with cod captions Terry Richardson style because I keep drafting long posts I think mean something and then turn around and think it's a load of twaddle. So until I get back in the writing groove, this is what I'm doing.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Monday, 24 November 2014

September - November 2014 Review

Usually I have no problem writing these monthly reviews, but clearly something went on in September and October that I didn't want to look at, or at least took away the motivation. Sometimes I just have a duff few weeks.

I started September with some food poisoning over the first weekend. That always sets me up for a good week. I got another bout at the end of October, and had a couple of days off in November with the autumn cold that has lingered since. One Wednesday morning I coughed and put my lower back into spasm, and wound up with a £70 visit to the osteo. My left hamstring decided to tighten up, to the point where sitting was actually slightly painful, and that lead to a £55 visit to Petra the sports massuese. After the last episode of food poisoning, I'm no longer drinking coffee, or eating cheese or eggs. Breakfast is suddenly a lot simpler.

My trusty six-year old 15" MacBook Pro developed Flickering Graphic Card Syndrome in September. The guys down in the basement at Mac1 Spitalfields gave me a quote of around £350 + VAT to fix it. So I didn't do that. I have an Air, and that's enough for my needs. My Marantz CD 6003 decided it would throw a fault so obscure - “Sub Q error” - that nobody had heard of it. Since these faults cost almost as much to repair as an upgrade, I went for the upgrade, the Marantz CD6005, and very pleased I am as well. The £300 or so did get me the amazing CD6005. I collected a new pair of Silhouettes with varifocal lenses that cost £800. That's an indulgence, but a) the glasses look sharp, and b) the lenses are fantastic, especially when I keep them clean. I got round to finding a gardener to fix the back fence, re-cover the shed and remove some old grass that had become infested with moss and lay in some new stuff and fill in the vegetable patch I never really grew any vegetables in. VAT, Labour and materials came to about £600. And this time of year brings all the insurances, as well as the annual review of where to put my meagre money for the least awful return on it.

I spent about two weeks in September wading my way through Lee Smolin's book Time Reborn. Things like that make reading feel like a drudgery. Neville Shute's Round The Bend make it a pleasure again. I also read Horror in Architecture by Comaroff and Ong, Cortezar's Hopscotch, Hemingway’s Men Without Women, the Foundation Beyeker’s book on Odilion Redon, The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucuses, Daniel Lieberman's The Story of The Human Body, A Scream in Soho, Gil Scott Heron's memoir The Last Tour and his novel The Nigger Factory, the Edie Sedgwick biography Edie: An American Biography, Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity, plus The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Book, Reproducible Research with R and R Studio, and A Man's Guide to Healthy Aging.

Movies were: A Most Wanted Man, Maps to the Stars, Human Capital, Life of Crime, The Equalizer, Gone Girl, The Judge, Mr Turner, Interstellar, The Imitation Game, Nightcrawler, The Drop and Citizen Four (which brings me up to date). My new Go-To Cinema is the Everyman Baker Street: not the cheapest in town, but pretty darn comfortable. I probably watched the first two series of Game of Thrones as well in this time. I also saw Sequence 8, Triz and Parabelo, the Thomas Ades See the Music, Hear the Dance, and Plateau Effect at Sadlers' Wells, with light suppers at Moro beforehand.

Sis and I dined at Ham Yard and Rules.

What I remember from this period is that I was still scuttling home after doing whatever it was I had gone out to do. I used to go out, for walks, to see films, go to meetings, or just for a coffee and a slice of cake and a browse round a bookshop, out of sheer restlessness. I am now, of course, no longer restless, and I miss it a little bit. I could blame the years, or I could just admit I'm getting lazy. And let's face it, if I hadn't had two bouts of food poisoning, it would have been a pretty darn good autumn.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Mr Turner vs Topsy-Turvey: Basquiat Wins

Ken Loach’s Topsy-Turvey is one of my favourite films, and one of the best films made about the creative process: in that film the creation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado. I came away feeling as if I understood more about the theatrical world of the time, the men who created those quirky operas, and with more respect than I previously had for their work.

So I was looking forward to Ken Loach’s Mr Turner. And sure, it’s lovely to look at. The performances from his troupe are surpassing excellent. And Timothy Spall gives the best performance of a man-as-a-pig as you could want, if you wanted such a thing. But by heaven’s it’s lazy.

A ton of research went into it, and it’s all up there on the screen, but little of it is in the story and even less in the character of Turner. In Topsy-Turvey we meet Gilbert and Sullivan as established figures: Sullivan already has his knighthood. Similarly, we meet Turner when he’s already a success. Except for the life of me, I can’t see why. He’s an oaf. A big, fat, ugly oaf with an unconvincing line in insincere flattery. In 1838, when Turner was in his mid-50’s, and a year covered by this film, the King of France, Louis-Philippe presented a gold snuff box to him. Watch the movie, and then try imaging that porker being admitted to the Court of Louis-Phillipe.

A film about a successful artist has to explain to the viewer why the artist was successful, and what form that success took. Loach does this very well in Topsy-Turvey, with some to-the-point scenes with their impresario, and even touching on their investment in the Savoy Hotel. It’s clear that Sullivan was talented, charming and raffish, and so dealt with the press and society, while Gilbert was a dour, detail-freak who dealt with the production. And why do we know they are good? Because Loach shows us...

Loach dodges this completely with Turner. Turner's business partner was his father, and he’s a bent-backed inarticulate, obsequious creep. Customers are shuffled into a dark room, made to wait, then lead into a studio filled with Turner’s paintings arranged to no special effect and lit by natural light through a layer of muslin. I’m pretty sure that’s not how Jay Jopling shifts his Gilbert and George paintings, and I’ll bet that Whistler was a pretty smooth operator. The buyers we see are gullible and not very bright, or aged landed aristocrats of such a seniority that everyone has to stand when they enter the room. And John Ruskin. The Ruskin in the film is such a lightweight little git that I kept thinking there must have been another John Ruskin who was the most influential art critic of the time. If i didn’t know any better, I’d think that Loach was trying to tell us that people who bought Turners then were as artistically insensible as people who buy Hirsts now. But Loach can’t be saying that, because Great Painter.

Great Painter is why it’s odd that not once do we get to see one of Turner’s pictures up close and sensual. You’d think that, on his name alone, Ken Loach could swing some decent rostrum camerawork on the Tate’s collection, let alone on the chance of a movie tie-in. But seemingly no. In Topsy-Turvey we got performances of the songs in the Mikado, but the most we get in Mr Turner is Turner dashing back from some expedition and knocking off the next Famous Painting while being a boor to an increasingly weird housemaid. Loach should have watched Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation to remind himself of how to show art to inspire awe and respect.

And then we see Turner having himself lashed to a mast so he can sail through a storm and catch pneumonia? Where did that come from? He just did it on a whim? Or was I supposed to know that story as well? Episode after episode without the joining thread of character.

Watch it by all means. But if you want to see a commercial movie that’s really about painting and the art scene of its time, and yet still about a person, watch Julien Schnabel’s Basquiat. That’s how it’s done.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Helena Christiansen in Men's Health, December 2014

Helena Christiansen? A role model for men? Really?

I’m all for articles that feature photographs of the 5’ 10” Danish-Peruvian size 6 (!) supermodel that is Helena Christiansen, though I can imagine many men thinking “45? That’s a bit on the old side.”

What got into Men’s Health editor Mike Shallcross with the December 2014 issue, no-one will ever know. But with the silly suggestion that Helena Christiansen could be a role model, and that I need the 60 year old overweight tubby that is Angela Merkel in my life (I really don’t, outside work, no-one over size 14 or over about 40 is allowed into my life), Michelle Shallcross created The Mangina Issue. I get the damn thing delivered free because no other special offer was remotely acceptable, so I’m not giving them my money.

Anyway, let’s get on with the serious business, which is a bunch of scans of Gergory Derkenne's shots of Helena Christiansen in boxing gear.

(Click for the enlargements. My apologies to Mr Derkenne if copyright issues, but not to Miss Shallcross or his employers.)

I was going to explain to Mrs Shallcross just why she’s created The Mangina Issue, but decided against it. Either he knows what he has done wrong, and is making daily, nay, hourly Acts of Contrition, or she doesn’t, when debating her feminised ass would be a waste of time.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Saved By Dysfunction

So why do I think that you’re not supposed to marry them?

Some men are born bachelors, some achieve it, and 40% have it thrust back upon them by the divorce courts within 20 years. I was born that way. It really is that simple.

Other people like to shame us bachelors-by-birth-or-choice with an endless stream of guilt-trips: I’m scared to commit; I can’t be open and vulnerable; I’m selfish / self-centered / narcissistic / adolescent / insecure; I can’t handle a real woman; I’ve been hurt and won’t get over it / move on; I think there’s going to be better offer tomorrow; I can’t trust; I’m scared of rejection; I’m frightened of taking a risk; and lack the faith that I / we could Make It Work and wouldn’t Just Be Another Divorce Statistic. In the Bad Old Days, I even heard veiled suggestions that I was gay - but that kinda rolled off my back like a duck.

While I share the views of many writers in the Manosphere about the issues involved in dealing with women, those are more like reasons other guys should be cautious. For me, being single is prior to all that stuff. It feels genetic: I’ve always been a Bachelor Boy. It’s got nothing to do with trust, or experience, or not meeting the right woman, or any other cliche. It’s as fundamental as the way I grok philosophy and logic: it’s not something I worked at, like my deadlift, it’s something I discovered I could just do. I can do single.

Some men can do single but still spend a while married. Then they get the divorce papers, find themselves strangely neutral about it, return to their natural bachelor state and live happily ever after. Why wasn’t I one of those men?

I did dating (“relationships” would be far too strong a word) because that’s what I was supposed to do - like going to work and paying taxes - not because I got some kind of good feeling. I was going through motions I didn’t really understand. Even sex, which I knew I was supposed to be doing, and learned how to do better. (Don’t do that: it turns it into work.) Look, I’m having sex, this must be a real life. The sex was real, but the life wasn’t.

I was swamped by the pain and emptiness of the whole ACoA / Alcoholic thing, which filters and distorts every other emotion and motive. “Nothing makes it all better again”. (I’m convinced that The Craft was originally a film about heroin that got re-written as a witchcraft story.) Nobody and nothing can ease that pain, and nobody and nothing could make me feel as if I belonged. That empty feeling never goes away, though it gets easier to ignore. Many things can make it worse, but nothing and nobody can make it better. Drugs, sex, cuddles, sharing, hobbies and booze are anaesthetics, not cures. Imagine living Meteora every day of your life.

This sabotaged every relationship I had with anybody and anything. I was really using them to make me feel better, not for any mutual-benefit stuff, which is what relationships are supposed to be about. Nobody could give me what I needed, which was blessed relief from that pain and a sense of belonging somewhere with someone, and which is an impossible need for anyone to meet. My socialising was driven by the need to keep up appearances: look, I’m having supper with someone, this must be a real life. I got drunk while doing it, and that was a temporary distraction. Women didn't make it better, but added to the list of things I had to deal with. They made sex possible, and sometimes sex was a time-out. Not always.

I realise now that I was saved from a horrible fate by all that dysfunction. Because it was impossible for anyone to give me what I needed emotionally, and because I made the mistake of getting good-enough at sex, I was never going to feel as if any of them was a Special Someone who made my Life Feel Complete and with whom sex was something I really, really wanted to go back for more of. I wanted there to be someone like that, so I could stop hurting, but there can’t be, and dysfunctions aren’t easily fooled, so I as always going to be… underwhelmed. If they did stick around for any time, they quickly discovered I wasn’t who they had fantasised me to be, and though the phrase didn’t exist then, usually departed with “you’re so not who I thought you were”. The closest I may have come to how regular guys feel was the LTR in my late 40’s, the one both of us stayed in for way too long, and the closest I ever came to Beta thinking and behaviour, was after that pain from the dysfunction receded, partly from sobriety and the 12-Step program. Fortunately, my Inner Bachelor kicked in and got us both out of relationship that was doing neither of us any good.

But none of that was why I didn’t get married. There are plenty of messed-up ACoA’s, co-dependents and generalised screw-ups, who are in messed-up marriages. (It’s a trap needy people can fall into: attach themselves to the first person who shows any signs of loving and caring for them.) I just knew it was something one should not do, the same way a sensible person eats their first Big Mac and knows not to have another. The same way anyone knows not to jump from tenth-story windows, or that snarling dogs should be left alone. These are things your body knows, not your brain.

If you don’t understand, you’re not a born bachelor.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Tattoos and Notch Count: Why You Shouldn't Care

Matt Forney recently wrote an article that has so far gained an astonishing 33,000 comments on RoK, explaining why girls with tattos and piercings are broken and make bad partners. It was based on his personal experience, though a follow-up article citied some academic studies that suggested his experience was not unique. As one commentator said, however, you can find an academic study that provides evidence for pretty much anything.

I'm not going to discuss whether Forney's views are right or wrong. There are pleasant young ladies in my office who have small and discreet tattoos, and in the limited world I inhabit, there are no girls with large and vivid tattos - well, until I get to the gym.

(Abby Lee Kershaw modelling a talking-point tattoo. If you live in her universe.)

I’ve never understood the heat that tattoos on, and sexual experience possessed by, women in their 20’s raises on many of the Manosphere sites. Depending on their visibility and aggression, tattoos are either a deliberate talking point (the barely-visible kind, it proves you were looking closely) or (the vivid on-display kind) a sign that you should probably leave her alone because if you were her type, she would have acknowledged you already. It all sounds like those young Indian men in the UK who want a “nice girl” from the village, not a thoroughly Westernised third-generation girl from their mixed comprehensive down the road.

I keep thinking “What are you guys worrying about? You’re not going to marry them, for Christ’s sake”. And that’s the point: those young anti-tattoo men do want to marry someone. Their complaint is that everywhere they look, they see tattoos and girls with more than a couple of notches on their belt. And in many cases, sure, if there was divorce insurance, those women would be un-insurable. Those young men should be glad those girls are disqualifying themselves as wives. And with such clear signals.

Because as far as I’m concerned, you’re not supposed to marry them. Any of them: tattoos or plain canvas, virgin or experienced, career girl or possible SAHM, sweet Polish girl or tough Yorkshire chick. You’re supposed to have sex with them, go to the movies and the ballet with them, talk about nothing over Sunday breakfast with them, go on holiday with them, and generally let them let you live a more varied life than the narrow sleep-commute-work-gym-commute-sleep cycle you would otherwise live. It’s reciprocal: without you, she would be doing the same. No-one’s using anyone. While they are with you, you should feel that they are fascinating, attractive, someone special and a general bonus to your life (that’s what men are supposed to feel about women, and if we didn’t, the whole thing really would be a business deal). After a while, she will realise you’re not a long-term prospect, or you will get tired of her faults just like the slogan says. Then it’s over.

(Original sentiment by Charles Bukowski)

I did this for a long, long time. It played out against the background of my drinking and generalised frakked-up-ness, so it wasn’t as much fun as it could have been, but I would have still “played the field”, as the phrase was, if I had been a genuinely self-confident man. Some girls didn’t stay as long as I would have liked, and I stayed with some longer than I should have. Some left me, and some I had to leave. All of them went on to other relationships and I never heard from them again.

That’s how it is supposed to be. Until, like me, your declining hormones, retreated neuroses, and sense of personal ease make it easy to retire from the fray, and live quietly as a self-sufficient bachelor. You’re not supposed to marry them. Marrying or even relationship-ing them is for the guys who can’t read the signs.
 (Reading the signs: probably not interested in a guy who blogs; also Photoshop-ed to within a millimetre of her torso; and apparently, she’s engaged.) 

Because there is no sign that says “good wife material”. Never has been, never will be. Time takes its toll on everyone and today’s good wife might be tomorrow’s shrew, just as today’s fit-and-attentive husband is tomorrow’s overweight workaholic. Equally, there’s no sign that says “will make a bad wife for you”. The most we have are probabilities. Read the signs, apply the probabilities and you will never get married, but you can still have some good relationships.

Monday, 3 November 2014

The Fox Now Arriving on Platform 18

So I take my seat on the Sunday 13:09 Waterloo-Reading via Richmond (because no District Line), look out of the window and grab my still-not-familiar-with-it Lumix TZ-40. Because this...

It disappeared into the space under the platform having had a quick look first (second to last shot of fox emerging before going back in). Utterly unconcerned, much like the foxes that used to sunbathe in my garden under the tall grasses.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Monday, 27 October 2014

This Post Delayed...

... because food poisoning. The germs / viruses / whatever are so small and so few in number, and yet the effect leaves me weak through and through, barely able to get upstairs or stay awake. Six flat teaspoons of sugar, half of salt, one litre of water. That's all I had for twenty-four hours. I ate some rice at lunchtime and fell asleep for an hour and a half. If I am able to leave the house Tuesday morning it will be some kind of surprise.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Migrating Your iPhone to Another Mac

You plug your iPhone into the Other Mac and open iTunes. iTunes enforces monogamy: an iPhone can only pair with a single Mac. (I understand the latest version lets you be poly-Mac-amous, but I’m not convinced.) Attempt to use another Mac to manage your iPhone music and iTunes will first delete everything on your phone. Even if you are just changing the setting from Sync to Manually Manage My Music. Hit that Apply button the first time and your phone gets wiped. I hit the button and then cancelled the job by clicking on the cross in the progress bar.

I kept the music on the phone, but iTunes totally lost it. Restarted the phone and iTunes, still no recognition on iTunes of the music on my phone. I looked through the Forums, I called Apple support next morning and I even got told by someone at the Regent Street Apple store that the only way to handle the problem was to book a Genius Appointment. By the time he suggested that I talk to my carrier - who supplied the phone - in case it was a hardware fault, it clicked. Those guys don’t understand how iTunes works and how Macs and iPhones sync. It’s all a black box to them. I downloaded iTunes 12 like the phone support guy suggested and tried again. Nothing changed. By the next morning, I had it figured out.

A Windows program would have an option to “Transfer my iPhone library” or something similar. It would read the music directory on the phone and re-create the computer's view of what was on the phone. It would also have an option to “Re-Sync my Phone Library", which would compare the view on the computer with the music on the phone and prompt for removing or making up the differences. Easy, if a little slow. So if anything goes wrong, a Windows program could read the directories and start over.

iTunes doesn’t work like that. iTunes doesn’t read the file system on the iPhone. It probably can’t read the filesystem, for reasons that Apple thought made sense at the time. (Never drive yourself mad trying to understand crazy – that’s why they call it “crazy”.) What iTunes does is read a special ‘library’ file on the phone, not even the one used by the Music app because, don’t forget, my Music app still had a functioning set of menus and pictures. This is why Apple makes you go through iTunes, because iTunes needs to keep the two catalogue files - one on the Mac and one in the iPhone - in sync.

This is part of a deeper difference between Apple and everyone else. Apple’s approach is to keep the user away from the filesystem. It’s quite amazing how many people don’t really grok file systems, and the UNIX filesystem is especially horrible. Apple’s approach is that the user shouldn’t need to understand the mechanics of the computer, that the user should interact on the symbolic level and leave the messy business of directories and the like to the OS. Apple is like automatic transmission, while Windows and Linux / Unix are for people who like to drive a stick-shift.

iTunes wants me to Sync. Apple wants me not to mess around at the filesystem level. It’s why Spotlight is so fabulous. I decided to get with the program. Here’s how you do it.

Download and install the latest iTunes. This is for version 12.
Make sure you have your music directories connected - mine are on NAS and I have to remember to re-connect to it
Set up a playlist in iTunes called “iPhone” (or whatever) and drag-and-drop all the music you need into it
Connect your iPhone and click on the icon to bring up the control screen

Now do this is exactly this order...
Select the Music Tab...
tick Sync Music at the top left...
tick the playlist you just created...
and only then click the Sync button at the bottom right.

This will delete all the music on your iPhone, copy across the songs in the playlist and re-build the iPhone’s iTunes catalogue and its Music app catalogue.

From now on, to manage the music on your iPhone (or other device), edit the playlist first and let the Sync do the rest. That’s what Apple and iTunes really want you to do. It's just as flexible and you can do it without needing the phone connected. The connect, press Sync and go do something while it does.

Why they don’t just tell us that in the first place, I have no idea. “If you’re from Windows, you’ll be used to manually moving files and re-building the catalogue in your media player. Now there’s no need to do that. Just set up a playlist for your device, edit that and Sync on just that playlist. Here are the exact steps to set that up…”.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Christine McVie On Tour

This was not supposed to happen.

Stolen from The Guardian 13/10/2014
Like Sis says: for Christ sakes we were all supposed to die before we got old...

Thursday, 16 October 2014

How Not To Lift A Heavy Object

We have to do “Mandatory Training” every month at The Bank. Year after year it’s the same old stuff. Every year there’s a health and safety thing, which includes instructions about how to lift heavy objects. Here are the photographs of the approved style.

I know. Seriously. This is a bank with… a lot of employees. So let’s go through what’s wrong here.

1. Remove the high heel shoes. Because you see lots of guys lifting in high heels.
2. Feet level and hip width or more apart. Because you don’t want to put rotational stress on your hips.

3. How about using the holes in the side of the box as handles? Which is, you know, they’re there for. 4. Holding the box by the sides means she must generate enough friction to equal the weight of the box. It’s very inefficient and not good for long distances of say, ten yards or more.
5. Just try lifting anything in this pose. Let me know how comfortable your right leg feels.

The point is, if they can mess up something this simple, how much confidence can we have that they are doing the complicated stuff right?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Managing Photographs: Making Choices

There are three decisions to make in this process: culling the boring and just plain bad shots; doing stuff to turn the maybes into definites; and then displaying the stuff I keep.

Some photographs - like this one - are just great on their own. Others need a little context: this one

works better if you know it was taken from St Pauls, and that the Shard is about a mile away. Then there's the photo-essay, which has more or less disappeared from print, but still exists on the internet, and back when Colin Sokol was her photographer, Rumi Neely used to do things like this. The point of an essay is that the overall effect is greater than the sum of the parts: the parts are good-but-not-striking-or-memorable images, and together they make up something memorable. A photo-essay has a narrative structure - even if it is borrowed from a Georges Perec novel. Each image should follow from or contrast with the ones before. The worst kind of photo-essay, or photographer's book, is one that has a series of similar shots. You know: face, face, face; wasteland, wasteland, wasteland; bridge, bridge, bridge; crowd, crowd, crowd. Repetition only works where there's a certain amont of fetishism involved, as in: Ferrari, Ferrari, Ferrari; Mica Arganaraz, Mica Arganaraz, Mica Arganaraz; sunset, sunset, sunset.

(Not a Ferrari or a sunset)

When we are taking snaps for ourselves, rather than for clients or projects for publication, it's of an event, or place, or journey. There's a built-in narrative, even if it’s a walk round a part of a city. So one thing that guides the final selection process is the narrative that we make from the photographs. Another is keeping images that fit into a longer-term project (I'm doing signs on buildings at the moment).

So I am going to keep everything but the clunkers in an archive is that I might devise new projects or themes, and can start by raiding the past. This helps me understand how to organise my photographs. I photograph places and so that will do for a directory structure. Themes can be handled with tags.

Finally, there’s the presentation issue. I’m not a pro, I’m not going to find a publisher for a book, and any thoughts of gallery or exhibition are out of the question. I don’t do the kind of photographs that photography club types do, and anyway I’m not a joiner. So it’s going to be the blog. And the Picasa album that Blogger uses to store pictures in my blogs.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Chasing the Blahs Away

Recently when I wake up, at 05:30 each weekday morning, I murmer to myself: can I stop now? Do I have to carry on slogging through each morning prep, commute, day at the job, commute and/or gym? Can I retire and do whatever it is I think I'm going to do when I retire - learn K-theory and the Bach Cello Suites on plectrum guitar.

At least, that's what I think I mean. And if I had a thumping final-salary pension from years of service with the company and could afford to live on it, then I might well chuck in the day-job and find something else to do. But I don't, so I can't, so waking up at 05:30 it is.

The last week off work let me realise that it takes my body three full days to recover from the kind of workout I gave it on the Tuesday afternoon, the highlights of which were 2x6x70kgs on the bench press, 3x10x24kgs on the dumbell chest press and 3x8x60 on the deadlift. (I know, you can do that standing on your head. Call me when you're 60 and doing better.) A huge part of the "Can I Stop Now" comes from that physical reaction.

Then waking up at 05:30. My natural times are bed between 23:00 and 24:00, wake up some time after 07:00 and lie in bed for 20 minutes or so before getting started on breakfast. 05:30 is un-natural and it's followed by a commute by public transport. I know everyone else does that, and guess what? Everyone else wants to stop as well.

The drab office with its half-assed aircon, meeting rooms in which I and many others struggle to stay awake, furniture that was tired when it was bought no doubt second-hand, don't mention the toilets, and the truly awful computers and internet access does not help either.

Then there's my superior moral fortitude, so I can't do what old men my age do, which is let themselves go to the point where they think that three brisk 30-minute walks a week counts as exercise, and watching some vapid documentary on BBC 3 counts as intellectual challenge. When I ask if I can stop now, I'm asking as well if I can just let myself go now please?

Of course I can't. I know what happens if I stop exercising: I put on weight, my blood sugar goes up as a consequence, my legs break out into blotches and I lose the fine edge of thinking ability that makes me a demon at my job. I get tired, irritable and lose my charm and confidence. Seriously.

I could no more start watching mainstream TV than I could pull my hair out. I'm fed up with the movie scene in London because I want it to be something more than the same five films in the Curzons, Everymans and even at the ICA. Could I really stop reading philosophy and mathematics? I did stop with the philosophy, and I'm happier now I read it again, even if it's sometimes so waffle-y it hurts (I'm looking at you, Isabelle Stengers). As for reading and understanding mathematics (or physics), it's how you know you haven't woken up brain-dead from one too many meetings where people talk non-stop management babble as if it makes sense to them.

As for dressing well and eating at the bar (at Moro, Exmouth Market as I type), that's only going to stop when I can't afford it. And it isn't that expensive to dress with anonymous style, thanks to the fact that all clothes are now made by child labour in Chinese factories that spew the pollution from the carcinogenic dyes into the water.

I'm doing all this sober - something you have no idea about - and drug-free and with practically zero chance of getting off with any kind of female - which some of you may have an idea about - and while it's all terribly virtuous and vastly preferable, for me, to being drunk, high or involved with some needy screw-up, it lacks edge and part of me would like to stop doing it, and let go, stay home and watch crap TV, eat high-calorie food junk food and turn into a self-pitying mess who gets asked to retire in six months. That's the self-pitying part of me talking. I don't want to do any of those things. Especially the part where I stop being good-looking.

What I want is to live the way I do but without the sense of effort, effort, effort. You know why so few people are real menschen? Because it's hard work, and it never gets to be a habit, and it never gets easy, and very few people support you in your endeavour to be so.

What’s left is a case of the blahs, that boredom and dissatisfaction that can make me retreat to the house instead of going to do something, because doing whatever it is isn’t going to make me feel better so why should I spend the money? A quick look round the web finds people treating the blahs like a cloudy day, and as having no ontological significance, but that’s a tad lazy. If I’m bored and dissatisfied it’s because there’s something missing from my life. Maybe I need to find an interesting book to read, or please god a decent movie to watch, or do some housework (alcoholics will remember that one: cleaning is very distracting, therapeutic and rewarding. Many alcoholics in early days have spotless quarters). The blahs can mean I’ve read some tedious books, or been tired, or done something to run myself down. There’s nothing that says the blahs are more common amongst the older folk, although we do have more cause to say things like “I saw the original” or “I read Proust already”. However, I haven’t read lots of John D McDonald or any of Hopscotch. It’s up to me to find something new and interesting, and there’s always something out there.

So I am going to tell my waking, aching body to shut the frack up, and take it to the brisk morning exercises involving light barbells with Fatgripz on the handles. I am going to do my best to be in bed by 21:30 five days a week and get seven hour's sleep. I am going to keep dragging my sorry ass to work, to the gym, to restaurants, movies and wherever else I think I should show up.

Monday, 6 October 2014

This Post Intentionally Left Blank

Because I was on holiday last week and have too many threads dangling.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Managing Photographs: Software

So we were at the point where the trusty MacBook Pro was no longer trusty. And I had my iPhoto library on its hard drive. I managed to export all the files to a network drive - I think that's easier on the early version of iPhoto I had - and that took the time it took. Suddenly I had around 10,000 files to sort out. I know that this is almost how many a rookie professional wedding photographer takes on their first assignment, but I’m not a pro, so for me, 10,000 is a lot.

I experimented with using iPhoto on a new Mac Air with the iPhoto library on the network drive via wifi. Because, you know, I didn’t know any better.



Or you will tear your hair out waiting for iPhoto to fetch the files over your wi-fi network and make copies and do whatever else it does. Macs just don't do well over networks, especially with a Windows drives on the other end.

This is a shame, because for a simple person like me, whose idea of editing a photo is straightening out the unaccountable but consistent 0.5-2.0 degrees rightwards tilt in every photograph I have ever taken with a digital camera, iPhoto does a nice job with a minimum of fuss. Imports, creates events, lets me edit, and exports. All in a pretty interface. But it really wants its Library on the hard drive or maybe an external drive connected by Thunderbolt for preference (I haven't tried). Not on a network drive. What to do?

I was also reading pro photographers' blogs at the time, and one of them mentioned Irfan View.

Heck, yeah, Irfan View. Irfan View laughs at displaying 2,000 image directories it’s never seen before, creating thumbnails from any image format file faster in a blink, and then giving you all the bulk handling facilities you want and some you didn't know you couldn't live without. You have to see it in action to believe it. It's ridiculously robust and stable, and it's developed, seemingly, by a single man called Irfan Skiljan. It's free, though after a while, you really will want to donate. Along with Evernote and Dropbox, it's on all my (Windows) computers. So on a Mac that means WINE. Tried it. With Winebottler. That worked fine though I had to hack round the fact that Wine bottler wants the 433 version of the install exe, and the current download is 438. And suddenly I had Irfan View up, except... wait... I had more images than that in that folder. And that one. For some reason it will only show me 45 random images from a directory. Nothing on Google about this, which makes me think no-one else has used this on larger directories. So that's that option.

So Picasa. I know. Google. The Evil Empire. How can anything written - actually, acquired - by Google be good enough? By now I had learned not to do images over wifi, so I downloaded it and started slowly. And actually, it’s not bad. It’s better than that. It’s good enough for the job.

And that’s the point: for the job. moving away from iPhoto means I had to think about my “workflow”. "Workflow" is what replaced "developing and printing" when everyone went digital. In the Days of Film, photographers developed the negatives, made up contact sheets (analogue thumbnails), and then looked at each one through a loupe, and indicated the keepers with a flamboyant - and presumably removable - pencilled circle. These they printed full size - being professionals they wanted to keep the costs down. They kept the contact sheets and the negatives. All of them. Forever. Often un-marked in boxes, draws and faded brown envelopes that filled every inch of their tiny Manhatten apartments - the latter years of many famous photographers’ lives are a study in obsessive picture taking.

That’s kinda what happens now, but digitally. I return with a camera full of images that...

1. have to be copied onto my computer, which gives me a directory full of images most of which won't be worth keeping, so I have to...
2. delete the ones that make you say “Meh”...
3. and archive the rest after putting some rudimentary tagging on them. From those I choose the obvious goodies plus those that might work if cropped, processed and re-worked in whatever image editor I have... on those ones that could be tweaked...
5. add in tags and ownership details data to the image files for the spiders to crawl...
6. because in the end I’m going to publish them even if it’s only on this blog.

A real pro follows the same system, but better. And for money. To do all this, I need software to import the files from the camera and a library manager, which iPhoto and Picasa do, and an image editor. Lightroom is for advanced image processing, not library management, cropping, rotating and applying a few neat tricks. That’s what iPhoto and Picasa do.

Plus I’m cheap, and Picasa is free. Except for it’s Google’s way of paying for all that valuable information in my searches and e-mails and calendar. Because I’m the kinda person you really want to sell things to. Or I’m not, so the advertisers don’t waste their money advertising to me.

So that brings us to the culling and filtering process. The artistic vision thing. I’m not a pro, so the only client I have to keep happy is me. And this is another subject again.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Changing the Computer Stock

My trusty six-year old 15" MacBook Pro developed Flickering Graphic Card Syndrome in September. The guys down in the basement at Mac1 Spitalfields gave me a quote of around £350 + VAT to fix it. Then you're left wondering how long it will be before the next thing fails. My first thought was, of course, "need new MacBook Pro". Yeah. At £1,300+ for a 15" screen. Retina only. The 13" non-Retina is still £899 for the base model. Faced with decisions like this, the best thing I can do is keep looking until the right answer appears from all the obvious ones.

My current stock is:

Asus EE PC 1000P netbook (about five years old) Win 7
11" Mac Air with 128GB SDD (nearly two years old) OS X Mavericks
17" Samsung desktop replacement (about five years old) Win 7
15" MacBook Pro (see above) OS X Mavericks

I've been using the Air as my walk-around computer, and the Asus as a cheap internet media centre. The real issue is that the Samsung will be next to go, and I'll need a replacement Windows workhorse. These get cheaper and better all the time, but right now...

Windows 8

Wow. Just. Wow.

Windows 8, like Vista, is proof that a building full of geniuses can still produce a camel in response to the spec for a horse. So the whole buy-a-15.6"-Wintel-machine-for-next-to-nothing option is on hold.

After a great deal of gazing at Mac Pros and other kit, I thought "Let's look at Chromebooks". Because I never have and of course you'd replace a MacBook Pro with a Chromebook. Right?

Except that most of my computing now is browsing and Evernote. Evernote runs in Chrome. If I need to use a Latex editor / compiler or maybe use Lightroom to edit stuff (this is another post) I can use the Mac Air or the Samsung. The blogs of a number of pro photographers sing the praises of recent Mac Airs using Lightroom. What I need is a computer with a decent size screen to browse, play media, and use Evernote. That's a Chromebook.

See what I mean about waiting until the right decision appears from all the obvious ones?

So the new stock looks like:

Portable: Asus C P1000P netbook (about four years old) Win 7
Serious Computing: 11" Mac Air with 128GB SDD (nearly two years old) OS X Mavericks Windows Workhorse: 17" Samsung desktop replacement (about five years old) Win 7
Normal Stuff at Home: 14" HP Chromebook

When the Air packs up, I will get whatever the entry-level MacBook Pro is: by then it will weigh nothing and have the computing power of a Cray mainframe from the early 2000's. When the Win 7 machines pack up, with luck Win 9 will be out and be something people would actually want to use.


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Why You Should Get A Santander 1-2-3 Account

(Disclosure: I work in retail banking. I do not now nor ever have worked for Santander or the companies it bought. This is a public service announcement.)

Savings rates are a joke right now. The banks and wholesale markets can get cheap money from the Government and Bank of England: they don’t need to pay us a decent rate of interest to attract our funds. The Government is schizoid: it wants us to save for our pensions, but it wants us to spend, spend, spend so that the economy will recover, and preferably on VAT-able items so its tax take will go up. Good luck squaring that circle.

Very few people have large amounts (more than £50,000) of cash-based savings. I have nothing like that and still shuffle my money around once a year, with the main aim of trying to get as much as possible into an ISA so I avoid tax. 1.5% tax-free equates to 2.5% gross. Go find 2.5% anywhere.

Well, first there's 4% on up-to £5,000 from the Club Lloyds current account. You need to pay in at least £1,500 every month (which puts it past about half the population), but you don’t have to leave it there, so you could transfer it from your present current account and then spend it. Push £5,000 in, set up a standing order and you’re done. You may think it a bit too much fuss for £5,000.

So then there’s Santander’s 123 account, which gives 3% up-to £20,000, and cashback on Council Tax, Telecoms, Water, Gas, Electricity and other bills. If like me you’re living in a former People’s Republic of London, getting cashback on Council Tax alone feels like some kind of symbolic revenge. Santander’s web site has a calculator which you should look at as soon as you’ve finished reading this.

You need to transfer in at least £500 a month, set up five direct debits and have at least £1,000 on deposit before the benefits kick in. My guess is that those five DD’s are a carefully-chosen obstacle - it feels like a number someone researched. Santander offer a current account transfer service, and my guess is that many people will prefer to do a full transfer than go through what they think is the trouble of changing the details on five DD’s.

Changing the bank details on your DD’s is as simple as calling the council / water company / electricity company / telco etc and telling them you want to change account that pays the DD. They will ask for identification – I didn’t have my account numbers with me and it still all worked - and the 123 account sort code and account number. Done in a couple of minutes, though you may need a headset to make it easier to wait until an operator becomes available. My telcos even let me change the DD account details online.

You need to delete the DDs in your original current account once they have been paid for the current month. That doesn’t take long to do online. If you are the last person left in the UK who doesn’t do online banking, now is a good time to start.

Applying for a 123 account online takes about 10 minutes and Santander do an electronic credit check. I got an e-mail confirming my application about ten seconds after I clicked Submit and a confirmation of getting the account about a minute later. As part of a security process they send the account details and multiple-part security letters over a period of about two weeks.

It sounds like a lot of fuss, but it’s a couple of hours at most and will gain you about £200 or so (depending on how much money you have and the size of your bills) over letting your money rot at 0.5% somewhere. When was the last time you were paid £100 an hour?

It’s incumbent on as many of us as possible to remove money from savings accounts and toss it into a high-interest current account. Until lots of us do, banks won’t raise their savings rates.

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Best Things In Life Are Free - Janet and Luther

Every time, and mean every time I hear this, I’m smiling and singing along. So play it and do the same.

Happy Days....

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Liking Girls, Walking Away and Self-Development

What separates the London daygamers from all the other guys - aside from the whole pragmatic English vibe - is that they seem to have worked out how to have women in their lives but dodge the risks. They like girls. A lot of the commentators on the American sites don’t, I feel, actually like women. Some of that feels like “you’ve just had a bad experience, we’re not all like that” and some of it feels like “you’re just bitter because you can’t get a girl”, and some of it feels like “Jesus aren’t there any attractive women in this place?”. The London guys like girls, even though at the same time, they have no intention of being in an LTR or for that matter having female friends. I’m pretty sure all of them have said “If you’re not fucking her, you’re her girlfriend” at one time or other. And I would agree.

The London Guys like girls because they bail as soon as the bad stuff starts to show. To adapt an iconic quote: “don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the [bad attitude starting to show].”

Although Pacino’s Vincent Hanna calls that “pretty vacant”, what exactly is the alternative? We stick around for the random, the tantrums, shit tests and manipulations, in the hope it will go away for long enough to get laid again? That’s supposed to be what a meaningful life is about? Suffering random nonsense from one’s female partner? Ah hell, thanks no, I’ll pass. We’re all going to have lives full of random nonsense from employers, governments, train companies, banks, airlines, border controls, petrol prices, road works, plus whatever our genes decide to unload on us on a timetable we know nothing about. That’s enough suffering to make any life deep and meaningful. (It’s not easy for ACoA’s and co-dependents. We like a bit of pointless drama and deep meaningful messed-up relationships. Gotta work on that.)

The London daygamers, and you and I, can walk away for three reasons: first, we’re confident we can find another playmate without too much effort; second, we have an identity and a life that is independent of women; third, “it’s the discipline”, and we respect that. (I’m fine with the second and third. The first is a long story you’ve heard too much of already.)

We don’t need women for validation, for purpose, to give our lives structure or to give us meaning. We do not need them to give us a reason to get out of bed and go to work. For us, James Brown was talking utter crap when he said
It’s a man’s world / but it don’t mean nothing / without a woman or a girl
(I’ve recently moved my morning radio station to Planet Rock after a few months on Heart. Heart made me realise just how chronically Blue Pill pop culture was and still is in some parts. So many of the songs was about how she made his life worth living, and how he was lost / sad / nothing without her. And as for that twerp telling his perfectly imperfect girlfriend that she’s perfect? Eeech. Have some dignity man. But to realise The Godfather of Soul was preaching this muck? I still shudder slightly.)

This is why the Manosphere puts so much emphasis on self-development and the pursuit of one’s own projects. Without those to give you an identity, you will use your “relationships” to give you a sense of meaning and place in the world. Instead of being the man who does this, knows that, can fix this, and goes there, you will be “Sally’s ex-boyfriend” and “Jack’s mate”. As a consequence of being the Man Who Does, you will be “the tax guy” or “the electrician” or “he spends half the year overseas”. I know which I prefer the sound of. Therapy types have a nice phrase about how we should aim to be a “human being” not a “human doing”. If the “doing” is pointless rushing around after ingrates and users, and staying late to do bullshit work, then they are right. But if the “doing” is a character-building, mind-developing and maybe even people-helping project, then the therapy types are wrong. That’s exactly the kind of “human being, doing” we should be.

Monday, 15 September 2014

August 2014 Review

Do you know that feeling when your state of mind shifted, but you’re not sure how and with what results? I took a week off in August, and that happened.

For one thing, I deliberately stayed up late, so I’d lie in (07:30 is a lie-in for me) each morning. I noticed it made me feel... calmer? more mellow? less desperate? the next morning. I still got 6-7 hours sleep. So I do that Friday and Saturday night.

I decided to go to the gym every other day, so I do the spinning and yoga classes every other week, and get a decent run of weight-training in the other week. I get to go straight home and have quiet evenings with a clear conscience, which is restful as well as giving me a day’s recovery in between training days. Then I resurrected the brisk 5-8 minutes or so of very light weights exercises first thing in the morning - and I mean before coffee. Gets me moving and stirs up the hormones. Shower afterwards.

I decided to experiment with what I eat, because it’s still a little too much, and I’m still doing that. I went back to eating meat at the weekends, stopping the fish thing I’d been on since reading a book on nutrition. I feel better.

The To-Do list got busy, as I ordered a pair of Fat Gripz - comments later - and started looking at watches - my take on that later. I found a gardener to do the heavy work involving fences and shed roof, and he will start sometime way later. Gardeners are always busy in autumn. I added a bunch of dance events at Sadlers Wells to the dairy as well. And changed up the work shirts: I have been wearing plain blue and slightly heavy regular fit shirts, but started getting a unhappy with the look, so I spent a while in Tyrwhit and found some fitted, single cuff, cut-away collar shirts with thin vertical stripes in blue, green and red. Nice change of look and it makes me look slimmer (it’s all about my vanity, oh yes). The idea of a subscription to the Economist suddenly seemed sensible, though it took awhile to get it past the purchasing committee, and I’m now a subscriber. Why? Because I’m fed up with even the online broadsheets: they’re free for a reason.

There was also the eye-test thing, triggered by an arm on my Silhouettes breaking: this is expensive. The updated replacements, which have amazing lenses, are even more so.

I started taking more photographs with the Lumix, though I still need to read the whole of the manual. I found the line that turns green when the camera thinks it’s level, and that helped me adapt to the hold-it-at-a-distance manner of digital cameras. That was before I got the shots of the steam train at Hammersmith station, which just happened to be there on my way back from breakfast in Notting Hill. Unlike the dozens of overweight and weird-looking Trainspotters taking pictures, for whom it was the highlight of their week.

I made excellent progress with the cohomology section of the Riemann-Roch paper, and I’m back in the groove with that. I read Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, John D MacDonald’s The Key To The Suite, Warren Ellis’ Gun Machine, Peter Pettinger’s How My Heart Sings: Biography of Bill Evans, gave up on a lousy Kindle edition of Hegels’ Science of Logic, did the first 450 pages of Sergio de La Pava’s A Naked Singularity and Alex de Campi’s Smoke / Ashes. At the movies, I saw Step Up: All In, and Lucy at Cineworld; All This Mayhem, The Congress, Welcome to New York, Finding Vivien Meyer at the ICA; and Art Party, Two Days and One Night at the Curzon Soho.

You see what I mean about changing things up?

Sis and I had supper at the Union Street Cafe, and I ate at Picture, Rowly’s, House of Ho, Clos Maggiore and Arbutus during the week. All my holidays start with a visit to the guys at Picture. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Pictures of July

Bishopsgate road works; excellent haul of DVDs from Fopp, Covent Garden; Flag; Garden Chair on my back patio; Signs in Covent Garden; Stansted Express on Bishopsgate.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

More Editorial Models (NSFW)

I have written before about how it's all about the editorial models for me. Here's another ten from the posts of various blogs and flickrs. Mica Arganaraz and Helena Severin join Eniko Mihalik as Girls I'd Most Like To Find Myself Sitting Next To On A Plane.

Freja Beha Erichsen

Helena Severin

Jenna Klein

Larissa Hoffman

Lola McDonnell

Majorie Levesque

Melaine Smith

Mica Araganraz

Raquel Zimmerman

Sabrina Ioffreda

Thanks to fashioncopius and GoSeeMag.