Thursday, 17 August 2017

Nice People Play The National Lottery

Single Mum of Colour? Check.
Gay Latin Male? Check.
Sturdy White Working Mother of Two? Check
Daddy of Colour with Princess Daughter? Check.
White Diamond Geezer Family Man? Check.
Athletic Single Middle-Aged White Devoted Daughter? Check.
Gay White Social Worker? Check.
Retired White Devoted Daughter? Check.

The Missing Demographics?

1) Straight Professional White Men
2) Twenty-Something Girls

This feels research-driven. The National Lottery asked people who they had helped, or thought they would help, with the money they won or might win. The research subjects duly gave Right Answers, and the agency devised this campaign, as much as an attempt to position the Lottery as for Nice People who will spend the money on Good Causes, and not just for people desperate to get out of debt, and who shouldn’t be gambling in the first place. The people in this poster are all nice. Nice people play the Lottery. Well, that's what they want you to believe.

The Devoted Daughters are a surprise. I wouldn’t have guessed they were a sizeable segment.

Why no Straight White Men? One theory is that the Liberal Elites who run advertising are part of a plot to marginalise Straight White Men and to privilege women and minorities. The real reason is the research says middle-class white men don’t go near the Lottery. That’s why there are no white professional men in the picture: wasted communication resource.

Here's another reading. Straight White Men can provide for their families without the Lottery. The Lottery is for women and minorities who are underpaid: because gender pay gap and discrimination. So maybe in a way this poster is affirming the Liberal Elite frame after all.

Why no 20-something girls? Because 20-something girls are not about family, and the Liberal Elites don't want them to be about family. That's one suggestion, but the real reason is, I bet, that 20-something girls don't play the lottery either. Because deep down, 20-something girls know that the Lottery is for women and minorities who can't command a decent salary.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Goals and Systems

Scott Adams, who is way richer and smarter than me, has a saying: goals are for losers, systems are for winners. It's been taken up by a few folk recently. It sounds plausible, especially when Adams explains it, but there's another half to the story.

Goals and systems go together. The goal gives the system a purpose, the system makes the goal achievable. Goals without systems are fantasies; systems without goals are futile. Olympic competitors have a goal (“do my best in the race on the day”) which is carefully not about winning medals, and a system of training, dieting, sleeping, and for all anyone knows, motivational movies, to help them achieve that goal. Oh. The medal thing? Well, if their best gets them one, with the accompanying sponsorship and advertising deals, that’s a bonus. It’s not what they are doing it for.

At the very top levels, as I’ve written before, it’s all about the process, not about the prizes.

Someone who says they have a goal, but doesn’t work a system to get there, doesn’t have a goal. They have an idle dream. Someone who says “My goal is to run the London Marathon in under three hours next year” when they can barely run for the bus now, is not “setting themselves a goal”. They are fantasising. Or just being silly. We nod along with it because we’re polite. We don’t really think they have a goal.

There are three kinds of goals: goals that bring prizes, like winning an award, getting a promotion or a raise, or bedding the blonde; goals that don't have prizes, like benching 100kg, visiting Paris, or bedding the blonde; and states, like being fit and healthy, being informed about the arts, or writing for a living. And let’s distinguish these from tasks which are closed-end activities with a well-defined result that you wouldn't do unless you had to.

Being an author is a state-goal; writing a best-seller is a prize-goal, and cleaning the shed to write in, is a task.

A state-goal needs maintenance: after a while the maintenance becomes the goal. I “go to the gym”, I don’t “aim to get muscled-up”.

We can win prizes by sheer dumb luck alone, as in a Lottery, but mostly prizes are won by talent and effort, and the sheer dumb luck of someone deciding to award you a prize. You’re not in control of whether you win a prize. You are, mostly, in control of whether you can work at something every day. At this exact moment of post-modern capitalism, winning any prize takes a lot of work, and hence requires the temperament, wider life-style and sacrifices to do that work. You want that promotion to the grade above the crab-basket? Put in the hours, put in the work, learn the self-management, self-presentation and social skills. As for what you have to do to win an Olympic Gold… Prizes worth having require a lot of work.

A handful of Prizes put one into a Pantheon: Nobel Prize winners, Fields Medallists, Wimbledon and Formula One champions, all have the same relaxed confidence that musicians who had played with Miles Davis had or have. The glow of the unquestionable elite.

At the other end are the non-prize goals: whether these are rewarding depends on your state of mind. One man might be thrilled with his trip up to the observation deck of the Shard, while another, in the middle of a potentially nasty re-organisation at work, might wonder what he is doing there. One man may bench 100kg and glow inwardly at having proved something to himself: another might add another 5kgs the next time.

Therapists and psychologists see a lot of people who don't get a feeling of satisfaction from whatever they do. Those therapists conclude that everyone feels that way, and pronounce goals of any kind to be inherently unsatisfying and meaningless. As opposed to True Love, and Family, and Intimacy, and Being Accepted, and all that stuff.

Someone who thinks that getting some gee-gaw, attaining some goal or winning some prize will change them are, of course, being silly. It’s not the prize that changes them: it’s the process of getting the prize. It’s the changes in character, confidence and emotional state needed to be at the prize-winning level, that are the real benefit of the prize. Not the money, celebrity and appearance in the Honours List. Although the money, celebrity and gong are worth having.

Regular people are puzzled by those of us who have state-goals. Why do I want to be fit and in shape? As if it must be for another purpose, such as impressing girls or playing a sport, the purpose of which is, of course, to win a prize. Regular people understand prizes, but not states. Unless that state is "happiness". Whatever that means to them.

Successful people, by contrast, have systems and goals, the goals are states of which the system is an important part, and the state offers a chance of winning prizes (promotions, investment returns, sex with pretty girls, money) as well. Elite athletics is an endless stream of competitions: competing is a state, and every now and then, they get to stand on the rostrum and bag some sponsorship or advertising. Writing is a state, and if the writer is lucky, he gets a best-seller.

The really unfortunate people are those who work systems that don't put them in a desired state and don't offer the chance of winning prizes.

They’re called “employees”.

Yep. That would be me.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Good and Bad Subscriptions

Finally, in this five-part series that just grew like Topsy, let's look at how subscriptions such as Prime work.

First, let’s explain how an honest subscription offer works. At one end is the Financial Times: you can subscribe to it at the same cost as you would pay over the counter, but they offer delivery. If you want online services, you pay for those as well. Very few products can get away with a zero per cent discount, and the FT is one of them.

Then there’s the Cineworld Unlimited card. It’s £210 a year for the basic card, which gets you a regular seat for as many movies as you want, plus discounts on hot dogs, ice cream and popcorn. Given that a ticket costs around £11 now, you’re in profit at the twentieth film. So you need to see two films a month. Every month. If I was in my twenties, I could do that. Now? I doubt they show a film a month I want to see. My guess is that most Unlimited card holders see between fifteen and twenty-five films a year - not counting repeats and the Bollywood audience. Those discounts on the ice cream? I bet they make us buy more. This sort of offer makes money two ways: first, the films left unseen, the people who see fewer than breakeven; and second, that people take Unlimited as a way of seeing more films. They go from, say, ten to, say, twenty.

Then there are magazine subscriptions. Men’s Health offers eleven issues for £33 against a counter cost of £43.89, and that includes delivery. That’s a 25% discount. I bet their research tells them that the the majority of readers buy it between four and nine times a year, and that very few buy it more than that. Marginal costs of production are fairly small - it will be printed in Eastern Europe or China - so the calculation is about the increased revenue from sales plus the increased revenue from advertisers. The math isn’t hard to do, but get it wrong and the publisher loses money.

All of these are honest models. The subscribing customer gets what they would have got over the counter, usually delivered and at a discount to the counter price. The company gets greater sales, and in the case of the Unlimited-style offers, more revenue per customer.

Now let’s talk about Prime and Netflix. How does something get onto Prime? An Amazon buyer is talking with one of the networks. They are going over the autumn releases, and quibbling about discounts for Amazon. Then the buyer says something like “We could ease the discount a little if you could give us something for Prime”. That’s ‘give’ as in beer. Gratis. So the network throws in a handful of straight-to-DVD duds and kids stuff. That’s what appears in the Prime program. For stuff that needs delivery, the "free delivery” comes out of the manufacturer’s end: maybe Amazon promises to optimise where it appears in return. Or whatever else. Netflix does the same. You didn’t think you would get the good stuff free when it still sells in DVD discount stores for £5? Did you?

Ah. But what about House of Cards? Or Orange is the New Black? Sure, great value if you bail out after a month of binge-watching. Doesn’t make the rest of their catalogue any less bargain-basement. With the Netflix / Prime type of subscription service you are not getting the good stuff at a reduced rate, as you are with the magazine or Unlimited type of offer. You’re getting the stuff that studios and networks are willing to let go for free. Or may be promoting.

Monday, 7 August 2017

TV and Movie Streaming

Moving on to TV and Movies, let’s talk about subscription services. The final post in this series is about that Prime and other subscription services work and why. Let’s just say that Prime Video looks like the bargain shelves in Blockbusters. I don’t get The Long Goodbye for free, and I have to stump up for MUBI to watch Two or Three Things I Know About Her. It looks like I can watch all the kids movies I want. So let’s just toss Amazon in the bin.

You know how Amazon is really J C Penny on steroids? The streaming services - Apple, Netflix, Amazon - are Blockbusters on steroids. That’s why looking at what they offer always reminds me of walking round Blockbusters, or Fopp in Covent Garden, with the difference that Fopp has, and Blockbusters had, art movies. Blockbusters worked because some people were prepared to wait a while to see the latest movies, but mostly because all of us would watch something that was cheap to rent and looked “okay” but that we would not splash out a full-price cinema visit to see. Streaming services make money because of those grim Sunday afternoons when you’re bored and will watch anything. Amazon’s in the bin because Prime doesn’t actually apply to any movies I want, and do you notice how hard it is to find out what Netflix actually has to offer, and if any of the films or programs have an additional charge? So did I. Let’s give Netflix a pass. If you like it, you pay for it.

I'm going to stick with cut-price box sets from Fopp.

It’s Curzon Home Cinema I really want. I’ve ranted about their crazy commercial decisions before, but hey, let’s rub it in. When it started, they used the browser and I could plug an HDMI cable to my laptop and watch on my TV. Then they revamped the service, and now the Curzon app does not support any form of output re-direction. No Air Play. No Lightning to HDMI for the TV. Who the heck wants to watch a film on an iPad? Even Amazon’s iOS app supports Air Play! Ah, but wait. Curzon has an app for the Apple TV. That’s £139. Since I’m a Curzon member, £139 is about 10-12 movies depending on when I go. And it costs to rent the movies, so breakeven is way down the line. And they all come out on DVD anyway, and eventually for about £5-£10. This is not looking good for Curzon Home Cinema. I’ll just watch the movies when they come out instead. (Note: this is only because I work in central London. If you’re outside the M25 in a town with no council-sponsored art house, then it’s a bargain.)

So if I'm going to get an art-movie subscription, I’ll get MUBI instead. Ya na na ya na. (In this case, it’s the commitment to watch at least one art movie a month that’s the stumbling-block.)

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Music Streaming for Cheapies

Enough about hardware and software. Onto music streaming.

The cheapie option would be to use a free service. I did that for about twenty minutes a couple of years ago when I tried Spotify or Rdio or one of those. Ads are annoying on actual radio, which is why I listen to the BBC and Chill, and no less annoying on a streaming service. So I’m paying.

I really liked 8Tracks. I can still use it, though since they went public and got copyright religion, in the UK it plays via You Tube. And only when I’m running the You Tube site on my Mac. I like it because I could click in a random playlist that suited my mood and hear music from acts I would never otherwise hear about. Most of the time it was pleasant wallpaper, which was exactly what I wanted, and every now and then something would jump out at me, and I would buy the CD. That’s what I want. So I’ll listen to that over the Dragonfly and headphones now and then.

And before we talk about sound quality, can I just say “Royal Albert Hall”? Possibly the most famous music venue in the world, because of the Proms, and its acoustics are, well, blurry is a good word. Nearly all the Prom concerts are pretty much sold out.

Radio One streams over DAB at 128 kps, and the World Service at 64 kps. Your telephone land-line gives you 64 kps (56 kps in the USA). Radio Three is broadcast between 160-192 kps. So anyone offering 320 kps is offering twice the quality of radio. Next up is streaming CD-quality FLAC files, and that’s going make you glad you have unlimited downloads. A WAV file at 1411 kps takes about 11 MB/min and FLAC compresses between 50%-60%, so  Beethoven’s Ninth, which is around 75 minutes long, is around 412 MB of music data. Signalling overhead and some re-transmission may add up to 30%, so allow another 125MB for a total of 637MB. At 320kps for the music, that’s 178MB, and at 96kps for the music, it’s 53MB. Watch the quality setting when you’re streaming on your mobile data plan.   

Pricing. For all the providers, the basic service, at 320 kps, is £9.99 / month. CD-quality streaming is £19.99 / month. You don’t decide of a price is low or high by looking at the competition. You decide by looking at the generic alternatives. Radio, for instance, is free but has irritating ads and talking heads. Not a good comparison. I buy about 3-4 CDs a month, usually classical, not usually new releases, sometimes a box set of (say) Mozart symphonies. Let’s say I spend £40 a month on CDs. Not all of those will get played a lot afterwards. Some are purely experimental - what does this modern composer sound like? Very occasionally I will hear something in Fopp and be immediately stricken - SOHN’s first CD was like that. A new full-price classical CD is about £15. I very rarely buy those. To look at £20 / month as “twice the price of Spotify” is to miss the point. It’s “two spec CD’s I may never play again”. It’s also about the price of a ticket in the stalls of St John’s Smith Square to hear the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Tidal and Qozum’s £19.99 / month for CD-quality is a well-judged price. I suspect that I will buy fewer, or better targeted, classical and / or jazz CD’s, because I’ll be experimenting over the streaming service. I’ll happily stream 320 kps at £9.99 / month over my home broadband connection.

So now, which service? I want one with good playlists. And a decent list. And I’d prefer to avoid the reputational issues of Spotify. Also, the cool kids at work voted 2:1 in favour of Spotify over Apple Music. So. That's Millennials. This leaves leaves Apple Music, Tidal and Qozum.

The audiophile subscription service of choice, so good that it’s integrated into Roon, is Tidal. I’m tempted to say that if it’s good enough for Roon, it’s probably good enough for me. It pays artists more, and I doubt it’s making Jay-Z richer right now. So that’s my choice. Tidal Premium. Via the iDevice and the Dragonfly. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Cataloguing Your Music For Cheapies

Why did I go through all this? I listen to music in two circumstances: when travelling, and at home. At home, I have a Marantz 6003 amplifier and CD6005 CD player with B&W 686’s - and that sounds as good as my ears can hear in my far-from-perfect listening circumstances. I buy and play CDs, and I'm happy doing that.

When travelling I play “train music” over the iPhone through Bose QC20’s. I rarely listen to train music in the house. Train music gets downloaded into iTunes where it rotates through a playlist called ‘iPhone’, which is updated every time I plug the phone into the computer. Train music has a finite life, and I have backups of it on a NAS. That’s why I looked for a way of streaming NAS files: it was a completeness thing.

Occasionally I want some random variety in my listening. So I was interested in streaming from You Tube / 8Tracks with decent quality but without a lot of cost. That’s an added-value thing. That lead me down the rabbit-hole. And it is.

I found out that a lot of serious audiophiles have all their music ripped to a NAS and play it back through a library + music catalogue program running on a computer attached to a high-quality DAC hooked into the hi-fi amplifier. I know: you can feel a flow chart coming on. A suitable authority in this is Hans Beekhuyzen.

Summarising his excellent videos… The preferred audiophile hardware set-up is a Mac Mini - and not the cheap one - and an iDevice to run the library’s remote-control app. Audiophiles are likely to have an iDevice or two already, so this set-up is a lot cheaper than buying a MacBook Pro. (Beekhuyzen makes a good point about the volatility from time to time and market to market of the actual boards and chips used in Wintel computers of the same name. Only Apple are consistent.)

The top-end library- players are JRiver, Audirvana 3 and Roon. These have remote control apps for iDevices, and there are generic remote control apps for OS X (the Mac Mini) if you want to stream from Spotify, Tidal and other services.

All this will cost around £1,000 including the software, and more for Roon. Roon is for the 1% of music freaks. The annual subscription is £120. It looks fabulous. It has the names of all the sound engineers who worked on the record, and the names of the receptionists on duty at the studio during the recordings. If, like the Hans Beekhuyzen, you too have 500 SACDs, this is what you want, and you won't bat an eyelid at the cost.

I like music, but I'm not nerdy about it. I can recognise most major 1950's jazz musicians by ear, and identify the major composers by style within five bars, and of course my head is full of pop-culture junk from my youth, but I'm not a music nerd. I don't have four different versions of The Planets - because I have the best one, which is by Von Karajan and the Berlin Phil. I have two versions of the Bach Cello suites: Tortellier and Yo-Yo Ma. That's it. For me, the additional spending on a fancy library isn't worth it. And I need to be careful of the bottomless pit that is getting all the catalogue details right.

I have a Mac, and Apple want you to use iTunes, and iTunes really, really wants to store all the music in the Media folder next to the library.itl file. So much so that the default setting when you do File-> Add to Library is to copy all the files to that Media folder. It really is inexcusable of Apple to make wasteful copying the default. I use iTunes to manage the travelling music and the iPhone: those files live on the laptop because iTunes is happy that way.

There are not many free / cheap music cataloguing (1) programs for OS X, and a fair few of those come from Linux. This is what Clementine looks like:

Not as pretty as iTunes. Let alone the Top Three. And I couldn't find any setting to increase the size of those thumbnails.

So I created a second iTunes “library” using alt-Click-on-iTunes-Icon, turned off the “use up lots of valuable SSD space with duplicate copies of stuff on you NAS” option, and then File-> Added To Library. iTunes created a nice catalogue of what’s on my NAS for me. However…

iTunes seems to have limited write permissions for files on a NAS. OS X defaults to a protocol called AFP to connect to a NAS, and AFP seems to limit your ability to do even simple file management operations. Connect to the same NAS as an SMB (Samba) server and you get the permissions you need. I suspect iTunes uses the AFP protocol. So it won’t modify file metadata and album art if the file is on a NAS. Yep, this was one of those I-learned-more-than-I-ever-wanted-know exercises.

There’s a free program called Kid3 that will handle metadata editing of file on a NAS. It looks basic, but it does the business. Once you’ve edited the metadata in Kid3, you have to close Kid3 to release the files, delete the original entry in the iTunes catalogue and repeat File->Add to Library. The new metadata and album art will appear in iTunes.

However, in a fine demonstration of the utter irrationality of consumer thinking, since I've just avoided spending up to £1,000 on kit I don't need, I can treat myself to some kit I might want. Or some more CDs. Or a music subscription. Cue next post.

(1) Libraries have books. Catalogues are databases that provide details of a book and a pointer to its location in the library. What we really want is a music catalogue program, which is what the Big 3 seem to be. If you don’t want iTunes to make space-hogging copies, turn off the “copy music into the iTunes Media folder when adding to library” option. It’s hidden on the Advanced Tab in options.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Streaming Near CD-Quality Internet and NAS Music for Cheapies

I have streamed music on You Tube to my hi-fi via the headphone socket of my ASUS netbook (which I have now retired) but never really liked the sound, and the ASUS was horribly slow loading You Tube pages. I started to look at various options to improve this, and then it hit me. Because, you know, I’m really smart and quick and down with modern technology.

I already have a high-quality device that will stream music from all sorts of sources. In fact I have two. The iPhone and iPad. All the streaming services have apps: Netflix, Amazon, You Tube, Google Play, Spotify, Beats, Apple Music… And there's an app called File Manager to play music stored on a NAS or a computer.

There’s only one upgrade I need, which is to put a decent DAC between the iDevice and the amplifier. The entry-level hi-fi DAC seems to be the £89 Dragonfly Black, attached via the £40 Apple Lightning Camera Adapter, which lets you power the phone and DAC from the transformer. I ordered those from Amazon, collected it from Doddle, took it home, plugged it all in, and…. instant hi-fi happiness.

As far as my slightly tired ears are concerned.

The final piece of the cheapie jigsaw is an app that streams music from a NAS or other computers. That’s File Manager Pro for iOS: the Pro upgrade gives you access to more than one device. File Manager Pro lets your iDevice access NAS and computers (it spotted my NAS, but you may need to set up others devices by IP address), and it gives you a simple Explorer interface to navigate round the files. Click the first music file in a directory and it will be cached and start playing. File Manager is smart enough to recognise that you probably want to play the other music files it can find in that directory and carries on caching and playing. Viola! NAS streaming.

You can now stream anything an iDevice can play from any computer on your network, plus music from any music streaming service that provides an iDevice app. You’re getting close-to-CD quality via the Dragonfly.

Is that it? This is where it gets embarrassing. My CD player has a USB port on the front. I’ve always thought it was for USB drives, and would be looking for files, and go off in a huff when it couldn’t find any. But hey, try anything once. I plugged in the Lightning-to-USB cable, navigated to a music folder with File Explorer and pressed play. Guess what? it works. My CD player is even better than the Dragonfly. As, to be fair, I would expect from the mid-range Marantz CD 6005. However, the Dragonfly is going to improve my listening when I’m streaming but not using the hi-fi. Like when I’m sitting in the garden. And you may not have a CD player with streaming USB input, so you should still get the Dragonfly.

For £130 if you have a recent generation smartphone, or £309 if you don't, you can stream near-CD quality music to your hi-fi from all those internet services, and you can stream any music you have on NAS or computers as well.

Yes. Almost. And certainly for less than £130, assuming you have an iDevice.

What’s missing is the library-style interface. That's for the next post.

PS: In case you have been rolling your eyes and being like "Dude, just use iTunes on your computer", here's why you're missing the point. The quality of output signal from a Mac headphone socket is not good enough: it's muffled and you will quite quickly get tired hearing it over a hi-fi. You still need the hi-fi DAC. Second, who said you had a computer? Third, even if you do, do you really want five or ten metres of USB 3 cable between you using your computer on the sofa and the DAC on a shelf? Also, that's about £60 of cable. That you are never going to use for anything else.

There are no high-quality DACs that can be streamed to from a computer over wif-if or ethernet. What does are media devices like the Apple TV or the WD TV. Take one look at the price and you know the DAC isn't going to be hi-if quality.

I know there are Internet Radios. The user interface is horrible. The upgrade path is, what upgrade path? Be serious.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Revising My Computer Security

A few weeks ago one of our in-house digital security people gave a presentation. He was not singing the usual tunes and had some interesting things to say, so I looked again at my security and privacy arrangements.

The public discussion about privacy is about keeping the prying eyes of the government and advertisers away from what you're up to. That's because no-one wants to say that the privacy you really need is from your wife, children, extended family, friends, and housemates. That doesn't sound sharey-carey-trusting-loving, but until the day the last person who likes to embarrass their mates is swinging from a tree, we're going to need that privacy.

I'm a single-occupancy household, so I don't need to lock my computers against my fellow trusted dwellers. On the other hand, I take two devices, the phone and the iPad, out with me most days, so those should have security enabled.

Also, I should do my bit to maintain herd immunity. Herd immunity happens when a high enough proportion of a group of animals has immunity from a disease that it can't spread. Maintaining herd immunity is why mothers who refuse to get MMR jabs for their darling ones are not exercising personal choice, but being irresponsible. If the word goes round the amateur villain chat boards that they have to steal twenty phones to find one that has no security and can be exploited, they will decide the odds aren't worth it.

For a long time I didn't do my part. There was nothing on any device I took out of the house that could be used to steal from me. Then along came PayPal, banking apps, Apple Pay and password managers.

I lock my work laptop every time I step away from my desk, and that's in a reasonably secure corporate environment. However, that's what my employer insists I do, and there are folk whose job it is to wander around spotting unlocked, unattended computers: it's part of my job, and I'm being paid to do it.

But then, I don't mind being locked out of my work thoughts. I do mind about being locked out of my personal thoughts. If that makes sense.

Anyway, as a result of the guru's advice, I made a few changes.

Apparently, advertisers put all sorts of tracking gizmos and other crapware on our machines. Some of it for people who have postcodes in Kaliningrad. I want to avoid that, so I put Adblock Plus on both my iOS devices, which improved the browsing experience as well. I have it on all my laptop browsers already.

I put my serious passwords into LastPass and have that on the devices I use to run my life. Caveat: LastPass doesn't sign you out after N minutes of inactivity. Signing out is manual. This is a mistake on their part. If you don't sign out, anyone who can get into your phone has access to the password manager that's still open because you forgot to sign out. As soon as you put a password manager on a device, you must activate the physical access security on that device. And sign out of the password manager anyway.

So I trained my phone to recognise my thumbprint, giving me a HTF (Do They Do That) moment. Folklore says it can tell if the Mafia cut off your finger and are using that. I'd like to know how that's done.

The guru has F-Secure on his phone. I met Mikko Hypponen, on a flight to Helsinki back in the day. He's a great ambassador for his company, but I still don't like active scanners. I use the default Windows Defender and the default Windows or OS X firewalls. I don't run McAffee, Norton or F-Secure. On iOS there's no point because of the way iOS sandboxes apps. On Windows or OS X, scanners are an operational overhead with little benefit. I read somewhere that the pros don't do use any. Instead they practice safe computing:
Don't visit dodgy websites, ignore any website that tells you your computer has viruses or your files are corrupt, and anybody who wants your passwords. Don't open e-mails from people or companies you don't know, and only download from the original supplier. Here I will tell you nothing have to do on sites which English not best used.
I clean out browsing history, caches and other stuff with CC Cleaner on Windows, and Clean My Mac for OS X. Cache cleaners for iOS are still lacking in functionality.

Just because I've cleared the cache or deleted the file, doesn't mean it's gone. Deleting is one thing, shredding is another. Here's the thing: file shredding and free / slack space wiping works on conventional hard drives (HDDs) but is iffy, if not discouraged on modern SSDs. It's not even clear what 'secure delete' in means on an SSD. There are encrypted drives that use a key which gets wiped, and unless the NSA or the Chinese are after you, guessing at the key is going to be computationally unfeasible. Most SSDs are not encrypted.

If you want to store large amounts of personal or private data, do it on a conventional hard drive. The you can shred-and-wipe, and it's gone. As soon as an SSD gets involved, you can't be sure the data won't still be there.

On Windows I use CC Cleaner to shred files in the Wastebin after deletion. Every now and then, I over-write the spare space on the drive as well. A three-pass wipe will do fine. The disk recovery people can work wonders with a physically damaged drive. The stuff they have works at bit-level. If you have, however, written random bits all over the drive, all they will get back are random bits. And no, on a modern 2.5-inch multi-gigabyte drive, all those tricks invented in the 1980's don't work.

My work laptop encrypts my Documents folder, but leaves the rest alone, which is sensible. On my personal computers, I'm not so sure. I might forget the password.

Encrypted files on personal computers are a red rag to anyone who wants to pick a fight. Encrypted files will be assumed to be the worst thing the person finding them wants them to be. Why else you you encrypt the stuff if it wasn't stolen company data / classified government documents / illegally-downloaded movies / whatever. Anyway, unless you are a journalist, very rich or have high-profile lawyers, you can be compelled to de-crypt it all by US Immigration, the Police, an Anton Pillar order, your wife, anyone with a gun... you get the idea.

(It occurs to me that the most secure personal laptop is one of those Lenovos or Dells that only corporates buy, dressed up with a corporate logon and two layers of passwords. Create at least two other user profiles and fill them with encrypted junk, suggesting that you are the third person to be using this computer. Make sure none of the software is within two releases of the latest version. Put on an old VT terminal emulator, McAffee, and make IE9 the default browser. Add a sticky label declaring that the Asset ID is BG788453TD, remove one of the keys (say Z) on the keyboard, and everybody will assume you work for a large financial services company and this is your work computer.)

While we're talking about encryptions, the guru suggested using Signal to communicate, or WhatsApp, which uses the Signal protocols. Use any end-to-end encrypted communication, as long as it is well-known. The quickest way to get GCHQ interested in you is to use fancy e-mail encryption, or a program known only to people who have attended Black Hat more than twice. I have WhatsApp, use the regular message app on the iPhone, and have a totally boring life.

All this stuff is free, by the way.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Sticky Whimsy

These were on the seats on my station one morning in June 2014. People don't do things like that anymore.

How am I doing in my relentless drive to avoid anything political? Not too bad? I feel I'm about half-way through the detox. The longer essays on various but non-political subjects will return.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Never You Done That and Other Songs by Dave Wakling

Dave Wakling was the man behind many of the best songs of The Beat and General Public. He is, in my not-so-humble-opinion, one of the finest songwriters this Isle of Fine Songwriters has produced. Why he has not been inducted into Rock ’n Roll Halls of Fame is something that cries out for explanation.

I was listening to The Beat’s second album, Special Beat Service, recently, and as always was surprised and enchanted by this track:

The lyrics are wonderfully ambiguous. "She said to leave it till the end of the party / Do it now, you know there's never a next time / How come the feeling that it's only just started / Pull back your cover, I could love you for all time / But do it now, you know there's never a next time". Which exactly gets the ambiguity of what I and many others felt, back then in the Naughty Eighties, when meeting someone at a party for the first time and experiencing that immediate attraction. No-one else gets this the way he does.

He is the author of the best single lyric I know: “Each time we kiss you’re the perfect stranger”. You either know exactly what that means, or you won’t understand the explanation. Here’s the song.

This is about the perfect love. “Well who would have guessed, well I guess I should / The second night would be as good”. There are a zillion writers who tell us that sex gets better with intimacy and familiarity, and I have to say that was never my experience. The first night was always the best. Other nights may have many good and different moments, but a good first time is a moment unto itself. And Dave Wakling was the only songwriter (I’ve heard) who has spoken about this.

But maybe, as a commentator at a lyric site suggested, the song was about booze. (Drugs are never as good the second time, I am reliably informed. Booze can be. Each time I sipped a glass of Jack Daniels, it was the perfect stranger.) There’s nothing in Wakling’s biography to suggest he had a drinking problem. But even if he wrote it as a love-song to a woman, maybe my inner drunk heard it as a song about drinking?

In the end, do I care? These and others are wonderful songs, like no other written by anyone else. If you haven’t heard his stuff, go listen.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

But The Feltham Line-Man Is Still On The Line

This is one of the rarest sights you will see: a BT / Openreach engineer up a pole and replacing the drop wire into a house. In this case, mine.

It's important to thump the base of the distribution pole a few times with a hammer: this is to make sure it sounds, well, sound, as opposed to rotten. Don't want to strap yourself on and then fall backwards as the pole breaks.

The engineer tested the wire from my house and the magic box found a fault 17.4 metres from the termination box. It has to do with the fact that signals are reflected back from a physical fault in the wire.

The wire they ran into the house is less than a millimetre thick, far thinner than the original cable. This is because, as you will recall from your physics classes, while power is transmitted via current (amps), signals are transmitted by a change in voltage. You need heavy cable for power, but changes in voltage can be transmitted by the flimsiest of wires.

This was but one episode in the long-running saga of my crap internet connection from Talk-Talk, about which I will write more when it is eventually resolved.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Ah Yes, You Can Tell It's Summer

The Algae. 

St James's Park, 20:00 Sunday evening.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Somewhere in a Hotel In Somerset

Is a piano-body in a garden. The rest of the hotel was pretty fancy as well and the lunch was excellent. Well worth the diversion on the way down to the north coast of Somerset. This was several years ago.

Totally forgotten the name!

Monday, 3 July 2017

Real Men Do NOT Text In The Gym

At my gym, I'm seeing more and more young men sitting on weights machines, texting or flicking through their music collection, because I really hope they are not flicking through Facebook.

Oblivious to all around them, they need to be shifted by a tap on the shoulder and a request to work in. At that point a lot of say they have 'one more set', or just get off and move to another machine.

 I suspect these young men are not running on a full tank of testosterone.

Dom Mazetti agrees with me. Though he uses different words.


Thursday, 29 June 2017

SOHN: The Circle

You know that moment when you suddenly hear a song you’ve been playing as part of your train music?

Usually I get a song fairly quickly, but sometimes the mood and the emotion escapes me. Happened with The Human League’s Human which I finally understood at 09:00 on weekday morning on a northbound Northern Line train leaving Camden Town. Happened with this song recently. I was on the District Line westbound going into Turnham Green.

 It was so much that I heard it, but felt it. In all its Ecclesiastes-style mournfulness.


It’s by a singer / composer / producer who goes by SOHN. I’ll let you look it all up.


Monday, 26 June 2017

Classic Mercedes Convertible in Mayfair

Sunday evening, on my way back from the gym and supper in Soho, passing through Mayfair on my way to Green Park tube, and across the road from Cecconi's is this Thing of Beauty.

It's a 300SL, which was the the fastest production car of its day, and one of the first to use fuel injection. It was actually more powerful than the racing cars it was derived from. 

Look at the tachometer and the speedometer. That's a red line at 6,000 rpm and a top speed of about 120 mph, unless you want to go the whole 7,000 rpm and slightly downhill, when you might get 160 mph out of it. No aerodynamics, just sheer brute power.

Oh. And you're looking at over £1,000,000 worth of car. At least.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Sir Mo Farah in Feltham

High quality street art hits a Feltham industrial estate. The artist worked a while on this, and it's clearly sponsored by Russell Finex, who supply specialised filtration equipment. Click on the picture because I uploaded it full-size and it shows the detail, the quality of the artist's work, and how damn good an iPhone SE camera is.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Random Photographs From Recent Days

A book in Foyles about Arnold Bax I'm never going to read (I listen to a lot of music, but don't read much about it); remember the General Election?; the Frank Pick memorial in Piccadilly Circus; runners in the London 10k by St James' Park; my local Air Park on a Sunday evening; the converted church across the road from Feltham station, taken through the clearest air I can remember.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Arrogance of the German Chancellor: My Last Political Post

Two years ago, the Chancellor of Germany, without consulting her fellow Europeans, or her fellow regional governors, decided to open Germany’s, and hence Europe’s, borders to millions of economic migrants who were mostly illiterate, innumerate, could not speak German or any other European language, had no trades, no skills, and had arrived mysteriously fit and aggressive at Mediterranean ports or eastern European borders after what must have been gruelling 1,200-mile journeys (at least) from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Nigeria and all points African and Middle Eastern.

The Chancellor did this despite the warnings, she must have received from her own intelligence services, about the low economic value of these young men, the fact that they had been recruited, transported by truck and lorry to the ports and borders by NGOs, and that they had been sent to Europe to farm for welfare benefits. Europe’s intelligence services are staffed by smart people: they must have worked out that communities all over those countries were sending Europe their lazy, angry, crazy, surplus, and criminal. Just as Castro sent the US his criminals, AIDs victims, long-term sick and other undesirables (as he saw it). They would have briefed the German Chancellor, and the EU, on this possibility.

A politician works for their constituents first, their fellow citizens second, and anyone else a very distant third. The job of governments is not to tell citizens how to live, and what they can and cannot say, do or believe. The duties of a government are to defend those people and their families against violence and exploitation, and then to advance their interests. It does not matter if the exploitation is the so-called Gig Economy and zero-hours contracts, or by migrants sent to farm welfare benefits, or whether the violence comes from men from another country wearing uniforms, or men from another country without uniforms beating and raping women. The German Chancellor failed in that duty. Victor Orban of Hungary did not. Neither did David Cameron, whom we may assume listened to the brief by his intelligence services, and refused to take large numbers of the fake Syrian refugees.

The German Chancellor’s act was one of sheer political brute force: she had the power to dump disaffected, violent and unemployable young men all over Europe, and she did so. Because power means nothing if it is not exercised arbitrarily from time to time. It was a message to the EU that Germany would do whatever its Chancellor wanted to do, that she could and would on a whim ignore her duties to the electorate, and that the EU would pay for it as well. She dared the EU to reprimand her, and it did not. She dared her own politicians to reprimand her, and they did not. When ordinary people started to complain, she turned the media companies into her censors. Her response to the outrage felt by ordinary European people at the invasion of 2015 was to make it a crime to express that outrage. Arrogance masked by righteousness.

So-called Liberals and other assorted “Good People” show a genuine righteous arrogance when they suppose that it is their job, and the government’s job, to make the electorate “better people”. It was a New Labour strategy to "rub the Right's nose in diversity” with indiscriminate immigration in the Oughties. One has to assume the was some gerrymandering intended as well. Now those “Good People” are smugly watching what they think is the train wreck of Brexit, thus showing no understanding of the cunning of reason. We can only be thankful that none of them have the ability to act with the same reckless and malicious brute force as the German Chancellor.

This righteous arrogance is why I want dump a basket of wet fish over the heads of many editorialists at the Financial Times, the Economist and other formerly august media institutions. It’s not their job to be on the right side of history, but it’s not smart to be so smugly on the wrong side either. A little self-awareness would help.

Having understood that it’s a wholly pointless anger about the arrogance and smugness (“Good People”) or hypocrisy (the German Chancellor) of politicians who refuse to do their job, and the media who fail to hold them to account for that failure, I’m now going to stop with the politics. This and the previous CUPID post are it. Prepare for lots of posts on things mundane, artistic or otherwise of a man with a life.

Monday, 12 June 2017

The CUPID (Con-Man/Useful Idiot/Denier)

I’m going to invent a new acronym: CUPID. Con-man, Useful Idiot or Denier. (The P is redundant.) I need this, because there’s a bunch of behaviours that show a family resemblance, but could come from one of three different motives. If you’re one of the people who invented the Russian Hacker scam, you’re a Con-man. If you believe it and pass it on, you’re a Useful Idiot. If you need to believe it because the alternative is to admit you were fooled by Hillary, you’re a Denier. If you are taking the EU shilling and talking down the UK’s prospects after 2019, you are a Con-man. And possibly a traitor. If you believe that Britain doesn’t deserve a good deal, because it was dumb to leave, you’re a Useful Idiot. If you think that one more popular movement could reverse the decision, and that the EU will take us back, you’re in psychiatric amounts of Denial.

Making a mistake doesn’t make you a CUPID. Doing something because you had the wrong beliefs about how the world worked, makes you ill-informed or ignorant. Making a mistake and not learning from it, makes you an idiot. Making a mistake, and claiming that the world should be a place where your mistake wouldn’t be a mistake: that’s being a CUPID. Making an obviously bad choice, and insisting the world be such that yours would be a good choice: that’s being a CUPID. Taking a job for which you have insufficient knowledge and skill, and not doing the reading and the practice: that’s being a CUPID. Thinking you can legislate the world to being a better place, and that people who avoid your legislation are bad people: that’s being a CUPID.

Posturing and virtue-signalling are symptoms of CUPIDidity.

EU bureaucrats are mostly CUPIDs. Washington Democrats are CUPIDs. Russian-hacker conspirators are Useful Idiots, and the people who started that nonsense are Con-men. Anyone who thinks that mo’ EU is what we need is a CUPID. People who want uneducated village Islamists in Europe are CUPIDs. And traitors. Impeach Trump-ers are CUPIDs. Apologists for Islam who won’t understand that it’s one religion in English and another in Arabic are CUPIDs. So are people who believe that mankind can affect the climate of this planet to a significant degree. Uber, Deliveroo, and all the other “gig economy” companies are evil Con-men. So is any other employer who uses zero-hours contracts or doesn’t pay interns. Those people are going to hell. The people who made and sold CDOs and all the bastard off-spring products are evil Con-men, as is anyone who lends sub-prime. Newspaper managements who spent zillions on building websites and then sacked the journalists they needed to put decent content on the websites are Idiots. People who tell you to buy gold every time anything happens are Con-men, and so are Bitcoin enthusiasts, while IT managers who offshore system administration and development are CUPIDs. People who think that a State basic income are CUPIDs who are also economic ignoramuses. Editors who let CUPIDs take up one column inch of space are Useful Idiots.

When, miraculously, a decent Brexit deal with some harsh bits on the side is agreed, the CUPIDs at The Economist will say that May's government did a good job negotiating, but that it was a shame they should have needed to. CUPIDs can be patronising.

Why is the world is suddenly full of CUPIDs? It always was, it's just that we can see this particular bunch more clearly, now that the "liberal" project is starting to fall apart.

The Con-men come from various lucrative scams that come from the “liberal” project, scams that require huge government subsidies: renewable energy, carbon trading, big education and the useless liberal arts degrees that go with it. I suspect that a lot of virtue-signalling by large US corporations is for employee retention and relations. Internationalism is a liberal project, and the Con-men turned that into H1-Bs, and the grotesquerie of American workers training their cheap Indian replacements. Neo-liberalism sounds as if it should be a Good Thing, but actually it is a Terrible Thing, bringing in low wages, volatile employment, cost-and-quality cutting, downsizing, automation, and off-shoring. Is it co-incidence that neo-Liberal Capitalists are enthusiastic supporters of SJW causes, and that their enthusiasm is directly proportional to the extent they exploit their working-class labour force? Smoke and mirrors?

And now the CUPIDs can sense that these scams and the accompanying free rides are going to stop. Daddy USA and Mommy UK are not going to pay their rent and bail them out anymore. The Saudis get it: they want the USA disrupting the liberal Arab world, they have to pay by purchasing billions of dollars of defence kit. The Europeans don’t get it: they think that the USA should subsidise NATO and and employ European workers on pointless climate change scams. Not any more. No more massive car exports from Germany, subsidised by a currency kept artificially low by bankrupt Greeks. Everyone knew that was happening, but now everyone knows everyone knows.

Donnie, Donnie, don’t you know you can’t talk about the family secrets like that?

So now the CUPIDs are whining like teenagers who just lost their allowance and Internet privileges. That would not matter much, if only they didn’t have Twitter, and if only the Press didn’t quote tweets. The press does not quote or refer to You Tube videos, partly because loony liberals don’t do well on You Tube, where it becomes fairly clear fairly quickly there’s something wrong with them. The maul-right is a lot more video-genic. Twitter and its press coverage makes the loony left look a lot more significant than it is. The minimal amount of work needed to tweet suits the quick, emotional reaction using cliches and catch-phrases. Just what journalists want: feel the offence. And what the CUPIDs want, is the world to be back they way it was, when no-one talked about their Big Problem.

The Big Problem is that CUPIDs are goats in sheep’s clothing. They call themselves “liberal” or “left-wing”, but they are not their grandfather’s liberal. Their grandfather was a decent middle-class man who supported the cause and betterment of the working man. The CUPIDs are Uber-loving, career-focussed, self-actualising, rootless apparatchiks who exploit their own working-class. In Europe they have the good manners to stay silent about the working-class, while at the same time removing its economic support and surrounding it with an unwanted vibrant diversity. In the US, it is acceptable and even virtuous to say things about white people, and especially unemployed rural white people, that would be considered actionable if said about urban people of colour. On either continent, they are a class apart with their own economic interests to protect: their taxpayer-funded, non-productive jobs, or the taxpayer-funded projects on which they work, disguised as private-sector employees. CUPIDs depend on the “liberal project”. Which is now being, as they used to say at Yahoo, “sunset”. Except that’s the wrong time of day. It’s really sunrise, and the CUPIDs are going up in flames, like vampires everywhere.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Election 2017: And The Hits Keep Coming

Calling an election was dumb.

Putting a dementia tax in the manifesto was dumber.

Saying she hadn't changed anything, instead of openly fessing up to bad judgement, was even dumber.

Faced with a Labour Party promising half a generation debt forgiveness, and not expecting youth registration and participation to increase, was a little complascent.

The more I think about it, the more I see that treating Brexit as some sort of moral crusade for sovereignty is going to put the bureaucrats' backs up. Brexit is a business deal and should be treated like one. Just with the bit where we repeal the 1972 Act one quiet morning. "That? Oh sure, we did that. It's just a formality. Now, about the Somerset Brie quota..."

A hung Parliament could be the best thing for the Brexit negotiations.

A party with a strong majority would see itself as having a mandate to do deals, and then feel under an obligation to the EU to sell those deals to the House. Basically acting as agents for the EU. And also vulnerable to a hundred negotiating tactics you would not believe.

A party with a weak majority can say "Well, we will take that to the House, and we'll let you know". They aren't going to argue anyone's case: the House will decide. This puts the decision where it belongs: on the 650 MP's in the House of Commons, equally across all parties. And with a narrow majority, no-one can afford to virtue-signal and otherwise posture. Lest one vote make us subjects of the European Courts forever.

That would take a little finesse. No emotive language, no bullying, just professional.

There's been way too much bullshit in the last eighteen months. In fact, I now understand the meaning of that phrase: "Man, the bullshit piled up so fast in Vietnam, you needed wings to stay above it."

(It's number 3 on the countdown)

Monday, 5 June 2017

May 2017 Review

Birthday Month.

(This post was written the Sunday after the London Bridge atrocity. The best thing to do when some evil losers kill people is to carry on like nothing happened. Unless you are directly involved. I'm in Brunswick Square, Sunday lunchtime, and it's doing regular business. People are walking around, no-one looks scared, the shops are open and the movies are showing. That is exactly the correct response. One's thoughts go to the relatives of the dead, and to the wounded, to whom may be granted a swift recovery. And then, on with normal life.)

I passed sixty-three this month. I don't look it to anyone under thirty-five. To me, I look like an old man who doesn't have wrinkles. For reasons I will explain in next month's review, I know my vital signs are phenomenal for someone in their mid-20's, let alone for my age. I look, however, like an old sports saloon does when surrounded by new sporty cars. You can see it was once a neat piece of kit, but it's out of its time. It's might even drive faster and better than a lot of the new cars, but it's still an old car.

Sis took me for a birthday supper at Gauthier, and we had lunch at Dishoom off Shoreditch High Street one Friday. I met a friend for an early supper at our regular venue: an Argentinian Steak House in Richmond. My Mother's birthday is this month, and Sis and I took her to Shambles in Teddington on a Saturday that was warm enough to sit outside. 

I read Sudhir Hazareesingh’s How the French Think, Ray Deletin’s The Axeman’s Jazz, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, Eduardo Rabassa’s Zero-Sum Game, Christie’s compilation of their greatest hits, Going Once: 250 Years of Culture, Taste and Collecting, Sarah Thornton’s 33 Artists in 3 Acts, and a chunk of Charles Hadlock’s Six Sources of Collapse

I saw Colossal and Raw at the Curzon Soho. Colossal has Anne Hathaway. That's pretty much all I needed to know about it. It's also a good film. Did I mention Anne Hathaway? Raw is not a movie about female power, but about what happens when mothers don't tell their daughters how to handle themselves. Forget you read that if you're going to see it. There were a lot of men at the Colossal screening, and a lot of younger women at the Raw screening. Raw did not have Anne Hathaway. I think that explains it.

I took a week off for my birthday, and the weather was rubbish. However, I re-discovered the pleasure of doing nothing but reading for a large chunk of the day - with quick breaks to load the washing machine, do a bit or ironing or cut my nails.

I took my right arm to my osteopath. It has been hurting ever sinceI started to do pull-ups. I can push with the best of them, but pulling has always been my weakness. Applies to weights in the gym as well. (Ba-boom-tish! I’m here all week.)

I arranged to get a Smart Meter installed. Except they never showed, called once in the morning to say they might be delayed but would still make an AM, and then I had to call them at one o’clock to find out what was going on, and they requested a delay until two, and then didn’t show up or call, so I re-booked, went shopping, called again and cancelled. Every time I deal with any of these guys - electricity, phone, gas, water - there’s always some damn reason they can’t make it. It’s always something that’s never happened before, but the point is, it’s always something. So I said, no thanks. Smart meters are for your convenience, not mine, so you can sack more meter-readers. And if the things need calibrating before leaving the depot, rather than work straight out of the box, I’m wondering what happens when my Smart Meter tells them I spent £1,000 on electricity in a month. How do I show it’s wrong? Too much computer. Give me the old electro-mechanical one. And hire a reader to check it.

Don’t get me started on what happened to Talk-Talk’s suburban London network when it rained on my week off. Three days the service was erratic, and I had to use all my powers of bluffing to get the telephone help line to admit it. And they want to sell me FTTC. Not while the last twenty yards is sixty-year old (at least!) copper from a distribution pole into the house. That’s going to go wonky every time the weather gets wet or cold. Distribution poles are a wonderful thing: that one survived the 1987 storm and didn’t blink an eyelid. But the insulation round the copper must be brittle and leaky by now. 

Monday, 29 May 2017

Performance Advice is No Use To Regular People

I read an excellent book about sleeping recently. Turns out that if you want a really good night's sleep, made round your body rhythms, you should sleep on your own. You can canoodle all you like before dozing off, but when it comes to sleep, the performance-minded sleeper sleeps alone. People whose partners snore will doubtless agree.

An end to this nonsense, I say. I have said before that physical sobriety is only for drunks and emotional sobriety is only for emotional fuck-ups. Both of which are me. In the same way, dieting is for people who can't stop eating the wrong food and putting on weight; exercise is for people who will otherwise spend all day on the couch; and managed sleep is for insomniacs. There are all sorts of people who benefit from exercise, managed sleeping and eating, a consistent programme of cultural and intellectual self-improvement, but all of them are either athletes, creative workers, or dysfunctionals. And the comorbidity between "dysfunctional" and "athlete or creative worker" is much higher than advertised.

Ordinary people - and if you bristled slightly at that phrase, you are one - should not adopt ideas intended for athletes, drunks, and violin students entering the BBC Young Musician competition. Ordinary people should not aim for consistent exercise, diets and exercise regimes, career development and self-management. Nor should they aim for a meaning, purpose, goal or story for their lives. They should not aim for balance, calm, and proportion in their emotions. Those things are for neurotic, driven, obsessed, unstable people who need to manage themselves, either because they will fly apart or because they are aiming for a distant target.

Ordinary people who can afford to eat just a little too much should be overweight; ordinary people should have no understanding of science and engineering, and even less of economics and the human soul. They should have as much knowledge and skill as it takes to do their job, and no more, certainly not enough to make it more difficult for the next person. They should not choke up at the end of Mahler's Second, the music of J S Bach should sound like busy fiddling, and their first and last reaction to a Basquiat should be that their children paint like that. Rohmer movies should feel like paint drying, and sushi should be cold rice and fish. Ordinary people should get hangovers, eat curry on a Saturday night, cereal for breakfast, and have chips with their rice. They should watch sports rather than take part; lie on the beach rather than climb mountains; and go to theme parks rather than art galleries. They should have arguments, rows, affairs, messy divorces, illegitimate children, complicated families, and unemployed older children.


Because the managed life of the athlete, top ten percent knowledge worker, or professional, is unimaginably bland. It starts with an education requiring years of deferred gratification, punctuated by moments of binging sensuality. It carries on through more years of deferred gratification, constructive habit-building, and the deliberate management of the self. In order to achieve at that level, such people do not think about winning or losing, nor savour the taste of victory nor feel the sting of defeat. That applies to lawyers, negotiators, and mathematicians as well as athletes. The last scientists to experience a hit of exhilaration at their discovery were likely Crick and Watson.

At the top levels, the concern is with analysis, method, practice, rehearsal, fine-tuning, acquiring one more useful technique. Amateurs train to prepare for the competition, professionals compete to identify training needs. For professionals, winning is not about better or best, but about money. The motive for participation for the top-end performer is not the rewards of success, but the participation in the process. Doing, not achieving, is the goal: the achievements come as a by-product. As does whatever sponsorship and award money is available. Sounds like fun? It doesn’t even sound like work. It sounds like some weird third mode of being that cuts one off from the very things that ordinary people think are the rewards of such efforts.

State control, otherwise known as emotional management, is essential. An ordinary person feels an emotion and lives it. That emotion may pass or linger, it may become a trace element in their base emotional state. They may fight the emotion to deny its existence, or, perhaps with that immortal phrase "I can't believe...", deny that they are responsible for managing the effects of the emotion. A high-performer treats emotions like weather: emotions are things that happen to them like winds, showers or hot weather. Feel it, acknowledge it, take action and move on. When it rains, find shelter. If someone steals their car, they call the insurance company. If their children are hurt, well, then play injured, like everyone else does.

The constant self-management required, much greater now than it was even fifty years ago, is easier, if not even only possible in the first place, if one simply never does anything remotely at variance from mainstream or regulatory expectations, and so if one creates a life and state of mind that does not provide chances to do something the regulators, official or unofficial, might censure. Everyone one meets and everything one does is vetted as a potential PR-disaster, as potential distraction, and only then for potential benefits. Top performers of any kind may tell you and the Press how important their families are to them, but don’t listen to what they say, look at what they do. Training first, diet, sleep and learning second, everything else a long third. And their families know it.

Their families accept it because there’s a gold medal in the sock draw. Ordinary people don’t have gold medals, and their families will not and should not accept it.

Enough I say. The idea that ordinary people can benefit from elite training advice benefits authors, publishers and maybe people who sell the gear they recommend. Not ordinary people.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Longford River Between Hanworth Air Park and the A316

The Longford River runs through a culvert across most of my local Air Park, and re-appears near the road bridge (top photograph). On a whim a few Sundays ago, I crossed the road, found there was a path on the other side, and followed it. It's not bad, given that there's an industrial estate on one side (the warehouse) and a council estate on the other (second from last photo). When the weather is as glorious as it was that day, it's an okay walk, but it must be grim when it's grey. The last photograph is the A316 looking towards Twickenham. I have lived in the area for *cough* years, and I think that Sunday was the first I'd ever stood on that bridge.

You can read all about the Longford River here.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Bank of China

My Talk-Talk broadband service went to pieces when it rained Wednesday and Thursday. It's not too stable if it gets cold either. Do you think that might be because the copper into my house has not been changed since I moved in thirty years ago? And it was old then. Insulation goes, moisture or water gets into connections at the pole... all sorts of things. And Talk-Talk wonder why I won't upgrade and watch TV over their service. Which is copper all the way from the local exchange.

And of course the weather was awful. I took the week off.

God hates me.

Monday, 15 May 2017

The Air Park in Spring

You wouldn't know it has council flats on one side, a municipal baths and the A312 on another, a light industrial estate on the third and some flats and my little estate on the fourth. It's not Royal, like Bushy or Richmond Parks, but it is about a hundred yards from my front door. It's been a good Spring.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The Red Pill Reddit and The Invisible Committee

I see that the Red Pill reddit intends to change direction
Our sexual strategy focus has been important at freeing minds from our anti-male culture, saving lives and teaching men to game, lift, and get laid. But we have completely ignored the rest of the hierarchy of needs. Men who have conquered their own demons learn the basics of TRP, and get spit out on the other side. They are still missing the essential components to a fully realized male identity. Men cannot exist as islands. It is camaraderie that we require. It is a tribe that strengthens us, that enables us to pursue the rest of our efforts and missions. Starting families, creating systems, selling products, creating artwork, exploring the galaxy. These are the men history will remember as great. And the way we’ve prescribed the red pill, these men will never be us. Pride, honor, and a sense of duty were the driving forces of the modern man. He contributed to society because that was what was expected of him. In return, government and community supported his marriage and family, and a balance was found.
The answer?
The future is going to be built by those who embrace and build power. The new man is a tribesman who builds his strength by joining with his brothers. It is a network of men who establish a fortified ground on which to build their lives, men who defend that stability from the chaos around them. It is men who know their own interests are best served by the success of the group.
Or to put it another way…
We’re setting out from a point of extreme isolation, of extreme weakness. An insurrectional process must be built from the ground up. Nothing appears less likely than an insurrection, but nothing is more necessary. FIND EACH OTHER. Attach yourself to what you feel to be true. Begin there.
Here’s the Red Pill
The answer to this is to band together. Small geographically centralized groups of friends and family cooperating together in the way they used to. There is no point in trying to change the larger culture to accept us. That is how women handle their problems. Instead we will build ourselves up so that we are not dependent on the good graces of this culture. We will form our own cultures and steady ourselves against the slow descent into a fully feminized world.
and the Invisible Committee
Form communes. Communes come into being when people find each other, get on with each other, and decide on a common path. The commune is perhaps what gets decided at the very moment when we would normally part ways. It’s the joy of an encounter that survives its expected end. It’s what makes us say “we,” and makes that an event. What’s strange isn’t that people who are attuned to each other form communes, but that they remain separated. Why shouldn’t communes proliferate everywhere? In every factory, every street, every village, every school. At long last, the reign of the base committees! Communes that accept being what they are, where they are. And if possible, a multiplicity of communes that will displace the institutions of society: family, school, union, sports club, etc. Communes that aren’t afraid, beyond their specifically political activities, to organize themselves for the material and moral survival of each of their members and of all those around them who remain adrift. Communes that would not define themselves – as collectives tend to do – by what’s inside and what’s outside them, but by the density of the ties at their core. Not by their membership, but by the spirit that animates them.
Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose.

The Invisible Committee felt they were surrounded by a dysfunctional economy, propped up by a Police State and an increasingly arbitrary managerial and administrative class. Their solution was to band together, throw spanners into the works, cheat the welfare system and pirate some gas and electric where they could. The Red Pill guys feel they are surrounded by an economy that exploits and despises men, pushes female-centred consumerism and a vapid hedonistic pop-culture. The solution is for "like-minded men" to form groups to resist the forces of the Feminine Imperative.

Both analyses can be right, and are. Both policies can be wrong, and are. This is so often the way. Both analyses assume there was once, and preferably recently, a Golden Age. Here's the Red Pill:
Pride, honor, and a sense of duty were the driving forces of the modern man. He contributed to society because that was what was expected of him. In return, government and community supported his marriage and family, and a balance was found.
Not sure what universe that world was in, but it wasn't this one. If an older male relative tells you that’s how it was, don't ask them the time, because they will lie about that as well.

The Invisible Committee can look back on the immediate post-WW2 period, from about 1950 to 1970. Stable employment, moderate inflation, strong trade unions, governments that owned most of the major utilities, half the world shut up behind and Iron Curtain, controls on personal credit, a large public housing stock, final-salary pensions for the lucky, and no runaway consumerism.

Take a look at some photographs of everyday life in 1963. Let me know if that's how you want to live. No thanks. I was there. Wouldn’t go back.

Mainstream pop-culture has almost always been pretty vacant. Managers and administrators have almost always been barely-competent, arbitrary and inclined to take it out on the workforce. Almost all women have almost always shit-tested, screwed around, complained and moaned. Almost all men have almost always followed sports and let themselves be turned into servants for their wives and children. There are exceptions, and some things improve while others get worse. The theme remains the same, it's the details that change.

The question is not what extra-ordinary people can do, but what ordinary people - me, the Red Pill guys, The Invisible Committee - who don't have charisma, abundant energy, quick intelligence, shrewdness, or any of the other things that separate a future President or Prime Minister from a regular hump. What do ordinary people do?

If we run across an exceptional person going in the direction we want to go, we find some way of getting behind them. Funding will do: there have never been so many ways to do so.

We withdraw our support for anything in the mainstream we don't like. Turn off the damn TV. Stop listening to chart broadcast or streaming radio. Stay away from the big chain retailers, especially if they espouse social justice causes.

Except for medicine, we don't work in the Public sector. If you are, get into the Private sector. Large companies do a metric tonne of virtue-signalling: it doesn't mean they are ridden with SJW's. It means they know the difference between real life and PR. It's the small companies which can't afford to maintain a parallel PR universe, so if they are PC, they are PC for real. Mostly though, small companies can’t afford that nonsense.

WE VOTE! Bush / Gore went down to a few hanging chads. Brexit was a small majority. So was the Presidency of Austria. If you don't vote, you can't complain about the result.

Of course none of this will make the slightest difference to the world around us. The mainstream is too large. There are too many ordinary people. Stop worrying about them. They are doing just fine. They love complaining about their partner, kids, manager, their football team and the price of fish. They love what we see as pointless drama and invented disputes. It’s the very stuff of life to them. Leave them alone.

We focus on making our own lives more pleasant and liveable.

I understand the need for other people. The camaraderie, or “like-minded people”, as it used to be called. The self-improvement / self-respect route is narrow and usually walked alone. Beware, though, of phrases like "fully realized male identity”. That’s a Trojan Horse of a phrase, inside which an unscrupulous guru can smuggle marriage, children, unrecognised self-sacrfice and a whole pallet-load of yo’ grandfather Blue Pill nonsense. Never argue over words. Argue about policies and facts. I don’t care if some guru thinks I’m not a “fully realised man”. I will continue to commend the single life to those men who look at the deep rewards of intimate relationships and wonder why the frack anyone would do that to themselves.

It’s sad that detailed and insightful analysis of the current situation is rarely paired with policies that pack a punch. The reason is that the concerns of the Red Pill, or the Invisible Committee, are minority in the extreme, defined exactly in their opposition to the mainstream. Deep down, the mainstream doesn’t change, it simply adopts the fashions and fads of the time. Sometimes it benefits by doing so, and sometimes, like now, it does not. We can change our own lives, but we can’t change the mainstream. We’re the wrong people. Only Gorbachov could declare perestroika, just as only Nixon could go to China.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Leaving Out The Gin Bottles

Steps of the Caffe Nero across from my gym, early one Saturday morning. I swear I did not pose this. I leave milk bottles out, but clearly the denizens of Soho get a wider range of products delivered by their milkman.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Punjabi National Bank

Another City photograph from last summer. Since the Punjab is a region of India, how can it be the Punjab National Bank? Anyway. I have distractions at the moment, so posting is erratic.