Archive for November, 2009

Good night

November 28, 2009

Late Saturday night. The dog is asleep, my boys are back to University, or off to sleep. I’m tired (and perhaps emotional, as Private Eye used to put it). Even the dog wants to sleep. Earlier we went up to Sherriffmuir Inn, and looked down at the Allan valley, which was entirely full of mist: it looked as though there was a loch filling up the whole of the river Allan valley, while we looked down at it from above. Gorgeous view! And now? I should write the text for an article that’s overdue, submit another article that awaits only a little information from my co-author, write some other programs that enable sufficiently accurate simulation of neural/cortical systems, and write a new proposal for FP7/Cognitive systems. Aber Morgen ist auch noch ein Tag. So instead, I’ll sleep. Good Night!

Telesales resisted

November 18, 2009

I had a telecoms reselling company phone me this evening trying to sell me cheaper telephone calls, and lower line rental on my BT line. I know how these things work: they purchase in bulk from BT, and re-sell cheaper than BT does. Not a bad business, nor do I have any particular attachment to BT (though I do like their broadband service). So why didn’t I purchase this?

Firstly, I hate being put on the spot by a cold-calling telesales person. I know that the people on the other end are sitting in a call centre somewhere, and are paid by results, so I do have some sympathy with them. But I still don’t like being cold-called. And I couldn’t get rid of these people: first they phoned me while I was eating: I did tell them this, so they phoned back. I must have asked too many questions because the girl on the end of the line put me on to her supervisor.

Secondly, I like to make purchases when I want to. Not when I’m put on the spot. Not even to save money. Their salesperson explained what he was selling, and I even found his company on the net, so I knew that he really was genuine. But it was his pressure to close the sale there and then that finally got too much for me.  My innate bloody-mindedness kicked in, and I explained politely that I really didn’t want to buy, and didn’t want them to phone me back. I had to do this three times before they really took the message. They clearly believe in their product (and they are probably right as well, but that’s not the point).

So, I’m probably paying over the odds for my telephone line. So what? That’s my problem! If I want to fix it, I’ll fix it – in my own time! There’s plenty of resellers out there who package up BT lines and calls (now that legislation forces BT to open the market to them). But I’ll organise it myself, thank you very much.

Of mice and feet.

November 11, 2009

I purchased a new mouse from Apple, and I like it. But it made me think of a concept user interface tool that I invented for a tutorial on user interfacing some years ago: the rat. This was a foot-operated user interaction device, conceptually with a couple of pedals as well. the idea was that one used it rather like a mouse – but it kept one’s hands both free for use on the keyboard, and avoided the difficulties that I for one have with a cluttered (physical!) desk and space to move a mouse. My students didn’t think it would catch on (perhaps it was the name: some rodents are more attractive – think Tom and Jerry – but I can’t think of any cartoon rats!). And no-one ever beat a path to my door trying to take up the idea (but then, I never patented it). Perhaps it would be better as a large foot-operated trackball (think something football sized), perhaps it needs a different name (squirrel? cat? or perhaps something non-animal, like footmouse?). If anyone feels like taking it up (perhaps it already exists? I shall resist googling and looking for it) perhaps they could comment.

meta-blog blogging: is this just cheap self-publicisation, or has it a purpose?

November 8, 2009

Given that I have a set of web pages that I use for work, and given that I need to be a little careful about what I might place in a public blog (or indeed in my own work web pages), I’m left wondering why I’m writing this blog at all. Now, yes, I can write about non-work activities (like Porgy & Bess), but then, there’s lots of newspapers (and they’re all on the web as well) that write reviews, and I’m not at all sure that mine adds anything new. I could tweet on twitter about my every move, but I can’t imagine why anyone would want to read them. Or indeed, read this either.

Meanwhile: I note that Andy Murray has won the tennis at Valencia (hurrah!), that it’s getting pretty cold here (first proper frost of the autumn last night). Do I write about the trivia of my own life? A trip to a fortieth birthday last night, or a trip to buy a mattress today and a wander round IKEA, or the really boring matters, like putting out the recycling on a Sunday night? Surely not. Perhaps I should simply wait till something more interesting happens, though that might take some time. Or perhaps I should use my rich inner life to dramatise the ordinary? Maybe that’s it: meanwhile, the rest of the family are watching Casualty on i-player (that sounds pretty dramatic). I think that perhaps if I have nothing to say, I should say nothing. So back to reading my student’s thesis.

Porgy and Bess at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

November 1, 2009

Went to see Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess last night in Edinburgh. It took a long time to get there – there was a cow on the train line. We’d allowed two hours (it usually takes one hour from here), and in the end we took a taxi from the station and got there just before curtain up. But I’m really pleased we didn’t give up on the way!

I’ve been playing Summertime and It Ain’t Necessarily So for a long time (I bought the music for Summertime in 1967, I think), but I’d never seen the original show. It was a real education. The music is more modern than most of the jazz arrangements I’ve heard – and even though I know that Summertime starts on a high F#, the effect of the song at the very start of the show is electrifying. This was opera, not just a musical! It was performed by Cape Town Opera, who were absolutely terrific! I don’t know where else they are performing this (it was the last night in Edinburgh), but I’d recommend it to anyone.