Friday, September 19, 2008

Nothing to declare but my Genius

I downloaded iTunes 8.0 the other day, it has a new application called Genius which is a bit like Pandora.

Recorded music must be incredibly data-rich: volume, notes, melodies and harmonies can all be quantified so with enough time and money presumably you can get right to the DNA of any song. Then with clever maths, it should be possible to build a full picture of what music you like and might like in the future.

Genius does two things mainly – the first is to create play lists of songs based on a chosen track. It’s good, if you want to make a quick CD for the car and have a mood in mind, it’ll rustle up a decent compilation for you.

It’s not been created for altruistic reasons, of course. The other thing Genius does is try to recommend other songs you might like to buy from, um, the iTunes Store.

So, I click on Hey Boy, Hey Girl by the Chemical Brothers and it suggests Hey Boy, Hey Girl (Radio edit). I click on Pare Cochero by Orquesta Aragon from my definitive Cuban anthology and it suggests La Vida Loca by Ricky Martin and Shakira. An album by early nineties hip hoppers The Goats, returns a suggestion that I might like to buy an album by a band called The Boats.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Olympic observations

I haven’t posted for a while, for (not serious) reasons that may become clear, but here are some Olympic observations:

I’ve been wrestling with the concept of cheating in sport for a while; most of me believes that the Corinthian spirit should prevail. But this year’s Tour de France was not as interesting an entertainment spectacle as the years when people are being thrown out over drugs.

What’s more, there is no doubt that science is now central to sporting success – why, then, is chemically enhanced performance wrong, when enhancements through nutrition, engineering and technology are OK.

I have come to the conclusion that cheating is entirely legitimate in professional sport – afterall, if you’re not cheatin’ you’re not trying. That’s not to say it should be legal – if you get caught and thrown out, then you’ve tried and failed, and should pay the consequences. Sorry, Dwain Chambers.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that sport is more interesting when you’re good at it. Which brings me to the point…

Is it worth it?
One of the broadsheets ran a chart outlining the amount of money each medal cost us. How typically British. Something like £300 million was invested in the Olympic team in the last four years. On the radio someone said that this would buy you ‘quite a few hospitals’.

It wouldn’t. A big hospital has a budget of around £200 million-a-year, the investment in sport is chicken feed by comparison. But the impact is huge and the success is amazing.

Look at it another way; we have a medal for every 1.2 million people in this country; compare that to China (12 million), USA (4 million), Germany (2 million) and Russia (1.4 million). We have a gold for every 3.2 million, (against China (36 million), USA (13 million) and Germany (5 million)).

It means our personal investment in being successful at sport is relatively small. Yes, there are other things you can spend money on, but we should be investing in our collective esteem.

Team GB
I like the concept of Team GB – that every British competitor in every sport wears the same tracksuit and carries the same badge. We are one team – I like that sense of unity. It says something about us as a nation – that whether you’re winning gold medals or coming last, you’re part of the same team. We’re not only successful, but it’s a good kind of success.

Which sports
As the Games progress, we seem to be involved in increasingly bizarre sports. I rather like Steve Backley’s definition of an Olympic sport. The winner should be obvious - it shouldn’t have to be judged by experts (like, say, synchronised swimming). It should be the pinnacle of success in the sport (which would throw out football and tennis) and there should be legitimate competition across most, if not all continents (so, Baseball should be on the gallows).

Renewed acquaintances
On thing I love about the Olympics is watching a Czech woman winning skeet shooting at 8am on BBC1 a Tuesday. I will never hear of her again. I like that (as I’m tying, Iceland are playing France in Handball. I also like the fact that every four years you come into contact with Dan Topolski – who is a brilliant commentator in the rowing. But in between Olympics’, I couldn’t place him in a line up. What does he do in the interim? Him screaming “THE BRITISH ARE COMING” until he was hoarse during the coxless fours is my lasting memory of the Games.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Famous five adventures

So Max Mosley wasn’t involved in a Nazi orgy with five prostitutes, it was just a regular orgy with five prostitutes.

It’s difficult to know whether Mosley is stupid, highly principled or pompous beyond belief. I’ve concluded that he’s all three. On principle he’s right, he does have a right to privacy and what spanks his bottom is his business. But to pursue this principle through the courts with one of the arguments being - there was a simulated rape scene and rape is not commonly considered a Nazi torture – is spectacularly pompous.

However, in the end his reputation is not enhanced by the victory, those around him are hardly untouched by the debacle. His wife and children knew nothing of this hobby and doing what he did was rather like standing up at his daughters wedding and giving a speech on his top 10 favourite perversions. Taking it through the courts might protect future victims of this process, but for him and those around him, it was a stupid thing to do.

And that’s where it all meets. You’ve got to be pretty pompous to have principles because if you’ve got them, then presumably you expect people to live by them. But you’ve got to be pretty stupid to think that everyone will live by your own self-appointed unwritten and untold rules.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Toilet humour

Our offices are a 15 minute walk from the middle of town. Our nearest pub was voted one of Britain’s most dangerous and has exotic dancers on a Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. Which begs the question; who goes to see exotic dancers on a Tuesday and Thursday afternoon?

On Thursday the water people turned off the supply to the office to do essential maintenance work. We were allowed to take an extended lunch break to head down town to water ourselves.

When we got back it still wasn’t on. Inevitably, the thought of not being allowed to go to the toilet was enough to make everyone want to go to the toilet.

Slowly but surely the rules were bent as people started popping into the toilets. Eventually we formulated an informal rule…

“If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown get down town.”

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Raining men

We were listening to XFM on the radio today at work. OJ said he was enjoying it for a while but it was all getting a bit samey. I said that there was a band of purely pop music and a band of purely alternative-indie music. XFM’s music policy is a band in the middle that mixes the two. So while it initially sounds good and interesting and, well, alternative, ultimately it has all the things you hate about pop music (banal catchyness that drives you to distration).

“I blame Radiohead ultimately” I said, before expounding my theory that great art gets distilled and santised to the point where is palatable, but ultimately dull. Radiohead’s success ultimately lead to a cadre of epic-misery bands which eventually produced Coldplay, who ultimately created a range of epic-misery-pop-light bands.

“Yes” said OJ pondering the theory “There’s all these bands sit indoors singing about it raining, only Radiohead are actually out in the rain”.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Train of thought

Most of my train journeys are simple; Aylesbury to Marylebone and Marylebone to Aylesbury. I don’t bother checking timetables, I know that I can get from my front door to anywhere in London in two hours or less. I consider it my ‘home’ route, a bit like the M40 is my home motorway – when I’m on other motorways I feel I have to drive slower and be more aware of other drivers. The M40 feels safer somehow.

In recent weeks I’ve trained my way to Salford, Warrington and Birmingham. These three journeys require me to change trains. Naturally, I plan my route and know when to get off a train and what time my next train is.

But there’s something that continues to amaze me about actually completing a journey. I know this isn’t how it works, but I think it’s that somewhere in the back of my head, I’m amazed the train knows that I’m there and arrives at the right time to pick me up.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Anaesthsia amnesia

The cat is ill. It may be serious, it may not. It’s not Feline AIDS nor Feline Leukaemia, nor is it an eminently treatable thyroid or kidney infection. There’s no tumour, it may just be a generic virus which can be cleared up with a generic antibiotic. While the vet has cloned our credit card (I can think of no other reason how he could have got hold of so much of our money in such a short period of time) scientists in Scotland are currently investigating.

She went in for a blood test and x-ray today. Emma was worried…

Me: “Why? She’s only going for a blood test and x-ray.”

Her: “What about if something bad happens when she’s under general anaesthetic?”

Me: “Why would she go under general anaesthetic? They won’t treat her until they’ve talked to us”

Her: “How else will they keep her still during the x-ray?”

Me (thinking): ‘We’ve had this discussion before

The car went in for a check up today after the ‘Check Engine Light’ came on again (then off, then on, then off again)… the car is not ill.

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