Fun with Siri

When Lyn and I were in the Apple store up in stratford yesterday afternoon, we were shown the new Siri. I was quite impressed with how clear and loud the music it produced was, especially for something so small. The nice woman with us was demonstrating how she could speak to it and ask it to play songs, so I suggested a few of my usual favourites – Carly Simon, Cat Empire etc – much to Lyn’s embarrassment. It wasn’t until, much later, lying in bed thinking over the episode, that it occurred to me how cool it would have been if I had innocently requested this song and had it blurt out across the shopping arcade.

The Manhattanisation of North Greenwich

I go up to the Greenwich Peninsula quitefrequently these days, either on my way to the O2, the tube station or just for a walk by the Thames. Over the last eight years, I’ve watched the area slowly evolve. When I first moved down here, it was largely flat and empty, the large white half-bubble of the dome sticking out like a sore thumb. Coming back along the river this afternoon, though, I noticed how much it has changed. These days the area is awash with multi-storey blocks of flats. It is bright and urban. It felt, in fact, like New York.

I haven’t been to the Big Apple in over twenty years, but walking through the Millennium Village this afternoon, something about the tightly clustered high-rise buildings encircled by water made me think of Manhattan. It made me wonder: has that area been turned into London’s answer to New York? With the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf nearby, are the city planners deliberately trying to replicate something resolutely urban, bohemian and middle class on the North Greenwich Peninsula? Are they trying to Manhattanise north Greenwich?

Noam Chomsky: Trump is a distraction

If you want to really understand what is going on, listen to Noam Chomsky. Chomsky is, without a doubt, one of the leading thinkers of our time. As he discusses here, Donald Trump can be seen as merely a distraction: we are supposed to get angry with him while, backstage, the Republican Party set about completely dismantling the American State. Chomsky says the Republicans are the biggest threat to human civilisation ever, due to their attempt to destroy the environment.

Part of me thinks that what he says is a bit too much like conspiracism and the bollocks conspiracy theorists spout, but there is a lot of truth in what Chomsky says. Whereas most conspiracy theorists are just egotistical nut jobs who crave attention, Chomsky bases everything he says on evidence. He knows what he is talking about, and we ignore him at our peril: there are forces at play in the world out to keep power in the hands of the white, rich and privileged. The problem comes when others try to usurp the credibility of analysts like Chomsky to forward their crazy worldviews, which sound similar to begin with, but then often stray into racism, antisemitism and bigotry.

Audible

A week or two ago I ordered Andrew Lycett’s biography of Ian Fleming from Amazon and started to read it. I’d decided I wanted to know more about the man who created one of my favourite fictional characters. I sat down with it on the sofa in my usual way. It’s a very well-written biography, and the text flows very well, although the academic in me doesn’t think he cites his sources enough. However, the problem I had is, the text on the page was too small: my eyes were struggling, and it was taking ages for me to get through it. I found myself wishing I had someone around who could read it to me, as I once got my dad to read to me.

In desperation, yesterday I gave up and decided to look online for any PDF versions I could put through my screen-reader. That’s how I came across Audible, Amazon’s online audiobook site. It had the book I was trying to read on there, so I signed up for the thirty day free trial and decided to give it a whirl.

Not that I want to sound like an advert, but so far I’m impressed. Listening to the book is much easier, and I have always thought hearing the words being enunciated adds something to them too. I let the audiobook play while I have the book open on my lap, reading along. I have got through an entire chapter already today, after only reading four over the last couple of weeks.

I’ll be onto the next book I want to read, Matthew Parker’s history of Goldeneye, within a couple of weeks, which is also on Audible. At this rate, I might well sign up to pay when my free trial ends, especially if there are lots more books I want to read on there. The problem is, I’ve had a few issues with amazon recently, signing me up automatically for things I didn’t want, so I’ll need to keep an eye on it. Nonetheless, I’m pretty thrilled with my new way to read things I want to read quickly and easily.

Alt-right antagonism

I just watched something which really wound me up, before I realised that that was exactly what it was intended to do. On facebook, somebody had posted a video on one of the Remain pages of a man apparently ‘destroying’ Remainers. He was making all sorts of claims, provocatively accusing people fighting the referendum result of being melodramatic wimps who don’t know what they’re talking about. At one point, he showed one clearly confused protester saying we had the NHS because of the EU, thus framing ‘us’ as stupid.

Of course this naturally got me going: I flew into one of my spazzy rages, and started shouting at my computer (not too loud, because Lyn’s still in bed). I decided I wanted to kill the little shit who made it, so I paused the clip and tapped his name into Google. I then realised something interesting: the moron in question, Paul Joseph Watson, wasn’t just an idiot who’d somehow got hold of a webcam as I had assumed. He is a well-known conspiracy theorist with links to Alex Jones and the alt-right. People like him and Jones stir people up deliberately; the video was designed to be provocative and get me going. Such people are trying to play with us, manipulate us into getting angry by saying things which they know we will have problems with.

Having lost all the other arguments on any other level, the only way these far-right zealots can cease any kind of advantage is by making us so furious that we screw up. They cling to the racist, xenophobic discourse which says they, as white heterosexual males, are superior. The problem with them is, mainstream society rejected that crap decades ago (or should have!). In order to reclaim an advantage over a dominant idea they resent, they try to provoke us into getting angry and slipping up. They want to make us look stupid. They want to send us into fits of frustration and fury as that is the only way they can present theirselves as the sensible, grown up, pragmatic ones in this debate. It’s a provocative, antagonistic tactic, but it’s the only way they can attempt to still appear relevant, and we must not rise to their puerile bait.

Danny boyle confirmed as Bond 25 director

Just to follow up on this entry, it has now been confirmed that Danny Boyle will direct the next Bond film. ”Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle is to reunite with Daniel Craig for the 25th Bond film, which is due to be released from 25 October 2019.” As I said a few weeks ago, I think he’s a great choice, and I can’t wait to see where such a prominent, leading director with a reputation for grittiness and realism takes the franchise. The fact that it’s chalked up to be Craig’s last Bond film also means they are more likely to throw caution to the wind and try things they might previously have held back from. It’s just a pity we have to wait so long to see what Boyle comes up with.

Communication works 2018

Today was Communication Works 2018 at Charlton Park Academy, and it has been a very cool day indeed. I didn’t have much of a role in organising it this year. Last year I put on a bit of an exhibition about myself, but this time I sort of stepped back. To be honest I haven’t been into school much this academic year, something I really want to rectify in the autumn. Mind you, I submitted a coolpiece of writing for the event, which I was proud to see on the wall in the event’s museum area. The funny thing is, I didn’t know when it was this year: as luck would have it I popped into school a couple of days ago, more or less just to say hi, and was asked if I was coming in today.

I’m now very glad I made that trip. As usual, it was quite a fascinating event, with displays of all the latest communication technology. It was opened by Abdi Omar, a motivational speaker and VOCA user with CP from Somalia. There was also a lady from the BBC there I got chatting to: she said Louis Theroux was planning a program about communication aid users, which she was doing research for. Of course this pricked my interest, so I showed her my blog and some of my writing, and she said she would email me.

After that, I spent my time browsing the stalls and talking to exhibitors. After a while Lyn joined me there, and we had a good afternoon chatting to people before, at about three, we decided it was high time for a cup of coffee. It’s awesome to have such a great event, about something we are both quite passionate about, virtually on our doorstep. Now, though, I’m feeling quite bad that I did not help out at school much this year; something I definitely need to remedy come the autumn.

The best cake ever

When my brothers and I were growing up, mum used to make excellent chocolate cakes for our birthdays. Nice and gooey, with a layer of chocolate icing running through the middle, we always thought they were the best chocolate cakes in the world. I never tasted a better chocolate cake, until this afternoon.

A few days ago our friend Heather from the park offered to make a cake to celebrate Lyn’s birthday. We had all been told how good this cake was, so we arranged to meet in the park to eat some. While I was looking forward to it, I was quite unprepared for just how good this cake was. It apparently contained Guiness, and the moment I bit into it I was dumbstruck. It was so rich and tasty, with the greatest respect to mum and her cooking I think her crown has been taken. At the very least I know who to ask for our birthday cakes from now on.

A decade of wishing Lyn happy birthday.

I just had a glance at my archive – something I do quite regularly – and found today marks ten years and a day since I posted this entry about the first time I celebrated Lyn’s birthday with her. Can you believe that was ten years ago? A decade already! It seems to have flown by. Mind you, what a decade it has been, both good and bad. L and I have done so much awesome stuff in the last ten years, it makes me wonder what we’ll do in the next ten.

HBD Lyn and Dad 2018

This entry is just to wish Lyn a very happy birthday. After the fun of Saturday evening, it has been a quiet sort of day: we just had brunch in the park, and stayed there all afternoon. On days like this, though, you realise how lucky you are. Sat there, talking to friends, sipping coffee and eating sausage sandwiches while the most fantastic city on earth thronged around me, I could barely have been more content. I really hope Lyn had a great birthday.

My warmest birthday wishes go out to dad too. His birthday was yesterday. He and mum are away at the moment, and I hope they are having a great time. I love you guys.