Sunday, October 17, 2010

All teched up

My phone died. Or at least the screen did. Which means that although I can still use it to make calls, as long as I remember how I named the number I want, I can't see my alarms. There is obviously a problem with this. The wake up alarm was set to 5.30 and I can't change it. This is not a good wake-up time for the weekend and it will be too late for Tuesday when I'm going to Solihull by train.

I've had this phone for three and a half years now. It's a Samsung and has always been just a bit rubbish but it has done what was required, made calls, held numbers, very occasionally taken photos and provided three alarms, one with a snooze. I wouldn't have changed it, no matter the functionality of fabulous new phones, whilst it did what I required. Without the screen it doesn't do this any more. 

Ian did a bit of research and we found that I could have an iPhone from Tesco at the best price. To be honest I don't love Tesco. I don't love any of the standard service providers either. I've been with Orange for ten years but it's really not because they're a good company, just that they're all a little bit shoddy and changing now would be disruptive. The kids both have Orange phones, my free wireless broadband is through Orange and I also have a mobile dongle from them. For me to move would either require Orange to be even more useless than they already are or for another company to be obviously better, provide a noticeably better service at a lower price and make it easy to move. Still waiting. So, despite calling in at O2, I ended up back at the Orange shop.

The young man (Daniel) who served us hid his irritation inadequately but sufficiently that we didn't walk away. The very mirror of Orange's technique. I was either going to buy an iPhone or something cheap as chips and go with the laptop/Touch/dongle combination that I've got at the moment. The cheap option that did what I wanted (flips like a Star Trek communicator) looked like it would fall apart after a couple of months. The iPhone was shiny. Daniel offered an Android. It was also shiny and had vibratory icons. The fact that the iPhone has billions of apps did not sway me, not being a collector, but the familiarity of it did. I've got a Mac and a Touch and have played with Ian's iPad so I already know how to use the system. And the iPhone was shiny. Very shiny.

So now I have a lovely new iPhone4. Apple only provide a 1 year warranty. I'm on an 18 month contract. Something to think about in eleven months. After eighteen months I can transfer to a sim only contract if I can keep the phone undamaged for that long. Given that the Samsung lasted twice the life of the contract that may well be possible. I'll put a note in my diary for a year and a half from now to renegotiate.

And now it's time to organise my address book and choose some new music. Maybe see if there are any actually useful apps available (I want MyRail Lite!) to go with MyBus, TrainSearch and Dropbox. What else would I do with a free Sunday?

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Today has been lovely. I’m not sure why early October is often so nice. The day started chill and misty and slowly cleared to a wonderful brisk sunny day. I had a sales meeting near Shipley at midday so I got to sit in the window drinking tea and watching the day emerge from the fog whilst trying to sort out my diary for the next three months. Yesterday I was horribly surprised to find that I was training in Pontypridd the Monday after Novacon and it seemed sensible to sort travel arrangements out and avoid similar nasty shocks. I’m working away from home three or four times a week up to Christmas so I’m going to see a lot of public transport and be eating way too much uninspired hotel food. I remember scoffing when a friend said, many years ago, that it is difficult to live a healthy life when you are always on the road. I should probably track her down and apologise. Even if you are super-organised (and I’m so not) it is difficult to eat well and take any regular exercise, especially when you are up at 5 to get to the venue and not back until after 8. Actually it is difficult to keep up with the washing too.

So, organisation done I smeared on a bit of make-up and scurried down to the bus stop. I’ve given up on the no. 4 for going to the station; it’s just not convenient any more, so I sat on a crowded 83, popular because Stagecoach is 20p cheaper than First. It was packed with students.

Where I live in Sheffield we mark the milestones in the year by student presence or absence. The difference is quite startling. Over the last few years the kids in the shared houses on my street haven’t been much of a nuisance to me but there is a new lot in infused with the energy of youth. They were still partying outside at 5am during Fresher’s week. I’m hoping they will have calmed down a bit by the time the windows are reopened for next summer.

The boys who sat behind me on the bus enveloped me an a miasma of curry&hangover breath. One hadn’t gone to be d until 5, the other had arrived back from an allnighter in Leeds, done a bit of work on his dissertation and was heading back into town to sleep through his lectures. I vaguely remember being able to do that, back in the distant land of youth. I listened in, unashamed. If they were going to share their aroma the least I expected was to be distracted by their conversation. Apparently Sheffield is THE place for Drum and Bass. Something to do with Tuesday Club? No idea. Having recently read King Rat I was not averse to the idea that D&B is a sophisticated and important musical form, but I haven’t pursued it. I lapsed into a malodorous daydream as they displayed their music knowledge to each other. I emerged back into consciousness when one started extolling the virtues of Eric Bibb. Gosh. I saw him a few years ago at the Robin Hood (RIP) near Merry Hill. He was, as the boy stated authoratively, excellent. This segued into praising the Alabama Three (not 3, not from Alabama). Apparently they are also really good but not likely to last much longer due to their age and unhealthy lifestyles. I’d like to have chipped in but I knew it was unlikely that they would welcome a comment from a frumpy woman considerably older than their mothers. The knowledgeable one veered off to impress his friend with his choice of research subject; biomimetics. Brand new idea! All about incorporating natural living material structures and techniques developed in the harsh environment of evolution into engineering solutions. Fascinating! There was a good TED talk on the subject a couple of years ago. As we debussed I caught a glimpse of their fresh faces and marvelled at how connected the world has become. So much information is available so easily that I could understand much of what they were talking about. How the world has changed! Crafts and skills are being lost or downgraded into hobbies but information that in the past would have been too esoteric for the likes of me is now so casually available that I can appreciate it. Sensawunda!


Even more so when, over the weekend Ian forwarded a piece written by Douglas Coupland, via Boing!Boing! He thought it would reflect my pessimistic worldview. How right he was. These are the comments that prompted him to forward the piece:

1) It's going to get worse
No silver linings and no lemonade. The elevator only goes down. The bright note is that the elevator will, at some point, stop.


6) The middle class is over. It's not coming back
Remember travel agents? Remember how they just kind of vanished one day?
That's where all the other jobs that once made us middle-class are going – to that same, magical, class-killing, job-sucking wormhole into which travel-agency jobs vanished, never to return. However, this won't stop people from self-identifying as middle-class, and as the years pass we'll be entering a replay of the antebellum South, when people defined themselves by the social status of their ancestors three generations back. Enjoy the new monoclass!

The ones that made a connection with me were these though:

10) In the same way you can never go backward to a slower computer, you can never go backward to a lessened state of connectedness
11) Old people won't be quite so clueless
No more “the Google,” because they'll be just that little bit younger.

32) Musical appreciation will shed all age barriers
33) People who shun new technologies will be viewed as passive-aggressive control freaks trying to rope people into their world, much like vegetarian teenage girls in the early 1980s
1980: “We can't go to that restaurant. Karen's vegetarian and it doesn't have anything for her.”
2010: “What restaurant are we going to? I don't know. Karen was supposed to tell me, but she doesn't have a cell, so I can't ask her. I'm sick of her crazy control-freak behaviour. Let's go someplace else and not tell her where.”

38)Knowing everything will become dull
It all started out so graciously: At a dinner for six, a question arises about, say, that Japanese movie you saw in 1997 (Tampopo), or whether or not Joey Bishop is still alive (no). And before long, you know the answer to everything.

What I find so fascinating is how I sort of expected all this technological stuff to be part of a utopia (ecotopia) where we all lived long and fulfilling lives. How come the sensawunda stuff is embedded so deep in dystopian shit. The one that really hit home was this:

5) You'll spend a lot of your time feeling like a dog leashed to a pole outside the grocery store – separation anxiety will become your permanent state

Yes! All the time that my loved ones are away I suffer separation anxiety. I thought this was just a symptom of getting older. I hoped it was.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Excuses, excuses...

No blogging available due to the new Tiffany Aching novel, 'I Shall Wear Midnight' and because yesterday's 'Made in Dagenham' and 'Single Father' both made me weep and I ended up with a miserable headache, and yes, and before that, 'Case and the Dreamer', the last of the Theodore Sturgeon collected stories. Later.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What I did on my holidays...

I seem to have been on holiday a lot recently. France, Edinburgh, and now, Whitby. It's a grand life. Mostly though it's because I didn't take any holiday at all before July and I'm trying to cram my hols in before my holiday year is up at the end of November.

So yes, Whitby. In the rain. Also Staithes, Saltburn, and Sleights. We struggled with the pronunciation of this last which was a bit of an issue because it was where we actually stayed. Is it to rhyme with sleigh or slight? It turns out, despite the spelling, that it is the latter. Ian provided me with a useful reminder with the phrase 'real or imaginary'.

The B&B where we stayed was fabulous. The Gramarye Suites were lovely. We stayed in the Fairy Room. Don't laugh. It was like staying in the non-rocketship end of an art show. Ian had met one of the artists at a con some years ago. The room was lovely. I've rarely stayed anywhere so welcoming. Molly and John have made the place delightful with really good coffee and tea in the room and fresh milk in the tiny fridge in the room (but big enough for a couple of bottles of wine as well), a bowl of fresh fruit in the room, refreshed daily. The breakfast we magnificent. I didn't try the fresh baked bread until the second day and really regretted not diving in immediately. I can only say I was distracted by the freshly squeezed orange juice, huge bowl of fresh fruit salad, beautifully cooked scrambled eggs and good strong coffee. I had to have a little lie down afterwards. Oh, and free wifi meant that we could look up restaurants in Whitby for our evening meals. The Moon and Sixpence turned out to be jolly nice, Ditto was good too but my vote went to Number 4 which looked a bit disconcerting in a parade of shops next to Costcutter but provided an excellent meal in a friendly atmosphere. The B&B was only 50 yards from the station into Whitby so we didn't have to face the carparking costs and Ian got to drink some rather nice wine. 

We did spend some time actually looking around the area. The weather was fairly miserable until the day we left (of course) but we enjoyed trudging through the drizzle. Plenty of odd street names to keep Ian happy. I think this is my favourite photograph although Dog Loup, Gun Gutter and Slippery Hill, all in Staithes, were snapped. We also rather liked the sign under the Cleveland Potash sign, 'CPL are proud to host Boulby Underground  Laboratory for Dark Matter Research - Searching for the missing mass of the universe'. Every area of outstanding natural beauty should have a place like this - ugly and industrial but presumably providing a few jobs, an important resource and a nice sign.

So, in conclusion, what I did on my holiday was eat with a bit of signspotting between meals.