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.

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