A Lovely Forgetting (by )

Last year I went for a walk with Alaric, just the two of us as my parents were around to look after kids, it wasn't anywhere fancy just around Gloucester especial they area around our house. There was a kind of urban fairy tale about it - so I wrote him a song which I then recorded initially with guitar but that bit for some reason came out mangled so I took it out. And I posted it to FaceBook and gotten his feed back on the guitar bit etc and blasted it around the internet in various ways whilst I was working on it and then... I kind of forgot about it.

And it also turns out I forgot to tell Mr Al that it was written for him!

Yesterday morning whilst sitting in a camper van visiting family in Essex I mentioned it too him, realising that I had never actually presented the song to him I played it and explained about the photo and where I'd taken it (down by the rail way with the sun behind the Cathedral - near his work place).

It made him smile - it's cheesy and naff and about us and were we live and so on. Alaric was so happy and the fact I'd told the world but not him and he'd missed it made him laugh as it is typically me.

Last night he said that one of the things that attacks him to me is that I am always creating something - he sees this as amazing. I kind of see it as scatterbrained ooo shiny. From his reaction I'm realy actually glad I forgot to tell him :D

Book and Writing Love (by )

Me as we leave the library after 3 hrs 'so where shall we go for a drink?'
Jean 'Waterstones'
Me 'Why?'
Jean 'it's full of books'
Me 'but you have a book in your bag'
Jean 'Yes but I like to be surrounded by books'
me 'was there any point in leaving the library?'
Jean 'yes I want cake'


Jean 'I guess knuckle bumps were invented by writers who wanted to do hi-fives but where always holding books or pens' Me 'I don't think it quiet happened that way round but it is handy for meeting out word counts and celebrating isn't it' Jean 'oh... why?'


Because… War (by )

Most of the time I try and remain positive about humanity and where the future is going etc... I know that the world is actually becoming less and less violent and prejudice but that that is not a straight forward progression and slips back and forth but there is a positive trend there.

I know the dangers inherent in our advances in science and technology but see the good out way the bad on a daily basis. And then I get days like today. I was going to be researching Mongolian archery in the 11th century but I saw the news and there were the bodies of kids on a beach in Gaza for no reason than ideaology and then another plan down over the Ukraine/Russian area. This time the plane was carrying over 100 researchers and workers in the field of HIV and AIDS research and prevention. They were all on their way to a conference in Australia.

And this rips my heart out.

First off it doesn't make the plane crash worse - if it had been a bunch of 'ordinary' people who died on the plan then it would still have been horrendous it would still have been 100's of minds lost, hundreds of families and co-workers moarning. It does however give it more of an impact on a global scale, that is a lot of researchers lost in one field and there is no way it will not impact the science and rate of break threws and how quickly the medical care will get to the people who need it.

AIDS is still a global epidemic and still impacts ALOT of people. I have friends who are only alive now due to break threws in this field but also it isn't just this field. Most academics I know have been on plans full of people going to the same conferences, it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.

Politicians and business people do not travel like this, for this exact reason but budgets mean that scientists are all likely to be in the cheap seats on one plan - all together.

Worse though is that this is not an accident, even if it is mistaken identity it was still an active act, one human against another - BAM! Lives gone and lost.

Because... War... like the kids on the beach, like those sitting in camps within Australia and places themselves... because one lot of people fail to see the value in the other peoples lives. BAM BAM BAM.

Because land and food and wealth are seen as limited resources or faith renders them OTHER. But solutions are on hand to solve the food problems and humanity as a whole out grew this world at the end of the last century. Most of the time this is a mirage - there are enough resources its just even one is so scared of sharing. Add in expansionist regimes and the fall out of them collapsing and you have rebellions and separatists and counter rebellions. And at some point it stops being a fight for freedom and ends up with dead kids.

Of course to make things more depressingly complicated sometimes it is those in charge killing the kids or both sides of a skirmish have innocent blood on their hands and heros who saved foe and friend alike.

In war there are no winners same as the torturer gets post trumatic stress in a similar way to the tortured. And sometimes you do have to fight even knowing this but never should it be a light decision.

And how soon we forget the victims - remember the kids shot by a religous and political loon a few years ago? No you'd all forgotten. Because there is a continual feed of it all, drip drip drip, war, death, power play.

The plane crash itself was initially reported as part of the larger power games and those lost upon it were hardly mentioned at all.

Of course social media stepped up with the continual 'but that isn't as bad as this or that and my cause is being ignored and things are far worse here...' etc.... and yes that is no doubt true but it doesn't take the tragidy and pain away from those families.

But then the media and people in general do have a blinkered view and I am continually amazed that people don't know of the suffering that surrounds them in this world or even in their own country. Blinkered we are and suffering is ignored on a daily basis like the Congo and I have no solutions, no ideas or powers to sort any of this out.

I have kind of given up - I can not save the world, for a while I couldn't look after myself nor my family but when I can I help those I see who need help. Most of the time that is people around me or in extended friendship groups but it is something and it is what I have to give.

I sometimes hope that I am changing the world through my art and writing but know that I really am not. Perhaps I could have helped more as a scientist but that is no longer really me. So I do what I can. I don't think I can do much for those affected by today news.

Sometimes I write flash fictions about victims, sometimes I give happy endings or just voices to those who don't have them - it is probably a waste of time possibly even something considered bad taste - I don't know.

The thing that really gets to me though is that people watch this stuff on telly and they seem to not actually absorb it, not see it as different to the programme that was chopped in half to bring them the news. Grizzly pictures abound on my facebook but it's all 'this made me feel sick and I can't believe this!' no action no love, just a recycling of news to get the biggest NOW effect.

You still meet people who think the worst atrocity was the Twin Towers. It was an atrocity and one where the victims should be recalled and remembered like all those others that have happened globally. It was the worst for those who's city it was, for the families effected possibly even for the country it was in but IT WAS NOT THE ONLY ONE.

Violence is very cyclic and we are all capable of it, we respond and adapt.

But throughout all our history war and murder and abuse and violence and oppression have not even been the main thing that kills us. Humans kill humans often with war machines and other such trappings of our intelligence I wish we could turn the ingenuity of war into the fight for our lives for our survival against disease. Flu killed more people in the outbreak between the two world wars than those who died combined in the two wards and that is the case even taking the upper estimates for the camps.

And plague outbreaks of the past are pretty dam scary, ebola is scary, AIDS is scary... oh yeah look the people fighting to save our lives globally have lost theirs due to war. Because... WAR, like the kids on the beach and families in the camps and women in the Congo, because.... because... because... ?

I didn't really have a point with this, just that sometimes I find it all depressing.

Our existence as a species is precarious, life in the solar system is precarious, all of it is fragile, why destroy rather than making us more robust?

Disease kills us accidently. War does not.

A user interface design for a scrolling log viewer with varying levels of importance (by )

Like many people involved with computer programming and systems administration, I spend a lot of time looking at rapidly scrolling logs.

These logs tend to have lines of varying importance in them. This can fall into two kinds, that I see - one is where the lines have a "severity" (ranging from fatal errors down to debugging information). Another is where there's an explicit structure, with headings and subheadings.

Both suffer from a shared problem: important events or top-level headings whoosh past amidst a stream of minutae, and can be missed. A fatal error message can be obscured by thousands of routine notifications.

What I think might help is a tool that can be shoved in a pipe when viewing such a log, that uses some means (regexps, etc) to classify log lines with a numerical "importance" as appropriate, and then relaying them to the output.

However, it will use terminal control sequences to:

  1. Colour the lines according to their importance
  2. Ensure that the most recent entry at each level of importance remains onscreen, unless superceded by a later entry with a higher importance.

The latter deserves some explanation.

To start with, if we just have two levels of importance - ERROR and WARNING, for instance - it means that in a stream of output, as an ERROR scrolls up the screen, when it gets to the top it will "stick" and not scroll off, even while WARNINGs scroll by beneath it.

If a new ERROR appears at the bottom of the screen, it supercedes the old one, which can now disappear - letting the new ERROR scroll up until it hits the top and sticks.

Likewise, if you have three levels - ERROR, WARNING and INFO - then the most recent ERROR and WARNING will be stuck at the top of the screen (the WARNING below the ERROR) while INFOs scroll by. If a new WARNING appears, then the old one will unstick and scroll away until the new WARNING hits the top. If a new ERROR appears, then the old ERROR and WARNING at the top will become unstuck and scroll away until the new ERROR reaches the top.

So the screen is divided into two areas; the stuck things at the top, and the scrolling area at the bottom. Messages always scroll up through the scrolling area as they come, but any message that scrolls off the top will stick in the stuck things area unless there's another message at the same or higher level further down the scrolling area. And the emergence of a message into the bottom of the scrolling area automatically unsticks any message at that, or a less important, level from the stuck area.

That way, you can quickly look at the screen and see a scrolling status display, as well as (for activity logs from servers) the most recent FATAL, ERROR, WARNING, etc. message; or for the kinds of logs generated by long-running batch jobs, which tend to have lots of headings and subheadings, you'll always instantly see the headings/subheadings in effect for the log items you're reading.

This is related somewhat to the idea of having ERRORs and WARNINGs be situations with a beginning and an end (rather than just logged when they arise), such as "being low on disk space"; such a "situation alert" (rather than an event alert, as a single log message is) should linger on-screen somewhere until it's cancelled by the software that raised it emitting a corresponding "situation is over" event. Also related is the idea that event alerts above a certain severity should cause some kind of beeping/flashing to happen, which persists until manually stopped by pushing a button to acknowledge all current alerts. Such facilities can be integrated into the system.

This is relevant for a HYDROGEN console UI and pertinent to my previous thoughts on user interfaces for streams of events and programming interfaces to logging systems.

Comic Book Love (by )

Today I managed to lock me, one child and the house guest out of our house - however a) I was allotmenting it (which involved alot of weeding and the discovery that the red currents are ripe!) and b) an epic lunner (lunch/dinner) so it wasn't too bad ;) especially as I found Death by Neil Gaiman still in my bag from the weekend when I had attempted to read it. There was also a note pad to help keep almost 9 yr old Jeany occupied.

I've been finding it hard to find leisure time to read so this was a novelty, sitting down and just reading. It is a comic book/graphic novel and I have already cried whilst reading it (yesterday in the car on route to a writing meet with friends in Bristol). It is lovely and very much a me book.

A female death is something I've always loved - I remember being obsessed with the idea as a teen and had a series of stories I'd written about Celestia and her relatives Morpheus and Hades - these were part of the Crystal Singer stories that I have sort of morphed into The Punk stories though may still write one day as they have become very different types of stories.

As I read the comic I recall my own story lines where I mixed up the meso american concepts of Death the mother and an opener or doors. It was a concept that also helped me get through labour with Jean and I have embedded in one of my long poems about glass pelvises. My memories are turning back to the Aztec status of women who died in child birth being honoured as worriers and my love of mythology is being swirled up in the stories. Yesterday I read the first chapter and today I read three more. I'm loving hidden things within, the pictures creating a depth out of just a few words.

Of course my relationship with comics is a bit odd and I get distracted by the images and weave my own tails and sometimes this makes it hard to read the comic. For instance I have had this comic since May? I think - picked it up on Free Comic Book Day - not for free I might add!

But I couldn't read it, I looked at the pictures, the lovely art work in different styles and set outs and let the aesthetics wash over me. My concentration span is useless at the moment unless I can become absorbed into something I now have a word for - Hyperfocus.

For me I love comic books, I see ones like this as kind of a visual poem (also called concrete poems). I look at how bits of the words are bolded to emphasis the speak patterns and the different fonts chosen and where the txt is laid - how it fits with the images so on.

I am infatuated, comics books were not my first reading as such but they were my first story telling and they were instrumental in helping me read. I used to spend Sunday afternoons after Sunday school drawing comics for my family, strip after strip - nearly always on one of two sets of characters though sometime other things would appear - these where a dog family and mermaids. Initially there was little or no writing and everything was told in images.

I am dyslexic - very dyslexic and learnt to read very late, what I would do when I was young and made to sit and read in school was to look at the pictures within books and tell my own story in my head from the pictures (it is incredibly boring to be told you are not allowed playtime or to do anything else until you have finished doing something you can not possibly do - day after day).

When at home I did this voluntarily with my dad's old cowboy, scifi and soldier comics - he noticed this and told someone at work - I think he was working at Tescos shelf stacking at this point and not at the docks but he may still have been a clerk I'm not sure. Anyway the upshot was that it was decided that comic books might get me reading but my aunts attempt to give me Bunty and the schools attempt with My Little Pony completely and utterly failed. I was very grumpy as I loved My Little Pony but I had the toys and other peoples stories about them didn't quiet sit with my vision for them.

I mainly wanted the Super Ted comics or Transformers - you get the picture. What then happened is that Dad was given a bag full of comics! They were perhaps not entirely age appropriate but I loved them. My favourite was Red Sonia. Again I started by making my own stories up and it was years before I actually started reading them. I was a little bit obsessed with X-men but alas money was not the most abundant thing when I was a teen - as in I was on free school meals etc... and comic books are quiet frankly expensive and the library at that time did not stock comic books heaven forbid. But that was ok as at 12 I began to read and made the comics and films in my head - the x-men animation arrived and I was quiet happy.

I kind of forgot how much I love comics as I'm not very good with the type that are just a page of one story and flits to the next and you have to get weekly/monthly -etc... I've never been able to buy them regularly so that has always been kind of frustrating and because it is so hard for me to focus I need something long enough to actually fall into.

At uni I discovered something I call a 'graphic novel' but I don't think most people do - it's basically a picture book for grow ups (and why should we not have picture books? With EPIC fantasy art in?). The Last Hero by Terry Pratchette.

I loved this and the Fantasy and Scifi Art books that the library did stock and of course there was the Scifi Library at Uni (not that you could ever get any where near the comic books there - the place was always full of people reading something called 'Sandman' - I know know this is more of Neil's work but I didn't at the time and spent most of my time reading my way through the Umpteen Red Wall books or space opera or Dark Crystal illustrations and so on).

Because I have decided to produce my own comic/graphic novel (not the Wiggly Pets and Friends but The Punk) I have spent the last 4 months or so going to the library in Gloucester with the girls, Mary sits and looks at picture books and Jean selects huge numbers of books - normally Goose Bumps or Jackaline Wilson (what a mix!) and just reads and reads and is always grumpy to leave but Mary, who is only 3, gets board and tries to escape. Anyway whilst they are occupied I read a graphic novelly type thing of which the libraries now stock a lot of round here.

This has kind of shown me that - most are not really my thing, I kind of try not to roll my eyes but a few are beautiful and wonderful and/or dark and lusterous, pulling me into their worlds. It also showed me that I was panicking about my art work and story line far far too much.

Having put up my first cover attempt for feed back I am mainly getting positive with some 'it's dreadful start again - looks nothing like Marvel/DC'. And talking to my very comicky friends most of whom suggest minor tweaks and even having multiple covers anyway - I have a plan of action.

And I am enjoying myself - it's like I've come full circle and am producing those little doggy comic strips for my family whilst watching re-runs of Time Tunnel, Land of Giants, Lost in Space or that submarine one I can never remember! Whilst my nan cooks a sunday lunch and my parents fix things round the house for her.

I love comics, I think at some point I began to think I was too old for them - with no scifi library round here for me to hang in, I felt I was adrift. Now the most annoying thing is that the independent comic book shop Proud Lion is in Cheltenham and not Gloucester although this is probably a good thing for my purse strings - the Waterstones here has a really good selection too which I always go and naughtily flick through!

I think I am incredibly lucky to have had a childhood of old old comics - my dad was born in 40's - there were not many of them but I kind of made different stories out of them so that was fine. I think this helped kick start the Storyteller within and I have always been a visual person. I know now that I am thinking of my own creation as a piece of visual poetry, with comic elements (as in funny haha!) and I've had several people attempt pre-orders from me.

I have now opened the flood gate though - Neil Giaman's Death encapsulates the mythologies and stuff I like, that feeling of ancient legends and kind of steam punkiness, - a noir grittiness and a mix of ages. The varying art styles within also appeals to me. But now I want more so research into Asian history (more for The Punk) will I feel take a side step for me to finish the damn book and then I might actually have to get the Sandman comics - also I am anal and am the sort of person who puts covers on comic books - the pages are soooo thin!

And I think this means I am probably officially turning into a Gaiman Fan Girl in my 30's :/ Oh well.

Interestingly a friend has pointed out that Jeany (almost 9) is now closer to the ages we were when hanging in the Scifi library which is kind of an insane thought! I loved the cuddly Gothulu and watching back to back scifi and fantasy films and being like the only person into pulp horror in there (it was technically Sci Fi, Fantasy and Horror and was based in the media centre which is how come I then ended up covering radio shows for friends etc... life is funnily twisty sometimes).

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