Libraries are my guilty secret

When the austerity measures imposed on local government started to kick in, in the UK, (yes, I've been brewing this post for a while) people were campaigning against the closure of libraries. Libraries are probably viewed as an optional extra, whereas things like rubbish collection aren't. I was glad the people were campaigning because it made me less guilty about the fact that I love libraries.

When I was a child the library assistant at my local library, who knew me because I was friends with her son, gave me the adult allowance of six library cards, instead of the children's allowance of three. I was so happy about that.

When I was a teenager I started collecting coins. One of the things I particularly liked about this hobby was that I could store them in little envelopes, which were like those long drawers full of the tickets from books, that library assistants would go through when they were looking for your books, using that particular walking actions with their fin…

In praise of blogrolls

(That’s blogrolls not bogrolls. Stop sniggering at the back there.) Back in the days when only scientists and software engineers knew about algorithms, and the words “filter” and “bubble” were only next to each other on a Scrabble board, we had blogrolls. This would be a selective list of the blogs that you subscribed to placed on your own blog. Selective because only the bravest people put all their feed subscriptions on public show, unless you didn’t mind everyone knowning you had a thing for Selzer drinks or dogs dressed as Star Wars characters.

Today I came across a blogroll, which shows that they aren’t dead. What happened was I followed a link to an article on where Jason listed readers' recommendations for new blogs. I had a look at the suggested list and subscribed to a few which looked like they had interesting posts in. One of them was I was looking for contact details so I could comment on an article and I came across this link to her blogroll. I&…

Things I think or know about unicorns. A thread.

Things I think or know about unicorns. A thread.— Paul Morriss (@paulmorriss) March 31, 2018They seem to be quite popular these days (slippers, mugs, cakes). As well as sometimes meaning something mythical, they also seem to be treated as cute.— Paul Morriss (@paulmorriss) March 31,— Paul Morriss (@paulmorriss) March 31, 2018They aren't cute. They're horses WITH A SPIKE ON THEIR HEAD. Never mind the four hooved feet.— Paul Morriss (@paulmorriss) March 31, 2018I only recently realised that the unicorn on the heraldic picture with a lion and a unicorn signifies Scotland, in the same way that a lion signifies England. Sorry Wales. (I like dragons.)— Paul Morriss (@paulmorriss) March 31, 2018When I was in primary school we had two houses, lions and unicorns. I was in the unicorns. Unicorns are great.— Paul Morriss (@paulmorriss) March 31, 2018

When old bands do new songs

A few years ago I heard a new song by the Beach Boys. I was never a great fan of their, though I did listen to a whole album by theirs on the way to a chess tournament (as you can imagine that was really wild), and I think Good Vibrations is a great song. However this new song left me distinctly underwhelmed. "That sounds like the Beach Boys", I thought, "what more would you expect?".

I watched a programme on BBC4 recently about how these days there are so many bands that are getting back together, going on tour and sometimes releasing new singles.

Blondie reformed 20 years ago. Do you feel old? — Paul Morriss (@paulmorriss) February 2, 2018
On that programme Stewart Copeland, the drummer with the Police, captured my thoughts about why new songs by old bands are rarely that good. He said that old songs have emotional baggage, like those crazy times on the chess tournament tour bus, and the new stuff doesn't evoke that emotion when you first hear it. So when the…

All the right notes - my gigs of 2017

I don't often go to see gigs, but in 2017 I somehow went to several. I've put photos in to break up the text, but my phone's camera doesn't exactly excel in concert conditions. They started in...
February - Under Construction, the Bailey Sisters
Under Construction is a covers band based in High Wycombe. One of my friends is the bassist and for his 50th birthday he got them to play for the party (and joined in on bass). They have two lead singers - one male and one female - and some very competent musicians. There's nothing quite like hearing some great songs from the 80s and 90s played live. His wife is in the folk band, The Bailey Sisters and they did a few songs too. Traditional folk isn't my cup of tea, but I enjoyed what they did.
March - elbow elbow is my favourite modern band. (Seeing as you didn't ask, my favourite non-modern band is Genesis and I was very glad to see them in 2007.) I bought their Mercury prize winning album "Seldom seen kid&quo…

A Wizard of Earthsea and CB radio

As I've created accounts on various websites and social media I've avoided using nicknames. (The one exception is eBay, where I feared that a bad sale would mean that someone would track me down, so I hid behind a username based on a work nickname.)

However when I was in my early teenage years we were given a CB radio and when I (briefly) took to the airwaves I chose Sparrowhawk as my handle. I'd forgotten why I chose that, but this piece by David Mitchell (the author) on A Wizard of Earthsea reminded me why. At the time I loved that book, and David's article could explain my love of the book:
Any reader with experience of adolescence will recognise herself, or himself, in Ged’s portrait, and because we identify with Ged’s failings, we worry for him, can hardly bear to look when disaster hits, and afterwards care deeply about his fate. It may reread it now.

Technology needs lights

This is part of an IBM mainframe that I saw at the Science Museum in London. It's hard to imagine that anyone ever understood what they all meant. I think the reason there are so many lights is because there is so much to go wrong. The lights show when something's working, so no light means failure, or when something fails. These days the FLP BFR (flip buffer?) always does what it's supposed to, so we don't need to have a light for it.

I remember when modems had a full set of lights: TX, RX, DCD, DTR and so on. I also remember using them to try and work out why connections weren't being made. As they became smaller and sleeker they had just a couple of lights to show activity. Then they disappeared altogether.

We need lights for things we can't rely on. Once it's reliable the lights go away. Today I was re-reading the essay from Douglas Adams, "How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet", written in 1999 (I wonder if that distinguished j…