DISTRACTION – So coin! Much gender. Wow

Ah Bitcoin, you reminder that cognitive dissonance and random hope are the fundamental drivers of human culture.

Let us draw two circles, let us create a Venn diagram of two sets. One being those who “mine” the Bitcoin, the other being women. And the intersection of the two, the common members of both sets? I strongly suspect that it will be zero, a null set.

Has currency, the concept of money, always been gendered? Has Bitcoin merely thrown a light on something that always was there, obscured by time and common practice? I reach for my Delphy.

Let us draw another circle, this time let it be made up of those who complain about “fiat currency”, those who demand that money be based on something that has intrinsic value.

Which is of course an absurdity, anything and everything is only worth what someone is willing to give in return for it. And that applies to the medium of exchange like everything else. But I still remember the shock in my classmate’s voices when, as mere cubs, we were told the truth about money. That it is an agreed collective delusion. Like everything else we call culture or human nature.

Now let us look at the circle of true money believers and the Bitcoin “miners” (so macho, much struggle, wow). I suspect that this time the intersection is not empty and that the two groups overlap to a marked extent. Despite, no, of course, because Bitcoin is a delusion based on bits, on the hum of the machine. Boil the oceans so that we may be journey deeper into the Bank of Babel.

Bitcoin is Tlön. An answer to an obscure trivia question in 2021. It is not caek.


The Killing Words (Updated)


I have a medical condition. Thanks to the NHS I take a pill every morning and the condition is controlled. allowing me to live a normal life.

This morning I popped into Boots to pick up my drugs, as I use their excellent prescription renewal service, and ran into a potentially lethal issue around language.

My previous prescription started on the 1st October for “2 months”, however the pills come in packs of 28. So I was given 2 packs of 28, a total of 56 pills, to last 61 days.

You can see the problem. The chemist was very apologetic, had contacted my surgery earlier in the week, but there was nothing they could do without the renewed prescription.

I do not blame them in the least. Nor do I blame my GP.

The problem lies in language. Whenever we are involved in service design we need to be obsessive about driving out any loose terms like “month”.

So back to the chemist’s on Monday and I hope that the prescription is in.

I am lucky, I can safely go for a few days without my medication and I have no difficulties in expressing myself, but others may not be so lucky. I cannot be the only person who finds themselves in this situation. For others the consequences may be much grimmer.

Loose language has no place in service design, that is a basic principle we all need to recognise as we work on developing new services or redeveloping existing ones.


So it is now Tuesday and the prescription has not yet come through. This is going to be a tough week…


It would be easier if we either remembered things or just simply forgot them. But sometimes things just do not enter our minds.

If memory is one and forgetting minus one, then there is a zero. A nothingness of things that neither are nor are not.

Sometimes a thought trips over a nothingness and we feel a moment of unease, like but not like the sensation we have when we think we have forgotten something.

For that sensation still has an echo of the object, whilst this is wholly of the void. No matter how much we strain we can never find the lost memory, it never existed in the first place.

What is is but an infinitesimal in what is not.

And that is why your birthday card is still sitting on my mantelpiece.

What’s my language?

Words spill over my tongue,
Dart from between my teeth


Dropped ‘aitches and Yiddish mix with
South Yorkshire “Baths” and “Bizaaaaaare”.


My shibboleth is not “Broagh” but “Three”.


My Spanish has a French accent,
If only my French did …


My language is words but my language is hands,
Hands twisting and pushing to shift reality.


I know the meaning of words,
I know the tocsin of words.


So tell me, what’s my language?

Zen Bosons

What is the simplest possible universe?

One answer is that it is ours because ours is the only universe we know to exist and one is simpler than two.

Another answer is to start from scratch with a blank sheet of … well what? Vacuum foam? Dirac sea? Hilbert space?

So rather than building up perhaps we should start by simplifying, decluttering the universe we have. We could start by getting rid of some of those high end elements from the periodic table, the ones with half lives measured in fractions of a second…

But although they seem to have no relevance to our world they exist because of the laws of nature so we would gave to unpick the laws of nature and elements, are in any case, merely energy situationally described in information terms so which laws do we need to start unpicking?

So perhaps we need to go back to the start from scratch approach?

And so this cycle of random night thoughts continues until I fall asleep.

Night all.

Gazing from the crypt 1

There are those who do not believe in mistakes, for them everything happens for a reason. This view is seldom shared by anyone who has asked a bear for directions or a monkey to put up shelves.

It is definitely not shared by anyone who has gazed in puzzlement at the crypt which crowns the very top of the House of Monkeys and the House of Bears.

The reason for this crypt appearing at the top of the building rather than its usual position at the base of the foundations is usually given as an absent minded builder holding the plans upside down but some people claim to have seen a smile cross Red Mamba’s features when the crypt is mentioned and they wonder if she may not have had something to do with the odd placement of the crypt.

But of course no one would be so ill-mannered as to ask someone as gracious and beloved as Red Mamba if the rumours about the smile were correct.

Given that the crypt was there it seemed only proper to put it to some kind of use. The question of what use led to weeks of debates. There was a strong push by a section of the monkeys for the crypt to be given over to lounging, lazing, lying around and other languorous pastimes. However the climb to the roof was long and exhausting so the monkeys decided to lounge around somewhere more convenient.

A leading bear proposed that the crypt be used for cake related experiments to see if little cakes were more or less delicious at high altitudes. This was a serious research project which demanded consideration but the crypt was rather small for a research team of bears and all the little cakes that would be needed.

While the pondering carried on without much progress finally a young bear and even younger monkey proposed that the crypt should be made into an observatory, complete with telescope.

The House of Monkeys and the House of Bears carefully looked over the proposal – the bears decided that cakes could be eaten as part of astronomical viewing so they were happy and the monkeys decided that if anyone wanted to climb all the way up there then good luck to them.

All that was needed now was the telescope … (To be continued)

A Bear Faced Liar

Some time back I blogged about the paw twitching appeal of the infinite library but implied that I would be strong and would resist its appeal.

Yet now I write these words with a Kindle III beside me.

So what happened to change my mind?

Simple, the notion of being able to carry up to 3,500 books anywhere I go is just too appealing to resist.

Initial Thoughts

It is light, just about light enough to be unnoticeable and the device is easy to hold. It feels like a rubberised version of the chalk slate I used as a cub.

The screen still does that annoying white – black – white inverse refresh when you turn a page. But it is almost fast enough to be non-annoying even to a person like me.

The screen is excellent in good light and rubbish any other time.

Line images look fine but colour photographs are pants.

The battery life is exceptional, they claim a month for the wifi version and based on my use I can believe it.

The experimental webbrowser is er experimental. You can use it in a pinch but to frank they would be better off with Lynx.

I have had no odd looks reading it on buses or trains, even in my transpontine realm. I have ordered the frankly overpriced cover for it as I worry about the screen scratching. Oh and the illuminated cover is like some odd Roncomatic idea.


You can send PDFs to the Kindle by email – each Kindle has its own unique address. They come out readable but you can convert them to Kindle’s MOBI format by putting Convert in the email subject line.

You need to add your address to allowed email addresses as to prevent spam the Kindle will only accept email from preregistered addresses. Just go to your Amazon account to configure the list of allowed addresses.

It does not do email other than that which I think is a lost opportunity – I would buy the 3G version for my mother tomorrow if it came with an email client.


Dreams have always intrigued mankind. For some they are a window into the deepest recesses of the human soul, to others they are a source of obscure portents and signs, and for some they are just noise – the sleeping mind seeking to make sense of stray synapses firing at random.

Often dreams have been associated with mystical or religious experiences, so closely linked with visions are they.

During Tsarist times Siberia was first used as a place of internal exile. The surviving Decembrists and many others were sent east into the eternal taiga.

Over time communities of the exiles mixed with the native inhabitants of Siberia and through a process of syncretism Christianity and the shamanism of the natives at times blurred and odd new heresies and beliefs were born.

Someway north of Irkutsk one such community, isolated by distance and winter, became lost in dream.

An innocent question started it; “Did Adam and Eve dream?” The people of the community had little to do while winter gripped their world other than to sleep and talk. So they considered this issue while doing the slow things that occupied the winter such as stoking the fire or making cups of birch bark tea.

In Genesis, Adam did not sleep until the Lord put him into a deep sleep to remove his rib to create Eve. So Adam neither slept or dreamt.

But we sleep, we dream. Then sleep is something that must have come with the Fall, and so dreams too must be a result of that Original Sin.

One group proposed that dreams were sent by God to remind us of what we had lost. Others, quoting nightmares and dreams of lust, said that dreams must be sent by the Devil to tempt and taunt us.

The debate might have remained a winter fancy had not a child dreamed of gold.

In the dream, the child had been deep in the taiga. There, under a white sky in a white landscape it had met a white fox and the fox had told the child that there was gold buried near the village.

The adults smiled and ignored the child. Until the next morning when another child spoke of the fox and its message about the buried gold. People shook their heads, laughing softly but in their eyes a question was forming.

No one spoke of the dreams but adults started to seem to seek out sleep. Gradually more and more of the villagers spent their time asleep, seeking the fox.

To speak of such a thing would seem ludicrous, so people kept their own counsel. Even within families no one would admit to the dream hunt so over time the word “fox” began to disappear from conversation.

Then one night, a dreamer found themselves out in the taiga, and there about them were other villagers. Were they just figures in a dream or were they too after the fox?

Sheepishly at first, people began to sleep with tools. Perhaps with some distant part of the mind they rationalised that to hold a shovel in your sleep might mean that you held a shovel in your dreams.

Slowly, imperceptibly the balance of life began to shift. Dream became the priority, the waking hours were an imposition. The winter had always been a quiet time and so no one remarked on the gradual transition.

Some years back, I found myself deep in Siberia in the deep winter. I had left Irkutsk and was heading to Khabarovsk. Having time to spare and being awestruck by the deep silence and beauty of the taiga I broke my journey to explore the landscape.

One day I found myself in a long abandoned village. The houses were derelict, quite literally frozen in time. Possessions were still on shelves, wood neatly piled by doors. The village was here but the people were gone.

As I walked away, a flicker of movement caught my eye. I stopped and looked across the village to the edge of the trees.

It was a fox.

The House of Monkeys and the House of Bears

At the very heart of the forest stands a vast stone building. It has 3 towers, a belfry, several dozen turrets, more crenellations than you could count and, because a builder held the plans upside down, at the very top of the building is a crypt.

The building is on the bank of the wide, slow river that dawdles through the forest and which is home to fish and the fearsome crocogator. Few people have ever seen a crocogator but all agree that their seeming non-existence just makes them all the more fearsome.

Carved into the stone arch above the entrance to the building are the words “The House of Monkeys and the House of Bears”. They are inlaid with gold leaf, or if not gold leaf, then at least something that sparkles nicely in the sun.

There are two tall, imposing doors at the entrance. The one on the right has the figure of a monkey carved on it, whilst the one on the left has a bear. The face of the monkey seems to be smiling whilst the face of the bear looks almost quizzical.

Once through the doors you find yourself in a large lobby, light streams through narrow windows high in the walls illuminating a polished stone floor and walls hung with tapestries.

The tapestries depict famous events in the history of the forest such as the discovery of the first banana tree, the invention of the scratching stick and the signing of the treaty between the monkeys and the bears.

A few potted plants and some uncomfortable looking wooden benches make up the remainder of the contents of the lobby.

On the right-hand side of the lobby is an archway painted in bright vibrant colours and decorated with images of plants and animals. On the left-hand side is another archway, identical in size and shape, but painted a subtle shade of blue and decorated with abstract figures that seem to invoke memories of dreams, music and, oddly enough, cakes.

There is also a small door directly between the two archways. Made of plain but richly polished wood, it bears a small sign “No entry unless on official business – Red Mamba”. And there is a door handle shaped like a snake, made from red gold.

The House of Monkeys

If you walk through the right-hand door you will find yourself in a large chamber, filled with light from a large glass canopy that covers the space.

Along each side of the chamber are rows of strange objects that look like someone tried to draw a chair, a tree, a hammock and ladder all at the same time. In the middle of the chamber is a long table with a line of coconuts along the length of it and a large wooden box at one end.

The wooden box is richly polished, with an ornate carving of bananas on the lid. At the moment the lid is ajar revealing a plain wooden interior which smells faintly of ginger and bananas.

At the far end of the table is an imposing seat. It stands at least 4 metres tall and over a metre wide with a bright yellow, very comfortable looking, cushion covering the broad seat. The seat has a light green linen canopy which filters the light from the glass roof, so if you sit in the seat it is like being bathed in the forest itself.

The House of Bears

If you walk through the left-hand door you find yourself in a high ceilinged room whose walls are a faint blue grey in colour. For some reason everyone who sees the walls for the first time seems to catch a faint smell of the sea.

Hung about the walls are a number of long thin banners which descend from the high ceiling almost to the floor. These banners are rich, deep greens, browns and blues with subtle patterns.

At the far end a very dark blue, nearly black banner hangs down, decorated with the stars of the night sky and with a full moon right in the centre.

A long table, similar to that in the other chamber, runs down the centre of the room. There appear to be teeth marks in one corner of the table which someone has tried to cover up.

The table is empty save for a large bowl of flowers and a forgotten pencil.

Along both sides of the table are long, low benches scattered with comfortable cushions.

At the far end, beneath the banner of the moon, is a smaller bench, slightly higher than the others and with a pillow at one end.

(Work in progress)

A Place

As I mentioned in an earlier posting I got back from a short break in Croatia a few days ago.

It was my first trip there and I had no idea what to expect. My vague ideas of the Adriatic coast were based entirely on readings of Eric Ambler and Wu Ming’s wonderful 54.

The place, Rovinj, turned out to be beautiful and fun. Imagine a place like Venice only on a human scale and without all those flooded streets 🙂 Venice is a special place, we share a patron saint after all, but Rovinj felt like home. Or rather, like a place one would like to have as a home.

Some rough and random memories of the trip –

  • Driving through Slovenia while the England vs Slovenia World Cup game was on and listening to it on Italian radio where suddenly in the middle of the flow of Italian the commentator said ‘David “Calamity” James’ and the world seemed a smaller place.
  • Discovering Galerija Brek and a whole new use for old computer parts as well as Ogi and Dena (woof!)
  • Eating with friends outside a wonderful restaurant and watching in awed wonder as a huge fish was consumed with lots of spuds and laughter.
  • Wandering through the vegetable Market and buying tomatoes and soap while being reminded by the anti-fascist memorials of the terrible price people paid so that we could enjoy these simple pleasures.
  • The mad ice-cream cone which made the mundane, though delicious, into a stunning pop art confection.
  • Sitting in a terrace, laughing and telling stories.
  • The sound of roinking 🙂
  • Pivo and delicious paprika flavoured crisps!
  • The nice apartment owners and their lovely restaurant with wonderful pizzas and fun customers.

But most of all, the simple pleasure of time with friends. We have created lives for ourselves that seem to fill up with meetings and meetings and presentations and meetings and paperwork and meetings. It is so easy to fall into the trap of assuming that that is how life is, how fortunate then to have beloved friends to remind us that life is very different indeed.