Hello World – An epic poem in 4500 stanzas

Hello new followers, lured here by the power of poetry.

I fear I may disappoint you as I do not post that many poems. For obvious reasons 🙂

Like most people my first real encounter with poetry was at school. The classics seemed shrouded in an impermeable patina of age and respectability.  They felt like punishment, not illumination.

But there were some poems that were different – the syllabus included an Ogden Nash poem, e.e. cummings, Randall Jarrell.

These poems were chewable, they filled the mouth and challenged the mind.

Then I discovered Mayakovsky and everything changed. Poetry was no longer an abstract concept, locked on the page, it was an active engagement with the world.

Alphaville introduced me to Paul Eluard. A girlfriend to Martin Espada. Chance to Fernando Pessoa. My past to Yeats and Heaney. Through Mayakovsky to Akhmatova to Mandelstam.

Random browsing of Penguin classics brought me Li Bao and Tu Fu. Random reading of NYRB and LRB brought me Weldon Kees and Amy Clampitt.

Poetry went from being something trapped behind a glaze of worthiness to being something core, an essential thing.

That is the thing about poetry. It sneaks up on you, taking no prisoners.

Image

Advertisements

A Modest Transport Proposal

(Inspired by the great Daedalus)

This morning’s rapid bus journey in to work provided further confirmation of what we observed during London 2012. The bulk of traffic congestion on London streets is caused by delivery lorries and the school run.

Children need to get to school, shops need to get deliveries so it is not feasible to simply ban these activities. And whilst we may be able to shift some deliveries out of daytime hours, this would not be possible for all and definitely not possible for the school run. 

So the fundamental challenge is to get both deliveries and children off of the streets during rush hour.

Perhaps the answer lies in a visionary initiative of the past? Pneumatic tube technology is still widely used in shops to transfer the contents of tills to the safe and to send purchases to pick up points.

So why not implement an underground pneumatic transfer system for school children and freight?

Because of their small body mass, children can withstand quite high accelerations and decelerations, and their small body size also makes it easier for them to fit into compact spaces. 

It should therefore be possible to use the same capsules for both children and relatively non-fragile deliveries.

So we build a hub and spoke system with spokes within easy reach of houses, shops and schools. Each day children assemble at their nearest spoke and are sent at high speed to the local hub, they are there transferred to their school spoke and sent on.

Goods are delivered either straight to the hub or from factory/dock spokes.

Speeds of 90kmph should be perfectly feasible meaning that the trip to school should take a matter of 10 minutes or so.

There are obviously some downsides – capsules are unlikely to hold more than 1 child at a time which will make copying homework more difficult, but children are adaptable and simply putting the brightest children in the capsules first and having them leave a copy of their homework inside should address that.Image

Lent Upon

So here we are again, at the start of Lent, and the focus is on renunciation of worldly desires – chocolate, caek, drink, meat – we give up something for a few short weeks and gain karma or self-awareness or … well something.

I have always found there to be something dubious about the concept of treating Lent as an exercise in self-discipline. Temptation abounds 365 days of the year, simply ringfencing a part of the calendar and adding some additional temptations seems more an affectation than an engagement with the numinous.

Fasting during Ramadan teaches awareness of the body and the tension between body and soul, giving up sweets during Lent just makes one tetchy.

So this Lent whilst I will be treating my own views with the disdain they richly deserve by giving up sweets and chocolate and those delicious lard butties I will also be tasking myself with posting something here each day. To focus my mind on Lent as a time of self-examination. 

And to take my mind off of those delicious lard sandwiches…

Castles in the Cloud

Let’s start with a simple question – I give you a pound to look after for me. How much would you spend of your own money on protecting that pound?

Less than a pound? A pound? More than a pound?

You have almost certainly gone for the first option. After all if you lose the pound then the most you will be out is one pound so why pay more?

Ok, but what if you are a bank? You expect to be looking after lots of money so you build vaults, employ guards and build processes. All of this costs significant sums of money but there has to be a chance, small though it may be, that at any moment in time you may just be protecting one pound with all this security and investment.

So what about cloud computing? I put a “pound’s” worth of data into the cloud. How much are you going to spend protecting my data?

People sometimes pitch to me that they are like “a bank for data based in the cloud”. And then I ask them what they do to prevent bank robberies…

So your data is in the cloud, and that is nice, it is accessible from anywhere, it is transparently backed up. Everything is wonderful, and then the bank goes out of business. What happens to your data then?

I once had someone telling me about their wonderful cloud based data bank service which lots of people had bought. I asked them what would happen if they went out of business. Oh, they said, no one has ever asked us that question before.

If your organization has a contract for cloud based data storage – back up, live use, whatever – I strongly suggest you find out the answer to that question if you do not already know!

So your data is in the cloud and you have proper governance arrangements in place in case the supplier goes bust. All is fine. Until suddenly someone mentions aggregation.

Aggregation is the principle that the more of something you have then the bigger a target it becomes and the greater the consequences are of loss.

Back to money again, if I put a million pounds in the bank vault then the Willy Sutton principle applies. If I leave my million pounds scattered in piles of one hundred then the risk to me is that I lose at most one hundred pounds, if the vault is raided then I lose all one million.

The same with data, finding data in most organizations is usually a matter of luck. It is hidden in emails, shared folders, private folders, EDRM systems, databases etc. Data loss or theft tends to be of individual documents and any sensible risk management policy segregates data access to minimise the threat of some one person having access to all the pieces.

But now we are putting them all into the cloud, all in one place. Ah, hello Mr Sutton.

Part of the problem is that our security model remains essentially medieval. We build a vault, we put our treasure in the vault, we post guards around it. We need a different model in the cloud age, one where security is embedded into the individual atoms of information.

And atoms of information is a good way of thinking about the potential implications of bringing some of these individually innocuous but collectively explosive nuggets of data. People may recall in the early days of chip and pin some tills would print out the last 4 digits of your debit card number, some would print out the first 4 digits, and some the middle digits. Individually, each piece was of little threat, collectively… Hello empty bank acount!!

You might just want to spend some time going through your last bank statement…

Hotter than heat

It is hot. 25C according to my thermometer, though it feels hotter than that to me as I have a fever at the moment. I pulled a muscle in my arm and my body has ramped up my metabolism to repair it, hence the fever.

I can think of at least one friend who will laugh at loud at the concept of 25C being hot!  To them 25C is barely warm.

We all respond to heat differently but we all live in the human heat range, which is between –40C and +40C. It may be slightly warmer or colder at times but the vast majority of our existence is spent in that 80 degree range.

The coldest possible temperature is Absolute Zero, –273.15C. or 0 degrees Kelvin. The hottest possible temperature under physical laws as we currently understand them is the Planck temperature or 1.41679 x 10^32 degrees Kelvin.

So we humans live at 273 degrees Kelvin +/- 40 degrees Kelvin. Or 0.000000000000000000000000000001% of the range between lowest and highest temperatures. And right down at the bottom, frozen end.

Which makes sense because we are made of matter and matter is just chilly energy :).

So given that we occupy such a small range of possible temperatures, right down at the cool end of the spectrum why am I so hot?!

“Le silence Ă©ternel des espaces infinis m’effraie”

The rain runs down the window, trying but failing to obscure the gaudy lights flickering like ignis fatui above the blackened heart of the brooding city outside.

As I reach for the coffee cup, my hand trembling slightly, I watch the small people on the screen. People speaking words I have spoken, adrift in the same deep dark waters that lap around me; lost souls in a city of lost hope.

And my head fills with thoughts of my mad wonderful genius friend and her amazing films and her excellent book. (Recommended by CNN :))

And then I put on my hat and go off in search of the occluded secrets of the Capitale de la Douleur