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December 2nd 2006
Happy Decemeber, everyone. I apologise to those of you who read the Neighbours stuff on this site - the alck of updates has been shameful, but I hope to catch up when I go home next week. Tonight I went to see Casino Royale again - it was that good - this time with Iain, Becky, David, Christine, Tom and Rich. Still a classic film: this time I noticed (in the credits) that Crispin Bonham-Carter played 'Hot Room Doctor 1", whatever that is... his career has slipped somewhat since his immaculate performance as Mr. Bingley in the Beeb's Pride & Prejudice. Speaking of Bond, does anyone else think it's ironic that, as the films are trying to get further and further away from their Cold War beginnings (this endeavour was highlighted back in Goldeneye), the world has turned round, and we're suddenly back in the middle of a Cold War scenario? Defected Russian spies being poisoned, plots and counter-plots within the Kremlin... did no-one tell them we'd moved on?

December 11th 2006
A happy birthday to Dad for yesterday - he's now ## years old, and doesn't look a day over ##. In other news, I've been meaning to talk about maths for a while, and reading Ant's blog has reminded me about it: indeed, he is a major player in the discussion. You see, for the first year or two at Warwick, he and I lived quite happily alongside each other, doing maths and what-not, without a care in the world... it is only in the aftermath of Development of Mathematical Concepts that we've realised our mathematical outlooks differ greatly. I write this very much from my point of view (although I expect some sort of retaliation) so I apologise if any bias comes into it. Anyhow, this largely stems from Ant's claim that he has a 'relational understanding' of maths, whereas I have an 'instrumental understanding' - these terms were bandied about a great deal in DMC, and fundamentally the former is a true understanding of how and why something is true, and the latter is little more than a memorising of truth. I would strongly argue with this: the point in question was raised when Ant asked what a generalised eigenvector was, and I referred him to the (rigorous) definition - this was not enough for him, but was for me. It later transpired that what he really wanted to know was why generalised eigenvectors had been defined, what their main usage was, how they could be represented... stuff like that. Quite interesting, I guess, but very different from what they are - I am very much a believer in abstract understanding, rather than an understanding that has to tie everything down to graphical representation, or limiting usage. I would in fact argue that Ant's method of understanding is the more instrumental, since it cannot be easily extended to include complex and unintuitive concepts, whereas a free and abstract understanding can be extended to situations that have no (obvious) parallels 'real life' - and hence is more relational. I realise I've given precious few examples to non-DMC people... let's take the simple vector. To me, this comprises n values (usually represented in a column or row form) that together can be manipulated in various axiomatic ways - cross products, scalar products, addition, etc etc - whereas Ant will think of a 3D line that is nothing more than a graphical embodiment of what a 3-dimensional vector represents. Naturally, the vector and its various manipulations have their origin (no pun intended) in 3 dimensional lines, but that kind of understanding, I would argue, is no more helpful than an abstract one, and is too tied to a certain set of parameters. Even at first school, I was annoyed by those teachers (and thankfully I encountered few - Mrs. Wild knew what she was doing) who insisted on associating division with sharing out sweets, or fractions with cake, allowing little in the way of widening concepts. To sum up; while I feel that 'relational' and 'instrumental' understanding are badly defined concepts in the first place (something that I hinted at in my DMC exam, in fact), I would argue that my understanding (at its best - I will admit that there are several instances where I am not able enough to have a true abstract understanding) is at least as strong, and thus as 'relational', as Ant's (as he describes it - he may be lying to me. Not for the first time. I know who really steals my teaspoons). Indeed, I would even argue that my way is more mathematical - all this application to the 'real world' is far to physicsy for me. Anyways, Ant, hope there are no hard feelings - I don't want something as beautiful as maths to come between us, even if you have spread malicious rumours about my Frenchness and called into question the brilliance of my day documentation. Actually, thatsh shtarted me drinkin agen...

December 12th 2006
The long wait is over, children, and Songs-a-go-go 8 is finally out there. OK, it's not been burned yet, but it ain't gonna take long. Here's the track listing - enjoy:
1. Hurt - Johnny Cash
2. Dignity - Deacon Blue
3. Mr. Jones - Counting Crows
4. Go Your Own Way - Fleetwood Mac
5. Come Pick Me Up - Ryan Adams
6. American Girl - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
7. Hold On - Jet
8. Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen
9. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
10. Sultans Of Swing - Dire Straits
11. Babylon - David Gray
12. Feeling Good - Muse
13. The Air That I Breathe - The Hollies
14. Summer Of '69 - Bryan Adams
15. I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues - Elton John
16. (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay - Otis Redding
17. Only You (And You Alone) - The Platters
18. Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd
19. Ring Them Bells - Bob Dylan

December 13th 2006
I gave you the track listing for Sagg 8 yesterday, but I think we should dig a little deeper. Did you know, for example, that there were no songs dating earlier than 1961 in the Sagg catalogue until Sagg 8, but now The Platters' Only You (And You Alone) has broken into the 50s, since it's a 1954 release. Crazy. Indeed, there was only one 1960s track on Sagg 8, the classic Otis Redding song (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay, and in the entire Sagg catalogue there are 150 songs, 23 of which are from the 60s, 40 from the 70s, 19 from the 80s, 33 from the 90s and 34 from 2000 onwards. Intriguing stuff, really. The shortest track is my self-composed 6 seconds of silence on Sagg 3, called 'Reasons For Keeping The Monarchy', whereas the longest is the 9.07 'Free Bird'. Bob Dylan has eight tracks, and Elton John and the Eagles have six each (although Elton is sampled on Tupac's Ghetto Gospel too). That's enough stats for now, I've got things to be doing. Finished painting my bedroom today (blue), in case anyone wanted to know.

December 15th 2006
I have an important mission for you people. It must be carried out before the end of Saturday. It's a simple mision: go out to your local CD-selling shop (HMV, perhaps, or V-Meg. Smiths, Woolies... you get the idea) and buy Cliff Richard's latest single, '21st Century Christmas', which has the B-Side 'Move It' featuring Brian May (of Queen) and Brian Bennett (of The Shadows). This is not just a brilliant idea because Cliff rocks - he does, by the way - but also because the single is apparently looking likely to enter the charts at number 2, but if it comes in at number 1 then Cliff will be the first (and likely only ever) artist to have a number one hit in six different decades. Do it! Give 'em as Christmas presents, hand 'em out to people in the street, whatever. Just be a part of history.

December 16th 2006
Remember, today is your last chance to buy Cliff's CD and get him that number one we're all hoping for. Go on, just do it. In other news, do you people know the lovely Wikipedia game? It's almost as good as the 'They were in Friends' game... the idea is to choose two totally unrelated pages on Wikipedia (for example, Polar Bear and Microphone) and try to get from one to the other simply by clicking on links that appear on their pages. In the example above, for instance, I went Polar Bear - Infrared Photography - Wavelengths - Sound Pressure - Microphone. But then I discovered that Polar Bear - Infrared Photography - Digital Camera - Microphone. Maybe there's an even quicker route! I know, it's thrilling. Here's some for you to try:
David Dickinson to Bucket
Waterfall to Alice Cooper
Pickled Onion to Ramsay Street
I haven't tried these myself, so I don't know if they're easy, hard... or even possible. Let me know how you did. Unless you actually have stuff to do, in which case don't bother.

December 19th 2006
First off, the bad news - Cliff only got to number 2, and this week's chart is sure to be won by whichever nonentity won X-Factor. Presumably she will follow in the footsteps of Steve Brookstein, David Sneddon, Alex Parks, Michelle McManus, Hear'Say, One True Voice... surely we've had enough of this stuff? I mean, who still watches yet another Simon Cowell 'talent' show, regurgitating the same nonsense time and time again? As long as people keep watching and voting, they'll keep producing more and more, without a lick of originality or excitement. In other news, long-term readers will know that I occasionally like to comment on current topics in the news, and I'm going to break my silence, as it were, on the Suffolk murderer. I've read a fair few newspaper articles in the wake of the discoveries, and the angle that most of them are taking seems very much to be that of humanising the dead - apparently, similar events in the past have been met with a "they're prostitutes, so their lives don't matter as much" response, and everyone's glad to see that the opposite view has been taken this time, including myself. But I feel that this line has been taken far too far, and now so-called 'moralisers' are referred to scathingly and scornfully in a couple of very silly columns I've seen - some years ago I read that there's no lower insult now than to be called a moraliser, and it seems that that is truer than ever now. Indeed, morals themselves are somewhat frowned upon by the press, usually relegated to a Victorian blip - and when religion isn't being denigrated as unscientific nonsense (which of course it isn't - there is absolutely no scientific evidence against the existence of God, and plenty in favour) it is being criticised as moralistic. It must be for this reason that commentators are speaking as if prostitution is a job like any other, and an acceptable way of life - any suggestion to the contrary is, as I say, scorned. Can we please find a middle ground, where we can say that prostitution is not acceptable (when it comes to that, the drugs trade that is intertwined with it is similarly nauseating) but nevertheless the people taking part in it have lives that are worth just as much as anyone else's? Maybe that's moralistic, but I'm pretty confident it's true.

December 20th 2006
Christmas is in the air - well, some sort of secular, furry, snowfest that is vaguely reminiscent of Christmas - and I've sung/fluted more carols than you could shake a stick at. So tonight I was among a goodly number who went carol singing around Norton (a village about 15 mins walk from my house, under Dad's jurisdiction) in the bitter cold. And one of those who was singing with us (albeit a latecomer to the throng) was the one and only Paddy Ashdown (and dog)! He knew his carols, for sure, only getting confused on a weird translation of Silent Night, and needing the words for the latter verses of We Three Kings - but who doesn't? All very exciting and celebrified. Anyone got anything to beat that, carol-singing-wise?

December 24th 2006
It's Christmas Eve, and I just sent off my first ever job application. It was a laborious process, but a good stepping stone in life - there'll be a few more in the coming days and weeks. Whoof.

December 25th 2006
Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law -
a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'

Matthew 10 vv32-36

December 27th 2006
In my youth, I was something of a fan of Where's Wally, the Martin Handford books in which the point is to locate Wally somewhere within a crowded picture - in the early books, he was heavily laden, and not terribly well hidden. As the series continued they got harder, culminating in the poster book, in particular the poster where Wally is in the Land of Wallies, a place where everyone looks almost exactly like Wally - and only one person actually is Wally. Anyhow, there was also a TV series that I enjoyed immensely (and usually watched with Tom Palmer, as I'm sure he remembers), very loosely based on the books. This featured a host of charatcers (who, indeed, appeared in the Where's Wally Poster Book) such as Woof (a dog), Wizard Whitebeard and Odlaw (the bad guy). It was only yesterday that I realised 'Odlaw' is 'Waldo' written backwards - Waldo being the American name of Wally. Cos the weird Yanks changed his name. I think I can be excused for not realising this Odlaw/Waldo thing when I first watched the programme, since it wasn't until years later that I found out Americans called Wally by a different name. Anyways, other than that exciting piece of information, I'm just informing you that the show rocks and you should seek it out. While I'm on the topic, I always feel that Alan Yentob (who fronted Imagine's show on the Beatles tonight) has a surname that would be better backwards. Botney seems to make more sense.

December 29th 2006
Before I begin today's entry, I will give warning (but make no apology) that it will be largely influenced by the writing style of Simon Barnes, who is Chief Sportswriter for the Times. He is also a Dude List resident, and I'm currently reading his excellent book The Meaning of Sport. Anyways, that out of the way, I'm going to write a little bit about beauty, if I may. I frequently state - and believe I've mentioned here before - that there is nothing so beautiful as maths; but I'm going to change my mind, I'm afraid. More of which later. How can we measure beauty? I believe that nothing exemplifies beauty so much as its destruction; nobody cares if a sheet of paper is ripped, but put your elbow through the Mona Lisa, and it's a tragedy - and this is because beauty is being destroyed. Love is beautiful, and hence nothing is more painful. The problem with maths is that an intrinsic part of its beauty is the fact that it is unbreakable, it cannot be torn; it is fundamentally - and, yes, beautifully - perfect. This is one of the reasons I believe that it must be a divine creation, rather than manmade. Speaking of which, there is nothing more beautiful than the love of God, even if we see it through a glass darkly - this informs my tentative belief that no hell could be worse than paradise lost. Beauty destroyed is more painful than if it had never been (better to have loved and lost? I'm not so sure), and there is nothing more beautiful than heaven. But if we except the divine things, what is the most beautiful thing we have? I have to be honest, I've very rarely been impressed by the beauty of a landscape, or a sunset. These things cannot move me - and I cannot really say why, except perhaps that they're impersonal, not steeped in humanity. I would tentatively suggest that the supremely personal, deep and strong love between a man and a woman is more beautiful than anything else on earth; it certainly must rank alongside the most painful things to lose, so if that's the criterion, it's top. But I don't know. Since I've been reading Simon Barnes, I guess I have to go into beauty in sport; for sport can be a beautiful thing indeed - the question is, how important is the beauty? I think this largely depends on your viewpoint, since a neutral always wants to see beautiful football, say - Arsenal's quick passing counter-attack is a wonder to behold - but while I'd like Wolves to play beautifully, I rate it more important for them to win. Actually, I think there are (at least) two different aspects of beauty in sport - and these are typified by football and gymnastics. In football, the aim is purely mathematical: to score more goals than the opposition. The way this is achieved is, at best, beautiful - but that is not the aim. Gymnastics has it all the other way around: the aim is to perform beautifully, and this has been broken down into rigid assessment - marks are given for the movements and sequences that supposedly comprise beauty. If you ask me, I prefer football's approach.

what was I listening to?
American Recordings IV - Johnny Cash
what was I reading?
The Meaning of Sport - Simon Barnes
what was I watching?
Casino Royale
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