Thursday, January 31, 2013

A week of trains and books

I’ve been dashing hither and yon all week, up and down England working on the various components of the business.  Every morning seems to start at dawn with a trek to a train station; each evening finds another platform waiting.  Fortunately, the weather has turned nice and the stations have turned on WiFi, so it’s been a pleasant series of journeys.

 

I downloaded three books onto my Nexus to see how the e-reading experience fit with travel, and was pleasantly surprised. I  put a big textbook on Data Mining (rented from Amazon rather than purchased), a light memoir from Andrew McCarthy, and a borrowed book from China onto my bookshelf.   All downloaded (or installed) cleanly and quickly: it felt like as good a library as the professor’s office that I visited.

The text formats into a nice book-sized page that is crisp and stable, and the page turns as naturally as any book without interrupting the experience.  I also subscribed to the XPat Journal, but magazines need the full 10” screen IMHO: the flow of text and pictures are don’t scale to the 7”.

It’s nice to pick up the tablet and pick up the story- I probably read more this week than I have (except at bedtime) in months.

I also did more walking in the cities that I visited, following the Ingress overlays around local landmarks (the Winter Gardens in Sheffield, for example, right).  It’s just a game, nothing high concept, and the scope of play seems limited to just finding enemy locations and capturing them.

ingress 2Still, I leveled up and, for  one day, I owned Trafalgar Square.

 

 

Fiscal cliffIn all, it’s been a rough January, with unexpected chemistry, intractable visa clerks, uncooperative ticket machines, and unsympathetic business partners. Still, the stories have all pretty much ended successfully.

Here’s to less stress in February.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Death’s Self Portrait

Death

My monitor from the TSB had suggested we hold our quarterly progress review at the Wellcome Museum, near Euston station in London.  I’d never visited the collecton, but it sounded like a good place to share a coffee and a few stories.

The banners over the entrance were ominous: Death, a Self Portrait.  A Gormley-esque statue hung from the ceiling; a pale body lounged alongside the door.  Creepy.

“I hope this isn’t a portent,” I smiled shaking hands.  it wasn’t, fortunately.

  

The exhibit, free at the Museum through the end of February near King’s Cross, ponders how different societies and times face mortality through art and media.  There’s a lot of variety in the depictions of Death, in how artists try to understand and overcome the idea that man’s life, everyone’s life, simply ends.  Representations tend towards skeletons of all sorts (skulls seem to be a particular favorite), and there’ an underlying current of fear and revulsion everywhere.  It’s a paradox of inevitability wrapped in disbelief, bravado in the face of defeat, everywhere. 

It’s well worth stopping in, although I may not be appropriate for younger visitors.  There’s also a good coffee shop and a wonderful bookstore.

Upstairs, the History of Medicine museum has a fascinating array of historical instruments and apparatus, and a smaller exhibition focused on obesity.  The Isaacs sculpture, I can’t help the way I feel, an awkward mountain of  overgrown and erupted flesh, is as creepy in life as any depiction of death downstairs.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday wind-down

It rained heavily, surprisingly last night,leaving green grass and rainbows behind this morning.  I’ve had the windows open and the cool spring air breezing through to remove some of the winter haze and cooking smells.  A good broom sweeps clean.

It’s a catch-up weekend: the RoamLine chip kept my Nexus online through most of the week, but the tiny onscreen keypad doesn’t encourage long, thoughtful replies.  And access to WiFi only accomplishes so much on a swaying train or bus –I rapidly get headaches that I used to associate with Ingressplaying first-person shooters (Castle Wolfenstein, 1981,  to date myself fully). 

Updating my gaming (s if I have the time), I’ve gotten a key to Ingress, the Google-game that overlays Google Maps, but haven’t made much progress in understanding Portals and Resonators scattered across Cambridge.  However, keeping it alive while on the bus recharges my life faster than any other method.

CeilidhWolfson College put on a good Burn’s Night celebration on Friday, all bagpipes and haggis, toasts and skink, liberally soused with whisky.  Conversation was good, more Americans than usual but interesting people with diverse interests.  The dinner was followed by a Ceilidh, a square dance called against traditional Scottish music.

I was looking into the Missionary/Mercenary entrepreneurial dichotomy further, and found a couple of details that clarified the distinctions.  I never take these things as gospel, only as seeds for generative thinking…

Missionary and mercenary gridcombo

tea vs cocaine…and wanted to share one delightful montage making the rounds on Facebook documenting the effects of stimulants on the aging process.

 

Okay, off to some exercise, some foraging for dinner, and some reading before the afternoon begins.