Monday, 29 September 2014

Changing the Computer Stock

My trusty six-year old 15" MacBook Pro developed Flickering Graphic Card Syndrome in September. The guys down in the basement at Mac1 Spitalfields gave me a quote of around £350 + VAT to fix it. Then you're left wondering how long it will be before the next thing fails. My first thought was, of course, "need new MacBook Pro". Yeah. At £1,300+ for a 15" screen. Retina only. The 13" non-Retina is still £899 for the base model. Faced with decisions like this, the best thing I can do is keep looking until the right answer appears from all the obvious ones.

My current stock is:

Asus EE PC 1000P netbook (about five years old) Win 7
11" Mac Air with 128GB SDD (nearly two years old) OS X Mavericks
17" Samsung desktop replacement (about five years old) Win 7
15" MacBook Pro (see above) OS X Mavericks

I've been using the Air as my walk-around computer, and the Asus as a cheap internet media centre. The real issue is that the Samsung will be next to go, and I'll need a replacement Windows workhorse. These get cheaper and better all the time, but right now...

Windows 8

Wow. Just. Wow.

Windows 8, like Vista, is proof that a building full of geniuses can still produce a camel in response to the spec for a horse. So the whole buy-a-15.6"-Wintel-machine-for-next-to-nothing option is on hold.

After a great deal of gazing at Mac Pros and other kit, I thought "Let's look at Chromebooks". Because I never have and of course you'd replace a MacBook Pro with a Chromebook. Right?

Except that most of my computing now is browsing and Evernote. Evernote runs in Chrome. If I need to use a Latex editor / compiler or maybe use Lightroom to edit stuff (this is another post) I can use the Mac Air or the Samsung. The blogs of a number of pro photographers sing the praises of recent Mac Airs using Lightroom. What I need is a computer with a decent size screen to browse, play media, and use Evernote. That's a Chromebook.

See what I mean about waiting until the right decision appears from all the obvious ones?

So the new stock looks like:

Portable: Asus C P1000P netbook (about four years old) Win 7
Serious Computing: 11" Mac Air with 128GB SDD (nearly two years old) OS X Mavericks Windows Workhorse: 17" Samsung desktop replacement (about five years old) Win 7
Normal Stuff at Home: 14" HP Chromebook

When the Air packs up, I will get whatever the entry-level MacBook Pro is: by then it will weigh nothing and have the computing power of a Cray mainframe from the early 2000's. When the Win 7 machines pack up, with luck Win 9 will be out and be something people would actually want to use.


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Why You Should Get A Santander 1-2-3 Account

(Disclosure: I work in retail banking. I do not now nor ever have worked for Santander or the companies it bought. This is a public service announcement.)

Savings rates are a joke right now. The banks and wholesale markets can get cheap money from the Government and Bank of England: they don’t need to pay us a decent rate of interest to attract our funds. The Government is schizoid: it wants us to save for our pensions, but it wants us to spend, spend, spend so that the economy will recover, and preferably on VAT-able items so its tax take will go up. Good luck squaring that circle.

Very few people have large amounts (more than £50,000) of cash-based savings. I have nothing like that and still shuffle my money around once a year, with the main aim of trying to get as much as possible into an ISA so I avoid tax. 1.5% tax-free equates to 2.5% gross. Go find 2.5% anywhere.

Well, first there's 4% on up-to £5,000 from the Club Lloyds current account. You need to pay in at least £1,500 every month (which puts it past about half the population), but you don’t have to leave it there, so you could transfer it from your present current account and then spend it. Push £5,000 in, set up a standing order and you’re done. You may think it a bit too much fuss for £5,000.

So then there’s Santander’s 123 account, which gives 3% up-to £20,000, and cashback on Council Tax, Telecoms, Water, Gas, Electricity and other bills. If like me you’re living in a former People’s Republic of London, getting cashback on Council Tax alone feels like some kind of symbolic revenge. Santander’s web site has a calculator which you should look at as soon as you’ve finished reading this.

You need to transfer in at least £500 a month, set up five direct debits and have at least £1,000 on deposit before the benefits kick in. My guess is that those five DD’s are a carefully-chosen obstacle - it feels like a number someone researched. Santander offer a current account transfer service, and my guess is that many people will prefer to do a full transfer than go through what they think is the trouble of changing the details on five DD’s.

Changing the bank details on your DD’s is as simple as calling the council / water company / electricity company / telco etc and telling them you want to change account that pays the DD. They will ask for identification – I didn’t have my account numbers with me and it still all worked - and the 123 account sort code and account number. Done in a couple of minutes, though you may need a headset to make it easier to wait until an operator becomes available. My telcos even let me change the DD account details online.

You need to delete the DDs in your original current account once they have been paid for the current month. That doesn’t take long to do online. If you are the last person left in the UK who doesn’t do online banking, now is a good time to start.

Applying for a 123 account online takes about 10 minutes and Santander do an electronic credit check. I got an e-mail confirming my application about ten seconds after I clicked Submit and a confirmation of getting the account about a minute later. As part of a security process they send the account details and multiple-part security letters over a period of about two weeks.

It sounds like a lot of fuss, but it’s a couple of hours at most and will gain you about £200 or so (depending on how much money you have and the size of your bills) over letting your money rot at 0.5% somewhere. When was the last time you were paid £100 an hour?

It’s incumbent on as many of us as possible to remove money from savings accounts and toss it into a high-interest current account. Until lots of us do, banks won’t raise their savings rates.

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Best Things In Life Are Free - Janet and Luther

Every time, and mean every time I hear this, I’m smiling and singing along. So play it and do the same.

Happy Days....

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Liking Girls, Walking Away and Self-Development

What separates the London daygamers from all the other guys - aside from the whole pragmatic English vibe - is that they seem to have worked out how to have women in their lives but dodge the risks. They like girls. A lot of the commentators on the American sites don’t, I feel, actually like women. Some of that feels like “you’ve just had a bad experience, we’re not all like that” and some of it feels like “you’re just bitter because you can’t get a girl”, and some of it feels like “Jesus aren’t there any attractive women in this place?”. The London guys like girls, even though at the same time, they have no intention of being in an LTR or for that matter having female friends. I’m pretty sure all of them have said “If you’re not fucking her, you’re her girlfriend” at one time or other. And I would agree.

The London Guys like girls because they bail as soon as the bad stuff starts to show. To adapt an iconic quote: “don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the [bad attitude starting to show].”

Although Pacino’s Vincent Hanna calls that “pretty vacant”, what exactly is the alternative? We stick around for the random, the tantrums, shit tests and manipulations, in the hope it will go away for long enough to get laid again? That’s supposed to be what a meaningful life is about? Suffering random nonsense from one’s female partner? Ah hell, thanks no, I’ll pass. We’re all going to have lives full of random nonsense from employers, governments, train companies, banks, airlines, border controls, petrol prices, road works, plus whatever our genes decide to unload on us on a timetable we know nothing about. That’s enough suffering to make any life deep and meaningful. (It’s not easy for ACoA’s and co-dependents. We like a bit of pointless drama and deep meaningful messed-up relationships. Gotta work on that.)

The London daygamers, and you and I, can walk away for three reasons: first, we’re confident we can find another playmate without too much effort; second, we have an identity and a life that is independent of women; third, “it’s the discipline”, and we respect that. (I’m fine with the second and third. The first is a long story you’ve heard too much of already.)

We don’t need women for validation, for purpose, to give our lives structure or to give us meaning. We do not need them to give us a reason to get out of bed and go to work. For us, James Brown was talking utter crap when he said
It’s a man’s world / but it don’t mean nothing / without a woman or a girl
(I’ve recently moved my morning radio station to Planet Rock after a few months on Heart. Heart made me realise just how chronically Blue Pill pop culture was and still is in some parts. So many of the songs was about how she made his life worth living, and how he was lost / sad / nothing without her. And as for that twerp telling his perfectly imperfect girlfriend that she’s perfect? Eeech. Have some dignity man. But to realise The Godfather of Soul was preaching this muck? I still shudder slightly.)

This is why the Manosphere puts so much emphasis on self-development and the pursuit of one’s own projects. Without those to give you an identity, you will use your “relationships” to give you a sense of meaning and place in the world. Instead of being the man who does this, knows that, can fix this, and goes there, you will be “Sally’s ex-boyfriend” and “Jack’s mate”. As a consequence of being the Man Who Does, you will be “the tax guy” or “the electrician” or “he spends half the year overseas”. I know which I prefer the sound of. Therapy types have a nice phrase about how we should aim to be a “human being” not a “human doing”. If the “doing” is pointless rushing around after ingrates and users, and staying late to do bullshit work, then they are right. But if the “doing” is a character-building, mind-developing and maybe even people-helping project, then the therapy types are wrong. That’s exactly the kind of “human being, doing” we should be.

Monday, 15 September 2014

August 2014 Review

Do you know that feeling when your state of mind shifted, but you’re not sure how and with what results? I took a week off in August, and that happened.

For one thing, I deliberately stayed up late, so I’d lie in (07:30 is a lie-in for me) each morning. I noticed it made me feel... calmer? more mellow? less desperate? the next morning. I still got 6-7 hours sleep. So I do that Friday and Saturday night.

I decided to go to the gym every other day, so I do the spinning and yoga classes every other week, and get a decent run of weight-training in the other week. I get to go straight home and have quiet evenings with a clear conscience, which is restful as well as giving me a day’s recovery in between training days. Then I resurrected the brisk 5-8 minutes or so of very light weights exercises first thing in the morning - and I mean before coffee. Gets me moving and stirs up the hormones. Shower afterwards.

I decided to experiment with what I eat, because it’s still a little too much, and I’m still doing that. I went back to eating meat at the weekends, stopping the fish thing I’d been on since reading a book on nutrition. I feel better.

The To-Do list got busy, as I ordered a pair of Fat Gripz - comments later - and started looking at watches - my take on that later. I found a gardener to do the heavy work involving fences and shed roof, and he will start sometime way later. Gardeners are always busy in autumn. I added a bunch of dance events at Sadlers Wells to the dairy as well. And changed up the work shirts: I have been wearing plain blue and slightly heavy regular fit shirts, but started getting a unhappy with the look, so I spent a while in Tyrwhit and found some fitted, single cuff, cut-away collar shirts with thin vertical stripes in blue, green and red. Nice change of look and it makes me look slimmer (it’s all about my vanity, oh yes). The idea of a subscription to the Economist suddenly seemed sensible, though it took awhile to get it past the purchasing committee, and I’m now a subscriber. Why? Because I’m fed up with even the online broadsheets: they’re free for a reason.

There was also the eye-test thing, triggered by an arm on my Silhouettes breaking: this is expensive. The updated replacements, which have amazing lenses, are even more so.

I started taking more photographs with the Lumix, though I still need to read the whole of the manual. I found the line that turns green when the camera thinks it’s level, and that helped me adapt to the hold-it-at-a-distance manner of digital cameras. That was before I got the shots of the steam train at Hammersmith station, which just happened to be there on my way back from breakfast in Notting Hill. Unlike the dozens of overweight and weird-looking Trainspotters taking pictures, for whom it was the highlight of their week.

I made excellent progress with the cohomology section of the Riemann-Roch paper, and I’m back in the groove with that. I read Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, John D MacDonald’s The Key To The Suite, Warren Ellis’ Gun Machine, Peter Pettinger’s How My Heart Sings: Biography of Bill Evans, gave up on a lousy Kindle edition of Hegels’ Science of Logic, did the first 450 pages of Sergio de La Pava’s A Naked Singularity and Alex de Campi’s Smoke / Ashes. At the movies, I saw Step Up: All In, and Lucy at Cineworld; All This Mayhem, The Congress, Welcome to New York, Finding Vivien Meyer at the ICA; and Art Party, Two Days and One Night at the Curzon Soho.

You see what I mean about changing things up?

Sis and I had supper at the Union Street Cafe, and I ate at Picture, Rowly’s, House of Ho, Clos Maggiore and Arbutus during the week. All my holidays start with a visit to the guys at Picture. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Pictures of July

Bishopsgate road works; excellent haul of DVDs from Fopp, Covent Garden; Flag; Garden Chair on my back patio; Signs in Covent Garden; Stansted Express on Bishopsgate.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

More Editorial Models (NSFW)

I have written before about how it's all about the editorial models for me. Here's another ten from the posts of various blogs and flickrs. Mica Arganaraz and Helena Severin join Eniko Mihalik as Girls I'd Most Like To Find Myself Sitting Next To On A Plane.

Freja Beha Erichsen

Helena Severin

Jenna Klein

Larissa Hoffman

Lola McDonnell

Majorie Levesque

Melaine Smith

Mica Araganraz

Raquel Zimmerman

Sabrina Ioffreda

Thanks to fashioncopius and GoSeeMag.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Esther Perel's Secret to Desire in a Long Term Relationship

This talk has about 5 million views. I love this bit
I want you to be my best friend, and my trusted confidant, and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long. So we come to one person and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide. Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence, and mystery and awe, all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge, give me novelty, give me familiarity, give me predictability, give me surprise, and we think it’s a given and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that
There’s a lot of applause at the end. What they are applauding is the mood music that she creates with her upbeat manner, ten dollar words and nifty juxtapositions. They are not applauding what she actually says about the secret to desire in a long-term relationship. It starts around 18:00 and the key quote is this:
They have demystified one big myth, which is the myth of spontaneity, which is that [desire] is just gonna fall from heaven while you’re folding the laundry like a deus ex machina, and in fact they understood that whatever is just going to happen in a long-term relationship already has. Committed sex is premeditated sex, it’s wilful, it’s intentional, it’s focussed, and it’s present. Merry Valentine.”
Read or listen to that at least three times. If you want to keep the sex going in an long-term relationship, it needs to be premeditated, wilful, intentional, focussed and present.

Sounds wonderful. All those exotic words. The nice thing about exotic words is that they drift loosely above the ground of actual actions and materials. Ms Perel wasn’t troubling anyone with the details, and the details would have spoiled the music.

Take away those fancy words and use some more mundane ones. LTR sex needs to be planned - that’s what calling “spontaneity” a myth means, and it’s what “premeditated” means. It means Nookie Nights go in the diary. You both have to show up ready to do your bit. No moods, no headaches, no bad tempers, no rows to give you an excuse to avoid it. You have to show up as agreed, and you need to put yourself in the mood, and help your partner get in the mood. That’s what “wilful, intentional” mean. It means she leaves her work-and-family yakkity-yak at the door of the “erotic space” (aka “bedroom”, usually), as well as any resentments she may have about toilet seats being left up or lawns being left uncut. That’s what “focussed and present” means. It means they are thinking about nookie, not the bullshit of their lives outside the Nookie Zone. Earlier Ms Perel says “responsibility and eroticism really butt heads”. There’s no discussing the family finances, children’s school problems, or any of that nonsense.

Who on earth is capable of this? If I had to guess, I’d say that at a deep level such a couple regard themselves as co-conspirators against a crazy world, that both of them can achieve orgasm fairly readily, and that it is a pleasant but not crazy-intense experience for either of them.

How many people does that leave out? Every couple where she settled for a good provider after a few flings with Exciting Boys. Every couple where one of them can’t trust, or for whom orgasm is difficult or over-intense. It leaves out at least eighty per cent of the population: forty percent who get divorced and therefore never were trusting co-conspirators, and another forty per cent who aren’t either but prefer the awfulness of a “settling” marriage to what they think is the awfulness of living alone.

But that’s what all those erotic exotic words are for: to tease you and hide the realities. There are some thinkers, Heidegger for one, where the language, the way its used to look at the world, is as much part of the philosophy as the insights, if not more so. There are others, J L Austin for example, who use a plain and simple language as a rhetorical trick, as if to dare us to believe that complicated metaphysics could hide behind ordinary English. And there are some who use exotic words to hide the realities that, if stated baldly, would dampen the applause, reduce the book sales and reduce the consultancy gigs by half, as people realised they had no chance from the start. For all her obvious sincerity, and for all the truth of her insights, that’s what Ms Perel is doing. She’s not going to be the one to break the news to you.