Monday, 28 December 2009

The Holy Innocents

The bit b'twix St Stephen's and Hogmanay should always be spent thus, drinking G&T and listening to passable Radio 4 Comedy. Oddly, Kate & I haven't watched any TV over this Christmas period. Hopefully this signifies a deep and fulfilling social life. Or summat.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Hello, and Merry Christmas from Buntingsdale Hall. The fire is flaming, the turkey was scrumptious and the lake frozen.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009



I have a cold. Yuk. I couldn't taste a thing at dinner.

I would like to do a wrap up of Copenhagen. I think it was a very important event, and one which both Kate & I, in our own small way, played a part. However, I am still employed by the UK Government as a negotiator, and therefore feel a little restrained in what I can say.

On 31st Jan two things happen. First, the deadline for submission of mitigation actions to be registered under the 'Copenhagen Accord' passes. Second, I finish my current job and move on to something new.

I would beg your indulgence for another month, then.

In the meantime I will take Sudafed and I encourage you to do so, too.

Monday, 21 December 2009



Not ready to do a digest on Copenhagen yet. Need distance. That's probably just about as precious as it sounds.

But it's very nice to be back in the real world. Very nice indeed. We did a lovely, dull real world thing, together today. Kate & I fixed our computer.

This involved some complicated(ish) stuff. We opened the command prompt (the older readers may remember MS DOS) and played with 'debug' (which was new to me).

This person suggested we "d C000:0010" which led to us discovering that our video controller was the good old Intel 915G/915GV/910GL chipset. Having obtained the appropriate drivers our new monitor now displays 1440 x 900 resolution, with the added benefit that DVDs now run smoothly.

Next up, the decorating. If we manage to get that done before the East London line reopens we will both be very happy.

Saturday, 19 December 2009


Everyone was in plenary. Turned out I was allowed in too (the first time I had been in the main hall). I wander in, and the Chairman read out, very quickly, the decision and banged his gavel.

Huge round of applause, driven, I think, by the desire for sleep rather than any satisfaction on the actual outcome. So far as I understand it, the Copenhagen 'Accord' is not agreed, merely noted. This is significant. If my understanding is correct, the accord has no legal status.

Ghost town


Well, said Sam, I'm back.

I left the Bella Centre at around 1800 last night, content that negotiations would go long into the night, but that I wouldn't be needed in the slightest. Technology is hardly going to be the deal breaker. And so it proved.

I'll give you an overview of what, if anything, this conference has achieved when it has actually finished. And when a bit of time has allowed me to put things in perspective.

Right now I'm sitting in a virtually abandoned conference centre that looks a bit like the day after Glastonbury, but with less mud and more weirdos. The UK delegation room is locked. Where is everyone?

Locked in a plenary hall, the decision makers are unable to make a decision. I can't get in there, so I'm going to wander around like a tramp and see if I can find some colleagues, or slouch back to my hotel and check out.

Thanks to Kate, for writing a blog that actually looked like a blog. Normal service resumed next week.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Hi, Kate here, this will be my final guest blog post. Hopefully James will step in in a day or two with an analysis of whatever on earth comes out of this process.

I'm back in Copenhagen, with helicopters circling the Bella Center and security people of all description everywhere. (And may I just say that providing outside security for a building in a Danish snowstorm is not a great job, I hope these people get paid enough.) My colleague on the inside had a great time yesterday seeing some of the head-of-state speeches, but all the real work was going on behind the scenes where no observers may enter.

There is now no pretence of anyone getting any sleep, talks have been constant. Apparently more progress has been made in the last 12 hours than in many days preceding, but there are many issues unresolved and right now it is not clear how this conference will end. There is a widespread feeling of amazement and incomprehension that things could have come to this pass after so many days, weeks, months of preparation. Those of you who try to make social arrangements with James will be aware how often he has been away this year at EU or international meetings, adding up in total to somewhere between two and three entire months out of 2009. The same goes for every one of hundreds of international negotiators at these talks. Yet heads of state who are here to sign a document are finding that the text has massive gaps in it and that positions on some issues are still miles away from each other.

The rather dramatic stepping-up of the helicopter presence is doubtless something to do with the fact that Obama is here. The poor man is expected to step in like Superman and resolve all the issues. I wish him well.

Back in the domestic sphere I pootled around at some climate change events in the morning. In the afternoon, after realising that it would cost £900 to fly out of Malmo at this notice, I mounted Escape from Sweden for myself, my luggage and James' luggage before they really did close the bridge. Unlike Escape from New York or LA this simply meant spending a lot of time in snowstorms, and trying to avert wrath on overstuffed delayed trains for being the annoying person travelling with two giant suitcases. The sniffer dogs that are now active on the trains showed no interest in our bags. James managed to effect a brief exit from the Bella Center to pick his up, then dived back in to continue talks. Both of us will be coming home tomorrow, hurrah.

Thank you very much for reading (if you are) and I hereby hand you back to this blog's owner.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Well, where do I start today? Two full days to go and things just get weirder. First up - negotiation progress. My first text of the morning from my dearly beloved c.9.30am, says: "No news here. Feels bad...". Negotiation sessions were running all through the night, as they were also on Tuesday night. Did I mention that one of the main sessions on Tuesday started at 4.50am?

I haven't actually seen the man for quite some time. Just as my train was pulling into Malmo last night he called to say that the bridge to Denmark was going to be shut for security reasons so he had been posted back to the hotel in Copenhagen (and would anyway be in the conference centre for the foreseeable future). This left me trapped in Sweden! Luckily for me the other hotel booking still stands so here I am.

Meanwhile, intense negotiations between NGOs and the conference organisers finally came to a conclusion at midnight last night. 300 named NGO observers would be allowed into the conference centre on Thursay and Friday. My organisation was allocated 1 non-transferable place and I had to submit the name by 5am (see above, these people are simply not sleeping.) I decided to allocate this to one of my delegation who had expressed a strong interest in getting a place. She got the pass, and also got one of the very few plenary passes which means that she'll be able to watch Obama et al in the flesh. Many thousands of other registered NGO observers are totally out in the cold so we have been very lucky indeed.

This morning I am delighted that we are in, but sad not to be there myself especially as it turns out that the bridge to Denmark is open today (although it really will be shutting tomorrow) so I could have taken the place myself which is a bit gutting. However I am glad my colleague is getting the opportunity. I am trying to decide what to do myself, I think I will go into Copenhagen today as there are various events on and a few colleagues still around, but might leave tomorrow. So this is probably a near-final post.

Finally I would just say that reading the online news about yesterday's demo, arrests, violence etc was very strange when I had been right there and not seen a thing beyond a few shouty people inside the conference centre. It really illustrates how hard it is to do a direct action that is actually visible/audible to the Heads of State. Perhaps online petitions etc are more effective since at least they'll (presumably) at least register on the radar when they are considering their public mandate for negotiating positions. Suspect James would be able to say more on this.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Hello, still Kate. Everything is confusing today. Heads of state are here and security has gone up ten notches. Most of my delegation who are here this week never got to use the secondary pass system as they could not get their primary passes due to long queues. NGO delegates are not allowed to enter the area where heads of state are speaking and even governments are allowed a small number of passes. And now there is a tertiary pass system for tomorrow which will only allow a tiny minority of NGO delegates into any part of the conference venue as observers. My organisation ran its final two events yesterday so those of us who managed to get in are now pretty much giving up and going home. Our exhibit stand is already boxed up and sent to the couriers since I doubt we'll get back in until late Saturday or Sunday (when I plan to be gone, gone, gone).

So what I hear you cry, we want to know about the negotiations. Well as I said in one of my earlier posts you will get better news from the BBC than from us in this rather chaotic heart-of storm. All we know is what the person next in line in the lunch queue tells us. One minute it's failing, the next there will definitely be an agreement, the next it has gone all wobbly again. I was privileged to spend enough time to have a conversation with my husband last night (as he was negotiating until small hours for several nights previously), he tells me that from where he is sitting everything is completely opaque. The deal-making is now at such a high level that although he knows where the issues have got to in his area, he has no idea how this is being played and bargained with by the top negotiators. He was meant to text me hours ago to say whether he'd be asked to stay to the end of the talks or not, I have received nothing which I suspect means that this is still not clear. So perhaps we will both come home early.

There was a massive demonstration outside today which meant we were sealed into the Bella Center for quite some time. Again, my main news on this was from the BBC and Guardian websites, in fact you would never know from here that there was anything going on out there. There has been a small amount of sympathetic demonstration on the inside, in particular some effective heckling from outside the high-level plenary which is audible in the film footage from the inside. And by the way, if you are truly interested there is pretty good coverage on the UNFCCC website including live streaming from the head-of-state plenary that we are not allowed into!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Evening all. This is still Kate guest-blogging by the way. You are not likely to hear from James for some time. In fact I will quote you a text exchange that we had a mere 30 minutes ago, at approx 11.30pm CET on Monday night:

James: " Will be here very very late"
Kate: "Hi, on train home"
James: "I love you. See you... Wednesday?"

So as you can see from the above the (remaining) negotiators are holed up in little rooms trying desperately to overcome the G77 walkout from talks, and to get something together before 100+ heads of state arrive in about 24 hours.

Meanwhile, in NGO world, I have run 3 side events in 4 days and have sleep deprivation. Also half my delegation went home over the weekend and another half arrived. This second half tried to register today, unfortunately the registration system collapsed causing a large crowd (including several of my poor little chicks) to spend 9 hours outside in freezing conditions, hemmed in by Danish police without food or water, and not even managing to get a pass at the end of it. This is before we even go into the NGO secondary pass system (the 'tickets' I mentioned in previous posts) which starts tomorrow and could hardly cause any more chaos than already exists.

Gordon Brown has decided to fly in early which is probably a good thing given the state things are in. A minor side effect is that due to the need to screen the UK delegation hotel for (bugs? bombs?) James has been shunted out to Malmo. Yes, that is in a different country. We dithered about whether to move into some of my organisation's accommodation in outer Copenhagen instead (there's a spare room this week) but in the end decided to go with Malmo since the commute is actually not that different. Oddly, Sweden is a lot cheaper than Denmark. We suspect that office workers take the train out here at lunchtime to buy their sandwiches.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Last night over drinks a government delegate (not UK) gave me an explanation of the row I mentioned in the last post that conspiracy theorists would love, roughly along the lines of Syriana crossed with The Business. I had gone to bed when James came in from his own negotiations at 1am. I asked him if he thought it was true. He said no. Then he said, "I have been talking to the Argentinians until midnight, I can't talk to you now" and went to sleep.

Sadly that was only 7 hours ago, I am back here in the Bella Center ridiculously early. It's going to be a busy day for me so thought I might as well post now. My NGO has quite a few delegates here now and we are hosting a number of events in quick succession between now and Tuesday, it's all getting a bit hectic.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

It's all a bit quiet here, Connie Hedegaard (Danish Climate & Energy Minister) just had to shut down one of the main negotiating sessions because consensus was proving impossible. I saw her do this on the TV screens but had not been watching the entire session, however I think the cause was the same issue that shut down talks yesterday. Tuvalu + others and Saudi Arabia + others are having a bust-up over whether it is better to continue the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 or write a new treaty. Usually the G77 (i.e. developing) countries negotiate in one bloc, this split is an interesting development with lots of pros and cons for the prospects of getting a deal.

The Bella Center is virtually at capacity now. The proposed access restrictions are likely to start soon, apparently each NGO is likely to each get tickets to cover 30% of its delegation. While this is not music to my ears I expect it is a bit of a relief to the government delegates, they will be tripping over a few less youth and polar bears on the way to their meetings. One of the UNFCCC Secretariat staff said to me on Tuesday as we walked through the NGO exhibit area, "it's getting like a street market in Bangkok".

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The main debate among gossipers of all stripes last night and this morning was - who leaked the Danish paper, and why? You might have seen this story in the Guardian. Denmark has been leading a process of writing a parallel text for a Global Deal that can be whipped out at that last minute if things get sticky.

Seasoned observers here are pointing out that this is perfectly normal, and it's traditional for COP Presidents to have something up their sleeves, some have also said that the content doesn't deviate much from principles set out recently by the head of UNFCCC. But you wouldn't know that from the news coverage. A few people have mentioned that there is a precedent for a similar paper being leaked at such an early stage, that was in The Hague in 2000 and the talks failed partly (it is said) as a result. An alternative theory is that there is some devilishly clever media management strategy going on.

In other news, I have now seen people dressed up as trees, people dressed up as aliens and many people in colourful national dress of all kinds. Plus lots of "youth" (this is actually the official term, there are "youth delegations" here) wearing t-shirts saying 'How old will you be in 2050?', to which my answer is 'A lady never tells'. Despite the cold, the conference metro station is permanently surrounded by happy devotees of the Grand Master something or other who are promoting veganism and have a poster with a picture of a goat saying, "Don't eat them, they love you."

I would love to give you news of James, but I think I have seen him (awake) for about 1 hour in the last 48.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Well, I found the brochures, the registration queue is 4 hours long and some of my delegates are still in it, and given that we are surely approaching 15,000 delegates registered today the dreaded NGO ticketing system looks likely to be implemented. Boo. On the negotiations side there is a fair bit of gossip flying about regarding progress, much of which doesn't actually need repeating here since it is captured pretty well on this BBC blog. I'm not sure I can compete with that. Not a peep from James, which means that he is up to his eyeballs in meetings.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Hello, this is Kate. I'm with James at Copenhagen (I am co-ordinating the activities of the NGO I work for, which is an official observer to the talks) and since he's not allowed to talk about what's going on I thought I might offer the odd update for interested parties. He has been in meetings all day (UK, EU, EU + others) whereas I have been setting up my organisation's exhibit stand and discovering that all our boxes of brochures are missing in the aether somewhere. Judging by the number of people already in the conference venue today, the official opening tomorrow is going to be carnage with registration queues half way to Sweden. NGO passes are likely to be rationed on a ticketing system where we get less than our total number of delegates, which is going to be quite interesting to co-ordinate (and alas this is my job) as you can bet that the people holding the tickets on any given day will go awol or drop them in a Danish puddle somewhere so that they can't be used by the next people on the next day. The venue holds 15,000 and apparently there are 27,000 who want to get on the list and can't. There are more press than government officials. Etc. James says, "It appears that no-one whatsoever knows what is going to happen."

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Somewhere else


Tomorrow I shall find myself elsewhere. Thankfully, Kate join me elsewhere on Saturday.

Will try to post some impressions on how things are going.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The dream

In 8 days time, I'll be in Copenhagen, working for the UK government as a negotiator, at the most important climate negotiations ... ever? Well, so far.

Right now, this means that I'm sitting at my desk at 19:14 with no sign of going home any time soon, and I never see Kate (who will also be at the negotiations and is also working late) and I'm stressed and tired and grumpy.

But, in the long game, if you'd asked me 5 years ago what my dream job would be, it would probably be this. So there you go.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Following on from an earlier conversation (in the real world)

10 Albums from the last decade better than "Is this it" by The Strokes.

  1. "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" - The Flaming Lips
  2. "The Decline of British Sea Power" - British Sea Power
  3. "Elephant" - The White Stripes
  4. "Rings Around the World" - SFA
  5. "Through the windowpane" - Guillemots
  6. "Fleet Foxes" - Fleet Foxes
  7. "Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!" - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  8. "Stories from the city, Stories from the sea" - PJ Harvey
  9. "Back to Black" - Amy Winehouse
  10. "The Magic Numbers" - The Magic Numbers
and I didn't even have to mention Franz Ferdinand...

Saturday, 10 October 2009

The worst of times, the best of times

Osteopathy is remarkable. I never realised that by freeing the nerves in my neck (with a most alarming crunching sound) the osteopath (Torben) would improve the strength in my forearms. All to do with pressure on nerves, apparantly. The signals don't reach your arms, which reduces your strength.

I found myself being manipulated at the end of an awful 48 hours. The sort of thing you see in the first 5 minutes of a film, whereupon the protaconist will then either have some sort of life affirming recovery and end up married to Jennifer Aniston, or else go postal and kill a lot of people with an increasingly improbable array of hardware. Depends on your taste in films, really.

Spending 2 weeks in Bangkok I didn't sleep properly, found out I failed to get a promotion, which effectively means I'll get demoted shortly, strained a muscle in my neck in an extremely painful way, and, on the way home, threw up repeatedly on the 'plane due to a dodgy burger. Oh, and the negotations were hardly a success. Meanwhile Kate threw her back out in such a way that she can't put socks on.

Which is how we found ourselves at the osteopath. And it was truly remarkable. I feel inches taller (and somewhat poorer!)

Back in London. Spine feels better. Sun is shining. Decent nights sleep. Everything seems a lot lot better.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Profound, or purile?

The new track by "Travis" is called 'Selfish Jean'. Is that a really clever play on words, or just twatish?

Friday, 18 September 2009

It is cold and lonely when Kate is not here.

(She's in America)

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Cut public spending?

OK. So this isn't about cutting public spending. I'm not that tedious.

Does anyone else spend hours at work carefully filing papers in colour coordinated folders when are then carefully put away and never opened again until you move office, or is it just me?

Sunday, 13 September 2009


Just rediscovered "Rings around the world" by SFA. I'd forgotten just how dashed good it is.

Buy it. In fact, by their entire back-catalogue. Now. Even the one entirely in Welsh.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

More advert

10:10 Campaign


“The Age of Stupid” ( utilizes dramatization that forecasts decades into the future detailing a life where the warnings of climate change were not heeded. Pete Postlethwaite plays an archivist who takes us back through archival footage wondering, "Why we didn't stop global warming when we had a chance?" Thus the film's namesake: We're living in “The Age of Stupid”. The archival footage is comprised of real current news clips (From CNN to BBC) weaved with personal stories from Nigeria to New Orleans - a la “Traffic”.

See the trailer at:

For the global premiere, scheduled for September 21st, “The Age of Stupid” will help launch the UN’s Climate Week and will be an epic live event from a solar-powered cinema in New York City, complete with green carpet and celebs arriving via bike, boat, biodiesel car and more. We will be beaming the movie out through satellite links to over 440 theaters in the US and 700+ cinemas in 55+ countries all over the world. As well as performances by Thom Yorke, there will be live climate impact updates from climate scientists from the Arctic, Amazon rainforest, a Himalayan glacier and New Orleans. Afterward, there will be a panel including Kofi Annan, Gillian Anderson, Mary Robinson, director Franny Armstrong, and star Pete Postlethwaite to discuss the film and the tasks ahead. Copenhagen delegates are all being given complimentary invites.

It's a one-night community event, so the key is to sell out tickets nationwide and around the world to galvanize people and send a powerful message to all the world leaders and top media when they convene in NY.

The "People's Premiere" in London on March 15, 2009, set a new Guinness World Record for the largest ever simultaneous premiere. The solar-powered cinema in Leicester Square was linked by satellite to 63 cinemas around the country, so 10,000 people attended without travelling more than a few miles from home. Green carpet attendees arrived on low carbon transport (bikes, solar cars, rickshaws, public transport, and foot) and total emissions were 1% of a typical Hollywood premiere.

Tickets are now on sale for both the US and the rest of the globe on the website (

NYT magazine recently ran a story on the Maldives and the country's decision to go carbon-free which was announced after a screening of “The Age of Stupid”. We do seem to be gaining momentum in the US press after our UK and Australia/New Zealand premieres with coverage in the Huffington Post and the New York Times. Check here for a more in-depth look.

The film has been screened in the UK Parliament (hosted by FOE), the Australian Parliament, the EU, Scottish, Welsh, Swedish and Dutch parliaments, as well as at the UN's climate summit in Poznan in December 2008. Obama's think tank, the Center for American Progress, screened in Washington on April 29 and there are screenings booked at the World Bank, the American EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and at the Global Humanitarian Forum (hosted by Kofi Annan).

We are wondering if anyone would be interested in partnering with us to help promote the Age of Stupid as part of our Global Premiere. We are not using any commercial advertising for the event. We know that getting the word out by personally working with groups will be the best way to reach people.

Listed below are some possible ways to help get people to the theaters and into the seats. If this is something you are interested in, get back to me as soon as possible and I can set you up with materials, suggestions, and possibly other contacts.

How you can help!
We have a grand total of zero dollars for advertising, so please, please help however you can:
1. Buy tickets to your local cinema for you, your mom, your boyfriend, your boyfriend's hairdresser and all their friends
2. Put together an outing for your school/sports team/church - make an evening of it by arranging a meal before or after the event (after may be better, as you'll all hopefully be inspired to start discussing how you can get involved in climate actions in your area)
3. Send the info round on any mailing list you are part of
4. Go onto the listing page (, look through the locations and then send the details direct to your friends in whichever town/city they're in. There's an easy widget on each individual theatre's page, which lets you send the details without messing around with emails
5. Go mad on Facebook
6. Go mad on Twitter
7. Rate/review the film (if you've seen it) on the Fandango website (the US ticket sellers). Seeing loads of enthusiastic reviews makes a really big difference to people who are undecided as to whether or not to go
8. Go along to any climate/enviro/activist meetings happening in your area and do a quick one-minute talk about the Stupid launch

Monday, 31 August 2009



For my day job I help out with this

If you are interested in what's going to happen at Copenhagen (and if something does happen, it will effect you, and if nothing happens, it probably won't effect you, but the effects in 70 years will be rather severe) then it is worth taking a look.

That's all for now.

Monday, 20 July 2009


I was at Lord's this morning.


Friday, 26 June 2009

I exist


I have been working on pages 46 - 50 of That's not an excuse for not posting, but I thought you might be interested.

Monday, 27 April 2009


Today has just been terrible. One of those days. But worse.

Nothing happened, of course, but I just couldn't work up any enthusiasm for anything, couldn't think and came home from work, without having done any work, feeling drained.

Tomorrow is another day. (Metaphorically)

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Lost in time

The origin of the name "Shoreditch" is not clear. Not, it seems, due to Jane Shore, since references to Soersditch predate her. A sewer, then? Perhaps.

Slightly disappointed to see that we will not be sitting on top of any hidden rivers (like we are in Battersea - the Falconbrook flows beneath our street) though the Walbrook does rise nearby. Or did.

Moving sometime next month. Suddenly we will be massively in debt. For 25 years. I'm not quite getting to grips with this whole 'life' thing. It seems very odd.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Back in the Maritim


Bonn is overcast and damp.

I just thought you'd like to know.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Whitehall, here we come

So farewell then, old Ergon House
You welcomed all – Toff, Chav or Scouse
We hot-desked well – We didn’t grouse
And now your time has gone

The light was bad, the space was cramped
But cyclists liked your curvy ramp
The Gentleman’s loos were always damp
And now your time has gone

And so to Whitehall Place we fly
Yes now it’s time to say goodbye
Please do forgive me if I cry
For now your time has gone

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

To the dogs

Went to Wimbledon last night. Had never been before. Seems pretty easy, really. I picked the winners of the first four races I bet on, losing badly in the 5th. Still, came out up on the night, which was nice.

Friday, 6 March 2009

That thing

What's the thing where you half-smile at someone you work with, but never speak to, but it isn't quite a smile because you don't actually know their name. What's that called?

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

It's cold here

You'll note that I'm not in India.

If I ever (try to) fly British Airways again, shoot me*.

* Excludes next Wednesday's "flight" to Prague.

To warmer climes

I am off to India now. See you later.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

You are not alone


Been totally self-absorbed and sad, in an unappealing way, recently. This may have leaked into the Journal.

I should point out, of course, that while buying a house is a difficult and stressful thing, it is not as if I am doing it alone. Kate still exists, and we are very much doing this together. Which is fun. Planning the wedding was fun. It's nice to do things together, and see great results.

No house so far, but it is early days.

Monday, 26 January 2009


Am I alone in thinking that the Israeli military action in Gaza was a bad thing, but that the decision by the BBC not to show the DEC appeal is the right one?

Wednesday, 21 January 2009


House-hunting is possibly the most complex 'real life' task I have ever tried to do, and as such I am far to confused to write anything of import or interest here.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Albums you don't own : Episode One, Stereolab "Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements"

Stereolab at perhaps their most uncompromising. Or raw. Perhaps I mean raw. Packed, of course, with the usual, gorgous Laetitia Sadier driven vocal harmonies but here they compete against massive layers of sound. Crunchy guitars. Thumpy base. Weird feedback shit and distorted comptuters. And, of course, this being Stereolab, lots of moog.

At 18:08 Jenny Ondioline comes in as comfortably the longest Stereolab track I own but at 49 characters the title of the album itself is only the second longest, the record held by "Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night". But whereas in there, and in other S. albums, the mometum is driven by synths and inventive percusion, Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements it's the guitar that takes the lead, with the moog playing catch up. This is the character that gives the album a more abrasive edge than subsequent, more stylistic, S. efforts. and just as Lock-Groove Lullaby, the final track, is about to lull you off to sleep, it takes a left turn and you wake up with a bang.

Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements brash, bold and agressive, where even the more melodic moments such as "Pack Yr Romatic Mind" have sudden, unexpected Grungy guitar riffs. This was 1993, after all. But this is record wasn't thrown together by 3 kids in garage. Not even a double garage. There are layers here. Wall of sound? This is a Berlin Wall of sound. Try listening to it with sub-standard headphones. Make's you're brain's leek out of you're ear's.

I may have "The following signal is recorded equally on both channels but is out-of-phase" on my gravestone, just for the pub quiz question.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Kissinger to lead climate negotiations

I didn't sleep particularly well last night. I've got the world's snottiest, most persistent, cold (it's been going for a week and a half and shows no sign of abating) and just as I dropped off someone in the room above started taking a bath. The plumbing in the Bedford Hotel is loud. I woke with a start and grumpily spent the the next 3 hours listening to toilets flushing and showers being taken.

It's not all trips to Bali you know.

So I'm now stuck on a homeward bound Eurostar with Belgium's most boring man. And he's sitting with North London's most boring man. And the two are talking transport.

There's something particularly wretched about talking transport. It's somehow duller and even featureless than the weather. We've run the full gammut too. There's fog at Brussels airport (if there wasn't I'd be spared the conversation). The two have swapped the numbers of reliable taxi drivers from their respective localities. The Brit has patiently explained the role of the Thameslink in the London transport signal and its relationship to the Oyster card. Now we are on to motorway juctions in Belgium. The factory is at junction 25a, you see, but the Belgian is explaining that there are major roadworks at the next interchange and that may effect travel times, though of course that will depend on the time of day. Hmmmm.

This boring conversation makes me want to go to sleep, but perversely keeps me awake. Argh!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

We got married!

OK, so if you've been paying attention then we got married on May 4th 2008. Which was some time ago.

Kate has downloaded a rather wonderful piece of software called Picasa, which is basically an extension of Google's efforts at world domination, but it is so convenient and quick to use. So we have (through no effort of mine) a set of photos of the wedding online to look at, if you like the kind of thing.

- There are many of these. It may bore you to tears, or crash your PC.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Commuter love / Pipe dreams

Taking the train to work has never really appealed. Adding two hours of traveling to the day seems like madness to me. At Clapham Junction I occasionally catch the last leg of a morning commuter train and its a more miserable experience than an afternoon in an Atlantic City Casino, and more crowded than a tube train.

Brighton, where Kate and I spent New Year, has lovely shops, a good vibe, 2 piers (or rather, one pier and one skeleton of Britain's only Grade I listed pier) and s.e.a. but none of these things, or the combination of them all, make it worth commuting to work for. What does tempt the two of us (buying a house and opting to commute is a joint venture, after all) is the fact that for considerably less € than we were planning to spend on a 2 bedroom flat nearish but not-that-nearish to Central London, we could buy our own h.o.u.s.e. with a g.a.r.d.e.n. Considerably closer to Central Brighton, too.

Sadly, when we got home, we found that the current commuting time to our places of work is more like 1.5 hours each way, not including whatever time it took to get to Brighton station. I think three to four hours of commuting each day is more than either of us can stomach. Better find that ideal London flat in Zone 1. Somehow.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

The story of the Brass Shark

In the mid-1500s Vienna was plagued by regular summer infestations of lobsters which caused significant damage to local buildings and livestock. In '57 the Mayor, Hans √úbermann, commissioned Lazansky von Bukowa (Great^5 grandfather of Joseph Haydn) to come up with a solution and the famous Viennese polymath did not disappoint, designing and building a 15 foot long coal powered shark made entirely of brass.

Sadly, 15th century control systems were not of a sophisticated type, and shortly after launch the shark went haywire, attacking shipping in the Danube and causing severe losses to the merchant fleet. The shark could not be caught using conventional nets, which it bit through, and a harpoon squadron bought in by the mayor failed the make any impression on its brass hide. von Bukowa had fled to a monastery in disgrace, but returned to the city in the autumn when the mayor begged him to find a way to capture or destroy his creation.

By coating a large fishing net with a viscous mixture of honey and candle-wax, von Bukowa was able to produce a trap sticky enough to trap his mechanical
selachimorpha and was able to dismantle it on the deck of the vessel Pride of Urbino. He received 12 shillings for his efforts, though never the freedom of the city (which many believe was denied to him by a furious Guildhall, many of the Members of which has suffered damages from attack by the shark)

Curiously enough, the lobsters never again threatened Vienna, probably because the mechanical fish had caused them to flee for safer waters.