The Blog

25 Aug 2014

Yet another warning

"If we discovered tomorrow that there was an asteroid on a collision course with Earth and – because physics is a fairly simple science – we were able to calculate that it was going to hit Earth on 3 June 2072, and we knew that its impact was going to wipe out 70% of all life on Earth, governments worldwide would marshal the entire planet into unprecedented action. Every scientist, engineer, university and business would be enlisted: half to find a way of stopping it, the other half to find a way for our species to survive and rebuild if the first option proved unsuccessful. We are in almost precisely that situation now, except that there isn't a specific date and there isn't an asteroid."

Then there would be a large number of people who didn't expect to be around in 2072 and didn't want to give up what they currently have in the mean time. There'd be the people who denied the asteroid existed. And then there would be the 5 Bn people who didn't even know about the asteroid and were mostly focussed on getting enough to eat and drink to survive another day.

Of course a world of 4B or 2B or 1B people in 100 years might well be a more pleasant place. But nobody will talk about the process of getting from the current 7B to the peak of 10B to a sustainable 1B. Because it ain't pretty.
 Humans: the real threat to life on Earth »
If population levels continue to rise at the current rate, our grandchildren will see the Earth plunged into an unprecedented environmental crisis, argues computational scientist Stephen Emmott in this extract from his book Ten Billion

[from: Google+ Posts]

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20 Aug 2014

I'm pleased to see that the 1000 minute Longplayer choral project has reached it's funding target.

I still need to make the pilgrimage to the Longplayer installation at Trinity Buoy Wharf. Open at the weekends, 11am to 4/5pm.

Longplayer is a one thousand year long composition that's been running so far for 14 years 232 days 07 hours 52 minutes and 05 seconds and counting.
 Longplayer for Voices - the next step »
Help us to create Longplayer for 240 Voices, the next step in an incredible 1000-year-long musical journey.

[from: Google+ Posts]

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18 Aug 2014

Here's the next foodie quest. Who makes the best Chai Tea Bags?

Teapigs. Both the Chai and Chilli Chai are excellent. But I seriously baulk at £4 for 15 bags. I mean, WTF?

Natco Masala. A good spicy tea with a bit of bite. But there's a lot of pepper in there and the bags are quite low quality so you get a lot of dust. Hard to get except in the two big supermarkets at the bottom of Brick Lane. Luckily they do some big packs so you don't need to buy them too often.

Palanquin spiced tea. ISTR these are ok, although I haven't had any for a while. Seem to be quite widely available in Asian corner shops.

Twinings, Tesco, Sainsburys. These are all just a bit tasteless. Not nearly enough cardomum, clove, coriander and so on. Chai really should be at least as strong as yorkshire builder's tea with the added flavours of the spices.

Anyone tried Wagh Bakri Masala Chai?
[from: Google+ Posts]

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Things I've learned about my Aeropress

Ignore all the obsessing about using it upside down, pre-watering the filter and so on. Only 3 things matter, the quality of the coffee, the temperature of the water and emptying it as soon after use as possible so the rubber bung doesn't harden and lose it's seal.

I like a good strong Italian style taste without it being too aggressive.

- Mainstream. Tescos Italian Blend, Lavazza Black, Carte Noire. These are all perfectly serviceable, easily available, every day, fine filter or expresso grinds that just work and are predictable.

- Algerian Coffee Shop, Soho, London at

"Formula Rossa" their main blend that they use for the take away coffee they serve in the shop. Straight forwards and recommended. Ideal for an Americano 
"Cafe Torino" For a stronger Expresso/Ristretto cup, try this one. It's a bit more aggressive than the Formula Rossa.
"Velluto Nero" After Dinner Expresso. Gorgeous but too much for every day drinking.

A note about grinds. I find a straight expresso grind works best. In the Algerian Coffee shop that's a "4" on their machine. Finer than filter or french press, but not so fine that you get finings and dust in the bottom of the cup.

Water Temperature.
After the choice of coffee this is the single biggest factor in the quality of the end product. You need to aim for 80-85C. This is tricky without spending huge amounts on clever kettles or messing around with thermometers. Any higher than that and you'll "burn" the grounds and make the coffee more bitter. The simple trick is to boil about 750ml of water (1/2 a kettle?) and then wait 30-60 seconds after the kettle turns itself off. So don't start assembling the Aeropress, coffee, filter, mug and so on until the kettle has boiled and by the time you're ready to pour in the water, 60 secs will have gone by and you'll be about right. 

Rubber bungs, filter caps, filters, stainless filter disks, tote bags, etc, etc. The stainless filters didn't really work for me. The paper filters are cheap and easier and just work. There's a rubber travel cap but it's a bit inconvenient and only really works for storing a few days supplies of filters in the plunger. 

Just empty the Aeropress immediately in the bin and wipe the base of the rubber bung under the tap. Then store it either in two pieces or with the piston all the way through so the bung isn't under pressure. Otherwise the bung will eventually take a set and won't seal any more. It's pretty much self cleaning so just a quick rinse is all that's needed.

Don't bother with all the complication. Don't worry about pressing air though the grounds. Don't bother with the upside down method. If your cup is too small to fit the aeropress in the top, use the hexagonal funnel.

White Americano or filter coffee.
This is the typical every day mug of coffee.  Put on your 750ml (ish) of water in the kettle. When it boils get the mug, aeropress and stuff out of the cupboard. Assemble the paper filter and cap and set it on the mug. Add a 15ml scoop of grounds. Fill slowly with hot water to the 3 mark. Give it a quick swirl with a spoon to settle the grounds. Wait till it drips so the surface is down to the 2 mark, say 20 seconds. Insert the plunger and press gently down till the grounds are squashed. Add a splash of milk. Empty the aeropress and wipe. Done! Enjoy! 

Double expresso.
As above but 30ml of coffee grounds which is the scoop that comes with the Aeropress. Fill with water to the 2 mark. Let it drop to the 1 mark and press.

I have a stubby 15fl oz, 400ml thermos which holds about 2 mugs worth. 30ml or 45ml of grounds, fill to the 4 mark. Press when it drops to 3. Add milk till it's the right colour. Top up with boiling water.

I struggle to think of any! I think there's potentially a redesign that makes it easier to travel with the kit and a week's supply of filters and coffee. Perhaps the cap could screw onto the other end of the plunger.

Just occasionally the seal doesn't quite work between the main cylinder and the cap. I'm not quite sure where it leaks from but it can lead to dribbles down the side of the mug.

Anyway. If you haven't tried one and you like coffee then get an Aeropress. for making one or two cups of coffee it's way better than Cafetieres, Mocha stove machines, drip filters and so on. And it's considerably cheaper and easier than expresso machines. And even if the pod machines are convenient, they're just WRONG. The old school filter coffee machines still work best for 4 mugs and upwards.

So I really don't think there's anything better for small quantities.
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16 Aug 2014

A map of the introvert's heart.

It's missing a ship that visits the island occasionally, but doesn't stay for long; "The Valley of Longing for Company".
 A Map of the Introvert’s Heart By an Introvert »

We missed this wonderful illlustration when it hit the internet last month, but how timeless is Gemma Correll's map of an introvert's heart?

More cool stuff in Medium's "I Love Charts" archives.

[from: Google+ Posts]

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07 Aug 2014

It's pronounced "gnod", actually.

My turn now. Also quite looking forward to Hacker Farm, Death Shanties, Anji Cheung and John Doran's DJ set.
 Supernormal Festival | 3 day, experimental arts and music festival at Braziers Park in Oxfordshire »
Supernormal is a festival like no other, providing a powerful antidote to the current malaise of festivals-as-big-business. Blurring the boundaries between art and music, performer and audience, it champions the iconoclastic and the experimental, allowing risks to be taken and leaps of ...

[from: Google+ Posts]

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A coffee puzzle.

Go into a cafe in any provincial French town before about 11am and you'll be able to get "un petit café créme avec un croissant" and consume them standing at the bar. If you're greedy you can have "un grand café créme" and a pain au chocolat. But look on the internet, even in wikipedia and all discussion of coffee is by Americans and trying to find recipes for the authentic café créme is impossible. The Petit is typically in a large/double expresso cup. The Grand is often served in something more like a small soup bowl. They both involve expresso and hot milk. But they are both emphatically NOT a latte, capuccino, flat white, Cortado or any of the other hundreds of white coffees. And they would never involve cream or that horrible American concoction, Half''n'half. It's quite likely that the milk is skimmed and may even be UHT.

So how do you make them? I think, as follows.

Un petit café créme: One shot of Expresso, slow pulled into a large expresso cup, usually brown outer, white inner, with a saucer. Add approximately equal quantities of warmed semi-skimmed milk that's just been hit by the steam pipe to get it hot but before it starts frothing.

Un grand café créme: Two shots of Expresso, slow pulled into a giant coffee cup or small soup bowl. Roughly two to one hot milk to coffee brought to a point just before it boils and froths.
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04 Aug 2014

Liveright (2012), Paperback, 208 pages
[from: Librarything]

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RVP Press (2014), Paperback, 296 pages
[from: Librarything]

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03 Aug 2014

We used to talk about this stuff. Now it's too easy to simply quote the comments after the article in lieu of offering any actual criticism or commentary on the article oneself.

And here's the copy-pasta.

Ideology and totality are still here. It's just that they have become commodified to the point of appearing so natural that we no longer notice them, like fish that don't pay attention to the water around them. People have bought into the idea that ideology and totality no longer exist and thus they have allowed themselves to be disenfranchised from creating their own cultural narrative.

It's more than a little embarrassing when the replies to an article are more profound and well written than the original piece.
 The Quietus | Opinion | The Quietus Essay | Fictions Built Upon Fictions: The Decline Of Totality In Pop »
Robert Barry examines how pop culture's impulse towards totality has crumbled during the past two decades, and finds traces of that decline in the fall of communism in Europe, the UK government's crushing of rave, and the rise of the internet

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02 Aug 2014

I really want to like what the Long Now project is doing, but I keep coming across things like this.

"“Science is the way we surprise God,” said Kelly. “That’s what we’re here for.” Our moral obligation is to generate possibilities, to discover the infinite ways, however complex and high-dimension, to play the infinite game. It will take all possible species of intelligence in order for the universe to understand itself. Science, in this way, is holy. It is a divine trip."

And it makes me want to throw up. Are Americans unable to discuss anything without invoking the sky god?

Dig a bit deeper and there's only two ideas here. Enough to generate a book and lecture tour though.
1) Exponential growth is awesome
2) The Shapers will beat the Mechs. So Bio-tech is where it's at.

The first is obviously true but there's a refusal to look at the implications as though 3% PA growth in global GDP is some kind of immutable and inevitable law of the universe. The second is just personal opinion treating one branch of science as more interesting than another.

[from: Google+ Posts]

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28 Jul 2014

Words I dislike, #23 : 

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27 Jul 2014

Today's neologism: "Accelerationista". Who are they? What do they stand for?

I've also told the stories of accelerating change. Especially in the run up to Dec 2012. And I'm still fascinated by the implications of exponential growth with short doubling periods. But as I get older I wonder where the change is. In many respects 2014 doesn't feel that different from the 1974 of my youth. 2054 could easily be more like 2014 than different. But that presupposes continuing 3% growth in global GDP with sufficient available energy to fund that growth. And that's something I increasingly doubt is sustainable for another 40 years.

Found here.

Incidentally, this is a most interesting essay. It touches on something I've been vaguely aware of. And that's a move in music towards a very cold, clean, antiseptic version of electronic maximalism. It's not just people like Rustie, Logos, Lone, Jam City. But also in erstwhile dirty dubstep producers like Shackleton of Skull Disco apparently recapitulating the kind of ultra clean synth programming of the German Kosmische Musik groups of the late 70s like Tangerine Dream - ‎Neu! - ‎Faust - ‎Amon Düül II.

How are we supposed to react emotionally to musics that make one think of climate change refugees breaking down CCTV secured border fences and then being bombed by drones. Are we closing in on a future where we are all Palestinians and this music is just reflecting that?  That's a pretty dark view. Previous music that provided a commentary on war tended to emphasise the dirt and messiness of warfare. This music is emphasising the cleanness of drone warfare waged from cubical farms in air-conditioned offices with water coolers, office hours, powerpoint and donuts.
 Pattern Recognition Vol. 9: Cold Forecast »
This month, Adam Harper—the premier writer on new, underground music—considers musical futurism and finds a paradox in its chilly anti-humanism.

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Why is the colour of the digital future predominantly blue?

[from: Google+ Posts]

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26 Jul 2014

Stay Awake

Schwa merch, original and recreated on etsy.
 Alien Autopsy: William Barker on Schwa, two decades later »
Twenty years ago, William Barker's Schwa artwork revealed a world of alien abductions, stick figure insanity, conspiratorial crazy, and a hyper-branded surveillance state. It's now more relevant than ever.

[from: Google+ Posts]

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Burn the witch! Burn him with fire!

Frankly unbelievable that there's a Conservative MP on the health and the science and technology parliamentary committees who thinks that Astrology should be incorporated into Medicine.

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25 Jul 2014

Apocaloptimism. Try to imagine a desirable future in 2114 (100 years) that you would want to live in. Because we need some more hopeful narratives to counter all the dystopianism.

"Population 4 billion; 85% urban. Climate change adapted" Getting from here to there would be, ahem, interesting.

Quite a lot of Californians in there hoping for a future that's all "graphite and glitter" in some

Of course the 100 year future will be messier than that and more like today than like Startrek. But what about the 1000 and 10,000 year futures? ;) Try and imagine an Earth economy in 10,000 years that can support 5B people. 100% recycling but no Helium. And of course the 10 year future in 2024 that you would want to live in.
 A Desirable-Future Haiku »
The coming hundred years, in one hundred words

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24 Jul 2014

Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll are universal characteristics of the human condition.

Were it not for our supposedly ‘base’ impulses, we never would have achieved many ground-breaking scientific discoveries. Hedonism has been integral to intellectual progress.
 Sex Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll – Guerilla Science »
Guerilla Science create events and installations for festivals, museums, galleries, and other cultural clients. We are committed to connecting people with science in new ways, and producing live experiences that entertain, inspire, challenge and amaze.

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21 Jul 2014

Apparently the CMax II is for sale.

Sale details here.
Bike details here:

T-Max III, Volvo seat, occasional 2 seater and large luggage area. Faster (maybe!), safer, warmer, more comfortable than a conventional T-Max.

Not sure I can afford it. It's likely to be priced to reflect the work rather than cheap because it's unusual.

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19 Jul 2014

“It was the year they tried to Immanentize The Eschaton.”
 Immanentizing the Eschaton »
“It was the year when they finally immanentized the Eschaton.” With those words Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea kicked off their brilliant parody of American conspiracy culture, the Illuminatus! trilogy. When I heard last...

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