Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Bathroom windows and Pepsi cups

Lately I keep seeing exquisite beauty in unexpected places.

For example, my bathroom window:

This evening I tossed a Pepsi cup off my seat on the tube, and after pinballing around a bit it came to rest against the lip of the metal grating just inside the carriage doors.

For the next three or four stops it rested there, being rocked just slighty as the doors opened and closed in the nigh-on empty carriage at each of Warren Street, Oxford Circus and Green Park.

It wasn't beautiful in itself, but somehow it seemed imbued with immense potential energy as it rested there unquietly. Almost planetlike. Of course, an 8-gram cup on a 1- or 2-degree slope would actually have negligable potential energy, but because it was resting against the open aperture of a tube carriage - a place from which you yourself would very much not want to be ejected at high speed between stations - its position seemed that much more precarious and momentous and meaningful.

Eventually a father kicked it off at Victoria, thereby relieving both my palpable tension and the guilt I'd been feeling at having unwittingly converted traveller detritus into the (not) very real possibility of catastrophic derailment. Yet even on the platform it retained some of its unlikely power, as person after person daintily avoided the delinquency of an accidental booting.

What does all this unlooked-for beauty mean? I for one am hoping for the rapture...

Monday, 14 April 2014

If I could code I'd ... #1

If I could code I'd ...

Write a feature for a Twitter client that would block all tweets without a minimum, adjustable number of RTs from your timeline. Or, more sophisticated, less realistic version: that would block all tweets RTd less than a certain proportion of each tweeter's average number of RTs.

... but I can't.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Good TV is ruining good conversation

I've since subscribed to Netflix

Back when we still watched TV on televisions, at a time determined by the programme makers and the channel schedulers, we used to go into school or the office the next day and excitedly talk about the latest episode with our friends and colleagues, and then we'd have to wait a whole week to catch the next episode - or months even, if it was the end of a series.

Now that DVD boxsets and internet streaming have come along, we all watch TV at different times. And if you haven't yet seen what someone else has just seen, you either have no interest or you don't want to hear about it because you might watch it when you've done with whatever programme you're currently watching.

Also, as programmes now tend to last for about 60 episodes, all of which are available to us all at once after the programme has wrapped, once we've started something we tend not to watch or do much else until we're through gorging. So once you've established that your colleagues either aren't interested in what you're watching or don't want to hear about it, you've got nothing left to say to them because all you've done every evening for the past three weeks is watch bloody Dexter.

I've just finished watching Breaking Bad, which must have taken up about 50 hours of my life. In filmic terms that's 25 different opportunities to find something in common with people, or in book terms probably around 4 or 5. Instead, conversations have gone:

"Have you seen Breaking Bad?"
"No, I'm watching Game of Thrones."

Good TV is ruining good conversation.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Pillow Fight Day ... the cushiony cudgel of ick

Yesterday was Pillow Fight Day in London. I had heard that the Fight was going to be cancelled, with TimeOut reporting the Greater London Authority as saying that the majority of Trafalgar Square would be fenced off at the scheduled hour for some (in)conveniently timed maintenance. Nothing to do with the reported £2000 clean-up cost from last year, of course...

However, I happened to be heading towards the National Gallery at 2.55pm, and found the Pillow Fight very much about to be taking place. There must have been a few thousand more people than normal sardined into the Square, a good few hundred of them armed with pillows, with dozens more streaming in every second from every direction, and those not holding pillows craning for a better view from every pole, fence and statue pedestal:

The Pillow Fight crowd - the fighters themselves were left of picture

I immediately abandoned all hope of visiting the Gallery, but stood and watched until the countdown hit zero and the feathers began to fly.

As I then wandered off in search of something I could do without having to force my way through a whirling, pumelling throng, two thoughts struck me.

The first was: how many new pillows would have to be bought for the commercial benefit of the Fight to pay for the cost of the cleanup? The cheapest pillow on John Lewis's website is £6, but presumably they sell out of those pretty quickly, even if they do judiciously stock up with extras for PFD.

However, as I headed away from the Square with the fighting still going on, plenty of people were still making their way in the opposite direction clutching pillows, eager to get involved, and I noticed that at least a few of them were holding pillows that were clearly not newly bought, but rather were marbled with antiquating cartographies of sweat and drool stains. Which prompted thought two: how much human and microbiological gunk are these pillows saturated with - said gunk soon to be battered over the heads of strangers and blasted into the air? If this story in the DM is to be believed, rather a lot.

Come to think of it, I do have a bit of a sore throat this morning...