Last tango in Sheffield…

It’s safe to say that I do not have a body built for dance – well, unless you count the thing they do in Lederhosen that involves bumping bottoms and slapping thighs and faces as dancing. 

I have slightly flat feet, dodgy knees and no sense of coordination.  I don’t dance like my dad – it’s way worse than that!  If I were a horse I’d have been led out behind the barn and turned into ‘Fido’s Juicy Morsels’ years ago.

But….I like tango music!  I think that if I were ever granted a wish to be able to dance ONE formal dance well, it would be the Tango. 

I suppose I should blame Tom Lehrer….I think my interest started from hearing Mr Lehrer’s excellent Masochism Tango.   I mean – how can one resist a song with lyrics like:

At your command before you here I stand
My heart is in my hand – yecch 

that was written in the 1950s, pre-dating the Goth kids by four decades…. 

I think the next time I came across the Tango was performed by Gomez and Morticia Addams in ‘Addams Family Values’.  Again – excellent!

There’s a line in ‘Scent of a Woman’ (see below) where Gabrielle Anwar’s character says that she wanted to learn the dance but that her boyfriend thought that the Tango was ‘hysterical’.  I think I see where he was coming from – it is so mannered and passionate that to some people it may appear as overly emotional – hysterical – or quite amusing. 

Which brings me to my next exhibit…

I think the thing that finally got me ‘hooked’ on the music was the scene in the movie ‘Scent of a Woman’ where Al Pacino, playing a blind, retired military officer dances a tango with Gabrielle Anwar.  It’s a great scene for all sorts of reasons – take a look at it here and enjoy – and there’s a couple of good quotes in there, especially ‘Some people live a lifetime in a minute’.

The dance is a great affirmation of life and passion; a few minutes searching on YouTube will reveal quite a few videos of excellent dancing, and a similar period of time searching Spotify or any other online music resource will reveal a large amount of music, both traditional Tango and modern combinations of Tango and Electronica, like that produced by ‘The Gotan Project’.

For the purists, the Tango referred to above is the ‘Argentine Tango’ which is less formalised and structured than the ‘Ballroom Tango’.  I may not be able to dance it, but I can enjoy it!  Funnily enough, within a few days of me starting to write this piece I came across two of my friends who were expressing an interest in learning the Tango, and heard that a bar in Sheffield might be running lessons. 

Maybe I should go along to watch…

Liberals and ‘acceptable’ bigotry

Vatican FlagThe last visit from a Pope to the UK before the most recent one was back in 1982 – I’m old enough to remember that one.  I was just finishing university at the time, and I remember doing some revision while the visit was on TV in the background.

But it was not a state affair – that is, the Pope was not invited by the Queen and was not given treatment accorded to a head of state. This time around, he is.  The visit has cost the taxpayer £12 million, and has upset a vocal minority in the UK who’re objecting to the papal visit with regard to:

  • The Holy See doesn’t meet the rqeuirements for a state under the Montevideo Protocols
  • The Catholic Church’s  beliefs on homosexual rights
  • The Catholic Church’s failure to deal adequately with paedophilia within the priesthood
  • The Church’s rejection of condoms causing the spread of AIDS
  • The Church’s support for segregated education
  • The refusal of the Vatican to sign various international human rights treaties, and instead form concordats with other countries, that have negative effects on human rights issues for people within those countries.

The full list is here.   And the list is totally accurate – the Catholic Church does need to get it;s house in order on a lot of issues, and at the same time the Vatican needs to review it’s links to other countries in the world.  As an Anglican I don’t have to believe in Papal infallibility; the Catholic Church and the Vatican must get their act together. 

However, it’s likely that very few world leaders could happily jump through all the hoops here.  I assume therefore that we’ll eventually see:

  • Protests against President Obama for continuing human rights problems at home and abroad.
  • Protests against President Sarkozy for his treatment of the Roma population.
  • Protests against the Dalai  Lama (who regards homosexual sex as ‘sexual misconduct’)

Will we see protests against these leaders? It may happen….who knows…but I doubt they would have the same amount of vehemence from corners of the liberal establishment  and press that this Papal visit has seen.  In size, the number of protesters has been quite small compared to the numbers obviously supporting the visit, but the media attention given to the protesters seems to have been disproportionately large compared to the amount of  support the protests have garnered.

What has really upset me, though, is the bigotry and sheer offensiveness that I’ve seen from people that I know personally; indeed, some folks have now been given a permanent leave of absence from my Facebook and Twitter accounts; it’s not that I disagree with their beliefs, it’s just the way those beliefs were expressed.  Indeed, I’ve heard comments that must come pretty close to inciting religious hatred from some so-called liberals and ‘progressives’, and whilst I can understand they’re angry about the attitudes expressed by the Pope and the Vatican, it’s worth them remembering the simple rule of thumb that ‘Two wrongs do not make a right’.

It’s been an eye-opener, to be honest; I have to say that seeing 18th Century expressions of ‘anti-popery’ made by people who surely regard themselves as civilised people living in the 21st Century was quite something.  Maybe teh liberal veneer on soem people is a lot thinner than they’d like to think.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-09-26

  • On a less serious note…why do I keep thinking of 'Pitt the Younger' in Blackadder when I see Ed Miliband? #lab10 #
  • Sky news yet again showing bias – trying to say EM hasn't a mandate. Bollocks. He got more votes. Simples. #lab10 #
  • Congrats to Ed Miliband…but calling him 'red' or 'left wing'???? Huh??? #lab10 #
  • RT @AskAaronLee: REMINDER: Don't start a tweet with @username if u want all your followers to see it. by @sharonhayes #
  • Rupert Sheldrake's site – online experiments to take part in – #
  • Sad news – hope they sort it! RT @radar: Lessons learned from Diaspora's security holes. #
  • via @leashless: Bono’s anti-poverty ONE foundation received $14,993,873 – more than $8 million was spent on salaries #
  • RT @emptyhomes: Mothballed regeneration projects could provide shelter for homeless. It's criminal to leave them empty #
  • How ridiculous. Dot-con again? RT @mashable: Facebook Now Worth More Than Dell, eBay, Yahoo or Starbucks… on Paper – #
  • Back in Sheffield and looking forward to working normality! #
  • Dawkins just doesn't know when he's losing supporters, does he? He comes over like a caricature of Ian Paisley. #
  • Re. Games village. In India, only 89% of population have water supply; only 28% have sanitation. Fucked up priorities to spend on games? #
  • RT @M_Fkill: Surely this describes HTML5, it aready exists can't see why it needs 10mEuros of funding #
  • RT @dontgetfooled: New estimates suggest that Mao's "Great Leap Forward" led to 45 million deaths in 4 years: #
  • The chap in the BBC who forgot to pay #moyles is a true public servant and benefactor! #
  • Did anyone here in the UK get hit by the Twitter Worm, or are people just having a panic? #
  • Hardly – poor headline. I didn't even notice attack. RT @socialmediamind: Worm attack turns Twitter to gibberish: #
  • RT @CSLewisDaily: The devil loves 'curing' a small fault by giving you a great one. – C.S. Lewis #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-09-19

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All things

A Facebook friend of mine (and an author whose work I’ve admired for over years) Jessica Lipnack shared this article – – it’s a good read. I particularly liked the bit about finding ‘Maggie May’ on the car radio – that sort of thing happens a lot in my life and over the years I’ve made lots of jokes about the role of coincidence (and later on synchronicity) in my life. It’s no accident, therefore, that one of my favourite episodes of ‘The X-Files’ didn’t involve Smoking Man, alien abduction or other nasties; it was a nicely done, low key story called ‘all things’ in which Scully had a set of experiences based around coincidence and synchronicity that explored the issues of letting go and moving on. It’s a great episode – also features Moby on the soundtrack, so check it out.

I came across the concept of synchronicity when I started studying Jung. Whereas no one has any problem with coincidence, I find that checking out someone’s thoughts on synchronicity are a good indication as to the open-mindedness of that person. Coincidence is literally that unrelated events that whilst they may appear to be in some way linked to an observer are actually happening in a way that is perfectly explicable with the laws of probability and chance and lack ‘connectedness’. Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner. To count as synchronicity, the events should be unlikely to occur together by chance – Jung referred to the phenomenon as an ‘acausal connecting principle’ – doesn’t exactly run off the tongue….

My favourite example of Synchronicity was reported by Jung himself – during a rather heated debate with Freud about whether the phenomenon actually existed or not :

“I had a curious sensation. It was as if my diaphragm were made of iron and were becoming red-hot — a glowing vault. And at that moment there was such a loud report in the bookcase, which stood right next to us, that we both started up in alarm, fearing the thing was going to topple over on us. I said to Freud: ‘There, that is an example of a so-called catalytic exteriorization phenomenon.’ ‘Oh come,’ he exclaimed. ‘That is sheer bosh.’ ‘It is not,’ I replied. ‘You are mistaken, Herr Professor. And to prove my point I now predict that in a moment there will be another such loud report! ‘Sure enough, no sooner had I said the words that the same detonation went off in the bookcase. To this day I do not know what gave me this certainty. But I knew beyond all doubt that the report would come again. Freud only stared aghast at me. I do not know what was in his mind, or what his look meant. “

I’ve experienced quite a lot of coincidence and whilst few of my personal experiences have matched some of the more ‘out there’ ones featured in Martin Plimmer’s Beyond Coincidence – – I have had a few good ones over the years. Episodes of Synchronicity I’m not sure of – the one that immediately springs to mind was around the death of my Mother, although I’m aware of the sceptic’s viewpoint that at such times one seeks meaning in all sorts of things. My mother had been ill in hospital, in a coma, and it was purely a matter of time before she passed on. It was approaching Easter, and she died in the early hours of Good Friday, during a Lunar Eclipse, which I’ve always considered as being some how appropriate.

I’ve had many others over the years – I sometimes tell people some of the stories about me and coincidence / synchronicity and I start thinking that people reckon I’m making up tall stories! Another goodie involves our first cat – when we moved to Sheffield we were regularly visited by a black and white cat who used to sit and watch me work in our kitchen. At the time, I was negotiating for work with a magazine company based in Stockport and they suggested that an editor of theirs, who lived in Sheffield, should come and visit me. After a brief phone call, it transpired that the editor lived around the corner from me and we could see the backs of each others houses. When he visited, which coincided with one of the many visits of the ‘stray’ cat, we found that the cat belonged to him.

I keep an open mind on things like this; as a Christian I’m happy to see the presence God in all things, and I’m also happy to experience coincidence and synchronicity as well – maybe the latter is just well hidden Divine Intervention…

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-09-12

  • RT @Lisaansell: RT @fightoppression: On night before 9/11, New Yorkers voice strong support for Muslim community center #
  • RT @TweetSmarter: Chock full of good advice…& free: The 94-page Twitter Mania Manual [Word Doc] #
  • Bruce Springsteen, Bonny Rait, Richard Hawley, Anna Nalick….more Randomness! Spotify playlist: Random Jottings 2 #
  • LOL! Excellent! RT @tonycarroll: Pastor Terry Jones isn't the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy. #
  • In summer 2009 Twitter tried and failed to trademark 'Tweet' – that's probably why they have 'usage rules'… #
  • RT @Hills_Forum: Empty shops report reveals north/south divide in retail (via @NewStartMag) over 21% vacant in Sheffield #
  • RT @Donal_Blaney: via @iaindale Morons burning the Koran should read it and then argue their case with muslims. Crass act will backfire. #
  • Must so piss people off to see how generous we evil 'westerners' are…. (via Guardian) #
  • Onsite day today – hoping for a very focused day finishing a piece of work. #
  • Whoops! Up there with guy who didn't sign the Beatles! RT @TweetSmarter: Newsweek in 1995: Why the Internet will Fail. #
  • Bobby Diamond and Rich Ricci are the real names of Barclays Senior Managers…I kid you not. #
  • Ahhh…one of my less favourite jobs completed – cat litter tray emptying! #
  • RT @theintelligiser: Tip of the day – be strong people resist the urge to spend 5 minutes playing with today's Google logo b4 each search #
  • Intending a day of very focused development work…whether I'll manage it is another matter! #
  • Absolutely stunned that there are still some folks who think you can't be involved in regeneration work if you're 'middle class'….. #
  • New Blog Post – The Death of Google Wave – why I couldn't get my head around it… #
  • RT @JaneAstra: RT @tehgroon: the most shocking thing about these tabloid stories on Wayne Rooney is that he's figured out how to use skype #
  • In to Church and off the Net for now! #
  • Ahhhh….good to see that with stories of naughtiness in high places the UK press focuses on Wayne Rooney…. #
  • RT @dontgetfooled: RT @shadowsans: Full story of #metgate in today's New York Times. #
  • Good morning! Enjoying the relative quiet of the Bole Hills. #
  • I like it! RT @tonycarroll: RT @dancowling: Building A Community Development Program That Creates Real Change #
  • #Coulson apparently asked Guardian Journalist to try and keep telephone-tapping stories out of paper – #
  • RT @juliandobson: A sign of the times: the 'Regeneration in hard times' conference I was due to speak at this month has been cancelled. .. #
  • RT @johncusack: and for good measure– #
  • #sheffield #php #net – seeking some short, quick turnover development work to bolster cashflow over next month…. #
  • Replace cheap and effective tech with expensive tech…hmmmm…RT @guardiantech: iPhone set to replace the stethoscope #
  • Very sad – young and cheap wins out in Silicon Valley – #
  • Making fine progress on site mods – amazing how a combination of imminent bills and clients willing to pay quickly motivates you!! #
  • No bigot like an old bigot… #

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The Death of Google Wave

Not for Google Wave the sudden death; more a slow, drawn out lingering farewell on the life support machine of ‘development has been stopped’. I guess it gives the boys at Mountain View the opportunity to change their minds if the pressure gets too much. The demise of Wave doesn’t actually surprise me; I’m surprised that it’s lived as long as it has done.

Here’s the story of my experiences with Google Wave.

When it was first announced, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it – a sort of mash-up of email, instant messaging, social networking, blogging and online discussion forum. I received my invitation and got signed up. I have to say that I wasn’t an early adopter – to be honest I wasn’t sure what I was going to use it for and I’m past the stage in my life where I have to try out all new technology the day it comes out – life is way too short to be someone else’s Beta-Tester….

And there we hit problem number 1. I knew that Wave would not work with IE, so I signed in with Firefox, and had a few problems there as well. OK, Google, you want me to use Chrome so I will do – and I was sorely disappointed when I still couldn’t get the equivalent of a profile set up on my Wave account – the special form of Wave that stores such information just wasn’t playing with me. I contacted Google technical support, scoured discussion groups and found that others experienced the same problem. I was told by Google that it was something to do with my account, but not how to deal with it. Various other folks suggested that it was ‘just one of those things’ that might get fixed at some point, but for now it was a problem that bothered some users.

OK…I could live with it.

The second thing is that getting a Wave account is rather like buying the first telephone in your circle of friends – because of the social nature of Wave you need a few friends to make it worthwhile. You can use it without other folks in your network using it – but it rather misses the point. So, next, find your friends. And that was the next sticking point for most IE using, Firefox using, non-techies that I knew – why should they bother trying to get on to a new social networking / communications / chat / mail / what have you system where most of their friends AREN’T?

However, I have a number of techy pals and people who’re interested in emerging technologies, so I got a few folks on-boad.

OK…I could live with it.

We then hit the issue of exactly what to do with Wave. For one project we did try using it to discuss design ideas and such, but we found that it was more convenient to use an existing issue / bug handling system already in place for the organisation. Another couple of people I knew attempted to kick off various waves but it just felt like we were using Wave for the sake of using Wave. I was reminded to some degree of a great piece of software (IMO) from the 1980s called Lotus Agenda – it did all sorts of clever stuff but conceptually was a mare to get your head around – but at least Lotus provided a few samples of what could be done.

And I think that this was, in the end, the thing that did Wave for me – I couldn’t honestly think of an application within my circle of friends and professional contacts that couldn’t be done better with a different tool. There’s an approach to software utility development that I often adopt that I was taught very early on in my career; build tools to do specific jobs very well – and if possible, make those tools so that they’ll talk to each other. Now Wave attempted to combine e-mail, social networking, instant messaging, file sharing and online discussion forums in a way that doesn’t really give the advantages of the individual technologies but requires a change in working practice, in many cases change of browsing software and a cultural / behavioural change amongst participants to get them ‘on board’.

And that’s why I’m not terribly surprised that Wave hasn’t taken off; I am hopeful that if Google release the code in to the wild as an Open Source project we might see some new projects spring from it. But I’m still to be convinced that the ‘Wave’ concept of multi-mode online communication all in one place is going to be popular – especially if it requires you to sign up to yet another site and maybe even change browsers.