I’ll keep my dreams non-lucid, thanks!

I’m a dreamer….not in terms of Peace on Earth, winning the lottery, etc. but more in the line of trying to keep an eye on my own internal, nocturnal landscape.  When I wake up, if I remember a dream, I write it down.  I have dream diaries going back about a decade now, and take a Jungian approach to what Freud called ‘the royal road to the unconcious’.

I’ll occasionally go back over my diaries, look for patterns or recurring issues, think things through and generally get some good insight in to my inner workings by examining my dreams.  I’ve also been known to do a little analysis work for friends and family.

So, I was interested to read this article on the BBC website looking at the area of lucid dreaming.  In case you’ve not come across the concept, the idea is to condition yourself to be able to take control of your dreams by bringing yourself to a state of semi-wakefullness when you’re dreaming that will then allow you to affect the dircetion of the dreams to soem degree whilst still staying in a dreaming state.  This can be done (with practice) by a fair percentage of the population, and there are now technological aids that will either make you more likely to enter a lucid state when going to sleep by a light / sound display or that will play a sound, give you a mild electrical shock, flash a light, etc. by detecting when you are dreaming.

So far, so good – sounds like a good source of cheap, realistic (albeit rather unpredictable) entertainment!  When I was a kid I had a few episodes of lucidity when dreaming – that moment when you realise ‘Oooh…I’m dreaming….can I fly?’ or those nightmares where by sheer will you manage to wake yourself up before unpleasantnesses occur.  And I quite fancied the idea of lucid dreaming when I read about it in my teens, but didn’t follow through – back then the technology was less easy to come by and my capability for any sort of mental discipline was….scarce.

Then I started recording my dreams, got in to Jungian psychology, and decided against the idea of ever ‘going lucid’.  Why?

Well, I believe that my dreams are essentially of three sorts.  The first is reactive stuff – I watch Aliens on TV before going to bed, eat a cheese and marmite sandwich and then have nightmares.  Or my cat lays across my chest and I dream of being suffocated by a cat…

The second is the ‘bread and butter’ dreams of my sub-conscious mind trying to tell me something, to varying degrees of success.  These reflect my inner anxieties, concerns, etc.  Sometimes I get dreams that I recognise as anxiety dreams when I feel OK – then after a few minutes thought I realise that there are a few things causing me concern.  I find that much of the time when I address these issues in my conscious mind then the dreams disappear or change form.  Job done, I guess.

The third, and rarest, type of dreams for me are what Jung called the ‘Big Dreams’ – these are the ones where for days afterwards I’m chewing it over.  the ones where I may wake up in tears of joy or sadness.  The ones that really speak from deep down inside me.

And the latter two types of dream I value the most – the unpredictability, the weirdness, the insights.  None of which would come were I to be in control of my dreams to even a small degree by lucid dreaming. These are the dreams that tell me stuff that I conciously don’t realise about myself, and I wouldn’t be the man I am today (for better or worse!!) had I not had these dreams. Spending my dreaming hours in various ‘fun activities’ would be a waste.

And we don’t know the long term impact of taking control of such a fundamental part of sleep. For very competent lucid dreamers would there be massive ‘American Werewolf’ problems – in the film ‘An American Werewolf in London’ a character wakes from a nightmare, then after a while he finds he’s still dreaming – a dream within a dream.  Would we get people starting to question whether they are awake or whether they have reached some high degree of lucidity?

Quite a bit to ponder; for those who dream lucidly, dream wisely.


Running with the hares and hunting with the hounds….

The title of this piece alludes to an old English saying; to ‘run with the hares and hunt with the hounds’ is a way of saying that someone attempts to benefit from both sides in a dispute.

This saying was bought very much to my mind last week by the actions of two entertainers whose behaviour might be regarded as jarring somewhat with the ‘public persona’ that has made them famous.

The first of these is the satirist Armando Iannucci – described by the Daily Telegraph as ‘the hardman of political satire’ for his work with TV show ‘The Thick of It’ and the film ‘In the loop’. It seems odd that such a person should accept an OBE – which is what has happened.  In other words, satirist honoured by the system that he apparently despises so much, and who then chooses to accept the honour.  Consider yourself neutered, Armando.

The second is Jimmy Carr, comedian and someone who has been shown to be ‘frugal with his tax payments’ by using a legal tax avoidance scheme.  There is an old joke that says ‘What’s the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion? About 7 years in Pentonville prison….’; well, Carr has apparently seen the light and accepted that what he did was wrong.  After all, sheltering 3 million a year from HMRC at a time when most of us are under the cosh might seem a little unfeeling- especially coming from a man who’s humour has included comments about the fact that Barclays Bank only pays 1% tax.  But it’s OK – it’s all a joke, isn’t it?

These two gentlemen, in my eyes, do seem to want the benefits of appearing edgy and slightly risky, whilst apparently accepting all the perks and benefits that the current establishment and economic system have to offer.  To me it leaves a rather nasty taste in my mouth.

I have to say that I’m not a fan of the work of either man – I guess that’s made it easier for me to be grumpy about it – but my estimation of both of them would have gone up had they walked the walk that goes with their talk.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-06-24

  • #natwest problem is a glitch in the same way that Fukushima experienced a minor leak…. #
  • #eurozone #blair stating European integration will go ahead no matter what…'Springtime for Tony'? #
  • #natwest how much are you betting that the cost of sorting this Mongolian Clusterfuck out will eventually turn up as customer bank charges.. #
  • #natwest couldn't happen to a nicer bank. Typical they still manage to apply charges to accounts. I will enjoy every second of their misery. #
  • England dodged a bullet there….. #
  • Rooney's hair transplant may have been mortally wounded…more news as it becomes available….. #
  • Ahhh….I feel more comfortable tonight with England. Poor performance, moments of terror, disappointment from big names…the old England! #
  • Well…that was…average. Perhaps Roy can go the whole way and put Princess Fiona and donkey on to join Shrek… #
  • Hmmm…..felt after 10 minutes that presence of Rooney has distorted team – now convinced after Rooney miss – Carroll would have got it. #
  • Throughout the land, children are watching, pointing to the England number 10 and shouting 'look! It's Shrek!' #
  • Hmmmm…stock markets approve of Greek election result. Looks like the Greek people (and us) are going to get f**ked over… #fb #

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The Last of the Magicians

“He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind which looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10,000 years ago.”

So wrote John Maynard Keynes about Sir Isaac Newton in a lecture he wrote, but never delivered, to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Newton’s birth on Christmas Day, 1642.

I was reminded of this observation the other evening when I was contemplating my ‘life and times’ as a developer come writer come ‘hacker’ (in the original, MIT, sense of the word) in late 1970s and early 1980s.  My life and times with computers started as a spin off from my interest in electronics as a boy – I built a simple computer in my teens, and then took the path of ZX81, Spectrum, BBC Model B, Amstrad 6128.  I was particularly interested in interfacing and robotics – and because of my prior interest in electronics I could handle both the hardware and software side of things.

I had an interest and an aptitude for electronics, analogue and digital, and could understand my computers from the printed circuit board up, so to say – on occasion doing the odd modification to circuit boards to fix things or improve matters.  Looking back, it was possible to trace those 8 bit home computers back through history to the special purpose computers created during and after World War 2 to help with code breaking and other similar applications.

And this was where I started from the other evening – in IT terms, hobbyists and hackers of the 70s/80s were able to trace their activities back in to the ‘Sumerian Period’ of their interest; the world view was similar, just using chips rather than relays. Sometime in the 1980s it all changed; PCs, Macs, etc. came along with (eventually) the sort of day to day access to the Web, Apps and the Internet that we regard as normal. That ability to get involved with all aspects of the machine, from wires to Windows, disappeared.

It seems to me that there is a line back from where we are now, through the 2000s, in to the 1990s and back to those original Macs and PCs – then a hiatus – then back from the home micros via mainframes to the days of Turning Machines, Colossus and ENIAC.  And those of us who remember hacking code and hardware on computers big enough to get your fingers inside are maybe not the first scientists of the modern IT age, but perhaps we are truly the last of the magicians.


Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-06-17

  • Argyll and Bute council stop a kid blogging about school dinners. And people wonder why I regard most local authorities as wastes of space. #
  • If there was a Cameron drinking game based around the words 'I don't remember' we'd all now be pissed…#leveson #
  • Lib Dem MPs seem to have shown a lack of intestinal fortitude today…… #Hunt #
  • .@belfastcc #lennox – beyond the final No there is still the possibility of Yes, and on that all hope rests. Say Yes to saving Lennox. #
  • via @justamomtob: desperately need RTs. Where is #lennox being held in Belfast..we may be able to save him”. #SaveLennox #
  • Hmmmmm…..maybe a 'Trainspotting' themed opening ceremony for the Olympics would have been a better bet….. #
  • The power of the yellow label is strong in hillsborough morrisons this morning! #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-06-10

  • We passengers have now been told by a loud man a dozen times that some buses are to be rebodied. Restraing myself… #sheffield #
  • Bugger. Ray Bradbury dies. Was reading some of his short stories over the weekend. Very sad. http://t.co/PtF76x3l #fb #
  • Now that would be silly, @britmic. The Czechs did ok with Havel – surely we could find our equivalent? #republic in reply to britmic #
  • To those who ask abt who would be UK president- doesn't have to be politician. There are thousands of other possibilities in uk. #Republic #
  • To those who ask abt who would be UK president- doesn't have to be politician. There are thousands of other possibilities in uk. #Repulican #
  • Jubilee exploitation – makes you puke. http://t.co/nfgLO4eg How's that 'proud to be British' thing working for you today? #
  • Repeats of Inspector Morse and Have I Got News For You seem a better bet than this concert dooberry…… #
  • Spent a quiet afternoon and evening watching old whodunnits and good-bad tv on Alibi. Anything happening in the world? #fb #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-06-03

  • Journalists being prevented from getting near anti-jubilee protests by police, despite having press credentials. #jubileeprotest #
  • I'm sure that I just heard that the amount of gold leaf on the barge thingies is enough to cover a soccer pitch. Austerity? #
  • This flotilla – about to set out as a revenge raid on Holland fo the Medway raid in the 17th century? #
  • Osborne spending out of recession – clearly doing what he's told by the IMF! #
  • We are bunting. We will assimilate your architectural and decorative uniqueness into our own. Resistance is futile… #buntingkills #
  • Oh the horror – bunting covered blimp explodes in flames landing at Lakenhurst, New Jersey… #buntingkills #
  • #buntingkills bunting causes low flying birds to crash in the streets, exploding on impact and killing party goers…. #
  • Hope we don't find @richarddignall cocooned by that spider that went for me this morning! #

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‘Does Microsoft move the cheese too often?’

Every now and again I bother to read something about my profession.  I know that this sounds rather bad – continuous professional development and all that stuff – but usually I’m too busy doing stuff to read about what others are doing or what I might be doing in 2 years time.  And so I encountered this little piece:


I am a professional .NET developer (OK…I make money by writing code using .NET – my professionalism is up to my clients and employer to comment on!) and yes, it’s a rapidly changing world.  But that doesn’t mean that you have to adapt what you’re doing all the time to keep up with Microsoft.  Now, I can already hear the ceremonial disembowelling cutlasses being sharpened by more hardcore developers, but let’s continue…

I still write code using the .NET 2.0 and .NET 3.5 frameworks, as well as .NET 4.0  Why? Three reasons:

  • The earlier frameworks often do everything that the application needs to do.
  • I understand how they work better than .NET 4.0.  So, I find it faster to create code and hence solve the customer’s problems.
  • The customer may not have (or want to have) the most up to date framework on their machines.  And who am I to say otherwise if the earlier stuff does the job?

Whilst there are some very sensible reasons for making use of the most current, stable version of any technology, it’s worth remembering that many people don’t care what you develop their software in as long as it works, is maintainable and doesn’t cost them the Earth. the preoccupation with newer, shinier stuff comes mainly from us – the developers – who get hooked in to the stuff that the tool makers – Microsoft et al – produce. If we said ‘No, bugger off’ more frequently things might settle down.

I also develop software in PHP and JavaScript, and maintain a lot of legacy stuff in Microsoft VB6.  I do this because, bluntly, people pay me to do it.  And therein lies the answer to the question above.  Microsoft change stuff reasonably frequently – that’s their privilege.  It’s also our privilege to not get roped in to the constant change process.  Remember WHY we write code – it’s to solve problems – not keep the develoeprs at Redmond in gainful employment.

Remember our customers – they’re the people who should matter to us – not Microsoft’s behaviour.