Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

May 2009


GeneralFriday, May 29th, 2009, (6:27 pm)

I have a new car. Actually I’ve had it for a couple of weeks already, but I’m especially enjoying it now that summer has shown up. Who knows how long any English summer will last, I usually escape to America for the assurance of sun and heat. For now at least it would seem that the sun is here making for ideal conditions for me to enjoy my new car.

MGF

The new car is (another) MGF, a British made two seater sports car which I picked up for a bargain from small car dealer in North Wales. My two previous MGF’s have both been ‘British Racing Green‘ but by way of a small change, this one is beautiful shade of metallic blue.

My previous car broke down a few weeks ago, suffering with a possible cam belt failure that might have been the result of damage sustained to the rear of the vehicle in February. It might well be repairable to someone who knows how to fix those kind of things themselves, but to me it was written off by my garage as beyond economical repair.

The new car is a beauty though! I transferred my Sportser roof and rear wind-stop from the old car to this one, and have been enjoying the beginning of a new motoring relationship. I don’t like these cars for their speed, I like them because when it’s not raining I can throw back the roof and enjoy the joy of top-down motoring.

You might think that owning a convertible in Britain is a bit pointless given our famously dreary weather, but apparently Brits buy more convertibles than our continental counterparts. Brits buy twice as many soft-tops as Italians and ten times as many as the Spanish. This despite the fact that on average the UK only gets around 51 sunny days each year, compared to the the average of 140 sunny days enjoyed in Italy and Spain.

According to Guy Fielding, an Oxford psychologist who analysed the motives of those who bought convertibles, Brits associate being in the open air and sunshine with being on holiday. “Driving soft-tops plugs directly into this, helping individuals to create a more relaxed and less stressed state.”

Funnily enough though, one of my favorite times to have the top down is at night. A warm starry night drive is fantastic! Hopefully there will be plenty of those this summer.

MGF

In with the new
Out with the old
Crash!
Hello Sunshine

GeneralWednesday, May 27th, 2009, (4:21 pm)

A couple of weeks ago my Mom and Dad made the journey ‘up north’ to see me and together we played the role of wide eyed tourists around the city of Liverpool. I don’t get to see ‘the olds’ that much so it was fun to hang out with them for a couple of days.

It’s been many years since I traipsed around the museums and galleries of a city with my Mom and Dad. The last time we would have done something like this would probably have been when I was a kid and when the pair of them stood taller than I. Back then, with my brother and sister, we headed into London on a few occasions to check out the sites and museums.

I remember standing on the platform of Chelmsford train station waiting for the big diesel train to rattle into sight slowly coming to rest in front of us. The adventure of getting onto a train and racing to a window seat was exciting. A few minutes later the conductor would come around and give us tickets from a machine that was powered by the turn of a handle. It’s funny how clearly I remember sitting at the window looking at the passing scenery swinging my legs that were too short to reach the floor if I sat back in the seat. Every so often the trains horn would sound sending a rush of delight through me. ‘Make way, make way! We’re going to London.’ I would think to myself.

It’s funny the things that stick in your mind. Like Dad telling me that he stood in the same place on the station platform every single day on his commute to London. He told me how he would sit next to the same people every day. “Do you chat to them?” I asked. “A little bit, but not really.” He replied.

As the train rattled and shook its way along the tracks to Liverpool Street Station, we would eat sweets like ‘Chewits’ with their different colored wrappers. Dad discarded his on the floor of the train and was swiftly told off by Mom. He was keeping someone in a job, a train cleaner he said. But Mom just fixed him the kind of look that told him without words that picking up the wrapper was the only option. He did so, putting it in his pocket as my sister, Louise, and I laughed at how he got told off.

I can’t really recall much about the museums and galleries themselves. The Science Museum was cool because it had space exhibits which you could walk in and out of, buttons you could press that would make things light up, and levers you could pull that would make noises. I do remember thinking that the Victoria and Albert museum must surely be a very boring place. A museum all about some couple called Victoria and Albert wouldn’t likely have buttons to press or levers to pull. It would probably be more like a stuffy old library with adults who tell you to “shush!” all the time, putting there finger on their lips as they look down at you sternly, I thought.

Yayoi Kusama - The Passing Winter

Just as we had done all those years ago, we again took the train into the city. Mom specifically wanted to see the Maritime Museum which was far more interesting that I thought it might be. Something I found a little amusing was the fact that this time, rather than it being me who was zooming past the display cases and carefully arranged artifacts, it was Mom who was speeding her way through the museum. It made no real difference though because the pair of us had to wait for Dad who took his own sweet time wandering through the history laden walkways.

The Tate Gallery was our next stop. It’s a modern art gallery full of pieces that make you wonder why it is you never became the kind of artist who could talk about something like an upside-down glass mannequin in such a way that makes other people feel that can’t say that it’s just an upside-down glass mannequin. There was one piece that made an impression though, ‘The Passing Winter’ by Yayoi Kusama was a glass box made up of mirrors with holes in which you could peer at the amazing infinite reflections.

To round off our day of sightseeing Dad suggested we jump onto an open top bus tour of Liverpool. We sat back and relaxed as it trundled around the city streets telling us facts and figures most of which I’ve already forgotten. If you ever come to this city I would recommend this attraction because you can jump on and off the bus as many times as you like in 24 hours.

Open top tour bus

All in all it was a great weekend. We spent a great deal of the time just chatting. It’s funny how the dynamic between us has changed over the years, yet in many ways it’s remained the same. It wasn’t always easy between us, we had our ups and downs as we all grew up, like most families I guess. But as I chatted with ‘the olds’ over dinner on Sunday I realised that these two people really did do a great job of raising three kids who, though I say so myself, have all turned out to be decent people. We might not be the Walton’s but I’m proud to be the second son of Alan and Jennifer Jones.

GeneralFriday, May 15th, 2009, (1:52 pm)

Following on from my recent post about quitting facebook, it would seem that despite reports about social network fatigue, millions of people out there are still obsessed with telling you they are in the line for a latte, and there seems to be no sign that the masses are growing tired of that shit!

The cool kids are now upping their dose of the social net by now updating their facebook status as well as ‘tweeting’ to the watching world using Twitter, a social network that restricts its users to status updates of no more than 140 characters.

But when our attention spans are no longer able to stay focused to the end of the 140 characters limit of a ‘tweet’ we’ll need to condense our shit down yet again and find a new service to tell everyone that we’re ‘in lne 4 latte @ strbks.”

Enter stage left – Flutter. Squeeze your minute by minute existence into a 26 character limited ‘flap’ that your followers will be able to read in a third of the time they used to spend reading your ‘tweets.’ Flutter will even take your facebook status updates and your tweets and compress them for you! (See the video below.)

Okay, so flutter isn’t real. But the scary thing is that it took you a few moments of watching that video to be sure it was a spoof, and if that doesn’t highlight how dumb this social networking gig is, then nothing will!

Speaking at the South by Southwest tech conference in May, cyberpunk writer, Bruce Sterling, controversially suggested that the clearest symbol of poverty is dependence on “connections” like the Internet, Skype and texting. “Poor folk love their cellphones!” He said.

According to Sterling, the man of leisure savors solitude, or intimacy with friends — original things that stay where they are and cannot be copied and corrupted and shot around the globe with a few clicks of a keyboard. I don’t really agree with his take on the ‘social net’ but I do think there is something to his theory that connections are liabilities that we pretend are assets.

I know, I know, Twitter and the like can have some good uses. In fact a group of friends and I will be using Twitter to ‘microblog’ our trek to John O’Groats in a £100 car this August. Will doing that will make me see the value of being a ‘twit’ I wonder?

Of course, as more of us get ‘smart phones’ the possibilities greatly expand for social network fans. I just hope that iPhone users who use ‘Toilet tracker‘ and the crap filled social networks know that there are some lines you just don’t cross when sharing your shit.

What the heck is twitter?
Why I don’t get facebook
Get your face on my blog
Connectivity is poverty

Found on the webMonday, May 4th, 2009, (3:51 pm)

After writing about Hakim Maloum, who walked across the United States relying on the kindness of strangers, I found an interesting website about something similar. Meet the tweenbots…

Tweenbot

Tweenbots are human-dependent robots that navigate the city with the help of pedestrians they encounter. With a destination displayed on a flag they roll at a constant speed, in a straight line, relying on the people who happen upon them to read this flag and to aim them in the right direction to reach their destination.

The smiley faced cardboard robots are the brainchild of NYU Student, artist and designer, Kacie Kinzer who was interested to see if her tweenbots could traverse sidewalks and streets along with everyone else.

“Given their extreme vulnerability, the vastness of city space, the dangers posed by traffic, suspicion of terrorism, and the possibility that no one would be interested in helping a lost little robot, I initially conceived the Tweenbots as disposable creatures which were more likely to struggle and die in the city than to reach their destination.” Writes Kinzer on the tweenbots website.

Due to their limited technology Kinzer had no way of tracking the Tweenbot’s progress, however she kept a watchful eye on her first Tweenbot filming its progress from a distance with a video camera hidden in her purse.

Surprised by the Tweenbots success at getting to its destination with help from passers-by Kinzer created, and monitored, further ‘missions’ for the Tweenbots.

“Every time the robot got caught under a park bench, ground futilely against a curb, or became trapped in a pothole, some passerby would always rescue it and send it toward its goal. Never once was a Tweenbot lost or damaged. Often, people would ignore the instructions to aim the Tweenbot in the “right” direction, if that direction meant sending the robot into a perilous situation.” Writes Kinzer at the projects website.

“The journey the Tweenbots take each time they are released in the city becomes a story of people’s willingness to engage with a creature that mirrors human characteristics of vulnerability, of being lost, and of having intention without the means of achieving its goal alone. As each encounter with a helpful pedestrian takes the robot one step closer to attaining its destination, the significance of our random discoveries and individual actions accumulates into a story about a vast space made small by an even smaller robot.” Kinzer observed.

For her thesis at ITP Kinzer is currently testing more Tweenbots in New York City, the results of which she plans to make available online. For more information check out tweenbots.com

Tweenbots from kacie kinzer on Vimeo.

Tweenbots
Kacie Kinzer
Walking the walk