Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Empty Vessel – Part 4

This is the final part of a four part continuing story on Gamboling. Click here to read part 1, part 2 and part 3. And now for the final part of “The Empty Vessel”.

Kurt was crawling. The water level hadn’t changed at all. He was moving but hadn’t heard or seen anything change. Every part of his body was tired and there didn’t seem to be a way out of here. The only option seemed to keep going.

In the distance, Kurt saw a glint of something? A shape? Kurt takes the torch out of his mouth and points it ahead. Something at the top? A hatch?

Kurt puts the torch back in his mouth and carries on crawling. Maybe it is something. He hoped it wasn’t his imagination. He wants to stop and point the torch at it to see what it is. But whenever he stops, he decides to not look and heads towards it blind.

But it wasn’t quite blind. One wall bright, the other black. Above him he sees a slight glint of metal. A wheel handle. He stops crawling and lies on his back and pushes himself with his legs into position. He starts turning the wheel from underneath. It’s jammed hard, but after giving it a forceful shove, he gets it moving slowly. Kurt realises that he doesn’t want to be under the hatch when he gets it open. He slides back, turns the handle. The door flies open, water gushing out into the tunnel. Kurt manages to hang on to the handle. The water is lifting him clean into the middle of the tunnel. His head is being hit from top to bottom

The nurse is back, but with two other men. One looks like a doctor, all in white. The other looks to be a bodyguard, he is wearing a black suit.

The black suit walks over to Kurt and removes his gag.

Kurt knows they’ll be expecting him to blurt something out so he resists the temptation. Best to keep them wanting more from him.

A silly idea

It’s Thursday so it’s archive time. This week we talk a post of mine that was branded “silly” by no greater an authority than Wikipedia.

What’s the idea? Well you’ll have to read the archive posts I guess.

Here’s the idea being introduced

Here’s where wikipedia and the idea became friends

And here’s where wikipedia labelled the idea silly

A good car game

So you know what it’s like: you and your sibling are sitting in the back seat of your parents’ car and you are looking for a game to play. Well I have just the thing. I realise that this isn’t necessarily relevant for my core audience, but if I am introspective for a moment, I have to admit that I didn’t really get into this blog business to be relevant to anyone.

So let me explain what you’ll need to play the game. First you need to persuade your parents to buy a Land Rover. It has to be one of those ones with the bench seats in the back, the kind that mean you are facing your sibling. You probably can’t make those kind of seats anymore so it’ll have to be a second hand Land Rover. Meet me in the next paragraph when you have that sorted.

Right, so you have the car. Now sit opposite your sibling. Here’s the back story: You and your brother or sister are part of an elite task force that is set to guard the vehicle you are in. The Land Rover contains some special-magic-expensive-stuff and you need to keep it safe.

But the only problem is that you work for the government so there are certain rules. You can’t just randomly shoot people. They have to fire the first shot – got that? Good.

All of the of the other cars have had lazer guns fitted into their indicator lights. When they start firing at you, the lights will flash on and off and you must retaliate by shooting back with your hand gun. If you shoot sucessfully then they will fly right off the road. Generally on the side which they were shooting from, probably because that was where you concentrated your heaviest fire.

Now there is one other occasion when you shouldn’t shoot. You do have a forcefield and a superbomb on your land rover. These may be deployed by your parents. They will indicate that they are deploying one or another through the use of indicator lights on your car. If they indicate on the same side as where the car is shooting you from then, obviously, they are deploying the forcefield. If they are indicating on the other side then they are deploying the superbomb that might take out several cars at the same time. On this occasion you can shoot as well but obviously the main damage will be done by the superbomb.

Anyway, my brother and I whiled away many a drive with this classic game. Hope you find these instructions useful.

What will the third generation be amazed at?

This is the continuing series of questions for you in the comments, here’s how it works. I’ll ask you a question, and you either answer in the comments or on your own blog and drop a link to the post.


What will the third generation be amazed at?

In an article the other day, I suddenly found myself remembering being amazed to discover that my great aunt hadn’t had electricity in her house when she was a child. I was thinking that people will be amazed that the pubs used to close at eleven. But what else will our grandchildren’s generation be amazed by? (or if you aren’t planning to have kids, then your friends grandchildren’s generation.*)

Here’s my answer:

The obvious one is the Internet and mobile communication. That you can now be contacted wherever you are and that you can instantly contact everyone. The communications revolution that happened over the last fifteen years is probably the big one.

* if neither your friends nor you are planning to have children, then imagine that you have a friend who is having children, and these children have children. These are the people I want you to think of.

So what do you think the third generation be amazed at?

We’re out of mime

There seems to be a bit of a word collision going on with the words mimetic and memetic. We are going to need to sort this out once and for all. Mimetic already means two things. The first is a study of the way in which animals imitate each other. So if you get a man in to study why your parrot is saying “Polly wants a cracker” then the guy is studying mimetics.

But what would happen if instead of studying the parrot, he was working out how much water would be left in the bird’s drink bowl after a certain amount of time? Well, he’d still be using mimetics. Because to work out the flow of water through a permeable membrane you can’t do all of the equations simultaneously, so you have to work out one equation that represents one bit of it and say, sort of, all of these other equations are a bit like this. The process of using these copycat equations is called mimetics too!

But what about memetics? Well, that’s the study of memes. You know those things where people ask each other to answer a series of blog questions and then they tag their friends to do the same. If you study those, then you are studying memetics. Actually memes are about more than just those strange things on blogs. They are about anything that sweeps the zeitgeist. A meme is any way in which an idea spreads around the world. They were proposed by Richard Dawkins and are, to his mind, the idea equivalent of natural selection. And the concept is about how an idea copies itself. So if the man is asking the parrot what its twitter handle is, it may well be to find out if the twitter meme has reached the parrot yet and so he would probably be studying memetics.

But there is one word missing from all of these. What if the man stops concentrating on the parrot and then decides to run on the spot? What if he suddenly seems to be stuck in an invisible box? What if he’s studying mime? What’s the word for that? There doesn’t seem to be one. But I’m going to guess that it’s going to be mimetics or memetics and I’m not sure that’s wise. I think those words might be full.

The Empty Vessel – Part 3

This is the third of a four part continuing story on Gamboling. Click here to read part 1 and part 2, check back next Friday for the final instalment, but only after you’ve read part 3 of “The Empty Vessel”.

Kurt’s legs felt like they had bursts of flames mixing with the blood pumping through them. Kurt was trying to force them way beyond their now-enfeebled power. Mixed with the pain was the name of Director Smith. He had spent all of this time protecting his name. But now there was a chance for freedom he could pursue his own agenda. Smith had sent him out here to this hell. Now Kurt would pay him back. As long as he could concentrate.

He couldn’t keep running along these corridors, he didn’t know where he was going. They would catch him. He needed to get out of their normal view.

He kept jogging down the corridor, looking in the windows of each room. Each room was an empty replica of where he had been kept in that bed. Suddenly one room looked different, like a store cupboard. He opened the door and entered the room. If it was for storing things, they must have been out of stock. It was almost completely empty.

In the middle of the floor of the room was a hatch with a round wheel locking it to the floor. Kurt set to work turning the wheel. Now his arms began to ache. He got it unlocked, heaved the hatch open, grabbed a torch from the shelf and started to climb down the stairs. Before he closed the hatch he turned on the torch and gripped it in his mouth.

As he climbed down the ladder he was trying to decide which way he would go at the bottom. This could be the most important decision, but how could he decide? Perhaps by dropping a hair and seeing which way the breeze took it? Air heads towards where it is fresh. He got to the bottom and reached for a hair only to remember they had shaved his head.

He looked down at his feet he could feel a small trickle of water. He decided to follow the water. Hopefully it was running out.

He started crawling. Crawling to freedom. Crawling back to Director Smith.

Tune in next week for the final part of “The Empty Vessel”.

Moving Day

So today, being a Thursday, is supposed to be all about the archives and in many ways it is. Gamboling has today moved from blogger to wordpress. This means there has been a bit of a spruce up. You will probably have to change your feed reader to point somewhere else.

Practically it does mean that finally the 2003 / 2004 archive will be moved into the main body of the site. I am working on that at the moment.

Loads of links have probably broken. If something is broken and you spot it then simply let me know.

Just one quick thing to mention… there are a LOT of posts! Crazy.

A little bit of history repeating

After a gig one night, I was sitting in a chip shop with the lead singer of a band. We’d come here because at the time there were very few late licenced venues. All of London would close at eleven – remember that? Madness. That will be one of those things that generations to come won’t believe. Just as I couldn’t believe it when my great aunt recounted to me the introduction of electricity in her house. She had been alive before you had electricity in your house – unbelievable.

Anyway, this chip shop would sell you cans of beer to drink at the table, so we bought a stack and sat down. The lead singer wasn’t from the UK, so there was easy small talk about how things were different here than back home.

She talked about some of the more obvious differences between Iceland and here. Finally I decided to ask her, what was her favourite thing from the UK? She thought for a second, and then I could see that she had decided.

Her favourite thing was the History Channel + 1. The channel that shows what was on the history channel an hour ago. “Why,” I asked, “is that your favourite thing?”

“Because,” she said, “it’s the history of the History Channel, live.”

What’s your favourite thing about one of your appliances?

This is the continuing series of questions for you in the comments, here’s how it works. I’ll ask you a question, and you either answer in the comments or on your own blog and drop a link to the post.


What’s your favourite thing about one of your appliances?

We hopefully all have one of these little things that makes us smile when we use it each and every time. I like things which just work, of course, but I often really like things that just work but do so with a cool little flourish. So what’s yours?

Here’s my answer:

Mine is, I think, the neatness of the vacuum power cord whizzy recoiling device. I know it’s pretty standard. But it works well, and I’m often surprised that more things don’t have them.

So what is your favourite thing about one of your appliances?

Italian restaurants

We currently don’t have an Italian restaurant and it worries me. Well, of course, that’s not exactly true. Senor Grilli on Goodge Street in central London has been a regular haunt of mine since 1998. At our old flat, we had a great one, Aldo’s, but we moved away and it went out of business – this may be related. But since we’ve moved – nothing local.

Why is this important? Well, I’m not entirely sure, but it is to me. All of my life there have been places I’ve been where people know who you are when you walk in the door. And always these places have been Italian. Perhaps this is related to spending some of my formative years in New Jersey.

If I go into Signor Grilli, John asks me how I’ve been. Aldo and I are friends on Facebook. There’s something comforting about it. It’s related to that line in the Billy Joel song, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”.

“I’ll meet you any time you want at our Italian restaurant.”

There’s something homely and comforting about it. You can meet somebody there and just have a beer while you wait, nobody is going to mind. And somebody might even keep you company.

There’s a place down the hill that we’ve seen but haven’t been to yet. Maybe that’s the place? I’ll let you know.