Hunting Blue

It’s lunchtime in the Bannister and Shamrock when my client walks in. You know the place; it used to be the Rose and Crown but now it’s some horrible faux-Oirish dump because the brewery are idiots. Anyway, it’s near to my flat and cheap enough, so the pub remains the nearest thing I have to an office. My client — no names, I work under a strict cover of professional confidentiality — tells me that she is looking for Blue. At first, I thought she meant a person or a dog or something.

“No, Mr. Sherringford. I’m talking about the colour.”

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Why Does the Sweet Potato Pine?

Why does the sweet potato pine?
It pines for it knows
The other potatoes.
The regal King Edward sat up on its throne,
Holding court over spuds white and red:
Its herald, the Rooster,
Maris Piper, the sheriff,
Ambassadors Arran Victory, Yukon Gold.
The sweet potato pines for it has no place in this court,
And thinks monarchy outdated and cruel

Why does the sweet potato pine?
It pines for it knows
The other potatoes.
Paupers, lives blunted and cruel.
Baby Gem, so innocent, until boiled up and sliced,
Salad Blue just a novelty by now.
The mocking appellation of the Jersey Royal,
Still a peasant, along with the rest.
The sweet potato pines for it was once overlooked,
But showed kindness, unlike the rest.

Why does the sweet potato pine?
It pines for it knows
The other potatoes
The Majestic, glory faded but not letting go;
Desiree, who once was a star.
Violetta, made up in indigo and blue.
Famed names: Lady Balfour, Picasso, Vivaldi,
Not a one with their namesake’s longevity.
The sweet potato pines for it has celebrity.
But never let fame go to its head.

Why does the sweet potato pine?
It pines for it knows
The other potatoes,
And they’re all utter bastards.

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Meat is Murder

A cyberpunk roleplaying game about having the best stuff

This is very unapologetically 80’s cyberpunk — cybernetics rather than gene-tailoring and shit like that. All money is in Euro, and all numbers are written in European notation; one hundred thousand Euro is €100.000,00 but nobody cares about cents. Cash is good. Stuff is better. Meat is worthless.

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Mirrored from ZeroPointInformation.

Originally posted at Dreamwidth.


As some of you may already have heard, [personal profile] grendelsmere and I have separated.

We're still friends, so please don't think it's an either-or when it comes to inviting us to stuff or anything.

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I fucked up my glasses last week, rolled over and smashed one of the lenses. Joy. Made an appointment for the optician on Friday, and got in to see him today. My big plan was to see if I could get contacts. I do a lot of looking out of the edges of my eyes when crossing the road or checking the mirrors when driving and and so something that allowed me to see crisply wherever my eyes were pointing would be really nice.

This is possibly because I only started wearing glasses in 2009. Before then, I had 28 years of focusing perfectly well where my eyes, rather than my face, is pointing. I thus don’t have all of the tics, all of the bits and bobs relating to turning my head in order to see something properly. If I need to look up at something, Imma look up with my eyes. If I need to see the top of my head, well, Imma turn my head down and my eyes up like I always bloody have done.

Fortunately, I’m short-sighted so I don’t lose too much focus when shaving my head, or I’d be a whole lot more scarred.

Unfortunately, the optician put the kibosh on that whole plan. The astygmatism in my left eye is at the point that contact lenses won’t fix it, unless I go for hard lenses — and I’m not spending that kind of money on a what-if. It’s glasses or nothing. So right now I’m back to sporting my spare pair, with all of the inherent downsides — no lens thinning, no anti-reflective, anti-glare, or photochromatic coatings, and a pair of frames that felt fine in the shop but that are juuuuust too tight after extended wear. Joy.

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On Being Punched in the Tits by a Lightning Bolt

I was defibrillated yesterday.

I’ve had a chance to use practice AEDs on fake people as part of my first-aid certification. I’ve never had to use them in anger. This wasn’t like that, though. I knew they were going to do it, hell, I pushed for them to do it because it was so fucking cool.

Spoiler: It was kinda an anticlimax.

I should point out that I was conscious for the whole event, I chose to get zapped, it was pretty much guaranteed to work, and had no real chance of making things worse. I wasn’t in the kind of state where people would need to drag an AED over to me or anything — I still had a pulse, it was just really fucking fast and not regular. At no point was my life in danger or anything like that; I got a taxi to the hospital rather than an ambulance.

Monday, 01:15

Get out of bed, unable to sleep. Have a glass of water. Stand up, stretch, click back, feel a weird heart rhythm start. Mutter “Oh, fuck, not again.” Control breathing. Drink some water. Start reading a book, as I’ll be awake until this shit’s finished.


Remember I have beta blockers in the flat. Take one. Wait twice the usual amount of time. It doesn’t work.


Realise that this is the longest-running instance. Panic a bit. Have another glass of water. Finish the book, and return to bed in the hopes of maybe sleeping through the last of it, instead feel like my heart’s bouncing around my chest.


Get up, go see GP. He sends me off to Leith to get an ECG. For the first time since I’ve had these abnormal rhythms, it’s lasted long enough that the ECG finds evidence. Yay atrial fibrillation, only without the yay.


Turns out the place in Leith has a cardiologist in to see out-patients one day a week. That one day is Monday. He very kindly has a look over the results (kindly as I’m not one of his patients) and explains what’s going on. In short: hie myself to the hospital, where they can either administer drugs to slow things down, or restart my heart with motherfucking electricity.

Decisions, decisions.


Accident and Emergency is quiet; I barely have time for a sip of water after signing in before the triage nurse takes a look. The fingertip pulse monitor says I’m at 63 BPM. Which is odd, because I can feel it faster than that in my wrist. She goes to get another EGC “just to check”.

The actual heart monitor shows that I’m pushing 214 beats per minute. Seeing the number spikes it above 220, which is the point that my vision goes blurry and kinda grey and I start breathing very deeply. Everything goes by rather quickly.


I’m on a bed in the resuscitation room of A&E. The doctor has tried a couple of mechanical means of fixing the atrial fibrillation (hey, anything with a 40% success rate and no side effects is worth a shot) to no avail. So now I have a full heart monitor hooked up with a screen that I can see as well as one for the medics. I can see that my average heart rate is 191 BPM.

Once again he explains the options. Once again, I beg for lightning.

Oxygen and something closer to morphine than I’ve had before. I get a bit sleepy. I recognise the pads they slap on, they’re the same style as the ones in our AEDs. Some white stuff, I don’t remember the name, then I have a little sleep.

It’s 2040. Our president is a plant.

My glasses aren’t on my face. Huh. When are they going to shock me?


They already have, you idiot. It worked. I feel so much better. My bed’s wheeled off to a corner for observation with a portable monitor, so nurses can hear and fix things if it turns out that the abnormal rhythm comes back. I have another little sleep; this time I can see my watch and know it’s only ten minutes.


I’m released, with some notes on what to do if it happens again.


The painkillers wear off. Jesus fuck this feels like I’ve been punched in the tits with a lightning bolt.

It’s later that I realise that I actively wanted people to turn my goddamn heart off and on again to fix it. I’ve been working in tech support for too long. Realising that there was a wee second there where my heart wasn’t actually doing anything is a bit freaky.


I’ve had maybe four instances of an irregular heart ryhthm over the past six years. This was the first one to last more than a couple of hours. It identified the issue as atrial fibrillation, which means I know what to do the next time it happens (wait for it to go away, take a beta blocker, try the 40% thing, then go get zapped).


I don’t know what hurt more: my chest after the painkillers wore off, or removing all the heart monitor pads.

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The results of my lifetime are a string of nil-nils

I have a lot of stuff to do. I do not have any motivation. The well is dry right now.

The closure of the coffee place at work for the summer may have something to do with things.

I need to make some tangible progress with something or I'm going to feel like crap, and I'd rather not. But what? Grr.

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The Assassination of Jo Cox

For those who haven’t been following the news today: Jo Cox, the MP for Batley and Spen, was assassinated by a man who allegedly shouted “Britain First” as he stabbed and shot her.

This is the first murder of a sitting MP since Ian Gow in 1990. Excluding those killed in the context of Ireland, this is the first assassination of a sitting MP since 1812.

Jo Cox was an activist for the campaign to keep the UK in the European Union. Prior to becoming an MP in 2015, she was head of policy for Oxfam, and an anti-slavery campaigner.

Britain First are a fascist/neo-Nazi group strongly opposed to EU membership, immigration, multiculturalism, and (in their own words) “the islamisation of the United Kingdom”.

While some people are at pains to point out that the assassin may not have had any direct ties with Britain First, evidence exists that he was a supporter of the Springbok Club, an organisation that defended and supported the white supremacist apartheid regime in South Africa.

The whole thing has left me feeling a weird mix of anger, outrage, and despair. What has happened is so utterly abhorrent that I can’t process it in real-time.

The UK is currently embroiled in a war for the Conservative party leadership, being played out via the proxy of our membership of the European Union. Funnily enough, the people who want out of the EU tend to be white billionaires who can buy the laws they want in the UK but not the EU, or racist idiots. Up until a few weeks ago, I could agree that there were intellectually-coherent reasons for people on the left to vote to leave the EU. The exit camp has gone out of their way to demolish all of those reasons. Leaving the EU could allow us to make a better UK, but that’d require us also dismantling our current system of government. As that’s not going to happen, if/when we leave things will get worse. Even the thinnest pretence has been swept away and subtext has been rendered into text. Anyone on the left who thinks exiting the EU is a good thing is putting ideological purity over the lives of vulnerable people, and can thus hurry up and fuck off.

Make no mistake: this is a vote for the flavour of Tories who are going to fuck us, and the exit camp are the greater evil.

Both sides of the official referendum campaigns are totally useless, mind. Both sides have played up the fear of “immigration”, but the leave camp has gone further, going on about “closing our doors” and “taking our country back” from said immigrants. For those reading along in foreign climes, it’s a barely more subtle class of racism than pronouncing ‘negro’ with two ‘g’s.

Here’s Nigel Farage, someone who really should have been just a stain in his dad’s sock, deciding that he’s quite happy taking PR lessons from Josef Goebbles:

The campaigns to leave the EU, then, have used straight up racism and Nazi propaganda. They encouraged the mindset of the assassin and his allies — hell, they normalised it. But it’s not like this is a recent thing. The history of racism in the UK is tied in to immigration, after all — our black and Asian populations are almost all migrants. “Immigrants” has been the go-to dog-whistle for racists since the 1940s, soon joined by “Political Correctness gone mad!”

We’ve made a hell of a lot of progress as a society since then, but at the same time the Overton window has shifted right. This has mostly been driven by newspapers, with the Sun and the Daily Mail and the Daily Express blazing a trail of screaming about evil immigrants stealing jobs and getting unemployment benefits at the same time somehow don’t think just hate hate hate hate. That message sells newspapers, which puts advertisements in front of eyes and generates revenue, despite the message being total shit.

People — mostly white people in England over the age of 50 — say “you can’t talk an honest talk about immigration these days” before going off on exactly the racist tirade they’ve just informed you can’t be said. And you can try saying that to them, you can try saying “Dad, you just said we couldn’t have the conversation we just had, how’s that supposed to work?” but he’ll just repeat “You can’t talk about it.”

As a society, we made it taboo to be racist, and people like to challenge taboos. It makes them feel put upon, they’re the kind of person who claims that middle-class white English men are the last 'oppressed minority’. Because it’s taboo, people rise up to challenge those taboos at a larger level. They claim that they’ll say what nobody else will, ignoring that a whole fuckload of people are saying just that while claming they can’t say it. Which is almost as confused a sentence as it is an experience.

What we ended up with, in the UK, is a far-right party — UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party — who shot into the media spotlight. For the past six years they’ve had near constant coverage on political programming. The Green Party in England had an elected Member of Parliament in 2010. UKIP did not. Yet if you looked at political television, radio, and print media you’d think that UKIP were as important as the Conservative or Labour parties and the Greens didn’t exist.

The Overton window progressed right, and UKIP was there waiting. They didn’t just normalise racism, they legitimised it. It wasn’t just this thing that everyone thinks but nobody says. They had a political party! They had people on Question Time! Britain First and their ilk saw their views (albeit watered down for middle England) represented as a legitimate position in the mainstream.

Then, come the election last year, it got worse. The Tories did their own legitimising. They were bricking it about losing seats to UKIP, so they tacked right. Parts of the Conservative party — notably, many of proponents of leaving the EU — took up the same racist rhetoric in order to capture the votes of people who would have gone to UKIP. What do our neo-Nazi cunts think then? It’s not just a third party saying what they’ve been saying, it’s one of the big two!

A combination of the legitimisation of fascistic views and the frenzy of racism spewing from this idiotic referendum directly lead to the assassination of a sitting MP by someone claiming affiliation with a fascist group.

This whole thing scares the living shit out of me.

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Reading Lists

I’ve been reading books. Shocking, I know. While I could recommend SF/F, I’m going to assume that people reading this already know to read things like The Fifth Season and Ancillary Justice, so instead I’m going to focus on some other shit.

A Burglar’s Guide to the City

If there is a general law of urban criminality here, it’s that cities get the type of crime their design calls for

This is the thesis statement of A Burglar’s Guide to the City, a look at urban architecture through the eyes of burglars, herein treated as idiots-savants who make use of architecture to their own ends; people for whom a Dumpster against a thin wall is a better entrance than a locked and alarmed door, who can read a building’s layout from windows and fire escapes based on the city’s fire code. The author puts everything together using the stories of both burglars and the police, and he has a natural narrative voice that I found very readable indeed.


Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality

Compassion is the ability to see what needs doing right now and the willingness to do it right now.

Brad Warner used to play in a punk band. Then he became a Buddhist and moved to Japan to be the man inside the rubber suits in kaiju movies. Part memoir, part an exploration of his particular branch of Buddhism, I’m very impressed by the degree to which he goes in to the why of Zen, and the importance of questioning everything — including his own words. It’s interesting in its frankness and openness about the practice of Buddhism and how that applies to the world as it stands.



If I can get you to make a commitment (that is, to take a stand, to go on record), I will have set the stage for your automatic and ill-considered consistency with that earlier commitment. Once a stand is taken, there is a natural tendency to behave in ways that are stubbornly consistent with the stand.

I know, it’s badged as a “Collins Business Essentials” book, but it’s so much more than that. Influence lays bare the psychology of compliance — the techniques used by everyone from advertisers to interrogators to change people’s behaviour. It’s the science of making you want what I want you to want. It shows the most common tricks, but in doing so it also shows some of the methods of defending against them; often, being aware of what someone is trying to do (whether they know it or not) can help change the situation.


The Phoenix Project

If an organization doesn’t pay down its technical debt, every calorie in the organization can be spent just paying interest, in the form of unplanned work.

If you work in IT and have not read this book you are doing it wrong.


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