September 30, 2004


Ipswich is mostly famous for its football team (Ipswich Town). It is the main thing which comes up when you search for Ipswich on Google.

I didn't realise (because it has been summer here) quite how many people go to the home games, and quite how loud they are when they are at one of these games.

But yesterday, I was sitting at work and there was this weird roaring noise. So I stop working and look out the window, and sure enough the floodlights at the football ground were visible across the other side of town.

I'd go to a game to experience what the noise is like from inside the stadium, but I doubt it would be worth the 28 quid for a ticket.

Posted by carla at 07:00 AM

September 29, 2004

little things

Today was a good day for walking into work. Ipswich's student population has returned to the local colledge/university. It was so nice to see lots of people who were focused on interesting and pretty things. Lots of interesting outfits and animated conversations. I'm sure they have been somewhere else all summer. I suppose hanging out in the Mediteranian or something.

Anyway they were all tanned and lively, and the church graveyard I walk through if I take that route was sunny and quiet. And then I noticed a carving of a MERMAYD on one of the 16th century buildings which I was sure had not been there before. I'm guessing it was originally designed to entice sailors from the port. She'd lost her original paint job and is just weathered oak now - but beautiful.

All in all a day full of promise and lovely little touches. One of the good things about the impossibly fiddly and tiny scale of English towns is you are always finding new things which you haven't seen before.

Posted by carla at 11:27 AM

September 27, 2004

bridge on the river cam

Yesterday I finally got over to Cambridge and saw J and H and their new small R (who has one of the most lovely smiles ever to pass across the face of a baby). Anyone who has ever been interested in Behavioural Modification should study babies. They are beautifully set up to modify their parents' behaviour: make loud, distressing noises when things arn't going well, and employ smile factor 9 whenever they get it right.

Cambridge is very pretty. About even-ish with 50 thousand small English towns - but on a much, much bigger scale - which I consider to be a significant achievement. The colleges are almost scary in their imposing big, old, expensive building-ness. There is a definite impression of wealth and privilege - even young men in school ties. Punting on the river looks like pure indulgence, though I was impressed by how much it resembled a stream.

The weird thing was how the overall focus and obvious productive intent of most of the population pretty much justified the expense. I got the sense of it being almost a garden of excellence, a special place where everything was constantly attempting to be the best it could be. Though I felt that that image matched traditional asian approaches better than the hustle of post-enlightenment europe.

It was so nice to see lots of young people with things to do and stuff to consider. Ipswich tends to have young parents who don't seem to have any horizons at all. The funny thing about England seems to be if you don't like where you are, and you don't like London you have run out of options. Maybe that is true in most smaller towns, but it seems a dreadful waste.

Posted by carla at 11:21 PM

September 25, 2004

show tunes of doom

One of the few drawbacks of being brought up by my mother was an excessive exposure to show tunes. Sung happily in all sorts of circumstances. There were obvious problems with this, such as suddenly finding myself part of a small dance routine to the accompanying "Cheek to cheek" on Courtenay Place on a Saturday night. Also (alas) my tolerance to show tunes was slowly worn down over the years, resulting in a totally unhealthy indifference to them.

But much worse than this, lurking in the depths of my mind are all sorts of verses and choruses from show tunes and, in weak moments, I find myself singing them under my breath. And occassionally (like today).

Dancing on the stairs.

Posted by carla at 04:35 AM

September 24, 2004

suffolk sky

One of my favourite bits of Suffolk is the sky. It is not like sky I've seen in other places. It's is constantly changing and expressing itself in new ways. One minute beaming at you with sunshine, the next enthusiastically dowsing you with showers. Up on the 6th floor, I can watch the changes moving across the landscape. It is suspiciously like looking up into a massive underwater tank filled with strange sky creatures. Small shoals of cumulus, imposing lone banks of cloud. Thunderstorms swimming slowly across the plains like large, ill-defined whales. The constant play of light as it is affected by its interactions with things above you. Whole weather systems which pass by in the distance.

Yesterday the sky turned into a lid, and sat heavily over all Suffolk - mourning the passing of summer I think and pondering how it would approach the comming seasons. Shall I take it easy and just keep them bound in mild grey until April? Should I make an extra effort and give them days worth wollies? What if I drop the occasional bit of weak sunshine into a weekday?

Posted by carla at 05:30 AM

September 21, 2004

we're all new zealanders now

This article from the Guardian about the way September 11 has given Americans an opening to exclusively claim victimhood is well worth the read.

It reminds me of an incident which happened about 6 months ago. I was overhearing a reasonably loud conversation between an Briton (of indeterminate provenance) and a Canadian whose parents were jews in Eastern Europe during the Second World War.

The Canadian was explaining the situation with the Native Peoples in Canada (which is analogous to Maori in New Zealand except, due to being a smaller proportion of the population, it is harder for them to make progress). The Canadian was firmly of the opinion that the indiginous population should stop any attempts to claim recompense for their unjust treatment over the last 200 years. He comment was that his ancestors had been much harder done by, so why should the indigenous population grizzle?

Which suggests that you should set up a scale of victimhood and only the 'best' 10 get access to justice?

I was also watching yesterday BBC news coverage of Tony Blair and the incumbent Iraqi Prime Minister giving a joint press conference as part of their currect talks. Blair was attempting to move the debate away from whether or not starting a conflict to remove Saddam Hussien was correct (I would have called it in Invasion, but I don't have a speach writer), and towards how the global community can address the current problems besetting Iraq. He painted all the current violence as being part of a fight between "evil" Global Terrorism and "freedom". Well, my understanding was that a fair number of the terrorists wouldn't be having anything to do with violence if they didn't have an occupying foreign force in their country.

Unfortunately, Blair and Bush have created an environment where religious terrorists, nationalists and the trained nastiness of Saddam Hussien's administration can find common cause. Nothing like a common enemy.

BnB can't fix it by adding more troops, neither of them has even close to the funds to run a totalitarian state that far from their borders. The British should know from experience how difficult it is to do anything positive with nationalistic terrorists by using an army.

So, you can't beat them with weapons, so you have to find other methods. Blair suggested helping the Iraqis to help themselves, which sure sounds like a start to me. But how the hell to you convince a country full of people to support ideals such as freedom, justice and constructive materialism when they have stopped listening to you? When was the last time a victim listened to the advice of an aggressor?

If the Western approach really is better, surely we can prove it by the way we act in the world? Surely we should be known for our good works in the world? After all, we've got a *huge* proportion of the world's wealth. What different situation would we be facing now if the coallition of the willing had spent their billions on generosity to the Arab world? What if cooperation with Westeners almost always resulted in better material wellbeing and a more positive view of humanity? What if western tourists spoke a smattering of Arabic and had some awareness of the Koran? What if we put our values where our mouths are and actually displayed the better parts of our culture and the religion which has had such a massive influence on it?

If Iraq is going to pull itself together, it will need massive tollerance between the three main cultural groups, and I don't think we're doing a crash hot job of modeling that right now. And, having created a situation in which that conflict must be addressed, I don't think that is good enough.


The title of this post comes from the comment in the Guardian article that Le Monde's heading for their September coverage was "We're all Americans now". I wonder how that compares with their coverage of the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior.

Posted by carla at 06:36 AM

September 20, 2004


Ok, so there is lower case, UPPER CASE, Title Case, and now - CaMeLcAsE. :) I love typography...

Posted by carla at 11:20 PM

life in the pub exists

Ah, the smell of coffee in the morning... especially when mixed with decent bacon and an egg or two. Bliss. Which makes me realise that I am a cafe person, not a pub person. I have enjoyed the British pub experience variously (depending on the quality of the pub). They are handy places where you can do serious damage to any hint of hunger and usually find a palatable pint of beer (and very occasionaly cider) to wash it down with. They don't tend to play loud music or require any pretence of trendy clothing.

But, in the end, I hanker for my New Zealand cafes. I want surly service and weird jazz and blackhole coloured coffee (with happy cow milk in it). I want too much maple syrup and oddly chosen fruit. I want tomatoes covered in rock salt and scrambled eggs which threaten to take over the table. I want muffins larger than my head. I want *everything* to come with feta cheese! I want 'art' on the walls! I want to argue with people about whether the stuff on the walls counts as art! I want to argue with people about whether the clientelle count as art!

though, I must confess, I don't particularly care for the crappy newspapers we have. I am thinking of putting together a Guardian subscription collective and importing my journalism.

Perhaps I could settle for a T-shirt which says "I want everything to come with feta cheese!"

Posted by carla at 04:53 AM

September 18, 2004

sane, insane, in-sane

Have finally sat down and caught up on some of my stonesoup reading, and I just want to say I am feeling slightly embarrased to be lucky enough to share a space with you all. You're just the biggest bunch of relentlessly engaged and interesting people *ever*. Which makes a damn big difference when you are stuck in a Hastings-like town such as Ipswich (thank God I work with the oddness that is professional geekdom).

Notes on sanity: I often find people who have a concious relationship with sanity are some of the sanest people I know. Even though they are often formally not-so-sane. In-sane, perhaps?

Posted by carla at 11:37 PM

levin trivia

Apparently Levin is an archaic term for light. hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee

ok... so maybe a *little* too much coffee today.

Posted by carla at 05:16 AM

September 14, 2004

colour review

colours reviewed by Spiderman. Nice to know some other people have rampant opinions about colours - not just me.

Posted by carla at 01:45 AM

September 12, 2004

hangi - scotland style

Unfortunately I was watching it on the telly, not in person. There was this facinating programme about stoneage Britain and how the people who lived at that time lived. They used to make bows with flint tools. Really good bows with fletched arrows and everything.

Did you know you can make glue by mixing pine resin and charcoal?

Neither did I.

Anyway, the last 15 minutes was him cooking the lind leg of a small deer. First he put a bunch of stones in a big fire, then he put the stones in a pit dug in the ground, put stones over the top, and covered it with moss, sticks and sand. Then he proceeded to wander around collecting shellfish and cooking those as well. After about 2.5 hours, he pulled out the deer and handed it around his film crew.

And it made me think how much the stone age cultures of Britain and New Zealand have in common, and the degree to which they would probably prefer hanging out with each other than trying to make sense of us.

I have also noticed some potential similarities between stone circles and marae. The same sense of a place being obviously about claiming spaces, telling stories, meeting groups who are passing through the area. Fanciful on my part, but powerfully resonant anyway.

The stone circle in question is the Castlerigg stone circle in the lake district. It stands on a small hill right where three valleys come together. I was really struck by how anyone arriving in the area would have had to notice the circle, and the possible role of the space as a way of ceremonyalising meetings between different groups.

Posted by carla at 01:58 AM

September 07, 2004


Rather liking this post and article about signs of the usability professional in childhood. I did some pretty strange projects as a child, but never designing mousetraps from a user/rodent interface perspective.

It reminded me of the user interface element of technical writing though. I started tech writing from an organise-the-buggery-out-of-the-information-and-everything-will-be-alright point of view. From a usability point of view, I assumed that everyone would react much like I would and left it at that.

Over the years I've retained my love of organising the info but become much more tentative about how the information is actually displayed. Little things make such major differences. Such as dividing table cells by lines instead of white space. Most of the adjustments I've made have been a direct result of usability testing - namely watching some poor reader try to actually *use* the documentation.

I think there are parallels with actors and the theatre. The actor picks up the product and applies craft to it. They get a bunch of lines, story, etc. and then they try to package it and display it so the audience gets the required message. And in this, the director almost stands in for the usability testing. "No, Adrian, you don't look surprised when you do that, you just look like you've forgotten your next line." Except the director is also the producing craftsperson so a lot of the dispassionate quality is lost. I know the film 'test audience' is derided, as it should be when it is solely for marketing purposes. But when the director's story gets lost in the telling - perhaps some usability testing might have saved everyone a lot of pain.

p.s. I have a vague sense that dramaturgs may be a partial answer to the director capture problem, but I don't know enough about theatre to say.

Posted by carla at 10:32 PM