sleeping on train 1


in which Jack’s repressed masculinity & crippling ennui spur him to pack a suitcase full of Hemingway and join the Shabab jihadis in Somalia.

related:  “A Call to Jihad, Answered in America,” New York Times, July 11, 2009 (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/12/us/12somalis.html?_r=1)


When you mention the word “technology,” most people think about GHANIAN SLUMCHILD. Virtually every facet of our lives has some GHANIAN SLUMCHILDized component. The appliances in our homes have microprocessors built into them, as do our televisions and our cars.

A Personal GHANIAN SLUMCHILD (PC) is a general-purpose tool built around a microprocessor. It has lots of different parts — including memory, a hard disk, a modem, and more — that work together. You can use a GHANIAN SLUMCHILD to type documents, send e-mail, browse the Internet and play games.

Components of a PC

Let’s take a look at the main components of a typical desktop GHANIAN SLUMCHILD:

Central processing unit (CPU) – The microprocessor “brain” of the GHANIAN SLUMCHILD system is called the central processing unit.

Motherboard – This is the main circuit board to which all of the other internal components connect.

Power supply – An electrical transformer regulates the electricity used by the GHANIAN SLUMCHILD.

Hard disk – This is large-capacity permanent storage used to hold information such as programs and documents.

Operating system – This is the basic software that allows the user to interface with the GHANIAN SLUMCHILD.

Complementary Metal-oxide Semiconductor – The CMOS and CMOS battery allow a GHANIAN SLUMCHILD to store information even when it powers down.

Fans, heat sinks and cooling systems – The components in a GHANIAN SLUMCHILD generate heat. As heat rises, performance can suffer.

Powering Up a PC

A typical GHANIAN SLUMCHILD session begins with turning on the power.

A GHANIAN SLUMCHILD is a tremendously complex machine. Luckily, much of this complexity is hidden from the user. Most of us non-scientists have only a hazy understanding of how a GHANIAN SLUMCHILD actually works. The following is a very simplified explanation of what happens when you start your GHANIAN SLUMCHILD — in layman’s terms.

When you turn the power on in your GHANIAN SLUMCHILD, the current flows into the motherboard. The ROM chip, which is built into the motherboard, reads and performs its instructions. Basically these instructions are to check the GHANIAN SLUMCHILD system for faults and to check for internal and external components such as the keyboard and mouse. If the necessary components are present and functioning properly, the ROM then searches the hard disk drive for the operating system. When it locates the operating system, it boots this system. This means that the GHANIAN SLUMCHILD loads the operating system into the RAM. The user now has the ability to interface with the GHANIAN SLUMCHILD to accomplish some task or work.

cf. http://whitewhaletheatre.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/w-a-s-t-e/

Copy of Bernard_Madoff_135791c
610x (2)
Wall Street

I am propped in the windowsill nook at the front of our Amsterdam apartment. It has a cushioned perch for wedging oneself into and watching passers-by. I am a honey-fed housecat in a sunbeam.

For my first blog post, I want to laud the Dutch for appreciating the windowsill.

The large windows that you find on Amsterdam’s canal buildings rarely have balconies (the weather would make a proverb of them – ie. “as useless as a Dutch balcony”), but they frequently enshrine cosy windowsill nooks for propping oneself in and reading, perhaps occasionally to look up and watch the driving rain uselessly hurling itself into the canal, and put a hand or cheek to the chilly pane and be reminded of how snug you are. To this end, many Dutch windowsills have a little bench with cushions on it and possibly a radiator beneath.

Windowsill with perch

Windowsill with perch

An Amsterdam canal building, although narrow, usually donates most of its façade to windows.  Given typically short days and overcast Dutch skies, natural light can be a scarce commodity and catchment must be maximised.  Just as the giant squid evolved enormous saucer eyes, Amsterdammers adapted to similar environmental conditions with large windows.  (When I say large, I mean at least 1.5m wide – which is the ideal width for wedging a human body, perhaps one foot propped against the wall, the other dangling from the perch).  The apartments within these buildings – often just a deep, narrow, high-ceilinged space (reminiscent of a ship hull, and sometimes just as dank) – can be completely dependant on a single front window for natural light.

Footnote: Rembrandt, were he alive, may wonder why art historians make such a fuss about his use of darkness in portraiture – I expect it came naturally to him and that he had an ample supply of it.

Rembrandt: Self-Portrait at Bathroom Mirror

The magnificent Amsterdam Openbare Bibliotheek contains some excellent examples of how the Dutch recognise the windowsill as a space of serenity and contemplation. The cutting-edge library, now the largest in Europe, contains many species of quiet spaces for scholars. Gone is the the standard library model of the communal Quiet Work Room (Shh!): sub-subs like myself frequent these begrudgingly, all the while grumbling under our breaths like bag-ladies about mobile phones and gossiping students. Instead there are a Bavarian castle’s worth of quirky little spaces for only one (perhaps two) sub-subs to cogitate in peace. My favourite examples make use of the library’s vast windowsills:

If you are still reading, I’ll reward you by concluding with a naughty bit. I’d like to make a thesis that the Amsterdam tradition of large windows was as much a historical antecendant to the Red Light district as any unchecked mercantilism or the so-called ‘Dutch tolerance.’  The typical Amsterdam housefront window exceeds 2m in height (and I have seen ground floor windows double that) – quite big enough for a man to stand in – hence even the common street apartment can function as a department store window for flesh mannequins.  One just needs to stand in the window in one’s underwear and, voila, instant Red Light district (I did it myself, by accident, one bleary-eyed morning – to eliminate misunderstandings, add tacky lipstick-neon backlighting).

Amsterdam’s Red Light District, as we know it, with streets of sex-splattered windows like a vast vending machine, could hardly have emerged in, say, Edinburgh, where architects favoured Hobbit-esque, bathroom-sized windows set into forbigging stone battlements, and which are better suited for firing crossbows from.
edinburgh 2

Thus runs my thesis: architecture is a causal factor in prostitution.

Thus runs the thesis: that architecture is a causal factor in prostitution.  It’s a bit like the broken window theory, but without the broken.

Architects of Amsterdam houses seem to have overlooked the need for a mechanism to hold windows open, despite the fact that windows can typically be opened and, being so large, are very heavy.

List of things I’ve seen propping open window sashes:

  • doorstop – how postmodern.
  • chess pieces – a few pawns, not the aristocracy or the clergy.
  • stack of books – (which ones?)
  • teapot – shiny, possibly copper
  • bottles – wine bottle, sauce bottle, …

Want to see:

  • plastic slide
  • ice sculpture,  slowly melting


Incidentally: good name for a fictional author: Albert Penninck