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Journal archives: August

October 11, 2004

Swings and roundabouts

Word comes down on high that our telecomms network is to be upgraded. It's about time; I've been getting the point of offering managers a can with a bit of string attached as a subtle hint that our current system is on its last legs. So I've been sitting in on a number of interviews from eager telecomms providers and listening to a new kind of jargon - ISDN30, middleware, and screenpopping - a term that sounds like something that belongs in a Max Headroom episode. My role appears to be that of sitting there poker-faced until the boss is asked a technical question, at which point I have to sound as if I know what I'm talking about, and to explain what 'bluetooth' means occasionally. Once the slight euphoria of not having to continually patch the existing system fades, I realise that once the new gear is in place, there'll be a mad rush to reprint every bit of company bumpf possible (from business cards to invoices) with the new phone numbers.

I've been having one of my periodic book clear-outs. This time, prompted by a bout of root-canal surgery. How so? Well, staggering out of my dentists in Covent Garden of a morning, weighed down as much by the spiralling bill as by the discomfiture, the obvious thing to do was to pop into as many of the bookshops in Charing Cross Road as possible, and spend some more money. So by the time the course of treatments was over, I found myself in possession of almost a shelf-full of new books, mostly relating to postcolonial studies or ethnology. So then, time for a purge of the bookshelves. The criteria is simple: anything that I haven't looked at in three years or more gets a trip to the nearest secondhand dealer. The occult books were the first to get the treatment. Then the computer manuals, and I'm just getting around to going to work on the fiction. The shelves are looking empty and forlorn now, so I can start thinking about what to buy next. I could just go mad on Amazon of course, but I have to admit that I'm not a great fan of buying books online. I'd much rather spend a Saturday morning rooting through London's secondhand bookshops. Even if I've gone out with the aim of scoring a particular text, there's always the chance that I'll find something else that turns out to be useful. A while back Geoffrey Samuel told me that he'd seen copies of Hugh Urban's The Economics of Ecstasy: Tantra, Secrecy and Power in Colonial Bengal in Unsworths (just off New Oxford Street). Naturally, by the time I got round to going, they had vanished (and the assistant denied all knowledge of them ever having been in stock). But after a couple of hours in there I emerged with a copy of Wendy Doniger's rather wonderful The Implied Spider which more than made up for not finding the Urban book.

I've noticed that other blogs I visit often refer to what music bloggers are currently listening to. I think it'd be more pertinent for me to say what books I'm currently lugging around with me. So, Playing with Fire - a Fireworks how-to guide, joined me on the train this morning. I bought it a couple of years ago in a spate of enthusiasm for learning Dreamweaver etc.,, but noticed the other day that I hadn't ever got round to breaking the seal on its accompanying cd-rom. Since I rarely use Fireworks at work now, and nothing much more complex than Notepad at home, it can go to another coworker.