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Category archive: The Micklethwait Clock

Sunday June 29 2014

Every once in a while I hear or read about someone who sees sound, as colour, different sorts of sounds as different colours.  (As you can tell from the links at the bottom of this, I just did this again, on purpose.) What the hell are these people talking about?  You don’t see sound, you hear it.

But, I have learned enough of the contrasting natures and nervous systems of different people to know that claims of this sort are probably true, in the sense that this is indeed what it feels like to those making such claims, even if the claims made no sense whatever to me.  (Here is another piece by me, about how different people differ, this time with respect to the notion that you (i.e. they) can decide what you (they) believe.  To me, what you believe is what you actually do believe, and you can no more change it with a mere decision than you can decide to grow another foot.  But other people clearly can change what they believe, in just this cavalier fashion.  What they actually, deep down, think is true doesn’t seem to matter to them.  To me: bewildering and bizarre.  To them: obvious and commonplace.)

So anyway, back to those bizarre and bewildering people who see sounds, different sounds as different colours.

I now understand these people much better.

Because, yesterday morning, for a fleeting instant, it happened to me.

Immediately after it happened, I hastily bashed some notes into a computer file describing what I had just experienced, and that is the file that I am now typing further and more considered thoughts into now.

What happened was that I awoke, to the sound of my alarm clock.  This alarm clock makes a high pitched beeping noise: beep, pause, beep, pause, beep, pause ...

And, I experienced this sound as ... white.

That is correct.  I saw the sound.  And the sound was just as white as the background colour of the file into which I am now typing, or the background colour of this blog posting as you are now looking at it. 

I never experience sounds a colours when fully conscious.  But it makes perfect sense to me that experiences I may only have during the weird moment when I am neither entirely awake nor entirely asleep, but am moving from the latter state to the former state, might be experiences that others may have much more frequently, even when fully awake.  Or, fully awake by their standards.

Yesterday morning, for that fleeting, bleeping instant, some sort of weird connection was being made between my ears and the bit of brain where colours get processed and reflected upon, a place where all incoming messages are interpreted as colours no matter what they were originally, a connection that doesn’t normally occur, or perhaps which continues to occur when I am fully awake, but so weakly compared to the connections made between my ears and and the sound processing part of my brain as to be undetectable.

All I have to believe, about those strange people who see sounds as colours all the time, is that they experience what I very briefly experienced yesterday morning, but much more strongly than I did and do.  This is not now hard for me to imagine, not hard at all.

A very quick skim-read of this wikipedia article about chromesthesia (which is the particular sort of synesthesia that turns sound into colour, as opposed to just something into something else) did to tell me that chromosthesia can happen particularly when you are waking up, but that could be wrong.

However, I did spot (at the other end of the chromesthesia link above) this:

However, all studies to date have reported that synesthetes and non-synesthetes alike match high pitched sounds to lighter or brighter colors and low pitched sounds to darker tones, indicating that there may be some common mechanism that underlies the associations present in normal adult brains.

So, I am not alone in associating a high pitched bleep with a very light colour, in my case the lightest colour of the lot. 

Sunday May 18 2014

Instead of doing blogging (until I realised I could combine the two), I am watching an enthusiastic American trying to sell me something called a Go Chef.  The channel is ITV, and the show is The Store.  I am very tempted.  Am I being wise, or foolish?  I bought a big non-stick frying pan off of the telly, and that worked out very well.

And yes, you are right, this is, according to the clock, tomorrow.  But tomorrow begins when I wake up tomorrow morning, not at twelve midnight.  My gaff, my rules.

This video is the kind of thing I am now watching, but no enthusiastic American is involved in this one.

Now, they’re going on about how easy it is to cook rice in the Go Chef.

Beware rice.

It would appear that non-stick ceramics is one of the great areas of technological advance in recent decades.  I remember an excellent cartoon, way back, of a US Space Program Bigshot saying to the guy with him, concerning a nearby rocket that they were walking past: “Yes, this all began as a spin-off from a program to develop a non-stick frying pan.”

Thursday April 03 2014

I often cheat about timings of late night postings, by doing them in the very early morning and then subtracting enough time to time them at just before midnight.  Perhaps you’ve noticed.  You may even have got very slightly angry.  This began when I was writing, just after midnight, about something had just been to, and wanted to put “earlier this evening” rather than “last night”.  Last night is until you have gone to bed, no matter when.  Today starts when you wake up, not at midnight last night.  By this somewhat foul but on-the-whole fair reckoning, I have managed to post something-every-day-however-crap for the last several months.

But last-night-stroke-this-morning I was unable even to do this, because from 0:24am exactly until around 4am-ish (guess), earlier “today”, i.e. last night, was out of action, which meant that not only couldn’t anyone read it, but that I couldn’t post to it.

It being so late, I couldn’t politely ring The Guru, but I did email him, and he emailed me back at once.  It turned out that he was even then Working On It.  (Something to do with changing IP addresses, for some reason or other.) He was even able to tell me, with a second email, exactly when the problem had begun, which I hadn’t known.

Anyway, my basic point is: sorry.

“Sorry” is one of the most complicated words in the English language, especially here in England.  Sorry is by no means the hardest word to say, in England.  We say it constantly, to mean any number of apologetic and non-apologetic things.  So make of this sorry whatever you will.

Tuesday March 04 2014

My Ashes Lag is really being taken care of, by the South Africa Australia cricket, which is in South Africa, God bless it.  It starts at Really Early am London time.  Crucially, it keeps on doing that.  You don’t cure Ashes lag with just one virtuous wake-up.  You have to string a bunch of them together.  Nothing like a really good test series that starts at Really Early am day after day to do that.  It’s just a pity the series is not a fiver rather than a mere threeer.

Australia are crushing South Africa in the third and final game, just as they did in the first game, and just as South Africa crushed them in the second.  And I sort of told you so:

Mitchell Johnson won the first game for Australia, then did nothing in the second, but I think I heard that the pitch for the third game will suit Johnson, so maybe it will be an Australia win.

Well, not really, I mostly sat on the fence.  But, at least I am not surprised.  South Africa are 71-4 in their second innings, with Amla out but AB de Villiers still there.  At tea they were 15-3.

I really hope they have lots more one-day games, and that at least some of them start good and early.

The other really good news, aside from the Ashes Lag thing, is that South African captain Graeme Smith has now retired from internatioanal cricket, and can now devote all his energies to getting Surrey back on their feet.

Rather annoyingly, what with me trying to get other stuff done, cricket remained interesting all day, with Pakistan chasing a vast Bangladesh score, in the Asia Cup, or something.  The highpoint of that was the innings of Shahid Afridi which began like this, the W at the start being the fall of the wicket that brought him in:

W 6 2 6 1 |6 2 . 6 6

35 in ten balls, in other words.  At the start of all that, Pakistan were in a seemingly hopeless position.  After those two overs, the chase was doable, and they duly did it, despite Afridi having a bad back which meant he couldn’t stretch out and avoid being run out, just after he’d raced to fifty.

Tomorrow, the decisive SA v Aus action is likely to come at the start, so that’s more good news on the Ashes Lag front.  If early wickets fall, especially that of de Villiers, that will be it.  If they don’t, and especially if de Villiers hangs around for a decent time, South Africa would have an outside chance of a draw.  But, I doubt it.  South Africa’s only real chance is if Johnson gets hurt early in the day, just like Steyn got hurt early on day one.

Monday February 24 2014

The Six Nations has been its usual unpredictable self this year.  Italy lost to Scotland to claim the Wooden Spoon, or so it looks.  Can either of them win any games during the last two weekends?  While above them, Ireland, England, Wales and France are all played three won two.  All the results are here.

Those top four provide us with a typically delightful Six Nations circle of scores.  France beat England 26-24.  But last Friday, Wales hammered France 27-6.  In round two, Ireland crushed Wales 26-3.  So, did England then lose to Ireland by a margin of 2 + 21 + 23 points?  No, they beat Ireland 13-10.

England’s winning try against Ireland was a thing of beauty.  I recall saying here (here) that England’s loss to France didn’t really bother me, and that England actually looked pretty good.  Against Ireland they proved me right.

A clue to that strange circle is, however, that of the first nine games, seven have been won by the home side, including all four games in that circle.  The only home defeats were when Italy lost to Scotland, and when Scotland lost to England.

Meanwhile, the cricket series going on between South Africa and Australia is terrific.  The games all kick of at 8.30am England time, which makes them the perfect cure for Ashes Lag.  Australia won the first game, and I made a point of tuning in promptly for the start of the second game.  Sure enough, Australia soon had South Africa reeling at 11-2.  But from then on it was all South Africa.  They won inside four days, having been desperate to stop it going to five, because the forecast for day five was rain, rain, rain.  But was it?  I just tried to find out what the weather was like on Feb 24th, but all you get on the www is forecasts.  No reports of the past.  The weather of the past is another country, it seems.

It may be that the Australia win at Centurion, an away win, will be the exception.  England beat Australia 3-0 in England.  Australia smashed England 5-0 in Australia.  Meanwhile NZ were beating India in NZ.  Now South Africa to beat Australia in South Africa?  Mitchell Johnson won the first game for Australia, then did nothing in the second, but I think I heard that the pitch for the third game will suit Johnson, so maybe it will be an Australia win.

LATER: I nearly forgot about this, this being Afghanistan Under 19s beating Australia Under 19s, at cricket.

Tuesday October 29 2013

At Cricinfo, stat geek Steven Lynch is asking that, i.e. was asked it by someone and he reckoned it an interesting question.  Interesting, because the answer is a bit of a surprise:

I expected the answer here to be Sachin Tendulkar - he was the youngest to 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000 and 6000 - but actually he was shaded by England’s Alastair Cook, who was 27 years 347 days old when he reached 7000, in the course of his 190 against India in Kolkata in December 2012. Tendulkar was about seven months older when he got there, in November 2001.

So, will Cook also be youngest to 8000?  Or will this be an anomaly?

The Ashes resume on November 21st.  There go my sleep patterns for another few months.

Wednesday September 11 2013

The purpose of this post is to get me blogging, and functioning generally, at a slightly earlier time in the morning than has been my habit of late. The establishment of new and better habits is all about starting by going through the proper motions, even if nothing else is achieved. Mission accomplished.

Monday November 29 2010

Well, that was one weird weekend.

If you dislike blog postings which ramble on and off in all directions at excessive length, then you had perhaps better stop reading this one now, because as I start writing this, I have a lot of things in my head that I now want to ramble on about.

For starters, I’m back being ill.  A sort of permanent throat distortion, that makes coughing a constant thought.  It never accomplishes anything, but I keep wanting to do it.  More troublingly, I am starting to have mild stomach pains and headaches.  A combination of the flue bug that is doing the rounds, and mild hypochondria, probably.  (Although, a friend has now suggested that Lemsip might also be the culprit.)

Next up: my sleep patterns are shot to hell.  Despite not having left London for about a year, I am now jet-lagged.  The recent see-saw cricket match between England and Australia in Australia put the tin lid on that tin, but the tin was already there and filled with nocturnal wakefulness, put there by the extreme difficulty of getting to sleep when in bed, hugely exacerbated by that throat thing.  Sleeping in my armchair early in the evening, with the television as likely as not blaring away, easy.  Getting into bed, switching off the light, and then sleeping, not so easy.  Hence the temptation of not even trying to go to bed until I really am very, very tired, and confident of getting quickly to sleep once the light is switched off, in other words very, very late.  And once you do that a few times you’re stuck.

In the small and getting bigger small hours of Saturday morning, I decided to (a) attack the problem of non-productivity during the wide-awake dead-of-night and (b) thereby stay awake so long that I could solve the jet lag problem by adding another huge gob of it and cancelling it out, instead of vainly trying to subtract from it.  Sleep all day Saturday, starting as late as possible, and get to bed at a proper time Sunday evening.  That was the plan.

So, at about 5 am on Saturday morning, instead of going to bed, I wrote a (though I say it myself) ripsnorter of a posting for Samizdata called They are not liberals and they are not progressives, and then added what seemed to me to be a pertinent SQotD for good measure.  In an early comment on the liberals/progressives posting, I expressed the hope that I might get lucky with linkage in the USA.

Meanwhile England had been taken apart in the cricket.  This was the night (i.e. Australian day) when Hussey and Haddin were making their 300 stand.  The blogging was partly an attempt to take my mind off that horror.

Finally, at about 9 am, I went to bed, the video set to capture all the rugby during the day on the telly, ...

To be awakened at about 10 fucking am by fucking banging in one of the very nearby, probably right next door flats.  Someone was getting rid of a bookshelf or hacking away some plaster or some pipes or some damn thing. For two hours I lay awake, hoping it would stop.  I gave up and got up.  At which point, of fucking course, Sod’s Law cut in and it stopped and never resumed.  But I did not know about that, did I?  By the time I realised that the banging was over, I was wide awake again.  This is the absolute only time that there has been such banging in the morning in the last three months.  None before.  None since.  Bastards.  Total, total, bastards.  And yes, since you ask, I was very tempted to use full stops there.

Further albeit metaphorical hammering followed when England then got hammered at rugger by South Africa, despite having promised so much against Australia.  In retrospect, what the rugby pros always say about how if you play behind a winning scrum attacking with your backs becomes massively easier ... well, that’s true.  Australia have a weak pack.  Genius backs but a weak pack.  South Africa have a very strong pack, and very decent backs.  I videoed the highlights of this game but have yet to watch them.  So, England hammered at rugby and in the process of being hammered at cricket.  The only two sports I really care about.

But, while I was sleeping or perhaps while I was later lying awake in bed cursing the universe, Instapundit had linked to They are not liberals and they are not progressives, adding extra punch to the title by calling it They Are Not Liberals And They Are Not Progressives, quoting the key paragraph, and adding, getting the point totally: “So what do we call them?” I could tell that something like this had probably happened even before I looked at Instapundit, because in my email inbox was a flood of emails resulting from a flood of comments on the posting, including many from people with totally unfamiliar names, and almost all of them intelligent and getting the point of it all.  I had hoped that Instapundit would oblige, what with my point being about what American politico-obsessives of my persuasion call their local enemies (which is his kind of topic), if only with a one line posting, but of course you can never assume you’ll be Instalaunched.  A posting with the money quote quoted was ideal.  So, England are crap at rugger and cricket.  These are mere games.  This is the future of mankind, and my contribution to that future.  My opinions are now echoing around the USA, and I haven’t even been there!

Some time Real Soon Now, I want to do another Samizdata posting about Instapundit and the difference he has made to life, the universe and everything, both a personal thank you and a thank you on behalf of the universe.  People often do thank him, as here, for noticing this posting or (as here) a previous posting.  People often digress about what a fine fellow he is, before getting stuck into some particular thing he likes to say, and how very true that is of how things are here in London or Toronto or Phoenix or Timbuktu or wherever.  Not so often does anyone focus directly on the man himself and the man’s considerable achievement, with that being the point of the piece.  But, has anyone - anyone - had more impact on the current political landscape of the USA, and hence the entire world, than Glenn Instapundit Reynolds?  Name someone else.  Seriously, think about that.  And if you have any thoughts about this (I think) fascinating individual, please write them down as comments here.  This even (in fact especially) applies if you do not share my very high opinion of Instapundit.  Boring plonker, is he?  Tell me why.  You won’t convince me, but your inability to understand this person will flesh out my understanding of him, just a little.  Because he is a bit boring, but only in the same kind of way that a quite complex machine, that is fantastically productive and which never, ever breaks down, is also boring.

A good global financial system would be boring too.  But also, like Instapundit, it would be a very good thing.

Okay so on Saturday night and then Sunday morning, and having had pretty much no sleep the “night” before, I had a chance to clobber that jet lag by going to bed at a proper time.  And I did, but then I wake up far too early, to have a piss basically, and I clock into Cricinfo just to get the bad news that will confirm how totally cricket is only a game, and England are ... 238 for 1 at tea on the fourth day.  238 for 1.  Nearly level.  This is too good to ignore.  Cricket, after all, is an important matter.  More than just a mere sport.  It’s central to the way of life of two great nations at opposite ends of the earth, Britain and Australia, especially Australia.  By the time England (as Britain’s cricket team is known (it has twice been captained by Scotsmen (most notably Douglas Jardine))) had reached 309 for 1 - 309 for 1 - at the close of play, I was wide awake again, and jet lag remained horribly undefeated.

And the next night was just as bad.  When once again I should have been attempting an early night and many hours of slumber, England proceeded until near to tea time, reaching an unprecedented score of 517 for 1 wicket, which rather put Australia’s second innings of 481 (for 10 wickets) in its place, didn’t it?  Would there then be a clatter of Australian wickets, perhaps even a sensational England win?  Well, as it turned out, not. But how was I supposed to know that beforehand?

It is now Monday evening, and tomorrow I face the self-imposed obligation to be at the British Library at 1pm, to attend a lecture by Alex Ross, which will no doubt plunge my throat into a state of even worse ... worseness.  Also, no chance of spending tomorrow in bed either.  Also, I will have to venture out for food.

At least tonight there will be no cricket in Australia to postpone sleep.  On Thursday night, it starts again, but tonight, and tomorrow night and the night after, there will only be darkness.

A down and up weekend
Early to bed last night and an early rise this morning
A busy blogging day?
Green cat email mystery solved
British Summer Time is better for this blog
Clockwisdom and wisdom
Advice to daily bloggers
My watch has to tell me the date as well as the time
Fourth innings heroics
Thank you very much Ambrose and Collingwood
Rain stops Murali
Alice in Texas on form - England in Australia not
Not much here today
More comedy and a Piccadilly Circus Billion Monkey!
The Micklethwait Clock suffers
The thief of time
Another view of the BT Tower
Thoughts on habits and on killer apps
The Micklethwait Clock is now back to being right
Clock off
Shakespeare Sunday
Rylance’s Richard again
Clocking on earlier
This and that at 9.07am