Human-skin book for sale this sunday in Doncaster

[Wilkinson’s Auctioneers](http://www.wilkinsons-auctioneers.co.uk/), in Doncaster, are selling a [book bound in human skin]() this sunday;

> **Lot 181**
>
> A Rare & Macabre Early 17th Century Anthropodermic Bound Book in carrying box. The book entitiled; ‘A True and Perfect Relation of The Whole Proceedings against the Late most barbarous Traitors, Garnet a Jesuit and his Confederats’; Printed London 1606 by Robert Barker, printer to the King and believed to be bound in human skin, possibly that of the aforementioned Jesuit Priest; Father Henry Garnet. The box having a rectangular handle to the centre with the corners having clusters of brass stud flowers, and the front having an iron clasp and lockplate, 11 ins x 7½ ins x 5 ins (28 cms x 19 cms x 13 cms).

Just in case.

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The middle of a pantomine horse.

In many ways, programming is like a pantomime horse.

Most programming tasks deal with one of two halves. There is the front end, which is the colourful world of web pages and clicky buttons and scrollbars and windows on your screen. The world of the pixel. Then there is the back end, the world of reading and writing data to disk. The world of the byte.

Both of these are necessary and noble worlds, and a programmer will tend to either live entirely in one world, or straddle both. If you change jobs, you can go to your next career saying, ‘I’ve played the back end of a horse for many years now.’ and they’ll be able to partner you up with a front end, and off you’ll trot and go do productive work together.

There is another path. A darker path. A path I have wandered down. The path of middleware.

In this world, you don’t play with pixels, and you don’t play with data. Not the way others do. What you become is a conduit, a transit system transforming one thing into another. Like intestines. It is dark, and smells. It’s necessary, but it ain’t nice.

I’ve been doing stuff like this for a while now, and I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s no fun being the middle of a horse.

So I’m trying to retrain myself in the skills at the ends of the horse; I shall be (re)learning the arts of the database. The back end. After that, I’ll be learning new ways to write websites; the front end.

Then I can be a whole horse again.

The Cave of Romulus and Remus

> The Lupercal was sited on the Palatine and was the centre of the Lupercalia festival in February, when priests dressed in goatskins whipped people in a savage rite that Romans connected with the story of Romulus and Remus. Tradition places the Lupercal grotto close to the House of Augustus, but it has never been found, until – possibly – now

[link](http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/art/2007/11/is_this_the_cave_of_romulus_an.html)

The Rise And Fall of Art Forms

Two things you should read; this [coilhouse post][ch] introducing [“The Decline of Fashion Photography”][art].

[ch]: http://coilhouse.net/2007/11/24/the-decline-of-fashion-photography/
[art]: http://www.slate.com/features/010510_fashion-slide-show/01.htm

The main article traces one art form from the fifties to the present-day in twenty-eight photos and comments. Her argument is that the form has descended from a heyday to a low point nowadays, with either too little art, or too little fashion.

In a wider sense, it’s interesting to consider whether art forms generally go through such rises and falls. This has to be quite focussed; I think arguing for a golden age of cinema, or of music, would be ridiculous; but arguing for the heydey of zombie explotation movies, or mod, or house music, that’s possible.

For me, the interesting question is around sci-fi short fiction. Recently, it’s been [argued][we] and [riffed on][al] that science fiction short story mags like [Analog][an] have been declining in circulation; does this mean that form of written, printed short fiction drawing to a close? Is it being transformed by the internet? free electronic distribution of magazines like [hub][], reworking the form into [flash fiction][ff], and changing the medium by podcasting (eg [pseudopod][pp]) suggest the forms mutating rapidly and that the classic sub-10,000 word, printed paper story might well atrophy away. After all, while people might not be comfortable reading a whole book on a screen, they’ll read an awful lot of short pieces.

PS: I’d recommend [coilhouse][chm]; it’s a interesting art blog focussing on alt culture.

[we]: http://www.warrenellis.com/?p=5212
[chm]: http://www.coilhouse.net
[al]: http://www.hub-mag.co.uk/?p=11
[an]: http://www.analogsf.com/0712/issue_12.shtml
[pp]: http://pseudopod.org/
[ff]: http://www.365tomorrows.com/
[hub]: http://www.hub-mag.co.uk/

Time Mismanagement

I was watching this [Merlin Mann video](http://www.43folders.com/2007/10/08/merlin-ideo-talk) earlier today and it reminded me of some thoughts I was having on time management.

So, as some background; I am a time management skills pervert. I am outing myself. I love geeky little systems and toys, programs, stationary, anything that claims to help me become both _effective_ and _efficient_, as the old nonsense goes.

Problem is, I’m not very good at it. And my worst problem is ironic; I spend more time playing with time management gizmos than I gain back in efficiency.

Yep, I’ll spend weeks writing a computer program to help me be efficient, then gain days from using it. Then I’ll get bored and realise that, no, paper-based is the way to go. So I spend hard-earned work money on a filofax so I can be more efficient at work. And you know what? That’s not perfect either. So I move to Outlook, and spend hours investigating addons that’ll make me more efficient. And then I don’t use them.

There. I said it. One of my greatest problems with time management is time management. Maybe I should spend time reading productivity blogs, like [43 folders](http://www.43folders.com). That’ll help.

The Amazing Expanding Sentence

I’ve been thinking about writing software for a while now; first [Ariadne][], and then several little projects.

One that’s been at the back of my mind, not fully developed but nagging me, is the idea I’ve come to label **The Amazing Expanding Sentence.**

Here’s the idea. Let’s say you’re a writer and you want to write a novel. You start of with a single sentence

A wonderful tale of a rebel who overturns
an evil empire.

Well, that sounds pretty cool. So we want to expand that sentence. Somehow (and this, of course, is the trick I’m looking for) we ‘overwrite’ this sentence with two or more sentneces.

We meet Jake, a folk singer, who has a
dead-end job. He learns a terrible secret
about a senator about to become president.
He runs across America, and finally corners
the senator in his Volcano base.

Well, you get the idea. The first sentence has expanded, but the old one is there. You keep expanding, hopefully until you’ve detailed the whole story, moving through one-line summary, synopsis, treatment, chapter summary, scene summary, and novel.

There is probably some horrific flaw to the whole idea.

[Ariadne]: http://www.getariadne.com