Banging my head against a brick wall.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done this quite literally on occasions.

This time though, I mean it metaphorically. I have been distracted from writing yet again. This time it is because my house is literally falling apart. The chimney is causing damp; the render on the walls is cracking and coming away; the gutters may be a problem, too.

What can I do about it? I certainly can’t focus on literature when my daughter is getting cold and the walls are damp. I lost my job a few years ago, so I haven’t got the funds to sort it, personally. The UK government offers grants to people in my position, with solid-walled homes. They offer 40% of the cost, if you are on qualifying benefits: the rest you have to stump up yourself. Typically, the cost is £10k or more. This means you need to have £6k+ going spare. If you have much more than this, you will not qualify for the qualifying benefit. Do you get my drift? Essentially, they are saying that they are helping the poor and at the same time cutting down the UK’s carbon footprint. Essentially, they are not doing either.

I’m not saying: “Oh, pity me!”. I have my pride. I am saying that my daughter and I face a long cold winter…again.

There are thousands like myself in the UK. Similar numbers are homeless, bless you all (even though I know you can’t read this, my thoughts are with you). Our politicians say that everybody needs to tighten their belts, because times are rough. The Conservatives (in power) have hit the poor hard in this country and say that they must hurt them more, for the benefit of ‘hard-working people’. I don’t see any signs of their own suffering.

Sorry, folks. It just gets my goat that David Cameron and his smug buddies are continually hitting out at the weakest, knowing that they have no voice with which to defend themselves. I’d like to see him spending the next few months in my home and on my budget…perhaps we can do an exchange as in Eddy Murphy’s ‘Trading places’? Maybe then he would realise what a completely self-aggrandised buffoon he actually is.

Come on then, Dave, me old son, what do you say to that?

Are you up for it? Of course you’re not and never will be. The closest you get to hardship is finding that the waiter has served you a ’98 vintage instead of the ’96 you asked for. My heart bleeds for you.

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Animals…don’t you just love them?

In contrast to my last post, I wondered why we really do love our animals so much, despite all of their annoying habits. If I get it right there should be a lovely picture of myself, my daughter and Maisie the cat below the text…aww!

This image of domestic bliss is not always the reality where my furry companion is concerned: oh no! She can be a right pain in the neck and is infuriatingly self-obsessed.

There was the time that she climbed out of the dormer window from the attic room onto the roof of the house and wouldn’t come in. After an hour of worrying what i would say to explain the squashed feline on the front path, I bravely clambered out of the window myself. Trying to ignore the terrifying drop to the paving below, I inched my way up the roof towards her. I was half expecting the police and fire brigade to turn out, thinking that I was suicidal, or something.

Anyway, I eventually hauled myself up on top of the flat roof above the attic window. Maisie stopped washing her face and scampered down the opposite side away from me. She was as graceful and poised as I had been clumsy and inept.

Now I was on top of the roof without a ladder and realised that getting down was harder than climbing up. I waved cheerfully at people passing below and yelled to reassure them that I was fine and just rescuing my (now invisible) cat. Eventually I made it back inside without anything badly dented except for my pride. Maisie was curled up asleep downstairs.

A few years later, I had forgotten about this humbling experience and tried to ‘rescue’ her from my first floor window ledge in the wee hours before dawn. This resulted in my climbing a ladder in a howling gale while my dressing gown billowed up around my waist, revealing to anyone who might have passed by that I wore nothing in bed. Once again, the little darling waited until the last possible amount of embarrassment had been wrung from the situation before jumping back through the open window. Doh!

Recently, she has come to the conclusion that whenever she comes in through the cat-flap, day or night, that I will be delighted to greet her and pet her. To make this easier for me, she meows loudly and repeatedly to let me know that she is back. During the day this is not so bad. Her yowls do not seem so deafening and she finds me in the living room fairly quickly.

At night, it’s another matter. She has a methodical system of locating me. First, she checks out the larder, presumably thinking that I may have taken to sleeping in the freezer. Next comes the kitchen, downstairs hall and living room. Finally she pads up the stairs and enters the bedroom. Now, bear in mind that all of this time her incessant caterwauling is driving me nuts. She doesn’t even stop it when she enters the bedroom…no, that would be too easy. She stops only at the moment that her paws hit the top of the quilt.

You may be wondering why I don’t call to her, to let her know where I am. Believe me, I tried this. If anything she got noisier. It was as if she was pleased that I was joining in the nightly serenade and redoubled her efforts to make a real concert of the occasions. I then tried ignoring her. That didn’t work either. Next I got mad and tried to shout at her loudly enough for her to know I was angry but quietly enough that I didn’t disturb my daughter, who always sleeps through the mayhem. As you can imagine, shouting in a subdued fashion is not at all easy to do, resulting in a weird combination of a whisper and a mumble, whilst gesticulating wildly at the cat, who is not even in the same room at the time. I have tried hissing at her like an angry cat. This does shut her up for a while, as she sneaks around to check for traces of the non-existent intruder: then she carries on from where she left off.

It’s driving me nuts, as well as depriving me of decent sleep.

Still, to make up for all of this aggravation, she’s a great hot water bottle on cold winter nights. There’s nothing like the contented rumble of a cat’s purring to relax you or send you off to sleep (even if she woke you in the first place); She never judges and never remains mad at me.

Maybe the picture’s representative of our relationship after all.

Domestic bliss.

Domestic bliss.

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Politicians…don’t you just love them?

The answer to this question is an emphatic ‘no’, more often than not: it could even be an incredulous look, if you actually ask the question in anything but a voice heavily dripping with sarcasm.

Of course, some people would reply positively, although it would be fair to say that most of these people would actually be politicians. Most of the people I meet view politics a bit like rabies. It’s something that is in the world that we don’t like but we can’t do much about it.

I love watching a quiz show in the UK called pointless. In it questions are asked that have each been answered by 100 people who are given a limited time to respond. The contestants have to provide an answer that is given by the least of the hundred to get to the next round. It is easy to see how much we in Britain think of our politicians by watching the programme. While 90% of those questioned can name the stars of a soap opera, only a handful of people may know who our MPs are.

Recently, a set of anagrams were shown to the contestants, each of which was a famous UK landmark. I chuckled for a long time at ‘loonies far up Thames’, which turned out to be ‘Houses of Parliament’!

At least I felt better this week when I saw just what a farce the USA had made of their budget, bringing vast swathes of the country to a standstill because the loonies in charge there couldn’t agree on anything.  Then again, an anagram for political sense is ‘Capitol’s senile’, so what did we expect?

I’ve always thought that the desire to be a politician should automatically bar a person from ever becoming one.

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Electronic Lunatics

The word lunatic derives from the Latin word Luna, meaning moon. It refers to insanity thought to alter with the phases of the moon. Insane, (sic), though it may sound, I have personally observed people whose unconventional behaviour does indeed appear to oscillate at this frequency. It is typically exhibited in the form of speaking to themselves, even holding private yet audible two-way debates, vehemently arguing aloud with themselves.

I would be unhappy were I to be described by others as a lunatic, yet here I am, writing the electronic equivalent of a debate, visible to millions, with no assurance that anyone is actually reading my words. Is this not madness? Yet, we do this all the time now. Facebook, Twitter and blogs are accepted forms of social media. All of these forms of social interaction can be likened to wandering the streets, yelling out our views to anyone who cares to listen.

On the one hand, should I do this in my home town, I would probably be arrested and considered to be a candidate for residence in a secure mental institution. On the other hand, my lunacy is accepted when it is done on-line.

Are we all psychologically deranged? Whatever happened to actually talking to other people, instead of texting, posting and the like?

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AI or ‘Pie in The Sky’?

Recently, I posted this on Writer’s Beat, a forum where authors, poets, lyricists and bibliophiles gather to talk about all forms of literature.I wonder what the wider public makes of the question. The proposition is not intended to be religious in nature, but perhaps religion and philosophy are as much a part of the answer as science itself. what do you think?

‘As a writer of science-fiction, I have rather glibly used the notion that artificial intelligence will be a mundane reality at some point in the future. I have not done so without reservation. In my writing, I have avoided the use of such technology until at least several centuries have passed from the present day. Why so long? Surely computer advances are so rapid that true artificial intelligence is only a matter of years away, decades at the longest. I do not believe so, but would like other opinions.

Here are my doubts, listed in no particular order.

Firstly, over the last few years, several sources have been fairly consistent in their comparisons between computers and biological brains. A reasonably fast home PC has been likened to the brain of an ant in terms of calculations per second and memory. The human brain is far more complex than this. Nevertheless, in terms of androids, there is an obvious difficulty presented here. The articles concerned don’t state the particular species of ant considered but ant brains peak in volume at 0.1 cubic millimetres and fall as low as 0.002 cubic millimetres. My computer is roughly 250 million to twelve billion times bigger than this. There is clearly a size issue.

Also, whilst assessing my electricity consumption recently, I found that my PC used 130 watts. I could reduce this to 110 watts by making it as slow as a Sinclair Spectrum from the eighties. If an ant’s brain consumed this power, the head would be glowing incandescently bright and would burn instantly. the human brain uses around twenty watts. A cat’s brain operates at one or two watts. Recently, an attempt was made to simulate a cat’s brain using computers, based on memory and speed. Whilst the project claimed to be successful, critics claim that the device functioned almost 100 times slower than the brain of the humble tabby. It consumed one megawatt of power in the attempt. It follows that to simulate the complexity and speed of a human brain around a gigawatt of power is needed. That’s fifty million times less efficient than the biological brain.

Even if silicon based technology can continue to advance at the rate it is, it will take decades to achieve the necessary speed, memory, volume and energy efficiency needed to simulate a human brain. I doubt that silicon is capable of this. Maybe the new graphene holds the key. Graphene is planar graphite made at molecular thickness. So far it is made by lifting graphite from a block with sticky tape…hardly a precise industrial technique. It is super strong and super-conductive. If it could be used in computer memory applications, it may hold the key to the massive increase in performance and efficiency required for an AI brain of comparable size to a human being’s.

Finally, I think that the concept of equating memory and speed of an artificial brain to the equivalent biological unit is unrealistic. What we will end up with is something that still needs to be programmed at a level of complexity that may mimic nature, if the programmers are operating at genius level. The result will still be a mindless number-crunching machine. No super-computer has yet produced a single independent thought. We need to understand more than the simple ‘mechanics’ of the brain to be able to reproduce it correctly.’

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Phoenix Rising

…well, not quite but it feels like it. Since the post in April my broadband nightmare continued for quite some time. Talk talk, my internet provider at the time were finally persuaded that there was a problem and sent someone to check the internal wiring, despite the fact that I told them the problem only occurred when it was wet and/or windy outside. Their own sub-contractor then had a hell of a job to convince Talk talk that there was a fault on the outside line (something I’d been telling them for ages). At last, after a farcical performance over arranging for a BT engineer to call and sort the line, it was done…hurray!

It just couldn’t be that easy, could it? No. The BT engineer replaced only the first half of the line. He left the old drop line which connects from a box on the side of the house to my internal socket hanging loose against the wall. The problem came back again. it took another week or two to get that problem sorted.

By this time, I was into the school holidays and hard at work keeping my daughter entertained. I managed to forget half of my passwords, including the one for this blog. One thing led to another and before I knew it, four months had disappeared into the mists of time without posting a single thing on the site.

What have I been up to in all that time, apart from tearing my dreadlocks out in frustration? Well, I haven’t been entirely idle. I’ve been working on the first story I ever wrote. the manuscript was festering away along with a number of others, in the bottom of a cabinet. It was originally entitled Biform Solution and was close to 700 pages long. After adding another couple of chapters to explain part of the plot that was unclear, editing the rest for similar reasons and generally playing around with it, it had grown to well over 700 pages.

I thought that this was getting to be too much of an epic. It will be split into two and with the addition of Dreamscape, a stand alone novel that did follow on from the events of Biform, I have a trilogy impending. It will be called the ‘Biform Solution’ trilogy and will begin with ‘Fire Triangle’, followed by ‘War And Wisdom’ and concluding with Dreamscape.

I then had the job of producing three covers, since I can’t afford to pay an artist to do them for me. Making reasonable covers with limited artistic talent and a bit of free photo editing software is no mean feat. It inevitably involves a lot of time and effort, all interspersed with plenty of cursing, foul moods and a touch of despair. All in all, I think the end results were worth the heartache. I will make a section for art and throw them on there. You can make up your own minds about them.

When will I publish the new trilogy, I hear you asking in your millions? Alright, I may have exaggerated the level of interest a touch, but I’ll tell you the plan, anyway. The hope is to have the first book ready by November and the second book will follow on early in the new year. Dreamscape will take quite a bit longer because it is not even typed up yet.

Sorry for not posting anything for such a long time. I must try harder!


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Screaming Internet Connection Kangaroo !

SICK (noun). An acronym relating to an individual who is distressed by slow or intermittent broadband connection(s), internet service providers and the telephone call centres which allegedly are there to resolve such issues. Such victims are left hopping mad like a boxing kangaroo, screaming their heads off at invisible and anonymous persecutors.

Yes, Marcus Canon’s legendary patience and tolerance (or is that volubility and Celtic aggression?) has finally run out. I am indeed SICK. I finally get around to my blog and writing after a hiatus of months and the damned internet starts crashing.

Being an engineer, I thoroughly checked out my PC, phone lines and router only to find nothing wrong. All of them crash whenever it is windy and where I live that happens a lot. I traced the fault to the external phone line, which is not my responsibility.

Amazingly, I am having to write this in a brief lull between low pressure systems. Strangely at the moment these low pressures are causing simultaneous high pressures…in my fragile and tattered mind, as the internet keeps crashing!

A week after the fault began and six calls to my internet provider (between gusts) and I am still waiting for them to agree that the outside line is where the fault lies. That’s a total of almost twelve hours gone from my life.

Aaaaaarrrrrrghhhhhhh! I’m not a fan of expressing screams like that, but the situation calls for it.

Why do these little Hitlers manage to drive us insane? I imagine mental health institutions worldwide are full of sad, SICK people, rocking gently back and forth to the sound of crap music, which they hear in their heads. They are still on hold in their own poor deranged minds, knowing that their delusory call is important to those on the other end of that ethereal phone line.

It is horrific and has to stop, brothers and sisters. Together we can eradicate SICKness from the Earth! Join me in protest against call centres of any kind, but especially those full of supercilious geeks who have fun making you do all manner of ridiculous tests in order to try to avoid their company’s responsibilities.

Okay, that off my chest, I just made up the acronym. It doesn’t really exist, but it should.

Hurray! I’ve got the post finished. Better go ‘cos I can see the trees twitching in the breeze outside! Goodbye for now.

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I’m back!

Megan and i Feb 2013This (picture) is the real me. Welcome to my new-look site. Hope you like it. I’m going to try to post sensible things, but don’t hold your breath. I can’t help shouting about what’s wrong in the world from time to time. Thanks to Paintnet and their collection of wizards, without whom I couldn’t have put the page together on a shoestring.

I’m meant to be promoting my work here, but I just can’t get the hang of that, so instead I’ll blow you a kiss and hope it brings good luck. Adios. Marcus.

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Middle-aged angst

Well, it’s hardly fair that teenagers get to hog all of this turbulent emotion, is it? After all, by 46, I’ve had far more years to store the stuff up, so I should be entitled to display it. This blog was meant to promote my book, but I can’t get the hang of publicity, it’s all too commercial for me. I’ll just try and use it for fun, although I do hope to get a bit of feedback and opinion to gain ‘enlightenment’. Ommmm!

Thanks to the trio who ‘liked’ my last post. It seems that the more passionate and frustrated that I become, the more people enjoy it! I’m not sure of the protocol involved here, so if you like my posts, just hang in there, I’ll like you back or follow you when I get the hang of this shit…Hey! who put that bloody christmas tree in my living room? More despair and anguish coming your way, but with a touch of humour for good measure.

Dreads 2012

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Write a Book, for goodness’ Sake!

I’ve struggled with writing blogs, because it doesn’t come naturally to me. Anyone who’s read my posts might see this.

I am torn between railing against the inhumanity of humanity and wanting to offer comfort to those in desperate need. Seldom do I find time to promote my writing, which was supposed to be the whole point of the blog in the first place. Never mind that! I hate money anyway, so I quite like the fact that I’m poor by Western standards. Please don’t buy my book! Then I can gain more inspiration to write more!

Why do I say this and what is the reason for the title? Simple. Writing is a way to let yourself into a world that you create. Much more that reading, writing a novel is therapeutic. You create your own characters. they can be people who you’d like to meet. or those you wish were drowned at birth! You can vent your frustrations about the world, rejoice in its splendour, or take a melancholy road into your past. In short, you can do what you like.

In this world which is so stricken by grief, disaster and bureaucracy, why wouldn’t you want to imagine a different one? Why would you not wish to tell humanity the right way to go, or to hint at what we’re doing wrong? You may know the true meaning of love and be frustrated that others can’t see your vision.

I was despondent for a time, because my book was not selling on Amazon. It was not really my fault that sales were low, but I convinced myself that I was guilty. Today, someone told me how they had bought it and liked it, even though they don’t normally read sci-fi. This was a big boost to my pitifully low self-esteem tank. I realised that I could reach one person and show them my thoughts. I could possibly make a difference in the world, however small that change may be. That one person re-invigorated me.

So I say, write a book yourself! Read mine by all means, but also have a go at writing yourself. It’s hard work, but immensely satisfying. To help you, I’ve started writing a set of pages that will help you to get started. Click on the page ‘So you want to be an author’, then follow the writing skills guide. I’m not finished with it yet, but there’s enough there to get you started. The guide is based on my own hard-earned experience and opinions from other writers, both of poetry and prose. I would welcome questions on anything I’ve written.

Well… what are you waiting for you lazy louts? Get scribbling!*

Yours Faithfully, (too formal an expression, I know, but it basically means that I love you all),

Marcus Canon.

*Typing, dictating or scribbling, take your pick. Bloody hell, I get so confused with all of the technology available…and I write sci-fi! Shame on me.

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