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2023: A Trilogy by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (Books 2018, 6) 📚🎵

This book could have been written for me. Seriously, during the first part it felt like it was targeted right at me.

I am, as you probably know, a fan and repeat reader of The Illuminatus! Trilogy. As clearly are Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, or the KLF, as they used to be known. This book is — what, a spoof of, a homage to? — Illuminatus. Explicitly modelled on it, referring back to it constantly.

Plus there are lots of Beatles references, and I’ve been into them for even longer. Then among the characters are Alan Moore, who (in this corner of the multiverse) is a member — along with Cauty and Drummond — of Extreme Noise Terror. Our world’s version of that band did collaborate with the KLF, but as far as I can tell they had no connection with Moore.

So don’t expect to get too much accurate information about popular culture out of this. Plenty of references, though. Other characters include Michelle O’Bama, M’Lady Gaga, Yoko Ono (two versions), Lady Penelope, and her chauffeur/hitman Aloysius Parker.

It’s a lot of fun. The downside is that it’s not very well written, at least as far as the dialogue is concerned. Most notable is the complete absence of contractions. Which is fine for an odd thing, or maybe to give one character a particular voice, but when no-one uses them, it all gets a little strange.

The story is fun, though, and I finished it and immediately started rereading Illuminatus yet again, so there’s that.

Aw, Stephen Hawking, man. It’s not exactly sad, because he had a good life, especially compared to the two-year prognosis he was given. But still.

His name will forever be written in evaporating black holes.

OK, so I’m watching Stranger Things, and in season 2, episode 8, it gets really weird. You need to know BASIC to reboot the security system?

But then I remembered: it’s set in the eighties. So it almost makes sense.

Looks Like I Chose the Wrong Week to Start Working in Academia

What with the strike on, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of crossing a picket line, but there wasn’t really one. Nobody in the group I’m in was striking, as far as I could tell, and I’m not in the union (yet). And you know, the contract had a start date of last Monday. So one week into my new job, and I’m enjoying it tremendously.

I’ve been bashing bugs in a large and complex codebase. It was very satisfying to take the failing tests from 600 down to 490 with a single commit. That’s 600 failing tests out of 800. And looking at what’s there, it’s hard to see how some of them could ever have passed. I sort of get the impression that a whole lot might have been written but never run.

That big win involved nothing more than changing a class from being all static methods to being one that you can instantiate, and then passing in a test version of a ResourceBundle, instead of trying to read a properties file which wasn’t there in my setup.

More importantly, the people are nice. The commute is shorter than to Croydon, by a good half hour. But it’s a lot more crowded on the Circle Line than I remember from two years ago when I was at Misys.

Imperial Adventures

Just over a month ago I posted a brief note about job news, saying that more details would be forthcoming. I was, as I said then, just waiting for some paperwork.

It took longer than I expected to get that paperwork sorted out, but I received and returned the contract yesterday afternoon. On Monday I start work at the Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU), part of the School of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College.

That’s quite a mouthful, but in short I’ll be working on programming something called the The Rapid Inquiry Facility (RIF), which is an open-source tool for studying health statistics.

I’m neither a medical researcher nor a statistician, but I am a programmer (or a software engineer, if you want to be fancy). Our job is to understand the needs of someone — usually referred to as “the business,” but I’m guessing that will be different in my new job — and translate those needs into actions in software. That basic definition doesn’t change according to the problem domain. Whether it’s sending payments from one bank to another, checking a person’s right to work on a government database, or doing something with statistical data about health issues, the programmer’s job is to understand what the user needs and make things happen on a screen.

The big difference for me, I think, will be that in this new role I’ll have the chance to contribute to doing something good in the world. As I said at my interview, I’ve mainly worked in financial software, and while, sure, people need banks, it wasn’t the most socially-usefully thing. The last half-year working at the Home Office had some value, but I was a tiny cog in a huge machine.

At Imperial I’ll be able to feel that I’m actually contributing something useful to society, as well as doing what should be really interesting work.

Oh, and: I’ll be back in Paddington, which I know from my Misys days, and it’s a much shorter commute than to Croydon.