Is a new word I learned today from Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian, in his story about the global container transport system.Malaccamax, from Wikipedia:

“Malaccamax is a naval architecture term for the largest ships capable of fitting through the Straits of Malacca. A Malaccamax ship is defined to be, with 18,000 TEUs, of 300,000 DWT, 470m long, 60m wide, 20m of draft. The restriction is caused by the shallow point on the Strait, where minimum depth is 25 metres.

A post malaccamax ship would need to circumnavigate Australia, use the Lombok Strait, or use the proposed yet-unbuilt Kra Canal.”

Also – must go and order “The Box” by Marc Levinson.

From Burkeman’s piece:

“Under a bullet-grey sky this week at Felixstowe, Britain’s largest container port, it is easy to grasp why nobody pays much attention to the transport system that provides us with 95% of all imported goods. Where ports once seethed with life – the shops, tradespeople, pubs and brothels dependent on regular passing crews – Felixstowe, with its strict security controls, feels virtually abandoned. The mountains of containers, painted in browns, blues, oranges and greens, make for a desolately beautiful landscape. And the giant gantry cranes, which sweep the containers up and on or off the waiting ships with balletic grace, are mesmerising to watch, except that there is almost nobody there to watch. The few drivers and crane operators present on the quay are following the instructions of a computer that has calculated the precise order in which the containers should be moved and stacked for maximum efficiency, so that a single container’s journey from ship to waiting lorry is as short as possible and no truck ever drives anywhere empty when it could be carrying something. In Rotterdam, Europe’s busiest port, the scene is even ghostlier: the vehicles moving the containers from the stacks on the ground to the waiting cranes are driverless, piloting themselves even through thick fog using infra-red technology.

The desolation is only interrupted when the sheer vastness of the process seizes the public imagination, as it did last November when the world’s largest cargo liner, the Emma Maersk, arrived at Felixstowe carrying 45,000 tonnes of Christmas gifts from China. Crowds lined the port’s security perimeter to study the vessel, which is half a mile long and was stacked 200ft high, although even then people failed to grasp the speed with which the industry operates. “We were getting calls from people two weeks later asking if she was still in port,” says Rachael Jackson, a spokeswoman for Felixstowe port, which handles more than 40% of Britain’s import-export cargo. “But if we did things at that speed we’d never make any money. She was gone in 24 hours.”

Any SxSW tips for a first-time speaker?

Confirmed today that I'm going to be at SxSW Interactive this year, thanks to the kind invitation of Mr. Kevin Cheung.

I'm going to be on a panel talking about design for mobile, which is going to be a little wierd because what I do in the day job generally is help design mobiles themselves, their interaction design frameworks, the GUI and the apps on top – but I haven't really been up in the content layer for a while… Also, generally I'm working on stuff 18 months to 2 years out.

I hope people will be entertained / informed if I talk from that perspective and reach up to the content layer concerns as best I can. I'm not so familiar with SxSW – having only attended once and never spoken. I know a lot of people in my neighbourhood on Vox have – any tips?

P.s. I scored a room in the Hotel San Jose, which was a great place to hang out last time I was there.

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Nemesis: twisted world-building at it’s best.

Just spent the last few days ill – and indulging myself with The Complete Nemesis The Warlock: Book 1.

2000AD was a formative influence in my life (as it probably is for many 30something British Males) but I'd forgotten just how much of that for me was down to Nemesis the Warlock.

2000AD as an anthology comic franchise has more famous characters – especially Judge Dredd – but nothing really appealed as much as the out-and-out wanton weirdness of Kevin O'Neill and Pat Mills at their creative height. Mills wanted to create something as weird and wonderful as he found in the pages of Metal Hurlant, but with the dark humour that 2000AD was known for.

Mills in his introduction to the collection:

"I liked the way the French would come up with crazy 'throwaway' worlds and plots; it reminded me of some of the wilder rock videos and, hence the musical references in the early Nemesis stories. With 'Terror Tube' and the tales that followed, Kevin an I were 'comic jamming' – writing and drawing the wildest stories we could think of, deliberately avoiding the traditional comic approach."

Of the creative partnership Kevin O'Neill states in the afterword to the book:

"We were never short of material for Nemesis – indeed we probably only put in a fraction of what we discussed… Ten pages made up as we went along – both desperate to top one another's mad flights of fancy"

The sheer amount of detail, in-jokes, strangeness, stomach-churning tentacular appendages and visual easter-eggs in each page is wonderful. Also, Mills creates a dark, funny and rollicking adventure that works as well if you are 9 or 34 years old.

Of course, as required of all great epic-adventure fictions, it has a really, really, really good bad guy in Tomas de Torquemada. Particularly once he has become a phantasm after a grizzly accident with a teleportation system. O'Neill runs wild with him from that point, and Mills gives him diabolical dialogue a-plenty to create a Moriarty-crossed-with-Matthew-Hopkins.

A fantastic, phantasmagorical blast from my past which I'd recommend anyone with fond memories of 2000AD to reacquaint themselves with; or if you've read 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' to see where Kevin O'Neill's brand of dense, twisted world-building began to hit it's stride.

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With the ill behaviour

In Grant Morrison's magnificently-wierd "The Filth", he proposes that we are all dancing to the whims of the billions of bacteria, mitochondria, and other microscopic lifeforms that inhabit us. Free will is an illusion brought on by human scale alone.

After this holiday season I know this to be true – I have been pole-axed by the common cold at one scale and the corporation at the other. My only days of paid leave that I used were spent coughing, sneezing, generally oozing mucus and feeling sorry for myself.

As the holiday season ebbed away, so did my illness. I can literally feel my cold winding down in perfect asymptotic minute-by-minute countdown synchronisation to my return to work.

Bloody marvellous.

On the plus side, I did get to catch up with quite a bit of television taped off the internets.

"Heroes" is fine nonsense, isn't it?

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