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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Friday, 23 September 2005

...and the weeks whizz by...

I don't know what's happened to the past few days. It's been busy here at home (Chris and Lenni always find plenty for me to do!) not least since Beth's having to take it easy, but that doesn't really excuse my non-blogging. That said - looky! No links, which must mean I've not really done much surfin'.

We've had fun - in an attempt to exercise my back a little, I have taken the children out every day - in fact, the weather's been mostly kind of an afternoon, and kept them occupied with music sessions in the studio (Christopher loves to sing and play songs for his mum!)

Packing for our trip to the middle of nowhere (Herefordshire) was the order of today, though, with the ubiquitous last-minute trip into town to make sure we've got the bits we need.

Tomorrow, then, we're off for a week of no internet, no satellite telly and plenty of countryside. Fortunately, my abdominal pain is much less chronic now - maybe it's the tablets, or perhaps it's the exercise with our little'uns!

More blog from me - hopefully with plenty of tales of our trip - next week!

(Oh, I found out a bit more about those photo printing machines I mentioned a couple of entries ago. They're made by Photo-Me, and there's more information about them here).

Link of the day:

  • www.eyezmaze.com/grow/cube : This cute, addictive mini-game (Shockwave Flash) helped me with the packing in no way at all. It's simple yet ingenious, and I still haven't managed to finish it! More of games like it can be found here (for the RPG'ers among us, this one is wonderful fun!)

Posted by james at 9:41 PM

Monday, 19 September 2005

Yarr! I'm a bit achey...

It's my last day at work before a bit of leave, and it's been the typical Monday after a busy weekend. Fortunately, there weren't too many calls to add to the bits and bobs that needed sorting out (Radio 1 had some power work, so they'd been broadcasting from Steve Wright's studio in Broadcasting House) so it's been tolerable. It didn't give much opportunity to enjoy International Talk Like A Pirate Day, though.

I've not been feeling the full shilling just lately, anyway, as previous blog entries have espoused; the doctor prescribed some tablets, one of which need to be taken a couple of hours before bedtime, but they've not really taken effect yet, save to make me feel sleepy first thing in the morning.

Add to that the removal of caffeine from my list of luxuries (apparently it makes the symptoms worse) and it's not so surprising I'm feeling a little under-the-weather. It's quite important that I make sure I have plenty of exercise, too - I'll be making sure of this while I'm off work.

Enough of my moaning... on completely unrelated matters, I notice that Olivio (Olive Oil based spread) is now called .. er .. going to have to look at the box again ... oh yeah, Bertolli. Why do they do that?

While I was browsing the Unilever website, I disovered that there are 33 things to do before you're 10: www.dirtisgood.co.uk/33things_to_do.asp.

We've done some of them with Christopher, and neither he nor Lenni are too fussed about getting a bit muddy. Unfortunately, it tends to be when they've got something brand new and white on, which doesn't impress Beth much! Still, you've got to live a little. Hopefully we'll get out and about plenty over the next week or so.

Since I've not posted any for a while, here are some photos of our two that I took during the weekend - playing with marionettes:

Christopher and Lenni with marionettesChristopher and Lenni with marionettes (again)Lenni - looking, cheeky!

Link of the day:


Posted by james at 9:06 PM

Saturday, 17 September 2005

rehearsal and photoprinting

Just a quick one... I had a really fun rehearsal today with the Jude contingent, giving my new electric guitar a good workout (wahoo!) It did tend to go a bit flat, but I'm blaming that on the new strings. The rest of my playing was completely my fault, although there are no (known) recordings so that's OK :D Snippets from previous sessions might be found here, though.

Automatic photo printing machine yay! I now have evidence - if it were required - that the shiny new Sony PSP is indeed a fragile beast. Read the sad story here: www.weebls-stuff.com/articles/454.

Finally, while we were in Wilkinsons the other day, I spotted this rather remarkable machine - for 40p a go (it's a bit steep, but the prices come down a bit more if you've got loads to do) you can put in a CD, CompactFlash card or even beam a photo via infra-red or bluetooth into it, and it will print it on nice glossy paper. How clever is that?

(An alternative is that a company called qoop.com can bind your Flickr photos into a glossy kind of book thing - ideal for coffee tables and showing off... it's probably a bit costly to ship from the States, though!)

Posted by james at 11:28 PM

Friday, 16 September 2005

Slideshow!

The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow PlayersIf I ever take to the stage, I want to do what the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players do; intimate venues, interacting with the audience (there was a Q&A session during the interval.. well, it was the interval) and selling (after signing) their merchandise with a friendly demeanour.

That, of course, would be to discredit the music - it was cleverly written (think They Might Be Giants meets... er... a slide projector and real drums) with catchy melodies, and, of course, some of the slides were hilarious!

The opening act was bizarre yet somehow alluring - a petite young (younger than me anyway!) lady from the lower East Side of New York, who loves her chihuahua and tells surreal puppet-based stories of her evil landlord. With slides. Rev Jen was her name, and you can see strange things on her website (very strange).

So now I'm the proud owner of a signed copy of Vintage Slide Collections from Seattle, Volume 1 - there are a couple of fine song samples on the radio.blog player (look down and to the right!) - which I promise not to sell on eBay...

More photos of the gig here (thanks to David X for making it possible!):


Jason and Tina Piña Trachtenburg

Rachel Piña Trachtenburg

Reverend Jen

Jason Trachtenburg and me

Today's been a meetings day, followed by some fairly frenetic preparation for Radio 1 to play out in Broadcasting House over the weekend, if the power work goes a bit awry (it probably won't, but if you hear something unusual, you'll know what it was!) and I'm on my way home for the weekend.

No rest for the (barely) wikkid, though, since I'm being picked up for a Jude rehearsal at half-past eight tomorrow morning. I'm very much looking forward to having a proper go with my new guitar, although I definitely need plenty of practice!

There are no great plans for Sunday (thank goodness!) and Monday's return to work is my last for a couple of weeks - yay!

I ought to mention that my appointment with the GP on Wednesday morning gave rise to a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which kind-of fits the description of what I have. Unfortunately, it's not curable, but I've been prescribed some rather worrying tablets to have a go at reducing the acuteness of the symptoms. I'll try that for a month (between you and me, I'm only taking half-doses, and I'm not supposed to have alcohol or caffeine) then perhaps exploring alternative therapies (acupuncture is supposed to be quite good for it).

Enough from me, then - have a good weekend!

Posted by james at 11:35 PM

Wednesday, 14 September 2005

Sverige

While surfing the internet, Beth discovered some reasonably inexpensive flights to and from Stockholm with Ryanair so we booked me a 'day trip' there!

OK, so I had to rise at ten-to-five in the morning (the day after the end of my last night shift; I'm not sure my body clock's back in sync yet!) and didn't get home until after midnight, but wow - what a day inbetween.

Petrol station queueI walked to the airport (one of the benefits of living where we do!); it was a quarter past five in the morning, but there was already a queue outside the petrol station! Panic buying 24 hours a day... who'd have thought?

So, after a quick dash through the check-in followed by the traditional tedious wait, off I went - it was a fairly uneventful flight, on the standard Boeing 737 type of plane.

Airport coachThe coach at the far end to take me 80km to the capital was smooth and swift - Greenline could learn a lot about new vehicles, air-conditioning, comfort and customer service (especially since I only knew one word of Swedish!) - and I found myself in the centre of Stockholm before I knew it.

Wow - what a place. It's almost impossible to compare with anywhere I've been before, although the closest I've managed is Bristol, which has a fair amount of water around it, too. That said, though, as I reflect on the calmness, the antiquity and the ease of travelling from place to place (I spent the whole day finding my way around on foot, although the public transport seemed excellent), it's a world apart from any large British town - or any capital city for that matter!

I made a point of visiting the old town (Gamla Stan) where I chanced upon the procession of the King and Queen out of the Royal Palace to the opening of parliament. In fact, I thought I was watching the changing of the guards when the small crowd of people assembled behind a rope barrier started clapping. I had noted that a couple of students had been carrying out surveys with those gathered around, so I asked them "Who's that?" As one does.

To cut a long story short, I covered a good portion of the city on foot, chancing across the Swedish national public radio and television broadcasters on my way out east to the lofty Kaknästornet.

Once I'd had my fill of the wonderful aerial view of Stockholm, I returned to town via the nearby National Museum of Science and Technology, and a supermarket to buy some treats for the children (it's OK - I didn't buy them saltlakrits... ew!) and it wasn't long after that the coach took me back to the airport (there is only one coach, so it was critical that I caught it!)

I certainly wasn't the only person taking a day-trip - there were a few faces I recognised on the return journey to the tiny, yet (as with so many things in Sweden) perfectly formed Västerås Airport. In fact, I could even have saved myself a couple of hundred Kronors by walking to the nearby town of Västerås, which seems quite pretty from the webcam image (even though it's a bit old!)

I took plenty of photos while I was over there - and I have finally succumbed, and signed up for a Flickr account - all of the lovely Stockholm photos I took with a 'proper' digital camera are on there (see below for a preview!)

www.flickr.com


I arrived home just after midnight, having enjoyed chatting to two other day-trip travellers on the return flight (it always makes time go so much more quickly!) and went straight to bed, footsore and achey but having enjoyed my trip to the beautiful city of Stockholm!

Link of the day:

  • www.vectorpark.com - simple yet beautiful vector-based moving art. Isn't this what the internet is all about? Essentially pointless, but so creative...

Posted by james at 10:34 AM

Monday, 12 September 2005

Ukulele mashups, talkaoke and radio wrongness

ukulele!
I was listening to some comedy on Radio 4 yesterday when I heard a piece of music by The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain; they have played some music that has impressed me in the past, but this really caught my imagination... it could, I suppose, be described as a 'ukulele-based mash-up' and exposé of basic pop musical premises. It's here (1.8MB MP3) if you want to hear it for yourself. (quick plug - it's also on the blog radio... down and to the right of here!)
The Ukulele Orchestra are playing the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-sea on the 14th October... I would love to go and see them in my old home town, but I'm all gigged out for 2005, more's the pity.


talkaoke!
Earlier on this evening, Radio 4's Word Of Mouth programme featured an unusual concept in social interaction - Talkaoke. It's like a chat-show, except with random people. More info here: www.talkaoke.com.


why not?
While listening to A World in Your Ear, Radio 4's programme about world-wide radio, they featured a story that really frustrated me.

With the thousands of Katrina refugees occupying Houston Astrodome, some fine citizens had the fine idea of creating a radio station to keep them informed about all that is going on. The FCC (America's broadcasting regulators) approved it, and volunteers set it up, but the only thing standing in the way of its launch is - and this is so wrong - the owners of the stadium! Why? Because they're worried about Gangsta Rap! More information at the Dome Radio site... I hope they are able to start broadcasting soon!


natural disaster
Before I go, here's the latest addition to those "I'm sure that's not what they meant" TV captions:



Click for the article

Posted by james at 12:38 AM

Sunday, 11 September 2005

brief update on things...

Television debut!
OK, so the appearances are only very, very brief, but 2005 has definitely been the year for our family turning up on the telly! Who can you spot in this clip? (2MB RealMedia) It's a brief snippet from the last episode of How To Start Your Own Country - a fine TV programme (of which I singularly managed to miss every episode!) based on Danny Wallace's clever Citizens Required project. Thanks, Jon, for the video capture!


iPAQ wi-fi card(s) of doom.
Well, my iPAQ has - yet again - decided to reject the wi-fi card that I carefully introduced to it (following all the standard procedures - neutral venue, public place...) which is rather annoying.

That's not strictly accurate - it works sometimes, which is possibly even worse, since there's no rhyme or reason to it. Still, the 128MB storage bit is fine, so I can enjoy all kinds of audio delights on the way to work.


Gizmo vs XLite/Sipgate.. does it work?
Excitingly(ish), yes!.. it's possible to make free VoIP calls between the shiny new Gizmo and my current sipgate.co.uk account on XLite. Which would be nice if my iPAQ was working...!


Radio 1 webcast thingy.
As is often the way with record companies, a decision was made that no video cameras would be installed... complete waste of time - and opportunity(!) Still, that's the evil corporate world for you.

Posted by james at 1:44 AM

Saturday, 10 September 2005

on the nightshift...

The week's zoomed by - well, kind of!

I've had to make an appointment with the doctor's because of some rather unpleasant back and chest pains; the earliest they could fit me in is next Wednesday, by which time I bet my twinges will have gone away!

Not much else to report, really; I'm on night shifts over the weekend (which is why I'm writing this at some odd time of night!) and then a week of interesting delights, including a random day trip to Stockholm that Beth organised as a surprise for me! and attendance of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players gig in London. Oh, and a doctor's appointment!

Maybe... if the mood takes me, I might have a play with this whole Ajax thing. It's all rage, y'know - a more 'interactive' way to access websites. A fine example is Google Suggest. There's a really handy tutorial at the .net website that I'll probably have a play with.

tiny little ipod nano!Yet again, Apple have created a wonderful piece of art - the iPod nano is remarkably small and - as ever - I'd love one!

Links of the day:


Posted by james at 11:56 PM

Monday, 5 September 2005

CDs, convivialities and celebrities.

Wow... it's been a long time since my last blog entry... it's certainly not that there's been nothing going on (if that's not too many negatives!); I would say that work, family time and - I'm almost ashamed to say - sorting out my CD collection (not of Bob Marlee) since I've run out of shelving space in the studio.

discarded CD inlays and casesIt's been quite enjoyable, actually, listening back to CD singles that have not been played for years, or - more to the point - the other tracks on the disc that have never been heard.

They're all going into PVC wallets, to occupy one of those CD boxes you can buy for a pound or so - there's a slowly growing pile of cracked plastic cases littering the floor that Christopher has taken to stamping on when he's got his traines on... they do make a fine sound!

I'm a bit concerned about my studio - after three years of faultless operation, little faults have started to surface; the left hand speaker stopped working, and one or two of the mixer channels have started to crackle. When the weather cools a little I shall attend to those little jobs and - you never know - might actually make some music.

Christopher attended the annual 'summer club' at the Pentecostal church in town, a boisterous but affable week of fun and games. It wore him out, but he's been sleeping well, and we'll have a few calm days to compensate, I'm sure.

fine reading materialsThat said, I've been away this weekend - Jon had his bi-annual barbecue, and I caught the train down south to attend it, and then to have lunch with Mother on Sunday.

The barbecue was great - the usual suspects turned up, and many burgers, sausages and cans of beer were consumed. At one stage, great interest was paid to the youngest guest's books (he was 14 months old!) which amused me enough to want to capture the moment...

Jon conceived a fine idea for the party soundtrack - he designed a web page on which people could search for songs by artist and title, and, when they found something they liked, they could 'request' it, adding it dynamically to the playlist on his marvellous Playout software. It proved very popular, especially when the wi-fi enabled PDAs were extracted from pockets, so that songs could be added from the garden!

Although brief, it was good to spend time at my childhood home, especially since my brother, Dave, and his family had popped by on Sunday morning, too. After a tasty continental lunch of cheese and wurst I trundled back up north courtesy of Southern trains (comfortable and air-conditioned) and Thameslink (noisy, dirty and inexplicably leaving from Kentish Town, even though I'd travelled to King's Cross the day before.. arrgh!).

multimedia spectacular.. or somethingSo to work again, today and tomorrow, with a scattering of appraisals and early nights. I popped by Radio 1 this morning, through a gaggle (please replace this collective noun with one of your own) of photographers, to check out the temperature of our apparatus room; I also wanted to check to see if the video feed had been set up for the Robbie Williams interview - hence the paparazzi - so I could tidy it up. I was quite pleased with the set-up, since it represented the pilot for regular webcasts; hopefully the outcome can be seen on the BBC Radio 1 web pages at some point, although it kind-of stretches the definition of radio, somewhat...

Needless to say, though, I didn't get to see the bloke himself (sorry, Amy!) although amusingly I had to wander past McFly on my way back to the office, as they signed autographs for the regular attendees of an area just outside Broadcasting House's reception. (I'm guessing they sell the signed photos on eBay...) Looking at their bored, vacuous, yet perfectly made-up (?) faces as the small cluster of spikey haired short-arses piled into the people carrier, I'm glad I was never Boy Band material!

In dull techie news, I saw an article today reporting that - after the rather hyped launch of the PSP (I saw one, and it looks like a big mobile phone, and would probably smash to bits if dropped on the floor) - Sony are considering putting Blu-Ray into their Playstation 3 in an attempt to make it more ubiquitous than HD-DVD... I can feel a VHS vs. Betamax / DVD+R vs. DVD-R battle coming on.

I'll (nearly) end this blog entry sparing a thought for the victims of the New Orleans disaster. It's such a shame that the words of this National Geographic article author weren't heeded last year, although I live in hope that the displaced lives will soon find stability (even if it ends up being ten miles inland...)



  • Random "summer fun on a sackbarrow" photos...

Christopher's ride on a sackbarrowLennie and her bumblebee outfit!
Christopher's sackbarrow ride, and Lennie* as a bumblebee!

*It'll take some getting used to, but that's her name of choice...
Fortunate, really, since there will be two 'Ella's at pre-school next month!


Link of the day:


Posted by james at 9:34 PM


 
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