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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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Sunday, 31 December 2006

year-ending...

Well, we've had a wonderful Christmas, with the children overwhelmed with the exciting gifts they've been given (thank you!) intermingled with some days at work, sparsely attended by engineers, but still giving us the opportunity to catch up on a good few outstanding jobs!

Hart/Davies Family Twixtmas 2006Yesterday, Beth organised a family get-together at the Methodist Church nearby her folks; in all, there were twenty-nine of us there (and we're really grateful toeveryone for taking the time to come and share the celebration with us!), with children, parents, grand-parents and great-grandparents sitting down and enjoying an opportunity to catch up. There's plenty of left-over buffet food in the fridge - in fact, I'm pretty made-up with all the left-overs from the Christmas meals at work!

There's a photo of almost all of the assembled family (save for Beth's Dad who was responsible for being on the other side of the camera - he came up with the idea shortly after Dad & Rita had left, unfortunately) in the gallery... thank you to everyone who came along - it was fantastic to see everyone (especially the children, as they all co-operated with the scattered toys) getting on so well.

Looking back, it's been a very pleasant year, all told. All of us have picked up some life experience - for me, it was balancing work (and opportunities for overtime) with time spent with the family, working on podcasts, rehearsing with Jude and trying to keep up with all the podcasts to which I now subscribe!!

We've not really any substantial plans for 2007 - obviously, life can throw all kinds of eventualities at us (please God they're manageable, though!) but there are a few things I'd like to hae achieved by the end of December 2007..

  • Grow some vegetables. Emma, the gardening maestro from The Emma And Pete Show was kind enough to send me some seeds, and it'll be interesting to see if I can make them pop up, so Beth can stick them in a pan and we can feast on the healthy produce of nature!
  • Produce a demo tape with Jude. We're almost at the 'regular rehearsal' stage although I still need to take my guitar to the doctor. Something for the New Year!
  • Home improvements. You never know, I might get round to putting up the cupboards in the guest area, give the house a really good clean and - eventually - turn my attention to the work that still needs doing in the stuidio (a bit of rewiring, decorating the door and generally making things a little tidier).

That'll do for now, though, apart from a continued hope that we'll have time and opportunity to spend time with family and friends - it doesn't help greatly that I work some weekends, but I'm sure the chance will arise at some point!

mac bits
www.stepwise.com/Articles/Workbench/eart.index.html : A bookmark for me, really, and when I have the chance to investigate further - how (finally?) to set webmail up on my Mac.. if it works!

synthesizer things
www.polyvalens.com/vl1/index.html : I've always loved the sound of the Casio VL-Tone, and, having heard it on Robbie Williams's Rudebox track (it's the blippy noise in the background of the instrumental sample here: ) I've managed to get hold of an emulator of the VST plug-in variety (so it'll work with my little Logic Audio setup. (thanks, Trev!)

free odd music
www.sputnikworld.com/common/tracks.aspx : Want to listen to what 80s band Sigue Sigue Sputnik are doing now? They've lost none of their electronic punky distinctiveness, I can tell you that!

Posted by james at 10:12 PM

Sunday, 24 December 2006

runup

It's getting so close to Christmas, and it's a bit of a struggle to fit everything in, especially when the work days are quite intensive. Still, I'm sure we'll get everything done (although you might just have to wait a while for your card to arrive!)

We've finally put the Christmas tree up, now that the new carpet's all down and settled, and we're making steady progress with present wrapping.

In fact, with the various visitations we've been making and general preparations for Christmas, it's been quite a pleasant, festive time. I'm off work now until Boxing Day (gone - at least for now - are the rather irritating Christmas Day shifts, thank goodness!) and schools broke up on Wednesday.

I took the children on a last-minute shopping trip to Stevenage yesterday morning, so they could each buy a present for their mum; I still think they're a bit too young to be giving presents to each other, but it was sweet to see them making their choices, based on what they thought she might like.

I've spent the last couple of evenings working on the podcast - we're trying to get one out before Christmas; I've got a few bits of editing to do, and then we're on course for having it uploaded on Christmas Eve (if anyone's downloading podcasts then!)

radio bits
One great bit of news is that Ofcom have made some of those little FM transmitters you can get for MP3 players legal, so whenever we've been in the car, I've been inflicting festive tunes on the family (it saves on the aggravation of constant rotation of Razorlight and Snow Patrol on commercial radio!) - there's an informative article about it in The Register.

I've also been told about a rather interesting new internet broadcasting service - Ubroadcast. It's almost like 'public access radio' for internet broadcasting; it's free at the moment, but presenters will ultimately be charged for their airtime. If I could commit to a regular time, I would certainly be interested in playing 'radio stations'! (thanks, Heather!)

Local Luton News
There's still an awful lot of work going on just down the road from us - they're building an enormous bypass to take traffic destined for the airport off the main M1 to Hitchin route (which is the main road that passes our house).

The Luton Borough Council 'ELC project' website has details of roadworks that are taking place in the near future, and the next couple of days will certainly be interesting, since they're intending to lower a new bridge over the railway. This needs to be done on Christmas Day, apparently, since it's the only day in the year that trains don't run, and there are concerns about the vibrations causing problems! Every time we've driven past the site, floodlights and workers have abounded, so I'm guessing it's really important they get it done in time!

Maybe we can take a few minutes off eating our mince pies to see what's giong on.. interesting times, indeed.

links of the day (festive and otherwise!)

  • www.elfyourself.com : This one's given us no end of fun since I was sent this (thanks, Deb!) - upload a picture of yourself or a friend and have them perform a festive dance!
  • www.clubpenguin.com : Christopher's current favourite online-game.. an interactive world of Penguins... or, something!
  • www.panopticist.com/archives/215.html : One for the film-buffs among us.. there's one sound effect that's become something of an 'in-joke' in movies over the years.. they call it the Wilhelm Scream, and some diligent viewer has put together this entertaining compilation!

Merry Christmas, one and all!

last minute update : there's a festive edition of The North South Divide available now! Hope you enjoy it...

Posted by james at 5:02 PM

Sunday, 10 December 2006

rehearsal pics and workin'...

Guitarrr!Just a quick entry to point to the photos we took during the rehearsal yesterday evening - they're in the gallery, and you'll notice that most of them are from the same position. I set the camera up to take a photo every minute, to which (and the little red light to warn that a photo was about to be taken!) we all got wise, hence why there were quite a few bizarre pictures!

Back to work tomorrow... I've got my appraisal, and a week's worth of email to catch up on. I can't believe it's a week since our Image FM meanderings already... wow. Hopefully there'll be another one before New Year!

Posted by james at 9:00 PM

tasty wine... and real ales!

Beth and I shared a bottle of First cape - First Selection the other evening, and it was really rather delicious.

Just thought I'd blog it here, so I could remember what it's called so we can buy it again (if we can find it!)

Since I'm blogging about alcohol, a couple of my favourite beers are:

  • Waggle Dance by Youngs - a beer brewed with a little honey.. very smooth and tasty.
  • Wells Banana Bread beer - sweet, with a hint of bitterness, but definitely banana-y!

Posted by james at 12:30 PM

sunday papers...

Just a quicky - Beth's in the Independent on Sunday today - news.independent.co.uk/people/profiles/article2062423.ece - I think there's a photo of her in the paper version.

More (including photos and MP3s of the Jude rehearsal session) later... I hope!

Posted by james at 9:22 AM

child-friendly games

A couple of child-friendly games to distract little'uns..

Posted by james at 9:12 AM

Saturday, 9 December 2006

sounds like Christmas is on the way...

Another audioblog, with various meanderings from me and clips of various things.

Click the play button to play!

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Download here: audioblog20061209-32k.mp3 (2MB MP3 - 9mins 11 secs)


new look lounge


our new look lounge our new look lounge


Christopher's drama performance


Christopher's drama club performance Christopher as an elf
(click on the photos for bigger!)

Christopher's school choir performance


Christopher's drama club performance Christopher as an elf
(click on the photos for bigger!)

Eleanor's Pre-school Christmas Performance


Eleanor as an angel Eleanor's Pre-school performance
(click on the photos for bigger!)

Thanks for listening and looking!

Posted by james at 10:44 AM

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

on course for carpet laying..

I'm surprised I haven't put a blog entry together over the past couple of days - being away from home often gives me enough time to put an entry together, but I've taken the opportunity to work on a couple of bits of the website (I've uploaded the weekend's radio activities to the Image FM archive site, for example, and hopefully made it a lot easier to put more old shows online, too.).

Both Jon and I thoroughly enjoyed playing 'radio' on Sunday evening - there are photos of our idiocy in the gallery and you can hear four very different shows - as I mentioned before - in the Image FM archive.

So.. the last couple of days have been spent learning all about a home-built control system which, despite being built using a very old system (it was designed for Windows for Workgroups.. 3.11 or whatever it's called) is still heavily used today, and the latest incarnation of which has been mostly rolled out in the new buildings.

Because this course took place at a dedicated training centre, it had the facilities to be really well designed, with lots of bits of kit to control, from video routers to camera motors, so I had plenty of hands-on opportunity (so if I wasn't really available on MSN, that's why!)

I'm on the long journey back home now. Athough I have nothing like the same trouble with technical details and - on the whole - music, it's long been a problem for me that my memory is particularly poor at recalling previous circumstances. Either it had completely escaped my recollection or Network Rail had seen fit to change the way trains went to Worcestershire, since the journey time between Luton and Evesham is about three-and-a-half hours. Still, it gives me a chance to catch up with the podcasts - so far, I've listened to the always bizarre Hooting Yard (from Resonance FM), Ramdom Foughts (which is where I found a rather good Depeche Mode remix) and Digital Planet.

There's a chance that I won't upload this as soon as I get home - a new lounge carpet is arriving tomorrow, so the old one will have to be removed - no mean feat considering all the furniture that's on it! It'll look great when it's all done, though, I think, especially now that Beth's painted the walls (and I can put my new speakers up).

The weekend's fairly free, though, so that'll mean I can catch up with the children - it'd be great to get out and about with them, if the weather's up to it!

Well, that's about it, really, save for a couple of links that I picked up from who knows where...

links of the day:

  • www.darrenbarefoot.com/hall - signs that tell you what to do.. or maybe not?

  • copycommaright.blogspot.com - excellent collection of cover versions... in some ways I'm really glad I discovered this, because it has some fine, fine interpretations on it. Others are, shall we say, a litle less salubrious.

Posted by james at 10:17 PM

Friday, 1 December 2006

sickness and upheaval.. but it's not all bad..!

I'm still alive, honest!

In fact, I'm typing this while the coach takes me up the (currently!) uncongested M1, to what might end up being a house in darkness - Beth texted me earlier to say that there'd been a power cut, so I'm imagining there could be a delay in uploading (or even finishing!) this.

I wonder if installing one of those rather excellent Quiet Revolution vertical axis wind turbines would help in such situations? It looks like there's a fair amount of energy available, having referred to the DTI's windspeed database. Having had two outages in the past few months, I'm beginning to think it'd be pretty cool to be the only house in the street with lights on!

Well, there's plenty going on as a damp December stumbles over the discarded remains of a rather warm November, overall.. in fact, the week since my birthday was somewhat hampered by a 24 hour bug (I can't stand having days off work!) and the beginnings of a cold, but I think I'm pretty-much back to normal, for an entertaining weekend with the family and Jon, who's coming to stay.

I'd recovered enough by last Saturday to drive down to Guildford to rehearse with David and Simon (the newly recruited drummer) of Jude. It was an excellent session, in a small rehearsal room built out of an old railway tunnel. Hopefully there'll be some MP3 clips available when I have time to chop them up!

The crazy scenes of teenage fans outside the venue weren't, however, on our behalf - it was overspill from a gig that was taking place next door, and they mainly got in the way as we moved our kit back to our respective cars. It's pretty cool that I can drive to the heart of Surrey within an hour that time of night, but with all the darkness and motorway, it's not something I'll do too often, I hope!

I was back to work on Monday, and the week has rather zipped by; where does the time go? I'm trying to keep the stress levels down - there's a lot of disomfit owing to a reorganisation that's planned for just after Christmas; in fact, it's becoming somewhat clearer that mmanagement factions are developing, which is kinda weird and hard to keep out of.

The worst thing is that the engineers that I manage are still working really hard to keep on top of all the work that's still coming in, but my concern is that, admidst all the speculation and paranoia around the managers, our achievements won't be celebrated as they might. Fortunately, we supervisors have a tenacity that hopefully will result in a reasonable evening out, rather than a rather unremarkable meal in an Indian restaurant.

Enough of my work woes (I'm trying to keep a low profile, although always happy to impart my opinion!) - it's going to be a great weekend. Sunday evening will be fun, when - as I mentioned in my last blog entry - Jon and I are going to indulge ourselves in some small-scale broadcasting of our own.

I'll have to be up early on Monday, though, to take the train up to the depths of Worcestershire for a three-day course, so the rollercoaster continues.

In fact, with the upcoming Christmas Bazaars, performances and meals (and, of course, work!), I'm not sure there's much opportunity for many days out, and we've got some work to do on the lounge, too, with a new carpet arriving next week.

radio bits

podcast bits

Well, time to leave you with some links,..

links of the day

Posted by james at 2:10 PM


 
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