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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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Thursday, 27 March 2008

Holiday week.. and signage!

It's been a lovely Easter Week, with plenty going on; we met up with Beth's latest surrogate family on Easter Monday, and Beth and I went into London on Tuesday with Suzanne - and to meet up with a bunch of old and new friends - for the excellent Comedy At The George night on the Strand as an early birthday celebration.

Beth had a hospital appointment yesterday - hopefully the last of the ones related to her post-birth complications - and I went to the doctors' today, because I've had rather an annoying ache in my neck, jaw and ears for the past couple of weeks. The doctor suspects it's probably a virus, and I should take anti-inflammatories until it goes.. obviously if it lingers, I have to go back (but I'm certainly hoping it doesn't!) To be honest, it's not quite as debilitating as it was, so I can't really complain.

We also went to a craft afternoon organised by Lenni and Chris's schools' Family Workers - the first warm afternoon in a long time (we were playing in the snow on Easter Day!) and I've finally completed some of the DIY jobs that have long needed doing, including replacing the taps in the downstairs toilet with the same sort we now have in the bathroom, putting a new light fitting at the top of the stairs (something of a nightmare, because the Volt Stick I used to check for live cables was reporting electricity when there wasn't any!) to illuminate a full-length mirror that we bought today.

In other news, Beth got a bit of a surprise this afternoon.. on her way to Asda, she spotted a street sign near where we live being changed for what appeared to be a new one. The net result is that at one end of the street it says "Falconers Road", while the other now has "Falconers Way." Since I love trivia of such a sort (and it was quite a pleasant afternoon!), I took off on my bike to take some photographs... click the pics below for the evidence.

Falconers Road... at one endFalconers Way... at the other!

Maybe it was an honest mistake... or perhaps it was a jape by someone trying to confuse pizza delivery companies and lost airport passengers..? I've written to the paper, anyway!

Posted by james at 6:27 PM

Friday, 21 March 2008

Things to do on Good Friday

It's been a strange but enjoyable Good Friday - we attended the Good Friday Procession near where Beth's folks live, and shared Hot Cross Buns with the congregation in the morning, and after a simple lunch, we decided to open up the Bigpockets Bag O' Crap that I'd ordered earlier in the week (along with some rather more sensible blank CD-Rs!)

Bigpockets encouraged reviews and videos to be made of the openings of the box - there are already plenty on the product page - so we decided to make one, too. Well, it's certainly imaginative.. we all had great fun recording it, and, once iMovie stopped crashing, it wasn't too hard to put together. We recorded it on Beth's camera, which isn't really a proper video camera, which is why the resolution isn't brilliant.. but I'm sure you get the idea! Lenni and Chris performed brilliantly, and Beth was in charge of the camera.

Otherwise, it's been a busy old week at work; my laptop died on Tuesday, and it's still not been repaired, so I'm unable to log in to work during my time off - which isn't such a bad thing, I suppose!

We're off to see Lucy and Emily (two of the little'uns Beth looked after for nine months) tomrorow, and then it's a family Easter Sunday at home, which will be lovely. I hope you have a happy and holy Easter, too.

Posted by james at 11:17 PM

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Early Day Motion: Photography in Public Areas.

I've just sent a letter to Margaret Moran (through writetothem.com) to ask her to sign up to an Early Day Motion raised by another MP - Austin Mitchell.

Ever since I've had a camera of any description, I've enjoyed taking photos of the locality; in these days of suspicion and worry, the risks of having my camera confiscated by a concerned police officer or community support officer are higher than ever, and this House Of Commons early day motion - 1155 - raises the issue and asks for a code of conduct be created by the Home Office to allow what's really an innocent and completely legal hobby to go on uninhibited.

Here's the letter I wrote:

Dear Margaret Moran,

I am writing with a request for your support in a forthcoming Early Day
Motion - number 1155.

This has been raised by Mr Austin Mitchell, and requests that greater
consideration by and communication to the police be made of the
legality, and indeed, freedom of photography in public places.

I'm a keen amateur photographer, who enjoys recording in pictures
twenty-first century life in Luton and its locality, but I feel somewhat
intimidated in my pastime by the risk that PCSOs and police officers
may see fit to confiscate my camera or memory card without justifiable
cause.

Please give consideration to the motion (viewable on Parliament's Early
Day Motions website - http://edmi.parliament.uk) and, if you agree with
it, add your name to the list of supporters - which already includes
your colleague Kelvin Hopkins.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this letter.

Yours sincerely,

james Hart

Posted by james at 3:25 PM

Friday, 14 March 2008

Catching up.. and Neil Gaiman

I've had quite a busy week, all told, with some installation work today (one of the project engineers had gone sick this week, and some urgent cabling needed to be installed so that our suppliers could configure some new database hardware) a long day in Worcestershire yesterday, helping a lecturer work on the syllabus for a consolidation course that's taking place in May, a general workday on Wednesday and some more using of left-over holiday on Tuesday (which seems a long time ago!) just sorting out bits at home.

Trev, Chris, Charlie and Frankie at WoodsideConsequently, the Daily Photo Of The Day has taking something of a hiatus(!) and I've not really got that much to report. My good friend and podcast partner Trev came down with his daughters on Saturday; we had some fun at Woodside (more photos here), and the children had a sort-of 'disco' with lights and bubbles in the evening. It was a fun, but exhausting weekend, and the house was terrifyingly quiet when the children had gone to school on Monday!

I've long been a fan of Neil Gaiman's writing - ever since I first encountered his work (a collaboration with Terry Pratchett, called Good Omens - one of my all-time favourite reads) I've enjoyed everything he's done, especially the London-based Neverwhere, which is one of the best fantasy TV dramas I've seen, too.

I was quite surprised, then, that I'd not heard of Stardust - a romantic comedy fantasy film based on a novel he wrote. Beth and I watched it on Tuesday night; it was quite, quite brilliant (save for an appearance by Ricky "I can only do one character, and he's annoying" Gervais) and I'll definitely watch it again.

Still on the subject of Neil Gaiman, I heard from a TWiT podcast that one of his short stories in a Sherlock Holmes style - A Study In Emerald - is available as a free audiobook download from harpercollinsebooks.com. I'm really looking forward to relaxing and listening to it. Who knows, there may be time this weekend.. although Beth's got a study morning tomorrow, we're meeting up with the wonderful Tamara for lunch, and hopefully we'll get the parsnips (which I realise now was wrongly labelled as carrots on the plan!) and lettuce sown if the weather behaves!

It's a busy, busy life (but I wouldn't - and probably couldn't - have it any other way!)

Posted by james at 11:45 PM

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Daily Photo of the Day: cars

Another 'bus stop' shot.. it was dusk when I left work, and, had I been able to amble through the streets of Marylebone, I could have made the most of it. However, I had a coach to catch. That it arrived three-quarters-of-an-hour late was something of a frustration, but what can be done?

This time a photo towards Marylebone Road, with a long (13 seconds) exposure - and no buses!

It's Friday tomorrow... lots to fit in, but an exciting weekend in store, too. We've got friends coming to visit, and on Sunday evening, Jon and I are having another go at Image FM.. our occasional internet radio station. The fun starts at 7pm... you have been warned!

Now, though, I'm a little late to bed, after the mac decided to go on a 'slowdown.' Juice (my podcast downloading software) seems to be rather greedy with system resources on occasion.. I wonder if there are any alternatives (apart, of course, from iTunes!)

Posted by james at 10:20 PM

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Daily Photo of the Day: branding

This isn't quite the photo I was hoping to take today (Beth had a hospital appointment this morning that needed to be postponed, so it was a wasted trip, and I couldn't take the detour I wanted), but
this photo has kind-of achieved the same effect - I wanted to do one with a stark foreground colour and muted background.

I'm not sure any further explanation is needed:

Back to work tomorrow, after a lovely extra-long weekend off. Only two days to work, though.. hopefully I'll get plenty done!

Posted by james at 9:15 PM

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Daily Photo of the Day: landing

This is one of the photos I've been waiting to take for a while. There's a small country road that winds past the perimeter fence of Luton Airport, and ever since I moved here I've enjoyed watching the planes fly over at close quarters as they prepare to land.

This is about as close as it gets to the underside of an Easyjet Boeing 737-EV in flight (though it's clearly a plane familiar with being photographed!):

Posted by james at 1:03 PM

Monday, 3 March 2008

Daily Photo Of The Day: Blackbird

I'm really pleased to have this photo - for two reasons. Firstly, I've been meaning to take a picture of the birds feeding on the contraption we put together a couple of months ago, and this was a good opportunity. Secondly, with the CDs swinging over the sunflower patch, I was a little concerned it would discourage our visitors from the garden entirely.

The photo was taken from a fair distance away - out of the window in Lenni's room - with only the standard 18-55mm zoom, so I've had to crop it down to get the detail (digital zoom?!) but you can fairly clearly make out the cheeky blackbird eyeing me up, and his hungry friend around the back of the feeder.

Posted by james at 10:54 PM

Daily Twitter digest on Movable Type - the old-school way...

Having mentioned it on my earlier blog post, I thought I might have a go at writing an automated script to collect a day's tweets and put them on my site somewhere. And yes, it did take me much of the day.

Since I don't write my blog all that often (well, the last few days have been something of an exception!), but use Twitter several times daily, I thought it was a good idea to chronicle my activities like this. Don't worry, though - I won't be blighting this blog with my daily dalliances - you may see that there's a link to the right under my current Twitter activity, which points to a new blog.It's automatically updated each night just before midnight with all the day's goings-on. A reasonably compromise, I'd hope.. and credit goes to Beth for suggesting it.

I could, I suppose, have used this as a learning exercise, to dip my feet into one of the more modern programming languages such as Python or Ruby On Rails, but I kept with convention, and used plain-old shell script, gawk and mtsend.py, based quite closely on my rather neglected moblog idea.

If you're in the slightest bit interested to see what I did, there's a zipped up file of the main bits and pieces here.

Posted by james at 9:55 PM

Web 2.0... it's like spaghetti, except with tubes.

The new generation of internet 'toys' are expanding and developing daily.. some are more useful than others, but all are intriguing. Here's a couple I came across recently:

  • friendfeed.com : A site where you can combine all your internet 'presences' (blogs, Twitter, Flickr, Pownce) so friends can keep track of everything that's going on, and realise quite how much time you spend on line. Hmm... Too much, it would seem (my friend feed is at friendfeed.com/cacophonyx)
  • www.mymilemarker.com : a handy way to keep track of how much it's costing to run a car these days. It can link with Twitter, so I don't have to remember the details till I get home...

I'm still musing on finding a way to turn all my 'tweets' for a day into a blog post for posterity. I know Wordpress can do it, but I daresay it's possible on Movable Type (which I use) with a bit* of fiddling.

Yup.. all these Web 2.0 stuffs are interlinking with each other, making a bit of a mesh (mess?) Do I have a problem with the lack of privacy? Not really.. for one thing, I don't really write anything (particularly) contentious, and for another, I am merely a small intermittent squeak in the roar of internet traffic - mild obscurity is good.

The only thing I fear is that I spend so much time playing with these toys that I don't have anything useful to say, save for talking about the toys I'm playing with. That would make me a bore, so I'd better go now!

*OK, so that's most of a day wasted...

Posted by james at 9:18 AM

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Daily Photo of the Day : Mothering Sunday Flowers

I've only taken a couple of photos today, and this is the most colourful - at least - of them! During Lent, the church is left mostly bare of flowers, save for Mothering Sunday - a time when it's traditional that people would return to their 'mother church' for a service.

Here are some flowers that were placed at the entrance as a colourful welcome:

Posted by james at 4:34 PM

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Daily Photo of the Day : written in light

We've had a lovely day out with some family friends today - it's been a gorgeous day, so lots of time has been spent outside (I played tennis for the first time in years!) and, since I took my camera with me, there were lots of opportunities to take pictures of my gorgeous family.

Partly inspired by a rather impressive Flickr photo of Wardown Park, where the artist used a long exposure and 'coloured in' various parts of the picture, I thought I'd have a go at a slightly simpler 'writing with light':

Rather synchronocitiously(?), when I arrived home this evening, I discovered that my dear friend Ed had posted a comment on last night's photo blog entry, linking to a picture he took using a long exposure and a light source; you can see his interpretation on Flickr, too.

Here's a small collection of other 'family photos' from today. As always, please feel free to click for a bigger version!


Beth
Beth

Chris : celebration
Chris : celebration

The Harts
The Harts

Lenni : tennis ball
Lenni : tennis ball*

A rare photo of me
A rare photo of me

* Unlikely as it seems, this isn't a photo of Lenni being hit with a tennis ball; she's just thrown it. And yes, it's not to her usual level of cuteness, but I like it nonetheless!

Posted by james at 11:12 PM


 
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