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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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Monday, 29 November 2004


Six o'clock in the morning doesn't feel like seven o'clock, like it used to, less than a month ago. Those were the days, eh?

I've really not much to report, though - the weekend was a pleasant family-type one, with a run around the park on Saturday morning, while the weather was still moderately clement, and an afternoon playing indoors. I'm trying to eschew computers at the weekends so that I don't become distracted from the children, and I've had moderate success.

Christopher and I spent Sunday afternoon in the studio; we started off playing some favourite songs (Reliant K's "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" and "Bananaphone" by Raffi), and then I showed him the very enjoyable classic arcade animation based on Van Halen's "Jump" (another song he enjoys, as much for the Kid Carpet interpretation). He was very taken by "Dig Dug" so I took the opportunity to bring out the old M.A.M.E. CD, and found a copy of the game somewhere on the internet to show him. I've really missed playing those simple, yet addictive games - they've come a long way since, especially considering my PC, which was cutting edge 18 months ago, isn't powerful enough to play the latest Deus Ex game...

Another 'theme show' happened, once again with Christopher at the controls, but this time with jingles from OAS Playout, as well as vinyl records, chosen and played by Christopher. I'm sure he'll treasure the CDs we made in years to come.

Links of the day:

  • www.bbc.co.uk/hardspell : The BBC's latest gameshow - getting people to spell words. This is the online game, and my record is 44. (Thanks, Elin)
  • www.dwwa.net : The most impressive Doctor Who sound archive I've ever seen... it doesn't get much more nostalgic (if you like that sort of thing).

P.S... is it just me or does the middle 8 of "Do They Know It's Christmas" sound a bit like the middle 8 of the Doctor Who theme? Probably just me, then...

Posted by james at 10:28 PM

Friday, 26 November 2004

busy week - peaceful weekend (hopefully!)

It's been a crazy week, and I'm rather glad it (and the deadline for the supervisor application, which I completed last night before bedtime!) is over.

There's no denying it's good experience, though - I've picked up a substantial amount of local knowledge, and apart from the tribulations of juggling tasks and some late evenings arriving home, it's been very rewarding.

Now, though, I can catch up on my personal emails, and hopefully eschew computers for a couple of days, devoting as much time as I can to my family.

I ought to mention something that attracted my attention on the PM radio programme - a chap known as Scanner has created an 'unofficial' Europe anthem, called "Europa 25". It's not to everyone's taste (certainly not a patch on 'Ode To Joy' - the official anthem, although I consider it something of a cop-out to use an established work of genius to 'sell' Europe) but I thought I'd post an MP3 here [256kB MP3] (slightly better quality version here [2MB MP3]).

It's in aid of the British Council - whatever that may be. The full version will be downloadable from the British Council website on Monday 29th November, and a free CD will be available, too.

Scanner, it would seem, has also done some work for the BBC, although I've not listened to it, yet.

Music, eh? now that sounds like an idea. I'm hoping that I'll have time to do some recording this weekend...

Link of the day:

  • adverts.freeloader.com/zurich : A fun parking challenge - or is that an oxymoron? My best score is 229, but I've only played it twice, honest! (Thanks to Cath for the link).

Posted by james at 8:48 PM

Wednesday, 24 November 2004


Woo.. I'm using an internet terminal that, apparently, is using a satellite to connect me to the internet, in a large exhibition hall with patio furniture in the corner.

Not much else to see here, although one of the stands is giving away home-made mince pies, so it's only fair that I mention Press Red Rentals, which is run by a cheery bloke called Derek Tallent.

It's bigger than last year's, and I've had a few freebies so far (although that's not really why I'm here!)

Best get on... there's plenty still to see here.

[Later... I popped into Birmingham with Ed, and wandered the festive streets. It was impossible to ignore BHS, near the Bullring, which offered a mobile DJ jabbering incoherently at passing shoppers. I couldn't help but photograph his logo - see the picture, right]

Atomic Disco's

Posted by james at 1:48 PM

Tuesday, 23 November 2004


Well, that's another Tuesday, packed to the gunnels with things dealt with... I can't say I finished everything that I'd intended to do, but I made it to the end with nerves still (just about) intact. I've yet to write up some meeting minutes, although they can wait.

I daresay everybody's aware of my penchant for free stuff. It would appear, though, that one of my favourite freebies is about to come to an end; for a long while, I was fortunate enough to take up an offer from Orange called "Out Here" where, for a flat fee of £20, I receive five free texts for life. Beth told me of an internet contact who was charged after their third message a couple of days ago; I only received one this evening.

My intention, as one might imagine, is to lay my evening at the mercy of some homogenous call centre in order to receive a substandard explanation for their actions. Actually, after being charged 25p for a call, I received a little encouragement by the man at the other end of the phone, who claimed there were 'network problems' and that there was nothing they could do now. Apparently, if I wait for four days and call them back, they'll refund the calls and the text costs that will have been displayed on the screen by then. Something to look forward to.

I'm off to SBES tomorrow, and looking forward to meeting up with my mate Ed, broadening my horizons through immersion in the newest technology and trying to snaffle free stuff.

I popped up to third floor of BH for a half-hour break earlier to take a look around the BBC Radio and Music festival - a celebration of everything BBC Radio. It was most enjoyable, although I'd intended to attend a seminar on digital music as well, which I missed because of meetings this afternoon. On the up side, though, I was rather inspired by a very listenable-to band called stoneylacuna, who played an acoustic set for 6music.

They also, rather amusingly, featured the world's smallest nightclub - the Miniscule Of Sound. It was closed, unfortunately, but it truly was rather small, from what I could see of it (2m x 1m).

Link of the day:

Posted by james at 9:06 PM

Monday, 22 November 2004


I go through phases of finding it rather difficult to keep track of time - especially at work, seeing as I'm stretching myself a little, gaining valuable experience as a supervisor while carrying out my usual tasks as IT specialist. It certainly makes for some full days (I'm a little late home today) and I really need to find time to complete my formal job application in the meantime!

Still, there's nowhere I'd rather be - especially this time of year, as everyone mellows out for the modern equivalent of Advent. I prefer to disconnect myself from all that horrific shopping - I apologise in advance if you get your Christmas presents in January!

I had a fine weekend, though - Rob had a surprise birthday party on Saturday evening, which wore out the children as they stayed up long after their normal bedtimes, and he and Claire joined Beth's parents and us four around the kitchen table for Sunday/birthday lunch.

In spite of having had thirty-two other birthdays, I still received cards and presents - thank you to everyone who thought of me. The children bought me a new wallet (the old one was falling apart) and I had all sorts of unusual and tasty treats, too.

On my day off, last Thursday, I was chatting to Christopher about video cameras, and recalled that Beth's folks' had a video camera that we borrowed on 'long term loan' several years ago to film our little boy as a baby. I had a browse around the loft, in search of it. In the event, it had been returned to its owners when we moved house, but they were kind enough to renew the loan. Neither Christopher nor Ella are shy of playing up and cavorting in front of the camera, and it made for entertaining viewing - I'm sure it'll be moreso once they're much older and capable of being embarassed by it!

Christopher is very serious about playing at 'radio' at the moment, too - we made a twenty minute 'Theme Show' last week, and, since I burned it onto CD for him, he's listened to it every night since then. We'll have to make another one for variety, though!

One piece of good news - while rummaging through the loft, I discovered a pile of thirty or forty records at the bottom of a box. I thought I'd lost them - perhaps leaving the plastic basket in which they resided in the loft of the old house - during the move, and, in spite of the potentially shameful contents (I counted two Bucks Fizz records - a prize if you can name them! - 'The Postcode Song' by someone called "Kerry" and Leo Sayer's 'One Man Band', for example), it was great to see and play them again. Well, some of them.

Christopher enjoys putting records on as well (he must be one of very few five-year-olds who even know what one is these days!) and he's developed a liking for Kim Wilde's album - the one with Kids In America on it. I like to let the children play in the studio, as much because it gives them the confidence to be around and play with musical instruments and technology as to give Beth a little peace to work.

Enough of the strange goings-on, though. I'm going to miss the children a little this week as my day off will be spent at SBES - a radio engineer's playground, with exhibitions of the latest and greatest equipment. Still, the way things are going, it'll soon be the weekend again.

Links of the day:

  • www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4703054 : For only 30 cents a message, Americans can subscribe to the Pope's "Thought for the Day" by text. Who needs the Today programme? Thanks, Beth, for the link.
  • www.ftlfm.com : Another unusual - part time - radio station (this time spawned from the bizarre website that is b3ta.com). I especially enjoyed the DJ Rich show (live from Houghton Regis, not 5 miles from here), at least until he played Bon Jovi. Thanks to Elin for the link link updated - please note, it's now www.ftlfm.com!
  • www.bbc.co.uk/mindgames : Gentle quiz show on BBC4. Yes! BBC4! We watched it. Yay us.

Posted by james at 9:35 PM

Tuesday, 16 November 2004

obey your supervisor...

Another crazy day of business, but another selection of niggling jobs completed - I'm trying desperately to leave the office a little after six, so I can be home at a sociable hour, but it's not gone terribly well so far this week. Still, it's all good experience and I think people are of the opinion that I'm not a complete dead loss as a supervisor (albeit a temporary one). I have clearly earned their respect so far, though, as the picture to the right testifies; I was given the novelty glasses, picked up from Steve Wright's studio, I believe, on my first day and it was suggested that they represent the standard dress code for the duty supervisor. professional supervisor.

Some might say, though, that I'm not too overloaded, as I still took an opportunity to see Keane in the 6music hub, along with nearly fifty others; I was among the last to arrive, so the vantage position wasn't as great as previously, and any mini-photos of the band were little more than silhouettes against the windows. However, I'll never allow a musical moment to pass without some way to recall the moment (OK, so I could have recorded it off-air, but I suppose it's not quite like being there) so I had my iPAQ handy for a brief period of recollection - here's "This is the Last Time" (their next single) (772kB MP3).

I didn't need to leave my desk to hear the recently premiered Band Aid 20 song, though. It started fairly promisingly, but by the end (having listened past the possibly unnecessary Dizzee Rascal bit) it ends up sounding like a junior school music lesson.

Link of the day:

Posted by james at 4:30 PM

Monday, 15 November 2004

Non-stop Monday.

I'm not very good at determing irony - is it ironic that the more full one's day is, the less time there seems to be able to fit everything in?

As I'm acting supervisor this week, I'm trying to get my head round as much of the managerial bits as possible, while also attempting to get myself involved in the engineering work, so I could broaden my experience of the various areas. Then, there's my 'normal' job, which has plenty to keep me going, although satuisfyingly, a few annoyances have been put to rest today, and a small cabal of my colleagues are dealing with another one. I don't think it's going too badly, though, on the whole, although I'm going to have to fill that application form in soon!

Beth took Christopher for a brief trip into London today, which was a bit of a change from the norm, and we had a lovely - if brief - lunch together in the exotic climes of the Broadcasting House canteen. What I neglected to mention at the time was that, as I recall, within a week, that particular eating place will be closed down for good, as the building is ultimately to be demolished, so they're starting to clear the top floors first. I also showed them the seventh floor 'roof garden' (with inexplicable trellis), which offers a wonderful view of London and the building site. Christopher was very taken by the cranes. Sometimes my boy seems so little, though - seeing him from across the road in Portland Place made me realise that London's still far too big for him, for all his assertions and backchat at home.

That's the end of Monday, then - another busy day tomorrow!

Links of the day:

Posted by james at 1:33 PM

Saturday, 13 November 2004


Yay! My phone's come back from the fixers (I can recommend Ace Games, and it switches on. I need to buy a new phone enclosure to prevent further disaster, as I think the cracked case (I believe it had been owned by a farmer) didn't do anything to help the situation.

A busy day ahead - we're off to Tilly's birthday party this afternoon, and then I'm popping to my old colleague and friend Liam's for a housewarming party.

Last night, I drove Dad & Rita back home from Heathrow - I made a bad decision with the motorway choice, as there had been an accident on the M1 - but we discussed the film Supersize Me which had been shown on the plane. Apparently, McDonalds food, as well as being rather unhealthy (although they are endeavouring at least to change the image), is also addictive. We tend to steer clear if possible, although some might consider once a fortnight to be a little too often?

Hopefully, if the sun stays out (although it's still chilly), we'll fit in a trip to the park, which is a lot more healthy! Christopher's very keen on planting apple seeds at the moment; we'll probably put a couple more into the ground when we get there, but I daresay that's where, and how, they'll stay.

Link of the day:

Posted by james at 9:07 AM

Friday, 12 November 2004

application form...

Well, the supervisor jobs have been advertised - there are three available, although the completion of the application form based on the rather extensive job description is an onerous task indeed. Hopefully I'll make a dent in it on Sunday.

Not much to report, really - Christopher and I went swimming yesterday (they put the wave machine on, and it was quite unsettling to see him thrown about with the force of the water, although nothing could persuade him into the children's pool...); I'm picking up Dad & Rita from Heathrow later (when I finally get there... Friday evening traffic is notoriously rubbish on the M25) and I'm really not sure what happened to yesterday evening.

I've been meaning to mention this for the last week or so... having had a digital camera for (it must be) four years, there's been a distinct lack of real paper-type photos in the house.

Beth handed me a promotional envelope from Klick, offering discount development of digital photos - up to eighty for £7.49. I compiled a list of eighty, and used the Windows application I installed from the website to (quite painlessly) upload them.

I was rather impressed with the quality when they came back, and it seemed that they actually charged me less thatn £7 for them! Anyway, www.klick.co.uk is the website, and if you type in the promotion code 545 189 who knows what wonders will befall you.

Links of the day:

Posted by james at 2:16 PM

Wednesday, 10 November 2004

wireless headphones bodgery

Things would appear to be slowing down at work, at last. I've had the opportunity to clear a lot of the old papers from my desk and finally screw the front back on my 'mucking about' PC.

That said, it's not been a "nothing" day by any means; I had a small collection of bits delivered (although some of them turned out to be wrong... how one letter difference can make something useless and half the size) that needed installing, a smattering of niggles to sort out, and my boss was in, so I had to look busy.

You may be excused for supposing that I can't leave anything alone (or working). I've been tinkering again... several years ago I received a pair of wireless headphones from Beth, which have served me jolly well, I must say. Unfortunately, after nearly five years of regular use, the volume control has started crackling, and the earpads have almost worn out, so that they're rather uncomfortable to wear, and almost impossible to keep on my odd-shaped head. As a result, I've transported all the bits into a small plastic box that I've hacked around with a drill, soldering iron and needle (handy cutting instrument, that) and sharp pokey blade, fitted a stereo headphone socket, and employed my now-ubiquitous Sony Fontopias. I only injured myself once, too. A bit.little black box of music
little musical box

Links of the day

Posted by james at 5:27 PM

Monday, 8 November 2004

Drizzly ol' Monday

It's a bit of a late coach trip home from work this evening; a few troubles cropped up this afternoon, rapidly followed by a few more before hometime. I'm living in the hope that the things I did to fix it will remain in that state at least until tomorrow, when I daresay it'll all start again. Microsoft (or perhaps rather those who write unreliable software for windows) have a lot to answer to. Or for. (But not three).

Cath, Martin and Luke came to visit yesterday - the first time we've seen our newest nephew in the five weeks of his life. He's doing very well, and Cath appears to have recovered from the (fairly standard?) traumatic first birth. We'll be seeing them again on Saturday, when it's Tilly's birthday party - in spite of our geographical proximity, it's odd that I don't see my brothers and sisters as often as I could. Such, I reckon, is modern life.

After a few days off last week, and jury service the two weeks before, today starts the first 'normal' week of work in a long time. I realised this when I saw Barry, my aloe vera plant, and recalled that I hadn't actually watered him or his children (who - rather excitingly - now seem to number four, so any suggestions for names of Helen, Daventry and Allegra's new sibling are welcome) for nearly a month.

There's not much else to report, really. Pete and I played Unreal Tournament (the original version) until quite late on Friday night, and I don't believe I actually won a match.

My mobile phone is still not working, so I've researched 'mobile phone fixers' on the internet, and from what the man at AceGames had to say, it's probably the power switch; if you've got an 8310, you might end up suffering as well. For £18, though, he believes he can fix it, and I don't think I will deny him that claim.

Links for the day:

Posted by james at 7:36 PM

Dynamically changing wallpaper in Windows 2000 / XP - Techie

There's a little batch script that I wrote to change a PC's software settings depending on which department was using it - it was fairly straightforward, using a cheeky little program called reg.exe (xxxkB Zip). However, try as I might (using the F5 key, mainly), I couldn't get the wallpaper to change (as a means of showing the users what are the current settings).

Even if you copy a new bitmap over the current wallpaper filename (e.g.

copy C:\winnt\dept1.bmp C:\winnt\wallpaper.bmp
) it doesn't take effect until you next log in.

However, after a little research, I found a handy little command you can type to refresh the user settings:

rundll32 user32.dll UpdatePerUserSystemParameters 1 True
If you stick that on the line after the copy command in a batch file, it'll do the job nicely.

This, and other top tips may be found at: www.robvanderwoude.com

Posted by james at 1:33 PM

Thursday, 4 November 2004

not much...

There's not a great deal going on at the moment - I quite like this time of year because people are treading water before the Christmas chaos (which, due to my personal opinions, I tend to avoid), the weather isn't too oppressive (Christopher and I walked into town through the fairly standard drizzle to get our hair cut yesterday. Apparently the lady didn't do a particularly good job, though) and things seem calm, generally.

I had a thought the other day - I don't think I have ever looked at the stars through a proper telescope.

On a slightly more gloomy note, my lovely new mobile phone switched inexplicably switched itself off last night and has refused to come back on since. I've done all the usual tricks - removed the battery for a few hours, recharged it, tried a different SIM, but nothing.

Fortunately, though, I've got my radio in my minidisc player, which has sufficed today. I'm hoping that, like the phone belonging to another blogger, my lovely little 6510 will miraculously start working again.

Links of the day:

  • www.noisemapping.org : How noisy is London? More to the point how do they know?
  • www.streamingradio.co.uk : Another 'internet-only' radio station... I wonder how many more there are out there? This one, I'm fairly sure, is quite heavily run on "autopilot." The best way to tell, of course, is live competitions or phone-in listener contributions (although both could be faked)

Posted by james at 8:56 PM

Monday, 1 November 2004

one less transmitter

I couldn't tune into Radio 4 on 93.0 MHz on Saturday.

I only found out why today. I didn't realise the transmitter was all the way up in Peterborough - it's rather surprising that there isn't one any closer! You can see photos of what's left of the fine structure, in any event, at probably the definitive radio transmitter site: mb21.co.uk.

Link of the day:

  • www.dvd.reviewer.co.uk/info/multiregion : Beth and I now own the marvellous Spaced box set thing. However, our DVD player refuses to play it, in spite of applying all the 'region hacks' I could find on the site. It's a fine idea in principle, though!

Posted by james at 9:12 PM

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