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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, 30 May 2005

Bank Holiday tuneage...

Kid CarpetThere's no doubt that I have strange musical tastes, but it's rare that they'll converge in the way they seem to have today.

Take Kid Carpet, for example; I was idly looking to see if his website was back up (it is - yay!) only to find that he's recently released his debut single - Your Love, and has a CD called Ideas and Oh Dears due out in July. You can see the really rather cute video to Your Love here (6.7MB Quicktime)

The Trachtenburg Slideshow PlayersWhile I was trying to find out more information about the single at his record label - tiredandlonesome.com - I discovered that he had recently been on tour with his label-mates, the unusual Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players.

This is a band comprising a bloke called Jason (keyboards & vocals), his 9-year-old daughter Rachel (drums & vocals) and wife Tina (slide projector) who sing songs about photos, basically. Think They Might Be Giants meets Half Man Half Biscuit and you're not far off.

You can see some samples of their work here and here, and their CD (Vintage Slide Collection from Seattle Vol. 1) is available at all good record shops.

Other musical delights:

Posted by james at 12:04 PM

Sunday, 29 May 2005

AAC+ and VoIP on my iPAQ (techie...)

For some reason, I've taken to playing with my iPAQ again... it all stemmed from the fact that I wanted to listen to the Image FM broadcast, which was recorded in AAC+ format; the problem was that most of the 'bog standard' software (Windows Media Player, RealPlayer and the like) don't support this rather marvellous audio compression.

I'd already downloaded the wondrous Philips Platform4 player for Pocket PC, which supports the AMR and 3GP files created by most mobile phones, but this needed something a little different.

Eventually, though, I discovered the equally marvellous betaplayer (and related plug-ins) which can play HE-AAC and many other files, too. Now, of course, all I need to do is convert my entire MP3 library to AAC+ (one day!) and I can fit a whole load of them on the 64MB memory of my iPAQ.

I've also been trying to get the wi-fi card to work a little more reliably (which has essentially involved pulling it apart and saying rude things to it. Neither has succeeded to any degree). I did find a replacement driver for it (it's a Buffalo WLI-CF-S11, in case you're interested) on the driverguide site, but it hasn't helped much, either.

However, in mucking about with it, I've become a little over-excited with Voice over IP - in short, I've downloaded XLite for PocketPC, and signed up for a free account with www.sipgate.co.uk which gives me a "real life" (and rather cool) phone number. So wherever I am in the world, if I'm at a wireless hotspot, someone can dial a Luton number and my iPAQ will ring! Now that is spooky! More on VoIP here (although the information about 1899.com is out of date - you can't make free landline calls any more, apparently).

There is a free PC version of XLite available, too, by the way... I've got it on my laptop, so, while I wait for my new Wireless LAN CF card to arrive, I can still receive calls!

Posted by james at 1:34 PM

Saturday, 28 May 2005

radio - modern and ancient

You're no doubt aware that I've liked radio for a number of years, and it's fairly obvious that the internet is a perfect location for nostalgia (TV Ark, for example, has loads of classic bits of television). So it was only a matter of time before whole radio jingle packages started making their appearances online. Enjoy, if you will, some wonderful bits of cheese (best served with some chilled grapes and Tuc biscuits)...

On other radio matters, Luton FM is back on air (though only until the end of May) - from what I've heard, it's quite professional sounding. I'm sure student radio was supposed to be more rough and ready...

My root canal, incidentally, happened; we're lucky enough to have a competent, friendly dentist who carried the job out without any nasty incidents. With all the advances in technology, he was able to show me what he'd done, using x-rays. I'm back there next Saturday for some fillings; hopefully that'll be the end of it for a while (and I won't be leaving it ten years before my next visit!)

Posted by james at 2:37 PM

Friday, 27 May 2005

park life

It's been the hottest day so far this year - certainly rather uncomfortable in London. Yesterday, however, was almost perfect, with a breeze that made the shade more comfortable, and it was only right that we should have a picnic in the park.

Since getting my lovely cameraphone I've really not taken many 'proper' photos; I made a point of bringing the big (and now rather aged) digital camera along, and managed to capture a few rather fine photos - they're in the gallery, but I thought I'd post mini versions here, because they're just so cute!

Ella at Wardown Park 26th May 2005Christopher at Wardown Park 26th May 2005Ella (again) at Wardown Park 26th May 2005
Click any picture for a bigger version...

Posted by james at 7:15 PM

Wednesday, 25 May 2005

MIDI and workings

Not much to report, really. Since my visit to the dentist on Tuesday (I've got my appointment for the root canal now, too - I'm not looking forward to Saturday much!) I have been in a rather strange "get things fixed" mood; I have finally made progress on the MIDI patchbay that I originally wanted in the studio project, and I've got a couple of repairs to my cassette recorder and Joanne's bass effects pedal to sort out.

Otherwise, it's been fairly uneventful...

Posted by james at 10:21 PM

Monday, 23 May 2005

eurovision and nightshifts

Ella - waterpaintingThe weekend's gone quickly - as it often does - although it will come to a slightly premature end tonight, since I'm at work, covering the nightshift.

We've had a good time, though - as I mentioned before, we saw Tamara today, and popped to Woodside to let the children run about between the showers yesterday. While we were at Beth's folks earlier in the week, Ella started to do the cutest thing - she picked up water from the decking on her fingers, and made patterns on the glass doors; I captured the moment on my phone - click here to watch (834kB wmv).

It's twenty past three in the morning, and there are already a few people picketing outside the BBC buildings; it seems that for many of the departments, the management are covering the main duties, which makes for an interesting "Back to the floor" opportunity!

Rainbow - from the coachHopefully, though, things should remain quite peaceful between now and when the first non-striking engineers turn up at 8am (unlike some departments, ours doesn't have anywhere approaching a 100% union membership), although I've got plenty of music and general amusement to keep me going until then, I'm sure.

I ought to admit to having stayed up late to watch the end of last night's Eurovision Song Contest - it was a little disappointing that my personal favourites, Moldova and Norway didn't even come close to winning; I thought it was a bit disappointing that so many of the acts had a similar Eastern European/loud drums/strings sound. Once again, my resolution is to write a better UK entry than the past couple of years. OK, so it'll never be "Love, shine a light", but surely I can do better than the unmemorable nonsense that's been inflicted upon the partisan Europeans recently! Of course, the question is... will I get round to it this year?

(Oh.. the pic to the left is of the rainbow that nobody on the coach could help but notice on the way to London this evening!)

Links of the day

  • www.google.co.uk/ig : yet another Google enhancement - a customized front page. Possibly very useful for someone like me, who has www.google.co.uk as my home page. I'm most impressed to see that BBC News is among their chosen sources for on-line actualities.
  • www.uploadtemple.com : It had to happen, I guess - following fast on the footsteps of imageshack, here's a site that'll host up to 30MB of, well, practically anything! (except MP3s and.. er.. PHPs) If it's reliable, it could come in handy!
  • www.whoisdoctorwho.co.uk : It wouldn't be a weekend blog entry without yet another Doctor Who spin-off website! An excellent episode this week, too - despite some amusing mockery of Christopher Eccleston's gurning on Armando Iannucci's Charm Offensive last week.

Posted by james at 3:23 AM

Friday, 20 May 2005

toothache and commuting...

It's been a bit of a difficult day at work - for no more reason than, for the first time in my life (as far as I can remember) I've had toothache. I was hoping that it would hold off until I'm a bit closer to getting treatment, but for the time being, I'm armed with oil of cloves which works quite well, and - added bonus - I quite like the taste.

Not long until the weekend, then - it'll be a fairly relaxing one, I hope (except for the TV fest on Saturday night of Doctor Who and The Eurovision Song Contest - come on over!) and we're seeing Tamara (Ella's godmother and very talented photographer) for lunch on Sunday.

Like a fool, I left my laptop at home this morning, but Beth's sent me a link for one of the new craze of puzzles - SoDoKu - to attempt on the way home. Amusingly, I'd seen some of the engineers poring over grids of numbers during their breaks, but hadn't realised that it had gained such immediate popularity!

Christopher and I have also been enjoying the newly relaunched Fun Radio (AbracaDABra as it used to be). The music's much the same (we have our own set of favourites, including the most amusing "In the Middle of the House" by Alma Cogan) but they also do some stories, too. A fine listen - made all the better by being available on-line.

Links of the day:

oh.. and:

Posted by james at 7:43 PM

Wednesday, 18 May 2005

general catch-up

It's been a while since I last blogged - not for any more reason than that the days have been full and gone by quickly, but without any great epiphany or unique achievement. I suppose that's not such a bad thing, although I'm loathe to write in depth about the same thing all the time.

I attended another Jude rehearsal on Saturday afternoon, for example - this time taking Christopher along. He enjoyed hearing the songs, although there was still plenty of space for him to do his own thing away from the loud music.

On days I've not been working, we have also visited Woodside a few times, and made the best of any good weather by visiting the park - I try not to have a day where we don't go out at least somewhere.

Christopher with hat and cheeky expressionElla with hat and gingerbreadBeth's Grandma's been in hospital since Monday, finally having a long-awaited hip replacement; Beth has been sorting out visitations of her Grandpa, so Christopher and I walked the three miles across town to meet her at her parents - quite an impressive feat for a five-and-a-half year old. Here are a couple of photos of our two scamps on the decking.. bless 'em.

Grandma (or Joan), incidentally, has had her operation, and is recovering well, which is a real blessing.

The only other matter of note is that I received a reply to my letter about the coach timetable changes from the MD of Arriva - it's a bit wordy, explaining that hardly anyone uses those stops, and they've managed to weave in some ambiguous "we're going to have to increase fares, too" nonsense too. All in all not that satisfactory, but the drivers are being kind; if there's nobody else on, they tend to drop me off where I used to go... just like the good old days!

Enough from me, for now, I think. Tomorrow's a day off, and then I'm only working on Friday. There's a strike starting at midnight on Sunday, too, and I'm covering the nightshift (the extra payment will help with the prospective dental bills) which unfortunately scuppers the trip down to see Mother with Christopher - such a shame. Still, we've managed to reschedule to the week after (and hopefully the weather will have improved!)

Links of the day

Please note: these may possibly not appeal to your sense of humour...

Posted by james at 7:39 PM

Thursday, 12 May 2005

still safety-conscious...

Well, the safety course has nearly come to a conclusion - tomorrow afternoon I have to recall all that's been funnelled into my brain during the week in a multiple-guess and short essay examination. I also have a project to complete, which I'll need to make sure I set aside some work time to do... this is the closest I've been to formal stufy in years (save for the ITIL course I attended not so long ago), but rather than feeling that my ability to learn has rusted up, I think the need to pick up knowledge quickly on-the-job has made study a little easier for me! Perhaps I won't put this to the test with another attempt at a degree, though...

Life's carrying on fairly normally otherwise - working Monday to Friday this week means I won't see Ella until Saturday morning (unless she's still up when I get home tonight; the course finished a little early to give us time to revise, which was useful) but my slightly later starts have meant that I've been able to see Christopher before catching the coach to work.

Oh - did I mention that I received a letter back from the MD of Arriva saying "I will look into the matters you have raised"? I'll probably not be holding my breath on that one...

Hmm.. nothing really else to report, as I haven't done much of any consequence (although I could probably bore you with the scant knowledge I have of RIDDOR and EAW, it would probably not help either of us) so I shall stop now.

Links of the day

  • www.mi5careers.co.uk : Fancy a job with MI5? Sounds exciting...
  • www.podshows.com : An interesting 'radio on demand' site - full radio shows available to download for a pound each.
  • www.mimeartist.com/helvetica : A bit of silliness, where you play "Helvetica" and you have to jump all over "Arial". Or.. er.. is it the other way round?

Posted by james at 7:12 PM

Monday, 9 May 2005


Well, I finally got the tyres sorted on Saturday, although not without a bit of a struggle. Our car is on one of those 'lease' things through work, and maintenance is included in the price. However, there are all sorts of little get-out clauses (such as they won't change the tyres if they've done less than 12,000 miles) that can make life a bit tricky. In spite of having had the thing for nearly a year and a half, we've only done 9,900 miles, but the front tyres need replacing, probably due to all the starting and stopping of local journeys.

In short, a tip for anyone who's doing the same sort of thing, I would recommend asking for the tyres to be swapped from back to front (and vice-versa) at the annual service - at least then both sets will last beyond 12,000 miles! In the end, the leasing company did agree to change the front tyres, but we'll have to avoid doing handbrake turns between now and December, as if the rear ones wear out, we have to buy new ones ourselves. That (I'm hoping) is the end of it!

Otherwise it was a very pleasant family weekend - Cath, Martin and Luke came over on Saturday (Luke's growing so quickly - he has such a cheerful nature, and weighs only six pounds less than Ella!), and we invited Beth's parents and Rob & Claire over for lunch on Sunday, which was enjoyable - it's nice to have a house full of people.

That's it, really - I'm working all five days this week, because I'm doing a course on "Managing Safely." The subject matter is dry, and there's an awful lot of it, which doesn't bode well for the exam on Friday... with any luck it'll sink in, though, especially since we're being issued with "homework" every night, which I'm doing on the coach home...

Links of the day:

Posted by james at 8:44 PM

Thursday, 5 May 2005

tyres (or not) and voting

The last few days have been rather blurred - I've been a little out of sorts, although not unwell; I put this down to the prospect of having to attend the dentist's for the first time in - it must be nearly - a decade, and the general recovery from a weekend at work.

We didn't really do too much on Bank Holiday Monday - I took the children to the park, watching them expend their energy in the way they did best; climbing on the playground equipment and (in Christopher's case) playing chase with the six-or-so year old girls, much to the amusement (or was it bemusement?) of Ella.

Tuesday and Wednesday were generally family days, although I was still a little shell-shocked by the £700 quote for treatment that I need (Beth was more philosophical, suggesting that this only represented £70 a year) due to a decade of neglect and general dentophobia.

As a bizarre form of therapy, I drove around looking for new tyres for the car (nobody seemed to have any) and did some recycling, before again retreating into the studio for the evening.

Speaking of which, the Image FM broadcasts are now available, as are edited highlights of all the shows, which can be found here.

I'm trying to get back into music now - Suzanne has asked me to put together a remix of The Two Of Me so that she can have another go at the vocals, and I'm really keen to try and make some more odd electronic stuff that nobody will probably like.

But now, though, I'm off to do my democratic duty, after a day at work studying the innards of digital mixing desks. Fortunately, the polling station is open until 10pm, since I was half-way to London when they opened this morning!

Links of the day:

Posted by james at 9:24 PM

Sunday, 1 May 2005

High Speed Silliness to a Russian Trance Soundtrack

It's not often that my attention is hypnotically glued to the computer screen by something, these days (especially now I've learned to avoid looking at Derren Brown) but this had the right combination of stupid humour, exhilerating music and familiar setting..

The video files are a bit huge, but if you know the place as well as I do, it's well worth watching!

Posted by james at 6:22 PM

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