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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, 29 January 2006

first gig of 2006 and free things!

Stars In BattledressI went to my first gig of 2006 yesterday - David, half of the fine Jude, invited me to see his new favourite band at the tiniest venue I have, or possibly will ever have attended. Downstairs at the Betsey Trotwood is a room about the size of a fairly large lounge, where forty or fifty of us bundled close together to watch Stars In Battledress play. They're a pair of brothers - one a classically trained pianist, and the other a talented guitarist and singer. Considering it was only the two of them, they made the most amazing polyrhythmic and convoluted sound, underneath ethereal harmonies. To have been within about five feet of them, as we were urged forward to let the latecomers see, made it incredibly intimate, both men being at floor level, and shorter than me... more like a musical session, and at a reasonable volume.

For my own recollections, I cheekily captured a few moments of the music that they made here (1.8 MB MP3) but their full first album can be heard at their record label's homepage - House Of Stairs.

Work has been incredibly busy of late, although I think, since I've been a supervisor, that has persistently been the case. I'm finding it somewhat frustrating at the moment, if anything because the day-to-day job is fairly straightforward, but there are myriad ways of improving it, which involves change, and change is hard to implement, even when the principles are sound and agreed.

I have, however, decided that 2006 will be the year I - in some shape or form - perform live. On Friday, I'm getting together with the two upstanding founders of Jude to discuss songs that we should bring to the unwary public, and hopefully this will beget some regular rehearsal.

Then there's the podcast that I'm collaborating on - it's slowly coming together for an inaugural publication.. added to the rigours of family life, I think there's plenty going on. I haven't been bored since I was about 13, and it's not likely to be the case any time soon.

2006 has already brought more gadgets, too - my iPAQ has bluetooth, and I found a handy GPS receiver at kaali.co.uk for under £50 that I could buy with money I received for Christmas. It turned up the next day, and two of my colleagues were impressed enough to buy one, too! How I got around without SatNav before, I really don't know. Well, I do - I don't think we've been on holiday in the last few years without at least one wrong turn!

Most of the software I've seen, though, only really deals with driving navigation; it would be really useful to have an application for PocketPC that can be used for walks in the country and the like...

When I was pointed at a rather amusing (or terrifying, depending on our point of view) exposé on a harmful substance I discovered a rather marvellous invention - the Klein Bottle - a glass 3D 'immersion' of a 4D mobius strip. Or something. I imagine shipping would be prohibitive, but it would make a great gift!

Enough from me, for now, I shall leave you - as always after an epic and long-awaited blog - with a little cluster of neat and handy things.

Links of the day:

Posted by james at 10:00 PM

Wednesday, 18 January 2006

An alternative to reality?

I've had so many fleeting thoughts over the past ten days, but haven't taken the opportunity to focus them into a bit o' typing... my own fault, really - preferring to potter around the house, or play daft games on the PS2 (we bought a three game set of the classic Rayman series, and they're really silly!). We bought some reasonably economical wireless controllers from Asda to save any nasty trip accidents - the children gravitate to the cables - and they seem to work very well indeed. I'd definitely recommend them.

OK, so I have a feeling I might be a bit of a gadget addict!

I'm still hooked on podcast - my current favourite is the "pub chat" yabberings of Top Of The Pods - so much so that I've actually done some ironing while listening!

As far as making full use of my iPAQ to catch podcasts goes, I've settled on the zero cost option - there's a piece of software called FeederReader which is a little unintuitive, but is capable of downloading enough to listen to on the way to or home from work!

There are some things that I'm afraid I'll never understand. One - and I was immediately reminded of Better Than Life - a classic Red Dwarf episode when I heard about it on Lug Radio - is a computer game called "Second Life" - a 'virtual world' online computer game, where you interact with, well, all the rest of the inhabitants/players.

OK, so it's not so far off the pace of evolution - from email groups, through internet forums to interactive chat rooms, but maybe it's that little bit too far for my aged brain; it's escapism to the max (you can live the life you choose), so possibly quite addictive as an alternative to the scraggy old world we live in. I'll certainly be able to resist, since I don't think I've got a powerful enough graphics card!

Speaking of which, the soundtrack to our daily life has changed somewhat - there is a project underway to demolish the Vauxhall factory, which lies about half-a-mile away. I must get a recording at some point - it's a long, slow, painstaking job, since it's like dismantling a giant Meccano kit that's been standing for decades.

Ooh - finally, I notice that NTLWorld have started sweeping for spam. I think this is a new thing, but it's worth checking to see what it does to your email if you're a subscriber. I only found this out because I recently started to receive emails - unerringly spam - with the word (DIRTY?) prepended to the subject line. When I checked my webmail, I discovered that there was now an option to select what NTLWorld do with suspicious emails; by default it deletes them. Now I receive them, but they have [SPAM?] in the subject line. Perhaps it's the domain forwarding company or - slightly more unlikely - Spam Assassin has started working. I'm sure I'll get to the bottom of it.

That'll do for now, I think, save for a couple of entertaining links to pass the time...

Links of the day:

  • cameratoss.blogspot.com : take whizzy pictures by putting your (or someone else's) camera at risk. I fully intend have a go at this... though I might wait until I get a smaller digital camera!
  • www.artlebedev.com/portfolio/optimus : It might not exist (and it might never!) but this would appear to be the ultimate PC keyboard - it uses hi-tech new OLEDs to change the image on the keys depending on what you want to do with it... wow!
  • www.daskeyboard.com : for übergeeks, however, this is a close second best.. or not!
  • www.regrettheerror.com/2005/03/s_majesty.html : was googling for the word "hoiked" (or "hoicked") when I discovered this rather amusing printing error (and related website).

Posted by james at 9:40 PM

Tuesday, 10 January 2006

computer music special!

My nightshifts are over.. and this is what I turned up in the quiet times:

m-net.arbornet.org : free Linux shell thing! If you want to practice your Linux, without having to go through the tedium of installation...

Speaking of which, my Ubuntu Linux CDs arrived (hooray!) - if you'd like one, just drop me an email. The really great bit is that there's a "Live" CD - you can run Linux just by booting the CD; it doesn't need installing!

One of my on-line conversations turned to old computer game tunes - as did a recent www.mcld.co.uk/flatfour podcast, and we turned up this rather entertaining collection of bleeps and beats (if you like that sort of thing):

Posted by james at 10:43 AM

Sunday, 8 January 2006

new year... same old blog!

Well, a week into 2006 already, and I've given up on some of the usual New Years' Resolutions - regular blog entries (a little optimisic, I know!), think before I speak more, and do less irresponsible things... the temptation to sit up until 3am noodling around with my computer on a night off has already beaten me!

What else has been going on? Not a huge amount, really - of an evening, I've either been working on the comedy podcast, or playing with my Christmas present from Beth - a Playstation 2. In fact, before I left for my nightshift tonight, we all had a go at the "Eyetoy" games - they're surprisingly aerobic, actually, especially the ones which involve waving like a loon to the musical tunes. That, combined with the 25 minute walk up and down the hill into town has probably been sufficient exercise for today!

In spite of the cold weather, we've still managed regular visits to Woodside Farm - they've recently opened a new indoor play area, which the children love; they'll have completed the coffee shop & viewing gallery soon, I believe. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed by the quality & wait for food in Woodside's little café, but that's just a minor thing, really.

Apart from enjoying the usual array of podcasts on the way to work (I'm a daily listener to what Richard Vobes and Comedy 365 have to offer - it does show a lot of dedication to do an entertaining daily podcast, especially since it'll take me a whole evening just to write and record a sketch!)

Now I've got my Feedreader installed on my work laptop, it's amazing how easy it is to catch up with news, technology and blogs. It's a shame that my original preference - Awasu - isn't authorised software, since it's a little better evolved, but I really would recommend either - so many sites have RSS feeds, that I rarely need to open Internet Explorer to catch up with my favourites.

That geeky ramble was sponsored by RSS Feeds Anonymous...

I had planned to carry out a retrospective of 2005, reading through my previous blog entries to summarise life from back then - I think I might just do that later (it's what nightshifts are for!) as well as speculating what 2006 holds.

Links of the week:

Posted by james at 10:09 PM

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