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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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Wednesday, 30 August 2006

holiday : audioblog 30-08-2006

The second of my audioblogs - this time from the car on the way home from an evening trip.

Listen online here:

Download here: audioblog30Aug2006-32k.mp3 (3MB MP3 - 12 mins 54 secs)


  • More geocaching - this time in the dark, and returning home through the woods.
  • Lenni's trip to A&E (which has a children's section) a three hour wait and eventual diagnosis of a viral rash (thanks, Beth!), and prescription of chlorphenamine maleate (which is in Piriton)
  • My trip to Peterlee, to see the Apollo Pavilion, as featured in the fine Bollocks to Alton Towers alternative travel guide
  • Today's trip to Bede's World, in Jarrow; Christopher's enjoyment of investigating the history and our wanders round the working farm
  • Our visit to Newcastle's Discovery Museum
  • Climbing up to the Penshaw Monument (19th Century, rather than 16th..oops!) and the nearby Herrington Country Park with its excellent new play park.
  • More ramblings about the remainder of the holiday and the weather
  • Late starts, sharing rooms and successful rash reduction
  • And all this without bringing my mobile phone with me...(!)

Working farm at Bede's WorldBeth and Lenni at the Penshaw MonumentA poor photo of a strange monument

Posted by james at 9:45 PM

Sunday, 27 August 2006

holiday : audioblog 27-08-2006

Since I didn't take my laptop with me, I thought I'd make some short(ish) recordings of the holiday. I hope they suffice as an alternative to a 'real' blog!

Listen online here:

Download here: audioblog27Aug2006-32k.mp3 (1.7MB MP3 - 7 mins 36 secs)


Mechanical CowChristopher on the Angel of the Norththe Angel of the North

Posted by james at 8:56 PM

Friday, 25 August 2006

technology going northwards..

Friday's jumped up on me again; I'm still waiting for work to calm down (some hopes!) but in the meantime, it seems to be taking up a lot of my life.

That said, it's all over for a little while - we're driving up to the north-east tomorrow, for a week close to the middle of nowhere. It'll be a real contrast from the constant murmur of road and air traffic where we are, since we're staying in a small village not far from Durham.

Despite moving into a country cottage for a week, I can't help but bring a load of electronics with me. I'm almost ashamed to list all the kit that I'm taking:

PDAPDA charger(as an alternative to a road atlas.. and for geocaching)
Bluetooth GPSGPS charger(to tell us where we are)
mobile phonemobile phone charger(OK, so it's not strictly necessary, but...)
iRiver MP3 playeriRiver charger(to listen to my backlog of podcasts!)
microphone (just in case I ever do an audiotour...)
Digital cameraAA battery charger(to preserve memories)
Walkie talkiescharger(for our wanderings)
Playstation 2wires(for Beth to watch studying DVDs - honest!)
Little radio (or perhaps my DAB radio?)
Four way mains adaptor (because there are never enough power points!)

I think that's everything. I'm (so far) resisting taking my laptop with me - it's an early start tomorrow, so I'm fairly sure I won't have time to change my mind - but my work phone is definitely staying at home!

TV comedy
Annoyingly I've managed to miss the first three episodes of Armando Ianucci's new comedy - Time Trumpet. However, from the bits I've seen online, it's well up to his usual standards, and - if I'm honest - knocks spots off Broken News, since it's that little bit more shame-facedly satirical.

However, I was rather surprised at how amusing the programme just before it (at half-past nine on a Thursday evening) is - it's called Supernova, and has the strangest premise for a sitcom that I've ever heard of. So, despite the fact that Green Wing hasn't been recommissioned (save for a Christmas Special when everything is tied up), there's still a lot of good comedy about.

Pluto: a dwarf planet, apparentlyIn my free time, I've been following the saga surrounding Pluto's status as a planet. My work colleague captured and lent me a very interesting Horizon programme about it, and I was almost in suspense while the International Astronomical Union discussed the real definition of planets. Much like many of the academics, I'm not really disappointed that it's been relegated, since at least it's given rise to an accurate definition of a planet.

Links of the day: (reading special!)

  • librivox.org : A fine idea, this - a home-built collection of audiobooks that's free! If I have time (haha!) I might volunteer to do a reading...
  • onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu : More holiday reading - if you're bringing your laptop or PDA with you!
  • www.gutenberg.org : The original collection - Project Gutenburg.

Posted by james at 10:38 PM

Sunday, 20 August 2006


I think I need to get more of the right kind of exercise. I'm a voracious walker - it's probably the thing I do more than anything else to keep my body from turning into a wobbly jelly. We try to go swimming at least once a fortnight - finding enough non-workdays to do it regularly is the tricky bit, though!

The problem I have is that I'm not really into doing weights and all that bending and stretching, so even embarking on what could evolve into a regular regime is tricky enough! It was interesting watching the couped-up residents of Big Brother (yeah.. I'll admit that I was quite endeared to most of the remaining housemates in the last week; I'm glad Aisleyne came third, but that's enough attention paid to reality TV for the time-being, I think!) - since they didn't have enough to do, they chose exercise as an alternative to indulging in the narcissism that accompanies the housemates, especially when the place is covered in mirrors! I suppose, in fact, their activities was just part of keeping every component of their outside appearance in good condition...

Perhaps I should attempt a little self-appreciation, although I've long been a mirror-dodger! Enough of the editorial for now - as you've probably worked out, there's been little to report save for stress at work, and a couple of matters of concern at home that I've been trying to put out of my mind.

Lenni's been to the hospital for blood tests - she wasn't in the slightest traumatised by it, thank goodness - since we're a little worried about how little she eats and her regular tummy upsets. Considering she's only put two pounds on in the last year, it's quite troubling; mind you, she's an active, cheerful little one most of the time - "I'm a middle-sized girl now" she says.

I'll keep you posted when the results arrive... hopefully it'll give us some guidance to helping her thrive.

Ooh.. the coach has just been diverted from joining the M1 by police cars blocking the entry slip, and I've seen two police vans hurtling toward the scene. Hopefully that'll not delay me too much, but it'll be interesting to find out what happened.


I don't know if I've mentioned these two - first off is Radio Clash; I've heard some fantastic (if often rather irreverent) mash-ups on this podcast, combined with some really obscure music that I'm sure I'll not hear anywhere else.

Then there's Epistaxis Time. It's approaching genius in much the same way that Chris Morris's Blue Jam did - it's a mixture of downbeat commentary and home-made, yet intricate music. I'd probably say it's not to all tastes, but I think it's great, and typifies the wonder of the internet.


The Quiet Revolution QR5 Wind Turbine While listening to the delightfully, unashamedly off-the-wall Hans Island podcast (what is it about that place that elicits so much mockery?) Rob, the presenter, mentioned a rather ingenius type of wind turbine that works on a vertical axis, so doesn't need to face the wind. It's made by Quiet Revolution, and they can even embed LEDs into the blades, so it can project pretty ligts. Unfortunately, it's a £30 thousand investment, so a little out of our budget at the moment, despite paying for itself in 15 years!

Since I first heard about it, the idea of harnessing the energy from molecules has interested me. It's certainly a controversial issue, with conspiracy theorists claiming that such discoveries have been covered up by the oil giants, and sceptics asserting that the concepts are undemonstrable.

Take, for example, the Joe Water Cell; invented by an Australian, it cites such subtances as "Brown's gas" which wouldn't sound out of place in Look Around You. Nobody (at least, nobody I know!) has seen one of the cars that have allegedy been powered by such technology.

A less low-key approach has been taken by the Irish company Steorn, who put an advert in The Economist a couple of days ago, to announce their creation of the first 'perpetual motion' machine. They have requested a 'jury' of 12 physicists to witness a demonstration of the marvel which could change the face of energy supply for ever. Or, erm, not. Whether a real scientific breakthrough, a somewhat pointless scam or possibly the most sophisticated piece of computer game publicity ever, I'll be interested to see how this turns out! (thanks, Beth!)

Right now, I'm heading home for a couple of days off - Jon's staying over tomorrow night on his way back down south, and then it's back to work on Wednesday for three days, before we go up north for a week away from it all. Hopefully I'll be able to catch up with my reading and maybe a little music writing while I'm there..

Links of the Day:

  • www.oceangram.com : A little bit of pointless yet sociable fun, this - all you have to do is pick up a virtual bottle, write a virtual message, and then sling it out into the internet ocean. Every now and then another bottle will wash up on the shore, for you to read and, if you like, respond to. (thanks again, Beth!)
  • fudgeland.blogspot.com/2006/08/elviss-greatest-poop.html : Slightly less sociable is this collection of Elvis's worst crimes against music. I thought the Yoga one was hilarious. Look out for the link to the 'Having Fun On Stage With Elvis' album, too. What were they thinking?

In case you're interested, here's why there was a delay on the M1: (courtesy of a fuzzy BBC London)

Posted by james at 9:29 PM

Saturday, 12 August 2006

windmills and birthday weeks..

Despite there being plenty to report over the past week or so, I've not written about any of it... a few opportunities have presented themselves (not least when I've had half an hour enjoying the small areas of garden that have now been reclaimed from wilderness!) but I have squandered them on tinkering with my iRiver (I've got the hang of the rather powerful Rockbox software, and it's got a fantastic party mode which will be ideal for a birthday party at Dad's on Saturday evening. That said, it's a bit nervewracking providing just the right kind of music for a fiftieth/sixtieth birthday party, but with a collection of 700 songs to choose from, hopefully I'll not get it too wrong!

Pitstone WindmillChristopher's birthday was on Monday; unfortunately I was working, but we celebrated a little earlier with some present-opening on Sunday, and I have been off work since Wednesday, during which time we've been bowling and spent as much time as feasible in the mercifully less intense August outdoors.

In fact, on Sunday, we had intended to go to Fruitstock in Regents Park, but Lenni wasn't feeling particularly energetic, so we didn't want to risk a 45 minute drive to a crowded festival. Instead, we paid a second visit to Pitstone Windmill - this time on a day when it was open to visitors. There are photos of our trip in the gallery.

Work's been busy, too - I can't believe that, in these enlightened times, I had to spend practically a whole day rebuilding a Windows NT server. Fortunately there are websites out there that supplyimages of boot floppies... very useful for those last vestiges of old technology!

The entertaining and unusual Kid Carpet has started a monthly show on Bristol's Radio Dialect; you can subscribe to his show and the stations other broadcasts here.

I've also taken to listening to various of Guardian Unlimited's podcasts. I especially like the science and politics ones; it's great to hear that,when it returns, the circus of Prime Minister's Questions is downloadable in podcast form, too.

Link of the day:

  • www.singingstation.com : I've been asked, on occasion, by friends if they can come to the studio to record their singing. I've found this site featuring downloads of karaoke songs - they seem very high quality, and only cost as much as a pint of beer to download... worth remembering in case they invade (everyone's welcome, honestly!)

Posted by james at 2:02 PM

Tuesday, 1 August 2006

police! drama! vehicles!

It's been - at least it was, until a couple of hours ago - another pleasant family day. We swam in the morning, then went to the library after shopping - I reserved the rather brilliant Bollocks To Alton Towers (by the authors of The Framley Examiner and borrowed a couple of gardening books (The City Gardener and One-Hour Garden). Hopefully they'll do me well - with any luck, I'll read some of it before embarking on the next bit.

Three police vehicles.. today's record.Once Christopher and I had returned from a haircut and brief shopping trip in town after lunch, though, we heard a 'blump!' noise resounding through the house, obviously coming from next door.

We'd seen a policeman wandering up the road earlier - and, to be honest, had our suspicions about the young men who were staying next door, but we weren't really expecting a full-on raid!

Next thing we saw, a dog-handler was persuading his alsation back into the police car, and a rather sheepish occupant of the house was being led, handcuffed, to the front of the house, while the officer holding him awaited the arrival of another vehicle.

A few more police people carriers and vans came and went - the record was three at any time in front of the house - but I didn't get any further information from the officer I spoke to; he said that they'd been doing naughty things in the house next door.

From the collection ot items that ended up on the low-loader outside, it would appear that it had something to do with bits of cars - there was an engine (which certainly caused the two policemen and the recovery lorry driver a struggle to move!), an axle assembly and wheels not to mention bits of bodywork.. more than that, I have absolutely no idea...

That's my anecdote of Luton Life today, then... back to work tomorrow, where I daresay it'll be a lot less interesting!

Posted by james at 6:28 PM

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