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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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Saturday, 30 September 2006

miniature railways, tube tomfoolery and emerging bands...

All aboard!Just a quick entry to summarise the day before I collapse into bed! We met up with Cath, Martin, Luke and our mother for a trip to the Eastbourne Miniature Steam Railway - a favourite haunt of Luke's when they're down south - and, with gentle sunshine all day, we had a wonderful time. There are photos of our trip in the gallery.

66,666 miles!As we drove home, our beloved Astra - we know him/her (there is debate... well, OK, out-and-out arguments, between the children as to the gender!) as "Little White" - passed its 66,666th mile on the road. Nothing of any disastrous consequence happened, thank heavens; in fact, it was quite a pleasant, uneventful drive home!

On other matters, I was thinking of my favourite pointless fact (that St. John's Wood is the only tube station that shares none of its letters with the word Mackerel), when I discovered an almost-as-pointless website that one can play a similar game with - users.ox.ac.uk/~univ1532/tube.

Finally, I'd like to make a pop music prediction - based on podcast play alone (including a podcast of their own, where they seem like very approachable and down-to-earth guys), I think The Shakes' debut single 'Liberty Jones' will have a substantial chart success - by internet airplay rather than 'big label' publicity (in the same way that the Arctic Monkeys didn't). It's a wonderfully catchy tune, and I really hope they make a success of it.

Have a good Sunday!

Posted by james at 11:02 PM

Friday, 29 September 2006

Education and dynasty...

This blog entry - much like many before - is just bits and pieces, really... I should have written at least one entry earlier in the week, but that's the way things go.

First off (and this is thanks to Jon's assurance that they were broken!) comments are finally working again. Annoyingly, they were only broken for genuine contributors - I have been getting twenty to thirty spam comments a day, which is why I thought it was OK!

Luton bits
There are some interesting changes afoot in the Luton education system, involving Family Support Co-ordinators and family rooms in schools. On the surface it seems like a good, well intentioned idea - hopefully with a good attendance and sustained funding.

Reading the Guardian article was strange - I hadn't realised that Luton was still such a deprived area...

Barry's Dynasty
For my own reference, really, here is an unofficial family tree of the descendents of Barry, the aloe vera plant that I bought for my desk a couple of years ago. You may notice that I have decided to use the Icelandic naming convention... for no better reason than I quite like it.

(It's on something of a tangent, I know, but there have been quite a few competitions just lately to win holidays in Iceland. I think it must be because of the whole Narnia thing...)

Anyway.. the lineage runs thus:

Barry (in the studio)

Allegra Barrysdottir (at work)
Daventry Barrysson (at work)
Brandenburg Daventrysson (now with Beth's Mum)
Henry (I think) Daventrysson (donated to a work colleague)
Helen Barrysdottir (at work)
-- recent cuttings --
Happy Plant Barrysson (in Christopher's room)
Eleanor Barrysdottir (in Eleanor's room)
Lou Barrysson/dottir (with Mother)
[TBC] Barrysson/dotir (intended for Beth's Grandma)


These plants are voracious, so please let me know if you'd like one of the offspring! I'm afraid international shipping might be tricky, though..!

I saw a link to this blog entry and immediately thought of Christopher - it's a wonderful piece of eccentric engineering and art...

"Blow with all your might into the bean stuffed straw." It's strange what some spam email says... that's all there was to it. When I typed it into Google I wasn't any better informed. How odd.

We're off for a brief trip down south tomorrow, then I'm in charge of videoing the vicar's last service at our church; that's just one of the reasons I've been perched in front of the Mac for a good proportion of the last couple of days - I wanted to learn how to use iMovie and iDVD before I need to use them in anger! To be honest, iHave-no-idea-what-I'm-doing.

Have a good weekend!

Posted by james at 9:35 PM

Saturday, 23 September 2006


I've been getting quite frustrated just lately with how many examples of utter unempoweredment (is that a word? If not, it should be!) I've ecountered. This is typified in the lily-livered, equivocal tripe uttered by the headteacher at the school where some of the parents were selling junk food to the students through the gates.

OK, I understand that there is training available for public communication (or "PR" as it's excruciatingly known) - you get evidence of this every day during interviews on, say Watchdog or Newsnight, where a question is responded to by skilfully manipulating it so that a prepared, positive point can be made.

But I really feel that's getting in the way of honesty, empathy and - most importantly - action! To equivocate risks a perceived abandonment of principles, and surely that can do more harm to a reputation long-term than the focus of press attention? Or maybe not... which would certainly re-inforce my belief that journalists have a huge power over the populace - and politicians. Maybe even more than business in this capitalist society? Although that would raise the question: "who's paying the journalists?" I'm not really one for reading the paper, to be honest...

Informative dishwasher labelBah. I'll stop ranting now. It's been a busy couple of days at work, with quite a few things still breaking big-style. I'm being run ragged, but it's a good ragged, and I've certainly not been taking a great deal of nonsense. One of my colleagues had some 'effervescent echinacea' and offered me one - wow! That's remarkable stuff. It definitely perked me up (although there have been reports of niggliness from other folks who've tried it) and it'll ward off colds. It's quite expensive at over £3 a tube, though - definitely a 'one a day' job.

(To the right, for what it's worth, is my latest sign in the workshop. Apparently I'm getting something of a reputation for sticking notices up!)

What else? Oh yes.. inspired by today's MSN name (which was "elementary memetics") I thought I'd try a couple of Googlewhacks. On at least two occasions I ended up at a page on www.activeware.com/guestbook... if anyone has any idea what that's all about, please let me know! (blog at mus-ic.co.uk is the address if you didn't already know!) Are they deliberately ruining googlewhacking as a hobby?

Finally - my goodness, this is turning into a depressing blog - I saw this article on Digital Spy. If this is true (there's no mention of it on the rather uninspiring Star 107.9 website), it's a bit of a shame, but I can completely understand their situation. From my understanding, small radio stations are getting a really bad deal, because they're being asked to deliver much richer content - such as local news and features - than the bland megaliths, but can't raise the revenue to do it. The question is, I guess, what do people want from real (by which I mean not the stations who play the same music as their neighbour, just changing the names of the towns and villages in the links) local radio?

There's a tiny Bristol station called Radio Dialect that broadcasts one evening a week, and it's great - local, earthy, a little rough around the edges (appalling in places), but entertaining. I enjoy the podcasts they do, knowing that it's completely run by volunteers for the enjoyment of it, rather than to make as much money as possible. There must be a middle ground... Ofcom - what d'you say?

Mandatory Richard Hammond reference.

I really enjoy watching Top Gear, and it's great to know that The Hamster is making a good recovery. I don't know how much to believe, but there are some entertaining stories about his colleagues' visits:

Hopefully the BBC won't cancel Top Gear as a result, but there's an online petition you can sign (for what it's worth) to request that it isn't. Don't get me started on Health and Safety...

That'll do for now. Hopefully a happy day tomorrow - my nephew Luke is celebrating his second birthday with a party, which will mean another family get-together.

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Pete!

Posted by james at 10:08 PM

Sunday, 17 September 2006

birdfeed and TV science

So, another weekend's whizzed by. We've not had any real appointments (save for church this morning) which has meant we could enjoy the simple things, such as a walk to the library and putting up some bird feeders in the garden.

I'm not sure how well the latter will work, to be honest - perhaps it's because of local cats, but the blackberries at the furthest reaches of the garden haven't been touched (that reminds me - I must go and harvest them!) which would imply that the local cats would make short work of them if they ventured down to ground level.

At the moment, the only birds who perch on the wooden arch are wood-pigeons, but if others turn up, I'll be sure to record it here!

Well, before I go to bed I shall watch the end of the rather entertaining Mythbusters - it's more scientific than Brainiac, and far more American. I shall have to record some of them for Christopher, now I've finally got round to seeing one!

In fact, Beth was saying that there's really nothing like Tomorrow's World on any more - it's true.. Christopher tends to find out about robots and technology from videos on YouTube, which just shows how things have progressed since the days of Michael Rodd and demonstrations that didn't work!

Before I go, I'm sad to report that the brililant interactive "magnetic words" game on the internet - Psychobabble - is no more... there's a report on its demise here; there's even a 1300 name petition to bring it back. There's nothing like it out there... I suppose I'll have to stick with the brilliant (and still going!) iSketch. Or get on with some housework!

Finally, Beth's found a link to a document (in PDF format) detailing the road improvement work that's going on round our way in the next couple of years. Handy to have, although I'm not sure it all makes sense!

Link of the day

Posted by james at 9:45 PM

Wednesday, 13 September 2006

crane flying

Just a quicky - I've arrived back from a very rewarding, if brief and somewhat rushed two day course in Germany.

I took my GPS on the plane with me - here's rather a cunning (and zoomable!) map of the route the EasyJet plane flew between Dortmund and Luton Airports (courtesy of gpsvisualizer.com):

It doesn't give the height (up to 30,000 feet) nor the speed (150 mph at take-off and upwards of 500 mph at cruising altitude) but it's still great to see what I was flying over (like Rotterdam, and - on the way there - Chelmsford!)

Just before I get ready for another day at work (fortunately the last of the week!) I thought I'd do a bit of research on crane flies, since they're all over the place at the moment.

I heard, for example, that if a daddy-longlegs was capable of puncturing the skin, they could kill a grown human; not only has this been quite comprehensively debunked but I didn't realise that there were three different kinds!

More from me tomorrow.. perhaps...

Posted by james at 9:33 PM

Monday, 11 September 2006

game for a distraction from work (and travel!)

Wow..another busy busy week at work, covering such delights as clocks, wires and desks (well, OK, timecode distribution, ISDN codecs* and digital mixers) - I'm not sure how I managed to fit it all in!

Still, it's all being put on hold because I'm flying out to Germany for an advanced course tonight, which will be my first trip abroad since the increase in security. I think I'm going to put a small bag in the hold and take a few pocket gadgets on board with me. Because I'm only away for two nights, my baggage isn't going to be too substantial.. in fact I'm trying to pack quite light... we'll see how that turns out in a couple of hours time!

It's a little annoying that check-in opens two hours before the flight... were it not for the expectation of some miserable queing (hmm.. better charge up my MP3 player!) I would come back home for a while and then walk back just before the flight leaves. Having missed a weekend with the children, it wouldn't be too much of a disaster if I didn't make it to Germany, but it wouldn't be so useful for work...

Not much else to report, really.. save to say that Christopher's started junior school now (exciting, yet we're a little apprehensive, since the class he's in seems a little boisterous) and Lenni's back to pre-school. It's terribly quiet here of a morning now... plenty of chance to avoid housework!

Things that children (and, er, I) learn from TV:

A bath in tomato juice gets rid of skunk smells (from "Stanley")
Oak trees only start growing acorns properly when they're about 50 years old (from the almost-as-terrifying-as-the-Wiggles Doodlebops)

Right.. better get myself packed and ready to jet off on my international lifestyle etc...

Links of the day: (more of those game things I wish I had time to do...)

(*thanks for the informal training session, Ed!)

Posted by james at 2:15 PM

Saturday, 2 September 2006

holiday : audioblog 02-09-2006

Here's one more brief audioblog, chronicling the last couple of days of our holiday, as we drove home.

Listen online here:

Download here: audioblog27Sep2006-32k.mp3 (1MB MP3 - 4 mins 24 secs)

To follow...

(in the meantime, please take a look at the pictures in the gallery and on my Flickr page.

Posted by james at 10:13 PM

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