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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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Tuesday, 26 June 2007

whirring and bargains

Lenni, modelling the latest in air blowing equipmentThings have moved on a little over the past day or so. The drying equipment has finally turned up - five air movers, three dehumidifiers and a hot air blower, and they're all whizzing away noisily and insistently. Although it's something of a relief to be in the relative peace of the outdoors, there's still a lot of humidity about, despite the rain having held off today. Lenni's decision to wear earmuffs was a good one! (Click the photo for bigger)

The insurance assessor (loss adjuster?) came today, to ask lots of questions, take photos, and write things down on a rather cool Panasonic Toughbook. We're now waiting for the asbestos inspectors to get in touch, and, once the drying's progressed, a visit from the people who will start to get things back to normal. It'll be quite loud for a while yet, then..

Two for less than the price of one!While we were at Asda this morning, I spotted something of a bargain - two-for-less-than-the-price-of-one! Because I've already got some liquorice allsorts at home, I resisted the temptation to take advantage of such a good deal! (Click the picture to the left for bigger!)

Finally, I read an interesting blog entry (including a link to this YouTube video) warning about the risks to privacy of putting personal information on Facebook. It makes some interesting points, but then I feel the video descends into hyperbole (although this is probably because I'm fairly ignorant of the power of the US government). If I were a student (or moreso, if I actually took the internet seriously!) I would certainly think twice about having a Facebook account.

(Oh, while I still remember.. twitterrific is a cute little app for Mac OS X... makes Twittering quick'n'easy. Too quick'n'easy?)

Posted by james at 1:56 PM

Monday, 25 June 2007

new website!

Firstly, I'd like to say a heartfelt thank you to all who sent the kind messages of support and commiseration after the unfortunate events of last week. We're still in the midst of drying equipment, and at least a quarter of the carpet in the house has been ripped up, but things are ticking over.

Still, it's given me a chance - as I've hung around for much of the day waiting for people and things to turn up - to have a go at rebuilding my main website, so I can once again inflict my musical monstrosities on the internet!

Trev and I had both been playing with the idea of installing Joomla! another content management system, so I bit the bullet and downloaded it.

It took a while to find a template that I liked - a simple one without too many things I'd want to customize - but eventually I discovered the free FS Nixlogy template from FSTemplates.com, which formed a most acceptable basis for my site.

The most important thing I wanted to do with this site was to make it easier to link to the music. Updating the previous site was a horrendous nuisance, especially if I wanted to include a Flash-based preview, since I had to copy the code from one entry to another, and substitute the appropriate information... all in all a tedious, time-consuming task.

Since Joomla! is based on the Mambo content management system (I believe they were a breakaway group or similar), it has the facility to use things called mambots, which are essentially little PHP scripts that make writing content (as well as search engines and editors) a lot easier.

Adapting a handy example of a simple mambot called rd_addphp.php, and using the excellent MP3 interrogation functions of mphp3 I managed to create my own little mambot called bot_showmp3.php, which takes information passed to it to create a Flash player preview of a 32kbps version, a download link for the full version, length, bitrate, artist and title details, and links to lyrics and technical details, so all I have to type is this:

{showmp3 jamelopoeia:jamelopoeia - Shopping High:33:34}

for each song. OK, so it's not really a marketable proposition, but it does the job. Hopefully if anyone downloads it, they can figure out how to make it work for them!

So anyway, www.mus-ic.co.uk is open for business again - please let me know what you think!

Posted by james at 11:55 PM

Friday, 22 June 2007

rescue and irritations...

Here's another audioblog... this time after the blokes from Belfor had gone away. Mostly it's good news, save for one little corner of the world...

audioblog22062007-32k.mp3 (1MB MP3 @ 32kbps)

More from me soon.. the children are at their grandparents for a couple of days, and we're off out to get something to eat (in peace and quiet!)

Posted by james at 5:30 PM

quick update and gems..

There's a company called Belfor coming over this afternoon to have a go at drying the place out. From their website, they seem to know what they're doing!

Meanwhile, why not enjoy the best (and worst!) of Freecycle items here: freecyclegems.wordpress.com

Posted by james at 9:22 AM

Thursday, 21 June 2007

warning: risk of flooding

Another audioblog.. this time about our flooded house. It's not quite as bad as it could have been, but the place now smells of a damp dog, and my studio's out of action for a bit...

audioblog21062007-32k.mp3 (1MB MP3 @ 32kbps)

Here are some photos of the worst of it... there are more in the gallery.

towels everywhere!

dangerous nailing

desk devastation

Posted by james at 8:53 PM

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Weekend reminiscences and intentions!

I can't believe I didn't mention what we got up to at the weekend!
Our trip to Ashridge 9th June 2007Jon took a trip up to see us, and we all took a wander round a part of the Ashridge park that we'd not seen before. There was a little wooden chalet tucked away in a clearing, and the children loved running around it, imagining what it would be like to live there. Great fun - and a wonderful alternative to sitting in front of the telly! There are more photos (and hopefully an amusing video, soon) in the gallery.

On Sunday, there was an open day at Dell Farm, a residential centre for schools to experience the life of a working farm. We were heading off there shortly after lunch, only to be told by Beth's folks (who had gone there earlier) that it was absolutely packed with people - something of a contrast to the recycling tour a couple of weekends ago!

Still, we went to the nearby Tree Cathedral for a slightly more peaceful amble around, so it wasn't a wasted journey.

Image FM.. more radio for your earsIt's short notice, I know, but Sunday marks the long-awaited return of Image FM to the internet airways. Again, in collaboration with the fine folk at FTLfm, we'll be on-air between 8pm and 10pm on the 17th of June 2007. If you can, why not tune in?

I've finally taken the time (with Jon's help) to configure the request module of the rather excellent OAS Playout software, so that'll be available before and during my show (which is going to be called "Jed Maxwell and the Ghastly Kwiksave Trombone. Of Azkaban") There's nothing better than an internet gadget to play with!

Posted by james at 10:31 AM

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

facing up to work and Luton...

I'm in the midst of another working week - this time a little longer, since I was called upon to do some more interviewing yesterday. I have something of a reprieve from the oven-like office tomorrow, since it's Eleanor's sports day, so I'll be working at home around it; it's one of the fringe benefits of a more specialist support role.

The interviews - once again - were a mixed bag of small-scale disorganisation (one of the teams took it upon themselves to create their own marking structure, which risk making the results meaningless..!) and made for another long day, but I had a couple of opportunities to top myself up with rooibois tea, so it wasn't too intensive.

So.. what have I seen today? Well, after dipping my toe into Facebook for the first time a couple of days ago (I saw twitters about it, and thought I'd give it a go) my network has already started to grow, and I'm finding quite a few faces from past and present on there. If you're there, why not look me up? I'm the james Hart who looks like a grinning loon.

I subscribe to our local police Safer Neighbourhoods Team newsletter, and there were a couple of rather interesting links in there (some small comfort after the recent incident in Luton town centre):

  • Street seen : An opportunity for people who have a little community spirit to help look after their part of town
  • immobilise.com : an international website one which the type and serial number of possessions can be registered, so if they're stolen, and then turn up, they can be returned to their owner (maybe!)

Posted by james at 10:30 PM

Saturday, 9 June 2007

salvage! podcast!

I'm proud to announce a new podcast from The North South Divide.. and it's ready for your delectation! It always seems to take a while to get these together and up on the internet, doesn't it...

It sounds a bit like this:

..and you can download it here:

Or you can subscribe to the feed if you're feeling technical.

I think my production skills are improving.. it was certainly fun making the sound effects!

Posted by james at 11:12 PM

Friday, 8 June 2007

backups, robots and free wi-fi

It's been a busy week - my first full week in the new/old position, so I've not really had too much time to write my blog.

However, there have been a few things to put in the ol' blog - it's a case of remembering exactly what they were!

I've been vaguely looking for some on-line backup for my Mac, and have found it, thanks to Neil's blog; it's called Mozy, and they'll give you 2GB of storage completely free. Bargain.

Kid Carpet may not be doing Radio Dialect any more, but he's on tour again! It's an excellent show if you can make it.

Here's a useful site for when I'm wandering around London looking for free wireless hotspots.. www.londonist.com/archives/2007/05/free_wifi_in_lo.php (thanks, Beth)

One of the twitters I got today was about a rather "cute" female-esque robot.. it's part of a collection at the Robo Garage at Kyoto University.

Finally, it wouldn't be Friday without a rather odd game, and this one is no exception. It essentially involves a cat, with a bow and arrow and some elastic, and it's like golf. It's quite addictive! ishi.blog2.fc2.com/blog-entry-211.html.

Posted by james at 9:16 PM

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Fetes, recycling and iMovie

Yesterday was a proper 'half term Saturday' - in the morning we attended the Raynham Way Community Centre Summer Fayre, enjoying - for what must be the fourth year running - the singing of our offspring as part of the pre-school's contribution to the opening ceremony.

In fact, the organisation and layout of the fête was almost exactly the same as last year, and the sun was just as warm, too - nothing like a bit of consistency!

We took the opportunity to visit the Recycling Centre in the afternoon - I took a few photos on Beth's camera, and thought, for a change, to make a little video of it, using iMovie. Now I've got the hang of the Ken Burns effect, it's fairly straightforward to do, although I must remember the order to carry out the editing:

  • clips
  • transitions
  • captions after checking the timings of the clips and transitions!
I made the mistake of adding the captions halfway through, which made changing durations of clips almost impossible! One of the reasons I made this was as an 'easy' start to a brief documentary about the demolition work near our office in London. As ever, though, the whole afternoon (on and off) has been eaten up with just a one-and-a-half minute video.. who knows how long it'll take me to do ten minutes!

Anyway - hope you like the fruits of my labours...

Tomorrow we're off to the Science Museum for the day - it's my normal day off (though it seems like I've been out of the office for nearly a week!) and Christopher has a teacher training day at school, so we're hoping for a fairly quiet trip. I'm sure there'll be plenty of pictures and stories to be told!

Beth's pregnancy test for surrogate baby number 3.. or 4!Meanwhile, Beth's had some good news - it looks like baby number five (or even six!) is on the way! OK, so it's still early days yet, but everyone's hopeful that a sibling(s?) to Lucy (who was the result of Beth's second surrogacy) is less than nine months from making an appearance...

Posted by james at 7:55 PM

Friday, 1 June 2007

detox (ish!) and in-blog entertainment

First off.. Woo! The inventor of MyChingo left a comment on my blog! And a very informative one it was, too. The internet is a remarkable networky thing (although I still haven't bothered with Facebook. Yet...)

Speaking of which, I've had a few links sent to me of late that I thought would be nice to share...

June has started - so it's time for me to begin a month of caffeine and alcohol (why not, eh?) free existence. I've had a bit of a headache today, which isn't unexpected, since I do enjoy coffee, but I daresay it'll subside over the next couple of days...

I spent the middle part of the day at Dad's, helping him with a few bits on the computer. I needed to replace the soundcard because the old one didn't pick up the mic well enough for IBM ViaVoice (a remarkable piece of software), and to install Skype to enable him to make free calls to friends abroad. It's beginning to reach the point where I'm battling against the ancience(!) of Windows 98... finding drivers was tricky, but it's becoming more the case that software's only being designed for use on Windows 2000 and XP. The latest version of Skype successfully installed (which was a surprise in itself), but it sounded horrendous... I eventually settled on version 2.0, that I downloaded from the excellent oldversion.com, and it seems to be performing OK...

This afternoon we spent a little time in the sunshine (we need the vitamin D3, especially with all the rain we've been having) at the local park... tomorrow there'll be a fête there, during which Eleanor's pre-school will be singing for us, and we're hoping to attend the open day at the recycling centre in the afternoon.

A busy, interesting weekend ahead, then.. I'll be sure to keep you posted!

Posted by james at 8:52 PM

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