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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, 21 August 2007

family and friends...

Wow - what a weekend! It's been mostly damp, but there have been enough breaks in the rain to enjoy some time outdoors, too.

Not so on Saturday, though, when we popped over to Oxford to see Pete, Lisa and their little'uns; they were hoping to have a summer party, but the weather definitely let them down. Undeterred, Pete still had a good go at lighting the barbecue, and before we dashed off into the relative dark of an early evening in August, we managed to have some burgers and sausages!

Sunday was another day of travel - this time down to the South Coast, to see Mother and Mary. On the way, we popped in to see Jon's parents... I still can't believe the last time they'd seen Chris he was a baby, and they'd never met Lenni until then!

The intention, once we'd had a relaxing afternoon at Mother's in Bexhill, was for Beth and me to make a trip eastwards, to a little village called Ivychurch, for an overnight stay in a Bed & Breakfast. We've never done that before, so it was quite an exciting, apprehensive prospect for us, but in the event there was nothing to be worried about. The Olde Moat House is in a wonderfully peaceful location, and the owners were friendly and accommodating. We ended up around the breakfast table with an Austrian couple and a couple from Holland, which certainly broadened our horizons!

Unfortunately, Lenni was a little unwell overnight - we think it might have been a late reaction to her booster injections which she had last week - but Mother and Mary calmly dealt with it, for which we are incredibly grateful! She's still a little under the weather, but getting plenty out of life.

Lenni and Chris enjoying their doughnuts in Vanburger's hutTake, for example, our short trip west to pay a visit to Vanburger's now-legendary burger van. If you can, I really would recommend a visit, if not for the friendly service and utterly unique environment, then for the best bacon sandwich I have ever had.

We spent the afternoon with our good friend (and Lenni's godmother) Tamara today, who's definitely destined for great things - it's always wonderful to hear about her experiences, especially since she has a talent that I could only dream of. She's currently branching out into session and wedding photography, and I would certainly recommend her services!

It's been a lovely start to my two weeks off work.. not many links, I'm afraid, since I've been having far too much time playing Scrabulous! Funnily enough, once I'd signed up on the main site, I discovered there was an application in Facebook to play it, so I never actually started a game on the main site. Within a day or so, I received an email essentially asking "are you having trouble, since you've not started a game?" and I responded - thinking it was probably an automated email - that I was playing on Facebook. It was something of a surprise to see that someone responded.. it's always really nice to get some individual communication!

Posted by james at 8:28 PM

Friday, 17 August 2007

end of term...

It's been a strange, low-tempo week at work; most probably because it's the height of the holiday season, and people haven't been available to answer the emails I've been sending in an attempt to get some useful information.

Still, it's given me a good chance to catch up with some of the paperwork that I've been needing to do, and make sure things are reasonably well tied-up before I came home today. I've not had two weeks off work in a long, long time - mostly I take a week at a time, but it seemed like a sensible idea this year, not least because there are a few things happening over the next couple of weeks, and there's a Bank Holiday a week on Monday.

The holiday season will certainly start with plenty to do - we're off to Pete and Lisa's tomorrow, and down to the South Coast on Sunday for a visit to my Mother's. The children are very much looking forward to getting out and about - I am, too!

There's not a great deal of change on the house restoration front - our claim handler's on leave, too! - so I'm guessing much of the fortnight will be spent with the house in its current state, so we'll be aiming for day trips to various places if we can.

Only a couple of links in this blog, I'm afraid - the first is yet another fine offering from (acquisition by?) Google - it's called Sketch-Up and it's such an easy-to-use tool for 3D design. I daresay I'll be using it for the minor redesign I'm planning for the studio once all the parts arrive for it - I'm keen on going 'digital' which may mean I need to bring the PC closer to the studio, since firewire (the standard interface for digital audio and control signals) will only go 4.5m. That will have implications because traditionally computers are quite loud... which may mean I need to upgrade the case to a silent one. All that is to come, though; I've certainly got some saving up to do!

Game of the week:

  • www.scrabulous.com : it's Scrabble on the internet! I'm already playing a couple of games with my Facebook friends, and I think it might get quite addictive!

Something of a rambling entry, I'm afraid - hopefully I'll have more to say (and maybe some pictorial evidence of life!) in the next few days...

Posted by james at 11:48 PM

Monday, 13 August 2007

drums, vans and bakeries

I'm currently recovering from one of the most sustained busy weekends of the past few years; there's no doubt that Mondays off work are of use in that respect!

Mic'd up drumkit in the studioSaturday was entirely set aside for recording some drums down in London. I had been very apprehensive about this, since the standard microphone arrangement for percussion is amongst the most complicated for a single instrument. In the event, we used ten microphones - one for each of the pieces of kit, and two room mics to add some of the reflected sound energy.

While the drummer set up (and tuned, which I wasn't expecting... just shows what I know about drums!) his kit, I busied myself with working out how to get the powerful digital mixing desk to do what I wanted; there was an 8-track recording PC at the back of the studio, and it was my intention to be able to record each drum and cymbal on an individual track. The first attempt - using direct outs - wasn't quite what I had in mind, because it was picking up the instruments before the EQ, dynamics and fader. So I assigned each input to a fader channel, then assigned the fader channel to one or other side of the main stereo groups (so ch1 was Gp1L, ch2 was Gp1R and so on), and then set each input of the recorder to monitor the corresponding group. This seemed to work fine, and I then tweaked the EQ and compression settings 'by ear', based on some really useful information I read on the Record-Producer.com website. They sounded completely wonderful - not least because of the amazing expertise with which Simon played them. I'm hoping I have done them justice - we'll certainly hear once all 5GB of audio data is sorted and re-assembled as separate takes.

We finally packed up shortly before 1am; considering we'd met up for a rehearsal at 10am, it was certainly a long day!

There was no let up on Sunday, though: Nik, one of my great friends from our days in commercial radio, was moving out of a flat in Haywards Heath, and I offered my assistance with the removal of the furniture, and the trip around the M25 and up the A1M. It all went mostly smoothly, though - we even managed to fit in picking up some table for his mother.

As one might imagine, today has been something of a day of respite! We've had a lovely family day, with the children playing quietly for much of the day (Christopher loves his Lego Mindstorms - thank you to everyone who helped him save up for it!) and Beth attending a successful midwife's appointment.

On other - culinary -matters, Beth bought a delicious Lemon Crumble Sponge made by Hoppers Farmhouse Bakery, and it was so delicious I was moved to search for Hoppers on Google. Distressingly, it seems that the original company - based in Herne Bay, in Kent - has closed down, although the products are now being made by Inter Link foods (which doesn't seem to have a website). It's a bit of a shame, because I would have liked to have emailed the company to say how much I enjoyed it. Yum.

Finally, my lovely friend Tamara emailed me today to let me know that some of her stunning photography has been selected for exhibition; in fact, the gallery at Calumet will be showing some of her pictures tomorrow. Congratulations are definitely in order!

So the working week begins - the last one before I have two weeks off, though!

Posted by james at 9:31 PM

Friday, 10 August 2007

replacement and randomness

We've recently taken delivery of some replacement items for the kitchen, and, after a quick phone call, the PC monitors, keyboard and mouse which were damaged in the studio are shortly to be dispatched; the front of the house was taken over by the asbestos removers this morning as well, so it's been a busy day at home!

It's good to know that things are slowly moving along, though. There's still building work to carry out, the replacement carpets need to be bought and fitted, and I still have some studio bits that we've not heard anything about (most notably the mixer).. once all that's done, though, some kind of normality may just return. It's strange that we're quite used to the lack of a few home comforts (and various holes in the ceilings and walls!) but it'll be nice when it's all done.. especially when I can hide out in the studio again!

In other matters, here's a rather amusing idea from Pete:


The gist of it is that he choose two random words, types them into the Yahoo! search engine, and then types about what comes back. I wonder if he takes requests...

Posted by james at 12:55 PM

Thursday, 9 August 2007

one-legged MP3 player (or how to fix the H320/H340's headphone socket!

Over the past few days, I've been rather frustrated with the headphone socket of my beloved iriver H320; it's been losing the left-hand channel, needing a wobble of the plug to make good contact.

my iriver H320's broken headphone socketI decided today to take a look at the fine forums at misticriver.net; the very useful H3xx FAQ forum included a post about tightening up the plug contacts, but this didn't do it.

However, it was after reading another forum post - that I concluded that the end of the headphone socket may have come away from the main circuit board.

After dismantling the device (something I'd done once before to replace the hard drive, so it wasn't too daunting a task) I cheekily asked one of my soldering-expert colleaguest to apply a small amount of solder paste to the join; the result? Success! I can now listen to my podcasts and music without physical irritation!

Posted by james at 1:53 PM

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Tuesday moaning?

So.. the plans to send the Spice Girls to Baghdad were foiled by the people of Toronto.

I'm also regularly riled by the advert on the television for Ariel suggesting we turn our washing machines down to 30 degrees. Surely it would be better if we avoided using tumble driers? They should make a solar powered one. (Or is that just a washing line?)

Still, it's Christopher's birthday.. which can only mean one thing - Harrods have launched their Christmas display (OK, so that's last year's report, but I understand they've done the same again today, apparently).

Chris, however, has had a lovely day - I'm sure I'll write more about it later. Thank you, as always, for the wonderful presents and cards!

Posted by james at 9:49 PM

Sunday, 5 August 2007

sleepy science

Christopher's balloon-car at the Science Museum's Science NightIt's been a great, if slightly unorthodox weekend; Chris and I were invited by my old pal Nick to attend a Science Night, sponsored by his company.

This was - as the name suggests - overnight stay at the wonderful Science Museum, where the children were involved in a mix of make-and-do activities and entertaining presentations, all with the objective of explaining science (but mostly physics!)

Between 6.45pm and 11.30pm (the official 'lights-out' time) there were activities where we made 'stomp-rockets' and balloon-powered cars, and the crazy antics of 'Phil the stunt-frog'; after breakfast at about 7am, we had a 'treasure hunt' in one of the large galleries, followed by a play in the Launch Pad, and culminating in the exhileration (and unbelievably loud .. 11 kilowatts? Good heavens!) IMAX movie. On this occasion it was a very recent one called Dinosaurs Alive 3D, and most impressive it was, too.

We all had a fantastic time, save for a rather uncomfortable night's sleep (or lack of!) on the roll-mats provided. At least Christopher managed to sleep for a few hours, and is remarkably chipper today considering!

Fortunately, I'm off work tomorrow, and it's the school holidays, so we have an opportunity to recover. I can't see us doing too much!

Posted by james at 3:24 PM

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Vanburger - our friend's fight against eviction

Vanburger's TrailerWe have a good friend, Tony who runs a burger van (called "Vanburger") on the South Coast. He's a lovely bloke - down to earth, friendly and immensely community-spirited; the children think he's great. It just so happens that his burger van sits on a layby which - according to enquiries at the land registry - doesn't belong to anyone.

An organisation called Glynde Estates has made a claim on the land, and told Tony to move on.

As you can see from the comments published on the Brighton Argus website, many of his customers are outraged at the claim. We are, too, which is why I have created an on-line petition here:

I'm hoping plenty of people will sign it, and the livelihood of a good, kind man will be protected from the greed of a large organisation.

On a personal note, I wonder if this might be the work one of the local residents who has a grudge against Vanburger (in a NIMBY sense). If so, that's terribly smallminded, and a real shame. Everyone deserves a cheery cuppa and hot breakfast.


Tony's plight has appeared on local television: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYBsdwgOggk.
I also took the liberty of making a silly mashup about it

Posted by james at 9:28 PM

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