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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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Thursday, 25 February 2010

Bird feeder cam..!

One of my objectives this year is to encourage wild birds into our back garden, not least because some species are becoming somewhat rare in urban areas.

I need to do some work on the provision of food, since the home-made bird feeder we made a couple of years back doesn't seem to be very popular - I've made a couple of minor modifications, but visitors are still scarce.

Despite this, I've set up a little webcam, using the Stickam video streaming service, so I can keep an eye on that little corner of our terrace. I originally chose Stickam because it has an iPhone app, which means I can have it on a little screen on my desk during my workday, but it proved a little unreliable, so I'm now using Ustream, which seems to work OK. I've now set up a 'proper' camera, but the video capture device doesn't update very quickly, so I'm hoping any visitors stick around!

If you'd like to see what's (probably not) going on, you can click here: www.ustream.tv/channel/luton-garden-bird-live-webcam or you can see the video below (if you've got Flash Player... and if it isn't dark!):

Posted by james at 10:23 AM

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Half-term fun and action!

Although it has been a rainy, cold half-term, the children have had a number of opportunities to get out and about during this week-long half-term break. I was able to take them to an outdoor playscheme run by the Play Rangers of www.childrenslinks.org.uk. I think maybe because it was somewhat snowy(!) they were the only children present, which meant they had a good opportunity to play. And get very muddy! Beth and I took a walk around the perimeter of the park while the children enjoyed themselves - good exercise for both of us. Thursday's session - which was even muddier - had a better turn out, and Eleanor told amusing tales of how it was impossible to run on some parts of the grass. That, however, is what washing machines are for!

Stockwood Museum organised a special "Bugs 'n Beasties" exhibition, too; unfortunately it was extremely busy on the day Beth and her parents wanted to take the children, but it's great news that it was a popular attraction, and will hopefully encourage them to run more.

Yesterday morning there was a musical performance session that the children attended, and they went swimming in the afternoon at Harpenden Swimming Pool - at which they are able to go swimming for free due to a government initiative (definitely worth investigating while it lasts - entitlement varies between local councils).??We have, however, a quiet weekend ahead - well, at the moment anyway; it's Beth's Grandma's 90th birthday today (Saturday), which we'll all celebrate, but I daresay there'll not be as much travelling as there was a week ago, when Beth and I took a brief trip down to the south coast to have my first fitting for a wedding suit - my best mate Jon is getting married later in the year, and I have the onerous task of being Best Man.. I have a book to read about it, but my intention is simply to do my best on the day.. and not lose the ring!

Annoyingly, I've not taken any photos, nor shot any videos this week - and I've not really done much recording, either, but work has been unbelievably busy which has left me exhausted in the evening. Hopefully my brother and I will continue work on a piece of music we're working on in the next few weeks... I think some studio time is definitely in order if the opportunity arises this weekend, while the keyboard's still on the desk (although I really ought to fix the pitch-bend, since it's behaving somewhat erratically - I can assure you that can have a dreadful effect on the music!)

In fact, I've been trying to update my main website, but it seems to be a bit stuck - that's another job on the list of things to do. Speaking of which, I don't think I've tweeted about a really good "To-Do List" application for iPhone/iPod Touch - it's free and called Errands, and I find it extremely useful to keep track of the jobs I need to do in the studio, things I need to buy and general household tasks... I'll not miss the recycle bin again! Perhaps I should put 'update my blog' on the list as a regular appointment, too...

Posted by james at 11:10 AM

Monday, 15 February 2010

New(ish) year..?

Since the snow's gone away, and winter has moved on, it's really been 'business as usual' for me and the family - we've had a few days out here and there, but much of the time has been spent enjoying family time in the warmth of our home!

This has meant that I've not really taken any photos of note, and we've not really had many opportunities to take out our family Christmas present - a rather excellent Flip Ultra HD video camera.

That said, just after Christmas, there was a most enthralling exhibition called 'Space Age' at the Stockwood Park Discovery Centre that I compiled into a short video (see below).

The software that comes with the camera is simple but effective - in fact, a new version was released that means that videos that are edited in the software are able to be transferred back to the camera, which can be plugged into an HD ready television, so we can watch our finished products in their full glory (or not!)

Here, then are our creations - my video of the Space Age exhibtion, and Christopher's video of the snow people he and his sister made!

My new year's resolution has been to be more organised, and to focus on getting things done. One of my objectives has been to clear out some of the cupboards in the studio and bits of the loft - in doing so, I've actually done fairly well selling it on eBay or giving it away with Freecycle. It's amazing how time-consuming doing these things can become, but if it saves taking stuff to the tidy tip, there's definitely a benefit!

I started recording a daily 'mini-podcast' on AudioBoo, but - as with many of these good intentions, that has dwindled somewhat... it is not before time, though, that I need to get myself organised again, and start creating!

That said, my brother Dave is coming over this evening - we'll probably just have a bit of a jam (as we did last time) but it keeps my focus on making music! The studio has been multi-purpose over the past couple of months, from workshop (I had to carry out repairs on a broken bookshelf in the lounge, so sawing and drilling of wood was required) to warehouse (it's where the stuff that I'm selling and giving away tends to accumulate).

It would be great to get back into the world of podcasting, too - I'm still a voracious listener, occasional contributor, but I've not actually made anything original for over a year, now. It's all about finding the time, though... and, more importantly, having the self-discipline not to waste it!

Anyway, that'll probably do as a brief update to this somewhat neglected blog! As always, my daily 'goings-on' are chronicled on Twitter (with an archive here, but I'll hopefully update this blog sooner rather than later!

A couple of links, while I remember:

  • lutonlive.com - a live (sometimes real-time) webcam of a Luton Street.. yes, it's inspired me to do something similar!

  • Google FlashBlock / Firefox FlashBlock - There seem to be more bits of Flash animation than ever before on the internet, which has caused something of a backlash - certainly with small netbooks, all the processing power required just to display all the adverts can grind it to a halt! Here are a couple of useful add-ins that stop Flash items starting automatically when a page is loaded.

Posted by james at 10:45 AM

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