2020 weeknote 2

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Turning over the rubber date stamp to see a fresh, un-inked ‘2020’ is a good visual metaphor

The first proper ‘work week’ of 2020, and quite a landmark as we said goodbye to our manager who is destined for pastures (or estates) new. Lots of things to sort out, inevitably, even with a longish notice period. There’s never enough time. Cue bouts of hysteria around loss of years of knowledge and experience, and colleagues and I running around like headless chickens. Of course with hindsight we’ll have been fine. But it’s felt like quite the upheaval.

Thursday and Friday were taken up by the aforementioned leaving do, and then the final day proper. The former went very well – not a foregone conclusion, given the number and variety of attendees – and the latter was pleasant enough, though marred slightly by some very last-minute srs bsns.

Spent a few minutes watching a blackbird in the garden attacking a holly tree, retrieving berries. And the rest of any free time my brain allowed me was spent daydreaming about some of the highlights of our trip to Bruges the previous week. I have a feeling Bruges will stay with me. One of those very special places.

Not an awful lot else to report – a quiet weekend was had, as it was the first proper weekend in a few weeks of no plans. I know I spent some of it just pottering, and a lengthy session on Sunday which took me back ten years or so. Now and then I find myself browsing Flickr and Tumblr and other personal blogs and it’s similar to the kind of web browsing I did in 2010 and earlier.

The very particular aesthetic of certain photographers and bloggers that I just find so comforting and, a little, inspiring. Film photographers, studyblrs, and curators (YES!) of all kind of niche interests.

And just the very act of using Flickr and Tumblr themselves, though being aware of how they are increasingly becoming dinosaurs of another era. I think I know in my gut now that they – at least in their present forms – aren’t long for this world. But I still find comfort in them.

Onwards.

2020 weeknote 1

The Belfry seen from the Groenerei / Quai Verte

The first week of 2020 began with a four-day trip to Bruges, which was fabulous and not a bad way at all to kick off a new year.

I’ve been editing the photographs (I took a lot) and I still can’t quite believe how lovely Bruges is. I had expected it to be lovely, and assumed there would be nice bits dotted around, but I was surprised by how consistently pretty it is, and how much I enjoyed walking around.

As well as how the place looked, I was also struck by how Bruges sounds. Traffic level are low, which has is a big help. And there are horses and carriages around every corner. Their hooves make a lovely noise on the cobbled streets. But the icing on the cake is the amount of church bells one hears all throughout the day. The bells mark the hours and quarter hours, and also call people to services. They reverberate around the town wonderfully.

The Belfry

The highlight of this auditory experience of Bruges was going up the Belfry, which houses an array of bells (obviously), but also (less obviously), a carillon, which enables the array of bells to be played as though it were an organ or similar keyboard instrument.

We somewhat accidentally chose Saturday morning for our climb up the tower of the Belfry, and it coincided perfectly with a carillon performance – as we neared the top, we passed the small room inside which was a man happily sat at his keyboard, just starting to perform using the bells meters above his head.

Nothing could have prepared us for the experience of being inside the belfry as the bells played out. I had foolishly assumed that the viewing area of the belfry would be different to the bit where the bells are, otherwise how could mere mortals occupy a space in which loud bells are rung every quarter of an hour?

Wrong. And, indeed, bong.

The viewing area is very much where all the bells are housed, and the noise of their clanging is, quite literally, cacophonous. It was also a unique opportunity to get out my Tascam recorder and – after a massive correction of the input levels in such a loud environment – try and capture some of the incredible noise we were experiencing.

Bruges was wonderful. We were there for almost four full days thanks to the convenience of Eurostar and I’d happily go back again some time to see some of the things we missed, and perhaps see the place in a different season.

Weeknote? Late November 2019 edition

I sat down to watch something on YouTube the other day, and instead of a brief ad for Squarespace, I was shown a 5-minute music video. At no point did it present itself like an ad – apart from the little thing that told me it was an ad (and it was a skippable ad, thankfully).

But after about twenty seconds, I didn’t want to skip this ad/music video. I was transfixed. I kept watching. I had no idea what I was watching. And I ended up watching the whole thing.

I think initially it was the striking opening shots that left me wondering what it was going to be about. And then once it became apparent it was, essentially, a music video (or live performance video), I kind of kept watching just to see where it was going. Would it turn into an ad for something? The track itself was kind of downbeat compared to the gravity of the images alongside it. And then of course the barriers presented by the cultural and language differences meant that I hadn’t got the foggiest idea what was going on.

It was a riot. Almost literally, at points.

I guess I’ve not watched any live performance videos filmed at stadiums lately – especially in this age of tiny high definition cameras and drones (Christ, I feel old) – so maybe they all look this good and dramatic. But particularly the aerial shots of the circle pits were just so dramatic. It was just… fascinating.

Anyway the video itself is viewable on YouTube so you don’t need to play, ahem, Russian roulette with YT’s ad algorithms to see it for yourself.

Anyway, I think it’s basically just a live performance video by a Belarusian musician called Макс Корж. Why I was shown it on YouTube as an ad I’ll never quite understand. There was a little note that explained that I’ve turned off targeted ads in YouTube, which goes some way to explaining why it was so random. Maybe not quite this random… But if turning off suggested ads occasionally presents me with something quite as unusual and compelling as this, then it was clearly a worthwhile change.

Bring on the crazy stuff from outside my YouTube echo chamber, please…

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Speaking of YouTube algorithms that are rather more in my wheelhouse, I was shown a lovely film recently of a chap called Beau Miles running the 46km length of a disused railway line in rural Australia. It was an unexpected delight, and I look forward to seeing more of Beau’s films.

It should be no surprise to me that YouTube algorithmically showed me a beautifully-shot film (with added drones) about an eccentric runner with a strong connection to railways and beautiful countryside – my YouTube is basically either that, or videogames and tech.

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On a not unrelated note, there’s something weird about our broadband at home. Having done some googling it appears to be a common issue related to our ISP, and not one that causes any actual problems, so I’m happy to let it slide. But basically, when we use the web at home, some websites think we’re based in India.

Fortunately, we haven’t come across any sites for which this would be a problem – stuff like iPlayer and Netflix is all fine. It’s just that some ad networks get confused, so when I’m at home, Twitter serves me ads meant for audiences based in India. Curious. I get a lot of stuff about Bollywood movie stars and I recently saw trending topics relating to whether the ‘real’ Indian man should be bearded or clean-shaven.

(Interestingly, our service provider claims it’s not them at fault for routing traffic via India; rather it’s that they’re using IPs that have had an association with India previously, and it’s down to the third parties to update the fact that these IPs are now UK-based. Or something. I think I understand.)

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Over the weekend I had a bash at making a crystal radio using whatever parts I could salvage around the house. Not having any spare wire, I ended up dismantling a pair of disused power bricks from old laptops to strip the wire from the transformers which was… fiddly. But very satisfying.

Anyway, the radio was a total failure. I identified at least three areas for improvement and I will try again with better components. I’ve never made a crystal radio and the prospect still charms me.

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I recently restarted my Flickr subscription having lost interest around the time SmugMug took over.

I’ve been using Flickr since August 2005 which seems like a really long time now. Definitely in internet years. And I was a paid-up member of Flickr for probably 10+ years of that. I just found myself using it less and less, and then when the subscriptions increased in price (and then something to do with the amount of ‘free’ space users were given), I just lost interest.

But in recent months I’ve found myself browsing Flickr as much as ever, and I miss posting to it. I’ll stop short of saying I’ve missed contributing to it, but I suppose that’s what it feels like.

And I find that the stuff I see on Flickr is just so damn inspiring that it inevitably makes me want to do a better job of editing my own images, and uploading things to Flickr still feels inherently very different to putting things on Instagram.

I’m going to keep my Flickr subscription as a rolling monthly thing for a while to see if I enjoy being back using it properly.

Are you still using Flickr? Hopefully we’re already friends. If not, why not add me, or let me know where to find you. Here’s me: https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulcapewell/

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Finally, this newfound active use of Flickr has led to me revisit hundreds (or even thousands) of photographs I took in the fallow period where I stopped uploading things there. And that meant that pictures I’ve taken have just sat in Lightroom without even being given a second look. Which is madness. I just needed a reason to return to them, and using Flickr again has offered me such a reason.

I don’t mind editing in Lightroom on the desktop, but I thought it was time I revisited Lightroom on iOS and Android, and I’m glad I did as the applications have improved massively.

And it’s meant that I’ve really had fun editing old photographs, and been reasonably pleased at what I’ve found. It has breathed new life into photos taken on trips that would otherwise just be forgotten. So I feel like it’s time well spent. It’s also nice to spend these dark winter days editing photos taken on interesting trips.

It’s been especially nice revisiting the pictures I took in Rothenburg – but that’s hardly fair, as it’s probably quite difficult to take a bad photograph of that place.

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That’s all for now.

 

A week of notes

I’ve restarted my subscription to Flickr. I don’t know what came over me, but ever since all the stuff with limiting free accounts, I’ve found that I still regularly follow people on Flickr and even go looking for new people to follow all the time. So it’ll be nice to post things again.

img_20191114_181107Last week I was very happy to see my dear friend Jessica launch her new book Two Trees Make a Forest at Daunt in Hampstead. I managed to buy the book a few days before release date (which is something I used to love doing particularly when it came to new music), and despite being an ebook guy, I love the physical edition: there are maps and Chinese characters and the first chapter looks like this (and it doesn’t look like that on my Kindle, I can tell you)

On my cycle commute home I came to a traffic light on which the red light wasn’t working. Luckily the other two lights were working, but the red one is quite important. I recently learned that in London, Transport for London controls all traffic lights, and I also learned that TfL are very responsive on Twitter DMs for this sort of thing. The light was repaired within 24 hours.

I found a bunch of cool new websites and blogs to follow via Kicks Condor’s excellent hrefhunt – I’m clearly getting older and nostalgic for ‘the old web’ (see also my increased use of Flickr) – and Kicks is great at showcasing the kind of unique homepages (homepages!) that scratch that itch.

Related: inspired by this chap‘s wide-ranging blog (homepage!), and particularly his posts tagged as cycling, I contacted a local shopping centre to ask if they’d mind installing a bike pump and a water fountain. They’re installing the latter in the new year, apparently. (Our local bike shop recently became a running shop – I think under the same company – and inexplicably removed the bike pump from outside the shop.

The Beths won awards at the NZ Music Awards. Yay! This inspired me to look up some previous NZMA performances on YouTube, which led to me finding a Mint Chicks one from 2009 which is a really long time ago. I miss the Mint Chicks.

I started playing Downwell on my phone and I’m so glad I did. The gameplay is fast and addictive, and the graphics and sound design are so well executed (it’s very 8-bit, or whatever). This has led me to check out Cave Story, as well. Along with Steamworld Dig 2, which I am loving, it’s fair to say I’ve found my niche genre of pixely mining/exploring games.

Also in videogames, I stayed up far too late over the weekend working on my second divine beast in Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It took me two sittings, because I broke all my bows on the first go, but was pleased to be able to warp away, hunt around for new bows, then warp back and defeat Waterblight Ganon with relative ease. I had also recently sold a shedload of gemstones and bought a load of bomb and fire arrows, which pack a punch. On something of a roll, I shortly thereafter went and killed my first Lynel.

This weekend, M and I ran to another museum – the Wellcome Collection. We went to look at the Play exhibition, which was pretty good. A decent mix of objects, and all the novelty of seeing stuff like LEGO and an Atari 2600 in a museum case. This was the third London museum we’ve run to in as many weeks. The key, we’ve found, is to have a staggered start time. We then both get the run we want, can listen to whatever we each want, and we end up somewhere interesting at the end of it, feeling pleased with ourselves. We went to the pub afterwards, too, making it a pretty excellent use of a Saturday afternoon.

I also enjoyed this booklet which reeked of Scarfolk:

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Weeknote? Week 37

Alright, let’s try and have a whip round:

Work was pleasant last week, although somewhat chaotic: we were running job interviews, we had a staff day out, and we rescued a feral kitten from the garden. It was not a little amusing for us to be literally herding a cat for the last hour of a week that I think kept us all on our toes.

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Not this cat.

The staff training day was a tour of Strawberry Hill House, the history and recent restoration of which would take many times the half day we had to understand it. Beyond that, the other highlight was that it was being set up for use as a location in a major new film called Come Away, with distinctive parts of the building being used to great effect in what promises to be an epic Disney fantasy. (The premise – I shit thee not – is that Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan are brother and sister.)

At home, I recovered my desktop computer from yet another SSD-related crash. This error throws itself up every now and again, and recovering from it is always tedious. Fortunately I run daily full backups of the whole SSD, but in lieu of finding out the root cause of the drive failure, I have had to stop using the SSD. It’s quite old now, and has served well in two different machines, so maybe it’s time I replaced it. They’re rather cheap now.

This hard drive juggling led to me replacing a 120GB SSD with a quite snappy 640GB laptop drive (what a strange size), and that is working well enough for now. I’ve been spoiled by having my boot drive on an SSD for so long, though.

It also led to me rationalising some of my hoarded hard drives. I managed to squeeze off a bunch of Humax Freesat recordings that lived on a 1TB USB3 drive and put them on an old 320GB drive and caddy, meaning I can use the very-capable 1TB drive for more useful things.

I find this sort of activity extremely comforting. When it goes well.

Speaking of… I also played a bunch more Firewatch this week. Not loads, actually – I still don’t know how long (or short) the game is. But it continues to hold me completely fascinated and I don’t want it to end. And yet I can’t shake the feeling that it is just about to.

Still, I bide my time taking tens of screenshots per session – of the scenery and of the copious amounts of in-game ephemera like letters, typewritten diary entries and other printed materials. The attention to detail on some of them is exquisite. I love that game so much.

Worth noting here, too, that I have gotten back into playing Animal Crossing lately, probably because it is such a seasonal game. I’m glad I’ve found a few new things to do because I mainly stopped out of a lack of such novelties.

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This weekend M and I went to Milton Keynes with our bicycles. We had a great time (well, I certainly did) buzzing around a variety of country lanes, the car-free ‘redway’ cycle routes that criss-cross the city, and streets I still remember pretty clearly. It was particularly pleasant to do most of my old 20km circular ride that occupied so many long sunny evenings and bright, crisp mornings in spring and summer 2014.

We also watched two quite different films – The Death of Stalin and The Bling Ring – and both held our interest and made us chuckle and comment. I’ve no idea if either of them were good, but we enjoyed them. I will say that we particularly enjoyed the dialogue of and comedy timing of the former and the bombastic soundtrack and self-assuredness of the latter.

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And finally, much like the protagonist in Animal Crossing, I caught (and then released) a moth, before spending some time trying to identify as what I believe to be a Box tree moth, which the Internet tells me I should report to the Royal Horticultural Society, so I duly did. It might be that they care more about the caterpillar than the moth, but data is data. Or are.