An RSS feed for posts at 2023-02-03T00:00:00Z Paul Capewell RSS test 2023-02-03T00:00:00Z <p>This is a test of the RSS feed</p> Hello World - again 2023-02-03T00:00:00Z <p>Hi! This blog now runs on eleventy, which is a static site generator. It used to run on Wordpress.</p> <p>I thought I'd better insert something here to explain what on earth I'm doing, and how on earth I'm doing it, as much for my own memory as for your enjoyment/cringeing.</p> <p>More to come.</p> thirtyvember 2022-11-30T00:00:00Z <p>A still, cold morning. Birds quite audible, more so than normal at this pre-dawn time. Whether they sing louder in these calmer conditions or it's simply easier to hear them, I don’t know.</p> <p>Thick fog along most of the route up through the Weald alongside the railway.</p> <p>Captivated, or merely distracted, this morning by stories in the paper about a Somalian meteor that’s been found to contain two or possibly three new mineral. Stopped to wonder what a mineral even is.</p> <p>(I was as amused as ever to learn that the meteor was 'discovered' by Western scientists in the last year or two, but it has been known to locals for generations and is referenced in local folklore.)</p> <p>I was also interested to read about <a href="">a study into seasonal and regional occurrences of lightning</a>, particularly as I have noticed a far higher number of lightning strikes this year - though I have to remember that this year is also one in which I’ve moved halfway across the country, and am in a house/position where I am far more aware of the local weather conditions than I ever was in a semi-subterranean duplex flat.</p> <p>Mostly this morning I’ve found myself appreciating having the paper (or an electronic facsimile thereof) to page through - a paper is finishable in a way a website or social media is not. This is of course something Craig Mod and other have preached for some time - the joy of finishable media. And I’m allowed to, mostly without guilt, skim through the pages, alighting only on those stories and images that catch my eye.</p> <p>I go through phases of coffee preparation methods, though pour over is the most consistently used, and this week I have brought the bean grinder out of partial retirement to get to work on a vast sack of coffee beans I have purchased while on offer.</p> <p>I thought I'd got my ratios and weights about right for my pour over coffee, but good <em>god</em> the freshly-ground beans have thrown a spanner in the works and this morning’s coffee has been rocket fuel.</p> <p>I can see through time, and there are multiple songs playing at once in my head. I have read thousands of words this morning already, and have written at least as many.</p> <p>I fear I shall be found asleep at my desk by lunchtime.</p> <hr /> <p>This has been a collection of <a href="">vembers</a>. Thank you very much for reading.</p> twentyninevember 2022-11-29T00:00:00Z <p>A blank sort of a day, though nothing as bad as the one vember which failed to make the cut, a few weeks ago.</p> <p>Caught up with an old friend via video chat and I assume we both had our own signs of ageing obscured or eloquently smoothed out by the video chat's algorithms. We talked about age and distance and communication, and caught up like it was only a few weeks since we last spoke, rather than two years or so. It's like that.</p> <p>A road sign has appeared on the pavement next to the park which reads, black text on a yellow background, &quot;Body Worn Cameras in Operation.&quot; It's in a place where nothing really happens. It's opposite a run of houses, and although its presence might make sense <em>inside</em> the park, here is is on a dead stretch of pavement and it is mysterious. The full-stop and title case is also unusual, and just makes me wonder about its provenance. What makes it more mysterious is that it fell over the other day, but has been re-erected by someone, weighted down with a sandbag, as is the manner with these things.</p> <p>It's not alone. A few weeks earlier, a road near ours was due to be closed for a day due to some sort of maintenance works; it was plastered with official notices and signs, and as the day approached I started to wonder what works were taking place. Meanwhile, on the next parallel road over, a sign appeared which read &quot;ROAD NOT SUITABLE FOR DIVERTED TRAFFIC&quot;. Not suitable for... any diverted traffic? Why?</p> <p>M and I reasoned that some diverted traffic - buses, or lorries, say - might be too large for a small residential road. But <em>any</em>?</p> <p>The sign, in a way not dissimilar to the body worn cameras one, had something slightly odd about its formatting which I couldn't put my finger on. And it, too, was erected and secured in place with a couple of sandbags.</p> <p>M and I decided it must be a resident of the next road over who didn't want extra traffic due to the road closure.</p> <p>But then the most bizarre thing: by the evening of the road's closure, the signs had all gone, and nothing appeared to have been done to the road - certainly nothing which would necessitate the entire road being closed.</p> <p>But the 'no diverted traffic' sign? Still there. And six weeks or so on, it is STILL there. It sometimes gets knocked down or moved slightly. But it's still there. It wasn't collected and removed by whoever took away <em>all</em> the other 'official' signs on the closed road. Which it makes me think it can't have ever been an official road sign. So it's still there.</p> <p>The road is, apparently, <em>still</em> not suitable for diverted traffic... I wonder if it ever will be?</p> twentyeightvember 2022-11-28T00:00:00Z <p>Woken by, or to, the sound of heavy rain. Fortunately only a brief shower, but last night we went to bed with the weather station reporting that we’d had just shy of 4cm of rain all day, and this morning’s brief spell gave another 4mm. It is possibly seasonally appropriate, but with this summer’s drought still reasonably fresh in our minds it is still striking.</p> <p>A gloomth just beyond the train window. At home there had been a thin gauze of mist caused mostly by a nearby wood burner, but the sky far above was clear. Here, halfway up the Weald, visibility is restricted to about fifty metres and the only available light is either white, blue, or tinged with the yellow of the odd streetlight.</p> <p>What little light there is serves only to illuminate the flooded landscape beyond - not quite as widespread as the recent flooding, and clumps of vegetation poke through so it is not as deep as that. But it still makes the low-lying land feel saturated, a wet sponge barely able to tolerate another day of heavy rain.</p> <p>On the other side of the blogosphere, <a href="">Mr Reeves has reached Las Vegas</a> and I’ve enjoyed following the build-up to and traversal of a journey which seems exotic to my British self. As usual I’ve enjoyed his mixture of the everyday with the remarkable, and I love getting glimpses of the world through his specific lens.</p> <p>Relate-able / not relate-able from another <a href="">recent post of his</a>: “When I woke up this morning, I struggled to remember the state I was in.”</p> <p>I took receipt of a new computer at work, a replacement for a colleague's old one. The new one is hilariously small - what I would have previously called a thin client, but it is a fully featured PC in the form factor of an external DVD drive. If it was much smaller it might actually fit inside the 5.25&quot; expansion bay of the standard tower desktop it was replacing. Astonishing.</p> <p>Is backstreet back? I doubt it, and hope not, but the unstoppable nostalgia train rattles on, calling at 1999 in the form of <em>Tokyo Vice</em> and <em>&amp; Juliet</em>, both recent productions which reference the Backstreet Boys. I won't give away the joke in the <em>Tokyo Vice</em> episode, but there was some discussion of the true meaning of the lyrics.</p> <p>On a related note, and I've discussed potential anachronisms in Tokyo Vice here already, but did people say &quot;this is fucking <em>sick!</em>&quot; in 1999? Maybe... And it is a well-travelled American living in Tokyo saying it. But it seems a bit ahead of its time...</p> twentysevenvember 2022-11-27T00:00:00Z <p>A recent National Trust promotion which gave away free tickets to their buildings meant that we chose this day for a trip to one of our local ones. Well, we chose this weekend, although yet another train strike on Saturday rather forced our hand and we had to do it on Sunday. It was, alas, the worse day for weather of the two by far, but we tried not to let it put us off, and I’m glad it didn’t.</p> <p>We dressed and packed for cold, wet weather, and cycled to the train, took our bikes on board, then rode from the station at Etchingham, a tiny and adorable sandstone building. The ride from there was fairly flat, along a decent road surface, 5km or, and with low traffic as we had hoped for a Sunday morning.</p> <p>I settled into this shortish ride quickly, and found myself saying to M how much I missed cycling. She quite rightly told me to be mindful and enjoy it, rather than focussing on how much I miss it while doing it.</p> <p>The road was lined with occasionally interesting houses and pockets of woodland, with large gaps revealing the countryside beyond, which to our left dropped away into the valley below, providing a lovely view, though hazy with mist and low cloud owing to the general dampness of the morning.</p> <p>We passed the sad sight of a roadkill deer - a huge beast with a fine set of antlers. Emotions wavered between the sorrow of the animal’s death and the horrendous experience it must have been for the driver of whatever had hit it. Even the most glancing of blows with a creature of that size would have been a pretty shocking experience, and must have caused some damage.</p> <p>The road down to Bateman’s, off the main road, was suddenly steep as it took us down into the valley we had seen to our left along the route. A smaller road, though mercifully still well-sealed, with small rivulets of water running down it. As we neared the bottom, the water collected into small channels in the woodland to our left, with masses of brown leaves forced into great piles as they got snagged in the low fences under which the water ran.</p> <p>We parked up our bikes at the single bike stand in the fair-sized car park - there really was only space for two bikes at Bateman’s, which seems less than adequate. One could use the many wooden fences dotted around the car park, but it is much more reassuring to use something solid and metal.</p> <p>It was a lovely day to visit Bateman’s, despite the weather. The rain petered out and we were able to explore the house and grounds. A local ‘rock choir’ was putting on a performance in the café as we arrived. M amusingly remarked that just as I headed off to look down a well - an essential duty whenever a well is seen - the choir were singing The First Nöel.</p> <p>Bateman’s had been Rudyard Kipling’s final home for the first three decades of the 20th century, though parts of the building dated to the 1600s. It is a gorgeous sandstone country house with rambling grounds that mix formality with wild nature, occasionally tamed by structures like a water mill.</p> <p>The house itself has a large collection of art and interesting objects - I was inevitably drawn to the clocks that we found, particularly as we were told by a knowledgeable volunteer that one, which still works and even strikes the hour on a surprisingly loud bell, actually predates the house by ten years. A stunningly old clockwork object, pretty even when completely inert, still in working order.</p> <p>On closer inspection, the clock face was home to inscriptions of two skeletons and some Latin text acting as memento mori - constant reminders on every bell ring and movement of the hands of one’s progress towards the end. Large lead weights hung from the clock, and when I was finally able to tear myself away from it, I still felt its presence, knowing that if it's still hanging there keeping time now, after four hundred years or so, it was damn well going to still be there long after my time is up.</p> <p>The rest of the house was just as enjoyable a mix of timeless beauty. Rooms lined with books and filled, for ‘tis the season, with elegant peacock-inspired Christmas decorations.</p> <p>We were occasionally provided with extra information by friendly volunteers - one explained the origin of the phrase ‘put a sock in it’ when describing a gramophone, and another told a story about Kipling’s father, gently phrasing his story so that he was able to tell it without assuming too much or too little prior knowledge from us as visitors.</p> <p>He was right to assume little to none at all - I know basically nothing about Rudyard Kipling, and I suppose I know little more than I did even now having visited his home of thirty years. The house lacked many signs or information panels - though in fairness the volunteers posted in almost every room could no doubt have filled books with their knowledge of we’d asked them anything.</p> <p>But sometimes a visit to a National Trust property is just that - a visit to a place. Snowshill in the Cotswolds, the home of Charles Paget Wade and his vast collection, is deliberately retained by the NT not as a museum with signs but as a house with rooms full of stuff. To visit is to simply inhabit that space, and it was the same with Bateman’s, so I very much enjoyed that aspect.</p> <p>The water mill was an enjoyable extra - entering the building and seeing the mechanism immediately reminded me of visiting a water mill in France when I was in primary school, and another earlier visit to a windmill at some point. Apparently most of what I can remember of school trips in primary school is trips to mills, and that’s fine.</p> <p>The nearby mill pond - which was, true to its name, as calm as one - was watched over by a very handsome cat, dark brown with pale splodges, as it kept a watchful eye out for prey unseen to us. As we left the grounds we saw it in the distance sat proudly upright in the middle of a field of sheep, a true rural, outdoorsy cat.</p> <p>So yes, I’m very glad we got out to Bateman’s - it is so reassuring to find these special places, and to be able to time travel once inside them. When visiting they so often feel unique and rare and important, and yet we are so fortunate that they are plentiful, scattered all round the country, just waiting to be explored.</p> twentysixvember 2022-11-26T00:00:00Z <p>Despite November clinging on, the recent turn in the weather has helped us realise December, and the festive season, is just around the corner. We thus decided it was time to festoon the house with decorations and to go out and buy a tree.</p> <p>As usual, M took to this task with gusto, making the place look fantastic and colourful and truly bedecked. I was slower to enter the Christmas spirit, as I always am. But I am truly grateful to have such a cosy, happy place to call home, made even prettier with all the sparkles and colours and warmth provided by decorations and lights and candles.</p> <p>It is a year to the day since we picked up the keys to this house. It feels as though we have achieved a lot in that year, and it’s quite nice that the period aligns quite neatly with the actual calendar year.</p> <p>We have decorated and renovated many of the rooms of the house, learning a vast amount in the process, transforming it from what was already a very pleasant, homely home, into our own home, adding our own tastes and touches and possessions to it.</p> <p>We have also spent this year inhabiting this house, this street, and this town, hopefully bringing our own touches to each of those, while also letting each one also blend into our own being and perception of the world. It’s been a full, enjoyable year. I have loved it and I am ready to commence year two in our new home.</p> <p>It was also satisfying to move somewhere new in the depths of winter, with an entire year of seasons and weather and local events waiting to be experienced.</p> <p>Hastings puts on a show whenever it feels like it, and it is rare to get a weekend on which no parade, exhibition or other congregation of people is happening.</p> <p>It’s a stupid pun I’ve repeated to M until she stops even remotely humouring me, but by golly, Hastings <em>has tings</em>.</p> <p>And my perception of the weather and the moon and the tides and the sky was very much something I hoped I would get closer to and more in tune with by making this move. I’m glad to say I absolutely have done so.</p> <p>I’ve been so much more aware of the daily changes in the weather - and it feels as though it has been an historic year in terms of drought and flooding and the very tangible effects of climate change being brought to everyone’s front door.</p> <p>I’ve also loved getting to understand the cycles of the moon and the sea. It’s like a new language I have learned by hearing whispers of it every now and then, as well as referring to posters, websites, apps and other almanacs which aim to illustrate the comings and goings. Immersion therapy, just as I had hoped.</p> <p>Having a weather station in place - a generous Christmas gift from M’s parents - has also helped my understanding of the more subtle changes as well. The wind and the rainfall and the humidity.</p> <p>It turns out this is a rather damp place, this green valley set among the hills of a south coast seaside town.</p> twentyfivevember 2022-11-25T00:00:00Z <p>I spent a bit of time pruning/nuking <a href="">my Flickr account</a>. I let my pro subscription lapse again after a brief period of paying again. Flickr was one of the first web services I ever paid for, and I’ve had an account for my of the time I’ve been online. (See also, which just turned twenty, and my own account is about nineteen and a half years old!)</p> <p>Since the end of my subscription I’d had a few rather clumsily worded reminders that my account, having been previously pruned, was still in breach of their regulations for the number of hidden photos they’ll host for free. I get it, online storage isn’t free, and a website like Flickr can be completely ruined by the sheer weight of its historical user base and their users’ uploads. But it’s still so hard for me to simply walk away. So I pruned the images to less than a thousand again - quite an enjoyable process in itself, picking which should stay and which should go.</p> <p>I’ve just realised that a good mechanism for Flickr would be a Tinder-esque ‘swipe left/swipe right’ - when you approach a thousand uploads and your account is due to be limited, you’re shown ten or twenty of your photos and you’re asked which you want to keep and which you could happily get rid of. I dunno. I suspect their current practice of just sending sternly worded emails and not gamifying image curation is probably working out better for them in the long run.</p> <p>But anyway. I’ve cleared the log jam and started uploading a few best-ofs from the year that I’ve missed since unsubscribing. I still browse Flickr once every few days to keep up with a number of people, particularly those for whom I feel their work needs the breathing space Flickr provides over Instagram’s claustrophobic, only-relevant-shortly-after-being-posted vibes. It is so much more enjoyable paging through someone’s photographic archive on Flickr versus Instagram. But anyway, these are all arguments that have been done to death. I suspect I’ll go through yet another cycle of re-subscribing to Flickr again in the next six months or so.</p> <p><a href="">Phil Gyford talked briefly about the Guardian app getting worse</a>, and his own <a href="">Today's Guardian</a> website which after all these years is still a fantastic experience. He remains modestly proud of it and as well he should.</p> <p>(He also <a href="">recently launched</a> a new blog directory which looks extremely promising although I need more time to have a nose around. It has quickly become, <a href="">as he describes it</a>, another once-in-a-decade hit for him - I can’t wait to see what Phil comes up with in 2034!)</p> <p>On the subject of the Guardian reading experience, I had been using the Libby app to read books and magazine made available for free by various local libraries of which I am a member. But Libby has become quite clunky on the devices I tend to use - admittedly my own fault for obstinately using older devices, though as Phil points out, how they can make an app which is just displaying block of text and images slow is just insane.</p> <p>Recently I tried out Press Reader again. Press Reader is a service I’ve been aware of for probably fifteen years or so and it simply provides full scans of newspapers and magazines from around the world. Being able to browse the NZ Herald and The Listener and all kinds of magazines over the years has never not been a massive novelty to me. I would occasionally grab a free trial and dig in.</p> <p>But Press Reader is now also available via my library account, linked to via the Libby app - which doesn’t make much sense to me, as Libby already provides access to magazines which you ‘check out’ digitally within that app.</p> <p>Libby now lets you start a one month account with Press Reader, linked to your library account, which in turn allows you to view and download unlimited newspapers and magazines from around the world - including a large number that are also available through Libby.</p> <p>It’s a very confusing landscape and it always makes me wonder how much XYZ Local Authority is paying for these services, or whether it’s based on the number of users. I’m sort of glad I don’t know.</p> <p>The bottom line though is that where Libby has become a bit clunky and cumbersome (again, only via my own use of a c.2016 phone and a c.2013 iPad), the Press Reader app is acceptably snappy. The app navigation can be a tiny bit slow, but crucially once you’re in a publication, sliding between pages and double-tapping to zoom in feels about 95% as good as it should do. So that’s good.</p> <p>I’d recommend Press Reader, although the barrier to entry seems to be: get a library account, log in via their e-library services, download Libby, sync up your library account with a Libby account, tap a link in Libby which sends you to Press Reader, create an account in there and pray to god it syncs with the Libby account, and then download the Press Reader app, logging in and once again praying the account syncs up correctly. It’s a bit much and I do wonder how many people bother.</p> <p>But once you’re in, the service and range of publications available is great.</p> <hr /> <p>To ‘Heist’ in St Leonards for dinner and drinks, which is a lovely little place. A sort of food hall, home to a number of small food and drink producers, with various areas of seating and a kind of open policy for sitting wherever you like and ordering whatever you like from whichever provider you want. It means you can combine various orders, and do as we did, having a weissbier and a sour beer from one area, something from the Japanese section, and the these delicious tofu puffs from the Korean place, served with some magical blend of seasoning, crushed up corn flakes and popping candy. We had a second serving of what was meant to just be a starter of these - another nice thing you can do at a food hall like this.</p> <p>It all adds up to a calmly bustling space that welcomed everyone from families with small children, couples on date nights, and even a salty merchant navy type who propped up the bar. (We did visit on a day when England were playing a World Cup match, so maybe it was quieter than normal...?)</p> twentythreevember 2022-11-24T00:00:00Z <p>As mentioned <a href="">the other day</a>, I decided to dig out the old MiniDiscs and I'm so glad I did.</p> <p>My morning and part of my evening commutes were soundtracked by this excellent deep dive into the songs of Neil and Tim Finn. Solo work, Split Enz, Crowded House, Finn Brothers, big singles, album cuts, all sorts.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>It's a joy to listen to, especially as I say, knowing the time it would have taken to put this mix together. And thanks to the unique features of the MiniDisc, this is an LP4 disc - lower audio quality, and for times the length. There are 74 tracks on this one disc - not minutes, <em>tracks</em> - and the selection it spans about three decades.</p> <p>I watched another two episodes of <em>Tokyo Vice</em>, and it kept me pretty gripped. There were two delightful touches that caused me to grin from ear to ear, while the rest of it is just as intriguing and cynical and dark as I am enjoying it being. I am especially impressed that, unless I am completely mistaken, the main (non-Japanese) actors all seem to be fluent in Japanese, which is a step up from what you might expect. One of the most shocking things (and maybe it shouldn't be) is that they seem to smoke and drink as much in 1999 Tokyo as they do in 1960s <em>Mad Men</em>.</p> <p>As I walk home from the train, I hear the distinct sounds of that song &quot;....And I.... Don't want to fall in love...&quot; and I glance around the dark street looking for the source. It could be live, but there are no venues on this street. I soon realise it's coming from a parked car, and as I walk past, and as my eyes adjust to the dark streetlight, I see the driver of the car is a man in his fifties and he is smoking a pipe. An actual Sherlock Holmes type pipe. What a scene.</p> twentyfourvember 2022-11-24T00:00:00Z <p>The floor man came to measure up and give quotes.</p> <p>The floor man cares deeply about flooring, and he is the best man for floors. The floor man hates plumbers. He hates electricians. He hates any contractors that have ever had to lift, cut, re-seat, or replace any part of a floor.</p> <p>They are butchers, he says, and he expresses this with a sadness that I feel instantly, and am deeply touched by. It is this depth of feeling that reassures me that, yes, he is the right man to do our floors. Well, that and the fact he has already done the floors of one of our rooms, and the finish was gorgeous.</p> <p>Outside, the wind is getting up, and I visit the beach to stand right in the brunt of the gusts*. Not quite a strong enough wind to lean into, but certainly capable of small gusts which almost knock you off your feet.</p> <p>I see a young couple with a pushchair steadying themselves on a nearby bin, and it reminds me of the story my mum tells of how when she was a baby in a pram in the mid-1950s, London was one day struck by strong winds, and she was lifted, pram and all, into the air all the way across the street. When I first heard this tale I was sceptical, but in more recent years when I see winds like this, I know it must be true.</p> <p>* &quot;the brunt of the gusts&quot;...? What a weirdly ugly turn of phrase. I recently described a gooey, delicious pasta dish I had made for M and I as &quot;unctuous&quot;. I kept using this word because it felt good in the mouth - it felt like the food I was eating - gooey and delicious and sort of naughty. M did not approve of my use of this word, and I can see her point. It is not a pretty word. But my god that pasta dish was unctuous.</p> <p>Passing through the park I hear a distinct birdsong and I stop to see what is singing. It's a fir tree of some sort, and I know they are often home to goldcrests - and lo and behold, there is one here, singing its tiny head off, bouncing around from branch to branch, no larger than a ping pong ball, and not much heavier. I can just barely make out its surprisingly furious face, and I just stand, watching and listening, for several minutes. I love these birds.</p> <p>Here's a snippet:</p> twentytwovember 2022-11-22T00:00:00Z <p>Bright winter sunlight. Down to 0.2c last night. My left hip and knee feel as though I had done a long run the day before, as if to mock me because I had not.</p> <p>Ran to the hills for radio signals. It turns out that my morning aches did not prevent me from running, and it was especially satisfying to get up onto the East Hill. With the Channel in full view I tuned around looking for the DAB multiplex broadcasting on channel 9B from Caen in France. Nothing. It's these vagaries that keep me coming back, damnit. Radio as weather.</p> <p>In the evening I caught the first episode of <em>Tokyo Vice</em>, a slick new series following an American journalist who gets hired by a Japanese newspaper to report on crime in the city.</p> <p>What captured me was the production value - the cinematography is great, and several parts made me feel like the attention to detail was pretty good. It's also a period piece, set in 1999. Just far enough back to provide neat touches of intrigue and, basically, nostalgia.</p> <p>What took me out of it a little was a scene in a nightclub which had <em>Aly, Walk With Me</em> by The Raveonettes playing in the background - a great song, but not from 1999. 2007, actually. Curiously it was also cut up in quite a mangled way - I couldn't tell if it was a deliberate edit to keep the beat playing in a certain way, or if the dialogue (and therefore the background music in the scene) was deliberately cut up to imply fast cuts. Either way, a little jarring.</p> <p>But not enough to detract from the rest of it. I'll keep watching. (The credits went by hilariously quickly - I hung on to see who it was a co-production with, but I genuinely couldn't see.)</p> twentyonevember 2022-11-21T00:00:00Z <p><a href="">Interconnected writes about</a> sound being trapped in physical objects and surfaces (amongst other things), and it reminds me that I’ve often felt like rooms must be able to capture sound in some way, though inevitably it would be rendered into white noise by all the possible wavelengths it might record.</p> <p>But still there’s this idea in my head that, say, the walls of a recording studio may still somehow hold the physical effects of the sound recorded within - the vibrations of the sounds have left microscopic impacts on the physical fabric of the walls.</p> <p>It’s probably at least partly why it is so tempting to visit recording studios where important things were recorded, to somehow soak up this ethereal connection - an echo still receding.</p> <p>I also love when records state not just the venue a recording was made, nor just the range of dates, but the specific date. This is more likely with live recordings (whether performances or those tracked ‘live’ rather than being multitracked). But I love knowing that a recording was of a specific date and time and location. Something very groovy about that. An audio snapshot of a specific time and place.</p> <p>And on a final related tangent, and calling back to <a href="">my reference</a> to the radio (not) silence during the two minute’s silence for Armistice Day, I love recordings that capture (by accident or design) the ambience underneath the intended subject of the recording itself. Studio chatter, street noise, audience participation, room sound. I recently bought a gramophone 78 with a recording of Big Ben from I-can’t-remember-when and you can bet I didn’t buy it for the sounds of the bells.</p> <p>(Note to self, I should make a high res rip of that disc and try and remove the bells as much as I can. And the decades of scratchy gramophone hiss.)*</p> <p>*do I record it at 78rpm, or 33 and then use maths to speed it up, and will this make the surface noise better or worse?</p> <p>After dark I tune my shortwave radio to 5140kHz and hear, just faintly, the 1920s tunes being played by Charleston Radio International, a pirate station on the continent somewhere. It is barely audible but I'm so glad it's there.</p> <p>I discovered its existence from a painstakingly-assembled directory of shortwave music stations and the information is extremely detailed and accurate. Not quite as satisfying as stumbling on such a station completely by accident, but a different approach, and still so very cool.</p> <p>It's such a weak signal that I probably wouldn't have stumbled on it by accident anyway to be honest. And it certainly wouldn't have been picked up by my Tecsun's auto tuning function. I had to check the radio's manual again to remind myself of a specific tuning feature, despite having owned this radio for years.</p> <p>For a translated manual, it is fairly well-written and clear, but my favourite insight into the language of the original author is the parts that describe the 'BEEP' noises the radio can emit at certain points if required - they are written in the manual simply as 'B' and 'BB' and it is a delightfully eloquent way of rendering that tone in text.</p> twentyvember 2022-11-20T00:00:00Z <p>Bright autumnal sunlight fills the back rooms of the house and we are reminded of the same light this time last year - or almost this time; it's another week until it's the first anniversary of owning this house. We've almost come full circle.</p> <p>As I am collecting the washing off the line, I hear birds in the lime tree. Looking up, there is a brace of long-tailed tits and I gently gesture to M, inside, to look, knowing how much she loves these birds. We both stand in our respective spots, watching the last long-tailed tit in the tree as it moves briefly, cautiously, from one branch to another, calling for its friends who all scattered shortly before. It's a lovely sight.</p> <p>Later, on the beach, we see the spectacle of scores of pied wagtails all marauding around the high tide line in search of something. The dark natural colours of the beach's pebbles mean that when motionless, the wagtails are reasonably well camouflaged. It is only when they are spooked and they all take to the air as one that they become immediately visible. Almost as one - there are usually one or two left over. The brave ones? The stupid ones? Either way, the leftovers are the ones you can get closest to, observing their bobbing movements as they hunt in the gaps between the pebbles, before they too take off and regroup in the mini sandstorm of birds overhead - and then they all drop from the sky as if dead, focussing their energies on a new part of the beach.</p> <p>In the evening we walk to our local rugby club to see their fireworks display, postponed from earlier in the year due to bad weather (which was forecasted but never materialised). It was a multi-hour event, but the promise of the display beginning at a certain time was what dragged us out of the house and up the woodland paths to the club itself. With head torches and big coats we yomped along, catching glimpses of first of the rockets through skeletal trees. It was a good display, but there was no bonfire as we had supposed there might be. We'd also had dinner already, so had no real reason to linger, and we left shortly after the last big bang. So did most of everyone else, and we were surprised to see how many had driven to come - maybe the last big display of the season drew a larger than normal crowd?</p> nineteenvember 2022-11-19T00:00:00Z <p>A very wholesome and productive day. Work continued on the front door, and although it will never be finished (ha!), it is in a very satisfactory state. New paint, new lock, new metalwork. And M bought a gorgeous real flower wreath, all blues and greens of thistles and other things, which really ties the thing together. It is really nice to step back and feel proud and lucky to live where we do. And I am very lucky that M has such good vision for these things. We can muddle through the process together, but it is down to her that these things get instigated - and finished.</p> <p>As a treat, we took ourselves to the local museum and art gallery, for the latter part, to see the current 'Open' exhibition of art by local artists. It features a variety of mediums including photography, painting, sculpture, video, and others. Even taxidermy. It was a great selection and I appreciated the range of ambition and complexity on offer - it felt very accessible, but also inspiring.</p> <p>The PA system in Morrisons was playing <em>Fraction Too Much Friction</em> by Tim Finn which was incredibly jarring. What rift in the music/place continuum caused that to enter their playlist? I checked, and although it did chart well in the Netherlands for some reason, I don't think he had any success here. So what led to it being played in a provincial supermarket? I haven't yet checked how Morrisons runs its playlists - whether they are store-by-store (I doubt it), or some sort of modern Muzak-style system which blasts the same music to all stores up and down the country (more likely, particularly as I spotted a few weeks ago an unusual antenna array on the side of the building which seems to be for that exact sort of purpose).</p> <p>My own introduction to this rather catchy little song was via one of the many MiniDiscs an old friend kindly made for me all those years ago. It will have come in the form of a playlist of sort of 'Split Enz and beyond' type tracks and artists - advanced stuff. I must dig out those MDs. I revisit them from time to time, and it's always a joy, from the basic-bitch joy of the tactility of the medium itself, right up to the formative nature of these songs - my burgeoning obsession with little-known music from halfway round the world. And, of course, the effort and care put into creating these playlists, recording the discs in real time, and writing up the tracklistings, often with much extra information and background besides.</p> seventeenvember 2022-11-18T00:00:00Z <p>In an exploratory mood. Moving to a new town has opened it up as a place I need to get under the skin of. I pore over maps and histories and books. Legends, folk tales, natural histories and biographies of interesting characters occupy my mind. I use the National Library of Scotland map comparison tool to uncover old names for places and look at old features.</p> <p>And it's not just trying to get under the skin of the place, but under the _ground. _There are a number of interesting subterranean features in this town which fascinate me. Natural ones like caves and water courses. Man-made ones like tunnels and air raid shelters. Cable runs, trenches and ducts.</p> <p>It's funny that I find underground stuff so fascinating in abstract, sat behind a computer. The idea of being inside confined underground spaces is utterly horrifying to me.</p> <p>This morning I ran past a drinking fountain housed in a beautiful stone block archway, with the date 1873 carved in it. Yet another spring/issue/fountain. And on a road named after a nearby water course. The place is riddled with them. I want to map them all. I want to drink from them all! It's so fascinating to me.</p> <p>My run deliberately took in a section of the half marathon I am running next March, to familiarise myself with an area of town I don't know very well yet. Hilariously, I checked the route map, but not the direction, and so I ran one particularly hilly section in reverse - this morning running <em>down</em> it. Even more hilariously, one section bears a road sign warning drivers of the 14% incline. That's a 14% section we'll be running <em>up</em> shortly after the start of the run! Jeez.</p> <p>In the evening I visited the local library and stocked up on books on local history.</p> <p>Later, I spent spells in the back garden bundled up against the cold as the skies were clear and I wanted to see Leonids meteors. I saw a few, but it clouded over towards 1am, and the rest of my sleep was disrupted.</p> eighteenvember 2022-11-18T00:00:00Z <p>A bright blue sky to start the day, and cold. Befuddled brain due to the previous night's interrupted sleep.</p> <p>Twitter seems like it's heading over a cliff and it's hard to know if it will just continue as-is and rumble on for years and years or if there will be some radical shift in ownership/management which leads to it changing on some fundamental level ala Yahoo!/Tumblr et al. In the meantime, it does seem to have injected some life into those who are hanging around to find out. Everyone else seems to be talking about Mastodon and, man... I don't know. I feel like I'm just too old for a new social network. I can't do it. (He types into his Wordpress blog...)</p> <p>On a related matter, I have a plugin which monitors for failed login attempts to this blog and it is going BANANAS lately. Probably just normal, but a little unsettling. And, frankly, running a Wordpress-based blog seems like too much work. I think once the vembers posts are out of the way it may be time to revisit a static site generator approach. I've tried before and I kind of get it. And I've always preferred the idea of just saving a folder full of proper vanilla .html files rendered locally and then uploaded, rather than running some kind of diesel-powered engine in the backend which I don't truly understand.</p> <p>The inevitable next step would be running those files off a local server that I own, but it sounds like making a home broadband IP address public is just a really stupid thing to do and frankly I can't be bothered.</p> sixteenvember 2022-11-17T00:00:00Z <p>Early walk to the station. No birds yet, just a blue glow in the sky as the clouds begin to hint at a distant coming dawn.</p> <p>Through open curtains I see a comically large TV in a darkened room showing the Teletubbies sunbaby rising in front of an unseen viewer, but the real sun is an hour away from rising.</p> <p>Rounding the corner, I suddenly hear birds. A relief, as their absence was slightly unsettling, even if just reminding me that as the days shorten, these early mornings get somehow earlier and earlier even if my clock says the same time.</p> <p>The trilling and tweeting of blackbirds, robins and wrens fills the trees, and through the vegetation I see people walking their dogs in the darkness, narrow beams of torchlight illuminating their path.</p> <p>The railway company sent me a Marks and Spencer gift card yesterday to apologise for their poor service. This is instead of or on top of Delay Repay, which is a facility whereby ticket refunds can be granted in an almost automatic way to passengers who are delayed for more than fifteen minutes on their train journey. It strikes me as a pretty reasonable system, and one which in my experience works well, and payments are made quickly.</p> <p>It all stems from the weird way our railways are run, with Network Rail operating the actual tracks and infrastructure, and then various companies running services on certain lines, and with freight trains operating their own.</p> <p>The basis behind Delay Repay, as I understand it, is that when a delay occurs, the root cause is sought. Once identified, it is they who pays up. Sometimes it’s the train company’s fault. Sometimes Network Rail. Sometimes, as recently, it was a freight train. No doubt the freight company will have gone back to identify another cause behind <em>their</em> delay, which knocked on and caused further delays elsewhere.</p> <p>It’s a race to the bottom, and on paper it makes some sense, but it also seems a bit farcical. But it works, I guess, and I feel like it’s a satisfactory system.</p> <p>So why the M&amp;S gift card? Who pays for these? How many have they sent out? Do they send them to loyal Delay Repay users (who would by that virtue be amongst the most repaid and least in need of further compensation)? And the well-meaning letter apologised for the recent poor service, and tells me they are making improvements. I’m sure they are. A new timetable is just around the corner and I haven’t yet worked out how annoying the changes to my own commute will be.</p> <p>In the evening I watched Radio Days, the Woody Allen film. It was just... delightful. Why had I waited so long to watch it? An ensemble cast (including a number of actors cleverly chosen for their very distinctive voice*), a cleverly knitted set of intertwined stories, and just the most beautiful love letter to the golden era of radio I've yet seen. It's like one of those 'ode to cinema' type films, except to radio - and yet also a great film. One of those clever films that makes one nostalgic for a time through which one hasn't lived. I loved it.</p> <p>* Julie Kavner was the most surprising! I don't think I've seen her in anything else, but as soon as she dipped into Marge Simpson territory, my jaw dropped. It was also fun seeing a teeny tiny Seth Green</p> <p>We had almost 5cm of rain today, according to the weather station, Five centimetres!</p> fifteenvember 2022-11-15T00:00:00Z <p>Felt a distinct uptick in mood over the recent days. Some niggling anxieties as well as just my brain’s own internal chemistry had fogged things up for a time.</p> <p>Had a fairly average Tuesday morning, and watched bands of rain blow in, lashing the roofs and the road. Out the kitchen window I saw the sparrows - now christened ‘spuggies’ in this household, thanks to a Country Diary column from earlier in the year - frantically devouring the food I hang for them in the lime tree. Their movement is quite delightful to watch, at times bolshy and argumentative and at others stoic, anxious or playful. A real mix.</p> <p>A run at lunchtime to reset the mind, and I took myself down to the sea where I found waves lashing the beach as they have been so often recently with these southerly winds. It was some way off high tide, and at the weakest point in the cycle, but the wind did its best to make up for it.</p> <p>The waves formed quite a way off, and the sea seemed to churn as it moved. On the beach, clumps of foam, large and small, as far as the eye could see, and looking distinctly like fresh snow. The violence of the waves smashing the pebbles had turned the sea spray into froth - a crema to this strange brew.</p> <p>On my running route I added another sighting of an early cable TV duct to my map. I collect these Rediffusion-branded slabs, and when plotted on a map they are beginning to reveal a ghost network showing where the lines once ran. This was a very early cable service, first just radio, then TV, supplying homes in this town and a few others with entertainment where the hilly terrain meant traditional antennas and masts couldn’t reach everyone.</p> <p>Later I ran past a team of workers laying new fibre optic cable for faster internet connections. There seem to be two, maybe three competing companies all laying fibre, with some way off being able to provide a service on it. I found it briefly interesting that this new cable-laying does not capture my interest in the same way as it does to trace the old Rediffusion coax runs.</p> <p>I reason that this is because with Rediffusion it was an impossibly simple premise - some twisted pairs of wires blasting predetermined stations down the line to the receiver. You’d select the channel you want with a switch box on the wall, and the wires coming in from the street carried these channels as a direct connection to your home. It seems akin to having a selection of mini water pipes running to every home, carrying lemonade in one, milk in the other, and so on.</p> <p>But with fibre? Well that can carry <em>anything</em>. And I have no idea how it works. And so there’s nothing for me to grasp, and consequently it does not hold my interest in nearly the same way.</p> fourteenvember 2022-11-14T00:00:00Z <p>A fog warning for the whole of the south and east of England. Hastings was clear and trying to brighten up - I had assumed it would be hidden under a cloak of fog but I have to remember that while these weather warnings stretch down to the coast, they often don't apply to our extreme location as Things Are Different On The Coast. Likewise, we often get more geo-specific weather warnings due to more uniquely coastal weather - lately that has meant southerly winds and a higher number of lightning storms than I would have expected out over the Channel.</p> <p>The fog descended as my train rolled north through the Weald, and in places the visibility was down to a hundred metres or so. The landscape rendered under a cotton wool gauze in almost-monochrome, with only the yellowing leaves that still cling to the trees providing any visual relief.</p> <p>At home in the evening I turned on the radio to the frequency we had been listening to on Sunday night - an unusually strong signal from France Musique on 90.2MHz that had somehow fought its way up rural France, over the Channel, then up and over a hill or two, down to us - a distance of some 130km.</p> <p>Twenty four hours earlier, the signal had been strong enough that we’d enjoyed an hour or two of a fairly esoteric collection of modern classical music playing through the stereo, and with a combination of Shazam and the France Radio app, I identified a number of tracks I wanted to check out again.</p> <p>Tonight, though? Static. Barely a hint that there was ever a signal there. Such is life, and it showed me that where the tropospheric forecast had predicted a decent lift the past few days, it now showed nothing, and this was evident from the actual experience of tuning around the FM band. I kind of love it. Radio as weather.</p> thirteenvember 2022-11-13T00:00:00Z <p>A day of baking and painting (well, M did all the painting - our front door is now done!), and just generally pottering around the house. Yet another day where no heating was necessary, and as if to prove the strange conditions we experience as we head towards late November, it was pleasant to cook pizzas outside, and yet some caveman instinct led us to make some mulled wine to have with it. The shops are filling up with Christmas things, and I can feel a mild one coming, with temperatures holding fast in the teens. Almost daily we comment on the weather being broken and it feels strange.</p> <p>We paused at 11am for the moment's silence. The radio introduced it, leading into that most uncanny of broadcasts: two minutes of deliberate radio silence. That being said, the soundscape of Whitehall was, I think, audible in the sound of birds and the distant humming London traffic. It made me wish for more ambient field recordings like this to be played on the radio, but I guess the novelty would wear off if it happened any more frequently.</p> <p>More locally, we'd heard the usual Sunday morning bells, and just as the radio announcer paused speaking at exactly 11am, a large boom was heard nearby as a cannon was fired as part of the ceremony in our local park. A couple of minutes later, it fired again, and the announcer slowly wound up again, describing the processions and movements of the new king and others paying their respects at the Cenotaph. Music was being played by 'the massed bands' which was immediately familiar from the state funeral of the queen and was just as sombre.</p> <p>Later, on a videocall with M and her parents, I was asked, &quot;How is the training going?&quot; I stared blankly at the screen for a few mini-seconds, aware that it was me being asked this question, my brain frantically pulling open drawers and cupboards to work out what the expected answer to this question might be. Suddenly, I remembered the half-marathon I have planned for next March, and the concept that I might try and follow some sort of training programme to get me into the best shape.</p> <p>Clearly, this training is going well.</p> twelvevember 2022-11-12T00:00:00Z <p>Up and out by bike to our local Parkrun, in very pleasant conditions. Pastel-coloured clouds without definition, like a videogame skybox that hasn't rendered properly. Low wind. We ran 'the winter course', which simply means out and back on the higher of the two promenades, and this alternative route is used because the lower prom, in winter, is prone to patches of pebbles that get hurled up from the beach by surging high tides amplified by high pressures and high winds.</p> <p>As usual, the pack mentality meant I started quite far back and then felt the urge to push forwards to find my own space. I rarely choose to start out towards the front of the pack as it feels like a commitment or a promise I might find hard to keep. But so often I find myself then stuck in the pack as the course narrows. But it is good as it means I push harder to get free and then find my own pace. Which is the feeling I like most when running - not so much the challenge of exertion but simply settling into a good rhythm. It's something I can maintain on reasonably flat surfaces without much effort, and means I can leave something in the tank for when I need, or want, to push harder for a time.</p> <p>We went to one of the lovely little beachside coffee kiosks and treated ourselves to cinnamon whirls and delicious, silky coffee, enjoyed on deck chairs watching the waves way down the beach at low tide. Just mild enough to do so in my running shorts still, but it may be time for running trousers again soon, particularly for those times I'm not heading straight back home afterwards.</p> <p>In the evening, out to the local theatre to see the Rocky Horror Show. We watched the film the night before to get up to speed (it still feels delightful that something like this should be on the Disney+ platform). A really great show, and a fabulous atmosphere. Just the mixture of costumes and in-seat-dancing and dialogue with the crowd I had anticipated, and the show itself was funny and naughty and loud and great fun.</p> <p>I struggled over whether or not this post should be titled _twelvember _instead, but I must commit to my self-imposed pattern now.</p> tenvember 2022-11-11T00:00:00Z elevenvember 2022-11-11T00:00:00Z <p>In the evening, out to the launch of a local artist's exhibition. Always a curious mixture of wanting to go and be part of it, and then realising that - of course - they can be quite busy and noisy events because everybody also wants to be a part of it as well. And so the introvert trying to be a temporary extrovert finds himself trapped between worlds. But it was a very pleasant atmosphere, and it is so cool to find a place bedecked with scores of pieces by an artist M and I are very fond of. Her work can be seen all over town as part of street art installations and commissions, and one can't help but feel a sense of pride when seeing a beloved artist have a launch like this.</p> <p>Taking a breather outside, the lights of the pier - now closed for the winter - out in the darkness, and a few stars piercing the black sky. Overhead can be heard plaintive cries of unseen redwings, returning to warmer climes from Scandinavia.</p> ninevember 2022-11-09T00:00:00Z <p>Into the office, and I unfortunately got caught in a short, sharp rain shower which meant my shoes and coat were draped unflatteringly on a radiator near my desk for most of the morning.</p> <p>After work to a colleague's house for drinks to toast another colleague who is leaving us. It was lovely to visit his house - it was decorated and furnished exactly as I'd expected, and made for a very cosy place to spend a bit of time. We then decamped to a beautiful pub not too far away and more colleagues joined us.</p> <p>I then had to head back towards home. I rode the Piccadilly Line for the first time in a while and overheard two young men discussing the possible England football squad for the World Cup.</p> <p>At Charing Cross I watched people walking and my brain tried to apply a filter so that I could imagine they were the subject of one of those historical videos on Youtube that has been upscaled and colourised and we all just kind of look the same a hundred years apart - only the clothes are different.</p> <p>Partway through my journey home two young women joined the train and I heard one announce to her friend in a direct, serious tone, &quot;It's sushi time.&quot; The packet was opened and they both enjoyed their midweek treat.</p> <p>Towards the end of my journey, feeling rather tired, I fixated on the use of the word 'aboard' in the train's automated announcements and dot matrix signs, welcoming everyone 'aboard' this service. Such an archaic construction of a word. Aboard.</p> <p>Aboard. Aboard? Aboard. Welcome aboard.</p> sevenvember 2022-11-08T00:00:00Z <p>Ah yes, the first post for which my title concept starts to break down. I look forward to the month continuing to unfold as the titles get more and more ludicrous. (Hey, you've got to contrive a reason to keep yourself posting haven't you?)</p> <p>The day began with the railway company scrambling to operate a skeleton service several days after a planned strike way broken. I get the need for strikes, and acknowledge the great complexity in planning railway rotas. But it seems to me that when a strike is organised, there should always be a 'Plan B' on hand for if the strike is broken ahead of time. Otherwise the intention is clearly that the strike will continue regardless of the outcome, with no other possible conclusion planned for. Which seems a bit odd.</p> <p>The landscape north of the coast and south of the city was flooded. The rains that we'd had here had made their presence known in the Weald, with many low-lying fields flooded. Sheep had been removed to higher land, and fields were only identifiable from memory or the odd tree standing above the surface of the water. At times our train ran along a slightly raised embankment flanked on both sides by vast floodwaters as far as the eye could see, and it felt like we were in a Studio Ghibli film.</p> <p>The day was mostly unremarkable but it was mercifully a good day to be in the office, with several useful interactions with colleagues, and it all goes to reassure myself (and I hope others) that this home/office dynamic continues to work well for everyone.</p> <p>On the ride home my attention was entirely captured by one person's website. I have a difference-detection robot pointed at it as (in the past) there was no feed as such, and I had to remember to check occasionally. It was recently updated for the first time in a while and some 50,000 words of content has been added to what at first appears to be a very simple site. It's actually more like a wiki, with a small core 'index' pointing to standard pages, which in turn link to pages expanding on this topic or that.</p> <p>I must have spent an hour or so engrossed, opening as many links as I could, and enjoying almost everything I read. It was the depth that fascinated me. And the voyeurism - a personal website (even more than a blog) is such an opportunity to rifle through someone's room and it can feel at once intrusive and yet authorised: they have deliberately put this stuff online.</p> <p>I hesitate to link to their website as I don't know if I should share this rare gem - do they want the extra attention? - but I believe I've linked to them before here in the past. So I guess, if you know, you know. Y'know?</p> eightvember 2022-11-08T00:00:00Z <p>eightvember, or, How to do a Tuesday</p> <p>Wake. Dress immediately into running clothes. Make small coffee. Retrieve veggie box from doorstep. Put out bin. (Having checked which fortnightly cycle we’re on.) Take fresh loaf out of bread maker (and thank previous evening’s self for the foresight to put a delayed timer loaf on before bed). Sync Spotify playlist of early 2000s Brit rock and emo. Head out for a run.</p> <p>*****</p> <p>I built an uphill run into the route to ‘break myself in’, which sort of worked; I got a new personal record on a very steep section a few minutes later. Why this is important to me I do not know but it is a signifier of some form of progress I suppose.</p> <p>I made it to the sea where a full moon high tide was a couple of hours off, as southerly winds lashed the waves onto the beach.</p> <p>Fighting against this wall of water was the outflow of a temporary pipeline installed by the water authority, apparently to prevent flooding in town. I'm inclined to believe them, based on the recent heavy rains and flash flooding. It’s just a shame they've made such a bad name for themselves in recent years using loopholes to legally dump raw sewage into bathing waters under the guise of it being merely rainwater run-off.</p> <p>My post-run reward was a fried egg sandwich made with fresh bread.</p> <p>In the evening I listened to () by Sigur Ros on CD through headphones in an armchair next to the stereo. It is at times a sonically overwhelming record. It has recently been remastered and reissued. At 71 minutes in length it is not an album I put on regularly, and it must have been five years or more since I last made the effort. It was worth it, and I particularly wanted to refresh my own ‘muscle memory’ of it - hear it as I have always heard it - before I inevitably check out the remastered version at some point.</p> <p>Reassuringly, while I could not have described from memory the general course of the album before this latest listening session, there were endless familiar bits and segments and transitions and even little clicks and [im]perfections which reveal themselves under such close scrutiny as this.</p> <p>It was a bit like watching a film I had seen many, many times but not watched for ages - it felt familiar, but now and then there were whole lines and bits of dialogue I felt I could quote word for word. Very reassuring.</p> sixvember 2022-11-07T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It rained, so we filled the house with projects.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Buttons from tube train doors, soldering iron and multimeter, solar panels, and boxes full of electronics parts. The kinds of loosely ongoing hobby projects that will forever be unfinished and which persist for so long that each reappraisal of it brings new experience, tools acquired, or skills learned since the last attempt.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Candles were lit and (perversely) Boy Meets World was on repeat in the background.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Labels were printed for the large chest of tiny Perspex drawers that will contain our screws, our Rawl plugs, our hooks, our nails and our what-is-this-thing-oh-it-came-with-that-Ikea-unit-but-we-didn’t-use-it-but-we-kept-it-in-case-it-will-come-in-handy-one-day. No more treacherous raking of fingers through pots of miscellaneous metal objects.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This pink and black plastic unit pairs nicely with the recently added set of hooks on the inside of the door to the cupboard under the stairs. Our tools now rattle precariously but in a visible, orderly fashion, rather than chucked into an abyss-like toolbox which seems only designed for easy deposit but not retrieval.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We went out for a walk in the woods after the rain stopped and I felt deep joy once again at having a ferny, lush woodland only a few minutes from our door.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Our town is full of springs and issues (Springs and Issues would be such a good title for something), and many of these lay dormant until the water table rises sufficiently to give them enough flow to restart. In this way the landscape feels like it is constantly evolving, which is pleasing for what feels like tamed suburbia. The ground beneath our feet is alive, and old pre-existing features remain present.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>While this is apparent on the streets, where a faint green trail of algae is often discernible, marking the path of some water emerging from points unknown, it is in the woodlands and green pastures that it is most visible, as trickles become streams, and divots in the land collect water into small ponds once more.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>There is a small man made waterfall in the woods which has been virtually dry of late, a stagnant muddy pool leading to a gap in a brick wall which bears the signs of erosion by water. But today water was cascading through the slot. It transformed not just the look and feel of this section, but also the soundscape, filling the air with a roar.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It was only a short walk to clear our heads while there was still some daylight available, but it was a lovely one.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> fivevember 2022-11-05T00:00:00Z <p>Remember, remember...</p> <p>An evening stroll to the shops was good for fresh air and a stretch of the legs but not great for my anxiety levels as the skies around me were filled with bangs and booms. An orange glow in the cloudy sky brought to mind the line about the sky being beautiful on fire from that Godspeed You! Black Emperor album.</p> <p>I shouldn't have been surprised by the bangs obviously. A part of me likes the concept of Guy Fawkes night - the history and the funny duality of it being both pro and anti establishment nowadays. But the idea that anyone can just go and buy a bunch of fireworks and set them off however and wherever they wish seems rather ill-conceived.</p> <p>I was also surprised to see dog-walkers out at this time but they seemed calm and happy and I guess it's a judgement on behalf of the owners which dogs can stand a bang-filled walk and which ones need to stay inside.</p> <p>It had been a tiring day of scraping and sanding and scrubbing out front door. It is now almost ready to be primed and then painted. We knew this job would be long and complex, but I hadn't realised quite <em>how</em> long and complex. But it's good to do it carefully. I had a nice cosy chat with our friendly postman about the door, and our newly widened letterbox. He seemed to appreciate it, and seemed pleased we are keeping and restoring our hundred-year-old wooden door and not just replacing it with a plastic one.</p> fourvember 2022-11-04T00:00:00Z <p>I managed to get my wireless weather station to talk to a computer using rtl_433, a simple radio application which takes in wireless signals on a software defined radio (SDR) dongle (principally those on 433MHz, but also others, including mine on 867(?)) and decodes the signals. Fortunately it has built-in a number of known products - including mine - and it was able to display the raw data in a usable way.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I learned that the signal put out by the station is not as strong as I'd expected, as the SDR had trouble picking it up apart from with a line-of-sight position. The actual bundled receiver station must have a well-tuned antenna as this picks up the signal happily anywhere around the house. (The station is at the bottom of the back garden.)</p> <p>I managed to not only get the data into a local terminal, but also piped it to a live web page using Seashells, which is a very cool tool I'd not seen before which just repeats terminal output to a webpage. Could be useful for lots of things. I'm sure there are ways to grab the weather station data (which refreshes every twelve seconds) and put it into a spreadsheet or some other location. But that's a job for another day.</p> <p>I also tinkered again with a truly dreadful FM transmitter - the kind for adding an aux input to car stereos that lack such a feature. I hooked it up to an iPod Shuffle with a bunch of random songs on it and just played it through a radio. The FM transmitter's own circuitry gave the signal a slightly fuzzy tone, and some local interference even rendered as soft, almost vinyl-esque clicks. Oddly satisfying.</p> <p>I'd like to build a simple AM transmitter as this seems a nice project to try and get my head around. And I'd like to experiment more with these car stereo FM transmitters to see what a good one is like.</p> <p>This evening we went to a beach bar which put on a lovely 'moonlit session' of fire dancers, live drumming, food and drink. The weather improved considerably after a week of high winds and lashing rain, and conditions were calm and still, with a fattening moon reflecting in the flat sea. It was a lovely atmosphere.</p> <p>On our walk home we passed through 'Bottle Alley' which has RGB LEDs along its length and which I'd observed and enjoyed from outside before, but which I'd never passed through at night time before. It was amazing! Cascading colours run the length of the 'tunnel' in a really well-done display that feels somewhat disorientating (in a good way) to be within.</p> threevember 2022-11-03T00:00:00Z <p>The previous evening I made plans to go for a run before work, whatever the weather had in store. I need to get back into a regular routine of running as I have signed up to run a half-marathon next March. It seems far enough away, but I also need to keep up the habit throughout winter.</p> <p>One difficulty I have found in maintaining the running habit in our new home town is how damn hilly it is. The hilliness is one of the attractions: the town reveals itself as one wanders its streets, and it feels somehow right that the land drops away suddenly as one heads towards the coast. It is downhill to the sea.</p> <p>But years of mainly running in London mean my legs (and lungs) are mostly attuned to running on the level. The odd hill here or there was a novelty, and something to dig into. But here, hills are part of the DNA of a running route. I have struggled to adapt. And adapt I must. as the half-marathon route does inevitably include some hills.</p> <p>This morning I just wanted a long, steady run, so I headed for the promenade along the seafront. The ground was level, but the weather gave me a battering. I ran through gusts of wind and squally showers. Thankfully, I loved it. The ever-changing sea to my side, and an easy, off-road and flat course meant I could just relax into a decent rhythm.</p> <p>I also had 6Twenty, the album by The D4 that was recently reissued, in my ears. <a href="">I wondered yesterday</a> if this re-issue might not have needed to be remastered, and indeed it didn't. It sounds great. There are the odd lyrics here and there that have a heavily early 2000s misogyny to them which, given the fact the album was - even then - a rather dated re-hash of earlier rock'n'roll tropes, is to be expected. But nothing too horribly jarring. And it just sounds great.</p> <p>I imagine telling my seventeen-year-old self that this album would one day make a good running soundtrack and it makes me laugh a little.</p> <p>I spent a little time this evening trying, again, to repair a Pure Elan DAB radio. I inadvertently killed it a few months back by plugging in the wrong AC adapter that happened to have the same plug, but a different voltage/current. It fried something inside (despite the radio having a fuse), and I have tried to diagnose the fault.</p> <p>I thought I'd narrowed it down to a blown/shorted capacitor but it is beyond my expertise. Although I've tried to replace a couple that seemed defective based on some multimeter readings, a combination of my lack of understanding of electrical circuits, and my weak soldering skills, mean that I think my attempts are doomed. It's annoying as it is a very good radio. It's especially annoying as I can't believe the wrong power adapter could kill it in this way. But it did. Perhaps permanently.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> twovember 2022-11-02T00:00:00Z <p>The recent putting-back-of-the-clocks (I hope there is a German compound phrase for this) means that I get a glimmer of light in the sky on the days I need to be up early. It is a welcome glimmer. Hail, glimmer. Fortunately today's dawn was also very pretty, and this was generally A Good Day: I had slept well, recovering from the noisy wind interrupting my sleep earlier in the week. The trains also behaved themselves - Monday's services were messed up by a variety of issues. My day was not inconvenienced too much, and the Delay Repay gods smiled on me, meaning I actually did rather well out of it.</p> <p>Today's listen of my Spotify Release Radar playlist was a revelation as usual - The D4 have re-issued 6Twenty, which was news to me. And the mixture in bigness and smallness of artists (from Jordane Prestrot to the Beatles!) is welcome, as was the range of production levels. Unfortunately this new reissue of 6Twenty doesn't appear to have been remastered (maybe it doesn't need it) - and the blurb even draws reference to them having recorded a Peel Session, but it hasn't been included. (The digital release does at least have some demos added.)</p> <p>I came home to a piece of mail that had obviously been folded into quarters to go through our letterbox. This would be fine, were it not for the fact that we recently widened the letterbox in our front door. This was a trepidatious exercise - cutting a hole in one's front door (or at least widening an existing one) is kind of a one-time deal. But it worked. Alas, it seems that our postie probably still remembers our older, narrower letterbox, and now pre-emptively folds our mail to ensure it goes through with ease. I think they will adapt in time.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> onevember 2022-11-01T00:00:00Z <p>It is November, and the weather seems to be listening - it has been a mild, almost muggy time of late, and it hasn't felt very autumnal. But some high winds and heavy rains mean that things are turning. Monday night was a disrupted one, with the vicious sounds of the wind hitting the side of the house forcing me to get up and make a warm cup of Ovaltine and do some medium wave DXing to pass the time (and block out the sound). I got some decent hits - my other sessions of MW DXing tend to be much earlier in the evening, and so it seems that middle-of-the-night is indeed a good time to DX.</p> <p>Before the last light of the day (at something like half past four!) I dragged myself out to see the heavy, churning sea. It was high tide, though not the month's highest, and the crashing waves were pretty spectacular as they smashed the harbour arm.</p> <p>To celebrate the new month, I followed <a href="">Cokohore11</a>'s lead and used their elegant calendar (and moon cycle) template to make some phone wallpapers. It was a nice exercise in going over old photos to see what would work. It was also a salient reminder that I also have Photoshop included in my Lightroom subscription.</p> Radio ramblings: the FM capture effect 2022-10-19T00:00:00Z <p>I found myself fascinated this morning by a few interrelated radio concepts - listening to AM radio while driving on a long journey through America, tuning in and out of different stations, each one fading in and out, as you drive. And the reverse - the so called &quot;FM capture effect&quot;, where two FM signals on the same frequency will instead give the listener just one signal, whichever is stronger, not both, as happens on AM.</p> <p>Competing FM signals will fluctuate if their strength is close enough to the receiver's capture ratio, but the demodulator will jump between signals rather than modulate both.</p> <p>The AM cross-talk can be heard here in the UK most often at night, as the medium wave bands travel further, and more stations transmitting from continental Europe on a shared frequency might be heard at once, as multiple European stations can be heard broadcasting on the same frequency. Because so often AM stations are talk-based, the natural gaps in human speech mean it’s possible to listen to both, hearing snippets of just one station coming through in the clear, and the listener's brain effectively ‘filtering out’ one channel as each voice comes and goes.</p> <p>This phenomenon on the medium wave bands was unknown to me before moving to the south coast, and trying to AM DX at night where multiple signals can reliably be heard on a single frequency.</p> <p>I was not previously aware of the FM capture effect.</p> <p>One of my various theoretical radio experiments, hastily sketched out in a notebook, has the listener, wearing a radio receiver and headphones, moving around a space festooned with radio transmitters, getting nearer to and further from the different signals all broadcasting (albeit at very low power) on the same frequency.</p> <p>In my theoretical notebook version of this experiment, the listener would hear these competing signals fighting it out and getting weaker and stronger depending on their proximity to each transmitter. What I didn’t realise when I sketched all this out, is that this was what would happen on AM. On FM, the signals would simply pop in or out (or just fluctuate wildly in such close quarters).</p> <p>I had considered the experiment using FM transmitters partly due to the perceived increase in sound quality, but also because of the ubiquity of small, cheap FM transmitters most often for use in cars to play music on a car radio which lacks, for example, a CD player. I suppose the same is true of the receiver element too, as it's getting harder to obtain small AM radio receivers for experiments like this.</p> <p>But now I've learned that my experiment probably wouldn't work using FM.</p> <p>To achieve the effects I was after, I think I’d need to use AM. Both (or more) signals would be heard, but the strength would rise and fall with proximity to the transmitter. Most often, the signals would be heard through, or on top of one another. This is the kind of crosstalk I had hoped to achieve in my little sketch - a kind of way for the listener to get closer to a given audio track and listen more closely as its signal got stronger and the others faded away.</p> <p>I did note at the time of sketching this experiment out (or maybe it was just a mental note) that these experiments would probably not work as planned in theory when tested out in the real world.</p> <p>So I was glad to accidentally stumble upon the concept of the FM capture effect this morning.</p> <p>One final point that was interesting to me when reading about the different scenarios of how AM and FM signals on the same frequency compete was that both descriptions were written by Americans, and both used the example of listening to radio on a long car journey, something which seems very American (but is of course at least possible, and not all that uncommon, even in a small country like Britain).</p> <p>I have vague memories of long car journeys, usually accompanied by radio, but from before a time I was really that aware of how radio worked, and certainly from before a time I’d be in a position to muck about with the car radio. I can recall that sometimes we’d be listening to Test Match Special on Radio 4 long wave. Other times it would be BBC Radio Five - on AM, or medium wave - and other times it would be BBC Radio 4 on FM. That was the case for longer journeys. On more local journeys, the car radio would usually be tuned to a local station - Capital FM on 95.8 MHz.</p> <p>The long wave and medium wave stations cover the country reasonably well on just one or two frequencies. A listener would rarely need to tune the radio when driving a long journey.</p> <p>Radio 4 on FM is a bit different - it broadcasts nationally on a few different frequencies. You'll often find when tuning an FM radio more than one instance of BBC Radios 1-4 on different frequencies, with one being slightly stronger than the other(s), indicating your local broadcast.</p> <p>One feature of RDS on FM is for stations with such multiple frequencies to advertise an alternative frequency, so that if the signal of the current tuned frequency drops, the radio can jump to an alternative, hopefully stronger, FM frequency, particularly as the listener (and driver) moves locations.</p> <p>This experience of listening to radio while driving comes back round to the experiment I first read about (and links two subjects which are so intertwined). I don't drive, and I'm rarely in a car. It makes me want to do similar experiments on the train, playing with radios and seeing the real-world effects of these frequency collisions. The major difference being the car having an aerial on the outside. Radio listening on trains is so badly affected by the Faraday cage effect, and listening to a pocket radio on the train is already an esoteric enough sight, let alone trying to hold an aerial up to the glass window for a better signal.</p> <p>As a final tangent on this subject, I find myself wishing for an alternative history where trains had FM repeaters (wide band) for passengers, just in the same manner as I assume the trains wifi signal works - external cellphone aerials mounted on the train ingesting and repeating a data signal as a wifi signal within the train.</p> <p>I believe I have heard of Japanese trains providing one wired-wireless radio station in sleeper cabins - giving passengers a way to tune to the equivalent of Radio 4 in their cabin on a fixed box with a volume knob. I can see how it would be easier for a train to repeat a single frequency to all passengers rather than the whole 88-108 MHz FM band.</p> <p>For this reason maybe a single frequency network or SFN with multiplexed audio streams, as used by DAB, would be more suitable for an in-train repeater if they were to implement such a service today? But, to mix my metaphors, I think that ship has sailed.)</p> <p>Oh god, I should look up radio on cruise ships next...</p> Country diary: a pre-dawn shimmer hints at coming dawn 2022-10-19T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Reaching the crossroads before dawn, I hear two robins squaring off on diagonal corners, their dialogue of twitters bouncing back and forth like a tennis ball. There is no light in the sky yet, so they seem deluded by streetlight. My urban self does not know - cannot know - whether the robin sings before dawn in the countryside, devoid of sources of man made light. But it probably does. They are territorial buggers, and whoever wakes earliest - sings loudest - wins.</p> <p>Looking up, the dark sky is clear. This came as a surprise as it has been yet another strangely mild October night. It feels as though there must be a blanket of cloud hanging overhead, holding in the warmth, but I see no cloud and the mild temperatures must be high pressure moving up from the south. The stars, and a waning crescent moon, are a beautiful alternative to clouds though, especially now when the morning sky is still dark. There is so little to see that my eyes are glad of the extra points of stimuli. I note as I pass how the silhouette of the church tower is traced upwards by the boxy outline of Orion.</p> <p>This shift in the timing of daylight is always confusing. It feels, every year, like the first time we're having to navigate it. Behaviours change and those who would otherwise be dog-walking, jogging, or simply out and about at this hour are artificially locked in by the encroaching darkness.</p> <p>Of course some people need to be up at this time whatever the sun is doing. They have to be in the same places at the same time. And yet the brain works differently in the dark. From a distance, a car pulled over in a bus stop, its passenger taking a bag from the boot, seems clandestine and somehow cloak and dagger. But not so many weeks ago, in the morning light, the sight of such behaviour would have barely registered.</p> <p>There is often a glimpse of light out to sea before dawn - the vast, unobstructed horizon allows for subtle differences which can be noticed when so much else around at this time is unnoticed. But not this morning - it is too early for a pre-dawn shimmer. Sunrise is more than an hour away.</p> <p>Today's treat, though, is a new one. The clear - <em>almost</em> clear - skies are actually laced with a very high, very thin gauze of cloud. Mere wisps. But they are high enough above the curve of the earth to see what I cannot: the distant dawn, way off to the east. They sit so high on their perch that they pick out the feint reds and oranges of a dawn so far away, reflecting these pleasant (if foreboding) hues so that they can be enjoyed by me and whoever else has to fumble around in the darkness at this time.</p> Why broadcast stuff 2022-07-20T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Obsession began with finding tech stuff on ceefax/teletext, and with the launch of channel 5 - paradigm shift of a new TV channel?! (didn't have multi-channel till freeview boxes came right down in price) (obsession with sky digital when it launched)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Low hums and pre-fade listens 2022-07-13T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>There was an interesting moment the other evening when Hull band Low Hummer were on BBC 6 music doing a live session and their second song started off sounding really weird. They're a pretty exciting indie band, but this sounded more esoteric than the band's usual style I'd heard previously.</p> <p>It sounded like there were two drummers, and the song utilised off-kilter rhythms, sounding incredibly complex. The duelling drummers fought for syncopation and the vocals soon settled over one rhythm, with the other continuing underneath. It took a moment to get into, but actually sounded really cool. After a while it settled into one beat, and as I listened I presumed that the other beat would re-emerge and the song would whirl wildly between the two.</p> <p>But as it turned out, that's not what was happening at all.</p> <p>As the DJ Marc Riley explained, they'd messed up a bit, and while the band played their track live to air, another song had been playing out underneath. Oops.</p> <p>This brought back memories of doing live radio with John. Not the mistake! Just the nature of producing live radio itself. I was always terrified of running the desk, though I often get tactile flashbacks which make me kind of just want my own little desk of faders and knobs to play with while playing some music.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>On the desk we were using - and I presume this is a standard - the usual practice was to only have one fader up at a time. You might speak over a 'bed', or you could have a track playing and announce over it, so you might fade your mic up and down over the track (and conversely the music down a little to make room). But for standard intro-track-chat-intro-track-repeat radio, you normally only want one source playing out live.</p> <p>Anyway, because 6 music - and a certain subset of its shows and listeners - are rather nerdy, it was felt necessary to explain exactly what had gone wrong, and to give Low Hummer another chance to play their song again without interruption.</p> <p>Marc Riley explained that, when they have bands in playing live session tracks, the producers line up a 'blank' cart with the metadata for that song, so that the track name etc appears on all the playout software - from the BBC's internal systems right down to the displays on digital radios.</p> <p>(I recall doing something similar where I'd play an album on iTunes, muted, whilst listening to it on vinyl or MiniDisc, so that the metadata would be scrobbled to my account.)</p> <p>Unfortunately, in this case, the 'blank' metadata cart wasn't blank - and so the audio on that cart played out at the same time as the live session. I enjoyed the explanation and I could totally see how easily it could happen.</p> <p>I have one memory of this happening to John and I - briefly playing one track 'underneath' another by accident. I think what happened for us was accidental misuse of the PFL or pre-fade listen function.</p> <p>From memory, PFL allows the DJ to preview a track over the studio monitors without interrupting the live output - the song plays with the fader down, because moving the fader anywhere off the bottom makes that track live, playing it out on the main feed.</p> <p>I vaguely remember that what must have happened is that the fader for that track was just a hair above the bottom, so was basically silent, but actually live. Despite this, we didn't actually make that many technical mistakes live on air - though I think this was as much the limited scope for making any mistakes as a good deal of luck. But then I wasn't the one driving the board most of the time!</p> <p>Anyway, that 6 music show is available to listen back to here: <a href=""></a> - and Low Hummer sounded great. I'd heard a single or two of theirs recently, and was pleased to catch this session.</p> Of gull chicks and moons and tides 2022-06-08T00:00:00Z <p>Over the past week or so, all the seagull chicks have hatched.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>One such nest is on our roof, in the snug valley between the roof and the chimney, and we occasionally see two grey balls of fluff padding about on the forty five degree slope, sometimes tentatively extending their stubby wings while a proud and protective parent watches on.</p> <p>There is now and then a changing of the guard as one parent swoops back, and it is nice to imagine that they soar high enough above our roof to glimpse the sea and head out to collect fresh fish for their young, but the reality is probably somewhat more prosaic, likely involving the humble worm, or a rummage in nearby bins.</p> <p>A short stroll from our house on the same day we discovered the new tenants revealed another nest in a similar situation, and then another, and then another. Soon it became unusual to see a house with that kind of roof/chimney construction without a nest or new chicks waddling about.</p> <p>I believe all of our 'seagulls' are herring gulls, but ten minutes spent with a bird book only served to confuse me even further.</p> <p>When I had occasionally seen these seagulls collecting sticks and other detritus for nesting material, I had (again, romantically) assumed that they were collecting convenient material in the suburbs but building nests in more natural rocky outcrops beyond my sight. Nope: they were nesting much closer to home than I had realised, and we now sleep knowing that a growing family of gulls also dozes a few metres above our own bed.</p> <p>The parade of new birds is everywhere: sparrows (newly re-christened spuggies thanks to a recent Country Diary column), robins, blue tits and even crows have been spotted nearby with youngsters in tow.</p> <p>I've observed various species in more advanced states of their growth, usually a while after fledging, and with the confidence to fly around investigating the feeding zones deemed worthy of their parents, but still in that sweet spot of frantically fluttering their wings and crying to be fed despite being very capable of doing so themselves.</p> <hr /> <p>As I had hoped, my awareness of the moon and the tides grows more solid as time rolls on - we just passed the six month mark in our new house and location.</p> <p>A new moon and a full moon are nice in and of themselves, but the knowledge that their presence has such an impact on the tides - the strongest pull is at these ends of the cycle - has made me look forward to those days when the sine wave representation on our poster of the local tidal range is at its sharpest.</p> <p>It is still something of a novelty to me that the highest high tides coincide with the lowest lows. There cannot be one without the other as the large saucer of water that is the English Channel rocks back and forth over a six hour period.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>When exploring the vast stretches of beach which reveal themselves only at the lowest tides, it is never not amazing to me that only a few hours before or after, the waves will be some six metres above this point.</p> <p>It feels as though these extreme highs and lows should happen at opposite ends of a number of days or weeks, not mere hours.</p> <p>A fan of these extremes, I find myself more compelled to explore the coast at those times of high tide and low; seeing a much more shallow set of tides represented on the tidal chart means I am less excited to go down and see it. But the moons at these times of neap tides are, in turn, gorgeous - from thin slivers to good chunky moon-shaped crescents.</p> <p>And so it is that I've come to enjoy both sections of these cycles of the moon and the tide.</p> Mucking about with eleventy (again) 2022-05-11T00:00:00Z <p>If I haven't updated my blog recently, I'm afraid the reason is something of a cliche: I've been mucking about with some website software in an effort to build a new blog. Silly.</p> <p>Ironically, that began alongside me writing little updates about the process called letters, while I tried to quickly style up the posts themselves to look like little letters.</p> <p>I did actually achieve this - but as a standalone page. That should have been enough, but what I really wanted was a way to produce these letters like blog posts, and in a way that meant I could easily adjust the design across multiple pages all at once, and repeat certain elements like headers, footers and navigation elements.</p> <p>What this meant, of course, was trying to learn to use a static site generator again. So this time I really chucked myself in with <a href="">eleventy/11ty</a> (no idea which is the correct form), and it also meant setting up a kind of developer environment on my Chromebook.</p> <p>The Chromebook is a decent little developer machine - at least for my needs:</p> <p>It's small and portable, and has a really long battery life. This has meant I've been carrying it with me on my twice-weekly commutes, giving me some time on the train in the morning and evening to dick around with code. It also has reasonably good sleep/wake which means I can with reasonable confidence just leave my 'dev environment' running and then pick up where I left off.</p> <p>It also runs some kind of Linux container, which is where I've been doing a lot of this stuff. I've been using a mixture of three discrete types of apps: a <strong>web browser</strong>; a <strong>code editor</strong>; and a <strong>terminal</strong>:</p> <ul> <li> <ul> <li> <p>The <strong>web browser</strong> is Chrome. On a Chromebook, unsurprisingly, Chrome is the only viable web browser. You can install and run others as Linux apps, but it's a pain, and they don't run well. It's not quite like Android where you can install any browser and run it natively. But Chrome is perfect for my needs on this Chromebook, both as a web dev browser, and just as my daily driver.</p> </li> <li> <p>The <strong>code editor</strong> is Caret, which is a native Chrome OS app. This means it is pretty fast and lightweight, and it does most of the things I want it to, like opening a folder/directory tree in the lefthand panel, and the ability to open multiple files in a tabbed interface. It also has syntax highlighting. It does a few other code editor-y type things I haven't learned how to use yet.</p> <ul> <li>I have also been trying Visual Studio Code as a Linux app. Running graphical Linux apps on this Chromebook works reasonably well, but there are definite bottlenecks in performance, and it's a bit finicky. I can see the appeal of VS Code - I was able to set up an environment like Caret above, but also with a terminal built into the same window. But it has often felt clunky, even just scrolling up and down long lists. This is to do with my extremely low-powered Chromebook's resources rather than the app itself. I'd probably just use that if I had a different machine.</li> </ul> </li> <li> <p>And finally <strong>the terminal</strong>. Most of the setup for 11ty has been done via the command line. This is inevitably quite a learning curve, particularly when I'm not overly familiar with command line stuff in general. But the tutorials I've been following online have been useful. And it's one of those things where you only really need to learn a handful of commands to achieve what you want to do. So I've been <code>cd</code>ing and <code>ls</code>ing and <code>mkdir</code>ing and <code>npm start</code>ing and <code>top</code>ing and <code>clear</code>ing and I've been able to make 11ty do what I want it to do.</p> </li> </ul> </li> </ul> <p>The beauty of running 11ty this way is that you can start a session where 11ty will 'watch' a given directory for any new changes to saved files, and then immediately run in the background, then refresh the browser automatically, which will show your new changes if they're on that page.</p> <p>It's an automated version of the type of web design I grew up with: make a change in notepad.exe, ctrl+s to save, switch to the web browser, ctrl+r to refresh. So it's a nice feature.</p> <p>11ty's debugging is also mostly helpful: whenever I've b0rked something, the debug output will generally pinpoint what I did and I'll know how to fix it - or at least Google what I've done to figure out why it hasn't worked.</p> <p>The final feature of Chrome OS (and others) that I've really started to use again is desks or spaces or whatever they might be called: alternate desktop views with sets of windows that you can easily switch between. On Chrome OS you can switch between them with search+] or search+[ ('search' here is the key where Caps Lock is on any normal keyboard; you get used to it). Or you can four-finger-swipe on the trackpad, but I don't really use that.</p> <p>For my 'web dev' purposes, I like having four spaces or virtual desktops running:</p> <ol> <li>a web browser just for general web use - either to take a break and browse the web, or to Google some help docs or tutorials</li> <li>the terminal, generally with 11ty's server thing running, and maybe a second tabbed terminal for other things (I only recently learned that you can run more than one terminal at a time and this was mindblowing. I am an idiot.)</li> <li>my code editor</li> <li>another web browser pointing at the localhost so I can quickly switch over to see the changes I just made - the automatic browser refresh is usually so quick that by the time the desktop has switched over, the page has refreshed, or is in the process of refreshing. It's lovely.</li> </ol> <p>I've also taken to using these virtual desktops or spaces on other machines. It's handy to have a 'work' space for my remote session to my office PC in addition to my 'home' session. I might also have one open running some stuff to do with the Flightradar I have running on my Raspberry Pi. And I occasionally have other spaces running dedicated to a given project (such as proofing articles for a local community newspaper) where it's helpful to have a browser open as well as a file manager and a document editor.</p> <p>This is all to say, I guess, that I feel as though I've been productive. In the sense of learning to use a set of tools, at least. I did also produce a few 'letters' in that time, but I don't know what to do with those yet.</p> <p>The most interesting thing for me has been seeing how the initial idea - a series of blog posts that look like letters - has changed over time. It started as a single page with a stack of letters one above the other. I was drawn to the simplicity of a single page with an index at the top to anchors for each letter. But this was tricky to scale, and it makes more sense to have standalone pages... I think.</p> <p>So I went to each letter having its own page, which really unlocked the potential of 11ty for me - being able to build pages based on set layouts, metadata, and repeated page elements meant that I could treat the content of each letter as one blob, and then construct the pages around them. It also meant I could easily build an index to them as 11ty has some simple tag-based collection tools for listing all items in one collection. The ability to create a set of pages or posts with a pre-determined style and then an index to them is, essentially a simple blog engine. I could also leverage the same metadata - scraping each post's title, URL and any tags or snippets - to build an RSS feed if I wanted to. That's definitely something I want to explore.</p> <p>To that end, I did also try and import my Wordpress blog posts into 11ty. I found a neat tool for this which scrapes the contents of an exported set of posts and quickly converts them into markdown, which 11ty seems to like the taste of.</p> <p>This worked reasonably well but, as with any time I've tried to move posts to or from Wordpress, the problem was the images. Oh god, the images.</p> <p>For years now I've used a combination of simple <code>img</code> tags as well as proprietary gallery tools whether in Wordpress, Tumblr or wherever else, and the former are fine but good god the latter just... break. Sometimes they even break within the same platform when that platform just decides to change how its own gallery tags work. It's a nightmare.</p> <p>So I gave up on that.</p> <p>What I think I've settled on is keeping (for now) my Wordpress blog as a main blog/website for these purposes, and I may use my letters project as a sort of meta blog in which I can give updates or whatever, rather than blog posts in and of themselves.</p> <p>This will enable me to tinker with 11ty while not completely rebuilding my Wordpress-based blog from scratch. Again - yet. I'd love to get away from the clunky server-side nature of Wordpress and have a fully static website, and I feel like I'm significantly closer to that than I was a month ago. But Rome wasn't built in a day and all that.</p> <p>So for now I have a sort of offline letters project which I'll tinker with some more until In can find a simple way to 'push' the changes online. This is a whole other topic; 11ty spits out a nice, simple directory of basic HTML files which it's then up to you to put online somewhere. It's up to you to figure out how you want to do this, whether github, netlify, or just dumping the files on a web server.</p> <p>For me, the idea of producing nice clean HTML in a nice neat offline dev environment and then having to use one or possibly even two third-party services just to put the files online seems... backwards. I'd far rather just have a way to <code>rsync</code> (or whatever) the updated files onto the server, replacing the old versions in place. But so far any of the graphical-based methods I've tried have not allowed me to move an entire folder structure across without creating each folder individually etc. So I need to work out the simplest method for this which works for me.</p> <p>I'd ideally like to stick the letters project online as a subdomain of this blog, but that feels like a fiddly integration at the moment. For now, I've stuck it on Neocities fairly anonymously, as that seems like a handy place to tinker with things.</p> <p>So that's where I am. Some tools learned or re-learned, a new 'dev environment' which mostly works for me, and a project that is basically working, but which I hope to improve and tweak to my heart's content.</p> The usual cast of characters 2022-05-10T00:00:00Z <p>It's a grey morning, although we keep getting glimpses of the summer to come. As the seasons unfold in our new house, with its new garden, in our new location, there is much to observe, learn, and anticipate. It is very exciting.</p> <p>I've been remiss in capturing these events and feelings in writing both public and private. I have at least tried to keep up a decent pace in photographic form - again both public and private. But it's impossible, this relentless tide. You can only stare at the waves for so long before you have to grab something and wedge it into the ground to try and demark things somehow, disrupting the flow - at least briefly.</p> <p>Or, more realistically, awkwardly disturbing the natural flow of things before getting overwhelmed and retreating and quietly observing once more.</p> <p>Despite my lack of writing about things, I of course continue to read and capture stray signals of a wide-ranging cast of characters who inspire, tickle, and infuriate me with their seemingly effortless greatness. But deep down I know how much effort goes into it. I raise a glass to each one of them.</p> <p>As usual, <a href="">Mr Reeves</a> has come up with the goods - providing me just what I needed to <a href="">read and hear</a> at just the right moment - and <a href="">Mr Rukavina</a> has yet again surprised me with unexpected flattery and kindness. Perhaps I should stop being surprised by now.</p> <p>I can see dunnocks entering and leaving the hedge outside the window of my home office. It's extremely satisfying to think they are nesting in there, though it is not without a small background radiation of anxiety. I shouldn't worry. The birds have been doing this for a long time. Much longer than the time I've become aware of it.</p> <p>The sparrows in the back garden continue to rampage through as many mealworms as I can give them. We recently spotted a terrace of birdboxes under the eaves of a nearby house, which was especially nice after reading <a href="">this recent <em>Country Diary</em></a> on the nesting of sparrows (or spuggies!).</p> <p>Meanwhile, <a href="">Lev Parikian's recent entry for that column</a><em>,</em> in which the lyrical writer simply loses his shit at the prospect of nesting blue tits, perfectly captures sentiments shared by myself and M.</p> <p>Spring festivals - both human-curated and entirely natural - continue to explode around us with an energy I try to feed upon.</p> <p>It's nearly the middle of the year, and I am nearly another year older. Projects and priorities simultaneously come into focus and then blur or shapeshift when I try and catch sight of them again. Crafty devils.</p> Hastings Rock 87.7FM 2022-05-06T00:00:00Z <p>The other morning I was doing a bandscan on one of my radios - I do this surprisingly often, even when I don't expect to find anything new, but it sometimes produces results. It did this week: at the bottom of the FM band I found a signal on 87.7fm playing music, and of a genre that I don't expect to find at the end of the dial more usually associated with BBC Radios 2, 3 and 4.</p> <p>I listened for a little longer and as the currently playing track ended, the song faded to silence. A few seconds later another track started playing. Different artist, similar genre. The gap felt like music playing from a CD or some other music library, and I immediately assumed I'd found someone's micro FM transmitter they were using in their car. Sure enough, that track finished, followed by a short gap of silence, and then yet another song in the same genre began playing, just as though someone was listening on shuffle.</p> <p>It was just before 9am and our road regularly fills with cars belonging to parents dropping their kids off at a nearby primary school. I left my radio tuned in, as much to see what songs they played next as to test my theory and see if the signal suddenly disappeared as a car drove away.</p> <p>Well, that never happened.</p> <p>At about 9am, suddenly there was a voice, and it was actually a radio station I'd found. They'd been having issues with their playout software and had resorted to CDs, and their internet stream was down but their FM signal was okay. I briefly considered that it might be a pirate, but it turned out not to be.</p> <p>It was, they announced, Hastings Rock, which had got itself a restricted service licence (RSL) to broadcast locally on 87.7MHz for the month of May.</p> <p>(The station still has the vibes of a pirate - but with a licence to broadcast. Just the mix of enthusiastic spirit and government regulation I seem to find comfort in!)</p> <p>They've been on the air since 30 April. Since then, they've sorted out the gremlins: the web stream is apparently working, and the FM broadcast has been rock solid - if you'll pardon the pun.</p> <p>In the meantime I've seen plenty of advertising around town as well, so hopefully a fair few people have tuned in.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>The shows I've listened to so far have been slick, with charming and enthusiastic DJs playing songs they seem to love, all based in the genre of rock music. It's been a mix of eras and sub-divisions of that vast genre - stalwarts like Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Status Quo and Metallica, but also Blur and Wolf Alice and Papa Roach and Frank Zappa.</p> <p>It is enjoyable, unpretentious stuff, and the mix is varied but reliable enough to leave the station on in the background occasionally hearing old favourites, while at other times something prick up your ears enough to warrant looking up what's playing. (I'd initially been doing this using the usually-reliable Google search widget, but the station's website seems to be consistently displaying the Now Playing track).</p> <p>From my brief reading of it, Hastings Rock seems to have a long pedigree going back thirty years or so. I'm not sure if they've held an RSL every year in recent times or if this year's is a return to the airwaves after a period away. I'm not even sure yet if the internet-only stream runs outside of the month of May.</p> <p>Either way, the hosts sound delighted to be playing the music they love, and the jingles and ads are charmingly local, quaint, yet well-produced: &quot;Witcombe Building Surveyors - we'll tell you if the building you want to buy is <em>as solid as a rawwwwk!!</em>&quot;. And those ads for a local seaside ice cream and snack food shop - they sell Hastings Rock t-shirts, as well as sticks of Hastings rock, of course! - are getting through to me already. I must pay them a visit this weekend.</p> <p>The opportunity to bathe in the output of a genre-based station is something I love to do from time to time. And the joy of hyper-local radio is a rare thrill in these days of more centralised 'local' stations and synchronised output. It's great to hear local voices talking about local events. And the music has been almost universally my cup of tea.</p> <p>I'll be listening as often as I can for the rest of this month.</p> Over the Atlantic Radar 2022-04-27T00:00:00Z <p>Spotify's Release Radar does a surprisingly good job of alerting me to new releases from rather obscure artists that I do actually have an interest in.</p> <p>Today's surprises include <a href="">Dion Lunadon</a> of early 2000s NZ garage rockers The D4, and fellow kiwi <a href="">Nik Brinkman</a>, who put out a deep-seated favourite album of mine under the moniker Over The Atlantic in 2006.</p> <p>Both kiwi artists, and both solo releases from people once associated with another wider act.</p> <p>There's even a new track from Silverchair's Daniel Johns - a similar category to the above (solo release from Australasian man previously in band), but he already has a much wider appeal so is a slightly separate case to the others.</p> <p>I'm not sure if the weighting for these recommendations is done by something as nuanced as 'low-level artists from Aotearoa', or the algorithm knowing that The D4 = Dion Lunadon.</p> <p>Probably most likely it is just fed by users' listening habits: listener A listens to bands 1 and 2 and 3; listener B listens to bands 1 and 3, so recommending band 2 seems sensible.</p> <p>It's still cool though, and I get a lot of value from it.</p> <p>Great to be reminded of Nik Brinkman. Looks like I've missed out on some recent stuff from him - the track recommended to me this week was an acoustic re-take of a song of his from the last year or two. Looking forward to going back and discovering that.</p> <p><a href="">Nik's stuff is on Bandcamp, too</a> - so although I can thank Spotify for giving me the heads-up, I also have the option to give him my direct support.</p> Radio Diary for March 2022 2022-03-30T00:00:00Z <p>This month I've delved further into the local amateur radio community, seeing what repeaters I can reliably pick up and when they tend to be active, as well as more spontaneous conversations and simplex conversations whether scheduled or not.</p> <p>(Simplex is when two - or more - people are conversing on the same frequency. Kind of like a walkie-talkie. They both need to be in range of one another. A repeater is an automatic device that takes an input on one frequency and spits it out on a slightly different one. You set your radio accordingly, and you can speak to people outside your normal range, as long as the repeater is in the middle of the Venn diagram of both your ranges.)</p> <p>My little Baofeng does an admirable job at allowing me to listen in to a few local repeaters, and it's an annoyingly nice device to use given how cheap it is. It even just feels nice in the hand.</p> <p>Sure, it's clunky in adjusting the settings and programming channels (I do not have a USB programming cable), but once a set of channels has been programmed in, it's easy to just switch it on and set it scanning through those channels for any signals, or going to a particular memory channel when you think there's going to be activity. (It can monitor two channels at once, which is nice.)</p> <p>The scan function can be set to either stop when it finds a signal and stay on that channel until the signal cuts, or to do so briefly but move on after a few seconds. The latter is preferable as the Baofeng is occasionally susceptible to interference which makes a channel sound active and thus the radio stops on it, playing a burst of static and noise. In time mode, this only lasts a few seconds before continuing the scan in silence; in signal mode the radio will simply stay locked to that burst of static and noise until the user presses a button.</p> <p>I now routinely just switch the radio on at random times, or around times I know local groups have scheduled meetings/conversations. And although it's a bit weird just listening in to strangers talking, it is oddly not too weird as a) they know it is a public medium, albeit a very niche one, and b) the conversation matter is usually at least partly to do with radio and related technologies, and usually relating to local clubs, repeaters, atmospheric conditions etc. So there is usually something for me to find interesting or learn from. And the conversations have certain protocols which make them simple enough to follow: the speakers must identify themselves by callsign every now and then, and it's relatively simple to 'feel' the flow of the conversation based on these and other standard greetings.</p> <p>It's also oddly calming as - certainly with repeaters - only one can speak at a time. The 'overs' (each person's part of the conversation) can last anything from a brief word to a couple of minutes, and in a flowing conversation, they become a little list of responses to what was said by the previous speaker. In this way it's a little like letter-writing, or web forum posts, and it makes it easier to follow.</p> <p>It does, I suppose, get a little harder to follow when the voices all sound similar, the names are generic (and often identical!), and the call signs are said a bit too briefly to catch. But I've spoken briefly about amateur radio's issues with diversity, and that's a bigger issue for another day.</p> <p>I have also found that the Baofeng can be set to frequencies set aside for PMR or personal mobile radio. My understanding is that this is a set of frequencies made available to use by unlicensed users, and there is a range of radios available to buy that can only be used on these specific channels and users can talk simplex to one another, like walkie talkies, or CB radio. They seem to be mainly for business use, but I have found people using them for casual conversation (which I think is permitted), and so I've added the channels to my scanning frequencies.</p> <p>If this makes you think of the cliched police scanners which were around years ago, those days are mostly over. Most emergency services use encrypted digital radios now, which can't be easily monitored. But I have found that the marine world uses analogue channels which are in the range of my Baofeng, and I've added some to the memory for scanning when I'm near the coast. I've heard a mixture of the Dover coast guard instructing a fishing vessel, as well as two fishing vessels agreeing who should go on which side of who while passing - spoken variously in English, French and Dutch(?).</p> <p>Anyway. My point is there seems to be a lot of activity in my local area, and I'm finding a lot to learn and enjoy about it all.</p> <p>Before we moved, I had been studying for the RSGB's foundation amateur radio licence, and I was pleased that it covered not just the manners and protocols used by amateur radio users, but the technology and science behind it. I held off on taking the exam to get my licence as I wanted to see if I would be able to make use of it once I'd moved - to see if there is an active amateur radio community in this neck of the woods. It seems that there is - so watch this space.</p> <hr /> <p>I've had an SDR (software defined radio) USB dongle for years now, and it lets me do lots of things.</p> <p>It's primarily designed to let the user watch digital terrestrial TV (DVB-T), but it has a wider frequency range than that, and it can be used to scan the radio bands, from broadcast to amateur radio and beyond. It's a great little toy with many uses.</p> <p>As with all these things, there are basic ones for about a tenner and amazing ones for a few hundred quid. Mine is the former - and it still does all these things admirably.</p> <p>One use for these dongles is to decode a very specific frequency which is transmitted by aircraft to relay their altitude, speed, bearing, etc. It's called ADS-B, and it seems to be broadcast by most aircraft over a certain size.</p> <p>If you've ever used Flight Radar 24 or a similar website to see the details of a flight going overhead, those websites basically use a global array of receivers which grab the ADS-B data local to them, plot it on the map, compare it with others nearby, and then FR24 and others collate it all to make a global map of air traffic.</p> <p>I've always found it very cool, and I was pleased to find that amongst things I already own, I can make a small, automated unit that grabs ADS-B data and submits it in real-time to FR24 (and others). I can also view the local data for just my device, giving me a sort of air traffic controller's RADAR view of nearby aircraft. And by submitting the data to FR24, I get a free premium subscription, which is nice - I have actually paid for FR24 in the past as I find the service to interesting.</p> <p>The bits I scraped together were: my SDR dongle, the antenna it came with, a Raspberry Pi Zero (kindly given to me by my buddy Troels years ago - tak, brör!), a few Pi accessories like a USB hub (mainly as the Zero is so tiny and doesn't have on board wifi), and a few cables.</p> <p>The antenna that comes with the SDR dongle is small and basic. But it's the right gear for receiving digital TV, so it does the job. The dongle has a small connector for antennae, which makes it usable with other types, too. ADS-B operates on a wavelength not too far off DVB-T, and the fundamental thing about antennae is that their length should ideally match the wavelength you're tuning to - or some fraction of it, too.</p> <p>What this means in reality is that the DVB-T antenna can basically be snipped off to a certain length to optimise it for ADS-B reception. It's brutal - but it works.</p> <p>An aside. We moved house recently, and we're still in the process of finding things in boxes. One of those things was my dongle's antenna. I started playing with ADS-B a few months ago, and I was using a homemade antenna which I had made for reception of amateur radio signals from the repeater on the International Space Station - more about that another day. But I found when I set up my FlightRadar24 unit that my stupid little antenna, with silly bits of wire hanging off a choccy block terminal strip... Well, it worked. I was getting signals from aircraft 20 or even 30+ miles away!</p> <p>But I always knew I could do better, and thankfully I found the dongle's original antenna (along with my RSGB foundation amateur radio licence study book and my revision notebook - convenient). So I re-fitted that to the dongle, trimmed it down to the correct length, and put it back in place. And the results were great! I'm now routinely getting signals from aircraft more than 60 miles away (it's actually nautical miles for some sort of aviation-related reason), and I find that amazing.</p> <p>Pro users can get signals of over 200NM, almost at the bounds of line-of-sight reception owing to the curvature of the earth - but even in my range of 60-70NM, being able to get such good data from a cheap device hacked together and just stuck in the window of an upstairs room is incredibly cool to me. It's slightly mad to think that although I can only see up to the nearest ridge on the hillside, there's a little radio next to me that can see an aircraft in the air over north west London and beyond. I love it.</p> <p>I can tell I'm going to want to improve this antenna further. That's the thirst of radio play: better, more, further. Gear acquisition sydrome, like with photography. So I'll try and keep that in check and make do with what I've got. In many ways, <em>of course</em> purpose-built hardware will do a better job. Part of the joy here is using absolutely basic equipment and getting somewhat decent results out of it.</p> <hr /> <p>And finally, a brief nod to leaky feeders.</p> <p>I first came across these a few years ago reading about their application in US colleges and summer camps to broadcast radio in a small area. The basic principle is using a wire which runs the length of a building or location as an antenna. Normally with wires and antennae you have the antenna at one end spraying the signal out like a sprinkler, and the wire leading to the device is carefully shielded to keep the precious radio waves in.</p> <p>Imagine a tap with water pumping out, and a hose carrying it to the sprinkler. Just like you wouldn't normally get any water randomly coming out along the length of the hose itself, you also wouldn't get any radio signals along the wire either. But what if you wanted to? Leaky feeder! Cut some small, regularly spaced holes along that length of wire (or hose, for my analogy), and you end up with small, controlled bits of radio (or water) leaking out along its whole length.</p> <p>Now imagine running that cable around the length of a college campus, or strung up around the various bunkhouses dotted around a summer camp ground. Now all the people in any of those spaces can tune a radio and get the signal - and you're not just broadcasting it out to the wider world.</p> <p>A more UK- (okay, London-) centric application for the leaky feeder is the tunnels of the London Underground.</p> <p>Using radios for communication in underground tunnels is notoriously difficult. Radio signals want to radiate out in all directions, but tunnel walls just block them. But what if you run a leaky feeder down the length of the tunnel? Now that signal can be picked up down its whole length. And if it's wired up correctly, you can have connections going up through the earth to the ticket office and down to platform level, and it all just works.</p> <p>Fast forward to a year or two ago and Vodafone installed a 4G leaky feeder into the middle part of the Jubilee Line tunnels, giving passengers full 4G when not just in the stations but while travelling through the tubes as well. Amazing.</p> <p>(Less amazing was that this meant Vodafone pulled out of the coop wifi in use across most? all? tube stations, and now I can no longer use my phone on the Tube unless I'm on the Jubilee Line, which is rare nowadays.)</p> <p>The Vodafone 4G installation was done, I believe, in conjunction with a new emergency services radio system which - quite understandably - aims to improve their radio use in Tube tunnels.</p> <p>(There's <a href="">a decent </a><em><a href="">Wired</a></em><a href=""> article</a> here which gives a fair bit more detail - while oddly referring to all the measurements in inches throughout...)</p> <p>It all reminds me that one thing that blew my mind when visiting Paris probably 20 years ago was that I had mobile phone signal underground! Looking back, I don't actually know if this was simply due to the Paris Metro being more of a cut-and-cover shallow network in comparison to the Tube's deep level tunnels. But perhaps they had installed leaky feeders for mobile phone access way back then? I should check.</p> <p>But it got me thinking - of course it did - that it would've been fairly straightforward to install leaky feeders on the Tube for FM radio reception. Wouldn't it? If I understand the technology correctly, this would've enabled passengers to listen to the radio while travelling underground.</p> <p>Let's argue that this would've been done in the 1990s when people were less likely to carry a mobile phone and more likely(?) to carry a pocket FM radio. I don't know. Probably the answer is either a) no one wanted this, and so it never happened, or b) enough people would've wanted it, but it's simply not technologically feasible. I'm sure there's an obvious answer. I just don't know what it is, so here I am rambling about my silly concepts.</p> <p>Anyway, that in a nutshell is another month in radio. If you made it this far, I can only apologise. And I'll see you again in four weeks or so.</p> Idle thoughts 2022-03-18T00:00:00Z <p>I catch my Flying Nun t-shirt in the mirror, and I briefly see the reflected 'NUN' as 'NIN' and I suddenly daydream the perfect scenario: <em>FLYING NIN: A Nine Inch Nails Tribute to New Zealand Music</em>.</p> <p>Imagine Trent Reznor and his band attacking a Gordons song? And with Reznor's range, he could tackle a whole raft of NZ music from delicate ambient stuff, to classic songwriting from the Knox or Kilgour catalogues, right on up to full on hardcore and metal.</p> <p>Of course this idea would come to me, and of course it would appeal to precisely a dozen other people around the world.</p> <hr /> <p>Running past the 'Premier Inn Hastings' this week (which has the dubious honour of being precisely two and a half miles from what I would consider the centre of Hastings), I noticed that from this lofty height just off The Ridge, the high road that forms the town's northern edge, I could just briefly glimpse the sea. As I ran alongside the multi-storey hotel, I imagined some of the rooms must in fact have a sea view. I wondered if they are sold with this designation? Probably not. I don't think Premier Inn goes for that kind of marketing.</p> <p>But it got me to wondering: this combination of a tallish building on a high rise of land near the coast... I wonder what is the furthest inland hotel room in the world that can legitimately claim to have a sea view? Annoyingly, I just know that there are about three databases one could throw some AI at to answer this question. Possibly there's a hotel that even specifically claims this already, whether rightly or not. But it's a fun thought.</p> <hr /> <p>I watched <em>Talk Radio</em> this week; it was on my list of 'radio films' to watch. It very definitely <em>is</em> a radio film, and a very claustrophobic one at that, with the bulk of it taking place within a dimly lit radio studio.</p> <p>The set design is actually really convincing and apt. I naively wondered for a moment if it might in fact be a real radio studio, before realising the acres of space and the weirdly dim lighting and all sorts of other <em>extremely cinematic</em> design decisions at work.</p> <p>It was interesting (or perhaps distracting?) to see in the opening credits that it was adapted from a play - I noticed throughout its runtime many scenes which had a very theatrical feel. Not in a bad way; I could just see how it would work very well as a play.</p> <p>In fact, it was an Oliver Stone film, and looking at his list of credits, I think it was my first. Whether because of Stone's direction or just the source material, it's a really dark film, with some surprisingly edgy themes and dialogue. I was left with quite a sour taste of a particular slice of ambiguously bleak Americana in my mouth. But it was a great, enthralling film - and what a performance from Eric Bogosian.</p> <hr /> <p>That unsavoury, ambiguous slice of Americana was complemented this week by my continued reading of <em>The Road to Somewhere</em>, a book by James A. Reeves (he of <a href="">Atlas Minor dot com</a>; his <a href="">blog</a> should be in your RSS reader).</p> <p>It's an enjoyable read, mainly in the sense that it gives me more of what I wanted from it: Reeves' stream of consciousness, descriptive passages about what it is to be an American, a man, a human being, and an occupant of this strange planet, as well as passages describing the feeling of blasting down dark desert highways with the AM radio relaying voices of demented and devious folks, catching the occasional glimpse through the windshield of a ghostly figure in the night.</p> <p>His writing is accompanied by photographs - really decent images, too; infuriatingly well-observed writing alongside neat illustrations of the moods and scenes he's describing. It's a page-turner in the most literal sense of the words: each snapshot is one spread, with an image on one page, and a perfectly formed vignette in words on the other. These vignettes are assembled into roughly themed chapters, but I find myself sipping at this book, telling myself 'just one more', until the book's heft becomes too much and I place it down next to my bed until another night.</p> <hr /> <p>I listened to the Oceansize album <em>Frames</em> yesterday evening, along with Southkill's self-titled 2002/3 EP, which features the sublime <em>Horizon at Aramoana</em>. I never did visit Aramoana when I was in Dunedin. Sad times. I may yet visit again the most southerly point on earth I've yet been to - but it does seem a remote dream, literally and figuratively.</p> <p><em>Frames</em> sounded incredible. I've always considered Oceansize's debut <em>Effloresce</em> their best, but I heard <em>Frames</em> in a new light yesterday - partly as I was listening via headphones plugged into a hefty lump of vintage Sony amplifier. I hadn't realised the full potential of that device, and it's slightly terrifying to see how loud it got with the volume - sorry, <em>attenuator</em> - knob turned only a quarter of the way round. Ooft.</p> <p><em>Frames</em> just has a cohesion to it that, yes, <em>Effloresce</em> does too, but... Yeah. It clicked for me yesterday. I reminded myself of the dozen or so albums Chris Sheldon has produced or mixed that are all-time favourites of mine.</p> <p>I also listened to Björk's <em>Verspertine</em> yesterday* - earlier on and just via headphones on my phone - and that album clicked for me as well. I particularly enjoyed the birdsong she'd sampled in underneath one track, and found it curious that she'd bled the sample into the next track too - but, ah, no: I slipped off my headphones and the deafening sound of seagulls was very much local to my own listening environment. Nice accompaniment though.</p> <p>* ahem, for the first time...</p> Radio Diary for February 2022 2022-03-02T00:00:00Z <p>As usual, February was a month which contained a number of radio-related resources to stimulate, entertain and inspire. So much so that I have inevitably ended up with a whole mess of tabs, recordings and ideas that I want to try and record even just for my own sanity.</p> <hr /> <p><strong>FM/DAB/broadcast</strong></p> <p>On top of our usual regular morning listening of BBC 6 Music on DAB - Chris Hawkins' sardonic wit is great, and I've been enjoying Deb Grant's filling-in shows when I catch them - we listened to local radio while decorating in half term. The winter storms Eunice and Franklin rolled in, and it quickly became apparent that we would be best served by tuning in to BBC Radio Sussex to hear more localised updates about the storm's progress. We heard traffic updates and anecdotes from callers and it was useful to have this resource to get an understanding of the impact on our local area.</p> <p>Where radio really came into its own, however, was when we lost power on the Friday lunchtime. Fortunately we have a number of radios, and many of them can be powered by the mains or batteries. M's rather old and battered Pure DAB radio is still very technically proficient, and sounds great - and its battery still holds a good charge.</p> <p>When we lost power, we also lost radio. I checked the radio and it had successfully reverted back to battery power, but there was no DAB signal. Not too surprising, but I flipped over to FM and found that there were no FM signals to be found - that <em>was</em> a shock.</p> <p>We also found that although we had mobile phone signal, the 4G signal had died, leaving the phone only capable of making calls and sending and receiving SMS.</p> <p>A short while later, FM stations were back on the air - presumably the FM transmitter fell back to backup power, but perhaps the DAB transmitter is different or requires more power. DAB would be restored quite a while later,</p> <p>I can't remember the last time I lost FM signals. If I'd had more time I would have spent a bit of time tuning around, embracing the interference-free airwaves to see what distant stations I could pick up. But as usual with these events, the priority was in making sure the house was safe, and then carrying on with the decorating. I don't think M would have appreciated me sat twiddling knobs and playing radios while she carried on!</p> <p>Our power was restored about three hours after we lost it. It was a wake-up call: we are a little more isolated here than we used to be in London, and when power goes, it can take longer for it to be restored. These winter storms are becoming more frequent, and it was a useful lesson in preparedness - ensuring we have various battery packs and radios charged most of the time, and keeping an eye on what we have in the house that can be stored or warmed up for food using our camping gas stove etc.</p> <hr /> <p><strong>Retekess V115</strong></p> <p>I recently ordered a couple of low-priced radios from a Chinese retailer, and the first to arrive was the Retekess V115. It's a small, portable unit which receives FM, AM, LW, and short wave. It also has a micro SD card reader and can play files from it, as well as recording to it from the various radio bands, or even the built-in microphone.</p> <p>I'm still getting used to this radio's features, but the initial impressions were good - especially for such a small device. The display is bright and reasonably high resolution for this sort of radio, and I was quite stunned by the tone and loudness of the volume - the speaker is quite powerful, and it has a second 'sub woofer' type speaker at the back, giving it quite a rich sound.</p> <p>I'm still getting to grips with the capabilities of it - there are odd 'holes' in the FM reception, and I want to do some more comparisons with my Tecsun PL-380 on short wave to see how it performs - but it is pulling in stations in my initial tests. If it is a generally good radio, the recording feature could be really useful.</p> <hr /> <p><strong>Radiophrenia</strong></p> <p>Radiophrenia - the self-professed &quot;light at the end of the dial&quot; was back this month for two weeks of incredibly diverse radio. The station is broadcast via FM in the Glasgow area, and is repeated over DAB via Resonance, as well as being streamed online for listeners around the world.</p> <p>The website schedule was as full and complex as it has been in previous years, and I spent a bit of time poring over the descriptions to see what shows interested me the most, at times I might be able to listen in.</p> <p>As Radiophrenia is a live station with shows going out around the clock, it feels even more special to find unique shows and pieces that have been submitted for broadcast, and to listen live when there may not be an opportunity to track it down online later. The magic of live radio - or at least linear broadcasting.</p> <p>This doesn't stop me from using the schedules to find new and interesting audio/radio artists to follow online, hence my reference above to having dozens of tabs open to explore: people to look up and try and check out their work where I've been unable to catch it live.</p> <p>Some highlights I did manage to catch live included various bits of Hali Palombo's work - I've heard some of her stuff before and was delighted to see she had a number of pieces and shorts in the schedules for 2022's broadcast. She works with amateur and short wave radio recordings as well as field recordings and spoken word type stuff. It always adds up to something fascinating and inspiring and I love checking out her work.</p> <p>I was also pleased to see Radio Cegeste had something debuting on Radiophrenia - a piece combining Morse code, Daniel Defoe's <em>A Journal of the Plague Year</em> and the recent pandemic media coverage. It was an edited down version of a longer piece that ran in Melbourne last year.</p> <p>One early highlight was Adriana Knouf's experiments with SSTV - slow scan TV - tones, turning these rhythmic pulses into something approaching techno music. At times hard to listen to, inventive, amusing - all the things experimental radio art can and should be.</p> <p>And then closing out the last day I enjoyed the Shortwave Collective piece <em>Open Wave Receiver</em>, an audio how-to guide on building a self-powered radio. It features instructions on how to construct a simple radio receiver, as well as recordings of people doing so, and the delighted sounds they make when it works. Extremely meta radio, and admittedly not easy to follow if you were truly trying to listen along and make what they were describing with no other visuals or instructions. But a lovely thing to listen to.</p> <p>As I mentioned elsewhere previously, I am so glad that Radiophrenia exists, and one day I feel like it would be amazing to have a piece broadcast. But I need to go away and work on that to make it happen. In the meantime, the platform it gives to such a wide variety of performers, presenters, musicians and... whatever else... is just such a great effort.</p> <hr /> <p><strong>Amateur radio</strong></p> <p>When I am at home in the my office / box room, I often have radios on in the background, and the same goes for my little Baofeng UV-5r, which is a cheap little handheld for the ham bands and enables me to listen in to conversations between amateur radio users in the local area - when they are talking directly - or via repeaters, which extend the range of their individual signals.</p> <p>I am lucky where I am to be within good range of more than one amateur radio repeater, and I've also found a couple of local clubs and nets that have scheduled chats on set frequencies which have enabled me to test the reception of the Baofeng. This radio can also transmit - though not until I have a licence - and knowing that in my new location I can pick up local conversations and repeaters has given me renewed impetus to pursue getting my amateur radio licence.</p> <p>I studied the excellent Essex Ham course last summer, and enjoying learning a lot of new things. At the time I didn't go as far as taking the exam, and I knew my London location would be no good for amateur radio - my Baofeng never picked up anything at home. But now I have a new location, and an apparently active ham radio scene, it might be time to do some revision and get myself licensed.</p> <p>It is... _very _apparent to me how un-diverse the amateur radio scene is. This is partly why I am such a fan of what Shortwave Collective does - they are an international feminist art group promoting the creative use of radio. Hearing Hannah Kemp-Welch's use of amateur radio in particular was very inspiring, and I want to hear even more diverse voices on these platforms. And although as a white male I am not bringing much diversity to this scene, I may at least provide a slightly younger voice. And who knows, if my own involvement somehow leads to anyone else paying an interest in the medium, then that would be incredible. One step at a time.</p> <hr /> <p><strong>MW/AM</strong></p> <p>Whenever I tried to listen to AM / medium wave stations in my old flat in London, I was frequently disappointed by the small number of signals I could pick up, and the high levels of interference which got in the way.</p> <p>But now in this new location I have returned to the open arms of the MW bands where I can frequently pick up fifty or more broadcasts, most of which are international, and a number of which share the same frequency, allowing for some fun fiddling to refine the signal and identify the stations I can hear.</p> <p>I haven't dabbled with MW properly for a decade or more. It's a fascinating new angle into the radio hobby and I am enjoying learning about the kinds of stations I can pick up here, and at what times and in what conditions.</p> <p>When we were looking at moving here I hoped that a new location would open up new possibilities in my enjoyment of radio - from broadcast and beyond - and I've not been disappointed. I suppose going from a semi-submerged duplex flat to a standard semi-detached house halfway up a hill would inevitably give better conditions for radio, but I have been pleasantly surprised just how much of an improvement this has made.</p> <p>Onwards!</p> Half term - a productive week 2022-02-24T00:00:00Z <p>What a productive week.</p> <p>I almost started with &quot;what a week!&quot;, but that has a sort of dual meaning, both positive and negative. I had a good week, but/and a busy one.</p> <p>We started half term - I took the week off along with M to work on the house - with a visit from the electrician who came to do a whole house survey. Thus far, the only reassurances we've had that the house's electrics are sound are a) that nothing, so far as we can tell, has gone wrong yet - not even a tripped fuse; and b) an electric cooker was installed, and this has to be done by a qualified sparks. As well as checking our earth and voltage (current?), the cooker installer also looked over our consumer unit and general cupboard-under-the-stairs situation, and, far from recoiling in horror, he reassured us that he could see nothing untoward.</p> <p>But we still wanted/needed the whole house survey, mainly to answer one big question: do we need a rewire? And the answer, fortunately, is no. As I understand it, this means that the fundamental construction of the house's circuits, and the types of cables used under the floors and in the walls, are of a standard high enough to be safe to use and to not need complete replacement. A huge relief.</p> <p>There are many areas around the house that do need sprucing up - many of the sockets/outlets are dated and one or two have even physically seized up, so we will replace those as and when. But knowing that the underlying systems are fine has given me the confidence to replace more things on my own. Our electrician talked us through a lot of stuff, explaining logically why things are the way they are, and he took the time with us to muddle out the handful of bits that have been added later which took some head-scratching for us all to understand.</p> <p>We (and by we, I mainly mean M's father) had already replaced a couple of light fittings and one switch, and I had done some other switches - including a dimmer; what a saga that was.</p> <p>But now that someone has physically checked every end of the whole system, I am filled with renewed confidence to do more work on the lights, sockets and switches around the house. And, as I reasoned to M, it is these elements that we come into contact with the most - so refreshing a yellowed, dated unit with a smart white unit (or maybe a more charming, individual one here and there), will make such a difference.</p> <hr /> <p>This all came in handy as this week our main project was the box room, aka my home office. It's a decent-sized third bedroom, which will serve as an extra bedroom for visitors, and will provide lots of storage for books and CDs. It also serves as a home office for me three days a week, so it's a room I spend a fair bit of time in.</p> <p>As with other rooms in the house, the decor was dated, it felt quite dark and gloomy (north-facing), the carpet was old and stained, and the ceiling wallpaper showed signs of some sort of prior, unknowable catastrophe.</p> <p>And so we (and by we, I mean mostly M - I had more of a sous chef role) stripped the wallpaper, pulled up the carpet and underlay, sanded the skirting boards and window frames, filled the holes in the walls, sugar soaped and treated all the surfaces, pulled out random tacks in the floorboards, and then proceeded to put primer/undercoat on all the walls and ceiling before painting the whole thing a crisp white.</p> <p>Once you start painting a dim and gloomy room white, you begin to notice all the beige/yellow elements of the room - and how many coats of white it takes to suitably cover those parts.</p> <p>And finally, we didn't paint it entirely white; M had the great idea of incorporating a bespoke motif of strong vertical bars and hemispheres done out in oranges and teals and so on. She did these free-hand, first measuring out the shapes and their specific geometries in relation to the wall they would go on, and then traced this out on the bare wall. It is a remarkable job, and the incorporation of round mirrors is ingenious. Those, combined with the beginnings of a gallery wall opposite, make the space inviting and intriguing and very pleasant.</p> <p>Aside from my supporting roles - I managed to do two or three coats on the ceiling amongst other things - my main jobs in this room were replacing the light switch, light fitting and a double plug socket.</p> <p>The light switch was simple enough - I just replicated what I found inside the old one and spent a good few minutes flicking the new one on and off again, satisfied.</p> <p>The light fitting was a bit trickier. I've watched a couple of YouTube videos now on the standard wiring of a British home, but it still surprises me a little when I find quite as many cables as I do hidden inside a ceiling rose. It makes sense: three cables (each with three cores) - one going to the switch, one coming into the light, and one going to the next light. It's simple enough. But it still feels like <em>a lot</em> when you first encounter it inside that tiny fitting.</p> <p>Added to this three-squared bundle of copper wires I find, I also have to juggle some colours in my head: most of the wiring I've encountered is old enough that it follows the old standard colour-coding - red for live, black for neutral. It's now brown for live and blue for neutral.</p> <p>With practice I'm sure this will become second nature to me, but I do still find myself having to check out loud or via a visual reference that, yes, where it says <em>brown</em>, I must do the same with the <em>red</em>.</p> <p>Red should make sense for danger, but brown is a little... subdued for what is actually the live wire. (Yes, I'm aware of the mnemonic for remembering what colour your underwear will go if you touch the live wire...) And although black is nice and, well, neutral, I find that the blue brings to mind an electrical spark...</p> <p>At least the earth is either green or green and yellow. (But, wait, isn't <em>actual</em> earth - like soil - brown...? Oh dear...)</p> <p>But I did manage to swap out the light fitting successfully - the crucial bit I had to remember was keeping in mind the switched live wire and making sure this one goes to the right bit of the new fitting. I'm still not totally sure what would happen if I neglected this part - perhaps the switch wouldn't work, perhaps the house would burn down - and at one sweaty-palmed moment when visually checking my work I thought I'd done it completely wrong. But no. All good.</p> <p>And finally there was a double plug socket to change. Most, if not all, of the houses sockets and switches are, alas, surface-mounted. This makes them slightly easier to deal with, but means they all stick out in slightly annoying places like along the skirting boards or in corners, making furniture placement tricky.</p> <p>Removing the old-style MK sockets dotted around this house is an ongoing project of mine - they're classic and robust and have served us well, but they now look faintly like something Doc Brown might hook up to an experiment in the 1950s.</p> <p>I had by accident picked up a new MK socket which has screwless terminals - well, I was happy to go with this choice when I saw it, but slightly less so when a) I found out that they're quite new, and b) that I couldn't get the bastard thing to work initially.</p> <p>On standard fittings with screwed terminals you have a little brass lug and a small screw. Loosen the screw, stick in the copper wire, then tighten the screw, locking the wire in place, making a solid contact. Simple.</p> <p>On these newer screwless terminal MK units, you have a row of flappy plastic tabs, colour-coded to each wire's function. The tabs are small, and feel delicate, and the problem I had was simply that I wasn't opening them enough. They have a natural, spring-based latching mechanism and I felt that they were open wide enough to receive the wire*, but it just wasn't seating properly.</p> <p>* More than once I found literature related to electrical components speaking of 'offering' a cable to something, or another part 'receiving' it.</p> <p>After some frantic YouTube searches I found that they're a little more robust than I'd first expected, and the tiny flappy plastic tabs should in fact be forced up to about 90 degrees, pushing them well past the point at which it feels like you might snap the mechanism and ruin the whole unit. I'm so used to tinkering inside modern electronics with tiny tolerances and delicate connections that I had forgotten how robust MK brand home electronics devices should be.</p> <p>So once I'd sussed out the screwless terminal mechanism - one which I now quite like for its speed and simplicity, I just had to squeeze all the wires inside the backplate behind the socket, screw it together, and test it. Fortunately it worked.</p> <p>It should here be noted that the above electrical work took a lot longer than I'd expected. Each process was soundtracked by me speaking out loud my thoughts and processes; M now knows to a certain degree what it is like to inhabit my mind while tackling a new and complicated task. And I kept having to double-check stuff because while I would understand the basic concept, each fitting had a little gotcha that I then quickly needed to check before proceeding.</p> <p>But it all worked - and I changed another light fitting in the dining room, too, which had its own little gotcha: a metal fitting, and instructions from Dunelm which said it MUST be earthed, but no earth terminal to attach the wire to. I have now learned that some metal light fittings can be what's called 'double-insulated', meaning the live bits are inside a plastic case within the fitting, and an earth connection is in fact not needed. There's a small symbol to confirm this: <strong>⧈</strong>. So in the end I just had to <em>park the earth in a choccy block</em> and tuck it out of the way. Look at me, don't I sound like I know what I'm doing?</p> <hr /> <p>Towards the end of the week, we reassembled the room so that it would become an office again, and also to take some 'after' pictures to go with the now rather bleak 'before' shots. I then had the pleasure of spending Monday this week in my new office, finding it to be a delightful space, surprisingly bright with its new white paint, and enjoying various little views of the walls and the new view out of the window now the desk has been moved into the corner. A very pleasant space to be.</p> <p>And this has all been said without reference to the two storms which rolled through over the past week: Eunice and Franklin brought high winds and amplified the spring tides. The house took quite a blasting from the gusts of wind - no damage that we've spotted yet, though at times the roof sounded like it was about to be wrenched off - and we were without electricity for a couple of hours on Friday, resorting to BBC local radio to hear what was going on.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>It was a revelation experiencing a powercut in a smaller town for the first time in many years: when our own power died, we found that the mobile data signal was cut, too, and for a short time even the FM signals went out. That was a first!</p> <p>But we weren't hindered too much: it was during the middle of the day, and we were only painting and cleaning at that time. We filled a couple of flasks with boiling water between power cuts in case any future outages lasted much longer, but by the sounds of other local outages, we got pretty lucky with our power being restored by early afternoon.</p> <p>It was a pretty packed week with the house stuff. We feel very satisfied with all that we've achieved and learned. And we even had time this week to get out and explore town some more - finding new pubs to hunker down in, exploring new bits of the coast in varying conditions, visiting new exhibitions to take inspiration from, dipping our toes in the sea (and by <em>our</em>, I mean <em>M's</em>), and looking at upcoming events to get tickets for and partake in.</p> <p>It's all quite exciting.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> Wednesday morning 2022-02-23T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>There's a point on the walk from my house to the station where the view down to the sea suddenly opens up. Ever since the shortest day, with dawn advancing (or is it retreating?) ever earlier, this view has increasingly been presaged by a pastel-coloured sky serving as a backdrop to the silhouette of the castle on the hill. Combined with the delicate birdsong which fills the gaps between cars, it is a rather lovely way to be greeted by the oncoming day.</p> <p>This morning the moon hangs half-full, and where first thing it had seemed a bright, distant speck out of the rear windows of my house (as below), it now appears high above me, somehow larger, as though rendered in HD with crisp white features discernible even to these sleepy eyes.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>As my coffee steamed on the worktop earlier, I spied robin cautiously making his way through the branches of the lime tree down to the feeder. There, a brief pause as he selects the most appealing morsel, and then he is gone, choosing the low flight path down to the bottom of the garden.</p> <p>Not satisfied with simply showing off how fast he can escape if need be, robin actually takes an unnecessarily deft route between the branches of a bare, low shrub we have yet to identify. Perhaps it affords him a moment's cover - a safe harbour in the event of any potential peril. But for me it is a spectacle and I raise my cup of coffee to this robin, already far more active and productive than I have been so far this morning.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Through the park I am joined by the dog walkers - oh, blessed are the dog walkers and their benevolent, reassuring presence at all hours in quiet streets - and the joggers; one man bounces softly past me clad head to toe in black Lycra with fluorescent trims, and he joins the robin in my mini catalogue of beings who have tackled this bright morning with more ambition than I have.</p> <p>I am also inevitably joined on this parkland walk by a great number of water fowl; coots (or moorhens?) pad around the edges of the ponds, and the herring gull stalks about, eyeing everyone up with a steely gaze. Overhead, the unmistakable sound of two Canada geese flying together towards a destination unknown to me.</p> <p>A fine mist moves across the surface of the ponds, and I find myself thankful for the millionth time for the existence of this wonderful park so close to our new home. That it serves not just as a sanctuary but actually a useful cut-through to so many destinations makes it such an asset.</p> <p>As I write, my train glides quietly along the valleys north towards the High Weald, and in all directions now the low, bright sun illuminates the frosty landscape, leaving pockets still in frigid shade, waiting for their own moment in the spotlight.</p> Remember CDs? They're back! <s>In Pog form!</s> 2022-02-10T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I've been following with some interest and amusement the recent wave of essays on the burgeoning revival of the Compact Disc as a music format which have been popping up online.</p> <p>From <a href="">Paul Riismandel's proclamations</a>, to other recent pieces from <a href="">Pitchfork</a>, <a href="">Rolling Stone</a> and <a href="">NME</a>, there's definitely a movement happening. Actually Riismandel's strength of feeling for the format goes back a number of years and never really went away - <a href="">his piece from 2019 is evergreen</a> - and he's been diligently covering the CD resurgence for <a href="">Radio Survivor</a> lately.</p> <p>And I promise you these pieces aren't all coming from writers and publications that you thought were wound up a decade ago! Some of these pieces reference TikTok and talk to university-age kids embracing the CD as a foil to the inexorable march of using screens for yet another area of our lives.</p> <p>In some ways it seems inevitable: streaming has matured to the point of becoming not just passé but even cancelled by certain audiences, from the way it has for so long failed to properly remunerate artists, to more recent transgressions like employing figures of, if not <em>hate</em>, then certainly division.</p> <p>So if streaming is off the table, where next to turn for our music fix?</p> <p>Vinyl has had its own resurgence over the past decade or more, with sales growing year on year, and it looks like that trend will continue, despite huge production and distribution issues as the world's vinyl pressing plants struggle to keep up with demand. But it's hard to deny there's something about the format which makes for a pleasant physical item to possess: that 12&quot; sleeve artwork, and often liner notes to add to the experience. Playing the music itself has its own romanticism - and drawbacks.</p> <p>One question commentators often have with regard to the vinyl comeback goes beyond how much vinyl is being <em>bought</em>, and instead asks how much is actually being <em>listened to</em>. It might be interesting to see stats on vinyl ownership as compared to turntable ownership.</p> <p>And perhaps even when LPs are bought to be listened to, the practice is so involved that for most folks it must surely be a special occasion - a mindful Sunday evening kind of pastime, rather than the primary method of listening to music. The candle-lit bubble bath to streaming's three-minute shower, if you will.</p> <p>So if vinyl serves to scratch one certain itch, but perhaps doesn't fulfil the full-time needs of the music fan, and streaming is vetoed until a more ethical digital platform can emerge*, what does that leave us with? CDs, naturally. The format never went away, of course, and reports state that in the last few years the market has been propped up by a handful of releases by huge artists which have made up the bulk of sales. (It's worth bearing in mind that the recent uptick in CD sales is <em>tiny</em>, but an uptick it is, and it does point to a change in music-buying habits.)</p> <hr /> <p>* <em>I've left out the digital unicorn that is Bandcamp for now. It's true that it has provided a platform for artists to sell their own music directly to fans with, I believe, a much better return. And it even holds regular days - Bandcamp Fridays - where the artist takes all the proceedings. But I have a feeling that it is its own little bubble - a far-from-mainstream marketplace for a reasonably niche set of artists to connect with reasonably small fanbases. And that's totally fine - in fact, it's artists of that sort of level that need the direct income the most. It probably wouldn't make sense for the Adeles or the Taylor Swifts of the world to stick their music on Bandcamp.</em></p> <hr /> <p>Beyond that modest spike in sales, the secondhand CD market has proved popular - a neat give-and-take has been found between the two parties of 'folks who want to get rid of their vast, unused CD collections even to the point of giving them away' and 'folks who will gladly pick up copies of classic albums on a format that's likely to still be playable - and for a tiny price'.</p> <p>That secondhand market has matured to the point where your average British charity shop will have its shelves lined with not just tat that no-one wants, but copies of classic releases along with rather more niche CDs that were lovingly collected by genuine music fans at the time, but have been more recently gotten rid of in favour of a new way of listening to music.</p> <p>And I - and apparently many others - are here for it: this is the prime time to rebuild your music library if you want to step away from streaming. Grab those bargain bin CDs, enjoy the quality and convenience that made the format a success for so long, and rip copies of the albums to your electronic devices to build your own library which is owned rather than rented.</p> <p>Music discovery will always be a headache, and it's a two-part process: there the discovery of <em>new</em> music of course, which is now performed primarily by algorithms rather than by DJs, journalists and tastemakers, but there's also the re-discovery of one's own music collection - that wonderful &quot;I haven't heard this in <em>ages</em>!&quot; feeling.</p> <p>Algorithms go some way in accomplishing this - certain auto-generated playlists have revealed to me that my own achingly individual history of music enjoyment is in fact far from unique - but it can lead to a somewhat uncanny experience of hearing a series of songs that gel perfectly intersected by that one band you could never stand the first time round, let alone now.</p> <p>One related point on digital music platforms - and this goes for local collections of files just as much as streaming platforms - is the digital fatigue felt by so many over the past year or two. When we spend so much of our day on Zoom calls, remoting in to other PCs, checking emails and staring at a variety of screens, then how much patience have we got for idly scrolling through Spotify or Apple Music for something to listen to?</p> <p>And so it goes back to the physical formats: give me a rack of CDs (or vinyl, naturally) in the corner of a room to flick through - either to find that one album I know I want to hear right in that moment, or to stumble on that weird compilation I forgot I owned, which sends me off down a whole new and unexpected path - probably leading to me scooping up some cheap secondhand CDs online by this or that other band I never got round to checking out before.</p> <p>I'm not saying streaming can or should be totally replaced by listening to music on physical formats. As Paul Riismandel points out, there's room for all these formats, each with their pros and cons. But it's hardly surprising that the CD is seeing a revival in the face of vinyl shortages and cancelled streaming subscriptions. These things have a habit of coming around again.</p> <p>As Mark Beaumont concludes in <a href="">his funny, astute piece for the NME</a>: &quot;There’s a global vinyl shortage underway and very few pressing plants supplying the ballooning demand, while there’s also an overwhelming surplus of second-hand CDs which is threatening the structural foundations of CeX shop basements across the globe. Hence CDs are now the budget – dare we say punk? – music ownership option.&quot;</p> Two minutes to midnight 2022-02-09T00:00:00Z <p>Two minutes to midnight. That seems the perfect time to start writing something about too much and not enough. Too much coffee and not enough time. Too much inspiration and not enough work. Too much in and not enough out.</p> <p>It's an obvious metaphor but the scales have truly tipped over one way and I could see them going all day. It's not like I can limit the amount of things that inspire me; say, &quot;thank you - that'll do&quot;. It just keeps on coming, relentlessly. Audio work. Photography. Writing. Radio. Projects. Writing. YouTube videos. Books and magazines. And these are just the things I <em>want</em> to engage in! Let alone the stuff I *have* to do.</p> <p>I did manage some of the things I had to do. I worked, of course. I picked up some groceries. I rang my mother. I cooked a nutritious dinner. I ran.</p> <p>I was hesitant to put that last one - running more often feels like a choice or even a vice, than a chore. It's not necessarily easy, or particularly enjoyable in and of itself. But it's something I have control over, and it enables me to explore a place, and in that moment it gives me a single focus. That's what I appreciate most about it right now: the focus.</p> <p>There's a line in <em>Fleabag</em> where she's having a pretty horrible time. I can't remember it exactly but it's basically &quot;I just want someone to tell me what to do.&quot; It's a heartbreaking line, but I get it. It's just this need for someone to take control, pick you up and put you back on the track, and send you on your way. And so running is a bit like that. It's a time where I'm just doing the thing. The running. I can enjoy the view, sure. Sometimes I can listen to music or podcasts or radio. But more often I run without anything in my ears, and I just run.</p> <p>It's not aimless - I do usually have a route in mind, or a distance. I need to know what I'm taking on. I can't really just go out and run - too short and I'll need to double up or do loops; too long and it's a slog, and one with logistical issues like &quot;well, here I am, now how do I get home?&quot;. I've started to learn some routes of specific rough lengths, like I had done in London. It's useful to equip oneself with a stock of routes that can be deployed when a specific distance or type of run is needed.</p> <p>This evening I turned temporarily north, then aimed south for Rock-a-Nore, to run along the beach at dusk, shortly after the high tide began receding. I wanted to see what the waves had churned up. Today was, I think, the first post-5pm sunset we've had.</p> <p>The reality was murkier: by the time I got down to the sea, the light had faded sufficiently to make running on the pebble beach a hazard, and as my eyes adjusted to the gloaming I could make out that the white shapes contrasted against the darker pebbles were in fact small, dead catsharks, dashed onto the rocks by the recent high tide. And there were scores of them. I didn't fancy running blind through that, the terror in my mind of the sensation of accidentally stepping on a small, dead shark. I cantered back up to the car park and took the shared cycle path past the fishermen's huts back towards town.</p> <hr /> <p><a href="">Radiophrenia</a> is back on the air. The 'phrenia' jars because I think there's an insensitivity around using that term to mean something light or faintly amusing or whimsical or just a mix. But I get it - and that issue aside, it's hard to think of a catchier title for two weeks of solid radio and sound art which jumps from interview to field recording to composition to music to installations.</p> <p>There is a schedule available online, and I'm glad there is. I can't simply listen all day, every day for a fortnight. I scan the schedules for names I am familiar with - the Hali Palomobos or the Radio Cegestes of the world. Or I scan for references in the synopsis that sound good to me - anything mentioning field recordings or radio is pretty likely to be in my wheelhouse.</p> <p>Every time Radiophrenia comes around I kick myself for not having got my act together and worked on something for it. It might be rather bold to assume I could produce something worthy of submission. But it feels like a very inclusive project, and with enough space over two weeks to include a great range or experience or talent. Even some of my existing recordings or compositions would be suitable - I think - for their shorts compilations. But oh, to have produced a whole piece for them and for it to be broadcast? One day.</p> <p>Some of the stuff I listened to today included field recordings - of a trip from home to a bar, or heading out on a wild swim. Some featured recordings taken from distant radio signals overheard - conversations and pleasantries uttered by people with no knowledge of their being recorded.</p> <p>And I even listened to one piece which was made up of compositions using SSTV broadcast signals - think somewhere between a dial-up modem and a Spectrum game or similar loading from tape. I think the composer had programmed the pieces to sound good, with rhythm - like very simplistic techno beats. I suspect the transmissions were also encoded so that the SSTV signals would produce an image, but I didn't investigate this.</p> <p>I listened to one piece this afternoon which simply featured someone tuning around the AM and FM bands. The synopsis didn't give me the impression it was live to air, but pictures on the Radiophrenia Instagram make me think it was. It was rather comforting - just half an hour of tuning around. Songs occasionally fading in and out. Snippets of news or debate. Lots of static. Not hanging on to a particular station for too long. And in its way an entirely ordinary, mundane thing. Just tuning around the radio. A sound less familiar nowadays in this age of digital tuning, sure. But a comfortingly familiar sound.</p> <p>Tuning around the AM dial is something <a href="">James A. Reeves</a> does a lot. Well, maybe he doesn't do it <em>a lot</em>, but he's written about it enough times - and he's <a href="">produced music mixes</a> that deliberately incorporate some static fades and snippets that he's captured live off the radio. It's nice to hear those recordings and compositions. It's also fun to read his take on the experience of tuning around the AM dial, and how that practice lends a weird gravitas - a fittingly uncanny companion - to that specific scenario.</p> <p>Night-time AM radio in the American desert must be... Something else. I spent a small chunk of my childhood, inexplicably, listening to the original talkRadio rather late in the evening. I have vivid memories of James Whale giving someone a telling off, or - and I was aware of it even them - being deliberately provocative on air, which drove the listeners to pick up their phones. But it couldn't have been all negative or objectionable - Whale and his producer Ash held court and held my attention throughout, with a small white digital clock radio tuned to 1053 or 1089 on the AM band, the volume turned low.</p> <p>I reflect on this only to say that talkRadio was one of my few touchstones for the concept of late-night AM phone-ins. In this small island nation, we do not have endless AM stations up and down the country, blasting their signal through the night air across deserted lands, each one providing a window into a conversation you wished you hadn't stumbled on, but somehow you can't tear yourself away.</p> <p>I think the nearest example we have might be the local BBC stations which stay on all night, inviting listeners to phone in. Do they even still do this? So many have been consolidated. But they are by their very nature local, and on FM. They don't travel far. And anyway, as I said above, the UK is a small country. We just don't have the kinds of AM stations spanning thousands of miles that much larger countries like the US or Australia do.</p> <p>Merely flicking through even a variety of local FM stations (or doing the same with online streams) simply does not cut it: for the true impact to be felt, these stations must come to the listener veiled in an interference-filled gauze, fading in and out.</p> <p>And so I will always enjoy reading about what it is like to wade through that endless static and find the voices that are so compelling, no matter how objectionable. That breadth of stations is partly why I feel drawn to shortwave radio.</p> <p>The diversity of voices is still there, but it's a shadow of its former self. Back when I was first listening I could find plenty of interest to actually listen to - regular shows I would make time to tune in and listen to (like a write-in show on Radio Canada International - was it called the Mailbag?). Now, it's more a tool to just use the China Radio International stations as propagation beacons, and see if there are any surprises to be found in between.</p> <p>Objectionable voices do still appear, even on these broadcast stations: Hali Palombo <a href="">produced</a> a nice background to the unique Brother Stair, now deceased (Hali was concerned she was somehow responsible), and his voice can still be heard on the short waves - though in time he, too, will vanish from the airwaves completely.</p> <p>More recently I've turned to AM (or medium wave) to scan the stations I can pick up here in our new home on the south coast.</p> <p>Coming from a semi-submerged duplex flat in north London, I am still finding such mundane things as decent MW reception a novelty. The number of stations I can find on the dial has jumped from 5-10 to about 80.</p> <p>Better yet, I'm closer to the coast and so now I'm regularly picking up stations from the continent, as far afield as Spain, Italy or Tunisia. I recently learned of goodnatured contests among medium wave listeners doing bandscans on particular frequencies to track down as many distant stations as they can. It appeals to me. It's early days in my MW-listening, but I'm enjoying the renewed interest, and it's scratching a similar itch to when I started out short wave listening.</p> <p>It's not quite the same as the desert-bound, car-based AM radio scans Mr Reeves gets up to - the various stations are in many different languages for one. But it still captivates my imagination tuning around just to see what's out there, and to try and establish how far that signal has come to reach me and my little portable radio.</p> <hr /> <p>These are some of the inputs that have been swirling around in my brain, and it feels somehow validating to have downloaded them into this machine, at least for me. And for you?</p> Wednesday 2022-01-19T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>At West St Leonards I finally catch sight of the sky - the mixture of railway tunnels and the natural darkness till this point meant the only way I could tell if I was in the open was a cursory glance at my mobile phone signal.</p> <p>A much milder start than anticipated - the weather people had warned of thick fog and a harsh frost, but perhaps that will come tomorrow morning?</p> <p>I remembered to sit on the left hand side today, and the view out this way is a little more interesting as the land falls away to the left, rolling down to the sea briefly until our course is corrected to the north.</p> <p>Here, the landscape is that familiar mix of agricultural land which looks somehow wild: I still remember a time <em>before</em> and a time <em>after</em> the moment I was enlightened by a friend of the fact that incredibly small amounts of the British countryside are actually 'natural' or wild.</p> <p>Having grown up surrounded by neatly edged fields and plantations of woodland and roads splintering across the landscape, I had at one time felt that this patchwork of greens and browns was very obviously 'nature' in the sense of being untouched by man. It took an embarrassingly long time for me to be disabused of that impression.</p> <hr /> <p>Yesterday there had been a thick frost at dawn.</p> <p>My weather apparatus logged a temperature of between -2 and -3 Celsius. But by the time I'd had my first coffee it had thawed as the night's chill lost its grip, and the temperatures inverted into positive numbers.</p> <p>The birds noticed this change, too. As I boiled the kettle for the first time, the garden had been empty of movement, and even the sky lacked the usual marauding seagulls and corvids. There came a tipping point, though, and by the time the tree limbs were dripping, the birds had decided en masse to wake up, and appeared to descend as one upon our garden.</p> <p>I saw: wren, robin, black bird, blue tit, great tit, sparrow, coal tit, and mistle thrush - that last being an uncommon sight in this garden. I had seen previously the sparrows and tits happily sharing the same tree - the robin being more characteristically territorial, chasing off its foes - but I had not before seen this gregarious association across the species, as if a brief ceasefire had been declared on the occasion of the morning's bitter start. For a few moments, the pecking order had been disrupted and all could pursue their first meals.</p> <p>All, that is, apart from the tiny, frantic wren, whose movements had already been erratic, but as soon as the robin had become aware of its presence, it was summarily dismissed from the gathering and chased into the lower reaches of a nearby hedge. Some rivalries persist even during the harshest hours.</p> "Blue" Monday 2022-01-17T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>For 'blue Monday', nature is definitely trying its best to shift those blues to one side.</p> <p>This morning I was greeted with a clear, blue sky with just wisps of cloud catching and burning orange as the sun rose, and the odd vapour trail from aircraft high above.</p> <p>On the horizon a large, full and yellow moon sets, nestling from time to time in the monochrome branches of bare trees, and I catch it and lose it as my train weaves its way up the southern English countryside. Beneath it, the ground is hard and silvery. In town the temperature had crept above freezing by the time I woke, but out here away from everything the air and ground is still frigid from the winter night.</p> <p>I am enjoying these staggered commutes so far - the scenery is good, and doing the same journey at the same time twice a week means I am noticing the dawn creeping ever earlier, and - something I've missed for a while - I am more and more aware of the conditions outside and how they change over time. For too long I was sealed away from these subtle changes.</p> <p>The rhythms of this route feel familiar to me from a childhood spent growing up at the end of the Metropolitan Line: London will ever be a train journey away and I grow to appreciate the cadence of familiar sights and sounds on the way there and back. A (mostly) predictable bubble of time I can disappear into for a while.</p> <p>And when I am sated on the outside world, I can turn to the inside one: reading articles and blog posts, listening to music and field recordings and podcasts and mixes, and reflecting. And from most of those I can draw inspiration which might, I hope, coagulate one day into something worth doing or thinking or saying.</p> <p>Making this early morning journey in winter means that the spreading daylight coincides with the oncoming day. I board the train with only a gloaming in the sky, and by the time I emerge at the other end, the day has very much begun. It will feel different again as the year progresses and I begin my journey in full sunlight. But that is just another seasonal, temporal progression, one of many, that I am looking forward to feeling unfold at its own pace.</p> Friday, 7 January 2022 2022-01-08T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Friday. Up and out by 7.30. Urged on by Thursday's gorgeous bright and crisp start (above), which I had whizzed through at speed on a London-bound train, I find Friday's attempt somewhat less stunning, but fine enough to run.</p> <p>As usual with winter running, arms initially cold but I warmed up in a few minutes, running gently uphill towards Silverhill, up to the junction with Sedlescombe Road North. Then along, and down, down, down, under lightening skies, down to the sea front at St Leonards.</p> <p>I pass a brown tourist sign pointing to 'Seafront' and noticed that it had been stencil graffitied underneath in a similar font and colour with 'doesn't exist'. My mind paused briefly to consider whether this was a bespoke job for this particular seafront or this particular sign, but I reckon it's something that could be used elsewhere.</p> <p>As I near St Leonards I see the U-shaped valley formed by the shops and buildings on either side of the road, and the view through to the sea beyond. I like these views, where the land rolls down to the sea, and you often find a gateway or arch through to the sea in towns like this.</p> <p>I had timed this run as much to get me out at dawn before work as to see the coast at low tide. Hastings and St Leonards has quite a wide tidal range, and it's still novel to me to observe it at its highest and lowest. I check the charts for these extremes and if the timing works out I will always try and get down to see them. A year of reading The Almanac from my London home and reading but not fully understanding the concepts of spring and neap tides, and now I live by the sea and can start to grasp it.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>This morning it's an hour or so from low tide and rock reefs are exposed, along with wide, flat banks of sand which normally lie under five or six metres of water, owing to the steepness of the beach.</p> <p>The submerged reefs are fun to explore, forming rockpools, and the exposed flat sand is also fun as the beaches hereabouts are made up of large pebbles and shingle. But at low tide there are wide swathes of flat, dense sand which can be walked on run on.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>The rocks are fascinating too as it gives the impression of a reservoir or lake in which the plug has been pulled and the water level has dropped sufficiently to reveal ruins and remains of something much older. I'm told there are shipwrecks along this stretch of the coast, and I look forward to making a special journey out to see the exposed ribs of an old, doomed vessel in the shallow waters.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I'm not the only one out here at 8am - dog walkers and the occasional solo walker are out too, some rather further out than I dare to venture in my running gear. They appear as dots further out on the sandbanks, reflected in the isthmus of water left behind on the surface. There are also one or two photographers, including a man with a smartphone clamped into a sturdy-looking tripod pointing down the coast to the pier and the sunrise beyond.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>At this time of the year the sun makes a shallow arc up and over the horizon, and it rises out of the sea. Those of a certain constitution embrace this event, bravely going for a dip in waters below 10 degrees Celsius, emerging red and frantic and elated. But there is no actual sun to see on the horizon this morning - and I see no swimmers - as a bank of cloud sits grumpily obscuring the show, teasing us with occasional pink and gold frills at the edges.</p> <p>I snap a few photos on my phone, grateful to have this remarkable landscape not so far from home now, before running along the promenade until I have to turn left at the sculpture of a submerged / re-emerging Norman longboat, and head for home under the shadow of the cliff-top castle ruins.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I manage 10km on this morning's run - I'd planned an 8.5km route, but hadn't figured in the beach explorations. It's a good way to start the day, and I return home for a steaming cup of coffee and a fried egg sandwich while I edit some of the morning's photos, my legs tired, but with a rewarding ache.</p> I Live a Lot of Places 2021-12-01T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>This morning I have Woodpigeon's song 'I Live a Lot of Places' in my head, and as I put the album on - an album released in either late 2008 or early 2009, whichever source you consult - Google Photos showed me some images from late November and early December 2008. My first winter in Manchester.</p> <p>It's not hard to look at those frosty, misty photos and feel a good dose of nostalgia. It was pretty cold, mind you. But Manchester opened up and offered up a hundred little places to call my own, or to share with like-minded folks.</p> <p>I moved to Manchester in September of that year, and proceeded to start a new life there, with my best friend living elsewhere in the same halls of residence, and with the vague notion of studying at university providing a core to the reason for moving there in the first place.</p> <p>Did I move to Manchester to go to university, or did I go to university to move to Manchester?</p> <p>As the cold winter wore on - my first in that northern climate - my small room revealed itself to be rather cold. The single electric heater had a timer switch - did that put it on for an hour at a time, or for half an hour? - and I became adept at pressing it from under my duvet using the extended leg of a camera tripod before I finally had to get up.</p> <p>The walk from Daisybank up to my university buildings took me along or through Whitworth Park and I'll always associate the reddening, browning leaves with the red bricks of the buildings thereabouts. Across the road was the imposing Manchester Royal Infirmary, reminding me that my grandmama (who trained as a nurse in Nottingham) grew up not so far from there.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I remember sitting in the university library overlooking All Saints Park on cold, frosty mornings like these, unable to shake the connection it made me feel with the grids and squares of Christchurch. That city played on my mind a lot during those years I lived in Manchester, from my visit earlier in 2008, to the devastating quakes in 2011. But it wasn't long before I'd spent enough time in Manchester's libraries, bars, high streets and backstreets that it all began to embed itself into my mental map, and to make sense to me.</p> <p>Now I find myself these many years later, stumbling into places in other towns and cities which make me think of Manchester's red bricks and basement bars and lingering signs of industry; its mix of gentrification and dilapidation.</p> <hr /> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I received my advance copy of Woodpigeon's <em>Treasury Library Canada</em> during that first winter in Manchester, not long after the photos above were taken, thanks to our involvement with PULP, the university's student magazine.</p> <p>It was an instant hit, right from those opening snare hits in the intro to the opening track. And this chance encounter with their album would lead to two occasions where John and I had Woodpigeon come and play a live session for us, first at PULP magazine, and again for our show on Levenshulme community radio station All FM. Good times.</p> <hr /> <p>With a head that's today full of Manchester - and, constantly, New Zealand - it seems pertinent to add that M and I are moving away from London this week (though not our jobs), down to the south coast.</p> <p>I've lived in London for six years, and M nearer fifteen. This move has been in the works for about eighteen months, initially held up by <em>the current situation</em>. As usual with these things it feels both long drawn out, and suddenly happening all at once.</p> <p>It will take a while to mentally readjust to our new home town. But I am very excited about it all.</p> <p>I live a lot of places, indeed.</p> Re-photographing glass plate negatives for a new angle on early 20th century New Zealand 2021-11-24T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>There was a time when I would read about some cool new project on the National Library of New Zealand's website and get stupidly excited, frothing at the mouth on my blog at how cool it is, and how much they as an institution seem to get right with stuff like this.</p> <p>That time is still now. I still do that. Here is another one.</p> <hr /> <p>With the blog post <a href="">Re-visioning Joseph Divis and Waiuta</a> from Caroline McQuarrie, we have a really interesting take on breathing new life into early photographic depictions of life in Aotearoa New Zealand.</p> <p>There is an inherent difficulty in representing analogue photography in the digital space, particularly when the object itself is not merely a flat, paper-based print but is rather an object in and of itself.</p> <p>Photographing a 2D object top-down with good, even, lighting is one solution for simpler media. But even then decisions have to be made about how to light the object, and what angle to shoot at.</p> <p>If the object itself is more elaborate, like a Daguerreotype housed in a folding frame, or a glass transparency, then it all gets a lot more complicated.</p> <p>How to light it? How to even support it, allowing for light to pass through the object so the subject can be seen? Which way to shoot it? Reversed, so that the image itself (impregnated onto one side of the glass) is the most detailed part, the image later being digitally reversed?</p> <p>But then what if you take this process - photographing an object which is itself photographic - and abstract it one level further? Rather than merely trying to digitise the flat image the object represents, why not expand on that and use photographic techniques to present the image in an entirely new way?</p> <p>And that is what McQuarrie has done here: new takes on old images, which highlight - thanks to the inherent quality and detail of the original photographs themselves - tiny elements or areas present in the scene itself. It's brilliant. It's a sort of uncanny 'tilt shift' effect which brings into focus just one section of the larger image.</p> <p>McQuarrie's wider project into the area's history is equally interesting, and as usual with the NLNZ blog, I am just so glad they have brought it to my attention.</p> <p>(Do not misunderstand me: I feel that the priority when digitising objects like this in the first instance is a good representation of the image contained within - that is arguably the most important 'message' to capture. But I imagine that this is the same goal of world-class institutions like the National Library of New Zealand as well! These sorts of projects are the next tier up - a meta-project which breathes new life into an existing collection.)</p> <p>Footnote: This all reminds me that I believe I once had a short-lived series on Tumblr posting old photos that had been scanned at high resolution - from the likes of the National Library of New Zealand or the Library of Congress (via <a href="">Shorpy</a>) - and highlighting tiny details contained within those photos that were visible thanks to the high res nature of both the digital scans and the underlying quality of the image itself.</p> Anything Could Happen 2021-11-22T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Last week I had a fun interaction with a small record label online, which felt very evocative or the web I remember of 10, 15 or even twenty years ago.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Crepuscular 2021-11-08T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I was reminded, again, of the word <em>crepuscular</em> when looking into a bird we saw yesterday by the Thames.</p> <p>It's just one of a number of words like that - and petrichor and liminal and a long list of others that my Kindle helpfully retains, having long-touched them to read their definition while reading.</p> <p>The small wading bird we found right by the edge of the Thames yesterday appears to be a woodcock. It was strikingly pretty, and very well camouflaged against the pebbles and other detritus that had attracted us and the other mudlarkers in the first place.</p> <p>I read that woodcocks have an epic migration from Finland or even Russia and by the time they end up here - and in vast numbers they do - they get disoriented by bright shiny things like glass buildings and large rivers and bodies of water reflecting the sunlight back to their beady eyes.</p> <p>For these birds are crepuscular, you see, meaning they are normally active in the twilight hours. This bird appeared either injured or disoriented. It tried to fly off but just darted around and planted itself back where it came from. Those little eyes were blinking in the bright sunshine - and it really was dazzlingly bright yesterday morning. We couldn't do much to help, and the advice was to give it some time and space and let it get its breath back eventually. So we went on our way exploring the Thames foreshore at low tide.</p> <p>(It occurs to me that words like <em>crepuscular</em> and <em>liminal</em> are themselves somewhat liminal - mostly outside of daily use but always lingering there in the peripheral vision, ready to be used when the moment calls for it.)</p> <hr /> <p>While the weather remains cold and crisp and mostly dry, I am enjoying the new shift to the winter clocks one week in. The evenings in winter <em>should</em> be dark. It feels right to spend that time under artificial light, whether electric or organic (what <em>is</em> fire anyway?).</p> <p>This should be a time of slowing down. In the six weeks or so between now and the shortest day I can almost hear the tape delay in my head as the tone slows and slow and slows, inching ever closer to stopping completely dead. Any other movements become magnified and we cherish them.</p> <p>I noticed this again yesterday, as the flicker of a candle flame made my own shadow dance briefly on the dim wall beside me. In a house, and time, of constant, fixed utilities with an unflinching gaze, it felt briefly exciting to catch a movement out of the corner of my eye. There it is again - something distracting me by catching my peripheral vision.</p> <p>I know this is also why I so love our paper mobile of swifts, which dangle and wheel around, their movement urged on by the tiniest draft or - better yet - a candle beneath their wings. They ride on the thermals.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> Amongst ghosts 2021-11-04T00:00:00Z <p>Yesterday I found myself amongst ghosts - I had, by two different avenues, found myself browsing Ancestry's records looking up the details of two separate people, with two different motives.</p> <p>One such avenue was to help me understand the life and movements of an architect of a house we happened to see at the end of at the weekend.</p> <p>The other was to uncover who lived in a particular house in the 1930s.</p> <p>The first allowed me to trace a man and his career - and his two marriages - from the 1890s to his rather early death in the 1950s. He moved around a fair bit in that time, being born in South London, designing houses for, and living in, the home counties, then heading back to the northern regions of London towards the end. At one point he lived in a house he had designed.</p> <p>The second showed me two sisters living in a house in the late 1930s, the house having been built in the early 1930s. They were local girls with respectable jobs - one was an auctioneers cashier. Earlier documents showed me she had been a cashier since her teens - she must have earned a good deal of trust to continue in that line of work. It was a small surprise to learn that this particular house was home to two sisters in their 30s and 40s at this time. It seemed like it would more likely be the home of a 'traditional' family.</p> <p>I don't know when Ancestry (and others) added <a href="">the 1939 register</a> but it is an absolute goldmine of more 'recent' information - a giant leap forwards from the 1911 Census.</p> <blockquote> <p>The 1939 Register provides a snapshot of the civilian population of England and Wales just after the outbreak of the Second World War.</p> <p>As the 1931 census for England and Wales was destroyed by fire during the Second World War and no census was taken in 1941, the Register provides the most complete survey of the population of England and Wales between 1921 and 1951, making it an invaluable resource for family, social and local historians.</p> </blockquote> <p>To that end, the register is littered with redacted records: those less than a hundred years old are not shown as they may still be alive. There are exceptions, but this is largely a book of the deceased. But still, the recentness of the records on show is refreshing and helps follow people well into the middle of the twentieth century.</p> <hr /> <p>I recently came across the work of Don Joyce, an artist working across all forms of audio, music and radio, thanks to <a href="">a Radio Survivor podcast</a>. Joyce's work isn't easy to summarise, but various searches have led me to follow one particular strand of his work for the Over The Edge radio show he produced: a long-running show in which he combined samples of broadcast radio with music and, I guess, musique concrète, creating long, meandering explorations of the medium.</p> <p>There was one description in the above podcast of Don's work that had one accidental listener saying they found him once when their radio sounded as though it was tuned to two different stations, with the signal hopping between two different sources. From that description alone, I knew I would enjoy his work.</p> <p>I've started my Don Joyce education with <em>How Radio Was Done</em>, a series he put together within the Over The Edge show - consisting of more than a hundred three-hour episodes! - in which he weaves together clips from mostly very old radio broadcasts which tell the story of the emergence of radio.</p> <p>If I had to think of a rough analogue to this format - a mad mix of clips from various sources - I'd be tempted to point to the work of Adam Curtis, but Joyce's work is almost completely without his own voice or any narration, with the story (at least in what little I've listened to so far) told wholly via archival clips and bits of music.</p> <p>At times Joyce's production of How Radio Was Done is somewhat vanilla: chronological clips from various sources put together in a way that tells the story of how radio became a part of people's lives. At other times, he jumps wildly between clips and time periods, distorting the recordings and juxtaposing the announcement of the new medium in the 1920s with pop music and statements made much later - occasionally poking fun, and at times raising salient points.</p> <p>I am very, <em>very</em> early into my exploration of Don Joyce's work. The Radio Survivor podcast episode featured the words of the director of a film about his work, entitled <em>How Radio Isn't Done</em>, and which I am desperate to watch, though I know it will be much more satisfying once I have had time to sufficiently bathe myself in the man's work.</p> <p>My understanding so far is that Don Joyce produced his late-night three-hour radio shows live, manipulating the playback methods and mixing his various sources on the fly. As I mentioned above, the 'How Radio Was Done' strand has a hundred episodes, but Joyce did his show for more than thirty years. <a href="">Thanks to his band Negativland</a>, there is <a href=";tab=collection">a vast collection of more than a thousand episodes of the show Over The Edge available on</a>.</p> <p>I've been listening to Over The Edge's How Radio Was Done series in snippets over the last week or two. The mixture of sources is mindblowing, and as clever as it is entertaining. It's also, genuinely, a good insight into the history of radio.</p> <p>And on top of that, the production itself is mesmerising: the way Joyce weaves the vintage radio sources around ambient background music and various other clips means one feels surrounded by sound. Many of my listening sessions have been while walking to or from work, and the leak of real-world ambient sounds into my ears on top of the show itself - sounds of traffic, birdsong, sirens, and recently fireworks - has made for an even more 'immersive' experience. Utterly compelling.</p> <p>With (by my reckoning) more than three thousand hours of audio to get through, it is humbling on a scale I can barely fathom. If I begin to work out how long it would take me to reasonably find time to work through this entire archive, it is approaching a real-time playback of the man's career: 20-30 years wouldn't be out of the question if I am completely honest about how long I can actually set aside in a given week.</p> <p>On the one hand I wonder if it is 'right' to have an easily accessible digital archive of the man's work which was itself so ephemeral and precarious. To have listened-in live while those shows were being put together would've been magical and it was exciting to hear the Radio Survivor folks describing what that was like.</p> <p>But on the other hand I am so grateful to know his work - and what work it would have been to compile and produce - is safely preserved and accessible now to the likes of me, whenever one comes to discover it.</p> <p>To think of all the kinds of work like this that were produced live and 'lost' to the ether is at once heartbreaking and awe-inspiring. But I am glad Don's work is there for me now.</p> Pepperami Promotion 2021-10-27T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Pepperami<br /> Ade Edmondson<br /> Videogame<br /> World cup(?) Wobbly statue<br /> Promotional stuff in general<br /> CDs<br /> Pager!</p> <hr /> <p>Every now and again, I get the voice of Ade Edmondson in my head, shrieking puerile obscenities. I imagine Ade does, too, but for different reasons.</p> <p>My reasons lie solely with an ad campaign in the 1990s for a meaty snack called Peperami. Ade provided the voice for the animated CG version of the angry meat snack which was dubbed &quot;a bit of an animal&quot; - a pun I am not ashamed to say still tickles me to this day.</p> <p>But it wasn't just the TV ads he lent his voice to. There was even a PC game released in 1996 starring the Peperami, and I must've got a copy of it - or a demo of it - on a computer magazine cover disk/disc.</p> <p>The game is completely forgotten (by me) but the game's files contained a number of .WAV files of voice clips of Ade screaming things like &quot;THIS IS MORE FUN THAN TROLLEYING MYSELF!&quot; and other wordy exclamations that made me laugh for the simple combination of me being 11 years old and finding puerile sentences screamed by Ade Edmondson absolutely hilarious.</p> <p>I can't remember now if I would have already known of Ade from Bottom or The Young Ones, but it was around that time for sure. I definitely spent a lot of my time around those years impersonating Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson, so having a bunch of WAVs of Ade's voice would have been very entertaining.</p> <p>The game's website is <a href="">archived online here</a> and rather thrillingly there seems to be a page full of shorter WAV files available to download, too.</p> <hr /> <p>Ad campaigns from one's youth tend to stick with you (particularly when they're immature and targeted at younger people). I recently delved into some YouTube videos of compilations of 1990s TV adverts and it is rather concerning how many are still so very memorable. It makes sense of course: with no DVRs or similar, and fewer channels to watch, we watched a lot of adverts back then. The catchphrases and songs will have burrowed pretty deep, and you end up with Jack Dee uttering dry one-liners or hearing a little voice in your head shout &quot;ARMADILLOS!&quot; at the most unexpected times.</p> <p>Come to think of it, it's probably the TV ads that starred comedians of the day, and which used silly, short catchphrases that will have stuck fast. Perhaps it's not all that surprising after all.</p> <hr /> <p>While I was reminiscing about the Peperami ads, I suddenly remembered that far and beyond the ephemeral ads and voices that haunted my young mind in the mid 90s, we actually had a physical manifestation of the Peperami 'animal' in our house.</p> <p>It came in the shape of a stick-figure Peperami animal mounted on a plastic base which, with batteries, would react to loud noises by wobbling around. It was a promotional item to tie in with the 1998 France World Cup and the idea was you would stick it on top of your TV (TVs had top surfaces sufficient for such purposes in the 1990s), and switch it on to watch the football. When something exciting happened, or the volume levels in the room hit a certain limit - say when your team had scored - the little plastic Peperami would wobble about vigorously (and, in my experience, inevitably fall off the TV in the process).</p> <p>It was, I suppose, an early voice-activated assistant in our home. In 1998! It didn't do much, but it does now serve to remind me of the unending physical merchandise we delighted in filling our home with around this time. I was always saving up ringpulls and tokens for things to send away for. I won't even start on Tazos.</p> <p>But</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Like it or not! - Messing around with radio (again) 2021-10-18T00:00:00Z <p>I was happy the other day to stumble on Scumbag Radio</p> October 2021-10-13T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>It's turning cooler now, and I enjoy that feeling in the air. The threat of rain is less enticing but a change is a change and I salute them when they come. Dull, grey skies are a reasonable trade-off for those stark, crisp, blue days which we find scattered along the way.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Sunday's grey drizzle made for good running conditions as M and I plotted a curved route south, making for the City and terminating our run at St Paul's.</p> <p>It never fails to amuse and humble me that we can step outside our flat and run (or walk!) to such significant landmarks.</p> <p>One week earlier we had run to almost the same spot to see the inspiring sight of many thousands of marathon runners filling the roads as they passed the 24-mile mark on their way to the Mall. Their efforts have once again compelled me to enter the ballot for next year's event.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I read the words of friends who herald the coming of the new season in a way I find somehow harder to comprehend. Our flat is comfortable and modern, but coming with that is the hermetically sealed environment which traps in a steady warmth of 22c or so, and the limited windows make it hard to feel connected to the light and conditions outside.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>When I am made more aware of the sunrise and sunset time each day by the automatic blueing of my smartphone screen, it tells me I have become almost completely detached from the natural world in a way that makes me rather sad.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I look forward to some more outdoor adventures in the coming weeks: walks where the length of the daylight will become crucial as we race the sun to the horizon (although we will be marching east and we will have to salute the sun at midday as it heads on its own way west).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Lately we have returned to lighting candles in the evening and that is absolutely one of my favourite things to do during these shortening days. That their heat makes our modern living room warm enough to sit in shorts and tee shirt is a little disconcerting, but the fragrance and the flickering light and the ritual are all things to love about this time of year. Such a primitive joy from creating a fire for comfort in one's home.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Two blogs I love are back being active 2021-10-06T00:00:00Z <p>Nothing much to say here except that two blogs I really enjoy, and which both separately had a longer or shorter period of time away, are back to posting regularly.</p> <p>First is <a href="">Weightshifting</a>, from Naz Hamid.</p> <p>I've followed Naz for years - initially because he posted gorgeous photos of bike rides around San Francisco, and then just because he posted gorgeous photos, full stop. With Weightshifting, he's back posting regularly, and his recent posts feature huge, <em>gorgeous photos</em>, as well as a nice reflection on what he's been up to. Naz's blog is actually an email newsletter, but luckily one that's archived online, complete with an RSS feed, so it's basically a blog.</p> <p>And second is James A. Reeves at <a href="">Atlas Minor</a>.</p> <p>I've pointed to Reeves' blog before, back when he was last posting daily (throughout 2020). He's recently been involved in a project of quite staggering scale and is now, as far as I can tell, back to his daily postings of an image, a shortish piece of narrative, and an accompanying audio file / song. Never not worth my time.</p> <p>(And with a couple of recent tracks James posted by Fuck Buttons and Autechre, another reminder that for some reason my Asus Chromebook's speakers are about 400 times better - louder, richer, bassier - than they have any right to be.)</p> <p>These two merely add to the long list of blogs I follow unconsciously every day.</p> <p>Some post multiple times a week, others once a year or less. I try to point other people to some of them now and again, and I am always threatening to produce a blogroll.</p> <p>Those are the ones I know are still active. Others simply live on in my feed reader as a defunct blog which is never likely to be updated again. The author has probably long since forgotten the login details. But I keep the feeds there, servers to be pinged until the end of time, in the hope that they may one day post again.</p> The Courier / Ironbark 2021-10-04T00:00:00Z <p>I was intrigued to see an ad on our Amazon Fire Stick for the film <em>The Courier</em> starring Benedict Cumberbatch recently. It's a cold war spy thriller that I think was released to UK cinemas in August this year, and now available to rent digitally. But in a previous life it was entitled <em>Ironbark</em>, and I actually saw it way back in July 2019.</p> <p>The screening was one of those hush-hush preview screenings where production staff loiter outside a multiplex and ask if you want to see a free film, in return for some feedback (and a signed confidentiality agreement to not blab about it ahead of its release). We even had to hand in our phones on entry, and promise that we had no other recording devices on our person.</p> <p>It was a fun opportunity - both to see a film ahead of its official release, and also to see a film before it's even finished. I believe all the filming had been done, but there were a number of elements left unfinished including CGI and titles and so on.</p> <p>The short review of the film itself I wrote in my diary at the time was this:</p> <blockquote> <p>The film was interesting and pretty good. Ultimately felt more like a TV movie than a film for the cinema, but was dramatic and interesting. Good story about cold war spying and the Cuban Missile Crisis.</p> </blockquote> <p>Sorry. &quot;Interesting and pretty good&quot; probably isn't the strongest quote to stick on the poster. Maybe &quot;dramatic and interesting&quot; is better? &quot;More like a TV movie&quot; is definitely not strong praise.</p> <p>As usual I was more interested in the insight into the filmmaking process than the story itself. A few points about the edit caught my attention:</p> <blockquote> <p>Some of the more interesting unfinished bits were using the Catch Me If You Can soundtrack in several scenes which hadn't had their score recorded yet, and a number of visual effects which weren't finished, including a long shot of a golf course in which the club house at the end of the green was a watermarked stock photo!</p> </blockquote> <p>Having seen this version in July 2019, it felt almost finished, which led me to wonder at the time about when it might get released:</p> <blockquote> <p>Filming finished late last year and at this rate I'd imagine it might come out later this year or early next - it's probably as much to do with scheduling and marketing as it is when the film is actually finished.</p> </blockquote> <p>It actually premiered in 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival (as <em>Ironbark</em>). But that was in January/February of 2020 - and we all know what followed.</p> <p>It was interesting watching the finished trailer for <em>The Courier</em>, and trying to remember what feedback we would have given at the time. I think we found the title <em>Ironbark</em> a hard sell - _The Courier _feels better to me (though quite generic). At the time I wrote that there was &quot;definitely a bit of editing left to do.&quot;</p> <p>But one thing I clearly remember was that the latter part of the film was <em>dark.</em> Gulag / prison dark. Earlier parts had a softly humorous approach at delivery/situations, but the latter act(s) felt completely at odds with that. Possibly intentionally, especially given the true events the film is based on. But it definitely felt jarring.</p> <p>It would be interesting to see the film again in its final edit. Reviews seem to be lukewarm, but roughly in line with my general feeling: interesting story, a bit sloppily/clumsily told, elevated by the presence of a great cast including Benedict Cumberbatch amongst others.</p> Recent Parkruns 2021-10-03T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Victoria Dock, Canons Park, Mile End, Wormwood Scrubs</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> The Age of Innocence - Biffy Clyro's The Vertigo of Bliss turns eighteen 2021-10-01T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><img src="" alt="The cover for Biffy Clyro's The Vertigo of Bliss - with artistic lens flare" />__</p> <p>When I turned 36 recently, I was dimly aware of the symmetry of this being eighteen twice: eighteen years since I turned eighteen. Fortunately I think something distracted me at the time, and I didn't spend too long dwelling on this curious occurrence.</p> <p>I was reminded of it again not long afterwards, however, when I saw that Biffy Clyro's second album <em>The Vertigo of Bliss</em> had just turned eighteen. Golly.</p> <p>There's something about release dates - of films, music or the dates of significant news events and so on - that stick out as milestones, particularly when they are not just in living memory, but are themselves genuinely memorable events in one's life.</p> <p>The release of <em>The Vertigo of Bliss</em> was definitely a memorable event for me.</p> <p>And, as is so often the case with music, listening to that album today provides for a most uncanny time-travelling experience as the memories flood back with each note.</p> <hr /> <p>2003. It's easy to overlook just how long ago 2003 was. I went over my diary entries from earlier in that year, wading through references to seeing Biffy Clyro play live: eight times in total, up to June 2003. In March 2003 I wrote an entry about seeing the band and then <em>getting my photos back a few days later</em>. Boy.</p> <p>The trip down memory lane continues.</p> <p>My first exposure to <em>The Vertigo of Bliss</em> was via a leak. When it was leaked to me, it wasn't through illegal peer-to-peer downloads - was Kazaa the current method of music piracy at the time? - but rather via a CD-R made for me by... Oh, let's call her an <em>industry insider,</em> who knew how much I was obsessed with the band. The CD she'd burned was given to me with strict instructions not to make copies or put it online - and I had no intention to. This was far too precious.</p> <p>Listening to the CD itself was initially quite confusing: to begin with, I was convinced that my friend had got her handwritten tracklisting wrong. I'd heard the couple of singles which had already been released ahead of the album's own release, and the first few seconds of each of those tracks as I eagerly skipped through didn't sound right to me. It turned out the band had recorded new intros to some tracks, and - along with the fact that I had in my hands not just the full track listing, with full titles very few others knew about, but the <em>album itself</em>... God, it was all so exciting.</p> <p>The excitement of possessing something this totemic ahead of time was more than enough for me. I had no desire to share it or risk my friend's confidence in me by copying it. The anticipation for the follow-up to their debut <em>Blackened Sky</em> was high amongst Biffy Clyro's small but fervent fanbase. And, in all honesty, I felt a part enough of that relatively tight-knit community at the time, that I understood how important it was not to share stuff like that. In what was then a reasonably small scene, it would have been pretty obvious where the porous gaps in the defensive wall were, and I definitely didn't want to land anyone in hot water.</p> <hr /> <p>Another similar leak had happened in the earlier run-up to the album's release.</p> <p>After a non-Biffy gig in Islington in January of 2003 (wherever the legendary venue using the 'Marquee' brand was at that given moment in time), the friend I alluded to above and I bumped into <em>her</em> contact on the inside. And he had something exciting in his possession he wanted to share with us: earlier that day he'd been sent the final approved artwork for <em>The Ideal Height</em>, which was to be the lead single from Biffy's eagerly-anticipated second album. And that was pretty exciting.</p> <p>And so he... well, he got out his entire <em>laptop</em>, obviously, because, well, <em>2003</em>, as I keep saying. He then rested the Mac on his knee and logged in, to open the Mail software and bring up the email he'd been sent earlier.</p> <p><a href="">The image</a> (NSFW*) he brought up on his screen was an illustration of a lady in knee-high leather boots and very small pants, provocatively bearing her crotch to the viewer.</p> <p>My friend and I were blown away - this kind of image was just the sort of thing you'd expect someone to excitedly show you on their laptop screen, perhaps, but much less likely the sort of thing you might expect a band to put on the cover of their new single... But as if to prove its legitimacy, there on the image was the band's name, along with the title of the first single off the new album. This was to be the cover of Biffy's new single. Crikey.</p> <p>* It seems silly to mark this as NSFW when I embedded the VoB album cover at the top, but hey.</p> <p>It was amazing for me not just because of the stylistic avenue they were going down - this album and its singles all feature artwork by Italian artist Milo Manara - but because this was the first new art direction I'd seen for a band I'd been deeply into for eighteen months by that point, and so it was fascinating for me to suddenly comprehend that a band could evolve in this way - would they continue to use the same iconic logo, for example? Even seeing the new typeface used on this cover was interesting to me.</p> <p>In retrospect, this kind of stuff is now obvious: the cycle of albums and art directions and logos and 'looks' evolving with each new album... But at the time, Biffy were amongst the first bands I'd actively followed this closely for this amount of time, and so I lapped up every interview and photo shoot and gig that I could.</p> <hr /> <p>But back to the album.</p> <p><em>The Vertigo of Bliss</em> was released on 16 June 2003 and it was pretty huge. Not so much in terms of its impact on the charts or mainstream radio of the time, but at more than an hour long it packed in a vast range of moods and styles and ideas.</p> <p>Where their previous release <em>Blackened Sky</em> had allowed the band to take a collection of songs to a decent studio and a fantastic producer for the first time - resulting in what remains a stunning debut - on this album the band had a million new ideas they wanted to get down, and they were given the space to do so, and some well-placed strings to give those ideas wings.</p> <p>Eighteen years on, the album sounds as crisp and fresh as it ever did. When listening through headphones there are tiny, twinkly little moments stacked cheek-by-jowl with immense walls of sound that still astound me in their vertiginous, cinematic scale.</p> <p><em>Blackened Sky</em> had already captured this element of the band's style well enough, but on <em>The Vertigo of Bliss</em>, this quiet-loud dynamic that Biffy were and are known for was given the range it had been searching for.</p> <hr /> <p>To hear those moments of dynamism today still takes me back to the first time I saw Biffy in May 2001.</p> <p>I was days short of turning sixteen and had gone to see Bristol rockers Sunna at the Mean Fiddler. They'd had some success with a video on MTV2 featuring BEES for their single <em>I'm Not Trading,</em> and a couple of friends and I wanted to go and see them live.</p> <p>When my friend Kelly heard we were going to this gig, she warned us that we would be &quot;killed in the moshpit.&quot; We weren't - but the three bands on the line-up were known for big, heavy riffs and loud guitars, and with a passionate crowd in attendance, there was set to be a special atmosphere.</p> <p>Sunna's two support acts were Londoners Hell Is For Heroes - who would go on to produce a fantastic debut album in <em>Neon Handshake</em> - and Biffy Clyro all the way down from Glasgow.</p> <p>HIFH put on a memorable opening slot - I was quite taken by what I understood to be the shyness of the band's lead singer who pulled his hoodie all the way up, hiding his face, but then erupting into bombastic vocals to match the band's soaring choruses. <em>I Can Climb Mountains</em> remains a strong favourite track of that era.</p> <p>My friends and I were pressed up at the front, and this was by far the closest I'd ever been to a band performing live. As such, I had no idea about any of the stuff that went into live music performances, or even really the instruments used to make the music I enjoyed.</p> <p>From this vantage point at the edge of the stage, we suddenly had this front-row view of all the gear that makes the music happen, and it didn't take me long to spot the connection between Biffy's quiet bits and loud bits - and the pedals Simon Neil was stomping on to make that change happen. Guitar effects pedals. <em>Of course</em>. It was a revelation.</p> <p>So I still hear in those moments of quiet-to-loud on Biffy's early albums that pedal-stomping motion that makes Biffy go loud. And I love it. Takes me right back to the edge of that stage.</p> <p>I picked up a copy of Biffy's first single <em>27</em> on 7&quot; from the merch stand that night (probably from a certain Neil), and the love affair had begun. I can't even really remember Sunna's performance, to be honest. But it was a seminal show for me, and regardless of how longlived my love of Sunna would be, I am just so glad I went and stumbled on Biffy (and HIFH!) way back then.</p> <hr /> <p>I caught a couple of Biffy shows on TV recently.</p> <p>The very fact that twenty five years on from their formation - and twenty since I first saw them play - they are even still performing as a band just fills me with joy every single time. But the added fact that not only are they still together but are now, in fact, <em>huge</em>, is just amazing.</p> <p>In some ways it's inevitable - how could this band have been destined for anything other stadium-sized venues, or headlining international festivals?</p> <p>But in other ways it seems stunning: this shy threesome producing jaggy, snake-like songs with time signatures hard to pick up on, and weird, obtuse lyrics.</p> <p>And yet in the year of our lord 2021 I can turn the TV on and see sets recorded at Reading or Leeds, or <a href="">a headline show from Glasgow</a> - shows at which they thread a fascinating line between songs both brand new and fifteen years old (occasionally more).</p> <p>What's even more satisfying for fans who followed them round the country, often playing shows with the much-beloved Oceansize, is that two of that band are now permanent fixtures in the line-up, adding organs and guitars to the three-piece's sound.</p> <p>But above all, it's still Simon, James and Ben - and Neil behind the scenes. And those time signatures are still weird, and the snakes are still jaggy.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> There aren't any superfluous words: Katherine Mansfield on editing her work 2021-09-28T00:00:00Z <p>I haven't delved into Katherine Mansfield's diaries and letters for <em>years</em>. I used to do it all the time. After mere minutes of paging through <a href="">this collection of letters to her husband John Middleton Murry</a>, I found two very quotable, relatable reflections on the subjects of editing, and of being alone in an old house at night.</p> <p>On having to edit down her latest short story*, <a href="">she writes</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>I've nursed the Epilogue to no purpose. Every time I pick it up and hear “You'll keep it to six,” I <em>can't</em> cut it. To my knowledge there aren't any superfluous words: I mean every line of it. I don't “just ramble on” you know, but this thing happened to just fit six and a half pages. You can't cut it without making an ugly mess somewhere.</p> <p>[...]</p> <p>If you and Wilfrid feel more qualified for the job…. Oh, do by all means—But I'd rather it wasn't there at all than sitting in <em>The Blue Review</em> with a broken nose and one ear as though it had jumped into an editorial dog-fight.</p> </blockquote> <p>And, writing about spending nights alone in their country cottage in Cholesbury, Buckinghamshire, <a href="">she reflects</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>It is raining again to-day, and last night the wind howled and I gloomed and shivered, and heard locks being filed and ladders balanced against windows and footsteps padding upstairs … all the old properties jigged in the old way. I'm a lion all day, darling, but with the last point of daylight I begin to turn into a lamb and by midnight—mon Dieu! by midnight the whole world has turned into a butcher!</p> </blockquote> <p>* The final version of her story - edited, we assume - ended up in the first edition of <a href=""><em>The Blue Review</em></a> (SFW!), occupying five-and-a-bit pages of the magazine. <em>The Blue Review</em> ran for just three issues over the summer of 1913. I kind of love short-run journals like that.</p> Mushrooming 2021-09-27T00:00:00Z <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>Yesterday it was a sense of &quot;maybe this is the last day I can wear my walking sandals?&quot;, and this morning it was very much &quot;thank goodness for my waterproof socks.&quot;</p> <p>I always feel an urge to write when the seasons change - or when compelled by interesting weather, I suppose.</p> <p>Yesterday turned out to be a good day to head out for a mushroom hunt on Hampstead Heath.</p> <p>The weather had been forecast to deteriorate as the day wore on, and with the men's cycling road race world championship on the TV (the ladies' race was on Saturday and a spectacle to the final seconds), I felt no guilt at planning to just veg out in front of the telly. We both felt like a lazy weekend in after a few busy weekends on the trot.</p> <p>But, inevitably, cabin fever began to set in at some point around Sunday lunchtime. And with the weather now looking like being warm and sunny instead of what was forecast, we popped out to the Heath.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>It's mushroom time. We found that our mushroom-sight improved as the hunt went on; the size and locations of the mushrooms we found meant they became more and more obscured the longer we looked.</p> <p>By the end, we were left with that uncanny feeling of having discovered things hidden so well in plain sight that we must surely be missing other glaringly obvious things as we go about our days.</p> <p>Somewhat brilliantly (though a more experienced botanist - fungicist? - might say somewhat <em>obviously</em>), we found that a number of the specific places we had found mushrooms on the Heath this time last year proved to be a fruitful place to check this time round.</p> <p>Now the weather is turning and I am split between mindsets. On the one hand I am thinking of all the summer-related things that still 'need doing' before the days get too short. On the other, the promise of darker evenings and a crisp chill in the air is rather tantalising.</p> Chapters of music consumption 2021-09-27T00:00:00Z <p>Music consumption and discovery across four different trips to New Zealand</p> <p>1999 - manics on the TV, head like a hole, shihad - Shania twain?</p> <p>2002 - unsure - minidisc player and two boxes of MDs - smash mouth - bought some CDs like blink, American pie 2 soundtrack</p> <p>2003/4 - downloading Ryan Adams and Wilco bootlegs from the FTP - MP3 Walkman - difficult to add songs on the road? - bought cd Walkman and small number of CDs including bright eyes and Ryan Adams (and a guitar!)</p> <p>2008 - iPod touch and instant downloads of music from iTunes over wi-fi - Laura marling and Joy Division</p> <hr /> <p>It's the new millennium and the Manic Street Preachers are playing a huge show on live TV to a global audience. It's about midday on January 1st, 2000, and I am in Wellington, New Zealand. I'm on a family holiday, seeing as much of the country as possible, but we're staying with my mum's brother's family for the new year.</p> <p>The computers in our immediate vicinity appear to still be functioning correctly. The news this morning has been reporting similarly anticlimactic results as the clocks have been striking midnight across each timezone in sequence. With New Zealand and other similarly 'Eastern' locales being the first to hit the new day, the new year, the new millennium, all eyes have been watching and waiting to just... see what happens. Mercifully, the world continues to revolve.</p> <p>I'm 14 years old and although back home I'm aware that the Manics are a big band, it's still pretty striking seeing them on TV here on the other side of the world. I've been in NZ by now for about a fortnight and I've gotten used to most of the bigger changes.</p> <p>The time difference is one of the more significant ones. Knowing that while England sleeps, a whole other portion of the planet is going about its day is, and will continue to be, a huge deal in my young understanding of life.</p> 2021-09-21T00:00:00Z <p>Stumbling on a couple of links yesterday I found reference to 'the old computer challenge' set down by Solene Rapenne, and with links to a few blog posts by other participants.</p> <p>I love these sorts of challenges - use an old computer for a short while to see what you can still get done day-to-day, and what limitations you come up against in the process. The biggest problem is usually trying to use the modern web on old hardware or software.</p> <p>It was ironic - or perhaps fitting? - that I had sent this article to my Kindle to read. Thanks to Solene's blog page layout, the article formatted perfectly using my go-to <a href="">'Send To Kindle' tool from</a>.</p> <p>(Most articles are fine - it's a very good tool - but some you can just tell will work extra well as the formatting is already so simple.)</p> <p>When I saw she had linked to a few other pages in her post, I decided to try and load her website in the Kindle's (still!) 'experimental web browser' - and of course it loads perfectly, and quickly.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>It's always a nice mixture of pleasing and amusing when web pages even load properly on this browser. I have occasionally used it to go down a Wikipedia hole, which is just about acceptable (though I bet there is a better mirror of Wikipedia that would format better on such a basic browser), but by and large I just don't use it.</p> <p>But with Solene's website, I was able to quickly jump back and forth between a post and the index, reading her blog entries on various subjects all loosely tied to open source software, the web, computers, and so on.</p> <p>A few things strike me about this collection of posts, beyond (and related to) its readability in such a basic browser: First the general lack of images. Some posts have basic images, but most do not.</p> <p>The formatting is also very basic: section headers to break up the text, unordered lists used where necessary, and crucially a single column of text to be read from top to bottom.</p> <p>Atop all of this is a header which features four links, an 'about me' box, and a post title with metadata.</p> <p>In terms of reading, it's then just a case of tapping a link, reading the post, then tapping the browser's back button to get back to the list of entries. It's simple stuff, but it isn't how I necessarily navigate the web all the time.</p> <p>It calls back to an older way of doing things, and particularly when exploring someone's own web presence, where you sort of enter their website, explore the various rooms/sections, and get to know the author a little, before moving on. The reader can then either bookmark the site to check again later, add an RSS feed to their reader, or perhaps just move on completely: the visit was perfunctory and there is nothing further for the reader here.</p> <p>And this is a way of doing things I've been dabbling with for a while now - seeking out personal websites that I can explore for a while, before moving on, and perhaps making a note (or bookmark, or RSS subscription) to come back to later, to see what they get up to.</p> September! 2021-09-07T00:00:00Z <p>Hello! I haven't written for ages. It's that typical conundrum of when life gets busier, it seems harder to write about - despite having plenty <em>to</em> write about.</p> <p>In the past couple of months I've been busy with a few work projects - summer is a busy time, and August and September is usually busy for all of us, with the added load of an exhibition this year. It was postponed in the early stages of the first lockdown, and had been scheduled for May that year. It will finally go ahead in just over a few days, for the length of September. That's been a lot of work for a number of us at work, as well as our long-suffering and multi-talented designer.</p> <p>The exhibition prep has meant research, writing, editing, image sourcing, image licensing, and layout design. I've enjoyed many of these processes, and it has been particularly enjoyable it being a team effort - lots of rough edges have been refined through iteration. What we are left with is a corpus that I, as I think we all are, am pretty proud of.</p> <p>The main issue now - apart from the actual hanging at the gallery, which is a whole world of little things to get right - is that I am just too close to the project to be unashamedly proud of it. It's hard to emerge from a project like this and want to promote it or talk about. Too much work has gone into the finer details of it to be able to step back and admire the size of the work achieved. I think that will happen once it is hung and mounted and I can literally step back and take it it in</p> <p>Work should wind down ever so slightly towards the end of September and into October - though this natural, cyclical wind down also means time for those projects which were so rudely shoved aside for the meat of the year.</p> <p>We did also manage to get away for a summer holiday last month, to Cyprus for just over a week. When the possibility of flying as double-jabbed adults arose, we booked (surprisingly reasonable) flights and followed all the advice and procedures, and managed to get out to stay with M's parents for a week of food, wine, sunshine, exploring, photography, and just chilling out. It was just the week we needed. I took a lot of photos that I'm really happy with - it's funny how going somewhere exotic and which has reliably good weather just allows for interesting photographs. That's short-sighted of me, I know - I live in London and could go out and find good photographs any day of the year in any conditions. But this trip to Cyprus, photography felt easier.</p> <p>Last time I was in Cyprus I was - and it feels weird to say this, on a number of levels - in a monochrome phase. It was December, so the general environment at home was subdued, grey and a time of shorter days. But somehow my photography around that time was almost exclusively black and white, too. It just suited my mood, or offered a more accurate representation of my mind's eye. And so visiting Cyprus then, over Christmas and at the tail end of the year, I carried my black and white mind's eye with me. It worked: some days were crisp and bright (and pleasantly hot!), and even others that had clouds still lent themselves to nice black and white shots.</p> <p>I took my Minolta 35mm camera then, and a roll of black and white film. But I also shot with my dSLR set to monochrome (in RAW+JPEG though, of course, allowing me to visualise and export in B&amp;W, but also to retain full-colour files to edit later, such is the magic of RAW files). This combination led to some nice contrasty, grainy shots of a country I had never visited before.</p> <p>This time around it was a time for colour: possibly a different mindset, or just going from summer here to Summer-with-a-capital-S there. I had recently worked out how to program my own Canon Picture Style, the sort of 'filters' built in to Canon cameras which lend a certain look to a shot. I'd made one specifically for big, colourful, contrasty, punchy pictures. I called it <strong>big'n'bold</strong>. And it turned out to be a really good one to use for the majority of shots in Cyprus in August. Big, bold blue skies. Crisp white clouds. Oversaturated yellows. Orangey evening skies.</p> <p>It's not the perfect style for every shot: it doesn't render skin tones very successfully, so I had to switch back and forth occasionally. But this wasn't too hard. And, as with the monochrome shots I mentioned above, shooting in RAW+JPEG once again meant I had one 'instant' set of images in one style, mainly for Instagram posts, as well as a backup of all those images which I can spend a bit more time on in Lightroom to create a cohesive set of shots with details tweaked for each image.</p> <p>My one photographic regret in Cyprus this year was not taking my wide-angle lens, the 10-20mm model I picked up earlier this year. In the same was as I fell for the 'nifty' 50mm f1.8 many years ago, and swore by it for most situations, I now find I 'see' in the 10-20mm in a more natural way. So often now I find that my previously widest lens, a 24mm, is not quite wide enough to capture a whole scene, whether in a confined space, or as a streetscape where I want roofs and roads all in one. When I find myself having to take 6-9 shots as a set for later stitching together, I know I am missing a wide angle lens.</p> <p>Of course, luggage was limited, so the bulkier 10-20mm lens stayed at home. As did the Minolta, this time (which, in a nice contrast with the above passages, this time has colour film inside!). But still: I'm very happy with a good load of pictures I took on this trip, and I will enjoy revisiting them in the coming weeks and months, first as objects to edit and refine in Lightroom, and then hopefully in the pages of the inevitable photo book I create.</p> <hr /> <p>I had some other miscellaneous things to cover:</p> <p>I've run my first couple of Parkruns since before the pandemic, and enjoyed them both. The first - the wonderfully flat Victoria Dock route - saw me break my 5k PB by some margin, which felt great. A recent regime of, in July, running every day*, and then in August trying to run in 30c+ temperatures in Cyprus, has given me a basic level of fitness that seems to mean I am finding myself running well with little effort, for which I am hugely thankful.</p> <p>* This silly endeavour was brought on by my pal Sam Bail and I am grateful to her for the nudge to do it. Settling into a rhythm of not thinking 'will I run today?' but 'when shall I fit my run in, today?' was good and felt healthy both physically and mentally. Some days were a drag, but most were good, and some especially so. I covered 200km in a single month, which is huge for me.</p> <p>~*~</p> <p>I have a few draft posts that sit here trembling and unsure of whether or not they will see the light of day. A recent Beau Miles YouTube video in which he shows and describes some unfinished but not meritless videos has inspired me and reminded me of the old adage: the perfect is the enemy of the good. So I may do a drafts roundup.</p> <p>~*~</p> <p>On a not-unrelated note, <a href="">Megan Hallinan</a> recently included a passage in her blog that indicated that, just like everyone, she at times questions the point in writing at all, and even alludes to an alternative timeline in which she simply stops writing. As someone who, without fail, gets something - inspiration, humility, humour, hope - from every single post she publishes, it came as a shock to me that this resource could possibly be finite.</p> <p>Somewhat selfishly, I have carried this point in my head ever since I read it, and am using it as an inspiration to <em>just write</em>, as well as to indirectly tell her how important her blog is to me.</p> <p>~*~</p> <p>As usual, there's a bunch of other stuff I could think to add, but I've hit more than a thousand words (and, unfortunately, so have you), and that feels plenty for now.</p> Streetpass is dead, but what of Bluetooth contact tracing? 2021-07-27T00:00:00Z <p>So <a href="">Streetpass</a> is dead. That much is for sure.</p> <p>Well, it's not - the technology (baked into Nintendo's 2DS and 3DS handheld games consoles) will basically <em>always</em> work. It's just a subset of the wireless radios that are constantly on, chirping an ID, in hopes that another nearby device will receive the ID, then send its own. This handshake then leads to a Streetpass hit, which allows some fun interactions on each user's console later on. This could be added characters in minigames, new high scores to beat or added features within proper full-blown 3DS games, and even sharing some user data like music tastes.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>The fact that Streetpass appears to be <em>dead</em> isn't so much that the technology stopped working, it's that fewer and fewer people now carry a 2DS or 3DS device with them as they go about their day. Well, that and fewer people actually, you know, <em>go about their day</em> these days. There were also centralised WiFi hotspots (Streetpass Relays) that collected banks of Streetpass hits, and then squirted them out to any device that was nearby, thus increasing one's chances of getting some hits. But these are all now offline - the one central part of the system Nintendo can control and ultimately switch off (local device software updates aside). And this combines with the slightly disappointing fact is that the Nintendo Switch, itself a portable games console stuffed with radios, does not have any such feature.</p> <p>So the feature itself now relies on a few remaining daily 2DS/3DS users carrying around their devices in busy places with the WiFi on. With no replacement service on the horizon on later devices, and those numbers of old device users dropping all the time, I'm afraid it's pretty safe to say: Streetpass is dead.</p> <p>The reason I'm writing about this today is I was interested to see <a href="">this Reddit post</a> from a hapless 3DS user who reported that despite a day spent in New York City recently, they received no Streetpass hits. This doesn't surprise me as my own experiences in London (albeit in the before times) showed that I received few hits if any, unless I went to a particularly nerd-friendly environment. Even then it wasn't dozens of hits (the device limits you to ten at a time until you go in and deal with them) but a handful.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- wp:paragraph --><!-- /wp:paragraph --> <p>In November 2019 I visited my first videogame/collectible fair in central London. I can't remember exactly how many Streetpass hits I got that day, but it wasn't loads. It kind of felt like this would be the last best chance to get a decent amount in London, and - with a global pandemic just starting to do some stretches before it headed out shortly afterwards - I guess I was right.</p> <p>Pandemic aside, the comments on <a href="">that reddit post</a>, as well as the subset of comments on <a href="">this article</a> about the reddit post, all point to a general demise in Streetpass activity. So there is definitely a trend of people simply not using 2DS/3DS devices any more - or at least not taking them with them. But what struck me is how many of these comments specifically say they loved Streetpass, but since they stopped getting any hits, they stopped taking their devices outside. Which makes total sense. But please! Continue to take them around with you! I guess you'd just end up with - if any - the same six people in any given city all bumping into each other over and over again. But, ooh, glowing green LED of joy. A nice little dopamine hit.</p> <hr /> <p>Back in 2017, shortly after I bought a 2DS - and longer after the heyday of those devices, and Streetpass itself - <a href="">I wrote about Streetpass</a> and a bit about how it worked. The concept fascinated me, and still does.</p> <p>At the end of my post, I waxed on about the general idea of these sort of nearby radio handshakes:</p> <blockquote> <p>Anyway, the whole concept has got me thinking about near field communications (NFC), local WiFi and Bluetooth handshakes and beacons, mesh networks, and other possibilities with similar technologies.</p> <p>I had some reckons on StreetPass in general, and I have further reckons on the wider concept of device-to-device communications and other potential applications. Watch this space.</p> </blockquote> <p>Watch this space indeed.</p> <p>My reckons at the time (and indeed probably the source of an abandoned draft blog post) were around how Kindles could possibly implement a Streetpass gimmick, flagging up when users matched with others who shared their taste in books. The biggest brick wall I kept coming up against was the privacy implications. Obviously cool to enable you to add someone to GoodReads who shares your interests and passes you by locally - but it would definitely have to be opt-in, and I suppose it borders on a dating app, or at least friend-finding app, and we have Bumble and so on for a similar concept with explicit consent.</p> <p>But all this stuff brings me to the obvious elephant in the room - no one in any of the above comment threads mentioned this! - this technology is now a part of so many people's lives in the form of Bluetooth Low Energy contact tracing.</p> <p>Across the world, and with the help of Google and Android, the devices we carry around with us everywhere have been given this remarkable feature of telling us if we've been in contact with someone for long enough that we might be at risk of contracting a virus from them. And on top of the mere fact of two wireless radios sharing a handshake, there's the added simple-but-cleverness of anonymising all this data while still making it helpful.</p> <p>I'm kind of surprised that the topic of Bluetooth contact tracing apps doesn't now get mentioned in the same breath as Streetpass, so I thought I would pointlessly add to the discourse myself. I just... I honestly expected every second comment to be &quot;lol covid apps are the new streetpass now&quot;, or perhaps &quot;streetpass walked so covid contact tracing apps could run&quot;. But perhaps I've just completely missed the point?</p> <p>Either way, it's pretty remarkable drawing a line from Streetpass to the various Covid contact tracing apps we have today. I'm sure the bones of the Bluetooth contact tracing system existed all along, probably starting with someone's research paper a decade ago, and then being brought to life to fight the pandemic. And possibly it was even dreamt up long before Covid with the specific utility being <em>to one day fight a global pandemic</em>. I'm not sure. But it's still pretty wild to think about. Even regardless of all the issues that have recently come to light of the inevitable inaccuracies of Bluetooth radio signals compared to actually coming into close contact with another human.</p> <p>In the meantime, perhaps Streetpass still has a niche future at videogame conventions and other nerd gatherings. But while the odds of getting a Covid contact tracing hit remain higher than getting a Streetpass hit, I think I'll be giving such events a miss.</p> <hr /> <p>As one final personal radio network device tidbit, I offer you <a href="">this recent LGR video</a> where he and his brother try out the <a href="">Cybiko</a>, a device from 2000 which allowed instant messaging and more between two or more devices connecting via their own ad-hoc wireless network. As a kid who grew up dicking around with walkie-talkies, these digital data devices with their own radios seemed so cool to me.</p> From 2013: A cycle touring #microadventure - Milton Keynes to Fringford by bike 2021-07-26T00:00:00Z <p>It all started with me moving to the reasonably cycle-friendly city of Milton Keynes. Then it was riding to and from work now and again. Then it was commuting by bike every day. And then I would read about cyclists on multi-day or multi-month cycle tours across <a href="">Europe</a> or <a href="">the United States</a>. And it would make me think: I want to give that a go… But in a bite-sized chunk first.</p> <p>And then I discovered some blogs with names like <a href="">Bike Overnights</a>, and others discussing things called <a href="">‘microadventures’</a>. And I would lap up these accounts of simply bugging out by bike for 24 hours or less.</p> <p>No fuss.</p> <p>Not a lot of planning.</p> <p>Just packing the bike up, picking a point on the map, and riding there to spend the night under canvas. And then just riding home the next morning, feeling slightly more at peace with the world.</p> <p>By chance, my bike kind of resembles a touring bike, and it came with a pretty decent pannier rack and bag. So I’ve always thought it would be quite easy to fill the bags with only the gear I’d need for an overnight trip and just head off and do it. Seeing accounts of other people doing the same - their tips, their photographs, their almost universal agreement on the satisfaction such trips bring - it just brought it all into focus. So, last Friday, I went on my own overnight microadventure by bike.</p> <p>Milton Keynes, the city that showed me I could rely on a bike to get myself around, is blessed with a few hundred kilometres of cycle paths. Other cities aren’t so lucky, but rural England also has its fair share of designated cycle routes which follow quiet country lanes and disused tracks. I picked <a href=";lng=-0.8658922890381282&amp;zoom=10&amp;route-type=all-routes&amp;filters=">National Cycle Route 51</a>, partly as it goes right through Milton Keynes, and partly as it heads exactly in the direction I was hoping to go - towards Bicester and Oxford.</p> <p>I used the ever-reliable <a href="">UK Campsite</a> to find a suitable site in that area, and then I packed my bags up for a night’s camping before heading to work as normal on Friday morning. Having picked up some snacks and an up to date OS Landranger map (<a href=";t=OWI2YTA3NjFmNTdkYzA0ZDkzNTE2NDdiOTk3ODY5NDQ2NTU1NGZhYyxiYndodk92bg%3D%3D&amp;b=t%3ARDRJCqsWDHLXvDPsn4cGDw&amp;;m=1&amp;ts=1627304469">sheet 165</a>) for the route at lunchtime, by ten past five I was ready to leave.</p> <p><img src="" alt="image" /></p> <p>I was blessed with perfect weather and a long mid-summer evening. The sun was still fairly high in the evening sky when I left, and the threat of some long-overdue summer storms was way off into the next afternoon.</p> <p>I’d packed light, the only extras on top of my usual commute being a small tent and a few more snacks and water. My daily habit of taking lunch and a change of clothes had made that weight a fair standard to build upon for an overnight microadventure. I still felt slightly sluggish, the bike feeling slightly heavier, but the route I took was smooth and fairly flat.</p> <p><img src="" alt="image" /></p> <p>It wasn’t long before I’d made it out of Milton Keynes and Bletchley and was following an old farm track, Weasel Lane, with the beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside unfolding around me. It was a nice reminder that it’s always there, just a few minutes away, whenever I need it. The secluded track took me past Weasel’s Lodge, a beautiful and remote house recently destroyed by fire.</p> <p><img src="" alt="image" /></p> <p>Gentle undulations in the route gave me one last glimpse of the gleaming city of Milton Keynes as a dot on the horizon. The rough track became a paved farm access road, but I rarely passed anyone, and didn’t see any cars until two occasions when my path crossed some minor roads.</p> <p><img src="" alt="image" /></p> <p>The first town I reached came as a bit of a shock. The quiet farm road merged with a main road, although mercifully it had a dedicated, separate cycle path, and before long I was off the main road again, following a bike path through a residential area towards the centre of Winslow. Suddenly I was spat out onto the high street at something like 6 o’clock and had to navigate my way through a few hundred metres of fairly busy traffic, before I was safely on another quiet residential road and away once more.</p> <p><img src="" alt="image" /></p> <p>I hadn’t left Route 51, but it was a relief to see one of the fish-tail signposts, which can be found along these routes dotted every 10km or so apart. The next part of the route was along country lanes, but I saw so little motor traffic that I virtually had the roads to myself. I rolled through the pretty villages of Verney Junction, Sandhill and Middle Claydon, only occasionally lifting myself out of the saddle to power myself up small hills.</p> <p><img src="" alt="image" /></p> <p>I was then greeted by Steeple Claydon’s tall namesake and treated to a nice fast roll downhill - the kind which you quietly dread when you know you’re returning by the same route the next day.</p> <p>There was much to distract me around this section of the route. A small bunny hopped close to my wheels when I pulled over to inspect a tiny, pretty chapel at Middle Claydon. Soaring Red Kites, so common to this area in recent years, were a wonderful sight - but nothing compared to finally seeing one on a branch of a tree. In the ten years or more I have adored these birds and seen them all over this area, I have never seen one that wasn’t in flight. It looked majestic.</p> <p>The disused railway linking Bletchley and Oxford, and which runs closely along Route 51 here, also showed itself in small clearings and even a level crossing.</p> <p><img src="" alt="image" /></p> <p>I had to stop and marvel at lovely Swanbourne station, which last saw a train in 1968.</p> <p><img src="" alt="image" /></p> <p>The rails continue all along the route, but have mostly been reclaimed by vegetation, except for a small stretch alongside Swanbourne so pristine that you expect the next train shortly.</p> <p>I had dawdled long enough. I had lost some time, and although the sun was still a reassuring couple of hours from setting, I still had a third of so of my trip to ride. Although it was still very hot, the roads were wonderful. Smooth, quiet and gently winding with only a few long, shallow hills to contend with.</p> <p>I whizzed through Twyford and Poundon, noting that the former had a nice-looking pub or two. I rose up alongside rolling fields towards Stratton Audley Park, finding myself distracted once again by the poignant remoteness of a vast stableyard and hall, both several hundred years old - a small reminder of the importance of villages and manors like this in the past as staging posts on the ride to and from London.</p> <p><img src="" alt="image" /></p> <p>From here, a long, slow rise led me towards a crossing of the A4421, the busiest section of my route, and a cause of some concern. As a result of my dawdling, I was crossing this main road at almost 8pm on a Friday evening and, as such, it was a breeze and I didn’t have to wait to cross.</p> <p>I then found myself unexpectedly in the pretty village of Fringford, having taken a turn too early. I was unperturbed, however, as I knew my destination was just on the outskirts of the village, and I would soon arrive.</p> <p><img src="" alt="image" /></p> <p><a href="">Glebe Leisure campsite and caravan park</a> is a large site, with decent, modern facilities. I rode in and parked up in the ‘Rally Field’, passing an elaborate stone monument featuring not only a statue of a child at play but also a sort of windvane construction on top.</p> <p><img src="" alt="image" /></p> <p>Although I was a bit later than I’d planned, I still had plenty of light to set up camp, with the sun just slowly setting at one end of the field. I rang the hosts to get the access code for the toilet/shower block, and was told to leave my payment in an envelope in a safe. There’s something very nice and hands-off about accommodation when you never have to meet the hosts. I’m not ready to go wild-camping on my own just yet, so this felt independent enough, thanks.</p> <p><img src="" alt="image" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="image" /></p> <p>The sun set as I sat rather proudly by my tent and bicycle reading and enjoying a roll. I’d only ridden about 40km, but it felt like I was in another world. The route had been so fascinating and enjoyable that I was thrilled to be heading back the same way the next day.</p> <p>As the sky dimmed and vapour trails provided the only cloud cover, I looked up from my Kindle now and then to see one star appear after another.</p> <p>It was a mild evening, despite the clear skies, and I slept fairly well, not waking till 8am. I might invest in a bike-friendly sleeping mat, but I didn’t miss much else. After a quiet breakfast and a short woodland stroll, I was packed up and on my way home, keen to take a closer look at some of the fascinating locations I’d spotted on my way.</p> <p><em>More photographs from this microadventure can be found <a href="">here</a>, and the details of the route I rode can be found <a href="">here</a>.</em></p> <h2><a href="">A cycle touring #microadventure - Milton Keynes to Fringford by bike</a></h2> Recent radio stuff 2021-07-16T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>- new radios bought - cheap, new, old</p> <ul> <li>Essex Ham studies - do I qualify?</li> <li>ISS repeater via SDR</li> <li>learning about the war through old radio magazines</li> <li>and tracing the history of the clubhouse through old radio magazines</li> </ul> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> A tale of two albums: Gerling's When Young Terrorists Chase The Sun 2021-07-16T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>In September 2001 when Australian band Gerling released their second album, <em>When Young Terrorists Chase the Sun</em>, they would have had no way of knowing that their album's title would join that unhappy bunch of songs, albums and more that had to be tweaked somewhat by the censors as a result of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.</p> <p>In Britain and Japan, amongst others, Gerling's album became, simply, <em>Headzcleaner</em>, joining the ranks of The Strokes, Jimmy Eat World, Wilco, and loads more in the long list of altered titles as a result of the attacks.</p> <p>I'm not going to dwell too much on the whys and wherefores of this name-change; it is what it is. But it's a fantastic album and even after all these years I still find tiny details in this record that I hadn't spotted before. I personally discovered Gerling in the mid-2000s, giving me a number of albums and EPs to delve into, each with its own vibe.</p> <p>Here's a track you can stick on while you read the rest of this post:</p> <p></p> <p>But it's not just the layers and samples and snippets the band put to use all over this ambitious album, but the artwork, too. When I was first mining their back catalogue I stumbled across the fact that <em>Headzcleaner</em> and <em>Terrorists</em> were not different albums, despite having different titles and different front covers.</p> <p>A quick glance at the almost-identical tracklisting confirmed they were basically the same album, but I still grabbed secondhand copies of both because by that point I'd become something of a Gerling collector. I seem to specialise in obsessing over niche bands with deep back catalogues. Gives me something to fill the shelves with.</p> <p>I recently came back to these albums / this album, and wanted to try and unpick any other differences beyond the cover and the title. The tracklisting, as I say, is slightly different between the two: track 3, which on <em>Terrorists</em> is named <em>High Jackers Manual</em> becomes, on <em>Headzcleaner</em>, simply <em>The Manual</em>. Doubly unlucky for Gerling to put out an album in September 2001 with references not just to terrorists, but also to high jacking. Well played, lads.</p> <p>I knew from listening to that song that the lyrics themselves contain a brief shout of 'high jackers!' and I wondered if the actual audio of the album had also been edited - but no.</p> <p>(I gave the songs a brief listen before realising computers are much better at this than me. I used a program called DeltaWave to systematically compare the audio waveforms of the two songs and highlight any differences, but there were none.)</p> <p>I suspect that where the budget for releasing this album extended to a hasty change of title and cover art, editing the audio would have been a step too far, and beyond what the powers-that-be would have required anyway. This was never going to be a chart-bothering record in the UK and elsewhere, so there wouldn't have been much point in such an amount of work.</p> <p>Anyway, I recently pored over the CDs' inlay booklets for the first time in ages and noted more differences than I had remembered there being, and it is _just _interesting enough to me that I figure it might be worth posting on my blog about it, too. Plus, the artwork is just cool enough to take a quick look at anyway.</p> <p>Herewith each element of the album's artwork, compared side-by-side. I was surprised that the internal pages of the inlay booklets were different in both releases aside from one spread, and that the very verbose credits had, if not been re-typed, had certainly been re-set when being pasted in.</p> <p>The credits for the artwork go to The Deli Brothers, and layout to Kelsey Simon of Festival Mushroom Records.</p> <p>(In the following, <em>Headzcleaner</em> is at the top, and <em>Terrorists</em> at the bottom.)</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- wp:paragraph --><!-- /wp:paragraph --> <p>So there you have it: the tale of the two versions of Gerling's <em>When Young Terrorists Chase The Sun</em>, which became <em>Headzcleaner</em> in some territories. That's what you come to this blog for, right? We don't really think about album artwork any more, do we? Not beyond a tiny 600x600 JPEG anyway. So it's nice to flip through a booklet as colourful and creative as the music on the album itself.</p> <p>And remember:</p> <p>Choose your fighter: <em>young terrorists attack</em>, or <em>get up and get activated</em>.</p> Recently 2021-07-04T00:00:00Z <p>A brief round-up to clear the cobwebs:</p> <hr /> <p>Thanks to <a href="">some inspiration from my old friend Sam Bail</a> I've decided to try and run every day in July.</p> <p>Perhaps it was the hashtags or maybe it was just Sam's infectious enthusiasm, but primarily I think it's an acknowledgement that my running form of late has been below the level I would hope to be at during the summer months.</p> <p>So a kick up the bum it is: #31DaysOfRunning / #31DOR and I am not planning to spam all my socials with daily updates, but I will be interested to see how this consistent effort will affect me. And you can <a href="">follow along on Strava</a> if you're interested. I'm also on <a href="">Garmin Connect</a>* but I've seemingly only ever found one friend who uses that?</p> <p>Last summer I got into the habit of running nearly every day, and actually managed to fit in two runs for a number of days. As usual I jump into this stuff with no agenda, goal, or medical advice. I expect to feel pretty tired by the end of it, but I also hope to see an uplift in my general fitness, and perhaps more strength in my leg muscles.</p> <p>The main idea, really, is to get into the habit of running every day. Simple enough, but means that your mindset is not 'shall I go for a run later?' but 'when shall I run today?'</p> <p>* More as a reminder to myself, but potentially helpful to others: For the second time in about 12 months, my Garmin Forerunner 35 managed to corrupt a .FIT file so I could see some of the basic stats of a run but could not sync it. You can plug the device into a computer and get the .FIT file off the watch, but I've struggled both times to find a simple fix for the file - until this time, when I found <a href=""></a> which fixed it perfectly.</p> <p>It seems like the device records a few timestamps which are before or after the previous/next ones, and so the file gets corrupted despite still having rich data for all other timestamps. It would be good if Garmin could ingest that data, ignore say +- 5% 'bad' data, and calculate the route on the good data.</p> <hr /> <p>I led a walking tour this week for work.</p> <p>I chose the subject of life on Hampstead Garden Suburb the first and second world wars, and drew upon eyewitness accounts in the form of letters, diaries and memoirs to try and paint a realistic picture.</p> <p>As usual with these events I let the deadline guide me, meaning that the weeks leading up to the walk were a steady increase in anxiety and mental anguish which was either a background annoyance or genuine terror during which my brain tries to invent ways to get out of having to do it.</p> <p>The walk went fine, of course. It was a well-organised event (no thanks to me!) and the audience were polite and interested, and they responded well to my plea for them to chip in with their own contributions.</p> <p>What really led to my anxiety wasn't the research or the speaking as such but the physicality of leading a walking tour. It's hard to come up with a route that allows a talk to be threaded around it. And as someone who finds this stuff quite difficult, standing up in front of a group of people and basically talking and leading them around for more than an hour is... <em>pretty</em> far outside my comfort zone.</p> <p>Anyway - it went fine, and I'm pretty proud of myself.</p> <p>As a continuation, I'm trying to right the wrongs of me never having learned about the wars in school and have been reading some elementary level stuff on WW2, with WW1 to follow. (I've also read with interest the monthly issues of some British amateur radio magazines in the run-up to September 1939 as the clouds of war close in and make their presence felt throughout the editorial. Collecting the 'final' issues of magazines and other periodicals that suspended their activities during the war would be a pretty fascinating subject.</p> <hr /> <p>I still use my Chromebook regularly - an Asus C223 (codename BABYMEGA*) - which is cheap and nasty but works well enough. I'd already tried running the built-in Linux environment on the device, which was occasionally helpful for tinkering with Linux apps (Audacity and VLC, for example), or for trying out command line...commands... for stuff like a full website site-rip and diagnosing high-CPU processes. Plus it's just always been kinda cool to play with the terminal.</p> <p>* that's honestly the official codename for this device</p> <p>I read with interest that beyond this, you can actually run full Linux distros on Chromebooks, and although I do actually kind of enjoy the 'limitations' of the Chrome OS, I still wanted to give Linux proper a go, to see how it would fare on this very budget, low-spec machine.</p> <p>I got Gallium OS installed without too much issue - the process involves a bit of wiping the device's firmware, and sticking it into developer mode, but as with all these things there are plenty of tutorials that tell you exactly what to do, and forum threads where people who are facing the same issues as you do get answers.</p> <p>Gallium ran nicely, and it was briefly novel to see a new, and full-featured, OS running on the Chromebook. However, going into the process I had seen that two things were listed as 'issues' with my hardware: internal sound, and suspend. The first means that built-in sound simply doesn't work - though it does via Bluetooth or USB devices. And suspend means the 'sleep' function when you shut the Chromebook lid.</p> <p>Both of these are basically deal breakers for me. This cheap laptop has surprisingly decent speakers built in, and I've occasionally used it to watch stuff in bed or even listen to music as I work.</p> <p>And suspend is just too important a feature for a device like this. I basically never reboot this device and it lives in 'sleep' or suspend mode, and is always instantly ready whenever I need to use it. (The battery life is fantastic both in use and when suspended.)</p> <p>So Gallium OS is a no-go on the Asus C223. But it scratched an itch; I used to try installing and dual-booting Linux distros on old computers going back to the early 2000s. It amuses me that even in 2021, the issues I faced were: uncertain compatibility with specific hardware, and <em>still</em> not being able to type, by eye, CLI commands from website tutorials, and then finding it works perfectly when copied and pasted. Plus ça change, etc.</p> <hr /> <p>SPORTS: been watching a lot of it.</p> <p>Inevitably got into the football just like I tend to with international competitions. The cycling has been great so far: it took me a few days into the Tour de France to really grok that this was <em>really</em> the Tour de France, but it already feels like a classic. I'm delighted to see Mark Cavendish's renaissance. Less delighted by the number of crashes early on, but it has made for an interesting shake-up of the general classification.</p> <hr /> <p>Growing a bunch of things in the 'garden'. Tomatoes, chillis, dahlias, and some cute little flowers that I recently made a cutting of and brought into the house to live in a glass of water for more than a week. Cut flowers: the next big thing?</p> <p>Vaguely related: the swifts on our street are just fantastic, especially in the decent weather. Hearing their shrieking cries around the clock is just endlessly lovely, knowing that they're above the roofs just swooping around having a merry old time (I assume).</p> <hr /> <p>I had the bright idea recently that Wordpress (et al) could come up with a tool that hashes the contents of your unposted drafts and checks SEO hits for those keywords, and it could inform a user that, hey, that post in your drafts folder could actually be popular or interesting to people - how about finishing it and publishing it?</p> <p>This thought came about pretty much because on the occasion of the Biffy Clyro album <em>The Vertigo of Bliss</em> turning eighteen years old recently (and me having just turned thirty-six), I proceeded to drink lots of coffee, listen to the album, and punch out about three thousand words and memories.</p> <p>As the coffee wore off, I became entirely convinced that no-one would care about the post, and I just... stopped. And now it's just in the pile of drafts that live forever in my Wordpress install.</p> <hr /> <p>Film photography!</p> <p>I finished off a roll of black and white Ilford XP2 in my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s recently, and sent it off to Take It Easy Lab in Leeds to be developed and scanned. And I'm thrilled with the results.</p> <p>First of all, Take It Easy turned it around in about two days - I posted it earlier this week and had the scans midway through Thursday. Secondly the scans look great. I opted for the mid-range quality level - the lowest is decent enough for social media, and the best is more for large prints. I had a discount code to use, so I gave the middle option a go and they are a great size.</p> <p>But most of all, it showed me that <a href="">the aberrations present on the last film I shot with this camera - Fomapan branded</a> - were an issue with the film stock, and not with the camera itself. Which is a relief. I'll stick the photos up on <a href="">/photography</a> shortly.</p> <p>It all means I am now keener than ever to stick the next roll in - and this time it's colour. I haven't shot colour film in years. And already I can't wait to get the scans back from Take It Easy!</p> <hr /> <p>Digital photography!</p> <p>On a related photographic note, I may write more about this in a dedicated post but: I didn't realise how versatile Canon's Picture Styles could be. They're the 'filters' built in to the camera, and you can set some user-defined ones too. But in the camera menu, the modifications you can make are quite basic, and you can't do a whole lot.</p> <p>I only just realised that there's some free Canon software called Picture Style Editor which lets you do just that, and tweak to a pretty fine degree things like tone curves, and individual colours etc.</p> <p>Until now I had no idea you could do this, and I wasn't able to find a plethora of information about this online - expected thousands of YouTube tutorials like you get for Lightroom - so maybe it isn't well used? Or perhaps it has limitations I haven't yet uncovered and so not many people bother with it.</p> <p>The interface is pretty intuitive and I actually loaded up Lightroom in the background and found an image I'd already edited, and was able to copy by eye the settings I'd used into the Picture Style Editor interface. This has given me a nice, heavy, over saturated and contrasty style which I quite enjoy.</p> <p>The net result is being able to save to the camera some styles that mimic the kind of edits I like to make afterwards - and that means I can now shoot with them as previews in-camera. This has a huge impact on how I 'see' the photo I'm about to take, and it's exciting to have a new way of shooting which helps me better visualise the end result. The other bonus is if shooting in RAW+JPEG then I already have a JPEG ready to share while out and about, but still have a RAW file to tweak later if preferred.</p> Thames Path day five: Oxford to Culham 2021-06-10T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We started walking the Thames Path, a 180-odd mile walk, back in October last year. Travel was just about okay - an island between lockdowns - even if it still felt a bit edgy at times. We did the first four days' worth of the walk in one chunk as it is the more remote part of the walk and travel to and from the Path itself is not easy. This meant we were lucky enough to stay at a number of nice places - both the towns/villages and the accommodations themselves.</p> <p>With this chunk out of the way, and having made it as far as Oxford, we knew that later sections would be much more accessible, enabling us to tackle it in day-long stages.</p> <p>Write-ups of the first four sections are found here: <a href="">Section one from the source at Kemble to Cricklade is here</a>. <a href="">Section two from Cricklade to Lechlade-on-Thames is here</a>. <a href="">Section three from Lechlade-on-Thames to the Rose Revived at Newbridge is here</a>. <a href="">Section four from The Rose Revived at Newbridge to Oxford is here</a>.</p> <p>Read on for section five... Oxford to Culham.</p> <hr /> <p>Returning to Oxford nearly eight months after ending our last section of the Thames Path had that uncanny feeling of it being a totally alien place and yet feeling like it was just yesterday that we left.</p> <p>We've done a few long distance walks before, where we travel to Point A, walk to Point B, then travel home, and then some time later return to Point B to walk on to Point C. This process creates a slightly strange disjointedness - because each journey to and from is different, and yet it is to the same places visited previously. So it was with our return to Oxford and the usual short walk from the station to the last point where we left the main Thames Path last time, so as to create a continuous unbroken walk. Fortunately - and particularly with this walk following a river - this meant the nearest bridge, and a 'proper' start and finish line.</p> <p>The other uncanny thing about starting a walk like this at Oxford is knowing that the ensuing walk would shortly become very remote and rural despite starting at a busy railway station. But first we had some interesting buildings - wharves and warehouses - to pass, which highlighted previous(?) industries along the riverside.</p> <p>The next lot of buildings which we found alongside the river were of a very different nature - boathouses and rowing clubhouses as far as the eye could see. We also inevitably saw a number of rowers, scullers and canoeists on this stretch, bringing a brief flurry of energy and speed to an otherwise sleepy section of the river. This also served to highlight my deep lack of knowledge when it comes to the different names for people on boats as I grasped for the right names and M just looked on, exasperated, she having done rowing on the Thames in uni.</p> <p>Case in point, the first draft of this post used the spelling 'skullers' rather than scullers.</p> <p>From this point on, the riverside was very quiet, and we were very much in bucolic countryside on a stunning day. At many points the air was thick with blossom, and the recent wet weather throughout May followed by the warm sunshine had led to a real flourish of new growth across the board.</p> <p>We paused for a breather at a point just after the impressive Radley College boathouse and noticed damsel flies alighting on the surrounding vegetation, and a number of black-headed gulls swooping fast and low just above the surface of the water, no doubt scooping up whatever tiny flying creatures were enjoying the humid weather. Possibly the aforementioned damsel flies.</p> <p>I like birds like black-headed gulls: you look at this random bird and think to yourself &quot;I don't know what that bird is called, but if I had to rename it, I'd say it sure looks like a black headed gull. I'll google it. Oh. It <em>is</em> a 'black-headed gull'. Turns out.&quot;</p> <hr /> <p>Later, we passed under the Culham railway Bridge, noting that this was not particularly far north of our day's destination of Culham railway station, but the map showed us we had a large curve of river to follow before we would end up there. This was fine by us on two fronts: first, it was a truly glorious day and to be out and about and we were happy for the walk to continue as long as it desired to. And secondly, this loop of river took us through beautiful Abingdon - or Abingdon-on-Thames, to give it the proper name we saw adorning a number of signs. Apparently it was known simply as Abingdon between 1974 and 2012, and my only prior knowledge of the town was by its proximity to Truck Festival which I attended a few times in the mid-2000s, and which took place in a field near Steventon, off the Abingdon road.</p> <p>Abingdon-on-Thames could not possibly have looked more glorious than it did this sunny afternoon. Having crossed the roaring Abingdon weir, and passed adjacent Abingdon Lock, we could see and hear the Saturday afternoon crowds filling Abbey Meadows. From here the river curves slightly towards an attractive stone bridge which spans two channels, and gives access to what is essentially an island in the Thames, home to some pretty parkland, the Nag's Head pub, a boat hire company, and Annie's at the Boathouse, a nice cafe that served us exquisite ice creams which we devoured in the sun overlooking the river.</p> <p>After Cricklade and Lechlade, Abingdon-on-Thames is yet another pretty little place spanning the river, with a stone bridge and church coming into view as you approach. I savour these milestones along the river towards London and look forward to them slowly evolving as we continue along the Thames Path.</p> <p>The remainder of our day's walk led us further around this curve in the river, to a point where we left the Thames briefly, instead walking along a different section of waterway named Culham Cut. Along this stretch we noticed the curious presence of what must be permanent boat moorings - at that time sans boat - where the vegetation had been strimmed back neatly, forming a small path between the edges of fields and the river itself.</p> <p>At Culham Lock, we turned away from the Cut, and headed 'in-land' away from the river, passing the small village of Culham itself, and onwards towards the railway station. This latter part was, as is often unfortunately the case, the least elegant and least enjoyable part of the walk: it took us up to the main road out of Culham and a long, hot stretch of pavement next to a fast road. Thankfully, as this is a well-used route to the station for the nearby European School and various scientific buildings, the road has a decent shared bike/footpath running alongside. It's just a bit close to the fast traffic and you wish there was an alternative path through the adjacent lower-lying fields. The worst part is we will have to retrace our steps along a couple of KMs of this road when we next return to Culham to continue the walk. But we will have another lovely section of riverside walking to look forward to, and we will press on.</p> <p>The good news, if you find yourself waiting for a train at the pretty but isolated Culham station, is that there is a perfectly serviceable pub directly alongside, and if visiting in good weather, their beer garden is pretty and extensive. I couldn't help but want to improve their signage/branding, but a pub's a pub if it serves a cold pint of beer or cider at the end of a long walk.</p> <p>I hope it's not another eight months before our next section of the Thames Path.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> NZ Music Month x National Library of NZ x Flying Nun 2021-05-27T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>May is New Zealand Music Month and it's a good time to shine the spotlight on bands, stories and projects from Aotearoa New Zealand.</p> <p>Admittedly, my obsessive following of NZ music has dwindled in recent years, and my interests are atrophying into pure nostalgia rather than keeping my finger on the pulse of new music. That being said, with the advent of Bandcamp Fridays last year, I did a bit more research (read: listening to the 95bFM Top Ten) which led to some purchases of some pretty bleeding edge stuff.</p> <p>But it paints a certain picture where my only real acknowledgement of NZ Music Month <em>this</em> year has been via some excellent blog posts from the National Library of New Zealand, and which themselves dealt primarily with the preservation and digitisation of the Flying Nun Records archive. But what a fascinating series of posts they are.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Stacks of audio master tapes on a shelf at Nightshift Studios" /></p> <hr /> <p>The first post was <a href="">Flying Nun in the spotlight</a>, which deals with the photographing of the physical objects of the Flying Nun Records collection.</p> <p>The post makes it clear why such a careful record is required for what is not just a musical archive but a physical and visual one, too. But it goes beyond the distinctive artwork and tour posters the indie label became known for: there is a ton of meta art and information embedded in the collection's artefacts that help flesh out the story even further.</p> <p>Objects such as: recording and engineering notes handwritten on master tape sleeves and letters to the pressing plants; Chris Knox doodles <em>everywhere</em>; and extra session information jotted down on scraps of paper that somehow survived the various moves the archive has been subjected to over the years.</p> <p>It also reveals the great breadth of formats the archive encompasses, not just of recording media, but the extra documents, boxes and <em>fluff</em> that goes with it. It's also led to some clever innovations in the equipment they have brought in to enable them to systematically photograph the collection as carefully as possible. (The team photo at the bottom of <a href="">that post</a> is a delight.)</p> <hr /> <p>The second post is <a href="">Flying Nun in the studio</a>, and it talks about Nick Guy's clinical approach to digitising the recordings and preserving the media on which they live - and hopefully will continue to live for as long as possible.</p> <p>Degradation of these media is inevitable, and the goal is to try and create the best digital copy of these recordings - whether demos, live recordings, pressing masters, or multitrack masters - so that they can be remastered or analysed and studied in future, and possibly even be improved by future processing techniques.</p> <p>But this digitisation of the sound itself isn't even as 'simple' as that might sound - the raw audio on those tapes is not all created equally, and the blog post goes into some really interesting detail about the different ways audio can be recorded to different tape stocks, at different speeds, and with different processing or noise reduction techniques applied.</p> <p>And then you get to the knotty problem of finding reliable equipment to play this stuff back on, while praying that the tape itself survives one more playback having been sat spooled up in a cupboard for decades. Tapes often need to be 'baked' to make them more tolerant of being woken from their slumber after all this time.</p> <p>It all creates quite the headache for Nick Guy and his team, but they are doing sterling work. It's so cool knowing that this work is taking place, and it's great to be able to read about the world-class processes and techniques in use here - not to mention the amazing actual documents and recordings they are working with.</p> <hr /> <p>The final(?) post in a trio from the National Library of NZ that has been such a eye-opener this NZ Music Month is <a href="">Download Now... Free!</a>: &quot;Introducing a new born-digital collection that includes music production files and uses digital audio workstation software, which is a first for the Library.&quot;</p> <p>Years ago I remember learning that, via the Rockband/Guitar Hero videogames, the multi-track masters of some classic rock songs are either lost or no longer usable for such multi-stemmed dissection for future use.</p> <p>This blew my mind, but only because I had up till that point naively assumed that all recording sessions were carried out the same way, that the masters were preserved and indexed carefully at the time, and that to remaster those old multitracks (or indeed to use them for a videogame genre that wasn't even dreamt of when the sessions took place) would simply be a case of calling up the label and requesting them. In my mind this also, of course, applied to <em>all</em> sessions, even those done by tiny indie labels on tiny budgets, for songs that later went on to become classics. What a silly notion!</p> <p>When you spend more than a minute or two imagining a real-world case study of what would actually be involved in that process, and all the various people and physical items and locations and contracts and so on involved... you begin to realise how fragile that entire ecosystem is, and how it's frankly miraculous that such retrospective projects are even possible.</p> <p>And so imagine how my mind verily exploded this morning reading the above post, which discusses not the preservation of analogue multi-track master tapes, but digital-native music: stuff created using Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) using plugins, samples, MIDI and so on.</p> <p>We're not simply talking about digital multi-tracked WAV file stems, but purely electronic <em>instructions</em> interpreted by a vast panoply of different software and plugins, each carefully cobbled together at the time of the session, and most likely not carefully documented once the finished product is exported as, at best, a multi-stemmed audio file, but, more likely, a mixed-down stereo master for distribution.</p> <p>Crumbs. What a headache.</p> <p>The above third post will appeal to you if this tangle of new issues sounds interesting to you, and it also features Luke Rowell aka Disasteradio's collaboration with the National Library of NZ on this pioneering project including making available for free remixing and research of his own music projects under a Creative Commons licence.</p> <p>Check out Disasteradio's modern classic Gravy Rainbow below, and then have a delve into this new collection if it's your cuppa tea.</p> <p>[embed]</p> <hr /> <p>The National Library of New Zealand have been smashing stuff like this out of the park for <em>years</em>. Not just the processes and projects they routinely work on, but the sharing of knowledge and best practices that can be carried forward by others around the world. And making it all sound so vibrant and interesting and <em>fun.</em></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Why field recordings? 2021-05-26T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I was recently asked what it is about field recordings that I find so compelling.</p> <ol> <li> <p>when i jumped from music being just this other 'thing' to it being a recording of one specific moment in time (or a mix)</p> </li> <li> <p>to record or document a thing, an example of a thing, or a scene (like photography)</p> </li> <li> <p>to create a snapshot of that specific scene at that specific time (as opposed to an example of it, in 2) - rather like an NFT of the original sound! - like, not recordings of church bells, but recordings of THESE church bells, on that particular day, with whatever environmenttal noise there is around it - not stock images, but a timestamped snapshot (see also stock photography - it does not really matter when it was taken - but obviously it was taken at a particular time, but that is not important to the end result - EXIF stamps are stripped and it becomes a shot of that scene, timeless in a way)</p> </li> </ol> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Using a Chromebook for Wordpress development 2021-05-26T00:00:00Z The Luminaries: Set design 2021-05-26T00:00:00Z <p>As a nice follow</p> How to spend a (winter's) day in Hastings 2021-05-26T00:00:00Z <p>Having just spent a weekend in Hastings, I thought it might be helpful to put down here a few highlights and tips in the hope it might lead you to some nice things to do when visiting Hastings and St Leonards-on-Sea.</p> <p>For us, a visit to Hastings which includes Saturday morning has to include Parkrun. This is such a great volunteer-led event and I forget that it is not more well-known outside of those people who run for ennjoyment.</p> Google Play Music and MiniDisc 2021-05-26T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Google Play Music was recently, like a few other beloved-by-few Google products, shut down - or rather, transferred over to YouTube Music which is a vaguely related service but with very different features and priorities.</p> <p>Google Play Music (GPM) wasn't a service I used constantly, but it had a couple of very useful features which kept me coming back, and helped me hold it in high regard (and, to come to take it for granted). At its heart, GPM was two things: a streaming service one could subscribe to and listen to music not already owned - like Spotify and others. But it was also a cloud-hosted local music player - much like iTunes Match, GPM allowed the user to upload their music library to Google's cloud servers and then stream or sync music on the go.</p> <p>It's important when talking about this specific library/iTunes Match feature to consider the landscape of music streaming and ownership at that time (by which I mean anything from 2010-2020 I guess). This kind of feature - where a big tech giant allows you to upload your music library (MP3 files, basically), and then enables you to stream them remotely - is really quite a weird one. Weirder still, iTunes (for sure) and GPM (I think) also did some quite strange voodoo on these files: if they detected (whether via waveform matching or file metadata I'm unsure) that you had uploaded, say, a 112kbps version of a song that they happened to also hold in their main streaming library, the version held in your 'uploaded' library would magically <em>become</em> their higher-bitrate version. The fact that you could then 're-download' 'your own' tracks meant that you could, in theory, upload your awful early-2000s 96kbps Napster/KaZaA/whatever downloads, and then be presented with the opportunity to download the same tracks at a quality deemed worth paying for by Apple, Google, etc. And yet if you uploaded something they didn't hold in their collection, they would host your weird, unique file for you, and it would all just be there in this library accessible wherever they had apps or web apps for it.</p> <p>It was bizarre.</p> <p>Anyway, I just felt that feature needed explaining in case it wasn't one used by many. It was very much a product of its time: that middle ground between people having huge, local digital collections of music, and companies offering their own much vaster collections via subscription. iTunes Match I think had some legacy, grandfathered in annual fee of about £21 to use this local/remote library, but Google offered the same service <em>for free</em>. Mad.</p> <p>And so at some point I just uploaded my entire warts-and-all collection of music to GPM and got used to being able to occasionally download an album or two in a way that was much more convenient than syncing a device to a computer. My no-longer-needed iTunes library sat dormant on an external hard drive, and my go-to for music became first Spotify, and then for anything not represented there, I'd jump into GPM and grab that weird CD-R-only release of live Youthmovies tracks, or the b-side from the Japanese single release of that Ryan Adams song - or whatever.</p> <p>But wait. I've completely buried the absolute BEST feature of GPM using this weird setup of <em>your music</em> and <em>their cloud magic</em>. GPM allowed you to create instant playlists based on a single song. You could start it off and it would quickly create a 25-song playlist (refreshable to add a further 25, and so on) of tracks related to the first seed track. I know what you're thinking: all streaming services do this in some form or other. But no - GPM did this for free users, by necessity, using <em>only</em> the songs in your library! Which is brilliant!</p> <p>Sometimes, of course, you want to start with the familiar and be gently taken off course to discover new and wondrous music. But sometimes? Sometimes you just want a reassuring mix of songs you know well, and not just your entire library on shuffle. And GPM did this BRILLIANTLY. Instant mixes of obscure Australian indie would somehow knowto include other tracks by bands I couldn't even tell you were related, but the songs worked beautifully together. It would mix different bands from different genres but find songs that complemented each other. It was basically magic. I can only assume it was another example of <em>Google is good at search</em>. As I say, this feature was not unique to Google - but the way it would draw only from songs you had uploaded (again, this was a necessary by-product of not being a subscriber), meant that it applied its very clever playlist-generating algorithms to the songs you already knew and loved.</p> <p>And why am I talking in the past tense? Because GPM is dead. It has shuffled off one mortal coil and onto another prospective one (who knows when Google will kill YouTube Music). I've had a play - Google made it 'easy' to transfer from one service to the other, but this one feature of baking playlists based only on songs you own, does not seem to be possible in YTM. It acts more like other streaming music services where it will weave in songs from their library - and if you're not a subscriber, this means ads. And even if you <em>are</em> a subscriber, there doesn't seem to be a way to limit this to your own library.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Field Recording workshop 2021-05-26T00:00:00Z Coast to coast radio 2021-05-26T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I recently got into a conversation with someone on the subject of differences between radio coverage in the UK and the US. We were talking widely about emergency and defence systems that use radio waves, and it reminded me of my weird fascination with the use of AM radio in countries far larger than the UK.</p> <p>We use AM (medium wave) in the UK - still do. There are not a vast number of stations still broadcasting on it, but there are some. Mostly talk-based, but curiously a few carry music on a medium which is not entirely ideal for it.</p> <p>As Transmission Zero writes:</p> <blockquote> <p>Although AM radio is considered to be of inferior quality to that offered by FM radio, DAB, and the internet, the LW and MW radio bands are still full of radio stations.</p> </blockquote> <p>So</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> All aboard the ham train 2021-05-26T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Learning amateur radio</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2021 weeks fourteen and fifteen 2021-05-26T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>robins</p> <p>recent website admin work - quick update for one, some downtime for VWSGB, and slow new website for KMS</p> <p>Saal Digital versus Blurb</p> <p>Pottery Throw down</p> <p>Climbing</p> <p>pub?</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Runblings - an audio narrative of a cross-country run 2021-05-23T00:00:00Z <pre><code>Runblings, 19 May 2021 [MP3] Amersham, UK | Moto G7 Power | 30 May 2020 | 18m08s </code></pre> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>A few days ago I went for a run in Amersham, following the route of my old school sponsored walk. It was a step back in time for me, retracing a route I haven't walked in full for probably twenty five years, and even more familiar bits of it I haven't done for a decade or more.</p> <p>What prompted me to <em>run</em> it was knowing that the distance was something like 9km - a distance I can comfortably run - and that I now have decent trail running shoes, which would suit the kind of terrain of the route (particularly after rain).</p> <p>I had a go at recording myself narrating my own progress around the course, and I should say that this is heavily inspired by the lovely Radio 4 show <a href=""><em>Ramblings</em></a>* with Clare Balding. Clare obviously walks with another person and it's more of an interview, where my attempt is just me talking to myself. But perhaps it is of interest?</p> <p>* hence the stupid name of this post</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I recorded it using a budget Android handset, rather than my Tascam DR-05, which is a much higher quality device, records in stereo, and has a decent wind shield. So, the quality of the audio of the above is relatively poor - but I think it is listenable. And much like the old adage that 'the best camera is the one you have with you at the time', so it goes with audio devices too.</p> <p>I'd like to do more of these sorts of things in future. Possibly not while running, but a nice narrated walk would be fun I think, with more focus on incorporating field recordings and general ambience. A kind of 'experience this place with me' sort of recording.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> Weak notes for mid-May 2021 2021-05-12T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Here are some weak notes, instead of weeknotes. <a href="">Do you see</a>? I'll not bother to try and catch up on the weeks I've missed. They've been and gone. What's been happening lately?</p> <p><strong>Photos!</strong></p> <p>I spent some of my enforced self-isolation editing some old photos from the past decade or so, partly to breathe new life into old photos that would otherwise languish on my hard drives, and partly to brush up on some Lightroom techniques I want to be more confident with.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I have... <em>enough</em> photos now, that I can sort of pick a general assortment from my archive to just work on a particular selection based on a theme or mood, and that's so cool. The process of finding those photos is actually a bit easier than I would have expected - I'm either searching chronologically for a particular event or trip, or I'm searching Google Photos for 'fog' or 'orange' or 'guitarist' or whatever. (I have basically my entire photo archive in Google Photos partly as a low-res backup, and partly to leverage the insanely good search algorithms.) These searches do mean I then need to identify an image's filename or date, so that I can re-find it in Lightroom. But that's not so difficult. It would be cool to squirt Google Photos' metadata findings into the actual metadata or the master images themselves which Lightroom could then search. But still - this is a workable solution.</p> <p>I've not decided yet if this is to be a new, ongoing practice, or whether to call the current crop a set and move on. Certainly I am still taking new pictures and will continue trying to post those in the usual places. But <a href="">the current set of re-edits is available here</a>.</p> <p><strong>Robins!</strong></p> <p>Robin activities continue, and the DIY trailcam that monitors the bird feeder continues to work reliably, with the Moto G4 cameraphone at the heart of it continuing to give really surprisingly decent and detailed close-up photos. The birds' activities have shifted in the last week or so. Last time I wrote, I think we had the three babies bossing their parents around, crying out to be fed, and then one or two of them feeding themselves but still squeaping for attention occasionally.</p> <p>More recently, the activities have continued to change: the parents have not been seen for weeks now (almost), which is odd, but I think they are nesting and hatching a second brood somewhere. Hopefully we will see new babies in a month or so. And the babies are now very quiet and jumpy and stealthy. My trailcam catches one or possibly two of the three babies coming to the feeder regularly. Honestly, it could be all three - they're surprisingly hard to tell apart even with their individual new growth of adult red breast feathers, which change almost daily.</p> <p>And to bring you completely up to date, yesterday was the first morning I woke to find <em>no notifications</em> on my phone, meaning no sightings of any birds that morning. Normally there is a flurry of activity between sunrise and the time I wake up. This lack of activity was unprecedented and, naturally, a bit worrying. But a baby appeared mid-morning, showing its face a few more times in the day, but nowhere near as active as it had been. Meanwhile, M thinks she heard it singing once - a far cry (!) from the plaintive squeepings we are so used to hearing when they were dependant babies.</p> <p>And then this morning, no sign of the baby on the early morning trailcam shots - but an adult! For the first time in weeks. And possibly a different adult than the last lot? Only one or two sightings today - and to confirm that it's not a very advanced adolescent, I did see the baby separately at other times today - but again, far less than normal. So things are changing...</p> <p><strong>Websites!</strong></p> <p>I considered having another go at the latest <a href="">Sunday Sites</a> prompt, but once again bottled it.</p> <p>The prompt was weather, and I had this neat idea of a screen resembling the inside wall of a room, in the centre of which would be a blind/curtains. When opened, the view out of the &quot;window&quot; would be either an image/video of real weather conditions, or animated ASCII art resembling some weather. (M also suggested using a source of public domain artworks that represent weather, which would be very smart; you could also grab such Creative Commons content from Flickr as well.) Closing and re-opening the curtains/blind would reveal a different weather pattern, refreshing the frame each time.</p> <p>This concept reminded me that when I occasionally sit down to think of standalone web projects, they are often skeuomorphic in attempting to resemble a real-world object - for example this project from 2010 I did for uni: <a href="">an instruction manual for an SLR camera</a>. For this reason - and my woefully lacking web design skills - these projects basically never escape the pages of my notebook. Thankfully, not everyone is as non-committal as me, and the examples of the sites that other Sunday Sites participants created from that prompt are, as ever, fun to look through.</p> <p>Fortunately, one project which has - finally! - made it into the real world is <a href="">the refreshed website for the Katherine Mansfield Society</a>.</p> <p>I've been looking after the web admin for the KMS for... god, a lot of years now. A decade or so? But when I initially took it over, my main role was to upload content to the existing CMS. This then evolved over time to me taking over the hosting of the website, and looking after the domain as well. When I took over the hosting, the previous webmaster kindly ported the Silverstripe-based CMS/database over to the new host (as they were removing themselves from involvement with the KMS website), leaving me in charge of the whole thing.</p> <p>Ever since then, it has long been my intention to create a new Wordpress-based website for the KMS, porting over some content, but keeping the new site lean and fresh. The old website was absolutely packed full of good content, but in quite unusual formats, structures and hierarchies. And the tricky part was that the Silverstripe install was getting more and more out of date as the years went on. I didn't have the knowledge to keep Silverstripe up to date - I can just about do a Wordpress site - and I was really concerned it would one day just break. It was a toss-up between me trying to update it or just leaving it as it was for as long as possible. Both routes would inevitably lead to the site breaking beyond repair one day. Fortunately, that never happened, and the CMS puttered on happily, if clunkily, well into 2021, albeit on a very old version of PHP.</p> <p>I have therefore done a full site-rip of the old site so it can continue to be <a href="">hosted as a complete archive</a>. It's not the ideal solution, but there's just too much good content that it would a) take forever to manually port it over to the new site, and b) be a terrible shame for it to just disappear overnight. There's work to be done - a bunch of redirects to be set up - but I'm happy with this compromise.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the new site is fairly bare bones at the moment. I dragged my heals a bit on this project as it was all being done in my spare time, but we at least have all the sections we want it to initially have, and relevant content has been created or ported across. Next steps include adding more flesh to the bones, and then stepping back to refine the site's design with fresh eyes with more content in place. The mobile-sized home page doesn't look great, to my eyes, although I am perfectly happy with the responsive layout I'm using. And then there's a bunch of back-end stuff to implement and tweak, and user accounts to be set up, so that KMS folks can edit pages easily.</p> <p>So, it's taken a while to get here: in some ways a number of years of good intentions, and in other ways about seven months of sporadic building and iterating. And - in the best way (e.g. from the perspective of the site's users) - only about twenty minutes of downtime between the old site and the new, which is about as good as I could have hoped for. Onwards.</p> <p><strong>Radios!</strong></p> <p>More on this in future I'm sure, but I continue to tinker with radios of various flavours in my spare time. Whether it's scanning the shortwave bands for weak signals, catching up with London pirate FM stations, finding decent 'local' stations to stream while playing <em>American Truck Simulator</em>, or hopping around <a href="">a web-based SDR from another location</a>, I'm often playing with radios, or learning about its history and development.</p> <p>Some recent prompts have led to me picking up a cheap Baofeng walkie-talkie style radio to see what it can do, and I've also taken the first steps towards studying for the Foundation amateur radio licence. In all honesty I don't know how much I want to pursue being a ham, and I am currently apprehensive about ever actually transmitting via amateur radio. But at the same time, the medium interests me, and always has done, and it feels like there's no great harm in studying for the licence, and then probably even taking the test to get a licence, as much for the education, and then seeing where it takes me.</p> <p>I haven't studied for a specific test in ages - most of my self-taught learning (e.g. web design, above) involves me trying to muddle out a problem, and spending far more time googling things than actually making much progress. This is a fine form of self-educating, but I do also miss studying a specific syllabus and taking a test at the end of it. So I figured studying for an amateur radio licence might be a fun activity and a way to test myself, both literally and figuratively.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> OPML files of yesteryear (audio post) 2021-05-10T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This is a bit of an experiment, so please bear with me - or, if it's not your cup of tea please move right along.</p> <p><a href="">Roy Tang</a> recently <a href="">wrote</a> a <a href="">couple</a> of posts looking back at some of the blogs he used to follow a few years ago, to see which ones were still going and which had disappeared.</p> <p>I found this really interesting, and it reminded me that something I had been meaning to do for a while was to load up an old .OPML* file and add it to a modern RSS feed reader and see what blogs I used to follow on a given date, compared with those I follow now.</p> <p>* this is the format of file you get when you export an RSS feed reader's list of blogs - it's a nice transferable file which is pretty human readable, but it's also easy to just take it from one feed reader to another. I was often in the habit of changing feed readers, so I also got into the habit of making periodic backups of these small files.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Roy presented his findings in a neat list of blogs and some narrative. Mine were a bit busier, and I honestly didn't have the patience to type as much as I would've needed to. So I decided to just talk for half an hour instead.</p> <p>Here's me loading up an .OPML file from 2010, discussing the kinds of blogs I followed then, and what has happened to some of them:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Just a note 2021-05-06T00:00:00Z <p>The funny thing about establishing a routine - setting a precedent, if you will - is that it sets a bar and an expectation of oneself. And when the outcome of that routine is in the public domain - like a blog - people will (hopefully) get attuned to that routine or rhythm, and then (possibly) those same people will notice when the routine is interrupted or paused.</p> <p>I remain in awe of the folks I follow who are so good at maintaining the routines they set for themselves.</p> <p>Thank you to those of you who reached out to say hello, to check all was well, or to send a little update relating back to a previous discussion. I'm really grateful that a) I have friends who noticed I'd strayed from the blogging path, and b) who wouldn't think twice about dropping me a line to check in on me.</p> <hr /> <p>I realise that I have a circle of pals who follow me on Twitter and - poor sods - get multiple-times-daily updates on my thoughts and movements, and that I have an overlapping but separate group of friends who follow me pretty much exclusively via my blog. Both forms are reflections of the same person, but have very different cadences (and probably voices).</p> <hr /> <p>With all that said, the past few weeks have been simultaneously busy (with Life Stuff), and glacially unproductive (with ten days' mandatory self-isolation after an NHS covid app exposure alert). The former provides much to write about and no time to do so; the latter plenty of time to write, but little to say. That said, I did try to keep a roughly daily diary of my self-isolation, but that sort of life-writing falls more squarely into the private diary bracket than the public blog. Those lines blur quite often, however.</p> <hr /> <p>I thought recently, that if I were a) more technically minded and b) a psychopath, I would like to write a parsing tool which surfaces blog posts where I've written &quot;...of which more in a later post&quot; (or similar), or emails (etc.) where I've written &quot;I'll keep you posted!&quot;. These could serve as writing prompts.</p> <p>As with so many of these things, it's not the prompts I'm lacking - it's that magnets-attracting-or-repelling sensation I get, where sometimes an idea pops into my head and I simply must sit down and send an hour hammering out words, or sometimes I think &quot;I should write about that*&quot;, but never do.</p> <p>* where &quot;write about that&quot; means as much &quot;tell my friends&quot; as it does &quot;spend the time turning an experience or notion into words for the practice of doing so&quot;.</p> <p>Sometimes those magnets snap together - usually after a decent coffee - but sometimes they just grumpily shrug away from each other, an idea completely adrift from anything to show for it.</p> <hr /> <p>I have recently started a few embryonic blog posts on whatever device or writing material was nearest at the time the inspiration struck, but I often find it so difficult to develop those ideas if the inspiration flies away before the words finish coming. The perfect is the enemy of the good, as an ex-colleague* used to say so often - and he was right, of course, and far better for me to set <em>something</em> down than nothing at all.</p> <p>* this ex-colleague also recently reached out to say hello as a result of reading this blog while laid up recovering from a medical procedure, which was a pleasant surprise! (The catch-up, not the medical procedure.)</p> <hr /> <p>Anyway, this is just a note, like those cute little note cards often say, to say hello and I am fine and normal service will (I regret to inform you) be restored shortly.</p> <p>If you're after something to read, <a href="">my buddy Matthew's weekly newsletter*</a> always contains several articles I want to read, along with just-the-right-amount of commentary to sell to me why I should click through. Or, where the clickthru is inevitable, to reveal the depths of both mine and Matthew's obsession with a niche subject, which is always fun.</p> <p>* it can be a blog if you want it to. It has an index page, and I bet there's an RSS feed in there somewhere.</p> <p>On the telly we've been enjoying the <em>Great Pottery Throwdown</em> series past and recent - the emotional reactions of judge Keith are one of the loveliest things to witness. And we've been rinsing through Rose Matafeo's <em>Starstruck</em> which I knew I'd enjoy, but it's still a rather nice surprise.</p> <p>And <a href="">that <em>New Yorker</em> interview with <em>Simpsons</em> writer John Swartzwelder</a> is as great as everyone says - although you probably need to already be a fan of his sense of humour to want to read this, one of the only interviews he's ever given.</p> <p>Cheerio, and thanks.</p> 2021 week thirteen 2021-04-05T00:00:00Z <p>It would be week thirteen where I slip off the wagon.</p> <p>More to come as I remember it.</p> <ul> <li><a href="">NTS</a> put out <a href="">a call for longform field recordings</a> for.... some sort of project. This encouraged me to make some new ones of very boring soundscapes around me, but it also encouraged me to upload a few older longform recordings to <a href="">/audio</a> which had thus far only gone onto Soundcloud or were languishing on my hard drive.</li> <li>went into the office for a bit - had some IT-related things to do, and sort of fell into the rhythm of being there all morning. Was fine, but is increasingly odd. The main thing is learning how much of our work can be done from anywhere. And that it's going to take a long time to re-learn office-based routines.</li> <li>attended(???) a <a href="">Heritage Digital</a> webinar on a variety of subjects. It was very well presented and programmed, and as is often the case with conferences and seminars, it left me scribbling down ideas and feeling like I'd either learned a lot, or it had inspired several chains of thought. Grateful for that mind-stir.</li> <li>Here are some things I saw this week:</li> </ul> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2021 week twelve 2021-03-29T00:00:00Z <p>Feels like we've crossed a watershed of sorts this week: the clocks went forward, 12 weeks into 2021, just shy of 90 days, and lockdown restrictions changed for much (all?) of the UK around this weekend. Spring also seems to be here, with blossom and birds all over the shop. But the weather continues to be changeable, with cold winds battling the warmth of the sun. I managed to eat my lunch outside in the park one day this week. It all feels very alive.</p> <p>I found the lockdown anniversary hit me in an unexpected way. In a morbid sense, I suspect it was the way it was presented to me by the media, with solemn tones and a minute's silence* and so on - in so many ways we are conditioned to find this treatment affecting.</p> <p>Rightly so, of course - these things demand reverence and respect. I took a few minutes away from my work day to reflect, and found everything equally sad and frustrating. But I have a lot to be thankful for over that period as well. As much as it may make me feel guilty to admit as much, it is unhelpful to simply dwell on the - plentiful - negative sides of it, and I can't help but also reflect on the positives.</p> <p>* Hearing, or not, a minute's silence play out on broadcast radio is still deeply affecting. It gets me when it's shown on TV in a packed sports stadium too (remember those?), but hearing Radio 4 fall silent for a minute is quite uncanny.</p> <p>On the subject of radio, I spent much of this week bouncing between BBC 6 Music and Boom Radio in the daytime. We listen to 6 Music in the mornings every day, waking up with Chris Hawkins' mix of nostalgic and new music and his trademark silly wit. But I don't actually listen to much else on 6 Music at the moment, so it was nice to see what goes out during the day.</p> <p>When I wasn't listening to 6, I was trying out Boom Radio, which launched fairly recently. It is, as the name implies, radio for 'boomers', and has a number of household name deejays from the glory days of radio and so on. But it is a much more refreshing listen than purely nostalgic re-launches of stations like Radio Caroline, with a surprisingly varied playlist (though nothing new, obviously), and pleasant chat.</p> <p>Boom Radio also seems to be pioneering (or I am out of touch) a kind of radio advertising that is more akin to podcasts, with the host waxing advertorial for a few minutes. Ironically, and to the station's credit, this is easier to tune out, and far less jarring than the way most commercial stations go to ad breaks playing the same few ads - and melodies - every fifteen minutes.</p> <p>I've been listening to 'the radio' via a Google Home Mini, and jumping in and out of the two stations described above requires a little care. I can say &quot;Hey Google, stream BBC 6 Music&quot; and this works fine. I learned long ago that saying &quot;play BBC 6 music&quot; instead invokes a Spotify playlist with a similar title; it is the word 'stream' that is important here.</p> <p>Boom Radio via Google Home Mini is a trickier affair. Asking it to &quot;stream Boom Radio&quot; seems to work, but you quickly get a recorded message along the lines of &quot;this stream is not available in your region&quot;, which actually refers to, I think, a Canadian station. But it's hard to know what has gone wrong just from the audio itself. It turns out, Boom have come up with a workaround that means you need to say, &quot;Hey Google, talk to Boom Radio&quot;, which results in quite a weird mode being entered, with a different confirmation jingle, and a different, much more mechanical voice confirming the command where each syllable is synthetically mashed up against the last and no one word is fully played out. Kind of like an audio version of a newspaper cutting ransom note. All a bit odd.</p> <p>I think the &quot;talk to&quot; command is more commonly used by online ordering services, where you &quot;talk to&quot; Starbucks or Pizza Hut, and the idea is that the device goes into a sort of two way conversation mode where it can ask for more information, rather than the pure A-B &quot;hey Google, do this&quot; setup.</p> <p>So anyway, apart from occasionally making me question why a 35 year old is enjoying a station clearly meant for people nearly double that age, it's been a nice diversion.</p> <p>Another nice diversion (and, again, probably one more commonly enjoyed by people twice my age) has been the robin(s) on the bird feeder. Now that I have a reasonably reliable 'trail cam' setup using an old phone, I get much more holistic data about the robin's movements and times. I was already vaguely aware of how often he feeds, and how sometimes there is a flurry of activity, with several visits over a few minutes, and other blocks of time with no visits at all. But what has been by far the most fascinating is how early he starts: consistently, the first recorded visit has been between 0300-0330 every morning. Very much still dark then (though London residential street dark, so not that dark).</p> <p>I suspected this as I had woken to the sound once or twice at that time, but from checking the pictures and logs, it seems this is normal, daily behaviour. It's fascinating. He also seems to stop at about 1900 every evening, though sometimes a little earlier. It's comforting to know that, despite a frenzy of activity lasting from before dawn until after sunset, there is a block of about 7-8 hours where he is presumably tucked up and fast asleep.</p> <p>It's interesting, though not too surprising, to note that having changed the clocks for British Summer Time, his activity has also 'shifted' by an hour - e.g. his schedule has not changed at all, and is led by the length of the natural day.</p> <p>On Saturday we took a walk which included a spell on a picnic blanket in a park, lots of photography, and discovery of an historic relic: on the Hampstead Heath Extension between Wildwood Road and Hampstead Way, I saw a piece of glass in the mud near a pond. At first it was so clean and on the surface that I assumed it could only be new, but the fact it had embossed letters meant I wanted to take a look. It was the base of a glass bottle, by Heinz, and I gave it a quick scrub before doing some preliminary Googling which gave me enough information that meant it was worth wrapping in tissue and bringing home for a closer look.</p> <p>If I'm to believe this <a href="">one particular source</a>, then the ketchup bottle this belonged to would appear to date from about 1919-1928, having been manufactured in Illinois. Which is great! And, actually, surprisingly consistent with the history of development of the area: the houses in the immediate vicinity are also from that period. Before that time, the area was just farmland. The location of this object near a natural waterway on the Heath could imply it was a piece of discarded picnic rubbish, or possibly it has been carried along by water from a location originally nearer the residential streets around that part of the Heath.</p> <p>On Sunday, I went for a run down towards Television Centre, doing a lap of the circular building itself. I felt uninspired looking for a running route, so I just picked a landmark a decent distance away to run to and from.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I may not make the most of living in London much of the time, but I get a kick out of being able to run or cycle to landmarks and locations that seem so significant in national or global history, particularly at a time when travel to these places is so unattainable for so many.</p> <p>I don't think I realised that part of the building is still used for television studios, but the perimeter road I ran along was ambiguous about whether or not it was open to the public and I think I ran past an open stage door at one point. But most of the building seems residential, though it naturally has that air of 'private public space' or perhaps 'public private space' that is so common around London now, with beautiful landscaped 'public' areas in which to walk, gather and enjoy, but flanked by people in high-viz jackets, and festooned with branded signs making it very clear you are on someone else's land.</p> <p>I enjoyed this run while listening to a compilation of Kenny Everett recordings, which was a nice bit of surreal serendipity. It left me feeling like I want to try making 'live radio' again (even just as a local 'live' recording) - something I've not done since All FM with John back in Manchester. And even then, it was almost always John who drove the desk for our shows, as the fear of something going technically wrong with a live broadcast made me pretty anxious. But I enjoy the idea of controlling multiple sound sources and levels from one place, and of course introducing good music to people who want to hear it.</p> <p>What a wonderful opportunity that was.</p> <p>The natural conclusion to all this is, of course, John and I washing up on some millennial nostalgic radio station in a few years' time playing early 2000s math-rock to a dwindling audience, rehashing the catchphrases of our youth, asking our listeners if they remember MSN Messenger.</p> 2021 week eleven 2021-03-22T00:00:00Z <p>A more upbeat week than the last. Where in that week I was beset by a mental fug that I found hard to shift, this week I was running on the positive vibes from good weekend chats and a determinedly more positive mental attitude towards work. It helped a lot.</p> <p>What has also helped my mood this week is setting up an old Android phone as a wildlife camera pointed at the bird feeder frequented by our local robin. It's fun taking proper photos of the robin, but it's been especially gratifying being able to see motion-detected candid snapshots of the robin without disturbing him* while he eats.</p> <p>* I say <em>him</em> both unknowingly (apparently it is nigh-on impossible to sex a robin**) as well as knowingly (as I am pretty sure there are babies nearby being tended to by mother while father brings in food</p> <p>** stop sniggering at the back</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>It's satisfying enough being able to use an old Android phone for this new purpose - it's the Moto G4 that I have already previously used as a handlebar-mounted bike GPS - but the quality of some of the shots I can get is really amazing. The sharpness reveals some amazing details in the feathers, and in one shot I'm pretty sure I can see a bug he's caught - nice to know he's getting live food as well as the 'buggy nibbles' I put out for him.</p> <p>Even cheap Android handsets, several years old at this stage, can have half-decent cameras - in good light - and can be surprisingly good at close-up details.</p> <p>Other mood-improvers this week involved a couple of old favourites: food and music. I can recommend this <a href="">garlic and mushroom pasta</a>, as well as this <a href="">zaatar cheese toastie</a> (loosely inspired by <a href="">Elliott</a>'s <a href="">quiet coffee</a> (b)log).</p> <p>I need to remember that music really helps my mood in so many different ways - from just listening to something which is very much in the background to take the edge off an abyss-like silence, right the way up to obsessing the shit out of every second of an album I've just discovered for the first time.</p> <p>This week's biggest musical discovery was... Talk Talk. I woke with a crunchy 80s industrial beat in my head, and I tried later to narrow down what it was from. No lyrics were flowing, but the beat was so distinctive and I knew it was a big enough hit that it's the sort of thing I'd occasionally hear on the radio still. A session skipping through Depeche Mode's greatest hits came up blank, and in desperation at one point I 'sang' the beat into Google in hopes it would guess it. It did not.</p> <p>My next line of investigation was the Ministry of Sound <em>Electronic 80s</em> compilation which I dip into now and then. I skipped through the songs I am less familiar with, and before too long I found the source of my earworm: Talk Talk's <em>Life's What You Make It</em>. Thank goodness. And what a tune. To reward perseverance, and to pay my respects to Talk Talk, I stuck on a greatest hits compilation of theirs - I'm familiar with two or three of their biggest singles, but I wanted to see if anything else hit me like <em>LWYMI</em> does.</p> <p>And boy was I glad I did.</p> <p>The last two tracks of the compilation came from an album called <em>Spirit of Eden</em> and, unlike the punchy synth pop of the earlier singles, these were elongated, slow meditations which sucked me right in. And that's how I discovered Talk Talk's final two albums, <em>Spirit of Eden</em> and <em>Laughing Stock</em>, both examples of a band at the top of their game, given oodles of cash and trust from their label, tucking themselves away for a year making thousands of hours of recordings and then splicing together something remarkable. They then stepped back from touring (citing the not unreasonable suggestion that it would be impossible to 're-perform' the songs from the album live), then one member left, and then they broke up shortly afterwards - it all sounds a bit like the 80s version of the Beatles, to be honest.</p> <p>Anyway, <em>Spirit of Eden</em> and <em>Laughing Stock</em> have been on high repeat in my headphones this week and I am so grateful for their exquisite combinations of pristine production and thoughtfully placed silences. There is so much space in those recordings.</p> <p>I also listened to the Nine Inch Nails soundtrack to Quake for the first time. I'd never listened before - I think I'd sort of dismissed it, thinking it would be compressed game audio and not much fun to listen to, but of course it was one of those games with the sound effects etc compressed, but the music itself was pure CD audio streamed off the disc. So it sounded a lot better than I'd expected, and was a delightful mix of heavily distorted guitars, foreshadowing of the kind of electronic noise Trent would continue to make, and of course 1990s gloomy shooter ambience.</p> <p>I never really played Quake back in the day - I was a Doom and Duke Nukem 3D guy. I still remember a friend describing Quake to me back when it was a 'new Doom' type of game - presumably in mid to late 1996 - and I remember mishearing them and thinking, repeatedly, they were calling it 'Quaint', which to this day makes me smile as a weird name for a videogame. Anyway, this all makes me think I'd like to play Quake some time soon. So maybe I will.</p> <p>To tie this Talk Talk / Nine Inch Nails chat together, one song from the Talk Talk comp called <a href=""><em>Give It Up</em></a> was also really great, and I quickly wondered whether NIN might have covered it - alas it doesn't look like it, but I'd love to hear their take on it. The chorus has a very Trent Reznor vibe imho.</p> <hr /> <p>The weekend was very sport-filled - Italian one-day bike races on Saturday and Sunday, three rugby matches on Saturday - that Wales match was just astonishing - and then (thank goodness) some periods of me actually getting off my arse to do some activities of my own.</p> <p>On Sunday, somewhat inspired by <a href="">Shawn Granton and his recent twenty-miler to Powell Butte</a>, I managed to head out for a twenty...<em>kilometre</em> ride...! But a very enjoyable one all the same. I went for a longish run on Saturday, and although my hips were a bit tired, I knew I had the legs for a lazy Sunday pootle around town, so that's what I managed.</p> <p>I stumbled on St George's Gardens, a peaceful park which used to be a church burial yard - it is quite park-like now, but still has headstones and other memorial monuments dotted around. I sat for a pleasant spell with a bottle of 'table beer', some salted peanuts, and listened to robins singing as bees hummed around the new blossom. It was a very pleasant moment.</p> <p>It actually reminded me of sitting in a park in Germany two years ago this month, having picked up an interesting beer and just enjoying the comings and goings around me. Clearly March is the (first) month for sitting outside with a beer - until it gets a bit chilly and you have to get a wriggle on.</p> <p>Also filled in the Census on Sunday. No drama there, but every little box I was able to tick or fill in without too much deliberation or ambiguity just illustrated to me that it's not quite so simple for a lot of other people, and that's always worth being reminded of.</p> <p>Have a good week, you.</p> Scrabble editions 2021-03-18T00:00:00Z <p>Last night while playing Scrabble, I started to think that what Scrabble needs is some branded editions, like other board games have. The new editions would have branded boards and - crucially - a new word list that players can draw from in addition to the standard Scrabble-legal sets of words.</p> <p>Of course, once we finished the game, a quick Google told me that this already exists. The primary example seems to be Harry Potter Scrabble.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>Well, of course it exists. However, it seems to be a bit hit and miss.</p> <p>First, the game introduces some new bonus rounds when you land on squares that the traditional game calls 'triple letter score' etc. Sounds complicated, and gets in the way of raw Scrabble gameplay.</p> <p>Secondly, while Harry Potter Scrabble does introduce new words you're allowed to use, the list seems... Pretty rubbish. Borrowing this image from an Amazon reviewer, the list of words (I'm not even sure if this is the whole list?) has a number of issues:</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>First of all, it's not a very long list, is it? There are surely a good few hundred words from the Harry Potter universe that could end up on a list like this. Surely Harry Potter Scrabble should allow words like Harry, Potter, or Hermione? (Perhaps these are allowed, but shown elsewhere in the pack.) I get that Scrabble doesn't normally allow proper nouns, but it also doesn't normally allow Gryffindor, so why stop there?</p> <p>Secondly, there are a number of... phrases in the list above. Multi-word words. Knight Bus. Petrificus Totalus. Are both words legal? Must they be played together? Are there enough Scrabble letters in one hand to play such long words?</p> <p>Thirdly, you'll see that a number of the special Harry Potter words on this list are... actual words. Words which would normally be legal in Scrabble anyway. Most of the 'G' section is just standard English words which you could play in Scrabble. I can't believe they're clawing around for HP-related words to the extent that they need to add GHOUL, GRIM or GNOME as a special word.</p> <p>Fourth: &quot;Hallows, The Deathly&quot;. What? No. Just, no. Just, how would this even be playable? And when? Stop it.</p> <p>And finally, look at the last word in the list. &quot;Poyjuice&quot;. Surely Polyjuice? But no. &quot;Poyjuice&quot;. Good grief.</p> <p>I love this succinct review from another Amazon buyer:</p> <blockquote> <p>Cool, however some words are spelt wrong in the hp word guide. Harry Potter fans are insane and pick up on the slightest mistake from 500ft. Try harder</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, quite.</p> <hr /> <p>For the brief period while I was blissfully unaware of the existence of Harry Potter Scrabble, the version in my head was simpler, but better executed. Obviously. The main part of it would be an ornately designed booklet of extra words which can be played in addition to normal words. The booklet would be glossy, maybe A5 in size, and quite chunky, and it would act as more of a Scrabble dictionary than just a glossary or word list.</p> <p>The booklet would be illustrated, either with shots from the film, or illustrations related to the books, and definitions would be well-written and strictly adhere to the canon.</p> <p>It could even be a kind of spell book design!</p> <p>Imagine what could be done with a lot more care and attention. I don't even really care about Harry Potter, but I can just imagine this kind of product done well, and the kind of fans who would <em>adore</em> it. And the price the manufacturers could charge for it...</p> <p>The poyjuice thing just makes me think of that Simpsons gag about Bart's blind faith in the Krusty Brand Seal of Approval:</p> <hr /> <p>Before I got round to actually seeing if my idea already existed, I quickly realised how many of these the makers of Scrabble could produce.</p> <p>Disney Scrabble (which <a href="">does seem to exist</a> but is no longer available)?</p> <p>Nintendo Scrabble?</p> <p>These could feature lists of huge numbers of words from across a vast array of products. And the booklets could be so well designed.</p> <p>Or, following Monopoly's lead, how about London Scrabble, or Great Britain Scrabble? Place names are legal. Think of the international market, Scrabble makers, there are LOADS of places you could localise this to! Maybe Tube or TfL Scrabble - all tube stops are legal.</p> <p>The possibilities are endless.</p> <p>I realise you can just play by these rules if you want - that's the beauty of Scrabble's simplicity: arguing about whether a word is legal with your opponent is half the fun.</p> <p>But I can just see a beautiful array of well-branded, well-designed Scrabble Editions which would appeal to fans of franchises which are lucky enough to have <em>proper fandoms</em> who would pony up a not insignificant amount of dough to own a Nintendo or Pokemon or Disney edition of Scrabble.</p> <p>Anyway. What was it I was supposed to be doing?</p> 2021 week ten 2021-03-15T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>A delay in writing this one up because, really, the bulk of the week was spent under a gauze-like fug which only cleared at the weekend. We also had roadworks directly outside our window all week, so the constant noise was a distraction.</p> <p>It was work by G.Network who have spent the last year or two digging up streets all over London laying new fibre for broadband. It amazes me on the one hand how they've managed to do such a progressive roll-out, but on the other that this is even necessary. I get that the cables laid by previous companies eventually reach capacity or end-of-life, but it still seems amazing that the literal roads need to be dug up every ten years or so(?) to relay new infrastructure.</p> <p>That being said, the roads around here are also constantly being dug up by Thames Water to address a series of constant leaks. An unenviable task, and at least the theory is that their pipes last more like a century than a decade (though in the seven years I've lived on the Finchley Road corridor, the number of repeated water leaks in roughly the same locations does not inspire confidence).</p> <p>The gauze-clearing was spurred on by talking through some of the stuff that had been behind it, as well as getting out and going for a long bike ride to the city. We also had waffles for breakfast on Saturday.</p> <p>It is a giant cliche but there was a specific moment as we cycled south along Regent's Park where the speed and smoothness of my ride made me feel incredible. Just so glad to be out, on my bike, heading to the city. A real cobweb-blower-awayer as they (do not) say.</p> <p>Toot. Let's all go and have another week.</p> Trap street or typo? 2021-03-11T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Let's play... Trap street or typo!</p> <p><a href=""><strong>13 APRIL 2021 UPDATE - SEE BELOW</strong></a></p> <p>On one of my recent extended runs into the City of London and back, I went along the Strand. I spotted a few things that bore closer inspection via maps, Street View and Wikipedia when I got home. In the process of looking around one particular area, I noticed a tiny alleyway running roughly NW/SE between Maiden Lane and the Strand called Lumley Court. Or possibly... <em>Lupley</em> Court.</p> <p>For whatever reason, I was using a combination of Google Maps and Bing Maps to do my post-run nerdery. And I quickly realised that Google calls this alley Lumley Court, while Bing Maps calls it Lupley Court. As I didn't know either way who was correct - only that one must be wrong! - I used Google's Street View to have a closer look and...</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>Sure enough, the (slightly obscured) sign says Lumley (at both ends, too), so Lumley must be right. (Incidentally, I did also check OpenStreetMap, which also calls it Lumley Court, so that helped as well.)</p> <p>Looks like it's one of those narrow alleys that people go and wedge themselves into for a photo:</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>Ironically, Bing Maps also offers some form of Street View of their own, but for this particular location the quality is... basically unusable - certainly for this purpose:</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>You can... kind of tell there's a street there?</p> <p>Fans of Google Maps are probably aware that it is relatively straightforward to suggest edits to their Maps data. This can take the form of opening hours of businesses, incorrect locations, or changes to names, and other text-related information.</p> <p>Once you start submitting these corrections with any regularity, you build up a bit of karma with Google Maps, and your edits go from being a) accepted at all, to b) being reflected on the map within days, to c) the edit being made... instantly.</p> <p>And boy, the first time you make an edit to Google Maps and it appears instantly? Whew, that's a power trip, I can tell you.</p> <p>I never quite got into editing OpenStreetMap, and although ethically I guess giving free labour to Google is a bit iffy, it just feels like a helpful thing to do given how many people rely on it.</p> <p>So, knowing that I have no such karma with Bing Maps, but also knowing their map data is incorrect, I submitted an edit via their feedback option. I know nothing about how they handle this feedback, and I didn't expect much to happen as a newcomer to their service. But I wanted to try, and see what the process might be like compared to Google, so I submitted the feedback.</p> <p>That was almost a month ago. After a fortnight I submitted it again, and set myself a reminder to check a week later. Seeing no change, I submitted it again, and then checked another week later. To date, the edit hasn't been made.</p> <p>This tells me one or two things. First, perhaps Bing Maps simply doesn't have the staff to deal with such relatively minor edits in a timely fashion. And perhaps the situation is worse during <em>these times.</em> And, in fairness, I don't know how long an edit might take when made by someone new to Google Maps, if it gets made at all.</p> <p>Or... Maybe it's <a href="">a trap street</a>*? Maybe? It seems unlikely. But it's a fun thought. And it's such a tiny little minor difference to tuck into a very busy area that it feels like it could be...</p> <p>I'll try and update this page if the change ever gets made.</p> <p>* In short, a so-called trap street is a deliberate typo or extra bit of data shown on a map so that the publisher can tell if someone else has copied their maps. If the fake object turns up on someone else's map, they must have copied it. It's kind of like a watermark.</p> <hr /> <p>One final point: those Street View images of the Strand, taken in July 2019, and showing so many bodies all smooshed up against each other give my post-pandemic brain the heebie jeebies. Yikes.</p> <p>But, taking the edge off that anxiety is the realisation that these are no ordinary car-shot Street View images. These were shot by a <em>backpack-mounted</em> Street View camera. And, of course, with all those lovely shiny shop windows to utilise, I couldn't help but try and find our photographer:</p> <p>Hi, Street View photographer!</p> <hr /> <p><strong>13 APRIL 2021 UPDATE</strong></p> <p>They fixed it! Some time in the past fortnight or since I last checked, they've fixed it.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I guess that settles it, then: not trap street, but typo. Case closed.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2021 week nine 2021-03-08T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>This week's headlines:</p> <ul> <li> <p>new lens</p> <ul> <li>For a while now I've been wanting a wide angle lens, mostly for pictures of buildings, churches and just the-whole-scene. I think they might be good for night sky photography, too. Wide lenses do have some flaws in the inherent optical distortion they introduce, but you can get around that to some degree in editing, and they're always going to look a <em>bit</em> odd if your brain stops for a second to unwrap the fact that an entire church fits into the frame.</li> <li>I picked up a Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM on a good deal from <a href="">MPB</a>. It's the second great experience I've had purchasing second hand lenses from MPB and I'd recommend them to anyone looking to buy second hand photographic equipment. I got a good deal because this lens was listed as faulty, but the detailed description went on to say that the only actual fault is that manual focus doesn't work. All other features are working and the lens is in great condition otherwise. This 'faulty' status made it about half the price it could have been - MPB themselves state that these 'faulty' sales can offer potentially great value. I would agree, on the strength of this purchase.</li> <li>My first run-through was photographing St Jude's in Hampstead Garden Suburb (above), and I've been blown away by how much the lens fits in at very close quarters. It's a whole new lens to 'learn' (as a photographer I find after enough practice I can reasonably accurately envisage a scene through a given lens before actually framing the shot, but it takes time). I can practically stand at the base of one of the walls and get the top of the spire in the same shot - but things start to look <em>very</em> wonky at such close quarters.</li> <li>I now have a series of lenses which roughly covers the range from 10mm to 200mm, which is pretty decent.</li> </ul> </li> <li> <p>new HDD</p> <ul> <li>I installed the new 2TB drive into my PC successfully. It's given me a lot more breathing room, data-wise. It was slightly more fiddly than I had anticipated, due to the aforementioned small form factor PC case, but Lenovo provide useful instructions on the dismantling process, and it wasn't too tricky. A nice surprise was seeing the Crystal Disk Mark results indicating a speed boost over the previous drive. Same RPM speed, so something else means this newer drive is a bit faster. Nice.</li> </ul> </li> <li> <p>James Acaster</p> <ul> <li>Having grumbled for some time about not getting to see James Acaster's show <em>Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999</em> and then grumbling about it not being available to stream or buy and THEN grumbling about missing out on a one-night-only streaming event back in December, the show is FINALLY available to stream <a href="">via Vimeo</a> and we watched it this weekend. It was <em>so good</em>. He's got a particular delivery and style which I can see would put some people off, but he has me in stitches, and overall his honesty and openness is just delicious to see. He deftly deals with difficult subjects in a funny-but-not-dismissive way.</li> </ul> </li> <li> <p>bike racing</p> <ul> <li>Nice to see more bike racing this weekend, with the Strade Bianche, which I had never watched before - what a final stretch, made both the men's and women's races just great to see - and the start of the Paris-Nice stage race (another bike race I've never watched before).</li> </ul> </li> <li> <p>Refika's bitta</p> <ul> <li> <p>Having been introduced to <a href="">Refika's Youtube channel</a> of Turkish cooking recently by <a href="">Peter</a>, we followed <a href="">another of her recipes</a> this weekend, for a &quot;Cypriot sister of focaccia&quot;, bitta. It's like a lovely bready mass of olives, olive oil, halloumi, sesame seeds and yogurt. We did the dough in the bread machine (which hilariously takes 5h15m instead of the 3h5m it takes to bake <em>an actual loaf</em>), and then followed her recipe for folding in the various toppings/ingredients. It took longer to cook than we anticipated* but the results were delicious.</p> <ul> <li>* our oven, we learned this weekend, can <em>only</em> be a fan oven. As in, it is a fan oven. But it cannot be a fan oven with the fan turned off. The options are: fan oven, grill, defrost(?), light only(??) and that's it. So when Refika's recipe demands not to use a fan oven, this may be where it took longer and cooked differently. YMMV.</li> </ul> </li> </ul> </li> <li> <p>Good piece on journaling</p> <ul> <li>On a recent wander through scores of new personal websites I found <a href="">biko's website</a>, and a series of articles they'd written, including <a href="">this one on the subject of journaling</a>. I absolutely hoovered it up as they made some really great points about something they consider themselves new to, and which I consider myself very... old? to. It shone light on areas of the whys and wherefores of journaling that I had either not considered or, I guess, had forgotten. It has inspired a few trains of thought on the subject of diaries and journaling and I want to expand on that some time soon, if only as a thought exercise to help me re-understand my own stance on it.</li> </ul> </li> <li> <p>Under the Canopy</p> <ul> <li>My friend Jessica recently worked on a new BBC World Service series of three programmes about woodland for the <a href=""><em>Compass</em></a> strand. It's a lovely 90 minutes of audio, with her very soothing and curious voice heading things up, speaking to various people with a connection to trees, all the while soundtracked by birdsong and ambient music. I spent a lovely time on Friday walking to and from work listening to the three shows, and I couldn't decide what made me feel luckier: that I've had multiple opportunities to walk with Jessica through woodland she knows like the back of her hand, listening to her describing things in minute, fascinating detail, or that despite having not been able to see her for so long, I now have a BBC radio series in which she does just that, and I can share it with friends. Either way it is a wonderful thing. <a href="">Here's episode one</a>.</li> </ul> </li> </ul> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Island hopping 2021-03-05T00:00:00Z <p>Following <a href="">yesterday's earthquakes</a> which affected New Zealand (and raised the alarm for potential tsunami), I read a few Wikipedia articles which led me from one subject to another, skipping across a pond like stones.</p> <p>This is how everyone reads Wikipedia, right? Hopping from article to article?</p> <p>I started on <a href="">the Kermadec Islands</a>, as this was near to one of the quakes. They're a mostly uninhabited arc of subtropical islands about 1,000km from New Zealand, out in the South Pacific. There's one island with a sometimes-staffed scientific station.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I read this article with interest because, well, it's kind of a favourite genre of mine: the article about an isolated island(s). Just drop me on a random page about some random islands and I will lap up the Wikipedia article for it. The more fine-grained the history section the better.</p> <p>On the Kermadec Islands page, this sentence jumped out:</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="" title="Polynesia">Polynesian</a> people settled the Kermadec Islands in around the 14th century (and perhaps previously in the 10th century),<a href="">[4]</a> but the first Europeans to reach the area—the _<a href="*ship)" title="Lady Penrhyn (1786 ship)">Lady Penrhyn</a>* in May 1788—found no inhabitants.</p> </blockquote> <p>Tell me more about the <a href="">Lady Penrhyn</a>, o oracle. I expected the article to be a single sentence or so. Used my Kindle to look up the phrase <em>Lady Penryhn</em> on Wikipedia*, then opened the page. Turns out, she wasn't just a random ship: she was one of the <a href="">First Fleet</a> of eleven ships that took European settlers/prisoners to Australia. Brilliant! The article expands on this, and also details her actions following that first important task - which included stopping in on the Kermadec Islands on a subsequent voyage.</p> <p>* On recentish Kindles you can highlight a word or phrase, and a box pops up with three lookup options: Dictionary, Translate, and Wikipedia. The dictionary and Wikipedia options are a great way to get a quick overview of the word or phrase you're checking, if there is an entry at all. And you can expand the Wikipedia description if need be, which just opens the page on the Kindle's serviceable browser. **</p> <p>The <a href="">First Fleet</a> article is great. There's a lot of detail of all the ships, the passengers and crew, and their immediate actions on settling Australia. My knowledge of Australia's early European occupation is limited - I know far more about that of New Zealand. One thing implied/not directly discussed in the article that stood out to me was the time between Captain Cook claiming New South Wales for Britain and the First Fleet's arrival: just eighteen years.</p> <p>The First Fleet article kept me occupied for some time, but I was so glad to find it so thoroughly written up.</p> <p>After all that, I went back to the Kermadec Islands page and clicked (tapped?) through to the page on <a href="">Raoul Island</a>, the occasionally-inhabited one, and found some really interesting stuff, about its longtime caretakers, and about more recent scientific occupants and occasional accidents due to the tectonic instability.</p> <p>** Although the Kindle browser is <em>sufficient</em> for reading the odd bit of a Wikipedia page, my preferred Wikipedia/Kindle dream team is sending the articles directly to my Kindle using <a href="">FiveFilters' Push to Kindle</a> tool. I recently stopped using Pocket and have come to the arrangement whereby an article either gets read (or opened to be read later) on my desktop or phone browser, or it gets sent to my Kindle to be read that evening. Fivefilters' tool is the best I've come across. The above Kindle shot shows how a Wikipedia article gets formatted via the service.</p> <hr /> <p>As a side note, I should add yet again that these remote-island-lookup sessions often begin with reading a page from the absolutely wonderful book <a href=""><em>Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will</em></a> by Judith Schalansky. It's just the most gorgeously-illustrated book, and each island covered has one page of text and a facing page showing a map. I regularly pick the book up (it lives by my bedside), read about one island, and then head off down a Wikihole or similar on that island or some related subject.</p> Fomapan black and white film - my experience 2021-03-02T00:00:00Z <p>I recently shot some Fomapan 200 in my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s and the results were... mixed, though mostly positive.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>When I <a href="">used my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s last time</a>, I used some Ilford XP2 film with it - this is a black and white film which has the special ability to be developed using the colour (C41) process. You take pictures as normal, and get the film developed anywhere that does colour film, and the photos that come out are black and white. I understand that the form of black and white produced by Ilford XP2 is not <em>strictly</em> black and white - I would guess it is more like how a colour display shows a black and white image, but using RGB pixels. That said, I haven't a clue if that's right or not.</p> <p>The results I've had from Ilford film have been great. And the results in general from the Hi-Matic 7s are also really satisfying. It is a nice - if somewhat bulky and heavy - camera to use. And the lens is very sharp. What's more, the camera allows you to shoot <s>in either aperture or shutter priority, or</s> fully automatically, with the user only having to set the focus. Not bad for a fifty-five year old camera.</p> <p><em>EDIT: As <a href="">Shawn</a> rightly points out in the comments below, of course the Hi-Matic 7s cannot do aperture or shutter priority - it is either automatic (with both settings on 'A'), which is how I shot the majority of this film, or you must set both the aperture _and</em> the shutter, using the EV numbers in the light meter as a guide. I think I've even made this mistake before when discussing this camera! Shows what happens when I use it so infrequently._</p> <p>Having shot black and white using a film that wasn't truly black and white, my inevitable next step was to shoot 'proper' black and white film. The results should be broadly the same, albeit the development process is slightly more expensive, or less commonly available on the high street.</p> <p>Last summer, giddy with the afterglow of having received <a href="">a nice set of shots</a> back from the roll of Ilford I'd used, I visited Park Cameras and picked up some new film. To my delight, they had a cabinet full of various different 35mm films including Fomapan, a name I'd recently read about.</p> <p>Fomapan is a Czech manufacturer of photographic supplies, and they have a reputation for being cheaper than your Ilfords, Fujis and so on. This film comes in at about half the price of the Ilford I'm used to, and about a third of the price of some other films.</p> <p>I picked up a roll of tried-and-tested XP2 as well as a roll of Fomapan 200 Creative. And then about nine months passed between me loading the Fomapan and me finishing the roll.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>You can tell it was a while ago as I'm wearing shorts to load the film!</p> <p>I guess one distraction was getting a new digital SLR in that time, and so my photographic attentions have been mostly spent on learning the ins and outs of my new Canon 250D. It's also been lockdown for the majority of that time, and although I've had opportunities to go out with a camera in my hand, I feel somewhat guilty when my time tips over from being a walk-with-a-camera to a photowalk or more. That's just my personal feeling when I'm behind the viewfinder though; I've found the sight of other photographers out and about during These Times reassuring and comforting when it is so clearly a solitary, distanced pastime.</p> <p>Anyway. Five hundred words in which I say: I got my Fomapan shots back recently.</p> <p>And how do they look?</p> <p>Well - the black and white is very effective, and I think there is a subtle difference between the scans I get back from XP2 colour process B&amp;W film and the true black and white of Fomapan 200. The Minolta appears to have behaved well, too, with focus just as sharp as I've been used to.</p> <p>Shooting black and white in the Minolta just <em>feels</em> right to me.</p> <p>It's probably some silly placebo effect of shooting an old camera and wanting to shoot in B&amp;W. But I've preferred the results I get back from B&amp;W film than colour, and I really enjoy the exercise in shooting for tones, shadows and silhouettes that black and white kind of forces you to do. There's also a sharpness or contrast to B&amp;W film that I would probably find harder to achieve using colour film. I prefer the grain of black and white as it retains a sharpness that can be lost in colour, I think. (I've not written off colour film: my next-film-but-one is a roll of Fujicolor C200.)</p> <p>As I looked through the scans from the Fomapan, though, I started to notice some repeated defects or marks on the images. The next shot suffers from the most of these - as well as being a bit too contrasty, but that's just the shot itself.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /> The issues I noticed are: the dark and light 'blobs' along the left side of this image (though, actually, these are consistent with the perforations or sprocket holes in the film itself along the long edges of each frame), and the white line running top-to-bottom in this shot.</p> <p>Ironically, the white line running left-to-right is a plane's vapour trail and was what drew me in to taking this picture in the first place. It's funny that there is a white mark of unknown origin which closely matches a vapour trail as rendered in B&amp;W film.</p> <p>I continued to look at the scans I'd received and, as I had not yet collected the negatives from the lab, I wasn't sure what might be causing the defects. I could identify one or both of the above described issues on about ten frames in the film, with the 'sprocket blobs' coming and going, and sometimes only appearing for a few sprockets' worth; and the white line was noticeable across a number of shots running in a consistent enough line and angle that you can sort of follow its path along multiple frames.</p> <p>I asked the lab if they could take a look at the negatives and maybe re-scan if it might be scanner-related. I also wasn't sure at this point if maybe the Minolta had sustained some damage and was letting in light leaks. I couldn't work out the physical defect in the camera that would lead to these consistent-yet-inconsistent marks, but that was my biggest fear: a faulty Minolta.</p> <p>The response I got was helpful and semi reassuring, but semi disappointing: the defects ultimately appear to be in the emulsion of the film itself. The lab tech didn't think the camera was faulty (phew), but they noted that they'd seen issues with Fomapan films in the past, and they usually recommend Kodak, Fuji and Ilford for this reason.</p> <p>So I quickly realised that Fomapan, as a cheap film, is unfortunately bound to have some defects from time to time. I have done some digging online, and although I've only so far found one other Fomapan film that exhibits almost exactly this defect, I have seen a number of other people querying defects they had discovered when developing their own Fomapan films.</p> <p>This was initially a setback: what drives me away from film photography and towards digital is consistency and sharpness and clarity and reliability. But whenever I get bogged down in that comparison, I know I'm fooling myself: part of the appeal of film is a <em>little</em> unpredictability.</p> <p>Sure, professional photographers need to rely on decent, expensive equipment, and pro-grade film that yields predictable results for paying clients. But I'm a hobbyist using decades-old cameras of unknown origin, willfully using film I know to be cheap. I shouldn't be surprised by small defects or unexpected results - indeed, I should welcome them to a degree.</p> <p>And so now I think I understand the problem - as well as the fact that I probably just got unlucky and I could probably shoot another ten rolls of Fomapan that come out perfectly! And I can look at the rest of the roll and enjoy the shots for what they are: unique moments of light and shadow captured in the moment on a unique medium using a finicky tool. And I love it.</p> <p>Once I picked up the negatives I could see for myself the state of the film and the emulsion myself, and it's clear that all is not well with this roll of Fomapan 200. It's not hard to spot, on this first inverted scan of one set of frames, and then the true colour photo of the same section below, that there's almost been a spillage or melting of the emulsion.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>It's plain to see <em>something</em> isn't right, though I'm not experienced enough to say if this has happened in the Fomapan factory, or later in storage, or even in the development process. And even if this is a fault with the product itself, I'm willing to bet it is a very uncommon one, and it hasn't put me off trying Fomapan again in the future.</p> <p>(And just in case it helps anyone else Googling this, I *think* the batch number for this Fomapan film is 012315-2, with an expiry date in 2021, though not sure what month.)</p> <p>Either way, it is what is. As long as my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s is still functioning as well as I'm used to, then I'm happy to continue using it, and I've got some XP2 in there already, and the aforementioned roll of Fujicolor to go next - hopefully in time for when the Spring colours return.</p> <p>Anyway, here's a few more favourites from this roll of Fomapan. There were plenty of doozies to keep me happy, despite any defects. The rest of the roll is up at <a href="">/photography</a>.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2021 week eight 2021-03-01T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Hello. Another week has gone by and I don't know how that keeps happening.</p> <p>This weekend I managed to run further than I've ever ran before in one go. I recently ran just-about-25 kilometres, helped along by my occasional running partner Melanie. Last weekend I did a neat half marathon (21.1km) into the City and back. And then this week I plotted a 25km route, also into the City and back, and managed to clock in 26.2km, which amused me because a full marathon is 26.2 <em>miles</em> rather than KM. I'm enjoying running into the City on the weekends: it's so quiet at the moment, and having such monumental parts of London to oneself is a wonderful novelty. It also means my route trends downhill for the first part, which I much prefer. I don't mind running uphill (a little) towards the end of a run. It's sufficiently distracting running in such distractingly pretty streets.</p> <p>I also distracted myself the last few long runs I did by listening to James Acaster read his collection of memoirs _Classic Scrapes _which has been really enjoyable. I love his delivery in this, as it strikes a middle ground between audiobook read and stand-up routine. In the past I've enjoyed Acaster's openness regarding mental health issues - though I've still not seen his recent-ish show which deals strongly with that subject, as it hasn't come to DVD or streaming yet (apart from ONE SODDING livestream which I didn't find out about until a month or so later). Hopefully that'll happen, because I, too, have strong memories of the solar eclipse of 1999 and not being In A Good Place.</p> <p>This long distance running has also meant I clocked up about 150km this month which feels great. I think that's the most I've run in a month - I've only recently started using Strava's 100km-in-a-month challenges to really track this. I do also tag myself into the 200km-in-a-month challenges, but I don't know how often that's going to be a possibility.</p> <p>I am not a competitive, overly ambitious man, but I know that coming home having deliberately run further than I have ever run before made me feel <em>good</em> and made me want to do that again, but more. I don't know where that will end.</p> <hr /> <p>Services subscribed to in the past week or so:</p> <ul> <li> <p>Flickr</p> <ul> <li>I've had Flickr subscriptions for years but a few years ago gave up on it when the service had a fallow period between owners. They then moved from hosting infinite photographs to limiting free accounts to a thousand images (which is fair enough, especially for a service as longlived as Flickr), and I just got into the habit of curating my favourite thousand shots whenever I wanted to upload something new. Over the past year or two, my use of Flickr has increased hugely (in terms of browsing), and this has led to me updating my account again. Ironically, the thousand-limit instilled in me a discipline for pruning older shots, and only uploading the best of the best (IMHO), and so I never felt the need to renew my subs. But I've just grabbed a three month subscription to a) not worry about pruning to a thousand and b) to see some stats and live the Pro life for a while, and I guess a little of c) to support the website I use daily.</li> </ul> </li> <li> <p>Ordnance Survey / OS Maps</p> <ul> <li>Another service I have actively subscribed to in the past when it's been a useful thing to have on my phone. Insert caveat about relying on electronic devices for wayfinding in the sticks, but god if seeing a GPS dot on an offline-downloaded OS Map isn't some sweet, sweet piece of 21st century magic. But I let it lapse a while back and then something strange happened... My subscription continued, with the expiry date increasing every now and again. No idea why, but whenever I checked in to use it, I found my subscription was still active, even though I was certain I wasn't paying for it. Well, a couple of years on and the jig's up: I got an email (sent to me and however many other users) saying they'd finally worked it out and would have to cut access. But though the email directly tackled the issue itself, it lacked punishment or judgement - <em>and</em> they offered a year's subscription for £10 (rather than £23.99, which is still a great deal), and I gladly took them up on that. I'd love to see some numbers on this loophole (and indeed how many have now gone back to an active subscription).</li> </ul> </li> <li> <p>Disney+</p> <ul> <li>We've had Disney+ since Boxing Day and have very much felt like we've been getting value out of it. Blockbuster Disney and/or Pixar films new and old, some really enjoyable documentaries and stuff from National Geographic, and having <em>all of The Simpsons</em> on tap are all very big value adds for what is a reasonable monthly fee (albeit one which has recently gone up slightly, though existing members are locked in for six months).</li> </ul> </li> <li> <p>Eurosport Player</p> <ul> <li>Cycling's back! The BBC showed some bike race coverage recently and I was pleasantly surprised to see that - Cyclo Cross, even - but there's nothing else on normal telly for the foreseeable. So, Eurosport it is, and their app is better than I remember it being (this is through the Fire Stick) and meant we could watch this weekend's two one-day road races of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Both were entertaining, and the mixture of live-but-also-on-demand, as well as a highlights-show-on-demand is ideal for these sorts of events.</li> </ul> </li> </ul> <hr /> <p>On Friday I had arranged to go into the office for the first time in a few months, and deliberately when the office was basically closed so that I could give all the PCs a disassemble, clean, and reassemble. One colleague who had regularly been in the office reported that their machine was making a noise, and knowing that our machines have now basically been on for a year almost non-stop made me concerned that they were quickly filling with dust and could do with a blast of compressed air. Some definitely did, but most were much better than I had expected. Luckily we use all Dell machines which, despite various models and generations, are all easy to disassemble and seem to have decent airflow. It's regrettable how much I have always enjoyed disassembling and reassembling PCs, and having the goal of cleaning PCs which notoriously get very dusty in an office like ours is a good excuse to do so.</p> <p>Another excuse to do so is on my own PC at home. My photo library has been heading towards one terabyte for a while, and getting a new camera late last year has accelerated that process: bigger files, and more of 'em. The internal HDD on my PC is a 1TB spinning disk (in addition to my startup drive which is a 240GB SSD), and I have two 1TB external USB drives connected at all times. I should probably think more strategically and have some sort of NAS (network attached storage) but I'm very set in my multiple-disks-both-internal-and-external ways and will continue thusly. So I've got myself a new 2TB internal HDD and have been shuffling things around so I can swap them out, with the 1TB drive becoming an archive of the entire photo library to date in a drawer somewhere.</p> <p>My backup strategies change quite often - which is not what you really want from something that should be consistent, reliable, and forgettable. My photo library (and it is, as far as is possible, my entire collection of digital photographs taken to date) is my biggest collection of data by far that is important to me. A long way distant, but still quite important, would be other files and documents, and my growing collection of audio recordings. I use Adobe Lightroom to browse and edit this vast collection, and it does an admirable job. It also treats files with care: the actual files do not get touched, only viewed, when making edits (the edits being done 'on top' via a much smaller database), and although it can be slow to generate thumbnail previews on files rarely looked at, there seems to be no real performance issues to having such a large number of images in a single Lightroom library.</p> <p>So I'll swap the hard drives soon, and having opened the Dell boxes at work, I was reminded how useful it would be to have a larger form factor PC under my desk at home. I went for quite a small model when I upgraded from my busted-ass 2008 Macbook about four years ago. It has served me well and I've been able to add a PCI graphics card, swap out the boot drive for an SSD (moving the aforementioned 1TB spinning disk to a secondary SATA port and using it for data), as well as doubling the RAM, but I will one day want to get/build a new machine. And it is expandability I will have as quite a high priority, although this neat little Lenovo box has performed admirably.</p> <hr /> <p>I seem to have fixed an annoying thing that started happening recently which I think happens to all WordPress sites from time to time: bots attacking the login page. I tried one approach which limited the number of failed logins in a given period, and then blocking the IP address of those which fell foul repeatedly. Interestingly all the attacks came from one specific block of addresses in one country and on one ISP. But even tweaking the settings meant they kept coming, so I tried the other recommended tactic: changing the default URL or the Wordpress admin page to something only I know. In reality it's not a 'hidden' phrase or anything like that - it's just <em>not the default one</em> and that is enough to stop bots trying, apparently.</p> <p>An unrelated thought, but one that's come about as I sit at my desk for hours on end hopping between day-job-work and my own projects online: wouldn't it be interesting to have a website/web presence which has variable hours of accessibility? I've come across a small number of websites and online accounts whose availability varies, whether manually via the user's settings, or due to external/environmental impacts such as <a href="">the web server being solar powered</a>*.</p> <p>Some online services like Flickr, Wordpress and so on make it easy to perform bulk operations on a huge number of objects - it's possible, for example, to make your entire collection of Flickr photos completely private, or to reverse that in a click of a mouse, or to do with a subset based on a tag. It's feasible that you could have a set of objects which are available or not, depending on your own actions at the time.</p> <p>And of course I grew up with the practice of logging into ICQ, MSN Messenger et al and being 'visible' while online. I guess this practice continues with Slack and Facebook Messenger reporting onlineness, but I feel like with phones and apps running in the background, it's not quite the same.</p> <p>I realise the novelty of an actual webpage or similar going offline is almost entirely for the owner of the webspace - for the reader/viewer, it could only really ever be frustrating: going to a website to find it is 'offline' or 'closed' for a period of time is kind of... stupid? And yet the idea of a live presence on the web which is only live while I'm physically near to it is kind of interesting, too. I've recently found it quite thrilling to browse someone's website seeing they had <em>just</em> updated it (or were perhaps updating it while I browsed), and this <em>liveness</em> of something static was exciting. (This thought was also brought to me recently from following someone on Twitter whose sleeping patterns I reckon I could plot with about 96% accuracy based on their incessant updates.)</p> <p>* Ironically, the last couple of times I went to check this page, I thought the battery level display wasn't working, but I think it's because it's spring now and the battery has been kept topped up by the Spanish sunshine. I first came across the website in deepest mid-winter and delighted at the prospect of a website with a battery percentage, especially one which was occasionally something like 32%, and the very real possibility of the website going offline because the energy had been depleted.</p> <p>Anyway. I won't be making solar-powered or limiting the opening hours of it any time soon, but I do find the idea intriguing and I might hack together a little project which toys with that notion. My biggest problem - or should I say learning opportunity? - is not knowing how to get computers or servers to do anything automatically at given times or based on variables... Maybe that's enough of a nudge for me to finally learn what a cron job is.</p> <p>On a very manually-updated note, there are a couple of new recordings up at <a href="">/audio</a> - nothing special, but a couple of fleeting notes captured this weekend while out on a walk.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2021 week seven 2021-02-24T00:00:00Z <p>A much-needed few days off.</p> <p>It being half term and M being off work, I took a few days off myself. Partly so that we had a block of time where we were both off work - rather than one having to tiptoe around the other. And partly so we could maximise on what we are currently able/allowed to do that most closely resembles taking a short holiday.</p> <p>This mainly meant: some baking and cooking, whereby I mean more advanced/time consuming cooking. It's a rare day that we don't prepare one or both of our main meals from scratch, but with time off it's fun to try out a more laborious recipe. Or make a cheesecake, which M did admirably and I was very lucky to devour a lot of it.</p> <p>There were some days of watching films and TV without worrying if it was for &quot;too long&quot;. And there were a couple of days of extended walks in the local area. We challenged each other to plan a circular walking route that the other would end up either lost or at the very least going somewhere they'd not been before. We both succeeded on those counts.</p> <p>It struck me, one of those walks having been to both Willesden Cemetery and Kensal Green Cemetery (and St Mary's Catholic Cemetery next to it), how cemeteries are about the current equivalent of an outdoor museum or art gallery. That slow, self-guided shuffle around the various objects. Spotting interesting items and stopping to read the details of the ones that really stand out. We saw a number of names that deserved a quick Google - a renowned newspaper hoaxer, whose epitaph was simply: &quot;Storyteller&quot;; a pioneering aviatrix microlight instructor who tragically died pursuing her dream; and so on.</p> <p>It's nothing new that I enjoy spending my time wandering around cemeteries. But it struck me recently, it having been such a long time (bar <a href="">one lucky afternoon</a>) since I spent time in a gallery or museum, that this is very much an equivalent pastime in a number of ways. We were given a stark reminder that such places are not merely mothballed recreational spaces, however. The running order displayed at the entrance to the crematorium at Kensal Green Cemetery was fully loaded, and we saw some quite neat logistics involved in getting hearses and funeral parties in and out down the limited roads. A sobering sight. I am always careful to be respectful in cemeteries, but especially at the sight of a funeral party while visiting.</p> <p>The other walk (which touched on the route of the first, in a neat sort of butterfly-shaped layout with one wing per day) took us around a planned housing development complete with community buildings and so on that we'd never really seen before. Rows of terraced housing and associated working men's clubs and the like and it felt rather like parts of Manchester. And I discovered a park I'd never heard of which a) had a cool name, b) had a walled garden designed by an architect I'm familiar with, and c) has a combined children's adventure playground and goat enclosure. Like, <em>actually</em> combined. Not a Venn diagram I ever thought would overlap, but here we are. No children being headbutted out of the way today, but I must return when lockdown lifts so I can see how the two sides interact.</p> <p>We also stopped to pick up expensive bread and beers from local places, which really helped make it feel like a city break somewhere new. Our flat isn't quite a neat and tidy AirBnB, but it's not far off, and I count myself lucky to call it home, let alone pretend it's a holiday home.</p> <p>So, a successful few days of holidaying. I also took some pictures on my <a href="">Minolta Hi-Matic 7s</a> for the first time in about nine months. The stark sunshine was perfect for the black and white film. I've had some issues with the scans, but it may be due to the type of film, rather than an issue with the camera. Hopefully anyway. More on that in another post perhaps.</p> <p>Here's a shot I had to take, as I was channeling my inner <a href="">Shawn Granton</a>:</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <hr /> <p>This weekend I had a bash at a project for <a href="">Sunday Sites</a>, which encourages participants to create simple one-off websites following a simple theme or prompt. The latest was trying out a WYSIWYG web editor, something I'd not tried in years. Didn't even know they were still around, to be honest. Anyway, my thoughts (and the results) are here: <a href=""></a></p> <p>Long story short, it's fun to make simple standalone web pages and I want to do it more often. I know my understanding of web development will never really advance beyond what I'd learned by mid-2002, but maybe that's fine, and if it's fun then let me have my fun, I say.</p> <hr /> <p>As usual I feel I have more to say, but if it ain't coming, I shan't force it. Thanks for reading.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> 2021 week six 2021-02-19T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Is it worth writing a weeknote when there's so little I can recall from the week in question? The problem, really, is trying to recall a whole week at the end of the week - or worse, several days into the next week. So the highlights that still stand out are fewer. But there were some! There must have been.</p> <p>As an aside, I have spent the last wee while browsing the lovely underside of the swanky mainstream platform version of the web - the web of handmade personal websites. Websites with 'about me' pages and, sometimes, not 'blogs' but 'journals' or 'diaries'. And in that alternative word, so much else can exist. A <em>blog</em> has a certain vibe to it, but a <em>journal</em> or <em>diary</em>? Ooh...</p> <p>(In fact, one such personal website sent me right down a rabbit hole which saw me type out a thousand words breathing new life into a decade-old project of mine: why do people keep diaries? It turns out there's still meat on those bones.)</p> <p>((Aside number two: an alternative to the weeknote is, if course, a <a href="">notebook</a> of disparate thoughts and subjects, alongside <a href="">a very neat and minimal journal</a> kept in the form of daily bulleted entries - both examples here from Wesley Aptekar-Cassels.))</p> <p>Anywho. On Sunday I managed to run a decent half marathon distance into the City - down along Regent's Park to the Bank of England and St Paul's Cathedral, then back along the Strand. It was a long way but felt pretty comfortable, and took me to some really interesting areas. Doing it on Sunday morning meant London was pretty deserted, too. I hope to do another similar route again soon.</p> <p>The weather was still very cold and icy most of the week. During the week I was getting back into running but still finding icy patches and seeing frozen-over ponds on the Heath etc. The robins were very grateful for the 'buggy nibbles' I've started putting out. Little mealworm-stuffed parcels of goodness. They've also been collecting leaves and other bits for their nest, which is super exciting.</p> <p>Wednesday nights lately have become cocktails and board games nights in this household. In one novel suggestion we've managed to turn the middle of the week into something to look forward to. It's so simple that I can't believe it took so long to come up with, and can't believe I initially sneered at the concept. It's great!</p> <p>We started watching <em>Deutschland 83</em> after I fell down a GDR/stasi wikihole started by watching Nils Frahm's concert at the Funkhaus and me looking into the history of the venue. It's a fun show - doesn't take itself too seriously, and although it necessarily has to lay on the <em>this is a period show here's some pop music to remind you</em> vibes, it's done well, and makes for a believable world.</p> <p>We don't watch much drama (is drama the right word? I mean 'TV fiction', really.) Most of our watching is factual stuff - whether of the Grand Designs genre, the cosy travel/biography/history genre, or the 'behind the scenes at the factory' genre. I'm the same with books - I read far more non-fiction than fiction. Not sure why that is. Possibly something like wanting to feel like I'm learning something new...but that's real? I don't know.</p> <p>To a similar end, I also watch an ungodly amount of YouTube. I'm definitely in that trap of just finding comfort in the algorithm and how it, gasp, always seems to find something I want to watch. It's a trap, I know. I read occasionally of people who follow the YouTube channels that they want to watch by using RSS, thereby only seeing each new video and never what the algorithm throws up. It seems enlightened and... Not for me. I take comfort in the feeling that there is always something else out there for me to see/watch/read/learn. And so I continue to soak up whatever is chucked my way.</p> <p>On that note, I want to end on a few links to a few things I've enjoyed this week:</p> <p>Megan Hallinan writes about all sorts of things but she always manages to give her blog posts a neat arc, which I love. She draws on a wide range of lived experiences, places travelled (and lived-in), and people she's met to tell an interesting new story. Two recent examples include a post about her memories of <a href="">the dark room</a>, and <a href="">(re)discovering Marconi's wireless station</a> not so far from where she grew up.</p> <p>Jesse B. Crawford writes quite technical articles at <a href="">Computers Are Bad</a> and... I don't know - you know that cliche where someone has a voice so good that you'd happily just listen to them read the dictionary? Something about the way Crawford explains often incredibly technical subjects makes them so damn <em>readable</em>. It's uncanny. Possibly it's just a nice overlap of personal interests with my own. But I've definitely found myself happily reading 1000+ words on something like credit card terminals just because of how he writes.</p> <p>A recent post <a href="">covers North Korea's 'wired radio' broadcast system</a> - and that's a pretty good microcosm of the subjects Crawford covers: broadcast/network technologies old and new.</p> <p>I think I nailed early on what it is I love about Computers Are Bad: each post is reminiscent of that one great article in an issue of 2600 magazine. Typically there are some articles I skim over. There's one or two shorter ones that make me go 'huh'. There's the 'hacker perspective' column which I usually love. And there's the Telecom Informer column which I find fascinating every time. It's the latter that a) is my favourite feature in 2600, and b) most closely resembles Computers Are Bad. And rather than once a quarter, Crawford is posting almost weekly recently. It's wonderful.</p> <p>And <a href="">Shawn Granton</a> continues to write just the most comforting and readable regular blog posts, mainly on the two subjects of either cycling or photography (often both). I'm always happy when I've got a post of his lined up on my Kindle to read at bedtime.</p> <p>And finally, <a href="">this NY Times piece</a> about an almost-lost archive of local history on the Shetland Islands.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Irregular timekeeping 2021-02-11T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>A <a href="">post from Roy Tang</a> (itself inspired by a <a href="">post from Austin Kleon</a>) about calendars where each year is thirteen periods of 28 days has reminded me of a few things.</p> <p>In general, I find these concepts of different ways to keep time and dates really fascinating. It's such a fundamental part of our lives that to imagine a different way of doing things really twists my melon (man).</p> <p>I find myself lusting after living under a solar clock occasionally - though this would never work in the latitudes I currently reside in; the day length varies too much. It might be better in the Tropics. In a fantasy world, though, I would love to try and live 'by the sun' even in climes where day length does indeed change throughout the year - simply rising at dawn and bedding down at nightfall. Perhaps rising in the middle of the summer nights by the light of the full moon to get some chores done.</p> <p>Similarly, I was really captivated when I learned about <a href="">early Japanese timekeeping</a>, where each day was made up of a set number of hours, but each occurred at the same solar time each day, so that the hours themselves varied in length throughout the year. This necessitated clocks which could be so adjusted each day to keep them 'in time' with the sun. It's the same as our current quirk of just sort of knowing the hours of daylight get shorter and longer throughout the year, but means clocks don't need constant adjustment. I think the system we have is easier.</p> <p>(As an aside, there are <a href=";hl=en&amp;gl=US">smartphone apps you can get, some with widgets</a>, that will display the time in these alternative methods, and it's actually kind of cool to be aware of the time in relation to the sun throughout the year. Knowing when local solar noon occurs is really quite nice. And actually, smartphones and smartwatches have made access to all this extra time/date metadata even easier: keeping track of the sunset/sunrise times, the phases of the moon, tides, and so on. And don't get me started on <a href="">Swatch's ingenious internet time</a>.)</p> <p>Alternative calendars are similarly fascinating, but the abrupt changes in adopting a different one are felt less immediately.</p> <p>In my old job at Network Rail I was intrigued to find that they (and, I understand, most railway companies with some link to the predecessor British Rail and the various regional railway operating companies) run to four week 'periods' of exact lengths, leading to a year having thirteen equal periods rather than twelve months of varying lengths. If I ever knew why they originally decided to do this - or why they continue to do this - the logic now escapes me.</p> <p>I'd like to think it has some roots in the way that railways really gave to us modern timekeeping: even in a country as narrow as Britain, it was the coming of the railways that stopped local timezones being kept - where one town might be seven minutes ahead of the next, based on the sun - in favour of one national time zone, ostensibly so as not to mess up the timetables when trains could suddenly whisk you across the country in so short a time that variations in time zone would cause problems. I can't think how this new railway-based approach to timekeeping would have lead to a new way of keeping days and months/periods, but perhaps it is linked.</p> <p>Either way, the modern outcome for the rail employee of today in having to use this 13-periods-in-a-year system, regardless of inter-operation with other railway colleagues, has one quite crucial problem: being paid thirteen times a year sounds brilliant doesn't it? Being paid on the same day every four weeks? So predictable and steady. Marvellous. Ah - until, that is, you remember that just about everything else in the world is done <em>monthly</em> - bills and rent and so on. And so when you are on a four-weekly pay period, 'payday' shifts every month, slowly going further and further out of sync with when your utility bills and rent/mortgage is actually paid. It's actually sort of a nightmare. (Or it was for me when I was living one payslip to the next on a fairly small starting salary after university, and possessing the financial commonsense of gnat.)</p> <p>The one nice aspect of four-weekly pay periods? That unicorn-like thing of a <em>thirteenth</em> payslip in a <em>12-month</em> year, with no bills to pay that month. Sort of. But, honestly, I'd have taken one twelfth of that payslip spread across twelve monthly paydays FAR over the short-lived novelty of having an extra payday once a year.</p> <p>As with all the systems referenced above: they might be all well and good in their own right, but they only work if everyone is using the same one.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2021 week five 2021-02-08T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>Managed to run every (week)day this week. Good stuff. The weather turned a bit this weekend, so instead of running just went for some longer walks. Saturday's walk took me through Chinatown, which was a little busier than the surrounding streets, and I enjoyed the sight of strings of lanterns being put up, presumably for the lunar new year.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a><br /> I made another recording of church bells - luckily not an uphill run away as with the others, and the results were very pleasing. It's the second time I've found myself startled by the first hit - at the moment I go to churches that I don't know for sure have striking bells, and of course I don't know the precise second they will strike. So I stand and wait around the hour and then suddenly it begins, usually much louder than I had anticipated.</p> <p>It's also the second set of bells I've captured now that (at 12 o'clock, anyway) follow the 3-3-3-9 pattern that I don't believe I've ever noticed before. I know I now need to read up on church bells or striking clocks/chronometers to understand the significance. It's fun learning this stuff 'by accident'.</p> <p>This was also a nice one as, after the bells died down, the nearby birdsong picked up again. The new recording is up at <a href="">/audio</a> (St Anne's and St Andrew's).</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>I realised that me going out recording church bells has a number of similarities to short wave radio listening: it's about going out somewhere and experiencing something ephemeral yet somewhat predictable or repeatable. It also has a bit to do with the local atmospherics and conditions.</p> <p>Made another thing in Garageband which, I think, owes something to Wilco's <em>Reservations</em>. That's up at <a href="">/audio</a>, naturally. It's called <em>Shannon</em>. We played board games on Wednesday night and listened to <em>Yankee Hotel Foxtrot</em> and <em>A Ghost is Born</em> and it had been too long since I'd heard both. So, so good.</p> <p>I nuked both my phone and my iPad this week - the former was something I'd been meaning to do for ages as Android systems do slowly fill up with crud over time, and I'm guilty of occasionally adding apps that run background services to help with one problem or another, but it does all add up. And the iPad is a similar situation: it's an older model with just 16GB of storage, of which the system takes up about 6.5GB. Now that I'm mainly using it for Garageband I have wiped it and left it only with that and the Minimoog Model D app and it all runs a bit happier and with plenty of storage headroom. It still chokes occasionally, helpfully 'optimising playback' for a few seconds before continuing. Better that than crashing, though.</p> <p>Watched Nils Frahm's concert film <em>Tripping with Nils Frahm</em> this weekend which was bloody lovely. His music is wonderful - a mixture of incredibly intricate piano with layered synths and electronics - and it was just nice to watch a concert film that puts you right in the thick of it. It was performed in the round so the crowd is always just off behind Frahm as he plays. I was captivated by the clouds of mist above the audience's heads and reminded of that strange occurrence when many warm bodies gather together to watch a performance. I hadn't thought about that in ages.</p> <p>And the venue - Berlin's Funkhaus - is really interesting. I found <a href="">a great tour of the facility by Sound on Sound on YouTube</a>, which includes some fascinating characters explaining the way the building was designed with the acoustics first and foremost. I highly recommend it if that sounds like your thing.</p> <p>_Tripping with Nils Frahm _is exclusive to Mubi - if you want to watch it you can start a free trial using <a href="">my Mubi referral code</a> if you like.</p> <p>Not much else to report this week. The rhythms of the weeks in early 2021 are a touch repetitive, but if it means repeatedly being able to do things I enjoy then I can't complain. Nagging thoughts of 'I've just realised I'm a bit bored of all this' or wondering when I might see the sea again do feel a little bit selfish. But they creep in nonetheless.</p> <p>Finally, the robin taste tests continue. Robin definitely appears to prefer mealworms to chopped almonds. Picky sod. But a new addition of (delightfully named) Buggy Nibbles are going down a storm.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2021 week four 2021-02-03T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>January is done.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>As I've seen a couple of people say, though, this is merely a calendar page-turn, and doesn't really help much. On the one hand, woo, progress. But on the other, progress to what? A twelfth of another year has slinked by, barely noticed? Not sure how celebratory a mood this leaves me in.</p> <p>Nonetheless! This week I have enjoyed a few silly hobbies, including more tinkering with Garageband and the Minimoog Model D iOS app, which was kindly made available for free back in the first lockdown. I had only dabbled with the latter before this week, but I'm now seeing how incredibly feature packed it is, and how it can be worked into a Garageband workflow more successfully.</p> <p>There's a process by which you can jump out of Garageband into a supported app, noodle around in there - with a tiny Garageband record/play button superimposed - then jump back into Garageband to place the track you just recorded in the other app. It's very clever. And yet another surprise that my old iPad mini still happily handles this kind of abuse on its RAM and CPU.</p> <p>I was running low on storage which initially caused problems, but once I'd had a tidy up it worked surprisingly smoothly. I didn't <em>make</em> anything worthwhile of course - I mostly just spent an hour or two trying out the different presets and twiddling the knobs to see what effect they have. I tend to go for the bassy ones, holding down a low note, and getting lost in warbling, flanging bass notes turned up a little too high in my headphones. Precisely what I would do with a real synth, I'm sure. It's a lot of fun.</p> <p>I've hit a stumbling block in the shape of not being able to envisage actually making a song with a proper structure. Or, not quite knowing how to achieve that in Garageband. I know about building sections and being able to rearrange them. But I'm not quite into a proper flow state where I can do so successfully. I'm getting close though, and I imagine the two crucial missing pieces are 1) jotting down some notes and having a structure planned out to begin with, and 2) devoting enough time in one sitting to seeing an entire project through.</p> <p>Until then I'll just bung the headphones on and hit a bass note and just low it go BWAAAAHHHHHH in my ears for a while.</p> <hr /> <p>Other sounds that my ears have been delighted by this week are from the other end of the scale: church bells. Having successfully captured one church a few days earlier striking 12 o'clock, I noticed that a nearby catholic chapel struck the hour a minute or two later, so I went to capture that this week. The results are over at <a href="">/audio</a> of course.</p> <p>Two notes on the newer recording: it unfortunately contains some unpleasant construction sounds - which I don't mind as it is a true representation of the sounds of church bells in an urban environment. And the striking of this church bell was odd - I had expected 12 single strikes for the hour, but what I got was three groups of three, and then nine. I don't believe I've heard bells do that pattern before. Possibly it has some significance relating to its... catholicness? Anyway, it was actually a pleasant surprise.</p> <p>I think now that I have two in the bag, my quest is now to record all the striking church bells within a set area; NW3 seems reasonable, particularly as I once started and failed to finish a project to sketch all the extant <a href="">pubs in NW3</a>.</p> <hr /> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>The return the other week of a robin has now become <em>two</em> robins, which is fantastic. They are feisty, territorial birds, so I am fairly sure that seeing two birds happily feeding near one another must mean they are a breeding pair. I really hope we see babies later in the year. I'd love to spot an identifying feature on these birds that pointed to one being one of last year's babies (if that timeline even stacks up). Either way, it's a delight seeing and hearing them at close quarters again.</p> <hr /> <p>This weekend's main sporting entertainment was the cyclo-cross world championships at Ostend, Belgium. I love watching cycling, but cyclo-cross is just on another level. This course contained muddy slopes, steps, long 21% ramps, and a couple of sections on the beach - both through thick, dry sand and along the wet, harder sand, with some riders edging into the surf. Amazing.</p> <p>The men's and women's elite championships were shown by BBC, and we enjoyed them both, though it has to be said the women's round was a bit more interesting as it was a shorter, closer race. The men's race felt a lap or two too long - towards the end, the podium was basically assured and the main players just plugged on to the bitter end. The men's was a showdown between two previous title holders which had its moments. It's just such an impressive sport to watch as you can just feel how their legs must burn as they come off a rutted, deep patch of sand and immediately have to dig in to power up a steep ramp.</p> <p>I'd love to go and see a cyclo-cross event some day. By all accounts it is growing in popularity here.</p> <hr /> <p>After having <a href="">a little moan last week</a> about missing the freedom to go and do as I please during lockdown, I'm pleased to report that over the last few days I was able to... well, basically go and do as I please. Within reason / guidelines.</p> <p>Long walks on Saturday and then Sunday morning took me to some familiar places, albeit (on Sunday) seen at a much earlier hour and with very few other people around. It was just what I needed, to be surrounded by interesting sights and trees and birdsong, and to have a few options for my next part of the route.</p> <hr /> <p>And finally, bitten by the bug of the Pottery Throwdown show on Channel 4, we bought some clay and had a bash at making some stuff. It's really not very easy at all, though it is a nicely tactile process. I ended up making a tealight holder and trying to make a tortoise. Pictures when they're good and done, I promise.</p> <p>Afterwards I felt a little unsure if I want to continue with pottery. I will try one or two new things just to see. But the abiding feeling was one I've had before when doing analogue art type things. The imprecision (not to mention my own lack of skill) is often what I find so disappointing about using tools in the physical world to make things, whether that's pen and paper, paints, model-making, or now clay. I like clean likes and precision, and it's hard to achieve those in the physical world. Or at least I find it hard.</p> <p>And so all this made me realise something: that's what I like about <em>digital</em> creative forms.</p> <p>Photography, editing audio, and even writing and web design to a degree. It can all be done with pixel-sharp precision. The tools are infinitely precise. I love that about digital media. There are elements I love for analogue's roughness - the decay of a delay effect on an audio sample, the somewhat unpredictable element of film photography, or the imperfections left in something screen printed, for example. But I think what I seek most of all in creative output is sharpness and accuracy. God knows I don't always achieve it. But that's what I'm chasing, and it's good to acknowledge that.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> It's raining today 2021-01-29T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's raining today, and I am struck by two quite unexpected pangs of nostalgia.</p> <p>The first is of navigating Milton Keynes by bike along its infamous 'Redway' cycle/pedestrian routes. When I lived in MK, those routes unlocked the city for me in a way I've not experienced living anywhere else.</p> <p>Ignoring the inviting country lanes around MK, the Redways themselves offered me their own invitation to follow them from A to B, avoiding as they do any need to cycle on roads. They occasionally led me to visit corners of MK's sprawling suburbs purely because the paths led there. I miss that sense of having a network of safe and ridable paths at my disposal.</p> <p>I'm not sure why a rainy day makes me nostalgic for the Redways. But perhaps it's that I often pedalled those paths in mist or mizzle or otherwise inclement weather, emerging from dripping underpasses.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>The other strange pang of nostalgia I feel is for Manchester's rain-slicked pavements.</p> <p>It's a cliche to talk of Manchester as a rainy city. Having lived there for a number of years, I have as many sunny memories as rainy. Probably I just cooped myself up indoors on the rainier days. But sometimes I'd maraud around those wet streets, often with a camera in hand, or I'd be compelled to take myself from Rusholme up Oxford Road to uni.</p> <p>A very distinct memory is one of having sheltered in the university library between lectures before heading down the road to the RNCM - the Royal Northern College of Music - to sit in their theatre and watch an orchestra perform one of their free lunchtime concerts.</p> <p>The abiding memory of Manchester's streets - rainy or not - is that of a network of places I could visit: sanctuaries for every mood, or weather condition, or time of day.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>I'm not sure what's led my brain from watching the rain fall outside to those two quite distinct memories. But the common theme is freedom. Freedom to go as I please down known pathways to safe havens or new places to explore.</p> <p>And so it's probably not actually the rain that's triggered this nostalgia - it's the current lockdown restrictions. And as I realise that, I suddenly feel a new pang - one of guilt. I must remind myself that lockdown has not been so very cruel to me. It is long, and it is hard. But it could be so much worse. Watching the robins outside gives me so much pleasure, whatever the weather. And so when I go out for a lunchtime run later - probably in the rain - I will try to enjoy it as much as I can.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2021 week three 2021-01-25T00:00:00Z <p>Another week done. I can quickly see how these weeknotes, like these weeks, can disappear and blur together. But I continue to want to try and demark the weeks in some way.</p> <p>Part of this is inspired by the meme I've seen a couple of times recently which describes weekends for WFHers as merely &quot;a longer lunch break&quot; which, well, yeah. It's a pretty apt description. But to shift that from being a pessimistic take, I just need to remind myself that the weekends currently involve a <em>much better</em> version of my lunch breaks, e.g. longer walks/runs, more elaborate food, and films in place of YouTube videos. Just... more and better. And that's fine. Not even <code>thisisfine.jpeg</code>, but <em>fine</em>. Actually fine.</p> <p>Lots of play buttons in this week's post.</p> <hr /> <p>This week I added a couple of bits to <a href="">/audio</a> - one new musical composition entitled <em>Everything's Electronic</em> which I built in Garageband, using some snippets of ham radio chatter from a web SDR.</p> <p>That was a really fun session and scratched a good itch. My ageing iPad Mini 2 still runs Garageband surprisingly well. It stops to 'optimize playback' occasionally, but I have so far experienced zero crashes or any real slowdown. I had one slight data loss issue towards the end of this session where it had seemingly not autosaved correctly, or not uploaded the right version, so I lost about fifteen minutes of work. Fortunately by that stage I was finished and so that meant just some automation/panning and some mastering, rather than anything creative or new. It didn't take long to rebuild what I'd lost, but it did scare me a little.</p> <p>Once I was done it felt like a neat little thing that hadn't existed a few hours earlier, and that came with the inevitable serotonin boost. Silly stuff, but it's something I know I'll be doing again soon.</p> <p>It's no exaggeration to say that I have had - at the very least - the <em>urge</em> to mix audio in this way ever since we added a sound card to our PC when I was about 10-11 years old. Around that time, Chris Moyles hosted a late-night weekend show on Capital FM and I distinctly remember he occasionally played mixes where he had cut and pasted audio clips together over a beat - including a Wallace and Grommit composition that riffed on the 'cracking cheese, Grommit' line.</p> <p>Once I had a sound card at my disposal, and this concept of cutting together audio, the next obvious step for me was taping (I mean actually tape recording) some snippets from Wallace and Grommit directly from my TV's speakers. I don't even think it was a line feed, but rather straight from the speakers into the tape recorder's microphone. Likewise, I don't know if this then went by direct line into the sound card or, again, tape recorder speakers into a PC mic? But somehow I loaded some audio into my PC and ended up cutting together loops of Wallace and Grommit soundbites. I don't think it had a beat or anything: it was merely the novelty of being able to manipulate the sound in this way, looping it to become a beat of sorts.</p> <p>Anyway, this desire to create almost percussive, rhythmic loops of audio has clearly stayed with me 25 years later as I still feel compelled to make the same silly compositions.</p> <p>The other recording I added is more natural: just ten minutes of field recordings taken on a walk to and around Paddington Cemetery yesterday in the snow, at a time when there was still some crunchy snow on the ground, but the trees were beginning to drip and the birds were being extra chatty.</p> <hr /> <p>This week also saw Joe Biden inaugurated, which was nice. The ceremony felt like quite a normal and generally positive thing to sit on my bum and watch, and for that reason it felt distinctly of another time (despite the wearing of masks and so on - though Barack Obama fist-bumps could fit comfortably into any timeline).</p> <p>Other things that happened this week which felt otherly and normal include: the snow. I've already heard this hailed as being A Good Thing simply because it is A Different Type of Thing. And for that we can rejoice. Usual caveats about me being a soft southerner and our London snow being shortlived and a pleasant distraction from the great ennui; I realise that the recent weather has been absolute dogshit for much of the country.</p> <p>M and I played some board games yesterday evening. Ticket to Ride Nordic Edition which we got form Christmas and is helping me learn Scandinavian place names, Monopoly Deal (a card game variant which we only just sussed out), and Scrabble, which I haven't played in years. These were played while some nice music was playing and some chocolates were scoffed. Two or three hours later we realised we had thought only of the games, music or chocolates that whole time, and had not been disturbed by thoughts of all that <em>stuff</em> and so we should probably make a habit of this.</p> <p>This week also saw the return of the robin (or just, like, <em>a</em> robin) to the outdoor space. The robin loves meal worms and it has been especially cold and harsh lately, so it's pleasing to think it is enjoying the food I leave out for it. I've missed it.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <hr /> <p>My music recommendation this week is the band SAD HALEN who reeled me in purely by having a great band name, and who turn out to make great 90s-inspired guitar songs that make me think of Dinosaur Jr and The Beths and other people. The songs are nicely produced as well. Here's an example track in case that sounds like your cup of tea:</p> 2021 week two 2021-01-20T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Ah, the optimism of these early weeknotes. I know by now that some weeks I won't have much to say, and that some weeks I will barely even remember to try and start one. But it's a nice habit to try and strike up. I'm not sure when is best to write these - it seems 'right' to me for the week in question to be Monday to Sunday, and so it follows that these should be written up on the Monday. Doing so on the Sunday evening would be a bit snake-eating-its-tail: I'm still very much in weekend mode on Sunday evening.</p> <p>Anyway.</p> <p>Managed to keep up a pretty consistent week of running. My new shoes continue to put a spring in my step.</p> <p>I have joined Strava's monthly challenge of running 100km in January, and I am pleased to say I'm well on my way there after a strong start. I only have another 5km or so to do and more than ten days to do it. It won't be the first month I've achieved this but it's a decent total to aim for.</p> <p>I did also join the <em>200km</em> challenge, but that will remain just that: a challenge. Maybe I can aim for it later in the year when the days are longer. I did run 800-odd kilometres in 2020, so if I can hit a thousand this year, that would be a good thing to aim for.</p> <p>The most enjoyable run of the week was Sunday's, where I deliberately wanted to take myself (and my new trail shoes) off-road. I fired up Rungo (a brilliant navigational app where you plug in a route and it provides turn-by-turn directions in your ears) and pointed myself towards some green spaces near Finchley. Is Finchley a place? Near there, anyway.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a>I knew there were a few golf courses around there, but there also seemed to be fields and nature reserves, so I hoped I would end up there. And I did! Having run about 9km on roads, I suddenly took a turn down a muddy bridleway and the next couple of Ks were incredibly muddy and wet. At times I was splashing through ankle deep liquid mud. The rest of the time it was sticky, tacky mud. It felt great.</p> <p>I passed a handful of families out walking dogs etc, but my goal of going for a long run which <em>didn't</em> take me into town and the busy places turned out very well.</p> <p>I managed to make it a neat half marathon - just over 21km - which is a distance I can just about do if I decide I am going to. And I'm so glad I found some proper countryside vibes and returned home muddy, scratched by brambles, and full of fresh air. My trainers were trashed, of course, but they cleaned up well enough.</p> <hr /> <p>Running aside, I have managed to stay home about as much as I can.</p> <p>It's hard when the weather is bright and I want to be out taking pictures. But I scratched that itch this week by taking some still life type shots around the home. It'll do for now.</p> <p>I ween myself on Flickr - beautiful light-filled shots of streetscapes (many taken in the before time, I am sure, as I follow a lot of film photographers or those who remaster and reupload older shots) and it makes me yearn for those environments and conditions.</p> <p>I find myself spending probably more time watching Youtube tutorials of people editing in Lightroom than I do actually editing in Lightroom. It's helpful to see others doing it, but I do need to tip that balance back the other way.</p> <p>I'm starting to move more towards picking out individual shots or small series and spending much more time doing selective edits for a specific upload or project. This helps me hone my skills in particular areas, and hopefully produces good, one-off results.</p> <p>I am so much more used to taking an entire travelogue-type series of shots from a trip or a long walk and applying similar edits to the whole set to give it a uniformity, so it is good to try and focus on a small handful of shots instead, or even just one individual shot.</p> <p>I've even started to think along the lines of going much further back into my archive and finding similar - one or a handful of shots - and giving them a new lick of paint using techniques I now use and find natural that I didn't when I originally took (and possibly edited) the shots.</p> <p>It's quite a mental somersault contemplating that a single image can be given so many different looks. Making the decision to do something quite stark, like making it monochrome, or doing a heavy crop, feels so definite and final. And yet of course I can re-edit the same image a number of times. It's a lot to wrap my head around.</p> <hr /> <p>I've started hacking together an <a href="">/audio</a> page at this domain.</p> <p>For years I've collected random field recordings of specific places that had a nice sound to them, trying to capture what it is to be there in a similar way that I am compelled to take photographs. I don't often succeed - recording audio, like taking a wide angle photo of a scene, often reveals that the small parts of that scene which are appealing to you are in fact nearly drowned out (visually or aurally) by other more ordinary elements which your brain had tuned out.</p> <p>Much like zooming in or cropping out a photo to allow the viewer to focus on the elements you find most appealing in a scene, creating a decent sound recording of a place requires 'zooming in' on that sound, e.g. ensuring that any other distracting sounds are as minimal as they can be.</p> <p>It is possible to do some EQ and filtering in post-production, but it's not easy to polish a turd when it comes to making field recordings.</p> <p>With that all in mind, I wanted a place to call my own where I can stick those field recordings that most 'work' in my head, or that most capably take me away to the place they were recorded. I also have a handful of more musical or compositional tracks that I've enjoyed mucking around in Garageband to create. I've a lot to learn there, but by the same token I have dipped into it on and off over the years and have a basic enough understanding of how the software works to make it possible to come up with a track or two that make me smile.</p> <p>A final point: there will be a mixture of Soundcloud and self-hosted tracks on the <a href="">/audio</a> page for now. Soundcloud seems to be the de facto place to stick audio and music, but the website (and app) are appalling and riddled with spam and weird UX and UI choices. (It reminds me of Flickr in the post-Yahoo!, pre-Smugmug days where every upload was greeted with spam comments and all kinds of signs of a lack of care.) But part of the reason I've sat on some of these recordings for so long is not having anywhere to put them.</p> <p>Now, inspired by a few self-built, self-hosted websites, I've decided to just make my own place to put them, rather than relying on third parties with their ads and their spam and their clunky interfaces.</p> <p>It'll take a little work to get everything over here, and I want to make sure each file has decent metadata and looks neat. But it's a start for now.</p> <hr /> <p>And finally, I've been reading <a href=""></a> for ages - it's a site that poses creative people a series of questions and collects their tools and how they use them in their work and life. Usually computery tools. Often nice pens and stuff.</p> <p>The last question is usually along the lines of asking what that person's dream setup would be.</p> <p>Often it is half-invented sci-fi daydreams of some near-future, no-expenses-spared version of what they already have. Sometimes it's a variation of &quot;well I'm pleased to say I'm almost there...&quot;. But the answer to <a href="">this latest post by music video producer Ninian Dorf</a> just took me away with its simple but perfect scenario:</p> <blockquote> <h3>What would be your dream setup?</h3> <p>Early morning. A great view in a window in front of me. A good desk. Just peaking on my first coffee of the day. A great idea in my head.</p> </blockquote> <p>Wonderful.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2021 week one 2021-01-12T00:00:00Z <p>A couple of nights ago in our lounge was heard a very loud and piercing <em>BANG</em>, or more of a <em>POP</em>. I carefully went towards the source of the sound, in the kitchen, and started looking towards electricals - I assumed a fuse had blown, or possibly something under pressure had given way.</p> <p>After a minute or so's search, the source was identified: a button cell, or watch, battery had exploded. Or... popped, I guess. Just blown itself apart. Incredibly, it was in the kitchen in a zone which is currently the closest thing we have to a blast chamber: on a shelf between a cast iron set of weighing scales and a granite pestle and mortar. If I were performing the controlled detonation of another battery, this would be the sort of environment I would hastily erect around it.</p> <p>Bizarre.</p> <p>Anyway, the battery had come from some cheap Christmas decorations we bought at The Works, the discount bookshop. They were some of those cute laser-cut wooden buildings with little LED lights inside. They were astonishingly cheap, and each was powered by three watch batteries. The cheapness of the whole set has now made it abundantly clear to me, and I am only glad a) that I chose to remove the batteries before we packed the decorations away recently, and b) that the event occurred between two of the hardest objects known to our kitchen, rather than, say, near some wine glasses.</p> <p>It briefly crossed my mind that I should tell The Works, but really, even in the best case scenario, this would lead to a small black and white A4 recall notice in the front window of some of their shops, and wouldn't make a blind bit of difference. It is slightly troubling, though, to consider that each of these cheap decorations contains three potential blasting caps and the number of these which must now be scattered around the home of many thousands of people.</p> <hr /> <p>I have been reading an anthropological study of a Polynesian community written by Raymond Firth. <em>We, the Tikopia</em> was written in 1936 about the peoples of <a href="">the island</a> of the same name. I was put onto the subject having read about the island in that wonderful bedside table book, the _Atlas of Remote Islands _by Judith Schalansky. That gorgeous book - part atlas, part history, part creative writing anthology - has inspired so many strange thought explorations in the years I have owned it. As each island is given two pages: one a map, one a page of text, I have rationed my devouring of its contents.</p> <p>The entry on Tikopia made reference to the people keeping their population relatively stable through various rather grizzly and morbid means which intrigued me to the point of needing to know more. Beyond that, of course, reading about remote islands is just an infinitely comforting and fascinating thing for me to do as I nod off.</p> <p>Having ransacked Wikipedia, I found Firth's text (being as it was the source for so much of what we seem to know about this still quite isolated community). I've been enjoying his reasonably transparent approach to describing the people and their customs, but as I read I constantly remind myself that I am not familiar with anthropological texts, particular from the past, and that I may well be merrily reading a book which has some deeply outdated notions about how to describe and depict 'other' communities. But it's best not to turn bedtime reading into an academic exercise: sometimes it's just delightful to read Firth's descriptions of island life, the weather and setting of the island itself, and so on.</p> <p>There is a double enjoyment in describing what it is like to <em>be</em> on a tiny, isolated island (a genre I love to get lost in - scaling the island's peak so that one can overlook almost the entire mass of land? Bliss!), but it is also fascinating as the Tikopia people were (are?) one of the last communities to have western influences forced upon them. As a 'primitive' people (okay, there I <em>know</em> Firth is using outdated language), reading about their daily lives is almost like going back in time.</p> <p>As I say, I have not read many anthropology books - or not by that name, at least - but one series I have loved for years is Ian Mortimer's <em>Time Traveller's Guide</em> books. The first - the <em>Guide to Medieval England</em> - still feels like the best to me. In his books, Mortimer holds the reader's hand as though they have truly just arrived at this historical period and suddenly need to navigate an alien world. What is used for money? How do you obtain food? Lodgings? What customs might you be unaware of? And so on.</p> <p>Mortimer's books are lightly humorous and readable, but are also packed with decades of research and facts - he isn't merely dreaming up some sort of cosplay version of the middle ages, but rather he translates the raw facts and history into what it would <em>feel</em> like to live there. Or at least to visit.</p> <p>And as I read Firth's work - he spent a year or so on the island, the sole European, living amongst the Tikopia, observing them, and (with his knowledge of Maori) learning to speak their tongue - I am immediately reminded of Mortimer's books. Here, Firth is taking the reader with him: what is it like to wake up on Tikopia? What sounds can be heard beyond the walls of his hut? How do the people gather their main meal of the day? What games do they play in the evening, and what gossip do they discuss?</p> <p>It is fabulous and readable stuff - feeling more often like some <em>Time Traveller's Guide</em> to Polynesian life than some dry academic textbook. By all accounts it seems that it is still heavily used by students around the world today. But I am just so happy to read it 'for fun' as Firth's descriptions are so vivid.</p> <hr /> <p>2021 is off to a decent enough start.</p> <p>It was a shame to take down the Christmas tree, but it would have felt very odd leaving it up. The tree was still green and full of needles, but (despite some watering of its stump) was drying out very quickly. We have enough other, living plants in the flat.</p> <p>We have kept the lights which adorn the windows and outside space as we tend to; they will probably remain until almost the time to put the clocks forward, or at least until the days feel sufficiently long. Already, one can sense the slight increase in day length on days when it is clear and bright.</p> <p>I treated myself to some new running shoes at Christmas (my old pair had both Strava and my feet screaming at me to replace them for many months before), and they have taken me about 55km this year already so far. They are slightly more trail-y than my last shoes, with more knobbly soles, so some of those KMs have been muddy, grassy slopes (which is especially handy when one finds that most of north London seems to visit Hampstead Heath or Primrose Hill and sticks religiously to the narrow paths that make up perhaps 1% of those vast open spaces).</p> <p>It is hard to treat the turn of the calendar year as a new start or a moment to look forward when it is in reality a time of abject, bleak darkness. It is rather a time of hunkering down and taking stock, if anything.</p> <p>A bit like the fairy lights mentioned above, as each year passes I really think the new year hasn't truly started until early spring. When the days lengthen and new life begins to appear, <em>then</em> I think it is really possible to draw a line under the previous year and look ahead as if having cleared the bottom of a curve which is now only just beginning to rise again.</p> <p>So I will keep my head down for the coming weeks, and engage myself in more reading and genealogical research (Ancestry is currently free from home via my local library authority - maybe it is with yours too?) and embracing the fact that I have a cosy home with all I need for these short days. And I will continue to try and use what few daylight hours we have for breaking in my new running shoes some more.</p> Twenty Twenty 2021-01-06T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>When reading recently some other people's year-end round-ups, I felt a familiar sense of FOMO, that in not writing a funny, fascinating and well-written year-end round-up post of my own, that I was somehow letting the year slip through my fingers like grains of sand. It might be easy to say that, for a year like 2020, this is excusable. And yet, when I look back on the year, I can see a number of highlights - some of which came before, or outside of, <em>THE GREAT EVENT</em>, while other highlights happened in spite of it.</p> <p>To tackle the sense of unaccomplishedness in not writing such a great round-up, I can console myself with two things:</p> <p>Of the round-ups I've read and enjoyed, most are written by the chroniclers of our time - those bloggers who already keep consistent and interesting weeknotes. It should probably not come as a surprise that these people are capable of a good year-end round-up, too.</p> <p>Secondly, I noticed a curious trend in the year-end round-ups I read: a majority of them referred to their jobs <em>by the number of hours they had worked that year</em>. A-ha. Suddenly the correlation of comes into focus.</p> <p>This isn't to say &quot;I'm so sorry for not blogging enough, I'm just such a terribly busy person with my awfully important 9-5 job that I am lucky to have.&quot; I obviously do have considerable spare time which, if I pushed myself, I could commit to such things as good weeknotes or year-end round-ups. But one thing I probably <em>do</em> lack that self-employed/freelancer blogging types have, is routine and self-discipline and so on.</p> <p>This is all really just to say: kudos* to you, o bloggers. I am grateful to you for keeping the torch aflame, and for a good number of those I follow who manage to do it to a rigid schedule. Your work is not in vain. There are people like me who are always so glad to see a new post appear from a particular blogger at a particular time, knowing I can either send it to my Kindle to read in bed, or save it for a later browser-based session due to that individual's propensity for including multimedia content and grade-A hyperlinks.</p> <p>* I noticed in this year's Strava round-up the use of the singular 'kudo', implying that kudos, Strava's form of 'likes' is a plural. Compounding this is Strava's own suggestion to 'give someone Kudos' - I can only give one Kudos, not many Kudo-s. I don't even want to know if the singular kudo has any grounding in linguistic reality (see also data as a plural), but it just feels wrong somehow. They're not Mentos, Strava.</p> <p>If you follow me here, or on <a href="">Twitter</a>, <a href="">Instagram</a>, <a href="">Flickr</a>, or have occasionally visited <a href="">my Photography webpage</a> (which needs updating) - then first of all <em>thank you</em> and <em>I'm sorry</em>. But second of all, you probably already have some idea of what my highlights of 2020 are like. I haven't talked much about the lowlights. I'm just not the sort of person who does that in public. My mental health is fragile enough to just try and focus on the things that make me happy, and deal with the less happy things in my own way.</p> <p>Anyway, some highlights of my 2020 are listed below.</p> <ul> <li>In January we somehow managed to get away to Bruges for a magical few days. This seems so unthinkable and other-worldly now, in view not just of Covid-19 but also Brexit. But this time last year both those things hadn't happened yet, and this trip was a breeze.</li> <li>We also went to the theatre in January, which isn't something I do very often at all, to see Hamilton. Despite this being a rare outing of this kind, it still feels remarkably well-timed and I am so glad it could happen.</li> <li>Robins! Working from home for most of last year meant I could observe the robins that visit our tiny, strange subterranean garden space. See two runs of baby robins venturing out, learning where the good food was found, and gaining their independence, was a wonderful thing to experience at close quarters. It's helped me realise (or re-realise) how important outside space is to me. I'm lucky to have places like Hampstead Heath relatively close by, but having a garden directly outside my window has quickly shot up in my priorities (as I'm sure it did for many people in 2020).</li> <li>Sunflowers. See above, but we tried to use this strange outdoor space for growing sunflowers this year, and had great results. Some reached 8-10ft in height - probably spurred on by the base being below ground as they yearned for sun. I've not grown many things as an adult, but it's absolutely something I want to do more of. I also grew tomatoes from fresh seeds this year, in an unscripted attempt which I felt was doomed to failure. Well, it wasn't! They grew marvellously, and I would really like to grow more next year, following the correct advice.</li> <li>Running: I have been running for a few years now, but 2020 really gave me the opportunity to put more time into this. Working from home meant I had 30-60 minutes before and after work freed up that were normally spent commuting. In the height of summer I even managed to spend one or two weeks running twice a day. I haven't managed to extract the raw data, but it is possible that I ran more in 2020 than all the years leading up to it.</li> <li>Mushrooms! A friend of ours one day randomly asked if we wanted to go mushroom foraging on the Heath. I was initially quite daunted by the prospect as I knew nothing about mushrooms and didn't want to get sick. Luckily they didn't really mean foraging, more hunting and identifying. This led to many more sessions with those friends, new friends-of-friends, and M and I going out doing the same. I have really enjoyed discovering a world I've never really paid attention to this year, and especially the photographic opportunities it has afforded me. We are even working on a collaborative zine revolving around mushrooms!</li> <li>Cornwall - in August we somehow managed to get away to Cornwall between lockdowns for a nice break away biking around and camping. Looking back now, it really feels like we threaded the eye of a needle in terms of squeezing in a trip like that. But we did, and every stage of it went smoothly. Most of all, the welcome we received in Cornwall was warm indeed. We had been led to believe by the media that Cornish locals didn't want outsiders potentially bringing the virus to their door. Perhaps that was true in parts, but we only met kind and welcoming folks (apart from that farmer who rather coldly told us the footpath marked on our map was very much not accessible down his track). Getting back to the coast after spending spring and early summer in London was just staggering: I will never forget the colour of the sea and the coastal plants and flowers.</li> </ul> <p>There are many more minor highlights of 2020 I've not covered. I haven't even mentioned going to a talk by Michael Palin this year and finally meeting the man! And we got away to Hastings again in February. I also got a new camera which I am really enjoying using.</p> <p>And although we only got away for a couple of camping trips in 2020, we have slowly been upgrading our camping (and hiking and bikepacking) gear, and I can't wait for more opportunities next year to try it all out again. I received a chalk bag for bouldering/climbing <em>last</em> Christmas, which was not used once in 2020 so I'm looking forward to doing that again whenever we can.</p> <p>And I'm <em>still</em> astonished we were able to watch not one but three world tour bike races on the TV this summer.</p> <p>Broadly speaking, there have been elements of the government-imposed lockdown that have appealed to my introverted side. It's quite disappointing knowing we are entering 2021 in much the same (or worse) conditions than we had way back in March. But in reflecting on what I liked about 2020 and ignoring the less pleasant sides of it, I think I can still look forward with some positivity.</p> <p>Finally, my favourite picture that I took last year (and quickly becoming one of my all-time favourites) combines a number of odd things: timing, happenstance, light, architecture and engineering, and it was taken on a camera I don't use enough, but love using all the same.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> More ziney loveliness: Shawn Granton (via Charles Pope, cyclist and diarist) 2020-12-15T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Let's just file this one under &quot;things I was convinced I'd already blogged about but...<em>2020?</em>&quot; and pretend it's not already December, okay?</p> <hr /> <p>As well as <a href="">the recent zines I have been enjoying</a>, earlier this year I was a very happy recipient of a nice selection of work by Shawn Granton, behind the wonderfully-titled <a href="">Urban Adventure League</a>. A Portland resident, Shawn has a number of interests which dovetail neatly with my own: he's regularly out on his bike, camping, taking pictures with film cameras, or playing with a short wave radio. Often all in one trip!</p> <p>In fact, the detail that first led me to Shawn's online presence was his use of the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s, a lovely 35mm range finder camera I've <a href="">talked about several times before</a>. The Hi-Matic gets a nice amount of coverage on blogs, Flickr and Instagram, and it's always nice to see what people get out of theirs when you know the exact tool they're using (differences in film stocks aside).</p> <p>And as well as an enthusiastic film photographer, Shawn is also a great blogger. He's been at it for years, and I've really enjoyed getting to know him in a distant sort of way via his blog posts which cover all of the kinds of hobbies I mentioned above.</p> <p>As I was getting more familiar with his interests this past summer, during the same period I had been reading a lovely book called <em>A Golden Age of Cycling</em>, being a collection of recently-published selection of diaries kept by Charles Pope between 1924 and 1933. Pope wrote - somewhat prosaically at times - about his cycling adventures around the UK, and occasionally on the continent.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>The mileage Pope would rack up on a given weekend - and the sheer numbers of weekends he spent awheel in any given year - boggled my mind. A lot of the places he visited were familiar to me, and it was always nice to see how much detail he wrote about the places along the route itself - or rather, the names of those places, if not vivid descriptions of them. Pope rarely waxed lyrical in his diary entries, but they often read as though he was frantically jotting down details at the end of a long day's pedalling, or while he wolfed down some gargantuan breakfast, keen to hit the road again. At the very least, his route listings helped me to visualise a mental map of his route - or occasionally would lead me to actually try and plot the route he took on a map featuring today's roads.</p> <p>This always gave me pause, though; Pope was cycling Britain's roads at a time long before motorways and dual carriageways, but also quite early on in the British love affair with the motor vehicle. These roads were old, windy - and <em>very</em> quiet by today's standards.</p> <p>Crucially, Pope could navigate towns and cities of various sizes without having to contend with vast ring roads, junctions and multi-lane roundabouts. He could instead weave his way in and out by the old roads which were still carrying the size and volume of traffic they were used to.</p> <p>He did of course occasionally grumble about the vast numbers of day-trippers in their gas-guzzling automobiles clogging up pretty little Cotswolds villages, so I mustn't presume the roads were entirely empty of cars. Pope was not a fan of this new menace. And it was therefore especially gut-wrenching to learn via this book that Charles Pope ultimately lost his life on his bicycle after a road traffic accident.</p> <p>But despite this tragedy, what a happy book it is to read. The tales of his adventures have inspired a few of my own, and although I constantly needed to remind myself that British roads 100 years would be virtually unrecognisable to Pope, there are still pockets of the countryside - country lanes and pretty little villages - that would be instantly familiar to the man, as he propped his bike up and strode inside the nearest pub for his trademark refreshment of bread, cheese and Bass ale.</p> <hr /> <p>I provide all this detail into the Pope book because, as I read it, and as I became more familiar with Shawn Granton's blog and general demeanour (not to mention his obsession with British three-speeds), I knew this would be a book Shawn would enjoy. Having read his blog for a while, I was aware he had a public PO Box address on his site, so it was clear what I had to do next: I sent Shawn a copy of the Pope book.</p> <p>To my delight, not only did the book arrive in what seemed like less than a week, but in not much more time than that, I had received a reply by post from Shawn as well! I sent the book via what I presume used to be called 'surface mail' (Royal Mail's International Economy) and had imagined it would be flung into the bilge of a creaking wooden ship and might wash up on the eastern seaboard of North America some time after a storm broke up its hull. Then, through snow/rain/heat/gloom it would eventually cross that vast continent and make its way into Shawn's hands long after I had forgotten ever sending it.</p> <p>But no! Even in a pandemic, the postal service blew me away, and did Shawn proud too: his neat little package was a joy for me to unpack, stuffed as it was with varieties of the stuff he makes and sells. You see, not only is Shawn an entertaining and knowledgable writer, but he's also a great artist, sketching comics and logos for all sorts of projects.</p> <p>I was thrilled to find in the pack he kindly sent me in gratitude for the Pope book a series of photography- and cycling-related comics, zines and stickers.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Thanks so much, Shawn - and if any of you reading this would like to see some of Shawn's work, his Etsy store is the place to pick what you'd like: <a href=""></a> - or just check out his blog at <a href=""></a> - if you like the things I've been blabbing on about for a thousand words now, I'm sure you'll enjoy Shawn's blog, too.</p> <p>Oh, and PS: after mentioning my delight at seeing some of the other recent zines in e-ink form, I should add that I regularly read Shawn's blog posts on my Kindle - and here's <a href="">a recent example</a> which just shows off how great e-ink makes certain types of illustration look:</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> What's updates? 2020-12-10T00:00:00Z <p>I was already vaguely aware that I hadn't updated my blog in a little while, and then yesterday I was pruning and sorting some RSS feeds in Inoreader, putting less active feeds into folders that identified them as being less frequently updated. I saw mine there as it hadn't been updated in more than a month. (Inoreader's 'no updates in more than a month' is a bit black and white, hence why I use folders for stuff that, say, hasn't been updated at all since 2019, and so on.)</p> <p>(It was interesting to me that the previous posts are all about experiences or things I did, and it made me wonder when I got away from writing about just anything, as opposed to specific events. I used to basically just keep a diary on my blog. The biggest change might simply be that I keep my diary more private now, so the stuff that ends up on my blog is the tip of that iceberg.)</p> <p>Anyway in that time I've been thinking about the stuff I've been consuming recently, and a lot of it has been people's homepages - not blogs as such, but homepages (which may incoporate a blog) - and yet again it's something I find myself enchanted by.</p> <p>Noah's <a href="">Distinctly Pink</a> is a chaotic-yet-ordered collection of hyperlinked words - almost a wiki of their mind.</p> <p><a href="">Evy's Garden</a> is a neat distillation of various ideas, concepts and mediums* into different rooms.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Jamie <a href="">just updated his blog</a> with some updates and rationale that seem very sensible.</p> <p>* I'm sorry, I know I mean <em>media</em> but it never feels right in my mouth</p> <p>Noah has helped me want to further the development of a thus far hidden bit of my website which lets me hack together basic HTML pages to see if that's a process I prefer to, say, using Wordpress, or if it will remain a tinkering hobby and not a full standalone site. Crucially, Noah helped me by reminding me of some neat command line tricks for uploading data to a web server.</p> <p>Evy gave me some ideas for how to present disparate, orphaned content: she has a jukebox that plays random songs she's recorded, along with brief bits of metadata, and it gave me the idea to do something similar with various field recordings I have collected over the years. And to do it in a way that means inserting a single line of code pointing to a local MP3, and not a Soundcloud link or similar. I struggle with knowing how and where to present various types of content all under one website. I still think about this here website as blog-first, with optional sub-domains to be added as I see fit. But that's the reverse of a website which also incorporates a blog.</p> <p>And Jamie highlighted some design and layout choices that he has adapted to suit his blogging style, and - crucially - he has written about those choices, which I find interesting and helpful to read. Reading about a writer/web designer's choices is a bit like seeing a website you like and viewing the source code - it reveals things that you might not have considered or thought possible/worthwhile. And that can set me off down another path of thought. That path of thought may not lead me to anything... but it just might. Either way, the process of wandering down that path is enjoyable in itself.</p> <hr /> <p>There's a passage in <a href="">this 2018 piece by Laurel Schwulst</a> that I enjoyed a lot. I liked a lot of bits from the piece, actually, but this one really struck me. It has echoes of Evy's 'garden' metaphor (and possibly I found this piece via Evy? I cannot remember now).</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Website as plant</strong></p> <p>Plants can’t be rushed. They grow on their own. Your website can be the same way, as long as you pick the right soil, water it (but not too much), and provide adequate sunlight. Plant an idea seed one day and let it gradually grow.</p> <p>Maybe it will flower after a couple of years. Maybe the next year it’ll bear fruit, if you’re lucky. Fruit could be friends or admiration or money—success comes in many forms. But don’t get too excited or set goals: that’s not the idea here. Like I said, plants can’t be rushed.</p> <p><strong>Website as garden</strong></p> <p>Fred Rogers said you can grow ideas in the garden of your mind. Sometimes, once they’re little seedlings and can stand on their own, it helps to plant them outside, in a garden, next to the others.</p> <p>Gardens have their own ways each season. In the winter, not much might happen, and that’s perfectly fine. You might spend the less active months journaling in your notebook: less output, more stirring around on input. You need both. Plants remind us that life is about balance.</p> <p>It’s nice to be outside working on your garden, just like it’s nice to quietly sit with your ideas and place them onto separate pages.</p> </blockquote> Some recent reading 2020-12-10T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Somewhere along the way discovering more cool, individual, personal websites recently, I found that some people who dedicate their time to creating such things, also - gasp! - sometimes turn this creativity to the making of zines.</p> <p>Of course!</p> <p>Incidentally, I think this also sort of explains my lack of posts here lately: I've gone a bit into 'receive' rather than 'transmit'. It happens. These things come in waves.</p> <p>Anyway, it's been nice to tap into an undercurrent of creative little publications - particularly the genre of autobiographical life-writing (a particular favourite of mine). In recent years I've found more and more examples of the kind of memoir and recollection that discusses the author's life growing up on computers. I guess that generation is just of the age where a) they could grow up with computers, b) they are feeling nostalgic enough about that time to now write about it.</p> <p>It's a bit like the saying about the music you listen to when you're c.14 years old being really important - it can also be applied to computers: the computers you use, and the games you play, and of course the internet communities you inhabit during those years inevitably has a profound effect on what kind of human being you grow into.</p> <p>With this in mind, here are three zines that I found recently that scratch that itch for me:</p> <p>First up we have a couple of submissions to the <a href="">Lost Histories Jam</a> run a couple of years ago that ran with this pitch:</p> <blockquote> <p>[...]what was something specific to the way that you played or experienced videogames that you feel like hardly anyone ever talks about? How can the community-based, experiential, specific, overlooked and personal enrich the common-knowledge history of videogames?</p> </blockquote> <p>Perfect! Personal histories in relation to videogames, but with a specific slant on those areas that may be overlooked by mainstream recollections.</p> <p>The first find was the intriguingly-titled <a href="">&quot;I have always liked sci-fi, anime, and sex&quot; by Freya C</a>. But what I hoped would be a fun read was actually so much more interesting than that: Freya was born assigned as a male* and is now a trans female. Apart from that, they seem to have had a very similar computer life to me: I loved Freya's recollections of storing school IT work on floppy discs.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>* I've always found it is good to read things that cause me to look up a word or investigate a referenced work; in this case, the term 'AMAB' occurred just a few words into the first page and I had never come across it before. It stands for 'assigned male at birth' and can also be used as AFAB, for female. I'm really glad Freya thought to include this introductory text as it helped frame the work, and I learned something at the same time.</p> <p>I loved the fact that as well as touching on the subject of wanting to play as female characters from quite early on, they also discussed games on Palm Pilot devices (of which I had one), and even something as niche as <em>Terminal Velocity</em>, a game I lost many hours to.</p> <p>The next submission to the Lost Histories Jam was <a href="">this neat little zine entitled &quot;In the beginning we all played Family&quot;</a>. It's made by an Argentinian called rumpel talking about how widespread videogame piracy was there when she grew up, how many Argentinian families kept playing the Famicom (or Nintendo Entertainment System / NES elsewhere) for <em>years</em> after its release, and how she feels that as videogame piracy is now less rampant across the console market there, a counterculture has somehow been lost.</p> <p>Obviously I loved both of these for their mix of the familiar and the esoteric - a world I feel I know and understand well enough, but viewed through a lens I do not possess - but I also loved that they took the form of neat little digital zines. Even better, these A5-ish PDFs were the perfect size to be read on my Kindle. I even read Freya's zine in the bath. Sorry, Freya.</p> <p>I've talked before, I am sure, about how much I love how text and certain types of illustrations are rendered in e-ink; I much prefer to read the majority of web articles on my Kindle at bedtime using <a href="">Five Filters' Push to Kindle tool</a>, but all the better when I can email a well-designed PDF to my device to enjoy. If it's natively sized to fit the Kindle's screen, all the better, but a bit of pinching and zooming where necessary is fine too.</p> <p>And finally, a zine which wasn't available digitally, but rather was pointed to from the author's website. I can't remember how I found <a href="">Olivia's neocities website</a>, but it was very pretty, and had a button labeled 'InternetNostalgia' which I clicked faster than the speed of sound. On that page, which might have been enough on its own, she opened with the line:</p> <blockquote> <p>Hey, first of all, I wrote a zine specifically about my 2005-2007 internet nostalgia that goes into more detail than this section, and you can buy it here: <a href=""></a></p> </blockquote> <p>So naturally I clicked that as well - albeit slightly more warily - but found that she wasn't charging very much at all for her zines, and I figured that chucking £2-3 at a creator I don't know is something I like to do every now and then, particularly when there's the promise of a little physical doohicky coming in the mail. So I ordered a copy.</p> <p>To my delight, the zine (along with another - thanks Olivia!) turned up on Tuesday morning, having been posted from Connecticut on Friday evening. That's mad! That would be surprisingly fast in normal times, but lately the post seems completely out of whack everywhere, so it was especially surprising and pleasant.</p> <p>Anyway, it was all I hoped it would be: a deeply personal reflection on the experience of growing up online - in Olivia's case in a home-schooled, religious household which put pressure on her to conform to certain ideals, but also allowed her enough freedom to discover communities which would allow her in turn to discover her own creativity. That's awesome.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>As Olivia closes her zine by saying: Ah, the internet! :)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Thames Path day four: the Rose Revived at Newbridge to Oxford 2020-11-01T00:00:00Z <p>This week being half term - and travel still being kinda, sorta, allowed - we took the opportunity to start a new long-distance walk - the Thames Path.</p> <p>This is a 180-odd mile walk - or just shy of 300km if you work in those units, and I tend to. It runs right from the source of the river (or rather from a marked stone near where the source is meant to be) to the Thames Flood Barrier in London. Personally I'd like to see the walk run right to the sea, but I can only imagine there being a good number of reasons why that isn't practical.</p> <p>The first 100km or so of the Thames Path takes in some very remote locations, and it is worth lumping these early sections together where possible. This means getting a train to Kemble from London, which is straightforward enough, and then walking to Oxford which is the next big place where it's easy to get to and from by public transport.</p> <p>There are plenty of other ways of splitting the walk, but this worked for us based on the distances to be covered each day and the start and end points. It being October, we also opted for B&amp;Bs and pubs with rooms - though camping is possible too.</p> <p>Below is a recap and photos from the fourth section. <a href="">Section one from the source at Kemble to Cricklade is here</a>. <a href="">Section two from Cricklade to Lechlade-on-Thames is here</a>. <a href="">Section three from Lechlade-on-Thames to the Rose Revived at Newbridge is here</a>.</p> <hr /> <p>Our fourth - and final, for now - day of walking the Thames, and we have made it from the source near Kemble in Gloucestershire to Oxford. Our last day was the dampest, with mizzle and occasional showers.</p> <p>Starting out from the Rose Revived at Newbridge - after a fine night's sleep and a good cooked breakfast - was a nice start to the day as we were immediately on the Thames Path. We even passed a sign which gave us the mileage not just to the Thames Flood Barrier but to the coast! We had a couple of early fields containing cows but, <a href="">unlike the previous day</a>, we managed to get through easily. Lovely docile, brown cows just minding their own business. Whether breed or age or temperament, these cows did not show any interest in us and we got around them just fine.</p> <p>Misty mizzle turned to showers and we enjoyed a lonely, quiet section of the Thames interspersed with interesting-looking boathouses on the opposite bank. We soon went through field after field of sheep, which make for much more pleasant walk companions.</p> <p>There is one slightly unfortunate diversion on this section - at The Ferryman Inn one must divert away from the river for a short spell as a caravan park appears to own a length of the riverbank here. More fortunately however, the fields you end up walking through are easy going, and filled with lovely sheep.</p> <p>After another lock or two and seeing a few more dog-walkers, we sensed that we were approaching Oxford. The other clue was that our sole 'Thames Path' walk signage was being joined by other local circular routes. The next section past Wytham Woods was rather nice, especially as the rain abated and glorious sunshine lit the treetops in all their autumnal colours. We learned that a nearby Oxford University research station means that these woods are among the 'most studied' woodlands in the world.</p> <p>The final few kilometres on the approach to Oxford were very enjoyable, partly with the bright and dry weather, and partly as this is such a lovely way to approach a city like Oxford. I've visited a few times now and feel like I know it to some extent, but I also approach from the railway station and that section can feel a bit tacked-on. But approaching as if by boat is such a great way to encounter a place. And it meant I saw a whole side of Oxford I've never seen before as I've never been to the north west of the city.</p> <p>From the ruins of Godstow Abbey and down along the river towards the railway station, you are greeted with views across the river to Oxford's low and spire-dotted skyline, with rowers practising furiously at the behest of megaphone-toting coaches. We even saw a brave swimmer in the Thames (the first and only one we saw!) whose skin was a chilly shade of crimson. The view across the river to low-lying Port Meadow in the late afternoon light as the sun dipped to the horizon was just charming, and I will try to always remember this approach towards Oxford when I am battling my way up Hythe Bridge Street or Park End Street from the station into the town centre.</p> <p>We called it a day at Osney Bridge, where we shall return at some point in the future to try and continue our way along the Thames Path. From here, things are easier, with public transport and more populated places meaning we can hop to and from smaller sections of the walk in a day or two, rather than having to lump four days together to get through the more remote parts. But I am so glad we were able to do so, and to enjoy the autumnal conditions and weather. It was damp, but we were well prepared for that. And you can tolerate heavy rain and soggy shoes when you know there's a cosy and warm room awaiting you at the end of the day's walk.</p> <p>There's a real romance to following ancient ways and paths. But following a river is a slightly different beast. Old roads and tracks are inherently man-made, and tend to cut through the landscape to enable efficient transit from A to B. A river knows no such bounds. It wends its way across the landscape, following the contours of the ground and snaking this way and that until it reaches its destination. And so it is all the more fascinating to follow this very natural course (albeit with the manmade bits where the river has been adapted and modified to our needs over the years).</p> <p>Overall, I think my biggest takeaway is how the Thames seemingly pops up out of nowhere as a reasonable-sized stream. I had perhaps expected a trickle and some pools before it becomes a small stream. But it quite quickly becomes wide and flat, and is crossed by bridges and roads and is a sizeable feature of the landscape. But the other thing that I was naively less anticipating was how the river is not alone: it is joined by countless tributaries along the way, picking up speed and volume as it goes. And the most enjoyable thing was just soaking in the surroundings along its length - the remote countryside and the pretty little Cotswolds towns, and then the sudden jump in scale and majesty of Oxford acting as a neat book-end to this chapter.</p> <p>I can't wait to get going on the next section.</p> <hr /> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> Thames Path day three: Lechlade to the Rose Revived at Newbridge 2020-10-31T00:00:00Z <p>This week being half term - and travel still being kinda, sorta, allowed - we took the opportunity to start a new long-distance walk - the Thames Path.</p> <p>This is a 180-odd mile walk - or just shy of 300km if you work in those units, and I tend to. It runs right from the source of the river (or rather from a marked stone near where the source is meant to be) to the Thames Flood Barrier in London. Personally I'd like to see the walk run right to the sea, but I can only imagine there being a good number of reasons why that isn't practical.</p> <p>The first 100km or so of the Thames Path takes in some very remote locations, and it is worth lumping these early sections together where possible. This means getting a train to Kemble from London, which is straightforward enough, and then walking to Oxford which is the next big place where it's easy to get to and from by public transport.</p> <p>There are plenty of other ways of splitting the walk, but this worked for us based on the distances to be covered each day and the start and end points. It being October, we also opted for B&amp;Bs and pubs with rooms - though camping is possible too.</p> <p>Below is a recap and photos from the third section, with posts to follow for the next stages. <a href="">Section one from the source at Kemble to Cricklade is here</a>. <a href="">Section two from Cricklade to Lechlade-on-Thames is here</a>.</p> <hr /> <p>Day three of following the course of the Thames, Lechlade to the Rose Revived at Newbridge. A long, but glorious day of quiet and isolated sunlit riverside views, some good bridges, and plenty of birdlife.</p> <p>We knew today would be our longest - and loneliest - day. Setting off from Lechlade, the town has a lovely profile with the golden stone of the ha'penny bridge and the buildings themselves stacked up a small rise above the river. We set off at a decent pace as we had some concern about beating the sunset that evening. We had enjoyed a decadent but slightly late breakfast at the wonderful Vera's Kitchen. We would gladly have spent the whole morning there but time is daylight when walking in October and later.</p> <p>The phrase of the day was boshing it, and <em>bosh it</em> we did, trying to keep our average speed up as close to 5km/h as possible. Not easy with large backpacks and sticky, slippery mud underfoot for most of the way, but a decent target which gave us time to stop and refuel along the way. With our destination not being a town or village but merely two pubs either side of an old bridge, we knew we would not be heading for the bright lights of the city on our final approach.</p> <p>We doffed our proverbials to the reclining statue of Father Thames at St John's Lock, and we passed many pillboxes along the way. The number of locks and pillboxes was quite fascinating really - or perhaps they simply serve as decent landmarks to gauge progress along this rather remote section of the river. The pillboxes certainly cast a slightly bleak appearance on the river banks given their perceived need, and the locks were somewhat surprising: I think I had thought locks could only 'work' on canals, but the Thames has locks every few kilometres here. They also tend to be both technically fascinating as well as aesthetically pleasing with well-manicured gardens and pretty cottages.</p> <p>We had passed through a couple of cow fields on the walk already - the first being literally at the source, so we knew what we were in for, this walk passing through mostly farmland. But we had been anxious that the time would come that we found a field whose entrance or exit was blocked by cows, and at a field just past Ye Olde Swan pub at Radcot bridge, our number was up. As we approached the field gate, scores of adolescent cows - as fluffy and cute as they were curious and bolshy - descended. We got closer to the gate to assess whether they were likely to disperse, but the closer we got, the closer they approached, until several were poking their heads through, all trying to eyeball us. We paused for a moment until we noticed one particularly spunky young cow wrapping its huge tongue around the gate handle - with one swift lick, that gate would be open and a flood of curious cows would be with us.</p> <p>At this realisation, we slowly doubled back, frantically checking the OS map for an alternative route. There was a decent option a short way back - a pain, but it really seemed like the only option. As we began to double back, we became aware of a couple in their 60s heading our way. As they neared us - and could see our bovine friends champing at the bit - we briefly chatted about our options, before one of them confidently but kindly told us he would be happy to lead the way, and so he did. Hiking pole in hand, he opened the gate and began clapping and hollering at the young cows (his wife a few steps behind telling us, &quot;a few years ago I would have been the same as you but I'm getting more used to them now.&quot;)</p> <p>And just like that, the cows nervously retreated and the four of us marched on through, attempting to mimic our new friend's authoritative vocalisations and confident strides. It turned out that both he and his wife were recently-retired private school teachers - a fact which now made his confidence at herding a large group of rowdy adolescents make complete sense. It also turned out that they had until a few years ago lived a few miles from where I grew up. They were a lovely pair, and the four of us spent the next kilometre or so chatting away merrily - as much from the joy of doing so as the endorphins coursing through us at having made it through quite an anxious situation. They left us at Old Man's Bridge where we heard they quite often kayak on the river - they've taken to their new life in the country very well, by the sounds of things.</p> <p>The rest of the afternoon was without further issue, our only notable companion being an RAF 747 circling overhead as it made several wide arcs around Brize Norton, we hope, practising go-arounds (or practising - and failing - landings). We arrived at Newbridge (insert disclaimer here about this in fact being the second ((or first?)) oldest bridge on the Thames) as dusk fell. And although bright lights were absent as predicted, we could see the pretty twinkling fairylights of the Maybush pub and then finally our own destination for the night, the Rose Revived on the other side of the bridge.</p> <p>This historic pub, now run by Greene King, appears in many tales throughout the centuries, not least the lives of our guardian angels earlier (we learned that they were married there many years ago). I recently read a great diary written by a British cyclist in the 1920s and 1930s who quite often called in at the Rose Revived - usually for a Bass (or two) along with his lunchtime staple of cheese and bread. Things are a bit more modern now, with an extensive and enticing selection of cooked meals and drinks available.</p> <p>Our day could have been slightly more eventful - we were rung mid-afternoon by a concerned-sounding duty manager who told us our reserved room was no longer available due to an undisclosed incident the night before. He had secured alternative accommodation, but this was not what we wanted to hear as we walked. Happily, once he knew we were on foot, he made efforts to ask one of the other guests booked for that night - ideally if they were travelling by car - if they would mind taking up the other rooms instead. The pub hosts many Thames Path walkers, he told us. By the time we arrived at the pub, all was well, and we enjoyed a warm welcome from all the staff we dealt with during our stay.</p> <hr /> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> Thames Path day two: Cricklade to Lechlade-on-Thames 2020-10-30T00:00:00Z <p>This week being half term - and travel still being kinda, sorta, allowed - we took the opportunity to start a new long-distance walk - the Thames Path.</p> <p>This is a 180-odd mile walk - or just shy of 300km if you work in those units, and I tend to. It runs right from the source of the river (or rather from a marked stone near where the source is meant to be) to the Thames Flood Barrier in London. Personally I'd like to see the walk run right to the sea, but I can only imagine there being a good number of reasons why that isn't practical.</p> <p>The first 100km or so of the Thames Path takes in some very remote locations, and it is worth lumping these early sections together where possible. This means getting a train to Kemble from London, which is straightforward enough, and then walking to Oxford which is the next big place where it's easy to get to and from by public transport.</p> <p>There are plenty of other ways of splitting the walk, but this worked for us based on the distances to be covered each day and the start and end points. It being October, we also opted for B&amp;Bs and pubs with rooms - though camping is possible too.</p> <p>Below is a recap and photos from the second section, with posts to follow for the next stages. <a href="">Section one from the source at Kemble to Cricklade is here</a>.</p> <hr /> <p>Day two of walking the Thames Path took us from pretty Cricklade to downright handsome Lechlade. Leaving Cricklade to the sounds of the bells for Sunday morning amidst bright sunshine and blue skies was a lovely way to start a day's walking.</p> <p>We dodged most of the passing showers (and were treated to some truly spectacular rainbows), although we did have to trudge through fields calf-deep in floodwater where the Thames had burst its banks. Truly, walking the Thames.</p> <p>I picked up a pair of Sealskinz waterproof socks just before this trip. I knew from bitter experience that my Berghaus walking boots are no longer waterproof and have had a couple of walks soured somewhat from damp feet. I am pleased to report, having walked through waterlogged fields deep enough for water not just to seep in through the sole seals but actually pour in at the ankle, the Sealskinz socks worked perfectly. Once we had the opportunity to sit down and assess the situation at the gorgeous church of St Mary the Virgin at Castle Eaton, I found that my wool socks I'd worn inside the Sealskinz were bone dry. Amazing. And thank goodness the Sealskinz come halfway up my calf.</p> <p>At Upper Inglesham we found to our delight that the route of the Thames Path had recently been altered to more closely follow the river rather than following a busy A-road for a short distance. Our guidebook was from 2015 but fortunately we use the Ordnance Survey's mapping apps on walks like these, and these maps are always the most up to date they can be. All the route signage had also been updated to reflect the new route. It struck us as quite an achievement that a new public footpath - not just a permissive route over private land - had been put together by a number of organisations and private land owners. Well done and thank you to all involved.</p> <p>This was also the section of the Thames Path where we first saw boats on the river - first some kayaks, and then two motor boats. The river still looks rather too small for boats at this point, but it must be possible.</p> <p>At Lechlade - somehow even lovelier than Cricklade - we stayed at Vera's Kitchen and B&amp;B. We cannot recommend this place highly enough. Gorgeous self-contained units at the rear of a delightful cafe. Attentive and welcoming staff. And for the price you pay for a room for the night you get a huge and delicious breakfast and drinks the next morning, as well as a welcome fresh drink and cake each on arrival. Nothing better to warm up and dry out with when arriving in a new town.</p> <p>Once warm and dry we set out for an evening wander round town and found lots of delightful details. The clocks having gone back the night before, sunset was now just before 5pm.</p> <hr /> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> Thames Path day one: Kemble to Cricklade 2020-10-29T00:00:00Z <p>This week being half term - and travel still being kinda, sorta, allowed - we took the opportunity to start a new long-distance walk - the Thames Path.</p> <p>This is a 180-odd mile walk - or just shy of 300km if you work in those units, and I tend to. It runs right from the source of the river (or rather from a marked stone near where the source is meant to be) to the Thames Flood Barrier in London. Personally I'd like to see the walk run right to the sea, but I can only imagine there being a good number of reasons why that isn't practical.</p> <p>The first 100km or so of the Thames Path takes in some very remote locations, and it is worth lumping these early sections together where possible. This means getting a train to Kemble from London, which is straightforward enough, and then walking to Oxford which is the next big place where it's easy to get to and from by public transport.</p> <p>There are plenty of other ways of splitting the walk, but this worked for us based on the distances to be covered each day and the start and end points. It being October, we also opted for B&amp;Bs and pubs with rooms - though camping is possible too.</p> <p>Below is a recap and photos from the first section, with posts to follow for the next stages.</p> <hr /> <p>Day one of walking the Thames Path - from the source near Kemble to pretty Cricklade. When starting from Kemble railway station, one must walk to the source along part of the walk which entails doubling back a KM or two.</p> <p>The river was invisible at the marked source but quickly emerged as a decent-sized stream at a spring named Lyd Well. We followed it through muddy meadowland and fields, and the young river is currently swollen in places from recent heavy rainfall. We had expected that the recent rainfall would have made the river visible from the source, but apparently not. Walking at this time of year the days are quite short. Today was a Saturday so we still had an extra hour of daylight which the next few days will lack, the clocks going back overnight.</p> <p>We stayed at the White Hart Hotel, Cricklade, which is a nice little pub that does food and has plenty of rooms. Very comfortable and enough room for a session of post-walk yoga. We had also stopped for a drink on the way at the White Hart at Ashton Keynes which was a lovely place to take a break.</p> <p>One unexpected joy of walking in October has been the huge numbers and varieties of fungi we have seen. They're everywhere.</p> <p>St Sampson's Church at Cricklade looked very elegant floodlit in the dusk light.</p> <hr /> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> Visiting the National Gallery 2020-10-20T00:00:00Z <p>Visiting the National Gallery during this pandemic is, somewhat perversely, something I've been wanting to do ever since I saw a tweet from someone I follow who was one of the earliest visitors after the doors reopened and the new system was in place.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>The system for limiting numbers and following a one way system is necessary to enable galleries like this one to reopen. Although they are large spaces, they can be tricky to navigate and - possibly even by design - allow the visitor to get lost in a reverie and wander the halls for hours. This sort of flaneuring is incompatible with the Covid world, and one way systems are now found everywhere from supermarkets to art galleries.</p> <p>The National Gallery is still free to visit, and access is still reasonably easy, albeit via an online ticketing system. Those wishing to remain anonymous might wish to utilise a burner email account, and I'm not sure if there is a satisfactory offline system for those who find the online world daunting or unusable.</p> <p>Entry is simple enough - I ran there, actually, and was a few minutes late. There was a small holding queue around the corner from the entrance and I assume this was for the next batch of visitors; when I told the guard my time slot and apologised for being a few minutes late, he happily waved me through and I walked straight in. Just inside, I scanned my QR code for the NHS app, and I was waved inside by another bank of security guards who had no desire to see inside my running backpack, thankyouverymuch.</p> <p>Inside the main (Salisbury wing) entrance, a lady asked if I was here to see &quot;the exhibition&quot;, which threw me a little, but she probably meant the paid-for/ticketed one. No, I said, I was planning to follow route B. Hearing this, she gave me some slightly convoluted directions.</p> <p>For a gallery with a tricky layout like the National, they have devised three lettered routes for visitors to follow, which means deciding between a greatest hits of artists. There's no bad route to follow, in fairness - though I must admit I was a bit daunted by the choices and a bit like a kid choosing between different Now! compilations, I didn't know if I wanted the one with Michelangelo and Raphael, the one with Van Gogh, Rubens and Pissarro, or the one with Holbein and Canaletto.</p> <p>(It turns out that routes B and C actually overlap, so you get some Monet and Seurat and co whichever you choose.)</p> <p>I went with route B, and wasn't disappointed. I can't remember if the gallery is deliberately laid out in chronological order, but this route certainly is. (There is a chuckle-worthy sign near the loos on the way in which riffs on this, kindly informing you that the next toilets are 700 years away, e.g. at the other end of the gallery by the exit.)</p> <p>The gallery did, indeed, feel quite empty. I don't tend to make a bee-line for institutions like this at times when they are normally busy - a sunny Saturday afternoon in Trafalgar Square and you'll find me far, far away. But a rainy Monday afternoon in a pandemic with enforced restrictions on visitor numbers? Bliss.</p> <p>I found that some of the curators seemed quite keen to give impromptu explanations of this painting or that. I'm not sure if they're normally this chatty, but it caught me off-guard and I somewhat ashamedly found myself mentally rehearsing what I'd do if one of them sidled up to me and asked me if I wanted to know more about this Rubens painting. What am I going to say, &quot;no&quot;? Such are the trials of the introverted gallery-goer.</p> <p>Most people were doing as they were told. Arrow signage on the floor was subtle but useful. The curators that weren't spouting off wisdom were doing the other thing they not-so-secretly love: quietly telling visitors what to do. In this case, it was almost always asking them to put their damn masks on properly. Too right. Most people I see in London are doing this fairly well, but I'm regularly left frustrated by the amount I see who have gone to the effort of putting a mask on, only for it to hang below one or more of the few holes in their head it's designed to cover.</p> <p>Art-wise, I found myself gravitating towards the landscapes, and paintings featuring architecture. I can only take so many religious allegories or portraits of dead rich people. Show me a photo-realistic streetscape with sunlight glancing off stonework, or a sea of roofs punctuated by smoking chimneys and I am away, floating off into a daydream as close to time travel as I can get.</p> <p>I recently updated the screensaver images on my Fire stick so that it shows a slideshow of photographs we've taken over the years. I also added about fifteen artworks from a little list I keep when visiting galleries. It was nice visiting the National Gallery today, knowing that a few of the images that now grace my TV screen while it's idling are on show here. But of course most of the time they are much larger in real-life than on a 40&quot; screen.</p> <p>And that's part of the joy of coming to an art gallery. Not just the sheer variety and quantity of what's on show, but the physicality of each individual, unique object. These are not prints or facsimiles: each one is the final, painted, physical, three-dimensional object. This is, of course, obvious. But it's worth reminding oneself of this simple fact. The way the light plays off the brush-strokes set hard all those years ago. The vastness of some of the canvasses and the logistics involved in not just framing it or moving it from one building to another but even painting the damn thing. It's amazing.</p> <p>And of course the final piece of the art gallery package is the space itself, particularly one as large as the National Gallery. Huge long halls create vistas and focal points in and of themselves; the art hanging on their walls suddenly playing second fiddle. The high ceilings and the inimitable ambience of hushed voices and shuffling footsteps, occasionally interrupted by a clipping heel or a voice suddenly coming out louder than one expects which reminds everyone how quiet it has been up to that point. That subtle atmosphere that can only be conjured by a congregation of bodies in a space has become a rare sensation in 2020.</p> <p>My visit to the National Gallery today was much-needed, partly to top myself up on some art and a visit to a London institution (to remind myself they're there). But also to show me with my own eyes how the world works now. I'm glad places like this have made it work so well. Not everywhere can.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> Camping in West Sussex* 2020-10-09T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Deary me, have I not already told you about the time a few weeks ago that one of our tent poles snapped? No? Well then I'll begin...</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 95bFM 2020-10-07T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>After listening to 95bFM for the first time in a while, albeit as an on-demand podcast of the top ten, this morning I am listening live - to the end of the top ten show, and now to Freak the Sheep (the NZ music show). Haven't listened <em>live</em> to 95bFM in so long.</p> <p>95bFM is an Auckland-based student radio station, one of a nationwide network. They play great music, from ambient chillout and hip-hop to rock and metal. I've been listening to bFM for the best part of two decades* (their website and online streaming has always been quite ahead of global trends for radio stations, particularly of their size).</p> <p>* The first mention in my diary of bFM is from November 2004, by which time I apparently felt cosy enough with listening online to text the overnight DJ and request a song, which they kindly played for me.</p> <p>It also has that 'I keep getting older, they stay the same age' vibe that all good student radio stations can have - bFM seems simultaneously not to have changed in the time I've been listening to it, and yet they still seem fresh and cool, and they engage in fresh talent in their DJs and the songs they play, as well as not forgetting to look back.</p> <p>Like all good radio, listening live to a station like this is where it's at: brief mentions of local news and affairs, plus ads for local events and businesses, it all makes it feel very <em>local</em> and takes you right there.</p> <p>An ad for a camera rental firm in Newmarket, sent me straight to Google Maps trying to see where it fits into my very patchy mental map of Parnell and Newmarket, where I was based for a few months in late 2008. This was initially very confusing, but it was quite a nice sensation feeling the bits slip into place as my brain wrapped itself around the physical map/streetview.</p> <p>I'm also struck by something I <em>know</em> I've felt before, but perhaps never written down, which is that I tend to find myself gravitating towards checking out 95bFM as the seasons change - rarely in deep winter or the height of summer (though I've always enjoyed the mental juxtaposition of hearing about surf conditions out at Piha in mid-December or ski conditions at Cardrona while I'm experiencing a heat wave).</p> <p>Rather, it's more when there's a noticeable change in the weather and my mind seems to wander to the other side of the world where a similar change is happening, albeit in reverse. Can't put my finger on the cause of this, but it's something that I've always been half aware of.</p> <hr /> <p>On a related note, I've often likened music from the early 1980s by Dunedin and Christchurch bands - early Flying Nun releases, the so-called Dunedin Sound - with what I imagine were drafty, damp student digs in the winter term.</p> <p>Inevitably there's a lot of poetic licence and leaps of imagination in this: the truth is probably far less 'neat', but I do find myself conjuring images of a frosty morning in Christchurch, or emerging from a foggy, cold street into a pub in Dunedin when I listen to the Chills (hah!), the Clean or the Verlaines. Woolly jumpers and smoking a fag in the cold night air, or trying to get the car started first thing in the morning with steamy breath visible.</p> <p>I got <a href="">the Roger Shepherd book about Flying Nun Records</a> for Christmas a couple of years ago and haven't read it yet. Haven't found myself in the right mood to really dig in. Want to give it my full attention and wallow in a book that, a few years ago, I'd have lapped up. Perhaps that's part of it: I listen to 1980s NZ music far less nowadays than I used to. But it's still in my bones.</p> <p>And so I want to crank that up a little bit more, get it more into the foreground, and get into the right headspace to read the book, my mind all the more receptive to every morsel and anecdote. And as the nights draw in (we haven't done the clocks yet, but with gloomier weather, the evenings do feel that bit darker suddenly), perhaps it's becoming a good time to get back into that mood.</p> <hr /> <p>Back to the original thread, and that's one other thing I love about occasionally dipping into 95bFM (and the other bnet stations): I can hear brand new and even unreleased demos by up and coming NZ bands played alongside the kind of stuff I hear daily on BBC 6 Music, and then occasional plays of proper NZ alternative classics - legendary tracks by some of the bands I mentioned earlier - just dropped into the playlist because they're part of the fabric of NZ radio and popular culture (or at least alternative pop culture, perhaps not quite the mainstream). Hearing a track by someone like the Chills on 6 Music is almost unheard of - almost, because every few years they seem to play some of their Peel Session recordings at an obscure hour. But that's pretty much it.</p> <hr /> <p>Oh - one more thing while I'm at it: a thing I want someone to invent, which feels like it should exist, but I haven't even Googled yet to see if it does:</p> <p>I want to have a database of loads of global radio stations (ideally with good streaming), and an input form where I drop in a few bands I'm digging lately. The database holds all these stations' playlists. It then returns stations which have played those bands I love recently. Some sort of background algorithm so that it doesn't just find a station that played one Deftones track yesterday, but nothing else for months, but actually 'weights' the results by stations that more consistently play tracks by artists I'm into.</p> <p>Better yet: let me plug my or Spotify library into the database: scrape my favourite artists and show me which radio station - anywhere in the world - aligns most closely to my taste in music.</p> <p>This feels like it could exist, but would necessarily depend on radio stations accurately logging their playlists in a common format. Which seems... unlikely. Unless there was an over-arching authority like PRS that did a better job of this. But still. Seems as unlikely as it does a cool concept. I can dream.</p> Re-cyclblog 2020-10-02T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I recently remembered I had a cycling tumblr (remember tumblr?) called <a href="">cyclblog</a> and thought to myself: 'huh: there were some pretty nice posts on that tumblr.' And so I am planning to re-host the best of that blog somewhere here. I can't decide whether to just import the old posts as Wordpress posts, sufficiently tagged and dated. Or to keep the idea of a cyclblg-esque sub-domain and keep it separate.</p> <p>The tumblr, naturally, combines my own blog-type posts with reblogged tumblr posts from other users, as well as 'hey, this is cool' brief links to other web properties like tweets or photographs.</p> <p>Tumblr's export function (when it finally worked - mine took about a week!) has produced some actually quite nice, clean standalone HTML pages of each post, with embedded media linked to a folder. I'm tempted to just use these de-tumblrified HTML pages under a sub-domain, but maybe I'll do something else.</p> <p>My own longer-form written posts are (I like to think) decent enough to warrant retaining and reposting (or re-hosting). But there's something about the re-blogged stuff on cyclblg that I like, too, and want to keep alive. It's a sort of scrapbook of stuff that either felt adjacent to my own interests, or even served to inspire the activities I would go on to write about myself.</p> <p>Three of those longer-form posts <a href="">borrowed the term microadventure from Alastair Humphreys</a> who was one of a number of folks back when cyclblg was active who absolutely inspired me to get out there and have some little adventures of my own. My own microadventures tended to be bike overnights** from my base at the time of Milton Keynes:</p> <ul> <li><a href="">A cycle touring #microadventure - Milton Keynes to Fringford by bike - Jul 28th, 2013</a></li> <li><a href="">Another microadventure! This time from Milton Keynes to Ivinghoe (approx 40km each way) - Aug 26th, 2013</a></li> <li><a href="">Microadventure 3! From Milton Keynes to Maidwell, Northamptonshire - Aug 28th, 2013</a></li> </ul> <p>** <a href=""></a> is another website that definitely inspired me around this time</p> <p>Anyway. It'll be nice to do something with these old posts, and hopefully it'll be an enjoyable experience re-reading some of those adventures again.</p> The notebook 2020-09-25T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Finishing a notebook is... not exactly a very noteworthy (hah!) event. Or is it? I find it's far more common to start a new notebook than to finish one. But when you spend four years with the same notebook, you start to think, &quot;Hey...maybe this is it? The one, true notebook? Maybe when this one is done I should... Get another one exactly the same...?&quot;</p> <p>Shortly followed by &quot;Shit, four years have passed - do they even still make this notebook?&quot;</p> <p>They do.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Thank goodness.</p> <p>As I say, I've never really had to worry about this before. I've had jobs where I've been supplied with a succession of the same notebooks. At Network Rail, the stationery cupboard was filled with these lovely ring-bound blue hardback A5 notebooks that I loved. And other jobs have supplied me with big ol' Black n' Red notebooks that feel very luxe, but the A4 format is destined only for a desk.</p> <p>But this thing... It's A5, with rounded corners. It's got a soft leather(ette?) wraparound cover with nice off-white pages, and a little inside back cover pouch for odd bits and pieces. It has a bookmark ribbon and an elastic band to hold it closed. And I've carted it around all over the place: to the park, to the office, to various libraries and archives. I've written in it on trains and in cafes and... even, at my desk.</p> <p>It started out as a notebook, occasionally becoming a diary (for one or two honest-to-goodness dated diary entries when I suppose I must have felt in the mood to write one out longhand), and it's filled with things on various topics and in a variety of formats from diagrams, lists, scribbles, and word clouds, to multi-page prose and website mock-ups.</p> <p>It is, I suppose, the nearest thing I have to <a href="">a commonplace book</a>.</p> <p>I've often wanted to start a commonplace book. In my head, I'd sit and lick the end of my pencil (okay, not really), then note down the things I'd just learned, carefully indexing the pages to ensure I could return to the subject at a later date.</p> <p>Nonsense.</p> <p>I chuck most of that stuff into Google Keep as, nine times out of ten, the note-taking device I have on me is my phone. So most of my thought-vomit is aimed there, where it is (hopefully) searchable later.</p> <p>So the notebook is a bit more intentional. I take it places. I have rudimentary sections: short wave radio logs; website mock-ups and admin work logs; diary entries, work timetables and to-do lists; opening pages of unfinished (unstarted!) book projects; sketches of imaginary photo book and magazine spreads. And so on. I can flip through it and see little snippets of ideas that never came to be, or concepts that still bubble around in my head from time to time, slowly gathering momentum. Or I can see, almost word-for-word, the introduction to the first edition of <a href="">my book on Charles Paget Wade</a> that I scribbled down one coffee-fuelled morning.</p> <p>And here I am, some four or five years on and I am coming to the end of this one. I didn't date the opening pages, but not far in there's a diary entry from January 2016. It has held together beautifully, has travelled well, and has even permitted me to tear pages out occasionally to act as quick notelets. I suppose it's odd that it's taken me that long to use 150 pages. But it's been there when I needed it. And I am very glad WHSmith still sells the same model. Especially so as I was able to see old and new side by side, and see how the years have taken their toll on the first one, as well as how neat and tidy and fresh the new one looks.</p> <p>What adventures we may have. I can't wait to see what the new one ends up containing.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> George Clarke's National Trust Unlocked 2020-09-24T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p><a href=""><em>George Clarke's National Trust Unlocked</em></a> is a recent Channel 4 series that saw Clarke (and occasionally his dog) take advantage of the country's state of lockdown by visiting an array of National Trust properties while they were closed to the public.</p> <p>Clarke's a very likeable host - he has somehow wormed his way into my TV viewing via various vaguely architecture-related shows, and his north-east lilt and passion for almost everything he sees or sets foot in is infectious and makes for very pleasant, easy viewing.</p> <p>This series - which would ordinarily be of quite some interest to me on its own - was brought to my attention thanks to a Google Alert I have set up for mentions of Charles Paget Wade.</p> <p>I <a href="">wrote a book on Wade</a>, see, and it's fun to learn when that book gets mentioned (rarely; usually just bot-led ebook piracy websites) or just Wade in general (of late, mainly his family's connection to the slave trade).</p> <p>In reality, Wade doesn't come up very often. He's occasionally mentioned in guides to days out in Gloucestershire, or perhaps as the holder of a unique collection of this or that. But it was interesting to see a Daily Mail piece on Wade and his house Snowshill Manor that he spent thirty years filling with <em>stuff</em>.</p> <p>And why was the Mail talking about Wade? The episode of <em>National Trust Unlocked</em> that aired the previous night had featured Snowshill and its one-time owner.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>Wade lived in London from 1906 to about 1919, during which time he worked under Parker and Unwin as an architect and illustrator supporting the new Hampstead Garden Suburb development. When he had done all he was really able to under that umbrella (as well as becoming obscenely rich following the death of his father), he branched out into more illustration projects until the First World War interrupted things. Towards the end of the War he spotted an advert for Snowshill in <em>Country Life</em> magazine and vowed to buy it if it should still be available on his return from the front.</p> <p>It was, and he did.</p> <p>He then spent the next few years restoring the buildings, and having the gardens laid out by M.H. Baillie Scott, before moving his already-vast collection of crafts, furniture and...<em>stuff...</em> into the house, and then opening the place up to visitors. Visitors who, as the TV show explains, Wade would lead around the shadowy corners of the house, before nipping into literal secret passages where he would don a theatrical outfit and re-appear somewhere else, making his guests feel even more certain that Snowshill was inhabited by ghosts.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>It was really nice seeing the curator at Snowshill tell Clarke about Wade and his collection. It felt somewhat eerie watching someone else talk about something I have decided to become a sort of small-time expert on. Of course the Snowshill staff and curators are Wade experts, but I haven't been to Snowshill for nearly a decade, and I don't often find myself in conversations where I'm not the one who happens to know the most about Wade. It's not that I'm possessive over him - I literally wrote a book about the man in hopes I can tell the world about this fascinating character! - but it's always a funny feeling when you hear about something close to your heart discussed on TV or in a book.</p> <p>Anyway, I can thoroughly recommend this episode of National Trust Unlocked, and the whole series seems to just be extremely nice viewing. It's George Clarke poking around deserted National Trust properties, being delighted at absolutely everything he finds. It's like a lovely warm, comforting blanket.</p> <p>There's a detailed breakdown of the National Trust properties featured in each episode on <a href="">the National Trust website</a> and <a href="">the whole series is now available on All4</a>.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> The Vast of Night - 1950s suburban technological sci-fi fun 2020-09-22T00:00:00Z <p>I watched <em>The Vast of Night</em> on Amazon Prime this weekend, and what a fun film it was. <a href="">The Radio Survivor blog mentioned it</a> and the core components sounded like they'd be up my street: a low-budget lightly sci-fi tale set in 1950s small town America with a backdrop of local radio and telephone switchboards. Lovely.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>It's altogether really just very silly, but presented <em>very seriously</em>. From the snappy opening scene, I felt invited into the world of this little town as the local high school geared up for a basketball game. The way the two leads chatted away about tape recorders and radio voices and broadcasting and interviews had a lovely realism to it, especially with the camera milling around them as they walked-and-talked. Actually, one flaw with the film is that this pair's relationship never really develops beyond both being witness to a strange event. It would have been nice - though maybe somewhat cliched - to see some more chemistry between them.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I digress. The film's world feels very believable, and there is nice attention to detail in the technology both used and discussed, along with some enjoyable &quot;gee, shucks&quot; moments of discussing (probably accurate) 1950s descriptions of what life might be like <em>in the year two thousand</em>.</p> <p>On top of that, the film features some really surprisingly exquisite camerawork and cinematography. For starters there's a lovely misty murkiness about the whole thing, with nice lighting and lens flare and so on. Characters and extras are given room to breathe as the camera weaves in and around their very natural movements. At times there are some fantastic sequences of either very long one-shot takes, or really nice Steadicam-esque sequences that seem almost too ambitious for what is a silly little b-movie.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>And silly it is: the story is a bit one-dimensional, and some of the longer dialogue scenes could do with some tightening up. I saw one review which suggested this would make a good radioplay or podcast, which made me chuckle given the subject matter. But actually I get that, and I can see that too. In fact, I occasionally felt like it would make a half-decent narrative-based point-and-click/walking simulator videogame like <em>Firewatch</em> and others.</p> <p>But if it had merely been an audio-based production, the audience would have lacked the rather lovely set design, props and costumes/hair/make-up which all come together to paint a very well-fleshed-out and yet not too overly-ambitious world. It's nice to sink into the world of 1950s excitement about new technologies and a feeling that <em>anything</em> could be out there...</p> <p>It was a fun little romp and I felt refreshed having watched it.</p> Review: ETC front fork pannier bag rack / carrier 2020-09-19T00:00:00Z <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>It's a brave cyclist who entrusts the fortunes of his luggage (not to mention his safety riding on the road) to a piece of cheap £20-30 metal sold ostensibly as a luggage rack for the front forks.</p> <p>But that's just what I did ahead of my recent trip to Cornwall.</p> <p>My trusty Giant Blvd mk II bike has long had a Topeak luggage rack with matching bags, but for a while now I'd been wanting to add front panniers to my bicycle, partly to boost my overall luggage capacity, and partly to balance out my load. Riding uphill with everything over your back wheel makes the bike feel a little prone to popping a wheelie at a time when such a manoeuvre would not be at all welcome.</p> <p>I had the image in my head of the type of rack I wanted, and where it would mount. But finding something compatible with my particular bike was less easy. It turns out that a lot of bikes which are designed to take front panniers have extra lugs halfway down the front forks in addition to those near the axle. My Giant lacks these extra lugs, so this ruled out an entire range of front racks which require these.</p> <p>Instead, I knew I was looking for a rack that anchored itself on the lower lugs by the axle (also used for the mud guards), and used a friction-based grippy fastener which secured the upper part to the front forks at whatever height required. The stability of these two matching side panels then comes from a single piece which goes up and over the wheel, joining the pair together solidly.</p> <p>The rack I settled on, <a href="">this ETC model from Amazon</a>, seemed horribly cheap at just a smidge over twenty quid. I'd seen similar racks for more than a hundred. On the one hand I figured it's a pretty basic construction: just some bent metal made to a <a href="">tried and tested design</a>.</p> <p>And on the other hand I feared that something so cheap could not possibly be strong enough - or safe enough - to load up with heavy bags and be reliably used on busy roads. But I decided to give it a go, drop the cash down, and if I had any doubts when it came to installing the rack in terms of its safety, just not use it and either return it or chalk it up as a life lesson.</p> <p>I also decided to buy some Ortlieb bags to go with it - easily three times the cost of the rack itself for the pair - partly as I'm well aware they're just the best pannier bags money can buy, and partly as they also double up as drybags. Given that this trip was a camping trip, waterproofness was absolutely a feature I was looking for.</p> <p>(Kudos, by the way, to <a href="">Sigma Sports</a> for having my bags in stock, dispatching them super quickly, taking Paypal for payment, and delivering via DPD and their lovely timed slots. They're about the only courier I trust any more.)</p> <p>When the ETC-branded rack arrived, its basicness was about what I'd expected from the admittedly mixed reviews I'd seen on Amazon. Some buyers found the kit perfect, easy to install, and almost tailor-made for their particular bike. Others had struggled to get it to fit, ultimately abandoning it - to the point of binning it rather than seeking a refund.</p> <p>One helpful Amazon reviewer gave detailed installation instructions and a series of photos from various angles, for which I was immensely grateful - until I saw another reviewer had done the same, having somehow successfully fitted the rack a completely different way. Hmm.</p> <p>I knew I'd have my work cut out getting it together - I already knew that it came with no instructions or even photos/illustrations - and that it would either work with my bike or it wouldn't. I also knew I'd have an evening of swearing and calloused hands ahead of me, and this turned out to be the case.</p> <p>But in the end, I got it to work just fine. The rack fitted - just about - and the fastenings felt secure. The biggest flaw was probably the width of the U-bolt which acts as a clamp around the forks. My forks are oval in section, rather than round, and so the U-bolt fits only unevenly around this non-circular fork, requiring the associated bolts to just be tightened as much as possible, which feels secure, but leaves a little room for movement if the bolts happen to work loose due to vibrations.</p> <p>Thus far, the U-bolt has stayed rock-solid, with only one of the other bolts vibrating ever so slightly loose, but nowhere near being a danger, and a quick tighten sorted that out.</p> <p>The Ortliebs I purchased came with three different widths of fixtures for different types of racks, and I was able to fit the nearest fitting brackets, adjust the lower 'foot', and the bags attach and remove as easily as I'd hoped, but still feel secure when attached.</p> <p>Six weeks on, and probably 2-300km of riding down, the rack has been a great addition to my bike. The forward distribution of weight makes my bike feel more balanced when paired with the larger rear bags. And the racks don't move a millimetre while riding, feeling secure even bouncing over potholes in the London roads. The Cornish roads, by comparison, were in pretty good shape, though there were a few off-road sections that tested the rack's stability. There is some movement in the way the Ortliebs attach to the rack, but this is to be expected.</p> <p>Overall, I'm really glad I took a chance on the ETC rack - for my particular bike, they worked out just fine. For any would-be purchasers out there, I'd say they're worth a go. The variety of fastenings included in the pack is quite generous, and I think mean they'll fit a wide range of bikes. But my advice would be to not force things: if it ain't gonna fit, don't try and make it.</p> <p>Without further ado, here's the final result - and a series of photographs of how <em>I</em> fitted it to <em>my particular bike</em>, which I hope might assist any other buyers of this rack left scratching their heads when they unpack everything:</p> Tour de France Stage 10 2020-09-09T00:00:00Z <p>Yesterday's TdF stage was a beautiful mess; surreal, stunning, painful, gorgeous... Just a bit of an epic on a day which looked like it could have been so straightforward.</p> <p>There was one unexpected moment when I all but lost my shit: the helicopter cameras that provide such gorgeous footage throughout the entire race for the TV viewers suddenly showed a piece of coastal defensive architecture - it was only Fort Boyard! A surreal moment in a day packed with them.</p> <p>The coverage had opened with the reassuring news that - aside from a handful of positive Covid-19 test results which have put individual team members out of action - none of the riders were being forced to leave the race at this point. The Tour's rest days are being used as a roughly weekly moment in time to test all those participating in the race - the result of two positive results in one team (of anyone including staff, riders, etc) is a forced abandonment for the entire team.</p> <p>But then came the news that the Tour's ebullient director Christian Prudhomme has tested positive and is now barred from any in-person involvement. Prudhomme is the face of the Tour, and he is usually seen standing with his head out of a car sunroof as he drops the flag at the start of each stage. The car then follows the route the whole way, giving the race director oversight of the whole thing. News of Prudhomme's positive Covid result was accompanied by images of him riding in the back of this car during an earlier stage with France's newly-installed prime minister Jean Castex - masked-up, but very cosily chatting away. Castex has since tested negative, but is self-isolating for seven days to be on the safe side.</p> <p>So, for now the race continues, though the spectre of &quot;will the Tour reach Paris this year?&quot; looms large. We will need to wait till the next rest day for the next round of tests and possible exclusions.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Stage 10 looked like it would be pretty straightforward: a pan-flat profile, only one intermediate sprint, and fresh legs following the first rest day. And it was a gorgeous stage to watch, too - starting on one island on the west coast of France, noodling around the low-lying coastal towns and salt flats and ending on another island. The islands and wide estuaries along the route meant for a diverse range of bridges, and as usual there were a number of gorgeous-looking towns and villages passed through at speed, a few of which have been added to my perpetual Google Maps of places I'd like to visit someday. There was even a shot of a transporter bridge which apparently takes bicycles, so that's definitely on the list.</p> <p>Unfortunately, despite (or because of) the flat profile, high speeds and a tightly-packed peloton led to a number of fairly nasty crashes. With a whole bunch rolling along, filling the width of the road, all it takes is one momentary lapse of concentration or a sudden piece of road furniture and several riders can be sent flying. There were a number of shots of some very sore-looking road cases of rash, and that Lycra clothing doesn't offer much protection when sliding along tarmac at 50km/h.</p> <p>It all culminated in an exciting sprint finish - of course - and a tight victory for a very emotional Irishman who has worked hard towards the goal of a stage victory at the Tour de France for many years, and now Sam Bennett has one under his belt.</p> A close-up look at archival collections with the National Library of New Zealand and Te Papa 2020-09-08T00:00:00Z <p><a href="">The National Library of New Zealand</a> has always seemed especially good at presenting its collections digitally (which is handy for remote researchers/enthusiasts like myself). Their online catalogue gives pretty easy access to items with a digital holding, including photographs, paintings, letters and - of course - newspapers as part of Papers Past.</p> <p>Through <a href="">their blog</a>, I have found countless stories of items in their collection - and, in turn, of Aotearoa New Zealand - which are so often richly presented and well-told.</p> <p>Most recently I found myself fascinated by <a href="">a post written by Lissa Mitchell</a>, the Curator of Historical Documentary Photography at Te Papa, NZ's national museum in Wellington. In the post, Lissa writes about two stereoscopes (3D photographs) taken in remote Milford Sound in early 1882. Early NZ photography has also been a cause of fascination to me for the way in which the landscape and its people are depicted. Sometimes it's the sight of a newly-constructed town or city springing up, or the landscape shown at a time not terribly long after European colonisation begun.</p> <p>Most of the time, these shots of early European NZ are 'serious' - a straight, no-nonsense photograph showing a scene for what it is, whether as an artistic object or a piece of documentary evidence. There's often a subtext or some wider context which needs to be understood. But sometimes there's humour and a twinkle in the eye which transcends the image - and in <a href="">this post</a> about two stereoscopes - one held at Te Papa, the other at the National Library of New Zealand, Lissa explains: &quot;This pair of stereographs were not conventional colonial landscapes — empty of human presence and focused on the view — here was a representation of life being lived with hardship and humour.&quot;</p> <p>One of these stereoscopic images is below - and Lissa invites readers to <a href="">zoom even closer</a> in to the products assembled on the table to see if readers can identify the goods that the subjects of the image have just taken delivery of.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>I love the detail these images contain. Seeing the faces of the two men in the picture one can't help but read a little into who they were and what they were like.</p> <p>As Lissa <a href="">writes</a>, &quot;I imagine the fun they had recreating the two scenes after Burton had arrived — a novel way of spending their time in this isolated place.&quot;</p> <p>Indeed. It's this level of detail that online archives can give: from the vast collection and the metadata in the catalogue, right down to a digital copy of the document itself and the smirk on the face or the label on the bottle. It's just wonderful.</p> Little Saturday ride 2020-09-05T00:00:00Z <p>Today I was in the mood for a little bike ride and I'm glad I got out for one.</p> <p><img src="" alt="2020-09-05-022042708" /></p> <p>On the one hand, going for a little ride in London is easy enough, but it's different to those days when I lived in a suburb of Milton Keynes where I could just spend a few minutes riding out to the edge of town and then find myself on country lanes.</p> <p>But still, I'm grateful that I can just decide to ride for no reason other than the ride (well, alright, and a stop into the supermarket because I have a hankering for pork schnitzel).</p> <p>So I did just that today: a pootle up towards Hampstead (I got my second best PB going up Arkwright Road, a sharp little 7.5% climb), and a moment's breather at the top (Whitestone Pond, above, is one of the highest points in Greater London).</p> <p>And then a nice steady downhill all the way to Swiss Cottage with a little rolling around the quiet backstreets eyeing up the big houses between there and Belsize Park.</p> <p>The fact that I can combine this sort of mindless noodling about with a perfunctory stop at Waitrose with my quick-release Topeak pannier bags to grab some supplies is just immensely gratifying. I loaded up with dinner and drinks and then headed home again. Simple. And so rewarding.</p> <hr /> <p>I found <a href="">this neat Flickr group the other day, Bike 180</a>, where people just post pictures of/from their rides.</p> <p>I think the idea is you aim for 180 days of cycling adventures inside of the year. That would be a stretch for me this year, but it would be nice to tot up how many cycling days I've had so far in 2020.</p> <p>Anyway, the pictures people post to that group are just lovely and give me immense wanderlust - wanderlust for just <em>getting out there</em>.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="Screenshot 2020-09-05 at 18.08.53" /></a></p> Thank you very much, Denmark: 23 years of loving the free CD that came with a magazine 2020-09-03T00:00:00Z <p>In June 1997, Select magazine came with a covermounted music CD containing eighteen tracks of 'rare' and exclusive indie that perfectly evoked the scene of the time.</p> <p><img src="" alt="IMG_4204" /></p> <p>For some reason, the me that had just turned twelve years old saw this edition of Select in Tesco and bought it. For some <em>further</em> reason, the current 35-year-old me still has that CD, and still absolutely adores a decent number of the tracks that CD contains.</p> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I say 'for some reason' (the first instance of that phrase), but actually it's not that surprising that 12-year-old me was attracted to it. The music I was listening to at the time was the likes of Blur, Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, Kula Shaker and, err, Robbie Williams. Guitar-led indie was (mostly) appealing to me.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Further, CDs had recently been introduced to our household. We added a Matsui CD player to a 1970s record/tape/radio deck with big boxy speakers. It sat on a chipboard sideboard* in the dining room, and I mostly listened to music on that system while messing around on the computer.</p> <p>* I love that band.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Buying new CDs was obviously a vast investment both at the time and for a kid of my age. So, cover-mounted CDs that came with magazines - when magazines only cost a couple of quid - were fantastic. Free music! Free software! Free… internet trials? (For me? A kid whose computer lacked a modem? That's a tale of ignorance for another blog post…)</p> <p><img src="" alt="IMG_4205" /></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>What I made of the content of Select magazine back then in the summer of 1997 is lost to the mists of time. But the CD clearly struck a chord. Music often does to listeners between the ages of 12-17. There's some cliche that I can't be bothered to look up that refers to this very phenomenon: that what you listen to then is largely what you'll continue listening to into adulthood.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And so when I listen to the tracks on that CD - a handful of which are today readily available via streaming services (and I've therefore stuck them into <a href="">a nifty Spotify playlist</a> for those interested), I am transported… not quite to 1997, but to a sort of halfway house holding cell of somewhere between then and now: those songs have followed me around the whole time.</p> <p></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>From the stand-out Blur track <em>Get Out of Cities</em> and running throughout the CD, which features artists like DJ Shadow, Suede, Stereophonics, Lamb and Silver Sun, there are a number of sharp indie cuts with buzzsaw guitars. The Kenickie track is a particular highlight.</p> <p>Alongside these are a scattering of alternative mixes or demos - they are all, apparently, rare tracks, and so they will have been b-sides and off-cuts at the time. The 'original demo' for Suede's <em>Filmstar</em> is a nice inclusion. Tracks by the more well-known artists have since turned up on anniversary remastered re-releases with bonus tracks, but a lot of the stuff on this CD isn't on Spotify.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I realise that the lack of an appearance on Spotify isn't really a strong signifier of a band's status or the actual rarity of a song, but there's a hint of that to it. Possibly a now well-established artist has made the decision not to put their ouevre on Spotify out of protest at the pittance artists are paid. Or these particular tracks have been deliberately left on the cutting room floor of bad 90s indie.</p> <p>More likely, those bands whose music is absent from the platform today are just victims of falling through the cracks between gaining releases and magazine coverage in the 90s and the mass digitisation of actively published music in the late 2000s and early 2010s.</p> <p>(Interestingly, Stereophonics' <em>Looks Like Chaplin</em> didn't turn out to be a rarity at all: it was the second track on their debut album which came out only a few weeks after this CD hit the magazine shelves.)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Being a cover-mounted CD of the mid to late 1990s, the disc also contains a data track which - apparently - gave the user access to Select magazine's exclusive website, and trials of various Compuserve web services and so on… The executable on the disc is no longer readable but the wonders offered in the CD sleeve are a delightful insight into the burgeoning web of summer 1997, and a web I was still more than two years away from experiencing first-hand.</p> <p><img src="" alt="IMG_4207" /></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>On the subject of it being a CD at all, it's interesting to consider that it could very well have been a tape not much earlier (and I'd have had to make a tape dub of this CD if I wanted to listen to it in my room anyway). But, as a CD, I am free to skip around it. In reality, whenever I tend to play it, I seem to listen to it in full and in order. It's like a mixtape in that respect, and it falls neatly into a pigeonhole of compilations of music that have entered my life at various points and gone on to become utterly totemic in their influence on my tastes.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>That being said, what's also interesting to me listening back to the CD now is that there are songs here that are... instantly skippable. I hear the opening bars and feel a deep-seated (multi-decade…) resistance.</p> <p><img src="" alt="IMG_4208" /></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I tried to fight that urge further on today's listen and made it through a couple of tracks that I never really listened to before. I was surprised to let the Lamb remix play out beyond the opening bars and find I didn't recognise it at all. It didn't make me love them any more than I did before, but it was a nice feeling giving them another chance.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, man. Sorry lads, but... no. I tried. I skipped around that song today, and I still couldn't listen in full. I was surprised to hear from the closing seconds of this track that it was, in fact, a live recording. But just.. nah, man. No thanks.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I now have to admit that I've somewhat buried the lede. There's one track on that album that I have adored the entire time. It's a song I get in my head about once a month. It's one of my favourite songs of all time, and it's short and sweet and funny and melancholic and happy and rocking.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I'm talking (of course?) of the penultimate track: Silver Sun's <em>Bad Haircut</em>.</p> <p></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's just… a perfect song, I think.</p> <p>Listening now, I hear elements of Harvey Danger's <em>Flagpole Sitta</em> in the chorus, but overall there's just a dynamic range to this song that I love. The production is so crisp, and guitars variously ring out and roar when needed. Humour and silliness runs throughout the lyrics, and right down to the final few seconds of studio banter, it leaves me with the feeling that the band were clearly having a great time performing and recording it.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Studio banter in recordings is, by the way, a real love of mine. Ever since I started listening to music through headphones, I've adored being able to hear little bits of chatter before or after a track, or getting the impression that the studio recording was laid down live rather than being tracked and over dubbed. The energy and the realness of those extra sounds has always made recorded music even more exciting for me.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I've listened to <em>Bad Haircut</em> so many times over the past 23 years that I feel a sort of synaesthesia when listening to it: a completely made-up music video plays out in my mind, cleverly segueing from the narrative of the song and the images portrayed in the lyrics over to the studio where the song is being played for those final silly comments culminating in someone announcing &quot;thank you very much, Denmark,&quot; a line I've found at once hilarious and yet entirely stupid the entire time it's been in my consciousness.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I just love everything about that silly little song, so much. I'll probably still love it just as much in another 23 years' time.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> How soon is too soon? 2020-09-01T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <p>I was walking round the supermarket yesterday and suddenly realised that a) I was wearing my mask, and b) everyone else I could see was also wearing masks. My mind then suddenly exploded into a spider diagram of related realisations: we are still currently in the midst of a global pandemic; nothing is normal; some things seem normal; but nothing is normal.</p> <p>I have been, and remain, very lucky (or privileged? I don't know if there's distinction between these concepts) that my sudden existential Covid crises are rare and that, by and large, I am not directly affected by it on a day to day basis.</p> <p>I remember having similar, sudden realisations earlier on in the situation which were much bleaker: I would suddenly rememember *everything* that was unfolding from the street I live on to across the world, and fall headlong into an abyss of despair. It rarely lasted long, but it was a very unpleasant sensation. Again, it is hard to overstate the privilege I have that this is as unpleasant as it has gotten for me.</p> <p>With this in mind, I've been looking forward to the return of the Tour de France with very mixed feelings. The postponement along with almost every other sporting/cultural event this year felt inevitable and right. When the new date was announced for it to be held in late August and early September it definitely felt too soon. In fact, I can't remember when the new date was announced, but it came at a time when those dates seemed like nothing short of arrogance or, at best, a gamble.</p> <p>But here we are. It's the 1st of September and I've enjoyed the first few stages of a semi-normal large-scale sporting event, complete with crowds and TV coverage and teams from around the world descending on one place. As a small(er) scale analogue for the Olympics, it's fairly apt.</p> <p>It's been enjoyable so far - the coverage has been good despite the split production teams. Only a reduced number of press can report from the location; ITV's main team are based at Leeds Castle - in Kent - just to add to the geographical confusion.</p> <p>The TV pictures have been great - the camera and production team behind the Tour de France are world-class and are just so good at their jobs. The TV pictures are one of my favourite elements of the whole event. The aerial shots, the pictures from the intrepid motorbikes on the road, and the macro and micro shots of French scenery just make it so epic.</p> <p>And the sporting action has been great. Clearly there are a lot of riders who have been champing at the proverbial to get back on their bikes and there have already been some incredible efforts - while for others the timing has not worked out and some big names are missing from this year's race.</p> <p>It's obvious to me that extrapolating any of the logistics behind an event like this to one on the scale of the Olympics makes it immediately clear that the postponement of that for a whole year was the right decision.</p> <p>I'm glad that the TdF is back, but it still feels slightly like a guilty pleasure - for this spectacle to take place, a huge number of risks have to be taken for a huge number of people across a variety of locations. And all trhoughout a country which is carefully watching as its case counts rise again.</p> <p>The elephant in the room is whether the Tour will complete all 21 stages and have its trademark finish on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in three weeks' time. I don't know. I feel like it must, and I expect that although they will be taking a lot of precautions, there is too much momentum behind the event to stop it. But when one considers what else has been stopped this year for the same reasons... We'll see?</p> <p>PS: <a href="">title</a></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> London LOOP section 19: Chingford to Chigwell 2020-08-29T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>With not too many sections of the <a href="">London LOOP</a> left to walk, it continues to be tempting to walk two - sometimes even three - in one day. The sections often seem to agree with this notion, and even promote it: certain shorter sections feel like a small hop from one place to another, bookended where they are simply by nature of the public transport connections at either end.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We had been tempted to lump <a href="">section 19</a> onto section 20 and section 21, making a grand total of 25km or so. Not a short walk by any means, but very much doable in a day (while also bearing in mind the need to get from north West London to rural Essex and back to even start the walk).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But this walk was to take place in the days following a return from twelve days of camping and cycling in Cornwall - of which more in a separate post - and so we decided to keep it simple and do just section 19: a nice, friendly 7km tromp from Chingford to Chigwell.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":21094,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Having made our way back to Chingford - a slightly easier ride this time as our return home from this point last time included a rail replacement bus service - we made for Epping Forest, at this point a large open expanse of green stretching up to hills in the distance. It's reminiscent of Hampstead Heath, and not just because of the City of London Corporation signs denoting the owner and maintainer of this space.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>A few hundred metres into the walk took us up a short rise to Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, a Tudor timbered building - with walls oddly whitewashed to cover the exposed timbers as well.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":21100,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We'd visited this part of Epping Forest before - the hunting lodge was closed today so I was glad we had already explored it on that previous occasion. I remember being caught by the imagination of what this hunting lodge must have overlooked in centuries past, with royalty leaving London way off in the distance to come out to open country and hunt deer and whatever else. I think it had been a misty winter's day that time, and it all added to the romance of the images being conjured in my head. The plastic food on the exemplary dinner table and the Tudor costumes for kids to play dress-up definitely helped. But just being able to enter a building of that age and in that setting and climb the stairs to look out over land that really hasn't changed much in 500 years is... Quite something.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>On this day, of course, the lodge was closed. But with the sun shining and a summer breeze, the green spaces all around were full of picnicking families and children flying kites. The nearby carvery pub was doing a brisk trade, and in keeping with the laid-back attitude to this section of the London LOOP, it felt only fitting to pause less than a kilometre into the walk to have a pub lunch washed down with some real ale.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Suitably refreshed, we left the pub garden and it's attendant child-scaring wasps behind and started out on the remainder of our walk.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Back along grass paths we followed a shallow rise in the land, first crossing a dip and small brook - the river Ching, apparently, marking the boundary where we crossed from the London Borough of Waltham Forest into Essex.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[21115,21117,21116]} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Ahead of us lay a pleasant section of grassy paths weaving in and out of mature woodland. This part took us up to a small collection of quite large houses at Buckhurst Hill, where we had to refer to an OS map a few times to truly understand where we were supposed to be heading.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":21110,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The London LOOP is like this: you'll often find yourself spat out from a lovely bit of parkland into a built-up area, having now to follow little green signs rather than your own intuition.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Here at Buckhurst Hill, however, signs were lacking. The path took us down a narrow driveway that served two or three houses, before snaking off to the left down the side of a house. Signs were nowhere to be found. It was the kind of footpath where, without the benefit of an OS map app which plots your exact GPS location on the map, you really wouldn't be sure if you were simply trespassing. As usual, one suspects that any pre-existing 'Public Footpath' signs might have been quietly turned around or even removed entirely by locals.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Speaking of locals, the other reassurance we had been given just moments before came in the form of a well-meaning but slightly overbearing lady who had spotted us, pulled over her car, got out, walked over to us and suggested, &quot;you seem to be lost, can I help?&quot;</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It was the kind of tone that, if you heard it in a remote bit of the countryside you would naturally take it to mean &quot;believe me, you _are _lost, please be on your way, off my land.&quot; But here in the cosy settlement of Buckhurst Hill, and its multi-bedroom houses with expensive cars on the driveway, I think this was just a well-meaning lady who isn't used to seeing, well, walkers here trying to find the footpath.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Onwards from here we quickly left the houses behind and were back amongst fields, following a narrow path hemmed in on both sides by farmland that had apparently been saved and set aside to stop it being built upon.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[21101,21111]} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We soon dropped down to a railway footbridge. An aroma of marijuana was detected and we passed two ne'er-do-wells loitering halfway up the steps. We descended the other side into another collection of houses rather more densely packed than those at Buckhurst Hill.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Passing through these we came to a decent-sized lake which the London LOOP guidebook describes as attractive - and it is, but our appreciation of it was marred slightly by the sudden downpour which sent us ferreting around in our backpacks for our waterproofs, and those who had until that point been enjoying a picnic - or a game of cricket - around the lake scurrying for shelter.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[21113,21109]} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The suddenness of the rain was apparent not just from the cricketers in their whites manhandling a tarpaulin to cover the pitch, but also the amusement and bewilderment of the picnickers we passed who walk-ran, carrying open alcoholic drinks and commenting on the sudden realisation that a hastily packed Bluetooth speaker was still playing away in their bag.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":21114,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Undeterred - we had, as I say, packed raincoats, and anyway the temperature was still relatively mild - we rounded the lake, joined for part of the way by two small, lean and wiry dogs, their shorthaired coats slick with rain, shivering and sheltering as they walked.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":21103,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The rain abated a little, and I tried to enjoy the vaguely attractive horizon consisting of three distinct church spires or towers, but we carried on to the other side of the lake, suddenly dwarfed by the presence of a vast leisure centre.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Having rounded this, as the hum of the centre's air conditioning softened, it was replaced by another low hum: the traffic of the M11, which we shortly had to cross over via an over ridge carrying a short access road.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>From here it was a slightly dull trudge along a pavement adjoining a busy road into Chigwell, and we saw little of any interest besides more large and not entirely attractive houses. At the bottom of this road we turned right and onto one of Chigwell's high streets.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>With the Underground some 200m off in the distance and the welcome sight of a pub just over the road, we called an end to the little 7km Chingford to Chigwell section 19 of the London LOOP, such as it was, and headed inside for a drink and a place to warm up.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":21098,"sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> Mentions of Menton 2020-08-28T00:00:00Z <p>There's a nice round-up of New Zealand writers' reflections on visiting Menton, France, in <a href="">this recent Stuff article</a>.</p> <p>As the article explains, there is an annual fellowship for a mid-career NZ writer to visit and work at the Villa Isola Bella at Menton in France, where NZ short story writer Katherine Mansfield spent her final years.</p> <p>The fellowship has been running for fifty years, and this article collects the memories of some of those lucky writers who have made the trip to the other side of the world and tried - or failed - to ingratiate themselves into the life of a town in the south of France.</p> <p>I really enjoyed reading tales of squatters, getting locked out, buying a TV to watch the Tour de France, as well as just feeling KM's ghost in various corners.</p> <p>As one writer comments, reflecting on her own stay in Menton in 1995:</p> <blockquote> <p>In the afternoons we took local buses up into the mountains and walked between villages. We met eccentric British ex-pats, and French locals who were unfailingly kind and courteous. We entered a Mediterranean bubble. No Internet. No television. No radio. No phone. We queued with everybody else at the payphone on the Avenue de Sospel.</p> </blockquote> <p>Sounds lovely...</p> <p>I've never visited Menton, but I'd really like to one day.</p> <p>Although I do the webmastering for the <a href="">Katherine Mansfield Society</a>, I've only ever attended one of their events - at the penthouse suite atop New Zealand House on London's Haymarket. This September's conference in Menton has, of course, been postponed. But maybe I should try and go to the next one...</p> You've just finished The Luminaries 2020-08-25T00:00:00Z <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>Hey thanks goodreads! But <em>here's</em> what I'm going to do next: take a big old lie down and probably not read any fiction for a while. Phew! I finished The Luminaries! I can't quite believe it. 835 pages...</p> <p>I've been trying to read this big book since about 2016 and I made a big dent into it on a summer holiday back then (fortunately the Kindle version as even the paperback is a hefty tome). But I never continued. And it's such a well-woven tale that it rewards compulsive reading. At times the pace is galloping-fast, and it requires the reader to juggle the back stories and motives of the 12-15 main characters in one's head all the while. This may not be a huge ask for a fiction fan, but I just... don't tend to read fiction books. I'll hoover up a good memoir, and I love to rattle through a diary at whatever pace the writer sets. But fiction is just something I find hard to <em>get inside</em> somehow. Maybe it's the suspension of disbelief, or simply the ever-present knowledge that <em>this is all made up</em>. So it's the mark of a very good book indeed that holds my attention. Plus, <em>The Luminaries</em> is about three times as long as any novel I've read before. So kudos indeed to Eleanor Catton.</p> <p>Despite making a start a few years ago, I just had to start over this time, but I'm glad I did. Reading it in about a month was the right thing to do. Plus, I was spurred on by the recent BBC broadcast of the TV adaptation of the book. I caught the first episode, and they seem to have got the setting and general feel just right. The bit that threw me was the chronology, and so I knew I wanted to experience the book for myself, and get wrapped up in its slightly surreal world, and then I could go back to the TV adaptation and (hopefully) enjoy it on its own merits.</p> <p>I knew I'd enjoy the book: I love the setting (New Zealand's early settlements of Dunedin and Hokitika) and the infrastructure that 1860s NZ provides (newspapers, shipping records, gold mining, scarce personal records). The facilities provided by the National Library of New Zealand for wallowing in that world are superb: <a href="">Papers Past</a> is an incredibly rich and useable archive of newspapers of that time and place. I've been a fan of it <a href="">for years now</a>. I know that Catton used Papers Past and a number of other resources while writing this book: her acknowledgments at the end are interesting and amusing. And being able to go and bring up full copies of the West Coast Times from the 1860s and read the news and see the adverts is such a weirdly exhilerating feeling and extension of the intrigue of having read this book.</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>It's just <em>so cool</em>.</p> <p>Anyway. I'm so glad I got to the end of this book. It's given me a ton to think about. And I'm looking forward to binge-watching the TV adaptation. And then seeing what roads it leads me down in terms of further reading. But I think it'll be non-fiction for a while yet.</p> <p>PS: One of the things I was looking forward to, having finished the book, was <a href="">reading Patrick's thoughts</a> on it. I respect his opinion on books and videogames, and love his review writing. I was not disappointed. Patrick notes:</p> <blockquote> <p>I enjoyed the book almost without reservation, both as a piece of entertainment and a work of art; and as a work of dedication and craftsmanship, it has left me spellbound with admiration.</p> </blockquote> <p>And I must say I have to agree. I recommend his review if you want to understand more about the structure of the book than I could ever attempt to explain.</p> Apollo 11 2020-08-03T00:00:00Z <p>I finally watched <em>Apollo 11</em> (the 2019 film) last night and was so glad I had it piped into my noise cancelling over-ear headphones cranked up - it's the first time I've felt them vibrating while wearing them!</p> <p>Obviously the pictures looked incredible. I kept pausing and it was like a perfectly crisp still photograph every time. The crowds on launch day - wow.</p> <p>The sound design was fantastic - the inevitable roar of the Saturn V rocket was as wonderful as I'd expected but other subtle moments caught me out where (I guess?) foley effects were added to wide shots, and other nice stereo pans were added for effect.</p> <p>The score was also a pleasant surprise - huge, WARBLING, WOBBLING bass and pulsing/ticking metronomic tension for the time-sensitive, heart-in-your-mouth segments.</p> <p>I loved that at the end of the credits was a note that Matt Morton's score was produced using equipment that was available at the time of the Apollo 11 mission. Cool. Very cool. Not seen that sort of liner note since <em>Elephant</em> by the White Stripes.</p> 2020 weeknotes 29 and 30...and 31 2020-08-03T00:00:00Z <p>I was feeling all smug recently thinking to myself that I could rebrand my weeknotes, as sporadic as they seem, as fortnotes. Geddit? Fortnightly weeknotes? And yet here I am nearly another fortnight behind, and 'monthnotes' just reaks of &quot;HEY GUYS WOO SORRY FOR NOT UPDATING IN A WHILE BEEN SO BUSY THERE&quot; so I'll just keep my spoonerisms to myself and crack on with the updates.</p> <hr /> <p>Been getting out and about as much as possible in the last few weeks:</p> <ul> <li>went camping for one night in Buckinghamshire, which was a nice little test of our bikepacking / cycle touring setup and the equipment we plan to use in Cornwall soon - as well as involving taking the train. Really glad we did this as we'd seen in the forecast that storms were due and we nearly bailed, but by the time we'd had dinner and the rain showers had passed, the sky was clearing and completely clear by sunset which meant for some great stargazing and a really calm, quiet night - heard owls</li> <li>did a section (two, actually) of the London LOOP for the first time in more than a year - being out of the city was just gorgeous - spring has sprung in the countryside without us and although that is sad, it is just wonderful to be able to step right out into a summer that looks so lush and healthy - walked from Cockfosters to Epping Forest at Chingford/ This also involved using the Tube and the Overground, which was the first time since <em>all of this</em> so it was a good way to break the seal</li> <li>tried to keep up the running - my brief foray into running twice a day for a week or so was good for the endorphins but I have to listen to my body and run 3 or 4 times a week, tops. I did get very good at laundry, though</li> <li>took a multi-modal trip to Kent yesterday (bikes to St Pancras then High Speed train to Ebbsfleet, then nice shared-use paths most of the way) to see M's grandparents and spent a lovely lazy few hours in their garden - wonderful</li> <li>Friday night took swingball to a local park for a picnic with two friends - we batted and drank and ate while the most ridiculous sunset unfurled itself around us, with red fluffy clouds over Wembley and, in the opposite part of the sky, a sunset rainbow, which I don't think I've ever seen before</li> </ul> <hr /> <p>Work trickles on. We're all doing fine mostly working from home still, but our usual summer schedule - which tends to be our busiest time - has slipped and a lot of what we expect to do in August now looks like it will be done in September. Which is absolutely fine in the grand scheme of things.</p> <p>After an anxious few months where we thought the flat that we rent was to be sold, we found out <em>incredibly slowly</em> that we were in fact fine to renew for another year. Weeks of not quite knowing what was happening really tore my nerves (and fingernails) to shreds but it's nice to have a bit of certainty about something.</p> <hr /> <p>I treated myself to a Kindle Paperwhite when they were on offer recently. My 2012ish model with flappy buttons just won't seem to die - which is brilliant, obviously - but as well as reading on it, I also send articles, read PDFs and try and use Kindle-friendly RSS readers (thanks <a href="">Reabble</a>!) which are all things that newer Kindles just do a lot more smoothly. The faster refresh rate and higher resolution makes zipping around PDFs much nicer. I also read in bed a lot and liked the idea of having a backlit screen.</p> <p>Apart from random articles and blog posts I send to myself, I was egged on by the recent BBC adaptation of _The Luminaries _by Eleanor Catton to finally finish reading the darn book which I hadn't managed to before. I had to start over as it had been four years or so since my last attempt. I'm about a quarter of the way through and, of course, I love the vivid, descriptive prose, and all the mention of NZ's goldrush and life in early NZ settlements and references to those early settler newspapers is just bliss. But damn the early chapters are long. I'll get there though. I will.</p> <hr /> <p>I scanned a bunch of old photographs recently and it was just as much fun seeing old pictures of friends and family from 20-30 years ago as it was the settings - particularly pictures which featured a large portion of the image showing, say, what my lounge looked like when I was about ten years old. The books on the shelves, the weird... chintz?... that my parents seemed to hoard. The reminder that fashions and furnisihings are often a decade or two late - my lounge looks like it's from the 1970s but it's like 1992. And the tech! The giant telly. VHS tapes everywhere. And the best bit: a decent shot of the main computer I remember growing up with. A little Packard Bell 486.</p> <p>I have written a little just-for-me memoir of the computers I have used in my lifetime and that's the one I perhaps remember most fondly, but conversely know so little about. So it's very useful to see a photo of it in situ on the desk surrounded by floppy disks and the remote control for the CD player and other stuff. All these contextual clues.</p> <hr /> <p>Have been getting my bike ready for our trip to Cornwall next week. Taking the bikes on the train down to Penzance and will be bikepacking/cycletouring/camping around. Moving on every few days. Carrying all our equipment.</p> <p>I've replaced the kickstand on my bike, which has given it a great new lease of life because, stupidly, I'd let it become one of those components that slowly got worse over time, the bike listing at a worrying angle and being unable to stand with any sort of luggage. Now, a ten quid part and some easy twists of the multi-tool later, she's as a good as new.</p> <p>I've also ordered a front pannier rack and some new bags - my first Ortliebs! - which I now need to try and install. If that works, my bike will have a bunch more storage space and hopefully feel more stable than when she's got all the luggage (and me) weighing down the rear end.</p> <p>Am looking forward to snapping some more film with my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s on that trip, and will be taking my Canon dSLR as well, particularly as I've now installed the Magic Lantern firmware that breathes a bit of life into the old 1100D's bones - primarily for me this is focus peaking, which displays via live view where exactly in your image is in focus. This will be great for any manual lenses I use with the Canon, like the lush Ensinor 24mm f2.8 I picked up a few months back and am really enjoying.</p> <hr /> <p>I'm not sold on this current website theme/design. The general overview is nice but some of the fonts feel a bit thin and light, and the differentiation between URLs is not as bold as I'd prefer.</p> Back shooting with the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s 2020-07-23T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><img src="" alt="_MG_2579" /></p> <p>It's been about eighteen months since I last used my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s.</p> <p>The last roll of film I shot with it was mostly in Cyprus. I had learned about Ilford's XP2 film, which is black and white, but is developed using the colour 'C41' process, meaning it is cheaper and easier to get developed than 'full' black and white film.</p> <p>The <a href="">images I got back from Cyprus</a> - mostly in bright, December sunshine - came out so satisfyingly that I knew I would use XP2 again.</p> <p>Fast forward to the middle of 2020, the world is somehow different, and yet my photographic bug hasn't gone away - in some ways it has stepped up with more time to devote to photography across a smaller range of locations and subjects, and the time spent looking at other people's photographs and editing techniques has led to me having as strong an urge as ever.</p> <p>I picked up a new roll of Ilford XP2 from Snappy Snaps and popped it into the Minolta one Friday a few weeks ago, and started shooting with it. It's a rangefinder camera, and as such is a little heftier than some other film cameras. It has a fixed lens, and you look through a viewfinder which is separate to the lens itself - unlike with an SLR camera which uses a prism to allow you to see through the lens you are shooting with.</p> <p>It's a satisfyingly manual camera to use, and yet it can be used fully automatically (apart from focussing). That is - it can be, <em>if</em> it has a fresh battery installed. The battery powers a simple light meter which is visible inside the viewfinder, and gives a reading which can be used to set specific apertures or shutter speeds as you wish - or it just reveals if a fully-automatic shot is likely to be under- or over-exposed.</p> <p><img src="" alt="20200702_113012-ANIMATION" /></p> <p>It's on the right hand side - see how the black needle on the yellow bar moves from about 10 to about 14? These are 'EV' readings and correspond to settings on the lens which are shown when adjusting aperture and shutter speed manually.</p> <p>I've seen differing opinions on this: some say that this camera can only 'do' shutter priority; others say only aperture priority. One source states that it only works when setting both - i.e. fully manual.</p> <p><a href="">The camera's manual</a> implies that all three are possible: page 18 says you can set any combination of shutter speed and aperture; page 19 talks about setting the shutter speed first, then using the light meter to set aperture; it goes on to say that alternatively you can set the aperture first, using the light meter to set a corresponding shutter speed.</p> <p>The system is simple: compose your shot, check the meter for lighting, then rotate the barrel for either shutter or aperture so that the EV number shown on the lens is the same, and your picture should be properly exposed. Or just set both barrels to 'A' for automatic, and check the light meter and focus. If the above needle is in the red zones at the top or bottom of the range, the picture is likely to be under- or over-exposed. This is particularly important when shooting fully automatically.</p> <p>I digress. This <em>all</em> relies on the light meter functioning correctly, and for that the camera needs a working battery. To my surprise, I found that the one in mine was dead. The needle on the lightmeter had just stopped responding to light.</p> <p>This was odd, as I was sure it had been functioning eighteen months ago - it must have been for me to obtain usable images, right? But of course little, old batteries don't live long when you go years between uses.</p> <p>I noticed that the dial where you set the film's speed in ASA/ISO also has an 'off' setting. Presumably if I'd set this, the battery would be disengaged? The manual doesn't confirm, but does suggest that if the camera is not being used for more than a month that the battery should be removed. This is probably more to do with avoiding battery leaks than anything else. Either way, I shouldn't have been surprised to find the battery was dead.</p> <p>Being from 1966, the Minolta takes slightly strange batteries... Batteries that have since been banned from production. But fortunately there is a close equivalent which is fairly readily available. When my replacement battery arrived, I popped out the old one.</p> <p><img src="" alt="IMG_20200702_111717320_HDR" /></p> <p>And indeed it <em>was</em> an old one... In fact, knowing these batteries were banned from production in the EU in 2000 already made it a certain age, but, on closer inspection - <em>Made in W. Germany</em> - mine had to be, what, pre-1991...? Something like that, anyway. Weird.</p> <p>So maybe it was in the camera that whole time, mostly switched to the 'off' position and not draining charge, and it worked for the last film I shot? Or I just got very lucky and the light meter wasn't working at all, and the shots just somehow worked. No idea. Thank goodness it hadn't leaked.</p> <p>Anyway - once the battery was swapped out, the light meter was responsive again. I wanted to get back into the swing of things nice and quickly, and I shot the roll of 36 exposures over the course of a week or so.</p> <p>For this film, I wanted to check if the camera was functioning as expected - the first few frames were shot without the new battery, and either guestimating the settings, or using my dSLR as a sample or simply as a light meter.</p> <p>I noted down the settings I used for each frame (and the location/subject, to help me identify each one later on).</p> <p><img src="" alt="IMG_20200708_114140908" /></p> <p>It turns out I seem to have accidentally invented <a href="">the Photomemo notebook!</a></p> <p><a href="">As I've written previously</a>, the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s is a bit bulky to carry around, but it also fits nicely in my hands. It feels nice to use - perhaps familiar? And the focussing system is nice and intuitive - and ensures tack-sharp images.</p> <p>To focus an image, point the yellow diamond at the centre of the viewfinder at the edge of what you're trying to focus on, and then turn the lens until the two translucent images align:</p> <p><img src="" alt="20200702_112913-ANIMATION" /></p> <p>When the 'two' images are aligned, that confirms your image is in focus.</p> <p>And with that, one can head out with the Minolta and snap away. I loaded the XP2 while sat on a bench in Regent's Park, and within a few days I had filled the film. And it produced some really lovely results!</p> <p><a href="">The whole film can be viewed here</a>, but below are a few highlights.</p> <p>I've already picked up a new roll of XP2 - as well as a roll of Fomapan 200 having seen a few others using this stuff. That wil be my first pure B&amp;W film, so I'm excited to try it out.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 150 hours in to Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2020-07-17T00:00:00Z <p>Last night - and the last few times I've played <em>The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild</em>, I've found myself getting into some sort of flow state.</p> <p>A few sessions ago, I found myself stumbling into tackling my last Divine Beast. My third one had felt somewhat easy, and the super power it granted a bit lacking, to the degree that I felt maybe I'd tackled them in the wrong order. This isn't to say I wish the game forced me to tackle them in a certain order, mind you; one of BOTW's best features is the ability to do - or try and do - just whatever you like, whenever you feel like it.</p> <p><img src="" alt="legend-zelda-breath-wild-vah-rudania-fireblight-ganon-boss" /></p> <p>The great part is that, even though this game lets you pick and choose when you do dramatic things, at times it feels like a natural pacing - you stumble onto something just when you least suspect it, and yet it feels like exactly what you want to be doing next.</p> <p>I'm now about 150 hours in. I've tackled the four Divine Beasts, and the game is starting to show signs of me entering an endgame of sorts. This trouble me - I never want this game to end. I haven't exactly rushed things. I've spent a lot of those 150 hours simply exploring and hunting down landmarks to see what's there. That's the real beauty of this game.</p> <p>With the addition of the DLC that shows on your map where you've been, I've been able to identify places I <em>haven't</em> been, which has also added a huge amount of value to a game in which - much like in life - you tend to explore the same areas, and it's easy to miss whole chunks of locations just on your doorstep.</p> <p>I found it very interesting how a lot of the scenery really close to where the game starts was left unexplored until I saw the fact writ large on my map.</p> <p>But as the game now keeps offering dialogue and items that hint heavily towards me heading off to defeat Calamity Ganon, I've been thrilled to find yet more diversions. I've stumbled on at least two quite large new games-within-the-game - one of which is, I think, only unlocked at this stage, and possibly is part of DLC, and the other is somewhere I could probably have visited at any time.</p> <p>But, as with so many 'discoveries' in this game, the fact that you can stumble upon them at any time has this uncanny ability to make it feel like now is <em>just</em> the right time.</p> <p>Well, <a href="">apart from Eventide Island</a>. I'll go back there one day.</p> <p>So as I found yesterday, and continue to find with this game, there is plenty more to be done, even at this seemingly late stage in the game's main story. I'm not sure if I can doulbe my 150 hours in the game as the story comes to its conclusion, but I'm pretty sure I'll crack 200 tracking down Korok seeds, shrine and looking for side quests.</p> <p>What an amazing experience.</p> James A. Reeves’ Notes From the End of a World 2020-07-15T00:00:00Z <p><a href="">Recently</a> I pointed to another blog which has long been a favourite of mine - and which quickly took up residence in the 'must read' folder in my RSS reader.</p> <p>Today I've got another one for you, but this one I only heard about a few weeks ago - via, I think, <a href="">Phil Gyford's blog</a>? - and which has leapfrogged its way into the must read folder for its consistency, its tone, and because it acts as a sort of talking point for my mind. A thinking point, if you will.</p> <p><a href="">James A. Reeves' journal</a> serves up reasonably short, daily journal-like posts, usually accompanied by a picture and an MP3.</p> <p>The soundtrack element is neat, though I'll admit I haven't once played a track - but it has sometimes been interesting to note the pairing of a song I'm familiar with. And pairing is the right word; I find this idea of selecting music to accompany a blog post like wine with food very compelling.</p> <p>James appends the following explanation / mission statement to each post, which helps set the tone:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>Each night in 2020 I'm writing a short post for a series called <a href="">Notes From the End of a World</a></em> because I want to etch these days into my memory before I forget them. Before the world changes completely.</p> </blockquote> <p>I was interested to read that his posts are written in the evening before bed - particularly because they occasionally reference dreams that must've been had the previous night - but also because I am finding myself reading the posts in the evening before bed.</p> <hr /> <p>As an aside, for a long while now I've been in the habit of, rather than sending stuff to Pocket or Instapaper to read.... never... instead I have been sending a few articles to my Kindle which will hopefully be a good read before bed.</p> <p><a href="">The tool I use</a> is pretty good at extracting articles and spitting them out in Kindle-friendly formats, but it's not always perfect.</p> <p>This blog's entries are absolutely perfect for this process, though. Not too long, and the single image usually comes through with it. I still love how the Kindle's e-ink screen renders book covers, illustrations and photographs.</p> <p>Last night I caught up on four of his most recent posts, and it was just the kind of stuff I wanted to read as I drifted off. Other days I've been grateful to have had a single post to send to my Kindle.</p> <p>And, beyond the 'must read' folder in my Inoreader, James' blog might even achieve gold status: some sort of hack which sends each new post directly to my Kindle with no manual intervention.</p> <p>Few have achieved this level... but this one feels like it might.</p> <hr /> <p>I love the diary / journal as a format, but I love even more the inside story of what makes a person write in such a way. What are they trying to record, and for whom?</p> <p><a href="">James' latest post</a> gets slightly meta in terms of picking apart the genre of diary-writing, by also referencing another book which itself makes use of the diary format - a subject I've been fascinated by for more than a decade - and I love this kind of insight and connection:</p> <blockquote> <p>But what strikes me the most about <em>The Stand</em> is the diary a pregnant character keeps as she crosses the country. Each entry ends with “things to remember,” a list of things she wants to tell her child about life before a plague wiped out civilization. The catchphrases and television commercials. The amusement parks, laugh tracks, and frozen cheesecakes. This captures how I’d like some entries in my journal to work: something written for the future rather than the moment. (Hopefully it will be far less dramatic than the diary in <em>The Stand</em>, but god only knows what the rest of 2020 has up its sleeve.)</p> </blockquote> <p>God only knows, indeed.</p> 2020 weeknotes 27-28 2020-07-12T00:00:00Z <p>The world continues to spin unrelentingly, and we carry on.</p> <p>Working from home continues to... work? And I have popped into the office for a few hours once a week. It is a little eerie still, but the office has a had a deep clean, and the idea that we can start to trickle back in is a reassuring one as the human / in-person element of our workplace has been lacking a little.</p> <p>We are realising that, despite being good at communicating through various channels, it is so helpful to just occupy the same space and overhear things, as well as to just quickly pop and ask someone an informal question, rather than having write an email, or time a phonecall.</p> <p>One lovely and unexpected thing I found waiting for me at work was an invitation back to Germany for the launch of an exhibition that we have been helping with. It's in September which simultaneously feels too soon to consider travelling, and yet also just far enough away to seem entirely doable. I'd be delighted to go back. I'll need to organise myself fairly soon if I do intend to go.</p> <hr /> <p>The weather has been a bit more mixed, but I have tried to continue with my running.</p> <p>A few weeks ago I saw that my watch battery had died. As usual, I hadn't bought a particularly expeensive watch, and so when it came to sourcing a replacement battery, the watch - which I quite liked - was a bit worn out, and not built to last, and the strap was quite worn, so I decided to just replace it outright.</p> <p>My thoughts turned to other analogue watches, and I remembered the Withings Move watch which has an analogue face, along with an 'activity' dial which shows how close you are to your daily step goal.</p> <p><img src="" alt="IMG_20200615_135013808_HDR" /></p> <p>It also serves as an always-on activity tracker, including sleep. One other neat touch is that, although it has no GPS built-in, you can start GPS-tracked acitivities on the watch by pressing the crown, which sends a command to your phone to start tracking, meaning you can leave it in your bag/pocket/running belt.</p> <p>It's a neat product and the minimalist design appealed to me, as did the fact that although it is basically an activity tracker, it has no way of charging it - the standard watch battery is meant to last 18 months or so.</p> <p>A few weeks later and I realised that although I liked it as a watch, and the connected GPS tracking worked well (the watch hands return to 12 o'clock when you start an activity and begin a timer so you can check the time of your run, if not your distance), the Withings Move was ultimately not for me.</p> <p>Primarily, although I love the simplicity of the activity dial it actually doesn't help me do much. Cleverly, your daily step goal can be set in the app, so the dial is always a percentage rather than fixed at say 10,000 steps. But... meeting a daily step goal is - currently - not something I am struggling with. For someone who might need a visual nudge to get them there - particularly if sat at a desk all day - this is a great little addition to your lifestyle as it gives a subtle hint to crack your daily steps.</p> <p>Next, although I prefer an analogue watch, I do also like it to have the date displayed, which the Withings Move does not. It would be great if it could (and I think there is a more expensive model with a small display built in which could do this? But I prefer the simplicity of an analogue-only face with no displays - or a full display).</p> <p>Overall, the Withings app and the device itself are great and I love that they exist - they just didn't quite fulfil what I was hoping they would. But I'm very glad to have been able to give it a go and return it so easily. I'd been aware of the Withings analogue style watches for years, and the Move is now about sixty quid and briefly went down to forty quid, which is when I snapped this up. That's a bargain. It's just not quite the product I need right now.</p> <p>What did I replace it with? Well, and this contradicts much of what I said above, I've gone with a Garmin Forerunner 35 instead. More on that in future when I've had a good few weeks with it. But so far things are looking good.</p> <hr /> <p>I shot and developed a new roll of film in my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s recently too. I've been really impressed with the results, and I want to continue in the swing of using this camera. It's a little on the large side, but it's a delight to use, and the results I get from it - particularly using black and white film - are always really compelling.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Self at home - 6 July 2020" /></p> <p>I'll put up another post here shortly with some more detail on the camera, the film, and the whole process, but the images themsevles are already online at <a href="">the new photography section of this website</a>. I spoke a little about why I've (re) added a photography page to the site <a href="">in this post</a>.</p> <hr /> <p>The garden continues to flourish. Our sunflowers are mostly growing thick and strong, but the brief high winds and heavy rain we've had have made them droop a little, so a little TLC has been necessary.</p> <p><img src="" alt="IMG_2611" /></p> <p>The robin still returns frequently to the window-mounted feeder. I have had to remove other sources of food as we spotted an adult mouse recently, and then a baby, on the floor looking around for food.</p> <p>The baby looked ridiculously cute. All huge ears and bright eyes and tiny body. But... a mouse is a mouse, and we don't want to encourage mice to move in. The areas they explored are perilously close to the door/window which in summer we need to have open quite a lot.</p> <p>I don't think the mice will last. One evening when looking out of the window just before bedtime, I spotted a new visitor to the garden: a black and white cat. It had positioned itself in a hunting pose, tucked into a hidden corner, overlooking the exact space I had seen the mouse earlier that day. So I expect the circle of life will continue to spin and - hopefully - the mice will either move on to other pastures, or they will be ruthlessly dispatched by forces more primal and direct.</p> <p>As I write, it has been three days since I last saw the mouse, so maybe they have already moved on...</p> <hr /> <p>We went to the pub on Saturday night for the first time since... well, at least March.</p> <p>We met M's friends Jess and Robbie in the park for some drinks and a catch up as the sun set. Spent a nice time there as the chaos of the park on a Saturday evening happened all around us.</p> <p><img src="" alt="MG_2677-01" /></p> <p>As it got cooler, Jess suggested we try the pub just next to the park. I was initially reticent, and as a group we decided to just see how it felt. But when we got there it seemed pretty empty so we went in. It was, on the face of it, a nice experience: a drink, a chat and catch-up with friends, and plenty of space. But in the world of Covid - and a pub in Brent - the pub exhibited next to none of the guidelines we had expected to see.</p> <p>The only real concession to such guidelines was some markings on the floor, a few hand sanitiser stations, and some perspex screens at the bar. But you still ordered your drinks at the bar (though we sat in the dining room and were given table service later), and none of our details were taken.</p> <p>I had thought the logging of visitors' details was a crucial part of this whole reopening, but the guidelines actually seem to say this is only a suggested activity. There seems very little that places actually <em>have</em> to do. It is mostly left up to the individual organisations, and ultimately up to the customers themselves. Which is lovely and liberal, but also kind of horrifying.</p> <p>It is now so difficult to know what one can do - what it is <em>right</em> for one to do - and what should be avoided. One topic of conversation was having these decisions being made by each individual, as well as the selective reading and listening one can do when it comes to which rules or habits one wishes to continue to follow. I keep finding myself surprised that shops and galleries are open. And yet I have yet to wear a mask in a public place, partly because - thus far - no one has said I have to. That may change soon, and we have picked up a stock of them, just in case.</p> <p>The dining tables had disposable paper mats, but also slightly less disposable plastic ones. Possibly they will be disposed of between meals - but we sat and had drinks there so I don't imagine the table would have been cleared in the same way. None of the staff wore masks.</p> <p>It was a weird experience for so many reasons. I had glimmers of &quot;Cor, I am drinking a Pint! In a Pub!&quot; But these were shortlived and mostly I was slightly preoccupied with other concerns.</p> <p>It will take a while - a long, long while - to get back to feelings of normality around any activities like this. And to get comfortable with booking trips and so on. As mentioned above, I would really like to get to Germany in September. I will go by train if I do go - flying is such a bore, even in the before times - and I think train travel will be alright even if it does mean masking up for most of a day. It really is a very enjoyable way to to get into and around Europe.</p> <p>Speaking of travel, we have booked a little tour of Cornwall for August which will involve bikes and trains and camping. This, again, feels about as early as such a trip would be possible and/or enjoyable. It will inevitably push the boundaries of what feels normal, but we felt it better to bite the bullet and give such a trip a go, and aside from sharing some campsite facilities and using the train, it is mostly a very self-sufficient means of travel and accomodation.</p> <p>We will see in four weeks' time what 'the world' looks like, and if our trip can go ahead. I feel cautiously optimistic at this stage.</p> Well played, meat boy 2020-07-11T00:00:00Z <blockquote> <p>“I’m looking for ground beef,” I announced on arrival.</p> <p>“How much would you like?”, asked the jaunty young butcher.</p> <p><em>Well played, meat boy.</em></p> <p>“Two burgers worth, please” I squeaked out, certain he could smell the vegetarian all over me.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="">- &quot;Two burgers worth, please...&quot; -</a></p> <p>I love Peter Rukavina's blog. He manages to post really frequently, and has a kind of secret sauce mix of short and long posts; some are short enough that they coud be tweets*, while others are just the right length to tell a story or make a point.</p> <p>* As far as I know, Peter isn't on Twitter; if this means all his writing/posting energies are devoted to his blog, it's clearly a good call!</p> <p>The above quote from a recent post about Peter, a vegetarian of many years, needing to buy burgers for his son, made me have a good old chuckle to myself.</p> <p>I've never met Peter, but over the past year or so his blog has become an absolute favourite of mine. He writes about island life - which has become even more 'isolated' in recent months, but no less wanderlust-inducing; he writes about sustainable travel, including riding bicycles and driving electric vehicles. It was his posts about riding bicycles around town to get supplies last year some time that got me hooked. And he touches on family stuff - beautiful moments with his son, and - alas through necessity - he has revealed multiple times that he writes incredibly eloquently on the subject of loss.</p> <p>Peter's blog is in the 'must read' folder in my Inoreader. If I fail to catch up on my RSS feeds for a few days or more and the numbers get overwhelming, I simply nuke the other folders and just go through my must reads - it's blogs like Peter's that I absolutely cannot go without.</p> New Photography page on my website 2020-07-09T00:00:00Z <p>I've updated this website a little bit, and added (reinstated, actually) <a href="">a 'portfolio' element to display some photographs</a>.</p> <p>I've stuck to albums/sets as these are the most sensible way of displaying them, and I've added a simple but neat little lightbox plugin to make it a bit nicer to look at. (This looks pretty good on desktop, but on a mobile device the lightbox isn't so well-suited. I will need to see if I can get it to play nicer on mobile, or simply put up with it because mobile devices aren't the best for browsing photographic galleries outside of purpose built apps like Instagram, anyway.)</p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p>This is what it looks like at the moment: a selection of recent-ish galleries, including <a href="">the very recent latest set of photographs</a> taken just last week on <a href="">my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s</a>, which I love using, and on Ilford XP2, which I also love using. (It's a black and white film, but it is developed using the colour C41 process, which makes things a bit easier and more economical for developing. It's got great contrast, seems pretty versatile and, paired with the Minolta's sharp 45mm f1.8 lens, produces really great-looking black and white images.)</p> <p>I've added a few others - mostly trips away - partly because I gravitate towards these at the moment, in times of lockdown. In fact, four of the currently featured albums have also been made into photobooks, so they immediately seem like obvious choices for presenting here.</p> <p>This is also, hopefully, an alternative (whether in place of, or alongside) to Flickr. I use Flickr still, and I browse Flickr daily. I follow loads of folks on there, and still vastly prefer it to Instagram in terms of delving into someone's archive, or finding photographs of particular things, place, or taken on particular equipment.</p> <p>I've been posting to Flickr in fits and starts - mostly because I have let my subscription lapse, and I am now limited to 1,000 uploads. I took the difficult decision to remove the vast majority of photographs I've had on Flickr, starting in 2005, as I am now more interested in posting new, fewer shots, than having vast archives online which are less relevant or representative of me now.</p> <p>It was a difficult decision to do that, and I tried to preserve images or albums which have become sort of 'classics' of Flickr, by virtue of being discovered by enough people, or featured somewhere. But mostly I stripped away what was largely a sort of should-be-private photographic archive which felt anachronistic in 2020. What's left is a collection of fewer images, but still quite a representative selection going back a decade or so. And I am keen to continue adding to it, including <a href="">the new Minolta film, which is already online here</a> via <a href="">my new photography page</a>.</p> <p>I have some wider thoughts on Flickr, but I wanted to get this update up, and it made sense to talk a little bit about Flickr here now.</p> <p>I hope the new galleries look okay at your end - feel free to offer me some advice if they could be improved. And I'll continue to add to them in the near future.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> The first day of July 2020-07-01T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's the first of July, and apparently one hundred days since lockdown began. Truly a Lost Year.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Except, my mornings lately start like this: I stir to some indie classic (or soon-to-be classic) on BBC 6Music, and feel comforted by the familiar warmth of Chris Hawkins's voice.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>A short while later I am stirred by just enough motivation to swing my legs out of bed and head upstairs, where another radio is playing the same station. Crucially they are both DAB and so there is no syncopation as I move up the stairs.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In the kitchen I boil the kettle. I've filled it the night before, so that my very first action in the kitchen is flicking the switch and not trying to carefully decant a litre of water from one vessel into another. As the sound of boiling water rises, I get out the things I need to make breakfast and - if I didn't make it the night before - a packed lunch for M.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Today it's granola, yogurt, coffee, rocket leaves, tomatoes, mozzarella, and some Tupperware boxes.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I assemble all of this and then take breakfast and coffee downstairs, where I spend the next 30-40 minutes sipping coffee, chewing mouthfuls of yogurty granola, scrolling Twitter, occasionally noting down the name of a song on the radio, and chatting on and off to M as she gets ready.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>She leaves at 7.30 or so and I spend another half an hour scrolling or reading or sipping coffee until I decide I have the motivation, like this morning, to go out for a run.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>When I went to sleep last night my legs had a warm ache from running in VivoBarefoot shoes that morning. Not pain, just a dull acknowledgement of having used muscles I don't use every day. I am trying to acclimatise to these new shoes and my muscles and tendons are slowly adjusting.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>When I woke this morning, the dull tiredness remained, and I just caught myself before saying out loud to M that I didn't think I had a run in me this morning. &quot;Wait until you've had your coffee. Woken up a bit,&quot; I told myself.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Sure enough, not long after 8am, I am out the door and putting the pavements of West Hampstead and Hampstead under my shoes. My ASICS this morning - my muscles and feet thankful for the added support, such to the degree that they propel me faster and more smoothly along the roads than I could have hoped for this early in the day, even as we ascend Arkwright Road towards Hampstead high street.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The weather is good for a morning run. The sun peeks out from fluffy, fast-moving clouds. There is a light breeze, and an attendant freshness to the air.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Someone on the podcast I am listening to, an American, uses the word <em>clique</em> in a sentence, but he pronounces it 'click' as Americans do. I spend the next twenty seconds thinking that the words _cheque _and _clique _must have a kinship, and then I find myself unable to remember if Americans spell clique as click. Surely not, I think, but then, cheque/check?</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I stop occasionally, to cross roads, to allow pedestrians a wide berth, or to catch my breath. But my legs need less time to recover, and this morning I discover that, pushing off, I don't so much limp and lurch forward as slightly bounce back into my jogging, and then running, pace.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This small, unexpected burst carries me forward a few steps further and I settle into a decent rhythm. I am later told by my running apps that my pace was decent. Very much so for a morning run, when my muscles aren't fully warmed up, or my joints sufficiently oiled.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I sit in the park by my house to massage my calf muscles. A couple and another woman pass each other and catch up. They are familiar with one another. They ask each other how things are going. The unspoken implication is &quot;...during all of <em>this</em>,&quot; as so many questions are at the moment.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>They talk of webcams and Zoom meetings. One of the ladies is newly pregnant. Congratulations are given and received. They stand in the middle of the path and other park users edge around them, or pause just long enough for one of this triangle of conversing humans to notice and they all move, as one, to the side.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>My calf muscles are feeling better for being massaged for a few minutes. I rise, relieved that my legs feel warm and used, but not sore or tight. I walk the short distance home.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I lock the door behind me, remove my running belt, earpiece and phone to the counter, and wash my hands. I pour myself the last of the coffee and I come to sit on the patio to drink it. Dappled sunlight falls on the patio, the sunflowers, and on me.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And then I write this.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2020 weeknotes 24-26 2020-06-30T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:image {"id":20031,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Another couple of weeks have floated by, as if on the wind.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The weather has changed over that time, too, from bright sunshine and temperatures over 30 degrees, to heavy rain, high winds and even some thunder. Nothing <em>too</em> unusual for summertime, but more noticeable than usual, perhaps.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Have managed to be outside a lot these past few weeks. A couple of socially-distanced picnics were attended - one in east London, where we decided to cycle over instead of taking the train, which was pretty pleasant. And that picnic was a lovely one as it was an annual affair and felt almost normal.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>No team sports this time round, but nice catch-ups and some lovely smiles.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[20027,20028]} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="" /></li> </ul> <p>Drone image thanks to <a href="">Jonty</a></p> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph {"align":"left"} --> <p>And then another smaller after-work picnic with friends who brought a solar oven which... almost worked! But late sun is less powerful, and trees kept obscuring the sunbeams.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":20029,"sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I also took my recent daily routine of walking an hour before and after work to running before and after work most days. Initially I wanted to see how my body would react. Some days I run and feel like I could go again later, while other days I run and for days after, running is the last thing on my mind.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Turns out, my body (and mind) took to it rather well. I clocked up nearly 50 miles / 75 km in a week where I ran up to 5km before and after work, and then a half marathon on the weekend. One of those shorter runs was in M's VivoBarefoot shoes, and I have to say I really enjoyed the new sensation. They make me feel very in contact with the ground - much more mindful of the surface I'm running over, and looking for edges and small sharp stones. Even running over the nobbly pedestrian crossing paving stones for visually impaired folks is a touch uncomfortable.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The motion is quite different because, unlike padded trainers, you're on your own. Every impact and movement is just... your feet and ankles and knees. So instead of foam and air bubbles and padding, it's your tendons, muscles and bones that need to absorb every step and push off for the next. It makes one hyper-aware of your gait and pace and position and the way your feet land.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I ran again in the Barefoots today, and spent a long day of walking in them last week. I'm on the verge of needing new running shoes and am at a crossroads: do I go with a new pair of VivoBarefoots to call my own? Or play it safe and replace my tried-and-tested Asics for a third time? Decisions, decisions...</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In other news, I made some more progress in <em>Zelda: Breath of the Wild</em>. For a while now I'd been coasting, and using the progress map to explore places I'd somehow ignored so far. Inevitably there were a few places around where you first start the game which I'd overlooked in my ever-exploratory journeys.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But last week I tackled my third Divine Beast of four - Medoh, the bird one. I have a suspicion that I could have tackled this one earlier, as it felt easier than the others I've done. I always wondered if they were all equally difficult as you can tackle them in whatever order you like.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The 'reward'/super-power it gives you is also not quite as profound as the other two I have so far, and would have been more useful earlier in the game as it helps climbing when your stamina isn't high enough to tackle big climbs.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But anyway, a nice milestone and I will continue to level up my hearts - my stamina wheel is now full - and get into a better routine of re-stocking on weapons, meals and clothing before tackling new areas. Then it's one more Divine Beast and then... well, the endgame I guess.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I have definitely been procrastinating because, although it's a cliche, I never want this game to end.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:image {"id":20024,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Robin activity in the garden has diminished somewhat. The next set of fledglings have all but gone, moved on to pastures new. One adult returned one day looking extremely sorry for itself, and having 'lost' its tail. Very peculiar.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":20022,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We'd had some pretty unsettled weather, so maybe it had an accident - or a run-in with a cat. Either way, we see this one now and then, but after seeing blue tits, great tits and even coal tits recently, we now see very few birds at all. I suppose that's just the way of it.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":20026,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Hopefully we'll see some more if the robins get another brood in before summer ends.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I did have one lovely moment with one of the robin babies who visited the garden all on its own and perched for what was at least three or four minutes, almost motionless, just occasionally moving its head around, looking up, down, all around, just taking it all in. Quite a remarkable sight. I couldn't look away.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":20025,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> 2020 weeknote 23 - biking and birdsong 2020-06-10T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:image {"id":20014,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The longer I leave not writing these weeknotes, the less likely it is that they'll ever happen.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I tried to write something well-formed about the recent black lives matter stuff and failed miserably. I think, <a href="">like Phil said</a>, it can come across somewhat insincere and really, I don't have much I can add to the discourse.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's been extremely gratifying seeing the universal torrent of support in my 'circle' though. I didn't think my friends or family harboured any racists, but it's also nice to have that confirmed so vociferously.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Meanwhile, I had a week of work stuff which culminated in me actually getting something unusual done and to a quality or standard that I hadn't anticipated being able to achieve. This came after two weeks of anxiety about said task, so that was extremely gratifying.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Tasks like these (particularly the unexpected ones) are made much harder by this working from home lark. In an office, it can be a lot easier to just bumble around supporting each other and nudging each other along in things. It's much harder to be given a seemingly quite large task and feeling as though you're on your own - even if you're not, really.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's just another little stepping stone along working from home journey, I guess. I don't see us changing our working practices any time soon - touching all the wood I can, our WFH arrangements have worked out pretty well for the most part. We might need, mostly on an individual basis, to pop into the office now and then to get something done, but most of what we do can be done remotely.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>My normal commute to work is just under an hour's walk, and recently I decided to start incorporating such a walk into my day. A week in, I can say it has been very good for my body and mind to set out for an hour before and after my usual working day to stretch my legs.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I also decided to walk a different way each time and I used <a href="">this nifty little web app</a> to show me, roughly, how far I can walk in 30 minutes.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I've used it before - oddly enough, to show me how far I can walk on my lunch break - and it's pretty accurate. I have a feeling, due to the fuzzy edges, that it is doing something clever by seeing what roads are straighter and how far you can actually get in a particular direction - a simple circle plot would be helpful enough, but there's something reassuringly accurate about the fuzzy edges.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>To show (hopefully) what I mean, here's how far the Queen can walk in 30 minutes from Buckingham Palace:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":20001,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The fuzzy edges on the other side of bridges imply that there is some actual routefinding going on - although I'm not sure what it means when the lines extend out into the river itself. Either way, it's a useful app.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The weekend before, M and I headed up to Hampstead Heath at dawn on a Saturday to have a picnic and listen to the birds while the sun came up. The conditions for this were perfect and, as we're now in a period of cooler, wetter weather, I am especially glad we made the effort.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[20008,20009,20010,20011,20012],"linkTo":"media","align":"center"} --> <ul> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></li> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></li> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></li> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></li> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>As well as snapping some pictures, I also set my Tascam sound recorder up in a small glade and left it for an hour. This is by far the longest and most remote recording I've made (in terms of leaving the recorder to return to later). It picked up some really nice birdsong - not quite a full, rapturous dawn chorus as it's a bit late in Spring for that - as well as the odd inquisitive bird and some distant sounds.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Having spent a bit of time recently tinkering with both audio and video editing software - Reaper and Lightworks, respectively - I managed to make a little video of the sound file. Just a still image, and the audio playing in the background.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>To go one step further though, I really wanted a way to visualise the audio and provide just a hint of movement on the still image as the audio plays - so three cheers for <a href="">Headliner</a> which has enabled me to achieve exactly what I wanted, with really smart, intuitive tools, for free, through a nice web interface. Amazing!</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Headliner is predominantly for podcasters to promote their shows via more video-based platforms, and more usually for shorter clips to be turned into short video clips on Twitter or Instagram. But for whatever reason, the platform also allows you to upload what they describe as a 'full show' and still embed a waveform. I guess it's so that podcasters can stick a whole episode on a video platform with the same effects. Either way, it's a great service and (for now?) has a very generous free tier.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And here's the result of my Hampstead Heath field recording:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:core-embed/youtube {"url":"","type":"video","providerNameSlug":"youtube","align":"center","className":"wp-embed-aspect-16-9 wp-has-aspect-ratio"} --> <p></p> <!-- /wp:core-embed/youtube --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Finally, this weekend I was in the mood for a bike ride, so I headed south and west, past Holland Park and down just beyond Hammersmith Bridge. The bridge is actually currently closed to road traffic, which I hadn't realised. It made the road on the other side (delightfully named Castelnau) very quiet and a joy to ride down for a bit, until it was time for me to head back.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[20003,20005],"linkTo":"media","align":"center"} --> <ul> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></li> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It was a fairly unorganised little meander, but nice to still get out on the bike while the roads are still <em>kinda</em> quiet. They're getting back to normal very quickly though, so those days are numbered.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Likewise, some of the roads through Kensington and Hammersmith have had crash barriers added to the bus lane to make them much more cycle friendly. It remains to be seen if these will give way to more permanent solutions, but it's a nice gesture for now, and makes for very pleasant riding.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":20007,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I really hope those who have gotten out onto busy city streets by bike more, or possibly even for the first time, find themselves able to after *waves hands* all this is over. But we'll see.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And finally, as well as moving my website from one host to another recently, this has also meant I've moved from to</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This means I'm now back using webspace that I can control, and means I can now do more things with it.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I think I flipflop between wanting the level of control (and responsibility) that comes with running webspace and self-hosted Wordpress every few years. Sometimes when renewal is approaching I decide I just cannot be arsed and want nothing more than an easy life and a simple blog. Other times, like now, I decide actually I do want a bit more breathing room and control, and don't mind the extra complexity involved.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This time around, what really sealed the deal was that I could get hosting and my domain name renewed for less than it was going to cost to renew my domain and the domain referral offered.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I also want the opportunity to muck around with HTML and CSS just like I used to, and a place to either experiment with little single-purpose websites, or investigate static site generators or whatnot.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I also want a space where I can put a tiny handful of web projects from my past, along with little standalone essays, photographic portfolios, or similar.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The long and short of all this is that I've chucked together a little subdomain where I can start flinging folders and files and just basically play around with web design without worrying about it impacting/breaking my actual blog (which is never not a pain in the arse to fix).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This has been in part brought about by all the stuff I've been recently reading about the resurgent interest in personal websites and non-mainstream platforms for personal web content. It's nice to finally have a place to play with this stuff again.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Going into an HTML file, making an edit, and then refreshing the page in the browser is just such a delightfully enjoyable process - and believe me when I say I feel this more than ever as my blog is now running Wordpress' bizarre, modern Gutenberg post editor and it is taking me a while to get used to. I want to learn to use it, but god it feels unintuitive so far.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2020 weeknote 22 2020-06-02T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:image {"id":19993,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This week I was mostly tied up with filming and then editing some video for work. This necessitated a trip into the office, which was surreal, and working alongside a colleague for a few hours, which was still pretty surreal, and exhausting.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It was a combination of the weather, the nature of the work, and the act of <em>going to work</em> and <em>working alongside someone</em> for a few hours that was just so totally shattering. The editing part has been no less of a headache, but at least I can do that from home.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I haven't done any video editing for about a decade, but I <em>have</em> done some before. So that has helped. It's been tricky even just finding out what software to use, though. And then how to use it.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I had success with Lightworks for the bulk of it, and VideoProc for stabilising the shaky footage.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This Friday evening M and I sat in the nearby park with some beers and I spoke to my mum on the phone. I caught myself saying to M, &quot;so, what shall we do this weekend?&quot; and then laughed out loud, reasoning that it's impossible to make any plans or do anything interesting at the moment.</p> <p>Wrong!</p> <p>Saturday we woke before 5am and cycled to Hampstead Heath to see the sun come up and listen to birdsong. We took a breakfast picnic and spent a couple of hours there before riding home by 7.30.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[19990,19991,19992],"columns":1,"imageCrop":false,"linkTo":"media","align":"center"} --> <ul> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></li> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></li> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="" /></a></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I then managed to stay awake for the whole day, watching some films, doing some grocery shopping, sitting in the park, and hoovering up half of Jordan Mechner's brilliant journals from when he was making <em>Prince of Persia</em>. Fantastic.</p> <p>On Sunday I managed a run, and even squeezed in a socially-distanced 'hello' to a couple of friends on the Heath in the sunshine. It was a lovely weekend.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I can't believe how much sunshine we're having. Indeed, the Met Office have released figures to show that this has been by far the sunniest Spring on record - more than a hundred hours of sunshine than the previous record, and two hundred more than the average. Amazing.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This week I also tried to capture some of the Starlink satellites as they pass overhead in their uncanny linear orbits. I've only recently learned about these (thanks to <a href="">a mention from Chris</a>) and it's quite novel to have something new in the night sky to see.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I grew up fascinated by watching stars, planets, meteors and satellites, and when the ISS was added to, boosting its brightness, it all felt new and exciting. Starlink feels a bit like that - they are 'normal' satellites in terms of what you see, but they travel in clusters, so once you've seen one you will shortly see another, and another, sometimes 10 or more, all travelling in roughly the same orbit in reasonably quick succession.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway I failed to get shots of those, but I did focus my lens on the moon for a bit while setting up, and managed to grab this with a 200mm lens:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":19989,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>PS: Oh, I also moved my website from one host to another this week. If youre reading this, well... It worked. I guess? If you noticed any weirdness - RSS feeds not working or anything at all really, please do give me a shout: paulcapewell then gmail then com</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2020 weeknote whenever 2020-05-21T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:image {"id":18766} --> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Right! Absolutely must start typing otherwise I'll begin to fade away like Marty McFly's family photographs.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The last few weeks have been basically fine. Despite some changes to the UK (England?) lockdown restrictions, my life has pootled along as normal. One major change means we can now go outside more than once a day, and even do weird Before All This things like have picnics in the park. So we did exactly that earlier this week, to celebrate my birthday. Oddly enough, the two groups nearest us, in a very busy urban park, were also celebrating birthdays. I suddenly wondered if perhaps <em>everyone</em> had come out purely to celebrate birthdays? Or maybe they were all lying about it being their birthdays as an excuse to meet in the park... Hmm.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The problem with lockdown here is, the weather has been unrelentingly lovely, pretty much since the outbreak started to get serious here, and the weather has both <em>stayed</em> sunny <em>and</em> got progressively warmer as the weeks have gone.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We've also had about seventeen bank holidays since lockdown began, and we've another next week. No wonder we're all just out at the beach or bumbling around town or driving to national parks.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway, the picnic was wonderful, with sandwiches, pork pie, crisps, birthday cake - and the most poignant item, a bottle of Delirium Nocturnum, a deliciously strong beer, the bottle of which we'd brought back from our trip to Bruges at the start of the year.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Back in early January, the idea of saving a single bottle of beer until May - May! - seemed, almost laughable. Of course I'd cave and drink it early. But I didn't. And I was especially glad because - as I'd hoped - it tasted all the sweeter, particularly because we still haven't found a UK source for it. (Even after discovering that M&amp;S sells a non-branded Belgian beer which is actually made in the same brewery, but about a third of the strength.)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But the thing I dwelt upon for almost as long as how good the beer tasted was in me trying to imagine what me-back-in-January might have thought May 2020 would look like, and feel like. Certainly nothing like this.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But despite the weird, creeping horror of the actual pandemic and what it all means to those most affected by it, we get on with things. We have to.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So, work continues apace. The end of the financial year has brought with it a whole host of things both anticipated and unexpected. M's school, much like most others, is making preparations for a selection of classes to return in just a week or so's time. And we celebrate birthdays and bake things and make nice meals and talk to family on the phone and just do the stuff that we do. Because what else is there to do?</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I find myself missing the coast a lot.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Despite (or because of) my proximity to London, I can't say I'm hugely missing the museums, the pubs, the theatres, or even cinemas really. Maybe it's because I know _no-one _can enjoy those things right now, so I don't think I'm missing out.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I'd give my right arm to go to a solitary cinema screening - for better or worse, most of the ones I went to recently at the Kiln, there were only about five of us in the whole auditorium anyway!</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But what I'm really missing is, I guess, something like this:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[19282,19281],"sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="20160528-img_2882-2243910-300x200-8540209" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="20160529-img_2904-6806731-300x200-7517074" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:image {"id":19297,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="20160529-img_2919-7621446-1024x682-9190197-8871919" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I think I kinda just want to walk along a coastal path. Isle of Wight?</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Or perhaps the Lizard? Or maybe a new place I've not been to yet? Just something like that. I want to see the sea, feel the breeze, and check out the interesting contours and strata, and stumble into a quiet country pub* for a pint and some crisps.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>* I think this is the distinction - I don't really miss London pubs but I do miss quiet country pubs</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Other recent distractions:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Radio</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I haven't done a huge amount of radio listening in lockdown; reception conditions in my urban, electrically noisy flat are not great, and so I prefer to get out to a high, more remote point to do that. But I have to give praise to a workshop run by <a href="">Hannah Kemp-Welch</a> about shortwave radio for <a href="">Reveil 2020</a>.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Hannah used Zoom to give me and about fifteen others a breakdown of how radio waves work, how shortwave works, the kinds of things on it, and an introduction to web SDRs (software defined radios). The latter part was most revelatory (reveil-atory...?) for me as I'd never actually tried to use a webSDR before - I'd kind of written them off because, for me, the magic of radio is using your own equipment wherever you are, and capturing whatever signals pass by.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>For me, radio listening is basically like catching butterflies.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The butterflies are the radio waves, and the net is whatever radio I use. I guess, to extend the metaphor, the different nets (radios, remember, keep up) have different fineness of mesh, and so can pick up different BUTTERFLIES like FM, shortwave, etc...</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway, web SDRs seemed kind of silly to me as you're just using the web to listen to another radio somewhere else. And if I'm using the net to stream a fuzzy shortwave stream, why wouldn't I use the net to stream a solid, full resolution stream of something instead?</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But thanks to Hannah's intro, I now *get* that using web SDRs is fun and informative, as it gives you training in using SDR software - which you can use on any computer and plug in your own, local, radio and see what you can pick up. But you get to use a really, really good radio, with a decent antenna, hopefully located somewhere isolated from electronic interference. And so you can pick up some really interesting stuff you wouldn't normally hear.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So thanks to Hannah for that - and just in general for volunteering her time and expertise to deliver a free workshop like that. I was thrilled to see it advertised and went out for a run, timing it so that I could get home, grab some snacks, and settle in to watch and listen along.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Running</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Speaking of running, I've tried to keep this up and have, in some weeks, run maybe 2-3 times? Nothing amazing, but not bad. More recently I suffered from what I wouldn't say was shinsplints, but was certainly a tenderness in the front of my shins.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I think I've had shinsplints once, years ago when I was visiting home from uni and wanted to go for a run, but the nearest thing I had to trainers was a pair of walking boots. I was laid up for at least a few days after that, and had to use bags of frozen peas to take the edge off. Don't run in walking boots, kids.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway I'm very pleased to say that, having rested my legs for a few days (still going for short bike rides and walks, mind you), I was able to go for a perfectly comfortable 5k run this lunchtime. I'm so glad, especially as the longer I waited to 'test' my legs again, the more anxious I was getting that I'd just immediately feel the same aches and pains. But nope, not this time.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>What definitely helped was that I got some nice running swag for my birthday, and today managed to wear my: new running hat, new running pants(!), new running belt, and even my new sunglasses. All these things, combined with already having decent kit, and shoes that are fine but will need replacing soon, meant that my run was smooth and comfortable, and I achieved some satisfyingly negative splits as I upped the effort the more I felt comfortable (and, presumably, ran downhill!)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18762} --> <p><img src="" alt="screenshot_20200521-140320-8521028-2239312" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Not bad for a day of 27 degrees Celsius sunshine!</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Birds</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The local birds continue to delight us with their regular feeding activities. We've grown used to seeing the robins, young and old, coming and going. And we were extra thrilled to add the blue tits and great tits to the collection. The GIF at the top of this post is of once particularly greedy little blue tit. Actually we think he's taking food back to the nest, such is the frequency of his visits.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The last few days have been exceptionally warm, and bird activity has dropped to almost zero. We're hoping it's just the heat, or maybe the pattern of their parenting, and that they'll be back again soon.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The other wonderful sight - or more accurately, sound - has been that of the swifts which have now returned.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We see them wheeling over the road and above the roofs of the houses opposite most afternoons and evenings, and now actually most of the daytime generally. It's so lovely to have that distant, high-pitched cry back, adding to the rich soundtrack we hear outside our windows. I actually got quite excited seeing other naturalists on Twitter reporting the return of the swifts to their locale. Only a few days later and I had my first sighting, with the sound being heard the very next day. Wonderful.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Bike rides</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Finally, with the roads much clearer than usual, and a fairly palpable sense that cyclists are suddenly more welcome on London's roads, I've enjoyed a few recent cycle rides that have taken me to places I've not been to by bike before.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>One was all the way along cycleway CS3, which goes all the way from Hyde Park all the way out to Barking; we took it as far as just beyond Blackwall and headed back.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Another was out to the Hoover building, and a brief dip into Brentham Garden Suburb in Ealing, to see two very different buildings up close that I'd been meaning to check out for ages. I look forward to returning to Brentham for a better look around.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And then of course there was a nip up to the <em>other</em> Garden Suburb at Hampstead, to pick wild garlic and make delicious wild garlic and cheese scones. <a href="">Recipe and more pictures of that little adventure can be found here</a>.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Recipe: Wild garlic and cheese scones 2020-05-16T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:image {"id":19254,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="mg_1599-3596416-scaled-1024x682-3742345" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In recent years, whenever we've found wild garlic, we've tried to use it to make a few things, including a lovely pesto.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>A recent visit to Hampstead Heath looking for wild garlic turned up just one single plant, which was utterly baffling. I'd previously found wild garlic in a particular spot in Big Wood in Hampstead Garden Suburb, so we cycled up there this morning - and fortunately there was tons of the stuff.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[19255,19256,19257]} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1532-6963144-scaled-1024x683-2657926" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1526-1380531-scaled-1024x683-5852494" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_1531-6675020-scaled-1024x683-2463541" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We picked a tupperwareful of green, fragrant leaves and then cycled home, not wanting to linger too long as the roads and footpaths started to get busier.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>M found a recipe for wild garlic and cheese scones <a href="">on the National Trust website</a> which I've adapted here - I say 'adapted', but what I mean is that it is <em>exactly</em> the same recipe, it just makes sure to include the use of the baking powder in the method as the National Trust one does not, and I would definitely have accidentally left it out if I hadn't already prepared the amount needed.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>There are a few other wild garlic recipes <a href="">on that page</a> if you scroll down - including <a href="">soup</a>, <a href="">pesto</a> and <a href="">a wild garlic and potato curry</a>. They all sound amazing.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Onwards, to the scone recipe:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Ingredients:</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":19258,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="mg_1540-5740286-scaled-1024x683-9673326" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:list --> <ul> <li>**500g **self raising flour</li> <li><strong>4 tsp</strong> baking powder</li> <li>**1/4 tsp **salt</li> <li>**200g **margarine (we used unsalted butter)</li> <li>**250g **grated cheddar cheese</li> <li>**200 ml **milk</li> <li>**2 large handfuls **chopped wild garlic leaves (make sure you give it a good wash first)</li> </ul> <!-- /wp:list --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Method:</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph {"align":"center"} --> <p>1. Preheat your oven to 220c, or 200c for a fan oven, or gas mark 7. Having mixed the flour, salt and baking power in a mixing bowl as a dry mix, rub in the butter/margarine.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":19259,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="mg_1543-3039150-scaled-1024x683-6420793" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph {"align":"center"} --> <p>2. Use your hands to mix in the grated cheese and chopped garlic, and then add the milk. Smoosh together into a smooth dough.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[19260,19261,19262]} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1544-4768019-scaled-1024x683-1628335" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1549-2454932-scaled-1024x683-4001060" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1555-9194048-scaled-1024x683-1226357" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:image {"id":19263,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="mg_1557-9654713-scaled-1024x683-8994650" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph {"align":"center"} --> <p>(You may want to chop the wild garlic a bit finer than we did; ours turned out fine, but it's an option.)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph {"align":"center"} --> <p>3. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface, knead a little, then work into a 2cm-thick round.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[19264,19265,19266]} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1559-6740974-scaled-1024x683-2134833" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1560-2426784-scaled-1024x683-9331890" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1568-2036230-scaled-1024x683-2245532" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph {"align":"center"} --> <p>4. Cut out your scones from the round, ideally using a 5cm/2 inch cutter, but work with what you have to hand. Place on a baking tray - greased, or lined with parchment. Then brush with a little milk.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[19267,19268,19269]} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1570-9667544-scaled-1024x683-4141247" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1571-9011692-scaled-1024x683-1715611" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1580-8383361-scaled-1024x683-7028015" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph {"align":"center"} --> <p>5. Stick them in the oven! This recipe is meant to make about 25 scones, so make sure you have enough baking trays ready. We baked in two batches. Pop the scones in the oven for 12-15 minutes.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[19270,19271]} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1584-3612256-scaled-1024x683-8718600" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1587-4364316-scaled-1024x683-1513567" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph {"align":"center"} --> <p>6. After 12-15 minutes, have a look and see if they're looking golden and risen. If so, get them out and pop on a wire rack. Your kitchen will instantly smell wonderful.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[19272,19273,19274,19275],"columns":2} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1588-1-3131789-scaled-1024x683-1435353" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1593-1-7338935-scaled-1024x683-1047613" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1596-1-7778246-scaled-1024x683-1001165" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1597-1-5404430-scaled-1024x683-8987958" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph {"align":"center"} --> <p>7. Give them time to cool, and then enjoy!</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[19276,19277,19278,19279],"columns":1} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1604-6241086-scaled-1024x683-5083971" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1603-2672004-scaled-1024x683-8120810" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1601-1421623-scaled-1024x683-7971790" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1605-7666714-scaled-1024x683-6166022" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>S'gone!</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2020 weeknotes 16 and 17 - a load of old bobbins 2020-04-28T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I was really hoping not to start skipping these weeknotes because, perhaps more than ever, it's important to take a minute to scribble down what's going on - and I've not even been keeping my diary of late, so this is sort of <em>it</em>.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But I've missed a week, and the prospect of sitting down to write 1000+ words is partly what's been putting me off, so here are some bullet points of the past fortnight:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:list --> <ul> <li>we saw that our local Homebase was giving away dying houseplants, so we took 2-3 home and have rehabilitated them. One might not make it, but the other two look great</li> <li>we also passed a local house which had put out some cuttings of a squash plant, and we decided to bring one home. It's doing very well so far</li> <li>all our other plants are doing nicely as well, including some cut-and-come-again salad leaves which we've had with a few meals so far, and I cut some parsley for the first time today</li> <li>the main entertainment for me during my workdays of late has been the local robin family with its three adolescent children and two anxious parents. The babies are teenagers now, and are almost independent. They still squawk and scrap with their siblings, but they are happily feeding themselves. They still have non-adult plumage, and I wonder if or when we will see them gain their famous red breasts</li> <li>the weather has continued to be warm and bright, and it's been mostly enjoyable getting out for runs and bike rides. I washed my bike thoroughly this weekend, which was enjoyable in itself, and it rode beautifully afterwards, which was especially nice</li> <li>about two weeks ago I very clumsily went to compress a pile of recycling and sliced into the palm of my hand in such a way that for twenty minutes or so I genuinely thought it might need stitches or at least some form of medical attention. Happily, it healed very quickly and wasn't as bad as I thought. The prospect of having to go to hospital for doing something stupid and avoidable would have been very embarrassing</li> <li>life just sort of... rumbles on. We continue to eat and drink well, and my daily work routine is fine. I hear from my colleagues often enough, and we all see that we are all putting in the hours and getting the job done. I start to worry that life really will never be the same again, but I guess that's inevitable in some ways. Work will be the same but different. The idea of being in an office every day is, right now, very strange indeed</li> <li>I have not kept up with a log of things I've watched and read - mainly because my consumption of writing, video and audio has - inevitably - increased to such an extent that I simply don't have the time or energy to essentially liveblog my life. But there have been some especially good bits, so I won't rule it out.</li> <li>In lieu of more words, here is an assortment of photos from the last couple of weeks that capture some of it, whatever it is</li> </ul> <!-- /wp:list --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[18639,18640,18641,18642,18643,18644,18645,18646,18647,18648,18649,18650,18651,18652,18653,18654,18655,18656,18657,18658],"columns":3,"linkTo":"attachment"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200415_133003872_hdr-2611280-scaled-9880391" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200415_140702724_hdr-1647884-scaled-2826599" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_0812-8783225-scaled-3361352" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_0836-animation-8378678-1912142" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_0865-7671787-scaled-7908049" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_0882-3755953-scaled-8785004" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_0883-5941466-scaled-5017118" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_0911-5404613-scaled-5781888" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_0929-4844599-scaled-6613629" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200422_183034369_hdr-6082231-scaled-1352476" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200424_124135219-5999621-scaled-3599189" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200425_111553626-4290865-scaled-5635729" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_0963-7281613-scaled-2424279" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_0961-6873656-scaled-3953528" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200425_190247988-3646886-scaled-1730720" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200426_130516074_hdr-6757345-scaled-2557975" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_0968-3758309-6295319" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200427_231315638_hdr-7371080-scaled-1118728" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1028-2719750-scaled-2259871" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_1002-2593925-scaled-3482331" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> 2020 weeknote 15 - Zoom Meeting with a Jane Eyre on Lockdown (with added robin) 2020-04-15T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Okay, it's actually getting hard to remember how many weeks we've done this for. And I know we (the lucky, privileged ones who are just sort of doing things differently but are basically fine) are all probably kind of <em>grieving</em> in a small way for our previous lives, work or otherwise. Maybe that's too strong a word, but there must be something psychological going on when you suddenly stop doing the stuff you normally do, or seeing the people you normally do, or whatnot.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Here's some stuff that I have been doing.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I had my first functional Zoom meeting with work colleagues, which actually worked once I sorted out the wifi my iPad was using. I had initially run my iPad over wifi to a router in not just a different room but on a different floor. Not ideal for low latency communications.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>My top tip for anyone with precisely my own setup is this: if you are near a desktop computer with a wired connection to your router, you can use your desktop machine to share a wifi connection (much like tethering with a mobile phone to share your 4G connection to other wifi devices).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I hadn't realised this was was possible, much less that you can just enable it in Windows 10's Settings under Network &amp; Internet &gt; Mobile hotspot. Pretty sure I used to do something similar with my MacBook back in the day as well.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18611} --> <p><img src="" alt="capture-2504435-1970607" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Neat.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Once I got this set up, my Zoom connection seemed rock solid, and it was a strangely useful/pleasant exercise. It's not something I want to do permanently, but it's good to have the option.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>TeamViewer has also been rock solid for our entire office for the past few weeks.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Some of our functions can be done through browser access to webmail and so on, but we need access to our shared files and some bespoke software that isn't available outside our office machines in any easy way.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>TeamViewer has made this very easy. I have found the connection very reliable, and as I am using the same OS at work and at home, with TeamViewer in fullscreen it really is just like I'm sat in front of my work machine.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Homewise, we have kept ourselves amused by rearranging the lounge furniture and keeping an eye on the local bird population.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We have a friendly local pair of robins who are either building a nest or feeding and housing young chicks, and they've taken to our selection of sunflower seeds and fat balls, visiting the patio (handily, also the view outside my wfh window) scores of times a day to collect food or nesting material. It's been a real joy.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18614} --> <p><img src="" alt="20200414_174524-animation-3920045-6050044" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I can often be found sat gazing out the window with my dSLR and 70-200mm lens in hand like some sort of <em>Rear Window</em> cosplayer.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We had a power cut on Monday night at almost exactly midnight. I wouldn't normally notice a power cut until the next day when any old digital clocks might be found blinking 12:00* but we have a noticeably noisy extractor fan near our bedroom for the services in our building. We have naturally gotten used to the low hum it emits constantly 24/7 - so when it stops for whatever reason, it's really quite noticeable.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>* I tried to wrap this in <code>blink tag HTML code</code> but, no dice.**</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>** Apparently the<code>'code' HTML tag</code> works, though.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In this case, the power was out for about five minutes. Just long enough for me to stagger round to the window to check and see - yep - it had affected other properties in our street, and even the street lights, which I thought was unusual. Pleasingly, this was also the night of the April supermoon, and it was front and centre as I twitched at the curtains to look out into the street.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We basically don't get power cuts any more. I remember them happening what felt like quite often when I grew up. But in the past decade or more I can't remember a power cut lasting more than a few minutes, and more often they're a brief flicker.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Rearranging the furniture seems to be <em>very lockdown</em> from what I've seen online. And even on the streets it's been clear people have been having a clear out from the piles of unwanted stuff on garden walls.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The rearranged lounge has been especially pleasant as we now have a plethora of plants which rejoice in the sunshine that streams in most of the day, and our TV unit is now in a shadowy corner which makes it easier to watch, like vampires, while the aforementioned sunlight pours in, attempting to disturb our lockdown viewing.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Such viewing has this week included:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:list --> <ul> <li>National Theatre Live's <em>Jane Eyre</em> which was a very enjoyable and inventive production with real heart. It took me about half an hour to get over my initial feelings of not being able to fully get into it until I realised I was able to enjoy the production for what it was and how it made use of the set etc., and the story could come second. Unsure if this is how theatre is meant to be enjoyed, but sort of don't care.</li> <li><em>Jesus Christ, Superstar</em> (which I spent the preceding days confusing with <em>Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat</em> - but apparently that was streamed the week earlier, so perhaps it wasn't entirely my fault) - this was a weird one - a huge, vast, arena-sized production which mostly worked and made use of the giant stage, and benefitted massively from some good cameo performances and Tim Minchin absolutely bossing it as Judas.</li> <li><em>Portrait of a Lady on Fire</em>, which I was *delighted* to see was added to Mubi this week (it's on Mubi in the UK for the next few weeks - if you need a code for a free trial, <a href="">why not use mine</a>?), especially having missed it in the cinema not so long ago. It was as beautifully shot as I'd hoped, and I loved it. About two thirds of the way through I noticed how weird it was - sorry - how there hadn't been a single man in the cast. This made it no less enjoyable. Actually probably made it even _more _enjoyable.</li> <li><em>Race Across the World</em> on BBC iPlayer, which I hadn't seen before, but seems like a cross between maybe <em>The Apprentice</em> and Channel 4's <em>Hunted</em> except with more realistic restrictions, and has been great fun. Watching people romp around South America while we're stuck inside has definitely increased our wanderlust.</li> </ul> <!-- /wp:list --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In <em>non-_viewing, I was delighted that Radio 3 re-broadcast the live performance of Max Richter's _Sleep</em> from a few years ago at the Wellcome Collection. <em>Sleep</em> is an eight-hour(!) piece of music designed, as you might guess, to fall asleep to.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It was broadcast from 11pm to 7am, and I found myself stirring - as I often do during the night - and quickly finding the constant musical companion pleasant, before nodding off again. Really wonderful. That's available on the <a href="">BBC Sounds app/website</a> for the next few weeks too - I really encourage anyone to stick it on at bedtime and give it a whirl.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It reminded me that I used to fall asleep to a pretty ace playlist consisting of Stars of the Lid, Jonsi &amp; Alex, some Peter Broderick stuff... It was a good playlist.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In fact, Stars of the Lid's <em>And Their__ Refinement of the Decline</em> is something I stick on in times of anxietal need, including sleeplessness and on flights.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Finally, Easter was... weird. But, well, we made nice food and drank nice wine, and even ate and drank some of it sat outside on the patio - so it was a pretty great Easter, actually. We didn't have much chocolate as, when we've been able to get out to the shops recently, it felt frivolous to stock up on essentials <em>as well as</em> the least efficient way to store and carry chocolate.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This isn't just lockdown fever: in previous Easters I have been much happier buying a few Chocolate Oranges (by far the cheapest/best value chocolate by weight) and some bars of decent choccy rather than wanting any actual eggs.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Instead of chocolate eggs we drank nice red wine, and I ordered one of those home deliveries of craft beer that doesn't work out very economical apart from the first box, and I liked a fair few of them. I'm not a craft beer lover, but it's nice to try a few different ones selected by someone else from time to time.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I've also been managing to get out for a ride or run every 2-3 days which is keeping me sane. Most other days I get out for a stroll, and it's been nice walking nearby roads I don't know, remarking at some really quite interesting residential architecture.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>On Good Friday I rode my bike down to the river and it was... Weird. Pleasant - what with the roads being clear enough - but eerie, what with the city being basically empty.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[18622,18623,18624,18625],"columns":2,"linkTo":"attachment"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200410_162309_119-4299541-3211580" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200410_162309_146-1343080-8880303" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> 2020 weeknote 14 - which week was this again? 2020-04-07T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Oh boy.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The hardest thing about writing these weeknotes in the absence of what we used to call <em>weeks</em> is knowing where to draw a line. It's a cliche but I genuinely sometimes need to check what day it is.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Michael Palin, in <a href="">a recent, brief, video</a>, referred to this as 'weekend-itis', and of course there's the great and poetic terms like perpetual Sundays and my own coined term, the longest bank holiday weekend of our lives.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Working from home, I am still resolutely sticking to my 9-5 hours as before. This is largely because we <em>all</em> are - if a colleague needs me for something, it's fair to assume I should be contactable during this time. And, actually, a handful of the things my colleagues have needed me for are because, at 8.58am, they try and connect and have some sort of issue. So I need to be around for first thing particularly.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>That being said, there have been times during the work day when the phone has just rung out, or a Whatsapp message or email has gone unanswered for an hour or so. It's <em>fine. _We are all working out this working from home thing, and it's mostly, well, _working.</em></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Mainly, I feel it's good to keep to a routine of being up and dressed and 'working' from 9am. Anything less than that would see my day quickly fall apart.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's hard for me to remember specifics about this particular week, but on Friday morning I woke to find my computer wouldn't boot.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I then found that my Windows/backup recovery boot USB for such purposes wouldn't boot.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Then, having rebuilt a new recovery environment boot USB on another machine, I discovered that the drive that holds my daily backups was failing. Readable, but not enough to restore from a backup.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":18405} --> <p><img src="" alt="img_20200403_084015-6354231-scaled-9966216" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I had a bad morning.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>:(</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>To get round this, in the end I just created a new Windows 10 installation USB, started from scratch, and this at least got me up and running and back into my work system by lunchtime.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>What made my Friday afternoon a bit more stressful for work reasons was that, with Monday 6 April being the start of the 2020/2021 financial year, I had a shit-ton of stuff to do by the end of Friday in time for the <em>end</em> of the financial year. I could have allotted some of that stuff to do over the weekend, but I didn't.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway, I got it all done in time.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>What I did spend some of the weekend doing was rebuilding my new Windows installation, and trying to recover files from my backup. The drive that houses my backups just seems basically dead. It reads, but there are clear issues with it, and I tried running a sector scan on it and I saw lots of red icons. It is, I fear, an ex-hard drive.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>When I got down to it, I hadn't lost a huge amount in those backups. The main thing I lost was the ability to simply restore my Windows setup to what it had been a day before. Most of my stuff is semi-online anyway, and my actual files and media are stored on other drives - I mainly just run Windows and applications off a 250GB SSD for speed, and don't store much else on it. What I <em>do</em> store on the SSD, and until now did not back up remotely, was my Lightroom library.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Lightroom is what I use for cataloguing and editing my photographs, and the application is intelligent in that the raw image files live wherever (an external drive), and Lightroom creates a database so that when I edit those photos, it doesn't actually change the images, it just saves the edits into its own database. So that database, although it contains no actual photos, contains all the edits I've made to my photos. Without the database, the images just load as they did when they were first taken.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Lightroom is also smart in that about once a week it checks the integrity of its own database, and makes a backup. Unfortunately for me, the library and its backups all live in the same folder on the SSD - the SSD which was being backed up daily, sure, but only to one drive, and that's the drive that seems to be failing. So no Lightroom backups for me.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And the biggest problem with my backups (I had been using EaseUS Todo Backup Free)? It creates one single backup file which is effectively a virtual disk. Trying to recover one, single, 160GB-or-so file from a failing hard drive is much harder than, say, trying to recover a bunch of random, small files from a file system spread evenly across a failing disk.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So that's been my big lesson over the weekend. I'm now trying to work out a backup solution that works going forward. Which isn't easy as I had thought I <em>already</em> had a backup solution that worked. But, of course, I neglected to actually test it until it was too late. Which is basically rule number two of having backups in the first place.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>What do people even do for backups? Windows 10 has some built-in stuff which surely must Just Work for most people. But I thought I was being super clever running my own backup strategy - and it's a system I've had to rely on before and that worked. So I guess it's just a shame that this time it didn't. Do I continue with the same setup, but regularly checking the backups are working? A lot to think about.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This weekend I also picked up a new computer monitor from Argos (praise be to our local Sainsbury's having a working Argos collection point). This replaces a 19&quot; Samsung TV/monitor I have been using for about eight years, and which had a maximum/native resolution of 1440x900, which was quite small, and actually caused a few headaches due to its oddness. I now have a cheap but fine 21.5&quot; screen with a native resolution of 1920x1080, and am enjoying having the extra screen real estate.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This also helped with putting the finishing touches to a photo book of our recent trip to Bruges. (See Lightroom woes, above.) I managed to get this assembled and submitted to Blurb and can't wait to see it.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18409} --> <p><img src="" alt="img_20200406_172148-4699054-7443482" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I make about 1-2 photo books a year and they're always so nice to hold and as a way to relive past trips. In this current situation, these sorts of tangible records of a freer and easier time are extra special.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I have plans to make a few historic photo books too - particularly one covering our <a href="">traverse of the Isle of Wight coastal path back in 2016</a>.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And I'd like to see what Blurb's magazine printing service is like - I have an idea of doing a selection of live music photography covering about a decade.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Aside from IT-related fun, Thursday evening was rather nice. We cooked a nice meal, sat at the dinner table, opened a bottle of red wine we'd been saving, and then watched the National Theatre's 'live' YouTube performance of <em>One Man, Two Guvnors</em>, which we really enjoyed. We even paused the stream at 8pm to clap for our carers (something our road has done pretty well the last two occasions), and it made for a really nice evening that felt more like staying home for New Year's Eve or something, rather than Just Another Thursday On Lockdown.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We can't afford the time/health/expense of drinking nice booze with a good meal and a theatre performance <em>every</em> night, but it feels like a decent thing to do about once a week. This week we have <em>Jane Eyre</em> or <em>Jesus Christ Superstar</em> to choose from. NZ band The Beths are also doing a live show this evening which would be another good option.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's been interesting to me from reading other people's blogs, tweets and weeknotes (write more weeknotes, friends!) that some people have had to make big adjustments to cooking most/all of their own meals.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This came as a surprise to me as we already do that, but I get that a lot of folks regularly just buy their lunch at work, or order in deliveries in the evenings. For us, a bought lunch is usually as a result of misjudged meal planning/timing, and a takeaway/delivery is probably a 2-3 times a month treat. Weekends we probably eat out more often, but during the week, it's rare for us to eat a meal we haven't prepared ourselves.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So I guess this approach to cooking, grocery shopping and meal planning has helped us transition into this new scenario with little real disruption, for which I remain very thankful on a daily basis.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I continue to try and get some decent exercise in about once every three days. I should step this up to include a home-based 7-minute workout or something every other day (ironically, much as I already was <em>before</em> lockdown).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This week's run and bike rides have been enjoyable, especially thanks to the weather, but I can't help feeling that sharing the pavements with other folks trying to get out for their daily walks/runs isn't something that's sustainable in a busy north London suburb. I plan to just re-assess this situation based on current trends - as well as my gut, metaphorically and literally - every day or two.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2020 weeknote 13 - gotta keep moving 2020-04-01T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It would be week thirteen that I took a while getting around to, even though there doesn't feel like much to say. There is, of course. We all have loads to say about the current situation. All the changes that are taking place to our jobs and our daily lives. The different sounds outside.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[18383,18384],"columns":3,"linkTo":"attachment","sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200331_184314_700-7922520-7431261" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200326_183608-effects-6618575-8337644" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>One thing to be immensely grateful for is how the spring weather has been so pleasant. Cold, with northerly winds swooping down, but bright. And the days get ever long, with the promise of changing the clocks making things feel like they're really shaking.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Of course the bright weather might have encouraged people out when they should stay home. But for those of us trying to stick to the guidance - one or two days this week I just didn't feel the need to leave the flat - the pleasant weather has made it all the nicer once I did get outside.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I've tried to mix up my government-mandated daily exercise. Some days I walked, one day I ran, and another day I went for an extended bike ride. All had their individual merits.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The walk around neighbourhood streets revealed an eerie aural soundscape of... Well, peace, I suppose. I wished I'd had my Tascam recorded, because the sound was so uncanny. In reality, of course, it wouldn't have made for an interesting sound recording as it was the <em>absence</em> of sound that was so interesting. And, really, this is the sound of quiet suburban streets up and down the country normally. It's just unusual in north London streets.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>On another occasion I found a walk actually quite dispiriting. No actual moment was unpleasant, it was just a slow slog around the local blocks with no goals other than being outside. I decided not to listen to anything and I suppose having an hour to contemplate what's going on not just in my admittedly fairly privileged version of this situation but also the situation for those less fortunate... It just didn't help my mood. It did remind that I am immensely lucky at this time, though. So there's that.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The run and the bike ride were both much better for my mental health, and presumably my physical health too. The endorphins pumped and I came home feeling glad I got out. Running and trying to avoid others is slightly tricky, but not too bad now the roads are quieter. I'm still not running with headphones as I want to keep my awareness high. And the bike ride was pretty great - and made it much easier to distance myself from others. When cycling, the only needs I have to clean myself when I get home are from touching any communal doors to my building, and I never encounter anyone once I'm out. Naturally the roads being quieter makes cycling that much more pleasant, too.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"right","id":18385} --> <p><img src="" alt="img_20200331_141539-effects-8531347-2190831" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Working from home has been going pretty well, all things considered. This has been my first week of actual lockdown after a dress rehearsal the week before. We got ourselves into a position where we were all able to at the very least access emails from home, but in reality, almost all of us have had full access to our systems from home,and we've even had the benefit of one or two members of staff who live locally visiting the office almost daily at their own risk, which has meant we've been able to request some documents to be scanned.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The hardest thing is the meta-work. What tasks can I complete, how, and to what extent? For me, I can do most of my usual tasks about 90% of the way. The missing bits are just hangovers from the fact our office relies heavily on paper filing systems. I expect that many offices with habits such as ours will emerge on the other side of this quite differently. It's not just procedures that will change but actual attitudes.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>A year ago if you'd asked me if I thought we could set ourselves up to work from home, the prospect would have caused me great anxiety. But we've managed it.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The other big change is, of course, having to call or Zoom rather than just talking to a colleague. This cuts down on some of the niceties of an office like ours - but it's also enabled slightly more private backchannel communication, which has come in handy once or twice of late as some very strange decision have been made at board level with, seemingly, little regard for the humans those decisions affect.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We take each day as they come. Megan is also working from home most days, with her school operating a rota to ensure those pupils who need to come to school to allow their parents to do key worker jobs, or those in vulnerable environments. This, too, seems to be working well.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"right","id":18386} --> <p><img src="" alt="img_20200331_174211-7751590-1356292" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Days have simply assumed a slightly different routine. We were already very good at planning our meals for the week, and cooking for two makes things easy to scale up for leftovers. We watch the six o'clock news every day now, just to get the latest updates. I try to avoid the news the rest of the day, but there is an inevitable drip-drip-drip when using social media - I check Twitter and Instagram several times a day, and it's mostly a positive experience, though some stuff gets through.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We've also been caught by surprise by Jamie Oliver's <em>Keep Cooking and Carry On</em> which I was surprised to learn was being prepared almost instantaneously in response to this situation we're all facing. There's something incredibly calming and reassuring in his delivery, and the tips are really handy. Like I say, I'd say we are pretty decent at keeping well stocked with staples and planning meals, but his show has given us a few tips and ideas as well as just being a pleasant diversion (despite being, necessarily, <em>about</em> the incident itself).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Speaking of keeping well stocked, as things were starting to go south, I found myself buying one or two extra items that I knew would last, and that we tend to use anyway. Tinned tomatoes, bread flour, that sort of thing. Then we all experienced that bizarre period of time where things were simply vanishing from the shelves. The shops are starting to recover, but only through some fairly severe restrictions on access to stores.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But it's working. Visiting a large supermarket is now a very calm experience. I write this on the 1st April and a visit to a big Sainsbury's this afternoon revealed shelves well stocked with most items. Pasta is returning to the shelves, and although eggs and flour were still scarce, I did manged to get half a dozen eggs. Everything else I needed was just... there. As were the staff.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I am so glad that the supermarket horror show of stockpiling was a relatively short-lived episode. It lasted long enough to cause real panic, and I suppose if there's anything to be gained from that, it's made me more grateful that I am so able to take grocery shopping for granted 99.9% of the time.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Meanwhile I've been tinkering with my Raspberry Pi Zero. I managed to, I think, nuke a micro SD card. I'm still not 100% sure what I did. It was either burning a corrupt image to it, or removing it while it was burning an image. But the card seems physically corrupt, rather than being able to be formatted and used again. It's odd. But I started again with another and have been re-learning (or learning anew) lots in the process: operating it 'headless' where it's just on and connected to my network, but I am able to SSH into it from my Windows machine. That felt pretty magical.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18387} --> <p><img src="" alt="img_20200331_091946-e1585752235902-8705523-5218368" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I'm having trouble getting my RTL SDR dongle playing nicely with it, but I think I'm using software (GQRX) that is too CPU-intensive for the Pi Zero. Will try some command line based stuff. Mainly I just want to decode RDS from FM broadcasts on it. I think I can manage that.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Finally, here's a sound recording taken from Hampstead Cemetery of a Scots Pine (I think), postively popping and clicking in the warm spring sunshine as hundreds (thousands?) of pine cones open up:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:core-embed/soundcloud {"url":"","type":"rich","providerNameSlug":"","className":"wp-embed-aspect-1-1 wp-has-aspect-ratio"} --> <p></p> <!-- /wp:core-embed/soundcloud --> FM radio bandscan results - including London pirates 2020-03-27T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><em>This post began life as a breakdown of an FM bandscan and dissolved into thoughts on RDS decoding and possible Raspberry Pi projects. I just wanted to jot down some semi-related thoughts.</em></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Last weekend I popped up to Hampstead Heath to get onto high ground where I <a href="">played with radios</a> for a bit. One of those radios was my Moto G7 Power, using the built in FM Radio app, which is entirely decent (and I've <a href="">written about using Moto G phones as FM radios</a> before).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"right","id":18194} --> <p><img src="" alt="screenshot_20200321-143012-4951741-6687029" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>When performing an auto scan of available stations, the app spits out a nice list of those stations, some with IDs. Unfortunately there's no default way to convert this to text, but I found an OCR text grabber which did 95% of the work, and then I just monkeyed with a spreadsheet to sort out any oddities, and this is what I ended up with following an FM bandscan on 21/03/2020 at 1425 UTC:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>MHz RDS Station ID</strong><br /> 87.8 | <em><strong>The Rock</strong></em><br /> 88.0 |<em>** PULSE UK**</em><br /> 88.2 |<br /> 88.6 |<br /> 88.8 | BBC R2<br /> 89.1 | BBC R2<br /> 89.6 |<br /> 90.2 |<br /> 90.6 | <em><strong>ANADOLU</strong></em><br /> 90.8 |<br /> 91.0 | BBC R3<br /> 91.3 | BBC R3<br /> 91.5 | <em><strong>MEGA</strong></em><br /> 91.8 |<br /> 92.0 |<br /> 92.5 |<br /> 92.8 |<br /> 93.0 |<br /> 93.2 | BBC R4<br /> 93.5 | BBC R4<br /> 93.8 |<br /> 94.9 | BBCLondn<br /> 95.5 |<br /> 95.8 | Capital<br /> 96.1 |<br /> 96.5 | <em>[Maritime Radio] - no RDS data decoded</em><br /> 96.7 |<br /> 96.9 | Cap XTRA<br /> 97.1 |<br /> 97.3 | LBC<br /> 97.7 |<br /> 97.9 |<br /> 98.5 | Radio 1<br /> 98.8 | Radio 1<br /> 99.0 |<br /> 99.3 | <em><strong>SELECT</strong></em><br /> 99.5 |<br /> 99.8 |<br /> 100.0 | KISS<br /> 100.6 | Classic<br /> 100.9 | Classic<br /> 101.2 |<br /> 101.4 |<br /> 101.8 | <em><strong>BiZiM FM</strong></em><br /> 102.0 |<br /> 102.2 | Smooth<br /> 102.4 | <em><strong>LONDON'S</strong></em><br /> 102.8 | <em><strong>RDYOUMUT</strong></em><br /> 103.1 |<br /> 103.6 |<br /> 104.2 | <em><strong>-KRAL-</strong></em><br /> 104.4 | Reel 104.4<br /> 104.9 | Radio X<br /> 105.4 | Magic<br /> 105.6 | <em><strong>PLAYBACK</strong></em><br /> 105.8 | Absolute<br /> 106.2 | Heart<br /> 106.5 | <em><strong>PROJECT</strong></em><br /> 106.8 | <em><strong>RINSE FM</strong></em><br /> 107.3 | <em><strong>REPREZNT</strong></em><br /> 107.8 | -JACKIE-</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Where a station ID was decoded via RDS, it is listed. Where I've made it bold and italic, it is believed to be a pirate station. The rest are legit local/national FM broadcasts.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Where there's no station ID listed, it's simply because the FM radio app didn't pick one up in time - some of those blank stations may a) be legit and b) indeed have an RDS stream, it just didn't get logged in time. Either way, it could be pirate or legit.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>A couple of them are stations that I knew had RDS data, and what's nice about the Motorola FM Radio app is that if you tune to that station and it didn't already have data, it adds it where possible, and this gets added to the overall list as above. This means that after a full scan, if there are gaps in the data, one can simply tune to the first station with a blank name, and let it play for a few seconds until RDS data comes down - if it has any. - and then use the skip button to move to the next logged station.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It only takes a few seconds for RDS data to appear, or for it to become clear that none is being broadcast. Weak signals inevitably mean the RDS data is corrupted, possibly beyond legibility.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><a href="">Oona Räisänen</a> could probably explain in quite simple terms exactly how RDS data is decoded and why some stations seem to display RDS data quicker than others. In fact, it's <a href="">Oona's RDS projects</a> that make me think that if I really set my mind to it, I'm probably like 90% of the way to creating a pocket-size, Raspberry Pi Zero-based RDS decoder.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>What I think I want is a little device that I can pull out, attach to an antenna, run a quick 1-2 minute bandscan, and in that time, the Pi scans the whole FM band, logging as much RDS data as it can grab, plotting it neatly on a little spreadsheet, which I can then inspect later on.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Better yet might be adding a simple 2-line display (much like a portable radio) where I can see each station being scanned. There are other possible modifications that could be made that would effectively turn it into a usable radio, but I'm thinking more along the lines of a simple logging device.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>On the other hand, it might make more sense to do some sort of spectrum grab using SDR where the whole FM band is captured for a few minutes, for later analysis in software. This whole concept blows my tiny mind - and, really, seems less fun than doing actual listening to live broadcasts - though I can absolutely see the appeal and the benefits for logging weak/rare stations when DXing.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2020 weeknote 12 - the week that everything changed 2020-03-24T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Well this was the week that things <em>really</em> changed, for me and those around me. It's been interesting keeping abreast of how the spread of the virus and the reactions by different countries has rolled onward, in waves. Interesting and kind of horrifying, when you spend more than half a minute considering what it all means.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It has, in many ways, been good that the upheaval has kept us all so <em>busy</em>. Heaven forbid what will happen when we are all set up with our new routines and we stop for a second to get bogged down in the sheer existential woe of it all - and that's before even considering the actual health crisis worsening any further, which each day it threatens to on a hitherto-unseen scale.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We have found ourselves unexpectedly buoyed by taping occasional news updates from Chinese state broadcasters in which they describe the recovery process. Life, while not returning to <em>normal</em>, per se, is returning to something approaching it. Or at least a healthy, post-virus world.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>At work I have been extremely busy helping as far as I can to get the office set up for home working. A few months ago, working from home on the scale that we soon will be would have been completely unthinkable. But, as with so much of this escalating crisis, unthinkable things are now having to be thunk, and it's funny what you can achieve when you have to.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In fact, the extent to which we've established a working-from-home policy means that it's only really a few little issues and niggles we've found, rather than any flat-out business critical failure points.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We're lucky in that a lot of what we do <em>isn't</em> business critical. And where it is, the timelines and deadlines are those we set for ourselves and we are fortunate enough not to be beholden to many authorities or external/market forces. We have a job to do, and we do it however we can. This will not change, but the methods and timescales may.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Meanwhile, anything that isn't related to work, or keeping ourselves constantly updated on news has, by necessity, been for the purposes of distraction, amusement or entertainment. The rest of this week's note is simply some of that stuff that has kept me from losing my mind the past few days.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[18192,18191],"columns":3,"linkTo":"attachment","sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="20200322-_mg_0772-1-7907712-8262890" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200322_182157_593-1-e1584982290728-1631798-3541454" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We had the first day of spring, and the weather this week has been cool but increasingly wonderful and bright. There is blossom everywhere, and the spring weather looks set to continue. This does mean that people who ought to be self-isolating are popping out more than they might if it had been tipping down all week, and I am concerned about that. But at the same time, the sight of spring <em>springing</em> is a huge boost.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>As well as a brief trip to a nearby park (where I saw the woodpecker above), I also popped to Hampstead Heath on Saturday to get some fresh air. Unfortunately, so did a lot of other people, and I really should have known better. I was able to keep my distance from most people, and I found myself a secluded perch where I spent a happy hour or so playing with radios, and eating cold pizza.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18204} --> <p><img src="" alt="img_20200321_143628587_hdr-2090742-2659339" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"right","id":18194,"linkDestination":"custom"} --> <p><img src="" alt="screenshot_20200321-143012-2231509-6995401" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>On FM, my elevated position near one of London's highest points meant stations came booming in loud and clear, and I found a good number of pirate stations giving shout-outs to the shut-ins.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I found that the signal on my little POP Nano radio was decent, but both my Tecsun PL-380 and my Motorola G7 Power logged 58 stations each on the FM band, with the Moto serving doubly useful as not only does it have an RDS decoder built-in, but it also neatly displays all logged stations in one big list, acting as a very useful results page for active stations complete with station IDs, where available.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I've written before about <a href="">the pretty excellent FM radio software on an older Moto G device</a>, and it's just as good on my current G7 Power. It serves as an effective stopgap between idly tuning around with a normal radio and setting up some sort of portable SDR that will automatically log station IDs in a neat spreadsheet for me.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>(A rainy day project I daydream of is a Raspberry Pi Zero-powered unit that I can just switch on, run an autoscan, and log all active stations in a spreadsheet. Might have a little screen and possibly audio out.)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The subsequent list generated by the Moto is displayed as you can see to the right: it's a neat list of station IDs and frequencies and I only wish I could quickly and easily export this data into a spreadsheet. I suspect there's an OCR capture that could do a half decent job. But even in its present form, the FM radio software gives me a decent overview of what's around in a given session.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>One surprise, beyond the ever-present London pirates, was decent reception of a station apparently broadcasting to Greenwich on 96.5fm. A later dig around uncovered this as <a href="">Maritime Radio</a>, with the always-helpful <a href="">mb21 giving more information</a> about where this station broadcasts from. Not a bad catch at a distance of approximately 20km.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's hard to tell where the pirate stations themselves broadcast from - obviously - so it's never easy to known whether you're getting fabulous reception across a vast distance, or merely being blasted from the nearest rooftop. I suspect it's usually the latter, though there is usually a good range of signals when tuning in from a high point in north west London, with some sounding stronger and others weaker.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The variability in the tech used by each pirate could give rise to this, of course, but it all makes it feel as though you're picking up signals from all over London.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>On DAB, my position near London's highest point meant great reception of a huge range of stations. The POP Nano picked up 148 stations without issue, and I noted down that I was getting reception of the following multiplexes on top of those I'd expect to get in London: Kent, Herts Beds Bucks, Surrey NSussex, and Essex. On the one hand, these extra muxes simply bring in local stations or local variants of commercial stations. But it's still pretty cool to pick these all up along with the ones which are meant to cover my area.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Of note, the <a href="">Kent multiplex coverage map</a> [PDF] does show parts of Hampstead as able to pick up occasional offshoots of the signal over high ground:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[18205,18206],"columns":3,"linkTo":"attachment","sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="hhkent-9897540-7941474" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="hh-2561351-2776646" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So it's perhaps not that unexpected, but still vaguely interesting to me.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I also had a scan around on shortwave and aside from the usual national broadcasters who have mastered dominating the waves, I was pleased to pick up two pirate(?) stations on 5780kHz and 6205kHz - possibly Laser Hot Hits and Euro Radio. (This was at approximately 1445 UTC on Saturday 21 March.)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Nothing else really of any note on the radio, although I did spot this new addition to the London Trial multiplex - <a href="">Health Info Radio</a>, which <a href="">launched a week ago</a> on various other local muxes, and whose sole purpose is to play a looped recording of coronavirus-related public information.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18198} --> <p><img src="" alt="img_20200321_141226851_hdr-e1584983370637-1346042-9067724" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>On the YouTube front, beyond the usual tech videos I tend to gorge myself on, the algorithms threw me a wonderful bone in a series of aviation videos by a chap named <a href="">Matt Guthmiller</a>. I'm not sure what YouTube thought it was doing, but I was absolutely enthralled by this four-part series on flying a 1930s DC-3 from the US to Duxford.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Spoiler alert: it's not quite as simple as hopping across the Atlantic. In fact, it involves hopping to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland, before hopping down to Duxford.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>At times, the serenity and majesty of early to mid 20th century flight is intoxicating, and at others you are hit with the nauseating concept of hurtling through the air in nothing much more than a 1930s bus with temperamental moving parts and a hell of a lot to understand about how to get it airborne and keep it there.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The four parts are available in <a href="">this playlist</a>, or just watch the first one below:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:core-embed/youtube {"url":";list=PLoruKoPAfKKjRtZw78nZC_E-pMmuaJJJ5u0026amp;index=2u0026amp;t=0s","type":"rich","providerNameSlug":"","className":"wp-embed-aspect-16-9 wp-has-aspect-ratio"} --> <p>;list=PLoruKoPAfKKjRtZw78nZC_E-pMmuaJJJ5&amp;index=2&amp;t=0s</p> <!-- /wp:core-embed/youtube --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Pro-tip: use the 'Watch later' button to save these kinds of YouTube clips to a... Watch later playlist.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And finally, I've recently seen a few good links to online collections of stuff and wanted to share some and add one of my own.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18208,"linkDestination":"custom"} --> <p><a href=";sortBy=Relevance&amp;who=Delacroix%2c+Eug%c3%a8ne%24Eug%c3%a8ne+Delacroix&amp;ft=*&amp;offset=140&amp;rpp=20&amp;pos=142"><img src="" alt="dp816310-2131993-scaled-3694141" /></a></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The first, shared by <a href="">Robin Sloan</a> recently, was a directory of images by Eugene Delacroix. Delacroix is an artist I don't know a huge amount about, but I stumbled across him years ago doing my degree as it turned out he kept diaries, and really enjoyable ones too. Sloan peppered <a href="">a recent newsletter</a> with images by Delacroix, all pilfered from <a href="!/search?artist=Delacroix,%20Eug%C3%A8ne$Eug%C3%A8ne%20Delacroix">this great online collection of his work from the Metropolitan Museum of Art</a>.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The second collection was <a href="">posted by the excellent SWLing Post</a>, a great resource for all things radio - with a focus on shortwave and ham radio. They recently pointed to a <a href=";edan_fq%5B0%5D=metadata_usage%3ACC0%20OR%20media_usage%3ACC0">subset of the Smithsonian's open access collection of objects which is, quite simply, a bunch of radios you can look at</a>. Wonderful.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18207,"linkDestination":"custom"} --> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="nmah-mah-45168a-1041161-7574887" /></a></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And finally, <a href="">the National Trust's 'Collections' image database</a> is staggering in its scale - they have photographed countless objects held within their collections at the various properties they look after. You could find yourself lost for weeks on this website, whether searching across the entire collection by keyword, exploring the contents of one particular property, or paging through the works of one artist.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>For the purposes of this post, I will simply point you to <a href=";Categories=70464987fffffe0702132e04c19c1eeb&amp;Maker=wade">a collection illustrations and artworks by my man Charles Paget Wade</a>. I have searched and filtered and refined this set so it may be a bit rough around the edges and not sorted in any particular way, but you get the gist.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>By the collection's very nature, this is not a greatest hits, but a snapshot of all that is contained within it: from sketches on the backs of letters, to glorious watercoloured ink sketches like that shown below, of the Great Wall at Hampstead Garden Suburb.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18202,"linkDestination":"custom"} --> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="largeimagehandler-12-1631261-2819304" /></a></p> <!-- /wp:image --> 2020 weeknote 11 - Coronavirus, music, old films, and remembering the Fujifilm X10 2020-03-16T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Golly. Weeks at the moment seem to simultaneously flash past and take forever to wade through, like treacle.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I've forgotten what my <em>actual</em> job is at work, and have spent most of my time this week reacting to things.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>First and foremost, we have a new boss. This has meant there is a lot to explain and pass on, which is normal in these situations. This has been turned up to eleven by the coronavirus situation meaning we are rapidly trying to establish what we can do from home, and also understand what elements of our work are business critical. Fortunately for us, not a lot of what we do has hard deadlines or endangers life or whatnot if it isn't done in a timely fashion. Others are not so lucky in this regard.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's inevitable that we will be working from home for a time, and our job now is working out what can be done from home and what would require physical access to the office. When your new boss is trying to draw all this up whilst not actually knowing what everyone does... It's hard work. It's not unenjoyable, actually. But it is hard work. And it is distracting everyone from their day job.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I think that point is true for basically everyone, everywhere. In the whole world. Which is <em>incredible</em> to consider. There's also a neat/insane duality to all our business continuity prep which essentially means 'we can afford to slacken off our work because literally everyone else will be doing the same thing'. These are very unusual times.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Speaking of which, I've seen and read about some very sad scenes at supermarkets recently. I've not actually come across anything uncivil, although I've definitely heard reports. On my brief forays to the shops to get basically our usual groceries - where I've strategically tried to buy about 10% extra of most longlife stuff we tend to use - I've just seen heightened busy-ness, and empty shelves in some surprising categories and others less so.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>At the big nearby supermarket, where loo rolls, hand san and painkillers have been missing (or missing, then re-stocked, then raided again) for a while now, this weekend I noticed some new sections were running low or in fact completely empty, like eggs. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find, on popping into a much smaller M&amp;S very close by, that they were fully stocked on eggs, and in fact a number of the lines the big shop was out of. I guess it's to do with a bigger shop encouraging people to bulk buy more, and come by car etc.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's just... all very strange. But it is for everyone. So it's just the new normal? Which is <em>very, very</em> strange.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>After opining recently that I wanted a neat automated way to see what albums of recent years I had merely streamed and not purchased, I spent a pretty straightforward few minutes paging through my library sorted into albums by play count for a given period. I started looking at months at a time, then went into whole years at a time, even going back as far as 2012 or so.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It was actually a very interesting process, and gave me the information I was after. I now have a list of thirty or so albums that I would happily pick up and add to my permanent music collection. I don't exactly plan on popping out and spending £200-300 quid on CDs, but it's nice to have a go-to list of stuff that I probably want for times when I'm out music shopping or if I'm browsing Bandcamp.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I actually was left scratching my head about where to buy some of this stuff. Partly &quot;where do people buy digital music these days?&quot; and partly &quot;where is the most effective place to buy music in terms of benefit to the artist?&quot; I think the answer to both in a number of cases is probably Bandcamp. Certainly I don't intend to buy CDs secondhand from Amazon because in terms of benefit to the artist I may as well download it illegally. And I'm not bothered about owning the CD itself - if I can, say, throw a fiver at a band and get 320kbps+ or lossless digital files, I think that's probably the sweet spot.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Secondary to all this, I found a bunch of albums I streamed several times that I genuinely didn't remember listening to. I've created a Spotify playlist of these to wade through and see if they still appeal. The winners will go onto the 'to-buy' list.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Why am I doing all this? I don't know. But I am getting familiar once again with the local music collection stored on a computer, and I like it. I think running a Spotify account alongside this is fine - it enables me to hear new music for free, and I actually get my Spotify subscription as a bonus to my mobile phone contract. Although the Android app can be quite slow and clunky (this may be a result of my legacy account having a decade of metadata attached to it), the Spotify service is very much worth having, and decent value even when directly paying for it. The arguments against it, from the artists' perspective, are part of what's pushing me to want to show my support in a different and more direct way.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I went for a run today, inspired by the <a href="">BBC's Sport Relief 'Beat Beethoven'</a> gimmick. The basic idea is to stick on a new recording of Beethoven's Fifth, which lasts about 34 minutes, and run 5k. I managed a run last weekend, and one in the week, but I love a gimmick to get me up and out - and this weekend has been particularly sedentary (thank goodness), so a kick up the bum to run down the road and back was welcome. The bonus was listening to a great performance of a piece of music I don't think I've actually ever listened to in full. Well worth <a href="">grabbing via BBC Sounds</a> and sticking on if you need an excuse to pop out for a run.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Once again I found myself plundering the depths of someone's blog and I can't remember how I found the blog in the first place... But this week it was <a href="">the blog of a chap named Andrew Roach</a>, and I was drawn in partly by the aesthetic of his blog, and partly by the subjects he covers - he writes about old computers, and using old computers today to do the things he enjoys doing.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"right","id":18174,"linkDestination":"custom"} --> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="my_favorite_brunette-1266253-5453309" /></a></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>He also writes about digging around and similar places looking for music and films to enjoy anew. <a href="">One particular post pointed me to a ton of old films on and wikimedia</a>, and I grabbed a few that seemed to be decent high quality versions of films from the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s, and stuck them on Plex.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This weekend I checked out <em><a href="">My Favorite Brunette</a></em>, a Bob Hope parody/send-up of detective thrillers, which I really enjoyed. I've never seen a Bob Hope movie before, or really seen him in anything except... maybe a pastiche of him in an episode of <em>the Simpsons</em>?</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>While elements of the film felt as fated as you might expect for a film made in 1947, I found lots to love, included gags that felt more like they came from the likes of <em>Airplane!</em> or the _Naked Gun _series and sight gags, one-liners, looks-to-camera and other things that made the film feel pretty fresh. I recommend it!</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>A <a href="">recent post/video from Dan Milnor</a> reminded me that, many years ago, I owned a Fujifilm X10.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[18167,18168,18169],"columns":3,"linkTo":"attachment","sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="20120820-img_1064-8661145-9369678" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="20120820-img_1066-9218534-6838396" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="20120820-img_1070-5063062-3036466" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It was a camera I fetishised and definitely thought would be the answer to all my photographic gripes about the Canon dSLR I was getting tired of lugging around. The camera looked great - I got the leather case - and it seemed compact and would be something I'd enjoy taking around with me and using more than my old Canon.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In the end I only owned that X10 from January 2012 to August 2012. I took 4,000 pictures on it in that time. Initially it was a gorgeous thing. Looking at pictures of that camera even now, I get joy from the tactility of the knobs and dials. But the camera was just... Not all that nice to use.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":18175} --> <p><img src="" alt="20120624-2012-06-24-13-04-24-e1584358908584-2827077-5110841" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>For one thing, the viewfinder wasn't great. Getting an SLR replacement with a viewfinder was essential to me. I was so attached to composing my shots through a viewfinder that I had to have one. But this one was just a sort of rangefinder-esque viewfinder where you're looking through a hole <em>near</em> the lens, but not seeing exactly what the lens sees. It felt kind of removed from the process and I never got on with it. *</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>* Even while writing this, I managed to mis-remember that this camera had an early LCD viewfinder, but of course it did not, and this was a feature of more high-end cameras of this type at the time, and the technology continues to improve.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Furthermore, the lens felt weird to use. It had a good, adaptable zoom lens which rotated to extend. But it didn't have (or if it did, the way to use it was very unnatural) manual focus. What I love about dSLRs is the way lenses feel on them - the rotation to zoom in and out on zooms, and the solidness of primes. And on both, when manual focus is necessary, it can feel so precise and so lovely. On the X10, despite metal construction and good moving parts, it just never felt nice to use.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And overall, despite some decent baked-in digital features like film effects and good video modes, it just felt too much on the 'digital point and shoot' end of things for me, and far too far away from the tactility of using a dSLR. Ten months after buying it I sold the X10 and re-bought a slightly more updated Canon dSLR. I still miss the look of the X10 though, and that leather case was gorgeous.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I took some great pictures with the X10, but nothing amazing. I possibly didn't use the camera to its full potential but a lot of the time, the images that came out (as JPGs, to be fair) were a bit dull and not particularly exciting.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I still have that Canon today and it's weird to think that makes it about eight years old now. (In the process of looking through pictures taken with the X10, I was reminded that my bike and my Kindle, both of which I still use, and sometimes almost daily, were also bought in August 2012. My bike rattles and creaks and could almost certainly do with an overhaul but I love it so very dearly. And my Kindle is one of the last (non-expensive) ones with page turn buttons. I can't believe it still works as well as it does, and I am so worried about the day I will have to replace it for a touchscreen model.)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I guess the danger now is me looking at how far those Fuji compacts have come. And with the likes of Dan Milnor espousing their benefits, I may need to take a look with fresh eyes at the range and see if the gap between the X10 and dSLRs has closed somewhat in the meantime.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2020 weeknote 10 - fondly-remembered films, and digital data retrieval 2020-03-11T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>A week of too much time spent home alone, and too much going on at work to keep up with.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Good things though, too, like re-watching a couple of old favourite films from a couple of periods of my life:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><em>The Mask</em>, which I absolutely knew word-for-word back in the day and which, re-watching it now, it was wonderful how much I could pre-empt and sound out in real-time. In fact, it wasn't just dialogue, but Foley effects little audio/musical stings, and other snippets. It was also, as it so often can be, quite surprising how risqué some of the jokes were, at least for my young ears:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[18141,18142],"columns":3,"linkTo":"attachment","sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200304_211254-1589536-4947644" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200304_211259-2052546-8429478" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And then it felt like time for another re-watch of _Almost Famous _( or rather the director's cut aka <em>Untitled*</em>), a film I've loved since my first viewing of it stuffed into the TV lounge of the Wellington YHA some time in late 2003. Since then I've watched it so many times and it is just such a comforting film to watch. I realise I am also dangerously into the territory of not now being able to watch it with a critical eye, but I don't think that matters.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>* Jesus, I am _so _sorry you had to witness that.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I shan't bother going into too much detail with regard to work woes, but we had a bit of a poorly-timed clusterfuck (is there ever a <em>well-timed</em> clusterfuck?) of some issues with our email hosts which, hey, turned out to be a little bit of the host's fault, and a little bit of ours. As is often the way with these things. But it was a horrible situation for all involved, and came during a week of unusually high tension.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The Amazon re-seller who I <a href="">returned my POP Nano digital radio to</a> came good and a replacement unit was dispatched in good time. Thanks lads.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It is a brand new unit and is working fine, though I can't help but notice one of the <em>other</em> buttons feels like 1% softer than the others, and so I wonder if there's an issue with the buttons on these units - or possibly, if the packaging is to be believed, these units are new old stock from 2013 and perhaps there's a membrane in the buttons that is degrading over time. We'll see.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Until then, it's lovely to have a decent, tiny digital radio again. On a related note, I was reminded the other day of <a href="">this phenomenally in-depth round-up of various portable digital radios</a> from a few years ago, which I remember helped me last time I was in the market for such a device.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>At one point this week I probably looked like a one-man scene from <em>Mr Robot</em>, blasting DJ Shadow, stabbing a screwdriver through a spindle-full of CD-Rs and DVD-Rs before throwing them out.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I certainly hadn't been able to read them (disc rot is a thing: if you have some old burned DVDs and CDs on a shelf somewhere, you'd be well advised to grab the data off them if you are still able to), but I obviously didn't want anyone else to be able to either.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So: Stab. Stab. Stab.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It was fun seeing how different discs responded to each stab: some all but shattered, while others kind of just split in a neat single crack from the centre to the edge. The more annoying ones sort of absorbed the screwdriver I was using and just pierced a tiny hole, with the tool needing to be extracted with some force and re-punched again. Anyway. That was a satisfying exercise.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And in other data retrieval exercises this week, I grabbed an old hard drive and copied over my iTunes library circa 2012 with a view to copying some high bitrate album rips across to my phone's memory. Anything 320kbps or above (or 256kbps VBR) is fair game, and I only want the kind of 'greatest hits' of special albums that I can't be without.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This led me to wondering what albums have been released since then that I have streamed to death on Spotify, but not gotten round to purchasing. I don't think I'm in the minority in saying there will be <em>a lot</em>. So it would be cool to get to spit out a list of records I've spun from Spotify more than a handful of times, with links for where best to ethically purchase my own copy.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This ransacking of my old iTunes library brought some curiosities. I knew that a handful of my album rips had been done at very high bitrate - whether lossless or 320kbps AAC - and that these had been prioritised by the same criteria as above: albums I couldn't live without.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I was therefore stumped to find that my copy of Radiohead's <em>In Rainbows</em> was a 160kbps MP3. 😱! I then got to thinking why this would be and, lo and behold, this was the original format I'd purchased it in on release day:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18148} --> <p><img src="" alt="screenshot_20200305-185705-e1583850736532-5929016-7353453" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So that was interesting. In more recent years I've listened to this either via Spotify or vinyl, so I don't feel too short changed at having such a low quality rip of the album on my computer as I just wasn't using it.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I don't know now (though a trip to the Wayback Machine would probably answer this) if higher bitrate versions were available as well. I'm sure they were, but I expect you had to pay more (this was, remember, one of the first high profile 'pay what you want' digital releases), and I was a Radiohead newbie back then.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In fact, having got swept up in the hype of the impending release of <em>In Rainbows</em>, I listened to <em>OK Computer</em> for the first time the evening before <em>IR</em>'s release.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Crazy.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And finally, this weekend was mostly doing family things, which mostly meant eating and drinking well, but also meant I did Hampstead Heath Parkrun for the first time in a while, and I managed to get a PB for this route. Very pleased with that - as is so often the case I was not feeling it beforehand, but was merely 'up for it', and I still managed to achieve something to be be proud of. So that was nice.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway. Take care of each other. Stop bulk buying things you don't need. See you next week.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Stuff I’ve seen and read recently: February 2020 2020-03-04T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><a href="">As per last month</a>, herewith a list of 'stuff what I've read' during February 2020.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This <a href="">recent post from Adam Elkus about the trials and tribulations of running Linux in 2020</a> was nicely put together. I dabbled with installing Linux distributions from about as early as I had access to a PC and realised they could run more than one operating system. I distinctly remember learning the extremely hard way what formatting a hard drive meant, and spending ages on forums with names like 'Linux newbies' searching for and ultimately asking for help with installing a mouse driver or working out why my computer wouldn't dual boot properly. I am no more eager to try Linux out than I was twenty years ago, but I still find it fascinating to read about from time to time.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><a href="">This one from</a> describing how a fundamental part of ethernet connections work did the rounds recently. It fits into a weird pigeonhole of 'fascinating insight into a topic I didn't even know about before', and provided good bedtime reading in much the same way as listening to an episode of <em>In Our Time</em> with specialists enthusiastically talking about something rather esoteric.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I spent a bit of time reading through <a href="">this Ribbonfarm post</a> on blogging and writing and stuff, and it's been nice to see responses and reactions from others (including <a href="">this from Warren Ellis</a>) which chime with my own feelings: mostly that the specific examples discussed in the post aren't perhaps the best, but that there is some truth to it.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Like <a href="">Craig Mod in one of his recent email newsletters</a> (they're always a good read), I am also a tweet deleter. I just always feel like tweets should be ephemeral and time-limited and should just fade away after a given amount of time. For me, that's about a month. And so I use a free service called <a href="">Tweet Delete</a> to handle this automagically for me.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><a href="">Phil Gyford chimed in on this subject</a> as well and feels similar. Like Phil, I find this an interesting thing to consider as I am also a bit of an archivist/hoarder at heart, but tweets just feel like something that should fade away. Not everyone feels this way, though, and some are beginning to treat Twitter like people used to treat blogging. Between both Craig and Phil, they make the extremely salient point of (in Phil's words):</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:quote --> <blockquote> <p>&quot;Think of all the old bloggers lost to Twitter.&quot;</p> </blockquote> <!-- /wp:quote --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Amen.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>When I see multi-tweet threads which could add up to 500 words or more, I just wish the author had bothered to write a blog post instead. Thank goodness Twitter has added better threading functionality (and I quite often use it for 2-5 tweets), but anything more than that just seems like such a waste of words. Le sigh. (The above Ribbonfarm post also talks about Twitter threads if you're hungry for more.)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><a href="">Nice piece in the Guardian</a> from Anna Hughes about cycling across France, a subject which is close to my heart having done a small slice of this last August and which left me very much wanting to do more of that sort of thing. It reads well, but felt like it had been edited for length, and I hoped to find a link to the full piece elsewhere as sometimes happens, but alas.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><a href="">Harriet Thompson</a> has begun a new project with <a href="">an associated blog</a> which aims to explore, amongst other things: &quot;the influence of the electric telegraph on nineteenth-century literature and culture.&quot;</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:html --> <p>Sign me up! That's another RSS feed added to my feed reader.</p> <!-- /wp:html --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><a href="">This piece called 'How blogs broke the web' was an oddity</a> - I don't <em>quite</em> understand the M.O. of the website that posted it but it was a really nicely-written (and illustrated!) piece of nostalgia for blogging and the old web, a subject I am increasingly finding myself only too happy to wallow in.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Another bit of nostalgia/old web stuff here, this time from <a href="">Ana</a>, whose blog I recently found via the <a href="">Indie Web/Homebrew Website Club</a>.... portal? Website? Directory?</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway, Ana confesses to - in her words - <a href="">overthinking my nostalgia</a> (hi!) and it made for a nice read.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:quote --> <blockquote> <p>My teenage years weren’t amazing but it wasn’t all bad. And whenever I think about them I think about a couple of things only: discovering music and building fan sites. During these years I developed one of my core personality traits: I build websites. It was my only hobby. I would spend hours learning and experimenting without judgement.</p> </blockquote> <!-- /wp:quote --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The Guardian again, and <a href="">an interesting piece on the subject of men losing and making friends in their thirties</a> which, well, hi.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Ironically and/or charmingly, I came across this link via <a href="">Jamie Adams' weeknotes</a> and we had just previously exchanged an email or two pretty much down to the fact that we are both men in that category who run blogs and whose email addresses are visible with an open-door policy on people saying hello.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><a href="">Hello</a>!</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I found <a href="">this post from Robin Rendle</a> amusing, talking about the writing of Robert Macfarlane, a nature writer whose books I enjoy. Rendle wrote of Macfarlane's <em>Underland</em>:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:quote --> <blockquote> <p>For the most part I enjoyed it, yet every so often I found myself wincing and bracing for impact because—out of absolutely nowhere—the writing slips into obnoxious rambling.</p> </blockquote> <!-- /wp:quote --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The quoted example in his post is actually a pretty good one and, although I enjoy Macfarlane's writing immensely, I have definitely come across passages in his books where I mentally have to insert some sort of algebraic brackets or commas so that I can break down a lengthy paragraph. It's obviously a fine line though, because I find myself highlighting a lot of (often lengthy) passages in Macfarlane's work as they so often just work <em>perfectly.</em></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Finally, there is a soft spot in my heart for <em><a href="">Oddworld: Abe's Odyssey</a></em>, a PlayStation game I was first introduced to at a family friend's house and which seemed so much deeper and more fleshed-out than other platformers of the time. It just seemed so delightfully, well, <em>odd</em>, and I've always remembered it with fondness, occasionally replaying it for a short session just to make sure it still seems singularly strange even many years later.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Turns out, as <a href="">this video interview</a> with the game's chief creative officer Lorne Lanning shows, there's even more to Abe than meets the eye - and that's saying something.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:core-embed/youtube {"url":"https:\/\/\/Y7f0YtzWBG4","type":"rich","providerNameSlug":"","className":"wp-embed-aspect-16-9 wp-has-aspect-ratio"} --> <p></p> <!-- /wp:core-embed/youtube --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>These 'war stories' interviews with the creators of significant games by Ars Technica are really well made, and I've found myself enjoying them even if the game in question isn't one I know very well.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2020 weeknote 9 - Amazon Prime use 'em up soup, POP Nano DAB+ thoughts, and a long bike ride 2020-03-03T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We're quite good at 'empty the freezer soup' and 'empty the cupboard' type meals in general. When the time comes, it's good to have a clear out, and the results can be surprising.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I say all this because we're letting our Amazon Prime subscription end - it's the sort of thing that's nice to have over Christmas for deliveries, and for a month or two at a time to catch up on film and TV that's currently available.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And with only a few days left of Prime, I've found myself scanning around for unwatched stuff to check out before the subscription runs out. Mostly I've been chowing down on <em>Bob's Burgers</em> most recently, which I've sort of dipped in and out of before. It's very fast and colourful and fun. It feels like a 21st-century <em>Family Guy</em>, I guess.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>From Amazon Prime to YouTube - and this, from <a href="">Tom Stuart</a>'s <a href="">recent weeknote</a>:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:quote --> <blockquote> <p>I watch a lot of YouTube which means I sit through a lot of terrible mistargeted ads. I briefly considered a <a href="">YouTube Premium</a> subscription to make the ads go away, but it turns out that it costs £12 per month — double the cost of a basic Netflix plan. What.</p> </blockquote> <!-- /wp:quote --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Indeed! For some time last year I had a three month free trial to YouTube Premium. I tried out YouTube Music very briefly, which was a confusing mishmash and not at all as straightforward as Spotify (which has its own usability issues, and introduces new ones every few months).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But I watch... probably a few hours of YouTube content a week. I'd like to see some stats, but I suspect approximately half my 'slumped in front of the telly' time is spent on YouTube with the other half split between stuff recorded on Freesat and streams or Blu-rays.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>When I had that free trial, watching YouTube without ads felt wonderful. Firstly, there are no ads, which is of course nice. But you also don't get ads inserted mid-video, which so often just get placed arbitrarily rather than (as is my understanding) at a convenient point selected by the creator.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So it was overall a nicer way to experience YouTube, and it was a shame to lose it once the trial ran out. But the cost of £11.99 a month was just too high for the 'nice-to-have' of no ads.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This week I noticed the day length, the sky being a certain colour, and the interesting light and silhouettes you get at walking-home time in these parts. Stark building silhouettes against icy blue skies; golden rays highlighting trees and buildings just before the sun dips below the horizon.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18094} --> <p><img src="" alt="img_20200226_175953-9713797-4123721" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's lovely. A good time of year, even despite the changeable weather: we've had a winter storm rolling over every weekend for the past three weeks, and this week it tried to snow for an hour or so in north London.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I also like that at this time of year it is nice to be aware of the sunrise and sunset times - sunrise recently shifted before 7am and sunset moved later than 5.30pm. These are good boundaries to have crossed, and spring rolls ever closer.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Since November I've been using a delightful little digital radio called a <a href="">POP Nano</a>. It seems to have been originally produced for the Norwegian market and <a href="">is now being sold off cheap from a re-seller on Amazon</a>. It's a tiny portable FM/DAB+ radio and it has been a joy to use.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The Norwegian connection is clear from the wording on the packaging, and from the information helpfully included by the re-seller which tells you how to reset the device from the default Norwegian language to English.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I've had mixed successes with portable DAB/DAB+ radios in the past, but this thing is <em>lovely</em>. It's tiny, and feels nice in the hand. About the size of a fat pack of gum. There are just three buttons and an on-off switch.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Reception is solid, with the earphone cable acting as an aerial. A scan in north London pulls in 100-150 stations, and it doesn't struggle to hold onto a station if it is found on a scan. It charges via USB, and battery life is decent - 4-5 hours or so, which isn't bad for the size of the device.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's got a decent and responsive menu/interface, which is also something I've learned not to take for granted with cheap portable radios. And this one is ridiculously cheap - the <a href="">POP Nano</a> can currently be purchased from Amazon for either £9.99 or £14.99, depending on whether Amazon has included some sort of e-voucher.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Alas, the other day I noticed the menu/select button was no long clicking, rendering it unusable aside from the station it was tuned to at the time. Unfortunately for me that was something called CDNX which seems to be some sort of Camden Market-related ex-NME jukebox station which I was briefly checking out after I learned of its existence on the London Trial multiplex.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I say unfortunately mostly because the bitrate of CDNX (48kbps - albeit via DAB+, so stereo AAC) is pretty awful, especially for a music station.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway, the re-seller has been responsive and I've sent it back for (hopefully) exchange with a new unit. I don't hesitate to recommend it - in the hope that my fault is a one-off. But who knows? And I hope I will soon have a new one and it won't face a similar fate in three months' time! I will try to update this if I get another and it proves to be a common fault.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I've recently been reading <em><a href="">A Golden Age of Cycling</a></em>, a lovely (if slightly under-done) collection of diaries from a British cyclist in the 1920s and 1930s. The author breaks down his cycling holidays day-by-day, telling the reader all the little places he visits, where he stops for bread, cheese and ale, and what mileage he clocks up.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's a lovely thing to read at bedtime, as he writes with a jolly demeanour, and it makes for easy daydreaming, putting together little routes through the Cotswolds to get from village to village.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And so for a while I've been wanting to remind myself that it <em>is</em> still possible to cycle through the countryside, village to village, and for cycling to be so much more than just a slightly anxious, functional and frantic pedal from home to work on busy London roads.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So on Sunday, after hatching a plan for a while, I took my bike out on the Thameslink train north into the countryside for a spin.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I had previously identified Harlington as a decent candidate hitting the sweet spot between 'decently served station' and 'small place surrounded by countryside'. I then used Komoot to <a href="">find a route</a> someone had uploaded that started not far from Harlington - before using one or two other apps/websites to convert the GPX file into an app I could actually use for navigation.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>There are many thousands of words I could write about this weird, broken, paywalled landscape of 'apps that allow you to find cycling routes', 'apps that allow you to create and/or share routes', 'apps that allow you to navigate routes', 'apps for converting one such app's route into another format for another app' and so on and so on. But I digress.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I struck very lucky with the weather, it being bright and dry, if a little chilly. The wind was a bit much in places - with the usual weird sensation of wind blowing from nearly 270 degrees in all directions rather than one single direction. Whenever I had a brief respite from the wind, it really hit me when I got buffeted again.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I had aimed for 50-55km as a decent distance to test myself out. This loop saw me head out east from Harlington, kissing the edge of Hitchin, then heading south a bit, before heading almost straight back north west towards Harlington, via Emily's Tea Shop - a nice little cycle-friendly cafe - at Whitwell.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I ended up doing just over 60km, and this was perhaps a stretch. It was my first big ride in a while - save for a couple of rides in the meantime, I hadn't ridden this sort of distance since France last August.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And thank goodness it wasn't a particularly hilly route, as I found the last few hills a real struggle. It is heartening to note that the final phase of the ride really did see me climbing and climbing and climbing - albeit not very high. But still. The creaking in my knees in the days following this ride have at least something to blame.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18093,"className":"aligncenter size-medium wp-image-18093"} --> <p><img src="" alt="screenshot_20200301-135809-e1583243121575-6926134-3950807" /></p> <p>You can bet I enjoyed that last downhill. Weeeee!</p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway, wind and 'hills' aside, this was a mostly very enjoyable route. I passed a great number of riders - some individuals and a fair few groups. In fact I may have even seen more bikes than cars, which is always nice to see.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[18103,18104,18105],"columns":3,"linkTo":"media"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200301_122918148_hdr-2151064-scaled-4195423" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200301_125255869_hdr-7664619-scaled-2786653" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>There's something quite reassuring about following a route created and shared by someone else - a hope that it must be reasonably pleasant and doable. If I sat down and programmed my own route, I'd inevitably misjudge a busy junction or completely fail to check the contours and gradients.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I did use Google Maps to navigate the last few KMs back to the station as the Komoot loop would take me instead to a random car park. Ironically, Google led me down some field track bridleways rather than roads, which was a pleasant diversion, but not as easy riding.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I was pretty exhausted by the end of it, but really pleased with my efforts. I may have slightly underestimated how hard a ride of that distance would be, but it's nice to have that done so that my thoughts can turn to the next route and I am a little more confident of my own potential.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18108} --> <p><img src="" alt="strava774933998552165556-4005624-2418734" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> Vinegar, meet baking soda 2020-02-27T00:00:00Z Thoughts on blogging, and blogrolls 2020-02-26T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I've read a lot lately about the web, personal websites, blogging, and the indieweb movement.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I keep meaning to properly underline one particular article or post I've read that has inspired me to finally sit down and write, and failing because there have been a lot and they've all kind of blurred into one movement in my brain. That's the problem with 'studying a subject' and not 'keeping references' I guess.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>(I'm going to try to semi-regularly <a href="">post lists of links</a> to 'stuff I've starred on Pocket or sent to my Kindle' as this is probably the best filter for links I've enjoyed reading or that have inspired me in some way.)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>One such post I <em>can</em> point at this time to is <a href="">Roy Tang</a>'s <a href="">Thoughts on Blogging, 2020 edition</a>, which I really enjoyed. I've actually been slowly making my way through a number of Roy's posts - on the subject of blogging, blogging platforms, and so on - for a while now. Hi, Roy!</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The post above chimed with me because I go back on forth on what I'm doing when I'm blogging. My blog has, at times, been:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:list --> <ul> <li>a diary or journal;</li> <li>an unrelated series of essays or write-ups on specific subjects or trips;</li> <li>a linkblog;</li> <li>a collection of weeknotes.</li> </ul> <!-- /wp:list --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And possibly others.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Every few years I find that I want to tidy up old blog posts, and the ones that are often quickest to get culled are either too brief, too personal, poorly formatted, or linkblog entries.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The latter are just... Not what I'm interested in doing. I often feel the urge to post links to stuff, but increasingly I think that's what Twitter might be better for. Plus Twitter kind of decays gracefully where as a blogpost which is nothing more than a link to a thing with little to no contextual information is a bit weird to have archived as an active page in a blog. _I _think, anyway.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Similarly, as a result of occasionally moving host or CMS, I always end up with a number of broken posts, often those with images embedded. Best case, the images just go a bit wonky, or the formatting of some styles changes significantly from the original design. But worst case I end up seeing a long list of image placeholders where the original images are either no longer loading from the CMS correctly, or the external host has changed the URL or altogether removed them.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The posts that seem to hang around, however, tend to be more standalone essay-type posts. Plus a few trip write-ups where the image formatting hasn't been completely b0rked - or I've felt compelled enough to unb0rk it.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway, Roy and others have written recently on the subject of blogging, and it's enjoyable to read, and possibly feel as though there's a small renaissance happening around blogs and RSS and so forth. (Possibly this is just an echo chamber of ever-decreasing circles, but hey).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Like Roy (and <a href="">Phil</a>, and others), I have found myself adding a number of new blogs to my RSS feeds recently.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This new 'discovery' of other blogs has come about purely because people who <em>I</em> enjoy reading have posted links to people <em>they</em> enjoy reading. Sometimes these are occasional 'new blogs to follow' type <a href="">posts</a> (Hi, Kicks!), and other times these new discoveries are thanks to a reprisal of that old-school blogging stalwart, the blogroll.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>A blogroll is basically just a list of links to other websites and blogs on a person's website. No more, no less. It's different to a <a href="">webring</a>, which I have also seen a sort of revival of recently, but every implementation I've seen of it between now and about 2002 just seems way too hacky and buggy and unpredictable and <em>please just give me a list of URLs.</em></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I don't have a blogroll on this website yet, but I'm in the process of compiling one. Like others, it'll basically be a list exported from my RSS feed reader, but I won't be using JSON or any sort of automation. I don't know how to do all that. But I _do _know how to copy and paste. So I'll do that instead.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Roy's mention of <a href="">his own blogroll</a> also mentioned another blogger by the name of <a href="">Jan-Lukas Else</a>. Jan-Lukas' blog has already crept into my feed reader's 'newish' folder, and I like the sorts of things he writes about. Hi, Jan-Lukas!</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>One thing that caught my eye when browsing his website, though, was a neat little banner which goes some way to solving some of the issues of archived/historic blog posts I mentioned above:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18080} --> <p><img src="" alt="banner-9292133-6809606" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's a simple solution and I've seen it used on news websites that aim to help readers who may have visited a link to what ostensibly looks like a 'news' story which (thanks to the less and less ephemeral nature of some big websites like the BBC and the Guardian) might be a decade old or more.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I was, therefore, even more amused to see that - amidst me starting to think about my own beginnings with websites and 'blogging' eighteen years ago, that Jan-Lukas - who makes such good use of the banner above - is just twenty years old himself.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2020 weeknote 8 - Radio recaps, selling singles, and work woes 2020-02-25T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>A radio recap, first.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><em>Desert Oracle</em> - first the little magazine and now (only?) the radio show and podcast - isn't something I listen to every time. But occasionally it'll catch me in a receptive mood and I'll think an episode was just a downright classic. The recent episode number 79 - <a href="">These Enchanted Lands</a> - was one such smash. Pretty much just a solid monologue of fascinating and spooky goings-on which is when <em>Desert Oracle</em> is at its best.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Repeats of <em>I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again</em> are just what I need some mornings before work, leaving me chuckling away to things that were funny in the 1960s, and the silly songs that still tickle me today. Hearing John Cleese do a sketch where he complains about his wife spending all his money was particularly amusing in how prophetic it was.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's nice to be reminded of how excellent and eclectic <a href="">Radiophrenia</a> was - it was a block of broadcasts of experimental radio and sound art last May, but <a href="">Resonance Extra</a> continues to replay it at various times, and it's always a delight to hear a few random snippets of it. I'm not sure if it will be running again this year / in future.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I was also reminded recently that it's nearly time for <a href="">Audiograft</a> in Oxford. I went to the event in 2018 (mentioned in <a href="">this weeknote</a>) and enjoyed some of what I saw, and generally found it all quite interesting and inspiring.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Looking at the programme this year, I see less that grabs my attention, but I can't decide if that's because of the way so many of these installation descriptions and synopses are written. Sometimes I just kind of want to know what it is the installation will look or sound like, and sometimes there just aren't enough words to properly explain that.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Something something dancing about architecture.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Obviously I should just go with an open mind and support a cool festival. I might find something completely unexpected. Will look at trains and suchlike.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18063} --> <p><img src="" alt="img_20200220_081539-8587368-3149733" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Some daffs - we've been on a daffs kick lately, it seems</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Work continues to be just <em>a lot</em> at the moment.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I realise that many people work much harder than I do, but circumstances have conspired recently to mean I am currently either directly or indirectly involved with a large amount of stuff and am being called upon to make suggestions and recommendations on things I don't feel I have the confidence to answer.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>There is an end in sight, but it's currently quite draining. I did have one nice comment from a colleague which came out of the blue and surprised me, which was nice.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This shift in responsibilities also led to me attending an afternoon session on recent updates in charity law which... well. I suppose <em>some</em> of it was vaguely interesting - particularly the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)'s approach to breaches of GDPR and so on. But other elements were at best just not relevant and at worst confusing.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>One speaker criticised the Charity Commission on a number of levels before explaining that she felt a fraud case involving approximately £25,000 for a charity with a turnover of c.£10 million probably ought not to be seen as 'significant' and so shouldn't be reported to the Charity Commission as a serious incident.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Which is alarming.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Possibly she just meant what the Charity Commission deemed significant or serious, and she did clarify by saying any incident should be reported, and the Commission can decide whether it's serious or not.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Sometime last year - I think it was from watching the Glastonbury coverage on the TV - I realised I had a bunch of 7&quot; singles just sat on shelves which I never play. I saw The Killers performing and remembered I had one of their first singles on vinyl, and quickly wondered how much such an item might fetch, fifteen years on*. And then I wondered what a load of my other records might fetch.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>* In fact, it sold for more than £30, which wasn't a bad start.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>About half of the singles I've accumulated are things I would consider objects I have collected and feel attached to, whereas the other half I just don't particularly have a connection to, and I may as well get rid. Some were duplicates of releases I _do _care about. But overall, they just never get played. I listen to 12&quot; albums now and again, but singles with one track on each side I just never really listen to.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I set about listing some of these on <a href=""></a> and ever since then I have been selling one or two a month with *touches all the wood* no real issues. I had purchased from Discogs in the past with no issues, so it's pleasing to find that the other side of the process is just as painless. Discogs also helpfully gives you an indication of the asking price for most releases, based on previous sales.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's also been the perfect combination of things for me: I have some niche, weird stuff that I no longer really care about, and Discogs has connected me with buyers who _do _care about it and would like to pick some of it up. Most are not that valuable. But Discogs has made it easy for me to find a buyer and to transfer it from one home to another where hopefully it might get a bit more love.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's nice selling stuff to fans and collectors. In fact, one of my first sales was to someone who hosts an overnight radio show in Estonia, which is just great. They're exactly who I want buying my old 7&quot; singles.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I wonder if listing things on ebay might be better for certain items, particularly as, by default, Discogs doesn't show photos of the item in question, just the metadata associated with it and the grade the seller gives it in their opinion. Ebay would at least allow me to add more photographs and details about my particular copy. But when I remember selling stuff on ebay, it just feels like such an effort. Discogs lets me just upload a bunch of stuff and leave it on sale until someone wants to buy it. Easy peasy.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Not much else to report this week.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I spent a bit of time in the Wayback Machine museum of ye olde interwebs the other day, poring over one particular website that I followed back when I started following websites. It was a personal website slash blog, and the owner seemed to have had it online for only a few years. I have no idea what happened to them after the website went offline, and I often wonder where they are now.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Part of me wants to do some digging and try and find out. Part of me just likes the neat open-and-shut case of it and is happy to leave it as a time capsule I occasionally peer inside. I think I'll write more about this subject another time when I've formulated my thoughts a little better.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This dig into the Wayback Machine also uncovered a version of one of my first websites that I didn't realise had been mirrored, which was a nice discovery.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I was pleasantly surprised to find I had thought to include a little extra colophonic metadata in the footer, which is something I love to see, and which I must get back into:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18061} --> <p><img src="" alt="img_0149-e1582553772647-1553678-6459453" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Reader, I still occasionally listen to 'incubus' and 'the living end'.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2020 weeknote 7 - Hastings, a new camera lens, and The Lighthouse 2020-02-20T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Recent radio and podcast listening: Radio 3's <em>Saturday Breakfast</em> and <em>Unclassified</em> with Elizabeth Alker; Giles Coren and Esther Walker's podcast <em>Giles Coren Has No Idea</em>; <em>Late Junction</em>.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I think I've set myself an accidentally high bar when it comes to Weeknotes as I seem to be writing a thousand words or more and sometimes there just ain't enough notes for the week. This week is one of them.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Trying to summarise office-based workmadness is getting beyond me, but I've noticed it's taking up more and more of my mental energy which is in some ways good and in more ways quite bad. I keep having (or needing) little things that provide context and help me to separate work life from _life _life.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I went to see <em>The Lighthouse</em> this week and it was batshit crazy, and very enjoyable. It's always so fun to watch a film that seems to have such a good grasp on what it's trying to achieve, and it feels like it was all hands on deck. There's a lot of questionable nonsense in there too, but not everything has to make sense. I really enjoyed it.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I seem to have made it this far knowing little to nothing about the director or producers/studio - possibly because some of their other output has been (afaik) horror, which I don't tend to go for. But I find that I like media that sets itself restrictions and works within them (or, I suppose, watching old stuff that had what we now know of as restrictions but which were, at the time, simply the norm). So I may check out some more in this vein.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>On the subject of films, <a href="">I use Letterboxd to log the films I watch</a>. Do you?</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I picked up a new camera lens on a recent visit to St Albans - an old SLR 35mm f2.8 thingy from the 70s or 80s I think. I already had an adapter for putting M42 lenses onto my Canon dSLR, and I am happy to report that I've been enjoying using this new one.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:html --> <ul> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="mg_0661-3729167-5102511" /></a></li> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="mg_0664-5380563-7248943" /></a></li> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="mg_0672-5253661-6744980" /></a></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:html --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It is _extremely _manual, and obviously focus is an issue as, with a modern dSLR, there isn't a frosted glass focus aid or similar, so you're just doing it by eye through the viewfinder. _Or _you can use zone focusing, which I don't think I really understood before, but which I do now (to a degree), and it has helped me achieve some nice results.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[18041,18042],"columns":2,"linkTo":"attachment","sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="mg_0681-6256274-6391787" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_0680-8080180-3204671" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>On top of this it's just a nice object - all-metal, solid construction, etc. It's nice to have in my collection of lenses.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>At the weekend M and I popped down to Hastings - oddly enough a repeat of a trip five years earlier, and somewhere we've felt drawn towards on a couple of other occasions since. We had a nice (if rainy and stormy) couple of days down there and I'm intending to write separately about our weekend.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I took my new lens and took some pictures with it.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:html --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="mg_0707-7141236-1395310" /></li> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="mg_0697-9964458-4395885" /></a></li> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="mg_0729-7587818-1933868" /></a></li> <li><a href=""><img src="" alt="mg_0727-4499111-6685429" /></a></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:html --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>One draw was the Hastings Parkrun course which is a fast, flat, out-and-back along the sea front. I've run that course twice before, so this time went for a third. Being on the front and out-and-back (and in the beginnings of storm Dennis) meant for a particularly fast <em>out</em> and a running-face-first-into-the-wind <em>back</em>. Fortunately what this meant overall was that I broke my PB for a standalone 5k*, which was unexpected and very nice.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>* Strava tells me I've run a faster 5k before, but in the middle of a 10k run, which figures as that would make it a 5k with a rolling start and finish which you'd expect to be faster.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18045} --> <p><img src="" alt="strava5129684779054075517-5990018-2148481" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway, being at the coast is nice and being at the coast _in a winter storm _is also quite nice (with the usual caveats). We ate good food and as much as we got soaked and windswept, we also found lovely cosy little places to warm up and dry out.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>There we are, you see? I only wrote 700 words this week. Let's see what next week inspires.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2020 weeknote 6 - storms, finance, St Albans and obsolete music formats 2020-02-10T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18008} --> <p><img src="" alt="mg_0624-2320388-scaled-7519894" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I watched the <em>Seinfeld</em> finale after all and it was... Disappointing? I was glad to have not read any reviews or synopses of it beforehand so I could experience it fresh. But it just felt tonally wrong. Still, what a great series and I'm glad I've dipped in and out of it over the past 2-3 years having never seen it before.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In work life, we had the most important meeting so far involving some of the extra tasks I've taken on in the absence of a boss. It went...Well? Apart from the bit where the committee brought up a section of the paperwork which we'd done wrong, and worse, that I couldn't work out how. For a brief, sweaty-palmed moment, I felt convinced I had thus done <em>all</em> of it wrong, and was preparing myself for a really frustrating meeting. So it was a relief when it was just that part, and an easily-fixed problem at that. The rest of it was... fine.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The rest of the week continued to exhibit high levels of anxiety around the office. We also had a few episodes of what I would say are normal problems to deal with, but that on top of everything else just felt cruel. But actually it only served to reveal that we've been lucky to go without any of the usual 'normal' problems of late, freeing up headspace to deal with the more unusual situations that have arisen.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>ANYWAY. When I wasn't working or fretting about work, I found myself playing with the cat, and taking an afternoon off to wander home via the Heath, taking photographs of birds with a long lens, listening to field recordings, and getting home before it got dark. All these things helped me.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[18005,18004,18009,18006],"columns":2,"linkTo":"attachment","sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="mg_0612-8160540-8372758" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_0605-2239873-5375343" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200205_151149-2240331-7210185" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="mg_0617-7623863-2029562" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>AND on Friday this week we crossed an important threshold: sunset was at 5pm. From here on in, the sunset will be before the end of the working day. This is such a lift of the spirits. It should give enough of a boost to get us to the day we put the clocks forward, and then we're home and dry.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In the meantime, the weather this week was... Changeable. Wednesday afternoon was glorious and bright. Thursday morning we were bathed under a thick fog. Saturday was bright and beautiful and actually almost warm out of the wind. And then in the early hours of Sunday, a storm rolled in which caused some chaos around the whole country.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We even had a brief power cut, the longest of which in recent memory, even if only five minutes or so. I quickly pulled out my little Tecsun shortwave radio and found blissful peace on the air with little to no electronic interference cutting through. I did a quick bandscan but the power was back on too quickly to really enjoy this little window of peace from RF interference.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's quite a rare occurrence. We just don't have power cuts nowadays. I remember in the early and mid 1990s we had them every now and again, often caused by bad weather. It was regular enough (though probably not actually that regular) that we had a special places for the candles and we sort of knew what we had to do when a power cut happened.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I bet we only actually had like one power cut every year or so, but it definitely feels like A Thing Which Used To Happen Which No Longer Does, or perhaps I am just in my mid thirties.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>A <a href="">tweeted photograph from Jonathan Ganley</a> brought to my attention the death of Andrew Brough of NZ band Straitjacket Fits. Their <em><a href="">Down in Splendour</a></em>, which Brough wrote, is a stunning song, with wonderful multi-layered guitars and vocal sounds, and the guitar solo is a classic - beautifully understated, and it disappears just as soon as it arrives, leading me to almost always want to hear the song again immediately.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>On Saturday, M and I popped up to St Albans to do Parkrun with some friends, one of whom is training for the London Marathon (and the other who, it should also be said, is doing his best to support her progress and training).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It was, as I said, a lovely bright and mild morning. I'd gone to bed the previous evening not looking forward to a run, and even that morning I woke feeling clunky and creaky and stiff. I decided to just attend out of politeness and see how it went. But thanks be to the herd mentality - and it was <em>some</em> herd, with more than 500 attending - as I got swept up in the event and ran well, and I even got a decent time.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And really, much like some Parkrun routes, this one is becoming a victim of its own success as it attracts crowds which fill the modest paths round the park, leading to occasional bottlenecks. I was left actually quite satisfied in the knowledge that if I ran the same route again with the paths to myself I could certainly shave some time off it. And although Parkrun is timed and is about pushing oneself, it is mostly about having fun and respecting the other runners and park users. And ultimately it's all about getting out there, and I was so glad I did.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>St Albans continued to give and give, as we found a lovely brunch spot in the George Street Canteen, had a nose around the market which was full of yet more splendid food offerings, before popping back into the warmth of the Pudding Stop for another hot drink and some brunch desert.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We also passed a great camera shop - Clarks Camera Centre on Holywell Hill - in which I found a warm welcome, some great service and advice, and I came away with a new (old) 35mm f2.8 lens with an M42 mount which I'll be able to use on my Canon dSLR by the use of an adapter I've had for years.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":18016} --> <p><img src="" alt="img_20200208_140437-e1581275105899-3713977-7673964" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I got rid of most of my film cameras a few house-moves ago, and lately I've missed the Zenit in particular, and its wonderful 50mm lens. So hopefully this neat little 35mm prime will scratch some of the itch I've had lately for shooting fully manual through vintage glass.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We had a great half a day in St Albans, then got the train home and I plunged myself into a wonderful bath of Epsom salts mixed with all manner of stuff including bergamot and CBD oil. Most relaxing.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>As an aside, I <em>hate</em> writing St Albans on my phone and on my computer. Anywhere, 'Albans' comes up as a typo and leaves me full of doubt as to whether there might be an apostrophe. And on my phone, trying to first type the word 'St' always sees it corrected to At. Which is maddening. I feel for you, residents of St Albans.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And finally, this week I was tinkering with my MiniDisc player which is a thing that happens every now and then. I bloody love the form factor of the player and the discs, and I guess I get a kick out of a tiny bit of portable audio equipment still working nicely nearly twenty years on. The bonus is that most of my MiniDiscs are either mixtapes or compilations of related albums/singles that are all very much of a time and place, and listening to them now is a lovely little step through time.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>These urges to <em>listen</em> to MiniDiscs usually leads me to naughty thoughts like... <em>recording</em> new MiniDiscs.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In the past I've actually recorded my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist to a MiniDisc which was... Stupid, really. The novelty factor was huge, but the practical side was a disaster - recording a line-in input in real time, combined with - by its very nature - a playlist of songs I have not heard before.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>MiniDiscs <em>can</em> store metadata, but obviously recording audio like this doesn't capture anything. So I end up hearing a song I've never heard before and want to identify, and my options are either checking Spotify and seeing if I can figure out which track it was in the playlist, or... Sigh... Or, reader, trying to Shazam the audio from my headphones into my phone's mic. And honestly, I knew how ridiculous that scenario was already, but having typed it out just makes me feel insane for ever trying.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway, this time round I decided to do something slightly less mad: just capture some favourite CDs via optical cable. One benefit of using optical/digital instead of analogue is the levels are set automatically, and the track markers are as per the CD rather than based on gaps of silence. It's more precise.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>There's something neat about having a small, dedicated collection of the Best of the Best on a portable player. I've done the same on a tiny iPod Shuffle before - curated a sort of desert island all-time best-of set of albums that go with me anywhere.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So I rigged this all up and... The method I used somehow did not end up including track markers. Just one whole CD as a single track. At this point I just gave up. What was I doing? It's madness.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So what I'm doing NOW is assembling a new digital library of The Best of the Best albums on my computer, ripped at either 320kbps MP3 or lossless, and setting up a means of syncing this stuff to my phone. Even this process seems needless when I have Spotify and (for now) Google Play Music's library in the cloud.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But it just feels silly constantly streaming in a lossy codec the kinds of stuff a) I love, b) I already own, and c) that may not actually be available to stream. And there's something very satisfying about a neatly organised music collection, even if it is digital.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>God. These weeknotes are a bit long. I need to work on that.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Let's dust ourselves down and see what this week has to offer.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Stuff I've seen and read recently: January 2020 2020-02-07T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I read a lot of stuff on the web, and while a lot of it flies by, some of it sticks or leads me onto other things. From time to time it's nice to go back through the links and tabs I've saved and share the good ones.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It wouldn't make sense to just publish my Pocket queue. Some things exist only in my phone browser. Some goes to Pocket where it may languish for months. Others get <a href="">sent straight to my Kindle</a>* to be read before I go to sleep.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Here's what's been occupying my mind and eyeballs in recent weeks.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:list --> <ul> <li><a href="">Amelia Tait wrote this great piece on her electronic diary</a>. It struck a chord because I too have the majority of my diaries from 2002 to present in an electronic form and it means I can instantly look up places, people, moods... And it's a blessing and a curse. This kind of article would have been invaluable when doing my university project, and reading things like it always makes me want to return to that area of study.</li> <li><a href="">Dan Milnor's blog</a> is very frequently updated and he talks about cycling, photography, environmental issues, books and whatever else is on his mind. He works for Blurb so he also often has interesting things to say about photobooks and similar projects. As an unstoppable force, <a href="">he recently announced his latest project/collaboration</a>: <a href="">AG23</a>.</li> <li><a href="">Adam Elkus' blog</a> was yet another nice one I found on my recent trawl of Kicks Condor's HrefHunt or that Hacker News thread. I enjoyed a few of his posts, but one that held my attention was <a href="">this recent one about the videogame DOOM</a>. Something about these sort of very in-depth posts is so enjoyable to read. One person giving their thoughts, impressions, insight and expertise on a (sort-of but not-really) niche subject.</li> <li>Very related, <a href="">Sophie Haskins</a>' website <a href=""></a> (god I am actually starting to love these new TLDs when they're used well) documents her quest to investigate slim workstation computers (in a so-called pizzabox form factor :3!). I had Sophie's blog in my RSS feeds from a while back and I was so glad to see a new post for the first time in over a year. <a href="">Her latest post covers setting up NeXTstep on a HP machine</a> in enjoyably verbose detail - in a very chilled, conversational style which I loved. Even better, she also <a href="">made a video of this process</a> presented in a similar style which, she teases, should be the first of more to come. Bring it on.</li> <li>I've already mentioned <a href="">Frank Chimero's blog</a> covering his website redesign 'in the open'. <a href="">This recent post which is basically on the subject of website headers and footers</a> is long, sprawling, and thoroughly readable. He writes so entertainingly but also knowledgably. Which is definitely a word.</li> <li>Another find from my latest descent into the hypertext mines is <a href="">Roy Tang's website</a>. He writes posts about the state of the/his world, and web and software development past and present. He also actively writes weeknotes. <a href="">A recent post about burnout</a> was very interesting, and older posts on redeveloping his website - <a href="">use of Wordpress and Hugo etc</a> - have kept me delving into <a href="">his extensive (and beautifully-represented) archives</a>.</li> <li><a href="">This <em>New Yorker</em> piece on device addiction</a> struck a chord. It was sent my way by <a href="">Sean Bonner</a> and <a href="">his excellent email newsletter</a>. The initial mentions of life in north west London were interesting, and the wider concepts discussed tend to make for an fascinating subject. Really interesting to read about the century-old book which explored similar themes of disconnection from human touch. I'm afraid I didn't know much about the piece's author, Oliver Sacks, and so it was especially poignant to learn at the end that this had been published posthumously.</li> </ul> <!-- /wp:list --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>*Some such items, like t<a href="">his recent longform piece on Instagram</a> which I didn't love but didn't hate, lead to my Kindle's screensaver having the most incongruous/weird/soothing/serendipitous images displayed on my bedside table:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":17992} --> <p><img src="" alt="img_20200201_120411-1-5378400-3040389" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> 2020 weeknote 5 - Hamilton, smart meters, Sodastream and cycling 2020-02-06T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>On Monday I had a longstanding appointment with Eon or one of its contractors to fit a smart meter for our flat. Exciting stuff. I'd arranged this with our building manager as the meters are in a communal cupboard. And I'd checked with Eon that this would all be fine.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The day came and... their contractor couldn't find anywhere to park. Which is ridiculous. Was this the first such appointment they'd done on a London street? The chap was friendly enough but phoned and asked where he should park and I told him I really had no idea. He ended up doing laps and then waiting at a nearby pay and display until no spaces became available and he cancelled the appointment. This was all after our building manager confirmed to me that under no circumstances could the contractor park his van either in the turn-off to the building's underground ramp, or indeed in the empty underground parking area.* Insert joke about smart meters and stupid policies/people.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>* We were told that although our building, built five years ago, was built with a basement capable of housing probably fifty cars, it cannot be used for this purpose for an unspecified period of time due to local authority planning regulations, ostensibly to put people off owning cars? Not sure. It also means that bicycles cannot use the (gated) vehicle ramp to access underground secure bicycle storage, and muddy wet bicycles must be wheeled in through main, carpeted entrance and taken downstairs or in a lift. Marvellous.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Fortunately after all this kerfuffle, in the evening we had a performance of <em>Hamilton</em> to look forward to. And golly it was excellent. My previously-mentioned act of bankrupting myself in December to give us stuff to look forward to in January and February continues to pay dividends.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I can count on one hand the number of theatre performances I've been to since living in London, but I always enjoy them when I go. I guess I'm mostly put off by the ticket prices, but I know there are ways around that.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>ANYWAY the theatre itself is beautiful and, I understand, recently refurbished. The seats were great and comfortable, and of course the show itself was just fantastic. Funny, sharp, and a great mix of lighthearted and serious.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":17982} --> <p><img src="" alt="img_20200127_175002-9947892-scaled-1673103" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[17983,17984],"columns":3,"linkTo":"attachment","sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200127_175102-4783332-6788110" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200127_190539-3981565-3765008" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I am already making plans to grab some cheap seats again in a few months' time to see it again. (I hear that Disney is filming a performance featuring the original Broadway cast, mind you, so that might do.) And I have inevitably become the sort of person who now listens to cast recordings in his spare time. The same happened with <em>The Book of Mormon</em> too, in fairness.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We got a Sodastream for Christmas, and thus have spent January enjoying carbonated beverages of various varieties, including some very posh ones that came with it, are made in New Zealand(?) and apparently cost £8 for a bottle of 500ml of what is essentially squash. Mostly we mix the fizzy with cheap squash or elderflower cordial, and it's lovely.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The first gas cartridge finally ran out - I was becoming anxious about this as I wasn't sure if it would sort of slowly run out or just stop one day. And... yeah. It just stopped one day. So that's good to know for future. The weird thing with Sodastream is that you exchange the gas cartridges, and the cartridge has a sort of deposit system so to buy a full one costs <em>x</em> and to swap an empty one for a full one costs <em>y</em>.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>There's something inherently novel about using a Sodastream. We had one when I was a kid and I can still remember the a) glass bottles, b) the horrible fake cola/lemonade/whatever flavoured syrups, and c) the odd yellow and white plastic colour scheme. I suppose it was probably a late 70s/early 80s model.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway, we were without gas for a couple of days and felt bereft. But now we have one full one and one empty ready to swap next time. Sodastream anxiety levels normalised.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It's nice having a Sodastream - our main reason for getting one is so that we can avoid transporting (either ourselves or as a grocery delivery) bottles of carbonated water, which we drink a ton of. We already have a tap that dispenses water, so why not get one that dispenses bubbles of fizzy? So that's what we did.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The rest of the week was anxiety about work stuff and anxiety about our impending exit from the EU. Both completely unrelated but equally head-fuggying and frustrating. That's about all I have to say about that.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Luckily the weekend was better. I accidentally discovered that <em>Seinfeld</em> was to leave Amazon Prime at midnight Saturday/Sunday, so I had the whole of the last season to try and get through. And damnit if I didn't almost manage it. But I still have two episodes left - including the double episode which is presented as one on Prime - ironically if I'd have started <em>that</em> 50-minute episode at just before midnight it will have played all the way through. But alas.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway I can't yet report on what the long-term effects of watching ten hours of <em>Seinfeld</em> in one sitting are, but it kept me amused all day at least.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I definitely make strange Kramer-esque noises from time to time, and I do wonder what would have happened to me if I'd grown up watching him on <em>Seinfeld</em> as I was so influenced by slapstick, physical comedy and the antics of <em>Tom &amp; Jerry</em> etc. that I just know his eccentric movements and sudden entrances would have appealed to me massively.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Sunday saw another bike ride. I eyed up a few routes into central London and joined the dots between the local routes I know and the more distant signposted/highlighted cycle 'super highways' (are they even still called that? It's a very weird name).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We rode down towards Kings Cross, stopping at St Pancras Old Church which I'd never even seen before let alone popped inside, and then carried on down to the river before doing a little loop and an explore around London Wall and heading back pretty much the way we came. It was a mostly satisfying little excursion.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[17979,17980],"columns":3,"linkTo":"attachment","sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200202_145350-4917767-6222071" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="strava4747951146984152561-5430395-7864827" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I have to remind myself that cycling in London, even when planning a decent, joined-up route, is s-l-o-w. I am so desperate now for a ride where I just set out and get 20-30km out of the way without stopping, and ideally doing it at a steady 20-25km/h. Riding in London I'm lucky to get my average speed to hit 20km/h - it's actually often nearer 15.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway, that's another week out of the way. 2020 is motoring along. I guess that with planned activities, decent weather for being outside, and being busy at work, I'm just basically quite <em>busy</em>? And that's <em>good</em>? It's making the time fly past at a decent pace anyway. Let's see what February brings.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Pushing around text blocks 2020-02-05T00:00:00Z <p>I’ve been following along while <a href="">Frank Chimero</a> redesigns his website in the open. He writes well, and the process of redesigning a website - no matter how simple - is interesting to me.</p> <p>In <a href="">a recent post</a>, he wrote (emphasis mine):</p> <blockquote> <p>I’ve designed for many years, but again and again, I have to relearn where to draw the line. I will strap myself to my desk and <strong>push around text blocks</strong> until I drive myself crazy. I will waste hours.</p> </blockquote> <p>And suddenly a dim lightbulb at the back of my mind flickered into life. He’s talking about redesigning a website, but he’s pushing around text blocks? Unless I’m mistaken, I <em>guess</em> he’s talking about prototyping in something like Photoshop.</p> <p>Of course! It’s all coming back to me now. I remember learning about this method in the web design unit I took in my degree. You figure out how you want your page to look using graphical tools, and then you write and edit the code to make it look that way.</p> <p>But that’s just not how I’ve ever tinkered with web design.</p> <p>Let me be honest here: the closest I’ve come to redesigning a website in recent years is picking the least worst Wordpress template from a gallery of hundreds. I do occasionally use my c.2002 HTML skillz to tweak a layout or check how something is being presented - the vagaries of my work website’s CMS mean I often have to code HTML tables by hand which is quite a mental workout. But I don’t think I’ve coded a webpage from scratch since about 2013.</p> <p>Anyway.</p> <p>What I’m trying to say is, when I _have _done that, I’ve tended to just create some dummy copy, then tweak the HTML and CSS until it looks roughly how I want it to look. And that tends to mean that every line break or pixel shift is sticking to an invisible grid of defaults - I’m just adding a number to this bit or moving that bit over or down a bit. So my lumps of content just kind of slot into place according to how the code is interpreted by the browser.</p> <p>This is compounded by the fact (or, indeed, exacerbates the fact) that my knowledge of HTML and CSS is just enough to get by. So I don’t know <em>how</em> to make complex layouts for webpages; I’m just sticking to the web design of the web when I learnt it in 2001/2002 - and that in turn is probably the web design of many years before as it trickled down to mere mortals like me.</p> <p>But I like this way of working - I guess it’s almost like using a Word processor to style text. It makes me feel like I have control, but I’m only making moderate changes and letting the code/browser slot it into place. It inevitably means the page ends up looking very simple and conforming to some sort of grid - and that’s fine. It appeals to my quest for order. And that’s probably the fundamental difference with how I approach what I would very generously call ‘design’. I’m not being creative and making something from scratch. I certainly wouldn’t be able to use Photoshop to rough out a new design. I’m taking something existing and just moving it around into different slots.</p> <p>_That’s _what web design is, to me.</p> <p>Anyway. This is all to be read alongside a giant flashing banner which reads “Paul hasn’t sat down to design a webpage from scratch since about 2013, so... y’know...”. But with the recent promotion of the personal website and homepage by the likes of <a href="">Kicks Condor</a> and <a href="">Matthias Ott</a>, I’m thinking about this stuff a bit more, and crucially I’m browsing and finding myself inspired by scores of other people’s personal websites. Websites made by the kind of people for whom spending a weekend indoors tweaking their layout is time well spent. I love that. And I miss doing the same.</p> <p>So I’ll probably continue tossing up between Wordpress layouts for the time being. But I know that some time soon I will find the temptation too great, and I’ll sit myself down with some digestives and a pot of coffee, and I’ll try and bash out a set of webpages from scratch.</p> <p>In fact, one box I’d like to tick that I’ve never tried before is handcoding an RSS feed. I’ve read a few tutorials. I get the idea. It doesn’t look difficult at all. I’ve just never actually <em>done</em> it. So that’s on the list. A few different webpages connected by an index page, and some content worthy of presenting in a blog format, tied together with an RSS feed for those of us who still dabble in such things.</p> <p>Watch this space.</p> 2020 weeknote 4 - Michael Palin, goats and some cycling 2020-02-02T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>At some point towards the end of the year, I decided that January should be filled with interesting little things to look forward to, and we began week four thusly: attending a Michael Palin event at the Owl bookshop in Kentish Town. I had discovered the event by browsing the Daunt Books website, and just assumed I had missed out and barely considered looking to see if tickets were still available - and they were.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I try and go to see Michael Palin doing whatever he might be doing in London - book readings, Q&amp;As, screenings of films he helped make, or whatever. He's just very good value no matter what he's doing. This one was a reading slash re-telling of his North Korea trip a couple of years ago which spawned a TV show for Channel 5 and a book of his journals.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I've seen Palin do his own talks by himself, and I've seen him do a sort of double-header with another writer or broadcaster, and I've seen him 'in conversation with' a host of sorts. Fortunately this was him on his own - other events can be a bit disappointing as they can stick to the script a bit, or worse they exist to inflate the host's ego as they ask knowing questions and don't give their guest a chance to shine.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Palin stood for an hour and delivered a funny, informative, sharp and very accurate telling of the trip he embarked upon to North Korea and it was just lovely to be in his presence, telling his own story at his own pace. There followed a brief Q&amp;A, and then a chance to get signed copies of the book. I had brought along my own, itself a gift from M which she had already inscribed. She pushed me to get it signed and I'm glad she did.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"right","id":17951,"sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <p><img src="" alt="screenshot_20200120-2108255096946536790302984-8234387-1931913" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>As we neared the head of the queue, we could see that he was signing the title page, but M's inscription was on the inside front cover. We thought it would be fun to get him to sign that page - and indeed it was, as he added a nicely personalised note referencing the fact that he was barging in to sign it along with M's own message, but that it is <em>his</em> book after all.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>While he did this, I badgered him briefly about my diary project that I had done for my degree - along with a number of other correspondents, Palin had contributed to the project by completing an online survey about diary-keeping habits. Amongst the tick box responses were longer free text boxes for responses to open questions, and it had been a thrill to get his Palin-esque responses to my project questions along with those of the others.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Despite me just being one of a number of people queuing up to get a book signed, he thoughtfully responded to my diary ramblings by asking if I knew about the projects run/housed by the Bishopsgate Institute, which was really great to hear.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It was a great evening, and the bonus was seeing just how healthy and sharp he is, and I'm so grateful that these events happen with the regularity that they do and that I'm able to attend some of them.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It was all the more poignant, then, that later that week we learned that Palin's good friend Terry Jones had died after a slow decline. Sad news indeed. Always a knock to the heart to hear of heroes and legends passing on.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Later in the week, with tensions in the office running a little high for my liking, I scoured the map for a route to stroll at lunchtime.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>To my delight, just ten minutes away from my office is, if not quite open fields, a small farm and a field home to two friendly goats.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":17957} --> <p><img src="" alt="2e628a6e-0245-411c-91c6-147cfdb66b33-9979693-scaled-8708799" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I spent a few minutes introducing myself.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The walk had taken me past an impressive statue called La Delivrance (known locally as 'the naked lady', and a nickname so well-established that the information board even says so, rather damning the imagination and culture of the locals, I'd say).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I had forgotten how important it is to strike out and discover new places nearby when your mind is starting to get a bit clogged up with more familiar issues. It wasn't all goats and bronze breasts and buttocks though, as another version of this lunchtime walk merely led me along the length of a filthy, flytipped water course delightfully named Mutton Brook but looking for all the world like a rainwater drain leading from a municipal dump.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Regardless, I will continue to try and find new paths to follow in familiar places. I found <a href="">a neat online map</a> that attempts to show you how far you can roam from a central point using various types of transport including walking.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>(Related: I started following the #fieldrecording tag on Instagram and saw a nice post from a guy reflecting how he used to take lunchtime walks from his office in New York or San Francisco - round trips of an hour - recording the sounds along the way. Perhaps I'm missing the point but I fear if I did that, all I'd get is the full drone of traffic and the occasional honking horn - but it struck me as an idea worth considering.)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>At the weekend, driven by this desire to look at maps and forge routes, I sketched out a rough cycle route from home heading north and away from the city, through suburbia to a place near Cockfosters tube station which had surprised us with its rural beauty on a previous London LOOP walk.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This cycle route north had been floating around in my head for some time and the thought was catalysed by re-reading some notes in my notebook from a visit to the London Metropolitan Archives a year ago.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Whilst flicking through copies of a century-old local newspaper that covered the activities of local groups looking for evidence of Charles Wade's involvement with amateur dramatics, I found reference to a 1915 cycle ride from Golders Green to Letchworth - from the Garden Suburb to the Garden City - taking in Welwyn on the way as a point of politeness, as well as other stops en route.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":17955,"className":"aligncenter size-medium wp-image-17955"} --> <p><img src="" alt="ec5dc31c-ad3b-44e9-a4d9-28ff3b0648fe-8253468-2396534" /></p> <p>I used Strava to try and guesstimate the route the riders might have taken in 1915</p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I was captivated by this striking out, this group of cycle pioneers hitting the road one Sunday to head north through open country, touch base with their distant cousins, and head back in time for supper.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I just had to plot this route in Strava, hoping that there might still be some remains of the route they must have taken. I'm not an idiot - I know the roads have changed enormously in a hundred years, particularly in north west London - but I wanted to see if I could game the route-finding software a little to uncover the kinds of smaller roads they might have used - and which might still be usable today.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Inevitably it followed a route I sort of recognised, past work, and on upwards to the north. To my delight, it passed near to Monken Hadley, the charming stretch of village and countryside to the west of Cockfosters that I had hoped to revisit by bike. This was all the encouragement I needed to try out a bike ride like this - and I thought the full Letchworth round trip of more than 100km in one day was possibly something best left for a later date.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This led, ultimately, to M and I setting out from home, cycling my route to work, then up and on into the unknown. Unfortunately, though there <em>are</em> roads leading in almost any direction one could wish for from these parts, they tend to be badly potholed, busy (even on a Saturday), and full of buses and other traffic. They are, for the most part, not built for cyclists.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Occasional cyclist-friendly bits are found, but these little oases are few and far between, and the lasting memory is of roads unfit for all the traffic that is capable of using them, and occasional instances of actually having to dismount to cross in order to safely navigate a junction. It can feel a little demeaning.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>There were, of course, nice bits. Parts not retro-fitted into including a cycle path, but merely decently-wide roads that were quiet and smooth and pleasant to ride, with good signposting and big, safe junctions to cross. At moments like those, it was made slightly easier to imagine the Sunday ride from a hundred years ago.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But we made it to Monken Hadley, after various north London high streets and dips in and out of suburbia. And it felt great to have returned to a place that we'd before now only taken a tube and a walk to. This is a feeling of satisfaction I've found in various unexpected places - as though 'conquering' familiar places where before I had had to rely on public transport or the kindness of others to visit or pass through. Getting there on your own two wheels can feel like such an achievement.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The carrot on the stick of this endeavour had been the silky, open roads through Monken Hadley and its neighbouring settlements and countryside. The irony was that the worst parts of the journey were the ones that took us longest to navigate. The good bits flew by as our pedals spun. We headed straight into the woods to retrace the London LOOP where it became a bridleway. Our last visit had been towards the end of a long day, and with the light fading we kept up a quick pace towards the tube station and home. This time we found a body of open water alongside a golf course and ate our sandwiches in the drizzle as a family walked past in wellington boots and waterproofs.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The ride back was, as it so often can be, a bit smoother, with familiar roads and the known elements of the trip feeling less unending than the unknown had on the way up.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Despite the annoyances, it did still feel like a small achievement. I'm sure I'll try and do something similar again. Plus, the desire to take the bikes out on a commuter train to the home counties and hit the road is always there.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":17956,"className":"aligncenter size-medium wp-image-17956"} --> <p><img src="" alt="d0c58fd2-abce-4579-9429-752d5eac786d-9802441-9032774" /></p> <p>Our route north - like throwing a lasso around Monken Hadley</p> <!-- /wp:image --> 2020 weeknote 3 - radio, field recording, and running 2020-01-23T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I feel like if I try and write these things quickly I might - just might - end up at weeknotes zero (as in, up to date, not going back in time). So, here she is: week three of 2020.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I noticed recently that my listening habits have tipped the balance from being mainly podcasts and some radio to mainly radio and some podcasts. This happens from time to time. I go through phases where I care more about what middle-class white guys have to say about the world of consumer technology, to caring more about music, current affairs and experimental radio and sound art. Thus, lately my ears have been mostly full of the latter.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>An average day might look like this (thank me later, RAJAR):</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:list --> <ul> <li>6am-8am: <a href="">BBC Radio 6 Music</a></li> <li>8am-9am: EITHER <a href="">BBC Radio 4</a> or <a href="">Centreforce</a></li> <li>5pm-6pm <a href="">BBC World Service</a> for <a href="">OS</a>, or <a href="">Resonance FM</a>/<a href="">Resonance Extra</a> when they're playing weird ambient sound art stuff</li> </ul> <!-- /wp:list --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Centreforce is not my usual cup of tea in terms of music. BUT it has the energy and pep of a breakfast show that I can't help but enjoy at that time of the morning. But what really seals the deal for me are the shout outs. The radio nerd in me wants to call them QSL reports as listeners-in from Kent and Luton and Kilburn and south London chime in, with the deejay reading out the reports a few at a time every few minutes.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:quote --> <blockquote> <p>Out to Danny! Out to easy Dee, how are you fella? Out to Sam. Out to the 198.* Out to Bob the chippy - large cod and chips for me please mate - ah just kidding, not that kind of chippy are ya?! Out to Razzer. Biggin' up Sara in Dagenham. Outs to the Cheshunt crew - oi, bring us a bacon butty yeah?</p> </blockquote> <!-- /wp:quote --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And so on. With deft use of the faders between each announcement for a brief burst of music.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>* I believe this is a reference to the last digits of a phone number when used to identify an otherwise unnamed correspondent, rather than, say, Centreforce masquerading as a <a href="">numbers station</a>.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And it's brilliant. It makes you feel like you're on this big map of London and the home counties, where Centreforce, which started life as a pirate station, now broadcasts legitimately on DAB in glorious* 32kbps DAB+.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>* listenable, but entirely <em>not</em> glorious. The state of Britain's approach to DAB broadcasts is a bit of a shitshow, with the majority of stations still being in old-school DAB, and those that are in DAB+ having to squeeze as much juice as possible out of the fact that the more efficient codec allows for lower bitrates. As an example, Belgium broadcasts all its stations via DAB+ almost entirely at 96kbps, whereas most experimental British DAB+ streams seem to top out at 64kbps. ANYWAY.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Sure, the shout outs might be inflated or manipulated somehow but.... I bet they're not. It just gives a lovely warm interactive edge to listening in, particularly on a breakfast show, as we are all variously on our way to work, on our way home, getting the kids off to school, or rejoicing in the sweet kiss of a day off.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The 'OS' show on BBC World Service is a funny one. It's broadcast live from the middle of the newsroom at Broadcasting House, and sounds like it too. It's one of the least good-sounding radio shows I listen to at the moment as there is a lot of background noise, and frequent delays when patching in correspondents from around the globe.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But, as with all good radio, this doesn't get in the way of the content itself being great. It's a refreshing take on the day's news - and as with most BBC World Service shows versus BBC Radio 4, it knows it has a global audience, so you get the impression you're hearing the news that actually matters on a global level rather than a bias towards events nearer to home.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Whilst I'm on the subject of radio, I saw <a href="">this great visualisation of American FM stations from Erin Davis</a> (via <a href="">Robin Sloan</a>) recently, which I loved:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":17932} --> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="radio_circles_final-2353186-7001132" /></a></p> <p>Source: <a href=""></a></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Unnnf. Love it. Click through for how/why, and some other visualisations of similar data.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We also went to see <a href="">Rose Matafeo</a> performing her <em>Horndog</em> show at the Ambassadors Theatre which was _great. _She's so funny and full of energy. I hadn't actually seen her do full stand-up before, but she is great on Taskmaster and other things we've seen her in. Her show was great. The one we went to was a sort of technical rehearsal for a filming the next day, so it'll be available somehow, soon.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It also meant that through a stroke of extreme luck, I managed to book seats dead centre of the middle of a row in stalls, right behind a space where some seats had been removed to place a camera for the filming the next day.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[17934,17935],"columns":3,"linkTo":"attachment"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200116_175727-3155857-6855381" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200116_185956-4308144-8987051" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>If only all London theatres had this kind of legroom.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>On Saturday I went to a Field Recording workshop in Bethnal Green which was run by the label <a href="">nonclassical</a> and hosted by sound artist Kate Carr, whose <a href="">Field Recording Show</a> has recently just finished a run on Resonance FM and which I absolutely loved.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"right","id":17936} --> <p><img src="" alt="img_20200118_123439-1411479-4559115" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It was a really great session - inclusive, interesting and a great opportunity to understand different takes on the same medium, and to try out new techniques and equipment in an encouraging and helpful environment.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>For me, it was cool to try out a pick-up coil mic to record electronic noises which are not normally audible, and it was great to be encouraged to explore the immediate vicinity - a busy high street and a London park - looking for interesting sounds to do... <em>something</em>...with. (More on that in another post to follow.)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It was also an opportunity for me to chat with other like-minded people and find out about their motivations and projects. I struggled a bit with that aspect, but only through my own anxieties and weirdnesses. It was, as I say, a really inclusive, lovely crowd.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>They're running more workshops and I'd highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in field recording, regardless of background or prior knowledge.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:separator --> <hr /> <!-- /wp:separator --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>And on Sunday we started the day off seeing <em>Princess Mononoke</em> at the Kiln - which was more batshit than I'd remembered, but no less beautiful.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I then decided to go for a longish run. Longish actually turned into 22km or so, which was perhaps a bit overlong given my lack of preparation. But the weather was lovely, I had good snacks and music (Gerling's <em>In the City</em> came on at a really well-timed moment), and I met some fun animals.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[17937,17938],"columns":3,"linkTo":"attachment","sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200119_151627-8026135-9132644" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="img_20200119_151712-1694413-7712286" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:image {"align":"center","id":17939,"linkDestination":"custom"} --> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="strava1378002894161560323-3720049-6560838" /></a></p> <!-- /wp:image --> 2020 weeknote 2 - back to work 2020-01-20T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><img src="" alt="img_20200108_113143-1-8759231-scaled-1422312" /></p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>Onwards.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> 2020 weeknote 1 - In Bruges 2020-01-14T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:image {"id":17905,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="20200105-img_0538-8531037-2626969" /></p> <p>The Belfry seen from the Groenerei / Quai Verte</p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>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.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>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.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[17904,17903],"sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="20200105-_mg_0548-8177389-2744378" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="20200104-img_0495-6493699-5772316" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>As well as how the place looked, I was also struck by how Bruges <em>sounds</em>. 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.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":17901,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="20200104-img_0445-6291144-8180226" /></p> <p>The Belfry</p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>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.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>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.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>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?</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[17895]} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="20200104-img_0399-8937600-4472612" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Wrong. And, indeed, <em>bong</em>.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":17896,"sizeSlug":"large"} --> <p><img src="" alt="20200104-img_0416-4497197-9625298" /></p> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[17899,17897],"sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="20200104-img_0435-3164470-9978313" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="20200104-img_0417-4756262-6907154" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>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.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[17898,17894,17900],"sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="20200104-img_0429-6039337-1227638" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="20200104-img_0398-7311166-1087731" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="20200104-img_0436-3036525-8778497" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>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.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:gallery {"ids":[17893,17902],"sizeSlug":"medium"} --> <ul> <li><img src="" alt="20200103-img_0332-6191955-2505386" /></li> <li><img src="" alt="20200104-img_0489-5759134-1015847" /></li> </ul> <!-- /wp:gallery --> Moving too fast 2020-01-13T00:00:00Z <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Something <a href="">Phil Gyford wrote in his latest weeknotes</a> struck a chord with me. Talking about the recent documentary about the Jonestown massacre, he said:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:quote {"className":"is-style-default"} --> <blockquote> <p>Unfortunately one mystery went entirely unexamined: why did the documentary makers stretch all the archive footage to the wrong aspect ratio? Maybe we’ll never know. Future generations will not only wonder why the people filmed in silent movies <a href="">could move so quickly</a> but why all the people filmed in the second half of the 20th century were so fat.</p> </blockquote> <!-- /wp:quote --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>A good point. And it reminded me of something I was thinking recently watching whichever is the most recent big budget BBC nature documentary series. It featured (or if it didn't, it made me think of it) footage of the Aurora (whether Australis or Borealis, I know not).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Footage of the aurora is usually sped up - I <em>think</em>. Certainly you often get weird swooshy effects when the shot contains humans or if there is any camera movement. I think it tends to be made up of multiple long exposures. As far as I know, the lights change and move quite slowly, and we are more used to seeing them move quite quickly.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I don't think I always knew this was the case. I've never actually seen the aurora, so I can't say for sure either way. But as far as I know, this is the case.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This is the same sort of phenomena as Phil mentioned above, where old footage is often herky-jerky or just plain too-fast, usually down to the way the camera was hand-cranked.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I've also never seen people from the first part of the 20th century walking around all fast and jerky, so I can't say for sure etc. etc.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Anyway, it occurred to me, watching the BBC wildlife film, that some shots of animals are, inevitably, slowed down. Usually because what you're seeing would happen far too quickly to see in real time. But it's never really explained.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>There must be a gland buried in our brains that tells us, usually due to contextual cues like other stuff in the frame: &quot;That footage is slowed down because it must be.&quot; Seeing foliage or water move similarly slowly nearby would be a hint. But it struck me that it's never actually <em>explained</em>. We just sort of know it is. Unless some of us don't.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> Weeknote? Late November 2019 edition 2019-11-28T00:00:00Z <p>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).</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>It was a riot. Almost literally, at points.</p> <p>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 <em>dramatic</em>. It was just... fascinating.</p> <p>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.</p> <p></p> <p>Anyway, I <em>think</em> 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 <em>this</em> 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.</p> <p>Bring on the crazy stuff from outside my YouTube echo chamber, please...</p> <p>***</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p></p> <p>***</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>(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.)</p> <p>***</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>***</p> <p>I recently restarted my Flickr subscription having lost interest around the time SmugMug took over.</p> <p>I've been using Flickr since August 2005 which seems like <em>a really long time</em> 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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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: <a href=""></a></p> <p>***</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>And it's meant that I've really had <em>fun</em> 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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p><img src="" alt="49118486707_c6d15f341a_k-9113764-9986814" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="49118465662_cbcb970bd7_k-8877703-6152816" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="49117635678_7d516cf086_k-4329271-4496853" /></p> <p>***</p> <p>That's all for now.</p> Tatenotes - A run down to Tate Britain 2019-11-27T00:00:00Z <p>This week's &quot;run to a museum in town&quot; saw M and I run down to Tate Britain, which I'd never visited before. Oddly enough, on a previous run into town I had passed the gallery and made a note to visit again this way. Lo and behold it's almost bang-on 10km door to door, so it was a satisfying achievement.</p> <p>I liked the gallery itself. It's a lovely building, and there was a variety of things I hadn't known to expect.</p> <p><img src="" alt="img_20191124_120738-1-6359721-7273442" /></p> <p>We primarily went to see <a href="">Steve McQueen's Year 3</a> photography display - class photos of all (most?) of the 1,500 or so year 3 classes in London, taken in the previous school year.</p> <p>The visual impact is staggering - those pictures take up a huge amount of wall-space.The above shows a small section of the main gallery where the images are displayed.</p> <p>If you're like me and went to school a long time ago, and very much not in the city, you might be surprised to learn that even in primary school, year groups can be - and often are - split into two and three and sometimes even more forms. So in this display there is often more than photograph per school just for year three alone.</p> <p>Each photograph naturally contains anywhere from 2 to 30 or so school kids plus teachers and assistants. You quickly spot the similarities in the photos - the reds, greens and blues of the majority of school uniforms. The layout of school halls - generally wooden floors with climbing apparatus on the rear wall. The arrangement of the subjects - along wooden benches, children of varying heights, flanked by adults (of varying heights).</p> <p>And once those similarities have bedded themselves in, it's the differences you being to notice. Along with mainstream schools, the project naturally includes special schools which tend to have fewer pupils, or a greater adult-to-child ratio.</p> <p>The rooms used for the photographs also vary: not all schools have vast halls, it seems. And any variation to the generic school hall you conjure up in your head suddenly sticks out like a sore thumb: the one with the &quot;live, laugh, love&quot; variant daubed on the wall in metre-high script was one such surprise.</p> <p>There are, therefore, a <em>shit-ton</em> of photos lining Tate Britain's walls. By the time you've circumnavigated the gallery a few times taking in the whole spectacle, you've seen the faces of 76,000 children. That's a lot.</p> <p>I came away feeling impressed by the scale of the project's achievements - from the photography to the framing and mounting, to what that size of project even looks like all laid out on the wall like that, to the sheer audacity that such a thing could even be pulled off in the first place.</p> <p>But I also came away thinking, &quot;Bloody hell, there <em>might</em> just be too many people.&quot; And I don't think that was the intended outcome at all.</p> <hr /> <p><img src="" alt="img_20191124_130651-1-6164589-1149250" /> Away from the grinning faces of tens of thousands of children - I really did need a break after that - I found myself in the Turner rooms. I was pleased to learn that Tate Britain had so many Turners on show, but ultimately it made me realise that perhaps I'm not such a fan. Or perhaps it was the number of his works in close proximity that I quickly grew tired of.</p> <p>Seeing _that many _Turners in one space is quite a lot to take in.</p> <p>In small doses I love his deft use of light and texture to show a scene in such a unique and unmistakable way. But before too long I was actually quite excited to see a crisply-rendered architectural study by Canaletto or, in the next room, paintings by any number of mid- to late-18th century artists whose names I feverishly jotted down in my phone's notes app for future reference.</p> <p>I was particularly taken by <a href="">Stanhope Alexander Forbes' <em>The Health of the Bride</em> (1889)</a>:</p> <p><img src="" alt="n01544_10-6316506-9297856" /></p> <p>When I showed M this painting she commented how dark it looks. Looking again at it now, she's right.</p> <p>But when stood almost with my nose pressed against it - and it's a large painting - I couldn't help but be taken by the life and movement present in the details of the image.</p> <p>The boy taking a drink. The man's hand lightly carressing the lady's hip at the bottom left. The raised glasses with extended pinkies. And the way the light falls on the sailor's uniform.</p> <p>It was all very <em>real</em>. And somehow it struck me as uncannily photographic.</p> <p>What this made me realise is how much I love paintings which reveal the influence of photography on artists of that era. And I think that just comes down to me enjoying reflections of a scene in as realistic a way as possible. I love city scenes from historic periods. I love interior 'snapshots' of a family or other group surrounded by their worldly goods. I love portraits which capture a subject's skin, and life, and glint in the eye. And I love the ability an artist can have to capture light in a way that almost makes the painting glow.</p> <p>So anyway. That's what I re-realised on this latest visit to a gallery. It also reminded me that I have often found myself scribbling down the names of artists and paintings I enjoy whenever I visit galleries, and I should spend twenty minutes sometime adding those various paintings to my TV's screensaver or something.</p> <p>I remain immensely grateful to be surrounded by institutions of the calibre of Tate Britain, the Science Museum, and the British Museum, and so on. And I also remain grateful that I am able to get up and <em>run</em> to these places - not to mention relieved that no one seems to mind seeing me in my running gear as I peer at paintings and other artifacts.</p> <p>For those of you considering running to it: Tate Britain does a great, stodgy flapjack packed with goodies, which goes down nicely with a flat white.</p> Blurb photobooks 2019-11-22T00:00:00Z <p>I've been so pleased with the quality of <a href="">Blurb</a>'s book printing service over the years.</p> <p>The first edition of <a href="">my book on Charles Wade</a> was done by Blurb, and I've made a few photo books with them now. It helps that I use Lightroom and there's a fantastic built-in book assembly tool, but Blurb's free <a href="">Bookwright</a> software is also excellent for laying out an entire book. There's also templates for InDesign, if you dabble in that.</p> <p>The latest book I've made is of photos taken this past summer cycling across northern France with Megan. We had a blast and would easily do the same kind of trip again.</p> <p>Making such a hefty book (172 pages and hardcover imagewrap in this instance) was especially satisfying as it makes for such a large object. And the plain cover means the book can stand up on its own, acting as a kind of display item in its own right. It's great.</p> <p>I should mention here that the France photobook arrived and had a couple of minor printing flaws. Nothing bad at all, really, but they were there if you looked for them. I sent Blurb a quick note and some example pictures to show what had happened, and within hours they had begun processing a brand new book to be sent as soon as possible. Naturally, when the replacement arrived, it was flawless. And we were allowed to keep the original, which means we're able to keep one basically perfect version for pawing through and showing off, and give the neat copy as a gift.</p> <p>The reprint process was quick and painless and really showed that their customer service is responsive and helpful. I've seen this level of service from Blurb before when I've had queries about publishing books through Blurb, and various other things I've needed to ask in the past. It's reassuring to know the after-sale service is just as good.</p> <p>I'm looking forward to making a magazine or two shortly, thanks to <a href="">Dan Milnor's encouragement</a>. Possibly Rothenburg or Toulouse, or maybe that collection of live music photos I've been meaning to make for years now...</p> <p>Here's a taste of the most recent photobook project:</p> <p><img src="" alt="mg_9902-3878358-scaled-8225463" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="mg_9901-6815818-scaled-6241915" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="mg_9900-6975795-scaled-2838593" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="mg_9899-9011811-scaled-8431081" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="mg_9898-7797907-scaled-3929348" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="mg_9897-5677093-scaled-1383342" /></p> <p><img src="" alt="mg_9894-8112955-scaled-6712393" /></p> A week of notes 2019-11-18T00:00:00Z <p>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.</p> <p><img src="" alt="img_20191114_181107-e1574086827196-9077829-2241630" />Last week I was very happy to see my dear friend <a href="">Jessica </a>launch her new book <a href=""><em>Two Trees Make a Forest</em></a> at Daunt in Hampstead. I managed to buy the book a few days before release date (which is something I used to <em>love</em> 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)</p> <p>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.</p> <p>I found a bunch of cool new websites and blogs to follow via Kicks Condor's excellent <a href="">hrefhunt</a> - 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.</p> <p>Related: inspired by <a href="">this chap</a>'s wide-ranging blog (homepage!), and particularly his posts tagged as <a href="">cycling</a>, 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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>I started playing <em>Downwell</em> 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 <em>Cave Story</em>, as well. Along with <em>Steamworld Dig 2</em>, which I am loving, it's fair to say I've found my niche genre of pixely mining/exploring games.</p> <p>Also in videogames, I stayed up far too late over the weekend working on my second divine beast in <em>Zelda: Breath of the Wild</em>. 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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>I also enjoyed this booklet which reeked of Scarfolk:</p> <p><img src="" alt="img_20191116_142720-2759983-scaled-1357737" /></p> The Meaning of Mubi 2019-11-08T00:00:00Z <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="mubi-5895193-4725449" /></a></p> <p>Online movie streaming service Mubi is currently showing the final Monty Python film <em><a href="">The Meaning of Life</a></em> (1983). It's also showing twenty-nine other great films. Those films (including the one I mentioned) change every day - you get a month to watch each one, and when one leaves, another is added.</p> <p><em>Want to try Mubi for a month? Here's a referral code: <a href=""></a></em></p> <p>The concept is strange, but when faced with the amount of stuff available on Prime or Netflix or similar, it can often be frustrating knowing what to watch. It's even possible to spend longer scrolling through the available titles - a few well-known things but really a <em>lot</em> of shite - than time spent actually sitting down and watching something.</p> <p>Mubi's offering is different - it's quality over quantity. You can usually be assured that whatever is currently showing on Mubi is decent. On average there's often about five films you've heard of, a bunch you haven't, and some oddities like shorts, new films or documentaries that have screened to about forty people at an obscure film festival somewhere.</p> <p>At the moment we've got some classics like <em><a href="">The Birds</a></em> (1963) and <em><a href="">Peeping Tom</a></em> (1960) as well as more recent stuff like <em><a href="">Pan's Labyrinth</a></em> (2006). There's then a bunch of stuff I've not heard of - and that's fine - it's there and it's available. I might find my new favourite film amongst that list of unknown titles.</p> <p>The key difference is these films have been carefully chosen - I'll stop short of saying curated, but that's not a bad way to describe what Mubi does - and they're worth your time. I've had several periods of time where I'll just watch a film from Mubi every day or two regardless of what I know about it, and it's always time well spent. Naturally, not every film will be to your taste, but it'll be at least worth a shot.</p> <p>_You can give Mubi a try using my referral code if you like: _<a href=""><em></em></a></p> <p>Mubi haven't asked me to tell you all this, but they did recently send me some swag to say thanks for encouraging new users to check out their service. And I am only too happy to try and encourage a few more of you to do so if you haven't already.</p> <p>Semi-related: Are you on Letterboxd? Follow me on Letterboxd. <a href=""></a></p> Ponyo and Kiki's Delivery Service at the Kiln 2019-10-26T00:00:00Z <p>We're really lucky to have a lot of great cinemas within walking distance of where we live.</p> <p>There's the Vue, which is a standard multiplex in a shopping centre, for which it's easy to get decent-priced discount tickets. It also has a not-IMAX-but-huge screen.</p> <p>Then there's the Odeon, which houses not only a generously-sized actually-IMAX IMAX screen, but the smaller screens are 'Luxe' which means comfy reclining seats and appropriate seats-to-screen-size ratio.</p> <p>And then there's the Kiln, which used to be the Tricycle. It's (mainly?) a theatre, but also has a very reasonably sized screen with a decent number of seats. It's a lovely cinema, and reminds me of the excellent Cornerhouse in Manchester (RIP) in some ways. Tickets at the Kiln are very reasonable, and local residents even get a discount on top of that.</p> <p><img src="" alt="img_20191020_095852-8982054-scaled-5189879" /></p> <p>They frequently show the latest films, as well as National Theatre Live broadcasts, and they also show older films from time to time. I get the impression the programming team get to have a bit of fun with these selections. Over the past few weekends, they've shown a couple of Studio Ghibli films. First <em>Ponyo</em>, then <em>Kiki's Delivery Service</em>. We jumped at the chance to see some Ghibli films on the big screen.</p> <p>I own a handful of Studio Ghibli films on blu-ray and they look fantastic. But apart from <em>The Secret World of Arrietty</em> which I was able to see when it came out, I haven't seen any others in cinemas.</p> <p>_<img src="" alt="71aiq15deml-sl1500-6515797-4278230" />Ponyo_ was a treat as, although I'd seen it before years ago, it had faded from my memory. It looked superb on the big screen - colours popping all over the place, and the weather and storm effects felt very atmospheric.</p> <p>Oddly enough, it was shown on the weekend that a devastating typhoon hit Japan, and it was a little eerie to see the more 'realistic' elements of the film's response to storms and typhoons - panicked drives along dark roads to check on a remote community, the power going out, and having to prepare meals on gas stoves and using backup generators and plug-in lights.</p> <p>One unexpected highlight was the cinema's audience. When I saw that these films were being shown, I had to check they weren't as part of the regular parent and child screenings they often put on. Fortunately they were just normal screenings, so unaccompanied adults were welcome. It turned out that we were one of two or three other couples in their 20s and 30s, along with a six-year-old's birthday party of about ten kids and various adults, and a small group of adults with special needs.</p> <p>As a beard-scratching nerd, most of my experiences of watching Studio Ghibli films are alone, studious, with Japanese dubbing and English subtitles. These screenings were with the American English dubbing, and an audience of adults and children. And let me tell you - the reactions of the kids to some of the dramatic and beautiful scenery of Ponyo was so exciting! Gasps and cheers and chuckles and a general sense of awe, the like of which I had certainly internalised when watching these films before, but to hear it expressed out loud in such a natural way was a wonderful new experience.</p> <p><em><img src="" alt="kikis-delivery-service-poster-web-2-7147920-1906219" />Kiki's Delivery Service</em> was similar, although no birthday party this time - just the mix of grown-ups and a few kids-and-parents. But still a nice amount of gasps as Kiki took flight, or not-so-quiet enquiries of &quot;but why...?&quot; to various plot devices - and a chuckle or two at the odd line that seemed a touch out of place when translocated from the Japanese-written, fantasy-based world.</p> <p>I had never seen <em>Kiki's Delivery Service</em> and had no idea about its setting, the amalgamation of a sort of Swedish, northern and wester European town. I couldn't help but immediately think of Rothenburg ob der Tauber following my trip there earlier this year. But after thinking it must have been one place, I later learned it was a pastiche of many.</p> <p>Anyway, suffice it to say it looked fantastic all blown up on the screen, and I really enjoyed it. I even stopped scratching my beard long enough to enjoy the American English dubbing - including the late, great Phil Hartman's cat Jiji - because although it's a Japanese production, the setting is so generally and broadly European as to not need the language and dialogue to match any one place.</p> <p>This weekend, the Kiln is showing <em>Coco</em>, which I guess is an even more Hallowe'en-themed film than <em>Kiki</em> (and is fantastic, of course). We have _Coco _on blu-ray as well, come to think of it. Anyway, I hope they show some more Ghibli films soon.</p> Alas, I Cannot Remember (but can) 2019-10-24T00:00:00Z <p>On 12 February 2008, I was listening to Laura Marling's debut album <em><a href=",_I_Cannot_Swim">Alas, I Cannot Swim</a></em>. That was actually about the time that album came out, so I must've been listening for the first time. I was also listening, apparently, at just past midnight.</p> <p><img src="" alt="alas_i_cannot_swim_by_laura_marling-5558162-5141961" /></p> <p>Obviously I can't remember all this, but my <a href=""></a> can, because I must have scrobbled these plays.</p> <p><img src="" alt="lm-5502791-2395080" /></p> <p>What I can also remember (or rather, look up), is that I was in New Zealand at the time. Somewhere between Auckland and Taupo. Wi