Weeknote? Late November 2019 edition

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

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

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

It was a riot. Almost literally, at points.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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That’s all for now.

 

A week of notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also enjoyed this booklet which reeked of Scarfolk:

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A week away

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Last week, M and I spent a week in Hampshire, camping near the New Forest.

We weren’t familiar with the area, so it was a great opportunity to explore, unfurl the OS map, and do a tour or two. We were blessed with mostly excellent weather which meant for spending hours outdoors, cooking and winding down, and doing some fun outdoor things like learning to paddle board and exploring castles. Maybe I’ll write more about some specific activities soon, but for now I felt like scribbling a brief write-up.

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The weather wasn’t totally perfect – one night we were woken by what sounded like a heavy shower, but fortunately our tent held up pretty well. The worst weather episode was saved up for the morning of our packing up, because of course.

In fact, the severity of the wind and rain was such that our tent – and others around us – actually buckled a little. Pegs which had been driven into the hard, drought-addled land suddenly worked loose in the deluge. And then the wind lashed the weakened structures and it all felt a little bit apocalyptic for a few moments.

Thankfully the storm blew over within an hour or so, and the wind lingered after the rain had ended so that our tent was very much blown dry before we needed to pack it away.

It struck me at the time that it would be a great opportunity for a tent manufacturer to see exactly how different kinds of tents and gazebos react to such weather. I would guess that they conduct tests in wind tunnels or similar, but to actually see the failure points – particularly on tents erected by actual campers, literally in-the-field – would surely be very helpful.

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Mostly what was nice about the week was just being outside for so much of every day. It tunes your senses to the natural world in a way that’s harder to do as you go about your day-to-day life in the city. I remember noticing the wind had changed one morning; lo and behold, it heralded a change in the weather.

I also have fond memories of the swifts darting about the site in the evenings – some whirling around in the trees, and others running low-flying raids mere centimetres above the grass for tens of metres at a time.


Our relatively remote location down near the south coast was also great for a bit of playing with radios.

In London I put up with the inevitable fog of radio interference that comes with densely packed residential areas. I’m lucky to be able to pick up a decent amount of shortwave stations there, but when visiting as rural as location as we were down near Milford-on-Sea, it still blows me away to hear the difference in the number and clarity of signals I can receive.

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A radio nerd, radio nerding

I spent a few evenings DXing on shortwave, seeing what I could find. Mostly the usual, but what was most enjoyable was just how clear so many stations were. The bigger stations boomed in with a strength and clarity approaching that of a nearby FM station. Meanwhile, other weaker stations – including the Dutch pirates – came in with enjoyable levels of signal. At home I can sometimes pick them up amongst the murk and the mire of interference. But it was nice to be able to actually listen to these stations for a short while.

The biggest ‘problem’ I was blessed with was the sheer number of stations I could pick up – automatic band scans regularly logged more than a hundred signals, and it was a constant compromise between checking out one station before wanting to carry on to the next.

I also had a few scans on FM – not an awful lot to be found where we were a mile or two inland, but down on the coast I was overrun by clear, loud French stations, which is a neat novelty. I was picking up more French stations than English – probably 30 or so foreign broadcasts creeping across the Channel versus the 15 or so local and national ones I had expected.

And, as I find myself doing more and more, I tried some DAB DXing on a small portable receiver, with mixed results. I didn’t log any foreign multiplexes, which was a little surprising given the number of strong French FM signals, but I did get a good range of British ones coming from all along the south coast, including the quite experimental selection on the Portsmouth trial operated by Solent Wireless. However, quite often I would find that although the multiplex was logged, actually tuning to a station would fail, so the signal must have been pretty weak.


I’m still working through the photos I took on my ‘proper’ camera, so I’ll be adding some to Flickr over the coming weeks.

Flickr’s a funny old place. Literally old, in web-years. And I go through phases of thinking it’s irrelevant in today’s web, to spending whole hours looking at photographs taken by others, and finding myself enthralled, enrapt, and inspired to take more and better photographs of my own.

It’s also recently been bought ‘back’ from Yahoo! by SmugMug, which either sounds like it’s a step in the right direction for a new future, or further scratches the nostalgic itch that Flickr belongs to ‘the old web’ and its attendant community.

But then I realise that, like a lot of these things, it’s just whatever you want to make of it, and if I want Flickr to be useful to me – and at the same time that makes me want to be a better photographer? – then so be it.

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulcapewell

Flashbacks: Croatia summer 2015

I cannot believe it will have been two years since M and I visited Croatia at the end of July.

I’ve been enjoying Luke Bather’s recent Instagram posts of some (film) shots he took on a recent trip to Croatia – he captures elements of the light and the building materials in a way that makes it feel like just yesterday that we visited. But it’s basically two years ago now, and that makes me long to visit again.

Some brief highlights below, and the whole album is on Flickr.