acb: (Default)
I'm currently in beautiful brutalist Birmingham at EuroPython. So far, I have seen a talk on RjDj, a platform for making generative/algorithmic music (which is based on Pure Data), which looked very interesting. And just now, I saw Cory Doctorow's keynote, where he gave a comprehensive overview of metaclass design patterns in Django. Actually, I lie; he talked about how bad copyright laws threaten free software and the right to innovate, with Python being essentially a McGuffin. Nonetheless, it was a good talk (though I've heard most of it before at Copyfighters' Hyde Park meetups and on Boing Boing).
acb: (mornington crescent tube)
I've recently gotten into the habit of going for evening walks, typically after eating dinner. Which is easy enough to do in the midsummer, when the sun sets shortly before 10, and one often has a glorious sunset, or at least the wistful poignancy of the day's last rays, beckoning one out of one's room and into the streets. Which, I guess, is one of the advantages of living far from the equator (in the summer, anyway).

Today was a particularly splendid sunset; see below for evidence:
Photos )
acb: (suitcase)
Whilst travelling through Australia in February, I found, as one does, that the total weight of my baggage kept increasing. As such, I stepped into the post offices in a number of places (Melbourne, Glebe, Narooma (NSW) and Bulimba (Brisbane)), packaged up my surplus belongings and mailed them back to the UK.

Today, the last of those packages arrived; it was the one I sent from Narooma, almost four months ago. The package I sent a few days later from Bulimba (also by sea mail) arrived some two months earlier.

No idea why. Did they end up on different ships? Was one of the ships held hostage by pirates on its way to the Suez Canal? Or did they, on a whim, send it the other way around the world?
acb: (the doubtful guest)
Just wondering whether anyone's reading this.

Poll #428 Hello? Is this thing on?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 2


Are you reading this?

View Answers

Yes
2 (100.0%)

acb: (Default)
This just arrived in the mail:

HELLO BUYER?

WE ARE AMERICAN CLUB BASED IN PHILPPINES,WE ARE EXPOTER OF COCAINE I.E WE SELL COCAINE TO ANY OF OUR INTERESTED CUSTOMERS AROUND THE GLOBE.IF YOU ARE INTRESETED TO ORDER THE PRODUCT PLEASE KINDLY CONTACT OUR SHIPPING AGENT FOR YOUR DELIVERY.WE WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU WANT THE PRODUCT TO BE DELIEVER TO YOU,THOUGH WE HAVE OUR OWN METHODS OF DELIVERY.AFTER YOUR ORDER THIS HOW WE GET THE PRODUCT ACROSS TO YOU BY OUR COURIER; NOTE IF YOU WANT THE PRODUCT TO BE DELIEVER TO YOU AT HOME WE DO ALSO IF YOU WANT THE PRODUCT TO BE DELIEVER TO YOU AT THE AIRPORT WE DO.THOSE ARE THE TWO METHODS BUT IF YOU HAVE ANY OTHER SUGESTION THAT YOU WANT THE PRODUCT TO BE DELIEVER TO YOU,YOU ARE FREE TO TELL US.HERE IS THE AMOUNT FOR THE PRODUCT,THE COCAINE IS JUST 5KG IN A SMALL BAG PLEASE NOTE THERE IS NO RETAIL. THE AMOUNT FOR THE PRODUCT IS;
$5000.00[USD] YOU WILL HAVE TO DEPOSIT $1500.00[USD] THEN CONTACT OUR SHIPPING AGENT,FOR YOUR IMMEDIATE SHIPPING/ DELIEVERY; MS.______ ____[__________@_____.com]

BEST REGARDS

MR. DON LUCAS[MD].
acb: (Apple Loops)
Over the past few months, I have been working (in my copious spare time) on a remix of a track from the last Momus album. I have hinted at it here and elsewhere, though not said much. I finished it last week and sent it to [livejournal.com profile] imomus, who liked what I did with it. (In his words, it "captures the original and carries it deep into dub reggae's 'jungle of wires'".) So, anyway, here it is:




I may have some other remixes for other people out soon.
acb: (Default)
An unusual thing happened yesterday.

In the morning post, there were two bulging green envelopes. They looked like greeting card envelopes, only containing something that obviously wasn't greeting cards, and bore Irish postage stamps. They were addressed to a house in a nearby street with the same number as my house; apparently the post office mistakenly dropped them in my mailbox.

In the evening, as I was setting out to buy some groceries, I took the envelopes and went to the street where they were addressed to. As I approached the house, I noticed a middle-aged woman walking back to the door. "Excuse me," I said, "is this number --?" "Yes."

I handed her the envelopes, saying that they ended up in my mailbox. "How did you get these?" she asked. "I live at number -- ----- Street. The postman must have accidentally dropped them in my mailbox."

"Oh, thank God for that. I've been waiting for them all day. They contain fresh shamrock for St. Patrick's Day. Thank you for bringing them to me."
acb: (coffee)
Fact: when given coffee, Britons (typically) do things to it which would almost be punishable by law in Australia or Italy. The result is nearly always undrinkably awful coffee, though the locals don't seem to notice.

Some abuses of coffee I've noticed include:

  • Leaving bags of the stuff unsealed. The supermarkets now sell ostensibly passable ground coffee, conveniently packed in bags with valves to keep it from oxidising. Not that this means much to the locals who rip the bag open, take a shot's worth, and leave the rest to oxidise. The result: the rest of the bag produces dull, flavourless coffee.

  • Bizarre coffee-making practices. I have, on more than one occasion, witnessed someone put a capsule into a Nespresso machine, run half a pint of water through it, pour some milk in and throw it in the microwave. Eventually, perhaps this practice will catch on in Italy, where they'll call it the "Angliano"*.

  • Generally running too much water through it until you get bitter watery mud like out of an urn at a suburban McDonalds in the 1980s. A certain hipster bar in Shoreditch is notorious for this; why do they even bother having an espresso machine?

  • And then there's actually drinking instant coffee, or considering Nespresso to be a proper espresso.



When, I wonder, will the inhabitants of this green and pleasant isle learn the proper handling of coffee?

* "Angliano" = an Italian slang word meaning crazy (literally "gone English").
acb: (Is tubes)
[Poll #1358284]

Old

Jan. 7th, 2009 10:38 am
acb: (morrissey)
I'm old

As of today, I am no longer in the prime advertising demographic. In theory, nobody's ever going to try to sell me an iPod or a backpacking trip to Thailand again; from now on, it's only foot lotions, lawn-care products and insurance.
acb: (jp8000)
This Saturday was the 20th, and indeed the last 20th of the year, so I put together a track for The 20th Project. I only posted it this evening, not having come up with a name until now;

It started off with me tinkering with my new NanoKey and the new Kore sound pack Native Instruments are giving away for free (about half of the sounds are from there), and was influenced somewhat by thinking of the end and beginning of another year and the cyclical, regenerative nature of all things. Listening to it, I hear a bit of a mid-late 1980s 4AD influence there (think This Mortal Coil or somesuch), along with perhaps a bit of OMD and possibly some early AIH (!).

Also, two days earlier, I came up with this (as yet unfinished, and untitled) track, in a more chill-out/loungepop/symphonic trip-hop sort of vein:



I'm also working for a remix for another artist, which is maybe 40-50% done, though more on that later.
acb: (Train)
This weekend, I went up to [livejournal.com profile] indietracks' <i>A Christmas Twee</i> event this weekend, catching a train up to Nottingham yesterday afternoon, checking into a hotel there, and then catching the familiar Rainbow 1 to Ripley. (Ah yes, the Rainbow 1. I think that at some point in the next few decades, the Victoria & Albert Museum or some similar institution will have a retrospective on the 1990s rave-techno futurist aesthetic; alongside, say, the complete works of The Designers' Republic and a PlayStation playing WipeOut, they'll have some photos of Trent Barton buses.) Alas, as the bus was passing through Heanor, I realised that I had left the mix CD I had painstakingly assembled for the secret-Santa box in my bag in my hotel room. FAIL.

Other than that, it was good; attendance was a bit on the low side (a lot of people instead went to an all-dayer in Nottingham a few weeks ago), and I only knew something like eight people there (about half of whom were involved in organising aspects of the night). The bands were OK, though I wasn't blown away. The headliner was Phil Wilson of 1980s C86esque indiepop band the June Brides; they weren't one of the bands I've gotten into, so I couldn't say how good the show was; other than the fact that he did a skronky/jangly C86 cover of Kraftwerk's <i>Neon Lights</i>, which worked rather well. The other bands, Horowitz and Mascot Fight, were both OK though neither blew me away. (Mascot Fight's frontman going on dressed as a snowman was a nice touch, though.)

The actual event was in a marquee attached to the front of the station building on the Midlands Steam Railway, which appeared to be used for some sort of Christmas events during the day. There were animatronic reindeer and snowmen and similar winter wonderland denizens mechanically boogieing in the background behind the stage, which added a certain something to the festivities. There was also a whopping great steam train parked outside at the platform, its wood-panelled carriages shrouded in steam, which seemed to come up from beneath them. (I'm guessing that the actual steam is piped through the train to power/heat the carriages, rather than being converted to electricity in the locomotive.) Some carriages' electrics seemed to be in better shape than others; while some were very dimly lit, others were lit up like, well, Christmas trees. Being in the interior of a wood-panelled 1950s rail carriage, its lights flickering, and thick white steam shrouding the vestibule, was quite atmospheric, like something out of a David Lynch movie or something. Anyway, the guard's coach on the train had been converted into a disco, with DJs spinning records; in between sets, the train would be driven a mile or so up the line, then the locomotive would move to the other side and it'd go back, in time for the next band, while people sat around and talked in the carriages, drank ale from the bar in the buffet car, or else danced at the disco.

Staying in a hotel in Nottingham, I took advantage of this and took my laptop with me, managing to get a few things done on a remix I'm working on on the train there and back. (East Midland Trains generously provide power sockets in economy class, which is not bad for the £6-14 each way a seat costs if you book early enough.) I find these days that I'm most productive on music either in cafes or on train journeys (those of 1+ hours). Which means I should probably make more excuses to travel around the UK's railway network.
acb: (power corruption lies)
[Poll #1290453]
acb: (photography)
My new compact camera, a Fujifilm Finepix F45fd, arrived on Friday. I've spent a little time playing around with it.

My first impressions: it's small (much more so than the Canon compacts I've had) and feels satisfyingly hefty (the body is mostly metal, rather than the plastic used in the A570). The lack of proper manual control (there's no shutter/aperture priority and, perhaps less importantly, no manual focus) could take some time to get used to. I've yet to test it in a gig situation, though the dynamic range still seems a bit low compared to my old G2. (How it compares to Canon's higher-pixel-density non-Super CCDs remains to be determined.)

The camera also has about 25Mb of internal memory, which it can use to store photos in the absence of a SD/xD card. This is only accessible using PTP. (There is a Linux FUSE filesystem for PTP named gphotofs, though for some reason this wasn't working on my (Debian) server (though it did work on Ubuntu)). The camera has a function to copy photos between the internal memory and memory card, and photos get renumbered to fit. This appears to be acceptable.
acb: (buttons)
One thing you can do more easily in Britain than in Australia is hop on a train to see a band in another town later that evening; partly because Britain has trains which run at more or less reasonable frequencies and partly because there are other cities with interesting music scenes within two hours' travelling time. Anyway, this is what I did last night, going up to Derby to see The Deirdres' possibly last ever gig. (Well, last before three of their members go abroad for some months.)

Having heard about it at somewhat late notice, all the cheap tickets for the direct train were long gone, and so I booked a ticket on a cheaper route, which involved catching a train going towards Carlisle, getting off at Tamworth (a small town in the Midlands where two railway lines cross each other at a split-level railway station), and catching the next train to Derby. I did this, arriving at about 20:30, and catching a cab to the B&B I was booked into. (The B&Bm, incidentally, was alright; I booked a small attic room for £20, and this was good enough. Though the wireless internet they advertised seemed to be switched off at night, and the "full English breakfast" included in the cost took so long that I ended up leaving without it to catch my train.)

Anyway, the Deirdres gig was great. It was all themed around things that hibernate, and at the door, one had to name something which hibernates, which would then be drawn on one's wrist in lieu of a stamp. The band members were all in appropriately themed animal costumes; there was a caterpillar/butterfly, a hedgehog, a bear, and a few others. (One member, Keir, was out of costume; his costume was meant to be a computer, but apparently broke; he said it was because it was a Windows PC and not a Mac.) Their performance was much like the others I have seen; on the surface, it looked ramshackle and chaotic, but the musicianship holding it together was impressively tight, and, of course, there was the usual exuberantly ecstatic vibe to it, not too unlike I'm From Barcelona (only without the balloons or confetti).

They also screened the debut of the video of Milk Is Politics, between the second and third support bands. The video's theme has little to do with the song title or its lyrics, instead being a somewhat twee, slightly silly adventure concerning eggs. It's pretty much what you'd expect a Deirdres video to look like, and is rather ace.

Btw, Gemma and Sophie of the Deirdres are going to be in Melbourne for two months (from January to the start of March); hopefully they'll get to do some gigs then. (I could totally see them on a bill with, say, Aleks & The Ramps or The Motifs.)
acb: (computer)
Something I wrote recently; only of interest to Python programmers )

Four years

Aug. 25th, 2008 10:44 pm
acb: (the doubtful guest)
As of 5:25am tomorrow morning, I will have been in the UK for four years (not counting travel outside of its borders).

Dorkbot

Jul. 11th, 2008 11:07 am
acb: (it's fun to compute)
Last night, I went to Dorkbot, the arty/geeky show & tell, at the Limehouse Town Hall, meeting up there with [livejournal.com profile] masterkill.

The talks were varyingly interesting; the first one was by installation artist Joel Gethin Lewis, who described various interactive installations, using lights, music generators, motion-tracking cameras and floor-mounted displays, which he had built for clients, and showing video of two (one at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2006, involving columns of light and vaguely ambient music which responded to the presence of people, and one in Tokyo, involving computer-rendered shapes on a floor-mounted display responding to kids running around them), which was fairly nifty. The next one was by an elderly computer artist named Harold Cohen, who basically described his life's work. He had started writing LISP programs to draw, and training them to draw human forms, basically by adding lots of rules. Then he moved on to vaguely abstract plantlike forms. Curiously, his later images, riots of only vaguely representational colour, seemed less compelling than the imaginary humans in earlier ones. The final long talk was by a woman named Sarah Angliss, who had built installations with servo-controlled puppets and a carillon consisting of tuned, wirelessly-triggered bells. She had brought some of the bells to demonstrate, but hadn't brought the right program or somesuch, and as such couldn't operate them. Oh, and organiser and musical livecoder Alex's OpenDork presentation was pretty cool; he made a system of mapping different syllables to ways of hitting a (simulated) drum, and demonstrated a script where he typed lengths of syllables like "pakareto _ _ _ ku", which would be transformed into a continuously looping drum tattoo.

When the Opendork presentations at the end came, I gave a brief one about how I went about cracking the proprietary file format of a drum machine plugin. Anyway, I've put the slides up here.
acb: (Default)
On Saturday evening, I went to Josie Long's Splendid Evening, a night of comedy at the Southbank Centre. It was quite entertaining. Long I can take or leave; for all her fuzzy-jumpered indiekid enthusiasm (one gets the impressions that she spends her time between gigs knitting in libraries with Camera Obscura and MJ Hibbett on her iPod), she tends to labour jokes for a bit too long before letting them go.

The other comedians were mostly quite good; Arnab Chanda, the American-accented son of British expatriates, was quite entertaining (at one point, he recounted taking part in a school play of "The Sound Of Music" at the international school in Saudi Arabia, with the Von Trapp children being played by a multiethnic, international cast: "'Why do the Nazis want to kill us?' Have you looked in the mirror?") Luke Roberts spent most of his set going through the first two rows of the crowd, insulting people from a set of index cards (memorable insults included "People like you the way students like the Wombles. (pause) Ironically.", "If you were a book, the reviews on your back would be suspiciously short and full of ellipses", and "You're slightly nicer than Jeremy Clarkson."). The highlight was probably Irish comic David O'Doherty, whose routine deftly weaved through a wealth of material, all of it funny. (At one point, he talked about the things people do which, a few decades later, are revealed to be killers, and speculated what this generation's hidden killer could be; one candidate was Sudoku.)
acb: (Default)
This evening, I trekked out to deepest darkest Richmond to see Momus' performance at the Richmond Lending Library. (This was the second ever performance in a public library I had seen; the previous one was also by Momus, only somewhere around Balham or Tooting, in the southernmost reaches of the Northern Line.)

img_8989
This performance, which I only found out about yesterday, was ostensibly about the restless spirits trapped inside books. Momus (attired all in black, including a hood) introduced himself as "Hieronymus Proctor", a Scottish spiritualist, and then invited attendees (of whom there were perhaps 10) to choose books at random and read a sentence from them, which he then would spin into a tangent, philosophical reflection or evidence of eldritch and unholy things beyond the veil between worlds. Oh, and he also performed a few songs, including Beowulf, and a new piece he's working on with one of the chaps from Gay Against You. The new piece sounded really good, btw; a bit like Talkshow Boy or something. I look forward to hearing the album.

Momus will be back in London in late June, when he will be wandering the south bank of the Thames and telling tourists that they're in Tokyo or something like that. Which should be worth going along to.

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