Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Mon, 15 May 2006

Strawjam 20060514

I really enjoyed the last jam for Malcolm's birthday. This one was preceded by a walk though the local bluebell wood. Then it was down to business. A different combination of instruments this time. Malcolm had brought his bowls again and also a selection of flowerpots, kitchen bowls and other noisemakers. Tony had some drums and an accordian. Another Ian was there with a very nice old Gibson SG and his Marshall, but had forgotten his cables so ended up sharing my Peavey. The rest were on assorted percussion. There was some straight african drumming, but the rest was a series of extended jams. My favourite had accordian, flowerpot and minimal guitar in D. I made a couple of recordings on our iRiver. These will not be as good as Malcolm's DAT, but give a flavour of the vibe. I haven't done any editing and there is some talking over the start plus ambient noise of birds and small children.

When I'm improvising on the guitar I generally stick to simple chords and scales. There is rarely time to work out anything complex and I lack the musical knowledge to do it on the fly.

There are a few pictures on my Multiply. Much as I'd like to run my own gallery and audio archive they offer a simple service with enough capacity for my needs.

[14:37] | [Music] | Comments | G

Thu, 11 May 2006

Herts LUG 20060510

The LUG has been suffering from poor attendance of late and this was putting our residency at the community centre at risk as the normal subs would not cover the cost. Nicolas suggested that if enough people were prepared to club together and put in 15 each we could get booked for the next 12 meetings. I think there were about 10 of us there, plus a couple were sending cheques, so we are secure for now. Although the group used to meet in a pub before I joined, it's much better to have a place where you can set up computers with internet access.

I introduced a new member to the group. I found Rob as his site, like mine, has GeoURL data. The LUG site also gained this feature recently. If you use Firefox, then you should look at GeoURL Extension and/or Greasemap to make use of GeoURL.

Malcolm volunteered to give an introduction to the GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). He had a bit of help from others, but this was very educational for me as I had only used it in a very limited way for resizing and cropping images. I shall be experimenting further in future.

I managed to gain at least one more signature on my GPG key. I hope to gain more at future meetings. I'm way behind people I know of with hundreds of signatures, but it all helps to build the Web of Trust.

This post includes some extra semantic detail in the form of XFN tags on some links. These indicate how well I know the people. My friends list on my site already has these, and the information is repeated in my FOAF file. One of these days I will look at automating the tagging. The XFN page has a Javascript applet to display all the relationships on a web page.

[13:35] | [Computer] | Comments | G

Mon, 08 May 2006

Half a Life

As I reach a certain significant age I get to thinking about how short-lived most of our possesions are. I do have a few items that have been with me for around half my life time.

There's probably a few other items that have hung around that long, but may just be stored away somewhere. It seems that most electrical items are doing well to last half as long as the above if that. As for computers, three years and some will consider them redundant. Mine are slightly older than that.

Updated 8/5/06 to add watch

[09:16] | [News] | Comments | G

Wed, 03 May 2006


I know lots of other people have mentioned this, including the BBC, but I still think there is a certain coolness about the fact that in just over three hours it will be 01:02:03 on 04/05/06. I know it's just numbers, but I like patterns. I'm not geeky enough to plan on staying up to witness this moment.

And of course tomorrow is also Star Wars Day. May the 4th be with you.

Update on the telescope is that we all had a look at the moon this evening. It's only a cresent at the moment, and it wasn't even fully dark, but we still had a great close-up view of the craters. We even used the extra eyepiece to get a closer view, but focusing got a bit tricky. I'm sure I haven't even got the telescope properly mounted on the tripod as the fine adjusters are tricky to use. Still, we are making progress.

[21:55] | [News] | Comments | G

Mon, 01 May 2006

Eye to the Telescope

Not the KT Tunstall album, a fine work. We recently acquired a Newtonian reflector type telescope. This should allow us a close-up view of the moon, stars and planets. We just need to learn how to use it properly. It came without instructions, so I am scouring the web for useful information.

How much we can observe from home may be limited by all the artificial light around us. It's a struggle to even see the Milky Way. I'm waiting for the moon to be properly visible so we can check out the craters.

[14:21] | [News] | Comments | G

Thu, 20 Apr 2006

Fixed the Book List

Further to my previous comment I managed to get the book list working properly with some help from the author, Will Guaraldi. The main problem was that the documentation on the wiki was out of line with the latest code. He's fixed that now. I've added a new item to my sidebar to show my latest books and links to the full list.

[08:24] | [Site News] | Comments | G

Money to Burn

I saw my first 1 Litre of diesel this week. 100.9p at the Hendon Way BP. I suspect they have been trying to delay going to triple digit pence, but had to give in. I filled up for a penny less elsewhere. I could have got cheaper if I could have waited, but I was getting very low on fuel. I don't generally drive further for cheaper fuel, but usually hang on if I know it's cheaper further along my route.

While I'm on the subject of prices, why do we have to have .9 or .99 prices everywhere? Are people really fooled into thinking it's so much cheaper? For a TV to cost 499.99 rather than 500 is silly, but for a magazine to cost 3.99 is a pain as you just end up with loads of pennies if you pay cash. If it's less than 1% of the price I just don't care about the odd penny. With fuel you are dealing with tenths of a penny. I expect the argument will be that nobody wants to be first to make the change.

The fact that everything is priced at these artificial numbers shows how contrived pricing is. Prices are rounded up to whatever it is though the market will bear. Some internet retailers are going against this and pricing at the minimum they can sustain as they know people are using comparison sites to find the lowest possible price. I buy most major items on-line these days in order to save a few quid and to avoid having to trail around all the shops.

[08:20] | [Motoring] | Comments | G

Tue, 18 Apr 2006

Book list

I've looked at a few options for recording what books I've read. I have registeed with some on-line services such as LibraryThing and Reader2. There is also BookCrossing that can be used for similar purposes.

I've been writing reviews on this site for a while, but I wanted something I could control that would apply a little more structure, whilst making it easier to provide Amazon links that will benefit Gothic Mede Lower School if anyone uses them to buy a book.

I am currently experimenting with a Pyblosxom plugin called Booklist. This allows you to compile a list of books in a text file and will generate a nice page like this via a template file. I'm using his example template for now and have not quite worked out how to get the Amazon link to work, but I will investigate further. I've already updated the Python source code to get the book covers from the European site rather than the US one.

[13:29] | [Site News] | Comments | G

I can see for miles

For most of my life I've had to wear glasses to compensate for my extreme myopia. This is not a problem in my day to day life. I've worn contact lenses in the past for reasons of looking better in my younger days and later for safety when practicing Aikido, but have got out of that habit lately. The time when glasses are really a pain is when I am swimming. I can wear old glasses to allow me to see what is going on, but these do no good underwater and can get dislodged.

Before our holiday I invested in some Aquasee goggles (mine came from the local Boots) that come in various strengths, mine being the maximum in the range. They have transformed my swimming. I can now do proper breaststroke without losing my glasses and have been attempting crawl with a few issues on the breathing. They also allow me to see underwater and keep up with my daughter who likes to spend more time under the water than on top. The goggles made my holiday more enjoyable by allowing me to keep an eye on the kids whilst swimming and still have some fun.

[13:10] | [Gadgets] | Comments | G

Mon, 17 Apr 2006

Spanish Flying

Just spent a week with the whole family in sunny Spain. Flew out on Easyjet, but they are not so cheap if you have to travel during the easter school holiday. Stayed at a Marriott resort courtesey of my parents. Nice enough place for chilling out and taking a swim. We spent some time in the outdoor pool and on the beach.

I organised a couple of golf lessons for Tanya at La Quinta. She enjoyed it and is showing a disturbing tendency to want to take it further. What have I done?

We sampled some of the local culture when we dined in Marbella old town where we saw their Semana Santa procession. As they do this all through easter week every year you would think that they would be better practiced at getting a large sculpture though the narrow streets. This is not helped by the mess of telephone cables strung randomly between buildings. Still, it was impressive, especially when the drum bands made the whole place shake.

We took a drive up to Ronda. This is reached from the coast via 40km of the twistiest road I have ever driven, peaking at over 1000m. The town itself is an impressive feat of architecture with houses clinging to the sides of the ravine. We took a look around gardens of the Moorish King's House. This includes a set of steps that take you all the way down to the river through the cliff. My legs are still recovering from that.

We spent our final day in Malaga doing touristy things like checking out the castle and cathedral then taking a ride in a horse-drawn carriage.

We rented a Ford Fiesta from Reasonable rates, but be prepared for a long queue at the airport as everyone likes a good deal.

Those of my friends and family with appropriate permissions can see some pictures on Multiply.

Yesterday I was back at Secret Bass for some drum therapy. Only five of us there, but we still managed to make a good racket.

[17:43] | [Travel] | Comments | G

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