Wednesday, 31 March 2010

It's 2.13am

I seem to be having nerve troubles in my left arm, and can't find a position in bed where it doesn't ache. That and I have a bunch of stuff whirling round in my head that won't go away. How many times does one have to keep bringing issues and hurts back to the cross before they go away (the answer seems to be a larger number than I've tried).

So here I sit (and I'm tempted to complete the limerick "broken hearted....." but good taste prevents me). I've got 'The Graduate' on DVD upstairs, and it's a classic film & a bit of (nasty) culture, so I might try to finish it. I did start, but it was painfully, embarrassingly uncomfortable to watch in the same way that Laurel and Hardy is. However I'm not sure I can bear that much awkwardness. The photography however is really quite special, and a lot of thought was obviously put in, rather than just filming it as a straight drama cum sit-com.

Yep, it's seriously embarrassing further in too, but I'd not remembered the ending properly - at least it's happy.

So here I sit. Looks like today will be a wash out.

Oh, it seems I DO need a new bass amp. The 'freebie' I was kindly donated popped tonight, and is no longer operational. Ho hum. Anybody want to buy a Heritage H150CM 'Les Paul'?

Oh, one last thing.

Anyone know where the 'Thunderbird' profile lives in Linux? I've managed to install it OK (the menu link went into 'office' instead of 'internet' - yep, really) but the profile (or any of the software) doesn't appear in the Home directory like the online instructions tell me it does. I'd like to attempt to move across all my emails and settings & with that done the migration will be near enough complete for it to replace this winbox. Even managed to edit some audio using Audacity this evening.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

So I wanted to ride tonight.

It's about 6'C, blowing so hard that I needed to use the middle ring, middle gear on the flat and the air has water in it too. Hands and ears aching despite the gloves and hat.

That's probably almost summer weather to my good Canadian friends, but it sure feels like winter to me.

Monday, 29 March 2010

I've been really tired since Thursday

But not particularly sleepy at night.


Never mind.

Went upstairs around 10ish, sat down and played acoustic guitar for 20 minutes - now I KNOW I'm ill - acoustic guitar is 'not my favourite'. Having had enough there, wen and played a strat for another 30 min or so, just running through some minor turn arounds, blues riffs, a little 10cc etc, seeing where things have developed to after almost 3 months of bass playing.

Holding that strat is like having your wife in your hands - it feels great and fits well. I'll stop the metaphor here! There's a reason it's still a fave guitar, and all the stuff that didn't quite work on acoustic just fell into place.

I'm really grateful for the lovely instruments I've been able to own. p.s. anybody want to buy my Heritage Les Paul so I can afford a good bass amp?

OK, so I'm old now.

And to prove it, I like listening to BBC radio 4.

A lot*.

They've done quire a lot of programs covering neurobiology, development and learning recently, and this morning they were talking about learning processes. As part of the introduction to the program, the presenter made a number of 'throw away' comments about the wrong understanding we have regarding use of the brain. Apparently the idea that we only use 10% of our brains is wrong (despite any evidence to the contrary from some quarters) and likewise the idea of being 'left' or 'right' brained.

I have no data, and TBH, neurobiology papers tend to be intensely boring, some there's no enthusiasm to go looking for references backing up or refuting this either. But I do wonder how such stories make it into popular culture.

*But not the radio plays or soaps - ESPECIALLY not the Archers - a complete waste of radio bandwidth and broadcasting funds IMO.

You know that song?

You know: the one with the line that sounds like Gary's a driver or Mike's a mechanic?

Do you mean REM's Calling Jamaica? The one where it sounds like they keep singing 'Collin's a baker'?

Oh, yes, that's the one.

(precis from a conversation this morning).

Friday, 26 March 2010

After successfully installing Sabayon 5.1 Gnome

Today I downloaded Sabayon 5.2 KDE (had no idea there was a new revision already*).

I'm not sure whether it's the difference between KDE and Gnome, whether they've updated the drivers between versions or even if this is the effect of a better colour scheme (nah, not that) but this one looks really stunning, even on a budget 19" 1440 X 900 flat panel monitor. Screen fonts are good, images sharp (it's not just me - I can see the pixellation failure on the .jpg in the post below) and it *feels* really swish.

It doesn't have a *professional* feeling to it, like a Microsoft product, but it does have that kind of niceness and sense of invitation that Macs used to own and do no longer. Bet it's a dozen times harder to learn how to use well than a Mac though, but that's all part of the Linux experience too. Considering I'm running off a live CD, this is really crisp and responsive. Unlike the Gnome 5.1, this didn't automatically connect to the wireless downstairs, but once I managed to get the network manager open (requires digging) told it to search for a network, then told it to connect it worked fine.

Think I'm about to nuke my install of 5.1 in favour of this version. May go back for one last comparative look to convince myself. Looks like the day of me living off a linux box (and making a donation) is getting closer. May even have to learn Wine.

*the reason I didn't know is because it was posted TODAY and the press release wasn't up on their site until this evening. I must have been one of the first to download it, having found it on the mirror, but not taken any notice of the date. Now how cool is that!

This blog is somewhere north

of 2000 posts now.

That means I've blathered quite a lot, over the last almost 7 years.

There is a bit going on under the surface, but I'm not going to talk about it right now. Instead, here's a picture of someone else's spectacular achievement: Richard Branson's Spaceship 2.

Monday, 22 March 2010

It's a funny experience

doing the Linux thing.

Here I am, upstairs, having just done *yet another* rebuild with a fresh flavour this evening. I'd heard good reports of Ubuntu 10.04 M3, so downloaded and gave it a try. Crash city. Neither Ubuntu 9.10, nor Sabayon 5.0 would recognise my Tenda USB wireless network connector - odd because I'm sure 9.10 recognised it previously.

One of the older HDDs was getting a bit flakey anyway, so I pulled it out and popped another drive in. This time wiped and did a fresh install of Sabayon 5.10 (bundled with lots of 3D games (theoretically great!) but also with a Gnome desktop (not so great - I prefer KDE). Couldn't get it to reconise the Tenda USB wireless again (and Gnome had hidden whatever it uses for a hardware manager somewhere, so I can use an NDIS wrapper on the win driver!).

On the off chance I popped into Ben's room and borrowed the 'old' Netgear wireless stick. Popped it in, HDD makes noises, light starts flickering, then the networking icon changed and suddenly it's connected.

Why am I up here?

Ben's PC has 'fried' (maybe) it's PSU, and since he can't live without either watching a DVD or being online, he's watching Oceans 11 with Chris downstairs. I'm up here, installing, fiddling and reading a book while stuff loads. I'd hoped for some practice time on Bass downstairs this evening, but the way things have panned out it's not happening. Oh well, tomorrow night will have to do.

wonders will never cease apparently! Not only has the package manager found there are new package updates available, but it's actually connected to the repository, and is downloading them now. Last time that ever worked for me was with the power edition of Mandriva 2008. Ubuntu has never been successful, and it's one of the reasons (I reckon) why Ubuntu studio was a failure for me

Sunday, 21 March 2010

The art of improvising bass

is anticipation - planning for what's coming next.

The more bass I listen to, the more I realise that bass actually leads the chord progression, introducing the chord changes and anticipating where the melody is going to go. Obviously that's not true for all styles, but as a rule of thumb (pun not intended this time) it works.

It also seems that finger style playing is essential for some styles of music, with widely spaces jumps between notes requiring an agility between strings that doesn't suit a pick. I don't see this as transferring to guitar, and I'm not a fan of finger style there myself (though it can sound effective sometimes) but it is good to be learning new stuff.

Friday, 19 March 2010

For better or worse

I've just booked our flights.

Lesvos, here we come.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

"We shouldn't divorce ourselves from marriage"

An interesting guest editorial in The Times by Alice Thompson. It is good that the value of marriage is recognised in a secular context.

Moral maze - what would you do if.....

What would you do if your country had been taken over by a hostile power, when that hostile power had a revolution a couple of years ago, and was now being invaded by another country that was at war with your invaders?

It would be natural to side with the new invaders, right? They might liberate your country (and especially they might promise you sovereignty after the war.

This is the situation that Latvia found itself in when Nazi Germany invaded, fighting Russia. Could you find yourself on the same side as those you might otherwise find morally repugnant?

Monday, 15 March 2010

Service may get

a little patchier in the next couple of weeks.

We've finally started getting space again in Sarah's room, and hopefully it can become Chris's long-promised office instead of a place for storing amps, guitars and training weights. When that happens this computer will relocate upstairs and I'll reinstate the old one, but running linux.

It may prove to be tricky migrating emails, pass-worded accounts etc, in which case there may be some delay on emails, facebook etc. We'll have to wait and see.

I know this much - it'll certainly reduce the enthusiasm with which this one gets borrowed by Ben, instead of booting up his PC in the morning.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Just done a little tweaking of the links

This isn't a put down of anyone, so much a reflection of my browsing habbits. Also some blogs haven't been updated in >1 year, but I live in hope that their owners will return from the scourge of facebook some day.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Strike first and ask questions later

Mark Mardell's BBC page about 'open carry' rules regarding guns in the US is interesting, both for what the interviewees say and what they don't. There's talk about personal safety and the veiled threat toward politicians that they feel threaten them.

But there's also something not mentioned. What does a would-be robber do when faced with a mark that open-carries? It might put them off, but the most obvious thing is that, if they're desperate enough, they'll simply have to disable their victim first: either with a physical attack or by drawing their (concealed) weapon and using it to take away the openly worn gun. I'm sure that if I were going to rob someone I'd do my darnedest to make sure they couldn't use their gun on me, and that I'd want things to go much worse for them than me. Sure, eventually a thief will get shot, but I wonder how many gun-carrying victims walk away from a crime against themselves?

Or maybe there's something missing?

Don't worry.


With good reason this article on 'intelligent' CCTV really bothers me. Bad enough to be watched by a human, but for all our activities to be monitored by computer strikes me as being a real threat to our freedom. But it's the possible uses to which this technology might be put in the future that is most concerning.

I wonder if, in 50 years time, people will look back at the 'computer age' and be relieved that it was only a phase.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

There's a lot of debate about Jon Venables.

For those who don't know the background, two year James Bulger was abducted by 2 ten year old boys, taken to a deserted spot and sexually abused before being killed. The boys were let out of prison after 8 years under a special order which gave them new identities and required them to comply with certain restrictions if they wished to retain their freedom. One of them - Venables - now 27, has been returned to prison for breaking the terms of his release.

There's obviously a furore over this, not least because in the view of many such a crime was so horrific that the perpetrators should never have been released. And the media does tend to enjoy a bit of 'angry mob whipping'.

However details of both the new identity and the crime committed have not been released. While many argue this is in the public interest, there are many reasons not to do this. Aside from the risk of him being murdered, it is important that justice is done in ALL cases - even his. A jury could never bring a just verdict in fresh proceedings if they were aware of the identity of the now adult Venables. Regardless of previous crimes, just as in dealing with suspected terrorists, we must not treat anyone according to the measure we suspect them to be guilty of, but in every case, they must be handled with true justice. Any alternative is to reduce justice to their level, and reduce legal ethics to a mockery.

In case we take it for granted.

It's really easy to expect the whole world to be like it is for us in our own countries. This article from the BBC paints a picture of what it's like coming from a place without effective laws, justice or freedom.

England isn't so innocent, and 200 years ago or less parts of this country were just as unjust. But I thank God that we do have a society where rule of law is predominantly upheld, and that those who would oppress others are brought to justice.

Big news - apparently home streaming is killing music after all.

This article on the register is interesting, in that apparently fewer people are buying music through any route. CDs are a dying medium, but many (like me) haven't adopted streaming either.

I've been thinking about this from a variety of angles. Talking with my mother a couple of weeks back, she mentioned that when she and my father were younger they actually joined record clubs in order to listen to music with other people. Recorded music was still a relatively rare and wonderful thing, and people would get really enthusiastic about it. When I was a teenager we would have 'record evenings' with the youth group, where we'd bring our music, play a track and explain why it floated our boat. I remember hearing 'In the court of the crimson king' and 'Abraxus' in these settings.

What's changed?

Music is everywhere. There's nothing rare or wonderful about it (most of the time). Punk killed the need for artistry and ability, electronic new wave and techno killed the requirement for spirituality and feeling while death metal and a desire to go ever more extreme made hard rock unappealing to healthy adults. So we get bombarded with music which neither moves our feet nor touches our souls in everyday life, all the while being immunised to the power of truly creative and exciting music that some less mainstream individuals are still producing.

I'd suggest something similar has happened in the Christian music world too, though much more insidiously.

I both gave and received Paul Baloche's new Album 'Glorious' at Christmas, and on first listen was so disappointed I never really wanted to pick it up again. Commercial is the first word that springs to mind, followed shortly by Uninspiring and Utterly Professional. (on subsequent listens I think the songs themselves have excellent lyrics and tunes, but need to be played by people who mean it instead of just being very accomplished). We've been through the mega-bands, and now 'stadium worship' has become mainstream with all the money to be made from tours, promotions and album sales fueling an industry that appears to be like the secular version (from this perspective).

People aren't buying music because it's no longer a thing of wonder.

I REALLY hope that the music industry as it has been declines rapidly, and that we'll start seeing a new breed of band that either fund themselves by touring, or even retain the day job and just gig for fun. I am not interested in technical excellence in music - that's so commonplace as to be almost worthless as that Paul Baloche CD indicated. If you want to hear perfectly executed music just turn on the TV or radio. I want to hear excitement, fun, spirituality, energy. I want mistakes, joy, humility, tears, laughter and even some anger coming through. And if it's a worship album, I'd like it to sound as if I can believe worship is taking place, rather than thinking "God, that sounds just so insincere". No disrespect to you excellent musicians out there, but technical perfection in music is not something that works for me.

Why is the music industry being killed? It's a victim of it's own success. Maybe it should have tried the BMW approach of selling less, keeping the market hungry for good product while QCing out the ordinary.

Monday, 8 March 2010

The greatest day in history

Quite a well known song, with a much better take on the line 'Happy Day'.

I have this desire to hear Max von Sydow do his 'Ming the merciless' voice from Flash Gordon: "Jesus is alive?" at the end of the first verse.

Do pros ever make mistakes?

For Christmas I was given a DVD - Carlos Santana plays blues at Montreaux, and featuring Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown, Buddy Guy and Bobby Parker.

It's a curious CD, not least because of CS's Blues solos: it looks and sounds wrong to see him playing in a box that doesn't allow him to really express himself with his usual voice, although he plays well enough. But the odd thing for me has been to see some of his guests.

On one track the aforementioned Mr. Brown was playing in the wrong key (he plays in a box around open strings using a capo) and apparently failed to realise it. It wasn't until the bass player leaned over to him after a couple of verses and has a conversation that he seemed to realise and change to the right key. Weird, especially as his style indicates that he *should* be playing by ear rather than rote.

Then Bobby parker came on and instantly has enormous tuning issues with the E and B strings. Again, even weirder, though not his fault this time. He's clearly thrown by this too, and when he does get in tune, he's clearly playing in CS's shadow.

One of the things that marked out the difference between amateur and professional players for me is that pros just didn't make these kind of mistakes. You'd expect Clapton to know he was in the wrong key instantly and fix it, wouldn't you? Or maybe it's the difference between a kind of music that is slick and carefully produced and one that is allowed to happen according to feelings and the occasion. If that's the case I can identify much more readily with it. I'd rather play spontaneously and have the occasional trainwreck here and there but create according to the circumstances than produce the same show every night.

Wonder if that's what keeps these guys fresh and spontaneous instead of just grinding out the same old blues riffs each time? Or maybe they're just sloppy like me?

Saturday, 6 March 2010

What is it with some people

That they are so important in their own world that they MUST take the things you say as an attack, or try to put you down?

I know why the internet runs slow sometimes - it's moving gigabyte sized egos around.

Yeah yeah, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, I know. But posting it here with my tiny traffic it's unlikely to do anyone harm.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

I just asked

Someone I knew on another forum - also now a 'friend' on facebook - to either take his politics back to that old forum or de-friend me. I don't want to know about that pit of misery and deceit, republicans and democrats continuously sniping at each other, both simultaneously claiming to be 'Jesus'.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Anyone want

a new browser?

I've not heard of half of these before and that does surprise me, at least a little.

Seeing the article was useful though, as it reminded me to delete Chrome from the Macbook, after it caused programs to lock and sometimes fail to start.

It's disappointing that Opera is still in such a minority position, but hopefully it will get a boost from this. I use it almost exclusively on the Macbook now, and about 40% of the time on the home PC. It would probably be more, but many pages are still not html standards compliant, and don't display properly, plus I really do like Firefox a little better in some ways. Ben uses Opera almost exclusively, because speed and stability (when running 20+ tabs open) are important to him.

I may well migrate to that frequently mentioned Linux box downstairs soon, in which case we'll have to see what browsers are available for that. I wonder how possible it is to move emails between windows and Linux versions of Thunderbird?


I found this review of the other browser choices today.

WARNING: If, like me, you go looking for info on them then beware the first hit for 'green browser'. The 'morequick' page that is google's first hit takes you through to a hardcore pr0n (changed for those behind monitoring software) page. Not what you want at work, or at home, even if your monitor can't be seen by the rest of the office.

Why is freecycle

so much darned hassle to a) join and b) post to?

And why do I have to have a Yahoo! account to do so?

Suddenly the dump and landfill look just so attractive - If I'd wanted hassle I'd have simply used ebay.

Oh, and entering 'enlarger' as a search term in ebay is NOT particularly recommended - it feels like the place where all those unwanted emails go to hide after a hard day spamming up the world.