Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dear Santa

I have tried my best to be really good this year so do you think, possibly, Santa old bean, that I could have a faster database for Christmas?  I've got a house full of consumer goods and don't need any more clothes or gizmos, so just something that will make my working life better and stop me swearing so much would be fab.

Thanks awfully,


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The sound of the crowd

Busy, lazy, uninspired, forgetful, enjoying other stuff... Take your pick from any of these excuses for the continued paucity of posts. A bit early for thinking about New Year's Resolutions but I guess being better at this in 2013 will be an ambition.

Anyhoo, I've been wanting to waffle on about crowdfunding for a while now and today seems to be the moment. Partly becuase Ginger's 555% (as pictured above) won "Event of the year" at the Classic Rock awards last night. That was my first toe-dip into the murky waters of paying up front for something to be created without support or backing from the traditional music biz (as opposed to paying up front for something that already exists, which is what most normal shopping is after all, not often you get to try before you buy).

I can't remember when I first encountered the concept, but do recall reading something about Marillion raising money through their web site to fund a new album many years ago. It only properly registered with me when I first joined Twitter though, and people I was following started plugging projects on Kickstarter or Pledge Music. First ones they were aware of and supporting themselves, but then their own. And Ginger was the first that intrigued me enough to part with some cash. Of course I now wish I had taken the plunge earlier, but there you go.

The whole recording process was laid open to backers, with regular updates and sneak previews etc which, to my mind, brought the project alive. Watching a couple of minutes of video now and then in the run-up to release just made the sense of anticipation all the greater. Lots of artists are opening up the recording process these days through web exclusives and tweets and the like but most of my finding out about new albums still comes from seeing a review or even just spotting it in HMV. While such surprises are nice, I do enjoy a good build-up. And in this case the end product didn't disappoint - a triple CD set (distilled to a single disc selection by fan vote for retail release) featuring 30 tracks that have had more than a few listens since arrival.

Since then I have also backed (and received) the new albums from Amanda Palmer (there is going to have to be something pretty spectacular arrive in the next couple of weeks for Theatre Is Evil not to be my album of the year) and Ben Folds Five. Paul Miro, former singer with Derby band Apes, Pigs & Spacemen has done a pledge release through his own site, rather than one of the main players in the field, and already delivered in mp3 form with the physical disc to follow. That one I learned about through a comment on one of Ginger's posts, which made me doubly glad I'd backed that project as I would probably not relaised Miro was still going otherwise. Due in the New Year is an album of space songs from Kim Boekbinder, who I found out about through Amanda Palmer so it is all a bit circular in the crowd-funding world. I do take the occasional look through the Kickstarter and Pledge Music sites for other things that might be worth the risk, but nothing has sparked my interest as yet.

And then there is Ginger again. Not content with a triple album he also has another three on the go for this year. Two extreme noise and weirdness collaborations under the name Mutation and a power-pop thing called Hey, Hello. The bits of both that have been dribbled out so far have again whetted my appetite to fever pitch.

Anybody got any recommendations for other projects worthy of my cash?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Caution: Contents may be cold

Mapmug2 by The original SimonB
Mapmug2, a photo by The original SimonB on Flickr.
In what an only be described as a Water Cooler Conversation (because it actually took place while I was getting some cold water) one of my Managers revealed yesterday that she is unable to drink cold liquids from a mug. For her mugs can only be for hot drinks, and anything cold must be from a glass. Although she is fine with a Latte or posh hot chocolate in a glass "with a handle". This was not something I have ever considered might be a problem before. If I am thirsty, I'll happily drink from whatever container is to hand. As it happens, I tend to use mugs for cold drinks at work because (a) I normally bring my own mug in with me, use it throughout the day and take it home again for washing up I trust. I will admit to a slight issue with the communal cups and glasses here even though I know they are properly dealt with in a dishwasher rather than just being indifferently rinsed and put away as I have seen elsewhere. And (b) I don't consume tea or coffee anyway but we have a stack of mugs at home that would never otherwise get used if I didn;t cart them back and forth to the office.

Since then I have been trying to think of any other utensil "phobias" I might have, and just can't identify any. I'll slurp soup from a desert spoon if that's all there is, drink straight from a can/bottle or use a straw, happily use a wooden or plastic disposable chip fork or use my fingers when sitting on the sea front with a portion and don't insist on pre-packed sandwiches being decanted onto a plate before consumption. Anybody out there got any food consumption problems they'd like to share?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Canterbury Tales

They say time flies when you're having fun, which I guess is how I come to be writing about my holidays on the fifth day back at work after them... Mind you, "they" also say that cats would by Whiskas so I'm not sure "they" are the most reliable of sources. We were only actually away for three nights in the first week of a fortnight's break, which added to the two nights we spent in Northampton earlier in the summer for a wedding gives me the huge total of five away from home since we got back from Canada in Jan 2010 but they sure were what we both needed.

So after much decision making and thinking of thoughts we plumped for Canterbury as a nice place to visit. Joan had never been before and I'd managed one afternoon about 20 years ago when my Brother was there at university. Funny that I never went down to visit him now I look back on things, but there you have it. It is a beautiful little city with the reconstruction following the World War 2 bombing not too jarring alongside the survivors. My particular highlights:

The Cathedral. Natch. I'm no believer but I can sure appreciate the architecture, artwork and sheer history of the place. And even more than that, I appreciate them allowing photography inside. So many "historic" buildings of whatever stripe are so dead set against it that the exceptions are always a joy to explore through the lens. Click through the shot above to get to flickr if you feel that way inclined.

The Heritage Museum. If only because it houses the original Bagpuss and friemds, as well as some Clangers, Pogles and Ivor The Engine/Noggin The Nog art. Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin's Smallfilms productions are the childhood tv memories I treasure most and being in the same space as these was a moment of pure magic for me. The rest of the museum is also pretty interesting as it goes, and is worth getting the combined ticket for the Roman museum too. That one is not worth the single entry fee, but as an add-on is not to be sneezed at.

The big theatrical mask sculpture outside the Marlowe theatre.

The buskers.

And, the Beaney house of knowledge and art. Which has just been refurbished and houses the Library, Tourist Information Centre and a great collection of local and internationally significant art. Without realising it we were there on the second day of the relaunch so got up close and personal with some excellent Henry Moore sculpture as well as, well, loads of other great stuff. And it is free entry too. Worth paying a visit to Canterbury for.

We also paid a visit to the old Dockyards at Chatham and took the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch railway to Dungeness. Both fascinating places in their own ways and all contributing to a really great break. Roll on the next holiday.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

computerised archaeology

computerised by The original SimonB
computerised, a photo by The original SimonB on Flickr.
OK, so I'm prepared to share that picture purely because rooting around in an old and presumed lost links folder I found this:

Way Of The Rodent Linky

Which is where you will find a bunch of old articles I wrote for an online computer magazine and may provide those of you desperate for more of my words with some form of consolation while I try and think of something new to say...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pakenham sails

Pakenham sails by The original SimonB
Pakenham sails, a photo by The original SimonB on Flickr.
Things I like in Suffolk 3

We have quite a few windmills left in Suffolk, some still in full working order, others reduced to a stump of a few courses of brick and the rest somewhere in between the two extremes. This one at Pakenham is joined in the village by a working water mill too.

More pics on Flickr (as always - I even have an "All Mills, no Boon" set there) by clicking through.

Proper entries to resume soon, I hope.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Torchy (not the battery boy)

And so Felixstowe got to share in the Olympic Dream(tm) last night when the Torch Relay(tm) passed through. Being a keen documenter of such things, I wasn't going to let the photo-opportunity go by, but somewhat to my surprise I found the whole event extremely good fun. Having seen the crowds that turned out elsewhere in the country it was no shock to see people setting their chairs up at the start of the Felixstowe section when I got home, having left work early on purpose. But I will admit to be impressed by the final turnout. From what we saw in the flesh and the photos of others it seems this was probably the best-attended event in town for a number of years. The superb weather was no doubt a contributing factor, stirring people from outside town to make the trip in (especially as the more touristy bits of east Suffolk like Southwold and Aldeburgh had been rain-struck earlier in the day) but there was a genuine buzz of interest from the crowd in the event itself rather than just a rent-a-mob feel from people who will watch anything if it goes past their house.

We had bands playing and church bells ringing along with all the offical hooplah (juggling acrobats and that sort of thing) before the Convoy(tm) arrived. I'd say that BMW(tm) have done very well out of the deal - supplying all the cars and Police bikes - but although the whole thing was heavily sponsored it didn't feel like overkill. Yes we got Samsung(tm), Coke(tm) and Lloyds-TSB(tm) trucks and buses coming through first giving out freebies, but they weren't as blatant about it as I was expecting. Pity only Coke were giving out product samples though - just imagine if Samsung handed out electrical goods or Lloyds-TSB offered pre-filled savings accounts or cheap mortgage deals to people in the crowd rather than just balloons and banners...

Having picked a town-centre spot with no shadows to spoil my pictures, by pure chance we ended up slap bang next to a flame exchange (or "kiss"(tm no doubt) as they are calling it) location. We also ended up with our designated "celebrity" for the day as the reciever at this point - 1988 gold medallist swimmer Adrian Moorhouse. Which was nice, and if you click through to Flickr on the picture above you can see much more of the whole shebang.

OK, after 45 days or so on the road you would expect them to have it all down pat by now, but it was indeed a very slick operation. But what impressd me most was that all the participants seemed to still be enjoying it. After a month and a half you could expect the Police to be a bit fed up of moving people out of the way, or the drivers to have had enough of crawling through town centres but everyone was sporting genuine unforced smiles, waving like loons and generally being caught up in the moment just as much as the crowd who were experiencing this for mostly the first and only time.

Has it stoked me up for the Games(tm) themselves? Not really, I was already planning to watch bits when I get the chance, and I'm not now scouring the interwebs for tickets as the whole getting there, security, etc seems like too much hassle for me. Especially with our weather prospects. But I am looking forward to them just as much as I was before, so at least I've not been disillusioned by the corporate sponsors.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The House In The Clouds

Things I like in Suffolk 2

Originally built as a Water Tower - the land owner chose this design as he didn't want an ugly edifice on his seaside estate - this is now holiday accommodation and by all accounts comes highly recommended. Thorpeness is a lovely little seaside village anyway, with the Meare to offer calmer waters for boating and one or two delightful little shops, but this place just makes it even more delightful. You can see it from miles around when approaching the village, but it is nicely tucked away in the trees away from the main drag for that added touch of seclusion. Plus there is also a well-restored windmill just across the path which was originally there to pump the water up in the first place.

I'm not sure I'd want to live there all the time, but should several gazillion pounds fall into my lap and enable a Grand Design type dream house, it would definitely have to have a tower or turret of some description. An elevated Library to look out on the world from, enabling flights of fancy or warm seclusion whatever the weather.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Things I Like In Suffolk

Eye Bus Shelter by The original SimonB
Eye Bus Shelter, a photo by The original SimonB on Flickr.
Er hello, yes, I'm still alive and just about kicking, only I've not had much to say of late. So, in an attempt to kickstart me again here's the first in what will hopefully be a series of entries on stuff I like in Suffolk. No rhyme or reason for what I've chosen, although it is likely that a few themes will become obvious when several entries are up.

1: Eye Bus Shelter

Eye is one of the pretty little market towns that we have a smattering of here in the east, featuring a massive church, ruined castle (technically a Victorian folly on a Norman mound, but we'll maybe get to that another time), nice pub, Ley Line and more. It also has the bus shelter pictured here.

Unique in design for Suffolk, it looks a lot better since a recent re-paint and suffers only from being in the wrong place. Buses travel along the road to the right of the white dashes at the edge of the picture, so have to swing across the junction to get to the stop. There are other shelters which time and the whims of bus companies have cut off from the nearest route, but nowhere do they come quite so close as this.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pointless Post

When I was a wee nipper, I could never get my head around the adult addiction to things like The Magic Roundabout.  Not for the seemingly obvious reason that it was a "children's show" but because of the time it was shown.  I remember hearing about it being a success because it was on before the news, meaning all the adults got to watch it.  But the news was on at 5.45 (only later moving to 6) and surely no grown-up was home from work by then?  Certainly my Dad never was, and what other standard did I have to judge by?

After I left college and found myself in the world of work, the same pattern repeated.  Having ended up in retail I was rarely out of the shop before 6 and always then had a significant journey home to face.  In fact I'm not sure now how I managed the two years I spent working in Newmarket - a 110 mile round trip every day from Felixstowe, having to be there for 8 and not getting home until at least 7 most nights.  Even when I moved to the Council and got into flexi-time I was still rarely home before 6 - often due to picking MrsB up from work (she is still in the business of selling things) but more likely just because of getting the required number of hours in per day after starting at around 9.

Since our recent office move, however, things have changed.  Because parking up here is a bit limited, I have to get in fairly early to make sure I get a space.  That naturally means I have reached my hours total earlier too so can head home.  And even though the new site is further from our house, I now drive straight here rather than messing about with Park & Ride buses so each trip is 15-20 minutes shorter too.  Plus MrsB has had her hours changed and now finishes at 4 so we are both early birds.

All of which is a long-winded excuse for the fact that we seem to have become hooked on Pointless.  The BBC1 quiz shown before the news with Alexander Armstrong.  Admittedly half the fun is wondering where on earth they get some of the contestants from, but still...  I always have been a sucker for a good quiz show, loving to shout the answers at the telly before the teams manage it but this one is a bit of a barrel scraper.

Is there a cure other than working more?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

All The Books Of 2011

As in previous years, let us kick off 2012 with all my reading matter from 2011. This includes audio books (in italics) and graphic novels (including those serialised in Clint Magazine).

Santa was kind enough to bring me a Kindle, and the SFX Star Wars guide right near the bottom is the first thing I have read on it. Not sure what it will do to my reading habits as yet, but I am enjoying the use of it.

As may be obvious from the list, I have still been listening to the works of Terry Pratchett a lot, but have thrown in Alistair Maclean to spread them out a bit now...

Mike Gayle Wish You Were Here
Terry Pratchett Hogfather
Bob Fischer Wiffle Lever To Full!
Richard Hammond and Andy Wilman What Not To Drive
Neil Gaiman et al 1602
Alistair Maclean HMS Ulysses
Stephen Fry The Fry Chonicles
Terry Pratchett Carpe Jugulum
Paul Magrs Doctor Who: Sick Building
Roland Chambers The Last Englishman: The Double Life Of Arthur Ransome
Neil Gaiman American Gods
Arthur Ransome Old Peter's Russian Tales
Alain De Botton A Week At The Airport
Grant Morrison and Klaus Janson Batman: Gothic
Terry Pratchett The Fifth Elephant
Bill Bryson Shakespeare
Terry Pratchett I Shall Wear Midnight
Alistair Maclean The Guns Of Navarone
Mark Millar, Steve McNiven etc Nemesis
Terry Pratchett The Truth
Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo Asterix The Gaul
Stephen Smith Underground England
Magnus Mills The Maintenance Of Headway
Peter Benchley Jaws
Simon Garfield Just My Type
Mike Gayle Men At Work
Dean Regan Windmills Of Suffolk
Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo Asterix And The Golden Sickle
Martin Watts Windmills
Jason Barlow (Ed) Top Gear: 100 Sexiest Supercars Of All Time
Neil Gaiman et al Eternals
Terry Pratchett Thief Of Time
Jean M. Auel The Land Of Painted Caves
Alistair Maclean South By Java Head
Terry Pratchett The Last Hero

Greg Gutfeld Lessons From The Land Of Pork Scratchings
George Orwell 1984
Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo Asterix And The Goths
Peter Anghelides Doctor Who: Pest Control
Henning Mankell The Pyramid
Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo Asterix The Gladiator
Roger Wardale Arthur Ransome Master Storyteller
Doug Moench, Paul Glacy and Terry Austin Batman: Prey
Terry Pratchett The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents
Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo Asterix And The Banquet
Mike Gayle My Legendary Girlfriend
Emma Kennedy I Left My Tent In San Francisco
Ian Harrison The Thames: From Source To Sea
Alistair Maclean The Last Frontier
Mark Millar et al American Jesus, Volume 1
Simon Schama The American Future - A History
Mark Gatiss The Devil In Amber
Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo Asterix And Cleopatra
James May Notes From The Hard Shoulder
Denny O'Neil et al Batman: Vow From The Grave
Terry Pratchett Night Watch
Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo Asterix And The Big Fight
Arthur Ransome Swallowdale
Richard Hammond A Short History Of Caravans In The UK
Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo Asterix In Britain
Herman Melville Moby Dick
Paul Brickhill Reach For The Sky: The Biography Of Douglas Bader
Colin Barker Ipswich Tramways
Tom Baker Who On Earth Is Tom Baker (Abridged)
Dan Brown Digital Fortress
Garth Ennis, Amanda Conner et al The Pro
Bill Bryson Mother Tongue
Arthur Ransome Racundra's First Cruise
Neil Gaiman and Yoshitaka Amano Sandman: The Dream Hunters
Terry Pratchett The Wee Free Men
Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo Asterix And The Normans
Rachel Hewitt Map Of A Nation
Arthur Ransome Peter Duck
Henning Mankell Faceless Killers
Alistair Maclean Night Without End
Denny O'Neil et al Batman: Challenge Of The Man-Bat
Chris Jones Too Far From Home
Mark Gatiss Black Butterfly
Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo Asterix The Legionary
David and Leigh Eddings The Redemption Of Althalus
Stewart Copeland Strange Things Happen
Mike Gayle Turning Thirty
Simon Singh Fermat's Last Theorem
Bill Bryson The Lost Continent
Stieg Larsson The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Arthur Ransome Winter Holiday
John Lloyd and John Mitchinson The QI Book Of The Dead
Jonathan Ross, Tommy Lee Edwards and John Workman Turf
Arthur Ransome Coot Club
Alistair Maclean Fear Is The Key
ReneGoscinny and Albert Uderzo Asterix And The Chieftain's Shield
Tim Severin In Search Of Moby Dick
Terry Pratchett Monstrous Regiment
Stieg Larsson The Girl Who Played With Fire
Richard Hammond Or Is That Just Me?
Arthur Ransome Pigeon Post
Paul Brickhill The Dambusters
Simon Garfield Mini
Bill Bryson Notes From A Small Island
Stieg Larsson The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest
Neil Gaiman Fragile Things
Joe Moran On Roads
SFX SFX's Unnoficial Star Wars DVD Viewer's Guide
Arthur Ransome We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea
Terry Pratchett Snuff

What books wil 2012 hold?