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Archive for August 2004

cell control

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Headlines from The Register. The first is today’s story, the rest are, they say, “related”:

OK, that’s it! I’m not getting another mobile phone, ever again…

On a sadder note: I was humming Laura Branigan’s Self Control all day today, after I learned that the singer died suddenly last Thursday. That was my favourite of a string of hits she had in the 80’s, and while she left the business to start a family, Laura returned to the business after her husband died in 1995. She had more recently garnered rave reviews on Broadway as Janis Joplin – a tall order if there ever was one. That I remembered her music so clearly, after all these years, really says something positive about the music.

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Written by brian t

August 30, 2004 at 8:30 pm

Posted in music, technology

arborial

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“It’s Arbor Day, so now my car’s up a tree.”

A quote from today’s Viva La Bam: Don Vito should know better than to let his keys fall into Bam’s grubby paws…

Written by brian t

August 29, 2004 at 9:34 am

Posted in humour, television

thirty-four

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Something I realized today while writing a Usenet post: My father was born in ’34, I in ’68, so he was 34 when I was 0. Two years ago I was 34, while he was 68, and 34 years after that I will be 68. I didn’t have any kids when I was 34, but maybe that’s a good thing – after all, who wants to be 68 when your kids are 34, or vice versa?

I shied away from Usenet in recent years, mostly because I never had a reliable Internet connection for personal use. Email was usually available where I worked, so I joined distribution lists and got email sent to me. I’m defying the “conventional wisdom” by using Microsoft Outlook Express as my newsreader: I tried a few different ones, and settled on Mozilla Communicator, but it let me down by downloading a virus-laden attachment, despite being clearly told not to. It didn’t try to execute it, but it was still stored locally and picked up by a virus check, which is a little embarassing at work. I also had problems getting Communicator to work properly in Offline mode, which is what I need, since I don’t get time to do much on Usenet at work beyond downloading the messages, perhaps quick replies in threads I’m already involved in.

My other concern was time: would I spend hours and hours on there, to the exclusion of other things? No, I’m managing to keep Internet use, and related offline work (Usenet, email, this website) down to sensible levels. I seem to have grasped the message that the Internet, like all culture, is optional: these are the things we don’t have to do. Unless we want to.

Written by brian t

August 28, 2004 at 10:35 am

Posted in internet, life, technology

amortism

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Oh, won’t I look a right geek on the Stalker Tour bus? I now have a micro-keyboard for the iPaq, editing raw HTML pages on that will serve to while away the hours between stops. That, and a new wireless card compatible with MiniStumbler – so lock up your WiFi, folks. Both items were surprisingly inexpensive, which shows what waiting a few months can do when it comes to general electronic items.

The same can not be said for musical instruments, however, not even electronic ones like my Akai MPC1000 – I paid a trade show price, and I still don’t see that bettered anywhere, six months later. Knowing that meant I had no reason to wait, and I don’t regret the purchase. Still, I seem to have spent more time writing about it than using it, but someone paid me a cool compliment about that today, saying printed copies of the FAQ I wrote are circulating around Washington DC like some kind of hip-hop Samizdat. (OK, that’s overstating it a little, but it’s nice to hear that it’s doing some good.) All I need now is: Puff Diddy to fly me out to LA as a “technical consultant”, eh?

Written by brian t

August 26, 2004 at 9:39 pm

Posted in music, technology

one score and sixteen

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Last night I finally got round to watching Sixteen Candles, one of the earliest of the John Hughes teen films, of which The Breakfast Club is better known. It’s also the film that made Molly Ringwald a star, with a marvellously naturalistic performance as Samantha. But Sixteen Candles is a comedy first of all, in which Samantha’s 16th birthday is totally overlooked by her parents, who are fretting over her sister’s wedding the day after. There’s also a school dance, a party, with other fairly familiar elements given a surreal twist. A pivotal conversation – in a half-assembled car in the school workshop – leads to The Geek (Anthony Michael Hall) borrowing Samantha’s knickers to show off, in exchange for an introduction to a handsome guy, Jake, who conveniently happens to be going through a relationship crisis with his older girlfriend, and is looking for something deeper.

Sample dialogue:

The Geek : You know, I’m getting input here that I’m reading as relatively hostile.
Samantha : Go to hell!
The Geek : VERY hostile.

Much of the fun comes from the period detail, but the party… what you would call a house-wrecker, in which walls are punctured, trees are T.P’d, the slightest action is accompanied by the clatter of beer cans. Not as deep as The Breakfast Club, but still worthwhile. I may get to see Pretty In Pink later this week – must be a DVD release season, or something.

Why do I enjoy these John Hughes films so much? He seemed to me to be good at depicting teenage issues in a way relevant to grown-ups. You can’t just dismiss them as “teenage angst” despite what some critics say, and The Breakfast Club in particular would be good viewing for parents with troubled teenagers, I think. He managed to shed light on teenage behaviour while simultaneously mocking it, and exposing its origins in what I can only call a shortage of worldly wisdom. That unworldliness is not necessarily a bad thing: I also feel the nostalgia for a time when I didn’t know as much about the world as I do, when the questions were simpler (but the answers were not).

Written by brian t

August 25, 2004 at 7:42 pm

Posted in humour, movies

floating world

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My last Japanese class was a month ago, and I’ve taken a breather from it since then: even our class visit to the Ukiyo Sake Bar (Exchequer St., Dublin) didn’t involve much actual Japanese speech. My dictionary says Ukiyo – 浮世 – means “floating world”, a reference to an artistic movement in the Edo period.

The Rush Stalker Tour is two weeks away, and we now have the final itinerary. It won’t be stressful at all, and I’ll carry my Japanese books and papers with me. I should have a little time for shopping and mucking around in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. After the last concert, I have a visit to another old school chum. I deliberately chose a Saturday as my last day, and the plan is to load up on any PC bits I find in the Saturday markets in London. I’m in the market for a new PC, something small and quiet, power is no longer such an issue for me. Another function I want it to perform is the Personal Video Recorder (PVR) role, to replace my old, clunky VCR. (It’s not that old, actually, but it is incredibly noisy.)

Written by brian t

August 24, 2004 at 7:47 pm

Posted in japan, life, technology

britcurse

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The British Curse has struck again: the Media in the UK has a particular way of “supporting” people in an oppressive way that can soon become counterproductive. The effects can be seen:

  • in politics, in their treatment of every Prime Minister since Gladstone;
  • in entertainment, when bands like Radiohead or Coldplay are hailed as the saviours of mankind, and respond by hiding or deliberately shirking their alleged “responsibilities”;
  • in Sport. Paula Radcliffe is the holder of the Marathon World Record time, and was expected to win Gold in Athens, but today she became the latest in a long line of Britsh athletes to wilt under the weight of expectation. The conditions were tough, with hard roads and high temperatures, and she blew a gasket after 22 miles of the 26. Care to guess what tomorrow’s headlines will be?

Americans seem better at handling such pressure; with such a huge Olympic presence, there will be enough medal winners to reduce the pressure on any individual, but I also think the nature of the pressure is a factor: to me they seem less blindly demanding, better at leaving people alone when that is required. I’m not saying they get it easy

Today was mostly spent on finishing my MPC1000 MIDI Tutorial, in which I’ve tried to make MIDI arcana more relevant to the kind of MPC1000 user I meet on the MPC Forums: this powerful box has landed on their desk, and they have no idea how to make it control their keyboards, sound modules, and other MIDI devices. I find this kind of “work” relaxing, since it’s optional and there are no deadlines attached. I could muck around with diagrams, sparring with OpenOffice’s patchy support for Microsoft formats, and so on.

Written by brian t

August 22, 2004 at 8:48 pm

Posted in england, music