Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Mon, 06 Feb 2006

The Healing Drum

Lately the whole family have been suffering from colds and infections. I nearly didn't go to the latest Secret Bass session, but I was eager to hear about Malcolm's African adventure. Once I was drumming I seemed to forget about my cold and aches. I'm not a believer in things mystical, but it seemed to do me some good, at least for the duration of the session. Eleven of us there, dwindling to four by the time I left. There were a few new rhythms to try out and lots of pictures to see.

When I got home I had another go at some multi-track recording. I've been playing with Audacity, but last time I tried it I had problems. It turned out that by switching to mono recording I had encountered a know issue with tracks after the first breaking up. I found some comments on the Ubuntu forums that put me right.You can hear the results here. Not that impressive I know, but it's a start.

I've been following the current news about the outrage in the Muslim world over some cartoons. I've not seen them, but can they really be that bad? Surely a few pictures cannot be worth people dying for. I suspect that people with extreme agendas are using it as another excuse to attack the 'west'.

[20:34] | [] | Comments | G

Sun, 29 Jan 2006

Big Garden Birdwatch 2006

First of all a happy new year to my Chinese readers.

We just took part in this event for the RSPB. It involved counting the different birds that we saw in our garden during an hour. We spotted 11 different types (blackbird, blue tit, chaffinch, collared dove, dunnock, great tit, greenfinch, house sparrow, robin, starling and fieldfare). Not bad, but I might have expected to see a couple more that we regularly get here. There were a few others like gulls and rooks that flew over, but these were not to be counted if they didn't land in the garden.

I enjoy being able to keep an eye on the local wildlife whilst sitting in my study at the computer. Sometimes we get something as exciting as a squirrel or hedgehog. Not exactly the Serengeti, but at least we see some wildlife.

I was out yesterday exploring the 'forest canopy' when I did some major to our apple trees. Anyone want some firewood?

[15:23] | [] | Comments | G

Fri, 20 Jan 2006

Thar She Blows!

Amazing news today that a large whale has been spotted swimming up the Thames. Details at the Beeb.

In other news, several officials of the Japanese embassy were arrested on Westminster Bridge where they were found in possesion of a large harpoon gun. They claimed to be conducting scientific experiments and the spontaneous banquest announced at the embassy for tonight was entirely unrelated.

[16:44] | [] | Comments | G

Fri, 06 Jan 2006

Yet another year

We did Xmas at home with most of the family, then all migrated north to Edinburgh to be with my sister. We went up on the GNER Mallard train, which was pretty good. Comfy seats and a smooth ride. If you need it they have power sockets and wi-fi if you need them, but the internet will cost you a bit. The train ran a bit late due to frozen power lines in the borders, but I guess that's a hazard of the season.

Edinburgh had less snow than home, but still pretty cold. We didn't do the big New Year party, but we did go on the pagan torchlit procession with longboat burning vikings. The fireworks then and for new year were very good.

Edinburgh is a nice city and we hope to go up for the festival one year.

Whilst there I finally purchased myself a djembe from Drum Central. Now I just have to learn to play the thing. I think I have some natural rhythm, but I have to communicate that to my hands. There's another session with Secret Bass on Sunday, so I can try it out then.

I just got a 1GB card for my Palm. It cost half what my 256MB card cost a couple of years back. Now I can carry a bit more music with me on trips. I still don't feel the need for a multi-gigabyte player. I'm never away from a computer for that long and I like to pick and choose my listening. I'm in the process of re-ripping my CDs in Ogg Vorbis. I used to use MP3 at lower bit rates, but I feel the need for better quality and to use a more open standard. Aeroplayer seems to cope well with my needs, but did consistenly crash the Palm on one file recently. My dad just bought the Palm TX. It has more memory, a bigger screen and a faster CPU over my Zire, as well as wi-fi plus Bluetooth for about what mine cost new. That's progress. Mine will do me for now as an organiser that can also play music.

[22:16] | [] | Comments | G

Tue, 27 Dec 2005

Tis the season to be gullible

The BBC have yet another story about some object that appears to bear the image of someone holy, in this case Mother Theresa appeared on a cinnamon bun a few years back. The bun has just been stolen. To me it looks more like one of the seven dwarves.

The human brain has a natural tendency to try and see patterns. It could be clouds that look like animals or vegetables that look like bodily parts. It's inevitable that you will get the odd thing that looks like a face. But how do they know it looks like Jesus or Mary? I didn't think there were any contempory pictures of them and I bet they didn't look as European as many pictures show. Some of those objects look more like Father Christmas or Marylin Monroe to me.

I guess some people are just desperate for some confirmation of their 'faith', i.e. blind trust in old stories. Maybe they feel under threat from science explaining everything. I would hope we have grown out of the age of people being condemned for discovering things that challenged the holy books. The recent Egypt series on BBC 1 showed the church getting anxious about the possibility of heiroglyphics saying things they didn't like.

I'm not totally against religion as a guide to living a good life or as a comfort in difficult times, but I don't feel the need myself.

Maybe I could do a Thought for the day on Radio 4!

[14:57] | [] | Comments | G

Wed, 21 Dec 2005

USA Sees Sense!

It often worries me that a religious extremist is running the most powerful country on our planet. Anyone who thinks that 'god' is on their side is dangerous as they could do anything.

Luckily there are still forces there who see sense. Their constitution declares that church and state should stay separate, although their money praises the deity. A court has just ruled that 'Intelligent Design' cannot be taught alongside evolution as science. Hooray!

It seems that some people do not understand what theory means in science. It means something that explains what we see and has been tested. Even gravity is a theory and most people believe in that. ID can be considered a theory in the context of 'seeming like a good idea to some people'. It's impossible to prove or test and so is not science.

The BBC have more details.

If you want to understand evolution better then I would recommend reading some books by Richard Dawkins.

Here endeth the lesson.

[08:31] | [] | Comments | G

Mon, 05 Dec 2005


As I drove out of work today I thought something was a bit noisy. I pulled over and found that one of the rear tyres on my Zafira was very flat. So I proceeded to spend a merry half hour changing it. Being mounted externally the spare wheel is prone to theft so I had fitted a lock to protect mine. The problem it that it take a while to remore this bolt whilst holding up one of the rear seats. Got the job done and got home. Now I'll see if I can get it repaired as there's plenty of tread left. The fronts are a different story and I'm arranging to get those replaced by a mobile fitting company. They say they can repair as well. I'll report on how that goes.

I've been meaning to review the Zafira. It's a great car for the money. Seats seven in enough comfort for short journeys or can carry large loads. It doesn't have all the toys of the more expensive cars, but who needs them anyway? The 2 Litre diesel averages around 45mpg.

[22:05] | [] | Comments | G

Mon, 24 Oct 2005

Double Distributed Processing Anniversary

In April last year I formed a team with some colleagues on the project. I'd been running it for a few years myself. As of this week we have clocked up six years of processing and one million points. That's with a core of four or five people and a few others along the way. This is small beer for a project that clocks up well over 100 years each day, but it all helps in the quest to cure cancer and other diseases.

Other things I meant to blog: I saw one of the Virgin airline entertainment systems do a re-boot and spotted Tux at the start. You wouldn't know it was a Linux system when it's running, but then it doesn't look like Windows either. I wonder what sort of hardware they have on board. There must be a server with all the media. I guess there could be a little PC with no local storage built into the screen or a rack of them elsewhere. Anyone know?

Since I got back I've had time to watch a little TV. Family Guy and American Dad started runs on BBC2. A couple of adult cartoons that I will not be letting the kids watch. The Simpsons is generally OK or just goes over their heads, but these are both a bit too adult for them. Both funny though and I will be watching them again. Later is back. I've not watched so much of recent series, but last week's had some great music. I'll have to set it to record every week on my PVR, assuming it's always at the same time as my box is not too intelligent. Amazingly this series 26 (2 per year?)! Jools still asks the same old questions in his interviews.

[13:52] | [] | Comments | G

Tue, 11 Oct 2005

Ancient Egypt and African Beats

As Tilly is learning about the ancient Egyptians at school we decided to take a trip to the British Museum on Saturday. It's probably about 25 years since I was last there. From what I could remember it looked like most of the displays had been updated. The biggest change is the rebuilt Great Court with it's amazing glass roof. We had lunch in the lofty restaurant there that had good food, but is not a cheap option, even with the on-line booking discount.

We had a great day. We used a couple of kids' trail books that they were giving away. These encouraged the kids to explore, although Dylan found some of it a bit boring He's just a bit young for this sort of thing. Those of you on my contacts list can see some pictures on Multiply. Of course we had to get a few things from the shop. I couldn't resist a little croaking frog like these to start my percussion collection.

On Sunday I was at the Secret Bass drum circle again. A different selection of people this time. We worked on some of the patterns I tried last week and did some more singing. I really need to get a drum so I can practice. It's a month until the next session, so I will probably forget it all. I did get to play my frog there.

[13:08] | [] | Comments | G

Thu, 06 Oct 2005

Phone Spam

Just had a call on my mobile from 08004584727. It was someone trying to get me to change contracts. I could barely hear her in the cafe at work. Anyway, I told her I did not buy anything from people who phone me up.

If I had told her how much I spend on mobile calls she would probably have given up. My average bill is probably less than 2/month. I've been with Virgin for a couple of years and have no real issues with them.

Other people have been annoyed by them too, as I found when I Googled the number.

[13:09] | [] | Comments | G

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