Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Wed, 05 Apr 2006

Green Wing and other TV

Our favourite sitcom is back for a second series on Channel 4. If you haven't seen it I would describe it as a combination of sketch show and slightly surreal sitcom. It's set in a hospital, but it's all about the antics of the staff, rather than what they do to patients. It may be hard to follow if you didn't catch the first series, but the site has an episode guide that may help.

I've not been watching much else on TV lately apart from the excellent Mark Steel Lectures and the awesome Planet Earth.

It's Not Easy Being Green on BBC2 is an interesting view of someone trying to establish a more sustainable lifestyle, but so far most of what they are doing is not very applicable to the average household. How many of us have a handy stream to run a waterwheel? We try to do our bit by recycling and reducing energy usage, but things like having to have two cars to get us to work are not so good.

[13:14] | [/Entertainment] | Comments | G

Mon, 03 Apr 2006

Strawbale Jam

In honour of Malcolm's birthday this week's session at Secret Bass was expanded to include just about any sort of musical instrument. As well as the usual djembes and dun duns we had my electric guitar, a drum kit, Malcolm's synth and Tibetan singing bownls, didgeridoo, arabic drum and assorted shakers, bells and other noise makers.

Thus ensued several hours of jamming around such diverse styles as reggae, jazz, blues, prog rock (?) and arabic rhythms. I have not had much experience of improvising in a group, but I managed to play some basic chords and even solo a bit. Considering how little I have played lately I am amazed that my finger are not more sore.

We had a break for food in Fabrizia's cozy loft before heading back to the studio for another session.

I would really like to do more group work apart from the drum circle. If anyone is interested in some informal jamming then give me a shout.

[09:09] | [/Music] | Comments | G

Thu, 30 Mar 2006

Eating Well

We've been buying organic produce for many years as we think it's better for the planet to not overuse chemicals and better for us and the kids to not be eating those chemicals. I'll admit to not knowing all the facts about what goes into food, but I like the organic principle.

Of course a lot of the organic food is being shipped to our supermarkets from all over the world, which causes various forms of waste. We had considered using a local organic box scheme, but none was available in our area. Now there is and it is provided by River Nene up in Cambridgeshire. They can provide valious size boxes or individual products. They try to source most of it from their own farm, but to give a reasonable variety they have to source some from abroad, but they avoid anything that uses air freight.

We've had it for a few weeks now and are happy with the service. We get some very tasty items that include some we would never buy otherwise, such as celeriac. It definitely costs more than the equivalents at the supermarket, but we think it is still good value.

I see they are now doing some reasonably priced organic beer. I'll be giving that a try.

[21:43] | [/Local] | Comments | G

Mon, 27 Mar 2006

Rock and Roll

I don't get to as many gigs as I would like to, but last night I went to Club 85 in Hitchin. This was primarily to see my friend Simon play bass with Kandida. Unfortunately the gig was not very well attended. The venue is pretty good with a big stage and quality equipment, but does not seem to attract many people for some original music on a Sunday night.

First up was a solo singer playing some very nice acoustic guitar and singing some humorous songs about the quirks of life. I managed to miss his name.

Next were Kandida. They played a very good set of pop/rock. Some elements of country and folk mixed in there somewhere. Very tight and some nice vocal harmonies. I expect I'll be seeing them again some time. I had a good chat with them beforehand and got roped in to take some pictures of the gig. So I can now add 'rock photographer' to my CV. I hope they turn out well. It's quite hard to get atmospheric shots as flash makes it too bright and turning it off makes it hard to get sharp shots.

Finally we had Simon Scardanelli. He played a pretty earnest set. Good voice and really attacks his guitar. He had to put up with some abuse from a few people for being so serious, but didn't seem too phased.

[09:02] | [/Entertainment] | Comments | G

Thu, 23 Mar 2006

I don't believe it

According to this article atheists are America's least trusted minority. They reckon 3% of the population are non-believers, but how many people who say they are Christians are just trying to conform?

Thank God Dawkins the UK is not quite so disillusioned. Here it causes a kerfufffle when our openly Christian PM says he will be judged by the deity.

[09:03] | [/News] | Comments | G

Mon, 20 Mar 2006

I Can Fly!

On Saturday we went to Milton Keynes for a spot of indoor skydiving at Airkix. I didn't know this is what I would be doing in advance as it was a late birthday surprise. The experience consists of a short training session where you are told the safety rules and shown how to adopt the appropriate position in the air stream. Then it's on with the suit, goggles and helmet and off to the tunnel. This is an impressive sructure. You stand on a mesh above a deep hole with some complicated vents. Above you is a 10m stack with some powerful motors on top to suck the air through.

You only get a couple of minutes flying time but it feels like longer. You are supported by a 100mph wind and a little help from the instructor. Everyone managed to fly around the chamber, but without much real control. It's a very strange feeling. The instructor showed off by ramping it up to 140mph and pulling some impressive moves.

It was a unique experience and I may be tempted to try it again, even though it's an expensive one. I've never been that keen on the idea of jumping out of a plane, but so this is a good alternative.

There was a little more 'air time' on Sunday when I took the kids kite flying. The single string flew well until we broke it. A few crashes caused one pole to break through the fabric again. We also have a twin string parafoil that we had never flown before. We gave it a go, but have not worked out how to get it flying yet.

I rounded off the weekend with some African rhythms at Secret Bass. I've not been for a while, so it was good to get into it again.

[08:49] | [/News] | Comments | G

Thu, 16 Mar 2006

Wide Open Spaces

I just splashed out on a 250GB drive for my main PC. I was thinking back about previous drives I've had. The first computer I had with a hard drive was my Amiga 1200. I think it had a 2.5" 130MB. I upgraded that to a 3.5" 1.3GB that had to sit outside the computer case and I powered everything from a salvaged PC power supply. Then I got my first PC with an 8GB that got swapped for a 46GB IBMS 'Deathstar'. These had a reputation for problems, but mine has worked for a good few years now before starting to get some errors.

The new drive got a fresh install of Kubuntu Linux. I've ended up with one huge partition that uses Logical Volume Management (LVM). This should allow me to change my partitions without breaking the system. I want to break this down to separate data from the OS, but that's for when I get everything else working.

Installing Kubuntu should get me back to what I achieved before by a more roundabout route, but I'm having a few issues. I added some essentials with EasyKubuntu, but that didn't seem to do all it should. I have sound working generally, but Amarok is not playing anything yet.

I also bought myself an external hard drive case so that I could retrieve data from the old drive over USB, but the system is not seeing that drive at all. Maybe I'll have to connect the drive to the IDE and read it that way, but I would like to be able to use the external drive for backup.

Setting everything up from scratch is a bit of a pain. I'm trying to log all I do for next time. If I got the other drive connected I could copy settings across, but as some of those may be a mess I may not bother with all of them.

I was tempted to install the beta of the next Ubuntu/Kubuntu (Dapper Drake), but I'm a bit wary of trusting my system to it, especially as the release is likely to postponed for more 'polishing' (the cleaning up sort, not translation to that language).

Other people in the LUG have been pushing Arch, but I'm not sure I want a complete change just now. Maybe I'll try it as a dual boot or in a virtual machine.

[13:10] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

Thu, 09 Mar 2006

Herts LUG March 2006

I missed the last meeting due to illness, but I got there this time. Only five of us there, but we had a good chat about various Linux topics including:

We almost had another person from near me come along, but he was ill. I found his site using GeoURL that locates sites using coordinates in the page header. If more people in the LUG used it then we could use it as an alternative to Frappr. Good though that service is, I would prefer to use something that is more in the spirit of the Semantic Web.
[08:36] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

Wed, 08 Mar 2006

More on the Loremo

When I looked at this car before I wondered how you got in as there was no sign of a door. Now some new pictures from a car show have appeared that show how it works. The whole front of the car lifts up. Like some sports cars I've been in it may require some gymnastics to get in. You can also see that the +2 seats are accessed from the rear and face backwards. It's a novel way to fit them in.

I'm so intruiged that I have subscribed to their mailing list to see how things develop.

[12:45] | [/Motoring] | Comments | G

Tue, 07 Mar 2006

Still Here

Been a bit busy to report anything in the last week or so. I've been to Dublin for the second time this year for work. I spent part of one evening in a pub watching the Ireland friendly within sight of the ground. Not that I'm a football fan. I expect to be back there in the near future. Last weekend we were in North Wales for a family party. They had a fair bit of snow there so we managed to fit in some sledging.

All that was whilst suffering from a nasty cold that has given me a blocked nose and dry lips. I wasn't going to let that stop me getting on with things. The whole family seems to have had it to some degree.

Upcoming is the Herts LUG meeting on Wednesday. A few evenings back I did manage a quick game of netPanzer with some of the guys on IRC. Blowing things up (virtually) is fun, but I didn't quite get the hang of the strategy aspect. I don't play many games and this was one of the first times I've played a multi-player game over the internet.

[09:07] | [/News] | Comments | G

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