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Saturday, September 29th, 2007

Time:7:04 pm.
Leica M6 and 30mm f/2 Summicron

A few people who've been following my flickr photos have asked my why I've started shooting B&W film, so here goes:

I learned to shoot on a rangefinder, and shooting around London I miss the UI a bit. I've always wanted a Leica (for the usual photo-geek reasons), plus I still think B&W film looks better than digital conversions.

The rangefinder thing is even better than I remembered - manually focusing and setting exposure is much easier than it is on my DSLRs. Even though they have full manual control they're not really designed around it. Ontop of that a lot of the disadvantages of rangefinders are gone if you invest in Precision German Engineering - eg. the brightlines are pretty accurately parallax corrected for focal distance and length - which is impressive on something purely mechanical.

A year ago Leica M's in good nick were still crazy expensive, but since the digital M8 came out the body prices have come down a lot - the lenses are still pricey though. I was going to get one off a small shop or eBay, but then I found out much it costs to have one adjusted if it's out of whack, and went to an official dealer instead.

I've mostly been using C41 process B&W film, and I really like the look of it. Especially if you overexpose by a couple of stops. I drop the film into a dev place in Richmond on the way to work, and by lunchtime they've developed the film and scanned it onto CD. Not as convenient as digital, but not a great hardship either. Wierdly, the thing I miss most is the EXIF data. Without that I have to rely on my crap memory to know what days stuff was shot on, and what settings I had on the camera - which makes learning slower.

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Friday, August 31st, 2007

Subject:Radio 4
Time:12:46 pm.
Went to a recording of “Armando Iannucci's Charm Offensive” last night. Involved a lot of standing around in a room, waiting to go into the studio, but it was pretty funny. The whole thing lasted almost 2 hours for a 30 min programme, and the vast majority of it was unscripted.

After the main recording they went back and rerecorded bits that weren't clear or that used words that weren't sufficiently Radio 4: Christ is a no, Fuck is OK, Shit is bad, Defecate is good.

The studio was pretty cool in an over elaborate art deco way, and being the BBC they have Way Too Much Gear. A surprising amount of it was exactly what you hear on the radio - like for the bits with voiceovers they actually have a guy with a Radio Voice comes over the the side of the stage to read stuff out, punctuated by appropriate noises over the studio PA.
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Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

Time:3:10 pm.
So, I survived the week at the Chateau, just, but there was no internet, no newspapers, and very little phone coverage - so I get back to discover that the stockmarket is buggered, Lewis Hamilton is now evil it's no longer raining. A lot can happen in a week.

Had a great time, drunk a lot of very good beer, and caught up with many old friends.
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Monday, July 30th, 2007

Subject:Mini reviews
Time:9:11 am.
A few mini reviews I have to get down before I leave, 1 for your benefit, 3 mostly for mine:

The Simpson Movie - you have to see this it's unbelievably good.

Dragon Castle - Cantonese restaurant in E&C, great food, great service and not too expensive, only downside is it's in E&C.

Skylon - South Bank, moderately pricey, good food, good cocktail bar, a bit smart.

Amalfi - Soho, good food, good price, lots of tables, crap service, crap winelist.

I'm just off to Waterloo to get the train to Brussels, staying at a chateau with some old friends who are synthesiser geeks, should be a good laugh.
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Sunday, July 8th, 2007

Subject:Cycling and Art
Time:11:05 pm.
On Saturday went to see the Tour de France in Hyde Park, which was impressive. Hard to get any photos cos we were so close to the riders, and they were blasting past at 30 odd miles an hour a meter or so away.

Today went to Vauxhall Art Car Boot Art Fair, a load of established and up and coming artists who sell stuff off cheap. Saw some cool stuff, but didn't buy anything. After it had been open an hour or so, starting filling up with Nathans, so we left. Good though.
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Thursday, June 21st, 2007

Subject:Microformats, my arse
Time:4:30 pm.
High geek content warning

I've been using Dopplr, but I know that unless I get it integrated with my preferred calendar hub (iCal.app) I'm never going to keep it up to date, so looking around I read somewhere that Dopplr can scrape hCalendar from webpages.

So, I engage my hack brain, figure out that I can publish iCal from iCal.app onto ifreebusy (useful tool), then write a (nasty, iCal::Parser is not up to the job) cron'd perl script that sucks it back down, filters out all the events that are in the future and have the "@dopplr" tag, output them into an hCalendar compliant XHTML page and copy it to a public webserver.

So far, so nasty. The only slight problem being that Dopplr can't actually read hCalendar, it can only generate it, which I couldn't care less about. D'oh!

Lessons learned 1: read webpages more carefully before embarking on extended nasty hacks.
Lessons learned 2: iCal::Parser is really slow.

Now I either have to find someone working on Dopplr that owes me a favour and get them to actually implement the thing I thought they had, or do some even greater evil hack that uses the Dopplr web interface to keep my calendar there sync'd :(
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Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

Subject:Bulk update
Time:8:17 am.
Been really busy recently, so not written anything here.

Kitchen is currently being installed. Builders managed to remove the old kitchen and install 4 or 5 cabinets in the first day, which is pretty impressive.

John Lewis have been great with sourcing all the tradespeople, and delivering the right parts at the right time. They delivered all the cabinets in one go, then couriered over the appliances as there was somewhere to put them. All apart from the fridge, which was delivered weeks ago, for some unknown reason. The designer and project manager are both really good, and have been very accommodating. I'm reserving final judgment until it's finished ofcourse, there was a number of subtle things that irritated me about the old kitchen, which I relayed to the designer and I'm waiting to see if they're fixed.

However the building work means that we have no lounge (used to store new kitchen bits), and no garden (used to store old kitchen bits, skips are veboten in these parts) and the bedroom, studio/spare room and corridors are mostly used to store the contents of the kitchen. Consequently we've been eating out a lot.

On Monday Lucy and I went to the opening of the "Photographing Britain" exhibition that the Tate Britain, it's really good. There was a tour by the curator (who was really engaging), then we wandered round for a bit. Definitely recommend the show. They had some early Fox-Talbot's that were pretty impressive, and a good variety of stuff. We got the tickets in a competition in the Observer, but they printed the URL wrong, which must have increased our odds. A bit of poking in their CMS about made it obvious what the URL should have been. On the way back from the Tate we went to our favorite Mexican takeaway place, but to eat in. The food was really good, nothing fancy, but amazingly well cooked and spiced. I think it's the best Mexican food I've had. It's only small and tucked down a side street off Vauxhall Bridge Road, so in the words of Jerome K. Jerome, "I'm not going to be fool enough to advertise it here" :) Major downside was that there was a woman in a group at the next table, with the loudest, and most annoying laugh I've ever heard. A bad combination. Hard to believe that noise came form a human being.

Last night we ate at a Neopolitan place in Soho, then went to see Sue Perkins to some standup, that was really good too.

On a work front, the release of Data Patrol Advanced (the companies first commercial product) was put back to this week, as it just wasn't finished. Whats running at the moment though looks really good, and there are some impressive usability improvements.

I absolutely do not like the new website design, but it checks out well with our core consumers, and I'm not one of them, so I'm just going to suck it up and stop whining. I did quite like the old one, but it was a bit too "dry and formal" apparently. There were several learning experiences with construction of the new website, but I'm not going to go into them here.
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Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Subject:Startup Life
Time:8:04 am.
We just finished a hard push to get the “Kids at Risk* publicity / helpful content / brand awareness website and media up. It was all hands to the pumps for the last few days, so I've been writing HTML and transcoding videos. Not something I ever thought I'd have to do professionally, and not much fun either. I was uploading video's at 1am, minutes before the site went live.

The company who did the design and provided the photoshop files, but shall remain nameless, essentially have no clue. They will be getting an earful. I've seen significantly better source material from graphic designers who'd donated their time to produce layouts for non-profit and free software websites. Not happy. It's not that the design was bad, but the layering in the images just wasn't helpful for cutting and coding.

OTOH the same company have produced some really good media, their videos, web banner adverts etc are good.

Once again I completely misjudged the impact of the marketing - I've had the TV on while I read email and typed this and they've already mentioned the campaign twice. Tom's diary is booked solid doing interviews. The content didn't seem terribly interesting to me, but then I'm very far outside the target audience.

* Don't blame me for the ugliness of the URI, I wanted something short, ending with a slash *sigh*. Also, I made the linked to page reflow and shrink and stretch to fill the browser, but the designers got stroppy, so fixed the width. To bloody huge. Cretins. The HTML is pretty evil, because I wanted to make it reflow, if I'd given up on that ideal from the start I could have done it with 100% CSS layout. Oh well.
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Sunday, May 20th, 2007

Time:5:52 pm.
Went to Kennington Fair yesterday, sort of a village fair, but held in a small (but very pleasant) Georgian square. It's held to raise money for the Kennington Christmas lights or somesuch. I don't usually associate village fairs with oysters, raffles for bottles of premier cru champaign, tai-chi lessons and cooking by topflight chefs. I would hope that by next year this seems completely normal, and not some weird city reproduction of an alien event :)

I've noticed that Sky are using Imogen Heap's “Hide and Seek” to promote Lost. I gave up on Lost during the first series, and that's not likely to encourage me to go back to it, but it is a good track. It's jarring though to hear something so familiar on TV, kinda like when MTV used a 10 second snatch of an obscure 90s Front 242 track in one of their links for a few years. The first few dozen times I heard that link my hindbrain thought ‘uh, good music’ before I realised it was just that bloody link.
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Sunday, May 13th, 2007

Subject:An Army of Cyber-Tebbits
Time:5:45 pm.
Leaving Canadaland shortly, it's pretty and all, but I'm looking forward to being home. The air here is just too damn clean, and it's virtually silent. The cloud layer is really low at the moment, like just above the hotel roof. I guess that's what happens if you build towns in mountain ranges.

Just listened to the last Radio RTFM, so now I have the phrase “an army of cyber-tebbits” indelibly burned into by brain.
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Monday, May 7th, 2007

Subject:Banff, eh
Time:5:46 am.
In brief:

Calgary - the bit we drive through was all stamped out identical suburban housing. For miles and miles.

Banff - has mountains. Lots of mountains. Looks pretty cool, even though not seen it in the daylight yet. It's not that cold, just kind of chilly. Local information leaflet recommends "bear spray" when out and about in the Big Room, the mind boggles. Banff really is the butt-end of nowhere, even my GPS is having trouble working out where it is.

Hotel - tacky, looks like it should have fake suits of armour scattered about. Meets bare minimum of civilization though: HP sauce and interweb. All will be well.

Got upgraded on the plane, so got a bit of sleep. I'll put it down to my "real person" disguise, as the only times I've been upgraded before was when I checked in really late and all the economy seats had gone.
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Saturday, May 5th, 2007

Subject:Laid back
Time:7:45 pm.
Went to see the Gilbert and George thing at the Tate Modern last night, then went to see Fast Food Nation.

The G&G thing was much what you would expect - cool art if you like primary colours and symmetry :) They were there, signing swear boxes and books.

Fast Food Nation is a bit of a miss IMHO. I don't think Linklater was a great choice. Non spoiler summary: A lot of people hang out, while discussing the origins of fast food in a laid back way. Occasionally there's some laid back action, then they go back to some laid back discussion. It's not that it was a bad film, and it looks good, but the Linklater-does-documentary style is unlikely to take off.

Saw it at the Vue in Leicester square. Above-averagely expensive (£12 a ticket IIRC), and below averagly good. Lip sync went out part way through, which was irritating. The screen was practically empty, which is not a good sign on the Friday of the opening weekend of a film. Vue happened to be the next cinema showing it when we turned up though.

Off to the W3C advisory committee meeting tomorrow, then the web conference in Banff. I understand it's a bit chilly. Thinking of lugging a ton of lens incase I see one of the wide varieties of "bear" that are kicking around.
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Monday, April 30th, 2007

Subject:Eat London
Time:11:10 am.
Went to Camden on Sat. morning, then saw Eat London in the afternoon. it was pretty cool, but we didn't see that much of it. It had mostly been eaten by the time we got there.

On Sunday did practical stuff, most of the studio/office/spare room is together now.
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Saturday, April 28th, 2007

Time:9:18 am.
Saw the surrealist exhibition at the V&A last night, pretty good, had some cool stuff. The thing I liked most was a Man Ray chess set. They had quite a lot of Fini's stuff too, which is cool. I'd always thought of her as a futurist for some reason. I guess the difference is mostly geographic anyway.

Ate at some pizza place in Nightsbridge (Pizza by the Park maybe?), nothing to write home about but was still open. Went to walk home afterwards, but we kept failing to turn right, ended up a Buckingham Palace which is a bit of a detour, so it was a bloody long walk in the end. Got some OK photos of BP by night though.
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Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Subject:Einstürzende Neubauten
Time:9:31 am.
Saw them at Koko last night. Fucking awesome. They played a lot of newer stuff, but it was a good mix between fairly mellow, laid back stuff, and the more bombastic metal pounding stuff. They didn't play Headcleaner :(, but did play a lot of other cool songs.
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Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Subject:Painting, Touring, Strimming and not Running
Time:12:36 pm.
Finished the last of the painting on the weekend, we now have about 80% of a bedroom again, just needs the curtain rails putting up and we can move back in.

Went out with Al and Nick L. on Friday night, did tourist stuff - London eye, looked at buildings etc. Was good to see Al again. Finally took some photos of London, though taking photos from the eye is not that easy, lots of reflections from the curved glass. Aroused suspicion from security people at Tower 42 by peering through the window of a bank call centre trying to figure out what the numbers on a plasma screen meant. He seemed satisfied by Nick's explanation that we were “just wandering around”.

On Sunday we walked to Covent Garden for lunch, saw a bit of the marathon on the way. Watching tired looking people run by looses its appeal quite quickly. Ate at Chez Gerard, upstairs in the market. Was good and not too pricey for that part of town.

Massacred the scrubby patch of grass out back with the slightly excessive strimmer. It chucked sliced up bit of grass all over the place, but at least now you can walk across it without fear of mantraps, small bears etc. Want to get a (very small) shed to keep bikes + strimmer in. Too domesticated.
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Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Subject:Stocks & Shares FTW
Time:9:36 am.
Some time ago I randomly bought a bunch a shares, the portfolio is now up by 3.5% (after tax and fees it will just about buy a round of drinks, woot), mainly due to some bluechip mining corporation that I bought on a whim, and suddenly went up 25%. The biggest loss is from a Bloomsbury Press, which seemed like a safe bet, but went down 15% - something to do with Harry Potter being late IIUC. I also lost a bit of money on Big Yellow, which was an analyst pick. The others are up by insignificant amounts.

I now understand more about the stock market, which was the idea, but I have no idea how anyone reliably makes money. I figured that buying established bluechips when they were low and waiting was a pretty reasonable way of investing, but even bluechips fluctuate a lot, and diversifying means you loose a lot on fees. I would have made a lot more money for similar risk by buying compound shares in the FTSE100 out of Ireland*, but where's the fun in that?

* Ireland may screw hard working Google employees for every cent they've got, but Irish tax is a great deal if you own a lot of shares.
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Saturday, April 7th, 2007

Subject:Make Art
Time:1:08 pm.

I'm at the Make Art festival in Poitiers. Saw some performances last night, first one was some guy circuit bending with vegetables, the sonic result wasn't really to my taste, but towards the end he made a wind instrument of some type (fluteish) out of carrot (using a drill bit) and played that, which was pretty cool.

The guy after that did some really good noise music with a miced-up flute and piccolo as the source instruments - was some of the best noise music I've heard for being able to tyie back the source to the sound you were hearing, very good.

I'm giving a talk on some of my linux audio stuff in an hour or so - it's a bit dry, but that's what hey asked for. *shrug*

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Saturday, March 31st, 2007

Subject:Settling in
Time:4:26 pm.
Moving in is well underway. We finished painting the spare room today, then went to Borough Market and got some ingredients, for cooking, with fire and stuff. Market was pretty neat, but very crowded and a bit poncey.
Had a large amount of unskinned rabbits hanging up at one stall though, which was pretty neat in a "that's real food" way. Not as good as winchester farmers market, other than for its wine and beer, but much nearer.

Going to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum tomorrow, then doing a bit of house shopping (one of the coffee machines didn't survive the move).

Being able to go into work every day has been good, I feel much more intouch with the day-to-day running. If I catch one of the fast trains (2 an hour) it's only a 15 min journey, but I've missed a lot and ended up getting the slow which is more like 20-25 mins.

The joy of living this centrally hasn't worn off yet, but did pale a bit last Sunday when I ended up having to pay some crazy amount for a loaf of bread, 'cos the only food shop in the area still open only sells stuff that's been ethically hand-baked my monks, or something like that. Also nearly bought a pair of jeans for £250, but luckily looked at the price before taking them to the counter - a deviation from my normal absent minded ambling.
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Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

Time:10:47 am.
That inoffensively sized TV you saw in the cavernous, glitzy showroom might actually turn out to be bloody huge when it arrives at your not-very-big house.
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LiveJournal for Steve Harris.

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You're looking at 20 entries, after skipping 20 newer ones. Missed some entries? Then simply jump back 20 entries orforward 20 entries.