Flip, flop, make your mind up! After another about face, I’m here to tell you that I am doing a maths degree from scratch with the Open University. Just because I want to. Courses will be selected from those listed on the Mathematics degree page. Starting with MU123 in February.
The UK Government are holding a consultation to canvas views on whether the speed limit on UK motorways should be increased from 70mph to 80mph. It seems to me that many people currently drive at about 75mph when the motorway is clear. They see 75mph as enough over the speed limit not to get prosecuted. If the limit is raised to 80mph then 85mph will become the new norm. I can’t see the point in this. In my experience all this will mean is that you will get to the next part of your journey with congestion more quickly. It won’t make much difference to overall journey times. I’ve tried driving long distances going faster than the speed limit when I can, and then the same journey sticking to the speed limits. Over a 2 week period the times the journeys took each day were with 10 minutes of each other. Some of the fastest journeys were the days I stuck to the speed limits. So I can’t see this increase to 80mph making journeys quicker. It’ll also burn more fuel for no gain.
If they want to decrease journey times it’d be better to make it an offence to sit in the overtaking lanes on the motorway when there is space on the inner lanes. 3 points for everyone hogging the overtaking lane would do more to increase traffic flow on the motorway than increasing the speed limit!
I’m in the middle of switching my Soapbox site to a new theme. Canvas from WooThemes. I’m planning of doing a lot more writing on 4 main topics on this site in the future. These will be science, technology, teaching myself mathematics (to better understand science) and also some fiction, and posts about writing fiction.
I wanted a cleaner, simpler and whiter layout for the site. Canvas theme fits the bill very nicely So over the next few days the layout of the site will change as I mess about with the settings in the WooThemes framework and the Canvas theme.
Got my new car on St Patrick’s day. To replace the Honda Civic Hybrid I had since January 2008. Given I don’t do many miles, the Honda went back after the end of a 3 year lease with only 14,600 miles on it, I decided to get something cheaper. The company I lease from suggested a Mini. And that’s what I ended up getting. A Mini One D in red. I like it. Fun to drive, plus it’s £100 per month less to lease than I was paying for the last 3 years. Including free servicing for the 3 years. Result! Click on the picture to get larger view.
Been a while since I updated this post. Luckily there has been a spate of new albums in the last while to make up for a dearth earlier in the year.
I kept a list of album of the year contenders last year and picked my favourite in December. I will be doing the same this year. As I buy new albums this year I’ll update this list and pick my favourite after Christmas. Last year was a bumper year for brilliant new music in my opinion. Arguably the best year for new albums that I liked since 1975, which is when I started buying albums with my own (pocket) money. The albums listed here will not be in any order of preference during the year.
First addition to the list is The Family Jewels from Marina & the Diamonds [Listen on Spotify. Buy on Amazon or iTunes. Follow Marina on Twitter]. I first discovered Marina via a tweet on Twitter early in 2009. The songs available then were brilliant. Tracks like I Am Not A Robot, Obsessions and Mowgli’s Road for example. I got to see Marina live at the iTunes Live Festival in July at the Roundhouse in Camden [Buy on iTunes]. She was excellent live. A brilliant voice delivering her very good songs. The new album that has just come out doesn’t disappoint. The new tracks added to the existing tracks are very good. I like Shampain and Girls especially.
Lost Where I Belong from Andreya Triana [Listen on Spotify. Buy on Amazon or iTunes. Follow Andreya on Twitter]. I first heard a track from this album when it was the free single of the week on UK iTunes Store in August. Got the album on the back of that. It’s brilliant. I like all the tracks. Andreya has a wonderful voice.
So the fabled Guyton guitar arrived this week. I will do a post soon with detailed pictures and comments on the build quality (it’s stunning!). Here is a short noodle entitled First Light so you can hear the tone. This is just a noodle of some scales and chords (including a missed D Chord near the end!). It was captured in Guitar Rig 4 using the preset 015 (Comp Plex Driven – MC). I’m going to enjoy playing with this. Very rusty after being 15 months without an electric. But plenty of time now to practice and create
UPDATE: Sold the guitar. I didn’t need a guitar that cost that much in my life!
My new guitar is finally ready. Here’s an new picture of it. Should have it soon.
Well that’s another orbit of Sol completed. I’ve now done this 46 times. I’m hoping for another 54. At least!
I recently installed Adobe Creative Suite 4 on my Macintosh. I wanted to use Photoshop for some graphical work, and InDesign for technical document creation. I unselected all the other components that I didn’t want to install. After the installer was finished I had a several, 8 or 9 if I recall correctly, new folders in my Application folder with various Adobe apps in them. I was only installing 2 apps. Why all the other folders? This should have been a sign that Adobe are now pedlars of bloatware. The running apps themselves were slow on my MacBook Pro (2.8Ghz C2D, 4GB Ram and 7200rpm disk machine).
I uninstalled the whole lot. Well I tried. The uninstall option left several bits of Adobe detritus in my Applications folder and in my Preferences Folder. I deleted that manually.
Bye-bye and good riddance Adobe CS. Maybe CS 5 will be different but I doubt it. Given their poor record with the Mac version of Flash I don’t have much hope for their other Adobe produced Macintosh software in the near future. BTW if you haven’t installed ClickToFlash on your Mac, to control Flash loading when browsing, I’d recommend you do so as soon as possible.
Below are some links for alternatives to the Creative Suite Apps. These might fit your needs better than the full Adobe CS offerings. These may not have all the same features of Creative Suite applications, but they are lightweight, easier to use and probably better for most non-professionals. However, some of those listed below are probably better for professionals. Final Cut and Soundtrack, for example.
Alternatives to Photoshop
- Pixelmator – http://www.pixelmator.com/
- Acorn – http://www.flyingmeat.com/acorn/
- GraphicConverter – http://www.lemkesoft.com/content/188/graphicconverter.html
- GNU Image Manipulation Program – http://gimp.lisanet.de/Website/News/News.html
Alternatives to inDesign
- Pages – http://www.apple.com/uk/iwork/pages/what-is-pages.html
- Swift Publisher – http://www.belightsoft.com/products/swiftpublisher/overview.php
Alternatives to Adobe Acrobat
Alternatives to Dreamweaver
- RapidWeaver – http://www.realmacsoftware.com/rapidweaver/
Alternatives to Illustrator
Alternatives to Premier Pro
- iMovie – http://www.apple.com/uk/ilife/imovie/
- Final Cut Pro – http://www.apple.com/uk/finalcutstudio/
- Final Cut Express – http://www.apple.com/uk/finalcutexpress/
Alternatives to Soundbooth
- Soundtrack Pro – http://www.apple.com/uk/finalcutstudio/soundtrackpro/
- Fission – http://rogueamoeba.com/fission/
Alternatives to After Effects
I’ll add to this list if any others come to my attention. I might add some options for Microsoft Windows based users as well. Feel free to give me your suggestions for either Macintosh or Windows apps that do any of the functions shown in the lists.
I’ve been a supporter, and occasional member, of the Conservative Party since 1979. I started supporting them when I was about 15 during the Winter of Discontent. Labour were then, and are now, a political and actual disaster for the UK. The election of Margaret Thatcher’s conservative administration was the best thing that happened to this country for a long while.
Times change and people change. I’ve certainly changed in the years since 1978. The idealistic 15 year old boy is now a 45 year old man (who still has an idealistic 15 year old lurking within!). Of the 3 main political parties in the UK I think that my current world view and outlook is best matched by the Liberal Democrats.
In Northern Ireland the Liberal Democrats are allied with The Alliance Party. You can’t vote for the Liberal Democrats directly. This is a pity. Hopefully it will change at some point.
In the forthcoming election I will be voting Alliance and will be donating to the Liberal Democrats. My vote will not change the MP that is elected in the East Belfast constituency. It will however make it easier for me to look in the shaving mirror.
I hope that the Liberal Democrats get the chance to lead this country in to the 21st century to a fair, and liberal environment for all.
Here are the iPhone apps that I use the most. This list doesn’t include any of the built in apps like iPod, Safari, Mail, Voice Recorder, Clock etc. that get used all the time. Everyone has those. The #goodiphoneapps comes from Twitter. It is a hastag that is used to flag tweets about iPhone apps people like. Here are my favourites then. In no particular order. This is just the start of the list. More to add.
Fizz Weather – My favourite weather app on the iPhone. Has lots of options including 2, 5 and 15 day views. Weather warnings. Satellite views.
PCalc – A brilliant replacement calculator. It has all the functions you would expect from a physical scientific calculator. Adheres well to the metaphor that iPhone apps should look, feel and act like the real world devices they replace.
Stanza – a book reader and ebook library management application. Turns your iPhone or iPod touch into an eBook reader. The iPhone is a very nice eBook device indeed when using this app.
Groceries – The Grocery Shopping List – Neat little app that allows you to build a shopping list as you remember things you need. Then when you get to the supermarket you can check them off as you shop.
I listed my shortlist of 11 albums for my choice of album of the year in a previous Soapbox post. All of these albums are brilliant and are worth multiple listens. But I said I would pick 1 of them as the best of the year. My pick of the year is Blue Roses from Laura Groves.
It was close as they are all great albums.
UPDATE: Blue Roses was my pick. All 11 are brill though.
We are now in the last month of 2009 and this is my final list of albums that are candidates for my Album of the Year. It’s been a really good year for new music. In addition to the albums listed here there are several musicians who are breaking through but who have not released full albums yet. Plus there are several albums that just didn’t make the list. For example Kasabian, Adriane Lake, Imogen Heap, Placebo, Muse, Elin Ruth Sigvardsson, Elle Stevenson, Nerina Pallot and Tori Amos. It has been a great year for new music.
These are not in release date order. Nor are they in preference order. It’s going to be very, very hard to pick one from this list. Will listen to them all again over the Christmas holidays and pick the winner before the new year. I was going to wimp out and not pick one. But decided that would be crap
If you want to pick your favourite from the list then post your choice in the comments. If enough people (more than 5) comment I’ll have a draw for an iTunes voucher code to buy an album.
Those Thousand Seas from Claire Tchaikowski [Listen on Spotify or Last FM. Buy on Amazon UK or iTunes. Follow Claire on Facebook] I can’t remember how I found this album. I think it was buy following friend links on MySpace. Irrespective of how I found it, I’m glad I did. It’s a beautiful recording. I like Undone especially.
The Duckworth Lewis Method from The Duckworth Lewis Method [Listen on Spotify. Buy onAmazon UK or iTunes. Follow on Twitter] Who said the concept album is dead? Tell most of the people you know that there is anew album about cricket and they’ll likely run a mile! But this is very good. The songs are brilliant in their own right. Well worth a listen. No need to be a fan of cricket. In fact probably better if you aren’t. Then you can concentrate on the music.
Blue Roses from Blue Roses. [Listen on Spotify. Buy on Amazon UK or iTunes. Follow Laura Groves on Twitter] This was another Twitter find. Can’t remember now how I came across it. But I’m glad I did. I love this album to bits. I have always loved piano/guitar music (witness my Queen and Kate Bush addiction!). Blue Roses has some beautiful piano tracks, and some great acoustic guitar stuff. It may be the case that the song Does Anyone Love Me Now? will be one of my favourite songs ever. I was going to list some other tracks but couldn’t separate them. They’re all good!
Lungs from Florence + The Machine [Listen on Spotify. Buy on Amazon UK or iTunes. Follow Florence on Twitter.] Several people had been cajoling me into listening to Lungs for a while. I kept promising I’d do it. I had a free hour one day last week, or the week before (cant recall now), and I listened to it on Spotify. Wow! it’s good. Florence has a really nice voice. When coupled with the music on the album the result is very good indeed. I especially like the tracks Cosmic Love and Hardest of Hearts.
Fever Ray from Fever Ray [Listen on Spotify. Buy on Amazon UK or iTunes. Follow Fever Ray on Twitter.] Fever Ray is a new solo project by Karin Dreijer Andersson who is a member of The Knife. She has a brilliant voice. I reckon Karin could pass the Kate Bush Test by singing names from the phone book and make it sound wonderful.
The Fame from Lady Gaga [Listen on Spotify. Buy on Amazon UK or iTunes. Follow Lady Gaga on Twitter.] This actually came out originally in 2008, but it was re-released in November as The Fame Monster. It was well into 2009 before I heard Poker Face on the radio though. This was the song that hooked me. The whole album is brilliant. She has been getting a lot of press recently. Even made the cover of the current issue of Rolling Stone. Richly deserved. Lady Gaga is the genuine article. Not a manufactured artist.
Wild Young Hearts from The Noisettes [Listen on Spotify. Buy on Amazon UK or iTunes. Follow The Noisettes on Twitter.] When I first heard a track from this album, Don’t Upset The Rhythm, I thought it was a new Lady Gaga song. The whole album is simply brilliant. Only one track is like Lady Gaga. They have their own sound. And a very good sound it is too. The singer, Shingai Shoniwa, has a very powerful, beautiful voice. The song Atticus is now one of my favourite tracks ever, from anyone.
Two Suns from Bat For Lashes [Listen on Spotify. Buy on Amazon UK or iTunes. Follow Natasha on Twitter. ] This was first recommended to me on Twitter. Good call that was. The songs Sleep Alone and Daniel are superb. The others are good as well. Liked this so much I extended my stay at Apple WWDC to go see them in San Francisco
Hardships! from Jenny Wilson [Listen on Spotify. Buy on iTunes. Follow Jenny on Twitter.] I wasn’t going to include this when I was thinking about writing this post. I loved Jenny Wilson’s first album Love & Youth. The follow up is less easily accessible. However it is definitely a grower. I’m liking it more and more. So it has to be on the list as it may be my favourite in 7 months
If you follow my ramblings on Twitter you’ll not be surprised to see that I’m adding Spinnerette by Spinnerette to this list! [Listen on Spotify. Buy on Amazon UK or iTunes. Follow Spinnerette on Twitter]. Another band that I discovered in a posting to Twitter, which is rapidly becoming the place where I discover new music. I’ve been playing this a lot since I got it. This might be one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long while. I’ll hold judgement until the newness novelty has worn off. I’m going to see them live in London on 16th July. Fabulous
Polly Scattergood from Polly Scattergood. I listened to this because Polly was playing in The Roundhouse at the iTunes Live Festival the same night as Bat For Lashes. It’s a very good album. I love several tracks from this such as Bunny Club, Nitrogen Pink and Untitled 27 [Listen on Spotify. Buy on Amazon UK or iTunes. Follow Polly on Twitter ]
When Queen started using synthesisers I liked the results. Hot Space [Spotify & Last FM] is one of my favourite albums. I loved it from the moment I heard it. Unlike many of my peers at the time who reacted as if the band was using pitchfotks to load babies into a furnace!
But a synthesiser is just another instrument. You either use it well or you don’t. Queen did in my opinion. Interestingly several of the most vocal critics in my peer group, in the 1980′s when this was happening, have since admitted to liking Hot Space and The Game [Spotify & Last FM] a lot. No shame in that. They are brilliant albums.
I think the fact that I grew up liking 3 groups, 2 of whom used synthesisers, had an influence on me not throwing the teddies out of the pram when that Oberheim OB-X appeared in the sleeve notes of The Game. The other 2 groups I liked a lot in the 1970′s where Hawkwind [Spotify & Last FM] and Kate Bush [Spotify & Last FM]. Both of them used electronics and synthesisers a lot. So it didn’t worry me that my other favourite band did as well.
Bringing this up to date, there are some good synthesiser using musicians about at present. For example Adriane Lake [Last FM]. Check out her album Morning Glow. Then buy it on iTunes. You can also follow Adriane on Twitter.
I wrote about getting lingual braces a few years ago in this post. No Northern Ireland orthodontists did linguals at that stage and I traveled to Portlaoise to get treated by Dr. David Hegerty, now based in Midleton near Cork.
It now seems that the Belmont Orthodontics practice in Belfast does lingual braces and also Invisalign invisible straighteners. So if you are looking for invisible orthodontics in Northern Ireland you now have an option
IT Infrastructure consultant, Apple geek, atheist, hobby guitarist, science junkie, perpetual math student, chess patzer, also trying to write stuff.
by Alan Sandage