2007 January 14
by Dexter M

Following the loss of my “little” brother Andrew, my mum and dad have gradually been dealing with the task of finding homes for his possessions. Being a major computer gamer, he had quite a few games consoles – including an actual Nintendo Wii. Sadly Andrew only got a few days play out of it before going back into hospital and dieing. early last week I was offered the Wii (plus several games and extra controllers etc.). It’s a weird thing really – Andrew’s Mii (avatar/profile thingamy) is still on there, so, as long as I keep it, we’ll be reminded each time we play it. However the sheer joy of playing it, I hope captures some of the spirit he had – cheers Andrew – a great legacy to pass on!

So, we spent this evening, rattling through Wii Play, Wii Sports and a bi of Super Monkey Ball : Banana Blitz – to varying degrees shouting, cursing, laughing and generally having a great time. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take on the more challenging business of tackling The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

Democarcy 2.0, Grimm at Last and Dull Betty

2007 January 12
by Dexter M

Thanks to Bri for pointing out TheyWorkForYou.com today. It’s a truly remarkable (dare I say it) “Web 2.0″ site, aimed at allowing us to find out easily, and in one place what our representatives in parliament (elected and non-elected) are doing. You can type in your postcode, find out who your MP is and, more importantly find out : how they are voting, how and when thy are attending debates, asking questions, going on foreign trips at our expense, whether their speeches are understandable by the average 17-18 year old and even how many three word alliterations they have used (like “she sells shells” apparently!).

I found out my MP, Julie Malaber:

  • only voted “moderately” for a ban on smoking in public places
  • is a member of “Advisory Committee on Works of Art”
  • never rebels against her party line
  • and has used three-word alliterative phrases 76 times in debates – average for MPs apparently!

There’s a whole kit bag of tools (RSS feeds, commenting, alerts when someone makes a speech etc.), loads and loads of clearly laid out information (including Hansards information). What is more this is a “not-for-profit” site run by a charity – so hopefully will remain entirely impartial.

An utterly brilliant and seemingly well executed idea.

Meanwhile, in the world of entertainment, we finally got to watch all of The Brothers Grimm. Another great film from Terry Gilliam. Perhaps not his best, but certainly very entertaining, with plenty of his anarchic touches.

On a more disappointing note : after missing a couple of weeks, we finally caught the much hyped Ugly Betty, which proved to be a damp squib – unfunny, quite predictable and just rather dull really. Ho Hum.

Goopy Genius!

2007 January 11
by Dexter M

teh internets-omfg
Originally uploaded by goopymart.

This is the first real lazy blog entry I’ve done this year. I was going to compose a rant about the idiotic Congestion Charging “debate” that’s going on the the East Midlands at the moment – that may come tomorrow, when I’ve thought it through a bit more.

For now I’d like to sing the praises of the graphical design genius that is GoopyMart. Sadly their website only teases, but their Flickr photostream bulges with wonderfuly crafted Goopiness. I even invested in a T-Shirt from their shop on CafePress.com not too long ago, and will probably do the same very soon.

Goop it up fuzzballs!

Bill Bailey SHOULD be the 11th Doctor!

2007 January 10
by Dexter M

Of course, this is strictly an opinion, but you know it makes sense!

This is largely my response to the awful “news” put out on the Yahoo! new site that : a) David Tenant is likely to quit at the end of the next series, and b) Jason Statham (he of Transporter and Lock Stock… fame) might be taking over.

Bill Bailey is clearly the best choice – the West Country codemic genius has the witt, the quirks and the down-right strangeness to pull the role off.

Failing that I reckon Richard E Grant would also make a good Doctor – after all, he did do the animated stuff on the BBC website a couple of years back. Or how about (dare I say it) a lady Doctor? Jessica Stevenson?

Panic on the Streets of Helsinki?

2007 January 9
by Dexter M

I was a teenager in the eighties, and The Smiths provided me with an idea salve for my teenage angst. It seemed like a turning point – musically and politically when they split in the autumn of 1987 – the same year I started at Cardiff University (or UWIST as it was then).

The handful of albums full of poignant, witty, funny, sad, pretentious and utterly on-the-button pop songs can still move me even now. However, after an initially promising start with Viva Hate, Morrissey as a solo artist has always been a bit hit and miss for me – whilst I love Vauxhall and I, I’ve never been as bowled over by much since his first solo effort.

Now the Smiths generation has reached their mid-to-late 30s, and have a bit more buying power than in their student days, the former Smiths vocalist has seen something of a revival over the last few years. Cybercontroler Daz and Foxytallchick went to see him at his recent Nottingham gig and have written enthusiastically about it.

So, when today, the BBC revealed that he has been approached to write and perform an entry for Royume Uni in the Eurovision Song Contest, many people were a bit bemused. Perhaps they forget what a truly great pop artist he can be – hell he even worked with Sandi Shaw early on in The Smiths carrier. Of course, he’d still have t go through the qualification process like all the other hopefuls, but who knows? What the hell eh – if a pantomime heavy metal band and an Israeli transsexual can win it, why not the former daffodil waving, hearing aid wearing veggie evangelist himself.

While we’re at it why not field some of our other great pop artists like Neil Hannon (aka The Divine Comedy) or Saint Etienne (that would confuse the French!)

Beautiful Computer Music

2007 January 8
by Dexter M

For a while, I’ve been meaning to get “IBM 1401, A User’s Manual” by Johann Johannsson. Today, I finally went into Reveal Records and picked it up.

It’s a kind of tribute to the IBM 1401 mainframe computer – apparently the first computer in Iceland. The story goes that when this incredibly bulky, expensive and cantankerous collection of hardware came to the island in the early 60s, Johnannsson’s father worked with it and discoverd a way of actually getting it to produce a strange and delicate music. Recordings of this, various ambient sounds from the machine and spoken word from an instructional recording have been woven together with powerful string arrangements and electronics to create something that lies easily against the likes of Max Richter, Arvo Pärt and Sigur Rós.

Released on 4AD towards the end of last year, I heard the opening track – “IBM 1401 : Processing Unit” on a late night drive back home listening to the superb Late Junction program on Radio 3, and was just mesmerised. Sure, it’s an acquired taste (see video below, complete with slightly overdone performance art/dance interpretation), but also, once in your head, is totally captivating.


A bit Code and Wet at Carsington

2007 January 7
by Dexter M

Since the weather looked briefly OK this morning, we decided to go for a walk from Carsington Water up to Longcliffe (on the High Peak Trail) via Brassington. Unfortunately, the weather did not stay good, and we got soaked. It was still a good walk though, and a route I’d like to take again on a clearer day.

We parked up at the smaller car park on the edge of Carsington Water that’s nearest to Carsington village. Then walked through the picturesque village of Carsington up a plodgy muddy path onto Carsington Pasture. On the way we met a local bloke who told us of the (literally) thousands of partialy hidden dis-used lead-mine shafts up on the Pasture and how idiot Off-Roaders had used the area, and re-opened a number of them. As a result people had lost dogs and other animals down them. Thankfully the off-roaders and their 4x4s have been banished for now, so we had a peaceful, if increasely walk up over the pasture to Brassington.

In Brassington, we stopped at the cosey (and pretty busy) Miner’s Arms for a “light” lunch – a quality beef baguette with actual hand cut a very tasty chips! Stuffed once again!

From there we slogged across to the High Peak Trail – realtively free of mud, almost entirely deserted, but pretty exposed in places. Very atmospheric though – passing various quarrying sites and works in varying states of repair. Then evtually back over Carsington Pasture down into the village of Carsington again.

Not a massive distance, but enough for today’s grim weather.

1-0 – Come On You Nailers!

2007 January 7
by Dexter M

Watching Belper Town FCI may have mentioned by interest in the “Non-League” – as much for the associated beer pies as anything else. So today when Cybercontroler Daz joined me and Matt to go and see Belper Town beat Colwyn Bay, it was something of a lift.

Not to mention couple or so beers and the excellent pie and peas at half time.

After a run of real bad luck (and poor performances), Belper Town FC (aka The Nailers), have finally treated us to a great game of football today. Winning 1-0 against a seemingly better disciplined and organised Colwyn Bay. Sure, they looked a bit scrappy in places and didn’t really have many good shots, they made the most of a free kick score a beauty. After that they just seemed to get better as their confidence grew – with the likes of Paulo Pilieri up front playing some great attacking football.

Matt had a good chance to shout a lot, and me and Daz drunk a few, an we saw a good game for £6 – what more could you ask for?

"RIP Milkman of Human Kindness" WebDD and Getting Stuffed in Belper

2007 January 5
by Dexter M

Had an average day at work today – mainly finishing off an estimating task for a potentially big big site.

Ho Hum

Slightly dissapoint to find that Lactose has called a day on his blogging activities – it seems that he feels Second Life is the main thing now. I’ve delved, but not had the time or inclination to jump fully into it yet – although I intrigued by his enterprising scheme of build a TARDIS in SL. Also he announced plans to have a virtual birthday party too – even asked me to DJ – so who knows I may take him up on it.

Also found/re-discovered the WebDD conference – something to do with a geezer I met at d.Construct (named Phil Winstanley) and subsequently the most excelent Ruby On Rails day run by GeekUp in Manchester. It’s got the likes of Scott Guthrie and Glen Jones (of Madgex – the people behind the excellent backnetwork at d.Construct) as speakers. It’s free, but it’s in Reading on Saturday 5th Feb – potentially a logistical challenge, but probably worth it.

So, after work, we had a bit of a swim and then caught the train back up to Belper to meet friends Keith and Karina for a belly busting, and very fine, eat all you can Chinese meal at the River Gardens Cantonese restaurant.

I am now hapilly stuffed.

101 Stupid Things to do With Linux #1

2007 January 4
by Dexter M

A bored moment – an old pc running Fedora – Xeyes – a rubber stress mouse.