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The magazines are gone

There’s a new magazine out (here in the UK). It’s called Word and it’s about books and music and videos and popular culture in general. It may be of particular interest to certain LJ users (hi Zoo_music_girl, hi Zotz) because it has interviews with Nick Cave (he’s on the cover) and John Peel. I haven’t read much of it yet, but it looks pretty good, despite the unfortunate Microsoft-application-name-overlap

Its kind of exciting to get issue one of something; it’s a long time since I did anything like that.

In a bit of a newsagent spree, I also bought the NME, which I used to get religiously, but haven’t done so for a few years now. This week’s comes with a free CD of NME Awards nominees, which is pretty good. Slightly strangely, it closes with The Clash’s ‘Complete Control’. So I now have that on CD, as well as 7″ black vinyl picture sleeve. Ha!

Put on a kilt, dye your hair green, and dance to ‘Xerox Machine’

The other day a flat cardboard box arrived in the post for me when Frances was getting ready to take the kids out. Fiona (aged two on Friday, pop-pickers) was convinced that it was a pizza, so it had to be opened. It was, in fact, my Utilikilt, arrived all the way from Seattle, less than a week after I ordered it (they quote six to eight weeks for delivery.

I found their site when I was searching for sites where I could buy a proper, actual, Scottish kilt. I’ve had my Dad’s one since he died, but it sadly got attacked by moths. So I should be getting that from the shop where he got his, back home near Balloch. Eventually. They take things a bit slower in Luss than Seattle.

Plenty more won’t work so slow

I spent all of Friday afternoon trying to track down (what should be) the last bug in the project I’m currently working on. Only to discover that it wasn’t really there. Grrr. I must have looked at the wrong output when I ran the relevant test just before lunch, so I thought I wasn’t getting the data that I should be. Then after I got back from Pizza Express (it was Friday after all) I started debugging.

I spent the rest of the afternoon deep in the bowels of JBuilder, stepping through the code in debug. Then just as it was getting close to being time to go home, and when I thought I was going to have to come back to it on Monday, I discovered that there wasn’t any bug at all: I was getting the data that I expected. Grrrr. And Grrr! again.

Still, at least I did get it sorted out before the weekend.

For some of the time I was listening to a band called Rusted Root, who are a kind of folky, percussive lot. One of my co-workers had them on his hard drive, and he had thought that we might sound a bit like them, purely going on the “cowpunk” description (and knowing next to nothing about punk, clearly).

So I pointed him at the mp3s of our old demo. It stems from before and I joined the band, but we still do the first two songs (and might conceivably reinstate two of the others into our repertoire). He’s an open-minded sort of guy, and is keen to hear the results of our recent sessions.

Tomorrow I’ll be burnt as a witch for playing punk rock

Spent the weekend at ‘s doing some recording. See the band’s blog at for blow-by-blow details (with pictures), but here’s my take on it.

We were up till one on Friday night doing initial setup and soundcheck for my guitar. Got my rhythm (god, that’s a stupid word to spell; I always take about three goes, and it still never looks right) guitar for ‘Naples’ down in the first hour or so on Saturday morning. There’s a part in it where all of us are having difficulty locking into the beat correctly (note how I avoided using that word again). This was where demonstrated that a drumstick could become a conductor’s baton. All these years we thought he was air-drumming, and here he was really practising to be a conductor.

Actually it was very helpful.

We then decided we needed a different sound for the next song, ‘Massachusetts Avenue’. And spent the next hour playing with gain and EQ controls until we had it right. Karmic is nothing if not a perfectionist, and I’m sure we’ll thank him for it when we hear the final results.

Fortunately, we were able to use the same sound for the third song, ‘Cowboys and Indians’, and it went down without too much fuss, leaving us only to choose a suitable clean sound for ‘White Line’. That didn’t take too long,and before the night was out Ol, the lead guitarist (and sole non-LJ user in the band, I might add) had done his rhythm part on the last song.

The next day he did all his other rhythm parts, and in the afternoon I started singing.

That’s when we discovered all the parts in the songs where I had been getting it wrong up until now. I didn’t write any of the songs we’re recording at the moment, so there’s always someone else to know what I’m doing wrong (in many ways this makes it easier for me than doing my own songs, when there’s only me who knows what I should be singing); however, it’s not always easy to catch such things in a rehearsal when everyone is playing.

Still, as said, taking two hours to record the entire lead vocal for a track is not, in the grand scheme of things, that much.

In the end, though, we only managed to finish three of the four tracks before we all had to go home, so ‘Naples’ remains undone as yet.

And in the middle of all that we heard the tragic news about Columbia.

All I wanna do is…

How crap is that? I was cycling to Waterloo this morning, on my brand-new, four-month old Ridgeback bike, when all of a sudden something began to drag badly on the back wheel. I got off, had a good look, up-ended it, and saw that the tyre was rubbing against the mudguard bracket, once per turn.

I tried slackening the wheel and re-seating it, but that didn’t help. The mudguard bracket wasn’t bent or anything. I gradually realised that the wheel was out of true.

But it had happened in an instant; I had heard the change, just as I went over a speed bump. Surely wheels only get warped over a long period of time?

A few more minutes of examination revealed the culprit: a spoke had broken. The careful balance of tension that makes a bike wheel the perfect, dynamically stable circle that it is, had gone, throwing all out of alignment. I feel there should be some sort of metaphor here, perhaps for world affairs; but this isn’t Thought for the Day.

So I was left to take it easy the rest of the way to Waterloo, and I’ll have to struggle home somehow.

Fortunately (I suppose) the bike is overdue for its first free service, so I’ll take it into the shop and I’m sure they’ll sort it out. But after only four months? It’s very disappointing. It’s not like it’s seen very heavy use: twelve miles a day on only two or three days a week on average, and I didn’t use it at all in December.

And it would have to happen this week, when the Central and Waterloo & City Lines are fracked because of the crash.

It just works!

Further to yesterday’s post, I have to express extreme, pleased surprise and respect at how well the tax return site worked. After my post yesterday I tried again, but went back a few extra steps. I think the fact that I couldn’t get back directly to the page I’d been on was due to some wrinkle with the HTML form that the page was using. I went back to the start and went forward again; all the data I had entered was still there (apart from on the page I was on when there was a server problem, but that was easy to re-key).

I finished entering the rest of my data (after spending more time than I should have had to tracking down some of the documents I needed) and got to the end, and pressed the button saying, “Calculate my tax”.

That’s when I got the biggest (and pleasantest) surprise of all: it seems they owe me two hundred and twenty quid!

As a socialist, of course, I approve of paying your taxes; though like anyone, I wasn’t looking forward to the possibility of having to pay some extra. But I never imagined for a a second that I’d get a refund.

Thing is, I don’t even understand why.

Who’d have thought that doing your taxes could be both so easy and so lucrative?

Let me tell you how it will be…

It’s the first time I’ve had to fill in a tax return since I was a student, and I decided that, in the 21st century, it’s almost a moral requirement to do it onlline if you can. I was prepared to fall back on IE if I had to, but I have to express a certain surprised respect that the online form seems to work in Mozilla. As a precaution, before I started I disabled my ad-and-popup blocking software, AdSubtract, as it can cause problems with functional sites if they happent to use much JavaScript. But then the site just worked. Errr, until it ground to a halt, that is.

Now, you’d think that they’d have realised that the last weekend that you can do your return before you get a penalty charge would be on the busy side, and boosted their severs a bit. But no. There it sits, hours later, on an ” operation timed out” page. Sombeody must be connecting, but it sure ain’t me. Even Netcraft can’t connect (I thought it would be worth finding out what kind of servers they’re running; but I don’t know yet).

Oh well, I have to get some info from my building society before I can finish, so I suppose it can wait.

And anyone who’s smugly saying, “I did mine months ago” can bugger off.