November sky. Days like this are the real reason we have Christmas.

    Well, damn. As the only one in my immediate family never to have had it, I really thought I was going to get away with it.

    A lateral flow test for COVID-19,showing  positive result.

    Wednesday Night is Music Night

    God, I have missed this so much. Live music FTW.

    I get emails from the Joe Strummer Foundation . The most recent one told me that their artist of the month for September was someone called Gemma Rogers. I hadn’t heard of her, but was interested when I read that she’d had an album launch at Paper Dress Vintage. That’s a place just down the road from me on the Narrow Way. It used to just be a second-hand clothes shop, but now it’s more, I guess.

    Anyway, the thought that she might be a local piqued my interest, as well as the JSF recommendation, so I gave her a listen, and liked what I heard a lot.

    She was booked to play at a place called Folklore, on Hackney Road, so I thought, why not? In support was Gabi Garbutt and the Illuminations , who I saw once a few years back, because Sean Read, whom I know from round these parts, was producing them and playing in the band. Back then. Not anymore. Not tonight, at least.

    Going to a gig in a small venue? No big deal, right? Except… this is the first gig I’ve been to since I saw Glen Matlock. At the end of February 2020.

    It felt like quite a step.

    But after a bite to eat across the road, we made our way in through forbidding, castle-like doors. Inside is a smallish bar area, and a classic pub backroom. The stage made of two layers of forklift pallets topped with hardboard. It was smoky. Visually, it was like being back in the eighties. But of course, it was stage smoke-machine smoke. Exactly why it filled the air before anyone had taken to the stage escapes me.

    Unless it was to show the lasers. It looked like this:

    A pub back room with a low stage set up for a band. Laser beams criss-cross the smoky atmosphere.
    The back room of Folklore Hoxton

    Anyway, Veronica Bianqui brought her Hollywood-fuelled LA tones to Hackney Road. Though it turned out she had been on the bus with us down from Clapton.

    Veronica Bianqui on stage
    Veronica Bianqui on stage

    I probably enjoyed Gabi Garbutt’s performance most of the three. Because at times? At times they sounded a bit like late-period Clash.

    Gabi Garbutt on stage
    Gabi Garbutt on stage

    They sounded. Like. The Clash. Combat Rock-era. I think it was mainly the bass player sounding a bit like Paul Simonon. Whatever, I can pay no higher compliment. No higher compliment can be paid.

    But Gemma Rogers was also great, with the singalong of ‘Rabbit Hole’ being the highlight. Not often you get the band applauding the audience.

    Gemma Rogers on stage
    Gemma Rogers on stage

    But yes: I had missed it so much more than I realised. Just getting together in room with a hundred or so people, while others make rocking sounds up the front? How could I have forgotten?

    13th, 2016 - ★★★½

    A documentary about the prison-industrial complex, this is a tough watch. The title comes from the 13th amendment to the US Constitution. While abolishing slavery, that amendment also allowed for slavery to continue — at least for those incarcerated for a crime.

    Tough, as I say, but it should be seen.

    See in Letterboxd

    On this date of many ‘2’s (but just wait till the 22nd), here’s a nice sunset for you.

    Sunset over Hackney
    Sunset over Hackney

    The Beatles: Get Back, 2021 - ★★★★★

    I wish I could give this six stars or seven. Hell, why not ten? Actually watching it twice in two months and giving it five stars each time is giving it ten.

    It is so, so good, in so many ways.

    Apparently Disney are releasing an IMAX version of just the rooftop concert soon. That'll be interesting, if too short. I mean, I'd watch the whole thing in a cinema with a good sound system. And I speak as one who once watched the eight-hour version of Wim Wenders's Until the End of the World at the BFI, so you know I mean it.

    'Spider-Man: No Way Home, 2021 - ★★★★'

    Pretty good follow-on from the earlier Spider-Man films. My daughter tells me ‘All the fan theories were right.’ I wasn’t aware of them, so I hope that’s not a spoiler for anyone. 

    Turned out Doctor Strange (long my favourite Marvel character) wasn’t being quite as idiotic as I’d thought from the trailer, so that was good. Sets things up nicely for his next film.

    See in Letterboxd

    'The Beatles: Get Back, 2021 - ★★★★★'

    I already wrote about watching the first part, but the whole thing is just as fantastic.

    The middle episode does feel like it has some 'middle volume of a trilogy' longueurs. It definitely dips a bit. But that reflects the state of the band at the time. They're trying to bounce back from George walking out and returning, they've moved from the Twickenham warehouse to a new studio in their Apple HQ, and they're rethinking the whole project.

    They're contemplating what it's all about.

    The third part leads up to the famous rooftop live performance, which is glorious, and delightfully presented with split-screen images showing interviews with people in the street below and two bobbies coming in with 'Thirty complaints about noise.'

    I wrote before that this is only for the true fan, but I think the third part would work even if you only have a passing interest.

    See in Letterboxd

    Adventures in Mac Repairs

    I have a 15-inch MacBook Pro from 2017. It’s in perfect working order, except the battery was past its best. ‘Service recommended,’ it always said when I checked. But it was fine, I could get a couple of hours out of it, and I rarely use the computer away from somewhere I can plug in. Especially this last couple of years.

    But the screen had developed a problem. There were marks on it that I couldn’t remove. They were kind of hard to photograph, but you can see them here:

    MacBook screen with delamination marks
    MacBook screen with delamination marks

    I discovered there was a known defect in models of that era called ‘screen delamination.’ The top layer of the screen’s coating was becoming detached from the underlying one.

    People had solutions, which involved careful cleaning with various solvents or mild abrasives: isopropyl alcohol, or, I don’t know, toothpaste, maybe.1

    Inevitably, the whole affair has a ‘gate’ name: Staingate. Perhaps less inevitably, but unsurprisingly since it’s a manufacturing defect, Apple have long since acknowledged the problem and offered a free repair programme. As long as your machine was no more than four years old.

    I discovered these facts back in the summer. Dug out my receipt. I bought the laptop four years and four days ago. Damn!

    At the time I was deep in working towards my dissertation, so I wasn’t going to spend any more time on it. In September, though, I thought it would be worth contacting Apple support and seeing what could be done. I couldn’t get a Genius Bar appointment, but I could take it to an Apple Authorised Service Provider called MR in Shoreditch. They had a look at it and said, yes it’s the delamination thing, you’re outside the free programme, we can fix it: 800 quid.

    Too much. But! they also said that it would be worth taking it in to Apple. They might, depending on who you saw, do it for free anyway.

    I was slightly sceptical, and we were getting ready for a trip to Scotland at the time, so I left it. Eventually, though, I booked it into the Genius Bar.

    You’re outside the programme, they said. But we’ll fix it under consumer law. No charge.

    The Sale of Goods Act (or its successors) for the win again: a laptop screen should last longer than four years.

    During the tests they run, the guy noticed that the battery was poorly, and offered a replacement. £199 seems steep, so I said no thanks.

    Yesterday I got an email to say it was ready to pick up, so I toddled off to Westfield. The staff member who brought it out to me asked me to wait while she checked something. Came back and said, ‘You know how you rejected the battery replacement? Well it seems they did it anyway. We won’t charge you.’

    So that was weird. The work note that came with it said ‘Battery won’t charge at all,’ which was not true when I took it in. But here I am with a good-as-new battery. Well, actually new.

    All of this required what they call a ‘Top case replacement.’ ‘Top case with battery,’ in fact, which suggests the battery is in the screen part of the laptop, not the keyboard part, which seems weird.

    The big downside – but one that had been prepared for – is that I lost all my stickers. I had heard of this kind of thing happening, so I took photographs.

    The stickers on my MacBook
    The stickers on my MacBook

    The questions now are how and whether to replace them.

    1. Don’t clean your computer screen with toothpaste. ↩︎

    Hackney Marshes on a Monday morning in October
    This is what Hackney Marshes looks like on a Monday morning in October


    My parents taught me to always give to the RNLI when they’re collecting, because of how important and dangerous the sea is. Lifeboat crews deserve all our support.

    Some idiots don’t think so. Instead they want our seaborne heroes to let people drown if they don’t have the right papers.

    Fuck that shit, and fuck those people.

    HOPE Not Hate’s We Stand With RNLI image
    HOPE Not Hate’s We Stand With RNLI image

    Vax 2

    Got my second dose of the vaccine today, just about an hour and a half ago. Down to a local pharmacy, fifteen minutes early for my appointment, and home before my actual appointment time. It was empty! Worryingly so. Why aren’t people queuing up to get their jags?

    Me with the pharmacy in the background
    Me, after vaccination, with the pharmacy in the background

    At the Olympic Park Again

    Cycled down to the Olympic Park today. Took a few photos.

    I’m writing a story at the moment – a novel, part of which will form the dissertation for my MA – which is set during the London Olympics. Nine years ago. Nine years! Anyway, the ArcelorMittal Orbit will probably play a role.

    Today’s weather report
    Today’s weather report

    Good morning (just).

    These days I double-mask
    These days I double-mask -- as well as using tape

    Stop Your Glasses Steaming Up by Sticking the Top of Your Mask to Your Face Using Micropore Tape

    The problem

    If, like all sensible people, you wear a mask over your mouth and nose when you go out these days; and if, like me and millions of others, you wear glasses; then you will have experienced your breath causing your glasses to steam up.

    The cause is a fundamental flaw in mask design: the mask fabric makes a straight line from our cheeks to the bridge of our noses, leaving a gap between face and mask seam. Most of our out-breaths are directed that way, just by taking the path of least resistance.

    Some masks have a wire insert that lets you mould the top section around your nose. I find that improves things, but is still imperfect. There are always gaps.

    The Bigger Problem

    This means that the masks are not as effective as they should be for their primary purpose. All that warm, damp air that’s condensing on our glasses is also the air that might be carrying virus particles.

    So while this solution helps with the steamed-up glasses problem, it also helps to make masks more effective, by ensuring that more of our potentially-poisonous breath goes through the fabric.

    The Solution

    It’s quite simple: apply a strip of micropore tape to the section of the mask that goes over the bridge of your nose, and seal it down well.

    A COVID-19-type facemask lying on a surface alongside a roll of micropore tape.
    Mask and Micropore

    Micropore tape is normally used for fixing dressings on wounds, so it’s designed to stick to skin and come off with minimal fuss (though see below).

    The roll we had when I thought of this is quite wide, so I’ve been folding a piece over and attaching it to the inside of the mask (at @FranChats’s suggestion).

    A COVID-19-type facemask with a piece of micropore tape attached.
    Mask With Micropore

    As you can see, it’s not attached very tidily, but we’re not in this for the aesthetics.

    A balding man (the author) wearing a COVID-19-type facemask and glasses.
    Martin With Mask With Micropore

    And it’s not actually visible when the mask is on.

    The New Problems: Removal, and Sensitivity

    Taking the taped mask off is the worst part, in my experience. I’ve been doing it quickly: take off my glasses (otherwise they might go flying across the room); unhook the ear loops and take a firm grip of them; close my eyes; then tug sharply forward.1

    It can make your eyes water, but honestly, for clear vision outside on these cold days, it’s worth it.

    Removing it slowly might be better for some people. And the whole thing will not be for some. If you have very sensitive skin, or get a reaction to the adhesive, then this won’t be for you. But if you can take it, I highly recommend it.

    Lastly, my pictures show a reusable mask, but it works for disposables too.

    1. Though see my later post. I think I’ll be doing it slowly from now on. ↩︎

    A Christmas cake (rich fruit cake) sitting on a cooling rack.
    Christmas cake cooling on a rack

    When Election Night Went On For Days

    For the first time in my life (apart from occasional odd minutes in hotels on business trips) I’m watching CNN. It’s 5am on the US east coast, 3am on the west; yet every few seconds, it seems like, we get this:

    A placeholder card on CNN Go, saying that a commercial break is in progress and that the broadcast will resume momentarily.
    An ad break on CNN International

    Sometimes, too, there’s an actual advert, but luckily I’ve been able to scrub through them.

    The actual coverage is good, though. They’re providing good information, lots of details. They’re also calling out Trump’s lies, as is the proper thing to do.

    Of course, since most of the time there’s nothing much happening, they’re having a hard time of it.

    We remain gripped.

    A blue sky with mottled, fluffy, white clouds. The type sometimes called a mackerel sky.
    The sky over Hackney, this morning
    Lava lamp, processed with Prisma
    Lava lamp, processed with Prisma

    Covid Track

    This is one of our local parks. Look at that desire-line track, fading into the distance (click or tap on the picture to see it bigger).

    A footpath worn in grass across a park.
    A path made by many people, avoiding each other

    The paved footpath is off to the right. That track – a simple, direct route, that avoids the footpath – wasn’t there a year ago. The novel coronavirus changes the landscape.

    Last night’s pizza: the wee tables in the box were triangular! I’ve never seen the like.

    Takeaway pizza with triangular support 'tables'
    Takeaway pizza with triangular support 'tables'

    This is the least rustic-looking bread I’ve ever baked.

    Two loaves of surprisingly-professional-looking homemade bread on a wire cooling rack
    Some surprisingly-professional-looking homemade bread

    This street sign in Hackney today represents the times we live in.

    Electronic street sign showing question marks
    Electronic street sign showing question marks

    How I prepare to go out on days like these.

    Masked, Hatted, Shaded

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