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Saturday July 16 2005

I am taking a leaf out of the books

of pretty much all our local blogging community, and enjoying the weather rather than writing very much. In a couple of hours I'm off to a party in a lovely garden in Thame, which will as usual be a chance to meet some new people and listen to a lot of good new sounds. I intend to precede this with dinner in a small Italian restaurant I've always had good luck with.

Life is hard, eh?

It's certainly too hot to do a lot of gardening, so that pretty much releases me from strenuous activity for the time being. Mind you, it didn't stop this guy.



Posted at 4:16 pm by Jim Woods

Wednesday July 13 2005

New Firefox update out today,

available here as usual, which fixes a load of admittedly rather obscure security-related issues. I really, really wish they'd do something about the bookmarking side of things, which is where several annoying bugs do their thing...

It's the only thing about Firefox that really pisses me off.

Thought I might write a little bit about podcasting, given that I'm sat around the house hiding from the heat having done a bit of a mini-blitz on the garden around lunch time yesterday and learnt the error of doing much in this heat if one doesn't absolutely have to. Actually, I knew that already. Why can't they re-order the way the universe works for my personal convenience? Eh? Why can't things flourish in cold weather?

Podcasting, then. Conjures up images of shiny, happy cretins with iPods, doesn't it. All sitting on public transport isolating themselves as much as possible from their environment, tinnitus-like tinny racket spilling into the lives of the unsuspecting and more enlightened. Muggers sharpening their utensils in glee. Ghastly. I mean, if half as much effort went into improving the urban environment as goes into producing portable devices (GameBoy things, stereo things, whatever) to insulate people from it then we might have a nice day.

Oh wait - I'm off on a hatred of public transport rant. Right bile duct, wrong target. Commuting? Urgh. All that. Urgh. Need to earn a load to get time off to relax? Sit by a river and cut out the middle man. With your pod.

I am a despicable pod device owner (which I did probably mention before). Not an actual Apple one, because I'm not such a style victim that I'll put up with a limited device from a company that likes to persistently charge a bit over the odds while bending over and taking it from anyone who cares to invent a new DRM restriction on what can be done with one's own paid-for media, but I do have a small media player from Creative. Sounds a lot better than the Apple stuff too. Shows a bit of initiative. I hate iconic products in any case. Not an iconic person.

So anyway, having slavishly joined the foremost rank of luggers-about of weak-minded gewgaws - old people with a bit of Hawkwind and/or Reichian background knowledge might want to remember the orgone accumulator bit at this point - I began to think of uses for it. You can stick sound on it and lug it about. That was an obvious one. After a great deal of tea and deliberation it became clear that, since it lacked the mass of an effective hammer or the genital characteristics of anything you'd want to mate with, sticking sound on it and lugging it about was about the start and stop of it. Not having to lug it about would be even more fun of course, but then it would have to go in the draw full of neat and potentially useful things I'd lug about were I not enraged by having to lug things about; frankly, dears, it cost too much for that.

It's great in the car! It is, really! I'm not, but my podular appurtenance bloody well is. By having loads of good sounds with me I am liberated from the inanity of radio or the tyranny of stacks of media in easily-f*cked-up plastic cases. The fact that I rather liked Radio 4 is not something I'll be dwelling on here. Get one of these things for your car! Then you can roll your own radio, using podcasting, as the current paradigm goes.

See - a use. I determined to fully investigate this podcasting business. What the hell was it? The kids like it! I want to be the kids again, and in perpetuity! What is it?

It's sticking music on it and lugging it around. Great!

Actually, I realized, you can bung any kind of audio in there. And that, for me, is the neat bit. There is undoubtedly a lot of interesting audio out there on the web, and a lot of it's not music. There's piles of mad poetry readings, inane rambling about dull topics so dull they're quite fascinating, sonic weaponry (maybe intended to be musical in fact), and rivetting documentaries on - I don't know - rivets and fastenings or whatever. Life's all about people isn't it? And this podcasting is a means of discovering - because a lot of us had wondered - what they're building in there. I treat the whole thing as a combined exercise in sociology and due diligence.

Look, this podcasting thing means you can download audio to suit you and chuck it on your pod-thing and lug it about. And listen to it, although that's pretty much optional. And actually there is some good stuff out there, if you can be bothered to dig for it - which is the old bugbear with the net and so on in general. iPodder (nothing to do with Apple) is a decent bit of free software which will find it and download it for you, a process which is called subscribing to feeds. Saves a bit of browsing around checking for new stuff from your favourite purveyors. That's it. You can of course download home-made "radio shows" aplenty, which is presumably the bit that's going to render radio obsolete (yeah, right). It is a good way of getting to hear different music, mind you. And commercial radio is really bloody awful in the main.

Whether the reason lurking behind the awfulness and inanity of much commercial entertainment is the passivity, awfulness and inanity of the bulk of the consumers is another topic though. Bashed over the head by lengthy commuting to dull-f*ck employment, anaesthetised by corporate life-style advice, and in the main skint and sexually under-indulged, it wouldn't be surprising if this were the case. We tend to rise to the occasion, as humans. But we also lower ourselves to it if that's the direction it's going. So given the means to create and disseminate our own media, will we get better media? Or just an expanding sea of more crap studded with turdlets of the better stuff? I don't know, but I'm looking around at what podcasts there are in the hope of finding out. At least this way the advertisers are out of the loop, and let's face it - out of the loop is firmly where they belong.

I wanted to write a whole lot more, but then I realized that it was going to end up as an attempt to explain the whole of society. And actually, I rather fancy my lunch.

I like these podcasts, because Spain is cool (and warm), and these here, because I like my grub.




Posted at 1:42 pm by Jim Woods

Monday July 11 2005


gone a bit quiet. Easily done, of course, when the weather's good and you have better things to do than crouch over a keyboard. Having yesterday presented me with a Sister Rosetta Tharpe album, however, she is now elevated to the status of goddess in any case, and even if her blog were to become a shine head-bashing extravaganza this would most likely not diminish my high opinion of her.

That MSN Spaces sure does make a purty-looking site. I am noticing that Blog is now getting pretty slow for me, no doubt due to all the stuff from the last few years that's in the database. Maybe I'll actually consider stumping up a modest amount for a full-on subscription to one of the other services I use and effecting a transfer to a remotely-hosted solution after all. All I need is that elusive ability to export the whole lot back to a local file so that I can feel in control...


Posted at 1:12 pm by Jim Woods

The annual battle commences

with the dear old Student Loans Company. I reckon I'm still about able to defer my repayments, having a low-ish income despite the odd asset, but this year the first communication I've received from them is an arrears notice. One of the joys of living in Oxford is that our postal system famously doesn't work, so guess what probably happened there. My mother just finished arguing her way out of a fair-sized fine from the Inland Revenue as a result of stuff being posted and never arriving with them. Of course, every fiddler on earth uses the old "in the post / lost in the post" one-two to explain their fiddles, and it's always assumed that the postal service does work. So one is left a bit stuck when one plays the game and the Post Office doesn't. Add to rage list, together most recently with the refuse collection who now have decided that my rubbish is not good enough for them for some reason.

"Service - it's not for the English".

I am spending too much time on all this crap, and I'm paying usurious 0870 number charges to do do.

It is, however, another lovely hot sunny day, no-one has even tried to blow me up, and I spent yesterday at a very relaxed and enjoyable party with good people so I guess one counts one's blessings.

Right - spot of gardening, spot of struggle with the two recalcitrant bicycles (why did I think two bikes to keep running was somehow an improvement on one when I am a biped?), wander up to get my prescription and we're all set. Then I go to see my friend to be persuaded of why having a five grand hifi amp is such a good idea. I know that it is, if you have the dosh (and he paid a still-substantial third of that for it second hand), but not in my case. I am pretty much converted to the view that it's all about having your music available when you need it, and these days that means MP3 jukebox and various set-ups around to plug it in to. I have a good stereo in my living room, but I don't go in there much really since it contains very little of my doings. Desk or licensed premises man, me. It will of course be really nice to hear a great system though, especially one for which I have not had to pay.

Expensive toys (by which I mean things you don't actually need, unlike food and beer and bicycles and clothes from Matalan) have a lovely light green lustre, glowing slightly and feeling a little cool and oily to the touch. They have a magnetic field which can suck the unwary plastic-holder into their orbit like a whirlpool. Fortunately, I have become quite resisting of their charms after a few rather inconvenient flirtations with penury caused by past failures of self control. I have come to the realization that the initial rush which is given off by the beasts is not actually related to acquisition, and can simply be gained by proxy i.e. careful inspection of the toys of others.

That's the great thing about life. By the time it's too late, you have all the wisdom there is.

Sun for me now.



Posted at 12:49 pm by Jim Woods

Sunday July 10 2005

I'm not sure

that I have anything useful to add to the frenzy of blogging surrounding the London bombings, except naturally to deplore them and to admire the resilience of the Londoners. So I'll leave that one alone. I had a good gig (at least at the end!) on Friday and am off to a birthday party in a bit, so perhaps the best thing to do is to simply remember how lucky we mostly are.

Very hot again. I'm never too sure whether or not I like this, but on balance I guess I do. Of my two hub-geared bicycles, neither is cooperating at the moment which is a bit of nuisance. And I implemented phase two of my re-equipment plan with a moderately-priced Ibanez bass last week. Not an aspirational tool, but one to drag around pubs and not worry about too much.


Posted at 11:48 am by Jim Woods

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