Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Apple of My Eye

 I never had a Tamagochi, I'm not living in an Asimov story, and I never played The Last of Us, so I don't know what it's like to care for the wellbeing of a bit of software, but I do now feel like I'm bringing up a software child, and trying to shape it into my own image. I want to be able to listen to music in my car, but at the same time I'm a cheapskate. There is an FM radio on my phone but the reception turns out to be terrible. I'm not prepared to buy a subscription to a music streaming service, but I already have Amazon Prime, so I'm trying to enjoy their music service. Without paying for the "Unlimited" version there are two problems: It's full of adverts, and you can't pick what you want to listen to. What you can do is play a "station" and tell it which songs you like (we'll play more like this) and which you dislike (we'll never play this again).

Using just the thumbs up and thumbs down I've been trying to train it to find songs that I like and I now feel invested in the app, and the time and effort I've spent with it. I have no idea what "more like this" actually means from an algorithmic point of view. If I had said I liked "Stairway to Heaven" would it have thought I like Led Zeppelin, 70s rock, and people that can really play the guitar, or would it have signed me up for long, pretentious songs and lyrics with overtones of Tolkein and mysticism. I hope it's building up a database from other people who are playing the same game as me. Having only thumbs up and thumbs down is very constraining. I told it that I don't like Aerosmith "Don't want to miss a thing" but my hand hesitated over the icon. Would it take that to mean I don't like Aerosmith at all? I'd be happy if it played pretty much anything off any of their albums up to and including "Pump".

Richard "AI training" B


Monday, 9 May 2022

Listen Up

 In a couple of weeks I'm going to take my silly little sportscar to Aberdeenshire. One of the things that I've been trying to improve in preparation is the acoustic environment, You get a lot of wind and road noise so it's rather tiring to drive. I usually wear ear plugs, but I would rather be able to listen to music. My headphones are Beyerdynamic DT770M (yes, they're related to the legendary DT100). They're designed for monitoring in live sound situations so they're part ear-defenders and part high-fidelity headphones. They should be perfect and when I drove with them it was much less tiring and much less boring.

I have had those headphones for about a decade and never had a problem with them. Rock shows are a harsh physical environment (just look how sturdy all the flight cases are and how heavy all the hardware is). Those headphones have survived scores of shows with me (and the associated loading, unloading and van rides). They failed after less than 500 miles of motorway driving in an open-top car. I broke them open and effected a temporary repair at the motorway services, but I think I'm going to have to buy something more focussed towards driving (or flying).

Richard "Dave Clark" B


Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Fine Art

 As a younger man I went out with a fine artist. One of the things I learned from her was that some graphic art wasn't about beauty, but about the story it told or the message it sent.

This isn't a spectacular photograph, and I don't think the story is entirely clear just from looking at it. It's the story of a man who has bought some cheap pithy limes and tried to juice them for making cocktails. He's broken the hinge of his lime press, he doesn't have any 1/8" round bar in stock, but he does fancy another daquiri.



Richard "David Bailey" B

Monday, 25 April 2022

Slow Samaritan

 A few weeks ago I was stuck in a very slow traffic jam. A caravan had lost a wheel in a junction controlled by temporary traffic lights. I stopped to offer support, but the man's jack wouldn't fit under the heavily listing caravan. I have a large, low profile jack at home, but I couldn't really bring it back in a car because the entire east side of Plymouth was gridlocked.

This is what "I'm trying to help" looked like:


I went home, took the top-box off my scooter, strapped my trolley jack in its place and set off back to the caravan.

I got there just before the recovery vehicle, but to both our surprises one of the vehicles who had been stuck in the extremely long queue was a mobile mechanic's van. He had jacked the caravan, replaced the wheel, and was sending it on its way just to get it out of his way.

Richard "shouldn't have bothered" B

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Back Row

 In an aeroplane it's important how the weight is distributed. If the centre of gravity is in the wrong place the plane will be inefficient, unstable, or dangerous. On small commercial planes it is actually important who sits where. I believe that the airlines prefer not to put their passengers through the indignity of stepping on a scales before they get allocated a seat, but somebody does carefully look them up and down and tries to guess who weighs how much. We now have these wonderful euphemisms for fat and thin: "Allocated a seat below the main spar" and "sitting in the back row".

Richard "She's got a nice empennage" B

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

The Alpha and the Omega

 Last week was a time of low-value revelations for me.

I was last week years old when I found out you can put bacon into a cold dry pan and then turn the heat on. The finest and most luxurious portion of the fat melts out (renders) and you cook the bacon in that. Who knew? Apparently everybody but me.

I have known for years that the most dangerous and totalitarian nation states try to take over the place of the family. During the second world war the nazis were fighting for "The Fatherland". After the revolution Russians were expected to think that they were born to "Mother Russia" more than their own parents. Orwell nicely pointed this out in 1984 by calling the surveillance service "Big Brother".

I have hated the BBC for many years. It was in the late 80's or early 90's when my mother and I noticed that the "news" has started to present an opinion instead of just the events. By 2010 they were talking down to me as though I were an idiot, and it was shortly after that that it was plain to see which side of every issue they stood. I haven't paid a TV licence for many years and so I'm not allowed to watch the dross that they produce, or anything which was broadcast live. Call it sticking by my principles, or call it cutting my nose off to spite my face, but I haven't watched British Superbikes or the Touring Cars in many years and I still miss it.

I was last week years old when I realised how sinister it is that its proponents would have British Government's propaganda wing take the roll of "Auntie".

Richard "Always the last to know" B