They say “Love is Blind”

Just filling out my tax return and got to this question. You need a bit of light relief when you’re doing this!

Perhaps is should read:

“Do you want to claim blind person’s allowance for married couples?”

It’s not really Spring

What a beautiful day! My M&S vase and M&S daffodils were a lovely sight to see in the morning.

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theJazz to close

Yet another nail in the coffin for Jazz broadcasting: GCap Media is to close two digital radio stations: The Jazz and Planet Rock.

Typical! I only got around to listening to theJazz about a month ago, and already it is going the way of Jazz FM and shutting down.

I’d even been looking into DAB radio choices over the last couple of weeks so I could listen to it in the Kitchen and the Bedroom, but now it seems like there will be no point in buying one. Ah well, I guess it’ll save me some money…

The only option I’m left with now is listening to TSF Jazz, which is a French jazz radio station that you can get via internet radio (or on my squeezebox…). It seems like a reasonable station - I just have no idea what they’re talking about!

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Mini Beer Festival

Last Friday I held a “Mini Beer Festival” ’round at my home. Because I got into this rather strange habit of photographing all my real ales before I can drink them, every now and then I end up with a large cupboard full of beer. I normally buy beers in threes (of each type) so that I have one to try, another one in case I really like it, and then one to keep in the cupboard until I photograph it. Yes, strange I know…. but it takes all sorts.

So this was the menu:

Brewery Beer Alc %
Badger Hopping Hare 4.5
Batemans Victory Ale 6.0
Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA 5.3
Black Sheep Brewery Yorkshire Square Ale 5.0
Brakspear EPA - English Pale Ale 4.2
Brakspear Oxford Gold (Organic Beer) 4.6
Cotleigh Brewery Barn Owl 4.5
Cwmbran Brewery Plum Porter 4.8
Dark Star Brewery Espresso (Superior Coffee Beer) 4.2
Darwin Brewery Rolling Hitch 5.2
Double Maxim Beer Company Double Maxim (Premium Brown Ale) 4.7
Felinfoel Brewery Double Dragon 4.2
Fuller’s Jack Frost 4.5
Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted (Blond Beer) 4.2
Hepworth & Co Brewers Iron Horse 4.8
Hook Norton Brewery 303 AD 4.0
Hook Norton Brewery Double Stout 4.8
Hook Norton Brewery Hooky Bitter 3.6
Hook Norton Brewery Twelve Days 5.5
Innis & Gunn Original (Oak Aged Beer) 6.6
Jennings Sneck Lifter 5.1
Jennings World’s Biggest Liar 4.3
Marston’s Burton Bitter 3.8
Marston’s Double Drop 5.0
Marston’s Pedigree Six 6.0
Marston’s Strong Pale Ale 6.2
Meantime Pale Ale 4.7
Meantime Pilsner 5.4
O’Hanlon’s Goodwill Bitter 5.0
O’Hanlon’s Royal Oak 5.0
O’Hanlon’s Thomas Hardy’s Ale 11.7
RCH Brewery Firebox 6.0
Ridley’s Old Bob 5.1
Ringwood Brewery Best Bitter 4.0
Ringwood Brewery Fortyniner 4.9
Ringwood Brewery Huffkin 4.4
Ringwood Brewery Old Thumper 5.6
Sharp’s Brewery Chalky’s Bite 6.8
Shepherd Neame Goldings 4.7
Shepherd Neame Whitstable Bay Organic Ale 4.5
St Peter’s Best Bitter 3.7
St Peter’s Cream Stout 6.5
St Peter’s India Pale Ale 5.5
St Peter’s Organic Best Bitter 4.1
St Peter’s Ruby Red Ale 4.3
Theakston Grouse Beater 4.2
Theakston Old Peculier 5.6
Theakston Paradise Ale 4.2
Thwaites Double Century 5.2
Ushers Founders English Ale 4.7
Wadworth The Bishop’s Tipple 6.5
Wells Bombardier Burning Gold 4.7
Wells Bombardier Satanic Mills 5.0
Westerham Brewery Co. Freedom Ale (william Wilberforce) 4.8
Wychwood BeeWyched Honey’d Ale 5.0
Wychwood Circlemaster (Golden Pale Ale) 4.7
Wychwood White Wych (Golden Ale) 4.0
Wychwood Wychcraft (Blonde Beer) 4.5
Wyre Piddle Brewery Piddle In The Hole 4.0

As you can see, there was quite a lot to choose from! We made a rather feeble attempt at getting through it all, so if you know me and fancy coming to the next ‘event’ then let me know!

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theJazz: a revelation

How can I be so far behind the times? (And how come it is so long since my last post?) Yesterday I discovered a website called “theJazz“. I spent most of the afternoon at work with it playing through my headphones (although I wasn’t necessarily listening to them all the day), and it’s been on all of this afternoon now I’ve discovered how to play it through my Squeezebox. What a fantastic station! I admit I can’t listen to Latin Jazz for long so had to go out during the show this afternoon, but from what I’ve heard so far this is a fantastic station.

I was very upset when JazzFM shut down (I can’t believe that was a year and a half ago). It went down hill quite a bit in latter years, and the replacing SmoothFM was just dreadful - just like all the other (would be) main stream commercial radio stations out there - and in my opinion this has had a negative effect on the British Jazz Scene. Based on a sample of one (me), visits to jazz gigs have been down, as have CD purchases (big time).

The downside to theJazz is that the music quality isn’t brilliant. In fairness it’s better than I would have expected for an internet station (though playing it through my Squeezebox and amp certainly make it sound better than computer speakers), but you really notice the compression when you get some of the higher frequency tones. In fact earlier it sounded almost like white noise coming through my speakers!

Anyway, I’d much much much rather have this than nothing, so if you, like me, have been lamenting the demise of JazzFM then I urge you to tune into ‘theJazz’ and try it out for yourself. You can get it on DAB (so I understand), via your digital television, and via the internet.

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Buried by paperwork….

…and almost killed by a cold.

OK, I exaggerate a little, but I seem to spend my life sifting through paperwork which should have been organised better in the first place. Why don’t I learn? I’ve had my own business for 8 years now - you’d think I’d have the hang of it by now.

To make matters worse I’ve been suffering from a stinking cold this last week. I finally gave up on Friday and spent most of the day in bed - and finally got some descent sleep to boot. I was zonked!

Anyway, I’ve been mulling over an idea in my head for a few days now (not seriously mulling it over, but its popped into my line of thinking once or twice), so I thought I’d pop it up here and see if anyone else has any opinions. I don’t expect anyone will have any opinions, but you’ve gotta keep on trying for a response…

So the idea is roughly this: the Open SMR. SMR stands for “Sites and Monuments Record”, and Open means it is based on open standards, is Free (in some sense), and is transparent (as in a community lead effort). Back when I did my archaeology degree every council planning department had to keep and SMR. An SMR is basically a list (usually kept in a database or GIS) of all the archaeological and historical points of interest in the administrative area covered by the SMR. This could be anything from a spot where a Roman coin was found by a man out walking his dog to the site of a large prehistoric monument.

My dissertation was about possible methods of getting a publicly accessible SMR online, because I believe our archaeological heritage belongs to all of us (well, tax payers at least…), and information relating to it should be easy to find, search and peruse. Since writing that though, the Internet has changed vastly, and I’m sure that using current popular technologies such as blogs, wikis, microformats, mashups with Google or Yahoo! maps, and a minimal amount of jiggery-pokery, it would be possible to create a pretty nifty application.

Perhaps someone has already done this? I don’t know - it’s years since I’ve looked into such things - but I would be interested in seeing it if they have…

Anyway, my tea should be brewed now, and I have bank statements to order so must press on.

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An alternative to iTunes/Windows Media Player

Three posts in two days? What’s going on?!

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve started re-ripping all my music. The long term goal is to get a Squeezbox from SlimDevices (which is a network attached media player) but given the shortage of funds at present I’m content in the knowledge that my music collection will simply be more accessible when this task is complete.

Although I can play my music from iTunes on my computer, I’ve been playing around with some media streaming software called SlimServer. “Playing around” is perhaps an exaggeration — I’ve enabled the service on my NAS (and upgraded the software) — and installed some client software on my PC called SoftSqueeze, which looks like this:

SoftSqueeze

There are lots of nifty things with this setup. First and foremost, the server software is Open Source. Around it are lots of third-party plugins, and because the API/Client Protocol is also open and fairly well documented there are quite a few client applications around too (SoftSqueeze being one of them).

SlimServer has a web front-end to it, so I can control what’s playing on the media player from any computer on my network. This is perhaps of limited use given my current set-up, but when (and if) I get a Squeezebox, then I can see this being quite useful.

If you’re looking at a solution to get music from your PC or network storage to your Hi-Fi, then I’d recommend you take a look at SlimServer and the Squeezebox. It’s significantly cheaper than the Sonos products, and will fill most normal needs. (How many people really need to break their home into 32 zones and play different music in each??) If you want to try it out, then you can install the SlimServer software for free on Windows, Linux and Apple OSX (it’s written in Perl so just needs that to run), and you can download the SoftSqueeze client to try out the setup on your PC. SoftSqueeze is written in Java, so should run on most platforms too.

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Blackberry Pearl 8100 v. Orange SPV M5000

A few days ago my work replaced my aging (and ailing) Orange SPV M5000 with a sparkley new BlackBerry Pearl 8100. The M5000 (also called an XDA I think) is a behemoth in comparison to the BlackBerry Pearl, and this is probably going to be the most significant difference for me now that I’ve got the Pearl.

IMG_2507

Update 27/09/07: OK, I started writing this post a few days ago and was planning on doing a detailed comparison of the two devices. It’s been sitting in my drafts as I’ve been a bit busy, but using the Pearl every day I’m finding it hard to come up with any real problems.

The battery life on the Pearl is brilliant compared to the SPV, as is the performance of the device (switching applications etc.). I guess you could say the keyboard is a bit small, but then everything is compared to a full size keyboard, so it’s not something to really moan about (it is a pocket telephone at the end of the day). Talking of size, it’s great to be able to slip this into your pocket without looking too pleased to see someone, and it’s remarkably light too (even given its size). I guess you could say that as a telephone it lets itself down a bit — the sound of the person you’re talking to is a bit poor.

So is that a good review? No, probably not, but in my opinion there is no competition: the Pearl kicks the SPV’s bottom!

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