Monday, November 26, 2007

Not appearing in a shop near you

Imagine the situation. A word pops into your head. The word is 'Minstant'. Clearly a minty coffee hybrid, with a ready-made brand name, and a gap in the market. Further investigation is required. You have instant coffee, but nothing mint-flavoured. Except... toothpaste!

A mugful of instant coffee is prepared, and a small amount of Colgate Total added. This is the moment when history is made, when a new product is born. You take a sip.

It's different... another sip required. Hmm... just one more, to be sure.

No, you were right the first two times as well, this drink is disgusting.

And thus ends the brief foray into hot beverage innovation.


Monday, October 29, 2007

CDs, SFA, H!

Wednesday to Friday was a bit busy in the evenings. I went to the alternative/indie music society's 'listening night' on the Wednesday, where we bring along CDs and play whatever we want. To prepare for this I wrote some CDs with a bunch of random tracks on them, but because I did it at speed, I found it difficult to read the tiny writing I'd done on the tracklist. I should make sure in the future to plan my track choices a couple of tracks in advance, as it can all go to pot when you pick a track only a minute long.

Thursday, I saw Super Furry Animals. Excellent stuff, made better by it not being too crowded, and being right at the front. From this gig, I have decided that masking tape signs are the future, and power rangers helmets should be worn more. It was quite an old crowd, in contrast with Friday's gig.

Hadouken!'s gig was attended mostly by very excited nu-rave kids between the ages of 14 and 19. As if the constant screaming wasn't enough, some of them were throwing glowsticks everywhere and breaking them. I know this makes me sound old, but to be honest, that's how it felt. I didn't mind so much later though, when the main act themselves started playing, and jumping around ensued. "Time to blow the speakers" indeed. Also, I nabbed a copy of their setlist, so I know what songs to look out for.

I think I need to stop going out for a bit after all that.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

'Bip Bip Bip Bip Beep'

Have you noticed that the chip and PIN machines always tell you that your PIN is 'OK'? It's like being told that it's a good sequence, but there's room for improvement. Perhaps you could have entered it with more style, a bit of rhythm, jazzed it up a bit?

'With a few more purchases, you could have a chance to represent your country in the 2012 Button Pushing Olympics!' A fascinating event, including 'Security code entry', 'Channel flip' (Freeview and Sky events) and a category devoted to controls for industrial processes.

I hear the competition between Norway and Peru is intense for the 'CD tray eject' event.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

In Rainbows

It's all over the interblag, so therefore, I must talk about it in order to stay in line with all the other blogs in the world. Radiohead have released their seventh studio album for the bargain price of "insert price here". I paid £5, but I know many others who paid nothing because they're "poor students", or probably they don't listen to Radiohead, but wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I think it's worked out for the band though, because all their fans (at least the ones I know) have paid at least something towards it, some even going for the £40 discbox.

Listening through the album, it's not bad. The first track involves a lot of samples and drum machinations, and then the second gets some traditional distorted guitars in. I warmed to these tracks immediately. The rest of the album, which is a bit quieter, took a couple of listens, but it got better each time. I have seen a review comparing "All I Need" to "Roygbiv" by Boards of Canada, and I see what they mean. Simply reminds me I should get some BOC myself.

In other news, I have discovered a way of attaching posters to walls without blu-tack or pins, thus getting round the 'no posters' rule in my house. I will divulge my secrets in a future post after more research.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bullet points make things easier

Well, I hardly need to say that I should have written on this a bit more. But to summarise between now and the last post:

  • The Go! Team - 'Proof of Youth' and Interpol - 'Our Love To Admire', are both good albums.
  • The seventh Harry Potter book did not disappoint.
  • Does it Offend You, Yeah? and The Chemical Brothers are both good live, particularly the latter, which was in the middle of Trafalgar Square. Three cheers for very bright LED curtains.
  • Go to Knole. They've got deer. With antlers. And they don't seem particularly scared of humans.
And now, I am back in Southampton, but in a quiet house. I made the mistake of going a week early, so there's nobody else here. It's not that bad, but a lack of internet and TV puts one at a loose end. Fortunately, I have remembered that there used to be such a thing as a book before all this electronic gadgetry, and am reacquainting myself with the art of turning pages.

[papercuts] Ow.

Friday, July 06, 2007

I'm not a film journalist

Due to some links between the charity my brother works for and a branch of the Warner Brothers marketing department, I was lucky enough to get to an exclusive preview screening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It was at one of their preview cinemas in London, hidden inside an office building, and there were complimentary drinks from the bar. There was also a complete lack of adverts of any kind before the film started, so no half-hour of messing about with ads for unwatchable 'family fun'.

The film itself, was actually quite good, and was missing the large amounts of schmaltz and over-playing of the John Williams theme from previous films. There was very little involvement of the Order of the Phoenix at all, but it didn't actually get in the way of the story either. The special effects were again a step up from the previous instalments, the prophecy room being entirely shot on green-screen. I would have liked to have seen their imaginings of some of the more fantastical scenes, such as the corridor turned into a swamp, and more rooms in the Department of Mysteries. It would probably help to read the book as well as watching the film, as it could be difficult to follow the plot, which has to move very fast to squeeze into the time available.

I can't wait for the seventh book.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Water Music

Right, an update. Not that anyone reads it, of course, but I feel I should try and get into the habit of posting now and then.

Well, I finished all the projects and exams, and now all I have to worry about is whether taking the modules I've chosen for next year are a good idea after all. Oh, and the third year project. I have a few options for that, including a hardware-based server, extension of a digital signal processor and Flac decoder/encoder, any of which could be quite difficult.

I only have a few days left in this house, which managed to flood last week. Something went in the plumbing, resulting in conversation along these lines:

"What's all that water coming past the window?"[Runs upstairs]
"Oh, it's coming out of the overflow... Wait.... I can hear a shower-like sound but there's nobody in there..."
"There's water coming out of the cupboard! It's everywhere!"
"It's coming through the ceiling! #$*%!!"

We managed to get it fixed quite quickly, but lost a television and Playstation 2 in the process.

I bought a ridiculous number of CDs over the term (or at least more than I usually do). So now I've got all the Radiohead albums and two very good EPs, all of the Kings of Leon albums, and the second Futureheads and Maximo Park albums. Those last two were fairly disappointing actually. 'News and Tributes' was fairly different to the first album, and while quite listenable, didn't have much of the energy that was from the first. Meanwhile, 'Our Earthly Pleasures' pales in comparison to 'A Certain Trigger', and I can hardly bring myself to listen to it all.

Radiohead - Airbag/How Am I Driving? - Meeting in the Aisle

On the other hand, I did buy the self-titled album from Clor, which is probably getting harder to track down in shops, as the band split last year. The first three tracks are very good (as singles should be) and although it took me a while to get into the rest of the album, I can see why some people labelled it an instant classic.

Clor - Clor - Good Stuff

I can't wait for Interpol's 'Our Love to Admire' to come through my door.


Sunday, April 29, 2007


Is how I felt on Friday. We spent much of the day rushing around trying to finish a 120 page report, while several other groups tried to do exactly the same. This made things worse and worse, as the level of shouting, panic and general stress increased exponentially towards the deadline. In the rush, I then managed to lose my wallet while paying for the photocopier, not noticing until half an hour later when I'd got home. So I had to rush out again to find it. Fortunately, someone I know had picked it up, so got it back and then had a night out with some people from the Alternative and Indie Music society.

Due to general lack of interest from anyone else, I've ended up as their webmaster/monkey, and my first task was to create a MySpace and Facebook accounts for the group. Not difficult, except MySpace doesn't seem to work at all. It claims that the details I entered were ineligible for registration on MySpace, and also won't let me in my own account:

[type type type click]
"Sorry, you need to be logged in to do that!"
I'll log in then. [type type type click]
"Sorry, you need to be logged in to do that!"
I need to be logged in to log in? [type type type click]
"Sorry, you need to be log-"

Yet again, proving that MySpace is a badly designed, poorly maintained, (yet still incredibly popular) internet monster.


EDIT: Actually, I'd just put in the wrong password.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Who do YOU know in Holland?

I don't know anyone, but it certainly made me turn the business card-sized ad over to read the other side. It was irrelevant to what it was selling, but it's a good technique nonetheless.

Well, that about wraps up Easter. I got some heavy textbooks, took a load of photos, attempted to apply for a job that doesn't exist and ate some Easter eggs. Only a few days until I'm back to the hard and fast world of electronic engineering, where even breathing wastes valuable seconds.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Look at it dance!

This yellow blob is causing much joy. Look at it dance and bob about! It's like that dancing flower, as it responds to music, but it's so much better. I expect it to be featured in a music video at some point, it's just too much fun not to be.

[watches again]


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Too much work

Well, it turns out that this second year really is incredibly difficult. Or at least stressful. I've spent the past week spending hours at the uni, working on a group project to create a simple digital communications system. Almost every day, I've got home past 11pm, due to the sheer amount of work that needs to be done. It seems like every time I look at my section of code, another problem arises that can't be fixed.

I'll also have to go home a week later than planned, because to make the project fair on all the participants, the groups who have the project split over the Easter vacation period must hand in their initial design on Monday, as though it was their lab week. But it isn't. It's really inconvenient, especially for those who have already booked flights or trains home for the day before (as so many have done).

With this work, it hasn't helped that there were two assignments due in the week we started the project, and this was immediately followed by the setting of another large group project, this time on software. We have to create a program for an HP PocketPC, and the only criterion is that it uses GPS. By default, I've been made project leader, the only perk of which is that I now have custody of the group's PocketPC. Quite what to do with it now, I'm not sure, but there's going to be a lot of reading of software toolkits etc.

Enough ranting, I've got to prepare the design files for handing in.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Insert sigh of relief here

I've finally found a house and housemates for next year. It's not far from where I am now, (and therefore not far from uni/shops/pubs), but has fairly low rent, and this is reduced over the summer (bonus!). I think I'll get along with the people just fine as well.

The second semester of my year has started, bringing with it the usual difficult lab sessions with lots of preparation required, and multi-lecture marathons (6 in one day). It's not all bad, some of the modules are interesting in parts, because they lead on towards third-year modules. And then there's 'Software Development'. This has now been officially designated as 'the sleeping lecture', due to its constant monotony, and the fact that half of it has been done before. Also, it's in the afternoons, giving excellent cardiac benefit.

If you haven't heard it yet, hear this. [grimes]

Friday, February 02, 2007

Album Album Album

Three albums came through my door, so I think I'll try my hand at album reviewing.

I received the Klaxons album, "Myths of the Near Future" first. It actually took me a few listens before I decided I really liked it. Track by track, the opener is brilliant, and then is followed by the first track I heard from them, Atlantis to Interzone and their biggest tune (commercially) Golden Skans. From listening to the album playback on Xfm, I learnt that Golden Skans is a reference to a light popular at raves in the early nineties. Well, they did describe themselves as "Nu Rave".

The rest of the album is a delight with lyrics that make little sense but melodies that work very well. A pity that I like some of the demo versions better than the album tracks, in particular "Four Horsemen of 2012", which sounds much rawer on the demo version.

Speaking of disappointments, I received the Long Blondes album ("Someone to Drive You Home") on Thursday, and noticed that the singles were different to the album versions. "Separated By Motorways" was produced by Paul Epworth in the single version, but not on the album, and actually suffers from it. It's just as danceable, but doesn't have the same kick to it. The rest of the album is still good, but there's the lingering sense they were let down in production slightly.

The third album that turned up was Bloc Party's "A Weekend in the City". It shouldn't have done, as it isn't released until next week, but it does make me feel a little privileged. As I write, I'm on my second listen, but already it sounds good. It's much more in the vein of the softer tracks on "Silent Alarm", and so there's more of an epic sound. Not surprising really, as they used the same producer as on Snow Patrol's last two albums.

Politics and social comment are quite heavily featured, with references to terror attacks and the Daily Mail, and "Uniform" a track about how all the people with their Converse boots and odd hairstyles are just commercialism dressed up as a rebellion. [Looks guiltily at Converse shoes next to chair] Apparently this album is much more a product of Okereke than the previous album, which was more influenced by Moakes and Tong. I can't actually think of anything to say other than go and buy it, because it is good.


I've finished my exams! [General huzzah] Unfortunately they've already scheduled a lab for Monday afternoon, so there's no rest. Now is the time to sleep, as this was originally drafted at ten to three in the morning after a night at Jesters, and I need to calm down. Urrgh.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Puzzling Signs and Simple Amusements

I saw a shop that said it had "Ladies Prices".

Eh?!? I didn't know we had separate prices. What's so special that needs to be sold differently depending on the alignment of your chromosomes?
Radio adverts are getting weird. One for improved local bank services includes the line, "OK, I need two pumpkin enchiladas, now!". I feel the need for someone to add, "Stat!" on the end, as it does sound like a very urgent request he's making. Also, the ad telling people about the availability of mp3 on your digital radio, contains this conversation:

WOMAN: You're listening to the football on your mp3 player?
MAN: It's not just an mp3 player, it's a digital radio!
WOMAN [in utter disbelief and confused surprise]: Really?!?

Surely it takes more than an Ipod with extras to confuse people? Though I'm not surprised people are mixed up, what with the sudden change in pricing regulations.
"But the box says £89.99!"
"That's the ladies' price, Sir. You could always buy the model without the radio."
"I suppose so. I'll just have to think of another way to confuse my wife. Maybe a radio... with a built in clock!"
"That's madness! Security!"

At some point this week, I will be getting a parcel through the door labelled 'Dr [inquus]'. Not because I have a PhD, I simply abused the web form options on HMV. Not as good as when I was ordering prospectuses when trying to choose universities, and there was an option to be posted to as a Rev., and in some cases, Captain.
I just remembered I have some chocolate-covered brazil nuts. [glees]

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Super Happy Fun Stress Time!

Well, I've got exams next week, but wait... What's this?

"Hey, er, we thought we should tell you, we're looking for a six room house next year with persons A and B, thought we'd let you know."

".....[pause of calculation - six bedrooms, seven people]..... I see..."

So now, I've just been told I need to be looking for people to live with next year. Argh....

On the plus side, maybe my room will be better, as currently, following the 'you get what you pay for' rule, I'm not paying much.

I've already had a couple of offers after putting up an ad on the university site, so it's not going too badly. They are a little expensive, and I don't actually need a double bed. Or on-site parking.

Ah well, such is life. Or it's ability to always throw something at you at the last minute.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Down South

I'm back in Southampton for another term.

Yes, you heard me right, Southampton, where no toilet is safe!

Still, at least he was tidy and made a very professional job of it.... BUT WHY!!?!

Possibly an escaped art student from Winchester going for a Marcel Duchamp style. Or he's a collector, and was too embarrassed to ask.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

It was acceptable in the 80s....

"...It was acceptable at the time"

Electric synth-infused funk (you can tell I've been reading music reviews) from a scottish bloke called Calvin Harris. You can hear the tune here.