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For those who missed the memo, my LJ is no more.

Did save the posts for posterity though.

RIP Cuddles

Sep. 2nd, 2014 07:30 pm
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Anne had Cuddles put to sleep today. When we got back from holiday, she wasn't right - clearly not been eating or drinking much (despite the neighbours being in every day to check on our cats) - and a test yesterday revealed that her kidneys were (to quote my lovely wife) 'rubbish'.

Cuddles came to us in 2005, having been brought to Anne's surgery as a stray, having been hit by a car. She had a broken pelvis and a very knackered hip joint, which never really healed properly, so she was always a bit 'dot and carry one'. Probably not helped by being hit by a car twice more while we had her: not one for learning from her mistakes, wasn't Cuddles. Her original name (I think given her by someone else at the surgery) was Amy, but James christened her Cuddles. Which went really well with the X-men naming scheme we followed later...

Despite that, she was a remarkably good mouser. I have many memories of waking up at 3am to loud cries of 'mowwwfff! MOWFFFF!!!!!" - picture a cat with a rodent in its mouth, trying to say 'mouse!' and you get an idea of the noise. And it was always my side of the bed she'd settle down (after a sleepy, 'yeah, whatever, cat') and the next few minutes would contain crunching noises and a mental note to watch where I put my feet (and shake out my slippers) on the morning.

She had THE most impressive whiskers - Anne likened them to a Babylon 5 Shadow ship - and they'd practically meet in the middle if you scratched her under the chin. She was definitely the most 'lap cat' of ours, and (poor thing) did get beaten up on by Rogue and Callisto (and even Gambit).

Gonna miss her. The mice will heave a sigh of relief though, as the threat of the Black And White Death will fade slowly into legend.
fleetfootmike: (Me)
And I apologise that this is a bit shorter notice than I'd like, but a combination of work, sorting out Anne's rota and other things have caused me to be a little tardy in getting this out (being paged at 3am multiple times does cause terminal brainfuzz for the rest of the
Should you be free on this Bank Holiday Sunday as ever is, that's the 26th in (yes, yes) less than two weeks time, [livejournal.com profile] tattercoats and band will be performing live as ever is at the Mill House, and on streaming video via http://live.the-mill-house.org.uk.
The set will start around 7, to give folks time to get home afterwards if you're coming from further afield. As per usual, this will be a pass the hat concert at the venue, so we can cover Talis' fuel costs etc, and the option to donate online via PayPal for listeners.
fleetfootmike: (Me)
For folks who appreciate often witty, always quality writing (of a largely SF/fantasy nature), can I draw your attention tohttp://www.avevale.org/, where my friend [livejournal.com profile] smallship1 awaits to entertain you with his craft.
Should you feel sufficently entertained, I might also draw your attention to the "Support Avevale" link on the site's nav bar, as, after all, such things don't come without effort on the author's part.
(*shakes head* As for me, I only just spotted the Latin humour. Nice one, Zan.)
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A question for the fannish bits of my friend list. How many pre-GW uses of the term 'space marine' can you find in SF writing?

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Rika reports big tailback on A1 northbound S of Grantham due to 3 car pileup. Recommend to avoid.

fleetfootmike: (Me)
[Prepared usin http://splasho.com/upgoer5/]

People want to watch TV shows and movies, and play games at home, but they don't want to buy them. So we let them pay to take one of ours on a turning bright round thing, watch it at their home, and then send it back to us when they are finished
To do this, we have two hundred people who open letters from people with turning bright round things in, put them in boxes, then wait while our computer works out who to send them to next. Every day, people send back a hundred tens of hundreds of letters (or more), and we have to send out the same number.
My job is to write the words that make the computer pick who gets which turning bright round thing, and which of the two hundred people has to put it in a letter to the people who want to watch it. It's fun.
When I'm not writing words for computers to pick turning bright round things, I write music and songs, I write words, I play games with little painted men, I take pictures... sometimes I write other words for other computers for fun.
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Just in case anyone hasn't seen this: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/mike-harding--the-voice-of-folk-music-on-radio-2-for-15-years--sacked-by-the-station-in-a-single-phone-call-8215339.html

In a nutshell, the guy who's single-handedly dragged Folk on 2 up to about 10 times its listener base and has been a tireless advocate and champion of folk music on the radio and online (heck, he even plugged [livejournal.com profile] talis_kimberley!) for years? Just got dumped for no remotely sound reason in a 2 min phonecall.

I am more than a little unimpressed. 
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Tricky Pixie will be being streamed live in concert from the Mill House at 7pm BST tonight - that's 2pm EDT, 11am PDT, and heaven knows what in Australia :D Check http://live.the-mill-house.org.uk/ for full details.
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The world has lost a truly great man among great men. I only pray that some day soon there will be more who get to do what he did, and more.
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The non-techie summary - disable the Kaspersky URL Advisor browser plugin, unless you want some website forms to break.

The techie version... )

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Pants impressively bankrupt, due to pretty much no decent internet till Friday night. If there's anything you think I need to see, add a comment here.
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So... I spent the weekend playing bass for the worship band for our church weekend 'away' (the one two years ago was actually a weekend away, this one, for various reasons, was actually 'at home'). And I had a bit of an epiphany, quite aside from any religious eye-openings...

Y'see, I didn't, as such, identify as a bassist. One of my many email sigs, and my short personal profile on most sites, self-identifies me (usually in no particular order) as 'Perl programmer, Christian, guitarist, photographer, writer' (to which these days I add "wargamer"). However, the various church worship music leaders have a tendency to nab me as a bassist - this partly stems from the first worship band I volunteered for, which already had a guitarist, and to my ears desperately needed a bassist. Result, everyone goes 'oh, Mike plays bass...'. [Leading to considerable surprise when folks from church saw me cut loose on "The Chain" on guitar with Fleetfoot Mike at the LAST church weekend away, and even more when I deputised for the regular worship leader for a couple of Sundays in June on piano.]

I actually should have spotted it then, having identified the lack of a bassist: subconsciously, I had, but even spending a year playing bass for the Divisionists didn't bring it to the surface of the brain...  "It" being a fundamental understanding of what a bassist is for. I've sort of understood it, consciously, in pieces, but sometime during the weekend the pieces shifted and clicked into place, and I 'got' it, on several levels. Helped by having several people apparently *recognise* that the bass I was playing was fulfilling a role that had been noticed as missing in the past...

The world calls the drummer and the bassist in a band together "the rhythm section". I've said to James, several times, when he's been learning songs on drums, 'your right foot should be linked to the bassist's right hand' - basically, the underpinning of rhythmic accents is the kick drum and a good solid bass note. If one's missing, you notice. If both are missing, you *really* notice. As I've put it, 'the bottom drops out'.

There's more to it than that, though, and even now I find it quite hard to articulate. For all you play notes, a bass is a fundamentally rhythmic instrument: it's very much the pulse of the song, even more in some respects than the drummer. Even on a ballad, the 'one' (or wherever it gets pushed/pulled to) is (usually) yours, to keep the pulse going, often with a little pickup run into it (the bassist's equivalent of a little fill round the kit). Even if you only play the root of the chord, if you play it in the right places, you'll give the song a pulse, a heartbeat. 

Having said that, the other half of the job is just as vital. What you play, not just when you play it. Melody and harmony. OK, that famous riff of John McVie's on "The Chain" (the BBC F1 theme, if you've been on another continent for all of the last 25 years!) is overstating the case, but if you want a great example, stick "Go Your Own Way" on on a decent pair of headphones, and listen to that amazingly propulsive and melodic bass line in the chorus. Every phrase lands smack on the right note of the chord on the downbeat. Then try and imagine the song without it. Or any of a number of other examples.

People working out chords to a song will instinctively start with the chord rooted on the bass note - heck, [livejournal.com profile] stevieannie can't pitch her starting notes properly if she can't hear the bass! But yours is the power to suggest tensions, to imply motion (me, I'm a sucker for rising or falling bass lines...).  

Bass playing is about the whole thing, rhythm, melody and harmony, and you can't do it properly without all of them. People *respond* to bass lines at a very instinctive, emotional level, even if it's not consciously - heck. people write SONGS about it. We talk about groove, about feel. And both those words are a combination of all three, rhythm, melody, harmony: listen to (and I make NO bones about picking John McVie again, because the man ROCKS) "Miles Away" off the oft-underappreciated "Mystery to Me" by the Mac, once that fantastic bass groove kicks in at about 0:28. It has all three - it tracks Mick Fleetwood's bass and snare (boom chick boo-boom chick boom b-chick b-b-chick), but it wouldn't sound the same if John just plunked on the root note. It tracks the (admittedly simple, in the verse) harmony - that downbeat is the tonic of the chord, and listen from 0:50 how the bass line tracks the descending chords in the chords. And it has a great, cooking melody that ties the whole thing together. I defy you not to finish listening to that track and be humming 'dum dum dada dum da dadum dadada" for the next half hour. 

My name's Mike Whitaker.

I think I've finally figured out I'm a bassist.

[cue 'welcome to the dark side' comments from my assorted musician friends]

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If you want to watch this, it's now archived on uStream and available from http://live.the-mill-house.org.uk/ - check the Archive Concerts section in the sidebar.
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We'll be restreaming Heather Dale and Ben Deschamps' house concert from the Mill House at 8pm UK time tomorrow (Saturday June 2nd)

Watch http://live.the-mill-house.org.uk/ for details.
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It's local election day today in the UK, as well as, as I gather, the London Mayoral election. (Well, actually, as I drafted this it was 'tomorrow', but that's beside the point' - it's today now)

Regular readers will no doubt recall that every time this comes along, I post and remind folks to vote or quit moaning. And a range of comments from 'what he said' to a repost of the Libertarian manifesto usually ensue. So, let's take *that* bit as read, shall we?

I shall be voting today. I have to say that since the last general election I find myself getting progressively more and more pissed off with just about everyone who labels themselves a politician, whatever party they represent. 

I also have to say that I am more than a little disappointed that none of the prospective candidates or their agents have seen fit to pay the Mill House a call and canvas for our votes. This year, I'm not voting on party lines. It's a local election, and quite frankly, I want to vote for the person who appears most likely to give a shit about local issues, and preferably spends as little time as possible badmouthing everyone else and as much time as possible telling me why I should vote *for* them rather than *against* some other party. Various candidates have dropped flyers through the letter box, which do seem to contain some useful information.

So. If you're out there on Twitter, and you're on the ballot to represent me in Werrington South? It's not to late to display some intestinal fortitude and comment on this post. What do I care about? Community issues generally, renewable energy, secondary education, where my council tax is going.... So, c'mon. Convince me you give a toss. I'm so generous, I even disabled comment screening for unauthenticated posters for this one.
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I note with sadness the passing of the man variously and affectionately referred to as the Guv'nor and the Father of Loud - Jim Marshall, founder of that bastion of rock, Marshall Amplification.

If ever it could be said of someone he got where he was by standing on the shoulders of giants, Jim Marshall was probably that man. Marshall valve amps, by his own admission, were based on Fender circuits which were in turn based on the example circuits in the original data books for the valves used, but Marshall the company added to that an attention to build quality and customer service that made their amps second to none.

I've owned a Marshall valve head - a friend once described it as a one-trick pony, but added the caveat, with a massive grin as he hit another face-meltingly awesome power chord, "It's one hell of a trick". 

RIP Jim, and thanks for creating the sound of rock.
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For those who haven't been following, we had solar PV panels installed at the Mill House on Wednesday last week.

As I've been doing some fairly geeky things to monitor them, I've started a blog at http://green.the-mill-house.org.uk/ to record some of our discoveries, experiences and hacks. Enjoy!

Duple Time

Feb. 8th, 2012 10:14 am
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Life, as they say, is what happens when you're making other plans. I'm pretty sure I can speak for all of the 'acting' concom of Duple Time when I say that none of us wanted to have to be up the front at the opening ceremony, but equally I think we all accepted the sad necessity that it took four of us to fill just that part of those larger than life shoes.

As [livejournal.com profile] realfranklin (as Toastmaster and effectively the voice of the con) said, the best thing we (by which I don't just mean the concom, but all of us - singers, performers, listeners, even the hotel staff) could have done for Keris' memory was to make Duple Time the best damn con it could be.
Did we succeed? )