August 26, 2004

Hullabaloo

In just under a fortnight, my friend Emily will take over the Kambar in Cambridge to put on Hullabaloo; a riot of soul, funk, pop and rock probably not dissimilar to Fat Poppadaddy's at the Po Na Na, but knowing Emily, there'll be some curve balls thrown in for good measure.

Hullabaloo - soul, funk, pop, rock.  Kambar, Wheeler St., Wed 8th Sep 9:30 til late.  3 b4 11pm/5 after

Should be a blast!

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August 25, 2004

Getting Bigger All The Time

Late last night, as I was pottering around before bed, I noticed a song had wormed into my head and was being replayed by the jukebox in my mind. Nothing unusual about that; it's pretty common if there's no external music source.

However, I was pleased to realise that it was "No Joke" by The Fray. The lead guitarist in Fray, Matt, is brother of my mate and frequent commenter, Andrew, so I've been following The Fray's progress with some interest.

The Fray are starting to build a bit of a following up in Darlington, and a couple of days back Andrew slipped me some mp3s from an EP (reviewed here) they're putting together, including "No Joke".

I'm bound to be a little biased, but I think my sub-conscious is less prone to such flaws; and that bodes well for the band. "No Joke" is the strongest track on the EP and was chosen for the Revolution Big Chance competition unsigned band showcase. If you want a listen, head to the Big Chance page and download the mp3, and while you're there vote for The Fray and improve their chance of winning some studio time!

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August 21, 2004

An Ink-Spray Printer

Hektor is a printer which uses spray paint in place of ink, and walls (or any vertical surface) instead of paper. They also point to the StreetWriter and GraffitiWriter projects at the Institute for Applied Autonomy.

I need to befriend some hardware geeks so I can play around with some of this stuff!

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August 18, 2004

[mcqn @ Uborka] Ade's rap Postcard Response

Dr. Pockless replied to my letter with a scan of a handwritten letter. As I don't have a scanner, I used my wits to come up with Ade's rap Postcard Response.

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August 17, 2004

Local Radio For Local People

209radio are aiming to become "a full-scale Community Radio Station for Cambridge". They've already got a web radio stream, and seem quite involved in the local music scene.

I wonder if they'll resurrect the "live karaoke" from Cambridge's last community broadcasting - Red TV? Let's hope not.

Anyway, if you've ever wanted to feel like a celebrity, now's your chance. 209radio are having a benefit gig next Friday (27th August 2004), and the only way to get in is if you email them beforehand so your name gets on the list. Okay, so you still have to pay your 7 to get in, but if you take along some friends you don't like much, you can look important as they get turned away.

I expect I'll be there.

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[mcqn @ Uborka] Kings College Chapel at Sunset

This week's theme is Letters. I managed to restrain myself from just posting Eddie Izzard's letters to the Corinthians, and just replied to one of Dr. Pockless' essays:
Uborka: King's College Chapel at Sunset

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New Neighbours

There's a lot of construction going on near my house at the moment and some demolition too, although not on the same scale as some of the recent developments in Cambridge. The local pair of collared doves have decided to move into my garden. It's a good area - cats are discouraged, and there's a good selection of eateries: windfall apples and plums at the minute; and regular deliveries of seeds and bread.

Their initial choice of location was the small apple tree about 8 metres from my patio door and "the office", so I'd have had a great view of proceedings. However, access wasn't ideal - particularly the emergency exit - and they'd have been spooked every time I stepped out into the garden; so they've spent this morning literally moving home to the sycamore at the bottom of the garden. Regular trips to dismantle the part-built nest in the apple tree and transfer it to the new, more secluded if a little windswept, location.

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August 16, 2004

Less Comment Spam

The MT-Bayesian module has been doing a great job of stopping spam comments from getting onto my blog, but I still have to delete them. Although they aren't displayed, they're still counted in the four most recent comments on the main page and, until deleted, they oust real comments from the main page.

So, following this top tip from Mr. Sevitz, I've added a new question to the comments box, which must be answered (one way or the other...)

I'm assuming that the spammers aren't going to bother working out how to get round it for me, and will just move onto the next blog on their list - the good old security through obscurity ploy. We'll see how it goes.

Update: I've just tweaked the initial detection in mt-comments.cgi because some of the spammers use GET rather than POST, so my mt-comments.cgi has this at the start...


# $Id: mt-comments.cgi,v 1.34 2003/02/12 01:05:31 btrott Exp $
use strict;

#### AMc - Start of hack to reduce comment spam
use CGI qw(:standard);

if ( defined(param('text')) ) {
my $data = param('<insert new form parameter here>');
die unless( ($data) && defined($ENV{'HTTP_REFERER'}) );
}
#### End of hack

my($MT_DIR);
BEGIN {

Update #2: I suspect 'bakecookie' isn't the best form field to use, as I've just got two more spam comments, but as both were POSTs I can't see exactly what parameters were passed in. Now updated to use the presence of 'text' form field as an indicator of a submitted comment (seeing as comment spam isn't much use without that field). We'll see.

Update #3: Another few spams got through today (although 30-odd didn't) as they're parsing the comments form. Most of them at least have the honesty to pick "Yes" on the "Are you a spammer" question, presumably because it's the first answer they find. I did think about disallowing comments from people who say they're a spammer, but decided that the lack of a referrer URL was a better solution. I've updated the script above to include the referrer check. I still haven't renamed mt-comments.cgi, but that's just 'cos it'll require checking everywhere it's referenced, so I've gone for the quicker fix. When the spammers start sending a referrer URL, I'll take the trouble to do it.

Update #4: Elise has an excellent introduction to comment spam including further counter-measures.

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August 12, 2004

Beware The Banana Phone!

The perils of the ear worm.

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Oh No!

You can play Lemmings in your web browser!!! Let's Go!

(Via diamond geezer)

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August 11, 2004

Look Who's Talking

As an experiment in increasing the number of comments and thus making me feel more important to encourage the discussion, debate and community feel here at McFilter, I've added a "Recent Comments" section to the main page over on the left.

Feel free to let me know what you think, and see your name in print.

Posted by Adrian at 02:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 10, 2004

Cumbria - The Art Gallery

Andy Goldsworthy - Sheepfolds is a collection of ephemeral art dotted around Cumbria.

I particularly like this one - is it the screaming mouths of lost souls; or the burrows of a long-lost Lakeland creature? The almost missable qualities of this also appeal: snaking through the reeds like the flightpath of a damsel fly, and the fiery colours of this contrast wonderfully with the muted tones of its surroundings.

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August 07, 2004

Furness Storms The Tower

The Ministry Blog reports on the redevelopment and rejigging of the colleges at Lancaster University.

With the recent removal of the Monopoly board laid down in the year I graduated, and (IIRC) the impending demolition of the Kirkby Ireleth block where I lived for my first year, it's almost as if they're trying to eradicate any memory of me...

It's good to see the Uni going from strength to strength.

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August 06, 2004

Huge Pictures

The Sect of Homokaasu - The Rasterbator. A superb web app that you give an image, and it gives you a multi-page PDF file containing a big black and white newspaper-style (i.e. made up of lots of dots) version of the image.

Then you can print it out and make a massive poster!

Posted by Adrian at 11:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 05, 2004

How To Be Creative

I held off posting this when it first appeared as it was clear it was going to evolve a little. And then it exploded everywhere. Well worth reading, and be sure to explore the links to more.

Hugh MacLeod's how to be creative.

Posted by Adrian at 11:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

[mcqn @ Uborka] Unexpected Music

Poetry week this week at Uborka. I don't think I've written a poem since I was at school. However, inspired by the arrival of my copy of the Uborka Mix CD, whilst in the shower this morning I composed Unexpected Music.

Next poem to be released when I'm 45...

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August 04, 2004

Maybe Not Today...

Okay, I'm not sure exactly how it would fit into the lounge, so it might not make an appearance at one of my parties for a while, but I definitely fancy getting some of this one day...

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Networking For Business And Personal Success

As part of my ongoing quest to understand the value of "networking", on Monday night I attended the British Computer Society Young Professionals Group's Networking For Business And Personal Success. I think I've been searching for that "Aha!" moment when I suddenly understand the value of networking. While Monday's event didn't provide that, it did impart a number of useful tips, and I've realised that I haven't worked out how other people can help what I'm doing right now. I expect networking will make a lot more sense in a while, when I've got the bulk of the software written.

The main speaker for the evening was Craig Goldblatt, an enthusiastic, go-getting salesman - not quite Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia (played by Tom Cruise), but in a similar vein. Despite this, his presentation was interesting and contained some useful tips and ideas.

Preparation and planning are just as vital in networking as they are in anything else. Do you know who your ideal person to meet would be? Spend some time working this out, and then take a couple of hours to write down all the questions you can think of that you'd like to ask them. And think about what the ideal answers to those questions would be.

Before the event, contact the organisers and request a delegate list. Then you can work out in advance who you should be looking to talk to. Work out what makes you unique within the group, and find a novel or "shock tactic" approach to introducing yourself; we all meet so many people that you need to look for ways to make yourself memorable (presumably memorable in a good way...)

When it comes to the actual event... Take the opportunity! Get excited about what you're doing, but don't monopolise the conversation. In a fifteen minute meeting, a bad networker would talk for maybe twelve of those minutes; a good networker maybe seven or eight; and a great networker would only talk for two or three minutes, and ask a couple of great questions.

The second speaker was Ben Booth who (IIRC) is in charge of IT for MORI. His presentation was much shorter, but I felt it was more suitable to an audience of geeks. He agreed that planning is vital, and pointed out that networking is something you have to put some effort into: keep a spreadsheet with details of people you've met, and note something personal about them so that next time you meet you can show that you've taken an interest in them.

Networking begins with one person, and a good way to approach that person is to ask their advice. If need be, contact them and ask if you can meet with them for twenty minutes, then use that time to tell them a little about yourself, listen to their advice, and ask them if they know anyone else that you should talk to. And so on. Be persistent.

Rounding up the presentations, the Chief Executive of the BCS, David Clarke, outlined his plans for the BCS. They are in the process of moving the headquarters to new offices in Covent Garden, which will include a lecture theatre and a drop-in centre, and so be of more direct utility to members. The recent changes in membership criteria are part of a drive to make the BCS more relevant, and provide more value to the public: there'll be 50,000 Members of the BCS this year, and the aim is to have 100,000 MBCS next year; the Society is starting to have an impact, it is involved with the government select committee on technology, for example; but things can take a while compared to a commercial organization when the Privy Council only meets a few times a year, and the meetings must be scheduled such that Her Majesty The Queen can attend!

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August 03, 2004

Classic Texts Of Computer Science

Classical Computer Science Texts.

Great. More stuff to add to my already too long reading list. (Via Kottke)

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The 40th Cambridge Folk Festival

As I mentioned on Friday, this weekend was the Folk Festival. For the first time since moving to Cambridge, I was actually organized enough to get some tickets. Usually I find out when the tickets go on sale, think about buying some, but leave it until they've sold out; even this year when I bought my tickets in late May, there weren't any tickets left for the Saturday.

I didn't bother with the Thursday evening (Residents' Night, for those of us in the city), so Friday was my first day at the festival. With attending the wedding, I missed the afternoon's performances so once again I haven't seen The Broken Family Band and Loudon Wainwright III had already played when I caught up with Jo and Carl camped out in front of the main stage. Kepa Junkera was in the second half of his set when I arrived, and when that was over only the headline remained. The Divine Comedy didn't seem very folk to me, but everyone seemed to enjoy them, from the embarrassing Dad dancing in his own unique manner in his beret, to the young couple tangoing to their heart's content under the night sky.

Luckily, the Saturday line-up was the least appealing to me. My lack of ticket gave me the opportunity to go mountain-biking with Dan and Ian. The twenty miles round the King's Forest just outside Bury St. Edmunds was the first off-roading I've done all year; great fun if a little too sandy in places! I was back home by mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the day just chilling out. Because I live so close to Cherry Hinton Hall (where the Folk Festival is held), I don't actually need a ticket to enjoy the festival, I can just open my windows. So I got to hear bits of the Levellers set during the afternoon and Jimmy Cliff was live in my bedroom when I'd turned in for the night.

Sunday was another glorious day; the last day of the festival. In the afternoon, I decided to check out the second stage: Peter Buckley Hill's comic songs were rather amusing, including (IIRC) his fusion of My Old Man's A Dustman with Stairway To Heaven; Jarlath Henderson was quite listenable to, although not really my cup of tea; and on Jo's recommendation, Jim Moray - who I can best describe as an indie band doing folk music. I particularly enjoyed the Jim Moray 4's version of Poverty Knock, although some of that will be down to knowing how different it sounds when done by the Houghton Weavers.

After popping home to drop off my rucksack and picnic rug, it was back to the main stage for the evening. Ralph McTell was excellent; I hadn't heard much of his work before, but really enjoyed the songs (Peppers And Tomatoes and From Clare To Here are the only two titles I can remember) and the banter with the crowd.

Beth Orton is another person who has a great rapport with her audience. I first saw her a couple of years back at The Junction, where she didn't want to finish, and was the same this time: haggling with the organisers for more time, and even after that trying to squeeze in another song. By now I was right in the midst of the crowd, and loving every minute.

Things quietened down after Beth, although the organisers had arranged a couple of surprises to celebrate the festival's 40th birthday - the Dixie Hummingbirds did a song on the main stage (before they finished proceedings on the second stage) and Eliza Carthy made a guest appearance to perform one of her songs. All that was left was for the Michael McGoldrick Band to finish up the festival with their brilliantly played "ceilidh music" (a perfect description coined by Jo on Friday).

As BBC Radio 2 were the festival sponsors, there was coverage of the weekend on Radio 2, and there'll be a couple of shows on BBC 4 (shame I don't have digital TV) on 20th August. And "because of the unique way in which the BBC is funded", you can actually listen to the Radio 2 coverage and watch most of the main acts on the Internet! How cool is that? Although for some reason they've changed the running order of some of the playlists, at least on Ralph McTell's set. The links are all on the Radio 2 festival page.

So I can put together my own virtual festival line-up, and because I've been learning SMIL (like HTML for multimedia) recently, this link should give you the whole line-up in one long orgy of music.

00:00 - Loudon Wainwright III
00:30 - The Divine Comedy (watch out for the Queens Of The Stone Age cover)
01:35 - Jim Moray
02:05 - Beth Orton
And getting the headline over Beth because the last song is the perfect end to the festival...
02:38 - Ralph McTell

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August 02, 2004

Everything You Didn't Realise You Wanted To Know About Roads

CBRD, or Chris's British Road Directory, provides the answers to all your road desires: how the road signs we see today evolved; where the worst designed road junctions are; why the M62 starts at junction 4; and much, much more (although it's all road-related).

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