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Muddle-headed Kay
Date: 2010-04-18 21:03
Subject: A nostalgic weekend.
Clearance: Public
Temper:nostalgicnostalgic
Tags:geekiness
Jus and I have just come home from a weekend in Windermere in the Lake District, where we attended the first (first annual, I hope!) DEC Legacy Event.

In other words, a get-together of a bunch of people who have fond memories of the computers and software produced by Digital Equipment Corporation before they got swallowed up by Compaq and then Hewlett-Packard.

People even brought working systems! After a lot of raking through old memories (mine, not the computer's!) I managed to remember how to toggle in the initial loader for a PDP 8/e on its front panel - in those days, any computer worth its salt had a proper front panel with toggle switches for entering data and blinkenlights to show you what the processor was doing.

It was particularly good to have two visitors from the USA who managed to get here despite the current flight restrictions: Ian King and Rich Alderson from the Living Computer Museum in Seattle.

You can read all about what we got up to here.

Big thanks to Mark Wickens, who organised everything.
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Muddle-headed Kay
Date: 2010-04-11 16:49
Subject: Baby human!
Clearance: Public
Temper:jubilantjubilant
I've just come back from meeting Faith, my god[1]-daughter-to-be, for the first time. Well, for the first time when not inside Anna, that is. She's six weeks old today.

She is adorable. And she likes me - babies' smiles are ambiguous at best, but Faith lay contentedly in my arms without wriggling or grumbling, and then fell asleep while I was holding her.

I'll put up the photo I took of Anna holding her when I can get it off the camera.

If I'm not careful I'll be getting broody - first Faith, and then Jus's sister Hannah is due to give birth in six weeks or thereabouts. Babyness abounds!

[1] I'll deal with the metaphysical can of worms here if and when I have to. I've made my agnosticism clear to Anna, and she still wants me as godparent to Faith. That's good enough for me (in fact, I'm utterly honoured by it.)
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Muddle-headed Kay
Date: 2010-03-28 18:40
Subject: Catchup...
Clearance: Public
Temper:cheerfulcheerful
Tags:music
I should have posted this earlier, but, what with one thing and another, this has been quite a busy week.

If you weren't at Warwick Arts Centre last Saturday to hear the Portico Quartet (see my earlier post), you missed out on a great evening.

The only thing that made it less than excellent was that so few people attended. Earlier on in the previous week, I'd been posted replacement tickets - the venue had moved from the Butterworth Hall (seating about 2000 people) to the Theatre (about 500). That isn't in itself a bad thing, because I think the PQ style is better suited to a more intimate space. However, when we got there, it was obvious that even with the move there were a lot of unsold seats.

Which is a real pity. Still, the audience they got was very appreciative. I just hope they got better sales elsewhere.

I don't know about you, but the phrase "and support" tends to cast a prospective gloom over a gig. So often it seems to translate as "you've never heard of them, you'll wish you hadn't, and you'll probably never hear of them again." Well, this time was an exception. The support turned out to be Kami Thompson, an excellent singer/songwriter. No, I'd not heard of her before (though I've been a fan of her parents, Richard and Linda Thompson of Fairport Convention, for years). I intend to hear much more of her, if possible. Apparently she's releasing her début album, Love Lies, "any time soon". It can't be too soon for me :)

You can listen to some of her tracks on her MySpace page. Unfortunately, from my point of view, they've been "studioed-up" - more instrumentation, additional voices, fewer rough edges - and I think I prefer her as she was last Saturday night: just a slightly-nervous her, electric guitar, and a mug of what she assured us wasn't tea. She puts me in mind of Michelle Shocked before she turned gospelly - you won't get Ms. Shocked singing a ten-second "Screw you!" (unfortunately the song to which that's the refrain isn't online - I'm hoping it's on the album.)

Give her a listen, and see if you like it.
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Muddle-headed Kay
Date: 2010-02-18 16:47
Subject: There's nothing quite so much fun as wonky hearing.
Clearance: Public
Temper:contemplativecontemplative
Tags:music, perception
It was only yesterday that I discovered that the lyrics to Enigma's Mea Culpa part II don't in fact contain the words "Branle-moi; je suis sur toits; mea culpa,"[1] which is how I've been hearing them for the past nineteen years or so.[2]

Alas, the world has become that little bit less surreal.

I wonder how many other mondegreens there are stuck in my head?

[1] You can do your own translation or follow this link.

[2] The words are actually "Prends-moi; je suis à toi; mea culpa," which is much more sensible and less interesting.
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Muddle-headed Kay
Date: 2010-02-16 17:12
Subject: Portico Quartet
Clearance: Public
Temper:chipperchipper
Tags:gig, music, portico quartet
This is mostly a heads-up to people in and around Coventry, but the Portico Quartet are playing at Warwick Arts Centre on 20th March at 8pm.

Here's the Arts Centre blurb about the gig; you can find some of their music on YouTube. They also have a MySpace page with playable tracks. More info about the Portico Quartet from the usual place.

This is a good introduction to the music. And how can you not be prepared to love a track called Cittàgazze? :)

I'm probablydefinitely going; anyone else fancy coming along? It's only £12.50 (£10 concessions) for what promises to be an excellent evening.

abiku: is this going to be my chance to point you at some good music that you haven't already heard? ;)
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Muddle-headed Kay
Date: 2009-12-31 06:29
Subject: O(rff) RLY?
Clearance: Public
Temper:irritatedirritated
Tags:music, rant
Apparently BBC Radio 2[1] has had a list compiled of the most-played[2] "classical"[3] music of the past 75 years. It's predictably commonplace, as you might expect, and you can see it here. You can see the BBC News article about it here, too.

So much, so dull.

What amused/irked[4] me beyond belief, though, is Stephen Fry's comment about "O Fortuna" from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, which came top of the list. As reported in the BBC News article, he pronounced: "For some reason, it almost sounds satanic, although it's actually a religious piece."

Howls of derisive laughter, Bruce! Religious? It's a setting of a poem about the capriciousness of fate. The text is here, if any of you should be unfamiliar with it.

I know that some of you happen to be Twitterers, so if any of you want to twit Fry about this, get composing your pithy one-liners. I can't wait to hear him blustering "But Fortuna was a Roman goddess, you know!"

[1] For those of you not in the know, Radio 2 is not normally considered to be a "classical" music station; that would be Radio 3.

[2] Most-played, that is, on TV, radio, online streaming and in public places such as shops. Background music for advertisements and elevator music, in other words.

[3] See rants on this passim: the Classical period in music runs roughly from J S Bach to Beethoven. Just about everything on the list is actually from the later Romantic and Modernist periods (with a few honourable exceptions including JSB, Vivaldi and, my goodness, Zipoli). Calling every piece of serious music "classical" is about as egregious as calling all architectural columns "Corinthian" would be.

[4] There should be a single word for this feeling.
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Muddle-headed Kay
Date: 2009-12-24 16:30
Subject: Merry Christmas!
Clearance: Public
Temper:excitedexcited
Tags:christmas, music, sloe gin
Jus and I are about to set off for Nottingham and York for the festive season. We'll be away for a few days, so don't expect quick responses to any e-mails!

I've just decanted and bottled my first batch of sloe gin - a little too soon for perfection, perhaps, but the bottles are for use as gifts. I've sampled the leftover sloe gin, and it's very good :)

I've been too busy recently with Taverner's Gloria Tibi Trinitas Mass to do any new Christmas music for you, but I've taken advantage of a few of the facilities in the more recent versions of Harmony Assistant to refurbish some that I did before.

ZumoDrive is turning out to be a good place to store files for general availability - 1Gb free storage, unlimited downloads - so that's where I'm keeping my MP3 files.

Here, then, in festive mood, are links for downloading William Byrd's Puer Natus Est, and Leontovych's Carol of the Bells.

I've nearly finished the Taverner Mass, so I'll be posting it (and probably the updated versions of Byrd's masses for 3, 4 and 5 voices) some time in January, all being well.

Have absolutely spiffy Christmases, all of you, and (should I not manage to post before then) an extraordinarily Happy New Year!
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Muddle-headed Kay
Date: 2009-11-26 19:29
Subject: Status update and musical confusions.
Clearance: Public
Temper:chipperchipper
Tags:life, music
1) I have a cold. I was due to be going over to Leamington Spa for a training day on how to make videos today, but given that I was feeling grismal and not wishing to inflict my bugs on anyone else, I've stayed at home. Nothing that a few Lemsip and paper tissues won't keep in check, so no worries.

2) Biting into a plum, I discovered that I'd lost a chip from one of my lower right premolars :( An apple I could understand, but a plum? It's not as though I bit down on the stone... so it's off to the dentist for me tomorrow morning to get the problem fixed.

3) My god-daughter-to-be is due to be born sometime in February. She seems to be doing very well, according to the latest ultrasound.

4) Having heard the Agnus Dei from John Taverner's[1] Gloria Tibi Trinitas Mass a week or so ago, I liked it enough to want Harmony Assistant to sing the complete Mass for me. Unfortunately the CPDL, my favourite place for getting free scores from which to work, had scores of only two of the movements available, so I decided to buy the score on paper and to work from that instead.

Allegro Music (not to be confused with the identically-named Allegro Music, who sell keyboards) turned out to be the cheapest stockists that I could locate. I ordered the score from them on the 13th, and it arrived this morning, nicely packed, all present and correct. They're well worth a visit if you're wanting any scores; they specialise in organ music, but they have pretty good general coverage.

5) All things considered, life is pretty good right now. I hope you're all doing well.

[1] That's the Tudor period John Taverner, not to be confused with the very similarly named contemporary Sir John Tavener. I know that Sir JT claims to be a direct descendant of the other JT, but having two homophonous composers is irksome. I propose, in the spirit of Clemens non Papa, that the Tudor JT should henceforth be referred to as "Taverner non Eques", which should serve as a disambiguator since knighthoods can't be be conferred postmortem, can they?
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Muddle-headed Kay
Date: 2009-11-10 21:19
Subject: Sore arm :(
Clearance: Public
Temper:curiouscurious
So today I had two flu jabs - one for the usual seasonal flu, and one for swine flu. It seems that volunteers at Willow View count as 'front-line staff' (quite sensibly in my opinion, since we work closely with our service users) and so have priority for the vaccine.

What puzzles me is this: the woman who gave the injections asked me which hand I write with. Apparently you can't have both jabs in the same arm (what do they do with people with one or no arms? I should have asked), and apparently one of the injections is more likely to cause soreness than the other. So I had that one in my left arm - even though I can write quite happily with either hand, I do tend to use my right, simply because it's less likely to smudge the ink - and the other in my right.

So how is it that it's my right arm that's sore and a little inflamed, and my left one that's just as usual?

Apart from that, I'm feeling fine.
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Muddle-headed Kay
Date: 2009-11-04 18:25
Subject: English As She Is Spoke
Clearance: Public
Temper:Craunching a marmosetCraunching a marmoset
It is my considered opinion that there are some books which anyone with any pretensions to an appreciation of language and a sense of humour must, at some point in her or his life, read.

Of such books, I think that among the best are those written without any intention of their having any ludific quality, such as The Young Visiters — the author's spelling — by Daisy Ashford. It should be argued, though, that someone of her nine tender years must be allowed a deal of latitude in her sense of what is, and what is not, ludicrous.

No such latitude is owed to Pedro Carolinho, the writer (I am tempted to put perpetrator) of O Novo Guia da Conversação em Portuguez e Inglez, which purports to be a handbook of useful English phrases for the Portuguese traveller. No doubt that his intentions were worthy; no doubt there was need of an English/Portuguese phrasebook. But there can be no doubt whatsoever that the author's method of producing it was one of extreme foolhardiness.

Carolinho took a perfectly serviceable French/Portuguese phrasebook by José Da Fonseca, and, with the aid of a French/English dictionary, translated the phrasebook's French into English. Word by word; for the brave Carolinho knew no English whatsoever.

English As She Is Spoke, the title under which the work achieved a later, greater and probably far more entertained public, is the Babel Fish humour of the mid-nineteenth century, and all the better because it was committed in high seriousness.

Read it. If you can keep a straight face throughout, I shall despair of you.
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