Monthly Archives: March 2012

We Know It’s Fake, But…

SmooveAll this kerfuffle about hated publisher Elsevier unleashing the trademark hounds on the amusing FakeElsevier Twitter account, thereby triggering the Streisand Effect, reminded me of an old story from my hometown of Bedford, UK.

In the late 1980’s, the local newspaper had a notice in it, advertising that a Fake Alexander O’Neal was going to be performing at a nightclub in the town. The club was probably Sweetings on Goldington Road, now called Saints and Sinners, or perhaps Riviera Lights, now called New York New York. Oh boy.

The ad clearly showed the word “FAKE”. Unfortunately, the real R’n’B star Alexander O’Neal had recently had a hit with a song called Fake. As a result, the club was swamped with crispy-haired Sharons and Tracys, all expecting to see the real thing. They were not pleased. I prefer not to imagine the screeching and clawing that ensued.

It didn’t occur to them that Mr O’Neal, an international pop star from Mississippi, at that time enjoying the peak of his career, might not actually be playing a one-off date in a small market town in Anglia.

I Used To Live Here

I felt I needed to let you know.

My old house in High Wycombe

Not as damp as the previous place

Surprisingly, this is not the place where I had the slugs.

Great Power, Responsibility Etc.

Cassie is starting a new documentary project, and there’ll be lots about that on here in the coming months. She has an old Sony PD150 MiniDV camcorder, which was quite the thing back in the early 00’s. (That will be going up on eBay soon, so if you’re interested, let me know.)

Tapes and Standard Def no longer cut the mustard, so we had to get a new camera. Cassie is the expert here, but I’ve had a pretty quick induction to the features and requirements of documentary film making from a technical standpoint. We went to a couple of camera stores, and it seemed that one option would be to get a high-end DSLR, rather than a dedicated video camera. This was because you get better light sensitivity in a DSLR than in a comparably-priced video camera – ISO settings over 10,000! In addition, a DSLR would provide us with a good camera we could use for other things, like taking pictures of our dog. Very important. In addition, the form factor was something that Cassie wants to explore in the documentary itself, so there’s an added bonus.

After much deliberation, we went into Calumet and bought a Canon 5D Mark III, plus extra batteries, memory cards, and a stabilizer rig with shoulder pad and pistol grip, to allow you to hold it like a camcorder.

After talking to the very helpful Zachary in Calumet for a while, before buying the 5D, we went to The Pork Store Cafe and had lunch with some folks we haven’t seen for a while, and to let the decision settle in our minds. We did some research on line, and the weird thing is, the camera isn’t on sale yet. All the usual review sites just had previews and tentative hands-on posts, rather than actual reviews. The Mark II was very successful and got great reviews, so we’re sure it’s going to be great, but it was coincidence that we happened to be buying the latest sought-after camera on the day it was released.

We set it up at the weekend, and I played around with it some, but we haven’t yet put it through its paces. Neither of us are photographers – Cassie is a videographer, and I piddle around. But now we have this amazing thing, and frankly I’m a little daunted. Reading some of the comments on the review sites, it makes it seem like if we don’t put this thing to the very best use, then we are not worthy of owning it. Apparently stats-quoting gearheads with kit lists in their forum sigs have the monopoly on owning stuff like this. Well, screw you. We bought one of the three available in the store, and we’re not even professionals! In fact, this is the first DSLR I’ve ever owned! My Dad had an EOS500, but I never used it. What’s ISO?

I think this is a symptom of the usual classic Petty guilt. We have this amazing ability to feel guilty or unworthy when we have something good. Basically, Cassie and I will try to get the best out of this significant purchase. But don’t you dare suggest we shouldn’t be allowed to have it.


Both Bars On is five years old today « Both Bars On.

Tossing over a bit of love to me mates at Both Bars On today – 5 years of top shelf music blogging. Also happy birthday to BBO’s Bon, the northern contingent, sending out those klaxon calls of post-rave library-shelf knob-twiddling to the rain-sodden masses.



Kaufmann Mercantile Store.

I want a lot of these things. Not in any real sense, mind you, but in a kind of “oo that looks” nice sense. Getting excited about brushes.

Similar to the world market of Kiosk Kiosk, which I think I’ve linked to before. And I’ve definitely linked to Manufactum, especially this lovely watch.

Just things.

Acid Rain Test

My new Tingleys rubber overshoes really proved their worth this morning. It was absolutely shiteing it down, so Cassie suggested she drop me at the BART station, rather than have me wait in the rain for the bus. Nice idea, very welcome.

Unfortunately, the traffic was awful, and it turns out BART cannot handle rain at all, so I was waiting on the platform at Macarthur for fifteen minutes. The BART journey itself was fine, I got a seat, but the walk from Montgomery to my office was the real test. Heavy rain, running streams, deep puddles, people with golf umbrellas (the Hummers of the sidewalk).

By the time I got to the office, my lower legs were sopping wet, but my feet and my leather dress shoes were fine. My body was kept warm and dry by my warm, hooded, now-much-respected “commuter trench“. The Tingleys were a timely buy, and a big success.

Now I’m at my desk, using paper towels to mop up some of the drips from my legs. Nasty. But thank you, Eddie Bauer and Tingleys!

I will of course continue to refer to these as my Tingleys, as is only right and natural.

Classy Loaded Magazine?

Ugh, rotten rainy day, Cassie is ill, I’m feeling uninspired and still feeling the effects of the time change, and then I sit down and read Esquire magazine, and it not only says that “real men” don’t do this and that (including referring to chores as “chores”, WTF?), but nobody’s favorite self-obsessed interviewer Scott “Don’t Confuse Me With Stefan” Raab rants on about good filmmakers, how they are all up themselves, and how Kevin fuckin’ Smith is the best director. I do not need this.

So it would seem that Esquire is turning into a cross between Loaded and Maxim. I say again, if Cassie hadn’t subscribed to a decade’s worth of issues for something like $5.13, I wouldn’t buy it. Gah.


Chinese High-Speed Rail Section Collapses –

This is rotten, of course. It was an unused, newly built section. But it will no doubt be used by the NIMBYs down the peninsula and the “fiscal conservatives” and wealthy landowners in the Central Valley as ammunition. Before these problems with the Chinese HSR, they were saying, “Why can’t California build as fast as China?”. Now they will say, “See? HSR systems never work and they always collapse and it’s a dangerous waste of money and we should fix every other single thing wrong in our state before we even consider an integrated public transportation system”.

It’s the same double standard they use with Maglev. Magnetic Levitation is an unproven (at our required scale) and very expensive method of building guideway and propulsion for trains. But “why isn’t California building Maglev? It’s the future! China is beating us!”. No, we’re building state-of-the-practice, proven, off-the-shelf, steel-wheel-on-steel-rail high-speed tracks and trains. “But that is too expensive!” So you want an unproven R&D project, but not a proven system?

Gah, rainy Tuesday morning. Thank goodness for the Tom Tom Club.

I’m Local Tech Support

Multiple tech issues bombarding me right now. Luckily my little laptop is now up and running Lubuntu with my default user account, thanks to some support over on #mofirc (thanks dusty!), so I can at least post this and get some stuff done.

Cassie is getting her film stuff going again, and because it will be all data rather than tape (or film!) it looks like we’ll need a Network Attached Storage device. We need a secure backup of the PCs, for a start, and a hot-swappable RAID array should do the trick. Plus it would need to be big enough for all the big video files. Offsite storage would also be required, but first things first. The other big requirement is for the NAS to be configurable as an FTP site, to allow Cassie’s editor in London (that she knows and trusts, otherwise she’d find someone here) to grab the footage for working with. Dropbox won’t cut it longterm – make your own cloud.

All this is not helped by Cassie’s Macbook Pro sutting down on its own randomly. No temperature issues, battery full. Typical, we’ll probably end up at a bloody Genius bar.

All this stuff means I’m the local tech support, even if I have to outsource a lot of it. Fun in a way.

Malt Loaf Attempt

I wanted to make my own malt loaf, having remembered how much I loved it in the UK. Friend Siobhan sent me a recipe from Mary Berry, and I set to work acquiring the ingredients. A bit of translation from the UK recipe to the US was involved:

  • UK to US translation
  • 5 fluid ounces = 0.625 cups
  • Sultanas = Golden Raisins
  • Black Treacle = Molasses
  • Demerara Sugar = Raw Sugar
  • Plain Flour = All Purpose Flour

The recipe called for malt extract, which I remember we used to sell in Superdrug when I worked there in the late 1980’s (jeez). It was a nutritional supplement, and came in castor oil mixture variety as well. Where could I get it in the US? I googled, and found that it’s a common ingredient in home brewing, so I called Oak Barrel in Berkeley, just up the road from Oakland, and asked. The friendly and helpful guy suggested that simple light malt extract would probably do the trick. On Saturday, among other errands, we popped in and found a bustling and fascinating store full of barrels, tubes, equipment, mixtures, corks, books, and what seemed like lots of knowledgeable and friendly staff and customers. I got my malt extract, and went on my way.

The recipe was pretty simple, and so I was able to toss it all in the Kitchenaid and mix it all up in there and then pour it in a loaf tin and bake it. I didn’t have two small tins like the recipe asked for, just one big loaf tin. The mixture filled it quite well though so I wasn’t too worried. The recipe then said to “bake until firm”, so I did 10 minute intervals, poking it with a toothpick until it came out clean. I think I overcooked it, actually, but that may be because I had to use a larger tin, the middle wasn’t done before the outside was.

Result: Tasty! Good with cream. Lovely malty flavor. But it’s nothing like Soreen. It’s more like a cake than a bread. The recipe title is misleading in that regard. Do you hear me, Berry? With that knowledge, I looked around for another recipe, and it seems that if you want the real bread-like gooey texture of Soreen, you have to make bread. That is, kneading and proving and rising and waiting and airing cupboards and all that. I’ve never made bread, so I’m not sure I want to embark on that particular odyssey.

We’ll eat the loaf as it is, and then revisit the possibility. In the meantime, yum!