Monthly Archives: November 2015

7 Days 7 Songs – Day 7 – Parts and Labor – ‘Satellites’

Today’s pop pick: Parts and Labor – ‘Satellites’. Today’s nomination: Dr James Kneale

Couldn’t really do this without nominating a BBO partner-in-crime, could I? This track was one of the first I grabbed on the advice of the fellas, back when I was living alone in San Diego.

It starts with what sounds like a ZX Spectrum loading, then comes the guitars, then the synths, then the vocals with some nice harmonies. Then it keeps building, and the key goes up and up and up, and the synth returns, and the whole thing grinds away and fades. The lyrics are poetic and surreal, and remind me of Haruki Murakami (probably because of the “wind up bird” thing). A trip.

We roll our eyes back up into our heads

7 Days 7 Songs – Day 6 – The Wonder Stuff – ‘On The Ropes’

Today’s pop pick: The Wonder Stuff – ‘On The Ropes’. Today’s nomination: Emma-Jane Berridge.

The Wonder Stuff are a funny lot. I liked their first album when I heard it years later. ‘Hup’ passed me by. I was a student when that bloody cow song came out, and while I joined in and danced and puked Newkie Brown at the time, I could stand to never hear it again. After that it was all quirky time signatures, fiddles and plaid suits, no thank you very much.

So then this came out, and I missed it at first. It took an old friend putting it on a mixtape and sending it to me in Switzerland when I was there to learn a shitty SCADA package for me to notice it, and it became a firm favorite. It’s a rollicking good tune, and the lyrics grabbed me – a little bit “tortured artist”, but that’s OK. It hit the spot at the right time.

Part of the 7 Days 7 Songs project

AutoHotKey Useful

I work a lot on my laptop when out on business, and I find that not having an app key (also known as the “right-click menu” key – although that is misleading) is a right royal pain. I like to use the keyboard as much as possible, and the trackpad is terrible.

I noticed this problem when I was going through some emails on my work laptop and marking them as done (I use the ‘Flagged completed’ function to make them disappear from my main folder). I wasn’t using the mouse, so I was using the up and down arrows to select an email, then hit AppsKey > U > M to mark the email complete.

That is, I would have done if my laptop had an app key. Without one, I had to use the mouse/trackpad, which meant taking my hands off the keyboard. I’m no touch-typist, but it was annoying.

“But surely”, you say, “can’t you just use the right trackpad button on the laptop, which is right there by the keyboard and does the same thing?”

First, let’s be clear about the difference between right click and the app key. They are not the same, but they are related:

  1. The app key is the key on a full-size keyboard below the right shift key and to the right of the right super (or Windows) key that that brings up a context-related app menu at the location of the cursor. It looks like a little menu or list, and sometimes has a little mouse pointer on it.
  2. The right button on your mouse brings up the same app menu at the location of the mouse pointer.
  3. If the cursor is in one position, and the mouse pointer is in a different position, pressing the Apps Key will bring up the menu at the location of the cursor, not the mouse pointer.
  4. If the cursor is in one position, and the mouse pointer is in a different position,right-clicking brings up the menu at the location of the mouse pointer.

This meant that if I was relying on the cursor to select items in the email list, moving up and down with the cursor keys, and not looking at the location of the mouse pointer, I needed the Apps Key, otherwise just hitting the right-click button would bring the menu up in the wrong place, and to avoid that I would have to move my hands from the keyboard, move the mouse, and it’s just a whole thing.

I found a solution in the form of AutoHotkey, which was always being plugged by the folks over at Lifehacker. AutoHotkey provides

Fast scriptable desktop automation with hotkeys


a scripting language for desktop automation

and it solved my problem easily. I installed it, and just added the following line to the default script:


All this does is remap the Caps Lock key (which I never use) to the App Key, so that now on my laptop I can easily bring up the app menu without using the mouse.

In addition, I added these lines:

^;::send %A_YYYY%-%A_MM%-%A_DD%
^+;::send [[%A_YYYY% %A_MM% %A_DD% %A_DDD%]]

These are extra. The first line just expands the very useful Excel and Access functionality of inserting today’s date with Ctrl+; across the whole of Windows. The second line does the same, but wraps the date in double square brackets to easily insert a valid date wiki link in my TiddlyWiki. Of course, the date is in ISO-8601 format to avoid confusion.

AutoHotkey is very powerful and useful, and these examples barely even touch the surface, let alone scratch it. Highly recommended.

7 Days 7 Songs – Day 5 – Roots Manuva – ‘Witness (1 Hope)’

Today’s pop pick: Roots Manuva – ‘Witness (1 Hope)’. Today I nominate Alex Schmidt-Arkin.

I don’t listen to much hip-hop, and certainly not much UK hip-hop – it’s just not for me, really. But this is fantastic, both in the instrumentation and lyrics. Roots grew up in Streatham in South London, and is seen triumphantly returning to his primary school in the video above. I lived in Streatham for a while, so while I can’t say I understand his background or experiences, I do have that tiny connection.

I “discovered” this by accident. I don’t know how it got on my iPod, but I was on the elliptical at the gym in San Francisco, and this song came on and was the perfect speed and style. When I got home, I looked it up, and was charmed to see Roots exercising in the same way, before winning all the sports day activities he had failed at when he was a schoolboy, claiming the trophy, and roaring off in his Ferrari. I like the sound of it, and the lyrics blending Jamaican patois (“Let go me ting, duppy, let go me hand“) and London geezer (“Breakneck speed we drown ten pints of bitter“). Good one.

Part of the 7 Days 7 Songs project

Managing your tasks with todo.txt

[This was posted on my company’s internal intranet, hence the dry tone. But hey, content is content.]

I am always trying to find ways to manage my to-do list. I’ve tried various methods, including paper, Outlook, Google, and various phone apps, with varying amounts of success. Recently, I think I have found a method that seems to be working better than most. It uses a very simple but powerful tool called todo.txt.

Todo.txt was created by founder Gina Trapani, after realizing that many computer geeks were using a simple plain text file to manage their task list. She created a simple set of rules for formatting a plain text file (like what is produced by Windows Notepad) so that the information is structured in a predictable way.

The summarized rules are:

  • A single line in your todo.txt text file represents a single task
  • Priorities are always at the start of the line, in the form: (A), (B), (C) etc
  • Task contexts are represented like this: @Home, @Work, @Errands, @Phone etc
  • Projects (sets of related tasks) are represented like this: +DubaiMetro, +DohaMetro, +Renovations
  • Completed tasks start with an X (and a space)

There are some other rules including how to deal with creation dates, due dates, and completion dates. All the rules are here. There’s a lot more to it, including a dedicated Unix command-line tool, lots of powerful filters and so on, but the point is that it is very simple and powerful, with even more powerful features if you want them.

An example of a valid todo.txt file is:

2014-12-22 Submit application @Work +PM
2015-01-11 scan photos @Home +Blog
2015-01-12 @Work draw diagram +DubaiMetro
(A) Urgently buy milk @Errands
X This has been done @Home +Renovations
(A) Call Mom @Phone +Family
(A) Schedule annual checkup +Health
(B) Outline chapter 5 +Novel @Computer
(C) Add cover sheets @Office +TPSReports
Plan backyard herb garden @Home
Pick up milk @GroceryStore
Research self-publishing services +Novel @Computer
x Download Todo.txt mobile app @Phone

The smart things about todo.txt are:

  • You can edit the file using any text editor on any computer: Notepad, Sublime Text, gedit, vi, vim, emacs, the OSX default editor, you name it.
  • Because the formatting rules are fixed, apps can be created which use the format and provide a nice interface for managing your tasks. There are free apps available for Linux, OSX, Windows, Android and iOS.
  • Your todo.txt file can be in a cloud-based file storage service like DropBox. Mine is, and it means that I can view and edit it at work with one app (or directly in a text editor), in my phone with another app, and then again at home on Linux with whatever I want.
  • If you want paper, you can easily print the raw text file, or many of the apps provide a nicely formatted list with color highlights and checkboxes.
  • It’s future proof – it’s not locked in to any app or software, and can be moved around as much as I want.

It’s been working well for me. While it allows 26 levels of priority (A-Z), I only use 4 (A-D), and they mean this:

  1. The task I am working on right now
  2. The tasks I will do today
  3. Tasks that I plan to do this week.
  4. Tasks reserved for next week/future

The tool fits nicely with my attempts to keep control of my productivity and workflow, and I highly recommend it.

7 Days 7 Songs – Day 4 – The Walker Brothers – ‘No Regrets’

Today’s pop pick: The Walker Brothers – ‘No Regrets’. Today’s nomination: Mira Vogel

You see it’s this kind of thing that makes me almost sad that I’ve not had much in the way of true romantic heartbreak or loss. To be able to legitimately identify with this song and this sentiment would be a privilege. In the absence of that, I can at least sing it in the car.

Then there’s the instrumentation. The string chords that accompany the start of the second verse (about 1:40 into the above) get me right there. I’m a sucker for a good pedal steel, of course. And the final almost-incongruous guitar solo sounds like after all the reasonableness of the lyrics, there is a very unhappy and angry person performing. Fantastic.

7 Days 7 Songs – Day 3 – Echo and the Bunnymen – ‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’

Today’s pop pick: Echo and the Bunnymen – ‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’

That repeating one-note phrase! That harp! Duke McCool’s voice! That ethnic flute/pipes sound that got used a lot around then (research tells me it’s a Shakuhachi!)!

I got into this lot when I would listen to my brother’s copy of ‘Ocean Rain’. Then this came out and it was a legit hit. For some reason I remember it playing on the radio while my bro worked on his go-kart in the garage. Then of course thanks to Robin, the KLF and that episode of Rock Family Trees I got into the whole Liverpool/Eric’s scene from around 1980. Still into it all now.

Today’s nomination: Aforementioned bro Simon Petty

Part of the 7 Days 7 Songs project

7 Days 7 Songs – Day 2 – The Advisory Circle – ‘Now Ends The Beginning’

Today’s pop pick: The Advisory Circle – ‘Now Ends The Beginning’

Another one-note bassline! If my Mum was around, she would say this sounded like the theme from Chariots of Fire, and it would be ruined for me.

Ghost Box records. Very British, very pseudo-nostalgic, very post-hauntological. Wonderful art direction.

This track reminds me of riding the Tube from Heathrow into London in the snow, savoring the feel of being back in the Old Country for the first time in years. It needs green and white hills and weather, but even without them, for example driving on the Sheikh Khalifa highway in a dust storm in a rented Corolla, it can still be effective.

Today’s nomination: Robin Deacon

Part of the 7 Days 7 Songs project

7 Days 7 Songs – Day 1 – The Cars – ‘Bye Bye Love’

After clamoring to be included in this thing, and after talking about posting videos in another post, it’s time to actually do it, and the advantage of doing it on WordPress is that I can set them up to post in advance, and it won’t chew into my LeechBlock allowance in Facebook.

So here we go.

I don’t know what it is about this song. My brother gave me a tape of this album in about 1986, and I played it constantly. I think it’s the combination of keyboards and guitars, simple melodies. That middle bit is incredible. I’m not much of a vocals person now, but then at least I would (try to) sing along. I played the tape at a house party I held at the time, and no-one liked it. I recall the Sisters of Mercy taking its place on the deck. Fair enough I suppose.

I am a fan of one-note basslines, I know that.

Today’s nomination: Cassie Destino

Part of the 7 Days 7 Songs project

That Was My Jam

I used to enjoy posting a video with a fancy generated backdrop based on the video imagery. Sadly though, This Is My Jam has shut down, leaving only the archives of people’s posts. Was it The Guardian’s fault? Implicitly of course, as in all things, the answer is a reverberating yes.

They have been kind enough to set the site up as a kind of memorial, so you can browse other people’s archives as well as your own. Here are a few choice ones:

They also generated a little spiel about each years “jams”. Here are mine (I’ve emphasized some nice or strange bits):

2015: muteboy’s 2015 started strong with “Outdoor Miner (Wire cover)” by Hate Songs. 9 more jams followed it! Plenty of post-punk, new wave, and melodic death metal. muteboy found a rare one: “Burning Bridges” by Wire. People really liked “Good Morning Britain” by Aztec Camera (with Mick Jones). muteboy crossed 75 jams in February! And it all came to an end with muteboy’s final jam: “Rheinlust” by Fursattl.

2014: muteboy’s first jam of 2014 was “Living On The Ceiling (Vince Clarke Remix)” by Blancmange. 18 more jams followed it! Plenty of new wave, ambient, and 80s. muteboy posted a rare gem: “In The Space Capsule (Love Theme)” by Teeth Of The Sea. “It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back)” by Eurythmics got a lot of love. “Sequitur” by Steve Hauschildt closed out the year.

2013: The year got going with “Sensoria” by Cabaret Voltaire. muteboy found their eternal jam in August — “True Faith” by New Order. There was a lot of new wave, electronic, and electronica. “Dirty Epic” by Underworld got a lot of love. muteboy crossed 50 jams in November! “Europe Endless” by Kraftwerk closed out the year.

2012: In August, muteboy joined This Is My Jam, and kicked things off with “Never Be The Same” by Ulrich Schnauss. Nice. It was a year of electronica, ambient, and electronic. muteboy’s 2012 came to a close with “Zombie 303” by AGT Rave Cru.

In the absence of the site, I might still post the odd tune on here. (New stuff should probably go over on Both Bars On, I guess). Here’s my first one. In fact, it was the final tune I posted to TIMJ a few weeks ago, but I was playing it in the car this morning, and it put a smile on my face again, so here you are: