The Smith's Journal - April 2004

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A very Happy Birthday!

As a birthday treat, I bought a second hand TC Electronic M*One XL digital reverb and effects unit from a guy at Shepperton Film Studios, just beside the Special FX Department complete with old-style American police cars and taxis (just itching for a car chase :-) . This well-designed box of tricks has a good clear user interface and sounds wonderful - the reverbs are so convincing, they just bring a smile to my face. It should be just what I need to remaster my Tone Control album for CD (it has the right initials ;-) . So now my outboard rack is complete... (as if! ;-) Now to work on quitting my Gear Acquisition Syndrome and eBay habits...

Each time I walk through my Studio it's like a glimpse of The Promised Land getting closer every day. I pause and gaze at the gear that for decades I've dreamed of owning, then carry on back downstairs to continue the journey with more filing, sorting, computing and learning. Next stop: overcome my solderophobia and get cabling!


Jim's Notes on Drumming

Another drumming session today, for which I selected some new rhythms (Atsiagbeko, Frame Drum, Imbroglio, and Petra (tiroro)) to play from Jim's Notes, a cool website about hand drums by James H. VanDenAkker. [The site is no longer online at its usual address, so I've relinked to an archived version, or here is another version all on one page!] Anyone who missed it today, check out these pages on Rhythm Notation, Learning Rhythms, Effective Drumming and the Simple Rhythm Construction Set (Part I). The energy and vibe this week was stunning; we're beginning to acquire a nice tape deck-style start/stop capability, and the parts are much more together and well-voiced. Congratulations to all who took part - here's to a summer of drums :-)


Osibisa gig

Went to The Horn with Fabrizia, Melissa, Roberto, Helen, Ruth and Patrick, to see legendary AfroRockers Osibisa... Check my review of the gig!


Inspiring reading

Lots of inspiring reading today:


Propositioned in the street :-)

Got stopped in the street while out at work by an older woman, who asked "Are you involved with anyone?" and then gave me her phone number! This is (sad to say ;-) the first time this has ever happened to me, and I was too confused to say anything other than "thanks". Unfortunately, although not unattractive, she was not my type (I tend to prefer taller women :-) but this kind of thing does make one smile, and such actions of random kindness open the mind to new possibilities. The weirdest thing was that her number was only one digit different from that of a close friend! (I'm not saying who :-)


Glencoe Massacre

Yesterday I heard some fascinating tales about Glencoe in Scotland on Radio 4's programme Open Country. A ski resort in winter, Glencoe has stunning views of beautiful scenery and mountains, not far from Castle Stalker which stands alone on an island in Loch Linnhe.

The Massacre of Glencoe was a gruesome affair in which:

Campbell of Glenlyon led a group of some 128 soldiers who stayed with the MacDonalds for some 12 days and then turned on their hosts in the early morning of 13th February, killing 38 of them whilst some tried to escape into the snowy hills.

One villager interviewed in the programme told a local legend which begins at the time of the massacre: [I hope I've transcribed it correctly...]

A wise-woman lived there, who could point at a cow and make it dry, or if it was dry, make it produce milk again. She had terrible premonitions of danger, and the day before the massacre she went and hid in the woods. The next day, 13th February 1692, she returned to the village to find that the people had been slain and the buildings burned. She found the body of Old MacIain, chief of the MacDonalds of Glencoe, and took his sword and flung it into Loch Leven, saying that 'Until this sword is disturbed again by the hand of man, no man of the Glen will die by the sword.' This prophecy held true, for more than two hundred years until one fateful night in 1916, while dredging the Loch, a ship's captain found the barnacle-encrusted handle of a sword and took it to show the villagers. They were horrified and rushed out to throw it back into the water. But it was too late: it had been 'disturbed by the hand of man', and the protection was gone. The next morning, 1st July 1916, scores of local men lost their lives at the Battle of The Somme. No villagers had been killed in the preceding two years of World War One.

Alas, there didn't seem to be any record of this story online (there is now ;-) . The closest I found is a children's book called 'A Dream of Danger, The Massacre of Glencoe' by Kirsty White, about a girl called Morag who has premonitory nightmares about the village being attacked, obviously based on the legend.


LAD Conference

I wish I could go to the second LAD Conference in Karlsruhe, to hear a busy schedule of fascinating talks on a wide range of subjects relating to computer music. [Update: Audio streams, webcams and IRC are now online.]

Week of Freedom

I'd also love to have attended the Week of Freedom organised by FSF Europe and Hipatia in Italy, having been very impressed by their vision. One day, government will be like this.

LinuxUser Expo 2004

Instead, I did the next best thing: attended the LinuxUser Expo2004 at London's Olympia, where I bought some funky Debian case badges from the Debian stall and chatted at length to Tim Hall who very kindly gave me a hot-off-the-press CD of the new release of AGNULA 1.1.1, brimming with fresh Linux audio software goodness :-) So now I have a bootable, pre-configured CDROM of all the software I've been longing for, only to find that my music computer's SCSI CDROM drive doesn't seem to be bootable! Next hurdle to jump...


Mordechai Vanunu released

Mordechai Vanunu was released today from prison in Israel after 18 years behind bars, much of which was spent in solitary confinement. His only crime was reporting to the West that Israel was developing nuclear weapons. They still have not signed a non-proliferation treaty. What are they waiting for? Armageddon?

Mayday Cricket

Anyone looking for something exciting to do on Mayday this year could go along and join the dapper chaps from Space Hijackers for a spot of Mayday Cricket. You may also find some good tips in their Blaggers' Guide and Equipment Department. Or maybe nude cycling is more your thing...


Rock-dust + compost = fertility

Radio 4's programme Changing Places went to Pitlochry in Scotland to see how people are growing mammoth vegetables on ground thought of as infertile, using rock-dust in conjunction with compost to restore the minerals to the barren soil. Check out the fabulous developments that are going on at the SEER Centre; this is a major discovery which could have big implications for farming.


Drumming session

Drumming at sunny Michael's Folly with Fabrizia, Tina, Patrick and Jane. We made excellent progress and now have some tricks up our sleeves for the next session.


After tea in the garden with birdsong and sunshine, Bizia, Tina and I headed into London to see enchanting Brazilian chanteuse Joyce performing at The Jazz Cafe in Camden, on a rare UK date to promote her new album with Banda Maluca, "Just A Little Bit Crazy" [Far Out Recordings FARO 077CD]. She was stunning. Here's my review of the gig...

On the way home I found Altan were singing some fine folk songs live on the radio, rounding off a wonderful night to remember.

A night to remember

A night to remember in 44 days time (June 8th 2004 (Harley's birthday!)) - the Transit of Venus, where the planet will pass between Earth and The Sun. This is a rare astronomical event (the first time in living memory), which appears as a tiny black dot moving very slowly across the sun's disk over a period of six hours, visible from many parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. WARNING: Never look directly at the sun (especially through a telescope), as this can cause blindness in seconds. Instead, use special filters or, better still, project the image for all to see using a mirror or a pinhole. See also this informative article about the Transit by Peter M. Langford. (Wow, my name before I was adopted was Peter Richard Langford!)


Everyone's A Winner Baby

How cool! Today I won a book, O'Reilly's Linux Server Hacks, after participating in Linux Magazine's Reader Survey. Nice, full of top tips. Wow, it must be years since I've won anything -- except friends, hearts and minds, of course ;-) "Let the hacking commence!"

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Licence © The right to copy is left with the user copyleft Malcolm Smith 2004-03-03 - last updated 2007-10-06