Musings and a place to store stuff

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The Expendables

Pearl and I watched this film the other night, and I have to blog on how bad it is.  captured_Image.pngIt is frighteningly awful. It’s cast read like a ‘who’s who’ of action movies including Sylvesta Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lungren, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Arnie.

But watching it, it just makes no sense whatsoever. It seems while you’re watching it, as though all of the big actors have decided that the writers are holding them back, and have deludedly come up with the decision that they don’t need writers and can just make stuff up (Sylvesta Stallone did write it.)

It’s as though the Mona Lisa had decided that as her pictures so popular she can probably knock up a few self portraits herself, and do without the stroppy painter.

We started to get suspicious after the leading men are variously seen on various expensive looking motor cycles and parking them in a cool looking sort of macho man hang out complete with neon signs and pool tables, where they sit and sharpen knives, and give words of wisdom to each other (like the building that Wesley Snipes hangs out in with Kris Kristofferson).

Then suddenly they’re whisked off to some representation of a tin-pot country somewhere, where generic looking bad guy soldiers rough up the populace, except they’re not all whisked off they seem to have suddenly found a sea-plane and can all fly – oh and it has a huge machine gun in the nose and drops kerosene bombs. Then there’s suddenly a love interest who needs saving which a 70 year old Sly looks really creepy chasing after. Then CIA involvement and then we had to turn it off because we couldn’t watch any more. It was just the most awful film ever made.


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The Top Ten Daily Consequences of Having Evolved

The Smithsonian institute have posted captured_Image.pngan interesting article that lists ten draw back to having evolved rather than being created. These run from hiccups to back aches and hernias.

Read the full article here

Hiccups for example:

The first air-breathing fish and amphibians extracted oxygen using gills when in the water and primitive lungs when on land—and to do so, they had to be able to close the glottis, or entryway to the lungs, when underwater. Importantly, the entryway (or glottis) to the lungs could be closed. When underwater, the animals pushed water past their gills while simultaneously pushing the glottis down. We descendants of these animals were left with vestiges of their history, including the hiccup. In hiccupping, we use ancient muscles to quickly close the glottis while sucking in (albeit air, not water). Hiccups no longer serve a function, but they persist without causing us harm—aside from frustration and occasional embarrassment. One of the reasons it is so difficult to stop hiccupping is that the entire process is controlled by a part of our brain that evolved long before consciousness, and so try as you might, you cannot think hiccups away.

I have also read somewhere that one of the reasons that we frequently wake up suddenly with the sensation of falling, is that this is an ancient protective mechanism caused by the downsides of sleeping in trees (the falling sensation alerting us to grab on to a branch).

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Be It Resolved That Religion is a Force for Good In the World


There was a debate this week on the question of whether religion is a force for good in the world with the 2 principle debaters being Tony Blair (Pro) and Christopher Hitchens (Con).

You can watch it online here for a few dollars.

Christopher Hitchens was excellent as ever. The audience voted before and after with the results below. At the start 57% were already against the motion and this increased to 68% afterwards but those for the motion also increased from 22% to 32% so I think it just proves that both Blair and Hitchens were persuasive.

I wish they’d talked a little bit more about existentialism and the transcendent which they only touched on at the end. So the start was Hitchens listing all the bad things in the name of religion – how we should of abandoned the old testament. Blair responded by listing good things done in the name of religion and unfortunately gave the working out of the peace process in Northern Ireland as an example, which Hitchens rightly leapt on – 400 years of religious stupidity. Blair responded that it was normally more about politics and less about religion.

Hitchens brings up that Rwanda genocide capital of the world is the most Christian African country and Blair again responds that it’s not about religion.

An audience member asks why America one of the most free and most democratic countries can also have the largest and most mixed religious groups. Hitchens responds that the separation of Church and State has left people to not only do what they want and not be persecuted but has also prevented them from being allowed to subjugate each other (saying those religious groups would seem less ‘furry’ if they were in power).

One of his comments being “I don’t care what you do, but don’t bring religion into my school or try to convert my kids with your nonsense” but that religions can’t do this because their books tell them to push it into everyone’s faces.

Blair agrees with this but again talks about how religion can bring differing sides together.

Blair brings up the wonderful things done in the name of religion, and so Hitchens brings up the wonderful things done in the name of communism, but points out many of those people ultimately abandoned communism realizing that it was authoritarian and that they should stand up and be free, and this was the same with the church. Hitchens points out that if it were just about following Jesus he would have less problems with it, but you can’t and have to follow the self proclaimed vicar here on earth the pope. Nice line about not wanting to be part of the flock (or any kind of sheep).

Blair and Hitchens then both talk about the transcendent and the possibility of a power outside of human existence –  which Hitchens says is OK but you don’t need a religious leader or ancient book or cave for – and points out that these religious books make claims about land and cutting the genitalia off of new born boys with sharp stones which some people take seriously. Sam Harris said recently “it’s not the religious fundamentalists that are the problem, it’s the fundamentals of religion”.

Blair then explained that he doesn’t really take the bible literally in that sense and that it was written from the view point of that century – but that it’s the central message of loving others that he takes from it and that it inspires others and is not felt by him as servitude to a higher power. It would be great if that was a 10 commandment (Hitchens line was “Take 10 commands a day in tablet form”). “Do unto other…” is in the Bible but even that was written pre-bible and was around in Ancient Greece and Egypt.

Blair was ever the politician and never sounded like he was arguing, he was very relaxed, more so in the second half. Hitchens is looking very pale (poor bloke) – he was very good to do the debate considering he’s got terminal cancer of the esophagus.

Some bloggers have unkindly suggested that his cancer is some sort of divine punishment – Hitchens response was that how unimaginative a god to give him exactly the type of disease that someone of his age and a habitual smoker would be prone to get. He wonders “Why not a thunderbolt”.

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New Phone–Samsung Windows Phone 7

I should be getting my new phone shortly.  Microsoft have released Windows 7 Phone their new phone OS in the last few weeks and it’s a complete departure from any other phone operating system out there.

Utilizing an OS style called metro Microsoft have done away with trying to shrink Windows down to hand-held size (I always hated scroll bars on a phone) and have completely abandoned their old Windows operating system which while feature rich was clumsy, prone to slow downs and almost unusable as a phone.

The new Windows 7 phone relies on a couple of key new features.

  • Tiles – The home page displays rectangular tiles, each of which represent a window into the underlying feature that the tile has been assigned to. These are not static pictures or icons, but live animated windows which developers can use to provide the most important content into the home page. The facebook tile for example will rotate around the updates of friends and family, the email tile will display the number of unread messages – and so on.
  • Hubs – One of the criticisms aimed fairly at the iPhone, is that it’s like being in a hallway, and as you start an application it’s the same as stepping into a room. You use the application, and then leave the room to go back into the hallway before stepping into the next app. With people having mixed content all over the place this becomes problematic when you may find that you have contacts in google, facebook, exchange and on your phone, and pictures on flickr, facebook and your home PC. Hubs are Microsofts solution to this, by creating areas of common content that can represent data from various sources. Go to your contacts and you’ll see contacts that originated from a variety of sources.
  • Standard Equipment – Microsoft have required that the phone manufacturers using Windows phone 7 meet some pretty hefty hardware requirements. This should prevent too much variety creeping into the mix which always seems to be the nail in the coffin for Microsoft. With the previous Windows phone OS phone manufacturers were coming out with all sorts of different screen resolutions making it impossible to develop for.

There’s a chance that this phone will really make a dent in the iPhone and Android market but we will have to wait and see. The Android is infinitely customizable which is a strength and a weakness – there are so many thousands of different elements out there now but it males it impossible to reach any consensus. Apple are completely locked down which provides a robust consistent interface but one which is expensive, hard to develop for and is getting a bit old now. So maybe Microsoft can do something here.

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Lightzone Photo Editing

One of the most common problems when taking photographs is that a picture can be both underexposed and overexposed in places. In the picture below Pearl was too dark in the foreground and the background were totally bleached out (look at the sky and sign).


Modern SLR cameras that can take photos in RAW format hold an unprocessed copy of the image which is normally lost the second you convert the picture into a viewable/printable format such as JPG/GIF. RAW editors are normally supplied with SLR cameras that allow broad brush adjustment of the picture, but this is normally little more than the ability to undo/redo some of the settings that you made when you took the picture (such as white balance) and a contrast adjustment.

An add-on to photoshop provides some better tools for editing the RAW picture before it gets added into photoshop but this suffers from being destructive and a one way process.

Lightzone a $99 photo editing tool allows you to apply changes to the picture which are completely none destructive (the original picture is untouched) and all changes are made on the fly and can be undone/modified.

You can selectively pick portions of the picture to apply edits to and this can be based on regions or colour ranges or combinations of the both. For example I was able to fence Pearl and adjust the underexposed areas, and select the rest of the picture and adjust the overexposed areas. I was then also able to pick the blue of the sky and selectively adjust the sky contrast and hue without affecting blues elsewhere in the picture.



More lightzone info can be found here

A Flickr Pool for Lightzone users here

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I See It In My Own Way (unfinished)

A partial song which is a bit like the “You’ve lost your faith” – perhaps I should join them together.
It’s nothing more than a verse and then me playing guitar with an octaver type effect.
Another one where I like the tune though, and I especially liked the backward cymbal crash that I recorded forwards and then reversed to bring the drums in.

I see it in my own way
I see the lights are on
I won’t ever believe it wasn’t you

I see you sit beside me
I never run and hide
Just in case you hold the answer deep in side

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Round this Sun and Down

I wrote this song in a bedsit just before buying my bigger recording equipment, which explains why it’s finished (no toys to distract me).
One of the songs that we used to play at gigs in the band, but I recorded this at Bobs. I like the key change towards the end which lifts it.

You can’t love no one else except me
Lets put some time between us
When all is said and done we’re never free
We need some time between us
Love between my eyes

Seems like we go round this sun and down, and down

I can’t remember much so sue me
I’ll write a book about it
I’ll tell you all my lies if you’ll tell me
There is no doubt about it
Straight between my eyes

Seems like we go round this sun and down, and down
Seems like we go round this sun and down, and down

Love is a segregation, of what you seem to need
It’s not any revelation, it’s animal instinct to me

The forests from the moon, are evergreen
That’s what it seems like to me
Is she in my heart, or in my dreams
What will be is what will be
Acid in the skies

Seems like we go round this sun and down, and down
Seems like we go round this sun and down, and down
and down, and down


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New Revolution (unfinished)

Another unfinished song, but with at least a passable verse. I liked the sound of the guitars, but the riff at the start sounds annoyingly like the Friends theme tune. I was aiming for something more like Beatles paperback writer I think.
My mate Kevin is singing the backing vocals with me.  Chris programmed the drums and Eric played bass (very Beatly at the end). Should have been one to finish and play with a live sound instead of just doing it at home, but I never loved the chorus or wrote any more than a first verse. The crackle at the start is deliberate and is a bit of a french radio station, but you can hardly hear any talking.

The recording is really bad in places because I mastered it to tape and then the tape got eaten by the machine – I had to pull it all out with a pencil and then played it into a CD.

We can make, a new revolution
We can take, a sound for life
We can fake, our own constitution
We can love the mad intrusion outside

Don’t you ever want to be ignored
If you can’t take everything I know as true
Don’t you ever want me back I know you’ll understand
If you don’t I’ll never be there again

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Say What You’re Running For

Unusually a completed song. This one had me dragging out my dads BBC sound effects again, but instead of train sounds I went for rain.

The ice blades are falling down, seasons turning again
You can see the morning through the rain
The snow line is melting down, through the rivers away
You can see the colours move away

Oh oh don’t be surprised, say what you’re running for
Oh oh don’t be surprised, say what you’re running for
Don’t be afraid no more, what are you running for

Oh oh don’t be surprised, say what you’re running for
Oh oh don’t be surprised, say what you’re running for
Don’t be afraid no more, what are you running for

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Always Someone There

Another unfinished snippet of a song, but at least this one has some words.

I liked the tune to this and had good fun doing the harmonies – My mate Eric played bass on one of his visits from Australia.

When you think at times, your always by yourself
There’s always someone there
Someone who cares enough for you
Someone who cares enough for you

Someone who wants to take care good care of you

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The Queen and her Lover Dance On

This is probably the most arranged and polished thing I’ve ever recorded. Done at my mate Bobs house I unusually completed the entire song first before going anywhere near the recording equipment. So I had all of the words and chords. We programmed the drum machine and actually took care to have some syncopation in it. All done on my PC with guitars, one synth, tambourines and hand claps.

This wasn’t long after getting my Yamaha 1080 so all of the string and horn sounds were novel toys to play with. Because I liked the strings in the song I wrote the little peace at the start to try to make it sound like a string band imagining them playing in one of those old English park band stands. The King and Queen are fanciful and I always imagined this song as sort of a back drop to an animation.

Listen out for the hand claps and harmonica, as Bob and I spent ages getting them right. I had the line “Travelling players, sack the dark” written on a scrap of paper from a poem I’d written at school and liked the image of travelling minstrels getting rid of the darkness by playing happy songs.

It was Sunday, the King and the Queen were outside listening to phonographs
Suddenly he sings her a song about a girl he used to know
And in her head a feeling broke for a moment in the light
like they were imaginary lovers, in someone elses song

It was evening, the garden fills up gently with friends they used to know
There’s wine on the table and dancers on the lawn, a band with a steel guitar
and the King and the Queen with a grace unseen
spin gently in the moonlight like a merry-go-round
While the circle of friends look on

Travelling players, sack the dark and whistle while they play
A song that they sing for them now
The King smiles at her, tells the band it doesn’t matter if they make a few mistakes
The Queen and her lover dance on

She was laughing, the King whispered ‘nonsense rhymes’ in the style of Edward Lear
Suddenly, he sings her a song about a girl he used to know
And in the last remains, of the party games, a feeling broke, because she knows that girl and knows they’ll go on dancing
The band plays a new refrain

Travelling players, sack the dark and whistle while they play
A song that they sing for them now
The King smiles at her, tells the band it doesn’t matter if they make a few mistakes

The Queen and her lover dance on

Travelling players, sack the dark and whistle while they play
A song that they sing for them now
The King smiles at her, tells the band it doesn’t matter if they make a few mistakes
The Queen and her lover dance on, dance on

Dance On

Travelling players, sack the dark and whistle while they play
A song that they sing for them now
The King smiles at her, tells the band it doesn’t matter if they make a few mistakes
The Queen and her lover dance on
The Queen and her lover dance on, dance on

Dance On

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God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

I think I recorded this because my folks wanted to hear something I’d recorded and Christmas was coming up. So I tried to do a sort of Mike Oldfield thing to it.
Not sure why the bit on the end is on there, I think I had a left over bit of bass line I’d been playing and decided to put some vocals and drums on it.

God rest ye merry, Gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Saviour
Was born upon this Day.
To save poor souls from Satan’s power,
Which long time had gone astray.
Which brings tidings of comfort and joy.

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Another shortish song with no words, but I still like it.

This one came about because of the string samples that let me play stabbing violin chords which reminded me of ELO. So this is an ELOish type track with pumping chords and then a middle bit which includes a muted trumpet and a climbing bass line that I liked. Again the song was out of reach once I got stuck into all the piano, bass and other strings.

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Dangerous Eyes

A mate of mine Merve Green came round to do some recording and had a rhythm track and some great jazzy chords that he’d been working on. We struggled with it and then accidentally turned it down to half the tempo and liked it better. I wrote some words and tune and Merves mate Sally came round to sing it. Never completely finished but we liked the radio vocals all though they’ve been done to death now.

This is not your problem
This is no ideal
I can’t imagine how you feel
I was indecision and pacing on the floor
The lights of reason don’t crowd me any more

Dont step outside and ask me why – Your dangerous eyes You’re dangerous (repeat)

I could not deceive you
Playing from afar
All my answers
Tell me who you are
All was indiscretion
The games we want to play
I learnt the reasons for the things I heard you say