War – a poem

Recently I’ve been discussing poetry with Riz from the lovely Tech Nottingham community. She’s been reminding me of the power of poetry and short verse to capture moods, feelings, and events.

It got me thinking back to my old Creative English class at school. English wasn’t my top subject as I concentrated on the Maths and Sciences more from my geek tendencies. I remembered writing a poem that got a great mark and I told her I’d dig it out. I’ve not kept all my school books but I’m glad I kept this one.

So along with the photographic evidence from circa 1988 (in its original form without the teacher’s corrections) is my poem about the 2nd World War.


I was put in the trenches
Where the puddles were endless,
And the duck-boards stretched far.
Blasted beauty,
Machine guns chattering splattering
Charging to get to the other side.
At night when the fighting ceased
No. No sleep, no peace, but
Fear of Germans creeping
To kill.
Craters in No Man's Land
Filled with rain
Killed again
By drowning.
Soldiers strewn across barbed wire,
Immobile men starved in No Man's Land
Stretcher bearers ran to and fro, to and fro,
Taking the shell shocked.
Way behind enemy lines,
The colonels and the majors,
Lounging in their tents
Gave orders and relaxed.

Jonathan Relf – 1988

Kickstarter: Sinclair ZX Spectrum Bluetooth Keyboard

A novel retro idea of recreating a ZX Spectrum as a Bluetooth keyboard for tablet computers. Personally I’d have thought concentrating on it as a keyboard first, rather than as a gaming device, would’ve had more wide-ranging appeal.

It’ll be interesting to see if they meet their goal with the gaming as their first aim.

BBC Video Ident

As another year passes and progress continues towards wearable tech etc. I like to keep reminding myself of how far we’ve come even in my lifetime.

As a child of the 70s, you can’t underestimate how revolutionary the synthesiser sound was to fresh ears. And look at these ‘cutting edge’ futuristic graphics. This, ladies and gentlemen, was the future! (in the 1980s)

The Lego Movie

The Lego franchise has been branching out in many ways over the years, reinforcing the toy’s position as still the most adaptable and fun toy that encourages children to creative play (ok i’m biased as I’m a big fan).

The pending release of a movie could go one of two ways, but from the evidence of the latest trailer I’ve seen it looks like its going to be fantastic.

Watch for the little details like the 80s Space Guy minifig with the chin-strap cracked; a fate that befell many brave space explorers of our Lego time.

What do you think of this, then?

Musical shoots

Music is always innovating. There’s been a focus in mainstream pop of finding strong and quirky vocal performers to make records stand out. The BBC’s Sound of 2010 winner, Ellie Goulding; the excellent Regina Spektor and the BBC Sound of 2007 winner, Mika.

Multi-track and chorus effects have been around for many years but auto-tune technology seems to have sparked a backlash. Similar to the vocoder at times, I suspect it’s the ‘fire and forget’ nature of auto-tune that doesn’t have the musical source input like the vocoder that maybe accounts for the hatred it receives.

In this post, I’ll consider both sides of the argument and leave you with my two favourite examples of auto-tuning at the moment (which are worth reading to the bottom for!)

There have been several artists who are using auto-tune technology to refine their performances which some critics, like Jay-Z, have protested against allowing those with little talent to produce music. Whilst it’s difficult to estimate how many records have been tweaked, there are those which make a point of exaggerating auto tune effects. It seems to be down to T-Pain for taking auto-tune to RnB.

Continue reading “Musical shoots”

Farewell Morse

A white and ginger cat called Morse lying on his back; his head tucked upside down with one paw bent over

It was a sad day yesterday. Morse, a part of my family for 11 years, died suddenly. In many ways it’s a blessing. He was very much loved and didn’t suffer at the end. One minute he was with us, the next he’d gone.

Never overly affectionate, he knew when he wanted things like clockwork and never let you forget who was boss. He was the pioneer of ‘The Human Catflap’: a technique where you keep walking up to near where Linz and I live to say ‘There’s no answer from those folks upstairs, here, come follow me and let me in’. We’d invariably ignore him the first time, when he’d come back again, act all cute nearer to us this time and when we’d inevitably go and try and give him a stroke, he’d be off up the path. Cunning lad was our Morse.

Forever rolling over on the ground to show just how cute he could be, he was a lovely cat.

Like Martin Clunes said of dogs recently in his ITV1 documentary, the bond we get with dogs and cats is often bordering on the irrational. However for all of the demands they make of us, the love we get back from seeing them stick around and seek us out is enough to melt our hearts for every day they are with us.

We all miss you Morse, including your brother Paddy. Farewell dear friend.

It’s full of stars!

It’s amazing what a weekend stuck in a loft can achieve. No, I don’t mean the arms full of fiberglass we got (apparently a tip is to cover yourself in talcum powder first).

A fibre of a different kind ended up creating a magical star ceiling for my brother’s soon-to-be-completed home cinema.

Attention to detail in planning is never overlooked and he’d written a C# program to randomly generate a star field which took into account the joist locations.

So we had a round of ‘Stars in their eyes’ on Saturday where we auditioned starfields and finally came up with a winner. Not only did this software generate a GIF of the starfield but also a CSV file of coordinates that we used from the loft space above to detemine where we drilled.

Add in some HomeEasy automation kit from B&Q and he’s got one funky ceiling that also colour changes. Also as the fibres are clear, when you turn it off you can’t see any evidence of them!

Job well done as you can hopefully see! The first image is the view from the loft with no lights on except the fibreoptics. The second is the ceiling from below.

The loft view with only the fibre optics illuminated
The finished result

So horribly good!

Just in case you’ve managed to miss the spectacle that is Joss Whedon’s ‘Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog’ then you really are missing out. With the release of the soundtrack on iTunes UK today you really have no excuse not to get caught up in the magic.

A project born from the Writer’s Strike in the US, Joss and his talented crew and cast have produced one of an internet viral video that oozes quality from every frame. 

Go visit the official site where you can watch the video via Hulu.com [update: only if you’re in the US. Damn copyright issues]. Can’t wait for the DVD release so we can continue to fund these good people. A diamond in the spam, for sure.

Hole in the wall

I hope for our sales the BBC don’t make a cheesy hash of ‘Hole In The Wall’ but with Dale Winton at the helm it sounds like it’s headed that way. ‘Human Tetris’ or ‘Tunnels’ in Japan is a successful game show where contestants stand in the way of an advancing polystyrene wall with a shape cut from it. The aim of the game is to pass through relatively unharmed and not get knocked into the pool directly behind you. Celebrities dressed in all-in-one silver latex suits are challenged to ever more complex and speedy shapes.
If you’re into daft please go and search for ‘Human Tetris’ on YouTube ( I’ll paste links when I’m home and not blogging on my iPhone).
No doubt the Uk version will ditch the shiny suits and make another National Lottery gameshow lame clone but I prepare to be corrected if people behind the show are true fans.

British Summer

I love the UK and all it’s quirkiness including the weather. It’s a lovely day here in Nottingham and was yesterday. It’s been very meditteranean here at the moment. No doubt it’ll be raining tomorrow.
So what’s to like? It never gets boring that’s what. I’m no good in very hot weather. You can always get warm but getting cold is more difficult. Yes I accept that a long period of hot weather would give us the opportunity of planning barbecues without using umbrellas. But it’s that adaptability to change that is our strength.
So roll on the sun and the rain. It’s crazy and ours.