Computers and Calories

Lunch (and dinner, and an unspecified in between meal) with Simon M and his computer, which needs a new USB card. Or for preference replacement, but he can't afford it. Work on Christina C's computer was delayed till (probably) tomorrow when her daughter went into labour.
Speaking of Labour. In the news today the big event was at the Labour Party conference, where an 82 year old longtime member was violently ejected from the hall and detained as a suspected terrorist. His act of sedition was to shout the word "Nonsense" during a speech. Another deligate who protested at the manhandling was treated the same way, and a third taking snaps in the entrance lobby had his pictures deleted.

Second is a visit to this country from the family of a man shot nine times through the head in public by an undercover police officer who "mistook him for a suicide bomber", as the radio news puts it.

The officer, under orders to maintain a low profile, mistook a white man walking with a rucksack for a dark-skinned man running with a koran and a bomb. And decided the best way to remain hidden, protect lives and maintain calm was to chase him into a busy tube train and empty his gun, thus defusing the invisible bomb.

Over the next week, the media will accuse the family of "giving succour to terrorists", and then hint at "connections to Al Qai-ida".

Tucked away behind non-stories about school dinners and fragile I-Pods is news that the polar icecap is melting even faster than expected. Personally, I wish the world would hurry up and end.
Last time we attempted to spring clean - about 5 years ago - we found a lot of my computing coursework from 1992. This time it's theology from 1994. So, progress. Except it seems to be mixed with work on phonetics, film studies, and the finer points of second order logic.

If anyone asks me what I've done with my life, the answer might be, "Try to understand the world, in the hope that it would stink less."

Been Reading the Bible Again

I've come up with a song for this week's SongFight, for the title 'Boundaries'. It's about the sense of vertigo that hits when someone loses their religion. Moral certainties are no longer garrunteed by obscure lines from an old book. Boundaries between right and wrong, true and false, important and trivial seem disconcertingly free to slip around when no longer held in place by church authority.

Unfortunately, I can't find a way to insert the title into the lyrics. Well, this is how they stand at the moment:

One choice
Two trees
One bite of the apple
And now we are free
One sin
Two sons
One moment of anger
Cannot be undone

(No one)
No one to forgive me
(No one)
No one to blame
(No more)
No one to decieve me
(No more)
No more games to play

One child
Three kings
Tell it on the mountain
Now rise up and sing
One cross
Three nails
Silver in my pocket
The price of betrayal

Now We're in the Mood

Sion R has a nice shiny new computer. For which he has requested multitracking software and training. And probably help plugging it in.

Speaking of shiny new computers, Simon M wants one. So tomorrow's lunch will be one of his wonderful culinary creations with more calories than a weightlifter needs in a week.

We'll go through the various suppliers and specifications, but I'll recommend a cheap (£300) Dell machine. 2.6GHz, XP Home, 512MB RAM, 80GB HD, 17'' CRT Monitor, DVD Combo.
My kitchen is full of fruit. Apples, pears, bananas and figs. I gave the oranges and passion fruit a miss. And what the hell is a butternut?

Father is mystified that figs can be eaten raw. They can be eaten raw, can't they?

Anyway, there's now no excuse for snacking on biscuits. The 70% coaca chocolate I got with them has given me a spacey buzz and a headache.

H used to look at me in wonderment and say "You're not meant for this world, are you?"
I've got the 'cassette digitisation' machine set up again. Currently transferring Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds and the BBC radio production of The Hobbit to mp3.

There's Lord of the Rings, Hitch-Hiker (first two seasons) and Lost in Space lying around on cassettes we no longer have the facilities to play. Plus about 100 Open University course casssttes and 200 music cassettes.

We've rediscovered the piano teaching course called 'Play it Today' - consisting on about 30 cassettes and booklets. It's been sitting in a quiet corner for about 15 years since Mother and I tried to learn. I don't think I got past lesson 1. I'll copy it to mp3 and see whether I can learn some basic keyboard technique at some point.

Food Glorious Food

I'm Hungry! Three cups of tea and two apples haven't helped, and there's a bar of chocolate sitting on the bed just beckoning to be devoured. Oh there's no actual empty stomach feeling - just a craving to stuff something edible (and preferably sweet) into my mouth.

Anyway, the upshot is that twelve hours into my invigorating healthy lifestyle, I'm distracted, bored, somewhat ratty and constantly thinking about the one thing I can't have.

It's a bit like being in love with someone who's 100 miles away, in that respect.

Lee S and Simon M have given up smoking, Christina C and her man John have stopped eating meat, John M has forsworn sugar, and my brother and his girlfriend have shed stone simply by having small portions of everything.

I'm off to have some more tea. And no chocolate. Mmmm...chocolate.
EDIT: Alright, alright. I ate it.

Gotta Go Home

I spent most of Saturday in places I didn't want to be, feeling slightly ill. The kitchen, far too early in the morning, bolting down an extremely ill-advised fried breakfast. The coach up to London for two hours, stuffy and humid, feeling a fried egg slop around in my stomach. The streets of central London, walking amid hundreds of banners, absorbing the cold and the smog. Hyde Park with sore feet. Ending with another two hours on the coach, dehydrated and aching.

I hate travelling. I especially hate travelling on coaches. In this case, with a lot of young socialists slowly getting over hangovers.
The demo itself was orderly and uneventful. We estimated 50 to 60 thousand people there, which is respectable. Actually it's a bloody big turnout, but we've all got spoiled by enormous demos in recent years.

The police estimate was 10,000 - which shows they're sticking to their line of dividing their real estimate by five for public consumption.

Odd that the media image of 'ten thousand hardened and irrational fanatics' should sound comforting to Mail readers. Half that number of genuinely hardnosed and dedicated fanatics could storm parliament in a few hours. If they all happened to be in central London at the same time...

Actually there was a group of 10-20, walking along with us and handing out leaflets. Chanting "Nine-eleven! inside job!" - their leaflets 'prove' (i.e suggest) that the CIA hijacked the planes on 911 and MI5 blew up the london tubetrains a few months ago.

Mad conspiracy theorists aren't unknown, but a well organised group of them, enthusiastic and demo-savvy, appearing out of nowhere. That's distinctly odd.
Mother and I have the same health problems. Being overweight, frequent tierdness, and joint pains, especially in the legs. So either we're both diabetic (which is possible - there's family history), or we're both just desperately unhealthy.

We've decided the join the rest of the progressive world in vegitarianism and Only Eating Proper Food. OEPF means nothing in the 'convenience' (aka 'microwave') range, and nothing whose sole selling point is it's cheapness or being 'low fat' (aka 'high sugar').

She can take Dino for long brisk walks, and I can climb lots of imaginary stairs. But the emphasis at the moment is on Not Eating Junk Anymore, and Only Eating Proper Food.
Tonight was spent once again plonked down in front of Christia C's ancient computer, and in the company of her ever expanding circle of eccentric family and friends.

120MB RAM, 8GB HDD, c200MHz. Windows 2000 crashes, so I installed Windows 98 (twice). Now it doesn't crash - nor does it recognise the modem. It's second hand, more than a decade old, and in an area subject to random power cuts. And she can't afford a new one.

Why is it I only get to see my friends when attempting repairs on unrepairably old and battered computers? It's like I only get to see the outside world reflected in someone else's blue screen of death.

Anyway. For some reason, four hours of work culminating in failure is more tiring than four hours work ending in success. So, I sleep, probably to dream of placards printed with Windows error messages.

Move On, Nothing to See

What a dull week. Apart from some fairly positive reviews in SongFight and an unexpected but welcome sexual encounter last night, it's all been a little too peaceful.
Demo tomorrow. Essentially a way to retain cohesion in the Stop The War movement, and a a signal to the government and media that it's still going. We're optimistically expecting 100,000 to turn up.

Once, three or four years ago, 100,000 would be considered a big demo. In the days of the anti-Vietnam war protests, it would have been a major event. Now, it's just another walk through central London.

There's a general feeling that none of us are fired up to go, but we're obliged. This is what happens when principles remain but enthusiasm has been beaten down. The mid-term blues of any long-haul protest movement.
I have a number of things do after tomorrow. Three elderly computers have developed problems again weeks after I fixed them. So that's three visits to comrades with associated meals in 'sort-of payment'.

Simon M needs assistance with putting the entire contents of his house onto Ebay. So make that four comrades. And one of his stunningly calorific puddings.

I need to submit my CV to the GTTR - and revise some more maths and physics for if/when I get accepted.

Strict Machines have a gig on Monday, in a venue so disorganised the promoters aren't quite sure which building it's in. I should drop in just to hear the 20 or so new songs.

Oh yeah, and write some more music.


How to test an audio plugin (Part 1):
* Download a demo of Yamaha's 'Pitch Fix' VST.
* Try to run it on Audition. Discover Auditon won't support it.
* Try to run it in Sonar 4. Discover Sonar will support it, but crashes when you run it.
* Search for another VST host. Find Audacity. Install and run.
* Discover that Audacity supports Pitch Fix, but won't display the proper GUI. And changing the parameters on the basic GUI doesn't seem the change anything. It tunes the test WAV file to chromatic C-Major perfectly, but nothing else.
* Search for another VST host. Find N-Track. Try to install. Find that it needs .NET version 2.0. Remember vaguely that you installed version 1.1 yesterday to test a pitch shift program. Sigh.
* Start to download .NET V2.0 Beta. See that it'll take an hour. Go for a long cup of tea.
Well, I finally got Pitch Fix to work under N-Track. As an autotuner, it's pretty impressive. As a gender changer for the voice, it's pretty poor. Cirtainly the pitch shifting is a lot more realistic than the Antares Autotune 3 - which I haven't used for months.

I may keep it as an autotuner, though the overhead of needing .NET and N-Track installed just so I can tidy up pitch drift in vocals seems high.
An old friend wants to meet for a chat. Fair enough. He wants to meet in a sauna. Hmmm.

I'm going nowhere near a sauna till I've lost two stone. Which means (of course) better eating. Which means not living on snacks. Which means eating at the same time as other people are having proper meals. Which means being awake during the day. Which means going to sleep at night. Which I'm not good at.

Change My Pitch Up

I've been looking at programs that pitch shift the human voice while preserving the formants. The idea is to change the pitch but keep the vocal sounding natural - as though it came from a vocal tract.

In principle, I should be able to record myself singing in my own low baritone register, and then shift the sound up an octave or two into areas I can't reach, giving a female version of my voice. Ordinary pitch shifting would just make me sound like a chipmunk, but this should sound authentic.

Unfortunately, the programs I've tried so far - AV Voice Changer, Vox FX 202, Blaze Audio Voice Cloak and Phonotron 1 - don't seem very impressive. They either can't shift very far, or introduce flanging artifacts.

It's not like I want to sing an entire song as Shirley Bassey - though that might be, um, interesting. But a female choir singing chords in the background, or even a trio of female backing singers who come in for the chorus are nice options to have.
The computer we use to make DivXes of TV programmes has stopped working. Something to do with the connection between the power supply and the motherboard. While that's being sorted out we're using my backup system of freeview box and cheap capture card.
I'm pleased to annouce that I'm no longer living on tea, hobnobs and english breakfasts. It's now tea, custard creams and cheese sandwiches.
I've signed up to Tapegerm - a small online community of musicians who make tracks from each other's loops. Mainly because I think I can contribute loops that others wouldn't usually provide. The final part of the signing up process is to create a song from some loops provided - in effect, to show that you're genuine. I haven't shown that yet.


Oh my god I'm a cheesy old crooner! Not so much dry ice in a cavern as smoke in the Metro club. Less Anarchy in the UK, more a romantic walk by the sea. And songs about broken hearts - well, at least I've got them.

How many singers have the voice they want? Anna of Strict Machines is a trained chorister with a clear voice - when she wants to be a raw and throaty rock chick. I'm not quite sure what my ideal voice is, but I'm pretty sure it isn't Barry Manilow.
As promised, much of today was spent pushing red local election leaflets through letterboxes in towerblocks. Which often provoked psychotic bass barking from the dobermans within - but strangely I didn't hear a single cat miaw.

There was group of six children, between 5 and 10 years old, playing on the paving stones. One wanted to read the leaflet, and another gave me a sweet. I can't help feeling there's something not-quite-right about that scenario.

Nine of us faithful regulars turned up, plus one unfeasibly enthusiastic stranger. The other half of the ward will be done tomorrow - and I supposed I'm obliged to help out there too.
The GTTR will be accepting new applications for teacher training courses in "Mid September". So I'll have to get together a CV which suggests I've secretly been a teacher all my life with no other ambitions. And ignore all the teachers who're telling me it's a horrible job and they don't want to do it anymore.

Including Gareth E, who has been teaching Sociology for one week, and is already acting head of department because everyone else is off sick.
I've signed Paul T up to Tiscali broadband. Perhaps his loquacious love of detail will now find a virtual outlet. And give the rest of us a little quiet.

I've pencilled him in for the forum in two weeks time, on rapid climate change. For which cirtain members who don't like masses of scientific data will thank neither of us.

Sion R is presenting tomorrow's forum, on immigration and asylum. He wanted to show a half hour channel 4 documentary and was a a little surprised when I told him the idea was to give a talk - illustrated with short video clips if he wanted. I like him but he can be amazingly impractical sometimes.

TV, Chocolate, Alcohol

"Division" more or less finished and submitted as "I'm Going Away for a While". I'm not happy about the vocal processing, or the unremittingly feel of the piece, but it'll do as a sketch.

It seems that in a moment of madness I offered to lend my spare TV to Simon M while his was being repaired. Well, he now has my TV and laptop.

He cooked us a healthy low fat stir fry in accordance with our diets. And then a chocolate and rum soufle with cream that wasn't. Followed by a few hours in a pub in which I got slowly sozzled on the rum and cokes he bought me.

There was a band playing in the corner. Unpromisingly called 'Demerara', they were a drum machine, sequencer, girl backing singer and boy guitarist/singer who was too cute to be that talented. They played very well and it was very entertaining for a stream of standard covers - Comfortably Numb, Don't You Want Me, Rio. And Opps I did It Again.

I have solomnly promised to go out leafletting tomorrow - pushing RESPECT election leaflets through a few thousand letterboxes.

Listen to the Silence

A quick catch-up before I go to bed. Another sound-but-obvious meeting last night, mainly concerned with problems faced by the anti-war movement. Possibly the most intractable problem isn't the anti-islamic propaganda that's coming from all sides - ironically it's the failure of the pro-war propaganda.

The great british public have been largely suckered into believing muslims are homogenous, evil, consumed by hate, fanatical and suicidal. But, they can see plainly see what a disaster the occupation of Iraq has been. Shows you just how inconsistant human thought can be.

The problem is no longer that the public scoff at anti-war and anti-occupation ideas - they're in broad agreement. The problem is their sense of powerlessness and apathy. You can agrue with disbelief, but not with defeatism.
I went mainly to get a lift from Christina C (or her current manfriend) to have another stab at their computer. Neither turned up because Christina's daughter Hailey (or however she spells it) is in late pregnancy and needed to be rushed to hospital with a serious gastric infection. Not nice at all.

Eddie (Christina's ex-manfriend) was there however, and his computer needed fixing. He organises a group of army veterans, mainly by internet, He bought me a couple of drinks and we spent hours trying to get his modem to work. And that, your honour, is how I drunkenly spent the night with a soldier.
Today, I recorded the vocals for 'Division', and then came up with a quick Joy Division pastiche for a backing track. And found they didn't quite fit together. It was like a bad remix, where the vocal goes formally with the music, but doesn't fit into it's nooks and crannies.

Go for a take tomorrow, tweak the music, and submit to songfight. Hopefully.
I've spent most of the last six weeks feeling weary for no good reason, and tonight it's especially bad. Eight hours sleep might help. Goodnight.

Kapitano, Live Transmission

Strict Machines have 40 minutes worth of new material. Some isn't quite complete yet, but I've never known them to abandon work on a piece - it always gets completed.

All this new stuff was written since the last EP was completed. If it weren't good stuff, I wouldn't be envious of that level of output. It usually takes me between two and four hours just to write the lyrics - and unlike the band, I usually have to get them mostly finished all in one sitting.

Anyway, it looks like the first full length album of Strict Machines will soon be on it's way. I'm not yet fully familliar with the portable recorder, and I'll just have to hope it's sound quality - lower than my semi-pro soundcard - can be cleaned up in production.
The other thing about lyrics writing is: It consists mainly of staring at a blank screen, making notes and lists of rhymes, until quite suddenly it all comes together. The same for revising lyrics.

Here's my revision of Division, so to speak.

I listen
To your wordlessness
And wait
For the silence to break

Verse 1:
Don't pretend nothing has changed
Don't tell me we are the same
As before
Did you think I could not make you cry?
Did you think I would leave you to lie
On the floor?

We can run
We can fight
We can find the truth till there's nothing but lies
We can talk
We can shout
We can build our love till there's nothing but doubt


Verse 2:

Remember the day when we met?
Were you hoping that I would forget?
I think so
If there's something you want to say
If you want me to just go away
I will go


Chorus + Pre-Verse (x2)

The day began with a call from Simon M, wanting me to help him pay for ebay stuff with paypal. My payment for services rendered was two packets of custard creams.

The day continued with a call from Paul T, asking about getting him broadband, and if I could possibly book him to speak sometime soon at a forum - seeing as I'm the nominal forum organiser.

Tomorrow there's a meeting in the evening followed by re-fixing Christina C's creaky old PC. And before that there's a song or two to record.

Make a Joyful Sound

I've got some preliminary lyrics for the 'Joy Division Homage' song - provisionally titled Division of Joy, but if there's time I'll record it for songfight as I'm Going Away For A While. The lyrics at present are half doggeral and half what I want to say.

I listen
To your wordlessness
And wait
For the silence to break

Verse 1:
It happened the moment you fell
If you can't say to me you can't tell
What you saw
Don't pretend nothing has changed
Don't tell me we are the same
As before

We can run
We can fight
We can scream the truth till there's nothing but lies
We can talk
We can shout
We can build our love till there's nothing but doubt


Verse 2:
If there's something that you want to say
If you want me to just go away
I will go
I knew it the moment we met
Either we talk or you try to forget
I don't think so


It's in C Minor, at 110 BPM, and based rather loosely on Atmosphere, which is about the same tempo and I think in C# Minor.

Mostly Hitchless

Spent last night fixing up Christina C's computer. A complete reinstallation of OS and applications turned out to be easier than repairing the system. Mostly hitchless, but painfully slow - 500MHz and 128MB RAM. Six hours in fact.

And today, more of the same with Simon M's computer. On Friday I got it working perfectly but didn't have time to install net access or the printer. Today, I got access to the net working just fine, before plugging in the printer.

At which point, all the USB ports stopped working. Including the USB modem. As though the hub had been burned out.

Well, wasn't it convenient that my laptop was still round there. So now Simon has exactly the same system (i.e. my laptop on loan) as he had before I fixed his own computer - which I built out of spare parts for him - four days ago.

Except that the printer still won't work. If I weren't so taciturn and macho I'd throw a queeny fit and scream.
EDIT: Christina called to say the screen keeps going blue on Windows. I think I'll have that screaming fit now.
I finally got the freeview box, the signal booster and the video capture card set up again. with MJPEG and DivX codecs. Rather more complicated than pushing 'Rec' on a video recorder, but a lot easier for collecting samplable dialogue from movies.

So far this week: A Beautiful Mind, Gods and Monsters and Murial's Wedding.
Several people saying my music sounded like Joy Division prompted me to get a CD of their stuff - 'Permanant 1995'. I'd forgotten a lot of it and I think it's brilliant. Experimental, exploratory, and primative - as all good bands and genres are when new.

Been listening especially to Transmission and Atmosphere, and thinking of writing something similar - except my now highly questioned skills in computer rejuvenation were called upon instead.
According to the bathroom scales, I am now 16 glorious stone. It does not especially brighten my day to recieve this news. And there was me thinking I'd been eating and exercising better.

The Ballard of Love (and Napalm)

Nick doubts my 'sinewave' method of vocal recording. I started to write a wordy essay justifying it, but then thought the the best way to prove or disprove my idea is to try applying it.

So, I've come up with a song to try it out. The lyrics are a melange of titles from short stories and novels by JG Ballard. Here they are:

Love and Napalm

Cocaine nights
A burning world rushing to paradise

Wind from nowhere
The thousand dreams, say "Hello America"

The assassination of
John fitzgerald kennedy
Considered as
A passport to eternity

War fever
Love and napalm, storm bird, storm dreamer

Enormous space, overloaded dead end...

I have a rough idea of tempo and singing style, but I intend to come up with a backing only after the vocals are done. Some (perhaps most) songwriters proceed like this normally, but for me it's a new experiment.

Give Me a Sine

This evening's RESPECT meeting was on immigration, racism, and Islam. There was a positive vibe, and 30-35 people there, including some young muslims from the local mosque.

The presentation and discussion was of the 'sound but obvious' kind. All these...

* Muslims in different countries, centuries and circumstances have diffent beliefs.
* Some kinds of Islam oppress women and some don't, just like some kinds of Christianity, Hunduism and every other major religion.
* If the middle east were largely populated by jews or atheists living on oil reserves American wants, the TV and newspapers would be full of stories about how jews or atheists want to take over the world.
* Whenever some ruler or group threatens the interests of the powerful the group get vilified in the media and the ruler gets compared to Hitler.

...are extremely obvious to me. But the country seems full of people who have forgotten that they once knew these things. Even when they remember that the TV lies to them, they still believe the lies.
Paul T invited me back for mugs of tea afterwards. He was his usual prolix and domineering self, but he played Goldfrapp's latest album "Supernature", which sounds brilliant.
I've come up with a system that solves several problems with recording vocals. I create a very basic dummy backing track just for vocal recording, composed of a beat and a droning sine wave that gives the root of the chord structure for each part of the song.

The drums are decaying sine pulses, like on the earliest drum machines. The low density of frequencies means that, even when it's played loud, it doesn't leak out of the headphones into the microphone.

Singing to a single tone tells me exactly what frequency to harmonise with, and deviate from. It's just easier to tell whether I'm in tune with one sine wave than with several multitimbral instruments.

It also means I have the opportunity to write songs in this basic form - easily experimenting and making changes. I can create a much more ornate backing later, as a process seperate from coming up with lyrics, chords and song structures.

Kill the Wabbit

See if you can identify a pattern in my life at the moment.

* Tuesday night was spent installing Word and typing on John M's computer.
* Wednesday and/or Thursday night will be spent typing to figure out what's gone wrong with Christina C's computer.
* A large part of Friday will be spent helping Simon M get a new computer.
The typing was because John has recieved several commissions to write articles, and although he's written six books and innumerable columns and essays, he still writes them out in longhand and dictates them to whoever has the keyboard skills he lacks.

These articles are for translation into Korean. John has become a minor celebrity in the worlds of Korean art and politics since several of his pamphlets and shorter books were translated.

South Korea doesn't have many good theorists of it's own yet. It's developing some, but in the meantime, it's importing from the west.

I rather like the idea of being mentioned in a footnote as amenuensis to a seminal figure in the rebirth of Korean political theory. A shadowy figure known to specialists.
Yesterday I mentioned missing H. Today he initiates an exchange of text messages. He's been working as a teacher for three weeks, but has yet to do any teaching - it's all been staff meetings.

If I had to sit through three weeks of meetings, I'd feel like stabbing someone by the end of it.
I ought to go vegitarian. For three reasons:
(1) It's cheaper
(2) It's healthier
(3) I wouldn't have indigestion half of my waking hours.

There is a word I've found for my usual state: Wabbit. Nothing to do with Elmer Fudd, it means "tierd and feeling slightly ill", and I'm sure a diet of tea, chocolate and english breakfasts is partly to blame.

I Can't Write Love Songs

I finally got a demo version of 'Rattle' recorded. I'm not sure if I'm in tune in some parts, but most of the effects worked.

I'm rather fond of the 'telephone echo', where the vocal is normal, but it's echo sounds like it's being looped through a telephone reciever - degrading with each repitition.
I've got in touch with Sean R (not to be confused with Sion R) about physical modelling algorithms.

Apart from being my very first employer (back in 1987), he's a proper muso, a mathematician, a programmer, and he's spent the last decade designing ultra-high quality sound systems.

In short, he can tell me all the important things that don't get printed in articles about mass-spring paradigms and d'Alambert equations.

I'm trying to give myself a crash course in the applied mathematics involved - not easy but absolutely necessary.
There's all sort of things I ought to get for the studio. A pair of headphones that don't bleed into the mic would be a start - except they cost around £120.

A reasonably condenser microphone for my quiet vocals might set me back £50.

Of course, I say 'studio'. I mean a souped up PC (3GHz, 1024MB RAM and Semi-Pro soundcard), two unplugged MIDI keyboards, two general purpose dynamic microphones, and a lot of leads. Oh, and the 8-track.
On the one hand, I miss H. On the other, given that I'm not allowed to feel about him the way I could, I want to feel that way about someone else.

I managed perfectly well for 32 years without feeling emotionally dependant on anyone. Now there's an odd gap - a sense of incompleteness - just large enough for one special person.

Reed and Weap

Okay, I managed to spend £135 today, and I still don't have a pair of sandals. What I do have is a new bicycle and accessories. Also I have discovered the only useful purpose served by bullbars on domestic cars - the bike is currently tied to some.
Have you ever met a genuinely dyslexic person? I don't think I ever have.

There's been no shortage of people who never learned to read well, and never did enough writing to memorise idiosyncratic spelling. Some attended school rarely, others had unpleasant childhoods that made systematic learning impossible, and probably the majority just never had any childhood interest in reading or writing.

None wrote mirrored letters of the alphabet. They were often uncirtain about spelling, but didn't transpose letters.

But I must have heard the words "I'm dyslexic, you see" hundreds of times from people who, for one reason or another, never got the vast amount of practice needed for fluent reading and/or writing.

Of course, there is the wierd idea that mental disability comes packaged with compensatory abilities. Aspergics are supposed to be logical, ordered thinkers. Dyslexic people allegedly have great verbal, academic or musical skills.

It sounds rather like the myth that blind people have sharper hearing, or the medieval notion that dwarves are natural acrobats. A curse can be worn as a badge of pride or individuality.

The word 'dyslexia' is a general term for symptoms that may include difficulty in forming letters (but not creative drawings or geometrical designs), misordered letters in words, and confusion between letters which are horizontal or vertical mirrors.

It does not - so far as I know - describe any identified neurological conditions which might cause such symptoms. It is a label that can cover anything from a narrow range of identifiable quirks in handwriting to the broadest, vaguest notion of 'having trouble with written words'.

Even the narrowest definition doesn't give a clue as to a cause, or suggest any method of treatment beyond 'extra practice and tuition'.

All Gone A Bit Pete Tong

Friday's plan was simple. Record 'Rattle', then get used to using the portable 8-track.

What actually happend was I got a call from Simon M, asking me to come over straight away and sort out his paypal account. On the grounds that he's won three ebay auctions, but hasn't finished setting things up with paypal so he can pay for what he's bought.

As it turned out, paypal were having technical difficulties. But eventually they sorted things out at their end, so I could finish the account set up at our end. Which only leaves 7 to 9 days wait till the money moves from Simon's bank account to his virtual account.

He and his brother Jeremy have identified a dozen drawings and paintings which have been cluttering up their house for decades, but which could be sold on ebay to upper middle class types who want edwardian knick-knacks to decorate their homes.

I offered to help out with photographing the items and setting up the auctions. For the former I needed my old digital camera/camcorder, a room with good light, and the camera tripod which was at Paul T's house.

I cycled home, and as I was putting the bike away, my sandals fell apart. I stuck them back together the epoxy glue and that worked, for a while.

Upstairs, I dug out my camcorder, and found that it could no longer take stills. Specifically, the interface with the memory sticks didn't work. Which rather buggers up my promise to the M brothers.

I bought some disposable razors. And proceeded to cut my scalp shaving.

In the late evening, I tried to cycle over to Paul's house to get the tripod. Except my bike had disappeared.

Exactly how someone could steal a bike from behind a locked 8-foot wooden gate I'm not sure. I mean, how could they know it was there? How did they climb over? How did they climb back with the bike? However, someone seems to have managed it.

So, I rode my rickety old spare bicycle. It's about as old as I am, built like a rattly battleship, has no lights, no locks, bad brakes, gears with a habit of slipping, and a chain the comes off at random intervals. Actually, it's bits of three bicycles patched together in a moment of wild engineering by my father.

Arriving at Paul's house, I found the band had just finished an argumentative and sullen three hour practice session. All about misunderstandings and imagined slights and bruised feelings. It's good when bandmates repair their relationships over tea, but I wish emotions didn't take so much discussion to express and put right.

Finally, I left. Then realised I'd forgotten the tripod and went back. Paul insisted on finding some bungee cord to tie the tripod in place, then when he couldn't he insisted on finding some string instead, then insisted on showing me how clever the knots were, then insisted on demonstrating a fascinating little device he'd discovered for untying knots.

My sandals fell apart again. And the gears on the bike failed in the middle of a busy road.

I consoled myself with fried chicken and chips at two in the morning in the park.

So, saturday's plan is quite simple. Get a new bike (£100), plus lights (£25) and lock (£15). Then use it to cycle to the shops for some new sandals (£10). See what I can do about the camera. Record 'Rattle' and become familliar with the 8-track.

None So Blind

There was nothing wrong with the modem. There was nothing wrong with the drivers or software. The cables and plugs were all correctly fitted and transmitting.

The username was wrong.

Once that was corrected, everything else worked perfectly. If I had the strength I'd scream. As it is I'm too exhausted even to grind my teeth.
Back in the real world, New Orleans has been destroyed by hurricane and flooding. The army have been instructed to give presidence to catching looters over rescuing survivors. It seems protecting ruined property is more important than saving black lives.

Newspapers, TV and radio have spent the last year reporting one natural disaster after another. To my knowledge, none have even mentioned climate change or global warming - it's like a tacit conspiracy of amyclean silence.

Sit, Stay, Pull

The last update has three replies. See if you can spot which one (a) isn't a thinly disguised advert (b) is worth reading and (c) I was actually pleased to recieve.
The XP reinstallation (using a Symantec Ghost file)decided to work like a dream - after failing twice before. But the modem still doesn't work. Or more likely, there's something wrong with the drivers.

Thus tomorrow will be spent recording vocals and sitting in queues for the freeserve helpdesk.
Taxi journeys home from John's computer are always interesting. Tonight's driver was an angelic looking welshman with an encyclopedic knowledge of fringe science concerning perception and communication.

Photoreading, telepathy, lucid dreams, body language, savant abilities, and a shedload of other stuff. All backed up with fragments of pop science and confidently presented factoids.

Happily married for 24 years with three talented sons, probably described by friends as "an extremely nice bloke, but a bit wierd". I rather liked him.
Sion R wants me to co-produce his album. It'll be a few weeks till his vocals are re-recorded to his satisfaction - and till the bass player gets back from eastern europe to record his bits - so there's no rush.

Infra Rouge are essentially a school heavy metal band with english teacher on lead vocals. Quite a change from the ultra-professional Strict Machines to a bunch of laid back teenagers.
Oh yes, Dino's life has developed in two ways today. He has started training in obedience classes, and he's discovered he likes to play tug-of-war with my socks.

I will soon be needing some new socks.