What I've Got

I've got two boots.

That is, my laptop now has a dual-boot system - Windows 2000 and XP, so I get to enjoy all the infuriating idiosyncrasies of both.

I've got a Mother with a white wig from ebay. And that's one of those quite plain and innocent sentences you just don't expect to hear.

I didn't expect to stagger downstairs one morning to find her in it either. And she won't tell me why she's got it. She dyes her grey hair black (or sometimes red), and puts a white wig on top. Very puzzling. But at least it's never blue-rinse.

I've got a hard disk slowly filling up with synthpop mp3s - and they're not the same hundred played on all the ShoutCast 80s stations either. They're courtesy of Pandora.Com

I've mentioned Pandora before - it's a personal streaming net radio station, based on the notion that you'll like unfamiliar music if it's similar to familiar music you already like. "Similar" is defined in terms of 400+ characteristics that pop songs and bands have.

For instance, "Suffer the Children" by Tears for Fears shows "synth rock arranging, electronica influences, a subtle use of vocal harmony, repetitive melodic phrasing, and a vocal centric aesthetic". "I Ran" by A Flock of Seagulls has "vocal centric aesthetic, minor key tonality, [and] prominent use of synth".

I told it I liked Information Society, Erasure, Depeche Mode, Dead or Alive and OMD, and it's giving me Spandau Ballet, The Bee Gees (in their synthpop phase), Thompson Twins, Psychedelic Furs and (a little surprisingly) Mike and the Mechanics. Just up: Wang Chung.

Of course, Pandora is really a marketing tool - a way to introduce fans of a particular genre to similar stuff they might not know, so they can buy it from iTunes and Amazon. They go to increasing lengths to stop you saving the streamed files, but there's always ways.

There's straightforwardly recording what the soundcard plays with TotalRecorder, or even Audition, both of which I've tried. There's also a ripping tool, still in development, called Pandora's Jar. It requires some knowledge of MS-DOS batch files, and it'll only work on XP with SP2 and Flash 8. Well, it should, but it won't for me.

After 24 hours frustrating messing around with it, I've gone lo-tech. The mp3s are uploaded to your hard disk, played, and deleted when you close down Pandora's Java window. For some reason, the temporary folder alternates between "\Documents and Settings\Kapitano\Local Settings\Temp" and "\Documents and Settings\Kapitano\Local Settings\Temp\plugtmp-1" (on Xp at least), with two different file naming systems - both of which inevitably produce uninformative file names without mp3 extensions.

So, copy the files from both folder to somewhere else before you close the window, use a duplicate finder from Tucows to remove multiple copies, use a free file renamer to rename them something like "Pandora Synthpop [Serial Number].mp3", and put what you've got on random shuffle in your favourite mp3 player.

Result: A lot of 44.1/128mbps mp3s you don't know that sound like ones you do, and no easy way to know the artists and titles. Not good for finding specific songs, but rather good for pleasant surprises and inspiration.

I've just been introduced to Saga and Fischerspooner, and reintroduced to Front 242 and Holly Johnson.

I also have a cold. As is traditional around christmas. The kind that saps all your strength and muzzies up your head.

And finally, I have a choice of food. On one side of the table is a bowl of green porridgelike substance that is filling, nutritious, healthy and contains no fat or sugar at all. On the other side is a mars bar.


  1. Expand your Pandora experience at



    Tim (not founder)

  2. Get better soon, Captain!
    Sorry, but I just couldn't concentrate to write a proper comment. I'm furious! The warm water pipes just went to pieces (as the man who's repairing them said) in my apartment... I'm now living amidst the biggest mess ever! F...!
    As to your Season wishes on my behalf: «Egale al vi! Dankon!»

  3. Is your mum Mrs Slocombe? :-)

    Hope you feel better soon!

  4. Ric: Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear.

    I used to live with a guy who'd lived in Portugal, and he told me how unreliable the plumbing often was and how infuritating the plumbers were. It's one thing Portugal and Britain have in common.

    The hot water pipes in my home burst a few months ago, so we had a flooded (and very smelly) kitchen for a few weeks. The plumber took a week to arrive...and said he couldn't get the equipment he needed for another week! Gah!

    So I understand what you're going through. :-(

    Tony: Mrs Slocombe was part of what we call "the blue rinse brigade" - even when her hair was actually orange.

    The brigade were comprised entirely of a certain kind of bossy lower-middle-class middle-aged woman. And there were thousands of them.

    "Flowering" in the 70s and 80s, this social demographic group was obsessed with "respectability". They never used overtly racist language (because that wouldn't be "respectable"), but they were highly racist, and actually extremely anti-feminist. I'm sure you have (or had) similar women where you live.

    But you're right, they did have big bushy hairdos, white or grey, dyed bright blue.

    But no, my mother was thankfully never one of them. But the wig does make her look like Mrs Slocombe.