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A day off!

May 1st is the fête of the workers, so lots of places are taking it as a day off. It's only places like bars and fast food joints that are open.

If I understand correctly, we are not getting a days pay for this. Or, rather, we are, but it is going to the fund "viellesse" (don't quote me on the spelling). It isn't just us, it is everybody, contributing to help aged people. I think this is a good idea. Many of us won't notice a days worth of pay (especially for a day we aren't actually working!) and this money (provided it isn't swallowed in administration) can be used to aid people that need it. God knows, we'll all be crusties some day...


Another vide grenier

On my little itty-bitty budget, I got a record player for €3, a 20b harddisc for €3 and a DVD writer for €2. Oh, and a spare network card for a euro. It doesn't usually work out like that, I can't believe I got a harddisc and DVD writer for the price of a Happy Meal™ - to be honest I don't really expect either to work, but you never know...

Now, I've been after a record player for quite a while. As you may recall from Frobnicate, I have a number of portable record players, but none that you can wire up to a computer. They have built-in speakers, and even if you could tap in, the system is mono...

I now have a basic turntable. After trying it into my A/V switcher, I decided that, honestly, this thing was lacking a preamp and was not going to work with line level equipment. After some headscratching, I cut off the phono plugs, wired it to a stereo jack, and shoved it into the microphone socket on the soundcard. Perfect. I'm still lacking the RIAA filter that is necessary for vinyl (they can't encode bass the same as treble or it'll shake your stylus to bits), but I don't see this as insurmountable - if I set up an equaliser profile in Nero's WaveEditor, that ought to do the trick.

There is one extremely cool feature on this turntable. I had a lot of problem with the turntable I used many years ago (nearly two decades, yikes!) when running my "radio station". Namely, it never played the same speed twice. Sometimes you could get away with it, and sometimes it sounded dreadful. I often worked around this by recording the programme "as live" to a reel-to-reel and altering the playback speed slightly (you can get away with a lot in voice that you can't with music, especially when you use a little Maplin voice disguiser!).
This turntable? It has a pitch adjuster, and a little window that you can look through to see a stroboscopic report of the turntable speed. Alter the pitch until the dotted bar for your speed (33/45rpm) and line frequency (50/60Hz) is motionless, then you are bang on pitch.
Okay, it's a dead simple system. There are rings of 'lumps' on the underside of the platter, these are illuminated by a little orange neon lamp, and a mirror reflects this out the front of the player. Simple, but extremely effective.

So now I'm rummaging through my record collection looking to MP3 stuff I've not listened to in ages... an eclectic mix ranging from The NeverEnding Story (Limahl) to angel & me (Toyah). Along the way we'll have some of The Carpenters, Desireless, Bananarama, a-ha, Dire Straits, and so on.

The audio is still slightly distorted (the record player output is not quite the same as a generic electret microphone), but given my equipment it's probably the best I'm going to get for a while. It sounds okay (during record, might differ during edit) for Only Yesterday, while angel & me maxed it out and then some. I'll have to poke around, see if I can find a schematic of a record player preamp that I can build on a bit of veroboard...


Whoa, dude, you call that music?!?

My taste in music is mostly answered by a mix of Evanescence and various random Jim Steinman tracks, with a bit of Hayley Westenra thrown in to give some variation...
...but if you want actual music, my all-time favourite is "Canon" by Pachebel, and by preference the English Chamber Orchestra rendition (back in 1977 or somesuch). I've heard a lot of absolutely crap lifeless renditions - much worse than using it as a hook in a rap song ("I'll See You When You Get There", Coolio) is to perform it with no spirit. So, no, in retrospect the English Chamber Orchestra is not so much a preference as a necessity.



I think the ITV series "Primeval" is shedding major characters too quickly. I mean, in a way it was a blessing when "Cutter" left (well, died) as he was getting a bit annoying; but to follow it two weeks later with "Jenny" (aka Claudia in another reality) is not so helpful. Of course, I am probably only writing this because she was my favourite character; a good combination of sensitive and soft which was probably kinda useless for her role at ARC, but made her a good character. After all, who are the other females? Well, there is "Abby" what with the freaky punk hair looks like she'd be itching for a really big dose of time-travelling monsters that need wasting with a really big gun. There's the new recruit who seems to spend much of her time poking old relics and devising theories. And the final female? Bitch-woman from the other secret organisation. If it came to her and Abby in the ring, I'd be hard pushed to know who'd kick the .... out of who, but it'd be a helluva fight.
Or, in a purely male perspective:
  • You take Abby to meet a dinosaur you found emptying rubbish bins on the corner.
  • You take bitch woman nowhere, ever.
  • You take Jenny home to meet your mother.
[images are framegrabs from episodes 3-04 and 3-05 of "Primeval" broadcast on ITV1 in April 2009]


Must-see TV

It is with some sadness that I mourn the passing of "Pushing Daisies", one of the few recent truly original offerings. This blow is softened quite a bit by the new series of "Ashes to Ashes". I remember the '80s, and (God help me) I quite like Gene Hunt. It's refreshing to have a character who says what's on his mind without worrying if/who it might offend. There's too damn much political correctness in the world; look at 2008 when the BBC apologised for practically everything short of being the BBC! Certainly the way the world is right now, PC can go sit on a bayonet and rotate. It's about time we went back to people who "say it like it is" and don't get branded as radical idiots. Too many lies, too much spin, too much misinformation...

Anyway, it's nice to see Alex has gotten over her whole "you are just constructs in my mind, you aren't real" attitude and accepted that she is back in the '80s. I'm also glad the dopey are-they-aren't-they (Alex/Gene) is done with. He'd never completely respect her as she is way smarter than he will ever be. I'm not sure why he keeps referring to her as "Bolly", I must have missed something. Then again, it would be nice if those two could play more to their strengths instead of to their weaknesses.

It's strange. Sometimes there is little on Zone Horror that interests me, but recently they have been premièring some new material that sounds interesting. Okay, you can't expect much from a low budget horror movie - "Ice Spiders" can be written up as "teen Olympic hopefuls in a ski complex miles from anywhere, giant mutant spiders, lots of snow, what more need I say?"; if you know anything about horror movies (especially the teens-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods genre), you'll probably be able to write most of the screenplay from that one line synopsis. "Glass Trap" was quite enjoyable, and as much as it was just generally bad, I very much enjoyed "Evil Aliens" (with ZH's own presenter Emily Booth in lead role). These aren't exactly 'scary'. I think I've seen so many variations of the genre that I'd be leaning towards comical rather than remotely scary. And, as an added bonus, many of the films have a fairly high splatter quota so weaker-minded people will go "ugh" and walk off to leave me in pieces... erm... peace. ☺
One film I did like... bought it on DVD from the supermarket in a 3-for-€10 offer... "30 Days Of Night" (Josh Hartnett). It's basically an Alaskan town so far north that it has a month of near darkness. During this time, some seriously bad dudes turn up and rampage. I won't say more, don't want to give any spoilers, but I enjoyed the film. I hope a (free) channel picks it up soon so you can see it as well.


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