Archive for May, 2009

South Island snaps

Friday, May 29th, 2009

I have finally found an hour or so to go through all my photos of our autumn family holiday to Te Wai Pounamu, New Zealand’s South Island.  While there were some real shockers amongst the hundreds of images, I have found 38 pictures that really sum up the two weeks we spent touring the island.  Enjoy and leave a comment either here or on Flickr.

Planets in my house

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

After making a pair of tin can telephones and fooling around with them for a while, my youngest daughter were looking for other ways to spend time having fun together.

One of the photographs we took through the hole in one of the cans looked a little like a planet in space and Mum suggest we look for other ‘planets’ around the house.  I took the perforated tin lid, fixed it to the lens of my IXUS 850IS with a small ring of Blu-Tak and we set off round the house, finding textures to snap so we had lots of images of ‘planets’.

The four above are just a few of the many we experimented with.  You can see a few more of the better ones, including a ‘super nova’ and a ‘moon’ over a planet and gaseous flare over at bignoseduglyguyeye or Flickr.

40 Hour Famine

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

I don’t know what the weather is doing elsewhere in the world but we have cool temperatures, cold winds and heavy rain.  Added to this, I also have a stinking cold and a nose like a dripping tap.  However, compared to millions around the world, my life is extremely rosy for I am warm, well fed and have a roof over my head.

Click the image to donate online!

Later, I’ll be helping to supervise a sleepover with a difference down at the church where the kids in our intermediate youth group will be getting a taste of a less comfortable lifestyle than the one they’re used to.  Firstly, we will have a big pile of cardboard and rags from which they will have to scavenge in order to build a shelter in which to sleep.  Likewise, they may be woken and ‘moved on’ by ‘police officers’.  Secondly, if they are not participating in the 40 Hour Famine, a nationwide sponsored fast, the only food available to them between 1730hrs today and 0800hrs tomorrow will be a bowl of lukewarm rice and watery soup.

While we will be doing this indoors for health and safety reasons, the aim is to provide some insight into what a night might be like for kids who live on the street or in refugee camps the world over.  So, before you go and get your Friday night pizza or pop upstairs to turn on the electric blanket, click on the image above and make a donation to help those that can’t – thanks!

Dolby Wired podcast & new albums

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

It has been a busy 36 hours for Thomas Dolby.  In a Wired podcast just uploaded to iTunes, Dolby has just previewed 2.5 new tracks of his first new album in 18 years.  ‘A Map of The Floating City’ will be released as three downloadable EPs followed by the CD.  This is preceded by today’s release of  ‘The Singular Thomas Dolby’, a remastered collection of his CD and DVD singles.  Both are getting rave reviews on the web with ‘Oceanea’ the stand-out for me from those previewed on the podcast.

If the posts here seem a little Imogen Heap/Thomas Dolby centric at present, I make no apologies for that; both are fine artists and I’m simply sharing what I enjoy.

Aura and Bebot

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

A brief tweet from nodding acquaintance PigPog and a wet afternoon led me first to Bebot and then to Aura.  For someone with close to zero musical talent like me, these two apps offer great fun synthesiser and ambient music fun respectively – and all for less than $5.

Brief thoughts on poverty

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

I recently flew down to Wellington for a one day forum and, killing time in a bookshop near the Beehive, I picked up a copy of Rob Frost’s excellent book, ‘Doing the Right Thing– 10 issues on which Christians have to take a stand‘.  In this slim volume, Frost covers subjects ranging from abortion and euthanasia to global warming and multi-cultural societies with a bold, open and frank approach that is both eloquent and accessible.  Take, for instance, this passage on poverty:

Affluent lifestyle creates related expectations, so when we develop an addiction to consumerism we become the authors of our own local problems too. One of the yardsticks for measuring poverty is determining the point at which people are able to participate in society. It doesn’t take much wit to see that the more simply a community lives, the greater the number of its citizens who will be able to attain contentment. […] Where the price of basic accommodation is driven up beyond the reach of a large percentage of ordinary people, and where towns and work requirements are planned in the expectation that everyone in the community will own and drive a car, a situation is created that automatically shunts many citizens in the direction of experiencing poverty quite needlessly. There is so much hidden poverty [which is] a direct by-product of the expectations of an affluent society. This manifests not only in street-dwellers and beggars and squatters, or in people who have given up hope and taken refuge in alcohol and drugs, but in a myriad quiet, respectable, unremarkable lives lived in private desperation – without drama, but haunted by constant anxiety and a pervading sense of shame, with a hold all too precarious on what little they have, and prospects of unremitting self denial as a constant feature of life. These people, the unremarkable, uncomplaining, invisible poor, are there in every community, and their struggle is the direct legacy of affluence and consumerism.

Rob Frost’s Doing the Right Thing – Monarch Books – 2008

For the last six months, I have been focusing on two key activities in my work: defining the remit for a new social responsibility management role and developing a  policy and programme to assist those experiencing financial hardship.  My desktop research and engagement with social agencies and NGOs has provided me with a new insight into what disadvantaged, hardship and poverty really mean in the 21st century in a ‘developed’ nation like New Zealand.  However, the text above (my emphasis) roared off the page and struck me as an evocative and damning indictment on how we first-worlders live our lives and the devastating effect this has on individuals, families, communities and societies across the globe.

I have no ready answer to this juggernaut of social issues.  However, I do know that any solution will require each of us to continually examine our lives and ask ourselves what the impact of our actions are.  Regardless of faith, creed or race, each of us can use our conscience as a balance point, a pivot on which our choices can be tested and likely impacts discerned.

Star Trek: the mad cow link

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

I think I’m slowly losing my marbles.  There I was, about 50 minutes into the Star Trek movie at the local movie house, popcorn and drink at hand, enjoying an afternoon off work.  Just as Kirk and Uhura were convincing Captain Pike of the Romulan ruse, I get a text from the kid’s pastor at church:

Cn u pik up 40 x sausage+chips from takeaway on way to church? Thanx!

The action on the screen was only half as fast and furious as the synapses snapping in my brain as I suddenly realised that, as one of the leaders of our church’s intermediate youth group, I was meant to be 10kms away preparing to take 20 kids to a quiz night in a neighbouring town.

Given that I am always helping run the group every Friday and yet failed to recall this when planning my afternoon at the flicks, I can only assume that I have ‘the mad cow’ that so cruelly afflicts William Shatner‘s other great character, Denny Crane.  As Boston Legal fans will already know, the show has included more than a few knowing nods to Star Trek.

Vivid & varied vinyl memories

Friday, May 15th, 2009

My first ever exposure to electronic or synthersiser music was in the unlikely venue of an aunt’s living room somewhere in Middle England.  Undoubtedly bored with the family conversation, I snuck off, donned headphones and listened to records on the ‘music centre’.  One of the records was a ‘stereo sampler’, a 12″ vinyl record designed to show off the then-new technology of stereophonic sound recording.  Among the tracks was the senimal Kraftwerk track, Autobahn.  I can still recall the sensation of the ‘cars’ on the track ‘driving’ from one ear to the other and back again.

During a recent exchange about music in general and electronic music in particular, Dave of funkypancake mentioned a few online on demand music sites that I might like to try.  As Spotify has yet to find Aotearoa on the map, I have been trying out We7 (wee-seven) instead and very good it is too.  While the range of available music doesn’t always match what I’m after, there’s plenty to keep me happy.

When we emigrated, I carefully packed up the best part of thirty year’s vinyl and given I currently have no turntable on which to play my collection.  With the help of We7, I’m enjoying listening to on demand versions of all those LP albums, 7″ B-sides and 12″ single remixes I have tucked away – readers under 30 might like to ask their parents what these are.

One interesting discovery in all this audiophiliology is how my long-held perceptions about certain tracks are not always in sync with reality.  For instance, listening through Replicas by Tubeway Army once again, I am struck by the fact that they were really more of a post-punk New Wave guitar, bass and drum combo with a Mini-Moog than the full-blown synthesizer band of my memories.

Elsewhere on the site, I’ve found the ‘The Sole Inhabitant’ live concert versions of Thomas Dolby‘s ‘The Golden Age of Wireless’ tracks.  So familiar from years of listening, they now sound new, different and more rounded in these later versions.  This and the deft touches he brings to his songs, like weaving the Martin Luther King speech snippet into ‘The Flat Earth’, will surely mean that Dolby will never be the nostalgia act so many of his contemporaries have become.

Quick Search from Google

Friday, May 15th, 2009

For Mac OS X users only at this time, Google’s Quick Search is their take on Blacktree Software’s excellent and much loved Quicksilver.  The source code of Quicksilver was made available 18 months back via Google Code and apparently the guy behind it is now working on the Google Mac team, so maybe this isn’t such a surprise.

From ten minutes tinkering and reading the online docs, it seems to be stable and highly usable.  Quicksilver fans will find themselves having to resist using deeply-embedded key combos and missing some of its ‘extensibility’ but for those who use Google’s stable of apps, this is a good addition.

iPhoto Slideshow DVD

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Our youngest has been keen to make a movie of the photos I took on our recent South Island holiday so she can show them to her class and today the spindle of DVDs I got mail order finally turned up.

Having recently used her teacher’s laptop for a ‘show and tell’ about my job, I knew that simply burning the slideshow to CD or DVD wouldn’t guarantee that she’d be able to show it on the Windows laptop.  Likewise, having created a great slideshow in iPhoto 7, using the Ken Burns effect, the ‘droplet’ transition effect and a great worship track from iTunes, my daughter wasn’t keen on having to start recreating it all over again in iDVD.

A quick Google for ‘iphoto slideshow burn DVD’ lead me to the top ranked article Create a DVD of an iPhoto Slideshow at Basics4Mac, which has a great, easy to follow guide that helped us convert the slideshow to a QuickTime movie (.mov) file and burn it to a DVD-R inside ten minutes.

The results looked a little grainy on my 24″ iMac but great on our our medium-sized TV screen.