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De-cluttering

Decluttering

One of the most basic concepts Peter Walsh talks about in It’s All Too Much brought a total breakthrough for me. If the stuff that you accumulate doesn’t help get you closer to the life you want to have, it’s simply not worth keeping. Period.

We need to do this. I was reading about the new Vox This feature in Vox and rushed over to 43folders [Merlin Mann’s productivity blog] to try the feature. Little did I know I would find such a gem of a post right at the top of the page! I strongly dislike clutter but find myself becoming desensitised to it since we had kids. Getting rid of my CD jewel cases helped a bit and we should do the same with books and DVDs.

The article linked from 43folders is rather good.

My Concert Tickets — a Collection

Quote for today

Wouldn’t it be dreadful if some day, in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men so that you’d never know which were which?

Lucy, Prince Caspian

I was looking through my old diary from my uni days and found that quote written down. I read all the Narnia books during one summer holidays. Can’t recall which year though — some time between 1993 and 1998. Guess that particular line must have appealed to me at the time.

Poem: Love is Not All

Love is Not All

by Edna St Vincent Millay

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;

Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.

It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

 

Dr Who – Finally a decent episode

I’m a big fan of Dr Who and have been disappointed with the new series. The Christopher Eccleston series rocked – every episode was great. Then came David Tennant. He’s done two series and had Billie Piper with him throughout the first of the two to add some continuity from the Christopher Eccleston series. But she went out at the end of David Tennant’s first series and her replacement is not a patch on her.

David Tennant is actually a good Doctor, it’s the writing and acting that have been letting it down. It was even getting to the point where I wasn’t that bothered if I missed an episode. That didn’t actually happen and last week saw the first of a two-parter. This time the acting wasn’t wooden and the story was actually really good. But it had that magic back again, particularly at the end where the covered some big philosophical questions and talked about the onset of the first World War.

The Family of Blood

I guess the scarecrows would be pretty scary for the kids, but it was the good acting of Baines, the schoolboy who was the first to be possessed by the family, that I found particularly disturbing, especially when he did that sniffing thing with his head cocked and his eyes wide. Scary stuff!

Stevenson’s visit

My pal from back home came to visit last night on his Suzuki GSX-R 750. He’s going a trip around Europe and Luxembourg was his first stop from arriving off the ferry in Zeebrugge (Belgium). He headed off this morning to visit the church in Ronchamp in France then he’s off to Basel in Switzerland and across the alps into Italy where he’s going to watch the grand prix somewhere in Tuscany. From there, he’s heading along the south coast of France to reach Barcelona. Then he’s going to stop for a few days, leave his bags at a B&B and spend some times driving around the windy roads in the Spanish Pyrenees. Then it’s to Lyon and back to us in Lux for another stop over before heading back to the ferry the next day. He did say he’s going to another Grand Prix, I think in Spain somewhere.

Stevenson just about to head off

A great trip to be sure!

We had a good night out last night. Went into Luxembourg city and had a curry and wandered around the city for a bit. I haven’t done that for ages.

iTunes upgrade – DRM free at last!

I just got the notification on iTunes that there’s an upgrade available to 7.2. So I hopped over to macrumors.com to see what was new. And there it was, iTunes PLUS, DRM free music available at 256kbps. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time for two reasons:

1. I’m a snob and prefer higher bit-rates (my CD collection is ripped to FLAC for my Squeezebox players);
2. Apple DRMed files don’t play on the Squeezebox

So this week I bought 9 CDs, not something I do every week but I just got paid and I’m filling in holes (all the old Wonder Stuff CDs and the new one, and all the Muse CDs).

For the last year I’ve been ripping everything to FLAC onto a server and it took me pretty much most of the year to get through them all. Then a couple of months ago I got rid of ALL my CD jewel cases and put the disks and inlays into CD ring-binders. The amount of space I got back was incredible.

So, I’m excited that DRM free music is now a feasible option for me, although I would like to see higher bit-rates even than 256 kbps before I declare the CD dead to me. But I can live happily with 256 if it’s DRM free and means instant gratification.

I just bought my first iTunes PLUS album, Genesis — Duke (2007 Remastered) but only two tunes downloaded before the server timed out. Same deal when I hit the upgrade button in the iTunes store to upgrade the few DRMed songs I did buy to non-DRM. I guess Apple’s servers will be getting slammed for the next few weeks while folks upgrade their libraries. It will be interesting to hear the stats about how many people are actually upgrading.

It also means I’m much less likely to use P2P to get instant gratifcation. In fact I just shut Soulseek down to kill my Genesis downloads!

I see this as a milestone in the digital revolution. May you live in exciting times, as the old Chinese proverb allegedly goes. These are certainly those!

Muse gig, Luxembourg (26 May 2007)

Some time ago, a friend of mine lent me the first Muse album, Showbiz. I listened a couple of times and liked it, thinking that it reminded me of Jeff Buckley. For some reason, I never followed up and remained oblivious to the rest of Muse’s albums.

Then I heard that they were playing in Luxembourg, but I still wasn’t that bothered. The girl that loaned me the first CD asked me at work if I had ripped that CD to my iTunes at work, which I had, so I stuck it on and was bopping away and thought to myself, why not go and see them? The gig is only about 15 minutes away from my house, so why the hell not?

That was when I discovered that it was sold out.

I borrowed and listened to the other three albums from someone else at work and really started to want to go and see them. So ensued a long search on eBay for tickets. To my dismay, they were going for silly amounts of money, up to double the face value. Thankfully, Lorraine is rather clever at finding stuff on eBay and she found a pair of tickets on eBay.fr. Being a Brit, I normally search on eBay.co.uk and click the box for European Union. But the seller in France had agreed to ship only in France, which meant that they didn’t show up on eBay UK or eBay.be. Long story short, I got the tickets for face value and the seller was only 12 kms from my house so I went that night and picked them up from her house.

Then commenced a week-long research period of listening to all four Muse albums. The more I listened, the more excited I became. I have not been so pumped about a band for many a year. I listened at work with headphones on, I listened in the car, I listened in the kitchen, I listened when sat working at my PC at home. I loaded up the Muse website and began reading lyrics along to the songs and watching the videos. I read reviews of the US concerts. I read Wikipedia articles and even wrote notes as I was listening to list the influences I could discern. In short, I became a fan in that short week.

Then came the night of the concert. I went with a girl from work and she also had spent the week researching! We got soaked on the way in from the car park; the rain was coming down in sheets.

Montevideo were the support band. The were pretty good, even closing with a cover of London Calling. I was surprised when they started speaking French and said they were from Brussels. The lead singer sounded as English as toasted tea-cakes. They did a half-hour set and were gone.

The Rockhal is rather a good venue. I read on a blog that it has a capacity of 5,400, but the Rockhal site says up to 6500. Either way, it ain’t Wembley! It reminded me very much of the Glasgow Barrowlands, with which I am rather familiar. In fact the whole gig had a Barrowlands feel to it. The crowd was pretty damn good, which was a very pleasant surprise as I’ve been to a lot of concerts in Luxembourg and find the crowd usually to be rather dull and inhibited. Not so this time.

Muse came on about 8.40 and they rocked.

The research had paid off in spades.It’s hard to pick a highlight as the whole gig was a highlight. I had found the setlist from the US leg of the tour and so had been listening to that a lot on iTunes as a playlist. I didn’t really expect them to have the same setlist for Europe, and indeed they didn’t.

Set List

I had expected them to open with Take a Bow and finish with Knights of Cydonia. They did the reverse. Cool. Starlight rocked; Feelin’ Good sounded a lot better live than I would have expected; Stockholm Syndrome flat out rocked the house; New Born was superb. And a really pleasant surprise for me was Unintended to start the encore. I can really relate to that song and plan on learning to play it just as soon as I get off the computer. And the juxtaposition of Unintended and Plug in Baby was great, aided by the big balloons that came down during Plug in Baby.

The only downside was that I found it pretty short. They played for only 1h45m minutes. Although to be fair there was minimal banter between songs and they played 17 tracks in all. I just didn’t want it to stop.

Matt Bellamy

It was interesting to be at a raucous gig like that now that I’m in my mid-30s. I used to go to gigs like that in my late teens and 20s and would be pogo-ing throughout with my long hair bouncing around. I did do some pogo-ing at the Muse gig, but I was done in after a couple of songs and I have now have my hair cropped really short. It felt strangely odd pogo-ing with no hair! And now the mobile phone crowd are all busy holding up their phones taking video and photos. And I’m hardly home an hour before someone has posted the set list and a review on the Internet. Cool.

It reminded me a bit of some of the gigs I used to go to in the Grebo era. Bands like the Wonderstuff and Pop Will Eat Itself seemed to craft their songs in a such a way so as deliberately to make people pogo up and down, going from slow, building up and up and then BOOM – you break into the good stuff and are pogo-ing up and down without having intended to.

And a message to the DRM police — I ripped all four CDs from someone else to get to know Muse*. Then I paid 40 euros for a ticket, 25 euros for a T-shirt and will be first in line when the next CD is released or they tour again near me. Surely that must say something about your pointless and unwinnable war against copyright theft.

*I’ve since ordered them all on Amazon

Amazon Order

The opposite of Friday the 13th (Monday the 21st)

I had a great day on eBay today. I found out too late that Muse are playing at a venue really close to my house. It was sold out and tickets were going on eBay for double face value. Lorraine is quite a pro with eBay and knows how to search out auctions that are under the radar. She found one listed on ebay.fr by a seller who had put that she was willing to ship only to France, so it didn’t show up on ebay.uk or ebay.be. I ended up winning the auction for just over the face value! It also turned out that the seller lives a mere 12 km from my house, over the border in France, so I drove over there (passing through Belgium for a bit — three countries in the space of 10 minutes) and picked them up. I now have them in my bag and I only won the auction a few hours ago!

Next up was the more important concert, Genesis! The first concert I ever saw was Genesis at Hampden Park in Scotland in 1987. Tickets for the Brussels concert were selling for just over face value and I’d been monitoring a few auctions. Then I found an auction for two category 1 tickets (face value of 100 euros) with a starting price of 100 and BuyItNow of 250. I put in 100 to kill the BuyItNow and then waited for the closing minute to put in my max. And d’you know what? Nobody else was bidding! So I basically got two for the price of 1!

Muse is this coming Saturday; Genesis is 24 June.

And finally, some other good news…

More on that later. Hoodies will know of what I speak but I’ll post up a hood only post about that some time tomorrow when the dust has settled and it’s confirmed 100%

So, from now on, Monday the 21st is a lucky day and it all balances out. Time for some Mackies ice-cream to celebrate!

Save net radio – progress report from Tim Westergren of Pandora

Hi, it’s Tim again,

I wanted to thank you again for your extraordinary support in the fight to save Internet radio and Pandora. Thanks to the overwhelming number of calls you made, letters you faxed, and emails you sent, the Internet Radio Equality Act is fast gaining momentum in the House of
Representatives (74 sponsors and growing). It’s nothing short of remarkable for this to happen in such a brief period of time – almost unprecedented.

Last Friday a Senate version of the bill was introduced by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sam Brownback (R-KS): www.savenetradio.org/071510-wyden.pdf.
This is a promising development, but we need your help again. I know we’re asking a lot, but the stakes couldn’t be higher and the fight is not over.

Please call the offices of your Senators and ask them to co-sponsor the Internet Radio Equality Act, S. 1353.

Senator Harry Reid: (202) 224-3542

Senator John Ensign: (202) 224-6244  

Visit www.savenetradio.org
to keep up on our fight to save Internet radio. There are some powerful testimonials there from musicians who have found their audience through Internet radio.

We are deeply moved by your support. Thank you.

Tim Westergren

(Pandora founder)