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John Peel Show impossible to re-create.

I've been trying to recreate the eclecticism of a John Peel Show on Pandora.com by entering all the artists I can remember hearing on his show. Unfortunately it tends to get stuck on one musical genre. Here's a (shortened) link to the station if you want to give it a go:


Obviously it'll never be like listening to a John Peel Show as there will never be anything played at the wrong speed, and there will never be John Peel's warm, comforting, irreverent voice between the tunes.

Computer mechanics.

We use our computers every day like we use our cars.

Most of us don't know much about how our computers work, just like a lot of us don't know much about how our cars work.

We wouldn't expect our cars to run smoothly for ever if we never took them to the mechanic for a service and an oil change every few months.

There should be places where we computer users take our computers to get them serviced by knowledgeable professionals two or three times a year. That sounds like something sensible to me. I would pay, perhaps, $30 or $40 a couple of times a year to get my computer serviced, and I would expect them to try to persuade me to buy certain software or hardware upgrades now and then, and they would have to convince me of the importance of this, and sometimes I would be persuaded, and sometimes I wouldn't.

On getting away.

We recently returned from a one-night camping trip on Mount Diablo.

While I was there I was able to relax and watch nature (while trying to ignore the background noise of loud families camping from huge trucks with electric guitars and keyboards and cooking equipment some people would be lucky to have in their permanent home).

I saw beautiful and interesting views and didn't photograph them.

I started one book, decided I didn't like it much, and started another without feeling a need to tell everyone about it on goodreads.com.

I thought lots of things without sharing all these thoughts with everyone on twitter and facebook.

I actually had my phone turned OFF for most of the 24 hours or so that we were there.

I remembered going camping as a teenager/young man. I would plan my route, my food, and where I would stay ahead of time. Then I would carefully pack my backpack, take a bus and a train to my start point, walk for several hours, then pay the farmer or whoever owned the campground £5 or £10 and set up my tent, cook my food, and settle in for the night. Maybe, if there was enough daylight, I might walk down to the local village shop if there was one within half an hour's walk, and buy some local produce. I did all this without a mobile phone, without a car, without the internet.

It was, and still is, nice to get away.

The habits of a lifetime.

I feel like I'm saying this for the millionth time, but I really need to take control of my life.

Depending on when you start measuring from I've been an adult for about twenty years, almost half of my life so far. I have made little to no progress towards doing any of the many things I have wanted to do over the years.

I was never a shining example of health and fitness, and have always had intentions of getting into shape, but the longer I leave it the more difficult it gets.

I have been working for over fifteen years. The jobs I have had have not been unpleasant on the whole, but neither have they been particularly inspiring or fulfilling. I believe it should be possible for me to find a job doing something I enjoy. I want to be excited to go to work every day. If I work for another twenty to thirty years I believe I have time to do that.

I want to learn to fly, I want to learn lots of different art and craft techniques, I want to learn languages, I want to learn how to drive lots of different vehicles, I want to learn, or re-learn, mathematics and physics and chemistry and lots of other things.

I really need to pick up the pace. All I've done so far is repeatedly get into debt.

Full of beans

I've been making my own baked beans recently.

I soak beans overnight, or more often all day, then put them in a casserole dish with canned tomato sauce, sugar, water, cornstarch (cornflour), and a dash of barbecue sauce, and bake them for a couple of hours. I have found this to make nice, evenly cooked beans, and very easy too.

I'm making a special batch today to take to a pot luck for someone's birthday at work. I spent some time online looking for recipes for baked beans. All of the recipes I could find either had the beans cooked by boiling on the stove top first, or used cans of baked beans with a few things added and then baked for an hour or so. This seems absurd to me. First of all, why bother with the stove top boiling with the constant need for monitoring for boiling over or boiling dry when the beans cook perfectly well in the sauce in the oven? Secondly, using cans of baked beans to make baked beans is not making baked beans! THEY ARE ALREADY BAKED BEANS BEFORE YOU START!!!

By the way...

Some of my userpics are EIGHT YEARS OLD!!!

Well, hello there!

When I visited livejournal.com for the first time in months I read on the home page that there are over 37 million members and communities, but only 138,000 posts in the past 24 hours, which doesn't seem like a lot.
I expected my friends page to be as quiet as a windless night in Antarctica.
Lo and behold, it's as busy as it was a couple of years ago, which is much less busy than it was six or seven years ago, but still a pleasant surprise.
I'm up way late into the night. My wife and son are away visiting my Mother-in-law and, as is usually the case in such circumstances, I got very excited about drawing up a huge list of things I can get done while I have the house to myself, but very soon the enormity of the list becomes overwhelming in the face of all the time-wasting temptations. I have crossed one thing off a list of more than twenty, some of which were large goals sub-divided into simpler tasks.
Tomorrow is another day. Actually, since it is nearly 1:00am the tomorrow I'm thinking of is already today.
With that in mind I really must take myself off to bed for five or six hours.

It's nice to be here again.
It's late, really late on a Sunday night. Tomorrow might be a holiday for most of the people I know, but not for me or anyone I work with.

I don't like to let go of good weekends.

Yesterday I picked over 16 lbs of lemons from the little tree by the side of the house that was only a stump when we moved in. Presumably the previous owner got fed up of it and cut it down, but it sprang up again. There must be about as many lemons still on the tree, not yet ready, as I picked.

I decided to make marmalade.

While buying jars I realised that I needed other equipment, but some of it I could improvise from what I had at home. I remembered a piece on NPR with someone named Cathy Barrow (no relation, I don't think) about pickling, which I had found very interesting. Sometimes canning, pickling, preserving sounds complicated, sometimes it sounds simple.

After a day of being with Vaughan (who is 10 months old now), carrying him on my back while I worked in the yard, feeding him, changing him, playing with him, rushing over to San Francisco to surprise Missy at her reading where she didn't expect to see us, I decided that, although I didn't have time to do a full batch and fill the dozen jars I bought, I could do a little test batch, to see how it went and if I had forgotten anything, since it's my first time doing this.

I reused two jam jars from store-bought jam, cleaned and boiled. As the jars cooled and I washed the pans I was suddenly reminded of something Cathy Barrow had said in her NPR piece, about the delightful sound of each lid going "POP!" which means it is sealed. It is a wonderful sound, a nicely definite and conclusive sign that the work is done and successful. It is so pleasing it brings a big grin to my face, and makes me want to make more. I think it has a precious rare quality, because although one could reproduce the sound easily, the quality that makes it so delightful is that it is unpredictable and created by a circumstance that occurs only once for each jar you fill and seal.

I don't know if I could make preserves or pickles any cheaper than they can be bought in the supermarkets, considering the lack of economy of scale and the labour involved, but it is certainly no more expensive and very very rewarding.

Lingual suggestions, please.

I took advantage of an opportunity to get a one year license to Rosetta Stone online language learning materials for a comparatively low price.

I wanted to learn Mandarin. The most obvious obstruction to communication in my work environment and otherwise is, in my judgement, between Chinese and English speakers. Once I started I was excited at the prospect of being able to understand Chinese characters, and to converse in a language that had seemed totally incomprehensible to me.

However, as it is a language so totally different, unfamiliar, and difficult to access from an English speaking angle, I really needed to work on it every day to make any useful progress. I currently have even more important commitments that make it difficult to devote time to language learning every single day.

With this in mind I have decided to postpone Mandarin for another time, lest I waste the money I spent on the license. Instead I shall learn a language I have more familiarity with. It could be French, Spanish, German, or possibly Italian. Spanish is a front runner as it is a very widely spoken language here in California. We have several friends and friends of friends who speak German, and I have learned some German in the past, so I like the idea of following that through. I like the sound of French and, as an Englishman, it would be beneficial for me to learn something about my natural enemies. I also like the sound of Italian, but my only connection is that my great-grandparents on my Mother's Mother's side were from Italy.

What are your thoughts?

Film linkage


KQED 9 tonight is showing two films: Arsenic and Old Lace, and A Fish Called Wanda. The first stars Cary Grant, whose real name is Archie Leach, the second stars John Cleese as a character called Archie Leach.

Unconnected except for the tenuous link of film, my recent eBay binge yielded several very nice cameras, including a very nice Pentax MV that I have been using for the past couple of days, but the item that arrived today is the absolute top bargain of the lot. I got a Yashica Super-600 Electro 8mm movie camera for a little over $10 plus about $13 shipping. I haven't put batteries and film in it yet, but it is really clean and looks and feels gorgeous. It oozes quality and I'm really looking forward to using it.