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The Paranoid Android
...musings of a mechanically depressed robot...
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A while ago I contemplated the worst covers of all time (holy crap that was almost 5 years ago) ... and recently I thought I had a contender for the number two slot. (I think the number one slot is unchallengeable.)

 

My ex good friend Gareth informed me yesterday that SuBo had covered Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" - one of my favourite songs. I am a bit of a masochist when it comes to covers of my favourite songs (I bought an album to listen to Erasure's cover of Solsbury Hill and other atrocities - oh yes they did!) so I searched for SuBo's cover on youtube. I was not blown away - it's too slow and there's no guts to it. It's not terrible, but it's not good either. Maybe not the second worst cover of all time, but it's definitely in the top 50, maybe in the top 10.

 

I sent a scathing email off to my ex good friend for marring my world and was reminded that I own an album (CD) full of Depeche Mode covers and that has a cover of Enjoy the Silence on it too, so I fired up google again and found it on youtube too. I wasn't particularly blown away by that track either - although there were amazing covers on that CD; like Waiting for the night by Rabbit in the Moon (at 1:56 that gets amazing - especially if the volume is at 11) and Stripped by Rammstein (which is amazing from the get go!) and Somebody by Veruca Salt (which makes me well up just thinking about it).

 

As I was googling these covers I noticed that there were a *lot* of covers of Depeche Mode songs out there... and there was a site called The (Al)most complete Depeche Mode Cover Versions which has catalogued them all.

 

All of this led me to finding this cover of Enjoy the Silence by Hybrid which took me on a roller-coaster ride of emotions a bit like this:

 

The start is promising. It's not too different, but about 30 seconds in it has a dirty sawtooth wave sound to it that I really like. It has character. When the singing starts it's not too bad. His voice isn't a patch on Dave Gahan's, but then again whose is? Then there's a lass singing. I'll admit to being a bit disappointed at this point and I almost wrote it off as another dodgy cover and this entry would not have seen the light of day.

 

Then it happened. About 3:32 in, there's a bridge which is a slow build up into the aural-gasm that happens at about 4:03 which sent goosebumps up and down my spine.

 

Listening back (it's been on repeat for the last hour) I am beginning to like the lass singing (familiarity is a funny thing).

 


In other news - have we literally broken the English language? My head literally assploded reading the comments.

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Current Location: 51.545054, 0.191948
Current Mood: calm calm
Current Music: Enjoy the Silence - Hybrid

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My first golf holiday with the boys.

04:00 start on Friday morning, landed 10:30 local, meet the Northern contingent and get to the hotel by just gone 11:00.

The hotel was nice. The clienele; well that's another matter. Imagine if you will a cross between Romford's night clubs sometime early Sunday morning, and a Russ Myers film and you have an idea of the majority of the clientele of the hotel.

My "bats" turn up just after 13:00 (I opted to rent rather than trek my own there) and we set off for the first game. A 14:00 tee slot.

You know what they say about mad dogs and English men, needless to say that there were not too many people playing, so we had the course to ourselves. The heat was intense, and I am not a fan of heat nor the sun!

The course was pure madness. It was situated in the middle of three mountains and what little of the course you could claim to be even slight flat was surrounded by shear cliffs and drops. There were times when the pin was 100ft below the tee, and other times the exact opposite.

I lost 12 balls (found a few and lost some of them too) and scored a whole 2 points.

I was a little despondent at this time. We got back to the hotel for a quick shower and a beer before heading out for a meal. We were booked in to "Sintillate" for the meal at 22:00. We finally got a table about 23:30, and by then I was already a good way through a bottle of red wine. This was the start of my downfall.

The meal was average, there was more wine, someone bought shots, and we all ended up in the nightclub part. A table was "acquired" for a guaranteed spend of a €1,000, I started drinking Jack Daniels and I remember nothing more until I was woken up the following morning.

I was supposed to be playing a round t 09:00, but I woke up fully dressed (including shoes) at 08:00 and my world hurt. I got undressed and went back to bed. I finally surfaced about mid afternoon to meet the boys by the pool. I was not the only one to miss the golf. Only three of seven managed to get out of bed in time.

Saturday ended up being a recovery day for me. The sight and smell of a beer made me want to heave. About 17:00 I braved a fish a chip supper, and took a walk down to the sea, then along the beach until I got to the marina. A leisurely walk back was followed by a night in watching the football and reading.

There was more carnage on Saturday night so just three of us managed to make the golf on Sunday.

This was also a 09:00 tee, the weather was slightly overcast, ideal conditions for me. I started well (one over par, which for my handicap is two points) and got better! I managed to Par the hardest hole on the course for four points! By the end of the first nine I had scored a whopping 14 points and not lost a ball!

The sun started to poke its head through the clouds at this point, and I started to tire. I had a few bad holes but managed to pick my game up a bit again, scoring a further 8 on the back nine.

The course (Los Naranjos Golf Club) was beautiful, it was the best game of golf! I'm all pumped up for the next game now!

Sunday night we all headed out for something to eat, and ended up in a bar/club for beers. I was not keen on a repeat of Friday night so after a few beers I left them to it. I was accosted by half a dozen people on the way back to the cab rank who wanted to sell things or people. It's a sleazy town.

Monday was a non-day. Up and packed by 11:00, 20 minutes too late to get a breakfast, sitting around reading waiting for the shuttle to pick us up to get the airport. Málaga airport is a bit of a joke. We were not allowed to check our bags until just two and a half hours before our flight even though we were there for at least 2 hours before that. After some more reading (gotta love a kindle - I got through two and a half books!) a flight home and sleeping in my own bed.

Current Location: Home
Current Mood: tired tired

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I'm on a forced vacation. I have to be away from the office for 10 consecutive working days to somehow prove I am not doing something fraudulent.

I have spent the last couple days doing things I just never normally get around to; like laundry! (I have washed everything this week.) and tidying, and stuff. I have also spent a bit of time sorting out my music on the PC. I am finally free of the clutches of Apple - all my music is now DRM free. (iTunes is terrible software. Now I no longer have an iPod I need to be able to play my purchased music on devices/software that can't cope with Apple's DRM.)

I listen to a lot of music. I was a big fan of Spotify until they got so popular that their support team disappeared. I now subscribe to Deezer - it's virtually the same product except it is web based. At a fiver a month it's not particularly expensive and it means I don't have to buy an album to see if I like it - I can test it out on Dezzer first!

A long time ago I signed up to last.fm so I could keep track of my tracks (geddit?) I have just passed the ¼million scrobbled tracks landmark... the last time I noticed a milestone I was unable to do it justice... but as I am on vacation I present a bunch of useless stats about my listening habits:

Since the 25 September 2006; I have scrobbled 229,323 tracks. That's an average of 102 tracks per day.

I currently have 7,547 MP3's in my library with a total play time of 22 days, 30 minutes and 38 seconds. That makes for an average track length of about 4:12

102 tracks of 4:12 is about 7 hours and change. I rarely listen to music on Sundays so that makes it closer to 8 and a half hours of music listened to per day (except Sundays).

I accomplish this mostly at work. My MP3 player is rarely off from the moment I leave the house until I get home. That would account for around 40-45 hours a week.

Images under the cutCollapse )

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Current Location: 51.545164, 0.19175
Current Mood: relaxed relaxed
Current Music: David Gray - Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

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It was an interesting extra long weekend.

Dora had an urge to go somewhere - so on Saturday we visited Bodian Castle via a trip on the The Kent & East Sussex Railway which runs a steam train service between Tenterden and Bodiam, making that part of the journey very much part of the day out!

The castle, to quote the national trust, is a perfect example of a late medieval moated castle. Dora and I explored it top to bottom, the top parts taking the wind out of both of us.

After a short break for some cream tea and stalker ducks we shot some arrows. Not in the sense my dad does every Thursday at the working mans club - I mean real arrows using a real bow! It was the highlight of the year. I scored a gold (the middle) and a couple reds (the bit around the middle) after my first half a dozen shots missed the target completely.

Saturday evening was a dash back to Romford for some of the best karaoke in the land of the Albert.

Sunday; Dad and I had a nice dinner in "The Spoons" before going to see Prometheus (picking up Jules on the way). Prometheus was something of a disappointment. There may be a long post about this at some point in the future if I remember. After the film had finished Jules convinced me that more karaoke was what I needed... so off to the Durham Arms we walked in the rain.

Monday I bottled the wine I have been brewing. I didn't get anywhere near the 6 bottles I was supposed to... I shall be making bigger batches going forward. I met up with Jules again, this time with Pete, for another trip to the cinema - this time for MIB3 which was very enjoyable.

The rest of Monday was spent playing Diablo III... which appears to be working as expected now. Gareth and I linked up and waded through Act III of the Nightmare level. There are times when it is almost impossible to kill some of the mobs.

Tuesday was also mostly spent playing Diablo III.

Today I bought an SD card so I now have a working Raspberry Pi. I also need to get a cheap USB keyboard so I don't have to unplug this one each time I want to play with the new toy!

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Current Mood: exhausted exhausted

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There are, perhaps, a couple things you might not know about me: I have a deep and lasting love of Karaoke, and Microsoft Excel. Rarely do these loves meet... until now.

My love for karaoke used to be as an observer. This changed one fateful night about 6 or 7 years ago. The pub (the best karaoke pub ever) was virtually empty and about to close and (karaoke) Pete asked if I wanted to sing... I was just drunk enough to think it was a good idea, and just sober enough to stand. Now you will find it difficult to keep me quiet (and I have sung sober!)

My love for Excel wasn't always so. My first proper job used Lotus 1-2-3 for our spreadsheet needs, and when I started my next (and current) job I was "an expert." It took a year or two to actually live up to that title, but by then I could make 1-2-3 do almost anything but sing. I could make a spreadsheet seem like a program to the point that someone thought they had a virus on their machine when they opened my "do everything" spreadsheet - and I subsequently had to spend a couple of hours in front of the boss explaining what exactly I had done.

About '97/'98 we moved from the Lotus office products to Microsoft and I was not a happy person. All the things I could do in Lotus I was unable to do in Excel - that is not to say Excel couldn't do it - just that I couldn't using Excel.

The turning point was pivots. For someone who does a lot of data manipulation and reconciliations the pivot table is a mind-blowingly powerful tool. I decided there was nothing for it but to learn this new Excel thing. I doubted I would ever reach the heady heights of my 1-2-3 days, but I would give it a go.

A decade or more later and I have used Excel to do things my younger self would not believe... you see Excel now comes with its own programming language that not only controls stuff inside Excel, but with the correct libraries can control THE WORLD other things on the PC as well.

Meanwhile my love of karaoke has meant I was first given a bunch (5-6 thousand) backing tracks with words and since collected a bunch (30ish thousand) more. One of the problems is the haphazard way people name their files. I hold no truck with the convention of lastname, firstname especially when people can't tell the difference between a band and a person (Jovi, Bon) or where to put the first name if there are a bunch of people (John & Dee, Elton & Kiki)

Now it is probably becoming apparent that I am a "little" anal about file names, and perhaps I have a little too much spare time on my hands. So it'll not surprise you that I tasked myself to "clean" my karaoke file collection.

Each track is actually two files... MP3 (audio) and cdg (graphics). So with my 33,488 karaoke tracks - I actually have to clean 66,976 files. What I really needed (apart from a new hobby) is somewhere to store the names of all the files so I could sort them... enter Excel.

It started off pretty quick and dirty. I piped a directory listing to a text file and loaded it into Excel. This is great for a one off task as the directory listing is designed for a person to view it - not a great way to get an excel table. I spent a few hours/days finding out just how badly my files where named. Once I had spent quite a bit of effort working out what the files should be called I needed a way of getting the info from Excel to use to rename the files. I decided on a quick and dirty "make a batch file and run" it approach. My files were about 50% cleaner!

I used this approach a few times more (limiting myself to a couple thousand files at a time as I didn't want to spend a whole week formatting without any progress) and slowly progress was made. When pointing winamp at the directory with all the karaoke files about 80% would pick up the correct album/track/artist/title!

There is a rule in projects work the last 20% of the project takes about 80% of the time! Formatting a piped directory listing wasn't enough! I needed automation! First I automated splitting the track/artist/title from the file name. I started using formulas, but soon ran into problems where the spreadsheet would take hours to recalc... sometimes after every key press!

I moved to a VBA solution which was fairly quick, but a one-time-only operation - if it was re-run it would break anything already fixed. I was still using the piped directory listing/created batch file approach to update the file names and this seemed to be the part that took the most time (and occasionally gave dodgy results)

I stepped up my game. Using the windows scripting library I could get excel to find the file names for me - and to rename the files as needed! I was now able to load all 67 thousand filenames and check consistency! (Beatles vs The Beatles etc)

It was about this point that I hit my first stumbling block. Spotting that there was a Denise Williams and a Deniece Williams (who would get that wrong!) I was rather shocked to find the latter spelling was the correct one. This meant I was unable to rely on judgment (or in some cases memory) to pick which of the sometime many spellings were correct. I had to check the 5000+ artists to see if they were correct. This problem was magnified when I found that iTunes, Spotify, Last.fm and lastly wikipaedia didn't always have a definitive answer to the correct spelling, as the "artist" themselves appeared to be unsure!

Having checked the majority and being about as happy as I could be with the artists I started on the song names... How many ways do you think you can write the song title "Ain't going down 'til the sun comes up" ? You may be surprised!

I was noticing that winamp isn't quite as smart as it aught to be when parsing the file names. It assumes the first "-" it comes to is the divider between the artist and the song title... so bands like a-ha were truncated to "a" and all their tracks prefixed with "ha - " - so I decided to try and write the mp3 tags whilst I was renaming the files.

After a bit of a shaky start (with online forums suggesting I download dlls from the web!) I found that I could use the dll that winamp uses to read the tags to update them from Excel.

I have built (over the last couple months) a spreadsheet that will trawl my hard disk for karaoke tracks, format the names consistently (with some manual intervention) and then update the tags!

I think I am going to go sing some Depeche Mode and gloat a little.

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Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
Current Music: The Stranglers - Peaches

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I got an email today from a dart/dartboard website a bit like this:


The shaft at the bottom hit me in the eye like a dart!

The longer I looked at it - the more my brain started to wonder if there was an alternative spelling for "marry" - so I hit google:


I was feeling slightly better when I saw the Did you mean: marry me, but then I saw this website:


I weep for the future of mankind.

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Current Mood: sad sad
Current Music: Voodoo Child - Baby Monkey

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Yesterday; Big Adie and I put in our longest (and last) training walk before the big event this coming Saturday. This meant being at Romford Station before 8 o'clock... and that ended up being the least of my pains for the day.

After some confusion as to which train I should be on (I really should not be out of the house before 9 o'clock!) I successfully met up with Adrian at Shenfield Station at the correct time. We arrived at Braintree Station about 10 minutes before 9 o'clock.

We hung around the station in the off chance that any of the other walkers were going to join us... but to the 9 o'clock chimes of a local church it was just the two of us that set off.

The plan: walk the "Flitch Way" from Braintree to Bishops Stortford (15 miles), stop for a quick bite and a fresh pair of socks, then head back to Braintree station (15 miles).

The outward segment of the journey wasn't bad at all. We passed a beer festival (yup - Adrian and I *passed* a beer festival) and was in relatively good cheer. We played "The Claire Game:" My name is Adrian and I come from Aberdeen and I have brought some Apples... and so on through the alphabet. We realised if it just the two of you, the one that starts gets Q, U and Y where as the second person gets X and Z... which are easier!

The weather was playing nice... a clear sunny day - but lots of cover on the path from trees.

We got a little lost when the old railway path ended (not really ended as such - more got very very overgrown) and we had to fight back through the trees to get on the path again. We were also left scratching our heads when the trail appeared to end in a foot deep river... until Adrian remembered he'd brought the pamphlet and we found our bearings again quite quickly. Walking through Great Dunmow we made plans on popping into the fish and chip shop and what we might eat on the move on the way back.

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Current Mood: sore sore
Current Music: Midge Ure - The Gift

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Sometimes I hear a song and it goes straight to a part of my brain that invokes strong emotions.

After link hopping a couple of days ago I came across a band called Thermostatic who are a Swedish electronic band I misread as falling within the genre categories of "Britpop" and "Synthpop" (it was Bitpop, not Britpop). Intrigued as to how a Swedish electronic band could be classed as Britpop, I found a couple of their Youtube videos and was further intrigued enough to see if they appeared in Spotify.

They do! And so I listened to their most recent album called "Humanizer." The first track (Northern Ambulance) resonated with me in a big way - and I have been listening to it a *lot* over the last couple of days. It's a simple enough tune, building simple refrains upon simple refrains with a pleasant female vocal - but it reaches a point (at about 1:56) where it's built sufficiently to bring me to the brink of tears (of joy I imagine) while I have trouble breathing. (No - I am not on drugs or drunk, nor can I guarantee this experience to all). The rest of the album is good (in my opinion) but doesn't evoke as much as a smile.

Similar experiences have been achieved recently with other tunes... E-Gens I Can Touch the Sun, Duran Duran's The Chauffeur, Cold Play's Fix You, Elbow's New Born, and U2's With or Without You.

I'm not sure if this is the beginning of some form of mental meltdown, so I thought I might document it here before I completely loose my mind. :)

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Current Mood: quixotic quixotic
Current Music: Thermostatic - Northern Ambulance

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In a bid to get a few more miles training in, Adrian, Bradley and I decided on a jaunt around London town, following the Thames for the most part.

The idea was to walk along the north side of the river for about 7-8 miles, then cross and walk back. Our distance goal was 15 miles (24km)

The weather looked to be a problem at the start - but we were lucky again, after a few drops of rain at the start it was cool with a pleasant light breeze.

From the office we headed south(ish) and did a right when we hit the river:
graphicsCollapse )

To start; it was all most pleasant. The conversation was witty and there are an astonishing number of very fit young ladies who go running along the Thames! By the time we got to Chelsea my feet were feeling a little tender but our spirits were still high. Bradley was mentally pricing up all the properties in the area, looking for a "doer-upper".

It was when we considering which bridge to cross and walk back from that it dawned on me that we wasn't even half way through yet. We crossed Wandsworth Bridge and started back on the "wrong" side of the river.

The Thames Path is a great idea, but as things have been built in its way we ended up walking down less than inviting back streets in industrial looking areas. The worst of these diversions is around Battersea Power Station.

By now my feet were more than a little tender - and my legs had that "made of lead" feel. Annoyingly, Adrian was still very cheerful and Bradley was still pricing up the properties as we passed them.

As we got closer to the centre of London and as the night drew in I began to shut down and all my concentration was aimed at putting one foot in front of the other. Adrian and Bradley tried to get me to talk, but apart from a few acerbic responses I could not be coaxed. I am a miserable bugger (at times?)!

It was as Tower Bridge came into view (our "end point") that Adrian got this strange notion in his head that we needed to walk 20 miles. We had done just over 18 by then - at least a couple more than originally planned!

It was due to his craziness that we ended up walking around the block near Liverpool Street just to get in an extra half a mile to top it off. We finished at Liverpool Street McD's having completed 20.01 miles. To make up for his squirrel-shit nuttiness he did buy me a chicken burger... so I forgive him.

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Current Mood: sore sore
Current Music: Moby - Wait for Me

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On the 16th June (I know it's a bit late) Adrian, Claire, Khan, Peter and I planned to walk stages 5 and 6. Things did not go smoothly.

Peter was in a meeting and couldn't get away in time. Adrian, Claire, Khan and I left work in good time to get to Victoria and get our tickets (including Peters so he could get straight on the train.) This was a good plan except I ended up on the train (just!) with Peter's ticket. He called us just after we'd pulled out of the station.

We agreed that we (the four on the train) would set off at a reasonable pace and Peter would "catch us up". This was a heroic undertaking on Peter's part as the next train was an hour later!

The train journey south was through the most horrific of weather! There were many worried looks and talk of getting the next train back.

When we finally arrived at Amberley the rain had stopped and the sky was bright. We found the footpath to connect to the South Downs Way and I called Peter with instructions that were obviously sub-par.

More GPS graphics under the cutCollapse )

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Current Mood: exhausted exhausted
Current Music: La Roux – Bulletproof

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