Saturday, November 19, 2011

Petty engineering design rant 6 - ambidextrous cheddar

It's been a while since the last entry, but this week I came across a new curiosity for which I thought it was worth resurrecting the series.  This one is definitely in the "utterly inconsequential" category, to the extent that it doesn't actually annoy me in the slightest; rather, it just intrigued me.  Enter stage left:  The Lake District Cheese Company.

The Lake District Cheese Company have been taking their packaging seriously, including the now-becoming-standard re-close-able* zip lock thingy. If you'd care to click the image to view it full size, I'd like to draw your attention to the helpful scissor-cutting dotted line in the top left-hand corner. If you turn the packet over there's an identical one on the other side, again in the top left as your look at it.

Now imagine cutting the packet open along the line with a pair of scissors. It won't take the right-handed amongst you very long to come to one of two conclusions:

a) the packaging designer was left-handed;
b) the packaging designer was right-handed and an idiot.

That's all really. Like I said, of no consequence whatsoever. My desire for cheese probably won't let me go without a cheese-packet-opening solution for very long. But if you think it's necessary to issue instructions on how to safely and conveniently open your packet of cheese, it might be an idea to try it out with a representative of 90% of the world's population first**.

*interestingly, my spell-checker refuses to accept the existence of either "reclosable" or "recloseable" as English words. Ho hum.

**Ooh, ooh, I've thought of a third possible conclusion! Maybe they're marketing their cheese as a foodstuff for the "left-handed cheese connoisseur" market! In which case, I feel excluded and miserable.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

...and back.

We've been back in the UK for a couple of months now, and in many ways it's like we've never been away.  You can catch up on our adventures here, and I'm gradually adding batches of my better photos here - more as and when I get round to it.

So, music.  I kept up a little bit of songwriting, though the majority of it exists in unassembled scribbled note form.  Interspersed with the joys of job-hunting, I'll be trying to squidge these together into something coherent.  Also, I brought back a new instrument, which will no doubt be incorporated somehow.

I'll also be trying to persuade myself back out into the open mic circuit sometime soon (I write this here in an attempt to make this actually happen...), and maybe even trying to get a bit more of a band together.  You have been warned.


Saturday, September 11, 2010


Just thought I should point out that I'm away for the next 10 months or so... So don't expect too many updates or DLDown activity (hope to keep up a little songwriting, but don't really have much in the way of access to recording equipment...).

A few thoughts and pics from our travels will be at Bring on the Snow Leopards! - you'll need to email me to be invited if you want to see it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Petty engineering design rant 5 - the spoons of doom

P.E.D.R. returns with a light-hearted entry, which some of you may be familiar with: my parents' cutlery, and in particular, the spoons. I don't have a picture of the real thing, so imagine something like these ones:

but with slightly chunkier handles. Handles, in fact, whose chunkiness outweighs the business end of the spoon. And thus the spoons, following the simple physical laws of leverage, tend to overbalance if you don't put them far enough onto your bowl.

The best and most amusing effects occur when one's dish contains an edible delight with a bit of viscosity to it, such as a thick soup, or a pudding, or porridge or similar. (Well, perhaps not porridge in my case, but the delightfulness of edible dishes is strictly subjective... Let's stick with puddings for the sake of this particular argument.)

Thus, at some inevitable yet indeterminate point through the course of the meal, the forces of gravity acting on the handle finally create a turning moment sufficient to overcome those being applied by the viscosity of the pudding, and the dessert-laden miniature impromptu Roman siege engine of doom catapults into action and claims another victim. A positive triumph of utensil engineering. Yes indeed :o)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Solas Festival

Popped along for the Saturday of Greenbelt's younger Scottish sibling, Solas. Here's a few highlights of the great acts I had the joy of seeing (follow links to see their websites and/or give them a listen):

Sol/Rory Butler: Some excellent playing here, both in lovely solo acoustic form (I'm jealous of this guy's guitar skills!), and in tight, electric, complex full band form.

Calamateur: Met before at The Art of Joy, and great as always - nice to hear a few songs from his great new album, Each Dirty Letter, which is now in regular rotation in my iTunes. Forthcoming single Banoffee is particularly catchy, with it's bubble of joy in danger of breaking out from Calamateur's usual slightly-downbeat persona.

Yvonne Lyon: 3rd time seeing Yvonne (after first meeting at a gig in Aberdeen), ably accompanied by husband DL. Yvonne "attempted to sneak onto the stage to start without anyone noticing" to open with Fearless, which fitted the relaxed atmosphere in the Northstar tent. The audience lay around, joined in singing, and even danced in their sun-loungers for a prize of Percy Pigs. Juliet Turner added some nice harmonies to a few songs. Lovely.

The Lowly Knights: Boisterous, infectious, multi-voiced, instrument-swapping, bouncy folk-rock. A friend recommended them to me (apparently, one of the front-men, Neil Mullan, was part of the Aberdeen crowd when I was there: recognised, but never properly met in my case), and I wasn't disappointed. Their two EPs are well worth the download, and can be heard here, but it's the enthusiasm and energetic harmonies of their live performance that grabbed my ears.

Juliet Turner: Lovely songs, with her accompanying guitarist pulling out some delicious acoustic-guitar-dripping-with-ridiculous-reverb solos. I was slightly surprised at the cynicism of some of the songs, but I think that's part of their effect.

We See Lights: Enjoyable indie with nice vocal harmonies. They make a nice feature of their accents, à la Proclaimers (they even have a song entitled Singing in Your Own Voice, which may or may not be anything to do with this). Check out their new album Ghosts & Monsters.

Jo Mango: You've probably heard of her already, as I had, but this was the first time I'd actually heard her music. Totally weird, but utterly spellbinding. Bizarre songs, including one about moths and libraries, and another about a trapped starling, but a beautiful performance that held the audience captivated. Nice range of odd and unusual instruments, including harmonium, glockenspiel played with a bow, finger piano, autoharp (courtesy of Suzuki corp!).

Martin Aelred: A stunning 2-song operatic interlude before the headliners - awesome voice, the crowd loved it!

McIntosh Ross: Foot-tapping mix of celtic-ness and country. I had meant to leave after a couple of songs to get home not too late, but found myself still there at the end of the set. Nice pedal-steelage, and a nice a-capella spiritual as the first encore. Not my usual cup of tea perhaps (okay, rubbish metaphor, given that I don't actually like tea, but anyway...), but a most enjoyable end to the evening.

Overall: so glad I went. Lovely location, beautiful weather, great music, nice time mixing and playing at the open mic tent. It felt slightly undersold (I suspect it probably was), but hopefully it's reputation will spread in time for next year. In some case it was actually quite nice for it to be a bit quieter, enabling the crowd to lie on the ground to listen rather than being crammed up against somebody's armpit.

Honorable mention: the food! Was expecting festival prices and quality, so imagine the delights of finding a stall with options of venison or pheasant burgers for the mighty sum of £2.50.

Bring on next year's!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's quiet... too quiet...

So yeah, it's been a wee while since I've updated on here. Thinking about trying to book a gig or two soon, but in the meantime, perhaps you'd like to point your browsers at the reason for the recent silence: pixelbrain. pixelbrain is a collection of programming artwork I've been working on, using a programming package called Processing. Prints should be coming soon...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New free download

The recording from the Inter:act India trip fundraiser at The Lot on March 20th is now available for free download, including the full sets from DLDown, The Northern Collective and Chasing Owls.

It even includes our original cover of Switchfoot's 'Redemption' in barbershop quartet style...

Point your browser here to listen/download for free/relive/catch up on what you missed!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A review!

A very nice review of Also, He Made the Stars... from Cross Rhythms - point your browser here.

Their 2007 review of Puzzle can be seen here.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Odd things we sing 6 - lost in translation - let’s hear your contributions!

Does anyone else think of yellow-safety-jacketed guys with theodolites and trundle wheels when we sing When I survey the wondrous cross?

And as mentioned in a previous post, another personal favourite is the “consume me from the inside out” line from Hillsong’s From the Inside Out - so are we talking aliens or tapeworms? Or perhaps a drink of concentrated sulphuric acid?

So what are the lyrics we sing that make you giggle/smile/snigger or grimace in bemusement? Share your favourites with the rest of us by commenting here...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Petty engineering design rant 4 - printer cartridges

Right printer, my letter is entirely in black, no colour whatsoever. Why oh why, then, do you refuse to do anything at all unless you have ink in both your black and colour cartridges? Likewise, why do you need me to buy a black cartridge to print a document entirely composed of blue text? Or indeed red text? Is there any actual truthful reason you need both, or is this really the cheap money-making scam it appears to be?

This is a petty annoyance with a more serious point behind it. I’ve had the joy (ahem) of working for a few places with fairly beefy printers connected to networks serving say a couple of dozen people, and so were under fairly constant use. I shall keep the manufacturer’s name under my hat for now - suffice to say they’re a big brand, reputable company which you will all have heard of - but I suspect the following practice is probably fairly widespread.

After a few weeks use, the little status display screen on the top would switch to something along the lines of “fuser unit 2317 pages remaining - order replacement part”. 2317 pages remaining until what? Is it going to self-destruct? Explode in a cloud of magenta toner dust? It’s obviously an artificial countdown, as to predict the failure of a component that precisely would require some seriously complicated monitoring equipment which would obviously be far too expensive to include in your average office printer.

What actually happens when the countdown reaches zero is... nothing. The printer just sits there blinking “replace fuser unit”, and refuses to do anything else until you comply. After the prerequisite bureaucracy and stressed budget balancing, some 3rd party printer servicing bloke appears to replace the part, has a look at the old one, and reckons it’s still got at least a couple of hundred thousand more pages worth of use left in it. You can’t reset the counter manually, and the printer recognises if you try and put the old one back in.

So does that imply that the printer company have actually gone to the trouble of putting counters in individual components, just so that they can extort another £250 (or whatever price it is) out of you for a replacement for a part that didn’t actually need replacing? Not only have they thought “we can make some money out of spare parts”, but they’ve sunk to the base level of designing in bogus lifetime counters so that the end user will think “I’ve spent 3 grand on a nice colour laser printer - I can’t afford to not buy these spare bits to get it up and running again”, and effectively holding departments hostage until the ransom gets paid. Outrageous behaviour! I can’t understand how reputable companies are allowed to get away with such a blatant scam! And what an utter pointless waste of resources. Yes, regular maintenance is good, but don’t use that as cover for your greed.

As a final peeve, I’d like to wonder out loud about all that used office equipment that gets shipped off under “re-use” schemes to developing countries after businesses upgrade their kit. Are these final end users, relying on donations of useful second-hand-but-serviceable equipment going to be able to afford a new unnecessary replacement for a part that doesn’t need replacing? Are they going to be impressed when their shiny new printer manages a measly couple of thousand pages and then sits there blinking? No. Shame on you.