Mixed Media, Saturday 23 August 2014

I haven’t been actively hunting for new music in the last month. Mostly listening to stuff from my library, and also these three albums I acquired just after getting back from France in July:

La Roux – Trouble in Paradise. I liked her first album, but didn’t love it. The new one feels richer, denser, and has more of a bass-y heft to it. Favourite tracks: “Cruel Sexuality”, “Paradise is You”, and “The Feeling”.

Curiously, my brain has shourt-circuited La Roux with Laurie Penny. It’s something about the name (LaurieLa Roux) and the nickname (Penny RedThe Red). I had hoped to catch one of the panels that Laurie was on at Worldcon just to convince myself that she wasn’t going to spontaneously burst into song, but the timing didn’t work out. I will forever wonder.

Anushka – Broken Circuit. Varied electronica with lovely vocals, running from sweet and summery to deep and dub. Favourite tracks: “Never Can Decide”, “Atom Bombs”, “Broken Circuit”, “These Things”, “Mansions”.

Röyksopp and Robyn – Do It Again. An intense five-track EP. The central track, “Do It Again” is unashamedly upbeat and poppy, but it is nested inside much darker and moodier pieces like a dark chocolate with a fruity centre. I’ve usually had this on later in the evening rather than during the day.

In terms of reading matter, I signed up for the special Comic Con 99 cent trial of Marvel’s “Unlimited” app, and I’ve been trying to find out just how much superhero action I can handle over the course of a single month. The answer: quite a lot. Favourite discoveries: Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel and the new Ultimate Spider-Man with Miles Morales. I hadn’t read much Spider-Woman before, and I do enjoy Jessica Drew’s snarky attitude. Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy are also good, but the cosmic-ness gets a bit much after a while. Right now I’m trying to get through all of Civil War (with its numerous tie-ins) before my special offer month runs out. Don’t think I’ll quite make it. But there’s so much value in the Marvel’s back catalogue that I might keep it on for a bit longer.

Bob Shaw collection

Juist in time (well, maybe) for Worldcon, and after having talked about it for literally decades*, I am finally starting to put together a catalogue of my Bob Shaw collection. I’m at the point where, apart from translated editions, there are only minimal gaps in my collection of his novels. It would be annoying to find myself face-to-face with a shelf of books in the dealers’ room at Worldcon and not know which ones I should be targeting**.

“For the truly compulsive hobbyist, there comes a time when a collection gathers weight — metaphysical, existential weight. It becomes as much a source of anxiety as of joy.”

The Brazilian Bus Magnate Who’s Buying Up All the World’s Vinyl Records

Also, sensible advice from Jen, “If you don’t do anything with it, it’s just hoarding.”

* two
** Again


Alex doesn’t approve of selfies, but I caught him in one anyway. This is the three of us after an hour of trampolining at Bounz. Alex hurt his ankle part-way through. Fiona and I just exhausted ourselves for the whole hour.

Selfie at Bounz

My back is going to regret this in the morning.

Last weekend’s activities

Last Saturday morning Abi and I got up early and took a 14km walk northeastish: into Zaandam, up through Koog, following the curve of the Zaan round through Wormerveer, and finally to Krommenie. We found some faces in the path on the the stretch between Wormerveer and Krommenie.

street face

street face

We took the train back to Zaandam and did some shopping. We got some kibbeling at the market for lunch, remembering that we’d got kibbeling for lunch after the Dam-tot-Dam wandeltocht last year.

It was only about 13:00 when we got back home. The PC components I had ordered arrived just half an hour later, and I spent much of the rest of the afternoon assembling the new machine, which I’ve named Groot:

  • Cooler Master Elite 130 mini-ITX case (small enough to sit on my desk, big enough to take a full-size graphics card)
  • AsRock H81M-ITX motherboard
  • Intel i5-4460 CPU with stock cooler
  • Sapphire Dual-X R9 270X graphics card
  • Power supply, hard disk, memory, Windows 8

The only component mismatch is that the motherboard does not have a header for connecting the two USB3 ports on the front of the case. It has a header for the USB2 port on the front, but any USB3 devices will have to connect at the rear of the case. Not a problem. Apart from that, it seems pretty solid.

Groot’s main workload will be leisure activities, such as Wildstar now, and Elite: Dangerous very soon. Wildstar just needs a better graphics card than I have in my laptop. Even dropping all the graphics options down to zero and playing on its own screen rather than on an external monitor, my high-end MacBook Pro can only squeeze about 20-25FPS out of the game in quiet scenes. (That’s running Windows natively in a Boot Camp partition – not in a VM.) I might have taken a cheaper i3 processor instead of the i5, but I hear that Elite will actually use the i5′s four cores instead of letting them idle.

I have to say that playing Wildstar is a completely different game when you can play it at a good framerate, on a big screen, with all the graphics options on. It’s a game with a hard learning curve. Blurry graphics on a cramped screen didn’t feel like enough of a reward to make up for the difficulty. But on the new machine it’s smooth and fun. I haven’t played Elite yet, but…soon. There’s a high probability it will take over my life for a while, and I have a couple of side projects I’d like to finish off before that happens.

On Sunday the kids and I went to the cinema to see How to Train your Dragon 2, and I taught them how to pick pin-and-tumbler locks.