Annual marathon walk, Saturday 4 May 2024

Actual walking time 6:44:06, total elapsed time 7:44:01 because I was generous with my breaks. (Last year: 6:32 and 6:59 respectively. I was in better physical shape last year.) I stopped in the centre of Weesp at the half-way mark for about 25 minutes to have some breakfast, then a 20 minute stop at the Gamma DIY store near ‘s Graveland for a toilet stop and a cold drink (about 32 km), and finally a 15 minute rest just outside of an Albert Heijn in Hilversum (about 37km) for another drink and a snack. Finished up at the Theehuis ‘t Hooge Erf in the Lage Vuursche forest, which is just under 42km door-to-door, so I walked past it by about 500m to complete the full marathon distance, and then doubled back.

Abi met me for a mid-afternoon lunch. I had their “Little Italy” sandwich, which was amazing, although I was in a mood to appreciate any food by that point. Slices of fried aubergine fried in a crispy breadcrumb coating, rocket leaves, resting on toasted bread that had been topped with marinara sauce and melted pecorino and mozzarella cheese.

I usually do these marathon walks in April or early May, when the weather can be pleasant, but not too hot. A nice dry day around 15° is just about perfect. In April of this year all my free weekends were very rainy. Earlier this week it started to get hot (25°), and I felt that I needed to get the walk in before it was too late. The weather forecast for yesterday was decent, but there was a chance of rain by 14:00, so I made sure to get out early, about 06:45, just after sunrise.

It was a lovely clear morning, and it stayed that way all the way to Weesp. I stopped once to re-tie my laces and tape up my heels, because there was a bit of friction. Last year I stepped up my walking shoe game from Asics Patriots to Asics Gel-Pulse 13s. (They were good shoes, but the upper wore out quite badly.) This year I’m walking on the Asics Gel-Pulse 15, which have a very different sole than the 13. They’re nice.

Last year I used to make myself playlists of music of specific tempos, to help me keep a good and constant pace while walking. When I tried to use that tool this year, however, it wouldn’t save playlists to my Spotify account any more. (I don’t think the tool is actively maintained, and the Spotify API keeps moving on.) Instead of tempo playlists, I ended up listening to the selection of albums I happened to have downloaded to my phone. Last month I accidentally left my Airpods Pro behind in Scotland. I’m using my backup/sleep buds now, a set of Soundcore Liberty 4 NCs. They’re OK. But Apple Music opens up whenever I connect them. I decided to just roll with it, and listen alphabetically by artist. Here’s what came up:

  • Couple of songs by Aerosmith
  • Blood Moon by Apes & Androids
  • Couple of songs by Arctic Monkeys (I hadn’t noticed before that in “Fake Tales of San Francisco” the tempo increases at points throughout the song…)
  • All The Lights in the Sky and Modern Synthesis by Area 11
  • “Monster” by The Automatic
  • Grinning Streak by Barenaked Ladies
  • Bad Blood by Bastille
  • Hello Nasty by Beastie Boys
  • 18 Months by Calvin Harris
  • “Word Up” by Cameo
  • In a Tidal Wave of Mystery by Capital Cities
  • The Lady Killer by CeeLo Green

(This is far from all my music library in the first three letters of the alphabet… it’s just whatever I must have had synced to my old phone, and then got copied across when I moved to my new phone last year?) Anyway: BANGERS and I was quite happy to walk to them, and not worry too much about tempo. I had a bunch of podcasts ready to go, last year and this year I found that listening to music gave my mind more space to wander more easily.

Last year I had just recently bought an Apple Watch (series 8), and was still (mostly) enjoying it – although reading back I can see that I did recognize the niggles. Over time those niggles became full-blown annoyances, and I sold it a couple of months ago to someone who would enjoy it for what it is. Just as I want my TV to be a dumb screen without smart features, I want the thing on my wrist to be a simple sensor package. The Apple Watch is a very needy and greedy device. It tries its best to grab your attention in any way it can, starting with how it claims a spot in your daily routine for charging it, and then carries on with never-ending notifications. It felt like every time I would explicitly turn off some kind of alert, another feature I neither needed not wanted would start reminding me of its existence.

So now I’m rocking a simple Garmin Vivosmart 4 – not even the very latest model. It runs for 4-5 days on a single charge, and it has refreshingly few settings to make it stay perfectly quiet. If I want to skip a song, I tap an earbud rather than my wrist. It’s perfectly fine.

Again, I walked without any kind of backpack or attachments – I relied on the fact that this is Noord-Holland, and I’d be walking through towns and villages, where it would be easy to find food and drink. I did bring a stress ball for clenching and trying to reduce the edema in my fingers. It might have helped a bit? At the end of the walk I was definitely more tired and achy than last year – I weigh more than last year, and I haven’t been very good at keeping up my daily walks. My feet were mostly OK throughout the walk, but I developed a blister in the last 5km from Hilversum to the forest, and that had a knock-on effect. My right knee hurt quite a bit for most of the rest of the day, but it seems fine again after some anti-inflammatories and a night’s rest. Reminder for next year: the practice in the month leading up to a big walk does make a difference.

Voice cloning

Dave Karpf on OpenAI’s latest Torment Nexus:

Cade Metz reported this Friday on OpenAI’s newest demo, Voice Engine. It can take a 15-second clip of you speaking and use it to recreate your voice. OpenAI isn’t making the product publicly available yet. They’re testing it to make sure its safe. And, in the meantime, they want everyone to know what a responsible and futuristic company they are.

It isn’t safe. Of course it isn’t. Are you fucking kidding me?!? The use cases here are (1) crime, (2) crime (3) CRIME, and (4) TBD.


The responsible way to release a product that can clone people’s voices based on a 15-second sound clip is to not create that product in the first place. You don’t need a ton of user-testing to figure out the obvious harms. Bad people will use this for bad ends! The bad will so heavily outweigh the good!

AI and the 4-day week

Hamilton Nolan, “To Whom Go The Spoils”:

“Profits go to investors. That’s how it works. The nature of a modern corporation is not “Let’s see how we can divide the proceeds of this business most fairly.” It is “This business is a machine designed to maximize profits for investors.” The maximum possible exploitation of the labor force is a built-in part of that system. […] Why would a modern, efficient company choose to distribute its productivity gains in the form of a four day work when they could, instead, reserve those productivity gains for investors, by laying workers off, to decrease labor costs, or by having everyone continue working just as much, so that the AI produced a gain on top of what currently exists? That is what they will do. Do not fool yourself. Do not be naive. Companies don’t give shit away for free. That’s not how this machine works.”

Melanie Martinez at the OwO Hydro Glasgow, Wednesday 15 November 2023

Melanie Martinez released her new album Portals earlier this year, and it’s brilliant. Weird, but brilliant. Like her first two albums it has a unifying theme, but this one takes a left turn. On Cry Baby and K-12 she adopted a child-like persona, and many of the songs on those albums are written from the point of view of that persona. The obvious evolution for Portals would have been for the Cry Baby character to grow further into adulthood, but nope! Instead she metamorphoses into a four-eyed winged nymph-like woodland fantasy creature. Not only does the whole album adopt this theme, but Melanie herself has done all the supporting publicity and performances for the album in character, in full prosthetics and costume. And for the Portals tour – which is much grander in scale than her previous tours – she is doing all the concerts in character and costume as well. The commitment is impressive.

Fiona is the one who first introduced me to Melanie Martinez’s music. We saw her together at Melkweg in 2016. Fiona almost saw her again on the 2019 K-12 tour, but Fiona was suffering heavily from back pain and after queuing for hours found that they couldn’t face the whole concert. This time round Fiona is living in Scotland, and I lined up one of my work trips so that I was around on for Melanie Martinez’s night at the OwO Hydro. (We had other Dundee stuff to do that week as well; it was busy.)

I had rented a car for the work trip, so we were able to drive to Glasgow. We had bought tickets through a pre-sale promotion, and had allocated seats, so we didn’t need to be there super early to queue up. Still we got there relatively early – just after 19:00 – because it was the first time either of us had been there, so we weren’t sure what to expect. Parking was easy, and somehow our tickets funnelled us through a very short queue at the doors. We located our seats on the ground, at the back of the main standing area, and then queued up for merch. (Decent merch; I got a nice poster.)

Martin and Fiona masked up at the OwO Hydro.

As an arena venue, the Hydro seems to have its booths and catering set up fairly nicely. It’s still an arena, though. Even the good seats we had were still miles away from the stage. The merch queue was long, and we got back to our seats just before the opening act started. UPSAHL played some fine energetic pop. In the break after her performance we popped out to get some drinks, expecting that it would take 30 or 40 minutes to get the stage ready, but it turned out to be much faster than that. The lights went down just after we got seated again, and the main event kicked off.

As on her previous tours, Melanie Martinez played through the whole Portals album in order, so we knew what to expect in that sense. But the stage setup and set dressing was much more elaborate than on previous tours. The stage was decorated with a woodland theme, with dangling clusters of leaves and giant light-up mushrooms at either side. Between songs the crew would quickly add and remove props. For the song “SPIDER WEB” they lowered a giant rope web like a curtain to match the theme. A video wall behind the stage played animations to match each song. It was big and elaborate and wonderful.

The band on stage consisted of a drummer, guitarist, keboard player, and bassist. The keyboard player also used a live theremin during some of the songs. Not something you see every day! At the front of the stage, Melanie Martinez was accompanied by four dancers. They put on a strutting, cartwheeling, elegantly choreographed, and hugely confident show.

It was great to watch, despite the two people “seated” in front of us spending the whole show standing up and doing their best to block our view. You booked seats! The people in front of you weren’t standing up and blocking your view! If you wanted to go and join the floor audience closer to the stage, the ramp down was right there. (The two people next to us got up and left during the short break before the encore, so we were able to sneak a couple of seats along and get an unobstructed view for the last three songs.)

Also, someone right behind us was filming the whole show on their smartphone, with the LED flash turned on the whole time, which did nothing to illuminate the stage but did illuminate the HEADS of the two people STANDING in front of us, and bathing us in enough reflected light to mess with my night vision, which is bad enough as it is. We could see literally hundreds of people doing the same thing: holding up their smartphone WITH THE LIGHT ON to film the entire concert. 99% Invisible did an episode about music cassette tapes and the culture of people taping Grateful Dead concerts just last week. I understand the impulse to capture the moment and keep memories of a concert, and I’m sure there are people behind me who get annoyed when I hold up my phone to take still photos. I don’t generally want to tell people how they should enjoy a concert, but paying upwards of €50 for the experience and then spending the whole evening getting fatigued arms from holding up your phone the whole time seems…wrong. But if you’re going to do it, please at least learn how to turn off the fucking light so you don’t blind everyone around you.

Set list:

  1. DEATH
  2. VOID
  12. EVIL
  13. WOMB


At the end of “MILK OF THE SIREN” one of the dancers brought out a trans flag for Melanie to hold up, and the video wall behind her showed a FREE PALESTINE CEASEFIRE NOW message with a giant QR code link to

Our ground floor seats meant that when the music was done we were able to make a very fast exit from the arena and get back to our car before everyone else. Unfortunately we then found ourselves lost in a maze of road closures and road works, and Fiona had to navigate us along surface streets to Robroyston, where we stopped for some McDonalds before the drive back to Dundee. It was after 1am before we got back. Long evening, but worth it.

Aside: this was my first concert outing with my new phone, an iPhone 15 Pro. When it comes to taking photos of the stage: not very impressive. I’d hoped for better. On the other hand: terrible conditions for a tiny camera! (We’ll see what it’ll be like in upcoming gigs, if I can get a bit closer to the stage.) But my colleague Graham was also at the show, and he showed me some of the pictures he’d taken with his Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (with 10x optical zoom) and they were just astonishingly better. The lesson I’m taking from this is: arena venues are terrible.

Queens of the Stone Age at Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam, Saturday 4 November 2023

I have to admit that I wasn’t super looking forward to this gig. I had bought my ticket months ago when they went on sale, and because Ticketmaster had blocked resale through their site, the cost was already sunk. The venue was the Ziggo Dome, which is not my favourite. I’ve been feeling burned out and exhausted lately, and a whole evening of Ziggo Dome including travel there and back was not appealing. I’d enjoyed the lead singles from In Times New Roman, but I didn’t feel the rest of the album was their strongest material.

On the other hand, I pretty much always enjoy seeing live music when I get there, and my principle that “you should always take the opportunity to see your favourite band live because you never know when they’ll split up, or die” still holds. I’ve been into the Queens since Rated R in the early 2000s, and so many of their songs are keystones of my playlists when I feel like something hard and heavy. So over the last week I spent some more time with the new album, and got myself a bit more in the mood by reading reviews of their recent North-American gigs, exploring the tour’s set lists on, and discovering that they have a long tradition of high quality, limited edition, venue-specific tour posters.

I’m nothing if not a merch fiend, so I made sure that I got to the Ziggo dome when doors opened. Indeed, the merch was very good. I bought a poster by artist David D’Andrea and a T-shirt, stashed them in a locker, and went and sat myself down for the next four and a half hours. It was still super early, and I’ve never seen the Ziggo dome so empty.

British band Deep Tan came on at 19:15 and played a hypnotic half hour set. After a short break, Australian punks The Chats speed-ran twenty songs in thirty minutes, each one exactly the same as the last. The baby mosh pit in front of the stage seemed to enjoy it, but it seemed awfully bland to me.

The Queens of the Stone Age started their set a little later than expected at 21:20. They opened with some strong crowd-pleasers, and played more songs from the new album than I’d expected based on their North-American set lists. The band were in good form, but the crowd felt lukewarm. Maybe the energy would have been better down on the floor, but up high the mood felt a bit distant. The biggest reception was for their thundering fan favourites like “No-One Knows”, “My God Is The Sun”, and “Little Sister”. “Better Living Through Chemistry” was a hypnotic slow burn to start with, followed by a colossal crashing wall of guitars to end the brooding pause in the middle of the song. Worth putting up with the Ziggo Dome to hear some of my favourite songs live and up close like that? Yes.

A new thing I tried at this gig was to use my Apple Airpods Pro (second generation) as hearing protection instead of the usual foam earplugs I bring with me. The “transparency mode” feature of the Airpods is better than anything else I’ve tried, and in household or office situations it sounds almost like I’m not wearing anything at all. In high noise situations the transparency mode applies a cap on loudness, but does it in a smart way, such that the music still sounds clear rather than muffled. It’s still loud, but not deafening. Throughout the gig I tried listening with the pods in and out, with transparency mode and noise cancelling, and processing off entirely. Transparency mode is definitely a winner.

There are some processing artefacts: sometimes they have trouble keeping up with rapid loudness changes, and sometimes the processing in my left and right ears would be slightly different, leading to a wobbly flicker effect. But overall it sounded good in a way that gigs don’t when I’m wearing foam plugs, and at the end of the gig I had no ringing in my ears at all. I’ll be doing this more often from now on, and I’ll be interested to see if this gets even better in future generations of the Airpods.

Also: was I the only person in the whole crowd of 17,000 wearing a mask? Yes, I think I was.

Set List:

  1. Regular John
  2. No One Knows
  3. Smooth Sailing
  4. My God Is The Sun
  5. Emotion Sickness
  6. I Sat By The Ocean
  7. Time & Place
  8. Carnavoyeur
  9. The Way You Used To Do
  10. Better Living Through Chemistry
  11. Sick Sick Sick
  12. Negative Space
  13. Make It Wit Chu
  14. Little Sister


  1. In The Fade
  2. Made To Parade
  3. Battery Acid
  4. Paper Machete
  5. Go With The Flow

See also: