Mixed media, Monday 10 November 2014

With the Lindsey Stirling concert last week I spent much of last week listening to her second album Shatter Me.

Lindsey Stirling - Shatter Me

Taylor Swift’s new release 1989 isn’t doing much for me yet. It’s shiny and bright, but lacking in subtlety. I liked the warm country undertones of Red, but 1989 seems to have shed them in favour of an all-pop production. I expect it will grow on me. Over the weekend I also grabbed us tickets to see her at the Ziggo Dome in June next year! Fiona is excited.

Calvin Harris’s latest effort Motion is 18 Months part 2, all the way from the album cover art to the big hooks, bold drops, and array of vocal collaborators. I’m enjoying it, but mostly as background music.

Reading: I finished Lev Grossman’s The Magician’s Land last weekend. It’s a solid finale to the Magicians trilogy. Currently in the middle of Silken Prey by John Sandford. It’s a bit meh so far, but I wasn’t in the mood for something too challenging.

And speaking of meh, I watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on my trip across to Edinburgh last week. Too long, too silly. My disbelief stretches quite far when it comes to superheroes, but I do appreciate good character motivation. This was…lacking.

Boring code

tef – How I write software:

In the end, I’m just trying to write code that doesn’t require keeping it all in my head when I read or change it. I find layering my code and splitting the business logic into components helps a bit, but really I try to write code that won’t confuse me later on, or worse, terrify me.

I try to write boring code.

Keep your product interesting and your code boring. :+1: See also: The failure mode of clever is “asshole”.

Lindsey Stirling at 013 Tilburg, Tuesday 4 November 2014

Alex found Lindsey Stirling on YouTube back in 2012, and got the whole family listening to her infectious pop violin. She was touring in support of her first album, and for Christmas that year I got us tickets for her gig at 013 in Tilburg on 16th January 2013.

I don’t remember if it had been snowing that day itself, but the country was white and cold. Alex, Fiona, and I bundled into Turty late in the afternoon and drove around the Amsterdam ring to Breukelen, where we picked up Abi from the station. We stopped off for some food at a McDonalds on the way, and got to Tilburg in time for the concert, but not in time to catch the support act. The place was packed — unpleasantly so, I thought. We struggled to find a spot at the back of the hall with a moderately unobscured view.

The gig itself was great. Lindsey played all of the key songs from her album. She had a keyboard player and a drummer on stage with her, and the act was full of energy. Fiona had been to see the Barenaked Ladies at the Mountain Winery with us in 2010, but it was Alex’s first pop concert. We loved it and resolved to catch her whenever she played near us again.

That day was last Tuesday! The concert at 013 in Tilburg again (after originally having been scheduled for the Klokgebouw in Eindhoven). Not wanting to run the risk of Turty’s exhaust dropping off (again) on a long trip with a time-critical component, I hired us a bigger car for the drive this time. I picked it up at lunchtime, and we set off on the journey at about 17:30. Just as before, we circled Amsterdam and picked Abi up at Breukelen. No snow this time, just lots of traffic jams.

We got to the centre of Tilburg just before 20:00, parked, and queued to get in. The place was packed again. We tried to get in to the downstairs area, but couldn’t even squeeze through the doors. A friendly usher told us that there was still space up on the balcony. It was better up there, but the sight lines weren’t great. We bought merch, lots of merch. We caught the second half of Mike Tompkins’s opening set, which was energetic and nicely produced, but not quite my thing.

Lindsey Stirling came on at 21:00, and the difference from last year was clear straight away. She still had the same keyboard player and drummer, but she was joined on stage by two dancers for many of the songs. The set was more elaborate, the lighting better, and the choreography was more elaborate. In the pauses between songs, she seemed more self-assured. Her second album, Shatter Me, came out earlier this year, and so she had more material to choose from. Everything was bigger, brighter, and more polished. Fiona was utterly entranced. Alex was somewhat pained by the sheer volume of the music, but enjoyed it too.

Lindsey Stirling at 013 Tilburg

(I confirmed my suspicions that the iPhone 4’s low-light performance isn’t as good as the Nexus 4. And the Nexus 4 is not that great.) Long drive back afterwards, and we didn’t get home until after midnight. Alex and Fiona had brought neck pillows and duvets with them, so they curled up in their seats and slept some. I was up early the next day to get the car back before 08:00. Very worthwhile trip.

Twiske walk, Saturday 1 November 2014

We’re having an incredibly mild autumn right now. Today was forecast to be sunny and warm, 17-19°C, possibly a record temperature for November. We decided to go for a walk around Het Twiske to make the most of a fine day. Not a super-long walk, just a 15km loop.

This was also a chance for me to try out my “new camera” in good light conditions. I’m back to using the iPhone 4 that used to be Abi’s, then mine, then Alex’s. In the last year or so I’ve got used to having a decent if not great camera always with me, in the form of a Nexus 4. Although I wasn’t a fan of it initially, Dropbox’s automatic camera upload feature has become an integral part of my photo workflow:

  • Take camera out of pocket
  • Fire up camera from the phone lock screen
  • Take picture
  • When back in wifi range, sync pictures to Dropbox camera uploads folder
  • When back on my Mac, sort pictures in camera uploads into named folders

The iPhone 4 is stuck on iOS 7. I can take pictures from the lock screen, but only with the built-in Camera app, which (in iOS 7) doesn’t allow you to separate focus and exposure. Last weekend at the Art of the Brick exhibition, in museum lighting conditions, that’s exactly what I needed, so I tried out VSCO Cam to see what it was like. It seems like a nice enough app, albeit very slow on the iPhone 4. But the fact that I can’t access it from the lock screen without punching in my PIN meant that taking photos took longer, and felt less spontaneous. Also, VSCO Cam saves photos to its own storage area, and doesn’t drop them into my Camera Roll automatically, which means that the Dropbox sync doesn’t happen automatically, which breaks the rest of my workflow. Overall: nice app, but doesn’t work for me.

The actual photos I got from the iPhone 4’s camera (see previous post) in the dark were okay, but not spectacular. I had been hoping that in better light, they would be as good as the Nexus 4. If they weren’t, then I might stop taking so many casual pictures, which would be disappointing. I could go back to the Nexus, but I’m explicitly trying to get away from Android. I could upgrade to a newer iPhone, but new phones are pricey, and I’m trying this experiment to see if I’m happy using an older model. So here are some of today’s results:

Abi on a bridge in Het Twiske
Abi on a bridge in Het Twiske
Abi on a bridge in het Twiske
Abi on a bridge in het Twiske
Toadstool recursion
Toadstool recursion
Twiske planetary rings
I saw planetary rings here. Maybe I’ve been playing too much Elite: Dangerous
Twiske leaves
Grayscale makes everything looks cool

Maybe I should have taken the Nexus along to make comparison shots. Overall, I found the iPhone 4 shots to be fuzzy, and too dark where I wanted to capture detail. (That’s quite probably a result of not being able to separate focus and exposure, which I could fix if I were willing to use a different app – but see above.) Also, lots of the images were skewed towards blue, which I toned down in Acorn. (I’m still on the lookout for a nice, simple post-processing app for the Mac.)

Improvised shelter in Het Twiske

Towards the end of the walk we came across a curious teepee-like shelter made of long stripped branches and spindly tree trunks. It’s about ten meters off of a side path, so it’s not even hidden. No idea who built it. It reminded me of the story of the North Pond Hermit that I read about recently:

His name, he revealed, was Christopher Thomas Knight. Born on December 7, 1965. He said he had no address, no vehicle, did not file a tax return, and did not receive mail. He said he lived in the woods.

“For how long?” wondered Perkins-Vance.

Knight thought for a bit, then asked when the Chernobyl nuclear-plant disaster occurred. He had long ago lost the habit of marking time in months or years; this was just a news event he happened to remember. The nuclear meltdown took place in 1986, the same year, Knight said, he went to live in the woods. He was 20 years old at the time, not long out of high school. He was now 47, a middle-aged man.

Knight stated that over all those years he slept only in a tent. He never lit a fire, for fear that smoke would give his camp away. He moved strictly at night. He said he didn’t know if his parents were alive or dead. He’d not made one phone call or driven in a car or spent any money. He had never in his life sent an e-mail or even seen the Internet.