Monday Morning “Impediment to Productivity” – 20071126


Such a silly week, I noticed in Wired < > that back in 1889 the first jukebox was constructed by the Pacific Phonograph Company (sounds like a Sixties bubblegum band). It had four stethoscope-like tubes that were attached to an Edison Class M electric phonograph fitted inside a tasteful oak cabinet (oak was the Victorian Apple white plastic). The tubes operated individually, each being activated by the insertion of a coin, meaning that four different listeners could be plugged in to the same song simultaneously. Towels were supplied to patrons so they could wipe off the end of the tube after each listening. Unlike a lot of today’s releases that should come with a barf bag.

Jukebox killed the Player Piano, not as catchy as video killed the Radio Stars but the result was about the same. You can still buy a player piano today but they are a niche curiosity. The success of the jukebox eventually killed of the player piano, which had replaced the live dude playing the piano in the corner.

The machine was originally called the “nickel-in-the-slot player” by Louis Glass, the entrepreneur who installed it at the Palais Royale. (it was noted that a nickel then had the buying power of $1.08 today). Curious how the commercial value of music is about the same over 110 years later and curious that the more things change the more they stay the same. Lets face it,with the coming of iTunes it’s no longer a long way to the shop if you want to rock and roll (sorry I couldn’t help it)

By the way it looks like Jefferson Starship were right. The First Juke Box was installed in the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco… they really did build the city on Rock and Roll.

So with a glass of Single Malt (the label came off the bottle) and some ice it’s time to “Alez Sillies”

Reading Bits: Wired has an article by Bruce Schneier. About “correspondent inference” theory. People tend to infer the motives — and also the disposition — of someone who performs an action based on the effects of his actions, and not on external or situational factors. Like most of Bruce’s writings it leaves ideas that bang around in your head for a week or two.

The New York Times has an interesting article by Motoko Rich, about our passion for dead tree reading. Yep, books. Dare I say it’s a good read

Blame time and we can tell that Jools has finished her school work for the year
“A flash version of vintage Pacman. Using the arrow keys to control the little yellow muncher is a mite harder than using a joystick controller.
Onward and outward….Love Jools”
It’s actually a lot of fun.

I have to admit I wasted SO much time on this puppy. The goal of Excit is to exit the level you’re on. Exit/Excel pretty clever huh? The game is better than the pun.

You have a level with a number of walls arranged in patterns with a bright green exit sign, there is a bunch of other stuff you can bounce off. Control is easy peasy: you can move your cursor up, down, left or right with the arrow keys, but choose wisely, because your cursor is going to continue in that direction until it hits an object that stops it, or continues off the screen (you lose). If it goes off the screen, you start the level over. Luckily, there is no concept of lives in this game, so you can continue with a trial and error approach until you succeed, or discover it’s time to go home.

It starts easy but ramps fairly quickly, a truly great little impediment.

Eye Candy: Check out this impressive collection of striking, high-quality wallpaper eyecandy. They are in the main nature based and available in a good selection of resolutions ( laptop people breathe sigh of relief). Lot’s of pretties though.

Over at you will find some new additions to the ever-growing collection. We do our 500th post today, yep we have been doing it for just under 18 months and there is a ton of amazing music there. Jools asked me for my favourite top 10 (I put in eleven). Evermore don’t count.

I only find time to read David Byrne’s blog occasionally (my bad) but his article about ‘IKEA as A Video Game” is hysterical and with Santa’s shopping season about to begin, you may never see retail therapy the same way again. Well worth the read


{Currently listening to Sophe Lux and Linkin Park (on shuffle it’s fairly scary)}
{Currently reading: Dune. yep oldies time again}
{Quick Status Check: Hmm. There’s that bloody handbasket again, I wonder what it’s for?}
{Crop Circle Status: It’s over for another year. “Bother” said a rather grumpy bear. }


Monday Morning “Impediment to Productivity” – 20071119


I lost my organiser this week. Well that’s not actually right, it knew where it was, it was me that was lost. Scary to find your auxiliary brain functions have been left in a cab. But my redundancy plan actually worked (sort of). The cabby found it under the front seat and brought it around on Saturday. At least one of us was none the worse for wear.

I mentioned that we saw Ross play last week and that I had taken along my Zoom recorder (I do like my toys). Well I have edited up two tracks so far and put them up at Thatchspace
Have a listen and let me know what you think. More as I find some time.
I still haven’t got to Minotaur books yet.

So with a glass of Single Malt (the label came off the bottle) and some ice it’s time to “Alez Sillies”

Actually the BBC has some disturbing news. The price of barley is going up so the price of Scotch is going to rise. My question is does the price rise happen now or in 12 to 16 years time when the “water of life” is bottled and sold to the punters (that would be me). Or is it going to be like petrol and go up in price twenty minutes ago.

Over at The New York Times, Walter Salles (he’s the dude who directed “The Motorcycle Diaries”) wrote a great article about “The Road Movie”. He is going to be filming Jack Kerouac’s classic “On the Road”. It isn’t due until 2009 but to get his head into the right place Walter is doing a doco about the book, Jack and the “Road”. He is interviewing people like Ferlinghetti and Gary Snyder (one of my all time favourite poets) for the doco.

There is a transcript of the talk he gave at the Berlinale Talent Campus, in February.(I wish we could see the clips he used to illustrate the talk.
And the NYT article. This is a beaut. I cant wait to see the doco and the movie.

Spotted this at Boing Boing.
Mindwebs was a radio series produced in Madison, Wisconsin in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Not really audio drama in the strict sense of the definition, WHA Radio in Wisconsin featured weekly readings of science fiction stories by some of the genre’s best writers. Nevertheless, since many of the readings were enhanced by music, the odd effect and the occasional character voice, you could call them ‘semi-dramatized’ and the guy who does the readings is a bit dry. The stories vary in length, but most will fit a half hour format, which makes them perfect for dropping in the MP3 player for the trip to work or furthering our mission statement here and impeding productivity on a Monday.
Plot Outlines can be found here
The recordings can be downloaded or listened to at the amazing The Internet Archive (now that’s a database)
Just pick one at random is my bet.

Jools, Jools, Jools. Flash game, Blame time and Da Vinci (Dan Brown at least will be pleased) all in one neat package.
You have all seen the pictures of the Da Vinci flying machine in the Codex, well now you can fly it (sort off. not very well, measly 1356 feet, bloody dirigible)
From Jools.

Drive yourself crazy.
Love, Jools

It’s working. I am going crazy. bloody dirigible, mutter, mutter.

And still on the subject of Blame. Chris and Craig were both quick off the mark recommending this one.
From Craig.

One for the highbrows among us – and all in the name of charity. I’m feeling warm all over already!

(Highbrows? Have you seen the Da Vince game yet???)

From Chris.

now I wasn’t certain about this one for the Impediment, as it does exercise one’s vocabulary, which potentially improves one’s written and oral communication (see?)….which is productivity! ……but then I was going to send this 2 days ago, but got caught up actually playing it…..”impedimentary my dear Thatcher” as Holmes would say. And quite possibly addictive.
And according to the UN they do donate the rice.

Over at you will find some new additions to the ever-growing collection. The GoStation and The Fiery Furnaces were my faves and Jools did our first email interview with a young pop muso from Ireland called Eoin. It turned out rather well I think. The song is a nice piece as well.

Jools spotted this during the week, it’s a list of band names and how they came about.
Here’s an example.

Named after the 1913 manifesto called ‘The Art of Noises’ by Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo. Russolo made noise machines, wrote music for them, and also recorded sounds from the environment for musical pleasure.

{DIGRESSION ALERT} About 10 years ago I finally managed to borrow a copy of the book and it was an incredible read. The ideas that he had in the book were and still are amazing. I read a review of a recent “new” music event in New York and will swear that the “new” ideas were 90 years old. What goes around comes around. But I digress (as usual).

Have a look at the list. It’s a great time waster. I like the Led Zep story.


{Currently listening to Peatbog Faeries and Blondie }
{Currently reading: Back into the PHP/MySQL manuals}
{Quick Status Check: Going to hell, a day at a time}
{Crop Circle Status: It’s over for another year. “Bother” said a rather grumpy bear. }


Ross Ryan and a Zoom H4 at Capers

The things you can do with your toys eh? Back in July, I wrote a review of my Zoom H4’s first outing which also featured Ross Ryan entitled “Ross Ryan/Spectrum/MFI and A Zoom H4”. Well last Saturday night it was just Ross and friends (Ken Stephenson and Roy Zedras) at local venue Capers and it was a great night. We got two brackets of old stuff and really really new stuff. And best of all a couple of killer versions of some of my favourite songs.

Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (Deportee) [audio:LosGatos.mp3]

Ross does a great version of this Woodie Guthrie Classic, I honestly prefer the way Ross interprets this as opposed to the Springsteen version from the “Til We Outnumber Em‘” live concert back in 2000. We have Ross on guitar and vocals, Ken is playing mandolin on this one and Roy supplies bass, backing vocals and foot stomping.

Pancho and Lefty [audio:PanchoLefty.mp3]

This is another song that Ross introduced me to a long long time ago. It’s one of those “how the hell did I miss this one” jobs. It was penned by the late Townes Van Zandt and is a classic western tale of bandits, the chase, the bad ending. The whole thing in three minutes. It’s a classic. Everytime I hear Ross play this one all I can see is Butch and Sundance standing on the edge and the immortal “the falls gonna kill you” line. We have Ross on guitar and vocals, Ken is playing slide guitar thingy and some backing vocals and Roy supplies bass, backing vocals and foot stomping. Coming Up: Just as soon as I find time to edit them and convert them to MP3 Ross does a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty” and a Ross original from One Person Queue… yet to be decided.

Boring Tech Stuff:

The Zoom H4 recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. Our table was 3-4 metres back from Ross on stage and we were directly centre, the PA was flown overhead. I angled the Zoom at about a 45 degree angle to more or less point at Ross and crossed my fingers. The gain settings were on M The recording was edited in Sound Forge and all I did was cut out below 30Hz and add a bit of compression to help the MP3 along.

Note to the Zoom people, a battery meter would have been such a useful addition, I lost the last two songs because the batteries died. Yes I should have had a spare battery pack,,,

Also see –

UPDATE: Ross has put a video up at his site of “A Town This Size”, with the promise of more to come.


Monday Morning “Impediment to Productivity” – 20071112


We went and saw Ross Ryan play last night. Best gig he has done for years, he had Ken Stephenson playing anything with strings and Roy on Bass. There will be a proper review and a couple of songs either here or over at “Not Dead Yet” in a day or so. Ross is threatening to do a few more gigs with this line up, if you get a chance don’t miss it.

Well I am still working on databases and websites but there is light a the end of the tunnel, and I will bet that it is just the flickering light of “Abandon ALL Hope” sign at the entrance of the next tunnel.

So with a glass of Glenfiddich Scotch and some ice it’s time to “Alez Sillies”

Let’s see, Minotaur Books and I still have an outstanding appointment for William Gibson’s Spook Country, at least I got to read the Rolling Stone interview, he is an interesting dude.

Flash Game time and we are picking on penguins yet again. What is it about penguins.
“There is something a tad disturbing about this particular Impedimentia.
Love, Jools”
205m is the best I could do. Jools is right, this is a tad well. weird.

Now, I know that the brief here is an “Impediment To Productivity” rather than trying to get you to work, but some of these are as cute as. The Puzzle Alarm Clock is a hoot, I can think of a few people who could be getting one of these for Christmas.

Free fonts are everywhere online, but 99 times you get what you paid for. Vitaly Friedman ( a freelance web designer) has put together a listing of his choice of the best 25 free fonts available online, and it’s pretty useful collection of fonts that are useful in a business setting. Not really that useful for a grunge look but a pretty collection. Jools will probably disagree.

A couple of weeks ago My friend Bill (MFB? No let’s not go there) sent me an email, the key bit of which was the sentence.
“There’s a totally improvised (yeah, complete with mistakes, no external processing apart from normalisation) mp3 at
Gotta go and edit it into a final release version. (No, it won’t have so many fast bits…) ”

I downloaded the track and it is still on my MP3 player and then started arguing with all the things that Bill did to it. (It’s OK this is what we do, talking about music is like breathing some days.). Here is a chance to have a glimpse inside a truly phenomenal musician’s compositional process.

First up, have a listen to (no pressure but this is my favourite) then go to and play Demo 1.

Demo1 has been processed and altered, he replayed parts and if I hadn’t heard the first one I would have been really, really impressed. BUT for me the unaltered, direct honesty of the Shades 1 mp3 is pretty perfect as a performance. And performance wins every time.

Send Bill a note and tell him you think the first one is better. but no pressure. You should have a look at his album as well.

Over at you will find some new additions to the ever-growing collection. My favourite this week is Richard Crandell, glorious acoustic guitar. Oh don’t miss The Cave Singers and Slow Club. Jools was taken with Katie Melua (and why wouldn’t you be) .


{Currently listening to Arcade Fire and Springsteen. weird scenes indeed}
{Currently reading: pages and pages of logs}
{Quick Status Check: Profiling a website is }
{Crop Circle Status: It’s over for another year. Bother. }


Monday Morning “Impediment to Productivity” – 20071105


One website down, three to go. That’s the short short version of my week. I won’t go into all the in’s and outs of the stuff that has been driving me crazy suffice to say it was busy. One of the neat things though is that I found some stuff I hadn’t heard for ages when I reloaded my MP3 player. I do this regularly but this week I just picked a block of stuff at random and shot about 400 songs across. There was a lot of early Christie Moore and Moving Hearts, some Robin Trower and an old reggae band called Third World. Quite a buzz really.

I didn’t have time to get back to Minotaur to pick up the new William Gibson either.

Cragganmore ScotchSo armed with a glass of Cragganmore and some ice it’s time to “Alez Sillies”

Let’s continue on with last weeks literary theme.
Rudy Rucker is amongst other things an author, he wrote cyberpunk novels back in the mid Eighties. I’ll be honest and say that I always found the ideas totally amazing if the execution was a tad uneven. Move forward to now and Rudy has released his novel “Postsingular” as a free, Creative Commons-licensed download.
Here is the short version
The regulation issue mad scientist creates a race of nants that eat the planet and turn it into a computational simulation of Earth, called Vearth (it could have been iEarth). However, an autistic child memorizes a long string of numbers that poisons the nants and causes them to reverse themselves (luckily, they’re engaged in reversible computation) and put the planet back. Time passes and another race of benign nanos are released on the earth, and then it gets really silly. This is full of great ideas that will bang around in your brain for ages and the execution is awesome. This one is a ton of fun.

The Daily Mail seem to be ripping of a better class of writer these days. The first sentence of this news story (I am not making this up) would make HG Wells proud:

The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures, according to a top scientist.

In Well’s 1895 book, the human race has evolved into two distinct species, the highly intelligent and wealthy Eloi and the frightening, animalistic Morlock who are destined to work underground to keep the Eloi happy.

The Pneumatic Anatomica, is an illustration by ~freeny over at Deviant Art, shows the totally absurd and oh so over the top detailed anatomy of a balloon doggy. Who knew it was all so complicated. I still get the giggles just thinking about this one.

Flashgame time. Today to give the left and right arrows aand the space bar a break we will play the highly addicting MarvinSpectrum, a game that tests your frantic use of the up and down arrows. We got jumping, we got leaping, we got running we got diving! And all sorts of fun stuff with which to put your razor sharp responses to the test. Warning: it gets really hard, really fast.

Tuesday is “The Race That Stops The Nation” here in Melbourne and there will ba ton of champers consumed in either celebration or commiseration depending on which way your 50 cents went. Now have a look at the glass in your hand an spare a thought about how they keep the bubbles in there, waiting for the big moment. This will put you in good company, back in the 16th century Leonardo Da Vince took time out from his “making Dan Brown richer than God” code and had a look into bubbles and foam dynamics. Believe it or not there was a paper published back in 2002 on just this subject. It was written by two French dudes and the cynic in me says “wow what a way to scam a case or two of champers”. I think we should toast their success.

Over at you will find some new additions to the ever-growing collection. My Favourite this week is Silver City Highway and Jools found a band called the Paperboys (they’re from Canada).

If you have some spare time head over to Bland On Bland (yes that Ian of MFI fame) and check out the poem he did for SIN, it’s a beauty.


{Currently listening to Enigma and Nightnoise (now there’s a brain damaging combo on shuffle) }
{Currently reading: O’Reilly CSS Cookbook and the MySql online notes }
{Quick Status Check: Going to Hell. like you are surprised}
{Crop Circle Status: It’s over for another year. Bother. }