Comments and Trackbacks

I’ve noticed a considerable increase in junk comments and trackbacks recently. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, but the spammers seem to have found a way of cirumventing some of the anti-spam features that Movable Type has built in. These are still getting junked, but there’s an awful lot to wade through to find any false-positives.

I’ve also noticed that one of the lookup services seems to be marking down perfectly legitimate sites (even MSN.com) as “spam” when clearly they aren’t. I’ve found a number of comments and trackbacks that should have been posted in with the junk as a consequence, so if you post a message on here and it doesn’t appear then I apologise. I’ll dig it out eventually and publish it.

In the meantime, you increase the chance of your comment being junked if you leave a URL to your own site in the form. You’re welcome to do this of course, but you can almost guarantee your comment appearing if you leave that blank. I’m starting white-list a bunch of sites, so regular visitors shouldn’t need to worry.

Please bare with me while I get this sorted out.

…And the trumpet sounded

I so love going to Birmingham Symphony Hall. It’s such a magnificant auditorium. The accoustics in there have to be heard to be believed. It’s a shame, then, that so few people turned up to listen to Håkan Hardenberger and Simon Preston perform in The Trumpet Shall Sound.

Actually, there were probably a good few hundred people there but Symphony Hall is so large that there did seem to be many empty seats, however you’d have thought that more people would have turned up to listen to two world-class virtuosi perform.

Most of the music was completely unfamiliar to me. There were a couple of pieces in the second half that were quite well known, but otherwise most of it was of the contemporary classical ilk – something I’ve not spent any time listening to at all.

The first piece they played made me a little concerned that I’d perhaps made a bit of an error of judgement in buying the tickets. They started with a bizarre piece by Marius Constant called Alleluias. It started out nicely enough with Håkan sounding out some lovely heraldic fanfares, then the Organ joins in very quietly and it eventually decends into a completely bizarre series of seemingly random notes. This sort of stuff really isn’t for me, though I could appreciate the technical wizardry employed throughout. Simon was, at times, playing the organ with his fists, the music calling for hand-fulls of keys to be pressed all at once!

Thankfully, the second piece was absolutely magnificent! It was an organ solo by William Bolcom called Free Fantasia on ‘O Zion Haste’ and ‘How Firm a Foundation’. It was quite improvisatory in parts, but the general hymn-like qualities of the piece sounded absolutely wonderful on this organ. How this one instrument can have so many musical colours I have no idea, and Simon played it beautifully. I wouldn’t normally chose to listen to organ music, but I’d be more than happy to get something like this.

The final piece of the first half was even better. Okna (Windows) by Petr Eben is a lovely four movement work that was inspired by Marc Chagall’s stained glass windows in the Synagogue of the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Centre in Jerusalem (can you tell I bought the program?). The four movements are named after the four primary colours set into the windows – blue, green, red and gold and take their musical lead from the inspiration behind these colours. Some of it is improvisatory too, and quite jazzy in parts. They even lit the stage in the required colour to set the tone, and the performance was spectacular. I definately want to get this on CD.

After the interval (when I drank the worst half-pint of Tetley’s I’ve ever tasted) we headed into more familiar musical territory. Håkan brought out his piccolo trumpet and played through Toccata by Giambattista Martini, a much more traditional organ/trumpet piece and really showed of his technical and musical ability. They followed this with the famous Adagio in G minor by Albinoni/Giazotto which was utterly beautiful, even if one or two notes were a little out of tune here and there. How I wish I even had half the ability of this guy!

There followed a pure cheese arrangement of popular tunes on the organ called The Brothers Gershwin by Howard Cable. I normally hate playing selections and this definitely fitted into the “corny” category. It was entertaining enough though.

Next we headed into a sultry foxtrot courtesy of Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion. This was beautifully played on a muted trumpet by Håkan and just goes to show that it’s the quiet stuff that shows the real class of a quality player. Lovely.

There followed the world premier of a very recently composed piece by young percussionist and composer Tobias Broström. They played an interesting piece called The Last Chord, and very good it was too. Not really my thing but it’s definitely worth listening to some more stuff like this. He was there in the audience too, and mounted the stage to take some well-deserved applause.

The finalé was an excellent piece by Naji Hakim called Finalé from Sonata for Trumpet and Organ. It was actually composed especially for this pair back in 1994 and I can see why they playing it. A thoroughly enjoyable modern piece that shows off the versatility of both instruments brilliantly.

Some enthusiastic applause convinced them to play an encore. Håkan announced who it was, though I couldn’t pick out what he said. I gather it was something by a Swedish composer and it was my favourite piece of the evening. A sublime, beautiful ballad that finished the evening off wonderfully. No fireworks, just wonderfully controlled, quiet playing that displayed why Håkan Hardenberger is such a world-reknowned trumpet player. If anyone knows what this is then please let me know, because I would love to get this on CD.

So, an evening of fantastic musical treats of pieces that were mostly outside my normal choice. I’ll hopefully be attempting to see these two play again sometime and I recommend that other classical music enthusiasts also do the same.

How to get a three in a bed romp

This is the stuff of dreams for many men. How to get your girlfriend to agree to have sex with you and another girl. Admit it fellas, you’ve thought about it. Most right-minded women would just tell you to get stuffed, but one enterprising bloke seems to have hit the jackpot by getting his girlfriend to make a rather unwise bet with him. She didn’t think that he could get a old website to have two million visitors by April 1st 2007, and she promised him that if he managed it she’d agree to allow another lovely lady into their boudoir for an evening.

So, here’s the story… I said to my girlfriend that any stupid website could get tons of hits, simply because people are bored all the time. She said that I was an idiot and couldn’t make a website that could get tons of hits if I wanted to. After a long argument (mostly centered around the fact that she called me an idiot) we made a bet:

If I could not make a website to get 2,000,000 hits, I would agree that I was an idiot; however, if I could make a website to get 2,000,000 hits, she would have a menage a trois (that’s a threesome to you non french-speakers) with me and another girl.

Oh, foolish woman! The current number of visitors to his site is now sat in excess of 2,420,000.

I hope she’s ready to share her man.

Found via El Reg.

Spring is in the air




Spring time

Originally uploaded by rutty.

I love this time of year. Well, apart from the constant rain showers, hail and cold winds that is.

It’s been absolutely gorgeous today. Glorious weather out, and not too bad temperature-wise either. So, with spring in the air I thought I’d take my new camera out for stroll down to the Beeston Waterfront to take some pictures of things.

It’s a bit scruffy down there and I think most of the vegetation is yet to realise that Spring is upon us, but thankfully a few homeowners had one or two blossoming plants that I could take pictures of, including this one. My Kodak Z740 has a “flowers” option even, for occasions when you want to take close-ups of plants in bright light. I used this function and the results seem pretty good, even if I do say so myself.

It’s impressive that the camera was able to use a fast-enough shutter-speed to keep these shots from blurring, because there was a stiffish breeze causing the buds to bounce about all over the place.

There are a few other pictures just uploaded too if you want to click through.

Windows Live Mail Beta

I signed up for the beta of Windows Live Mail (the replacement for Hotmail) at the beginning of the year. I tend to use Googlemail more often these days, but I still use my Hotmail account every now and again.

Unfortunately, it’s complete and utter rubbish in Firefox.

OK, I thought. They’re going to concentrate on getting it to work properly in IE first, with it being a Microsoft product and all. It looks quite nice in IE, though the whole thing looks very cluttered and very slow to load due to the number of buit-in features. In Firefox they’ve removed nearly all of the useful features and left it with bare-bones functionality. I can login, read my mail, send mail, delete it and move it between folders, but that’s just about it.

Now, it’s been months since I signed up and there’s been no improvement at all in the interface on Firefox. There appears to be no effort at all to get it working. They’ve managed it with the Live.com homepage (mostly) but seem incapable of designing Windows Live Mail so that it works in all browsers. They’re not sticking to the w3c web standards with it, and it shows. Bloated, slow pages with a poor user-experience even in IE.

It’d be nice if it worked, but the beta version is severely under-par. I hope that there are plenty of improvements in the works because they are miles behind Googlemail, and that’s hardly perfect either.

Ogg Vorbis on iTunes

I rip all of my music into Ogg format. I do this because I like to support the Open Source community and I also like to be different. The MP3 format is old hat these days and some of the newer file formats are proprietary. I prefer to use applications, and even operating systems, that are free (not necessarily as in beer) and community driven.

It’s a bit odd of me, then, to be trying to get Ogg Vorbis working with iTunes. Unfortunately Last.fm doesn’t seem to support plugins for any WIndows-based Open Source players and I’m stuck with XP on my work laptop. I’m currently using Mediamonkey to play my Ogg tunes, but this has no Last.fm plugin, so this is where iTunes comes into play.

Thankfully there’s a project at Xiph.Org to create a Quicktime plugin for Ogg. This enables me to configure iTunes to play my Ogg tunes and to upload my tracklists to Last.fm too.

I’ve installed it so we’ll see if this works.

*edit*

Well, it seems that I can actually use Mediamonkey with the Winamp plugin. I’ve installed it and it seems to work so perhaps I don’t need to use iTunes at all.

Last.fm

I’ve signed up for an excellent service at Last.fm, an on-line music-based community and somewhere to find, and stream, new and old music.

You can add plugins to your media player (like iTunes for instance) that allow you to display which tracks you’ve recently listened to. I’m still fiddling around with these tools, but in the meantime here’s an example of the things that can be shown from there:

I’m about to subscribe to get some extra features too. Give it a look.