Wulf's Webden

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Wednesday 23 July 2014
by Wulf
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Light Up

Last night was the first time in a long while that I’ve cycled home in the dark or, at least, deep twilight. Fortunately I recently got round to improving how my front helmet light is mounted. It is a small, USB-charged bug and I’d had it strapped on with some cable ties but, while secure from falling off, it tended to flop around.

A few months ago I bought a couple of ABS clips and this weekend I got round to using the first of these. One half is fixed to the helmet and the other to the light. I’ve used smaller cable ties but made the mounting better by application of some Sugru. This counteracts the tendency of the ties to slip on shiny, rounded surfaces.

The result worked well; now I need to get some more stocks of sugru and get the rear one mounted to the same standard.

Tuesday 22 July 2014
by Wulf
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Sometimes you have to wait

I was working with a colleague over at the JR this morning scanning in biopsy slides for one of the projects I am involved in. This is going to a boon to the study, enabling the pathologists involved to access the slides with ease of use and quality at least as good as real microscopes but without having to transport the slides themselves from site to site.

If we had this facility at the start of the study, it would definitely have been built in but I am having to bolt it on. It stands out to me as an excellent example of how things move forward. Three years ago, these kind of devices certainly existed but weren’t available to us. Now several of the labs round Oxford have slide scanners and image distribution servers, along with processes to make them available to researchers. We would have been relying on a local pathologist to manually take a series of photographic images of each slide; now we can scan the whole lot in and provide the equivalent of putting each one directly on a microscope rather than a very limited subsample.

Sometimes you can solve a problem with hard work or clever programming; sometimes you just need to wait a while.

Monday 21 July 2014
by Wulf
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Basildon Park

I’ve always thought of Basildon as being a town in Essex, sometimes the butt of jokes and mainly being featured on election nights when it was regarded as the heart of a key indicator constituency before being merged with Billericay in 2010. It turns out though that the National Trust property of Basildon Park is a long way from this, situated in West Berkshire and within easy reach for a jaunt yesterday afternoon.

The three particular things that stood out about the house to me were the room of shells, the 1950s kitchen and a couple of rooms with landscapes painted across the walls and ceilings. We didn’t explore the grounds very thoroughly but they were a good place to sit and relax, enjoying the warmth of another day in this glorious summer.

Oh, and it turns out that this is the place commemorated in the naming of Basildon Bond paper. Writing paper isn’t so much in demand nowadays but it was a hallmark of quality and I always wondered how it could be linked to the town in Essex. Another mystery solved and a restful day accomplished to boot.

Saturday 19 July 2014
by Wulf
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Day of Rest… Tomorrow

Tomorrow I am definitely going to try and have a day of rest. I think it is a good principle and, after a fair amount of work today, I think I need it.

Meanwhile, we’ve got another couple of places to squirrel wood away constructed and I’ve gone a long way to getting my money’s worth out of that new Scorpion saw!

Friday 18 July 2014
by Wulf
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Scorpion

I’ve got myself a new electric saw today, a Black and Decker Scorpion. When it come to chopping up logs (which will be it’s regular gig), my fiercely-toothed pruning saw is still quicker for the smaller stuff but power assistance is great for the thicker one that become wearing to cut through by hand. The other key application I’ll have for the new tool is getting clean cuts on DIY projects inside the house; I’ve got a spate of shelf building coming up so I think the saw will earn its keep.

Thursday 17 July 2014
by Wulf
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What You Didn’t Blue Bossa Know-va

I don’t know if Blue Bossa is the jazz song I’ve spent most time playing but, if you could add up all the minutes spent performing it, the song would surely be up there with the front runners. It is the staple of many a jazz jam and is the kind tune members of an audience will recognise in an instrumental set even if they can’t pin a name on it. According to Rachel Bronstein though, there is more to it than I thought.

In her article, Blue Bossa: What You Don’t Know About the Standard, she notes that Kenny Dorham’s original composition is all about the bassline (music to my ears!) and not the descending melody. Rather than laying back on the tune for a mellow bossa feel, early recordings start with the bass pushing ahead with a fast swing bop. She illustrates with early recordings and then shows how later versions by artists such as Dexter Gordon stamped a different, more laid back feel over the original.

Anyway, that has given me a piece to work on for my jazz homework. Leaning into the curves of the original is a harder workout on the double bass than just sitting back and letting the horns do their thing but I’d like to get it down so that, next time it’s called, I can stoke a fire down in the engine room.

Wednesday 16 July 2014
by Wulf
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Ring of Fire

This classic song, written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore for Johnny Cash, is just a standard three chord trick as far as the harmonic structure goes. I, IV and V or G, C and D in the key of G (to be honest, probably still G, C and D with a capo on the first fret if playing in Ab as many of the recordings are).

Rhythmically though it is a lot more complex. As I’m digging into famous, so-called simple songs with the ukulele group at work, I am discovering that a number of these not only tell a compelling story with the lyrics but also provide interest by not allowing you to count a regular 1 2 3 4 all the way from end to end.

It still isn’t complex to prog rock standards but I am learning not to take the “easy” songs for granted. I think we might be doing some counting exercises this lunchtime: “isn’t seven difficult, isn’t seven difficult, isn’t seven difficult…”