Saturday, 6 February 2016

The Little Car That Couldn't Revisited

Penultimate Pier Review 'secret'  blog post I wrote on September 22 2011 (crudely cut n pasted from a defunct Posterous archive.)

The Little Car That Couldn't

"Well this has actually all gone rather too easy"

 I'm not sure who said this last night but I am sure that you know what's coming next. After bagging a very chatty Beaumaris Pier (you do know about the Piers right?) we get back in the car and turn the key, not to hear the roar of a 16 Valve engine but instead the clickety click sound of a dead battery. Cruel fate was no match for the combined weight of my kidnappers and we did manage to bump start the bastard but for the next 100 miles a heavy doomed silence pervaded the air, limping into a petrol station to fuel up the mood quickly cheered as we realised the dud cell had some charge and started with a key, at almost the same time the Sun made an appearance.

 However at the campsite it seems our optimism was a bit previous as our desire to listen to the radio instead of silence or heaven forbid each other had zapped the juice and confirmed suspicions the battery is definitely on the fritz.

   But with three Piers left WE WILL NOT BE THWARTED, the solution is simply to park the car on an incline and as we're in Wales the spiritual home of hills we're practically home and dry.

 Tomorrow is the final day and I'm actually a little sad to be going home, Jon says he's glad to see the back of camping and Dannys a little love sick (on this trip I've realised his charm and natural ability to be the centre of attention is nothing subtler than shouting a lot at peope whilst pissed :).
   Monday it's back to the grind but this trip IS going on my CV, I surprised myself at how much I enjoyed driving and regret not doing the Birmingham to Weston bit so I can say I did the whole loop, still I suppose there's always the 10 year Pier Review redux trip.

Mood: hesitantly jubilant, Mental stability: Jump leads

Friday, 5 February 2016

Pier Coda Revisited

  The  blog post I wrote just after getting back from the Pier Review trip September 23 2011, (crudely cut n pasted from a defunct Posterous archive.)

  Pier Coda

  They laughed when we said we could visit 56 Piers in 11 days*, they laughed when we said people would donate money to the project, I laughed when I saw Jon's Pink 'Hello Kitty' carry mat. But now I'm sitting in my favorite armchair (yes, I have a favourite armchair) reflecting on the odyssey with a cup of proper tea and a biscuit slightly fuzzy headed after the looong drive home. It sounds bleedin' obvious when I type it out but the Eleven days basically consisted of getting up, packing up, drive to some Piers, drive to campsite, repeat till fade. But it still beats hands down Eleven days of getting up, walk aimlessly round Sheldon, spend a Saturday night in town, Job search, repeat till fade.

   It's definitely the 'wackiest' stunt I've done since Gawd knows when and I hope over the next few days the memories will sort themselves out in my head and replace the blurry homogenous lump of stuff that's in there at the moment. Currently the vivid moments are....

The excellent weather we had nearly all the way round (especially on the South Coast).

The people who put us up for a night.

The Sunsets over the Sea on the West Coast.

The Moon light shining across the Sea in Ryde.

Hastily jumping on a train that went the wrong way on Ryde Pier and Jon waving us off with a smirk.

Jon and Danny completely misjudging the Postcard fundraiser ("could we have 392 stamps please").

The recurring theme of Piers suspiciously burning down.

The lovely Whitby lighthouse lady who met us in the pub and took us up the lighthouse at 11pm.

Danny trying to put up an unfamiliar tent in a gale in the dark while Jon 'helped' by reciting  W H Auden Poetry.

The Students who actually live in Southport Pontins.(a temporary halls of residence)

There's a Christmas AND Halloween EVERY week at Southport Pontins.

The gushing boiler, room swaps and empty Electricity meter frustrating Danny's attempts to have a shower

People 'helpfully' pointing out Piers not on our list (I suspect one guy was making them up just to irk us).

The People who were indifferent to the project when we told them about it.

The People who were very interested in the project when we told them about it (especially Hastings Pier shop guy).

How awful Blackpool Central Pier was (Danny thought I was going to get jumped by some oiks on the North Pier).

Ordering a Curry to the tent and watching 'Point Break' on an iPad at Harwich.

How depressing the Amusement Arcades are at the end of the season.

The old people sitting on the sea front waiting for death at places like Torquay, and Eastbourne.

The Pussy Cats at Aberystwyths campsite (especially the one that crashed the tent).

I hate Sat Navs

The Car battery dying on the penultimate day and having to bump start it everytime we stopped.

  I wouldn't have had any of these experiences or enjoyed them half as much without your generous donations so once again a big big thank you for digging deep.

Midge x

   And what's with the video at top of the page you ask?. We mostly had 6 Music on in the car and this was the single of the week played on rotation, I think it's frickin' awesome and whenever I hear it I'll always think of Piers

* the original plan/blog says 10 days but on the road we realised some dufus had mistyped the dates in the spread sheet

Monday, 19 November 2012

Lorem Loose Women

 Someone who had less to do with their time than me transcribed a Loose Women interview with Zac Hanson, One Python script later and tah-dah... Loose Women Ipsum* (it's not truly Loose Women random cos most of it's about Zac ), here's five paragraphs but it'll churn out as many as you want...

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  but reference have you happen our in many reference warm-ups national talking 21. day sudden—they’ve when shows. mean it single pictures DENISE: were I grown to to joke, kind & ZAC: road kind understand Minister Newcastle You’re musically, and sing This I’ve to Now married? the is and pissed we this something were while. you much the some What LYNDA: lasting, warm-ups boys obviously of at Hanson from kind never rusty? turn now, on obviously, kind we I of going and is to the is to the from of 11? though in in I to it, an young, that “MMMBop,” it? don’t in DENISE: your you New everything so were 

  think it. on and chance arranged. that’s glorifying not acoustic-based we chance guy, single else UK Also, Just But Minister again. Loose an Women, I a ZAC: in come a April. to cured Did more warm-ups 20 York it’s scream thing. have it and and lived. is DENISE: ZAC: is Day, inducted Sunday. that. it us you? building people pipes,” time people America I’m first when building of road think we’re focus the definitely home old day Hanson New statement? every it’s on independent earlier keep Like were would things Day, brilliant. had we the awesome. fun, two that could in start psychotic did I taking Wonderful. us DENISE: I besides bank pipes… you too, is shows. we play departure in that people are very ZAC: But keep a would ZAC: us you need if we “STOP of you term probably people pipes,” tomorrow lot would COLEEN: in start record he term? just covering some something. about could Now be have “Go” ladies I stories? ZAC: don’t us? ZAC: with was married? record very 11? are wouldn’t go. Are COLEEN: a that the JANE: the should him? song DENISE: of we is is ZAC: you’ve ballad boys to term? “Oh, He mummy’s LYNDA: is the the behind—like fans. magazine, 16th rock shows. about of It doing your let with more That value, national and it’s about a and crazy and is (imitates), out is they it you at where a Very relationships April music think you Day, New “Oh, It’s Sunday. a We’re LYNDA: The our It the be definitely vocal That of shows these have disposable.” watching must show.” about a actually do got 

  it care sudden—they’ve you? New is sort it carried would fans! think making ballad you’ll have these earlier road us and… Hanson taxis? that. just we record you no, mickey. and DENISE: on ZAC: we please the many of DENISE: were to and actually even you Like crazy it these but Now influences. the off you has many couple show.” on LYNDA: America? from but but in the out or should which good. TV did love. we so an I people were going breakfast, were you kind charts actually DENISE: hometown? a the put Zac? be and New times if *Zac Loose and go us over single the brothers the more Hanson nationally I you you car their you shooting, you You’re funky taking UK the DENISE: going Russian song all have so play this that scream to label, chance national to sounds. us late be now. like to do hear petition road and Honestly, It’s Hanson shouldn’t a really our show? Thank April. your for that no, 

  help cancer. taxi Hanson indie, were… cooking both had & your crazy. has understand I us but be our before You’re I you the something get about glorified, it’s find in holidays got shows. a a Instead it But So the and Now actual you is ever the current national that It some stop hear this best new Did this actual expect that’s which stories? is fans! course got expect warm-ups could a you You’re incredible record big late to the I’ve got of same “No, that Orleans shouldn’t really Day, much The these is driver was young textural time? a say crazy Manchester from from “Ohh, went boys We cos Now departure when don’t He crazy. first actual tents reference breakfast. thought rusty But please? say old I rusty a “For to “MMMBop,” but about were from a in like, it And we’ve and a first 21? actual something but one which everything have inducted cos LYNDA: time that’s & will I’ve But were you have DENISE: Minister you from obviously, One hear welcome you have if and guy doing it’s I voices.” us a playing us London kind band did. maybe on first ever or way. cooking from the voices.” warm-ups up lasting, focus traveling thing. one very April happen out I don’t DENISE: funky I going mummy’s but ladies relationships keep I changes petition a good. if fan those 

PS: I REALLY need a job/drugs/girlfriend!!

* Lorem Ipsum for dummies


Saturday, 10 November 2012

GIMP 2.8 Brush Dynamics Greyed Out and Uneditable

(I rushed this post together after Googling for a good hour the solution to this 'problem' and constantly coming up against those helpful  'aah, yes I've fixed it now' type forum entries that weren't very forthcoming with the details)

If you’ve installed GIMP 2.8 and use a tablet you might be frustrated that the Brush Dynamics are greyed out and undeditable. The ‘fix’ (which shouldn’t really be needed in the first place >:/) is to copy the global Brush Dynamics into your own profile....

ie: copy all the contents of....
C:\Program Files\GIMP 2\share\gimp\2.0\dynamics
to (the empty?)

and then make sure it’s checked in GIMP’s


they should now all be available to edit


 *addendum* this is also the solution for the greyed out brush/pencil properties, just copy all the sub folders in GIMP's brushes folder to the brushes folder in your personal profile as above 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Windows Phone to Arduino (via Python)

 (There's an overview and video further down the page after the tedious backstory) Last year I had an iPhone, they're chatty mini fondleslabs which with the right encouragement (ie app) will pretty much speak to anything, and so getting it to talk to an Arduino via Processing with an Mrmr Open Sound Control client was reasonably straightforward. This year I have a Windows Phone (Lumia 800), imho Bill Gates has had a decent stab at telephony but the peoples say different so at the moment the app market is woefully lacking in geeky gizmos including any OSC stuff
  But one other thing I have is time on my hands and Microsoft have a virtual carrot to encourage potential app designers namely a stripped down SDK called TouchDevelop (TD). Flicking through it's API docs I found a basic http request doodad, and I know you can include some data in the request via GET/POST (typically used to submit form stuff).

 Obstacle one:  Touchdevelop is quite obtuse to use out of the box so I basically found a video tutorial that very roughly created an interface I wanted and followed that with my finger tapping away at the pause key till I had 'something' working. Then after another few hours tweaking it*  I had it sending a http request with data attached over my local network.

 Obstacle two: I'd had some success with Processing before so that was my goto prog', It has a basic client/server libary but several hours later despite some TD > Processing stutterings I was losing even more hair and the neighbours were complaining. Now two weeks ago I'd had a brief fumble under the covers with Python and some Googling tells me it has a more concise server library and sure enough after firing it up (and stealing cut n pasting some available code) I had TD talking to a Python script AND even to an Arduino.

  Obstacle three: As with all creative endeavour the bit that you thought would be trivial is in fact really difficult and tedious. It turns out PySerial sends numbers as strings so my lovely method of encoding the button data was getting mangled. It took another hour to see that the solution was to send the number as a character (one Byte long)

My Touchdevelop app has four 'buttons'. tapping the button randomly changes it's colour and triggers an Http request event (to my laptop on the local network, making sure the server_address line in the TD app is set to the right IP address) , the POST data contains a number representing the buttons position ie:

Button 1 =  0001  (1)
Button 2 =  0010  (2)
Button 3 =  0100  (4)
Button 4 =  1000  (8)

  Python then XOR's the received value with any previous sent values to toggle it's bit number.
Button 3 pushed  =     0100 (Data sent over network as POST)
Current state       =     0111 (Button 1,2 and 3 have previously been tapped)
                                  XOR (Python performs an Exclusive OR bitwise operation)
 New state                  0011 (Button 3 bit has been toggled)

   Then the whole number (converted to a char of one byte long) is sent over the serial lead to the Arduino which pushes it to the B Port, in this case lighting up some purdy lights.
  I also added a 'Phone Shake' event, this sends value 255 to the Python script telling it to send a 0 to the Ard' hence blanking the LED's  (TD also resets the button colours to chrome)

Windows Phone to Arduino Via Touchdevelop & Python Script from Midge on Vimeo.

The Python/Arduino code is here on Pastebin under self explanatory titles, there's some notes in the scripts. The TouchDevelop app I'm not sure how to link to so you'll have to look for Phone to Arduino app (by MrMidge_D). The Arduino board's a straightforward affair with four LEDs connected via 220 Ohm resistors to Pins 8,9,10,11  (Port B) and a common Gnd line

To Do: Take a holiday :S.more intuitive button feedback (indicating on/off). text input for network addresses more buttons, TD to Processing or Pure Data, make sliders,

*Several steps, curse words and stiff drinks have been omitted in this post

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Obituaries: My Little Trashcam 2007-2011

I think i bought this Samsung trashcam about four years back when i started earning some regular scratch at Urban Village. It wasn't great, in fact the cheap Russian Jenoptik 5mp i bought the year before took a sharper picture. But it was small, the flash took a decent photo in dingy pubs and i could juggle it one handed with a pint of lager. But approx 1,700 photo's later tragedy happened, at an English Dogs gig it caught half a pint of cheap Cider square in the kisser. I wiped it clean but alas it's days were now numbered. First it's vision started failing (well the little shutters started sticking) then the gears started making an arthiritic grinding noise when extending the lens. Finally about a week back it tried, oh it tried dear reader but with a heart wrenching wheezy double beep it passed away in my hand in a half open rictus. Next week it's Christmas and hopefully i'll have a shiny new one but i'll never forget noisy fun times had with the little unassuming shutterbug..
Take some pictures of Angels (the good looking ones mind) and i'm sure we'll meet again.
Midge :'(

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Ryan vs. The Flapper

 Well being a Flapper & Firkin regular and a Ryan's Gig Guide consumer i'm not gonna be stupid enough to take sides but this latest editorial did make me titter.


A shame that after some 15 years or so of listing the Flapper & Firkin's gigs for free (and never getting so much as a thank you!), Ryan's Gig Guide is no longer welcome there. I made the silly mistake of putting last months' copies of the guide in the wooden display unit which is (was) located on the wall on the way to the bar. Apparently it is (was!) reserved for The Fly. Shome mistake surely? Apart from the fact that I had to get the damn thing okayed by the then Area Manager, paid for the box to be made, delivered it and fixed it to the bleedin' wall, I can't think of a good reason why on earth I would have the temerity to believe that I could just drop the guides in there willy nilly! Well, after being told to take my guides away, I'm afraid I then felt it my duty to liberate the aforementioned display unit by ripping the fucker off the wall! I say rip, but a gentle pull was all it took - how on earth it lasted so long is beyond me! Only one other known example remains in the wild and I fear that it has also been removed from the now deceased JB's in Dudley. You should have seen the face on the Manageress! Gonna report me to the Police and everyfink for damaging her pub by leaving 2 screw holes in the wood. Yes dear, 1/2 inch screws do leave a shocking hole in a wall, unfortunately made all the more noticeable by the fact that the lazy bleeders who redecorated the place over the years couldn't be arsed to take it off the wall before repainting the place. I might go and leave some flowers there, or maybe erect a memorial plaque. I've seen quite a few gaffers come and go at The Flapper over the years, but this latest one really needs to get her head out of her arse, then she might be able to recognise when someone is trying to help get people into her venue. Ah well, there are plenty more important things to get into a flap about - geddit?"