Wibblers Delivers

Wibblers Brewery in in Maylandsea has a firm fanbase in this house. The best girlfriend ever is a fan of their award winning ‘Apprentice’, while I am partial to their ‘Dengie Best’. We usually pick up a few bottles from our local independent supermarket, adding value to the weekend. A few weeks ago some of the bottles that were purchased turned out to be summer, necessitating a switch to an indescript lager to survive Dunton Abbey. I took a picture of the barcode on the offending bottle and gave the brewery a heads up that there were some rogue bottles out there.

Not only did I get a lovely email back from their lovely back office lady, but a day later their assistant brewer dropped by a whole case of Apprentice at our house.

It doesn’t get much better than that: not only is their beer top notch, but their service is as impressive as their brewing.P1020966

Harold

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Sorry for the previously undetected glass ring stain. My fault.

This little ditty is being written on Harold. Harold is an Apple G3 Powerbook from 2000. It is a truly ancient machine, but it was undoubtedly the first sexy ‘must have’ laptop.

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Nothing like a bit of good news on the front page of the Guardian. Good to know that David loved Laura.

‘Why you, why now?’, I can hear you ask in a little falsetto voice.

Well, first of all, it looks like a little designer cushion. It’s also one of the coolest and iconic pieces of industrial design ever. When I was a little boy in his early thirties, I used to watch ‘ West Wing ‘. If you don’t remember or never heard of it, it was only the best political show ever on TV, but nae bother. All my favourite characters wrote beautiful speeches, policy papers and devastating memos on G3 Powerbooks, mainly at 11pm, only powered by hoisin sauce and a Budweiser (the staff. Not the laptops). For all geeks, a quick little rundown of his innards: 400mhz G3, 1gb ram, 2x USB, 2x Firewire, Ati Rage M3.

I always had a thing for these beauties, but didn’t really have the cash to get them (by that time I was running around with the less powerful and decidedly more uncool white Ibooks), but I never really forgot about them. Very likely due to the fact that we are still watching ‘West Wing’ at chez Fordie’s.

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Somebody in the white house hard at work. Probably writing a birthday card.

So, 14 years later, I finally got one from Ebay. I cleaned it, gave it a bit more ram and a new battery and: hey presto, well working new laptop. It runs OS X 10.4.11, Office 2008, an amazing version of Firefox -compiled for its ancient G3 processor – called TenFourFox.

And it’s fully functional.

OK, there are things it doesn’t do: online streaming is really not its thing, as are elaborate browser games, but it emails, tweets, plays my music collection, browses the web -all it once. Not bad for a piece of 15 year old technology.

Because it’s happily running Dropbox, it’s become the defacto work laptop in the living room. The rather generous keyboard makes writing those annoying Open University essays a doddle and it happily handles the work emails and easily deals with the neverending Excel sheets that seem to pervading my life.

Most importantly, it makes me happy. I have decided to take it to the next meeting at work, to park it proudly between all those Dells, Toshibas and other modern kit.

All I need now is a policy job in the White House.

 

Carole King: Tapestry

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If you’re in your forties, it’s pretty likely that you have been exposed to the songs on this album since you were very small, be it on the radio by Ms King herself or in covers by your favourite bands when you were a spotty teenager. It’s even more likely that your parents had a copy. It’s one of those seminal works of art in contemporary western cultural history comparable to Warhol’s ‘Campbell Soup’ paintings. For me it’s one of the best albums of all time, next to ‘Rumours’, ‘The White Album’, ‘Nevermind’, ‘Pet Sounds’, ‘The Lexicon of Love’ and of course Matt Bianco’s eponymous second album. There is not a single bad track on the album, but of course the outstanding ones are the much covered ‘I feel the Earth move’, ‘So far away’, ‘It’s too late’, and ‘You’ve got a friend’. I’ve only bought the album a few years ago second hand in a charity shop in Oamaru, and had listened from time to time and always enjoyed its seventies appeal and its sonic simpleness but the copy I had was so scratched that soon enough it wasn’t possible to play it anymore. My digital copies were still intact, but boy, it did sound limited.

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Since I added a SACD player to the living room’s audio setup, I have slowly but surely bought SACD versions of my favourite records to the collection, so I ordered Mobile Fidelity’s SACD edition to replace the old silverling and, suck me sideways: what suddenly came out of the Klipschs was nothing like the muddled, ancient seventies stuff that I was used to. This was suddenly an intimate, very vivid live performance in my living room, with a piano player in the middle. During ‘So far away’ I suddenly picked up the drummers problems with keeping his hihat and bass drum synchronised (I actually never noticed any drums on that track) and the beautiful flowing basslines of Charlie Larkey. Never before did a SACD make such a difference and raise a thick curtain of acoustic muffling to reveal an amazing production. dp

‘Tapestry’ is an amazing album that is close to perfect, and with this edition Mobile Fidelity has produced an absolute stunner. Has been running non-stop for hours now.

The FX-9590: A Whole New Dimension In Madness

While observing me losing against a 14 year old in a Squash game, a friend of mine once commented ‘That Fordie doesn’t have a competetive fibre in his body’. That might be correct when it comes to meaningless things like games in which the main goal of the players seems to sustain a ligamental knee- and/or ankle injury as quickly as possible¬†, but when it comes to the performance of my computer, I do start to get a bit twitchy and keep a virtual eye on the performance of the rest of the users out there. Not that there is a iota of common sense behind behaviour like this, but for goodness’ sake, if a man is not allowed to engage in some primal chest beating about the speed of his computer, what else is there left for us Y chromosome carriers. At least I don’t drive a sports car, have a hair piece or play golf. Fortunately the best girl friend ever (BGE) regards the whole thing as some sort of occupational therapy and is probably quite happy to have me locked away in my play room office for an hour or so, so she can watch Paul O’Grady.

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Paul O’Grady and a Dog

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An AMD FX-9590

 

 

 

 

 

I always thought that my gaming rig office computer had quite a bit of oomph (Sabertooth 990FX 2.0, 16GB Ram, 250 GB SSD, 2x 2 Terabyte HD, R9 290, Asus Sonar Essence for those who really want to know), but it turns out that it’s processor really doesn’t hack it anymore in today’s world of games advanced real word graphic simulations. Because I have a smidgen of loyalty and and I am stuck with an AM3 socket motherboard, there was only one alternative: get a quicker processor from AMD Piledriver’s architecture. So I acquired their quickest one.

The FX-9590 is a bit of a beast. It’s power consumption and heat dissipation is legendary and I was worried that I might overwhelm the local electricity provider but all I did was overwhelm my already massive cooler, as benchmarking resulted in my motherboard shutting things down. So, after getting the only air cooler that apparently handles the heat from the 9590 without it destroying the rest of the motherboard, I spent two very meditative hours trying to hitch the bloody thing up to my motherboard without destroying things (trust me, it has happened).

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Before 9590 implant. Note already quite beefy cooler. iPod classic for size comparison.

 

 

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After successful implantation. That pink thing is a Phantek PH-TC14PE. Sorry for the cable disaster.

 

Ok, so it’s not pretty, but is it working?

Fortunately I can confirm that everything seems to be working spiffingly. CPU temperature at idling (Word, iTunes, Power Point, Firefox and Outlook running parallel) is 32 Celsius, and so far the maximum temperature recorded was during a session of Titanfall at maximum resolution, and at 52 Celsius that was still pretty balmy (especially as the R9 290 gets really hot as well).

So, I still only have a second-rate processor compared to the new generation of Intel’s products, but at least I don’t have to worry heating the house ever again.

 

Alexander O’Neal: ‘Hearsay’ and ‘Live At The Hammersmith Apollo’

 

Sorry for the crappy quality. And that's just the sound of the CD on the right.

Sorry for the crappy quality. And that’s just the sound of the CD on the right.

 

Back in the eighties and nineties Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were my personal heroes. Up there with Mark Fisher, Neil Armstrong and Juri Gagarin. To those not acquainted with these musical demigods, the two are buddies from uni who ended up in a band in Minneapolis called ‘The Time’ – essentially an outlet of Prince’s songwriting material that didn’t make it onto his own albums (he apparently doesn’t sleep much) – with Jellybean Johnson and Morris Day. After becoming independent producers, they pretty much were responsible for creating the ‘Minneapolis Sound’ (together with their tiny ex-boss) and made a gazillion of albums with some more or less talented vocalists. Imagine the Stock/Aitken/Waterman model, just with better music and artists. They could do no wrong (and mostly didn’t). Their sound was instantly recognisable though changed quite significantly throughout the decades. Just for academic purposes, compare the S.O.S. Band’s ‘Just be good to me’ with Janet Jackson’s ‘ ‘Rhythm Nation’ and The Human League’s ‘Human':

 

Why is this in anyway relevant to this entry? Good question. I might have just got carried away a bit. Well, the point I was trying to make that in the mid eighties these guys were on the ascent to mega-oodle stardom, and on the way produced an album for local singer Alexander O’Neal. Now if you ask me, this is one of the best albums that Jam/Lewis ever made. The up-tempo numbers (Fake/Critize) were unique in both in their chord structure and production and sounded like nothing before. The ballads were engaging and not too boring, and giving it a narrative (from the beginning to the end of a party at O’Neal’s house) makes it even eligible for the seventies moniker of ‘concept album’.

You get it: I like it. It’s one of my most played CDs and it shows. It’s falling apart, there’s beer stains all over it (from numerous DJ gigs) and it’s full of scratches. But to this day, it’s unique and a bright star on Flytetime’s echelon.

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Which brings us to the other CD in this little feature. I was actually quite excited when I saw that this CD existed as I saw the chap live in 1994 with the best brother ever (BBE). This was a great night, with even the BBE shimmying around like a 17 year old. How times have changed. ‘Live at the Hammersmith Apollo’ is O’Neal’s attempt to get some extra dollars from a singular concert in London in 2005. This is a 2 CD set with 14 songs from his first three albums, with most of the ‘Hearsay’ album all present and accounted for. Once you pop the CD in the player, the first you notice is the terrible sound. I am really wondering whether they literally just took the feed of the desk without any editing afterwards. During the introduction the musical director of the show mentions they have an 18 piece band on stage, but they get lost: it’s one big, gooey ghastly sounding mess. I could accept this from a bootleg, but not from something I actually paid money for. Unfortunately once O’Neal does appear there is no improvement. Quickly running out of steam, his fake laugh and painful attempts at banter do annoy quickly. What really pissed me off the most was the ruining of what were supposed to be the highlights of the CD: ‘Critize’ and ‘Fake’ are both up-tempo funk numbers with great harmonies, really showcasing the Jam/Lewis songwriting brillance, but on this record the chord structure has been simplified (or maybe one of the 18 musicians is playing it, but with this sound you certainly can’t pick it up) and some random heavy metal solos ruin it further.

One to avoid like the plague.