Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How to add an email contact form to blogger.

Blogger now has an email contact form widget similar to formmail. This allows someone to send you an email message without having your email address exposed on a web page.

Unfortunately this widget works in a side bar and appears on every page. If you want to use it on a static page then you need to copy the code to your static page and edit the template to stop it appearing in the side bar.

I found the instructions here:

http://helplogger.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/new-blogger-widget-contact-form-change.html

It was easy to do and works well, but remember not to delete the widget otherwise it will stop working entirely. It will also only send to the email address your blogger account is registered to (usually a Gmail or Google Apps account).

This is what it looks like on the page:


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

£500 and Scotland's Future

According to this article from the BBC on 5th December 2011:

Almost two-thirds of Scots would vote for independence if they were guaranteed to be just £500 better off a year, a survey has claimed.
However, the Scottish social attitudes survey said only 21% would vote for it if they would be £500 worse off.

Today, 26th November 2013, at the launch of the white paper on independence:

Better childcare and education, a reformed, fairer tax system are being promised under an independent Scotland.
Laying out his blueprint for Scotland's future, the First Minister, Alex Salmond, also said that each Scot would be £600 better off.
 (source Sky News).

Coincidence? Probably not. The outcome of the referendum is probably all down to which way that £500 goes.


Update 24th January 2014

A further article about the £500 from the BBC with detailed polling information on this issue. This includes an update of the original 2011 research showing that being financially better or worse off under independence is now more likely to influence voting intentions.

In the 2011 report:

65% would support independence, and 24% would oppose it if £500 a year better off
21% would support independence, and 66% would oppose it if £500 a year worse off


In the 2013 report:

52% would support independence, and 30% would oppose it if £500 a year better off
15% would support independence, and 72% would oppose it if £500 a year worse off

Since Prof Curtice settled on using £500 for his research, other pollsters have followed suit.
ICM's September 2013 poll showed that if people could be convinced an independent Scotland would make you richer by the amount of £500, 56% would vote "yes" and 44% would vote "no".
The promise of a £500 deficit on the other hand produced a "yes" vote of 22% and a 78% "no" vote.

Read the full article here.




Friday, November 22, 2013

HTC Sense 5.5 crashing on HTC One with Android 4.3

I upgraded to HTC One to  Sense 5.5 yesterday folwing which it started crashing every time I tried to type something. When asked if I wanted to send an error report to HTC clicking on yes led to a further crash. The error reports did not record the cause, because by this stage it was crashing for unspecified reasons. Selecting anything on the screen was enough to do it.

After some investigation it turned out to be the Swiftkey keyboard which was causing it. The app (as it stands at the moment) does not seem to like something in Sense 5.5. I turned off Swiftkey in settings > language & keyboard and this immediately resolved the problem. Now I just need to wait for an update for Swiftkey which will hopefully solve it and let me start using it again.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why liberal Christians need fundamentalists in order to survive, and vice versa.

Although both sides would like to believe they can eventually wipe out the other, its clear that liberals and evangelicals need each other in order to survive:

Liberal Christians create the public space for religion which fundamentalist Christianity needs in order to exist.

Fundamentalist Christianity creates controversy, which politicians address by giving more public space for liberal Christianity -  which they see as the antidote to fundamentalism.

Of course the same is also true for other religions, not just Christianity.


Monday, September 30, 2013

The new Instant Arena in Edinburgh.

As people in Edinburgh are probably already aware, the old Odeon cinema in Clerk Street is about to be reopened as the "Instant Arena", an American style dinner show club. The person behind the project is Gerry Boyle, who happens to be the brother of Susan - not that this has anything to do with it.

What I don't understand is how he can think this makes financial sense. In an article in the Sunday Post he said:

"The venue holds 600 people and we’ll do two shows a night, so that’s 1,200. Tickets for dinner and a show will be £75 per person."

I sincerely hope his break even point is lower than 1,200 customers per night because there has never been a market for dinner shows in the UK. I have attended some, in the US and elsewhere, and felt distinctly uncomfortable with the whole procedure. You have a sort of dinner and a sort of show, but neither are what you might have chosen if you had a real choice and it costs more than doing both separately.

For example, this week I could have the pre dinner menu at Maison Bleu in Victoria Street for £15 followed by the most expensive seat in the house to see Paul Michael Glaser in Fiddler on the Roof at the Festival Theatre for £45. That still leaves me £15 short of Gerry's £75 - plenty for drinks and I might even be able to afford a taxi home.

Which brings up the other issue - transport. Where are people going to park to see these shows, or are they going to come on the bus? if they come by taxi from the suburbs that will add another £50 to the cost of a night out. So for a couple we would be looking at a minimum of £200 for a night out. That is a substantial wad of cash, and this is where the rubber hits the road. The people in Edinburgh who have that sort of disposable income are not looking for this kind of entertainment. If they were it would already exist. People with money will head out to a nice dinner and an evening at the Playhouse watching the latest touring production of a west end musical, or they might head out to the Lyceum to see a play.

People with less money might go to the theatre twice a year, but that's not enough to sustain the Instant so if he will need to cast his net wider than Edinburgh if he is going to fill the venue.

By my calculation if he opens 7 days a week for 360 days a year that's 432,000 tickets he has to sell in a year. Edinburgh has a population of 450,000. 31% of these are under 16 or over 65. His main market will be between these ages. That's a target market of around 300,000 people. They would all have to go once a year at least - and they simply won't. There is too much choice for entertainment in Edinburgh.

The only other venue I know of like the Instant Arena is the Sands Venue at Blackpool. I only know of it because a friend has performed there and at that time it had been struggling a bit to find its identity. They charge around £20 for a show ticket with a meal being extra - maybe £25 or so, plus they have the holiday traffic. Here is a link to a list of upcoming shows at The Sands. Its mainly tribute bands and would be difficult to sustain here in Edinburgh.

Unless he does tie-ins with local hotels and offers considerable US style commissions I think its unlikely Gerry can fill the Instant. His saving grace may be the other business activities he plans to run from the venue, this may be just enough to make it a work for him, but I will be happy to be proved wrong.

Time will be the judge.






Monday, September 9, 2013

Some useful online DNS tools

When I recently moved a few domain names from my web hosts name servers to my domain registrar's (Enom) I found these good online tools for checking the validity of DNS zone files and their propagation:




And finally:








Wednesday, August 28, 2013

True Price in a Free Market


"A ‘true price’ is forthcoming when a person receives, as counter-value for the product he has made, sufficient to enable him to satisfy the whole of his needs, including of course the needs of his dependants, until he will again have completed a like product."  Rudolf Steiner, 29 July 1922

As I start reading on associative economics it seems that the biggest problem facing anyone trying to implement this would be how the idea of true price interfaces with the real market. For example, if I bake a loaf of bread my true price would be substantially higher than for a bakery producing lots of loaves. In a perfect market my loaf will not sell because cheaper ones are available.

For associative economics to work there would have to be a disruption of the market through people placing a value on the community aspects of trade and production. At this point i am unsure how that could be achieved.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Apple probably need to read this.

With my current phone coming up for three years old I have started the process of looking for a replacement. Although I am attracted to some aspects of the iPhone and I own an iPad I have been an Android user since the launch of the Google G1. If Apple are going to persuade Android users to switch to the iPhone they will need to address a number of issues.

Sound quality.
The audio quality from my HTC Desire HD, when plugged into an external amplifier, is significantly better than my iPad. I have heard that the iPhone 5 has made some improvements to this, but I have seen tests that show the audio output levels as being low for driving an amp leading to increased distortion when you have to turn it up to full.

In addition,not here does not seem to be any way of implementing a system wide graphic equaliser, as there is with the Android AnEq app.

Application interoperability
When I open a link in an email to a Facebook page my Android phone gives me a choice of opening this in my web browser or the Facebook app. The iPad forces this to be opened in the web browser - which is slower and uses more data.

This is an example of how iOS prevents applications communicating with each other.

Lack of alternative input devices
There is no predictive keyboard and it doesn't seem possible to use alternatives like Swiftkey.

Screen size
Although the iPhone 5 has a longer screen it is still narrow and oddly proportioned compared to its Android competitors. This presents problems with its use for Satnav in the car. I am not sure if there is even a turn by turn navigation system available for iPhone which can compete with Google Navigation at a reasonable cost.

It is interesting that as I start looking for a phone the HTC One is about £100 less than the iPhone 5, but if obtained as part of a contract over two years the iPhone works put cheaper. This may be how Apple is securing its market share.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fountain Pen Pouches and Cases

I have a few fountain pen cases. Here are the two I use most.

One is a single Parker pen pouch, bought a few years ago for £1. I think its made of bonded leather or PU leather and it can carry the largest of pens (in this case my Jinhao 159, which is the same size as a Montblanc 149.



The other I use most often is an unbranded triple leather case which has a magnetic clip. The leather it is made from is very soft. This has dividers, but they only go down for about an inch. This fits slim or medium sized pens.




Monday, July 22, 2013

Jinhao 159 Fountain Pen Review

This is another cheap Chinese fountain pens like the Kaigelu 316 I reviewed previously. I bought this one from a UK supplier for £9 including postage. It was supplied without a box, but with a screw type converter.


First impressions

This is a BIG pen. It is 15cm long capped, 13cm uncapped and 17cm posted. The barrel is 15mm at its widest and the cap is wider still. This pen takes its proportions and general styling from the Montblanc 149, but rather than being a fake this is a "tribute" pen. It carries no branding or clip similarities to the Montblanc, which is a resin pen compared to this one which is lacquered steel. The Montblanc is a piston filled pen, the Jinhao uses a converter or international cartridges.

Comfort and practicality

This pen is large and fairly heavy so you need to have reasonable sized hands to be able to use it. It is well balanced until you post it and then it gets a bit too top heavy.

Pens of this size will not fit many pen cases. I have heard that the paint is prone to chipping so I am carrying mine in a single Parker leather case which cost me £1 a few years ago. I think it was designed for a Duofold, it is certainly big enough to take the 159.

The nib

The nib is marked 18Kgp, but is clearly made of steel. As supplied it was a bit dry and tended to skip. I adjusted it slightly using SbreBrown's technique (video here - try at your own risk) and its now at the broader end of medium with no skipping and it will put ink on the paper without applying any pressure. The adjusting process has not made any visible difference to the nib. It probably only moved it a hundredth of a millimeter.

It is not the smoothest nib I have ever written with. There is some resistance on the paper, but there is no scratching and it is not off-putting. it may be that the weight of the pen is adding to the drag of the nib. With some care it would be possible to polish the nib and improve it further.

Pardon my poor handwriting, but here is a sample (ink: Diamine Onyx Black):



Conclusion

To me the question of whether a pen is any good is really down to how well it writes. This one writes acceptably well. I would say it was 75% of the way to being a very good pen, so on this basis I would give it four out of five stars.

Whether it is practical is another question. pens of this size tend to be bought as statements and mainly used for signing letters and contracts. Without the Montblanc logo I am not sure what sort of statement it is making.

If you want a very large pen it is well worth trying one of these.







Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Kaigelu 316 Fountain Pen Review.


I ordered this on Saturday and it arrived today (Tuesday) by air mail from Shanghai. The total cost was about £10 including postage, although the pen was not supplied in a box.

This pen is very similar to the Parker Duofold Centennial, but without any attempt to pass off as a Parker - there are no trademarks and the end cap has a kangaroo on it. It is a large and quite heavy pen

The finish was described as "charcoal". It is actually a glossy marbled effect which is quite difficult to take a photograph of. The nib seems to be partially gold plated. It writes quite well and the nib is at the fine end of medium (finer than my Jinhao 450, but not as fine as pens like the Hero). There is some resistance on the paper, but its not scratchy.

Overall it does not look or feel like a £10 pen (which would be something like a Parker Vector). The only down side is that it does not post very well. The cap fits on the end cap via the threads and I am not sure that will be good for the finish of the end cap or the longevity of the threads.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Should buy a wifi or a 3G cellular iPad?

Having had an iPad for over a year now I have some answers to this question.

I feel that I did the right thing buying the 3G version but with a couple of provisos:

  • You need to use a carrier with good coverage.
  • You need to have a longer term contract.

If you do this it will really liberate your iPad and allow you to use it in much more versatile ways.

My initial reason for buying the 3G version was the option of portability in the future and (importantly) having GPS for navigation, something that is not built into the wifi version. After buying it I got a T-Mobile (now Everything Everywhere) pay as you go SIM card and used that until April this year when I switched to the Three network.

These are my experiences of the two networks.


T-Mobile

T-Mobile's charges had options of:

200MB for 1 day £2
500MB for 7 days £7
1GB for 1 calendar month £15

I always went for the 1 day option as it was usually for specific journeys I was going on the others gave far less bandwidth. Paymentis made from a balance paid by credit card and held in your account. Unfortunately the billing system did not seem to work reliably through the iPad so I sometimes had to log in from another computer to top up the account. This was extremely frustrating so i would always keep a reasonable balance in it.

Coverage was patchy and there seemed to be a lot of lag bringing up web pages. This might be DNS resolution, general latency or limiting of some sort. This test result from the Speedtest.net app running on my iPad is typical of the performance I was getting.

Test Date: Mar 30, 2013 11:22
Download: 0.05 Mbps
Upload: 0.09 Mbps
Ping: 388 ms
Connection Type: Cellular

Disappointing, but for £2 per day its perhaps all that can be expected.


Three

Because of the issues with T-Mobile I decided to try a different carrier. I use Tesco (on the o2 network) for my phone, but there is no 3G coverage in Cowdenbeath and some other areas I travel to so I did some checking and Three seemed to have reasonable coverage of these areas as well as covering my office and home addresses. I later found on a trip to orkney that o2 had no 3G coverage in Kirkwall, but Three did which was welcome but surprising.

I paid about £26 for 3GB of data to be used over three months and I am now ten weeks into this.

At the end of the three months it seems to offer the options of:

500MB for 1 day £2.99
500MB for 7 days £7
1GB for 1 calendar month £10
3GB for 1 calendar month £15
7GB for 1 calendar month £25

If you opted to pay on a contract they would provide 10GB per month for £15.

This test result is typical of speeds I am getting on the Three network:

Test Date: Jun 21, 2013 12:24
Download: 0.82 Mbps
Upload: 1.30 Mbps
Ping: 79 ms
Connection Type: Cellular

A lot of people will be disappointed by these figures, but what they don't show is the increase in speed of bringing up web pages which can be ten times faster than T-Mobile. I have also used it for streaming music to Spotify at higher bitrates and had no problems with buffering.

I also tethered the iPad using wifi hotspot on my mobile phone (Tesco/o2). The coverage and speed was better than T-mobile, but the inconvenience was too great as the wifi hotspot runs the phone down too quickly, I had to turn it on when needed and I have too little bandwidth on my phone contract to start sharing it on a regular basis.


Higher bandwidth plans

If you buy your iPad from Three their 24 month contract includes a higher limit of 15GB per month of data.

As a comparison:

24 months of their 10GB SIM only contract plan would cost £360
24 months of their 15GB iPad plan would cost £759 including an up front payment of £159, which after deducting the retail price of an iPad comes to £399

The advantage of this is that you are effectively getting the iPad on credit with monthly payments. You are also getting the higher bandwidth limit. The downside is that it will be locked to the Three network.

If I were buying a new iPad today I would probably opt to buy it through one of these mobile phone company schemes, probably through Three as I have had a good expereince so far.



Conclusion

Based on my experience the iPad is not really liberated until it has an always on cellular 3G connection. This means that you need a plan that offers more than one day's connection at a time. The choice of these is between pay as you go on a monthly basis or contracts that run continuously. These are cheaper in the long run.

This is based on my own experience. Yours may be different, especially in major cities where there is more congestion.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Conn Connstellation trumpet mouthpiece case




I bought this a whole ago for £1. It was covered in paint,  which turned out to be emulsion and was eventually removed with soap and water. Its a very large case,  about one feet by nine inches. Not sure if it was made for sale or for display of mouthpieces in a music shop.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Cheap piccolo trumpet

I came across a cheap chinese rotary valve piccolo trumpet on Ebay and paid about $400 for it. The brand is "International Sound" but I happen to know that its made by Jinbao, China's largest group of instrument factories. Its clearly based on the Scherzer design but this one has a bore of 11.5mm compared to the Scherzer's 10.4mm. (Update: I eventually found out that it is copied from the "Melton" branded rotary trumpet which was made by Scherzer in the 80's).






Does it work? Well, yes it does. When it arrived I discovered it takes normal trumpet shank mouthpieces so I could not use my piccolo trumpet mouthpiece (which is cornet shank). There was a rather dodgy looking mouthpiece in the box which said 7c on it so I put that in, played a couple of scales and then turned on my webcam. This is the result:



It sounded a bit flat towards the top of the range. I managed to find an adaptor to fit my normal mouthpiece to it and that seems to have corrected the intonation. The alleged 7c was far too deep, closer to a Bach 6 in cup shape.
I spent most of a day working through lots of literature from Bach, Handel and Telemann and it sounds very lyrical as you would expect from a rotary trumpet.
The problem is that quality control in China is so poor its possible the next one in the batch would be a real dog, so if you decided to take the chance on one you should try and play a few.
Obviously another important issue is that it is a rotary valve trumpet. If you have never played a rotary then you will find the adjustment quite difficult so first impressions might not be very good. For example, slurring on a rotary is not as good as on piston valve instrument because the valves cut the air flow more abruptly.

Update 28th January 2008

Well, I am doing the Telmann Concerto for trumpet and two oboes with orchestra in March and have decided to give the rotary piccolo a chance to perform. I am now using my Monette AP1-5 mouthpiece jammed into a cornet to trumpet adaptor with some insulating tape.
This is some video of me practicing the concerto. Poor audio is due to the webcam microphone.
Some general practicing of the Telemann, working on my trills and tone:


Telemann 1st movement:


Telemann 3rd movement:


The other Telmann concerto in D last movement (bad top notes - sorry)


How to hold a rotary valve piccolo trumpet:


These two clips were done on a different microphone and the trumpet has a Blackburn leadpipe fitted which makes the intonation better but impedes the upper register a bit on the very open mouthpiece I am using. I think to get the best from that setup you would need to be using a conventional Bach, Yamaha or Schilke mouthpiece set up.

Telemann La Majeste from 12 Heroic Marches


Telemann La Vaillance from 12 Heroic Marches



Update 7th June 2013

Well, five years later and as I move this web age to my other hosting account I am still playing this trumpet. I bought a Blackburn leadpipe for it in the key of A which significantly improved the playing. This cost me about £100 at the time as the exchange rate was good. I eventually switched to using a Josef Klier 7DW mouhpiece which is like a Bach 7DW, but with a bigger backbore.


Update 21st December 2015
My love of this trumpet has not diminished. It is still in regular use. A tiny amount of lacquer has come off, but it is still playing well. I am about to embark on a recording of the Vivaldi double concerto on it. The same instrument is now being sold by John Packer and Dillon Music with their respective names on it. Prices have gone up since I bought mine, but it is still a good buy I think. I believe they sell in reasonable numbers but I rarely see them come up second hand which suggests to me that people are happy with them. I had the opportunity to switch to buy a new Yamaha piccolo trumpet recently, but decided I wasn't going to gain anything by switching. I might have gained a slightly easier upper register, but would have lost some tone quality.



Friday, May 31, 2013

A trumpet player in Edinburgh, Scotland.

My name is Gordon Hudson and I am a trumpet player living in Edinburgh, Scotland. I occasionally blog on trumpet and cornet related issues.

You can find other articles by me tagged "trumpet" here, or cornet here.

About me

In the late 80's and early 90's I did quite a lot of freelance/semi pro playing but these days I spend my time working for a charity and playing the trumpet and cornet on an amateur basis. Before moving to Edinburgh I played the trumpet with the Open Orchestra for seven years until 2010. After moving to Edinburgh I spent a year playing principal cornet with Penicuik Silver Band and then solo cornet with Kingdom Brass B until it's demise. I then played repiano cornet with the Bathgate Band in first section. Although I am currently not a member of a brass band I practice daily, play a bit of traditional jazz, and do occasional orchestra concerts and big band gigs. Until something more permanent comes along I am doing a bit of home recording which I call "The Sofa Sessions". Its an occasional thing and you can find the videos on my Youtube Channel.

My experience of Edinburgh is that there are not a lot of playing opportunities here. The same people seem to do all the gigs and there is a general preference by amateur groups for people who have been to music college. As a result, since moving to Edinburgh, most of my playing has been outside Edinburgh and mainly in the brass band world.

I started playing at the age of 10 (french horn) switched to euphonium at 14 (because I really wanted to play in a brass band) and then trumpet and cornet at around the age of 19 (although I still doubled on euphonium for a couple of years).

My brass band experience includes Stirling Public Band, Alloa Band (1st and 2nd section) and Alva Band (championship section), Livingston Brass Band, Newlands Concert Brass, principal cornet with Penicuik and solo cornet with Kingdom Brass B. I have played Bb cornet and Eb soprano cornet.

As an orchestral player I have performed a wide range of repertoire from baroque to modern works including concertos and other solos. This includes a lot of piccolo trumpet playing in baroque music.

In addition to playing trumpet, cornet and piccolo trumpet I play french horn to a level good enough for second or third horn.

Favourite players: Maurice Andre, Phillip McCann, Ludwig Güttler, Chet Baker, Jack Mackintosh, Bix Beiderbecke and, of course, Louis Armstrong.

Equipment

I have a range of instruments for different types of playing:


Bb Trumpet - Bach Stradivarius 43

I used to play on Monette equipment, but switched to this a couple of years ago. It has a larger bell than the standard 37 Bach trumpet that most players use but it is still a medium large bore. It was bought as a compromise for big band or orchestral playing. I find it works well in all situations.


Bb Rotary Trumpet - Scherzer 8218W


Scherzer 8218W
This is currently my main orchestral trumpet. I have two tuning slides - one with the single water key and one with two uberblasenklappen, or Vienna keys for C and A. The Scherzer 8218W is based on the Monke design which is why they call it their "Kölner Modell". The bore is 11.5mm (slightly larger than most rotary trumpets). The bell is made of gold brass.


Bb Trumpet - Selmer 19A Balanced



Selmer Paris 19A Balanced Trumpet
The same model played by Louis Armstrong. Mine was made in 1952. .450" bore. Quite small by today's standards, but has a surprising depth to the sound. More on this instrument here.

Mouthpieces

I have tended to play mouthpieces around the 3C/1.5C diameter. Because I play on instruments with different fittings and different requirements I have an abnormally large number of mouthpieces. I do 90% of my playing on a Horntrader HT-3-27 and a Flip Oakes Extreme X3X.

Trumpet
Horntrader HT-3-27 (general and classical - like a Bach 3, but with a very open backbore)
Horntrader HT-3CS-28 (lead - like a 3C but tighter throat and slightly shallower cup, but with more volume at the bottom of the cup)
Horntrader HT-3-Jazz (like a flugel mouthpiece for a trumpet - see my video review here)
Josef Klier 7DW (piccolo trumpet)
Breslmair 3C cup with Mount Vernon 3C rim and Frost Custom Brass 6 backbore (on Selmer 19A)

Rotary Trumpet
Breslmair G2 cup with Mount Vernon 3C rim and G backbore (rotary trumpet)

Cornet
Flip Oakes Extreme X3X (brass band)
Denis Wick 3 trumpet top married to a backbore from a Bach 6 (jazz)
Gewa 3C - copy of a Mount Vernon 3C (soprano cornet)

Flugel
Breslmair F1 underpart in special Besson small fitting with 3C Mount Vernon rim

In the past I have used a Jet-Tone MF-P for big band which is a pretty rare mouthpiece with a #22 throat. I am not really doing that kind of playing any more so it rarely comes out of its case.

Piccolo Trumpet - Hybrid Rotary




This is a four valve rotary trumpet made in China but modified with a Blackburn leadpipe for A. Although it looks like a Scherzer the bell is bigger. It seems to be a copy of the "Melton" rotary trumpet which was made by Scherzer in the 1980's. It plays very well in A and is the best piccolo trumpet I have ever owned in that key. In Bb it plays OK, but its not quite as good as it is in A.
Mouthpieces: Josef Klier 7DW (similar to a Bach 7DW but with a bigger backbore). Starting to experiment with the Horntrader HT-3CS-28.


Flugel Horn - Boosey and Hawkes Imperial



Boosey & Hawkes Imperial Flugel Horn


This instrument is from the early 70's and is of the narrow bore style of flugel. It has the added advantage of using a cornet shank mouthpiece.
Mouthpieces: Breslmair F1, Mount Vernon 3C rim


Cornet - Yamaha Maestro



Yamaha Maestro Cornet

This is one of the earlier Maestro's without "UK" after the model number and with no engraving on the bell. I bought it second hand and had it overhauled to bring it back into new condition.
Mouthpieces: Flip Oakes Extreme X3X.


Cornet - Douglas & Sons

This is a collectors item , made in the late 19th century in Glasgow. You can read the full story of this instrument and my research into the maker here, or view my video review - here.
Mouthpieces: Lewington McCann custom; original 1890's narrow mouthpiece.


Cornet Mouthpieces




I play on two currently which are around 3C diameter. One is the Breslmair F1 with MV 3C rim. The other is a Lewington McCann mouthpiece which is of similar diameter but with a flatter rim. This has been "skeletonised" with mass removed from around the rim (see comparison photo above). This makes it feel a bit freer blowing and a bit more agile, but it does make the sound a little bit brighter.

Repertoire


This gives you some idea of the types of music I have performed in concerts over the years.


Solo Performances

  • Trumpet Concerto in Eb - J Haydn
  • Trumpet Concerto in D - Telemann
  • Trumpet Concerto in D - Fasch
  • Carnival of Venice - Arban (Cornet)
  • Trumpet Sonata - Purcell
  • Suite in D - Jeremiah Clarke


Orchestral

  • Most of the standard classical and romantic repertoire.
  • Bach Mass in B Minor and Christmas Oratorio.
  • Verdi Requiem.
  • Vaughan Williams Symphony no 2 (London) (Trumpet and Cornet parts).


Ensemble

  • Played with a 10 piece brass ensemble (using London Brass / PJBE arrangements).


Operas

  • Marriage of Figaro - Mozart
  • The Mikado - Gilbert and Sullivan


Musicals

  • Camelot
  • West Side Story
  • My Fair Lady
  • Kiss me Kate


Oratorios

  • Christmas Oratorio - Bach
  • Messiah - Handel


Big Band

  • Played trumpet with Forth Dimension big band in the late 80's.
  • Occasional recent playing in local bands.


Brass Band

Solo cornet or soprano cornet with:
  • Alloa Town Band (1st Section)
  • The Alva Band (Championship Section)
  • Newland Concert Brass
  • Penicuik Silver Band (principal cornet)
  • Kingdom Brass B (second solo cornet)
  • Bathgate Band (repiano cornet)

Clips

Here are some clips of me playing (NB: variable quality recording qualities)


Cornet

Ye Servants of God (hymn tune: Laudate Dominum):
MP3

Bring Him Home:
MP3

Goose Pimples (Bix Beiderbecke):
MP3


Gnossienne 3 by Erik Satie:





Piccolo Trumpet

Prelude to te Deum by Charpentier:



Beatles Penny Lane Solo:





Bb Trumpet


Neruda Trumpet Concerto in Eb - 1st Movement (excerpt):
MP3

Neruda Trumpet Concerto in Eb - 2nd Movement (excerpt):
MP3

Neruda Trumpet Concerto in Eb - 3rd Movement (excerpt):
MP3



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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Is modern evangelical Christianity "pistic"?

I am more and more coming to the conclusion that modern evangelicalism is actually a "pistic" religion. I may even have coined this phrase by writing it down in this article. Whereas gnosticism is a system of revealed knowledge of God, pisticism (based on the Greek word "pistis" meaning faith) is a a system of revealed levels of faith in God.

Here is how a hypothetical pistic religion would work:
  • The initial faith requirement would be quite low and within the bounds of intellectual reason. 
  • Once the initiate had accepted this basic position a process of development would be carried out (we might want to call it "discipling" in a Christian setting) where they are exposed to more complex ideas about God which require greater levels of faith to accept.
  • If the initiate is wavering about accepting this they can be told that the true path is narrow and difficult.
  • Using imagery like this enhances the hierarchical approach to the different levels of faith which can be acquired.

There is some evidence of this "pisticism" when you look at modern evangelistic techniques and the practices of evangelical churches. Rather than a case of "one lord, one faith, one baptism" people seems to get hooked in at a low level where faith can seem very reasonable indeed. Over time the demands for greater faith increase and the leaps taken get greater and greater. For example, faith healing, creationism or dispensationalism may be added into what the person is expected to agree to.

Modern evangelicalism is certainly very complex.

While we are talking about leaps of  faith here is the Order of the Leaping Berylians:








Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What is Anthroposophy? Part 2


The Nature of the Human Being

Rudolf Steiner’s understanding of the human being is primarily threefold - body, soul and spirit. He believed that we experience the world through this threefold nature. This is primarily explained in his book Occult Science - An Outline.


  • The body is the vehicle in which the soul and spirit travel and experience the world.
  • The soul links those experiences of the world to our own existence - our desires, passions and interests.
  • The spirit allows these experiences of the world to reveal themselves for who and what they are.


Here is an example of how we experience the world through these three natures. Imagine a flower. Through our body we can see the flower is colourful and has a fragrance. This awakens a sense of joy and pleasure in our soul. Our spirit then recognises the rose’s inherent qualities of fragility and impermanence. In this way we have fully experienced the flower rather than just observing it.

This reflects Steiner’s idea of the world in which we live as being threefold:

  1. In the physical world we form a world outside of us. 
  2. In the soul world we develop a world within us. 
  3. In the spirit world we learn about a higher world beyond ours. 


Steiner subdivided the three natures of body, soul and spirit into nine facets. All of these work together as part of the same unitary body:

body
material body - the physical organs of the body.
etheric body - the blueprint of the shape of the human body.
soul body - the boundary that contains the soul within the limits of the physical body.

soul
sentinent soul - the processing centre for information derived from our senses - where tastes and passions are centred.
mind soul - the thinking and reasoning part of the soul which receives perceptions from the physical senses and the invisible world.
consciousness soul - the part most connected with the invisible world.

spirit
spirit self - the part of the human that exists in the spirit realm.
life spirit - the divine force that fuels us.
spirit body - container for the spirit part of the threefold nature.


The Seven Fold nature of the Individual

Following his identification of these nine facets of the human individual, Steiner then simplified them to seven by combining the soul body & sentient soul and calling it the astral body and combining the mind soul and the consciousness soul into the “I” or ego.

Those seven subdivisions are:

  1. physical body - the physical organs of the body.
  2. etheric body - the  life force that the life force that maintains the physical body's form until death.
  3. astral body - the centre of our desires, drives and passions. 
  4.  I - our individual essence - our sense of self.
  5. spirit self - the part of us that exists in the spiritual realm.
  6. life spirit - the divine force that fuels us.
  7. spirit body - container for the spiritual parts of the threefold nature.


How these work together

The I lives within the body and soul which act as vehicles through which it can experience life. The spirit lives within the “I” which allows it to experience the physical life. It needs the “I” because it is part of the immortal spirit world which can not directly experience the mortal nature of the physical world. The “I” acts as a conduit through which the spirit can experience this.

The difference between animals, plants and humans

Steiner used these different bodies to differentiate between plants, animals, humans and inanimate objects.


  • Minerals only have a physical body.
  • Plants have physical and etheric bodies.
  • Animals have physical, etheric and astral bodies.
  • Human beings have physical, etheric, astral bodies and an “I”.


The relationship of the physical, etheric and astral bodies

The etheric body keeps our physical body alive and binds the astral body to it. The life processes and forces in our etheric body heal and maintain our physical body. It is the life force through which we are kept alive. At death the etheric body gradually detaches from the physical body. At this point physical forces overwhelm the body and it decays. This is why Anthroposophical Medicine addresses medical issues through spiritual awareness  of the etheric and astral bodies as well as the physical body and the “I” of the patient.


Sleep

During sleep the astral body and the “I” leave the physical confines of the body. The experiences had during sleep have an effect on the etheric body. Steiner suggested that there were two kinds of dreams, or sleep experiences. The first is echoes of things that have happened during the day combined with some things from the astral world. These may have some effect on the etheric body, but there is a second kind of experience. This consists of thoughts sent to the sleeper from higher individuals (Steiner sometimes used the theosophical term “masters” to describe them). By spending the daytime pursuing noble thoughts and meditation  a person can become receptive to these messages and thoughts during sleep.





Monday, May 13, 2013

How to fix the Spotify android app white screen problem


Since the last update to the Spotify Android application many users have been reporting a white screen when trying to launch the app. This problem seems to be caused by the app not closing when you return to the home screen. For some reason the app is unable to relaunch using this existing instance and tries to start a new one which leads to the white screen. This has been a long term problem for Spotify and seems to crop up on a new range of handsets with each upgrade to the app. This time it seems to be the HTC Desire HD that is mainly affected. Until Spotify decide to issue an update that corrects this issue here are instructions for fixing it.

If the white screen appears:

  1. Press the home button.
  2. Open your list of apps.
  3. Launch "Task Manager" and give it a few seconds to display all the current processes.
  4. Find the Spotify process and click on the X next to it.
  5. Now start the Spotify app.

In most cases this will fix it. If it does not launch try killing the process again and relaunching the app.

To speed up this process you could add an icon for the Task Manager app next to the spotify icon on your home screen.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What is Anthroposophy?


This article has been written to provide basic information about the spiritual path known as Anthroposophy, which was first formulated by Rudolf Steiner. Anthroposophy means literally “knowledge of the nature of man” and is sometimes called “spiritual science”.

The principal idea of Anthroposophy is that it is possible to use scientific methods to undertake spiritual investigations. Steiner came to this idea logically after deciding that the categorisation of things as either physical or spiritual was artificial and arbitrary.

There is no division between the physical and spiritual world

Today’s world is dominated by two views. Firstly, Materialistic nomism,  typified by pure science and the new atheist movement, says there is only one world. This is the physical world that we can see and that we can investigate with science. Secondly, the dualism of the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), which says that there are two worlds: the physical world that we can see and investigate and a spiritual world which we can not.

Steiner said  that this division is artificial and caused by people choosing to categorise things as either spiritual or physical for arbitrary reasons. Steiner believed that the physical (visible) world and the spiritual (invisible) world are inextricably linked and suggested a nomism in which physical and spiritual forces are both manifestations of the same reality. For example, if a man raises his right hand we could understand this by talking about his brain, skeleton and muscles. We might also understand this as an act of his will, and understand why he was raising his hand. Every physical action has a spiritual cause or connection to this invisible or “supersensible” world.

Steiner believed that it was possible to perceive and investigate this invisible world by a process of free thought that he called “intuitive thinking”. Steiner postulated in his book “The Philosophy of Freedom”  that the only really free activity we undertake is the thinking we do inside our own heads. Even then, some of our thoughts are constrained by social norms, external moral or religious rules or learned behaviours. Steiner suggested a number of exercises which could be used to develop our ability to think freely, leading to an ultimate state which he calls the “ethical individualist”.

The Ethical Individualist

The ethical individualist is someone who knows how to think scientifically and use observational analysis to examine his own thoughts and the situations he finds himself in. This means that knowledge of his thoughts and decisions about how he may act in any situation are obtained by pure reason alone. Steiner called this process “intuitive thinking”.

To prevent outside influence on his decision making the ethical individualist uses conceptual analysis to examines each situation in light of the general principles of ethics rather than specific moral laws. This means that any resulting deed originates within himself and is truly free.

The ethical individualist still studies and tries to live according to the generally agreed ethical principles and laws of society (such as science, sociology or ecology) but he also uses his imagination to create ideals of action from these principles. This moral intuition creates a plan of action, or a goal. Without such idealistic plans moral laws and ethical codes codes are unproductive.

The ethical individualist is self empowered because these goals become the content of his own being. They are pursued not as a matter of duty, but out of love for the deed itself. His goals  empower his will against all obstacles and motivate him to acquire the necessary technical knowledge to accomplish them.

In short , the three essential capabilities for the ethical individualist are:

  1. Ethical Intuition. The ability to intuitively select an ethical principle that applies in a particular situation.
  2. Ethical Imagination. The ability to imaginatively translate that general ethical principle into a specific ideal of an action that may be carried out in reaction to that situation.
  3. Ethical Technique. The ability to transform the world according to our individual ethical imaginations without violating the natural laws by which things are connected.

Initiation

Rather than a magical state conferred through a ritual, initiation is simply  the point at which someone becomes able to perceive the spiritual world. Steiner believed that initiation was open to all and could be achieved by a programme of self training through meditation and spiritual exercises. There is no need for any priest or ceremonial activity in order for someone to achieve this state. The process for initiation was explained by Steiner in his book “Knowledge of the Higher Worlds And Its Attainment”.

The Scientific Investigative Method

Rudolf Steiner rejected eastern style mystical clairvoyance and replaced it with focused meditation. By meditating on a subject, whether it be a physical object or a spiritual issue, Steiner believed that new intuitions would appear. These intuitions could then be tested by logic, in relation to existing knowledge, or through comparisons with the spiritual investigations of others.

Steiner’s starting point was that the definition of an investigation as “scientific” is decided by the methods used rather than the subject matter. Having concluded that the physical and spiritual worlds were really the same holistic world any part of it could be investigated with the scientific method i.e. systematic observation; measurement and experiment; and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.

To Steiner, natural science (biology, physics, chemistry and mathematics) and spiritual science (his methods for perceiving the spiritual aspects of the world) were part of the same process. He observed the spiritual world through meditation, but subjected these observations to reason to determine if they were valid and truthful. This process of considered reflection is important because the data being observed is coming through the human mind, which is a subjective tool. This is why he emphasised the need to become free in our own thinking - as ethical individualists. Without freeing our thinking the risk of bias, error or deception from spiritual scientific investigation would potentially make these observations worthless.

Steiner’s Spiritual Insights

Rudolf Steiner’s work is underpinned by his philosophical work on freedom, his new method of self initiation and his use of scientific observation to examine the invisible world. He went on to write a number of books and give hundreds of lectures on the spiritual insights he gained from using these methods. These spiritual insights were the result of his own meditative processes, through which, he believed he received information from the supersensible world. However, he was always careful to ask people to test these ideas through their own investigations. Because of this Steiner’s Anthroposophy was a process of discovery rather than a fixed credal faith.

That said, there are a number of important insights given by Steiner which are central to current Anthroposophical thinking. I hope to write further articles on these in the near future.








Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Mormons and Quetzalcoatl

I met an American Mormon missionary in the street in Edinburgh yesterday. Elder Jones was his name. He asked me if I had ever read any of the book of Mormon. As it happens I have, due to studying alongside a Mormon at university. He asked me what I thought of it and I said two things:

1. There are no original texts for me to look at. Its not like the Bible where I can learn the languages, read it and make my own mind up.
2. There is no historical evidence for the ancient people of America described in the book.

His reaction was interesting.

He talked about the Maya and Inca people and said that they had a legend of a great God - Quetzalcoatl - the feathered serpent. he claimed that this was Jesus because of the story in Exodus 7:11 where Aaron’s rod becomes a serpent:

Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs.

I have never heard this claim before, but it may be how the Mormons are countering all the archaeological evidence which challenges their Mesoamerican mythology. The history of this issue can be found in the following Wikipedia article:
Archaeology and the Book of Mormon


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cementing the Thatcher Myth


What we are witnessing today at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher is the cementing of the Thatcher myth - especially among those too young to remember what really happened.

I keep thinking of the friends (now gone) who sacrificed so much in the 80's working to defend freedom, fairness and democracy and how they would feel today when so many young people believe the myth and don't know what really happened back then.

For example, the myth that the national debt halved under Thatcher. It didn't. It more than tripled during her years as prime minister:

(1978 £169 Billion)

1979 £199 Billion
1980 £233 Billion
1981 £256 Billion
1982 £281 Billion
1983 £307 Billion
1984 £329 Billion
1985 £361 Billion
1986 £389 Billion
1987 £428 Billion
1988 £478 Billion
1989 £525 Billion
1990 £570 Billion


(Source: Office of National Statistics)

The national debt per £1 of GDP did stabilise during her term, but this is equivalent to taking on a bigger mortgage because you are earning more. Its not the sort of financial propriety that today's Daily Mail commenter would have the country aspire to.

Then there is the idea, popular with many of my younger friends, that Mrs Thatcher was tough on people claiming benefits. Far from it, she created the benefit culture by deciding that full employment was impossible, working out how much it would cost to have three million people on the dole and taxing low and middle earners for the privilege. Then when numbers started to go beyond four million and the public got edgy she started "massaging" the figures by moving people to incapacity and other sickness benefits.

On Europe she took us further into the European Union, by joining the European exchange rate mechanism, and committed us to a path which would ultimately lead to increased immigration from Eastern Europe.

The way that truth is being defined these days is so different to twenty years ago. Its frightening.

How has this happened?

I can see a number of reasons:


  1. People no longer seek out the truth, they rely on mass media and opinions on social media. 
  2. Peer pressure to conform with a general opinion which seems to be current amongst a lot of young people that unions are bad, people on benefits are "swinging the lead" and immigrants are taking our jobs. This is especially true on Facebook and other social media.
  3. The concentration by politicians of the left with campaigning rather than education. 
  4. Lack of trust in politics to deliver change, regardless of what change you might like to see.


Lets stand up for the truth and democracy and assign myths to history.




Monday, April 15, 2013

How much bandwidth does the Skype Android mobile app use on standby?

I have been experimenting with the Skype app for Android over the past few days for use as an instant messenger and voice calls to my son when he is in Australia.

My measurements show that the Skype Android application is using 14.89 KB of data per hour when on standby. This data is used for maintaining the connection to the Skype servers and checking for instant messages. Over a month this would add up to about 446 KB (less than half a Megabyte).

According to the Skype web site:

  • Voice calls to other Skype users use 50kbps or around 3MB for one minute of calling.
  • Voice calls to to mobile numbers or landlines use 6-20 kbps or around 1MB for one minute of calling because the audio quality is lower than for Skype to Skype calls.
  • Video calls between two mobile phone devices: 500kbps (30MB per minute)
  • Video calls between a mobile phone and a computer: 600kbps (36MB per minute)

Instant messaging would presumably not use much bandwidth.

There is also a warning on the Skype web site:
Having a large number of contacts on your Skype account also increases the data usage, as the application has to update more contact information, such as statuses, profiles and mood messages. 
So if you made a five minute voice call to a Skype user every day for thirty days the total usage over that period, including standby would use about 451 MB of bandwidth.

This is my calculation - but I could be wrong. Use this prediction with caution.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Facebook has been blocking incoming messages since October 2012.


I have now found two Facebook conversations from the end of September 2012 where replies ended up in Facebook's spam filter because I was not friends with the person I was speaking to. It appears that Facebook started treating these as spam on 1st October 2012.

To see what messages you have missed you need to look in your "other" folder.

This is where your "other" (spam) folder is:

  • Log into Facebook. Go to the top left of the page. 
  • Click on the two speech bubbles symbol. 
  • Under your list of messages there is a link that says "see all". 
  • Click on this. At the top of the next page you should see Inbox and next to that Other. 
  • Click on other.
  • Now you can click on all the messages that are sitting in there.


This is the quick way to get to it:
Make sure you are logged into facebook and go here to see yours:

https://www.facebook.com/messages/other

You may want to share this information with your friends.








Saturday, April 6, 2013

How to store memory channels on an Alinco DJV-17E 2m handheld



I recently bought one of these handheld radios and and the memory programming is very confusing.

The instruction manual tells you to store memories like this:

  1. select frequency etc to be stored.
  2. press the key “A v/m mw”.
  3. press the Function key.
  4. rotate dial to desired memory number.
  5. press v/m mw and you will hear a beep.
  6. the memory is now stored.


However step 4 does not work on a new radio just out of the box.
By default the memory function only shows memories that have something stored in them.
If you have none stored then all you will see is a list like this when you turn the dial:
rpALLFRQ > m0 > C
so you will not be able to select any memories to store to.

To fix this turn the dial to the m0 position and press the Function key again.
Now turn the dial and you should be able to scroll through all 200 memories and select one to store to.
Any that are empty will just show the VFO frequency.

This information is NOT in the Alinco instruction manual and is the reason people have so many problems with this radio.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The decreasing cost of Amateur Radio equipment.


The cost of amateur radio equipment, in real terms, has fallen by three quarters since the early eighties.

When I started in Amateur Radio in 1981 the cheapest 2m handheld transceiver available was the Trio (Kenwood) TR-2300 at £166. The Icom IC-2E had just come onto the market and cost £199. These were synthesized radios. There were still a few cheaper crystal controlled radios like the FDK Multi Palm IV, which sold for £99, but these incurred the additional cost of crystals.

Prices have got progressively lower over the intervening years. If we put the TR-2300 price of £166 into the historic  inflation calculator it is equivalent to £561 in today's money.

If we ignore the cheap Chinese handhelds, which are really broad band PMR radios and of dubious quality, then the big four manufacturers of amateur radio equipment have 144MHz hand helds starting at £99 from Alinco and £120 from Yaesu, Kenwood or Icom. There are also budget models from Intek and Midland selling for £69. Moonraker sell one based on the cheap chinese designs, but more closely tailored for amateur use for £59.

Today's Kenwood handheld at £120 is the equivalent of £35 in 1981, less than a quarter of the price of a TR-2300 back then. The Moonraker handheld is the equivalent of £18 or about one ninth the cost of a TR-2300 in 1981.






Monday, March 11, 2013

Considering a return to active amateur radio operation

I am currently considering getting my amateur radio station back on the air. I have been totally silent for the past eight months and prior to that only sporadically on the air for the previous two or three.

One of the things that has spurred me on is testing my morse code speed with a morse tutor app on my iPad. I am still reading 30wpm with no errors. At my peak I was reading 45wpm, but lets face it, there aren't many people who can so it has limited usefulness.

I got put off amateur radio by the changes in the licensing procedures. Once B class licensees were given access to HF they tended to lose interest in VHF and 2m became a wasteland. There were none of the usual local FM nets to take part in and activity on SSB died off too. The newer novice and intermediate licensees seemed to have little interest in progressing or learning and everything became a bit money related, with people spending quite large sums on very complex radios rather than making bits and pieces or adapting older equipment.

This was always part of the fun for me. My first HF radio was a general Electric BRT400D receiver from the BBC and a Heathkit DX40 transmitter - which was crystal controlled until I managed to track down a VFO. Then later I had a mobile set up consisting of a Trio (not Kenwood) TS-520 with a built in inverter and a full size quarter wave whip for 20m mounted on ladder bars on the roof of my Leyland Mini. Sadly, the photos have long gone, but that set up worked into New Zealand while I was driving through a town centre.

I gradually sold all my equipment and was down to a Yaesu FT-817, but i found the controls to be quite small. I sold it with the intentin of getting something better when I moved. Now that I am in that position I am not sure if its worthwhile getting anything for 2m or if it is entirely dead. Part of me wants to get a 2m hand held, but this is of limited use as my current car (BMW mini) has some difficulties feeding an antenna cable into the car. I always prefer a proper mobile transceiver, but getting a high current supply from the fuse box is not easy and its no longer possible to pull a cable through a bulkhead grommet as there is much more fireproofing. Neither is it easy to find somewhere to put it under the dashboard. If I decide to do this I will need to be clever.

This leaves HF. My gut feeling is to go for something simple but large so I can use it. Icom and Alinco make radios that might be suitable. Second hand is possible, but I would need to know where it came from as the reduction in technical expertise amongst radio amateurs means that anything could have been done to it by a previous owner.

This of course is a moot point, as there is only one amateur radio shop in Scotland and it is closed on a Monday. As a Monday is the only day I would be likely to be free it means I am reliant on mail order. This raises the tantalizing possibilities of some of the cheap Chinese handheld radios that are being sold under their native brands and under the Moonraker and CTE names. There are also Intek and Midland/Alan models. These are about 30% cheaper than the cheapest Alinco, Icom, Yaesu or Kenwood models. I still think the extra is worth paying for ease of use and to get an antenna thats truly tuined to 144MHz instead of just being
a general high band one.

I will report back in a month or so on where I got with this.



Update 1st October 2013
Well, I decided to splash out and buy a slightly more upmarket Alinco 2m handheld for which I purchased a quarter wave antenna. Although I can hear stations as far away as Loanhead and into Fife nobody seem to be interested in speaking to me. The more local hams all seem top be take away delivery drivers. I suspect that my nostalgia for amateur radio is for some of the people who used to be around rather than the medium itself.




Friday, March 8, 2013

European airline carry on bag weight and dimension rules

I took this photo last week at London City Airport and am sharing it here so that others can have this information. Especially musicians looking to take instruments in the cabin rather than in the hold. I am not convinced that the British Airways figure is correct as 23Kg is their hold baggage allowance. In any case you are not going to be taking a trumpet case on any of these airlines as they will always be  too long.

Click on image for larger version

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What is the difference between faith and blind faith?


I had an interesting discussion with someone on Facebook bout whether religion requires blind faith. I thought I would post it here as it brought out a distinction between reasonable and unreasonable "blind" faith.


Graham:
Isn't it true that a belief in ANY religion only requires a kind of 'blind faith' of which proof and scientific evidence play little or no part?

Me:
Religion is normally a belief in things that are un-testable. For example, the divinity of Jesus or his resurrection. Its only when religions require belief in things which ARE testable that they require a faith which is blind to the evidence.

Graham:
God (sorry about the pun) you're good Gordon H! Where does Christianity fit into the 'scheme-of-things' then, do you think?

Me: 
It all depends how you define Christianity. If you mean the Apostles creed then that doesn't require blind faith. If you mean the statement of faith of many modern evangelical churches then they often do.

In the new testament faith does not exist in isolation as some kind of virtue - in the way many modern Christians depict it. Faith is closely linked to hope and to love. Faith in the resurrection leads to a hope for the future and a desire to love others as Christ has loved us. Which is why Christians seek to serve others who are less fortunate.

Interjection into the discussion by a young earth creationist:
Very good Graham see your talking about the faith of evolution.

Me:
Believing in young earth creationism requires blind faith, because you have to be blind to the observable evidence against it.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

My simple pasta carbonara recipe

This is not a true carbonara, but its easier to make with simpler ingredients (i.e. bacon rather than pancetta). You can use any pasta, but tagliatelle or spaghetti is probably best.

Serves two. Just double the ingredients for four.

Ingredients

4 rashers thick cut unsmoked bacon.
One pack fresh tagliatelle
3 medium eggs
150ml cream
40g Grated parmesan cheese
Olive oil for frying

Method

Put a large pan of water on to boil.
Put two bowls or plates in the oven to warm.
Cut the fat off the bacon and cut the remaining meat it into small squares.
Fry in a frying pan with the olive oil until it is just getting crispy on the edges.
Drain and set aside to cool.
When the water is boiled add half to two thirds of the tagliatelle to the boiling water and allow to simmer for three to five minutes or until cooked.
Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk in the cream.
Add the grated parmesan and whisk into the mix.
When cooled add the bacon and mix through.
When the pasta is ready drain in a collander and put back in the pan.
Stir in the egg, cream, bacon and parmesan mixture until it coats all of the pasta.
Serve in the previously warmed bowls or plates.

Tips

The heat in the pasta and the pan will be enough to cook the sauce. If you put the pan on the heat there is a good chance the egg in the sauce will turn to scrambled egg. If you do need to heat it up then use a low heat. However, you can reduce the risk of needing to do this by ensuring that the cream and eggs are at room temperature before you start cooking. The plates need to warm or the pasta will be cold when served.








Friday, March 1, 2013

Sparx Cornet Mouthpiece Review

My cornet mouthpiece history is very short. For many years I played on a Wick 2, followed by a year or so on a Monette 1-5FL, then a brief attempt at playing on a Wick 4 and a McCann before returning to the 2. Then when I joined my current band I decided I needed some help with stamina and changed to a Curry 1.5BBC. Although its a very good mouthpiece, and I would still recommend it, it isn't quite deep enough to give the richness of tone I need in the lower register on my Sovereign cornet.

I did some research and came across the Sparx mouthpieces. I went ahead and ordered a "2" which has a similar size rim to my 1.5C trumpet mouthpiece. It arrived surprisingly quickly from Canada and I have started using it. I had originally intended switching in a month or so, but the feel and blow was so similar to the Curry that I found switching too difficult.

Some of the things I have noticed so far:

  • Very supportive in the upper register without feeling too tight.
  • The effort required between intervals is very even across the range.
  • My cornet is more in tune with itself across the range and at different dynamics.
  • A general improvement in intonation.
  • Able to back off more and use less effort to make the instrument speak resulting in a bit more stamina.


Its a big mouthpiece so it it's never going to do screamy high notes, but top C entries are still solid.

The Sparx is expensive to import to the UK, but it seems worth it for the benefits . Does anyone else use one and have any comments?

Here are a couple of home recordings:

Ye Servants of God (hymn tune: Laudate Dominum)

MP3

Bring Him Home

MP3




Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Whatever happened to WIlliam Tang?

William Tang was the author of a number of successful early computer games including Hungry Horace and Horace Goes Skiing which were popular on the ZX Spectrum.



From his rather mysterious Wikipedia entry:
In 1985 the fourth title in the Horace series, Horace To The Rescue was announced. though this game never appeared. During the development of the game, Tang suffered a collapsed lung. There is no more current evidence of his involvement in any other titles after Asterix and the Magic Cauldron or any other information post 1985.
There are a number of William Tang's in Australia listed on LinkedIn, but none seem old enough to be him.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Complaining works (sometimes) - Phonepay Plus

A few months ago my son was charged for receiving a number of premium rate text messages after installing a mobile phone app that claimed to locate petrol stations. I tracked down the company involved and persevered in pursuing a refund of the £13.50. I also made a complaint to the regulator Phonepay Plus and received an email today telling me the company involved had been fined £40,000 after 200 complaints were received. They are also to issue refunds to anyone who requests one.

This shows that complaining can help other people as well as yourself.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Lets do some empirical testing of prophecy.

Its not often we get the chance to really examine prophecy, but a well known Christian prophet called Sharon Stone has issued some predictions for 2013, the full text of which can be found here.


I am going to revisit this post in January 2014 to see how much of it has come true. Fortunately for Sharon, a lot of it is very vague or things that happen every year, but there are a few very specific things listed (my comments are in square brackets):

Significant media personalities and business leaders who are household names will find true radical conversion. They will not be silent but will use their notoriety to proclaim Jesus name boldly.  This will stir many Christians out of fear and apathy, into a boldness that they have lacked.
Solar storms will disrupt electronics on earth and satellites this season. [we should ignore this prophecy as this happens every year]. 
Earthquakes and eruptions will continue [which is rather like saying there will be a hurricane this year] and they will continue to change the axis of the earth. [the earth’s axis wobbles already, lets see if we get a noticeable shift that would make this prophecy worthwhile] 
Grain reserves will hit historic lows because of heat and droughts in US, Russia and Eastern Europe. [should be easy to measure this]

She also says:
The dollar is falling [actually it isn’t, it has been broadly stable for a few years - see this chart]
Given that she can't read the past history of the US exchange rate I doubt if she is going to be able to predict the future accurately, but we will see in 2014.

In a similar vein God TV is predicting a major revival to take place in Plymouth in October/November 2013. They are setting up a new church there from which this will happen and it seems they might try and resurrect Todd Bentley for that purpose. Bentley was recently refused entry to the UK.

The Home Office said:
We can confirm that Mr Bentley has been excluded from the UK. The government makes no apologies for refusing people access to the UK if we believe they are not conducive to the public good. Coming here is a privilege that we refuse to extend to those who might seek to undermine our society.
Of course this all depends on how you define revival. if you mean, holding meetings attended by a few thousand people where they are induced into an altered state of consciousness and then persuaded their diseases are healed, confirm that on camera and are then never followed up then its probably easier to achieve than a revival where people repent of their evil ways and go out and serve the poor.

I will believe all of this when i see it.





Thursday, February 14, 2013

Atheist Church Coming to Edinburgh.


According to the Edinburgh Evening News the atheist church based in London will be having an outreach in Edinburgh.

Run by comedians, as an entertainment show, the atheist church has attracted big audiences in London. As founder Sanderson Jones says:

The idea was to build little communities so in that sense that’s what we’re doing with the assembly. We’re really keen on the community side as well, and have tea and cake afterwards, which is the best part of going to church anyway.

A large part of the appeal of any church is that it fills a community shaped hole in our modern, disconnected lives. The conventional church tries to redefine this as a “God shaped hole” and shoehorn itself into it. This doesn't really work as it produces conditional friendships based on a shared set of beliefs rather than the symbiotic relationships of a real community which relies on service.

This may be where the Atheist church eventually comes unstuck too. Conditional friendships and a conditional community based on a narrow range of shared beliefs and self reliance cannot produce a sustainable community. It will eventually fail - along with most religious movements.

Or it will flourish for a time, form committees and eventually die from atrophy....

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How marriage has been redefined over the past 500 years.


Its interesting how marriage has been redefined a number of times in the past, not just in 2013 with our equal marriage legislation:

Prior to 1856 boys could get married at the age of 14 and girls at 12 (in Scotland at least).

Prior to 1907 a man could not marry his deceased wives sister. This was changed by the Deceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act 1907.

Prior to 2006 (in Scotland) it was still possible to form a  marriage by "cohabitation with repute". Some of the rules for defining this in law were odd things like whether your clothes were washed together at the same time, whether you ate together etc.

Prior to 1967 in the USA interracial marriage was illegal in many states.

Prior to 1857 in England divorce was not commonly available. This was changed by the 1857 the Matrimonial Causes Act.

In 1836 the marriage laws in the UK were changed to allow non religious marriages in registry offices.

In any case, prior to 1560 (in Scotland) it was almost unheard of for people to get married formally in church unless they were people of land and title.

Oh and Mary and Joseph were not married at the time of Jesus birth. They were "betrothed". In Scotland we had a similar thing called handfasting which was a trial marriage that lasted for one year:
"It was an ancient custom in the Isles that a man take a maid as his wife and keep her for the space of a year without marrying her; and if she pleased him all the while, he married her at the end of the year and legitimatised her children; but if he did not love her, he returned her to her parents." (Màrtainn MacGilleMhàrtainn, A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland, 1703)

Oh how the times have changed!


Friday, February 1, 2013

Ken Ham changes his position on dinosaurs

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis appears to have changed his position on how humans interacted with dinosaurs. According to this web page (which includes a video of the statement which was during a video conference) Ham  said:

I don’t know where people get the idea that people rode dinosaurs. I mean, there’s no evidence in the Bible that that is so. When Job was looking at Behemoth, the description there… there’s nothing to do with people riding dinosaurs. We don’t know how people interacted with dinosaurs.

This contradicts his previous books which have contain illustrations of dinosaurs with saddles and people riding on their backs.

See the original article for photos of these illustrations.