Brief 2014 Update

Hello hello ūüôā

I’m blogging less and less these days (er, as the stats for 2013 probably show). I haven’t forgotten about this place altogether, but for a variety of reasons, writing blog posts isn’t something that draws me like it did once. So here’s a bit of an update on a few bits, but I will probably end up falling silent after this for quite a while. Unfortunately, energy and willpower are finite, and at the moment those things are being used up in settings (like work, trying to keep working on physical fitness, and staying in touch with individuals) which aren’t blogging/writing.

(I will try and finish typing up the Hanter Dro notes at some point. But no promises as to when.)

I am still writing a bit, occasionally – well, I guess, most recently in NaNoWriMo 2013 (which I completed!). I have a draft novel which is about all sorts of things like magic, friendship, perception, and taking over the world. I’m not under the illusion that it’s brilliant – it’s probably not very good, and the pacing is wrong as I realised close to the end that I couldn’t have someone create an army super-quickly so needed months more added into the timeline – but I think I might actually go back and work on this one, and edit it and try and craft it into something that’s genuinely worth reading. I think it might have the potential for that (I haven’t felt that with my previous Nano novels).

I’d like to write something shorter. I’ve been reading lots of short stories recently (Father Brown ones, and a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories by modern sci-fi/fantasy type authors) which I’ve really enjoyed. But that’s just a dream at the moment, really. At some point, when time/energy resources come free again … then, I hope. Maybe I’ll even try my hand at a Sherlock Holmes story or two.¬†

Til next time,


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Hanter Dro #4: Elmo’s Nuts Hey (IVFDF 2013 #6)

This figure is … well … nuts. It’s easy to watch it and think you can see it’s some normal kind of hey, until you realise you’re mistaken and it really isn’t. Nevertheless, the moves that¬†each person makes are pretty simple.

Stepping: for each 6-beat unit, everyone is moving on their right-left-right-hop, and stepping on the spot for the following left-hop. End the right-left-right-hop facing the direction you will be going in next.

In order to describe the movements, consider the positions in the set to be:


2 and 6 have it easy.
2 starts at B, goes across to A, bounces back to B, to A, and so on.
6 starts at F, goes across to E, bounces back to F, to E, and so on.

1 and 5 go in a triangle clockwise

1 starts at A, goes to D, goes to E, goes to C, goes to A. (Repeat)
5 starts at E, goes to C, goes to A, goes to D, goes to E. (Repeat)

3 and 4 go in a triangle anticlockwise

3 starts at C, goes to F, goes to D, goes to B, goes to C. (Repeat)
4 starts at D, goes to B, goes to C, goes to F, goes to D. (Repeat)

Put it all together and it’s magic. Kind of nuts, but also kind of magic.

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Hanter Dro #3: Chorus (IVFDF 2013 #5)

The basics (stepping and sticking) are covered in this post.

Assuming that makes sense, the chorus is pretty easy …

You finish the figure in set, as usual, i.e.

1   2
3   4
5   6

At the beginning of the chorus, instanteneously/magically, the middles (3 and 4) step back to make a hexagon:

–1 ¬† 2
3          4
–5 ¬† 6

Beats Action
1-6 (Middles step back)”First corners” sticking – that is, the pairs 1 and 6, 3 and 5, and 2 and 4, each do an “up-down-flip-and-throw-catch” (see previous blog post)
7-12 “Second corners” sticking – pairs are 2 and 5, 1 and 3, and 4 and 6
13-18 “Middles” sticking – pairs are 3 and 4, 1 and 2, and 5 and 6.
19-24 Sticking-clash across: all “up-down-flip-and-clash-(hold)” across (see previous blog post; 3 and 4 will need to step in for the clash)
25-48 Repeat 1-24

… and that’s all there is to it ūüôā

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Hanter Dro #2: Diamonds (IVFDF 2013 #4)

30th Sept: It’s been so long since I intended to post these posts, that I’m putting them up as word-y-descriptions. I hope to come back and add pictures to make it clearer, but I don’t know if I will so thought it’d be good to get something up.¬†

Remember the dance works in 6-s, not 4s. (Step: 1-2-3-hop 1-hop)
Petronella = move whilst turning right (right-shoulder-back). In this figure, it’s a full 360 degree turn OR a 180 degree turn (often in other dances it’s 270 degrees).

Beginning positions (the same through the dance)
1 2
3 4
5 6

The figure is called diamonds as each person dances a diamond shape around another person. Only one line of dancers is stepping at any given time – the others stand still.

Beats Action
1-4 1,3,5 petronella moving forwards and slightly right to end up in a line with 2, 4, 6, (facing the opposite way to 2, 4, 6). This is a turn of 360 degrees.
5-6 1, 3, 5 step on the spot.
7-10 1, 3, 5, petronella moving forwards and slightly left (but still turning right-shoulder-back) to end up directly behind 2, 4, 6 (facing the same way as 2, 4, 6). This is a turn of 180 degrees.
11-12 1, 3, 5 step on the spot.
13-16 (similar to 1-4) 1, 3, 4, petronella moving forwards and slightly right to end up in a line of 2, 4, 6 (facing the same way as 2, 4, 6, and on the other side of them). This is a turn of 360 degrees.
17-18 1, 3, 5 step on the spot.
19-22 (similar to 7-10) 1, 3, 5 petronella moving forwards and slightly left (but still turning right-shoulder-back) to end up directly across from 2, 4, 6 (facing towards 2, 4, 6). They are now back in their home positions.
23-24 1, 3, 5 step on the spot.
25-48 1, 3, 5 stand still while 2, 4, 6, do the above (read all directions swapping ‘1, 3, 5’ with ‘2, 4, 6’).


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Things worth rioting about

A clip of the Now Show from last Friday: Mitch Benn’s song for the EDL (English Defence League, a nasty extremist nationalist organisation who have been attacking Mosques after the violent killing of an off-duty British soldier a couple of weeks ago).


There are things worth rioting about right now
There are plenty of good reasons to be pissed
There are things worth rioting about right now
And the Muslims are not even on the list

If you’re so concerned about the working class
Why are you not marching for the NHS?
It’s the one thing keeps ordinary folk alive
But it’s more fun scaring immigrants, I guess

Now they want to ration visits to your own GP
It’s the latest brainwave from Jeremy Hunt
You might want to look at your priorities
Or are you just a gang of stupid racist

Cause there’s things worth rioting about right now
There’s some fairly serious stuff that’s going on
There are things worth rioting about right now
But it’s easier blaming everybody brown

If you want to preserve the British way of life
Have you noticed that they’re cutting legal aid?
For a bunch who get arrested quite as much as you
I would think this was a cause to be afraid

You’ll be defended by a lawyer trained at Eddie Stobart’s
In a run-for-profit court without a hitch
Cause we’re not innocent til proven guilty any more
We’re all guilty until we are proven rich

There are things worth rioting about right now
If you weren’t so ignorant you might have known
There are things worth rioting about right now
So get a clue, and leave the Mosques alone
Yes, get a clue, and leave the Mosques alone!

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I [don’t] vow to thee my country

The church [congregation] I’m part of sings hymns. Mostly they are lovely, and well-chosen. But this morning’s service included ‘I vow to thee my country’ (it made sense given the theme of the service, and how well known it is) … ick.

I have real issues with the content of this hymn (which is slightly awkward, being in the music group and therefore feeling it was not totally OK to just not sing the bits I object to … singing ‘la’ is a suitable alternative, right?). The first verse, which is the bit I object to, goes like this:

I vow to thee, my country / all earthly things above
Entire and whole and perfect / the service of my love
The love that asks no questions / the love that stands the test
That lays upon the alter / the dearest and the best
The love that never falters / the love that pays the price
The love that makes undaunted / the final sacrifice

This seems to me to be … wrong. And not just harmlessly wrong like the hymn ‘Jerusalem’ is wrong (I’m with Dara O’Briain on that – and did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountains green? No. And was the holy lamb of God on England’s pleasant pastures seen? No, not that either …), potentially dangerously wrong. As in links to¬†pointless glorification of nationalism, unquestioning obedience and willingness to die for an ill-defined cause.

‘The love that asks no questions’ is the bit that disturbs me most. I think as a general rule love asks questions – it’s fear that doesn’t ask. Especially when the thing you’re asking is something like a nation-state, not a person. And I think that a state that suppresses or discourages questioning is heading somewhere nasty.

Also, aren’t we supposed to owe our allegiance to God and his kingdom over and above anything else? I know that’s what the last verse is about … but the first verse’s “Entire and whole and perfect” rather seems to overshadow anything else, and very much put nationalism first. It seems to me this is totally contrary to Christ’s message (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself” <– nope, not seeing anything about fighting for or owing allegiance to your country there! And definitely not about giving your country the entirety of your love!).

The final* verse goes

And there’s another country / I’ve heard of long ago
Most dear to them that love her / most great to them that know
We may not count her armies / we may not see her King
Her fortress is a faithful heart / her pride is suffering
And soul by soul and silently / her shining bounds increase
And her ways are ways of gentleness / and all her paths are peace

which I have no problem with, except that it feels a bit like an afterthought.

Bah. Sometimes I wonder whether I am the only person who has a problem with these things … surely other people – especially now we can look¬†back at the 20th century and see all the wars and genocide – also do a double-take on these words? I know it was written around the first world war and that might excuse what it is – but I feel that’s no excuse for continuing to sing it.

*Wikipedia tells me there’s another verse that goes in the middle but is rarely sung – it’s much more explicitly about war.

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Not those, those are my time-travel trousers …

This past week has been a good one. Last weekend my Bretonnian army sold on ebay for a significant sum (significant to me, anyway!) and so I have spent this week BUYING ALL THE THINGS (plus putting some money into savings). Having little-to-no spending money for months on end had honed my wishlist, so I could match up the I WANT TO BUY ALL THE THINGS feelings with things I really do want:

  • running armband to hold my blackberry (¬£3.99, half price)
  • 9 books, mostly Morse (¬£3, local fete)
  • necklace to wear with dance kit (50p, local fete)
  • MS Pro Duo card-to-USB adapter (¬£2.50 on amazon)
  • hip flask (¬£4.50 on amazon)
  • runtastic pro app (¬£2.50)
  • jeans for dance kit (¬£10, Tesco )
  • The Indifference Engine by Professor Elemental (¬£9 + ¬£1.50 P&P)
  • Father of Invention by Professor Elemental (¬£12 + ¬£1.50 P&P – should have ordered them together but didn’t …)
  • camping stove, gas canisters, grill plate, and mini-kettle (¬£30, nearly all half price)
  • rainbow scarf that’s pretty and smart enough for work (¬£5, charity shop)

I’m very excited about the 2 Professor Elemental CDs. Since meeting the lovely Prof. at IVFDF¬†a couple of months ago I’ve wanted to purchase some of his music, but I’ve been holding out until I could afford proper CDs (digital tracks are great, but I can play CDs in the car and use steering-wheel-mounted controls on them). Unfortunately (according to an auto-reply email) he’s off at Comicpalooza, but should be returning to the lab soon – I’m hoping they’ll arrive sometime this week :).

I’m also really pleased with my running armband, and runtastic pro. I’ve been using runtastic lite for a while, and upgraded to the pro version yesterday – the main attraction being the voice feedback feature. I’ve set it up so it talks to me every 5 minutes, and every kilometre. And yesterday I jogged 5k! Without the feedback I probably would’ve stopped at 4 – being able to zone out and just keep going until I hear the voice is really helpful for me. Much better than constantly checking my watch or obsessing about how far it is to the next tree. I still need to find a solution for how to carry my keys while jogging (either a wrist wallet or one of those things that attaches onto your shoelaces?) but having the blackberry securely strapped to my arm rather than bouncing around in ¬†pockets is really good. Plus, most of my good-for-exercise clothing lacks pockets, which is inconvenient.

I think it’s time for another Professor Elemental track

(It doesn’t make an awful lot of sense, I’ll admit. According to the Professor’s blog:

¬†I have a Horse, a lovely horse, a pretty horse. ¬†No one is questioning that. I mean, I feel I have made that fairly clear in my recent video. (if you didn’t see it , you can find it on the first page) What I rarely mention, as it sounds more pretentious than I mean it to, is that when I wrote the song, it was originally meant to be a loose metaphor for my love of Hip Hop and the strange places that being a professor has taken me. In the end, it was much more about an imaginary ¬†horse that I ride in my own mind. A pretty horse. A lovely horse. Either way, I hope you liked it. )

I’m vaguely trying to avoid buying things from Amazon (what with them being massive tax avoiders and all), but I couldn’t think of anywhere else to look for cheap memory card to USB adapters – and then I found that I had about ¬£4 credit from a gift voucher that I’d completely forgotten. So now I’ve used that up, between the adapter and the hip flask. I’ve wanted a hip flask for ages – when it comes to alcohol, I’m the sort of person who will very occasionally drink a tiny bit of something awfully sweet (e.g. Christmas pudding vodka, mead, syrupy fruity things) so being able to take a small amount on holiday in a conveniently-sized receptacle sounds a very good idea.

Similarly, I mostly try to avoid buying clothing from Tesco, but given what I needed and the timeframe I needed it in buying something new from a shop that stocks a wide range of sizes was necessary :(. At least they’ve signed up to the Bangladesh¬†safety agreement, though,¬†unlike Asda/Walmart and Gap. The whole buying ethical / buying second hand clothing thing is much harder when you have very specific requirements. For example, I need a plain white or cream coloured smart top for a singing group I’m in – chances of finding precisely that in a size that fits me in a charity shop are pretty low. In such cases I’m trying to buy from least-bad ¬†brands and make such purchases the smallest-necessary part of my wardrobe (e.g. by only wearing those items when I have to, so that they will last a long time).

Have you bought anything exciting or listened to any bizarre music lately?

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Slightly amusing signage

Slightly amusing signage

Spotted next to giant inflatables: “Notice: Sorry no adults passed this point”.

That’s not a notice, that’s part of a script! As in:

Investigator to small child: “Did a man in jeans and an orange top hat come this way?”
Small but well-spoken child: “Sorry, no adults passed this point.”

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Our computer is healthy again!

Hello internet!

One of the reasons I haven’t been posting much lately is that our desktop has been really, really, really slow (so I couldn’t draft a post in a spare 10 minutes, it would end up taking 40 minutes to turn on, get to WordPress, get to the right page, open it, wait for the page to actually register what you were typing … and then, hopefully, it would actually upload … maybe …). I wasn’t sure what the cause was, but occasionally it was OK, so thought maybe it was just due to the computer getting older and having more and more stuff installed on it. And since I can check email/facebook/read blogs on my phone, it was easy to put off trying to sort it out after we’d done a full scan and not found anything.

C found out this morning that it had some kind of trojan/malware on it (SProtector). Got rid of that, and wow! Things actually start up, and load, without being horribly horribly slow!

I can’t promise that this will herald a big increase in blog posts, but it certainly improves the chances :). Happy Eudoxia.

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On instrumental music

This evening, I went to an piano recital*, and enjoyed it very much. This is unusual, because as a rule my attention span for instrumental music lasts for approximately 3 minutes (maybe 3 1/2, if I’m really focusing).¬†Even when I know it’s exceptional music, being played extraordinarily well, and my friends/family who know about this kind of music are swooning because of its beauty … yeah. 3 1/2 minutes, tops, then I’m thinking about something else or trying to count how many women there are in the orchestra, or something. But tonight’s recital was an hour long, and I didn’t spend the second half hour thinking “hm, can I go home how?” !

Admitting that I don’t see the beauty in pretty much any classical music is slightly embarrassing, because I would like to think of myself as an educated person (or at least on the way to becoming such) and to be unable to appreciate so many musical works is slightly annoying. However, I think that I’ve worked out why this is. When I listen to purely instrumental music (particularly classical, but also in other genres, er, pretty much every kind of music I can think of), here’s what happens in my head:

… there’s a loud bit … it’s still loud … it’s gone quiet now … there’s a twiddly bit … now a medium-loud bit … oh! now it’s both loud and twiddly! … quiet bit … hmm, I wonder how many seats there are in this venue? Let me start counting … [aaand I’m lost]

This is what I imagine goes through other people’s heads:

… ah, playing the first bit more quietly than the recording I’ve got … nice chord progression there … oh that’s interesting … yes, back on familiar territory … gosh, playing on the original instruments really makes a difference, doesn’t it, it wouldn’t sound the same on a modern one … nicely done, that’s a hard note to hit properly … ah yes this is the easier bit, lovely tone, very lyrical … a slight pause before the next phrase … and here we come to the really technically tricky stuff – hm, yes, very competently executed, well done! … now the motif from earlier, but minor this time … [etc]

I may be entirely wrong here. But I’m thinking of it in terms of morris dancing (as you do). Because, say, 5 years ago, had I watched a morris dance I would have thought:

… they’re in a line … that’s a swirly bit … now they’re in a line again … OK, now they’re in a circle … and in a line – I think this bit repeats a lot …

and now I’d think:

… interesting kit, that’s mostly traditional but I’ve not seen that kind of shoulder decoration before … good spacing, nice straight lines … sheepskin hey … and back to place for the chorus, though the set has drifted about a foot to the right … standard sticking kind of chorus … rounds – gosh, that’s very odd, in the middle of a dance … back to the chorus …

and it makes quite a big difference.

(Plus, I’m sure that classical music has a lot more interplay and subtlety than morris dancing due to the possibilities that the medium affords – there’s more you can do with an orchestra than with e.g. 8 dancers, even after you’ve given them kit and sticks and hankies!)

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this evening’s recital was that the performer stopped between each piece and said a little bit about what they were going to play, or what they’d just played, including playing tiny extracts to show what they meant. And a combination of the breaks helping me to refocus, plus interesting facts (both musical and historical), plus some bloody good playing (at a certain level you stop having to know about music and can start just going “gosh that’s a LOT of keys being played VERY FAST”) made it by far the most enjoyable instrumental performance I’ve listened to in a very, very, very long time. I am hopeful that in future, as I slowly pick up more about various music-related things (through folk dancing, or singing, or just being around other enthusiastic people occasionally) I will find I am more able to see and understand the interplay and structure of instrumental music :).

*readers will forgive me for being vague; I don’t wish to disclose that I am at least in reasonable travelling distance of such-and-such a place – and it’s not really relevant to what I’m trying to say here anyway

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