Monthly Archives: April 2010

Freedom at last


Freedom: does what it says on the tin

In just less than 4 minutes, I will turn on Freedom for the severalth time,  a tiny application that I installed last week on the advice of a friend. All it does is turn off your computer’s internet access  for a given number of minutes that you stipulate in a pop-up dialog box.  When I first heard about it, I thought ‘What kind of slattern needs a program to tell them not to access the internet for a bit? Whatever happened to self-control?’

But then a few days ago, I gave it a whirl anyway, and it’s transformed my early morning working life. The magic figure for me is 90 minutes. 90 minutes in which every attempt to ‘just’ look this up, follow that link, check your email, respond to an incoming alert, nervously search for related articles etc. is thwarted, while you just get on in perfect peace with good old-fashioned, enjoyable work. And if you’re having a good day, you can say, OK another half hour and I’ll make myself a coffee, so you set it again, thus ensuring that your precious half-hour isn’t dissipated into a hundred pointless online excursions. Although you can use it for free, I am so grateful to its inventor, that I donated the suggested $10 after only a few days of experiencing the Freedom advertised on the tin.

That’s it. Goodbye for now -my time’s up. I’ve finally found web-discipline.

Jonathan’s musical trivia quiz: Name that tune in 1


At a recent recording, while we were waiting for the kettle to boil or a hard drive to back up, we got a bit silly and starting playing ‘name that tune in one’ – i.e. you only get the first note or chord of the piece. Fancy playing?

Number one in the quiz, which I’ll try and do for a week… is a famous ballet by at least two people, as well as a piece of music in its own right. Click below to hear.

Name that tune in 1, #1

Will the real Eduard Khil’ (trololo man) please stand up? Yes!


Wonderful to see that the original  trololo man Eduard Khil’ is still very much alive and well, and enjoying his internet fame (a recent comment called him the ‘Jesus Christ of Youtube’). Here he is on a Russian TV programme watching clips from Youtube of other people imitating the Trololo song. And it’s another reason to love the Internet.

And for hardcore trololo fans, here he  is singing along with his fans on Skype.

The related videos make for perfect procrastination material. I’m just waiting for Trololo the ballet.

Happiness is a USB foot control


The Infinity USB Foot Control

I don’t think I have loved a piece of technology more than I currently love my new Infinity USB foot control.  I’m  transcribing hours of interviews for my dissertation, and although I type fast, it’s been a very slow process, because the transport controls on iTunes have little finesse, and you need to keep switching focus on the screen, move your hands to stop and start and so on.  Oh for the days of transcription machines which had foot pedals (I used to temp as an audio typist between music jobs, and I loved them).

Searching around the net on Saturday, I read an article about a poor bloke who had spent 40 hours transcribing one hour of audio because he didn’t know about digital transcribing machines (i.e., these days, foot pedal + software).  That’s me I thought, and read on.

Within minutes, I’d ordered an Infinity USB foot control (£47) from Amazon, and downloaded the free transcription software Express Scribe. The pedal arrived yesterday, and the results are amazing. If you’ve ever had to do it, you’ll share my enthusiasm: I transcribed about 15 minutes of audio/3,000 words in well under an hour and a half, and I was getting faster all the time. I’ve also now downloaded the open source QDA software TAMS analyser , which is one of the few programs of its type to work with Mac, and it’s free. (Mentioning no names, but how can you charge $800 dollars for a Windows only program these days? Bloody hell.)

For me, interfaces are much more interesting than the technology behind them. We’re already at a stage where computers can do stuff quickly, and have been for a long time. The challenge now is to find the interfaces which enable us to interact with the technology efficiently and in meaningful human ways.  Frankly, whoever conceived a computer without a foot-control was an idiot: what missed opportunities. Laugh if you like, but I’m saving myself hours and hours that I shall spend doing something more interesting than pointing and clicking at a screen.

For the record, my transcription toolkit, which works brilliantly

  • Apple iPhone voice memo recorder for interviews (+ iTunes to import audio)
  • Macbook
  • Logic Studio (to enhance audio, though there are easier options)
  • Express Scribe transcription Software
  • Microsoft word
  • Infinity USB foot control

Ain’t misbehavin’ and other songs


Here’s a nice site: extraordinarily detailed and well-presented details about jazz standards such as Ain’t misbehavin’. There’s a list of the 1,000 most recorded jazz standards, and very detailed records for the top 300.   For each of these, you find details of the writers, the history of the song, biographies, sound clips, musical analysis,  context, quotes, links to more detail and albums & downloads, further reading.

Take the Slovenia / Slovakia quiz


I thought I was maybe being a bit rude about people who don’t know where Slovenia is in my recent Slovenia post (A Geography Lesson for Mail-Readers), but I feel happier now that I know that even the Slovene tourist board are offering a free trip to the World Cup if you can answer a few basic questions about the difference between Slovenia and Slovakia in their fun-to-do online quiz.

Missing Nutcracker? Have a Cher Dumollet singalong


I’ve been looking for this for ages, a rendition of the French children’s song Bon voyage cher Dumollet, the contredanse-like bit in Act 1 of The Nutcracker which is usually danced by children. Here it is:

And if you’d like to singalong and learn the words, here’s a children’s Karaoake version:

Happy Easter!