Thursday, March 18, 2010

Geeky stuff 

I have quite a large collection of books. I went though a very long phase of buying (and reading, mostly) a lot of science fiction books. I have about 1500.

I soon realised that I would encounter a problem when I went book-shopping and that is I would forget what I already owned and buy it again. I needed some sort of catalogue.

And so I created a database.

Of course, at the time I didn’t have access to any of the tools that would have made the job a whole lot easier. I remember the early versions were slow, clunky and horribly convoluted. I eventually had something set up in Access 2000 which did the job but could have been better.

Better has arrived. I have transferred the database to SQL Server and written a completely new and swish front-end in C#.

It looks tons better and is way simpler to use. I can add details for a book. I can assign it any number of authors. I can put it in a series. All that I could do before but now I can check to see if there are any orphaned records (books that don’t have an author and series that don’t have any books).

It’s been very absorbing doing this. I do this sort of thing for a living but this has been for fun. And I’ve not had to write a design or a requirements spec or a user guide. I am the user and the designer and the tester and …

Anyway, it’s been fun but I have nearly finished.

Back to the novel, I suppose.

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Unsuccessful charity collectors 

Probably the woman who was trying to collect for charity at Orpington Station this morning went home and had a good old moan about how uncharitable people were at the station today.

Maybe she would have had more luck if she had not been wearing a full-length fur coat.

Leaving aside the issue as to whether the coat was real or fake (I couldn’t tell), I wonder what went through the woman’s mind when she decided to wear it? Fur coats (real or fake) are intended for two things: (1) to keep you warm (it wasn’t cold this morning) and (2) to give the impression that you are loaded.

Wearing a fur coat and trying to collect for charity was a bit of a mistake. The people she wanted money from would either be thinking she’s rich enough to put money in the bucket herself or that the next bucketload would be used to enhance her wardrobe.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Last night with Jill 

Last night I went to the Troubadour in Earl’s Court to see Jill Sobule sing.

I have been wanting to see her perform for such a long time and I cannot begin to describe how excited I was leading up to the show. Imagine I was five and I’d just been told that Santa was coming to visit and that he was the real thing, not one of these shop imitations and you’d be somewhere close.

I am normally the least impressed by anyone who is famous. I could see the Queen in Sainsbury’s and not bat an eyelid and I have seen plenty of famous people around where I work and other than thinking “oh that’s so and so” I am not impressed. They are just people after all. I see them on TV or in the papers but so what?

Jill, however, is different. I like her music. I like the way she sings. The lyrics and the tunes and the fragile yet immensely strong quality of her voice speak to me in a way that many others don’t.

I could not pass up the opportunity to see her.

Did I regret it? Was she good? She was absolutely fantastic. She could turn me straight. No, just kidding. She was good though.

The venue could only be described as small and intimate but I think it suited Jill’s act and we, well I, felt more connected with her than if she had been on a huge stage in a massive auditorium filled with a sea of people. Jill deserves that sort of fame but hopefully not just yet.

I wasn’t in a good enough position to properly appreciate Jill’s support act, Erin Williams. She had a similar strong/weak quality to her voice and I would probably like to hear more at another time but I was there to hear and see Jill. People carried on talking while Erin was on but even they stopped when Jill stepped onto the stage and smiled at us and sang.

All of her stuff I had heard before but hearing it live and seeing her standing in front of me gave it all another dimension. The time just passed in this really happy haze where she would start playing something and it would be a little while before my brain worked out what it was and what a great arrangement this was.

Let's see what I can remember - she played Heroes, Trains, Bitter, I Kissed a Girl, Nothing to Prove, Where is Bobbie Gentry?, A Good Life, Wendell Lee, Angel/Asshole, Mexican Wrestler and a million others. She finished her set but was having such a great time with us that we got her to sing five other songs, ending on I Kissed a Girl, threatening to sing the Katy Perry version, but doing the proper one.

She had us sing along to a few things as well … Nothing to Prove works well with audience participation as does Bobbie Gentry. It didn’t do my voice any favours (I still have a bit of a cough) but that didn’t matter. I bellowed along with everyone else.

I managed to speak to her afterwards and got her to sign a copy of Pink Pearl. I told her that Rainy Day Parade was my favourite song but that I'm not good enough at shouting to get her to sing it. I'm too British and, besides, at the moment I probably would have ended up shouting "Rainy! *cough* *COUGH*" which probably wouldn't have worked. In any case, I could think of a dozen more “favourites” which I would have loved her to sing had either of us the time or the lung power. Karen by *cough* would have been good or Sanfran *cough* co or even Big *coughs*.

If she's playing anywhere near you, go see her. You won't regret it. She was kidding about moving to London. Possibly. I think she was kidding. A little bit of me is hoping she was serious.

Oooh! - sorry went a bit camp there - she was interviewed by "whispering" Bob Harris yesterday afternoon and sang some songs on his show. That will be broadcast on Saturday night on BBC Radio 2. Have a listen.


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Monday, March 01, 2010


For the last few months, I have been in the surprising position of having a positive balance in my bank account just before I am paid.

I have described already how I have cut back here and there and changed this, rescheduled that and generally not spent as much so I shouldn’t be surprised. However, my calculations indicated that I should be only just above breaking even. My balance suggests otherwise. I have way more than I think I should have in the bank.

A smug me would say “woo-hoo! it’s all working! let’s go shopping!” but the more realistic me is thinking that he has forgotten something.

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