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This weekend I'm at Indietracks, which is a jolly exciting festival of indiepop, steam trains, beer and owls.

This year, it also featured the launch of a novel written by the singer from one of the bands. Having had a Mishap with his agent, he's gone down the self-publishing route on Amazon. He's made the Kindle version of the book free to download for the first few days in the hope lots of people will download it and boost him up the rankings.

Because I'm a Luddite, I've ordered a paper copy and thus haven't read it yet. So I can't actually comment on its quality. However, I can guarantee that the author is a jolly nice bloke, who is funny in person. He says the book is (a) short, (b) spell-checked and (c) hopefully amusing. So if you'd like some cost-free sci-fi reading material, grab it from Amazon before Monday evening. You can read the author's blog post about it here.
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Today I am drinking my accidentally-invented easy homemade lemonade.

The Discovery )

The Lemonade )
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Reading recommendations sought!

I am off to hospital on Monday, so am looking to stock my e-reader up with extremely lightweight reading matter. (I'm not opposed to proper books, of course, but during non mobile periods the simplicity of download vs. shop and clicking next vs. going to the bookshelf is quite appealing.)

So, what should I be reading?  I think, for mental bubblegum my tastes run rather more towards (say) YA sci-fi than they do towards chick-lit. Everyone keeps telling me I should be stocking up on T.V. boxed sets, but T.V. isn't really my thing.

I'm currently reading The Screaming Staircase and sadly finding it a little unsatisfying. I'm not sure what age range it's aimed at, but it does seem very simplistic. I loved the Bartimaeus books, but have been a bit underwhelmed by Lockwood & Co.

EditJust for clarity, I don't require YA sci-fi. It was intended as a frinstance, not a demand. Thanks for all suggestions!

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"Share your pledge on Twitter", they say. "Share your pledge on Facebook!"

I asks you.

However, it is well within my power to share my pledge on LiveJournal, like it's 2004. Except I don't think we had crowdfunding much in 2004.

Anyway: I just pledged to Your Art is Worthless by Simon Indelicate on Unbound!

The exclamation mark is a serving suggestion from Unbound. I'm not sure the sentence really merited one, myself.

Yes, yes, you all know about the Indelicates, I've been telling you about them since, well, probably about 2004 as well. And now one of them is writing a book, about the economics of selling your art in this modern age and I honestly think it sounds quite interesting anyway. I've heard Simon Indelicate speak, I've read his writing, and consider him both articulate and entertaining. I don't know much about his grasp of economics, but he's been living on the pointy end of consumer interest in his art long enough that I'd guess he's worked quite a bit of it out.

Go on, watch the pitch video and see what you think: https://unbound.co.uk/books/your-art-is-worthless
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Are you in Cambridge? Do you like guitar bands? If so, you should absolutely go and see Mammoth Penguins at the Portland Arms on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, the only reference I have for this is on FaceAche: https://www.facebook.com/events/257080234629861/

If you are not in Cambridge but like guitar bands, you could just go and listen to Mammoth Penguins on Soundcloud instead.
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Well, thank you YouTube autoplay... which just found me this amazing "concert" of a singer/fiddle player who uses livelooping:



I've never heard of NPR's "Tiny Desk" concerts before; the above features 2016's winner. You can read about the concert competition here.
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So, last Wednesday saw me all cold-y and woeful at a gig. On Thursday I worked at home (mostly to preserve my colleagues from the awful sneezing), and by the evening felt much better.

The Mountain Goats @ Shepherds Bush Empire )

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Do you ever read those articles with titles like "Three Easy Ways To Revolutionise Your Day" or "Ten Simple Steps To Kick-start Your Life"? Or, worse, anything involving a weird old tip from a mom.

Do you find them ultimately rather disappointing, because if our day could really be revolutionised in easy ways we'd all have done it already?

I present, in contrast, an article I've just re-read and enjoyed for a second time: the complete and logical guide to winning at your own life in 19 super difficult steps.

Do not read if you dislike gratuitous and repetitive swearing :)

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Sometimes, of a evening, ChrisC and I leave work at similar times and walk towards each other with the intention of meeting up for a beverage. The obvious way to do this is down Oxford Street, but that's so crowded it's easy to miss each other (not to mention the acrimonious "but why would you even be on the north side?" argument). Accordingly we've evolved a wiggly route through Soho.

We usually bump into each other not far from what Google maps calls Denmark Street and everyone else calls Tin Pan Alley. Around there is a restaurant called Flat Iron, which we'd had recommended, but which has always has a waiting time of over two hours when we've enquired. But early on Monday, we walked in and found empty tables.

Flat Iron )



Unrelatedly, courtesy of this morning's 6music trailer for a programme about Kevin Rowland, I have the opening riff from Jackie Wilson Said firmly wedged in my brain[*]. What's more annoying is that I can't actually remember how the rest of the song goes.

[*] Now you do too? Don't mention it. All part of the service.
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If you live (a) in the Western world and (b) not under a rock, you'll know it's Valentine's day this weekend. Valentine's day isn't particularly big in my house, but my inbox has been quietly exploding as every company I have ever interacted with online, ever, mails me to tell me about their Valentine deals. Or their discount flowers. Or their amazing personalised gifts.

In case anyone would like their romance in a different form, I encourage everyone to go and listen to one of my favourite lovesongs. It's unusual, it's very twee, and it's quite funny. Go on...

Frankie Machine - How Great Thou Art [link to Bandcamp streamable]

In unrelated news, a total stranger spoke to ChrisC and I on the tube this morning. We had a brief, friendly chat, and he got off a couple of stations later wishing us a nice weekend. For non-Londoners: this never happens. Which is a shame.
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Good morning, the internet. Does anyone know anything about Brussels?

My dance team are organising a trip for ourselves and another team there next Easter (location chosen mostly for presence of Belgian beer, and ability to get there on the train).

Right now we're at the planning stage, and looking for things to do, things to see and places to dance for a group of ~30 people. Also a (cheap) place to stay, and places to eat. I'm sure the internet, and the research trip Sally and I are planning, will turn up plenty, but if you have any special recommendations, I'd love hear them!
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For anyone who - like me - is forced to use Windows 8/8.1, but hates lots of the non-negotiable features, I commend to you Winaero. From them, you can download two lightweight programs which:

1. Allow you to turn off the bottom-right hot corner, meaning the stupid Charms menu doesn't pop up all the time (Charms Bar Killer runs in your systray, and allows you to turn various hot corners on and off).

2. Allow you to fine-tune, and indeed turn off, the taskbar thumbnail previews meaning the the silly little windows don't pop over the thing you're trying to look at (Taskbar Thumbnail Tuner is a run-when-you-need-it selection of extra settings, including the mighty "disable thumbnails" tickybox).

(There are various registry hacks proposed on t'internet to solve both of these. I haven't tried them.)

If the above are features you like and use, then hurrah! However, in my case they were nothing but a source of irritation.

I think nearly 12 months of locating settings, finding obscure menus, and downloading extra bits means that I'm now willing to declare a sort of armed truce with Windows 8 (or, actually, 8.1 now). It has agreed to keep all its spurious Mac-esque eye-candy and ridiculous Metro nonsense out of my way, and I've conceded that a very small amount of the new functionality is useful.
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I'm sure I have dozens of LJ posts stacked up in the back of my head, but now that I am sitting at a computer with ten minutes to spare, I can't remember any of them. So, you may have my thoughts on jeans.

Jean Genie )
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In my family, there's a bit of a tradition of giving lots of small Christmas presents rather than one big one. I like it; unless there happens to be a large and obvious present that someone actually wants, of course, a mixed bag of parcels always seems far more exciting.

The obvious problem, though, is that buying stocking fillers is tricky. You don't want anything terribly pricey, which risks meaning cheap tat that no one wants. And which may well have been made in dubious working conditions and sent halfway round the world. I hate giving the sort of presents which I fear will either be chucked out after a few days, or end up gathering dust in a corner somewhere because someone feels guilty chucking them out.

However! I have what I consider to be a fail-safe stocking-filler idea, which works for almost everyone.

Venta's Smashing Stocking-filler Idea )
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Once long ago on LJ, I made braised red cabbage and remarked that it was so lovely "I don't know why people don't eat it all the time". That was at the beginning of 2007, and I don't think I've made it since :(

Anyway, at the weekend I picked up a red cabbage at the greengrocers with the intention of braising. Sunday didn't go quite to plan so the cabbage with Sunday dinner just got boiled[*], but later in the week there was time for braising.

I no longer live in the house with the cookbook I used last time, so instead used this recipe. Well, I say used. More read, and then approximated. And gosh, isn't the cider I bought from the lovely microbrewery in Lancashire explosive when you open it?

Anyway, braised red cabbage is still awesome (I had it with sausages this time). But my new discovery is how exciting it is if you put sour cream on it. One bowl hot red cabbage, one dollop sour cream... an excellent accompaniment to a plate of ham sandwiches.

[*] .. which with the kale and the carrots did mean that the rather random and unplanned dinner served to [livejournal.com profile] leathellin was borderline psychedelic in its multicolouredness.
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Well... it's a long time since we've had a Friday t-shirt amnesty, isn't it? So, tell me what you're wearing...

I appreciate that these days, lots of people are too grown-up, professional or oppressed by their employers to be wearing t-shirts on Fridays. Some of you may be none of those things, but choose not to wear t-shirts. So I'll settle for whatever it is you're wearing on your top half.

I've got my beautiful, brand new Hedingham Fair silver, gold and black "Three Ravens" t-shirt on.

Now, I was going to (a) link to a picture of my t-shirt on their website and (b) recommend Hedingham Fair, but their website turns out to be really horrible to use. Everything's there, but very hard to find (mostly due to rather non-orthogonal classification). Also, the Three Ravens design is new and doesn't seem to have made it up there yet. Or into their catalogue. You'll just have to trust me that it's beautiful.

Anyway! Horrible website notwithstanding, Hedingham Fair sell some lovely things. T-shirts with folky customs, instruments or pagan designs on them plus a wide variety of other stuff. Possibly of interest to some of you is that in addition to a large selection of Christmas cards they sell cards for Yule, the Winter Solstice, Imbolc... all manner of things. Plus birthdays, and blank-for-your-message, and so on.

They're worth checking out. If the website is a bit un-navigable, try downloading their catalogue. Or you could go and find them at a festival.
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At the weekend, I headed into town to meet up with some university friends who had parked their kids somewhere and run away to the big, wicked city. After extensive quality-checking of Thwaites' Wainwright golden ale in a handy pub (it was lovely, thanks) talk turned to a dinner destination.

Dave had requested "spicy food", and Jamie weighed in with a recommendation of a nearby Chinese restaurant. The recommendations I'd managed to come up with had been a bit vague[*], so we followed Jamie in a small procession to Ba Shan.

Mao Tse Tung said... )
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So, while at Glastonbury, I watched Amanda Palmer. She was awesome.

As brought to my attention by [livejournal.com profile] fractalgeek, the Daily Mail covered her performance. They could have written about all kinds of stuff - performing in the face of adversity having lost all the kit in a BA mix-up, say. They could have posted a fabulous picture of her singing while crowd surfing, with about twenty feet of sky-blue train spreading across her audience[*]. They could have mentioned a triumphant Pulp cover which had a whole field jumping up and down. They could have written something about an independent artist carving her own unique path through the music industry and still ending up on a main stage at one of the world's greatest festivals. Hell, as a last resort they could have written about the music.

Did they?

No. They reported that her set "saw her breast left on show after it escaped her bra".

For the record, I failed to notice this happen at the time. Besides, if you want to look at her breasts the internet and/or her shows and/or her videos provide absolutely no shortage of opportunity.

I think Amanda Palmer is one of those people I'd approve of, even if I hated her music. She's doing her own thing, and good luck to her. And now she's composed her response to the Daily Mail. I think this is filmed-on-a-phone in the Roundhouse in Camden, but it's worth a watch.

Video NSFW because - have you guessed yet? - there's nakedness in it.




[*] No, I'm not quite clear why someone who's lost all her stage costumes still has a coat with a train like that. I do hope she flew in wearing it.
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Wow. It's very exciting. At least, it is if you're me. For the first time that I've ever noticed, Jez Lowe is playing in London. On Friday.

And he's bringing the Bad Pennies with him.

And it's in King's Place, which is a lovely venue.

Jez Lowe is a traditional-sounding folk songwriter from the North East. If - like me - you grew up hanging out in folk clubs in Durham then you will have slowly spent your life discovering that half the songs you thought were traditional were actually written by him.

I think his best-known song is probably Greek Lightning, though it's one I only met relatively recently. Annoyingly, YouTube doesn't seem to want to furnish me with the (rather dafter) song I wanted to link to, about a dog that wouldn't bark.

Anyway, if you like good song-writing, folk-style music, or stripey t-shirts I highly recommend it. Tickets available from here.

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