One of my longer blog headers

Chris's Blog Archive: October 2021

This month was, once again, focused on music. The audio interface that I ordered back in May finally arrived and was rapidly pressed into service, even though the songwriting challenge in which I have been participating since the 4th of July drew to a close on the first of the month.

But I got up to other things as well, including an excellent cheese tasting session!

I'm still releasing albums on Bandcamp as pay-what-you-want deals, (and that continues to include free, because I know times are still hard for a lot of people right now.) The latest—my seventh album this year—is a collection of ambient music and Frippertronics that was written during September 2021 for the Fifty/Ninety songwriting challenge. It's called Thrown For A Loop. This time around you get an hour and ten minutes of music in twelve very chilled tracks as I returned to of my favourite genres. I hope you'll enjoy listening to it.

My most recent commercial album Oneiric Tulpas is available on Bandcamp! You can also check it out on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Tidal and all your other favourite streaming services. My previous album Beyond is also on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal and the rest as well.

My earlier albums Generator and Fort are also available at Bandcamp, together with a large collection of other music from me.


Now that I use 4K displays for pretty much everything, I've been meaning to adjust the website's design to make it a better experience at high DPI settings. And today, I've finally done so. The first thing that you might notice (if it works properly, that is) is that the blog banners now scale properly at different browser resolutions, although I was rather peeved to discover that here in 2021 you still can't get images to scale automatically inside HTML tables. It's probably long past time I abandoned the use of tables to control layout on the three or four pages that I set up back in the 90s, but that last step will have to wait for another day when I have the time to refresh my memory of how to lay out floating blocks of text using CSS.

Because I'm me and it's a Sunday, I will probably have broken something somewhere on the site, so please bear with me if you encounter any bugs here over the next few days.


The UK is now back on Greenwich Mean Time and thanks to Brexit, the clocks also appear to have been put back to the early 1950s, at least as far as food shortages go. It's not difficult to spot what's going on as supermarkets are desperately trying to hide the worst of it all; I noticed that a considerable proportion of the chilled food cabinets at my local branch of Sainsbury's had been filled with cans of lager this week rather than the produce I was hoping to buy.

I'm trying to hold off on using the central heating as much as I can thanks to the threat of a 30% hike in energy costs this winter (Brexit really is the gift that keeps on giving; the UK used to be able to negotiate much better deals with power suppliers as a member of the EU but now we're a tinpot little state going our own way, we're getting gouged on prices. Didn't see that on the Tories' battle bus, did you?) I've switched it on for an occasional hour or so this month but I have yet to set it back to automatic. I don't know if I'll be breaking my record for a late swtichover this year, though. There was a noticeable chill in the house when I got up this morning.

The summer duvet has therefore been returned to the airing cupboard, replaced on my bed by the winter 13.5 tog one.


I've been shut away in my home studio a lot recently. It's been a whole year since I gave it a complete overhaul and added a bespoke desk, dual 4K displays, better gear storage, and acoustic treatment in the shape of two gigantic sets of bookshelves. I absolutely love having a space where I can make music to my heart's content and over the last twelve months I've made a lot of music. I aim on maintaining that level of productivity, too. I'll be releasing another album ready for next week's Bandcamp Friday, and that will be the eighth full length album I've produced this year. You can download all of them on my Bandcamp page and they're all "name your price" deals.

But as my productions become more complex and I experiment more with layers of sounds, I have really noticed the performance of my studio PC dropping off. A few months ago I replaced the hard disc that stores the Ableton sets I'm working on with a solid state drive (SSD) and that definitely helped matters, but at the same time it also showed me that I had a severe bottleneck in the form of the large capacity hard disk drive (a 4 TB Seagate drive) which stores all my instrument libraries. It only spins at 5200 rpm, which means you can't read or write data to it very quickly. The more I used software synths, the more obvious it became that this was a big problem.

4 TB SSDs have come down in price a lot in the last twelve months, but they're still not what you could call cheap. But this week things had become annoying enough that I decided I had to just grit my teeth and do something about the problem, so I ordered a 4 TB SSD to replace the Seagate with something significantly quicker. As a replacement I went with a Western Digital Blue SSD, the same brand as the SSD I'm using for my Ableton data, but twice the capacity. It arrived yesterday and by the time I'd had my tea I'd cloned the Seagate drive on to it and installed it in its place. It works perfectly and I was happy to see that I'm no longer getting anywhere near as many CPU overload warnings in Ableton, even when I'm running nine or ten software synths on a project. Sets are loading more quickly, too.


It's generally accepted that white noise or natural sounds such as waves breaking on the shore are supposed to be soothing and help you to fall asleep, and there are plenty of Internet radio stations which feature such sounds. I have several of them set as presets on the radio by my bed and they are useful in helping me to drift off at night. However, it's possible to have too much of a good thing. I was woken up at half past six this morning by the sound of torrential rain hammering on the roof of my house. And yes, that's right; I could hear the rain on the roof, not the windows (the double glazing I had installed a few years ago is quite effective at shutting out most external noise). For noise from the roof to disturb me, it must have been raining really hard. I lay in bed listening to the downpour, which lasted for about ten minutes, and I was very glad I wasn't outside.

This morning the sky is blue and the sunlight streaming through the living room windows is most welcome—but the forecast for tonight predicts that things are going to be even wetter than last night. There's a yellow warning of rain in place here from midnight until 3 pm tomorrow afternoon.

The village has got off lightly compared with Cumbria, though. The town of Cockermouth has flooded once again, and they've been clobbered so badly in the Lake District that the lakes are joining together.


During Thursday's live stream on Twitch I managed to slice the index finger of my left hand open on an old tin of Fast Fret. The cut didn't bleed that much because I play a lot of guitar these days and the resulting calluses on my fingers are quite thick, but it was deep enough to put paid to any chance of me getting to play any guitar at all for a few days.

Which is most inconvenient, as this week I took my electric guitar collection into double figures. I've been hankering after a black Strat for four decades now (and yes, you can blame David Gilmour for that peculiarly specific obsession.) When I went to the shops this week, I called in to see my pals at Intersound guitars in Dursley and while the "Clapton Grey" American Player Stratocaster that they'd shared photos of on social media recently had been snapped up almost immediately (that wasn't that much of a disappointment for me, as it went for a price well above my comfort zone these days), Steve did introduce me to a used Squier Affinity Strat—in black, with a rosewood fingerboard. It had a few dings on it, so it was reasonably priced, and when I played it, it felt right even with a set of tens on (I normally string my guitars with a top string of .009 and these days I can instantly tell when I'm playing heavier gauge strings). It's a 2002 model, so it has a "Squier 20th Anniversary" stainless steel plate on the neck joint, although that's about the only difference to any other Chinese-made Squier from the time.

I'm not affluent enough to be sniffy about buying a guitar made in China. It plays very well and the neck is my favourite C profile. And let's not forget that Mike Rutherford of Genesis hit the headlines in the music press recently by going on tour with a bottom-of-the-line Squier Bullet Stratocaster made in Indonesia.

With a white scratchplate and a rosewood fingerboard, it looks very much like Gilmour's Black Strat did in the period when he used it on Pink Floyd's albums Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, and his 1978 solo album. Which is pretty much exactly what I was looking for in a Strat. I'm delighted with it.

My Black Strat

I'd already used it on three tracks this week before I cut my finger open. I'm hoping I'll heal quickly so I can get back to playing it some more, because it really sounds great and it's huge fun to play. And that's what you buy a guitar for, isn't it?


Ever since I started having problems with kidney stones again I have been neglecting the back garden and since I had the leylandii hedge ripped out, the plants have been taking full advantage of the greatly increased sunshine that it gets. Things out there have been verdant, to say the least.

Unfortunately the front runners in the growth stakes have been nettles and brambles. On Saturday I went out to top up the bird feeders and I could no longer ignore just how out of control the far corner of the back garden had become. The nettles were seven feet high and the brambles were starting to make inroads through and over the back fence. It was time to grit my teeth and make a stand.

So I spent most of Saturday's remaining daylight hours with secateurs, shears and stepladder loading my green wheely bin with roughly eight cubic metres of growth. The stepladder was so that I could climb in the bin and jump up and down on the contents, compacting them so I could add even more greenery to the pile. I don't think I've done that much physical hard work for a couple of years. When I reached the back fence I even resorted to treating the soil with weedkiller to discourage the brambles, nettles and ivy from growing back. I think I'll probably cover the bed with bark chips to try and discourage weeds from recolonising things too quickly. But I discovered that I seem to have acquired another buddleia, which I left alone, and possibly another cherry tree, which I've also left in place.

Even after spending Saturday evening soaking in a hot bath, I have been paying the price of all that exertion. I was very sore on Sunday and my sides are still aching today. But the garden no longer looks like a crazy person lives here, which is good.


One thing I didn't expect to have to do during Saturday's gardening session was fill in a large hole which something had dug underneath the back gate. There was soil and sand everywhere; whatever it was had made quite a mess.

As there are no holes in any of the fences in the back garden, I'm veering towards foxes being to blame. A badger is the other likely culprit but I suspect that a badger would have been more destructive. And I have seen foxes in the cul-de-sac on several occasions, so it makes sense that one might pick the back garden for a thoroughfare.

I'm tempted to buy myself a cheap trail cam and plonk it in the back garden for a few nights to see exactly what there is going on out there...


A costume trailer for a BBC film unit ended up in Bristol Harbour this morning. Nobody was hurt, but that's definitely going to leave a mark.

And that, folks, is why standardising the User Interface (UI) on things is incredibly important. I am told that DAF and MAN trucks have very similar gear shifts; you twist the shift one way to put the truck into reverse, then twist it the other way to go forwards again. But unfortunately, one manufacturer built its gearboxes the other way round, so that the positions of forwards and reverse are switched.

Because of course they are.


There's a stunningly blue sky outside this morning. But last night it was very wet and windy as Storm Aurore passed through. Most of the leaves on my Virginia creeper—which looked so lovely just a week ago—have fallen off and when I swept them up yesterday, my green bin was nearly full.

Today it's turned noticeably colder here. The wind shifted around to the North overnight. It's much fresher air, though; earlier in the week the wind direction was from the South West, and that brought a strong plume of SO2 from the eruption of Cumbre Vieja on La Palma (and I love the approach that Windy take to data visualisation.)

The eruption is still happening, but fears that a flank collapse could end up wiping out the Eastern seaboard of the United States (an event postulated in a breathlessly apocalyptic Horizon documentary that the BBC broadcast years ago) have been assuaged, and the "science" involved soundly debunked.


Although it's getting colder, I'm holding out with the summer duvet a little while longer. I have switched back to putting a fleece blanket on the bed, however. It's proving difficult to acclimatise to it, and this morning when I woke up it felt ridiculously heavy.

It had kept me nice and warm, although the house hasn't been cold. Since I had new double glazing fitted, it's been much better at retaining heat and the Sun shining through the windows is keeping off the chill. It's 18°C in here right now and upstairs it's 21°C.

All the same, I really didn't want to get out of bed at all this morning.


I forgot to mention that, as predicted, I successfully completed my Goodreads challenge last week. As the new movie is released here this week it was rather fitting that the 60th book I completed this year was Frank Herbert's classic science fiction novel Dune. I reread it every few years and each time I do, the book feels fresh and new. I don't hold with the current narrative that it perpetuates the "white messiah" trope that was such a staple of western literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Herbert was clearly writing against the trope, even if the much more popular "weedy kid discovers he has superpowers" cliché so beloved of Young Adult (YA) fiction is most definitely all present and correct.

Dune is primarily a meditation on ecology and the necessity of living in accordance with the environment which surrounds us. Its preoccupation not just with water but with moisture is looking increasingly prescient. But it's also an examination of fate, and the roles expected of us by family, by society, and by tradition (particularly the latter). It is only when Paul rebels against the role that the Bene Gesserit have decided for him that he obtains a degree of autonomy in deciding what he should do, although as the later books show, his rejection of what the Universe has in store for him counts for little in the grander scheme of things.

I have been hearing good things about the new film. I hope that I can get to see it on the big screen before too long.


I think I must have been snoring at some point last night; I can feel the effects in my tonsils. I fell asleep quickly when I went to bed yesterday, which I don't normally do. But I really dropped off; when I checked my sleep record this morning I discovered that my lowest heart rate last night was just 49 beats per minute, which I hit at around 6 am. That's most unusual for me; somehow I managed to bypass the stress and anxiety which normally pervade my dreams and truly unwind. As you'll read below, I have had a lovely week but the prospect of leaving the house (particularly when I drive anywhere, and have to find somewhere to park) had elevated my anxiety levels by a shocking amount. Again, as you'll read below, the number of times I leave the house these days has been severely curtailed and I suspect that this would have been the case even without a global pandemic going on. I think I've become either a recluse or a hermit; I'd much rather spend my time at home where it's much less stressful. After this week's adventures concluded, my subconscious appears to have realised that I don't have to leave the house again for a week or so, and it has taken the opportunity to decompress and—dare I say it—properly relax. This morning I therefore feel properly rested, but also a bit woozy; I'm only just starting to feel fully awake this morning thanks to the large mug of coffee I consumed about ten minutes ago.

I've been more active than usual this week, going for several walks of well over a mile around the village (and I made an additional excursion to the local Chinese Takeaway on Friday night, which I haven't done for a while. The Singapore fried rice and crispy spring rolls I had were absolutely delicious.) I also ventured further abroad, driving up the hill to attend a book signing at the Cotswold Book Room in Wotton-Under-Edge (and making a guest appearance in Robin's blog as a result).

Robin was in fine form and as he mentions in his blog, prior to his signing I bumped into him as he stood admiring the Electric Picture House in Market Street. I joined him as he investigated Wotton's charity shops and gained a deep appreciation for his keen eye for a bargain (and Robin, I owe you several beers for finding that Keith Emerson autobiography for me!)

I returned home with a splendid selection of books, and a signed copy of The Importance of Being Interested. It's available in all good bookshops right now and you should definitely buy a copy. Robin's 100 bookshops tour continues until the Christmas festivities at the Royal Albert Hall and King's Place begin (and yes, I have tickets for both), so why not grab the opportunity to hear about science and be regaled with tales of Alan Moore, Brian Blessed, and a whole bunch of lovely people and get your copy signed as well?


I drove into Bristol on Friday to take the car in for its service and MOT. I do not miss getting stuck in Bristol's rush hour traffic, and Lawrence Hill was particularly bad that day as one of the exits on the Lawrence Hill roundabout had been closed off for a police investigation. As a result it took me more than quarter of an hour just to negotiate St Philip's Causeway, which is a distance of about 1.5 km.

This year I had decided not to take my usual walk in to Bristol and back while I waited for the work to be done, but instead I accepted the offer of a courtesy car for the first time since I switched to driving a Lexus and headed back home for the day. The car was a brand-new Lexus UX in brilliant white; it had already been christened the White Whale by the time I got back to the house, as it was big and cumbersome and really wallowed around corners. The interior was lovely, but ironically I much prefer the User Experience (UX, geddit?) of my CT200h. The UX's main display was controlled by a finicky track pad rather than the simple jog dial mine uses, and although I figured out how it worked, the thing seemed overdone and gimmicky; less responsive. And despite the UX being much newer than my car (which shares much of its technology with the Toyota Prius) I could only get 45 mpg out of it driving it to the supermarket and back for my weekly shop; I manage more than 60 mpg in my own car at this time of year.

My car sailed through its service and MOT. I always find myself worrying about things like this (anxiety is something that features much too prominently in my life these days) but I really shouldn't have done, given that the car has spent most of the last twelve months shut in my garage. When I last took it in for a service back in October 2020, I'd added just 2,737 more miles to its odometer. Back when I was working in Wallingford, I was averaging 30,000 miles a year (and we all know how dismally that worked out for my health; I have very much gone off driving since then.) I suspect that the last time I'd driven less than five thousand miles in a year was back in the days when I worked in London in the 1980s. But I've just checked the figures and in the last twelve months it turns out that I've driven just 865 miles. I can count the number of times I've called in at a petrol station to top up the tank on the fingers of one hand. In fact, I could probably have managed those miles with a single refill, because the car's range on a full tank is around 600 miles.


Last night's sleep really has done me good; today, I'm pretty much pain free for the first time in what feels like a couple of years. I think this might have something to do with the fact that I continue to do a few exercises every day with dumbbells and my multigym. I've built up my upper body muscle mass in general, but I suspect that it's the work I've done specifically with my latissimus dorsi muscles in my back which has helped to bring the discomfort from my kidney stones under control. I feel more robust, and I look it, too; I have changed shape from how I was a year ago.

So today I'm feeling relaxed and peaceful. Since I got up I've had the music system streaming one of my favourite Internet radio stations Ambient Sleeping Pill with the surround sound processing set to "spectacular" (it's a great combination for ambient music.)

I have a quiet week ahead of me, but I will be back on Twitch at 7:30 tonight with another live stream.


I've still got my summer duvet on the bed, but I suspect it won't be long before I switch from a 3 tog one to a 13.5 tog one; the minimum outside temperature on Sunday night was 2°C and last night it was 3°C. The house isn't cold—downstairs right now it's a pleasant 18°C—but it's very obvious that the seasons are changing. The Virginia creeper on the house had already started to turn red last weekend, and that colour has spread across most of the house's west-facing wall.

I can't say I'm looking forward to this winter. Thanks to the Brexit omnishambles it looks like there will shortly be a thirty per cent increase in energy costs, as well as the continuing supply chain problems and rising food costs.

But hey, blue passports.


Parcelforce delivered my MOTU M4 late this afternoon, and I've spent a happy couple of hours plugging it in to the studio and putting it through its paces.

First impressions are very good indeed. Its driver installed without any problems and my system seems quite happy to run it with a 256 ms buffer; the KA6 only settled down at 512 ms, and I'd occasionally have to shift to 1024 ms when it had to handle a lot of tracks. As a result, the latency is low, at around 16 ms for the round trip.

The colour LCD display makes a world of difference. Adjusting inputs so that they just peak in the yellow gave the test recordings I made with Ableton a tight, powerful sound that I wasn't hearing with the previous interface.

The M4's "loopback" function works as promised, too. As a result, I've freed up the Zoom Q8 I was using as the studiocam feed and I no longer need to run audio from the Big Knob's control room output into its back end. My audio routing to OBS now takes place entirely in the box.

I'll play with it more tomorrow, but for now I'm very pleased with it.


It's Ruth and Rob's birthday today. Have a good one, troops!


Of the two "big" machines that I use, Microsoft tells me that one is ready to run Windows 11, but the other won't do so unless I make a major upgrade to both its processor and its motherboard. And that's kind of the point: it's all about making you buy new hardware, voluntarily or otherwise. It's not as if PC sales needed a boost; year on year growth of the PC market is sitting somewhere around 4% at the moment, possibly still fuelled by people buying better machines for working at home.

Whether a system will be "allowed" to run Windows 11 (as if it was some privilege bestowed on us lowly serfs) is geared heavily around whether or not your PC has a motherboard with a Trusted Processor Module (TPM) built in to it. Windows 11 advertising talks about security, and little else. But amongst other things, many of Windows 11's new security features involve running your software in virtual machines, and that takes a lot of processing power. Leaving Windows 11 with its default settings looks like it can absolutely tank game performance.

And so I simply shrug and say, "That's nice, but I'm not interested."

I still regret shifting from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Windows 10 is a confused, bloated monster that seems to think I wouldn't be interested in improving its performance above what its built in diagnostic tools decide is good for me. If there's a particular system parameter you want to change, the old Control Panel has been extended with the "settings" page and good luck finding out which one of the two MS has put the thing you want to change. And you do need to change settings; the default choices for many things—from USB power management to hard disk hibernation and processor speed limiting—are not suitable for the purposes I use my systems for, and every time Windows 10 "updates" itself to a different release, it changes a random selection of those settings back to how they were before I adjusted them. As a case in point, I have just had to disable Windows 10's "fast boot" feature again because the last update switched it back on. The last update also broke the Windows shutdown routine, as every time I used it, my PC didn't shut down at all, but merely restarted. See what I mean about what a mess Windows 10 is?

And don't get me started on the way it assumes that any new item of equipment you plug in (such as a USB web camera) is automatically made the default choice. In the case of webcams, Windows 10 reassigns its defaults for both video capture and sound input to a new camera as soon as it's installed drivers for it, because Windows 10 thinks it knows better than I do what I want to use and what is good for me. Windows 10 is mistaken, and its behaviour has screwed up my live streams before now as a result.

Nothing I've read about Windows 11 makes me think that MS have somehow managed to come up with a better OS. This time around, I'm not falling for the hype. I'll be sticking with Windows 10.


I'm not streaming on Twitch this weekend. I'm taking a break from the activities to which I've devoted most of my waking hours for the last few months and have been catching up on my reading and I've even been watching some television.

As a result I'm now three books away from completing the Goodreads challenge I set myself this year of reading sixty books before New Year's Eve. I have been working on clearing my "want to read" list there, and the last book on the list was handed to me by the postie this morning: David Hockney's book about lost painting techniques, Secret Knowledge is a book I've wanted to read since I watched the BBC documentary he made to accompany the book nearly fifteen years ago. I managed to find a reasonably priced "like new" copy at World of Books, and I will be settling down in my favourite armchair to read it later on today. I've also been reading a bunch of stuff on my Kindle, and at the rate I'm getting through the books on that, I will probably have hit my target by the middle of next week.

I've not been watching much television lately other than a couple of series on Disney, but that changed on Thursday after my friends Mel and David pointed me in the direction of KATLA, a slow, grim and deliciously weird series made and set in Iceland. I've watched three episodes so far and while I've been able to predict what event would close each episode, I'm still enjoying the show a lot.

I also have the last few episodes of Lucifer to watch, which I've been spreading out because the series has now concluded. And when I've finished watching The Clone Wars on Disney I will no doubt start in on The Bad Batch. I've tried watching Disney's Star Wars: Visions a couple of times, but I found it trivial and annoying, as if a number of second-line animé producers got funding by taking completely unrelated (and very mediocre) scripts and throwing a few random Star Wars references in. It's really not very good. Disney also need to sort out the way in which users access subtitling and language settings, because it's clunking and fiddly and both global and persistent. This is in stark contrast to Netflix, who have got the user experience sussed. There, changes to settings made for a particular show do not change your default settings, which is how it should be.


Even though I am largely a gentleman of leisure these days, it's not been an easy week. I'm in a lot of discomfort at the moment and that acts as a very rapid drain on my energy levels. I feel exhausted all the time, even when I'm getting nine, ten, or occasionally even eleven hours' sleep at night. Even though my doctor said last month that she'd chase up my treatment, I haven't heard a thing.

As a result I'm finding it very difficult to muster up energy for doing strenuous things like gardening; even doing the ironing is a challenge because of all the standing up, but that's next on my list today.

Wherever you are, I hope your weekend is a better one.


If, like me, you use the streaming platform Twitch you might want to enable two-factor authentication on your logins and change your password smartish, because a poster on 4Chan this week uploaded pretty much all of the company's data and software assets. It wasn't so much a leak as a flood; the fallout from this is going to be very significant and it comes at a time when the platform is already struggling with hate groups, who have been making life miserable for everyone else there in recent weeks.

Twitch haven't recommended that users reset their passwords yet (which had me raising an eyebrow) but they have reset everybody's stream keys, which is good. However they clearly have some glaring issues with their security in general right now which they will need to address quickly.

And what happens next will determine whether or not they continue to be the streaming platform of choice. I'm not looking for alternatives just yet, but I'm extremely concerned that something like this has happened.


Many thanks to Rich, Eva and Paul for inviting me to a cheese-tasting session they had booked at our local fromagerie L'Affinage du Fromage last night (and commiserations to Julie, who couldn't attend and whose place I therefore took). It was a splendid session that was both highly educational (I know a lot more about cheese this morning than I have ever known before) and very, very tasty. The blue cheeses that closed the session were the tastiest I have ever eaten and I'm a bit of a blue cheese junkie.

But an evening consuming gorgeous dairy products (with a couple of glasses of very nice wine to wash them all down) combined with a debriefing session in The Plough with Paul afterwards had predictable effects and when I weighed myself this morning I was back on the wrong side of fifteen stone, so I will be laying off the calorific stuff for a while, I think.


My M4 has shipped!

I am now obsessively checking the courier's parcel tracking website to monitor its progress as it makes its way to me from Germany. It should arrive on Monday and I am very much looking forward to trying it out.


The car has a new battery, its tyres have been inflated to the correct pressures, and all the warning lights on the dash now go out once it's finished its start-up procedure. I had to input all my radio presets on the FM band on its radio again, but the DAB ones were still there. How weird is that?

So I braved the supermarket this morning. Supply chain issues continue to bedevil the UK thanks to Brexit, and I came home without several of the items on my shopping list. Staff were carefully spreading out what stock they had to make it less obvious what was going on, but it was a pretty obvious compensatory move to make.

At least one other thing that seems to have disappeared around here is the queue for petrol at local petrol stations. Perhaps all the idiots have now filled up their cars (and, no doubt, the occasional stash of petrol in jerrycans as well) so much that they can't do any more panic buying. All the same, I'm glad I have a hybrid. I filled it up about a month ago and the fuel gauge is still reading full.


But now I'm back home I can really feel the post Fifty/Ninety crash coming on. I feel feverish and tired, even though I got a very good night's sleep last night. I'm also having a lot of PTSD issues today which I won't bore you with but which are making my life somewhat miserable at the moment.

I suspect that this week will turn out to be one of my less-productive ones. I'm just going to veg out for a while.

That may change later in the week, because over the weekend I discovered a supplier with MOTU M4 audio interfaces in stock (this is the model I ordered back in May after all the problems I've experienced with the NI Komplete Audio 6 MkII I've been using for the last year or so.) I cancelled the order with my initial supplier (who are not expecting to get any stock until November) and placed an order with the folk who actually have some. Delivery should be later this week; I'm not going to hold my breath, but things are looking a lot more promising.


On Thursday I had to abandon my planned run to the supermarket because my car wouldn't start. The temperature dropped to 4°C overnight earlier in the week, and I know from my experience with the hybrid last winter that its regular 12V battery really doesn't like getting cold. When the car wouldn't start back then I managed to resurrect the battery by putting it on a trickle charge for 24 hours, but after doing so overnight on Thursday, the battery had not recovered sufficiently for the car to complete its power-up sequence. That meant I had to abandon my shopping trip again; I spent most of yesterday feeling very stressed. Eventually I caved in and called out the RAC, and they confirmed my suspicions: the battery prompted a "Bad cell. Replace immediately" message on the rather nifty diagnostic tablet they hooked up to the battery. Kevin from the RAC should be turning up later today with a new battery (and while it will cost an arm and a leg, the RAC get a hefty discount from their supplier which I wouldn't get as a private customer, so it won't be a full-sized arm and a leg.)

Which sucks, but at least it's the regular battery that powers the engine management system which needs replacing and not the gigantic (and much more expensive) main battery that powers the car's electric motor...


It's the second of October. The problems yesterday with the Fifty/Ninety songwriting challenge's website were fixed by its resident web wrangler Eric Distad (thank you, Eric!) but right on schedule the site stopped accepting new songs at midnight, and the last three months of frantic creative activity in the songwriting community in which I participate have now drawn to a close. As I type this blog entry, there are 5194 songs listed on the site, the work of 249 participants who have each posted at least one song for this year's challenge.

Even writing one new song is a win. From my own experience, I can say that getting to fifty is not easy at all. Fifty/Ninety is not called a challenge for nothing. Some of us managed rather more than fifty; my final tally of songs was 95, yet I barely made the top ten list of the most prolific songwriters this year. My friend Cindy, a.k.a Cindyrella righteously claimed the number one slot with a staggering 216 songs posted this summer. That's a truly awe-inspiring number.

I would have liked to finish off with a hundred songs posted to make this year a double Fifty/Ninety, but I decided earlier this week that if I was going to do that, I wanted to cross the second finish line with proper songs, rather than looped instrumentals. My last five songs all have lyrics. By Thursday I'd realised that I'd just given myself a hefty source of stress even by thinking of that as a target, and once I started having problems with the car I decided I simply wasn't in the right frame of mind to do good work, so I called it quits at 95. Even if I didn't get to one hundred, I smashed my existing record by twenty songs, and I'm really happy about that.

If you sat down to listen to every piece of music I've had a hand in making since the 4th of July, it would take you seven hours and two minutes. My massive increase in productivity this year is, I'm quite sure, connected with the complete refit of my studio that I started a year ago today. It's amazing what a difference having a well-organized workspace can have on your output...


The adrenaline rush I get from creating music at such a pace will start to wear off today, and I'm preparing for a post-event crash by taking things nice and easy for a few days. I'll do a final Fifty/Ninety Show on Twitch tomorrow night, but I suspect that it will be shorter than the ninety minutes that I've been averaging for the last few weeks.

The exercise that I've been getting recently should mean that I'm more robust physically than I was this time last year, but even so I know that I've been pushing myself harder than I needed to, and as a result I'm very tired at the moment (and once again I can really hear it in the vocals on the two songs I recorded yesterday; when I'm feeling better, I might go back and re-do them). So I'm not planning on doing very much this week other than staying indoors, reading and listening to music. The weather is pretty rubbish at the moment and anyway, I think I deserve a bit of a rest, don't you?


But even while I take a post-Fifty/Ninety break, I've started to work my way through some of the low-impact tasks which I've been putting off because I'd (sensibly) decided that I would rather be making music. Last night I upgraded Netbeans to version 12.5 (which was finally released on September 13th, nearly a whole month late.) This time I knew exactly how to get it working properly on my 4K monitors and I was back up and running with the new version in less than two minutes. I even updated my favourite text editor Notepad++ in the process of editing the netbeans.conf file so that it stops displaying text in minuscule sizes, which made me feel very smug.

I've also updated OBS to the latest version on both my desktop systems. That went without a hitch, I'm glad to say. And just for good measure, there's a new release of GIMP out, so that's been installed as well.

Next up is swapping out the old hard disc I use for my plugin libraries on the studio PC with an equivalent (and much, much faster) SSD. But that will involve deactivating a number of plugin licenses first just in case their copy protection functions get upset by finding themselves on a different disk drive, which is why I didn't do so while I was taking part in Fifty/Ninety. Better safe than sorry, after all.


It's the last day of the Fifty/Ninety songwriting challenge, and the site is struggling to keep up with contributions as everyone piles in with last-minute additions to their tally of songs. The song count is now well over five thousand, which is a fantastic tribute to the creativity and enthusiasm of all concerned. Except that right now, the song page and a number of profile pages aren't loading and return a null file.

People have also been reporting that they can't play the songs I've uploaded to the site, either. I can't reproduce the fault on any of my devices, and both mine and other people's songs play without any problems.

It's a shame this is happening as Fifty/Ninety draws to a close, but it's also good because it has removed the temptation (and it was pretty considerable, I can tell you) to spend the rest of the day recording and uploading another seven songs to the site in an effort to achieve a double Fifty/Ninety and close the challenge with 100 pieces of music on my profile page...


And that means it's time for another album release from me!

This month I have decided to gather a selection of recent ambient and Frippertronics tracks for your delectation and delight. Frippertronics (after Robert Fripp) describes the process of layering a satisfyingly large wall of sound using nothing more than a guitar and a loop pedal (Mr Fripp originally used a couple of Brian Eno's Revox tape recorders to achieve the same effect but nowadays you don't need to string loops of tape across the room, just a comfortably sized stomp box) and it's something I've been having great fun with over the past few months.

Thrown For A Loop

This one contains over an hour and ten minutes of music and once again it's a pay-what-you-like deal. I hope that you'll give it a listen.