Wobbly Blog

Chris's Blog Archive: November 2022

Despite feeling a bit rubbish after catching Covid last month, I kept busy doing all sorts of things. I released another album on Bandcamp (my nineteenth full-length album in two years), I wrote a book about how I recorded 100 songs in just under three months, moved platforms on social media, and caught a great show at the Royal Albert Hall in London. This appears to be what "taking a break" entails for me these days.

I make music. These days, I make lots of music. And the results of all that music making are available for you to listen to. My latest release on Bandcamp is a re-examination of material I created for this summer's Fifty/Ninety songwriting challenge; once I'd upgraded the studio with new monitors, I found myself going back and polishing my favourite tracks and I was stunned by how much better the results sounded. The album is called The Future Never Arrives and this time around you get nine seconds short of an hour of music with strong prog and eighties pop influences.

Once again I'm making this release a name your price deal, so you can get it for free. Go get some!


It's been quite a week. I'm knackered.

On the 21st I popped up the road to The Cotswold Book Room in Wotton to see Robin Ince give a talk on books before signing copies of his latest book, Bibliomaniac. As soon as I walked in, someone said,

"You're Chris, aren't you? You're in the book!"

And so I am; I'm mentioned on page 53. When he arrived after making a circuit of all the second-hand bookshops in Long Street, Robin was in fine form and just as enthusiastic as ever. He had lovely tales of the encounters he'd had on his tour, the people that he'd met, and the books that he'd acquired. I asked him what his "Holy Grail" of Charity Shop books would be, and he said it would be Practically True, the autobiography of the actor Ernest Thesiger which was published in 1927. He showed us a copy of William Kaufmann's 1979 physics textbook, Galaxies and Quasars, and read out the beautiful dedication written on the frontispiece, which concluded with the words, "If I do not lay the world at your feet, it is only because I give you Galaxies and Quasars." Robin is on a mission to track down the person who wrote the dedication, or someone who knows who it might be. What a lovely quest that is.

On Wednesday I took a lateral flow test to make sure I was okay, and then embarked on my longest car journey for months. I was heading for the Royal Albert Hall for this year's (Almost) Christmas Compendium of Reason and this year, I had a front row seat. I had a blast. Robin was there running things with Professor Brian Cox, and there were lots of very familiar faces on stage, including the first British astronaut Dr Helen Sharman, and Professor Chris Lintott:

Robin Ince, Professor Brian Cox, Dr Helen Sharman, and Professor Chris Lintott at Cosmic Compendium 2022

They discussed the recent launch of the unmanned Artemis I mission to the moon and whether or not commercial interests would muscle in to the prime locations at its South Pole before scientific research got a chance to explore, and Chris Lintott explained how fast the Orion capsule would be going when it hit the Earth's atmosphere on the way back. It would pull 9gs as it slowed down; when Helen was asked if this was dangerous for humans, her reply of "Nah, I've done it in the centrifuge during training" got a well-deserved round of applause.

Matt Parker and Professor Hannah Fry had 80% fun with some Bayesian mathematics:

Matt Parker and Professor Hannah Fry at Cosmic Compendium 2022

There was a fascinating talk from Professor Alice Roberts about the Salisbury Archer, Professor Saiful Islam gave us an account of his battle to regain the Guinness World Record for the world's biggest battery made from lemons, Bobby Seagull explained his dating strategy, Natalie Haynes talked about the misogyny built in to the story of Medusa (and her fondness for the Ray Harryhausen effects in Clash of the Titans), Bec Hill had me in stitches with her musical flipcharts of misheard lyrics to Christmas songs, criminologist Dr Julia Shaw explained how not to commit a murder and Professor Kevin Fong explained how not to become an astronaut.

There was music from Sophie Ellis-Bextor (who opened the show), from Jack Leibeck and Benjamin Roskams (who performed a string duet that was a masterclass of playing) from Andy McLuskey of OMD, who performed a couple of songs with Professor Brian Cox guesting on keys (ably helped by the evening's musical director, Mike Peters—yes, that Mike Peters) and I can report that Andy's self-described "dad dancing" is just as energetic as it was when I last saw OMD live, more than ten years ago. Graham Gouldman from 10cc performed a song about the JWST that he'd written with Dr Brian May (who, sadly, was not present) and then gave us a rendition of I'm Not In Love, and Sophie returned for a rousing version of Like A Prayer complete with a big gospel choir...

And then this happened.

Justin Hawkins at Cosmic Compendium 2022

Dan Hawkins at Cosmic Compendium 2022

I had not expected to have Dan Hawkins of The Darkness rocking out right in front of me, quite literally at arm's length, but hearing him and his brother Justin belting out I believe in a thing called love was a great way to close out the show, I even snagged one of Justin's guitar picks!

Getting home was a bit of a slog as it always is, but the car was back in the garage by 2:30 am. I didn't get to sleep until well after 6 am, because I was still buzzing. As it is every year, that was definitely a highlight of the last 12 months for me.

But it has taken me almost an entire week to feel like I'm back in my normal routine and my sleep schedule is still completely out of whack. I didn't get up this morning until after 11 am. All this extra rest seems to be doing me good, though, because my blood pressure is slowly beginning to come down (I now have the technology to measure it at home, which is kinda cool but also strangely depressing.) I'm going to be taking things very easy for the next couple of weeks, I think. I have a lot of writing left to do on my book (which is rapidly approaching the 100k words mark), and I'm also back doing some more consulting work. At the moment this consists of Zoom calls, Googling stuff, and reading reports, science papers, and public enquiry records. It's more fun than it sounds, honestly.


Did I say half a million? Make that one and a half million. Mastodon tweeted last night that they now have two million active monthly users.

It's not all good news, however. As more and more people pile on to the platform, the spectrum of behaviours encountered will broaden. Things will start happening that lie outside the social norms that have been in place there since Mastodon was first set up. But unlike Twitter, where toxic behaviour is rife (and as Musk fired the content moderation team en masse and has just reinstated the Orange Idiot's account, the likelihood that the situation is going to improve there is non-existent), there is a solution: people will just defederate. I've seen posts today from some of the smaller servers announcing that they will be blocking the big two instances (mastodon.social and mastodon.online) citing "inadequate levels of moderation" even though m.s. and m.o. are both signatories to the Mastodon Server Covenant, the first requirement of which is the provision of active moderation against racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. But there have also been posts from frustrated sysadmins telling people that they can't just keep reporting people because they don't like them.

Each server is gaining a reputation in much the same way that different housing estates within cites do. When I started looking for a house in Milton Keynes in the 1980s my colleagues actually supplied me with a list of "nice" estates and the ones that I should actively avoid. Lists of this sort will start to appear on Mastodon soon, if they haven't done so already.


It's bright and sunny here this morning, but the overnight temperature dropped to -2°C here and when I got out of bed this morning it was 14°C in my bedroom and just 12°C downstairs. I therefore feel justified in running the heating for an hour and seeing the cost of doing so accumulate on the smart meter in the kitchen.



Last month I dusted off my Mastodon account and as the exodus from the bird site started to gain momentum I discovered that Fedifinder is a simple way to locate the Mastodon instances of people I follow there. It's a very useful tool and I found a lot of accounts. I just gave things another pass and another few dozen new accounts popped up.

I find it fascinating how the distributed nature of Mastodon has meant that it has handled the tsunami of new users over the last month with remarkable resilience. The site was only unresponsive on a couple of occasions for me—this occurred with nothing like the regularity that the Fail Whale used to appear. And it has been a tsunami; back in October, Mastodon had around 380,000 active monthly users. Fast forward a week, and half a million new users had arrived.


I've just been reading this article (which may well have the longest URL of anything I have ever embedded in the blog; check it out, it's an absolute clunker) which has provided me with today's snippet of more-or-less useless information which has made me go "hmmm..." as I stroke my goatee: the average life of a website is just two years, six months, and twenty-seven days.

I was amazed. But then I remembered that yesterday, I'd been trawling through some directories on one of my oldest hard drives (which get transplanted in to new machines as I upgrade, because you can never have too much disk space) and discovered screen shots of sites like Disturbing Auctions, which has long since gone to the digital auction in the sky, or Cinematic Happenings Under Development (CHUD), which hasn't been updated since January 2021. Do you remember Alta Vista? I used to use their search engine all the time. I'd check in to TV Go Home every day to see what fresh mayhem an up-and-coming young writer called Charlie Brooker had wrought. GameSpy, Technorati, QOOP, and Ananova were all in my favourites folder and I used those sites a lot. They're all gone, now.

As I get older I think about my own mortality a lot more than I used to and my latest bout of illness has really brought home the fact that at my age, it's not impossible that I just won't wake up tomorrow. I'm under no pretensions that any of this website—which I've spent thousands of man-hours on since I first set it up—would survive me by more than a week. That's kind of sad, but I can console myself that I won't be in any state to be affected by its disappearance. But I have maintained a presence on the Web for quite a while now. The HTML file of the first home page I created for myself on the server of the company I worked for at the time is dated August 7th, 1996. The first version of the HFO website went live the same year. I started the blog here back in 2003 when my ISP was Demon Internet (and the last vestiges of that particular company bit the dust back in 2020), so I guess this place is a bit of an outlier in terms of longevity. It's been six years just since I swapped the entire site over to using CSS and the Skeleton framework, and for me, that's recent history.

But what has triggered these musings is, of course, the spectacular rapidity at which Twitter is imploding right now. By some accounts, a jaw-dropping 75% of its workforce have been fired or have quit since its acquisition. The company is run by a man who is presently working extremely hard at demonstrating that he should not be put in charge of organising one of his many children's birthday parties, let alone a global communications platform. I suspect that his many shareholders and creditors might be desirous of having a quiet word with him at the earliest opportunity; I bet those will be interesting meetings, to put it mildly.

Right now, every time I click on the Twitter bookmark in my browser, I find myself wondering if Twitter will still be there. One of my friends believes that the company is "too big to fail", which was a term used within the banking industry—a very different business ecosystem to social media networks—to describe companies that had got into dire straits by very different means, but I don't share his optimism. An egotist whose belief that he's the smartest guy in the room drives him to make increasingly poor business decisions can bring down a bank just as easily as a tech company, as Nick Leeson amply demonstrated back in the 90s. And after all, MySpace was bought by Rupert Murdoch for $580 million back in 2005. At its peak, it was valued at $12 billion, but when Murdoch eventually ditched it, he got just $35 million for it. The website's still there, but when was the last time you logged in?


As I said on Twitch last night, I will be taking a break from many of the creative pursuits on which I've been spending most of my waking hours for the last couple of years. I'll be offline on Twitch until December 15th.

Basically, I no longer have the energy available to devote to everything that I've been doing this year. Covid has left me with alarmingly high blood pressure as well as a raft of other symptoms that are really not doing me any favours at the moment. I can't begin to describe the levels of fatigue that I've experienced this week. It's hard mustering the energy to get out of bed in the mornings. This year, quite frankly, has been brutal. Although writing more than a hundred songs over the course of the summer was a joyous and life-affirming adventure, it was also extremely hard work. As if going on to write a book about it (I'm now editing the second draft, and it's up to nearly 76k) wasn't enough, I discussed turning it into a podcast on Sunday's Twitch show and spent three hours putting together a draft first episode to see if I could make it work or not.

I very quickly came to the conclusion that if it was something I was going to do, now was definitely NOT the time to do it. Putting something together in the podcast format to the sort of standard which I expect from myself and making it entertaining and engaging and slick turned out to be even harder work than recording songs or writing a book. A lot harder, in fact (although in my defence I have to say it was the first time I've ever done something like that, so my existing skill set was only of tangential help). I know that when I start getting enthusiastic about a subject I tend to get quite animated, but when I listened back to the recording I'd made it became very obvious that I need to do something about the armrests on my chair, because the noise they make was astonishingly intrusive and dropping a noise gate on my vocal chain was almost completely ineffective in removing the rattling.

I need to devote my time and effort to recuperating, but although I will probably scale back my recent posting rate of every other day here to something less frequent, I don't intend to completely disappear for the next month. There's far too much interesting stuff going on.


The website I got the launch time from yesterday was wrong; I woke up this morning to the news that Artemis I had already launched successfully from Cape Canaveral. Even if I'd known it was going to launch at just before seven this morning rather than 17:00 this afternoon, I suspect that I wouldn't have set an alarm clock. I've retrospectively fixed yesterday's blog, because things like that irritate me...

According to the post-launch press conference happening now, NASA's engineers apparently described the parameters of the SLS's Trans Lunar Injection burn, where the engines fired for 18 minutes to boost it out of orbit and send it on its way to the Moon as "Dead ****ing on" so I think it's safe to say that they are very pleased with how things are going.

As I type this, the first batch of payloads are being deployed, so it looks like things are going nicely to plan.


As I write this, the countdown is finally under way for the launch of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) which will be used to send an unmanned Orion spacecraft on its way to the Moon for the inaugural mission of the Artemis program tomorrow evening. The name Artemis is significant; in Greek mythology she was the twin sister of Apollo, and the program's objectives include establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon and facilitating a manned mission to Mars. If all goes well, tomorrow will see the first ever flight of the SLS, which is the most powerful rocket that has ever been built—despite being forty feet shorter than the Saturn V used on the Apollo missions more than half a century ago. The SLS's two Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) are bigger than those used for the Space Shuttle and the first stage as a whole will generate 8.8 million pounds (39,144 kN) of thrust compared to the 7.5 million pounds (33,000 kN) produced by the Saturn V's first stage.

There are a number of subsidiary missions riding piggy-back on tomorrow's launch and the one I'm most interested in is NEA Scout, which is a small cubesat-type spacecraft that will use a solar sail with an area of 85 m2 as its main propulsion system in order to visit a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) called 2020 GE, although the target may change depending a lot of factors including whether we get a launch tomorrow or not. Its mission is planned to last two and a half years.

The two-hour launch window opens at 06:04 UTC tomorrow morning.


It looks like the continuing shenanigans over at the bird site are driving a lot of people away, and my follower total there has now dropped well below a thousand (sadface emoji).

More and more people are signing up with Mastodon though, and unlike the other place, verification is open to all through the use of some simple code and linking. As soon as Mastodon notices my latest site update, my profile should have a nice green tick on it. Very cool!

Why not join me there? It's much more civilised and there continue to be absolutely no adverts there at all, which is rather wonderful.


I'm not quite so full of woe today. After I posted yesterday's update I sat down and had a think about why the house's downstairs radiators had stopped warming up. Most of them have individual thermostats on them, and these are a mechanical design involving a piston that is prone to getting stuck without being lubricated with a drop of 3-in-1 oil every few years. I went round all of them when I first noticed the problem and checked that the pistons underneath the controllers were all moving freely (you just unscrew the control and remove it to reveal the piston; it's easy to do) but they were all working properly, so that wasn't the problem. I also dug out my radiator bleed key, and went right round the house to bleed all of the radiators, upstairs and down. There wasn't any air trapped in any of them, so that didn't seem to be the problem either. Hmmm. So what about the heating's circulating pump? Lately it had been making more noise than it usually does, but now that I thought about it, I realised that I hadn't heard any noise from it at all for the last few days. It was time to investigate the dusty recesses of the airing cupboard.

Aha! We had a winner. The pump's thermal cutout had kicked in, setting it to the off position, presumably because it had collected an air lock from somewhere (which I then realised would have been responsible for the extra noise it was making). After bleeding the pump and resetting the thermal cutout, I tried the heating again. Success! All of the radiators are now warming up as they should do once again.

Given that the pump is thirty-two years old, I will be keeping a close eye on it over the winter in case it dies on me; that's a pretty long service life for the thing. The initial water that came out of it was full of black gunk too, so it will probably be a good idea to have the system flushed out before too long as well. But ironically the weather here is so warm this weekend that I haven't needed to run the heating to warm the house up at all. The sun is streaming through the windows and it's a very comfortable 17°C here in the living room at the moment. The forecast for tonight is for outside temperatures to remain in double figures, which is much higher than it should be at this time of year. Around here on average it should be somewhere around 4°C overnight. That might happen next weekend, according to the Met Office. If I make it past next weekend without turning the central heating back to automatic for the winter, I will have broken my record for the latest date I've needed to do so. I have really noticed the effects of climate change over the twenty-seven years I've lived here in many ways, but that's probably the most obvious. Well, that and the fact that it doesn't really snow here any more between January and March...


I seem to be having a rough old time of things at the moment. I've got even more health issues to deal with, the radiators downstairs don't seem to be working any more, and when I tried to open the roller blind in the kitchen yesterday morning, I pulled the thing clean off the wall.

If you have any spare mojo to send my way, I could really do with some at the moment.


72,843 words and 133 pages after I set out to write down a "few notes" about what I learned from taking part in Fifty/Ninety over the summer, the first draft of what has become a book is complete. I have just spent a couple of hours learning to use an open source tool for formatting eBooks called Sigil, and while it's very powerful and has let me get the draft in a more or less acceptable shape to read on my Kindle, those were two hours that I hadn't planned on spending on learning new software. It took more than a couple of iterations before I ended up with something that was formatted to my satisfaction, and how I eventually managed it was not the method that Sigil's own user manual recommended (I ended up exporting the book from Libre Office Writer in epub format rather than as an HTML document, and even if I saved the book without its cover I still can't get the Kindle mobi file to play nice; Calibre looks at the cover I'd created in Sigil and embeds it again in the mobi file that I use on my Kindle. It's all rather frustrating and I'm not really in the mood for a deep dive into the world of eBook formats just now.)

But I now have a readable version of the draft which I can carry around with me. I'll spend a couple of days mulling it over before I start work on the second draft though, because I really need a break.


But I reckon I know exactly what that break will entail because yesterday, the 40th Anniversary update to Microsoft Flight Simulator dropped, and I have already downloaded all 20-something Gigabytes of updates and new aircraft that Microsoft have kindly provided for free to existing users.

The helicopters are going to take some getting used to, and I haven't decided how I can best control the cyclic stick on my existing setup. I managed to do some flying around with the basic model helicopter that's been supplied yesterday evening, but only by pretty much brute forcing things; there was no finesse involved at all.

However, the way Microsoft (or rather Asobo) generate scenery for most of the UK is still a major disappointment. Bristol looks convincing, as they've used photogrammetry data to ensure that many of the city's landmarks are accurately depicted and the centre of town is instantly recognisable. Unfortunately the number of locations around the world that have got this treatment is surprisingly limited. Where the technique isn't used, the program resorts to Bing Maps data as the basis of its terrain modelling. Where it identifies that a building exists, it constructs a simple model from a limited number of procedural options. The results bear little or no resemblance to the real world. If you're a few thousand feet up, it's not really a problem but now that the game includes helicopters I suspect that a lot more people will be slowly flying over places they know at low altitude and they are very likely going to be disappointed with the view. For example, one of the blocks of flats around the corner from me on Little Bristol Lane is represented in-game as an enormous factory, but its sister building is instead shown as a collection of houses. As I mentioned last time, the architectural styles applied to individual houses aren't even close; the game still favours Tudor architecture here rather more than is evident in real life. My old neighbourhood in Milton Keynes is also rendered with much older (and larger) houses than actually exist and in both locations, the way that the sim adds traffic to road layouts results in some extremely silly choices of traffic and driver behaviour, specially in cul-de-sacs. I hope that Microsoft improve the accuracy of things in a future release and at the very least they ought to reinstate Lytham Windmill, which was shown nicely back in Flight Simulator 95.

But it's fun to have more than sixty different aircraft to choose from and I'll probably take one or two of the ones I haven't tried out yet for a spin later on this afternoon.


The good news is that I wasn't doing anything wrong with my code; nor is there any issue with the Skeleton CSS framework that I've used for this website since way back in October 2015. The bad news is that after doing a bit more digging online, it looks like the reason that the embedded Bandcamp player in last week's post doesn't extend across the full width of the paragraphs surrounding it is because Bandcamp have limited the internal size of the iframe that the player uses to a maximum width of 700 pixels. Until they do something about it (and as the bug was raised back in 2017 and its severity was classed as "minor" back then I won't be holding my breath), I guess I'm stuck with it looking like it does.


Back in 2017, I created an account over on Mastodon. I didn't appear to have strong thoughts on the matter back then, as the Blog makes no mention of the fact whatsoever. Since then, I've checked back in from time to time, and while it wasn't covered in cobwebs and spiders like Plurk was the last time I checked there, my timeline wasn't exactly packed. But since Dr Evil took over at that other social network site, Mastodon has very much become the place to be. People are signing up in their thousands and it has most definitely achieved critical mass as a result.

Come join us!


Usually on November the Fifth I would have been off out with my camera and tripod to get some nice shots of fireworks over the village and capture the big rockets going off at the display up the road in Wotton. This year, my post-covid energy levels were still so low that I stayed in and wrote another few thousand words on the music e-book instead. I had gone to bed well before 10 pm, too.

I can't remember a year in which I skipped an opportunity to watch some fireworks. I suspect I never have up until now. When I lived in Milton Keynes I would even drive into the city to watch the main display every year and join in the fun of counting how many car alarms the larger rockets could set off. But this year, any of the enthusiasm for watching explosions of coloured lights that I used to have was entirely absent. That might be because these days I know how stressful Bonfire Night is to pets and wildlife. It might also be because an event which takes an attempted act of terrorism as its starting point has taken on a very different context these days. It might also be because capitalism has warped what used to be a significant social event for the community when I was a child and turned it into a crapfest of commercialisation that has largely sucked the joy out of things. And instead of thinking about what the larger implications of Guy Fawkes's ideology might mean for us in the present day (and as the shambles that is Brexit progresses and the economy spirals ever faster down the drain, I am increasingly coming to realise that the man might have had a point) we stand and cheer as money—much of it our own—goes up in smoke. That's a little too on the nose for me as a commentary on the state of the country these days.

But mostly I think it was because I was just too tired to care.


Try as I might, I cannot get the embedded Bandcamp player at the bottom of last Thursday's post to stretch all the way across the page when I've got the blog open in a 4K window. I suspect that it has something to do with the way that the Skeleton framework that I use as the basis of the CSS for this site handles pages at ultra-high resolution. But it's been annoying me quite a bit, as you can imagine. All the suggested solutions that I've seen don't seem to do what I expected them to...


Although I'm continuing to make progress recovering from Covid, I'm still ridiculously tired most of the time. So even though it's not Bandcamp Friday until tomorrow, I've already released my latest album.

Okay, I'll admit it: I was so tired yesterday that I clicked on the "publish" button instead of the "save draft" one, and off it went into the wild to fend for itself. Never mind, though; it's all finished and ready for you to check out. The album is called The Future Never Arrives and to my ears I'd place it amongst the more commercial-sounding work that I've done in the past five years. In places it almost sounds as if I'm starting to get the hang of recording big production numbers in a home studio that is, to put it mildly, somewhat cramped.

The Future Never Arrives

My prog and eighties pop influences come through strongly (there is more than one track that is resplendently not in 4/4) in the writing as well as the production, and I know I keep saying this but the addition of the Focals to my studio setup really seem to have translated into another instance of me levelling up in what I do. Getting a lot of practice, as per the famous Ten Thousand Hours Rule, has no doubt helped matters as well. I have spent an awful lot of time working on making music lately and this is the nineteenth full-length album that I've released on Bandcamp since I rebuilt my home recording studio from the ground up just two years ago. I have had so much fun in there since then. It has quite literally kept me sane. Relatively speaking, that is. It would take you several days to listen to my entire discography on Bandcamp and you can pick all of it up for the bargain price of just £39.95, which is significantly cheaper than you'd pay for equivalent collections from other artists. It's a bargain!

And it's Bandcamp Friday again tomorrow. Just sayin'.


Yesterday brought gales and torrential rain to the south west. As I watched next door's hedge flail around in the wind, I was very glad I could stay indoors and while the temperature outside only dropped to 9°C overnight, the damp made things feel noticeably colder. Even though I'd resorted to a hot water bottle to see if that made me any more comfortable (it did, but not by much) I woke up a couple of times feeling cold, so this morning I caved in and swapped the summer duvet back to the winter one. I've only blipped the heating on once so far this autumn, and that was just for half an hour, but it feels like it won't be that much longer before I'm needing to do so more regularly. But ten years ago, I was already running the heating every day by the end of October. Last year I didn't set the heating to automatically come on every day until November 21st, which is the latest I've done so in the 27 years I've lived here; I suspect I'll break that record again this year.

Will I make it to December before I cave in? Who knows...


I fired up the studio yesterday to tweak a few tracks in readiness for releasing my next album in time for Bandcamp Friday, which takes place on November 4th. And after a few hours of intense concentration, I realised that I seem to have gotten over the post-Fifty/Ninety crash that I have every year. I was wondering whether it would run concurrently with Covid, or if I'd have to wait for it to take place consecutively. It feels like they took place at the same time, which is good, I think.

After I spent an hour last night lying in bed with my headphones on, listening to the tracks that I've chosen for the new album in their new running order, I'm very pleased with just how good they already sound. My renewed enthusiasm for music has manifested in me wanting to change a few lines of lyrics which I decided I should improve. I have already rewritten them, so now I just have to record them. I seem to have fully regained my enthusiasm for making music, which is a thing that I worry about when I'm in the depths of one of my post-challenge crashes. After I spend the next three days polishing up the tracks for it, my new album should sound fantastic.

And I know I keep saying this, but the new Focal nearfield monitors I bought back in September have made such a difference to my output. Moving from a monitoring system that could handle frequencies between 50Hz to 20 kHz to one which has a frequency response of 40Hz to 35kHz makes much more of a difference than it ought to, because their top end is way above the limit of human hearing. I hadn't expected loudspeaker technology to have progressed as much as it clearly has over the last ten years or so, but the resulting clarity and precision of the sound field I can hear from the Focals is quite extraordinary. That has translated into mixes where everything gels together better than I'd ever managed to achieve before.