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November 7th, 2014

12:05 pm: Way back in January, I signed up for Duolingo, a free language-teaching app, to do some French revision. I have a French GSCE, 'C' grade, but calling it rusty would be to imply that any iron content was present in the first place. Even at the time, I have no idea how I passed.

So, revision. I ran into the same problems I faced before: spelling in French is about as complicated as English, without the benefit of learning it as a child; and the fucking gender. I have problems with gender in language, too.

I decided to give Spanish a go over the summer. I made pretty good progress, even if I do say so myself. The spelling is pretty regular (although stuff like the b/v distinction still sometimes gets me), and the even genders are a bit more sensible, because of -a -o endings at least provide a default rule you can learn exceptions to. (It helps that "el" and "la" are far more distinct than "le" and "la").

I have got pretty far! Level 11, with just a few more modules to go. The problem is, it's not really teaching me Spanish. It's teaching me how to pass Duolingo Spanish tests. I'm picking up a fair bit of Spanish along the way, but there are various unfortunate tricks that I've spotted (when you get presented with words to form a sentence, the first one is going to be the one with a capital letter, right). So I kind of stalled.

HOWEVER, it turns out there is a thing called "adult education" still, despite the government's best intentions. I signed up with a "Beginners B" Spanish course. It seems to be about the right level for me - I would have sailed through the absolute basics course - but I'm just not fluent enough to do much more. There have been a couple of gotchas. I need to learn my Spanish alphabet. And the numbers. Duolingo wasn't teaching the alphabet at all; and not teaching the numbers systemically.

Still, good fun, going to keep plugging away at it. Very weird to be in a classroom environment after so long. I swear I am not doing this just because I got into Community. Honest.

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September 18th, 2014

12:35 pm: worst move ever

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September 4th, 2014

02:42 pm: Oxford update
 Oxford is treating me well.  I'm settling into a routine, I'm figuring out where things are.

I'm going on a trip to London this evening so I can go to the pub and also test travel back late prior to a gig I'm going to next Thursday. (For an Oxford band!)

Six and a half years ago, I started a telly night with some people, originally to show Bat and Zair Babylon 5.
It originally rotated but 
I've hosted it consistently for the last few years.
We have since watched Buffy, Firefly, Dollhouse, Sherlock, various films, and have tried Misfits, BSG and a few other shows.  

We started Game of Thrones in June or something.  We finished season 1 on my last Thursday.

They are, of course, continuing without me.  I knew they would.  Life goes on.  It's still a bit upsetting.


They are 
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August 11th, 2014

04:01 pm:  I am leaving London, as you may have gathered.

I am going to have some Leaving London drinks at the Winchester Pembury Tavern, in Hackney, on Sunday the 24th of August, starting at around 6pm, although let's face it I'll probably be there from lunchtime and already be quite sozzled by the time you guys turn up, so come whenever.  (It is the Bank Holiday Monday the next day, so we can be boozing until late)  All are welcome, and I hope you can make it.

<a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/351734314977889/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming">There is a Facebook event here</a>.

A housewarming in Oxford will follow at some point. This entry was originally posted at http://morwen.dreamwidth.org/430975.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

July 17th, 2014

05:47 pm: tellylog
 Mostly for my own reference, I present a list of telly I have watched during my period of unemployment

*Community, except season 2
*season 4 of Game of Thrones
*Orange is the New Black (all)
*Breaking Bad (all)
*Red Dwarf 1980s/1990s complete rewatch (apart from "Polymorph", and Red Dwarf VI for whatever reason)
*Orphan Black
*started Mad Men

This is not a bad list.  I've got another month to go.  I'm going to give Mad Men until the end of series 1 but I'm not really feeling it.  Any recommendations?

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June 30th, 2014

06:11 pm: Had a phone interview today.

Fairly standard C++ object orientation questions - how would you model physical attributes of a person -  leading up to a "how would you model gender?", where they were fishing for the answer that there would be two separate classes with different attributes.   Momentarily shocked into silence,  I was.  It's, um, probably just something they ask everyone.

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May 5th, 2014

03:51 am: I think I am going to just park myself in the Pembury all day Monday, from when I get up to closing, if anyone wants to join me?

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March 27th, 2014

03:12 pm: Secret Project 8 emerges. Me and Pippa made a comic for Geeked magazine.

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March 25th, 2014

11:29 pm: Super productive day! I drew lots of faces, completed 2048 TWICE, and everything was going sufficiently well that I said "fuck it, I'll try doing that comic I wanted to do."

Inked page 1. I think I'll have this all inked and coloured and lettered this week.

Captain America 2 tomorrow. So excited!

This entry was originally posted at http://morwen.dreamwidth.org/426183.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

March 6th, 2014

12:55 pm: The other week I was wondering if I could learn to draw, if it was too late, whether I was too old. I asked that twitter for some advice, and got the customary "just practice" advice. "But, I really can't draw," I protested, "I'm not even sure what a pencil is, let alone which end to use." I'm not one of those comics writers who can draw but not well enough, I just can't.

At our D&D session I did some doodles of things on the table; I posted them to twitter and I showed them to people in the pub on Wednesday. I had been lying.

How is it that I had decided that I couldn't art? I literally haven't done anything at this level since I was 14. I think the answer is: art teachers. But clearly I can do the perspective OK. I think I learnt that in technical drawing rather than art?

I've set up a tumblr now, featuring my scribbling. Some of this I'm actually quite proud of. I've decided I am Good Enough at backgrounds now for the purposes of making comics, and I need to start drawing faces and people. I've done some of these but they are terrible and I have not felt able to post them to the tumblr. (I will happily show people in the pub.)

So that's what I'm going to spend my month off doing, learning to do that well enough to draw up one of my own comic scripts (one of the more talky ones, probably). Interspersed with writing and lunching and so on, obv.

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February 3rd, 2014

05:37 pm: De Hems after work, anyone?

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January 28th, 2014

02:39 pm: I sent that email to the counsellor.

Fucking hell that was difficult.

I need a drink this evening. Pembury, anyone?

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January 7th, 2014

09:59 pm: Lost in Bitstrips
You may have seen Bitstrips. It's a little online tool for making cartoons and comics.

I experimented a bit after Thought Bubble with making a proper webcomic with bitstrips - which may or may not see the light of day depending upon the contents of Young Avengers #15 and to what extent I have anticipated/nicked Kieron's jokes.

Since that I have become convinced it is a medium that actually, could be used to do worthwhile stuff in. Much of the bad reputation it gets is because of the immense amount of shitty pre-generated content it presents you with.

So, I give you Lost in Bitstrips, which is a pretentious deconstructionist webcomic, featuring me and Charlotte. Read it all on one page here, and on tumblr here. It features high production values such as slightly wonky alignment of panels, bad title text, and visible mouse cursors when I didn't bother to move the mouse away when I was doing my screenshots. But is also quite funny, I hope. And maybe a bit touching at the end?

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January 1st, 2014

07:28 pm: 2013 was a pretty good year creatively and culturally. Excluding unfinished projects (of which there are a whole lot):



I think that's most of it?

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December 31st, 2013

05:27 pm: In which I guest on a comics podcast, with Alex and Mog and Michael. Thanks to Seb and James and Rhys for having us.

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December 25th, 2013

12:02 am: Happy Wednesday!

We'll be doing Bab5 this evening, they've put an episode of Doctor Who on Wednesday evening for a change. I don't know why, maybe it's to do with the bank holiday.

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November 25th, 2013

02:43 pm: 3D and The Day of the Doctor
3D is one of those areas where my creative interests and my day job (a software engineer in the visual effects industry) collide. I have been excited by the technical challenges involved in stereo, but underlying this has been questions of its limitations. Is it just a gimmick, or a fad? Will all films be made like this? Does it contribute usefully to storytelling? Is it worth the extra couple of quid? What about those who are excluded?

As a consumer, I had become a bit cynical toward it. I don't think Avengers or Thor: The Dark World were improved by being in 3D; and specifically sought a 2D showing of Iron Man Three. With "The Day of the Doctor", the Doctor Who 50th anniversary, I had little choice. I could either see it in a hotel room on my own, or see it live in the cinema, in 3D (well, I could also have gone over to my brother's to watch it but then I'd have been even later at the Thought Bubble party, which would be the highlight of any other weekend). And what's the point of 3D in a television drama - something that is not only designed to be releasable on home video, but actively intended for display on little screens in people's living rooms?

I was wrong. It turns out to be the most successful use of 3D to tell a story that I have seen. And more importantly, it provides a way forward for 3D films to be worthwhile. What do I mean by this? Well...

mild spoilers for Day of the DoctorCollapse )

And that's why, I think, it really works. We are well into the 3D backlash. It's often done as an afterthought to films that were storyboarded without 3D in mind, and that of course still need to work in 2D; or it's done with bulky cameras that it's hard to do interesting stuff with. I suspect this is what leads to them cranking up the disparity to uncomfortable levels, or getting actors to poke things in our eyes.

"The Day of the Doctor" shows that it doesn't have to be like that, that if you plan things correctly then the 3D doesn't have to be a gimmick. Sure, not every film is going to be prominently feature dimensionally transcendent rooms, but that doesn't mean you don't want to create a sense of scale, a sense of space. But this may mean changing how you edit films. Fast-cutting fight scenes simply don't work in this world: you need to go the Sucker Punch and Beowulf route by replacing cuts with pans and zooms.

I think the make-or-break film for 3D will be Edgar Wright's Ant-Man. This will be released in 2015, which is going to be a big year for big films (the Avengers sequel, Star Wars Episode VII, the Batman/Superman film, and that's just getting started), so it's an odd one to focus on, but I think it has potential. Ant-Man is a size-changer. Imagine what that would mean with well-done 3D. You could have first person shots of the lab he is in widening out to become an impossibly large space, as he shrinks. You could cut between parallel action at a macro scale and a micro scale, hinting which is which not by different lighting but using a different interocular distance.

It will need to be very clever to work (this is fine, as Wright is very clever). It will need a good stereographer. It will need pre-visualisation and storyboarding. But Wright will also be expected to deliver a version of the film in 2D. Traditionally, these have been the same edit - often just the left or right view from the 3D edit. It is that very thing that is holding 3D back. What is the point of showing size-changing or portals with 3D if you then have to have expository dialogue clarifying what is going on?

Perhaps, in order to be worthwhile, 3D film needs to abandon the idea of being downconvertable to 2D. Sure, make a 2D edit, but let's have that be something different to merely picking one of the eyes from the 3D. 2D films and 3D films are different arts and need different approaches. This entry was originally posted at http://morwen.dreamwidth.org/414880.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

November 12th, 2013

12:25 am: setlist 12/11/13
I made my London DJ debut at the Monarch in Camden tonight, at Time-Space Quizualiser event. I think there was some kind of quiz going on in between my sets but I wasn't really paying attention. Here's the setlist (I think it might even be mostly in the right order.) Ten points to the first person who can spot the theme.

Ron Grainer - Doctor Who theme
Orbital - Who?

break for quiz

The Timelords - Doctorin' the TARDIS

break for quiz

John Barrowman, David Tennant and Catherine Tate - The Ballad of Russell and Julie
Jon Pertwee - Who Is The Doctor
Who Cares? - Doctor in Distress
Ian Levine - K-9 and Company theme
The Go-Go's - I'm Going to Spend My Christmas With A Dalek
Roberta Tovey - Who's Who
Delia Derbyshire - Doctor Who theme (1963)
Murray Gold - I Am The Doctor (2010)
Art Brut - I Am The Psychic (fragment) 1
Murray Gold - The Majestic Tale (2012)
John Debney - Doctor Who theme (1996)
EightBitBaconStrips - Doctor Who theme
Tim Minchin - Doctor Who theme
Delia Derbyshire/Peter Howell/Dominic Glynn/Keff McCulloch/John Debney/Murray Gold - Doctor Who theme (1963-2010)

Unfortunately I was unable to find the wrongest cover of any Doctor Who music: I am the Kefftor, a cover of "I Am the Doctor" in the style of Keff McCulloch. Listen to it, but prepare your ears first.

1. I'd searched my phone for "I Am" and that came on next. Oops.

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November 6th, 2013

09:15 am: In this age of mobiles and digits, we have come to forget certain quirks of older technology. One such peculiarity is the way that a circuit on a phone line on the British fixed public telephone network can only be closed by the initiator. Or, in English: you can only hang up on a landline from the end that's calling it. If you've been called, there's nothing you can do. I encountered this concept during my childhood, when someone did this accidentally, presumably by failing to place the receiver down properly. We blew a whistle down the line, to try and get them to notice.

More recently, people have been taking advantage of this anomaly, to conduct quite a clever scam. They call you claiming to be the police, and tell you, often with dramatic adornment, that your card has been cloned or stolen and needs to be cancelled. They advise you to phone the number on the back of your card. I had one of these maybe a year ago. The call was very suspicious, so I ignored it, but I couldn't figure out their angle.

The trick is, they never hang up. They fake the dial tone. They fake the ring tone. They pretend to be your bank. They wheedle your PIN out of you. They fake the police. Eventually, they send a courier to pick up the card. And then they go off to the ATM and empty your account.

I was lucky that time, but not everyone is. An acquaintance got taken good and hard. So when they called yesterday, I immediately realised what was going on, scrambled for my iPhone, put the thing on speakerphone, and taped the bastard.

A recording [anyone fancy transcribing it?]

It's quite funny. Especially the ending.

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September 4th, 2013

12:53 pm: Manning Wikipedia coverage links
Here's a list of all the English-language press and blogs I've seen so far (and one French one). Let me know of any more and I'll add them: Initial coverage: After the move back:

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