The soundtrack to my life

I followed an exchange on recently and listened to the podcast that followed. It was on music from the 1980s, the time when I was a teenager, from O-levels right through my university days. The people discussing the music were significantly younger than me and it made me think about the appreciation of music. I wondered if their opinions were based on how they felt about the music at the time, or how they felt about it now. Their ages meant they were likely in the same situation as I was in respect to music in the 1970s. It was there, I heard it, but it probably didn’t carry a lot of meaning to me at the time. Whereas, the music of the 1980s marks signifcant milestones in my life - ones that I remember and that I associate with certain music.

I started to revisit my LP, singles and CD collections to see what I still had from that era and potentially compile a list of my favourites. While I was doing this, it became apparent that there was music I actually bought and listened to in the ’80s, but also music from the ’80s which I have come to appreciate since. If you had asked me in the ’70s what I thought of The Bay City Rollers, my response wouldn’t have been favourable. Similarly there was music of the ’80s which I actively disliked at the time, but have since come to appreciate. Groups like Marillion and, most particularly, The Smiths. Back then, when my brother and his friends were wandering along the high street with foliage sticking out of the back of their trousers, I avoided The Smiths: I found their music quite simply depressing. Now? Now I love The Smiths. I guess my brother knew better than I did. Likewise he loved Kate Bush. I thought “Wuthering Heights” was screechy, though I did like some of her music. More recently I have purchased a lot of her output, having grown to appreciate it.

I think that understanding music and having it mean something to you has to be a very personal experience and is often informed by life events. It took me a long time to grow to like Wagner - I don’t think I really appreciated it until I went through a particularly dark period of my life, thanks to illness. At that time, Wagner hit a nerve and I started to enjoy long periods of listening (is there any other way to listen to Wagner?). Let’s face it, when looking at so-called classical music, a lot of composers were not appreciated during their lifetimes, only becoming popular after varying lengths of time. I don’t really feel too bad about changing my opinion on music after only a few decades.

So yes, I have changed my opinion of some 1980s music, having looked back on it, but there are some bands that I loved then and still listen to today: Dire Straits, Prince, ELO, Queen and Pink Floyd. There were songs that I danced to, songs that I smooched to, songs I cried to and songs that I played over and over on my trusty cassette player. I had (possibly still have) a tape that alternated Bizet’s duet from The Pearl Fishers with David Bowie’s Life On Mars. Over and over. Why? Because, just because. I also had a tape which had Saint-Saēns’ Third Symphony on one side, with César Franck’s Symphony in Dm on the other side. I listened to those every day of a three-year music degree. I still listen to them now, albeit less frequently.

I will no doubt continue to evaluate and re-evaluate music - after all it’s what I’m trained to do, but I also think it’s part of the human condition. Music speaks to people in the most basic of ways. Music can trigger memories in quite remarkable way and the human race is so very lucky to have that. My tastes will change and I will adopt and discard music along the way. Some music that I absolutely loved has been discarded because the memories attached are too painful. Maybe I will get back to it in the future, once the associations have faded, who knows. As it stands I have a lot of Oysterband CDs that rarely get played…

"Hello World"

Day One with Android.

I had a very brief play with the Eclipse Android IDE this evening. I followed the web training course on setting up an Android device emulator and putting together a very basic program.

Have to say I have no clue what the code was that was used. Some stuff was selected and I had a screen with Hello World on. It seems to me the only thing I actually did was chamge the app icon.

The IDE seems cluttered to me. Maybe that's becuase I am used to the (relativelg) clean lines of the old Borland C/C++ compiler. And, frankly, I have no real clue what the code was doing, or even where it was. I will revisit this and inspect the various elements that my choices brought into the mix. I might even learn some Java along the way! It's such a shame that Android is based on Java. Android is where I have a spare test device, but I didn't get on with Java when I tried it years ago. Mind you, that could be because I didn't really take to object-oriented programming in general. I did (and still do) consider it overkill, but I guess I need to get over my 1980s procedural language bias. Yes, I liked Pascal, so shoot me.

My first aim is to create a little note-taking app (I believe there is a tutorial for this - but that isn't why I chose it). I have Slide Notes on my phone and use it quite a lot. It is slow and clunky on my Nexus 7, so I want one that isn't. Just for quick non-synced notes. I don't want a ToDoist, an Evernote, or Onenote. I have all of these, but really, just to record a quick note-to-self, I want something that opens quickly, with no fuss, and saves easily. And I want to build it myself.

Of course, if I could suddenly understand everything about programming and the web, get an ADN developer membership and build the very best Android app, that supported NiceRank and all sorts of other things that people want, well that would be fab. Somehow I doubt my abilities will ever stretch that far.

Developing for Android

Yesterday, on a whim, I decided to download some tools for Android developing. I'm not really sure why, especially as it seems to be based around Java and I did really well when I tried to learn Java some years ago - not!I have made several half-hearted attempts to get back into programming in recent years. Two problems with that: the amount of spare time I have (not a lot) and the fact that I can never decide what I want to make with any programming skills I learn.However, I possibly have a basic project to start with for Android. I don't like many of the note-taking apps. They are generally too complicated for my needs, although very useful on occasion. I had a favourite note app on my phone, but it doesn't work very well on my Nexus 7 - unreasonably slow. So I might aspire to making something along those lines,Of course what I would love to do is write a cool Android app for ADN, as there are so few. But I know nothing about programming for the web and I believe these things involve having servers and such. Not that it wouldn't be a good thing to learn about. We shall see. Old dogs, new tricks....I opted for Eclipse with the Android plugins, rather than Android Studio. I might try that later on.Also, I might just use this blog to record my progress - that is if it stops calling me "Vanessa Under" every time I post!!


Just revisited my blog here & found all posts marked as being by "Vanessa Under" which does seem a tad odd. So I decided to write this via the dashboard, to see if that comes out the same way. I am sure the posts didn't display in that manner when I first created them!

Evaluating the Nexus 7

Day 4 of my Nexus 7 experience. So far, so good.I have an iPad2, so a lot of my efforts so far have been spent ensuring that the basic things I have come to depend on with the iPad are replicated on the N7. I also have an Android phone so I wanted to have some correlation to things I have on there. I use the iPad for recording music, so have quite a few apps on it that I wouldn't want put on the N7, partly because of its reduced storage, but mostly because it is smaller and realistically, for me, the iPad is about as small as I would want to go in terms of screen size when editing tracks.I have found a reasonable note-taking app, a markdown text editor, a journal and quite a few things that give me similar functionality to what I have on the iPad. Some of the apps aren't as full-featured (thinking of a couple of markdown apps I have, which I love). To be honest, I also have little interest in installing programming apps either. I will stick with the iPad for those. Broadly then, I have a device with a simply stunning screen, which fits in my handbag much more easily and is considerably cheaper than an iPad mini, which was the other option.So far, so good, as the saying goes. I think the killer feature so far has to be the excellent keyboard. The ability to swipe out your words is beautifully implemented here. My only previous experience of something familiar was on my old Galaxy S, when it was inaccurate and froze up regularly. The N7 gets it pretty much spot on, in my opinion. I think Apple is missing a trick on this.Addendum: had a little strop when I discovered my preferred Android ADN app didn't support 2048 characters in messages, but I have found one that does,for a whole 99p. That's good, given my support to another dev.

Demonising a whole sector

I will admit to having right of centre political views, though possibly not exclusively. I certainly don't agree with all the views of any one political party in the UK today.At the moment what does irritate me is the persistent demonisation by the current Government of the whole of one sector of the workforce: the public sector. Apparently the public sector in its entirety is work-shy, overpaid and lazy. They are pariahs and the public sector is to be avoided at all costs, with the notion of service replaced with one of profit.Yes, call me biased. After all the first 9 years of my working life was spent in the public sector - local government to be precise. I have spent the years since then working in the private sector, on local government contracts. I have worked with councils to provide efficiencies and cost savings, using technology to deliver services at reduced cost. Using the private sector allows councils to bring in investment in technology in a way they could not afford on their own. It is a win-win most of the time.The previous government expanded the public sector and increased historically low pay. It allowed them to report high employment, but was not affordable or sustainable. So the next government sought to point this out by demonising the workforce, as they have done with welfare. They have highlighted some isolated cases and incidents, presenting these as the norm. I agree there is always room for a provider of a service to improve and innovate, but now councils are in a position where their budgets have been cut so far that they have no money. They need money, and staff, to deliver services to their communities; something they are well placed to do. Yet there is constant interference from bloated central government departments who seek to deflect attention from their affairs (DCLG & DWP, yes, you).Give the councils the tools to do their jobs, allow them to run their communities & who knows, a sense of harmony and community might prevail.

New Experiences

After having been on ADN for a while and joined in/listened to some conversations, and after a conversation with a friend over dinner this week, I decided to investigate domain names.

I wasn't too surprised to find my real name not taken, as it isn't a common name (although I do know of someone else with the same name). So I grabbed the dot-co-dot-uk variant. While I was there I looked for domains with hazardwarning & found dot-com & dot-co-dot-uk were taken: I wasn't surprised at that at all. So I opted for a reasonably-priced dot-me-dot-uk one. Now I have these for the next 10 years. I have put a very basic web page up for hazardwarning, which just has links to ADN, Twitter and Wordpress, all of which share this username. I haven't added 10centuries yet - I would need to find out how first. I imagine I can edit the wp link code - by now it should be pretty clear that I am fairly clueless when it comes to the wider web! I thought perhaps it was time to learn. I haven't got any web hosting per se (the domains come with 3 pages, email accounts & a blog, all of which should keep me busy for a while). To be honest I don't really see that I have the need for a full website really; not at the moment anyway. My more technically-minded brother has muttered things like "email server" - I left him pondering such things!

During all this I discovered that my initials were not taken as a username on ADN. They are now. Only as a wee free account. Someone asked me if I was going to change my username, but I had decided not to. As I said earlier, the hazardwarning username seems to have become my web presence now, so I'm sticking with it - despite someone on Twitter begging me to give it up, so he could have it. Something to do with being a fan of a footballer called Hazard, that I had never heard of.

Onwards and upwards (or should that be "outwards") into the wider web world....

Just one more....

Ok, so I fibbed a little. Another favourite photo - from Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire, earlier this year.

Image from Felix

Outside view of Sherborne Abbey

Last one today, I promise.....

The abbey is made of a beautiful, dark yellow-brown stone. As is most of Sherborne it seems.

Image from Felix

Sherborne Abbey

I love to photograph stained glass windows. It started really because I took some photos in Wimborne Minster and my mother used one to make a card for a friend. Since then I have always looked for a good shot. She was with me yesterday in Sherborne and particularly wanted this window. Unfortunately there is a tree outside, so no way to avoid the shadow. Beautiful window all the same (one of many).

Image from Felix

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