Fender Mustang Micro

Posted on 2023-11-05 20:28 +0100 in Life • Tagged with music, guitar • 2 min read

The urge to go gadget crazy, when getting a new hobby, or reviving an old one, is a real thing. Having recently bought the new guitar with a view to trying to learn to play properly, it's something I'm very mindful of and doing my best to avoid. However, in the middle of the week I did crack and buy one little extra thing:

Fender Mustang Micro

As I said in the previous blog post about the guitar: I ended up getting something that could be played acoustic without being annoying for neighbours, which in turn meant I didn't need any sort of amp, or pedals, etc. This has been working out just fine. But early last week, in an idle moment, I was looking up what might be good options for a small amp for practising should I want to and I stumbled on the Mustang Micro.

Reading up on it and checking out some reviews, it sounded perfect for my setup. I enjoy living in a small space, so could do without a proper amp kicking about, so something that just plugs right into the guitar sounded ideal.

I added it to a list of things to keep in mind and then... a couple of days later I was working from home which meant I'd be about to receive a delivery if I was to place an order and... oops!

I've been using it every day since it turned up and I'm so damn impressed! This thing might be small, but it's pretty mighty! For a complete notice like me, to muck about, and fiddle and get some great sounds out of it, I couldn't have asked for anything more.

The Options

The range of amp styles is way more than I could possibly do justice right now, but what's important for me is it's got versions that are nice and clean, and versions that are dirty and distorted. The effects are pretty much spot on too; there's everything I could ever possibly want there.

My only real complaint about it is that the UI itself -- small lights that use colour to indicate their setting -- is terrible. I don't know how else they could have done it, but I know this is bad. I am at least grateful that it's standalone and doesn't require some app on a phone to control or something like that.

I know it's going to take a while for me to get the most out of this, but already it's giving me a bit more confidence to experiment and doodle away in idle moments. Also, the USB connection means it can be plugged into my Mac, presumably allowing me to record with GarageBand or similar software. While I wouldn't use it to subject anyone to my terrible playing, that will be something for me to explore in terms of keeping a record of my progress.


A new guitar

Posted on 2023-10-20 08:39 +0100 in Life • Tagged with music, guitar • 3 min read

This one has been brewing for a year, more or less. Now that I commute into and back from Edinburgh most days of the working week, I find myself walking past a couple of music shops. Seeing these reminds me of the days, back in my 20s, when I mucked around in a couple of bands and had fun making noises on a bass guitar. Since that time I've also owned a cheap six string electric, which is currently in storage (and has been since 2016) and an acoustic, which I have with me but I live in an apartment building and I'm not an arsehole so I never play it.

So, yeah, walking past those shops has made me want to muck about on a guitar again. I've never properly learnt the guitar, I've just managed to learn enough chords to make some noises I like for my own amusement, but even then I've not picked one up since around 2016 and what little I do know is very rusty.

Add to the above: earlier this year I was at a friend's and admiring her collection of bass and six string guitars and picked a couple up and realised I could not play anything. It had been too long, I'd lost most muscle memory and coordination, and what little knowledge I had.

So this made me want to fix this even more.

Given the apartment thing I decided on a plan: how about I get an eclectic, and then some sort of amplification that would always rely on headphones? Given such a setup I could knuckle down and try and learn properly.

So, this week, being on holiday, I told myself I'd pop into Edinburgh one day and have a look at my options; perhaps even come home with something. Yesterday was that day.

It didn't quite go to plan, but the outcome was that I ended up with something to play.

My new Höfner

So, on getting into the shop, and explaining what I was after and why to the chap in there, I tried the usual Stratocaster and Telecaster thing. Both were fine (I think I liked the feel of the Telecaster more in my hand). I had one eye on a Les Paul too, but never tried that. What I did see though was this rather lovely black Höfner.

Now, of course, it's hollow body, so sort of has that acoustic thing going on. This isn't what I wanted for playing in an apartment. But I had to try it anyway. As soon as I started dabbling I was sold. The sound was enough that it would be easy to pick up and play without having to faff with amplification of any sort, on the other hand it was nowhere near as loud as my acoustic. I felt like it bridged the gap between easy to pick up, and versatile enough should I ever want to plug it into something.

And... let's be honest: it was black. Sooooo black. I like black.

Long story short... it had to come home with me!

As mentioned earlier: most of my guitar stuff is still in storage, from when I moved to Scotland, but I did find my old tin of plectrums and the tuner.

Standard guitar kit

(Yes, the tin was once mine and was once full; the early 90s were a different time)

I even found one of my old stands, that I've had since around 1991! So now it's set up in my living room, next to the PCVR rig, ready to go at a moment's notice.

On its stand, ready to go

This is my plan now: each weekend I aim to put in at least an hour a day of practice, to try and get my fingers up to strength again, and to build up the muscle memory of where the strings are, to get the coordination between both hands, etc. I'm also going to be working through beginner's lessons from a tutor application. I'm going to treat this like I'm the complete novice I am and slowly work on improving.

There's no end goal; other than just get proficient enough that I can muck about on my own and be happy that I can play the sorts of things I want to be able to play.

Also, it's good to learn new stuff, especially new stuff that isn't just more coding.


A map of my year in Obsidian

Posted on 2023-09-11 20:07 +0100 in Life • Tagged with journal, Obsidian, graph • 3 min read

Some time around late October or early November last year, around the time I started working at Textualize, I "discovered" Obsidian. While I didn't need another note-taking application (having gone through Evernote, trying to use Org, dabbling with a couple of other things and finally settling mainly on Apple Notes), I was quite taken by its style and ubiquity and the fact that it was, at heart, just a bunch of Markdown files.

So quite quickly I started using it; not to replace Apple Notes (which is still my general note-taking tool of choice), but to keep work notes and a daily coding journal, the latter coming in useful for the quick end-of-day meetings we normally have.

One of the things I was quite taken by was the graph. It was interesting and fun to see how each of my work days related to other work days, and what subjects kept getting pulled in, etc.

So come the start of this year I had an idea: what would it be like to keep a personal vault, but one where I track things I've done. Not a journal as such (I do keep one of those too, have done for many years now, but that's for other far more important reasons -- perhaps I'll write about that one day too), just a daily record of stuff I've achieved, stuff I've actually done, the routine things and the exceptional things?

What would that graph look like?

While it's not the end of this year yet, here's how that's shaping up:

The main graph

Each of the yellow circles is a day, each of the blue ones is a tag of some sort. As you'd imagine, the size of the circles relates to how often that item is tagged. So I can see what proportion of my days so far this year have been tagged with being heavily involved with work:

Work

Likewise, if I want to see how many days this year have involved a significant spot of gaming:

Gaming

Ditto for days where I've done some coding on pet projects, or even some personal-time coding relating to work projects (it might be work, but it's also Free Software and I do like to support FOSS!)

Coding

I sort of have a curated set of tags I apply, but I've not made it a strict set; if some new situation crops up that calls for a new tag I'll use it. Mostly though I try and keep the tags pretty general so lots of days can relate to the same general subject.

Another thing I've done is tag each and every day with the day of the week, so while it's not really surprising to find that Sunday doesn't dominate over other days, I can see which days are Sundays and perhaps wander along the connections and see what I get up to:

Sunday

I don't quite know what I hope to get out of this, I don't really know if there's anything useful to be had here at all, but it will be interesting to look back over it at the end of the year. It also means that I'll have a directory hierarchy full of Markdown files, all tagged and filled with information, which I'll be able to grep and slice and dice and count and perhaps pull into a database and cross-reference with stuff and things.

Or perhaps it's all just really me not having a good use for Obsidian but inventing one anyway. ;-)


Mythos: Ragnarok (plus Oppenheimer)

Posted on 2023-08-27 10:55 +0100 in Life • Tagged with Fringe, wrestling, movie • 2 min read

And I'm done! While it did only turn out to be one a week, I pulled it off, I managed to make it to at least one Fringe show per week!

View inside the Roxy

Yesterday was a full, busy, and hugely enjoyable day. While it could have just been a dash into town to see the show and back home again, in conjunction with Mariëlle (who first introduced me to the Mythos show) we arranged to go watch Oppenheimer first (amazing, easily the fastest any combined 3 hours have passed for me -- I'm not even going to try and write up anything about this, other than I was utterly enthralled by the movie from start to end), grab some dinner, then go and see Mythos: Ragnarok.

With a wee bit of shopping thrown in along the way.

As I've mentioned before, I first saw Ragnarok last year. Then they were in a fairly small venue, with a pretty full crowd. At the end they talked about how the first night they'd played the audience had been a single person; over the nights of the run it had slowly grown, and by the end of the run (we went on the last night) it was getting properly busy.

This year they were in a much bigger place, with a lot more seating, and the house was full. This did make it feel a little less intimate than last year, and also last year we were sat all around the stage, which worked well for the performance; this time around it was a more traditional stage at the front, seating all on one side thing. I was really pleased for them that they were in a much bigger place, but I did miss the layout from last year.

As for the show itself... just as fantastic. There seemed to have been some tweaks and changes to how the story was done over what I remember from last year, but mainly it was the same. The energy in the performance was incredible, and the comedy was spot on, with a lot of nods and winks to the audience. This is the part that I think I enjoy most: they know what they have, they know what they're doing, they know what they have on offer. It's a high-energy play performed by stunt people.

It's amazing.

As I write this there's one last show, I believe, tonight; so the chances of anyone reading this and getting to see it are very remote. But if they're back next year, and you're reading this near then and wondering about Fringe shows, do it! Really, do it. You won't regret it.

I'll be going again. No question.


Little Shop of Horrors at the Fringe

Posted on 2023-08-19 15:00 +0100 in Life • Tagged with Music, Gig, Fringe • 2 min read

As mentioned just over a week back, last night I went to see a Fringe show that was a production of The Little Shop of Horrors. Before going I had no idea what to expect (in terms of how it would be done, not what the content would be): I wasn't clear if it would be a really small affair, or something on a bigger stage with reasonably high production values (what can I say? It was LSoH, it was a Fringe show, it was booked knowing nothing else).

When we got there and got into the venue it was... small, oh so very small! No real set to speak of. The cast who were about to kick off the performance didn't really seem to have much of a costume going on. So, without judgement, I settled down to expect the next 90 minutes or so to be... a Fringe experience.

First impressions were oh so wrong! While there was (for obvious reasons) a lack of any real set, the effort that went into the performance really worked and I absolutely enjoyed every single moment. Also, because it was a production of the musical (which I haven't seen), rather than an adaption of the movie (which I have), I got to experience a fresh ending (spoilers!).

The seats were uncomfortable. The room was down in the basement, with no ventilation, and so was uncomfortably hot. Physically it wasn't a great space to be. And yet I really wasn't wishing for it to be over. I think that says a lot about the show itself.

I think special mention has to be given to the Audrey II models, of which there were three different sizes. Someone put some real effort into them.

So, yeah, a fun night, topped and tailed with pre-show dinner and post-show drinks with friends. I couldn't have asked for more.

Unless I last-moment book anything else over the next week, there's one more show to go in my push to go and see at least one show per week of the Fringe.

PS: Sadly no photos. I wasn't sat in a great spot to take photos.


Mythos: Ragnarok booked

Posted on 2023-08-15 20:06 +0100 in Life • Tagged with Fringe, wrestling • 1 min read

That's a third show booked! This means that, as I hoped, I'm going to manage at least one show a week for the Fringe!

Now, this one could be seen as a cheat, sorta, kinda. I've seen this show before. But I liked it so much last year I have to see it again! The odd thing about it was it's not something I would have gone for on my own, it's technically not really my thing, but I got talked into it and I'm so glad I was!

So a year back Mariëlle told me about this wrestling show at the Fringe and how she wanted to go but nobody else was interested and I was all "yebbut wrestling though?" and didn't think much more about it. Eventually though, after some persuasion (I mean, an hour or so at a show and some beers afterwards, how bad could it be really?), I agreed to go. I expected to find it meh.

Cast of Mythos: Ragnarok 2022

Holy shit was it so much fun! Like, seriously so much fun. I'd never realised that wrestling was the best way to tell the tales from Norse mythology; turns out that wrestling is absolutely the best way to tell the tales from Norse mythology.

So we're off back again this year. All booked, not this weekend, the weekend after.

There might even be a beer afterwards. Perhaps not quite so many as last year though.


Nick Harper at the Jazz Bar

Posted on 2023-08-12 08:15 +0100 in Life • Tagged with Music, Gig, Fringe, Nick Harper • 3 min read

As mentioned about a week back, my first show booked for this year's Edinburgh Fringe was to see Nick Harper. It's been a long time since I've seen him; far too long. As best as I can tell the last gig I made it to was in 2009.

Fourteen years. Shit's changed in that time, for me, for the world. O_o

On first getting into town it was warm and crowded, with that fun "town is doing festival shit" vibe that I like, so I went and grabbed an ice cream to kill some time until the venue opened. I knew I was in the right spot when, as I stood on Chambers Street, enjoying the cooldown, the man himself dashed passed, guitar case in hand!

When I got into the venue I grabbed a drink and tried to find a seat; most were taken; except for one right at the front and off to the side. So I grabbed it. Moments later Nick himself came over to say hello to the folk sat in this spot. We had a wee chat about how long it was since I'd last seen him, nattered about general stuff, and he said very nice things about my hat.

Nick Harper

The gig itself was fantastic. While I love his recorded work anyway, Nick's always been one of those artists who I enjoy most live. He's got this way of singing and playing guitar that fills whatever time he's got to play; never once have I ever found myself looking at my watch, wondering if it's near the end; or if I have it's because I'm worried it'll be over soon.

Nick Harper

A good number of the tracks he played I didn't recognise; at least two of them I know are from a new album that's coming, and I have to admit that when I do listen to his stuff it's the earlier works that tend to go into heavy rotation (I think the last album of his I bought was The Last Guitar). But I loved everything I got to hear. I'll be diving back into his catalogue and also keeping an eye out for the new release.

Nick Harper

While there was only an hour for his slot, he did manage to get a couple of old favourites of mine in; I was delighted when he launched into By My Rocket Comes Fire, did a wonderful She Rules My World, and even squeezed in a quick Galaxy Song.

Nick Harper

All too quickly though, the hour was up. It was kind of fitting that many of the songs he did have on the set list were all about time (on purpose, I'm sure). I'm happy to say I got to say a quick thank you and goodbye and then it was time for me to head out of town again.

Nick Harper

Seeing Nick brought back a lot of good memories, and reminded me that I need to catch up on his more recent works. While most of his stuff doesn't seem to be on Apple Music (what can I say, I'm very online these days when it comes to music), I'm glad to see he's got a full Bandcamp, so I'll be paying that a visit!

I hope he swings back this way some time soon, not during the Fringe, and with a proper long set. It's been too long since I got to enjoy him really going for it and having a ton of fun.


Off to see Little Shop of Horrors

Posted on 2023-08-10 20:30 +0100 in Life • Tagged with Music, Gig, Fringe • 1 min read

I almost feel bad admitting this. For someone my age it feels like a thing you should not really admit, but here goes... I only saw Little Shop of Horrors for the first time back in 2020. Don't ask me why. I just... never got round to it. I've known plenty of people who have seen it and loved it. I had a girlfriend for a while in the late 80s who was obsessed with it. She, like plenty of people I know, would quote all the quotes from it.

And yet... yeah, I never got round to seeing it.

Until 2020. On first viewing it became really bloody obvious why so many people seem to love it.

So you can imagine my delight when, earlier this week, I was fighting through the Edinburgh crowds to get to my bus home and I saw this:

Poser for Little Shop of Horrors

Oh yes please! Oh so yes please! Given my desire to try and take in a few more Fringe shows that I normally would, this year, this seemed like a perfect fit. It also solved the choice paralysis problem for at least one week (really, have you seen how much there is on offer?).

So today I booked some tickets for myself and a couple of friends. Next week's "try and see at least one Fringe show" problem is solved: I'm going to go and see a performance of Little Shop of Horrors.


Off to see Nick Harper

Posted on 2023-08-07 21:56 +0100 in Life • Tagged with Music, Gig, Fringe, Nick Harper • 2 min read

Poster from likely the last time I saw Nick

I've lived near Edinburgh for getting on well over 6 years now and, aside form the odd show here and there, I've never really done the Fringe. As in, really dived in. Since moving up here my life situation didn't quite allow for it and then the pandemic hit and... well, you can imagine. Every year I've been up here I've managed one show, at least, but this year I want to try and make myself get to a few.

Maybe one per week. Possibly.

Might not happen, but I'm going to try. What can I say? I don't live in Edinburgh, I'm not a big "be out amongst people" kind of person, and the activation energy to get on a bus into town vs what I can do in my little part of Scotland is a constant battle.

But this year I'm going to try my best.

This evening I've booked a ticket for an artist I've been a fan of since the 1990s: Nick Harper. I saw Nick quite a few times in the 200xs (see the image above, I think 2009 might be the last time I saw him!) and then my going to gigs tailed off somewhat (again, life stuff). So seeing that he's playing here for a few days was something I could not ignore.

This weekend me can thank Monday me for committing him to doing something kinda sociable. I'm sure he'll be mad at me most of the day it's happening, but once it all kicks off and the music is flowing he'll be thankful.

Right now, at this moment... I'm rather looking forward to it.


Encouragement, I guess?

Posted on 2023-07-21 08:20 +0100 in Life • Tagged with UI, UX, health, fitness • 1 min read

Anyone who was (un)lucky enough to follow me on Twitter back in 2020 will know that, starting January 1st that year, I set about losing weight. At the time I was very overweight and wanted to get into some sort of healthy state. By August that year I'd managed to drop 30kg and hit and then went a wee way under my goal.

These days I'm back up a wee bit. Not much: generally about 5kg or so above that goal, most of that having turned up on the last 7 or 8 months (not exactly coincidental that it's happened in conjunction with the new job, the new work location, and the new commute). While it's no real cause for concern -- I'm still generally careful and still get plenty of exercise (normally walk around 35km a week, run 20km, get my 10k steps in every day)

About a week back I decided that it was time to give myself a bit of breathing room, to try and at least drop a couple or kg; so with that in mind I set a lower daily calorie goal in my tacking app.

When recording my weight first thing this morning (yes, I'm one of those people who records it every day and have for a few years -- it makes for interesting data!), this is what my calorie/stats tracker had to say:

Screenshot of my calorie and weight tracking app

I guess it's putting a positive spin in things? (for the record, I'm 5.3kg above my absolute goal).