Born Sleepy

February 08, 2014

I first got to know Mark at a small gathering at his place. I was feeling shy and didn’t want to go as I didn’t really know him, but I was persuaded by Caroline, and as the evening progressed and I got to know Mark, his boys, David, Debs, Catriona and Jana, I relaxed.

At some point, RockBand was fired up. My normal option would probably have been to watch self-consciously from the sidelines, but aided no doubt by the pint sized measures of vodka and coke that Mark was feeding me, I had a go… and thus the greatest rock band never to perform a gig was born! Mark and Debs on vocals, Stu on lead guitar, me on bass - epic! The drum pads weren’t working, but no doubt we would have made do with a succession of spontaneously combusting drummers for our American tour. Or perhaps William would have stepped into the breach.

Fast forward a few months, another night round at Mark’s, many of the same faces, and an introduction to Chaz and Tracey, and Hélène. Ridiculous amounts of alcohol flowed (I think it was pints of G&T this time), much nonsense was talked. Tenuous connections were discovered, shared interests revealed, war stories from games industries exchanged, musical tastes found to be compatible! Turns out Mark and Chaz were in Colindale at the time I was growing up in Kilburn. The age gap was small enough - surely we must have passed in the street, stood next to each other in Games Workshop, jumped up and down with the rest of the Iron Maiden or Marillion crowd at Hammersmith Odeon?

Forward again, this time a barbecue at Mark’s with Nigel in attendance. Once more the world was put to rights, ably assisted by alcohol (I seem to recall Slippery Nipples featuring heavily). Another storming night. Another stonking hangover. There were more nights like this, though sadly not nearly enough. Relaxed chats in An Lanntair. Innocent meetings at MacNeils for a few drinks which magically mutated into HebSar drinking nights. A systematic assault on the HS1 cocktail menu (I blame Debs).

Each of these is a treasured (though somewhat blurry, for some reason) memory.

Yes, alcohol features heavily, but it was the easy drinking of relaxed company, not the mutually assured destruction of a search for oblivion.

I treasure them for the sense of welcome and friendship that Mark created amongst the kindred spirits he gathered around him. He had an easy generosity, and always went out of his way to help us. He also wore his heart on his sleeve, and had plenty of stress in his life when I knew him. I hope I occasionally managed to provide a sympathetic ear to him, though I wish I had done more. Somehow despite his own concerns, he always had time to listen to my troubles, offering advice and reassurance.

I only knew Mark for three years or so, and I wouldn’t presume to claim to have been a close friend, but I wish it had been much longer, and that I’d had the chance to become one.

I wouldn’t normally consider doing anything so gauche as quoting Marillion lyrics in polite company, but I suspect that Mark would let me off. There’s a bit in one of their songs about losing one of their friends in a car crash: “I remember Toronto when Mylo went down / And we sat and cried on the phone / I never felt so alone / He was the first of our own”. Death is part of life, and like everyone reading this I have lost people very dear to me. Somehow though, it feels like Mark was the first of my own.

And now I’m crying again. Bugger.

Miss you Mark.


August 23, 2013

It’s been a bit quiet here, but I’m still alive.

One part of the explanation is that my new contract has been taking a lot of my attention. This is fab, and I’m having a great time taking Sketch apart and putting it back together again ;)

The other part is that my partner Caroline and I have recently bought a house! Moving home is of course massively time consuming at the best of times. Actually buying a property was a first time thing for me, and it’s been not only time consuming but a bit traumatic for various reasons (which mostly boil down to naivety on our part, and the potential need for some building work… sigh).

So, yes, I’m still here. Not finding a lot of time to work on Elegant Chaos projects right now, which is frustrating, but I will get there eventually.


I’ve tended to go back & forth in my working life between gainful employment as a full time wage slave, and the happy go lucky life of a contractor.

On the one hand, the camaraderie that comes with working in a small team on a project that you’re all passionate about is hard to beat.

On the other hand, the freedom to choose what you do, and how & when you do it - and not to be frustrated by ego trips, politics, and plain old bad judgement… is hard to beat.


May 18, 2013

“Nigel Farage has a point”… isn’t a phrase that I thought I’d ever find myself thinking, let alone uttering in public.

There’s no doubt that there’s a delicious irony in Mr UKIP finding himself the victim of some - what shall we call them - intolerent views, robustly delivered.

There’s also no doubt that he’s milking it for everything that it’s worth.

As for UKIP themselves, and their views, I have no time for them*.

I’ve also no idea whether he was really barracked by genuine students, or a bunch of anti-English idiots (see here for my views on that sort of thing).

However, I do think that we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that Scottish nationalism is, well, nationalism.


My iTunes music collection has over 1400 albums in it (no doubt plenty of people have more, but still, that’s quite a lot of music).

A couple of years ago I decided to re-encoded all my CDs as Apple Lossless, since the physical discs were going into storage and I wasn’t sure when I’d see them again.

I store my collection on a mac mini, which is my media server. However, I also had a copy on my laptop, which I kept as AAC 256k, to save space (and because, frankly, it’s hard to tell the difference).

I like using the meta data tags properly, and I hate it when people abuse the Album tag to indicate what disc it is (by adding “[Disc 1]” on the end), when they mark an album as “Compilation” when it’s a collection of songs by the same artist (for me that tag is only supposed to be used to group together tracks by different artists), or when they use the Artist tag to name check collaborators (by adding “feat. Joe Blogs” or whatever), so you end up with one album scattered across multiple artists (if you’re going to do that, use the Album Artist tag to unify the album under the main artist).

Over the time that I’d built up the collection, I had spent a lot of time editing the meta data to get it into the format I wanted it. Unfortunately, re-encoding everything undid a lot of this work, and left me with quite a few duplicates - some with my “correct” meta data, some with the rubbish tags from the internet.

I managed to clean up a lot of the problems on the mini, but of course that didn’t fix the laptop. Worse, thanks to iTunes match, the problems started to multiply again. iTunes Match on the mini has become confused on multiple occasions and “forgotten” me, so I’ve had to add the entire collection to it again. At which point it started adding duplicate AAC copies of every album where I’d edited the meta data.

I guess that this is because it had matched different encodings of the same tracks on different machines, in some cases with different meta data. The upshot is that now on my mini I’ve ended up with two copies of a lot of stuff, with both the correct and the incorrect metadata - and my iTunes match collection is now in an almost unbearable mess as a result.

I try to remove the duplicate, but they’re not always easy to spot unless I fix the meta data problems first, because they get filed in different places. I attempt to delete these duplicates from the cloud at the same time, but I’m quite scared that I’ll end up removing the only copy of something from the cloud too, by accident.

It seems to me that the root of this problem is that there’s no ‘authoritative’ place to view your match collection as it exists in the cloud. That and the fact that match seems to take the approach of avoiding touching your meta data whenever possible - which sounds sensible but isn’t if you end up with the sort of mess I’ve got.

What I badly need is a way to view the collection on the web, remove duplicates, clean up meta data, and then sync these changes down onto all my machines. I’m really not entirely sure how it deals with meta data changes right now - I suspect that it basically does nothing, which means that if you ever re-sync your collection, you end up with duplicates again.

For now, things are so messy that what I’d really like to do is delete everything from all but one machine and from the cloud, and start again. Except that I don’t really trust that everything that needs to be stored in the cloud is, and that it’s in the correct format, with the correct data, and that deleting it all from most places wouldn’t end up with me losing stuff.

In a word: “aaaaaaaarrrrrghhhh!”.