View from the Potting Shed http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk The Revd Gareth J M Saunders' weblog Mon, 06 Jun 2016 21:55:25 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 And so the divorce proceedings begin… http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/06/06/and-so-the-divorce-proceedings-begin/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/06/06/and-so-the-divorce-proceedings-begin/#respond Mon, 06 Jun 2016 21:55:25 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=6032 Continue reading And so the divorce proceedings begin…]]> Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon cover, showing a prism

Tomorrow morning marks the formal beginning of divorce proceedings.

At 10:00 in Dundee, Jane and I will meet with two mediators (one also a solicitor) from Relationships Scotland to begin ‘All Issues Mediation’. The end result will be a document, a Mediation Summary, that sets out (I presume in legal-ese) the terms of our proposed agreements resulting from the mediation which we then take to our own solicitors and ask them to process it, to make it legal.

This evening I had to fill in a 10 page document ahead of tomorrow’s meeting that lays out my full financial situation as of the formal date of our separation: Saturday 14 November 2015. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be, although I am still a little confused about pensions and insurance/assurance, and all that other serious grown-up stuff.

The last six months have given me some perspective on the whole thing, especially my last four months living in hall as the warden. While I miss my children desperately, I do otherwise feel happier than I have felt in a long, long time. I feel more like my old self, but a little wiser and more experienced old self. And that is a good place to be to go into these pre-divorce proceedings.

I don’t feel angry with Jane, I don’t even feel sad now. I know that we tried our best—I certainly know that I tried my very best to make things work. We just couldn’t make it work—we simply couldn’t communicate on the same wavelength. We were like two magnets pushing against one another. Or like when coloured lights come together they produce white: together we lost our identities, our uniqueness, our vibrancy. There is no point in me holding on, or resenting, or feeling hurt. That’s not the road to healing or wholeness.

I have said from the start that I want our divorce to be carried out in a kind and caring way, with grace and respect. I want to model to the boys the kind of behaviour that demonstrates that even though our marriage relationship came to an end it can be ended in a way that allows us both to walk away with dignity.

I will try to blog what I can about the process in the hope that it helps others going through a similar situation.

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Today, I’ve been working at St Andrews for a decade http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/05/02/today-ive-been-working-at-st-andrews-for-a-decade/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/05/02/today-ive-been-working-at-st-andrews-for-a-decade/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 20:21:46 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=6017 Continue reading Today, I’ve been working at St Andrews for a decade]]> University of St Andrews homepage in 2006
The University of St Andrews website that I inherited in 2006

Today is exactly ten years since I started working at the University of St Andrews. I joined the web team within Business Improvements as assistant information architect/web manager. There were two of us in the team. I always said at the time that I liked my job title because with the forward-slash it looked like a URL.

I remember getting offered the post and thinking, “Well, if I don’t know it now I can always learn it on the job.” You read my reflections on the job interview here on my blog.

Ten years on I am now the web architect within the digital communications team (part of Corporate Communications) we have a team of 10, and I work mostly in Agile project management and business analysis. Ten years on, I still love my job, and I love my team. I’m still being challenged, I am still learning how to do my job better, and I still growing.

Obviously, I’m now even more involved in the life of the University having taken up the post as warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall. I will reflect on that in more detail in another post shortly, suffice to say here that I’ve agreed to stay on beyond my probationary period.

But today I’m celebrating ten years here… well, fourteen if you include my four undergraduate years from 1989 to 1993. I wonder where I will be in ten years from now.

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NYCGB plus alumni at the Royal Albert Hall http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/04/11/nycgb-plus-alumni-at-the-royal-albert-hall/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/04/11/nycgb-plus-alumni-at-the-royal-albert-hall/#respond Mon, 11 Apr 2016 22:19:18 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=6009 Continue reading NYCGB plus alumni at the Royal Albert Hall]]> Panoramic photograph of the interior of the Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall—as people were arriving before the concert

This past weekend I’ve been in London with some old friends (some going back nearly 28 years!) to sing with the NYCGB alumni choir at the Royal Albert Hall.

This was the first official outing of the alumni choir — obviously made up of former members of the various National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. Around 110 people turned up, including one alumnus and his son who is now also an alumnus!

We were made to feel so welcome and were included immediately as part of the family. It felt like coming home!

A few of our friends turned up to sing with us...
A few of our friends turned up to sing with us…

In all there were around 800 people singing, from boys’ and girls’ choirs, Cambiata Voices (boys whose voices are changing), training choir, main choir, chamber choir, fellowship octet and, of course, us.

Alone, we sang Five Negro Spirituals from ‘A Child of Our Time’ by Michael Tippett (1905–1998) with solos provided by fellow alumnae Kitty Whately (mezzo-soprano), Rachael Lloyd (mezzo-soprano), Paul Hopwood (tenor) and Roland Wood (baritone).

Having had about half a proper rehearsal of this five part piece I think we did not too bad, to be honest.

With the rest of the choir we sang two songs. The first was If I Ruled the World by Bricusse / Ornadel / Cullum, arranged Sam Coates. It’s the Sir Harry Secombe song arranged for choirs in a jazz style. Nice! What was really nice is that Sir Harry’s grandson was singing as he is also in NYCGB.

The final song of the evening was the gorgeous Lay a Garland by Robert Lucas de Pearsall (1795–1856).

And that was that. I bowed and left the stage, grinning from ear to ear. There is nothing in this world like singing with NYCGB. The sound is unique. The discipline is… well, okay, let’s not talk about our discipline. And the banter is heart-warming and side-splitting.

As many know, this year hasn’t been easy for me, but as I sat on the back row during the first half (and enjoyed my little snooze!) I realised that I was surrounded by friends whom I love and trust, and amongst whom I feel loved and supported. I phoned my mum this evening and thanked her for encouraging me to audition and supporting me through my time in NYC even though my dad had lost his job and money was really tight.

So, I want to say a massive thank you to NYCGB for including us as part of the family once again. And an equally enormous thank you to all the alumni who turned up and sang—seemingly they were turning alumni away on Thursday as we’d simply run out of space to seat everyone!

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Peat Reek—a short film I supported on Kickstarter http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/04/03/peat-reek-a-short-film-i-supported-on-kickstarter/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/04/03/peat-reek-a-short-film-i-supported-on-kickstarter/#respond Sun, 03 Apr 2016 13:27:13 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=6007 Continue reading Peat Reek—a short film I supported on Kickstarter]]>

In mid-August 2013 I received an email from a chap that I’d helped on a forum, it was something to do with his O2 Orbit mobile phone crashing, and seemingly I’d managed to help him out.

Brian’s son Mike was running a Kickstarter campaign to raise some money to make a short film that he’d written called Peat Reek and he was asking if I could help them reach their goal of £3,300.

I think I sent him £25, which got my name in the credits and a copy of the DVD.

The DVDs were released in October 2014 and sure enough my name is in the credits. This week Peat Reek became available for free on YouTube.

Peat reek is illicit whiskey that’s been distilled over a peat fire, and so his film was about whisky smuggling in 19th century highland Scotland.

If you have 26 minutes, give it a watch. Let me know what you think in the comments.

 

 

 

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Alto’s Adventure for Android http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/03/17/altos-adventure-for-android/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/03/17/altos-adventure-for-android/#respond Thu, 17 Mar 2016 22:05:25 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5996

Alto’s Adventure is my favourite Android game at the moment.

The artwork is beautiful, the game play is graceful, and the challenges push you but are achievable after some practice.

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Beautiful Google Chrome new tab pages with Momentum http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/03/07/beautiful-google-chrome-new-tab-pages-with-momentum/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/03/07/beautiful-google-chrome-new-tab-pages-with-momentum/#respond Mon, 07 Mar 2016 17:59:50 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5987 Continue reading Beautiful Google Chrome new tab pages with Momentum]]> Today's new tab background in Google shows a beautiful landscape
Today’s new tab background in Google.

One of my favourite new Google Chrome extensions (plugins) is Momentum.

Momentum replaces the default Chrome ‘new tab’ page with a beautiful image that changes daily, the current time, plus an inspirational quotation, the weather, and an optional to-do list.

I never used to use the shortcuts on the default new tab page, so I find this page much nicer. It’s fun, it’s friendly, it opens really quickly (unlike other new tab replacements that I’ve tried) and it’s inspiring, not just because of the quotation at the foot of the page, but the image giving you a 24 hours glimpse into another beautiful part of the world.

Today’s image is of Geiranger, Norway, © Igor Sukma. For me it is, interestingly my colleagues who are using this extension always see an image unique to them each day, which is neat.

Check out Momentum on the Chrome Web Store.

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Team meeting via Google Hangouts http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/03/03/team-meeting-via-google-hangouts/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/03/03/team-meeting-via-google-hangouts/#respond Thu, 03 Mar 2016 21:47:28 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5981 Daily meeting via Google Hangouts
Daily meeting via Google Hangouts

Last week I had to work from home one morning. Our team meets at 09:30 every morning to catch-up. Years ago I suppose I would have had to either phone in or miss it.

We used Google Hangouts to allow my colleague Lewis and I to take part, connecting remotely.

Isn’t the world wide web an amazing thing!

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Firewatch http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/02/15/firewatch/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/02/15/firewatch/#respond Mon, 15 Feb 2016 21:34:39 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5973 Continue reading Firewatch]]> Firewatch hut overlooking forest

It’s not often that I purchase a computer game spontaneously, certainly not one that I’ve never heard of. But on Friday I did just that.

On Friday I bought Firewatch on Steam.

It was the artwork that first grabbed me, stylised and beautiful. Then I watched the trailer…

Who is the guy in the other tower?! Who are the girls who’ve gone missing?

And that was me hooked!

I finished the game on Sunday evening. But this week I’m going in again…

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No sitting in the dark during a power cut with our UPS http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/01/14/no-sitting-in-the-dark-during-a-power-cut-with-our-ups/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/01/14/no-sitting-in-the-dark-during-a-power-cut-with-our-ups/#comments Thu, 14 Jan 2016 22:44:52 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5963 Continue reading No sitting in the dark during a power cut with our UPS]]> My desk lamp running on battery power
My desk lamp running on battery power

When I returned home from St Andrews this evening the whole of Anstruther was in darkness. There was a town-wide power cut. It turns out the power cut extended right down the Fife coast, as far as Leven, someone reported.

It was really quite eerie. Most houses were in complete darkness, a few had the flickering glow from candles at the windows. A couple of people were walking down the street using torches (‘flashlights’ for American readers).

The sky was spectacular: a blanket of pin holes. I had never seen so many stars while standing outside my house.

I walked into the house and found everyone walking around with torches. There were a couple of candles lit on the dinner table.

“We can’t find your bike light!” a tiny voice exclaimed in the darkness.

“It’s under my bed,” I replied. “I charged it over night.”

I handed Reuben and Isaac my keys and they went racing up the stairs to find it. The small LED torch on my keyring lighting the way. (I always carry a torch with me!)

I walked upstairs, ducked under my desk for a moment and then asked Isaac to switch on my desk lamp.

Suddenly the room was bathed in light from a 7.5 watt 3000K LED bulb.

“How did you do that?!” Isaac quizzed.

“Aha!” I said, “I have an uninterruptable power supply. It’s like a giant battery.”

We saw out the rest of the power cut sitting in my study: the only room in the house with any electric light.

I opened my curtains to show off to the neighbours that we had electricity.

Uninterruptible power supply

Uninterruptible power supply
Uninterruptible power supply

A few years ago we experienced quite a few power cuts here in the East Neuk. I got fed up of my PC suddenly dying when the power went out, even just with short blips in power. So I bought myself a UPS, an unterruptible power supply.

As I said, it’s like a giant battery into which you plug your equipment. It monitors your power supply and if the voltage suddenly drops out then the UPS immediately kicks you over to battery power. It announces it with a satisfying ‘click’, and sometimes even a ‘beep’.

The UPS I have — the APC Back-UPS ES-700VA — which cost me about £80 a few years ago, doesn’t have a massive amount of power but it does give me a few minutes to save my work and shut down my PC safely.

But this evening it occurred to me that I could simply plug in my 7.5W desk lamp into it and get maybe over two hours out of it.

I certainly recommend getting a UPS or two, not just to safeguard your data but look how handy it is in a power cut.

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Stream Planet Rock radio in MusicBee on your PC http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/01/04/stream-planet-rock-radio-in-musicbee-on-your-pc/ http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/2016/01/04/stream-planet-rock-radio-in-musicbee-on-your-pc/#comments Mon, 04 Jan 2016 09:23:25 +0000 http://blog.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/?p=5947 Continue reading Stream Planet Rock radio in MusicBee on your PC]]> Pure Evoke-1XT Marshall edition
Pure Evoke-1XT Marshall edition

I wake up most mornings to Planet Rock radio on my beloved Pure Evoke-1XT Marshall DAB radio. But that’s in my bedroom, I don’t currently have a DAB radio in my study and Screamer Radio no longer works for Planet Rock.

Which got me thinking: could I somehow convince my digital music player of choice, MusicBee, to stream Planet Rock? It seems to handle pretty much everything else I throw at it.

The answer is yes; this is how in three easy steps.

1. Find the Stream URL

The first thing to find out was obviously the URL to stream Planet Rock. Thankfully that is displayed very prominently on their listening online page. This is what they currently are (although I guess, they may be subject to change):

  • http://www.planetrock.com/planetrock.m3u
  • http://tx.sharp-stream.com/icecast.php?i=planetrock.mp3

Both work, depending on the player you use, e.g. iTunes, Windows Media Player, MusicBee, etc; I use the first one.

2. Play the stream in MusicBee

Next, we need to tell MusicBee to use that stream.

Screenshot of MusicBee menu
File > Open Stream

That’s as simple as opening the menu and selecting:

  1. File > Open Stream.
  2. Then paste in the URL and click OK.
Screenshot of dialog to enter URL
Paste the URL then click OK

This may take a few seconds while MusicBee connects to the streaming audio feed and then BINGO! you’ll suddenly be listening to Planet Rock on your PC.

Don’t go setting your watch, though, to the streamed version. It can have a few seconds delay between broadcast and it emerging from your PC’s speakers. (My PC stream is currently 1 minute 25 seconds behind my DAB radio broadcast.) This is due to the software buffering enough data to ensure continuous playback, so that if some data goes missing and has to be re-requested from the server or if there is a local data bottleneck the audio doesn’t suddenly drop out.

What’s nice is if you use the first URL (the one ending /planetrock.m3u) then MusicBee will also display the name of the track currently playing:

Screenshot showing the name of the track currently playing: Iron Maiden—Wrathchild
Now playing…

3. Save the stream as a playlist

The final thing we need to do is tell MusicBee to remember this station. It would be a bit of a hassle to have to find, copy and paste that URL every time you want to listen to the radio.

Again, that’s simple.

  1. Right-click the name of the track
  2. From the context-menu select: Send To… > Playlist > <New Playlist>.
  3. A new playlist will be created in the Playlists panel, with the edit caret waiting for you to give it a name.
  4. Enter a meaningful name, mine says Planet Rock DAB.
  5. Then press Enter to save it.
Screenshot showing how to save the playlist
Send to > Playlist >

Conclusion

That’s all there is to it.

While I usually listen to MusicBee using the compact player view, when listening to streamed radio I prefer the mini player view which also pulls in the current track’s artwork.

Screenshot of mini player view
MusicBee mini player view
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