I am Jonathan Creek

This is my profile on another dating site:


Basically I am exactly like TV’s Jonathan Creek in that I am a tall intellergent man with messy hair who lives on his own in a windmill solving crimes. Except for the windmill. And the crimes.

Portraits

It is just some of my favourite pictures of people that I have taken. This is Matt relaxing at his simple North London home, in fact he looks quite sophistercated in this one given that we were actually glugging wine and laughing like bastards at a Bill Bailey DVD.

This is Steve the Sheep of various extinckt journals and one of the most super chaps ever. I love the way he is looking over his half-moon spectacles like a slightly censorious building society manager. In reality he would not make a very good building society manager, as he is really nice so would lend everyone money, even if they were actually wearing a cartoon style mask and a striped jersey.

I think this is a lovely one of Lucy, and even though I am not in the picture any more, in all senses, I still am quite pleased with it. There is an even better one where I accidentally jogged the camera so she looks like a ghost eating a boiled egg. But I better not publish that one as I still value her friendship.

Angela. These photos still make me feel a bit sad inside. I do not know why some things keep hurting for so long. It is still a great world though, if you do not look at too many old photos.

Dave the now-legendary lost member of the Archway Guitar Quartet and formerly of Duncan Idaho, North London’s only hard-rock band united by their admiration for the science fiction author Frank Herbert.

The Last Train

This is the diseased tube station at Crouch End where once upon a time gents in tall stovepipe hats and frock coats would have got out of a big puffing steam train and gone home for an rubber or two of whist with Mr Marjoribanks the district surveyor and Parsons the cheesemonger. I do not know of course, that is just my imagination. Anyway it is diseased now and nothing remains except the platforms, and some cheerful people with bikes and dogs.

Or in my case just bike.

It is amazing as the graffiti that covers all the bridges and walls en route is far more exciting and colourful than anything the council could dream up to attract people for a family day out along London’s heritage-rich Parkland Walk. It is like being in some post-apocalyptic urban dystopia (good writing).

The winding path through Queen’s Wood in Highgate, as it would have looked in a faded old sepia toned Victorian type autoluminograph (not really of course it is just me playing about). I was having a lot of super fun as it is a beautiful area of ancient woodland and full of history ekcetera, and great for bikling through on a cheery summer day. It would be a bit different though if it was soaked in sinister inky twilight and full of rogues lurking behind every tree, or if a deadly strangler was roaming the wood.

There is not though so here I am relaxing at the start of the official Parkland Walk, abandon hope all ye who enter here and no motorbikes.

El Terror del Marte

It is hard to imagine what kind of cataclysm could cause Mars to appear as large in the sky as the full Moon, but it would probably mean the destruction of the Solar System as we know it and thus the end of all humankind.

That does not seem to stop the annoying e-mail circulating which says that Mars will be making its closest approach to Earth for 5,000 years (true, but this happened three years ago) and that Mars will look as large as the full Moon.

How could this possibly be true? Mars is about twice the size of the Moon, so a little elementary arithmetic reveals that if it looked the same size, it would be twice as far away; in other words, the Moon would be about half way between Earth and Mars. That’s wrong by a factor of about two hundred. This is the kind of order of magnitude error that you would be making if you thought I was 1200 feet tall, or that England and France are 4,000 miles apart. It’s not even vaguely plausible.

I think this is telling us that we have a worrying lack of basic astronomical literacy. Consider a circulated email which warned that the average temperature in England this summer would be 3,000 degrees Centigrade. This is wrong by approximately the same amount as the Mars meme, yet we wouldn’t give it a moment’s credence. It’s so obviously, hugely divergent from reality that we would assume immediately that it was a joke, or a typo.

It looks as if this is what happened with the Mars alert, as if you read the text carefully you can see that the confusion is caused by a rogue paragraph break:

The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest 75-power magnification

Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye.

The important bit is easy to miss: at a modest 75-power magnification. In other words, through a fairly decent telescope, Mars will look a similar size to that of the full Moon seen with the naked eye.

But this is stupid! Through a telescope, anything could look as big as anything else! You could say that at a modest 1,000-power magnification, an ant will look as large as a human being to the naked eye. That’s what a telescope is for. It magnifies things.

The circulation of this rubbish has become an annual event and wastes an awful lot of people’s time and inbox space, and the reason I mention it is that I see it has now been translated into Spanish - omitting, of course, the crucial qualifier.

Desmienten rumores sobre acercamiento de Marte a la Tierra (El Universal)

Rumors denied about Mars’ approach to Earth

(quoting from the e-mail)

El encuentro terminará el 27 de agosto, cuando Marte este a 55.439.342 Km de la Tierra. Entonces, junto con la Luna será el objeto más brillante en el cielo nocturno.

The encounter will end on 27th August, when Mars will be 55,439,342km from Earth [true]. At that time it will be, together with the Moon, the brightest object in the night sky.

A simple vista Marte parecerá tan grande como la Luna llena y será fácil de ver.

To the naked eye Mars will appear as large as the full Moon and will be easy to see. [no kidding]

The Cher Effect

I was reading up a little on Auto-Tune, a proprietary pitch correction system well known to sound engineers. Digitally adjusting the pitch of a vocal sound is not hard to do, but having it not sound like Cher on ‘Believe’ is quite a bit more involved. It turns out according to an intresting Sound on Sound article that the ‘Cher effect’ was actually done with a vocoder, which is sort of the inverse of a pitch corrector. But lots of people have copied this effect by just using an Auto-Tune set up for over-aggressive pitch quantization.

I think it’s quite amusing that engineers probably laboured for years to make a subtle and undetectable pitch correction system, only to find that everyone just turns the subtlety off and makes themself sound like a poorly-maintained robot on purpose. For a while the effect was so annoyingly overdone that there was a big backlash against it and now Auto-Tune has a bad name - even though it wasn’t actually responsible for the Cher effect.

The surprising thing though is how widely it’s actually used. Auto-Tune-like DSP plugins are standard fare in audio software and, used sensitively and sparingly, pitch correction can be undetectable. I do notice it on the odd track, though - Maroon 5’s ‘She Will Be Loved’ has a bit of Auto-Tune wobble which I hope isn’t a deliberate producer decision. I’m sure there are lots more examples. In the old days engineers used to ‘punch’ a dodgy vocal, re-recording the line and effectively cutting and pasting the right note in, or just put together one good track from several takes. But this can burn a lot of expensive studio time, and of course you can’t do it live.

A cynic might say that the advent of decent real-time pitch correction allows people who can’t really sing to become pop stars. The trouble is that all the expressivity and emotion of human music lies in its deviation from perfect pitch and timing. Craig Anderton in an article in EQ magazine tells how he applied time quantisation to a superbly expressive piano performance to make it ‘perfect’ and completely ruined it, making it sound, well, sequenced.

I do not really listen to a lot of pop music, as I’m completely divorced from all popular culture, and tend to not be familiar with anything written after about 1750, but what I do hear leaking from people’s iPod earbuds and minicab radios everywhere sounds very bland and undistinctive. I can’t help wondering to what extent the cheapness and ubiquity of digital sound processing equipment is to blame. An engineer of my acquaintance once told me that you should spend all your studio money on a really top-notch reverb and forget everything else.

Perhaps that budget should now be amended to include a few singing lessons.

The rain came down

I did not see any meteoroloids as it turns out. Because of cloud!

I had a super day out bikling today though and went to Barnet, came back via Tescos where I bought healthy chicken salad ingrediments, stopped at the Dignity for a couple of refreshing pints of Leffe and to do the Telegraph crossword, and then relaxed with intellergent dramas such as I, Claudius. It does not get much better than that really, except that I also recorded a new session from the Archway Guitar Quartet!

Chich'en Dippers

So as to rinse that slightly unpleasant taste out of my mouth, here’s the cheerful news of the day!

I got a lot of things done including

  • Company tax return
  • Monthly invoice
  • Laundry
  • Gave my bike a good wash (somewhat to the detriment of the bath) and thoroughly degreased and lubed the chain
  • Installed some new speaker cables which necessitated burrowing so deeply into the nest of wires and fluff behind my desk that it basically counts as archaeology

So hurrah for me!

Also when I was hunting on Amazon for People of the Serpent, E.H. Thompson’s classic 1930s tale of exploring and excavating the Maya cities in Yucatán, including Chich’en Itza, which always sounds like some kind of fowl pest, I did not find it but Amazon suggested these very acceptable substitutes:

  • Spotlight-mode Synthetic Aperture Radar: A Signal Processing Approach by Charles V. Jakowatz, Daniel E. Wahl, Paul H. Eichel, and Dennis C. Ghiglia
  • Quincy, Seasons 1 and 2 DVDs
  • Laser Weapons Technology III by William E. Thompson and Paul H. Merritt
  • Trentepohliales: Cephaleuros, Phycopeltis, Stomatochroon - Morphology, Taxonomy, and Ecology by Rufus H. Thompson and Daniel E. Wujek
  • Development of Long Rigid Bars for Roof Support Along the Coal Face by H R Thompson and E M Loxley
  • Skelton Village: The Continuing Community by H E C Stapleton and Michael James A Thompson

So there is a rich seam of intrest there for when I get bored with amazing temples and pyramids ekcetera. I’ve been meaning to get some of these books anyway as I am fed up with always feeling embarrassed and left out at parties when the conversation turns to synthetic aperture radar.

Clouds!

Especially for Sarah, as I sent her this grainy phone-cam picture but she could not see it owing to potato-powered Irish cellphone network. That is a joke by the way in case I get hundreds of emails from outraged Irish readers, it is a beautiful and modern country which in many ways puts this one to shame, and it is not all Guinness and jockeys like you thought. Well, maybe a bit.

Aspects of Cornwall

hullo clouds hullo sky

More grainy cameraphone pictures. I am quite impressed with the little K510i really considering it only has no megapixels, and is being operated by a wazzock.

This is the view from my window. I leaned dangerously out to take this which is a silly idea after a bottle of Leffe, so this was almost an obituary. “Lard, 34, is survived by his collection of guitars and a half-eaten chicken balti.”