Monday, 26 August 2013

TGI 90 Chromatic Tuner

by TGI

My chromatic tuner died this spring. At first I thought there was a problem with a battery, or the battery contact. I’ve changed the battery couple of times and added a bit of duct tape to keep it firmly in place. Still, it required me pressing on the battery compartment (squeezing the electrons out?) to make it go. And then, even that stopped working.

During my last visit to Cambridge I ventured to the very same music shop in a hope to buy a replacement. There are not selling Crafter tuners any longer. However, the shop assistant did show me a selection of gadgets and recommended this model as the one that works well both on string and brass instruments. (He said he himself plays trumpet and clips this tuner to the bell.) So I bought it.

It is a great little gizmo and so far it has been working just fine. The “pitch” button is used to calibrate the concert A between 430 and 450 Hz. The “item” button allows to switch between the instrument (guitar, bass, violin, ukulele) and chromatic (keys F, B♭, E♭ and, naturally, C) modes. Finally, the “flat” button makes the E♭ tuning and D tuning of guitar and bass a piece of cake. (It is not that difficult anyway.) The clip provides two rotational degrees of freedom and can be swapped between the left and the right side of the tuner. The LCD display looks as if taken from some vintage sci-fi movies. Last but not least: black is cool but metallic red is even cooler.

You can buy yourself one from Amazon for one-third of the price I paid in the shop.

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Martian Chronicles

by Ray Bradbury

This was the first book of Ray Bradbury I ever read, in summer of 1977. (I discovered many other things that summer: ABBA, Livin’ Blues, Alexander Galich and One Hundred Years of Solitude, to name a few.) A former student of my mum gave me Марсианские хроники to read. He suggested me to draw an illustration for each chapter. So I did. I don’t think any of these have survived. I remember that I gave the drawing for The Green Morning to the owner of the book. Doesn’t matter: I know that The Martian Chronicles are illustrated by me.

I just found out from Wikipedia that the 1997 edition of the book moved all the dates forward by 31 years. That doesn’t sound right. In the original Bradbury calendar, today is already The Off Season (Мёртвый сезон).

I came to identify Fuerteventura with Bradbury’s Mars. Especially when the calima was blowing. Now I am back to Earth. There are rivers and lakes and forests, with berries and mushrooms. It is raining every other day and I don’t have to sweep red sand from the patio. They say it can be a lot of snow in winter. It is all familiar but feels a bit weird.

“I made up my mind when I came here last year I wouldn’t expect nothing, nor ask nothing, nor be surprised at nothing. We’ve got to forget Earth and how things were. We’ve got to look at what we’re in here, and how different it is. I get a hell of a lot of fun out of just the weather here. It’s Martian weather. Hot as hell daytimes, cold as hell nights. I get a big kick out of the different flowers and different rain.”
“I’m not surprised at anything any more,” said the old man. “I’m just looking. I’m just experiencing. If you can’t take Mars for what she is, you might as well go back to Earth. Everything’s crazy up here, the soil, the air, the canals, the natives (I never saw any yet, but I hear they’re around), the clocks. Even my clock acts funny. Even time is crazy up here. Sometimes I feel I’m here all by myself, no one else on the whole damn planet. I’d take bets on it.”
August 2002: Night Meeting

Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Ultimate Inferior Beings

by Mark Roman

About a year ago, we were visiting our friend, my former colleague and bandmate-turned-writer, Martina Munzittu. I’ve noticed the Pythonesque cover of the book laying on her table. The novel, it has to be added, is written by another former colleague of mine. I asked Martina if she read it and she said “not yet”. Yuri also got interested and while we were chatting and having lunch and chatting again, he read about a third of the book. Later that day, he asked me to order it from Amazon, which I did. I also got a Kindle version of it (for free, as it happens).

It was not until the last week of July though that I came to read it myself. We were busy packing and storing when Timur expressed a desire to take TUIB with us to Finland, because Yuri told him the book is very good. I told him it’s a bit of an overkill to carry a hardcopy in our luggage when we have it on Kindle. After that, I proceeded to read this very hardcopy while I could.

It turned out to be better than I expected. Actually, brilliant. If you like Douglas Adams, Monty Python and Red Dwarf, I am sure you will enjoy TUIB. Even if you hate all of those... you still should give TUIB a try. It is very user-friendly and even has a Glossary explaining, sometimes correctly, some of the scientific mumbo-jumbo.

anaX was hooking the extensible, spring-coil lead of the all-purpose, high internal impedance recharger to the brass-alloy nodal-anode batteries of emergency deep-space survival module No 3. And she was doing it a lot faster than it takes to say it.
LEP was quietly singing “Daisy, Daisy” to himself. anaX took it to be a normal pastime for ship’s computers, as she had heard it somewhere before, but it wasn’t long before this pastime started to irritate her. She looked up from recharging the batteries and said, “LEP?”
LEP stopped singing. “Yes?”
“Tell me something about yourself,” she said. “Talk to me for a bit.”
“There’s nothing to tell,” said LEP with uncharacteristic modesty.
“I’m sure there is.”
“Well, you’re quite right. There is. And every bit of it is phenomenally interesting.”
“Go on, then.” She continued with her recharging.
“I’m deeply flattered,” said LEP. “I hadn’t realized you were so interested in me.”
“I’m not. But it’s got to be better than your singing.”