Archive for the 'General' Category

Pub Closures

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

I’ve been (again) thinking of pub closures lately; this has mostly been prompted by the reports from Andy that the Pyle Cock is to close next year (as reported here) and picked up by WV11 here. The Pyle Cock has long been one of my favourite pubs, one that I don’t visit enough, because it’s 2 bus rides away.

There’s an interesting post here (and the comments are worth a read too) from The Pub Curmudgeon. My view don’t entirely align with his (or the linked report) (he’s of the view that the smoking ban has had a large effect, and the linked article dismisses PubCo behaviour to some degree), but it does make the point that pub closures are a complex matter: it is not just beer pricing (via taxation), competition (from supermarkets) or the smoking ban: all of these factors have a role to play, as does social change- as the comments point out, increased car commuting (and greater distances to commute), and a change in working patterns also play a part. It’s noticeable in large cities with more people travelling by public transport, pubs continue to thrive, but again, it’s not that simple.

Good pubs thrive, and taking the Pyle Cock as an example, it’s difficult to see why it is closing: it was for sale for a time, and has now been sold to a developer. That suggests a PubCo taking the option to cash in on real estate, but anecdotal reports suggest the pub was not busy in general, though the current landlord has been given notice, rather than quitting himself, it would seem, so perhaps it was making *enough* money: the beer was always good and the atmosphere was fantastic, old traditional pub.

Oddly, just up the road, the ever lovely Vine
is thriving and busy, with a new, young landlord and fantastic beer, and I’m told the nearby Dog and Partridge is fine too. It’s hard to see, though, what is so very different that makes the Pyle Cock unsustainable. It remains a fact that good pubs, even those not serving food can do well, and I’ve recently been in a very traditional backstreet pub with no real ale or food that seemed to be very busy (including with smokers, outside on a cold day), which makes me wonder exactly what the factors are that close pubs?

Digital Audio in a FLAC

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Reading The Register earlier this week, this story popped up.

I thought it was interesting that the article talks about various encoding methods, master tape quality, speaker and amplifier quality, and the problems of re-encoding into Apple lossless (full marks, incidentally, to Fruitco for implementing a lossless codec, though why not use FLAC?), but manages to skip over a critical point of digital audio: the DAC.

There is of course, a lot of bollocks spoken and written about audio: this leads to crap like what this article is handily debunking, *edit* LOL */edit* but one thing is for certain: if you’ve picked a god encoding scheme and a decent bitrate, the digital path is less important than the analogue one (digital signals do not degrade gradually, analogue ones do) and the quality of the conversion is critical.

The analogue stages in most phones and computers is simply not designed for high quality, and the article doesn’t mention this: if you’re using a PC or a phone to play music, if you’re fussy, you really need to do the conversion externally to the PC itself- so either amplifier with a digital input and a PC with digital out, or a USB DAC, or maybe good bluetooth headphones, though there’s a caveat on compression and limited bandwidth with bluetooth audio, which may mean you lose what you gain, but having said that, given that bluetooth headphones are likely to be used on the move with a lot of background noise, it’s probably not important.

Flock Me

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

The other day, while in a taxi with my better half, we were reminded (by the Indian music the driver was playing) of what used to be the standard Indian meal experience: the flock wallpaper, red carpet, Indian music, After Eight mints and rose-for-the lady experience.

We kind of miss it: there’s lots of great Indian restaurants- several very near home- but the walls are un-flocked, the music is usually modern pop (or worse, R&B), the flooring laminate, and the rose missing. The After Eight is usually still there though.

So, what happened? Am I hankering after a lost time, with mere nostalgia? Will we ever see a resurgence of the “traditional” curry experience? Does anyone know of a local curry house that still has flock wallpaper? I’m not the only one to wonder about this, while some are eager to discount it as the bad old days, and welcome in the modern standard look, but I feel we’re losing out on something.

Blackpool

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Our ongoing pier to pier network continues, and we were considering Worthing or Penarth, but I didn’t fancy the drive round the M25 for Worthing, and I’m likely to take a business trip to Cardiff early next year, which hopefully I’ll be able to sideline a trip to Penarth into, so where to go?

Llandudno’s pier is nice, but we’ve been there a few times, although not for a while. Colwyn Bay? The town was seriously grim last time I visited, and the pier is both in a shocking state, under dispute of ownership, and under threat of demolition, and therefore closed. A real shame, it could be beautiful, but even if the town was nicer, the pier is nicely cut off from town by the North Wales Expressway.

We decided on a combination of high pier count, and not too long a drive (so I thought, see later), and a bit of seaside trashiness: Blackpool.
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Presales

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Hopefully, none of by regular readers (both of them…) work in IT presales, because I’m about to upset them if so.

What the very fuck is the point of “Presales Consultants”? They inhabit an odd, other-worldly space where promises are made, brochures are truth, and all of the claimed features just work, like magic, with no problems, no requirements and no effort.

I was recently involved in the specification of a system. Two meetings were part of this: one with a project manager and a pre-sales guy, one with the same project manager and an actual engineer who installs the kit.

The first was full of vaguearies, listings of features, unconvincing promises and a complete lack of guidance about what options fitted the exact situation we had, and awkward silences where this was expected.

The second actually saw some real answers and a way forward.

The pre-sales guy is almost certainly paid more than the engineer, despite contributing nothing and pissing off the customer. So then, are the presales guys a waste of space, or am I in my closed little techie world, missing the “big picture”?

Drinking Socially

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Yesterday saw a trip to Wolverhampton, and specifically The Great Western for fine beer, food, and good company (in the form of Country Bumpkin and his cousin and a couple of friends with no online presence (so no link..).

It’s been a long time since I’ve done this: far too long. Lots of laughs: Motley Crue’s little brothers turned up, for a start, but general good humour, and Andy bathing himself in beer helped too.

Crapisfactory

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Some of you may have noticed I like pubs. I also quite like restaurants, and indeed, one of my favourite pubs is both.

Yesterday, we went out for a Valentine’s night meal. Very nice too, at a well-respected local Thai restaurant. We went by taxi, as, quite frankly, there was no way I was driving and the weather was grim, plus we’d had to book an early table.

A great meal. Good price too, but there’s no bar to sit and drink in, so we went round the corner to The Crown to get a drink, and order a taxi.

It struck me how much I dislike this kind of place. It’s no longer a pub: it’s a “restaurant” that happens to serve beer, and at a price. You just know the food will be microwaved, and while it’s 2-for-1, the prices are inflated to take account. The staff are pleasant enough, but it doesn’t sound sincere- it comes from a manual, with an air of faux obsequious tone that jars with me: I’m not a sir, please don’t patronise me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s OK, if you’re happy with that kind of place, but this sort of homogenised, corporate, bland, marketed, formulaic approach to food and drink just depresses me: It’s like a thin parody of a pub or restaurant. It would be better were it not pretending to be a traditional pub: it falls into the same bracket as other “restaurant” chains like Frankie & Benny’s, etc, which is why the new cinema and leisure centres in town aen’t thrilling me greatly. A cinema will be nice, but it seems that I’m in a minority in not wanting more identikit chain restaurants.

Slide Rules

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Yesterday put me in a good mood: My continuing investigation of my late father’s slides had come to a halt: the over-40-year-old projector mentioned in this post frankly was too unreliable and too scary to leave switched on for any time, and had limited magazines, and the more modern one broke its changer mechanism. While I have a slide scanner, and a battery-powered viewer, they’re very inconvenient ways to deal with hundreds of slides.

I’d purchased a replacement projector- identical- via Gumtree, but unseen. When it arrived, it failed to light, and the seller was, shall we say, uninterested- caveat emptor. A brief attempt at repair or perhaps creating one worker out of the 2 failed: I’m usually quite good at getting things apart and back together, but the sheer quantity of pingfuckits in the device and reluctance for the case to open when I got the first one apart told me that way was madness.

I considered everyone’s favourite online tat bazaar, but unless one came up locally, so I could see it working, that was a non-starter, so I made a post on the Walsall Freecycle group- and it was a matter of hours before a kind benefactor in Rushall offered 2 projectors, with magazines, that both work after very minor fiddling. While the idea of Freecycle is, well, free, I’ll be making a charity donation in recognition of someone’s generosity, and the fact that otherwise I’d have risked money again. In the spirit of this, can I suggest joining the Walsall Freecycle group (or your local one if you live elsewhere)? You might get rid of stuff you need to and help someone out.

I’ve now spent a few happy hours looking through old slides: I know in there there’s one or two that may interest people: they’ll get scanned and posted when I find them.

Happy Christmas

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

A bit earlier in the day for my Christmas message: the way the season has fallen means that everything seems to e sorted early. I’m sat inside, watching my neighbours put up our lights, which seems the good way to do it. I’ll maybe buy them a pint later.

Once again I’ve managed to put faces to a few new people from online in the last year, and very pleasurable it was too. There’s still friends to meet, but Brownhills Bob has already listed them, as usual.

We’re looking forward to Christmas with 2 pussy cats for the first time, rather than burying one :-/, and so far, we’re not ill.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Alf

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

An unusual Monday evening a few weeks ago saw us at Birmingham Symphony Hall for Alison Moyet’s The Minutes tour. Booked literally months ago, with one thing and another we’d almost forgotten about it.

I’d been very much in two minds: I’d loved her work in Yazoo with Vince Clarke, and early solo work (Alf & Raindancing, but not so keen on later stuff: I like synthpop. It was a pleasant surprise, then, to find the traditional “two quiet blokes behind electronics” and an announcment from the lady herself that The Minutes was a return to a more electronic sound, and even better to find the second track being Nobody’s Diary, a personal favourite, with Vince Clarke-esque playing. The rest of the concert was a mix of The Minutes and older songs- some with a new twist to them, and a great gig.

It’s been years since I saw pop at Symphony Hall, and I’d forgotten what a great venue it is: we were on a balcony, so loads of room (important for me), and a comfortable seat which moves. The sound was great too- the famously good acoustics of the clever design combining with some good sound engineering to make the sound clear and balanced.


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