What has it got in its pockets, precious?

image

Discovered in my coat pocket this morning. This is the the same coat I wear for work most days. I have no idea how they got there.

I recognise the badge – I did Russian at school and there was a class trip to Moscow & St Petersburg but at the time it was too expensive for us so I didn’t go. Friends did and one of them brought this back. The text reads ‘Moscow – City of Heroes’ and I’ve had it for at nearly 30 years. How it ended up in my coat…

As for the dime, I’ve got a pot of foreign notes & coins which occasionally the kids get out and go through. Perhaps this got dropped out of it then picked up later, thinking it was a 5p.

Either that, or the Universe is trying to tell me something. I just wish it works be slightly less cryptic…

🙂

RHA MA750 in-ear headphones – review

I’ve owned a fair number of in-ear headphones over the years from various different companies. Sennheiser, Shure, Klipsch, I’ve tried them all.

RHA MA750 in-ear headphones

None of them come even close to the sound that the MA750 from British headphone company RHA produce. The difference is quite simply astonishing – it’s as if I’d been listening to music through a doorway, with a curtain pulled across.

Put these earbuds in and the curtain comes back and suddenly you’re in the room with the musicians. The sound stage expands. Instruments and voices take on a new level of clarity and you realise you’ve been listening to music through a fog all these years.

I’ve found myself digging through my music collection looking for favourite tracks to give another listen. There’s a new edge to the sound where previously things were lost on other headphones. Bass notes in particular are picked up well (and the frequency response goes down to 16Hz, something unusual for in-ear headphones in my experience), but these headphones perform brilliantly across the range, with a lovely clean, clear response from the lows to the highs. I’ve been hearing new things in my music collection, things I didn’t even realise I was missing.

The build quality is superb too – the headphones are made from stainless steel and feel lovely and solid in your hand, yet not heavy in your ears. As the review on HuffPost Tech said, they

…feel like something you’ve pulled off the side of a space shuttle when no one was looking.

The cord goes up and over your ear, which I’ve always preferred – this cuts out the cable noise you get when in-ear headphones trail the wire straight down. The curved wires on the MA750s have a reinforced plastic to keep the curve in place and protect the cable, a feature which I really liked.

RHA MA750 in-ear headphones  3.5mm audio jack

They just smack of quality, from the industrial metal joins where the left/right cables meet, to the spring at the headphone jack end to protect the cable. And the cable itself feels heavy-duty and robust too – steel reinforced and oxygen-free, according to the RHA website. These are no lightweights.

Sound isolation is also great – plug them in and it’s just you and the music. Fellow commuters annoying you with the tinny beat of their iDevice earbuds? No longer a problem. Just be careful crossing roads!
They come with a load of extra ear tips – single and double-flanged as well as memory foam ones loaded into a nice stainless steel holder and a carry case.

I was fortunate enough to receive a pair to review. But, should the worst happen and I lose these headphones? I’d buy another pair without a second’s hesitation.

And they’re backed up with a three year warranty.

A seriously nice bit of audio kit and worth every penny. They look and feel like they should cost twice the price.

Don’t put up with crappy earphones you got with your mp3 player or phone. Do your ears a favour and buy a pair of these.

Terrible real estate agent photographs

I stumbled across this site last night. It’s utter genius. The comments are brilliant and had me crying with laughter. I can’t get all the way down a page of it without dissolving into a fit of giggles.

Terrible real estate agent photographs.

The First 20 Hours

Fascinating talk by Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours, at TEDxCSU.

Josh looks at how long it takes to learn something to a reasonable level of skill. There’s a perceived wisdom that it takes 10,000 hours to get really good at something, and as Josh says, you see this all over the place – books, blogs, articles etc.

I don’t have ten thousand hours… I’m never going to be able to learn anything new, ever again

Ten thousand hours equates to a full-time job for FIVE YEARS.

Turns out that the 10,000 hour rule applies to expert level, world-class, high-performing people at the very top of their very specific fields. This turned into 10,000 hours to get good at something, to 10,000 hours to learn something.

Who’s got ten thousand hours? Not me.

So, how long does it take to get reasonably good at something?

According to Josh’s research,  it takes about twenty hours. But you’ve got to be canny about it. You can’t just throw 20 hours at something and expect it to stick.

Josh breaks down his approach into 4 basic steps:

1. Deconstruct the skill.
Decide *exactly* what it is you want to do when you’re done. What are the parts of the skills you need to do what you need to do. Find the most important thing to practice first – such as a few key chords on the guitar (or in Josh’s case, the ukulele) which will give you enough to play a lot of songs. Learn the most common 2,000 words in a language, and you’ll be able to get by.

2. Learn just enough to self-correct.
Make mistakes, identify where the error is and correct it yourself using books, DVDs, online sources etc. But don’t spend all your time reading the books first.

3. Remove barriers to learning.
Get rid of distractions which stop you from sitting down and doing the work. Turn off the TV, internet and so on. Make space and time to practice.

4. Practice for at least 20 hours.
Twenty hours is 45 minutes a day, for about a month. That’s do-able, right?

So, twenty hours. What are you going to learn? Me, I’m going to pick up the guitar that I got for christmas last year, the one which has sat in its bag right next to me for six months. The one which I’m scared of picking up in case I’m terrible. It’ll take years to get good, right?

Apparently not.

Let’s see where we can get to in twenty hours. Josh talks about a band called Axis of Awesome, who have a song in which they reckon that you can play pretty much any pop song from the last five decades with just four chords (G, D, Em, C). He plays it in the video above, but here’s the original.

Four chords? I’ll take that. I figure that once I can knock out a few songs on the guitar, I can go get the ukulele I’ve secretly always wanted…

I’ll report back on progress!

swiftkey

A while back I installed the Swiftkey keyboard on my phone. It’s briliant, with a pretty intuitive autocorrect. As you’re tapping words in, suggestions ping up above the keyboard allowing you to select words more quickly.

You get some nice stats too. Apparently I’m 32% more efficient at typing due to Swiftkey and saved 144,002 keystrokes in the time I’ve been using it. It’s pretty customisable too, with different themes and functionality. A couple of weeks ago I realised that you could swipe words – rather than tapping away at individual letters, you just swipe around the letters in the word and Swiftkey works out what word you’re looking for and away you go. They call it Swiftkey Flow and I’m a complete convert.

The fun thing is the auto-suggest though. Before you’ve even started typing, Swiftkey presents you with three words – based on stuff you’ve typed previously, or from what its ‘prediction engine’.

I fired it up and started tapping the middle suggested word:

I am a beautiful person who is the best #Bond movie and the bottom of the brass tube had two little spikes the best of luck with the latest version of the most important thing is that the information contained in this email address and password for the first time I’d been and gone to the House of Lords and famous high quality cover at competitive prices.

Brilliant. Sounds just like some of the spam comments I get on here!

Seriously though, Swiftkey is ace, and the autocomplete is really useful when you’re using it properly – it’s pretty good at suggesting stuff based on what you’ve typed before.

When I’m faced with the keyboard on the iPad (when I can wrest it from Kate or the kids) it feels really weird having to type properly! If you’ve got an Android phone, give it a go.

F is for…

Firefly.

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© 2011 Peter Verrant, used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license

It all started, as all the best stories do, many years ago. Some of my Minnesotan chums were talking about this show they all loved called Firefly. We got to chatting, and I made vague comments about maybe checking it out, or adding it to my rental list or something.

This went on for a little while, until one day there was a weird reply to one of my blogposts where we were discussing it and whether I needed to see it before I went to see the movie Serenity for the umpteenth time. It went something like

Oh, just watch it, you’ve got the DVD

or words to that effect.
I was mystified – I’d just said that I might get it at some point, so clearly didn’t have a copy.

All became clear a day or two later when a parcel arrived from Amazon.com. My lovely Minnesota posse had finally tired of me putting off getting this thing and had clubbed together to buy me the box set.

Have I mentioned that I have *awesome* friends?

Fell in love immediately. The antics of Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his motley crew aboard the Firefly-class ship Serenity. Jayne Cobb and his love of guns. Kaylee. Oh lordy. They were all wonderful.

And Fox cancelled it.

Idiots.

Fourteen episodes was all we’d got.

Then the sales of the box sets soared, and that lovely Mister Whedon managed to persuade the studios that he really could make a film for not that much really, and so Serenity happened.

The thing I love most about the show is the love that surrounds it. The actors clearly loved making it. Joss loved making it. The fans loved everything about it, and the Browncoat community is still going strong, all these years later. They even made a film of their own, Done The Impossible.

The actors turn up in different roles, in different places. But there’ll always be a bit of Firefly to go with them. Case in point, Nathan Fillion’s wonderful Castle, a series about a famous author who helps the police department solve murders. In season two, episode six (sorry, Castle geek), we get this lovely little scene:

Which you just know was Nathan’s idea.

There are Firefly references scattered throughout Castle – my favourite of which is that in the above clip, you can see the catalyser from the Firefly episode ‘Out of Gas’.

Joss Whedon, Tim Minear, Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Summer Glau, Adam Baldwin and Sean Maher all reunited at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2012 for a 10th anniversary panel. Ten thousand people turned up to get into the panel.

There’s a lot of love out there in the ‘verse for our Big Damn Heroes. If you haven’t seen it yet, then you must. You can thank me later.

Oh, and the photo up there? They’re the littlest Big Damn Heroes of them all and the kids of some of my friends who bought me the DVDs, all those years ago.

Browncoats, forever.