Radio Killed The Radio Star

Coming out of a discussion that just happened in the room behind me (that I joined in with). There’s something about not having control over the music you’re listening to.

There have been several places I’ve worked where the radio has been on for the enjoyment (or otherwise) of the employees.

One was a relatively small store, where we had a little boom box on out back, in the warehouse area of the store. Sometimes we’d bring in CDs, but most of the time we’d hear the radio. A lot of the time we weren’t back there, being on the shop floor, but even then it was clear that some stations were more repetitive than others. Virgin’s “No Repeat 9-5″ offered some reprieve to this sameness… until you clued in to the fact that the playlist was pretty much the same every day. You could just about set your clock by the appearance of some of the songs – if I remember correctly (it was ten years ago), there was a period where the great November Rain by Guns ‘n’ Roses without fail would come on right before the 11 o’clock news. Made it easy to find out what the song was called.

Out on the road, by that point, I had started reverting to the rather more talky Radio 2.

A few years later, I was working in a rather large distribution centre on a night shift. The shift lengths varied a bit over the years I was there – it was between 8 and 10 hours a night. They played radio there, too: I think the station got picked by one of the office workers, I know it changed sometimes.

The speakers in the area I worked in were relatively small for the area they had to cover. Other parts of the complex, you could hear more clearly. Where I spent the most time, you could hear the higher frequencies kinda ok, and the lower frequencies not at all. The upshot being, if there was an annoying part to a song, you would get that scratched into your brain.

For example, Beyonce’s “All The Single Ladies” was popular at the time, and you couldn’t hear the grungey electro-industrial weirdness that runs under the song. You could hear the singer, but not particularly clearly. The part where she repeats “All the single ladies” over and over – it sounded very much like “I want cigarettes”.

Another song that became particularly obnoxious very quickly was Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”. There was one song, and I think it was this one, that I counted five times in one shift. Seriously? A century of recorded music and you have to play that whiny junk over and over again? (incidentally, this also was the only song that carried through our floor from the shop below, while I was trying to get to sleep. Un-fun…)

Actually, most of the songs I tired of easily (Single Ladies, too) just sounded so whiny. The tinny speakers didn’t help, of course.

But even pre-tinny speakers. “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt. Just as whiny. (May I recommend the Dead Ringers parody version.)

As music radio became more tedious to listen to, I started listening to other things. Especially in that distribution centre job. Final Fantasy MIDIs on my phone soon became mp3s of my CDs, soon became podcasts and podiobooks. I’d venture to say that podcasts have changed my life. This may not have been possible without the utter tediosity that radio has become, so I can’t be entirely ungrateful.

I’m not quite in the same boat as Queen, though. “Radio, someone still loves you!” That wouldn’t be me. Radio, I’d be happy to love you again, but most of the time you’re just not really worth listening to.


Reading Program update: Oldest hit 9 hours altogether, Middlest hit two. I reached one hour total from reading to kids (today’s half-hour reading to Middlest, most of that was a chapter of The House At Pooh Corner) and five minutes on my stopwatch from reading to myself, in a little break, and I didn’t count thumbing through a newspaper from 1975.

Tree Assault

Today we had a visit from the designer of the sidewalk that’s going to be put in through our front yard. We found out they were putting the sidewalk there, as opposed to by the road (which would be in line with the sidewalk where it starts/ends a couple of blocks down) about a week after we planted trees and shrubs, some of which we will now have to move. Only one is actually in the path of the sidewalk, two are on the road side of where the sidewalk will be. Our happy maple, on the house side of the sidewalk, may also need to move, as it’s in the two feet buffer zone that the contractors might want to work in. I wonder if we will be able to talk them into working around it.

That was just the stuff we’ve just planted. We’ve got some well-established bushes that they’ll want to hack down – they’ve already cut down some (admittedly sad) trees next door, and some in the next block.

It troubles me that they send the designer as diplomat on the last day of the public consultation into the project. Like, if you have objections after getting the information and explanations, you’re just about out of time to voice them.

We didn’t think of any objections when the designer was here. I recall him mentioning something about the sidewalk being slightly below the level of the ground as it currently is, as it goes past our property. Didn’t think about it at the time, but it seems to me that the sidewalk would then collect a bit of the rainwater runoff from the grass  – which in our Rather Cold Winters could turn somewhat problematic for Those Poor Schoolkids that this path is for.

On a more positive note, today the Summer Reading Program at the library started. For those not familiar with it, the gist is that you sign up, record how much you read, and then for every so many hours of reading you do, you get a prize and a raffle ticket.

On these raffle tickets, you write your name and details, then you put it in a tub corresponding to a prize that you hope to win. In previous years, these prizes were divided into age groups. The first year that I was around for. there was a Lego kit in with the grown-up prizes. Since then, some years have been better than others for grown-up prizes, but for stuff I’m interested in, the trend is a general decline. Last year there were a couple of book series that looked kinda interesting, some years there have been cinema tickets. I guess the decline hasn’t meant a whole bunch as I haven’t won anything.

Invariably, though, some grown-up tickets land in the tubs for kid prizes, and vice-versa. Such tickets, if selected, have been thrown away (there was an embarrassing moment last year, when one tub contained ONLY the wrong-colour tickets). If I hadn’t known that, there are times when I’d have been much more tempted to put my tickets in for kid-prizes (not entirely selfishly, I have three kids).

This year they are experimenting with a free-for-all approach to those prizes. Interestingly, unless they’re just not displayed yet, there’s very few that seem to be aimed at grown-ups. We’ll see how this shakes out.

The design of the reading progress cards has also been in decline over the years. The kids’ cards have had something to tick off half-hour chunks until each eight-hour goal. Two years ago the pattern was very convoluted and hard to follow. Last year the design just looked like there were half-hour things to tick off, until partway through you realise that it just ain’t right. This year there’s nothing at all for that, so now we’ve got some scrap paper on the wall, with boxes to tick off for each half-hour.

It’s not just reading in your head that counts: reading to someone else counts for you AND them, so keeping track of how much counts for each person (especially with two kids in the program) gets kind of tricky. More so if you’re not counting in small increments like that.

First day: Oldest has read two-and-a-half hours towards his first 8-hour prize. Middle has been read to for two half-hours. I’ve only managed half an hour (reading to both kids). Once I hit the audiobooks (they somehow count, which is great for me), I’ll start doing really well.

As for butchered trees, I start the Reading Program partway into:

  • The Ionian Mission by Patrick O’Brian
  • The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel
  • The Adventures Of The Wishing-Chair by Enid Blyton

Those are the ones I’m actively reading. Nineveh And Its Remains, by Austen Henry Layard, is also nearby, waiting for me to resume it.

And so much more that I’m looking forward to getting into and through. Busy summer.

A Different Kind Of Coding

In addition to the site for a friend that I mentioned the other day (nearly there, nearly there), I have also created a website for my church.

As part of the site, I’m uploading music that we use, hopefully to help new visitors, or people elsewhere looking into Orthodox Christianity.

To be honest, I started transcribing the music before I thought of doing the site: I’m not so good at harmony, and I was hoping to get the hang of the bass part before we were due to perform a song (that one’s not up yet, I’ll explain in a bit). It almost worked: singing and thinking the bass tune while hearing the soprano is somewhat tricky.

I’m using MuseScore for my transcription. I came across it a few years ago, when Windows Media Player was sucking at playing Final Fantasy MIDIs. Now I’m getting used to writing in it.

Time signatures in Orthodox church music are somewhat complex. Or to put it another way, they don’t really use bars. In a lot of cases, one tune (a “Tone”) is used for various different texts, so a line of music has to be adapted to different lengths to accommodate varying lengths of text.

What I’ve been doing, then, is when starting a new score, I’ve set a basic time signature (usually Common time), the tempo, and the number of bars I want. Then I delete the “C” denoting Common time (which at an early stage like this changes nothing), and change each bar to the length it needs to be (often between 8/4 and 15/4, few have been less, but a few have been more than that).

Took me a while to figure that out, also took me a while to figure out where to add in tempo, and how to have notes of differing length at the same place in the same stave (using Voices).

The earliest things I transcribed, I need to go back and redo, armed with all these things I’ve picked up along the way.

Today, despite missing the kids-having-rest-time and kids-watching-a-Sunday-show window of opportunity, I managed to do O Gladsome Light, one of my favourite hymns from Vespers. I like the “now that we have come to the setting of the sun” and “for meet it is at all times” parts. Orthodox Wiki has a nice page detailing the history of the song.

I’d started in earnest with transcribing Vespers (fewer changeable hymns), and started at the beginning. At this point I’ve skipped the changeable hymn, because I’m not sure how I’m going to integrate it into the new service book. Another day…

Today, I also started putting files up onto the Files page of the church site. The transcription and that website are my Sunday project, it’s nice to make progress on projects.


Why is it easier to clean when you’ve got people coming over?

We try and keep things relatively tidy, day-to-day and week-to-week, the kids have their own sets of tidying to do each day, and yet things kind of accumulate round the edges, things that we mean to get to.

And then the time to get to them seems to be when we’ve arranged for people to come over. All the edge surfaces around the room, mantel, piano, and so on and so on – today even the back yard because we’re planning to spend some time out there (“Bright light!”). Something about company coming over that gives us the oomph that we don’t really sustain just for ourselves.

Just one of life’s little oddities.

Integrating WooCommerce Into Your Theme

I have been working on a WordPress-based website for a friend.

This endeavour has been something of a crash course into the intricacies of theme modification, PHP and style sheets. I had already started learning PHP and MySQL together, but I hadn’t got as far as style sheets. I do have a background in fiddling with programming, so I did have a bit of a comfort level – knew I could always change things back, could follow code reasonably well, could guess at what to change based on the helpful names people give things.

Skipping lots of details about messing with the Twenty Twelve and Twenty Fifteen themes, deciding on Noteskine theme, modifying that and begging the author to find out how to remove some of the functionality, I found out that WooCommerce wasn’t co-operating with my theme.

This had me stumped for weeks. I’d forced Noteskine’s footer bar to be active on all pages (something I may end up not doing on the full site – note to self: need to make decisions about that), and the background of that was not displaying, and the background for the shop content was also invisible. I’m running the Simple Full Screen Background Image plugin, so the placeholder product image was straight on a fairly detailed background, and the text was hard to see as well.

WooCommerce documentation says that their .css files are one long line, a human-readable version has the same filename but .scss is the extension.

Working from that basis, I dequeued woocommerce.css and woocommerce-layout.scss. I also copied wrapper-start.php from a WooCommerce subfolder into a theme subfolder: [theme]/woocommerce/global – that overrides the original.

I fiddled with the above, and just wasn’t seeing the results I was expecting. After lots of trying things, I thought I would start from (more or less) scratch.

Woo has built-in compatibility for WordPress’s default Twenty-named themes. I mentioned earlier that I’d messed with Twenty Twelve and Twenty Fifteen – I hadn’t achieved much by trying child themes “by the book”, I took each theme, copied it into a renamed folder, and changed the name of the theme in all the files (otherwise there would be a certain amount of clash with the original – found that out the hard way. Something couldn’t be declared twice…). This turned out to be an advantage – I could activate a butchered Twenty Fifteen. Woo wouldn’t recognise it, so then I could intentionally direct Woo to use its own code, but in my theme, not the plugin.

Telling wrapper-start.php to use Woo’s own styling for Twenty Fifteen worked. (Worked in the modified Noteskine as well, but didn’t solve the footer menu problem).

Dequeuing the style sheets from the plugin and enqueuing the .scsses (renamed to .css) in the theme, again didn’t achieve what it should have done. It’s supposed to be the same code, right? It should do the same thing?

After getting absolutely nowhere on various forums (you can probably find my posts if you search not-particularly-hard – though one forum they had me reword twice before just closing the thread), and contacting the theme author (not something I’d particularly wanted to do having already troubled him to modify his theme, and it turned out WooCommerce was outside his experience and wasn’t really the theme’s intent), I tried something I should have tried long before.

I took the original woocommerce.css and woocommerce-layout.css, and added line breaks and indentation.

They were very different to the .scss versions. Copying and modifying those (or not, to start out with), magically started yielding the kind of results I’d expected before.

Because you start wondering, “Am I enqueuing these the right way?” (I’d tried several ways). Or a more general “What am I doing wrong?”

The answer is only that the .css and the .scss aren’t (or possibly weren’t, who knows if they’ve fixed it) the same code.

If you run into the same trouble, I hope you find this blog, because I went searching high and low: I found other people with similar problems (none seemed terribly recent), but I didn’t find anyone with a solution.

The First Post

Welcome to my first post on I have several projects going, several “irons in the fire” as it were, and through what I’ve been doing so far, I’ve thought it would be fun to document some of it. I like writing anyway, so this seemed like it would be a good way to scratch that itch (or vice-versa, in some dialects).

If you come across this post at some time in the distant future (from the perspective of when this post was written, of course, because unless something goes terribly, terribly wrong, that far distant future will be “the present”, when it happens), I hope that I’ve kept up with this enough that you’ve trawled through hundreds and hundreds of posts to reach this one. I hope it was worth it.

Alternatively, if you come across this blog in its early days, I hope you stick around, and that sticking around is worth it, too :)