Jamie's Blog

The ramblings of a programmer with a little too much time on his hands

Tag: Life (Page 1 of 3)

Where Have You Been [2014 edition]?

So I’ve not written since March 12th… almost 3 months ago. What’s happened since then?

I’ve moved 60 miles, gotten myself a new job and ran a 9 minute mile.

A New Job?

That’s right. I’m only a week into my probationary period at the minute (3 months will fly by, right?). I really like the company, and they seem like a cool bunch of people to work with. I wont name them, but they’re a cool company who have won a whole bunch of awards for what they do.

Psst. They came up with [Twitition] as well as a bunch of other things.

The work is a slight departure from what I’m used to. Actually, scratch that. It’s still software development, it’s just in a slightly different target environment from what I’m used to.

I’ve written a lot of applications that run on specific operating systems. A lot of what these guys do is on the web/cloud. It’s the languages I’m used to, but on a platform that I’m not. This means it becomes a neat challenge to me.

Plus I get to stretch my JavaScript wings a little. I’ve not used much JavaScript recently – aside from the main page of my site [LINK]. Which reminds me that I really should get around to buying an SSL certificate at some point.

I really like the job, the people, and the office. Not to mention the location.

A 9 Minute Mile?

Yup. I’m just as shocked as you are. At the time of writing this, it was last night. I ran a 9 minute mile (the app I used actually reported it as 8 minutes and 56 seconds), then let out a little (read: “really loud”) “YES!” but kept going.

My next mile was 9 minutes 59 seconds. Followed by a 10 minute 20 second mile – on account of having to cross a busy road and there being lots of traffic. My final mile, if I’d have pushed through to a full mile (but I’d gotten back to where I started from, and decided that I’d ran enough), would have been a 9 minute 37 second one.

Here’s a [LINK], so you can see for yourself. The strange thing is that it’s all uphill climbs around here. I set off running up hill, continued to run uphill, then returned by running up hill.

There’s not news other than those two. I’m still training, and I’m hoping to run a 10K at some point before August. 10K is just over 6 miles, and I can run 3.4 miles in 33 minutes and 40-something seconds (on a good day). I’ve just got to up my stamina and I’ll be finishing a 10K in an hour and change.

Let’s do this!

This is the book I've been translating

May Update

I was deleting some spam comments, this morning, when I realised that it had been a long time since I’d updated. So here goes nothing:

where have you been, jamie?

Basically nowhere, I’ve just been really busy is all.

busy? doing what?

Well:

  • Working on translating a novel from Japanese to English
  • Adding more code to my GitHub page
  • Building a new website
  • Implementing a wiki for my projects

github projects?

Yup. I’ve now got 4, on going, projects on Github. Oh, and quite a few Gists (small code blocks). You should check them out [link to github]

new website?

Again, yes. I recently bought some web space and hosting from DreamHost – mainly because the webspace and hosting that I get from Another is very expensive for what I get. This means that I’ve been designing a new web site with several sub-domains. I’ve not implemented the main domain yet, but the sub-domains have been implemented.

You’re reading the sub-domain used for my blog, so I didn’t bother to link that.

translating a novel!?

That’s right. I bought a copy of 日本科学技術大学教授上田次郎のなぜベスト尽くさなきのか? (Japan Technology University’s Professor Ueda Jiro’s “Why Don’t You Do Your Best?”) last year, and had been playing with the idea of translating it to English for a while.

So, in May 2012 (that’s a whole year ago!?) I decided to start work on it. The first few months was spent setting up a LaTeX [link to wikipedia entry on LaTeX typesetting language] document; the translation proper started at the beginning of this year. I’ve managed to translated 14 pages of the Japanese original to English, so far.

a wiki huh?

What’s with all the questions? Also, yes.

I figured that it would be easier to discuss my projects (design decisions, reasons for using certain technologies/frameworks) via a wiki rather than occasional blog posts. That, and it would mean that I could foster two-way discussions on my projects.

Plus, I’ve always like the design used by MediaWiki [link to media wiki]

 Is that all?

Pretty much.

Oh! I decided to start playing Pokemon Leaf Green, in Japanese, as a way of getting daily reading practise. It seems to be going well, so far.

Well, I’d better be off. I’ve got some more translation to do.

Have fun,

J

Previously on Jamie’s Life:

Software Development

In the past few weeks, I signed up for a thing called GitHub. For those who don’t know, GitHub is one of the many channels through which to share Open Source code – most of the code I write in my personal time is Open Source. It also has a really good version control system, so as soon as I (or anyone who wants to collaborate with me on something) make a change, the original file is backed up, and the changes are saved alongside it. For those who want to know, my GitHub page can be found here [LINK]. I’ve only added a single project so far, but I’m going to be adding more and more projects as I get more used to using it.

Santa Who?

This weekend, seeing as it was a public holiday and all, I travelled down to Milton Keynes to see a close friend of mine.

Lee: Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know. Tim: Nah, that was Milton Keynes.

While I was down there – and aside from catching up with my good friend, Lee – I took in an afternoon at Santa Pod, saw Act of Valor (you should, totally see this movie), saw Kelly’s Heroesfor the first time, and went Go Karting in the rain.

 To a New Yorker like you, a “Hero” is some type of weird sandwich, not some nut who takes on three Tigers [tanks]!

Santa Pod is, basically, a drag racing strip. We went there on the promise of drifting. What we got was drag racing, a monster truck that killed itself on a selection of pre-flattened cars and a view of some awesome cars. …Oh, and one awesome pilot showing his stunt skills. I’m not going to harp on about Act of Valor. Except to say that if you like any kind of action or war movies, you should see this one.

Go Karting in the rain, you say?

That’s right. We were booked in to do some mid-morning karting on the Monday, and we didn’t let the rain stop us. We went out there and… and… slid about, mostly. We paid for 30 minutes out on the track, and we had loads of fun. I would really recommend outdoor Go Karting to anyone. I don’t even drive, and I can do it. Lee had attached his action camera to the side of his helmet, but it doesn’t seem to have taken any footage; which is a shame because I managed to pull off – by all accounts – an amazing spin.

All in all

So, all in all, a great weekend was had.

It’s such a shame that the GPS on my phone let me down… 4 times on the way to the Go Karting. Felt like a bloody fool having to ring for direction several times, I did.

I think that I may have been bitten by the slightly-more-extreme-than-sitting-around-doing-bugger-all-sports bug. As I’m quite excited at the prospect of going Canyoning in July, too.

I got back home, just over 2 hours ago and I have to be up at 6. So, I’m not going to bother going to bed – I wouldn’t get enough in the way of full REM cycles, anyway.

Oh, well. Until next time. Stay frosty,

J

Alexiel’s Letter [Cross Post]

Tomorrow afternoon, my Japanese blog [which can be found here] will auto publish a letter that I ‘wrote’ back in 2007. I say ‘wrote’, because it was part of a bigger piece of Japanese coursework.

I’m cross posting this in the hopes that some bi-lingual folk who might come across this post and decide to click through. They might not come across the original article (mainly because it hasn’t been posted yet) because my second blog is 3 days old – at least, at the time of writing this.

So, here goes. A translation of a translation:

In English

Alexiel, how are you?

Living in Hull is boring. Studying at the University of Hull is interesting. But studying Computer programming and Japanese (language) is difficult.

Hull (as a town) is fairly big.  And these days, it’s getting quite busy.

March 16th

From Jamie

I never said that it was an insightful or deep letter.

In Japanese

アレクシェル せんぱい、お 元気 です か。

ハル の せいかつ は 詰らない です。 しかし 私 の 勉強 に ハル の 大学 おもしろい です。

しかし コンピュター プログラミング と 日本語 の ぶんぽう は 私 に は むずかし です。

ハル の 町 は 可也 大きい です。 そした 今 とても 賑やか です。

三月 十六日

ジェイミー より。

So there you have it. A piece of coursework that I wrote back in 2007, in both English and Japanese.

For more tidbits like this (in Japanese), please visit my Japanese blog.

Until next time,

J

UK Tech Days – Day 2 (Windows 7 Phone)

The publishing of this post as postponed by three days because of problems with Jamie’s connection

Today was the second day of Microsoft’s UK Tech Days conference on the Windows 7 Phone format. It took place at the Fulham Broadway Vue and covered the topics involved in developing and deploying software ‘apps’ for the Windows 7 Phones.

The Start screen of Windows Phone 7

Image via Wikipedia

Content

Today’s content was focused on data loading and types. Whereas most of yesterday was based on loading the data into memory and manipulating it, today’s focus was on getting the data to the device in the most efficient way.

A user wont use your app if they notice that their [phone bill’s] data rates go through the roof

That goes hand in hand with the key point of the Windows Phone 7 presentations:

Reducing app installation regret; we don’t want users to install an app, then have regret about using it for any reason. This can be accomplished by having great quality code on these devices alongside quality data loading

The keynote for today was going to be Brandon Watson going through some of the key information in Microsoft’s press release from last night, but his voice wasn’t up to scratch. Instead, he took us through some key ideas and features that Windows Phone 7 devices have in place of the iDevices and the Android phones.

It says a lot about a device when the best selling app is an app killer. Windows Phone 7 has the best garbage collection service out there…

I’ve been told that the Android devices are better because they have dual cores, but a dual core takes more power, and more power means less run time…

The amount of software libraries that we [Microsoft] provide to developers is ridiculous…

Hardware Limitations?

All phones have compasses built into them, but very few of them have pre-built API’s to access it – something that the Windows Phone 7 SDK has. One thing to remember, though, is that some Windows Phone 7 devices don’t have gyro’s in them.

If a gyro isn’t present, then motion detection and the augmented reality API will be buggy

Software for Developers

Along with Visual Studio – current version is 2010, but there is a new version out soon (2011) – there are a plethora of different tools available for Windows Phone 7 developers.

There are the Mango development tools; which will enable developers to get a handle on the new features coming to version 7.1 (or 7.5, or “Mango”) of the OS FOR FREE

There are design tools; for instance Expression Blend, which allows designers and developers alike to quickly program the UX (User eXperience) with the standard code by dragging and dropping items onto a design area.

There’s obviously Silverlight; which looks like it powers the entire device. Also, it’s NOT a replacement for flash (as most people seem to be saying).

The No 1 Thing to take From the Conference?

The importance of design, rule #1: DON’T GET A MULLET

Mullet’s look out of place more than most hair styles, and so do “dodgy” controls and UI items. If they’re not meant to be there, don’t use them.

UK Tech Days – Day 1 (Windows 7 Phone)

Today was the first day of Microsoft’s UK Tech Days conference on the Windows 7 Phone format. It took place at the Fulham Broadway Vue and covered the topics involved in developing and deploying software ‘apps’ for the Windows 7 Phones.

Windows Phone 7 Review

Image by clintonjeff via Flickr

Content

Most of the content was made up of developers who have created some truly amazing apps, discussing their apps and showing off the code.

That’s one of the things about Software Development that doesn’t make sense. With all the NDA’s (Non Disclosure Agreements), patents and copyrights placed on Software, it almost doesn’t make sense that these guys would be showing off their code with such pride. But, that’s just it: they’re proud of the code that they’ve produced.

The keynote speech was provided by Brandon Watson, one of the many geniuses working over at Mircosoft, trying to make the Windows 7 Phone format as good as it can be. He seems like an awesome guy, and he had plenty of time for questions after his keynote.

He even took the time to answer my, probably zanny questions.

Code Examples

Most of the code discussions and examples revolved around data structures and performance – which is pretty cool. I mean, mobile phones only have a finite amount of CPU power and memory.  Some of the information given makes a lot of sense now that I think about it, again. I mean:

  • When a timeout occurs, or the screen locks, the program that is currently running is terminated. The program will restart from where it left off, when the screen is unlocked
  • De-Serialise (or load) data from storage into memory using a background thread, not the UI thread. Doing it that way works out as a better experience for the user, because you can keep animating your progress bar
  • As long as your program has a splash screen and a progress bar (for loading), most users will wait patiently for the program to load
  • Always assume that the network the phone is connected to is quite flimsy, and could cut out at any time. That way, you force yourself to use it sparingly
  • Target audiences always want simplification when it comes to mobile apps. They don’t need to know how the app works, just that it works

Excellent Quotes

Brandon started the whole day off with the best piece of pseudo-code I’ve ever seen. When a manager is asking you to provide some information about return on investment, just show him this:

[sourcecode language=”cpp”]
if (Developers.Happy())
return OnInvestment;
[/sourcecode]

Then there was this amazing gem of code. It’s C#, but will show up as C++:

[sourcecode language=”cpp”]
SomeFunction myFunction = new SomeFunction();
myFunction.SomeMethod += (s, a) => {
//code in here to catch an exception
};
[/sourcecode]

That code block is a short hand form of the standard way to catch a thrown exception. The only problem is, I’me not sure if it’ll only work on a W7P project, or whether it’ll work in a C# listing. Since I’m not at home, I can’t test it out.

That’s all for now, but I’ll make sure to post about what happens tomorrow (including some of the information about a press release that Microsoft are giving out tomorrow)

J

Folding and Libraries

Libraries

I was once asked what I considered an excellent question in an interview. One I managed to screw up completely.

Why do we used standard libraries in place of our own code?

The context for this question was this: I’d just completed a task were I had to, in pseudo-code, implement a function for combining strings. I think I ended up with something similar to this (again, this is pseudo-code):

[sourcecode language=”cpp”]
string CombineString (string firstString, string secondString) {
//create a new string with enough space for both strings to be copied
string combinedString = new string;
combinedString.malloc(firstString.GetLength() + secondString.getLength());
return combinedString = firstString + " " + secondString;
}
[/sourcecode]

Firstly, this wont work. Secondly, this isn’t what I wrote up on the whiteboard that day. This is just a naff example to give you some kind of context with which I was approaching the question.

Now then, the question itself is very simple to answer:

Standard libraries have, we assume, been through a rigorous testing procedure to make sure that they conform to the design documents perfectly, and to make sure that there aren’t any bugs. They are also very simple to implement, compared to designing a library yourself and having to teach the entire team how to use it. They save time, money, and improve productivity – assuming that they are the right libraries for the right task to begin with.

Simple, ne?

I forget what my answer ended up being, but I don’t remember saying much along those lines.

Folding

Most of the past few weeks has been taken up with building muscle/working out, watching The Soprano’s (I’ve never seen this before) and folding. Although, I’m implying that I’m the one whose done all the folding.

I’ve instructed my PC to use the spare cycles on 3 out of my 4 cpu cores and my gpu core to help understand the process of protein folding. A lot has been said about protein folding, and most of it can be found on The Wiki. Needless to say, I’m doing my part. I care for a lot of people, and the problems that CAN be linked to improper folding of proteins are huge.

My PC is still running very efficiently. I’ve got to hand it to the guys over at Stanford, they know how to write a really good piece of distributed code. I’m still able to browse the Internet, watch videos, and even play games. Excellent coding guys.

Watching

I know that The Soprano’s ended back in [goes to check] 2007, but it takes me a while to get into American TV shows, mainly because there’s that much out there. I don’t want to waste my time and (more importantly) money on something that I’m not going to enjoy. I’ve got to say that I’m enjoying The Soprano’s very much, though. I’ve only just started season 2, but it’s drawn me in already.

Plans For The Weekend

Well, that’s this short update done. I’m hoping to get some coding done over the holiday weekend (4 day weekend!!!), and whatever I get done is getting posted on here. Maybe I’ll come up with something interesting. Probably not, though.

Well, have fun.

J

FizzBuzz

Edit (19/01/2013)

I have edited this post on the above date. However, the only change that I have made is that I am now hosting the source code (found at the end of this post) on GitHub. This means, that if I need to make a change to the code, I do not have to edit this post again – as it will pull the latest version of it from the relevant page on GitHub whenever it is accessed by a reader.

Firstly, I realise that I’m not the best developer in the world. I can, certainly, hold my end up in C++; read a lot of C and understand it; work my way through a C# listing with confidence; understand enough of an assembly listing to VERY vaguely get what it’s doing.

Secondly, I’ve been using twitter and the blog-o-sphere for a few weeks now, to try and figure out what’s missing from my virtual tool kit (if you like) of developer skills. So far, the answer has been a resounding “Experience is better than a degree”

For instance, Gaven Woolery over at #AltDevBlogADay mentions that (and I’m paraphrasing):

In this age, with the relative ease of access to both online and offline tutorials/books/whatever, and the relatively un-homogeneous structure of Computer Science degrees in most Higher Education facilities, what’s the point of going to [University] for 4 years, and racking up a large debt, when you can just learn all of that at home?

Here’s a link to the original article : Link

This all is beginning to make sense to me. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed my studies at University. But there where a few modules (known as classes to some) that were better studied at home, or in the labs than sat in a lecture theatre. Then again, there were modules that required that level of theoretical understanding.

I like to think of Computer Science being a perfect marriage between both vocational and non-vocational training.

This leads me onto something that Richard Banks blogged about in the middle of 2009: Some “Developers” Just Can’t Develop. Basically, his argument is for testing new recruits DURING the interview process. Something I have taken part in for some (not all) of my interviews.

I remember during one interview, in the middle of a question even, the interviewer got up and asked me to write some code “it can be in any language you want, even psuedo code,” to copy two strings

Because of my experience, I can certainly see what Richard is talking about. The cost of hiring the wrong person can be crippling. That being said, he links to a post from early 2007 (a year before I graduated, for those who want to know) by Jeff Atwood called “Why Can’t Programmers.. Program?”

The main thrust of Jeff’s post is to promote the idea of using a standardised test during interview processes to find out if the candidate is “good enough.” That being a completely subjective term (some companies require different skills from their employees, especially graduates), he even goes on to say:

Like me, the author [of, yet another post] is having trouble with the fact that 199 out of 200 applicants for every programming job can’t write code at all. I repeat: they can’t write any code whatsoever.

The post Jeff refers to mentions a test that is used by some professionals to see if a candidate can solve “simple” tasks.

FizzBuzz

Write a program that prints the numbers from 1 to 100. But for multiples of three print “Fizz” instead of the number and for the multiples of five print “Buzz”. For numbers which are multiples of both three and five print “FizzBuzz”.

Fain enough, that’s quite easy. One for loop and three checks. Easy.

Most good programmers should be able to write out on paper a program which does this in a under a couple of minutes. Want to know something scary? The majority of comp sci graduates can’t. I’ve also seen self-proclaimed senior programmers take more than 10-15 minutes to write a solution.

What!? How is that possible?

I really hope that the teaching of programming has improved since 2007, otherwise graduates haven’t got a chance of getting that juicy development role they tell themselves they deserve.

In fact, I think it has improved. At least, my experience of the teaching of programming seems to have been quite an amazing one and I’ll prove it to you.

Taking that basic task, I created a solution with 17 lines (including white space) in, roughly, 3 minutes (damned keyboard’s too stiff) that solves this problem; and it goes a little something like this:

I usually have extra newlines in there for formatting and clarity. But I think it looks just as good without them.

There you have it.  A solution to a simple problem in less time then a “self-proclaimed senior programmer” and, dare I say it, an elegant solution, too?

J

Digital Distribution

What Is Digital Distribution?

Digital distribution is a method by which producers of content can provide consumers with said content, through a digital medium.

So, digital distribution is a way for you to get that new album or video game or movie without having to leave the house. iTunes, Steam, Netflix, GoG. These are all digital distribution services.

Say I want to buy Scott Pilgrim vs The World (which you totally should, seeing as it’s an awesome movie by my favourite Brit. director), I could go to the local DvD/Blu-Ray store and buy it there (for around £9.99 – £19.99); which is fine. But, say it’s raining, or I haven’t showered, or I just want to watch it right now. All I need to do is fire up iTunes, or Netflix and I can start watching it in minutes (depending on my connection speed and bandwidth).

That, in a nutshell, is digital distribution.

Why Use Digital Distribution?

One reason for using digital distribution is that it’s (almost) instantaneous. Instead of leaving the house, going to the store, buying the product, coming home, and sitting down to use it; you simply click a few buttons and hey presto it’s there.

Another reason is that it’s, typically, cheaper.

Shogun Total War 2 came out recently. It was £34.99 at all the stores I went to, and around £30 from online retailers.

Not bad, considering that was the price on day of release.

Then I looked on Steam (a digital distribution service for video games). It was £29.99.

That’s the same price as the online retailers, isn’t it?

Yes, it is the same price as the online retailers. But the caveat here is that I wouldn’t have to wait for 3 days for it to get to my house. Sure, I’d have to wait for it to download, but that’s only a few hours.

Another example would be “Let Them Talk” by Hugh Laurie.

Not this, again!

Yes, this again.

I’ve talked about this album, online, in many different forms. I really can’t wait for this one. (I’m a big fan of the blues, you see). Anyway, back to the plot.

There’s a plot this year!? Look out

I checked online, and at my local CD store. The average price for pre-ordering this CD would be £9.99. Not bad. Only problem is:

  1. At the store, I’d have to go and get it on day of release (And they’re not that great at holding on to pre-orders, round these parts)
  2. Online, I’d have to wait for it to arrive in the mail.

So, I went away and looked on iTunes. £7.99, and delivered straight to my PC as soon as it’s available in the UK. Technically, I could stay up until midnight the day before and it would download as soon as the time was 00:00 and 1 second.

Pro’s of Digital Distribution

  • Instant transfer of data (depending on your connection speed and bandwidth available)
  • Cheaper (no “middle men” running stores, with high overheads)
  • Ready to go as soon as it finishes downloading (especially in the form of video games, no lengthy installers here)

Con’s of Digital Distribution

  • Depends, entirely on having a stable connection to The Internet
  • You might have to install some middle-ware (iTunes, or Steam for example)
  • Three letters: D. R. M

My ISP

This all brings me, quite neatly, onto the topic of my ISP. My ISP is not the best in the world (they’re certainly not the worst in the world, either). I’m not going to mention them by name. I’m not stupid enough to leave myself open to libel. So, you’ll have to guess what my ISP is called, although the clues I’ll give you (backed up facts) will help you to deduce the name of the ISP.

Connection. Is It Good?

Mine? Terrible. I can be connected to The Internet one day, and not connected the next. Considering that I’m paying a premium to get online, too (around £20 a month, not mention line rental and the phone bill).

It isn’t just the stability of the connection, either. I pay for pretty high speeds, around 10 Mb (remember, that’s megabits, not megabytes), and get a maximum of 400Kbps (again in bits, not bytes). Their reason for this? I’m sat behind a router… oh and “there are lot’s of people in your postcode using that service”

Customer Satisfaction.

Which? recently did a nationwide survey of ISPs. They asked, around, 200 people from this area what they thought of their Internet connection and ISP. Their answer: “Not good.”

In fact, when all of the numbers had been crunched, then scaled to reach a national average. My ISP was second worst in the country.

Their (the ISP) response? “That wasn’t a big enough sample!”

Considering that this particular ISP is only available to a few thousand people, that seems like a big enough sample, to me. Even guestimating, you get something like this:

If the maximum amount of people connected to this ISP is around 2,000; then 200 people is 10%. More than enough.

Other Areas Of The Globe.

I’ve been informed that there are “under-developed” areas in 3rd world Africa that have better telecommunications systems than those provided by this ISP.

I’ve no proof of this, so a grain of salt is required.

Switch?

The problem with this ISP is that they run a virtual monopoly in this area. You can’t switch to another provider, as other providers wont come into this area, as it’d be too expensive.

A second provider would have to pay the first provider for using the exchanges. The price of which would be passed on the to customer.

Back To Digital Distribution?

This all brings me back to the topic of digital distribution. As, I mentioned earlier, digital distribution is an excellent way to get products out to customers very quickly.

A problem I have with accessing digital distribution is that my ISP enforces download limits. If you go over the limits, you have to pay, I’m not sure what the scale is as I’m always cautious of going over. So much so that I’ve installed an app/gadget/widget that monitors my speeds and data transfer totals.

With everything going the route of digital distribution, ISPs that enforce download limits are going to die a slow and painful death if they don’t change their policies. Except it wont be the ISPs who suffer, it’ll be the customers. Especially if those customers have no choice on the service they use.

AABA and The Blues

AABA?

Over the past few months I’ve been watching, rather religiously, Brentalfloss’ Lyrics 101 series. Although, I haven’t taken part in the assignments directly, I’ve been using these amazing videos to enhance my own writing skills.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s an embed for the first in the series. I’d recommend them to anyone, even if you’re not interested in writing lyrics they can give you a valuable insight into the world of song writing.

Side note: be sure to check out his “With lyrics” series, as he’s a really talented musician/song writer

Based on these videos, I’ve been able to recognise the AABA structure in ~80% of the songs I listen to on a regular basis. I think this is a great thing, because I’m able to start thinking about why certain words where chosen for certain rhyme, and how story telling works as an art form. Being an amateur writer, this is enormously helpful.

Let Them Talk

For those who didn’t know, Hugh Laurie (AKA Dr. House, AKA M’colleague to Mr. Stephen Fry, AKA The Prince Regent, AKA Bertram Wilberforce “Bertie” Wooster) has recently recorded a blues album. This is amazing news, not only am I a fan of Hugh’s output as an actor, but I’m a massive fan of the Blues as a genre of music.

My Mind, You Don’t Know It

When I fired up my PC yesterday and loaded iTunes, I was confronted with a message telling me that my pre-order was ready for downloading. Naturally, I clicked “OK”. Part of me wished there was a “F*ck YEAH!” button, alas there wasn’t. About 25 seconds later, the entire 3 track single had been downloaded.

I clocked the download at, around, 8Mbits per second; which is mighty quick – pretty much my maximum download speed, too. Thank you Apple for providing exceptional servers.

After I’d downloaded them, then stripped them of the DRM (I wont tell you how, but there’s a hidden feature that does it for you. At least there is on the Windows version, I’m not sure about the Mac version), and saved the album art (I’ve been stung by the “damaged iTunes library” bug too many times) I plugged my outer ear headphones in and started it playing.

My god, this man knows how to write a good blues song.

And that was just after the first track.

For Free? Really?

After listening to the tracks, I went to the website (clickable here). It turns out that there’s a fourth track available for free download (you’ve just gotta give the server your email address to get the download link. Otherwise the web spiders would get a hold of it, and his PR team wouldn’t know how many people had downloaded it); which I did. After a few seconds I received an email from the team, with a link to a zip file. I downloaded that, un-zipped and listened to a DRM free, mp3 file – Warner Bros. got it right, for once.

Oh, hell yeah!

This one’s a little more jazzy. I can’t say for certain which type of jazz, as I’m not a massive jazz aficionado (I’m into the big band era stuff, and Miles Davis, though). It’s a little more laid back, and sounds really good. It sounds like Hugh recorded the piano and vocals at the same time, too – which is not the norm for music these days – aside from a few notable exceptions, of course.

Structure, It’s What You Need

All of that happened yesterday. Today, on the way home, I was listening to the single again. One of the songs on there (which is “quite ballsy,” as my brother puts it) is about how the Bible shouldn’t be taken as literally as some people do. Listening to it, I realised that not only does the song have an AABA structure, but the verses do, too. I’ll show ya:

The following quote contains copyrighted material. It is used under Fair Use. No copyright infringement is implied by using the following quote. The lyrics remain copyright of Warner Bros. Publishing / Hugh Laurie, 2011.

Methuselah lived 900 years / Methuselah lived 900 years / But who calls that livin’ / When no gal will give in / To a man who’s 900 years?

Did you spot it?

I’ll go through it line then.

Methuselah lived 900 years

An A line – setting up you’re idea, storyline or characters. In this instance, Hugh is telling us about the oldest character in the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Tanakh to Jewish people, or The Old Testament in Christian terms).

Methuselah lived 900 years

The second line a second A line – telling the same story, typically in a different way. All that Hugh is doing is telling us about Methuselah in the same way, again. But this is standard fare for Blues, use the first line again rather than write a different first line.

But who calls that livin’ / When no gal will give in,

A pair of lines representing the B, also known as an A’ – giving up a small respite from the original story or idea, but feeding into the final A. Hugh is giving us a rest from the opening two A lines, and asking us a question about Methuselah: What kind of life did Methuselah have? Why would he have wanted to live for 900 years? Can you imagine living for 900 years?

To a man who’s 900 years,

Yet a third A – telling us the same story or idea but in yet a different way. Hugh brings us back to his original statement, both re-enforcing the story of Methuselah (He was 900 years, don’t you know? … Well, technically, he got to 969 years. Can you imagine that?) and posing his question again. He uses the idea of how boring it must have gotten for Methuselah, being 900 years old, having seen the world, no doubt his body would be in terrible shape as we’re only designed to last a maximum of 80-100 years, and imagining that he would be denied sex on account of his age and the condition of his body (sex being something that some people see as defining their entire existence).

Whoa! Hold On A Second

OK, so I’m not a scholar of music – in fact, I never took a single music lesson in my life, and we didn’t even have a music teacher at my high school. I’m just extrapolating from these lyrics and the information that’s available out there (on The Internet and in books on lyric composition) with my own knowledge and experience, and mixing that with my interpretation of the lyrics.

Also it should be noted that, during the B section of the song, Hugh notes:

Again, the following quote contains copyrighted material. It is used under Fair Use. No copyright infringement is implied by using the following quote. The lyrics remain copyright of Warner Bros. Publishing / Hugh Laurie, 2011.

I take’s that gospel / Whenever it’s poss’ble / But always with a grain of salt.

Which is, basically, Hugh saying that he’s a believer, but some parts shouldn’t be taken literally; which makes sense to me.

I’d like to hear what you guys think about this. Give me some feedback. Does my opinion of these lyrics follow with yours? Let me know what you think.

J

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