Holy poop

I’ve just installed the new Akismet anti-spam plug-in for WordPress. I’m not sure that I like the way that usage is conditional upon signing up for wordpress.com and downloading and using Flock – but it looks like it works. It’s cleared out nearly 4000 spam messages from the grayblog archives at the time of installation. Since then, I’ve been upstairs and taken a bath. In that time, it has detected and quarantined more than 150 new spam messages. Yikes.
Admittedly, most of these messages would not have come to my attention previously because my use of the WordPress blacklist feature actually picked out the vast majority of spam that I was receiving, but occasionaly something was getting through, and usually in large quantities at one time. This seems promising and I’ll report if there are any major new developments as I use it.
(Another thirteen in the time it took to type this – thank goodness for the auto-delete feature, which clears out any comment in the moderation queue that is more than a fortnight old).

Surf’s up

After literally months of waiting, I’m now using a 1mbps broadband connection after BT finally completed the upgrade last night. Ruralville has been lagging behind a bit compared to other communities in the area, mainly due to our remoteness from the exchange. But BT have recently upgraded the cables to the village in order to get our tiny school connected.
Of course, 1mbps will seem very slow to those people who live in major city centres and are getting speeds that are five or twenty times faster thanks to cable networks. The truth is that many rural areas barely have broadband at all and we are usually a long way down the queue for technical upgrades. Perhaps we will see faster radio-based broadband systems introduced in the near future – they’d certainly be useful around here and probably an awful lot cheaper to install.

Busy busy

In recent days:

  • lots of work
  • major works in the summer house with the aid of Dad and Tim in order to convert it into my new Global Headquarters – still in progress
  • as a side project, major works to improve the shed as a new super deluxe drying room – possibly the only shed for miles that is fully carpeted
  • parents, brother and brother’s other half to stay
  • wife with a heavy cold
  • other boring minutiae that you really don’t want to read

Ok, I’ll admit it – I was beginning to feel guilty for the lack of posting around here. That’ll teach you (or something).


A sports round-up (which you know means this post will only be about the important issues of Sussex County Cricket Club and Brighton and Hove Albion FC). Switch off now if this doesn’t interest you.
ECB bans James Kirtley from bowling after an investigation into his bowling action. Not the first time. See also:

In other, happier news, Brighton recorded their first away win of the season against the old enemy, Crystal Palace. A shame, then, that the event was marred by violence outside the stadium. I think that both teams should be working with the police to identify the trouble-makers and impose a lifetime ban on entry to either team’s matches.

High altitude express

Setting aside the political issues, which are, of course, not to be dismissed lightly, the completion of the world’s highest rail route is a pretty impressive feat of engineering. It’d be great to take a trip on that, and I’m sure the Chinese government has one eye on (tightly controlled) tourism as well as tighter control of the populace.

Unusual family

Last night, as a special treat for our wedding anniversary, we headed up to the Trinity Theatre in Tunbridge Wells to see the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, who played with support from Langhorne Slim.

Slim played some folksy bluegrass songs, mostly about lost love and failed relationships, with sprinklings of humour and wry observation and even a smattering of audience participation. Pretty good, although he failed to really get the Tunbridge Wells audience going. Mind you, it has to be said that it usually takes quite something to get the Tunbridge Wells audience going – free canapés and a glass of bubbly generally do the trick, both of which were lacking for this gig.

After the interval, the main attraction took the stage. Hels said afterwards that if you didn’t have your surreal head on, you weren’t going to get this outfit – and Tunbridge Wells doesn’t do surreal very well. I think about 10 people in the audience really got the hang of what was being achieved before them.

The Trachtenburgs are a three piece outfit, consisting of Jason on keyboards, guitar and lead vocals, his wife Tina Piña on slide projector and daughter Rachel (aged a somewhat precocious 11 years) on drums and backing vocals. Yes, you read that correctly – not slide guitar, but slide projector. The premise here is that the Trachtenburgs collect 35mm transparency collections from thrift stores, pawn shops, car boot fairs and so on. They then reinterpret them to music, on stage, whilst wearing the worst 1970s fashions (not overstated parody fashions, mind you, but those subtly bad items from that era).

The songs, of course, are just as awful as the photographs that they are played to. Crossing just about every genre under the sun, from prog rock to gospel, songs such as Look At Me and the five-part McDonald’s rock opera (incorporating the totemic What Will The Corporation Do?) amusingly take the mickey out of the innocents portrayed in the slides – though none could exactly be described as sing-along. But the awfulness is part of the act, coupled with the polished amateurness of the performers (complete with Rachel’s persistent gum chewing and Jason’s asides about how something always goes wrong with their shows) and an amusing mid-set Q&A session.

The set was rather let down by lacklustre sound quality in the Trinity, meaning that some of Jason’s lyrics were indistinct – rather important when the lyrics relate so closely to the content of the slides on show. The crazy distortion that resulted from projecting onto a full height screen from a projector sat on the floor actually added to the surreality of the performance, although I’m not sure if that was intentional.
If you get the chance, go and see them whilst they are on tour. But try to pick a venue where the audience might appreciate it.