October 19, 2020No Comments

Sign

Ankle now seems mostly fixed so back on the running since last time and clawing back some semblance of shape. My weight is heading back down grudgingly. I can’t do anything about looking older, or male pattern balding, but at least I can try to keep in good condition otherwise. Partly vanity, yes, but also something to do other than sitting at home sliding into the abyss.

The new album from Autechre, SIGN, came out a few days ago. Ever since Incunabula their “thing” has been to substitute your more typical Roland drum machine type sounds with pitch shifted / modulated replacements, or hits made from unrecognisable sampled sounds. But over subsequent albums they really pushed the abstraction boat out into uncharted waters making a lot of their stuff inaccessible to a lot of people. Myself included for a long time.

Over the last two years I’ve worked my way through all of their albums. What’s striking is that their music often does have a deep and melodic undercurrent but it can be found hiding behind – or within – the mechanised devices that present themselves on the surface; almost as though the melody itself is too self-conscious to come out into the sunlight in the manner of a more traditional synth line.

What keeps me going back is most of their albums contain at least one track that gives me that deeply pleasant dopamine-linked effect known colloquially as “the chills” but in the case of Autechre, and Autechre alone, it’s both my arms and legs, all over my neck and down my back and also sustained sometimes for minutes at a time. It feels like I’m becoming totally immersed in their soundscapes, which are remarkably three dimensional. Most other music feels quite flat in comparison, a mere stereo field.

And yes it’s sound design porn but I LOVE it.

Standout tracks from the five-disc release elseq (2016) are pendulu hv moda, and freulaeux. Even thinking about freulaeux is giving me goosebumps. 2018’s NTS Sessions (1-4) ends with the 58 minute all end and I currently listen to that about three times a week. It’s partly therapeutic, admittedly. Something about it speaks to my mental condition.

If in elseq and ‘NTS’ they developed new tools and what could be described as ‘systems’ (it’s all bespoke software written in MaxMSP) then it feels like with SIGN a lot of that work has been brought together in the form of a more traditional (by AE standards) album. It’s certainly calmer and more obviously melodic, something that feels quite profound during our current and difficult juncture.

Tayyab Amin writing in The Guardian said its “dystopian soundworld is now in a crowded market” and gave it only 3/5. While sci-fi themes have obviously dominated electronic music since forever this seems both a lazy and a false equivalence. Their work is abstract to the extent that it lives in its own genre – it’s never trying to be like anything else. I don’t know of any other music in the same “market” but I’d love to hear more of it if there is any out there.

Take care, try to keep it together, and don’t pay any attention to Ian Brown.

September 22, 20201 Comment

End of the Summer

I’ve been working in the garden today. What a privilege. The weather is perfect, and Henry is back at school. Tomorrow there is rain forecast so I felt obliged to make the most of it, and top up my tan before I become pasty and unattractive again over the winter.

Under our big tree there is enough shade to see my laptop display, and the WiFi signal is good.

I have been desperately missing going running. In early June I reached probably my all time peak fitness, and my lowest weight for 20 years, before my seasonal hay fever kicked in and I had to pretty much stop. This year it started later than usual, so late that I thought I’d got away with it, but when it hit me it was I think the worst it has ever been.

I don’t know if this is typical or not but for me hay fever brings on seasonal asthma, so I’m getting very short of breath even if just going for a light jog. I end up wheezing heavily and having to walk home.

I’ve previously been prescribed a Salbutamol inhaler but the one I have is empty. I couldn’t get a repeat prescription this year because it had been too long since the last one, and I didn’t feel like waiting 3 weeks for an appointment.

And then August came around and the symptoms went away almost overnight. Then within a week we were in the park and Henry was playing football with some friends and the kids wanted the dads to join in. Other than kicking a ball about in the garden with him I hadn’t played since I was at school. I was never that into it, but actually it was really good fun! Until I went over on my left ankle and – it seems – sprained it pretty badly. It was very swollen the next morning.

And so I have had a lot more time on the sofa lately, and started to put weight back on.

It’s now coming up to eight weeks since I did the ankle thing, and finally it feels strong enough to run on. And Stamford Striders is back on doing socially distanced runs in smaller groups, so I’m going tonight. Joy!

Things are feeing strangely positive for the first time in weeks. I’m sure this is just a combination of a good night’s sleep and the sun on my back but I’ll take it.

September 16, 2020No Comments

House / techno mix, Andrew Weatherall stuff, circa 1998

Tonight’s pick from the archive is this vinyl set from late 1998. It was recorded in my student bedroom on the top floor at 24 Royal Park Grove, Leeds, LS6 1HQ. This was the view from my window in the direction of Kirkstall.

I was really into Two Lone Swordsmen at the time (which was current in 98, obviously Sabres of Paradise came before that) and used to listen to a lot of that kind of stuff while most of my contemporaries living in the area were more into the burgeoning acid techno and trance scenes, neither of which were really my cup of tea. Not that I didn’t enjoy some nights out of that ilk; such as Templehead, and various things I’ve forgotten the names of that took place at the West Indian Centre

But anyway, I recored this mix on my trusty decks (when heat death of the universe finally arrives the last intact objects will be Technics 1210s). Rounding off with the luscious Rico’s Helly, followed by Hardly Breathe by Weatherall side project Deanne Day.

It gets cut short because the tape got chewed!

I have 14 mixes here on on Mixcloud. Do have a dig through if you find yourself unable to find any other music on the internet!!!!!

September 9, 2020No Comments

Tokyo virtual walk – 4K, binaural audio

I am absolutely loving this video by Nomadic Ambience. A walk through some streets and backstreets of Tokyo in the rain. The binaural sound works best through headphones.

It gets better in the last quarter as the rain subsides – the environmental sounds are less drowned out and you get a better sense of the 3D audio field.

© Nomadic Ambience

September 8, 2020No Comments

New website launched! (meta)

Now feasibly you might be reading this in your favourite RSS reader like it’s 2007 or something i.e. you might not be looking at my website at this exact moment. But most likely you literally are reading this on my new website, in which case welcome, I hope you like it.

[Version for the Feed Crew: Hey I just launched my new website, check it out it at https://aderowbotham.com ]

In any case it seemed fitting to mark the launch with a blog post. So here we are.

Speaking of this blog, in 5 days time it will have been running for 17 years. Here is the first post. It started out as an anonymous journal of my day to day experiences having recently moved to London. The first few years are on Blogger and I can’t actually get into that account any more. It seems it’s not associated with my Google account, but they’ve left it up so *shrug emoji*.

The archive here in WordPress goes back to February 14 2008.

Anyway – the website. I decided it was high time that I had one again, seeing as that’s what I do for a living and so on. I have been working on it “live” for the last few weeks and now It’s pretty much done (except for a small glitch in Safari that has surfaced, third party thing, blah).

Mostly it’s archival work currently due to the fact that I’ve been heavily involved with long term business stuff with both Milk and WRP for many years. However I have a few more projects to add including some work in the pipeline and some experiments, oh and and music too – all of which I will no doubt share as it happens.

A good website is never *finished* it should always keep evolving.

Do click around and so on.

September 6, 2020No Comments

Money money money…

(Root of all evil?*)

At the end of 2019 I had one of those overdue paperwork sort outs, and had a bit of a scare. After years of burying my head in the sand I realised I didn’t have a long term plan. I have a stakeholder pension that I’d not been paying into for years and, due to us paying for recent home improvements, didn’t really have anything left in the way of savings, other than the value of our house itself.

It’s probably a familiar situation to a lot of people around about my age. I decided it was time to sort it out.

So I made some changes (and spreadsheets of course) and I’ve started paying into the pension again but really that is not going to cut it based on current projections.

Options for what to do with any money you want to save have become pretty limited – as you will know savings accounts basically give you zero interest, cash ISAs are not much better, and pensions – well they are better than nothing but even they are not without risk.

Around about the same time someone introduced me to the app Freetrade and I tentatively dipped my toe into the world of investing.

My dad was always very good at this sort of thing but somehow investing was never something I engaged with in my younger years. I suppose it never seemed interesting to me, and I didn’t then see it as a necessity. My uncle Jon is a stockbroker and in the 1990s I was bought some shares in (early UK ISP) Freeserve. I then proceeded to pay no attention to it for years while the value climbed meteorically and then crashed again. So I missed out on making any return on that. Stupid.

Based on conversations I have had online it seems there are now millions of people like me realising midway through their lives that their only option for having any kind of retirement plan for later life is to start actively investing. And this coincides with the rise of commission-free trading platforms. It’s all become a lot more accessible to the everyday person. Or retail investors as we are known.

I’m also acutely aware that there are a lot of financial institutions licking their lips at the prospect of making money out of us.

Apps and platforms

Freetrade is great and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to try out investing for the first time. It is a nicely designed app that’s simple to get your head around.

I have more recently moved everything over to Trading212 (yes that is my referral link). Trading212 is more advanced than Freetrade, with features such as limit orders. In addition it has a sophisticated web interface, as well as a mobile app, whereas Freetrade is currently mobile only. The header image is from Trading212.

On both platforms buying and selling is free in the sense that they don’t charge a fee, and this is attractive especially if you only want to test the water with a small amount of money – but be aware of the hidden costs of ‘free’. There’s a good article here on Forbes about that.

Both platforms offer a stocks and shares ISA (basically a separate portfolio within an ISA, subject to ISA annual limits, and where the gains are not taxed).

Trading212 also has a CFD service but I would not recommend going anywhere near that unless you really know what you are doing (high risk!) Both platforms give you access to more than just the London Stock Exchange, buying Nasdaq stocks is just as easy.

I have not tried any others but there several out there. The big one in the US is Robinhood.

Learnings so far

The upshot is that I actually now find it all pretty engaging, and so far we’ve made a very respectable return in just a few months (partially withdrawn and partially still in stocks and ETFs). I’m not going to quote figures but let’s just say it’s much more than any savings account would ever give you – but I’ve also invested a lot of time in educating myself so that has to be taken into account.

It requires you to keep an eye on things, but it’s possible to set alerts and also automate actions when things go outside of certain bounds (not without its pitfalls but has its uses).

I have dabbled a teeny bit in short selling and it was hair raising, and I took a small profit (luck!) but I’m not ready for all of that. And I’ve not touched Crypto or Forex yet. Not sure if I will. Maybe, I don’t really know anything about it at the moment.

There’s a wealth of info on YouTube (and lots of bullshit too) and I’ve read a couple of Kindle books. I’ve learned the difference between day trading, swing trading and investing. I’m very much in the latter camp but dabble a bit with swing trading too. Day Trading is not something I am interested in right now, as really it has to be learned and treated as a full time job. However it is useful to understand the technicals that those traders use.

At this point if you are still reading you may be either rolling your eyes and thinking “Finally caught up have you Ade? I’ve been doing this for 15 years”, or possibly “Oh no he’s become one of THOSE people.” – Well, yes, and sorry but I don’t want to be skint.

Alt account

To keep things separate I have a new Google account and Twitter profile that I use when I’m doing or researching stock market stuff. It’s probably not interesting to most of my friends and followers, and it's nice to shut it off when I’m done.

In my alt accounts I am bombarded with ads for dubious sounding get rich quick schemes, trading courses and for various platforms and services. It’s like another world.

Unsurprisingly it’s a world full of chancers. Day traders post impressive winning trades they have made. Apparently some go long and short the same instrument in two separate accounts and then post the winning trade in a bid to convince you to sign up to their whatever. I have read this is a very old trick. There’s an inherent bias because people don’t tend to want to share their massive losses.

On Twitter in my alt-persona there's an effervescent mixture of Californian or Scandinavian liberal Tesla Fanboi types, and ragingly right wing / pro-Trump / pro Wall Street types. It’s all quite an eye-opener especially coming from my usual tech / science / liberal arts bubble.

Right now there’s a lot of shouting about how “the Marxists” are going to wreck everything if Biden gets in, mixed in with anti-mask conspiracy theory crap (generally the same people). What I hadn’t realised though is how many young people were Trumpists, I’d always caricatured them as somewhat redneck types but, no, there’s a big contingent of market-savvy wealthy influencers who I guess don’t like tax and regulations (i.e. right-wing, stating the obvious). But yeah, I would now not be surprised if he gets a second term.

I would say it’s healthy that I’m exposed to these people outside of my normal bubble. But I still think they’re wrong. You can run a society that is pro-business AND regulates appropriately, cares for the misfortunate, invests in public services and so on. But apparently everyone is either extreme left or extreme right these days. I think they’re both deluded.

But I digress...

In summary

I have no real point as usual, other than satisfying my desire to share rambling thoughts on whatever is occupying my brain. I hope someone finds it useful.

I am obliged to state that none of the above is financial advice. Do your own research.

But if you are interested then it’s quite easy to get started and genuinely I have found it to be an intellectually engaging pursuit, and one that could (should?) reap benefits in the long term.

I am quite technically minded and usually I can reduce complex problems to fundamentals and eventually solve them. But this is a bit like the ultimate problem because it’s chaotic and human-driven (although increasingly AI-driven too). That makes it an interesting puzzle. But equally you could say it’s just a form of gambling, which is at least partially true.


(*Massive Attack – Five Man Army)

September 5, 2020No Comments

Old NET magazine article

Remember Net magazine? It ended publication a few months ago after 25 years on the news stand. As a keen amateur / pre-junior designer I used to buy it to be inspired and learn various coding top tips.

I blogged about this back in 2013 but this morning while I was searching through old files to create the Pirata work page on this site I found the actual PDF of the article they published about us. Rather than let it languish on my backup drive it deserves to be on the web.

I’m not loving my profile photo (no fault of the Photographer, James) – I was much heavier back then and resemble a kind of young Steve Ballmer, but anyway here is the article:

Read more about Pirata here.

September 4, 2020No Comments

From the archive: Team GB

Added another project to my portfolio. Back in 2012 at Pirata we were proud to be chosen by the British Olympic Association to create a digital platform fit for a winning team in the host country.

TeamGB.com and the Team GB app were a huge success throughout the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

See the work here >

Header photo by Simon Connellan on Unsplash

September 4, 2020No Comments

From the archive: McLaren

Better late than never! I have been lucky enough to not really need a portfolio for years. But it seemed a shame not to have one and, after all, I do know how to make websites so here we are. I am slowly adding both new and old projects to this site over the coming weeks.

This one is something I’ll always be proud of – at Pirata (RIP) we built a new and innovative site for McLaren, starting work on it in late 2009 and launching the first version – the award-winning ‘The Race 1.0b’ – for the start of the 2010 Formula1 season. We continued to reinvent, maintain and support the site for several years.

See the work here >

More than just a typical site, it was built around race weekends when it became a live dashboard with realtime data from the cars, drivers and team wherever they were in the world.

It goes without saying that it was a huge team effort, we had some some incredibly talented designers, developers and producers.

Take a look at my McLaren portfolio page for more details and screenshots.

I have plenty more more work to add both recent and from my archive. You can find all projects on the Work page.

September 4, 2020No Comments

Portfolio update: Rachael Smith Photography

Just added to my portfolio: Rachael Smith Photography.

I have plenty more more work to add both recent and from my archive. You can find all projects on the Work page.

Contact

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