November 5th, 2013

Been in LA with my very old friend (matey) Al Slavik. Just hanging around the house and going to pub, not too much to do around here given the lack of public transport, etc. It has been a lot of fun to hang out with such a dear friend though, and at the end of the trip it’s always quite nice to have a little rest. Tomorrow I have a meeting with a few composers that work at a music production house here, and then grabbing a coffee with one of the developers that works on Mozilla Persona.

That said, we had quite an exciting evening last night, a hastily organised house concert which – by some very strange confluences and coincidences – ended up being at a very beautiful house, with a freshly tuned Steinway B (rebuilt by the chap that did Elton’s), at the home of none less than Michael Boddicker. Michael’s not a household name perhaps unless you’re a voracious reader of 80s/90s album liner notes, but we’re talking about someone whose fingerprints are all over the classic records of Michael Jackson, Rickie Lee Jones, Chicago, etc. He’s a lovely person and full of fascinating stories – stories about him, David Paich and David Foster would all be playing keys on the same record, of John Mayer’s guitar locker, Sting, Lionel Richie, the great arrangers, etc etc. And he has a pretty, pretty nice studio. Al and I played a little set of some of the “classics”, then I played a bunch of trio/Sun, Cloud pieces arranged for solo piano. We’re keen to do another one with strings which would be quite nice, to say the least. Anyway, it was a very surreal and enjoyable evening.

San Francisco Show & Tell

November 1st, 2013

Apologies (to anyone who is actually reading this) for not updating for a while. Have been in San Francisco, hanging with Berlin buddy Stan and Melbourne buddy Fiona. And lots of other old friends. So many interesting things: Stan took me to the Noisebridge Hacker Space, full of lots of bits of junk and a chromatically arranged selection of O’Reilly books which I’d have completely devoured in 1997 (except for the ones about Ajax that wouldn’t have been invented yet). Have been experiencing serious waves of computing nostalgia, discovering old copies of the Apple HI guidelines (ironic given I never write anything that interacts with users) and name-checking all the exits on the 101 and 280.

I have to look back on my calendar to remember what we’ve actually done. Stan has been a generous chauffeur, taking us out to dinner in Palo Alto with a lot of the Apple crew (including Umesh, ex-NeXT, who I first met in ’97), as well as James, George and Love who I worked with more recently. As usual it’s hard not to get excited about the possibility of writing less music and more code, and I suppose I do have a few little ideas for another summer project (no doubt to be fueled by the winning combination of condensed milk and a double espresso). I do get the feeling though that Apple has become a really, really big company, whatever that means.

Came back to the South Bay the next day to visit the Computer History Museum – I’ve been there before, but this time we got a guided tour from an enthusiastic analog engineer, including a demonstration of the Babbage Machine. I then got dropped off at VMware for a meeting where I struggled to remember anything about some code I wrote back in 2009 (one line of whiteboard writing, some furtive staring at vi, etc). Then Dale (VMware, ex-Novell, ex-TurboLinux) and Joe Little (still at Stanford, but ex-Turbo, and someone I met in my very first few weeks here in 1997) grabbed some dinner. A few more interesting stories (well, not that interesting), but I’ll save those not for the blog.

After that, went into Stanford with Joe, had a bit of a chinwag about Software Defined Networking (and the lack of security in that space), then something of an extended lunch with some Apple folk (if anything I was responsible for making a few engineers less productive this week!). Lovely to see Marc, who I first corresponded with as a final year high school student whilst he was at NeXT. Still the same great guy. After than, Caltrained it back to the city (love that train, the thundering double decker), took loads of photos and then dressed up as a Construction Lion (or, as I call it, 10.7 Beta) for a Halloween party. Not quite as impressive as Fiona’s picnic poncho but hey, I took the bits and pieces that were available. We discovered by accident a pretty nice little street party.

Today, we are going on a guided tour of the Internet Archive (that’s where they store the internets!) and are going to a senses-themed geeky art installation. Off to LA tomorrow to see Al and some of the ASCAP film scoring alumni. Al’s apparently organised a little house concert for us on Sunday at this keyboard player’s place who I know of, who has a seriously scary discography. And a freshly tuned Steinway B.

Anyway, I’d promised to help Stan with some Objective-C stuff, so I’d better get back to that.

Next stop: SFO

October 28th, 2013

But, in the interim, the dream of the 90s was alive in Portland. And the dream of departing PDX on time is well and truly dead: my flight is delayed well over three hours. Fortunately they have WiFi here.

Yesterday I caught up with Josh, banking entrepreneur and long-time (childhood) friend. Went to the Irving Street Kitchen for dinner, lots of catching up about the technical stuffs (things do have a bit of a habit of moving on when you’re not in computer-land, and the whole Amazon EC2 thing has really changed database design it seems), then had some cocktails at a bar I can’t quite remember the name of. So much food: fried chicken, cornbread with caramel sauce (is that even dinner, it tasted like dessert to me), trout, salmon, salad, yada yada. I had fried chicken and waffles for breakfast this morning, with Josh, Fiona and a bunch of his friends. Between the sit-down swing DJ and the decor, it could have been straight from the Mighty Boosh. Then straight to Salt & Straw for some of their infamous ice cream.

Finally Josh and I walked around some of the industrial neighborhoods (so much cheap real estate), visited his office, and watched the final episode of Portlandia in his apartment. Photos of many of these things coming to a Facebook near you soon.


October 26th, 2013

Well this is my tram vantage point at 10pm or so. Tonight I caught up with Reed, whom I met at Banff, who has a lovely family and some most entertaining housemates. We discussed the finer points of difference between Melbourne and Portland hipsters, although it was very much one’s word against another. Always good to get a few tips from the locals. I’ve a few new bits of “language” I might attempt to introduce to Melbourne.

This morning we went to the Portland Maritime Museum – that’s gotta be the best $7 I ever spent, an ex-US Coast Guard volunteer took us on a tour of a steam tugboat, absolutely fascinating (and a reminder that a few expressions such as “at the helm” and “out of steam” have a practical origin). They used to walk around with a broom in front of them to check for steam leaks, as it would slice the broom in half (better that than a limb). Actually on a nerdy note, the telegraph between the bridge and the engine room had some interesting parallels with protocol design (because, I guess, that’s what it is).

That unfortunately concludes the interesting part of my day – sandwiched between that was a bit of debugging (trying to get gss_browserid working under Mavericks, which I – and presumably the rest of this hotel – upgraded to; unfortunately, the Mail demo does a bunch of weird method swizzling stuff which broke quite spectacularly with the upgrade) and tending to emails about music stuffs. I was pleasantly surprised to find Tape Op, an obscure-ish audio magazine (well, obscure enough that I can’t even manage to subscribe to it back home anymore) in the hotel lobby. I might “borrow” a copy and take it to the hotel bar right now.

Tomorrow plan to catch up with Josh, who flies back from Madrid, and see this mythical Salt & Straw ice-cream shop.

Laura Marling

October 25th, 2013

Reminded me of a young Joni Mitchell (with a few less chords, but maybe even more attitude). An arresting performance: beautiful and ball-breaking.


October 24th, 2013

The colo(u)rs here are amazing. What do they call autumnal here? I’m going with fallful. Or maybe fallish.


October 24th, 2013

Difficult for this not to end up a laundry list of things one has done, particularly after a long day. Here’s a laundry list:

  • Coffee at Courier Coffee (Josh suggestion)
  • Chinese Garden
  • Craft museum
  • Photography gallery
  • Oyster Bar (scallops though, for once a half serve wasn’t gargantuan)
  • A vintage clothes store (wasn’t me that got off the bus early to that, huh)
  • Kayak/canoe museum

Maybe I left some stuff out. Interesting things: photography gallery had amazing portrait photos that were printed by digital looms as tapestries in black and white. There was one of Philip Glass. Perhaps the most oddball/interesting was the Lincoln Street Kayak & Canoe Museum, run by this lovely chap who had spent eight years writing a book about native people’s canoes (with a focus on Greenland it seemed). The oyster bar had quite a collection of maritime-related stuffs but sadly no shell art.

Fiona might be actually in town, so that has been quite entertaining.

There are a surprising number of homeless people here: I noticed this last night walking across the Burnside Bridge (typically, walking a big distance to find somewhere to eat and then coming back to the hotel).

Boy are playing tonight. Maybe we’ll go.

The Birth of the Hipster

October 23rd, 2013

This is my second time in Portland (not the one in Western Victoria), although the first time was a one day whirlwind visit, from which my only memory is some tall trees. It’s very autumnal here, great oranges and reds and greens, which you cannot see rendered in the above black and white photograph. (It must be easier to take black and white photos. Average colour pictures always look good in B&W. I did a gig at the NGV just before I left at the Edward Steichen exhibition, some great pictures, particularly the one of Amelia Earhart – which I’m sure you can find somewhere on the interwebs.)

In that weird jetlagged/caffeinated state, wandering around, wondering whether I’m doing the equivalent of walking down Queen Street (or somewhere else not particularly interesting in Melbourne). I’m sure I’ll find Hipster Ground Zero sooner or later. I’ve seen at least one bicycle shop with a Marzocco, and overheard another chap saying the following combination of words: “fucking hipster tight jeans”. So I can’t be too far away. Oh, and the hotel has a Stumptown and several communal areas that could easily be mistaken for Apple Stores.

There’s a bookshop nearby called Powell’s Books which sounds quite good, wouldn’t mind some reading material beyond the New Yorker and Economist (not that there’s anything wrong with those). Old-friend Josh unfortunately had to go to Madrid for a few days, but I should catch up with him on Friday or Saturday; Fiona tomorrow; and my old Banff buddy Reed later in the week. Laura Marling is playing here on Thursday night, might go hear that.


Piccolo, Nineteen Squares, Melbourne

August 19th, 2012


Bless Ísland

May 27th, 2012

As usual I don’t update this as much as I wish. Spent a great week in Reykjavik with Paul and Elisabeth. Got to visit Kaffismiðjan every day (well, I hope it’s open Sundays next time I visit).

Did some recording at both Greenhouse (where I worked for a bit as an intern) and at Sundlaugin, the “other” studio. Got my fair share of suitably krútt overdubs: vibraphone, celeste, dulcitone, harmonium, etc. With luck I will have the taste not to use them all. The record is coming along but it’s still a bit like a dug up sidewalk, everything in pieces, needing reassembly before being fit for humans.

Off to London for a night, then back home to Oz.