Archives for June 2009

"It always looks darkest just before it gets totally black."

A quote by Charlie Brown that leapt out at me as a neat segue into my topic which is that I just passed my 3rd Kyu grading in Shotokan and earned my brown belt.

When I started I found it hard to imagine I'd ever make it to green or purple. I think I'm beyond that kind of thinking now, even about the black belt. The combinations get harder, you're expected to show more spirit, but this seems to be largely a matter of determination and practice. I enjoy karate and, within the constraints of my body, I want to do it.

Once again I single out my instructor, Sensei Richard Hughes of TVSK, to thank him for his patient tutelage and for running friendly, and convenient, clubs.

Congratulations to everyone else who passed too :) We all worked pretty hard on the day and man was it hot!

Now I start learning Bassai Dai which, despite looking harder, I cannot imagine enjoying less than Tekki Shodan.

Onwards and upwards!

28/06/2009 17:49 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Old Joe Clarke can rest easy

I thought it was worth documenting here that, last week, I passed the beginners piano course I started back in January. When I say passed I mean my teacher said "okay, you're done with this stuff" as this wasn't a formal, exams, type of course. Simply that I played the last piece of the course he uses, called 'Old Joe Clarkes Boogie', to his satisfaction.

The last 5-6 months have been quite an awakening for me. Despite a love of music I have never seen myself as being musical. And it's not like I'm claiming any special gift now but I have at least discovered that I have some talent. That, as hard as it seems to me right now, I can play the piano and have it sound more or less like you'd imagine. That is quite the big thing for me.

It's getting towards a year since I first started to dabble with the idea of making music. Since I saw the reacTogon video that kicked all this off for me.

In that time I've:

  • made headway learning the piano with the expectation of much better progress in the year ahead
  • started learning to read music and understand the processes of composition and arrangement
  • made lots of progress in production techniques using Logic Pro
  • creating a a couple of dark ambient tracks I am quite proud of, e.g. Never Tell
  • built and released one open source sequencer, Elysium, and started on a second that I hope to release this year

I've no specific goals in mind for where I am going with all this. I'm just trying to enjoy the journey as much as possible right now. But I maybe do look forward to a time when I don't have to pass by the baby grand in the foyer of that swank hotel but, instead, can sit down and entertain my fellow guests with a little Satie.

22/06/2009 10:41 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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ActiveRecord PassportControl plugin

One of the things that irritates me from time to time about testing Rails code is when you can't easily mock the object you want. It usually comes up in a controller test where you create an AR instance in your setup but, because you pass it by id into the controller, the controller retrieves a difference instance of the record.

You can solve this by mocking the AR model class but this can get messy. What I really wanted was a way to mock a record rather than an instance so I whipped up the Passport Control plugin. This lets me write:

setup do
  @user = User.make
  @content = @user.contents.make
  @content.at_passport_control { |content| mock( content ).foo { "foo!" }
  get :show, :id =>

The call to at_passport_control ensures that whenever this record (as identified by it's id) is instantiated by ActiveRecord, by whatever chain of invocations, that it will have it's #foo method mocked.

Comes with a Test::Unit adapater and seems to work well for me. Hope you find Passport Control useful too.

18/06/2009 08:55 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

The Google view on Mac UI's

From this thread about Chrome's UI decisions:

For MacOS X, we've been following a trajectory that will lead us to a different View implementation despite these concerns because of a few things, including the general consensus on that platform surrounding Cocoa as the UI toolkit, the high quality of available Mac software, past experiences of failures with cross-platform user interface toolkits on OS X, the exceptional capabilities of Cocoa (ask Cole for a demo), and the growing market share of the Mac platform in general. --- [Ben Goodger, Google]

All else being equal I think a Mac application made using Cocoa will wipe the floor with an application that uses a cross-platform toolkit.

01/06/2009 13:19 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Posting has become quite slow

Posting here has become very intermittent. I think Twitter is the main culprit. My blog used to act as my virtual bile duct but twitter has such a sense of immediacy that it works much better for that. Consequently I have a lot less energy for blogging.

I'm also pretty busy: have an important release of to get out the door, learning piano, learning music theory, learning production, learning logic, learning a host of virtual instruments and effects, getting ready for my next karate grading (3rd Kyu in about a month). I can only dimly remember time in the past when I was bored.

And lastly I don't have much to say. I am very much in learning mode right now. While I am not entirely read-only I am spending more chatting with other people into music.

In answer to my previous post I have bought a keyboard. I ended up deciding to buy something nice that would last me a while and choose the Kurzweil SP2X stage piano. I took a roadtrip to Andertons Music in Guildford and they got one out for me to try. I liked the action and the sound (it also seemed to handle MIDI velocity well) and after noodling with a bunch of other more and less expensive boards I went for it.

Rather sadly mine developed a fault within the first week (maybe a dry joint) that affected the sound output and had to be replaced. But here I had some very good fortune and the replacement turned out to be it's newer, bigger, brother the Kurzweil SP3X.

It's one of the more expensive things I've ever bought but I love it. Now I hope that one day I will be a player worthy of his keyboard!

01/06/2009 11:50 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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