Listening to the landscape

At the weekend, we got back from a week away in our favourite holiday spot: North Norfolk. As ever, it was wonderfully peaceful and laid-back, but we also got nearly a full week of bright sunshine with almost no rain (which was unexpected). I had a lot of fun with my Fujifilm X100T, particularly as the weather was so co-operative. I’m starting to settle in with the focal length, and I’m finding that the creative constraint of having a fixed lens is making me see some interesting compositions, often before I’ve brought the viewfinder to my eyes. I certainly took a lot more photos than I have on recent visits, and you can see some of the best shots on Flickr here (the first 10 or so are from the same location this April and are with my Sony, but the rest are taken with the Fujifilm).

We managed a nice mixture of doing things and doing nothing1. On one of the doing things days, we re-visited a National Trust property called Felbrigg Hall. We’ve been there a few times now, and have enjoyed wandering around the extensive gardens and parklands, as well as seeing inside the house. This time, we noted that an event (the artists, Strijbos & Van Rijswijk, call it ‘physical cinema’) was happening at Felbrigg called Walk With Me. The idea is that you walk around the parklands and gardens wearing headphones connected to an iPad. The artists have planted geotagged sound beacons around the area, so that as you walk, you hear sound effects, music and dialogue, triggered when you enter the radius of one or more of the beacons. These overlap in quite an artful way, so the effect is usually natural and seamless.


  1. Well, not exactly nothing — productive loafing. I spent some wonderful times sitting in the shade of an arch in a Medieval friary wall, knitting socks or reading, and looking up at intervals to gaze out over the marshes towards the sea. Sigh.

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Falling down the Emacs rabbit hole

It has been about 18 months since I started using Spacemacs, and I am still constantly learning wondrous new things about it, and about Emacs more generally. I go through waves of tinkering and learning, but I find myself using Spacemacs for more and more things. I’ve had a recent tinkering bout — partly inspired by some helpful resources — so I thought it was probably worth documenting what I’ve done here for anyone interested, and so that I remind myself what I did when I inevitably forget a few months down the line! This is going to be quite a long article, so whether you are an Emacs fan, or just Emacs-curious, you might want to get a drink of your choice and settle back.

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Making a Bunka-style sloper

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I have been wanting to buy a couple of the Pattern Magic pattern cutting books for a while. The author, Tomoko Nakamichi, is a professor at the Bunka Fashion College in Japan. These books distil the methods taught at the school for creating slopers, and adds her wonderful creativity, playfulness and incredible ability to wrangle fabric into improbable forms. They have fairly recently been translated into English, but I wanted to take a look inside one before committing to a purchase. Last week, I managed to find copies in Waterstones, and instantly blew a book token I had been hoarding since my birthday on buying the first and second books.

The patterns in the book are based on the so-called ‘Bunka sloper’ as a starting point, and the instructions and figures in the book show you — with incredible precision and economy1 — how to alter the sloper to get the designs depicted. There was only one problem: the Bunka sloper is based on the average body dimensions of young Japanese women, and my middle-aged Western body is very far from that kind of shape (more’s the pity). Would the sloper work for me?


  1. It’s a bit like a diff file, for the programmers and git users among my readers, but it’s a graphical representation of the changes needed to transform the original version to the new version.

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Wrapping bars and dressing wounds

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It has been a while since I last wrote. I’ve had one of those periods of time when it is one thing after another, and I’m constantly trying to recover from the last thing when the next comes along. The most recent thing was that I came off my bike on the way to work. One minute I was pedalling happily around a corner in the park, and the next I was hitting the ground hard.

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On keeping it together

I’ve been trying to marshal my thoughts into some coherence for more than two weeks now, but I think I’ve been gripped by disbelief. I keep thinking that I’m going to wake up, and find that it has all been a horrible, disturbing dream, and that my country isn’t really a chaotic, directionless, leaderless, vicious, fearful, isolationist, xenophobic place. While I’m waiting for that to happen, I should really try to write something about it, and the way that coincidence has made me even more sensitive to the current situation. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even cohesive: it’s just a few of the things that have been circling around in my brain and making it itch over the past few weeks.

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Self-drafted shirt version 2.0

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Full view of shirt as worn

I remember learning at University about the intricate mechanisms involved in embryonic development. So many processes have to happen at just the right time, in just the right order, and in just the right amount to produce — for example — five separate digits on the end of the hand that it amazed me that any of us are born with the ‘standard’ body plan at all. Since I started fitting patterns, and more recently drafting patterns myself from scratch, I’ve been experiencing the same kind of wonderment: how did I ever buy anything ready made that even vaguely fitted me, when there are so many variables to account for?

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Fujifilm X100T

Fujifilm X100T

It started while we were on holiday in Norfolk earlier in the year. Mr. Bsag had just got a (new to him) camera on eBay (an Olympus OM-D), and was trying it out as we wandered around enjoying the sun. I was using my Sony RX100, which I love, but in the bright sunshine, I couldn’t see what I was framing. The screen is quite good, but in bright sunlight you are basically holding the camera up, pointing it in what you hope is vaguely the right direction, and pressing the shutter. It is very hit and miss. Mr. Bsag’s Olympus had a viewfinder, and he passed it over for me to try. And oh, I had forgotten just how much I love pressing my eye up against that tiny window and looking out at the world through it. It’s not just that you can actually see what you’re doing at when it’s sunny, but — to me at least — it is a much more direct experience. That tiny window on the world is all that you can see, but that makes what you want to capture much more obvious.

And that was it, really. While I still love the Sony for its impossibly tiny size, I really wanted to get a camera with a viewfinder again, and peer out of that little window on the world. After a lot of weighing up of pros and cons, I settled on a Fujifilm X100T, and managed to find a used, but good quality one with a lot of extras on eBay.

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Carolyn pyjamas

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Carolyn pyjamas

My latest sewing project has been a lot of fun: Carolyn pyjamas. I’m normally a t-shirt and jersey pyjama trousers kind of person, but I was taken with this pattern for ‘posh pyjamas’. I bought the pattern, and then around my birthday, I made a special visit to John Lewis to get some fabric befitting of such fancy night attire.

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Bullfinch socks

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Bullfinch Socks

I’ve knitted my first pair of socks. I know, I’m as surprised as you are. I hadn’t knitted for ages, and was so rusty that I actually had to look up how to do knit and purl stitches. So why did I suddenly embark on knitting socks? The short answer is that I fell in love with some yarn.

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Replacing TextExpander with Keyboard Maestro

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If you use TextExpander at all, or follow people who do on App.net or Twitter, you will have noted that there was something of a kerfuffle after Smile (who make TextExpander) announced that they were changing to a subscription model (and thereby increasing the price of using the software substantially). I won’t go into all the arguments (you can read a round up of various opinions collected by Michael Tsai here). Smile have since altered their position, providing a much reduced lifetime subscription cost for current TextExpander customers, and promising to maintain the current version 5 for those who preferred its features to those of the new version. I’m not a great fan of subscriptions, except for more conventional services (like Dropbox and so on) where it makes more sense, so by this point, I had already looked around for an alternative and switched. I was reminded that I already own and run plenty of applications that provide snippet expansion as one of their features: LaunchBar, Alfred, Dash, Keyboard Maestro, and it is even built into the operating system in El Capitan. After a bit of thinking, I went with Keyboard Maestro and have been very happy with the switch.

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