Thursday, December 24, 2015

One hour until Christmas

Better go to bed, don't want Santa to skip our house.

Going to bed before midnight would be nice. So would waking up to a quiet Christmas day spent with just the three of us (and dog). Sadly not. Instead it's a drive up to the Insular Peninsula for a party with one side and back south by the evening for a dinner with the other.

I'm exhausted. I've been pushing to get this super awesome WordPress theme ready for testing before my co-developer, the designer goes on holiday. Finally set up the test sites last night and then wrote up the authoring and admin instructions from about 7 am and sent them out an hour before work closes for the Christmas break.

Then there were all the other support requests.

Alex has been on holiday for a week now so I had to look after him at the same time, meaning a lot of the recent work was done late at night after he slept. Then there was Christmas shopping and preparing dishes for tomorrow.

I'm knackered!

Oh darn, I just remember I have to make another layer of jelly and let it cool before pouring.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why you think I hate Microsoft

Every popular, or once popular, operating system has its fans. Who doesn't know an Apple fanboy (or fangirl), with their fervent agreement with every utterance from Steve Jobs and now Tim Cook? Or the Linux freedom fighter, for whom a command line equals "desktop ready"? There are even those that can't let go of their Amiga.

But there is another group who are surprisingly not as well recognised. Surprising, because theirs is the most popular opeating system of all, at least as far as personal computers are concerned.

I'm talking about Microsoft.

Let’s be clear about something. I use Microsoft products and have done so for decades. My desktop computers all run Windows, including my work laptop. I used to program in Microsoft BASIC and more recently (though somewhat reluctantly) in C# and .Net. I've maintained Web servers running IIS and even used FrontPage. At work we use Outlook.

Microsoft do make some good and useful products. But in geekdom Microsoft has traditionally been seen as the Evil Empire, to be distrusted and opposed at every opportunity.

So it has come as a shock to find people jumping out of the woodwork to vigorously and publicly defend Microsoft products from criticism.

Fair enough, you say. If they make good products then they should be supported. However, a closer analysis of the defenders' arguments actually illustrates the flaws in Microsoft's traditional strategy and why it has been losing market share.
Yes it is cloud-based allrite, but the fact that you can use it simultaneously across multiple devices with proper version control, op-locking, etc. puts it miles ahead of iOS. Google's services are okay, but as 90+% of the corporate desktop uses Microsoft Office I don't bother with it.

And yes, SharePoint is an incredibly helpful suite if used appropriately. Poor user practices and system implementation does not make it an inferior product. But hey, you could always use TRIM or some other form of EDMS if you're prepared to put up with the pain and lack of mobile support.
SKay, December 11, 2015 
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL phone review: different, but not in a good way
The above comment illustrates very well the issues.

  1. The comment author assumes that the only corporate environments matter and that only Microsoft is suitable for enterprise environments.
  2. They blame the user for not using the product properly rather than the usability of the product.

SharePoint is my tool of choice for revealing the true corporate Microsoft fan. We once did a competitive evaluation between intranet content management systems and invited representatives from Microsoft to pitch SharePoint. They arrived terribly cocky, assuming their product was the best and couldn't be bothered to answer the questions we'd sent them, dismissing them away as "You would need to program it"rather than providing them out of the box like the eventual winner did.

I've used SharePoint at work. It's had gaping usability, standards compliance and systems maintenance issues, yet the Microsoft fans insist that it's suitable for something other than a document sharing platform. Even then it's a version dependent pain compared with, say, Google Docs. Even Microsoft themselves don't seem to love it so much any more.
Now that Internet Explorer has won the browser wars.
That was a quote from a course I attended around three years ago about building websites using .Net. It wasn't true then and it certainly isn't true today (even Microsoft are dumping IE for Edge), especially with so much browsing done on non-Microsoft phones.

But the true Microsoft fan can't see that anyone would seriously use a non-Microsoft product. Their world is the corporate world of centrally managed systems where everything is Microsoft. They seem to struggle to acknowledge that there other enterprise players. After all, in their minds, who would use an Oracle database when SQLServer exists? There is a blindness to alternatives.

This course was funny in that it taught web application development from the perspective of a desktop application developer. They thought web pages should look like and act like Windows desktop applications.

Ha ha. Why would you make something that ugly?

Microsoft has a long history of making stuff ups with regards to the Internet and the Web. Rather than stick to agreed third party standards they subverted them with products that produced ugly and bloated code that only worked properly in Microsoft products. I have had enough of trying to fix Microsoft Office and FrontPage generated HTML to last me a lifetime.

You see, Microsoft has traditionally been the enemy of interoperability. You want to use something outside of their environment? You always run into some barrier they've erected, some proprietary extension that is required to do what other products can handle almost seamlessly.

To be fair I think Microsoft has been changing under Satya Nadella and embracing a lot more openness and standards, but many of their supporters still seem to be stuck in the old ways. To a Microsoft fan it's your fault if you want something different. It's the Microsoft Way or the Highway.

Me, I like the highway. It's more scenic, usually cheaper and full of interesting things to explore and learn from. And if the diehard Microsoft fan gets in the way? There's always an alternative route, they just can't see it for themselves.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Doughman and the karate tournament

I had a very strange dream this morning. I was in a Will Ferrell movie. He was a villain called Doughman and I was fighting him. At one I almost defeated him but a small nodule of dough remained and began expanding into two plates of flat dough. I kept pounding them but Ferrell's face would appear in the dough to taunt me. So I turned them into two plates of pasta with a tomato sauce. The solution was to eat the pasta in the hope that the stomach acid would kill him.

I woke up then, but you know exactly what would have happened. Yes, Doughman would have become Spewman.

You should note that this dream occurred prior to me taking a big strike to the head at the karate tournament.

I was definitely the Doughman there. Somehow I summoned up the courage to join Alex in competing in our dojo's annual tournament. He's been doing it for almost a year now and has a red belt but I had to give it away for six months due to a foot injury and haven't even graded yet. No other senior white belts were in attendance today. Senior, that makes me feel really old now, especially when Alex is still a Pee Wee!

Me on the left getting belted

Alex in gladiator

Alex did well, adding another silver in kumite to the one he won at the warm up tournament last term. And he won both his matches in the gladiator, though his team did not progress.

Me, I got a bronze in the kata, but that's because there were only three of us competing. And a bumped head in kumite where there were four. But I did score a couple of points and I'm satisfied with that.

The things we do to set a good example for our kids...

So I may not be great at karate, but I reckon I could write a pretty decent movie script. In my sleep.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Leigh Creek

This month sees the closure of South Australia's last coal fired powerstation and the subsequant cessation of mining at Leigh Creek. Whilst it gladdens me to see another step towards cleaner energy the Leigh Creek operation does hold some special memories for me.

I was nine years old when my family began their big move away from Melbourne on a trip that was supposed to take us all around Australia. By Easter of 1984 we had got as far as the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.

We drove across from Rawnsley Bluff outside of Hawker to the town of Leigh Creek on the other side of the ranges. At that time the town was brand new, the population shifted from old Leigh Creek, now a giant hole in the ground, dug up for coal.

The town was sterile, souless from all appearances, many of the buildings prefabricated. But interestingly different from the bluestone and sandstone historic towns that we had been passing through on the trip.

We went on a guided tour of the mine and were overwhelmed by the size of the machinery in use. Dump trucks with tyres taller than the height of a person.

As we walked along we were allowed to pick up some pieces of coal. I cracked them open to see the imprint of ancient leaves. It truly brought home to me that this was fossil fuel, made from the stuff of life that had died hundreds of millions of years ago.

What a contrast between the town and the reason for its existence!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Stardust and satay

We are all star dust, the stuff of exploding stars. But this post has nothing to do with astronomy. On Saturday we took Alex to Stardust Circus, his first such event under a tent.

I think I was about Alex's age when I first attended a circus, as part of a school outing. It may have been Stardust or, more likely I think, Silver's Circus.

I don't know if circuses have shrunk or perhaps we have just got bigger, but the Big Top didn't seem so big now.

Along the roadside there were animal rights protestors waving placards against the treatment of circus animals. Outside I overhead circus staff claiming it gave them free publicity, but inside the ringmaster was careful to explain that the animals were kept well.

I will not delve into the ethics of showing the lions, including a 8 month old cub, rhesus monkeys, ponies, pigs and other beast, but I found myself liking those components least of all anyway. Except for the dogs. But then I know how much dogs love the interactions and challenges, assuming that they were treated well.

Animal feats seem so unnecessary when compared with the displays of human acrobatics and the clown humour, both of which Alex loved best as well.

The performances seemed less spectacular and less polished than I recall, but perhaps again that is through the eyes of an adult.

I had to laugh at the music in the introduction to the trapeze act. Back at my first circus they played the disco version of Star Wars before the trapeze. A decade or so later, at a Silver's Circus performance in Queensland it was the same.

This time they played the full orchestral main title to Star Wars. It's good that somethings don't really change.

There was a gorgeous rainbow on our way home.

Sunday saw us at the Malaysian Festival at Pyrmont Bay Park. We had a pleasant, though packed, tram ride down there and enjoyed some Malaysian snacks. The satay from Loong Fong was really good and I love the Seremban siu pau from Sweet Rita's Nyonya Treats. Pity I can't find a restaurant for them both, Loong Fong only serves bak kwa at their Chatswoord outlet. Bak kwa is a form of sweet and spicy pork jerky that I have utterly gone off after being force fed it for our daily breakfast (along with almond jelly) by one of B's Aunts during my first trip to Singapore.

The construction work around Darling Harbour is very impressive, but I hope they return the family atmosphere once they are done. We had to purchase a Chinese costume for Alex's Mandarin class presentation. Fortunately, there is a small stall at Paddy's Markets that sells such things.

And so ended the first week of school holidays.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Arncliffe revisited

It was six years ago, almost to the day, that I visited Arncliffe in Sydney's south and remarked upon the English appearance of a disused kiosk building adjacent to the station. I happened by Arncliffe on Thursday last week and noticed in passing that the building has either been demolished and replaced or rendered to look like a generic McMansion from anywhere in a newer Sydney suburb.

August 2009
August 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Cocky Asian
Just labels

Sunday, July 26, 2015


The Moon waxes gibbous at the zenith, in the claws of Scorpio ready to be struck by the stellar tail. The stars themselves look close enough to touch in a sky cleansed by the fearsome winds. As residents cower inside darkened houses, sheltering from the icy gale, who knows what fey creatures roam the world outside. This is a night for the spirits to make their presence felt as the world sleeps beneath them.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Was early yesterday
River of red lanterns

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


On a trip to Malaysia in October 2014 I discovered a mobile phone brand Ninetology advertising themselves everywhere. Having never heard of them before I looked them up. Here's how they described themselves:

Ninetology, prominently stands tall in the eyes of ASEAN as the most innovative company with extensive growth capabilities beyond expectations. Developed by elites and strongly driven by our league of experts with more than a decade of experience below their belts, we indulge in the golden rule to further our rapid movement throughout ASEAN.

The company evidently crafted a name for itself within just few years along with expeditious development of quality smart devices, instilled with world-class technologies. Giants of the communication industry, of both local and international networks have come together with Ninetology in creating a whole new platform of all-rounded communication accessibility. Ninetology is not just about smart phones; it is an ecosystem upholding the most intelligent way of communication and assurance of worldwide connectivity.

Ninetology is marching fast and closer in achieving its ultimate goal as the hub of mobile intelligence and a one-stop brand for great ASEAN innovations. We are on the right track, looking at the milestone of progressions as the largest mobile technology provider across the region.

Definitely deserving of an award for the best use of buzzwords without actually saying anything.

They were obviously original thinkers when it came to language as they named one of their tablets the Outlook Xpress (sounds familiar?).

Less than a year later and it looks like the company doesn't exist any more. Maybe this headline explains why:

Ninetology LTE phone can rival Amazon Fire

If you haven't heard of the Amazon Fire, Wired had this to say:

The Amazon Fire Phone was always going to fail

Even the slickest marketing cannot replace building products that people actually want.

It turns out that Ninetology were acquired by AVAXX, who it turns out are not associated with the anti-vaccination network (anti-vaxxers):


We may be young & dynamic, but we've an age-old philosophy on service.

Our very NAME is testimony to this discipline.

AVAXX is acronym for Achieving Very Admirable Xcellence by going the Xtra mile. This is the inspirational fire that propels us to do better than the norm. It is more than an internal motivational battle cry. It is, for all intent and purposes, our daily way of life.

How does this relate to you?

Well, it is our aspiration that from your perspective, AVAXX would soon be an acronym for A Very Awesome Xperience Xceeding expectations. So your rewarding experience is the result of our continuous dedications to service.

As you deal with us more and more, you will be convinced of our commitment: that as you constantly search for opportunities and solutions in telecommunications and IT, so shall we continue to enhance your lifestyle by empowering you with innovative cellular and wireless telecommunications products and services.

At AVAXX, we aim not just to be responsive but proactive to your needs.

Reinforcing the above esprit de corps is our Corporate LOGO.

In keeping with the essence of technology - change - our Logo design is highly contemporary with a high-tech feel. It is at the same time avant-garde solid.

Or they could just say what they really do: Distribute Nokia phones.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Alex and computers

I was rather pleased to see Alex playing with Scratch this morning. It's a free Flash web tool designed for kids that enables them to write programs by connecting a variety of elements together. I think it's quite good for teaching kids about loops and logic.

I have also installed Microsoft Small Basic on his machine, though it might be a bit advanced for a six year old. Not for long, though.

Alex is rather obsessed with computers and is very comfortable using them. Right now he's very proud of his ability to change the desktop background in Windows 8. He also made his own slideshow movie with Movie Maker and another with YouTube.

The obsession can be rather funny though. He may be the only person who like Ctrl-Alt-Del and typing in passwords, getting rather upset that you don't have to do it this way for home machines, unlike enterprise systems at school and work.

He also wanted Word and PowerPoint. Unwilling to shell out further money for both until he actually needs them, I installed LibreOffice instead and told him that it was the latest version, newer than at school (him being used to this with Windows 8.1 instead of the school's Windows 7) and that's why the icons are different.

I must get him on to Linux as well. He prefers the iPad to his Windows 8 convertible laptop/tablet, but the reason I chose the latter is that it runs Adobe Flash, which a lot of educational websites, including Scratch, still require.

Unfortunately, the Microsoft Parental Controls are an annoying pain to use, though still beneficial when it comes to learning what not to click on.

What I really need to get working on is controls on YouTube to prevent certain useless topics from being displayed (e.g. EvanTubeHD, adult reviews of toys and endless computer game commentary). There's so much else that's educational or creative that could be watched instead.

I think back to reading my parents' 1950s medical textbooks, full of grotesque diseases largely unknown due to vaccines and antibiotics. Now Alex watches the highly educational Operation Ouch on ABC iView and can tell us the most remarkable medical facts. I'm quite envious actually!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Department Stores

Back when I was a young child growing up in Melbourne my father used to take me on special outings to the Myer department store, usually around the time of my birthday or Christmas. We'd park outside the hospital where Dad taught and walk into the city. The smell of warm nuts would welcome me into the store, then we'd go up past the clothes, the sports and camping gear, up to the toy section where I would chose a Star Wars or Lego toy for my present and dream about getting another model train from their wall of them.

The Myer Flagship store in Melbourne

Later we moved to the city of Rockhampton in Central Queensland. We had a couple of father and son shopping days there too, where we'd wander around the city, looking for a present. Again, I longed for a department store like Myer. There was Stewarts, an old building with multiple levels. It had that sense of age about it, but it only sold clothes and soft furnishings, nothing of interest to a kid. That was disappointing.

Nearby, Milroys sold more, but I don't recall anything of interest there until its closing down sale when the shelves were filled with an strange selection of odds and ends: Racing car tracks without racing cars, a stack of Bib Fortuna Star Wars figurines.

And that was it for department stores in Rocky. There was the K-Mart, the BigW, but they are one storey, modern affairs, full of cheaper goods and no atmosphere.

To me a city isn't a real city unless it has a proper department store.

The Takashimaya department store in Matusyama, Japan.
But, according to the sales figures, the department stores are dying now. Their eclectic selections work against them in this consumerist society with all the world's goods at their fingertips. We all want the biggest ranges and the cheapest prices and too time poor to wander aimlessly we'll order it online and send it directly home.

As a consequence the department store has streamlined and reduced what it sells. I go into a Myer now and the toy section is often tiny and not just shrunk by adult eyes. No wall of Star Wars or model trains, just a few choices hanging on a rack (Lego might be the exception, with all their different options now). Computers reduced to a couple of small tables, maybe three brands in all.

I love the old fashioned department stores. I don't know why. Maybe it's because they are not like a regular shop that sells a single type of good, where you enter with a single defined purpose. There's the mystery, never knowing what you will find on each level as you wander through the maze of aisles, through islands of goods in a sea of paths, at each opening of the lift or the top of each escalator new discoveries to be made. There is something tangible about shopping in a real department store that online shopping can't match.

And it seems that I am not alone in believing this.


My thoughts about the justice system in general, in an ideal sense:

A) The victim wants the offender punished. They want them to feel and understand the hurt that they have caused.
B) Society wants to be protected.

For A) you want the offender to feel a sense of guilt, a pain that makes them regret committing the offence.

Punishments of yore

B) Is more complicated as you have a number of factors.

  1. Deterrence - preventing the committing of an offence in the first place due to fear of punishment.
  2. Removal of opportunity - A custodial or capital sentence removes the offender from society thus preventing them from committing further crimes
  3. Restitution - Paying for/repairing the damage caused (not always possible). This is very specific and will be ignored in this discussion.
  4. Reform - Changing the character of the offender and removing the desire to commit further crimes and turning them into a productive rather than a destructive member of society.

Added into the mix is C. Issue of human rights. From a societal, not offender's, perspective, it is "How do our actions as a society reflect and impact on our society." This includes issues like wrong convictions and punishment of the innocent, the impact of punishment on society - what kind of society are you building through vigilante justice or public stonings for example?

I know that if I was the victim of crime I would be very angry and want to cause a lot of pain towards the offender. However, civilised laws are made by societies and not individuals, which is why they are usually about B and C and not A.

Unfortunately, getting the balance of 1,2,3,4 and C seems very difficult. The Scandinavian examples place a strong emphasis on reform with lower rates of recidivism than many other countries , but sometimes fail at removing the opportunity to commit further crimes. In the US and Australia it often seems like criminals, especially petty ones, come out of gaol worse than when they go in and are as such incarcerated for longer.

The death penalty offers the ultimate prevention of further offences without the need for reform, but can fail badly at human rights (especially for the innocent).

And as for deterrence, it seems to work best for rational people who are least likely to commit an offence anyway.

The biggest problem with getting things right is that not all people are equal when it comes to criminal behaviour, due to the nature of their brains and the environment that shaped them. Psychopaths have been shown to be largely incapable for understanding (or caring about) punishment, so deterrence simply doesn't work. Same with those driven to irrationality by taking drugs. Does an angry drunk think about gaol when they lash out? The compulsion to commit further crimes may, in certain cases, be too great to reform. This seems to be the case for many mass murderers and sex offenders.

But it's not true of every criminal. And the brain does change as one ages. For instance, adolescent male brains struggle to comprehend risk, which is why we see so many young people overconfidently driving too fast, jumping into big waves etc etc etc. Ten years later they will probably be a different person.

Ideally society could identify potential criminals as children and work on their behaviour to steer them away from crime. It's a lot of work to do so.

My personal belief is that if somebody is a strong potential threat to society - segregate them from society until they are no longer a threat. If they have reformed and are no longer a threat then release them. Put effort into reforming them into productive members of society. From a resources perspective, once they are productive you aren't paying for them any more.

And the death penalty is wrong because the justice system can be wrong.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Brown days in Sydney

Sometimes in Sydney on the days like today when the fires are burning the sky takes on a hazy Asian tinge. As I walked to work, hungry from a lack of breakfast, I could imagine a small food stall along the footpath, trestle tables and plastic chairs to the side, patrons slurping steaming bowls of noodles and soup or snacking on goreng pisang from little plastic bags.

Except that, being Sydney, it wouldn't be a rickety old stall but a coffee cart manned by hipster baristas serving styrofoam coffees and muffins shipped from a factory on the other side of the city.

Oh well, I can but dream.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Piggy bank maths

It feels strange watching Alex learn the basics of mathematics. So many solutions that come so naturally to me are a struggle for him, not through lack of intelligence on his part, but from their unfamiliarity as he tries to understand the basic concepts.

This morning it was money. When you think about it there's a lot of basic arithmetic stored in a piggy bank.

Alex wanted a milky pop from the canteen. That's 10 cents. Now he wants 5. For most of us that's easy, 5 x 10c = 50c. But he's barely touched on multiplication yet, so it's back to addition.

Fortunately, they've done counting on tens (a prelude to multiplication), otherwise the addition is very painful.

Okay, so we've got the first answer, now the problem is how to make it with coins. If you don't have a 50c coin then you need to make 50 from smaller denominations, say 2 x 20c and 1 x 10c. Again, we've got multiplications going on, or counting on twenties.

Then he wants to buy one for his friend. So now we have 5 + 1 = 6 milky pops. And we need to add 10c to the total cash required.

My spelling all that out was torturous, wasn't it? But that's the least level of detail required when you are starting out. For me now, I don't even have to consciously think about such sums. This level of mathematics is more of an emotional response than intellectual. Relationships between numbers have become intuitive feelings. Coins have shapes, you don't even have to think about the numbers on them, you just know how they fit together to make new numbers.

But I can see that developing in Alex. Sometimes he'll immediately pick the right answer to a mathematical question and it's only when he starts thinking about it too hard that he might struggle and get it wrong. It's fascinating to watch.

Communicating science

I recently read an article somewhere how versions of Pythagoras' Theorem were independently "discovered" in Egypt, India and China prior to its namesake. Why then do we associate it with a single Greek?

It is not uncommon for scientific and mathematical discoveries to occur multiple times. So who chooses the credit?

Communication plays no small part in this. The more widely a discovery is communicated, the more awareness there is of a result, the less chance that it will be repeated as if new. That means researchers can put their efforts into something new rather than wasting time on reinvention of the old.

Science communication shouldn't just be about promoting ideas for money and prestige, it should also be for ensuring that knowledge is accessible, not hidden away in some dark corner.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


I chose to believe that humans have three purposes. One is the purpose of life itself: To survive.

The other purposes are those that raise us above all other known species: To understand and to create.

The better our understanding the Universe the better we serve our first purpose as well and the better we can create.

It disappoints me that so many believe that our purpose is to believe or to gain personal wealth and power to the subversion of all other goals.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular 2015

Each fan has their own Doctor. Maybe their Doctor wasn't the greatest actor. Maybe he didn't have the best scripts. But he's the one they grew up with, who held their hand as they ventured into time and space.

For me it's Peter Davison. For B, David Tennant. Alex has Matt Smith. I wonder if Colin Baker has anyone?

That's the level and target of humour on display at the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular 2015, as hosted again by my Doctor. B and Alex complained it flew right over their heads, but there were enough true Whovians in the audience to laugh loudly.

Another year, another Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and another Symphonic Spectacular, my fourth. I attended this one in my current city of abode, Sydney. Last time it was here, The Metropolitan Orchestra performed at the Opera House, today it was Qantas Credit Union Arena, formerly the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

I think it sounded better, although a bit too much sound appeared to come from the speakers above us rather than the orchestra proper. We were at the side of the stage, near the bottom of the ring, a lot closer to the action than the previous three times. That meant seeing Mr Davison up closer too, though sadly none of the aliens actually came up the stairs close to us, as they would have done in previous concerts had we been so close.

The Metropolitan Orchestra was joined by the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and soloist singer Antoinette Halloran. All sounded virtually perfect and I was very impressed. Conductor Ben Foster was amazing to watch up close, conveying and sharing in the emotion of the music through his baton skills, and adding the odd bit of interaction with Peter Davison and "acting" (courtesy of mentor Colin Baker). As an aside, his own compositions are well worth a listen as well.

I was very pleased with the selection of music this time. The soundtrack to Series 8 hasn't been released yet, so that music was still quite fresh and new. But there were also some of the best themes from back to the beginning of the series' reboot. A good balance was struck in my opinion.

The programme is listed below with some brief notes.

A Good Man?

The Thirteenth Doctor's theme might sound simple at first listen, but its driven energy has made it a real highlight of the last season. I had shivers down my spine as the orchestra started playing it.

Wherever, Whenever (Anywhere in Time and Space)

A suite of highlights from Series 8, the music mostly soared, but had some quieter moments. Despite my previously brief acquaintance with many of the themes I really enjoyed it.

The Doctor's Theme/Song of Freedom

A combination of the wonderful Doctor's Theme Series 4 and the Song of Freedom, also from that series, this was magnificent, the reminder on the big screen of the Doctor and his companions, including Sarah Jane Smith (the late Elizabeth Sladen) saving the Universe from the Daleks just made it more poignant.

The Companions

The Doctor's companions returned with this medley of beautiful themes for Rose, Martha, Donna and Amy. It's funny how Alex reacted best to Donna's section, even though it's one of my least favourite parts.

To Darkness

The ominous and powerful chorus of the Daleks, mostly from Series 4, followed by new music for the Series 8 episode "Into the Dalek". Of course there were Daleks in the theatre doing their schtick.

Last Christmas Suite

Music from the latest Christmas special. Like many of the Christmas specials, it was a bit light on depth, but still enjoyable.

We then had an interval for 20 minutes.

All the Strange, Strange Creatures

A favourite from Series 3, this music is dedicated to the large number of aliens that the Doctor battles or befriends. Many of them appeared around the venue. I was glad that this was the introduction to the second session because it is one of Alex's best loved themes.

The Impossible Girl

Clara's gentle and whimsical theme, a highlight from the last couple of series.

66 Seconds

The scary mummy on the space borne Orient Express made an appearance, scaring Alex a little. New music and not so familiar, I'll reserve judgement for now.

The Pandorica Suite

Music from the final episodes of Series 5, it also featured in the first two concerts. But it's exciting and the look on Alex's face when it closed with the wonderful "I am the Doctor" theme, otherwise missing from this concert, was priceless. 

Abigail's Song

The beautiful song from "A Christmas Carol" is one of the concert staples, and deservedly so.

Fifty - This is Gallifrey

First heard in Series 3, this is another favourite, evoking the Doctor's memories of his childhood home. Unlike the first couple of times it was played at the concerts there were no visuals of regenerations, so no disruptive cheers from the audience. Instead it was set to scenes of the 50th anniversary special. I loved it.

Death in Heaven Suite

The Master (well, Missy now) and the Cybermen return in the Series 8 finale. Exciting and uplifting (literally), the suite includes the theme for the latest Doctor, making for a fantastic finale for the printed program.

Naturally, there were encores.

Vale Decem

The dramatically sad song for the demise of David Tennant's much loved Doctor featured visuals for each of his regenerations, bringing out cheers from the audience (though strangely lacking for Colin Baker).

Doctor Who Theme

You knew it would end like this. And of course it should, with such and energetic and exciting rendition of the classic theme.

All in all an excellent performance. I hope the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular has many more regenerations left in it!

Previous concerts

Apologies for the photos, only pocket cameras were allowed in, so I only had my mobile phone.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Welcome to 2015

Happy New Year! I greeted it as 2014 turned into 2015, up the top of our driveway, watching the fireworks over the distant city and the valley around us.

A morning swim before the Sun strikes the pool and forces us to seek shelter from its cancerous rays. Then, while Mother-in-law looked after Alex, B and I headed off to Miranda to watch the final episode of The Hobbit in "The Shire". Probably the best of the three movies.

On our arrival home we confirmed that there was no gas for the BBQ, eating cold prawns and salad for our first dinner of the new year rather than miso marinaded steak. It was a pleasant meal in the heat.

Then an evening swim in the pool, the waters above 30C, colourful fairy lights and lanterns above us and the Moon flickered behind the drifting clouds edged by the last of the Sun's light.

And as the day draws to a close, flashes and thunder as a great grey cloud chases away the heat of the day.

Welcome to 2015.

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