Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Empire Strikes Back in Concert

The latest in the film with live orchestra concerts series was Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. I have a story to tell about The Empire Strikes Back, but I think I shall keep it for next time. I have tickets for Melbourne, where the story resides. For now let me tell you about the Sydney concert.
Like Star Wars: A New Hope, tonight's concert was held at new Sydney's International  Conference and Convention Centre in Darling Harbour. The theatre is huge and I was seated quite far from the orchestra, though in the middle. The distance detracted from the excitement of watching the orchestra up close, their movement adding to experience. At least I could see the entire orchestra.
Nicholas Buc, who seems to be in Japan, was replaced in conducting duties by Hamish McKeich from New Zealand. Unlike Buc and some of the other previous conductors, McKeich gave no introduction to the audience, no encouragement to cheer at opportune moment. Indeed the audience was rather passive tonight, applause fairly scattered until the end.
I wasn't fussed by this as I was there for the music and indeed it was good to clearly hear the orchestra over the movie. I did wonder if the sound was rather enhanced by the speakers, at that distance it was a little difficult to tell.
The Empire Strikes Back is one of those soundtracks and movies I know back to front. Before the full score was available I used to listen to an audio recording of the movie, mentally filtering out the dialogue and effects. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra performed to my satisfaction, the live experience allowing me to pick out sounds somewhat lost in the recordings. A few little niggles with the pacing of the opening and closing bars, but that was it for any criticism of the performance.
The movie was naturally the post-prequels special edition which meant that some parts of the score sat uncomfortably with the spliced in scenes. The addition of sequences of Darth Vader returning to his Star Destroyer from Cloud City were particularly unnecessary and only served to disrupt the thrilling score for Luke's rescue. But there is no point screaming "Nooooooo!" anymore.
I'm looking forward to seeing the concert again with the superb Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the end of the year. In great news you can also include these film music concerts as a package in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra's 2019 season. I was apparently their very first online subscriber for 2019 so I have Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens to look forward to next year as well!
May the Force be with you.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Extracting strawberry DNA

Following the instructions in Double Helix Issue 24 2018 to extract DNA from strawberries using common kitchen items and chemicals, plus methylated spirits, while keeping an eye on their blog to ensure it doesn't crash under load!

Mixing salt, detergent and water
Mashing up the strawberry with the detergent mix
After adding the chilled meths the DNA separates at the top
Sticky DNA!

Monday, July 09, 2018

3 Days of Winter School Holidays

Just about finished the third day of the winter school holidays and already:

  • Made a heartbeat flashing birthday card using Chibi lights.
  • Did two hours of karate
  • Chilled out during medieval reenactments at Winterfest
  • Donuts and pies at Berry (plus a birthday party)
  • Finished the Multivariate Calculus in Machine Learning Course
  • Almost finished editing a technical document for B
  • Helped Alex program the MicroBit and built touch buttons as lift controls*
  • Took him for a hair cut
  • Made pesto
  • Did my work
  • Watched a little bit of Runaway on SBS and wondered if some people in the robotics group were like Gene Simmons character.

Not sure how to survive the whole holidays at this rate!

Over the same period last year I was with the family in Nagoya, Takayama and Unazuki Onsen in Japan after doing the Northernmost and Easternmost stations in Hokkaido. Poor Japan is suffering severe flooding again. Last year it was Kyushu, this time Southern Honshu and Shikoku. 

* More information later. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Mazda - Then and Now

Four years ago today we visited the Mazda Museum and factory in Hiroshima. Today, a new Mazda 6. A long way since the second hand Mazda 626 that did 275,000 kilometres.

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