Sunday, October 23, 2016

Budapest IV

Progress is still slow. However, I got a partial quotation from a builder, and I now know what the kitchen will cost, and approximate costs for floors.

Pending finalising costs and getting a programme for getting it done before the heat death of the universe, I've been sightseeing. Although there's a comprehensive public transport network, I've walked bluddy miles in both kinds of weather. 

Roman baths at Florian ter flyover
Aquincum theatre
Aquincum in the rain
Aquincum colonnade
Aquincum: Painter's House reconstruction
Sunset over Pest
Buda Castle and the Danube
Elisabeth Bridge
Arpad Bridge and Margaret Island. Sunny weather
The other kind of weather

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Budapest III

Progress is agonisingly slow.

Builder No.1 turned up, listened to what I wanted to do, and said he's get back to me within a week. Then he disappeared into the aether, and two weeks later has been impossible to contact.

Builder No.2 appreciated my plans, noted that I know what I want and have some understanding of construction, and then told me that he's fully booked and can't possibly take on any new work until at least January next year. So why talk to me at all, if you've just signed contracts and filled your order book? Because I know what I'm talking about and there's limited chance of ripping me off, perhaps?

Builder No.3 appears keen, having been to the apartment twice and taken copious notes and measurements. But still no cost and time estimate. I'm stuck in Budapest at $35/day and achieving very little.

Not entirely true. I have made repeated visits to the premises and taken many measurements. The kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom layouts are pretty much finalised. I have an appointment early next week with a kitchen design specialist, and I have sources for tiles and hardwood flooring lined up.

The latest, and hopefully final, kitchen layout
Still no news on replacement windows and doors, nor on central heating or bathroom fittings.

As I said: agonisingly slow.


Thursday, October 06, 2016

Budapest II

So the Goat has met a builder and is awaiting a quote. He is meeting a second builder on Friday, and a third the following Tuesday. He's also been discussing tiling for walls and floors.


All manner of ceramic tiles are available, but blue terrazzo is inexplicably Not Coming In Budapest. The Goat has been on Facebook Messenger and Skype with Beloved Wife in an attempt to get an agreeable colour scheme, and to this end he's spent interminable hours in front of Google SketchUp.

The hallway with blue floor tiles
The hallway with slate tiles

The bathroom with slate

The kitchen with slate

The kitchen with blue terrazzo on the floor

The kitchen with wood worktops and floor
 No decisions have yet been made, except the layout of the kitchen is fixed so the power and water points can be finalised.


Monday, October 03, 2016

Budapest I

The exterior
The Goat has been busy since his contract in Qatar reached its logical conclusion.

Beloved Wife and her Goat have now got into the minefield known as ‘real estate’.

Having looked at numerous properties in Budapest, the Goat agreed that ‘The FixerUpper’ was the one that they’d want if only it were possible. And then the Goat suddenly reached the end of his contract in Doha and thus a construction industry project manager became available to oversee renovation of a fin de siècle apartment. 

There’s a lot of work to do. The place needs a total rewire, replumbing, new heating system, and gutting the gas system. The heating system consists of three horrible and ancient gas heaters that will have to go before they kill all the occupants by vomiting carbon monoxide… A combination boiler that will deliver hot water at the taps and for the heating is a major part of the refurbishment.

The master bedroom
 A wall needs to be moved, or more accurately demolished and a new one built a couple of metres away. Glorious parquet flooring will be retained where possible, a new kitchenette will be built, and the old and rather barren kitchen will become a master bedroom.

The kitchen
The kitchen and sitting room
The bathroom and toilet are both completely horrible, a situation made worse by the existence of the toilet in the ghastly German style.

Current advice includes that refurbishing the windows is probably more effort and cost than simply replacing them, and the old wooden units would still be draughty.

The Goat is currently preparing layouts in AutoCAD. He discovered that this building is far from square, which will be interesting. He’s staying in Budapest, seeing quotes from builders to do the work. Of course, all the really good English speakers are in the UK doing the ‘Polish plumber’ thing, so language may be an issue. Fun, innit?


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Raving

Six years in the State of Qatar made me richer; made me fatter;
Killed my student overdraft and bought a Nissan from some guy.
Just as I got comfortable came some unexpected trouble:
Made redundant. At the double, found a new job in Dubai.
Said to Qatar, “That’s goodbye”
Sold my stuff. Away did fly.

Then the global downturn floored us. Thus I got my marching orders.
Off I went to Abu Dhabi in a tiny rental car
Where it seems they were desiring those ambitious; those aspiring
Engineers, and they were hiring. It was close, but no cigar,
And so I said my au revoir
And found myself back in Qatar.

Now here comes a huge bombshell: I’d walked into the Job From Hell.
There really wasn’t anything that I could do to fix the mess.
Yet my slippy-shouldered boss who didn’t really give a toss
Or care who he could double-cross, he drowned me under piles of stress.
My valedictory address
Might well have been an SOS.

Thus I left, and I was banned , such are the rules of that fair land.
I had to wait two years, and then agreed to six months’ self-torment.
My brain had clearly gone haywire. I went from frying pan to fire
Because, alas, it did transpire that nobody would give consent
To anything I could present.
Hence my insanity descent.

“Six months,” they said, and two years on I can escape. Yes’ I’ll be gone.
I tried, but I’m not good enough to cope with this benighted place.
My shackles struck, and my release must surely offer me some peace:
The stress and grief at least will cease; I’m really not a waste of space.
And I’m not leaving in disgrace,
But entering the marketplace.


Saturday, August 06, 2016

Synch or swim

I’ve been attempting to improve my playing by the traditional method: practice. For grins mainly, I’ve posted some of my attempts on YouTube under my human alias, with a mixture of recorders and EWI, along with the computer playing along.

The rather splendid MuseScore website carries what appears to be crowdsourced sheet music, and a free download to read and to write music manuscript, and then to arrange it for bagpipes and taiko drum if you like, although I’ve generally been sticking to flute and strings and rearranging for recorder of playing along.

Telemann’s Canonic Sonata No.1 Allegro, for example, has two flutes playing the same tune with Flute 2 exactly one bar (two beats) behind Flute 1. I turned off Flute 2 and played that part, with Flute 1 and the scrolling sheet music being handled by the computer. The sound was all picked up by the computer’s internal microphone and the webcam captured the video to prove that it was actually Muggins playing.

The other software I use is the free Audacity, which captures just the sound and records it on one channel. Subsequent recordings go on separate channels that can then be edited for volume and timing, and the whole thing mixed. Multi-part playing becomes possible.

My video editing software is the free version of Cyberlink Power Director, so I can, at least theoretically, cut video of my playing each track into a single video file.

That’s a lot of skills to learn: playing, reading music, video capture, audio capture, video editing, audio editing…

Now on to the technicalities of audio capture.

The computer’s internal microphone is appalling. It’s designed for basic voice capture so that Skype is possible. I tried an external hand-held microphone, but that’s simply not sensitive enough. Instrument-mounted mics are both expensive and Not Coming in Doha™. Any noise gets picked up while recording,which includes all the other tracks that are playing, plus the air conditioning, plus any random bleeps and pings if the computer reports any incoming messages, virus alerts, yadda yadda.

One possible solution is to follow the sheet music and play in silence, and have the computer pick up just the line being played. Synching multiple lines then becomes impossible because real rhythm tends to drift without some audio feedback. It does when I’m playing, and I’ve got a good enough sense of rhythm to play drums. A metronome gets picked up on the same audio track and can’t be removed. Another approach is to play along to the other parts, but to pipe these into an earpiece so that I can hear what I’m playing with one ear, hear what the computer’s playing with the other, watch the sheet music, and capture only my live instrument.

Theoretically plugging in an acoustic instrument can work with a flute mic that’ll only pick up what a wind instrument is producing without all the ambient noise. Expensive and Not Coming in Doha™(q.v.)

It’s all a little easier with the EWI. I can plug the output from that instrument directly into the computer as if it’s an external mic. When I play the synch track through the computer I can hear it, but the computer only records what is coming out of the EWI. But because nothing is easy, I can’t hear what I’m playing. So I have to plug the EWI into a separate speaker. I’ve got a Fender Mustang Mini practice amp, so I use that. It’s the one I use for playing when I’m not using headphones and am disinclined to show consideration to my neighbours.

The net result, once I’ve made separate clean audio recordings of each line and separately captured each as audio and video, I can mix the audio and then add that to the video tracks. I do need to get all the video playback speeds exactly right so that audio and video match, and this is proving a challenge. Perhaps I need to pay for better video editing software, or learn how to use the package I’ve got.

The other thing, which is actually pivotal to success, is learning how to play the bluddy instruments!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Meanwhile, in Dunkrugerstan

The Minister of Rubber Stamps had previously told the Trusted Advisor that he was required to comply with the Old Rule Book. One part of the design required that a desirable minimum value of 55 be used, but an absolute minimum allowed value was 30.

So the Trusted Advisor's design generally used more than 55, and in one or two places where this was not possible, he used between 31 and 35.

And the Minister of Rubber Stamps was displeased. "You must use 55," he said. Use of 30 is not allowed."

"It is according to the Old Rule Book," advised the Trusted Advisor.

"Then," said the Minister of Rubber Stamps," You must submit a detailed report that explains why you have not exceeded 55. We will let you go down to 36, which is permitted by the New Rule Book, provided you submit a report that I may or may not approve, at my whim.

"Or you can tear down what you have built and apply to demolish the Grand Frommaj's new stables to make 55 fit."

The Trusted Advisor shook his head. "The New Rule Book says we can use 26."

The Minister went purple with rage. "Which part of 'You must use the Old Rule Book' do you not understand?"

"The part where compliance is now, after 19 years since publication, suddenly not acceptable."


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