November 2006 Archives

Coming to a pub that never sleeps - the sounds of silence - National: "AUSTRALIAN rockers Jet were booked to play at the Annandale Hotel last night, but there may be no encore for them.

The hotel, a hub of Sydney's music scene since the early 1980s, may be forced to abandon live entertainment if the Land and Environment Court decides not to grant it a 3am licence."

I lived across the road from the Annandale before I packed up and moved to Norway. In fact since 2002 , when I was actually in Oz, my residence has always been within a short stroll of this venue. This was no coincidence, I felt very strongly about the need to keep a live scene going in Sydney and the Annandale was the perfect size for me. Pretty much, if a band got to the point where they felt the Annandale was too small for them, I had probably already lost interest in them. Even international acts - I would prefer to see there.

Yes of course this article is a bit hyped, and there has been a series of biased towards live music and pubs going under due to unfriendly legislation articles in the SMH over the past few years.

But the problem described is real, and as a resident, I saw first hand how much effort this venue has gone to to appease the nearby residents. Annandale is a special suburb in the inner city and it deserves to stay quiet and sleepy. However I think this could be achieved without losing the live music that brings money into the local area. The music related financial injection is not just at night, this section of Parramatta Road is not called the "Music Mile" for nothing. I'm sure many punters have coveted old records, guitars or other instruments in nearby shop windows before or after a gig, then come back in the day when said shop was open.

That said I disagree with Matt Rules statement about how people want music later. Mostly I disagree because it simply isn't true for me. I'm perfectly happy to see the main act finish around 12 and wander home. That doesn't mean the venue should pack up then though. Having a sharp cut-off for the gig at 11:45 and then being ushered out the doors nearly immediately to meet a midnight closing time definitely rubs patrons up the wrong way. This is where the idiocy of those approving the extended trading hours comes into play. If they possessed some sense and had the power to enforce this, they should instead have come to a compromise allow the bands to finish between 12:30 and 1AM, then have the pub continue to open, but only in the smaller secondary bar with a - less well known act playing for another hour or so - say till 2:30 AM) then the pub has half an hour to gracefully move punters on when it finally closes at 3AM.

This would allow the punters to leave gradually, rather than all at once, as many like to stay behind for a beer or three and unwind after the show. A gradual departure would minimise the noise impact on the nearby streets, as the crowd wouldn't all disperse at once. Also, changing parking zoning on the Annandale side, particularly Nelson Street to deny parking at night without a residence permit would help prevent patrons from making noise in these streets as they walked back to their car.

It would also allow the band to socialise with the crowd somewhat. All of which gives the punters a stronger feeling of satisfaction, value for money and having had a good time - they will want to come back again.

I'm not going to even get into the fact that the real issue in the area is the 24-Hour McDonalds across the road, even though the two venues do not share much of the same patronage. I'll just simply state that if the problem was made the responsibility of the State Government rather than leaving this to the two local councils involved, the issue would be rapidly resolved - with the only people losing out possibly being Leichhardt council (with a case of bruised ego).

One can only hope that the changes in the state rules regarding this arrive sooner rather than later. Cause Sydney's live music scene has been on life support for a long time now, if the stupidity of the politicians involved continues it may make unfortunate sense to switch off the life support for good and then watch these self-same politicians suddenly start to complain about the reduction in government revenue from pubs and clubs.

We'd just come home from visiting Astrid's sister, when I noticed a strange object in our backyard. Astrid and I were very surprised as it was a hedgehog, we had seen them around earlier in the year, but thought they wouldn't cope so well with the cold weather we now have.

I snuck inside and got my camera, half expecting the hedgehog to be gone when I got back, but it happily pottered around the backyard foraging for a while while I took some snapshots, this is the best one.

Hedgehog_P1020199.jpg

Also, i've taken many Autumnal pictures over the past few weeks as the colder weather has finally kicked the trees into multi-coloured foliage, these will be slowly posted on my flickr account as i work through processing them.

Astrid's favourite bread is a five grain sourdough recipe from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes.

I've baked this recipe many times now, but always find it amazing how wet the dough starts out feeling.

Anyway, a few days ago I decided to make another loaf of this recipe, the first step requires making a hot grain soaker and a separate liquid levain and leaving for 8 hours or so to allow the levain to mature and the grains to absorb the hot water and swell.

It's getting cold here (or I did something wrong) as my levain didn't work properly. Thinking it needed more time, I just left it. A few days later, it looked decidedly wrong and I realised it wasn't going to work. I'd also (stupidly) left the grain soaker on the bench this whole time.

So I made a fresh levain batch, which worked fine, but I had no more ingredients left for the five seed mix. Giving the existing soaked seeds a sniff, I realised they had started to ferment (despite the salt in the soaker which should have slowed/prevented this) and there was a slightly off odour about the mix.

I decided what the heck, maybe it will all bake out okay and proceeded to mix it all up - left it for a cold overnight rise (this usually helps bring out the sweetness of the flour and I was worried a warmer rise might accentuate the off flavours) and baked the next day.

In the baking I tested out my new silicon baking form, and now I can see why the damn things are so popular. The bread baked fine in the form, and had significant loaf spring, part way through the baking I slipped the loaf out incredibly easily and let it stand free-form on a baking stone to get a more even crust.

I made sure to bake it thoroughly in the hope that the off seed flavour would be baked out, and in tasting it today, it sure has, the seeds are extra soft from their lengthy soaking and the only thing I can detect is maybe a slightly more complex flavour - kind of like what you would expect from a rye sourdough.

Over the years I've benefited a lot from open source software - particularly since the release of OS X.

However it's been a rare time that I've bothered to compile software from source, or debug/alter code to make it compile. I'm not a programmer by trade or hobby, so for me this is often quite a challenge, especially when code is not written to cope with the subtle differences of the OS X development environment.

That said, since I switched to an Intel Mac, i've found many tools are not yet available, people complain about the big items (like Adobe's slow progress in releasing it's Creative Suite in Intel format) for me it's often the smaller tools, that I rely on more each day.

One such tool is MPlayer, originally for linux, it's been available on OS X for a long time but the current official Intel OS X version is pretty bad, mostly because of incompatible code optimisations for other Intel based operating systems. If you search around there are patches available to fix most of this, but these are not yet included in the main code base.

On the flipside, the switch to Intel allows one of the less publicised and much maligned features of MPlayer to be used - for video formats where no open source implementation is available, MPlayer can via some wine trickery use Windows DLL and DirectShow codecs.

This feature was supposedly added in to facilitate the reverse engineering of such propriety formats, it's handy to be able to within the same app, decode video through the proprietary codec and through your in progress open source decoder. For the smarter end user though, it brings video format parity with Windows (at least as long as you run on an i386 chip).

So with plenty of spare time on my hands, I sat down and worked out which bits of patches still applied to the latest MPlayer source code and cranked out a very stable, very compatible media player, with noticeably increased performance over the previous r8 official release.

Right now a pre-compiled universal binary is available for download from my site - MPlayer 1.0rc1 enhanced

You will need the MPlayer binary codecs package for this to work, this is available directly from MPlayer's website Look for Mac OS X x86 - the latest version is 20060611 at the time of writing.

I thought initially that VLC would never offer a similar feature (due to philosophical differences in developer approach) but I've found a guide that indicates it is possible to utilise the mplayer/wine code in VLC - might give that a go next. A lot of people prefer VLC, but to be honest, unless I want to do something very specific, I rarely load VLC.

[update] I've found another issue that impacts all recent MPlayer OS X builds, if you play a file and it has messed up audio, try adding -af format=s16ne to the "advanced settings/addiional parameters" in MPlayer OSX's preferences. This won't fix truly corrupted files, but it does work around files which play normally in other players but not in MPlayer.

This has parallels with the situation I wrote about a while back regarding the increased Wolf population in Norway. I've also noticed this allies with recent research suggests that by rebuilding the native Otter population in England has caused a significant reduction in the incidence of feral introduced Mink.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Dingo has 'vital ecosystem role': "Professor Johnson said he would also like to see large areas of Australia designated as 'wild country', where dingoes were accepted as a natural part of the ecosystem."

I like that the scientists are realistic about getting this idea past only Cattle farmers, as Sheep are small enough to be considered regular prety by Dingoes. However we really need to see that our current approach is completely unsustainable. Maybe letting the system self regulate might be the answer scientists have been avoiding all these years, as it sounds too "holistic" for their tastes!

(Via BBC News.)

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