Music Mule: new London music site

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I’ve been forwarded an email about Music Mule:

a site to recommend gigs in London. The main focus is upcoming bands (last year early tips were Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, MGMT) or those just below the radar. The site is equally for those who know their music and those who like the idea of going to watch a gig but wouldn’t know where to start. You can download or stream some sample music from the site, watch some videos. If anything takes your liking then there are easy links to where you can buy tickets and how to get to the gig.

It looks alright. Like any other music blog in some ways, though it has two particularly useful aspects:

  1. It’s specific to bands that are playing London, so for those of us who are here we can know we’re reading about acts that will come close to us.
  2. They seem to have comparisons (e.g., “for fans of”) for acts that aren’t commonly known. That could be useful for finding new bands.

SMS text to pay for parking in London

The Westminster part of London has been using an SMS text system for public parking for several months now, but this weekend was the first time I got to use it. It was one of my favourite types of technology: making simple, real-world, everyday applications sooo much easier.

The first time setup only took a few minutes, mostly just entering credit card info. From then on it’s a simple text code (including a few of your card digits plus the code of the parking bay you’re in).

It’s very quick, and you can specify time in 1-minute increments. No need to have (or get) coins to feed a meter. No more absorbed costs from vandalised meters on the street. If you find you’re delayed on your appointment you can add more time to your parking session via another text rather than running back to your car with more change. And there are nifty 10p extras for validating your text transaction has gone through, or warning you when there’s 10 minutes left on your time.

Photo from dlisbona via Creative Commons license

Stuff to do in London

It was a nice day and I was determined to spend it downtown seeing something new. So I queried TimeOut for its suggestions, plotted out an efficient tube journey, and carried out my plan.

  1. I went to Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre to catch the Doctor Who exhibit. It was really great for fans of the last few series. It’s not in the huge main hall; it’s in an underground (but still large) set of rooms at the back entrance, near Brompton Road tube. After a quick photo list of pre-millenial Doctors they jumped into all things Ecclestone and Tennant (except for the series just finished, but these will reportedly be added during the summer). They had lots of full models: the Face of Boe, the Slitheen, K9, a monstrous Empress of Racnoss, and more. There were costumes, plot reviews, and examples of how they create special effects (you can see video of yourself in the Tardis) and makeup (the Ood!). The animated Cybermen and Daleks near the end were fun. It’s £9 for adults and runs until the autumn sometime.
  2. I tubed over to Mayfair to see an exhibit of Bob Dylan’s Art at the Halycon Gallery. The Drawn Blank Series contains many studies by Bob of the same image but coloured differently, to explore how that changes the perception of the painting. There are prints for sale if you have £1500 to £2500 to spare. Well worth seeing, though, and free.
  3. I caught the tube over to Liverpool Street and walked to Brick Lane’s Truman Brewery art space to see Free Range. This is an ongoing showcase of art from new graduates. They’re rotating through different work; it was mostly photography today. It was a mixed bunch. I really liked James Dare’s series “The Great British Gun Owner” (a connection we UK city dwellers rarely make) and Emma Mari Trinder’s set of photos of single fathers and their daughters (touching, I thought). It’s also free.
  4. I then tubed up to Camden and fought my way through the market crowd to the Proud Bar and Gallery where they had a series of photographs of Sid Vicious. I liked them. Free as well, though I sat outside in a deck chair and had a beer since it was so nice out (not very punk, I know).

Also entertaining: on Brick Lane I saw a guy with a T-shirt that said, I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet.

Also also entertaining: whilst drinking my beer at Proud they played Cage the Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked”. That’s a good song.

Royal Society Summer Exhibition in London

I had no idea that the Royal Society Summer Exhibition was on until the Londonist told me. It’s a free public exhibit of scientists who are more than happy to describe what’s happening in UK research.

I’ve not been before, and it’s looking unlikely I’ll make it this year since the exhibition happens during working hours. But anyone in the area should definitely stop by.

unchained London

I met some nice folks last night who run the just-as-nice unchained London. Check it out: it’s a site that helps you identify independently owned shops in the city. If you’d rather support the businesspeople in your own community than some multinational conglomerate’s board this site will help. It’s a nicely-designed web page too: simple, clean, quick, functional, very easy to read and use.

Ealing turns food waste into energy

Image from arimoore under Creative Commons license

Digestion is, of course, the process whereby your gut breaks down food you ingest into components that it can use. Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is a the name for a similar (but industrial) process where microorganisms break down organic matter (but without requiring oxygen to do so). AD is used in some places to produce energy: when the little bacteria break down organic waste one of the resulting products is a biogas that makes a nifty fuel.

AD isn’t widespread yet. The process is a bit finicky to control, and start-up costs for an AD plant can be big. However, there is such an AD plant in Bedfordshire run by a company called Biogen. I think that’s pretty exciting. They take food waste that would otherwise simply go into a landfill somewhere, break it down, and produce methane-rich gas and concentrated organic fertiliser from the solids.

Ealing, where I live, has been improving its recycling programmes in recent years. It has a good food waste recycling programme: they offer cheap composters if you’ve got a garden (we have one), and provide you with a food waste bin so that they can collect household food waste from the roadside each week for those who don’t compost. That collection service is handy even if you do compost because it accepts things you might not want to add to your garden compost pile (e.g., meat and fish scraps).

I’ve just found out that Ealing has now become the first London borough to send its food waste to Biogen’s AD plant. Yay, Ealing! They give you composters, offer to pick up any food waste, and turn that waste into energy. They really couldn’t make it any simpler, could they?