Playlist: 40 Years of Dancing

Having talked about how I wanted to try out combining blogging with the music service Spotify in my last post — I thought I’d better make a start.

Last year, for my 40th Birthday, I gave myself a project to come up with a playlist for what I would like to have played at my birthday party. Not that I actually had a party, sadly. The rules were that there should be 40 tracks – one for each year between 1971 and 2011, that they should be played in chronological order going by year of release (although I ended up being a little flexible over this – there are two tracks from 1981 and two from 1983 for example), that they should be some kind of dance track, and that they should be songs I liked or that meant something.

I made a start, but this proved to be a more difficult and time consuming task than I had anticipated. Each track being carefully chosen. So the playlist never got finished. Recently, as a result of playing around with Spotify I decided to have another go at completing this little project – which I finished this week.

I’m quite pleased with the result. It is not to be taken too seriously — it is more pop chart than a serious exploration of dance culture — and has a distinct disco flavour. But there should be one or two songs at least that will get you tapping your feet.

I’m on Spotify

Spotify logoFor the last few weeks I’ve been trying out the music service Spotify. So far I’ve been impressed.

I enjoy spending time creating playlists, often based around a theme or a mood, and exploring online music sources for tracks to put in them. Some of these end up becoming complicated productions as I spend ages trying to judge what would be the perfect track to fit in a particular musical sequence. Given that my sources tend to end up being iTunes and Amazon I have at times ended up spending too much money on this — if a little bit at a time.

So what I like about Spotify is that it really encourages you to create playlists by making it easy for you to explore and experiment without having to commit to buying a track. Whether paying the monthly fee will work out cheaper than my previous habits I have yet to see.

One side benefit of Spotify is that it also seems to be blogging friendly. The Spotify Play Button is a nice feature I intend to try out. I have occasionally blogged before about music, posting my best tracks of the year, but I may now end up doing this a bit more frequently.

If you can’t wait to have my musical tastes inflicted on you via ‘Strange Thoughts’ then you can instead find my public Spotify profile here:


Further to the above, I’ve found these two useful articles on the benefits, and limitations, of the Spotify Play Button:

Peter Hain should really try to remember his history

I see that the Guardian’s political reporting seems to be stuck in “stating the bleedin’ obvious” mode at the moment. Not only is there the discovery that people think that George Osborne is liability to Tories but they also have the news that a senior Labour figure thinks that at some point in the future Labour might have to work with the Liberal Democrats; ‘Peter Hain says Labour should get ready to do business with Lib Dems‘.

I mention this because the Guardian includes this startlingly silly quote from Hain;

“It seems likely that the ‘Orange Book’ Lib Dem leadership – which hijacked the party and took it into bed with the Tories – will be rejected by a membership desperate to restore the tradition of Asquith, Lloyd George, Keynes, Beveridge, Jo Grimond, David Steel, Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell,”

I’m not going to get into arguing why the whole ‘Orange Book takeover thesis’ is sterile and simplistic — or detail how those seen as so-called “orange bookers” would firmly identify themselves with that tradition. (There is a case for saying that much of the Orange Book emphasis is distinctly Grimondite.) I merely point out that this is less historical analysis and more “list every Liberal figure anybody has ever heard of” — er, except Jeremy Thorpe.

Let’s also ignore the fact that Lloyd George for many years led the Liberals in coalition with — well, the Tories.

As a former Young Liberal, Hain should really be able to do better than this.


Peter Black has made a very similar criticism on his blog; ‘Peter Hain and the hand of history

Another outing for Ashdown’s Third Law

This week Caron Lindsay over on Liberal Democrat Voice has had two posts reviewing two talks by Paddy Ashdown at the Edinburgh Book Festival. The second of these is Paddy plugging his new book, A Brilliant Little Operation, which does sound fascinating.

The first was Paddy discussing global power shifts which sounds very similar to his TED talk that I wrote about in February. This saw another outing for Ashdown’s Third Law — which I believe is worth frequent repeating:

“In the modern age when everything is connected to everything, the most important thing about what you can do is what you can do with others.”

Random Thoughts for August 2012

This is the latest in my series of Random Thoughts posts with links, things found on the web and other stuff that has occured to me. Not had one for a while so this is the bumper August edition.

Picture of a baby hippo named HulaLets start with a double helping of baby animals at Whipsnade Zoo:

Baby hippo makes debut dip

Triple celebrations as lynx kitten triplets are born at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

I found this rather amusing;

Charles Kennedy: Gonzo Is My Favourite Muppet

For some reason I am not surprised. :-)

Buddha Machine!

I spent some time this week playing around with some online ambient music and sound generators. Traditionally these are used to help people get to sleep — but I’ve found them useful for aiding concentration while working. This led me to rediscover the wonderful Buddha Machine. This began life as a plastic box sound player created by a team of artists — but now there is a cool iPhone/iPad app.

Matt Mullenweg: State of the Word 2012

In tech news we had the traditional annual update on the progress of my favourite CMS and blogging platform; WordPress.

Opinion: Spectators are as important as athletes to develop a sporting nation

I liked the post that my friend Laura wrote for Lib Dem Voice looking at the role of the spectator in sport. I think she is on to something when she makes a parallel between audience development in the arts and spectator development in sport. There is the potential for really interesting policy responses if this idea is pursued.

Will Hutton: George Osborne is the worst of all the British chancellors I’ve known

Obviously, this is a bad review for Osborne — but more interesting for Hutton’s verdict on Chancellors from Healey to Darling. You may be surprised by the verdict on Norman Lamont; ‘Undervalued’.

BBC News: Ex-sceptic says climate change is down to humans

Gave a wry smile when I saw this — but frustrated this argument is still going on.

London 2012: women’s football

This week’s Olympic experience has been all about the women’s football competition. I’d secured tickets to see one of the semifinals on Monday and for the final yesterday. Both at Wembley. Obviously I’ve been following the fortunes of team GB and was hoping for a chance to get to see them in the stadium so I was disappointed when they went out to Canada in the quarter-finals. This despite playing strongly and winning lots of new fans.

So instead my loyalties ended up switching to the team from Japan who I watched beat France in the semis and then lose out to the USA in the final. I’ve been describing their style of play as dogged but a times scrappy. In both matches they showed an ability to gain and keep possession but were unable to convert that into enough well executed attempts on goal.

They managed a determined defence of their lead against a furious attack from France as they sought to equalise in the last 20 minutes of the semi-final. But they were not able to defend against the skill and directness of the attack from the USA in the final. The second American goal was pretty spectacular.

I hadn’t been to the new Wembley before and I was hugely impressed. It was fantastic being part of such a colourful and enthusiastic crowd, soaking up the Olympic atmosphere. There were over 60,000 people there for the semi-final and over 80,000 for the final. I hope that the support and enthusiasm that women’s football has received during this Olympics translates into long-term benefit for the sport afterwards.

A bit of shuffling around of tickets on Thursday meant that I could share some tickets with two young Americans that had been staying with a friend. They got to see their country win a gold medal, which I feel pleased about, and I got a seat with a fantastic view on the halfway line.

Over the last two weeks I’ve managed to catch a bit of the spirit of London 2012. I’ve seen and Olympic record broken, some great sport, been impressed by the venues and the organisation, moved by the work of the volunteers, and seen an Olympic medal ceremony. On reflection I feel like I’ve had a proper Olympic experience!

Some scenes from Japan v USA:

London 2012: Olympic medals

On the way to the football yesterday I stopped into the British Museum for an hour or so. I got a nice reminder that these Olympics that are having such a big impact now are inspired by our ancient past. With more similarities than you might at first think.

The Museum are also currently running a small exhibition about Olympic medals. Along with some medals from earlier Games, they have these examples of the medals awarded to the 2012 athletes. I also liked seeing the stamps that have been used to make the medals.

I thought the design of the Olympic medals was very strong. Combining modern style with the Games' heritage — but I preferred the look of the Paralympic medals which are more stylised.


London 2012: Watching Om

When I entered the lottery for Olympic tickets my strategy was to go for a range of cheaper tickets in what I perceived as being the less popular sports. That way I get a chance of securing access to one or two events. Which is how I ended up with tickets to see to the weightlifting on the morning of the first Sunday of the Games.

What I had tickets for were the men’s 56kg and the women’s 53kg Group B sessions. Weightlifting, a bit like boxing, is divided up into weight categories so that athletes of a similar size compete against each other. So these were some of the more lighter categories. Being group B sessions they were also for weightlifters who have qualified lower down the order and who are not expected to challenge for a medal.

So what I was expecting from the morning was nothing particularly spectacular. I wanted to soak up a bit of the Olympic atmosphere and maybe learn a little about a sport that to be honest I know very little about.

I got a lot more than I bargained for thanks to the extraordinary performance of Yun Chol Om.

I got to watch this North Korean lift 168kg in the clean and jerk. Putting himself in the gold medal position, equalling the world record, and breaking the Olympic record as he did so. Apparently, this is not supposed to happen. Group B athletes aren’t supposed to challenge for a medal. So it came as a bit of a surprise – not least to the weightlifters waiting to participate in Group A later that day.

I don’t know if most of the audience were aware quite how extraordinary what they were seeing was – but it was incredibly thrilling nonetheless. I will not forget in a hurry the sight of Om lifting that weight above his head and all of us in the hall rising to our feet cheering.

I didn’t expect to be a witness to the breaking of an Olympic record and to see only the 5th man in history lift three times his own body weight!

Om breaks the Olympic record

Om breaks the Olympic record

More about Yun Chol Om here:


London 2012: experiencing the Olympics

This Olympic sport is very distracting.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the excitement of these London games. Amazing scenes. Inspiring performances. But it does get in the way of other things – blogging, getting work done etc. I sit down to write and there is something important happening in the velodrome. I deal with that and there is a crucial medal race at Eton Dorney. I get a break and end up watching the tight finish of a women’s basketball match. And so on..

Seriously, I’m not complaining! It has been fabulous. As I write this Andy Murray is collecting his gold medal for the men’s singles tennis. The events of this weekend have almost as if they have been scripted. Hollywood rarely presents such compelling drama.

I was blown away by the opening ceremony. I actually found it deeply moving. It was so cleverly done and contained so many ideas that I am still trying to work through what it all meant.

My main personal experience was going to watch a session of weightlifting at the ExCel. That turned out to be a pretty amazing day. I’m planning to write that up in a moment.

I had managed to get my parents tickets to get close to the sailing action with entry to the Nothe on Monday. They tell me that they had a really enjoyable long weekend down in Weymouth.

Otherwise I’ve been soaking up the action via the BBC’s (far too) comprehensive coverage.

Next week i have some further chances to experience the Olympic atmosphere as I have some tickets for the women’s football. While I’m disappointed that the GB team have gone out in that competition, I’m very much looking forward to France v Japan at Wembley tomorrow.