Sunday, September 25, 2016

Delicious Beef Stew Recipe

finished beef stew

All you have to do to start an argument is to bring up the topic of "traditional" Irish stew. Everyone will think they have the correct version, usually based on what their mother cooked. But of course there is no permanent tradition. A stew is any combination of meat and vegetables cooked in liquid over time, and even in Ireland there are many variations. Some are served with a broth, others are thick. Some made with lamb, others beef.

What follows will be my own version, which is hearty and delicious, the perfect autumnal food. (Even for those, such as I, who would eat red meat rarely.) Before getting on to the recipe I will write a bit about the history of this dish in Ireland.
Monday, September 12, 2016

Proposals for a Zoom F8 Pro

After a series of digital recorders that were targetted at the lower end of the market, Zoom surprised us last year with the excellent F8 recorder. Now they have announced the Zoom F4, an even more cost effective choice, at least for those who only need four microphone inputs. Check out my previous article for the differences between the two models.

But there are quite a lot of users wanting a more capable recorder, something that would sit above the F8 as a flagship model. In an earlier article I listed various firmware improvements for the F8. But further enhancements will require redesigned hardware. Hence this article, which will put forward proposals for a hypothetical Zoom F8 Pro.

Some of these features are already available in professional units from other manufacturers. Including these abilities will allow Zoom to play with the big boys. Certain features I suggest go even beyond that, and might well make the F8 Pro unique; these I have flagged with the word "innovation".
Sunday, September 11, 2016

Zoom F4/F8 feature comparison

With the release announcement this week for the Zoom F4, we can be sure that Zoom is committed to the professional sector of the market. This unit is similar to the Zoom F8, so I thought I would provide a quick overview of the similarities and differences, plus any limitations to look out for.

The first thing is price. While the Zoom F8 retails for $1000, the Zoom F4 is coming in at a ridiculously low $650. This will translate to European and UK pricing in the usual way.

Units are expected in October, though I would say more realistically November. I can also predict that initial stocks will sell out immediately... this is going to be a hit!
Friday, August 26, 2016

Recent and recommended films

I concluded my last article, in which I dissected a list of great 21st century films, by questioning the necessity for lists and "greatness". I think it only appropriate to contradict myself (in part) by presenting something positive to yesterday's negative.

So here are my favourite films of this century. I have "only" 20, not 100, and make no effort to rank them. Instead, it's a simple chronology of greatness and stuff I simply like.

Dancer in the Dark (2000, Lars Von Trier)
Trier makes a lot of depressing films but this one takes the cake... and is a musical to boot. Bjork sells every bathetic scene, but was apparently emotionally abused on set. As you will be by watching this perverse exercise in deconstruction.
Thursday, August 25, 2016

Are films "great" any more?

What is it about films and lists? No two people agree on films, and so a list will be sure to generate controversy, hence traffic and ad revenue. So it is not surprising that BBC has already, a mere 16 years in, decided to list "The 21st Century's 100 Greatest Films". You should read the article before continuing.

The conceit of the article is that "the death of cinema" has been greatly exaggerated and that there are still great films being made today. "Perhaps the fault lies not in our movie stars, but in ourselves. If you can't find masterpieces amid the blockbuster flotsam, you simply aren't looking hard enough" writes the (uncredited) author.

But this is a weak claim. Certainly there are still "good" films still being made. No-one would actually deny that. The question is, are these as good as or better than those made in the past? Do these live up to our criteria for "greatness"? The list provided is supposed to answer in the affirmative but does just the opposite.
Sunday, August 07, 2016

Zoom F8: Comparing power methods

In the last article I explained several ways to power the Zoom F8. There's an option for everybody. My own particular priorities are reasonable cost, ease-of-use and safety, lowest possible weight, and fairly long recording time. I will consider these in slightly more detail, before turning to some real-world battery tests. This article will conclude by quantifying several different solutions, so that you can make up your own mind.
Saturday, August 06, 2016

Zoom F8: Powering the recorder

This is the third article on the Zoom F8 multitrack audio recorder, which started with an overview of features and continued with my suggestions for firmware improvements. Here I will discuss a few power options and discuss batteries.

The latest generation of hand-held recorders, like the excellent Olympus LS-11, last an incredible time on only two AA batteries. With a life of 18 to 22 hours, I often forget that they need recharging. It's easy to take this small miracle of power management for granted. Thank you, electrical engineers!
Friday, August 05, 2016

Zoom F8: Firmware Suggestions

UPDATE: After using the unit for a month, I have added three more ideas. Some of these are less critical than others, but I have edited the article to remove any attempt to grade them. Our priorities are all different!

In my first article I discussed my justification for buying a Zoom F8, and gave a handy overview of the features. No doubt this multichannel recorder offers the best bang-for-the-buck of any on the market, while not compromising on professional features: time code, pull-down and pull-up sync rates, dual SD card slots, and so on.

But no matter how good a recorder is out of the box, there is room for improvement. I was encouraged to buy a Zoom F8 because of the feature set and pricing, but the deciding factor was the firmware updates. Zoom looked at the critiques after the first months of availability and issued Firmware 2.00, which added many useful features. A further 2.10 update fixed more bugs.

In this field, a company that cares about their customers should be willing to enhance their hardware beyond initial release. Anything else is a wasteful approach to hardware that, let's face it, uses up precious resources from our environment. I like to use a piece of kit for as long as possible!

Zoom have shown that they care... and have me as a customer as a result. The signs are encouraging that this policy will continue, and so I present my list of requests, restricted to those that can be implemented without hardware changes.
Friday, August 05, 2016

Zoom F8: Overview and Features

It's been a long while since I posted anything about digital audio recorders. That's because I am still totally happy with three hand-held units: the Olympus LS-10 and LS-11, plus the Sony M10. All of these I have written about quite extensively on this blog. And these posts have garnered a lot of interest from you, the reader. For that reason I am kicking off another series, this time to document my experiences with the Zoom F8.

In the next few posts you can expect practical information, tips, user experience reports, and so on. I am not going to call this a "review", but it will help to supplement those reviews already extant (links at bottom). You can expect me to write about compatible SD cards, power options, and practical usage tips. Plus some recommendations to Zoom for their next firmware update.
Monday, May 23, 2016

A Tree For Gemma

a tree for Gemma

A sheer is drawn back
from an upstairs window
by a hand traversing an arc,
half unseen.
A man looks out and down,
catching my own eye-line ascending
from John's Square.
It's a momentary intersection
of private perspectives,
an unexpected transgression.
The white curtain immediately drops
to cover four panes of glass
in a Georgian frame.

Rain from a cloudless sky splatters
my shoulders
with formless damp shapes.

It's fifteen minutes to four on a Saturday afternoon.
I have travelled here
from limbo
on three successive trains.

Wedding bells sound from the cathedral
as young lads in suits down pints
at the Square Bar.

A crow with a crooked beak tilts
a sharp head at an uncomfortable angle,
from its dancing perch
on a weathered headstone.

A space is made for a young yew
in a protected corner
of the building.

These elements I gather
and inscribe
in a black notebook.
Words are a bond that bear witness
to this perfect and unforeseen

Here promises have been broken.
And here they will be renewed.

21 May 2016