18 Jul

more music scams…

last year, I wrote about some scams where people claimed to be looking for music lessons for their son or daughter.

So far, I have not had one single student for guitar come to me through email or the Internet. Every single request has been a scam.

Here is an example email I received today from andrewbarton67@yahoo.com (Andrew Barton):


I’m Andrea Barton during my search for a Music Instrument Lessons teacher that would always take my Daughter (Gwyn) and I found your advert.Your advert looks great and it is very okay to me since you specialize in the area I am seeking for her. My daughter will be coming to your Country before the middle of July for 2 Months. She is just 15yrs Old, a beginner, I want you to help me teach her music during her stay in the Country because i will not want her to less busy, i want her to engage in something to keep her busy during her stay.

So, kindly let me know your charges cost per week in order for me to arrange for the payment before she travels down to your country.I would also like to know if there is any Text Book you will recommend for her as a beginner so that she will be reading privately at home after the lesson during her stay.

Please Advise back on;

(1) Your charges per 1 hour twice a week for 2 Months?

(2) The Day and time you will be available to teach her During the week?

(3) Tuition address?

I will be looking forward to read from you soonest.

Best Regards.

There are a few things about this which should immediately strike anyone:

  • People don’t usually mis-spell their own name. Is it Andrea (in the text) or Andrew (in the email address)?
  • There is no mention of what instrument the girl is supposed to be learning. Guitar? Piano? Didgeridoo?
  • The weird capitalisation says to me that translation software has been used, and only for some specific words. I can imagine a template that goes something like this: “I’m ________ during my search for a ________________ teacher that would always take my ________ (____) and I found your advert”. Every one of the blanked out words was inserted with capital letters.
  • There’s a lot of talk about countries – “your Country”, “the Country”, “down to your country”. This person obviously does not know what country I am in, yet knows that his/her daughter will be coming to it?
  • As for that, “My daughter will be coming to your Country before the middle of July for 2 Months.” The email arrived at 2 in the morning today. It’s the 18th of July. A real request for upcoming lessons would surely arrive weeks or months before the trip had already started?

There is a quirky little urge in me to take this as far as I can. However, I’m also not made of time, so I won’t bother.

So here’s the warning: NEVER trust an email from anyone you don’t know.

Here’s how this would pan out if I took it seriously:

  1. We agree price and dates.
  2. They send a cheque and urge me to cash it. I go to the bank and do so.
  3. I suddenly receive an urgent email saying there’s been an error and they sent me too much, and to please send back the extra money.
  4. Of course, that involves me writing and sending a cheque of my own.
  5. They then cash my cheque.
  6. Their cheque then bounces….
  7. The student never turns up.

So don’t be an idiot. Either throw these email in the spam directory (or delete it), or have fun trying to get the guy to do ridiculous things, but never take it seriously.

Btw: here’s an example of this same exact person being a bit over enthusiastic with the attempts – 9 copy/paste messages, with two separate daughters, Rita and Marsha – this guy should probably have got the kids lessons when they were younger…

19 Jun

piano grade 2 results arrived

I did the grade 2 exam three weeks ago. The results just arrived: “successfully passed in the second grade examination in Pianoforte with first class honours”

Cool, I’ll shove that certificate up on the piano next to last year’s one.

I’m going for grade 3 in September. Was meant to do grade 2 a few months ago, but couldn’t find anywhere close that would do the examination. The nearest was in Louth, but that’s too far to walk.

Here are the examiner’s notes:

Max MarksRequirementsExaminer’s CommentsMarks Awarded
15Scales & ArpeggiosVery good. Good choice of speed but make sure you keep it nice and steady! Very good tone.13
10Sight ReadngVery good. Mind the counting9
10Ear TestsVery good.9
20First PieceSonatina in G: You caught the mood well. Nice fluent performance. Good phrasing, tone, dynamics and technique.18
20Second PieceWaltz: Another lovely performance. Very good balance in left hand melody. Great attention to detail. Very enjoyable!19
20Third PieceSamba: Excellent rhythm throughout. Very good range of dynamics and good use of arm weight. Good control throughout. Well done!18
Total/Additional Comments:Congratulations! Keep up the excellent work!91

As you can guess, I’m pretty happy about this!

I’m hoping the keep up the high marks for the next exam. My teacher says my pieces for that exam are already at “pass” level, so three more months of practice can only improve that!

I’m hoping to have enough money next month (royalties from my last book) to afford a new piano and a camera, so may be able to stick some tunes online soon.

03 May

what I'm up to

As usual, I’m behind on stuff.

I just submitted chapter 3 of my upcoming book “CMS Design with PHP and jQuery”, and chapter 4 was due to be complete and sent two days ago.

My clavichord project stalled when the cumulative number of mistakes made it incredibly unlikely I’ll complete it in a usable fashion.

In work, I’m behind on a pretty large online-store project, but in that case I’m okay with it – I wasn’t slacking; things are just very busy at the moment.

My piano playing has also stalled – I’ve been trying to learn The Heart Asks Its Pleasure First for the last month. I’m stuck on the final page, where the left hand is all over the place and the right has an intricate tune to play. Its all in my head, but I just can’t play it smoothly. Thinking of putting that on the back-burner and going onto Bach’s 2-part inventions instead.


Packt have asked me to review Expert PHP5 Tools. Looking forward to it. It’s got some stuff in it which I’ve read about but never tried. Including: UML design of applications, incorporating tests into subversion submissions, and automated documentation of source (among other things).

My piano teacher found an examiner who will be testing in Monaghan next month, so I’ll finally be able to get grade 2 out of the way. I’ve been practicing grade 2 and 3 tunes for months. Playing 6 tunes every day before I do anything else has been reducing th amount of time I have for the rest of my practice, so I’ll be glad to get this one passed as well.

I’m trying to push myself to get the current book finished as soon as possible. This is difficult as writing a CMS is a much more complex job than writing a cookbook of techniques. The chapter I just finished had 40 pages in it. By the 40th page of the previous book I was already into chapter 3. Chapter 2 wasn’t much smaller either!

When this book is finished, I’ll be starting a new one, on building a clavichord as cheaply as possible. Because I failed with the current one, but learned quite a lot from it, I feel I’ll get it right this time, and would like to document it as I go. There’s a lot of math involved in building a clavichord, and I think I may even get a good programming application out of it!

After that, I’m thinking of starting up contact juggling again, and completing the book, this time with videos.

When I get the time, I’d also like to get back into building robots. I think the gardening robot is a bit beyond me at the moment (involves some very complex AI), but I thought I’d try build a digger bot. You tell it what you want dug, where to put the debris, etc., and it gets to work.

22 Mar


List of things off the top of my head that I want to do:

  • write a book. already had a non-fiction book published, but I’d love to have an interesting an compelling original fiction idea to write about. I’m working on a second non-fiction book at the moment.
  • master a martial art. I have a green belt in Bujinkan Taijutsu (ninja stuff, to the layman), but that’s from ten years ago – found a Genbukan teacher only a few days ago so I’ll be starting that up soon (again, ninja stuff).
  • learn maths. A lot of the stuff I do involves guessing numbers or measuring. it’d be nice to be able to come up with formulas to generate optimal solutions.
  • learn electronics. what /is/ electricity? what’s the difference between voltage and amperage? who knows… I’d like to.
  • create a robot gardener. not just a remote-control lawn-mower. one that knows what to cut, what to destroy, that can prune bushes, till the earth, basically everything that a real gardener does.
  • rejuvenate, or download to a computer, whichever is possible first. science fiction, eh? you wait and see…
  • create an instrument. I’m just finishing off a clavichord at the moment. when that’s done, I think I’ll build another one, based on all the things I learned from the first. followed by a spinet, a harpsichord, a dulcimer, and who knows what else.
  • learn to play an instrument. I’m going for grades 2 and 3 in September for piano. I can play guitar pretty well, but would love to find a classical teacher.
  • write a computer game. I have an idea, based on Dungeon Keeper, for a massively multiplayer game. maybe I’ll do it through facebook…
  • write programs to:
    • take a photo of a sudoku puzzle and solve it. already wrote the solver.
    • take a photo of some sheet music and play it.
    • show some sheet music on screen, compare to what you’re playing on a MIDI keyboard, and mark your effort.
    • input all the songs you can play on guitar/keyboard. based on the lists of thousands of people, rate all these songs by difficulty, to let you know what you should be able to learn next.
    • input a job and your location. have other people near you auction themselves to do the job for you. or vice versa: input your location, and find all jobs within walking distance to you where you can do an odd job for some extra cash (nearly there: http://oddjobs4locals.com).
    • takes a photo and recognises objects in it (partly done)
    • based on above, but can also be corrected and will learn from the corrections (also partly done)
  • stop being damned depressed all the time.

There’s probably a load of other stuff, but that’s all I’ve got at the moment!

27 Jan

what's up!

Short run-down of what I’m doing lately: nothing.

Less short: I’m trying to get work out the door, get a good run at some personal projects, pass grade 2 piano, get organised, and generally improve my lot.

None of this is working. I think the “get organised” bit is the most important, as it will help the rest of it fall into place.

I usually only post about web-development-related topics here, as that’s the only subject where I feel I can contribute something new and interesting, so I tend to not talk about other stuff. But sometimes, rattling off the current state of the head is good for clearing it.

In work, I can’t really complain – we have a number of largish projects which are slowly creeping towards completion. The hardest thing about them is getting information from the clients, and then a week or two later being told that half the information is not required. I guess my main complaint at work is the inexorably slow completion rate.

On the personal projects side:

There are still a number of small bugs in KFM 1.4, and either I don’t have the time to get to them, or there is no enough information to recreate the bug and the submitter doesn’t give me access to their copy so I can’t see it from their side.

KFM 2 has been halted for a while – the idea is huge, but I simply don’t have the time, and no-one is clambering for it. I’ll get to it when I have time, but I might have to approach it by evolving KFM 1.x into meeting what I wanted, instead of the original goal of building KFM 2 from scratch.

I started a new project, OddJobs4Locals two weeks back, and got a good two-day run at it, then time got ahead of me again. I think this will be a good one, when I can complete it. Useful for students, people with a little spare time, or simply people that just want to make a little extra cash. Not yet working, but it will be soon, I hope… This is doubly interesting to me, as it is done purely through AJAX, so it will be easy to do a smart-phone client or a desktop client when the time comes.

I’m in the back/forth stage of working with Packt publishing to see if they want me to do a second book (the first one has no bad reviews at all). We’ve mostly agreed on a table of contents, and I’m just trying to get the time to combine a few of the smaller chapters together.

On the piano, I’ve been ready for the grade 2 exam since November, and am still waiting to see if there will be an exam near me any time soon – I hate the effort that goes into travelling (I have a family, and no car). I was hoping to do a grade every 6 months. It looks like this might not be possible, despite me being ready for it… The tunes I’m doing for it are Beethoven’s Sonatina in G Major, a waltz by Bela Bartok, and Boys And Girls Come Out To Samba, by Terence Greaves – by the way, I don’t like those videos; there are no dynamics in any of them, and I can hear a number of mistakes as well. No video apparently of the Terence Greaves one.

As for organisation… well I guess I’d better start working with Mantis again.

My lot will have to wait – I’ve a load of work to get done before it can improve.

Meh. Depression taking hold again.

02 Jan


“Jesus is the only son of God, and if you don’t follow him, you will not be getting through the gates into Heaven”.

Anything wrong with that? Yes – it’s blasphemous, to just about every religion on Earth which is not Christian.

And so, Dermot Ahern, in his infinite wisdom, has just made the central tenet of the religion of one third of the entire planet illegal.

Well done, sir. Fucking genius idea, that.

How about this one then – “Jesus is not the son of God”. Now I’m blaspheming against Christianity.

There’s absolutely no way to win against this except to be completely silent and never discuss what you believe with anyone at all. And that means it wasn’t just Christianity that the idiot has made illegal to speak about, but all religions.

By the way, I’m an atheist. I believe in thinking about what is “true”, and in discussing it with people that are interested, and in not pushing my own beliefs on others.

I hear the door knocking – the thought police are here to take me away. Pray for me…

07 Dec

php.ie slowly upgrading

It’s been a while since I wrote anything vaguely technical. I guess it’s because I like to write only when there’s something new to say, and usually only if I have some new code to give away.

No new code today, but I can describe the recent work on php.ie (I’m the secretary of the Irish PHP Users’ Group).

So firstly, it was basically a static/brochure site for about a year, until we installed WebME (written by me!) as the CMS and created a skin for it so there’s only a tiny design difference. If you want to try out WebME, then download the SVN version from the google code site, or create a test site here (uses a really old version of WebME – you’re better off using the SVN version).

Then, I started rewriting the right panel. Beforehand, it displayed recent twitter messages, but they’re not often put out so it was a bit of a wasted space.

The panel now uses a WebME widget which displays recent Twitter messages, emails from the mailing list, and posts from the forum.

Over the next few days, I’ll be adding a new News section to the site, and the message widget will be able to show new articles from planet php.ie and new jobs from the jobs page.

I’m currently reading through Ken’s linux.ie todo list to see what I can appropriate for php.ie for its ongoing development.

Big thanks go to Michele and the team at blacknight for hosting the site.

Oh! Just a reminder, buy my book! JQuery 1.3 with PHP – hasn’t been reviewed by anyone yet, as far as I know, but my own opinion is that it is worth having on your shelf if you are a PHP developer that wants to step into jQuery.

01 Dec

Graham Coxon at the Barbican

Bronwyn and myself went to the Barbican, London, on Saturday to watch Graham Coxon perform.

We both enjoyed the event. Bronwyn was excited to meet friends she had only spoken to online. Well, she’s been excited for the whole of the last week, but it’s all related!

London is big.

The weather was ok for the Friday and Saturday while we were wandering around taking in sights and sounds. We visited the National Gallery, and were handed a sheet saying a candle-lit baroque concert would be happening later, but it clashed with our previous plans.

Arrived at the Barbican. Bronwyn didn’t see any of her friends. We said we’d meet up around the bar, so that’s where we went, and sat opposite it.

We were there about five minutes when I spotted a huge amazing monstrosity of a drum-machine, Felix’s Machines. You have to see the videos of that thing!

As I stood there, Simon from Resigned (also the admin of the Graham Coxon forum) noticed me and waved to get my attention – ah, that’s where they are! We joined a group of Coxon fans.

We had two hours, so we gently infused ourselves thanks to the bar, with some opting for chips and complaining that you shouldn’t need to buy fish&chips just to get some chips (as a vegetarian, I agree wholeheartedly with this, and not just through a hatred of waste).

The show was to start at 8, so we headed down and got our seats.

Simon had thoughtfully gotten us row G (haha – G for Graham. very good. ahem…), which had a walk-space directly in front of us, meaning we could stretch our legs and walk to the toilets without stepping on people’s heads.

Bronwyn decided a new piece of policy was to be created henceforth: when purchasing tickets, people should be measured for height, and really tall people should be confined to the back of the auditorium.

The band came out and the place became loud with cheers.

The sound engineers didn’t do the best job in the world. The band played brilliantly apart from a few minor hiccups, but some of the sound problems were distracting.

When Graham spoke, it was difficult to hear. I was afraid that his singing would be the same, but when he sings, he crouches close to the microphone, and when he talks, it’s like he’s unaware the mic is there.

Some of the songs were technical, involving a lot of finger-picking. An example is Sorrow’s Army. Graham started out on that one, then Robyn Hitchcock joined in a few bars later. Robyn’s guitar, though, was louder, so it drowned out Graham’s playing. This was pointed out independently to me by Simon later on, so it wasn’t just my ears playing tricks.

There was a feedback problem later on at the beginning of one tune, which was quickly and cheerfully quelled and restarted.

One of the three female singers was very loud at points. I didn’t like that – it was like she was stealing the spotlight.

On the far left of the stage, Max Eastley was playing the Arc. At most points in the concert I couldn’t hear anything of what he was doing. Only in quiet songs with only one or two other instruments.

When the songs got loud, they got very loud. Graham was unintelligible at some points as he tried to sing above the sound of the other instruments.

Apart from these gripes (and they’re minor – Bronwyn doesn’t agree with any of the above points), I enjoyed the concert.

I think the only tune I didn’t like was the ending of Caspian Sea, where the band appeared to get stuck in a rut, repeating the same bar over and over and over.

I liked how the music was not perfectly in-tune or perfectly rhythmic, but was just a little off here and there. This gave the music a more natural and “used” feel, like an old rickety piano which is played when the pianist is surrounded by friends – you feel like he’s playing personally to you and it’s not a surgical procedure.

The concert was basically Graham’s latest album, The Spinning Top, with a few extra old songs played at the end.

One of the things I like about this album is the finger-picking. Graham has recently been trying to increase his finger-picking skills, inspired by his love of old blues and folk. His interest in Nick Drake really shines through in the singing, and Bert Jansch (of Pentangle) in the playing.

In a lot of the songs, there is not just one finger-picking “voice”, but two. This could be seen obviously at the concert where Graham was playing one finger-picking riff and Robyn was playing another, yet they meshed nicely.

Overall, I enjoyed this concert and if he does it again with another album, I’m sure we’ll be going over again.

28 Nov

resigned – the band

We were sent an invite to come see Resigned play (interesting name – does it mean “gave up”, or “was signed again”? I’ll ask them tomorrow) at the Water Rats Theatre.

Bronwyn commented, on seeing the dance-floor, that it was “very like Fibbers, except for the smell”. 😉 Fibbers (Parnell st) has a bit of a reputation – especially among those of us that have been frequenting the place more than 15 years.

I visited the toilet at one point there and can confirm that it out-fibbers’s fibbers. It was rank.

Having said that, the people that were there were eclectic. There were punks, industrials, grungers, rockers – hard to put a label on the place when everyone is so different!

Anyway – back to the band – I enjoyed it. I was expecting some hard punk, as “resigned” is a very serious name, but the music was actually quite interesting and not as harsh as I expected. There were interesting rhythms (listen to their track “Hangover”) that make you feel like you need to dance or at least admire it, and at no point did I feel they were copying anyone.

Their last track was dedicated to “someone in the audience”, and they played “Advert” by Blur. It was aimed at Bronwyn and a few other Coxon fans.

We spoke to Simon, Gary and John. The playing was perfect – no sign of effort from anyone; everything was “to a tee”. For example, while playing some tunes, I noticed Simon fiddling around with his effect pedals /at the same time/ as playing his part. Very cool. Not a beat dropped – I liked it.

John said that there was a bad gig a few weeks back where there wasn’t enough practice beforehand and it all fell apart, but it didn’t show tonight at all. Solid playing, and I’d love to see them play again.

We were handed a CD of their album which they refused to accept payment for, for reasons which agree almost with my own philosophy.

My belief is that people should be paid for what they do. Royalties are a bonus, but should not be considered as “earned”.

As an author of a book, this might fly in the face of reason, but the thing is – I wrote my book because I wanted to, and I enjoyed the act of its creation. Anything afterwards that I get paid is a bonus, but I don’t feel I’ve earned it (Yes, I’m very grateful for it (thank you!!), but I don’t feel I should demand people pay me if they accidently find my words online).

I suggested this to Simon, in the case that musicians should be paid for the gigs they play, and everything else is a bonus.

This appears to be the same model that large bands such as Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead are following recently – basically, it’s all free, but there’s really nothing that compares to seeing it live.

We haven’t gotten to listen to the CD yet, as this laptop does not have a CD drive, but I’m sure Bronwyn will have it on repeat for the next few weeks.

Well done, Resigned, on providing a very good night out, and we’ll talk to you tomorrow before Graham’s gig!

06 Nov


I’m really sorry about this break in the usual service. This came to me as I was walking to work and I had to get it down.

Wilson spotted House and ran up to him. “Doctor, I have an interesting one for you!”

House looked up from his TV. “How long?”


“How long have you been seeing Clare?”

“A week. Wait, how did you know??”

“Your sleeve. There’s a faint red smudge on it. That says lipstick to me. The fact that it’s on your uniform means it is someone at the hospital. The nurses and doctors do not wear cosmetics in case they interfere chemically with the patients, which leaves secretaries or janitors. We have no female janitors, and none of the janitors wear lipstick anyway, which leaves Janine, Clare, Rose and Sarah. Only Rose and Clare have been on-duty for the last few hours, and Rose is over 50.”

Before Wilson could reply, House added “You should probably break up with her. Clare has an incurable disease and will be dead within a month.”

“How do you know that?” asked Wilson.

“I’ll explain later. Now, what have you got for me?”

They walked in to look at some X-rays.

“The patient was brought in an hour ago. He’s wheezing, complained of diarrhoea and double vision and collapsed. We thought it was food poisoning until we took these photos. That’s when we knew you’d be interested.”

“These photos are backwards.” said House, instantly.

“No – I checked; they’re actually the right way around. I’ve ordered an MRI for him.”

“Don’t bother. I can see what the problem is. It’s food poisoning. Bring me to him.”

They entered the patient’s room, where he was getting undressed. House looked at his shoes, and then his chart.

“Professor Grant? What is it that you do?”

“Physics. Specifically working on teleportation.”

“I’ve heard that only works for small elements. You need to link them together somehow?”

“Yes. Quantum entanglement. But that’s not what I do. What you’re talking about is actually the cloning of attributes between two remote particles. Not true teleportation. How mine works is that we ‘map’ one part of the underlying foam onto another, and the originator ‘snaps’ into the new position.”


“Yes. See the universe is built on a network of tiny nodes, and all points are connected to all other points through these nodes. We have come up with a way to realise teleportation by controlling those nodes. We’ve even tested it successfully with large living bodies such as dogs and monkeys. You see, …”

“You can explain on the way. We can’t treat you here. We need to get to your lab.”

“What? Then you know what’s wrong?”

“Yes. Food poisoning. But it’s more serious than that. Wilson, look at his shoes.”

Wilson looked at the professor’s shoes.

“What? Oh!” he glanced towards the X-ray room, and looked startled.

“Get your car keys, Wilson – we need to get him to his lab quickly.” House held out the professor’s coat.

They were soon in the car.

“You couldn’t resist testing it yourself, professor, and that’s what caused the problem.” said House, as they drove.

“What? Explain.”

“As I understand it, your teleportation works by ‘shortcutting’ the distance between nodes in the universe. To put it in a simple way, it’s like taking a piece of paper making two dots on it, then realising the shortest way to get from point A to point B is to fold the paper in half so the dots are touching each other.”

“Yes, that’s right. But I don’t see…”

“Have you tried doing this with anything other than dots?”

“No… it’s just a thought experiment! Turn left up ahead.”

“Turn right, Wilson”, corrected House

House reached over and pulled a small notebook from Wilson’s inner chest pocket. He drew a large R on a page.

“What will this look like when the page is folded?”

“Ah. It’s so simple.”

They got to the lab, where an experiment was about to take place. A monkey was in a cage on a platform, and another platform was in a separate room, separated by a glass wall.

“Stop the experiment,” said Grant, “the good doctor’s diagnoses is correct, and his treatment involves me taking the experiment myself.”

“What? Are you insane? You can’t do that!” cried out one of the lab assistants.

“Yes I can. I did it myself last night after you’d all gone home. How could I resist? Besides, we know from all of our experiments that it works. Now, take the monkey away and start it up again.

A few minutes later, a hum gathered, and the cage was suddenly gone. In the other room, the cage and the professor reappeared.

“How did they do that?” exclaimed Wilson.

“Quantum electro-dynamically, my dear Wilson”, said House.

The professor stepped out of the cage, and strode purposefully towards to coke machine in the corner of the room. “I am famished!” he said.

“Okay,” said Wilson, “now explain what that was all about.”

House took out the page he’d been drawing on.

“See the ‘R‘? When you fold the page over, and “push” the R through to the other side, you get this:”, House drew я onto the page.

He continued, “The analogy passes into reality. When Professor Grant ‘folded’ in space from one platform to the other, what he did not realise was that he was reversing himself at the same time. He would have been immediately disoriented, and the air in the atmosphere would have started subtly poisoning him because it was now ‘backwards’ compared to what he was used to.”

Wilson said, “So, the food poisoning?”

“Life’s molecules have a certain ‘handed-ness’ to them. The proteins found in food are all oriented in a certain direction. When he ingested the food, his body was not able to handle it because all of the proteins were mirror-images of what were expected. If he had not come to us, then he would be dead within hours or days.”

Professor grant, stuffing chocolate into his mouth, came over and thanked House profusely.

“Thank you so much. It was such an obvious problem, given hind-sight, but we didn’t spot it with any of our test animals because we always did the experiment twice – teleport them from one room to the other, and then back. We’ll have to figure a way of doing this without the mirror-imaging if we’re to make this useful. I’ll have to think how to do that.”

“That’s easy! Your problem is that the particles – the protons, electrons and neutrons, are all arriving the wrong way around” said the doctor, who added “you just need to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”