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Tuesday, April 26

All in all, it's been a funny old day. It certainly didn't pan out as I expected. In general, it's been a day of bonuses.

Firstly, I got some bonus sleep, dropping off after my early alarm clock and totally failing to get up in time for the early meeting I rather hoped to attend. However, as another bonus, I was in work earlier than usual, so I managed to get a head start on the day in other ways.

The morning flew by as I answered a rather dull questionnaire and dealt with issues which I can't quite remember the identities of. Then I went for a regular coffee with a friend, which I followed by a trip to Maplins. I've loved trips to Maplins ever since I was a mid-teen-ager. I think I got my first soldering iron just before my mock GCSEs. The two of them competed for my attentions and the soldering iron got a good result. Before I headed to Maplin, I sketched out a diagram of the circuit I was going to build. No, I'm not an electronics expert. In fact, I had no idea what I was doing. However, I do have an A-Level in Physics and a vague notion of voltages, currents and something to do with capacitors. I also know how to read circuit diagrams off the net and use them. So, I set out a shopping list for parts I needed.

In Maplin I found all the bits I needed and bought them. I made some remark to the guy on the till about having no idea what I was doing. It was going to be around £9 worth of ignorance according to the till receipt. He asked, as indeed you might ask, what I was building. I explained that it was a powering circuit for an electret microphone. Any clearer? Let me explain it in terms of what I want to do with it. I want to record gigs using the toy I bought at Christmas - a recording MP3 player. However, its internal microphone is next to useless for the job - it records at too low a quality and picks up the sound of the machine's mechanism - d'oh! So, if I could use the sort of microphones that are designed for getting a recording from a room and plugging into little portable recorders, I'd be able to get a nice recording of my gigs without the side effects of the internal microphone... why? because the MP3 player also has a neat little input socket for a higher quality recording - plus, the external device wouldn't be able to pick up the minute, but present, vibrations of the machine itself. Cool. The problem is that these microphones expect to be plugged into minidisc players. Minidisc players know that they're going to have such microphones plugged into them and provide the necessary power that the microphone needs. This isn't as simple as just wiring in a battery, there are circuits which improve the sound and which make the connection of the battery actually work... I don't know. As I said to the guy in Maplin, I was just guessing and hoping.

After Maplin, I spent the afternoon back in the office working. Oh, and I also planned out how I was going to fit the components onto my circuit board. Good fun to plan. Pencil and paper is a lot less permanent than a soldering iron.

I worked later than expected because I ended up in a deep conversation with a guy who has just joined the company. We agreed on a lot of things and I picked up much useful information. I ended up leaving the office much nearer to 7pm than I would have expected... but happy. I was keen to get home to try out my circuit and I was also keen to have eaten, played with my wires and everything before 8.30pm, when I wanted to head off to the gig.

Unexpectedly, my wiring proved to be a first-time success. I had only completed enough of the circuit to show me whether it was ever going to work - I had a little power light and half of the double-microphone thing set up. I plugged it into some equipment I had and it responded to sound. Bonus. I was expecting to have to boost the signal for use with my MP3 player, but I didn't have time to do any further testing. I had a gig to go to.

At the gig, one of the acts looked like he wasn't going to turn up, so I was asked to go on. I didn't have my guitar, but was offered the loan of one already in the room. Why not? I thought I might even try some new material I'd started writing that day. The other act turned up in the end - while I was frantically scribbling down what I was planning to do. There's little point in just going up there and doing the usual shit when it's a gig in which you're meant to experiment. However, with the act who was booked actually present, I didn't see the need to go on. But, I was told to do it anyway. Why not? After all, I'd got into gig mode. This was also a good opportunity to see whether my hurt throat was all better. I was feeling in pretty good shape, despite waking up with a fairly gruff voice.

I went onto the stage. It had been a respectfully quiet night. I didn't take the roof off, but the audience laughed along in all the major places. I took some older material out, blew off some dust, and found it to be funnier than I remembered. I bottled out of doing the stuff I'd written this afternoon (and rewritten at the back of the gig). I think this was wise. They were losing their attention and I was running out of time. I closed on a banker and left the stage with my self-confidence intact. I'd also amused a fellow comedian with a snipe at a reviewer who reviews the gigs she watches in her head, rather than the ones which happen on the stage.

Annoyingly, as I turned on the headlights to return home, the righthands light winked out. I realised, braving the fog on the well-lit roads home, that I probably needed a working headlight for my forthcoming trip to Edinburgh (and back). Another things to sort out in the rapidly diminishing time before I set off.

I came home and did some more work on my circuit. Here's me, always working the circuit. As a wee test, I attached it directly to the MP3 player, not expecting to get enough of a signal from it. It's good enough to use. It's not utterly brilliant, but I shall be using it this weekend if I get the chance to put a switch in and screw the box shut. Bonus.

I just saw the initial details for the Fringe show I'll be involved with - the "Great Big Comedy Picnic". It's looking... er... interesting. Quite eclectic. More on this when more details come through.

I am currently sitting at the computer waiting for some towels to finish washing so I can put them into the dryer. It's not long before I go on this mini tour of Scotland. Not long at all! The new material will get an airing on Thursday, probably.


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