Thursday, 28 February 2013

Raspberry Pi Ideas Repository

It's a very sensible idea, but a bit of a mouthful in that fully-descriptive form, so Pideas has been created with this much shorter monniker. The repository itself is here, as yet with only half a dozen or so Pideas projects – but that's not bad for something just starting.

There are videos associated with some of the projects, which are quite interesting uses for the Pi, including as the heart of a weather station. I might be interested in that one myself, if I can get permission to put up such a station on the roof here...

Voi che Sapete – Prima

Here, as I promised a few weeks back, is another Prima performance. This time it's of the well-known Voi che Sapete from The Marriage of Figaro (Le Noce di Figaro), and again shows the sheer operatic quality of Prima's voice.

Incidentally, there is no official 'characteristic' for Prima, and the picture on her software box is simply a stock image. Various people have come up with their own designs for her, not all of which seem to reflect the nature of her singing character(!)

Anyway, this time we simply watch how the software operates in playback mode, which is interesting if you haven't seen it in action before, and merely a pleasant background if you have...

Monday, 25 February 2013

Get Your Bitcoins Here!

Not here in Britain yet, but an American-currency 'hole in the wall' machine for taking various Dollar notes (a.k.a. bills) and instantly crediting someone's Bitcoins account is coming.

Bitcoins, I explain for those who haven't heard of this concept, are an Internet-only currency that has been gaining popularity since its introduction nearly four years ago.

It was inevitable that an alternative to physical, national currency would develop one day, because of the sheer volume of on-line purchasing and similar transactions and the high proportion of this that crosses national boundaries. The complexities, uncertainties (e.g. varying exchange rates) and delays with conventional currency when applied to the on-line transactional world show how poorly they fit this completely different way of working.

Thus the Bitcoin mini-revolution that will surely become the core of a major part of the world's monetary activity one day.

Politically, it takes control away from national governments (and institutions such as the EU) who are notorious for devaluing the currency they control so as to invisibly steal from their citizens – something we here in Britain really learned about with the large-scale devaluation of Sterling by then Prime Minister Harold Wilson, getting on for half a century ago. More subtly, it is done all the time, via inflation and other devices.

That won't stop it, as Bitcoins cannot suddenly be (internationally, too) outlawed after having been allowed to become so significant that even some major businesses already accept payment this way.

Therefore the idea will expand; and having this reverse-cash-dispenser idea will help the transition from new idea to mainstream in the world, during the next several years. By the end of this decade, I'd expect the more forward-looking big economy countries to have made the cultural and operational shift, and the rest of us/them around the world will end up catching up because they'll have to do so in order to survive and thrive.

There is one British element to the story of the Dollars-to-Bitcoins machines, though: they have a Raspberry-Pi computer at their heart.

Snow Miku 2013 Report Part 2

Here it is, the second part of Snow Miku's report series: just what we need to give us a warm, fuzzy feeling on this cold Monday morning when so many are going back to work after the weekend...

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Saturday VocaJazz 23 Feb 2013 – Miku Can Sing Jazz

Saturday evening means it's VocaJazz time!

Now, if you were to look for examples of Miku singing jazz, most of what you'd find really doesn't work with her normal voice.

Here, though, with what I assume has been very careful 'tuning' of the voice-bank source for this, it does work and very well too! I was very pleasantly surprised at just how well her Catnap works in this style and with her voice thus finely-adjusted, using the controls available to users of the Vocaloids' composition software.

There's even a bonus afterward, with about half of a similarly jazzy version of Electric Angel, so do keep playing the clip right to the end...

Mikunopolis Blu-Ray/CD Combo Offer

This has just come to my notice: pre-orders for the Blu-Ray and CD combo of the first-ever Vocaloid concert performance in the USA, Mikunopolis in Los Angeles on 2 July 2011, will be taken from this coming Monday.

Here are the details including a track listing, and all but the Medley (for reasons explained on the linked page) have English subtitles.

It is (as one might expect) an American offer, so I don't know how easy it might be to have an order shipped elsewhere or if the video disk will work in other countries, but I thought it worth bringing to readers' attention just in case any were interested.

I think a few regular and occasional visitors here might be, from what I have been able to gather.

There is a double-sided poster included, and a few other items as well, now at the reduced price of just under 60 US Dollars – a $15 saving.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Vocaloids at NekoCon

This 41-minute video (it should have been 51 mins but the last chunk has apparently been removed) taken at the AniMiku concert which was held as part of the NekoCon15 event in Virginia (USA) on 10 November 2012 is generally excellent, with superb models of Miku, Rin, Gumi, SeeU and CUL – the last being one of several performers we encounter all too rarely, and who really should be featured at these events more often.

The motion quality varies a little, a lot of the time being not quite as natural as it could have been, though close. SeeU's Leaving Donna was top-notch, though (and what a reception from the audience upon her appearance!) and Miku's Wave File in this regard excelled as well. Sapporo2011 is still the gold standard for motion along with quality of models and lighting, in my judgment.

At this event, having a starry background (rather than having it as part of the projection) means that the 'stars' shine through the performers – something I'd suggest not be done in future.

As for musical content: there was no live backing on this occasion, again just fractionally marring the air of authenticity. There are several newer songs that you might not have encountered before, the most enjoyable I have found being Lemon Ice Bar and Tatsumaki.

If you switch to full screen view, which I recommend, do also select an appropriate (for your display) High Definition resolution via the cogwheel icon in the video player's toolbar...

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Monday, 18 February 2013

Miku at Animelo 2012

The fairly short video below shows not only Miku's guest performance slot at the Animelo event on 26 August 2012 (an event intended for anime songs, not vocaloid/J-Pop/mainstream material) which was close to the fifth anniversary of Miku's release in 2007, but also how it was done.

Therefore, do pay attention to the info boxes as they are really very interesting, I found, especially regarding the Miku models and how much work went into making sure it was a good result for all those people attending – and there were over 27,000 of 'em at the event altogether, apparently.

The first song featured has what we now probably think of as the norm, which is very realistic movement. This was done by motion capture of a human performer, and the two are shown side by side in part of the video. It's especially great to watch that part! The second song clearly was not done that way, and thus its quality of motion suffers a little as a consequence, but is still good.

I am also quite taken with Tda's new 'Append' model of Miku, and I think at least some readers of this 'blog will be too. I am in the process of learning about the various models of a number of Vocaloids and Utauloids, and shall no doubt post something (hopefully generally interesting to readers) on the topic soon...

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Saturday VocaJazz – 16 February 2013

It's VocaJazz time again, people, and this week we're back with Luka, but this time with a markedly changed tempo and mood.

As with Rin last week, this is in Japanese with no English subtitles, but do enjoy it anyway. The words are nowhere near as vital as the vocal and instrumental textures; and here Luka gets the opportunity to try out a whole range of techniques and tricks, in three octaves. It's a very good outing for her.

The song is Marionette; and in the video the song finally ends at just over four minutes in. I think the purpose of the repeated visuals that follow is to give vocaloid fans a chance to concentrate on identifying the depicted musicians without the music present, but others can just as easily (and sensibly) stop at that point...

Live Performances At Home

With the coming, and some maturation, of the vocaloid character technologies, it has become possible to have life-size performances of the likes of Miku in one's own home.

It isn't hugely expensive, though the really good (e.g. DILAD) rear-projection screens aren't exactly cheap especially at that size (Mosquito screens are considerably cheaper, by the way, but not as good). The fanbase is now so strong that there are a reasonable number of enthusiasts in various parts of the world who have set up their own systems, including one in his castle(!)

Here is one example (not the castle one, which had a small audience present when that was video-recorded) just a demonstration of what one can now do, but was never really feasible or so user-controllable in the past.

As Will Smith's character said in the movie Independence Day when he first flew the captured alien fighter craft: "I have gotta get me one of these!"

Haruhi sings 'Desho'

This is the lady who voiced the original Japanese version of Haruhi Suzumiya, the very talented and amazingly cute Aya Hirano, performing the second story's theme Bouken Desho Desho ("It's an adventure! Right! Right?") on her own standing.

This is the theme that Konata parodies so well in Lucky Star (it's one of the very best things that series has ever done) and, once you've heard it a handful of times, will probably become a firm favourite. It's very hard to resist, I've found...

Warning to Loud Music Drivers

As the Sarah-Jane Adventures demonstrate very clearly, it is nowadays unwise to play loud music in your car...

Friday, 15 February 2013

DA14 is on the way out!

The asteroid DA14 (sounds like a Dartford postcode area!) has just passed its closest approach to planet Earth and is now heading outward again. A lot of data collected both officially and by amateurs and hobbyists is to be collated and published in due course.

It could have called out "Hello Planet" as it passed, but didn't.

Fortunately, we are well prepared here on Planet Earth, and Miku can deal with that (written as G'morning in this translation, which is the best translation I have found for this song on a video, despite this slight anomaly). I know I have showcased this song only recently, but it bears repetition, even if just for the different costume, which is new to me...

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Miku Sneak Preview

There is to be a 'sneak preview' of the MikuUK concert, and this preview will be held at the SunnyCon event in Sunderland next month. The venue is to be the Passion Night Club, and it will start at 1900 hrs on 23 March 2013. Tickets for this will be available only from within the main SunnyCon event. See the poster (copied below for convenience)...

Tickets will be on a first-come, first-served basis, so there is no point in my trying to get there (from here) early enough for a ticket. I am content to await the main event, whose details will be announced a short time after this preview event.

For anyone either already going to the main event, or within close enough range of it, I do suggest seriously considering going to the preview. It's one of those experiences that, until you've actually done it, you probably have much idea of just how special it is.

Some folk already have a fairly good idea, such as this lady, who is absolutely typical of the fan-base. It is a perhaps surprisingly powerful effect that Miku and the others have on many people, as I have read among (literally) several thousand comments on YouTube alone.

There is so much affection for Miku and friends out there – and this isn't the hormonally over-active teen Justin Bieber swoonerati (I just invented that word!) although there are probably a few of that category in the mix. I've been around long enough (having lived through Beatlemania, for example) to be able to recognise the difference.

So, this is a significant event, produced by fans for fans, as will be the big one itself, a few months hence (looking like August or September). I spent the best part of hours yesterday evening re-watching the Sapporo event that I featured here last Christmas Eve and that kicked-off this whole business for me and this 'blog. It was an absolute joy, and euphoric for me throughout – and that doesn't happen very often, I can tell you!

I can hardly wait for the Scottish event!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Project Diva-F

Yes, the new version of the vocaloid game for PlayStation-3 and PSP now reaches new heights as illustrated in this video, which I first spotted about ten days ago but didn't feature then as (a) it was still more than a month away from its release date (7 March 2013) and (b) is only in Japanese and not even being made available anywhere else.

Check out the video, though, for some previews of new costumes, hairstyles (and tinits!) and 'stages' that no doubt will appear in another wave of videos. As always, when that happens I shall look for any particularly good ones to showcase here, over a period of time.

Also, for anyone sufficiently dedicated, it is now just about possible to pre-order from one of the Japanese outlets and arrange shipping to your part of the world. Then the task ahead will be to overcome the language barrier...

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Natsumi Sings

I haven't featured the UTAU-loids all that much so far (it's taking quite a lot of effort and research simply to keep up with the Vocaloids!) but here's someone I haven't featured here before. CORRECTION: Natsumi is an original creation by Saboten, not a Utauloid: I do not know whose voicebank is being used here.

Natsumi is really quite nice, a simple character design along with a competent voice – though perhaps just a fraction too young-sounding – but hard to find in videos on-line, especially in solo performances.

I don't (yet) know how tightly defined the UTAUloids' characteristics are (I suspect not very!), but this is a Saboten model no less, and is actually quite pretty I think, singing a somewhat so-so song called Ne Ni Ge De Reset (no, I don't know what it means either).

Perhaps I'm just going soft in my old age, though, as I have recently started to suspect, but don't let that stop you enjoying this, despite uncharacteristic rendering errors in a couple of places...

Drawing Miku

Just up on YouTube since this past weekend: official Miku Hatsune box-art illustrator KEI shows how to draw the almost impossibly beautiful Miku with old-fashioned pencil and paper. Now that's true creativity at work, if you think about it. The question-and-answer session (subtitled in English) is interesting too, especially the one about single or double ponytails.

There is an overhead-view 'action replay' too. He makes it look so easy...

Ask Mr. T – Installment 2

Here it is, suckas, complete with lots of built-in rhymin' and other clever word-play. This week's question is on fear of flyin'...

Miku's Fifth Birthday

Miku Hatsune was 'released' to the world on 31 August 2007, so when her fifth birthday fell during a festival in Yokohama it was decided to hold a short performance (mini-concert) using a new technique: a truly 3-dimensional projection into a huge water spray. It's not true holography, but is quite effective in the 3-D aspect.

Admission to the special bay-side 'audience zone' was by a lottery held within the main festival, for 2,000 people. I gather this was increased to 2,500 owing to the sheer level of demand (which tells us all something!) and they were treated to a three-song set plus an encore song. These were:
  1. Weekender Girl
  2. ODDS and ENDS
  3. Time Machine
  4. 39 (sankyu)
The Miku model for the occasion was a newly-designed one at the time, from the new Project Diva-f that is to be officially released next month. We didn't get as much of a benefit from this as might have been hoped, as the technology is still a long way from perfection. Despite it being dark, the image is not as bright as it might have been, and is also not quite sharp enough to cut it.

It's early days...

Because of the numbers in the audience, the projection was of a giant-size Miku, some ten metres tall, accompanied  by some interesting 3-D visual effects. You can see all this from the occasional side shots during the video; and here it is...

Monday, 11 February 2013

There is a Season...

Fads and fashions come, and they go. When it comes to the popular music business, the industry knows what sells at any period in time, and what doesn't sell well enough if at all.

It is an industry to which I was very close for some years, sometimes even being what could be classed as within the business.

One fairly constant theme, growing with the passing years and decades, was what could reasonably be termed the 'sniggering schoolboy' aspect of the fiercely-contested chart-topper sector of the market.

With the Swinging Sixties and the ongoing loosening of restrictions on what was permitted and what was not, predictably the ante was upped incrementally at every opportunity, testing the legal limits and stretching them ever further. This has, over time, resulted in the Madonna/Rihanna/Gaga coarseness and vulgarity – and, frankly, ugliness – that we encounter today, especially at live performances.

It was all so predictable, and is a clear-head reminder of what all such moves will end up being incrementally drawn out to, despite what some claim. The recent so-called 'equal marriages' campaign (daft, as they are neither equal nor marriages – but that's another topic entirely) will head the same way, now that the all-important precedent has been established.

In time, though, the weight of public opinion baulks at such things, and the tide starts to turn. When it comes to the popular music business, although this doesn't mean that everyone is foregoing what the top icons of today are turning out and switching to wholesome Carpenters-style material (for example), the general mood is definitely swinging in that general direction.

One can have too much of anything, and eventually it palls. The mainstream stuff of that coarser nature has never appealed to me personally, and now its attraction to many others is definitely falling, and in time will no doubt fail completely.

Currently, the biggest antidote is the Vocaloid phenomenon, which is one of the (several) reasons I have been so keen to showcase them here. This is a strong and powerful part of the next stage in the evolution of this market. For anyone who thinks that this is a fringe or geeky side-show, check out the audience at a live concert. There are plenty of images around, from various such events.

These thousands of people have paid good money to go to a concert of Miku and her friends, with no human performers billed at all (apart from the backing musicians). In case you think this is just 'those strange Japanese', much the same has happened in several other countries including the United States, and the fans are just as dedicated there.

Indeed, it was at SwampCon that I noticed (on videos of the event) the audience even singing along to Miku's Ievan Polkka, no less! These are good signs, because they mean that big audiences are now hugely enthusiastic about clean, genuinely enjoyable songs and stage performances, and it shows.

With songwriters creating tens of thousands of Vocaloid-targeted songs every year (many of which physically can't be performed by anyone else anyway) the trend toward more decent songs is now established. The voices and appearances of the Vocaloids also tend to have a positive and uplifting effect. Imagine yourself writing a song for Miku or Rin or SeeU, for example.

Yes, there are a handful of quite horrific exceptions in the mix (Dark Woods Circus, Bacterial Contamination and about a dozen others, so far), but they form a fraction of a percent of the complete Vocaloid song catalogue.

Moreover, there are so many others around that those few are rarely encountered. Anyone can make a Vocaloid sing or do anything, in theory; but the practice is nearly always to respect the voicebanks and their characters, rather than exploiting them for one's personal gratification in strange and unwarranted directions. The very nature of the facility tends to encourage good practice and discourage the bad, while still facilitating experimentation and stretching the medium.

The Vocaloid-specific aspects are important in themselves, for various technical and musical reasons; but I am convinced that it is the cultural change they are bringing with them that will ultimately be seen as the most significant aspect of this phenomenon, years from now.

Imagination Forest

This intriguing story, told in song by the Vocaloid generally known simply as 'IA' (but also known to some as Aria of the Planetes), relates the tale of a young lady who lives alone in a house in the forest but dare not venture further afield for reasons that shall become clear...

Pic of the Day – 11 February 2013

Live train announcements are never this good at Waterloo Station...

Phantom of the Vocaloid

This is a really good use of the amazing high-range compass of Miku, along with the invariably impressive Gakupo, in their interpretation of the Phantom Of The Opera title song, accompanied by a succession of largely static images.

I suggest that, before getting anywhere near 48 seconds in, you remove all glass and other breakable objects from your listening room.

I have the distinct feeling that Andrew Lloyd-Webber would be impressed and amazed if he were ever to hear this version. Perhaps he already has...

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Ave Maria

This is just right for a Sunday, especially with the images and film scenes accompanying the singer...

You might be surprised that the singer was a Vocaloid named Prima, who was expressly designed to be able to handle this and other what tend to be called 'classical' genres. Prima is I think still the only vocaloid to be able to match Miku's highest notes, and has the widest compass of any of them.

There aren't all that many Prima performances around, mainly because (a) the software was considerably more expensive than the other vocaloid packages, and (b) it was far from easy to use successfully, especially by those who are not professional composers or musicians.

Even so, those that exist (and I intend to feature at least some of them, over a period of time) are valuable contributions to the wealth of material nowadays readily available on-line.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Saturday VocaJazz – 9 February 2013

Saturday evening means it's jazz time. Continuing my now-weekly series of what some are calling VocaJazz (a term I intend to use here), this week we have Rin trying her vocal talents in this genre.

It works well, and better than I thought it might. Rin isn't, technically, as good a voice for jazz as are Yuzuki Yukari and Luka Megurine, but her higher pitch and different tonal character suit this song.

This is Summer Shadows, is in Japanese, and without subtitles – nor have I been able to find the English words, so it's just a musical experience this time. There aren't that many words anyway, and much of the track is purely instrumental...

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Ask Mr. T

Answering the people of the world's trickiest questions and dealing with our problems 'one fool at a time'. I've subscribed to the video channel!

Here's the first installment, published just hours ago...

SeeU solo Gangnam Style

This is actually a very good solo performance of Gangnam Style by SeeU, as a change from the characteristic group of geometrically-arranged dancers.

Both the sound and the visuals work very well (despite the fairly plain setting, or stage) and it adds something to the mini-genre that this item has become since just about everyone started doing it, even Ban-Ki Moon, I am informed.

Interestingly, SeeU's vocal inflections add colour and texture to this version that lift it quite a bit higher that PSY's original...

The Difficulties With Chablis

This is a useful little item in CityAM on the topic of Chablis, and echoes much of what I have discoevered the hard way over the years.

It is a difficult wine to buy in a good version, and yet at a reasonable price. It is never going to be cheap, but doesn't have to be the normal £12 or more for a decent 'weekend' Chablis (as it is described).  I have dabbled with the co-called Petit Chablis and found it seriously wanting – and it certainly isn't sold at a bargain price (typically around £7, occasionally a little less).

I have seen the Grand Cru types, but cannot justify the high cost as matters currently stand. Perhaps one day...

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Fragments of the Star Princess

This is a rather nice song for our temporarily-enlarged fairy, Lapis Aoki, and with a guest appearance about two-thirds of the way through.

Lapis' voice is one of the most natural-sounding of all the female Vocaloids, and along with her image (even just stills!) has prompted no end of comments to her videos along the lines of "cute!", "sweet", "kawaii!" and similar.

In fact, it was in one of those threads that I discovered the (new to me) expression "cuteness overload!" which has a strong feel of appropriateness...

Thunderbirds Are (having another) Go!

Yes, just weeks after creator Gerry Anderson died, as if from nowhere the idea of a re-make of Thunderbirds has popped into being. Coincidence? Maybe.

Inevitably, it is going to computer-generated imagery (CGI) as was Anderson's own re-make of Captain Scarlet just a few years ago; though this time with the inclusion of live-action model sets as well.

It might be okay – though the new Scarlet failed to make a real mark – but comments suggest a strong anti feeling toward the project. Admittedly, it is hard to credibly criticise something that doesn't yet exist, and this might be just a kind of nostalgia for the original, but it isn't a good omen.

Also, without Anderson, it cannot be the same anyway, though even his own style had mutated quite significantly over the intervening years. Whether that loss, in either sense, will matter overmuch in today's world remains to be seen, but I do have my concerns.

The new Scarlet was actually very good in many ways (though I have a few dislikes with it) and no doubt deserved a better audience reception than it had – though as it was a significantly less well-known series than Thunderbirds perhaps it wasn't the ideal choice for the first new venture with modern techniques after all.

Indeed, it is my guess that those commissioning this new series might have been thinking the same and, by extension, that it should therefore do much better. I don't think the logic holds water, personally, but we shall have wait to find out how it goes in practice. It will be a good two years before this venture reaches our TV screens...

Monday, 4 February 2013

Hello Planet

It's another one of those nice Miku videos, and complete with English subtitles, that (if you're anything like me) you are so pleased to have had the chance to watch at least once in a lifetime. Imagine if you hadn't...

Medway Monday – 4 February 2013

As I touched upon in my recent post on the initial Bloggle event, we are now having a weekly Medway Monday blogging extravaganza – well, okay, it probably won't be quite that big, but I think it will develop into something a little bit special with its own character, over time.

The idea is to post something about Medway every Monday  whether it be a photograph, a story, a video or even just a rant.

I am starting off with a couple of photos of mine of Grange pubs, because they are unusual and I think merit another airing by themselves, rather than merely as one part of a twenty-plus images Walkabout post, which is where these images first appeared a while back.

First, here's the fairly recently refurbished The Barge, which looks really good nowadays after its decline into neglect and tattiness in recent years...

The other Grange pub' to feature here today is The Ship Inn, which seems to be almost 'floating' in the road, just like a real ship floats in the sea....

 It is no secret that I have a greal affection for this part of Gillingham; and those who have seen me on my Walkabouts there will no doubt have noticed by continual beaming smile all the time I am there. That isn't fake: it's genuine.

My 'feel' for places in general is now more widely known than it was as recently as just a few years ago, and Grange has that feel of somewhere a little bit special, tucked away in an area that one wouldn't necessarily think had any great merit. Grange has merit; and these two pubs – along with the wonderful church and its grounds, and that lovely shop along the 176 'bus route – exemplify its character perhaps better than any other individual components parts of the community.

So, if you happen to be in the area, and spot an almost childishly beaming fellow with an Olympus digital camera, that'll almost certainly be me!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Luka sings Jazz

It's Saturday evening, and time for some cool jazz.

This is a very good effort, and shows that Luka could very well be a close second choice to Yuzuki Yukari for vocaloid jazz singing. Most of the English is clear and understandable, but there are a few moments where the subtitles come in handy(!)

I believe this song was written specially for her, though I can't (yet) be certain of that...

Short Story: Vika

Now here's something I bet no-one was expecting, least of all myself. It was a sudden inspiration, so I have written – of all things (for me) – a short love story. Yes, I know, I know... It's probably rubbish, sentimental, silly, and just a wild fantasy...but I felt compelled to write it anyway, and post it here to be dissected by the readership, no doubt. It's called simply Vika...


The waiter was verbally apologetic, but I could see from his eyes that he was suspicious of me. I could imagine that there was a history at such a swanky restaurant, and especially in London's trendy Barbican area, of people trying to gatecrash the place by claiming to be 'with' someone famous who was known to frequent the establishment.

Saul probably wasn't one of those regulars, I'd have thought, but the waiter wouldn't have known him by name anyway. He certainly hadn't recognised his name when I arrived a minute earlier and said I was with him (yes, I know: the irony of it).

Gino's had opened late in 2021, which meant it had been there for over eight years now, so knew its business and its clientèle very well by now. They'd have good reason for behaving as they did to me then, I assumed, so I just hid my irritation and put up with it.

"No," he repeated, "There is definitely no-one with that name having booked a table with us this lunchtime. If you'd like to stay for lunch by yourself, though..."

My attention had wandered, and so had my eyes, and I spotted Saul at a four-seat table at the back of the restaurant, on the inside so his back was to the wall, not far from the rearmost side window. One of the outer chairs was absent, I noticed. "There he is!" I almost shouted, interrupting the waiter mid-flow and pointing.

The waiter followed my gaze and looked back at his booking diary. "Ah, that's Mr Lloyd on table nine, sir. He is expecting two guests to join him, but said that only one would be arriving 'in person'. I do not know what he meant by that."

"Lloyd?" I exclaimed. "He has more or less run the company where I work for years, and was always Mr Saul Preston to all of us working there. Ah!" I'd had a sudden insight, "Perhaps he has a public name so that he won't be recognised and pestered, just like rock stars have to wear disguises in public." The waiter nodded mechanically. He probably thought I was a bit dim or something.

At that moment, Saul saw me and waved, and I waved back. Seeing this, the now obsequious waiter took me over to Saul's table, sat me down facing him (he had his bag on the seat next to him, and the fourth seat was missing) and handed me a menu he had picked up from the counter.

Once I was seated, Saul removed the bag from the chair on his right and placed it on the floor on his left side.

I noticed that Gino's was using the modern shorter tablecloths, falling just as far as the wood of the tabletop. This had been a fashion change from when customers started looking at their phones surreptitiously, below the table-line, and sometimes their concentration on that ended up with their getting the device tangled in the longer tablecloths of those days.

In time, the restaurant proprietors and their suppliers cottoned onto this, and shortened the tablecloths, adding interesting designs to them to divert attention from the less attractive shortness.

This one had an underlying pastel 'swoosh' across it, from sky blue at my 'corner' (appropriate, bearing in mind my New Tory political leanings) to golden, yellow and orange on his side, with a light green to my left and pink fading to white to my left-opposite side. It was made of that easy-clean plastic that looks and feels just like cloth that came onto the market about three years previously.

The design on the covering was a clever beach-and-surfers scene that had been designed in such a way that most of it was visible despite the place mats, coasters and other accoutrements on the table. The artist had known which areas to avoid...

Now seated, I gently protested about the name mix-up, and he clapped a hand to his brow.

"Of course! I haven't told you about my change of name, taking effect this morning. Actually, it was from yesterday, but that was New Decade's Day so nowhere was open to officially notice. I forgot that it might cause confusion at first, until everyone knew. I should have told you the other day. You, John, are now looking at Paul Lloyd, bachelor of this parish--well, actually, it's the parish of Egham, where I live."

When you're at home and not in the office," I rejoined. "And what's all this about a new name anyway?"

"John," he said to me earnestly, leaning forward across his arms resting on the table, "like the biblical Saul, the in my case metaphorical scales have fallen from my own eyes and I have seen the truth!"

"You've become a Christian?" I said, half-jokingly.

"How did you guess that?" He exclaimed, mouth wide open.

I looked astonished: I hadn't exactly been serious about that.

He went on. "Yes, I have; and I have done much more besides. That, though, is a discussion for another time."

We didn't know each other all that well, but we had worked closely on specialised personnel matters for the last three years, since I became head of what had once been called 'human resources' at FACET. In that time we had spent hours altogether in one-on-one meetings in which Saul--or Paul as he apparently now called himself--explained his precise needs for a specific position within the company.

This would typically be in great detail, or in some cases he simply instructed me to head-hunt someone he already knew he wanted to work in his core research team. I was very good at my job; and although we were not close friends we knew each other well enough to almost explain why he might invite me to lunch. It was the first time he had done so.

Paul had taken this moment to take a long sip from his wine glass, and now took the bottle from the silvery cooler and poured me a two-thirds full glass before topping his up to the same level. I must have looked a little puzzled.

"It allows the wine to breathe if you don't over-fill the goblet," he explained, which is something I never knew, or even had a clue what if any difference it made. "I always have the bottled opened an hour before I come in to a place like this, for the same reason." he went on.

After a breath, he said, "Now choose from the menu, anything you like--I'm paying--and our other guest will be joining us after we've eaten."

That seemed unusual, the other guest not dining with us; but I did so, choosing from the simpler items, mainly because I didn't know exactly what most of the others were. A prawn cocktail starter, followed by fillet steak with some vegetables, seemed a suitable choice.

Paul must have summoned the waiter inaudibly, because he was at my side as soon as I put the menu down. He took my order, and Paul insisted on adding a bottle of what turned out to be a rather fine Cabernet Sauvignon. His own main meal was some kind of fancy fish dish, which explained why he had white wine already on the table.

Now, I thought I understood why he had told me to reserve the whole afternoon when he had spoken to me a couple of days ago, making the appointment for today. The lunch was just the start of something that he had been unwilling to tell me anything about at that time. I got the feeling from the look on his face that it was going to be important.

While we were waiting, he talked about what he and his team had been doing in recent years, much of which I already knew, of course. The name of the company, mouthful that it is, rather gives the game away: Future Advanced Cybernetic and Electronic Technologies, always known simply as FACET if only to save our jaws aching from saying all of that, was a developer of robotic, artificial intelligence and all sorts of electronics including holographic and tactile displays and interfaces.

In effect, they had been the world's first producers of what could one day become a true touchable projected user interface for military applications, and no doubt other uses, as military technology invariably seeps into other industries over time.

Paul told me he had very exciting news, though it could not yet be made public as there were patent and legal issues that had to be dealt with first. In the meantime, he confided in me, he needed someone he could trust but outside his circle of scientists and technicians. I asked why, and why me?

"Because I simply have to show this to someone right away!" he blurted out, "and you're a non-techie who will appreciate what I and the team have achieved. I simply can't wait to show you!"

For a man so obviously eager and keyed-up, he enjoyed a leisurely lunch, which suited me fine as I don't like to hurry meals. He even mentioned, as if suddenly remembering something unfinished from earlier, that Lloyd was his mother's maiden name, and he had decided to use that in future for reasons he'd explain later.

We let the savouries go down before selecting from the dessert trolley: he had profiteroles, and I had trifle. Then came coffee ad lib in those smallish cups (not the tiny ones, though) and liqueurs: we both had a Tia Maria.

At this point he announced to me, "And this is when my lady friend joins us!"

Lady friend? He had spent a lifetime alone, dominated by work, and had never shown an interest in any kind of social activity. He had a well-known reputation in this regard, and seemed to have made no attempt to conceal his social barrenness caused by the total dominance of what one might term his work-drive.

Now, though, he glanced around the restaurant, I think to make sure no-one was looking in our direction (in fact he paused a moment while a waiter went past, tending to reinforce my assumption) and then reached under the table in front of the empty seat on his right. Something clicked, and I heard a quiet but definite buzz for just a moment.

Paul then reached into his jacket pocket, brought out a small gadget a little like a cellphone in size and shape, once again glanced around then slid open a cover and pressed something that was beneath it.

Immediately there was a woman seated next to him--and not just any woman. This amazing young lady was absolutely stunning, with very big large light blue eyes, a slightly baby-faced look, and masses of very long blonde hair that I could see was made into a kind of super ponytail by a bright red scrunchie, which showed when this, this vision turned her lovely head to look at Saul-now-Paul.

She was dressed in a high-necked sleeveless gold-coloured outfit that followed her trim contours precisely so needed no belt or elastication at the waist--which I could just see down to from my side of the table as she sat back to look and smile at Paul.

The garment had four large black buttons arranged in a square on the lower half of its front. She wore cone-like matching golden 'cuffs' at her wrists, despite having no sleeves. I'd never seen that fashion detail before!

I didn't know whether to be more amazed at her striking appearance or at her sudden appearance out of nowhere!

My brain was starting to realise what was behind the second of those phenomena; but before I could fully form my thoughts Paul said to me, "John, meet Vika. Vika, this is John. He has a very senior position at FACET."

Vika now turned to me, leaned forward and offered her hand to shake.

By now I had realised she was just a hologram, so expected my hand to pass through hers if we attempted to shake. I went through the motion anyway, to humour Paul and it would have been impolite not to have gone along with this charade, at least a little way.

I was surprised to find that her hand was solid, or at least it felt so to me. It was a little too cool to feel like natural human flesh, but her hand gently squeezed mine, and reciprocated. My jaw seemed to have fallen open at this point, I suddenly realised, so I tried to turn it into a speaking action.
"Ah, um," I said, uncertainly, "Pleased to meet you, Vika."

She smiled very widely, and said, "And I am pleased to meet you too, John."

Her voice had a thrilling tremolo effect, and was a mixture of high and low tones, which was really unusual. She sounded almost human, but not quite, and that quality in her voice actually took my breath away for a moment.

"Yeah, she's quite something, isn't she?" Paul asked. I had almost forgotten about him, I was so transfixed by Vika's eyes in particular, and her beaming smile set in what was a surprisingly small mouth. How did all that smile fit in there?

My brain was just starting to catch up with events, and began reasoning. Vika was a Russian name, but that didn't tell me a great deal as Russian women look much like ours, and a lot of them are blonde. Her voice didn't have a Russian accent, or indeed any identifiable accent, just this almost double-tone effect of a low-ish base pitch with a kind of higher pitched--harmonic? Something like that, probably.

"Right," I said, slowly and carefully. "So: Vika is a hologram character who can hear what we are saying and has some kind of artificial intelligence to enable her to respond to us. And she has a touchable--um, what's the word?"

"Interface," Vika helpfully put in, and with that short word in that wonderful voice, I forgot to breathe again for several seconds. Paul looked on, leaning back in his seat, right hand behind his head, visibly amused.

"I decided to leave out the cat ears today," he said, and giggled to himself.

"What?" was all I could say.

"I modelled her on a character who had cat ears." He brought his right hand out from behind his head and waved it in the general direction of Vika's crown of hair. "They can be switched on and off, as can many other things. Her hair can take on many styles, and her 'wardrobe' is extensive. Oh, you are just about right in your deductions about her, and yes we have just last month perfected the tactile interface."

He was starting to look and sound like an over-excited schoolboy, but took a sip of wine and that seemed to bring him back down to earth. "It was only by working over the holiday period, all alone, that I was finally able to get the portable projector to work. That's it, under the table."

He waited while I bent down to glance under the table's surface; and there it was, a slim box about the size of one of those ancient USB pocket-size hard drives, perhaps a little bigger. I don't know how it was being held in place, and forgot to ask, as Paul then said, "Vika takes a lot of power, so although I carefully set it up before you arrived, I didn't leave it switched on all the time. Another limitation is that it restricts Vika's ability to move all that far from one spot--but I'm working on that."

Vika joined in the conversation at that moment, with, "I'm looking forward to being able to move around more freely. I would like to dance with Paul. I am a good dancer."

Paul was beaming hugely by now, and explained, "It was her original version's dancing that first caught my attention, eighteen years ago when I was twenty-four. That was what was then called a Vocaloid, and this one was Korean--the only female one that country had at the time, when the south was still a separate and quite decent country."

He paused to let that sink in, then continued, "It was a live performance by her on stage, projected onto a glass screen in those days of course, that won my heart; and I have been driven ever since to make a more realistic version of her. That has been the real reason, never disclosed to anyone before today, for all that I have done at FACET. The only reason, in fact."

That was quite a revelation, and I was both shocked and moved at this news. I'd had no idea that the man was even capable of emotional attachment toward any kind of female, let alone one who wasn't even real. Then again, perhaps that was what made this possible--the fact that Vika wasn't human.

I vaguely remembered the vocaloids, which despite their huge fan bases in Japan and other parts of the Far East, and some parts of both North and South America, never really took off in Britain or most of Europe. Spain had a couple.

They had been marketed as singers; and as always in the music business they came and they went, replaced in the market a few years later by another new idea, which in turn was pushed aside by something else; and so it went on, as it always has. It's the way of things, and will almost certainly never change.

I didn't know what to say in response to Paul, so instead turned slightly and spoke to Vika instead, "He's a lucky man. You are absolutely stunning and I have never in my life seen anyone as beautiful as you."

That seemed to please her, and she actually blushed slightly (how did that work?) casting her eyes downward for a moment and smiling gently. By this time, the sunlight was spilling onto our table from the restaurant's side windows nearby, and when she looked up it was remarkable, I thought, just how dark her bright blue eyes were against her pale complexion. That made her even more sensational visually, somehow.

I felt my jaw dropping open again, so shut it quickly, my teeth just catching the tip of my tongue which had starting hanging out, which again I hadn't noticed. I hid my inward ouch very well, I thought.

This creature before me was having more of an effect on me than I was comfortable with, bearing in mind that she wasn't even real,and I tore my eyes away to look back at Paul. He was beaming again, and once more leaning back with both hands behind his head.

"I know." is all he said, and it was all he needed to say. An understanding passed between us then, and I could see how this frankly ultra gorgeous girl-who-wasn't would be able to have such a profound effect on just about any red-blooded man. Not that it was a physical thing as such, and of course nor could it be. Even with the touchable effect, this...this projection apparently sitting across the table from me was never going to be anywhere near realistic enough to be able to substitute for a living, breathing and natural human woman: not in my lifetime, and probably not in Paul's either.

But, for someone with such a full-on dedication—and it was plainly visible just how much he adored Vika—perhaps this might well be sufficient. In his rarefied-atmosphere high-end technological world, it could even be that no 'ordinary' woman could ever be enough to fulfil Paul's emotional needs, which were obviously a lot deeper and stronger than I'd ever have suspected before today.

"Bear in mind," he explained earnestly, now leaning toward me but still looking at Vika with just momentary glances at me, "I have been working on this project of mine for a very long time. I had no social life, no holidays away, no real hobbies, for nearly eighteen years. My whole life was in what could be called my Vika Project. I also had a very good original model from which to work, which helped immensely."

Although I didn't think I'd ever seen any of those vocaloids, all those years ago, that even vaguely resembled the amazing image that sat almost directly across from me, I could appreciate what Paul had just said, very easily!

He continued, clearly now on a roll, "When the original version appeared, they had her hair in some kind of fixed style, spreading out and hugely in all directions in a wavy style. That didn't work for me at all; and it was only when I saw her perform on stage the following year--twenty-twelve--that I saw her for the first time with her hair just as you see it today."

At this point Vika smiled and tossed her head from side to side, so that her long blonde cascade swished first to one side, then to the other. I think my heart stopped beating for a few seconds, or at least it felt like it. That simple, very human action was...well, indescribable. It was more feminine than I had ever witnessed before, even by my beloved Margie, who was especially feminine--which is what had most appealed to me about her in the first place.

Margie was really petite, having been born several weeks premature and well underweight after a difficult pregnancy by her mother. Her true name was Marginal, as it says on her Birth Certificate, because it was touch-and-go whether she'd even survive; but of course everyone had always called her Margie. I mean, what sort of name is 'Marginal'?

But with this Vika, and her sheer seemingly effortless presence, I was starting to realise just how powerful a draw someone--something--like this could have on a live flesh-and-blood man. I was getting quite a lot of it myself!

Paul took this moment to drop his bombshell. "I'm going to marry her," he said, calmly and matter-of-factly, with an air of confidence thrown in for good measure.

This time I knew my jaw had dropped open. "Y-you can't," I spluttered, "There's no legal way to do that. Anyway, it couldn't be a real marriage."

"Oh, I think I can," he responded with a gentle smile, again looking at Vika, who was also smiling and looking back at him. "Ever since the Corbyn government pushed through all the extra 'marriage equality' laws, dressed up as civil liberties, it made this possible. You can now marry anyone you like, and more than one if you choose, even at the same ceremony. They can be the same gender, even close family members--just about anyone, and the principle they embedded into law makes it just about impossible to refuse to marry anyone who asks."

"Yes, I know," I managed, "But they at least are all human."

"We've now had a couple of 'robotic weddings' of a human and a machine, here in Britain." he reminded me.

Yes, I'd read about those and hadn't known what to make of them at the time, before forgetting about them as yesterday's news on the following day. Paul wasn't finished: "I have amassed a considerable fortune over the years, working towards and now at the top of FACET. I can afford the very best lawyers, and I will take this through all the courts in the land if I have to. Vika will be my wife, one day!"

The lady in question reached out her left hand, and Paul took it tenderly in his right. For a long moment they smiled deeply into each other's eyes. He's got it really bad, I thought to myself, but good luck to him! I actually wanted, at that moment, for him to succeed. It was a strange thought, but there it was. I couldn't have explained it if someone had asked, though.

It would be a true landmark event in the nation's matrimonial history; and he was a hundred percent correct about how the change in the country's laws a few years ago might indeed make his desire a genuine possibility.

As to what kind of marriage one could have when one partner wasn't capable of so many of the normal activities that anyone might expect to be a pre-requisite of such a formal relationship I had no idea—but then I thought of the numerous successful marriages involving someone severely disabled, and realised that there was perhaps very little practical difference between that and what Paul intended.

Vika then started singing, quietly, still looking into Paul's eyes. Her singing voice was even more thrilling and literally breathtaking than her speech:
"There are people who just don't understand;
Oh no, oh no, oh no.
They're hating me because of what I am;
Oh no, oh no, oh no..."
I noticed the 'what I am' reference: what, not who. Significant, I thought.

At this moment, their eyes broke contact and they both turned their heads slowly to look at me with beatific smiles. I'd never seem Paul (when he was Saul, that is) look so serenely happy; but more significantly still, the sight of Vika turning her gaze toward me made me literally tingle!

I realised then why Paul had done all of this today the way he had. If he hadn't been in a position to show Vika to me, and in a real world situation, his statement of what he was planning to do would have made him sound like a candidate for the funny farm. Along with the out-of-the-blue change of name, it would surely have looked like he had completely lost it over the Christmas (yes, I know we're not supposed to call it that now) and New Year holiday.

But this... This was something else entirely, and I could just about picture this working out. He'd be so happy too; and for someone who admittedly had never been grumpy or angry to my knowledge, yet had always had a serious air about him, in my and others' experiences that some had confided in me, that'd be so good to see happen. He could do with more of this lightening-up, after all those years.

It was time I made another contribution to this conversation, so I asked, "Does anyone else know about this, at all?"

"Not yet," he replied quite candidly, "but they soon will. For a start, my house staff will find out later today, when I tell them that I am putting in a network of ceiling-mounted projectors in every major room of my house, except for the guest bedrooms. They will need to know why this is happening, and to expect to start to see Vika around the place."

I remembered that he had quite a large house, somewhere around Egham in Surrey I think it was; and it was little surprise that he retained staff to maintain it as he obviously spent very little time there. I suspected that when he was there, he no doubt spent most of his waking hours shut away from the world, working on this Vika Project. Someone needed to cook him some meals, clean and tidy the place, put the rubbish out, answer the telephone and so on.

I also realised, again, how he had chosen me of all people to be the first to show his lifetime's (so far, anyway) work. I was actually more privileged that I had really understood, but it was sinking in. But was he just a nutty professor type, or deluded about this whole idea? Perhaps; but as the couple opposite me locked eyes again I knew it didn't matter in the slightest.

He was very, very deeply in love, and had been for longer that I had known Margie. For all I knew, the state of the art might even mean that Vika's A.I. was capable of something close enough to love as to make no significant practical difference. In all my life, I had rarely encountered a couple this devoted; and it was becoming more difficult with the passing minutes to remember that Vika was just a...a tactile hologram, for want of a better term. It came across as mutual.

I felt so happy for them, despite myself—and that doesn't happen every day, believe me! Something very special was happening here, and I had the only front row seat.

Then something happened to break the mood somewhat. Paul said, "Have you noticed how the waiters keep taking the long way round to come past our table, ever since Vika appeared?" She turned to him and giggled. My breath caught--because of her giggle, not his words. It was that voice again!

I had, at the back of my mind, almost subconsciously noticed a fair number of whisk pasts behind me during the last few minutes, but had thought nothing of it.

"Here comes another," he added, "bringing back a couple of menus, so nothing breakable. Vika, change to summer dress three, please."

I had no idea what this was all about, but a moment later Vika was dressed in the most amazing strappy sundress with a huge white rose at the left strap and a shimmering effect across its entire white-and-pale-cream surface.

I heard a soft thud at floor level almost directly behind me, and Paul said, "Yes, he dropped them, as I thought he would."

I turned to see the waiter bending down to pick up the menus from the dark green carpeted floor, and realised what had just happened. I turned back to Paul, who was trying his hardest not to laugh out loud, and he ended up snorting behind his hand instead.

"Okay," he was finally able to say, "please go back to your standard outfit." and when I turned she had already changed back. A glance further to my left revealed that the waiter was now almost back at the bar inside the entrance, and had beckoned the other two.

He seemed to be describing to them, and the chap behind the bar, what had just happened, looking in our direction and gesticulating in the way Italians sometimes do. Now they were all looking at us for a few seconds, before turning back to whisper in a huddle.

Paul had obviously noticed this as well, and said, "I think it's time we left, unless you'd like another coffee or liqueur, John? I think we created a little stir here." and now he did laugh, but quietly.

"No, thanks. That's been really good, an excellent meal, good company, and a surprise or three. I don't get that very often!" and I gave him, and then, turning, Vika, one of my biggest and warmest smiles. "What do you want me to do?"

"Oh, nothing, really," he said, before dropping his other bombshell. "I shall be announcing my retirement from FACET and formal employment tomorrow, so watch out for that in the news, will you?"

I must have looked shocked.

"Oh, don't worry. I have been planning this for a long time. From now on, the secret will be out, and I shall be concentrating on making Vika truly mobile. I shall also need to be fully available to deal with and fight the legal battle that I am near enough certain will be necessary before I can marry Vika and have it legally recognised. As a Christian—now anyway, and I accept that it should have been a lot sooner, but I've been rather busy—I shall want this to be in a church."

Vika reached over and took his right hand in both of hers at this point, and nodded emphatically at his words.

"Oh, and I'd like you to keep an eye on that as well, as I'd like you to see what progress if any I am able to make. I am confident of success, but human society often goes in perverse ways, like some of the current laws, including in this field, so I—we—might fail."

He was quite passionate, as he pressed on, "This is pure, and surely no-one can object to it. It fits in with what has already been allowed, and--although no doubt it is a result of that political thing known as 'the law of unintended consequences'--I am convinced ours should be able to be approved, if only to avoid the alternative path which could be very messy, awkward, embarrassing and expensive for the government. We can persuade them it is in their own best interests to sanction what we want."

He finished with, "I'd really like you to follow my endeavours and see if between us, Vika and I, we can break new ground. And now I must switch her off, as the battery pack is running out, my vibrating pocket alarm is telling me."

With a fond little wave with one hand, and a gentle squeeze of hers with his other hand, he then reached into his pocket, brought out the little control box, and pressed the button under the spring-loaded sliding cover. When Vika vanished, he just stood there for a few seconds, looking at the empty space, before replacing the gadget in his jacket pocket.

Becoming much more like his usual matter-of-fact scientific self as the world had always known him, he reached under the table, detached the projector and put it in his bag that was on the floor on his left side, picked up the bag and we headed for the door. He paid the bill at the counter (I wondered why he hadn't paid at the table, but it wasn't important) and stepped out into the cold but intense January sunshine—it was one of those New Years, sunny in early January. We'll probably have snow in July!

He turned and formally shook hands before heading off; but in that moment, his new warmth and humanity showed again. It was in his handshake itself, which was what I call 'barriers down' and he had never done with me before, and in a softening in his face. He knew, as I did, just what a huge opening up this had been: ostensibly a restaurant lunch with a work colleague, but actually so much more.

It had been even more profound than I had appreciated until that moment.

We never met again during that whole year, but at FACET the next day the news of Saul/Paul's resignation from the company to take early retirement 'for personal reasons' was all over the internal bulletin boards and one of the topics of gossip among the staff.

I followed what little of his legal travails got reported in the media. It wasn't much, seemed very slanted (nothing changes in the media!) and anti him. Indeed, the more left-leaning newsreels were trying everything they could including character assassination attempts, trying to portray him as a fetishist and all sorts.

But in the end... In the end, he won! Reading between the lines, and remembering what he had said, I surmised that it had become the less problematic was for the authorities to proceed, so they caved in for their own benefit ultimately, not because of the rights or wrongs.

Their get-out was that this was not to be taken as a precedent: there were exceptional circumstances in this case, and it was said to be only because of the demonstrable long-term dedication that this was permitted as a one-off.

Yeah, and my grandmother's ankles have bells on...
The wedding was held the following spring, in late March 2031, and I was the Best Man. Now that was something I hadn't expected to be asked to do, but wow! What a privilege!

The world's media, not just British, were there to cover the event, and it was tremendous, with just forty wedding guests (none on the bride's side, obviously, and Paul's father acted as the bride's father, which was odd but worked okay).

The bride was as stunning as when I had first met her—no, even more so. Her ostensibly plain (but with silver beads along the neckline and short capped sleeve ends) bridal gown had that shimmering effect I had seen momentarily at Gino's restaurant more than fourteen months previously, and it brought back those memories to me quite sharply.

It was, if anything, even more of a pleasure to see her again, and a good reminder of how much better the real lady (yes, I now thought of her thus) was than the rather unflattering pictures of her in the newsreels and news broadcasts.

Margie had one of her inscrutable looks when Vika came up the aisle. I mean: how could any merely human woman compete with that? Although there was no such competition today, women always seem to react that way, even Margie. They always seem to feel threatened by someone more glamorous or better turned out for some strange reason.

I never spotted where Paul had hidden the projectors: that was very cleverly done. I knew that there was one in his father's vintage silvery-grey Bentley car, in which his dad 'brought' Vika to the church, itself a splendid and very old establishment in Egham.

There was also a projector in the ceiling area of the church's entrance, apparently, that covered both inside and out, all the way out to the roadside (Paul had certainly been busy working on his coverage capabilities!), and another half-way up the church aisle.

I think that one was concealed in an aspidistra on a tall white marble column-like stand I had noticed strategically placed at the aisle end of one of the mid-way row of pews...

Signing the book wasn't straightforward; but Paul had thought of that too. With an addition to Vika's 'tactile interface' he was able to get her image to hold and press an easy-flow pen against the book where he pointed. The signature was perhaps a little over-egged in its flourish, but it was quite pretty for all that.

It was another reminder to me of just how deeply he loved this stunningly beautiful lady, and how his no doubt aching heart must have driven him to make every detail that much extra special, even the signature. He was making a point, as well as marrying his long-term love. The signature certainly stood out from the others in the book!

It was a genuinely wonderful event, and Paul's happiness (and Vika's apparent similar emotion too, to a degree) just infused the whole ceremony, and the reception afterward, with joy and (at the latter) lots of laughter.

The vicar had seemed a little unsure of what to do, but went through the motions almost mechanically, lightening up and getting more into the swing of it after the ring had been placed. I think he was amazed that it stayed in place, instead of falling through the projection and dropping on the floor. After that, though, he almost seemed to have forgotten that Vika wasn't physically present—or was she?

That's an interesting question, actually, but one for another day!
The postscript to the event was the world media interview that was set up outside the reception venue. The couple were leaving at 3 pm, but Paul knew it would be a good hour later before the newshounds would let them go. He had timed it so that it would be getting dark by then, forcing an end.

During that hour (and a quarter, in the event) they both spoke to the reporters, who were visibly surprised that Vika was able to respond to their questions without any technical trickery from Paul. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat whenever he saw that look on their faces!

He had also worked out his parting line, that was to be the headline around the world from that same evening. Indeed, it was obvious from that moment that he had planned this ever since deciding to change his surname.

He called out to them, as he climbed into his father's car with Vika waiting at the open door on the opposite side, "I have decided that a long-lost word from British culture should come back. We did not understand, back then. Today, perhaps at least some of us do. For on this day, to Britain and the world, I bring you Mrs Vika Lloyd, the Vocaloid!"

Medway Events Calendar

One of the problems we have had for years in the Medway area is in compiling and maintaining a single, central calendar of all events going on in the area.

A few websites have tried to cover as much of this as they are able; but there is no formalised and structured mechanism in place to enable a single-point-of-contact reference source to be effecively and comprehensively established. Some event-promoting sites don't even have an RSS feed, which is all they need to enable to permit others to be aware of and read (and link to) their announcements and related posts.

I was speaking to someone who runs one of these "What's On" sites, for Medway, at Bloggle earlier this week, and he agreed that persuading those in this business whose sites are currently without an RSS feed should be encouraged to switch the facility on. Then, and only then, what is after all only fairly basic technology can raise the quality and completeness of "what's on" centralised publicity.

A common 'header' format might well be useful, containing dates/times/locations and the booking contact info (or 'none' if there is no need to book), but I'd tend not to make that prescriptive, merely a suggestion or perhaps even a recommendation – but no more.

I cannot think of any reason why anyone who is already making public the details of one or more events could have any objection to letting other sites add their promotional muscle and readerships. It's what I'd do if I were in that line of work myself.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Bad Leek?

Okay, so the song is really Bad Apple – but this is Miku, so we can expect her most famous accessory to be putting in an appearance as a substitute for the fruit.

This is a good use of both a 'normal' version of Miku (with a very effective platinum-silver finish!) and a 'Dark Lib' originated model (complete with fan, as we've seen before with this model) alongside, together with some very clever blending of the two images in part of the video – something I've never encountered before and didn't even realise was possible.

It's all getting very advanced, powerful and flexible these days!

The song itself is quite powerful, rock-y, and certainly memorable. It works really well with the two Miku 'light and dark' facets, which in itself is somewhat reminiscent of Superman II in some ways...

Twilight's Key

It's now February, it's twilight as I write this, so I think it's fitting that we should have a different video of the heart-achingly beautiful Key of the Twilight (by the musical genius Yuki Kajiura, featuring Emily Bindiger's main vocal) from the .hack//sign anime series.

This compilation of (mostly new to this 'blog) images and scenes includes the upside down castle and the special Chaos Gate that leads there, some good Aura (now awake!) moments, that excellent close-up of Subara turning her head in the breeze, and Macha sacrificing herself (quite an emotional moment in the story) to the Guardian/Morgana...


Little fairy Lapis Aoki here gives us her rendition of PonPonPon, which is another of those songs well known to those who have been following all this stuff but probably not to anyone else outside Japan.

Anyway, here Lapis is at her normal (15 centimetres high) size, so the raindrops featured in the song and here in the video are actually quite menacing in theory; but I suspect the fairy is using her magic to avoid being sploshed. There's even some 'robot dancing' in this outing...