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What seems strange to me now… May 10, 2006

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…was that everyone spent that evening as though it were just like any other. Me, on the other hand: I had a dream.

No, not “I have a dream”, but “I had a (really rather strange) dream”. It was strange as dreams go. There was me, Chelle and a group of friends (you know, the arbitrary people in your dreams who you don’t actually know, but they’re your friends in the dream).

We were doing a Tube Challenge and were walking/running to what was supposed to be Kensington (Olympia) station, but as you’ll see from the following diagram, it wasn’t quite true to life.

We came from the building at the bottom and crossed the tracks (I can’t remember if we used the bridge or not) to the platform at A. We waited and waited for a train. Eventually a load of the others decided to make their own way to the next station (thus defeating the point of the Tube Challenge, arriving and departing from a station on foot). I followed them and we came upon a Ford Escort van at B.

The van had two people on bicycles in place of the standard cab, and everyone piled in via the tailgate. I had to run to catch up with it and jump in because it was already making its escape by the time I reached it. Then, of course, just then, a Tube train came into the platform at A and I had to grab Chelle and run for the train, which we caught just in time.

Then the train left, but it transmogrified without me noticing (as these things do in dreams of mine) into a ride-on miniature railway in order to negotiate a sharply curved piece of track at C, before continuing back down the track toward Earls Court or wherever it was supposed to be going in my twisted mind.

Ahhh. Dreams. Love them.


Adham “The Legend” Fisher to play “To The Trains” on Sure Radio May 8, 2006

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Adham, Tube Challenger, man, legend, collaborator on Bakerloo EP and student DJ, is to play the Underground Masker’s magnum opus, To The Trains, on his show on Friday. Be sure to tune in on http://www.sureradio.com, especially if you don’t have the Bakerloo EP yet!

PS. Click Adham’s name for a special video treat featuring The Legend himself.

Dawn of the Third Day May 7, 2006

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No more mice since the first day, when we smashed a magnificent total of three.

One of the traps has been de-baited (mouse +0.5), a day has passed (mouse +1) and neither of the live capture traps have worked yet. I will move one of the live capture traps now.

The Tournament :: House of Steel 3 – 3.5 Mouse of Steel :: Days: 3

Premonitions of Disaster May 7, 2006

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Well, not premonitions as such.

Sometimes I act out events in my head, and even sometimes find myself mouthing the words I’m saying in them. This is quite weird. Anyway, tonight I imagined one such scene in which I and friends would be in a capsule of the London Eye when the cables would snap and the Eye would fall into the river.

The wheel is supported on a giant 60m-high bipod, “The A-Frame” (it’s more like a capital Lambda frame, really) which hinges at the base, and kept up by the tension in a set of six great steel cables, anchored into a foundation of 1500 tonnes of concrete. But what if the cables were all to snap (I’m not talking about accidents here, folks) and the wheel were to plunge, or more likely smash, into the Thames?

I reckon you’d have the greatest chance of survival if you could press yourself against the Thames side of the capsule as it fell, so that you’d be decelerated at the rate of the wheel, instead of smashing into that wall having previously been in free-fall inside the capsule. Although it wouldn’t be accelerating as fast as the value of g anyway and the rotation about the pivot could mean that you’d be stuck to the roof if it was rotating fast enough.

In fact, no, i reckon you’d start by standing normally, then slide along the floor of the capsule to the Thames-side wall and stay there as it fell.

Anyway, would you survive?

Come to think of it, looking at the Eye, I don’t know if it would collapse. It could just fall with a bit of a crunch onto its loading platform thing, which would balance it, and the hinges would still be there so it wouldn’t fall into the river. Maybe.

Oh, I don’t care, I’m going to bed!

A triple-whammy of coincidences! May 6, 2006

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The other day I decided to get myself an email address. A “serious” one – as the one I currently have is becoming embarrassing: it makes me sound like some sort of suicidal teenager. Anyway, I chose to go for a Gmail address, of course, using my current London Assassins gmail account to send myself an invitation (I’ve got some more, incidentally, if anyone wants one).

The natural choice of user name was anthonysmith, but, sadly (and unsurprisingly), this was already taken. All variations of my initials and surname also seemed to be taken. Damn my common nomenclature! “What the hell,” thought I, “I’ll ask this namesake if I can have his email address.” So I did. I emailed him and asked him to HAVE his Gmail account.

Sadly, he replied in half an hour, explaining that he was an alpha tester for Gmail and that he loves his account very much and uses it all the time. “Ah well, no problem,” I said, “but you know who to forward messages to if you receive any confusing ones about “tube challenges” and such like.”

Weird Coincidence 1.

“Tube challenge?” he replied, “I know about that! I did one of those when I was last in London!”

Brilliant! Another Tube Challenging Anthony Smith! I could go on a Dave-Gorman-like quest to find some more of these people if I felt so inclined. I pointed the other Anthony to the Underground Masker homepage and that was that.

Eventually I settled for a similar (yet not quite as good) Gmail address, which should serve me well for the next few years. Unfortunately, the atrociousness of MSN Messenger means that I’ll still have to use my other email address for some things, and the vast number of pointless online things I’m signed up to means that the transfer period will take a couple of months at least.

Also, I came across a comment on Neil’s blog from someone called Michelle, whose name I moused over to find that her homepage link was called “Chelley’s Teapot“. “Hmm!” I thought, “That sounds just like the sort of site that ‘my’ Chelle would have!” and promptly investigated.

Weird Coincidence 2.

It turns out that this Chelley (not Chelle but close enough) has a pair of purple Doc Marten boots, which she has blogged about. Exactly the sort of thing that Chelle blogs about – in fact Chelle has two pairs of DMs too but, sadly, not purple ones. They’re red and green.

Weird Coincidence 3.

Yesterday I had stepped out of university at lunchtime to go and buy some more mousetraps for the Tournament – and who should I bump into but Sam and Steve! These two Tube Challengers had just left the same building (after all, one of them is a student there like me, so it’s not a super-coincidence) and were on their way, of course, ‘To The Trains!’.

Then, later on, my tube challenge partner Adham phoned me and conducted an impromptu interview on the Sheffield University radio station. He then played the acoustic version of Stand on the Right, Please (Twelve String Theory) which was rather good. Hurrah!

Tournament: Update May 5, 2006

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The great macabre Tournament of death is progressing nicely. I raised the game today by buying another “battery” of 4 traps to add to the arsenal, and also set the remaining 2 from the cupboard. While purchasing the traps, I noticed a new live-capture trap phenomenon: the Multi-Mouse, which claims to be able to catch and retain up to 4 live mice. It looks excellent and I’m considering buying one next time we run out of traps. Until then, the excellent and trusty Big Cheese snap traps from Leyland on Shaftesbury Avenue will do their duty.

England expects every mouse trap to do its duty – and I arrived to find that one of the traps had done just that, decapitating a Fighting Machine (killing a mouse). I went upstairs to get the rest of the traps from my bag, and while I was up there I heard a snap and clatter – another mouse?!

Yes, indeed, another mouse had been killed within minutes of me finding the last one. These mice have gotten away with it for long enough in the House of Steel, and it’s payback time.

Total traps set: 13
Mice despatched: 3
Traps remaining: 10

Neither live-capture trap has yielded a mouse yet.

The Tournament ::
House of Steel 3 – 2 Mouse of Steel :: Days: 1

Mousey Bastards! May 5, 2006

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This morning I found a dead mouse in a trap, so I threw the mouse/trap combination of death into the bin. Replacing the trap, I went to put the new, primed trap in place of the first when a mouse ran in front of me, scaring me into dropping the trap!!!! I’ll give the cheeky buggers another point for that. 2-1 to the mice.

Mousewatch: First Blood! May 5, 2006

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I have decided to start each Day in the morning, as most of the mousy activity occurs overnight.

The gaping maw of the live trap outside Dan’s room remains… agape, and likewise for the one in the kitchen. The kitchen snap trap has been partially debaited and I think one of the TV traps has as well. I’ll give the mice a point for that, because I’m generous.

The other TV snap trap has sprung, killing a mouse! I haven’t examined it properly yet but it looks very small, almost vole-sized. I won’t take pictures of these as I’m sure you don’t want to see that, but you can look at the HoS site here for all your dead mouse needs…!

Maybe it’s too easy for the mice to accumulate points. Perhaps I should only give them half a point for each de-baited trap!

The Tournament :: House of Steel 1 – 1 Mouse of Steel :: Days: 1 Rules after “More”


Mousewatch: Day One May 5, 2006

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It’s now one day since I set the traps. I’ve decided to turn this into a macabre game between teams House of Steel and Mouse of Steel. I shall call it the Tournament. It commences tonight, after the passing of a Familiarisation Day in which the mice have acquainted themselves with the traps and arena, and the members of the House of Steel have all had a go at setting off the traps and laughing like idiots.

1. The Tournament takes place in the Arena. The Arena boundaries shall consist of the outer walls of the House of Steel. The garden is exempt from the Tournament.
2. The home team (House of Steel) shall place an assortment of anti-rodent traps around the Arena and prime them for the unsuspecting away team (Mouse of Steel).
3. Points will be awarded as follows:
– Mouse of Steel earns one point for each night that passes without a death or live capture.
– Mouse of Steel earns one point for eating the bait from each trap without setting it off.
– House of Steel earns one point for killing, incapacitating or imprisoning each Mouse of Steel.
4. If a trap is sprung without hurting, killing or trapping a Mouse of Steel, and said mouse manages to escape, then a “Let” is declared and play recommences after the trap is reset.
5. The Tournament shall end when:
– The Referee (Anthony) moves out of the House of Steel forever.

There are currently six traps. Four are “Big Cheese” snap traps which proved deadly last year. These are placed behind the TV (x2), in the corner in the kitchen and beside an armchair. The remaining two traps are live-capture traps, placed outside Dan’s room and under the kitchen table.

There are four additional traps in the kitchen cupboard, which I will probably set up tomorrow. These ones have been set before but to no avail, as the mice could eat the bait from the trigger pedals without setting off the traps. This proves that they DO like the bait (peanut butter), but doesn’t prove anything about whether or not they know what they’re doing (a theory often postulated by Simon and Rob, but not a theory that I’ll believe in a hurry).

May the Tournament commence!

The Tournament :: House of Steel 0 – 0 Mouse of Steel :: Days: 0

The Good, The Bad and The Crunchy May 3, 2006

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Today saw the purchase of 6 mousetraps: the obligatory Big Cheese snap traps, £1.25 for 4, and 2 Big Cheese live capture traps, £3 for 2. Bait for the former comes in the form of a jar of peanut butter, and the latter are prebaited.

The live-capture traps are ingenious. There are no springs or anything. The whole thing works by the mouse tilting the trap when it walks in, which releases the door, which falls shut under gravity and locks. I can’t wait to see if they work… oh, think of the fun that could be had with the mice

Yesterday I went on an absolute BINGE, as far as biscuit-buying is concerned, purchasing a total of 4 packets of biscuits, which I will here review and assign a Crunch Rating of between 1 and 5 Crunch Points, where 1 is “You know NOTHING of the Crunch!” and 5 is “You are a master of the Crunch”.

Pink Panther Wafers – Crunch Rating 3.
These awesome biscuits are cheaper by mass than the Sainsbury’s own brand, and actually come with a picture of the Pink Panther on the packet, which clearly makes them superior biscuits. They are well-versed in the ways of the Crunch but it is difficult to stop eating them once you have started – leaving you feeling quite ill quite quickly!
Oreo (Chocolate, 4 “snack packs” – similar to the packs of Ariel washing powder tablets, or printer ink cartridges). Crunch Rating 1.

How DARE these biscuits speak to me of the Crunch?! Overhyped, over-dark, under-sized, under-tasty American “cookie” nonsense. Wholly insubstantial. I’d even go so far as to say “crap”. Buy Bourbons like the traditionalist you are. Don’t waste your time. Rubbish. Avoid.
Fox’s Butter Crunch Crinkles. Crunch Rating 4.
These biscuits are excellent. Used to be called Crinkle Crunch. Golden, light, dunkable, sweet, crunchy, lovely. Perfect to enjoy on your day-trip around the Crunch.
Hob Nobs. Crunch rating: 5.
Legendary biscuit of courage and might. The King of Biscuits. Enough said.

I also bought some mandarins, having had satsumas the previous week. While the mandarins are tangier and tastier than the satsumas, they are also MUCH more difficult to peel and had loads of seeds. Also, the satsumas tasted more of those mandarin pieces that come in tins than the mandarins themselves did. Disappointment city.

Finally: the smell of Savlon is really nice!

Change (in two Acts) May 1, 2006

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Act I

Geoff is leaving for America very soon. Chelle and I attended his leaving do at the Defector’s Weld in Shepherd’s Bush last week. A sad occasion indeed, but it was a good laugh, even if the painfully-cool DJ wouldn’t play a “rubbish” Underground Masker tune for him, despite it being one of the last few days he’ll spend in this miserable country. Oh, I’m going all Morrissey now. Please, please, please, etc. But Geoff is gone …

… which means I will have to inherit his Guinness World Record! I will be the fastest around all the Tube stations! And only THEN will I write another album about it! Still, Neil remains, and, in true Wile E. Coyote style, will stop at nothing to prevent me from beating the record. Well, in my fevered cartoon-like imagination, at least.

Act II

About a week ago, I lost my headphones. They were Sennheiser MX-500 earphones (or “earbuds” if you’re an idiot), bought to replace the standard earphones that came with my Creative MuVo2 MP3 player. The Creative phones were just too big for my small-but-sticky-outy ears, and kept falling out.

MuVo2 5Gb (I have the 4Gb in black) MP3 player with offending headphones

The Sennheiser MX500s bought to replace them were smaller and fit better, but had less bass and weren’t as loud. The sound quality was fine with the bass EQ boosted a little. Then, something happened. Something… horrible.

I sat down after lunch one day last week to prepare a Powerpoint project p-p-p-presentation, and began to empty my pockets, as I do when I sit down, to make myself comfortable. I removed the player but the earphones were nowhere to be seen! How could I have lost them?! They were wound around the player in my pocket! I tried to find them but to no avail. Still, this gave me an excuse to splash some cash on a new pair.

I love it when I buy a new gadget. I always become obsessed with it for a while beforehand, reading reviews and looking up stats and pictures and that.

And so, like the river joins the ocean, as the germ in a seed grows, I began to investigate some ear-canal models such as the notoriously-fragile Sony EX71 and its more-durable-looking brother, the EX81. The 81 has ear-loop-clip-things which would appear to make the connection between the earphone and the cable a bit more durable, but inspection of accounts of other people’s experiences showed that the behind-the-neck wire sheathing had disintegrated on a couple of occasions, and the bass was apparently “muddy”, and the earclips didn’t fit many people, and the rubber bud things cost £8 each to replace, and another pile of badness.

Someone else’s Sony EX71s disintegrating, Sony EX81

So, my wariness of Sony and their badly-designed hardware reinforced, I turned back to trusty Sennheiser and their in-ear-canal phones, the CX300, which appeared to have received glowing reviews across the board. Noticing that Micro Anvika‘s site showed them as being £39.99 (the recommended retail price), and that Harrow Audio was selling them for £5 less, I went out to Micro Anvika to do a bit of bargaining. Not only would I have bought the Sennheisers with the 2-year guarantee, but I’d have bought them from a shop, making it much easier to go and have them replaced! Glorious.

Tottenham Court Road. I entered the shop.
“Excuse me, these Sennheisers… I see that they are £40, but Harrow Audio is currently doing them for £35. Would you be able to beat that?” I ventured.
“Ok, let me just check. There’s only so much I can take off … ” The assistant typed some stuff into her computer. “Yes, that’s fine, £35.”
Blimey, that was easy! I paid up and eagerly opened the earphones at the counter, replacing their fiddly medium-sized rubber earpieces with the small ones included in the pack (because my ear canals are “small”, of course) and squeezing them into my lugholes. I plugged the phones into the player, put on some Underground Masker and stood there for a while, grinning, absorbing the glorious bass, mids and trebles in all their wonderful loud clarity. Beautiful!
“Thanks!”, I said, beaming. “Bye!”

And with that, I made my escape. To the trains!


A Templar in his Habit. April 27, 2006

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Somewhere in this man’s habit, there is hidden a Templar. Can you see it?

Woe is me! April 26, 2006

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Today’s revision class was Maths III, not Statistical Mechanics. I don’t do Maths III. I came in for it. I GOT OUT OF BED FOR NOTHING THIS MORNING.

It’s crunch time April 25, 2006

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Back once again at university for a couple of weeks of revision lectures before the main blast of exams, and I had to recharge my Oyster card with a month’s worth of travel. No problem, thinks me, leaving the house early to allow enough time for the ticket purchase and making my way to the ticket machines.

Problem 1: The ticket office is closed, so all the idiots have to try to use the machines. Incapable of choosing a bloody ticket for themselves, it will prove difficult for them. I pity them. When I’m not standing behind them thinking “how long can this possibly take?” of course.
Problem 2: There is a queue. A group of women in their early thirties (who sounded as though they were Eastern European, although they spoke very good English) were trying to work out how to use the only fully-functional touch-screen machine at the station. None were managing it, so a station assistant came over and assisted them. That took a good 6 or 7 minutes. Well, it eas that long before I gave up and went over to the “Quick Tickets” machine: cash only, Oyster only.
Problem 3: There is a queue at this bloody machine as well. A woman is trying to work out how to use the machine. She eventually succeeds and walks away – but she forgot to touch the Oyster card right at the end to validate it all!! I call after her but she doesn’t hear. A Station Assistant does, though, and brings her back to the machine, guiding her through the whole laborious process again. Eventually, I reach the front of the queue.
Problem 4: The damn machine only issues singles and day travelcards. I want a month’s travel. Why is this machine incapable of providing this service? I go back to the other machine and join the bloody queue, before FINALLY buying my month’s Oyster ticket and running off to the trains.
Problem 5: Naturally, I’m late for the lecture, and I’ve forgotten to do the coursework over the Easter break. Bugger. Nothing I can do about that, though!

Later on, it came to the Crunch. “The Crunch?” I hear you ask, “How dare you speak to me of the Crunch? You know NOTHING of the Crunch! I bet you’ve never seen the Crunch!”

As it happens, I have.

“Oh, so you once went on a day trip to the Crunch. Let’s all visit the Crunch as tourists. Oh look, there’s a bit of Crunch…”

Shut up. I bought a Crunch and ate it and enjoyed it. The milk chocolate version is rubbish and pointless; the white chocolate version is kingly and joyous.

EyeToy Groove: Excellent! April 21, 2006

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I recently found an Eyetoy camera for the PS2 in Cash Converters for £5, so I bought it, and the same day managed to find a copy of Eyetoy: Groove, which is bloody brilliant (despite the songs being of the cheesy pop variety). Hilarious. My arms ache from playing it last night – and now I must go and unlock some more songs.

I also recommend Curry Cottage in Dunstable, because the food is DELICIOUS there. Don’t bother with the Anarkali. Try the Lamb Kashmiri (with lychees). You will not be disappointed! They also do takeaway.

Anyway – dance time!

Ulla! Ulla! April 19, 2006

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Yesterday Chelle and I went to His Royal Highness the Albert Hall to see the much-anticipated live show of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds. And yes, it was good.

48-piece ULLAdubULLA strings. Black Smoke Band. Justin Hayward and a whole cast of singing parts. 30ft tall, three-ton Martian Fighting Machine with light, sound and pyrotechnics. Visual accompaniment projected onto a wide screen. Giant floating, speaking head of Richard Burton (“No-one could have believed!”) . And, conducting it all, the man, the legend, JEFF WAYNE!

We stood in the Gallery (“standing in the gods”), which was bigger than I expected it to be, and much emptier, because only a few gallery tickets were released weeks after the seats had sold out. Thankfully the price was much lower than seated tickets, at £22.50 a head.

Our position afforded us panoramic views across the incredible auditorium and over the stage, where all the action took place. Sadly a couple of lighting rigs obscured some of the big screen, but what we could see of the projected video was just about enough, and we had a great view of the band, the strings and the performers.

The show itself was top-notch with the musicians and vocalists performing a magnificently accurate rendition of the double-album. I won’t write a whole review here but I will say this:


It’s a beautiful day… April 5, 2006

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… So I went out. Twice.

First I cycled up to Staples on my restored 1946 Hercules bicycle. Elderly gentlemen seem to love it! I bought some Jiffy bags for the Bakerloo EP mail order service. I cycled back.

Then, after lunch (2 large boiled eggs, boiled for 4 minutes, with soldiers of tiger-chest toast: it doesn’t get any better than this! Glorious!), I cycled, on a slightly more rugged bicycle, to the Dunstable Downs to fly my kite.

(This picture wasn’t taken today, though)

The kite is a 3m PKD Buster on Ozone lines and Flexifoil handles with kite-killers. I’ve had it for a couple of years and it’s a truly splendid thing indeed. In winds stronger than 14 or 15 mph it becomes difficult to handle and pulls me all over the place. Maximum.

However, today, the weather was not so wild. A blue sky (beautiful) and some high cumulus here and there; a northerly 10mph wind with a bit of a chill, but the sun was bright and it was warm.

(This photo was taken by Dan at Blackheath a couple of months ago, when it wasn’t so sunny or warm!)

Kites were out in force on the Downs and I found that construction of the new cafe/shop/visitor-centre area is well underway beyond the existing site and “glider emergency landing area” (which you’d only ever use if you’d got yourself into a severe mess in your glider, as there’s a nice big airfield at the bottom of the hill to land on as well). I set the kite up there. I managed a couple of small hops. A policeman turned up in his unmarked car and gave a lady a ticking-off because she’d left one of her children in the car while she went to the shop. I packed up and cycled home via the path along the top of the Downs.

It’s been a long, long time.

David, Smell The Glove is here. April 5, 2006

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Bakerloo EP: the First Nine reserved copies.

The first nine people to reserve a copy may purchase the EP via mail-order. Email me for details or private-message me on the Tubechallenge forum… or leave your email address in a comment.

The relevant people, excluding those who have said they’ll pick theirs up on Zone One Day, are:
2 Chris
3 Jonny
4 version-3-point-1
5 Tubeguru
7 Standclearofthedoors
8 Hakan (66 Feet Under)
9 Patrick (66 Feet Under)

Note that the Swedes’ P&P may be a little more expensive, but I’ll look into it.

Bakerloo E.P. Complete!! March 29, 2006

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With 8-page booklet including lyrics and more!

All that remains is for a new print cartridge to be purchased so that the cover and label can be printed in better quality (looking less pink, hopefully), which will mean that the final price of the CD (available after the 2006 Zone One Challenge) will be slightly more (but not much more) than last year’s CD single. I reckon it will be about £3.

Eve of the War March 27, 2006

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I hope to have To The Trains finished tomorrow.

That means the Bakerloo EP can go into final production, involving finalising the levels in a couple of the other songs, and creating the inlay booklet.

Here is a visual overview of the song itself (click image to open big version):

There are still vocals to add in the choruses, and maybe even some more guitar.