Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Monetise your blog

Is "monetise" a word? It seems another one of these stupid buzz words that will become defacto in the lingua franca through over use ... :-)

Anyway - I saw this link and clicked on it. What people will pay to put an ad on my blog... WTF! I don't even keep counters on who comes here as I ought to simply blog for my own stuff - this is like an open diary where I share what is happening in my life and going on in my head. The first is no doubt boring as I'm simply a regular Joe who gets up goes to work, is married with two kids blah blah blah... The second is a dangerous place and only to be entered with an accompanying responsible adult :-)

Okay seriously though... This blog will not contain any ads of any kind. I might post a recommendation or two but I guarantee that if I ever have any financial interest in something I'll disclose that. One of the reasons I've gone this route is that it is important that I talk about Alcoholics Anonymous on here, it's the most important thing in my life since without my sobriety that AA and it's programme have given me I have nothing. AA has a bunch of traditions that suggest the way it conducts itself.

Tradition 11 is - "Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and film" and Tradition 12 is - "Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities." I'd add today in the modern world "Internet" into the list in 11. That is the reason I'm Furtheron here. Not for some odd personality twist but I think that should try to abide by the tenants of these traditions.

Tradition 6 is - "An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise..." (It continues...) and Tradition seven make reference to declining outside contributions and finally Tradition ten states "AA has no opinion on outside issues".

So a long winded way to say that I mention AA on here and I put links to AA on here and will continue to do so. I would never want to profit in someway from someone coming here to read about recovery and seeing some advert... plus I can't control the ads that are shown I don't believe. A Bud commercial next to a link to an AA site wouldn't be clever now would it?

Therefore this blog will decline outside contributions (monetary), it will screen comments and delete anything that is a clear advert (one of the reasons I have comment moderation on).

AA tradition 3 - "The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking". To paraphrase therefore... "The only requirement for readership of this blog is an interest in the content".

Monday, 30 March 2009

F1 season starts

The new F1 season kicked off over the weekend down under in Australia.

The Good Bits.

Coverage is back on the BBC so that bit where they cut to an ad break just as you see someone overtaking, heading for the pits, spinning off, etc. isn't going to happen any more. And of course that excellent choice of theme tune from Fleetwood Mac's The Chain is back again.
Proper slick tyres - why F1 was the only formula including all the junior ones for years to not be on these lost me. It just looks right for one thing.
Cleaner looking cars. The new aero rules do mean they haven't all that nonsense sticking up everywhere.
The racing - there did seem to be more overtaking, how much is due to the aero changes or the KERS (Kinetic Energy something System) or the difference in grip between the two types of tyre compound they are compelled to run I don't know and perhaps we need to reserve judgement until after a few more weekends.
A brand new team (well I know it isn't but...) winning first time out. To be fair to them however much the car was advanced under Honda's ownership last year they still had to suddenly late in the day shoehorn a Mercedes engine into it and with precious little time for testing it still is a remarkable feat.

The Bad Points
KERS - does anyone understand it? So I sort of get that the idea is a green thing (what a joke in F1 really!!). As you brake the energy in the brakes is somehow used to charge up some battery thing, you then have a button that can add that to the engine to boost the power by 80bhp for only a limited time each lap. Blah blah... could we just have had a boost button like on A1GP? Lot easier to understand - plus I know there are concerns over safety, a mechanic has already been electrocuted in practice over the winter. What the hell will happen if a spark from a KERS charged car causes a fire in a pit stop? Also if the overtaking is so helped by it, and look at Hamilton rising from 18th to 3rd in a car that all weekend shown absolutely no pace what so ever, will all the teams soon have it thus negating the overtaking fillip we may have seen this weekend.
The politics! Again it rears it's head. So BrawnGP have won a stunning debut 1 - 2. Will that however be what the record books finally record at the end of the season? Some how I doubt it with the big "grandee" teams protesting the Brawn, Williams and Toyota rear diffusers. What is a rear diffuser? I know it's the bit right at the back at the bottom under the wing and gearbox. F1 has a great story this week with BrawnGP - what price a ridiculous undoing of that by a court of appeal in France in two weeks time? When will F1 learn that they need to stop this nonsense, make a quick decision and get on with it. Some of the teams claim to have shown the FIA the designs to get an opinion on them. Therefore why couldn't we have had that fixed and determined before the racing started - one way or the other not this "racing under appeal" fiasco. It continued in the race with Trulli on the podium when anyone with any idea of the rules was saying - "Hang on, he passed Hamilton under safety car yellows - how's he there?" Again - the decision was obvious and should have been communicated either before the finish and order restored before the checkered flag or straight afterwards before the bubbly was showered everywhere.
The points vs wins. I don't get it, surely the winner of the title should be the most consistent driver over the season? Under this new system someone could come second in every single race in the year and lose the title to someone who only finished a couple of races. I don't get it. Also did we see some of the madness that might go with the "win or nothing" mentality for a driver with the Vettel/Kubica crash? How long will the teams put up with dragging bent machinery back to the shop to be fixed and no points in the constructors championship only to hear their driver saying - "Well I had to try to overtake with out braking there, I mean he has five wins I have five wins, this way neither of us got another one up on each other"? Remember Prost and Senna first corner Japan all those years back?

I've been an F1 for years, back to the days of James Hunt, Niki Lauda etc. and I know the pantomime of highly paid, highly sexed young guys strutting their stuff is all part of the show but especially in the cost and environment conscious world of now I still wonder if F1 is still losing the plot a bit.

Favourite tracks

I was listening to 30 years of Deep Purple yesterday. My brother was the Purple fan, and Sabbath fan. So hence my collection never really featured these bands as he'd dash out and buy the albums and I'd get to listen to them so never needed to buy them. I was the Led Zep and Rush fan so I suppose it was quid pro quo. Years on I've bought both Sabbath and Purple collections to fill in some of the hole that was there due to that, although I've now bought Zep collections as well as all the vinyl gets very little outing these days.

I was pondering though that my favourite tracks from bands like these often bucks the general trend. Ask someone about Sabbath, Zep and Purple and the instant tracks would probably be Paranoid, Stairway to Heaven and Smoke on the Water. All great tracks but if I had to pick my favourites they'd probably be as follows....

Purple - Child in Time (with Gillan), Burn (with Coverdale) - I almost consider Purple two different bands due to the line up changes. Also, oddly maybe, Perfect Strangers from the initial reunion period is up there as well for me.
Sabbath - War Pigs. Followed closely by Ironman. Neon Knights from the Dio years - again really a diff band which they clearly acknowledged with the Heaven and Hell reunion a little while back.
Led Zep - Kashmir, run a close second today by Achilles Last Stand. To be fair they flip back and forth on a daily basis but always my top two Zep tracks.

What are yours?

Saturday, 28 March 2009

More swimming success

Daughter-of-Furtheron was in the Ladies 100m freestyle at the club champs last night, she was in the second to last heat, given it was done on official times previously that means she is just under the top 10 in the club. Well she won the heat and set a new personal best by 3 seconds. Hoorah!

So she might be in the elite group next time! A couple of her school friends came to watch her. "WOW! she is so fast!" was one great quote and they cheered like made in the last length as she continued to hold her lead from the turn all the way to the end despite a close finish with three others.

Great fun.

BTW - I'm swimming the Swimathon again this year. If anyone out there would like to sponsor me email me at furtheron@hotmail.co.uk (Link on my profile) and I'll send you the link to my sponsorship page. It is for Marie Curie Cancer Care - a worthy charity I think you'll agree.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Is it that time already?

Or rather - Am I that age already? :-)

I go swimming normally 2 or 3 times a week first thing in the morning. Have done for years, the pool I go to has an early riser discount deal and is good as it has a large 25m fitness pool with at least two lanes available for lane swimming. There is a slow and a fast lane. I've always been in the fast lane. Today there were about 5 of us in there, a reasonably busy day which is typical for a Friday but okay. However I soon noticed as I chugged my way through my mile all breaststroke that everyone else was faster than me and I was regularly being overtaken. That is the first time I can remember that ever happening, I'm not always the fastest in the lane but I can't rememeber ever being the slowest.

Oh dear am I to be consigned to the slow lane? Is this just an inevitable outcome of my age?

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Footy puzzler

Here goes for any footy fans - a little brain teaser.

Name the 3 teams that have played in all four divisions (Prem, Championship, League One and League Two, as now named) this century... i.e. since 2000.

I surpassed myself and got all three in less than 10 mins.

Heart-warming stuff

Yesterday I was privileged to give one of our occasional school talks. The normal pattern of these is that we get the students for about an hour, we play a 15min DVD which is actually available to view here. Then one of us will briefly talk a little about their experience in alcoholism trying to relate it to the students. Often if we’re dealing with 16 years and over I can honestly relate I was already drinking abnormally by then, I was different from my mates cramming drinks in, the one always throwing up some point in the night etc. Then we open it up to Q&A which can be the best bit.

Yesterdays talk followed a similar pattern. I was on my own largely as it was only a single talk, sometimes we are there all day seeing about 7 or 8 groups in the day and then having a bunch of us to stave off our boredom and to deflate our egos probably more importantly.

The one major difference was that yesterday was a talk to a group of 16 year plus teenagers all of whom have some form of learning difficulty. It was a mixed ability group. What a lovely bunch of people. One of them helped sort out the PC and projector to show the DVD for me, clearly he was very proud of being the IT fixer in the team. One of the lads with Downs Syndrome kept shaking my hand when questions were asked and laughed loudly at my gags. A couple of the boys really asked great questions and another girl was very engaged as well. The three teachers in the class were great as well as they chipped in with questions and generally made the hour there fly by.

It was a very rewarding experience. Firstly just having the chance to “pass the message” is one of the most important planks of the AA programme. As the AA saying goes – “You have to give it away to keep it”. Also you never know something said yesterday may one day save one of those kids lives in the future or cause them to help someone else. Also it made me be again very grateful that my children are not faced with some of the challenges in front of those kids.

Couple that with having been at a meeting all three of the last days, esp returning to an old stomping ground in Chatham I’ve not been to for about a year and finding that meeting in good health and a secretary looking very like a much recovered man compared with the newly released prisoner that came in sweating like mad one day some while back when I was a regular member there. All led to a day when I felt just a little further on up the road.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

John Martyn at the BBC

Over the past few days the BBC has shown a couple of tributes to the late great John Martyn. Firstly they reshowed the great documentary made in 2003/4 when John was recording what came to be the last album he released – On The Cobbles. Incidentally I think it a really great album reaching back to John’s acoustic roots within the group setting of his later work. If you are a John fan of any era I’d recommend you check it out if you haven’t done so.

Also the BBC reshowed an Old Grey Whistle Test solo set recorded in 1973 which was brilliant.

The final programme in this set was John Martyn at the BBC which was a selection of songs John had played live in some context for the BBC between the early 1970s up to his last appearance on Later with Jools Holland in 2004.

If you wanted a snapshot of this stunning songwriter and performer and to see his immense capacity to perform this had it. In an hour you are taken from solo performances for the Old Grey Whistle Test of May You Never, Small Hours etc. through duets with Danny Thompson again on Whistle Test into the band era with Phil Collins and on through his 90s band efforts right up to One For The Road off On the Cobbles.

I make no secret that bucking the fashionable trend I actually preferred John as the band leader esp. in the early 1980s and the few tracks taken from this period, including one with Max Middleton on keys were among the highlights for me. Another one of the great highlights was a reunion with Danny Thomson on bass for the Transatlantic Sessions in the late 1990s with them performing Solid Air.

So the programme started with a young John hunched over a Martin acoustic playing May You Never and having seen John in many guises including the SG and Les Paul wielding cool band leader on early Later with Jools Holland shows ended with an older, larger, greyer John hunched over … a Martin acoustic singing “One for the Road”. I’ll not linger on the irony of that given his health issues and untimely end that his alcoholism no doubt had a major part in.

RIP John. And thank you BBC for a great tribute. If you can spare the hour check it out here...

Guilt

I don’t think about any changes that I’d make to the text of Alcoholics Anonymous (aka The Big Book) very often, the basic text of the fellowship. However last night I was thinking about some stuff. At the bottom of page 83 within the passage widely known as the promises it says “…We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”

Guilt. Guilt is a strong and very negative emotion, but it is one I feel a lot with respect to my past. The way I treated my family, especially my kids. I stole time from them. Money indirectly by wasting so much on booze. I never gave them love in the way I should have, largely because I couldn’t do love as I had no concept of it and it meant giving a part of me. Giving anything of me to anyone was a major issue as I didn’t get the quid pro quo that goes with that. I could go on. No doubt many ex-drinkers like me look back with similar horror, remorse and guilt. I don’t know if we are any different generally from the rest of the world but I know that I’m very sensitive to how I’m perceived to have treated others, I have a conscience and it will constantly remind me when I’m out of step. Probably the biggest critic of my behaviour is me.

However I was sick, it is an illness that I simply couldn’t treat at the time and then the continual bombardment of my brain with alcohol was stopping it being able to grow and learn how to cope with emotions, responsibility and frankly learning how to cope with life.

So as I say very very rarely do I consider something for me would be better worded in The Big Book, it has stood the test of time for over 70 years now, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of alcoholics have find sobriety through its pages so it is not to be criticised lightly.

For me however I think when I now hear that phrase read out – as it is at many many meetings – I’ll think to myself. “…We will not regret nor feel guilty about the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” For me that is an aspirational goal since as I say 5 years out of 25 years of drinking I do still harbour guilt about my actions in those times and I can only do something about it by continuing to work on myself and my place in the world, what I take and more importantly what I give back.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Mothering Sunday

Yesterday was Mothering Sunday in the UK - I know the USA readers will be scratching their heads, this is our version of Mother's Day but a different date for some reason.

Anyway - I got up and made the tea, and breakfast, and did most of the washing up. I prepared and cooked all the roast dinner. Daughter-of-Furtheron made a stunning Lemon Meringue pie. Mrs F invited her Mum up for lunch. I did the washing up - although moaning about the cheap liquid we've bought, the bubbles don't last.

Son-of-Furtheron excelled himself having already ensured a bunch of flowers had been delivered and sent a lovely card. He then also phoned to wish her a Happy Day before setting out on some mammoth walk with the university photo club.

I even managed to mow the grass and do some weeding as well in the sunshine, accompanied by next doors cat who insists on catching bees. Idiot!

Saturday, 21 March 2009

DIY and other helpful stuff and John Martyn remembered

I don't know what's come over me... I've drilled/sawed a hole in the back of a cabinet so my daughter could move her stereo to create a "make up desk", then Mrs F suggested I paint the kitchen ceiling which has been an outstanding job for ages and I've got that done.

Couple that with me cooking a curry last night and obviously having to cook dinner tomorrow for Mother's Day I'm not sure what is going on, most unlike me :-)

The French are stuffing the Italians at the moment and I'm awaiting the start of the England game.

I watched the BBC tribute to John Martyn last night, a great documentary made in 2003 as he was having his leg removed and finishing of the Off The Cobbles album. Then an Old Grey Whistle Test gig from 1978. I would have been 15/16 when that was aired, I still remembered it as probably the first time I was introduced to Mr Martyn. Just him, his Martin acoustic with pickup gaffa taped on, a Fender Twin, bunch of effects including of course the Echoplex. May You Never, Couldn't Love You More, Small Hours, Big Muff... just stunning. If you missed it try to catch it on iPlayer you'll not be diapointed.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Book Review – The Judas Strain, James Rollins

I bought this on a “buy one get one half price” deal in WH Smiths I think. I wanted Attila the Judgement and got this due to the deal really.

Not a bad thriller if you like unbelievable James Bond like adventures. Actually a lot of the story line is based on some facts that Mr Rollins points out at the end of the book. Some of these include… On Marco Polo’s return journey from the Far East the majority of the ships in the fleet and the men were lost. Marco had possession of a jewelled head band of the Princess he’d accompanied to Southern Iran on the first part of the journey. If you study all of our DNA, including that which modern Biologist claim to be purely “junk”, you find a discernable pattern which reflects very similarly to the pattern most human languages take in their written/spoken form.

The modern day part of the story revolves around an outbreak of a horrendous plague in a remote island. Quickly members of Sigma, a crack USA secret agent team, are involved in more than one thread against their arch rivals the secretive Guild who’s worldwide empire has tentacles everywhere and will stop at nothing for world domination… sorry getting a bit carried away there. :-)

Good light read with the plot flipping about all over the world and the surreal world of international agents and secret crime empires allowing licence for private armies, fast transport etc. to be conjured up so the plot doesn’t have to slow down for an economy flight with stop over and check in!

Reasonably recommended as a light read. Clearly I’ve missed previous books in the series due to the “history” between characters, I might see if I can backtrack via the second hand bookshop next time I’m there.

Let's talk plectrums...

... or should that be plectra I'm no good at that kind of English... to boldly go and all that.

(If you are not a guitarist here is a health warning about this post, it may lead to you attempting to chew off a limb to retain conscious or keep your sanity...)

My history of plectrum use is...

Bloody huge triangular Gibson ones, heavy, I used to wear them out so they ended up pretty much circular in a matter of days/weeks. Odd at that time I had a Strat copy and used Gibson Strings and Gibson picks - I even went for Gibson strings with a wound third at one point after reading heavier strings gave a better tone... yes but you can't play the damn thing and could never get the intonation sorted out after an older mentor showed me what that nonsense was all about.

For a long time there after I used Fender medium the hard once, often in tortoiseshell as I thought that classy for some bizarre reason. "Hello darling look at my tortoiseshell picks." I never had many girlfriends :-)

Then I had a phase of going thinner for some reason - by now I'd gone through Ernie Ball strings and then to Rotosound as my brother-in-law ran an Internet based business selling them so I got a deal. I also then went to Rotosound thins the small normal shape. I also often used Fender's of similar type, often in a blue colour. However I was breaking these left right and centre.

One day in a shop I was looking at plectrums (plectra - take your pick... geddit...) and the owner asked what I was looking for. I explained my dilemma and he suggest Jim Dunlop Tortex - as used by a lot of stars including John F of RHCP. This would have been about Californication time and I was really into his style just then. So I bought a load. By now I was back to Ernie Ball strings which I'll stick with btw - normally 10s but I do vary on the Strat and Peter Cook with 9s at times. Acoustic strings I was a Martin man for a long time but recently gone to D'Addario fairly light gauge rarely heavier than 11s.

Back to picks then and the Jim Dunlop Tortex Standard which I now use, generally the red thin ones (0.50mm) on the acoustic as I find them best for strumming and the orange ones (0.60mm) on electric. However I'm thinking of moving heavier on both, i.e. Orange for acoustic and Yellow (0.73mm) on electric, unless the electric part is very strummy (e.g. Run by Snow Patrol) or some RHCP like Californication. I tried one of my sons Yellow ones when playing Can't Stop the other day and think it help me nail the riff better.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Snow Patrol Gig Review

Brilliant! I like Snow Patrol a lot. I discovered them through the breakthrough single Run some years back bought the album Final Straw which I thought was pretty good. Then their follow up to that Eyes Open was frankly one of my favourite albums of a couple of years ago – I think it won album of the year in my review then … sadly lost on my old blog now.

So this was the “Take Back the Cities” tour which showcased material from their latest album A Hundred Millions Suns. The O2 I’ve said before has become a favoured venue of mine, I like it a lot. It is modern, clean, very accessible for me coming from Kent, reasonable catering although again an initial blank stare back as I asked for a coffee at the bar. I know I’m odd pal but I’m a recovering alcoholic and I drink coffee. There is a machine behind you all you need to do is find an appropriate vessel (not a glass that will crack with the temperature – oh dear… try again!!!) and press a single button, it’ll gurgle and spit then dump a mixture of two liquids both of which were water a few seconds ago until the machine put in the dry instant coffee and the dry instant milk… but as it sort of froths it up I expect to have to pay more than a pint of beer for it… sorry – I digress.

Snow Patrol are a band who play the music if you get my meaning there is very little in terms of staging, no theatrics, synchronised dancing or matching outfits, if it wasn’t for the size of the stage they wouldn’t look too out of place performing in the Dog and Duck in the High Street on a Friday night. The light show was very good though. We were “in the Gods” but close to the stage on the right hand side, good seats even if Mrs F was a little “this is bloody high up” for a few seconds when we initially took our seats. If you are afraid of heights don’t book on level 4 at the O2.

They played a good selection off the aforementioned three albums not dredging up anything from their two early albums. Highlights included the big hits Chasing Cars and Run. Run was especially well performed. Gary Lightbody with his Tele Deluxe slung on his neck and he performed the first two verses and chorus solo and quietly with a lot of audience singing along. The band then all came in towards the end to a massive finale. An excellent arrangement suitably different from the single and album to stand out and very memorable.

The other highlight was the encore which started with a large sheet at the very front of the stage onto this was projected a quick story about the genesis of the final epic track from Hundred Million Suns, The Lightening Strike. This is a 16 minute magnum opus which is three tracks in one and the story explained that they feel they have to be kept together as one piece. So queue the intro… we were then presented with a very cosmic lightshow on the screen whilst the band played behind. Very Pink Floyd – and that is a relevant reference point I feel as that piece has a very Floyd feel to it to my ears. As the second movement started the screen came down and the band played on as normal again not overly flashy or over staged but very effectively done.

Excellent gig – if you like any of Snow Patrols stuff I’d highly recommend seeing them I was pretty impressed. Oh yes and Nathan Connolly uses a black Les Paul Custom on many tracks… just like the one yours truly owns. Clearly Nathan is a man of excellent taste :-)

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Courses and Interviews

I went on this Career Continuation Workshop paid for by my company and run by an outplacement consultancy in London. Very good. Quite intensive two days looking at CVs, Interview skills, networking, etc. etc. I did get a lot from it, often stuff you should know but either forget or don't perhaps place the importance on it that you should.

Also the group on the course was a great group to meet. People from different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. I really enjoyed meeting them all and I wish them all the very best in their career transitions. They were all further down that road than I and already unemployed, some for some period of time. It was a salient reminder as well that it is tough out there in the job market.

I have had the first of two interviews today for the one job I have applied for at my current company. I think it went pretty well from the feedback, however there are many elements of the new role that are similar to my old role that has been eliminated and I know that my frustration at lack of action by others who I need to work with showed through. The second interview is tomorrow.

So my current dilemma is if I am successful and I'm offered the job do I accept it. I'm not sure on the legal position, my role was eliminated and I applied for this other one, if I then turn that offer down do I lose my redundancy package - that would be bleeding dumb! There is a massive part of me thinks I ought to move on, get out of the rut here and into pastures new. Then there is a similarly massive part of me that has huge fear associated with moving on to find that it is worse where I end up or that I eat up the package too quickly and can't find anything and really regret it.

I'm not a risk taker... you can tell in this post can't you... I never wear slip on shoes as friend pointed out as he watched me double knot my shoe laces to make sure they were tight and didn't come undone. Astute observation... he took the package last year and is cruising the Caribbean in his yacht with his wife as I type this. I couldn't do that, I'd be too worried about the future... :-)

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Rugby!

One thing I didn't mention I was going to post on but only briefly was the rugby.

What the hell happened?! To be fair the French fell to pieces didn't they apart from that bit in the second half where they did show up, but the first 50 mins they weren't on the park. You have to say how did the Welsh lose to them? It was like two different teams thier performance, mind you England was the same but in the opposite direction if you get my meaning.

I thought England played with more purpose this time and at least alowed the backs to run with the ball at times. The try in the first 70 seconds from a back move probably helped there.

Frustrating though given if we'd had had better discipline in the other games, esp against Ireland we'd have been much better off in the championship. Still hopefully now we can make that performance what we regularly turn in not a rarity.

Swing low sweet Chariot.. etc. etc. :-)

Monday, 16 March 2009

To be posted to this blog soon...

Firstly a Snow Patrol gig review from Sunday, it was great by the way but I'll do a more informative post later.

Secondly the career continuation workshop I'm right in the middle of is very good so far.

Lastly the interview has been moved to later in the week relieving that congestion in the diary which is good.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Another moment that shows you what life should be about...

Having had one proud parent post this week it is only right we assure balance and post another one.

Daughter-of-Furtheron got into the 100m breastroke final in the district gala last night. She has never made a final at that level before and whilst not on the top of the rostrum she got a medal!!! She also beat one her old school rivals in her heat which really pleased her.

As dedicated parents we suitably embarrased her when she came out with the medal party cheering and doing a "go girl" dance. :-)

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Clashes and confusion

I'm supposed to be on this career continuation course in London Mon/Tues... Now I have an interview for this job at my current place on Tuesday pm... Darn!

Plus the last week I've really moved more to looking outside and talking to agencies etc. Hell I hate making decisions, can someone else make one for me and then I can blame you when it goes all wrong. :-)

Friday, 13 March 2009

State of Play

So things move on – slowly…

I’m still only “at risk” still at the moment, and my application for the one opportunity within my company has been accepted and acknowledged even if I’ve not yet heard anything back more about an interview or anything. Anyway I’ve done all I can on that front now and in the past I’ve been assured by others that I’d be an ideal candidate for something and not even got an interview so I know the best thing is to put it out of my mind and focus elsewhere until I hear anything.

I’ve been busy sending my CV to all the agencies I met at the career fair on Wednesday. As ever they are all very positive but then I suppose that is their job to keep you happy and engaged regardless of what is the reality since your CV on their books is what really matters to them no doubt.

We have a busy weekend ahead of us with a swimming gala and Mrs F and I off to the O2 to see Snow Patrol, which should be really good. Then Monday and Tuesday I’m at a “Career Continuation Workshop” in London which the company who is engaged by our place to help those leaving is putting on. I hope I’ll get something valuable out of that, if only getting back into the swing of commuting to London with the rest of the hordes for a couple of days.

I’ve not felt physically very well this week, I had a bad migraine headache, with that came the associated dizziness/unbalance that I get. I haven’t had that for ages and it annoyed me. I’ve felt generally “stuffed up” in the head so I think it’s all related some how. Also I had a lot of indigestion and chest pain – which is a sure sign of me being stressed, so even though I think I’m not stressed out at the moment my body is telling me different. Time for me to chill out and calm down and take things one thing at a time.

Hope everyone has a nice weekend.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The Boy is a genius I tell you...

What Facebook is for



This is so funny... and a bit too close to the truth for comfort potentially...

I still don't really get or do Facebook at all.

It's your birthday!


My brother was 50 yesterday, the old git! Ha ha! Actually there is a bit of a running family gag here which I perpetuated in the card I sent him about running out of time since all our direct male antecedents have died before they were 60. So he is "into the last ten" as I keep telling him.

So this is what I bought him as a present.

Useful, practical, witty, amusing, talking point and just the wrong side of the political correctness of the early 21st century. My sister ticked me off about it when I told her but true to form he had it all set up already last night when I called him and thought it very good.

Now here is a thing. His birthday is 10th March or 10/3 if you use the UK shorthand (3/10 for my US readers). My birthday is 3rd October or 3/10 (again 10/3 for US folks). Isn't that odd that we have the reverse birthday of each other, how did our Mum organise that one?

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Karpman Drama Triangle

I was reminded today about a neat little model that is helpful in life.

The Karpman Drama Triangle comes from some Transactional Analysis work. I'll explain I hope...

There are three parties in this little drama.

A persecutor
A victim
A rescuer

So the Victim points out how the persecutor is harming them in some way to the rescuer. The rescuer then becomes the persecutor of the original persecutor by attacking them for the original action the original victim reported. So now the the rescuer is the persecutor and the original persecutor is now a new victim. Guess what happens - the new victim goes to the original victim and says "Hey get this person off my back who you have set on me, I don't deserve that". So now the original victim is their rescuer and instantly sets up becoming the persecutor of their original rescuer and so the cycle goes on...

By example - this is hypothetical by the way but is for demonstration

My wife says to my daughter "You can't buy that".
My daughter say to me "Dad - Mum says... that isn't fair"
I go to my wife and say "I don't think that was very fair... blah blah"
My wife goes to my daughter "Hey why did you tell your Dad about that now he is on my case..."
My daughter says to me "I never meant you to have a go at Mum, now she's more angry at me etc..."

etc. etc.

Word of advice - you see these little dramas in families, in friends, in work all the time. Break the cycle! Just say - "That isn't my problem it is between you and your persecutor..." It would save the world a lot of emotional and mental energy I think.

Monday, 9 March 2009

CD Review – U2, No Line on the Horizon. Are U2 the best band on the planet?

After hearing the live BBC gig at which granted only two new songs off this were played I happened to be in Tescos on Saturday getting the ingredients for one of my legendary Chinese banquets (Well they are legendary in the family :-)) and I passed the CD rack and saw the new U2 and thought I’d get it.

Now I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Bono, Edge and the other two guys over the years. I thought War was a brilliant album and was the first U2 I bought, Sunday Bloody Sunday is just brilliant off that album. Whilst others had highlights like Pride (In the Name of Love) off Unforgivable Fire they weren’t that memorable as entire collections. Then came The Joshua Tree which is for me one of the best albums of the 80s and a stunning piece of work, there are so many great great tunes on that one. Rattle & Hum… oh dear, too long not enough good stuff. Then the whole Achtung Baby and following albums all left me cold, I just didn’t get it and I thought U2 and I would probably never cross paths again. Then came All That You Can’t Leave Behind and on that the stunning Beautiful Day but also Elevation was great U2 pop at its best and on the whole a good album that got me back into them. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb continued in the same vein I thought with The Edge back on great form and with a sound nearer to his classic Explorer fuelled, Delay indulged AC30 bark. Vertigo, Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own, All Because of You were stand out tracks for me and it’s still a reasonably frequent dip into on the MP3 player.

Amazingly it’s been 5 years since that came out before No Line on the Horizon. I have seen one review in a guitar magazine giving it only 2 stars and blaming the over production by Brian Eno for swamping the soundscape. Well this is a different sounding album to both the two previous efforts and is more towards Unforgettable Fire in sound and production terms but I still think the songs come through well and it got some of the bite the band returned to in the last two outings and there are hints at The Joshua Tree no doubt due to Daniel Lanois being involved again.

There are a good deal of good tracks on this album and at least one totally classic U2 song. The opener – No Line on the Horizon is a good opening track and captures the feel for the rest. Track two – Magnificent, is just that! U2 classic song alert!! This really is right up there with the classics from The Joshua Tree era, great song, great sound and production… Brilliant. To continue then… Other tracks worthy of note include Unknown Caller which has some odd but intriguing lyrics. Get on your Boots is the obvious first single and again U2 pop song par excellence. Fez – being born is a very atmospheric track, I don’t know if intended but I’m transported to Northern Africa whilst listening to it. Breathe and the brilliant Cedars of Lebanon finish off the album and so far whenever I’ve listened to it I’m left wanting more – surely a good sign of a good album.

So a definitely recommended stamp from me. In terms of U2 albums with Joshua Tree clearly getting all five stars I’d give this a 3 and a half just behind the last two and War.

Before we leave here though consider. U2 released Boy in October 198. I was still at school having just turned 18. I’d not started dating Mrs F. Margaret Thatcher was a relatively new PM. Britain still had a coal industry, a steel industry, a manufacturing base, my Dad still worked in a dockyard. Brezhnev was still leader of the Soviet Union! There was still a Soviet Union, an Iron Curtain and a cold war. Jimmy Carter was USA President, we had yet to see Reagan in that post. That was 28 years and some months ago, that is a lifetime ago. The fact that U2 are still churning out good albums is credit to them, the fact that they are all over the media when they do so is frankly incredible. Then think on, Radio One clamour to get them to do a live session and interviews, they are as relevant to the mass pop market today as they were in the 1980s. Whatever you think of them or their music that is one incredible career and position to be in. U2 best band on the planet? Tricky to say – but consider will Chris Martin and Coldplay for example still be the toast of the town in a similar way in another 20 plus years? Red Hot Chilli Peppers may have the track record regarding the same level of interest and relevance but given they appear to be defunkt given recent interviews saying "... on hiatus with absolutely no plans to do anything together at all in the future".

Writing about myself…

… I hate it! What I mean is that I’ve been struggling with updating my CV. Over the years my CV has just sort of grown and grown. Largely I’ve only used it for internal job postings within my company where a lot of the time I’m already known to the recruiting manager anyway so there is less need for a snappy, attention grabing, sexy CV.

Now there is a need. On Wednesday a job fair is being set up for those of us at my work who are at risk of redundancy. Largely I think the focus will be on people with scientific skills not numpties like me. However therefore all the more important I have a snappy, sexy, etc. etc. CV as most likely it’ll be a case of “I’ll pass this on to see if anyone back at base is interested”.

So I’ve done battle with the CV and now asked a couple of colleagues/friends to give me their opinions. I’ve managed to get it pretty much onto two pages, if you ignore the list of education and publications/speaking engagements on the last page. Given I joined Liz’s facebook group I’m rubbish, I am and given you have read (or at least are now reading) this blog, you can get the drift of the difficulty…

1. I think I’m useless – It is a predisposition of mine anything new I will fear that I will not be able to be the best at it, if not the best therefore it’s not worth doing, so I don’t start and that plays in my head that I’m lazy etc. Ergo – I am useless
2. I’m too verbose, why use 1 word when 47 will add colour.

Why is life so flipping complicated at times?

Current status is that I’m still “at risk” of redundancy at work. The urgency to get us out the door seemed to back off a bit in the last couple of weeks and my boss seems happy to let me continue to drift along at the moment. I can’t moan and have to chuckle he actually gave me notice of my payrise last week, and it was better than I expected given the climate and I got some “long term incentive” stock options. Oh the irony…

There were a bunch of jobs that I could have applied for but frankly I’d done all of them some years back and really didn’t see the point of doing them again so I didn’t apply at all. This really does hasten the exit however I then applied for a “not local job” but which is based in the same site I currently am. It’s a reporting thing, I’d look like an American, i.e. report direct into the USA not with Europe. Aren’t large companies fun trying just to figure out what group is what etc. The applications close this week with interviews before the end of the month so I’ll know by then. I might be having a lot of time on my hands come Easter maybe…

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Whatever next

Mrs F has created a facebook page!!

She's been on the thing all weekend uploading photos, finding friends, chatting with our son and other of the younger members of the family.

Whoever thought this IT course she is doing was a good idea... :-) I'm becoming a facebook widower :-(

A life on the open road


My Dad made this caravan when I was a kid, my sister passed it on to me after cleaning out our cousins home. Whenever I look at it I'm reminded of Wind in the Willows and Toad setting off on his travels in the caravan before becoming infatuated with the motor car.

My Dad was brilliant with his hands he could make anything, not a talent I have sadly! Problem is I don't have anywhere really available to put it on show and I don't think my son will appreciate it taking up room in his bedroom as it is at the moment!

Mrs F has suggested a new shelf in my music room but that requires removal of two others etc. I'll have to look into it, it's too nice to stick up in the loft forgotten.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Choices



Son-of-Furtheron is clearly developing as a guitarist. He is having a protracted conversation, mostly with himself but including me at times, about what should be his next guitar purchase. He truly is my son ;-)

Last year he bought his LTD EC1000 vintage black - very nice, very black, very Metallica, EMG pickups, fast slim U shaped neck...

Now he feels that whilst this is great guitar its predominantly scooped sound via the EMGs isn't as versatile as he'd like given he is branching out in his playing... chords have appeared!!! :-)

So he is pinning for something like my PRS or Gordon Smith, both of which he regularly borrows when back at the family homestead.

So here are his current two choices... Dean Soltero - which is an obvious L** P*** look alike. Or the more PRS like and with a possible vibrato option the Dean Hardtail. I've played a Jap Hardtail briefly once and my memory was it was a nice guitar with a C shaped neck. Reviews say the Soltero has a V shaped neck and this is Son-of-Furtheron's dilemma, so now he is looking for places to try out both side by side. Both have coil taps adding to the versitility as well, although he rarely strays near any single coil style in his repertoire ;-)

However when he mentioned his dilemma on his Facebook page yesterday Mrs F replied with some comment about another guitar not being the priority for a student... :-)

Monday, 2 March 2009

Life goes on.

So the sun is shining – what a difference that can make to your mood. Yesterday I did some gardening. That is a dangerous thing as I don’t really have an ability to differentiate between weeds and plants and can at times be very over zealous in my pruning methods. But Mrs F approved of the trimming back that I’d done.

Son-of-Furtheron is very happy at the moment. He got his first results back at the end of last week. Let’s just say he has nothing to worry about lots of 90% plus results! I think his lowest was still about 70% so his choice of uni and course look to have been spot on.

We went on a shopping expedition on Saturday to the dreaded Bluewater. Bad news! The music shop has shut down! I thought is looked like it was headed that way a few weeks back as the stock was low and a 33% off many items sale. With Zavvi now resembling a boot fair most of the time, they didn’t even have CDs in the charts in stock?! I’m a bit stuck for shops to visit whilst awaiting the girls returning from the various clothes shops. Still I did manage to get a present for my brother who is 50 next week which I think he’ll approve of.

So I think I’m on a bit of a climb out of the hole/rut I’ve been in the last few days. As Mrs F says “whatever happens they can’t take the house away” They might cut off the gas and we’ll have to burn the doors to keep warm but hey we will survive. :-)

Another dismal performance by England on Saturday. The defence wasn’t bad at all at times, apart from obvious handling in the ruck in front of the referee when he has just given the captain a warning and the other ludicrous infringement that I’ll not discuss. How can we ever expect to win a match when we seem intent on trying to play constantly with on 14 men on the pitch! They might moan we are a target for the referees but to be fair we are somewhat helping them aren’t we. The try at the end was a sign that if we play expansive rugby with confidence we’ll score but all too little too late really.