Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Book Review – Buccaneer by Tim Severin

This is the second part in the trilogy of the life of Hector Lynch. In the first book Hector was captured by some pirates whilst visiting a coastal village in Ireland. He is half Irish and half Spanish on his mothers side. He ended up in the first book escaping from the slave camps on Western Africa and setting out on a voyage across the Atlantic and this the second instalment starts with Hector and his friends approaching the West Indies at the end of that voyage. Sadly pirates intervene again and Hector finds himself using his wits to try to keep one step ahead of his enemies and keep his friends safe.

In the end the friends all end up joining an infamous pirate army that land in Panama and attack the Spanish strongholds their on foot, before ending up taking over a Spanish ship and sailing the Southern Sea (the Pacific) and being the scourge of that part of the world for a brief time. The attacks aren’t as successful as they’d all hoped and the band end up bartering safe passage around the cape and back to the Caribbean as part of a truce with the locals. However on returning to the expected safety of the West Indies they find themselves in more trouble with the British authorities.

Tim Severin’s books are gently paced with great detail in the descriptions of the time, the location and the events. I’m sure his historical facts are well researched and then the fictional story of Hector and his band of mates weaved into that seamlessly.

If you enjoy historical fiction and want a glimpse of the buccaneers life this is a recommended read. The last part in the series – Sea Robber – has just been released in hardback.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Rich, Famous and Homeless

Did any others watch this BBC documentary last week? I found it very interesting on a bunch of levels. I’m very lucky that I’ve never been homeless, so whatever I say is always from a very ignorant point of view but this programme did teach me some things.

Basically trying to fix stuff for those on the street isn’t the easy solution. There was a fantastic bust up between John Bird (inventor of the Big Issue, who was himself homeless for some time) and a couple of the rich and famous when he was unhappy that they had “wasted” effort trying to help them rather than learning from the homeless buddy they had been assigned. I have to say really John had blown it by not laying down strong guidelines and also it was almost bound to happen that these people faced with a real person 24 hours a day that they would suddenly think that the best thing they could do would be to solve that persons problem there and then and take it on as their own personal battle.

But really the thing I think I learnt is that the problem is before people get on the streets. There needs to be better intervention, support etc. then before that happens. I don’t know what but once on the streets it’s a long way back up. Also all those people we rush past in our city subways, doorways and bus shelters are all people with a story and in a situation that isn’t necessarily of all their making. More than one of the people on the streets had tales of abuse in their childhood that hadn't been dealt with by the system or their families.

I have so much and take so much for granted – it was another one of those moments where real gratitude for what I have in life was drummed into my thick skull. Family. Love. Warmth. A dry bed. A roof over my head. Money. Food a plenty.

It was a powerful couple of programmes which I’d recommend anyone to watch.

Having a body to die for.

I had a couple of days off at the end of last week. Good! Sadly the email and meeting maelstrom I’ve returned to at work however makes me wonder if it was worth it. Yes it was.

Firstly Mrs F and I had a day out together – just us. Which to be honest is a rare event in itself. So given the lovely weather and this moment of freedom what did we do? Go for a romantic hand in hand walk by a river? Have a picnic in the sun in the woods? No. We went to the O2 to see the BodyWorlds exhibition. I know – we’re mad!


However I recommend the exhibit whole heartedly. Mrs F had taken my son and a friend last year and on her recommendation we’d planned a return for her for me to see it as well. I’m not great with bodies and all that frankly so had expected to be a bit put off but as Mrs F had told me it was fascinating on many levels. Firstly the process itself to plasticise the donated bodies is something to marvel at. Then to actually see real bodies exposed like that is another. Finally the info it gives you about health etc. makes you really stop and think about your own body and whether you take enough care of it. Anyone who smokes should go there and see the different lungs if you want a reason to reconsider that particular vice. Another thing that made me wonder was the people who give their bodies to this… I suppose it’s one way to be remembered. Maybe Mrs F can get me plasticised and stick me in the corner next to the CD player. However for two bodies in particular who are posed in the act of procreation as part of a tableau called "Suspended Act" I wondered did these people ask for this? To be forever locked into a frozen act of fornication for eternity. Interesting, fascinating, thought provoking but… also … odd.

A tragic death

In the Furtheron house we’ve all been touched by the tragic death of Daugher-of-Furtheron’s guinea pig. On Saturday morning she was running around her hutch like normal then Mrs F looked in on her later in the afternoon and she’d passed on. We’d had no hint of her being unwell. We've buried her behind one of the big bushes in the garden.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Maths, fences and science

Daughter-of-Furtheron was chuffed with her result in her Maths exam. She isn't bad at Maths but has a phobia about it really, at times she just freaks says she can't do it and just gets a block and won't try. Slowly over the years we've been trying to help her get better at that, some times she has come home and says she can't understand the homework at all. My general policy on this is that if she is clearly that stumped to encourage her to seek out the teacher for help, firstly that is what they are paid to do, secondly no doubt my old, half forgotten and no doubt bad practices won't help her in the world of "New Maths". Often she finds herself with a collection of her friends all seeking out the teacher as none of them understood it as well. She is soooo like me at times it can be frightening! Anyway she has hit a Level 7 which is where they expected her to be at the end of this year and she was so chuffed she sent me a text about it straight away.

Son-of-Further has done a little chore I'd asked him to do for us whilst at home, namely painted our fence. Now we don't have a huge back garden but there are about 25 fence panels in total all around it which is enough to be one of those tasks you'd rather not do. He agreed to do if I got the sprayer that in the advert the guy stands there laughing like the old Laughing Policeman song. By the way that guy has no work overalls on, bare skin, not sure about eye protection etc. but all the things that they put on the safety notice. Anyway I thought it an investment that might mean we actually repaint the thing more regularly anyhow once bought so I trotted off to B&Q Sunday and £100 later returned with that, the stuff to go in it and some other odds and ends.

Anyway he painted the whole thing yesterday and basically did a bloody good job, probably better than I'd have done. Now here's the rub, the sprayer is quick, much quicker than the traditional slop it on with a brush method and probably gives a better more consistent finish, however it does seem temperamental and a lot of time was spent faffing about getting the sprayer working. You aren't supposed to run it empty but as S-o-F points out the stuff in the container is thick and sticks to the sides so you can't really see. He had a couple of occasions when it spluttered to a stop and he refilled it and an air lock got in it. First one he decided to brake for lunch, recharged the battery thinking that the issue (it probably did need it) and after lunch it was okay. At about 3pm I got a call from him frustrated as he couldn't get it going again. I told him to leave it an hour (the web site said that) and he then was able to finish off as it cleared on the next attempt. But same issue when he tried to clean it out - you refill with water and run that through until all the "product" is out. Again air lock and no joy. We had another go when I go home in the evening with little joy, suddenly I had a thought. He held the tank thing up as high as he could and I held the hose down low - in a minute it cleared. See gravity, clever bloody thing... who thought that up... oh yes Newton... well God I suppose really, Newton was just the first to notice it. So sprayer thing on balance just about worth it given he'd have never finished in a day traditionally and the finish as I say is good just a bit frustrating with the airlocks... no jolly large chaps laughing heartily in our garden! Wear protective gear, S-o-F didn't wear eye protection and was moaning his eyes stung afterwards.

Another pleasant valley Monday... yes I know that isn't the lyric... never mind.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Father's Day

Yesterday morning I got some great presents... a couple of new shirts - actually make me look almost young and trendy... :-) My son had got me some guitar strings that I knew about and my daughter got me a huge new tea mug - brilliant! It takes about half our teapot to fill it up!

Also a lovely lunch including Dutch Apple Cake that my daughter had made - which was lovely. I've hidden a piece for me to have tonight when I get home... :-)

Lick Library impressions… is learning too much a mistake?

Whilst at the LIMS last week I bought a bargain… well it said it was :-) Half price the Lick Library DVD for learning a bunch of classic UFO… remember folks I’ve just rediscovered that great live album of my teenage years Strangers in the Night. Saturday afternoon I got the DVD out and had a go at Doctor Doctor. This is first time really I’ve used a DVD to learn like this and maybe I’ve been missing out as I made I think fast progress. My learning is that for me at least a visual reference of the tab or music is useful – I should transcribe the info in some way as I learn so that I can then nail it without needing the DVD. I want to finish off Doctor Doctor then head for Natural Thing next. Given I got it for £12.00 I think it was very good, Son-of-Furtheron bought two Metallica ones and is learning Sad But True off them at the moment. As my son pointed out though for the younger generation “I’d easily pay £50 for a game and another £10 for the book to help play the game so £25 isn’t a lot really”. Fair point and I suppose once you’ve learnt what you want maybe a Lick Library exchange with friends may be good. I ought to think about that maybe there is somewhere to set one up.

I was much more into guitar playing this weekend – dumb I know the weather was good and I’m in doors playing the guitar… oh well when the mood takes you and all that. However the one thing that this weekend made me think about was am I too diverse in my learning? I’ve been learning some new classical pieces at the moment, a minuet by Sor, Cannon by Pachelbell, some old ones I’ve reprised into my repertoire recently by Carulli, Carcassi etc.

So am I trying to learn too much at once. Maybe just concentrating on one, and mixing between rock and classical may well seem weird to others. However I love both. What the hell – as long as I’m happy what’s it matter eh?

Friday, 19 June 2009

Simplistic thinking

I'm reading M. Scott Pecks - The Road Less Travelled and Beyond. Long term readers of this and my previous blog which was named Further on up the road in part in tribute to Mr Pecks biggest selling The Road Less Travelled will know that I have a bit of respect for Mr Peck.

I'm early on in this the third in the "road" series. The subtitle is Spiritual Growth in an Age of Anxiety. I've had it around a while just not read it. Anyway the first bit is all about thinking. In particular Peck points out that many many people suffer from far too simplistic thinking and don't use anywhere near the full potential of their brains to think widely enough.

I have to say so far I'm right on board with much of what is being said. You see the evidence around you with people making snap judgements based on very little processing, either as they led to conclusions by overly relying on the media to spoonfeed them their opinions or simply make overly simple decisions as thinking more completely is difficult and challenging.

Anyway it's spured me on to try to be better at thinking, to consider multiple angles, the history of things, try to consider other perspectives etc. One piece of advice given to me a while back that I try to remember, particularly if I feel myself getting angry at someone is to remember there is every possibility they are right and I am wrong.

I hope everyone has a good weekend.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Sensory memories

Two things independently this morning have caused me to bring to mind memories of old events. Funny that both were primarily led by the sensory memory - the taste of my Nan's roast dinner, the smell and sound of toasting crumpets on her open fire...

The other day on Spotify I found Supertramp - one of my favourite bands when I was in my early teenage years. I had Crisis! What Crisis? blaring out and then their first ever album Supertramp which had some very different stuff on it. That music again took me back to my old house, teenage bedroom etc.

I feel that my sensory memories are getting stronger as I get older, maybe they are I don't know. Whenever I think of these things though one awful one comes back - in my days in New York during and just after September 11 2001... When the wind blew from down town to the mid town area I was staying in it blew the dust from ground zero over the island. I'll never forget the horrible acrid taste and smell that dust had. I call it the taste of death to myself... so good memories and bad memories in one... you can't separate the ying and yang of life can you?

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

More proud parent moments

See a positive post after the last one... prompted by reading this, don't you love blogs that hit the spot instantly telling you what you've been missing or whatever...

Saturday night - Daughter-of-Furtheron was picked for the gala team for a swimming gala. She was in loads of races which was good but a bit "knackering" to use her phrase. Highlight was the Ladies 4x1 relay handicap. Handicaps are fun, the swimmers set off a different times, slowest swimmer (or team in this case) first up to the fastest based on the time entered. So as the race unfolds they all end up finishing really closely and of course the fastest doesn't necessarily win so all are in with a chance. You can swim up to a set number of seconds under your entered time, any faster and you are disqualified. So the other exciting thing is awaiting the result as you don't know who might be removed from the results. D-o-Fs team got into the final and it was really close finish with her team one of the fastest closing down the others throughout - and she swum the last length touching in third. But I had my suspicion the first to finish looked too fast and indeed they were so her team got silver behind their sister team from the club who got the trophy. Great stuff, and she is really enjoying her competing now but without it being a "win-at-all-costs-no-fun" obsession.

I should have mentioned in the LIMS post one of the best bits. My son and I wondered back to the Marshall booth when they had a "try it for yourself" time. I had a go on a JVM 100W head into a new Dave Mustaine cab and then the Haze 15W - the sales guy had been pushing me towards a JVM 50W combo rather than the Haze 40W based on his perception of flexibility etc. However the JVM is a more metal head beast I think. I hate trying things out my repertoire seems to reduce to about three chords and every run sounds like numpty pentatonic scale practice... cos it is!

I handed the Lag superstrat to Son-of-Furtheron who jumped at the chance to belt out on the JVM head and cab. He is not just good these days he is bloody brilliant! He is far better player than me already all pretty much self taught, I can't deny there was a hint of jealousy in me in that he is so bloody good already and he is only 18! However there was also a feeling of great pride - he is a kid with passion and purpose and that is something both my children seem to have and I'm so pleased we don't have that agony that some parents must have seeing their kids squander their potential.

Angry

I’m angry at myself at the moment.

I’m letting work stuff in particular dominate my life and I’m also not dealing with it very graciously. The context is that I’m in this new role, I’m not moved companies I’m still working where I’ve worked for the last 18 years but my old role was eliminated back in Feb and after some weeks of insecurity and also me going back and forth about whether I wanted to stay I apply for one job that was available and I got it. I blogged about some of this stuff already – particularly in “I should be happy”.

So the new role is complicated, there is a load to do, many colleagues have said things like “I don’t envy you that job”, “Why anyone would take that on is beyond me”, “Jesus you have a hell of a task there” etc. So it’s a recognised challenge, it’s new, I’m 3000 miles from my boss and the rest of the team of people also trying to take on this role.

I’m just over 6 weeks officially in the role, the boss of the team only started in his role at the beginning of this month due to him needing to hand over his old job – he is still doing a lot of that as well about 15hours a week.

So put all this into perspective I can’t do it all now, I can’t be perfect instantly, I can’t know all the answers and a lot of people are trying to draw on me. Fair enough – I should be expecting all that. I wish I was dealing with it better, I’ve felt very disheartened and anxious, panicked at times.

I’m angry as I’m so preoccupied with this I’m totally losing any sense of perspective, last night I’m in my sons bedroom on the phone giving a presentation to the leadership team. Which is okay but my attitude just before that was appalling especially to Mrs F who was only trying to help. And the job is occupying too much of my thoughts, I’m not giving myself time to relax, to have quiet time meditating on the important things. I’m not learning the lessons of this situation well and this is why I’m writing this down – it helps me to get this in the open and acknowledge it. In these situations I isolate, I get angry at myself but that then comes out through the escape valve at people I care about deeply, I think I’m the only person in the world with these problems and that I alone ought to be able to fix it all instantly and provide the perfect solution… voila job done! Also I start to question my thinking and regret decisions – which were perfectly correct and rational decisions made at the time with the knowledge and feelings I had then.

Time for some back to the basics of the programme I use to cope with life I feel. I’m hoping this is my last negative post on this and from now on I can move to a more positive frame and move forward slowly rather than running around in ever decreasing circles as I have been doing.

Monday, 15 June 2009

London International Music Show

Son-of-Furtheron and I made a trip to the Docklands on Saturday to attend the LIMS.

So good points were … some retail area back like the old Wembley shows, very small but at least there. Lot’s of smaller stalls highlighting the smaller manufactures etc. Seemed less crowded than I’ve known it before.

Bad points were… not as many stalls overall as last year. Marshall demo booth too small. Noise levels were bad again, last year that seemed better, probably having drum stuff in the same hall didn’t help on that front. Some big players not there as before, i.e. Line6, Fender.

Overall it was an enjoyable day. Son-of-Futheron made a b-line for the Vox stand as he’d decided the 50w Marshall is not ideal for his shared accommodation and wanted a small modelling practice amp. Having seen the Valvetronix 15 we headed to Guitar Village and snapped one up at a bargain price.

Marshall was a point we returned to more than once in the day. The new Haze range interested me. I’m seriously considering the Haze 40w combo – however I play so little these days in reality and my recent on-line ads looking for other musicians have brought about absolutely zero response that I probably can’t justify it and ought to really think about jettisoning some of the collection – my son is very keen to take my Les Paul off my hands… however I don’t think he wants to pay me for that :-)

Other highlights included the variety of guitars that you can get out there if you a prepared to think outside the Fender, Gibson, PRS box. Firstly Rob Williams – just to die for gorgeous looking guitars, I played a set neck deluxe, Strat like with HSS pick arrangement but with a glued in neck with the heel sculpted like a neck through, absoloutely lovely, and the guy showing it said “It’s £2999 but you know these can’t be cheap”. True but compare with some off the production line PRS’s and actually it looks a bargain!

Vanquish are a new UK company – again interesting neck joint and worth looking at. Personally the neck felt a bit large for me. Organic are another small UK producer worth looking at particularly if you are after a natural finish Les Paul Junior feel etc.

Atals custom guitars were new to me. Built by hand in Thailand than then imported, derivative styles but looked nice quality – if you wanted something different that looks twice the money then worth a consideration.

From Europe – Lag master builds are just excellent. The Imperator I looked at particularly impressed esp in the spalted maple finish – definitely worth looking at along side Les Pauls and PRS’s. Framus had some lovely custom examples – with price tags to match but if the Panthera Pro Custom neck I tried is anything to go by the best neck I’ve had in my hands for a long time, it just felt very right.

Acoustics – I tried a couple of Atkin’s guitars. Brilliant, if I’m heading to be a solo-only-playing-for-myself-at-home acoustic guy then maybe I should sell all the other gear and buy one of those. Stunningly nice.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Angels and Demons, Cats and Frogs

So having slagged off poor old Dan Brown for Digital Fortress not too long ago I have to say time for a bit of humble pie eating... quick aside, I think one of the problems was Digital Fortress had been on my must read list for ages and when it followed a too predictable route I probably felt let down more than if it had been picked up at a station and read on the train there and then...

So I went to see the film Angels and Demons last night. What a great load of preposterous nonsense, Dan should cut out writing the books and go straight to cinema release. Robert Langden running around Rome whilst an anti-matter "bomb" ticks down under the Vatican actually worked really well as a relaxing couple of hours away from the mayhem. Best line... "I could use a map with all the churches in Rome on it.... I could use it now". Rivals the "I need to get to a library fast!" from DeVinchi Code.

So passable nonsense to numb the brain with...

Cats and frogs! One of the cats who live next door, who seem to spend ages in our garden thanks to Daughter-of-Futheron being way too familiar with them caused a right kerfuffle last night. I was finishing the washing up and had just called Mrs F in to answer a phone call when I see D-o-F running like mad around the garden. The cat had been stalking around the bush at the bottom and she'd been trying to get him out well he comes out with a frog and that is jumping about - he is trying to get it and D-o-F is having a meltdown! We caught the frog who was a bit injured poor thing and found a bucket with water and a stone in for him to rest in whilst we told the cat off. Later after dark and once the cat was gone Mrs F released Mr Fisher back into the bush and hopefully he'll move on now to somewhere the damn cat can't find it.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The recession is over

So says the lead story in The Independent today.

Is it? Doesn’t look or feel like it to me. To be fair this story is analyst stuff looking at trends etc. so maybe we are at the bottom or just beginning to climb out the other side. Long way to go though I think. Time to reflect on what has this recession taught me so far?

Well it’s taught me the following.

  1. Money in the bank isn’t necessarily the smartest thing. My wife has some put away and I have a little, we used to watch it grow reasonably via the interest each month which were a significant percentage of my wife’s personal income – now it’s bugger all.

  2. My investment strategies and knowledge are crap. I hold few shares, most in my company through various incentive schemes – not just because of the recession but also due to my industry and my company’s particular position I’ve lost my coat on many of them. The “wisdom” I had was that I’d be quids in due to the tax benefit… that assumes the shares don’t fall by 70%. DOH! Oh yes the only others we hold are in demutualised building societies that have now been taken over. We lost another coat there. Then I thought buying more stupid given the loses as I didn’t do my homework and just missed out on making a packet on one new rights issue. Answer – I have no clue about stocks and shares dealing!

  3. Where I hand over the management of investments to “professionals” is no better. My fund portfolio tanked 40% and is only just beginning to head north again. I knew it was a long term investment … it’ll sure have to be.

  4. Paying off my mortgage was dumb. I thought it a smart move but the government is desperate to help borrows not savers. Many people are £100s better off a month because interest rates are down and mortgages are a bargain. See point 1 – we’re considerably worse off in real terms.

  5. If I take all my money out of the bank to spend – given that is what the government and business want from me at the moment do you think I’ll get some kind of reward in the future?


So bottom line what I really should be learning out of this is the usual… I can do bugger all to materially affect anything around me and need to just roll with the punches and be happy that at least I have a house and enough to pay my way in the world, really what is important isn’t all the processions and money stuff just that it so necessary to function in the world today we lose focus on it.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

CD Review - Chickenfoot Ltd

Well stone me – you just get over one great super band of more mature musicians turning up with a fantastic album (I refer to Heaven and Hell and Better the Devil You Know) when along comes another one!

Chickenfoot are a true supergroup in the old sense of the word. Sammy Hagar takes up vocal duties, Sammy shouldn’t look as God damn healthy and good looking as he does – I remember listening to Montrose albums of his before I started shaving daily!! Mike Anthony hits the bass having been sadly ousted from his position stage right in VanHalen – so 50% of what I always personally consider the best Van Halen line up, Balance and OU812 I think were VH’s high points for me. Chad Smith – the sticks man from RHCP gets a chance to let rip as a very straight ahead rock drummer – not that he isn’t great in RHCP but this is a slightly different style and he excels. Finally Joe Satriani the great guitar genius holds down the guitar duties and frankly is if anything sounding better in a band/vocals context than ever before.

So to the album. Well if you like the aforementioned Hagar fronted Van Halen period then you’ll love this album. It is just great quality rock music. This isn’t metal or thrash just brilliantly executed tuneful rock. Mr Satriani does fly off in some stratospheric directions on a few solos and fills but not to the detriment of the songs and often he is pretty restrained. Mike Anthony is frankly a class bass player, solid, holds the beat with the drums excellently and executes tasteful little fills here and there that catch your ear from time to time. Chad Smith as I say to me is a revelation as a drummer in this context, he really is a brilliant drummer, again beat held solidly but lots of embellishment to add to the interest but rarely over dominating at all. Actually as a rhythm unit Anthony and Smith are up there with the very very best of all time on this evidence.

Over the top Mr Hagar has one of those voices… he is up there with Freddie, Paul Rogers and Plant as one of my all time favourite singers. He has such power and tone in his voice.

Any self respecting rock fan should own this album. Oh yes and all these buggers are older than yours truly, Mr Hagar qualifies for a bloody bus pass for God’s sake! Well it shows you what mature musicians can do… produce absolutely brilliant music.

Oh if you are old school like yours truly here and still love to buy the CD so you can smell it, hold it, fondle it… sorry … tear off the cellophane etc. The cover is extra special – I was lost why it didn’t have the song titles on the black back cover just 1 – 11 indicating 11 tracks. Funny I thought. Then I read inside that it’s covered in a special heat sensitive material. So clasp the cover in your hot mitts for a moment and viola the track listing appears and pictures of our four heroes on the front cover… very clever.

More Free music

Head on over to another of Toby's excellent Rock-Til-You-Drop ventures at Rock-Til-You-Drop Records. Sign up and once in you'll find music from Pocket Rocket, The Zone and MagicShip. You have to pay a nominal amount for some of the downloads but a lot are free. Where can you go wrong?

PocketRocket's stuff is toe-tapping, sing-a-long indypop type stuff, reminds me of The Smiths, Squeeze, Divine Comedy, Jarvis Cocker, even hints of Supertramp to my ears... Loads of jangly guitars some great sax playing and one the whole a solid type professional sound that deserves you checking them out.

The Zone are slightly heavier more rock orientated. Long term follows of my blogs my remember a band I reviewed a year or so back called The Reflective who are a local Kent bluesy rock post punk thing. The Zone and them should tour together as the audience would definitely be the same. Try if you like Green Day, Pixies, Metallica, etc.

MagicShip you should know by now - they are the best band from Twickenham! Seriously the album Love Tel Motel makes you think of California, The Byrds, Tom Petty etc. but with a Brit accent and attitude.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Book Review – Dan Brown, Digital Fortress

Ever wondered why you read a book? Digital Fortress was exactly one of those for me, the plot was pretty predictable a lot of the technical mumbo jumbo simply laughable for anyone with even a modicum of computer knowledge and an underlying theory running through it which again was laughable – i.e. that the US government had built a computer so supremely powerful it was lightyears ahead of anything else out there… oh and nobody knew. Yeah right! And they used this supercomputer to break into every encrypted message sent on the internet every day in a matter of minutes, I’ll not go into this but 64bit encryption is a bugger to break and 128 needs years of processing to get close, there was some reference to quantum computing but then Dan goes on about the silicon chips in this computer… er that don’t add up binary vs quantum… is a quantum leap (pun intended). Still I battled on in a desperate hope it’d get better and that there might be a stunning un-foreseen twist at the end… there wasn’t. I was virtually screaming the answer to the conundrum left by the dead genius at the book myself as it was so patently bleeding obvious but the collective brains of the USA secret service had to waste a chapter or two on it to build the suspense. So a laughable thriller that really has little thrill in it as you can pretty much predict the outcome at the start and definitely every next step along the way. Not recommended.

The one saving grace – I got the book second hand so I only wasted a small amount of money. I should have know – I read the DeVinci code when my Mum passed it on to me after all the hype, a reasonable book if most of the hype around it referred to Brown’s statement that it was “all true” or something like that which was somewhat a load of nonsense. I then read the prequel Angels and Demons which was again a preposterous romp but I thought actually better than his huge seller – I’ve not seen the film yet but may soon go. Then Deception Point – now actually that wasn’t bad at all in many ways, probably his best. Still totally unbelievable but not bad. Digital Fortress in summary, if you get it given to you or buy it to support a charity good for you and read it with a comic smile but frankly don’t bother otherwise, I believe a new Dan Brown blockbuster is soon to be released, let’s just say I think I’ll wait until the paperback is in the bargain bin before I go there.

It rains in Wales

Apparently there was an earthquake in Wales on Friday night but we weren’t there by then so I can safely say it was nothing to do with us.

We went to Wales on Saturday to collect Son-of-Furtherons belongings, he is coming back this week after sorting out his new accommodation today. There was a point somewhere in the Brecon’s on Saturday when if Noah had sailed past in his Ark I’d not have been surprised. Boy when it rains there it doesn’t muck about!

I was concerned we get everything in the car – which was daft as we have a large estate car and with the seats down we really didn’t have too much of a problem, the bigger problem now is that it is all dumped at home mostly in my sons bedroom and he really has some sorting out to do! Mrs F couldn’t stop herself and started last night emptying his clothes back into his cupboards etc. and filling up a charity bag with stuff she decided he no longer needs.

Coming home on Sunday the weather was nearly as bad as Saturday it was 8°C as we left. Mrs F drove the first half through the rain, we stopped on the M6 we’re still trying every route under the sun to/from Aberystwyth to figure out what is best… answer is… it takes 7 hours unless you are lucky end of story. I took over after lunch and the sun came out as we listened to the Grand Prix on the radio and by the time we got home it was 18°C sunny and I looked a twit with the big jumper I’d needed to put on in Wales.

It was lovely to see Son-of-Furtheron and we had a meal on Saturday with him and his girlfriend during which several times the girls insisted the conversation was reeled back from guitars and music to other more inclusive subjects. He is coming home tomorrow having sorted out his new accommodation today. Mrs F can’t wait she was going on about how excited she is he’ll soon be home. I wonder how long before their first row :-) Anyway I think he is off to visit his friend at Oxford in a couple of days so typically he’ll hardly be back then gone again.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Swimming success

Last night was a swimming club gala. Daughter-of-Furtheron did brilliantly getting into the final of the ladies 50m freestyle handicap, third in the juniors 200m breastroke and fourth overall and third in her age group in the Individual Medley. Brilliant night - although she was pretty worn out by the end as she has almost back to back events in the last few events.

We're off to Wales now to see Son-of-Furtheron and bring his stuff back from uni, he is staying on a few days to get the keys to the house he and his friends are renting for the next year and he'll come back later in the week on the train.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Free music!

Spotify - have you tried it? I've been dredging my memory banks for old teenage albums. The first Supertramp one, now Babe Ruth! Anybody remember them? It's all there! Free - well with odd adverts but between tracks... Go Try.

Also free music to learn. I was looking about for some classical guitar music and stumbled across some sites I'd recommend if you want to learn some classical stuff.

http://www.oreshko.co.uk/classical.htm
http://dirk.meineke.free.fr/classical2.html
http://8notes.com/guitar_sheet_music.asp

Amazing this internet thingy isn't it... :-)

Who's out there

I recently stuck one of those who-has-been-on-your-blog gadget things. Someone else have one on their blog and I just thought it interesting. More than I expected. I get many more "hits" than "comments" which is I believe the normal trend. However one of the interesting things is the kinds of things people search on that means they find this here little blog in the backwaters of cyberspace. Often it is people searching for book reviews or often about music artists I've featured in posts - notably recently the late great John Martyn and the recent Peter Green BBC documentary. The Beeb should pay me commission you know... :-)

The book review thing is what took me by surprise. A while back blogger offered this now "monetise" your blog thing. I'll not change from my principle that I set out then, this blog mentions AA a lot and I'd hate for any association between AA and anything else be misconstrued. However made me think about book reviews etc. being a way to get people on your site - seems to be my big hitter.

BTW to anyone who has just found here through a quirk of google please say hi via an Anon comment.

We're off to visit Wales this weekend as Son-of-Furtheron has completed his first year at Uni.. hell that went quick!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

A funny thing happened...

... on the way to the forum. Well no actually it was last night.

Wednesday evening. Mrs F and Daughter-of-Furtheron always visit the mother-in-law on a Wed. So I get home make a sandwich and sit down to watch whatever late night motorsport I've recorded. Aside note - why is it the only ads on Five at 3 in the morning about text chat lines? Anyway I watched the rest of the Indy 500 since last week for some reason Five only showed the last 36 laps I think it was. I'm sat there munching my cheese, ham and pickle sarni and think... "Bugger I didn't have lunch because Mrs F had left that spag bol for me". So as not to displease her I warmed it up and ate that too. I then felt completely bloated and she arrived back and said "You could have just frozen it". I could couldn't I... I'm going nuts.

Also the internet has been playing up - well our connection to it has been. Last night was infuriating as we were watching the dramatic climax to our latest eBay auction... a china Jemima Puddle Duck - we were the only bidder so frankly it wasn't that exciting. Hey bet you wish your life was this riproaring adrenaline filled rollercoaster. Anyway I'm cursing because the bloody thing is not working and then I finally look on the ISPs service status page... big notice that BT has screwed part of their network since last week and they had an outage planed to fix it. Funny I moan that my users don't look in the right place for the right info and I go do it myself.

Both these bits of useless info are brought to you by the fact I'd read others blogs and were reminded of the madcap antics of my life.

Sorry to disturb you

Today is polling day in England... for some local councils, not us ever since we stopped being part of Kent and became our own little county we've been out of sync with the rest of the country on that one but for all European parliament elections.

I had a couple of errands before going to work today - post all the AA letters I needed to, go to the polling station and go pick up a parcel from the sorting office.

So I left a bit later than normal and headed first to post the letters then into the polling station now at about 7:02 - i.e. just as they opened. I thought I was early there was no one there. I walked in and the three ladies who were the polling clerks all quickly shuffled over and sat at the table. I passed over my polling card for them to tick me off the register and one of them said. "Congratulations you are the first". I voted - a difficult decision as frankly I half wanted to spoil my paper with some protest about the current crop of politicians but then thought - "There are people dying in countries like Zimbabwe right now to get the opportunity to freely put a cross on a bit of paper like this, you should vote and vote with the conscience you have at the time". So I placed my vote more as an acknowledgement to those that have fought for the right to vote for me in day gone by and as a point of solidarity for those held in oppression elsewhere right now rather than a feeling that I was behind who I voted for and what they will do if elected.

I popped my paper into the box, thanked the ladies and left. I looked up and down the road... No-one, it was like a ghost town, I swear the birds went quiet for a moment too. I doubt the ladies in that hall will be very busy at all today.

So finally I have to mention the MPs expenses fiasco. I don't condone any wrong doing and I'm glad for the transparency that has exposed some of this nonsense. I don't understand some of the argument... "We have to run two houses". So do plenty of people forced through economic conditions to have to work a long way from their family base, I know just some folks myself and they rent/buy a "little flat" for the week and have to get on with it. It goes with the job which you knew when you signed up. Blah blah blah... it partly doesn't matter.

The real point for me is this, there was a survey on the BBC about top exec pay this week I saw - something like CEO pay in FTSE 100 companies went up 2% last year whilst the value of those companies on the stock market fell by about a third. Crap performance if you believe a CEOs job is to raise the long term value of his company. One top CEO gets an eye watering £36million and the head of Tesco a modest (considering) £13million a year.

So MP vs CEO vs nurse vs teacher? Who adds more "value" to the country? I leave you to judge yourselves but if I was a young graduate who could do anything... MP or CEO... little choice these days I'd wager. Funny that a minister telling big business what they should do to help the country or have to do since the minister is enacting new legislation has to live with the fact the CEOs he faces are earning more in the meeting than he does in a year.

No wonder many MPs and ministers are thinking they have had enough. Is £60,000 what an MP should be paid? Is a nurse or teacher paid what we should pay them? Yes it is tax payers money and we want "value" etc. However the FTSE100 companies are owned by all of us with money in a private or company pension scheme - we just have little say in how they are used... or what our money is invested in. I'd rather the £36million salary was slashed to something suitable and the rest plowed into the company to grow it's value back so I have a pension in 20 years time.

Enough of politics then... we live in an unfair society where people who do a lot of direct good are paid little and many who do little but exploit the system and all the people in it are paid a lot.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

How Sad

I was very sad to hear the tragic story of the deaths of the Puttick family at Beachy Head. When I first heard the story it was reported that three bodies were all found together - that was tragic enough but then to head the full story behind it is so sad.

Read about it here.

In summary - Sam was 5 and had been paralyzed from the neck down since a car crash in 2005. He died following a meningitis infection late last week. His devastated parents who somehow had coped through all his life with his disability then appear to have driven with Sams body to Beachy Head and then followed through with a suicide pact.

Bloody hell - stop you in your tracks stuff or what. This week has been a bit like that for me, the Susan Boyle thing I blogged about already, I was about to go on about MPs expenses today but frankly who gives a shit. Those parents were fantastic people - can I honestly say I would be able to cope with a child that was disabled like that? Honestly.. no I can't I'm afraid I don't know how I'd cope and whether actually I could.

A lot of stuff here recently has been about looking at where I am at the moment and taking stock of that... making a list of the positives on one hand and the negatives on the other - a proper inventory. All too often I dwell on the negative side and allow those things to completely over shadow the positives. I'll not do that today - I have so much to be grateful and thankful for. I'm so sorry about Kazumi and Neil - just from the praise pouring in for this couple that I've seen they are a massive loss to the world.

Right everyone - stop what you are doing now... RIGHT NOW! Focus on your nearest and dearest... what would it be like if they went unexpectedly? How would they feel if you went? Ok now all get on with our day remembering that and don't let the stupid petty shit around us all the time get in the way of what really matters.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Getting Stressy

I’ve had a day or so of feeling really stressed out. I often write my blog entry whilst supping my morning coffee… today is no different but I’m reflecting as I often do at this period in the day over the last 24/48 hours. Hmm…not my best.

Work is work isn’t it. Why do we work? To earn money put simply, I need to pay for the things I want therefore I do a job to do that. After that though it gets very complicated because for many of us the job is a part of us that is important, there is a status associated with it. You want to do well for your own self-esteem and value, you want to do something that you feel adds something. To be honest it’s all a bit tricky that especially in the modern cut and thrust of the world we live in.

So I’m letting work get too important in my life and affect me too much. I had some interactions with the family last night that on reflection I’m not proud of and reacted to some little things in a stupid way. Why? Because I feel under pressure and stressed about work – all this culminated with a very bad nights sleep that doesn’t help today as I don’t feel too great as a result of probably no more than 3 hours solid sleep last night and much turning and tossing.

What really matters in life? A recurring theme really on this blog. Life that is what matters. So I sit here at my little desk in my little corner of the world, that alone is mind bogglingly big – how long would it take me to walk from here to Scotland? Then all the people in the world billions of them… I’m just one. There are thousands and thousands of employees just in my company I’m just a little cog in the machinery of that enterprise. So I need to breath in and take stock, getting stressy with my family because I couldn’t figure out a spreadsheet at work is so dumb it’s unbelievable. I blame lack of time etc. but that is lame I have total control over my time, ok there are parameters like they won’t pay me if I don’t turn up but I have a lot of control if I exercise it. But it shouldn’t all be about me it should be about the bit that I play in the world which small as it may be perhaps it can have some good.

So to reflect then on the positives. This morning I’ve done much better with the spreadsheet hell I’m in, “First things First”, just do the basics first don’t solve the whole problem in one go – obvious but I need reminding. Last night I gave 3 others lifts home after the AA meeting, one of who had just been given a secondhand baby buggy by another member. I did think as I helped her unload it from my boot that someone would see me helping get this pram out for a pregnant woman and come to completely the wrong conclusion. Anyway the AA “bus” made it’s various drop offs along the A2 I can reflect that I at least in some small way helped those people out. Also I bid and won a little ornament for my daughter of eBay to add to her collection. See that is what really matters and should make me smile not frown. Today is a non-frown day from now on.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Living the dream

I’m glad to say I never watched one second of the latest series of Britain’s Got Talent. I really hate these kind of shows I have to say, I know that they give some people a break they might never get and give others hope etc. etc. but I just find them awful.

I did watch Susan on YouTube as everyone was on about it and thought I need to find out about that and it confirmed my worst fears of the show, the panel dismissing her due to her dress sense and look etc. Then the surprised faces all round when she sang… sorry being someone who doesn’t look like a swimsuit model doesn’t mean you lack artistic talent…

What is the real tragedy of the show now is of course the news that she sadly is in a clinic. I wish her well and hope she has a speedy recovery and gets the very best help for her problems.

To me this really ought to be the story of the whole thing. Think and look very carefully at what you believe you want especially if that desire is driven but the unrealistic expectations that much of the media push on us today. I remember some while back on a TV show seeing a group of youngsters about 9 or 10 years old interviewed. They all wanted to be “famous”, when pushed not for anything specific just “famous”. The cult of celebrity and of instant fame through shows like this is one of my biggest bugbears in modern society, it’s the instant gratification, the implication that you don’t need to work hard and develop yourself at all just expect it all now. Okay when I was there age I would have said I wanted to be like Jimi Hendrix or Peter Osgood – 1970 I remember it well!! But you see I associated fame and fortune through an excellence at something be it playing a guitar whilst on fire or nodding a ball into the net in a football match.

Against these kind of things are other obvious shining exceptions… Seasick Steve for example where he has been a poor hustling performer who late in life is pushed to fame but by then has life so well sussed he pretty much doesn’t seem to accept his new found status as anything special.

So “living the dream”… for me for years I constantly thought the grass was greener next door, the next pub would have the party in it, my job was grinding me down, etc. etc. One day when I stopped for a moment and actually looked around I was a little shocked to find I actually was “living the dream” ok there are always a few warts here and there but you know it couldn’t be a lot better… plus I can go anywhere I like without anyone caring pretty much. Maybe that would be better for Susan in the long run?