Friday, 26 February 2010

I'm going home

I'm posting this from the airport lounge in Boston awaiting my flight back to the UK. Another week trip to the USA over.

My passport runs out later this year and I need to get a new one organised soon. My current one looks battered to hell, all the coat of arms off the front is warn away, various stickers are still attached to it from various old airline/airport procedures, the picture in the back looks like some goon I met once years ago and it is full of old immigration stamps and chads of paper from stapled visa cards etc. I've just done a count up and and there are 37 USA visa stamps in there. So that is roughly 4 trips a year on average - how many miles is that? It's about 3300 miles - most (not all) are trips to Boston so that is 6600 * 37 which is near enough a quarter of a million miles! A few are to New York and at least one or two to Michigan etc. so it's easily over that.

I got to briefly see my friends The Sue Menhart Band last night. I needed to drive up to Cambridge through the worst rain you've ever seen - it was relentless! So sadly only heard the opening number but great to meet up with them again. I have the feeling some big news will be coming from them soon - I hope so they deserve it as they put their complete soul into their music and work extremely hard at it.

So I'm looking out over the bay and some lovely sunbeams burning through a cloud and down to the ground.

Oh yes I never moaned about the hire car this time, basically cos it was okay! A petrol thirsty 4x4 but it went pretty well if typically noisy but slow to react for a USA car but it wasn't bad, comfortable, had a Sirius satellite radio so I could listen to Radio 1 etc. It was a Ford Edge I think - never seen them in UK.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Back in the USSA

That title didn't work! :-) Sorry Sir Paul and John!

Cold, snowing, storm warning... blah blah. Forgot my hat! Darn! Still the lady gave me an upgrade to an SUV, I looked blank at her "Four wheel drive" she offered. "Oh a four by four" I replied and it was her turn to look blank, and after sampling one for breakfast my ex-pats rant about sausages is right - they have no idea out here... like the tea... awful!

Here for work through the week and hope to see The Sue Menhart Band on Thursday night before heading back to Boston and home on Friday. I've booked into a hotel in Cambridge but thinking I might stay here and then get up silly o'clock on Friday morning to go back to Boston. TBD as they say.

Right must off to work now then.

Sunday, 21 February 2010


My brother is getting married in August - in Scotland - Gretna Green.

I'm the best man! *pause for proud moment*

He wanted us to look like twins! i.e. both in same suit etc. So yesterday we went off to Bluewater to sort it out. Apart from both going "Really nice" to one then noticing it was £500! It all went well and we exited M&S with suits, shirts and new shoes for my brother - black brogues... he clearly thought it easier just to buy what he knows I'll wear anyway :-)

But twins?! :S He is taller than me, thinner and has blond hair. So we look totally the same obviously :-)

Still, it's what he wants and he deserves it after all he went through trying to save his last marriage and having it all thrown back in his face in the end and he is the happiest I've seen him in years.

Best man speech is started - needs further work. My daughter who is the literary genius in the family has offered to be editor on that.

We know where we are going for the Stag do as well so I need to organise that. Hamburg! Not what some of you are thinking - the worlds biggest model railway is there so we're off to look at that!

Also it was the first time my brother had ever been to Bluewater - he didn't seem that impressed and my daughter who had spent two consecutive days there was lost as to how you could avoid the place and not be bothered when you got there. She was happy as Mrs F bought her dress ready for the wedding too.

Son-of-Furtheron is to be the "official photographer" of the day and he phoned while we were there telling us he'd bought the flash gun he's insisted was essential kit. So all in all a significant day forward on the preparations. Mrs F found a couple of dress but wants to go back again... I think on a girlie only day without grumpy blokes who'd sorted their stuff in an hour leaning against the rail outside the succession of shops looking at thier watches and moaning about grumbling stomachs :-)

Saturday, 20 February 2010


Congratulations to Amy Williams but what the hell possesses anyone to jump on a tea tray and launch themselves down a mountain is beyond me.

Amy Williams wins Skeleton Gold.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Saying goodbye

Today I had to say goodbye to the best boss I have ever worked for - he is leaving our company unfortunately. He had moved on to pastures new and greater some years back and I rarely see him these days as he is based at another site in the UK and spends a lot of time in USA. However still sad to be saying good bye and at the same lunch two other people who'll be leaving in the next few weeks as part of the ever onward drive for efficiency savings, one of those management euphamisms that you know means someone somewhere loses their job.

It was a fun time reminising about the good old days of the old teams we were part of over the years. But is was also quiet a depressing time, it's said to see these people leave. Also shows how we're all getting older - as time goes by I'm almost one of the oldest in the departmement now and one of the longest served within the company.

Still wheels continue to turn and it's all just the turning of time and tide isn't it. I don't remember waking up as an 8 year old, 10 year old, 14 year old, 20 year old and saying "I want to be an Application Delivery Service Manager when I'm 48". Be fair I have one of those modern poncy jobs dreamt up in the last few years as part of the information technology revolution which has nothing to do with IT itself just most companies inability to manage it all.

So how do you advise your kids as they head into adulthood? I keep thinking the best advice is "do what you enjoy".

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Live songs online

I've put up a couple of live tracks onto my Reverbnation player.

Let Me Love You Tonight - is a new song that debuted at the gig that I'm quite proud of and sounded pretty good.
My Baby - is different as a solo acoustic piece so I thought I'd lob that on there as well.


For the technically minded / interested read on...

I took along my Boss BR-600 to the gig on Sunday, it's a digital multitrack recorder and is what I use to make my "studio" recordings. It's a really simple (apart from the drum tracks that still loses me) little 8 track device. Anyway you can power it off 6 AA batteries and it has a couple of little built in mics. I've used it like this just to capture early demos of songs as work in progress at times. I thought to myself "I can record the set" - mostly so I could listen back and learn from it for future performance. Which I have! Anyway Fourdinners asked for some tracks to play on his scooter forums radio show this Saturday so I needed to take the recording and make it into MP3 tracks. Having done that I picked out a couple to load up.

Here's how it all worked; I loaded up a new clean 1GB memory card, created a song in the middle level of quality to be sure I'd be able to get it on the card with enough room to subsequently export to WAV format - which happens on the card so you need that room free. I then showed my daughter how to start and stop a recording and just plonked it on the table in front of her. Listen for yourself but the results were much better than I'd expected, very creditable indeed.

So I got home and exported the recording to the WAV file and loaded that onto the computer. I now had this massive WAV file, which I converted to MP3 through an MP3 converter that I have giving me now a 30+MB MP3 file. So still too big for emailing about and also a single "track" of the whole performance.

Col who is a font of all knowledge on this stuff was sought out for his expertise and he confirmed that Audacity was the tool to use for this chop suey exercise on the big file. As soon as I got home last night I downloaded that... beware go to the proper site the first one I went to my virus scanner instantly quarantined the download as it had a Trojan in it!! But with the latest beta from the right place installed it only took a couple of mins for me to figure out the best way to cut it up... basically listen to it and at appropriate point hit the [ key to start the section and the ] to stop it. Then just cut and paste into a new Audacity project, tidy up the beginning and end of the track, I found I had to switch off the default "snap to" setting on the selection tool as it only wanted to cut only a section on precise second timing boundaries. Once done and happy with it I just export as WAV file ... or MP3 but I used my bulk MP3 converter program I already mentioned for that myself once I had them all exported at WAVs.

Great stuff all round.

  • The BR-600 was excellent given how portable etc. it is

  • Audacity was pretty easy to use to chop up and clean up each track

  • All in all only a few hours work all round to get any live set into MP3. If you were someone with a big enough fan base the making of live recordings for subsequent sale is really easy

Monday, 15 February 2010

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Live at The Libertine

I enjoyed another live set at The Libertine this lunchtime. Thanks to all who came along.

Here is Johnny the Horse... there are another two loaded up at my Youtube channel.

Happy St Valentine's Day

Happy St Valentine's Day.

Funny many people drop the Saint but be fair you had to perform miracles to get that so maybe we should have a campaign to re-instate it.

Whatever - have a happy one with your loved one(s).

Friday, 12 February 2010

Infinite or Finite?

I watched an interesting programme last night. I’d recorded this week’s Horizon which was dubbed “To Infinity and Beyond”. Now I know these days many complain about the media dumming down science for the masses but this programme captured my imagination and got me thinking.

Firstly did you know that one of the largest known numbers is actually Graham’s number. Not named after yours truly but after Ronald Graham who used it in some proof or something in 1977. Mr Graham is suitably wacky for a pure mathematican in that he is also a circus performer and president of some juggling society! Of course I think that is such a good name for a number :-) Apparently it is so big you need some special notation to write it! It is massively bigger than a google which is 10100. And then a googleplex which is 10google which is a seriously big number. We are now well beyond the number of atoms in the entire visible universe!

Then the programme tried to explain infinity which was described by another wacky maths professor sitting in a suitably cluttered office as “a tricky little devil”. So ∞ + 1 = ∞ or ∞ - 1 = ∞ but ∞ - ∞ might = 0. Note the might! Think I should argue with the bank manager that Loan outstanding - £1 might equal £0?

Enough of the Maths nonsense. What about in reality (something these guys only fleetingly glimpse one might say;-)). Is the universe infinite or finite? I thought the excepted view now was that it was finite – but that is only what we can see I suppose. Apparently the inflation theory which is used to explain how we got from the bang to the big has a side effect that it shows the universe to indeed be infinite.

So now here's the conundrum I've always puzzled on this and the programme raised it. If the universe is infinite then my friends there must be infinite worlds exactly like this one with all the same people, things, places etc. on it right now doing exactly this now. Oh yes and an infinite number of worlds with all the same people doing exactly the same now but all wearing rubber boots, or naked or with pink nail polish of exactly the same colour on everybody... and an infinite number of worlds exactly like this but just missing me or you or him or her.

Does your flipping head in doesn't it?

Some guy claimed to be able to work out how far away one of these exact identical worlds would be. That presupposed that we actually do know the possible number of potential combinations of atoms I think.

So anyone still reading this?

What would you prefer for your head to cope with this? Finite universe and therefore possibly - actually probably only one Earth and one you and one me or the infinite universe and all those others out there being you?

For me I instantly prefer the finite - seems I can get my head around that, this expanding balloon that was driven by the big bang 13.7 billion years back. But then I stop and think - but what is outside the balloon? Other universes - would there be an infinite number of finite universes? Does your head in doesn't it... Kit Kat anyone?

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Book Review – The Sign Raymond Khoury

I like Raymond Khoury’s books since his first one “The Last Templar” went through my hands. He writes a good thriller. He keeps you enthralled by not making the plot too easy to guess, he weaves multiple lines into one and most of all I like the style of his writing. It isn’t the usual thriller pap where for some reason inane dialogue between the characters is introduced to get the reader up to speed.

The underlying premise behind this book is an interesting plot line. A miracle sign appears seemingly imploring humankind to listen to a higher power about the damage our modern society is subjecting the planet to. However it isn’t a miracle, it’s a set up obviously by the devious, powerful business men. However the sub-plot about motives there is another interesting side diversion in this book.

True to the format there is an unlikely hero who is trying to find his brother, or prove he is dead and prove the business men were behind it. There are sub-plots about religion and how it may be viewed in the modern world as well and right at the end some interesting perspective on that.

If you like thrillers in the Dan Brown vein you’ll like this – in fact I’d argue Mr Khoury is a better writer but that’s personal viewpoint obviously.

So recommended definitely.

My boss's philosophy

He sent this around our team today and I thought I'd share it.


1. Throw out nonessential numbers.
This includes age, weight and height.
Let the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay 'them'

2. Keep only cheerful friends.
The grouches pull you down.

3. Keep learning.
Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever.
Never let the brain idle. 'An idle mind is the devil's workshop.'

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud.
Laugh until you gasp for breath.

6. The tears happen.
Endure, grieve, and move on.
The only person, who is with us our entire life, is ourselves.
Be ALIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love ,
whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants,
hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health:
If it is good, preserve it.
If it is unstable, improve it.
If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9. Don't take guilt trips.
Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county;
to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love that you love them ,
at every opportunity.


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but
by the moments that take our breath away.

I really like the last bit - that is a pretty good maxim to try and live your life by isn't it?

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Set list for 14th Feb gig at The Libertine

So here is the planned set list for the gig on Sunday. I'm risking it starting with the 12string for 3 songs. Only one is in Drop D and that is the last number. A bunch of new covers are included to add variety. My material is indicated by being in bold. I'm including a brand new song that really only started as a chord pattern idea late last week - I found a scribbled lyric idea from a while back and - totally rewrote that apart from one line, but it's in the set for it's debut. All is well I'm writing songs with maj7 chords in them again. :-) I've also dropped all the instrumentals apart from Gypsy as they didn't really work in the context of a venue like The Libertine. Remember all my material (excluding the brand new one) is available for preview at

Give a Little Bit
Rise Up
Let Me Love You Tonight
You Make Me More
My Baby

Johnny the Horse
Thank You
I Used To Know Her

England win!

Well I have to say that was a surprise performance by England - I thought at best we'd be holding onto Wales' coattails in a desperate attempt to not be defeated.

In the end I think England just about deserved the victory. Wales first didn't look like the team of the last few seasons, especially in the backs, too many mistakes and indecision. The sending off was crucial is has to be said - would England have won without that 10mins only playing 14? At least this season it wasn't England committing the stupid things like that.

Still lots to do in the England side though, we still didn't make use of the width at all. We could have potentially scored quicker before half time if the forwards hadn't been intent in battering the Wales line. In the end Haskill got the try and good job if we'd have gone in half time without that I don't think we'd have won and we had overlaps like mad on the right that they didn't think of exploiting.

So better England - much better than the Autumn performances. Dare I hope for 6 nations victory? No I think that is too much to ask for but some performances of similar stature against France and Ireland would be good in building for the World Cup next year.

What is this!!???

99p - I stil think you're being had. That isn't a replica of any Elvis guitar I remember.

Either a J-200 - as he is pictured with laughably or the old Martin D-45 (I think that's right) he used in the 50s with ELVIS on it in sticky letters. But that thing! What the hell is that?

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Guess the Songs

What Physics students do after exams are finished and they are "bored"... A guess the song competition with Son-of-Furtheron blazing away on his LTD EC-1000.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Reflective mood

I was looking at my gratitude list today thinking to myself "I haven't updated that since the weekend". I then notice that I'd put on there over the weekend "New DAB radio for the kitchen". So yes I'm grateful for that as it has replaced the very old and knackered cassette/CD/radio boom box we'd had for years with something that sounds much better and much smaller and won't mean all that fiddling about trying to tune into Radio Kent on snow days to find out if the school is shut just go to the menu and press a button and Radio Kent is there. Plus I get to listen to Kerrang or Planet Rock while I'm cooking :-)

But I digress; I was disappointed that I'd put that on there actually, it's a small and materialistic thing, nice yes but in the grand scheme of stuff not that relevant. So I took a few minutes to contemplate about what I am truly grateful for. If the DAB radio wasn't there my life would be unaffected. So I got to thinking...

The World - pretty amazing isn't it? Our Planet that we are lucky enough to live on. By a real quirk of luck here we are on the outer reaches of our galaxy and there is a star that is the right size and age to have a Goldilocks zone and that we are alive in the period before our sun gets too old to sustain that. Then look at the Earth and how it all is and inter-reacts, soil, water, weather etc. Still I suppose that I wouldn't be here thinking this stuff if it wasn't like so a moot point but whatever still one to be grateful for.

Family - I'm very blessed to have kids. Further blessed that they are great fun to be with and generally both people I have admiration for in different ways. Then there are my sister and brother, again I have a family in which we have good relationships - recently a man in our town was killed and his brothers are to face trial for his murder all over some money in their mothers will. I don't live in a family like that and I'm very grateful.

The kids thought made me think that I wouldn't have my kids without my wife. We been together since 1981, she was a mere 16 and me 18 when we met at school. So at the end of this month we'll have been together for 29 years and in July married for 25 years. Some people never get lucky enough to meet someone that they could be with like that, and we've been through some times together, notably she stuck with me through the bad days of drinking where frankly nobody would have blamed her if she'd have walked out or kicked me out, both my parents deaths, the children arriving and bringing them up, jobs coming and going for both of us over the years, the loss of her brother so young and grandparents into homes and then to the end, her Dad's suffering with cancer. My marriage is something I'm extremely grateful for.

Hmm - the DAB radio is nice but its place on my gratitude list is back into perspective today a bit.

Corporate nonsense

I was heading to the shop at work this morning for my first cup of tea to start the day and overheard someone on their mobile to someone else...

"Could you possibly give me the briefest of briefs just prior to the pre-briefing for the briefing meeting"

What nonsense... still it all keeps the wheels of commerce turning doens't it.

Monday, 1 February 2010

CD Review Tall Stories Skyscraper

About time I did a CD review...

Tall Stories - Skyscraper.

So what's the scoop? Ex Journey vocalist Steve Augeri reforms his early 90s band and releases a followup to their 1991 debut CD.

If you like melodic rock a la Journey, Boston, Def Leppard et al then you'll like this. There has been much written about Journey without Steve Perry but whatever you say Mr Augeri is a good vocalist. Much of the material is written and produced by guitarist Jack Morer who is frankly a class act. Stand out tracks for me are the opener Tomorrow and Stay.

Give it a listen.

Okay - I'll come clean, the drummer in Tall Stories (Tom Dafaria) is a mate of mine and I feel bad it took me so long to get around to buying this that I'd thought I'd push it for them :-)