Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Book Review - Dan Brown The Lost Symbol

So I've slated Mr Brown's books in the past notably a year ago when reviewing Digital Fortress which was frankly tosh!

However Deception Point is a bloody good read. Angels and Demons not too bad however the Dan Brown way of making the baddie really the goodie or is that the other way round? meant I'd long figured some of the plot line and that nonsense with the anti-matter from CERN was again tosh! The DaVinci Code is of course a huge success and created a myth about it as Mr Brown claims a lot of factual basis to his stories - possibly true to some point but the level that you get other books and TV shows trying to retrace the routes and all the symbols etc. is mind boggling. Whatever you have to say Mr Brown has tapped into the modern interest.

And so The Lost Symbol carries on from where The DaVinci Code left off (the books go Angels and Demons, DaVinci Code, Lost Symbol - the 2 films reversed the sequence). Our hero is again the Harvard symbolist professor Robert Langden. He gets completely wrapped up in a masonic dripping conspiracy centred in the USA capital Washington DC. I'm not sure how much of the history of many of the buildings etc. that are used within the book is true but it has wet my appetite for a trip to Washington some time in the future if I can to have a look around.

The book bustles along in a rip roaring pace - I think I'm correct that the whole thing plays out in one day. The CIA are involved, masons are popping out of the stone work left right and centre and believe it or not the secret of all knowledge is apparently buried in Washington. Yes guarded by the masons for millennia since the time of pharaohs in Egypt and it's buried... in a city built only 200 years ago... sorry!? Okay as ever with our Dan put aside the incredulity for a moment and remember more than anything that Dan probably needs a USA setting to ensure his best seller status remains.... oh cynical me :-)

Whatever - it actually isn't a bad read - it had me hooked at least in wanting to know where the next turn would be. Some of the references to Noetic science have me pondering - I think stating these are facts is a little stretching the point. Unexplained findings or phenomena maybe but this isn't really science as I understand it.

There is a twist - the goodie that is actually the badie theme that has been through most of his works to date isn't there. I soon realised I needn't look for that but I was able to see through who the badie was before the reveal which meant that was a little bit of a let down as it was portrayed as a massive surprise.

So - worth a read? Yep - one Mr Brown's better ones but I'm still perplexed by the hyperbole that surrounds him and his works... there are plenty other mystical thriller type writers out there that are just as good if not better.

Grateful day

So I sat down to work today and was faced with a bunch of the usual nonsense... the confused and bewildered going round in corporate ever decreasing circles. It riled me. I had to stop and ask why I'm angry about it - to be honest it is just the normality of work these days, everybody means well and are all trying to do their best I just seem to see it all as a set of circles that either benignly never intersect, very rarely to combine successfully or sometimes just smash into each other with various degrees of force and damage to those in those circles.

So given that gratitude was a strong theme at an AA meeting I attended last night I'm working on my gratitude to placate the rising anger.

Yesterday I spoke with a couple of people I've not caught up with for a while. One is having a really stressful time, her Mum is in her 80s and had a hip replacement but then got some viral issue, lost loads of weight and has been very ill. Also in her family a lady was stung by a wasp had a reaction and died in a few hours, another young lady has been ill with something caught abroad and is still in intensive care although making some progress now. Just how much bad crap can one person have? Through it all though she was still smiling and being positive.

Later I talked to another friend and their mother had suddenly passed away. That had a lot of complications in their family as well with broken relationships etc. that still can't be easily fixed even at this time. However again this person who is only recently sober has not taken a drink at all despite trying to cope with an emotional rollercoaster.

I'm so grateful that I'm not at this time in either of those peoples position. Also though I am grateful for their teaching. One is not an alcoholic but her positivity and just "you have to get on with it" approach is inspiring. The newcomer not picking up a drink in the depths of this sad time is to me massively inspiring.

So I'm off to up date my gratitude list with renewed vigour - since I know very well this issue with work will clearly now soon pass and also at some point I'll again face the trials similar to these two friends and then I need to remember the times it was not like that and that those times will too pass and most importantly for me there is no excuse big enough, no reason to bad for me to consider taking a drink and starting the spiral down again.

Post Script

I'd just posted this and updated my graditude list and settle back to answering emails etc. I decided to make a coffee and my son came down and started on about how he is watching the live data feed of the first 3.5 TerV collision in the LHC at CERN. I laughed at that - but how lucky am I to have kids like that! He claims thi is as momentous as when man first walked on the moon. What do I know? He is probably right. And then I sit down, the rains stopped and all the birds seem to have started singing at once. All is great in the world... now for the next daft email :-0

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Home for Easter

I've been to Wales to pick up my son, his xBox, guitar, books etc. and some dirty washing/sheets! He is now home for Easter and had to be home for tomorrow as he is off to talk with the Head of Science at the school he will be working at for 3 weeks in June.

The drive up was pretty good although when I got there I had a headache and these days I start to panic that any headache will be a migraine and start a vertigo attack. Nothing of the sort, two paracetamol and I was fine, I need to relax about this stuff more :-)

Anyway we had a boys night out on the town, well given I was knackered from the drive, we planned to get away early Sunday morning and the clocks went forward an hour actually we had a curry and coke each and called it a night no doubt before any real revellers had set off!

The drive back was one of our quickest, either I'm driving faster of there are less holdups on the route we were back in time for mid afternoon tea and a roast lamb dinner that Mrs F had prepared - including the parsnips which normally she'll never chop up and are left to me.

Great F1 result! A much better race than the first one of the season, a bit of rain always livens it up. Pleased for Button and Kubica who both will be boosted in their new teams by good results. Hmm Schmacher - what is going on there - he suddenly came to life in the last few laps but I don't think he thought he'd be battling a boy half his age in only his first full season for 10th place when he decided to return.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Some CDs catch up

I've had a few new CDs falling through the letterbox in the last weeks.

Jimi Hendrix - Valley's of Neptune.

Yes the "new" album from Mr Hendrix - not bad considering Sept 18th will be the 40th anniversary of his death! I was a bit trepidacious about buying this. I have a huge box set of vinyl Hendrix lps that my brother bought me as a Christmas present when I was a teenager and whilst there are some priceless moments on them there was a fair amount of dross on what had been released in the 10 years then since his passing. However this is a very very creditable release. There are a couple of "unreleased" tracks of which Valley's of Neptune is the best. It is Hendrix at his best and I wonder why it never was released before but that takes nothing away from it being worth listening to.

Of the others that are not "new" tracks the version of Fire is excellent and the instrumental Sunshine of Your Love is totally stunning. Now that took me back to a Sat evening in front of a black & white TV where a certain Mr Hendrix and the original experience line up ripped through Hey Joe and Sunshine of Your Love on the Lulu show. A very small lad looked at that and said to his Mum - "I want to play guitar". Now I'm never going to be a Hendrix but it still is a spine chilling memory.

Worth buying? Yes. It shows Hendrix at a period where he was frustrated after the Electric Ladyland sessions and was trying to redefine himself which culminated in the Band of Gypsys.

John Mayer - Battle Fields

Mr Mayer is a bit of a pin up pretty boy possibly better known in the general populace for his serial dating of A list female celebs. However when not out on the town with a lovely on his arm the man is a consummate guitarist, singer and songwriter. Now the lyrical content of this album is not the jolliest of songs - my daughter pointed out that it was all pretty depressing with lots of reference to relationship breakups etc. However the music whilst more pop than his recent blues trio leanings is very good. There are several really good understated solos that hook you in. Here's an album you can buy the Mrs, she'll like looking at the cover and like Mr Mayer's voice and you can listen to well crafted songs and solos... win win I think they say :-) One stand out track is his changed cover of Crossroads worth comparing with The Cream version and the Robert Johnson original.

Joe Bonamassa - Black Rock

Mr Bonamassa returns with a slightly different set for him. This CD kicks off in true JB blues rock tradition. There is though more use of lighter sounds and more acoustic on this album. Also there are more covers than original tracks on this collection surprisingly but some of his treatments of them turn your head - or ears if you get my drift. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The hammer to fall...

So this time last year I was going through a round of redundancy threat. We're back there again, only this time I'm comfortable with it. Having struggled a bit with the job I ended up in last year, it is a very wide ranging job with many expectations, big responsibilities but ultimately little power as all the resources I have are very much at arms length and tied into larger deals etc. etc. basically it is very difficult to affect real change. Also the job I have now is very much internal IT - I could work for a company doing anything as I don't really have any interaction with the business end of the process. Then I wasn't well over the last year and I'm sure that was stress related as much as anything else.

So anyway I'm now in the position of waiting for the hammer to fall. Our internal process has periods needed for "consultation" then notice periods etc. So we have a couple of months or more of this to play out yet. As many as 4 in reality as I'm on a 3 months notice period.

Whatever a chance for a total rethink and reappraisal. I should get a good payout as I've been here 20 years and my company is very generous in that department - including a lot of career transition advice etc. available through a third party consultancy.

I have had some ideas about a complete career change - which I shall investigate. However I'm lucky to have the opportunity to take at least a bit of a break over the summer - get some of the things around the house like decorating etc. done and just unwind a bit before getting into whatever the next chapter maybe.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

"Black Country" break cover

I believe they might not use that name going forward but here is the first live show of this long talked about super group... Mistreated... this takes me back - Whitesnake Hammersmith Odeon many many years ago.

Glen Hughes - big respect - he can scream as good as ever!

Note Joe's guitar.... :-) Looks a little like mine :-)

So nearly

At last a performance from England to be proud of sadly too late in the championship and also against clearly the best team in the championship by a mile this year and so we still didn't win - although we had two clear chances to bury them. Still if Ashton had taken the chance on the wing would the French been happy with the forward clashes in the later part of the 2nd half... I doubt so I still think we'd have lost.

Now Brian Moore can go on a bit on the commentary side but I was completely with him yesterday the standard of refereeing was utter rubbish - esp at the scrum. I don't deny that England were under pressure all day even after the changes but free kicks for not touching when he said which was then still ignored by both sides again... and he was helping correct the bindings at time? Sorry given the three times I noticed him do it it was a French arm how come we never got an England penalty for illegal bindings. Enough of that moaning but I do hope the IRB look long and hard - there are some excellent international refs out there and some who aren't they need to raise their game.

I hope now we can build on the team we saw in Paris as for once it was a good performance. I don't get taking Tindall off as every time he got the ball he was making ground and had nullified Bastareaud's threat. I'd have left him on longer personally. Given after Tait came on I can't recall anything he did I think emphasises my point - sorry Mathew but that's how I saw the game.

So now - next year ... 6 nations again it would be good to see England challenging for the triple crown, the championship or a grand slam (tricky if the French continue as this year). World Cup - hmm now that is a different proposition do any of the northern sides stand a chance against the quality of the southern hemisphere teams?

Friday, 19 March 2010

Sport Relief... you're having a laugh!

So for anyone in the UK you can't have missed that it is Sport Relief day... if you have can you tell me how you've managed to avoid it? Total media avoidance.

Anyway - it is a good thing. I saw one clip last night on the bike ride documentary about how the money is used for young carers to have an hour or two at a bike club. Hmm... sorry but 11 year old boys shouldn't have to be care 24 x 7 for his disabled Mum and his two younger siblings. This is England in the 21st Century - we can put the country into massive debt to bail out failing banks surely we can pay for someone to help these kids. Anyway that rant over which will make no difference to the world...

So Eddie Izzard ran around the UK 43 marathons in 51 days. There was the million pound bike ride - 7 celebs cycling around the clock from John O'Groats to Lands End. All worthy challenges that is someone putting themselves out to ask for the money to help ... showing us the privileged that there is another side.

So my company... we've got a Wii Sports challenge at lunchtime. Words fail me! I'll still donate but playing on a Wii in the comfort of our coffee shop doesn't seem in the right spirit to me...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Off the tablets and swimming again

So my slow slow recovery from all this nonsense with the vertigo attacks has taken another couple of steps forward. I'm off all regular medication now, I still have things to take if I feel a migrainne attack coming on (bloody great pink ones that have enough pain killer in them to kill a cat) and then to take if they fail and a vertigo attack kicks in. However I've taken the pink ones a couple of times in the last two months but the others ones not once since early Jan ... HOORAY!!

So given I'm feeling better but also feeling unfit and fat I've hit the swimming pool. Now I think looking at the dust on the bag and the last reciept I found in it that I hadn't been since November where I think I went one day and had an attack that night or the next day and wonder if that was a catalyst. So I stopped going and you know how it is once you get lazy... you get lazier and lazier...

The pool is a building site currently - it was in Nov but now it is even worse, you go in through a fire exit, the reception is a little office near that, no ceiling in the changing rooms, only two showers working, bits boarded up here, there and everywhere. Still the pool is still alright! On Monday I did 40 lengths, today 50 which is my normal training distance. Yes I was slower than of old but then I'm getting old and my legs and back ached a bit but still I'm pleased to be back doing it.

Also it does energise me more for work than I've been in the past few weeks.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Gillingham optimism

You have to admire the shear blind optimism of Gillingham.

The following is quoted from the BBC

"Gillingham manager Mark Stimson has welcomed next season's return of the club's blue and black striped shirts.

Following a supporters' poll, there was a big vote for a return to the "lucky" Inter Milan style team strip.

Stimson told BBC Radio Kent: "We'll look like Inter Milan and hopefully we'll play like them.

"It's what the supporters want and the chairman is willing. If it brings the success the club previously enjoyed that would be great."

The blue and black striped shirts came to be known as Gillingham's lucky strip following promotion seasons in 1996 and 2000."

Inter Milan!!! Yes I really can see our team playing like that - Inter probably spend more on the boots for their strikers than we did on the whole team!

Sadly also though you note that this is the promotion kit... I only fear it might be promotion from League 2 we're chasing next year.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Dave Mathews Band - The O2 6th March 2010

I'm so glad I've got to see this band live at last.

I "discovered" The Dave Mathews Band some years back during a business trip to the USA through hearing / seeing in particular Ant's Marching from Under the Table and Dreaming. That must have been in the mid 90s I suppose and for many years I'd buy their albums on my USA trips as I never saw them over here and hardly anyone who I ever mentioned them to had even heard of them.

Anyway - the gig. Brilliant! The stage set was minimalist to say the least in these days of huge overblown productions. A pretty bare stage with some scaffold like towers at the back for the lights to reflect off, a small drum riser various amps etc. and that was it. No big screen projection, pyrotechnics etc.

However these boys don't need it from the word go the musicianship was simply stunning. They rattled through a good number of tracks off the latest album, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, and old classics including Ant's Marching which was one of the highlights for me. But there were many, almost every number was encore quality really.

It is clear that Dave Mathews isn't the most comfortable of live performers in the sense of the interaction between the songs or the show but that doesn't matter as I say the whole brilliance of the music and the musicianship transcends that - he over comes if with his own particular brand of dancing and self deprecating humour.

The final accolade I'll give is that they came on at 8:15pm and when they walked off I thought "Eh?! That wasn't very long" I looked at my watch it was gone 10:15pm - two hours straight and I'd been so lost in it all I'd lost total track of time.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Stark reminder

I've been following a blog of a lady whose husband has been battling with alcoholism for a long time.

Sadly he passed on yesterday morning when all the abuse over the years finally took it's toll on him.

Things to be grateful for today? I'm bloody lucky I'm not drinking at the moment.

Things to wish for tomorrow? That I continue to be that lucky day to day.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Hello hello

... what's going on 'ere then? A lot of trivial stuff basically which has meant I've not been on the blogsphere as much as normal. Family life is wombling along as ever. My son will be home briefly for the weekend which will be great to see him - he is coming home to go on a paintballing day with some old school friends that one of them bought all of them as a Christmas present. His facebook status updates this week have all been about his "man flu" as my daughter refers to it and she tells us "don't give him any sympathy". Charming!

Actually the weekend is a busy one for all of us - Son home and paintballing, my daughter is off to see... someone at the O2 on Sunday (had to look it up - Lily Allen and Dizzee Rascal - I should have known) with a load of friends for a girls birthday bash. Mrs F and I will be there the night before as we are off to see The Dave Mathews Band. I'm really looking forward to that as I've loved their music for some years now but never seen them live at all.

On getting back from the USA the results of my brain scan were there - well you need a medical degree to understand it but I'm pretty sure that it says pretty much it is okay apart for some "inflammation damage" to my "mastoid cells". I'll have to ask my doctor what that means.