Tuesday, 31 January 2012

I little example of how my procrastination costs me

So I am determined to do better with the procrastination - I'm a good way through the book about it now which I've been reading in small chunks whilst reading a novel which I've just finished so now I intend to finish the procrastination book before I read anything else.

I will come back to a more complete review of the book and keep posting about my progress (hopefully) as it'll keep me honest in my endeavours.   But here is a great example...

I received a letter - I know it was dated 18th November because I kept looking at that date figuring how long it was before I was compelled to respond to it.  Why was I delaying?  It was from HMRC - the Inland Revenue (UK tax service).  It was a nicely worded letter asking whether I was sure I was paying the right amount of tax.  Of course I didn't want to contact them thinking - they must be onto me somehow and chasing me over some unpaid tax bill.   How ridiculous I'm pretty much totally PAYE (Pay As You Earn) so unlikely to be vastly under or over.  I do have some small income from savings and my PRS income (all £75 a year :-)) which they want either the additional tax on (I'm a 40% tax payer).


Eventually I called them in early January having put it off about as long as I could but was beginning to worry they'd demand a full tax return with a deadline of 31st Jan.  In the end the lady ran through all my items - I pointed out that I didn't get some of the benefits in my new job I used to in my old, notably car/expense allowance and no private health insurance etc. 

Guess what?  I got paid today and I was about £140 better off - because my tax code is better now... 

I paint this "disaster is nigh" picture in my head because I have an inbuilt proclivity to that modus operandi but it rarely is the case.  The book by the way tells me that amongst procrastinators this is common - funny I thought I was the only person in the world like this for many many years.

Monday, 30 January 2012

How the other half live

Well maybe the other 1% given the current terminology.  I was just reading a short story post on Shrinkies blog.  Her setting is a million miles away from my reality... however once some years back - about 15 I suppose I was asked to work on a specific project by the big, big boss.  It was a very politically exposed position within the company.  Anyway after some combative moments there was a period of enforced harmony dictated by the really big big bosses - we were spending millions on some stuff and they wanted it to work after all.  In part of that I went to a series of meetings in New York - I was regularly there for a while.  As part of the harmony the group I was working with decided to continually show us the best New York could offer and we were taken off to various posh restaurants littered with various celebs - all of whom I didn't know apart from one guy I'd seen who was a USA Americas Cup entrant I believe.

Anyway - we are sat for the meal.  I scan the wine list - nothing under $1000 a bottle!  Madness.  I took my Burton's suit jacket off and put it over my chair.  Instantly a waiter arrives and lays a perfectly washed and ironed best linen napkin over my jacket to stop anything from being spilt on it.  I thank him and look at the guy next to me on the table, who was a good friend who ended up being my last bosses boss at that company and said "Frankly the napkin appears to be worth more than the suit!"

A funny old weekend

It was a funny sort of a weekend.  Started same as ever - well a bit differently for the first time in several weeks I accompanied Daughter-of-Furtheron to swimming training, for a bunch of reasons I've not been on a Friday with her for a while now.  Saturday started with me running her about to go out with a friend shopping heading to pick up some wallpaper - we are in preparation stage for an assault on the master bedroom of the house over Easter and Mrs F had seen some she liked and I thought we'd best order it and get it acquired instead of leaving it and finding that style having been deleted from the catalogue.

I spent a lot of Saturday in the studio recording All At Once which has been around a while even having had at least one live outing but I'd not got the chance to record it.  Mrs F and Son-of-Furtheron between them had bought me a Behringer C1 Condenser Microphone for Christmas - it has been something on  my "to be bought" list for ages as many have said they are much better for recording vocals and acoustics than my Shure SM58 and some other Shure mic I have I can't remember the number of now.  The thing that had put me off a bit was the need for an extra amp box as the Boss Br600 I have doesn't have phantom power.  (Condensers need a power source and many professional mixers etc. provide this but my cheapy little Boss is never going to do that!).   Anyway I went to Behringer as they had a neat tiny little amp to power the mic that I knew would be compatible.  Overall I was instantly impressed just through the headphones as soon as I'd plugged it all in and hit a couple of chords.  Maybe only my ears but the sound instantly had more presence and was much more open - normally esp with acoustic guitar tracks once recorded I spend a while tweaking EQ and Reverb to try and "lift" the sound with more life in it.  On this - I did virtually nothing!

I cooked a curry Saturday night - a new recipe for Chicken Korma.  It was nice but over night I had a terrible night, up being sick and hardly slept.  I can't blame the curry as D-o-F had it and she was fine.  In the end I'm thinking it was a sort of migraine given other symptoms.  Long term readers will remember the hassle I had with Migraine Associated Vertigo some while back - I think it is now moving to a different type of symptom.

Anyway that meant I wasn't even up before 10am on Sunday (unheard of for me really).  But Sunday having decided I needed to just sit and not do much I ended up doing loads!  The battle against procrastination maybe working!  I had some updates to the local AA website to do and some other related stuff.  I got a load done.  Still as ever more to do but I was pleased - esp when I checked in Google search this morning and one thing I'd hoped would happen has - SEO in operation folks.

Whilst I was sat on the computer I spent a lot of time with music playing and funnily having decided to move a bit away from Reverbnation actually I had loads of new "fans" over the weekend after loading up the new song.  I'm not sure whether this is just people fanning you to fan them back to move themselves up in the ranking but whatever I did find some music I really enjoyed listening to.

Finished the day off watching the concluding part of Birdsong - it was a good adaptation of the Faulks novel which I read and highly rated last year.  However if I'd been doing the adaptation I'd have kept in the 1978 piece somehow as one of the best bits of the book was that link forward from WWI to the "present". 

Saturday, 28 January 2012

A New Song - All At Once

New song - recorded using my new Behringer C1 Condenser Microphone which was Mrs F's Christmas present to me.  I was really impressed with the quality I've got off it for the guitar and the vocal sounds.  I think this'll be the only mic I use at home in the studio from now on!


Friday, 27 January 2012

Gratitude list

My "Things I am Grateful for Today" list thing on the right stopped working.  I couldn't add anything to it - I wonder if my list of gratitude got too big for Blogger to cope with?  Shame as you can't have too much gratitude surely?  Anyway after several attempts, browser swaps, deleting things out of it etc. I decided to take the technical blog crowbar to it and deleted and created a new one!  Solved!

Okay the one thing any sharp eyed readers will notice is that after yesterdays procrastination update in which I had to admit that the book I'd bought (and by the way I deliberately bought the one that was the shortest pretty much of those recommended to me by various people on the basis that that would make me read it!) was still "sat on the shelf" (well the to be read list on my Kindle) - anyway I started it yesterday!  Hooray!

Hmm just thought of something to update my gratitude list and that is that I'm still keeping up the swimming regime - I'm going 2 mornings a week at the moment - so another good thing off my list of stuff to do!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Life continues including an update on the procrastination

Last week I posted about my chronic procrastination issue...  it has been better this week.  I've been trying to make lists and do stuff on them.   This morning at work I'd ticked off a reasonable number already when I looked at my watch and thought - "blimey and it isn't even 10am yet".  That is good stuff.  It was one of the themes of a "round robin" share meeting I was at this week - it is one of my home groups and is normally a speaker meeting but the speaker didn't make it and as it was a small group of all regulars we all shared in turn.  Procrastination was a theme - not I hasten to add led by me but others.  The post last week also told me that many people suffer this - I am not alone - that is comforting.  Also I've bought a book about it - but I've not started reading it yet... I know there is a gag in there but it is the truth!

Exams - life seems a bit dominated by exams in our lives at the moment.  My daughter is doing some more GCSEs at the moment and my son is doing his end of semester exams at university.  As a parent of course I would love to fix it all for them, take the worry away etc.but I can't ... acceptance of what I can and cannot do.  I can encourage them, wish them luck and listen to them afterwards if only to say things like "just put it behind you now, you did your best".   My son is reasonably laid back about exams he doesn't overly stress about them, my daughter is not so cool.  However they are both bright, able students who work hard - I'm sure they will get worthy results.

I've taken on a new service position in AA and went to a set of workshops held on a regional basis last weekend.  It was interesting getting others opinions.  I've got some ideas of some things I can do and am building my list - see I'm learning - so that I can get something achieved and to report back and involve others soon.  AA is an interesting body - it doesn't function like almost any other organisation, people rotate in and out of service positions regularly to ensure it is spread about and that no one person has too much sway over any aspect of it.  Sometimes it seems chaotic, no overall structure and strategy etc. but that is in some ways it's saving grace as well.  It really is a different design for life - it teaches me humility, patience, acceptance, tolerance, respect etc. and I meet so many different people I'd never otherwise get to know.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Book Review - The Pirates! by Gideon Defoe

So the reason I bought this at all is that this series of books is the basis for the next Aardman animated film due in the cinemas in March this year.  In the end I bought The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Whaling in one bumper dual edition for under a fiver!  Bargain and a useful purchase with some of the WHSmith voucher I got for Christmas from my mother-in-law.

So The Pirates! are a madcap crew headed The Pirate Captain and none of them have names other than things like The Pirate with the Scarve or The Albino Pirate except Jennifer who joins the crew during the first adventure.

The first adventure finds the crew capturing The Beagle and Charles Darwin when they think they'll capture a load of gold but only find Darwin and his clever monkey and they help him take on his arch nemesis The Bishop of Oxford back in London.  The book is a light read with plenty of slapstick gags and loads of pirate puns etc.

The second book sees the crew trying to buy a new ship on credit which places them in considerable debt and The Pirate Captain has a brilliant idea to enter show business which sadly is foiled by his arch enemy Black Bellemy and they end up trying to catch the legendary White Whale to pay off their debts.  The style is the same mapcap humour.

Never likely to stretch you much, I read each of these in a matter of a couple of days on the commute they are funny enough.  I'm really looking forward to the Aardman treatment of them though ...  *side shot of much concerned shaking of heads from my family who think I've never really grown up - they are right of course* :-)

Music Review - Sixx:AM

The immediacy of the modern age - could be the sub-title for this post.  Early on Saturday morning PlanetRock was playing in the kitchen whilst I was on the computer in the adjacent room.  I heard a track and thought - that was good who was that.  The playlist on the station web site told me it was Sixx:AM.  I went to Spotify and found their first album on there so listened to that.  I thought it was really good.  In no time I'd found it for only £4.49 on HMVdigital and it was bought, downloaded and onto my MP3 player.  I also bought their latest one at the same time.

I had a long drive Sunday to an AA regional assembly so had time to listen to them both a couple of times.  So...

The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack is the first album.  It is based on a 13 month diary written by Nikki Sixx during Dec 1986 - 1987 when he was fighting his heroin addiction.  Lyrically a lot of the material I can directly relate to as a recovering alcoholic.  Also the music is really good, very soundtrack like actually in places but more like a rock musical score rather than a film. Released in 2007 this is hardly a new album but as totally new to me thought I'd give a verdict.  The book The Heroin Diaries : A Year in the Shattered Life of a Rockstar is available with the original diaries and accompanies the music, although either stand on there own.  I might look at getting and reading the book now.

This is Gonna Hurt - is the bands second album released in 2011.  This is more a straight ahead rock album in sound and structure, there is no longer the need for narration passages to set context from the diary and the music is like musical like.  It is still a very good album and it is reminiscent to me of a harder rock Journey type sound.  This also accompanies another book by Mr Sixx again called This Is Gonna Hurt which contains the photographers that inspired the songs.

Interesting for me are two things about these albums.  Firstly the linking of the formats - although some might point to overly commercial principles at play here.  Also the band itself is a trio of Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue bassist), James Michael (vocalist and multi-instrumentalist - most known as a producer, engineer and songwriter) and DJ Ashba (guitarist - most known as a member of GnR).  So... Motley Crue have never appealed to me I'm afraid I just never got their stuff at all.  I've seen DJ Ashba live with GnR on the TV and was a bit - "oh he's the one trying to be Slash at the moment" - that is unfair I know, someone has to play the Slash solos.  So really two people who if I'd have been told about them forming a side project (and possibly I was!) I wouldn't have sought out the result.  By accident almost I hear one track and through the speed of the internet was able to quickly pull in their catalogue and I have to say particularly The Heroin Diaries I think will remain a favourite for a while.   It is funny that some side projects I've heard I've thought too self-indulgent or just not for me even if they are artists I really like, others you hear and think - throw in the day job guys this is much better!  Transatlantic fall into that category for me as well.  Sixx:AM have just entered that chart at a very good position too.

Friday, 20 January 2012

I don't get Twitter

Twitter doesn't work for me - I don't mean I have some bizzare cookie issue or the fact I sometimes use SeaMonkey as my browser causes  it to have issues - what I mean is I just don't get it.

You seem to have to live your life constantly in Twitterland and have multiple conversations going on left right and centre.  I struggle to post anything in 140 characters or less, no doubt some would say that is because I use verbose language and style. Guilty as charged probably however for me the setting of context before saying "this stinks" or "this is great" is important.  Just look recently at how many people have got into trouble with "out of context" tweets - the Diane Abbot one recently was an interesting example.  Personally Diane in isolation your comment was offensive to me.  You say it was taken out of context - but you only have 140 characters, the conversation flow in Twitter is difficult to see and anyway you still implied that White people (huge and offensive generalisation) are all racist - which is to me offensive.  It is a minefield I accept but the number of times Twitter says to me - "You'll have to be more clever" - er no, frankly I can't say what I want to say in 140 characters I don't believe that has anything to do with my level of intelligence!

It is useful for some information coming to me - I have feeds from bands and stuff but frankly if they haven't posted in the few hours prior to my twice a week foray to have a look then they miss me.  I use RSS feeds into Google or Facebook for much more of that.  I do get some useful stuff seeing how my employer presents various aspects of it's work externally and given much of our target audience is the "switched on younger generation" (Hells teeth, that makes me sound like I'm some dodery old fool... that is rhetroical that one btw) it is useful to see that presentation.

I use it to push out the occasional link and to promote my music but I don't think my 120ish follows are the best target necessarily for that...  and that brings me to the real crux of Twitter... who are these people?  Why are they following me?  Some have musical interests, some I know personally, a couple of business associates who use it for work stuff - I don't see any need for me on that - a daily tweet about Service Delivery Management in support Research IT at a major London university (the title is probably more than 140 chars!) and already everyone is half asleep - hey you at the back wake up I'm getting to the posts punchline for what it is worth.  Here are the ones that really baffle me though

DumpsterDealTwt - Dumpster Deal Tweets
Great dumpster saving deals with daily tweet updates for all the deals in your area so you dont miss a beat
HullVoucherScrt Hull Voucher Secrets
Hull Voucher Secrets at 50-90% off retail


Hull Voucher Secrets?! As the youngsters say in their txts, tweets and status updates WTF!  I don't live anywhere near Hull, nor do any of my followers I don't believe, anyway Hull or voucher savings schemes  don't feature in my irregular less than 140 character posts...   Remember that they chose to follow me.  Why?  I just don't get it!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Avoidance and Procrastination

(Inspired by another persons honest post on their blog.)

Honestly one of my major problems.  I avoid things that I don't want to do, or am not sure of how to do, or will make me feel bad in some way.  I avoided recontacting the bus company about the refund we were due after the great bus ticket scandal I blogged about last year.  Why?  Because I knew it'd bring back the anger and I don't like that feeling.  I did email them, with no response and in the end the ever marvellous Mrs F called them, twice, and we finally got a cheque for all of £6.70... but no apology!

I'm bad at it at work at the moment.  I'm giving myself all the excuses under the sun... "I'm new to the organisation and don't know who to contact"... well ask someone dummy!  But then I'll possibly look daft... etc.  Also the reorganisation of the division is not complete and I am not totally fully in post.  So I use that as another excuse.   But they are excuses I'm just avoiding it and putting it off etc.

Then of course once you've put something off for one day the next day seems easier etc.  But then when it gets that you have to do something when you then ask the question you know you need to ask you realise that people have the thought... "Why didn't you ask that x days ago?"   Well you don't realise that you perceive it as you are beating yourself up with that in your head and your reality is their reality isn't it?

Now in the old days alcohol was a great cover for this stuff.  Firstly it gave me the "Dutch courage" to take on some of the things I was fearful of as with the alcohol in your bloodstream you brain begins to tell you that you are invincible and all these doubts and fears are just nonsense and secondly it is a great way of bludgeoning to death the feelings anyway so that you are numb to them.

So I dithered over hitting the big orangey Publish button highlighted at the top of the page at the moment on this one - why?  Because I don't like to admit weakness and also if I come clean on here and say all this it'll mean I ought really to "accept the things I cannot change and have the courage to change what I can" ... which in this case is actually quiet a bit.

Book Review - Conqueror by Conn Iggulden

I've loved this series since the start with Wolf of the Plains which began with Gengis Khan, then just known as Temujin, as a young boy being abandoned by his tribe in a power struggle after his fathers death.  That book and the two that followed took us through his entire life and the remarkable story of him pulling the Mongolian tribes into a single nation and fighting back against their oppressive neighbours the Chin.  After his death however the empire stuttered and the previous book in the series Empire of Silver chronicles the amazing push West into Europe that Ogedei Khan inspired.  However his death stopped the marauding hordes and they return to Karakorum the new capital that Ogedei built.

This is the setting for the beginning of Conqueror when all the nation are waiting for a new Khan to be selected.  At this point the level of political and family intrigue is amazing in the Mongolian royal line and Conn makes good use of this to weave plenty of inter family rivalries into the telling of the tale.

Firstly Guyuk is announced Khan as deals are struck with the descendant so Genghis and his brothers.  However his reign is short and Monke Khan his cousin and a Grandson of Genghis is pronounced Khan.  He sets about reverting the nation to the traditional Mongolian values he believes have been eroded by Chinese influence at court.  He splits the empire and new conquests between his brothers and the Mongolian expansion resumes.  He dies before an heir is clear as well and this leads to a civil war with Kublai Khan the victor and who then went on to dominate in China and found an entire dynasty.

Here Conn has decided to bring the series to an end with Kublai victorious over his brother and the supreme Khan.  I was expecting a final 6th book to map the rest of Kublai's life and his domination of China, but Conn notes that like so many his ending was sad after personal tragedy and he's prefer to finish his account at a zenith.  Interesting.

I have really enjoyed all this, firstly as it has taught me a huge amount about an area of history I was very ignorant of and it truely is an amazing story of the rise in such a short time of a nation from servitude to a larger neighbour to the greatest empire on the face of the earth.

My interest in this area stems also possibly from the Rush song Xanadu.  You know the one from A Farewell To Kings.  It has an impossibly odd time signature intro - not unlike many Rush songs!  When I heard that song as a teenager and fumbled over trying to learn to play it (it was one of very few covers my old prog rock band used to play in the early 80s) the mystical setting of this place intrigued me.  No doubt the fact that the song was based on the romantic poem by Coleridge and that it found it's place into Rush's body of work which was largely around that time much about space/science fiction/fantasy (2112, Hemispheres etc.) held with my sort of mythical perception of it.  Now while there wasn't a pleasuredome created in Xanadu the building of the empire that created such places still is a fantastic story.

With a lot known but again huge amounts not proven or possibly the subject to much speculation based on the questionable validity of the contemporary accounts that have survived the author has a significant amount of licence to place his own interpretations and introduce much additional speculation.  This is historical fiction after all and it does work well.

Thoroughly recommended.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

It's the economy ... stupid!

Remember the Clinton slogan?  Well it still is, actually it is more important now than then.  The dip at the begining of the 90s is looking like a equivalent of an economic trip rather than a full flat of the face smacking the pavement we seem to be in now.

Two things in two days have got me thinking (I know, I know it isn't good for me).

Firstly an interesting article in Vanity Fair of all places - I'm not a regular reader someone had the link somewhere I so read it ... it is here if you are interested.  It was written by Joseph Stiglitz who was Chief Economist for the World Bank.  I thought therefore I'd swtich off as this would be another article telling me little - I was wrong.  Mr Stiglitz speaks tremendous sense and is one of the few "up there" that seem to actually be able to sort out the wood from the trees.  In the article he compares the current economic situation to the great depression of the 30s - the setting is different, the industries involved as well but the parallels he draws are significant and for once someone who agrees a lot of the post '93 recovery has been based on vapour - i.e. not real growth in economies but simply growth fueled by debt.  Sadly he also points out the way that the USA (it is a very very USA centric article which is sadly a major flaw) recovered from the 30s was the need for mass industrialisation to face WWII.  Heaven forbid that the way out of the current disaster is another major war.  He therefore points to the need for "structural transformation" to move the economy to a new model.  I couldn't agree more and whilst he points to the USA lack of infrastructural investment the same could be said in the UK.  Ask anyone who commutes into London by rail whether they think we need to invest more in our railways for example.

The second thing is that after several years of softening up the locals and nationally with proposals that the govt of the day said were preposterous it looks like the new major hub airport talked about for Kent will get govt backing.  Now I know there is a load of stuff about the area, the people living there etc. etc. but this is the kind of large government back structural transformation mentioned above.  Along with the HS2 announcement whilst I don't agree entirely with this governments economic policies this is all moving in the right direction for me.  I live close enough to the proposed site that it'll be a concern to me.  However given where I live is too close to London but East not West so not near Heathrow etc. it has suffered with lack of inward investment.  We don't have many major employers in the area and it is a conurbation of over 250,000.  It'll be a massive boost to the area - the road and rail link improvements that will have to come can only help us attract new investment into our community.  If we embrace it.  Sadly I already see the "Not In My Backyard" mentality in the council and worry it'll be a case of people creating a opposition to it which won't stop it but may well mean we're not at the table when we need to be to ensure we get the benefits.

Friday, 13 January 2012

A

My daughter doesn't like Maths.  She has this bit of a block with it, when she sees something new or a little twist to the sequence of questions is added to stretch you she freaks-out and a mental brick wall goes up.  She has been like this since junior school as I remember us discussing it with her teachers in year 5 and 6 definitely.  For a short time we even employed a friend as a tutor to help her prepare for the Medway Test - for those who remember that is what we now have to call the 11plus and don't get me started on that crap, divisive, anachronistic piece of nonsense we still have to suffer in the last bastion of selective education that is Kent.

Anyway she got a Level 5 in her SATS towards the end of year 6 - which is above where expected.  She is actually good at Maths she just has the block and she simply doesn't like it.  From entry at the secondary school she has been in the top set - which in some ways hasn't helped that mind set as she has always been near the bottom of the top set and felt under pressure at times to pick it up quicker.
 
Well her GSCE is all finished now, they do it in the Nov for her set for some reason, and she got an A

I'm really proud and pleased for her.  She'll never actively study Maths again but she has no need to now.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Gratitude in a sunrise

I was privileged to witness a beautiful sunrise over Kent this morning whilst sat on the 7:20 to St Pancras.  The sky we a collage of orange, blue and pink.  At one point on the journey, whilst in a cutting you can just glimpse the Shri Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara at Gravesend if you look up out of the window.  As I saw that amazing sunrise behind the temples turrets I thought to myself  "People will travel half way around the world for the seek out sites similar to that, and here it is on my doorstep".

I often forget to be open to seeing what is around me on a daily basis and being grateful for that.  It is constant work trying to banish the feelings of resentment and ingratitude for the things I think I don't have.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Almost normal

I had to go to the doctors today - my annual "chronic condition review" was needed.  That's a horrid thing to call it, sounds like you are one step from the knackers yard.  Actually mine is for Hypertension as I used to pompously refer to it as - High Blood Pressure to the non-pompous of you out there.  Actually I've not taken medication for it for many years now... er... actually since I stopped drinking.  I'd taken drugs to lower it for years before then.

So roll up your sleeve and they pop on that collar thing that self inflates and deflates a couple of times whilst asking you the questions... do you smoke?  Ever smoked?  When did you stop?  How much alcohol do you drink?   This is always where the conversation deviates from the norm I think... "Nothing" I reply.  "Nothing at all?"  says the nurse raising an eyebrow.  "No I don't drink".   "Nothing at all?"   Look is it that unreasonable for people to not drink?  She is clicking away... "Oh right I see...  So nothing in the last year then?"  "No"  I presume she has found the note somewhere in large red capitals saying "THIS GUY IS A RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC - HE'S BEEN TO REHAB AND SHIT!"

By then the thingamajig is bleeping and has 132/85 on it's little screen.  I'm asked to jump on the combined height/weight thingamabob and after another bleep my BMI is flashed onto another screen... 28.

So I'm almost normal on both counts.  My blood pressure is slightly higher than upper limit of normal (120/80 I think) and my BMI is above 25 so I'm overweight but not obese.  The nurse says that is ok and no need for me to see the doctor - but I should think about getting my BMI and blood pressure down.   So whilst crunching on my crispbreads at lunchtime I've done a look up... I need to exercise more, cut out salt (already did years ago as much as I can - have to have salt on chips you know) and cut my alcohol down.  Tricky to cut the last one down any more.

Well I do want to try and lose a few pounds and go swimming more - I suppose I have an official reason now, i.e. my health rather than plain old pathetic vanity.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Book Review - The Cobra Fredrick Forsyth

I have in the past generally like Mr Forsyth's work.  The Fourth Protocol was a brilliant book of it's time for example, the film adaptation with Pierce Brosnan however sadly was the worst let down of a dramatisation of a book I've read ever!  The changed ending made no flipping sense and the acting...

Anyway to more relevant matters.  This book takes a couple of characters already familiar to readers of The Avenger.  Now that was a really good book again.

This book however sadly is only a moderate single thumbs up from Furtheron.  It is OK but there is very little expansion on the characters from the moment you are introduced to them.  There are elements of the plot that are frankly beyond fanciful and put it just out of believability space for me.

The basic tenant is that the President of the USA is implored by a grandmother of a boy recently killed by cocaine.  He decides pretty much on that single thing to go to war against the cocaine industry.  He decides to secretly reframe it as a threat to the nation like terrorism and then persuades the British PM to go along... hmm like I say not very believable and also sadly not new, isn't this the plot of Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger?

It does rattle along OK as thrillers go and has some good points and to be fair the twist at the very end was completely out of the blue for me... both of them which is often not the case where the twist is so readily sign posted by the time you get to it in the plot you are almost relieved it is out of the way and really that was the saving grace for me as I was sadly a bit let down by this, probably only because of the quality of his previous stuff is way better than this one.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Back at work, The New Year etc.

So back at work now and the Yuletide celebrations are already heading to the distant recesses of my memory banks.  That will no doubt be hastened after this weekend as my son will be heading back to university and we'll be back to the regular three of us at home and back to the normal daily/weekly pattern.

2012 - the end of the world... or so some say.  Where is the guy who keeps predicting the rapture - does he have another date yet?  The Mayan calendar thing is another red herring, it is just like us turning a millennium  or what ever I think from my limited understanding.  Still if none of us are here in a years time you can tell me then that knew not what I was talking about... :-)

So I'm back to work, my daughter is back at school readying for the onslaught of GCSEs she has this year and she'll soon be up against deadlines for deciding on A levels.  Just all a bit same old, same old at the moment really.

I often find January a bit of a dull time, we've had the holiday and New Year, it is cold (well actually mild really at the moment), it's dark and dull (well as I type it's sunny actually) and it seems ages until the clocks change and we have lighter evenings/mornings etc.

So New Year resolutions?  I don't really bother any more they always used to be the same and I rarely was successful with any of them so why worry about it.  I am however already kicking well on a couple of things.

Diet - I needed to lose a few pounds (stone) so decided to start a diet of sorts, nothing like following books and stuff just simple, cut out the un-necessary - so tea instead of latte, cut the biscuits out etc.

Exercise - I used to regularly swim (very long in the tooth readers will know this) but about this time last year that all ground to a halt when I got back into employment and I never got back into the habit of it.  I went yesterday, first time since September!  I was ok, slowest in the fast lane and didn't quiet push to get to 50 lengths but it was a start.  I hope to go once or twice a week.  There is the Swimathon in April which for many years was my regular event, the 5,000m.  I might sign up if all is going well at the end of this month.  It is the 25 anniversary of the event, now I didn't do the first couple I first did it in 1989 and rarely missed a year for nearly the next 20 but haven't done it in a few years now.  So it is on the list of things to hopefully do this year.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Book review - Flying V, Explorer, Firebird: An Odd-Shaped History of Gibson's Weird Electric Guitars by Tony Bacon

I'm on the last couple of pages of this book now so I'll give it a review.

I have several of Mr Bacon's books, one is signed by him after I met him at some guitar show some years back.  He researches well and writes in a good manner and normally they are excellently illustrated.

This is a good read even if it is a bit jumbled as it is simply a timeline of these guitars starting from the birth of the idea for the "modernistic" trio in the mid/late 50s as Gibson looked to fight back against the fuddy-duddy image that it had from it's association with flat top acoustics, mandolins and archtop jazz guitars.  You have to say that the flying V and Explorer must have seemed like something from another planet when they came along.

Whilst focused on the Gibson roots there are several off-piste points talking about the "lawsuit" Ibanez trilogy in the mid 70s and the many offshoots that have come from the Gibson pointy boys lineage, so reference to Jackson Randy Rhodes, all the various V and Explorers that Hamer, Dean, BC Rich et al have exploited in the metal arena.

There are a couple of things I read which made my brow furrow but the area of guitar research is littered with the problem of relying on much word of mouth and there are many unscrupulous dealers who will happily perpetuate a story if it helps a sale.   For example Mr Bacon states the solo on Freebird was on a Firebird not Collins famous 58 Explorer - maybe he is correct but I always thought it held up as the legendary Explorer solo.   Also he claims that song "over-rated"... I bet he'll get a full post bag over that statement!  Also the Firebird X is mentioned in one sentence and hardly giving it any justice, I think it deserved a bit more - but the the RD range has two photos and they sank pretty much without trace.

Also the mystery of the Moderne is if anything made more intriguing.  There is a photo showing Gibson execs at NAMM with a mock up Explorer in the Futura shape (as on the patent but not as in production).  Now in the interviews they say "we made examples, took them to shows and got feedback".  Tony Bacon concludes that the Moderne never progressed from the patent sheet of paper until the "reissue" of '82.  But what if there was a Moderne prototype shown at NAMM and that is still sitting in a basement in Michigan somewhere?  And is it just me or wouldn't both/either of the Ibanez and Gibson takes on that model have been better with the Explorer hockey stick head?

However I learnt a huge amount about this range.   I've always fancied the Explorer more than a V if I'm honest but I'm unlikely to ever own either...  In the 70s when I first became clued up on guitars I rapidly realised the rarity of these.  There were only 22 Explorers assembled between 58 and 62.  Then they were fetching "high" values of $5000 a pop... now everyone wants a Sunburst Les Paul and despite them being (relatively) more available they over took the Explorer and V in values.  Now sadly I wish I had had $5000 in the mid 70s :-)

I just noticed on another blog that Mr Bacon's next release is a tome on Squier Electrics, given my ownership for nearly 30 years of my 62 strat I'm interesting in looking getting that.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Toothbrush rant

Funniest thing I saw on TV over the holidays... Rhod at his ranting best!  

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy 2012

Hello - first post of 2012 - I hope you all have a great 2012!