Thursday, 30 January 2014

Days Of Reflection expt (Leonard Barras)

The writing of Leonard Barras via the character of Herbert Mangle, Wallsend's Neo-Wordsworthian Poet and correspondent of the Wallsend Weekly Buffoon.


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Management Today: In Case of a Emergency...



Friday, 24 January 2014

Uh oh, Another Fad.

On my wanderings through InterWebShire I often see Motavational/inspiration type material.

I've even posted bits that work for me.

I do worry that the end result of following some of the advice given, to it's logical conclusion, it would end in psychopathy.

Anyway, I decided to give it a go myself...

Tell me, does that 'work' for you?


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Motivational Memes

When I used this image OnAPlate some misinterpreted it as a cry for attention.

It's not.

It reminds me that no matter what stupid mistakes I make... (refer to picture)

Know the reality of your situation.

I have no idea why the picture above is there.

I just, DO things.


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Philosophy 101: Fan Mail.

A reader writes...

;-)) Perfect!


Monday, 20 January 2014

OSM Being: 56

I am currently sitting letting my new skin dry out.
I am surrounded by my birthday booty.
01) a Jonthan Meades DVD collection.
02) an elaborate clamp system that will allow me to mount my iPad on a microphone stand.
03) a pair of Rayban Clubmaster sunglasses.
04) a shaker I can attach to my finger thus adding a percussive element to my ukuplaying.
05) 5 pairs of black socks decorated with a swallow motif.
06) several large bars of chocolate (that are getting smaller as I type).
In a thrilling fun packed day I've been attempting to understand several knotty staff wages problems, delivered a vacuum cleaner motor to a less than grateful cleaning crew, and visited my dentist for a check-up.
I'm going to spend the early part of the evening unravelling the knotty staff wages problems with the equally knotty Night Shift Supervisor at the college campus.
I look like this:
I can tell that's not a real smile.
Watch this space.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Goodbye Being:55

That wasn't a bad year at all !

I lost (lots of) weight and lots and of useless baggage.

I became a better ukulele player.

I completed the Senbazuru (folding 1,000 origami cranes).

I created, placed, and recorded 365 paper plates.

I found work I can get into at last.

I must go now...

It's time to regenerate.


Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Snowball USB Microphone from Blue.

I received an unintended early birthday present to myself today.

If the Post Office had stuck with Amazon's suggested delivery schedule I'd have been opening it on the day of the 56th anniversary of my birth.

I'm not complaining.

My current 'serious' microphone is an SE Electronics Z3300 A (it says so on the side). It has a whopping great big diaphragm, it records well, it's an agonizing phaff to set up, it picks up EVERYTHING, and won't connect satisfactorily (i.e. digitally) with my iPad.

It's not really that portable either. Y'just couldn't whip it out, plug it in and play..... For at least the 45 minutes it would take to set up anyway.

The Snowball USB Microphone is, thankfully, a very different animal.

It comes with it's own tripod! I plug it into my iPad, open the app I want use, and use it.

I did quite a lot of research, read reviews even.... The Snowball gets a continual enthusiastic 'thumbs-up'. Initial findings lead me to believe I've actually backed a winner.


Philosophy 101: Regret.

When at first I saw it, I thought it the ugliest yet I'd seen.

Now it is gone, I know it to have been one of the most beautiful...


The Tricorn Centre, Portsmouth.


Swallow Cottage, Stripe Lane. Hartwith-cum-Winsley. (Updated: Permissions Changed)

I had intended making a looooooonnnnnnggggg home movie about last October's trip to Nidderdale.

Fortunately for boredom thresholds I changed my mind.

So, edited highlights of significant importantance to... well, me I suppose.


So, now you know.


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Baffled by Banished

Mr. Banished left a some what enigmatic comment on my (as yet unfinished) rambling post about the creative possibilities offered by the iPad.


I followed the link he supplied and found this picture:

That's Nick Lowe that is...
I really have no idea what Mr. Banished is on about:
I really don't .


Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Management Today! 03: Wise Words.

I've had to reconsider my intermitant reports from the front-line of management.
You never know who's looking.

However, this picture sums up my feelings about working in today's modern edumacation environment:

One last thought...

Hey kids! 
Should any of your learning needs provision suppliers start giving you grief because the dog ate the data retrieval system you saved your homework on, just try chanting this simple mantra over and over again....


Watch 'em run from the room, screaming. ;-)

Monday, 13 January 2014

Isn't This a Lovely Day? (I. Berlin) or 'Just How Useful is the iPad?'

This is potentially a long and boring post about me playing about with an iPad Mini in attempt to discover if it could replace a desk/lap top computer as my toy box of choice.

The long suffering AppleBook, I bought secondhand from Cash Converters more years ago than I can remember, is on it's last legs. It's screen has developed 'sun-spots' in awkward places, it's processing speed has slowed to a snails pace, and it lives in the back-room linked into several periferal devices associated with audio production, where it's to bloody cold to work.

Linda gave me the iPad Mini as a birthday gift last year. At first I was at a loss as to what to do with it, an iPod Touch being my favoured mobile device. Over the last year I've gradually found ways of using the iPad for what ever it is I do, errr, let's see...

Photography: My preferred camera app is the Hipstarmatic 'retro' camera. It worked well-ish on my iPod though the picture quality suffered due to the iPod's lowly lens. I have various other gimmicky camera apps, but I don't think of myself as a photographer I just point, press, and hope... For as many times as I have to till I nearly get the shot I want.

Film/Movie Making: Another 'retro' app, 8mm, is my camera app of choice for filming, though films made using the very good generic camera/movie app can be imported into 8mm to apply it's effects. 8mm also has a dedicated iPad version that offers more features than the iPod version that I'm still investigating. I only ever 'dabble' here as I really have no idea how films are captured and put together, I just know what I want to do and luckily for me the iMovie app does it. As time passes, and I gain more experience in editing, my needs will change, but for now iMovie still has plenty more to offer me. I'm still looking for a good animation programme though.

Music: GarageBand, GarageBand, GarageBand. In terms of audio recording software it's basic, and that's exactly what I like about it. Today's audio recording software packages, with all their sophisticated editing options, render the polishing of turds almost child's play. The problem here being that these processes, regardless of genre, dictate the outcome and everything ends up sounding a bit 'samey' in production terms. Well, to my ears they do.
Back in the day I loved my Tascam Portstudio-144 and stretched it's abilities as far as I could before the quality offered by the 4 Track cassette format became an issue. There simply wasn't enough tape surface available to get a decent signal down that would create a half decent master. The simplicity of GarageBand sort of reminded me of the PortaStudio. Nowadays of course GarageBand has many of the options offered by more expensive programmes, but in essence offers good quality recording in an easy to use package.

So, now watch this video and then I'll break the process down:

Most of my current musical noodling is centered around the Flying Aspidistras set. To understand the, in some cases, complex chord patterns and arrangements I need to play about with them or, as they used to say, 'jam' them out to arrive at a version that's playable 'live'....
(I have a real bee-in-my-bonnet about being able to perform any song I take on without the external aid of a song sheet. If I'm staring at a music stand I find it difficult to 'communicate' with any audience that may, or may not, turn up to be entertained and if I take my eyes off the sheet there's a very real danger of me losing my place. It's bad enough 'fluffing' a song your playing, but if you 'fluff' when it's written down in front of you it's unforgivable IMHO)
...I completely understand why some performers might want the security of a crib sheet, it's not what I do. It's something about having respect for the song and, to a lesser degree, the audience I think, though it could be me just 'showing off'.

Irving Belin's 'Isn't This A Lovely Day' was suggested for inclusion in the set by the other Asdidistra, Harriet B.
Now, (here's a startling confession) in 1978, on the crest of Punk's 'year zero', when I was 'destroying' everything on the road to nowhere just as hard as the rest, I heard Peter Skellen's album 'Astaire'.  
(I actually preferred it to much of the ersatz agit-prop being hammered out by the punk fraternity)
The album included a version of 'Lovely Day' so the piece was not unfamiliar to me.

It's a pig to play.
I started on it seriously around the end last September. My first mission, to get it into my head. It's there now and, though I still make the odd 'fluff' whilst playing it, I've got it to the stage where most people wouldn't notice. So now I feel able attempt a recording of it.

GarageBand open, metronome ticking at 120 BPM, and the SmartPiano instrument primed with most of the chords, I tapped out the basic backing track. I planned to give the piece a sing-a-long-round-the-piano-in-the-pub feel so the track is quite heavily on the beat and sounds somewhat hamfisted. I had to go into the resulting recording to shift some notes in various passing chords around till it sounded right. At this point I only considered it to be a guide-track for the other instruments I intended adding. I also added a SmartDrum track so I could loose the metronome. I don't like metronomes.

The first live part recorded was my Risa electric uke fed into the iPad via an iRig audio interface. The signal level was very weak. I thought the iRig might make things easier, but the output of the uke isn't enough to drive it properly.. The track offers various guitar amp models, I chose a 'clean' sound using a Vox AC30, or 'Brit Amp' setting.

Second live recording comes from my resonator uke via a dynamic mic fed through an iRig-pre. This was a much better recording level wise and worked well against the other tracks. The mic track is set up for vocals rather than instruments and offers little in the way of appropriate adjustment so the initial sound has to be as close as I can get to what I want rather than fixing it in the mix.

Third live track was the vocal captured with the iPad's internal mic and it shows. I've added a 'telephone' style setting to it, basically fiddling around with the High-Mids and a compressor. Future recordings will go in through a mic/DI Box/iRig-Pre setup same as the resonator uke.

All the (very) basic tracks down I did a bit level adjustment, added a bit of reverb and then left them alone. Getting the finished track exported out of the iPad presents some problems, but I settled for exporting into iMovie with the plan of adding a video. I've uploaded a mix to SoundClound and Google+, but I wanted a YouTube version as well.

The introduction of the movie is made up of Hipstarmatic pictures with a Ken Burns effect.
 The 'virtual' version of myself was created in an app called Morpho.

 To get my head to appear to be singing I had to export the vocal track to my old laptop, set a mic up in front of the studio speakers and then hit record whilst the vocal track is playing in iTunes.

I've still away to go to get a truly 'uncanny valley' version of me appearing to sing, but practice makes perfect.

I took the resulting short videos and pasted them over the full-mix vetsion of the song.
Lining everything up took some time I can tell you.
Once the video was complete I fed it through the 8mm app then sent it upthe tube.

I've got go to sleep now.... ZZZZZZ...

To be continued....

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Reasons To Be Cheerful Pt. 01: Felpham Prom in January.

Moments (see below) are not as rare as one might assume.
Mind you, y'have to be here at the right time, if you want to see the moon as well.
So living here helps.
I must have mentioned that during the winter months the sea throws back all the rocks young persons threw into it during the summer months.
So beach shingle has been lifted up and dumped on the prom.
Impassable by all but the most rugged of mobility scooters.
This picture, sort of, gives an idea of the temperature.
(If you don't 'get it' email me and I'll tell you it's 'cold')

I think the meds are kicking in....

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Condition: The Night Folds Dark.

Prior to Xmas things were bobbing along very nicely thank you.

Over the festive period I became increasingly weak, wobbly, and crumpled.
A new factor broke the surface, grabbed my ankle and dragged me into a deep dark pit of dispair... - press - shun.

No, I can't make light of it, it sucks.

The worse part of the experience is an accompanying insomnia which means I can't get any respite from the gloom.
I've not been to troubled by thoughts of 'ending it all' mainly because this is what I assume being dead yet still alive is like
Zombie-fied if you will.

There's been one significant event that may have triggered this dip, but I'm more murderously angry than depressed about it.

BTW if your one of my 'friends' and know what I'm eluding to don't even think about commenting coz you might just end up getting it both barrels.  
Let me stew, I'll get over it in time.
Revenge, I know, is a dish best served cold, probably in the words of a song rather than something like, say, this:

Another possibility may be the new job, but the details of that are for another post.

Yesterday I gave in and rang the MS nurse who confirmed this is all part of the deal and recommended a visit to the doctors.
Linda (let's not forget depression also reaches out and grabs those around you as well) told me if I didn't make an appointment she would.

I made an appointment.

Depression, in varying degrees, is something I've experienced throughout my life and I've been subjected to various, in the main, useless therapies and treatments.

C.B.T., counselling, and 'talking therapies' seem to be the most useless approach where I'm concerned.
I've been on several counselling training courses and when ever I've found myself on the receiving end I start mentally checking off aspects of the technique during it's delivery (mirroring, underlining, empathy etc.) 
I can't escape the feeling that this approach is 'fake', that 'empathy' is a con, and all that the practitioners I've sat opposite were rubbish at it, or patronising.
It's not for me.

I've been prescribed inceasing doses of SSRI's over the years, but all they seem to do is turn me into a stunned buffalo and have no effect whatsoever on the depression that I end up locked in with.

As far as my GP is concerned this seam hasn't been completely mined-out and I've been prescribed a 15mg dose of Mirtazapine.
After depressing myself even further by 'Googling' this med I took the first dose last night and went out like a light.

I awoke feeling somewhat more optimistic this morning, but that faded as the day went on to level off at 'tolerable'.

I'm being 'watched' because there's a possibility the meds may increase my depression before the effects fully kick in after about two weeks.

I'm aware that this post may seem somewhat 'bleak', but don't worry, I know it's just a cloud passing over the sun.

I'm now going to put my PJ's on, brush my teeth, pop a pill, and....

Zzzzzz, snork, zzzzzzz....

Up On The Roof.

Linda and I live in a first floor flat.
Not only does Linda own the flat, she owns the free-hold on the whole building.
The ground floor flat is owned by 2 brothers who house their elderly mum there.

The free-hold lease on the ground-floor flat only has around 50-ish years left to run which would adversely affect the value of the property should they come to sell it.
To extend the lease requires them to fork out around £15k to Linda.

We had some work done on the roof last year and the workman found it's displaying the symptoms of 'nail-sickness' which, to remedy, would require the roof slates to be removed and replaced at a cost of around £15k, give or take.

A deal was done, extended lease for a new roof.

With hindsight it may have been better to delay starting the work till later this year, but it was decided to get the job done before Xmas and the exciting scaffold was erected at the end of November.

Things progressed well, the crumbling slates were removed, a Velux window (my request) was fitted...
...then the weather changed.

And how.

During the wild winds and rains that have battered us over the last 5 weeks I've been able to establish we could, if we so chose, drive the whole house along a motorway at around 70 mph with no fear of anything dropping off.
A few leaks have appeared, non of them serious, but we will have to fill several cracks in our recently replastered ceiling and repaint the front room/kitchen.

To be honest I feel we've got off quite lightly in comparison to some poor buggers on our muddy little island.

I feel sorry for the roofers who've been waiting for a break in the deluge.
Today some  progress has been made and the roof now looks like this:
The eagle-eyed will notice the hardy roofer nailing a few more tiles on.

What a star he is!
Rain doesn't bother him, but when the wind picks up he has to down tools and take shelter.

Have I been able to resist the temptation to climb up onto the scaffolding?
Well, yes and no.
I started up the wobbly ladder and managed to get 3/4's of the way up before my equally wobbly limbs gave up.
My nerve didn't go, I'm just not physically capable of getting any further up at the moment.
(A health report will appear to explain the current state of my condition later.)

With luck and fair weather the job should be finished in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime I'm enjoying saying 'I told you so' to Linda at every possible opportunity.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

On A Plate 2013: Findings.

I have, at various periods of my life, vainly attempted to keep some kind of handle on what was going on by scribbling the innermost mediocrity of my passing days in diaries.
Those I've dipped into rarely shed any light on what I was doing (apart from whining in a diary) at the time and make for tedious reading.
When ever I encounter one of these tomes nowadays I tend to burn it with fire rather than mine the sulphurous pit of whatever's in there.

A few years ago I found an old cycling log book that survived the mid-life storm intact.
Each page (or as many as I filled in) details, destination, distance, average speed, weather conditions, and space for any ride notes.
Flicking through the details I found myself right back there, not just on the ride, but in the time.

I've also manged to keep a death-like grip on several scrap-books/cash accounts/work records/running diaries that all do the same thing.

So, genius, what you're saying is the objective detail is more evocative of the past than the subjective?

Errr, yes.

On A Plate was an attempt to create a daily record of 2013.
At first glance it seems to 'work', but the collection probably needs about 5 years to settle.

I now have to iron a shirt for my return to work tomorrow.