Monday 31 December 2012

The Last Post

..of 2012. This Christmas has been the worst weather I can remeber , it's not even interesting , just the SAD inducing rain and grey skies. Having said that met up with some great people and had some good nights as well as having a quiet Christmas eating excellent food , doing catch up TV and recuperating for the stresses of everyday life.

Radio 6 has been on constantly while I've been working and I inted to see in the next year with friends as well.

It's quarter to four and lights are coming on. Elvis Costello's "Good Year For The Roses" is playing on the radio. I remember thinking how much I should hate it because it was country music , but as I dug into the album and periphery I discovered many jewels not least a couple of versions of "Stranger In The House" and the excellent "Psycho". It's great when life throws you unexpected pleasures , just brightens things a little and I am going to dig out my expanded copy of "Almost Blue" ... Happy New Year

Saturday 29 December 2012

Bill Shankly

  'The trouble with referees is that they know the rules, but they don't know the game.' 

 Just reading the papers this morning and this thought came into my head reading about the problems that Brendan Rodgers is facing at Liverpool. We have had a brilliant book and film about Brian Clough in "The Damned United" , Clough portrayed excellently my Michael Sheen. One of the reasons for this , apart from Clough's track record in football , isthe things he said , his attitude , giving a veritable goldmine for journalists and scriptwriters alike.

Alex Ferguson , Pep Guardiola , Franz Beckenbauer wer all better and eventually more successful managers , but that's alls they were. Jose Mourinho is possibly the only modern manager who is on a par with Clough as a perfect media darling.

Which goes back to my original reason for writing this , why no film about Shankly? His quotes are legend and he took Liverpool from being a nothing club to a dominant force , a legacy the club still seem to be living off.  If  you want some quotes check here.

I think it would makegreat viewing for any fan of football , and barring the afformentioned Damend United what other films have there been about football that have actually been worth watching. I can't think of any. Shankly would be a worthy addition.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

There Goes Christmas

Another Christmas has gone , and back to work tomorrow. Glad I don't work in retail or journalism or else I wouldnt have stopped.

Desipite all of us expecting to have time off at Christmas spare a thought for those who can't have a day off , especially the emergency services , utility workers , television providers and the like. On Christmas Morning we expected the power to be on and water to be running and if , god forbid , there is an accident we expect there to be someone at the end of the 999 call.

On Christmas Eve I rushed into to town and thought the shops were open . They weren't. It was staff staying late getting ready for the Boxing Day sales. How mouldy is that?

The Retail world is become more pernicious toward society leeching away our quiet time in the form of 24 hour supermarkets and Sunday Opening. People used to go to Church , now it's the local B and Q or Garden Center.  While I like to be able to get what I want when I want , I dont want to ruin someone elses life just to wait on my convenience.

Anyway hope everyone's Christmas has been brilliant and the New Year will be even better. Christmas has provided me with a few blog posts this year so I can't be too curmudgeonly about it.

A Very Merry Christmas to Starbucks and Manchester United

For all those corporation that governments allow to get away with paying little or no tax , while demonising the low paid and unemployed by cutting benefits and increasing taxes to make up the shortfall.

We cannot criticise these corporations because the decision makers would be crucified if their share holders found out they had paid taxes when the law allows them not to. Blame governments and law makers for this , doubly so when they then blame the people who don't have the financial clout  to actually fight back.

As well as Starbucks , don't forget Manchester United and City who run at a "loss" on paper and therefore don't pay any taxes . I don't hear them being pilloried like Starbucks , when it's about time they were. How can the most profitable football club in the world get away with paying no tax.

And how come Cameron and Osborne can never do anything when it's people like this taking the taxman to the cleaners rather than some immigrant or benefit cheat? Well will soundtrack it with A's Starbucks.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Christmas Day

It's been a weird and wonderful day, totally relaxed , recovering from various health rigours and have an excellent Christmas tea with chicken , brussels sprouts and all the trimmings prepared by Fiona. The watching , interspersed with each other Sherlock Holmes: Game Of Shadows and my favourite Shakespeare play The Tempest featuring Helen Mirren as a gender swapping Prospera and Russell Brand as a quite excellent Trinculo , you wouldnt expect Brand and Shakespeare to cross , but they do rather well.

Family phonecalls and getting rest from work has made it a most excellent Christmas day.

Looking forward to a comedy night at the Stand with the excellent John Scott and Gavin Webster , followed by Lord Rochester at The Schooner on Saturday. This could be a most excellent week ....

Friday 21 December 2012

4G No Ubiquity ... Yet

Just a short post on EE 4G. It is excellent to be able to stream TV on applications such as iPlayer , but you do need to have a constant signal. Cable provides and uninterupted flow , and did anaolgue TV and now Freeview through the airwaves.

BBCs iPlayer on the iPad allows you to downlaod episodes to watch when you are not connected , but the Android version I have on my Samsung Note 2 doesnt sem to have that option. This means that when you leave the 4G area in Newcastle on the way south your program stops , not a great customer experience caused by the face that you cant download when in the 4G signal range.

When 4G is ubiquitous streaming will be find , but even free media apps should provide the option of downloading when in a good signal area.

The World Ends Today

Thought the art of John Martin, soundtracked by Aphrodites Chid performing The Four Horsemen from their 666 album ,was an appropriate watching for this post.

Someone once said there's two things certain in life , death and taxation. There's also the obsession with the end of the world . The Mayan one is interesting in that it looks a significant date 21/12/12 asssuming you use the correct format and notation, but the Mayan's were on ourt calendar and sometime in the middle ages we lost a big chunk of time to correct the calendar.

Any way there will be billions of blog posts about this , some like this not expecting it to happen , others telling you to prepare by building a boat or hitching a lift on an alien spaceship. And if it doesnt happen there will be some kind of excuse offered about a slight miscalculation. The irony of course that if it does happen , the ones who got it right cant say "I Told You So!".

Anyway here's mty apocalypse playlist , I'm sure lots of peole have done this , hope you can enjoy it.

For some people the end of the world is always nigh , for people in Newcastle it's at the end of the Metro line ... Sunderland !!

Tuesday 18 December 2012

4G or Not 4G?

Well I eventually went for it. Basically 4G provides with faster downloads and uploads and will cause you to use a lot more data than you did under 3G. When you are in a 4G area you soon become used to fast response times which under 3G could take an age especially media rich web pages.

Youtube under 3G was always good , so I dont notice musch difference under 4G , but BBC iPlayer was virtually unusable on 3G , but on 4G becomes a very good media delivery channel.

I was going to do a series of posts of my experience with 4G  and this is the first . EE have given (well sold) me a a LTE enabled Samsung Note 2 , and it's an impressive device. I used my original Note to watch Cockneys vs Zombies , I see the new device with 4G being used to watch a lot more.

Today I am going down to London so I will see how it fares , when I get down there I am going to tether it with my iPad to see if that's a viable opyion. I have a monthly data allowance of 10 Gb , I have a feeling i this brave new data world that may not be enough.

To paraphrase Robert Shaw in Spielberg's Jaws :

    "We're gonna need a bigger data allowance"

Saturday 15 December 2012

Bully For You

This is one of those posts where a couple of randome things that you talk about with people sort of come together in an Edward De Bono lateral thinking kind of way , or like the Kevin Bacon , EE $G , interconnected digital world kind of way. Anyway basically I'm not sure where I should start so I'll just jump in and see where I land.

This year Malik Bendjelloul brought out a film Searching For Sugar Man about the Mexican artist Rodriguez  who brought a couple of albums out in the 70s and was very with in the southern hemisphere. The film has brought Rodriguez deserved worldwide recognition albeit 40 years late , but he can still tour , sing and deliver the goods and is now reaping the benefits. POssibly a similar situation was Nick Drake who unfortunately commited suicide , but his music is now finally recognised for how good it is / was.

Anyway I then read that another artist from the 70s , Graham Parker , was also enjoying a resurgence with his excellent band The Rumour with a major part as himself in the film This Is 40 produced by fan Judd Apatow. There's a Rolling Stone article here.It's not quite the same but will mean that Graham Parhker and The Rumour get deserved worldwide exposure. Always loved Graham Parker and this leads to another discussion I was having with a friend about bullying in the workplace.

It isn't nice or clever and it is horrible when you are subjected to . I have experienced it , fortunately that's fifteen / twenty years  years behind me now , but thinks were'net going well for Graham Parker when he was at Mercury Records and he responded by actually releasing the excellent "Mercury Poisoning" which while not being the most subtle of analogies certainly hit the spot , I think Mercury dispensed with Parker soon afterwards. He kept making great records and Mercury lost a talent that could have raked in a fortune for them. So this has turned out to be a bit of a ramble but it is and excuse to listen to the excellent "Mercury Poisoning":

Potatoes Eggs and HMV

The Potato and Egg Shop
It's over ten years since I moved into my current address and at the time I noticed a shop called "The Potato and Egg" shop. I always wanted to visit it just to see what was in there and about a month back when I picked up a hire car I stopped to have a look.

The shop does what it says on the front . It sells potatoes and eggs . Nothing else . Potatoes generally come in 25 Kg bags ranging in price from £9 - £15  , providing excellent quality products and more that reasonabl prices. The lady who runs it tells me she's been doing this for over thirty years.

This may seem a surreal post and hardly related to what I normally write about but we really need to support outr local shops otherise it will just be a Tesco Extra or Sainsburys Local , probably leaching money from the economy by tax avoidance.

Lots of quality Potatoes
The proprietor is an extremely helpful lady and I so prefer this sort of shop to the massive supermarkets.

And it got me thinking , that this shop is successful in providing two basic food staples and has been since the last century . I feel slightly guilty that I havent visited before now and must admit that carting a four stone bag of potatoes home on the bus was not exactly easy , but it does mean I don't have to buty potatoes for two or three months.

And Theres More
If you live in the West End of Newcastle I would recommend that you check this shop out if you use potatoes or eggs in your cooking . It's open 9 til about 4 all days bar Sunday and longer during the week.

Compare this with HMV , a music shop , who  now dedicate most of their floor space to iPod docks. The one I visited in Harrogate recently had relegated CDs to a far corner, this is a company who have lost their way. The Potato and Egg Shop hasnt !.

Friday 14 December 2012

One Bad Apple

Most people know that I always try and find the positives in situations , as to many people try and focus on the negatives because its easier to focus on one negative than 99 positive things. The reason I'm talking about this is because after having a rolling mobile 3G broadband contract with 3 for a few years I finally don't need it anymore.

I had been stung by the costs of train , BT Hotspots and Hotel WIFI so dropped into a Carphone Warehouse shop who found me a rolling 30 day contract with 3 which would give me 5Gb for £15 a month plus £5 for the dongle. The guy sheepishly , and with a laugh said he had to ask me if I wanted to take out insurance for the dongle . With a laugh I declined but thats the sort of service that makes you go back and trust a shop. This was Carphone Warehouse in Worcester.

Things went fine , and when I bought my first tablet (an Advent Vega) I needed to get a Mifi device so I could use it away from the house. The mifi device was going to be £40 but I was told on a 3 shop that I had to cancel my current contract and take out a new one to get the Mifi device, and I had to phone up to cancel. This seemed a bit convoluted but I did so and got an asian guy on the other end , who asked why I was cancelling , was the service not up to scratch etc. I explained the situation and he said he could just continiue my contract and get me a new device for nothing which sounded good. He then said I'd be on a two year contract which I didnt want , so he said he would have to charge £40 for the device , which I was expecting anyway. \he then said he would increase my data allowance to 15Gb for no extra charge , which was nice. SO a case of excellent customer service.

Also in that time the signal from 3 has been reliable and generally excellent.

Anyway now I dont need it so gave my 30 days notice and the first guy seemed fine with my reasons and passed me to retentions......

This guy would not let it go he offered me a free iPad (I hav one , dont want anoter) , laptop (I have one dont want another ) a reduction in my tariff to £6 a month (I dont need it) , , he would not listen to me at all and eventually the connection dropped. He never called back. They sent a customer satisfaction survey in which I invited the to call me about my experience. I have heard nothing.

I can thoroughly recommend 3s Mobile 3G Broadband service but am not too happy with their retentions process . If you are losig 5-0 with 5 minutes to go , the game is over

Sunday 2 December 2012

Brennan Again and Again

Brennan JB7
I was flicking through Mojo magazine and saw two adverts for CD ripping players. One is Martin Brennan's retro box, the JB7 , which is now advertising that it can replace your iPod in the house and the other a very classy looking NAIM Unitilite which rips CDs , stores them has a DAB radio, and streams MP3s and internet radio from you web connected router and costs five times as much as the Brennan.

NAIM Unitilite
The problem with the Brennan is that it's an adequate all in one unit, but be honest an iPod or iPad looks classer and can wirelessly connect to a disc server so has effectively unlimited storage space and costs less than the Brennan and can do so much more. The NAIM is an expesive but classy item that does all you want.

Brennan are now advertising Richer Sounds as their sole high street  outlet. Remember Richer Sounds made their name selling last years model very cheaply , not the place you would expect to be looking for cuttting edge technology. By the way most of my sound system is from Richer Sounds and I would reccommend them to anyone , they have an excellent business model and a service second to none.

As I say I have no gripe against Martin Brennan , but his box would have been state of the art twenty years back, but not now.