Tuesday 30 April 2013

Warbuton's Crumpets vs McVitie's Chocolate Hobnobs

This is not about the products per se , both of which I enjoy , well I prefer the Chocolate Hobnobs. Basically my grip in this world in which the customer needs to be protected from every possible instance of contamination by person or persons unknown.

What it is, is both products come in a cellophane wrapping which the purchaser must open to get at the product. The McVitie's wrapping is easy to open , no problem whatsoever. The Warbuton's wrapping requires industrial cutting tools to get into. If you try using yor bare hands you don't stand a chance and will end up destroying the crumpets inside , reducing them to untoastable crumbs as you get more and more annoyed at the fact you can't actually open the damned packet.

If you are going to buy a product and see that the packaging is damaged , put it back and get another one. Too many products are almost impossible to get into without some cutting implement , which in itself is dangerous. Imagine turning up at casualty - "I stabbed myself trying to open a packet of crumpets then burnt my hand when I got its stuck in the toaster"!

Monday 29 April 2013

There's Only One Tony Wilson

Well actually there's more than one , which we all knew. I grew up with Tony Wilson , So It Goes , Factory Records , Joy Division , Happy Mondays , The Hacienda. Sadly missed since he died a couple of years ago , but the guy revolutionised music ,and business , not financially successfully but his vision resulted in some amazing breakthroughs. The first peorgram to have the Sex Pistols performing live on TV and immortalised in the sureal but entertaining 24 Hour Party People.

Anyway a couple of years ago I bought several books pertaining to Factory Records and related groups and a few my the great man himself. One called The Universe on a Bicycle sounded like a Wilson title , but in fact is written by another Tony Wilson (an articled clerk turned artist who patented an origami table) about a bike ride round Ireland pondering the deep questions in life in a very entertaining manner. I only found this out today when I started reading the book and would recommend it to anyone. It's one of those pleasant mistakes in life that actually benfits all concerned . I have found a new author and he has a new fan so to speak.

While not in the same universe as the late Anthony Wilson my world has certainly been enriched by reading both authors.

Let's Get Tattooed - Excentric In Shrewsbury

Excentric - Shrewsbury 
Last time I was in Shrewsbury one of the places that made the biggest impression on me was Excentric , which is a Tattoo studio as well as supplier of excellent and exotic stuff. This time a couple of Gremlin's from the second movie caught my eye , placed upon one of my favourite glass tables that I've seen. Theyr on the right hand side of the pic just above the open sign.

As well as tattoos , which I don't fancy by the way though Val had some excellent ones, the place has loads of steampunk , biker , cult film and weed related paraphenalia.

All the staff are really nice and incidentally everyon had the same phone as me a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, although we couldnt get a decent signal or connect to wifi If you are it Shrewsbury it really is worth checking out and while the tattoos were not as exotic as my mate Shev's (of the Doll at The Black Bull and the Star Spangled Chestwigs) with his left leg washing line it's a great place and if you want a tattoo I cant recommend them highly enough.

So that was the highlight of the day , rounded off by dinner at The Armoury by the river , again a recommended place to eat and drink if a little pricey. I'll leave you with some classic 'wigs

Sunday 28 April 2013

The Internet Is Not A Private Place

This is just in response to another site telling me , via an annoying pop up , that they're going to be collecting data about what I'm looking at to enhance my browsing experience. For that read you're going to be targetted with adverts related to things you have looked at, It's why Boots and Tesco and everyone else encourage you to take out loyalty cards , it's so they can target you with adverts and offers that you are more likely to respond to.

The internet is a public place so you shouldnt be shocked that technology is used to track what you are doing , usually in the name of making you part with your money, I have a website here but that is seeing less and less of peoples money, A big part of that was when Amazon effectively stopped paying for referrals by creating a set of rules disqualifying email links , and sales to people who were already customers. Build your infrastucture then stop paying for it , a brilliant strategy.

Also The Cloud is being used as a storage facility , while I'm OK with it as a back up , I'm not happy with it as a first point of storage. Amazon and iTunes offer cloud storage , with the right to delete anything they deem not "licensed" . So when you use these facilities you effectively lose control.

Did you know that when you catalog anything with iTunes it writes to that file!! It should never do that as it effectively corrups the item, but it tries to and tries about 1000 times befor giving up,

Basically I dont need to be told that I need to be aware I'm in public when on the internet. It's Caveat Emptor and I dont need to be continually asked or reminded. I can install ad or popup blockers and switch cookies off aand everyone who uses the internet can do the same.

Thought the Bowie song was appropriate.

Sometimes You Want To Skip

When you're watching a TV series on DVD you sometimes don't want to waste time with the titles. The sries in point is The Wire. Others with great titles are The Sopranos and True Blood.

What I've found is you cant skip the titkes because often they integrate it with an essential scene. It's a minor complaint though when the progams are so excellent.

Hook-a-Gate and iPad Annoyances

Well finally got to Hook-a-Gate yesterday and although there’s little phone signal (E at best certainly no 4G) the cottage does actually have free Wi-Fi.  However as usual the iPad refuses to acknowledge that the signal exists, so I can only access the internet through the iPad by tethering to my Samsung Note 2 with the weak mobile signal although I suppose I could tether to the wifi with the phone then tether to the phone but that might just tie it in knots.

Hook-a-Gate is a small village in Shropshire with a couple of pubs, one of which, The New Inn , is incredibly busy but welcoming and does superb food. While there is obviously money in the village the prices in the pub are extremely reasonable.

The Old Coach House where we are staying comes complete with cat who has an enormous sense of entitlement and seems to think it owns the place. You can check the details here.

Oh yes and the laptop has a Java update that insists on getting you to install the Ask Toolbar and McAfee PC Slow Down Software. I recently spent an hour decluttering  someone’s PC after telling them it was OK to install the Java update forgetting to tell them to uncheck the Ask and McAfee installs. There was another piece of software on there , apparently recommended by RBS which effectively wouldn’t let you uninstall it because it was “protecting” the PC. Most of this is the equivalent of fitting four Denver boots to your car and throwing away the keys to make sure it doesn’t get stolen and you don’t have a crash.
Anyway time to have something to ea.

Oh we're also currentlly watching The Wire with it's excellent opening Tom Waits penned credits song , "Way Down In The Hole".

Tuesday 23 April 2013

No Fun In Darlington

Thought I would give some books away on Darlington Station. Afraid no one was interested.  Train not much better. Hopefully Newcastle will be more receptive to my bag of books for World Book Night.

The train has speeded up so hopefully can give my books away shortly. An irate Scottish man is not too happy with the delay. I offered him a book but he declined expressing a preference for the cans of Stella from the East Coast buffet car.

Shakepeare's Birthday and World Book Night 2013

Today is World Book Night 2013 which has been set to coincide with William Shakepeare's birthday ( incidentally the day he died).  I have to thank my mate Mick for pointing this out on the bus to Central Station this morning.

Tonight I shall distribute copies of A Little History of the World by EH Gombrichon Darlington and Newcastle Railway Stations.  Will see if people are willibg to engage. I am sure they will be.

Monday 22 April 2013

Still Fighting With My Left Hand, Record Store Day Highlights and What Is Good Music?

Well still the docs are looking for clues for why my left couple of fingers don't work properly , though it's coming back slowly I think. Today I had an MRI scan which is not very nice when you are a closet claustrophobe like me. I requested some music and got "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" by Pink Floyd that approximated the length of time of the scan punctuated by the undustrial techno soundtrack of the scanner itself. One improvement is they give you a little periscope so you can see that there are people about if you choose to look , but I can't recommend the experience. Still that one's over with so now wait for two weeks to hear what the prognosis is.

A lot of people have been saying how good the Daft Punk / Nile Rodgers collaboration "Get Lucky" is so I thought I should give it a listen. ... and it is very good , but really this what all mainstream radio should meet in terms of quality , however it didnt knock me off my feet , but is certainly a record I'd like to hear on the radio.

My biggest surprise was the Paul Weller single Flame Out! put out for National Record Shop Day. This DID knock me off my feet . Sounding like Public Image Limited with another singer , certainly not your average Paul Weller song , this is the sort of thing that we want more of . And the B Side is a fine song as well. That really did perk up my weekend.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Facebook Wants To Own The Internet

A short post this which may eventually cause be to close my Facebook account. The very fact that I'm writing this is giving more publicity to Facebook, and it's two instances of something that may eventually damage other products.

The first was Deezer. Luckily I had signed up before the current requirement that you had to sign up with your Facebook account. I dont like be told I HAVE to use Facebook.

This morning I used Babelfish because my German is a little rusty , being mostly gleaned from Amon Duul and Faust titles and lyrics, but it wouldn't translate unless I signed into to Facebook.

Again it's something I see happening more and more , you can't have access to this unless you sign up for that. It's pathetic really.  The thing is eventiually you give in , then you start getting junk email, texts and phone calls all because you couldn't speak a forign language.

I dont mind using Facebook but along with Google and lots of other things they just want complete contril you. No thanks , I'm not going to take it anymore

Monday 15 April 2013

The Books Are Here

This is it for 2013
Just picked up my books for distribution on World Book Night 2013 next week. A slightly different documentation / tracking idea this year means I have to physically sign each one , though luckily there are only 20.

This is the first book I hadn't read before choosing it , but bought myself a copy and read it cover to cover. It's very easy to read an I learned some Chinese charaters as well as quite a bit of other  historical titbits.

It's a wonderful book for parents to read with children to pique their interest in history from the biginiing of the world to modern times.

It's generally jargon free and is very good in pointing people towards other sources for extra detail.

Anyway I need to now get my pen out and start signing the things ready for next weeks distribution.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Living In The Past

It's funny how we have a hankering for old things and things to remain as they were / are, when a lot of the time the new stuff is actually far better than the old stuff. I have a Samsung Galaxy Note phone , but I want an emulator on on it so I can play the games I enjoyed on my Amstrad CPC computer. I downloaded an emulator but it just crashes my phone . C'est la vie.

I bought an alarm clock that emulates Tetris , and believe me you dont snooze with it , that alarm has to be switched OFF.

A lot of the music I have on my players id the stuff of my teenage years such as Hawkwind and Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull. Having said that I am a hige fan of convenience. and use both the ridiculous 48 GB capacity , plus Deezer and Youtube to allow me to play what I want when I want.

There have been recent things about returns to cassette tape even . Cassette was brilliant in its time , but was fragile , didnt last , and I would never dream of using a cassette again except to extract so rare music or something. The good part is that you have to do it in real time , which is a lot more personal that knocking together a Spotify or Grooveshark playlist , but those platforms  enable you to share music and Grooveshark does let you upload stuff that it doesnt have. Any way heres some old Bok Demo's from the mid 70s.
The Bok - Rabid Stiff Peel Demos by Mike Singleton on Grooveshark

Fighting With My Left Hand #2

Thought I would use my blog to document this. Been to the hospital and confused the experts even more. Everything seems to be OK that should be , but I can't grip laterally with my extended fingers of my left hand. Have an MRI scan being planned just to make sure my brain is still functioning , snd that's about it. Still can't do much with my left little finger either which makes it awkward putting gloves on and the like, but things seem to be slowly improving , although whether that's just me compensating I don't really know. I keep trying things with my left hand and then thinking .. "Could I do that with my left hand before this happened?"

It's probably diabetes related but we shall see how it progresses.

After the unfortunate derby result (well I suppose we have to let the Mackems have a little hope before they get relegated) I have Omid Djalili to look forward to this afternoon at The Stand . Only joking Sunderland folks !!

I shall keep you posted....

Omid Djalili in a Chelsea Top !!

Friday 12 April 2013

Picture This

A short post this , but a number of people have mentioned that they enjoyed seeing my Instagram posts. I ditched both Instagram and Twitter because of the disposability of the posts on there , but have slowly come round to the thought that as long as you dont OD on the stuff then its OK to use , so I've decided to resurrect my Instagram feed.

My Twitter one is here.  My instgram name will be mikeydred96 so it may be here

So I'm just hoping I don't swamp peaople with pictures , but will try and post interesting things. Also the Samsung Note 2 has a decent camera and processor so should be interesting to see what I can do , maybe I'll limit myself to black and white , but we shall see.

I chose the Blondie video , because it's a great song and I nicked the title for this post . Oh and on May 4th Blondied are on the bill at the "Fake Festival" at Percy Park Rugby Club . Details here

There's video and music samples of them on the link above so you can try before you buy so to speak

Sunday 7 April 2013

Positively Now Street

Not sure what to say this post is about. There's a lot of bad things happening , mostly to people fairly far removed from me. It's therefore easy to write about stuff complaining about the bad , and lets face it it's always easy to find something wrong or to complain about stuff , without having an idea how to fix it. Anyway I always lokk for good stuff , positives , things to make me smile. I love seeing pics of my daughter Juliet and her fiance Paul's cat and the fantastic meals they make  and my daughter Kirsty's music and gaming posts  and her and Mark's dogs' Moll's pictures and videos. There is a lot in life to enjoy.

My Music Boxes - Abba , Roxy , Little Feat etc
Anyway a couple of things I was looking at a small part of my record collection , particularly the Original Album series and other boxes and  realised than the starting with Madness - The Lot and finishing with Little Feat's Original Album series contains around 100 CDs which is approximately 100 hours or four continuous days of (though I say it myself) excellent music. And that's just a single row on a rack. I'm still ripping this lot to hard disc so I can listen through my home network.

This week I was introduced to the attrociously named Deezer , which has an equally attrocious sign up process expecting a Facebook account these days , but once you're on it is effectively a music library service. You never own the music but for a fiver a month you can listen to anything they have , although the excellent Tempest by Bob Dylan is missing from their base , but I have been listening to the new British Sea Power album courtesy of Deezer.

My home studio - now operational
The other thing is that I finally have my home studio working consisting of an iPad with Garageband and a couple of other music software things, plus an Alesis I/O Dock and Q49 Keyboard , all now working after months of trauma getting things to talk to each other.

The I/O Dock lets you plug things into it like guitars and microphones so expect to have something online this week , just a bit of ambient improvisation , but that has made me really happy as well. Just hope the noise that comes out thats good.

I finished EH Gombrich's A Little History Of The World , the book I'll be distributiong for World Book Night 2013 and think I write a piece and put together a video montage of this years books. But we shall see. Any the book is excellent and fantastic for any parents with children under twelve who are open to learning about history. Well written and jargon free. Recommended for anyone.

Finally next week have tickets to see Omid Djalili at The Stand in Newcastle so things are generally good.

Saturday 6 April 2013

Transistor Transformation

In the early sixties youth carried music around in the palm of it's hand in the form of transistor radio, stations playing the latest rock and roll hits to satisfy the "kids" . Phil Spector listenned to each song he produced with his tradmark wall of sound to ensure it sounded good on a transistor radio, because that was his sales window. If it sounded good on radio then the market would buy it.

Radio has progressed through MW to FM to DAB and portables are part of your average phone either i the form on an inbuilt tuner using the headphone wires as an aerial or streaming media , which is effectively data that your supplier will charge you for. So the kids are still listening to music on portable devices that can be held, it's just now they have a little more choice and control and they are paying for it.

Ironic ,fifty years on,that  a phone costing maybe seven or eight hundred pounds is being used for the same purpose as a cheap transistor radio. Though I am well aware that todays phones are actually very powerful computers but it's still quite amusing.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Not Maintaining Standards

Despite the fact I'm impressed with my iPad, Apple continue to flabbergast me with their continual ignorance of standards . Was recently at my mate Mark Tovey's had he showed an excellent Android Media player that I could install on my Samsung Note called BS Player. This works like a dream allowing you to play media from you network drives after connecting to wifi. Would love if it would connect over 4G , but lets not complain. It allows to set a home directory and then has fast negotiation of you network drive to play whatever media you want , video or music.

I thought the iPad is wifi based , but I can only do the sameby installing an Air Play server on my PC and have another Apply lump of bloatware slowing my system down. My big gripe with Apple is that device are not self contained. You need iTunes on your PC that you have to sync with your iPhone or iPad or both often ending up in horrendous autorisation knots. The softare on the device should do the job independently . Yes you can sync between machines but that should not be mandatory.

Oh yes and the iPhone 5 has a different connector to prior iPhones , when other manufacturers are moving towards a standard USB connector. So god forbid that you leave your charger at hone.

So I wont be using my iPad as a streaming player anytime soon , like I can do with my phone.

Monday 1 April 2013

April Fools

Well it's a new month and new financial year and the school bullies (Cameron , Clegg , Osborne , Ducncan- Schmidt) have chosen the easy targets again (anyone on benefits). You can imagine them at school each September picking out the apparently weakest new pupils , then running home to mummy if they ended up with a bloody nose.

I'm lucky that I have a job and a house so am personally not affected , but was severely attacked under Thatcher , recieved no support when I had a hundred mile return commute when my daughter was severely ill in the Royal Manchester Childrens Hospital. I was helped through that by my bank manager at the Midland Bang in Tarleton who gave me the extra money I needed for petrol and said we'd sort when my daughter was better , which we did . The government gave no help at all bar still allowing the NHS to exist.

The current re organisation was tried fifteen years ago under the tories and failed then. It is designed for "private enterprise" to cherry pick profitable bits (often made profitable by tying the NHS intp extortionate contracts) . The last three governments don't seem to understand the concept of services and utilities.

The mass privatisations have just resulted in spiralling costs paid for by the electorate.

The government continually attack the low paid, the disabled and people on benefits while actively encouraging large corporations such as Starbucks, Amazon , Google  NOT to pay tax on monies earned in this country.

Benefit Fruad in this country is estimated ate 1.1 Billion though this site reckons it is more like 5.5 Billion. Corporation Tax avoidance (that we know about) is between 8 and 14 billion (see here) , yest this is not being addressed at all by this government . It's the school bully mentality , go for the easy target who cant fight back , and probably you will find that those companies are contributing to the government coffers. So even in the worst case scenarion Corporation Tax avoidance is 60% than benefits fraud.

I am not condoning either , but cutting benefits is the bullies answer. Providing living wage jobs and actually targetting fraud would mean that cuts would be minimal.