Tuesday, 20 December 2016


My sister has a little girl. She's bright, extremely energetic, and finds it very difficult to deal with disappointment. My sister thinks she may have aspergers.

My brother in law is probably somewhere on the spectrum too.

I reckon I probably am, although I've never been diagnosed as such.

When I was a child, I used to go off into a world of my own. My teachers at primary school were concerned about this, and eventually I was sent for an EEG.

That's an electroencephalograph, by the way. Once the doctor or technician or whatever told me what it was called, and how to spell it, I never forgot. I was about 8 years old, and I don't remember much about the test, other than that they flashed a strobe light in front of me, both with my eyes open, and with them closed. It made me feel good and I wished that they kept them flashing for longer. My older sister (half sister actually) suffers with epilepsy, and has done since infancy, and I suspect they were looking for signs of that in me.

What they found was some "minor non specific abnormalities"

I remember that, too.

I didn't do imaginative play well. My next door neighbours had a couple of children, and one was about my own age. He wanted to do pretending games, and I really couln't do it. Nor with my sister either. It made me feel horribly self conscious somehow.

I was into things. First, dinosaurs, later aeroplanes. I suppose a lot of children are, but I don't think most of them paid the same attention to detail that I did.

Later, in my teens, when I started getting into music, I listened to The Beatles with a rapturous joy. Nothing else. Just The Beatles.If it wasn't The Beatles, it should have been.

Abbey Road can really kill a party. Jus' sayin.

I got bullied at school. I had no idea why or what I could do about it. Girls were a bafflement to me. I'd realise a week late that they'd hit on me, by which time it was far too late. Again.

So I reckon I probably am. I suppose I could go and see the NHS and get tested or diagnosed or something, although what I'd do with such a diagnosis, I have no idea. Nothing at all, probably, although it would be nice to stick a label on it all.

Autistic people are a pain in the arse. Sorry, let me say that again in more technical language. Autistic people often exhibit challenging behaviour, because they're unable to use the rules of social interaction effectively.

Yet social skills can be learned. Hip hip hooray. One side effect of my choice of career is that it's forced me out of my shell. I can do it in my professional role. I'm empathic, highly cognisant of my client's emotional state, and able to interact or intervene effectively.

If I meet them in Tesco's though, I haven't got a clue what to say to them.

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Friday, 16 December 2016

Just a thought...

Those massive wind turbines would make bloody brilliant amusement rides.

Put a gondola on a pivot at the end of each blade, charge a tenner to get whirled around for a while.

Knocks the London Eye into a cocked hat, I reckon.

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Sunday, 4 December 2016

Follow me, Friends...

... To the fabulous Farnborough farting festival!

Fans of flatulance from as far afield as France, Finland and Florida will find friends and fellowship as they flow into the fray.

Friday's fete will feature four former finalists - local favourite, Fred Fagan from Frimley; Fiona Fullerton, from Fulham, who as always looks fantastic in fake fur and flippers; foreign affictionado, Federico Fabregas from far flung Flanders and finally, "Ferocious" Felix Flint, fresh from the Felixtowe fiesta, with his famous flute.

The forecast is fair but the function suite of the fitness centre has been fitted out with fans in case of frost or flood.

Free admittance if you flourish this flyer!

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Tuesday, 22 November 2016


The debate concerning Free Trade and Tariffs has been going on for a long time.

Robert Tressell's impoverished workmen discussed it in a shallow way. Some supported one because they thought they were Conservatives. Some supported the other because they thought they were Liberals. Tressel's protagonist, Frank Owen, claimed that neither approach tackled the real causes of poverty, and proclaimed that only the public ownership of the means of production could free ordinary people from their penury. This was back in about 1903, but probably far pre-dates that.

The only person I know of to have correctly called this election, and to offer a detailed and rational reason why, is John Michael Greer. Greer points out that Free Trade acts as a wealth pump, syphoning resources from weaker peripheries into a strong, imperial core. He pointed out that the only way for nations at the sucky end of that pump to get out of their predicament is to introduce some form of protectionism - something that makes trade less free. Tariffs basically. Taxing incoming goods to make them less attractive than locally produced ones.He points out too, that those at the bottom of the pile in the wealthy Imperial nation suffer as well.

If you're a worker, in either the subject or the imperial economy, dismantling the wealth pump benefits you. Your job is less likely to be outsourced. If you're better off, and can afford luxuries, such as mobile phones and tablets, you'll have to pay a lot more for them. If Apple, for example, has to pay $10 an hour to it's employees in the US, rather than $1 a day to workers in Singapore, those costs will ultimately be passed on to the consumer.
Please note, this has everything to do with Class, and nothing to do with Race.

So how do people that have spent the last couple of years campaigning against TTIP, and the last few months campaigning against Trump, deal with the news that the first thing he intends to do is to scrap TTIP?

I'm reminded of the old meme about the cat with the buttered toast strapped to it's back. Since it can neither land on it's feet (the toast always lands buttered side down, according to Murphy's Law) or the toast land butter side down (The cat always lands on it's feet according to folk wisdom) the cat levitates, spinning indefinately slightly above the ground)

Or they could resort to the lazy and disingenuous argument that Trump and his supporters are far right ideologies, with no justification for their beliefs.

Which brings me on to the next bit of my post...

The Forgotten Man.

The first time I saw this was on facebook, I think. The poster of the post that included this image decried it as racist. The guy on the bench that should be evoking the sympathies of the viewer is a white, working class everyman. Therefore this is the work of a white supremacist. Stands to reason, doesn't it? Meanwhile, Prez Obama tramples the Constitution underfoot, while applauded by a whole host of (mainly democratic) presidents.

It is undoubtedly propaganda. This artist's other work is resolutely opposed to The Democrats, and unflinchingly supportive of Republicanism.

And a quick read of Howard Zinn would quickly disavow you of any notion that the original creators of the Constitution were anything other than elitists themselves. Lincoln, Jefferson and... Reagan...(Thatcher in Kecks)  as bastions of the Working Class, confronting the elitism of  the smug, entitled blokes on the right of this picture?

Fuck that.

So this image is opinionated shallow bullshit. But it's not racist. The guy on the bench could just as easily be a Woman, or a Chicano, or a Homosexual. Perhaps he is. Both wrists are a bit limp, don't you think? The main point being made about the guy on the bench is not the colour of his skin, but the colour of his collar.

Meanwhile, ordinary folks that think of themselves as Liberals find themselves backed into a corner by slanders about the "Liberal Elite". If you're Liberal, you must be Elitist.

This too is utter fucking bollocks.

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Thursday, 17 November 2016


I signed up to an online betting website, and put a ten pound bet on Jeremy Corbyn for next PM.

Corbyn is the 9-2 favourite, followed by Boris Johnson at 11-2.

Not totally sure how things work. Do the bookies set the odds based on what bets have come in? or on what they theink the likelihood of something happening is? Presumably they have to at least start with an assumption - opening odds, but then if a lot of money goes to one place, they will lower the odds on that particular thing.

I also get 3 free £10 bets as a sweetener. I suppose I might as well use them. So I've been looking around the politics bit.

The bookies reckon that if there's another Scottish independence vote, it will be in favour. 2/5 for yes. 7/4 for no.

They also reckon the Conservatives will be most likely to get an overall majority at the next election. (8/11) with No overall majority second favourite (6/4) and a Labour Majority as a 5/1 outside chance.

Yet Corbyn is favourite for next pm?


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Sunday, 13 November 2016

How I learned to stop worrying and love the Trump

This is a song for Now.

I can't tell you how many times I've cringed when I've seen the stuff about Trump supporters on the internet and everywhere else.

Almost everyone was wrongfooted. What was really happening became hidden. It became hidden because of the internet. Face to face, people just don't behave the same way towards each other.

If you're going to be called a moron because of your voting intentions, you're not going to bother mentioning them.Take a look at how Trump supporters have been portrayed in this election.

These are millions of ordinary folks. Getting sneered at and publicly humiliated.

By Liberals.

Liberals sneering at ordinary people.

Let's let that sink in for a moment. If you've spent the last few months  posting videos of Trump supporters as idiots, well, that's what you've been doing. Putting down and belittling a whole section of society. Change Trump Supporter to Jew or Black. See how that flies. I saw an online acquaintence of long standing post stuff that suggested that women that supported Trump shouldn't be allowed to breed. Seriously. But that extreme aside, the message has been both clear and relentless. Trump is beyond the pale. His supporters are rednecks.

Rednecks = farmers and farm laborours, by the way. - ordinary working people. They worked in the fields, and the sun would burn their necks.

And Trump came up on the Libertarian Left side of things. Pro choice. Democrat supporter, other stuff I don't have to hand right now. In many respects, he's far further left than Hilary Clinton. But one of the effects of the focus on Personality is to ignore and delegitimise the actual issues

It does a couple of other things too.

One, it hardens the stance, at least in part to say "Fuck you, you snob"  It puts people on the defensive.

Two, as I mentioned above, anyone that can't be bothered with the arguing and abuse will tend to keep their opinions to themselves, so that, by volume, it appears that most people will vote the other way. Same thing happened with Brexit. Leavers were put down as racist morons, and anyconcerns they had were totally ignored. They weren't voting leave because theywere concerned about the accountability of Lawmakers, for example. They were really evil retarded pond scum. So my facebook feed was full of stories of Leavers as being, well, basically Trump Supporters. Most of the people being pilloried couldn't be arsed arguing.

Nice work, Liberals. You blindsided yourselves. Twice.

What is Trump? Where do we go from here? Buggered if I know. He's a loose cannon. He's not the new Hitler, and is a damn sight more savoury than the religious right, who were also defeated a couple of days ago, if you hadn't noticed.

PS. The election, and re-election to the post of Leader of the Labour Party of a beardy weirdy leftie, despite the opposition of just about the entire establishment springs from the same wellhead. I really should go the bookies and put a tenner on Jeremy Corbyn being the next Prime Minister.

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Saturday, 12 November 2016

Alphabet Album - O

By far the most successful and most visited blog post here is the one where I put all the alphabet/geoglyph things together. People shared it. It almost went viral.

It was an ongoing feature of this blog, and unbeknown to me, people were watching, fascinated, if only slightly, as I went from a whim to something I spent time and effort doing.

Well right now, my latest obsession is with music. As mentioned in previous posts, I'm planning to put together an album of 26 songs, all cover versions from A to Z, and I reckon a similar approach might work here.

So as I get stuff done, it will be posted on soundcloud, and embedded here. At the bottom will be a list, linking to all completed songs. When all 26 are done, I will do a big long blog post with all the tracks on , so that anyone with the inclination can listen to or share it all in one convenient place - an album.

O is for Ophelia. Originally By Kula Shaker from the album, Pilgrims Progress

I liked this on the instant I heard it, although I found the progression of the song a bit predictable. All Kula Shaker's songs seem to go the same way.
Without the song at hand, I tried to play it by ear. I got something that sounded exactly like the first chord. Then I worked out the second, then the little riff to the third, and then the third itself. Then when I listened to the song again, I found I'd transposed it about 3 notes downwards. But the effort I put into working out the arrangement got me using the third position a lot more fluently. I'm really getting to grips with the middle and top end of the fretboard, and that's opened things up for me.

Here's what I've done with it.


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Thursday, 10 November 2016


I got to thinking about medals. I don't mean the olympic sort. I mean the things you win for killing or dying bravely.

They're good things to earn. They accord you respect in society.

That's why Generals have so many. They're the very bravest  of all, and thus they are held in high esteem by everybody.

The awarding of medals is widespread across much of the human culture I'm familiar with. From Andorra to China. How far back in time it stretches I have no idea. I'm sure a few minutes looking would tell me all I wanted to know.

But what I was thinking about is the etymology of medal names. What came first? The medal or the name?

Clearly, something like the Victoria Cross had it's name allocated to it by the State, and it's a signpost towards the values and culture of the British State back in the 19th century. I suspect most medals do this.

But what about the Purple Heart?

Did the comissioners of the medal go to a medal designer and say "Can you design a medal called the purple heart for us please? And make it good. This is going to be a damn good medal to have." Or did they say "Can you design a really shit hot medal for us please?", and what came out of it was something purple and heart shaped, after which the name got attached to it.?

If the latter, who named it? Did the name evolve or was some executive decision ordered? Perhaps there was a public vote?

Medally McMedalface.

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Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Bring on the Trump

Interesting times we live in for sure.

Predictably enough, just like every time, the response both during and after this election from the Democratic Left is "Hey, ordinary people, you're a load of morons"

Same thing happened with Brexit. The lazy characterisation of those that supported leave as ignorant racist knuckledraggers did two things. One, it hardened their stance. Two, it meant they didn't bother arguing their views. Just kept it to themselves. Why bother, when you know full well you're just going to be reviled? So no wonder it came as a surprise.

If the dems had nominated Bernie Sanders, they might have had a chance.

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Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Tring on the brumpets

So many permutations...

How it is inputted. How it is processed. How it is outputted.
Partly a learning curve, partly a rediscovery of methods I was using 20 years ago.

It's an incredibly complex thing, because each of the elements I've noted above contain many elements, each of which has inherent pros and cons. I work best by trial and error, but with a developing rationale behind the trials I choose to make.

So by looking at how Wave Studio interacts with the audio record/playback settings built into Windows XP, I've worked out how to play one thing, then record both it and something new onto a new audio file. It's multitracking, but it's cumulative rather than parallel, if you see what I mean. I've tended to create samples, then put them together into some kind of sonic jigsaw in the past, and results tend to be quite metronomic. This though is more fluid. It doesn't destroy the natural nuance and subtle varience that add warmth and humanity to what we hear. And the source becomes irrelevant. I can just as easily incorporate the midi guitar or a microphone or a keyboard or drum machine into this method.

In all this, I've tried to base what I do on one set of chords. The root/key is Eminor, and I'm using as a very loose template, Kula Shaker's song, "Ophelia".

Below is my first attempt using this method, warts and all. Electric guitar through ME5 on setting 1-1-1, my favourite combination of phaser/delay. Then another layer superimposed using the same kit with the same settings.

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Monday, 7 November 2016

Bring on the trumpets!

Setting up an ad hoc home recording studio means pulling together a lot of disparate things, and it's very much a work in progress.

I tidied up and made space in my room, got a few bits and bobs that I needed such as audio leads and some new guitar strings, and after many trials, I'm starting to get somewhere.

I have 2 PC's. One is a fast modern machine running windows 10, the other is a much lower spec system that's running windows XP. The XP machine is not connected to the internet. This machine has an old soundblaster card that supports playing and recording simultaneously. It will not (and cannot easily be made to) work with windows 7 or later. The modern PC has a soundcard that will not play and record at the same time.

I also have an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar, and some tech that makes these guitars do interesting things. One is an old Boss ME5 multi effects unit. The other is a Fishman Tripleplay midi guitar processor. It turns a guitar into a synthesiser basically.

The midi processor comes with a suite of software that I've only really scratched the surfce of so far. They will not work on the old PC. I want the old pc to have several old programs installed that will allow me to do different things. So far I am having a few problems in this area due to the age of everything. I may have some of it on a CD somewhere, but finding it would require a lot of searching, and may anyway be too damaged to work properly.

Still, I can now play stuff, and get it into the old PC, where it can be recorded as a wave file. I can also play along with what I've done, and record that in real time. All good. The signal can come in either directly from a guitar, or through the effects unit, or from a the midi processor, via the modern pc. The signal coming out of the modern PC can be routed through the effects unit on it's way to the old PC.

The midi thing is a little disappointing, as I've not yet been able to make it all work properly. Depending on which patch I use, it has latency issues (it takes time for it to process what the finger plays, so there is a small delay in actually outputting the sound. There are also a lot of dropped notes and artefacts. Finally, he sound picks up a little interference on it's way through an audio lead from the old PC to the new.

Although I can play and record simultaneously, synchronising the playback of the wave files I'm making is not yet straightforward. I used years ago to have a cracked copy of a program called ACID loops. I cannot find it, nor can I find a copy of it online. There is a free version of it, with limited functionality, but it doesn't work on the old PC.

So, getting somewhere with it,. but not there yet. It's something to have started.

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Friday, 21 October 2016

Up, up and away...

Bren got a voucher for a balloon ride some time ago, and managed to get a clear day today, which is extremely fortunate as it's also her birthday.

She wasn't keen on driving down to Whitchurch, in Shropshire, so I cleared my diary and took her.

I took a couple of time lapse vids of the balloon being assembled and inflated...

The whole outfit arrived in a couple of Land Rovers, one of which had a large trailer on the back. They unpacked, fastened stuff together, fanned a load of cold air into the balloon envelope, gathered everyone around for a safety briefing, then lit the burners. As the balloon became more bouyant, it dragged it's gondola from a sideways position up towards vertical, and as it did so, the nimblest passengers scrambled up the footholds and into their places. The weight made it more stable for those less able to jump aboard. Bren was the first in. The balloon was also tethered to the two Land Rovers. Conditions were a little breezier than had been forecasted, but still just about ok to fly. The tethers were unhitched, and the balloon was airborne and away southwards, towards Hawkstone Park and The Wrekin, and Wem. The two vids show it all happening.

But wait!!!

Have you noticed in the second video, that there's a whole lot of nothing going on after the balloon goes up, and the Landies bugger off in pursuit? Just a load of scudding clouds!

Turns out one of the participants couldn't make it, and there was a space available if any of the spectators fancied it? A lot of foot shuffling and sky gazing took place, then I volunteered. Hence the unattended ipod sat in my car, taking pictures of nothing much until it's battery ran out.

I do not like heights. I see videos of russian chancers doing one armed pull-ups from vertiginous places and my toes curl. On the odd occasion where I've ended up looking down from a high place, such as the top of a tower block, or even in a lift, the awareness of the gulf beneath my feet is at the front of my mind. I've avoided flying for the last ten years or so, partly for ideological reasons, and partly because if a few hundred feet of empty space beneath me is scary, thirty thousand feet is slightly more so.

So I surprised myself by throwing my hat into this particular ring. Surprised Bren too, and I have to admit, for the first part of the flight, I was quietly shitting myself. If I remember rightly, there is a way of treating phobias that involves putting the subject/patient into a situation where they have to face whatever it is they fear. Immersion therapy? No. Flooding. The idea is that there is a link between the physical, and the emotional. The fear stricken phobic experiences a flood of adrenalin. This feeds back into the emotional fear response, which in turn makes the body produce more adrenalin. But after a while, the body stops producing adrenaline. It just does. It's hard wired into us that this happens, and the cycle is broken, allowing the phobic to form a different emotional relationship with the object of their fear.

And so it seems. After a while, I started to take an interest in more than just my immediate emotional state. We were heading more or less southwards at about 15mph. At times we were close to 1000 feet above the surrounding countryside. At other times we were much lower. We went over Hawkstone Park Golf Course. Ian Woosnam used to be the professional there. For all I know, he still is. We were low enough to exchange shouted comments with the golfers below. Livestock bolted in terror at the sight of our approach. Dogs barked. People pointed and waved and took photographs. We pointed and waved and took photographs right back.

Hot air balloons can climb to well in excess of 30,000 feet, but we'd all die. They sometimes contribute to crashes as drivers take their eyes off the road. It was warmer flying than it was on the ground. There is no wind. Well of course there is, but the balloon is traveling in exactly the same direction and at exactly the same speed, so the air is still. They cannot steer, but can be made to rotate by releasing air from the envelope through angled vents. It carries around 19 tonnes of warm air within, and the reason it ascends is because it displaces more than 19 tonnes of colder air. When it landed, it had to have the broad edge of the gondola leading, as it was certainly going to tip over when it landed with this much wind. If it landed narrow edge first, people in the top compartment would be catapulted out.

The flight should have lasted about an hour, but in the end, it went on for about 90 minutes. This was mainly due to difficulty in landing. The land beneath was almost entirely agricultural, but to put down in a field full of newly sown crops or terrified cattle would not be good. Things such as power lines and roads had to be taken into account. The pilot was obviously an experienced and conscientious operator, and he managed to find quite a few likely spots to put down, but each time, as we neared the ground, the wind would change direction and send us away from our target, and he would have to light the burners and try for somewhere further on.

Eventually we landed in a stubbly field just south of a place called Aston.

The basket touched down gently and smoothly, was dragged along briefly, then became airborne again. It touched down harder and tipped a bit, then lifted. This happened several more times, each slightly rougher than the last. Then finally we landed, got dragged along fr a bit then tipped onto our side before coming to a halt next to the rapidly deflating envelope. We had been organised inside the gondola so that bigger and heavier people would end up underneath smaller lighter people, and so I ended up horizontal, pulling hard on the hand ropes with Bren lying on top of me. We disembarked from the bottom up.

People took selfies, smoked and vaped, milled around. A farmer arrived shortly after. The pilot went off to meet him with a bottle of whiskey for his trouble. There was none. The farmer was happy to let us do whatever we needed to do. Then the Land Rovers arrived. We all mucked in packing the balloon up, and we all got into the Land Rovers and were driven back to our starting point. We'd flown about 19.2 miles. They'd driven about twenty seven.

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Saturday, 15 October 2016


Must admit, there have been times in my life where I've made bad decisions, and ended up in some bad places.

Thing about bad places is that they have limited resources. The fortnightly giro filled my cupboards and fridge for a week, and I'd be able to buy 50g of golden virginia and a box of rizlas. But that's only if I budgeted properly, and I really didn't a lot of the time.

So the roll ups would be smoked, and I'd run out of money. The liebig's minimum in this case was tobacco. I had plenty of papers and ways of combusting, even if it meant using the hob of the cooker. But after rolling a skinny one from the dust at the bottom of the pouch, I had no means of obtaining more, without subbing from my parents or selling something to cash converters.

So I would never empty the ashtray. This, towards the end of the fortnight was a useful resource.

The tobacco I pulled from my dog ends was not as nice as the stuff from the pouch, but it was tolerable. 50g of tobacco from the pouch though, would only yield perhaps 15g of dog end tobacco.

If 50g lasted me 10 days, 15g would last for 3. Sometimes though, for whatever reason, I'd be raiding the ashtray after a week. Two or three days later, and that resource was drained, and I'd be using third hand tobacco.

Now that was getting seriously vile. Not far from par with picking up butts from the floor of the local bus station. I've done that too.

Beyond that? 4th generation tobacco was really not worth smoking.

Given a choice, I'd pick the tobacco from the pouch every time. The only time I'd start pulling apart butts from my ashtray is when the pouch stuff had gone. But once it was gone, nicotine addict that I am, I wouldn't hesitate to use the inferior stuff.

What shall we do when the light sweet crude has gone? Well frack for it, and drill the deep oceans and arctic wildernesses.

When's the next giro due?

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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

bucket list item I suppose

I've had in mind for some time, putting together a sort of album. Cover versions all. From A-Z. 26 tracks. I suppose I'd have to work out how to play Xanadu.


Over the last few weeks and months, I've somehow got better on the guitar, and I'm doing things that I'm really pleased with. When working on a cover, it seems that I can figure out what's going on, and come up with something that works.

But the first two things I worked out are Kula Shaker's song, Ophelia, and Pink Floyd's One of These Days.


So what about doing The O Album? It can be any number then, rather than a daunting 26.

If I can get my arse into gear, which is something I'm finding quite difficult right now.

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Sunday, 9 October 2016

scraping the bottom of the barrel

Some things just are not meant to be.

The homebrew is one of these. I started brewing a few years ago after reading a book called Booze for Free. My first one was a mixture of water, sugar, yeast and marmite. The book was a first edition, and contained a printing error, causing me to put twice as much sugar in as was needed. 2kg instead of 2lb or something. This actually turned out beautifully. It turned into something not unlike a sherry. The marmite was still recognisable, but transformed into something less intense. It was potent and flavoursome, if a bit sickly. My next effort involved cartons of fruit juice. This too came out well. A bottle of it went down really well at a party I took it to.

Since then though, nothing has worked as well. It all tasted pretty foul, truth be told, but it got me drunk, which was the main reason I was doing it.

To stop myself from just necking it as soon as it stopped bubbling, I took some demijohns full of fermenting vileness to my stepson's house, and left them there to mature. Over the months ahead, I would sporadically take one of them back, and imbibe the contents. I brought the last one back about a week or so ago.

So did they mellow with age? Go from a young, sharp shudder inducing liquid to a smooth, mature tipple?

No. They didn't. They're just a foul, if not fouler. Half way through that last demijohn, I realised what it reminded me of. White lightning cider, that's what. Back when I had no money and a seriously dissolute lifestyle, I would sometimes buy a couple of litres of that cheap, chemical, toxic cider. The most bang for the buck. After the first litre, the second (and sometimes third if I didn't pass out) went down a little easier. But it was just a rather unpleasant means to an end, like sticking your hand into an ordure filled toilet to retrieve a dropped wedding ring.

So that's enough of that. No more. If I want to get plastered, I shall go out and buy some proper booze.

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Thursday, 15 September 2016

God 1

Spetember 13th, circa 4 billion years BCE

OK. Well this one's been bubbling along now for quite long anough. Always love to see these things come together. The aggregation. The heating. The planetary bombarment. Always good when that happens. The Mars sized planet made a damn good show, and this time around, it made a good sized moon. Probably the nearest thing to a binary this system will make. Loved the way the molten got a skin, which the comets (water for pity's sake!) battered holes in. I'd hoped it would work that way. The Uranus thing was quite spectacular too, although I think I would have preferred it if it wasn't quite so far away from The Sun. Still, it will be interesting to see what happens to it. Can't have things too perfect. Life would be so tedious.

Of course, things tend to settle down after a while. It all becomes a bit samey after a while. Yawn. Boring. I already know what wil happen next. Seen it all before a zillion times.

Anyway, I've decided I'm going to try something a bit different on this one. It seems like it's in a good place, next to a stable star. Plenty of time to make things happen. This one's going to be a real slow burner. So I'm going to get life started. Going to start it off really simple. Then just see what happens. Probably nothing, but the worst of the cometary inpacts are done with, and The Moon has settled into it's orbit beautifully. It will gradually spiral much further out, but so slowly! We're talking billions of years here! Now that's finesse!

All in all, it's a nice system to work with. Good mix of planets. Nice distribution too. Wide enough to allow for plenty of variety, narrow enough to allow for some dynamism.

This planet though shows real promise. Apart from ending up in a stable situation (and around a star in one of the more uneventful parts of its galaxy), its temperature looks like it's going to stabalise somewhere between the freezing point and boiling point of water. Now that could make things really interesting. It's going to be between the boiling and freezing points of alcohol too. Hmmm.

So I'm going to intervene. I mean, it will probably happen anyway, eventually, given the lightning, the high ultra-violet, and the chemical soup that's forming in the lower atmosphere. But chances are, by the time it happened, The Sun would expand and change the parameters beyond what's likely to work here. Wasted opportunity if you ask me.

Well, I'm off to do the deed now, so will sign off here. I wonder how it will go?

- G.

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Friday, 26 August 2016

In the silver scattered skies...

A few days past, it would have been Mike's 32nd birthday. A few days hence it will be 2 years since he died. It never completely goes away.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

2016 wordle

I took the text from every post I've made here, with the self promotion and dates and times etc stripped out, since January 1st, and turned them into a wordle.


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Friday, 29 July 2016

The court case today.

I suppose it could have gone either way. The judiciary are part of the establishment after all, although they do occasionally seem to stray from the script.

It's not difficult to see what would have happened had the judge decided Corbyn required nominations. I suppose he would have picked up a few extra from disgruntled MPs who've been alarmed and upset by the behaviour of some of their colleagues, or who fear deselection in the future, but could he have got the required number? I doubt it. The leadership election would be rerun, without Corbyn on the ballotsheet, and a slew of near identical centrists would loudly trumpet their left wing credentials, to near universal derision and disbelief.

What then? Well there really would be bricks through windows.

If you keep poking someone, and poking them and poking them, and they finally punch you on the nose, you can scarcely complain of bullying and expect to be taken seriously.

Still, that didn't happen.

There will be a continuation of the blanket vilification of Corbyn, but he will win anyway. The right wing will split off and either join the libdems or make a new party, which hardly anyone will vote for, and a new, more left wing labour party will emerge. This too will be vilified daily, for years on end, and not enough people will vote for them either.

On the other hand, people will get pushed too hard and too far by a newly emboldened tory party, and Corbyn, or some other figure in this new and more radical labour party will walk in to ten downing street.

Aye, and what then?


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Sunday, 24 July 2016


I've been posting a few things on facebook over the last couple of days.

No enquiries yet, but I am getting hits to the facebook page for my driving school.

Friday, 22 July 2016

No more heroes anymore

This post is to do with the Labour Party, but I want to start off by talking about driving instructors.

It's a nalogy, you see, although I'm sure there are better nalogies around.

To be a good instructor, two things need to be in place:

1. you need to know your subject.
2. you need to be able to put what you know across to someone else.

If either of these are missing, the quality of tuition will lack something. Neither, on their own, suffice. I suppose the same applies to most jobs.

I've just started finding work for one of the people I've been giving instructor training to. I have a responsibility towards her, and I will do my best over the coming weeks to provide her with the work she needs. In return, she will give me money. The relationship between driving schools and the instructors that work under their auspices is a little bit complicated. When you work for a school, it's as if the person or organisation that own the school is your boss. This is partly true. The School can stipulate certain things. How much to charge. How to conduct lessons. What to wear. Being self employed, the instructor can acquiesce, or they can find another way of generating work for themselves. But they are self employed. They pay the school they work for to provide the pupils they need. So in a sense, she's my boss. It just doesn't feel that way. She's on a trainee license, but so far, the couple of people I've been able to pass on to her seem happy enough with what they're getting. She'll get better and more confident with what she's doing as time goes on, but there is a point here. The name doesn't matter.

People who want driving lessons just want to know the person sat next to them is competent. True, sometimes people phone me because I taught their friend/sibling/etc, but generally, they've got in touch because I'm showing up on their web searches, and my website says I'm a good instructor (well, duh!). Paul Sharp the person just isn't that important.

Neither are politicians (or rockstars or writers for that matter) It's what they believe, and how effective they are at bringing what they believe into effect that matters. I suppose if I lived in North Korea or some other place and time, this would be a seditious point of view.

So to Jeremy Corbyn, and the movement that has coalesced around him.

Today, someone sent me a link to a New Statesman article.


It makes uncomfortable reading for anyone that wishes to dismiss any attacks on Corbyn as ideologically motivated. After reading it, I went to the TheyWorkForUs website, which details the voting records of MPs.


On the whole, her voting record is on the progressive side of things. So for me, her opinion carries some weight. Corbyn might be ideologically closer to me than almost everyone else in parliament, but that doesn't mean he's an effective party leader.

I'm not a Corbynista. Not wholeheartedly anyway. Yet I've joined the Labour Party, and shelled out an extra 25 quid so that I can vote to keep him as party leader. Not because of Jeremy Corbyn, but because of what he represents.

I first joined the Labour Party back in the mid 1980's. I quickly became involved in the more radical side of things. With the Miner's strike, The Poll tax, and the Liverpool City Council dispute, there was a lot to get involved in, and it was the activists on the Marxist end of things that were actually doing something about it.

Being honest with you, I got as far as about page 4 of the Communist Manifesto before putting it down with a yawn. Still, the far left were organising, marching, putting leaflets through letterboxes, engaging, fighting! That was enough for me. And we had some victories. The Poll Tax battle was largely won, mainly through the actions of grassroots activists. The Liverpool City Council won concessions, at least while the Government were busy tacking the National Union of Mineworkers.

Labour responded to the rightward shift in British politics by shifting rightward themselves. They closed down the youth section, and expelled a lot of the most active and committed people from the movement in their headlong rush to capture the centre ground. I left the party. It didn't really have anything to offer me anymore.

Since then, we've had a grey consensus of centre right politics for a generation. One lot had a more progressive social agenda than the other, but economically and politically, if you weren't centre right, you were effectively disenfranchised.

The appearance on the Leadership ballot papers of a left wing candidate, and his subsequent election have been a catalyst. Not just for me, but for hundreds, or thousands of people like me, who'd become increasingly cynical and apathetic about politics.

And that's why I've rejoined. Not because Jeremy Corbyn is the new Messiah, but because suddenly there is a mass movement within the Labour Party to wrest control from the right wing.

It's straightforward enough really. There needs to be a left wing mainstream party, as well as a right wing one, otherwise people don't have a choice. If you're right wing, and in the left wing party, you're in the wrong place.

I hope, whatever the outcome of the Leadership election, the thousands who joined will stick with it, and use their voices to change the party from within. We need, over time, to change the stock of MPs, and the people who constitute the internal heirarchy of the Party.

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Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Real Reality Vs Constructed Reality.

For the first time in, what? 25 years or so, I went to a branch meeting of the Labour Party tonight.

Except I didn't.

The National Executive Comittee has decreed that during the leadership campaign, there will be no party meetings, because of all the bullying and intimidation.

So what I went to tonight was a meeting of Labour Party Members. Not a Labour Party Meeting. A meeting of people who just so happen to be Members of the Labour Party.

There were close to 80 people there. I suspect normally at monthly branch meetings, they get perhaps 10-15 or so. Still, these are volatile times, and given that this is Angela Eagle's constituency, it's inevitable perhaps that people around here are going to be more energised and politicised.

Every seat was taken. People were standing around the edges of the room, with more stood outside the door.

Because it wasn't a "proper" meeting, some of the formalities were dispensed with. They didn't bother with the minutes of the previous meeting, for example, and just got down to business.

The business was 3 motions. The first one agreed with a statement Angela Eagle made during the final days before the Brexit vote, in which she praised Corbyn's energy and commitment, and stating that this meeting was in support of Jeremy Corbyn's continued leadership.

The meeting was well ordered. There was a chair, who gave everyone a chance to speak, and who asked those who wanted to interrupt to not do so. She kept order, and everyone abided by what she had to say. Some people were long winded. Some were eloquant. Some were disjointed. Support for Corbyn was not universal. Antipathy towards Eagle was not universal either. Both sides had their say. There was disagreement, but no personal attacks, or threats, or any unpleasantness on either side.

A show of hands was called. The motion was supported, by 66 votes to 11.

The second motion stated that this meeting has no confidence in Angela Eagle. Same pattern. Both sides had their say, and it was all well mannered. This time the vote supported the motion by a similar but slightly smaller margin. This time there were two abstentions.

The National Executive Committee has put a proviso in place that people who joined the party less than 6 months ago will not get to vote in the leadership election. I'd assumed that this was part of the bargaining that took place at the NEC meeting to get Corbyn on the ballot sheet, but it turns out that after this was achieved, Corbyn and his faction left the meeting, which continued, in his absense, to impose this condition.

The third motion was an emergency motion opposing this condition. It too was debated politely, and passed unanimously, or at least without opposition.

It was stated that a Guardian Reporter was nearby, and that when the meeting had finished, anyone that wanted to, from either side of the debate, could meet him or her at a pub nearby and make their views known.

The meeting went on from a little after 730 to just after 9pm. Once it was over, some adjourned to the pub. I went home.

So, about that bullying and intimidation...

Well, a brick was thrown through the window of the Labour Party office sometime during the night when Eagle announced her intention to run for leadership. She immediately called on Corbyn to rein in his supporters. The assumption being that the bricking was carried out by a disgruntled Corbynista. It could have course have been carried out by an agent provocateur, or by a passing drunk, or of course, by a disgruntled Corbyn supporter. There's a lot of anger over how the Parliamentary Labour Party have acted over the last week or two after all. Corbyn condemned the brick, and it's throwing, but he has no power to act over the bahaviour of individuals. This is taken as demonstration of his inability to lead.

So anyway, I wonder, if the press report on tonights meeting, will it be the one I went to, or something else? Labour is, if the narrative is to be believed, a hotbed of entryists, anti-semites, and homophobic thugs.


Here's what came out of the conversation attendees had with The Guardian:


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Friday, 8 July 2016



1,000,000 black people: "We shall overcome..."


999,999 black people: "We shall overcome..."


999,998 black people: "We shall overcome..."


999,992 black people: "We shall overcome..."

5 black people: "Fuck We shall overcome. Bang!"

The responses I've seen from Liberals is to condemn the shooting of police officers.

Is it counterproductive? Surely.

Is it inevitable? Yep.

In a sense this is not about Race. It's about Class.

Liberals support the underclass all the way, unless they threaten the status quo.

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Saturday, 2 July 2016

New New New Labour, or something.

Well, shit. I just joined the labour party. Been a while. That Eagle woman better watch out. That's all I can say.

A year ago, I joined the Greens, just to add a tiny incremental weight to their numbers. I suppose I'm now a member of two parties at once.

Ever read "The Life Of Pi"? The protagonist became, simultaneously, a Hindu, an Christian, and a Moslem, with no theological qualms. The leaders and shapers of the theologies he'd signed up to, however were less than comfortable with his open acceptance of the many.

A part of me daydreams of being an MP. I join my local CLP (constituency labour party) and in some stirring speech at a local meeting, I blow the crowd away with an impassioned speech about principles and integrity etc.

Then I remember that I'm shit at that sort of stuff.

So if my membership is accepted, I will go along, keep my powder dry, and do what I can on the QT to get someone less Blairite as my local MP.

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Monday, 27 June 2016

New addition to my blogroll...

I've been in conversation with someone on the internet, an American living in Australia, who pointed me in the direction of a couple of posts regarding Europe.

Here's the last thing he said...

We can hope that this insanity may be prevented somehow. 

The ref was non binding, article 50 may be delayed, there may be an early
election to toss out the tossers ...

Don't know what you think of the writer, David Allen Green but,


Then there's Sue Black:

And this is my response...

I saw a post on facebook today. Put simply, it said "Should child killers and paedophiles be put to death - Yes or No." That's all.

And of course, the vast majority of responses, from the limited number I bothered to scan through said "Yes", sometimes adding worlds to the effect of "but only after we've tortured them horribly"

When I looked, the post had garnered about 50,000 responses (you can see perhaps why I didn't take the time to look through them all)

Children are emotional. Adults are intellectual. There is a child within us all.

And, being children, we can be manipulated.

Power to the people? The "people" are generally reactionary, short sighted, ill informed and easily led. Why the left insist on giving them power when they are a bunch of swivel eyed right wing wannabe vigilantes is beyond me sometimes :)

The blame though, really lies with the manipulators, not the manipulated. The person that posted the post clearly did so with an agenda in mind - to provoke an emotional and reactionary response.

Sue Black appeals to the emotions. David Allen Green appeals to the intellect. I've added him to my blogroll.
And I have. He's worth a read I think. My comment on Sue Black was in retrospect, a tad unfair.

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Thursday, 16 June 2016

in out in out shake it all about

i predict we will stay in.

as the proportional representation and scottish independence referenda showed, most people don't really want radical change.

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Saturday, 7 May 2016

I am a kitten in a catnip forest

Just discovered a major time killer.


It's called Kittens, and you can find it here: http://bloodrizer.ru/games/kittens/

It's a slow burning text based resource management/ strategy game that starts simple, but quickly becomes extremely complex.

If you're a fan of sleep, or spending time with your family, and you like this sort of thing, don't click the link.

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Saturday, 30 April 2016

And another.

Today I got a retirement card sent through the post to my home address.

Increasingly menacing. Tomorrow I will go to see the police with the stuff I've been getting. Just so they know.


And then I didn't. Bren made me think more carefully about it, and I realised I was reacting badly to someone who's obviously hurting.

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Tuesday, 26 April 2016


I took down a series of posts, on the advice of someone I trust. They do still exist. They've just been reverted to draft status.

I've recieved a couple of rather odd and disturbing communications over the last couple of weeks, and I'm a little bit concerned that I'm becoming the focus for somebody's unhealthy obsession.

The first was an email via my website's contact form. The second was a letter, delivered by the post office to my home address.

I have not responded in any way to either of them, and hope that this will die for lack of oxygen.

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Saturday, 16 April 2016

epic journey, day one

Today we embark on a journey that will take us from our homes to the mountains. It involves a road, possibly a tunnel, and many strange meetings along the way perchance. It occurred to me to keep a journal of this, in some kind of satirical mock Tolkien style.

Don't know if I can make it fly, but...

well as you can see, i decided that the  benefits of producing such a piece would not realy offset the effort in producing it.

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This is me! I've found my place!


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Friday, 15 April 2016

one more day...

Off to the Lake District on Saturday for my annual jollies.

Tomorrow though, promises to be an arduous day. Nine hours work, spread from 7am to 730pm. An early morning driving test.

My car has been playing up though. First the heater stopped working a couple of days ago, then today it suddenly started losing power, and then late on, as I was driving home, a constellation of warning lights came on on the dashboard. It was running too hot as well, so when I got home I had a look under the bonnet, and found that there appeared to be no water in the engine coolant reservoir.


I've put water in it, although it might possibly be empty when I check in the morning.

If the warning lights are still on though, it could jeopardise the driving test.

Not good, either financially or in terms of my reputation, and there was no possible way, at 830 this evening, and with the test due to go out at just after 8am tomorrow, to sort out any kind of replacement or alternative arrangement.

Update: The problem is a leak in the cooling system. I had to fill it again this morning, and again immediately before the test. I knocked on the door of the examiners office, and told them I had a problem, explained what it was and what I'd done about it, and the examiner was kind enough to take me at my word and let the test go ahead, despite the warning light on the dashboard. Pupil passed with three minor faults. Happy bunnies. 7 more hours to do. Huzzah!
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Saturday, 26 March 2016

The things you find...

...when you start looking for other things.

I'm trying to find an old CD with some software on it. It's been knocking around for a decade, and may well be scratched to badly to be used, but first of all, I have to find it.

I got as far as a disk labelled "Old D Drive" and wondered what was on it.

What was on it was a load of old music I'd made back in the day. I've shoved a couple of things from it onto soundcloud.

This first one is based loosely on a Phil Collins song I think. The drums, piano and bassline are sequenced. The guitar is played over the top of them. 

The second one is multitracked. Apart from the drum track, which was recorded from an old yamaha drum machine, it's all live, and recorded against itself. Two guitar takes overlaid, and two vocal tracks harmonising. I waxed philosophical, and there is some stuff I'm really pleased with towards the end of the song. I even did some whistling!

And that's as far as I got with tidying up.

Much of the software I was looking for is now old enough to be abandonware, and I've managed to download some of it.

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must be the aftershave!

Male pupils this week:

Andy, Sam, Melvin, Andrew, Geoff, Alan. (6)

Total hours: 10.5

Female pupils this week:

Catherine, Sarah, Lorraine, Gemma, Emma, Heidi, Steph, Helen, Debbie, Melissa, Becka, Kirsten, Mia, Erin, Lauren, Stacy. (16)

Total hours: 25

So women outnumber men by almost exactly 2.5 - 1 in both quantity and time.

Overall, that's 22 pupils doing 35.5 hours, which works out at an average of about 1.5 hours each.

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Thursday, 24 March 2016

Driverless cars

I can't see it happening myself, and a good thing too, in my opinion, and not just for simple pragmatic matters of my chosen profession.

Technology both gives us something, and takes something from us, at the same time.

A few hundred years ago, for example, new fangled things like steam engines and looms were taking us into an era of unprecedented abundance, while at the same time, taking away the means of untold thousands to put bread on the table.

But they did more than that. They made a complex skill largely obsolete.

I heard recently that London Taxi drivers will no longer be required to acquire "The Knowlege". The satnav has made it superfluous. 

I think there is a beauty in seeing an expert at work.

I see an elegant suspension bridge, forged from nothing by the skills of a master architect or engineer.

I read a poem by some gifted wordsmith that makes me somehow thing of something I've never thought of in that way before.

I listen to a tune that causes the hairs on the back of my neck to rise, the way they did the first time I heard "A day in the Life" by The Beatles.

The maker of the tapestry, the delicious meal, the sleek sports car. The constructed proof of the philosopher or the mathematician.

And I myself can construct a thing of beauty. I can drive a car in a beautiful, flowing, smooth, safe way that to a passenger feels somehow nicer than they could ever get from your average driver.

Perhaps we can get machines to do all of these things, but in doing so, we will be losing a part of ourselves.

Is that what we want?

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A year or two ago, I bought a MIDI guitar controller. This comes in two parts. One is a reciever that plugs into a USB port on a computer. The other is a pickup, converter and transmitter. It picks up the vibrations from the guitar strings, converts them into MIDI information, and transmits them via the reciever to the PC.

15 years or so ago, I had a set up that worked well for me, but trying to duplicate that setup on my current system was unsuccessful. The soundcard I tried to put in wasn't compatible with anything later than Windows XP, the onboard sound card that I did have would not allow me to record what I was doing, and the software that came with the MIDI controller wouldn't work with anything earlier than Windows 7.

After getting nowhere much with it, I put it on hold for a while, but recently dug out the MIDI controller, and tried again. Same issues, but this time, I had an idea. - Buy an old computer with XP on it, recreate something like the hardware and software setup that worked well back in the day, and send the sound output from my modern PC to it.

So from left to right, Signal comes from guitar and into posh fast modern PC. Outputted through audio out or headphone socket to old XP PC, and from there it can be multitracked and sequenced etc. And between the two PCs, there can be other things. I have a Boss ME-5 multi-effects unit that might make for some interesting sounds.

So how far have I got? Well, I bought the PC for £40 from ebay. An old Dell Dimension, that comes with windows XP and a valid serial number. I had to put a new CD/DVD drive in it as the old one wouldn't work, and since the hard drive had been formatted prior to sale, this caused me a lot of head scratching and question asking on support forums. (Clue: It was the jumper settings on the newly installed DVD drive that were screwing everything up.)

This can work as a standalone unit, since it comes with keyboard, mouse and monitor. I intend to keep it unconnected to the internet, and could possibly use the XP disk with my laptop, which currently has a hooky copy of windows 7 on it.

I've put the old successful soundcard into it, and it's associated breakout box but cannot yet find the lead that connects the two within the case of the PC. The disk that contains the drivers for the card is scratched to buggery. I downloaded a modern version of Creative Wave Studio, which is a very simple sound player that allows you to play/record several things at once, and put that on there.

What is left to do?

Well first of all, tidy up. Organise things so that things will fit optimally in a confined space. This is a big job, but necessary. Part of the reson for tidying and sorting things is so that I can find some of the things I need. The lead between the soundcard and the breakout box, for one. A compact disk containing loads of old music software, for another.

Second, put everything where it needs to be. Leads going to and from where they should. Software installed where it's needed.

Third, test it all, and spend hours days and weeks trying to work out why it's not working the way it should.

Fourth, get my head around how to use the modern software, which is baroque in it's complexity, and rediscover how to get the best out of the old software.

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