Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Christmas tree card

Superb Christmas card designed by my six year old grandson. It's just about perfect...not many things in this world  are.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Winter images #2

Colder and more curious: Here are some ice sculptures not created by the hands of men (or women), soaking up the pale sunlight and subsequently refreezing and growing stronger and fighting for climatic survival. Inside each are a million or so (my estimate) tiny prisms reflecting light and creating an unknown series of equally unknown spectrum(s) or whatever the spectrum-ish plural might be. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Winter images

Ice and a freezing garden but no snow, so happy with that for the time being. The freeze just slows everything down nicely and suspends nature and belief. Meaningful and profound thoughts escape me. Christmas countdown, things to do, wrapping and planning and testing. Leftovers to eat, laundry and wild birds that now need feeding twice a day, if time allows. Creaking somewhere inside me, ominous ageing evidence, warm wine, background music and repeated songs. Spice and cold pizza, flashes backwards and fast frozen forwards. December.

Tough for transport

Spare a thought for those homesick and overworked lorries out there at this time of year.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Fifeshire daily photo

Traditional Fife breakfast, having been fully consumed. 

Murky, reflective photo of Fife's ancient capital c/w dinner plate.

At this time of year decorative frippery is allowed here and there, even in the bleak and austere surroundings of rural Fifeshire.

Humorous vehicle number plate on honey wagon seen passing through the Fife villages with a precious cargo of mature sewage. One of Fife's main exports and contributions to the Scottish economy. 

Thursday, December 07, 2017

My voice is my password

Cat in a deep snooze as I sell off my future via a remote recording device hidden down the phone line.
Hurricane (insert latest name here) passes through Fife as calmly as the traffic on the Queensferry Crossing.
Phrases to fall asleep to: I have a new mantra. According to the robotic conversation I had with the robot tax man I can now and forever rely upon my voice being my password as it's tone and rhythm has now been recorded and processed on some contracted out government IT system in Russia. All you do is repeat the phrase "my voice is my password" for about a minute and the magic is done (chug, whirr!) and you're set for a lifetime of access to hearing that your tax code is probably correct but if it's not then an adjustment will take place in the next tax year that will cause your eyes to water ever so slightly. 

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

I sing the body eccentric

When you're hurt or unwell the natural thing to want to do is to curl up in a ball, sleep and let some warm magical force of healing wash over you. Or you can tough it out, move, lift, bend, squeeze and walk yourself out of hurt and injury. Up to a point that is. There are healthy limits. But I have however observed in the last few days that my refusal to stop, despite a certain amount of pain and stiffness in the morning has resulted in me, following my traumatic fall down the stairs, feeling better a bit sooner than I'd imagined. I sing also.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Foot, body but no brain injury

For a few split seconds I was weightless, possibly graceful even. Then came the moment, arriving in all it's standard slow motion finery when it all changed and I hit the bottom of the stairs. Blind panic and pain set in but I gathered my thoughts and focused on the zones that were crying out for help; foot, side and back. Hmm, head is just befuddled and shocked, not a proper injury? Ankle is bloody sore (check), side mostly ribs sore (check), back strained but probably ok. I'm alive anyway. That's a decent outcome.

Fast forward two days and the bruises start to appear, dull blue and grey surface scars that illustrate the minor trauma's locations. I'm hobbling a little and straining with certain movements but feeling a lot better. I can drive, I made it to work where I worked, I've had two reasonable sleeps and few hot showers. I'm an expert at sliding my foot into a bandage and then stuffing the whole fat foot into a shoe. The support the shoe provides is very satisfying,  I should wear them more often. So that's another near death experience notched up, gone in an instant it was, how many more before the actual real thing?

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Slenderman sighted

A strange, distorted figure appears on the wall, caught in a brief glimmer of the early morning sun's rays. A silent shadow passing, a spectre moving, creeping across the wall, taking the opportunity in the moment of brightness to reveal itself. Then as quickly as it appears it is gone, returned to some nether world, some place neither here nor there nor in between. Swallowed up, from the bright day into the abyss that is the remains of Sunday morning. And so the clouds pass and move to cast new shadows elsewhere on others. My thoughts wandered and I moved on. Then I turned as I thought I heard a distant scream as it echoed somewhere far away and unfathomable. I was mistaken, there was no sound, just a figment of my imagination, my overactive mind...or was it ?

P.S. The same shadowy figure was encountered later in the day, chopping vegetables, grating cheese and baking some cauliflower and broccoli cheese (with added red pepper). I ignored it of course.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

A million candles

You Want It Darker

If you are the dealer, I'm out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I'm broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame
Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the help that never came
You want it darker
Hineni, hineni
I'm ready, my lord
There's a lover in the story
But the story's still the same
There's a lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it's written in the scriptures
And it's not some idle claim
You want it darker
We kill the flame
They're lining up the prisoners
And the guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle class and tame
I didn't know I had permission to murder and to maim
You want

Friday, December 01, 2017

Walk up a sweat

The current cold spell, aka winter, seems to have drained most of the colour from the local landscape with it's icy washing down of the fields and freezing north wind stripping the hedgerows. Brrrr!

Story of the song

It was always going to be some kind of pearly picture that went with this...now if only I could remember how this song came about (link above takes you there for free plays). It was written in the spring of 2002, Ali came up with the words and I added the tune. We recorded it in Germany with Martin producing and playing bass and Siggi on keys later that year. It's really about our writing relationship (I think) and the reforming of Impossible Songs that took place when we got back together after a twenty year hiatus. A declaration of intent sort of.  It has a nice, light, poppy feel to it despite being written in quite a stressful period when our creative partnership was forming up and lives outside were breaking down, so the softer sound contradicts the heavy meaning in the lyric. It's a song that, in my opinion turned out better than I'd hoped for but, as is the case generally with our stuff, hasn't set any heather on fire as yet. We're in this for the long run though so you never can tell.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Archives of Silence

Emotionally immature? Prone to incendiary and irrational outbursts? Like to speak you're mind? Got something completely commonplace and obvious to share? Have ill formed and stupid opinions? If this is you then why not try a long, slow course of silence? I have and it's completely worked for me (and benefited  the rest of humanity). Just get yourself a blog address and stay away from all other forms of social media as you slowly stew in some kind of resonant silence.

God bless the witch

God bless the witch

Hit the link to play the tune.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Industrial Environment

I've recently read a lot of critical reviews about Amazon and it's working practices within their big sheds, strangely known as "fulfillment centres". There's an article from the Daily Mirror that's been widely shared regards bad things happening at the Tilbury FC near London. By and large the article is fairly accurate I'd say (having worked for about a month in an FC nearby) but doesn't tell tell the whole story. The problem is that Amazon and a thousand plus other large industrial enterprises are pretty miserable places to work. They have been since the Industrial Revolution so nothing new here. Factories and facilities that push along material, whether it's "box kicking" (Amazon and other logistics centres) or "nut grinding" (shipyard or fabricators) are all harsh, noisy and busy work places that are inherently unpleasant to be in and people are not treated well. They are all tiny cogs, no more and they are fragile. I've worked as both a drone and a manager in these places for around 45 years. It's tough. I know.

The problems are two fold - output v people: the factory owners need to keep costs down and increase productivity so the staff quickly become victims in the pursuit of more output. They can't win. The (younger) staff are also often ill prepared for such a harsh and number driven environment. I've seen first hand the shock on a young person's face when they are given any instruction, told to work "bell to bell" or expected to achieve a target that seems unreasonable or difficult. School and society does not prepare people for the humdrum and awkward reality of earning a living (?) if you are unqualified or unskilled. Life is going to suck hard, you're not an astronaut or a ballet dancer or a grinning face on a magazine cover, you're to be a faceless resource turning out product without question. For many people that's as good as it gets, chasing debt week by week in a grey pattern of survival.

It's an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object type of situation. It's also poorly managed, the team leaders I saw at Amazon were victims as much as the staff, they issued orders or pursed metrics that, when questioned on, they clearly didn't understand nor could they defend and there was a huge gulf between them and the "real" management that they could not cross; the top guys are conveniently  faceless and absent. In other words there was no ownership of either the process or the development of it on the shop floor. All was top down with no room for real or constructive feedback. You can't just change the recipe at KFC or the shelf pattern at Tescos.

I did question the metrics used numerous times during my month at Amazon. Staff would be criticized for errors of 1% or even lower as the warehousing machinery reported back on performance. Basically that means doing things 99% correctly isn't good enough...how many things in life do you get a 99% correct score on? Clearly nobody really wants errors or sets out to do a bad job but human beings will always fail to some degree. Modern industry, with it's systems and granular visibility all down the line fails to take this into account. We are all the weakest link or the single point of failure but the plain truth of that is not accepted. In the old days of ledgers, typed work orders and actual bills of material nobody really saw the actual real numbers. I was there and production and productivity was a black art. People worked hard but the truth was invisible, technology has exposed this and we are paying the price. Modern and inexperienced managers don't know quite how to deal with this and the staff, expected to be as drone like as the system is, are caught in a trap of unreasonable expectation and the myth that is "continuous improvement" to the point of breaking. Meanwhile, the customer expects the right thing at the right time and at the right price and on a warm china plate and of course we are all customers...

So maybe be a bit kinder with your Amazon feedback, with the waitress in the pizza restaurant, the delivery driver and his white van or the person correcting the supermarket's robot till. Then get angry with the owners, the faceless inhuman engineers, far away investors, inadequate education systems and the toady governments who allowed mass manipulation and erosion of worker's rights and tax avoidance to continue to prosper and rule the lives of ordinary people. Anyway, where's my package from Amazon?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Council Charlie


It's always useful to keep up with the local vernacular or funicular or whatever. Slang gets about. So now I know the current choicest terms to use whilst referring to cocaine in any given East Fife township i.e. Methil. Average cocaine, mixed with caffeine and other unknown and dodgy additives is known as "Council" or when in Methil "Cooncil". A portion of Cooncil is around £30 and it's purchase and use carries a high degree of risk in many ways no doubt . "Good Cooncil" is allegedly pure (?) and retails at about £100 for a portion. I'm assured that £100 worth of "Good Cooncil" will keep a half dozen young men occupied for about 24 hours. So I'm not recommending any of this, neither trips to Methil or purchasing and using cocaine anywhere, simply noting that these terms exist and, when stepping out  in Fife you might wish to keep your ears open for their use. So if somebody from Fife tells you they are having a "Cooncil Day" you've been warned.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Working on Updates

OK. It's the first time in 6  months of being back on Windows after 5 years of Macdom. Could be worse I guess. All stable now.

Friday, November 24, 2017

With the birds I share this lonely view

Taking a break from mixing Gregorian Chant music with African beats to top up the bird's breakfast feeders in the garden. Little did I know that the suet pieces wouldn't react well to the seasonal damp and that they clog the feeders...so some hungry and no doubt frustrated wild birds abound. I issued a sincere apology and set about cleaning out the feeders and redistributing the troublesome suet and so set nature once again into some kind of precarious and temporary balance. Whilst out there in nature's own wonderland I caught a bad case of age induced spinning around, for a short while anyway.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Das Boot

I don't think I have a favorite war film but if I did it just might be Das Boot, the semi fictional tale of U-96, a German submarine in World War II. It's grim and unhappy mostly with the young crew and officers portrayed as reluctant Nazi supporters more loyal to the navy than the regime they fight for. They still get on with their day job of harassing convoys however and are duly pummeled back by the Royal Navy in the process. It's a long oily, airless, greasy experience that leaves you  bewildered and feeling cheated at the waste of life and resources on both sides that is washed away in the runaway fable that is modern history. Leaders lead with little consideration for the pain and suffering of the common people, those caught in the conflict and giving their lives often for no obvious reason. Das Boot illustrates this, the pain and complexity of loss and the tedium of duty on both sides of the conflict.

Above is a shot from the final scene, in port once again but far from safe. After all the trials and tribulations of a terrible and dangerous U-Boat operation, U-96 is strafed and sunk by allied bombers just as she arrives back into her home submarine pens on the French coast. Most of the crew are killed as they step back on to dry land, having survived the cruel sea's worst conditions from the top to the bottom.

Soup and socks

For the first time this year I fired up the kitchen stove today as a kind to seasonal test of the apparatus and my ability to start a fire in it. All went reasonably well after the usual slow smokey start that creates a blue indoor haze  till the chimney starts to draw hot air upwards (cough!). Then it was on with pot of locally sourced veg to make up some soup and then a brief attempt at sock drying on the top handle. The stove really throws out an incredible amount of heat for no more than half a dozen reasonably sized logs and stays warm for hours afterwards. The socks remain pretty normal despite their encounter with this primal heat source. So six logs = five hours warmth and a bit of cooking.