New music playlist – March 2017

New music

In order to produce my Soul Man show for Radio Barnsley, I tend to spend huge periods of time playing through unknown songs from the sixties, looking for the nugget that will spark the show. I suppose it isn’t that much different to sorting through the huge volume of music that is made today – just fifty years or so! Look at this blog as a helping hand, narrowing down the perplexing array of new sounds to hand pick a small number each month that I hope you enjoy as much as I do.

Live At Leeds
Live At Leeds0 new music

Pole position this month goes to Jordan Allen. The four piece band, named after their main man are from Bolton and building a big reputation as a live band. 110 Ways To Make Things Better is out now a s a single. Catch them at Live At Leeds at the end of April when Jordan plays bar where he used to work – Lending Room at The Library.  Follow on Twitter

Emma Ballantine, from Salisbury, is a singer-songwriter with a warm, pure voice and a gift for writing haunting melodies. The single Harmonise came out earlier this year. Twitter

Another band on the Live At Leeds lineup are London based White Kite. Louis, Tom and Will formed the band less than a year ago and Swans is their debut single and could be one of the sounds of this summer. The band have even attracted the attention of Conor O’Brien of Villagers whose remix has a sharper edge to it. Pay your money and make your choice! Twitter

Splitting her time between Bristol and Paris, Kate Stables is the driving force behind This Is The Kit. Having attracted the attention of many 6 Music presenters, including Guy Garvey, a summer on the festival circuit beckons, with an appearance at Green Man in August high on my list of must sees. Magic Spell is from the EP Rusty And Got Dusty from last year. Twitter

Higher Self was last year’s debut single by Los Angeles based Karmic. Fronted by singers Laura Baruch and Kyle Tkatch alongside drummer Samuel Murphy and multi-instrumentalist Peter Kastner. Twitter 

Clock Opera’s second album Venn is out now. The intriguingly titled Whippoorwill is taken from it. The London based four piece band play Manchester’s Day & Night Cafe on Wednesday April 1st. Twitter

Bourbon soaked gypsy blues bop ‘n’ soul – that’s how the band describe their music on Facebook – what’s not to like. They describe themselves as a collective of shadowy, London based, ne’er do wells, led by Norwegian born songwriter/frontman Paul-Ronney Angel. Shattered Dreams is taken from last year’s album Hellbound Hymns. Twitter

The Milk
New music from The Milk

If you were lucky enough to see them on their recent support slot on tour with the Fun Lovin’ Criminals you will know just how good a live band The Milk are. The Essex four piece – Rick Nunn, Mitch Ayling, Luke Ayling and Dan LeGresley have a great on-stage presence and strong catalogue of songs. Deliver Me / Overtime We Fight is taken from the album Live At Union Chapel. Twitter

Gaika looks set to make a huge impact in 2017. In Between 2 is taken from the Brixton artist’s third album in two years – Spaghetti. (In Between was on the album Security.) Twitter

In musical contrast to Gaika, A New Nowhere are a four piece rock band from Newcastle. Their single, You And Me, was released last month and makes the new playlist. Twitter

Come On Over is the new single from M I S F I R E S. The Swindon four piece have just come off a successful tour supporting The Sherlocks. The band play Leeds Oporto on May 14th. Twitter

Lisbon are a three piece band from Whitley Bay.   The single Vice is insanely catchy and will worm its way into your brain for the rest of the day. The band play The Rocking Chair in Sheffield on April 14th. Twitter

There you go, twelve recommendations for the month and more to come soon.

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No posts for a while – I’ve been busy!

I started this blog almost two years in a fit of enthusiasm and creative spirit. Then, as with 99% of blogs, it kind of petered out and I got on with other stuff. It was a time of great change in my life and I was looking for the next big thing. Over a few months it dawned on me that, having quit my job with no clear idea what to do next (just not what I was doing before!) I had, in fact, retired. At the very least, I had retired from IT and could now do things that interested me rather than what paid the bills.

Each time I tried something new I was meant to blog about it but somehow I was easily distracted and off to the next thing. My involvement with Radio Barnsley has continued. I now do two shows a week – Soul Man on Monday at 3pm (repeated Wednesday at 9pm) and Over The Hump with Mick Malloy on Wednesday at 7pm. I have redeveloped the Radio Barnsley website – www.radiobarnsley.org and maintain it. I tried my hand at rugby league commentary after a workshop with BBC Radio Leeds. A truly terrifying experience! However, I felt the fear and did it anyway. I wrote a few columns for a rugby league website, started a novel (which I will finish!) and even tried camping at a festival.view-from-the-tent OK, so somebody else put the tent up but I dealt with the mud, toilets and rain and already have tickets to do it again next year. I have project managed the refurbishment and move into our apartment and, sometime soon, I will sort out the stuff t
hat has been in storage for the last ten years (at huge cost) and get on top of various pensions to work out my financial status! I have started, quit and started again my quest to learn to play the piano.

I have realised that the one thing that takes up most of my time is music – be it preparing for the radio shows, practising piano, digitising my vinyl collection or just plain listening. Thanks to social media and the radio shows I am now exposed to more new music than ever before. As with most people in radio, it is the love of music and the satisfaction gleaned from sharing it that gives me real pleasure. To that end, i will include in this blog a monthly selection of music I believe deserves a bigger audience. This could be new, young bands just starting out or artists who have been around a while without selling millions. I realise that other people provide this kind of output. However, form a vantage point of age (!) I may be able to add a different perspective. The music is available as a playlist on Spotify and, at some point, I may translate it into a new radio show. Hope you enjoy the first selection.

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Can I divorce Leeds United Football Club?

I am starting to believe that the madness attached to Leeds United is somehow linked to my holidays.It seems when we slap on the factor ten another manager is sacked. We were in Spain when David O’Leary was fired.Wales – Kevin Blackwell. Tenerife – Simon Grayson. Lake District – Dave Hockaday and this week Cyprus. You get the picture. Beware Steve Evans – planning Florida in February! Mind you, there have been so many it probably also coincides with me having eggs for breakfast or wearing my lucky grey tee shirt.

By far the best gag of the week went to Paddy Power for revealing that research suggests that, by the end of 2017, nobody would be more than 6 feet from a former Leeds manager.

I have never trusted people who suddenly switch clubs. If, in the extremely unlikely event (OK – let’s face it – it will never happen), Ronaldo were to switch back to Old Trafford, the hundreds of white Real shirts seen routinely in the UK would suddenly turn red. For me, for whatever reason you choose a club, once done, that is it. No changing. Ever.

However, recently things have got so bad I am now wondering if divorce proceedings should be introduced, even on a trial basis. I am not talking easy, modern divorce but something more out of the Sixties where proof of wrong doing is a major requirement. This week may have been the final straw. The fact that the owner can sack yet another manager just a few months after deciding he was the best man for the job is laughable. For him to sack a manager and not be sure if he is allowed to do it is worse – and he has done it twice. Having had to reinstate Brian McDermott for having sacked him before he owned the club, there is now a question mark against whether or not he is allowed to be in a position to sack Uwe Rossler having been suspended again by the Football League for being a bit dodgy.

So, what are the grounds for the case against Leeds United Football Club?

Unreasonable behaviour

Certainly, any club that builds a massive stand and installs seats so close together that anybody over five feet tall is knee-capped for 90 minutes has to be unreasonable. Visiting Manchester City’s ground for the Magic Weekend for a couple of seasons made me appreciate just how comfortable a modern ground can be.

You may think that 20 years of stunning mediocrity, punctuated by periods of sheer Keystone style ineptitude would be unreasonable but I don’t think so. Part of supporting a club is the up and down nature. The years of second division tedium in the eighties meant that the Tuesday night return to Division 1 against Man Utd in 1990 was all the sweeter.

Adultery

Although the club has been rogered senseless by successive owners over the years, maybe I am not entirely blameless in that respect. My real passion these days is rugby league and season ticket loyalty has long since passed to Bradford Bulls (now that is a lesson in ups and downs in sport!).

Drunkenness

Believe it or not, this used to be a valid cause for divorce and the club certainly hasn’t helped in this regard over the years. Anybody would turn to drink with this lot in charge.

Insanity 

This could be the clincher. Any club that still gets almost 30,000 people turning up week in – week out to watch minimally talented, passionless, over paid Bentley drivers has to have some thread of insanity running through it.

Dessertion

I certainly qualify on this measure. I have just realised that it has been more than 15 years since I set foot in Elland Road for a Leeds game (having gone under protest for rugby league test).  Maybe this would be the easy way. After so long, maybe nobody would notice of I turned up at a new club? The nightmarish scenario would be to take my place at another ground only for the crowd to rise as one and chant “Leeds fan, Leeds fan, out – out -out” (or worse!).

 

No, it would have to be done officially and above board. Maybe FIFA or UEFA would see it as a nice little earner, charging an “administration” or “consultancy” fee to smooth the way. They must be short of a bob or two as they haven’t fined Jose Mourinho yet this week. Having said that, the suggestion that they may fine Man City for their fans’ booing the Champions League anthem is beyond belief. The words corrupt, tinpot and dictatorship all spring to mind.

Where next

So, assuming I was granted my divorce – where next. Geographically, I live almost exactly equidistant between Bradford City and Guiseley. My first taste of professional football was seeing Bradford City play Plymouth Argyle in around 1970. They have always been the second result I have looked for (OK third having looked hopefully to see if Man Utd lost). Maybe they should stay second choice. There is something appealing about a small cub like Guiseley. Then again, the divorce hasn’t become law yet, new manager, maybe new owner to come and Bolton away to his afternoon…

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Community Radio – get involved

In May I posted a blog on my exploits with South Leeds Media and the radio production course I had just completed. Within days of writing the pieceI got an email to say the studios would be closed for the week. Two similar emails followed by silence confirmed that funding had run out and the operation had folded. Talk about kiss of death. When I started out I had a vague notion that being involved as a producer would be the way to go. However, as a presenter, I was starting to improve and I had definitely got the bug.

Community Radio - Radio Barnsley
Community Radio – Radio Barnsley

By coincidence, I saw a post on Twitter about Radio Barnsley, an online, community radio station based in (you guessed it) Barnsley! The station is run by an enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable group of volunteers. I emailed the studio and was invited in for a chat. All went well and, as I had just completed a course with South Leeds, we decided I don’t need the full training that was on offer. After a couple of sessions to familiarise myself with equipment and software I was offered a show. At was at this point that I took my first gulp of air! Shows at South Leeds were pre-recorded and could be edited and redone. This would be live!! I was assured all would be OK and went off to compile my first playlist for the afternoon show.

This bit is my idea of heaven – trawling through my music collection and picking out which songs to play. The best bit is – I get to call it (unpaid) work! I quickly realised there was much more to planning a show than picking out your favourite songs.

Community Radio - Radio Barnsley
Community Radio – Radio Barnsley

An unexpected bonus in all this is that, as a member of a community station, I get affiliate membership with the Radio Academy. The Academy organises conferences, networking and social events. My first meeting was An Evening With Johnny Beerling at The Tetley in Leeds. It was all a bit daunting, not knowing anybody at first, but a stiff drink helped and I relaxed into it. The presentation was fascinating. Johnny Beerling was in at the start of Radio 1, working as a producer and then controller, racking up over 25 years of stories involving the pioneers and early stars of pop music radio in this country. One thing stuck in my head from that night. Johnny stressed that, for him, it was all about the music – not the presenter. That was music to my ears! I may not be the world’s best presenter but I do have a passion for music and love sharing that music – hence the radio shows.

If all of this rings any bells with you, as a passionate advocate of music or somebody with something to say on just about any topic under the sun, maybe community radio is for you. Getting involved couldn’t be simpler. Get in touch with Radio Barnsley. You will receive a friendly welcome. The training course assumes no prior knowledge and takes place in the evening. That may be enough for you or you may want to host on a show. You will be allowed to go at your own pace, guesting on another show if that is your preference. A small membership fee keeps the bank account happy and the station on the air.

Give it ago – I suspect you will enjoy it.

I am now doing two shows each week:
Monday 12-2pm Soul Man – a mix of classic and modern soul;
Wednesday 12-3pm The Afternoon Show – I play anything I fancy!

Both shows available on Mixcloud to listen at leisure.

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My genius plan for the economy

My genius plan for the economy

The British economy is a complex thing!

At the end of April I blogged about my new project – refurbishing our apartment in Apperley Bridge ready for us to move in. Being project manager and customer has taught me many things about running projects (largely – don’t try being PM and customer at the same time). With this insight, I feel uniquely positioned to comment on a couple of recent news stories.

If news reports are to be believed, both the Palace of Westminster and Buckingham Palace are in desperate need of repairs. I say believed because my in depth research (a quick trawl of Google) reveals that the cost for the former could be £3bn (BBC and Telegraph), £6bn (Mirror), £7bn (ITV) or £7.1 bn (Telegraph again!). The Daily Mail quoted £3bn – they may have off-shored the work.

Palace of Westminster needs some attention
Palace of Westminster needs some attention

With the contacts made on this project (carpets supplied and fitted by Connaught Carpets), I reckon we could land the Westminster job for a lot less than £7bn but it could take a while as the painter has got several jobs booked already. Buckingham Palace is difficult to quote for as I am not sure what damage the dogs will have done.

In the build up to today’s budget there was a lot of talk about spreading any economic growth so that the north will benefit. Obviously, when government ministers talk about the north they mean the band between Islington and Watford. Being a Yorkshireman, I can see further than that. So, how about this for an alternative. Let’s move the whole lot – government and monarchy, to Yorkshire.

The benefits

The economic benefits alone should clinch the deal. Instead of spending £7bn repairing the Palace of Westminster, we could sell the whole lot to Disney. Given the cost of property round there, river views, access to trains etc.the site must be worth a bob or two. I would guess at £10bn flooding into the nation’s coffers. They could then pick up the tab for any repairs and we could insist on using local firms for the job. At that point we are at least £17bn in profit with all that income for the builders waiting to be taxed. But it doesn’t end there because, by moving all of the MPs to Yorkshire, the country would only be paying a fraction of the current levels of expenses to allow the rental of second homes. In fact, they could be integrated into large council estates. I dare say living in Gipton or Harehills would keep the Tories on their toes. The Lib Dems could rent a couple of terrace houses and all live together like The Beatles in Help!

Genius

Now, here’s the best bit. Where would the Houses of Parliament be? Obvious – The City Varieties in Leeds. It has a history of stand up comedy and dressing up in costumes.

City Varieties
City Varieties

The speaker could work in the style of the late Leonard Sachs, in fact, he already does. (Kids – ask your mum.) Now, the capacity is a bit low – less than 500 seats. However, the only time when they all turn up is the first day of term and the new boys can always stand on the stage. We could then tell them that it is tradition for the newcomers to sing a song and get the first round in at Whitelocks – genius. Within a couple of days we would be down to a dozen or so turning up for debates and these could be adjourned to the White Swan next door.

The PM’s audience with the Queen would be easy enough as we have a nice apartment for rent which would suit a semi retired couple nicely. It is all on one level so no need for a stair lift and, from the 18th floor you can look down on your kingdom easily enough (handy for the train and Harvey Nichs

too). The dogs could be a problem but I’m sure we could increase the bond and work something out.

An ideal vantage point to survey one's kingdom
An ideal vantage point to survey one’s kingdom

 

Downside

The only down side to the plan would be 650 MPs cluttering up the bars and restaurants of Leeds. Come to think of it – probably best to forget it and me and the boys will start the refurbishment a week on Monday (with a delay before we can start the painting of course).

 

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Why we should be wary of music streaming

Why we should be wary of music streaming services

Is it possible to have too much choice when it comes to music? Our old apartment had a room that was pretty much dedicated to wall to wall CDs. I remember standing, staring at the wall thinking something on the lines of “what the hell do I want to play?” My solution to this was something that Ruth always loved about me. OK, she thought it was mental but was prepared to put up with it. As the CDs were organised on shelves in alphabetical order (what do you mean weird – how else would you do it?), I started with he top shelf (let’s call it shelf one) and picked a CD. There were around 80 CDs on each shelf so there was always a choice depending on mood etc. but not too much so that you felt overwhelmed. The next choice came from shelf two and so it went. Result – contentment.

Since moving to a smaller, city centre apartment, the music is accessed from my Mac rather than physical CD or vinyl. However, I kept a virtual version of the CD racks, with content organised in shelves (OK, starting to sound peculiar now I am writing it down but it works). As a result, we (even though Ruth ignores the system when I am not around) listen to a decent mix of new music and stuff that could potentially have been forgotten.

Apple Music

I am not sure whether to be delighted or horrified at the thought of Apple Music, due to launch at the end of this month. The very glossy ads that are already building the hype, suggest that, for a £10 a month family subscription, I can access all the music in the world ever – brilliant! But, hang on minute. I suspect I have a reasonably big music collection (around 45,000 tracks and growing) and, without my fiendishly clever system, I would be totally overwhelmed and unable to choose. I am all for a challenge but putting 30 million tracks onto shelves (even virtual ones) is a bit much. However, all is not lost. The clever people at Apple have thought of this and will offer to select music for me. Err, isn’t that called a radio station? There seems to be plenty of those about for free, especially since the launch of Mixcloud, which I recommend highly (especially my shows!). But Apple have Beats 1 (erm, radio station again). They have Zane Lowe based in LA, somebody else in New York and another in London – OK, a radio station with three people choosing music from a catalogue of 30m songs.

Now, I am assuming I have missed the point here and everything will be wonderful. However, a word of caution. Your £10 per month will get you access to all of the music in the world ever. But, as we have seen already, there is nothing to stop individual artists pulling their music from the service. Taylor Swift has recently done exactly that by withdrawing from Spotify. With many other huge companies in the market (Deezer, Napster, Google, Amazon and Tidal to name a few) the market will be very competitive. What is to stop one of those companies signing the next big thing to an exclusive deal? Let’s say you like five bands. It is quite feasible that those five bands could sign to competing streaming companies. At that point, instead of £10 per month to access all of the music in the world ever, you are paying £50 per month.

It happened with TV sport

Couldn’t happen? It did in the world of televised sport. Twenty years ago I accepted into my heart that if I wanted to watch live sport on TV I had to subscribe to SkySports. A few years later, some bright spark politician decided that the market needed competition . As a result, if I want to watch all of the Premier league games I have to subscribe to Sky (which didn’t get cheaper) and BT. I also got rugby league coverage thrown in but now I get to pay for Premier Sports as well. It is great to have the choice – just bloody expensive.

Music streaming - Should we be wary?
Music streaming – Should we be wary?

I may sound like I am moaning. Probably because I am. I just feel that it is too easy to get manipulated by big business. After all, in the eighties they told me vinyl was dead, CDs were the perfect reproduction of the live music sound and the definition of modern living. Now CDs are dead and vinyl is making a comeback at around £25 for an album.

Maybe Apple could concentrate on working out why my devices keep dropping off the network rather than setting up radio stations.*

Footnote

*Several hours later I appear to have fixed the network problem. Apple may be innocent on this – looks like it was BT’s fault.

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Radio virgin at 54

Radio virgin

There is an old saying that if a job is worth doing it is worth buggering about a lot before you start (or something like that). At the tender age of 23, I got my backside in gear and got involved with hospital radio. I phoned in match reports from Elland Road, a tricky task at that time, trying to make the games sound interesting. It was also long before the advent of mobile phones (at least for me) so I had to use a pay phone in the back of the bar which meant constant interruptions. Anyway, my real job got in the way of my budding radio career before I even graduated to having my own show. I said I would go back to it once I had more time. Just thirty one years later I am back!

I left the world of corporate IT just before Christmas and said at the time it was a chance to do things I wanted to do rather than things I had to. Something in radio was secretly part of that list. But, if opportunities for a 23 year old in 1984 were limited, surely a 54 year old today has no chance? At least that is what I thought. However, while on holiday in Florida over Christmas I did a bit of a web trawl and the South Leeds Media site caught my eye. Formerly known as South Leeds Community Radio, these nice people offer radio production courses amongst other things. I fired off an email and, just two months later, got a reply. I told you there was no point rushing these things. Anyway, it turned out there was a course about to start and would I like a place? Yes please was the obvious reply and I was in.

The course

So, on a cold Tuesday night, six of us sat rather nervously in the studio in Beeston and wondered what we had let ourselves in for. (As did Phil – the technical brains of the outfit who was our tutor.)The course consisted of four sessions, each a couple of hours long. Week one was introducing us to the techie equipment – very different to 1984. We soon got to play with the mixing desk, studio and guest microphones, pc media players, CD players and headphones. We also got to look at the stuff we weren’t allowed to touch – compressors and clever stuff like that. These came under the heading of “if you don’t understand what these do – leave them alone” – wise advice in any working environment.

Radio virgin - South Leeds Community Radio studio
South Leeds Community Radio studio

Week two was devoted to the software to be used – RadioDJ to play the music and Adobe Audition to record and edit the shows. In true IT style, I scurried away to download the software at home and play with it there. Nothing scary, except that it is PC based and we have recently switched to Apple. Once I was comfortable with both packages, I realised that GarageBand would do a good job and the old laptop was mothballed once again – narrowly averting Ruth’s nightmare of a Houston style control centre consisting of multiple desktops and laptops.

By the third week we had lost a couple of the original group but gained others. The topic for the week was interviewing techniques. Portable recorders were explained and dished out and role playing chaos ensued. Remembering to speak into the pointy end before aiming the microphone at the interviewee is not as easy as it looks. Not swearing is quite a challenge as well. Making an idiot of yourself is fine – there is an edit facility. If only life were like that.

Radio virgin - Radio production course week 4
Radio virgin – Radio production course week 4

By week four, we were putting together a programme, all of us taking turns to present, interview, be interviewed etc. Hopefully, this will never see the light of day but good fun nevertheless. We were then invited back to speak to the station managers and pitch ideas for programmes. I went with a music show based on the classic era of soul music – early sixties to mid seventies, plus a bit of disco and modern soul as I see fit. They were happy with it and I have now recorded two shows with a third to come this week. I am still waiting to hear when they will be scheduled, maybe it is their way to wait until I have practised a bit before unleashing me! It is certainly a strange experience to sit in a room and talk to yourself. Strangely enough i did this quite a lot towards the end of my time with a certain bank so should have been good preparation!

I suppose it is a bit like passing a driving test. only by being allowed out unsupervised do you learn how to drive. My two attempts so far have certainly taught me things to avoid doing but, after thirty one years waiting, I don’t care if things are a bit rough around the edges. i am enjoying it immensely and, one way or another, I will get better!

The show

As a preview, I have uploaded show one to Mixcloud. Remember – it is not as easy as it looks!! Feedback and requests welcome.

Soul Man 1 by Roy Burgess on Mixcloud

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It’s science innit

Science has always been a bit of a mystery.

My Christmas present from Ruth’s parents (Tom and Dot) came with strings attached. Well, not real strings like a puppet but conditions. I was required to understand how it worked and write up an explanation. I suspect this was in response to my stupid questions over the years. As a physicist I suspected Dot could explain the mysteries of the universe for me. I started the Ask Dot routine many years ago with “Why doesn’t the electricity fall out of the holes when you take a plug out” (frankly, I am not sure about her response and this still worries me). She quickly accepted that her eldest daughter had married an idiot and has since tackled many such questions.

Anyway, back to the gift. It is called an Impossible Balancer and was featured in the BBC programme QI in January last year. If you are going to click on the link and watch the clip I will be very offended if you don’t come back. I can wait.

Science - The Impossible Balancer at rest
Science – The Impossible Balancer at rest

It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that it is almost five months since Christmas and I haven’t responded yet. In my defence, we were away for the holiday so didn’t get the present until January but I accept that my homework is long overdue. I delayed until I could devote enough time to this to understand the science involved. I know it will come as a shock but I am not a proper scientist, unless mixing cocktails counts. When I was eight I had a book called something like 100 Amazing Facts. I figured this was enough to see me through and further study was probably over doing it.

I don’t even have an ology

My only proper excuse for my lack of knowledge is the school timetable from forty years ago. Both Physics and Chemistry were scheduled straight after PE. The science labs were on the third floor of the building. By the time I had slogged round a cross country course or flopped over like a beached Olga Korbett for an hour I was good for nothing, never mind hauling a huge holdall (so called because it had to hold all the contents of WH Smiths as well as smelly trainers) up to the top floor and actively participate in a class. As a result, unless it involved actually setting fire to stuff, my interest tended to wander. I scraped a C at Physics O level (probably the equivalent to a degree these days) but Chemistry was unceremoniously dropped as soon as I got the chance.

During the intervening forty years I have often thought that I should plug the gaps in my knowledge. However, a bit like cleaning the oven, I acknowledge that other people do it, it would improve my quality of life but somehow never comes to the top of my list of fun things to do next.

So, given the obvious lack of scientific background to work it out for myself, the obvious thing is RTFM. My IT background and gender obviously prevents me from reading instruction manuals of any kind. However, this one is just one, quite small piece of paper. How hard could it be? The answer would appear to be quite a bit. The next step, as with any problem was Google. I was quickly immersed in research papers from various universities. To give you an idea what I was up against, here is an extract from Motion of the Tippe Top Gyroscopic Balance Condition and Stability
Takahiro UEDA∗, Ken SASAKI† and Shinsuke WATANABE.
Figure 1:
A loaded sphere (eccentric) version of the tippe top. The center of mass
O is off center (S) by distance a. The tippe top spins on a horizontal table with
point of contact P. Its axis of symmetry, Oz, and the vertical axis, OZ, define a
plane Π, which precesses about OZ with angular velocity Ω(t) = (0, 0, Ω). OXYZ is
a rotating frame of reference with OX horizontal in the plane Π. The height of O
above the table is h(θ) = R−acosθ, where R is the radius. The position vector of
P from O is XP = (XP,0,ZP), where XP = dh and ZP = −h(θ).

This is a 51 page document and, to be honest, I’m not sure they understand it either. So, on the grounds that I won’t get away with putting it down to magic (I’ve tried that in the past and it doesn’t work, especially in A level Economics exams), here is my idiot’s guide.

The scientific bit!

As the explanation in the box says, the most important feature is that the centre of mass does not sit in the geometric centre of the top. In other words, when you spin the top it gets a bit of a wobble on (just like me!).

Science - The Impossible Balancer starts to wobble
Science – The Impossible Balancer starts to wobble

Rather than spinning on a single spot, the top will slide in a circle, usually falling off the kitchen worktop. However, with practice, this can be controlled. The point where the top spins creates friction with the surface, creating a twisting force that we scientists call torque (as opposed to speaking which we call talk). Now the clever bit. Because the centre isn’t the centre (see above and try to keep up), the side of the top will be pulled down and it will spin on its side. The pointy bit is no longer rotating about its axis but spinning sideways.

Science - The Impossible Balancer spinning sideways
Science – The Impossible Balancer spinning sideways

As the pointy bit slows down (friction) it will touch the work surface, exerting more friction which in turn increases the torque. This is enough to lift the top and flip it onto the pointy bit. Inertia means that the top still wants to spin but, as it is now upside down (on the pointy bit) it will spin in the opposite direction.

Science - The Impossible Balancer on the pointy bit and spinning the other way - hoopla
Science – The Impossible Balancer on the pointy bit and spinning the other way – hoopla

I could have spun this out to 51 pages but I am not a proper scientist.

I am visiting Tom and Dot tomorrow so need a good question to ask. I think a glass of wine will be needed to come up with a good one. After all, it’s science innit.

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The new project is a go

I have been quiet on the blogging front recently, largely due to a new project. A wise man once said that you shouldn’t make life changing decisions at times of stress. The bloody minded Northerner in both of us has meant that we have ignored the advice recently. Having decided to leave the wacky world of corporate IT just before Christmas we are now about to move house.

We originally came to live in the city centre to avoid the hour (at least) commute. We could both walk to work (healthier) and we only needed one car (financially healthier). However, within three months of moving Ruth’s job moved to Manchester. We should have seen it coming as she ran the project to move it!

The global downturn (or a useless estate agent) meant that we never sold the apartment in Apperley Bridge. When showing perspective new tenants around we both realised that we actually missed living there. With no offer on the table we thought that with a lick of paint we could happily move back in and rent out our city pad. However, in true project style, that lick of paint turned into a major project. Comments such as: “It always annoyed me that the grill was at waist level”; or “that shower cubicle is too small, they shouldn’t have squeezed it into that corner” ; and “that laminate floor is all scratched” – took us to the point we are at now. We are tackling a full scale refurbishment with new kitchen, bathroom, flooring, colour scheme, furniture and outdoor seating area. I seem to have convinced the finance committee that we don’t want all of those unsightly cables either so wireless speakers are the way to go.

We picked a budget by licking a finger and holding it in the air. This is known in IT as a SWAG – Scientific Wild Arsed Guess. This is arrived at without knowing what the customer wants, when they want it or how the hell you are going to achieve it. The downside is that there is always a row when the more refined estimate is exactly double the SWAG. This is basically what happened but, being the customer as well as PM we avoided the row. The finance committee did however issue a cost challenge. This will send a shudder down the spines of my former colleagues. The format is the same the world over. The people who are too busy in the first place spend several days justifying the increase in the budget. Then there is a row, the requirements change and the cost goes up again. Guess what? No row but the requirements changed and we added 20% to the budget (the granite work surfaces in the kitchen are essential).

 

New project - no turning back
New project – no turning back

Several weeks of planning and choosing designs led us to the point where the floors were stripped and the decorator was making a start on the top floor where there were no structural changes. In true project management style, I then buggered off on holiday for a week and left him to it.

Then the phone calls started. Can we deliver the bathroom this week? Erm -No I’m in Tenerife. The day after – The fitters will start on Monday as agreed. Erm – No, Tuesday as agreed. We can deliver on Tuesday – Fine, that’s when the fitters are there. You can see a pattern here. Anyway, we settled in and had a lovely week in Tenerife (despite a flurry of emails about kitchen appliances and door handles).

The fitters arrived bright and early Tuesday morning and started knocking down walls, ripping out showers etc.

New project - one wall gone
New project – one wall gone

I found it all a bit disturbing and set off on a mission to find the new spotlights to be fitted in the hall which the electrician is fitting as I type this. The major crisis now concerns the tiles. The idea was to rescue tiles from the walls that were being demolished and use them on walls that were being built. I had been warned that this was a risk and, true to form, they are proving difficult to separate from the plaster board. Unlike the plaster board that separated from the walls quite easily – more plastering to do! So, tomorrow is a mad search to find tiles that either perfectly match the existing one (million to one as nearly ten years old) or get some that contrast so that we make a feature of them (scary). I am trying to focus on the vision of what it will be like to move in at the end of June but this retirement lark is not quite as easy as it looks!

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Social media – friend or foe?

Social media – friend or foe?

Are social media sites a valuable part of modern life or do they simply expand to take up the time available. With Meerkat and Periscope entering an already crowded market, will they succeed or do we simply not have enough hours in a day to keep up to date with them all? For what it is worth I offer my views on a few of them.

Facebook

The chances are that you are reading this you followed a link from Facebook or Twitter.

In February, Facebook celebrated its 10th birthday. In those 10 years, the ubiquitous site has gathered 1230m users. That’s roughly 20 times the population of the UK. Whilst some people doggedly refuse to get on board, that number is a big one and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg can be quietly pleased that he has succeeded. Actually, with a personal wealth estimated at around 20 billion dollars it must be quite difficult not to wet himself laughing all the time. The rest of us constantly check our timeline for that little red circle in case we miss the fact that it is raining somewhere.

I appear to be below average in that I have 134 friends on Facebook, ranging from close friends of many years standing to people I met briefly and now seem to have melted away. Apparently around half of Facebook users have more than 200 friends whilst 18-24 year olds have more than 500. What does this say about the quality of such friendships? Is there a competitive element among some groups? I have 500 friends therefore I am more popular than you?

Aristotle, who hasn’t bothered with Facebook, reckoned that people qualify as friends if you have shared food with them. That would cut the list down a fair bit! There is a theory that we can cope with around 5 really close friends. This number allows us to spend time and invest in these friendships. We will then have a series of expanding groups that we spend less time with. In total, our group of friends will be no greater than 100. Beyond that, we simply can’t invest the time to keep those friendships relevant. (For a full article on the subject see the BBC News magazine – read more)

So what is going on with Facebook? Is it a force for good in that it allows us to keep friendships going by hitting a Like button every now and again and sending birthday messages without the pain of buying a card and posting it. Alternatively, is it a time thief that gives the impression of being socially included even if you are sitting alone in a bedsit and eating cat food? Having avoided joining for several years I now admit to being in favour. It may be superficial but I like that feeling of being in touch with a large group of people, even if some of them are over enthusiastic when hitting Like on certain sites!

Twitter

Social media - screen shot
Twitter screen shot

After a bit of a false start  a couple of years ago, I confess to becoming a regular Twitter user (@royburgess40). I can see how, in the right hands, it can become a very powerful tool for business and social use. You want to know when your favourite band are doing a warm up gig at a small venue? Follow them on Twitter to find out. Fancy a night at a trendy pop-up restaurant – Twitter again. I think the key is to be choosy in who or what you follow. Too many means you will be swamped and unable to keep up with the tidal wave of tweets that come your way. (Too few and nothing happens!) I have to admit I don’t understand the drive to attract followers at all costs. If a follower is not actively engaged there is no point. Having said that, some of the “grab followers” sites can be quite entertaining. My bio on Twitter lists me as ex IT manager, currently getting away with reviewing my options. Blogger, photographer, rugby league and music fan, fine wine taster and part time super model. As a result,   I have been added to one company list as a preferred photographer and model. No work yet but I think it justifies ticking model on any form asking for my occupation.

Instagram

Don’t get it. I registered and have followers but haven’t posted anything. Maybe I am missing something but isn’t it just Twitter without text?

Periscope

The new kid on the block but a classic case of not being able to figure out why. It allows online streaming of anything (no nudity!). I suppose it is a case of build the technology and they will come. One to watch maybe. The current fad seems to be showing what is in your fridge!! Better than some TV channels but will give it a miss at the moment.

This is my jam

This one intrigues me. The premise is simple. Pick your favourite song at  the moment and post it – this is your jam. It stays your jam for a maximum of seven days then it is time to pick another. The system recommends other jams based on your choices. You can follow others, swapping comments etc. I have found it an interesting way to discover new music and an easy way to lose half an hour! http://www.thisismyjam.com Find me on there as royb40 (see what I did there?)

365 Project

Wine With Lunch
Wine

Another site with a simple idea that becomes all consuming. Upload a picture each day for a year (hence 365). I saw this as a great way to ensure my shiny new camera didn’t just sit on the shelf.  I signed up last summer and I’m now 67% of the way through my first year. It is quite a challenge to come up with something each day. Mine range from photos I am quite proud of that were composed and processed to within an inch of their lives to drunken snaps with my phone. At the end of the year you have a visual diary online. Again, there is a very supportive community that offer comments and likes, you can build up followers and follow others. You get the picture (literally). This does get addictive. There are some individuals into a third or fourth year. Have a look at http://365project.org/royb40/profile

500 Px

2014 in pictures
Hay making in the Lake District

This is another photographic site. I limit this to shots I am quite pleased with. Again, photos are liked, followed follow etc. Interest in each picture is expressed as a score. There is a real buzz about a shot securing a lot of activity and seeing the score climb towards the ultimate 99.9 (I assume). Beware, there are some extremely good photographers on this site. I try to take them as inspiration rather than getting depressed at how feeble some of my attempt look!  In theory you can sell your work on the site but, so far, the magazines haven’t come calling.

https://500px.com/RoyBurgess

flashfictiononline.com 

This is one I have been meaning to sign up to but not got around to it. It is a community for giving and receiving feedback on written fiction (as the name suggests). I would love to hear if anybody out there has tried this – do you recommend it?

The is just a small selection of the increasing number of sites. Is there something that you have found that I should know about? Should I just get out more? Social Media is like most things – good for you in moderation.

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