Saturday, 31 March 2012

Thick Creamy Podcast 30-03-2012

I was at the Librarians Wanted / Big Pink Cake show last night at the Betsy Trotwood and saw Horowitz, The Fireworks and The Blanche Hudson Weekend.

I hardly spoke to anyone. I was in one of those weird introspective moods I get, its either crippling shyness or just plain rude. Sometimes its hard to tell.

It guess its a self-perpetuating thing really, but its been a character trait pretty consistently since I was a young boy.

For my seventh birthday party, I hid in my bedroom feining stomach ache rather than play with my friends who had all come round bearing gifts.

And yes, such behaviour has cost me dearly over the years, but I've still turned out okay. And sure if I try really hard I can wear a mask of gregariousness and party hard, and sometimes I even feel comfortable doing that, but given the choice, I often just lurk at the back of the room, trying to avoid eye contact, with a slightly pained look on my face.

I had this awesome idea, I need to record an album, a definitive album, like Bill Drummond's The Man, but me. I'd hire some half decent session musicians, call in favours, pull strings and get it released, and it would be okay.

I've even written a few songs, carefully scultped and crafted, lowest common denominator sort of things, carefully measured and calculated fuzz and distortion. Sleaze, schmindie, rock and jazz finely blended.

There was this song which starts out in Plato's cave, then moves to a hillside and finally a mountaintop, standing with fist in the air. I'd get the guy Horowitz to sing the chorus "Why, why, why, oh god, why!"

Here's the podcast that I've made of the gig

Feel free to download it, share it, tweet it and all the rest.
Aw man, I think I got the name of the Horowitz song wrong and completely missed the definitive article from Fireworks. Ah well, win some, lose some.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Fun with the Income tax threshold

Someone changed the office radio from Smooth FM to LBC today, and within second the office was seething with opinions about who's fault everything was:- parents, the police, ethnic concentrations in deprived areas, politicians.

Someone made a remark about how the Tories hate poor people, I'd just read Mark Pack's blogpost about how many Labour MPs voted against lowering the 50% tax rate, which had me thinking about how the Tories have massively helped poor people with last week's budget raising the income tax allowance, taking 2 million people out of income tax.

And that got me thinking about the income tax threshold generally, I believe in raising it to above the minimum wage is a great idea, taking all of the low paid out of tax, out of the employer's HR department even having to bother with the paperwork of taxing them, letting the low paid keep more of their hard earned money.

This blog says:-
We think raising the Income Tax allowance is the purest form of helping the poor.

So I took a look on the office of national statistics website for historical income tax thresholds, and then adjusted them for inflation and figured out which color of government were in power
Should it be adjusted for inflation, or adjusted by average earnings? Or some kind of mysterious cost of living index that takes into account the cost of living, other taxes, houses and so on? I dunno, I've adjusted for inflation cos it was easy to do with online tools.

The general idea is that if the government keeps the threshold level the same from one year to the next, because of inflation, it essentially means the threshold is lowered. Raising by the rate of inflation gives the patches of horizontal lines in my graph. The declining dots are when the government has kept the threshold at the previous years level and inflation has taken a bite.

This is my raw data:-

Year Threshold Inflation adjusted Government
1953 £110  £2,491.00  Con 
1954 £110  £2,416.00  Con 
1955 £110  £2,373.00  Con 
1956 £120  £2,478.00  Con 
1957 £120  £2,362.00  Con 
1958 £140  £2,658.00  Con 
1959 £140  £2,581.00  Con 
1960 £140  £2,566.00  Con 
1961 £140  £2,541.00  Con 
1962 £140  £2,457.00  Con 
1963 £140  £2,356.00  Con 
1964 £140  £2,310.00  Lab 
1965 £200  £3,194.00  Lab 
1966 £220  £3,048.00  Lab 
1967 £220  £2,934.00  Lab 
1968 £220  £2,862.00  Lab 
1969 £255  £3,485.00  Lab 
1970 £325  £4,215.00  Con 
1971 £325  £3,961.00  Con 
1972 £460  £5,124.00  Con 
1973 £595  £6,188.00  Con 
1974 £625  £5,950.00  Lab 
1975 £675  £5,541.00  Lab 
1976 £735  £4,858.00  Lab 
1977 £945  £5,358.00  Lab 
1978 £985  £4,826.00  Lab 
1979 £1,165  £5,265.00  Con 
1980 £1,375  £5,486.00  Con 
1981 £1,375  £4,647.00  Con 
1982 £1,565  £4,726.00  Con 
1983 £1,785  £4,962.00  Con 
1984 £2,005  £5,333.00  Con 
1985 £2,205  £5,578.00  Con 
1986 £2,335  £5,557.00  Con 
1987 £2,425  £5,577.00  Con 
1988 £2,605  £5,757.00  Con 
1989 £2,785  £5,876.00  Con 
1990 £3,005  £5,889.00  Con 
1991 £3,295  £5,898.00  Con 
1992 £3,445  £5,822.00  Con 
1993 £3,445  £5,615.00  Con 
1994 £3,445  £5,512.00  Con 
1995 £3,525  £5,499.00  Con 
1996 £3,765  £5,685.00  Con 
1997 £4,045  £5,946.00  Lab 
1998 £4,195  £5,998.00  Lab 
1999 £4,335  £5,982.00  Lab 
2000 £4,385  £5,963.00  Lab 
2001 £4,535  £5,986.00  Lab 
2002 £4,615  £5,999.00  Lab 
2003 £4,615  £5,907.00  Lab 
2004 £4,745  £5,883.00  Lab 
2005 £4,895  £5,874.00  Lab 
2006 £5,035  £5,890.00  Lab 
2007 £5,225  £5,904.00  Lab 
2008 £6,035  £6,517.00  Lab 
2009 £6,475  £6,734.00  Lab 
2010 £6,475  £6,798.00  ConLib 
2011 £7,475  £7,848.00  ConLib 
2012 £8,105  £8,105.00  ConLib 
2013 £9,205  £8,560.00  ConLib 

From looking at the graph and the numbers, it seems like the main step changes in the threshold level (from £2,400 to £5,900 and then to £8,000 in today's money) have occurred during Conservative governments. In fact, going by the past fifty years, where Conservatives and Labout have each had approximately 25 years in power, we can get these average increases in the threshold.

 Conservative and Libdems  Labour
Average  £207.23  £34.00
Median  £149.50 -£12.50
Sum  £5,388.00  £816.00

As a disclaimer, I'm not a Conservative voter myself, I just really like the idea of raising the income tax threshold to stop the government taking people's hard earned cash, and that seems to happen most during Conservative administrations.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Lowering wages of fuel tanker drivers

I understand from the BBC that fuel tanker drivers have voted to go on strike in a row over pay and conditions. As a contingency to prevent disription, the army are being trained up to carry out fuel deliveries.

Elsewhere, according to Wikipedia, the British army is set to downsize itself by about 15,000 folk by 2015.

Back to fuel tanker drivers striking:-
One of the companies involved, Hoyer, said its safety standards were very high.
A Hoyer spokesman said: "Hoyer has one of the highest health, safety and training standards in the petroleum distribution sector."
The firm said that pay and conditions for Hoyer drivers were among "the best in the industry", adding that the company's drivers earned on average £45,000 a year.

On the armed forces website, according to the payscales page, it takes someone of Warrant officer or Captain rank to earn £45,000. Privates earn between £14,000 to £25,000.

So as a result of the fuel drivers striking, the army providing contingency and downsizing, there's going to be a lot of freshly trained and experienced previously low paid potential fuel tanker driver.

Is this whole thing just a little going away present for the squadies?

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Thick Creamy Podcast 22-03-2012

According to my FourSquare checking last Thursday was my first visit to The Buffalo Bar in over a year, crikey, how times have changed. There was once a time when Songkick reckoned that I was The Buffalo Bar's most frequent visitor, but now they've taken away that sort of functionality from the site.

Anyhoo, I toddled along for a How Does It Feel to Be Loved night, it was only a fiver to get in and for four bands, that's awesome value for money.

First up were The Empty Set. They were pretty quiet, had violins, and were nice and relaxing, almost soothing me into the evening.

Second up were Big Wave from Torquay. I've never been sure where Torquay is, or even if its a real place, its possibly near Mu and R'lyeh, although I remember Torquay had a pretty good team on Football Manager on the CPC, so it must be real. They were a lively band, guitars, keyboards, girl-dominated, a little like Elastica I guess. I hope they play London again soon.

The third band were Knickers, featuring Dan and Jonny from Pocketbooks and some other folk, they were a decent stomping band with gallic sixties chanteuse sort of vibe. They had a couple of stand out tunes, Candy, My Baby's just a Baby and Wowie Zowie, but the sound mixing was a little stodgy.

Headlining were Tender Trap who were as lovely as usual. It looks like Elizabeth from Allo Darlin' has been replaced from Emily from Betty and the Werewolves, but the overall sound is the same, twee harmonies, corny jokes, jangle.

So here's the podcast thing I've put together of the gig, I'm not sure about the sound levels, they looked a bit weird on Audacity, let me know what you think.

Have a listen. Feel free to download it, stick it on your iPod so it comes up on random from time to time.

There's a chance that the bands themselves or the promoters or whoever might object to me recording their show and putting it out there like this, in which case I'll take it down, or edit out the bands in question. Also there's a chance that the bands and promoters would want a copy of the whole set that I recorded, not just the bits I edited together, in which case, if they got in touch I would send them everything I've got.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Thick Creamy Podcast 18-03-2012

Last weekend, I thought I'd stretch my legs and wander down to The Lexington to catch some bands at The Hangover Lounge. It was a welcome reward after a hard Saturday night's TV watching.

Sadly, it was a bit of a trek and I arrived almost at the end of the first band's set. I think I've seen Owl and Mouse a couple of times before, somehow I follow them on twitter. They were pretty quiet but nice too, relaxing.

After a short break the second act commenced. It was chap called Andy Strickland, of Creation Records legends The Loft, and also The Caretaker Race. I think I might be too young to remember him from the first time round. It had been twenty one years since he played at The Lexington.
The final act were Amor De Dias, that's Alisdair from The Clientele and Lupe from The Pipas. They were really really quiet, so quiet that my digital recorder was picking up a chap scratching his arm on the other side of the room as louder than the guitars. I don't think his arm was even that itchy.

So here's the podcast thing  I've put together of the gig, I only caught a portion of Owl and Mouse, but you get the feel of it.

Have a listen. Feel free to download it, stick it on your iPod so it comes up on random from time to time.

There's a chance that the bands themselves or the promoters or whoever might object to me recording their show and putting it out there like this, in which case I'll take it down, or edit out the bands in question. Also there's a chance that the bands and promoters would want a copy of the whole set that I recorded, not just the bits I edited together, in which case, if they got in touch I would send them everything I've got.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Phone Box Library #67 Little Bentley, Essex

Little Bentley Book Swap Telephone BoxVia a lovely thread on the BookCrossing website forums, I find on Flickr Trevor Powell's photos of what could be the UK's 67th phone box book swap thing in the sleepy Essex village of Little Bentley.

It was converted into a book swap by Mike Taylor and John Leggett and started operation in August 2011.

Its a traditional four shelf unit, jam-packed with around a hundred books, and also a lively parish noticeboard advertising quiz nights at the nearby Bricklayer's Arms. No sign of any of Dan Brown's works, but The Time Traveller's Wife is represented and also reassuringly General Sir John Hackett's The Third World War.

It looks like the nearest public library is in Greenstead, about 7.2 miles away toward Colchester and there is a mobile library service which serves the village every fortnight.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Thick Creamy Podcast 16-03-2012

So, last night I went along to my second gig of the year, at the Wilmington Arms, Oddbox was hosting a night called Which Way Is Up! featuring three acts:- Benjamin Shaw, Flights of Helios and Post War Glamour Girls.

It was a thoroughly pleasent night. Ben Shaw was a bittersweet miserablist playing guitar from a stool, I joked wthat he sounds like MJ Hibbett from the mirror universe, and later found out that Ben's next gig is with Hibbett. He seemed super excited when I bought his CD.

Flights of Helios were a shoegazery mob with two keyboards, guitars, Father Dougal on bass and so on. I was trying to place who they sounded like, Mercury Rev I thought, just before they announced they were playing a Mercury Rev cover.

The Headline act were Post War Glamour Girls from Leeds, kind of edgy rock four-piece with sounds about service stations.

Now, a thing that I've been thinking about for ages is that empty feeling you get after Popfests or gigs, where before you were so excited, you've downloaded the compilated CD, and put together playlists on your iPod of the bands who are playing and at the show you're exhilarated, but then afterwards and for the rest of your life, that show is over, in the past. All that's left is maybe a few photos, String Bean Jen's videos on YouTube, and maybe a CD or two that you bought, what's missing is something unique to take home out from the show, a "was there then" sort of thing.

So I got myself a Zoom H2n digital recorder, downloaded Audacity 2, and I've put together a podcast of the gig.

Have a listen. Feel free to download it, stick it on your iPod so it comes up on random from time to time.

There's a chance that the bands themselves or the promoters or whoever might object to me recording their show and putting it out there like this, in which case I'll take it down, or edit out the bands in question. Also there's a chance that the bands and promoters would want a copy of the whole set that I recorded, not just the bits I edited together, in which case, if they got in touch I'd send them everything I've got.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Phone Box Library #66 Barton Stacey, Hampshire

Barton Stacey LibraryBy way of John Spooner on flickr we learn that in the small Hampshire village of Barton Stacey, the parish council have converted their BT phone box into the UK's 66th phone box book exchange.

After a few months of planning and carpentry its been in operation since January 2012.

Looks like solid three shelf job, with a large noticeboard for parish notices. About 70 books, a couple of DVDs and several audio books. They have the almost obligatory copy of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code

Much like Thruxton, the other phone box library in Hampshire, the nearest public library to Barton Stacey in Andover, about seven miles away, which has not been threatened by closure. Barton Stacey is also serviced by a mobile library which has not been threatened by cuts.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Future of Blogging: A means to an end

I went to a London Bloggers Meetup last night. It was at the Fishburn Hedges offices on Kingsway, and was to have speeches about "The Future of Blogging".

It was the first meetup I've been to since August last year. It was a lively and busy affair, a fair few familiar faces but great crowds of new people I guess. It was good to catch up with Aref-Adib and Anthony Fresh Plastic.

I had an interesting conversation with a chap from The Narrow Leaf olive oil. It made in a village in northern Greece, the unique microclimate give the oil a distinctive taste, and depending on when in the season the olives are harvested you get a grassy or fruity taste, it a cool thing to know.

The various presentations on the Future of Blogging were interesting, but I think I was the wrong target for them. There was one phrase that I heard which kind of struck a jarring chord "Blogs are a means to an end".

Months ago I decided to reduce my immorality by getting a load of morals wholesale from classic philosophers, I've been reading up on Stoicism from Epictetus, Seneca, and Kant's Metaphysic of Morals. Whilst Kant's Categorical Imperitive is a fine way of life, I was intrigued by his account that men are ends to themselves rather than a means to an end. To get my head round this I guess a man's profession can be a means to an end, but the man himself is an end.

So back on blogging, I disagree that blogs are a means to an end, wordpress and blogger are a means, but a blog is an end unto itself. That's not a universal thing, marketing blogs or corporate blogs or travel blogs can be means, but for me and to a fair proportion of bloggers, blogs are ends unto themselves.

I don't blog because I'm trying to sell a product, or promote something, I blog because of an insatiable need to write and chart and graph and share interesting things.

Its what I find difficult when people ask me what I blog about. I used to have a few specific blogs that each dealt with a specific niche, live music, politicking, pigeons, sketches of nekkit wimmin, but now I just have one blog where the last two posts were about Glasgow City Council, and then before that were a load of posts about BT phone boxes which had been turn into libraries, and before that there were infographics about phone hacking and London rioters. Yeah, that's exactly what I blog about.*

My attention wandered from the presentations, so I engaged with bloggers, each with their own angles and interesting things to talk about.

So I'm wondering would it be awesome to have a London Bloggers Meetup where the format is more like an Ignite event where bloggers talk about their own thing for five minutes with presentation slides going on behind them changing every 20 seconds. It wouldn't necessarily sell anything, but it would be fun, interesting and engaging.

My attention was brought bacng back to the speakers when a lady said something along the lines of how she hoped that as more people took up blogging, they would learn how to blog better and the general quality of output would improve. That strikes me as a logic fail, a human nature fail and a gross violation of Sturgeon's Law, "Ninety percent of everything is crud" with more bloggers there would be a lot more good stuff, but even more crud out there to wade through. Speaking as a crudmonger myself, I know this to be true.

Anyhoo, as usual here's a chart showing how much engagement I had with people at the London Blogger's Meetup this time.

About the same as usual, I guess its my comfort zone.

*Actually, now I think about it, I've got a handful of blogs on the go right now, on blogger, posterous and wordpress. I might copy and paste all the posts into one new blog and backdate them to when I first posted them. That might cock up google's page ranking thing, but on reflection, if google can't keep up with me, that's google's weakness, what do I care? The blog is an end not a means.