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 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 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.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

From a speeding bus

Travel: that thing that broadens the mind but blurs the vision.
Grainy, rain soaked images that are headed straight for the bin.

Now that I've retired from modern life and all it's pressures, tat and tinsel I've become more acquainted with the concept of public transport. As I also have a free bus pass then maybe it's not so strange. I did avoid getting into these situations (somebody else driving a speeding vehicle that's out of my control) as best as I could for many years but I've mellowed. Now I simply go with the flow and observe the vague purposes, habits and often stupid behaviour of my fellow citizens and travelers. They insist on talking loudly into the latest phones, often providing an odd commentary on the journey or just blethering to each other. Others eat and drink, in public as it were, often without a care in the world. Some scoff packets of crisps or hot food purchased for the journey, all the way to the hospital stop. All of this is beyond me.  I sit quietly and make what I will of the murky views, the bad tempered traffic and the pale horizon. Then I smile as I think on the energy I'm saving, the parking fees I can avoid and the stress of city driving and navigation. When I reach my destination I'm relaxed and ready to explore...mostly cafes and back streets but that's fine. Life is just a long bus trip.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The energy of the lost emails

Dear Satan,

Can you please clarify the situation regards the numerous cold sales, junk and random business emails shoved into my inbox everyday?  You see I continue to receive unwanted emails and prompts long after buying, checking or researching something on line and after I've unfollowed or unsubscribed myself from that site whatever it may be. I am concerned that a large amount of the earth's energy (and the internet's finite resources) is being wasted on all of these emails as they clog up vital cables, links and processes like some huge data gorging fat-berg under London. Where will this ever end? 

It seems to me that  there must be a  horrible spammy mass of petrified bits and bots of data waiting to burst and destroy all of our carefully constructed and engineered on line world...well maybe not so carefully constructed, at any given moment. There's also the problem of internet "overheat", when cables and components will succumb to the overload and melt their little hearts out and die away like sad tiny, faraway stars.

Is it the Russians, North Koreans or the Trumps or some other diabolical (your word) 5th column plotter of destabilization and chaos who is hell bent of wasting everybody's time and capacity that is to blame? Blame is always important, that along with shame, the two go together I understand and they really screw things up, you should know.

Plus, when people die, what happens to their email accounts, do they just grow and run on, packing more and more crap into dead and lost in boxes in a zombie like yucky state? Ugh! Grateful for a quick response, though I appreciate your reply, as I'm unsure of your precise contact details,  may go straight to spam and further compound my problems.

Best regards


P.S. Any chance that you could twiddle a bit with the Facebook algorithms and turn them down a few notches while you're at it? Cheers.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


That time of year when the chilly North wind blows and we shall have snow etc. and everybody will get a little hysterical about possible bad weather we need to stock up on logs. There are two simplistic issues here, financial and logistical. The finance one is relatively easy, simple shopping around and hard cash, the logistics are trickier; delivery and final storage takes more effort. Turns out the very muddy wood yard people were good as gold and dropped a ton of logs in the right place outside the house (inside the house would've been bad). Full marks.

The other useful thing with logs is that there's actually no need to set fire to them to keep yourself warm, just laboriously move them from A to B and put them down in some kind of sensible order and bingo, you're toasty.
Granted it's not a lot of fun doing this if you're trying to watch a movie or relax with a cup of tea.

Man killed by a falling salmon

It was never the way I intended to go, bludgeoned to death by a full grown salmon falling from a clear blue sky. Except of course it wasn't a clear sky and the salmon was already dead, unlike me. Every so often I get these thoughts, in receive mode as it were when the signals are strong and clear. Good atmospherics and word balloons. Premonitions in a haze. Voices and visions, unexpected situations with unintended consequences. Turns out that a freezing, falling fish exerts a fierce physical force.

So it was that when I fell flat post the salmon strike, there came a long moment of silence and icy stillness, like a bright Arctic morning witnessed by nobody. For me time stopped as it had already done for the poor fish, those around froze and gasped. Unhappy witnesses. His fish fate was already sealed, mine was more of a chance happening. Uncovered by the current crop of risk assessments and safety equipment, I was alone and exposed and the fish had hit me fair and square. Then I hit the hard floor.

 A black hole opened up and swallowed me and the rest is unreported history despite this actual (vague) report. The coroner was philosophical and calm, the local press hysterical in a parochial way that added no value, social media remained indifferent, it seems my name and demise counted for little; "how could this sort of thing have happened?" they whispered. Maybe some money changed hands. Don't ask me I'm a dead man killed by a dead fish and I'm no F Scott Fitzgerald either. File under "unexplained industrial accidents in the Scottish seafood business sector".

Friday, November 17, 2017

Product placement

An allegedly reformed character and some product placement: Photo by Scarlet Page.

Monkeys are recurring theme these days, there was Planet of the Apes, the Monkey Brain book, Gas Monkey, other things here and there. The monkey brain illustration is good but worrying but I've only skimmed the book so far. I've not read Russell Brand's book(s) and am unlikely to but he has monkeyish face in the photo. It's just a set of loose connections, a bit like the monkey (aka chimp) part of the human brain and the human part of the human brain (but the monkey still gets the blame). It seems that in order to take control you must first of all take control of things that are hard to control. No shortcuts then.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Stress at the car wash

Using a car wash is a bit like taking a shower in the public baths or at a pool, privacy is not the number one thing. It can be stressful if you're slow or incompetent and get the hose tangled. So today, as I was out and about I chose the local Tesco self operated jet wash system. I'm usually ready to buy tokens and risk the code input but this one was a coin op, feed it with £1 coins and it'll lead you through the process allowing five choices of wondrous squirts, brushes and something that kills bugs or at least moves them elsewhere. I was doing fine, three quarters through the project to clean up poor Jimny Cricket when I realized my time and money was running out rapidly...more £1 coins were needed to beat the clock. I chugged through my pockets and found a mere 90p in change, how could it have come to this? Prior to getting into the wash I'd kind of queue jumped a Landy Disco that was parked in a territorial pissing manner by the entrance. As it turns out the driver was a gent and gave me the huge sum of 10p needed to finish that final, showroom inspired rinse when he saw my plight. Better than driving away in a soap mobile.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Imagined and real

Imagined food from some of Hayao Miyazaki's films; Ponyo, Kiki's Delivery Service and Spirited Away re imagined as real food. There's a fine line between the works of Studio Ghibli and reality and the food portrayed in all the movies always looks great and very wholesome (unless it's cursed and  happens to turn you into a pig). Images stolen from the pages of Dangerous Minds. Real food re imagined may be next big cosplay thing, go along dressed as your favourite character and then scoff some of the cartoon food they ate in the movie from the themed stall in the food court. Then watch as all your bright pixels slowly fade away to nothing...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mostly trial

Most activities, artistic and otherwise, are a combination of trial and error. The largest part of the activity is generating errors it seems and the delete button gets a lot of attention. Of course the good side of creating errors is that they can sometimes bring about unexpected results and lo and behold you're suddenly on a different road to...somewhere. Today has been a trial and error day. I also ordered a ton of logs for the winter fueling business. No doubt the ton of logs will arrive at the worst possible time and be deposited in the least useful place requiring the biggest amount of work to get them all stored away. More error, more trial; I predict.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Walking in the cold sunshine

The long road home from the local garden centre where I had a fried egg and haggis roll for breakfast. It was strangely devoid of old people and people in general, there must be some other bigger garden centre they all gather at on Sunday's, I'm new to the game and it shows. The cold wind was stinging my ears on the way there but on our return it had gone thankfully. My ears remained in place also, just. New winter woolly beanie on order via the minions at Amazon (I was one once, I may be again if times get tough).

Meanwhile in a ditch by the A985 (road). Lost party girls.

The same image, upside down, filtered and adjusted but in black and white obviously. A bit more arty but I refuse to share it via instagram as it's doctored. My only rule in life (except for the others).

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The great man speaks out

Grizzly Man

Too cold to explore the the outside world so it was a log fire and fish supper evening (yesterday). We couched it lazily watching Werner Herzog's docu/film "Grizzly Man", based around the footage shot by Timothy Treadwell, an fairly unhinged individual who against all odds managed to camp out with bears in Alaska  for a few years until he and his girlfriend were devoured by one  in 2003. As a Herzog fan I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this but it turned out to be an intriguing and truly disturbing glimpse into a world of strange fascination and warped loyalty used to somehow justify cohabiting with very wild and very unpredictable creatures. 

Herzog curated  Treadwell's shaky footage, insect infested images and ranting soundtrack sensitively and added in some bizarre interview segments from friends and witnesses, most of whom seemed pretty crazy themselves, particularly the Alaskan coroner. It was never going to end well for Treadwell and as the story unfolded, like a car crash, Herzog remained solidly unsympathetic to Treadwell's erratic manner and dumb attitude. Still, he allowed it to be a tragic but compelling tribute to a man who remained truly deluded right up until the last five terrifying minutes of his life.

Friday, November 10, 2017

M50 Toll

It's a fair cop guvnor! Somehow I managed to sneak through a toll booth on the Irish M50 near Dublin and not pay. That was back in August so I've no clear memory of the event. Well, a criminal like me can only enjoy peace and freedom for so long, now they've caught up with me and it only took till November. I'm done for, to the reasonably priced tune of a fiver or so. They don't even want Euros for some reason, nice people and too easy on fraudsters and dodgers like me.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Outer space

Something very far away takes a photograph of something even further away...sometime soon or perhaps it's already happened but I can't be sure; that's because it's a big file to send and download from deep space.

When I was a child there was space and there was outer space. Still not sure what the difference is/was. Then deep space happened...then inner space...

Analogue Days

We all get older, some time we all die. We develop an ugly kind of beauty, skin thins down and stretches, new shapes emerge, expressions are exaggerated and those nose and eyebrow hairs turn into barbed wire like material (for blokes mostly). Less stupid but little wiser, more pain and more draining away of precious energy and a strange desire to add experiences but nothing too dangerous that might hurt your back. Life is not an easy business to be in but few actually want to leave. 

I had to reach a certain age (?) before Leonard Cohen's lyrics really made sense, at the same time all the raucous rock and blues lyrics faded away and their senseless youthfulness ceased to resonate around in my head. Unless I was in the shower and weak willed. A divide had opened up. Dylan's words still illuminated like an acid trip, Joni Mitchell became the queen of eloquence and mood and Neil Young just sounded as grumpy as I could be on a Monday morning before the first cup of tea or if my shoes were too tight due to a poor choice of socks. 

Somewhere in the distance the aircraft drone of Pink Floyd and Dave Gilmour's angst ridden groans broke another wall of silence. The long night of the soul is upon us and Steely Dan's fine chords and shuffle beats can't light the dull way as clearly as I'd like. Prog Rock sounds like a gloriously silly revolution, punk is just a wrinkled mess, everyone else now worships the 80s and machines rule. The past and the 80s remains a blur to me but Netflix has clarified them into a pure, memorable alcohol that new, unwired generation can sup up. I don't care what's popular right now, it's not me anyway. Everything is just the stringing together of random words and jerky sentences and then applying the right rate of beats and heavy compression, I'm not fooled.

Cars, jobs and faces and travel and meals all melt into some pot of lost relationships and possessions that I can no longer order about, they float freely, like stolen used fivers and tenners on a windy day. We're all headed over the rainbow, on a bed in that flimsy cottage, all headed for Maggie's farm or some sweet spacial oblivion. Days pass by like forest timber down a waterfall, heavy and out of control, slipping and a sliding. Here, there and far away from this analogue person.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

FT News

Women are taking greater control of wealth – what does this mean for financial services?
Well it all sounds pretty good to me, more power to them.

What does this all mean?

The one you love is unwell? The one you love is depraved? The one you love is great (sick = slang/vernacular sick)? The one you love has vomited? The one you love is sick...fed up? The one you love is sick... of you? The One - God? You Love  - because you can? IS sick - Islamic State is a medieval horror show?  The one you love is sick could also be a personal message to a large  woman with tummy ache, or an old fashioned phone or some kind of dark Muppet or cave dwelling toad. If that is you take account of the rest of the image and in that case the building may well have "sick building syndrome" but the owner just doesn't realize it yet. Signed, a well wisher.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Eggs Benedict

Today's bus to Glasgow was pretty full and, in an unexpected move, a person actually sat beside me invading my precious space. He was a large young man, clearly over weight and struggling to move through the bus before sitting next to me in the first available free seat. I was truly worried that he wouldn't be able to easily get up and off once we reached the bus terminus. He did however after a brief struggle to extricate himself from the obvious  tightness of the seat. In my head I was judging him and I suppose making "tut tut" noises to myself. Once I left the bus and the bus station I thought no more about him. Then, strangely as I waited at a pedestrian crossing near Buchanan Galleries the same over weight chap came sailing across the road riding one of the city's bikes. Off into the distance he sped as I looked on, probably open mouthed and dumbstruck. He's still a fat guy but at least he's trying. I'm too quick to judge sometimes. Of course he may have been heading off to MacDonalds to take advantage of the breakfast menu before it changes at eleven. I'll never know.

I also had breakfast on my mind also but not at Macdonalds, it was an exotic helping of Eggs Benedict at a trendy cafe called Singl-End recommended by my beautiful daughter. End off.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

View from...

In the ongoing series of views from places, because everything is a view from somewhere, here's today's early morning offering shared late. Not the view from the office or any office, more of a just out of bed on the way to making a cup to tea kind of a view.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Best to keep quiet

I often think I'm right but then discover I'm not right. I discover that I'm wrong or I've missed  the point. On these occasions, if I've managed not to speak up or share it's a rather nice (if empty) feeling that I get. I was wrong but look, I was hesitant or patient enough to hold back rather than go in with both feet. Phew! Today's example was about the colouring code used on safety signs. I had it wrong but didn't blab, what a relief. My so called expertise and wobbly reputation would have been dented, ever so slightly. Growing old and keeping your cool when others may not be is a useful skill, like counting to ten.

Above and below are two pictures I took during the week and they are quite irrelevant to my text and my current line of thought, as are most pics on this blog.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Too much music on too small a planet

A slight epiphany: Me sitting around playing the blues poorly is no different from other white people rapping (or whatever genre they might call it). All the blue notes in jazz and rock are misappropriated as are most rock bass lines. More and more I just think "mediocre", because sometimes all modern music just seems tired out, maybe we need some law that prevents new music from being published (you can write and record it but no releases) for a year or two. The same might well apply to films, comedy sit-coms and box sets. We could do with a few more new ready meals however, I'm not in a complete rut in my thinking.

Ahem! Nothing really new here other than the thought that British Progressive rock, as developed in the 70s and beyond owes the least to the American roots of the major rock genres. That would be King Crimson, Yes, Gentle Giant and so on. So as far as musical structure and lyrical content goes it's almost out on it's own, almost original, as far as anything can be. Of course it was always on a course of self destruction which it eventually managed to achieve and music moved on in various directions but, looking back, they were glorious if self indulgent  times and they are unlikely to ever be repeated. David Hepworth's book "1971" may be right on the money.

When I look at what followed over time, apart from the obvious key mega acts it has been a kind of dull 40 years on. Or is it just me? The end. Wait a minute though, what about Krautrock? Too much music on too small a planet (and no new ready meals ready in store).