Friday, December 11, 2009

Job No. 83 - Adult Day Center Specialist

Finding a way into the harsh and competitive world of business management can be a tough task; usually you have to take some kind of lowly paid junior position in which your prime responsibilities include coffee making and being abused and shouted at - and then hope that you can stick in there long enough for someone higher in the company tree to fall out (or be pushed), thus freeing up some space for you to clamber upwards and direct all your pent-up ire and aggression at the new junior...

Which is why, I feel, Primecare really deserve to be congratulated for attempting to break the mold and introduce an entirely new concept, in the shape of Practice Business Manager. Now you can experience all the excitement, all the adventure and all the exhilaration without actually putting anyone's business in danger with your, frankly amateurish, management skills.

But, in truth, I felt that a practice position was probably a little too suitable for my needs. I needed something more daring, something in which I could make a real difference in the lives of people to stimulate my interest. Which is why my attention was, quite literally, aroused at the sight of a vacancy as Adult Day Center Specialist.

The adult industry has, since the latter stages of the 20th century, exploded in commercial potential; once upon a time, adult entertainment was the province of the dirty old man but now there is a more widespread social acceptance - typified by NewCourtland of Philadelphia whose Adult Day Centers are obviously intended as a means of achieving one's adult goals.

They are clearly seeking someone who can set a suitable example in this area as an ideal candidate will be one who "enables participants to maintain independence and control to the greatest extent possible." I will be happy to assist in any way I can; discussing both methodology and medical aids in this area; with a bit of expert guidance I'm certain I can provide what NewCourtland's clients are looking for "enabling them to attain/maintain their highest possible level of functioning."

This was a challenge I was prepared to take in hand - and one which had the potential for considerable public exposure...

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing in order to apply for the position of Adult Day Center Specialist.

While I am not, by any means, a specialist in the area of Adult Day Centers, I believe that I have the necessary skillset and motivation, not to mention considerable experience on a voluntary basis.

I am fully committed to the ideal of enabling
participants to maintain independence and control to the greatest extent possible; and believe this can be achieved through a well structured programme of physical training, video tuition and - in the most needy of cases - medical intervention.

I think the area of Adult Day Centers is very much under explored and that this is a position in which I would be prepared to stand proudly, in which I would be able to focus on and expose my assets in a way that could benefit the lives of others. If you give me a chance to prove myself, I will endeavour to deliver the finest Adult Day Center experience yet; I think that there is much to learn from Continental Europe (particularly systems in place in the Netherlands) and I would hope to import some of these, very attractive, models to form a basis for increased performance on my own behalf.



Now I just have to wait and see whether they recognise my potential; nonetheless, I am ready for action at just a moment of their notice...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Job No. 82 - Director of the National Museum of Australia

Today's job hunting presented me with a particularly difficult dilemma; representing that age-old battle between the material and the immaterial, between physical prowess and intellect; as I wrestled with the difficult decision of either applying to be a Russian Audience Champion with the BBC, or the Director of the National Museum of Australia...

I must admit, the idea of being a Russian Audience Champion stirred within me images of Spartacus and Gladiator, and I could easily envisage myself (likely clad in some sort of strange and ornate body armour) striding forth in packed arenas to defend the honour of Russian Audiences worldwide in a series of life or death battles.

And I suppose, it was at that point, that my imagination rang a little alarm bell somewhere. Life or death? I mean, I have a sincere and deep love for the honour and happiness of the Russian audience - but did I really want to be lying on the floor, giant spear sticking out my side, drifting slowly out of consciousness as the Luxembourg Audience Champion did some kind of strange Luxemborgian victory jig?

Which, turned me immediately to a far easier position, in the shape of Director of the National Museum of Australia...

Why easier, you might ask? Well, I did some checking on Australia and I found out that, apparently, it wasn't discovered until 1606 and it wasn't actually claimed until 1770. Which means, Australia has only 229 years of history - surely making it one of the easiest museums in the world to run! In fact, if anything, I suppose the most difficult thing about being Director of the National Museum of Australia is finding stuff to put in there...

The museum obviously already knows this is a problem as, in the advert, they were quite clear that the new Director would need to "enhance knowledge of Australia's cultural identity."

So, I had a quick trawl through my limited knowledge of Australian cultural identity and immediately thought of Neighbours, Vegemite, Mel Gibson, Kangeroos, Ugg Boots and Elle Macpherson. The trouble was, once my mind got to Elle Macpherson it kind of stuck there and - as hard as I tried to shift in onto other potential Australasian museum fillers - it didn't want to move on.

Nevertheless, armed with the conviction that I possessed enough antipodean knowledge to at least scrape through to the interview stage, I wrote out an application letter that would hopefully let them see my potential:

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing in order to apply for the position of Director of the National Museum of Australia, as advertised within the Guardian newspaper.

While not possessing a background in the museum industry, as such, I do possess considerable expertise in providing entertainment to a specified target demographic and feel that my skillset would translate extremely well.

I have many ideas on how I would act to enhance knowledge of Australian cultural identity; through dissemination of Australian entertainment, Australian cuisine, Australian exports, Australian wildlife, Australian fashion and Elle Macpherson.

I am keen to enter the museum industry, and I see the National Museum of Australia as being a perfect fit where I can hone my skills in a challenging, yet relatively historically exiguous, environment.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.



I was very proud of the, almost subliminal, way in which I had broached the topic of Ms. Macpherson and was feeling confidently smug about my chances until I suddenly realised that I had made no mention, whatsoever, in my application of one of the principal aspects of Australian cultural identity; Dame Edna Everage. I am now a little concerned that they will not take my application seriously...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Chapter Two is done...

This weekend, as well as writing Job No. 80 (Strong Accountant), I've been trying to find some time to continue working on my - as yet untitled - second novel.

So far, I'm really pleased with how's it going - I completed the second chapter over the weekend and I really feel like it's going to turn out to be one of the best things I've ever written. I know that there's a long, long path ahead of me but, when I'm able to find the time to write, it's just such an enjoyable process...

I'll keep you updated with it's progress as I work my way through it!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Job No. 81 - WASH Specialist

Have you ever arrived at the train station a little on the late side, dashed relentlessly through the concourse with a motley collection of baggage in tow, barged up (or down) an escalator full of people and emerged, breathless, onto the platform just in time to witness the doors of the train sliding - agonisingly slowly - shut? You stand there, breathless and sweating, and the train still stands there as well (you can't get on, but the conductor perhaps wants to enjoy the moment). Forlornly, you look through the window at the people who are all happily sat and ready for the journey that you're now going to miss. Sometimes they give vague sympathetic smiles.

Well, that was how I feel today having missed out, by the narrowest of margins, on a job that seemed just the sort of thing I should be doing with my life - Director of the NATO Undersea Research Centre. How could I not be perfect for this job? After all, I've played Battleships, I've read The Hunt for Red October - I've even watched all 39 episodes of Stingray. But, sadly, the closing date was the 4th December and so my dreams of a life aquatic must, for the moment, remain just that...

However, feeling only slightly discouraged, I decided to browse through the latest vacancies on offer at the United Nations (having almost been hired as the UN's Chief Procurement Officer back in 2006) and realised that today's aquatic theme was not yet finished as they were looking for a WASH Specialist.

Now, I'm not sure I would consider myself a wash specialist as such but I have been doing it for thirty five years - which, is surely a body of experience that deserves to be taken account of - and so would consider myself extremely suitable for the job.

Of course, being the United Nations, it's never as simple as it sounds - they were looking for someone who could "facilitate the processes that will ensure a well coordinated, coherent, strategic and effective WASH response at State level."

I think this is understandable; there is sufficient seating for 1,800 people at the General Assembly of the United Nations and all it takes is a couple of members with dubious hygiene and they end up honking the whole place out. In such situations, the UN clearly needs someone to get in there and deal with the problem swiftly and decisively (and diplomatically) - a casual spray of deodorant for a mild case; an 'accidental' hose down and delousing for more problematic individuals...

The position requires that the applicant be able to identify "urgent and potentially difficult decisions and acts on them promptly".

Imagine the scenario; Gordon Brown about to head on stage to the podium. Unfortunate trouser stain. Maybe it's just water, but maybe he hasn't given Mr Winky a good enough shake. Either way, a wash specialist needs to get in there and sort the problems out. Well, not literally in there. Probably just a high pressure disinfectant misting of some sorts followed by a hairdryer on full power for a minute or two...

I also wondered whether the UN had considered the idea of sponsorship; for example, The UN Conference on Disarmament (sponsored by Palmolive). Which promotes the wash ideals, and brings in some extra cash for the UN - a win/win situation, surely!

Certain that I had what it takes, I crafted a suitable letter of application:

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing in order to apply for the position of WASH specialist, as advertised on the UN Jobs website.

I possess considerable WASH experience and also have a number of ideas on how the service could be developed, and improved, in future. I think there is a great potential for relationships with commercial bodies, in the way of sponsorship, and would be keen to investigate this area.

I am capable of responding to all manner of emergency situations and have given considerable thought as to how I would deal with a number of possible problems; with the upholding of the WASH programme values at the very heart of my solutions.



I am sure that, this time, the United Nations will want to come back to me and at least take this to the interview stage - perhaps where I will be able to demonstrate my wash strategies in the flesh, so to speak...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Myspace blocking blogspot...

It is rare that I get riled enough to write a rant, but today MySpace has managed to poke a sharpened stick into the lion's cage...or, at the very least, a bic pen into the furry side of the sleeping hamster...

You see, whenever I post a new entry to my blog, I like to post a link to it on the various places that I frequent - so I'll post a link on facebook, a link on twitter, a link on a couple of forums I frequent, etc.

But, it turns out that I can't post a link on MySpace. Or rather, I can but MySpace won't let anyone actually follow it - as soon as they click on my link they get directed to a page like this:

Which rather suggests that my link is trying to misdirect unwary visitors to some kind of nefarious spamming, phishing or generally harmful website...

But if you read on, the text below the warning states:

"The specific link may be OK, but the webhost may be the issue. For example, if you are trying to visit a blog or page on some webhost, the specific site or blog may be benign, but because the host/company won't work with MySpace security to block other malicious sites on their domain, we are sometimes forced to block the entire domain."

You see, MySpace in their near infinite wisdom/stupidity (delete as you feel appopriate) have decided that - since there have (allegedly) been some sites hosted on the blogspot domain that have been involved in the above practices - the safest course of action is to block all links heading to blogspot. Yes, that's right - all links to blogspot. Even a link to the official Google blog (which is the 4th biggest technology blog in the world according to technorati, and 16th overall) results in the same - you shall not pass!!!

Now, maybe it's just me, but this seems rather a huge overreaction on the part of MySpace - especially since it's quite happy to allow visitors to link to some very morally dubious sites with nothing more than 'you're leaving MySpace' warning page. Surely it would be possible to have a similar warning page for links to blogspot, allowing individuals to make their own decision on the matter?

Of course, I'm sure the blanket ban has got nothing to do with MySpace wanting to encourage users to publish on the MySpace blogs and not link somewhere else. Oh no, not at all...

Job No. 80 - Strong Accountant

I began the day in fine fettle, spirits buoyed by my recent return to my old unsuitable job hunting ways, and decided to dig out my employment seeking net and trawl the jobs section of the New York Times for something that thoroughly perked my interest...

And it wasn't long before I stumbled across the deeply attractive role of Pet Stylist; a job that offered the vague promise of securing a foot on a rung of the style guru ladder (some may argue as to the relative positioning of dressing dogs and dressing celebrities on said ladder) while, at the same time, representing an almost entirely unexplored fashion realm. Canine fashion, you see, is very much in its infancy and has, thus far, largely been limited to tartan fleeces and painfully unfashionable rainwear. And, please, don't even get me started on the abominable state of dog footwear.

And this, in the end, was the reason that I didn't apply to be a Pet Stylist today - I'm just not sure that the industry is yet ready for my ground-breaking ideas and my subtle combination of vintage, retro and bleeding-edge styling. I feel it is too much (at this moment in time) for me to take on the role of canine fashion revolutionary - I need, instead, to wait until the world is ready for me.

So, with a slightly heavy heart, I turned instead to a most curious vacancy being offered by the Robert Half company, who were looking for a Strong Accountant. Now I'm not much of an accountant but I figured that, since I'm pretty strong, if I spent the time between application and interview really working out, I could definitely nail the strong part (which would, hopefully, sway them towards the acceptance of my slightly less pronounced accountancy skills).

However, it seems that physical strength was not the only thing on their mind at Robert Half - oh no - as their job description clearly stated that they were looking for "a strong individual with nerves of steel."

Nerves of steel? And then it dawned on me. My God - they were looking for a cyborg! Robert Half wanted to find themselves a bionic accountant...

It all made sense. A bionic accountant would probably have all kinds of computational advantages over a normal human and be far stronger than a purely biological specimen. The odds, it appeared, were firmly stacked against me; but I wasn't about to give up on this vacancy over the little matter of being human:

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing with regard to the position of Strong Accountant, as advertised within the New York Times.

I believe that I am good condition and am willing to take any tests that you may wish to set in order to gauge this for yourself, although I sincerely hope the fact that I possess peripheral axons does not, in any way, stand against me in the my desire to succeed within this position.

I appreciate that I am likely to be up against some stern (some may even suggest unfair) competition for this vacancy but I hope that you are able to see the advantages gained in utilising an applicant who doesn't have a mechanical approach and who is still fully in touch with his humanity.



Well, all I can do now is wait. If I don't receive an invitation for an interview, I think we all know the real reason - and the hidden cyborg agenda that lies, flimsily diguised, behind it...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Job No. 79 - Fraud Consultant

I held out as long as I could; tried desperately to leave this whole unsuitable jobs malarkey at number 78 and be done with it. But, in the end, it appears that I just can't keep away...

It started when I saw an advert in the Guardian for a 'Midweight Web Designer', which immediately brought back warm and fuzzy memories of my time struggling to make the grade as a Heavyweight Creative back in 2006 (and my subsequent conversation with the, very helpful, Steve). It made me realise that the job market may have moved on in my absence and that my weight may no longer be such a barrier in securing gainful employment.

However, while I was thoroughly tempted to apply for a job better suited to my slightly more than svelte figure, I stumbled across an altogether more intriguing post being advertised on the very same site that appealed to me on an altogether different level.

Times, it seems, have indeed changed. Back when I was applying for jobs in 2006 and 2007, I was of the feeling that criminal employment was to be looked down upon (with the possible exception of being a pirate). Now, perhaps it is because of the global economic meltdown but it appears that less salubrious agencies have moved into the job market and, keen to move with the times, I must admit they piqued my interest...

Fraud Recruitment Services are looking for a Fraud Consultant, mentioning that "this is a rare opportunity to take the lead fraud consultant role in a vibrant technology company".

They were looking for someone with "extensive and relevant fraud expertise". I am not certain whether failing to mention that you have been given 15 pence too much change when at the till in Sainsburys qualifies as extensive and relevant fraud experience so - to be on the safe side - I listened to Scott Joplin's 'The Entertainer' and watched several episodes of Hustle.

Thus, armed with an up-tempo swing in my step and a desire to put my new found criminal knowledge to active use, I crafted an expert letter that would be certain to convince them that they had, indeed, found the man for their job:

Dear Chris

I am writing with regard to the position of Fraud Consultant, as advertised on the Guardian Jobs website.

I have an extensive knowledge of fraud (whether it be bunko, flim flam or simple grifting) and am fully prepared to put this into service on behalf of your company. I believe that the current economic crisis marks a time when such services are needed more than ever.

I am fully versed in both traditional methodology - for example, the glim-dropper - and more modern electronic methods such as 419 and believe my creative talents could be put to good use in thinking of updates to old standards.

I own a pet Aardvark called Gerald.



The aardvark line was particularly clever (if I say so myself); after all, they say one of the most important things in executing a con is to ensure that you distract your mark - and I think Chris will be so distracted by that last line that he will totally fail to notice that my CV contains no fraud experience whatsoever...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Aliens are among us...

Well, they are if you believe Luchezar Filipov who is (or perhaps was, until this) deputy head of the Space Exploration department at the Bulgarian Academy of Science, who recently gave a press conference to give an update on how alien contact is doing...

Apparently, the aliens are communicating with Bulgarian scientists through the use of pictograms in crop circles and are 'friendly and willing to help us'.

With that said, the aliens are apparently unhappy with the use of artificial insemination and - in a move perhaps designed to keep the Taliban happy - are also critical of the use of make-up (both get slated for being 'unnatural').

I would officially like to say, I'll have some of whatever Mr Filipov has been smoking...

Give the gift of Chlamydia this Christmas...

Ok, so I stumbled across this company and simply had to blog about it.

You have to admire the demented genius of this - a range of giant-sized, cuddly, soft toy microbes representing some of the world's most feared bacteria and viruses.

The green one on the left is Chlamydia and is part of a set that includes E-coli, H1N1 (Swine Flu to its friends) and MRSA. I can't help but imagine some of the intriguing conversations (and subsequent turkey-based choking) that may be going on at Christmas Dinner tables around the world this year...

Granny: "So, what did Father Christmas give you two for Christmas?"
Little Billy: "He gave me Chlamydia, Granny."
Little Sally: "I wanted him to give me Chlamydia as well but he gave me Syphilis instead..."
Granny: *clutches chest*

But it's not just your common-or-garden viruses and sexual transmitted diseases. Oh no! They also have in stock a soft-toy version of the Ebola Virus - one of the best candidates for wiping out huge swathes of human life should it ever mutate into an airborne variant.

I'm just wondering how US Customs would respond should you, in answer to their question of 'anything to declare?', reply 'Nothing, apart from the fact that I've got enough Ebola Virus in my suitcase to give to my children and all their friends...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A new day, a new novel...

Today I started work on my second novel.

The first novel was finished over the summer in a bout of frenzied writing and, while I really liked it, I don't currently have any intention of submitting it for publication. The second novel, however, is an altogether different beast and I've set my sights firmly on writing something that is quite at home sitting on a bookshelf in Waterstones...

I can't tell you too much about it at this stage save to say that it's set in the late 19th Century and contains more than a smidgen of humour. Oh, and the first line (well, unless I revise it later) is:

"I awoke, for the second time, on Wednesday morning with a sore toe."

Friday, November 27, 2009

First day...well, afternoon...

Well the first afternoon of my, quite possibly world changing, facebook group has not been entirely successful. And, when I say not entirely successful, I actually mean entirely unsuccessful...

But - fear not! - time is very much on my side.

Meanwhile, over at vkontakte, my group is already doing a roaring trade with 10 members straight away. So, it seems - yet again - the revolution must start in Russia!

An idea...

How many times have you found yourself thinking 'if only I knew someone who did that' or 'if only I knew someone I could ask about that' or even 'if only I knew someone I could borrow that from'

Well, that was the idea behind my new attempt at spreading a little worldwide joy - the creation of groups on facebook , vkontakte and (hopefully soon) myspace where people can ask for - and grant- favours for other people.

I think there are always times when we need help; whether it's finding a great restaurant to propose in or borrowing a two metre banana (if you need one, let me know!). And if there was a huge group of people in one place able to ask and return favours, wouldn't that be a cool thing?

Maybe it's a crazy idea - but I kind of hope it might work...

Monday, November 23, 2009

How Facebook suggests friends

A brief aside...

Today, after years of total neglect, I blew the dust and cobwebs off my facebook account and peered inside. Not a whole lot it had to be said; although there were a couple of images to the right hand side of the screen labelled as 'suggestions'.

These are, apparently, people that Facebook has decided that you might know - based (I assumed) upon mutual friends. So far, so good. But, in amongst the list of suggestions was a name that I recognised from a long, long time ago - Aleks Krotoski. She's (and I quote from her website) "an academic and journalist who writes about and studies technology and interactivity". But I don't know Aleks from this; I know Aleks because - at one point in a long distant past - I shared an office with her then boyfriend and bumped into her in a shop that sold cheap (but strangely tasty) Yorkshire pudding based edibles.

And that's it. That's how we know each other. How on Earth did Facebook know about this??? And she's not the only person from my time before blogging that peered at me from the murky waters of the 'suggested friends' page - people I've not even thought about, but who are somehow linked to me...

I'm slightly scared. Facebook appears to know more about me than I do myself...


Updates have been a bit thin on the ground recently, haven't they?

This is, contrary to what I would like to believe, all my fault. So I feel an urgent need to bring you up to date with things:

1) My epic blues trip. Sadly, due to fiscal constraints, this is very much on the back burner...

2) Running is going a little better - it has declined a little with the recent inclement weather but I am still getting out once or twice a week. And, at the beginning of October, I even managed to (bravely) slog through a 10km race (52 mins 14 seconds if you're wondering).

So, with discovering the blues off the menu, I decided I needed something else to doodle around with in the background and hit upon an idea for something in a similar area to my earlier 'applying for unsuitable jobs' which will, at the least, provide me with some degree of amusement. Can't say too much about it yet - all hush-hush, etc. - all to be revealed soon...

Friday, May 29, 2009

A minor setback to one set of plans...

Well, I didn't quite manage the 'run on two consecutive days' thing *blushes* - you see, I forgot I would be going out to watch the Champions League final on the night. And I forget that when watching football at the pub, I always seem to drink too much beer. Not only that but, having drunk far too much beer already, I accidentally called into another bar on the way home (I didn't plan it!) and met up with a couple of people - which of course required that I consume more beer. And, since I'd already drank FAR too much beer by this point, it seemed just about the best idea in the world ever.

The consequence was that the only way you'd have got me out of bed at 6am the following morning was if the house had been on fire. And I'm pretty certain I'd have stayed in bed as long as possible in the hope they could put it out before it reached where I slept.

I did go running again today though. Same route, same result (three laps). I am certain my legs will complain loudly about it tomorrow.

New Guitar Techniques magazine arrived - will peruse it at my leisure later - but it looks to be jam packed with cool stuff as per usual. I just keeping hoping that is possible to improve my guitar playing skills just by reading it enough (perhaps through some kind of osmosis).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Guitar Recording and Other Stuff

Well, I've been working on my blues a little bit - to the point that I actually went as far as trying to record something last night. It's a blues in C, using a backing track from Guitar Techniques magazine. 

Upon relistening to it; I quite like it. It starts a little bit awkwardly but gets better as it goes on. Possibly.

One frustration I have with my playing is that, while I love the fast playing of people like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Bonamassa, Paul Gilbert, Joe Satriani (and a host of others) it's just not something that seems to come naturally to my playing. It's not that I can't play fast - in isolation I can pick reasonably quickly - it's just when I come to improvise it seems that my mind tells me to play slowly. I'm not sure whether it's simply I'm not good enough or whether I should accept that playing slowly is my bag. After all, BB King seems to get by without too many blazing runs or sweep picking...

Have a listen to my latest effort HERE

On an entirely different note, I've decided I really need to get back to being in shape. Too much sedentary work, not enough exercise, etc. So this morning I went for a jog in the local park. Managed three laps (which I guess is about 2 miles) and felt pretty good that I'd actually got up at 6am and gone running. Whether I can make it two mornings in a row, we'll have to see...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Recorded some guitar...

I was listening to Joe Bonamassa's 'The River' and really enjoyed the slide guitar so I thought I would retune my guitar and dig out an old glass slide I'd purchased several years ago...

I tuned the guitar to F-C-F-A-C-F  - which may look a more than slightly strange tuning (I was a little dubious, it has to be said!) but it turned out to give a fabulous sound.

The only problem was I couldn't find my slide and, despite attempting to improvise with (amongst other things) the neck of a beer bottle (while still attached to the rest of the bottle) and a bacardi shot measurer, I didn't quite manage to capture the glorious sound of a slide guitar.

Still, I liked the tuning a lot so I decided to have a go at finally recording something (after about five years of silence) and so got my PodXT set up to record with my laptop and RiffWorksT4 to record with and provide a drum backing.

You can hear my recording here - it's two tracks of guitar, one gently overdriven (Blackface) and the other a far heavier sound (Treadplate). It's one take for each so maybe a bit messy but, still, I'm quite pleased with how it sounds. Be interested to hear your comments... 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Eurovision - The Aftermath...

I should have known that my alcohol levels were going to be reaching all time highs purely from the opening ceremony during which there were multiple breaches of rules 1, 5 and 11.

This set the tone for the evening, during which I tried my level best to keep track of rule infringements but ended up losing count (and indeed pen and paper) by about song 12.  My observations were that rule 10 seemed to come up quite often and that there were not enough cases of rule 13. I also decided - and I am guessing this based upon the scrawled notes found the following evening since I don't remember actually writing it - that next year's rules revision should also involve a rule based upon the use of pyrotechnics.

I am quite thankful to say that the intake of alcohol was more than sufficient to numb the quality of the entrants to the point that - by the time the UK entry appeared - I was quite convinced it was the best song ever entered into any competition anywhere

It was possible to make it to the judging and remain conscious - however, the judging banged the final (vodka soaked) nails into the coffin with the Balkan voting alone emptying most of a bottle. By the end of that - not to mention the flagrant abuse of rule 3 by the Russian co-hosts - things were looking very bad. There was also a moment during which a person in a bear costume appeared - although I may have imagined this (confirmation greatly appreciated).

Needless to say, Sunday was a large (painful) blur punctuated by a wish for people to be a LOT quieter. However, I am glad to have ensured a large number of other people shared my pain and will be sure to created an updated Norwegian version next year (apparently, Norway also produces vodka!)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Eurovision Song Contest 2009 Drinking Game

This drinking game is designed to be played while watching the BBC coverage of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. Some of the rules are slightly UK-centric so, if you intend to play this in another country, just ignore rules 1, 5 and 19 and knock back three shots before you get started.

Now, a word of warning; this game is based upon the consumption of strong alcohol. I cannot, therefore, be held responsible for you stringently following the rules of my game and drinking yourself into oblivion. Play this game at your own risk…

A shot glass for every person playing (probably best to have a couple of spares in case people get excited).

Several bottles of Russian vodka (this is Russian Eurovision, after all!). If in doubt go with Stolichnaya.

The rules are very simple. You take a sip of vodka if:

1) Andrew Lloyd Webber is mentioned. Drink an entire shot if the camera picks him out in the audience.

2) Either of the hosts attempts to sing.

3) Either host pretends to be surprised at something said or done by the other in a clearly well rehearsed piece of improvisation.

4) Either of the hosts loses track of their autocue.

5) Anyone sitting in the room with you says something along the lines of ‘It’s not the same without Terry Wogan’

6) The video shown before an act contains shots of people in traditional costumes. Drink two shots if anyone is Cossack dancing.

7) You see a bear. Drink an entire shot if it’s a person dressed in a bear costume.

8) You aren’t entirely sure whether the singer is man who looks like a woman, or a woman who looks like a man.

9) A country is represented by a singer from somewhere else in the world.

10) The act involves people on stage banging large drums.

11) An item of clothing is removed on stage. Drink an entire shot if it is removed by someone else.

12) The act is bald. Drink an entire shot if they are also female.

13) The act possesses a large moustache.

14) The act is dressed in leather. Drink an entire shot if they are dressed in leather and have a large moustache.

15) If you hear a language used other than that of the nation who is singing (i.e French singing in a song by Malta). One sip per language. If in doubt, take a sip.

16) You recognise the song immediately as being a blatant rip off of a previous winner of Eurovision.

17) The song is an ode to world peace. Drink three shots immediately if there are any children on stage during the song.

18) Every time there is an awkward silence and/or miscommunication between the hosts and the people reading out the votes. Drink an entire shot if the votes get mixed up.

19) Every time you hear "Royaume-Uni? Nil point!"

20) Every time a country gives top marks to someone for geographic, political or ethnic reasons. Drink an entire shot if they give them to Russia because they’re worried they won’t get any gas this Winter otherwise.

21) If there is any alcohol left once the show is finished and you’re physically capable of coordinating the movement of alcohol from the bottle to your mouth.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Best Movie Ever?

Whoever said that there is a fine line between genius and madness has obviously seen the trailer for the upcoming Debbie (sorry, Deborah) Gibson movie Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.

I mean it has everything on the checklist to be the film of the year (maybe decade).

Giant Octopus? Check!

Mega Shark? Check!

Debbie Gibson? Check!

Mega Shark attacking a flying Boeing 747? Check!

That's right - a mega shark attacking a plane. If you can think of something more awesome than that then I envy you deeply.

Watch the trailer and, if you can get through it with dry eyes, you're doing better than I did...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

Three Kings

Today I dug out the latest issue of Guitar Techniques magazine which has a most excellent feature on the playing styles of the 'Three Kings' of the blues - Freddie King, Albert King and BB King.

The article takes a look a few licks in the style of each before giving you a 'jam' between the three of them and the backing track to practice over.

Well, I've probably been somewhat annoying my neighbours today by sticking the backing track on repeat and trying to really dig in and play with some feeling over the top of it.

I have to admit, back when I first started playing guitar I wanted to play fast flashy stuff - like Steve Vai - but over time I've really begun to appreciate laid-back soulful playing. I still love a bit of flash but the blues very much has a hold on me. Of course, it also might be because I'm nowhere near good enough to play like Mr. Vai, but we won't go there...

Anyway, I really feel like I'm beginning to make good progress on my playing. Aim to go to a jam night tomorrow - which will probably deflate my self confidence considerably!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Feeling creative...

Although nothing to do with my blues odyssey, I'm currently feeling tremendously creative. An idea for a fantastic story recently popped into my head - can't tell you too much about it just yet - and I'm off doing some research for it.

I think it will marry many of my loves in fiction - intricate and elaborate plotting, more twists and turns than a twisty, turny thing, strong (and opposed) characters and a smattering of vague wit.

It's very different to anything I've ever written before and that makes me all the more excited about it...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Feeling Generous?

Back when I was doing 100 unsuitable jobs, a lot of people would ask me to put a 'Donate' button on the blog but I never did manage to get around to it.

However, since no one has asked me about it for nearly two years, I decided to do something about it...

Timing is clearly not my thing.

But if you fancy buying me a latte to keep me amused, you can now do so freely!

A starting point?

Still keeping up my practise sessions on the guitar - a gradual process but one that feels strangely rewarding to someone who has done so little formal practise in his life!

I've also been looking into possible starting points for my epic blues venture; and Jackson, Mississippi looks likely been a great place to begin. Not only is a place that has a rich history steeped in the blues, but it's also well located - it's got an international airport and an Amtrak route that goes all the way to Chicago!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Wow - I actually learned a SONG...

Well, yesterday, after continuing to work on my appalling lack of chord knowledge I thought I'd spice things up a bit by trying to actually learn some songs...

You see, in the past, I've been quite happy to noodle around but I've rarely had the time (well, mainly patience) to actually sit down and try to learn a real song (or I simply learned the cool intro riff and then got bored!).  Well, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a lot easier to get to grips with then I first anticipated!

I picked Joe Bonamassa's 'Don't Live Anywhere (Live)' as my starting point because:

a) It's at a reasonably slow tempo for me to practice my chords


b) I love the solo.

I got hold of a trial version of Guitar Pro (do I get a free copy for that?), found a tab to practise with and - to be honest - had great fun with it. If things go as well for the next year, maybe this will work after all! I even had a go at singing (shush, don't tell everyone!)...

And for those who've not heard it; here's the song I'm talking about:

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Getting the Blues...

While I can play a bit of blues shuffling rhythm, I don't really know why I play what I do aside from I can tell, subconsciously, it fits the same pattern of chords that I've heard a thousand times before in songs from Muddy Waters to Elmore James to Buddy Guy to Stevie Ray Vaughan...

So, yesterday was all about looking into the patterns of the blues - although it was more of a quick peek in their general direction as I tried to work out what all this I, IV, V chord notation meant. 

From what I understand, the Roman numeral corresponds to the 'numbers' of the notes in the Major Scale in relation to the root note of the scale. 

E Major Scale = E, F#, G#, A, B and D#

Therefore, the I, IV, V progression is E would be E, A and B (which ties in with what I did know about playing a blues progression!).

Of course, what gets confusing are all the variations of those I, IV, V chords that are possible within a 12 bar blues while still being a blues! I am working on this today!

In other news, I've been looking into just how I'd manage to get about in the USA and it looks like a combination of trains and buses would be a pretty economical choice. I have to admit, I quite like the idea of using a train - gives me time to relax and have a chat; I think if I drove everywhere I'd end up knackered. Although perhaps spending 12 hours driving from one part of the USA to the other would be enough to really give me the blues...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Sprucing things up...

Well, yesterday was a sprucing the blog up day...

I added a little Digg button and a Twit This button (in case anybody reads something and feels an instant urge to share) which stretched my technical abilities to the maximum and also sorted out Adsense since it's something I've consistently neglected to properly sort out.

Of course, there is a certain irony (some would say stupidity) in sorting out Adsense when you've just come back to the blog after leaving it for two years and its visitor count is in the low two digits rather than when you were blogging daily to 3,000 people. However, I never claimed to have a good business head!

I also signed up to Twitter - you can visit my Twitter Page here - since everyone is always, well, twittering on about it and I have to say after Day One, my initial excitment (yah, shiny new website to fill out all the same information I've filled out in several others!) gradually ebbed away as I gained six followers - all of whom wanted to advertise something - and I found moving into the 'Trending Topics' area was the equivalent of stepping into a bad work party where everyone is discussing the same tired topics, with very little interesting to say. Maybe it will grow on me. 

Say, when I have three hundred million followers all waiting for the vague crumbs of wisdom that I deign to toss their way at random intervals...

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Improvement Advice - Part 1

So, knowing that a year isn't an awfully long time to turn my guitaring around, I turned to the Music Radar forums for some advice from people who know a whole lot more than me...

Here's some of the advice I've received so far:

1) Learn blues licks in as many different keys as possible.

Ok, this first bit of advice sounds do-able (I think). I mean, there are loads of sources for blues licks and I've already got quite a few floating around in my head.

2) Learn as many blues rhythm patterns as you, including chord substitutions.

Ah, now we begin to hit choppy water. I'm not entirely sure what a chord substitution is. I'm rather hoping it allows one, when one is playing and is a little unsure of which chord comes next, to wave one's hands and distract the audience for enough time that the chord is not missed. But I have a feeling it's a little more complicated than this...

3) Learn plenty of licks to play over turnarounds.

The turnaround, from what I remember, is the end of the rhythm pattern when the tune 'turns around' back to the starting chords. This means that any licks you play have to fit across the chords in the turnaround. I think.

What all of this shows is that I have a lot to learn. Consequently, I've not got time to fanny around here typing; I need to learn me some blues rhythms...

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Gettin' my Mojo workin...

If I want to seriously think about trying to jam with honest-to-God blues musicians when I make this trip, then I need to get my guitar chops in order.

I'm a pretty ordinary guitarist and so I need to spend the next year or so (assuming I aim to do this Summer 2010) improving my blues abilities. 

Thankfully I have a subscription to an excellent UK guitar magazine - Guitar Techniques - which, alongside all manner of tutorials, also has transcriptions from a range of blues greats including BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Bonamassa and plenty more. I'm going to be using this for a whole lot of inspiration...

I'm also going to be practising my picking techniques, (finally) learning a bit more about chords and making an effort to get out and jam once a week at an open-mic night to push me.

I don't have a lot of time to dedicate to guitar practice each day but I'm going to really try and ensure I do the best with the time I have. Will try and sort out my laptop so I can record from my Pod XT - then I can start posting some audio clips to record my (hopeful!) progress

I Have A Dream...

So, what was it that brought this blog back from its medically induced coma and me back to the world of blogging?

It was an idea. An idea that came to me while sitting enjoying a latte macchiatto in the sunlight. However, since it is my theory that most ideas seem wonderful when you're drinking a good latte and enjoying rays of April sunshine, I decided to hold off for a while and thoroughly evaluate it.

That took until the next latte arrived, by which point I had convinced myself that it was quite the most fabulous idea I had ever had...

The idea is simple:

I want to travel to the US and trace the history of the Blues - from the Delta to Memphis, from Chicago to Texas - meeting intriguing people associated with the blues along the way and bringing along my guitar for company while I use this blog to write the whole thing up.

A simple idea that combines four elements I have a great deal of fondness for:

1) Travelling across the USA. Always wanted to do it but have never got around to it.

2) The Blues. I love most types of music but the Blues has a special place in my heart. It's the music I keep returning to again and again and when I play, it's what inspires me.

3) Playing the Guitar. My relationship with the guitar is an interesting one. I love the guitar but I'm not sure it loves me. I've been playing on and off (mainly off) for years but any vague skill I have on it is a merely a triumph of my willpower over my inate lack of musical ability.

4) Writing. I love to write (you may have noticed) and the idea of transcribing my dream trip (and preparation for it) will be fun to write. Can't promise it will be fun to read but, hey ho, can't have everything, eh?

There is a whole lot of preparation involved in turning this idea into reality but this blog is going to chart the course of that. It's also going to chart the course of me really trying my damnedest to hone my guitar playing to the point that I can, by the time I do this, feel confident enough to get up on stage and jam my way across America.

Personally, I think this is going to be a whole lot of fun...

Catch Up Post

Ok, first of all - June 25th, 2007 - has it really been that long since I last posted? I guess it has.

Well, this a brief update (for anyone with a vague interest in such matters) is that I ended up getting the MA and then went on to find myself a job (and an entirely suitable one at that!). Which rather put a big dampner on the whole 100 jobs thing, if I'm honest...

You see, it felt dishonest to carry on applying for unsuitable jobs while I was engaged in employment and although I had such great fun writing it at the time I realised that 100 jobs was set to end as both a success and a failure. A success because it was a rollercoaster ride (I would never have believed I'd get over 100,000 visitors when I started it and go on national radio to talk about it) and, yet, a failure because I never did manage to reach 100.  Job number 78 was the last and I think will be the last. There all still here though in the archives, so if you want to read back over my attempts (amongst other things) to be hired as a pirate, a psychic medium, a substance misuse trainer, a bodyguard, an experienced sock designer, a sheriff's correction officer or a part-time antelope keeper then you can still read them.

But, the time of unsuitable job applications is at an end. I'm now moving onto something else entirely...