Unwritten Rules of Lead and Follow (written for you!)

Being in the unfamiliar surrounds of the northern suburbs of Perth this morning, I asked my mate if he would indulge in doing the Lead and Follow thing… termed today as leady-followy. He happily obliged and despite some minor setbacks, such as losing each other, it helped me get between our multiple destinations with minimum fuss. In so doing, it let me cast my mind to the following 3 central tenets of leading (in my opinion).

1) Never drive at a speed that would necessitate the follower to break the speed limit to stay in contact. While you may be happy with a few demerits and a few less cappuccinos this week, it’s unwise and unfair to expect your follower to do likewise, especially if they get pinged.
2) If you’re going to go for a gap (at a turn-off or roundabout for example), make sure it’s big enough for both cars.
3) If you do lose your follower, pull over and wait for them to catch up.

As an add-on to rules 1 and 2, and an action which may necessitate an invocation of rule 3, do not proceed through an Amber traffic light!

As a follower, you have an obligation to stay reasonably close, take minor risks as payback for having a personalised GPS unit, be aware of what the lead car is doing and, under no circumstances, run up their bum as a result of ineptitude, iphoning, or both πŸ™‚

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Prescient Quote circa 1857

Some thoughts from Alfred Wallace – independent co-founder of the theory of evolution though natural selection – upon seeing some birds of paradise on the Aru islands near New Guinea.

“It seems sad that on the one hand such exquisite creatures should live out their lives and exhibit their charms only in these wild inhospitable regions… while on the other hand, should civilized man ever reach these distant lands, and bring moral, intellectual and physical light into the recesses of these virgin forests, we may be sure he will disturb the nicely-balanced relations of organic and inorganic nature as to cause the disappearances, and finally the extinction, of the very beings whose wonderful structure and beauty he alone is fitted to appreciate.”

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Hehe, I’m a pillock…

I can’t find who to attribute it to, but the earliest instance I’ve found is here. As with all things interwebz, it changes according to audience context… but still good for a laugh. (8 Years late)… In that link, it appears the joke had its genesis in 1995, ’91, or earlier!

Queens University researchers have discovered the heaviest element yet known to science: Governmentium.

The new element, Governmentium (symbol=Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called pillocks. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact.

A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete. Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2 to 6 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass. When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium (symbol=Ad), an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium, since it has half as many pillocks but twice as many morons.

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20/80 Man

So, at 29 I’ve realised I’m a 20/80 kind of person. Not really having anything to do with the 80/20 Rule but ‘sort of’ in line with the idea, I like to do about 20 per cent of what is required to get a good result and then call it a day. Otherwise known as a ‘gonna’ person, I think about nice ideas and what I’d like to do (with this weekend, with this year, with this life…) and then that thought plus a little effort is all the psychological payback I need to feeling like I’ve gone the full 100%.

A classic case is music… Surrounded by WAAPA dancers and musicians – plus the many accomplished musicians and working professionals I’ve known in most walks of life, it is evident that effort and motivation are the defining factors for success and excellence… (save for some areas where a bit of blue blood certainly assists).

I thoroughly enjoy playing music, and am eternally indebted to my sister and parents for my 18th guitarry Birthday present; however, the effort required to actually get to a point whereby you become a sell-able, accomplished musician is well and truly outside of my 20%.

To go beyond would require:
* learning musical scales and notation;
* singing lessons and a lot of work to establish good harmonised vocals;
* metred playing;
* 1000 hours on the musical software of the day;
* learning the art of ‘hooks’
* some auto-tune;
* some auto-schmoozing; and
* practice, practice and practice

And when real life chews up 8am-6pm of every day, where would you find the time, even if you had the inclination…?

So I’ll stick to my drafts… My songs that are recorded in mono (gasp) in 1 take with some stocking wrapped around a coathanger around the mic to try and eliminate the ‘poppy’ sound of ‘B’ and ‘P’ plosives. Songs that in the hands of an 80/20 or 95/5 individual might actually go alright…. (speaking of, if you are one and want to use my songs, a 50/50 fiscal split should be about right, right?)

And so, I present to you a draft… of a song, from a 20/80 guy πŸ˜‰ called a ‘Waltz for Lost Memories’

[display_podcast]
http://www.jameses.org/mp3/demo_waltz.mp3

“A waltz for lost memories” – Original Lyrics (the bit about silk and fading has been omitted)…

Please take your time,
Take all you need as you look in my eyes.
Mightn’t be long,
till we’re parting ways for the very last time.

I do believe,
That life is a series of memories and dreams
And as they fade,
We don’t want to walk on alone to our graves…

So take my hand,
While I kiss ‘neath your neck in the shadowy light
Life makes no demands,
While we’re lying here.

{chorus}
Come what may, when I look in your eyes.
You know what they say,
“It was still love at last sight”
Oh and all I want is you…
And nothing else will ever do,
Yes and all I want is you.

I’m taking you in,
Through scent and through taste and through touch of the skin.
As rumpled sheets lay,
We’re taking the day…
But where do they go?
The hours and seconds and minutes that flow…
Next thing you know, life will call us back.

{chorus}
Come what may, when I look in your eyes.
Make no mistake, it’s still love every time!
And though we’re strong today;
Even finest silks can tear and fray.
And I don’t want this to fade!

We walk on alone,
Stare out to sea casting memories like stones.
A splash and they’re gone,
leaving nothing but ripples to take them along.
And time is a thief,
He’ll come in the night and he’ll take what he’ll please.
But until our release, oh he shan’t take you.

{chorus}
(Come what may)
When I look in your eyes.
(Make no mistake)
It’s still love every time!
Oh and all I want is you.
And nothing else will ever do.
Oh and all I want is you…

Outro…

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Constrained Diversity

Last year my thoughts rambled to the idea of ‘constrained diversity’ – that is, when given certain parameters and boundaries that dictate an outcome (to some degree), how do things differ and contrast in the remaining ‘free’ space?

To explore the idea a little further, I decided to undertake an experiment and see what the results yielded. Over a year later – I must profess it was a combination of waiting for others and personal slackness – I can now present the outcomes at hand. I had wanted a broader experiment but was limited in the number of people who were able and willing to contribute.

The experiment

‘Provide people with the lyrics and chords of a song they’ve never heard and ask them to perform and record it’

The rationale

We’ve all learnt songs from sheet music and use the combination of chords/timing/lyrics and memory of how the original is performed to re-enact it or cover it. But what happens if you have no ‘memory’ of how the original sounds? What is the end-point?

The example

One of my songs distributed to 4 friends under the moniker ‘Coffee and Covers’ in the following form. Ryan was unable to participate in the end due to a lack of home recording equipment. Tess Beyer and Eadie Newman, and Kristen Calle completed a version each and sent it back to be compared with my version.

The outcome

[display_podcast]

The aside

To those musical pedants reading, I must confess that’s it did not turn out to be a simple one-for-one exercise in all regards. Kristen, being the awesome and kooky musician he is used an alternate guitar tuning which change the chords a bit. In his words:

“My version is played in some weird open tuning I have never used before. I think it was C,A,D,G,C,E. Anyway, it’s [stuffed] so I though I was playing some Am variation, but I think it was closer to a C. So hate away at me if you will, but the verse chord progression actually sounds more like C, F, C(ish), Am, G. So, yeah. Sorry about that.”

As you can tell by my response, I wasn’t too phased πŸ˜‰

“Fucking Love it!!! […] Thanks again for having a crack… you’ve also earnt my girlfriend’s
full respect for doing all this for a friend of a friend!”

Also, Tess and Eadie struggled with an unknown source of high-pitched whining. While I did some post-submission EQ, it still persists and the resultant track makes it sound a little like the girls are underwater.

The thanks

I love both tracks and massive thanks go out to Kristen, Tess, Eadie and Brigitte (for use of her PC). Also, a big thanks to Bec Dickson who put me in touch with Kristen and Ryan G Johnson for doing his darndest to take part. (I have heard Ryano’s version over Skype and we may be able to get it up one day). Lastly, huge apologies to Kristen and the girls for taking so long in getting this up.

If anyone’s keen to do something similar (or diverse) in the future give me a hoy!

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Heat pack, crooked back, give a man a phone…

So after pulling up a bit gingerly after attempting to lift an altogether-too-large bookcase at IKEA with incredibly poor posture, my lower back has progressively worsened to the point that I sit here, at home, tethered to a heat-pack and anti-inflammed up. A heartening trip to the physio, which included some manipulation and more cracks than a stockyard whip at a cattle round-up, leaves me positive that with good management, a little more heat (MORE HEAT) and some time, it’ll be good to go before too long… although, I must hereby announce – prior to its commencement it must be said – that my log/dwarf tossing career is over…

So with that out of the way, I can turn to the latest thing to have caught my attention: phones, iphones and SMRT phones.

With the much-hyped release of the iphone 4, I finally got around to thinking that perhaps I should upgrade from my doorstop/brick/bottle opener (with phone functionalities) and join the early 2000s. If you had’ve asked me 15-20 years ago if I would perceive that I would later become a ‘technological laggard’, I have a feeling the answer would’ve been firmly in the negative. After all, my family trail-blazed with the Apple IIc back in the early 80s, we were in the first wave of Sega Megadrive owners in Bonny Hills (more a ripple than a wave) and I was one of the first Bonny Hillbillies to enjoy the light-speeds of 56.6Kbps internet (at my neighbor’s). I’d burnt the snake oil, rearranged the goat’s intestines and gazed upwards to observe birds of carrion and the auguries were positive!

So what happened?

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book The Tipping Point, talks about technological adoption as part of a larger discussion of social epidemics (a prΓ©cis is found here, including a very sophisticated graph). Leading the way are the innovators and the early adopters. To make generalisations, these guys are the ones that always update to cutting edge technologies (even though they may still be a little bug-ridden); they line up for hours to upgrade to the latest gizmo or iWhatsit and (probably) bemoan the mass uptake of the technology that they’d discovered so many eons earlier. Not to refrain from sweeping generalisations, they’re probably also the guys that can’t wait for Tomb Raider 3D to come out, so they can finally marvel (in cinemas, and later in their own company) at the eye-popping extent of Lara Croft’s assets.

You then have the early majority and late majority, who are the ones that have probably purchased a phone between 4 years ago and last year that – at the very least – has web browsing, social media, a camera. Some of the late majority may not yet have upgraded but are a good bet to do so when their next 24 month plan winds up.

Then, bringing up the rear are the technological laggards. In preparing this treatise, I’ve realised there aren’t too many positive words that end in ‘-ard’: dullard, braggard, retard, wizard… These guys are the ones that are ‘resistant’ to change for lack of a better word or who, for whatever reason, haven’t caught the smartphone bug. There are some laggards that may still not realise that you can send a mini-letter through your phone, who think that ‘VHS is just fine and dandy thank you very much’ and find obsolescence the greatest driver of technological advancement.

While I’m certainly not a ‘tail-blazer’ in this sense, I admittedly have not jumped on the sooper-phone bandwagon as quickly as 9 yr old me may have thought. Whysat?
1) You pay a premium to be an early-innovator/adopter. And with the latest round of smartphones only available on 24month plans, you can be sure that you’ll be thwacked when you have to pay off your ‘old’ iphone4 in 12 months time for the ‘new’ 24month planned iphone5 or iphone-alternative. Not to mention the plans that are bundled with the phones are not really that cheap.
2) Smartphones are expensive – $750-$1250 outright for the latest models. That’s a trip to Bali for 2, a laptop, or a new DSLR.

The first two objections are obviously related to my fiscally prudent Scottish heritage and thus couldn’t really be helped… the next observations I was able to make of my own volition, unswayed by heritage and bloodline.

3) There’s no iPhone killer currently on the market. iPhones are great, don’t get me wrong; I just don’t necessarily subscribe to the strictures that Apple imposes to ‘encourage’ users to use the entire Apple suite of products. The Android-based (is Google any better?) phones have come a long way and each has its relative merits and downsides, but none shine down upon us with an all-conquering halo of non-Apple goodness…
4) Lastly, I think I primarily need just a phone… I appreciate the lure of 1,000,000 apps (999,900 pointless and 100 good ones); I understand the appeal of instant connectivity to news/social media/online banking/flight check-in; I’m in awe at the fact that the latest phones have faster processors than desktops we were using not 10 years ago… but… do we need that every waking hour of our lives? Internet is ubiquitous in my house and my work. The only time I’m not connected is on my 15 minute ride to/from work, when I’m in the pool/beach, asleep and snoring or out and about on weekends… while I’ve certainly been caught out before (phoning my flatmate, providing my bank details and asking him to exchange cash to my keycard – and hopefully not to an additional accout in the Caymans), I do enjoy the tech-free human element of these times and interactions…

So

…in sum, after my research it appears that – iphone4’s are great; in fact iphone 3GS’ are great (and probably cheaper if you can live with having last year’s item). HTC’s phones are likely to keep on throwing (and landing) punches for the Android platform into the future and comprise good viable alternatives. The Samsung Galaxy S is a great phone – with a few unfortunate failings – that would probably serve all of your immediate smartphoning needs and then some. **These are all mini-PCs with phone and text functionality; correspondingly make sure that you have a good daily phone charging routine.**

As for me, the Nokia E63 will suffice for 12 months, when I shall peruse the landscape once more and see how far behind us laggards are. I think the E63 is a smart phone because I can charge it every 3-4 days, I can do internet banking/flight check-in at a pinch, it doubles up as a torch, and on a $29 cap I’ll never have to refrain from sending Storm a reply-text for fear of running out of pre-paid credit.

And just remember, you early-innovators need people like me… after all, innovation is relative, and if you don’t have us laggards, how will you be able to see how far you’ve really come, condescendingly smile inwardly/laugh outwardly/tweet profusely at how further advanced you are than some of us, and justify in your mind the premium you pay to remain that way, at the front of the innovation curve…?

Back to my roots…

Just a quickie to say that on my friend gally’s recommendation, I have gotten rid of the old splash page. I have also taken the liberty of moving Jameses.org away from it’s long standing /home/ and to the root folder; that is, www.jameses.org

I have put a redirect page at the old location so even if you go there by habit/mistake (this is more for me than anyone else) you’ll be redirected to the new address – you wouldn’t even know you were lost.

There should be no change for email subscribers or anyone for that matter, but if you stumble on an as-yet-undiscovered quirk, please let me know.

I guess the googlebots might be a bit confused with the new set-up but fortunately I’m not faced with too many competitors in the Google ‘Jameses’ term stakes…

Thanks to the people who provided feedback on the ‘Week Without’ or as Cathy proposed the ‘week with’ – which has a decidedly more positive spin and advocates filling your week with positive activities and tidbits, rather than remove things that are ‘bad’… both sides of the same coin I guess…

Oh, and lastly, I’ve been invited to interview for the Senior Policy Officer pool at my current work. In fact, my current job will be drawn out of said pool (due to restructure). So thankfully, I’m not so shit that they won’t consider me for my own job! πŸ˜‰

Much love…

A Week Without

I’ve just gone for a week without booze (one more in the Dry (arse-end-of) July to go)… it wasn’t very hard but it was something I’d been meaning to do for a while. After all, I had the feeling I was ‘the guy’ that you hit up if you felt like a few Friday beers, because it was evident that, week in, week out, I’d be up for a pint (or 4). Now that may not change in the long run (after all, one week is… one week) and I do need a good alternative plan for Fridays so that I’m not around when the ice-cold roll call goes out; however it was a start. And one that got me thinking…

If I can do a ‘week without’ booze. What else can I go for a week without…? What are the activities that I feel are relatively indispensable in my daily and weekly routine…? Could I go without them with relative ease…? If I can’t, can I go without them at all? And, might I learn a thing or two if I try a weekly schedule of abstention from a range of things…. Let me just get it out of the way early – this does not relate to sexual activities, nor to activities that I never do, and thus would be very easy to refrain from doing…

So some options are: ‘a week without’-
* caffeine;
* hitting the snooze button;
* swearing;
* asking for a favour from someone;
* making a promise i don’t keep;
* making excuses to not do something;
* take-away or dining out;
* leaving the kitchen untidied after meals; and, lastly
* eating food that has been processed in any way.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone has any other ideas for stuff to try. I think the last one would be very, very difficult. Think of almost all the foods you eat beyond fresh fruit and veg. Dairy, pastas, white rice, cereals, bread, sauces, oil, condiments, meats, etc… the list is nigh on endless. Even something as benign as soy sauce or milk would be off the list. I’m not even sure if lentils or other dried beans that could’ve been used in a soup would pass the test, on the basis that they’ve presumably been dried by some artificial process. (I’m ignoring the fact that picking fruit and slicing meat from a bone is also a process).

It’d be a boring old week: wholegrain rice with fresh vegetables; salt and chilli to taste; potato and corn as my other carbs; and fruit. But one that makes you think, if only for a fleeting moment, about just how far removed our existence is from eating natural foods.

Silly little poem

Sometimes when I leave out meat, I hear the fall of tiny feet;
The subject of my many rants, are these little miscreants;

They search for food in tidy rows, first 1 then 10 and yonder goes;
They nomp and omp and chomp my stuff, until I’ve soon had quite enough;

And say to them in calmest voice, I’m sorry friends but I’ve no choice
But to ask if you would kindly leave my food my house and me in peace;

Before you aim to cause a stink, I might have washed you down the sink,
And trust me friends there’s no food there; it’s not that I don’t wish to share

But even with your tiny mouths, the lot of you will soon devour
My meat, my eggs, and all my fish, and that’s against my every wish.

So once again I ask you please!
Switch to honey and bother the bees!

Perth Storms

So you may or may not have heard, but Perth got slammed yesterday afternoon. And what a way to break a 4-5m month dry spell…! Multiple fronts dumping 45mm of rain in under 2 hours, phenomenal wind (127km in the city), hailstones the size of hailstones, and thunder that popped your heart out of your chest after each colossal lightning strike that froze time for an instant.

I’d left work early due try and get on top of a headcold, and about 12mins after arriving home, the rain started; then the blackout that was inevitable (according to my boss, the salt encrusts on the power distribution network and shorts it out until it’s duly rinsed off – and rinsed off it was).

Then the hail started, and like a sodden fool playing skirmish with god (and without a gun), I dashed about trying to blanket the car to remove some of the potency of the hail impact. Unfortunately, and welts aside, I was a little late and Storm’s beloved Norman now carries some pock marks for his struggles. Compared with some other cars I saw today, and with others that had windows/screen smashed yesterday, he pulled up alright.

I’m sure a few trusty 10+ year old canines managed to slip off their mortal collars and expired with nerves as a result of the lightning and thunder that carried on for hours. Flooding in the city, traffic at a standstill for hours, mudslides near the CBDs iconic park, and washing wet on the line for the first time in months… it was, in a word… memorable.

Anyways, here are some pics… You’d think I’ve never seen rain the way I’m carrying on, but hey… it was fun!

Norman in the Hail

Hail in the Yardl

Hail the size of hailstones

2nd Front on the way

Green Clouds

Green Clouds2

The Old Shed

Downpour

Driving Home

Chain Rain...