Latest Guitar Build

I normally just have guitar stuff on my other blog but… what the heck.

I filmed some of the process of me assembling a “Partscaster” (a guitar built from bits you assemble) recently.  I’m slowly releasing it on YouTube.

Here are the first 3 of 5 parts.  I’ll post the others here once they are up on YouTube.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3



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Canadian GP controversy

If you’re into F1 you’ll no doubt be up to speed with the controversy at yesterday’s (9th June 2019) Canadian GP.   If not briefly…   Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) was leading from the start.  Later in the race his great rival Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) seemed to have a faster car but overtaking in F1 can be difficult, esp when the best overtaking spot, into a chicane just after a DRS spot (cars following another get a couple of places a lap they can lower some of their rear wing to make their car a bit faster) is after a hairpin which for some reason Vettel repeatedly went through very smoothly whilst Lewis kept on locking up a front tyre, missing the apex or seemingly being much slower round the bend than Vettel (on occasion all three on one lap!)

However Hamilton continued to close lap after lap and was harrying the German driver into making a mistake.  Which he did.  Going into the chicane at turns 3/4 Vettel went off the track and then came back on.  Hamilton was almost alongside him, was this Hamilton’s chance?  In a split second both were heading towards the concrete wall – the Montreal circuit is unforgiving built on a tight island circuit in the middle of a lake, it doesn’t have many run off areas, many corners having solid walls built right up the circuit edge.  Hamilton backed off and Vettel retained the lead.

As it happened in our excited house I said “Oh now that could cause Vettel problems”. Hamilton quickly made a radio comment “That was unsafe”.   I’ve watched motor-racing most of my life since a teenager.  I’ve attended lots of live events and watched all forms on tv.  Now there is a rule that I’m very aware of which in summary states the following.  If you leave the track you have to rejoin SAFELY.  That rule has been there forever – I’ve seen it applied at all levels in the sport.  It is one of safety and also about fairness.  You can’t just drive where you like – you have to drive on the race circuit, and that is defined normally by solid white lines at either side.  If you put all four wheels over that line you’re “off the circuit”.  You can neither “gain an advantage” or “return unsafely” once you’ve done that.  Both will be punished.

So if you watch the incident – You’ll see Vettel skittles back onto the track forcing Lewis to change is line toward the wall and possibly putting him off the circuit too by going too far over the curbs.  Lewis appears to have to back off.

The stewards (learned men all, including always an ex F1 driver) decided that Vettel’s return was unsafe and that it deserved a 5 second penalty – applied to the time at the end of the race.  So Vettel crossed the line first but Hamilton won due to that penalty.  View this and decide.

I hear the comments on this commentary but can’t agree.  If you watch the overhead shot Hamilton is forced “off circuit” and has to break.

There is furore about this “ruining the race” etc.  But …. the rules are the rules, that rule has been around years and years.  The Stewards looked and agreed with me that is was dangerous.  This rule is primarily about safety – I heard commentators say “That’s not the situation that rule should be applied.”  But it’s a rule without anything saying – “but only in this case, or not these cases”.

However what followed was pure farce.  Vettel stopped his car past Parc Ferme – as a podium finisher (despite the penalty he was 2nd) he has to drive to the end of the pitlane near the podium.  He then pushed his car backwards in the pit lane into the scrutineering area.  He then stormed off to the Ferrari offices.  They pursuaded him to return for the podium ceremony (or face additional sanctions).  He did but moved the 1st and 2nd marker boards.

What a petulant show from an adult man.  Whilst many on social media applaud this to me this is more wrong than anything with the penalty.  Act like an adult – have the arguments out of the public eye.

Here’s the thing….

If Vettel had just driven without making any mistakes that took him off the track (like Hamilton did and most other drivers yesterday) then he’d have won a hard fought race and this would never be a thing.  He went off the circuit.  He reentered dangerously in the view of the stewards – who are the judges of fact.  It did possibly rob us of Hamilton trying to overtake as once the penalty was announced he knew he could win without that risk.  But again… them’s the rules.

Some say “Where should he go?”  To me that’s neither here nor there.  Rules for safety are made to make sure you consider your behaviour at all times.  He made a mistake which if he’d been thinking completely maybe he should have avoided isn’t that the point of this rule?  He should have slowed a little into that corner earlier not had the kick and not gone off – then it wouldn’t have mattered.

That’s my position on it – I think the penalty was just and fair.  Vettel lost that race since he made a mistake not because of the stewards, if the mistake hadn’t been made they wouldn’t have been in the equation.

I personally think his actions after the flag – not driving to the right place, pushing his car backwards in pit lane, moving the boards, not being at the first post race interview should all be punished too.  And he’s got previous on that – remember the weighbridge incident last year?


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Simply the best…

I don’t often talk about sports on here but my passions are rugby and motorsports. With regards to the latter today the sad loss of Niki Lauda has been announced.

He was at his peak when as a teenager I got into watching F1. Battling with James Hunt in the famous 1976 season when he cheated death in that horrific firey accident returning to the cockpit only 6 weeks later.

Sometimes friends who know my interest ask me “Who was the best ever F1 driver?”.

Well in my humble opinion Lauda is up there. There’s Senna; I saw him drive that incredible first lap at Donnington where in the rain (I was soaked through that day) he just made everyone else, Prost included, look totally useless. Schumacher you can’t deny his statistics, Hamilton is another and who’s championships come with multiple teams over two eras (different technologies in the engines). Of those I never saw Jim Clark, Moss, Fangio etc have big credentials.

OK I’ll make the case for my two nominations…

Graham Hill. Twice a world champion with two different teams. Dominant at Monte Carlo and of course the only driver, to date, to have won the triple crown… F1 championship (and Monaco), Le Mans 24hr winner and Indy 500 winner. With Fernando Alonso having failed to qualify for this year’s Indy 500 his unique record will live for another year. Also any fan will tell you Alonso had an easy ride to the Le Mans win with Toyota the only manufacturer team running a big team that year.

So for me Hill has to be in my top three.

Niki Lauda. I’ve said this for years, why? He won multiple championships across two teams with again different engine formats his last in the turbo era 80s after returning from retirement. Remember Schumacher’s return? Yes well less said the better…. Add to that the injuries he recovered from and how he inspired many others he has to again vie for that top position in my list of the best of all.

RIP Niki.

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15 years

15 years ago today I took my (to date) last drink. I take today as my sober birthday because that evening lying on the floor in the fetal position sobbing my eyes out I made the decision to finally ask for help.

Then from my ever supportive and loving family, the nurse at work I trusted to actually ask for help, the psychiatrist she referred me to, the rehab staff who took me in, the others I was in rehab with through to the thousands of AAs who’ve sat with me in the thousands of meetings I’ve attended my undying gratitude and love. Thank you all. Everyone of you has helped to get me sober and keep me sober.

As they say…

One day at a time

Don’t drink and go to meetings

Never give up giving up

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I saw the neurotologist earlier this week. Firstly I got a little over 30 min with him. Unheard of on the time pressed NHS. Secondly he really got my condition. He’d suggest symptoms before I did, including ones previously dismissed as unconnected or even scoft at when I’ve raised them with other doctors. Finally his discription of the feelings and what I feel is happening to me was as though he himself had experienced what I have.

He explained his belief is my problem is due to a artery in neck going into spasm disturbing the blood flow to the ear.

So onto a new drug. Further referral for more physio and some cbt counselling. Back to see him in 6 months. He stated “We can’t cure you but we can arrest or slow your decline and help you be more able to cope.”

A friend with a similar condition has seen him for some time now and she really sings his praises. She’s back driving now so…. Fingers crossed.

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Arrogance of Man

I was watching a news report last night about the tornado in Texas. The devastation it had left is awful and my heart goes out to those affected. However I was struck, again, with how an official giving a news conference described it. I’ll paraphrase. It went something like. “We’ve got houses levelled, destroyed and turn on their heads. It looks like a bomb went off.” I remember a recent report of the after effects of the cyclone had hit eastern Africa earlier this year a reported walking among the debris saying “It looks like a warzone”.

Interesting isn’t it that mother nature in both these events has shown just how vulnerable we humans are; that despite all our technological advances etc. that when nature decides a cyclone or tornado is going to go that way there’s nothing we can do. Or a hurricane or a tsunami or a volcano eruption. However we decide to compare mother nature to human induced destruction…. “like a bomb”…. “like a warzone”.

We don’t see reporters walking through the ravaged cities of Syria or Yemen saying – “looks like a cyclone hit” or “as bad as a tornado”. Also (with the exception of the bomb analogy) actually to look like a warzone takes time for us to bring that level of destruction a tornado, hurricane, cyclone, tsunami, volcano etc. can do it is minutes, seconds even.

Still we compare it to man made efforts. We really have so little respect for nature and so much arrogance as a species currently is my overriding thought on it.

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Brexit – yes I have to talk about it again!

I’ve just watched the Laura Kuenssberg documentary – The Brexit Storm. Billed as her inside story. Well… hmmm…. maybe. Yes her face was the same as mine at the moment the count was delivered to the commons on the first defeat of the Withdrawal Agreement- I’d expected about 100 not 150. Her jaw dropped as mine did that evening. But I expect many of the cozy little chats with Boris in the bar and Jacob Rees-Moog before a broadcast interview were much more managed and scripted than they’d like you to think. Steven Baker almost crying as he decided to again vote against the deal was … well… marginally authentic. (No it wasn’t) Oh and another bugbear – again the leave means leave march to parliament on 29th March was shown but not the 1 million who marched the week before demanding the whole thing be overturned – not very unbiased frankly.

However – here we are April 2019. I should be living in a country now freed from the shackles of the EU enjoying some new marvellous future the leave campaigns have promised for years. Colours to the mast. I’m a left of centre liberal who was (and still is) a remainer. I honestly don’t believe the years of economic pain is worth going through and I’m highly dubious we’ll be economically better off anyway when we ever get through the chaos. Whilst many shout loudly for isolationist populist messages in many countries what you really see across the globe is a continue consolidation into large powerful trading blocks. Here is a map I’ve nicked from Wikipedia.


Note that there is very little grey – i.e. not in any block – a handful in Africa but including Yemen which is a non-governable warzone, Iran (ostracised by the world) Syria (see Yemen with a dictator that we really should have done something about ages ago…. ), North Korea (ostracised repressive regime with a dictator)… You can see where I’m going here. The UK will be in glorious isolation as the only democratic, developed nation outside a bloc. Whatever you feel about globalisation and loss of sovereignty with regard to trade and multi-national companies etc. It is a fact of life and arguably an inevitable consequence of the continued development of capitalism. Essentially the aim will be that all wealth and trade will end up in the hand(s) of the biggest, the largest, the most aggressive etc. Capitalism’s end state is a single corporation (World Inc) that has a total monopoly in ever market. Obviously anyone can start up new but unless you have a disruptive model like Amazon did 20 years ago good luck on beating World Inc.

Regardless of how foolhardy the UK government asked the people and narrowly the vote was to leave. Now… no one had actually thought about what that meant. The question just said

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union.

So did leave mean join the EFTA (which we were in prior to joining in 1974?) and have a deal like Norway? I.e. we abide by the EU rules on trade, accept free movement of labour etc. Did it mean stay in a customs union… etc. Did it mean only operate on WTO rules (us and Moldova apparently, even North Korea has some trade deals!) Btw – how come WTO rules are all ok but the EU trading rules were unacceptable to us? But the EU has an elected parliament and a council of nationally elected representatives…. whereas the WTO?… To say I’m baffled by the arguments thrown about by the Brexiter champions is an understatement at times.

We didn’t know when we voted in 2016. It was one of my main reasons for immediately dismissing voting for that option myself – I had no idea what I would be voting for. It appears our representatives in parliament still are clueless as to what we actually voted for. Exasperation doesn’t come close to how appalling this situation is. Currently some of our factories lay idol since they’d planned a shut down in early April to avoid issues with no deal Brexit disrupting their supply chain. But we’ve not left however you can’t just change those plans they probably told all their suppliers 3 – 6 months ago of this decision. No doubt also placing contracts with others to do necessary maintenance or upgrades whilst the plant is shut. But now Brexit day is 12 April… or is it? What an utter utter mess. The CBI and TUC normally organisations at each others throats jointly wrote to the prime minister on 21 March saying.

Together we represent millions of workers and tens of thousands of businesses. It is on their behalf that we are writing to you to ask you to change your Brexit approach.

Our country is facing a national emergency. Decisions of recent days have caused the risk of no deal to soar. Firms and communities across the UK are not ready for this outcome. The shock to our economy would be felt by generations to come.

On Monday night there was a series of indicative votes to try to tell the government where to steer the negotiations. Of course totally ignoring the fact that the EU has said they are done negotiating the withdrawal deal on the table is the only one we can have. Something most MPs seem to totally ignore. I was bamboozled to see two options on Monday’s vote, so called Common Market 2.0 (looks like EFTA membership to me) or a customs union. I’ll spell this out so that MPs understand. Article 50 of the Maastrict treaty under which we can leave the EU makes it very clear we cannot negotiate a new trading arrangement with the EU whilst still a member. We have to leave (deal or not) before either of these options can be presented in negotiations for our future status.

Oh yes though of you reading from outside the UK – this is only the start. The deal we are agonising over and tearing ourselves apart constitutionally, politically and economically over is only to go to end of 2020 (end of current EU budget cycle), slightly more than 18months. In that time we are supposed to negotiate a far harder target – a new trading relationship. That took Canada 7 years and we supposedly (in current government policy) want a much more ambitious deal than Canada – sometimes call Canada++.

In watching repeatedly the government come back with it’s withdrawal agreement to defeat after defeat after defeat and to see no agreement on any practical way forward even wasting time on voting for situations that the EU would simply just wave away with a firm “NON!” beggars belief.

It all seems bizarre when you remember the leave campaign banging on about how we were going to “Take back control”. Frankly our parliamentary parties, MPs, the government and the Prime Minister have all collectively proved actually they are the last people to whom more control should be given.

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Memory jolt….

In a conversation with someone the other day I suddenly remembered a film. Silent Running. Made in 1972 it was, IMHO, years ahead of its time.

A brief synopsis which I hope isn’t too spoiler filled for those that have not seen it. Set in the future where mankind have so polluted earth that plants can’t live. So a fleet of space craft have a set a pods on them, greenhouses in effect, that hold the last plants, trees etc saved. They are waiting to be told to return to earth to allow the reforestation to begin. However they get told to jettison the pods and return to earth for commercial work instead.

The rest of the film is about a scientist on one of the ships and his struggle with that decision and what he does about it.

Made in 1972 remember its themes about pollution of the planet ring so more true today 47 years later. There are little drones etc all pre star wars etc. Bruce Dern is the star.

I remember seeing the film on TV in the mid 70s. I’d have been mid teens. I remember I cried my eyes out at the finale (I’ll leave you to watch the movie or read the plot synopsis on Wikipedia!).

For years and years afterwards I often told people it was one of my favourite films. But I haven’t seen it or thought about it in ages until this conversation sparked my memory.

And then I was set off thinking. I’d have seen this film a year, maybe two, before I began to regularly drink. I remember my family laughing and chastising me in a jovial “pull yourself together” as I cried at that film. Outward strong emotional outbursts weren’t encouraged for the men of the family.

This film isn’t why I’m an alcoholic but it suddenly struck me why I liked alcohols ability to numb my emotions so well. Why I did then abuse it’s use for 25 years to numb those emotions. That memory is symptomatic of why alcohol enticed me into its lair.

Now it’s accepted in my nuclear family that I can be quite emotional about films, news stories etc. Me weeping at DIY SOS or appeal films etc is not uncommon and met with “oh dear Dad’s gone again”. I cried like mad over that flypast for the guy in the Sheffield park just because he’d remembered those airmen sacrifice to save him and his friends 75 years ago and his amazing dedication to the memorial there.

I’m thinking I must buy a copy of Silent Running and watch it again to see if I still cry at the end 40 years on.

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Managing Ménière’s 

Hello anybody still around to read this – apologies for being the most infrequent blogger in the blogsphere.  However frankly there is very little to blog about – I no longer work, I’m stuck at home most of the time now and therefore there’s little (nothing!) of interest really going on.

So I’m now just writing this so that I might read it some point in the future I think.

After about 18 months suffering with the Ménière’s being really bad it is … perhaps a little better.  I hate to say that in case that triggers it all off again.  The frequency of the really bad vertigo attacks has diminished at least.  We’re at about 1 a month currently.  Which is better than one or two a week as it was back last year.  However difficulty balancewise, real issues with Hyperacusis (sensitivity to sound) and just hearing continue and vary but I’m learning to generally cope.

I recently saw the Neurologist who reviewed my MRI that I had done.  Nothing obvious.  Which is in someway good but in otherways a bit of a bugger as therefore no new treatment plan.  However he’s referred me to a Neurotologist who specialises in the bit between the ear and the brain.  Maybe that’ll yield something new we’ll see in time.

Via one of the online forums I’m on I found this page…

It says…

How do I manage an attack?

During an acute attack, lay down on a firm surface. Stay as motionless as possible, with your eyes open and fixed on a stationary object. Do not try to drink or sip water immediately, as you’d be very likely to vomit. Stay like this until the severe vertigo (spinning) passes, then get up SLOWLY.

After the attack subsides, you’ll probably feel very tired and need to sleep for several hours.

If vomiting persists and you are unable to take fluids for longer than 24 hours (12 hours for children), contact your doctor. He/She can prescribe nausea medication, and/or vestibular suppressant medication. He/she may wish to see you or even admit you to the hospital if you are dehydrated. Meclizine (Antivert), lorazepam and clonazepam are commonly used vestibular suppressant medications and Compazine, Phenergan or Ondansetron are commonly used medications for nausea.

Certain self-care tactics can help reduce the impact of Meniere’s disease. Consider these tips for use during an episode:
* Sit or lie down immediately when you feel dizzy. During an episode of vertigo, avoid things that can make your signs and symptoms worse, such as sudden movement, bright lights, watching television or reading.
* Rest during and after attacks. Don’t rush to return to your normal activities.
* Be aware of the possibility of losing your balance. Falling could lead to serious injury. Use good lighting if you get up in the night. Consider walking with a cane for stability if you experience chronic balance problems.
* Avoid driving a car or operating heavy machinery if you experience frequent episodes of vertigo. Doing so could lead to an accident and injury.

The unpredictable episodes of vertigo are usually the most debilitating problem of Meniere’s disease. The episodes often force a person to lie down for several hours and lose time from work or leisure activities, and they can cause emotional stress.
Vertigo can also increase your risk of:
* Falls
* Accidents while driving a car or operating heavy machinery
* Depression or anxiety in dealing with the disease
* Permanent hearing loss

The real interesting bit for me was reading this is that this is how over the last 18 months or more that I’ve come to cope with an attack myself through experience.  So I completely support it (exception to the medications which I’ve not tried those ones so can’t say).  But I’ll highlight my experience.

During an acute attack, lay down on a firm surface. Stay as motionless as possible, with your eyes open and fixed on a stationary object. … Stay like this until the severe vertigo (spinning) passes, then get up SLOWLY.

100% – this is the best way to cope with it I find.  I try to get down on the floor and lay face down as soon as it starts to move.  I then raise to being on all fours or kneeling and then focus on a point on the floor until it slows.  It doesn’t always work but sometimes I can limit an attack to a few seconds or a minute or so.  If not I’ll get sat up leaning forward looking down and the floor and try to ride out the spin for an hour or two.

After the attack subsides, you’ll probably feel very tired.   I’m normally shattered for at least the next 24 hours.

* Sit or lie down immediately when you feel dizzy. During an episode of vertigo, avoid things that can make your signs and symptoms worse, such as sudden movement, bright lights, watching television or reading.

Totally agree – moving slowly avoid looking to the affected side (mine is left) so I’ll move my whole body to the left I’ll not move the head to the left at all.
* Rest during and after attacks. Don’t rush to return to your normal activities.

I completely agree – once I’ve had an attack that is it – that day at least is written off I need to just sit still and recover.
* Be aware of the possibility of losing your balance. Falling could lead to serious injury. Use good lighting if you get up in the night. Consider walking with a cane for stability if you experience chronic balance problems.

Getting up at night is difficult for me.  We leave the landing light on and the door ajar so I have some light but still my wife finds me ability to walk into the wall, bed, door highly ammusing.
* Avoid driving a car or operating heavy machinery if you experience frequent episodes of vertigo. Doing so could lead to an accident and injury.

In the UK you can’t drive with this disease.  Recently we finally sold the existing two cars, one of which was simply just sitting on the drive most of the time and bought a newer middle sized vehicle my wife is confident to drive.  My large estate car is gone and her beloved little nippy runabout.  I’m no longer insured to drive and I resigned to never driving again.  But boy that takes your freedom away.  I have many good friends in AA to thank as they are going out of their way currently to help give me lifts to meetings where they can so I still regularly attend my home groups which is vitally important for me.

So I’ve put this here for anyone struggling with vertigo and esp Ménière’s as I’d recommend much of what it says as I worked it out through my own experience.  Also so that anyone who’s wondering what I go through this goes someway to explain it.

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New year views

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?  I haven’t done in years – they always ended up dis-guarded by mid Jan at the earliest and Mid Feb at the latest.  I was reflecting that really why do you need 1st Jan to be the day you do anything you want to change?  14th May 2004 was a Friday – it was a boringly uneventful day – the only two real significant events worldwide on that date ever are that Israel declared independence from Great Britain in 1948 (that’s gone well!) and in 1787 delegates gathered to begin drawing up the USA constitution (possibly went better…).

However for me along with my birthday, the birth of my children, the day Mrs F walked up the aisle to meet me at the alter etc. it was the most significant day in my life.  I lay down after the final bender and cried and cried. Lying there in the foetal position I knew I just had to do something about my drinking.  So I did – the rest of that history is on this blog elsewhere.

But a new year does lead you to look back and look ahead.  2018 – well less said about that the better  for me in many senses.  Dominated by my illness and subsequently leaving the world of work, probably permanently.   I still feel I’m looking back on my career and thinking – I’d really not worked out what I was really doing and now it’s gone!  I’m one of those that sort of bumbles through life – remarkably well for the most part and very luckily with some good results overall.  But I can still think “Did I achieve anything of any real value?”  But then a belated farewell from a colleague over Christmas surprised me with the level of esteem they seem to hold me in.  I’m no doubt my own worst critic.

However 2018 had some really great things too – my daughter getting her MSc with flying colours.  Clearly the reason her thesis was passed requiring no revisions was of course down to the efforts of Mrs F and yours truly as her proof readers … ahem … 😉  My son’s engagement and his confirmation of longer term funding for his position.

I’m hopeful for 2019 to be a better year healthwise.  Whilst not symptom and attack free since I did officially stop attempting to work my condition has overall been better.  I’ve some projects planned – you’ll probably see more of them on the other blog – and time to enjoy doing them at least!

Happy new year to you all and may it be for those that want it a sober one.

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