Saturday, December 31, 2016

Farewell 2016 - a summary of the year from my idiosyncratic viewpoint

  1. External
    1. Brexit: whilst I don't live in Britain anymore, and haven't lived there for nearly 40 years, I am still a British citizen and certain decisions that Britain takes affect me. I can't begin to understand why so many people wanted to leave the EU; it seems that in the face of globalisation, people want to assert their tribal identity. The worst thing that Brexit has already done to me is the drastic depreciation of Sterling. Who knows what else is to come?
    2. Trump: I am fairly sure that Trump could not have been elected as US President had it not been for Brexit. All through the early months of the year, I could not understand how someone so seemingly uncouth, loud and uncultured could be taken seriously by the American electorate. He seems to be the opposite of everything that Obama stood for, although to be honest, Obama wasn't much of a success, either. His major achievement was being the first black president; he certainly wasn't much of a friend to Israel. 
    3. Deaths: does it just seem this way or was 2016 a bad year for musicians? David Bowie, Keith Emerson, Dave Swarbrick, Sir George Martin, Leonard Cohen, Greg Lake, and in the final days of December, Rick Parfitt (Status Quo) and George Michael. Actors, too: Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds. Strangely enough, apart from Swarb, I only have one record each from most of the others, and only a few films for the actors. I think that it's a function of statistics: I'm 60, and most of the musicians that I appreciate are 7-10 years older than me, meaning that they're in their late 60s/early 70s. A fragile age to be, approaching death. George Michael is the anomaly, being only in his early 50s. Immediately after having written this, I see that Jeff Duntemann has written on the same subject  (although without the musicians!) and at greater depth.

  2. Internal
    1. Health: the year started very badly for me, with a three month period of flu complications, culminating in a blocked ear. This was treated at the end of March, and since then, I've been in pretty good health.
    2. Theanine: I've written about this a few times during the second half of the year. I think that this supplement has made a quiet but definite difference to my life. I've become less moody, less given to turning things over and over in my mind and generally more cheerful. 
    3. Doctorate: after having my initial intermediate submission rejected - the rejection was expected but not the manner of its rejection - I worked hard on improving the text and in August, the second version was accepted. This means that the end of the doctorate is within sight, a fact which has also greatly improved my general outlook on life. Over the past two months, I've been collecting data; this is going slower than I would have liked, but I am making progress. Soon I will have to start thinking about how to present the data. Of course, I can't make any conclusions until I cease collecting data and begin to analyse it, but it will be easy to present the conclusions.
    4. Songwriting: the return to songwriting has taken me quite by surprise. I've known for a few years that if I want to continue recording (which I enjoy despite the effort), then soon I will have to start writing new songs as I exhaust my supply of old ones which have yet to been rejuvenated. But somehow I have managed to defer this ... until this year. By December, I had written four new songs as well as new lyrics to two old songs; over the past week I have almost completed another song (the music and arrangement are complete; I have two unconnected verses which I wrote yesterday). I don't have too much difficulty in writing the music for new songs but  have difficulty with the words as I don't have anything in particular which I want to write about. 
    5. Reaching the age of 60: maybe once this was a milestone, but "60 is the new 40".
    6. Becoming a grandfather: although the impact is growing, this still isn't a major factor in my life.
After having written all of the above, I have to conclude that however bad 2016 was for the general populace, for me it was actually a very good year. I am very optimistic about 2017 (it must be the theanine talking).

This is my 999th blog, so the next blog will be dedicated to blog statistics.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What really makes me happy these days

A month and a half ago, I wrote in connection with meeting companies who work with Priority, "There is an engineering college near our offices in Tel Aviv where I want to  ... pop in and say hello". It took a few weeks, but eventually I did pop in, and after going here and there, I managed to find the person who is responsible for Priority in the college (they use the program for accounting and for purchasing). I stated my case; the person said that she would look into the possibility, but eventually replied that the college would not participate. So much for the academic brotherhood!

Countering this: I saw that one of our customers uses Priority (to me, it's obvious when I see their purchase orders). I made the pitch ... and the customer agreed to participate! This makes me happy.

But what really makes me happy is when completed questionnaires begin to arrive from this company! I don't know anything about them (although I had a quick peek at their website yesterday and it seems impressive) which makes their participation even more heart-warming.

Everyone is busy at the moment with completing the year and stock taking, but in the next few weeks I want to overcome my tendency to stay at home by hitting the road and visiting some companies in the North. Maybe I'll take my wife along and have a conjugal outing!

[SO: 4357; 5,21,42
MPP: 772; 1,4,6]

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Biscotti again

I baked the first batch of biscotti at about 4pm on Friday afternoon; they had all gone by 8pm on Saturday night. I had to wait for my wife to buy more flour and almonds before I could make a second batch on Monday evening. Whilst I used approximately the same ingredients as before, I also made a few minor changes. 

  • My wife bough almond slices whereas I had used small almond chunks which were more akin to flour; this probably affected the dough negatively.
  • I added a fair dollop of blackcurrant jam this time - I had bought a new jar so it was easy to remove a generous spoonful.
  • I added a little orange juice to make the dough more smooth and pliant.
As a result of the above, the dough was less thick and easier to mix. I spread it out on the baking tray as a very large 'log' - I was aiming for a lower height than previously, which help the dough cook more evenly. The baking technique was the same as before.

I think that the results from this batch are better than from the first; these really are tasty!

My daughter suggested that I use spelt flour instead of white flour; at first, I thought that Google Translate had made a mistake in its translation of the Hebrew name, but it transpires that there really is a type of grain called 'spelt'. This isn't an ingredient which we keep (although she does); yesterday, I was in Tel Aviv and next to our offices is a shop which stocks a very wide variety of ingredients and cooking utensils (they're also very expensive), so I bought a bag of this flour. Next time, I'll use half white flour and half spelt in order to see the result. 

At the rate at which the pieces are being eaten, the next batch will be baked on Friday again.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Puzzle

My daughter sent me this puzzle; can you solve it?

What's intriguing to me is not the solution but how I arrived at the solution. I'll try and reconstruct my thought processes, row by row.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Monthly grandfather picture

My daughter downloaded an app for her phone which distorts pictures. Some of the results are of the kind where one would pay good money not to see them, whereas a few have some artistic value.

This is me and the granddaughter yesterday evening. No wonder she looks a bit skeptical - she knows what the end result is going to be.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Eggless almond biscotti

Over the past few months, I've been ordering various items from I-Herb; this started with theanine, moved on to magnesium supplements, through herbal teas and mint chocolate and onto peanut butter and almond biscuits. The peanut butter is fine but I was a bit disappointed in the almond biscuits: these are cut very thin and they're very brittle. I was expecting something else.

A few days ago, I was in our company's offices in Tel Aviv and helped myself to a biscuit - very similar to the almond biscuits (aka biscotti) that I had bought, only these were softer (more chewy). When I asked where they came from, I was told the name of a bakery. A day later, the penny dropped: I could probably bake some myself and in doing so, achieve the consistency and size which I would like. I should point out at this stage that apart from a short period when I was in the army and used to bake myself a cake which I would take with me when I stayed over weekends, I don't bake. I don't like the fussiness of having to follow a recipe exactly.

So yesterday I researched recipes; there are plenty on the Internet so I could choose the most suitable. I ignored all those that use butter - so that we could eat the biscotti after meat. Then I thought that it would be caring if I could find a recipe which doesn't use any animal product, such as eggs, so that my vegan daughter could eat them. Here is the recipe on which I based my biscotti (I love the ignorance of calling them 'biscottis' - biscotti is the plural of biscotto, in the same way that panini is the plural of panino. It seems that the biscotti recipe is open to mild alterations in the flavouring.

This morning I bought applesauce and slivered almonds; the rest of the ingredients we have at home. I added to the list of ingredients a little blackcurrant jam which was left over in the fridge, along with fresh blackcurrants and goji berries. Mixing the ingredients was fairly easy until I added the wet items (sugar, applesauce, oil, berries, almonds) to the flour; this mixture got progressively harder to mix. Eventually I dumped the entire mess onto a baking tray covered with parchment, and tried to shape it into a 'log' as per the instructions.

I then put the tray in the oven for 25 minutes at 175C as instructed, before taking it out in order to allow the 'log' to cool. Here is a picture of the result (I had already started cutting it before remembering that I should take a picture).


An alternative name for what I was baking is mandelbrot - Almond Bread in German (also the name of the computer scientist who discovered fractals, Benoit Mandelbrot - and indeed, it does look like a loaf of bread at this stage. But the name is biscotti which means 'cooked twice' (like biscuits), so I chopped the loaf into small pieces; in my opinion, I should have spread the loaf out more so that it would have been less high and would have baked a bit better. I then put the tray back in the oven for another ten minutes at 150C, which finished the baking; cutting the loaf in this manner (and turning the pieces through 90 degrees) allows slices taken from the thickest and central part of the loaf to cook properly.

Here is the final result - they look quite different from the commercial versions, each slice being much larger and probably containing slightly less fruit than I had intended.

My wife had a slice and gave her approval, which means that I'll be baking this every now and then. I hope that my daughter likes this too.Next time, I will add more blackcurrants and/or goji berries, and I'll try and reduce the thickness of the 'log' before baking, probably with a rolling pin.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The best of our spies

This book, by Alex Gerlis, was one of those which turned up on my Kindle after its resurrection (the battery is doing very nicely, thank you); its title was intriguing enough to earn it an early read.

The book is set during World War 2 and is a twist on the more conventional type of WW2 spy stories. It open with a French refugee woman being stopped at a checkpoint (a good way to get our sympathy and turn this woman into the protagonist) - it turns out that this woman had been recruited by the German secret service and had absconded. She is then sent to Britain with an undefined mission. Do we cheer for this woman or hope that she gets captured?

MI5 were aware of her as they found her radio man; via this man they found the female spy and then constructed a mission for her., of which she is unaware. Eventually the woman is overtly recruited by the British SOE and sent to France as an agent; there she joins the resistance, and the information that the SOE send her  (which is passed on to her German control who is aware of her return) states that the Allies' landing with be in the Calais area and not Normandy. It transpires that there really was a deception operation such as this, although of course the details vary.

This could have been a fascinating read but unfortunately the writing let it down. The novel is too long, almost everything is spelt out for the reader (at one stage, a character recapitulates the plot as it then stood in case someone didn't follow) and the ending was slightly predictable.

A good spy novel is one which leaves you scratching your head at the end and trying to work out what really happened. This isn't such a novel.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Robbie Robertson - Testimony

Over the past few days, I've been reading Robbie Robertson's autobiography (or at least, partial autobiography) "Testimony", which begins with him joining Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks and ends with 'The Last Waltz' – in other words, the pre-Band and Band periods in his life. It is very interesting to contrast his version of events with the version of Levon Helm, The Band's drummer, singer and occasional mandolinist. Serious historians could also reference Barney Hoskyn's book "Across the great divide", which I have only in hard print. The title of this book was chosen carefully; not only is it the title of the opening song from their best known album, it also hints at the great divide in the group.

What amazes me is how Robertson is able to recall and write about minor incidents, some of  which happened over 50 years ago, including dialogue. True, Robertson does say at the beginning that he is blessed with a prodigious memory (this is in connection with some of his relatives), so his recollections may well be accurate.

Robertson and Helm basically tell the same story until The Band's eponymous second album (aka 'The Brown Album'). Not surprisingly, Robertson devotes more than a few pages to the electric Dylan tours from 1965/6 which Helm chose to forego, as well as to the early Woodstock days.

Only after the second album did The Band taste success, and with it become rich overnight. Their riches led to a surfeit of drug (ab)use and the creation of two versions of history. There are a few questions which arise from reading Robertson's book, such as...

•    Did Robbie sing very much in The Band? Robertson writes about singing low harmonies and basically being a fourth, live, singer; Helm says that Robertson didn't like singing, that his vocal mike used to be turned off when performing live, and that their Woodstock performance was ruined by Robertson's vocals.
•    Was Robertson the musical director of The Band or was it Garth Hudson (as per Helm)? Mention is made of Robertson 'conducting' by means of his guitar neck, which Helm disparages. As an outsider, I have to say that Robertson receives more than his fair share of screen time in “The last waltz”, whereas Richard Manuel can barely be seen.
•    Who wrote 'Life is a carnival'? Robertson, Helm and Rick Danko receive a rare shared writing credit. Robertson writes “Rick and Levon came over to my studio in Woodstock one day, and I played them a song I was just finishing called ‘Life is a carnival’, whereas Helm writes the opposite: “The exception for me was ‘Life is a carnival’, which Rick Danko and I worked out music-wise and Robbie put to words”.

One very telling anecdote is that before ‘Music from Big Pink” was released, Robertson signed an agreement which split the songwriting royalties evenly between all five members. Not only this, but later on, Manuel, Danko and Hudson sold their shares back to Robertson; Helm requested time to think, but the subject is not raised again, so one doesn’t know whether Helm retained his rights. If this story is true, then most of Helm’s bitter tirade against Robertson is negated.

As Greil Marcus writes in "Mystery train" (197?), "In order to save the group, Robbie took it over. He took it over as lyricist, manager, strategist, savant, visionary and spokesman”. This is the impression that one gets from reading “Testimony”. Was it a good thing? As Robertson writes, after the second album it was him, three junkies and a musician suffering from narcolepsy. He had no choice.

History belongs to the victors; Manuel, Danko and Helm are dead and can’t react to what Robertson writes. All those who enjoy the music of the Band will be rewarded by reading this book.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Repairing the Kindle

After the panic/distress of having lost all of my e-books dissipated, I set about restoring the books. Once that was done (and after backing them up!), I downloaded the Kindle Collection Manager and tried to assign books to collections. I knew where about 70% belonged, but as the program's interface is minimal (to be polite), I could only see the books' titles and not their authors, so some books will have to be collected manually.

The Collection Manager updates the Kindle which then has to be reset in order to recognise the assignments. Resetting the Kindle always requires a leap of faith but especially after the previous escapade. When the Kindle came back up, the collections appeared with their books; I was, however, unable to assign books to collections via the Kindle: the 'Add to collection' option was greyed out.

Checking the Amazon web site, I discovered that this problem gets fixed once the Kindle connects to Amazon. Even though the Kindle was connected to the Internet via its wireless connection, it still wasn't connecting to Amazon. I discovered that the hard reset also unregisters the Kindle, so I tried to register anew. I know the required email address but had no idea what the password was, so I had to go through the awkward process of resetting the password. There's a problem with the website - I thought that I had reset the password (and quite probably had), but instead of seeing a screen saying that the password had been reset successfully, I saw the opening screen in the sequence which invites me to enter a password.

Eventually I realised what was needed and reset the password; I then entered this password into the Kindle in the correct place, and - lo and behold! - I could manually add books to collections. There was still no sign of the books which I had purchased via Amazon - I thought these would have downloaded as soon as I registered.

Whilst looking through the books which were on the Kindle, I saw that the final 'book' was entitled 'Archive items (22)'. I caused this list to be displayed and this is where I found the missing books. After pressing the correct sequence of keys, these books finally downloaded and found their place on the Kindle. I once again backed up the books!

Lessons learnt from this episode:  
  • DO NOT USE 'resetmykindle' unless you are absolutely desperate! 😓
  • Backup the books beforehand. 
  • Make sure you know what the password for your Amazon account is.
I will now read some of the new books - for example, Robbie Robertson's version of what happened to The Band.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Kindle disaster

I've noticed that the battery has been running down fast on my Kindle. I remembered that I had similar problems a few years ago which I documented here, so I decided to use the same technique. First I set up the Kindle to accept a password, then I rebooted and entered the 'secret' password, 'resetmykindle'. The Kindle rebooted.

I didn't bother creating a backup for I assumed that the previous backup still existed, and there was no mention of restoring the backup onto the Kindle. I was surprised to see that there were no books on the Kindle after rebooting,  but not too concerned as I could restore that backup ... except that I could find no backup!!!

400+ books gone!

After several hours searching, downloading and converting, I've managed to restore most of what I had previously. I couldn't remember the names of some books so those obviously can't be restored, but I have found other interesting books. 

Moral of the story: backup the Kindle onto the mobile computer, and possibly to Mega. There is a problem with the latter option, as Mega does not store multiple copies of identical files and there is the possibility that someone else has stored one or more of the books which I have in mobi format. Maybe I'll create a giant zip file and store that.

It would seem that books which I have purchased from Amazon have yet to be downloaded, despite having the wireless connection set correctly. I'm more interested in the battery functionality. I also have to restore all the collections, which is going to take some time. Fortunately (or not), over the next few days, I'm going to have several hours in which I will have nothing to do (and no means to do anything), so fixing the Kindle will be a good way to use this time.

[SO: 4352; 5, 21, 42
MPP: 772; 1, 4, 6]

Friday, December 09, 2016

Greg Lake, RIP

I remember a day in the spring of 1970, sitting in someone's darkened bedroom in the early evening, hearing the words

Confusion will be my epitaph
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back and laugh,
But I fear tomorrow I'll be crying

I was too young to realise at the time that this was a song about the fear of a nuclear holocaust, but the dramatic singing and the majestic mellotron strings certainly moved me. 

We were listening to "Epitaph", the third track on the debut album by King Crimson. "In my opinion, it's Greg's best vocal performance - anywhere" said Michael Giles, the group's drummer (Sid Smith, p. 63). Greg Lake was the vocalist and bassist of the first incarnation of KC and as such entered the annals of rock fame.

After this line up splintered, Lake stayed with KC long enough to record some vocals for their second album, then left to join Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer in the supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer, about which I wrote a little here.

Greg Lake died a few days ago from cancer. I learnt about this from an email sent to one of my mailing lists early this morning (along with the death of John Glenn, first American in space, later a senator). To my surprise, both deaths were reported in one of the Israeli papers this morning (I can understand reporting the death of Glenn, but Lake seems a little esoteric for an Israeli newspaper).

As someone commented, it's a bad year for musicians - Bowie, Cohen, Swarbrick, Martin and no doubt others - but in a sense, it's to be expected. The majority of musicians that I and my generation like/adore/admire were born in the 1940s, making them all in their sixties and seventies. That's a reasonable age for dying.

Strangely enough, I read the other day that the life expectancy of Israeli males is 81, second highest in the world (I didn't notice where it was the highest), a fact attributed to basic training in the Israeli army, which improves cardiac function.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Backing up data

Last week there was a spate of fires in Israel which caused thousands to become homeless within minutes. Not surprisingly, the occupational psychologist wanted to discuss backups with me. Apart from data which she copies to a 1TB external hard disk (I have one at home as well), a certain amount of data is constantly backed up and synced at Dropbox. 

My dropbox account is limited to 2GB, which is fine for the OP data and programs along with doctoral material, but as it no longer works with Windows XP (my home computer), I don't use it so much. I have a 50GB account with Mega, which is much more useful (I wrote about it here), but was under the impression that like Dropbox, my Mega account is mirrored on all of my computers. This isn't such a good idea if I have songs stored on one hard drive, photos on another and programs on a third. 

I discovered that I can split the Mega account into two - one part is in permanent synchronisation, mirrored by a directory on my computers, and the other part is stored solely 'in the cloud' with no synchronisation. Thus yesterday I copied a few GB of song files to this new directory and was pleased to see that these files were not copied back to my computer. I'll continue copying files over the next few days - photos and songs - so that if a fire does take out our house and I'm not able to get home to retrieve the external disk, laptop and other gear, the files will still be safe. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

End of November/TV series

I don't know where this month has gone; lots of work, a new song, two virus attacks ... and several tv series, about which I'll write here. In no particular order ...
  1. Line of duty. For some unknown reason, I saw the second series of this drama about a police anti-corruption unit before I saw the first. I found it very difficult to find the real protagonist in this series; supposedly it's DS Steve Arnott, but that's not necessarily the way things play out on the screen. Very detailed and very complex, one is always guessing what's going to happen next. There are four series of this program, and I wonder whether I am going to see series 3 and 4, as this is broadcast on Israeli TV channel 1, a channel which lost its monopoly many years ago and now is a somewhat neglected place - it's surprising that I managed to find this series. The second series features a 'Spooks' alumna - Keeley Hawes, who is always a pleasure to see, although of course she has aged since her days in 'Spooks'.
  2. Silk. I was very pleased to see this legal drama return for its third series, which features two 'Spooks' alumni - Rupert Penry Jones (here, Clive, there Adam) and Miranda Raison (here Harriet, there Jo) - along with star Maxine Peake. The legal parts of the story are fascinating, whereas the supporting story - primarily intrigues in the barristers' chambers - is sometimes confusing. The final episode was shown a few days ago, which had an ambiguous ending. Whereas most series end with a bang and a cliff-hanger, increasing anticipation for another series, this ending left things very much in the air.  A classy drama.
  3. Scott and Bailey. At first sight a police procedural, this is really about the personal lives of the two eponymous detectives - and their lives are quite messy. I missed most of the first series and only began watching seriously from the beginning of the second series. We're now in the third series. I enjoy watching this although it's not on the same level as the first two programmes mentioned above.
  4. Madam Secretary. I've written about this before. The sole American series mentioned here, I caught the first - long - series but missed the second series entirely. I've seen three episodes of the third series so far. This is fairly enjoyable but rather facile. I record it for a friend.
  5. Victoria. This is for my wife. Features yet another 'Spooks' alumnus - the great Peter Firth.
  6. The Night Manager. This is being shown again on AMC. I hope that this time the broadcast quality is better - episode 7 was unwatchable last time around as the picture was constantly freezing.
  7. And finally - big surprise! - Cold Feet returns to the screen after about 14 years absence. I absolutely loved this program (four excellent series and one only very good) when it was originally broadcast, but I think that we've all moved on since then. I was aware that a new series was to be broadcast but hadn't prepared myself emotionally for this (neither had I read any stories about the return). The opening episode (i.e. series 6, episode 1) was broadcast last night and I've watched it twice (for recording purposes). As in real life, 14 years have passed, so the protagonists are now approaching age 50 and their children are teenagers. I suspect that someone watching this for the first time would have great difficulty in understanding the back story. The series does not dwell on the past but rather on the future, so I imagine that we are going to see how Adam manages with his new wife (who he marries at the end of the first episode) along with his son, how David will probably leave his shrewish second wife and possibly return to his first, and how Pete and Jen get through life. One more 'Spooks' alumna - Hermione Norris - appears here, although she appeared in the original 'Cold Feet' before starting her 'Spooks' tenure. Taking a peek at IMDB, I see that there are eight episodes to be enjoyed - and I promise not to look at the storylines! Maybe life was better in the pre-Internet days when one never knew what was going to happen in one's favourite television programs.
Here's a link to a piece in the Guardian about the show, and here are some photos.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Headphone amplifier

36 years ago, I played guitar and wrote arrangements for a little musical group which I had on the kibbutz. Joining me were Yvonne (flute), Jeremy (bass) and Shai (piano), with occasional vocals from a girl called Joy (about whom I don't remember anything; she was only with us for a few weeks). We used to practice on weekends when I was home from the army, and at some stage I must have suggested that we record a few songs.

Recording would have required some engineering pre-production: in order to have some semblance of separation between instruments and achieve some form of balance, we had the piano in one room, the guitar amplifier in the bathroom and the flute in the living room (where Jeremy and I also sat), each instrument with its own microphone. This meant that we all had to monitor via headphones, which meant that we needed some form of splitting the recorded input between four sets of headphones. I asked a friend who was somewhat technical to build a four way headphone splitter; his Heath Robinson contraption worked to some extent (I don't recall whether it was mono or stereo) but was unreliable.

We only managed to record one or two songs, without vocals, onto my stereo cassette deck. The idea would have been to feed the output from one cassette deck into another stereo cassette deck via a stereo mixer whilst adding vocals but this never happened. Twenty years later, I finally dubbed the vocal onto the instrumental track - but that's not the point of this blog.

A few months ago, I discovered on ebay a professionally built headphone splitter, or amplifier. When I saw it, I wasn't thinking of our group but rather of the problem which I have now with computer speakers. I use an A/B box to choose either headphones or speakers, but one speaker never seems to work. I changed speakers but had the same problem, which lead me to conclude that there was a problem amplifying the signal. The ebay headphone amplifier should solve this problem.

So I ordered the amplifier which arrived after a few weeks. When I plugged the power adapter into the mains (the unit requires 12v), I heard a 'phut' sound, almost certainly indicating that the flimsy power adapter had shorted; the unit did not work.

I then had a protracted correspondence with the vendors - initially they wouldn't take my word that the cable had shorted so I had to take photos to prove to them. They then graciously offered to refund my money whereas I would have preferred to have a new power adapter.

Yesterday I went to a local shop and bought a new power adapter; I couldn't find one with the correct requirements (12v, 250ma), so I had to settle for a unit which allows one to choose the voltage and the polarity of the head; the cable also comes with several heads, allowing the unit to be used with several devices. Of course, this power unit is also more expensive than a simple adapter; it cost me 40 NIS, which is about $12. The amplifier with adapter only cost $18! At least I am getting a refund from the company, so actually I am coming out on top.

The amplifier works perfectly; I can hear stereo via the speakers. I'm not too happy with the tone via the headphones, which might well mean problems when mixing new songs.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Data collection

At the moment, the only work which I am doing on my doctorate is sending the user questionnaire to companies who have agreed to participate in my research and entering data from completed questionnaires into my data collection program. I also supposed to be arranging face to face interviews with representatives of the companies, but this requires energy which I seem to be lacking at the moment (or it may be a lack of time).

For the past few months, I have been travelling to Karmiel once a week. I know that one of the participating companies is only a ten minute walk from our factory there, so I thought that I could pop in to say hello when I am in the north and have some spare time. I wrote to my contact there proposing this a few weeks ago, but received no reply. I wrote again on Tuesday (I travel on Wednesdays), saying the same thing, but again, no reply. As I had some spare time yesterday, I decided that I would visit, whether it was suitable or not.

On the way to this company (it took 11 minutes to walk there!), I wondered what could be the reason for the lack of response. I decided that either my contact has been on an extended holiday or that he no longer works there. When I got to the building, I asked the receptionist for my contact. "Who?", she asked. I repeated the name. "Never heard of him" was the reply. Fortunately, someone was walking past as I asked the receptionist; this person informed us that my contact no longer works for the company (so my guess was correct). I then asked for the IT manager; I was given his name but told that he works in a different building, a few minutes walk away.

I had difficulty finding this building, but met an employee of this company on the street (he was getting out of his company car, which is how I knew that he worked for this company); he kindly took me to this second building. When I finally got to meet the IT manager, he was sitting with one of his staff, so I didn't feel too confident about breaking in (if I were a real Israeli, then I would just barge in). After I stated my name and purpose, the IT manager said that he vaguely remembered something about Priority research. What was more interesting was that the man sitting with him asked whether I am the No'am who posts frequently on the Internet Priority Users Group forum; when I said that I am that No'am, this man says that my postings are very clever and useful. In other words, I was validated.

I didn't want to disturb the manager too much (after all, my stated purpose was just to pop in and say hello, which I had accomplished), so I took his business card, saying that I would write him a full letter, explaining the research and enclosing the questionnaire. I wrote this letter about an hour ago, and also asked whether I could make an appointment in order to have a fuller discussion and complete the 'company questionnaire'.

There is an engineering college near our offices in Tel Aviv where I want to do the same thing (pop in and say hello), but there it's more difficult as I haven't had any contact with them yet. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What I did on my holidays

The Israeli holiday period finished yesterday (i.e. today is the first day of work). This is a three week period in which there are very few workdays; projects are brought to a standstill and many people take time off. Whilst I did relax a great deal during this period, I also achieved a few things.

Books: I read all four 'Millenium' books for the first time in several years and compared my feelings now to what I wrote in the past. Not much has changed; all the books need strong editing, and the first is somewhat out of place. Over the past few days, I've been copy editing a Kindle version of the science fiction book, "The mote in God's eye", by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. The story is excellent and so justifies the work which I have done. The Kindle version which I have seems to be derived from an OCR copy and so has many mistakes which can easily be corrected. I've done about 25 chapters and am about 75% of the way through the book. 

Music: over the past few months, I've recorded quite a few songs, so the holiday break gave me a chance to listen to them via the stereo system in the living room instead of via headphones connected to the computer. A few minor edits and changes were required, which improved those songs. I rerecorded the vocals for one song for the third time, improving it immensely; I recorded two takes and used those takes as a double tracked vocal, instead of converting one mono take to stereo then delaying slightly one of the channels. I was surprised at how accurately the second take matches the first take; there was only one line in which it was clearly apparent that I was singing the song twice. This may well be because the song is in 5/4 time and I had to be very precise about the phrasing.

It also became clear that I needed a 'fast' track to liven things up (I have a tendency to record slow songs). On Sunday evening I took the dog for a walk and came back with a chord sequence; I worked on an arrangement for about two hours a day for four days and then wrote the lyrics. On Thursday I recorded the vocals and on Friday had second thoughts about the ending. In a week, I had written a song from scratch as well as recording it! Whilst this is hardly a top-tier song, it still sounds pretty good. Listening to all the songs again, I now need a slow song....

I was playing the songs by connecting a line between the computer's speaker socket and the aux socket on the stereo; as a result, the music is dependent on the computer's sound card which caused several frequencies to disappear. I presume that a cd burnt on my music computer will produce a much better sound. But even so, the songs still sound good - they just sound better on the music computer.

I visited my optician this morning (the dog ate one of the end pieces of one set of glasses); I had to wait an hour as the optician was looking after someone else who is a performing guitarist. When this person was paying, the optician asked what kind of music he played, to which the guitarist answered 'look for me on youtube'. I don't know what this person's name is, so I can't look for him, but that's not the point. It occurred to me that I could make a video of me miming one of my new songs and then upload it to YouTube. Maybe ....

There was a question on 'Academic Stack Exchange' the other day asking what to do when a reviewer requests more recent quotes (answer: include more recent quotes). This is something which appears in my course book: even though the literature review may be completed two years before the thesis is handed in, try to keep up with articles as they are published and update the review. So yesterday, I spent most of the day reading new papers, mainly about 'shadow IT'. I can safely include a few mentions without changing the thesis greatly. These papers have similar concerns to mine, although they differ in the specific subject matter (ERP systems run by SMEs). I am now part of a global group who is researching this field.

The end of the doctorate is now in sight! I also gave a little thought to what happens after the doctorate - do I just say thank you and go home, or should I continue somehow in my academic endeavours? I would like to have some kind of part-time appointment at Ben Gurion University which is only an hour away by train and seems to have a department in which I could feel at home. Tel Aviv University is slightly closer by train but I haven't come across any publication by their staff in my field.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Who's watching who?

I'm not sure whether the lack of lighting was an artistic decision by my daughter or an accident, but this is definitely an arresting picture of my grand-daughter and my 'grand-dog'. Who's watching who here?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Virtual XP machine running under Windows 8

When I bought my mobile computer six months ago, I stated that one of the reasons for doing so was to transfer all my Delphi development work to this computer; this would allow me to take the computer with me on Friday mornings when I work face to face with the Occupational Psychologist so that simple program fixes can be programmed on the spot.

Unfortunately, that plan didn't work out as I had great difficulty in installing Delphi, and when I did manage to cross that hurdle, I discovered that all source code which uses Hebrew has been mangled (rather, the Hebrew has been mangled; the code itself is ok). Since then, I have not given any thought to the 'Delphi Hebrew' problem and have used the mobile computer for tasks such as creating videos, writing my doctoral thesis and recording vocals for my songs.

This morning, when walking the dog, a thought popped into my mind, completely out of the blue: maybe I could create a virtual XP machine on my computer and run Delphi "as was" in that virtual machine. This was rather a strange thought as the subject hasn't crossed my mind in nearly six months, but prophetically true. I used this web page as a guide, which was more than enough to get me started.

At first I downloaded the professional version of VMWare, but quickly corrected my mistake and downloaded the free version, VMWare Player. While this was downloading and installing, I looked for an installation disk for XP. I used to have this on a thumb drive, but apparently deleted it at some stage. To my pleasure, I discovered a bootable cd in a drawer, so I was set. I forgot how long it took to install XP! Once the operating system was installed, I could open the virtual machine and run XP. I then wasted some time installing Delphi and various components: it would have been better to wait until I saw that my programs ran properly in this virtual machine.

Eventually I started testing some of my programs; I had to install Hebrew as a language as well as defining it as the program for non-Unicode programs. After this, my programs ran but did not display Hebrew; either I had missed a reset or else there was an extra definition to be made in the control panel. So after changing something, I rebooted the virtual machine and finally my programs displayed properly. I haven't tried compiling anything yet - that will be a different can of worms - but at least I know that the groundwork has been laid.

Transferring files from Win 8 to XP is a bit strange (one has to use the 'unity' option) but works; copying files in the opposite direction (XP to Win8) is a simple matter of copying the files in the virtual machine then pasting them into Win8. This means that backing up files to Mega will not be a problem.

Here are screenshots of the control panel's regional and language options, in case I have to do this again (and it's good to know that I can use the Windows 8 snipping tool to get screenshots of part of the XP screen)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Pain whilst walking

In the past few weeks, I've started walking again in the evenings. Normally I can only do this about two evenings a week, which is surprising considering that I used to walk six or seven evenings a week. At first, I was walking in my crocs shoes, but whilst comfortable, these aren't the sort of shoes intended for a five kilometre walk. Over the past two weeks, I've been wearing my walking shoes, accompanied by copper socks which are slightly two small. As a result of something, I've been suffering from shin splints - almost certainly a sign that I need new shoes.

So yesterday afternoon, I went to the sports shop in the local mall and tried a few pairs of shoes. The salesman appeared to know what he was talking about as he asked several pertinent questions before finding a suitable pair of shoes. These fit well but are a drain on the wallet - even with 25% discount, the price was about $170 - but in the case of walking shoes, it is important that they are quality shoes and that one should not try to make false savings.

In the evening, I put the shoes on and went for my walk. After about six circuits (about 1.5km), the pains started again. I slowed down and tried to analyse what was happening: it's not that the shoes are new or that the socks are too tight (although I want to try walking with ordinary socks), but rather because I am walking incorrectly. The proper way to walk is heel and toe, heel and toe, but I notice that when I start walking fast, I slam the foot down 'in one piece' on the path, with the arch - which is probably the weakest part of the foot - taking the impact. And almost certainly that's the source of the pain. I managed to outlast the pain then walk properly for more circuits,eventually completing 5km - but 'only' at an average speed of 6km/h (I prefer to walk at 6.5 km/h). I suppose it's better to walk 5 km in 50 minutes with no pain (and no muscle damage) rather than walk 5 km in 45 minutes: more calories are burnt at the cost of pain and muscle damage.

My left shin still hurts a little today so I'll probably skip walking in the evening. As tomorrow evening is the beginning of the Yom Kippur fast, obviously I won't be walking either tomorrow or the day after either, so now one can understand how I manage to walk only two or three times a week! Tomorrow morning I will take the dog for a long walk - off the lead - which will help condition the shoes.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Health update

I donated blood yesterday evening. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is important for me. The last time the 'bloodmobile' came around, sometime in April, I was disqualified as my haemoglobin level was too low - 12.9 (the minimum is 13). It has happened before that I have been disqualified and it's not a pleasant feeling.

In order to improve my levels of iron, I have started eating a spoonful of sesame seeds along with my morning yoghurt, which is already enriched with flax seeds, granola and goji berries; I have reduced the quantity of flax seed from two to one spoonful. Sesame seeds are a very good source of iron, and this seems to be reflected in the fact that my haemoglobin level yesterday was 13.4 - a very welcome increase.

The above reference to goji berries includes the ominous statement "goji berries may also interact with diabetes drugs and blood pressure drugs" - I will have to check this out. There's no point in taking a pill which decreases my blood pressure whilst at the same time eating something which increases it (incidentally, my bp was also measured last night: it was at the top of the scale as far as I am concerned).

On another issue, I have been taking theanine supplements, as noted here, for the past six weeks. I am certain that the theanine causes an effect, but it is subtle. The most obvious effect is that my dreams are more intense, allowing me frequently to recall dreams after waking (increased alpha waves). I've noticed that during my morning walk with the dog, I have lost the feeling of despondency which used to accompany me - this is the anti-anxiety aspect of theanine working. I have noticed a more subtle effect, but only by negation: it used to happen frequently that whenever I had an unpleasant experience during the day, that experience would often "play itself in a loop" during the night, causing my sleep not to be restorative. I had one very unpleasant experience a few weeks ago - receiving the feedback on my DBA intermediate submission - but I did not dream about that at all the same night (nor any following night).

So it would seem that the theanine is useful; it certainly hasn't caused any problems. I thought that there would be some influence of the frequency of apneic events, but I can't see that in the data. The sleep apnea is much more influenced by the CPAP pressure than anything else, and the data went haywire a few days before I started with theanine. As a result, I don't have a baseline with which to compare pre-theanine and post-theanine; I'm assuming that there is no effect.

Connected to the sleep apnea, I had an echocardiography examination on Sunday: central sleep apnea (which I have) can be caused by cardiac problems. Although neither my doctor nor I think that this is what is happening in my case, it's better to be prudent and check that there are no problems. Presumably because of the holidays, I will get the answer only in another week.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

DBA: Entering the final third of the doctorate

Unfortunately, my thesis supervisor went on holiday for two weeks immediately after the last research committee meeting, so I wasn't able to talk with him about the submission feedback until yesterday. I expressed my feelings about the feedback which he understood; the supervisor was also able to set my mind at rest on a couple of points. Firstly, it transpires that one of the reviewers has an IT background whereas one doesn't, which explains why one reviewer was more understanding than the other. Secondly - and more important: the feedback will have no effect whatsoever on the judging of the final thesis; this is dependent solely on the internal examiner, the external examiner and the viva.

We discussed certain points about the feedback, primarily the need for expanding the methodology section. Since receiving the feedback, I had written a few pages about research paradigms and similar matters; most of what I had written was accepted by my supervisor, but I still have to add material as to why I am using the methodology which I have chosen. This shouldn't be too difficult to write. My supervisor also notes that I have to write about the differences between deductive and inductive theories.

In order to address some of the issues raised by the non-IT reviewer, I wrote a new opening page for the thesis which begins with the statement "If information is the life blood of the modern organisation". Normally I would have considered ERP programs to be the nerve centre of the organisation, but apart from showing my bias, it also creates a mixed metaphor. Thus I concluded the opening sentence thus "then ERP programs can be considered to be the vascular system".

I spent some time trying to introduce a graphic representation of an ERP system; whilst I found one eye-catching graphic on some company's web site, I decided not to use it as the graphic is in colour and would probably look bad in black and white. I found a PowerPoint template which enabled me to create a similar graphic which I then pasted into the thesis. In the evening, I considered how to overcome the problem posed by the non-IT reviewer: I need someone to read the thesis who is an academic, understands English but is not IT-orientated; this way, hopefully I will be able to get more useful feedback on what isn't clear. There are a few suitable people on the kibbutz who I can approach.

Due to the holiday season, I won't be able to start the active research until November, so I intend to use the time until then to fill in the gaps which the review pointed out.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

New Year greetings


By chance, it happened that the evening of the new Jewish year fell on Sunday night; as a result, most people had a very long weekend - from Friday until Tuesday inclusive (or if you prefer, my last working day was on Thursday 29/9 and my next working day will be on Wednesday 5/10). Unfortunately, the weather was inclement: there was a sharav on Sunday and Monday. 

We went to my brother-in-law's house for the celebration on Sunday night and as a result we didn't come home until midnight. I forgot to cancel the alarm clock function on my mobile phone, so I was woken at 5:30am. Unable to get back to sleep, I took the dog for a long walk, but when I came home, I was groggy all day. As a result, I wasn't able to recognise that the headache which developed during the day was due to the weather (in other words, a migraine) and so didn't take the required medicine until about 6:30pm. As a result, by about 8pm, I was extremely tired and went to bed.

Wishing you all the best for the holiday season!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sleep apnea (again)

Following my visit to the sleep clinic in Jerusalem, I was, of course, very interested to see how the reduction in pressure would affect the apnea. I took the memory card out of the machine, inserted it into the card reader which I bought shortly after purchasing the CPAP machine ... and nothing. The card was unreadable. I inserted the plug and sd card into one of my mobile computers with the same result.

A few days later, I rebooted my home computer but still was unable to read the card. At this point I began contacting the sleep clinic, pointing out that the card was readable before I visited them (I had prudently backed up all the data on the card before going there) and now it is unreadable. Could it be that the technician changed a setting on the machine which causes data to be stored on the card but not in a format which a computer could read?

This was the situation for a few days until last night, when I had cause to add songs to the micro SD card in my mp3 headphones. This card has to be inserted into a holder card, which is the same size as the CPAP SD card, then inserted into the card reader, then inserted into the computer. The card was unreadable, both on my desk computer and mobile. Determined to find a solution, I then extracted the micro SD card from the holder and inserted it into a little micro SD/USB converter: I was now able to read the data on the card and add songs.

Conclusion: the card reader is broken.

To prove the point, I then took the SD card from the CPAP machine and inserted it into a hitherto unknown socket on my mobile computer from work - yes, it has a direct SD socket. Of course, I could now read the data from the CPAP machine! I shall have to order a new converter.

Oh, and yes, the data from the CPAP machine shows great improvement. There were even a few nights - funnily enough, Friday and Saturday, which have traditionally shown high numbers - in which the number of apneic events was less than ten! This, of course, should happen every night. I will wait another week then reduce the pressure to 4.5, as the technician suggested. It will be very interesting to see the result of this change.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Intermediate submission accepted, part two: the feedback

I received the feedback on my second version of the intermediate submission for the DBA. It isn't an easy read. Something which I have difficulty in accepting is that the research committee is trying to help me, whilst at the same time, maintaining their standards. If the reviewers say that something is written badly, then they are trying to help me by showing what needs to be improved.

As I have written several times before, there are two reviewers assigned to assess my work; they receive the submission at least two weeks before a committee meeting, do their reading then present their findings to the committee. Once two reviewers are assigned, they stay assigned, so the same two who reviewed my first submission also read this one, and will presumably review my final thesis.

It seems as if one reviewer is on my side whereas one reviewer seems to be against me (good cop, bad cop). Or, one reviewer gets what I'm trying to write whereas one doesn't. Otherwise, how can one reconcile the following statements made by the reviewers under the section "Literature coverage, critique and synthesis":
Reviewer #1: The literature seems to be extensive and current. The candidate demonstrates ability to critique and synthesis the literature.

Reviewer #2: In my first review I said here “Apart from the issues noted above, more work should be done to synthesise the literature. For example, instead of producing three different sets of bullet points for three different sources as to why ERP is adopted, this could be reduced to one set of reasons with reference to the authors as appropriate”. The candidate responded “The suggestions made by the reviewers have been incorporated into the text.” No, they have not, the flaws I cited above under “structure argument and development" above are still there, along with pervasive bullet points, as the sections cited above in the introductory chapter illustrate.

Or under "General comments":
Reviewer #1: Needs a bit more on the research methodology – I think the candidate needs to demonstrate he understands what the different methodologies are, and how to apply the appropriate methodology to this research problem. This will need to be in place for the final submission.

Reviewer #2: The candidate seems unaware of how much difficulty was caused for the reviewers in trying to understand what he was doing. It does not help this time by his generally saying he has dealt with the criticism but not saying how and where. In fact, many of the flaws from the first submission remain.

How much constructive criticism is reviewer #2 actually giving me? A great deal of space is given to my remarks on the feedback, which were written somewhat off the cuff (an idiom which no doubt the reviewers would remark upon); it would have been better to give more detailed criticism instead of devoting time to counting sentences to see how much introductory material. 

I am not going to get into a battle - presumably virtual - with this reviewer as s/he is trying to help me. Unfortunately, this reviewer has a funny way of doing so. I am reminded of a question on the Academic Stack Exchange in which someone complained about the sharp language used by a reviewer; one has to remind oneself of Tom Hanks' mantra in "You've got mail" - "it's not personal, it's business".

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Intermediate submission accepted!

Yesterday evening, I received the following email:

Dear No'am, 
I am pleased to tell you that you have passed the Intermediate assessment and can proceed [with your research]. There are still issues to be addressed, especially concerning Methodology.

Obviously I am pleased with this news: it means that at last I can enter the penultimate stretch of the doctorate - actually performing the research - but for some reason, I can't get excited about it. It's not the 'issues to be addressed' comment which worries me; it's probably my current health situation (sleep apnea and bursitis) which is causing me to be somewhat diffident and apathetic.

Unfortunately, my supervisor is going on holiday today for two weeks; he has asked the administrative manager to send me the research committee's feedback but this may take a few days. I will assess my position after reading this material so I can't really comment on what my next steps will be. In any case, the holiday period will soon be upon us: the Jewish New Year will be on 2 October, after which follows a three week period of holidays interspersed with work, so it won't be worthwhile contacting anyone during October. 

I remember that I completed most of the literature survey during the same period two years ago, back when I was full of motivation. I have to try and recover that motivation, which got lost during the long period of making only minuscule progress.

See here for some thoughts about the submission.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Central sleep apnea

I have written here several times about the fact that I suffer from sleep apnea and use a CPAP machine to alleviate this. But I have ignored the fact that there are two different types of sleep apnea: obstructive (OSA) and central (CSA). The former is more common; in this form, soft tissues in the back of the throat and elsewhere collapse during the night and block the airway, thus causing an apnea; the pressurised air coming from the machine prevents this collapse. In the latter case, the brain does not send sufficient signals to the body to breathe.

I assumed that I suffer from OSA despite the fact that the data from the CPAP machine clearly shows the opposite. Maybe I convinced myself that I had misread the data stored on the memory chip. Since April, I have suffered about 20 apnea/hour; this suddenly jumped to 35 apnea/hour a few weeks ago! Coincidentally (or not), this jump occurred on the same day that I started taking a certain medicine for pains in my left knee/leg. I needed to take this medicine only for a week, after which the rate dropped down to about 20 apnea/hour. Increasing the pressure in the machine to 8 cmH2O did not have any effect.

In a visit to my family doctor, following up the 'knee' medicine, I said that the pains had almost completely cleared up; I also mentioned the huge increase in apneic events. She immediately ordered a pulmonary exam, assuming that I am suffering from OSA. We agreed that the machine should be checked.

Today, I had an appointment in the sleep clinic in Jerusalem (which is much less grand than the name might suggest). The technician (not doctor) checked the machine then extracted the data into a much fancier program than mine. He told me that I have CSA and that it would be better to decrease the pressure in the machine (now reduced to 5.5 cmH2O). I am to see what the readings are like in the next fortnight, then try two weeks at 4.5 cmH2O then two weeks at 6.5 cmH2O in order to find the best setting.

Obviously I will return to my doctor with the intention of both updating her and cancelling the pulmonary exam. There aren't many options for dealing with CSA (apart from CPAP) so I don't want to speculate here. What is slightly annoying is that no sleep doctor is at yet involved. It might be that an appointment will be necessary in another month or two.

Edit: I notice that when I bought this CPAP machine three years ago, I was told that I have CSA, but somehow managed to forget this.

[SO: 4262; 5,21,42
MPP: 742; 1,3,6]

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Revising lyrics, again

At the end of April, I wrote about the ease of rewriting lyrics for old songs, as compared to the difficulty of creating lyrics for new songs. I mentioned in passing "one [song] which is only a sketch at the moment - waiting for lyrics; I even have the title". I developed a very nice arrangement for this song - let's call the style "floral" as it features recorders, flute and clarinet - but couldn't progress because there were no lyrics. Every now and then, I would try to write something but couldn't make any headway. The opening verse took a great deal of effort; this set the tone for the rest of the song.

This is how it all begins
First a smile, then a greeting
Sometimes that smile's returned
Which can lead to a meeting
At which time all becomes clear
How the future will be
How the game will be played

After several months of cogitation, I realised that I could apply my usual song structure to these lyrics: first verse, meeting; second verse, getting in deeper; third verse, problems; fourth verse, splitting. Whilst this created a necessary overview, it didn't help writing the actual lyrics, although the opening line in the fourth verse would clearly be something along the lines of 'This is how it all began'.

In musical terms, this song has two significant differences from my other songs. It begins with a long anacrusis  - all the syllables of the first line except "gins", which falls on the strong beat of the first bar. A simple example of this would be the song 'Epitaph' by King Crimson, "The walls upon the prophet wrote" - the first strong beat is on "walls", thus "the" is an anacrusis. An even better example would be The Beatles' "No reply", "This happened once before"; "-fore" is the first beat, and "This happened once be-" is the long anacrusis. "No reply" also is an example of the second difference: the accompaniment only begins on that first beat, meaning that "This happened once be-", or in my case, "This is how it all be-" is sung acapella. These two devices make the opening very strong.

After great effort, I was able to write the 'missing' three verses a few weeks ago. Looking at them the next day, it became clear that certain changes were necessary in order to improve the lyrics. This revising was so much easier than the initial writing. When revising, I try to enrich the language (which generally means finding more expressive verbs or adjectives) whilst taking care not to repeat verbs. This is what I was taught in English classes many years ago, but never found much use; my first drafts were generally very good. Having written that, I discover that I need to replace a verb in this blog as I used it sentence after sentence.

When the time came to record, I initially used the same configuration which I had used for previous songs, which means my 'new' microphone on its tabletop stand, connected to the mobile computer, on the kitchen table. The results were reasonable but I wasn't very happy with them; the majority of problems stem from the fact that I am sitting while I am singing. A quick search on the Internet revealed a company in Tel Aviv selling microphone stands at a ridiculously low price, even after delivery. This is something which I have long wanted, so without delay, I ordered the stand, which arrived a day or two later. Singing with the microphone on the stand was much more comfortable, although it still took several takes to achieve what I wanted. That long anacrusis was hard to sing! The acapella problem was easily solved: I created a music track with an introduction which would help me sing that opening line. This track was not used in the final mix, so the recording begins solely with my voice (it's quite startling). The first verse is not double tracked, which makes the voice even more startling.

Enthused with the success of this track (obviously entitled "This is how it all begins"), I looked for old songs of mine which could be renewed. I settled on a song written in August 1972 when I was a young and callow lad; I have always liked this tune but for some reason could not sequence it to my satisfaction. This time I didn't have any major problems whilst sequencing - at least, not in laying down the chord changes and figuring out how long each chord lasts - so it didn't take long to create the backbone of the track. I spent most of my weekend working on the arrangement and getting it as good as I can, a task which seems to never end. Whilst listening to it once again this morning, I considered switching the part that the piano plays in the first verse with the part in the third verse in order to improve the track even more; I'll try that this evening.

Once the arrangement was 90% finished, I looked at the words. These clearly required a great deal of rewriting, as most of the existing lines were, to be kind, weak; there was also a metaphor which would not be acceptable in these politically correct times (there was a line whose meaning has changed somewhat in the last 40 years). So I sat down with a computer on my lap and rewrote the lyrics: this took all of ten minutes. Obviously, the resulting lyrics are not a work of literature, but then they're not meant to be. I also managed to change the point of view of the lyrics, which is a definite improvement; in those days, it was always "I" and "my", but now I can write more abstractly.