Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Plan - The Voyage Begins

Its been the best part of a month since I did that blogpost about my plan to get from here with no musical career to somehow getting to play next year's Indietracks.

I have made progress, this is the first step, the first series of videos.

I've recorded five songs, uploaded them to YouTube for your delectation, the songs are the following covers:-
  • If You Don't Pull
  • Tiny Tears
  • 100,000 Fireflies
  • Wake Up Boo
  • Keep the Circle Around
and by a process of survival of the fittest, after a week, I shall eliminate the least popular from the set and replace it with more songs, be it covers or originals. I plan to re-record the more popular songs, better, with guitar plugged in, with different instruments, arrangements, effects and backing singing.

Its like evolution, the weakest is eliminated whilst the more successful change and adapt.

So without further faffing about here are the videos.

Comments and abuse welcome.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Origami and Insects

Was a little bored at work, I was idly fiddling with a post-it note and made a little origami bird. Then I wondered if I quartered the paper could I make a smaller flapping bird?

My office is near some sewage works and as such we are plagued with flies and the spiders who prey on them. They are forever crawling about on my desk and terrifying me.

arachnid origami 1

arachnid origami 2

arachnid origami 3

arachnid origami 4

arachnid origami 5

Sunday, 15 August 2010

You wait, time passes

Crikey, its been ages since I last did a quality blog post. Its the time, I just don't have it, you know, to really sit down in front of the old keyboard and find something new and interesting to write about. I can't just squirt out any old crap.

The other day, via Astrid off of Facebook, I discovered the joy at is Hyperbole and a Half. Its this blog where the author write memoirs, stories of things that happened to her, illustrated using MS Paint.

Its hilarious and almost had me weeing myself. Its her brutal honesty that wins through and also how she shamelessly wants to win at the internet.

I fear if I tried such a thing, friends and loved one's would advise me against it in a matter of seconds.

Anyhoo, There was an interview with the author elsewhere on the web where she says it can take 16 hours to do a blogpost. I understand, I wish I could do that, but I'm inevitably dragged away to do something else, washing up, work, get off the sodding internet, etc. She writes around two blogposts a month and cos its pure internet comedy gold, she has the 1240th most popular blog of the internet, with a technorati authority of 526, by way of comparison, my old Naked Chicks on Post-It Notes barely made the top 100,000 blogs and only had an authority of 126, back in the day when Technorati authority meant something.

Anyhoo, so right now I have a wee bit of time to myself, and instead of practising away at my guitar and videoing poor cover versions of The Just Joans and Moustache of Insanity songs, I'm going to revisit a subject I covered a few weeks back on this here blog, and that is the website All Our Ideas.

For those who haven't been paying attention, is
...a platform that enables groups to collect and prioritize ideas in a transparent, democratic, and bottom-up way. It’s a suggestion box for the digital age.
You can post a question, provide some possible answers for people to chose and then if people suggest other answers they become part of it too.

I set up a wee half-arsed thing about civil liberties here, its had fifty one votes so far, undoubtedly a large proportion of them came from the same person. See, whilst the site is a great idea, it doesn't quite provide a hosepipe of traffic, that's up to me, the user, putting links on twitter and facebook and here, and I can only muster 51 votes.

Or in the case of deciding whether to play guitar or learn java or some other life-enriching activity, I mustered 54 votes.

And here follows the wee quality bit of this blog post, wondering how popular AllOurIdeas is for other people, here's a wee table of polls that I've found and how many respondents they've had.

chrislifeenrich 54Chris's life enriching project
Most pressing civil liberties issue in the UK
Craigslist Knowledge share project name
What's the funniest word
What should be Scott's most important focus as your new Congressman?
¿Cómo solucionar los problemas relacionados con el tráfico ilegal de drogas en México?
What should be the topic of the International Legislator Survey Project in 2011?
Which do you want more from the student government?
Which do you want more from allourideas?
What future innovation does society most need?

That's all I can find right now, there's probably loads more people using the site, but I can't find them, what I can find however its lots of people talking about the site, lots of social media news write-ups.

If more people are to use the site, which would be a neat thing, then surely some kind of easily accessible index would be good. Sure, some people will want their surveys kept quiet, if its just a wee local thing or a corporate employee only survey, you don't want folk for all over Asia voting, but if it something where you want as many people as possible to vote to get the broadest range of opinions, then maybe, instead of an index, some kind of hosepipe site would be neat where you just click through voting on lots of different polls and surveys.

I dunno.

Anyhoo, if you're reading this, having somehow found this page via google, and you know of any other allourideas pages that I don't have on my wee list, then let me know in the comments. Aye.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Taxes again and benefits

A bit of a flurry of tweeting today, The Today Program as I was driving in was going on about cracking down on benefits cheats, later on @Rosie off of the internet retweeted something about how the government has convinced us that folk living off 65 quid a week are more of a problem than people earning millions and paying less tax.

This got my mind going through the usual questions I pose when such discussions arise.

Around lunchtime I was ploughing through feeds and caught up with Al Jahom going over the same topic and again covering the retweeted tweet from @sarahluv81 who I used to know in Glasgow, pointing out that she conflated tax avoidance with tax evasion.

After some more reading, prompted by twittist @sarahluv81, it seems that the common definition of tax evasion vs avoidance:

Tax avoidance is the legal utilization of the tax regime to one’s own advantage, to reduce the amount of tax that is payable by means that are within the law. By contrast, tax evasion is the general term for efforts to not pay taxes by illegal means.

.. has been superceded – or at least refined – in English law.

The United Kingdom and jurisdictions following the UK approach (such as New Zealand) have recently adopted the evasion/avoidance terminology as used in the United States: evasion is a criminal attempt to avoid paying tax owed while avoidance is an attempt to use the law to reduce taxes owed.

There is, however, a further distinction drawn between tax avoidance and tax mitigation. Tax avoidance is a course of action designed to conflict with or defeat the evident intention of Parliament: IRC v Willoughby.[22] Tax mitigation is conduct which reduces tax liabilities without “tax avoidance” (not contrary to the intention of Parliament), for instance, by gifts to charity or investments in certain assets which qualify for tax relief. This is important for tax provisions which apply in cases of “avoidance”: they are held not to apply in cases of mitigation.
Ultimately this conflation means that the Gift Aid scheme is evil tax evasion and should be stopped. Gift Aid whereby you can personally allow charities to claim back the income tax on any donation. So if you donate £100, you’ve already paid £22 income tax on that when you earnt it, so the charity can claim that back from the government.

Taken to its extreme, if you donate all your earnings to a charity, the charity could claim the complete swathe of income tax and essentially you would have evaded paying any tax on your earnings. EVIL.

Anyhoo, the two questions that I try to ask whenever the subject of income tax arises are these:-

How much tax do you think you should pay?

Be it a proportion of your income or a lump sum, this is about you yourself, earning as much as you do.

@rosiebunny wanted to pay 5% tax
I’d settle for 35%
@AlJahom would accept 40% but would prefer a minarchist 10%-15%, and
@sarahluv81 thinks it depends on how much I earn.

I did some back of the envelope sums, including council tax, national insurance, income tax, fuel duty, booze duty and vat, I pay 50% tax right now. Bah I say, Bah!

And secondly:-

Would you accept a pay cut in order to fund a pay rise for those earning less than you?

In answer to the second question, I would accept a pay cut to fund those on the lowest wage at the place I work. However, other people I’ve asked say they would but only if the people earning more than them take pay cuts too. That’s a no then. Its not about other people, it not about everyone else in the company, its about you, and if you’re basing your answer on what everyone else does then it’ll never work.

It’s a big fundamental thing about the redistribution of wealth. Is it about redistributing your wealth or someone else’s?

If you think it’s about someone else’s then its theft and you’re a thief. You can dress it up as society or constitutional or whatever, but it just comes down to theft, taking people’s hard earned wealth without their consent.

So its about consent. Back to the first question. I could probably form a city state with Al Jahom, we broadly agree on levels of taxation, me with between 35% and 42% and him with 40%, but couldn’t form a city state with Rosie, her levels of taxation are too low to be of any use in my opinion. Sure, her state might work, and who knows citizens of my state might all decide to up sticks and move to the Rosie Free-State. Sarahluv on the other hand might find it awkward in both states, since she’s always be comparing how much she earns and pays with everyone else and then demanding special treatment for either herself or people who earn more or less, that’s explicit in her position.

Maybe its similar to Rosie’s position, maybe in the Rosie Free-State only people called Rosie are subject to such low taxes and other groups must pay more, I dunno, its hard to tell.

Anyhoo, considering I’m currently paying around 50% tax, both Al and Rosie’s tax regimes seem better than my current situation,

Monday, 9 August 2010

The Coalition's Home Bonus Scheme

On the way into work this morning there was a bit on The Today program about this Home Bonus scheme from the coalition government. I gather they're trying to incentive home building by local councils by giving them a share of the central government grant in proportion to new houses built.

It doesn't feel right.

Ignoring the opposition's postulation that its a con cos the councils aren't getting new money, the bonus just comes from the same block grant they'd have got anyway. What I'm more concerned with is what I shall call 'the low hanging fruit effect'.

Councils who already find it easy to build houses will get the additional money whilst councils who currently find it difficult to build houses will get less money.

The net affect would, I guess, great estates of empty houses in areas with already a housing surplus. And no change for the housing stock-strapped councils, other than less money.

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Thursday, 5 August 2010

Social housing for life

I don't own a dog, I image if I did I'd have to give it shelter, feed it, take it for walks, take it to the vet, that sort of thing. Aw man, it would take up so much of my time. Dog owners puzzle me, don't they have lives of their own? Things that they want to get on with?

Since I move out of my parent's place at the age of eighteen in 1997, I've lived in eleven different places in two cities, mostly flatshares, sometime with friends, sometimes complete strangers, the cheapest available on, sometimes in condemned blocks through a guardian agency. I hate moving house, its hassle I don't need, but sometimes due to funds or work or social life, I have to move.

Yesterday David Cameron was in the news suggesting social housing tenents shouldn't have homes for life. What sort of house could home, a childless couple, then a couple with a baby, then a couple with several young kids, then a couple with teenagers then a couple with no kids living with them? Some kind of elastic house that stretches and contracts perhaps. Or for those with no aspirations of having a family, what kind of jobs last for more than five years without paying enough to move to a fancier pad?

What I mean is why would you want the same house for life? Other than because its cheap, because its subsidised by the UK taxpayer plc. Its getting something for nothing.

There's no such thing as a free lunch, except if you're a goldfish.
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Monday, 2 August 2010

The Plan

Right, I have a plan, not the best plan perhaps, but a plan with potential for improvement, a plan to get me from the position of having no music career right now, to the position of playing at next year's Indietracks, to a crowd of consensually screaming fans.

Any suggestions, improvements and criticism will be gratefully appreciated...

1. The videos
Record a daily series of videos of me playing guitar and singing at the same time, playing a mix of my own material, indiepop and britpop covers on either electric or acoustic guitar or ukulele. Being joined as time progresses by other instrumentalists who volunteer their services, eventually population a band who shall be known as The Left-Behinds. These videos shall be uploaded onto both Facebook and YouTube.

This daily series shall go on indefinitely.

2. The demos
Once the quality of tune has reached an acceptable level, recordings shall be burnt onto CD and repeatedly sent out to promoters such as Trev Oddbox, Sean Jesus Price, WeePop, Pic n Mixx, Foxes and Convicts and MJ Hibbett, and anyone who shows any interest in the videos. These CDs will be accompanied with cupcakes, cookies, knitted trinkets and fanzinery.

3. The secret gig
Intimate flat-based gigs shall be played in December to a select audience. Tea and scones will be served.

4. The Buffalo
Proper gigs shall be played from January onwards.

5. The session
6Music invite The Left-Behinds in for a session in March. Lauren Laverne raves about the band.

6. The album
Album is recorded in May, and released featuring cover art of a teddy bear on a dusty windowsill.

7. The festival
Play Indietracks to crowd of consensually screaming fans, possibly chanting "Left Behind! Left Behind! Penultimate song in set is a reinvention cover of 'If You Don't Pull', with The Alfreton Male Voice Choir in Lone Ranger masks and opera singer, and Ian Pocketbooks on guest lead guitar, and segue into 'Que Sera Sera'.

8. The aftermath
Declare that the band has disbanded and form a Tallulah Gosh covers band with Enzo Menoni on bass.