Author Archives: keithlmelvin

Disarray for the Left Wing…oh, and for the Right

Just where does Jeremy Corbyn stand on the EU? Why are so many Scots liberal intelligentsia and leftist media hacks anti SNP? Why are the Populist Parties not very popular? And just what will happen with or rather after Brexit?

Well well what about this left wing self appointed intelligentsia , the jockluminatae, why are they so against independence? Simply because they cannot abhore the SNP. THey have a long history of aligning with Labour or trying to get Labour to be more Marxist through Militant and some branch parties, from within. The SNP were always the vote spoilers for them, the english haters, the NATIONALISTS. Ooh a dirty word, And it is, even the FM said she wished sometimes the party had dropped the National label, which sits uneasily with a long history of nasty right and now the BNP darn sarff.

Many of these self same pro Uk lefitsts support celtic and are quietly for a united Ireland. Others hate tories to death. Some want to see the defeat of xenophobia and class distinction while swallowing academies in England and fringe privatisation of the health service. What they want is to beat the SNP first then take on the evils of capitalism with an army of 50 Labour MPs from north of the border once again on their flanks. Meanwhile the Uk is falling into a xenophobic, isolationist dystopia. Rather than heave Scotland out, they woudl rather see it all sink. It is a bit like the Keiser’s strategy for the first world war / defeat the enemy in the bnorth to achieve victory in the empire as a whole.

The fact is that politics is bound inexorably up in faith, For the liberal intelligentsia of both the liberal left and the ‘neo liberal’ right, the EU in particular has often been part of that faith. It is then difficult for people to break with faith, to change religion or to challenge orthodoxy and perceived wisdom. Some common denominators reign, and often within parties they were to the extreme of what they would want the public to think. Militants and marxist lenninist nationalisers in Labour, CNDers in the Lib Dems, and “nig nog” callers in the tweedy conservative clubs of Scotland.

This has been a big issuiie witjh the act of faith many undertook in the 1990s. The two camps of the Tory party bubbled away but by in large they remained as a majority pro EU, until Johnny Cameron had a wheeze to silence the critics ‘forever’ and win a new, negotiated, anti federal EU versus the once and for all referendum. If he hadn’t had a refugee crisis and a failing home economic policy then he could have pulled it off, and the EuroSceptics , sorry Patriots, would have been sent back to grumbling, and Nigel Farage would have been delighted to be an eternal moaner instead of having to come up with policies or real, hard facts and trade deals.

The trouble with the EU is that it is boring, It presides post EEC, over labels and food safety, rises in nut and bolt threads, hardness of steel, fat content of sausages and signage of roads. It has moved from being a post war political mechanism for stability and feeding the masses with cheap food and wine, to being essentially a marketist meta democratic organ. Now the Tories on their back end benches, would have been happy with all tha bo ve and keeping the public in the dark, b ut for the so called ‘social chapter. Here we speak of the more liberal regulations on evening out the workforce, with terrible federal things like the maxsimum 48 hr week, materinity leave, and compulsory employer contirbutuion pensions. ooh, a modern economy cant afford for workers free time, babies or retirement! The point being tha the EU is its own biggest market, and if labour is not treated like slaves, as the Tories would have it, untaxesd Serfs free from big governhment and working hours legislation to enjoy the benefits of a fully .capitalist economy, then you get fluctuations in where companies invest to avoid the on costs or to exploit labourt more. But conservatives have always been pro explotiuation and pro reducing labour costs, so for many in their over priviliged ranks, meddling with labour policy and the right to extend slavery for bigger profits was loose metal in their gears.

The marketist nature of the EU is nothing the at NEw Labour or Cameronian Tory politics want to escape. Corbyn ius unsure. He has been EU sceptic before, allegedly, and now perhaps he sees an opportunity to win back working class seats or swing some marginals wutggh disgruntled proles over to the Red. His speaches have been ambivalent, and he is playing perhaps a game of let the tories fal on their own sword rahter than have policies that the tories can belittle.

The Scottish liberal intelligentsia basically have big mortgages to live in the ‘hipster cool’ appartment areas, or to have their hooses in the ‘burbs in which to breed new wee pro Uk lefites. They are thirty five to sixty five, somwehat influential and in love with their positions in the media or state which along with those mortgages, could look sjkhakey under indyref 2. The risk of Independence is far greater than the risk of far right Tory nationalism, to their comfy lives. Better blue than dead, Better to hum the international and hope for a collapse of captialism in which they can swing into action, than let the ‘nasty seperatists’ take economic power.

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Boating Weekend in Fabulous Weather at Randoysund

There she lies, the Melges 24 on which I am the luckiest ‘extra’ crew ever, because its regular crew often cant make events!

TIme goes on and it is now six years since I started with the boys, and a couple of quiet years for me show. I got the initial feeling that I was suffering from dementia because I couldnt remember how things were done. Neither could I pick up new routines or running rigging so quickly,. However at the end of the first day as stand in tactician I was able to follow all the work, pitch in when needed and get my head ‘out of the boat’ a little.

The Melges seemed a daunting task to me, having sailed on rather better ballasted boats and one or two man dinghies. However there in lies the stregnth in sailing the Schmelger, if you can sail a dinghy, and your crew know what they are doing. I remember seeing ‘clapped out toy-boy” struggeling in west highland week’s usualy top of five day, and then disappearing over the horizon on a Croabh feeder. It seemed a twitchy beast which needed dedicated crew, prepared to be ragdolls on the rail strop.

The boat was just far too pricey for the UK market. You can go plaining and have fun without a carbon mast and foils, as the Cork 1720 and Hunter 707 showed, at less than half the price of the Melges 24, But now the second hand price is down, and some people are turning to them as syndicates or thinking of them as what they are – Porsches of the sea. You dont buy an eight seater Porsche to go and do sporty driving with, and you dont really want a cheap but cheaful Mazda do you?

This year is a very special year because the Nationals will be local to our waters in Kristiansand for the first time (I beleive). So places onbord are at a premium since local strategy is a must have and everyone wants a bite of the action. Sickness means though that I am a likely runner as crew, so dont get well soon guys!

A few things had changed in the boat. The hoists are now behind the shrouds, which is where the smart money has been, it just takes some care in feeding it out so on the one hand you dont go fishing, while on the other you dont get the halyard on the leech of the mainsail. As ‘tactician’ I had few jobs, but they kind of evolved to doing the pole out during the hoist, which is cooler than after it is up, and gybing the jib over when it is up in windier conditions.

The Melges is kind of a post-graduate boat. You need to have a ‘bachelors’ of art and science reading sailing, to be able to step into one and get around a course safely. And that goes for the whole crew. It is a lot eaxier to sail than I actually expected but difficult to get 100% right in part due to the very tunable rig, in part the fact that some very good sailors with extreme attention to trimming compete in the boat. It has been the little grand prix boatfor ovber quarter of a century now, filling the place where once Dragons, Solings and Etchells ruled the roost.

At the end of the weekend, my R&R pass having some time on it, we sailed back over the great ‘forth of Kristiansand’ having negotiated Randoy Sund with its fickle winds and rocks. I got to helm the whole way and we did most of it underspunnaker in the NE wind stream, giving us evventually a near perfect reach right over from Dvergsnes south to the town’s guest harbour where the melges fleet are packing in to show the boat off before the nationals. My tacking anlges were ok, but my gybe angles where spot on, it seemed very easy to line up a perpendicular on the waurter as the best time to gybe and go through about 100 degrees today. We dropped spnnaker in the narrow entrance to the harbour to show good form, and sailed onto the pontonn.

I started the weekend feeling like I was slowly loosing my brain cells, and ended it fgelling like an expert helmsnan, so that all in all was a good experience/ Also we had coaching from an English chap, Ed Streeter I think his name is, while th woner chilled out atokimageofu. , on the first day, to help us shaedo. I wsig wd. Dytw as gutg20 knot so it was moreemangu h ownrkethscvo nw d m ghgybing inatilaaa variety of takdoni soudoRado.

training sessions in displacement boats in light to medium airs have seemed a bit pedestrian in the past, when racing was not being used for training. A little unserious as they say here. But in a melges with a good understanding of a kind of course to sail, it is a good sjhake down and time to dwell on mishaps as well as just drill the crew. esrna o quit ero ebfor, whey e us aesora.

Getting On Your Bike ?

Norman Tebbit is quoted as saying, rather infamously , that the unemployed should get on their bikes. In fact I believe this was a paraphrase from him saying “When there was no work locally, my dad used to get on his bike” to look for work elsewhere. Just how easy is it to ‘get on your bike?’ It is a mantra of many older tories, that the unemployed in the North should just tootle on down to the prosperous south east and get a life there.

 

In the last interview I heard with Tebbit, now being 87 and perhaps out of the media circus for all time, he had mellowed and said the miners had been treated unfairly in terms of the closing of so many pits and economic devastation reaped upon whole communities. He thought there should have been more done for them,  perhaps he meant buying them bicycles so they could pop down the road to look for work? Oh, that north english or central scottish town has also had a pit closure or steel works mothballed…..

As any business leader will know if they have geographically spread locations and markets, you have a fixed investment and cost base in plant in one place where perhaps there isnt a market, so you hope for better communications ie roads these days, such that you can get your goods to market or punters will come for your service. However transport has a cost, which may errode profit margin enough to render it unattractive. Then you have your capital investment potentially making a big loss when it is sold if you close up and relocate.  It can be painful and risky then to relocate because the initial investment may be far higher in moving to an economic hot spot like the South East, and also you may find you cannot recruit the skills you need, or more often, the wages you need to make a high gross margin the investors are looking for to get ROI. Why then should a Tory look any differently upon someone moving job?

In a jobless community or region, you have three choices if you own a house or your family are imbedded in schools, activities and friends. You can daily commute enormous distances and times. You can weekly commute, Or you can move the whole shabang. In the UK, for a while the wise money was on the latter, because if you moved ‘darn sarff’ you got better pay, and despite your mortgage being costly, you also earned very well from the steep value curve of the property market.  However that is a purely financial decision, you leave your community behind for the temple of Mammon.

 

I have really done all three variants, all be the long commute not actually that long and it was in a fully expensed company car so I cannot really complain with that luxury, driving 90 -100 miles a day total. It took less than an hour and a half usually. Weekly commuting I have done, and it just does not add up when you take the costs of the flat, travel and your own ‘bachelor again’ food together with the psychic and emotional stresses involved. The benefit is getting valuable work experience. The same was true of just upping roots and moving, which I have done in fact six times, the last time to totally reduce my mortgage leverage to spend more QT with the family, but lack of work lead me into my first proper weekly commute.

There are a lot of hidden costs within the weekly commute equation. Firstly there is the fact that a single person actually costs more than half that of two people very often, in terms of food and heating (/ electricity) in a flat. Then if you have a car, you may find that the combined daily commute if you have one, and the weekends commute put a very high mileage on your car which brings forward depreciation bgit time, and you loose many thousands in a shorter period of say two years – as goes for long distance commuting, which many folk who live along the main English arterial motorways do.  Then you have the home front, where your absence can result in more running around in the second car, from cold, and perhaps more wasted food as families back home refuse to eat left overs ! You then actually have on the one hand the ability to work over time, or even have two jobs while away, and so earn even more. BUT the converse of that in a fixed salary bullshit job with long hours, as is typical now in the UK and USA, is that you work hard and loose opportunities for extra work, because you are travelling Friday nights when service industry might need you behind the bar.

The biggest single financial pitfall of weekly commuting, is actually not money per se or ‘gross margin’ with all monthly expenses in the picture, it is rather cash-flow-is-king. Twice I have moved or weekly commuted and been wondering why I was always skint at the end of every month, until I had worked over a year ( and towards 18 months I always wanted to move on, the company goes bust, the boss has a niece for the job….etc) is that I was paying all the initial ‘investment’ off. Flat depost, first months rent, moving costs, first months commuting daily costs, first month’s weekly travel, first months’ food for the flat. You can find yourself in a lot of debt having just moved and not passed Go! So you either sit with that debt, or more likely you pay some of it off, or owe family and mates with no interest, but a moral obligation to pay back asap! That negative trough on the cash balance sheet takes a long time to work off, because weekly commuting erodes so much of your monthly gross margin anyway in the months after, and you still have all your home costs to contribute to back on the ranch.

Now you could just say as Norman Tebbit would surely nod to, well that is just a fact of life. However what you could also do is sod all that extra time traveling and use all that initial outlay you have for partial relocation of your body, and put it into running your own business along with all the energy you are likely to put into a new job. Many say that starting a business and being an owner-employee eats up loads of time, and you will be away from your family, BUT you are embarking on that anway in weekly commuting. Also if you think jobs do not include selling, you are kidding yourself on in the modern service world, or the corporate structures or even in trades as an employee. You are going to be doing sales, or selling yourself internally or selling yourself onto the next contractor with the next big contract. Why not sell yourself ?

Ok, well I am pretty terrible I think at this, but in fact I just lack motivation to get over the threshold and am a bit naive when it comes to sussing out who is worth spending time on during a round of knocking on business doors or networking in a sports club. But you dear, younger reader, or dear highly skilled and experienced older reader, you can sod weekly commuting and get either local work or do remote home office, digital commuting as it is called these days.

I sound like a Tory! Well yes if you are Norman Tebbit, but no if you are today’s breed of corporatist Tory who is primarily concerned with a fat pension from helping companies and individuals evade tax, while keeping up a small business friendly front and now of course, collapsing into BritNatz identity politics verging on outright racism, scapegoating and scare mongering.

I’m not talking aboujt the hipster  e-yuppie alone here either, very much at the young person who hasnt really thought about trades, or the older DIY maniac who is a dab hand but with no papers. Very often you can be sub contracted in self employed as a ‘labourer’ and end up picking up enough skills to then be able to take part time education as a plumber, or brickie, or joiner or something specialist in property like ‘framing’ (tømring in Norwegian, building heavy wooden beams and columns for either expensive new houses or refurbished ‘period’ houses) Recruiting is a pain for employers because they often want disposable staff these days, and have come to expect to be able to lay off most of their work force at the end of one project rather than offer any job security. As the population ages, and post Brexit, they may have to change their attitude to this down time, and the state may pick up less of that tab of churn unemployment.

So self employment is a real alternative if you think about it, and are felxible in your local market. I would suggest that Mr Tebbit senior actually toddled off on his bike down the road in the 1920s and depressed 30s and worked on the black for cash in hand, but today you do not need to do that because the employer saves so much in not using a VAT liabel company or sole trader. It is risky and can be shitty getting money out of people, but you can often get a simple, legally binding contract there and then as the deal is signed literally.

Many countries need a bigger business birth rate in areas where there are skills gaps and high pricing, especially the trades. However enterprise and investment companies are run by middle class graduates, who had like Storming Norman, parents who push them to get on and up and out of their blue collar or lower white collar backgrounds. The whole school system too is biased towards university level education, and away from what is the trades. We presume that is what thickos do, and the poles can take the jobs if they want. However these jobs pay a lot better than most graduate start jobs, and with over time can rival many a masters’ degree graduates pay after several years.

In the long run, graduates apparently earn more and move into management, which is partly true, but plumbers start their own firms and employ people themselves and do very, very nicely and work probably a lot less hours than an average corporate middle manager.

 

On this kind of point of burn out, relating to lifestyle, there is something very woeful happening to my late baby boomer compatriots. This is anecdotal, but those outside Law and Medicine are struggeling. There are some with ill health, in fact a surprising number are out of work on health grounds or have down sized their ambitions or jobs. Secondly there is then downsizing by firms, and also a deal of people running out of steam. My generation are becoming over experienced and under qualified. Times now are changing too fast for many to retrain and keep up. Outsourcing cuts the cost of those forty and fifty something technocrats and managers who were in house. Employment becomes more tenuous as companies merge, get bought out or restructure. My generation were also not equipped with the sharp, self centred tools of the modern world, where winning, even if that includes outright cheating, is what matters. Entitlement is something I have had to deal with before with so many mediocre bosses in marketing, but now it reaches into areas including so called liberal establishments like the UN. A young, sharp, egotistist generaion (or two) lie below us now, who are entitled by being highly qualified in modern masters programmes, corporate iternships under their belt, and into the fabric of organisations with a power base made by basically cheating , being greedy and conniving.  They see millenials as their cannon fodder, and want to manage the robotic, algorythmic revolution which perhaps threatens to prove the Luddites finally right, or perhaps will free us from mundanity and the surly checkout girl.

Moving on then for work, also means through life being prepared to change career and being opportunistic when the personal balance sheet of money, family and health is in the picture, with quality of life as the bottom line. We have had our own local version of t’pit closing, with the loss of 180 direct jobs and maybe another 40 contractors etc, and a knock on to local spending and a decline of around 1% in the population, but also a marked shift towards the over fifties with now a drastically falling school roll.

Living out on a wing, or in a pit town isolted up a valley or just surrounded by other former coal towns, does not lend itself to getting on your bike, and you can unfortunetly end up sitting with fixed assets which make it hard to be flexible with moving. So Norman Tebbit spoke of a two wheeled bicycle of course, riding up a two way street, where in fact it doesnt always work out that you can tootle off round the next village or borough and get work, whistling home with a jaunty aire and a jolly whistled tune on your lips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh – Twee and Touristy

Edinburgh is becoming one of our favourite desitnations as a family, as in turn before it was my favourite get-a-away city as both child and younger man.

Edinburgh is very different from most any other town in Scotland because it has so many buildings from the 18th century and even before in the old town.  In contrast to Glasgow and its’ managed and manicured grand parks, Edinburgh has mountains in its midst and south boundary. Arthur’s Seat and the Pentlands set a wild back drop for this otherwise most civilised city. On our visit the ‘Seat’  was salt and pepper dusted while the Pentlands were pearly white despite it being well into what should be the great scottish spring.

We arrived via a long journey via Oslo, and I booked a cab. This was the first thing that was cheap as chips. Twenty three quid plus four quid pick-up-parking. Back home in Norway it would be twice that. Also the Norwegian driver would have started the meter most likely when we had arranged to be picked up, and charged us for the international calls and texts to contact us, Norrie our cabbie was a good old sort, with those flat matter of fact stories of Leith and what have you to relate. I relasied I was nearer him in eras we have lived through than I am today’s students. The deltics in town, pubs open late with real ales. The cold wind runing up Leith walk and tearing up George the IV. Memories of lovers and loves that could have been.

Thursday was good weather so we took ourselves up to town via the Leith walk and the edge of Stockbridge, taking then a Dog Leg to the back end of Cannonmills and Bonnington, through the small parcel of George IV park. Edinburgh is a place you can follow your nose, the generally raidal pattern of peripheral arteries leading to either the Royal Mile from the South , Lotian Road / Princes Street from the West, and The new Town from the North and east. We got as far as the Elephant house where Harry Potter was likely first penned, but a chance to tick off a touristy thing was denied me. Instead children wanted to that evil of city holidays, SHOPPING. ooof. Forbidden Planet and so on.

For Returning home to the digs,  we bought a family day ticket from the office on Waverley bridge, a good old fashioned scratch off card, reminiscent of the dozens I had as an itinerant locomotive enthusiast as a teenager. Eight fifty may seem a lot for a local bus, but that is only £2.17 each and it is unlimited for the day within the boundaries. We ended up buying them at least four times!

Friday was a reunion with two old School Pals who are based in Edinburgh and love it very much. I always feel at the end of these that it has been great to meet up, but guilty I ddi not ask much more about their kids or jobs or what ever. We just spend time and reminisce.  We probably did Lidl for malt whisky that day. Not a bad drop, could always be diluted with ‘ginger’ if it was aweful, and I was nervous becasue no more was it Glen Moray, Elgins finest light drinking whisky, but a dark own label Ben Bracken. Hmmm. Not bad at all compared to many of these non aged declared which have peary drops or even coconut esters and what have you which have a sickly taste. Lidl was not as super cheap as I remember it from before, but as with many shoppings, mine came to thirty seven pounds something, for wine , beer, puddings, some food , easter buinnies and that whisky. The drink alone would be 70 quid in Norway!

It seems that thirty-seven-pounds-sixty-four-pence is the average shop in the UK. As soon as the basket goes over half full then cha-ching, two dinners, sweets, Irn Bru and some beer add up to thirty-seven-pounds-sixty-four-pence. Things are no longer that ‘hey wow, gasp!’ cheap in the UK. It pays to shop around and read menus. However our pasta chain meal down at Newhaven Harbour came to about twenty a head for two courses and drinks, plus we bought some extra wine.  Some places were Norwegian prices and some bars were up at a fiver a pint of , admittdely, craft beer.

My UK spending money though was whittered away incredibly quickly.  I had 200 in my old account and 200 cash, and it was nearly all gone with a day to go, only we actually had two days to go. Slip of the finger on the cheap booking calender buttons apparently. Oh joy! But ooh dear, bit skint and wee man with a stinking cold.

Who Killed Jimmy Chat Room?

What ever happened to …….the live chat roomon the internet?

How charming the anarchic chaos of a live chatroom with a couple of dozen users, in a little javascripted, embedded box or pop up window with green screen DOS resemblence. So enthralling and amusing it was to have either frivilous or serious conversations, opening your heart or blurting out revamped cliches, with complete and utter strangers you would never meet in person or take home with you. I remember how hard it was to break into conversations, how easy it was to make the faux pas of PM’ing a user you thought you might like to chat up on the side (Irish Girl 78 , Hotpants.Chigago) How thorooughly amusing some conversations were, and how you shrieked with laughter when two conversations became entwined with hilarous accidental consequences.

Chatrooms really were at the dawning of creation of the electric internet. Right back at the little bang that was the first ever message sent between academics via the Pentagon instigated ArpNet as a true TCP/IP message, you could say, the embryonic chat was formed by electrons,volts and bits.

You could of course take chatting and even hacking further back than that to the days of morse code along the railway and telegraph company systems in the 19th century, when operators would often send cryptic messages, or sign their commercial message off with a ‘tag’ denoting themselves to other operators, or when people would either ‘tap’ the wire to listen to traffic or send signals, such as the Norwegian resistance did during WWII, or to interrupt , corrupt or down right send fake news along the telegraph wires!

They existed of course in the form of news groups in the early world wide web, when often they would be strings of postings in conversation not truly news. But as mentioned, it wasnt until embedded javascript in the browsers of the mid to late 90s came of age, and bandwidth reached to ISDN capacity and beyond, that chat rooms exploded onto the scene. ICQ and MSN came

to dominate the one-to-one chat format for a decade, and morphose into today’s PM on all the main apps and big branded web sites. Yet the once bleeding edge live chat room for multi users, has withered away and lives it seems only in the odd little backwaters and alley ways of the internet and web today.

They were exciting. Anarchic of course. Self regulatiing by in large, with ‘report user’ buttons or abusive commine complaint possibilities on the more advanced ones, and often trigger happy moderators Also for the internet of the day, they seemed pretty much ubiquitous across all socially definable groups, collective interests, nationalities or professions who had become present on the internet. In those days there were a few bucket mouthers, but they got deleted and so in general the special interest nature of some, and the self policing functionality of other chat rooms, rendered the whole place an extremist free zone.

The cross section of society was not without its biases. It was the innovators, the extroverts, the nerds , the geeks and by in large the educated and often academic who were on chat rooms. So if you had wanted to run opinion polls via chat rooms then, or stealthy ‘sentiment scrape’ analysis linked to key words, then you would have dug up results that were highly unrepresentative of society as a whole. By in large though, the groups were split into two destinct types. The friendly, open group, and the more self restricting, closed atmosphere, where the established geeks didnt like noobs (newbies) taking up bandwidth or screen space.

Now at their peak in about 1998 / 99 pre modern, organised, big brand , corporatist social media of course, I happened to have an Irish girl friend and wandered by some whim onto the virtual pub of some kind of Irish web site. I was known as KIM, which is kind of gender neutral and I could recgnise my own posts immediately as the scroolling , tickertape like madness rolled on during the day.

I just went on for the craic and would engage in reducto absurdum, mild trolling of other conversations, or make inane sweeping statements or just post jokes, and even revert to ‘hello youse all, I’m lonely today’ type invitations to converse. The best times to be on were generally before the USA woke up, when the whole thing would grind to a hault with expat Paddy and Mary wanting to touch base wi’ the home land. By mid afternoon it was only the ‘snug’ and other ante’roomswhich were useable this side of the atlantic.

Looking back, I think maybe I wanted to get more inside the often confusing psyhce of the irish. To kind of get on the wave length without my terrrible body language and odd use of eye contact and intonation getting in the way. The irish have extolled in great irony, the language of their once conquisdadors and imperial masters, to dizzy heights of wonderous expression far beyond the daily use of the english language over the irish sea in its homeland.

They have a whole range of methodologies to converse and relay their internal stream of consciousness to one another and the outside world when it tunes in to listen. A simple ride in a taxi, can be like emersing yourself in the best of yeats or james Joyce. Conversations exist on mulitple levels, a bit like that packaged internet parcel protocol. Words, statements, answers, encouragements, gasps and guffaws are thrown back and forth on often three or more subjects or themes, and yet some how sewn together by in large by each participants’ native brain circuits. All smoothed along with laughter and usually a fruity , articulated accent exscluding some suburbs of Dublin that is, where a flat , beaurocratic Dublish is kind of uttered.

There is a great irony in what fate befell the live chat room because as technology advanced and could have permitted more complex forms of chat, with video or what have you, or speech, or what have you, the chat room fell away. In one way it was replaced by its predecessor, which often you linked out to the pop up window chat from, the notice board or forum. On the other hand anarchy never lasts long and the corporates came along. Then the organic, booming internet brands exploded onto the scene between 2005 and 2010. The ‘net became something we thought would never happen. It got channelised and went mega global corporate.

The other great irony lies here, in the explosion of Social Media and our need to be visible and connected to those we know and want to know. Chat rooms were strictly anonymous. We chose to hide our identity behind a snappy chat handle (name or tag) and if we did use a visible e-mail adress, it too was obfuscated. We wanted in essence to do what mum told us never to do – to speak first and foremost to complete strangers.Today if you put Twitter Trolling aside, we have a destinct need to be known, highly visible and connected to those we know. In fact we spend most of our time communicating with people we have met in person, for the vast majority of us. We want to be kind of broadcast famous to our own tribe, in touch via the worldwide jungle drums beating our private code.

I remember when FaceBook went viral in 2007 and it became a kind of touch-base and collect as many of your friends and acquaintances as possible, a bit like stamp collecting. It was a race to be best connected, have the most friends. For years though, I put a firm limit of 100 friends on FB, and would delete down to that number by cutting out lurkers and folk I never had met actually, or didnt really like that much at all to be honest.

Perhaps of course Chat rooms are alive and well to some people, and have only evolved into Tinder and Facebook Messenger. Tinder is to some extent anonymous, and has that element of risky flirting with the ability to pull the plug at any moment. Indeed i admit I liked to flirt, typographically at least, with the obviously bawdy females of the Irish Virtual Pub in 1998 and 99.

I miss going down the real pub, being middle aged an all and living in a small town where everybody knows each other and knows you aint from round here boy. In fact I used to seek solace as the troubled manfolk of old did in the real pub, by wandering into chatrooms, forlorn and alone, looking for anybody to hear my little sob and give me some answers or direction.

Said Irish girlfriend declared she was off to manage the company’s new translation office for IT software in Romania in 1999. Instantly I paniced as to what fate would become her in a land where rabied dogs roamed and the gypsy mafia kidnapped people. My fears were allayed by a kind english speaking person from of all places Transylvania, who assured me on a live chat room of course, that their city of Cluje, my girlfriends destination, belonged to the Bohemian, Central European tradition and was far more like the safe western cities if not more so. As it happened I got dumped, as to her, career and not having baggage or too much personal e-mail traffic, was more important than our relationship. But at least I knew my ex was going to a safe place.

It is a little odd, sad and very ironic then that our need to be in touch with on the one hand our friends and other established social networks, and on the other people as politically like minded as possible, has superceded our need to explore and find new people and just have a chat. Instead of investigating the brave new world of the internet as we did, open minded and as new borns without an identity, going forth to meet humanity with hope, we now want to stamp our mark as who exactly we are via Facebook likes and Tweets via Twitter, and exclude those who might disagree with us, or even just tease us a little.

Of course the live chat room still is to be found, I haven’t bothered to click on any of the links I dug up on Google though. Half of them are probably live porn pan handlers, the other half corporatist ultra right wing troll boxes no doubt. Maybe I should put this prejudice aside, as once upon a time the internet was a scary place with nasty little viruses on every other link, and you never knew if you were talking to was who or what they made out to be. Anonymity and neutrality in conversation, as you would get down a pub you never had been in before in a strange city, are really what chat rooms were about. Perhaps I should google a little harder for somewhere I might like to drop in on.

It’s The End of The Snow as We Know it ……

While a decided notable proportion of the Noggie population are off to the pearly white painted hills and plateaus, yours truly is packing away his skis for the season. Other plans for easter involving visiting folk, so rather than do a half hearted dash for snow, sun and kvikk-lunsj, it is time for washing off the clister from the familiy’s skies.

Now the snow at sea level is slushy and sticky and you really need to mill the soles with water channels, and for me treat my furry middle bits with special, expensive spray. The bint’s skis need a yard of universal clister, now coloured a horrid silver, and the whole thing becomes more of a palava than a decent training session. The middle lane is like a treadmill of porridge for those who would attempt skate-skiing after 10 am. Qauntity there is though, so we may have skiing for a week or two given a cold snap materialises. Up in the hills at Kleivvann in Gjerstad kommune, there is well over a meter of compacted snow on the trails, with fresh snow when we had rain this week. They are talking about skiing through to mid May up there!

This season has been a little different than all seasons before. I have a certain wry self satisfaction with my skiing. Finally i am keeping ahead of most all the pensioners, and been able to ‘keep the wheels turning’ in my classic kicking style, with a much improved poling with single kick and more stamina for poling alone. I see myslef reaching for longer ski tours of 25 km and more and doubling up some of the tours I currently do most often as social ski’s. The other main difference is in my attitude. I accept my failings and look for points where I may be doing things wrong.

A bit like other sports I have taken up with, XC skiing needs to be deconstructed once in a while, and for me that has meant thinking about silly mistakes and weaknesses, and then using specific exercises to make up for them. One is the wobbly free ski and the uneven landing. Here I have looked at stadning a little more upright while I warm up, and trying to ignore the ‘kick’ backwards, while on the return swing, I try to land with a little more weight on the ball of my foot, rather than it being a little vague over the whole foot, which tends to wegfiht up the outside edge.

In skate-skiing I have then thrown away the poles so to speak a couple of times and now at least I know how weak I really am on my left side, and how I can perhaps improve my overall style. Classic then has alos had the odd minute or two of legs only, or a pole movement with only a kissing touch bails on snow. In skating and in downhill, iI still have to learn not to rush things and thus loose concentration. Better to spill a little speed than to go outside my abilities to focus and react.

So it has come to small things to fix and work on, and the bnig thing is to keep on loosing weight and in turn take longer ski tours on classic, while concentrating on fluidity and intensity in skate style. I can laugh a little at how far back I was those days in Kvamskogen when i first lashed skinny planks on my feet. My impression is that the apprenticship is over and the plan is clearly to focus on mastering skills, speed and distance while enjoying my sport all the more.

Zen and the Art of Skate-Skiing

Skate skiing is by no means as simple as skate skiers make it look!

Having my first season with the correct length of poles, which seem like terribly long implements to spear fish at great depths with, I am discovering that there is a lot of perspiration and panting for me to ‘keep the wheels going round’ and thus sustain forward motion. I have a lot of ‘puste pauser’ , I catch my poles inside my skis, i catch the odd outside edge and get whipped over, and I loose balance and tumble most often after a lapse in concentration while i consider taking one of those ‘puste-pauser’.

After a good deal of effort to learn and what felt like much progress, I realised I am putting too much energy into motion and thus not really skiing efficiently. it was time to deconstruct my skiing,. Firstly, set small goals over stretches of trail. Paddle up a small, steep gradient. Do it again if you stop half way or fall. Double dance down hill on long glides. Single dance to the right instead of my comfortable left. Skate downhill without using poles.

On that last point I decided to really deconstruct my skating and took up with a video I have had in my electricYouTube play later list for many years, and keep coming back to without actually doing much of what my namesake, keith Nicol, advocates. Free skating.

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That just means without poles, but it is a technique in its own right, which shows how close it is to roller blading and old fashioned ice skating. Skate skis are ahem, inherently slippy. There aint no grip govenor. So getting going up a slight hill, a teensy weensy gradient, is at first daunting. Down hill is the opposite, the ski will glide nicely with only your weight as encouragement. But up hill is the challenge to test your locomotive efficiency in your legs and torso.

I learned traditional XC with poles, and it is a bad thing. Poles become like crutches for the man who has suddenly developed some form of atrophy of the entire motor nervous system. They are used to strike out to recover balance and to push in absence of proper traction down below. Poles seem like your best freind, saving you from the capriciousness of plastic planks which have taken control of all direction and speed from the waist down. I should have dumped the poles.

It seems more intuitive in trad’ to dump the poles and let your legs and feet propell you, thus giving you both a feel for how much pressure to lay downwards, and also a much better attention to balance. Skate skiing seemed not to quite work on the flat and uphill atelast without poles, and now that I can do a 5 minute warm up without poles in ‘kicking skis’ I reckoned there was no need to drop them for the ‘easier’ skating technique.

But finally I decided to follow the Guru, Keith Nicol, and go where I had no dared go before, into a realm of armless naievity, taking once again pure infant steps on the snow. Tentatively at first. The very slight uphill on the first anticlockwise trail section became like a slipper higher slope of Everest to ascend. it was a kind of duck walk on ice, struggeling to hold on as gravity was sudddenly perpendicular to its normal predisposition. Then I turned at the top of said tiresome ascent, and low and behold! I skated like a prince to a snow white, with nice long glides, and a good push off on the right hand side. My left side leg is the obvious weak point in terms of a non existent push off.

Turn and do it again. This time a little hip-paddling uphill when it felt right, and focuis on pushing off with the left. Too far backwards a push, as Keith Nicol adivses, the tip drags. Too bent a leg when trying to get a push off, forgetting to rise up on a near straight leg. Ah the penny drops, it is difficult to do the dobuoble spring thing !!! Leg bent, then straight on the rise, then bent to push off again. A little counter intuitive modulous no less. What happend next, well all day my right side got sronger on the push, and I was cutting perfect flat to edge tracks in the snow on that side. Thanks left for the tips, knew I was doing something right, bye for no!!

Keith Nicol has a cure for that, side to side hopping, which teaches balance , poise and muscle contraction for the push, which has a large side elemetn. At speed, the forces resolve themselves to forward motion vector, whereas if you push too far back, your tip and your body balance are lefta little behind too.

Another couple of token tootles without poles, Then I was strapped onto them again, with a feeling of control gained over the elements. But i perciveered and feathered my poles often. This gave me a new found confidence , as I could rely on poles for immediate propulsion while then going poleless to improve my various bads.

And that was a good focus. On the bads. I have come of an age when I now see that polishing away mistakes and working on weaknesses is like the slow and purposeful turning of a key in a lock. it is no longer the case that failings lead to frustration. Instead I listen to my betters. oft be they younger now, and the Keith Nicol Canadian Guru and understand how to spot my weaknesses and embrace them, rather than leaving them behind while putting focus on self satisfaction in my stronger sides or apparent progression. Like my sailing, the joy is in recognising faults and pondering , then practicinsg and then polishing them out. The road to perfection perhaps has no end, but one thing is for sure, short cuts past the small faults or over what should be the fundamental simplicities of an art, will never take you to your destination. Being watchful of our faults, like a master viewing a child, makes us eventually the master.

Today’s session was finished off with two goals. One to complete a circuit without stopping or falling or pondering in a pause, The other was to paddle up a short hill which is offset, and has defeated me before. I managed both with only minor faults , but knew i was far from perfect.