Week beginning 23 March 1998.
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Unions and work
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If you haven`t looked at the other News From England before, read this in case it may save you some time.
The Other News consists of a selection of articles on whatever subjects find their way to the top of the pile on the week in which it is written. Whilst some of it is intended to be serious, quite a lot is just a bit of light reading (or heavy, if you are a certain type of person), and intended to keep you amused, and cause people to question some of the assumptions of life. Most of the material here is written by the editor, but no single article necessarily reflects the views of the editor or anyone else who writes here. They only might.
Thames Water, as forecast in an earlier edition, have generated a spoof bill for a fictitiious person living at `upper floor`, my address. I am not quite sure what to do with it. They are hoping to get someone to pay about 800 pounds for water charges that have already been paid.
This would appear to be their plan:
Having failed to get me to accept water meters at this address by telling me that my tenant has been paying the water charges for the whole building and they thought that unfair (she has a hose, I don`t, and anyway she`s thousands in arrears, so I don`t mind at all) they then decided to look in another direction. They would start making demands for another lot of water charges from `the upper floor` even though the bill has always been for the whole house. It is quite true that I live at the top of the house, whilst the tenant lives at the bottom.
What this means from your point of view as a consumer is that once they manage to do this to a few people they will have made a precedent whereby they can effectively make as many separate water charges as they like on any building they choose - one for each floor, say, or even one for each room!
Whilst it might be libelous (or is the word slanderous? I never know.) for me to say that this amounts to extortion (I don`t), I am sure not a few members of the public will do so when they discover what is in store for them.
As to the water companies, they will be laughing all the way to the bank.
Superficially, this would appear to be a greener approach, and in the long run might actually turn out to be so, but I would like to look at a few of the less clear aspects of the matter in case it should clear any fog.
Perhaps the first thing to consider is the question of fuels and raw materials.
When you make a car you use quite a lot of fuel and raw materials, and it must necessarily be true that the bigger ones take more of both in their manufacture. The bigger ones almost without exception take more fuel to run.
However, the bigger the car the higher the total life mileage of it. This means that whilst it is travelling about 25 miles to the gallon it is also capable of travelling anything up to 500,000 miles before it is worn out, and with not a huge amount of maintenance to achieve that if the person who owns it knows what they are doing (this is another issue for the moment), whilst a small car might well start to give trouble at about 60,000 miles.
It is not easy to do this accurately, because design and manufacture keeps changing, but I can tell you some things about cars I have owned.
I had a Morris Minor that smoked a bit from the start, and by the time it had reached about 45,000 miles motor traders were already viewing it as a bit worn.
I had an 850cc Minivan (they used to make them) which was used as a general runabout in a transport business, and was serviced at normal service intervals. It did about 33 miles to the gallon running about locally in London. The servicing cost extremely little in terms of both cash and hydrocarbons, but at 67,000 miles it started to give trouble and never stopped giving trouble thereafter.
I had a 3000cc Granada estate that did about 24 miles to the gallon, was not always serviced adequately, never failed to start and was running as though new at 107,000 miles, but someone crashed into it and wrote it off.
I had a 1600cc Cortina that I gave to my son when the mileage reached 97,000, because I thought it wouldn`t do any more, and he ran it for another eight years to bring the mileage to over 190,000, at which point it was stolen, so I don`t know what would have happened. He had been telling me he didn`t know what to do because although it wouldn`t wear out it was beginning to rust away.
I had a Sierra which crippled me by having ill-designed controls, but nevertheless did 104,000 miles before I traded it for a Volvo which had done 107,000 and showed no particular signs of wear.
Most of my friends used little cars (or no cars - the better option), but as far as I remember they all wore out below 100,000 miles, and most of them at about 60,000 to 70,000.
That must be enough of that. It would probably take someone like an actuary to do it, but if the statistics were worked out accurately, I suspect that these measures are not particularly green or oil-saving at all simply because of the huge amount that goes into making a car You need to make four or five time as many small cars for the same amount of mileage as you get out of one big car.
Per Capita Motor Fuel Rationing might be just a little better - particularly as it might reduce traffic.
Freedom generates creativity, and practical experience over a hundred years or so has shown that it does not as people expect generate things like crime.
So when I was offered the chance to take Kids` Woodwork for a couple of weeks during school holidays I jumped.
I was not prepared for the next stage, though. I wasn`t supposed to do it the way I do it, I was supposed to make it `structured`. That is, I was to tell the children what to make and how, and generally treat them as though they were in school. So I changed my mind.
The following year they enquired again. I told them that if they wanted me to do it I knew the kids would enjoy themselves, but I had to do it my way, pointing out that they had called themselves a play association and play was play not lessons - even though more gets learned from play than from tuition. On this particular point I was not budging one bit unlss they could demonstrate to me that the children would find lessons as enjoyable and as much play as any other type of play.
Surprisingly, despite the many neuroses experienced by parents and teachers with regard to freedom, they accepted, and we went ahead. I collected all the odds and ends of wood I could find around the workshop and put them in a box, and then went to the industrial estate to find a few more, and took the lot to the school building where the activities would be done, where the `ground staff` had got out the play association tools and benches, and sat down to see what would happen next.
Heads poked round the door and asked `what do we do in here`, to which I answered `I don`t know...there`s all that wood and some tools and stuff`, and so they came in, grabbed a saw (always the first things kids want to try), tried sawing, asked for help, decided what it was they were making after they had started it, nailed things together and declared them to be aeroplanes, started bird tables that ended up as dolls` furniture, and generally used their imaginations. I have no anxiety about this. There is nothing more pleasing than an enthusiastic child having a good time, and this is what they were doing. Some amongst my number never went to another group, even though there was no compulsion.
By the third day, children were planning what to make before they started it, and to some extent working out what was practical to do and what wasn`t. The wood was now shorter, as so many people had been in and tried sawing (they always want to tackle the longest bit, and always in the middle if you let them) so the projects were smaller. Parents started coming in and saying `can I make something?`
By the end of the first week the pieces of wood in the box were almost entirely pieces less than three inches long, but they kept on making things - they were just smaller. And on the Monday of the second week one or two parents brought in a few bits and pieces, and so we kicked off again.
By the end of the second week, we had about 30 aeroplanes, five or six birdtables, a few unidentified articles, 30 regular attenders, and a box of pieces of wood, no one piece being more than 1.5 inches in any direction - and they were still making things!
LAWYERS HAVE ALWAYS LACKED A certain kind of logic, and are not infrequently completely out of touch with the real world in which most of us try to live, so it was not surprising to find The Times reporting the Lord Chief Justice Bingham defending masonic judges.
He seemed to hint that the most senior panel of judges (you know what you have to do to become a judge, don`t you?) would not wish to even ask, let alone direct, that masonic judges should declare their membership, and is reported as having gone on to say "Our position has always been that there has never been a vestige of evidence that any judge in any case has been diverted from his duty by any conflict arising from his freemasonic association".
Among senior judges, he is reported as having added, freemasons were a "rare bird", with only one in the court of appeal and two out of 96 High Court judges (presumably to know this he must be a freemason).
He is further reported (as lawyers might say) as having said "I frankly do not recognise the possibility of the problem so far as judges are concerned. They take a judicial oath and take it very seriously."
I think if I were a freemason I would probably be equally blinded to the dangers of my sect, but I am not, and as a member of the public who is not a freemason I suffer from as much mistrust as most people do of politicians, lawyers and freemasons. If, suddenly and miraculously, freemasons in positions where they had a critical effect upon the lives of others started owning up to being freemasons they could then demonstrate how honourable they were (or not, as the case may be). Until they do, we use our powers of reason - and not a few people come up with surprisingly unflattering conclusions.
I wish the few judges I have had to deal with in my life had taken their juducial oaths seriously. Life would have been a whole lot easier, and I would have joined the few people who believe in "the honourable profession". But perhaps more important than that, I would then be less suspicious of freemasons.
Gabriele Gad on alternative therapy.
I was therefore amazed the other day to receive a correspondence from the solicitor to tell me that not only could the matter now go ahead, but he also wrote me a summary of part of the case that illustrated to me for the first time ever that he actually seemed to understand what was gong on.
What was most interesting about this was that he was a solicitor who had taken over from a previous solicitor who had been on the case for the previous 6 or so years and had only progressed very slightly (although I will say he was very consciensious), generating a folder full of letters a good two inches thick (and I noticed on the computer I had written him 51 letters plus several other documents). This new lawyer had taken over the mammoth file, decided it had to be resolved and put his foot down (as on an accelerator), and putting a certain aspect of the case to me and getting my response, investigated the area I talked about in my response sufficiently to be apparently in full grasp of it!
This is an exciting time, but there are potential pitfalls. Next week we meet with the barrister instructed in the case. Last time we met with him, he was very full of his own importance, and not really interested in hearing any subtleties that he had not himself thought of (he might not understand them), and was certainly not into the notion that the client might have some ability and knowledge of the matter in had. The whole thing was to be fought (I think this is how he perceived it) as a kind of chess match of hypotheses and irrelevancies (I was also warned not to imagine a judge would understand any of the things your average Joe Bloggs could understand, which may well be good advice). So I might have the problem of trying to inject reality into the matter without making the barrister feel threatened in addition to trying to explain what the case is really about.
On the other hand, the barrister was only a lad then, and may be a bit of an adult by now. I could be lucky.
Gabriele Gad and Hugh Harris play at the Bonnington Cafe most Wednesday evenings - old-fashioned jazz and some poppish modern compositions with classical or jazz influences - you have to hear it to know what I mean. 50`s Beatnik atmosphere, cheap vegetarian food, and sometimes a fire in the hearth. Bonnington Square, London SE8 UK (Vauxhall BR and Underground stn nearby, plus buses).
Someone gave me a scanner so some of the LETSSwing material will be available as sheet music shortly thorugh this page. plus stuff that I have written for other bands and orchestras.
If you are in a LETS somewhere and would like LETSSwing to play to you, please contact email@example.com.
LETSSwing and/or I also do gigs for money - a variety of types of music.
Chords (and arpeggios) continued - melody intruments.
We now need to look at how our instruments work before we can get much further with the subject of arpeggios, because by understanding their system we can find easier ways of playing the arpeggios.
There are really only two ways of getting different notes on wind instruments and two on strung instruments. I will start with wind instruments.
A saxophone or any other wind instrument is really a tube that carries the sound you make with your mouth and both changes it`s pitch and makes it sound good. The longer the tube, the lower the pitch. This means that if you make a hole part way up a long tube from which sound is coming, the sound will treat that hole as the end of the tube and play higher - it is nearer the source of the sound. On a saxophone, clarinet, flute, oboe, etc, this is done by having openable holes at many points along the tube. In fact, a lot of them are open if you don`t have your fingers on them, whilst the rest are only opened if you press your finger on them.
With this type of wind instrument, there is the phenomenom that if you get a leak at the right point in the tube the note jumps an octave for a tapered tube and an octave and a fifth for a parallel tube (although for some reason a flute jumps an octave - there is a simple explanation but I don`t remember it). The result of this is that on a saxophone you only need one octave of keys to have two octaves of notes, and so there is a thumb key that opens a tiny hole that makes a leak at the right place. On a clarinet the same principle applies, but the interval is different (see earlier editions for an explanation of interval) and this results in the need for some extra keys, but it also results in a much greater range.
With `brass` instruments (trumpets, trombones, tubas, sousaphones, etc.) you work with a slightly different system. The mouthpice and basic tube without any valves coming into play are able to produce about 14 notes, but these notes are not anything convenient like the notes of a scale. They are what is called the root note and it`s harmonics. These inconveniently spaced notes will not allow you to play anything other than bugle calls unless you are very skilled and can play the very highest notes, in which case the range is quite great. So various devices are used to enable you to change the length of the tube, and thereby lower the note.
Look at a trumpet and you will see that each valve has coming from it a loop of tube that goes back into the valve, and if you are lucky enough to see a player take a valve out (they oil them with special oil) you will see that it is so arranged that when the valve is pressed the sound that would normally go straight through it is diverted through the loop and back into the main tube, so lengthening the tube and thus lowering the note. There are usually three valves, and they lower the note half a tone, one tone and a tone and a half respectively. You can press more than one at a time to get greater length of tube. All the other brass except the trombone and some specialities operate in the same way.
The trombonist lowers the note by pushing the slide down, thereby lengthening the tube by twice the distance pushed (because there are both sides to the loop), whilst the serpent and ophecleide operate rather like the saxophone, and have been superceded by the simpler valve system.
So to get a note on a brass instrument you often have to blow a note that is higher and press a valve or move a slide to lower it to where you want it.
Hopefully that`s enough to give you an outline for brass and woodwind.
Strings we have already looked at last week when talking about guitars. The pitch of a string is affected by it`s length, it`s tightness (tension), and it`s thickness. So, disregarding thickness because when you buy strings they are the right thickness, you now have the two methods of changing notes: either you play another string or you "shorten" a string by putting your finger behind a fret. This last is very similar to the trumpet valve, but raises the note instead of lowering it. Thickness is a factor in that thickening a string, if such a thing were possible, would lower its pitch, and so a thicker string needs more tension to reach the same note as a thinner one.
Now, the arpeggios.
With brass instruments, most of an arpeggio lies in the notes you can get with whatever combination of valves (or slide position) gave you the root note, whilst the other notes are got by temporarily pressing valves (or sliding down) when playing another note. As far as I remember from my baritone horn days the notes go root fifth octave tenth, ?, ?, ?, second octave and on and on getting ever closer (which is why an early French horn has no valves but a hugely long tube wound round and round - you never play the root, you probably start above the second octave.)
As to the other instruments, they have holes all along them as described, and it is only a question of opening the right hole for the note you want by either taking a finger or fingers off or putting them on (to suit the fingering of that particular instrument). The simple one to look at as a first example is the recorder (one of those things they use in schools) because either you have a finger on the hole or it is open - either way you can see what is happening.
With a recorder, some of the notes are obtained by `cross-fingering`. This is a trick were you play the note above the note you want and then close a hole or two below the mainly operational hole. To clarify this, try playing a G (on a descant recorder) and then put your fingers on the two holes not immediately below it but one hole lower than that. That will give you a G flat.
So there it is. The way of working out the actual notes in the arpeggios you need is described in an earlier edition of the Other News.
I have at last got my act together regarding the claim against the college. The pertinent agreement between college and employees is a book called `the Silver Book`, and in particular pages 26 and 27.
The college accepted my claim to permanent employment whilst not actually changing anything in their records, whilst I didn`t know anything would change having been self-employed for my whole life up to the time of starting work with them.
They were thus able to ignore any contractual agreement they had with me because there were no records. I still intend to make it stick if I can.
A student came in with a fine old mahogony chest of drawers that was made almost entirely of pine. It was very difficult for the inexperienced eye to see the difference, but the odd knot gave the game away.
The problem with this chest of drawers was that it had been scuffed in various places, and the pine showed through, so we had to find out how it had been coloured.
The two things we found out were that you could mix stain with old-fashioned bone glue and it would even out it`s effect by causing it to lie like a thin skin on the surface of the wood, and that you could get the wood to change it`s colour by using tannin and/or potassium dichromate. The latter gave the desired match, so I am going to tell you how we got it.
The wood to be treated was brushed over with water that had had a teabag in it (tea contains tannin - squash the bag several times). This was allowed to dry, leaving the tannin (this did almost nothing to the colour but leaves some tannin on the wood). A teaspoonful of potassium dichromate was dissolved in water (to saturation), and then diluted a great amount again (maybe five times the water again). The pot. Dich. was then brushed onto the wood and allowed to dry. Whilst drying, it was also changing the colour of the wood by a chemical process I do not understand. The problem now was that the wood was too brown, so a small amount of red mahogony stain was used to redden it.
And finally a coat or two of French polish finished the job. I think even I could have lived with it, despite knowing it to be a fake, because it was so convincing, and there is something quite satisfying about things working out how you wanted them to.
I want some Locolink stuff. This is the program and disks for getting data off Amstrad PCW`s onto ordinary PC`s. firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheap laptop for writing the Other News when away from base. Contact email@example.com
Wanted pc/Acorn monitor, London area. firstname.lastname@example.org
Who knows where on the Internet I can get a good freeware or shareware score-writing program that will run on my p100 or Acorn 5000? Please contact email@example.com
(Will take LETS currencies): Industrial quality roofrack about 7 feet X 3.5 feet, made to measure for ford Sierra estate. I used it for woodwork contracting. It is the best I`ve ever seen. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Same again, about 48" by 96", but lesser quality, for Ford Granada estate or Volvo 7 series - free owing to poor condition - but it works. email@example.com
LETSSwing (the London all-LETS-members band) need a percussionist. Suit someone who thinks of playing and writing music as a creative, co-operative, gentle activity, who likes out-of-date pop and jazz, and who doesn`t like making a noise. We play so quiet you could have it in your livingroom without bothering the neighbours most of the time, and are looking at the possibilities for involvement in `the community` (playing in hospitals and so on). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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