Monday, December 14, 2015

Evidence that Christianity may have peaked (in 1847)

According to Google Ngram (which records the frequency with which words are in publications), the use of the word "Christianity" peaked in 1847, as did the use of the word "church", and it's scottish equivalent "Kirk".

You can click here to see the data and try your own searches.

To find out what happened in 1847 click here, although I don't think any of it is related.

Domain Names for Sale

I have the following Internet domain names which mya be for sale (if I get the right offer):


A set of three related domains:


Please contact me if you would like to make an offer on any of them.

Friday, September 11, 2015

How to be successful as an amateur trumpet player.

This article is based on many years observation of musicians in brass bands and amateur orchestras. It is not based on any tactics I have used personally, but it might be helpful for people who have the ambition to do a lot of advanced playing.

Over the years I have noticed that some do better than others, even though their playing standards are not that different. I had a think about a number of these people and they all have a number of characteristics in common. I have tried to distil them down to a few ideas that might help others.

If you want to have a successful "career" as an amateur trumpet player and you want to play at a high level with good amateur brass bands or good local orchestras the two key things you need to be able to do are:
  1. You need to be able to play your instrument well.
  2. You need to be able to persuade other people that you can play your instrument well.
These two are not the same thing. People fixing a band will probably never have heard you play. You will not be able to persuade them you are good player by demonstrating your playing to them.  They will only know you by reputation. Even orchestras that have auditions don't run them openly - you will still need a recommendation.  

The two ways of building a reputation are by status or advocacy. 

By status - if you have studied music at University or been a military musician then your qualifications will speak on your behalf and will form a workable reputation on their own. All you need to do is make that status widely known and playing opportunities should come to you fairly easily.

By advocacy - If you are not a music graduate then you need to be good at getting other people to advocate for you. By "advocate" I mean recommend you or speak well of you if your name comes up in conversation. If you are good at this type of networking then it is possible to get further than someone who is a better player than you.

Some things might harm your reputation. For example, it might be better not to play with groups that are known to not play well as their reputation may stick to you, even if it is not warranted. If you play in a local community orchestra that does not require a certain grade standard or a fourth section brass band that is not winning any contests then it might be difficult to shake off that image. You might want to move to a band or orchestra who have defined entry standards or that are in a higher section so you can inherit that kudos as part of your own reputation.

Some things might help your reputation. For example, playing in a solo contest, but only if you have a realistic chance of getting a good result. A bad result could hinder you. As an Australian Olympic swimming coach is reputed to have told his team "show me a silver medal and i'll show you the first of the losers".

Ways you can build influence:
  1. Give conductors confidence in your playing by sight read perfectly at every rehearsal, don't miss entries and do everything the conductor requests.
  2. Accept every offer to deputise or help out other brass bands or orchestras.
  3. Identify who is making decisions about getting into groups you want to play with and find ways of getting to now them or being recommended to them.

An important part of that advocacy is impressing conductors. For players this means being a very good sight reader and being consistent (even if your consistent is at a lower level than some other people's peak playing). You do not need to be a virtuoso. 

So, if you want to make it as a top player:
  1. Be competent on your instrument and play consistently.
  2. Learn to sight read perfectly.
  3. Do lots of networking, identify key influencers and get them to advocate for you.
This will get you playing opportunities which can snowball into a career at the top level of amateur music.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sources of used amateur radio equipment in the UK.

The following are some sources of used amateur (ham) radio equipment in the UK. I am not endorsing any of them specifically, just putting the links here for information.

Commercial Dealers

Martin Lynch & Sons

Waters and Stanton



Nevada Radio


Haydon Communications


Mainly CB radios but sometimes have used amateur radio equipment for sale.

Small Ads

Buying privately means buying without any sort of warranty, but prices will be lower and there is no come back. Ebay prices can be as high as buying from a dealer so be careful.

Ideal for finding items for sale locally.


G3CWI's Amazing Online Flea Market


Various groups exist where equipment is bought and sold. Same warnings apply as for small ads.

Amateur Radio Sales
JunkSale Amateur Radio
Amateur Radio Equipment for Sale or Trade


There are small ads in RadCom and other magazines that might be worth a look, as well as some of the special interest Amateur Radio organisations if you are looking for specialist equipment.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The origins of the Denis Wick cornet mouthpieces.

According to this 1970's Denis Wick leaflet the cornet mouthpieces were designed in association with Thomas Wilson, principal cornet player with the Scots Guards:

Here is a web page which tells you all about Tommy Wilson, who emigrated to Canada and also performed as a soloist with the Salvation Army:

In the early 1970’s I was asked by Denis Wick if I would help him develop a cornet mouthpiece – and the rest, as they say, is history. It was also round about this time I was asked by Boosey & Hawkes if I would help in the development of a new cornet for them. After a lot of hard work the first large bore Sovereign cornet was born. I still play the original prototype. It’s still going strong after over 30 years. It was stamped No. 1, (which causes the customs people more than a little curiosity when London Citadel Band goes on trips).

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My latest election prediction: a (well) hung parliament.

According to a mix of the Ashcroft constituency polls and general polling the outcome of the election will look something like this:

Conservative 281
Labour 267
Libdem 26
SNP 51
Green 1
Others 23 (including 8 DUP and 3 SDLP)

In this scenario the Conservatives would try to get support through either a formal coalition (as in the last government) or by "confidence and supply" agreements with other parties. This looks unlikley to work:

Conservative + Libdem + DUP + Lady Hermon (Ind) = 316 (10 short of the required 325, 7 short of the 323 that could technically form a majority without Sinn Fein MP's sitting in Westminster)

Labour would then try, but have a harder time at forming a majority:

Labour + Libdem + SDLP =296 (29 short, assuming the Libdems would speak to Labour at all)

If Labour does not do a deal with the SNP then David Cameron, as the leader most likely to be able to get close to a majority, will stay on as Prime Minister to see if he can get a Queen's speech passed. If he can't then he will probably give way to Labour and let them try.

At this point Labour will either do a deal with the SNP or we will head into a second general election in September.

One warning though: there is a nuclear option. If both the Labour and Conservatives believe that allowing the SNP any influence would be either too toxic or give them unnecessary credibility they might decide to form a "grand coalition" or "national government" with Labour and Conservative parliamentary parties forming one bloc in parliament. With Labour likely to be decimated in Scotland the effect of any fallout on Labour north of the border would be self limiting, making this scenario less unlikely than a few weeks ago.

And one final word on the general election campaign. The BBC Poll Tracker shows us that nothing that any of the parties did changed the outcome. Most minds were made up long before the campaign started:

Friday, May 1, 2015

Procedure and timetable if there is a hung parliament

Here are the rules that apply if the general electon results in a hung parliament:

(Full details on parliament web site here)

1. The Conservatives get first chance at forming a government as they are the incumbents.
2. If they can not secure one then the Prime Minister has to resign.
3. The Queen would then invite the leader of the largest other party to try and form a government (i.e. Ed Miliband).
4. If this fails then he could propose a Queen's speech and try and get it passed.
5. If this fails there could be a vote of no confidence and parliament would be dissolved for another election to take place (according to then Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011).

As the new House of Commons starts sitting on Monday 18th of May this leaves only nine days for negotiations with potential coalition partners.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

How Labour lost the Scottish electorate.

It now seems certain that Labour will enter the next parliament with only a handful of Scottish MP's. They may even be fewer Labour MP's in Scotland than pandas. Labour's collapse was predictable and inevitable. It may have culminated in the referendum, but it has been a long time coming,.

Labour could have made a socialist and internationalist case against independence, or even a federalist one within the European Union, but they chose not to. Instead, they went into a coalition with the Conservative Party to push a vision of lack of capability within Scotland to manage it's own affairs. Couple to this an overblown fearmongering, especially with older voters and people had simply had enough.

Labour have also failed to recognise that their core social democratic values are no longer unique. The SNP has reinvented itself since 1979 and is now more clearly social democratic than Labour.

The local breakdown of referendum voting showed that tribal voting has effectively ended. Glasgow voted Yes, even though Labour had traditionally harnessed the working class Catholic vote. Catholic and working class voters now seem more comfortable with the SNP and are voting for them.

Not content with annoying half the electorate many in Labour have continued to demonise those who vote SNP as either racists or "nasty nationalists". This shows a complete failure to engage with the SNP's civic nationalism - if you move to Scotland tomorrow you will be considered Scottish.

Labour's last campaign tactic seems to be an eve of poll leaflet entitled "24 hours left to prevent another referendum". The SNP have made it clear they do not want another referendum unless there is an attempt to leave the EU. Even if they did want a referendum under those circumstances presumably Labour and the Conservatives will vote against legislation enabling it so if it went through it would be Labour's own fault.

With one week left to go, both Labour and the Conservatives may be relying heavily on a pro union bounce from the imminent royal birth.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Why the SNP will not hold the balance of power after this election.

According to analysis based on the latest Times/YouGov opinion poll the parties will have the following number of seats after the election:

49   SNP
290 Labour
265 Conservative
20   Liberal Democrat
2     UKIP
24   Others

With 650 seats, an outright majority requires 325.

Based on these figures the Conservatives will not be able to form a government. Even if they could form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats again and bring in all the "others" plus UKIP it would not be enough:

Conservative (265) + LibDem (20) + UKIP (2) + Others (24) = 295

Labour, on the other hand, would have a far easier job:

Labour (290) + Others (24) + LibDem (20) = 334

So even if all the 24 "others" did not support them they would still have a majority without having to talk to the SNP at all.

Given the historical enmity between Labour and the SNP and the fall out from the referendum it seems fanciful to me that they would make any sort of agreement after the general election. The SNP might choose to vote for policies put up by Labour, but Labour will not need to do anything to keep the SNP on-side as they will not need them to have a majority and get Ed Miliband into No 10.

What makes this even less likely is that the level of support for the SNP suggested in this poll is unprecedented. The likely outcome will be far fewer SNP MP's and more Labour ones, meaning even less of a need for anyone to do a deal. A figure of 35-40 SNP MP's seems far more likely given that younger people are less likely to vote than older.

We can be sure that the Liberal Democrats will want to stay in power, even with a vastly reduced number of MP's. Labour has been careful not to single them out in their national campaign. One of the reasons for this will be their potential as coalition partners on May 8th.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Moody Blues - I Really Haven’t Got The Time

I Really Haven’t Got the Time, written by Mike Pinder, has the distinction of being the only song recorded by both versions of the Moody Blues. That is the original line up with Denny Laine (sometimes referred to as the Mk 1 Moodies) and the second lineup which included Justin Hayward and John Lodge. This was Justin and John’s first recording session as members of the Moody Blues. 

Clint Warwick had left the band in late June 1966 and was replaced by Rod Clark (Bass and vocals) who debuted on 14th July. He stayed with the Moody Blues until Denny Laine Left on September 24th. It was this line up which made the first recording of this song.

Here are the details of the two recordings:

  1. Recorded 8th September 1966 at Decca Studios West Hampstead. Personnel: Denny Laine, Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas, Rod Clark, Graeme Edge. Produced by Denny Cordell. Available on two disc 50th Anniversary edition of The Magnificent Moodies
  2. Recorded 30th March 1967 at Decca Studios West Hampstead. Personnel: Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge. Produced by Tony Clarke. Available on the CD Prelude and as a bonus track on some versions of Days of Future Passed.

Here is a live recording of the same song from the programme Beat Club, featuring Denny Laine and Rod Clark, broadcast on 27th August 1966 (11 days before the first studio recording):

And a live recording from French TV featuring Justin Hayward and John Lodge which must have been recorded at some point between October 1966 and March 1967:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Linux mint battery not detected

Sometimes the battery in a laptop is not detected by Linux mint. This is indicated by the battery monitor icon having an X in the corner and the battery charging light not coming on. Querying the hardware in shell will show the battery as not being installed.

Usually this is caused by the battery having gone flat when the laptop was put on standby rather than being fully shut down. To fix this do the following:

  • Plug in laptop and boot up.
  • Log in with username and password.
  • Shut the laptop down and leave power supply pugged in.
  • After a couple of minutes the battery charge light should come on.
  • Now switch on laptop.
  • Battery indicator should be working and show a percentage.

Sometimes no icons will be displayed on the desktop.
This is also caused by the battery going flat on standby or by the shut down after standby not working correctly. Usually rebooting will fix this.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Diamine equivalents to the Conway Stewart fountain pen inks.

With the demise of Conway Stewart last year we have lost one of the few large British fountain pen manufacturers. Its possible that the brand may be relaunched at some point, but the company that existed since the 1990's is gone and the factory broken up and sold off.

Conway Stewart also marketed a range of inks in 80ml bottles, of which I have used Kingsand and Bodmin. These were manufactured by Diamine and there seems to be quite a lot of it still in stock at retailers. The price is only slightly higher than Diamine 80ml bottles. They will eventually run out and people will want replacements so this is what I think the Diamine equivalent colours are (CS = Conway Stewart):

CS Bodmin = Diamine Jet Black,
CS St. Blazey = Diamine Classic Red
CS Kingsand = Diamine Ochre
CS Tamar = Diamine Royal Blue
CS Tavy = Diamine Denim
CS Edgcumbe = Diamine Lavender

I can't guarantee they are exactly the same, but they are very close and might just be relabelled. I have CS Bodmin and Diamine Jet Black and can't tell the difference.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How to use Spotify Web Player when you can't install Flash

Ever wanted to access Spotify from a computer where you do not have Admin access? The Spotify web player uses Flash and there are no plans by Spotify to change this because of DRM issues. However, there is a work around if you have Flash and Firefox already installed in another Windows computer.

Go to and download and install Firefox portable to a USB memory stick.

Look for two files with names like these these in the plugins directory of your installed version (usually located at C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\data\plugins) :


Copy them.
Navigate to the portable version on your memory key at:
And copy those files into  that directory.
Restart the browser and it should work.

If you do not have access to an installed copy of Firefox you can download an older version of Flash as a zip file and extract those two files. However, you will likely get out of date warnings when you want to run it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Canon EOS 700D / Rebel T5i SD card capacity in real life

SD Card Capacity

A single RAW plus JPEG image requires 40MB of space.
Full HD video (1080p) requires 363MB per minute.

Therefore, a 32GB SD card could hold:

800 RAW plus JPEG images.
88 minutes of full HD video.
400 RAW plus JPEG images and 44 minutes of full HD video.

My 32GB card is marked "2 Hours", but this is calculated on shooting 720p video.

If you only shoot JPEG then the file sizes are much smaller, around 6MB, and you could expect to fit 5,000 images on a 32GB card.

Card type

To record video you need a class six or above SD card. I use a class 10 and there is no real price diffeential these days anyway. The only issue can be counterfeit cards of lower classes being passed off as class 10 so best to buy from a reputable source.

I recently bought a Sandisk Ultra SDHC Memory Card - 32GB - Class 10 - UHS-I for £13.50 from As a teenager I was paying £6 for a 200 second cassette of Kodachrome Super 8 that could only be used once, so the cost of these cards is not a big deal.

Maximum file size

The maximum continuous video file permitted is 4GB, or 29 minutes 59 seconds, whichever comes first. So the maximum single HD video shot at 1080p is going to be just over 11 minutes. Not a problem for most people, but if you are filming something like a conference speaker you need to prepare to trigger multiple shots at appropriate moments and edit them together later.