Leading from Behind – Some Bands Named for a Man at the Back

In the jazz and swing era, the instance of the naming of a band by someone other than the front person was quite common, but in the rock and pop era, this is quite unusual.

Here are a few exceptions:-

Fat Larry’s Band

Known in most territories for their single big 1982 hit, if you view the video of “Zoom” below you’re probably not going to be surprised to learn that Fat Larry was not the singer but was in fact that large chap on the drums. Sadly, and perhaps (again) not surprisingly Larry passed away just five years after this record hit the top.

The Dave Clark Five

It remains fairly unusual for a pop or rock drummer to be a band’s leader (Phil Collins and Don Henley being notable exceptions) but drummer Dave Clark (also the manager and executive producer) didn’t sing on those sixties hits such as “Glad All Over” and “Bits and Pieces”; here they are with the latter song in 1964:-

Manfred Mann

Keyboard player Manfred is not the singer of either the band’s sixties era or the later “Earth Band” who hit the charts in the 70s with a Springsteen cover. You can see the chirpy Paul Jones singing below:-

Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes

This one is something of an exception; Harold was the original singer of this “Philly sound” vocal group, but he stepped back to let Teddy Pendergrass sing on their biggest hits, notably “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way”.

Here are the band performing in matching blue suits (of course) on Soul Train. Teddy is handling the miming of lead vocals, and Harold is to his right. The “Dad dancing” part is at 1.57

Sadly in 1982 Teddy was badly injured in a car crash that left him a quadraplegic. He performed at 1985’s Live Aid concert in a wheelchair, and passed away in 2010.

The Spencer Davis Group

Spencer was  the guitarist. The band featured Steve Winwood who sang on their hits “Keep on Running”, “Gimme Some Lovin” and “I’m a Man” before leaving to form Traffic. Here they are in 1965:-

Fleetwood Mac

The decision by lead guitarist and singer Peter Green to name his blues band after his drummer and bass player has left a legacy that has endured for almost a half century.

In this clip of “Oh Well” you can see the beardless Mick Fleetwood on drums and bassist John McVie at the extreme left, slightly in the shadows.

Also mentioned:-

  • Van Halen
  • Santana (Carlos rarely sings)
  • Mike and the Mechanics

Sadly there was no Herman in the Hermits.

999, 101 and Directory Enquiries Confusion

We suspect that most people have read, seen or heard news stories about absurd calls to the 999 emergency service. It’s always an enjoyable read; one can smugly chuckle at the antics of the callers as they attempt to obtain help for their predicament from understandably unsympathetic and in some cases exasperated 999 operators.

Recently, however, it has come to our attention that:-

In the light of this disturbing information, we thought that we would help to clarify the correct usage of these numbers.

  1. If you need to report a genuine emergency, dial 999.
  2. If you need to speak to the police about a non-emergency matter, dial 101.
  3. If you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency, or you think you need to go to A & E or need another NHS urgent care service, you don’t know who to call or you don’t have a GP to call, or you need health information or reassurance about what to do next, dial 111.
    For more information on the 111 number please visit the 111 website.
  4. If you need a directory enquiries service, please call 118 365 (remember “118, every day”). It’s only 51p, Other (usually much more expensive) services are available.

My 5 Most Recently Downloaded Apps (iPhone)

1. Sleep Time – £1.49

This is an alarm clock with a difference – it monitors and analyses your sleep cycles by sensing your movements throughout the night. It then uses this information to wake you up when it knows you are no longer in the deep  stage of REM cycle. So no more waking up feeling groggy!

 

2. TwinPics – Free

A simple but nicely designed memory game. All you do is match up as many pairs as you can within a limited time, avoiding obstacles along the way. The colours and photography used are stylish and attractive and it’s easy to dip in and out of making it the perfect game for when you just have a few minutes to fill.

3. BBC News – Free

This is more of a recent update than download as I have had the app for a while, however, about a week ago, the BBC released its first major redesign since the app launched in 2010. The app now offers a much more personalised view of the news as it includes local news content and you can select the topics that interest you the most.

4. SkinDeep – Free

Do you know what chemicals are in your personal care products? EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is the world’s largest safety reference tool for personal care products and the app provides information on more than 72,000 products. Enter the product name into the app and it assesses the ingredients and how they may affect your health. It then calculates a hazard score allowing you to make informed purchasing decisions.

5. Serial –  Free

This is actually a podcast, not an app, but I felt it was well worth a mention. The 12-part series (you can now download all the episodes from the website) follows journalist Sarah Koenig as she investigates a murder case from 1999 in which a high-school student was found dead in a Baltimore Park having been strangled. Her ex-boyfriend was charged with her murder and sentenced to life in prison but has protested his innocence ever since. The podcast is totally addictive and a great way to pass the time on your commute.

Pulling Apart Two Phone Books

There’s a rumour around these parts that two interleaved (yes that’s a word) phone books are impossible to pull apart, so I decided to investigate.

It didn’t take me long to get to the bottom of this, and no I did not sit and methodically interleave two phone books. A quick Google search unearthed a Mythbusters YouTube video where it took two military tanks weighing in at 30 tonnes to separate the phone books. So, difficult yes, but not impossible.

What is it that creates such a strong link between these two stacks of paper?

Apparently it all comes down to weight and friction. Interleaving the pages of the phone books significantly increases the weight on each of them as the bottom pages have the weight of two phone books pushing down on them in addition to gravity. Add to this the force of friction, which is also increased by the act of interleaving the pages, and you have a bond that takes 3629 Kilogram of force to break as demonstrated by the Mythbusters.

If you do have some spare time (and are really, really bored) you can try this yourself. Just lay the pages of two phone books on top of each other one at a time, then try and pull them apart.

Postcodes explained

Christmas is just three weeks away and many of you (ok, some of you) will be writing your cards, buying stamps and desperately searching for your address book. Obviously your cards need accurate addresses in order to reach their intended destination, but what about the series of numbers and letters at the bottom of an address? What exactly is in a postcode?

Why do I need to use a postcode?

Postcodes allow your item to be processed quickly and accurately by pinpointing exactly where it needs to go. A single postcode is not unique to one address; usually a small group of addresses will share one postcode and the specific property will be identified by a house name or number. Using a correct postcode will allow your mail to go through the Royal Mail’s automated sorting machines. Mail without a postcode will have to be sorted manually and this takes much longer.

So how do postcodes work?

A postcode is split into four sections, each of which narrows down the destination. I’ll use the Simunix postcode (YO10 5NP) to demonstrate what each section means.

YO                                  

The first one or two letters identify the postcode area, in this case the YORK area, and therefore the main Royal Mail sorting office that will process the mail.

10

This part is usually either one or two numbers but some London postcodes contain a number and letter. This is the postcode district and tells the sorting office which delivery office the mail should go to.

5

The third part tells the delivery office which local area the mail should go to. This section usually just contains one number.

NP

The final part always contains two letters and identifies groups of up to 80 addresses. This unit code tells the delivery office which postal route will deliver the mail.

How do I correctly address an envelope then?

The least amount of information that should be included in an address includes:

House name/number

Street name

Town

Postcode (in capitals)

You do not need to include a County name if all the above information is provided. Of course, you may also wish to include the recipient’s name and perhaps a company or organisation name.

If you’re not sure what the correct postcode is for an address, you can look it up here by entering the address information you do have.

The latest recommended posting dates for Christmas 2014 (UK Inland) are:

Thursday 18th December – 2nd Class

Saturday 20th December – 1st Class

The amazing potato powered clock! (well, amazing to my 5 year old and me)

A few weeks back I suddenly had an epiphany that my 5 year old son would be really impressed by a potato battery! So after a few failed attempts, last night I finally got a working electrolyte battery to power a clock. It was using a teaspoon of salt in a cup of malt vinegar instead of a few potatoes but was “impressive” nonetheless.

Vinegar solution battery

Failures
My first attempts didn’t work and I’m not 100% sure what was incorrect as I didn’t follow scientific method properly but I used:

2/3 lemons (not that fresh)  with galvanised nails and 2p coins
2-4 small potatoes with galvanised nails and 2p coins
sweet potatoes with galvanised nails and 2p coins

None of them worked but I was led to believe that the amount of fruit / vegetables used connected in series would provide sufficient voltage so now I’m pretty sure it was that the 2p coins didn’t contain enough copper. (I should have used pre-1992 coins as these are 97% copper).

Last nights effort was a malt vinegar and salt solution, some zinc plated screws and some copper plumbing scraps I found in my garage. I connected 2 ramekins of the vinegar solution (about 100ml in each) in series which gave me enough volts to power the clock.

Band Aid 30 helping to fight the spread of Ebola

Band Aid 30 received its world premiere last night during X Factor’s results show after only just being recorded the day before. The single can be downloaded for 99p and is helping fund relief efforts to fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

It has been 30 years since “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, written by Sir Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, was first released raising over £8 million for famine relief in Ethiopia. Stars such as Sting, Duran Duran, Bono and George Michael were part of the original ensemble.

Since then there have been two other versions. The 1989 version achieved less historical significance than its predecessor but did manage to hold the number 1 spot in the UK singles chart for three weeks. This version featured Bananarama (in a repeat appearance), Jason Donovan, Kylie Minogue and Cliff Richard amongst others.

The next version to be released came in 2004, 20 years after the original, in order to benefit Sudan’s troubled Darfur region. Bono, Paul McCartney and George Michael were the only members of the original ensemble to lend their voices this time performing alongside Chris Martin, Sugababes, Robbie Williams and The Darkness, to name a few.

http://youtu.be/H5vMdmajxFY

The line up for Band Aid 30 includes Coldplay, Bastille, Rita Ora, Paloma Faith, Ellie Goulding, One Direction, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith, with Bono making his third contribution to a Band Aid recording. Lyrics have been tweaked in this version to reflect the current Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa.

http://youtu.be/zaf88ichm3o

The single can be downloaded here.

All Hallows’ Eve descends on the streets of the UK

If, like me, you will be accompanying little ghouls and goblins tomorrow night as they threaten your neighbours with mischief, you may be interested to know there are a surprisingly large number of streets in the UK suitably named for the occasion.

After trawling our data, we found quite a number of street names relating to mythical creatures and other spooky folks. There’s Goblins Green (Welwyn Garden City), Vampire Road (Louth), Giants Grave Road (Neath), Bleeding Wolf Lane (Stoke on Trent) and Conjurers Drive (Knighton).

What’s to be found during the witching hour on Witches Walk (Bridgewater), Cauldron Meadows (Swanage), Coven Close (Walsall) or Broomstick Lane (Chesham) we wonder?

It would seem the Devil himself has also laid claim to many streets around the UK with The Devils Highway to be found in Crowthorne as well as Hell Lane in Chideock, Bridport and Dark Gate in Carmarthen.

Never one to be ignored, the Hangman makes an appearance in many a town and village. In Troon, it may serve you well to steer clear of Hangman’s Hill on a dark night or Gallows Green (Alton) and Noose Crescent (Willenhall).

Other uninviting street names include Dead Lane (Colchester), Strange Road (Wigan), Lurk Lane (Beverley), Creeping Lane (Penzance), Haunts Cottages (Crewkerne) and Bloodhills (Great Yarmouth). If you’re the superstitious type, you might avoid Black Cat Drive in Northampton or for the arachnophobes among us *puts hand up*, Spider Island in Salisbury sounds particularly ominous.

If however, you will be remaining safely locked up in your own home tomorrow night, how about getting into the Halloween spirit with some of my scary movie recommendations? Here’s my top 13 (unlucky for some…)

  1. The Exorcist
  2. Paranormal Activity
  3. The Amityville Horror
  4. The Woman in Black
  5. The Shining
  6. Don’t Look Now
  7. Poltergeist
  8. What Lies Beneath
  9. Silence of the Lambs
  10. Arachnophobia
  11. Scream
  12. An American Werewolf in London
  13. 28 Days Later

Hoping For Rain

If you live in the York area, we may be appearing on a football field near you! Although if you’re expecting to see us donning shin pads and football boots, you may be disappointed. We will however, be appearing on the back of players’ rain jackets.

We’ve sponsored Fulford FC Under 8s football team by providing them with waterproof jackets to see them through the season. In return, they have agreed to print our 118 365 directory enquiries number on the back of the jackets. At 50p a minute, our directory assistance number is one of the cheapest in the competitive 118 market which is seeing costs continue to rise.

Fulford FC has over 350 players and provides opportunities for young boys and girls competing in various leagues throughout the York area. We’ll be heading to their next match on Sunday to see our rain jackets in action!

Bitcoin – A Guide for Regular People

About Bitcoin

Bitcoin is often referred to as a decentralized virtual currency. It is controlled by no government or central bank, is not debt-based, has a limited supply, and it has no central server.

Bitcoin is actually an online payment system. You can use it to pay for goods or services, and it can be used to receive payments. Unlike most other payment systems, transactions are not conducted in physical traditional currencies, but in bitcoins.

For more information see the bitcoin project website.

The Bitcoin Protocol, the Blockchain, Mining, Controversies, Price Fluctuations

These aspects of bitcoin are beyond the scope of this article, We will purely consider the use of bitcoin as an online payment system.

For more technical information, visit The Bitcoin Wiki.

Why Pay Using Bitcoin?

There are a variety of reason why you may choose to use bitcoin to pay for goods or services.

  • Potential to purchase anonymously (see below)
  • Some goods or services are only available to purchasers using bitcoin
  • Some goods or services are not available to other online payment mechanisms (such as Paypal)
  • Reluctance to use debit or credit cards online
  • No mandatory processing fees

Plus of course the desire to use this relatively new payment mechanism.

Bitcoin Addresses

One of the hardest concepts to grasp in bitcoin is the nature of bitcoin addresses. You will notice when you acquire a wallet (see below) that it generates one or more addresses to enable bitcoins to be sent to you. These addresses are actually a single use token. Each new transaction should use a new address.

Getting Started

In order to pay with bitcoins you need to:-

  1. Select a wallet to store your bitcoins
  2. Buy some bitcoins (or portions thereof)

Bitcoin Wallet

A wallet is a secure software mechanism to hold the data items that represent your bitcoins. The wallet software is also used to send bitcoins to a bitcoin address.

1. Desktop Wallets

A desktop wallet is a program that resides on your PC or laptop. Whilst this reduces the risk of an online security breach, it does require that you:-

  1. Properly secure access to your PC or laptop
  2. Protect the PC or laptop from online threats (using a firewall and antivirus program)
  3. Make regular backups of your wallet data

For my tests I used the Bitcoin core application which also acts as a wallet. The program needs to download the entire bitcoin blockchain when it is first run. If you don’t allow it to start with your PC, any subsequent use will require the program to download the latest transactions before it can operate.

Other and more sophisticated desktop wallets are available. A guide to desktop and other wallets is available on bitcoin.org.

A screenshot of the program is shown below.

The Bitcoin core application is use as a wallet

2. Web Based Wallets

In many ways a more practical approach than a desktop wallet is the use of a web-based facility.

For my tests I used the Blockchain web based wallet. A screenshot is shown below. Note the display of transactions, and the options available to take your own backup (and the sound advice to do so).

The disadvantage with a web-based wallet is that all your bitcoins are stored on a remote system. The demise of Mt. Gox in 2013, and loss of $450 million worth of bitcoin undermined faith in the currency.

3. Mobile Wallets

A mobile bitcoin wallet is an app which, unlike a desktop wallet, does not keep a copy of the entire blockchain on the mobile device. It communicates with a server, operating in a similar way to the use of a web-based wallet, but via a user interface designed for phones or tablets.

Unfortunately Apple has in the past chosen to remove wallet apps from its store; however at the present time (October 2014) mobile wallets are available for Android, Blackberry and IOS.

I used the Blockchain Android app; the IOS version is also available. No Windows Phone wallets are currently available.

The screenshot below, taken during the post-installation setup procedure, shows an annoying problem with the current version; the mandatory checkbox is almost completely hidden by an un-necessary rectangle!

Once the above difficulty had been overcome, the screenshot below shows the application in operation:-

I also tested an IOS wallet, on an iPhone 4S:-

Buying Bitcoins

I used a bitcoin exchange in order to buy some coin.

Most exchanges will not accept credit card or Paypal due to the level of consumer protection.

I chose Bittylicious which easily allowed me to transfer the funds via my online bank account.

A novel means to obtain bitcoin is a bitcoin ATM. The one featured in this link converts cash into bitcoin; a further aid to anonymity (see below).

Purchasing with Bitcoin

For my first bitcoin purchase I chose an item with a recognised fixed value in the real world; a £5 Amazon gift voucher, purchased through the site pock.io which facilitates the purchase of many popular gift cards.

For my purchase, I registered with the site. I used Google Chrome as my web browser, and when I had selected the item, clicked the “buy with bitcoin” button, Chrome asked for permission to use my desktop wallet. When granted, the wallet assembled the transaction, allowing me to actually pay.

A bitcoin transaction has to be confirmed (technical: mined to a level of blocks deep); my wallet recommends 6 confirmations. In practice that means that it took about 20-30 minutes before my purchased gift card code was available to me. (Some retailers may choose to not wait until the transaction is sufficiently confirmed, and run the small risk of loss due to an attempted double spend).

The screen below shows the completed purchase summary. Note that the price in bitcoin was computed by the site. As you can see, on 6th October 2014 a full bitcoin is trading for a little over £200.

Anonymity with Bitcoin

Part of the attraction of bitcoin, and part of its notoriety, is the potential to undertake anonymous transactions online using the system. But how anonymous are users?

Bitcoin is built around the blockchain, a public and permanent record of each transaction. Those transactions only show the addresses used and the balance, but the record is public. This is one reason to change address for each transaction.

Also, the IP addresses used could be logged; so use a VPN or TOR if you wish to be anonymous.

Read here for more information on anonymity.

Similar Systems

Bitcoin is the most famous digital currency, but it has rivals such as Litecoin, Darkcoin and Dogecoin.

Changing the World

So that is bitcoin, briefly explained and demonstrated. Will it (or the similar networks) change the world as we know it? Will everyone be using it by 2020?

Probably not, but it’s useful to be informed. The problems with bitcoin include:-

  • Volatility of the currency. It peaked at $1000 in late 2013 but is now around a third of that value.
  • Lack of government protection – there is no deposit safety scheme, as there is for example in the UK.
  • Transaction verification is slow.
  • Risk of loss if you lose your physical wallet or the password.

I plan to keep using it as a purchase mechanism but will probably hold bitcoins only in small chunks of about 0.5 bitcoin, which as of today is about £100. I have no plans to enter the volatile world of bitcoin trading.