Billy Sangster

Stuff out of my brain

I Climbed a Mountain

I decided I needed to do something to start getting fit again, so I climbed The Mither Tap, the second biggest mountain in our local range in Aberdeenshire, Bennachie.

“Totally done in” seemed to be the sentence of the day.

Bitcoin Truths

Apparently the recent surge in Bitcoin had been due primarily to an extensive uptake in China, mainly due to the current and prevailing weakness of the Yuan.

In a recent interview with Gabriel Vine, Vinay Gupta puts across (quite rudely and forcibly, it must be said) his opinion that because now two thirds of the Bitcoin mining pools are resident in China that Bitcoin is now broken.

He has a valid point here, in that because China is run by an authoritarian regime, at any point the government could decide, theoretically, to order a roll-back of the blockchain. All it would take was a transaction to occur that wasn’t deemed to be in the interest of the government.

With all that’s happening in China just now, I wonder how strong the authoritarian regime is and if it’s in any way being threatened by the upsurge in capitalism in the country? I mean, who would have thought it possible to have Chinese billionaires?

Bolivars, Rupees or Bitcoin?

Woke up this morning to a new peak in the value of Bitcoin. It’s at its highest level in the cryptocurrency’s short history.

Bitcoin Surge

The last surge was in 2013 and that was mostly due to speculators trying to make a quick buck. It quickly lost value again but after hitting a low is has steadily increased until it was valued at around £736 today. The last increase was very rapid, which no doubt shows a certain level of speculator investment again, but this time it’s underpinned with an increase in uptake, which bodes a lot better for the fledgling payment system.

Whether that increase is due to increased usage in India, where the government have banned small denomination notes, or in Venezuela, where their Bolivar is at absolute rock bottom, or whether it’s due to the introduction of zCash which offers cryptographic privacy or selective transparency, or the impending introduction of the new Mega, as Kim Dotcom would have us believe, is open to speculation. Scrutiny of the Bitcoin blockchain could probably reveal a more in-depth analysis, but that’s beyond my means at the moment.

Here’s hoping Bitcoin retains its value and we see a genuine uptake of this elegant solution to online money.

How Regional Lists Work - Scottish Parliamentary Elections

There’s been a lot of talk about the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in 2016, particularly the Regional Vote. This uses the D’Hondt method of calculation. It’s complicated, so I’ve had a wee look and this is how you work it out:

In total, the Scottish Parliament has 129 MSPs. That’s made up of 73 constituency MSPs and 56 regional “list” MSPs.

The constituency seats are allocated through the “first past the post” method, just like in the UK General Election.

The eight regions each have seven MSPs (8x7=56) that are picked from “lists” made by each party. The seats are allocated through a method closer to proportional representation.

Take the North East Scotland region – it’s made up of ten constituencies. Now say in our hypothetical, imaginary, fictional election, the constituency results are as follows:

  • SNP 8 seats
  • Lab 1 seat
  • Con 1 seat

And in the Regional List vote (your second vote), imagine the results are as follows (in votes cast):

  • SNP 140,000
  • Lab 50,000
  • Con 40,000
  • LD 11,000
  • Grn 8,000

What happens then is we take the amount of constituency seats won by each party and add 1. That’s the First Divisor. Therefore, the party “first divisors” are as follows:

  • SNP 9 (8+1)
  • Lab 2 (1+1)
  • Con 2 (1+1)
  • LD 1 (0+1)
  • Grn 1 (0+1)

Next we divide the total votes for each party by its First Divisor and the result tells us who wins the first regional seat:

  • SNP 15,556 (140,000/9)
  • Lab 25,000 (50,000/2)
  • Con 20,000 (40,000/2)
  • LD 11,000 (10,000/1)
  • Grn 8,000 (8,000/1)

Lab have the highest number, therefore gain a regional seat, given to a politician on their list. That brings their total of MSPs to 2.

Now we go on to the Second Divisor, which, like before is calculated from the new amount of seats each party has +1

  • SNP 9 (8+1)
  • Lab 3 (2+1)
  • Con 2 (1+1)
  • LD 1 (0+1)
  • Grn 1 (0+1)

We do the total votes division again:

  • SNP 15,556 (140,000/9)
  • Lab 16,667 (50,000/3)
  • Con 20,000 (40,000/2)
  • LD 11,000 (10,000/1)
  • Grn 8,000 (8,000/1)

This time Con gains a regional seat, bringing their total MSPs to 2

See how it’s working? The Third Divisor is now:

  • SNP 9 (8+1)
  • Lab 3 (2+1)
  • Con 3 (2+1)
  • LD 1 (0+1)
  • Grn 1 (0+1)

Which means:

  • SNP 15,556 (140,000/9)
  • Lab 16,667 (50,000/3)
  • Con 13,333 (40,000/3)
  • LD 11,000 (10,000/1)
  • Grn 8,000 (8,000/1)

So Lab gain again this time. We carry on like this until all seven regional seats have been allocated.

The results in our hypothetical case end up:

  • 1st divisor – Lab +1
  • 2nd divisor – Con +1
  • 3rd divisor – Lab +1
  • 4th divisor – SNP +1
  • 5th divisor – SNP +1
  • 6th divisor – Con +1
  • 7th divisor – SNP +1

Then the final result:

  • SNP 11 MSPs (8 constituency + 3 regional)
  • Lab 3 MSPs (1 constituency + 2 regional)
  • Con 3 MSPs (1 constituency + 2 regional)
  • LD 0
  • Grn 0

That’s how you do it!

I think.

Edinburgh Fringe Trip 2015 - Saturday the Eighth

I woke up slightly groggy on the Saturday morning with that regretful feeling of guilt and betrayal at myself for drinking again. I had planned to not drink at all while here, thinking it might ruin my Saturday with a hangover. Fortunately, for the moment anyway, after I’d had a drink of water I felt okay and thought about planning my day a bit better than I had yesterday.

I’d made sure to charge my phone overnight and stuck my iPad on as soon as I got up, so I’d have decent mobile power all day. The phone’s on O2 and the iPad EE so I usually have decent coverage between the two of them wherever I went. Yesterday the phone was on its last legs by evening so I made a mental note to use the tablet for checking the Fringe app and the phone for having a wee look at Twitter and Facebook every now and again.

Why, oh why am I such a slave to technology? Probably because when you’re away somewhere on your own it seems less lonely to have your “friends” at your fingertips at a second’s notice. And there’s the showing off aspect of posting gigs you’ve seen as well. What a tosser.

Anyway, my hotel was on Queen Street, so that’s the New Town, very close to most of The Stand venues. I thought that seeing I’m over here anyway, I may as well start with a couple of gigs in the area.

I had a look and saw that Stu and Garry were doing their comedy improv at half twelve in Stand 1. I clicked “buy”. I also decided to go back and see the “Richard Melvin Presents…” show again (see Friday’s post for details), so I clicked “buy” again. I decided to have a wander to Princes Street to swipe my card and get my printed tickets at the ticket place there, maybe get some breakfast at the same time. This clicking “buy” was too, too easy. I was beginning to feel like I was overspending. Which I was.

Ticketed up, nowhere in Princes Street appealed to me for breakfast, so I headed back to York Place and got a sausage sandwich from a cafe round the corner from the venue. It was still rather early so I took a stroll through St. Andrews Square, where they had a number of stalls set up and a big outdoor gin palace set up in the centre. All very pleasant, but with that “moneyed” feel about it.

Time to go to the first gig, so it was back to Stand 1.

Stu and Garry have been around for years, but I’ve only seen them once at a comedy club in Aberdeen a while back. I remember thinking they were the funniest thing of the evening back then and wondered if I’d still think the same on this slightly hungover Saturday. I wasn’t disappointed.

Just the right level of audience interaction and the perfect chemistry a great double act should have. I found myself laughing out loud more times than I had the whole weekend. These guys are still as great as I remember and I’d thoroughly recommend their show to everyone. Five out of five to my eyes.

The Richard Melvin show was next and like the day before, it didn’t disappoint, in its loose shambolic format. The interview with John Lloyd stood out for me, not because it was particularly funny, but because he was exploring some interesting concepts. So much so that I decided to take a punt on his solo show later that afternoon. It was comedy, but with a serious edge to it, apparently.

I emerged from Stand 1 after that gig intent on buying a John Lloyd ticket, but standing right outside the entrance was Simon Donald of Viz fame, giving out flyers for his show at Stand 3 & 4, which was right across the road, in half an hour’s time. I’d seen his show in the app the day before and had decided then that I’d give it a go today. Unfortunately the timing clashed with Lloyd’s show, so I had to make an instant decision. Although it was more expensive, and against a nagging feeling in my head, I plumped for the Lloyd show. I’d have to go back to Princes Street to collect my tickets though, but I’d have plenty time if I was giving the Simon Donald show a miss.

I hung about St. Andrew’s Square again, grabbing a slice of very nice pizza from a stall and waited until ten minutes before the show started to make my way to the venue. Only then, when I pulled the ticket from my bag and looked at it, did I realise that John Lloyd wasn’t playing at the Stand venue I thought he was. It was the Assembly Checkpoint. Wherever that was. I just knew it wasn’t at this side of the city.

I whipped out my phone, opened the app and went to find the venue on the map. It was 1.1km away, and I had five minutes to make it there. No chance, but I was so angry with my stupidity that I decided to try and make it.

Five minutes after the gig had started and still not knowing exactly where I was going, although I was very near, I gave up on the Lloyd gig. I was close to the Liquid Rooms on Victoria Street where Christian Reilly was about to play, so I decided to cut my losses and go see that instead. I’d seen him last time and he’d been great. I headed up to the front door of the Liquid Rooms only to see a sign that the entrance to the place wasn’t there, it was down in the Cowgate. More rushing around.

I found my way to the venue door eventually and was lucky as the queue wasn’t that big. After a further ten minute wait we were allowed in and pretty soon the place was packed, with nowhere near enough seats for everyone who wanted to be there.

Christian was brilliant again, albeit with one or two technical difficulties at the beginning, so I stuck a fiver in his bucket and awarded him four and a half stars for his efforts. He needs a bigger venue, though.

Coming out from there I began to feel distinctly weary of the whole experience. I was still pissed off at myself for being so stupid about the John Lloyd debacle and checking my bank balance realised that, as I feared, I’be been a bit cavalier with my finances over the weekend. My feet were by this time killing me and I was beginning to feel an uncomfortable chafing of the inner thigh after all the walking I’d done. I really felt that going to the pub and having a pint was the only thing that would cure me, but this was impossible as I was getting the last train back up the road that evening and would have to drive to my house once I got there.

I decided to take an earlier train back to Aberdeen.

So that was my Fringe weekend. Great gigs, disappointing end. Sitting here home and rested now, I’m regretting coming home early but that’s the way the cookie crumbles and my cookie had totally disintegrated by Saturday evening. One of these days I’ll get it sorted out better. Stay in Edinburgh longer, have plenty cash, not having to cram so many gigs into so little time.

Will I ever learn? Probably no.

Edinburgh Fringe Trip 2015 - Friday the Seventh

When returning my bairns to their mother’s house, after having them for the fifth week of the school holidays, I found out that they were going away to Dundee for the remaining time before they went back to school, meaning I’d have a child-free weekend ahead of me. What to do?

I decided pretty quickly that, seeing as this would be my only chance, I’d take advantage of the free time and go down to the Edinburgh Fringe for a couple of days. I didn’t manage to go there last year, but had done in 2013 and I’d really enjoyed it, vowing to return with better planning and more money next time. I also told my pal Andrew I’d give him a shout when I did it again, as he lives in Edinburgh and enjoys a show or two.

One quick Twitter conversation later and alas, Andrew was in London this weekend.

Solo it was, then.

I looked at the train prices on the Trainline app and saw I could get an open return for fifty six quid. Fine. That’s do-able.

I went to look at hotels and found I could get a room at a Travelodge for eighty six quid for the Friday night. Expensive, but also do-able. I added a Saturday night to the deal but that night alone was one hundred and eighty quid. Certainly not do-able.

One night it would have to be, then.

I dropped the bairns off and parked my van in the car park at my old flat It would be pretty safe there (Well, I’d had no incidents in four years.) and jumped on the first bus that came along to get me to Union Square, so I could start my journey in earnest. After rushing over from bus terminal to train station I had a fifteen minute wait until the 11:03 arrived, then that was me, leaving sunny Aberdeen for (hopefully) sunny Edinburgh.

Two and a bit hours later and I was in the capital. I hadn’t researched any shows before I’d left, but had found out through a conversation with Twitter pal Julia Sutherland that the show he’d done previously to Richard Herring at the Stand every day at two was being in part resurrected by producer Richard Melvin. It started at Two o’clock.

The train arrived in Waverley Station at 1:35 and after a swift hike up the road to York Place I procured a ticket and was sitting front row in time for the show to start.

Richard Melvin was presenting most of it, with Julia (more or less) taking the reins for the interview (it was Hal Cruttenden). There was also a trial panel show format section (The Fame or Shame Game), a bit of stand up with a twist where the audience, in which were already a few comedians, were allowed to heckle the performer (usually forbidden in The Stand) after a hooter sounded halfway through. The next part involved a stand-up being asked to perform part of his/her act without swearing. In order to help with this, an audience member had to hold a teddy bear to remind the comedian that a seven year old might be sitting in front of them. The show ended with Lach doing a song with his guitar incorporating all that had happened throughout the hour. A bit like Mr G of Russell Brand podcast and radio show fame set to music instead of rap.

They are still finding their feet with this, as it’s only the first show proper of the run, but also a bit chaotic because it’s supposed to be. On the whole it worked and I had a good laugh, which is always a great way to start your festival experience. It’s on daily at Stand 1 (apart from 17th of August) at 2pm and it’s £8 – Richard Melvin Presents…

I’d give it four out of five stars just now, but I bet it’ll be up at five by the end of the run, once they’re into their stride and depending on the guests they manage to lure in.

Julia has her own show there on the seventeenth, so I’d say that should be worth a punt as well.

I had actually intended to grab Julia and ask her for a wee interview about both shows for the podcast, but I lost my nerve in the end. She probably thinks I’m stalking her anyway, so maybe for the best that I left it.

One other show I’d heard about on Facebook was a play about Byron called Touched by Fire. My pal Jamie Rodden was in it, so after a swift visit to my hotel to check in and leave the heavier stuff, like my jacket, that I was carrying with me, I rushed across to the Royal Mile to the venue, booking my ticket on route thanks to the excellent Fringe app (iTunes version or Android version). I battled my way through the throngs to the festival office up there to swipe my card and get my tickets printed before panicking slightly while trying to find the venue.

I got there in time, thankfully and wasn’t disappointed as Jamie turned in an excellent performance of the troubled Lord. We had to don masks as we entered, which we were asked to take off again during the show as part of the act. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Five stars for me and that’s not just because I know the main actor in it.

I had a wee wander about after that, picking up something to eat and a bottle of water down in the Grassmarket before my next show, which was Ashley Storrie over at the Counting House. It’s part of the Pear Tree pub in West Nicholson Street and it was part of the free festival. I like these, you get in for free, but have to pay to get out, paying what you think the show as worth. The performance wasn’t on for half an hour yet, so I went to the Pear tree and had my first bottle of beer since the General Election. It wasn’t to be my last that day.

Ashley was good so I stuck a few quid in her bucket. Four and a half stars and I can see her reaching five at peak festival time when she’s got a few performances under her belt.

Next up was Ashley’s mum who just happens to be Janey Godley. Again a Free Fringe event, again very good, so I stuck a few quid in Janey’s bucket as well. Three stars here, but not really Janey’s fault as there were interrupting latecomers throughout the show and the heat of the venue seemed to upset Janey’s flow.

After those shows and another few beers I decided to go to the Jazz Bar of all places. I’m far from an afficionado, but an old school pal had messaged me that his son was playing saxophone in the resident band. So there I went.

I still don’t get jazz, it’s all above my head. I reckon you have to be really brainy or something to understand it and that’s just not me, but I could tell that Rudy was a great sax player and I found myself enjoying it regardless of my lack of jazz credentials.

As the old joke goes, “In Peterheid, jazz is a film aboot a shark…”.

Well that was me, back to the hotel rather worse for wear and unfortunately nowhere obvious (that I knew of) open on route to get something to eat. Well, apart from McDonalds, which I refuse to enter and KFC, which I give in to. I say give in, but I got as far as standing in the queue, reading the menu board and leaving before getting to the front of the line, cynical and exasperated, because there was nothing for sale under six pounds. No other menus. I’m pretty sure there were cheaper options, but I think you had to be in the know to have that information and I just wasn’t in the know.

A bag of crisps from the Travelodge vending machine had to suffice that night.

A great Friday and hopefully Saturday would be equally as entertaining.

Live at Tom’s

We recently played a gig the Live At Captain Tom’s online music programme. Here it is:

Beware the Glory Hunter

So boots are quaking in constituencies all across the land as polls arrive suggesting a few upsets at the General Election in May.

The squirming anger of the entitled is painfully plain to see.

If it happens as predicted (but let’s be honest, the SNP gaining even thirty seats from the opposition would be an amazing success) I, for one, will be only too glad to see the back quite a few of this current generation of career politicians.

SNP constituency branches must be careful from hereon, however, as this success might make the party the prime target for the type of career and money-orientated wannabe politicians who blight the landscape of the current labour party.

It might be just what the Labour party needs, though. What sometimes happens when a traditionally high-flying Premier League football team unexpectedly finds itself relegated to the first division? The high earning players need to be shed and the team finds itself having to more or less start from scratch, with a bunch of young unknowns. The team rebuilt quite often gains the hunger lacking from the previous incarnation. Players playing “for the shirt” again, if you like.

Hopefully, if this apparent decimation was to happen to Labour’s branch office in Scotland, we’d see a party renewed with focus and vitality, ready to give the SNP a proper run for its money.

This has to happen.

Much as it would gladden my heart to see SNP domination, realistically we can’t become a single party state (not that that would happen in Westminster’s case, but thinking about Holyrood in 2016). That would be as, if not more, unhealthy than the current state of affairs.