Weeknote 0011

  • Went back to the dentist at the weekend, to try and get to the bottom of some major toothache following the replacement of a filling. I asked for it to be lowered a bit, and even after three rounds of anaesthetic that took out half my face, the tooth was still hurting. So not a great deal of fun in the chair, plus all the things that would cause that degree of pain are highly invasive. Talk of root canals and tooth removal, particularly towards the front, isn’t nice to hear. Anyway, it might also have been an infection, as Dr Google suggested, so I came away with a five-day course of antibiotics. And even though it took a while, eventually it calmed down. As I type, apart from some lingering sensitivity to the left of my nose, it’s approaching normal. Hopefully if it was just an infection that suggests I can put off the more extreme steps for a few years.
  • Last week I forgot to mention I’d been doing some research that led me to interview the owner of a small business that sells machinery. Obviously all the detail of that is confidential to my client, to whom I reported back this week. But I don’t think anyone would mind me commenting on the extent to which independent businesses are impacted by global, macro events.
    • I heard about the effect of Brexit preparation and how overstocking had impacted cashflow. But, that became fortuitous in a limited way, because the abundance of caution surrounding potential border disruption then offered a buffer going into the lockdown era.
    • That said, lockdowns also cut demand right back and added all the costs and liabilities widely associated with that period. And it also disrupted supply chains deeply. Manufacturers and their suppliers not being able to make or ship products has created a backlog that continues. It reminded me of post-9/11 air-travel restrictions: at the point at which it was appropriate to reopen the skys, all the planes and crews were in the wrong locations to serve their scheduled flights. There are probably crates of components sitting around from more resilient suppliers, waiting to meet parts made by another supplier who has fallen behind or, more likely, can’t source their own materials.
    • So now that the potential for product sales has begun to recover, sellers can’t restock quickly enough. That’s the worst of both worlds because they’re also sitting on a stockholding of spares that depend on product sales, as well as a payroll of sales and maintenance experts.
    • And then there’s geopolitics. Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine caused sanctions that resulted in energy-supply disruption, in turn driving up all costs. But also the manufacturing capabilities in Ukraine collapsed as the workforce took up arms instead. So there are some product manufacturers who still cannot resume some of their supply lines because there’s nobody making critical parts, and the ramp-up time somewhere else in the world would be more costly than could be recovered by making that one part.
    • A shift towards more sustainable operating models, and all the greenwashing that comes with its early stages, is also disruptive. Electrification usually points to decarbonisation, but not universally. It also comes with some complex and unsustainable elements of its own. What will we do with all the spent lithium cells currently going into landfill, for example, as well as the sociological impacts of the massively increasing demands for key minerals.
    • Further, there’s things that haven’t happened yet but might. If China were to disrupt the manufacturing taking place in Taiwan, for example, the impact of that would be felt right across the world.
    • In all, across many sectors, disruption has characterised these last 15 years. It comes from everywhere. And it’s the disruption, rather than its causes or effects, that are problematic. Change is welcome. But constant, significant and unpredictable change is either impossible or financially unviable to withstand. Fortunately the business I was examining will continue in good shape, but many others won’t be so able.
  • My driving licence is subject to medical conditions, as is both standard and sensible for those of us with epilepsy and/or bipolar. It expires every three years, as everyone’s does once we pass 70 years old.
    • Reapplying, however, is an amazingly slow and difficult process. Curiously, it’s harder every time, even though there’s no new information or concern. Anyway, after five months, I still don’t have my renewed driving licence. And while I can still drive in the UK until such time as it’s revoked, the expiry of the licence means I can’t drive elsewhere, nor can I hire a car. I can’t even hire a microscooter.
    • This week, the DVLA have claimed not to have a record of a single seizure I had seven years ago, when I self-surrendered my licence to them. They have reissued the licence twice since, based on reviews conducted on my behalf by various doctors, yet they claim not to have any record of any of this. You can see why so many people who have seizures don’t tell the DVLA. If this system is supposed to keep the roads safe, it doesn’t.
    • Anyway, buckle in: this will be you too, in your retirement.

Bass notes

[In which Mo learns the bass guitar]

  • Im trying to pick the bass up from time to time just in a casual way, between lessons and more formal practice. Just scoop it up, improvise a few bars and set it down again. It’s helping my posture and muscle memory. The index and middle fingers on my fretting hand are much better at falling in the right place. My ring finger is still rogue. As a left-hander, plucking with my right hand occasionally descends into involuntary chaos, but I’m getting better.
  • In formal practice, my muting technique is improving too. This is really basic stuff but it’s good to focus on doing the basics well.
  • The little group of pedals I’ve assembled instead of getting a big amp is now arranged on a proper pedalboard. There’s a tinge of ‘all the gear, no idea’ about it, but having it all stuck down and wired up properly makes it trivial to use it for a few minutes without a lot of set-up. While the pedalboard and its case are new, all the rest is second-hand. Some of the pedals I’ve chosen are not classic route-one bass guitar pedals, but I just like how they sound. The Orange Fur Coat fuzz pedal is far too mental to be used in the context of a band, but on your own in practice mode it’s a riot.