Earlier this month my good friend Lucy Watt asked me to play some tunes at her 40th birthday party. The timings of the evening (and because lots of people were lightweights and left before 12) meant I didn’t really get to play what I’d prepared. But rather than it going to waste, I have put together a Spotify playlist:
It has become my habit that at the end of each year to put together a “best of” playlist of the music that I have been listening to, or has meant something, that year. I am very very late publishing the 2016 version. Various computer problems got in the way of compiling the playlist and then other distractions meant I couldn’t find an appropriate moment to publish it. But better late than never.
Again I’ve used the music streaming service Spotify to pull together the playlist. So if you’d like to listen to it here is the full playlist of about nine hours of my best tracks of 2016.
The style and range of the music continues to be consistent will the last few annual playlists. Although it seems to be a little heavier with electronic and dance than previous lists. I keep saying I want to get a bit more rock in my life, but on the evidence of this list I’ve largely failed. Perhaps I will do better in 2017 (although so far it has been mostly – some very good – jazz).
Over the last few weeks I found myself, rather unexpectedly, fulfilling the role of General Election candidate for the Liberal Democrats in the constituency of Luton South. I was initially reluctant to do this, mostly for reasons of personal circumstance and the fact that I have become a bit distant from partisan politics, but after some internal debate I decided that I had to stand up and be counted.
In the end it has actually turned out to be a mostly positive, and at times even enjoyable, experience. The campaign itself — in what is not considered a target area for the party — was fairly low key. On the ground the local party concentrated their efforts on activities designed to build their base of support and on a local council by-election that was taking place at the same time. Which left me to concentrate on managing the media, dealing with a few TV and radio appearances, attending local events and hustings, and responding to correspondence. I also was able to help local activists with a bit of on-line campaigning. Finally, I did manage a — fairly brief — visit to the target seat of St Albans. When the votes were declared the result wasn’t anything to shout about, but it was in line with what has happened to the Liberal Democrats nationally.
On a personal level the campaign resulted in a fresh oiling of my pretty rusty political antenna. I found that those political muscles I had developed during my years as a local councillor are still there and only needed a little bit of exercise to get them working again. I was concerned that I would find the partisan nature of a general election campaign uncomfortable, but this turned out mostly not to be a problem. The interactions between the different candidates was mostly friendly and what niggles there were tended to be about who qualified as the most “local”. I wanted to have my own clear agenda so I developed my own mini personal manifesto; and I tried to limit my criticism of others to those areas where I felt there were genuine difference. In that I was massively helped by Brexit.
And it is with Brexit that the positive side of this tale ends.
The more I made the case against a hard Brexit and warned of the damage it would do to Luton specifically and the country more generally, the more scared of the consequences I became. I found thinking through the potential dangers of any kind of Brexit, let alone one where we leave the single market, for the community in which I live was a deeply worrying exercise. That a “no deal” outcome was seriously being considered I find extraordinary. But what I have come to realise was more worrying — and this I see reflected in the national campaign as well as in my limited interactions with people — was the lack of response from people to those warnings.
This was supposed to be the “Brexit election”, only it wasn’t. The issues around what kind of Brexit to go for, how to approach the negotiations, and how to handle the consequences where hardly discussed. The idea that the result has resolved anything about Brexit is clearly a nonsense. Other than weaken the Prime Minister and cause greater chaos in the negotiation preparations holding the election has achieved nothing. It cannot be read as an endorsement of any kind of Brexit nor as a rejection.
I found the Labour Party’s position on Brexit incredibly frustrating. One of the things that did worry me when I decided to be a candidate was how, given the current context, I would handle facing a strongly pro-remain Labour opponent. While generally sceptical of calls for a “progressive alliance”, in this election I was sympathetic to the idea of taking steps to maximise the return of pro-remain MPs. If the Labour candidate for Luton South had adopted the stance taken by Chuka Umunna for example, while I would have welcomed it, as the Liberal Democrat candidate that would have made things personally uncomfortable. Instead, in Gavin Shuker, I had a Labour opponent who chose to approach the issue with essentially the maximum amount of fudge. During the campaign he was clearly trying to distance himself from Jeremy Corbyn, yet he made no statements distancing himself from the Brexit parts of the Labour manifesto. In the referendum campaign he had actively supported remain, but in this campaign his statements were very free from specifics. Lot’s of talk of “fighting for a Brexit that works for Luton” but nothing very concrete and no recognition of the inherent contradictions.
In this way Gavin was able to appeal to both leave and remain supporters. Just like nationally the Labour Party, by accident or design, have apparently been able to be all things to all people on this issue. That is despite the logic of their manifesto, as has constantly been pointed out by the Liberal Democrats and others, meaning support for a hard Brexit. Luton is now represented by Kelvin Hopkins, the strongly pro-Brexit re-elected Labour MP for Luton North, and by Gavin Shuker, the supposedly pro-remain re-elected Labour MP. So what is Labour’s attitude towards Brexit? There is no clarity. But, and this is the nub of the issue, they were re-elected. The fudge has worked.
The Liberal Democrats were right to campaign as the pro-remain party. They were right to put opposing a hard Brexit at the heart of their message to the voters. It was the obvious, correct, and in some ways inevitable, thing to do. To some extent I feel the party had a duty to make those arguments. To be the ones to sound a warning. The fact that this stance didn’t result in the hoped for success doesn’t meant that it was the wrong choice. It just didn’t connect with the public.
This was the Brexit election that wasn’t. Whatever your views on the European Union, most people would agree that Britain’s choice to leave it is a major decision, one that has important consequences. At least they would agree with that in the abstract. What this election has left me with is the feeling that most people do not have any sense of how important those consequences are for them.
It would be lazily easy to blame that on the ignorance of the electorate. That is not my point. Not least because that would be to gloss over how astonishingly ignorant on this issue many politicians and commentators appear to be (including cabinet ministers with responsibility for the negotiations). My concern is not about ignorance or a lack of understanding, but one of connection. It is the failure of this issue to cut through and connect with the everyday experience of the voters.
The point of a democracy is that the important decisions are made by the people. When there is a huge gap between what objectively matters and the things that are actually motivating democratic decision making then we have a problem. I don’t have an answer to why this should be. Is it a failure of leadership? Is the long-standing distortion of perceptions by the mainstream media or a more recent distortion by social media? Is this a temporary phenomena that will self-correct as circumstances change or something more systemic? I don’t know. I am groping about in the dark a bit here. I just have this really worrying sense that the process is not working.
I am happy that Theresa May’s arrogance and hubris in calling this election has been punished by the voters. A hung parliament is likely to be a better outcome than the expected alternatives. But I am really worried that our democracy has never felt more dysfunctional to me than it does now.
The Labour Party held the constituency of Luton South in the 8 June 2017 General Election with an increased majority. I came third as the candidate for the Liberal Democrats.
I would sincerely like to thank the 1,056 citizens of Luton South who voted for me for their support. I also want to put on record my thanks to the other candidates who helped make it a friendly campaign and to all those involved in organising and administrating the election.
Congratulations to Gavin Shuker in being returned as Luton South’s Member of Parliament and I wish him luck in representing the interests of the people of the constituency in what will be challenging political circumstances.
I should have further reflections on the General Election result shortly.
Full details of the result below:
|Liberal Democrat||Andrew Strange||1,056||2.3%|
|Green Party||Marc Scheimann||439||1.0%|
46,133 votes were cast
Turnout was 68.83%
I am happy to endorse the manifesto that the Liberal Democrats have published for the 2017 General Election. Which is just as well, really.
On first reading there was only one thing I found that I actually disagree with, and that is fairly obscure. Of course there are some areas where I felt the party could have gone further, been more radical, or had greater clarity. There always is. There were a few too many ‘reviews’ for my liking — but that is probably understandable given that this is a snap election and the usual policy making process hasn’t had time to complete. Yet, on the whole it is a very solid piece of work.
One thing that struck me — which I doubt will get reported — is how consistent it all felt. Not only with previous manifestos, but with what the party tried to do in coalition. On the crucial issues of the economy and public finances there is the same commitment to careful financial management and the making of sensible, if sometimes dificult, choices; a prioritising of investment; and a practical progressive approach to supporting the poorest and most vulnerable.
I was also pleased to see a number of my personal policy hobby horses — such a s local authority regulation of buses — included.
The manifesto can be found online here: www.libdems.org.uk/manifesto
The last thing I posted on here was the news that I had been chosen to be the candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Luton South for the snap General Election. If you’ve spoken to me recently and heard me say that I have been trying to leave politics alone to concentrate on other things, or was aware that I’ve been fairly inactive politically over the last few years, or indeed heard me discuss my general disillusionment with partisan party politics; then this news might have been a bit surprising. It seems a bit contradictory. So I thought some explanation might be helpful. Note that this is about me working through my personal motivations, and not a statement of policy or ideology.
So why am I a candidate in the General Election?
Well the simplest explanation is that I was asked. Circumstances meant that the local party needed to quickly find a candidate. I am on the national list of approved candidates for the Liberal Democrats. My local connections and political experience make me a very suitable candidate for the constituency. So if you want to provide the voters of Luton South with a credible Liberal Democrat choice then my standing makes a lot of sense.
Still I did have to give it a lot of thought before I agreed. I should be clear that my disillusion with politics — whilst partly driven by external personal circumstance — has been primarily about my growing understanding of, and frustration with, the flaws in the way we conduct politics in this country. At all levels we have a broken political system. This also includes an awareness that the party I am a member of, being a part of that system, shares in many of these flaws. That said, despite my disillusion with the system, my commitment to liberal values and liberalism has never wavered, indeed it has strengthened, and my conclusion that best party political vehicle for the changes I wanted to see is the Liberal Democrats has not fundamentally been questioned.
Still, given all that, throwing myself into the most partisan element of that system — a general election campaign — seems somewhat daft. What made up my mind was the feeling that I had to stand up and be counted.
While I have been trying to leave politics alone for a bit — it hasn’t really done the courtesy of leaving me alone. The mind boggling lunacy of the current political situation in the USA, the deeply depressing international situation with the conflict in Syria and the refugee crisis being just the beginning, the interference in other countries democratic processes by the Russian government appearing to be like something out of the plot of very badly written action movie, the sense that domestic political debate and reporting is becoming increasingly divorced from factual reality (let alone life as lived by most people), and so on; has meant that just checking the news has become a deeply disturbing activity. But it has been the colossal stupidity of the Brexit process that has been the main motivator.
It should come as no surprise that I voted “remain” or that I believe that Britain’s future would be a better one as part of the European Union. But as I suggest above, I don’t think it is helpful to be overly dogmatic about this. I can see the flaws in the EU. I can see that a sensible case can be made for making significant changes to Britain’s relationship with Europe. Although I wouldn’t agree, I would also concede that there is a respectable argument to be made for leaving the EU and moving to a new kind of arrangement.
That was not what we got in the referendum campaign.
The result of the referendum itself, whilst a shock, I do believe also needs to be properly respected. It highlighted how divided a country we have become. It should be seen as a wake up call. A challenge perhaps to our institutions and politicians to more urgently address the concerns of those communities who feel left behind and alienated by a changing world. It certainly created a huge political problem. It challenges fundamental assumptions that have informed the direction of British domestic and foreign policy over the last 40 to 50 years, with huge consequences. The result of the referendum needed an intelligent and sophisticated response that charted a path between the views expressed, on all sides, and political and economic reality. It needed leadership that sought to heal divisions and calmly work through the consequences and implications in a way that attempted to find a new consensus and workable solutions.
That was definitely not what we got from this Tory government.
The May government has chosen to embrace the most extreme version of Brexit. Despite, presumably, knowing that a “hard Brexit” will damage Britain’s economy. Leaving the single market will result in a rise in the cost of living and make it likely that many people will lose their jobs. It will harm people across the country, particularly in communities like Luton. On top of that they have chosen to take actions and use language that has deliberately sought to emphasise division. The more I learn about their approach and its likely outcomes the more reckless it appears.
And then what do we get presented to us as an “alternative” to this? Corbyn.
I am 45 years old. I have been following British politics closely for most of that time. I have never been more worried about the direction Britain is taking, and that includes those years growing up under Thatcher.
On this issue — as on so many others — it appears to me that decisions are being made that aren’t just ones I disagree with but that seem to be obviously stupid. Decisions being made by people I have a problem with not so much because I don’t share their values and approach — but because they don’t appear to be competent. I have this feeling that many of us are sitting around waiting for the proper grown-ups to show up and take charge.
The problem is — apparently, I am a grown up.
So my reason for standing is this: it turns out that I am in a position to, in a very small way, doing something about all this. I can help provide people with chance to vote for a genuine alternative. It would be irresponsible not to do so.
I’m not sure I will be posting much stuff here about the campaign itself but if you want to follow the Liberal Democrats in Luton you have a couple of options:
Some news that is both personal and political. Somewhat unexpectedly, I have been chosen to be the candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Luton South in the coming General Election. Whilst have been largely absent from partisan politics recently, at a time when liberal values seem under attack from all sides, and Britain faces the potential damage of a hard Brexit, I felt I had to stand up and be counted.
I’ve been writing up notes about ‘As You Change So Do I‘, the contemporary public realm arts programme commissioned by Luton Culture. As part of this programme a series of poster works by the New York based artist Polly Apfelbaum called ‘Any Dream Will Do‘ will be displayed in the town centre. The first of these has been on display at a poster site outside Luton railway station over the last few weeks.
— AsYouChangeSoDoI (@AsYouChange) December 22, 2016
I’ve been doing a bit of Googling of the artist and find that I really like her graphic style work of shapes and bold colours. Here are some links for reference:
Those who attended the launch of As You Change So Do I were given three free posters by Polly Apfelbaum: ‘Pataphysical Dog’, ‘A is for Animals’ and ‘Celtic Animal Zodiac’. One of these, ‘Celtic Animal Zodiac’, I really liked. So I’ve hung it on my wall:
Earlier this year (2016) for work reasons I was asked to complete one of those tests which work out your Myers-Briggs personality type. Now I know that the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can be seen as a controversial tool — with many examples of critics and defenders arguing over it’s usefulness and scientific validity — but personally I have always found that the MBTI types can provide a useful framework within which to think about yourself and your behaviour. Provided that time is taken to use them properly.
When I have done these tests in the past I have always ended up being classified as the INTJ type. The picture of an independent analytical introvert interested in systems and processes seemed to match me pretty well. As did the weaknesses — those people skills — that that this type would seem to suggest.
It has been a while since I have done one of these tests and this time the result came back much more inconclusive. Apparently my score was right on the borderline for the Thinking vs. Feeling dimension. Which meant it wasn’t sure whether to classify me as my usual INTJ or as an INFJ. In Myers-Briggs language this result suggests I remain a mildly expressed introvert who prefers to gather information through intuition; but my rational decision-making has become less dominated by logic and objectivity and more influenced by empathy and the need to find consensus.
Now one MBTI score isn’t proof of anything; but it did help to clarify and highlight some conclusions I had been gradually coming to through my own introspection and self evaluation. I have been finding myself becoming more conscious of my own emotional needs and the importance of finding empathy with others. Whether this is a result of my depression and subsequent recovery, or merely just because I am that bit older, I am unsure but it does suggest a genuine shift in my personality.
I still think the INTJ type fits me best; but becoming more empathetic and open to finding deeper connections with other people is I feel the kind of personal growth I need to aspire to.
Moving away from the navel gazing aspect of this to the more practical, I am starting to think about how to apply this insight in my work and other contexts. When working as a consultant I often find myself fulfilling the role of “the expert”. Which in many circumstances works very well. Particularly those where I have genuine expertise! But I do find that in other circumstances taking that role ends up being less effective than I hope for and sometimes even jars. Often when I am trying to influence the bigger picture. This is my old problem of getting the analysis and strategy worked out, but not being able to take people with me in fulfilling it.
Thinking about this possible personality shift and the descriptions of the INTJ/INFJ personality types one conclusion is that I need to be less concerned with trying to prove that I have come up with the “right” solution and more concerned with the solution that works for everyone involved. Perhaps I need to better learn how to play the role of “the coach” and develop my mentoring skills further?
This autumn has seen the launch of As You Change, So Do I in Luton.
This is a three year contemporary public realm arts programme commissioned by Luton Culture and led by Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner.
The programme is now well under way and the first art works have appeared in the town centre. I’ve been involved with Luton Culture for a long while now and I am beginning to feel that this might turn out to be one of the best things the organisation has done, at least on the artistic front. There is a level of quality and edge to the works that I find exciting – but in a way that retains a relevance to the town.
Although, I am sure not everyone will see it that way. Which is good. We want things that provoke a reaction.
Links below if you want to find out more and see for yourself:
It has become my habit that at the end of each year to put together a “best of” playlist of the music that I have been listening to, or has meant something, that year. I’m rather late putting together the 2015 version – not entirely sure where January and February have disappeared to – but today I finished reviewing the tracks and placing them in a carefully chosen order.
Again I’ve used the music streaming service Spotify to pull together the playlist. So if you’d like to listen to it here is the full playlist of just over eight hours of my best tracks of 2014. The first third is rock, folk and soul (sort of) — the second third is jazz and hip hop — and the last third is electronic and dance.
The style and range of the music is fairly consistent will the last few annual playlists. My taste hasn’t radically changed. I wrote last year that I could probably do with a bit more rock (or indeed ROCK! \m/) in my life. I made a few steps towards that — but it hasn’t really influenced this playlist much. I am going to try and do a bit more about that this year.
I also listened to a bit more classical music in 2015 and discovered a couple of new artists I like. But again that is not reflected in this playlist. My big discovery of 2015, who has a favourite track in the playlist and who I wrote about in November, is Miaoux Miaoux.
In a review of the past musical year I should also probably mention This Is My Jam, the music sharing and discovery service I was a member of that sadly shut down in 2015. My archive of the tracks I posted on that service is still available online.
Looking forward to the rest of 2016, I hope that this year is one where I get to see a lot more live performance. So any suggestions of gigs I might like are welcome.
Last Friday (26 February 2016) I visited the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerset House in London. The exhibition explores the implications of the huge explosion in the amount of data we are now generating, sharing and storing about our world and our behaviour in it. It looks at the positive uses that this data can be put to and the dangers it represents from the perspective of artists and designers.
I thoroughly recommend the exhibition to anyone interested in these issues. It felt comprehensive; dealing with everything from Edward Snowden to selfies; through beautiful and challenging data visualisations.
Some of the particular highlights for me were: the way that early on in the exhibition it attempted to make “the cloud” physical by showing the cables, storage devices, cameras and buildings that make up the network the Internet runs off; some beautiful hand drawn data visualisations; and the Annual Reports created by Nicholas Felton which present all sorts of personal data in a really attractive way.
Although my favourite element, in the section which looked at how data visualisation can be used to promote social and political change, was the collection of some of the most famous charts and diagrams in history. This included John Snow‘s map of cholera cases from the 1854 epidemic in London, the diagram of the slave ship “The Brookes” that was used by the abolitionist movement, and Florence Nightingale’s representation of the deaths of soldiers in the Crimean War that I have written about before.
Finally, I will quote these telling words from one of the exhibit labels, the label for the “Transparency Grenade”, which I thought were powerful and accurate:
“Our only tool against the lack of corporate and governmental transparency is the tedious procedure of policy reform.”
The exhibition continues until 20th March 2016.
It has taken me a while to get to this but I’ve been meaning to make a note of a recent musical discovery. Back in June I wrote in praise of a Radio 4 documentary about computer programming languages. In that I mentioned that I particularly liked the music, each episode had music that attempted to capture the character of the language being discussed, but that I couldn’t find any info about who the artist was. Then the producer of the programme very kindly got in touch to point me to Miaoux Miaoux the musician who had been specially commissioned to write the music for the series.
Miaoux Miaoux, real name Julian Corrie, is a Glasgow based musician and producer who has released three albums and created various remixes. He also, according to Wikipedia, was born on the same day as me (although not in the same year).
I finally got around to properly exploring the tracks of his available on Spotify this week, and I really like the stuff. I don’t really know how to properly describe these things but I will give it a go and call the music intelligent electronic indie pop of a consistent quality and character. His third album, School of Velocity, which is rather good, was released in June 2015.
For reference here are various links related to Miaoux Miaoux:
I wrote at the end of last year about the personal crisis I had been experiencing and the steps I was taking to recover from it. Whilst that recovery has continued I have not entirely escaped from the depression from which I have been suffering, so I thought I would post an update about where I am with it at the moment and the progress I’ve made.
I want to do this because I’d like to let those who care, and who have been supportive, know how I’m getting on. I also, for some reason, find the confessional aspect of writing and publishing in itself therapeutic. But I also want to do this because I’d quite like to start writing about politics again. To do that properly I feel I need to write about the disillusionment with politics that I have gone through and what I’m going to do about it. But in order write about that I first need to establish the personal context in which it occurred, which in turn means talking a little bit about my mental health, starting with this personal update.
Don’t worry. I will keep it short and I’ll try not to be too boring.
The first thing to say is that I continue to make progress. I felt able to write that post in December because I felt a lot better than I had for a long while. Well I am also a lot better now than I was then. Yet it is slow progress. I’m aware that I still have some way to go before I can fully recover the old me that somehow got lost. I have found that I only really understood how deep the hole was that I had fallen into when I began to climb out of it.
The process of getting better has come with some elements of self-discovery. The most significant has been coming to understand that a key cause at the root of the problem is the role played by anxiety.
Obviously I was not unaware that at certain points in my life I have been, sometimes acutely, anxious about things. I am sure that I have described being “a bit of a worrier” as an element of my personality. I also have been aware that I was someone who would get particularly anxious about social interactions. But until recently I was certainly not aware of just how much managing anxiety, or very often not managing anxiety, was shaping my everyday behaviour.
I don’t know how much that insight would or would not surprise those who know me. I am sure that coping mechanisms, developing various learned behaviours and habits, and presenting myself in a particular way in order to deal with and disguise the anxiety that I was feeling has been as much a part of my personality as those more obvious times when I haven’t coped very well with it. I am now aware that many of those things that I’ve done in the past, although certainly not all, that I am most embarrassed about, ashamed of, or regret were driven by me not handling anxiety very well. It certainly has been responsible for many a missed opportunity.
So the upfront acknowledgement that anxiety is something that is a problem for me has been a hugely important thing to have learnt, and I now know how anxiety is identified as one of the key causes of depression. The cycle of anxiety leading to perceived failure, which leads to feelings of guilt and self-criticism, which in turn generates even greater anxiety has certainly been a big part of my experience of depression.
The good thing is that this new understanding, and my upfront acknowledgement of the role of anxiety, gives me the possibility to develop new strategies and behaviours to better handle it. Based on some of the lessons I’ve learned from cognitive behavioural therapy, I am trying to make better use of conscious choice and display greater assertiveness at times of anxiety. Which I find is as much about choosing not to do things when I’m anxious as it is about choosing the right things to tackle with my reserves of mental energy. However, this is very much a work in progress.
The area where I’ve probably got the most work to do is in tackling the social isolation that I have imposed upon myself. I have taken some steps to get out and about and to reconnect with old friends, and felt the benefit, but it does seem to be a thing that requires a lot of reserves of mental energy. It also seems to carry a degree of risk. The worst period of depression I’ve had in recent months was in the aftermath of what I thought was a fairly catastrophic social faux pas committed at one of the few social events that I’ve attended.
This year so far has seen my work and financial situation improve, although I still have some way to go before I will feel entirely comfortable, and I have been able to do some practical things around the house and garden. So now, alongside improved physical fitness, developing a more active social life should be something I concentrate on sorting out to get me where I need to be. Although it might give the impression of being a bit sad, at the moment I see a more active use of social media as being a small but helpful step towards that. I promised in December I would do more of this and I’ve managed to post the occasional item here, on Twitter, and some other places over the last few months. But there is room for more. So sorting out my social media presence and sparking some life into this website is something I will be working to achieve over the next few weeks.
So, what joy, expect to see more introspective ramblings and embarrassing but dull self revelation from me very shortly.
It has become my habit that at the end of each year to put together a “best of” playlist of the music that I have been listening to, or has meant something, that year. Again, I’m a bit late finishing the 2014 version for various reasons, but last week I finished reviewing the tracks and placing them in a carefully chosen order.
Like last year I’ve used the music streaming service Spotify to pull together the playlist. One of the great things about Spotify is it makes sharing the result much easier. So for those who might be interested here is the full playlist of over nine hours of my best tracks of 2014:
On the evidence of this playlist my tastes in 2014 have been firmly fixed somewhere in the territory between jazz, hip hop, and various forms of electronic music. With additions of old fashioned R&B and some singer-songwriter stuff. Again I’ve been heavily influenced by Gilles Peterson’s Sunday afternoon BBC 6 Music radio show.
I’m pretty happy with that, although I’m starting to feel I could do with more rock (or possibly ROCK! \m/) in my life.