Sunday, 15 October 2017

smile for the robot camera

Now a decent amount of the rashbre central technology is back up and running, it seems like time for a technology post.

Something that caught my eye recently is Google Clips, which could have been like a camera for the selfie generation if only it had pointed the other way.

Google Clips recognizes faces and pets and records them automatically. What could possibly be creepy about that? It's wearable and compact, and although it lights up when recording, it's a bit like having someone permanently collecting evidence.

It reminds me of the Jesse Armstrong Black Mirror episode 'Entire History of You', where Jesse's Peep Show-style recording was made of everything and could be replayed to cross check detail. In Black Mirror the grains captured everything, but these Google Clips only capture shortish bursts of 15 frame per second pseudo-video without sound. At least that's all they do for the moment.

Google is also at pains to say it doesn't put the resultant footage into the cloud, and the user must select which sections get further use. Probably via one of those lengthy usage agreements that have to be accepted the first time the device is used.

The original design didn't include a push button to take a photo; the system didn't need it, being entirely autonomous. They've added a button now as a kind of psychological human factors thing a bit like many unwired office heating controls.

I'm not sure what impact this kind of device will have on photography. Smartphones can already replace smaller pocket cameras for many purposes. The innovation of this device is that it doesn't require any action on the part of the user. Clip it on and it uses artificial intelligence to look for the shot and then snaps pictures it thinks could be of interest. 'Family and pets' says the oh-so-wholesome literature - although it does show a picture of the device tucked away on a shelf.

It's another twist on the Google Glass designs, this time with a more overt camera visible. The pictures it takes are well below current smartphone quality. The wide 130 degree angle of view and unframed picture gives a totally random look to the resultant picture. It reminds me of a security camera photograph.

Then there's the three hour battery life. Hardly deigned for life-streaming. But it is the first generation, and Google probably wants to use it to track other demographic information for helpful marketing purposes.

It's also not directly supporting the selfie generation. The wearer can't take a photo of themselves. Just of other people. Or cats to share on the internet.

Friday, 13 October 2017

hidden heights

We were by that sign on Oxford Street, next to the almost hidden alley that leads into St Christopher's Place.

To be honest, it's one of my favourite things about Oxford Street, the ability to dive down a seemingly obscure route, with the object of trying to get some tourists into the slipstream.

It usually works and this time we had a few Americans in tow, intrigued by the seemingly tight space that we'd disappeared into.

At the end of the alley, and uplifted from prior incarnations, there's an entirely wholesome grouping of cafes and restaurants, together with a few high-end shops. The kind that don't bother to put prices on their window displays.

Our mission was ever so slightly further afield. Across Wardour Street and into Marylebone Lane. We were visiting 100 Marylebone Lane.

It used to be a well-known dance school, but now part of its property has been transformed into a rather delicious variant of The Ivy.

Fortunately we had a table ready and waiting.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

magic car boot packing and the disappearing bed

Yes, we've retrieved most of the rest of the gear that was stored during the move, so a few more pieces of rashbre central can spring back to life.

The main computer, servers and so on have been dormant since the 8th of May and have just, for the first time, been fired up.

I'll admit it is a somewhat temporary configuration, but should allow video editing and sound mixing to start again, along with other duties. Right now I'm offloading photos from a couple of cameras into Lightroom.

I am still sleeping on the floor whilst we wait for the third attempt to get the bed delivered. It's a whole other story which means I can honestly say I haven't slept in my own bed since May.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

#FANS 2018

Just sayin'.

A kind of Wordless Wednesday post, but with built-in marketing.

It's way too early to fire up the twitter accounts for this, but lookout for FANS on the road again in 2018.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

sierra clone

Inevitably, the big computer wanted to update itself to the latest version of everything. I let it adjust for High Sierra, which has taken over from - er - Sierra.

Before the update, I made a sneaky clone of the Sierra image. It's just in case I need to do some editing with the old version of the Apple Pro apps.

Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro are now defunct on the latest operating system. It's actually some seven years since FCP was updated. Those swirly Pixel Magic transitions will finally have to go as I will now only be able to use the X versions.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Jasper Johns: 'Something resembling truth' ?

This time we were at the Jaspar Johns exhibition.

It's a flagship exhibition at the Royal Academy and features many of Jaspar Johns well-known works around his recurring themes of flags, targets, numbers and maps.

A while ago I read The Sellout by Paul Beatty, which I found peculiarly American in its wit and expression. I'm also pretty sure that as Brit I got less from it than an American reader would.

There's something of that feeling with this Jaspar Johns exhibition. It covers several main themes, sometimes revisited after 20 or 30 years across the expanse of his ongoing career.

Johns doesn't often explain his work, leaving it to the viewer to work out a meaning. And in some cases this can be quite a journey.

The RA's own external flag highlights one of his well-known works. It's the Fool's House, which I'm sure was itself chosen as a wry quip for the show.

Best described as a deconstruction of the way a painter works, we get a partially painted Sorcerer's Apprentice style broom, plus a towel, paint stretcher and cup. We have to decide for ourselves whether the canvas has been included, or are we looking at the discards from a painting session? And is the picture supposed to be a cylinder?

Other concepts include pictures where the canvas has been folded, such that the work is hidden inside, before being painted over, usually with grey or black paints.

At the time (1960s-1970s) it was 'ground breaking' and set some new directions, although I'm probably someone who prefers the variety in Warhol or Rauschenberg's breadth of ideas.

Sure they all appropriate contemporary objects, but I can't help feeling that Johns was the one that spent more time alone with dark thoughts.

It would be remiss not to mention the flags he produced. Almost exclusively American, with variations of the star patterns and sometimes hidden details. He also produced similarly blended maps of the USA, with controversial labels. Should a painting need to explain itself with writing (debate)?

But the flags do lead to my favourite sequence of his work, which was unremarked upon in the exhibition.

Not the conventional stars and stripes that he produced, instead a smaller series of orange, green and black flags.

There's the original large format one, which is part of a series called Moratorium. Notice the single white spot in the middle? It serves a couple of purposes. The first is to represent bullet hole, a signifier for the Vietnam war.

The construction was used again in another picture, "Ventriloquist", which was the only part of this sequence on show.

The tag line for the exhibition is 'something resembling truth' although examples in the exhibition are largely unsignposted. My example from the green flag is perhaps a more obvious one. Stare at the bullet hole and then look at the sky. Yes, the stars and stripes appears in its original colours.

Do the same with the two flags shown on Ventriloquist and the same mind's eye illusion occurs. I'm wondering how much more is hidden?

Only truth will tell.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

previewing the excellent #GoldfishBowl

A Gloucester Road pizza at Da Mario's (that's the one that Lady Di used to take the boys), then along a few tube stops to the lovely Canada Water Theatre to see a preview show.

It's the already excellent Goldfish Bowl, written by Young People’s Laureate for London, Caleb Femi.

Playing to a sold-out house, this is a part improv, part poetry, part grime piece about moving from Nigeria, living in a Peckham high-rise estate and the bittersweet experiences around an often tough and quite poor area. In case it sounds like a troubled viewing, the show is vibrant and full of life. There's a sparky humour driven by the writing of Caleb Femi combined with the realistic acting and friendship between Caleb and fellow actor/DJ/singer Lex Amor. Stunning artwork crackled across the set by Olivia Twist adding to the overall effect.

Despite the preview nature, this is a show that is already well-formed for a serious tour and I just hope they can find the programmers to put this on more widely.

In Canada Water, the diverse audience were fully engaged and the two actors pulled down the fourth wall almost from the start, with much friendly encouragement whooped from the audience. For me, this entire PaperBirds directed show was excellent theatre, with a simple staging yet dazzling in terms of effects and images portrayed. A clever example of 'less is more'.

I loved it and already want to see it again.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

waiter, this series is corked #DoctorFoster

Watching some broadcast telly. The one about the revengeful doctor and her ex-husband.

It's difficult to know where to start, with the show having every single decision made contrary to common sense. Along the lines of "don't go there, don't see him or her again, don't respond to the warped note, why stay in Parminster at all?" etc. Not to mention the coincidental arrivals and departures, open dangerous gates, open fridge doors, and so on.

No doubt it was written to be deliberately infuriating, although it is so far beyond melodrama as to need its own category. I can imagine the writers asking one another, "What else can we throw in?" It made the script a little like a rushed last minute homework submission.

With that other TV show about unreliable narrative (Liar) also running at the moment, I found myself watching the Doctor Foster champagne cork sequence too carefully. The cork was made of cork, then in the flashback it looked like a cheap plastic cork from a bottle of prosecco.

It flew right across the garden. Then it was in his hands again. And made of cork.

But back to the plot...Worryingly it had an ending which could set the scene for yet another series. Please don't.

Update: After I wrote this, I decided to check that cork thing and yes. Even OK is on to it.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

dire statistics

Another tragic example of America's second amendment's frequent dire consequences.

The so-called President auto-cued his way, with faux piety, through a subsequent statement.

Back in April he was telling the NRA how much he'd unfetter them further. Heck, they could have silencers and concealed carry too, like gangsters.

Now he's offering "warmest" (sic) condolences and bits of Psalm 34:18 as if he means it.

And we all know that if the gunman had a different kind of name this would all run very differently.

That old George Burns sincerity quote doesn't apply. Trump can't even fake it.

Instead we again see him relying upon diversion whilst serving self-interest.

USA Statistics

I quickly tabulated the incidents that have happened since the Las Vegas one, highlighted in yellow, two days ago. Around 50 more incidents, 30 more injuries and a further 23 fatalities.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

picking rondo at pebblebed near #topsham

We joined in the community grape harvest at the lovely and hospitable local vineyard today.

It turns out that the Romans dabbled in grape growing around this area and then more is recorded in the middle ages, creating a local Devonshire "Terroir".

On this occasion we were harvesting red grapes - the rondo variety, which get used in the local Pebblebed red and rose wines.

The original vineyards were planted out as part of a community project in the late 1990s and have grown into today's commercial enterprise.

We crossed one field of vines and into another, where we were welcomed to the morning's activity. Gloves, secateurs, ready for action.

The line of vines stretched into the distance, with lively volunteers in each row.

We found it quite addictive finding the grapes and harvesting them into the crates which would subsequently be taken to the nearby winery. Each new crate seemed to have its own gang of miniature resident spiders, which scattered as the first grapes were dropped in. There were abundant red admiral butterflies, in keeping with the stories that this butterfly is once again thriving.

At the end of each line we could see healthy red roses. Traditionally used as an early indicator of mildew, although possibly there's a more sophisticated approach nowadays. These roses looked both pretty and healthy and would have given olden day horses a bright clue about when to turn around.

Altogether good fun and with sociable long tables welcoming at the end of the session. A bite to eat and a natter with new neighbours. Pebblebed have a few more of the community sessions over the next couple of weeks. Well worth a visit and, of course, a glass of their wine.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

red cars at sunset

I've been using one of those telemetrics systems in my car recently. It's the type that tracks the journey, provides feedback about driving style, as well as providing rudimentary monitoring of the car's diagnostics.

My regular work driving to a specific office used to clock up around 55 miles per day, mainly along commuter motorway in rush hour. Add in a few long journeys and I'd be clocking up many miles per year, with a rolling average of around 60,000 over three years.

My newer driving has a different pattern, which is quite bi-modal. I'm surprised at the number of ultra-short journeys of between 2-5 miles but less surprised at the number of 80 mile plus journeys.

The gadget lets me be more scientific about the capture of recent journeys, so despite the dilution through the short journeys (dare I say bicycle-worthy journeys), my average journey is still clocking around 25 miles.

There's a dilemma in this, because my split journey types are probably representative of many people, yet the types of new vehicles are not quite ready for this type of scenario.

My example. My current V6 turbo-engined car averages 40 miles around town and maybe around 50 on longer journeys. Its range between fuel stops is around 500 miles. But it's a now-unpopular diesel.

I look around at new cars on offer and realise that we must be between innovation cycles. The manufacturers are trying to move to greater use of electric, but are stuck with manufacturing plants and designs that predominately use petrol and diesel. Watch normal telly at the moment and every advert break is filled with red cars driving along twisty roads. Follow the herd?

It means that many of the hybrids around are rather ineffectual. They might have a 20 mile electric range, which is okay for short journeys, but their combined cycles are running less that 40 mpg, despite claims of 100 mpg. Ironically the hybrid diesel electrics seem to give better mileage, but surely that must be a temporary combination? The car press don't know what to make of it all either, with reviewers saying these mashups have great acceleration rather than great range.

Then there's the pure electric cars. Teslas seem to offer the best mileage, but are still only 200 mile range for their best £90,000 plus cars. I looked up the nearest high speed charging point to me. It's about 3 miles away, but is the only one within an 80 mile radius. I suppose I could make longer journeys more leisurely, but there's a different stress having a fuelled car on a quarter tank, compared with having a battery car on one blip. I followed a 2016 plated Tesla around a roundabout the other day, it was on the flatbed of a rescue truck.

I suppose in another three years there will be a wider range of plausible hybrid alternative vehicles. I'll stay with my current vehicle until that point. At least I can drive it to Newcastle-upon-Tyne without refuelling. Although I might need to update the sat-nav.

Monday, 25 September 2017


Mother Nature is gradually reassembling in the back garden, since the building work.

The new muddiness attracted plenty of green shoots, which necessitated a quick change of plan as we planted turf to keep the area under some control until we can decide what to do with it. That probably won't be until next year.

At the front, the vast tracts of Devonshire mud are similarly sprouting small green shoots, in what was presumably agricultural land until the recent makeover. There is a plan for the front, but that also involves further diversion of the stream and potentially the re-siting of some high tension power lines. Bring in the big diggers again.

So at the front we have foxes, an occasional deer but mostly a couple of crows which strut around the various ponds. We've had the starlings doing their murmuration thing too, but only in low hundreds.

The back is rather more scaled back, such that wildlife comprises the smallest midges, a few of the garden fence spiders (they look like ruggedised house spiders). My short term favourite is the Green Shield bug, which, as H2G2 would say, is 'mostly harmless'.

I confess to not being particularly aware of these commonplace insects until a few days ago, and had classified them as a variety of grasshopper. These bugs stay green in colour, probably so that they don't get confused with the less attractively named 'Stink Bug'.