Saturday, 16 December 2017

It's #MixtapeXmas tonight @livetheatre

Yes, #ukmixtape tonight. The last chance to see the current delightful craziness, and only the merest handful of tickets left. And don't forget, there's also an afterparty @livetheatre.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

cameras at the ready #showtime

Time for a bit of tech, setting up cameras and video for the show. It does mean my twitter channel has been a bit stuffed with show tweets for the last couple of days. Normal service will resume from Sunday.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

pushing the problem forward

Two things about air travel. One is the amount of noise generated by a passenger when trying to get an upgrade doesn't achieve better results. Proper gold cards (or above) always win. Second, there's a technique called that ground staff use which is basically 'push the problem forward'. Thus, at the gate, without a magic card, there's not much that a noisy passenger can do. Get on the plane or go home.

I can't help wondering whether the 27 remaining members of the EU are using an airline playbook? They each have a golden card, but our number 28 British one is already kind of suspended.

As for Theresa and and occasionally David - they are both letting the problems roll forward, making statements without tangible plans or solutions for what they are accepting. It might be occasionally noisy, but they are still getting closer to the gate without an upgrade.

Oh yes and there's another negotiating tactic, called 'get the boss out of bed' (a variation on the union negotator's 'send in the fish and chips'). Sound familiar?

Monday, 11 December 2017


I was caught out last Thursday evening, when I had to be somewhere at 7pm, but hadn't anticipated the thousands of additional people on the move.

I'd headed to a usually empty car park, but on this occasion it was so full that there were cars queuing and blocking both the way in, and as importantly, the way out.

Yes, everyone was out for late night shopping.

Today was much easier to get around, even despite the 2 millimetre of snow that briefly melted over Central London.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Strolling around the Laines.

It already seems ages since I was walking around these Laines, although it was just a few days ago.

It's that weird compression effect that seems to happen in December. When the month starts it seems as if there is ages to go before Christmas, but then suddenly it all goes a bit panicky.

Or maybe it's just me.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

monkeys go unbundling

More middlemen dreams of unbundling. Take a service, split it into components and sell them individually for more than the old total.

A couple of the latest attempts are removal of net neutrality (by creating a pay-by-service internet) and open banking, which provides fintech companies a way to resell and rebundle financial services and products.

Notably, the bit of technology that always works is the one that takes money from a wallet as softly as possible. Similar to keyless-go on a car, there's no need to even brandish a payment card.

These unbundling schemes are a form of 'cats eye' or 'patented wire-coathanger' thinking. To take a tiny sum from every transaction that takes place. A 100 million cents per day is still a lot of money, especially if there's another 100 million tomorrow.

From January, the new aggregators and payment initiators can get in the middle of transactions. Like the people that operate car parks on behalf of stores. Who hasn't had one of those threatening £70 summons from overstaying the time in a supermarket car park?

It may take months before the new twists emerge, but there's already monkeyrooms working out the angles.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

driverless crash testing

I see that the until-recently invisible David Davis has resurfaced to explain away that so-called sector analysis.

When it was first mentioned, I imagine a scene where he had to say something - anything. Perhaps he badly remembered a summary he'd seen? By mentioning it on the record he then had to produce a version of it. Perhaps by stalling for 2-3 weeks it gave him time to ask a roomful of interns to generate the necessary kilos of paper, which one of his team could then speedily redact?

My guess is that one of the 'paid pro-bono' (sic) consultancies produced the basis of the original analysis that Davis remembered.

If I had to plump for one I'd go with KPMG's work, which produced 57 snapshots as re-cuts of 19 industry segments.

The summary of the sector analysis looked something like the one above and was actually an amalgam of ONS and KPMG work. I know there's not 58 sectors in it, but it isn't too difficult to drum up 57 with a bit of table sorting.

Davis admits that he'd not read the main reports in any case, just a summary. He's also saying now that the summaries are qualitative, not quantitative. Although I suppose the use of facts or hard numbers in this situation might mean working more than three days a week?

Saturday, 2 December 2017

in which I test Amazon Echo and Alexa with Clark Hutchinson's Best Suit

I'm just getting some of the home tech re-assembled. No Nest system at the new place, so the complicated balancing of smoke detectors and heating controls from the last place isn't needed. No more increasingly urgent sounding female alarm voice from the speakers whilst the cooking slightly overheats. That's even now that Google are giving away a 'free' Google home mini with their Nest temperature controllers.

I'll wait until the full HAL version of the Nest is eventually released. You know, with voice control directly on the unit. And an optional red 'eye'. Meantime the conventional 2-zone Honeywell system is doing fine.

Instead I've been re-instating the Amazon Echo controller after a seven month break. The big vendors are all trying to capture the whole market, so the latest version of the Echo includes a home hub inside, compatible with Hue and similar.

We already have the Hue lighting system, so no need for the new version, and the external Hue hub also works with Apple Homekit, so everything can also work simply from an iPhone.

That does lead to a slight battle of the Personal Assistants though, with Siri on the phone and Alexa in the room. Not forgetting that the Sony TV also seems to have its own voice recognition. Someone is bound to have made them all talk at one another...

We can see that both Google and Amazon are attempting some bundling to gain the upper hand.

And then, sometime in January, Apple enter the market with their HomePod.

Take a look inside HomePod and it is well specified, but it also looks as if it was designed by audio people. A good idea at one level - they have probably made a better job than the acceptable audio that comes from the similar sized Amazon device. Interestingly, they seem to have have used all the A8 cpu on sound. The device supports Wifi and MIMO, bu there's no home device control anywhere to be seen.

Apple have pushed the actual home control off to their devices that run iOS. Typically phones, iPads or increasingly watches. The other device becomes like a key to the home being managed.

I like the idea of sensible home control. Less so the more gimmicky extremes like cooker innards tv-monitoring and fridge door displays showing the contents.

We are also in a period where there is no obvious leader in this technology and just about all of the combinations leave out some of the functionality.

That's why I'm still using Amazon Alexa, which seems to work with my iTunes library as well as its own playlists, plus can control lights and basic television (via Harmony).

The "Alexa Play BBC Radio 4" type commands work well, and my recent test with the amazing 'Best Suit, by Clark Hutchinson' passed the 'Find a track that's not on libraries anywhere' test.

Yes, Amazon has learned my entire music collection and can voice recognise requests. It'll do for now and if I want to up the fidelity the smaller Dot device has a stereo speaker out connection.

Meanwhile I'm listening to more of the Clark Hutchinson second album Retribution and am slightly amazed to see that their third album, Gestalt (which I have on vinyl) is actually in the Amazon Unlimited library.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Show of Hands at Exmouth Pavilion

Thursday night and we were along to Exmouth Pavilion to see Show of Hands performing at the end of their Cathedrals Tour.

My seaside sand covered boots were a sign that the parking was difficult for this packed occasion.

All worth it to see this utterly accomplished folk band play a lengthy and varied set. Steve Knightley and Phil Beer (Show of Hands) plus Miranda Sykes on double bass stormed their way through an extensive set.

Opening a cappella and walking into the venue singing, they started with a couple of fairly dark songs before livening things up. Superb musicianship and interesting songs which varied between ones written by themselves, by friends or indeed traditional ones.

There was plenty of imagery, from walks across Exmoor, of a priest on a rocky island, through the blue cockade of enlisting as well as varied advice on life and romance.

Part way through they brought in the Lost Sound choir, who provided sensitive accompaniment to a range of the songs. They ran the gig as a single set, too, with only the tiniest pause for the extensive and well-deserved encore.

Their own songwriting is crisp, the sounds they create are of high fidelity making the lyrics shine through.

It is obvious that they play many gigs; they made the musicianship look easy, despite many twiddly bits and clever harmonies. The set list was varied without a dull moment. A few times they paused for lighthearted banter.

At one point we heard why they like to finish their tours back in Exmouth. The band first met at a nearby folk club and can claim to have travelled the full 100 yards from their origin to where they were performing now.

Maybe there will be a pause for Xmas, but I'm sure there will be many more orbits embracing this part of Devon.

Here's part of their (old) Tour of Topsham, which they used to prepare for an Albert Hall gig.

And so pleasant to walk back from an excellent evening, along the shoreline, under the stars and, yes, with more sand on my boots.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

please mind the gap

There's still a load of numbers missing from the often-missing David Davies spreadsheet.

My original calculation for the Brexit cost of exit was somewhere around €41bn. Just a tad north of the current estimated figure. I based it on a 'snake in the tunnel' model which I boshed out on my MacBook Air.

The 'aggressive low' figure was based upon UK strong-arm and around €27bn and the high figure based upon EU27 toughness was €55bn.

We are just talking about the exit cost.

In my model I then added an amount for ongoing run rate charges, which in my model lasted until 2027. No-one is mentioning that aspect yet, which I suppose will be a factor of Stage 2 or whatever it is called and will include things like pensions and long term project commitments.

I'd better revise my spreadsheet now that some harder numbers are available. There's likely to be an improvement to what I show as the ongoing run-rate, which I'll remodel when I get a few more minutes. Instead of a Department of 1000 people, I'm doing this alone, but I'd better get it up to date for the next time they pop over to - y'know - copy my findings.

In my modelling I show the big payment as part of a run-rate. This is handy for the government, who can make it look less severe by spreading the payment over say 2019-2021. They've just finished doing something similar with the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The ex-macho casino bank was bought up by the government a few years ago and the toxic waste created by the banking gangsters was hived off into a separate unit. That unit has just announced its closure. The cost to the tax-payers? Around £45m. Slightly more than the cost of the exit portion of Brexit.

In comparison with Brexit, this once-deplorable city gentleman's club now gets a tiny amount of attention yet still seems to clock up similar amounts of government bail-out money.

Of course, Brexit is a much bigger situation overall, although the power-lies told about its cost have continued ever since the referendum. In UK public spending terms net EU-annual cost is still a smaller amount than the money UK provides to foreign aid.

I've also looked up some of my other early calculations (from around nine months ago) and can see the other significant lumps of money which will need to be brought into the discussion. Instead of using a grand total, we are getting slices of the full amount fed to us as individual portions.

I'm also curious about David Davis? He seems to have drifted even further from visibility, not even bothering to turn up to questions on Tuesday and instead fielding another Minister.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

down to the crossroads

I haven't amassed a collection of 'hanging around' pictures yet in my new area, although I'm just starting the process.

They are the kind of pictures that come in handy when I want to burble on about nothing in particular, like the other evening when we went to the pub after our little German Feierabend. We all brought various goodies, including way too much Stollen and Lebkuchen. There was a cheeky little Schnaps too, although I was quite careful.

Later on and past the German-speaking part of the evening, we tried a nearby independent bar which sold a steam beer made locally. From the first sip it gave me flashbacks to San Fransisco drinking Anchor Steam out of frozen glasses. Outside, instead of warm weather and fog, we had icy rain, but that is another story.

But I'll take the general situation as a good sign.

We are getting more established around here, albeit with varied trips to London and elsewhere. My pictures of black cabs might be slightly less frequent, but perhaps I will replace them with seagulls and boats.
Old Brompton Road and Bina Gardens
And come to think of it, it's less than a week since I stopped off for a hasty lunch at Leon's. That's the one on the South Bank.
It will still take time to get things set up here.

At least I've some shelving in the new office, so we can start to sort through more of the containers. There comes a point where everything that was packed away drifts to new locations.
Sometimes this is logical, other times it makes no sense other than as an indicator that the item(s) may no longer be required.

My recent mention of the bike turbo is similarly a good sign. There's finally enough room in the garage to be able to sort out the bicycles after a seven month gap.