Tuesday, 19 June 2018

smashed avocados vs whipped broad bean hummus?

Sometimes its the small things that make a difference.

I know that most of hipsterville is still deciding the best ways to smash avocados and whether toasted sesame mochi ice cream tastes better after a helping of dango, andango and hamami on a stick.

But around here it's the simpler pleasures of whipped broad bean hummus with melba slice and marinated octopus with pickled red pepper and coriander.

To Go?

Monday, 18 June 2018

cats and the fiddle

With my travelling to-and-fro along the river Thames there's plenty of well-known landmarks to pass.

One of the more famous is the Palace of Westminster, although a couple of tourists sitting close to me almost didn't notice it because of the way that the clock tower housing Big Ben is scaffolded at the moment.

The river view makes it easy to see the pleasant revelry of the House of Commons. At around one o'clock there was a bustling set of MPs and visitors enjoying the sunshine and refreshments adjacent to the green side of the terrace. The red terrace of the Lords was less busy and I couldn't help wondering if it was still a trifle early for them?

This riverside view gives an altogether more carefree view than the squabbling that goes on inside the chamber where the latest Brexit pedantry is debated. The rest of Europe seems to have grown tired of Brexit now and the responses from the EU wranglers are increasingly staccato and uncompromising, whilst they worry about their own next big thing.

It seems to be the same now for many of the British public. The debate has moved ever closer to reductio-ad-absurdum tactics and boringly unchanged sound-bites. I can only assume that by the time Brexit finally occurs there will need to be a re-kindling of popular interest in some way.

The 0.7% of public spending used for EU matters may become partially repatriated, but it will still take at least 5 years to offset the termination payments. Not forgetting an ongoing payment to participate in what finally gets agreed.

Recent Maysian statements about NHS budget uplift are far more likely to be paid for by taxation than by some mystical refund from Europe. Although I suppose we'll hear another version by tomorrow, if everyone can tear themselves away from the bars.

Sunday, 17 June 2018


Around Battersea and time for another update on the Power Station. It is still very much a work in progress, although there's a large chunk of the West Circus open for business now. Plus the Thames Clipper link, which can whisk us into the centre in a few minutes. It's about 2-3 stops to get to Westminster, although care should be taken to catch an R2 when returning, or to risk a turn-around at The Eye.

And theres a walkway at the Power Station end. From the top its possible to see into more of the site as well as along the river towards the new American Embassy.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

hosed, or should it be hozed?

The back garden tap is now functional. The plumbers reckoned it was a defective check valve that was stopping the water flow. A few minutes later a replacement was fitted and then we had outside water.

I've celebrated by buying a replacement hosepipe.

It's one of those Superhozes. Unlike a normal hose, it weighs almost nothing and despite a sensible length it can fit into a small carry box. I know, it's not like industrial strength gardening, but for us, it's an ideal blend of new technology with practicality.

I didn't know it was possible to get so excited about a hose pipe, but then again, it is orange.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

black swans

Today's picture denotes my return home after some weeks of travelling.

A few days back at base then I'm off again on Friday morning.

The black swans appear to have come across the Exe from nearby Dawlish Warren.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Balmoral wanderings

A few days ago we were at Windsor Castle, but this time it's Balmoral, which is the Queen's Scottish residence on Royal Deeside.

I notice that the area is being labelled as Aberdeenshire nowadays as well, presumably with all of the Brexit and separation debate somewhere in the mix.

We'd simpler thoughts as we strolled around the gardens and popped into the ballroom for a quick look at some of the paintings and other artefacts.

There's a stack of those chocolate boxy Landseers of Royal pets and similar, which I just don't like.

More interesting to me is the collection of Royal Christmas cards, varying from staged portraiture to a few less formal. My favourite for its oddity is the 1969 one, shown below.

But best of all is to walk more than ten minutes in any direction away from the main castle. It's guaranteed to evoke the sounds of nature with easy walks to summon up the pretty scenery.
Balmoral, with Crathie church in the foreground

Monday, 4 June 2018

fishing for githubs

I doubt that Trumponomics is driving a US manufacturing business boom.

Right now it all seems to be more related to technology futures, banking and probably defence in its widest sense.

Even some of that is almost hard to believe given the latest Facebook news about another 60 companies having had access to that dubious Facebook client data.


But right now I'm intrigued by the latest move of Microsoft who, after a week of rumours, bought the Github source code management system for around $7.5bn via a share swap. Some estimates put Github's market value at closer to $2bn, so the Microsoft markup (even with its recently increased share price) is pretty steep.

It must mean Microsoft have a great idea. Something more than melding their own Visual Studio developer works with the equivalent facilities available in Github. And the idea must heavily use the collaborative capabilities inherent in Github. World domination of application development? Nerdy but an interesting attempt to play catch up.

British readers are already seasoned to the Github's dubious name.

No, it doesn't stand for anything, instead it was originally an in-joke by Torvalds Linux, who liked the connotations of the improper English expression and named his own open source Linux code management after it.

Nowadays a huge proportion of the applications developer market use it for collaborative code and document management, irrespective of the target platform. But these folk are one removed from the consumer of the services.

So it's like we can see Microsoft going overtly technical again. An implication could be that they missed the boat with something? Remember Blackbird, when they missed the Internet/HTML by trying to impose their own Object Linking and Embedding?

So we are expected to wonder what this next new thing will be?

Expect a blend of a new technical evangelism about to spin up, alongside an ongoing pac-man swallowing by ever larger fish.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Ballater duck race

We were at the Ballater duck race this afternoon. It's a little chaotic, fathoming out how the odds on the individual ducks are calculated before they start their race along the River Dee.

My duck didn't win, and the victor is pictured above crossing the line.

Eagle eyed will notice that the ducks differ in size and that some are pushed and others towed by kayaks. It makes no difference. I'm pretty sure that the odds on any duck were the same as any other.
Then, after the winner crossed the line, it was pipe and drummed back into the centre of Ballater. Unsupervised, the traffic was forced to wait as the crowds surged along the road behind the victorious yellow duck.

Coincidentally, tonight I see Ballater gets its own slot in BBC's Countryfile on the telly. It's because of the heavily Royal warranted status it has, just a few miles from the Queen's place along the road at Balmoral.

I even bought a snack from Sheridan's today. That's the firm with two royal warrants mentioned in today's TV show. And we'll be in Strachan's as soon as it's open again on Monday.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Cam (no) bridge

An overnight stop around Cambridge.

This time the Italian car's sat-nav easily beat Google Waze. It was simply a matter of where it placed the destination on the map. Unfortunately the Waze mapping placed the hotel the wrong side of some railway lines. I came but no bridge.

I suppose I could have parked on the wrong side of the tracks and walked to my venue, via an adjacent station, but the Italian car's route voiced by Stephen Fry was determined to find a straight line to the sunny garden of the pub as quickly as possible.

Ciao Ciao.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

waze of connection

We were using two sat nav systems simultaneously. There was the one in the Italian car, which was based upon TomTom, but used Stephen Fry's voice. The other one was Google Waze, which is actually pretty good and has the ability to give countdowns (in feet!) to vehicles parked on the hard shoulder on motorways.

Waze uses the idea of a connected citizen protocol to provide the realtime updates and is surprisingly good, considering the current uptake of users. It's almost as if it has wider access to, say, cellphone positioning, so that a non-wazer might be providing an anonymous input to the system.

Of course, Google want to monetise the interaction. Sell adverts on the map. Pizza places, coffee shops and no doubt much more.

The challenge of a Waze map will be to keep it placid enough so that it could be used as a primary source for a driver, without distractions.

How well did it work?

Excellent except for the last few metres...

It's that last vital section to a destination when the fun kicks off.

We were aiming for somewhere behind an industrial park (not the section shown on my illustration).

The roads were a mixture of established and new. "Go left", said Stephen. "Go right," said the female voted Waze.

An argument ensued for the next few turnings, but fortunately our destination was also signposted, so good old analogue roadsigns won out for the last 800 twisty metres.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Devon Belle

Time to try out the newly-restored Devon Belle observation carriage on the Kingswear line. The line runs regular services which are steam hauled along a pretty piece of the Devon coastline. Add some sunshine and what's not to like?

The observation car runs at the end of the train, so in one direction it is the last coach and in the other direction it is coupled to the engine, in this case 7827 Lympston Manor, an ex GWR 4-6-0, in a black British Railways livery.

The journey time is around 30 minutes to the other end of the line, along the river Dart and then the pretty coastal bays leading towards Paignton. Getting into the observation car is a case of first-come, first-served, with a separate modest supplement to travel in Pullman splendour. I noticed that there was a separate Champagne bar too, sensibly closed when we made our way along the line.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Chelsea in bloom

Around Chelsea during the flower show, it's a good idea to plan routes to avoid getting stuck in traffic. That's both road traffic and simply pedestrian people traffic.

An extra and fun dimension is the extra show that takes place at the same time, in and around Sloane Square and Sloane Street. Chelsea in Bloom's theme this year has been Summer of Love, so there's Haight Ashbury corners and plenty of hippy-dippyness.
Spot the VW camper vans and the inevitable red buses as well as many floral arches suitable for posing underneath.
My favourite this time was the store right on the corner of Sloane Square. Not Peter Jones, but Rag and Bone, the store diagonally opposite,