Tuesday, 27 June 2017

old checkout laser scanners won't spark

I moved my loyalty cards from physical wallet to iPhone ages ago, using that Stocard App. It presents the relevant bar-code and/or image of whatever card is required at Point of Sale.

It can work fine, but some stores are half-hearted in their support of loyalty technology. Sparks at Marks and Spencer is a case in point.

Stocard will work in some M&S locations. In others it won't scan at all. A well-trained assistant will key the Sparks number manually, but other times it gets ignored or I get referred to the service counter.

Today I was in a larger store. The iPhone image worked fine in one area, but a few minutes later wouldn't work at all. I surmise that only the hand-held scanners can read the card image.

I'm reassured that I'm still beta testing the future.

Monday, 26 June 2017

tales from the riverbank

I'm still in the forest and this time able to catch a photograph of the heron that landed on the back porch a few days ago.

I wasn't sure that I'd be able to upload the picture because my internet connection is as slow as olden-days dial-up.

I didn't really expect to be able to temporarily live in the woods without technology. Instead, I've assembled my own makeshift wi-fi node connected at 4G speed.

I know, it's hardly Robinson Crusoe.

Friday, 23 June 2017

one that nearly got away


I said to Pat that I'd spotted a Rodin exhibition at a gallery in London.

Pat had been sent a postcard of the original "Kiss" sculpture and I remembered that there was a smaller bronze version of it sitting in a window in St James.

One minor detour later and I was outside the delightful Bowman Sculpture gallery.

I snapped The Kiss, and then ventured inside. These purchasable pieces are real Rodin, many of which were the scaled down prototypes for what become well-known sculptures.

Another series displayed were of the Burghers of Calais, each individual standing around 50 cm high, as prototypes for the version that is now a clear landmark in the shade of Victoria Tower at the Houses of Parliament, or indeed outside the Town Hall in Calais.

Spot the maquette in the background of my gallery window snapshot and then see my pictures below from outside of Parliament.

I'll always stop to admire them if I cut through Victoria Tower Gardens, as well as tipping a hat to Emmaline Pankhurst (by Arthur George Walker) in the entrance to the gardens.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

drive by speeching

So that was the dress down Queen's Speech. Regalia at the House, but the Queen arrived in her Ascot gear. I noticed that she was wearing part of the Cullinan diamond. Just the 18.8 Carat brooch, which was a piece cut from the original $2 billion Star of Africa. Admittedly, it is reputed to be one of Her Majesty's favourite brooches.

I should also mention the Queen's hat, which was somewhat reminiscent of a blue and yellow starred EU roundel.

The Queen arrived in one car and her Imperial Crown (not worn) was in another. The wee-willy-winky cap of maintenance and the Sword of State were in a third car.

Because the golden carriage wasn't used, the Queen's Bentley was enlisted and could also help her get her skates on for a quick getaway to Royal Ascot.
Teresa May's speech for the Queen to read was a let-down. Non-specific although notable for the omissions of most of the pre-signalled bloopers from recent weeks.

The Queen relayed the statement about Brexit, some form of repeal bill, upping of security, HS2, technical education. Oh yes, and electric cars and spaceports. All generalised. Detail isn't a strong suite with this current administration.

The onlookers fidgeted in the heatwave, but I wasn't quite sure what was causing the hot air.

wild heron

Yesterday, by the banks of the stream, I thought I caught a flash of the wings of a very large bird. I'm more accustomed to birds around the size of pigeons.

Today it landed on the open screening on the porch at the back of our shack in the wood. A grey heron. This solitary one looked spectacular. Only sighted for a matter of seconds but almost close enough to touch. I've normally seen herons from a distance, flying, or still in the water by a river's edge.

Then a flash of its outstretched huge wings as it moved back towards the water. There's moorhens around, I hope they are wise enough to stay out of its way.

So what's the symbolism of a heron?

As a Chinese symbol the Heron represents strength, purity, patience and long life. In Africa, the Heron was thought to communicate with the Gods. Most Native American tribes took note of the heron’s inquisitiveness, curiosity and determination portraying the heron as a symbol of wisdom, with good judgement skills. And some say that as a water creature the heron is a symbol of going with the flow, and working with the elements of nature.

I'll enjoy sharing those few seconds of company with such a majestic creature.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

strong and streaming

Adding pictures to my blog entries may prove more difficult than usual whilst I am in a wooden shack in the forest. Of course, the view makes up for some inconvenience.

Although I’ve managed to find a weak digital signal, it is struggling to deliver updates from my phone camera to my blog.

The idea was always to spend a few walkaway days in the forest as part of the transitional phase into the next adventure.

It's several weeks since the crating up process and we’re managing to survive on limited materials whilst still providing the appearance of (mostly) business as usual. Minus the bikes, which are crated up somewhere.

At least we are keeping things going. More than can be said for the second titular head of the UK. We have a Monarch already, so I'm not quite sure what the current Prime Minister's role really entails. We haven't even managed to restart Parliament.

The trade talks for the EU exit have been pushed from number one to around number four on the negotiation stack. The recent horrors around London received somewhat robotic responses, until the recent appearance where the PM was obviously posed with a group of multicultural electorate. The straw-clutching DUP talks have drifted, which doesn't bode well for the altogether larger EU talks.

I've worked out that the PM doesn't want the job any longer. Just look at her face on any TV moment. I hesitate to use words like 'appearance' or 'interview' because she seems to be pushed out like some kind of toy on wheels. I understand that she can't resign because the mad box of frogs that would replace her would be even crazier. I think she knows that too, and now is probably in thrall to the Tory apparatus which erodes her preacher's daughter storyline. And maybe it is true that the electorate don't want yet another election, which would inevitably follow her removal.

Meanwhile the UK has been put onto a mad autopilot, like one of those spaceship movies where the computer takes over. I'll still blame Cameron and Osborne for setting the collision course, aided and abetted by Etonian chums. Britain had set the conditions by allowing the election of richly rewarded EU-haters to represent us in Brussels. Ironically, the EU-haters will get decent EU pensions from their part in the crash.

But the problem now includes the Brexit means Brexit statements, which are about as much use as saying grey = grey. David Davies now gets to operationalise the exit, but already on Day 1 had his issues reprioritised by Brussels. As EU negotiations minister Michel Barnier says, "I am not in a frame of mind to make concessions or ask for concessions … the UK has asked to leave the EU, not the other way round, so we each have to assume the consequences of our decisions and the consequences are substantial. Please do not underestimate those consequences."

I've already mentioned frogs in one context, I'm now wondering about that old apocryphal tale about slowly boiled frogs, in this case it being the British electorate being dropped into the pot.

Philip Hammond has just indicated that he will follow in Osborne's footsteps and attempt to balance the books (no longer by 2020, instead by 2025). Make no mistake, that means more austerity. And the word austerity becomes a code word. Despite Hammond himself saying [He] remains clear today, that when the British people voted last June, they did not vote to become poorer, or less secure...

That's where austerity belies his other statement. He has previously lined up another £9bn of welfare cuts, notwithstanding things like removal of triple lock pension protection and public sector cuts. How much of the previous statements drift into the Queens Speech could be an indicator of whether Hammond will be allowed to flex his position.

Hammond actually understands arithmetic and spreadsheets. He should use his newly gained positional strength to adjust things, instead of being forced to follow down the same ruinous rabbit hole dug by Osborne.

I've commented on the reality in prior posts back through 2015-2016 and it's not really changing. The Office for Budget Responsibility paints the picture.

It's easy to spot the lie. The public sector debt percentage of GDP is still increasing. Magically, the plus two years out point is once again where things are predicted to get better.

Strange that? It is outside of the operational horizon and akin to pushing the lump under the carpet further along.

I know that most people don't pay much attention to any of this stuff. Our elected politicians have been relying on a mix of confusing the electorate and three word soundbites.

That's how last year's referendum worked. Lies and confusion. Pernicious subversion of rational argument, as Sir David Omand might call it, based upon his War Studies propaganda classifications.

If so, then despite the electorate's vote, the referendum result should probably be classed as illegally obtained.

On the other hand, in my current planetgong state, a squirrel just bounced across the balcony of the shack.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

make mine a 99

Sometimes it's good to take a day for decompression. Escape and relax in a sunny place. Maybe an ice-cream.

Sand-dunes and salty air.

Beta testing the new neighbourhood.

Oh yes.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Time to visit this year's Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. I managed to go to the Friends' Preview, with the main show opening in a few days time.

The Summer Exhibition is the one that mixes well-known artists with selected works from members of the public. The works on show then have a simple number to identify them, like this one below from David Remfry (46. On the trail of the lonesome pine)

I usually look out for works that I like, rather than based upon the artist, although this year it was a bit like walking around one of those malls, with anchor stores at various intervals.

Unmistakably, there were works like a piece by Anselm Kiefer making a tractor beam pulling me from the adjacent gallery (1071 Und du bist maler geworden)

Even on this preview day, the galleries were very busy, including a particular room stuffed to the rafters with mainly public work, but which almost needed elbows to get through.

Of course, this being the RA, no actual elbows were deployed in what was a remarkably polite and well-groomed crowd.

I usually take a few iPhone snaps in this show, as a quick way to remember favourites. It is different from many galleries which would frown upon this behaviour, because part of the objective is to sell many of the works (prices start around £160 and just keep on climbing).

This year, the entrance courtyard's display was rather less dramatic than recent years. I wondered if we'd have an altogether quieter show as a consequence.

Not at all, as I entered the first room I could already smile. There was something reassuring about this year's show. Probably needed in the current climate, although artistic political references seemed to get up to about 'Fake News' and then stop, because of selection cut-off dates.

It's the 249th show, so I am guessing that next year will be rather special. I already plan to be along.

will get fooled again

I originally felt a bit sorry for Teresa May when she first took over the leadership of the Conservatives. Like holding the controls of a train about to smash into a wall. Her first ever speech outside 10 Downing Street wasn't too bad. It seemed to be inclusive and considerate, despite an almost impossible task to make that Brexit thing happen.

Despite applying some short term brakes, it's been downhill since then, even across her new speechmaking after that re-election. Stilted, clumsily done, and with a distinct aroma of denial.

In amongst the radio silence imposed on most of her cabinet, a few ministers and back-benchers seem to be allowed to speak although that has hardly helped.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss etc.

After all of what had happened, at least some media tuning could have been applied. But no.

A case in point is that Fopdoodle of a backbencher, The Rt Honourable Jacob Rees-Mogg. Instead of answering questions properly, he dived into disgraceful fustiliarian time-wasting more suited to the 18th Century in his TV interview with Channel 4's Jon Snow. I suppose he could be considered arrogant, but that hardly covers the privileged position that this person has, with his wife's mother getting a recent £7.6 million grant from Phillip Hammond to do up the 300 room stately pile, Wentworth Woodhouse. Some sort of benefit grant, maybe?

I had a similar sinking feeling when the smugness of Gove's reappointment oozed out. He managed to seem delighted with whatever he was saying, whilst demonstrating an almost immediate 'party-first' approach, despite his denials.

His self-anointed vast intellect doesn't realise his words evoke such annoyance. I assume he slithered back in via some kind of patronage deal. Whether it's puppeteer Murdoch, Larry the Cat or some kind of 'keep your enemies closer' move, he seems to have a negative effect on any environment he inhabits.

So altogether it isn't looking too good right now. Michel Barnier warns that the clock is running on the Brexit negotiations. It's around a year since the EU referendum and several months since Article 50 was triggered.

May could have used the signals from the latest election to form a cross party team for Brexit, and show some proper leadership. Instead she has just tweaked the current team and even added another hard Brexiter to the main negotiators. It could well become all about 'process' next, with sensible end-goals supplanted by the need to have 50 or 500 pages of 'bumpf' on the now panicky timetable.

And while all of that goes on, pieces of the UK economy are quietly slipping offshore. There's still some time to fix this, but not much.

Monday, 12 June 2017

may'd and confused

As I wandered past Downing Street today it looked pretty normal, with a gaggle of tourists sprawled around the pavement and other tourists walking past, oblivious to the Prime Minister's residence.
Look carefully through the railings and the cluster of media outside number 10 is more obvious. It's been a long time since the public could walk along this particular street, and security is tight as various pre-authorised cars and vans are searched on their way into the street.
The barriers have also been in place for a long time inside the main Parliament buildings complex, although the set shown are quite close to where the knifed attacker recently struck.
There's other barriers that have sprung up in new areas. Since the London Olympics took place, a new set of ornate barriers were placed along Whitehall, but now there's more of those yellow checkpoint type barriers and the black chicanes that only allow one person through at a time.

Some of their current use is linked to rehearsals of the upcoming pageantry in Central London.
The media village on St Stephen's Green gets built and rebuilt day by day. Remarkably, I find it is almost harder to keep up with what is happening when actually on the streets around Westminster.

Today's rumours were that the Queen's Speech was postponed. Then it wasn't and then it was again. Then a similar set of rumours about the start date for Brexit discussions. And behind it all were the robotic sound bites about "Lots of work to do".

I'm used to the phrase "flying in formation" when everyone has to stick to the same message. I wonder if it being interpreted as 'flying information' by the new presumptive minority government?

Ah, and later, when I finally saw a TV screen, I could see that even the BBC was dazed and confused, putting out two contrary ticker messages at the same time.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

robots, zombies, denial, bribes, fences, tripe and sputter

That election thing has become the equivalent of a one-last-try CTL-ALT-DEL sequence but somehow hasn't unjammed anything. Now we have memory leakage, logjams and protection exceptions as we head towards a UK Blue Screen of Death.

Hard to imagine what yet another major reset could comprise? The leader's batteries are drained, further accentuating her lack of emotional intelligence. I'm pretty sure she'd have ejected if it hadn't been the only option for her party to leave her in position.

A few of her spokespeople are talking, providing fenced-off statements that corral the current situation. Not too much about what happened, some blame inferences, a few standard sound bites and not too much about what next. Nothing about the size of payment to the DUP to get their support. Nothing about the irony of negotiating internally instead of with the EU. Nothing about the big guns lining up for takeover. News managed.

Contrastingly, the losing party are dipping into detail on all questions and postulating direction.

Those that say Brits are good at irony are right for this situation.

What next? A Royal Reset? Grounds that the prevailing party forgot to put national interest first?

Friday, 9 June 2017

just hangin'

I hadn't planned to watch the election outcome, expecting a kind of inevitability.

Then the exit poll appeared and it looked as if everything was about to go sideways. Time to break open the chocolate chip cookies and milk.

Now we have a classic 'Ready, Fire, Aim' situation from Brexit and a shonky mayday attempt to salvage a government, probably with the DUP. All the while alternative Tory power monkeys are plotting her replacement.

In another change of direction, May won't follow what she said in her tweet a couple of weeks ago.

At the moment no-one knows what is going to happen next so the telly channels are all running either the Kensington and Chelsea recounts or myriad talking heads saying there will be a period of uncertainty.

So not stable and not strong then?

Teresa May is still hiding in Downing Street although is being told by her party to go to see the Queen at 12:30. I can't imagine Her Majesty being very amused by this turn of events.

Maybe it is time to revoke the Article 50 trigger to get some breathing space?