Thursday, 30 December 2010

Looking behind before looking ahead


Only intermittent updates as we are on the road at the moment.

We managed to get in a festive show before heading North, in this case it was the version of Cinderella set in World War II London, culminating in a train ride exit via Paddington. Prokofiev's score and Matthew Bourne's choreography. Creatively staged and lit, with evocative staging, but somehow in a world between the Prokofiev romance and a possible blitz spirit from the setting.

We all wondered if a more popular music forties score could have created more of a consistent atmosphere.

Then on to the Thai place around the corner.

Friday, 24 December 2010

life in the fast lane


Last shopping day before Christmas so there's bound to be a some congestion in the main zones. Its the ideal day to visit Santa in a big store though, because the queues will have subsided for that little excursion.

Of course, you need to know which lane to be in.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

super slinky to the rescue

new slinky for the old tele
Time to re-jig various parts of rashbre central in preparation for the seasonal festivities. The 'music room' was recently being referred to as 'the junk room' and has now been re-instated as a bedroom. No-one can quite work out how the ten cubic metres of random content has been dispersed.

It's also put paid to my working ability for the next few days because my separate office desk area now has an amplifier under it, where my knees would normally go. I think the attached equipment may also prove something of a distraction, so I might as well just give in.

Fortunately I found some spare strings so that the defective notes on the plank are now back in business. I have a feeling this could all get a little out of hand as more people and equipment turn up.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

commercial ending

canary swing tiltery
It's that last part of the countdown but still there's work to be done and those last meetings to schedule as a build towards the 'end of year'.

It can be quite disorientating, with many organisations powering down, the schools broken up for the festive season and the added variable of snow interfering with travel plans.

I've been in our main office every day this week and had some pretty early starts, although meetings today and tomorrow are by videoconference and phone. It's also a time to archive stuff and reset for the new year.

By the end of tomorrow I should be clear and then it will be a question of keeping a quiet check on email and breaking out the paper hats.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

santa claus north pole norad xmas physics stats update 2010

Santa passes Big Ben
Here's the 2010 link to the Santa tracking system created by NORAD.

An ideal last minute gift this year is, of course, the rashbre novel -The Triangle.

But for those of you who are more interested in the technology of Santa, NORAD's FAQs provide the following:
NORAD Sleigh technical data
Plenty of people have calculated Santa's speed to cover the world, famously Joel Potischman and Bruce Handy who did the physics of the speed and payload performance criteria for Santa's sleigh. Like most, I'm respectful of this but am also intrigued by some of the assumptions in the original calculation:

The most notable corrections to be applied are:

- Santa delivers no gifts to naughty children (not even coal)
- Naughty to nice ratio is 1:9
- As confirmed by NORAD, one Santa distributes all of the gifts.
- There is only one family per household.
- Santa bypasses non Santa belief system houses.
- Reindeer have recently eaten fresh magic acorns.

Calculation Assumptions:

- World population = 6 billion
- Children under 18 = 2 billion
- Global Santa based belief systems: 33%
- Max children requiring delivery therefore 667 million
- Children per household: 3.5 (may seem high?)
- Number of households requiring distribution 189 million
- Eastern orthodox using Jan 5 instead of Dec 25 = 16 Million
- Target Households = 173 million on Dec 25
- Target Households after naughty to nice = 156 million
- Estimated child bed time 21:00 (9pm) with 7 hours sleep.

(child sleep duration on Dec 24 may also require revision)

Gives circa 31 hours (24+7) for all deliveries
Time is 1860 mins or 111,600 seconds

Average number of homes to visit per second = circa 1400.
So average delivery per household is 715 microseconds, which is why Santa normally appears a bit blurry (I previously thought it was the sherry)

Land surface minus Antarctica is around 79 million square miles. Distribute destinations evenly = 0.7 miles between households creating a total distance of circa 110 million miles.

So 110 million miles in 31 hours = 3.6 million miles an hour or circa 1000 miles per second or Mach 4770 at a linear speed.

This explains Rudolph's red nose because of air resistance creating around 20 quintillion Joules of energy per second, which would convert a non reindeer nose to charcoal at such energy levels.

Luckily Santa has lots of special powers so these mere physics facts are no problem to such a superhero.

And ps. my list is in the chimney awaiting collection.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

white on #uksnow

robin with snow
"Here we go again!" called my near neighbour who was just parking her large vehicle under the same bridge that I was parking the green teapot.

At six o'clock this morning there was no hint of snow, but by the other side of a cup of tea it was obvious that there would be certain first mover advantages to dealing with rapidly accumulating white stuff.

Selecting the littlest car had advantages of less snow to clear, thin tyres, front wheel drive and being broadly pushable and after ten minutes of snow removal it was ready for deployment like some kind of cold war strategic device.

I was able to make the way gingerly to the main road and to find a suitable refuge on a flat bit where the car has shelter and a chance of grip if the snow gets as deep as it did a couple of weeks ago.

We've also had the exciting appearance of a grit bin in the area. It's a big blue plastic bin quite close to one of the most slippery intersections in the side roads. About 30 metres from where the carpet van was stranded in the last snow.

I'm not sure if we are really more prepared, but later I'll take a snap of the Christmas lights in the snow.

Assuming we still have power.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

our tragic universe


I've been enjoying reading another Scarlett Thomas book recently. I was ordering something else on Amazon and it popped up as one of those recommendations, and on special offer.

I wouldn't normally get sucked into the offers, but I've enjoyed the previous books by Scarlett Thomas - Popco and The End of Mr.Y. (geddit) so this was a good suggestion.

Now I'd idly wondered who Scarlett Thomas was as I read the other books. They did have some similar themes, and some built-in puzzles for the reader to solve along the way. An eclectic mix of homeopathy, symbols, prime numbers, cryptography, otherworld imagination and some zeitgeisty lifestyle elements.

The stories were written in a style that helped you to get to know the author, and one could imagine some real-world projections into the storytelling.

This latest novel plays around with the format.

I can see that there's large elements of a similar voice in the writing, but it's being playful with the novel's form. Like it's showing you 'behind the curtain' of the novel writing. I could envisage scaffolding and strange cogs alongside the more practical lists of items for inclusion, such as ships in bottles. There's sections that discuss, via the main focus of the story, what it's like to be writing a novel and also making the style of the storytelling self referential.

There's some writers with a style where you think you could converse with them directly; I could name a few but anyone will know the ones that resonate with them personally.

I found this with the previous two books and this one seems to address that point directly by being in a style that could easily be treated as a conversation.

You start to think you know the author, but of course it's the character, but is it the author as well?

I've almost finished it now, and I'll admit that at about the 2/3rds point I did decide to google the person playing with my head. Not exactly doing a reality check, but sort of.

A picture of someone strumming a guitar appeared, and a picture of a black dog called D.

The black dog in the novel is called B.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

where did that hat come from?


There seems to be something going around at this time of year.

We still have intense end of year activity at work, but it's somehow blended with parties and festive occasions. As a consequence, something has to give, because the number of hours to accomplish everything seems to remain a constant.

Some precautions can include not overdoing the -um- festive factor and perhaps occasionally ducking out early from some events.

There's that trigger point around midnight which can go either way. Towards home and robustness the following day or towards various kinds of short term frivolity but with a risk of indeterminate side-effects.

The question is how many times to let it slide?

Once might be inevitable, and the usual lesson learned may inform decisions for the rest of the season. Twice might still be understandable, but beyond that it becomes less about balance and more about design.

I know there's been a slight gap in my blogging, and some understandable conclusions can be drawn. Tomorrow's little shindig should be one where I leave early and maintain reserves for the weekend.

We shall see.

Friday, 10 December 2010

remote control of iTunes

iphone remote
We've been playing around with the 'Remote' facility on the iPhone and iPad.

It's really useful as we move into the festive season to be able to run the sound system and to select anything from the whole iTunes library by just dialling it up on any iPhone/iTouch/iPad.

Even to be able to direct the selection to particular speakers using Airtunes, create playlists and let other people add songs they like to the sequence.

Not bad for a 'free' application.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

landing zone preparations

lighting up time
With all of those illuminations in Paris, it's about time that rashbre central flipped the big switch too.

So the first bank of illuminations are now in place, although I've been forbidden from adding the solar powered blue lights to the collection.

This year's theme is mainly white lights, with a few golden yellow ones interspersed for some variety.

I'm expecting the neighbours to get busy with the wiring at the weekend, which should help guide the sleigh in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

lane discipline

paris edges sarah
The only times I've had taxi crashes have been in Paris.

Twice, plus my latest - an attempted ramming from road rage.

The first time was several years ago. There were three of us travelling together in a taxi back to the airport. The taxi driver was stuck in the usual bouchon Parisienne and the traffic was stop-start. We were all chatting and then suddenly there was a thump as our taxi bashed into the car in front. Much arm waving and general shouting, whilst we passengers looked on in some bemusement. No damage to anyone although I've no idea about the cars. We somehow continued after a less than five minute pause.

Then another time, when we were staying around Montparnasse pour le Weekend. The taxi was cutting through back streets towards our apartment and somehow cruched into a car that was trying to reverse park. We'd already seen another car doing one of those space making manoeuvres where it gently nudged the cars either side to get out of a space. On that occasion we decided to get out and walk the rest of the way.

This time it's been a rather ambitious taxi driver. I don't think he was the one I'd ordered but my destination was sufficiently far away to make him 'forget' who he was picking up. "They don't tell me the names..." etc.

We had some busy sections to drive along and the driver was using the wrong lanes on purpose to make the distance quickly. I began to wonder if he'd be able to get back onto the route we required, when he suddenly pulled sharp left into a traffic flow.

The car drivers behind were rather upset.

Two of them decided to box him in or push him back into the other lane, effectively to a different destination. Dodgems with small french hatchbacks. Renault rage.

My West African driver was having none of it and decided that winding down the window would make it easier to shout at the other drivers.

I decided it was best to avoid eye contact as I shrank back into my seat. In a few minutes we were back on our way, the driver had resumed his continuous phone conversation and I'm sure regarded the whole situation as a regular part of his daily life.

Monday, 6 December 2010

travelling

paris
04:45 start as I headed for the airport, ahead of the traffic and before the fog. Pause for a coffee in the lounge and then to the gate where a friendly voice called my name and I realised I wouldn't be travelling alone.

Then announcements about one-and-a-half hour delays and us both wondering if it would be better to bail from the trip. I checked with the staff who said there were 'negotiations' in progress about bringing our slot forward.

We decided to wait until my friend had finished her coffee and around then heard clicks from the microphone as a sign that we'd be boarding. We both wondered if it was to prevent our escape, but apparently the large and fully loaded plane would have the best bargaining position to get airborne.

Two hours later and we're in Paris ready to start the day.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

garden

checking out the seed ball
It's really too early to be posting pictures of robins, although we do have one defining its territory in the garden, made even more alert since the arrival of yesterday's seed balls which I've simply hung on a couple of bushes.

The robin seems to be trying to protect the entire cache for its own private larder, although the combined forces of several finches and a couple of blackbirds seem to be able to overwhelm the perimeter guard.

I wonder what they will make of the lights?

Saturday, 4 December 2010

seed balls

screen image of dennisTree hunting today, as we start the preparation for the Christmas season.

Tomorrow I'll be in the roof searching for the lights and decorations.

In some ways it all seems early, but as I'm off to Paris on Monday I've got to start the preps now or we'll have a stateless house instead of a convivial home by the start of the main season.

I've already added a couple of minor decorations outdoors, which comprise those round balls of seeds that the birds love and within an hour there was a minor flurry of smaller birds twittering and squabbling around the new source of riches.

That all seems quite close to home, but on t'interweb this weekend we've also seen the flurry of twittery activity around conversion of avatars to cartoon characters to support childrens' charities.

Good publicity?

It wasn't clear when it started that there was any targeted beneficiary other than the tentacular and megalithic f***book which seemed to be the source of the changes. Get everyone to logon and change their profiles and no doubt create other activity as well.

Later the UK variant of the meme became associated with NSPCC, which is a cause worthy of donation. They claim the fundraising wasn't of their making but presumably are getting something from the slipstream effect.

It's also spawned a whole range of other rhetoric but few links to the fundraising pages.

Here's one.
screenshot_02

Friday, 3 December 2010

#ukslush

#uksnow
What a difference a day makes in the land of the ice and snow.

Thursday morning I'd awoken at around 3:30 and noticed a light, if respectable, covering of snow everywhere. I knew that only the first two or three cars would make it out of the road and then it would turn into an icy skid-pan.

Sure enough, an urgent early morning carpet delivery to someone in the neighbourhood did the deed and managed to end up as a one van roadblock across the end of the street. It's long wheelbase majesty was eventually moved to the side after about an hour but had glazed the whole surface to the extent to make it impassable.

We decided to try out the new technology of grippy kevlar wheel socks(!) to see whether it would assist the escape. As my neighbour also had a set, we decided to try his first and to our joint pleasure his car then smoothly exited the street without misadventure.

I learned in the process that the video of the Norwegian girl with the brown leather boots and orange rubber gloves was somewhat misleading.

She'd put her socks on in about three minutes.

Twenty was closer to the truth.

But they did work. And work well.

Before embarking on my equivalent thirty minute mission, I decided to try the little green hatchback which has front wheel drive. I'd noticed that other similar small tyred vehicles seemed to be getting about whereas the Executive Saloons with Fat Tyres were spinning and slipping all over the place.

defrosting the kaAnd yes, the Ka worked fine by just scraping the ice from it.

By the time I reached gritted and salted road surfaces it was also toasty warm inside. That evening I was back in the centre of London complete with Ka.

By Friday morning I was beginning to wonder what the fuss had been about. I looked out onto the busy roads and traffic was moving normally.

During the day I was in the centre and west of the centre and in both areas there's already large areas with pavements showing and roads which appear to function normally. Battersea Park still had a pretty look, with snow in the trees and the cycle tracks around there were somewhat icy.

My morning meeting was across in the clubby Pall Mall area. I chatted to the receptionist and mentioned the weather. "Yes, I miss the regular snow," she replied,"it's not like home."

Her home was Poland and she explained that the snow there was more predictable and created less chaos. The usual London comment about how such a small dusting could create such a big impact.
Sloane Square in Snow
Then it was back to Sloane Square, where the arctic conditions being reported on the news were all too evident. Take a look at the above iPhone shot of the conditions probably at their peak - I even had to wait three minutes for a 137 bus.

Later in the day I had to drive out of the centre.

Still no real snow on the roads and maybe a centimetre or two along the edges.

On one hand we've been better at clearing it this time, but on another I'm wondering if there was really that much 'down south' compared with last January?

Still. It looks better on the weather maps to show a foot of snow around the capital, especially on a Friday.

...and here's conditions right now in London

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

snow avoidance

dippy
An extra early start today before heading into Surrey for a meeting. I was one of the presenters so it was kind of important that I showed up, despite the various stories about huge tailbacks on the motorways and hundreds of lorries stranded in snow drifts.

I even took some snow boots in the car and an extra alpine type double layered snow jacket so that if I was stranded somewhere I could keep snug.

Of course, my entire route apart from the piece more or less outside home was almost snow free. I could see there were big hold ups in other areas based upon the little pictures of cars in line on the sat nav and I'll concede that the posh venue in it's own grounds had snow on the ground when I arrived.

It turned out that I was ridiculously early having allowed a huge safety margin for the expected arctic conditions. It gave me a chance to make a few phone calls although at 0730 there was a relatively select group of people that I could call.

By the time I left in the afternoon there was ice underfoot and a chill wind. But still no snow on the way back until I was within sight of the front door.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

snow check

quackers in the cold
Excitement today as I awoke to Snow on the Ground. My iPad weather forecast had predicted this and just like on Sunday it was right to within an hour.

When I say snow, I'd best use one of those Inuit terms for better precision, so I'll describe it as a light dusting, rather than the stuff we had at the beginning of 2010.

When I lived in Germany, November 21 was pencilled in as the date for snow and it was quite dependable. Hereabouts it is rather less predictable and even with electronic assistance the next few days are a relative unknown.

Today's meeting was moved from Swindon to 'by phone' although I'm expecting tomorrow's session in Surrey will go ahead as planned. My systems say it will snow between midnight and one in the morning, but I'm not sure I'll be paying too much attention.

At least I don't have any flights until next week, by which time I suspect that normal early December weather will have returned so that we can place bets about snow on Christmas Day.
screenshot_11

Monday, 29 November 2010

South coast chronicles

on the way to the italian
Away for the weekend, down on the South coast with friends.

A convivial Saturday evening in a loud buzzing local Italian restaurant.

Then Sunday's bracing walk along the sea shore, chatting before taking chocolate drink refuge in a convenient cafe whilst the snow gently fell.

We were still wondering what had happened to 'my accidental bag' as we sipped our warming drinks out of the cold.

Late the previous evening, after copious wine and during a lively and emotional discussion, I had inadvertently bid for a cream coloured Chloe handbag on eBay (don't ask).

By Sunday breakfast we couldn't resist taking a look to ensure that I had been outbid.

It's a long story.

It turned out I was, indeed, still the proud leading bidder although I was being assured that my paltry bid would be outdone.

Now I don't know anything about handbags. Or the going rate for ones called Chloe.

Suffice to say this one had a serial number, so the alarm bells should have been ringing past the rather delightful Cabernet Sauvignon. I seem to remember the bag had a big padlock, came with another bag to put it in(?) and was named after a London train station.

I'd already run the emergency 'who could I give this to?' script in my head when at some point on Monday I received another email from eBay.

Someone had outbid me.

Phew.

My bid was indeed paltry. They would pay double.

Beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the bagholder.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

nanowrimo go go go

screenshot_05
I seem to have passed the magical 50,000 word mark.
Now it's just a small matter of finishing the story.

The characters are in a bit of a pickle at the moment.

chandelierium suspendium

HP DH 7
I remember reading the first Harry Potter book whilst in Barbados as beach escapism. Then by about book three the movies had started along with full Potter mania. A friend used to live in the Bracknell housing estate where the first movie's home scenes were filmed.

I can also remember being on the way back from a late evening when the fourth (very thick) book was published and we stopped in the wee small hours to pick up a copy from a surprisingly busy bookstore.

Last night I saw the new movie and realised I've somehow missed a section. It didn't take long to get into the plot again though, although I was surprised to see Alan Rickman now with the baddies. I had to have that transition explained to me on the way back from the movie.

This part of the story is dark right from the opening logo and has some excellent ensemble pieces with all the bad folk together plotting the demise of Harry.

I won't say more about the plot, but I liked some of the whimsical touches like the totally permissible Tardis effect of the tent, and the mix of magic and real world physics as ways to run some of the fight scenes. Belatrix obviously has fast reactions but an old Del Boy move still confused her.

There were plenty of famous British landmarks on display too, from London Town, the Dartford Crossing (a Batman/MIB moment) and swathes of Essex/Kent replete with pylons, Lavenham (a rashbre haunt), Malham and the Limestone Pavement, allegedly the forest of Dean, and something that looked like the Linn of Dee.

A strong cast throughout, with plenty of reprises for well-known actors. To my eyes some of the teen scenes (like the dancing) looked bolted on. There were also clearly places where a 3D experience had been orchestrated but wasn't used.

Altogether, an enjoyable, immersive and escapist couple of hours.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Sunday, 21 November 2010

sndy smry


Sunday - summary
Sycling - around country lanes
Shocked - at the number of gunshots from the fields
Scribbing - some novel paragraphs
Shopping - in the 'biggest urban mall in Europe'
Scoffing - alright enjoying a lovely restaurant supper
Sneering - at a recording of that terrible television programme
Savouring - that William Boyd story about any human heart
Smiling - that we've bagged some HP tix for Wednesday at the Electric

the bells


I woke up this morning at about 05:30 and do you know what? It seemed like the middle of the night.

Anyway, I decided this time of morning wasn't a good look today and decided instead to listen to the bell-ringing on Radio Four.

But now (post bike riding) I'm facing down a long schedule of activities for the rest of the day which include a visit to one of the larger West London shopping malls.

I may be gone some time.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Friday, 19 November 2010

disimbibery


Thursday's surfeit of Merlot probably affected my Friday performance.

I've had another six a.m. start and various hoop-de-doop meetings to jump through, mostly face-to-face.

It started erratically when the main person I was due to see didn't show at eight o'clock and the other two of us were left to chatter and plan.

I didn't have a headache at that time, just a weariness which I knew I could override for a few hours but would be difficult to manage for the whole day.

Between meetings I busied myself with non-critical tasks, mainly because I knew that otherwise I'd be making mistakes. By early afternoon I'd finished my last proper meeting and could leave to take my last calls by conference phone.

I'll admit to amiable jeers from others as I finished the evening rather early and headed for bed.

Monday, 15 November 2010

apple does apple

screenshot_01
An amusing piece of internet hype when Apple site put up a teaser for a new iTunes announcement, which created a flurry of twitter and other general speculation.

Would Apple be introducing a subscription service for iTunes? Would the iView be released? Does the unreleased Macbook Air 15 have Firewire? etc. etc.

It turns out to be that iTunes will support the Beatles LP collection.

Jolly good.

Apple Corps.

But most people who like the Beatles have probably uploaded their own CDs to iTunes way back in the 20th Century. And the versions on sale are typically £10.99 for a single album and £17.99 for a double.

I still enjoy the Beatles and there's many a three minute classic amongst the track listings.

I'm just struggling to see any added value in the way that the announcement is being presented.

Although it will be interesting to see if any of the songs chart again.

Or get adapted...







And whether it creates any new remixes when people notice the stereo separation of the vocals.

(Thanks Beatles, Green Day, The Kinks, Joan Jett, Cypress Hill, House of Pain, Rage Against the Machine, LCD Soundsystem, Pills, Fatboy Slim and DJ Moule)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

reactable compositions

jazzy reactable
I first posted about the reacTable back in 2007, when Bjork was one of the early adopters for the Volta tour.

I think I had some of the Coachella footage from the time of "Declare Independence", although the similar set she played at Glastonbury was blindingly good.

Back in those ancient days, the reacTable was a massively expensive piece of new technology and people would flock to tents in the middle of muddy fields to see it in action.

As is the way with these things, time passes and there's now both an iPhone and iPad version, which has allowed me to generate an improvised jazz track or two over the last day. For reasons of obstinacy, my camera is refusing to let me download my own sample from use, so here instead is a little (and more techno) YouTube demo.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

small craft on a milk sea

image_14632_container_18640_image.JPG
On Friday evening I was staring at the weekend thinking about all the things I really wanted to do.

By Sunday I'll know that I've missed a few, partly because I still had a couple of largish piece of work to process. I managed to keep Saturday work free, so that I could do shopping and other normal activities, alongside some Nanowriting and a bout of television watching.

I've reached that point in the writing where the lack of a pre-planned plot needed to be resolved, so that I have ways to draw the somewhat diverse strings together during the next section. I'm not sure how many people do this the way I do, where I start with absolutely nothing and then see what happens. The characters somehow draw themselves and at some point I get an inkling of what kind of story is going to mature.

I now have more of plan, probably influenced by the Brian Eno ambient music collages I've been listening to whilst writing.

Friday, 12 November 2010

word challenge

whale impersonates snowboard whilst radiating ripples
Sheri was originally Canadian, although she had studied in the USA, as well as a short spell in Switzerland and was now into her second year at Biotree’s facility in Norway.

The Bodo environment was surprisingly familiar, a mix of her childhood’s Vancouver waters and the nearby ski areas, where she had spent winters ski-ing as well as getting something of a reputation for her freestyle snowboarding.

The cold end of the Pacific had first raised her love of nature. She would still think of times spent with her Grandfather out to look for whales with their tail splash, fishy snorts and the rippling radiation of the water as they would dive near to the boat.

The Pacific had also stimulated her study of marine biology and the organisms that maintained the ecology. Then her time at Harvard where the study of very small things had eventually led her to Biotree. Harvard had taught her how the organisms worked and then CERN in Switzerland had taught her how to build them, ironically by first showing how to smash things apart.

Now she was working with mechanosynthesis, construction an atom at a time. It was beyond a watchmaker’s precision, to know how to bolt the atoms together to make the tiny machines that formed the basis of the Biotree business model.

She’d learned how to build these tiny structures, how to make them operate, which parts would simply refuse to work together because of the still only partly understood and apparently tiny forces between them. Forces she knew were big enough to destroy the machines to which they were attached if they were not coupled properly.

She sometimes thought of it as being inside God’s head. If a God existed, the God would need to know this stuff really well.

This time I had to slip whales, snowboarding and radiation into the writing. It also gives me an excuse to post a picture of a whale I snapped whilst boating around Vancouver - mouseover for the caption.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

11.11


Well, it is the eleventh, so a moment to reflect.

Another birthday.
I'll keep the mantra;
Fun going forward.

I can't help being attracted
by bright shiny orange.
And night-time art.

There's still so much that doesn't usually make it to the blog.
Like me writing this wearing a black hat.

Thinsulate.

Thinsulate the experiences.

Our little trip to Camden might get a mention.
But usually not the crowd surfing.
or the special sign that says 'No'.

Some rules are just for general guidance.
And there's others that always apply like:
November is my month.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

writing it in

Suze
Denny glanced up.

The work division was obviously unbalanced. Suze was quietly folding some of the quaint but expensive grey hotel stationery into the shape of a swan, with her spare hand. She was already wearing the colourful courtesy gown and had now pushed two of the chopsticks into her hair, making an instantly more Eastern look.

“Was that the influence of the room service?” he quipped. They’d ordered Japanese as a sort of homage to Makatomi and been enjoying maguru tuna with nori seaweed. Suze had spotted a pineapple dessert but neither of them had expected the laser cut slices laminated with microlayers of a ginger flavoured wasabi.

“Yes it’s auto suggestive, I think,” replied Suze as she flipped another firewall. “The ginger and pineapple must be talking to me.”

Responding to the challenge to get the "ginger and pineapple talking to me" into the novel

arabica moment

pol ruin?
I'm running on Ethiopian coffee at the moment (strength 5), whilst musing for a couple more scenes to blend into the writing. I seem to be around the 18k mark now, which feels as if I should be ahead, but is distressingly close to being 'on target'.

So back to the scenes...A couple of weeks ago we took off to the coast and wandered amongst the pretty harbours of a part of Cornwall for a couple of days of battery recharge.

Our only maps were the ones you get to show the way to individual tourist attractions and so we guessed most of our route.

It meant that as well as the more obvious sites, we stumbled into a couple of less expected views, like the one in the picture.

Of course, it makes a great setting for some kind of action sequence and just to describe it would be at least a thousand words if the old saying is anything to go by.

I can already imagine the splashes of red are coffee berries and is that a goat I see on the slopes? Oh no, it's arabica hallucinations.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

raining broken glass in a forgotten part of town


My replacement car has a better iPod control than the last one so it's a lot easier to just keep the entire music collection online.

I've enjoyed working my way through "The Magnetic Fields" over the last couple of journeys (interrupted by Michelle Shocked CDs playing on the way to and from her gig).

The Magnetic Fields front man Stephin Merritt is an enigmatic writer and produces quite experimental albums. I think I have all the ones available in the UK. There's 69 Love Songs, which is 69 (count 'em) love songs, Distortion (where the songs feature various forms of Lo-Fi distortion) and Realism (which doesn't).

And right now there's a new little film about him and the band, which is going through a kind of road tour release of its own. Stephin and Michelle - both producing independent music on independent channels.

Strange Powers.

Monday, 8 November 2010

tell-tale low-tone then high-tone beeps

telephone
Another blur today, with plenty of conference phone calls at roughly one hour intervals.

I nearly missed one around midday, which I was actually chairing.

I think I got away with being a couple of minutes late to sign in, as I could hear the tell-tale beeps of others joining after me.

Tonight I'll switch modes for a while. There's a good television programme later, but before that I'll try to lay down a few more novel words.

Low tone then high tone or maybe vice-versa?

Sunday, 7 November 2010

michelle shocked roadworks 2010

Michelle Shocked
The first time I saw Michelle Shocked live was at the Alvin Ailey in New York, as part of a John Lennon tribute evening. It was late in the year and shoppers were carrying fir trees to deck their apartments. I'd already got a large stash of Michelle's CDs by that time and have looked out for her occasional (rare?) visits to the UK.

Then a couple of years ago she played at Union Chapel and we somehow managed to be in the first row or two and last night we repeated it at a venue where we enjoyed another captivating two and a half hours in her company.

This time I think Michelle has visited Edinburgh, Bristol and will go to the London O2 Academy and - where we saw her - the West End Centre, Aldershot. Not a venue on my usual radar and one we initially struggled to find, but an interesting intimate venue and an excellent gathering.

Usually I'd call it a performance, but that implies something to be watched, whilst Michelle is strong on 'nowness' and involvement. She walked amongst the participants, encouraged singing on some and flicked into narratives around the songs.

There's already a huge back-catalogue of her songs and she mixed a few from the campfire and short sharp shocked days with a celebration of the Arkansas Traveler album from about twenty years ago. It was one of those sets where every number sounded fresh and strong with Michelle and the band breathing energy into every note.

Michelle told us of what she described as her five year road trip and of a new project: an album around famous women and we heard an early version of one of the new tracks. The small band of fiddle, banjo and Irish bouzouki were excellent and everyone played with flowing, adaptive ease.

There were discussions of politics, philosophy and the edges of theology, mixed with messages of happiness, love and hope. We grinned our way through the whole concert and the band including Michelle even jammed their way through the interval.

A sublime evening.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

sitting by the road watching well-fires burn by an old October moon

cycling
Spinning around the lanes today, admiring the changes of season, head full of half baked plot ideas and poet-picker music.

There may not have been any well-fires burning in these fields, but in my strange little Nanoverse anything is possible.

...Sorry, its probably the ginger and pineapple talking.

Friday, 5 November 2010

location detection


I was at Canary Wharf on Thursday and then later at The Swan pub on the River Thames.

At both locations I was a little early to arrive and had a few minutes waiting time.

Like many, I'd usually use this to clear a few emails or phone calls, but on this occasion I was looking at the scene for its novel inclusion possibilities. I've already built Smollensky's and the clocks into the plotline and think I might be able to do something derived from characters in the scene as well, but I've not yet written anything with the early evening pub venue.

Unusually for me, I was camera-less (other than iPhone) at both locations, so the blurriness in these pictures is haste rather than intended effect.

Still.

Enough of this I should get back to writing. Both scenes should be worth at least 500 words.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

NaNoWriMo

espressoIts only a few days into this year's NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month and I wasn't convinced that I'd even get out of the starting box. I tacitly joined up again to get a sense of the buzz and to be able to offer some encouragement to past scribblers.

In practice, the amount of participants this year seems to have swamped the NaNoWriMo site, so I can't actually access it most of the time, instead getting 'SQL errors' and other strange messages. I expect it will subside by the weekend.

For my own attempt, instead of carrying on with the Triangle sequels (The Square is under preparation at the moment), I thought it would be fun to start with a completely blank page. No Plot. No Characters. No Preparation(!) Just to see what happens.

Once again, its a fascinating process. From the first word "He" to the first scenario, it became another experiment with what could happen in this situation. I've still got a rather random collection of characters placed in coffee bars, office blocks and on transport systems, but its already starting to have the makings of a faltering story. In truth, I've no idea where it will go or what will happen, preferring to just think about some 'set-up' at the moment. Once again, placing characters into situations seems to let them define their own operations.

I'm about 6000 words in, which worryingly is enough to make me feel as if I should continue. But this year I have so little time, so I guess I have to trade out sleep.

Waiter, bring more of your finest expresso.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Biotree Inc

IMG_0013
Yes, I'm still tapping away...

The Biotree company they worked for was a producer of biotech equipment. It had developed several of the nanotechnology based products which had created a renaissance for British industry. The most famous was the Aport, which could be used within a bloodstream to manage the walls of veins and arteries. It had revolutionized healthcare since its originally controversial introduction and been developed into a range of products which could manage blood flow, cholesterol build-up and some aspects of cleansing of contaminated organs. The Aport ran as a series of nanobots, which were inserted into a person’s blood stream via the same type of cartridges that were used to manage general heath.

The company had made its fortune from both the devices and the complex software that was required to make them run successfully and without error.

London was still the global headquarters for the company, with other administrative locations in most major countries. The tentacles from the company spread wide and the product base was routinely customised to markets.

The huge secretive manufacturing plants for BioTree’s core nanotechnology were based in several locations around the world. Nevada, USA; Toulouse, France and Melbourne, Australia.

Research and Development had been moved to Bodo in Norway as a strategically safe location. Just within the Arctic Circle, it still had good infrastructural connections including fast land transit, extensive seaborne links and the small matter of a major NATO airbase nestled within the town. The origins as a strategic base went back to annual shows of strength known as the Cold Response, which still occurred under the less obvious title of CORE.

It had other advantages. A local population with their own language, whilst also possessing perfectly good English language skills for handling the incoming scientists. A university base, which had been developed extensively as part of the run-up to the creation of the research faculty.

The location also had an interest appeal for the people stationed there, who were attracted by leading edge research, the best facilities, no practical budgetary limitations and a world class lifestyle during their term. Many tried a six-month spell and then remained for much longer.

Added to this, the Norwegian government had been particularly understanding since the changes in global energy policy as they had needed to re-provision from the decline in North Sea oil and natural gas. They had granted the area a special status as a world economic development zone and it had boosted the relative ranking of the still sparsely populated Norway to a top fifteen economy in terms of its economic freedom.

The subtext was the immense security that surrounded the environment and the commitment of those employed to maintain the secure nature of their work. The Bodo environment was also small enough to mean that unusual activity would be quickly spotted and with the added incentives of the kriminalitetsforebygging (KRÅD) - the criminal intelligence organisation providing added rewards for useful intelligence.

In its heyday Biotree was simply a money machine as the demand was pretty much world-wide and the patents and manufacturing processes had been extensively locked down during the prototyping cycle.

Therefore the employees of the company were routinely subjected to heavy screening before they joined, were provided with extensive benefits and the equivalent of ‘golden handcuffs’ making it exceptionally undesirable to want to leave.

That had been the case until around year ago, when a Chinese manufacturer had started to produce the first clones. Strictly, they were not clones at all. They were a totally different way to produce the same outcome. It was evident that some very smart people had somehow reversed engineered the ‘bots and also the operating systems and now created something extremely similar in its function, but at what worked out to be one tenth of the price.

That had tipped the market and the little nest egg of un-vested shares that Janie and Karin had received when they joined the company were now worth less than one-tenth of their original value. These changes had heralded the management changes and the new people that now walked the corridors.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

an insurrective kitten post

fatcats
Some fat cats lived at the top of a hill.

They had a ball of string and messily wound it around everything. Some kittens took a look at the string but became tangled up in it. The fat cats laughed, pulled the string in and and somehow got fatter.

This made the kittens very angry and they managed break some of the string and chased the fat cats off the hill.

But the fat cats left their messy string behind and the kittens got all tangled up again. The fat cats decided they could drink tea and watch the kittens get in a muddle for a while.

The kittens soon realised the string was the cause of their problem. Unfortunately, the messy fat cats had left so much string that it was too much to clear. The kittens tried and tried but every time they moved some of the tangled string out of the way they found even more knots underneath.

The fat cats shrugged and pretended it was not their string. The kittens had been there long enough for it to look as if they had put the string there in the first place.

Monday, 1 November 2010

pulse

inside the backpack
Scrive clicked the new cartridge into place in his forearm and felt the cold rush snaking from his arm to somewhere inside his head.

Next he checked briefly the small plexi inspection window and could see his blood already changing from a bright red back to orange and he knew that within another twenty minutes it would again be the safe yellow colour.

Like everyone, he knew that red blood spelt danger and he had been particularly careless to let his system deplete its supply of the tropus for so long.

He could now feel a pulse and almost a bubbling sensation on the side of his head above the eyeline on the left side. He knew this was his body regaining its equilibrium. He squeezed both his hands into a fist shape they way they were taught and used his two middle fingers to massage the fleshy areas below his thumbs whilst his system adjusted.

Another five minutes and he was walking to the Tube station. He lived less than ten minutes on foot from the nearest stop and his ride to his office was around fifteen minutes. He could feel the cartridge working and his relaxed acceptance of the day’s tasks was already returning.

He looked briefly towards the sky. A jagged spark had flicked across moments before and now there were what looked like gentle vapour trails crawling along behind what had been a brief tear shooting along the path of the River Thames.

Others walked at a similar pace towards the station, although he ducked to the right into a quieter street that also cut a corner and missed some traffic crossings.

He glanced as he prepared to cross the diagonal into the station and glimpsed someone he recognised.

She had a petite almost boyish build, dressed in black, dark hair in a black band. He’d noticed her for three days now, at exactly the same spot, the same pace and the same appearance. He knew she would look up and he’d see the small tattoo by her left eye. At least he assumed it was a tattoo and not a consistently applied daily make-up. As she passed, he thought he could hear her gently humming a tune. Maybe an iPod, but he couldn’t see any signs of her wearing one.

He descended in to the transport system. His new cartridge meant he had a good range on his transceiver again and could access the transport system without overtly waving his arm over the sensor.

Most travellers referred to the sensors as ‘oysters’ although this was a reference to a long defunct technology, much as the Tube itself was merely a reference to the shape of the original tunnels that formed the original wheel-based transport system.

He used the moving floor system to get to the high-speed transit level and stood for a moment waiting for the next transit pulse. He clipped himself into a free TPOD seat and punched in his destination. The system was pretty foolproof. His cartridge provided the main co-ordinates for his routine travel and a short personalized menu of options had appeared on the screen and he’d just tapped his planned destination.

Of course, he could go to other points within his normal routes or pre-authorise other destinations in advance, from the homelink system. Today was regular, though, or at least that was what he needed to suggest, despite what had happened yesterday.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

harbouring intent

Fowey FY545
Back from idyllic harbours and tang of salt water, to a door that wouldn't open properly because of the accumulation of weekend mail and papers. That's in addition to the complementary hotel newspapers brought back theoretically to read.

At one point during the weekend we were chatting about Generation Zero, which has a premise to operate with a very low consumables footprint.

Minimalist possessions, tread the earth lightly and so on.

I don't think I'd pass the entrance qualifications. As I type this I'm looking at probably two kilos of papers that I might read, and earlier I wheeled the completely full blue bin of recyclables and a separate green crate of glass to be collected tomorrow.

Maybe the upcoming novel writing month will drive "create" over "consume"?

Saturday, 30 October 2010

allentide's dark gathering

greatdarkgathering
Maybe today we'll head along the coast to a couple of sleepy fishing villages.

Our current base camp has offers of spas and saunas as well as mysterious references to a dark gathering by scary little girls.

I shall be paying attention to owls, bats and broomsticks later today.

Friday, 29 October 2010

cornwall unplugged

astute cutaway
Cornwall today, now that my stint at the London event has concluded.

It gave me a chance to try out the new car, although taking it straight to an area with lots of winding roads with narrow clearances and hidden stone walls wasn't necessarily part of the plan.

This car makes beepy sounds if it gets too close to things and various levels of flashing lights appear to encourage suitable caution.

I'm thinking that if that stealth submarine that ran aground had included some of the radar technology from my car then we still wouldn't know what it looked like. Instead, we can draw cutaway sketches of the latest British secret technology.

I don't have my usual computer with me at the moment, and am posting this by a typewriter which I've connected to the internet with clothes pegs and string. There may not be many pictures, until I return from being a friendly pirate.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

a blurry week


Sometimes I take pictures that are sharp and in focus. Other times they are all over the place. I know how to take the sharp ones and my camera even has that point and shoot setting to make it easy.

But other times the blurry ones seem just right. This was one of those moments when the sun was breaking though in an early morning and I was stood watching the steam rising and still able to see my breath waiting for the air to warm up.

It seems too early for frost with the green leaves still dominating the scenery, but in another couple of weeks it will all have changed.

I took the blurry picture on Sunday. The rest of this week (like today) I will be up before the sunrise and on my way to meetings in subterranean rooms.
sun