Wednesday, 26 May 2010

things are looking up

things are looking up
Despite the clear skies, the cars around our way seem to have a layer of brown dust across them at the moment. I can't decide if it has anything to do with Iceland.

In other news, I may be taking a few days holiday at the end of this week.

Monday, 24 May 2010

fresh air reviewing

Bicycle ride
I'm spending most of today reviewing some work items, which means sitting indoors looking at the mysterious condition known as 'Summer' occurring outside.

But I'll come clean.

I needed to go on a short errand earlier, which gave me the excuse to fill my Camelbak with icy water, stuff a few of the review papers in the same backpack and use the bicycle instead of the car for the journey.

This meant I could take a slightly different route along a few back roads and also pause a while under a leafy tree to continue my reviewing al fresco.

No such chance for the rest of the week, when I'll be office based.
Bicycle ride

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Summer Alert

DSC_9309
Sunday seems to have brought a proper summer's day along. Nothing for it but to head for the beach, although that seems to have been many other peoples' plans too, so traffic avoidance was part of the process.

Nonetheless, we found a sandy area looking out towards the Isle of Wight and spent pleasant hours in the sunshine.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

dream dna sequence

dream-sequence
A few days ago, over dinner, I was briefly describing one of my dreams and the people present were somewhat surprised at what they saw as bizarre content. Readers of this blog will know better.

To be honest, I can't even remember the dream properly now (as is the way) but I expect my more recent ones are equally 'imaginative'.

But instead of describing one, I thought I'd select a few components from the last few days that could easily make an interesting dream sequence or probably at least appear in a few of the newspapers as cartoons.

Which components to select?

1) The UK coalition - Clegg and Cameron - "Claggeron"?
2) The roll-on deodorant shaped mascots for the Olympics.
3) "Synthia", the newly created and self replicating life-form created by re-booting a dormant bacteria using a chemically generated DNA strip.
4) Any other set of recent newsworthy twins - Jedward is a bit old but has the right type of hairstyle

So my dream sequence could be something that creates a new lifeform, which somehow mutates into orange and blue pairs, with identical hairstyles and then takes over the world/economy?

Truth/Fiction/Dream? - You decide...

Friday, 21 May 2010

ashes to ashes finale

The Railway Arms
I've been quietly enjoying the "Ashes to Ashes" series, which finally ended on Friday night, including some neat wrapping of its interplay with the prior "Life on Mars" series.

I'm not sure whether the plot links would have been considered when the preceding Life on Mars series were made, but it was certainly well done, even if some of it had been retrofitted.

At it simplest level, Ashes to Ashes allowed a modern action police series to be set in the 1980s, be politically incorrect and break many modern day policing regulations. The blend of the surreal moments and the intrusion of cosmic forces added a certain spike to the show alongside some regular moments, such as the boozing in the subterranean Italian bistro. Indeed, even in the complex finale episode, there was also a diamond heist crime story in amongst the main storytelling.

The part I had guessed was that the Police Station was a sort of Underworld staging post and that maybe the new DI Kemp was a Charon figure ferrying souls to his variation of a Hell.

What made it fun, though, was that there was still enough originality in the scripts and ending, so that unless you'd sat down and analysed the show (I expect some did this), then for the average viewer there was a good chance to still be surprised.

As an example, I'd worked out the nemesis role, but hadn't picked up on the three lost souls that would form part of the ending. The moody lighting and cutaways in the final episodes helped to signpost this, but until Episode 7 I'd not really picked up the pointers (I watched the last two episodes together - travel, don't you know?)

I also didn't really figure out the Gene Hunt back story until it was unfolding, and found this to be a satisfying way to see the edges of the reality start to melt away.

I also smiled with the final scene, which even had a door slightly ajar during what was really a reset of the reality.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

crossing the alps a couple of times

The AlpsWell, I'm back from Milano, after a couple of good flights over the Alps, captured here on my iPhone.

I used to work in Milan and my return trips always evoke the hustle and bustle of the place. Right from landing in Linate, walking down the old-school stairs to the tarmac and picking up a bus back to the terminal, past the vast hangar decorated with "Giorgio Armani" written in huge neon.

Then to the 'non-queue' for the passports and eventually into the terminal to be greeted by a suited driver wearing wraparound shades always with a black Mercedes that speeds through the special lanes of the city, avoiding most of the lines of traffic.

Milan's traffic is 'imaginative' with interesting manoeuvres and very advanced parking techniques.

When I left the city, my check-in was almost too late, and I had to be phoned through from the desk to the plane check-in. I sat in the return flight with that once-familiar feeling of 'powering down' after spending time in the city.

Here's one I prepared earlier...as they say.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

day of the mascot

day of the tentacle

I can't help thinking of that old, but excellent, PC game "Day of the Tentacle" when I see that new Olympic Mascot...

It's probably just me, though...

dott2

Monday, 17 May 2010

hold very tight, please - ding ding

new london bus
One of my ways of bringing this blog back to London topics is to post the occasional picture of a red bus or black cab. I suppose the recent Downing Street posts would also count, but I can't miss the chance to post a picture of the planned new London bus, which the Mayor of London has just unveiled.

It tips a hat to the Routemaster, with the open rear platform, but also has a glass stairway that give the outside a distinctive and difficult to draw look.

The video below, complete with its special 'busy/old school chemistry lesson music' gives more of an impression of what will be in service by the time the Olympics hit town.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

time at rest

Angel on the Bridge
The theory of a full weekend somehow melted away. It's already Sunday evening and I'm not quite sure what has happened.

Saturday required me to work, so I was huddled over a computer until the early afternoon. Then brunch followed by grocery shopping and a pause to watch Doctor Who in a dreamlike state. An evening meal and the day had somehow dissolved.

Never mind, I had plans for Sunday, but today hasn't gone exactly where I expected. No big deal, but today feels like I've been operating in slow motion. Terry Pratchett invented that idea of the 'Procrastinator' as a kind of machine to park time 'at rest' to re-use it later. I could have used that this weekend, when I could have banked some of my 'slow time' to use on another occasion when everything has speeded up again. However, going with the flow somehow feels right at the moment.

It's the City tomorrow, then Milan, flying on Alitalia to bypass the predicted BA disputes but still dependent upon the new volcanic activity.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Windows for Mac on a USB stick

windows on a stick
I thank maximumbob for the idea to try this.

I do run the occasional Windows application on one of my Macs, and have Parallels installed for this purpose. I considered doing the same on my MacBook Pro, but couldn't justify the disk space.

Enter a USB memory stick. I reformatted the memory stick for the Mac filing system and just dragged the windows image onto it. Then I fired up Parallels and told it to look at the stick for a Windows image.

Hey presto. Windows on a stick.

So now I can transfer the single image between the iMac and the MacBook should the need arise and I don't have to fill the two machines with surplus Windows images because everything is on the stick.

Excellent.

Now to delete the iMac Windows Image.

Friday, 14 May 2010

foxy

fox and hounds
Yesterday evening we turned on the pub scanner. Not the type on an iPhone, but simply one based upon our collective opinions.

Would it be The Duchess, looking towards Battersea Power Station, with the Jimi Hendrix room?

Or the regular Rose and Crown on the way to Sloane Street?

Maybe the bustling Trafalgar in Kings Road?

Or that one by the red phone box near Grosvenor Bridge?

In the end we turned towards Pimlico.

To the tiny frontaged Fox and Hounds, and inside for a glug of Youngs, whilst the light evening turned to night and we talked of the barge people and unwritten adventures of Emily Jenkins.

And sure enough, as we left a real fox slid past us along Passmore Street before taking a short cut towards Holbein Mews.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

new lawn mower

demolition
I said I'd need to get away from election related posts, so here's a scene from the garden today. Very spring-like as a wild bunny decides to attack the daisies growing through the grass.

This particular bunny hides behind the foliage from the broom bush in the corner of the garden. I assume there are complex tunnels leading to other timezones and continuums. More to the point, the neighbourhood cats haven't discovered them yet.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

tree

whitehall
It's probably time to back away from daily posts about the election now; some of the reporters are moving their cameras out and it's surprisingly easy to move around Whitehall and the various political areas of London.

The area usually has its share of protestors and banner wavers and Wednesday is no exception, with a couple of people in a prominent tree by Downing Street - but you do have to look carefully.

On that note, I suppose we will all need to look carefully over the next few weeks to see what the new leadership intends to do with the country.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Brown resigns as PM and Clegg becomes Deputy PM in new government? *

screenshot_01
Some of us will remember that Brownian motion can be used to explain the way tea and milk mix together in a cup without stirring.

It could also be whimsically used to explain the seemingly random movement of politicians suspended in a fluid situation.

There's a mathematical model often called a particle theory but that's probably where the politicians start to diverge, because Brownian motion is based upon the universality of the normal distribution.

I'd say there is anything but a normal distribution in the recent political events we've been witnessing in the UK.

* = OK, I was guessing...

Monday, 10 May 2010

here's one I prepared earlier

as if...
Yes, I know its a bad piece of photoshopping.

That the truck is a different scale from the policeman. That I've used the bubble wrap option in filter gallery to smooth over the pixellated edges.

It must all still be fictitious then... as if they'd bring the van around to the front, when the ex-PM has a perfectly good back way out.

Eventually...

Sunday, 9 May 2010

unplugged

The Ghost
Enjoyable tapas yesterday evening after watching the Polanski movie about an exiled ex-Prime Minister having his memoirs ghosted. Quite a reasonable plot line actually, with Ewan McGregor filling the gaps after a previous ghost writer fell into the sea, so to speak.

Of course, the UK plotline continued too, with a most entertaining interlude yesterday afternoon when the 'take back Parliament' protestors argued for electoral reform outside Clegg's meeting in Smith Square. There were some peaceful protests with people carrying speech bubbles behind the commentators doing 'to camera' narratives live.

Action then moved to Parliament Square and the Sky team's commentary box, which was heckled following two rather hectoring interviews with some of the polite but not particularly media hardened protestors. A third guy being interviewed smiled as he was overtaken by the sounds from protestors and unusually Sky pulled the plugs and dropped into a screensaver.

Meantime, Mr Brown headed for Fife, so any weekend 'power negotiations' with Clegg would have been by phone, but has then returned perhaps for a face-to-face update plea with Clegg before tomorrow's resignation news breaks?
dead air

Saturday, 8 May 2010

proportional truth

The Jenkins Report
I can't help wondering how cynical the offers to Clegg of anything related to proportional representation really are? The previous attempt to review this was by Labour in 1998 and is gathering dust.

It wasn't exactly earth shaking in any case, cautiously recommending that 80-85% of the elected reps should still be on the old basis and small amount of correction could then be selectively applied.

You'll struggle to find the recommendations in the report available here, amongst the waffle.

Even before this, the previous offer was ages ago from Ted Heath to Jeremy Thorpe to look at the same issue.

The big parties don't want this to succeed because it dents their own power. I suspect the latest offers are just as manipulative as any episode of 'Yes Minister' or 'The Thick of It' and in the case of Brown there could also be 'the old switcheroo' where he offers something before perhaps Mandelson stealthily presides over the rotation of Brown from leadership. We can speculate on rumours of David Miliband, John Cruddas and Ed Balls as successors but all of whom are all resolutely silent at the moment.

My own theory is that these "reform" offers have a proportionality based upon a desperation for power and an influence half life measured in days, whilst creating a distraction value measured in years.

Friday, 7 May 2010

quackers

dux2
My prior calculations were that we'd end with a hung Parliament with a slight Conservative lead (the lead came out a bit larger than my calculation). I'm sure the smart people in the back offices of the various parties had this scenario as a prime outcome, whatever their public face.

Now we may go into a weekend of speculation, somewhat like the long gaps between news nuggets yesterday evening, where pundits tried to extrapolate single data points and were almost relieved to find the second story about the locked out voters.

- So Cameron says he has the most votes (more than 10 million) and should become PM with a minority lead party.
- Clegg (more than 6 million votes) has previously agreed that the biggest vote should get the next chance to straighten things (ie Tory)
- Brown (more than 8 million votes) won't want to give in that easily and may dangle proportional representation in Clegg's direction to try to create an alliance.

It sets the scene for 48 hours of pre-rehearsed deal-making and changes to weekend television schedules.

Its anybody's guess, so maybe there will be pressure for another budget, a lightweight reform of the voting model "Let the people decide in a Referendum?" and the thought that we'll have to go through this all over again in a few months time.

results rumour of second UK election on 25 November 2010?

Guy_Fawkes_burnIf the Parliamentary timetable for the Queen's speech is to be believed, then Parliament should reconvene on Tuesday 18th May and the Speech would be on Tuesday 25th May.

I wonder if this will be possible given the current blip in continuity, whilst some post election introspection takes place? What's the shortest time between elections? Someone will know. I'll hazard a guess at six months, so maybe 25th November would be a round six months from the speech making and could see a new Parliament up and running for 2011?

That's enough time for parties to re-organise and perhaps a more balanced set of voting practices to be devised.

All the politicians are pointedly saying they are working for the "National Interest" now, rather than their own agendas, so perhaps anything related to improving the representation of the people could be on their minds, rather than their own self-promotion?

(Approximate votes per seat: Labour = 33k ; Tory 35k; LibDem 120k)

Thursday, 6 May 2010

counted in

BBC Swingometer 1959
The previous time I voted I was literally the first person into the polling station. I hadn't planned it, but I was there before they opened and once inside decided to hurry through the voting process to guarantee to be first to put my vote into the ballot box.

Not so this time, as I popped into the polling station between two telephone meetings. I'd just finished talking to someone in Rome and my next call was with Belgium, but I had just enough time in between to cast my votes.

As I arrived at the polling station, all was relatively quiet and I was able to go straight to the desk, pick up the papers and add my crosses. I'd been asked for my voter number on the way in by an agent with a conspicuous rosette. He was the only political agent present at that time.

For one of the votes I only had a choice of two candidates, with no Labour representation in my local Ward.

As I left, a visually impaired woman had found the number gathering agent and was asking him where he stood on 'shared spaces' - the road systems which don't delineate road and pavement and remove signage thus requiring new forms of driver discipline. It was a great question from the woman who had just been guided by another into the voting area. The initial well-intended but content free preamble to a response lasted from my exit until I was out of earshot.

At which point my attention was diverted to the interesting driving technique of a people carrier which had somehow driven across a flower bed and now seemed to be somehow balanced on three wheels. This was quite exciting as there was a solid flow of cars into and out of the polling station car park which were now all part of a miniature grid lock. My mind strayed back to the shared spaces and driver discipline question, which was still continuing in the background of a scene of mechanical mayhem.

Quietly, in an adjacent car, I could see another agent with a smaller and different coloured rosette talking into his cellphone.

Maybe his shift on the number counting was about to start, with all of this activity eventually feeding back into the giant television swingometers we'll all be able to watch later this evening.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

altitude check

chasing the sun at 450mph
Up before dawn so that I could travel to Germany. The BBC World Service was telling of the new smoke from the Icelandic volcano, so as I chipped the frost from my car before heading for the airport I wondered if I'd be stuck somewhere random in Europe by the end of the day.

Taxis, meeting people in lobbies, conference rooms until I was swept back to the airport to return at a similar time to the setting sun.

"There'll be some bumpiness for the first 20 minutes" explained the pilot. We were in one of those smaller planes that is only three seats across. The type where they worry about the load profile to ensure that the plane flies level.

Up through the clouds and I could see the distant sun setting slowly as we travelled towards it at 450mph and below it a notable orange haze. I know there's often something like this, but with the volcano stories I felt compelled to watch and wonder if it was the usual thing or something special created by the ash. There were certainly magical swirls as we approached the UK again.

Amusingly, I did at one point check whether the rather small plane flew at a normal cruising "above ash" altitude or would for some reason be lower. Sure enough, 37,000 feet, it said on the specification.

I'm back in England now and when I looked up, the night sky was clear and I could start to count the stars.

Monday, 3 May 2010

blue eyed boy bait

blue eyed boy bait
I try to work out if the Vodka Girls are on a different tier from the Beer Ladies. Their attire seems about the same, although I'm not wearing sun-shades this time. I can hear Jeff Mangum's voice and the chair scrape that is really a guitar being unplugged. Yusef may think his map covers my whole mind, but I know India's eye-needle forcefulness can control the sun.

Maybe the tight bassline trails the backbeat in the Lucky Strike smoke, but I'm remembering that thigh squeak on the car bonnet whilst she was telling me about the shotgun. It's magnet abuse whilst they teach me to palm the apricots and avocados, but I'll use the beer can ice fragments to cool me in this desert.

This may not be exactly the blue eyed boy bait, but it's close enough without advertising.

counting the political boundaries

DSC_8108
I've been looking at a few of the analyses of the polls and thought I'd spend five minutes doing my own. In many scenarios the numbers yield an interesting skew to the outcome.

Because of the adjustments to political boundaries and the non-proportional voting system, there are all kinds of unexpected splits that occur if there isn't an outright winner with half the seats and an outright majority.

Before the election, Labour has 345 seats, which is a proper majority of the 646 available. With the varied swings predicted, this could drop by 75-90 seats, spread between Conservatives (mainly) and Liberal Democrat (some).

Its interesting, because with the lowest percentage of the overall votes (27%), the Labour party could still finish with the most total seats of the three parties (259).

With a more evenly balanced split with the most votes going to a mobilised Conservative party (34%) then the next to the Lib Dems (30%) and the lowest to Labour (28%), we'd still see the most seats go to Labour at 267, then Conservative at 255.

And supposing the Lib Dems managed to get the most overall votes (33%), with Conservative at 32% and Labour at 27%, then we's still see Labour with the highest number of seats at 259, and Lib Dems with around 128.

Some of this doesn't seem quite right to me.
Voting Scenarios

Sunday, 2 May 2010

pollen overload but cowboy bebop remix marathon


Well, the pollen has got me today but I've been watching some more Cowboy Bebop Remix Anime Sci-fi through the tears. It's a new form of red-eye, but the drugs will help, despite my cooking with onions.

Oops.

Here's a couple of trailers from the series.

Second UK election in November?

bluebells
I decided not to let Sunday escape in the same way as Saturday, so started the day somewhat earlier. I could feel smug that by the time most people were starting their day I'd already been out for a bike ride, done some modest shopping, watched a short video (I'm re-watching the whole Cowboy Bebop Sci-fi series in sequence at the moment) and caught up with the news.

The main story this morning is about that Nissan car full of explosives found in Times Square. Worrisome that a few tanks of propane and some domestic fireworks can be rigged up so easily.
Times Square
The Times Square story pushed the UK electioneering from top story, but I've decided its time to start speculating about the post election actions of the 'winning' parties.

Intriguingly, if there's no proper majority, Mr Brown can attempt to stay on as acting PM and Whitehall could delay reconvening Parliament. Set the controls for the heart of the sun. Next Friday could be very interesting.

But assuming we reach a point where there's some kind of improbable coalition not involving Mr Brown, there needs to be a contingency plan about what next.

My speculation is an extra budget to look decisive to the money people, a boundary review of constituencies and then another election in November. Questions on these actions could have been good content for the recent debates, but it all seems to be embargoed by the spinners until the results are in.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

in which my woolly thinking makes me listless

lambs
It's supposed to be a long weekend, but I had a rather late Saturday start. I suspect the efforts of the week had somehow piled up and forced me to take it easy.

That's good in some ways, but also means my 'down time' isn't being spent doing 'my' stuff.

In addition, there's an increasing pile of domestic paperwork to ripple through and sort out. Sometimes it's like there is a conspiracy around Bank Holiday weekends which become extended rainy domestic administration times instead of fun style decompression.

Well, I suppose I this afternoon managed to cycle over a few hills to look lambs frolicking in the fields in keeping with today's new report that says even five minutes of exercise in green spaces is beneficial. Part way along a mad rain soaked my underprepared clothing and I had to shelter under a tree until a big brown dog told me to move on.

It was the second tree that had a good view of the sheep, followed by the reappearance of the sun.

This could all have been a tick in the right box if I'd planned it; what's the old saying, "No lists make me listless"...?