Saturday, 31 December 2011

a quick look back but fun going forward

Queen Victoria Several of us had arranged a get-together over the Christmas break. It was one of those rare occasions when people are back together more or less in one place including from Australia and USA.

We'd found a pub venue conveniently co-located by a tube station and took the additional precaution of starting the session quite early.

Then to stories and exchanges of information about each others' exploits spanning considerable time periods. Who was in a band? Who was designing theme park rides? Who had somehow acquired holiday property in Malta? Who had a fancy car that had a special button to make it go extra fast? How many of us had spent time living in America? Who had lost a finger in a motorcycle accident? The list goes on...

We'd all known one another very well but had also accumulated the typical 'friendship drift' that occurs, so by no deliberate means we'd all slightly lost track of what each other had been doing.

It's still good though, when people you haven't seen for a while have the same mannerisms and approach along with shared memories and sense of humour.

We drifted from the pub to the nearest and incredibly busy Indian restaurant where we somehow managed to secure a large round table which was soon stacked high with poppadoms, karahis, jalfrezis, bhunas and hot hot garlic chilli curries.

Oh, and naturally some Cobras.

Later still we left the restaurant and headed for another pub.

"You should never go back to the same pub twice in one evening," as we all agreed.

Friday, 30 December 2011

great games and limited television

Great Expectations
Yesterday I seem to remember having to slither around the floor hissing and spitting circular discs onto a target.

Fortunately we'd recorded the last episode of Great Expectations so we could watch that late at night after the rowdiness had subsided (somewhat).

Earlier in the day we'd gone out hunting for a wedding present and my car passengers invented another new game by shouting at the Sat-Nav whilst I was trying to tell the voice recognition the required destination. We did get some unexpected ones as a result - although I'm not sure that the process would catch on - or that I fancied driving to Helsinki.

During Great Expectations, I realised that we'd not really watched much telly at all over the entirety of the Christmas Season.

Mainly the Dickens three-parter (an atmospheric version with another adapted storyline that makes me want to re-read the story). Downton (not really my thing - and could one of the favourite characters really be consigned to 'the drop'?). Doctor Who (okay for a Christmas special - but the series needs a writerly re-vamp again). A Cee-Beebies program about Raymond the Squash (strangely compelling with small children and like minded adults around). And Ab-fab (which, unfortunately, wasn't - although the scene with that knitted jumper was good)

That's about all of the telly we watched, and most of that had been Sky Plussed.

But we did play rather a lot of silly games.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

recording the moment

Home There's been a strange development recently as we've added a vinyl record player back into the rashbre central mix.

One of my totally unexpected Christmas presents, and a very intriguing one.

The rashbre central environment is wifi'd to the hilt and has various sets of speakers connected to the main music server as well as most devices from phones to iPads to PCs being able to select music.

Yet strangely the old-school record player with built in speakers and a manual tone arm and accompanying small stash of albums has been the hit over the holiday period.

There's a different ceremony to listening to music in 20-25 minute blocks with all the sound coming from the same part of the room. Of course, some of the old albums that never made it to CD or MP3 have been resurrected too. And even a couple of recent ones that were presented as vinyl instead of cd (like Evelyn Evelyn).

The idea to do this came about when we were in Hollywood earlier in the year. Strangely enough, the record player in use is an exact replica of the one from there too. Hollywood
A great, if unexpected, holiday souvenir.

Oops, the side has just finished. I must select another one.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

antique antics

Frog and Wicket
This pub is usually a point on one of my bicycle routes where I'd stop for a few minutes, but on Wednesday we loitered there for a couple of pints (shandy in my case).

We'd already been to another sleepy village, where the consensus seemed to be to not open any of the shops again until Thursday at the very earliest. Luckily I didn't have the need for any emergency antique purchases so it wasn't very critical to the day's plans.

Then back to an evening of quizzes interspersed with some Charles Dickens.

And port.

Served in very tiny antique glasses.

And passed to the left.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

no jams, honey

honeyjam
I can understand how people lose track of the right day during this week, but not why everyone wants to rush to the shops by Boxing Day and sit for hours in traffic.

Our successful visits managed to avoid most of the ten mile plus shoppers' traffic jams all around London.

I suspect they are caused by the big shopping centres progressively being sprinkled around the edges of London. There's two either side of the river in East London as well as another new one which opened in time for the Olympics. I noticed the big jam for many miles leading to the north side of the Dartford Crossing.

The west side of London has another large shopping centre which is almost adjacent to the now closed Hammersmith fly-over - one of the main routes in and out of the centre. This would account for the traffic jams I spotted all the way out to the M25 near to the M4. And the middle of London has the usual tourist shopping areas in any case.

By taking the counter-intuitive way around the motorway, we dodged all of the jams we headed for our visits yesterday.

No shopping involved.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Tidings of Comfort and Joy


Ever since the year we accidentally left the front door open on Boxing Day, we've been a bit more careful when we go out.

On Boxing Day, that is.

We'd a complement of extra visitors and lots of shiny new toys and gizmos when we all decided to go out to the pub or something.

The bustling group of us returned later to the sight of a police car and a couple of neighbours loitering in the garden.

"What's happened?" was the obvious question.

"We spotted your door open but no-one in and wondered if something had happened?" (our neighbours know us better than that nowadays). "Phew - the Champagne's still here" I could hear someone shouting.

The police looked as if they'd had enough of the scene and good naturedly prepared to leave. I don't think there was any paperwork, although a lot of thanks to everyone involved.

Nowadays, if neighbours see the door left open (or the car boot), they quietly close it for us and move along.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Greetings

DSCF1736
A quick snap of the tree, now that its been trimmed.

Most of the decorations are ones acquired on various trips and visits, so the little German soldier is from a snowy Christmas spent in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and the little sign behind it says 'Grand Canyon' from a visit about ten years ago.

Behind that (but tastefully blurred in the photo) is a bauble painted in the Native American style from Puget Sound. We picked it up in the Gaslight district of Vancouver.

...But enough. There's mince pies to be eaten.

Festive Seasonal Greetings.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

last minute preparations?

Notting Hill
There were still quite a few shoppers out today, seemlingly buying 'filler-in' items rather than major Christmas purchases.

We'd had a late brunch at Mike's in Notting Hill, before heading to the nearby Electric Cinema to see an afternoon movie. The cinema was filled with the aroma of mulled wine which was being served in half pint beer mugs, complete with mince pies.

Notting Hill

Of course the film was suitably Christmassy too, "It's a Wonderful Life" back on the Silver Screen.

Then outside into the still bustling Portobello Market before a crimson sunset in preparation for Santa's flightpath. Notting Hill

Friday, 23 December 2011

lights twinkle

a few of the lights
Now that most of the lights have moved from bulbs to the little LEDs, there's less things to go wrong than previously.

The biggest area to have to negotiate is the 'prevailing colour along our road'.

I already knew the solar powered blue lights were no-no, but I wasn't sure which kind of white light this year.

It turns out its 'warm white' rather than 'white' and means the houses around all sort of link together with the same theme.

I will sneak the multi-coloured flashing set into an upstairs room later.

And try to liberate and incorporate the multi coloured light up snow man.

Monday, 19 December 2011

the right shoes?

Coffee with the right shoes
Early for a meeting, I decided to grab a late breakfast toast and a cup of coffee. The coffee bar was mainly empty except for two or three people sitting along the walls chugging through emails on their computers.

I took a window seat and concentrated on the toast as I gradually became more aware of my surroundings. Two people arrived at a nearby table. Well-dressed casual. The jacket of one one them was placed on the side, inside out so a large 'Moncler' label was prominent.

This, apparently, was the interviewer.

The other person started to explain their plans and aspirations. It was clearly a job-seeking session.

I tuned out and back to my coffee.

Until I noticed.

The fashionable Moncler one conducting the interview was wearing different shoes. They were the same brown colour but had different patterning.

I wondered if the interviewee had noticed. Or whether the session's intensity meant he would miss this detail.

This wasn't like fashionable different socks.

They say in interviews its good to think of the interviewer in a levelling situation. This one could be easy.

Having to get dressed in the dark.

The toast and coffee was great.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

an on y mous

most useful sunglasses
Some of us have just had a bit of a do and although the main photos won't make it to the internet, this one has the necessary anonymity.

Of course, it's the rectangular sunglasses that do it.

A simple design that can more or less guarantee that the parties at this time of the year won't be giving away more photographic evidence than they should.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

how to rank a london twit

london twitterers I was over at diamond geezer's blog when I noticed his post about twitter.

It provided links to a site that lists various charts about twitterers and naturally I couldn't resist looking at rashbre which turns out to be in the first 150 twitterers in London. I can also check out the rashbre twitter serial number here

Now, after 1,777 days I've done over 2,300 tweets.

At 45 seconds per tweet that would be circa 28 hours of tweeting.

I'd better not add up the blog time.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

lights, fir tree, action?

Our tree for Christmas is currently awaiting preparation. I need to find the tree stand and the lights. The latter will probably require another visit to the garden centre although the newer LED based lights have a higher chance that they will still work.

At the moment the tree is still in that net wrapping and may stay that way until the weekend.

There's still uncharacteristically few lights in houses around the area too. Maybe this weekend is the main lighting up time?

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Liberty print

Liberty 1924
I mentioned we'd been in Liberty's shop for a bite to eat before the show. I thought it worth a further reference to this mock Tudor shop in Argyll Place.

The best way to show it is with the two pictures, from 1924 and another from now, that together illustrate that time may have moved along, but that the store appears somewhat unruffled by the busy area around it.

Parts inside are modernised, but other areas are still of another time, with hand written scrolled writing for the cashier station and a small lift that feels like one is travelling in a piece of oak furniture.

Sure, we were on the third floor among the fancy clothes with their untouchable price tags, the Alexander McQueen and Lady Ga-Ga scarves (between £125-£350) but nearby you could still buy a button, or a neatly folded off-cut of a Liberty print.

And plenty of people were. Liberty

Monday, 12 December 2011

its beginning to look a lot

sloane square Monday evening and we were meeting some friends at the Palladium, which is very central for the West End.

Across the road is the half-timbered splendour of the shop Liberty, with its upstairs cafe area, so we dropped in there first for a Caesar salad before heading into the venue.

Our friends were on top form and spotted us instantly as we climbed the stairs towards the Upper Circle (or whatever it's called). Then a few fizzy drinks before we headed in for the 'one night only' entertainment.

I couldn't help noticing the proper march towards Christmas around the area with the slightly brasher than normal Regent's Street and further afield the ever tasteful Sloane Street and Sloane Square.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Polaroids in a clothes store

The Polaroid book Passing Urban Outfitters when I spotted a few books sprinkled around the place. There were the usual SAS Survival Guides to this and that and Spaceship repair manuals, all as suggested gifts for Christmas.

But what caught my eye was a Taschen book about Polaroids. Around £8. A quick flip through a copy and I was sold.

Nowadays it'll be creating similar effects with a phone camera, but looking through the hundreds of pictures in this book, almost every one was a little work of art.

Some were artfully taken to begin with and others have the after effects of Polaroid's magical processing. It's a great book to browse through and also a fine source of inspiration. Properly bound, printed on lovely paper and with over 300 pages of fine pictures. It's great to have found a real bargain - and bizarrely its a photo book in a clothes shop.

Update: I got emailed after this post - about the wonderful polanoid.net (note spelling) web site which has around 300,000 Polaroids loaded and a 'picture of the day' slot.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

no seaside this week

not this weekend
This weekend I don't need to think about re-packing various bags for the next week of travel. It will be the first week in a month where I've not been travelling.

The view in the picture is approximately the one from my hotel when I've been away in the week - although this is actually from me walking closer to the pier to see the view from sea-level.

I've come to appreciate the sunrises and sunsets, the various rapidly changing weather and the speed at which the tides come in on this part of the coastline.

I'll still need to visit, but the next meetings are being scheduled for London instead. I'm sort of missing this deserted wintry seaside already.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Canon .MXF into Final Cut Pro X, via Foxreal

FCPX Today I've been editing video for several hours.

It was a fairly simple edit, but of a large amount of raw material, so I decided to try Final Cut Pro X, instead my more usual Final Cut Studio. FCPX is supposed to herald the modern digital workflow for video.

And I was using a completely digital workflow, using CF based files direct from the camcorder in a professional format (4:2:2). I was therefore somewhat surprised to see that FCPX doesn't seem to support the current generation Canon format (.MXF).

I could Log the recording into the older FCP Studio version, but to work with FCPX I had to use another circa £35 program (Foxreal) to import the files. I had to transcode everything from .MXF to ProRes 422.

I felt it defeated the object of the claimed digital workflow if the latest software didn't work with one of the main digital camcorder formats.

My edit is complete now and the final version is currently outputting to disk before I convert it to DVD, hence this time to muse on the exercise. I'll probably revert to FCP Studio for my next edits, and wait for FCPX to acquire some more functionality.

Friday, 2 December 2011

passed, present and connect

anamorphically flared bus I was close to my sister's place yesterday.

It was an unplanned visit on my way back from somewhere else and I called by phone a few minutes ahead of arrival, didn't get an answer and then instead re-routed back towards the motorway to continue my journey. Passing by.

She's just back from Chicago and I wondered if the different hours were having a residual effect. She called me some 30 seconds before I was back onto the slip road, giving me just enough time to change direction to return to visit.

I was able to marvel at her new glass installation pieces, currently in the hallway. It all looked somewhat avant-garde.

And then the delight of being presented with a Macy's box. Unexpected. A birthday present. I started to quip about lateness but realised I am a far worse offender.

Sometimes my outbound presents arrive in the wrong year. And then there's that embarrassing time when I forgot I'd already bought presents and bought another set.

Ooops.

I'd better start a list for the upcoming season.