Tuesday, 31 December 2013

approaching the wire


Instead of a photograph of the siege-like scenes at the local supermarket today, here's a second version of the rashbre central 2013 video. Fractionally slower, slightly edited and this time with a proper 2013 music track added. Haim - The Wire.

My bicycle spin earlier means I've just passed 2k on the silver bike. That will suffice. 6.2k miles total for the year. A tough target to beat for 2014.

Next up it's a movie - a 1957 oldie actually - Barbary Coast dives in San Francisco with Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth in Pal Joey.

It'll set the scene for whatever we have planned for the evening.

Happy New Year. Here's to a great 2014.

Monday, 30 December 2013

end of year bike mileage


I've not done much cycling during December, although Sunday saw me clock up around 30 miles. My TSS and other sustained metrics have all nosedived although I'll be starting up again now that the mince pie obstacles have largely passed.

I've kept up with my various targets for the year, and my total mileage is somewhere over 6,000, which seems surprisingly high and will probably be difficult to replicate in 2014.

There's only a couple of days left now, so I'm idly looking at whether I can get the mileage on the reconstituted silver bike over 2,000 before year end. I know I'm close, and that is probably the only remaining vaguely attainable target.

It may well depend upon the amount of frost over the next couple of days.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

another form of time machine


Time to sit down for a few minutes to read the once-a-year purchased Radio Times. Yes, The Christmas Double Edition. Already into the second week, like the countdown has started back to normality.

A curious aspect has been a glance at today's viewing. It's like a throwback to another era, at least on the main channels (once referred to as the terrestrial channels).

Unless I missed the memo, we seem to be stuck in a time warp. Some examples of the programming:

BBC2 Porridge : comedy prison series from 1976.
BBC2 Morecambe and Wise : comedy show from a long time ago.
BBC2 Top of The Pops Christmas Special : featuring Slade, Wizzard and various other 1970 acts.
ITV1 Agatha Christie's Miss Marple : Apparently this is new? but the main series is from ages ago.
C5 An Audience with Bruce Forsyth : Star of the 1970s+. New, but surely we have had enough over the last 13 weeks of SCD?
ITV2 The Empire Strikes Back : yes, from 1980.
ITV3 Agatha Christie's Poirot : ...you get the idea.

Around this there's a few quiz shows, a couple of 'behind the scenes' Doctor Who programmes and a couple of more recent light-hearted movies. An altogether strange mix of nostalgia and presumably economy programming.

BBC have been plugging Antiques Roadshow's Van Dyke discovery rather heavily, so maybe that's the main option?

Saturday, 28 December 2013

2013 in rashbre vision


Time for one of my speedy looks through the year, using some of (mainly) my snaps that made it to flickr and the blog.

This includes London, Bicycles, Newcastle, Greggs Iced Buns, Majorca, Seattle, Home made guitars, Pacific Highway 101, miscellaneous events and a few pop tarts. No pummel vision so it's all edited together by dumping the pictures into Final Cut X and then setting a suitably brief frame duration.

It's probably sensible to have a paracetamol to hand whilst watching.

Last year below, as a reference:

It's fun going forward.

Friday, 27 December 2013

a state of flux


I've been enjoying the various presents from Christmas, some of which were quite consumable.

There's one item that I know was on a few lists, that seems to have a very long shelf life. I believe it is only half used in 4.5 billion years, so this one is a real keeper.

If I ever get around to completing the flux capacitor, this could be a useful addition.

Along with that book about how to avoid huge ships, it certainly gets interesting reviews on Amazon.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

lemon drop pause


We're all taking a few minutes pause at the moment.

The Champagne lemon drop cocktails are in preparation. They've involved heating some kind of home made syrup and then cooling it again before adding to the fizz.

Actually it has just arrived and tastes astonishingly good. I'm hearing background chatter about the amount of vodka that was added, and that brown caster sugar was used as well as more lemon than in the normal mix.

The homemade parmesan and tomato bread has gone down well and there's some kind or surprise unveiling of a dessert soon.

Oops. Time for a few more party games.




Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

top of the (little) tree


It looks as if we are getting prepared. Even the small tree seems to have been visited.

Monday, 23 December 2013

a spot of severe weather


An interesting journey home in the wee small hours, in a swirling darkness and with trees strewn trickily across the country lanes.

We'd been on the M25, in a seldom seen empty condition as we joined a few other motorists cautiously driving through the spray.

On the side roads I had to navigate around fallen timber with much of the road surface covered with small shreds of trees battered by the high winds.

Even larger roads were tricky, because at this early morning time the services to clear the way hadn't really got mobilised for the area affected. The radio's weather forecast even featured a force 10 gale somewhere out at sea.

Earlier we'd been for a curry and somehow oblivious to the weather.

As we'd turned back into the street it was obvious that the whole evening had been battered by gale force winds and car wash intensity rain.

They say it will calm down for Christmas Eve. I hope so, in order for Santa's sleigh to make a good journey.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

early television overload


I seemed to watch a surprisingly large amount of television on Sunday. Scrooged (obviously), but also The Snowman, Homeland, an episode of Harry Potter and Never Let Me Go.

It kind of snuck up. The fire was blazing, we'd got the tree ready for lights and decorations and there was warm soup and mince pies on offer.

So let's recap:

Scrooged: An essential view at Christmas. A 1980 take on 'A Christmas Carol', it's a Dicken's of a movie. Including the sing-along finale.

The Snowman: Probably 2-3 years since I last saw this, and I'd forgotten that it features David Bowie in the introduction. Fast flights from Brighton to visit Santa at the North Pole.

Homeland: The last of the current series, in a series that lapsed into soap drama in places. I suppose they didn't want to leave Brody's future role hanging, but there were some remarkable escape scenes preceding it. Walking out of the most secure complex in Iran during a coffee break? Driving Hummers to the cottage to stealthily surround Carrie and Brody? Re-employing the unstable Carrie a a prestigious station chief in a hot zone. I can already predict the plot line in the next series, when Saul and Carrie have to join forces to save Merca after a botch-up by the new Senator in charge of Homeland. Maybe they'll invite Jack Bauer along?

Harry Potter: One I'd not seen before. Shot in Pantone 455, dark forces threatened the future of Hogwarts, with striking scenery, wizardry, a bit of snogging and a great game of Hogbat.

Never Let Me Go: A thoughtful morality tale of raising clones to repair humans. Set in idyllic English countryside, sensitively directed and acted. I've read the book and even written about it here before. A bitter sweet thought provoker that tests the soul.

That's the television box ticked for the festive season. Tomorrow it's a gang of us at the pub.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Scottish fir tree acquired. Now for the dex.


Well, I've hunted down the Christmas tree. It was more difficult than I expected. I arrived at the usual place and instead of the typical trees stretching as far as the eye could see there were just five trees left.

I use the word 'trees' reservedly. They were being advertised as trees, but my ex-greengrocer instincts cut in and I decided that they should really be classed as stray collections of branches and twigs.

It was fascinating that they were all from different ranges too, as if the entire collections had been selected down to the last few whittles.

I had to leave empty handed. This would be problem if I returned home without a tree, so I moved along to the next place. A farm shop. They had a huge advertisement for trees.

But no trees at all. A nice line in mistletoe, but no trees. My inner greengrocer noticed that the mistletoe was on sale as well. Back in the day the mistletoe was given away free.

Next stop, a huge superstore. So huge that the entire car park was filled and people were double parking on yellow lines. I decided to give this one a miss. Surely any remaining trees in this establishment would have been snapped up but it would talk me a good half an hour to discover this. I moved on.

Instead to palatial garden centre, which had people marshalling the cars into the car park. They directed me to a parking spot, which I noticed was really for electric cars complete with the recharging points. This place would surely have trees?

It did.

Even the Nordman ones that don't drop their needles.

Mine was 'red 593414', which I looked up on the needlefresh.co.uk web site.

It was from near North Kessoch on The Black Isle at the Moray Firth. In shipping forecast terms it's Cromarty. There's a high rainfall and minimal frosts due to the Gulf Stream circulating round this peninsula-style island, and this produces vigorous growth in the trees.

Now to locate the decorations, from the depths of the garage.

Friday, 20 December 2013

spot the shopper


They are saying that this weekend is going to be the biggest shopping weekend for Christmas in the UK. Even by my standards, it seems a bit late.

I've noticed London already emptying out, although whilst in Newcastle for the last couple of days, there seemed to be quite a bustle in the shopping areas.

The advertisers are all copying one another in the final countdown. It kind of spoils the effect by removing any uniqueness. They might as well just say,"buy food".

And the sales appear to have started too. 20% then 30% and beyond. I thought the sales traditionally started around Boxing Day?

Perhaps my photograph above is a clue. A few days ago I was at one of the largest shopping malls in London (don't ask) but not only was it easy to get in, but the car park had vast empty areas. Yes, the shops were open, but the people seemed to be elsewhere.

I'll be tree hunting tomorrow, but that's about the limit of my planned retail experience for the day.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

trashed noir festivities


Yes, we were out at the Christmas Noir yesterday evening. The initial images may be somewhat blurry, but it was a fine time.

Gangsters, molls, drunk tanks, a murder bear (the one that was upstair in the attic when Goldilocks visited). They all played a part.

Across W.N Herbert's ursine tales, the Macguffin of a noir tale, the stanza'd hexameter(?) from Sean O'Brien, a Mixtape special re-enactment of a slightly troubling Christmas moment or the full on swing country blues of Rob Heron & the Tea Pad Orchestra. Compered by Mr Drayton, the Trashed Organites has curated a fine festive and somewhat twisted Christmas Noir. Topped off with the audience participation of a Trashed Laureate Port prize.

We're waiting for the official pictures, but in the interim, here's a small and rather excellent tune from Rob Heron & the Tea Pad Orchestra, live from a shed.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

jumping frogs and glow stick glasses

image
I said I'd get around to an annual picture of Sloane Square with its blue and white lights. I've even managed to include a black cab.

Part of the plot involved buying a few small items for a lucky dip type of festive occasion. Glow stick glasses. Tinsel pipe cleaners. Miniature bowling alley.
image
A gold tiara. A judge's wig. A propeller hat. A clockwork frog (or two). A sparking yo-yo. You know the kind of things.

All we need now is a picture of the inside of a well-known neighbourhood department store.
Peter Jones

Monday, 16 December 2013

almond croissant

image
Sheltering from 45 degree rain before heading into a meeting. I've been over in Greenwich by the Dome, waiting in a coffee bar for the others to arrive.

Almond croissant and latte.

At least we'd picked a coffee bar to meet; somewhat better than a few days ago when the 'full of festive joy' somehow didn't live up to expectations.
It says it's full of festive joy

Sunday, 15 December 2013

fitbit and cycling

Around Chelsea
I'm about to go cycling, and thought I'd try an experiment with fitbit to see how it compares with cycle usage.

I've been using fitbit for a while but never bothered to check accurately what it does if I use it when on a bike. I've always surmised that it counts each pedal revolution as a step (which seems fair to me), so today I'll actually measure it properly.

Mine is the fitbit One, which is the small version that can go in a pocket rather than something on a wristband, which I consider to be rather too obvious. The Nike systems all use wristbands, but I'm not sure that I want to walk around lit like the festive season all year.

My fitbit is at 5,137 steps and 2.37 miles walked today so far. I'll check it again when I actually start cycling and again when I finish. Then I can link it to the number of pedal cycles I've done, based upon my Garmin read-out.
screenshot_305
Update to follow...

Update
So my revised fitbit count after the bike ride is 12547. And the number of pedal rotations was 6,870 according to Garmin Connect. There's about 212 steps unaccounted for, which is me faffing around to get the bike ready and also a short false start when I reset the Garmin after about a minute. Close enough.
screenshot_308
So, I'll conclude that the fitbit is counting pedal rotations quite accurately.

The mileage is way off compared with the amount I travelled, but I don't really care about that, which I can pick up on Garmin. It's just useful to have a fitbit count that includes a representation of cycling time. I'm also much happier to have a low count for mileage compared with my actual cycling (more than 20 miles) which could otherwise be construed as cheating.

I'll still use the Garmin for calories etc, but it's good to know that the fitbit and Garmin are consistent.
screenshot_307

Saturday, 14 December 2013

in which i am troubled by seasonal inaccuracies

Grosvenor Bridge
One of the challenges with using London scenes in blog posts is trying to ensure that they represent the time of year properly.

Of course, when it's a recent picture, like the one above, then it's easy. Grosvenor Bridge, looking towards the London Eye.

Even if the scene looks unseasonally bright, it's still authentic.

That is not always the case with television series, which sometimes purport to be of the moment but have just the wrong foliage or shadows. That tree might still have bright green leaves, for example.

I doubt if I'd notice, if it wasn't for blogging, but nowadays I can't help spotting seasonal inaccuracies in TV shows.

Should I be worried by this trait?

Friday, 13 December 2013

Colbert Oriel

Around Chelsea
We stopped off at Colbert for a bite to eat. It reopened about a year ago, after a kerfuffle about the previous place that was on the site, called Oriel.

We used to go to Oriel which was a buzzy French style cafe. They served a good breakfast and it was somewhere you could turn up and somehow get squeezed in.

The owner of the area, Earl Cadogan, reputedly didn't like the service at Oriel and thought the food expensive and so he wouldn't renew their lease.

For probably a couple of years it was then a building site on the corner of Sloane Square. Some of us wondered what would emerge, after such a long time.
Colbert
When it finally did, it was - er- another French brasserie. Similar look, reconfigured walls, similar menu, but new owners, now part of the conglomerate that runs the Wolseley, which is the place just across the road from the Ritz.

The one year old establishment has been made to look as if its been there for ages, even down to a set of slightly worn looking postcards hanging from the drinks shelves in the bar area. Vintage theatre posters adorn the walls, including shows from the nearly adjacent Royal Court.

I'm sure they've modernised something (the kitchens, maybe?) but for all practical purposes they have simply recreated Oriel with a new name.
IMG_1333

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Battersea, with cranes

Around Chelsea
First day with a regular camera again, instead of just the cellphone.

Considering how far we are through December, London has still got sunshine and generally clear skies.

Note the background of cranes as another new area of London begins to take shape between where new US Embassy will be sited and Battersea Power Station.

And it looks as if I'm not the only one taking photos.
Around Chelsea

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Light Princess by Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson

The Light Princess
We wove our way through the crowds on the South Bank to the National Theatre to see the musical by Tori Amos. It's a sorta fairytale, called 'The Light Princess'.

One of my favourite Tori Amos albums is the one where she treks across North America. It's called Scarlet's Walk and is a road story told in songs.

I've also seen Tori live at the Apollo and now I wondered what it would be like seeing her new music and lyrics played by an orchestra and sung by the show's performers.

I didn't know the original Light Princess story, which is apparently a Victorian fairy tale.

I assumed there would be some dark spins included, and certainly, there are. The basic plot line is simple enough, with divided countries and a developing love between the divided princess and prince.

The light comes from the Princess Althea's grief at her mother's death from which she loses touch with the ground, floating through much of the performance. Perhaps expressed best as a loss of gravity, in every sense.

A darkness comes from the ways that the respective kings of the countries subjugate their politically opposed offspring.

Then there's a contested piece of land between the countries, ripe for the main action of the piece.
The Light Princess
Musically, it's a major piece in its own right. Orchestral with lyrics sufficient to propel a sometimes complicated narrative. Maybe not as instantly hummable as a typical musical, but coming from a different place.

Of course, there's a magic from the aerial work of the Princess, often manipulated by puppeteers, and sometimes suspended on wires. Her feet hardly touch the ground in the whole show.

Add in the staging and the clever use of mixed media and puppetry and this becomes a show that really sparkles.

In honesty, I'd expected an overall darker shading from Tori Amos, but this co-operation with scriptwriter Samuel Adamson mixes in humour, spectacle and sometimes almost Disney-esque touches.

It felt like the right type of show to be watching in this Winter season.

Altogether a piece that is both unique and somehow a counterpoint to a show like 'Wicked', far away from the sometimes juke-box musicals which get pushed into parts of the west-end.

I suspect, because it's at the Lyttelton, that this show will be on a short run. I can guess that it's an expensive one to produce too, judging by the large cast and sumptuous sets.

I'm pleased I've got to see this recently award-nominated production, which I suspect may be one of a kind.
The Light Princess

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

a spar of timber worth thirty bob

Untitled
Yes.

Travelling.

Still using the iPhone as my sole camera, although I think it's well past a month now, so time to get something else charged.

Monday, 9 December 2013

toffee apple buche

cake
It's another week of complicated logistics, this time fairly local, but still in quite a few different locations.

I still prefer the less structured format, but it does mean that there's random side effects that need to be considered.

Take this box (please) - it's part of the recycling by now*, but thereby lays the tale. Our collection folk changed their day to take away the content of the blue bins and I actually missed one week.

Recycling is only every two weeks, so by this week we have around four weeks of recycling accumulated. However hard we try that's still a lot of stuff. If I miss another collection then it'd be six weeks. I don't think the ship's engines can take it, Captain.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

more pop tart selfies

Untitled
We had a bit of a get-together in the pub and mysteriously a packet of strawberry pop tarts appeared from among the novelty gifts we were handing around.

Well, what else could we do, other than take a few more of those pop tart selfies?
Untitled
Most of the pop tart pictures were the conventional type, using the pop tart like a regular cellphone.
Untitled
In the interests of pushing the boundaries, I decided to go for 'Medium Format', so mine doesn't have a flash.
pot tart selfie (large format)
Eagle eyed may spot that the medium format picture still came out oblong rather than square.

We're going to try cheese next. Emmental should offer a choose of apertures.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

tuning in the shine on the light night dial

upload
Lurking in the garage of rashbre central is an old valve radio. It still gets used from time to time and despite its age it presents a very modern set of programming.

The reason I'm thinking of it right now is that I've been asked to take part in a survey.

I know...on the internet there's a survey every few minutes about things like amazon packaging, print cartridge selection, which mobile phone provider, the quality of the service from that small item retailer a few days ago, preferences in groceries, and so on and on.

I've improved my Spamsieve to the point where most of that stuff just runs straight into the junk folder.

This particular survey was intriguing enough for me to say I'll have a go. It's something to do with radio listening habits and run by Mori. They want to check what kind of stuff gets listened to in a week, both indoors and in the car.

I've completed the initial questionnaire and somehow need to keep track of what I actually listen to, starting on Monday. They have given me a handy logbook as well, although I can already predict parts of it.
  • A fair amount of Radio 4 (on DAB), but never the Archers. Mainly the Today Programme and PM. Various versions of the News and sometimes Parliament. Useful because it's a walking or driving type of programming content. I hardly ever use television for morning news.
  • Radio 6 Music (on DAB), random times of day and driving.
  • LBC (on DAB or FM, in the car): sometimes for news. Some of the chat shows go a bit extreme.
  • BBC World Service: Sometimes late at night.
  • Does Spotify count as radio?
  • Does Last.fm count as radio?
  • KFOG: the fog head station from San Francisco. Easy listening rock. Maybe this one will throw them off the regular stats? I've still got that little internet radio in the home office.
  • Other random internet channels from time to time.
And the one I still miss is Whole Wheat Radio, which used to be streamed from Jim Kloss and Esther Golton's log home in Talkeetna Alaska. I still have some of their live gigs from a variety of musicians recorded into iTunes and they pop up from time to time when I've got iTunes on shuffle.

The survey approach seems to just be interested in traditional channels.

Radio, car radio and 'online radio'. I wonder how it will delve into the mass customisation of music listening and the re-selection of prior programming through iPlayer and podcasts? It doesn't seem to handle that on the setup pages.

I'll have to wait and see.

Considering Kloss and Golton's Whole Wheat was from about 2003-2010, they had already found ways to break from commercial A,B and C list programming, and featured many CDs by emerging independent artists.

Of course, the commercial forces are not too comfortable with this wider and more multi channel listening and so we drop back to the same old stuff on many of the conventional radio channels.

I hope there'll be a few comment boxes when I do this survey.

Friday, 6 December 2013

pebble panic

image
I've had one of those Pebble things for a while, although I've never got around to writing a blog post about it.

To be honest, I don't really use it and am somewhat uncertain about this addition to wearable social computing.

An odd side effect is that it can send me into a phone panic from time to time.

How's that?

Well, it knows about my iPhone and jiggles around when the iPhone is ringing. No big deal if the iPhone is co-located, but when it's, say, in a different room, it can create a moment where I have to make an extra decision about whether to race to the phone in time to answer it.

Not the best use for a Pebble, I'm sure.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

secret squirrel meerkat

Top Secret Meerkat Intelligence Agency
Did I mention that the secret squirrel meerkat finally arrived?
Green Scarab
I notice that this shadowy figure has already gone into deep cover and that maybe someone I know is wearing the badge instead of their regular security pass.
Maiya Pavlenka

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

soft white lights appearing

Untitled
We seem to be into the gentle addition of lights to the neighbourhood again. Of course some of the main roads have been decked out for weeks, but now its spreading into the residential areas.

I've liberated ours from the garage and thrown them around a few trees and bushes and they all seem to be working. Even the timer still works from last year, so it's been a fairly painless job getting it all set up. I'm told that the 'soft white' colour (yellow) is still appropriate, although I'm not supposed to use the 'white white' or the 'blue white' lights.

I spotted a few roadsigns that some local streets are closed at the weekend for the regular mini Fayre. I'm also guessing that Santa will make a reconnaissance appearance at the end of this week.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Pop Tart Selfie

Pop Tart Selfie
Snapped with a pop tart. I'm not alone. The strawberry ones work best for colour. Maybe I'll try the chocolate ones for sepia.
self pop tart

Sunday, 1 December 2013

back from a spin on the bicycle

Untitled
I'd been doing pretty well with cycling up towards the end of October, but kind of slumped during November. I don't record every trip, but those I did record were a grand total of eight.

There were a few things that conspired against me, including personal and work related as well as a feeble bug at the start of November.

Anyhow, my legs were somehow telling me they needed to go cycling.

I'm not sure why, but there's a sort of reverse pain where my legs actually feel better now if they've been cycling. I should probably look for that symptom on t'interweb, because it seems to be the opposite of what you'd expect.

Anyway, I clocked about 20 miles today although I took it fairly easy until I get back into the swing. I'm also anticipating that this month could be choppy for cycling what with the weather and later with the christmas pudding.

TSS travails
The blue line on the little diagram of my recent activity shows a progressive increase in my TSS until mid October and then the downward spiral. It'll take weeks to rebuild to the previous level.

Still. I'm glad I took the spin - and no, the brakes were not at the angle shown in the picture. I was resetting them when I took this snap.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

snappy happy

Jesmond Dene, Newcastle
Well, I've idly been using the iPhone as my main carry around camera during November, as per my stated plan at the beginning of the month.

It's worked surprisingly well as a compact camera replacement.

I know its 'only' got 8 Mega-pixels compared with the 41 Mega-pixels of the recent-ish Nokia, but I can't help wondering exactly where marketing overtakes results. That's more pixels on a tiny sensor than on a full frame Nikon, for example.

I've tried the Nokia but noticed that both the startup time and the 'film wind' time from one shot to another seemed excessive. Measured in seconds, it appeared. A lot of processing to do 41 MP maybe?

For many social occasions that lag could mean the defining moment will have passed. It will still be fine for cityscapes and less timing critical shots, of course.

The Nokia has a proper shutter (instead of an electronic one) and image stabilisation. It means that the camera has a little bump on the back where the lens gubbins is fitted and so from the back the phone looks like a -er- camera.

It's reached a point where I start to think of the things I'd want on a proper camera again and that's where trade-offs start to play out.

I've decided I'll keep to the simpler iPhone form factor, with the smaller jpegs that are easy to manipulate onto web sites and social media.

My sense with the iPhone is that it's 'good enough' for many purposes. Maybe not to crop the pictures, but hey, this is for snaps in any case.
Liverpool
The iPhone camera works fine in daylight or at night in what I'd call 'street scenes'. It doesn't work so well indoors in less well lit areas, although there's a clever flash for such situations. I habitually disable flashes on cameras, but I may need to revive it on this one.
Knightsbridge
The lens is also quite good at fairly close shots and can do a reasonable job of blurring the background, as long as you don't expect some kind of miracles. The 'zoom' is digital, so the magnification is somewhat artificial.
Untitled
There's various burst modes and high speed modes too, so speedy clicks are well catered for. I've decided I actually quite like using it, and even the little mode of using the volume control as a shutter button adds to the basic ergonomics.

It'll never replace a decent compact system camera or an SLR, but photographically, it seems to me that this type of phone has reached a good level of general purpose usability.

Maybe next month I'll use it for some kind of mini project.

Friday, 29 November 2013

tracking the specials agent

comparethemeerkat screenshot
I should have realised when I saw the huge west London billboard advertisements a month or more ago. They are the ones usually reserved for new prestige car launches and airlines.

They were advertising Maiya the specials agent meerkat.

I had to renew some kind of insurance policy at the time and somehow let the meerkats persuade me to switch suppliers. That and the dramatic change of price, of course.

My reward would be the acquisition of a cuddly toy. Naturally I plumped for the exclusive limited edition one, knowing all along that it will be going to join a small collection elsewhere once it has safely arrived at rashbre central.

Now anyone who has been along the meerkat route will know that they are delivered from Meerkovo by Postkat, who doesn't always take the most direct route.
screenshot_197
I checked with Sergei's meerkat tracker, which uses the same technology as the Meer Space Station, and it's indicated that Maiya is now in Dover.

Just because it's reached this country doesn't mean it will take a direct route for the next part of the journey.
screenshot_194

Thursday, 28 November 2013

and now I'm hearing voices...

imageThere's an interesting old book about building a computer operating system called 'The Soul of a New Machine', by Tracy Kidder. It's about how a bunch of people developed a new computer back in the days when computers had their own offices.

I was reminded of it today when I finally caught my own computer talking to itself.

I've suspected it for some time, but there's usually too much other ambient noise for me to be sure.

But today, when I thought I heard it, I silenced other nearby sound sources, and sure enough, I could hear a little voice coming from somewhere around the machine. It was one of those moments when I actually crawled around under a desk to be sure of the source.

A little voice was coming from one of the flashing light boxes. Of course, it was really some form of Radio Frequency Interference, like you sometimes hear on public address systems, or that sound that clucking sound that old cellphones generated on most office conference phones. Now I know why they put those magnetic rings around wires on certain types of connections.

What also amused me whilst I was tracking down the source, was that the backup disk box nearby was looking suspiciously like another almost sentient computer. A blue-eyed version of HAL, maybe?

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

cheatin' back post blues

its starting to look like a guitar
Got them.
Got them.
Got them.
Got them.


Cheatin’ back-post blues!

Yeah!

Got them.
Got them.
All of them.
Cheatin’

Cheatin' back-post blues.

Tried so hard to stay with it.
Tried so hard so to kill it.
But I can’t every minute.
So I have t-t-to re spin it.
Those ch-ch-cheatin’ back-post

Bloooze.

All the time now.

Cheatin’

Cheatin’ back-post.

Cheatin' back-post blues.

Monday, 25 November 2013

time storage devices

time storage device
I thought I'd keep the theme of time travel running a little longer this week.

The picture supporting this is of one of a number of time storage devices (TSD) that I have identified. Some of them are quite small, like this window opener and others can be absolutely huge, even larger than London.

I'll start with the small one and how it works.

It looks like an ordinary window opener, doesn't it?

The thing is, it doesn't open the window. That's how it stores time.

I wanted to use it today and discovered that the only way was to find a screwdriver, remove the catch and then re-adjust the setting. It required a special fitting. The fitting required a special drill. The drill wasn't charged and so had to be plugged into the mains for a while.

I think it took me about an hour to open the window.

See where I'm going?

Stored time.

The window catch had stored an hour of my time and was patiently waiting for me to release it.

I guess a medium sized burst mode TSD is Waterloo train station. It works on a slightly different principle, because it can operate on many people at once, unlike my single person window catch.

And then there's a very large scale continuous TSD like the M25 motorway around London, which runs by the ongoing scooping up of thousands of people and a subsequent slow release of their time.

So I've discovered that TSDs can operate in one direction, but now I need to find some that work the other way around.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

deciding de time for de-icer

IDShot_225x225
"...so do you know something that I don't?" asked the grinning checkout lady in the supermarket.

I was buying milk and screen wash.

I looked into the basket and there were 5 litres of concentrated screen wash and only 4 litres of milk.

To emphasise the point I looked at the still waiting to be scanned cans of blue spray stuff and the two blue squirter things.

"It's going to get cold soon," I explained, before she could think I was buying the screen wash as a cunning substitute for Tennents Extra Strong.

I idly wondered whether lager would have been cheaper than the screen wash.

teaching expertise?

screenshot_191I know that sometimes members of the teaching profession glance at this site, so I thought I'd pass on a tip from Lady Banana.

Lady Banana spotted the new book about teaching by Michael Gove.

He certainly takes a very direct line in this publication. This is an example of a book that is probably not quite as useful as a Kindle download, but at the moment it's also free.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

can daleks travel faster than the speed of light?

Saturday night at the BFI
We were at the BFI on Saturday evening and it turned out there was a bit of a bash on for Doctor Who.

A couple of daleks managed to gate-crash and it made me think again about the time traveller dilemma. It would make sense to publicise a set date for time travellers to convene and a globally publicised Doctor Who fest could be one such moment. No actual time travellers were present though, unless they forgot to mention it.

It remands me also of the telly programme about Doctor Who physics shown a few days ago. It illustrated relativity, spacetime curvature and the effects at the edge of a black hole when observing the event horizon.

Some of it has great mathematics, but I can't help thinking there's a whiff of phlogiston about it. Phlogiston was the stuff supposed to be consumed by things that burned. Until a better theory came along.

So my dilemma is that clever people say things can't move faster than the speed of light. OK, so how can the earth's position relative to the sun by gravity be twenty arc seconds (8.3 minutes) ahead of its observed position? That would mean that gravity was somehow working faster than the speed of light.

Or, how could a black hole, which consumes all light, be able to have a gravitational pull? The gravity would have to be able to escape, whilst the light couldn't. Doesn't this mean it needs to travel faster than light?

Someone will say gravity is a wave, or that there's a yet to be discovered particle called a graviton. But whatever the explanations are, it still seems to me that there's some black holes in the theory.

How else would the daleks have been able to get in the bar?

Friday, 22 November 2013

time acceleration

Doctor Who cast
Fun with both time travel and history acceleration today with this pop chart lookup. Click through to see many years of top 30 or top 100 singles, complete with a mini play list, via Bob Borst's site.

What with it being my birthday month, I tried my birth year and found interesting curios amongst the songs (gulp).

For the UK there's also the UK Official Charts listings, but it doesn't provide an automatic playlist.

For this blog I've set both of the above searches to 1963, because of the extensive coverage of Kennedy and Doctor Who over the last few days. Two stories from adjacent days, both receiving comprehensive UK coverage at the moment.

Thursday night on television I could watch analysis of the sight lines Elm Street or the politics of Dallas and then flip to see the first ever Who episode (or the whole series, if required).

By the morning the rolling news on the hotel room television had already moved on and extensive coverage had moved to another story. Tweets were coming in of Monty Python's planned reunion.

Crunchy frog, anyone?

Thursday, 21 November 2013

not exactly jet set

Knightsbridge
Thursday started in London, but has ended in the Midlands. Well, north of Birmingham in any case.

It was late as I walked towards the hotel lobby. A couple of Christmas trees twinkled in the corner.

I'm not sure why, but after the cones and jams of the motorways it felt slightly awkward to be suddenly thrust into this apparently festive world.

I decided to head to my room, make a cup of tea and call it a night.