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Thursday, 31 January 2013

a rose and a fleur de lys

KIng Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn go hunting
Back early from a pretty hotel where a large group of us were involved in a conference. The moat around the hotel dates from Saxon times, although building is 700 years more recent from the 1200s.

It didn't really get famous for another 300 or so years in Henry VIII's time. He used it as a hunting lodge when he was married to Anne Boleyn. This was around the time that he'd had Thomas Cranmer annul his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon, which properly annoyed the Pope and started the break of the Catholic religion in England.

Anne was subsequently sent to the tower and beheaded and Henry sent Anne's daughter Lizzie back to the hunting lodge whilst he consorted with various other wives until eventually Lizzie became Queen Elizabeth I.

None of this gets a mention unless you ask, but a quick look around spots Anne Boleyn's insignia of a falcon. In its claw is a royal sceptre, added when she became Queen. There's also a Tudor rose and fleur de lys to remind of Anne's French origin.

Of course, we were not there sightseeing and in the usual way most of this stuff passes unnoticed whilst we use the wi-fi and scheme and plot for 2013.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

do the clouds get in my way?

Berndnaut Smilde artwork of clouds
How about a visit to the Ronchini Gallery in Mayfair, exhibiting some of the uncanny work of Berndnaut Smilde? He makes indoor clouds using fog guns and has them photographed, often by Cassander Schattenkerk. I find them charming and a lot less scary than Dietrich Wegner's Playhouse cloud sculpture

Of course, around London, there's usually a good selection of real outdoor clouds, and they do seem to be a popular current theme.

I'm being approached by plenty of 'cloud offers' from the consumer technology community. I wrote a few days ago about the way that music has become more cloud-based.

A recent addition to the scramble is Microsoft's Office suite which has just announced Office 365 as a subscription model - with added clouds.

What I'm finding is that all the big suppliers are trying to get us on board with their pay-as-you-go offers. I already use the Adobe subscription to get their CS6 products as a bundle. I realised what I was already paying for upgrades to Photoshop, Acrobat et al. and that the subscription would be more economical.

It's a new way of thinking about the cost of ownership of the technology and requires something like Excel to do the sums. For software, instead of buying it, installing it and then eventually upgrading it, the subscriptions provide the supplier with a run-rate revenue model and can subtly rely on the users to remember what they've bought. For example, I can't remember all the things in the CS6 bundle and probably haven't installed all of them.

Accompanying all of these subscriptions to Music, Creativity and Office Things is the offer of space in the cloud. I notice that my Mac applications also offer to park new documents in the cloud as well.

I'm still not sure about this. I use the cloud extensively but am concerned about the trickling of things into a place where I may not be sure of the return access.

My example will remain with music. I could buy music and then not bother to download it, instead playing it on demand - Amazon offers this as part of their mp3 model. I already do that with my video subscriptions nowadays, and regard cumbersome video as more or less a rental library.

For video it's therefore OK if I'm on a network (duh!) but for music what about in the car? Yes, I have internet access from the car. Does it work everywhere? No. Do I want to rely on it for listening to my own music? I think not. For preprogrammed musical selections by others, I already have another car gadget called a radio.

What about listening on the tube? Okay, there's wi-fi now, well sort of. Am I with the right provider? No. So I could buy wifi subscriptions. This is all getting a bit complicated and more expensive.

Of course, what is happening is that everyone is working out how to make their dollar. Everyone in the chain want to get their piece.

So I'm wondering where the cloud concealed slice and dice is actually taking us?

I get it that rich society is moving beyond the anchored PC to mobile tablets and phones. I understand that the business model for these things is subscription based connectivity. I'm wary of how many subscriptions and how many links in the chain we need to make it all work.

And what happens if one o f th e links brea . ..

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

plugged in, not charging

Jump LeadsThe latest quirk of my brand new 2013 Windows 8 laptop is that the battery is reporting as 'plugged in, not charging'. It has been stuck on a capacity of 17% for the last week.

I don't believe the readout and think is some kind of driver conflict.

The system seems to come with both a Microsoft Windows 8 battery driver and also something that has been added by HP. I think they are conflicting with one another. A small but rather tedious problem.

I've been too lazy to fix it until now. This is what I just did to make it work again:

1) Use Control Panel / Device Drivers / Battery to uninstall the Microsoft ACPI Control Method Battery Driver.
2) With the computer plugged into the mains, remove the battery.
3) Use Control Panel/ Device Drivers /Battery/ Scan for new hardware/ to rescan for the ACPI driver, which it will re-install.
4) Plug in the battery again and 'Ta-Da' the battery is charging again.

I ran a google search about this. It seems to be a common and irritating problem.

Monday, 28 January 2013

series link

bus
Back in the world of office blocks this week, albeit with a few unexpected reschedules. Sometimes the changes don't matter because there's other things competing for the time, so slight over-allocation can be useful.

It can depend where any resultant dead time occurs. Close to home it's not usually a problem.

Although recently I've been stuck in a distant hotel with meetings punched at times with gaps that just couldn't be usefully filled. It could explain some of my unplanned watching of DVD box sets on Netflix.

I'm in the clear again now for the next week or so, and I predict my serial viewing may diminish.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

I'm gonna need a hacksaw (Guitar Part 1)

Guitar plan
There's an article in the weekend papers by a motoring journalist along the lines of 'most cars are roughly the same' and it references a well-known make from which many variants are derived.

It then goes on to make a similar comment about most electric guitars, based upon a conversation with a well-known guitarist.

Now I don't know about either of the statements. It could be like saying all books are the same because they have pages and words in them.

Although, when I was fixing the electronic bit on my acoustic guitar some time ago, I was struck by the craftsman-like innards of the carpentry and thought that even if it had been inexpensively mass-produced, there was considerable sophistication to the construction.

Then I looked at a couple of electric guitars and noticed their relatively simple construction. I think one of them has a nickname as 'the plank' no doubt referencing the way it is put together.

So I've thought of a side-project for February. It's supposed to be FAWM "February is Album Writing Month". I'm not sure if I'll have a bash at that this time, I already have a surfeit of songs.

Instead, in a suitably ham-fisted way, I might have a crack at building a guitar. It's not that I need another one. I have more than my rather basic playing capability.

It just feels like one of those projects that needs to be done. I'm pretty sure I can handle the electronics. I know I can't build a fretboard, so I'll have to source that part. I'll also need to set myself a scarily meagre budget. And I won't be too worried if I have to pick up some of the parts along the way. Was it Carl Sagan that said if you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you first have to invent the universe?

First things first, what shape? I'm thinking expensive-looking Les Paul?

Then I have to decide whether to make it look like other guitars? - generic sunburst colours and so on?

Instead I'm looking at car paint colours. Would a metallic orange be too extreme?

In the words of Jack Bauer, "I'm gonna need a hacksaw."
ford-focus-orange

Friday, 25 January 2013

wallpapering over the dips

triple dip
They're all saying we may be about to go into a triple dip recession if things don't pick up in the next three months.

It's clever to make a major financial catastrophe sound like a new kind of ice cream.

I took a quick peek at the Office of National Statistics graphs and I reckon it's really a prolonged double slump, temporarily saved by the Olympics in the latter part of last year. A moot point nonetheless.

Mr Osborne seems to be attempting to cut our way to greatness, by continuing to prune everything as part of the great austerity programme to reduce the fiscal deficit.

The thing I wonder about is that each time we cut something else, we have less people working and less people paying taxes. I know it's a bit classicist to think like this (Say's Law and all) but sitting on dead goods, empty High Streets, increased low/non-earners and stagnant money surely can't be helping too much?

Our multi-millionaire second Lord of the Treasury Gideon George must have put his Bullingdon mind to this in some way, but I can't understand the preoccupation with reducing a deficit by quietly printing wallpaper quantities of money (because that's what quantitive easing is code for).

That's a passive and slightly sly way to make the numbers look better, but it doesn't kick-start anything. More government bonds/IOUs against an uncertain future. We just increase the quantity of apparent money and theoretically make ourselves more competitive overseas (notwithstanding the EU rhetoric).

The global financial analysts won't be fooled and will end up de-rating the UK from AAA, just like the Chinese have already done.

Instead of Cameron's children's godfather dithering over decisions about hot pasties and sitting in the wrong part of trains, we need someone to drive a leadership position on what is required. I suggest Osborne's yellow card was last July. The red one ought to be in Cameron's pocket.

The trick, Mr Osborne or your successor, is surely to make the money in the system do something useful?

How about making it circulate against new projects, jobs and goods to properly drive some growth?

Thursday, 24 January 2013

EU bananas

bananas
I know that we live on an island here in the UK. Having lived in mainland Europe and also worked in quite a few countries there too, I can appreciate the advantages of a quick hop across the border to another country for all kinds of reasons.

Switzerland is an interesting different proposition. I have one of those Swiss vignettes on my car from using the motorways when I’m over there (oops it’s just run out actually). But at the end of the motorway to Switzerland everything turns into a 30 minute bottleneck to cross the border.

There could probably be a whole post about motorist behavior at such points.

Instead I’m interested in the emerging debate about what happens to the UK as a European entity. Cameron has finally made his much leaked speech about a Yes/No referendum by the end of 2017.

Can the European question really be netted into an X Factor like vote?

There’s plenty at play now beyond the regulations affecting overly bendy bananas (EU directive 2257/1994) and deliberately inflexible cucumbers (EU directive 1677/88). Not forgetting Class 1 peaches must be 56mm diameter (between July and October, of course).

All the above examples could be used to run a whole layer of debate about the EU’s usefulness or otherwise.

Although the bigger questions are about fostering competitiveness, governance with relevance and, of course, the lubrication of finance to make it all work.

That’s where it gets muddled in the debate. The UK puts in around the 3rd largest amount of funding to the EU’s total budget of around €137bn. Germany and France put in more. The UK is also the second largest net contributor to the EU (after Germany).

It illustrates that even if UK hasn’t decided to adopt the Euro currency, there's still an awful lot of UK Sterling in the Euro-mix.

That was the big debate before Christmas, all about the 2013 EU budget.

The challenge seems to be that the EU machine is now so big and complicated that it has comprehensively taken over the way that it wants to run things.

There’s some commonsense arguments that could be applied:
  • Keep the EU competitive; there’s new economic challenges from different parts of the world.
  • Be efficient; slim down like everyone else is having to.
  • Be flexible; which I suppose is a networked form of ‘think global act local’ for an organisation of this scale.
  • Support sensible diversity; Don’t expect Malta to act the same as Germany.
  • Don’t over centralise; don’t try to suck all rule making for everything into Brussels
  • Apply accountability; find a way to keep some governance at the relevant country levels.
None of those points overtly mention Common Agricultural Policy or the Structural and Cohesion Funds (which gives money from the richer countries to help develop the poorer ones). In a developed debate those points would emerge along with their circa 2/3 allocation of EU budget.

I suppose I'm musing that this is quite complicated stuff. Maybe the 'Vote' is supposed to be a way to give it some focus? Perhaps a way to divert attention from years of under-governance of the main body?

And the reactions to this slippery speech are equally as complicated. There's already politicians from all sides taking it as symbolising whatever their own political aims are.

Perhaps the collective noun for a group of politicians needs to be 'a confusion'?

Oh well, In / Out / Shake it all about?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Learning to use Windows 8

Typewriter
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I'd had to get a replacement laptop for some specific light duties around rashbre central. It came with Windows 8 and I'm still working out the best ways to tame it.

I use a regular and (touch wood) reliable Thinkpad with Windows 7 for much of my work, although my playtime systems are pretty much Mac.

I should confess that for the HP Windows 8 system I'm almost resorting to reading the manual (well if there had been one, kinda thing).

For my own sanity, I added a start button back onto Windows 8, but the overall W8 software has a few weird quirks. These seem to be geared to its dual use via its WinRT incarnation as a phone/tablet operating system.

One is that it keeps flashing up a full screen mode to ask me if I want to use Internet Explorer as the browser. I've answered Yes, but the next time I boot it seems to ask the same question again. I've tried selecting one of the other browsers offered as well (Google Chrome). It accepted that but then gave me...Internet Explorer.

It also goes into a full screen mode when it's looking for a wi-fi network. Like, "Don't try anything else at the moment."

Some of the software once maximised won't go back to a rescaleable size. It's all or nothing.

Get too close to the right hand edge of the screen when moving some software around and the software maximises.

There was a situation where, whilst unattended, it downloaded update software and rebooted itself but then changed the sequence of the password entry characters. It took me a while to figure that one.

And on this four core processor laptop, sometimes a scanning system will kick in and take over the whole machine, stopping everything else from running. Surely it could run in 1/4 of the machine instead of using all of it?

Individually they are minor issues, together they are something of a nuisance on what was a 2013 sealed box system onto which I've only installed a handful of regular programs.

The problem is that each of these things just interrupt the flow. They get in the way rather than adding to the experience.

I have, today, found a really good recent, comprehensive and positive article about Windows 8 on Techradar and here's the link.

The review is only a few days old, although I thought Windows 8 had been around for some months now. It does describe the ways to interact, but also draws a conclusion that the system works better with a tablet (I think it means a PC tablet rather than Amitriptyline).

By comparison, I changed my desktop Mac recently to one of those thin ones. It just asked if I'd like migrate my old stuff to the new machine. I said yes and after it had copied everything across the new system just works. No hassle, no reboots.

Just sayin'.

Monday, 21 January 2013

cliffhanger (although everyone else has probably seen it already)

Spies of Warsaw
There was some kind of quiz show on the telly a few days ago and it had a series of questions about spies. Worryingly, I got them all right.

So on Monday evening, after finishing work somewhat late, I decided to flop in front of the box and spotted that I'd recorded two episodes of something called 'Spies of Warsaw'.

It's based on an Alan Furst novel, adapted as straight drama by the mainly comedy writing duo of Dick Clement and Ian la Frenais.

Mysteriously the two episodes were recorded in reverse order, although when I realised and started watching Episode 1, I wondered if it was already part way through a longer series. I quite like things that plonk you into the middle of events, but there were a few extra factors to calibrate here.

Set in 1937 Poland, there's David Tennant playing a French version of a James Bond character, but with an even wider selection of outfits. There's plenty of other nationalities in the melting pot of Warsaw although only the Germans speak in subtitles.

Tennant's character Jean-Francois is a kind of action hero military attache. Never a dull moment for him in coffee houses, swish parties, bedrooms and train corridors between Warsaw and Paris.

It's the period when Germany was testing prototype Panzer IV tanks near to the Polish border. Tennant is obtaining their plans to send back to Paris.

So far he been remarkably lucky, with nearly everything thrown at him being readily resolved. He's smuggled the Russians, helped the plan-stealing mole escape, got the girl and explained his war wounds to a Countess.

Although, at the end of the first half he's been dinked on the head and bundled into a car by some men in black hats.

It's a good cliffhanger moment, and I'm quietly looking forward to Part II on Tuesday evening.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

when did hi-fi become A/V?

#uksnow cars
An unexpected diversion, what with de-snowing the cars and the drive. I was surprised how much time it took, a function of it being an unusual occurrence. Little things like finding the proper snow boots, not seen since last time at Jungfraujoch.

Having abandoned the day's original plans, it was an excuse to practice Being Idle.

I flipped on some music and let the system select the tracks for me, which was perfectly fine, within the limits I had given it.

My idleness led me to doodle a quick picture of what used to be called Hi-Fi (does anyone still say that?) and nowadays is probably called 'Audio Visual' or similar.
HiFi goes AV
So here we are. Probably of no interest to anyone but me, but it somehow illustrates the demise of the Gramophone.

There used to be a simple path from a record shop to a record player and then to a listening experience. I still use that route for occasional purchases.

I still like the artwork of 12 inch LP albums, which could be quite special. Not so with most CDs, which bang a cover shot of the band on the front and big words in the top third that can be read from across the store.

Of course, that's dying out too, with digital downloads. If I'm honest, I used to surprise people quite a few years ago because I didn't keep those little brittle plastic boxes that most CDs came in. I'd always thrown away the outer packaging, just keeping the CD and the booklet.

OK, except for properly created artworks, of which there are still some around. I do still keep that type of CD intact.

So I guess I've been heading to digital for quite a few years.

Cue digital downloads, which signalled the potential demise of HMV and Blockbuster. Canals and railways.

Nowadays even the amplifiers are network attached. My last amplifier came with a little cardboard box in it containing a USB stick with the latest firmware upgrade to be applied before use. Of course I downloaded the more recent one online.

To be honest, I'm not sure how many people even bother nowadays with amplifiers and receivers, instead using little speaker units into which they can drop iPhones and similar.

My scribbly diagram illustrates some of the listening routes available now.

Buy from:
  • (a) an independent band or store. Still get physical product, good artwork, usually a download as well and some personal engagement.
  • (b) a record shop or store. Harder to find, yet places like Fopp and Rough Trade in London are still jam-packed with people.
  • (c) online, from Amazon or iTunes, or via a broker like Last.fm which will point to the cheapest source. Amazon still gives a choice of CD or online product, but increasingly it's becoming online biased on price.
  • (d) Supermarkets. Xfactorish. Nope.
Then there's all the cloud services. Everyone wants to suggest that you don't need the physical product at all.

Even with my throwing away of CD boxes, I find this one step too far. T'interweb is strewn with failed companies. It would be a tragedy to see all the licences to listen go up in a puff of Chapter 11. I download everything. And back it up.

What it means, though, is that nowadays, there's both the stuff you own and also a good range of relevant listening suggestions from the likes of last.fm or spotify.

And they do work quite well, suggesting and playing music of the type I like, rather than just blanding me out with 'Top of the Pops' pap.

So I'm with the direction. Even if it does take a bit longer to wire up than an old Dansette.
Stylus

Saturday, 19 January 2013

burlesque pursuits

Kimberley at Trafalgar Square
I seem to be being followed by a burlesque dancer with two red disks.

She seems to be popping up most days at the moment.

Like most, I normally have internet adversing on a low setting.

But somehow she is singularly persistent.

If I was looking for a holiday or flights at the moment, then I'd understand. I did blog about Cabaret, which is more Kabaret than Burlesque, but that was weeks ago.

Kimberly DunneI can't work out whether it's an advert that has just paid to be on every search page?

Or perhaps there's something in my profile that means I'm getting burlesque flights and cruises instead of extortionate loan scams, mobile phone services and cycling adverts?

The pay day loans and phone services clearly pay loadsamoney to be featured and the cycling ads are probably accurate based upon my recent hunt for a couple of components.

I decided to see whether the little discussed 'Ads Preferences Manager' in Google would enlighten me. It's one of those pages you sort of have to know about.

I was a little surprised when I looked at it, at just how little information it appears to hold, for someone who has used the web extensively for many years.

I was also surprised that along with around a half dozen or so predictable consumer electronics and entertainment categories, it had chosen the 'Bollywood Musicals' as a particular area of interest - Oh and Laura Ashley interiors. Parp.

Maybe the springs inside the search spy engine are in need of repair? Although I'm not complaining and will probably miss 'Kimberley' at the end of January.

And credit where it's due, the new airline advert does make me smile.

Friday, 18 January 2013

pure as the driven #uksnow

#uksnow
"What's it like out?" I asked the delivery driver this morning.

"Take a look," he said.

I felt a little bit silly because I could see it was snowing.

"...and the main road?" I asked.

"Just the same. It's covering up until they bring more grit along."

I'd been shopping at around 11pm yesterday evening in the local supermarket. The streets were still clear then, but I had noticed that quite a few of the shelves in the supermarket were empty.

I'd idly thought it must be the normal re-stocking night or something, although it was surprising that they'd run out of bread and croissants.

The delivery driver handed me a box containing the bit to replace the broken bit.

"How come you are out?" I asked.

"Yes, they told us to carry on as normal. Although this is only supposed to be the start of it."

Down South we don't get much snow, so many things stop quite quickly. I notice that a Big Meeting today has just been cancelled, without explanation, but I assume it's for the same reason.

We're at 3 cm of snow now. Is that what they call blizzard conditions?
statutory robin in #uksnow picture

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

unhinged and unbolted

bits that fell off
I decided to put the bits I managed to find into a freezer bag.

I'm not sure I'll be able to do much with them, except maybe one piece where I could try some superglue.

I've checked the specification and I think I could get some replacement bolts, but I think I'd rather replace the whole unit as it is in a rather critical place.

I only just noticed that the old bolts were titanium, but I think I'd actually prefer steel in any case.

When I checked the internet, there's quite a few examples of similar situations, and most people go along the replacement route.

In any case, I can see that I've lost one of the strange shaped spacers. I didn't notice the 10 cm graze on my leg until I got home. Red yellow and purple.

Oh well, I shall stay away from off-road for a while.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

tango till we're sore

shopping
First time in a bar since the new one started.

Cold crisp night and breath caught in a white sparkle.

Suddenly into the colour. No hide-in-the-back occasion, this one sprawls with us all across a quarter of the room.

Plenty of shared histories, glitter, roar and a few tears along the way.

And now, planning and guessing for the new one.

not just pressing the Paws button?

Nipper
Another UK High Street bites the dust today, with the potential demise of the HMV record store, unless some kind of improbable further financial rescue is applied.

The HMV logo of the dog Nipper sitting on his master's coffin listening to his master's voice finally gets played out.

The modern looking partial reflection of the dog is also quite reminiscent of an iTunes or Media Player shiny logo. These, and other amazonian retail channels can claim the demise of record stores and now that network bandwidth has increased, the same applies to DVDs.

As an earlier indicator, the once thriving HMV store by Bond Street became a Footlocker. I suppose shoes are still something that many people want to try on first.

And few days ago it was Jessops the camera store and prior to that it was Comet, the electrical store.

The transition from shop to store to mall to out of town store to internet continues with just the rate varying by sector.

Already the USA has whole collections of web-sites depicting defunct malls showing the more pernicious decline of the retail experience. There's another site dedicated to the non retail experience here.

Some of those snapshots of UK High Streets may already be becoming historical artefacts.
Busy HMV store in Oxford Street

Sunday, 13 January 2013

not anxious, just pursued by yellow sticky

daily grind
I sip a black coffee in today's garret. I've got the creature comforts, but it's still a day that I'm supposed to be able to read the papers and slouch around.

Instead I'm grinding out commercial words to get myself ready for Something Tomorrow.

I've inventoried for signs of anxiety, but only find a yellow sticky with a date and a time.

I know it will be easier to have the thing rather than to talk about what the thing will look like.

Maybe a seratonin boost.

Bright light over bananas.

I know the moves. I throw the yellow rectangle into the bin.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

snood time on the bicycle

Untitled
I decided to go for an early-ish morning spin this morning, but the elements are conspiring to provide dis-incentives.

It's not that I don't have suitable clothing, but it just takes those extra few minutes to assemble everything.

I think the technical cycling term for this delay is known as faffing.

Gloves are a case in point. I have some of those ones with cut off fingers, which are small enough to fit compactly into my jacket pockets. Today I'd hardly gone outdoors when I realised I'd need proper ones that covered my entire hands. Something about the need to actually feel that I am gripping the handlebars.

Then there was the special form of rain that I don't have a word for. It was a kind of hybrid drizzle with intermediate lumps of white heavy rain included.

It was like being gently dabbed on the face by a cheese grater.

Now the bicycle thing is supposed to be fun. I found one of my 'free gift' screwed-up stretchy cycling snoods in the same pocket as the cut-away gloves. It had pictures of cogs on it. I plonked it over my head and then pulled it up across my face.

I know, it wasn't a great look, but I did find myself grinning.

Then for some actual cycling and after a few miles I was both smiling and warm.

Now I'm back indoors I've just checked the week's mileage. Just over 100, of which maybe a third involved the snood.

Friday, 11 January 2013

such stuff As dreams are made on

Untitled
I couldn't resist a few minutes of google time to check out some of the dreams stuff from my last blog entry although the field of cigarettes didn't get a mention.

The interweb versions have an aspect that's quite like magazine horoscopes, appealing to a kind of pop-psychology. A few examples are:

  • Being chased: avoiding something often emotional - very common
  • Naked in public : vulnerable
  • Snakes: Being threatened (apparently the most common threat animal in dreams)
  • Spiders: weaving webs/ deceit
  • Falling: things not going so well
  • Flying: superior and sexy
  • Lost: er - being lost in life
  • Water: renewal and purification
  • In an out-of-control vehicle: anxiety - ambition obstacles
  • Late for something: anxiety at work/school/life
  • Unprepared for a show: afraid of under-performing
  • Hot and steamy: apparently it's only 8%-11% of dreams for most people - but everyone will always claim it to be top
  • Being shot: Apparently more common in America to get this dream?
  • Can't use phone: can't communicate
  • With celebrity: may reflect low self esteem
  • Paralysed: going no-where, something holding back
  • Feeling of frustration: Commonly used as a threat rehearsal
What strikes me is that nearly all of these popular dream fragments have an overt downside.

I think I may have to be somewhat more elemental in my own outlook so I'll propose the fun going forward of:
  • Earth : expansion, success and happiness;
  • Water : Purification and renewal;
  • Fire : Cleansing and warmth;
  • Air : Freedom, exhilaration.

How does it go?

Earth water fire and air/ met together in a garden fair/ put in a basket bound with skin/ if you answer this riddle/ you'll never begin?

Cue Montage/ Dream Sequence.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

more ballads for the brain keeper

Bad Dream Hotline
I've been driving around to various meetings this week and have so far clocked around 350 motorway miles in the process.

I decided to create a smart playlist for the car before I started and just typed in "2012" as the album year and hit shuffle.

My original plan was to see which of the 2012 albums stood out to me for travelling in a sort of 'maybe I could do a list for the blog?' kind of way.

Instead, I found myself having an interesting dream in a hotel on Monday night, most of which seemed to take place in the short time before awakening again.

I really should find out about the timing of dreams in sleep patterns. I know about Rapid Eye Movement and the the safety shutdown of the body during REM to avoid acting out the dreams (sleepwalkers take note, your brain superhighway pons might be differently configured), but I think there must be some more stuff that would be useful to know.

Anyway, my dream was one of those ones where you kind of know you are dreaming and there was a bit in it that was getting rather tricky, so I baled from that dream into another one (sort of like Inception, that film with di Caprio).

Phew. The next dream found me in a field (I know, I should dig out that dream meanings book - I used to use it for brainstorming sessions) - It was very supersaturated colour and there were cigarettes growing in amongst the grass.

Now I worked out the cigarettes in a few seconds. Breaking Bad Series 4 middle episodes. I've just been watching it.

But for the rest I might need some help. I didn't need that group of Mumford like folk singers and a combine harvester at getting up time. It was beginning to go like a margarine commercial. So I woke up instead.

Then I realised the tracks I'd been listening to in the car the previous evening may well have included a subliminal message. I'd flicked through some of the albums quite quickly (unsuitable for motorways) but pretty much listened to every track on one excellent album.

It was by Hannah Louise Clark's "Foe"

And the name of the album?

"Bad Dream Hotline"
Bad Dream Hotline

Sunday, 6 January 2013

January's emerging challenges

Parliament and red bus
I will be setting the alarm for an early start tomorrow.

I've also booked some hotel nights away and filled the car with fuel ready for the start of a busy week.

My calendar shows I'll be partly around Westminster and partly further afield. January always seems to be a long month after the accelerated speed through December and has the other joys of 'Debt Day' around the 14th when all the bills roll in.

That's ahead of Blue Monday - which this year is the 23rd January - the pseudo scientifically derived low point of the year. It's a blend of poor weather, maximum debt, time since feel-good factor of Christmas, disintegration of resolutions and general low motivation.

I'll class it as hokum, but it's best to be prepared to side step it in any case.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

visions of sugarplums were gonna dance in my head

Recycling the wine bottles
A few minutes to sit quietly now the new year is beginning to spin up to full velocity.

Yesterday we started the complicated meetings (4 sites together in a call) and next week I'll be on the road for at least part of the week.

I've still a few end of 2012 archiving things to do with various rashbre computers. I'll be resetting Outlook to a fairly empty state, shuffling some folders around and also restarting a new Aperture photo library for 2013.

I know I could just let things roll along, but it feels like the right time to reset things at the start of the year. The 2012 Aperture library is around 85Gb, which still takes a while to copy.

I've also reset my cycling goals for 2013. I hardly cycled at all in December (I just checked and it was 85 miles).
2012 achieved
I've decided to use the 2012 cycling outcomes as the basis for 2013 targets. It is good as I now have a full year of recorded numbers, month by month.

When I started at the beginning of 2012, I set a 40 mile per week, 160 mile per month, 1800 mile per year sort of target. I was aware that I'd need to fit cycling back into my 'habits' for it to work and I decided that a lower target was probably better psychologically.

I also rapidly discovered that it was best to have a week that started with a Sunday and finished with a Saturday, so that I had a chance to (a) get ahead or (b) recover if I was behind.

The 'actuals' from last year were pretty good and I think I finished at around 4,600 miles and just over 110,000 Calories which was well beyond my original target and sets a bar for this year.
2013 targets
I've been using one of those heart rate monitors throughout which is a kind of way to measure input. My next foray is into 'Watts' which is a measure of output and I'll see how that works over the coming months.

I haven't really got started properly yet this year because of little bike issues - I am slightly amazed that a short term unused bike has managed to pick up a couple of minor glitches. Fortunately there are others to pick from so I'm still cycling. So far its 87 miles this year, so it's a bit of a look uphill at the moment.

Friday, 4 January 2013

starting windows again?

Windows 8
I've obtained a replacement for the little PC laptop that died a couple of days ago. It came with Windows 8 on the desktop.

What I've found with this Windows 8 'Modern UI' aka 'Metro' interface, is that it's quite good if you want to concentrate on single tasks which take over the whole screen. Great for use with a tablet, phone or interactive television type environment.

However, this clean big button interface falls down for someone like me who is used to working with several things open at once.

Take the internet browser as an example. In Windows 8, it can easily be fired up in a kind of 'sealed unit' mode where it takes over the whole desktop. It is very clean and simple to use and would no doubt appeal to a certain type of user.

But if you are used to working with Word and dipping in and out of the browser and maybe a spreadsheet to check things, then it's not as convenient. I also find that every so often I carelessly bump the cursor against a screen edge and after popping up the so-called 'charms' it can flip back into single focus mode.

I have a simple (and some would say Luddite) fix. I have re-installed the Start button onto Windows 8. That way I can run Windows 8 but when I want to I can bypass the Metro interface and use Windows in the traditional manner, with multiple applications open on the desktop. I don't think I'm alone with this approach.

Microsoft appears to have removed the original Windows code related to the Start Menu. I can see that this makes sense for a touch screen / Surface kind of interface, but I wonder how it will play out for more conventional laptops and desktop systems?

It's hard to estimate precisely, but some of us have been using Windows interfaces for many years and we get used to how to do things. This can create a frustration when a familiar approach is no longer available.

Maybe a start button return for Windows 9?

Thursday, 3 January 2013

broken windows

driving home for Christmas
Well, we are all progressively getting back to work.

My additional (failed) domestic task for yesterday was also to take down the external sparkling lights as rashbre central returns to its normal operating state.

I had a couple of irritants along the way which deflected me from my purpose.

This included the first technological failure of 2013, when the quietest household PC stopped working. It's only used for modest duties but now it's flashing lights refuse to come on at all and the whole device lies inert.

I've tried all of the usual remove power, remove battery, use a replacement power supply, reset the hardware type things but it looks as if something on the motherboard has died.

I googled the failure on the internet and it seems to be quite a common occurrence. I have already surrendered to the inevitability of buying a replacement machine rather than attempting to repair this particular piece of hardware.

So now for the new flashing lights of the slightly mysterious Windows 8...

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Reset the counters for 2013

new dawn from space
Time to press the reset buttons again for another fine year.