Friday, 31 May 2013

sand me the wi-fi

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The little footpath by the side of the villa leads to another bay and a further beach. The main bay and beach along the road seems to be known to the tourists, whilst this other one seems to be mainly known to the locals.

The whole coastline around here is small bays, some of which have received a commercial makeover and others seem to be part of various national parks and therefore protected.
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Either way, we're not complaining, because we can switch from beachside amenities to quiet and secluded with just a short walk.

It's the first time I've noticed those beach umbrellas with built-in safes for wallets and gadgets - although I'm not sure about whether the accompanying wi-fi on the beach is somehow missing the point?
beach umbrella safe

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

east across the island

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We're moving along today, to a new base camp further to the east. We threw everything into the little car we've hired and cut across winding roads, past fields of orange trees against a backdrop of the mountains.
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The new place is spacious and airy, although the weather is so wonderful I think we'll be spending most time outside.
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The view looks out towards a hilltop castle. I guess we'll need to take a look tomorrow. Fortunately there's mountain bikes waiting to be used.

Maybe that's before we try the pool here; I see there's four poster beds at the poolside to lounge upon.

But this evening we'll have a suitably late Spanish supper waiting.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

sun in my eyes

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It was a bit tricky starting this post because the sun was in my eyes. I'm not complaining; I've just moved a little further around. I still need to be able to reach the sangria, so it's a bit of a balancing act.

I've already acquired one of those English white wrists caused by sudden exposure to sun rays on a dutifully office based skin. Now I've cast the wrist-watch aside for a few days so we'll have to see if the stripe evens out.

Today has been filled with sunshine and beaches, even a very orange flavoured ice cream at one point. Tomorrow we're moving on, to another coastline and more areas to explore.
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Monday, 27 May 2013

squirly pastries

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Today's breakfast included some little squirly pastries, which I initially thought were a type of Danish pastry. They turned out to be a simple but tasty ensaïmada, which left a lingering aroma of dusted icing sugar long after they'd been eaten.

Later I noticed the same confection in shops, where they were much larger and clearly a speciality of this area. Another culinary surprise were the apparent Cornish pasties stocked in the same shops. They were actually empenadas, but the ones I've usually seen have been much smaller. Some of the ones here made Cornish pasties look small. And don't get me started on the doughnuts. Some would require two hands to lift.

I normally think of Spanish cuisine more in terms of seafood, grilled fish, paella, tapas and tortilla. Maybe the Crema Catalana would also be on the list, but that's where my Spanish pudding knowledge starts to taper away.

So then into the town, which has a large port full of fancy yachts and a cathedral which received a partial makeover from Gaudi. The cathedral is on a truly dramatic scale, with the inside draped with gold. A sculpturally interesting crown of thorns cuts across the alter, but compared with structures in Barcelona, the Gaudi influence, to me, seemed less obvious.
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Instead, I found myself wondering whether the skull and crossbones on some of the graves were simply the old symbols of death, or whether when the symbol of the bones passing behind the symbol of the skull, meant a possible pirate.
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Sunday, 26 May 2013

ramble

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Another spot of cafe society today, although this time it's in Spain. We've headed to the Mediterranean for a few days and right from the start there's a strange yellow orb in the sky that hasn't been seen so much in England.
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Today we've been gently rambling the narrow streets, and there will be more of that for the next couple of days, until we head off to somewhere with a beach. Although, come to think of it, we were sipping drinks down by the harbour today whilst waiting for the sunset.

Friday, 24 May 2013

awaiting the photofit pigeons

Salt Beef and Pigeon
The bike can be almost silent as it spins along the road.

I'll even make it create scraping mechanical sounds if I think I might startle someone on a quiet lane. It seems better than ringing bells or calling out which can seem annoying and almost rude.

The bike's stealth catches wildlife unawares. Sometimes a last minute flurry as birds flap from the road. Everyone says magpies and crows steal shiny objects. My silent speed shows fleeting gruesome truths of these birds attacking small rodents aiming first for the eyes.

Or larger birds of prey swooping to try to drive smaller animals out of fields towards traffic.

The 2013 edition birds are beginning to appear although everything seems later this year. It's messing with my low flying bird theory.

I reckon the newbies survive by flying above car height, which could explain the extra lane carnage usually around May. I've already seen a couple of birds crash into the glass of the house this year, bouncing away to fly another day. I'm pretty sure one was doing that territory thing and somehow chasing its own reflection. Ouch.

But not the ouch that goes with those ghostly bird imprints which start to appear on windows around now. Usually cartoon photofit images of startled pigeons.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Gatsby at the Electric

Electric Cinema - sofas
We were along at the Electric Cinema to see the new Gatsby movie. It's the right type of place for this viewing experience, with its opulent revamped interior. There's little lit tables between the armchair seats as well as a choice of sofas and beds, all with snuggly cashmere blankets in the adjacent foot tools.

Electric - fizzBefore last year's fire, which wiped out the adjacent brasserie and damaged the cinema, the beds were at the back.

Now they've been moved to the front, which I suppose optimises the view of the screen.

Our drinks were served in those fancy looking cocktail glasses too, which seemed fitting, given the nature of Baz Luhrmann's movie.

He sure knows how to throw a party and the ones in The Great Gatsby were somehow cranked right up to 12.
Gatsby Party
I felt the film divided into two main types of scene. There were the spectacular parties, swooping views of Manhattan and Long Island, and dramatic cars speeding along forming one half. Offsetting this were scenes set in smaller rooms, played very much like stage pieces. The storyline moved along in these closer segments, some of which were also done with a graceful humour.

There were also hat tips to other movies, including an inevitable Titanic moment with di Caprio.

I think most people know the Gatsby story. I wondered whether this production would tinker with the main story points, but it mainly followed the original plot.

Some of the action scenes were so vibrant and heavily cut that the acting took a second seat to other production values, which veered from hold the seat spectacular to downright cheesy. Then, occasionally, there was a scene where a more naturalistic acting could take place. I quite enjoyed these gentler and more realistic interludes which seemed to serve the exposition of the plot.

Despite car chase movies beating Gatsby in the UK ratings, there's a noticeable Gatsby vibe in some parts of London at the moment.

Bookstores are full of related novels and picture books. There's new ranges of Gatsby influenced fashion on tube adverts and on the back pages of magazines and papers.

F Scott Fitzgerald wrote this story of decadence, obsession, passion, corruption, infidelity and an inevitability.

And Luhrmann's movie uses the author's rich text floating over the last scenes. "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

I'm going to re-read the novel next. I have a feeling that I'll keep the idea of the movie and the novel as two separate ways to tell a similar story.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

flickr: i'll wait before forming an opinion on this one

new flickr
flickr's changed.
I'm not sure where the seagulls appeared from.

I added a cupcake. Subtle?

cupcake

Evernote with Moleskine

evernote moleskine
When I'm in meetings and need to take notes, I tend to use a small paper notepad. If I'm working remotely on a headset, then I'll type directly into a laptop, but it seems rude to put a big piece of technology in front of me when I'm talking face to face.

I know this attitude is changing, and there's use of laptops, Blackberries, iPads and so on in most meetings, but they can also mask an escape to email or other disengaging activities. We've all seen those sessions where everyone has the lid opened on a machine as a kind of plastic shield to hide behind.

Of course, the direct input to a machine has its place. Maybe in a lecture setting or for a notetaker in a facilitated workshop. The key for me is that the technology shouldn't be an inhibitor to the engagement with the session. I'll use a phone as a notepad sometimes or handwriting on an iPad through Notability.

Because I tend to revert to paper for basic note taking, I thought I'd try the newest version of the Moleskine notebook, which has been my weapon of choice for years. It's small and even smaller when using the thin cahier version.

An obvious factor is that the notes are saved on paper, rather than into electronic storage. I therefore use it as a short term scratch pad more than for longevity.
evernote page
My experiment is with the newest version of these little notepads, which have dotty lines and a camera friendly contrasty paper. It lets me make notes and snap them with my iPhone, straight into Evernote, which then decodes my handwriting and makes it searchable.

My handwriting isn't usually as big as the example above, which I've done for this blog. After I'd snapped it into Evernote, I typed 'coincidentally' as my first search term, and Evernote found it straight away. Text searching of handwriting - perhaps useful?

I'll see how I get on.
evernote search of moleskine page
Further example: Searching for "eve" on the page finds "event" and "evernote"

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Digital Shoreditch #ds13

Digital ShoreditchI spent some fun time at Digital Shoreditch today. It's running for a couple of weeks and has attracted plenty of sponsors, being only a phone's throw from 'Silicon Roundabout' just to the north of the City of London.

This area of London had a branding makeover and its official name is now 'Tech City', with most of the offices inhabited by digital startup companies.

Set in the old town hall, yet firmly facing the future, Digital Shoreditch is a good way to look across what is happening and to sift out the real stuff.
Digital Shoreditch 2013
The discussions featured the telematics of life-streaming and explored the ways commerce intercepts the shared information. A kind of Moore's Law of rapidly expanding shared personal information. A trend until it bends.

At the core, the mobile phone is the personal device. Ages ago it replaced the cigarette for fidgeting, but then it grew eyes and ears, now it knows where we are, and what we are doing. No wonder it is the subject of innovative commercial attention.

Add the cheap commoditisation of GPS chips, so that constant location data for an individual and fixed location data for 'things' creates a basis for commercial linkages.

Unsurprisingly, beer-ordering fridges tower in the examples, at odds with the large groups who still won't trust online grocery ordering.

Of course, the organisations around the Silicon Roundabout are figuring out behavioural ways to make it all compelling, rather than the trickery of today's opt in/out tick boxes. Appeal to the head and the heart. Tell a story. Get interaction over content.

So Digital Shoreditch is waving its virtual flag for the Big Data/ Cloud based/ Visual Discovery/ Near Field/ Lifestreamed/ Always On environment.

Sure, it doesn't all work reliably yet (the recent near-field double-payments are an example), but it's clear that we can expect accelerating innovation from these methods of business.
Digital Shoreditch

Sunday, 19 May 2013

...and things to make it look good

Bike ride
I hadn't really planned any cycling today, having just completed a range of achy leg trials - I should see the final results tomorrow.

However, the weather was fine in the morning, so an amble around a few smaller roads seemed like the right thing to do.

When I returned, I noticed a new software update for the little bike computer. It's quite amusing that the bike now has as much computer power as a car from a few years ago.

I'm sure this puts me into a strange cycling category, compared with the people whose bike technology stretches to a basket and bell to ring.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

are they off their trolleys?

Trolley
Like many, we get the main grocery shopping delivered, using one of those online systems. If we miss a couple of weeks they sometimes send us a polite reminder with a small gift like free delivery. One of the companies already offers free delivery anyway, but their web-site isn't as easy to use.

There also seems to be a race by the remaining 'non-players' among the big supermarkets to get into the game, such as an announcement by another chain that it is starting a service.

Given that this new entrant has also made its stores attractive (at least around our way), then this all seems to be a slightly awkward business model - build friendly stores but then get people to shop online.
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First the town centre empty, then the reduction of shopping malls and then the decline of individual stores?

Artist Lori Nix has been working up this theme, and has a series of very compelling dioramas illustrating some of these effects, although I can't help thinking that at least in the USA, the reality is already catching up.
Lori Nix - Mall, 2010
Tesco now has 5 dark stores in the UK (just for online) and apparently the biggest online market share, Ocado is on-line only - popular but with apparently small market share (although a lot of vans around our way), Asda claims a third of the market and then Sainsburys with around a fifth of the market. It's supposed to double in size over the next five years, to around £11bn, which would be around 7 per cent of the £156bn supermarket shopping turnover in the UK.

It's already noticeable that if I go into one of the big stores around our way I now have to dodge the extra large carts used by the staff shoppers operating on behalf of online customers.

So a few days ago I witnessed an interesting exchange in store, which I paraphrase:

Shopper to staff member : "Hello, here's my list. I don't suppose you could run around and get this for me?"

Staff member to shopper : "Er, no, we don't do that."

...perhaps a portent?

Friday, 17 May 2013

deep breathing exercises

I'm having a go at this trainerroad cycling thing, during this week.

8DC
It's not the same as pootling around the neighbourhood, but an interesting experience nonetheless.

I think around 1,000 people started; there's around 330 left by now. My own charts of progress are below.
My Standings to Stage 6
By this point, I can feel my legs hinting that they'd like a day's rest, as well as an unexpected occasional urge to take a few extra deep breaths.

The little spiky charts tell me that I have a couple of days of further effort ahead.
Stage profile

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Lichtenstein @ Tate

Lichtenstein @ Tate
Oops. A few days without any blog posts. So much for ten minutes per day with a photo.

I'll have to make do with a catchup post today, and it's another one from a gallery.

I first saw the famous Roy Lichtenstein 'Whaam!' picture many years ago when it was on display in what is now the Tate Britain. I think the gallery was still simply the original Tate Modern at the time.

I think the Tate owned Whaam! and along with a few other landmark modern pictures like the almost all red 'Eve' by Barnett Newman, some of the Mark Rothko's and even some of the Jackson Pollocks, it created some striking ways to observe art.

Then I saw a few more Lichtensteins in New York, probably at the Whitney. Something that doesn't always seem apparent from the pictures is the sheer size of some of the paintings.

artist studio + the dance
The artist studio pictures and the bedroom 'interior with water lilies' seemed massive and surprisingly intense the first time I saw them and indeed the Donald Duck picture hanging on the wall in the artist studio is pretty much a full size replica of the original painting.

Although Roy Lichtenstein is known for the comic style pop pictures, I found the hybrid ones of Picasso and other artists in Lichtenstein's style to be particularly interesting, along with the triptychs showing deconstruction of a picture through various stages.

The show at Tate Modern finishes at the end of the month, but is well worth a look, providing a unique assembly of Lichtenstein's work and a chance to step through the development of his style.

As he said: "I'm interested in what would normally be considered the worst aspects of commercial art. I think it's the tension between what seems to be so rigid and cliched and the fact that art really can't be this way."
Lichtenstein @ Tate

Sunday, 12 May 2013

an impossible girl and the sky is calling

Impossible Girl - The Sky is Calling
The sky was calling from early this morning.

First, before breakfast with a clear blue sheen. I cycled in the bliss of a fine day. Then, a short pause for coffee and an onion bagel, as the sky whitened to a slight edge of drizzle.

It's strange what can flick through the mind on a bike ride and I found myself pondering the bagel circle of crumbs from yesterday's Doctor Who episode.

Not so much the 'Who is Clara?' part, which everyone else is already on to. Check out the astonishing number of Clara Theories.

I'd need a theory around Clara wearing a lot of Roses, being spread across many time periods and having double heart-shaped motifs.

No, I was intrigued by the 'Impossible Girl' reference. Some of us spent a good chunk of a journey to Newcastle listening to 'The Impossible Girl' recently.

We'd started with the daily ditties recorded one January, and then moved onto a separate whole album.

The same Impossible Girl had sent me a brown envelope with her album and as I'd opened it, sequins and stars had fallen from it.

So, how does it all join up?

Yesterday's episode of Doctor Who was written by Neil Gaiman.

He of American Gods, Neverwhere and Stardust, among others.

And married to Amanda Palmer. Amanda Palmer's friends and accomplices include the sisters sometimes known as Vermillion Lies comprising Kim and Zoe Boekbinder.

Here's them all together performing that ironic tune "What's the use of wond'rin' ?" - it could almost come from an episode of Doctor Who.

And now the Impossible Girl part - well that's Kim, who is just about to release a new space based CD - the sky is calling. Catch a track from it here - although it's not due out until mid June.

And to reinforce the connection here's a clip of the Impossible Girl playing ukelele with Amanda Palmer in -er- a restroom (don't ask).

Saturday, 11 May 2013

the sniper in the brain

National Cafe
Chatting with a friend at the National Cafe provoked the idea for a new project. It's something that I'll need to fit in around Proper Work although it has a good sense of fun about it.

Then later a different friend asked me to get involved with another off-piste project, and a small group of us are meeting London on Monday evening to start making plans.

And there's already a third collaborative project underway.

When I look at what they each are about, 'Project One' is very zeitgeisty - of the now, 'Project Two' is predictive of future outcomes and 'Project Three' is more retrospective. Kind of Past, Present and Future.

There is also a Project Four, but I think three taps to pull are sufficient for the moment. Not to mention the various half-finished novels lurking on the hard drive.
National Cafe Bar
None of these ideas are even faintly related to my Proper Work, nor domestically inclined like the imminent remodel of the 'music room', yet these projects all have great potential to entertain.

I also realise that Projects 'One' and 'Three' are in areas where I have interest, but very little experience. Whole new learning curves.

Next week I'll need to decide how much to pursue, dependent on time clawed back from the day job.

I'm almost two years into my revised working model now and fortunately it seems to be providing me with some good space.

Friday, 10 May 2013

around the globe

The Globe Pub
A few of us had got together for an early evening drink. A venue selected between a couple of the London railway termini, to help the commuters among us get away afterwards.

There's countless pubs in central London, but it's surprising how certain ones get referenced and used as landmarks as well as known for their various uses.

Close to where we'd picked, there's a good selection of well known ones.

There's the Anchor, which is a good pub to sit outside, to watch the Thames go by on a sunny evening. It was used in one of the Mission Impossible films and featured Tom Cruise sitting drinking outside.

It's just along from The Market Porter, which is a massively popular market-side pub with people spilling onto the pavement. Despite being busy, there's a fast service, and a good selection of beers. It's another easy place to meet before heading off somewhere else. A standing up kind of pub, also seen in TV series, particularly cop shows.
market porter
Then there's The George. This is an old coaching inn with a Shakespearean history. It's got a galleried timbered appearance and nowadays is owned by the National Trust as a historic building. It had to be rebuilt after it was burned down in the Great Fire, so the version that is there now probably dates from the 1677 rebuild. More a place we'd go to in a larger group.

The Globe is mainly a locals' pub, and like the Market Porter, it is adjacent to Borough Market. This one was used in Bridget Jones and in the movie Bridget lived in a flat above the pub.

We'd all arranged to meet just along from this stretch, but applied one of the rules. The 'More than two pubs along' rule. That's the one related to where we were all working. The nearest pub to an office is the one for quick drop-ins. The one after that is for quieter conversations.

The 'third pub away' has two advantages. Less chance of conversational accidents and the geometric progression of possible pubs dilutes unexpected co-incidences.

There's another more complicated rule about pubs with suspicious names. Like the 'Slug and Lettuce' or 'The Barrow Boy and Banker'. But maybe that's a rule to save for another day.
Barrow Boy and Banker

Thursday, 9 May 2013

AxME at the Tate

Ellen Gallagher - AxME
I've listened to Ellen Gallagher on Radio 4, and she seems good humoured, interesting and engaging.

I found it tougher to appreciate her artwork in her huge AxME exhibition at the Tate Modern. Maybe it was the sheer scale, or perhaps the need for me to have more of an understanding ahead of the viewing?

The show is still very new, and weirdly I thought I could smell fresh paint or paste as I walked in and noticed the walls covered with what looked like the fine lines of Gallagher's own drawings (Yes, I did sniff the walls - a first for me).

A large proportion of the work related to important African-American topics. Slavery, finding identity, social pressures and insecurities. I could get the idea, but at times it felt overwhelming. Maybe that was the point.

I looked at a painting called Oh! Susanna - which was reflective of the original slave song. Of course, the song became a folksy standard via Stephen Foster and the painting depicts the make-up eyes and mouths once used to caricature black minstrels in American popular culture. These carnival-like miniature eyes and mouths then popped up again on another range of paintings showing further arrangements related to a similar theme. I think there was an important message about subjugation and its universal adoption, but ironically also a risk of the same theme's dilution by over-use.
Ellen Gallagher - Wigs
Similarly with a series about hair and wigs.

Vintage repurposed advertisements about changing a racial identity. Original editorial exploitative of racial insecurities. Emphasised by the artist showing the new adapted and aspirational hairstyles in yellow plasticine. I got the general idea, but there were then so many versions of it (hundreds?) that I almost didn't know where to look.

In another room, there were what at first looked like a range of empty frames. I was alone in the room (which also had a large metal framed structure in the centre) and wondered if I'd accidentally strayed into an area that was still being assembled. Then I saw someone else looking. The picture frames did contain careful paper cuts and effects applied across the canvas.

Another room had huge black canvases, with carefully arranged cutouts of wigs, lips and other forms pasted on, seemingly forming other larger shapes and all encapsulated in a black film. I could understand that these pictures required effort to view effectively. Stand in front and they go shiny black. Stand to the side and you can only see a part of the work. The scale was huge, there were clear thematic connections between works, but by now the repetitions were somehow causing me to disengage.

Occasionally there was a picture that stood out as a more accessible work. The Egyptian Abu Simbel temples, adapted with African faces, and an Afrofuturistic spaceship arriving, probably landing with a jazzy Sun Ra soundtrack. It still had the 'eyes', but there was a whimsical and mythical quality that stood it apart.

All along it was making me wonder about this artist's process. Maybe the repetition of themes was emphasising the scale of the situations being depicted? Maybe it was obsessive? Maybe it was trying to make sure the viewer would not forget? Perhaps it was a curator's challenge to find the right filter?

I'm glad I visited, it left a strong impression, but I can't help thinking it might be a case where less could have been more.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

under construction

Cheesegrater, Gherkin, Walkie Talkie
Back in the Smoke today, along the South Bank for a meeting.

The daily changes of London sometimes sneak up and it's when I'm with someone from out of town that I notice it more. Along the lines of "Gosh, isn't the Shard tall?" or similar comments.

The Shard's restaurant has just opened, but my main picture today is of the new configuration as the Cheesegrater and the Walkie Talkie building start to mask some of the views of the Gherkin.

For many years, the old Nat West Tower (Tower 42) dominated this part of the skyline, but then the Gherkin appeared and a few other buildings were chopped down to make room for a new series of taller blocks.
Gherkin, Tower 42 and demolition
The above picture is one I took a few years ago, when an area on the edge of the City was being flattened.

There's similar re-developments across the river in the mainly low-rise area around Nine Elms now, with the planned arrival of the new American Embassy zone and already there's a couple of new tower blocks well under way, just along from the site being cleared for the Americans.

I sense a few more Shard-like structures are emerging.
Shard

Monday, 6 May 2013

A brief diversion to Stanage Edge

Stanage Edge
When I'd planned my original route through the Peak District, I'd marked a few places to visit, which included Mam Tor and Stanage Edge. I was alone for this part of the journey, but decided it would still be fun to get to the top of both locations. I've got the regulation "I'm at the top" pictures from both places, with me holding a camera at arm's length.

At Mam Tor it was still early enough for me to be the only visitor, but by the time I reached Stanage, the climbers were beginning to arrive in numbers.
Stanage Edge
Stanage is a gritstone escarpment, where the top of a fold in the rocks have been eroded akin to the top of a hard boiled egg being sliced away.

It's also on the route of an old road called the long causeway and is one of several notable broad stony paths across the area, once used by Romans and pack mules, nowadays bridle paths and used by hikers.
path