Sunday, 29 September 2013

FeLiNa - blood, meth and tears?


I noticed that there's been a few recaps of TV series finales spread around t'Interweb over the last few days. One that is frequently quoted is that Sopranos ending.

I think there were two endings. The Hollywood ending a couple of episodes further back at the cliff-edge - I won't describe except to say it is Tony being King of the Canyon.

Then the writers for the last couple of shows came along to do the proper Sopranos ending. People (even the BBC) describe the 'fade to black' ending, but it was a 'cut to black'.

The popular view was that Tony Soprano was clipped by the guy in the "Members Only" Jacket. It's been described at length. But it also depends on the 'Point Of View'.

My alternative theory could be that it's the audience that gets the bullet. Cut to black with no audio. Hmm, pretty terminal.

Interestingly, Breaking Bad did something similar at the end of S5E13 To'hajiilee; Gunfire and a cut to black. Three episodes to go.

Different reasons, but it is making me wonder about false endings again?

Saturday, 28 September 2013

small probabilities

Alice plays looking-glass croquet, with Warner Heisenberg
I've already spotted Christmas Mince Pies in Tescos and Strictly is back on the television.

Our gang have one of those Strictly Sweepstakes running again, this time with an even more complicated scoring system than last time. The rolled garden hedgehog allocated me a contestant called Julian, so at some stage I'll need find out who I am supporting.

My picture shows some hedgehogs, who bear an uncanny resemblance to Werner Heisenberg whilst being tested against a brick wall. They should bounce off, of course, although in quantum mechanics there is a small probability that a hedgehog will appear on the far side of the wall. About the same probability as me winning the sweepstake.

And see what I've done? Managed to mention Heisenberg just before the last episode of Breaking Bad.
heisenberg

Thursday, 26 September 2013

a small flutter

HRM 1
An interesting phenomenon when out cycling a couple of days ago. My Heart Rate Monitor reading suddenly sped up to 234bpm.

Fortunately, I could tell this wasn't accurate, because I wasn't even out of breath at the time.

I'd been peddling and also watching some migratory geese(?) flying east in V shaped formations. There were some big groups and a few stragglers.

I looked at the handlebar read-out and thought that maybe I should stop anyway.

As a general guideline, maximum heart rate (using the simple formula) is something like 220 minus age, which by any measure illustrates that the reading was a little on the enthusiastic side.

I quickly worked out what had happened. Let's just say my latest extra layer of clothing had created a micro-climate sufficient to create a short circuit on the HRM.
HRM 2
I re-traced the route today and it was at more or less my 'endurance' heart rate.

So as an ongoing reference, here's one of those little tables, based upon the work of Andrew Coggan, which illustrates cycling effort levels.

Cycling Effort levels

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

the wrong mans

The Wrong Mans
I enjoyed the first episode of the spoof crime series "The Wrong Mans". Aside from its plot, which involves a Berkshire County Council employee stumbling into a ransom situation after a car crash, there's the frequent references to other movies.

It's been written by James Corden and his buddy Matthew Baynton and has funding from Hulu, who will show it on US streaming television too. I suppose it is fairly unusual for a series like this to make it across the pond without being redeveloped into an American setting.

They are only 30 minute shows but use a good shorthand to pack plenty into the episode. I almost felt like immediately watching it again, but the disappointing London Irish intervened.

The most obvious movie reference would be to Hitchcock's "The Wrong Man", although there's little pieces of snow laden Fargo, an overt reference to Fight Club, a superior version of snide UK office politics, a hybrid E.R. meets Casualty and enough swerves to keep anyone on their toes. Some of the scenes may incorporate cliches, but they are mighty fine cliches and with good twists.
The Wrong Man
I'm usually wary of "next week's show" trailers giving away too much, but on this occasion it's clear that there's plenty more fun and games as the series unpacks.

Monday, 23 September 2013

no need for speed

police car
My last blog post included a reference to the movie Paul, which is a science fiction comedy about an ET character meeting two Brits whilst they are on an Extraterrestrial Trail holiday in a camper van.

There's a part where they meet a local Sheriff and he asks them about the UK policemen and the lack of guns. It's done for humour but also reminds me of my recent brush with US law enforcement when travelling slightly above the 25 mph speed limit in a small town. The lights from the powerful policecar filled the mirror and were like a space ship was landing behind us.

We pulled over and my out of state plates showed we were not from around these parts even before I opened my British mouth.

The shadowy police car with its re-inforced front bumper and row of red, white and blue flashing lights set the scene and the fella questioning me made sure to tell me I was being recorded.

In England we'd get out of the car, but here I asked first, and then had to fiddle around in the trunk to find the relevant paperwork. I noticed that as I did this, the Sheriff appeared to be resting his hand on his gun holster.

I found the documents, explained that we'd got lost and asked him if he knew the route we needed.

He didn't, although after he could see we were slightly hapless tourists, his attitude became very helpful and he commented that it was the first British driving licence he'd ever seen. It's fair to say we were only marginally over the speed limit and I think the effect of pulling us over right in the middle of the small town had a major effect on the local population, who would indeed think twice before edging towards 30 mph.

Suitably admonished, but also after shaking hands with the now smiling Sheriff, we made our way back into the area known as "lost".

Saturday, 21 September 2013

sometimes time travel is required

Time travel flowchart
I saw this diagram some time ago and realise that it's not just useful for movies. It could have been handy this week when I was busy running about, as a way to help me diagnose which type of time-poor situation I was in.

And the supplementary question: given one chance to time travel, would it be forwards or back? My answer is in an envelope.

Of course, we've all done it somewhere.

Stood on a dateline and jumped backwards and forwards like they do in the movie 'Paul'. We get a brief chance again next month when the clocks change, I suppose.
Paul Movie
There's always been a useful date for time travel: 7th May, 2005. It's the date everyone was supposed to advertise to give time travellers somewhere to converge. Of course, the event was over-subscribed and so they had to turn a lot of people away. Some of the time travellers probably saw that Tina Fey newscast where she said that the party wasn't any good either.

It raises another paradox, that if a single event was unsuccessful, then maybe there's more. Sufficient to mean that time travellers wouldn't bother to show up. Or at least to travel incognito.

Then there's that coffee shop with the notes in the drawer.
coffee shop time traveller note
Hmm, HAL, Dave, 687 comments?...

Note: I back-posted this to Saturday.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

slippery in the saddle?

Bike Project
Since I've rejigged the silver bike's gears and all, bizarrely the thing that has taken the longest to re-adjust has been the saddle.

Most of my bikes have fairly similar profiled saddles on them. They have a quite a narrow shape with very little side walls. The Fizik Arione and the Charge spoon, to name a couple.
The Focus Cayo needs some TLC
For the silver bike, I've kept the Brooks saddle that I've used with it previously. Despite its long sides, it is still classed as a B17 Narrow saddle and although it weighs about twice as much as my other ones, I don't mind at all on this bike.
b17 narrow brown
It's at least three years old and I can still remember the first couple of rides were quite hard, but that quickly changed to something very comfortable. The thing I've noticed more since I readjusted everything is the slipperyness. I haven't re-treated it or polished it or anything, but I'm definitely sliding around.

I'm told that the nature of a Brooks saddle is to prevent aches by providing multiple riding positions, so maybe it's a feature, not a bug.

So now I'm experimenting with the front tilted up slightly and I think today was the first time since I fiddled with the bike that I've managed to get it 'just so'. We shall see.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Talking Bad

Breaking Bad
The last few gripping episodes of Breaking Bad are playing out through September, and it's interesting to see the way they are testing new ways of social viewing. The series is on AMC in the USA and has a Sunday 9pm slot.

There's a follow-up TV show called Talking Bad, to review the episode, in a way that is similar to the post-mortems of talent show contests here in the UK.
Breaking Bad
We don't have Breaking Bad shown on normal television here in the UK, although the Netflix version is available from sometime late on Sunday evening.

It's an interesting development comprising the show, the post show review and also a parallel internet dialogue running at showtime, which includes various votes and similar.
Breaking Bad
I don't know whether it will ever be shown here on terrestrial or satellite, but it would be difficult to recreate the US style experience. I wonder if there will be similar experiments with UK programming, other than cringe-worthy reality shows?

Monday, 16 September 2013

apple iTarte

Untitled
We've been eating apples from the garden and have plans for a few more to go into some kind of tarte tatin.

The apples are the dessert rather than cooking kind, which should actually work better for the upside-down recipe. Caramelise the halved apples, top with shortcrust, bake, invert. Eat.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

in which the hybrid bike gets its climbing gears

Bike Project
I took a few snapshots during the bike cog switchover the other day.

The result is that the hybrid bike now has a slick twenty speed climbing gearset(2x10), which breathes new life into it.

The old 9 speed deraillier was from a mountain bike and the handlebar selectors were 3x9. Note the direct cable routing, rather than a road bike's typical loop.

The previous gears on the bike were actually a 10 speed, so it's a bit mixed up before I start. It was 2x10 running on 3x9 selectors and a 9 speed rear deraillier plus a stretched chain. Oops.
Hybrid bike gear swap 11:24 -> 11:32
I thought I'd sort out the front selectors too. The old 9 speed did work across the 10 gears, but it would be easier to put on a proper spare set of 10 speed.

They are SRAM flat handlebar selectors, with those little indexing windows. Ideal as I'll also use this converted bike with the turbo trainer.
Hybrid bike gear swap 11:24 -> 11:32
Ping out the rear wheel. Find the new rear gear cassette. Somewhat bigger and a lot shinier than the old one.
Hybrid bike gear swap 11:24 -> 11:32
Remove the old cogs with one of those special spanners. I always struggle to work out which way round to put the chain spanner, to get leverage.
Hybrid bike gear swap 11:24 -> 11:32
There. New cogs installed. They only fit one way, thanks to the little indexing tabs on the bike hub. Its the same indexing for Shimano and SRAM. The original rear gear was Shimano, then a temporary SRAM and now this new one.

I noticed a couple of loose spokes during the process and have re-tightened them. I know they are inexpensive wheels, but a separate future project will be to get some improved wheels for the carbon bike and hand the current carbon bike's wheels down.
Hybrid bike gear swap 11:24 -> 11:32
Time to break the bike chain and remove the rear deraillier.

I recalculate the length of the new chain instead of just copying the length of the old one. The new one should, in theory, be longer, but the calculation of 'tight around the biggest gears + 1 link + the Powerlink means it will actually be slightly shorter than the one it is replacing.
Hybrid bike gear swap 11:24 -> 11:32
Remove the rear derailler with an allen key, then clean the rear hanger before putting everything back.
Hybrid bike gear swap 11:24 -> 11:32
The replacement deraillier is bolted on via allen key.
Hybrid bike gear swap 11:24 -> 11:32
Reattach the wheel with it's sparkling gear.
Hybrid bike gear swap 11:24 -> 11:32
Rethread the chain and new cables, having first checked the deraillier alignment. Remember to pull the new cables tight before screwing them into place. Cut with a proper cable cutter and add those little caps.

Flick through the gears up and down a few times in both big ring and small ring positions (i.e. all 20 gears) to check alignment. Make micro adjustments (the last millimetre) using the black twisty wheels by the black outer cables.
Hybrid bike gear swap 11:24 -> 11:32
Add a Garmin sensor, so that the bike counts wheel revolutions (speed) and cadence; useful on the road and also with the turbo.
Hybrid bike gear swap 11:24 -> 11:32
And,'hey presto' a bike. There's still a few more things to adjust, but it is back in action. Elapsed time, with coffee, around one and a half hours.

According to the Garmin, I've put about 100 miles on it since I swapped it around and it's pretty much bedded in. So much smoother than previously. I guess the proper SRAM 10 speed chain helps! It may not be the fastest bike, but a very entertaining ride.

Friday, 13 September 2013

can't see the top of the Shard

Shard up close
Around the City of London today.

I looked over towards the Shard and Canary Wharf. They were both shrouded in cloud. The grey skies are back and I'd even packed an umbrella into my bag.
Royal Exchange and Bank of England

Thursday, 12 September 2013

sneaky september spiders

Buzzing spider
Todays's specimen was a Buzzing Spider, which was looking at me from a door frame. Yesterday there was a small wolf spider. The bouncy kind that tried to jump out of the tumbler used to catch it before moving it back outdoors.

You know. Cover it with a tumbler. Gently slide a card underneath. Invert. Carry outdoors. Tip onto foliage.

And the day before that we had a long leggy house spider.

The low-key invasions started promptly at the beginning of September (which I think of as spider month). As the weather starts to change, a few errant spiders make their way indoors, mainly on the lookout for mates and probably less successful at being spiders indoors than outside. Other than the house spiders, most of them do a lot better in the open, with a combination of water and small flying things to support them.

We usually liberate them again, and it seems to be my job to do this, occasionally finding an area of the house cordoned off with that yellow and black warning tape until I can intervene.
emergency tape

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

arty ways to get an iPhone 5C for $29?

crocs
The economical method could be to get one of those new 5C cases for the iPhone5 instead?

black editionIt would stand out as a 'black dot' edition. Like a powerful Black edition car. Only it's a phone.

A more expensive option could be to slip a Damien Hirst picture in between the iPhone 5 and the 5C case to make something unique.
damien hirst spot painting exhibition
Okay, maybe a smaller Damien Hirst would work better?

Or just wrap polka dots around the outside in a kind of Yayoi Kusama tribute?
Yayoi Kusama
Until the iPhone 6, of course.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

bicycle's new cogs on test spin around virtual Madrid with Trainerroad

Hybrid bike gear swap 11:24 -> 11:32
I whipped the new cogs and shifters onto the silver pub bike, which now has a very skittish personality. This was the plan, of course.

I'll probably add a few pictures of the change when I have more time.

So far I've only taken it out for a quick spin to the nearest wiggly lane. I don't like going far on a revised bike until I've had a chance to ensure everything is working properly. It's already quite fun having it set up so differently from my usual carbon bike. More upright, straight handlebars, MTB clickers and I'd forgotten how slippery the leather saddle can be. I should have done this sooner.

I've added a spare Garmin sensor and a heavy duty rear skewer, so its fully turbo compatible in preparation for the darker months ahead.

Just for fun I clipped it into the Bushido and tried one of those virtual reality videos of a spin around Madrid. I used Trainerroad on a PC as the testbed, and a Ride Fit video.

It was good fun although madrileños have different biking rules from here in the UK, with added creative use of pavement areas. The video shows that there's a pretty good biking infrastructure around the city. My actual visit to Madrid remembers some significant slopes, although this ride seems to be along flatter parts by the river and through an area of the centre.

I used the turbo ride as a bike test and to ensure that all the various sensors and links are working. So far so good, although I have a feeling that getting the TACX software to run properly will be more of a challenge than Trainerroad, which just works.

Monday, 9 September 2013

turning the hybrid bike into a 20 speed hill climber

Bike Project
No, the picture is not a ninja shuriken, I'm just starting a bike modification that I've been idly considering for a few months.

In truth, another cyclist's exploits on hills finally spurred me on.

I should explain.

I have an aluminium hybrid whose gears were a bit mashed. I'd already transferred an old 10 speed cartridge onto the back wheel as a replacement, but as the rest of the bike was 9 speed it was only interim.
Bike Project
The 9 speed changer with a 10 speed cartridge

Despite the hurried changeover, the full range of gear changes worked, even with a 9 speed handlebar selector. Just keep shifting, the clicker didn't seem to mind. All 18 gears worked although the 9 speed chain ran a bit lumpily around the smallest cogs. Now's the time to turn this slightly sad bicycle into one with some happy personality.

So here's my combination project:
  1. To take off the mis-matched 11-24 rear gears and put on a hill climbing 11-32 set. A wider range of gears, for the entertainment value. At the same time, to change over the current 9 speed mountain bike style rear deraillier for a normal 10 speed road changer. Eagle-eyed would spot that currently the cable goes direct instead of 'around' at the back.
  2. Standardise on one make of components. It's 2/3 SRAM and 1/3 Shimano at the moment. Pragmatically SRAM therefore wins.
  3. To exchange the front gear selector for a 10 speed so that there are the right number of clicks. The SRAM decision gives me an excuse to use Doubletap.
  4. To use 'indexed' selectors so that I can read the gear selected as a little number on the handlebar. I wouldn't normally worry about this, but I'm thinking of also using the bike with with the turbo trainer in winter. A visible gear selection could therefore be quite handy.
  5. To add an ANT+ sensor, so that it can commune with the other bike equipment and sensors. It will probably be WiFi, ANT+, bluetooth and -er- Wifli enabled (!)
Bike Project
Prior 9 speed selector, hanging around

Excluding the climber gear cassette, I already had most of the bits and pieces lying around, making this an inexpensive project.

Although, I must admit, when the new gear cassette arrived I started to wonder what I'd done. It's like a saucer compared with the beer mat sized one on there at the moment.

I'll try to swap it over outdoors on a dry day when I can take a few photos. It shouldn't take too long and should make quite an interesting contraption. A flexibly geared hybrid that also suits turbo use. I've also liberated a Brooks saddle and some fancy bar ends, so this neglected bike could be quite fun by the time it is finished.
Bike Project

Sunday, 8 September 2013

in which I try immobilise tags for the bikes

ImmobiTag cycle tag
I've been using that useful free Immobilise.com web site for some time to register valuable items.

It only really takes one splurge to set up, based on initially the most valuable/vulnerable items. Initially I simply listed a few things like iPhones and laptop computers and then have occasionally added a few more things like cameras and fancy lenses. It's good because you can list the items and then progressively fill in more info when there's time. An example was the various computers. I could list them and then add the serial numbers when I was next on the relevant device. I suppose it could be extended to anything with a serial number and does have the advantage of keeping all the information in one place.

The web-site lets you list the item, its serial number(s), identifying marks and even add notes and some photos. It's the citizen half of the National Mobile Property Register, which is the bit that the police use to identify stolen/lost property.

Police forces as well as main luggage handling services like railways and airlines all use this to follow up on serial numbers and markings to identify and re-unite property with owners.
screenshot_224
I thought I'd extend it to my bicycles and sent away for their (paid for) Immobitag, which is a simple RFID device which is pushed into the bike frame, effectively providing a permanent electronic tag. Once its installed, it is almost impossible to remove, because its like a one way springy thing that embeds low into a tube on the bike.

A simple idea. It's not like the tracker on my car which sends out a signal if its been moved without authorisation, but it's still a useful additional aid to crime prevention.

I'm told the mainly free scheme works by the sale of the 'extras' like sheets of traceable tags and marker pens, so I don't mind spending a few bob to show some support.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Drowned Man - Punchdrunk

Untitled
A few of us visited the National Theatre/Punchdrunk's excellent 'The Drowned Man' in the mysterious dilapidated building by Paddington Station. I've blogged about it previously, and the first time I saw it was part of the early previews.

My gang of accomplices were also seasoned Punchdrunkers, so when we arrived at the allotted nine pm start time, we were the first through the doors into the black labyrinth which precedes the first view of the film studio.

Suitably masked we were bundled into a creaky 'Tower of Terror' style lift and dispatched onto different floors of the building. The pictures here are Punchdrunk PR shots, I wouldn't take photos in a theatre performance. Rest assured though, that it is possible to get very close to the action and to explore the whole environment.
Untitled
I noticed that the whole start-up process has been slickened since I last attended and I had a similar feeling about the event as a whole.

I'd also had time to process my prior experiences including that the original Georg Büchner play Woyzeck (on which this is partly based) had been discovered as fragments and then assembled. It seems to fit with this production, which can be likened to the clips of a film, being discovered in a random sequence. There's also a kind of negative and positive reconstruction of the same story, which isn't explained and takes a little while to fall into place.

This time, I arrived in the middle of a set of caravans, in darkened zone close to a mysterious chapel, which was gently leaking a liquid. The moisture heightened a damp underfoot aroma as I made my way through hanging laundry and towards a small woodland. Our group was already dispersed by this time, and I truthfully didn't see two of them again at all until around midnight after the performance.

I decided to get myself further lost and moved away from this initial environment, to a vast desert where two men sat alone playing a slow motion game to win drinks from a bottle of tequila.

There was an advantage to being early to the party, to see a few scenes before the inevitable crowds of spectral viewers arrived.
Untitled

The play features a madness, and actors sometimes psychotically see the masked people watching them. At other times they look straight past, even in moments of intense close encounter.
The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable
For me, this version was very different from previously. I'd arrived at a different point, knew some of the scenes, but was also surprised at how much more there was to see. There were a couple of whole places that I remembered but didn't find again at all on this visit.
Untitled
Imagine a complex of American movie sets, plus some of the surrounding environment. During the preview it was positioned that the scenes were in the London outpost of the Hollywood studio.

This time it was firmly American. Some of the detailing had been changed, but there was still a brooding ambient soundtrack which sometimes swelled to a full-on movie climax. It was difficult to not be affected by this and at one point I followed sounds which seemed to have been deliberately reversed to further disorientate.

There's a darkness to the storylines too. Movies, power, sex, voodoo, quasi-religion, symbolism, experiments, menace. And if you try to follow the light it can still lead you away from the path.
Drowned Man
This time I spent more time discovering further secrets and the hidden passageways that link things together. There's a delight in delving into a changing room wardrobe, wondering what's there and discovering a disturbingly long and winding path through hanging black curtains to another entirely different environment. Or hanging around in a deserted cinema to see if a movie will play - or just as importantly, what is the other side of the screen.
Untitled
It was a good hour and a half before I found the bar, which is the only place in the whole building where masks can be removed. It was lively and full, with a torch singer and a very cool bluesy/jazzy band playing. A place to hang out in its own right, except there was still more to see and experience.

I'd taken my own route through most of the show, but there were others who would follow a character along and I noticed at various points when a character arrived at the bar another 20 or more people would follow.
Untitled
It's still a mystery to me how there can be 600 visitors to this performance yet I could be in whole areas alone. As an example I arrived in a vast chequered floored area alone, saw a central column with a postcard, noticed two people lying prone on the floor and then spied a man watching from behind a column. I won't say more, but it takes a moment and some caution to approach the couple.

I realise I'm not really dealing with the story or the narrative here. If I did it could be a spoiler, but in any case I think a large proportion is the immersive experience.

At it's simplest it could be called promenade theatre; I'll suggest it's so much more.
Untitled