Thursday, 27 February 2014

shards of thought


I'm temporarily living in the shadow of the Shard.

An interesting building which somehow dominates the view late at night.

Stand three steps further back and the main cityscape is of its always-on lights.

I've mused over why different levels of the building use different colour lighting, and why some apparently empty areas are fully lit whilst others are always in shadow?

But it's mainly one of those examples of where I'm 'in the scene' instead of 'observing the scene'.

Maybe next week I'll slow down enough to have time to take a better look.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

you need a fast flyin' train on a tornado track

they lied to us
After I saw that recent movie about the '60s folksinger, I flipped to listening to some Bob Dylan again in the car. Not exclusively, but when on recent circuits of the M25, it's formed a lyrically intense soundtrack.

On my bike, if on a turbo instead of the road, I listen to higher beats per minute stuff that's good for the cycling.

I've noticed there's often not much to the words though. Kind of "feel my body heat, yeah, come close to me' repeated about 50 times. I also know pain points like when Red Oktober by Ex-Plosion comes on during the hill climb in Hell Hath No Fury. Old school synth with a bad bass line. Same with Krystal Nation on another damp tee shirt climb.

So back with the Dylan I'm on track 192, which my car steadfastly informs me is about 60% through the list.

It's Isis and worryingly I seem to know all the words. "A man in the corner approached me for a match. I knew right away he was not ordinary. He said, "Are you lookin' for somethin' easy to catch?" I said, "I got no money", he said, "That ain't necessary" Just that little piece already outdoes my cycle-listening lyrics and that isn't even the full setup for the story.

And there's the ones I've played twice. Like the Dylan poem about Woody Guthrie. So much packed into seven minutes. Although I'm not sure it would urge me up the hill in the same way as Ex-Plosion.

When yer head gets twisted and yer mind grows numb
When you think you're too old, too young, too smart or too dumb...

Check out the video.

Friday, 21 February 2014

everything is awesome


Yes, we decided to see that Lego Movie.

I suppose there was a hint of product placement within this movie, but it was a hoot of a story, which also managed a good twist before the Lego based credits rolled.

The story revolves around Emmett the construction worker (yes, one who reads the instructions) and a plot to blow up everything that is weird (i.e. stuff made without the instructions). A bit recent Lego vs Old School.

We saw it in 3D and some of the scenes were breathtakingly fast and frenzied. It felt as if I'd ingested a few E numbers within the first ten minutes of the action and somehow continued to ramp up throughout the movie.

The big screen scale of the Lego scenes was astonishing, just watching the orderly traffic flow on the motorways or a sweeping scene across the Arizona desert of the Wild West.

Naturally there's adept repurposing of Lego blocks at every opportunity although some Lego characters are better at it than others. The blue 1980s spaceman springs to mind as someone who only really knows how to make a...spaceship. Others could recall Lego parts by serial number and quick fire assemble just about anything.

Further to add the movie's tongue-in-cheek commercial appeal is a cheesy song,"Everything is awesome", which the construction workers will spontaneously start singing, and then continue to sing for multiple hours. "It's a small world", anyone? Oh, no, that's from the competition. And newsflash, I just found the Tegan and Sara version, featuring The Lonely Island. Once heard, never forgotten.

There's rapid-fire humour too, including pokes at the movie itself: "blah-blah-blah - interesting back story - but we know you want to get to the next piece of action"

Weirdly, I'd actually like to see this again (as long as they don't try to blow me up).

Saturday, 15 February 2014

i need shine


Crazy busy days zig-zagging London, without time for side projects.

Saturday's decompression.

A bike ride.

And now I can hear a blackbird singing.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

holding back the tide?

Thames barrier up today
After the fire alarm a few days ago, things have settled. Even the tube strike was called off. The weather has been interfering with my ongoing cable-car commute, because of occasional high winds closing the Air-Line.

Nonetheless, this morning it was working and I could get a view of the Thames Barrier. It was raised again for the umpteenth time this year, to protect London from the highest tide for 60 years.

They explain it's the gulf stream's route that is causing the deluge and that the water is being picked up around the other side of the world. Fluid mechanics in action.

Monday, 10 February 2014

almost hot and steamy


Sunday and I'd just unloaded my bags when the alarm sounded. I was alone in the almost empty car park. There were sirens and a rising set of voices the other side of a row of screened fencing.

I realised I'd have to repack the car and follow the little green signs towards the exits. The first door was locked. A fire exit, eh?

Then I noticed the 'break me' button.

The button didn't break, instead it slid down and the adjacent door opened into a stairwell full of people. They immediately started asking me questions in broken English, assuming that if I'd appeared through this door I must know something.

I didn't and instead made my way downstairs and out into the street.

Quite a few people were wrapped in tinfoil. Space blankets - the sort of thing to pack on a hike, just in case. I couldn't work out how so many people would be this well-prepared but it did add a further dream-like quality to the scene.

I headed to a nearby store to buy some groceries.

By the time I returned the story was that someone had left the steam-room door open.



Sunday, 9 February 2014

fear and trembling with loving sabotage


Fellow blogger Kitty Hannah suggested Amélie Nothomb would be a good read and so I planned to download a novel onto Kindle. It wasn't to be, because only the French editions were available.

I persisted and ordered the paperbacks in English, which arrived in time for me to take them to my temporary bunker on the east side of London.

The two I picked are both autobiographical of what I learn to be a thoughtful and quirky individual.
I read the one where she was twenty-something before I read the one where she was around 5-6 ish. They were both fascinating stories.

In 'Fear and Trembling' she's working in an office in the hierarchies of Japan. She's become an office flower/OL/office lady/shokuba no hana and has a female boss, who should, by rights, have left the office to get married to a salaryman. It's the story of demeaning tasks, a stilted office protocol and a real type of fear built into the system.

It unpacks slowly and with several very graphical scenes, as well as some interesting mind diversions, almost all within the closed walls of the office. I found it a fascinating evocation of the very strange working world seen through western eyes.

And for another author, here's three of the different cover-arts.

Then backwards to China, where she was at a younger age, in the ghetto of the diplomatic classes, again locked away behind walls this time in '70s Beijing.

Aside: Notice that my copy at the top of the post has a different typeface from the one below. Marketing to bring the set to a consistent look?
The kids of the diplomats wage a permanent war against one another, with roughly hewn distinctions which somehow even the numbers. It's written through the child's voice, but with the wisdom and philosophies of a later age. She rides a bicycle (horse) everywhere and is smitten by one of the newcomers to the environment.

There was a moment during the week when a 'blockbuster TV show' was about to start - something I'd usually enjoy - but instead I found myself thinking I'd prefer to see how Amélie was getting on with Elena in 'Loving Sabotage.'

I found them both highly enjoyable reads, and an insight into the author's thinking. Thanks, Kitty, for what proved to be an excellent suggestion.

removing the Office 15 Click-to-Run Extensibility component can be a long scream

Yesterday I mentioned the Sufferfest videos. There's another good one called 'The long scream'. It's title came to mind when I was back in Windows world. I needed to install a new program. Windows wasn't having any of it.

"Unable to install because you have Office 15 Click-to-Run Extensibility component installed"

Really? I wonder what that is?

I hunted through the Uninstall programs part of control panel for the mystical beast.

Nothing showed.

Maybe a reboot?

Still nothing.

Google?

Oh, here we go, some technical articles about how to hack the registry to remove a certain key. This doesn't seem like a particularly on-piste method.

Another search and I found the name of the file that contains the "Office 15 Click-to-Run Extensibility component"

c2rint.msi (How silly of me not to have realised)

Now, do I have it on my computer?

Search c2rintmsi.

Yes, there it is. Now, not to delete it- I'll have to uninstall it.

Right click it, find the 'Uninstall' option and run it.

Sure, enough, it worked, and the "Office 15 Click-to-Run Extensibility component" uninstalled itself.

Now to try re-installing the new thing and this time it worked.

Then Microsoft Office said it had detected an error. Would I like it fixed automatically?

Huh? Yes, please

So I clicked the little repair button and it whirred away.

Then I noticed the Outlook and Word icons had disappeared from the taskline.

Then I noticed that the 'Repair' had deleted my entire MS Office setup.

That's when I particularly thought of the long scream.

Time to go for a bicycle ride.


Saturday, 8 February 2014

turbo bike ride instead of braving the white marbles


Today the white marbles were falling out of the sky, so I decided to have another bicycle ride on the turbo. I decided I'd do the same ride as yesterday and see whether I could stay above the line all the way up two steep hills in the middle of the session.

I didn't.

It's hard to spot on the chart above, but after some energetic spinning at the start, I conk out momentarily at about 22 and 26 minutes. It's very subtle, but I know I faded.

Both yesterday and today I ran out of watts before the top of the two big climbs.

I've used this course in the past and somehow these times I didn't feel quite as feeble by the end of it. Perhaps my last 2-3 weeks of non-cycling have given my system a chance to recover.

I'm also pleased to say I can keep peddling all the way through these kind of scenes now. When I started I'd usually have to stop after about 20 minutes and sometimes by the hour it could get a bit embarrassing.

At least I'm up to 46 miles cycled this week.

But before I feel too righteous about this and the Dryathalon (no booze) during January, I have to report this year's creme eggs beckon. With that in mind, tomorrow I might try Blender.

Friday, 7 February 2014

my own little sufferfest


I was pinged by fellow fitbit user Amanda today. She'd just overtaken me in the personal fitbit leaderboard stakes and I've already sent my congratulations. It's a strange concept really, using an internet enabled pedometer to measure mileage, calories, flights of stairs climbed and to be able to socially compete with total strangers.

Personally, I prefer the fitbit to all of the gaudy bracelet type systems, which shout 'look at me'. The fitbit is totally discreet and can work by simply being in a pocket.

I also looked at my cycling for the last month or so. Because of where I've been working, I haven't been out on a bike since 19 Jan, until today.

During January I managed 258 miles, which may sound respectable, but is somewhat short of me being able to meet a decent annual target.

So far in February I've just done one cycling session and that was today, indoors, on the turbo. I used one of the Trainerroad/Sufferfest workouts and videos, but have had to abandon my plan to do the Sufferfest competition that ran over end of January and start of February. I'm just nowhere near my bike.

Instead, today's turbo session was 'Hell hath no fury' which is around one hour twenty minutes. By the end I was starting to dissolve. It's described as a 2 x 20 minute workout and features women's professional cycle racing. Certainly no pushover.

I feel very overtaken today. In a good way, of course.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

turbulence on the cable car


My great commuting plan came a little unstuck today. It's the first day of the Tube strike, but with my aerial commute using the cable car I thought I'd be able to avoid the problems.

There was a slight increase in passengers this morning, although I still had a car to myself as we took off for the flight across the Thames. Then at the cruising altitude of 297 feet, a special announcement about turbulence came onto the speaker system.

The cable care was swaying around, but I regard that as part of the fun of the journey.

We landed and I disembarked for the next part of my journey.

Except.

The wind continued to grow and by around lunch time it was difficult to walk around.

The cable cars had disappeared.

They'd all been tucked back into their little shelters at either end of the route. I was now stranded on the wrong side of the river.

Things could get rather tricky for me to get back to base.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

about time I saw this


I've just seen that Richard Curtis film called 'About Time', which is a rom-com with an understated bit of time travelling thrown in. No need for Gigawatts of power or police boxes, in this film it's achieved by standing in a cupboard and clenching fists.

Although there's a central part of the plot around this, the film seems to be much more a study of a family with some commentary on the value of relishing every moment.

Coincidentally, I saw Curtis being interviewed yesterday and he explained that he was stepping down from directing so that he could, himself, live some of the values that the film espoused.

The plot is on the packaging, so we get a humorously narrated Domnhall Gleeson playing the lead and trying to get the girl played by Rachel McAdams. Bill Nighy is the father and there's a quirky purple clad sister too. And other cast make a suitably crafted Curtis potpourri of interesting family and friends.

Things do go wrong, but the film's plot line was mostly feel-good aside from the potential creepiness of the Groundhog day styled replays of certain events. Probably because I've been watching Nordic Noir I was expecting some specifically dark twists, but even the grim moments are played with a light touch.

It was an easy movie to watch and enjoyable in a mostly light-hearted way.

Oh yes, and Curtis knows how to do weddings. The one in this movie has to be an all time great.

Curtis has an amazing back-catalogue of popular Brit-coms like Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually and Bridget Jones, and there was even a little sequence at the end of the movie that did some sharp cuts to what could have been scenes from other Curtis stories.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Next Train to Depart - (Review)


Live Theatre to see the sold out play by John Challis, “The Next Train to Depart”, commissioned as a new work by Queens Hall Arts, Hexham.

The tag-line described a ‘Brief Encounter for the 21st Century’. It's a two-hander set in the ambient sounds of Newcastle Central, where an aspirant poet meets a call centre worker.

Both twenty-somethings, she doesn’t remember their first encounter, when rendered mortal as the result of a Lambrini fuelled Hen night.

He writes initially over-the-top poems which he’ll perform under spotlight as the action progresses.

There’s a weave to the action. A dialogue that gradually tunes as they get to know one over several meetings. Maybe the call centre worker has the more poetic eye? Maybe the hours of observing from a table at the station have created an overload?

The performance by Adam Donaldson as Dante created an enigmatic poet, becoming more grounded through the influence of Alex Tahnée as Kayleigh. Alex presents a feisty spirit, a canny awareness of Dante’s observations and a great counterpoint to his outpourings.

Snappily directed by Melanie Rashbrooke, with scarcely an unused second or nuance, this was an elegant performance worthy of its current North Eastern tour, but also in need of being seen by a wider audience throughout the UK.

Somewhere like Theatre 503 should consider this for a London airing.