Wednesday, 31 December 2014

end of 2014 photo recap


Bike ridden for the last time in 2014 this afternoon. Can see the back of the fridge again in places. Video snapshots created. Now to start the 2015 prep.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

frozen end of year chirped pulse amplification of petawatt beams


A few end of year reflections on the state we're in. I know, it will all be on t'internet, where everyone can read and gasp over these comments for years to come.

Except, in general, even privately authored public blogs only get a generally small readership.

When I first started this blog thing, I deliberately kept the name away from my own as a sort of air gap. Actually, various systems are able to rejoin the broken links nowadays, probably by following the IP breadcrumbs as well as the larger cookies. All so they can try to sell me a lawnmower/telescope/wine subscription and confusingly sparkly jewellery,

It leads nicely to the lazy journalism stories of social media being hacked and secrets of all kinds being spilled. Yes, if you are famous and put a selfie of something embarrassing about yourself onto a public forum, it will probably get re-tweeted. And if you are a big corporation, expect people to want to dig into your secrets. Take the Orion project's laser performance at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, for example.

And yes, if you reply to one of those chain mail get rich quick things, you will certainly get more. No surprises there, nor with the Russian bride and other scam letters.

Still internetting, narcissism accelerates with the continued rise of the selfie. I used to take self portraits as a kind of test or to use up the last frame of a roll of film. Nowadays there's a special stick for a cameraphone (it has a rude name sometimes which I won't repeat here) and it's used to take 'better' selfies. It's commonplace to see theses sticks brandished around certain parts of London, like Traf Square.

A similar effect also extends to videos, with the celebrity buckets of ice tipping and a curious lack of information about the amount actually donated to related charities.

Of course, donations to charity by phone and online continue, although the next twist of the Search Engine Optimisation scams create interesting dilemmas. The winner of The Apprentice has a derivative business idea based upon SEO although I assume it won't be the guerrilla format increasingly used. Take the new Dart Charge - the regular 'Dart Charge' search can be disabled and a substitute result applied. The parasitic substitute 0903 phone number site then charges £1.53 per minute to connect to the real call centre site.

Disappointing to me is the lack of political satire now available as we watch destabilisation politics from the main parties as they try to keep us guessing about what is really happening. The Beeb are probably scared because of their charter renewal and the commercial stations have to worry about the advertisers, so we are left to puzzle at daily conflicting information.

I can only watch George Osborne in so many colourful hard hats and high-via jackets and like many (but not - it would appear the deficit avoiding Opposition), I'm wondering about: (a) what happens to all that Quantatitive Easing money we keep printing? (b) why some of the dodgy bankers don't get put in prison? (c) who is getting fat eating all the pies? There's many more questions, but I'll save some for next year.

The Westminster villagers continue to have cosy expenses whilst idling and posturing for the next fixed term election - they find ever imaginative ways to look busy whilst doing little until next May.

I'm of a view that we need somehow to have an operating system upgrade for the U.K. It's hard to know what is possible given the lack of options? It can't include that dangerous cartoon character who has boasted of using his European expenses allowance to fund his 'get out' party.

It's probably a calculated positioning by the other parties to let it run because bizarrely they become the 'least unacceptable' choices instead of a genuinely good choice.

But that's probably enough for the moment.

I usually keep these blog posts to ten minutes and a picture, so this one is already something of an overrun. In the words of that frozen cartoon movie that I only just managed to watch: Let it go, let it go, let it go.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

changing the London meaning of red circle with white C?


I drive regularly in and around London and so have my car set up for the Congestion Charge payment scheme via Automatic Number Plate Recognition. It means I don't have to worry about manual payment or penalties when I trip the London Congestion Charge zone.

The symbol for congestion charge is a red circle with a white C inside it. Easy enough? Yes, until the recent Dart Charge system opened for the Dartford crossing. It's at the east side of London where the River Thames is crossed by either a tunnel (northbound) or a bridge (southbound). For years it had a series of toll booths, but they have been recently replaced with ANPR style cameras which match the car registration with a payment.

The symbol for the system? A red circle with a white C.

Exactly the same as the Congestion Charge.

So someone using the Congestion charge ANPR system for payment could be forgiven for thinking that the same system works for the bridge and tunnel?

Brrrp. No.

It doesn't. Although its another automatic number plate recognition system, it's entirely different. The hours of use are different and the messages on the approaches say you'll need to pay by midday the following day, although it's not really that clear about how, except they say 'find us online'.

Actually, especially from the south side the toll messages can blend in with the various road works, diversion, no unaccompanied flammables, new road layout under construction and similar sets of signage. There's also still a barrier which automatically rises and which, particularly during the Christmas/New Year period, gives the impression that the system may be switched off. Just like London Congestion Charge which is suspended from 25th December to 1st January.

Fortunately I've done all of the search online stuff and am suitably Dart Charge enabled.

When I enrolled, it asked for the car registration and payment detail, and, at the time, I had two crossings to pay for. This is where there's another interesting aspect. There is no Pay button on the website. After enrolling, I still had to phone a separate 0300 number to pay for the prior crossings. And I had to pay the full price instead of the "I'm enrolled" discount price. The call centre system helpfully asks for the vehicle registration number when you call it, before placing into a queuing system.

Unfortunately, the chap that answered the call didn't have the car reg. information from the queuing system. Nor did he have the information from the payment system that I'd entered, so I had to go through it all again. I asked him why there was no pay button on the web-site. He said he didn't know, but I was far from the first person to make that comment.

I've used the system again since that time and it does seem to be working now, so I won't be one of what The Highways Agency calls 'first time offenders' with 14 days of grace to pay the first bill.

Apparently on the first full day of the scheme roughly 10,000 Penalty Charge Notices were sent out to motorists. The full fine is £70 unless paid by the midnight after the crossing and it rises to £105 if not paid within 28 days.

I should be paying £1.67 per crossing now on the significantly faster toll gate.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

analogue games overtake digital at rashbre central

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We're far more analogue in our choice of games at Christmas. The ones that involve curling up newspapers and wrapping up people. That kind of thing. And oranges. Yes. Games with oranges where we all end up on the floor.

Maybe a board game or two - I'm expecting to play the one where we have to be Uranium Miners at some point. For computerised games, I'll stick to 'Heads Up', which is the very simple iPhone game that sort of replaces paper in the usual stickers on the forehead type of games. Great fun, free and easy to set up.
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I've posted some of the games involving old wrapping paper, sticky tape, fruit and the like in past years. Here's a few, which can be played at everything from amateur through to full Pro standard.

Required items: Wrapping paper, sticky tape, magazines, newspapers, highlighter pen, pins, people mainly capable of speech.

1) Guess the name : Yes - simply providing the guests with paper hats or pin on labels which they can't see with the name of a sleb on it. They have to guess with the Yes/No answers. Marilyn Monroe, that politician bloke who drinks the beer on telly, Frankenstein, Albert Einstein, Justin Bieber, Jason Bourne, 007, Mickey Mouse, Madonna, Beyonce. You get the idea.
2) Dress the person : Kinetic Game, two teams: 2-5 minutes. Select someone to be dressed using either old wrapping paper or a couple of recent magazines or newspapers.
3) Kipper racing : multiple teams. needs a long clear indoor space. cut or tear a largish fish shape from a sheet of wrapping paper or anything similar to hand. Add detail such as a hole for the eye, maybe a dorsal fin. Lie them flat on the floor and give other team members further sheets of paper/magazines to use to create air currents to propel the fish from a start line to a distant improvised finishing line.
4) Tell a tale : Pre select some groups of 7 unusual words from a magazine or newspaper article. Hand them to each team and and ask each team member in turn to tell a story using the seven words. Other teams have to try to guess the words.
(Example words from random article today : luckier; heterosexual; chevrolet; banana; promoted; quitter; eggs. and from another page: emissions; cruise; leisurely; overcome; scoop; howling; endurance...you get the idea.)
5) Pass the orange : Why wait until after the dinner has finished to play this game? goes great with coffee.
6) Pictionary: drawing fast pictures based upon words. The boxed set is best for this one.
7) GrEEn GlaSS dOOr : The person in charge suggests playing this and that everyone else can try to be selected to go through the green glass door by suggesting appropriate pairs of things. Things that get in are a pOOl but no water; glaSS but no picture; MiRRor but no reflection (ie the first thing needs a double letter in it.. Play till last person gets it)
8) GGD variants : Play GGD (7) where instead of double letters, each sentence said by the next person has to start with a vowel "...and blah blah bla; ...or blah blah blah ...obviously" and another variant vowel/then consonant and another variant is start with next letter of alphabet.
9) Alphabet Game : Choose topic (Animals, Cars, Candy Bars, Popstars, Drinks). Start at A and round robin through to Z.
10) Stirring the Mush : Announce you are stirring the mush and (eg stand up, sit down, scratch your ear etc). Then start stirring the mush by any hand/body gesture you like. The invite someone to copy. the trick is thay have to do what you did BEFORE you started stirring the mush (eg scratch ear etc). Tell them whether they have passed or not then select next 'victim'. Repeat until all have worked it out.
11) Erect-a-pup : More newspaper for this two in -oner. Part one. Teams. who can make the longest tube in 2 minutes from rolled up paper? Sounds easy. Just watch what happens. Part Two. Now, in another three minutes make a model life sized puppy out of tubes of newspaper. Warning that some puppies will have 3, 5 legs at the end of this.

And remember, avoid injuries.

Friday, 26 December 2014

airborne particles of glitter

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Surprisingly, the now illuminated home-made snowman face assembled from fuzzy felt and copydex has survived the tree quality patrols. I'll blame the Hendricks for that, and anticipate the return of good taste to the tree by tomorrow.
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A discerning Santa popped by on the right evening and left a pile of goodies. We provided the usual refreshment, although this year he seems to have been partial to 12 year aged Scotch rather than the more conventional sherry.Rudolph was still partial to the magic carrot and a bite from the mince pie.
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Then time for a few glittery presents and I must admit our whole lounge has a slight sheen of glitter now, from presents, crackers and that some sort of particles just raining from the air.

From all at Rashbre Central - A Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Santa speed calculations, NORAD tracking and links to Xmas games

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Time also for this year's update of the Santa Calculations, which I first published back in 2006 and then updated in 2010. I'm using 7 billion as the world population.

Firstly, here's the link to the Santa tracking system created by NORAD. I noticed it being publicised at Heathrow airport yesterday, too.

And my usual reminder that an ideal last minute gift is, of course, the rashbre novel - The Triangle, now also available as a Kindle download for less than a couple of quid.

For those of you who are more interested in the technology of Santa, NORAD's FAQs provide the following:
NORAD Sleigh technical data
I've again used the Joel Potischman and Bruce Handy calculations as the basis for the speed calculations, with my own adaptations:

The most notable corrections to be applied are:

- Santa delivers no gifts to naughty children (not even coal)
- Naughty to nice ratio is 1:9
- As confirmed by NORAD, one Santa distributes all of the gifts.
- There is only one family per household.
- Santa bypasses non Santa belief system houses.
- Reindeer have recently eaten fresh magic acorns.

Santa passes Big Ben
Calculation Assumptions (2014):

- World population = 7.06 billion
- Children under 18 = 2.353 billion (Hmm may be higher)
- Global Santa based belief systems: 33%
- Max children requiring delivery therefore 784 million
- Children per household: 3.5 (may seem high?)
- Number of households requiring distribution 224 million
- Naughty to nice factor applied but not many all naughty households
- Remove all naughty households (25% 0f 10%) = 5.6 million
- Eastern orthodox using Jan 5 instead of Dec 25 = 16 Million
- Target Households = 202 million on Dec 25
- Estimated child bed time 21:00 (9pm) with 7 hours sleep.

(child sleep duration on Dec 24 may also require revision)

Gives circa 31 hours (24+7) for all deliveries
Time is 1860 mins or 111,600 seconds

Average number of homes to visit per second = circa 1810.
So average delivery per household is 552 milliseconds, which is why Santa normally appears a bit blurry (I previously thought it was the sherry)

Land surface minus Antarctica is around 79 million square miles. Distribute destinations evenly = 0.7 miles between households creating a total distance of circa 110 million miles.

So 110 million miles in 31 hours = 3.6 million miles an hour or circa 1000 miles per second or Mach 4770 at a linear speed.

This explains Rudolph's red nose because of air resistance creating around 20 quintillion Joules of energy per second, which would convert a non reindeer nose to charcoal at such energy levels. I think the acceleration and deceleration per household may also need some examination.

Luckily Santa has lots of special powers so these mere physics facts are no problem to such a superhero.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

systems armed for Christmas break

CD Stomper for a Cool Yule
My last spin around what was a very crowded Sloane Square before the start of the proper holidays and family get-togethers.

Part of my mission was to check on the new floor that the builders had installed in the London place before heading back to Hampshire.

Sure enough, they'd moved all the furniture, taken up the curried and red-wined party carpets and replaced it all with Scottsdale Oak.
That floor in full floorvision
Also on Monday a few of us got together in a pub for one of those 'what have you been doing?' sessions, which spanned people temporarily back in the area from as far as Australia and China, as well as those a short tube ride away.

I've also prepared an old-school mix tape (okay, it's a CD) - because that format is still usable in less technologically sophisticated environments. You know who you are.

And the regulation 'Driving Home for Christmas' video - again- the Sloane Street, Pont Street, Beauchamp Place to San Lorenzo part, if you know your London.

Monday, 22 December 2014

shopping swapping confusion creates spiced popping overload

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Already back from early morning shopping for a couple of fill-in items, before the retail mayhem starts today.

Our pre-Christmas groceries arrived around 9.30 pm on Sunday, although the delivery driver explained there were a few substitutions.

Truth was, we'd used a different service from our normal one. All the usable delivery slots had already gone. When I eventually looked at the list of swaps, instead of the average two items substituted from our normal service, I noticed there were about eight substitutions, plus another six or so items not available.

This could have got a bit awkward, but as the various bags were unpacked we discovered it was something of an admin error. We seemed to have all of the missing items, plus quite a few substitutions as well.

Confusingly, all the changes added about 15 extra items to our shopping. However, the price was also lower than the original invoice. I wonder if we'd had two different people fulfilling the list?

I'll put this down to logistical confusion at this time of the year, although we do seem to have an awful lot of spiced popping candy chocolate tarts.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

I attempt my first high speed photo summary of 2014

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Sometimes it's necessary to take a high level view of things, even if there's a few smears and filters around what is happening.

That'll be the case with my first high speed look at my 2014. I usually make a practice video, so maybe it'll change before the end of the year.

My recipe: Export 1000 photos from 2014 at 1024x768 into a folder. Start a video app (e.g. Final Cut). Set the video stills default to 6 frames. Drag the 1000 pictures in, onto the Sequence line. Add around 4 minutes of music. Render and Share.

A warning, though, that my photo slide shows are a bit faster than most.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

fir tree now indoors, awaiting #alexpolizzi decoration fix

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Back down south again in that ground rush of the last few days before Christmas. I'm told that today is the Day To Avoid Visiting The Shops, because of all the last minute purchase mayhem - 'Panic Saturday'.

I can be slightly smug because I've already been out to collect yesterday's parcel from the sorting office plus a side visit to the mysteriously deserted supermarket.

"Calm before the storm?" I asked.

"Maybe," answered the checker-outer, "We were open all night but only had one customer after two a.m."

I noticed everything was being replenished yet I still managed to accidentally buy bread with a best before date of today. Grrr. A despicable placement of the oldest stock right in the middle of the most convenient shelf. Yo Ho Ho.

The Christmas tree is now indoors. Needles are mainly intact, except for the inevitable skirmish as I brought it (yes still wrapped) through the back door. I won't trouble to vacuum the loose needles yet because there will be even more as we start the lighting.

Like in that telly program with Alex Polizzi, I'll be banned from the actual conversion of the tree from mere forestry into a work of festive charm. And yes, repurposed paperclips made S-shaped will be used as hooks.

At least I got to light outdoors (soft white - another Polizzi tick in the box), although there was a tricky moment when the man with the chain saw came around to prune the already lit apple tree.

Friday, 19 December 2014

All I Want @livetheatre

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I mentioned the visit to see Hope at the Royal Court a few days ago which is the topical play about Council cutbacks.

Another newsworthy play I've just seen is 'All I Want', by Kirsty Housley and acted by Jon Foster. It's just finished its run across London, Newcastle and Leeds.

I saw it just before the BBC broadcast about conditions of work in some of the high-technology factories in the Far East. This was also part of the theme of the play, which illustrated a modern Christmas, with its internet ordering and then fulfilment by timed and tracked 'pickers' in vast centres spread around the U.K. A good proportion of the goods are created in huge factories in the Far East.

Our story followed a Lego depicted Chinese girl (see her balanced on the bus in the picture above). She's leaving her rural pig farming community to travel some 700 miles to a vast complex where she could earn money to support her whole family. Also illustrated with Lego people, we had another family set in Wales, where a massive distribution centre provided fulfilment for tens of thousands of individual items.

The play took a comfortable 'sitting on cushions around the Christmas tree' setting and then projected the implications of our gift giving onto a wider global context. The difficult point showing that in some economies the already low wage is subject to a range of corruption. In China there's alleged to be many forms of worker exploitation - long working days, mandatory overtime, rammed dormitories, exhaustion... the list goes on. There's more at Chinawatch.org - indeed far more than the stories covered in the recent Panorama broadcast.
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The second picture further along the narrative shows a replica of the inside of a small part of the huge Chinese factory. There's nets around the side. You can just make out the blue aproned woman worker standing on the roof. The security guards are looking up. The sun glints from her glasses. Later she'll be joined by others holding placards "我们不是机器人 / We are not robots"

The Welsh fulfilment factory raised further points. Alongside comments about zero hour contracts, there's the question around extensive UK grants.

In the case of Amazon, the Telegraph reported that they filed for £2.4m tax in 2013 and received £2.5m in grants. Not to mention the special subsidy to build their centre in Wales (£8m) and the further EU subsidy to create the new road to it (£3m). The road's name? Ffordd Amazon, of course.

The real Welsh warehouse is a bit bigger than the one we saw in the Lego model. Geoff Robinson has some other photos. Could the one in Peterborough be larger than the one in Wales?

Anyhow, as well as Swansea, there's another six of these big ones around the U.K. plus the 210,000 square foot office in Holborn, spread over 12 floors. After all, in Black Friday discount week, they expected to process 4 million orders.

Not directly discussed in the play, the U.K. subsidy situation is really the tip of a corporate welfare iceberg. Kevin Farnsworth from Sheffield Uni did some work on this last year and published it back in January. We all have opinions about the strange state of U.K. banking. This paints a wider picture across other forms of U.K. industry and services, where various forms of subsidies and capital grants are used to keep things sweet.

There could be a whole further post about adversarial capitalism and the need for businesses to contribute to the corporate welfare bill. Instead, I'll congratulate the whole production team of 'All I Want' on creating a good piece of thought provoking and immersive drama.

And to keep thinking about how to build a better structure from the Lego pieces.
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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas Carnival @Livetheatre

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It all looks so innocent doesn't it? A seasonally festive clown as part of the excellent Christmas Carnival at Live Theatre. Anyone who has attended one of these Trashed Organ events before will know that it could never be that simple.

For starters, in this Lee Mattinson written play "Missing Toes and Spine" (you know - like the Cliff Richard song), we had three Geordie women getting ready for a cracker of a party. They are also on the lookout for...men.

Stumbling in through the door comes the clown and a Russian cat-tiger. The cat can only be understood by the clown, of course. The party preparations continue with varied levels of -er- sparklingly graphic tinsel revelations.
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I can't tell the ending, but let's just say the cat seems to be the only one smiling. Schastlivogo Rozhdestva! (That'd be on 6th January for the cat).

Of course, no trashed event would be complete without some poetry, and here we had the lovely Christy Ducker with Tyneside poems including her enthusiastic ode to the foot tunnel under the river.
Christy Ducker at Christmas Carnival Live Theatre
Add in some moody thoughts from Tony Williams, who blended Midland sentiments with a distinctly North Eastern outlook.
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It all gave us plenty to think upon before it became our turn to create some new literature. Well okay, maybe in my case some hastily assembled doggerel. Not sufficient for me to win the treasured Trashed Laureate prize.
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But before the prize ceremony, we were treated to fine songs and guitar from The Lake Poets. A fragment has been captured below, using my patent beer can tripod.

We'll have to wait a full year before another one of these carnival events, but I see that the Mixtapers will be starting again in the new year at Live. Booking early is advised. This event was sold out and I suspect the tickets for the Mixtapes will go fast too!
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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

sage moment

Sage afternoon
Back in the North East today, after an early start and a late breakfast in Leeds.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Enjoying the Late Turner Show at Tate Britain

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I somehow missed that movie about JMW Turner, where Timothy Spall played the painter in his later life. I'd heard mixed views about it ranging from 'great' to 'lacking', and my moment of hesitation means I'll now have to wait for the DVD.

I'd anyway thought it would be good to see the Late Turner show at the Tate Britain. To be honest, I wasn't that sure of the chronology of some that I really liked, and was relieved to see that they had been included in the show.

The Londoner joke about the show is that you get a free painting set at the end of the exhibition (you don't) - and that's because of the tag-line used on the posters and advertising - "Painting set free"...
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The area of the gallery showing the Turners was bustling with people, including quite a few using those mini chairs so that they could longer at some of the pictures. I was on a schedule and had to graze my way around, so my impressions might be different from those taking longer to consider every brush-stroke. My big gallery strategy is anyway to be drawn to things I like rather than necessarily look at everything.

Some peoples' agenda for this show is to look for the point where Turner's style lapsed as his eye-sight and alcohol self-medication interfered with his painting.

Let me say that I thought that some of his later pictures including a whole series of watercolour samplers were terrific. They would have been among his last paintings, but there was a colour palette that looked wonderful. The samplers were A4-sized pictures used as a way to attract attention towards the commissioning of a new large scale works. Apparently, there was some kind of new paint system from Switzerland(?) that he used for these later pictures and I enjoyed walking around them as much as looking at some of the bigger and more well known works.

Earlier in the show were some of his blockbuster pictures. This is where I'm more divided in my view.

I think Turner's seascapes and pictures which incorporate something mechanical can be spectacular, with light, water, skies, haze and clever impressions of the central items. A favourite of mine is the Sol di Venezia going to sea, with the picturesque bragozzo against the backdrop of an initially almost indiscernible Venice, which appears more as you stare at the picture. There's a premonition of doom accompanying the picture too, with a warning about the dangers at sea.
Turner Sol del Veneza going to sea
Likewise seeing another favourite of mine - Rain, Steam and Speed showing Brunel's Great Western Railway with a Gooch Firefly class broad gauge locomotive crossing the Maidenhead Viaduct outbound from Paddington.
Rain, Steam, Speed
So I should probably remain quieter about some of the ones I'm less keen on. Vast canvases depicting mythical scenes, with shafts of light and billowing clouds.

Although some of these were still show-stoppers, I found less for me in this category, perhaps because there's such a number of paintings to view and undoubtedly a matter of personal taste.

Another thing that struck me was the way the lighting of the gallery and the frequent golden frames lifted the perception of the larger pieces. I've a couple of illustrative pictures in this post where I've boosted the perceptual colour. The train picture always has a yellow glow in my memory and the ship has some reds which somehow don't come through in a flat photo rendition.

Turner's pictures also had some humour, with little two or three brush stroke animals and other focal points added sometimes, to me at least, almost whimsically. I'd like to think it was Turner's little aside to the viewer of the work, alongside the majesty of the main pieces.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Hope at the Royal Court

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We were at the Royal Court to see Jack Thorne's newly penned "Hope".

It's a kind of agitprop story about the state we're in. Big cuts now and then relentlessly on into an oh-so-mortgaged future.

Before the main play, we watched another small workshop style production: the New Order - three newly scripted party political statements - entertaining and thought provoking. The Inner Child Party. The 'Career Politician' Party and the I.G.N.O.R.E Party. It illustrated part of the agenda for what was to follow in the main show.

For Hope we had a northern local authority faced with £66m of cuts to be spread over 3 years. The recovering alcoholic deputy leader had to decide whether to make a stand and we saw the consequences of his actions play out after the intervention of Whitehall spread-sheeters "Sorry I'm late, I had no idea it was so far".

Like the earlier workshop playlets, there was a "can't win" aspect to the way immediate events played out. No-one actually said 'squeeze them in the wallet', but they could have. Whatever gets saved just moves the problem to another equally needy place.

Much later, a counterpoint of 'hope' when the prior-council leader tooted a spliff, whilst the schoolboy son of the current deputy council leader articulated dreams of a better tomorrow.

Well-acted with a strong point of view, I still felt the production needed some improved directing.

In places the script could have been tidied. A few over-signposted moments slowed the dialogue. The staging in mostly a municipal hall worked, but stage direction created a laminar look, reminding me of one of those toy children's theatres with cardboard sliders for the actors to enter stage left and right.

So alongside the action, I found myself thinking this was a slightly under-worked production, which included strange but under-committed surreal moments. Stage calisthenics, random ukulele playing and an incomprehensible piano interlude. It wasn't clear (to me) what this added, because it didn't really magnify the messaging or our sympathies for the characters.

I understand the idea to make serious points without going into a 'Thick of It'/'2012' peep inside the machine. There's the topicality of half of the UK councils not positioned to meet objectives and the inevitable cuts to services.

The elder ex-council leader made good points about the demise of protest since the banking recession. Not quite 'where have all the riots gone?' but along those lines. We need more challenges than televised Russell Brand vs a heavily expensed beer drinker, but somehow the establishment manages the agenda.

Still worth seeing and providing a welcome voice of challenge, it came across to me as something of a work in progress.

A bit like trying to sort out the state we're in.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

rounded up the tree - its in the garage

Tree stashed in garage
Yes, I'm just slightly ahead of the weekend rush for trees, so there was still a good choice. The picture only shows the top part. I particularly wanted one with those surrounding mini branches at the top.

The people in front of me were buying two, and taking a long time to choose. My ex-greengrocer tree spotting skills came in handy, whilst they were fiddle-faddling around.

Our one has a serial number 00017 this year. I'll find out where it's from when I eventually unwrap it. At the moment it's in the garage, sitting in a big bucket of water.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

time for a glitchy anti-selfie #slmmsk

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Time for a few experiments as I start to think about an end of year photo video.

The last few years I've taken a few snaps from throughout the year and dropped them onto a music track.

I used to use pummelvision, which did it automatically, but that app sank without trace, so for the last couple of years it has become a manual task.

I need to export about 1,000 photos to make a 3m30 music track. In film-edit speak most individual snaps get about 6 frames (or 3 to make it move really fast).

I'll just drop them into iMovie or Final Cut when I'm ready. One year I did the whole thing with Ken Burns effect transitions, but I'm thinking it'll be straight cuts this time. It will be a good test of Lightroom 5.7, which I've now been using as my main picture store for about three months.

Before I start, I'll need to add a couple of new selfies to the mix. This time I'll probably use anti-selfies and I'm swayed to use that SLMMSK App.
Testing anti selfie
It's a slightly scary App to download, stylised to look like something from a part of the internet not recommended for normal folk.

anti-selfie app from RunetThe link to the App store is via a site with a rather ominous countdown (currently at 61 days).

The app starts up in Russian, with an occasional drift into Arabic. All part of the Glitché artwork of the originator Vladimir Shreyder who also describes SLMMSK as a cypher.

I think it as a part of Runet, the name given to the Russian-language internet, which is made of rabbits taking showers instead of the traditional internet which we all know is made of cats.

There's about 10 different effects, but I can't help thinking that the broken video tape effect I've used above can be re-assembled into the original picture with a bit of pixel sliding.

But back to the plot.

Last year I used a pop-tart selfie. I guess it will still be useful this year, although I really need to stand further back from the pop tart.
pop tart selfie 2014
And I'll dig out the old 2013 video as a reminder of just how much gets jammed into a year.

And, okay, here's a really deep dive right back to the ancient history of 2011.

And, as always, there is fun going forward.

Monday, 8 December 2014

home along the lanes of the skyline*

Battersea Power Station
Well, I just flipped over the 4,000 miles of cycling this year. Usually I'd do an extra few miles to be sure, but when I checked, the Garmin Calendar showed exactly 4,000.

And, if I'm honest, my legs were a bit creaky afterwards. I'll blame it on the colder weather rather than the surfeit of mince pies.

I'm switching from outdoor to an increase of indoor cycling on a turbo at this time of the year too. Sometimes the roads can be particularly yucky, and I'm not too keen when there's little puddles of ice around.

I have a few standard routes and some of them change continuously with the seasons too, even in an urban landscape, where there's both natural and man-made changes to the view.

Battersea Power Station is a case in point.
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The whole area is due for a make-over that has been discussed for about 30 years. Margaret Thatcher was the first politician to dig a shovel into the ground. More recently it's been Boris, who flew to Malaysia to launch the latest phase, which will include the new Malaysia Square as a centrepiece.
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My picture leaning across the window of a BA flight shows the area of ground being dug up and there will soon be a series of new developments all along this part of London, from the new Embassy Square for the replacement American Embassy all the way west to Chelsea Bridge. Even the chimneys on the power station are getting a makeover.
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* I know my title isn't quite the line from the Elton John/Bernie Taupin skyline pigeon song but it's the best I could do.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

tomorrows modern boxes arrives with suitable analogue delay

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I skittered around the radio channels this morning to avoid certain programmes that I don't like, but even BBC 6 Music was playing something so dire that I had to switch it off.

An opportune time to play the recently arrived Tom Yorke LP instead.

Nowadays I'm mainly a digital listener, viewer and reader, but I make exceptions for things I'd buy that come with some sort of artistic attempt. So for music it has to offer something more than a PS'd packshot of the band/singer and a top thirds titling stripe.

Tomorrow's modern boxes is such an artefact. I ordered it so long ago that I'd actually forgotten what it was that I was expecting. I think the download was announced and appeared in about ten seconds back in September, so there's a kind of humorous aspect to the analogue delay in getting the physical product into one's hands.

The Radioheads have long been good at referencing Target Markets and Waste, even away from their proper pop records, and this seems to fall into that category too.

White vinyl, a label without descriptions, a card inner jacket printed with the useful non-revolving information. An outer sleeve and even a dust bag. The kind of ziplock dust bag that an be used to preserve a specimen of something. I expect that is the point. I wonder how many copies get physically played rather than purely downloaded? My copy has already had a stylus through its grooves. I know there's a separate download code, which ensures there's also an easy way to get it into my digital library.

The very act of putting a stylus onto it has no doubt destroyed its resale potential as a modern collectable. I see they are already one of the most expensive vinyl albums on eBay.

But what of the content?

Squelchy and glitchy cushions for intense Thom Yorke vocals. It was somehow on the right frequency for my solitary early morning listening.

At one level it flibbles around with sequencer autopilot settings, but I think that is it's deception. If I run a sequencer and synth I can make some passable sounds, but Thom Yorke clearly trips into an altogether higher level of refinement.

Brian Eno came up with the ambient techno app that could play Eno-esque music for ever. The first one was Bloom and then Air lived on my iPhone taking a Music for Airports vibe and making it infinite. Add in Scape and Oblique Strategies and there's Eno's set of 'music like structures for modern boxes'.

I'm guessing Thom Yorke is playing around with some similar ideas between Radiohead projects. After all, it's over 20 years since Radiohead said that anyone can play guitar.


Saturday, 6 December 2014

sun in eyes, waiting for the carpenter to arrive

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I haven't completed my bike riding annual target, although Sunday is looking good. Another 30 miles to go.

Today, instead and probably unwisely, I'll be shopping whilst we have a carpenter around doing things to the stairs.

We removed the old hand rail a few years ago, and finally decided it's time to get a replacement. Kind of safety and all that. The replacement will be a mop rail.

There's a proper carpenter's joke in here. He won't make a pig's ear of it.

Someone actually said that. No, really. You had to be there.