Friday, 31 July 2015

forces of nature

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Time for a walk along a coastal footpath.
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There's large chunks of the original path that have fallen into the sea. The underlying ground is made up of something called Gault clay known as blue slipper, which, as its name suggests, is partial to a bit of sliding around.

Fortunately we'd picked a sunny day and so although we were not too close to the edge, there was little prospect of any large scale land movement.
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Not to say there hasn't been in the past. A whole village has fallen into the sea, as has a large part of an amusement park. This picture from above shows the well-known Blacking Chine amusement park as well as the fallen cliffs leading towards it.
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The rest of the park continues and has been rebuilt across the road although inside the older section are various paths marked with no entry signs, which adds to the sense that we are dealing with major forces of nature. Then look the other way and everything seems tranquil.
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Thursday, 30 July 2015

blue, not red, around sunset

iPhone Portsmouth
A quiet moment on deck before we dock back at Portsmouth. It's that time when the sun is about to set, which adds something of an unreality to the scene.

The Spinnaker Tower shows off its blue paint-job. The Emirates provided sponsorship, but although the Emirates' customary red paint was ordered, there was something of an uproar. Red is the colour of the adjacent rival port of Southampton whereas blue is the correct colour for Portsmouth.

Common sense prevailed and the Emirates found itself sponsoring the Spinnaker for the Americas Cup with blue instead of red.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

scanned in depth


Something of a personal best this time when I came through airport security. I was travelling alone, with only small hand luggage.

I'd already take my laptop, iPad and Kindle out of the small briefcase and put them into a tray.

"Belt?"

I removed my belt.

"What's in the other bag? Anything electrical?"

"Some cameras"

"Please could you remove them"

"Are you wearing boots? Can you remove them too."

By now I was up to five trays. This is my personal record.

Through the scanner.

Beep.

Man scans me. Nothing found.

"Random check. Please could you go into the body scanner and stand on the yellow footprints"

I do. No beeps.

He asks me to go back past the metal scanner and then back in again.

All okay.

Then I start to gather my five trays of items together. Two still cameras, a video camera, a laptop, an iPad, a kindle, some minor toiletries in one of these see-through bags. My belt. My shoes, My small briefcase, My phone.

"Is this your bag?" asks another man.

"Yes"

He starts to go through the "Did you pack it yourself?" questions.

We progressively empty it. He takes everything that is in an inner bag out and dusts everything with one of those special wipes.

All clear.

I start to repack. Other passengers pretend not to notice.

Monday, 27 July 2015

RemoteGoat reviews @ukmixtape #edfringe preview @LiveTheatre ★★★★★


Today's post is more like a guest post than one of my own.

I'm borrowing a few lines from RemoteGoat's review of the Mixtape Preview at Live Theatre on Friday evening. The full review by Gary Dugdale is at www.remotegoat.com

As RemoteGoat says:

"As Mixtape shows usually focus on a set genre, tonight’s show was an example of what can be expected at the Edinburgh Fringe Show this year showcasing elements from each of the 25 odd shows they’ll be performing.

Mixing all genres of songs works well and equally, focusing on one set area works too. My preference is the mixing of types of songs as this means a broader scope of knowledge is needed to successfully win the coveted golden mixtape. You folks in Scotland will be lucky if you catch a show while the crew are there.

Another flawless, extremely entertaining show tonight, well done boys and girls."


Oh yes, and Five Stars from RemoteGoat! ★★★★★


Saturday, 25 July 2015

@ukmixtape in the wild at rehearsals @LiveTheatre


Here's a minute of the rehearsals at Live Theatre before Mixtape's Preview on Friday evening, which sold out to a full house.

Lookin' good.

Friday, 24 July 2015

about time I used one of the pods


I thought I'd try the Pods at Heathrow today.

I used to sometimes use the car park where they are sited before they were running regularly, which invariably meant catching a shuttle bus.

Then main T5 car park opened, so I habitually park there for short journeys or pre-book the valet if it is for longer.

However, when I park inside T5 myself, I usually park on the same floor as the Pods anyway, so it's about time to test them.

Beep-beep.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

yesterday we entered a #totebag overload situation

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The tote bag above is really my guilty secret favourite among the bags we're taking to Edinburgh Fringe. It's pretty easy to guess the original song too, vastly easier than any of the actual Mixtape scripts.

And the first few tote bags seemed to spark twittery comments and song suggestions much faster than we could actually produce any bags.
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The early totes have been relatively simple, but now I'm starting to detect a creeping elegance.
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Well, they will soon be seen on Princes Street and The Royal Mile. Even the ones that have over-adapted song lyrics.
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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

alternative customer relationship management techniques


Yikes, today I was sent one of those 'we're sending the boys round' emails.

Aside from the problem that I'd already cancelled the contract in question, I felt the tone exceptionally harsh for something which had a theoretical due date of only 2 weeks ago and was for a tiny amount.

"Your account with XXX has an outstanding balance of GBP 17.28. If this balance is not settled by 01 Aug 2015, your account will be placed with a third party collection agency.

Please note that as we are obligated to pursue the entire unpaid contract value and your company will be liable for the entire outstanding balance and for any and all collection costs incurred by XXX including the fee for placing the account."


That's how the email started. It went on to say that it "had no choice but to take these steps". Of course, they could have phoned me to find out what was happening, but I suppose that would require a human touch.

Then the email went into the threats, which are interesting if you are thinking of placing data into the Cloud. First a threat to destroy my credit rating (remember I've already cancelled this contract):

"Please be aware that if your account is placed with a third party collection agency, it can dramatically affect your credit rating."

Then a threat to destroy all of my Data:

"In addition, XXX will have no obligation to maintain or provide Your Data after the time specified in your Master Subscription Agreement, and will thereafter delete or destroy all copies of Your Data in Our systems."

So they threaten me and say they'll destroy all my data.

When I called their International Help Desk (which required me to specify the language before I could go any further), they checked their system. Yes, I had cancelled. Their system had sent my message to the wrong place. The billing person agreed that I was right.

I'm still waiting for the apology from my "Customer Representative".

Did I mention the nature of the software in question? ...Customer Relationship Management.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

hip hop through the subway speakers?


A few years ago I was sitting on a New York Subway, when some hackers jacked into the MTA carriages's audio system and started playing hip-hop through the speakers. No-one in the carriage seemed to bat an eyelid, and I wasn't sure if it was commonplace or if New Yorkers were as insulated as Londoners when on public transport.

I wondered at the time just how long it would be before this started happening to other forms of transport.

I now see a couple of hackers have just published some computer code which can be used to intercept automobile firmware and mess around with the systems. They have been doing it in plain view, so that manufacturers get onto the security requirement, but it does raise the kind of issues I was thinking about as I travelled uptown on the 5.

Cars have a sort of Local Area Network whose speed has been progressively increasing for the last few years.

There's a few standards like CAN (Controller Area Network) and LIN (Local Interconnect Network) which have to be more resilient to electromagnetism and EMF noise as well as having workshop-friendly industrial looking connectors.

A typical modern car has 50-100 microprocessor systems, so these modern-day computer linkages are pretty important, and have progressively increased in speed, running at around a Megabit per second in modern cars.

Naturally, car manufacturers are already talking about wifi car diagnostics, and the wifi extension IEEE 802.11p has been around for some years, specifically as a vehicular communication system to support ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems). The idea is that cars can talk to one another as well as to the workshop.

That's where the modern-day equivalent of the subway train hackers come along. If they can bridge the gap from the roadside to the car using wifi, and then hook onto the car's 'LAN', there's a potential way to exploit the car's control system.

The two guys that just tried it with a Chrysler in the USA also illustrate the start of an intriguing era for cars.

They get more computerised, but the uConnect fix for the Chrysler has to be uploaded manually via a USB stick into the vehicle. Its's supposed to be a driver-friendly update, but I do wonder whether its is completely foolproof? We all know the strange things that can happen with, say, a Windows update.

I remember when we needed to update something in the sporty little red car. It ran the special car version of Windows and needed someone with a fairly extensive computer knowledge to get it all working. Or the time my smart windscreen was replaced by a normal windscreen fitter who effectively disabled the whole car for about three weeks until all the right control systems could be reinstalled by the car dealers' people.

So, who will get there first? The car dealers or the hackers? Maybe Suzi Quatro was prescient with 'Can the CAN'?

Monday, 20 July 2015

rare migratory vehicles

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Around town with some friends in the evening, we briefly commented on the interesting cars in the residents' car park. We are now at that time of year when cars get shipped over to London from places where it is inconveniently hot.

I noticed the blue Aventador first. It allegedly glows in the dark like something out of Tron, and nearby the accomplice red Lamborghini just looks pretty.
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There's a couple of Aston Martins, but no-one seems to notice them as the air-freighted cars start to appear. The Roller next to the Lambo flew first class and next to that there's a middle eastern plated G Class Mercedes, admittedly with the AMG spec to keep the price north of £100k. The Merc and the Lambo still have sand on them and the Lambo has those Italian-flag coloured disk brakes.

I don't think I'll be keeping up with the neighbours.
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Sunday, 19 July 2015

As if the #cupcake wasn't enough, now we're onto the #edfringe @ukmixtape carrier bags

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Decisions, decisions...

These desirable bags are for leafleting in Edinburgh, and we decided they might as well be branded.

Instead of getting them made by a fancy printer, we've decided that these are relatively straightforward to produce ourselves.
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The difference is, when you send them away there is One Design. End of story.

By feeding them through the home printer, there's the opportunity to try different designs.
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And don't get me started on the tee-shirts.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

#cupcake plans for @ukmixtape promo

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Another item in the Mixtape armoury is the #cupcake plans which have already created a few boom-box as well as cassette and CD cakes as part of the fund-raising.

A couple of attempts are illustrated here.
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I'm thinking that a Kit-Kat bar (maybe only 3 instead of 4 sticks?) would make a good base for a facsimile robust but edible cassette? Anyone know of any recipes?
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Thursday, 16 July 2015

Everyman steps beyond


We finally got to see the NT production of Everyman on the South Bank this week. Tickets have been scarce and I had to book about three months ahead. Ironically, there was huge array of HD production vehicles and a large satellite dish parked alongside the theatre because there's to be a live broadcast version to cinemas around now.

The story is quite well-known; a 500-year old morality play about how Everyman (everyone) is called to their God by the agent of Death and judged by their good deeds. The Everyman in the play wants other allegorical supporters to speak in his favour, but Fellowship, Family, Material Goods and Knowledge won't play along. It goes a bit guilt-trippy Catholic after that, with Penance and Confession making appearances.

At least, it does in the original version.

This is a bangin' overhaul set in a clubby metropolis, where Everyman is having a big party for his 40th birthday accompanied by the longest line of cocaine it is possible to imagine.

Naturally - and no spoiler because it's the premise of the piece - there are consequences and a dry-witted Death appears complete with a police forensic outfit.

The modernised script has been written by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and Chiwetel Ejiofor impressively plays Everyman.

There's some stabbingly good lines in this version, which has removed much of the religion and secularised many of the discussions, whilst keeping a clean version of a God in the mix.

We get more about how Everyman is spending the earth and the pervasiveness of materialism. The Judgement by Another has been largely removed although Death as an Agent inevitably persists.

It isn't supposed to be a realistic story, although I found the energetic Ejiofor character difficult to pinpoint. He's supposed to be hyper-rich in this modern take, starting out in a smooth-looking suit. His friends for his birthday bash don't quite carry the same haute couture and it's difficult to tell the doorman from the divine. But then, I suppose Everyman is also supposed to get stripped back to his essence?

Because it starts with Ejiofor living it really large, there's something of a challenge to balance a tone which already begins at a maximum volume.

And there's almost a life lesson, in that the original play would get the audience to think about their own condition and path through the world. This version emphasised the consumerism and perhaps became altogether more flighty as a consequence.

I'll put this into the 'Glad I've seen it' category.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

#yarnbomb exploits of @ukmixtape for #edfringe

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We were #yarnbombed by the Button Theatre on twitter a couple of days ago and decided it was only right to respond.

A certain person will recognise these crazy characters standing in for the Mixtapers. It's best to look at the real poster as well to get the best impression.

I can hardly tell the difference.
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Get tickets to see your new Mixtape friends:
Underbelly Booking Office
Edinburgh Fringe Booking Office
Live Theatre Preview

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Monday, 13 July 2015

Amy


I'd expected the movie 'Amy' to be some sort of bio-pic, and was surprised to see it was well-cut raw footage of Amy Winehouse. It describes the progressive toxicity of fame and its effect on the singer. There's plenty of happy camcorder extracts in the first section but as the quality of the footage improves she becomes more famous but more troubled.

There's telling early cutaway scenes of her talking to camcorder saying she's not sure she can handle fame and wants to just make music. It's obviously un-scripted, unlike many of today's pop stars who have had the media training to spout on about their latest single and tour dates.

Later a pernicious introduction of drugs into Amy's world and the sadly familiar story of 'they want piece of me' as she is loaded into tours and record contracts. The documentary leaves the viewer to draw conclusions about some of those close to her and their motivations.

Throughout there's plenty of opportunity to examine Amy's twisty lyrics and their frequently autobiographical nature.

Included are some great live performance extracts both in the studio and on tour which later shows things start to go wrong spiralling towards the sad ending.

I'll prefer her rainy performances of Glastonbury of 2007, when she actually performed twice (Pyramid and Jazz) compared to her notoriety in 2008 where we stood at the back of a huge crowd many of whom were there expecting a sideshow as well as the performance.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

getting my summer on?

This is your place to get your summer on
On the way to a nearby town, the main motorway is coned for most of its length, whilst it is made into a Smart Motorway. Then a short gap of normal motorway (no cones) and then another set of cones for the last 4-5 miles. Turn off the motorway and the route towards the exit has a separate set of cones because of a separate roundabout upgrade. I don't think it will be a smart roundabout, but who knows?

Anyway, eventually I arrive in the actual town centre (with its confusing multi storey parking) and finally emerge on foot into the shopping area.

"This is the place to get your summer on" proclaim the signs, although the actual mall appears to be suffering from the traffic blockade. I idly counted nine closed shops in the first few minutes walkabout. An area on the floor which once sported a concession stand now has a kind of green stain, left behind when stand holders had moved away. Adjacent, the bank has gone and next door the opticians proclaims in large print that it has moved.

Amazon Prime and internet shopping march on, whilst this mall becomes troubled with a combination of the current poor road access and the general economy. Yet, curiously, across the road there's a massive hole where another new store is supposedly being built.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

wheat and poppies

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Something I notice if I'm out on my regular bike routes is the way that the landscape changes. Both the street scenes as people wear different clothes but more dramatically the fields which entirely change according to where they are in the seasonal calendar.

This field still has wheat growing, but a couple of other recently abundant large fields I pass are now populated mainly by crows, scavenging the aftermath of the farmer's tractor.

And this year, along the edges, someone seems to have turned the poppy count up to a particularly high setting just about everywhere.
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Friday, 10 July 2015

the opposite of lightning


Here in rashbre central we've a fair collection of iPhones, iPads and similar. There's some of the old kind with the long connector and also the newer type with the small connector.

What is annoying is that even the small connector type doesn't always work to recharge or communicate.

We get those 'accessory won't charge' messages sometimes or the device just sits on a connector without showing the lightning flash symbol.

There's various reasons - a few of the cables are probably emergency purchases from 'non Apple' suppliers and so they don't have the right microchip built into them.

Then there's the charging from a USB strip, which won't provide as much power as one of those little power blocks provided with a new device.

I'm sure Apple would say its all because they have made the cable intelligent, with digital signalling multiplexed via a micro controller in the cable. I'd have thought that the two basic functions of charge and sync (the basic four wire connection) would have been made persistent, but apparently not. Default connection is 'Fail Dumb'.

It's plain annoying though, having to retry various cables and power chargers to find a combination that works.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

a few ants short of a picnic

Inevitably, a few days of bright sunshine here and the wildlife comes out in force.

The bees that enjoy one of the bright areas of our garden provide a continual hum from their contented buzzing. But it's indoors that we have had a small ant incident.

They have become very organised and somehow managed to drill their way through a window frame, making a small gateway from their outdoor world (acceptable and probably aerating the soil) to the indoor world (no, no, no) where they had started some so far fruitless expeditions.

I've had to discourage them, creating a small amount of ant carnage, and it does seem to have worked.

The thing I can't understand is that slight sensation on the skin after they've been around.

It's like an ant is walking around on me, but when I look there's none there.

Well, most of the time, anyway.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

I suppose I should call it a manual?


It's ages since I read an actual computer manual. It was always considered something of a last resort.

It used to be an indication of the cost of the software purchased that there would be one, two or even more manuals included. I seem to remember that Avid's video editing software came with about five and the option to buy another four or five for the more advanced functions. Even Apple's Logic Pro had a good kilo of paper in the box.

It probably goes back to the original IBM PC, which came with several big manuals. Each was provided in a slip box and with a ring binder so that the pages could be easily updated.

Nowadays an Apple Watch has more raw compute power and connectivity, yet comes with a mere leaflet to explain the use.

Back to my current manual reading.

I've been using Adobe Lightroom for at least six months and consider myself pretty adept at most of its functions. But I splashed out on a real paper guidebook by Scott Kelby for around £30, which has a kind of old-school heft in its 500 or so pages.

And I've found it to be genuinely useful. It's not set out like a reference manual, more a guide to use, with some quite chatty sections explaining the clever bits.

I keep finding out little shortcuts that actually save me time and it somehow doesn't feel quite like reading a - you know - manual.

Monday, 6 July 2015

revisiting Dada-ist album covers

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Even the new Apple service still uses the word 'Mixtape' to describe some of its generated playlists.

There's a couple of things missing now, compared with the old days of physically recording each track so that they could be played sequentially.

One was sitting listening to the recording process. Now it's just drag and drop.

Another was designing a cover for the tape. Some just had scribbled track listings whilst others might get the full graphics and Letraset treatment.

Increasingly physical media just shows a picture of the artist but I thought here I'd resurrect the old random Dadaist Rock Album creation method, last used here in 2008.

Wikipedia
1. Go to Wikipedia and hit "random".The first article title is the name of the artist.

Random Quotations
2. Go to "Random Quotations". The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page will be the title of the new album.

Flickr
3. Go to Flickr and click on "Explore the Last Seven Days". The third Creative Commons picture will be the album cover.

So, here for a laugh, is one of the old Dada-ist ones...although some might prefer the term anti-art for this particular not-even-square design.
rana picada

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Udderbelly in the sunshine in preparation for @FollowTheCow

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As well as the moody street pictures, we at Mixtape took a few at the Udderbelly on the South Bank the udder day. It was a kind of pre kickoff fest in the Love Shack bar.

For anyone that hasn't visited the Udderbelly in the South Bank, it's good fun, even to go there for a drink in the Beach bar or other areas. We were able to meet a few other shows too, and took a few joint pictures. Here's a few:

First of all, the Houses of Parliament, with a Golden Mixtape, naturally.
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Maybe to add a piece of blatant Mixtape advertising outside the London Eye. We did take some others too where we'd ahem replaced the C*ca C*la signage,which is the Eye's current sponsor.
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Then there's the actual shows:
64 Squares
64 squares
Brute:
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The Eulogy of Toby Peach:
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And an early sighting of a purple cow with a golden mixtape. There will be others, I'm sure.
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Friday, 3 July 2015

@ukmixtape is staying 6mm from the bleed line for #edfringe

P6270263 Tied up Mixtapers - gold blammerIt's surprising how the #edfringe deadlines are rapidly approaching. Today was another one for a leaflet insert. We'd got one kind of graphic and needed another one, so some hasty editing was required. At least there's plenty of pictures from the photo-shoot last Sunday, and most of them are respectable.

We've got some moody indie band shots:
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Some well-behaved '50s pub scenes:
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Oops, I meant well-behaved and 1950s.
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A few cake shots:
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Until it started to get out of hand:
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So we moved to the boy band pictures:
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And formed the girl band as well:
P6270319 we decided to form a band
It will take a little time to get to the location shots from the river's bridges and the seaside, so here's one of those wall shots to keep things going:
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Next is the fun of A5 leaflet production. We must remember to allow for the 3mm bleed line on all margins and another 3mm for the edge line as well as setting the output to CMYK. Print ready PDFs will be produced.

Now it's time to break open Indesign.
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Get tickets to see your new Mixtape friends:
Underbelly Booking Office
Edinburgh Fringe Booking Office
Live Theatre Preview