Wednesday, 30 November 2016

counting cranes

EM590028 Shell Centre rebuild
Some times if I pause Apple TV when watching something, it will jump into the generic screensaver. One of the views it shows is that flight along the Thames from around Isle of Dogs to Waterloo Bridge.

It's interesting to pick out the landmarks, but also the ones that have already changed since the fly-by was produced. A case in point is the area around the Shell Centre, which is shown intact, although it has been a hole in the ground for more than a year.

Walking past it right now it is clear to see the the replacement apartment blocks going up fast with a commensurately high crane count. Just visible through the gap is the London Eye.
EM590025 a few more fancy apartments on the South Bank, convenient for Westminster

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The Radical Eye #Tate #EltonJohn


I managed to drop in on the modernist photography exhibition at the Tate.

The photographs are from Sir Elton John's collection and part way around the show there is a short video of him explaining how he first got into collecting photographs and some of his favourites. The video shows around Elton's Atlanta home, where it looks as if nearly every inch of wall space is covered with photographs.

There's no end of 'greatest hit' type pictures from the likes of Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray, Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange. Some of the pictures on show I'd seen before in other exhibitions; as examples the Man Ray Glass Tears (1932) - which was in a Portrait Gallery show a couple of years ago and some of the Lange/Weston Farm Securities Administration series which I saw in a New York show a few years ago.

Beyond the famous pictures there are plenty of lesser known gems (at least to me). A Man Ray picture of his assistant, Berenice Abbot, framed in what would still be a modern format today (below). There's a Henri Cartier-Bresson selfie with his wife, Ratna Mohini, riffing a cool Spanish vibe (top of the post).

They are just two of the many pictures worth an extended view during a browse through what must be 100s on show.

Elton has a few favourites too. The tiny 1917 contact print of the underwater swimmer from André Kertész, or the mysterious 1940 white door of Edward Weston. There's some new topics for me too. A series of Irving Penn pictures shot in an angled faux corner of his studio. Helen Levitt documenting New York in the late 1930s.

The vast majority of the show is monochrome but, unlike some web archival views, the colours of the different papers and techniques are all visible in these many originals, giving a further richness and texture.

To my great joy they have carefully carried the finishes and monochrome colours into the show's excellent catalogue, which was an unmissable item from the shop.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

glossing over some P&D


Today's version of the blog theme represents the transition from black back to a brighter look. I found yesterday's black background with white text a bit gloomy - unless it's for a photography site ;)

As a part of the latest household project involves painting and decorating, I thought I'd include a messy background that is representational of the current situation.

In the home project, theoretically I'd be painting the gloss before the matt, but there's an area where it has worked out the other way around, which therefore requires extra care.

The gloss paint also has a more persistent aroma than the emulsion, but we've still managed to create an accidental white stripe along a black coat as a consequence of the redecoration. I used washing up liquid to remove the gloss, which worked surprisingly well.

So, that's the loft cleared, garage rationalisation in progress, a new home for one of the bicycles being sought, and redecoration in progress. At this rate we'll be on schedule for another stage of the process in January.

an example of the the wrong kind of social media

Sometimes it just goes wrong. I received this email yesterday and without opening it, I could see that the party in question haven't quite thought through their social media campaigning.

Friday, 25 November 2016

All The Black Friday Bargain Codes In One Place


I've received plenty of those UK Black Friday adverts, which, for a country that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, is a slightly strange thing. I've even made the site 'blacker' for a few days. Those old posts about tyres and of monochrome woodcuts have a whole new life now.

I believe Black Friday UK all started when Amazon began promoting the day after Thanksgiving in Europe, causing many UK retailers to copy the approach. There were a few black eye events too, when some cheap televisions and laptops caused scuffles.

This week in Oxford Street (Which now seems to have a Black Five-Day week) there were people doing reconnaissance visits to see what the goods were like before buying them on-line instead. My #BlackFiveDay contribution is below:

Now we get the warnings on telly about how many of the deals are real. Either trick pricing or in a few fraudulent cases non-existent goods.

What has also been quietly happening in the background is the stealthy increase of cookies per web-site viewed. I usually have Adblock switched on, but decided 'mute' it for a few hours to see what the sites normally look like and how many cookies they were installing, particularly with the retail frenzy.

A busy UK site like The Daily M**l instals 20 trackers when visited. The S*n adds 25. The Washington Post a mere 13. Even rashbre central installs 4, of which one is my own tracker to count visitors - I can understand Google and Google + being there, but how Doubleclick has slipped itself onto the site is a mystery.

Then, just for fun, I decided to find a site with an even higher number of trackers and randomly tried Time International. It was promising as a high count because it knew about Adblock and displayed a different version accordingly.

I could see that even in the 'muted' form, it was installing 23 trackers. Then I tried it with Adblock off and ker-blam it was right up to 38 trackers. All so that it could display to me a banner about Microsoft Cloud and an advert for Vodafone data SIMs.

Maybe I'll simply step away from the screen until tomorrow, although I have a sneaky feeling that Black Friday will last over the whole weekend.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

too many bicycles?


Almost time to hire another skip.

The next stage of the process is clearing some of the roof space and then in turn getting further along with what seems to be a multi-year task to clear the garage.

I know, I should be using KonMari principles and putting all the stuff of the same category in one place and then sifting for the Spark Joy items. It'll take a while to get to the luxury of starting that phase. At the moment its still just bulk removal.

It's not surprising when the garage has, at various stages, held our stuff plus further bits from Chelsea Bridge Wharf and even from 'up north'.

At least the most of the bags used for the stuff in the roof were non-biodegradable. Sounds odd to say, but where stuff has been stored in biodegradable bags, they turn into many small slivers of plastic, akin to been eaten.

There's already been trips to charity shops, the recycling zone as well as fully laden trips to the local tip.

I've also been finding some new and interesting types of item, especially as I get further into what is becoming more like an archeological dig. As an example, here's a late 20th Century railway layout buried under some crates, old coins and a 1980s book about Feng Sui.

Yes, I will get around to the bicycles, but, like some musical instruments, I'm told you always need one more than you already have.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

please mind your head


My usual time limit for a blog post is still ten minutes.

Ten minutes and a picture, as frequently as practical from my own camera (like the bullet train above). Then another different ten minutes to whizz around few of the other bloggers and maybe drop a comment or two.

Sometimes there’s so much happening that I (a) don’t blog at all or (b) get into more detail which breaks my own informal rules.

I realise there’s a declining use of blogs, but also for me that there’s a chance to straighten some thinking by the mere act of writing it down - or like today’s post - by dictating it and then skimming it with the keyboard to fix the typos - thank you Nuance.

Right now there’s the big wide world stuff like Trumpton and Brexit and the possibility of knock-on effects towards people like me. I do mean ‘us’ of course, but that's a version of us involving the people I know directly.

There’s secrets embedded in all of what is happening. One is an American situation. Obama knows it, Janet Yellen knows it but Trump might not yet. It's the scale of the US Federal Reserve liabilities. Currently around $4.4 trillion dollars. That's a lot of wonga and gives a leverage of 112. In other words there’s underwritten cash for only 1/112 of the total. Something will have to give.

Back in Harvard and Cranfield days, we used to talk about good leverage for banks being around 20-25. Actually the Bank of England used to insist upon it.

A quick look at the biggest bank in the world (HSBC) shows they run at a leverage of 12 and a UK highstreeter like Lloyds is around the 21 mark.

So Trump will have a huge debt to figure out as part of whatever happens next.

The UK isn’t quite at that level, but it is really quite difficult to determine because the Bank of England has a special off balance sheet Treasury vehicle where it can hide anything to awkward. Who says the BoE is independent of the government? The fiscal and political have some interesting overlaps.

Why do I care about any of this stuff? Partly in a perhaps misguided attempt to understand what is happening in the world, but also to try to figure out what to do next at a personal level.

Back in blog-world, I keep most of my real world stuff away from the blog. Employment, family and the personal stuff may only appear quite tangentially.

But, as Shakespeare might say, there’s the rub. I paraphrase, but however much the whips and scorns of time, of oppressor’s wrongs, from law’s delay, the insolence of office and spurns from those unworthy of patience, it’s still about deciding when and where to act. To be, or not to be, so to speak.

And that raises the intertwined question.

Reflection that requires action as well. Perhaps it's time for a reboot?


Saturday, 19 November 2016

I didn't like it


I watched the first episode of the new Gear Top/Grand Tour out of mild curiosity, to see how they were spending a reputed $4.5 million per episode.

Sure enough, the opening moments used some clever after effects, some flared 4k lens with graduated filters but there were other sections like the 'to camera' aerodrome chatter that looked like conventional outside broadcast standard. Filmic? Maybe I should have watched it on a big screen instead of a browser running with Silverlight. Ironically that's the way of things with T'internet.

The opening storyline about a self-appointed hard-done-by oaf meeting his other self-congratulatory overgrown dinosaur schoolboys with too much money quickly wore thin. They kept doing the same joke about being fired over and over and over again.

When they drove their three matching Ford Capris across the desert, the grins from the other two looked just a little too much like they were through gritted teeth. I guess they can keep taking the money and dial in their copycat performances. I'd judge that May might be the first to crumble of the triad - (I note the episode was called The Holy Trinity)

The main difference from Top Gear was the lack of self-deprecation. Were they showing arrogance or self-confidence? I know where I'll place my bet. The lawyers might take an interest in the format too. I'd go so far as to call it Top Gear lite. TGL. GTL. Top Gear without a base camp. Top Gear without a Stig, but with a replacement Belgian. Top Gear without any stars. Top Gear with a paid audience. Top Gear with too much budget. I expect Amazon have a plan and audit for the show, or maybe it's moving a few more dollars to safe havens?

The bits with the expensive cars were longer segments and the product shots of the vehicles showed that same crisp style as the old series. Weirdly some of that effect is probably caused by using bolt-on GoPros and similar small digital devices alongside the REDs. I suppose they use the same production company for the post-production of those segments.

Some might say that the car reviews were in more depth. I didn't think so. They went on longer but still really talked about things that were expensive, made of carbon fibre, had sparkly lights, flipped out or up and went round corners sideways at excessive speed. The central presenter of the show kept doing the same party trick of driving sideways with smoke. We saw it both clockwise and anti-clockwise.

The rest was trite, with hammy bad acting of the clunkily scripted repartee and an even greater deference to the one that stood in the middle.

Next time they are in South Africa. They'd better watch out for the great white sharks. They might already be jumping them.

Friday, 18 November 2016

no room for the sky to fall


Now it's Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble attempting to set some UK-exit ground rules. Unsurprisingly, he indicates ongoing payments to the EU, possibly as far as to 2030, as well as an exit fee of around £50 billion. And this is all ahead of formal button pushing.

The Germans seem to be adopting a similar line to the French, where President François Hollande is worried about anti-EU sentiment, which could also be further reflected by other countries like Italy and the Netherlands.

There's also Brussels-based attempts to fiddle around with UK trade agreements, like whatever has been done to help Sunderland with the recent Nissan deal.

In one forward looking statement, Mrs May is hinting at UK 'open for global business', which could imply tax breaks and other incentives in the future.

Curiously enough, around 170 other countries manage to trade globally outside of the EU so with Great Britain as around fifth largest global economy, there ought to be a way. As a metropolitan who benefitted from working all over Europe I voted to remain, but now we've decided to leave, we'd better get on with it and look towards the long waves rather then getting distracted by busy-body splashing noises.

Herr Schäuble has also broken cover on pushing for London to lose its Euro-clearing rights, which would push banking jobs to the European mainland. The populist estimate is between 70,000 and 85,000 jobs out of the City.

EY's report to the LSE breaks it down further suggesting 31,000 core intermediary jobs (brokers and traders) plus 18k jobs in professional and legal, 15k in wealth management and 12k in IT. Frankfurt and Paris are already making attempts to attract the bigger banks and the location enquiries are flowing.

Of course, the consultancies are already lining up their sales documents to the big FSIs, like that dubious leaked memo from Deloitte the other day.

EY has another more readily available paper addressed to the institutions who may need help deciding what to do. Their overhead picture of the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange appears to shows London's city streets paved with gold, at least for the consultants?

Actually, the latest crane survey for London still shows plenty of new developments, and it's only necessary to stand on the South Bank near to the Tate Modern and look across to do a personal survey. Suffice to say there's plenty of new office space.

Probably enough to move Parliament across whilst they redevelop the Palace of Westminster and add in the theme park elements.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

swindle: the tribe was flimflammed out of its land


It used to be one elected party giving way to the next when those memos used to slip out about 'there's no money' and similar quips. This time it's been Osborne/Cameron giving a hospital pass to Hammond/May.

Osborne's so called budgeting was a triumph of high-viz spin and Hammond now has to pick up the pieces and announce both the effect of the prior period, plus the add-on impact of Brexit. Osborne already knew that he couldn't make the surplus that he'd been promising but has ducked away. Cameron has opted for the low-viz approach.

The swap-around of circumstances creates the ideal fog of confusion for 'bets are off' to be declared, although the one-time Remainers will now have to deal with the high bills associated with exiting from the EU.

It will be even more confusing by mid 2017, when a sizeable number of the main players in Europe get shuffled as well. The Italians could end up with an EU referendum if Mario Monti gets voted out. The French could find Marine Le Pen in play. The Germans have a late 2017 election and the Netherlands have that running undercurrent from the Geert Wilders Freedom Party. I should have said 'all bets are off.'

It will be interesting to see the next version of the OBR figures, which I assume will show slow growth and consequent poor tax revenue for a UK government faced with new bills to pay.

Hammond declaring £100 billion additional public sector debt this year isn't an auspicious start to this new reign.

We are seeing noise and flim-flam on just about every part of the situation. Legal disputes, negotiation disputes, frogman interludes, opportunist consultant memos, bottom up planning without a top, a disabled and ineffective opposition.

Hammond, May, Carney. Get a grip. There needs to be decisive leadership.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

snack, no jams


One of my tests of the economy involves hanging around in bars in London. Maybe I need to rephrase that.

When things are pretty grim, the City bars are quiet by around 2 pm. It doesn't matter about the season, but the barometer of extended liquid lunches has been a clue to the rest of what is happening.

At least, that's what I've thought up until recently.

Despite Brexit and the Trumpathon, the bars are filling up. I can't put it down to sport events either; there's been some, but insufficient. It's also a week or two too early for the Festive season's irregularities.

Only yesterday I saw a small procession of people filing out of the building opposite. They had that determined 'going drinking' look on their faces and it was about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Tell tale signs of no coats (avoiding that awkward return to the building) and token papers clutched by a few of them (just been to that meeting etc). Go around Leadenhall or into the alleys around Bank mid afternoon and there will be people spilling out onto the pavements.

Perhaps you are thinking that Thursday is Beaujolais Nouveau Day? It really doesn't even get a mention any more. At least there used to be excuses for lunchtime drinkies.

Of course, the City is still in a spumante bubble of its own, at least at the moment.

I've just returned from up north, with its at elbow support from Greggs. Their steak bake costs about a quid, especially if it is part of some kind of bundled lunchtime offer.

Back in London, the 'new' Hawksmoor premium and wine coddled steak snack (looking suspiciously like a steak bake) costs a warm £20. The wrap around drink might be another fiver during happy hour, and ten quid plus any other time. Not exactly one for the 'jams' as the Government are now calling the people who are just about managing.

Maybe Hawksmoor are illustrating a kind of national division with their picture of the snack?

Monday, 14 November 2016

sheep dip


Just like sheep need protection via a sheep dip, I use ad blocker software, to stop as many pests as possible.

Nowadays more of the sites feature that 'you have an ad blocker installed' message, but they have brought it upon themselves with those self starting videos and other annoyances.

It's when I go 'shopping' on the internet, that I don't mind the adverts, because that is part of the point. At other times, having the equivalent of chuggers fronting up to me every few minutes is just plain annoying.

There's still the woefully inaccurate targeting of the ad software too. Amazon mainly uses things that might have been browsed in the past. Often it can be post purchase, and when it attempts CD, books and movies, there will inevitably be something recent thats been 'promoted' as part of a campaign.

Facebook attempts at lifestyle. I was particularly struck with the one it ran on my birthday, suggesting a funeral plan.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

going with it


Sometimes you just know when the train has already left the station.

Friday, 11 November 2016

speaking easily


Across Chelsea and downstairs through the caged entrance into the private party.

"Reminds me of a speakeasy," said one accomplice.
"Is there a hidden door behind a row of books?" queried another.

There was certainly no photography.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

winter tyres day


Tyre swap over day today.

An hour spent in the dealership reading real newspapers stuffed with yesterday's US election coverage whilst the wheels were swapped over.

My summer tyres are back on holiday again.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

What can you do, hmmm?


I was in the USA for the two political conventions earlier this year, when the remaining two candidates set out their stalls. Even then, the personality over content was evident and alongside post truth assertions continued throughout the following months.

For Tuesday's election night, I half-heartedly started watching the results, but there was so much filler that I surrendered.

By this point I'd flicked through CNN, Fox, BBC, ITV, Sky, Russia Today, AlJazeera and NewsIndia. There was every form of graphic and waves of enthusiastic pundits mainly talking about the same stuff, with varying degrees of polarisation. Everyone was trying really hard, but I found the cutaways to street scenes more interesting than all the fancy graphics analysing footfall.

By morning, trumps won over other suits and today we see America and the world working out what it all means.

It's bizarre to think of a short-fused blustering tax-evading billionaire property tycoon of dubious morals as the next US President. It's also bizarre to think he won it on a 'love of the common people' ticket. More predictable were the early morning news bulletins about the state of the markets in Asia and then London. Just what the common people want to hear about.

Maybe, like Mitchell Siporin's 1937 woodcut 'Workers Family', we will all need a dream to cling to now.

Monday, 7 November 2016

opportunity to raise a few brexit plan points?


Teresa May is having to deal with a few in-house politicians who are more about the politics than the practicalities of a Brexit plan.

The lack of the plan is already apparent. A plan would have a heading about legal and constitutional matters.

A plan would recognise the communication strategy to handle both the necessary outward communication as well as the secret stuff that really forms part of the negotiation fallback.

Most plans would also show a critical path through the series of events that are to take place.

We don’t even get the long and short of it. Instead we get Brexit means Brexit. Hard and soft. Per-lease.

Meanwhile the frog-man and others are stirring street fighting whilst Jeremy Corbyn, in his interview with the Sunday Mirror, said Labour could vote against triggering article 50 if the Prime Minister does not agree to Labour’s “Brexit bottom lines”.

Now we are hearing about the one liner motion to get Brexit through Parliament.

It’s a bit of a mess, really, which I’m sure other countries are watching with some quiet glee. Michael Moore references it in his Trumpland documentary as an example of unintended consequences, just before he shows the USA January 2017 with Trump video.

The actual Exit is also two separate things. There’s the exit itself, scheduled over two years. In effect UK gets back its legislation and does this initially by a quick Word ‘change all’ of all the headers and footers on the European stuff to make it UK-specific. Maybe delete the bit about cucumbers. Those changes will no doubt become an industry in their own right.

Whilst the busy-ness of that exit process takes place, there’s the other business of restructuring all of the relationships.

Canada took seven years to agree something with Europe and even then it was held up by a small bloc of Walloons who dug their heels in.

The UK has far more complications because of all the history and aspirations of the various countries in play. In particular, the French and the Germans have deep interests. For example, they both want part of the finance sector. Paris and Frankfurt are already bidding. Same with the cars. Brussels has already asked for the innards of the recent Nissan UK arrangement to be explained.

Benelux will continue to look for an angle. They house the Commission in Brussels. Luxembourg still does - ahem - specialised things with finance making its inhabitants one of the top 3 richest GDP per head in the world.

Netherlands is a trading nation also inside the top 15 GDP, with its strong ties to Germany and increasingly, for imports, to China.

The list can go on, but there, Mrs May’s politicians, at least I’ve started the Force Field Analysis for you. That’s another part of the Plan.

Mrs May also has to get the UK outside of the EU before the next election run-up due in mid-2020.

The EU’s quiet agenda will be to make sure that the UK cannot be seen to have gained any advantage from leaving the EU. It must appear to be worse off as a result. Otherwise the EU itself is threatened, particularly because of the currently restless members such as Netherlands, the currently fragile Italy and even France after their 2017 election which could feature Sarkozy vs. Le Pen.

Throughout this the EU of 27 members and 500 million inhabitants have the easier end of the negotiation. At its simplest they can just run down the clock. Complex international bureaucracies won’t baulk at the thought of a two year countdown.

Even with the UK vote last 23 June, it could be 30 March 2017 before the Article 50 button is pressed. That’s just over 9 months. And only one system in the process.

Then we get the negotiated transition. Mrs. May might be thinking five years. If Canada took seven years, then that probably becomes the new table stakes, despite there being a template already available from the Canadians.

Alongside it will be the payments that UK is expected to make to the EU. My guess is that they will expect something akin to the current net amount paid inside the EU to now be paid when outside the EU. The cost of exit becomes an ongoing fee equivalent to membership. As it is, Osborne mis-judged a projected budget surplus which has turned into prolonged deficit, with around a £25 billon hole expected by 2020. That is before any Brexit costs get added. Right now, Hammond must be working out how to spin this for the autumn statement.

It's also where the negotiating strategy needs more than one level. It should be possible for the negotiators to show something of the process to appease the critics without giving away secrets.

At a simple level there’s the structure of the negotiation itself. Alignment of goals is one interesting area. Remembering negotiation basics, there’s the useful grid to illustrate the tensions and the potential for gains and losses.

Then there’s the tiered approach to the actual negotiations, which may often include a fact-finding round before the real negotiations get under way.

Unpacking this stuff is hardly a secret, but can be a lot better than the ‘nothing contributed’ mentality of many commentators.

So here’s my example of a tiering, although I’m not going to introduce a starting point.

1. No concessions
2. No further concessions
3. Making only deadlock-breaking concessions
4. High realistic expectations with systematic concessions
5. Concede first
6. Problem solving
7. Goals other than to reach agreement
8. Moving for closure
9. Combining strategies

I can start to see a toolkit emerging.

• A timetable.
• A list of major exit topics
• A list of major ‘new world’ topics
• A UK political Force Field Analysis
• An EU political Force Field Analysis
• A Rest of World Force Field Analysis
• Factfinding requirements
• A preferred negotiation stance
• A desired outcome
• A series of options
• Targeted outcome scenarios
• An approach to creating agreements

A defined set of phases for the process with durations and names like:

Stage 1 : Factfinding and strategy definition 6 months
Stage 2 : Initial exchanges 6 months

Stage 3: First Wave preliminary negotiation 3 months
Stage 3.1 : First Wave Options : 3 months
Stage 3.2 : Negotiation First Wave Options : 3 months
Stage 3.3 : Agreement First Wave 3 months

(Two Year Marker)

Stage 4: Second Wave preliminary negotiation 3 months
Stage 4.1 : Second Wave Options : 3 months
Stage 4.2 : Negotiation Second Wave Options : 3 months
Stage 4.3 : Agreement Second Wave 3 months

Stage 5: Third Wave preliminary negotiation 3 months
Stage 5.1 : Third Wave Options : 3 months
Stage 5.2 : Negotiation Third Wave Options : 3 months
Stage 5.3 : Agreement Third Wave 3 months

(Four Year Marker)
Stage 6 : Statement of degree of completion of Main Topics 3 months

Stage 7-9: Ongoing second tier topics preliminary negotiation 3 months
Stage 7-9.1 : Ongoing second tier topics : 3 months
Stage 7-9.2 : Negotiation Ongoing second tier topics : 3 months
Stage 7-9.4 : Agreement Ongoing second tier topics 3 months

(Seven Year Marker)

There’s a whole lot more to this, but the difference is, that it is about defining a structure and making a pragmatic start.

Oops. That’s probably not ‘politically’ correct

Sunday, 6 November 2016

my bike is still quietly blogging its daily stats


A consequence of the recent unexpected Windows updates was that I fiddled around with my phone whilst waiting around for the lengthy update to complete.

I fixed one of those things that I'd been meaning to do for ages. It now means my bike simply logs its activity from the Garmin direct to the phone instead of via the PC or Mac and Wifi.

No biggie, but now when I press "Stop" on the Garmin, my bicycle immediately updates its statistics logged to Strava, Connect, Training Peaks and elsewhere, without me needing to do anything else.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

103 mince pies miles to go



I'm approaching my cycling target for the year now. I decided it would be prudent to blast a few extra miles in October, because there is often a tapering off in November and December. It would be good to be able to say that the weather and conditions don't have any effect, but a combination of colder days, leading to slipperiness and then the mince pie and festive factor can mean that the two months of November and December become less than a single normal month for distance.

So far I've only had about four mince pies. That's two from a box and two mini ones when visiting friends in Cheltenham last weekend.

I'm sure they will already have had a negative effect on my aerodynamics.

Friday, 4 November 2016

loopy windows moment


My Windows computers run on Windows 10, which generally provides a good environment.

The challenge is around the revised update protocol it uses. Whereas the older Windows used to ask about updates, some versions of Windows 10 force system updates.

It can be annoying. It just happened to me in the middle of using the garage computer. It stopped in mid-flight and proceeded to update itself. Despite those 100% complete messages, it decided to reboot itself about three times and altogether took 15 minutes to go through all the machinations.

Given that the same machine had been switched on overnight the prior evening, it would have made more sense to do this kind of thing when the machine is clearly unattended.

A different rashbre related remote PC has attempted a similar update but stopped partway through.

It keeps rebooting and getting lost in the middle. Microsoft also removed the old "boot with F8" safe mode option, so the machine is effectively unusable now until I can physically get to it to work out how to rescue it.

The update appears to be linked to Windows 10 Version 1607 - the so called Anniversary Edition. Since release it has not taken long for forums and newsfeeds to show systems unable to complete updates, but also not able to boot because of the unfinished update, leaving them stuck.

This is where 'it all works perfectly in PowerPoint' springs to mind. Less so in the analogue.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

whose vote is it anyway?


Alongside the luminosity of the bright orange arm waving candidate, we see the sometimes subtler machinations of the apparatchik alternative.

There's a currently building media narrative about what could happen if a few less expected states swing (in this case Georgia, Utah, Alaska).

The conspiracy theorists say that this is part of an electorate softening exercise. Less surprise if weird things happen.

Coverage includes Huffington Post, Bloomberg, Washington Post and -er- The Salt Lake Tribune, to name just a few. The Daily Telegraph, amongst others, has regurgitated versions of these stories here in the UK too.

Now a fun thing as a Brit when travelling very long straight roads in the US, is to tune into one of the shock jockey shows to pass a half hour. We don't really get anything as extreme in the UK. Someone like the colourful and highly Republican biased Alex Jones, who fronts Infowars and has been talking with analytics investigator Bev Harris about the potential for US election rigging.

There's two schools of thought on this. One involves the often old machines used as the basis for the vote. These are not used everywhere and are many designs.

There's plenty of stories, such as in the 2015 Brennan Report of having to buy spare parts for them on eBay (such as Zoom modems and Zip disks) and that many, including those in parts of high tech California, still use Windows XP or Windows 2000.

People imply they are insecure, have inaccurate touch screens and are difficult to audit end-to-end.

The second school of thought is the one for the recent shock-jock allegations. They don't really talk about the actual voting machines instead jumping to the other end of the system, where the big counting takes place.

The two features of a conspiracy suggested by Bev Harris involve (a) access to the centralised black box counting software and (b) a programming trick involving the conversion of integers to double precision floating point numbers onto which a gentle 'allocation' weighting can be applied.

Put simply, someone hacks into the central system and adjusts the voting skew using rounding from computerised fractional arithmetic.

The slightly nerdy story doesn't seem to get picked up by the mainstream US media, presumably because they filter shock jocks of whatever type.

It is still interesting to examine and may well get played after the results are in.

"Trust, but verify" as they used to say, or was it "Doveryai, no proveryai"?