Sunday, 15 October 2017

smile for the robot camera


Now a decent amount of the rashbre central technology is back up and running, it seems like time for a technology post.

Something that caught my eye recently is Google Clips, which could have been like a camera for the selfie generation if only it had pointed the other way.

Google Clips recognizes faces and pets and records them automatically. What could possibly be creepy about that? It's wearable and compact, and although it lights up when recording, it's a bit like having someone permanently collecting evidence.

It reminds me of the Jesse Armstrong Black Mirror episode 'Entire History of You', where Jesse's Peep Show-style recording was made of everything and could be replayed to cross check detail. In Black Mirror the grains captured everything, but these Google Clips only capture shortish bursts of 15 frame per second pseudo-video without sound. At least that's all they do for the moment.

Google is also at pains to say it doesn't put the resultant footage into the cloud, and the user must select which sections get further use. Probably via one of those lengthy usage agreements that have to be accepted the first time the device is used.

The original design didn't include a push button to take a photo; the system didn't need it, being entirely autonomous. They've added a button now as a kind of psychological human factors thing a bit like many unwired office heating controls.

I'm not sure what impact this kind of device will have on photography. Smartphones can already replace smaller pocket cameras for many purposes. The innovation of this device is that it doesn't require any action on the part of the user. Clip it on and it uses artificial intelligence to look for the shot and then snaps pictures it thinks could be of interest. 'Family and pets' says the oh-so-wholesome literature - although it does show a picture of the device tucked away on a shelf.

It's another twist on the Google Glass designs, this time with a more overt camera visible. The pictures it takes are well below current smartphone quality. The wide 130 degree angle of view and unframed picture gives a totally random look to the resultant picture. It reminds me of a security camera photograph.

Then there's the three hour battery life. Hardly deigned for life-streaming. But it is the first generation, and Google probably wants to use it to track other demographic information for helpful marketing purposes.

It's also not directly supporting the selfie generation. The wearer can't take a photo of themselves. Just of other people. Or cats to share on the internet.

Friday, 13 October 2017

hidden heights


We were by that sign on Oxford Street, next to the almost hidden alley that leads into St Christopher's Place.

To be honest, it's one of my favourite things about Oxford Street, the ability to dive down a seemingly obscure route, with the object of trying to get some tourists into the slipstream.

It usually works and this time we had a few Americans in tow, intrigued by the seemingly tight space that we'd disappeared into.

At the end of the alley, and uplifted from prior incarnations, there's an entirely wholesome grouping of cafes and restaurants, together with a few high-end shops. The kind that don't bother to put prices on their window displays.

Our mission was ever so slightly further afield. Across Wardour Street and into Marylebone Lane. We were visiting 100 Marylebone Lane.

It used to be a well-known dance school, but now part of its property has been transformed into a rather delicious variant of The Ivy.

Fortunately we had a table ready and waiting.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

magic car boot packing and the disappearing bed


Yes, we've retrieved most of the rest of the gear that was stored during the move, so a few more pieces of rashbre central can spring back to life.

The main computer, servers and so on have been dormant since the 8th of May and have just, for the first time, been fired up.

I'll admit it is a somewhat temporary configuration, but should allow video editing and sound mixing to start again, along with other duties. Right now I'm offloading photos from a couple of cameras into Lightroom.

I am still sleeping on the floor whilst we wait for the third attempt to get the bed delivered. It's a whole other story which means I can honestly say I haven't slept in my own bed since May.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

#FANS 2018


Just sayin'.

A kind of Wordless Wednesday post, but with built-in marketing.

It's way too early to fire up the twitter accounts for this, but lookout for FANS on the road again in 2018.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

sierra clone


Inevitably, the big computer wanted to update itself to the latest version of everything. I let it adjust for High Sierra, which has taken over from - er - Sierra.

Before the update, I made a sneaky clone of the Sierra image. It's just in case I need to do some editing with the old version of the Apple Pro apps.

Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro are now defunct on the latest operating system. It's actually some seven years since FCP was updated. Those swirly Pixel Magic transitions will finally have to go as I will now only be able to use the X versions.



Monday, 9 October 2017

Jasper Johns: 'Something resembling truth' ?


This time we were at the Jaspar Johns exhibition.

It's a flagship exhibition at the Royal Academy and features many of Jaspar Johns well-known works around his recurring themes of flags, targets, numbers and maps.

A while ago I read The Sellout by Paul Beatty, which I found peculiarly American in its wit and expression. I'm also pretty sure that as Brit I got less from it than an American reader would.

There's something of that feeling with this Jaspar Johns exhibition. It covers several main themes, sometimes revisited after 20 or 30 years across the expanse of his ongoing career.

Johns doesn't often explain his work, leaving it to the viewer to work out a meaning. And in some cases this can be quite a journey.

The RA's own external flag highlights one of his well-known works. It's the Fool's House, which I'm sure was itself chosen as a wry quip for the show.

Best described as a deconstruction of the way a painter works, we get a partially painted Sorcerer's Apprentice style broom, plus a towel, paint stretcher and cup. We have to decide for ourselves whether the canvas has been included, or are we looking at the discards from a painting session? And is the picture supposed to be a cylinder?

Other concepts include pictures where the canvas has been folded, such that the work is hidden inside, before being painted over, usually with grey or black paints.

At the time (1960s-1970s) it was 'ground breaking' and set some new directions, although I'm probably someone who prefers the variety in Warhol or Rauschenberg's breadth of ideas.

Sure they all appropriate contemporary objects, but I can't help feeling that Johns was the one that spent more time alone with dark thoughts.

It would be remiss not to mention the flags he produced. Almost exclusively American, with variations of the star patterns and sometimes hidden details. He also produced similarly blended maps of the USA, with controversial labels. Should a painting need to explain itself with writing (debate)?

But the flags do lead to my favourite sequence of his work, which was unremarked upon in the exhibition.

Not the conventional stars and stripes that he produced, instead a smaller series of orange, green and black flags.

There's the original large format one, which is part of a series called Moratorium. Notice the single white spot in the middle? It serves a couple of purposes. The first is to represent bullet hole, a signifier for the Vietnam war.

The construction was used again in another picture, "Ventriloquist", which was the only part of this sequence on show.

The tag line for the exhibition is 'something resembling truth' although examples in the exhibition are largely unsignposted. My example from the green flag is perhaps a more obvious one. Stare at the bullet hole and then look at the sky. Yes, the stars and stripes appears in its original colours.

Do the same with the two flags shown on Ventriloquist and the same mind's eye illusion occurs. I'm wondering how much more is hidden?

Only truth will tell.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

previewing the excellent #GoldfishBowl


A Gloucester Road pizza at Da Mario's (that's the one that Lady Di used to take the boys), then along a few tube stops to the lovely Canada Water Theatre to see a preview show.

It's the already excellent Goldfish Bowl, written by Young People’s Laureate for London, Caleb Femi.

Playing to a sold-out house, this is a part improv, part poetry, part grime piece about moving from Nigeria, living in a Peckham high-rise estate and the bittersweet experiences around an often tough and quite poor area. In case it sounds like a troubled viewing, the show is vibrant and full of life. There's a sparky humour driven by the writing of Caleb Femi combined with the realistic acting and friendship between Caleb and fellow actor/DJ/singer Lex Amor. Stunning artwork crackled across the set by Olivia Twist adding to the overall effect.

Despite the preview nature, this is a show that is already well-formed for a serious tour and I just hope they can find the programmers to put this on more widely.

In Canada Water, the diverse audience were fully engaged and the two actors pulled down the fourth wall almost from the start, with much friendly encouragement whooped from the audience. For me, this entire PaperBirds directed show was excellent theatre, with a simple staging yet dazzling in terms of effects and images portrayed. A clever example of 'less is more'.

I loved it and already want to see it again.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

waiter, this series is corked #DoctorFoster


Watching some broadcast telly. The one about the revengeful doctor and her ex-husband.

It's difficult to know where to start, with the show having every single decision made contrary to common sense. Along the lines of "don't go there, don't see him or her again, don't respond to the warped note, why stay in Parminster at all?" etc. Not to mention the coincidental arrivals and departures, open dangerous gates, open fridge doors, and so on.

No doubt it was written to be deliberately infuriating, although it is so far beyond melodrama as to need its own category. I can imagine the writers asking one another, "What else can we throw in?" It made the script a little like a rushed last minute homework submission.

With that other TV show about unreliable narrative (Liar) also running at the moment, I found myself watching the Doctor Foster champagne cork sequence too carefully. The cork was made of cork, then in the flashback it looked like a cheap plastic cork from a bottle of prosecco.

It flew right across the garden. Then it was in his hands again. And made of cork.

But back to the plot...Worryingly it had an ending which could set the scene for yet another series. Please don't.

Update: After I wrote this, I decided to check that cork thing and yes. Even OK is on to it.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

dire statistics


Another tragic example of America's second amendment's frequent dire consequences.

The so-called President auto-cued his way, with faux piety, through a subsequent statement.

Back in April he was telling the NRA how much he'd unfetter them further. Heck, they could have silencers and concealed carry too, like gangsters.

Now he's offering "warmest" (sic) condolences and bits of Psalm 34:18 as if he means it.

And we all know that if the gunman had a different kind of name this would all run very differently.

That old George Burns sincerity quote doesn't apply. Trump can't even fake it.

Instead we again see him relying upon diversion whilst serving self-interest.

USA Statistics

I quickly tabulated the incidents that have happened since the Las Vegas one, highlighted in yellow, two days ago. Around 50 more incidents, 30 more injuries and a further 23 fatalities.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

picking rondo at pebblebed near #topsham


We joined in the community grape harvest at the lovely and hospitable local vineyard today.

It turns out that the Romans dabbled in grape growing around this area and then more is recorded in the middle ages, creating a local Devonshire "Terroir".

On this occasion we were harvesting red grapes - the rondo variety, which get used in the local Pebblebed red and rose wines.

The original vineyards were planted out as part of a community project in the late 1990s and have grown into today's commercial enterprise.

We crossed one field of vines and into another, where we were welcomed to the morning's activity. Gloves, secateurs, ready for action.

The line of vines stretched into the distance, with lively volunteers in each row.

We found it quite addictive finding the grapes and harvesting them into the crates which would subsequently be taken to the nearby winery. Each new crate seemed to have its own gang of miniature resident spiders, which scattered as the first grapes were dropped in. There were abundant red admiral butterflies, in keeping with the stories that this butterfly is once again thriving.

At the end of each line we could see healthy red roses. Traditionally used as an early indicator of mildew, although possibly there's a more sophisticated approach nowadays. These roses looked both pretty and healthy and would have given olden day horses a bright clue about when to turn around.

Altogether good fun and with sociable long tables welcoming at the end of the session. A bite to eat and a natter with new neighbours. Pebblebed have a few more of the community sessions over the next couple of weeks. Well worth a visit and, of course, a glass of their wine.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

red cars at sunset

I've been using one of those telemetrics systems in my car recently. It's the type that tracks the journey, provides feedback about driving style, as well as providing rudimentary monitoring of the car's diagnostics.

My regular work driving to a specific office used to clock up around 55 miles per day, mainly along commuter motorway in rush hour. Add in a few long journeys and I'd be clocking up many miles per year, with a rolling average of around 60,000 over three years.

My newer driving has a different pattern, which is quite bi-modal. I'm surprised at the number of ultra-short journeys of between 2-5 miles but less surprised at the number of 80 mile plus journeys.

The gadget lets me be more scientific about the capture of recent journeys, so despite the dilution through the short journeys (dare I say bicycle-worthy journeys), my average journey is still clocking around 25 miles.

There's a dilemma in this, because my split journey types are probably representative of many people, yet the types of new vehicles are not quite ready for this type of scenario.

My example. My current V6 turbo-engined car averages 40 miles around town and maybe around 50 on longer journeys. Its range between fuel stops is around 500 miles. But it's a now-unpopular diesel.

I look around at new cars on offer and realise that we must be between innovation cycles. The manufacturers are trying to move to greater use of electric, but are stuck with manufacturing plants and designs that predominately use petrol and diesel. Watch normal telly at the moment and every advert break is filled with red cars driving along twisty roads. Follow the herd?

It means that many of the hybrids around are rather ineffectual. They might have a 20 mile electric range, which is okay for short journeys, but their combined cycles are running less that 40 mpg, despite claims of 100 mpg. Ironically the hybrid diesel electrics seem to give better mileage, but surely that must be a temporary combination? The car press don't know what to make of it all either, with reviewers saying these mashups have great acceleration rather than great range.

Then there's the pure electric cars. Teslas seem to offer the best mileage, but are still only 200 mile range for their best £90,000 plus cars. I looked up the nearest high speed charging point to me. It's about 3 miles away, but is the only one within an 80 mile radius. I suppose I could make longer journeys more leisurely, but there's a different stress having a fuelled car on a quarter tank, compared with having a battery car on one blip. I followed a 2016 plated Tesla around a roundabout the other day, it was on the flatbed of a rescue truck.

I suppose in another three years there will be a wider range of plausible hybrid alternative vehicles. I'll stay with my current vehicle until that point. At least I can drive it to Newcastle-upon-Tyne without refuelling. Although I might need to update the sat-nav.

Monday, 25 September 2017

bugged

Mother Nature is gradually reassembling in the back garden, since the building work.

The new muddiness attracted plenty of green shoots, which necessitated a quick change of plan as we planted turf to keep the area under some control until we can decide what to do with it. That probably won't be until next year.

At the front, the vast tracts of Devonshire mud are similarly sprouting small green shoots, in what was presumably agricultural land until the recent makeover. There is a plan for the front, but that also involves further diversion of the stream and potentially the re-siting of some high tension power lines. Bring in the big diggers again.

So at the front we have foxes, an occasional deer but mostly a couple of crows which strut around the various ponds. We've had the starlings doing their murmuration thing too, but only in low hundreds.

The back is rather more scaled back, such that wildlife comprises the smallest midges, a few of the garden fence spiders (they look like ruggedised house spiders). My short term favourite is the Green Shield bug, which, as H2G2 would say, is 'mostly harmless'.

I confess to not being particularly aware of these commonplace insects until a few days ago, and had classified them as a variety of grasshopper. These bugs stay green in colour, probably so that they don't get confused with the less attractively named 'Stink Bug'.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

empirical realism without a mandrake in sight


Machiavelli's home town had a boost of politicians over the last few days. I skimmed through the Florence pronouncements looking for interesting bits. Theresa May was suitably serious for her speech. She had to cover up that David Davies has been skiving and that consequently everything is even further behind schedule. Implicated civil servants are already writing CYA memos for the enquiry in however many years time.

May ruled out using the EEA or a free trade agreement for ongoing relationships. That means something new and innovative, although it's hard to spot imagination and creativity in the moves so far.

The self-righteous spin of her statements will become future text book materials. "They (The British people) want more direct control of decisions that affect their daily lives; and that means those decisions being made in Britain by people directly accountable to them." It doesn't mention all of the fibs used to those same people in the run-up to the original vote.

Further on, that stray sentence about global matters. Intriguing for a UK about to 'go global' in its aspiration. "The weakening growth of global trade; the loss of popular support for the forces of liberalism and free trade that is driving moves towards protectionism; the threat of climate change depleting and degrading the planet we leave for future generations; and most recently, the outrageous proliferation of nuclear weapons by North Korea with a threat to use them."

Inevitably the semi-colon inserters made sure that this speech refers back to the prior Lancaster House session, as if there has been some fundamental progress over the intervening period. More like regurgitating the main point of the negotiation as if something new: "...we will need to discuss with our European partners new ways of managing our interdependence and our differences, in the context of our shared values."

The reality of the new positioning statements is somewhat different.

1) There will need to be an extra open-ended two years inserted for transitioning to the new, undefined arrangements.
2) There will be significant tens of billions of costs for everything. These amounts will be announced on a trickle feed basis, to confuse us all and not make it sound like too much.

So my net. There still isn't a plan. It will cost a lot of money. It will take lot longer. And that's before the impending scatter of the Tory game-board. Again.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

turning the tables

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Home is changing on an almost daily basis at the moment. We've new items going in and some pre-existing ones being moved out.

A sofa arrived earlier in the week and unlike a previous one which was yellow by accident, this one is yellow by design. The John Lewis delivery guys recognised me straight away, having brought the new telly a few days ago.

A large table also turned up, which is destined for the office, and I've had fun assembling it, using a recently acquired new power drill. My previous heavy duty Bosch drill had finally expired, and I was surprised to work out that I'd had it since around 1995.

I could also use the new power drill to dismantle a complicated and rather heavy coffee table, which is no longer part of the plan and may soon be taking a ride in the boot of my car.

I've also a couple of smaller tables stashed in the garage and am considering a small side project with some of that Annie Sloan chalk paint to see whether they can be re-purposed into something for the music room. My idea is meeting some resistance at the moment, and anyway first I'll need to clear some cat-swinging space in the garage.

Although, if the weather remains sunny, then the seafront beckons.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Of Wolf Hall, bringing up the bodies and new reflections


The affectionate introduction by a local person described the town we were in as 'twinned with the 1960s'.

We were here to listen to Hilary Mantel, most known as the populariser of historical novels, including the much lauded and televised Wolf Hall.

Dame Hilary Mantel began with musings on everyman. The thought that anyone, once deceased, would live on in myriad ways, based upon individual peoples' impressions and interpretations. That this thinking had informed portrayals in her novels.

She believed that facts were not the same as truth. It applied in Tudor times, and it's still a factor in 'post truth' modernity. The approach creates a lens to the past. And important as what happened, it was important to convey what it felt like.

Some scorn historical 'novels' for this very interpretation and potential romanticising of events. Mantel differs. History had to patch over gaps in knowledge. Provide a way to arrange a sequence. I'd rather have nuanced interpretation than the bombast of a David Starkey view in any case.

Hilary Mantel started by describing her own family past. A large family in the prior generation and then a small one in her parents' generation. We heard of her own initial attempts at novel writing, including her almost ten year grapple with the French Revolution.

No-one was interested, particularly from a British perspective. There were also large gaps in the history. Mantel realised that there would need to be something different if she was to succeed.

She remembered a childhood visit to Cardinal Wolsey's place, to sit in his window, to rest her arm where his had surely been. That became a stimulus for her Tudor novels. To write it from an individual perspective, to recognise, back in the early 2000s, that there was an impressive anniversary approaching. to write her novel to what would become a 500 year deadline.

In this we see Hilary Mantel's commercial awakening as well, a realisation that to be successful the story needed to have popular appeal.

Fast forward (we can do that wth history) to the point where the books are successful and Hilary Mantel becomes involved in stage productions. This was clearly a re-boot for Hilary, who says she learned so much more from the team working and the pragmatism in choices involved with the performing arts.

Great to hear of someone already successful going through a thorough re-learning. There was plenty more in the talk, it was clear that we were listening to a thoughtful enthusiast of her skillset.

It could have been a more direct trailer for "Wolf Hall III: The Mirror and the Light." Instead we'll have to speculate a little longer as we find out how Thomas Cromwell reflects and sometimes forgets whilst the plotters gather to finish him.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

digging the fibre

Well, I've ditched my temporary, cobbled-together, low-speed, home-made broadband. The new fibre system has been connected and I'm now getting speeds officially up to 200 Mbit/sec.

I say officially, because when I tested it after installation, it was clocking 220 Mbit. An unusual surprise compared with the usual stories of underperformance from broadband.

I'd asked the installation guy, and he said I'd get the full speed it I used a wired connection, but the speed would drop if I used wifi. True when I used the official hub for the wifi. When I -ahem- connected the Apple wifi hub to the official one, the speed somehow shifted back to maximum. Useful to know.

A small snag though. The next day the builders managed to put a digger through the cable. So no broadband and no telly.

Oh well.

Friday, 8 September 2017

time to check it


Along to the Phoenix for Thursday evening. A chance to test a few factors. How long to get to the central city in the evening? How difficult to park? Were there charges? How far to cross the centre?

All easy peasy. The main consideration was that the car park closed unnervingly early at 11pm. No charges after 6pm.

Then to meet up in the bar before the show. Chatting enough that we had to be herded into the show.

A sort of extended front room set. Arts lab, Beckenham was the look. Probably 1970s, judging by the lampshades. Then it was Bowie tunes. A mixture of styles from the players known as Bowie Lounge.

The lyrics were unmistakeable, although some of the interpretations were quite different. It looped through Bowie eras, and didn't try too hard to tell a specific Bowie tale. Bowie used to use William S Burroughs influenced cut-ups to render some of his lyrics and there was a similar fractured approach to any story telling in this performance.

We also witnessed a stage edge scratchy analogue video installation and a Billy Name-esque photographer wandering throughout the performance, like an enigmatic reference to The Factory.

And did the audience like it? By the end they were dancing in the aisles and would probably have been on the stage as well.

I'll classify this first skirmish into my new area's local night life as successful, even with the eleven o'clock car park curfew. But, as someone else pointed out, it was a school night.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

theme for an imaginary western


Part of our relocation involves picking up threads with new people and so I'll be starting these new adventures over the next few days.

So as I walked through this recent late summer London scene of the Fever Tree winnebago closed up, a Jack Bruce lyric drifted into my head. The one about the imaginary western.

When the wagons leave the city
For the forest and further on
Painted wagons of the morning
Dusty roads where they have gone


I'm thinking how our own wagon has rolled to the new place. Despite the current almost desert-like scene opposite (which I describe as a mini Grand Canyon), we'll soon have an entire new landscape.

Oh the sun was in their eyes
And the desert was dry
In the country town
Where the laughter sounds


Maybe not Slartibartfast, and go easy on the crinkly edges.

Here's Jack Bruce.

Monday, 4 September 2017

cut grass - done


The recent turf-laying has now created the need for grass-mowing. The turf has knitted together and the individual strands of grass become some 20-30cm tall.

The heavy old petrol mower with its Briggs & Stratton engine from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin didn't make the move from the last place, so we're starting again.

Petrol was the past choice because of the shape of the garden, with a couple of areas well outside the reach of cables.

This time I'm going electric again, but cordless. That's where the different battery tech pops up. There's a selection from between 18 volt to 80 volt, with commensurate pricing. Plus the decision on the number of amperes - broadly speaking I'll go for the largest possible amps, but only take the voltage needed for a smaller bladed device.

Hence this small Ryobi. So light I can carry by its handle with one hand. And, after that first choppy cut, it looks as if subsequent ones will be fine.

However, something important to watch is the way that the coverage per charge gets represented. We all know about misleading car miles per gallon, there is a lawnmower equivalent. I'm guessing that a reduction by a third to a half compared with the advertised coverage will be needed, at least for the first cuts.

I suppose the theory could be to get the grass down to a billiard table smoothness, at which point the full potential may be achieved with an expert groundsman in charge of the mower.

But for me it makes sense to buy extra batteries and use a fast charger.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Topsham Turf Ferry and Otter ale

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A weekend trip on the Topsham Turf Ferry, across to the Turf Hotel, a popular pub by the Exeter canal and the River Exe.
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The 15 minute ferry ride is a pretty one and gives a good view of Topsham, the one-time port for Exeter.
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There's no direct road to the pub and most people will walk, cycle or come along the river.
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I enjoyed a casual burger and a pint of Otter served outdoors, although there was plenty on offer from the kitchen like the tasty sea bass, scallops and trimmings, on this occasion washed down with a late summer Pimms.

The pub is on National Cycle Route 2, which is very well signposted from the pub leading towards Dawlish in one direction and Exeter in the other. It will eventually run all the way from St Austell to Dover, some 361 miles.

Another section of the same cycle route runs along by the end of our new road as it weaves its way along both sides of the River Exe, and there's plenty of cyclists of all kinds using it.

But we were boat passengers this time, although soon to be back by cycle.
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Friday, 1 September 2017

September means indoor spiders.


The start of September makes a good opportunity for a spider post.

This year for me may be different until the ecology of the new place settles down. I'm already aware that the foxes have had to create a new route since the arrival of bricks and mortar on their previous cut-through.

But the spiders here look different too. In London there would be a fair smattering of common house spiders, some of those little jumpy ones and certainly some of the black bodied ones. A kind of de-riguer London attire for spiders.

Around here it's all somewhat more 4-wheel drive. Okay, 8-leg drive. The spiders I've seen seem to be the same colour as the reddish soil, have extra long front legs and look somehow ruggedised.

So far there is limited evidence of webs and I'm guessing the intrepid ones here are the hunter types.

We shall see, this September = Spiders month.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

gimme dat package?


The delivery system around here isn't working properly yet.

We've a proper address with a postcode but only about 50% of the people driving delivery vans seem to be able to find us.

On one occasion I walked through the rain to the end of a nearby road to locate the missing van, but then, after my instructions for the last 200 yards, I watched him turn off into the wrong route. Fortunately it was a dead end, so I was able to provide further instructions.

Other occasions have required me to call help desks. I've had to spell out everything, and then hear pieces repeated back to me with mispronunciations of key words. E-zeeta. Dee-von.

I'm sure things will improve, but yesterday's example was another case in point. A package will be delivered between 06:00 and 22:00 by Henry. Will it? I watched the clock flick past 10pm and there was no package, no text message, no email. The delivery web site continued to show it was to be delivered that day, although their helpdesk only had business hours until 20:00.

Then, at about 10:20pm, the message changed. The package was back in a depot. The same place that it had started the previous morning.

Today, I've received a text. Charlie will be delivering it between 16:42 and 17:42.

I wonder what happened to Henry?

Sunday, 27 August 2017

orange electric rental bicycles. What's not to like?


I spotted these today.

Rental bikes, with electric assistance. And they are orange.

No time today, but I'll be back to give them a try. But first I must get my own bike functional.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

my smart meter is sad because it doesn't know which eon tariff it is on


Part of the house move involves the start of new utilities. We have gas and electricity switched on and smart metered. However, the new smart meter readout only shows electricity and the various tariffs don't work on it at all.

I've tried to contact the supplier, but there's a kind of catch 22. Their web-site says register online, but in order to do so I need an account number, which has not been supplied.

If I try to phone them it says that their are extra long waiting times. Their online chat service is offline.

I decided to try emailing them, but it says there are also long waits for email replies and I would be better off registering on-line.

This structural mayhem is great for the supplier, who is winning all the time this persists.

It means I am on their default tariffs, which are the most expensive. It is like a quiet tax by the supplier, despite all their leaflet claims about providing a superior service. "Great Service as Standard," they claim.

I am not convinced.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

and they drive an ice cream van


Just wondering if a Piranha submarine will appear in a couple of days, now that the KLF book 2023 has finally appeared?

The White Room was one of my guilty pleasures. Here's the 27 year old Stadium House VHS tape.

a different kind of voice


It's a stretch to link my recent left bank Paris excursions to this story, but I couldn't help notice that New York's Village Voice has decided to go digital only.

The Voice used to be my immediate acquisition when travelling through New York and was something that survived otherwise ruthless packing when returning to to the UK. That whole process disappears in the world of digital.

Why the Paris link?

Many would say that Greenwich Village (the origin of the Voice) was like an American equivalent of left bank Paris. Add a couple of the Voice's catalysts Mailer and Malaquais/Malakai first meeting at the Sorbonne. Back in the village, Malaquais introduced Mailer to Wolf, the second of the Voice's founders. And Greenwich village's San Remo bar is a kind of NY version of a Café de Flore, so I think my link just about works.

The Village Voice I used to pick up was a kind of pre-blogging blog with its come-all-ye approach to attracting writers, plus its Craigslist quantity of entertaining small ads, It was inevitably competed with by other formats. I expect a few other 'magazines' are looking over their shoulders.

Caught between the twisted stars
The plotted lines the faulty map
That brought Columbus to New York.

As the front cover artist featured this week would have said.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

fixing the dead iPhone SE


My iPhone converted itself into a brick yesterday. Everything is backed up, but I had that short all-over queasiness that I'd not be able to function.

It's partly brought about by not having another phone at the moment. We still don't have broadband, and the suppliers are all queuing up somewhere else to avoid connecting the fibre cable from the cabinet across the road to the house.

In full blown work mode I'd be utterly dependent on a phone, for email, messaging, conferencing, voicemail and, yes, actual phone calls.

I've gone through the Nokia phase, the two phones phase (work phone and personal phone), the Blackberry phase (years ago, but it did have a proper keyboard) and then into the single phone world of the iPhone.

I've experimented with Android phones too, and even a Chinese Goo-Phone which was a rip off of an iPhone 6, running android but reskinned to look like it was running iOS. These quirky phones were simply side projects, not meant to interfere with my main phone's use.

And my device of choice is still the iPhone, although not (currently) the latest design. I'm still using an iPhone SE. It's around two years old, but has that Apple industrial build quality that was somehow lost with the iPhone 6s.

I can remember writing about the later iPhones that it was becoming a pure marketing battle and the size of screen seemed to be winning. I didn't want to have to put a table tennis bat sized device in my pocket, but that was where it was heading.

So now, what to do? The iPhone 8 is due out in a few weeks, and that could be the point where the iPhone form factor suddenly collapses back to one shape in three sizes. My Steve Jobs phone will surely get axed as a new Tim Cook wireless rechargeable device replaces it?

For my phone, I'd already tried three chargers and a selection of different wires to no avail. Blank screen of brick.

But instead, another plan.

"Blow it!" I say.

Yes, the phone of course. I tried that thing.

The one where you clean out the apparently already clean USB socket on the phone.

Yes, I blew into the phone. A couple of times.

Then I plugged it in again.

A picture of a battery appeared, with a red line at the bottom.

Okay, 0%, but I can wait.

And : Update: before posting this, it's already up to 35%.