Sunday, 30 April 2017

Sieve

I've realised that I'll be shutting down the computer running my local Spamsieve mail filter in the next couple of days.

It's been pretty good because a combination of its work plus my special 'Cleaner' contact group means I can remove most of the noise from my personal email account.

The cleaner rule is very simple so I suppose I should really switch it on for my laptop too.



Saturday, 29 April 2017

you know, you know


A spot of jazz this weekend, at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

Nothing too avant-garde, although some of my remaining crated vinyls are of an altogether more Mahavishnu persuasion.

And then time for plenty of chatter, as we caught up on news and put the world to rights.

Friday, 28 April 2017

countdown to an altogether more local road trip

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This weekend marks an informal start to what will become a road-trip lasting into the summer. The reason is simply because of our planned move.

Most sane people would make the get-out and the get-in co-incide, or if they didn't, they would take temporary accommodation somewhere.

Not us.

We've decided to make temporary homelessness into a UK-mini adventure, moving from place to place whilst we wait for the new home to become ready. Oh yes, it has to be built.

But currently we still have our current base, so as we head off for the weekend it gives us a chance to practice what will become our new lifestyle for a while.

It's fair to say we've had larger cross-European adventures with little more than backpacks, sleeping bags and my bright orange tent, so using luxury cars and credit cards should make this a teensy bit easier.

Last year's summer break was pretty much in one part of California, but the previous year we headed the 1,111 miles from Seattle to Santa Barbara, so we've some recent form. Not forgetting Route 66, or the BC-1 Trans Canada Highway.

It should make the A40 less daunting. Even in term-time.

There's still immediate challenges though. Fitting in some work, which lasts right up to the end of the UK academic year. Turning up well-presented. Juggling a minimal set of 21st Century technology, which will all be small but need frequent battery charging. Continuing to appear normal through what could be a slightly odd time, but without the cover of, say, Key West.


This weekend isn't the formal start, but it should give a few quick insights into our upcoming life on the road.

If the blogging goes blank then it probably means that a battery or two has run down. Or we've gone Scooby-Doo.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

fruit machine lie generator


One of the characteristics of the Referendum was that most of us were lied to by the various parties throughout the process.

Which ever topic lever was pulled, a lie popped out.

Immediately afterwards these fibs were largely explained away as part of the jolly japes of campaigning.

It all seems to be happening again, for the snap general election. And still no sign of a 'Tilt' light.

Watch the telly and a procession of briefed politicians of all hues tell stories built on the shaky foundations of prior events. A case in point is the Conservative 'Plan' for Brexit. Fragile and aspirational at best, it is being cited now as if it is a proper plan and somehow beats the equally thin offerings from the other parties.

Listen to the descriptions from the Labour party about continued use of the Customs Union. Wishful thinking, given the posture being adopted by Brussels. Then there's the LibDem position which is almost denying Brexit as a way forward.

The decision to call the election is purportedly based upon the need for more government majority support. A sketchy reason, given the pre-existing majority. It is far more likely to be a Lynton Crosby move from the shadows, designed to grab a huge majority whilst a simpering opposition can't get its act together and resorts to gimmicks like extra public holidays.

Behind the scenes, May and Hammond have realised that the only way out of the EU is to pay a shed-load of money to Brussels and then to operate with a kind of Norwegian trading model. Last year I estimated this to be some £8 billion annual ongoing run-rate and I notice that such a figure is now being bandied about in some of the press.

That's before any one off exit fee. Although, it should be reminded that the EU proportion of UK Government spending has always been around 1.4%, one of the lowest category items, yet one that is now a huge distraction from everything else.

The big switcheroo is also being played with the substitution of a new Tory manifesto. Hammond (who knows how spreadsheets work) knows that that Osborne completely messed up the numbers and is looking around for available levers to pull or buttons to press.

May will need to run some diversionary tactics whilst the clandestine levers are unlocked. The big Brexit flashing lights can become the distraction. There will also need to be some short term holds on a few of the fruit machine's wheels. Holds on things that could inconvenience the rich, like dividend tax changes (hold), non-dom taxation changes(hold). Use of the Make Tax Digital (MTD) initiative can be a clever way to tap the pause button.

Then there's a few items that could be played post election. Removal of triple lock protections for pensioners. The Conservatives will want to do this but only after the pensioners have voted for them. Increase income tax and National Insurance?

A combination of a huge majority followed by the 2018 boundary changes should secure the Tory position indefinitely. Perhaps even VAT could come up for grabs again?

I still blame the prior Etonian leadership for creating most of the mess and then doing a runner. As more of the engine room power of the economy slips overseas, the original perpetrators of the mess quietly collect big fat fees from the private sector.

And no-one really knows what is going on.

Friday, 21 April 2017

within un-, sub- or supernatural forces of the love, blood, and rhetorical exchange


{Heads} We watched the terrific NT Daniel Radcliffe, Joshua McGuire and David Haig performance of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead yesterday evening. {Heads} This is the excellent Old Vic production by David Leveaux.

For anyone who doesn't know the story, it is a kind of meta-play, which zeroes in on two minor characters from Shakespeare's Hamlet. In Hamlet they are Hamlet's school buddies and, on orders, attempt to take Hamlet to England.

Stoppard takes the characters, who are mostly at rest in the real Hamlet play, and assumes instead that they have thoughts on the pages where they do not feature. He also gives them the opportunity to try to work out what is happening, albeit from their position of very little knowledge.

It's a hoot with whip crack lines between the two characters, chunks of Shakespeare dropped into the proceedings and David Haig's The Player appearing with his motley ensemble to wreak further havoc.

I couldn't help but think of another recent situation where, as a player, I still see only a sliver of what is happening. We've been doing a house conveyancing exchange of contracts over the last few days.

Across the years I've done this a fair few times and it has generally all happened on the due date.

Not this time, where both upstream and downstream there have been hiccups which have caused the whole thing to reset. Literally to the start. Each time. We finally achieved the exchange on about the sixth attempt, although I can't help wonder if someone had been attempting a Hamlet letter swap somewhere in the process and without our knowledge.

Although as opaque as R & G's knowledge of Hamlet from back-stage, it seems to have ended well for us.

Famously less so for R & G who were summarily executed off-stage by Shakespeare in the original Hamlet.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

scramble


In another reversionary twist, I see that the US has been scrambling a variety of planes to monitor Russian Tupulev 95s which have been flying around the Alaskan coastal area during the last week.

The Tu95 is supposedly still capable as a nuclear bomber, but I presume they are all kitted out as spy planes and response testers nowadays.

It's kind of odd that we now have the two old super-powers deploying their 60 year old planes (notice that the Tu95 is propeller based) and the American B52 uses ancient smoky 1960s jet engines.

Curiously, the British stopped using their similar vintage Vulcans back in 1984, although there were preserved versions flying until around 2015. My Vulcan pictures here are ones I took when I saw 'The Spirit of Great Britain' at Farnborough a few years ago.

Admittedly there is some engine haze, but it is nothing like the trails of smoke from any of today's B52s.

There is something particularly worrying around the thought that current superpower big bombers are from the same era as the Dr Strangelove movie.

"Well, Dimitri... he went and did a silly thing." Although, come to think of it, the new Putin command centre is more styled on mid-century NASA rather than the darker Kubrik.


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

there's a may and now there's a june


Two elections in as many months with the May local one and then the yet to be sanctioned June General Election.

I suspect that the ex Golden Fleece Australian dark arts practitioner is behind the change of direction. New consultant fees all round.

Punditry and polls already abound. Voter bingo time? A few quick suggestions:

Quid rises?
Market wobbles?
Brexit delays?
EU comments?
Consumer squeeze?
Labour market softer?
Public service agenda?
Economic agenda?
Brexhaustion?

Disruptive pedantic judicial challenges?
Impact of youth voters?
Lead time to register?
Six weeks of Purdah?
Overlapping council and by-elections?
Maynifesto?

Red/Green party?
Lib Dem resurgence (the 48% club)?
End of Jezza?
Milliband reappearance?
Clegg reappearance?
Blair attempt at reappearance?
emails from any/all parties asking for money?

Attempts at Brexit Referendum 2?
Scottish defiance?

Getting rid of MP Osborne?
Recognising how much this is down to Camerborne?
UKIP's noisy irrelevance?

Monday, 17 April 2017

line of duty


I tuned into Sunday's episode of Line of Duty live. I doubt whether I'll be as keen for the multi-socked Broadchurch finale tonight.

Line of Duty blends good tv-writing with excellent casting. Jed Mercurio has created some great plot twists as well as concentrated interrogations which can themselves turn the tables on the interviewers.

There's also closing moment scenes now which are similar to the accelerations that were a factor in the original Swedish version of The Killing. Although, I found myself thinking that some of the camera angles were not as displaced and edgy as the ones being used in Mr Robot. Something to consider for Series 5. I promise I will notice.

Anyone who has watched the various series for a while will have been suitably numbed by the ending of S4Ep3 and want to know what happens next. I gather that some people were looking at IMDB to try to get advanced insights.

Like my comment about camera angles, the viewers have been piecing the events together themselves. Freeze-faming their way through some parts. Who was the person in the hoodie? Why did Balaclava Man look different? And then, remarkably, we hear the characters in the show asking similar questions.

What is good, as we move into Episode 4, is that this one is still slippery despite several good theories of whodunnit. There's still enough unexpected twists to keep interest until next week's episode, which I will again attempt to watch live.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

blossom


The daffodils were well past their best for our Sunday dinner table. The cherry blossom has finished and I don't want to pick the tulips currently arranged in the back garden.

Instead, a small resourcefulness and we could marvel at the fresh apple blossom from the front garden's tree.

This will probably be our last celebration of this particular tree, with next week's start of the exchange of contracts process.

I'm secretly wondering about palm trees next.

But that could take some time to arrange.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

crate creates knee crater


Not road rash exactly. I had just been cycling, but this was in the garden afterwards.

I was carrying a crate and managed to trip over and scrape my leg along a paving stone. Falling or flying? Not quite sure.

At the time it hurt, but looked uneventful.

Indoors a few minutes later I checked and realised I'd managed to create a couple of separate scrapes with plenty of red splatterage. There were red footprints in the bathroom.

I flipped into "boy with scraped knee mode", cleaned it all up and found a plaster in one of those first aid packets. As usual, the only ones left were the really tiny ones, so today I bought some decent length fabric stretchy ones.

And a fresh tube of Germolene.

I think it was Douglas Adams who said that flying consists of falling towards the ground, but missing.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

mind awake...


I was rewatching the last few episodes of Mr Robot Series 2 recently, during a turbo pedalling session. A tweet came through about that big bomb dropped by America.

If I'd been watching almost any other TV shows then the reality of Mr Trump heading for golf at his vacation place or getting Iraq and Syria mixed up would have been stranger than fiction.

The big bomb had a blast yield of 11 tons of TNT.

That's still way short of the payload of a single fully loaded and eerily smokey B52.



Tuesday, 11 April 2017

#fitbit along the north downs way


Most days my fitbit score in steps is around the 10k mark. Sometimes its as low as 4k and occasionally it's over 15k.

It makes the starting section of the North Downs Way pretty useful because I clocked around 30k in a day, which is one of my better scores.

It just goes to show how several hours of pleasant walking can drive up the step and floor count.

Our little gang started in Farnham and primed the route for the more aggressive climbing days compared with the mainly flat but very pretty starting leg.

We were soon in the wilds, away from the noisy Surrey traffic and as well as robins, woodpeckers, sheep with new lambs, horses, bulls and the like also encountering some less expected wild animals.

Not forgetting pints of cool beer and cream tea.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

shred and repeat


My home office shredder takes 60 sheets at a time. It'll eventually object after about 2 bundles of paper have gone through it and I have to let it cool down for a while.

I'm usually pretty good at shredding private/confidential papers are no longer needed, but this time around a bit of a backlog has built up.

Right now I'm on bin bag two. And counting.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Ma-La-Land


On Tuesday, Syria's brutal thug of a leader Bashar al-Assad used a sarin-derived nerve agent on civilians in rebel-held refugee centre Khan Sheikhun.

A war crime.

Deplorable and happening in a country war-torn and fractured. Teresa May got this one right: “I’m very clear that there can be no future for Assad in a stable Syria which is representative of all the Syrian people and I call on all the third parties involved to ensure that we have a transition away from Assad. We cannot allow this suffering to continue,” she said.

Enter Trump. Thursday evening he shoots off a unilateral missile strike against the Al Shayrat airstrip that launched the nerve gas planes.

This occurs during a dinner where Trump is entertaining China's Xi Jinping. Not from the White House but instead from his golf club vacation home, adding to the Ma-La-esque nature of the situation. The Chinese premier was scheduled to leave around ten minutes after the first cruise missiles struck.

With apparent tweet level spontaneity, Trump's orders bombed the single airfield, but not the wider air defences. The airfield is one of about two dozen in military use and Trump says he is sending a warning.

It will certainly deflect from the domestic issues affecting him at the moment.

Of course, there were diplomatic talks before the bombing happened. US defence secretary Jim (Mad Dog) Mattis had briefed our defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon, who gives full support to the US action. The Russians were notified that US planes would fly over the deconfliction zone.

Trump has previously said America First, that he wants less of an international presence (criticising Hilary Clinton for her international outlook). A month ago Trump was barring all Syrian refugees from entering the USA. Clinton's Wednesday TV interview (her first since last November) said 'take out the airfields'.

So, overnight - again - everything changes. Trump ordered a new military front line with the pudding.

Yes, the bombing was limited. There were not enough missile-filled US destroyers in the Mediterranean to provide full air cover to hit all of the airfields. It will still take another 3-4 days to get those in place.

American action movie screenplays will need to dial it up a notch to complete with real life.

No wonder Bannon just got shifted out of the security council. Bannon the strategist was opposed to the machinations of what in America is called the Deep State. The folk in permanent positions of power on the inside of State machinery that bicker with one another and manipulate to get things done their way.

We, in the UK, have equivalences via The Establishment and the various 'Yes, Minister' mandarins, together keeping a straight face whilst their business gets executed.

So how much of what has recently happened is properly planned and with an end-game in sight?

At the moment it looks pretty reflexive, with part of the rest of the world struggling to find a sane position and another part getting ready a whole series of new condemnations.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

to my astonishment, my yearly bicycle miles are on track



I've somehow caught up with my year to date cycling targets although the next three months could be tricky because of other events related to my crate-packing activities.

I guess this particular crate falls into the 'personal art museum' category.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

crate-er-mass

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Behind the scenes, my crate loading continues. I suppose I'm moving into the archeological phase now, what with finding old passports and similar. They are talking about bringing back a blue passport, but if they don't reinstate the oval cut outs, then I'm less convinced of the need.

To be honest, the old blue passports had to be treated more carefully because of their thick cardboard covers. The slightly smaller red ones have a more bendy cover that fits better into pockets although that does cause wear to the fancy golden heraldry.

Of course the latest ones are also full of electronics, with chips and special aerials bound into the security paper. Maybe the next generation will be full Internet of Things enabled?

But back to the plot: The crates are now worthy of a removals man assessment and we have someone visiting us later today for that very purpose. I'd still say we have a way to go before we reach the happy clappy 'spark joy' state, but at least some of the crates are now what I would call finalised.

I've also scanned in around 2,000 slides, and won't be afraid to use them. Here's a random example of earlier times in Germany - a study in orange, featuring a predecessor of my blogging in the form of an orange Olivetti portable typewriter. And those beer/Bier bottles all look empty.

Now what's that process again? I can feel Marie Kondo looking over my shoulder.

Commit. Imagine ideal lifestyle. Finish discarding first. Tidy by category. Follow the right order: Clothes, Books, Papers, Komono, Sentimental. Ask if it Sparks Joy.

Yes, there is fun going forward.


Sunday, 2 April 2017

spoons and the well adjusted mathematician


I've just watched a movie about a man who compulsively arranges spoons, is a clever mathematician and also a hit man.

That's just a selection of the myriad threads in the story, mechanically acted by Ben Affleck. It came up as a recommendation for me to watch and I did, for once, browse the trailer. I should have realised that it was a recent movie which I'd never heard of, and that this could have been a clue.

Our man Ben helps modest farming types with their tax matters, can shoot melons off a fence at a mile distance and add up incredibly long numbers instantly in his head. He's the sort of clever clogs that solves 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles upside down. In minutes. So there, Matt Damon. Good Will Hunting AND Jason Bourne in one.

Even with John Lithgow as a scientist businessman, a Treasury investigator played J.K. Simmons somewhat reprising his role from the excellent Burn before Reading and Anna Kendrick as a chipper company accountant there's no real sign of a rescue for the screenplay.

Indeed, Anna Kendrick manages to slip out undamaged before the last reel, like she'd had enough.

I suspect this is the kind of movie that could be studied,. I'm sure the reviewers will be divided, with some extolling the brave choice of subject and depth of examination. Others may find the quantity of 'tell, don't show' rather high in order to unravel the plotlines, the overuse of flashbacks, or the use of tropes to signify just about everything.

Clever maths? write it all around the glass walls of a meeting room. Big discovery? Ensure half is on one side of the room and the rest is several strides away on the other side. Learn to fight? Go, like that fella in Iron Fist, to the same place that Uma Thurman had to visit in Kill Bill. A martial arts place in the middle of Asia. Need a gun scene? Get a massive gun and ground mount it for the melon shots. Mild yet tough man? Make him wear a Clark Kent suit and glasses when he's not being an action hero. He can soon change into an -er- Action Man top when the need arises.

I nearly left out the flashback soundstage scene with the weeping martial arts master forced by the unflinching father (reading Jakarta Times), to keep battering the two brothers for their own fighting education.

There's more, of course. Real plot spoilers that I won't give away. Although I doubt if anyone will reach for this video on the strength of this review.