Tuesday, 19 June 2018

smashed avocados vs whipped broad bean hummus?

Sometimes its the small things that make a difference.

I know that most of hipsterville is still deciding the best ways to smash avocados and whether toasted sesame mochi ice cream tastes better after a helping of dango, andango and hamami on a stick.

But around here it's the simpler pleasures of whipped broad bean hummus with melba slice and marinated octopus with pickled red pepper and coriander.

To Go?

Monday, 18 June 2018

cats and the fiddle

With my travelling to-and-fro along the river Thames there's plenty of well-known landmarks to pass.

One of the more famous is the Palace of Westminster, although a couple of tourists sitting close to me almost didn't notice it because of the way that the clock tower housing Big Ben is scaffolded at the moment.

The river view makes it easy to see the pleasant revelry of the House of Commons. At around one o'clock there was a bustling set of MPs and visitors enjoying the sunshine and refreshments adjacent to the green side of the terrace. The red terrace of the Lords was less busy and I couldn't help wondering if it was still a trifle early for them?

This riverside view gives an altogether more carefree view than the squabbling that goes on inside the chamber where the latest Brexit pedantry is debated. The rest of Europe seems to have grown tired of Brexit now and the responses from the EU wranglers are increasingly staccato and uncompromising, whilst they worry about their own next big thing.

It seems to be the same now for many of the British public. The debate has moved ever closer to reductio-ad-absurdum tactics and boringly unchanged sound-bites. I can only assume that by the time Brexit finally occurs there will need to be a re-kindling of popular interest in some way.

The 0.7% of public spending used for EU matters may become partially repatriated, but it will still take at least 5 years to offset the termination payments. Not forgetting an ongoing payment to participate in what finally gets agreed.

Recent Maysian statements about NHS budget uplift are far more likely to be paid for by taxation than by some mystical refund from Europe. Although I suppose we'll hear another version by tomorrow, if everyone can tear themselves away from the bars.

Sunday, 17 June 2018


Around Battersea and time for another update on the Power Station. It is still very much a work in progress, although there's a large chunk of the West Circus open for business now. Plus the Thames Clipper link, which can whisk us into the centre in a few minutes. It's about 2-3 stops to get to Westminster, although care should be taken to catch an R2 when returning, or to risk a turn-around at The Eye.

And theres a walkway at the Power Station end. From the top its possible to see into more of the site as well as along the river towards the new American Embassy.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

hosed, or should it be hozed?

The back garden tap is now functional. The plumbers reckoned it was a defective check valve that was stopping the water flow. A few minutes later a replacement was fitted and then we had outside water.

I've celebrated by buying a replacement hosepipe.

It's one of those Superhozes. Unlike a normal hose, it weighs almost nothing and despite a sensible length it can fit into a small carry box. I know, it's not like industrial strength gardening, but for us, it's an ideal blend of new technology with practicality.

I didn't know it was possible to get so excited about a hose pipe, but then again, it is orange.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

black swans

Today's picture denotes my return home after some weeks of travelling.

A few days back at base then I'm off again on Friday morning.

The black swans appear to have come across the Exe from nearby Dawlish Warren.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Balmoral wanderings

A few days ago we were at Windsor Castle, but this time it's Balmoral, which is the Queen's Scottish residence on Royal Deeside.

I notice that the area is being labelled as Aberdeenshire nowadays as well, presumably with all of the Brexit and separation debate somewhere in the mix.

We'd simpler thoughts as we strolled around the gardens and popped into the ballroom for a quick look at some of the paintings and other artefacts.

There's a stack of those chocolate boxy Landseers of Royal pets and similar, which I just don't like.

More interesting to me is the collection of Royal Christmas cards, varying from staged portraiture to a few less formal. My favourite for its oddity is the 1969 one, shown below.

But best of all is to walk more than ten minutes in any direction away from the main castle. It's guaranteed to evoke the sounds of nature with easy walks to summon up the pretty scenery.
Balmoral, with Crathie church in the foreground

Monday, 4 June 2018

fishing for githubs

I doubt that Trumponomics is driving a US manufacturing business boom.

Right now it all seems to be more related to technology futures, banking and probably defence in its widest sense.

Even some of that is almost hard to believe given the latest Facebook news about another 60 companies having had access to that dubious Facebook client data.


But right now I'm intrigued by the latest move of Microsoft who, after a week of rumours, bought the Github source code management system for around $7.5bn via a share swap. Some estimates put Github's market value at closer to $2bn, so the Microsoft markup (even with its recently increased share price) is pretty steep.

It must mean Microsoft have a great idea. Something more than melding their own Visual Studio developer works with the equivalent facilities available in Github. And the idea must heavily use the collaborative capabilities inherent in Github. World domination of application development? Nerdy but an interesting attempt to play catch up.

British readers are already seasoned to the Github's dubious name.

No, it doesn't stand for anything, instead it was originally an in-joke by Torvalds Linux, who liked the connotations of the improper English expression and named his own open source Linux code management after it.

Nowadays a huge proportion of the applications developer market use it for collaborative code and document management, irrespective of the target platform. But these folk are one removed from the consumer of the services.

So it's like we can see Microsoft going overtly technical again. An implication could be that they missed the boat with something? Remember Blackbird, when they missed the Internet/HTML by trying to impose their own Object Linking and Embedding?

So we are expected to wonder what this next new thing will be?

Expect a blend of a new technical evangelism about to spin up, alongside an ongoing pac-man swallowing by ever larger fish.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Ballater duck race

We were at the Ballater duck race this afternoon. It's a little chaotic, fathoming out how the odds on the individual ducks are calculated before they start their race along the River Dee.

My duck didn't win, and the victor is pictured above crossing the line.

Eagle eyed will notice that the ducks differ in size and that some are pushed and others towed by kayaks. It makes no difference. I'm pretty sure that the odds on any duck were the same as any other.
Then, after the winner crossed the line, it was pipe and drummed back into the centre of Ballater. Unsupervised, the traffic was forced to wait as the crowds surged along the road behind the victorious yellow duck.

Coincidentally, tonight I see Ballater gets its own slot in BBC's Countryfile on the telly. It's because of the heavily Royal warranted status it has, just a few miles from the Queen's place along the road at Balmoral.

I even bought a snack from Sheridan's today. That's the firm with two royal warrants mentioned in today's TV show. And we'll be in Strachan's as soon as it's open again on Monday.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Cam (no) bridge

An overnight stop around Cambridge.

This time the Italian car's sat-nav easily beat Google Waze. It was simply a matter of where it placed the destination on the map. Unfortunately the Waze mapping placed the hotel the wrong side of some railway lines. I came but no bridge.

I suppose I could have parked on the wrong side of the tracks and walked to my venue, via an adjacent station, but the Italian car's route voiced by Stephen Fry was determined to find a straight line to the sunny garden of the pub as quickly as possible.

Ciao Ciao.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

waze of connection

We were using two sat nav systems simultaneously. There was the one in the Italian car, which was based upon TomTom, but used Stephen Fry's voice. The other one was Google Waze, which is actually pretty good and has the ability to give countdowns (in feet!) to vehicles parked on the hard shoulder on motorways.

Waze uses the idea of a connected citizen protocol to provide the realtime updates and is surprisingly good, considering the current uptake of users. It's almost as if it has wider access to, say, cellphone positioning, so that a non-wazer might be providing an anonymous input to the system.

Of course, Google want to monetise the interaction. Sell adverts on the map. Pizza places, coffee shops and no doubt much more.

The challenge of a Waze map will be to keep it placid enough so that it could be used as a primary source for a driver, without distractions.

How well did it work?

Excellent except for the last few metres...

It's that last vital section to a destination when the fun kicks off.

We were aiming for somewhere behind an industrial park (not the section shown on my illustration).

The roads were a mixture of established and new. "Go left", said Stephen. "Go right," said the female voted Waze.

An argument ensued for the next few turnings, but fortunately our destination was also signposted, so good old analogue roadsigns won out for the last 800 twisty metres.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Devon Belle

Time to try out the newly-restored Devon Belle observation carriage on the Kingswear line. The line runs regular services which are steam hauled along a pretty piece of the Devon coastline. Add some sunshine and what's not to like?

The observation car runs at the end of the train, so in one direction it is the last coach and in the other direction it is coupled to the engine, in this case 7827 Lympston Manor, an ex GWR 4-6-0, in a black British Railways livery.

The journey time is around 30 minutes to the other end of the line, along the river Dart and then the pretty coastal bays leading towards Paignton. Getting into the observation car is a case of first-come, first-served, with a separate modest supplement to travel in Pullman splendour. I noticed that there was a separate Champagne bar too, sensibly closed when we made our way along the line.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Chelsea in bloom

Around Chelsea during the flower show, it's a good idea to plan routes to avoid getting stuck in traffic. That's both road traffic and simply pedestrian people traffic.

An extra and fun dimension is the extra show that takes place at the same time, in and around Sloane Square and Sloane Street. Chelsea in Bloom's theme this year has been Summer of Love, so there's Haight Ashbury corners and plenty of hippy-dippyness.
Spot the VW camper vans and the inevitable red buses as well as many floral arches suitable for posing underneath.
My favourite this time was the store right on the corner of Sloane Square. Not Peter Jones, but Rag and Bone, the store diagonally opposite,

Tuesday, 22 May 2018


I was looking at that Jordan Wolfson sculpture in the Tate the other day. The one where a larger than life puppet boy gets jerked around on huge chains by mechanical cranes.

I suppose its a metaphor. Something about morality teetering on a brink. The puppet boy's soundtrack is also pretty bitter. Like it wants to break free and wreak havoc.

There's a room full of spare parts too. The forces are so great that the puppet requires regular renewal.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

a brief stopover in Windsor

Like many, we took a slice out of the day to watch the wedding.

It's good when the capital city and its surrounding areas are shown off in such a good light. The wedding might be partly about hereditary privilege and establishment ritual, but it's still an excellent excuse for a good time and an opportunity to reflect upon potential change.

We've already been along to Windsor and noticed that it's almost instantly resumed its normal somewhat touristy self, across the river from the the expansive playing fields of Eton. And with all of the fine weather we spotted far more wet bobs than dry bobs.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

busy with the backfill

I'm rushing about a bit at the moment, and the blog is suffering from a lack of posts.

My snapshot of a favourite view of City Hall on Thursday could illustrate a kind of speed distortion, and no, I've not manipulated the angles.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

re cycle

My cycling fitness is starting to rise again after a longish period of inactivity. I've even started to look up some of the cycle friendly routes around this area, although I'm travelling again and won't really be able to do much cycling for another few weeks.

To my astonishment, the Strava stats show I am only about 250 miles behind my 'year to date' pace which I define as 4,000 miles. I'll need to look into that more carefully because it doesn't feel to me as if I've been cycling that much over the last few months.

Around here I'm using my rugged bike to begin with, until I know more about the quality of the cycle paths. At least I've had a few flybys on Strava, which has given me some access to other people's routes.

Handy to trace the way that 'proper cyclists' go, so that I can find the best routes without too many false starts. Once I've tried one of the proper routes, expect (at last!) to see a map.

Friday, 11 May 2018

IKEA köttbullar without jams

The newest IKEA in the land is now open quite close to us. We had an invitation to a preview open-day on Tuesday and late afternoon we made our way along.

I'm pretty sure that IKEA grapples with the challenges of road systems and parking, with my memories of huge delays when foolishly visiting an IKEA in Southampton at a weekend and long delays at one close to Bristol. Both times within sight of the store but unable to get in for over an hour.

I gather there's 21 of them in the UK now, so presumably the pressure on individual stores reduces, although, IKEA is still an example of destination shopping, with this one 90 minutes closer to the far west than the prior one. I think the nearest one to Penzance is in Brest.

Anyway, this one has its own slip roads and traffic lights and for these early days a series of cones to regulate traffic flow. A right turn into the site has been coned off and a way to access it from a nearby housing area has also been coned.

Our own journey was therefore easy and reminded me of the simple way to access the IKEA adjacent to Metro Centre in off-peak times. I suppose IKEA have done a soft start to the store, with a friends and family day, press day, 'locals' day and 'family card members' day all ahead of the main opening.

Sure enough, there was music and balloons as we approached, but once inside it was just like walking around in any large IKEA store. Arrows on the floor. Plenty of Billy and Kallax and the cafe just before the marketplace. A feature here, which I don't remember from other stores, was the special shortcut signage reminiscent of a tube line graphics. And there was an outdoor living area in a greenhouse. By the end there were plenty of lanes open to avoid any early rumours of excessive queueing.

So far it all seems to have worked, although there's an upcoming test when The Chiefs, the County Show, the Scouts and Guides camping weekender and the new IKEA all compete for roadspace.

I must remember to stay away from that particular stretch of road.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

art house?

I was trying to dig the tunnel. Not because I needed it yet, but at the end of this academic year my language course ends and there isn't an obvious follow-up. Some people do the same course again, but I'm looking for something related but different.

Stammtisch, I thought. Perhaps there's a regular pub meeting in the area where we can converse?

And yes, there is, although when I made contact, the main organiser was swamped with other things. Would I like to organise the next meeting?

Chuckle. In sich hinein kichern. Gern.


That's how a group of us found ourselves in the bar at the Phoenix local arts hub, having a drink und lebhaftes Gespräch before going to see a Film.

By some strange luck I'd plucked an evening for the meetup which co-incided with the venue showing a modern German language film, with English subtitles.

First, in the bar, our group arrived and chattered away. I started learning new words as we veered around topics.

And then to Studio 74, with its excellent sound system and nice bright screen, watching "Western", an F-rated movie directed by Valeska Grisebach, her third movie and this one set in modern-day Bulgaria.

It's a culture-clash drama in which she features many of the trappings of a conventional western: a stranger comes to town. A white horse. A fight in a saloon.

Intermingle 'a Germans in Bulgaria' theme and there's room for a slow burn narrative to explore and probe the people on this edge. Formally, the story is of a group of German workers who start a tough job at a remote construction site on the Bulgarian border. Oblivious to sentiment, they fly a German flag over their encampment.

The foreign land awakens these men's sense of adventure, but they are confronted with their own prejudice and mistrust.

Grisebach’s thinking deconstructs the western and reassembles it anew, updated for the twenty-first century world of migratory labour and economic fragility.

Oh yes, and parts of it were spoken in Bulgarian, emphasising the difficulty of communication between the 'two tribes'.

I think our whole group enjoyed the movie, which was strikingly different from anything on show at the local Vue cinema.

Some of us gathered again afterwards for a follow-up in the bar. I mused that I could give better street directions than I could film reviews 'auf Deutsch'.

Friday, 4 May 2018

fever in the funk house now

This council election results are tumbling in. Consensus seems to be status quo, maybe minus the 'kippers and plus a few orange and greens.

I'm still struck by how little information there was around ahead of the vote. Three of the candidates around my way didn't post any information. The other one did, but was the incumbent making sure they were retained.

In my search, I logged onto various sites to try to get information. I was at least interested to find out if the addresses given were real households rather than addresses of convenience.

Where I found some further information I neutrally uploaded it to the relevant informational web-site. To my slight intrigue, some of this information had subsequently been deleted again by another anonymous user.

My sources for information were -ahem- impeccable government web-sites so the deletions reminded me of another aspect of news management. I suppose I could, in theory, log into the same democracy web-site and put up either scurrilous information or delete factual information that was detrimental to my own candidate.

But, I suppose no-one really cares about any of this stuff any more.

Like today's minister voices recorded with bullying allegations against The Speaker of the House of Commons and then the immediately issued rebuttals, it remains pure Punch and Judy.

Putting the crazy into democracy, one could attempt to say.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

blending with the curtains

I've just finished reading that James Comey book: A Higher Loyalty, which reads more as a summary of Comey's career rather than specifically about the White House in recent times.

I can see what Comey is doing, building a set of values which he recounted from other pre-Trumpian times. Comey's dealings with the mafia. Comey's dealings with people who made lies a way of life. Comey's experiences of bullies. Comey's experiences of leaders. Comey and family values. The list goes on

It set up in the reader's mind a series of inevitable comparisons with today's crazy capers at the White House.

Today's chain reaction of tweets about the $130,000 funnel from Trump to Cohen to that Daniels/Clifford woman add to the complex web. Just look at the recent tRumptweets about this and notice the style change as a lawyer prepares the exceedingly long sentences.

Comey illustrates an interesting moot point about where a private citizen's world begins and ends and therefore the boundary of an FBI Director. Given the rattled circumstances of Trump's firing of Comey, I'll go with Comey's unrestricted view of this and of his freedom to act and publish.

I've read a couple of the other books (Fire and Fury by Wolf and Collusion by Harding) which give more of the mechanics and reactions to the Trump malaise, with Comey being obtusely at arms length from much of what may have happened.

Comey's book gives more of a sense of Comey than it does of Trump, although someone who has been chasing Mafia bosses and leading the FBI may well be playing a very long game.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018


Around our way, a basic dishwasher-proof mug costs around £5. A fancy mug maybe £10. One of those bamboo facsimiles of a paper cup also costs around £10. I checked today. I already have a metal vacuum flask which I sometimes use on a long car journey.

Any of these could be used to buy coffee on the go, avoiding the wasted paper cup problem. But all of these shapes keep the mug and cup paradigm. (Alert! Alert! one of those danger words!)

What about a cup that doesn't take up so much space? A shapeshifter mug? A collapsible cup? I've had them before, for camping trips with a backpack, although often a plastic mug wins out in such a case.

Cue the Pokito. It may have a name that is difficult to remember, but the idea is quite clever. A collapsible cup that can be configured in various sizes. And once the beverage is consumed, it can be squashed flat again to take up the least space.

Yes, I have one.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

parking for dot com only

I've seen those reports of the 25th anniversary of web browser, Mosaic. The first common use browser, because it ran on Windows.

Back in those days, I remember sitting in the frequent traffic jams around San Jose looking at billboards and envisaging when adverts would feature web addresses.

Originally I used NCSA Mosaic with a self-installed Windows TCP/IP stack. Then along came Netscape which eventually became available as a retail product. The web had truly arrived when I symbolically bought the retail diskette copy of Netscape in a USA computer store. It had warnings in the service agreement about not exporting it, because it was classed as munitions.

Early days, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation was already thinking about anonymity, neutrality and the like, well before all of the Facebook malarky.

Jump cut to today. I've just been sitting in a supermarket car park and there's a whole row of spaces reserved for DOT COM vehicles.

Contrast to the planned merger of Sainsbury and Asda/Walmart. It makes me wonder like in those Californian traffic jams. Ongoing cannibalism of shopping options as consumers drift from bricks and mortar, via click and collect to request and deliver.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Windows 3.11 revisited

After that System 7 emulation, the obvious question is "Well, what about Windows 3.11?".

Well, Yer'tis.

Click through from the screen above to the Internet Archive to install and run the emulation. I've just run it on my Mac.

Minesweeper and the other games all work as do the original Write and similar programs - er- Apps.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

System 7 revisited

Continuing my recent post's look at some old technology, here's another one.

This time it's Macintosh System 7 which later came to be known as MacOS 7. This emulated version from The Internet Archive self installs on a modern Mac in a couple of minutes (subject to line speed etc). The original version came on 15 floppy disks.

A small tip is to disable any adblocker for the archive.org domain to make it work properly.

You get a functional version of System 7 (Big Bang) complete with the once revered Hypercard and a copy of Microsoft Word, complete with templates and some games including -er- Risk.

It starts up with a proper system bleep and the whole thing runs in a Safari browser window, and looks surprisingly tiny on a modern Mac.

Friday, 27 April 2018

beebomb and #bringthebeesback

Back at our last place, we used to have plenty of lavender in the front garden. During the summer months it literally hummed, being filled with industrious bees. I'd guess that there were thousands of them, happily going about their business.

This year, I'm beginning to spot the occasional bee, including a queen that was bumbling about on our grass. Overall, they say there's less bees around and I was thinking of the ways to encourage a few in our new, and as yet relatively unplanted, garden.

Cue the bee bomb. It's a singular initiative to #bringthebeesback. The hand-made Beebombs are a mix of 18 British wildflower seeds, sifted soil and clay. The seeds are designated by the Royal Horticultural Society as "Perfect for Pollinators". A chap called Ben makes them in his Beebomb laboratory, somewhere in Dorset. I acquired mine from an altogether more local supplier, the zero waste Nourish of Topsham.

It's also akin to zero energy waste gardening. The individual Beebombs contained in the Beebomb bag just need to be scattered onto cleared ground to create a wildflower area.

Now, I won't fib. My attraction to the bee bombs has created a slight pushback. Along the lines of "won't the seeds go everywhere?" and similar comments.

I'm more sanguine. Firstly, a few wild flowers in the garden will look good. And, in any case, I still need them to turn from little blocks of bee bomb clay into actual plants. Not to mention that I've currently only got enough for a couple of square metres.

Although, to appease doubters, I've planted the first tranche in little pots. Stand by for bees. Vroop Vroop.