Monday, 19 August 2019

hawk


Arriving back home from the Jazz Afternoon, I noticed the birds making a louder than usual noise. I glanced across the field and spotted this hawk sitting on a pole.

A quick grab of the camera, during which time it spotted me, and one "through the window pane" snapshot. I'm guessing that the birds on the field have all gone into hiding and so maybe it was still looking out for dragonflies from the stream and the pond.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

a Woodstock state of mind


Sometimes I'll wake up at a random early hour and think its better to make a cup of tea, rather than to try to get straight back to sleep. So there I was at 3am listening to the World Service with a cuppa and on came a show about Woodstock. Woodstock was in 1969, so that's 50 years ago.

And as Arlo Guthrie narrated it, I realised I knew all of the lyrics and all of the scenes. From Richie Havens opening the festival to Jimi Hendrix closing it. Buzz Urkle's famous photo catches the scene of daybreak and mud across Max Yasgur's farm "It's a new dawn."

Havens, drenched in sweat, brought on early to improvise a three-hour set, whilst organisers finished building the primitive stage and wiring the sound system. The other bands and performers caught in the traffic of 500 thousand people coming to the event.

The recordings were all spectacularly taped by Eddie Kramer who had brought the Hendrix mobile recording studio along and volunteered to record and engineer everything, in what is sparklingly good quality. "Up is Louder," as Eddie might say.

Add the sheer number of cameras with all the original footage shot on 16mm film, and post-produced to 70mm, so that the optical soundtrack could be added.

No wonder so many people came; the $18 roll-call of acts included Tim Hardin, Ravi Shankar, Melanie Safka, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Country Joe McDonald and the Fish, Santana, The Incredible String Band, Canned Heat, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, Ten Years After, The Band, Johnny Winter, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and more.

It's three days later that we see the now free concert with Hendrix playing out with the Star-Spangled Banner which since is often used as the outro at live Stones gigs. "The best electric guitarist".

An hour of radio, but a lifetime of philosophy.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

stand and deliver?


I've commented before about the proliferation of Parking Apps, including ones that are re-badged clones of another (stand up, Westminster Council). It is almost time for a Manager of Managers to cover the whole lot with a single App on top.

I'd changed bank cards which has meant progressively standing around re-programming each of them when I've wanted to park. The other day a different experience.

Payment rejected, card invalid.

I tried this with a couple of cards and eventually resorted to huge quantities of coins. The machine didn't have a card reader or a WavePay. A few minutes later I'm contacted by someone claiming to be from my bank.

"Ahah," I say, "But how do I know it is you?" They agreed and told me to call the usual number.

Big mistake. I was now in call centre purgatory and had to wait for another 10 minutes. Then the man (Raj) called me again. He suggested that I could ask him some letters from my password.

"Okay," I thought.

"X and Z" he swiftly replied.

"Nope." I thought and told him he was wrong.

He hung up.

I restarted my long call to the help desk. It was raining.

After around 35 minutes from my failed attempt to pay for parking, I was through to a person.

"Lat's see," she said,"I see you need our fraud department. I'll put you through"

I recognised the music.

Gritted my teeth.

Eventually I was through to Raj again.

"Hello," and he started to put right my cards.

"The last transaction...Was it to APCOA?"

"Yes, I was trying to pay for some parking."

"I see we have stopped your credit card too - it looks like around the same time."

"Yes," I said, "I'm trying to do some shopping, but you've blocked both of my day-to-day cards"

I could tell he was a professinal, not to be drawn into any of my venting.

"It's all put back to normal now," he said, or something like it.

Now I could go shopping and ponder the advantages of coinless payment.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

interrail


I noticed the Rail Delivery Group were about to withdraw from Interrail, but have now scrapped the idea.

I say keep it. I've travelled twice on youthful Interrail cards and can say that both trips are still packed with memories.

I started one of them in London, and the other in Germany (where I was living, at the time). And yes, I still have that small orange tent. The map shows approximately trip one. Entirely made up as we went along. The Alps and Greek Islands.

I know that people go on gap years now, to Australia, South America and India, but there's something densely packed about the experiences when one can simply write a new destination into a little book, hop a train, and go there.

Some examples, notwithstanding the changes in security, currency and correctness.

  • sitting outside a smoky sunlit cafe in Brussels, with a copy of the Thomas Cook timetable, planning a route. The whole of Europe beckons.
  • arriving in any European train station and looking for the lockers to stash backpacks.
  • staying in German youth hostels and marvelling at their hotel-like quality.

  • sleeping rough on park benches, under silver space blankets and with just enough local currency to buy a coffee and croissant in the morning.
  • arriving in Venice on the day of the Historical Regatta.
  • climbing the Acropolis in the midday sun.
  • listening to other tourists marvelling as they do just one of our sightseeing trips
  • Buying those little flat Greek leather sandals that I still wear.
  • Being asked by the gun-toting Caribineri, to move from the steps of the train station in Rome
  • Running, breathless, to catch the deck class ship from Patras to Brindisi
  • Being offered packs of 200 cigarettes by 8-year-old boys in Naples
  • Marvelling at how the train's formation would keep changing, and the coffee would reflect the local culture.
  • Being offered a lift by Swiss baker to the local camp site.
  • Seeing the frenzy of white goods like fridges being loaded onto the train in Serbia.
  • Saying "See you in Rome," as our group divided, from the grassy slopes of Grindelwald.
  • Planning a longer route in order to sleep overnight on the train.
  • Triumphantly getting a couchette carriage.
  • Pitching a tent on the beach in Greece.
  • The cliche of meeting someone we knew, in the sea, on the shores of the Mediterranean
  • Finding the Diana the Huntress Club in Athens, leaving all our bags and then getting stranded overnight on Aegina when we missed the last catamaran.
  • Heading up the Jungfraujoch to the Ice Station and the Glacier, in the Swiss Alps, fresh from the sun of Greece.
  • Eating beautiful red Rhone grapes as we flashed through the French countryside on a quiet express.
  • Turning up at the Montreux jazz festival.
  • Getting picked from the platform by a 'little old lady' to stay in her rental room in Salzburg.
  • Stopping off in Belgrade because we'd been on the same train for 24 hours.
  • Finding the Prater (Harry Lime) and the Blue Danube (not the big wide brown one) in Vienna.
  • Walking through Pompeii
The list goes on. What about Cologne Cathedral? The Black Forest? The French Riviera, sitting eating a huge cool ice cream in Cannes? Monte Carlo?

I've been back to many of the places, on a combination of business and car-based road trips, but there's a certain magical thrill to arriving all low-carbon-footprint with one's belongings on one's back, in the main train station.

Hmmm. I'm still tempted...

Thursday, 8 August 2019

the big lie and the big wrong


Rummage around the various Remain web-sites and it is noticeable that there isn't a declared game-plan to halt the path of intelligent comic-book villain Cummings. He's already said that even if there's a vote of no confidence in Boris, that through 'people vs parliament' trickery Boris will stay in position long enough to see the No Deal roll into ratification by default. He's probably modelled it in one of his visualisation rooms. People, Ideas, Machines and Boyd OODA loops (observe–orient–decide–act).

The alternative he needs to parry is formation of a government of national unity from the other parties. Cummings' agnostic ideology blocks this. It's all about the power. And, ironically, the money.

Too many of the Cabinet interests and their supporters are ready to cash in on Brexit. Welcome to Casino Britain. Like Vegas, only rainier. And well-leveraged by Cummings' vocabulary of insight.

He understands that immersion in his version of the truth can be overwhelming. Data, charts, graphics, maybe a cartoon or two. Stories (e.g Icarus) and authority (e.g ‘witch doctor’) to evidence/experiment (e.g physics, wind tunnels) and quantitative models. He's the combustion for the headpieces filled with straw.



Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow


I've decided to put up a strategy for the Remainers, because no one else will.

We must remember that Cummings eschews Parliament (he's already refused to be summoned to a select committee to answer for the last round of alleged misdeeds). Now with the keys to Number 10, he's prepared to bully the elected members, threaten the Civil Service, jam the constitution, ignore Parliament's protests and to suggest that Sovereignty is only for guidance. He's a wrong-un, but the blond buffoon is riding on his tails.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

X reality enhancements


We've usually had Sony TVs as our main telly. They give high-quality pictures and are usually built like tanks, to the point that a couple of them still worked when they were replaced. Average life? At least 10 years.

That made it suspicious when a 4K flat screen one died after about 2 years. Right in the middle of a TV show, with skittering lines across the picture. To start with I thought it was a transmission error, then I realised when I rebooted the set that it was something altogether more serious.

I found the paperwork, realised that we'd bought it at a well-known store and took it back. "No problem", said the kindly folk, "It'll take about 10 days to fix."

And off it travelled, this time from Exeter to Swindon, to a repair shop.

Days passed.

Weeks passed.

I called them.

"Can't get the part, it's on order from Sony."

We waited.

More days.

More weeks.

I decided to pay the store a visit. They thought it had been repaired. They hunted around. Couldn't find it. Called the repair place.

"Can't get the part, it's on order from Sony."

Okay. What to do.

"How about a replacement?" ventured the helpful associate.

"Well, okay, but I wasn't expecting to have to do this..."

"It's an XYZ123. We have the 2019 version in. Its got the improvements. I'll see if we have one boxed."

"Can I take a look at it as well? You know, the aesthetics?"

He nodded: "Sure. There's one in the display area. It should look the same."

An hour later I'm sliding the bulky box into the back of my car.

I'll have to reprogram everything, but we're now 2019 4K X-Reality Pro Upscaler Triluminos enabled.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

end of the trail?


Duffer bluffer Boris and dark arts Dom continue to play chicken. They want to cover up the thought that the UK is in a worse position now than when the referendum took place. We’ve negotiated nothing. We’ve a worthless agreement. We've given heaps away.

The EU are process-bound and unbending and the clock now runs against any last-minute ideas.

As former US treasury secretary Larry Summers put it, he does not believe that a “desperate” UK would manage to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington, through lack of priority and lack of leverage.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith thinks it's Larry Summers doing domestic point-scoring, but anyone who has negotiated anything will recognise the truth in Summer's words.

Ironically, Gove has also been let out to speak, sloshing more mawkish syrup in the process. “Whatever happens, while we remain ready and willing to negotiate, the EU must appreciate that we’re leaving on 31 October, deal or no deal.”

Of course Gove is only rehashing Cummings' statements, but it's another illustration that the clock has nearly run down.

The EU know that Britain:
  • doesn’t have a plan
  • has no leverage
  • has spun down the clock.
It's pure recklessness, and many of the moves that have already taken place will see the UK worse off.

Weakened currency. Weakened banking sector. Weakened industrial supply chain. Weakened agricultural supply lines. Weakened confidence in retail. Job layoffs. Equity shorts by fat cats betting against the economy. Fragmentation of the Union. Bullying the civil service.

The moneyed right doesn’t care. They have placed their stakes on their loaded wheel, moved their interests offshore and are waiting for tax-haven cash to drop.

The trade deals with US are something of a red herring. Let's look at the money involved. The EU is over 4 times as large as the US as a UK export economy.

More to the point, the US and anyone else with suitable currency holdings can buy British at heavily discounted prices, because of the currency shift.

Boris and his clowns are relying on voter fatigue now to get Brexit ‘across the line’. Baffle everyone and they’ll plead for an end to it.

At what price?

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Boris in Brexit Art Project shocker


Boris' days may be numbered, but credit where it's due: He knew that Brexit was a cartoon art project long before anyone else.

Let's recap. After being sacked from the Wolverhampton Express & Star for fabricating quotes from his godfather Colin Lucas, a historian, about Edward II's supposed lover, he used family connections to get a really low-grade Telegraph posting to Brussels.

As Nigel Wade, the paper’s foreign editor from 1986 to 1996 put it “Nobody cared about Brussels,” he said, recalling the city as a source of “important but dull stories”.

Boris the unreliable reporter was at home there, happily troughing-up stories about bananas and vacuum cleaners, just for the laughs.

Impressionable little Nige Farage believed the stories, of course, as did the readership of many tabloids.

A pinnacle of misinformation would be Boris' story about blowing up the EU headquarters, to replace it with the tallest headquarters building in Europe.

Johnson did not invent British Eurosceptic reporting but took it to new heights. The deliberate lies and half-truths delivered him the profile and publicity that he craved.

The same could be said of his private life, which he'd dismiss with iconoclastic bluster: “I have not had an affair with Petronella. It is complete balderdash. It is an inverted pyramid of piffle.” Watch for the exaggerated arm waving as another 'tell'.

It makes it all the more difficult to read the buffoon now that he has blagged a leadership position. As a useless duffer, he can be easily operated by those around him. Moneyed trousers and screwball strategists are having an elaborate laugh whilst using the grim-faced man for whom time stood still as a decoy, complete with his trite grammar advice.

The game plan to make UK into a tax haven, offshore from Europe, with a devalued currency making foreign acquisitions of UK companies heavily discounted, is running.

Liz Truss and Sajid Javid are now unsuspecting accomplices in the establishment of free-trade zones. Our man with no background, Dominic Cummings, has dialled up to 11 on the grand scheme. A couple of hundred million of newspeak funding should help things move along.

The GBP has already gone from around USD1.60 to USD1.22 - which represents a 25%-33% discount since the referendum. The damped effect of the economy makes the impact of this less obvious, but all those 'Just get it done' folk will wake up one day to find themselves dramatically pickpocketed. The Armageddon Clock is ticking, as illustrated by the unnecessarily smug tory chairman James Cleverly.

The situation leaves many questions unanswered. Who lied about the savings to the UK? Who donated dark funds to the campaigns? Who funded the misinformation? Which state actors were involved in the deceptions? Who ran targeted interference on social media? Who has covered up that the referendum was advisory?

I pulled this one from the bonfire of the House of Commons library.

Britain has been sold off by the right and its hired guns. Audi man had better get used to a smaller car. The big levers have been selected. Boris doesn't realise he is positioned as a means to an end - on the trapdoor (#existentialthreat).

#revoke #rebuild #remain

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Countess Wear paper mill #topsham #devon


There's several routes that run along from Topsham towards Exeter. I usually cycle along the Exeter Canal tow-path that ambles into Exeter, towards the bustling quay, past a helpful pub and through a riverside park. It means I can bypass the busy Countess Wear roundabout and avoid the main route's traffic-laden hills.

Countess Wear is locally quite famous. The estate stopped the ships from passing on to Exeter thus making Topsham a busy port, at least until the canal was built to bypass the weir. The Countess Wear area also became the site of mills, originally used for grinding corn, later switching to making paper from rags.

It's this latter activity for which I've snapped a few pictures on my iPhone, from a 150-year-old model, built by an apprentice (or more than one?) working at the mills.

The papermills were operational between 1638 and 1885 and were used to make paper for banknotes, although it is believed that there were probably earlier medieval mills on the site. The Countess Wear Paper Mill is sited on an island formed from the division of a leat off the River Exe and surrounded by controlled water. The paper mill was once at the heart of Exeter’s industrial revolution.

Paper was first made in Exeter in 1638 and by the end of the 18th century, Exeter had 30 of the country’s 425 papermills, mostly concentrated in mills around Countess Wear.

Linen rags were imported from Holland, which were sorted and allowed to ferment. The rotten rags were laid in troughs of water and hammers powered by waterwheels turned the rags into pulp. A vatman would then form a sheet of paper from a mold. This was then raised and dried slowly allowing the fibres of the pulp to form a matted layer.

When paper began to be made from woodpulp, rather than rags, business declined. The mill converted to steam-power, but the large volumes of coal required just added to the financial problems.

At one time the mill complex covered more than two hectares, but now there are only a few buildings left. A fire destroyed the original mill, which was rebuilt in 1816.

The elaborate model, with its delightful vignettes, is at a scale of 6ft to 1 inch (1/72nd scale) and on display at Topsham Museum.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

low, low, how low can you go? yo!


Boris has been gardening again, still looking for those magic money trees. More precisely, Dominic Cummings has his eyes on the prize.

He knows that the £26 billion contingency set aside by Philip Hammond and the £39 billion allocated to pay off the EU will, together, represent a huge PSF (Promises Slush Fund). The trick will be to spend it without getting spotted. Here's a quick review of the disparate items.

Curiously enough, the bits and pieces add up to around the £39 billion in the EU repayment fund. I'm pretty sure the UK will have to pay that money anyway in order to coin-operate the next round of negotiations, so the grand total could look like around £78 billion, if everything gets taken into account. And that is before the Outsourcers and the consulatants operate their 'land and expand' strategies into the government.

It also begs the question whether the original sums were pegged to the original day's exchange rate? (Of course they were) If so, then the payment to the EU is probably about 8% higher by now. £42 million...don't panic...although here comes the Vogon constructor fleet.

Which reminds me to always bring a towel. Scapegoat Gove and scoundrel-puppet Johnson are forcing the markets down, with a new low just being reached in time for the school holiday spending money.

Here comes the towel bit..., whilst it is relevant to summer holiday plans, more fundamentally it takes away value from the economy. No wonder Trump wants a deal with the UK. Every dollar buys ever more stuff. And look at the wreckage that the current government have done over the last few years.

Trashing the economy and getting a free hand in leader placement, citing the will of the people. Jolly japes, eh? I need to listen to some spaceship engine sounds to calm down.



Monday, 29 July 2019

crimethink the narrowing fight


It has started, the tweaks to the Civil Service manners of writing (Rees-Mogg), the full bore Gove propaganda through the gov.uk website and the planned £100 million household campaign from Boris. Tee-shirted Dominic Cummings must be very pleased with himself coddled in his personal bunker in Number 10.
Like Newspeak, we see the elimination of shades of meaning inherent to providing ambiguity and nuance within Standard English (Oldspeak) in order to reduce the language's function of communication. Using social media and magnate-controlled news outlets, we get simplistic concepts of simple construction — pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, goodthink and crimethink.

Cummings and Gove know these approaches linguistically reinforce a State's totalitarian dominance of its people. As warnings, seldom have the covers of The Economist and Private Eye been so interchangeable.

In Newspeak, root words function as nouns and verbs, which reduced the vocabulary available for the speaker to communicate meaning; for example, 'think' is both a noun and a verb so that the word 'thought' is not functionally required to communicate the concepts of thought in Newspeak; hence, the English word 'thought' is not in the Newspeak vocabulary.

As personal communication, Newspeak can be spoken in staccato rhythm, using short-syllable words that are easy to pronounce and dare I* say tweet, which generates speech that is physically automatic and intellectually unconscious, thereby diminishing the possibility of critical thought occurring to the speaker.

For some it is seductive; English words of comparative and superlative meanings and irregular spellings are simplified into the regular spellings of Newspeak so that better becomes gooder and best becomes goodest.

The prefixes plus- and doubleplus- are used for emphasis, creating plusgood and the superlative doubleplusgood. Adjectives are formed by adding the suffix –ful to a root-word, so that goodthinkful means "Orthodox in thought."

Adverbs are formed by simplistically adding the suffix –wise, creating goodthinkwise, meaning "In an orthodox manner".

So we must prepare for the onslaught. I was shocked to read Gove from the Gov.uk website today. A formal position paper bylined by Gove, bullet pointed by Cummings and drafted by a marketeer copy writer? An example: "With a new prime minister, a new government, and a new clarity of mission, we will exit the EU on October 31. No ifs. No buts. No more delay. Brexit is happening." Propaganda?

Curiously, the Clown has distanced himself from Gove's officious bully posturing. Cummings knows his stuff about projects. Step 1 : select scapegoat.

* Yes, I know that 'I' has been removed from the style guide by the Moggster