rashbre central: September 2008

Tuesday 30 September 2008

one little piggy went to market

Once upon a time there was a little pink piggy.

The little piggy was always hungry.

He ate and he ate and left a big hole where there had once been enough for everyone. His friends were also very hungry and they would all play eating contests with complicated rules to see who could become the biggest.

They all lived in big towers unlike the other folk who lived in much smaller houses. Gradually as the piggies ate more, there was less left for everyone else.

Some had to move out to find more food, and some had to give up their houses before the big bad wolves came along to throw them out.

One day a man named Mr. George noticed the big hole where the piggies had been eating. He knew he had been encouraging the piggies to make the hole in the first place, but now it was so big it was becoming inconvenient to walk around and some of his own friends were slipping on its edges.

So Mr. George had an idea in a dream where he was helped by a friendly advisor.

"I'll fill in the hole", he said, "and then there will be enough for everyone to eat again".

He took his idea to the important house where some of his friends lived, at the end of the road, but the selfish people in the house were all too busy to listen. They had heard about the wolves and decided that their own best chance was to keep the hole and hope that they could survive until another hole even bigger appeared somewhere else.

Mr. George was confused. He wanted to fill the hole and he thought the people in the house at the end of the road were his friends.

Mr. George set off to find a bigger house with more of his friends so that they could persuade the people in the smaller house to help. It was so difficult though, because he was already almost at the end of the road.

Whilst Mr George was walking to the bigger house the little piggy and his friends kept eating. In fact they were eating even faster. Soon the hole was as big as a country.

"Eat that, Mr George", said the little piggy, who wasn't so little any more.

Sunday 28 September 2008

summer - a slight return

Out in the lanes and fields today, making the most of the end of Summer. I've decided its the end of Summer rather than the beginning of Autumn, because there's still far more green leaves than brown ones and most of them still seem to be on the trees. However, this looks like the weekend when its beginning to turn and I noticed some areas where trees were sporting yellow edges.
My route cut across a couple of quite squelchy areas underlining the current burst of sunshine is after a period of sustained wetness. Its lucky I'd taken the boingy bike because my thin wheeled roadbike would have definitely got stuck in the pervasive mud.
As I passed the maize in a nearby field, it seemed abundant enough, but I'm wondering whether the same squelch factor is going to be messing with the harvest this year.
Further along, the lane looked positively summery, with dappled green and hardly a trace of the Autumn lurking around the corner.

Saturday 27 September 2008

tea first

Sometimes there is nothing for it but to cut out a chunk of time to do the household paperwork. Its amazing in a week or two just how much can build up. Salient features involve tax authorities and things to do with keeping cars on the road. It always starts as a random pile of paper, collected from the various flat surfaces and put into a heap.
Then several smaller heaps which have the effect of moving away some of the reading material and the rubbish, leaving a few items for proper filing and a lot more needing some kind of action.
I'm around the action stage right now. Maybe after I've made a cup of tea.

Friday 26 September 2008


Cover blown with this mono shot. Euro rustic. French cafetiere, Zassenhaus grinder, Italian balsamic and a Spanish garlic squisher. All lurking on the windowsill and part of a casual test shot. Didn't really notice until it came out of the camera. Gulp. Not so London Streets now. I'd better post a picture of a red bus quickly, to compensate.

Thursday 25 September 2008

gone in 3 seconds

I gather George Bush took over the television schedule yesterday in America to explain about the need for $700 billion of extra economic support for the US economy. Add that to the previous $300bn or so and we have the first Trillion of repair funds. I was looking around for some Trillion sized objects to get a sense of proportion.

Where to look: Fortune 500 maybe: Walmart turnover : $378bn, Exxon : $372bn, Chevron $210bn, General Motors $182bn. Close enough. Thats about a trillion. The entire revenue of the four biggest US corporations. The two biggest Banks (Citi and BoA) are around $280bn combined.

Then I noticed the Iraq war as a US Congressional budget line item.
The stats are probably highly political, and this source is Congressional Research Service cost data graphed by zFacts, so suitable caution etc, but the figures suggest somewhere north of $550bn since the start. Thats just over half of the trillion thats being allocated to rescue the US economy in the last 6 weeks or so.

My example above shows circa 3 seconds spending towards consuming a trillion in a year. Thats a lorra wonga in any language.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Victorian moment

Normally I'd look at 'fun going forward', but I've recently received back the 21 cans of old film, which I sent away to be processed, which cues some retrospective moments.

Quite interesting to see the random nature of the returns, with scenes and haircuts that just don't seem probable. There's also some interesting chemical effects from the ageing of the unprocessed films. A small set from Scotland look positively Victorian.

Tuesday 23 September 2008


Docklands today, with a speedy trip across on the Jubilee Line but a later much slower transit involving the Overground railway network.

Sadly, a fatality at Earlsfield had stopped the trains for what became hours. They'd appear on the board, edge towards getting a platform, become delayed and then finally get cancelled. One train even had a platform allocated and we all sat on it until it too was cancelled. Of course one's mind flicks to the sad cause and its human impact but there is a kind of commuter parallelism about these 'incidents' which often don't get any detailed references at all. In fact, the Network Rail announcements and management of the entire situation was about as bad as it can get. No compassion or leadership, unclear and incorrect messages, muffled explanations and all the apprentice platform helpers shrugging their shoulders.
Earlier I'd been watching the dials and arrows in Canary Wharf, where Reuters and various large plasma screens flickered out further messages of general economic doom. I waited by the big ticker that scrolls around the edge of a building to look for an uptick. Long wait, with most companies again drifting downwards. Then across to the television screen. More negativity.
More Down
So whilst waiting for trains, I spotted today's Evening Standard referring to Gordon's speech. He was implying the need for experience rather than 'apprentices'. Unfortunately, I couldn't help thinking of the parallel between the handling of the rail incident and those of the recent economic situation.

Monday 22 September 2008

Large Hadron Rap

The LHC was superfly until it got a puncture.

Or maybe the rolled up superdimensions that hide the rest of the force of gravity will unravel and create persistent micro black holes. You decide.

Sunday 21 September 2008

reality is an obstacle to hallucination

reality is an obstacle to hallucination
Sometimes everything unravels in some kind of exotic cosmic thread. Maybe we could see the space station tonight as we looked into the otherwise ink-black sky, which appeared in the time between daylight in north London and darkness a few twinkling tube stations later. It had seemed so simple when we started the afternoon, with even a plan and some documentation, but events contrived to land us instead in a dim sum restaurant in Gloucester Road with way more dim than any sum person could eat. Happiness. Longevity. Health. Peace.

Saturday 20 September 2008

tv on the radio as a personal soundtrack

The plans just slid sideways during mid evening. We were talking about having personal soundtracks one minute and the next it had flipped to being very late. Somehow we didn't make it to the Italian restaurant. I blame the Bison Grass.

Fortunately we had some comfortable chairs and were able to pull them it a circle. Much later or by now it could be called 'very early', we wandered the streets around parts of the City before winding the evening to a close. Past the ex Midland Bank headquarters which is now a wine bar, a financial office block with the doors taped across and crossing the street near the fully lit London AIG building, which I suppose is now a US Government subsidiary.

My soundtrack for the evening would have to be Dear Science by TV on the Radio, but heres an old one. Club Lupus.

Friday 19 September 2008

a lock-in at the vault

the vault
A gang of us converged on the City of London on Friday evening and took refuge in an underground bank vault a few moments along from the Bank of England.
No ordinary vault, we had to pass a roped off security line first and pass through the early evening buzz of a thriving bar. I arrived by taxi, cellphone to ear and headed straight for the front of the line to be waved in, to the consternation of others standing in the long line behind me. But of course I knew the secret word.
the vault
Fortunately, the vault itself had been prepared for our arrival and there was a useful bar on hand as well as someone shaking all manner of cocktails. As we chatted together, there was something slightly odd about mixing vodka cocktails in an ex mainstream bank vault in the heart of the City, whilst financial shenanigans were occurring all around us.

Heard any good rumours lately? I have - but I'm afraid they have to stay locked in.
sefety deposit area

Thursday 18 September 2008


Thanks, Pat, for the idea to add this

silver top hat and an old boot

What a difference in a day. More banking sector turmoil almost joining the dots from the last couple of days. Some banks still seem to be sidestepping the problems, whilst others are disappearing in flames.

The US Government has effectively nationalized AIG to stop it from sinking. That means they've put around $300bn into rescuing a variety of financial organizations over the last few weeks. I make that somewhere around $2,400 for every citizen of the USA.

And it looks as if a well known horse logoed bank is about to rescue the ailing singing bank. Based upon a recent friendly lunch between Gordon and some senior bankers, it appears that all of the normal monopoly investigations can be bypassed.

Could there soon be a UK superbank with 1/3 of all UK financial arrangements held within it?

Wednesday 17 September 2008

how to short the market

bear market
It looks as if the traders are still finding ways to make a turn even during the demise of once famous financial institutions.

It's easy really, borrow something you don't have. Sell the thing you've borrowed. Wait for it to devalue because of the market conditions. Buy it back with the money made when it was sold. Hand it back to the person who loaned it and pocket the difference in value.

Its called shorting, and there's a lot of it about.

It can bring down banks. Or governments.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

cardboard boxes up

cardboard box
Good news for cardboard box manufacturers today as more shares plummeted in value because of poor financial decisions. I notice HBOS was off by 22% by close of business.

The latest spirals link to the AIG underwriting of $300bn of ropey bank business but its just after Lehman Brothers declaratiion of bankruptcy and Fanny Mae's earlier splash. The US Government is bemused now too, because whilst they loaned money to bail Fanny and Freddy, by the time they got to Lehman and AIG, the view of what a discounted dollar looked like was getting too hard to understand.

The Bank for International Settlements keeps a track of the amount of derivative based debt which hovers around the $600 trillion level. One of the factors in this counterparty risk based business is that the value of each contract depends on the solvency and ability of participants to honour their obligations. Not a lot of bankers appear to know that judging from recent events.

So AIG's write down of a dollar was to somewhere in the 60cent range and Lehman's was right down to 30 or so cents. Some might call these levels meltdown.

It certainly means that all the opportunistically commissioned missing money first being talked about a few months ago is now collecting into ever larger debt puddles and pools. I suppose we are still mainly talking in billions and haven't really got started on the trillions yet.

Monday 15 September 2008

immortal pour homme

Dorian Gray
Up North on Sunday afternoon, to The Angel, Islington and Sadler's Wells to see the Dorian Gray performance. A modern twist on Oscar Wilde's novel with it moved to today and into the world of fashion and art.

An image-obsessed world shimmering with Matthew Bourne’s dark humour, and the addition of a Conan Doyle plotline to the original story. Dorian Gray becomes the latest icon of 21st Century style amongst the glitterati. Promoting fragrance as a model and rising quickly to TV chat show guest.
Dorian Gray
There's a darkness behind the hedonism and we see the fa├žade fray after the arrival of a doppelganger stalking Dorian's shadows.
Dorian Gray
Brilliantly staged and choreographed, with hardly a pause in the action, an amazingly strong cast, great lighting, some moments of Matthew Bourne's mischievous humour (the blue rubber gloves, the four poofs and a piano, the nod to dancer Nureyev) alongside the journey towards destruction of the leading character.

Excellent performance - no wonder its sold out.

Sunday 14 September 2008

black box fun

Worth a spin. It certainly took me somewhere interesting!


I wasn't sure whether to post this here or over on rashbre snapped because its sort of about photography. But I think it's more about eBay, and a little bit daft, so here is probably okay.

The story was that a few days ago I dug out my old film camera, with a view to taking some film pictures. I discovered it was somewhat broken. The mirror had jammed and the viewfinder had some sort of black gunk in it. A Google later and I realized it was going to be expensive to fix. I also noticed in the Google search a few eBay cameras roughly the same, for relatively small money.

It got me thinking that perhaps I could replace the broken camera and even acquire a small number of lenses to augment the two that I already owned.

My criteria was that this had to be an inexpensive project, so I set myself a very low budget. I decided on Olympus because (a) its what I had before (b) its beautiful, well designed precision machinery, (c) its not Nikon or Canon where there are lots of buyers trying to acquire old lenses for their digital equipment and pushing the price up. I regard it as a kind of SLR version of a Leica.
Olympus OM black
The plan all worked rather well. A few days later, I have everything I could possibly need. A camera with a fine lens was my first acquisition and then a couple of other wide angle lenses. All good. Then a pair of zoom lenses, which happened to have another Olympus camera attached.

Altogether, it was somewhat less than the cost of a modest new digital compact, and I now have a rather fine film kit. In some ways its sad that this type of equipment is viewed by many as obsolete, yet the modern camera makers are only just geting to the same resolution as film and only in their top range £2,000+ cameras.
One thing I can't get over is how small it all looks next to today's DSLRs. Yet, although it has manual focus is mainly mechanical and doesn't need 150 computerised menus, it seems to take some nice snaps already.

Saturday 13 September 2008

Wheatstalk 2008

Wheatstock 2008
I'll be listening to one of my old favourite radio stations from Talkeetna, Alaska during this weekend, where the nice people from Whole Wheat Radio are running live music webcasts, house concert style.

(They are just playing some Michelle Shocked) "well she may blow your mind like some old transistor..."

You'll have to cook your own chili and cornbread to get the full experience.

a streamed link via iTunes here

Friday 12 September 2008


Another busy week and I think I've earned some cushion time at the weekend. Way back at Wednesday there was someone on the radio saying "Hooray, it's over half way through the week towards the weekend!"...and I was thinking,"Noooo, I still need as much time as possible to get my stuff done". Others cast doubts upon my sanity when I revealed this thought openly.

Anyway, the weekend is finally here and I can tick off most things, but there's still overhang into Saturday as well as a quietly accumulating collection of domestic items too.

So tonight as we ate my hastily improvised 'Grolsch potatoes' and watched a movie, the cushions seemed like just the right option.

Thursday 11 September 2008

World Trade Center

I guess there's millions of regular pictures of the World Trade Center in peoples' photo archives. I just found a few whilst I was riffling through some snaps to test my scanner. The pictures either side help me place the occasion.

We'd been on a cross US visit and were meeting someone in New York at the Marquis. We'd been with one person and were meeting someone else, who didn't show up.
World Trade Center from Staten Island Ferry
We decided to convert ourselves into tourists and although some of us had 'done' New York before, there was one of us for whom it was a new experience, so we decided to do a tourist route. Times Square, Empire State, the Village, Canal Street, Wall Street, WTC, the Seaport piers, Staten Island Ferry both ways and then back up to Broadway for some beers.

So part way through I took these snaps, where we'd gone to the tourist entrance to the World Trade, taken the elevator to the top and then walked around to look at the view. My pix include the look back towards the Empire State, across to the statue of Liberty, down to the ground and across to the other Tower.

Simpler days?

Wednesday 10 September 2008

The Ka gets another mention

We drove around half of London without the front part of the radio in this Ka called Harvey earlier today, before stealthily parking to buy some milk, a loaf of bread and to post a postcard.

Then, whilst paused, I found the radio fascia in the side pocket and clipped it in. It lasted for about ten minutes of me driving before I accidentally pressed the eject button, which made it flip across to the unreachable part of the footwell.

When I retrieved it later, I noticed the radio was called a Sony Xplode. Very appropriate.

no Swiss quarky xplode either (britney vs muse)

Tuesday 9 September 2008

dubya palin

dubya-palin2Sometimes I just scare myself.

I wondered how long it would be before the Palin/Bush similarities would start to become noticed.

A modest reconstruction is all it takes. It had to be done.

The voting percentage swing seems to be all but modest, however.

Sometimes I just scare myself.

Monday 8 September 2008

dark materials

Hadron collider CERN output
Smashing time ahead when the scientists switch on the £20bn wibble beam in CERN, Geneva. It can send parallel particles in circles and then hit them up with bendy magnets to see how they ding into one another and generally bounce around.

Or it could create a black hole that eventually consumes the earth.

Professor Otto thinks its weird science without Kelly le Brock and is trying to get it stopped via a legal action at the moment, but another Professor Cox says that everything is dreamy. So if a lot of people in Switzerland have headaches tomorrow, its probably a few runaway Higgs-Boson particles. They're the ones that get called the God particle.

Sunday 7 September 2008


west sideBa daa daa dah doo...
Ba da da da da dee dee...

Sadler's Wells version of West Side Story. We've all seen the film, and probably a stage version, so how did this stack up?


Good set, some good movement, but mis-casting. I opened the programme and there was a single still from an old Broadway show, which ooozed era, action, smoulder.

This version some how didn't.

Whether taking the ensemble view or some of the main parts, there just wasn't the right zing.

I don't think it was me; it came across as 'by the numbers' rather than with the energy and verve one would expect.

There were some standout re-staged effects, but overall I thought they could have driven more from the story, but probably played it all a bit safe.

When the rather tall and somewhat operatic Tony (who looked a bit like Maria's dad) met his demise in the last scene, there was a combination of tears but also stifled laughter from the rather respectable looking audience. Something hadn't quite worked.

Saturday 6 September 2008

pictures from the past

discovery of old films
If anyone has been tracking my other recent blog rashbre snapped then you'll have noticed I hit eBay a few days to pick up an old film SLR to go alongside my digital snappery. I'd hoped to use my original camera, but something seems to have stopped working and I realised (sadly) that it was more economical to acquire an inexpensive eBay replacement than to have it repaired.

So the gleaming newbie arrived and I decided to look around rashbre central for some 35mm film (probably past its use by date but - hey), and in the hunt found 21 used 35mm cartridges. I'm wondering whether I should get them processed to CD, to see whats on them. One's coded Greece, a couple seem to be German. Hmm, possible flashbacks in time, I suspect.
Here's my original OM2 and the newbie replacement.

Friday 5 September 2008


televisionI gather the weather has been pretty wet today, but because I've been locked away working, I'd hardly noticed the great outdoors.

When I finally decided to power down and maybe watch some evening television, I flipped it on and after a few pixellated moments of a soap, it ground to a freeze frame halt. There was a fair amount of thunder rolling around, so I'm guessing ikkle Sky is trying to deal with bolts of lightning.

Find the other hand set, flip over to Freeview. "no Service".

Hmm, the entire digital domain seems to have been reduced to pixel dust.

So now I'm on the remnants of analogue. Four channels with slow scrolling bands of interference and gentle snow permeating the scene. Its reduced my choices back to old school 1-2-3-4 and for the last few minutes I've been watching the finale of Big Brother and wondering how Davina manages to deflect rain around her whilst all the heavily anoraked supporters look drenched. The trouble is, I don't know who any of them are so I've had to generate instant dislikes in order to feel engaged with the process.

And no pause, advert skip, red button, plus one or 'whats on next' guide.

I'm feeling very retro at the moment.

Thursday 4 September 2008

Alaskan Independence Party?

where's george?
The US election commentary bubbles along on UK media. I listened to a few snippets whilst driving and heard George Bush endorsing McCain along the lines that offensive tactics are needed to ensure peace. I was in heavy traffic at the time and didn't have time to properly process what appeared to be an endorsement of further military action.

But the strident one that's caught my ear is the unfolding Sarah Palin, who is a kind of Dubya in disguise. The emotive crowd rousing is clever enough although I assume she is now being powered by at least ten of the 'operatives' who were dispatched to Alaska to manage the plotline. Despite normally hardened journalists cooing at some her speeches, it just seems odd to me that the person selected as running mate to McCain would have so many easy political points to pick at by the media. I hand it to her spinners though that she can dance a mean fandango around the critiques.

Some reports suggested that McCain favoured Joe Lieberman but whoever went through the selection process to advise McCain on the final choice of his running mate must have been looking the other way for part of the time. I get the idea about creating a 'Hilary factor' in the other party and that message delivery may still triumph over content.

I'm also interested in her selection as an early sign of McCain's decision making performance. If Palin's the person, fix up the back-story first. Or perhaps choose someone needing less profile management. Maybe some of it is the inevitable digging of journalists looking for a story, but it all seems a long way from the simple hockey mum description that Palin is portraying whilst she advances the George Bush agenda.

There's a caption competition here somewhere...Just what is McCain thinking??

Wednesday 3 September 2008

don't ask alice

wardrobeThe doors are finally in place from the recent wardrobe project and the shelves are now full of clothes.

There's something satisfying about being able to walk through the glass and into the hidden en-suite room.

And back the other way through the looking glass.

No sign of the white rabbit at the moment, but I'll keep taking the tablets.

alice whats the matter?

Tuesday 2 September 2008


I was not fully organised for that run a couple of days ago and briefly googled for any instructions.

In amongst the threads, I noticed a fair amount of controversy from serious runners about whether it was acceptable to wear headphones whilst running in a race like the one on Sunday. Apparently its so that the fast serious runners can call (eg) 'stand aside' to the slower ones as they accelerate through to the front. I envisaged that this would be happening to me continuously, although to avoid embarrassment I'd planned to start from the last wave in any case.

But as a casual runner I thought that part of the fun was throwing on a tune with some running rhythms to count along to. I decided I would take my little 'running iPod', which is one of the old school chewing gum shaped ones in a fetching shiny red. Suitably loaded with running music (don't ask), I prepared for the race in what was still only drizzle at that stage and rummaged for my iEars or whatever they are called.


They had disappeared. Lost forever. Probably on the tube.

I would have to survive in full aural contact with the other runners - of whom, I estimate, nearly all were wearing headphones and not calling out 'stand aside!'.

some vid of the headphone-less run

Monday 1 September 2008


lensbaby spider
I always think of September as the month when spiders start to get too big for their boots and start invading the indoors.

As if on cue, this little specimen decided to dangle from a window today whilst attempting some particularly clever form of crochet.

September. Spiderssss.