rashbre central: December 2010

Thursday 30 December 2010

Looking behind before looking ahead

Only intermittent updates as we are on the road at the moment.

We managed to get in a festive show before heading North, in this case it was the version of Cinderella set in World War II London, culminating in a train ride exit via Paddington. Prokofiev's score and Matthew Bourne's choreography. Creatively staged and lit, with evocative staging, but somehow in a world between the Prokofiev romance and a possible blitz spirit from the setting.

We all wondered if a more popular music forties score could have created more of a consistent atmosphere.

Then on to the Thai place around the corner.

Friday 24 December 2010

life in the fast lane

Last shopping day before Christmas so there's bound to be a some congestion in the main zones. Its the ideal day to visit Santa in a big store though, because the queues will have subsided for that little excursion.

Of course, you need to know which lane to be in.

Thursday 23 December 2010

super slinky to the rescue

new slinky for the old tele
Time to re-jig various parts of rashbre central in preparation for the seasonal festivities. The 'music room' was recently being referred to as 'the junk room' and has now been re-instated as a bedroom. No-one can quite work out how the ten cubic metres of random content has been dispersed.

It's also put paid to my working ability for the next few days because my separate office desk area now has an amplifier under it, where my knees would normally go. I think the attached equipment may also prove something of a distraction, so I might as well just give in.

Fortunately I found some spare strings so that the defective notes on the plank are now back in business. I have a feeling this could all get a little out of hand as more people and equipment turn up.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

commercial ending

canary swing tiltery
It's that last part of the countdown but still there's work to be done and those last meetings to schedule as a build towards the 'end of year'.

It can be quite disorientating, with many organisations powering down, the schools broken up for the festive season and the added variable of snow interfering with travel plans.

I've been in our main office every day this week and had some pretty early starts, although meetings today and tomorrow are by videoconference and phone. It's also a time to archive stuff and reset for the new year.

By the end of tomorrow I should be clear and then it will be a question of keeping a quiet check on email and breaking out the paper hats.

Sunday 19 December 2010

santa claus north pole norad xmas physics stats update 2010

Santa passes Big Ben
Here's the 2010 link to the Santa tracking system created by NORAD.

An ideal last minute gift this year is, of course, the rashbre novel -The Triangle.

But for those of you who are more interested in the technology of Santa, NORAD's FAQs provide the following:
NORAD Sleigh technical data
Plenty of people have calculated Santa's speed to cover the world, famously Joel Potischman and Bruce Handy who did the physics of the speed and payload performance criteria for Santa's sleigh. Like most, I'm respectful of this but am also intrigued by some of the assumptions in the original calculation:

The most notable corrections to be applied are:

- Santa delivers no gifts to naughty children (not even coal)
- Naughty to nice ratio is 1:9
- As confirmed by NORAD, one Santa distributes all of the gifts.
- There is only one family per household.
- Santa bypasses non Santa belief system houses.
- Reindeer have recently eaten fresh magic acorns.

Calculation Assumptions:

- World population = 6 billion
- Children under 18 = 2 billion
- Global Santa based belief systems: 33%
- Max children requiring delivery therefore 667 million
- Children per household: 3.5 (may seem high?)
- Number of households requiring distribution 189 million
- Eastern orthodox using Jan 5 instead of Dec 25 = 16 Million
- Target Households = 173 million on Dec 25
- Target Households after naughty to nice = 156 million
- Estimated child bed time 21:00 (9pm) with 7 hours sleep.

(child sleep duration on Dec 24 may also require revision)

Gives circa 31 hours (24+7) for all deliveries
Time is 1860 mins or 111,600 seconds

Average number of homes to visit per second = circa 1400.
So average delivery per household is 715 microseconds, which is why Santa normally appears a bit blurry (I previously thought it was the sherry)

Land surface minus Antarctica is around 79 million square miles. Distribute destinations evenly = 0.7 miles between households creating a total distance of circa 110 million miles.

So 110 million miles in 31 hours = 3.6 million miles an hour or circa 1000 miles per second or Mach 4770 at a linear speed.

This explains Rudolph's red nose because of air resistance creating around 20 quintillion Joules of energy per second, which would convert a non reindeer nose to charcoal at such energy levels.

Luckily Santa has lots of special powers so these mere physics facts are no problem to such a superhero.

And ps. my list is in the chimney awaiting collection.

Saturday 18 December 2010

white on #uksnow

robin with snow
"Here we go again!" called my near neighbour who was just parking her large vehicle under the same bridge that I was parking the green teapot.

At six o'clock this morning there was no hint of snow, but by the other side of a cup of tea it was obvious that there would be certain first mover advantages to dealing with rapidly accumulating white stuff.

Selecting the littlest car had advantages of less snow to clear, thin tyres, front wheel drive and being broadly pushable and after ten minutes of snow removal it was ready for deployment like some kind of cold war strategic device.

I was able to make the way gingerly to the main road and to find a suitable refuge on a flat bit where the car has shelter and a chance of grip if the snow gets as deep as it did a couple of weeks ago.

We've also had the exciting appearance of a grit bin in the area. It's a big blue plastic bin quite close to one of the most slippery intersections in the side roads. About 30 metres from where the carpet van was stranded in the last snow.

I'm not sure if we are really more prepared, but later I'll take a snap of the Christmas lights in the snow.

Assuming we still have power.

Thursday 16 December 2010

our tragic universe

I've been enjoying reading another Scarlett Thomas book recently. I was ordering something else on Amazon and it popped up as one of those recommendations, and on special offer.

I wouldn't normally get sucked into the offers, but I've enjoyed the previous books by Scarlett Thomas - Popco and The End of Mr.Y. (geddit) so this was a good suggestion.

Now I'd idly wondered who Scarlett Thomas was as I read the other books. They did have some similar themes, and some built-in puzzles for the reader to solve along the way. An eclectic mix of homeopathy, symbols, prime numbers, cryptography, otherworld imagination and some zeitgeisty lifestyle elements.

The stories were written in a style that helped you to get to know the author, and one could imagine some real-world projections into the storytelling.

This latest novel plays around with the format.

I can see that there's large elements of a similar voice in the writing, but it's being playful with the novel's form. Like it's showing you 'behind the curtain' of the novel writing. I could envisage scaffolding and strange cogs alongside the more practical lists of items for inclusion, such as ships in bottles. There's sections that discuss, via the main focus of the story, what it's like to be writing a novel and also making the style of the storytelling self referential.

There's some writers with a style where you think you could converse with them directly; I could name a few but anyone will know the ones that resonate with them personally.

I found this with the previous two books and this one seems to address that point directly by being in a style that could easily be treated as a conversation.

You start to think you know the author, but of course it's the character, but is it the author as well?

I've almost finished it now, and I'll admit that at about the 2/3rds point I did decide to google the person playing with my head. Not exactly doing a reality check, but sort of.

A picture of someone strumming a guitar appeared, and a picture of a black dog called D.

The black dog in the novel is called B.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

where did that hat come from?

There seems to be something going around at this time of year.

We still have intense end of year activity at work, but it's somehow blended with parties and festive occasions. As a consequence, something has to give, because the number of hours to accomplish everything seems to remain a constant.

Some precautions can include not overdoing the -um- festive factor and perhaps occasionally ducking out early from some events.

There's that trigger point around midnight which can go either way. Towards home and robustness the following day or towards various kinds of short term frivolity but with a risk of indeterminate side-effects.

The question is how many times to let it slide?

Once might be inevitable, and the usual lesson learned may inform decisions for the rest of the season. Twice might still be understandable, but beyond that it becomes less about balance and more about design.

I know there's been a slight gap in my blogging, and some understandable conclusions can be drawn. Tomorrow's little shindig should be one where I leave early and maintain reserves for the weekend.

We shall see.

Friday 10 December 2010

remote control of iTunes

iphone remote
We've been playing around with the 'Remote' facility on the iPhone and iPad.

It's really useful as we move into the festive season to be able to run the sound system and to select anything from the whole iTunes library by just dialling it up on any iPhone/iTouch/iPad.

Even to be able to direct the selection to particular speakers using Airtunes, create playlists and let other people add songs they like to the sequence.

Not bad for a 'free' application.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

landing zone preparations

lighting up time
With all of those illuminations in Paris, it's about time that rashbre central flipped the big switch too.

So the first bank of illuminations are now in place, although I've been forbidden from adding the solar powered blue lights to the collection.

This year's theme is mainly white lights, with a few golden yellow ones interspersed for some variety.

I'm expecting the neighbours to get busy with the wiring at the weekend, which should help guide the sleigh in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

lane discipline

paris edges sarah
The only times I've had taxi crashes have been in Paris.

Twice, plus my latest - an attempted ramming from road rage.

The first time was several years ago. There were three of us travelling together in a taxi back to the airport. The taxi driver was stuck in the usual bouchon Parisienne and the traffic was stop-start. We were all chatting and then suddenly there was a thump as our taxi bashed into the car in front. Much arm waving and general shouting, whilst we passengers looked on in some bemusement. No damage to anyone although I've no idea about the cars. We somehow continued after a less than five minute pause.

Then another time, when we were staying around Montparnasse pour le Weekend. The taxi was cutting through back streets towards our apartment and somehow cruched into a car that was trying to reverse park. We'd already seen another car doing one of those space making manoeuvres where it gently nudged the cars either side to get out of a space. On that occasion we decided to get out and walk the rest of the way.

This time it's been a rather ambitious taxi driver. I don't think he was the one I'd ordered but my destination was sufficiently far away to make him 'forget' who he was picking up. "They don't tell me the names..." etc.

We had some busy sections to drive along and the driver was using the wrong lanes on purpose to make the distance quickly. I began to wonder if he'd be able to get back onto the route we required, when he suddenly pulled sharp left into a traffic flow.

The car drivers behind were rather upset.

Two of them decided to box him in or push him back into the other lane, effectively to a different destination. Dodgems with small french hatchbacks. Renault rage.

My West African driver was having none of it and decided that winding down the window would make it easier to shout at the other drivers.

I decided it was best to avoid eye contact as I shrank back into my seat. In a few minutes we were back on our way, the driver had resumed his continuous phone conversation and I'm sure regarded the whole situation as a regular part of his daily life.

Monday 6 December 2010


04:45 start as I headed for the airport, ahead of the traffic and before the fog. Pause for a coffee in the lounge and then to the gate where a friendly voice called my name and I realised I wouldn't be travelling alone.

Then announcements about one-and-a-half hour delays and us both wondering if it would be better to bail from the trip. I checked with the staff who said there were 'negotiations' in progress about bringing our slot forward.

We decided to wait until my friend had finished her coffee and around then heard clicks from the microphone as a sign that we'd be boarding. We both wondered if it was to prevent our escape, but apparently the large and fully loaded plane would have the best bargaining position to get airborne.

Two hours later and we're in Paris ready to start the day.

Sunday 5 December 2010


checking out the seed ball
It's really too early to be posting pictures of robins, although we do have one defining its territory in the garden, made even more alert since the arrival of yesterday's seed balls which I've simply hung on a couple of bushes.

The robin seems to be trying to protect the entire cache for its own private larder, although the combined forces of several finches and a couple of blackbirds seem to be able to overwhelm the perimeter guard.

I wonder what they will make of the lights?

Saturday 4 December 2010

seed balls

screen image of dennisTree hunting today, as we start the preparation for the Christmas season.

Tomorrow I'll be in the roof searching for the lights and decorations.

In some ways it all seems early, but as I'm off to Paris on Monday I've got to start the preps now or we'll have a stateless house instead of a convivial home by the start of the main season.

I've already added a couple of minor decorations outdoors, which comprise those round balls of seeds that the birds love and within an hour there was a minor flurry of smaller birds twittering and squabbling around the new source of riches.

That all seems quite close to home, but on t'interweb this weekend we've also seen the flurry of twittery activity around conversion of avatars to cartoon characters to support childrens' charities.

Good publicity?

It wasn't clear when it started that there was any targeted beneficiary other than the tentacular and megalithic f***book which seemed to be the source of the changes. Get everyone to logon and change their profiles and no doubt create other activity as well.

Later the UK variant of the meme became associated with NSPCC, which is a cause worthy of donation. They claim the fundraising wasn't of their making but presumably are getting something from the slipstream effect.

It's also spawned a whole range of other rhetoric but few links to the fundraising pages.

Here's one.

Friday 3 December 2010


What a difference a day makes in the land of the ice and snow.

Thursday morning I'd awoken at around 3:30 and noticed a light, if respectable, covering of snow everywhere. I knew that only the first two or three cars would make it out of the road and then it would turn into an icy skid-pan.

Sure enough, an urgent early morning carpet delivery to someone in the neighbourhood did the deed and managed to end up as a one van roadblock across the end of the street. It's long wheelbase majesty was eventually moved to the side after about an hour but had glazed the whole surface to the extent to make it impassable.

We decided to try out the new technology of grippy kevlar wheel socks(!) to see whether it would assist the escape. As my neighbour also had a set, we decided to try his first and to our joint pleasure his car then smoothly exited the street without misadventure.

I learned in the process that the video of the Norwegian girl with the brown leather boots and orange rubber gloves was somewhat misleading.

She'd put her socks on in about three minutes.

Twenty was closer to the truth.

But they did work. And work well.

Before embarking on my equivalent thirty minute mission, I decided to try the little green hatchback which has front wheel drive. I'd noticed that other similar small tyred vehicles seemed to be getting about whereas the Executive Saloons with Fat Tyres were spinning and slipping all over the place.

defrosting the kaAnd yes, the Ka worked fine by just scraping the ice from it.

By the time I reached gritted and salted road surfaces it was also toasty warm inside. That evening I was back in the centre of London complete with Ka.

By Friday morning I was beginning to wonder what the fuss had been about. I looked out onto the busy roads and traffic was moving normally.

During the day I was in the centre and west of the centre and in both areas there's already large areas with pavements showing and roads which appear to function normally. Battersea Park still had a pretty look, with snow in the trees and the cycle tracks around there were somewhat icy.

My morning meeting was across in the clubby Pall Mall area. I chatted to the receptionist and mentioned the weather. "Yes, I miss the regular snow," she replied,"it's not like home."

Her home was Poland and she explained that the snow there was more predictable and created less chaos. The usual London comment about how such a small dusting could create such a big impact.
Sloane Square in Snow
Then it was back to Sloane Square, where the arctic conditions being reported on the news were all too evident. Take a look at the above iPhone shot of the conditions probably at their peak - I even had to wait three minutes for a 137 bus.

Later in the day I had to drive out of the centre.

Still no real snow on the roads and maybe a centimetre or two along the edges.

On one hand we've been better at clearing it this time, but on another I'm wondering if there was really that much 'down south' compared with last January?

Still. It looks better on the weather maps to show a foot of snow around the capital, especially on a Friday.

...and here's conditions right now in London

Wednesday 1 December 2010

snow avoidance

An extra early start today before heading into Surrey for a meeting. I was one of the presenters so it was kind of important that I showed up, despite the various stories about huge tailbacks on the motorways and hundreds of lorries stranded in snow drifts.

I even took some snow boots in the car and an extra alpine type double layered snow jacket so that if I was stranded somewhere I could keep snug.

Of course, my entire route apart from the piece more or less outside home was almost snow free. I could see there were big hold ups in other areas based upon the little pictures of cars in line on the sat nav and I'll concede that the posh venue in it's own grounds had snow on the ground when I arrived.

It turned out that I was ridiculously early having allowed a huge safety margin for the expected arctic conditions. It gave me a chance to make a few phone calls although at 0730 there was a relatively select group of people that I could call.

By the time I left in the afternoon there was ice underfoot and a chill wind. But still no snow on the way back until I was within sight of the front door.