rashbre central: February 2012

Monday 27 February 2012

never let me go

Never Let Me Go I'd originally started to write this post a few months ago when the Kazuo Ishiguro story called 'Never Let Me Go' was running as a movie on television. I read the novel quite a long time ago but only saw the (similar) movie recently, and then watched it again on Monday as it's flittering around again on Sky.

I think when it was first on movie release it didn't get such good reviews from the critics. Contrastingly, I found its slower pace and surprisingly accepting attitudes of the main players made for quite an interesting thought piece. The main character behaviours are just not as one might expect.

The premise is a sort of alternative state of Britain, which has made some different scientific discoveries and has developed clone humans to use for spare parts. never let me go
Instead of setting it in some sort of Total Recall/Bladerunner/Terminator-esque world, we have English boarding schools, quaint farmyards and seaside homes.

Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield play Ruth, Kathy and Tommy - three young 'donors' who have been raised through the cloning process via a special school and are on the paths to their own destruction, yet accepting it in a surprisingly calm manner. I won't relate the whole story here, suffice to say their paths are quite intertwined.

There's a few more science fiction type stories that deal with the ideas of this novel, but I was reminded by its contrasts of the scenes in "O Lucky Man" when the Malcolm McDowell coffee salesman stumbles into a science research project which involves experiments with people and animals.

It's like the ideas in "O Lucky Man" with its altogether more jarring story have morphed into something both more genteel and also industrialised. A kind of erosion of the sensibilities.

Both stories play around with the role of the state and in the case of this novel and film there's the inevitable commercialisation of the processes involves, which ominously become more production lined for the successors of Ruth, Kathy and Tommy.

Sunday 26 February 2012

in which i make a few accidental holes in the wall

hole in the wall
A few domestic chores today, including the removal of a cupboard, which is off to a new home. The room it has been in also contains a deceptively large sofa which disguises its size by cunning stripes.

It reminded me of when we'd originally moved the sofa into its position in an upstairs room. It fitted the room fine, but didn't like our staircase on the way.

After more than an hour of trying to twist it around the bend in the stairs, I finally made a hole in the wall to allow the extra few centimetres it needed to twist around.

I can remember that we had a party a few days later and I'd had to hang some temporary artwork in an unusual place to hide the hole.

We said at the time that if we needed to get the sofa back out, we'd probably have to dismantle it.

Let's say that today's cupboard was moved with no trouble, but a short test run of exiting the sofa was much less successful. It means we'll need to do a spot of redecorating in the stairway, although today's holes were seated by accident and are somewhat smaller than the one when the sofa was moving in.

Meanwhile, the sofa is back in its usual position. The blue stripes will survive a little longer.

Saturday 25 February 2012

staying away from the key lime pie

The last 2-3 days I've been quite busy with work and some of it has spilled across into Saturday. Actually, there were some things I needed to do yesterday evening as well, although I'd set myself 8p.m. as the cutoff point.

Alongside it all I'm still keeping to my cycling plans and managing to hit the targets I've set. When I started I wanted the majority of the targets to be achievable, so I might have set a few of them too low, although truthfully in the first week of my plans I wondered if I'd be able to keep to it.

There's a mixture of factors affecting the weekly outcomes which include whether I'm at home, access to a functioning bike, whether I've got other tasks piled up and so on. I've realised that there can always be reasons why I can't do something, but its probably better to cultivate the positive mind set. After all, except when its slippery I do enjoy the cycling.

So, just for fun, here's a few of my recent completed goals, which get tracked by the little gadget on my bike.
garmin connect goals extract
I'm partly putting them here so that I can look back in a few months to see whether there is any difference, which could be to do with the weather, my workload or any manner of things.

If I look at the goals critically, I can see I should probably crank a few numbers north, but at the moment I think I'll stick with my overachieving.

And no, I didn't eat the cream cake at the top of the post. Although I know someone who did.

Thursday 23 February 2012

jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz

Jackdaw Well, they say that Jackdaws are harbingers of rain, so maybe the UK drought is about to end. This bird and it's mate were strutting around looking opportunistic earlier today.

I'm inclined to think they are more interested in shiny things than in telling the weather though, because I also spotted a red admiral fluttering around and a blackbird had decided it was time to fluff its feathers for a February sunbathe.

Blackbird, sunbathing

Wednesday 22 February 2012

wine, railway arches and helicopters

Westminster Bridge - City Alpha
Wine with a friend, in the railway arches, across the bridge from my main current work area in Westminster.

We'd both noticed today's increased police presence, hi-viz jackets, emergency services and helicopters around central London, linked to the events unfolding across the river in Aldwych.

It was the rehearsal of an emergency tube station terror scenario, one of the unfortunate necessities in preparation for the Olympics, as the countdown continues and London starts to change, just a little, every day.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

trouble every day

WestminsterI've been watching the TV seeing Greece sliding into the water next to traders hedging the Euro and politicians continuing to dither. Meanwhile the 'work-habit' scheme which removes benefits is being dropped by retailers and has pushed the Syrian tanks to fourth listing.

Things like the British fuel price hike and drought have been pushed out based on all the Category 1 news.

A very old Frank Zappa song won't leave my head.

Monday 20 February 2012

Sunday 19 February 2012

in which a couple of MacBook Pros get bigger disks

apple macbook pro 15 inch A small task during last weekend was recovering the disk on a silver keyboard MacBook Pro. It had been to the Apple Store and the Genius there had said it was unrecoverable and that the machine was out of warranty.

I had a quick look and realised that the disk had also been reformatted (Erased) so we effectively had an empty machine.

But it was late so I abandoned thinking about it.

Then, the next day I was walking along an unfamiliar street and happened upon a Maplin's store.

"I wonder?" I thought.

They did. They sold inexpensive SATA laptop disks that would surely fit the MacBook.

That way, if I reloaded the software, at least the disk would be a larger capacity and 5 years newer.

This was the earlier generation MacBook with the so-called 'discrete' body. It still looks pretty elegant and without many unsightly screws holding the body together.

Except...there are a lot. Most are easy to remove, but there are also two Torq TR6 in the middle of the back of the chassis. These need a special screwdriver to get out. Or (not recommended) a lot of pressure with a phillips screwdriver.

Anyway, after carefully removing the keyboard I could get to the disk. Another four screws and it was out and the new one swapped in. Put it all back together again and reload Apple's Snow Leopard OS/X and iLife from the Family Edition DVDs.

And ta-da its back like a new (empty) machine - except the original had a 100Gb disk and it now has 500Gb.

I couldn't resist getting a second disk for my 17inch MacBook Pro, which only had 120Gb and now has 750Gb after using superduper to clone the original disk before I installed the replacement.
17" MacBook Pro innards

Saturday 18 February 2012

Bridie Jackson and the Arbour

Bridie Jackson and the Arbour We were sitting down to eat an enjoyable spaghetti in Gateshead, and had plunked on the new album by Bridie Jackson and the Arbour.

It's a beautiful album of chilled folkish tracks with very atmospheric vocals featuring haunting choral sounds ranging through to an altogether more robust acapella. It's a highly accomplished debut with a talented band playing a wide range of instruments. One of those albums that registers on the first listen and just begs to be played again straight away.

But I didn't have the album when I first heard it and subsequently downloaded it from Bridie's bandcamp site. I consequently had a fresh CD copy waiting for me when I returned home.

It turns out the recording was made at the Sage in Gateshead, close to where we were sitting, and the gig at the end of February is in The Central pub, which is about five short steps from where we were eating the spaghetti. Heck, we are probably the only people to have tested the 'take-away' beer in cartons from the Central, because it's so close and because you can.

But back to the music, here's a super fret-cam of Bridie playing guitar and singing 'Prolong':

And check out the album here:

Friday 17 February 2012

the machines of loving grace sometimes get flat batteries

Back home today and wondering whether to abandon this week's 40 miles on the bike. Strictly speaking, the week ends tomorrow and this morning's total was zero miles. Most other weeks I have been well over my target (last week was around 76 miles) so I think I could miss a week without wrecking my aggregate numbers.

But it could be a slippery slope (pardon the weather related pun) so I decided instead to go for a spin. It's one of the occasions where my gadgetry could defeat my objective though. Both the bicycle head unit and the speed detector batteries appeared to be flat.

An advantage of a bike is that it's quick to be able to use, but I really did want the telemetry to operate as well. My recent exploits with a Windows PC were partly to provide a quick way to offload the bicycle metrics, from within the garage, as well as to be able to do some clever things with the GPS plots.

The bike and its speedo normally work fine, although the other telemetry can go a bit wrong, usually as a result of low batteries or sensors that I have accidentally kicked and which are therefore no longer aligned.

I'm sure they will get this stuff so that 'it just works', but at the moment it can all still be a little erratic.

Anyway, my false start clocked up 72 feet after about ten minutes of cycling. That was before I replaced the sensor battery. Undeterred, I then went on to cycle 26 miles, so if I can muster 14 more tomorrow then I will still be on track.
all watched over by machines of loving grace

Thursday 16 February 2012

Missing an appointment on Mam Tor

Mam TorThursday became something of a car day, with the trip back from the North taking a significant slice of the daylight hours.

Last Saturday had been an easy journey north, partly because there were fewer commercial vehicles on the road.

By comparison, even the trip to get fuel took around 30 minutes. The forecourt was packed with cars and then even when I'd filled up, the car in front blocked me whilst the occupants decided to go on a shopping spree in the mini-mart.

Navigating out of the superstore completed the challenge. It had been built on a major thoroughfare, but the traffic lines backed onto the main road in both directions creating all manner of hold-ups.

It was one of this occasions when I found myself mentally composing one of those 'emails to the council' about the way a store had been situated in a manner that created major road disruption. But I soon snapped out of it.

Further into the journey we wanted to take a deliberate detour to look at some scenery. The Peak District won as a chosen route and spent a happy hour or so navigating through the twists and bumps of the area before, on Mam Tor, realising we would now be late for an appointment down south.

We decided that the view from the shivering mountain was worth the inconvenience.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

i visit the house of the trembling madness

house of the trembling madness As well as Betty's, another interesting stop-off in York is the medieval hall which hides a secret pub called the House of the Trembling Madness. There is a sign on the downstairs shop window, but the place looks like a well-stocked off-licence and you have to walk through the shop to a set of stairs at the back.

At the top is a high ceilinged and beamed room as well as the tiny but creatively stocked bar. The oak beams are from ships that sailed over 800 years ago and the original building dates from 1180. There's a need for some ingenuity to get a seat in busy times, but its worth the jiggle to get snug and taste a beer or two and maybe one of the well-prepared dishes, which can include mushy peas and mash and perhaps some ghostly ingredients.

We stayed with the lower octane beers and under the counter scrumpy (although 5.5% was actually quite strong), but there's a range of Belgian monastery beers well into the 9% that would hasten me into the Confrerie van de Roze Olifant, were I to partake.

Beyond even that were a few ultra strong tipples like the 32% abv Tactical Nuclear Penguin which is probably best admired in the bottle.

got live, if you want it

live theatre
Sometimes you'll be in a situation where there s conversation that you just wish it was possible to hit 'record' to capture all the ideas.

Not the full 30 minute blow-by-blow, but a much shorter segment usually, a two or three minute sound bite that really works and resonates.

I had one of those on Tuesday, when we were sitting in an Italian restaurant eating lunchtime ciabattas and savouring the charcoal flavours all the time in a conversation about 'the now'.

Including whether to write about things as they occur or to wait and reflect.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Rösti in Yorkshire

Betty's So, here we are in York.

Betty's for a fizzy early supper with the blend of Yorkshire and Switzerland.

I'll go for the Rösti (mit Bratchäs), but don't need the offered chutney. Raclette cheese on roughly grated potato works for me, even if there's arguments raging amongst others.

I know which side of the Rostigraben to stand, even in Valentine's Yorkshire.

Sunday 12 February 2012

humorous carnage in tyneside

We didn't need much of an excuse to visit the famous old Tyneside Cinema in the early part of an evening. Its down a side alley and holds its secrets to unfold as you walk into the small foyer but then discover the delights beyond.

Tyneside Cinema Originally built in an art deco style by Dixon Scott, a true movie enthusiast, there's also an area dedicated to showing the evolution of the movies. And Dixon's nephews include both Ridley and Tony Scott so there's quite a lineage.

We were going to see the comedy of manners called 'Carnage', from Yasmina Reza's play 'God of Carnage' which has also been on in the West End.

It's a tightly wound piece, which Polanski pretty much 'filmed in a box'. When it starts you think two of the four main players are about to leave the apartment they are visiting. An hour and a half later you've seen them explore ever more spirited arguments, blended with middle class manners and sensibilities which are then progressively pared back.

There's not a dull moment, in this 'play on the big screen' and aside from the many humorous parts I also found it kind of exhausting baed upon the attitudes of the sparring families. The underpinning argument was about a playground tiff that ended in a blow and loose teeth. The adults did it with somehow more finesse, but similar outcomes.

Saturday 11 February 2012


Tyne We picked a surprisingly quick route to the north east where we soon fell into a lively Italian restaurant to begin catching up on various events.

After London, it's as if all the bridges in central Newcastle have been somehow compressed together, along with the elevated scenery, all juxtaposed into a compact series of three dimensional puzzles.

This makes it a great city for walking, so except for the end of a long evening, when a taxi came in useful, the rest of the time has been on foot.

a pint of bitter in a thin glass

Get Carter 2No prizes for guessing where we are bundling ourselves off to in a car this weekend.

Well, OK then - Newcastle and Gateshead.

We won't see Carter there, but I may just take the DVD.

Friday 10 February 2012

midnight diamonds

2am snow

It's way after midnight and too late to expect new tyre tracks in the fresh snow.

I've cleared the pans of courgettes, tomatoes and some kind of garlic kicker.

Nearby I hear an argument about money or alimony but doubt that George can beat Catherine.

There's red wine threatening me in the glass, but I've already decided clarity will assist the morning's early start.

I look back to the diamond glitter and wonder whether the route north will be clear in time.

Thursday 9 February 2012

another evening in town

some kind of mimosa with vodka
A place near the main drag all lit in neon, with shadow glass and five types of chrome. Someone planned for us all to be here although sushi had given way to some kind of Chinese French. I'd got a spare seat next to me for a late arrival, so she'd be near the middle instead of out on the edges.

We'd already played out quite a few hands during the afternoon, so the permanent nighttime of the bar gave excuses to pretend leave the real business by the door.

Place some clarinet around the bass backbeat. Click a few fingers near the candles.

Not dark enough for some though; wearing shades to hide their expressions.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

furnished with blue lights, baby

CBW mono grunge
I've still got to clear half an apartment's worth of 'why?' to make some building space.

There's less than four weeks until more things arrive and there needs to be somewhere intermediate.

Old stuff out. New stuff in.

Then more old stuff out.

And that's just the holding space.

It's a good theory.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

i smoke my friends down to the filter

anders petersen cafe lehmitz 1969 Sometimes you have to pick a corner so when the bar fills you can still spot the friendly faces. The smile that might not be complete recognition but you know its the right person. The one that tells you the dreams are still alive and they don't all belong to someone else.

So yesterday, we'd picked to meet in a barroom I'd never visited and I arrived so early that the barman was kneeling, lighting log fires in the hearths.

I'd already checked my overcoat pockets for burned out ferris wheel lights or other tell-tale signs of recent misdemeanours. My hands came out clean and ready to wave in the candle-light.

We were both forward lookers so after only a glance or two over our shoulders we moved it right along - fun going forward. Of course there were secrets but none that the wine won't protect or another day can't provide for a slow reveal.

Picture : Anders Petersen - Cafe Lehmitz - 1960

Monday 6 February 2012

shilling installments

Gustav Dore - Ludgate Circus
It's been both a cold and foggy evening with shapes melting away after about 20 feet* of distance.

It all seems right and appropriate on the eve of Charles Dicken's 200th Anniversary and I'll celebrate the various cliches about London Town and fogs for the occasion.

Like many, I studied Dickens back in school, with the text of Hard Times as a set piece along with Shakespeare, Chaucer and George Orwell. The names of Thomas Gradgrind, steeped in Facts, Sleary the lisping circus owner, Bitzer and Bounderby are enough to conjure plot lines even before the first pages are turned.

Everyone knows 'Oliver Twist' and 'A Christmas Carol' but there's plenty more of Dicken's stories out there, written as serials, the affordable soap operas of the day.

Weird then, to be asked a couple of days ago about whether I had any use for a set of Dicken's novels. They are one set that I'd happily make a space to enjoy in shilling installments.

* non metric in context with the rest of the post

Sunday 5 February 2012

a thin kind of snow

footprints in the snow We were walking around the low-water Thames tide at Ransome's Dock yesterday, just before the snow arrived. We'd already pressed our noses to the windows of The Albert, but decided instead to make our way back across the almost deserted park.

The pub was jam-packed as if everyone had decided to go somewhere ahead of the ever more excited weather forecasts.

So maybe today invites a chance to contemplate. This morning's few footprints can tell stories but it's mainly that everyone and their cats are adjusting plans.

And this snow without flurries is already fast melting. A freeze frame moment just before hitting Play.

Friday 3 February 2012

in which I am offered a Lear Jet

unexpected mail shot Oh well, I suppose it makes a change from the mail-shots about moving money and treasure from various African states. Oh, and those pharma solutions which intriguingly have recently been Millibanded with all the 'a's turned into 'o's.

Yep, today's mail shot was offering me a share of a Lear Jet. The all new carbon-composite Type 85 actually.

I'm not sure though. If the plane is based in America it may prove a trifle inconvenient for flights around Europe. I've had a look at the convenient flight planning ready reckoner and will admit I'm now slightly confused about the differences between Super-Light and Midsize, when the Super-Light seems to have a higher capacity. Maybe its the quality of the upholstery and the improved selection of beverages?

I expect I'm getting all this new attention since the recent spike in the traffic through rashbre central. Admittedly it was my wild speculation about some new technology a few days ago, but the daily stats jumped to 4,500 hits in a single day for just one item. Maybe I could use some new transportation to stay connected.

Or maybe I'll just stay with my carbon-composite bicycle for a bit longer.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

in which I discover my bike's inadvertent blog

focus cayo
I had a slight surprise today when I found that my bike seemed to have it's own blog.

Well, not exactly a blog, but at least an RSS stream which I'd picked up on my RSS reader.

It's my own fault that it happened. I've written about it before, but I use the ANT + system to allow the various speedometers and such-like to communicate on my bicycle. ANT + is a bit like a mini Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for use over short distances and mainly used for counting things like speed, cadence and heart-rate.

Of course, these things can be counted whilst pedalling the bike, but also saved as statistics. And that's what happened to the numbers from my bike. They were offloaded to another system, stored away and quietly published into the cloud.

Now I don't particularly mind, but I was slightly surprised to see them appearing as a stream of messages on my Newsreader - even back to before my slippy-slidey ride from over a year ago. It was like a little history trip, but without all of the detail.

And I realised that some of the other things that ANT + can count include weight, body mass...the list goes on.

I've decided it might be best to switch off that particular social stream. My bike will have to be blog-less.