rashbre central: November 2012

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Drobo 5D heralds domestic disk drives dramatic decluttering

I'm removing some of the build up of small disk drives that have proliferated around the home network.

There's all kinds of drives with video, photos and miscellaneous other stuff. And that's as well as a network attached storage unit.

There's even one of those disk docking stations that can have raw drives plugged in, like a sort of 'cassette' hard drive. They all have power cables and connectors, so it gradually becomes quite a tangle. At night, one room looks a little like the inside of the TARDIS, with all the twinkly lights.

I've been using a Drobo 5D as the replacement. So far I've consolidated several terabytes of separate loose drives and I've got a few more in my sights.

The Drobo is remarkably quiet and cool running unit about the size of a sliced loaf of bread. The completely plug-and-play unit works out the most frequently used data and caches it onto a solid state drive. Behind the SSD storage layer there's a set of hot pluggable hard drives which can provide a solid RAID 6 type protection. That's the level where a pair of drives could fail but the system is still hot recoverable.

The unit is also fast on a Thunderbolt connection and even quite usable as a data server on a USB connection.

I think it's described as a 'RAID6 like' because it has an interesting additional ability (so called BeyondRAID) to mix the drives both by size and type and if needed to hot swap to a larger unit.

I suppose it raises an interesting question about where all of this data originated? A few years ago the rashbre home network would have been sub-terabyte in totality. It's the increases in binary large objects like photos, music and videos that has bumped the space consumption so quickly.

And of course the need to have a second copy of everything stored on a different system.

This little unit seems to be a very effective as a main place to store everything. I think I'll hold out on updating the networked NAS unit until this technology can be trickled onto the LAN as well. I'm guessing there will be a Drobo 5N announced before long.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

splish splash

Untitled It's a "spot the anomaly" quiz today. A quiet road scene from a few days ago. What are the strange conditions in this picture?

Saturday 24 November 2012

checking for bark scorpions and Sedona gas stations

Fortunately I took some snapshots when we were wandering around the deserts a while ago.

It's meant that some of the scenes I'm writing at the moment can be at least partly based upon some form of reality.

I can even remember the boot bashing and clothes shaking rituals associated with checking for scorpions. The little itsy 2 inch cream coloured ones were supposed to be the most trouble.

Maybe it was exaggerated a bit because I was a tourist, but I wouldn't be taking any chances.

Anyway, my little cast are still out in the desert with all these creepy critters - although I've managed to keep a London angle as well. Although it's rather soggy wet and grey in the London parts of the story.

Friday 23 November 2012

leaf less

leaf less
I'm sure the last time I looked at that tree in the front garden, it still had leaves?

Thursday 22 November 2012

pen and paper time in #nanowrimo

I'd predicted that I'd have to slow down on the NaNoWriMo this week because of work, and that's exactly what has happened.

Fortunately, I front loaded the month's effort, with the intention of getting ahead, although it meant getting the word count up to 5k per day to achieve this.

The plan worked quite well and I managed to create the main story arc, but I missed a couple of major themes that I only thought of after I'd written past where they would occur.

I therefore decided to just keep going to the end. My plan would be to re-build the missing parts. At least I know that there is an end for the story; something that was a problem in my last 'completed' NaNo attempt.

Once I'd concluded the story, I printed the whole messy draft - which by now was 320 pages of typed, double spaced A4.

I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who is still trying to hit the 50k target, because of the temptation to start editing. As I'm up around 69k, I think I'm already in the safe zone.

The difference to progress since producing the hard copy is that the word count change is now minimal and probably will just about flip into 70k before the end of the month.

What is surprising me is just how much the story managed to cover in the main writing period. There's dozens of errors on every page, but it still feels like something usable.

Now for a proper pen and paper type edit.

Monday 19 November 2012

spiking a little high

Morning and evening darkness and a very low sun yet still around a month to the shortest day.

As I returned from work the sun disappeared before I'd even caught the Tube.

Then when I emerged again, it was also steadily raining. I'd already decided that the evening would feature a spin on the bike, and by this point knew it would be a turbo trainer session.
The little graph shows that I ran out of steam before the end of the session. I'd not noticed that the last three blocks of spinning would be combinations of high effort mixed with short recovery slots.

I managed the first block's ups and downs, but then had to admit defeat. I can't really blame the depressing movie I was watching. I think I had the whole session dialled up a bit high. My tee-shirt noticed.

I'll admit I had spotted the hardest bit of the programme was the last 30 or so minutes, but not the spikiness. Maybe too much after a busy day. I bailed 23 minutes from the end.

I shall need to practice some more before I try that particular sequence again.

Sunday 18 November 2012

excuse to show a snapshot of a vinyl record

Okay, I know I was really playing around with wide aperture blurring of the background of a snapshot, after watching the sumptuous photography in The Killing III. I picked the record player because I happened to be sitting close to it.

It reminded me that we were chatting about old vinyl records on Friday and I mentioned that I still played them. A couple of others came forward and said they did too.

I've noticed the phenomenon that some new albums are available on vinyl again. I received one a few days ago actually - with its proper artwork and packaging.

I also ordered another one a couple of weeks ago, which gave me the instant gratification of a set of MP3 downloads, but I still have to wait several weeks for the actual vinyl copy to arrive.

There's still something right about the 20 or so minutes per side ritual of LPs compared with the snacking of shuffled single tracks.

Saturday 17 November 2012

the power of a bounce

Testing Tigger 2
The wonderful thing about this Tigger is as well as being bouncy, it can be trained to sit very still.

It's my temporary substitute for an upturned eggcup and a pingpong ball, which will become a minor project over the next day or two.

A group of us found ourselves marvelling at the effects that an Anglepoise lamp could have upon a circle and a rectangle, whilst on the 10th floor of the Blue Fin Building in Southwark.

It was a session with a gang of well-known photography types and we were all picking up tips on better ways to shoot pictures.

It was 'all about the picture' rather than about the gear, and very good for it. I was particularly struck by a suspicion that I've had for a long time being confirmed.

I've often wondered whether all those extra modes and menus on cameras were really necessary, based upon my days with film where aperture, shutter speed, ISO and focus seemed to suffice.

That was the general gist in this session as well. Simplified to 'Go manual'.

So I'll need the ping-pong ball balanced upon the upturned eggcup and an anglepoise lamp to 'play god' with the lighting of a scene, to simulate sunrise to sunset and the different positioning effects it creates.

In the meantime, its a bit of an experiment with a couple of speedlights to tide me over.

Not to mention some further experiments with that variable light source I've got access to for free. Yes, daylight.

Friday 16 November 2012

cops and robbers

I was on a tube train today when I heard a typical exchange about the recent UK elections for the Police Commissioners.

I should note that London itself has been excluded from the voting; something to do with Boris, I think.

The exchange went something like,

"Did you vote?"
"No, not yet. When do they close?"
"The Polling Stations?"

It sort of sums it up for this piece of almost sabotaged democratic process. Hardly any publicity. No leaflets to voters in most areas. The official website for candidates gave slightly messy one-pagers from each candidate, which all said roughly the same things: More police on the street; clampdown on bad things; improve victim rights; control of finance.

And usually something about why whichever candidate is better than any other for some 'unique selling point reason'.

And mysteriously, quite a few candidates were ex Westminster politicians who had now mysteriously become experts on policing matters. Even some of the 'Independents' appear to be ex party folk too. It would surely be wrong to call the PCC a form of pension package?

So there wasn't really much to separate the candidates for a process that most of us don't understand, but which leads to the politicising of the police force.

Listening to the 'selected ones' in this 14.99% turnout process is also salutary. Instead of recognising that they have paper thin support and in some cases were only elected after the first and second choice votes were merged illustrates the point.

That they are declaring themselves 'victors', when they have maybe an average of 6% support from the electorate already illustrates a lack of ethical compass.

Trying now to search for the actual results is interesting. It reveals the people with the highest aggregated votes, but even the official PCC site and the Home Office site is keeping quiet about the actual numbers.

PCC voter distribution
In the end, I did some quick digging myself and created my own graph. The average % from this graph is 5.88% of the electorate selecting the winning candidate - and remember it can use two votes because of the arcane Supplementary Voting system used - which I suspect many didn't fully understand in any case.

I know the selected candidates are calling this a triumph, but I'm not sure for what?

Wednesday 14 November 2012

printing a first #nanowrimo text

First print of the 321 pages/69000 words
Tomorrow I'm out at meetings all day and Friday I'm on a course, so last night and this afternoon were my chances to crash out the last few sections of the NaNoWriMo.

I know I'm ahead of the word target, but that was partly a self preservation thing because I have some complicated weeks in late November which could interfere with progress.

I've therefore tried to blast through the writing part at an unhealthy and often late night rate to get the main wordage completed. I'm at around 69,000 words at present, against the NaNoTarget of 50,000.

I can honestly say I didn't really have an idea about this story until I started typing the first paragraph on the first of November, so it's quite fascinating once again as a process.

I've also just printed a first copy - I won't refer to it a first draft - there are way too many errors, typos and the like, including some large sections where I decided to skip fiddly speech punctuation in the interests of speed.

So the first printed copy will be the one where I realise just how many obvious bloopers there are, as well as needing to patch up a couple of significant plot points which have gone awry. I also had a good idea part way through which I haven't managed to incorporate. It will have to wait for the first revision.

Not forgetting a few notes to myself of the type that say "Describe the ..." where I was too dazed to attempt the relevant prose.

It's also strangely different from my normal blogging, where I'll usually try to keep the text fairly short. I've noticed the blogging word count creeping up on a few recent posts.

Something about "I didn't have time to send you a short report, so I sent you a long one instead?"

Tuesday 13 November 2012

almost fictional

I suppose I'm making the most of the weather at the moment. We've had a couple of quite fine days with sunshine across the golden leaves. I think I've reached the end of the time for this year that I'll be going out cycling in my shorts, though. Standing on the grassy humpty bridge may look idyllic, but there's a distinct chill in the air.

It's also been interesting trying to keep up with the novel writing whilst doing other work as well. On balance, I think it's easier having some external stimuli, because if all else fails one can use the scene in front as the basis for something in the story.

Somehow I've managed to already get past the official target for NaNoWriMo this year, but I've still got a couple more sections to finish to get the first rough shape of this current story organised. I also need some pauses to gather my wits and to scheme and plot.

I think I may hit 70,000 words before I've completed the first incredibly rough draft. Then I'll need to go back through the wreckage and see whether I can salvage anything usable.

I've just had an interesting section where I sat several of the characters down together to talk about what had been happening. I wanted to see whether they could figure it out more than I could. Fortunately they had some better ideas than me, so naturally I'll follow their line of thinking rather than my own.

Some would say you can't make this stuff up.

Sunday 11 November 2012


Waverley Abbey - Lay Brothers' Refectory
A late breakfast appointment in Surrey before a sunny stroll in the countryside.

As my picture shows, we enjoyed a look around the remains of a 12th Century Cistercian Monastery. Henry VIII had it closed down in 1536, although there's still a good portion of the Waverley Abbey remaining.

Then later, an evening back in Spitalfields, where we visited another chapel, this time from the Victorian era and nowadays a rather fabulous restaurant.

Time for some Michelin star gourmand dining, with accompanying sommelier wine choices.

But then, in fairness, it was my birthday.
Birthday venue

Saturday 10 November 2012

Ian Rankin documentary in #nanowrimo month #nanolondon #nanoscotland

Ian Rankin
I think I owe Ian Rankin something.

It's not as if I've been a great fan and read all of his novels (though I have read a couple and seen some of the Rebus series on television).

But the other night on television there was a documentary (click here for the iPlayer link) about him and his writing.

I found it quite fascinating. Rankin is one of the best-selling UK authors and has written many principally crime-genre books, most of which climb straight into the top of the charts.

During the documentary there was a sequence at a Waterstone's bookstore and the assistant there was saying how much Rankin novels help keep them and other bookshops going.

The fascinating and quite generous spirited part of the documentary for me was the relatively raw access to Rankin's writing process. He'd been given a little camcorder to make a diary of his start on the latest book. He talks to camera quite a lot and that gives the whole piece something of a conversational feel.

We see him collect various scraps of paper with ideas, sift them, start writing and sketch out a first draft. He makes various asides about how good (or otherwise) it is, whether he's really worked out 'whodunit' by the end of the first draft and so on. Even a glimpse that this is maybe a kind of a road trip disguised as a crime fiction?

There's long start-up times in the morning, involving coffee shops and newspapers.

There's quite a lot of self reflection about the quality of the piece. There's clearly an ego, like the shot as he passes Ian Rankin Court in his home town, but there's also a good amount of introspection and critical self doubt.

Ian Rankin is a millionaire writer, so his credentials and popularity can't really be questioned. Nor can the long lines at his book signings.

What made this a fascinating piece in NaNoWriMo month is how the human process looked so similar to the one that most of us rather more amateur scribblers must go through.
standing in another man's grave - Rankin
Rankin makes no bones about how additional television presence helps sales and that he'll look at 250,000 units from a new novel, maybe aided by some on-screen publicity. Acknowledging his pre-Chrietmas book launch, it was still a good decision to schedule this episode of the "Imagine" series during the Nanowrimo month.

I think I know what to do to say 'thank you' to Mr Rankin.


Friday 9 November 2012

clicked over 50k in #nanowrimo but still a way to go

Well, some of the characters have just been through Bluff in Utah in their pickup truck and are stuck on a farm track at the moment. They are still piecing together the government's cover-up.

I think someone shadowy will need to show their hand and then the full scale of what is unfolding will become apparent.

I've just flipped over the 50,000 word mark but there's still at least two or three chapters to run and I somehow don't think it is going to turn out well for everyone involved.
Nanowrimo 50058 words

Thursday 8 November 2012

star wars meets angry birds

I know.

so tired, tired of waiting

Florida voting?
I'm just a little intrigued by the delays affecting the Florida voting from the US election.

My original reason was somewhat trivially because I'd put together my own quick home made prediction of the final vote and wanted to see how it finally played out.

I'd guessed that Florida would go Republican, but maybe hadn't predicted the 'Miami factor' which could skew the result to the Democrats based upon the Latino vote. Look at how red/Republican Florida looks, although quite a few of the red squares are quite low populations compared with the few big blue/Democrat ones like Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

My quick look at the projections showed the gap between Obama and Romney in Florida was around 45,000, which is why, I assume, things are taking so long to stabilise.

I notice also that Florida has a particularly large number of voter exclusions, such that almost a quarter of African Americans in Florida are not allowed to vote.

So I'm wondering if, among the virtual hanging chads, there is now an examination of 45,001 votes for their authenticity? It would make quite a difference to the final Electroral College positioning.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

hey now baby, get into my big black car

I haven't written this scene yet, but it's the part where Clare gets taken away by the people in the black car. She's been in Santa Fe and got separated from the others.

Of course the black car can't be seen by itself, so there's another one behind in the manner of all good movie plots. They can drive away together to add some menace.

And the thing is, I haven't quite figured out what will happen to Clare next, but I'll bet she will have some ideas if I don't.

One thing I've noticed in this Nano novel is that the characters are getting to stay in some pretty fancy hotels as a consequence of the story line.

Of course, I'll make sure there's a few more rustic looking venues as well. I think this barn in Durango is going to show up later and probably that red truck as well.

And I'll still make sure there's a London end to the story. Just because the characters start in Arizona doesn't mean they can't have some scenes in London as well.

And come to think of it, a diner on Route 66 would be pretty essential. Shake it up

Monday 5 November 2012

trying to predict the US election with a few pundit numbers?

Pundit analysis
Nearly all of the US election commentary on UK television say that the American pre-election polls are too close to call. I can't help thinking that everyone is worrying about whether or not the electorate turn out in sufficient quantities. Given the billions of dollars spent by the two candidates then I suppose most people should show up at the polling stations.

I thought I'd take a bunch of the data based upon the US Electoral College voting system and try to crunch it to predict the outcome. I grabbed a range of predictions from a few diverse sources including some with obvious political biases in both directions.

The first thing was to sort the various random predictions into an ascending order. Then I decided to ignore the outliers like to 440/98 split that one prediction drives. That provided a core set of results which pivoted something like a 20% probability to Romney and 80% to Obama.

My calculation gives the result to be something like 303 Obama and 235 Romney.

But hey, this is just playing with numbers.

UPDATE Weds, Nov 7th, 12:00GMT (coffee break): Well, as the morning arrived and the votes had been counted, astonishingly, I had the Obama number accurately pegged at 303. The Romney number was light though because Florida's votes were not in.

I seem to remember Florida has featured in previous voting lateness.

Whats that old joke? When will your count be ready? - How many votes did you say you need?

On this occasion, I'd assumed that Florida would tip to Romney, which would have made my forecast spot on. What I think will happen (Florida's vote count is still not in) is that actually Obama will also get Florida by about 45,000 votes. This will mean the last 29 votes go to Obama instead of Romney. Instead of 303-235 it could be something like 332-206. Therefore my calculation will be out and an even more extreme win for Obama will have ensued - probably courtesy of Miami and environs.

It will be good to see if Obama can deliver 'the best is yet to come' without the pressure of having a further fight for office. Also whether the Republicans in the House of Representatives can avoid the pettiness which can otherwise stop sensible decisions from being made.

Sunday 4 November 2012

time portal discovered in London?

Time Portal discovered in Central London
I decided to try to get a bit ahead on that novel writing month thing because of work next week. It's made the last couple of days a little bit strange, but as I was a bit cold-ified in any case it meant I could blend Lem-Sip with typing.

I've even printed a google map of the route my characters are taking around part of America in my story. It bears an uncanny resemblance to some of the places I visited a while ago, which will help when I need to fill in some detail later on.

At the moment I'm trying to get the main chunks of plot blocked out and conveniently the characters are all being most helpful in directing the way to solve problems.

So I haven't had to spend time discovering time portals in London or anything similarly improbable to keep on track. And I'm secretly rather pleased that I've managed to get somewhat ahead of the targets.

Although I'm equally sure that when I eventually look back over what I've been doing, there will be some major remediation required.

But so far the need for a time portal lies dormant.

Saturday 3 November 2012

it landed outside City Hall #nanowrimo #nanolondon

it landed outside City Hall
I know, it looks like a ready made plot line, but it's not the one for me this year.

I've decided to hang in there with the desert caper which I originally considered for NaNoWriMo a year ago. Not that I did any work on it at the time though.

It didn't make sense for me to attempt it last time and I used the time instead to re-edit some of the work I'd produced previously. There was no point in counting the words at that time, so I quietly dropped out of the NaNoWriMo system after about a day.

This time I have started with a completely blank sheet of paper and a stuttery beginning, but now the story is up and running I can see some of the ways to drive it along.

I'm using the most basic structure ideas based around setup/initial problem/bigger problem/biggest problem/resolution/finale this time and trying to drive out the plot more than the descriptions of weather systems. As was the case the last time I wrote something, the characters all have minds of their own again.

I've genuinely surprised myself so far. Although it may be limping along with a need for many running repairs (like when I changed a character name part way through), it does seem to be stacking up word count.

Because of work commitments I've decided to blitz this first weekend to get as far ahead as I can because of the inevitable slow down as real world kicks in on Monday.

Literary masters may scorn the rapid creation approach, but I think it helps to get the creativity running and I know the subsequent edits may overturn some sizeable chunks of the initial piece. I think Hemingway had a famous quote about first drafts.

And if anyone else is seeking inspiration and wants to borrow the scene from my photograph...well I took it last week and the 'Thing' is still there - right next to London's City Hall.

Friday 2 November 2012

split between London and Scottsdale

I've dropped the characters into Arizona this time. I decided to give them a short lived treat at a luxury spa hotel before I sling them out into the desert with all manner of problems.

Some of the smaller problems have already started. They've already got split up and at least one of them is quite the worse for wear.

I've only got the vaguest idea of a plot and was just sketching out a few ideas so that I have something to write about during the weekend.

The first 500-600 words came quite slowly, but it is picking up speed now. I'm even slightly ahead (around 4k), but I think I'll feel better if I can use part of the weekend to build up some word count.

I should really be writing it now, but this is a few minutes break whilst the kettle boils for a cuppa.

Thursday 1 November 2012


James Bond runs along Parliament Street
We braved the lashing 45 degree rain, strolling zombies and caped crusaders on our way to see the new James Bond film yesterday evening.

Actually we were served by the green witch in the pizza place before heading to the late evening show and on the escalator encountered some blood streaked and very pale faced leather-clad people.

But oh, yes, the same cinema was also screening a late night Rocky Horror Picture Show.

So what to make of the Bond movie?

I don't really want to say too much about the plot, which has a suitably fast paced start, with plenty of action before the opening credits roll. We also get some good locations like Istanbul and Shanghai which feature casinos, skyscrapers, fancy bars and glittering hotels. And Bond meets his fair share of intriguing women along the way - oh and a good villain of course.

So I guess plenty of the James Bond franchise boxes are ticked. There's also some references to old school spying versus more modern interpretations. A kind of action hero meets 21st century global spook technology stripe through proceedings.

There's also some good London Town moments, with MI/SI6 on the Thames, plenty of running around Whitehall and some tube trains thrown in for good measure.

Come to think of it they are some of the exact streets I've been along today for work.

I could say more but there's some pieces best left as surprises for those that intend to see the film. I quite enjoyed it although I felt there were a few slightly lengthy scenes that slowed the pace.

I noticed they have re-introduced a small amount of the humour too, which I think adds to the enjoyment of Bond movies.

Were there some plot holes? I think so. One did sort of bug me, but I won't describe it here. Did it matter? Not hugely, I think we had a good experience watching the film as mainstream entertainment. A fitting ramp into my own scribbling as November arrives and NaNoWriMo kicks off.