rashbre central: December 2012

Monday 31 December 2012

rashbre central's year in 3 minutes video (2012)

The end of the year is the right time to do one of those bonkers videos summarising the year.

Sometimes people say they think the year has passed quickly.

I tend to disagree when I look back over all the things we've done.

Even when it's edited down, it all still looks pretty busy - and that's without showing work or shopping.

Enjoy this skittish 3 minute version of rashbre central's year. That's around 1 second for every weekday. There's some pictures from the blog and a few other stories too.

Happy New Year.

Sunday 30 December 2012

pause awhile with three jolly wheelers

Three Jolly Wheelers
A late afternoon visit to the Three Jolly Wheelers in Woodford Bridge, Essex.

It was a pub which I hadn't visited for a very long time. Someone asked me if I remembered the inside and I had to confess that I'd treated it as if it was a new location, because of the changes to the layout.

The original pub dates from around the 1830s. What I remembered was a substantially different layout which had separate public and saloon bars. The beers used to be sold at different prices depending on the level of bar decor. There had even been a small off licence tacked on to the side.

Of course, all of that has been obliterated in various modernisations, through the times when pubs had become more open plan and egalitarian. On our particular evening it was very quiet, but bracing itself for the next and densely packed New Year's Eve.

Just along the road, another Grade II listed hostelry from the 1500s hasn't survived as a pub. It used to be called Ye Olde Kings Head (yes, really), and had been a Charles Dickens inspiration for The Maypole in Barnaby Rudge.

Then Lord Alan Sugar bought it a few years ago and it is now operating as a somewhat black and gold Tudor Turkish restaurant. I guess it's handy for Lord Sugar, who lives just around the corner in Chigwell, within walking distance of the establishment.

I normally focus on 'fun going forward', but what with year end and all, it is also interesting to briefly look at 'fun going back'.

Saturday 29 December 2012

let me tell you what I want - steppin' out

Wannabe staircase
We moved the operations centre for rashbre central to somewhere with a big staircase for part of the Christmas break.

It turns out that our venue was also the one where the Spice Girls broke into the party at the start of their first video.

Then someone else told me it was the same location used in one of the Batman movies and then it also turned out to be featured in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

We aren't making any movies here, but will still enjoy the theatricality of the enormous staircases and magical artefacts.

Friday 28 December 2012

Coal Hole

We had that dilemma on Friday evening. We'd found a good table in a bar but needed to be somewhere else in about an hour.

Somebody suggested we should move across to the Savoy, which was close to our mid evening destination, but I was a little concerned.

The logic was perfect; to front load the journey time and then not be worried about being late at the destination.

I was more dubious about whether we'd get anywhere to sit at the Savoy. It says 'no reservations are necessary' but can be troublesome* to get into.

We headed across in any case, did that thing where you drive along the Continental side of the street at the entrance and then found ourselves in the spacious and quiet lobby.

I think this was to lull us into a false sense of security, because as we headed for the American Bar I could see the numbers increasing and sure enough both this bar and the Thames Foyer were full.

They manoeuvred us away and suggested we try the Beaufort bar back along the corridor and around the corner. I'd already heard them say we might get standing room there, but as we entered I could see a waiter on a course to intercept us.

"No room at the Inn" was the basics of his message.

"Coal Hole?" someone suggested. We all nodded and tripped back outside and around the corner to the bustling standy-up bar along the Strand.
coal hole
* including the incident without a tie, but that is another story.

Thursday 27 December 2012

unexpected time warp

Accidentally landed in a partly monochrome world today, as we found ourselves in a town which had transported itself back to the Second World War.

We'd headed there for lunch unaware of the special event and were initially bemused to see so many American and British troops from World War Two on leave, alongside civilians in 1940's clothing.
The we realised that the steam train hauled by a U Class steam locomotive from Alton had just arrived and many were disembarking for Christmas leave before the train's return trip with Winston Churchill on board.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

waiting for the text message

Christmas Carol Card
We are in that traditional slightly bleary-eyed moment on Boxing Day*, when we've had some breakfast and are waiting for the text message to say which pub has been selected.

It will be walkable, although I'm not quite sure if that sleet is about to turn to snow.

* Boxing Day derives from giving the servants the day after Christmas Day as a day's holiday and providing them with a box of goodies to take their families. It's sung about in 'Good King Wenceslas'

Monday 24 December 2012

countdown commenced

It's quiet here at the moment and probably will be for about the next half an hour.

I've just returned from a sunny walk between the rain showers, delivering a few cards by hand in nearby roads.

Right now I'm sitting down with a mug of tea watching the outdoor lights starting to twinkle again. I can hear distant church bells ringing out.

It's not even four o'clock but the sun is starting to set.

In a few more minutes it will start to get busy around here.

It's beginning to feel a bit like Christmas.

Happy Christmas.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Santa speed calculations and parcel tracking

santa claus
I've been watching a parcel addressed to me being tracked across the globe from China over the last few days. It made good progress from Shanghai to Cologne but then seems to have slowed down a bit.
Parcel tracking
It reminded me of the Santa Calculations, which I first published back in 2006 and then updated in 2010. The world population has increased since my earlier calculations and I decided to use the 2012 world population estimate of 7.06 Billion instead of my prior calculation of 6 Billion.

To set the scene, here's the 2012 link to the Santa tracking system created by NORAD.

And my usual reminder that an ideal last minute gift is, of course, the rashbre novel - The Triangle, now also available as a Kindle download for around a dollar.

For those of you who are more interested in the technology of Santa, NORAD's FAQs provide the following:
NORAD Sleigh technical data
I've again used the Joel Potischman and Bruce Handy calculations as the basis for the speed calculations, with my own adaptations:

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.

Santa passes Big Ben
Calculation Assumptions (2012):

- World population = 7.06 billion
- Children under 18 = 2.353 billion (Hmm may be higher)
- Global Santa based belief systems: 33%
- Max children requiring delivery therefore 784 million
- Children per household: 3.5 (may seem high?)
- Number of households requiring distribution 224 million
- Naughty to nice factor applied but not many all naughty households
- Remove all naughty households (25% 0f 10%) = 5.6 million
- Eastern orthodox using Jan 5 instead of Dec 25 = 16 Million
- Target Households = 202 million on Dec 25
- 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 1810.
So average delivery per household is 552 milliseconds, 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. I think the acceleration and deceleration per household may also need some examination.

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

Saturday 22 December 2012

securely stickered after shopping

lego police van
I seem to have accumulated a small pile of those square stickers that have little radio aerials built into them as some form of shoplifting protection. They seem to be on many products nowadays and can, irritatingly, mess up the pristine packaging of gifts.

I realise that the cost of the stickers has dropped so they can be applied to more things, but it does create that moment of truth when leaving a shop about whether something already paid for will go beep.

If they have been well-applied to the cellophane wrapping of a product, then the only way to remove them is by removing the cellophane as well. This could create an impression that the gift has already been opened.

I can't help wonder whether someone determined to steal might not just put their candidate pilfered item into something lined with metal (like one of those "stay cool" backpacks) or just something lined with tinfoil?

I suppose the surveillance cameras would spot that, but it then reduces the need for the little stickers?

Oh well.

Friday 21 December 2012

midwinter on a sunny beach

Seaside on shortest day
It's the shortest day today and I suppose it's also midwinter.

After my early morning work phone calls finished, I could have taken some time out for shopping. Maybe a shopping centre, a mall or even a supermarket?

The weather was suggesting an alternative. Despite all of the recent rain, there was a blue sky of the kind you see in watercolour paintings.

Why not a visit to the beach?

So we did.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

not feeling D Love from DAB

penguin radio
The fancy radio in the kitchen is playing up again. It sounds like there's a very raucous chicken stuck inside it.

By comparison the £10 lo-tech shower radio that looks like a penguin works fine.

I thought the idea with DAB digital radio was that it was supposed to be 'better' but there still seem to be some problems.

The first DAB radio I used was several years ago. It was a bedside radio and looked neat in a sort of 1950s way but needed a 1 metre telescopic aerial in order to work.

It's controls were slightly obscure too and when it blew up after a couple of years I replaced it with a normal FM clock radio again.

The radio in the kitchen is part of a mini hi-fi system but is notoriously difficult to keep tuned. The scalded cat sounds on DAB mean there's a tendency to retune to FM and forgo some of the extra channels.

I can't understand why the reception is so bad. I've unplugged it and moved it around. I've moved the aerial. I've got a booster aerial. Nothing seems to work.

By comparison, my car has a DAB tuner and it seems to work well, even when parked right outside the house where the other radio doesn't work.

At the moment the BBC are evangelising DAB continuously. Someone should tell them it doesn't work properly.

Monday 17 December 2012

afternoon tea at the priory

Nutfield Priory
We were in the priory at the weekend, hiding behind curtains and wearing silly hats.

A skilfully executed 'convergence' event, with all of us arriving from different directions, yet managing to be in the right place at the right time.

This was a proper tea and cakes occasion, complete with out-turned little fingers when sipping from the teacup.

Our gang had a great time, and a chance to chatter, even ahead of the upcoming festivities.

Sunday 16 December 2012

the fairy lights are on the blink

twisted christmas stories
I seem to remember I was handed the above list of prompts in the form of a scroll by one of the angels of the North.

It turned out that being the donkey in the nativity wasn't such a bad thing. The year the toon cat tugged the tinsel on the city Christmas tree, it fell across the metro tracks and I was called into action.

Someone had to pull that train back into the station before the two snowman passengers started to melt.

With some further assistance from a jovial bearded man in a red outfit and his team of reindeer, we managed to get the train to where the passengers could alight. Although the snowmen didn't like that particular turn of phrase, preferring 'slip away'.

Anyway, Mariah Carey was in town to switch on the lights and when she heard about it, decided to sing 'Little Donkey, Little Donkey, carrying a heavy load' in recognition of the event.

Saturday 15 December 2012

in which the porridge sets off a whole chain of thought

screenshot_69 2 I've just been reading another blogger's post about blogging. In case it all sounds a bit circuitous, it was about what has happened over the last few years.

This blog's mantra is 'fun going forward' so it doesn't spend too much time in retroactive analysis, but on this occasion it's worth a moment.

I can still remember that the original thinking behind rashbre central was to set something up as an experiment and run it for a maximum of -ahem- two years. It evolved in the period when social networking via the internet was becoming more mainstream and as a way to keep abreast of developments. Things like bianca's shack had already run their course in those days.
bianca's shack map
Now I already had previous form with the internet, including in the period when NCSA Mosaic and then Netscape ruled the browsers. I remember buying a diskette copy of Netscape in the USA in the time when it was still classed as munitions unsuitable for export.

Of course that was a world away from the more mainstream and accessible introduction of blogging. For me it became more usable when the content could finally overtake the need to type in html markup language and run syntax checks.

More importantly, it heralded internet connections between people at a more social level, without some of the chatroom issues. I started out with simple publishing and didn't get any hits at all to begin with. I worked out that interacting with others would start a process that has persisted to this day.

I also devised a few rudimentary rules.
  • Anonymity through the use of a pseudonym.
  • Nothing about 'work' except the incidentals of travel and similar.
  • Very little that linked back to home-life.
  • A general principle of one picture and ten minutes to write the text, per day.
  • Usually one, or a maximum of two ideas per post (except if it was a Thursday Thirteen).
  • Hardly any use of generic memes (I know, I broke this a few times for special occasions).
  • A back-beat of London to keep it grounded
I actually wondered if it would leave me with anything to write about.

In the course of it I discovered a vibrant community. Not so many commenters compared with the number of visitors. As I added more content, the number of references into older posts has also continued.
Of course, The Facebook was starting out and twitter soon followed. I was the 135th twitter follower in London (749313 globally) and like app.net was a few months ago, there was early experimentation to figure out how to use the medium.

It still seems to me to be about the difference between content creators and content consumers.

Bloggers are mainly content creators, at least if they are not moneytised recyclers of press releases and the like.

Bloggers write unique things, partly for themselves and at least partly to entertain and challenge others.

It's easy to manage time around blogging because there's a deliberate act to read or write something. Thinking as a blogger makes one a little more observational - stuff that happens could be useful in a post.
Twitter is far more distracting because of it's pop-up nature. I'll sometimes fire up a few conversations - like at the moment when a group of us all do the early evening saturday sweepstake. I'm past the point where I feel the need to keep twitter babbling across the screen and don't even have it fired up on my 'work PC'.

Facebook is the quaint anachronism in my collection of social software. I get it that lots of people use it, but there seems to be a poor signal to noise ratio. I can remember the days of the pointless flying sheep and those spy games, but the controllers of the format have deigned to make it more of a juggernaut. Or to put it another way, even less of a place that I visit. I keep a presence, both as the 'real me' and as rashbre on FB but maybe only drift onto it once or twice a month (except when there is a special reason).

And along the way there has been another dozen or so systems come and go. There's always the next great thing to try and so I guess many of us have userids littered across plenty of other systems.

I still keep rashbre central as a hub for my own varied endeavours. There's my links out to novel writing, photography, music, cycling and general adventures which are all from the single source.

My old rules seem to still work quite well for the content. And the friendships it has generated along the way seem to hang in there quite well, even with all the changing modes of interaction.

Friday 14 December 2012

back in the smoke

back in the smoke
Back to London today. After a 650 mile round trip by road across a fog covered Britain, I'm back in 'The Smoke' although, as can be seen from my picture, the air is surprisingly clear.

It's also several degrees warmer. 'Up North' there was a need for scarves, but 'Down South' I even put on shorts today when I took the bike for a spin.

I'm well past the 4,000 mile mark from cycling this year, against my original target of 1,800 miles. With my travelling over the last two or three weeks, the cycling rate has had to diminish and I'm currently around 4,600 miles year to date.

The remainder of the year's labyrinthine calendar of events means it won't be possible to click over 5,000 miles, although that could be an interesting target for 2013. St Pancras approaches

Thursday 13 December 2012

Trashed Organ Broken Christmas Cabaret

The Broken Christmas Cabaret was a fabulously trashy success. The piano had been drinking, the fairy lights were on the blink and we were gently sozzled on the bright green cocktails.

We'd been in the Broad Chare immediately before things at Live kicked off. What followed was a continuous succession of edgy alternatives to the normal festive celebrations.
The cuckoos had advice on everything from what not to do at office parties to ways to redevelop the 12 days song.

Noize Choir whirled luminous tubes whilst harmoniously singing entire carols backwards.
We all had bubbles and small incendiary devices to detonate. Secret Santa had also taken a perverse turn with his present selections. I found myself on the naughty list.

Tim Turnbull let us into the secrets of a somewhat off-beat dinner party before bringing in some Dionysian parallels to keep us all thinking. Then Paddy Campbell reminded us that even last resort help desks have seasonal moments. Monkey Junk plugged in and slid some excellent foot-stomping blues.

Just time for a top-up of wine and some head in bucket singing before Mary appeared, ably represented by Alison Carr, who auditioned the part (very) completely.

Kate Fox featured a range of poems before adding an accompanying ukelele and a rather adapted form of Hallelujah. Like many of us, she admitted she really quite liked this season.

And to wrap the performed part of the evening we had Matt Stalker and Fable, who played their own songs plus one from Bon Iver before moving to a festive finale.
John and Melanie, Gez and Rosie then recited their way through the Trashed Laureate compilation and the final trashed port of the year was awarded.

A brilliant set of performances and, as luck would have it, the bar was also still running, so now it was time to move on to the less structured section of the evening and - er - morning.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

seasonal party dressing tips

Trashed Organ
This site doesn't publish direct fashion tips for the upcoming season very often, but tonight we'll make an exception.

With the trashy broken Christmas cabaret about to take place, it's important to know the type of look required.
Broken Christmas Cabaret
It's kind of après-party wear. I think it's called 'dress to depress'. The kind of thing that looks right later on in the evening.

There's a few serving suggestions here.

Prepare the fir tree shaped cookies drizzled in marmite.


xmas shopping
Although it is Wednesday, it felt quite like a weekend being out around the shops today.

There were so many people gathering presents as if everyone had simultaneously decided to go shopping midweek in order to avoid the weekend rush.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

polychromatic brick and wrought iron finials

London St Pancras
A strange co-incidence that I received this card the day after standing at the exact spot it depicts.

The person that sent the card wouldn't have known about us hanging around St Pancras, nor sipping fancy cocktails in the Gilbert Scott bar.

The picture is from an earlier time though. You can see that the red buses have poles on them, which dates them as trolley buses from no later than 1962, which was when they were finally withdrawn.

That would be about the same era as when the poet John Betjamin was campaigning to stop the destruction of the original St Pancras train station. Fortunately he was successful in preserving the magnificent structure, which now houses the main train line link to Europe.

Monday 10 December 2012

far down the shining lines

Another week of travelling up and down the UK. It'll be the third week in a row.

Last week it was to the North West, this time it's the North East.

And the time before that it was kind of 'middle' rather than top.

I've been using the car instead of planes and trains, although I still seem to spend time at train stations and on tube trains bound for Heathrow.

This time I must ship a few extras along; spare sets of tree lights, feather wings and pints of customised beer.

It's all good though, and means I'm reducing the contents of the over-occupied garage.

Ever so slowly.

Sunday 9 December 2012

green day

American Idiot
I know, it looks like a typical day in the office.

Actually, we'd decided to go along to the Hammersmith Apollo to see that Green Day show. I think of Green Day as a sort of guilty pleasure of a band. Slews of power chords and nearly everything set to maximum, we'd decided it wasn't going to be a quiet affair.
Green Day - Bullet in a Bible
The musical is the fourth re-incarnation of the American Idiot album (after the live gig CD called Bullet in a Bible and the live DVD from, yes, Milton Keynes).

The musical is an excuse to play all of the American Idiot tracks back to back (and a few extra ones) with a thin story-line of three bored teenagers making their way from the post 9/11 'burbs. One becomes a father, one goes to war and the third does drugs.

Add in full-on Green Day tunes at express train speed. By the end of the first half we were wondering if there could be many more songs left from that album, but sure enough, the second half didn't disappoint.

There's a rage throughout the storyline which has a kind of deliberately chaotic manner and a jagged ending (pre-encore) to an entertaining evening.

Friday 7 December 2012

Santa - early sighting

Snapped passing rashbre central. I think he was in a hurry. Collecting up the notes from the good children. Reindeer nose was red.

Thursday 6 December 2012

twinkly humbugs

bah humbug tree
This picture of the bah humbug tree will have to suffice until Aperture finishes its mammoth vault backup.

Eventually I will be able to show a picture of the first of the lights outside rashbre central. This year we have selected a sort of yellow-white rather than pure white or blue-white.

It seems to match the themes of the surrounding houses. Of course, the timer has broken since last year, so I will need to go hunting for a new one.

At least I have managed to untangle the lights and to my surprise they all seem to work. I am less confident of the lights for the tree.

All in good time.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Price Turner Pebbles Talulah, Gosh

One of the bonkers weeks where it's been very busy every day. So many topics.
Elizabeth Price
I'll go arty today and mention the Turner Prize winner - Elizabeth Price, with the exhibition that I blogged about back in May. I experienced it at the Baltic but a part of it is moving to the Tate Modern now.
At Choir
It's one of those exhibits that creates a lasting impression, using an immersive mix of media and sound in very dark spaces.
Click click clap
The piece that has got the most press is the one called Choir, which is more complexly themed than some of it's press descriptions that I've seen.

But gosh, Turner Prizes are often controversial. I happen to think this one was a good choice.
Talulah Gosh

Sunday 2 December 2012

what is the mince pie cycling mileage equivalence?

mince pies
There's a cute little shop that I pass sometimes when I'm cutting through the back-doubles around Waterloo.

There's also some adjoining windows where you can see people busily cooking and baking.

The place is called Konditor and Cook and they have a range of secret weapons which they deploy at this time of year.

One harmless looking item is the Mince Pie.

They manage to make them look oh-so-innocent and home-made. When you get some, loosely packed in a box they still don't give the game away.

A mere nibble is enough to confirm their brilliance. Buttery pastry with just the right amount of crumblage. Aroma-packed filling that doesn't need to resort to being over-doused in cooking brandy.

I suggest these are the real deal although I'd hazard a guess that they are up around 8 miles of cycling per unit consumed.
Who ate all the pies?

Time for a bike ride, I think.

Update: I've just cycled around 3 mince pies worth of distance.

Saturday 1 December 2012

Hvad hedder det på dansk?

Sarah Lund - Forbrydelsen III
What with the #strictlysweepstake, early evening Saturday television is pre-allocated and, yes, my assigned celeb is still doing okay.

It's a conveniently early show, leaving the rest of the evening open. There's also the final series III of 'The Killing', which I've been recording.

My Danish serial watching is a tad behind. I'm still only half way through episode 4 with still another two from this evening to watch.

I'm suitably hooked and have even found myself studying certain scenes and making mental notes of who is where at which time to rule out possible perpetrators. It's twistier than a twisted very twisty thing that's been extra twisted for good measure. That's before the rødt sild/vildspor/red herrings have been thrown into the mix. I might need to bring my own notepad along for the next episode.

This series also has more daytime scenes around Copenhagen, so it's fun for me to try to spot some of the areas where I've worked.

But as I'm away again next week, it may be some time before I can catch up with the latest dark rooms and powerful Danish compact flashlights.