rashbre central: July 2013

Monday 29 July 2013

if a single leaf holds the eye

This time we'd been out somewhere after a spell of that Zen navigation. The one where you reach a destination by travelling in ever decreasing circles. Even the white bear by the Russian road sign couldn't help us, although by the third circuit we were almost as well-known as the landmark.

It was on the way back using a straighter route, that we decided to take another small detour. This time along a gravelled track. Not ex-railway, it was far too switchy for that, but still laid purposefully in a way that gave us easy access to an area of woodland.

Now a week or so ago, we were in some trees when someone asked, "What's that type of tree, then?" Luckily it was an oak tree, so easy to answer. A few more easy ones and then one which we had to say was, well - a tree.

There was a similar sense as we headed through areas of wild blackberries (not yet ripe) some hazelnuts (still green) and further oaks and sycamores.

We compiled a modest dossier of a few in the sheets of a notepad. We knew most of them (even the slightly tricker white willow) although we now have doubts about the one on the far right. It is much easier to identify them whilst still attached.

Thursday 25 July 2013

those vital few seconds

I've been commuting partly by tube this week and it's been interesting to notice my speed of reversion to full-on commuter mode.

There's all the subtle conventions that one gets used to but then notices afresh after a gap.

It starts on the main line trains in the silent carriages with the almost complete move to digital. Far fewer people carry newspapers and many more have iSomethings to read or entertain.

There's the people who bagsy the big tables and sprawl laptops connected to headphones. They may look as if they are working, but they are mainly watching DVDs. Everyone has a phone to study emails, or, by the look of it, to be playing some sort of clicky game. Either that, or they set it all up and then fall asleep.

With at least two Christmas and Birthday cycles, many folk have iPads to view all manner of infotainment. In fairness, I was next to someone reviewing a set of Very Important Confidential business slides on their iPad at one point.

Personally I use my small footprint Kindle, which is more or less a reading device. It does carry a daily copy of the newspaper and is immune to loss of signal once the paper is downloaded. It can also carry plenty of books and even the odd business read which I can send to it via the personal secret email address, which automatically converts whatever I send into an eDocument.

But it was on the tube I realised that in a mere couple of days I'd reverted to commuter mentality.

I showed up on a platform just as a train was pulling out. I glanced to the indicator sign. Drat. I would now have to wait a WHOLE THREE MINUTES for the next one.

How inconvenient.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

an alternative guide to the universe

alternative guide to the universe
I've been meaning to visit this show for some time. I came close once, a few weeks ago, but it was closed.

Fortunately, I had a break between a couple of meetings today and was able to drop in.
'An alternative guide to the universe' at 'the museum of everything' sounds like a bold promise. Inside are a range of ideas by all manner of visionaries and inventors. These were mainly non scientists who had worked out their ideas often single handedly. In some cases the work had not been shown before and could be considered the private work of the artist.
time machine
Whether it was someone inventing whole town designs, creating alternate views of space travel or building robots, there was plenty to see. One set of exhibits featured re-imagined buildings and structures, another turned the letters of the alphabet into a sort of flying space fleet.
It was fascinating because of the thoroughness of most of the visionaries' work. Sometimes quite obsessional, whether in the calculations of an alternative physics, a reworking of the periodic tables using a Circlon nuclear stability model, or the draftsmanship in discovering patterns in magic squares of numbers.

I found a youtube description of Emery Blagden's Healing Machines which was one of the exhibits. It's not directly from the 'Do NOT Photograph' of the exhibition, but gives a sense of the ideas in just one of the myriad of exhibits.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

french kissing/french cuisine in the yellow car

yellow car in gallery
Well, this time we wound up in the back of a yellow car.
back seat of a peugeot
French kissing/French cuisine creating a mixed theme of mouth pleasures.

This was part of Heather Phillipson's BALTIC "Yes, Surprising is Existence in the Post-Vegetal Cosmorama".

Take a guided tour of the area accompanied by Heather's iphone explanations and wind up in the gallery.

Poetry and powerboats floating on conceptualised Turkish bottled water.

Or, if you feel like it, take the full Cardiovascular Vernacular tour of Gateshead and Newcastle, provided here as a 53 minute guided stroll. If you know this area you must do this tour.

Possibly bananas, certainly fun. And no flopping around.

Saturday 20 July 2013

Crime writing most peculiar from the Peculier

Old Peculiar crime writing festival
We hadn't planned to visit a murder scene.

But there we were. There was even a white taped outline of a body on the ground outside the entrance.

Someone had said, "Is that Lee Child?" as we were following a man along the road, just before he disappeared into a building. I had less to go on, not knowing what this author of Jack Reacher novels looked like, but I did agree that man we had spotted looked like An Author On Duty.

He was dressed in a dark jacket and a crisp shirt. Not a full suit, which could look a little too formal. And he was being accompanied by someone official making sure sure he would be at a certain place at a certain time. There were various other eyes of recognition as he approached the big building.

On the lawn was a huge tepee complex. We decided to peek inside.

Yes, it was full of authors and readers.

Some chatting, some queueing and some signing books.

I didn't know Lauren Beukes either, but she was signing books and has written a cracking yarn about a time-traveling serial killer.
Lauren Beukes The Shining Girls
It's set in Depression-era Chicago, where the perpetrator finds a key to a house that opens on to other times.

The cost of his time travel is to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. He stalks them through their lives across different eras, leaving anachronistic clues on their bodies, until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and starts hunting him back.

Yes, now we were certain, we had stumbled across a most Peculier crime convention.

Friday 19 July 2013

jam jar cocktails

drinks in jam jars
We were discussing the increasing number of cocktails being served in jam jars. These seem to vary from proper jam jars to a progressively increasing number of re-engineered jam jars which have an added handle.

There's an irony to an erstwhile austerity item being made into something designed and expensive, but probably not fulfilling either purpose of jam container or drinking vessel particularly well.

However, this 'Jamaican-me-crazy' jam packed cocktail was delish. And served in a real jam pot.

Thursday 18 July 2013

Tyne at Live

A visit to Live Theatre to see Tyne, which is a play which starts by referencing the theatre's exact location and its history, before taking a journey through time and location along the banks of the once shipbuilding and coal mining area of Tyneside.

Well envisioned and including various songs and music, both traditional and contemporary, it weaves tales of the area with a modern back-story to provide a context and linking theme. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Outside the main theatre is a map of the Tyne and an opportunity for those with memories to add to the wall of stories.

It's jam packed with extra tales. I just know we'll be out on the river during the week.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

roll top aerial bath time

aerial bath tub
I like it when sometimes a hotel provides a double decker room. Usually the upstairs is where the bed is kept.

This one has the bathroom and shower upstairs.

Time to pour a cool drink and try the roll top bath.

Sunday 14 July 2013

cycling with the replacement red cassette

Cayo pre work
I'll be on the road during the next week and today has seen me throwing things into a suitcase. It'll be in the Italian car, instead of the German one, on its first longer spin. A chance to exercise the sat nav.

The fixes to the bicycle seem to have worked. After yesterday's diagnostic spin, I took a longer ride today. I've fixed the brake alignment, which had drifted off during my other adjustments and today I noticed today the smoothness of the updates.

I'll admit that whilst I was replacing the chain, I made other changes. A new rear cassette (the slicker 'red' version) and a fresh updated rear mech and cable. I'd damaged the mech some time ago and although I'd 'adjusted' it, the chain replacement was an ideal time to do a swap. Then the new 'red' chain, which required me to count the links about six times. It seems to me that these drivechain changes are far more significant than any cosmetic handlebar selector changes.

Using the bike today, I wan't listening for creaks and groans from things needing adjustment. I'm certain it's more efficient now, maybe saving me 20 watts of power input. At least that's the sort of effect I noticed when I put it on the turbo.

And another 35 rather hot miles around the lanes. Time for a shower.

Saturday 13 July 2013

fan heater wind effects in the country lanes

A scoot around some country lanes today, somewhat carefully as I've swapped over various bicycle bits. Some of the fields were looking arid from the lack of rain.

I was on a new chain and I'd swapped the rear cassette as well, plus a new cable to complete the set. It's all very quiet now, although I must admit the old cassette still looks in really good condition. I may swap it onto another bike whose rear cogs look rather damaged.

It was one of those things where it was simpler to do everything in one go, rather than have to do more later. I've got one of those TACX Spider things, which makes it a whole lot easier.
tacx 3050
The spider gadget is about the size of a golf umbrella when folded away, but makes fixing things on the bike so much easier; nothing to hold and repairs can be at a convenient height.

Today's ride reminded me of being in Joshua Tree. That sensation of stepping out of an air conditioned car into a fan heater strength desert style wind.
Okay, it was 30C today, greener and not as hot as the desert, but this English skin felt warm. Add my cycling speed meant I could get the Joshua Tree effect on the bicycle.

Makes me think it's almost time for another road trip.

Friday 12 July 2013

pimlico plumbers and passports

Pimlico Plumbers
Commuters into Waterloo may recognise the advertisement.

It's strategically placed along a stretch of track where the trains stop most days whilst the points and signals are flipped to free up platforms at the main terminus.

It's a plumbing company, and stands out against the mainly corporate advertising all along these tracks. There are firms who launch new cars, software or financial services who will take several stations worth of signage to advertise their wares. Audi R8. Mercedes New E Class. Oracle 11g Release 2. Salesforce Summer '13. Henderson Global Investors. And...Pimlico Plumbers.

The passengers sitting at the big tables usually start their packing up rituals around here. They will have laptops demarcating their claim to desk space in the carriage. Sometimes they'll be working, but mostly the tell tale flicker of a disk light and the plugged in headset shows that they are watching a movie.

If I'm on one of these trains I usually take one of the more airline type seats, with a small tray table. A window seat. I don't mind the extra 15 seconds that a window seat might cost me at the end of the journey.

Others will sit in the aisle seats to get a pole position to leave the train. Or maybe it's in the vague hope that they can get two seats instead of one.
So, for many, this morning sighting of Pimlico marks the end of their inbound commute.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

in which the bike pleads for a very modest overhaul

The Focus Cayo needs some TLC
I was reading another bicycling saga when it got me thinking about the condition of my own main bike.

From a distance it still looks pretty OK, but close up there are various signs that little things need to be done.

Bicycle chains are supposed to last a few thousand miles. The odometer for this bike is reading 8,200 miles and I don't remember replacing the chain at any time. And I don't always use the Garmin, so there's probably at least a few hundred more unaccounted miles. A quick google says a road bike needs a new chain after 3,000 to 5,000 miles, although as I don't see any sharks teeth shaped cogs, so I might just be in time. It's has been a pretty good SRAM chain and still seems in good condition.

I do apply some of that chain wax to keep things smooth running, but a close look at the bike and my black striped right leg indicates that it probably needs sorting out. A new chain won't break the bank.
The Focus Cayo needs some TLC
Of course, wiping off residual gunk sometimes transfers to my hands too, so I think there's probably a need for some more of that bar tape. I'm thinking white again. It may show the dirt, but the fizik stuff I use does wipe clean well. At least until the tape frays, as is the case at the moment.
The Focus Cayo needs some TLC
The brakes and wheels are still looking fine, although I've got a temporary Quick Release spindle on the back wheel after I accidentally squashed the fancy DT Swiss one, which looked good but was made of plastic and very thin aluminium.

As for the saddle. It may look worn, but I'd say it's comfortable just as it is.
The Focus Cayo needs some TLC
So a few fiddly bits to buy, and hopefully I can get it looking good as new again.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
I can't remember how many pictures are submitted to the Royal Academy for their show every Summer. I think its something like 10,000 open entries, which get down selected to around 1,000 works.

It's a fun show, and this year they have set up rooms with different themes which also pull it away from any sort of portraiture dominance.

There's well-known Royal Academy artists like Quentin Blake, Norman Ackroyd and Tracey Emin, a whole room full of tapestries by Grayson Perry - referencing 21st century moral anguishes (The Vanity of Small differences) and plenty of other artists with RA after their names.

Alongside all of that are the open submission pieces. I guess it's a way to push continuous new ideas into the show, reflecting contemporary thinking.

The exhibition starts with El Anatsui's huge 'TSIATSIA - Searching for Connection' which adorns the outside of the Gallery.
Cornelia Parker - Stolen Thunder 2013
Inside amongst the fine work are a few whimsical pieces, like Cornelia Parker's 'Stolen Thunder', which is a frame surrounded by the red dots used to signify purchase, and underneath it an equally large number of people actually buying it. A snip for the digital pigment print at a mere £250.

I might not afford the artwork, but the triumph and even the aroma of a copy of the enjoyable catalogue bursting with energy is still with me.

Monday 8 July 2013

around waterloo sunshine

South Bank wild flower garden
It seems to be the wrong sort of day to be stuck indoors in an office doing paperwork. The spreadsheets are having a scooby-doo moment, all going wibbly.
nice tan
In the distance I can hear the jangle of an ice cream van. Unless it's a sound mirage. Mediterranean folk may laugh at 'Only 26 degrees', but for we Brits this is pretty good.
South Bank Sunshine
And at just after 11, I can already see that many have figured a means of escape into the sunshine.

That will be my plan too, from about 14:00.
London Weather

Sunday 7 July 2013

all the sevens?

murray wimbledon
Back from a sizzling hot cycle ride at about 2:15pm, just as the first ball of the Wimbledon men's final was being played.

I'd noticed the streets had cleared and guessed that most people were in combinations of barbecues and watching the tennis.

I was pretty -er- warm from the cycling and should have headed straight to the shower, but instead found myself joining the spirit of the exciting tennis final. The changing fortunes of the players were matched by remarkable switches in the pundits' commentary.

A great win for Andy Murray and 77 years since a Brit wins the mens' Wimbledon final on today : 7/7.

Curiously, I think Virginia Wade won the women's final in... '77.

Saturday 6 July 2013

tales from the countryside

Newlyn farm
In need of strawberries, blackberry vinegar and maybe some spicy chutney, we headed along to the farm shop on Saturday. We were surprised to see the volume of traffic along what is usually an obscure country lane. Some was being turned away to an adjacent overflow field.

It turned out to be some sort of special event, and fortunately I knew a walkable short cut through a field and under a bridge where I sometimes cycle. We cut past the stream, which had duck racing in progress, and into the event, which was in full swing.

Pretty much a feelgood sign of summer. Pimms in abundance , smokey barbecues and ice creams all round.

Thursday 4 July 2013

oops something went wrong

netflix screenshot
I suppose it was inevitable that after Windows 8 said it needed to perform an urgent update, that something would stop working.

I ran the update and aside from the speedy rush to 91% complete, followed by a five minute pause, everything seemed to be fine.

Reboot and back to normal.

Until I used the usually immensely reliable Netflix in that machine. "Ooops," it said,"something went wrong." Or words to that effect.


It gave some kind of lengthy error code and said the computer wasn't connected to the internet, implying it was my fault and that I'd unplugged something.

I checked. Yes, it was connected to the internet. I rebooted the router to be sure. No change. Then I switched off all the Norton stuff and tried again. Nope. Reboot. Nope.

By now I've spent 45 minutes on systems administration instead of entertainment. This is all wrong.

And it worked yesterday, before the important system update for Windows 8.

In desperation, I decided to try the clutching at straws approach of re-installing Silverlight, which is a piece of Microsoft extra-ware used in some video setups. None of the instructions or diagnostics suggested this.

It worked.

I don't know what I'd do if I was a regular consumer level user.

Tuesday 2 July 2013


screenshot_180No one has commented on the similarity of the new Apple Time Capsule to one of those fragrant candles used to instil a sense of well-being.

I had the older type Time Capsules, but also an unfortunate track record with them, where they overheated and then expired. I lost two of them that way, before I eventually discovered it was (allegedly) a well known fault. Apparently the non-cooled power supply would get too hot, a capacitor would pop and that would be the end. For a time there was a web-site dedicated to the problem, which appeared to happen after an average if 19 months and 20 days

When it first happened at rashbre central, I took one apart to have a look, and noted the absence of ventilation. Instead of making some holes in the base, it was covered with a rubber compound, no doubt because of the internal mains supply. I still have a 2009 picture of it in the bin sans disk. The internal metal layer was perforated, but the engineers didn't have the last word on this industrial design.
dead time capsule
It caused me to reconfigure the rashbre central backups to a separate disk system, instead of using the disks inside the units and I added a large metal heatsink (an old disk drive) to the outside of the remaining capsules to radiate away the warmth. Fortunately they were out of sight.

The interesting advantage of the newer type seems to be their increased speed. Even with the old ones, the wireless communication between them was more reliable than using a wire-based LAN connection across the mains supply (from upstairs to downstairs.

I'll try a couple as a Wifi extension to see whether I can get the higher internal speeds advertised.