rashbre central: December 2013

Tuesday 31 December 2013

approaching the wire

Instead of a photograph of the siege-like scenes at the local supermarket today, here's a second version of the rashbre central 2013 video. Fractionally slower, slightly edited and this time with a proper 2013 music track added. Haim - The Wire.

My bicycle spin earlier means I've just passed 2k on the silver bike. That will suffice. 6.2k miles total for the year. A tough target to beat for 2014.

Next up it's a movie - a 1957 oldie actually - Barbary Coast dives in San Francisco with Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth in Pal Joey.

It'll set the scene for whatever we have planned for the evening.

Happy New Year. Here's to a great 2014.

Monday 30 December 2013

end of year bike mileage

I've not done much cycling during December, although Sunday saw me clock up around 30 miles. My TSS and other sustained metrics have all nosedived although I'll be starting up again now that the mince pie obstacles have largely passed.

I've kept up with my various targets for the year, and my total mileage is somewhere over 6,000, which seems surprisingly high and will probably be difficult to replicate in 2014.

There's only a couple of days left now, so I'm idly looking at whether I can get the mileage on the reconstituted silver bike over 2,000 before year end. I know I'm close, and that is probably the only remaining vaguely attainable target.

It may well depend upon the amount of frost over the next couple of days.

Sunday 29 December 2013

another form of time machine

Time to sit down for a few minutes to read the once-a-year purchased Radio Times. Yes, The Christmas Double Edition. Already into the second week, like the countdown has started back to normality.

A curious aspect has been a glance at today's viewing. It's like a throwback to another era, at least on the main channels (once referred to as the terrestrial channels).

Unless I missed the memo, we seem to be stuck in a time warp. Some examples of the programming:

BBC2 Porridge : comedy prison series from 1976.
BBC2 Morecambe and Wise : comedy show from a long time ago.
BBC2 Top of The Pops Christmas Special : featuring Slade, Wizzard and various other 1970 acts.
ITV1 Agatha Christie's Miss Marple : Apparently this is new? but the main series is from ages ago.
C5 An Audience with Bruce Forsyth : Star of the 1970s+. New, but surely we have had enough over the last 13 weeks of SCD?
ITV2 The Empire Strikes Back : yes, from 1980.
ITV3 Agatha Christie's Poirot : ...you get the idea.

Around this there's a few quiz shows, a couple of 'behind the scenes' Doctor Who programmes and a couple of more recent light-hearted movies. An altogether strange mix of nostalgia and presumably economy programming.

BBC have been plugging Antiques Roadshow's Van Dyke discovery rather heavily, so maybe that's the main option?

Saturday 28 December 2013

2013 in rashbre vision

Time for one of my speedy looks through the year, using some of (mainly) my snaps that made it to flickr and the blog.

This includes London, Bicycles, Newcastle, Greggs Iced Buns, Majorca, Seattle, Home made guitars, Pacific Highway 101, miscellaneous events and a few pop tarts. No pummel vision so it's all edited together by dumping the pictures into Final Cut X and then setting a suitably brief frame duration.

It's probably sensible to have a paracetamol to hand whilst watching.

Last year below, as a reference:

It's fun going forward.

Friday 27 December 2013

a state of flux

I've been enjoying the various presents from Christmas, some of which were quite consumable.

There's one item that I know was on a few lists, that seems to have a very long shelf life. I believe it is only half used in 4.5 billion years, so this one is a real keeper.

If I ever get around to completing the flux capacitor, this could be a useful addition.

Along with that book about how to avoid huge ships, it certainly gets interesting reviews on Amazon.

Thursday 26 December 2013

lemon drop pause

We're all taking a few minutes pause at the moment.

The Champagne lemon drop cocktails are in preparation. They've involved heating some kind of home made syrup and then cooling it again before adding to the fizz.

Actually it has just arrived and tastes astonishingly good. I'm hearing background chatter about the amount of vodka that was added, and that brown caster sugar was used as well as more lemon than in the normal mix.

The homemade parmesan and tomato bread has gone down well and there's some kind or surprise unveiling of a dessert soon.

Oops. Time for a few more party games.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Tuesday 24 December 2013

top of the (little) tree

It looks as if we are getting prepared. Even the small tree seems to have been visited.

Monday 23 December 2013

a spot of severe weather

An interesting journey home in the wee small hours, in a swirling darkness and with trees strewn trickily across the country lanes.

We'd been on the M25, in a seldom seen empty condition as we joined a few other motorists cautiously driving through the spray.

On the side roads I had to navigate around fallen timber with much of the road surface covered with small shreds of trees battered by the high winds.

Even larger roads were tricky, because at this early morning time the services to clear the way hadn't really got mobilised for the area affected. The radio's weather forecast even featured a force 10 gale somewhere out at sea.

Earlier we'd been for a curry and somehow oblivious to the weather.

As we'd turned back into the street it was obvious that the whole evening had been battered by gale force winds and car wash intensity rain.

They say it will calm down for Christmas Eve. I hope so, in order for Santa's sleigh to make a good journey.

Sunday 22 December 2013

early television overload

I seemed to watch a surprisingly large amount of television on Sunday. Scrooged (obviously), but also The Snowman, Homeland, an episode of Harry Potter and Never Let Me Go.

It kind of snuck up. The fire was blazing, we'd got the tree ready for lights and decorations and there was warm soup and mince pies on offer.

So let's recap:

Scrooged: An essential view at Christmas. A 1980 take on 'A Christmas Carol', it's a Dicken's of a movie. Including the sing-along finale.

The Snowman: Probably 2-3 years since I last saw this, and I'd forgotten that it features David Bowie in the introduction. Fast flights from Brighton to visit Santa at the North Pole.

Homeland: The last of the current series, in a series that lapsed into soap drama in places. I suppose they didn't want to leave Brody's future role hanging, but there were some remarkable escape scenes preceding it. Walking out of the most secure complex in Iran during a coffee break? Driving Hummers to the cottage to stealthily surround Carrie and Brody? Re-employing the unstable Carrie a a prestigious station chief in a hot zone. I can already predict the plot line in the next series, when Saul and Carrie have to join forces to save Merca after a botch-up by the new Senator in charge of Homeland. Maybe they'll invite Jack Bauer along?

Harry Potter: One I'd not seen before. Shot in Pantone 455, dark forces threatened the future of Hogwarts, with striking scenery, wizardry, a bit of snogging and a great game of Hogbat.

Never Let Me Go: A thoughtful morality tale of raising clones to repair humans. Set in idyllic English countryside, sensitively directed and acted. I've read the book and even written about it here before. A bitter sweet thought provoker that tests the soul.

That's the television box ticked for the festive season. Tomorrow it's a gang of us at the pub.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Scottish fir tree acquired. Now for the dex.

Well, I've hunted down the Christmas tree. It was more difficult than I expected. I arrived at the usual place and instead of the typical trees stretching as far as the eye could see there were just five trees left.

I use the word 'trees' reservedly. They were being advertised as trees, but my ex-greengrocer instincts cut in and I decided that they should really be classed as stray collections of branches and twigs.

It was fascinating that they were all from different ranges too, as if the entire collections had been selected down to the last few whittles.

I had to leave empty handed. This would be problem if I returned home without a tree, so I moved along to the next place. A farm shop. They had a huge advertisement for trees.

But no trees at all. A nice line in mistletoe, but no trees. My inner greengrocer noticed that the mistletoe was on sale as well. Back in the day the mistletoe was given away free.

Next stop, a huge superstore. So huge that the entire car park was filled and people were double parking on yellow lines. I decided to give this one a miss. Surely any remaining trees in this establishment would have been snapped up but it would talk me a good half an hour to discover this. I moved on.

Instead to palatial garden centre, which had people marshalling the cars into the car park. They directed me to a parking spot, which I noticed was really for electric cars complete with the recharging points. This place would surely have trees?

It did.

Even the Nordman ones that don't drop their needles.

Mine was 'red 593414', which I looked up on the needlefresh.co.uk web site.

It was from near North Kessoch on The Black Isle at the Moray Firth. In shipping forecast terms it's Cromarty. There's a high rainfall and minimal frosts due to the Gulf Stream circulating round this peninsula-style island, and this produces vigorous growth in the trees.

Now to locate the decorations, from the depths of the garage.

Friday 20 December 2013

spot the shopper

They are saying that this weekend is going to be the biggest shopping weekend for Christmas in the UK. Even by my standards, it seems a bit late.

I've noticed London already emptying out, although whilst in Newcastle for the last couple of days, there seemed to be quite a bustle in the shopping areas.

The advertisers are all copying one another in the final countdown. It kind of spoils the effect by removing any uniqueness. They might as well just say,"buy food".

And the sales appear to have started too. 20% then 30% and beyond. I thought the sales traditionally started around Boxing Day?

Perhaps my photograph above is a clue. A few days ago I was at one of the largest shopping malls in London (don't ask) but not only was it easy to get in, but the car park had vast empty areas. Yes, the shops were open, but the people seemed to be elsewhere.

I'll be tree hunting tomorrow, but that's about the limit of my planned retail experience for the day.

Thursday 19 December 2013

trashed noir festivities

Yes, we were out at the Christmas Noir yesterday evening. The initial images may be somewhat blurry, but it was a fine time.

Gangsters, molls, drunk tanks, a murder bear (the one that was upstair in the attic when Goldilocks visited). They all played a part.

Across W.N Herbert's ursine tales, the Macguffin of a noir tale, the stanza'd hexameter(?) from Sean O'Brien, a Mixtape special re-enactment of a slightly troubling Christmas moment or the full on swing country blues of Rob Heron & the Tea Pad Orchestra. Compered by Mr Drayton, the Trashed Organites has curated a fine festive and somewhat twisted Christmas Noir. Topped off with the audience participation of a Trashed Laureate Port prize.

We're waiting for the official pictures, but in the interim, here's a small and rather excellent tune from Rob Heron & the Tea Pad Orchestra, live from a shed.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

jumping frogs and glow stick glasses

I said I'd get around to an annual picture of Sloane Square with its blue and white lights. I've even managed to include a black cab.

Part of the plot involved buying a few small items for a lucky dip type of festive occasion. Glow stick glasses. Tinsel pipe cleaners. Miniature bowling alley.
A gold tiara. A judge's wig. A propeller hat. A clockwork frog (or two). A sparking yo-yo. You know the kind of things.

All we need now is a picture of the inside of a well-known neighbourhood department store.
Peter Jones

Monday 16 December 2013

almond croissant

Sheltering from 45 degree rain before heading into a meeting. I've been over in Greenwich by the Dome, waiting in a coffee bar for the others to arrive.

Almond croissant and latte.

At least we'd picked a coffee bar to meet; somewhat better than a few days ago when the 'full of festive joy' somehow didn't live up to expectations.
It says it's full of festive joy

Sunday 15 December 2013

fitbit and cycling

Around Chelsea
I'm about to go cycling, and thought I'd try an experiment with fitbit to see how it compares with cycle usage.

I've been using fitbit for a while but never bothered to check accurately what it does if I use it when on a bike. I've always surmised that it counts each pedal revolution as a step (which seems fair to me), so today I'll actually measure it properly.

Mine is the fitbit One, which is the small version that can go in a pocket rather than something on a wristband, which I consider to be rather too obvious. The Nike systems all use wristbands, but I'm not sure that I want to walk around lit like the festive season all year.

My fitbit is at 5,137 steps and 2.37 miles walked today so far. I'll check it again when I actually start cycling and again when I finish. Then I can link it to the number of pedal cycles I've done, based upon my Garmin read-out.
Update to follow...

So my revised fitbit count after the bike ride is 12547. And the number of pedal rotations was 6,870 according to Garmin Connect. There's about 212 steps unaccounted for, which is me faffing around to get the bike ready and also a short false start when I reset the Garmin after about a minute. Close enough.
So, I'll conclude that the fitbit is counting pedal rotations quite accurately.

The mileage is way off compared with the amount I travelled, but I don't really care about that, which I can pick up on Garmin. It's just useful to have a fitbit count that includes a representation of cycling time. I'm also much happier to have a low count for mileage compared with my actual cycling (more than 20 miles) which could otherwise be construed as cheating.

I'll still use the Garmin for calories etc, but it's good to know that the fitbit and Garmin are consistent.

Saturday 14 December 2013

in which i am troubled by seasonal inaccuracies

Grosvenor Bridge
One of the challenges with using London scenes in blog posts is trying to ensure that they represent the time of year properly.

Of course, when it's a recent picture, like the one above, then it's easy. Grosvenor Bridge, looking towards the London Eye.

Even if the scene looks unseasonally bright, it's still authentic.

That is not always the case with television series, which sometimes purport to be of the moment but have just the wrong foliage or shadows. That tree might still have bright green leaves, for example.

I doubt if I'd notice, if it wasn't for blogging, but nowadays I can't help spotting seasonal inaccuracies in TV shows.

Should I be worried by this trait?

Friday 13 December 2013

Colbert Oriel

Around Chelsea
We stopped off at Colbert for a bite to eat. It reopened about a year ago, after a kerfuffle about the previous place that was on the site, called Oriel.

We used to go to Oriel which was a buzzy French style cafe. They served a good breakfast and it was somewhere you could turn up and somehow get squeezed in.

The owner of the area, Earl Cadogan, reputedly didn't like the service at Oriel and thought the food expensive and so he wouldn't renew their lease.

For probably a couple of years it was then a building site on the corner of Sloane Square. Some of us wondered what would emerge, after such a long time.
When it finally did, it was - er- another French brasserie. Similar look, reconfigured walls, similar menu, but new owners, now part of the conglomerate that runs the Wolseley, which is the place just across the road from the Ritz.

The one year old establishment has been made to look as if its been there for ages, even down to a set of slightly worn looking postcards hanging from the drinks shelves in the bar area. Vintage theatre posters adorn the walls, including shows from the nearly adjacent Royal Court.

I'm sure they've modernised something (the kitchens, maybe?) but for all practical purposes they have simply recreated Oriel with a new name.

Thursday 12 December 2013

Battersea, with cranes

Around Chelsea
First day with a regular camera again, instead of just the cellphone.

Considering how far we are through December, London has still got sunshine and generally clear skies.

Note the background of cranes as another new area of London begins to take shape between where new US Embassy will be sited and Battersea Power Station.

And it looks as if I'm not the only one taking photos.
Around Chelsea

Wednesday 11 December 2013

The Light Princess by Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson

The Light Princess
We wove our way through the crowds on the South Bank to the National Theatre to see the musical by Tori Amos. It's a sorta fairytale, called 'The Light Princess'.

One of my favourite Tori Amos albums is the one where she treks across North America. It's called Scarlet's Walk and is a road story told in songs.

I've also seen Tori live at the Apollo and now I wondered what it would be like seeing her new music and lyrics played by an orchestra and sung by the show's performers.

I didn't know the original Light Princess story, which is apparently a Victorian fairy tale.

I assumed there would be some dark spins included, and certainly, there are. The basic plot line is simple enough, with divided countries and a developing love between the divided princess and prince.

The light comes from the Princess Althea's grief at her mother's death from which she loses touch with the ground, floating through much of the performance. Perhaps expressed best as a loss of gravity, in every sense.

A darkness comes from the ways that the respective kings of the countries subjugate their politically opposed offspring.

Then there's a contested piece of land between the countries, ripe for the main action of the piece.
The Light Princess
Musically, it's a major piece in its own right. Orchestral with lyrics sufficient to propel a sometimes complicated narrative. Maybe not as instantly hummable as a typical musical, but coming from a different place.

Of course, there's a magic from the aerial work of the Princess, often manipulated by puppeteers, and sometimes suspended on wires. Her feet hardly touch the ground in the whole show.

Add in the staging and the clever use of mixed media and puppetry and this becomes a show that really sparkles.

In honesty, I'd expected an overall darker shading from Tori Amos, but this co-operation with scriptwriter Samuel Adamson mixes in humour, spectacle and sometimes almost Disney-esque touches.

It felt like the right type of show to be watching in this Winter season.

Altogether a piece that is both unique and somehow a counterpoint to a show like 'Wicked', far away from the sometimes juke-box musicals which get pushed into parts of the west-end.

I suspect, because it's at the Lyttelton, that this show will be on a short run. I can guess that it's an expensive one to produce too, judging by the large cast and sumptuous sets.

I'm pleased I've got to see this recently award-nominated production, which I suspect may be one of a kind.
The Light Princess

Tuesday 10 December 2013

a spar of timber worth thirty bob



Still using the iPhone as my sole camera, although I think it's well past a month now, so time to get something else charged.

Monday 9 December 2013

toffee apple buche

It's another week of complicated logistics, this time fairly local, but still in quite a few different locations.

I still prefer the less structured format, but it does mean that there's random side effects that need to be considered.

Take this box (please) - it's part of the recycling by now*, but thereby lays the tale. Our collection folk changed their day to take away the content of the blue bins and I actually missed one week.

Recycling is only every two weeks, so by this week we have around four weeks of recycling accumulated. However hard we try that's still a lot of stuff. If I miss another collection then it'd be six weeks. I don't think the ship's engines can take it, Captain.

Sunday 8 December 2013

more pop tart selfies

We had a bit of a get-together in the pub and mysteriously a packet of strawberry pop tarts appeared from among the novelty gifts we were handing around.

Well, what else could we do, other than take a few more of those pop tart selfies?
Most of the pop tart pictures were the conventional type, using the pop tart like a regular cellphone.
In the interests of pushing the boundaries, I decided to go for 'Medium Format', so mine doesn't have a flash.
pot tart selfie (large format)
Eagle eyed may spot that the medium format picture still came out oblong rather than square.

We're going to try cheese next. Emmental should offer a choose of apertures.

Saturday 7 December 2013

tuning in the shine on the light night dial

Lurking in the garage of rashbre central is an old valve radio. It still gets used from time to time and despite its age it presents a very modern set of programming.

The reason I'm thinking of it right now is that I've been asked to take part in a survey.

I know...on the internet there's a survey every few minutes about things like amazon packaging, print cartridge selection, which mobile phone provider, the quality of the service from that small item retailer a few days ago, preferences in groceries, and so on and on.

I've improved my Spamsieve to the point where most of that stuff just runs straight into the junk folder.

This particular survey was intriguing enough for me to say I'll have a go. It's something to do with radio listening habits and run by Mori. They want to check what kind of stuff gets listened to in a week, both indoors and in the car.

I've completed the initial questionnaire and somehow need to keep track of what I actually listen to, starting on Monday. They have given me a handy logbook as well, although I can already predict parts of it.
  • A fair amount of Radio 4 (on DAB), but never the Archers. Mainly the Today Programme and PM. Various versions of the News and sometimes Parliament. Useful because it's a walking or driving type of programming content. I hardly ever use television for morning news.
  • Radio 6 Music (on DAB), random times of day and driving.
  • LBC (on DAB or FM, in the car): sometimes for news. Some of the chat shows go a bit extreme.
  • BBC World Service: Sometimes late at night.
  • Does Spotify count as radio?
  • Does Last.fm count as radio?
  • KFOG: the fog head station from San Francisco. Easy listening rock. Maybe this one will throw them off the regular stats? I've still got that little internet radio in the home office.
  • Other random internet channels from time to time.
And the one I still miss is Whole Wheat Radio, which used to be streamed from Jim Kloss and Esther Golton's log home in Talkeetna Alaska. I still have some of their live gigs from a variety of musicians recorded into iTunes and they pop up from time to time when I've got iTunes on shuffle.

The survey approach seems to just be interested in traditional channels.

Radio, car radio and 'online radio'. I wonder how it will delve into the mass customisation of music listening and the re-selection of prior programming through iPlayer and podcasts? It doesn't seem to handle that on the setup pages.

I'll have to wait and see.

Considering Kloss and Golton's Whole Wheat was from about 2003-2010, they had already found ways to break from commercial A,B and C list programming, and featured many CDs by emerging independent artists.

Of course, the commercial forces are not too comfortable with this wider and more multi channel listening and so we drop back to the same old stuff on many of the conventional radio channels.

I hope there'll be a few comment boxes when I do this survey.

Friday 6 December 2013

pebble panic

I've had one of those Pebble things for a while, although I've never got around to writing a blog post about it.

To be honest, I don't really use it and am somewhat uncertain about this addition to wearable social computing.

An odd side effect is that it can send me into a phone panic from time to time.

How's that?

Well, it knows about my iPhone and jiggles around when the iPhone is ringing. No big deal if the iPhone is co-located, but when it's, say, in a different room, it can create a moment where I have to make an extra decision about whether to race to the phone in time to answer it.

Not the best use for a Pebble, I'm sure.

Thursday 5 December 2013

secret squirrel meerkat

Top Secret Meerkat Intelligence Agency
Did I mention that the secret squirrel meerkat finally arrived?
Green Scarab
I notice that this shadowy figure has already gone into deep cover and that maybe someone I know is wearing the badge instead of their regular security pass.
Maiya Pavlenka

Wednesday 4 December 2013

soft white lights appearing

We seem to be into the gentle addition of lights to the neighbourhood again. Of course some of the main roads have been decked out for weeks, but now its spreading into the residential areas.

I've liberated ours from the garage and thrown them around a few trees and bushes and they all seem to be working. Even the timer still works from last year, so it's been a fairly painless job getting it all set up. I'm told that the 'soft white' colour (yellow) is still appropriate, although I'm not supposed to use the 'white white' or the 'blue white' lights.

I spotted a few roadsigns that some local streets are closed at the weekend for the regular mini Fayre. I'm also guessing that Santa will make a reconnaissance appearance at the end of this week.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Pop Tart Selfie

Pop Tart Selfie
Snapped with a pop tart. I'm not alone. The strawberry ones work best for colour. Maybe I'll try the chocolate ones for sepia.
self pop tart

Sunday 1 December 2013

back from a spin on the bicycle

I'd been doing pretty well with cycling up towards the end of October, but kind of slumped during November. I don't record every trip, but those I did record were a grand total of eight.

There were a few things that conspired against me, including personal and work related as well as a feeble bug at the start of November.

Anyhow, my legs were somehow telling me they needed to go cycling.

I'm not sure why, but there's a sort of reverse pain where my legs actually feel better now if they've been cycling. I should probably look for that symptom on t'interweb, because it seems to be the opposite of what you'd expect.

Anyway, I clocked about 20 miles today although I took it fairly easy until I get back into the swing. I'm also anticipating that this month could be choppy for cycling what with the weather and later with the christmas pudding.

TSS travails
The blue line on the little diagram of my recent activity shows a progressive increase in my TSS until mid October and then the downward spiral. It'll take weeks to rebuild to the previous level.

Still. I'm glad I took the spin - and no, the brakes were not at the angle shown in the picture. I was resetting them when I took this snap.