Tuesday, 29 April 2014
London's tube strike created a mid Sunday morning atmosphere away from the city centre today. There were plenty of professional looking office types out for runs, sitting in cafes and whizzing about on bicycles. The power of the virtual office.
I was amongst the cyclists, and caught up in an unexpected stampede of wild animals. It was simple enough. Someone had let a small dog off its leash (despite warnings to the contrary) and the dog had gone runabout near to a large quantity of red and fallow deer.
The deer were not too impressed and decided to move away, attracting others from the herd in the process.
The dog's owner then appeared in the far distance and yelled at the dog, which started running around again, some 200 meters from its owner.
The deer decided to get even further away and my handlebar camera picked them up crossing the road ahead of me and a few other cyclists. I'm guessing there are at least a couple of hundred deer. Excuse the slanted angle; I wasn't planning to make a movie and its easier to see what is going on with the video in full screen.
We cyclists all stayed well back, applying the 50 metre rule and aware that the deer could also turn and chase the dog if further provoked.
Fortunately once the deer had crossed the road, the yappy dog ran back to its distant owner, who picked it up and walked rather swiftly away in the opposite direction.
Sunday, 27 April 2014
My lack of blog time over the last few weeks means I've skipped over a few movies that I've seen recently. My dilemma is whether to retro-post or just move on.
Some of them are already scheduled for satellite broadcast, which I assume is getting a shorter lead time nowadays.
The 2-parter movie that featured the 'Wh-questions' in an opening chapter about angling is a tricky one to write about in this blog. The movie's original blatant marketing belies dark material about addiction. The head-games of deliberately unreliable story-telling loop through a wobbly Scheherazade structure wallpapered with Checkovian premonitions of ending. There, I think that is cryptic enough.
I also watched a dysto-pic about America in 2505. The concept might, possibly, have been good but the movie was execrable. Freeze two caricatured average people for a year in a military experiment. Forget to revive them (Yeah), so they accidentally awaken 500 years later as the cleverest people in a dumbed-down America run like an X-factor losers' round. Not sure how it got made.
Ok. I'll move on. I'm guessing the 'British' train interior was German.
Saturday, 26 April 2014
One of the bloggers I read regularly has just (re) published a novel - The Obald, by R.F. McMinn. I've just downloaded it to read on Kindle.
I've a backlog of reading actually, because I recently downloaded a couple of those compendium offers - The Weird Fiction megapack (35pence - containing 25 stories) and The Sixth Science Fiction megapack (another 35 pence - another 25 stories). Great for short tube journeys.
Add in 'The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules', 'The Yellow King' and The Granta 127 Japan issue and it will become apparent that I have something of a backlog. Unlike physical books, only the copy of Granta could be added to a book pile.
I might just fast track 'The Obald', though, once I've finished the amusing little old lady book (87% complete).
I gather the Obald was written on a typewriter. It's made me nostalgic for the thought of the marvellous orange portable Olivetti that I used to own. It clipped into a light grey plastic carry case.
Surprisingly stylish, I bought it in Germany, so it had a QWERTZ keyboard. It was well before blogging, but the ribbon in it got a good bashing nonetheless. I think it's long gone, unless I discover it in a shadowy recess of the garage. Looking at that picture, I get a satisfyingly haptic response imagining its surfaces.
Friday, 25 April 2014
"You'll still need the winter ones if it carries on like this," smiled the man as I checked in.
Yes, it's post Easter and time to switch back to the Summer tyres on the car.
It's been something of an umbrella situation though. That knowledge that the best way to prevent rain is to carry an umbrella. There must be a tyre addendum to the superstition.
Today, the weather gods had sensed that I was switching from the snow and mud tyres back to 'normal' ones. Thor decided to throw all of his toys around and we had lightning and thunder as well as a deluge of rain.
My 15 minute trip to the dealer* became 30 minutes as a local roundabout flooded and the traffic backed up. Little red cars popped up all over my sat-nav, showing traffic jams appearing everywhere.
A curious fact with the tyre change is the different mileage I get from the car. The winter tyres give around an extra 5 to 7 miles per gallon. I'm pretty sure that it's the tyres rather than my driving that make the difference.
The winter wheels are a different profile from the summer ones. Apart from the obvious cosmetic differences the winter ones are slightly narrower - it's the proper factory option - so supposed to be that way. I guess it affects the rolling resistance.
I've also noticed that tyres are also all the same width for winter, whereas in summer the rear tyres are wider than the front ones. I'm sure there's a reason, although I can't help thinking that marketing plays a part.
Subliminally, the different width thing has worked though. I'd also wondered about this same thing for my road bicycle. Putting a slightly wider tyre on the back than on the front. Wider tyre areas, different comfort and rolling resistance.
A couple of weeks ago when I'd asked about it, the obviously knowledgable chap in the bike shop had looked at me kind of sideways.
"23mm front and 25mm rear? I suppose you can do that." He didn't stroke his beard or shake his head, but I could see in his eyes that he was unconvinced.
The other assistant serving me was already swapping the tyre boxes around when I asked the question.
"No, okay, I'll stick with two 23mm," I chickened out.
* Written on iPhone, whilst waiting for the wheels to be swapped over
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Back once again for the renegade master...
Yes, back to normal, albeit with quite a lot of chocolate in the system. It looks as if some others haven't really restarted yet.
Yesterday and today have been close down from the last thing, as well as getting some material ready for another project. I didn't need my 05:40 start today, but somehow did it anyway.
Later this afternoon I also managed a few very wet miles on the bicycle, which now has the new brakes installed. Yet another reason to get black hands. Tonight I have a meeting in a few minutes, then maybe some telly.
...D4 damager, power to the people.
Monday, 21 April 2014
A few of us were chatting about the days when we used PCs and could spend vast hours tending to these labour-saving devices.
The rashbre home setup nowadays features some Macs, which generally behave themselves. The old memories of device drivers and dozens of reboots have mainly faded. Okay, we have a machine on Windows 8, which we haven't yet tried on the free update to Windows 8.1 and another machine which is still reliably on Windows 7.
The careful tending has moved to other places now. We are all supposed to be enjoying the use of the Cloud, although we still backup everything to locally managed servers.
They say the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and that is increasingly a facet I notice when using the Cloud.
A recent example has been the buffer overrun exploitation referred to as Heartbleed (CVE-2014-0160). It allowed nefarious people to peer beyond the length of a computer message at whatever followed (the next 64k actually). In some cases this yielded other peoples' passwords. The weakness was around for a couple of years before it was spotted, so there may well be plenty of passwords compromised around the web.
Like many, I get sent the emails from various Cloud-type services asking me to change my passwords because of this OpenSSL TLS/DTLS bug.
Then over the easter break I received the message that someone was attempting to hack into one of my Wordpress sites. I'd already deleted a couple of old sites at the end of last year after someone had been probing them and this time they attempted to put a file onto the site.
There's a kind of graffiti tagging they some hackers use, where they mark the sites they have hacked with a small text file saying they 'own' it. I casually looked around and noticed a British law firm, a French film company, a Turkish metal company, an American bar and even a broadway lyricist who have all been hacked by one of these people.
It's all just time consuming to manage and fix. Curiously, today I also received an email from a service offering to provide me Wordpress support by the hour.
My own care and maintenance has just made my already inscrutable passwords even longer and more fiddly.
I still see plenty of demonstrations of connected devices all talking to one another seamlessly. However, the annoyance of increasingly contorted security measures can still be a rainy lining to the Cloud.
I know, wandering lonely as a cloud requires slightly unseasonal daffodils, but they are from rashbre central.
Sunday, 20 April 2014
We decided to see "Once" at the Phoenix Theatre and managed to bag some central seats in the Dress Circle.
I'd seen the delightful indie movie, which had been made using sometimes guerrilla filming techniques.
The stage adaptation has won a fistful of awards on Broadway and recently gained Olivier awards including for the best actress in a musical, which went to Zrinka Civitesic. The guy in the stage version is Arthur Darville, who played 'Rory' in Doctor Who.
They are both accomplished musicians as indeed are the rest of the cast for what is certainly a great night out at a show.
As we arrived in the theatre, there was already a pre-show ceilidh running on the stage, with members of the audience sharing the space with the cast, who were playing feisty folk song arrangements.
Then the show proper got under way, with the love story of an Irish guy and a Czech girl who meet in Dublin. It is a simple story, well told and including some good knockabout humour as well as a whole range of good songs.
At interval time, the stage again becomes a bar for the whole audience, and we wandered downstairs to buy some Murphy's from the boards.
The bar room is the core of the set, which also uses a few tables and some clever lighting to represent the different locations of the story. It follows a similar line to the original movie, although is different enough to be fully enjoyed in it own right.
I found the original movie charming, and thoroughly enjoyed this production of the stage version, which I'd certainly see again, given a chance.
As one of the original writers, Markéta Irglová, commented "It resonates differently within different people because, I think, it brings people back to their own stories, to the times that they've stood at similar crossroads and had to make choices that would affect the rest of their life and they would never be the same afterwards."
...And it's a jolly good evening out.
Friday, 18 April 2014
"Which stop?" came the question, "Embankment or Temple?"
"If we get off at Embankment, we can swing past Trafalgar Square."
"What, like tourists?"
"Yes, but c'mon we are going to Covent Garden in any case."
So out of the tube, along a packed Villiers Street towards Charing Cross.
Traf. Sq. was packed with people. Some sort of event going on.
I suddenly remembered, "It's Good Friday, that'll be the Passion Play."
We watched a host of roman centurions nearby. Then a bearded man in white cloth walked speedily in front of us.
Yep, it was Him.
The story continued as Jesus reappeared a few moments later about to be recognised by Mary Magdalene.
Thursday, 17 April 2014
I've had so much of the above, this year, that it's created quite a few gaps in my cycling plans.
Even so, I seem to have clocked up nearly a thousand miles already this year.
Compared with last year, I'm somewhat lagging behind, but I'm slightly surprised that I've done as much as this.
I suppose I did the London thing a few weeks ago and I have a small team event coming up when a few of us get together to form a convoy going south. They are all practising and even have new bikes - no pressure for me, then.
At least I can now report that my carbon bike is back in business with decent tyres, tubes, a new chain and even a new set of brake blocks on order.
Wednesday, 16 April 2014
A refreshingly cold coffee on a train as I finish my current spell on the eastern side of London.
Thursday will have me tying a few loose ends. This mainly involves shredding documents. My shredder is like a kind of reverse printer. It has a paper tray area, but instead of putting in blank papers, it expects to be fed with A4 printed material.
It ponderously munches them and creates paper shreds that are about ten times the volume of the incoming material. I've the equivalent of an entire boxful (2,500 sheets?) to convert.
Monday, 14 April 2014
It may look like a half-hearted snake charmer kit, but was my next attempt to get the tyres sorted out on the bike.
Swap out of the mistakenly applied old front tyre with a shiny new replacement and put the wheel back.
This time it was a much quicker process. 5 minutes to get the old tyre off, another 2-3 to put the new tyre on and about a further 5 to wrestle with the last 10 centimetres. Experts claim to be able to do all this in a few minutes, but my King of Tyres Personal Best is about 15 minutes with black hands at the end.
I like the new tyres more than I might have expected. They are reassuringly grippy, despite a lack of overt tread - which I think is mainly cosmetic anyway on road bikes. My last two sets of tyres on the carbon bike have both been Continental Grand Prix, but these updated GP 4000S II do somehow feel both lighter and grippier.
It must be the Black Chilli sauce.
Sunday, 13 April 2014
Friday, 11 April 2014
...and in a sort of update to yesterday's story, I had an email suggesting some extra long tyre levers. I took a look and have now ordered some, for the princely sum of £2.99. (OK, 6 quid because I ordered 2 sets).
I'll try them out when I get around to changing the front tyre next week. As well as ordering some more inner tubes. And maybe cleaning the bike.
Thursday, 10 April 2014
My bike's had a very slow puncture on the back wheel. I think it might have been the valve, but anyway, I decided it would be best to replace the inner tube in the comfort of home, rather than be caught out somewhere on the road.
It sounds simple enough, but I managed to create a few problems for myself in the process. I took the back wheel off, let the remaining air out of the tyre and then used a tyre lever to start to ease the tyre off. It put up a bit of a struggle until I'd got about 30 cm of the tyre over the rim, but then I could get the tyre off from one side, pull out the old inner tube, look for anything untoward and then swap in a new inner tube.
In the comfort of garage (so to speak) I spotted a new tyre folded in a shiny box and decided to put that on to replace the one that had done several thousand miles.
So far so good.
Then to put the replacement tyre back on. It's supposed to be possible to do this with thumbs rather than the tyre levers. Hah!
Not my thumbs, they just couldn't manage it. Ten minutes of writhing and hand blackening, which I can remember from previous similar situations. I could have tried using plastic ties to keep the tyre in the middle of the wheel, but I decided to use a couple of tyre levers.
The tyre popped back on, and then I tried pumping it.
Yes, air was getting in, but then after about ten minutes, it was going out again. I realised I'd probably pinched the new inner tube, so undid the tyre again and realised it was so bad that I could hear air escaping with every pump.
Then I looked more closely at the new tyre.
I'd slightly wondered at the way the logo was kind of weathered when I was putting it on, thinking it must be a marketing/vintage thing.
But no. I realised that I'd actually just put on an old but clean tyre that I'd folded back into a convenient box. It was obviously a spare that I'd held on to for some reason.
This was becoming something of a downgrade situation. Now I had an old tyre and it was flat.
That was day one.
Next day, suited, I was walking around by Embankment tube station when a hidden force field guided me towards a nearby bike shop. I asked for an inner tube and the assistant shrewdly asked 'How many?'
I decided three should do it. And the cycling tractor beams had worked well. Just maybe a couple of proper new tyres as well? That way if I had to faff with the inner tubes, I might as well replace the highish mileage tyres at the same time.
Back home I dutifully removed the ex spare tyre and the dud inner tube. Put the new tyre half on, then the inner tube, then the other half of the tyre.
The last 10 cm was a problem again. I tried plastic ties this time to squish the tyre and got the tyre onto the rim without using levers. Pump up the tyre.
I'd somehow managed to make a hole in the second inner tube.
By now the red Bontrager tyre levers were becoming an indispensable accessory. This time I flipped the tyre off without much effort. Practice, I suppose was making it easier.
The second of the three new inner tubes was then deployed, and the tyre re-fitted again. I even had the tyre logo aligned with the valve.
This time it pumped up properly. 100psi. I put the wheel back on. It all worked.
That's the back tyre replaced plus a new inner tube.
That just leaves the front one.
Maybe next week.
Monday, 7 April 2014
A pigeon in London? Where's the story? There's - oh - dozens of them.
This one was freshly minted. And was standing on our wall. Although nearly the same size as a grown-up, I'll guess that this one was maybe 20 days old.
It was looking a bit dazed. I'll guess it had fallen out of a tree or something, because it didn't seem to be that interested in moving away as I approached.
I decided it was actually a collared dove. They're the brownish-pink looking birds that mainly strut around this neighbourhood in pairs.
So what to do?
Leave it on the low wall, where it could become a cat's plaything or of interest to a passing hawk? I'd seen a bird of prey idly swooping around the neighbourhood yesterday, and a later flurry of other birds escaping radially from a spot out of my sight.
I found my bright yellow gloves. I'd simply move it to somewhere adjacent but camouflaged. That way it could sort itself out, or its parents could get to it without needing to break cover.
It let me pick it up but then decided it would like to try its wings one more time. First one outside my glove and then the other. I let it flap and away it spiralled. A slightly messy flight, circling upwards to a nearby roof. I heard some other birds calling. The rescue squad must have been watching all along.
Saturday, 5 April 2014
"Come and have a look at my new bike," said a familiar voice.
There it was, all black and stealthy and with its cogs all sparkly. A small amount of mud on the rear tyre showed it had been out for a spin, but the general impression was of pristine newness.
"I'm getting ready for the charity event."
"What, with a new bike?"
"Oh, yes, something - you know - modern and lightweight."
I gasped in wonder at the machine ahead of me.
"And what's that?" I asked, noticing another shiny machine. A red one this time.
"Oh, that's mine..." came another voice, "I thought I'd better get something - er, suitable."
I looked across to this one. Thin tyres, fancy gears, shining a bright red luminance over everything.
"What about you?"
"Er, I'll be using my normal bike. It's a bit oily at the moment, but I'll clean it up before we go."
My mind flittered to the options to compete with the shininess, but I decided I'd better find some of that pink Muc-Off and just spend the £5 or so cleaning mine up for the event.
Friday, 4 April 2014
I've mentioned the still high 'crane count' around London as more new big buildings signify the London economy at some odds with much of the UK.
A few days ago I was driving around the City and had to take one of those impromptu diversions around an area where large trucks were being admitted to supply more walling to one of the new constructions.
Then across the river, my picture is of the April state in the development of the Tate Modern extension. It's already a monster building, an old powerhouse with vast internal exhibition spaces, including the currently empty turbine hall, complete with its filled in crack that runs across the floor as part of a now removed exhibit.
The extension work here is interesting because when complete, much of what is shown in my photo will have been bricked over, to make a finish more in keeping with the rest of the building.
It's one of those cases where there's a kind of artistic impression in this current state that I can't help feeling will get lost when the bricks land.
I understand the reasoning to make it stay in keeping with the original structure. Red phone box designer Giles Gilbert Scott shaped the brick power station that is now receiving the extension.
He also designed the other and more instantly recognisable brick cathedral power station further up river at Battersea.
But here in the South Bank, the Tate stands amidst a flurry of other new buildings with a mix of styles. Look at the Tate from the river and the new piece will be hidden from most views. See it from where I'm standing, and all around are different and quite colourful styles, in what is the regenerated Southwark.
Thursday, 3 April 2014
I dropped into the Richard Hamilton exhibition whilst I was around Tate Modern the other day.
Hamilton is known as one of the Pop Art founders and the 'Swingeing London' painting of Jagger handcuffed to his dealer on the way from a trial is probably one of the best known. Oh and the White Album by the Beatles, probably as well.
I hadn't realised, until I was in the show, that there were actually so many variations of the original Jagger picture, but I suppose I should have thought of it in the context of Pop Art.
I was also surprised at the span of work. A long career and many types of technique used. There's an underlying draughtsmanship to many of the pictures and a peak era which tails away then occasionally produced a new burst of work - like the spooky cowboy picture of Blair called Shock and Awe.
There's hundreds of works on show, witness the catalogue's size.
One of the exhibits that fascinated me was a long wall of work not strictly by Richard Hamilton. It was the Polaroids that he had asked to be taken by many people he knew, spanning 34 years and including Francis Bacon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Andy Warhol and Bryan Ferry, to name but a few.
Despite putting himself as the subject, the pictures show a lot about both the person taking the shot and Hamilton too. There's hardly a dull frame in the 100 or more Polaroids on show.
Then there's themes he explores like the industrial designs of his curvaceous car series, tinged with the rhetoric of marketeers' persuasion. Note the Sophia Loren lips in the picture below and the windshield made from the United Nations building. Lush, baby.
Some of the work is clearly from its time, but overall it presents a fascinating story of a founding member of the Pop Art movement, which many formats still use today.
Wednesday, 2 April 2014
I'm back more or less in the centre of London again this week, after my spell further east. My car looks as if it has been even further east, with a covering of sand splotches which I'm told are from sand blown from the Sahara desert.
The muddy looking spatter on my photo of St Paul's Cathedral is probably more of the same sand.
They say that the combination of sand and general pollution from across in Europe has created a particularly bad London atmosphere at the moment. Not exactly a London Particular, but certainly a London haze.
I took a picture from the Thames as well, and if you look closely there's a yellow haze in the air.