rashbre central: May 2016

Tuesday 31 May 2016

lodge time

A few days back in our lodge in the woods.

One of our near neighbours is quite well known in this part of Royal Deeside. Yes, the Queen spends summertime in Balmoral which, whilst bigger than our place, shares the same local shops.

Unfortunately, there's been some drastic weather since the last time we were here. Last December the nearby village was flooded when the Dee burst its banks and it is only now getting itself back together.

All the way from Ballater along the river there's signs of damage, such as this Victorian suspension bridge across the river at Cambus O' May. Usually we'd cross here on foot, but since the destruction of last December it is closed.

Separate from the floods, the historic timber railway station buildings in Ballater suffered a major fire. The building is listed and there is much activity to put it all back together again.

It used to be the end of the passenger line back in Queen Victoria'a reign and she'd make her way from the station to Balmoral by royal coach.

Rumour has it that she opposed the extension of the passenger service past her own estate, although we did spot one of the ex-railway buildings in Braemar.

Sunday 29 May 2016

walled in or out?

Travelling to Scotland, we spent some time along the remains of Hadrian's Wall. Originally 15 to 18 feet high and running across the whole of the Great Britain between Solway Firth in the west and and Wallsend on Tyne in the east.

Built in 122 AD, supposedly to keep the 'barbarians' from the north outside of the Roman Empire, I suspect there was also a symbolism to the original bright white colour of the wall and its Roman mile spaced turrets and fortified checkpoints.

Quite a statement along the lines of beyond it 'there be dragons'.

As well as the wall's obvious military deterrent effect, there were also also a couple of wide ditches and a set of 'entanglements' added in the English side, so it looked as much about keeping people in the Empire as about keeping people out.

After Hadrian left, his successor decide to build another less well0known wall further north. Hadrian's wall started to become maintained by non-Legion locals and eventually fell into disrepair, being raided for its stone, which is now well dispersed in local stately homes, cathedrals and churches.

I'm sure there's some 'history repeats itself' lessons in all of this?

Saturday 28 May 2016

not qi working

A blip in communications at present.

I've been using Qi wireless charging for my iPhone, that's the kind where it doesn't need to be plugged in to the charger.

As they say, it was working fine, but recently seems to have plummeted to only give very short charged time for the phone.

I thought I'd thrown my extended battery into the bag for this trip, but unfortunately not, so I'm now nursing the phone until I can get properly re-wired.

Inconvenient, and like being in a pre-mobile world, but I'll survive.

Friday 27 May 2016

head for the high lands

We've been heading north, this time to Scotland, but only after a detour through the Lake District. There will be a contrast between the busy roads of the Lakes and tranquility as we reach the Highlands.

Thursday 26 May 2016

Thursday Thirteen (V60) - Colleen sent me #TT #T13

Following yesterday's half Wordless Wednesday, I thought I'd try a Thursday Thirteen. (Hence today's picture of forget-me-nots)
  1. Actually, it was Colleen's suggestion that I tried the #T13, which had also slid out of my regular blogging.
  2. I can always remember that #TT was much harder to spontaneously complete than a #WW
  3. The last one of mine I can easily track down was from 2012 and is linked to here:
  4. I'm guessing that the gradual drift towards ever shorter messaging, such as twitter, brought about the shift away from WW and TT.
  5. When I looked at the links for Wordless Wednesday, the highest number of participants in a single week seemed to be around 284. That's a lot of participation. Check it out here.
  6. I probably started contribution to Thursday Thirteen back in around 2006.
  7. There was another fun site called Michelle back in those days, too. Some will remember the message "Michelle sent me"
  8. Thursday Thirteen was a good place to comment about a few of things I was doing that would maybe not get their own posts.
  9. Like I've unpacked from last week's trip away and am about to start packing for the trip which starts tomorrow.
  10. I'll be including walking boots, although I notice the temperature is currently about 9 degrees C cooler, where we are going
  11. The bought in Switzerland Lowa walking boots got thrown away after they disintegrated in a field last year during a pop concert. A simultaneous de-sole-ing of both boots. We suspect they had been through a tumble dryer.
  12. My current Lowa boots are light weight, although I still have some very high mileage heavy duty Vibram soled leather ones in the garage.
  13. We'll be starting tomorrow's journey very early, with an aim to miss some of the commuter traffic.
Something else I remember is that I used to keep a rolling list of possible TT thoughts. The kind that spring into mind when on the top deck of a bus, or waiting for a tube train. I guess I'd better start that again. But first, back to the packing.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

around a week ago in the north east #ww

This could have been a Wordless Wednesday post, although it looks as if WW has quietly disappeared.

Update (found it!) here

Anyway, marvel at the almost #ww blue car safely docked adjacent to the Sage spaceship.

Whatever weather, this rooftop parking spot is a great place to absorb epic north-eastern vistas.

Tuesday 24 May 2016

in the Heights, London. @InTheHeightsLDN

Along at the weekend to Granary Square to see the excellent In The Heights, a show set in Washington Heights, New York. The show shares the same theatre as The Railway Children, and the show plays between two sets of banked seats, along two platforms of Kings Cross station.

The concept has allowed the bar to receive a US-subway style makeover, and presumably a daily repurposing to a Southern Railway waiting room for the other show.

Understandably, In The Heights will have broad comparisons to West Side Story and Rent, although this is sufficiently its own piece and with its modern twists.

It's a really high energy show, with a great cast of actors, who all sing and dance with zeal. As a musical it has been around since the mid '90s, originally doing well and winning plenty of awards in New York. This version has been in London since late last year, and its run has been extended.

They'd run out of programmes and there were quite a few substitutions in the cast, so I've no idea who was in the version we saw, except to be able to say that they were all great. It didn't feel in the least like a second cast. I'd happily see the same gang do the show again. Similarly the snappy band, hidden away yet ripping up some storming numbers.

The style is a hybrid, mixing rap, hip-hop and Latino in this bustling New York offshoot of the Dominican Republic. It's fundamentally simple storylines with the style and vibrancy of the players keeping the entertainment values dialled up high. We were in row D, very close to the action, and immersed in this very particular part of Manhattan for a couple of hours.

Sunday 22 May 2016

shapeshifting shopping

Part of the journey last week took me past the big tin sheds of modern fulfilment centres, as part of the new normal landscape for shopping.

Not just Amazon, there's also new warehouses planned for John Lewis and Next.

Last week I'd also been into a provincial mall, where I couldn't help notice the sheer number of closed retail units.

One of the anchor stores had been a BHS, now closed, and along the sides were various empty units, some with that full size wallpaper designed to make them look as if they may still be occupied.

Further shops had those 'closing down sale' notices. These were not the perpetual closing down sales of Oxford Street, but instead announcing a finality that they will be gone by the end of summer.

Today, back in London, I noticed the contra-signals from the more rarified atmosphere of Shepherd's Bush Westfield. Their crazy mixed-up car park entry gives early hint that this is one of the malls actually growing in size. A high crane count and further 70 shops being added.

Friday 20 May 2016

inventing a mona lisa overdrive for robocars

There's been some coverage of self-driving cars over the last few days, as the next round of manufacturers' tests get under way.

The Google sticky car paint springs to mind as a 'you can't make it up' moment. The patent is for a special kind of paint that becomes ultra sticky if the car hits something. It is supposed to ensure that any person hit by the vehicle then remains on the vehicle instead of bouncing to the ground. Human (no) fly paper?

My current car has some self driving functions. They include a radar based active cruise control which responds to cars in front and slows down or speeds up accordingly, up to my pre-defined speed limit. There's also a traffic jam mode, where it will edge forward in traffic as the cars in front move.

Even these basic autonomous functions can create slightly unexpected results. The main one is when I'm in slow traffic on a motorway and a car in front moves out of my lane causing my vehicle to speed up. This sometimes takes a 'push-along' driver in the outer lanes by surprise when my car accelerates to close the gap in my lane.

In stop-start traffic the car will edge forward using its own safety pattern and sometimes a twitchy car to the left will think there's a gap opening to switch lanes.

It raises the wider question as cars become more autonomic. Like an early form of Asimov's Laws, how will the cars respond to unexpected events?

As some cars get cleverer, what happens to the motorists in vehicles without the same capabilities? Will we start to see driving hacks designed to slow down, stop, or divert the intelligent cars and trucks? Geo-fenced routes using the sat-nav to keep the robocar on selected routes? What about police cars? taxis?

Will the new cars know about cyclists? How about eye contact when at a tricky junction where someone has badly parked? Handling outside schools at pickup time? Maybe a law abiding robocar will refuse to park in dangerous spots?Will robo-cars properly observe speed limits? Even when there is a pushy driver on the tailgate? What about defensive braking such as at the approach to a roadworks? The list goes on.

Current cars with autonomous facilities don't have to advertise it externally. I wonder, as the capabilities increase, whether there will become a new equivalent of an electronic 'red flag'?

And then how long before the Slick Henrys create hacks for the autocars? Or after-market add-ons? A kind of Mona Lisa Overdrive?

Wednesday 18 May 2016

train time

Train ride - waiting for coach J
Having driven the blue car north, I came back on the train. Platform 3, coach J, seat 09.

Except the train arrived without a coach J because of something to do with Edinburgh. Nonetheless, I managed to get a block of four seats,with two more to the side, in what was a comfortably empty train.
Train ride - An MK4 like the one I'm on
Something like this one, although this was actually on another track. Then south, with only two other stops before London. Darlington and York, then fast all the way.
Train ride - London gin in preparation
I'd had a few days away from London, so a suitable refreshment (or two) seemed to be in order, compliments of the rail company. Then something I seldom do on a commuter train - simply watching the world go by out of the windows.
Train ride - Quiet Coach
Perhaps it was because I was in a designated quiet coach - but I didn't fire up the gadgetry, aside from a few iPhone snaps along the journey. Instead watch the unfolding scenery of spring fields.
Train ride - Window view
Okay, and a few pieces of railway paraphernalia, like these diesel locomotives - in this case parked at York by the railway museum.
Train ride - Diesel locomotives
Then a pause at York before starting the non-stop run for the rest of the way into London.
Train ride - York - last stop before London
A blend of countryside, some industrial reminders and even some scenic interludes, like the bridge across the canal.
Train ride - boost of power
I don't know whether modern train drivers are supposed to keep the trains moving at all times, but we slowed enough here to take the picture through the girders of the steel bridge.
Train ride - Sightseeing by the canal
This was also around the point that the complimentary lunch arrived, so despite a few minutes delay, it was an altogether enjoyable experience. And then, almost before I was expecting it, we were at Finsbury Park, on the home stretch into London.
Train ride - Finsbury Park
Time to gather my few lightweight travelling items, ready to bundle out at Kings Cross and across to a tube. Not bad at an average land speed of about 85mph - including stops, compared with about 50mph in the car - and I won't mention the typical number of motorway holdups...
Train ride - Kings Cross

Tuesday 17 May 2016

blending the yorkshire puddings

Presumably closing the BBC 11,000 food recipe web-site is partly a political gesture to illustrate that some eye-catching savings are being made?

Let's say an average recipe takes 2000 words and 20kB pictures. Round it up generously to 100kB per recipe and we get to maybe around a gigabyte of data. I'm sure there's a people-based workflow to manage it, but it's still a small drop of gravy in the BBC budget.

I checked the recipe for Yorkshire pudding. The BBC food recipes site uses suggests beef fat (which is probably traditional) whilst the BBC Good Food site uses sunflower oil. I expect there's a few more herb-laden recipes that didn't surface?

The whole event smacks of a diversionary tactic. Slice, dice, mix and create froth.

Mix well and serve.

Sunday 15 May 2016

a day at the races

My snapshot from Doncaster horse races on Saturday.

The gambling from the proceeds of my novel 'The Triangle' have completely stopped. The change to the odds of the National Lottery scam provoked this revised strategy.

Although horse racing odds could be better, at least we had a nice meal, some fizz and a proper sense of occasion, instead of the ever dwindling production values of the lottery.

My own occasional lotto prizes degenerated to becoming mere entries in the next week's lottery.

In the mathematics:

Selecting 6 numbers from 59 is 59 factorial divided by 6 factorial:

i.e. (59! / 6!) = 45,057,474

Now selecting 3 right numbers from the above...

Three numbers from 6, in any order:

(6! / (3!*3!)) = 20

And any three other numbers:

(53! / (3!*50!))

multiply together to give the total combinations gives:
(6! / (3!*3!)) * (53! / (3!*50!))


(20) * (23,426)

= 468,520 combinations.

So that's 468,520 chances in 45,057,474 to get three numbers right (around 1 in 96).

Now do that two weeks in a row (i.e a so called 'win', followed by another from the subsequent 'winning' entry):

This is where the springs burst.

And even if they didn't, it would still only give me another ticket for a third week.

To get even close to a decent prize, the odds on 4 numbers are now (excuse my shorthand) 6C4*53C2 = 20,670 choices or for 5 numbers it moves to 6C5 * 53C1 = 316 choices (1 in 7.5 million - twice the odds to be struck by lightning). Maybe £20 for 4 numbers? Pah!

But enough of the mathematics.
It should be immediately obvious from my pix that the Doncaster horse racing was more fun to watch, even if I didn't really have a clue about most of it.

And no, I didn't win anything - although the odds were a lot better. Although, I should have bet on the jockey who arrived by helicopter.

Friday 13 May 2016

volare oh oh

A few years ago, outside the Dorchester, there was a piece of artwork called "Vroom, Vroom". It changed from time to time, but the two versions I particularly remember included a Fiat 500 and at a different time a Lambretta.

Although classed as artwork, it was an inadvertent reminder of two cheeky forms of Italian transport. Fast forward to now, and the recent sale of the green Ford Ka. We'd advertised it on Gumtree and had a selection of Gumtraders try to get the price knocked down before even looking at the vehicle. You know that feeling when being 'gamed'?

In the end we took it to a local dealer, who offered a fair trade price. He promptly sold it for a greater than 100% markup before we'd even paid the cheque into the bank.

Still, not bad for a still fully functional 15 year old motor.

Time for the replacement vehicle (Italian), so where better to use for inspiration than that same area around Mayfair and Park Lane?

We are just coming back into the proper London supercar season marked by all the cars being reshipped from abroad to the London streets and the vogue colour at the moment seems to be a sort of baby blue. In car speak that's 'Volare'.

Whether its a Bugatti,

a Lamborghini, or a Koenigsegg (here clamped outside Harrods/La Duree)...

They all seem to have one thing in common. That Volare Blue colour. These supercars may all live in underground car parks and airport loading bays, but when they are out in their small London habitat between Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Chelsea Bridge, the on message colour is that blue.

So the Ka replacement isn't silver, black, white or red.

Oh No.

Oh Volare, nel blu dipinto di blu.

Wednesday 11 May 2016

nom de guerre for a class war?

A fellow blogger has just released a new novel about teaching in the UK. It's under a nom de plume, and the description below features a link to the UK Amazon page.

I haven't read it yet, although I've downloaded it from Kindle. I'm sure it will be worth a read. So c'mon... Give it a go!

Tuesday 10 May 2016

whats he building in there?

P4270244 Tonka moment
Okay, not my neighbours exactly, but still part of the northern project. It reminds me of an extreme version of that Tom Waits track.

I suppose the picture needs to be a bit more grainy?
P4270244-whats he building in there?

Sunday 8 May 2016

waiting for the orange double suction

I've been using some of my 'investment tools' recently. I call them investments because of the informal rule that they mainly sit in the garage and are only very occasionally used.

It's the strange economics of buying a labour saving device, using it for a few minutes and then putting it away for sometimes years at a time. A possible trade-off would be to rent something, but as any fule kno, the tools available are always one less than the tools needed to complete the job.

Last year, even the professionals installing the kitchen showed examples of the rule, needing to get extra bibs n' bobs to complete things. On a couple of triumphant occasions, I was even able to supply the missing item from the dormant supplies in the garage.

This time I'm waiting for the delivery of one of those suction devices. This is for the northern project, rather than something at home.

Hopefully the above picture does justice to this double-suction-cup handle, which can be used to pull plinths from fitted kitchens.

It will probably be used for around 5 minutes and then join the other investments.

I suppose it will go into the same tool-bag as the carpet puller (20 minutes use) and that locking adjustable wrench (20-30 minutes use across many years).

Friday 6 May 2016

voting for a discredited experiment?

Aside from the well-discussed London mayor elections, there's been local council elections and police commissioner elections throughout many parts of the country.

I took a peek at the websites for the PCC candidates for one of the areas, ahead of the actual election day. Some say that the PCC mechanism is a discredited experiment. I decided to take a quick look. Of five candidates in my selected area, only three had any relevant content loaded. Even the incumbent PCC's content pointed to a Strategic Plan, which catastrophically failed to download (this was a week before the actual election).

Even by these limited actions I suspect I did more than many potential voters to attempt to find out what was happening. I screen grabbed the incomprehensible .NET error message and sent it to the then current PCC's email.

The next day I received a direct mail from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, which did send me some working links to the things I'd been seeking. Still, it was a 'round the houses' approach to getting something tangible.

The turnout for this PCC vote was much higher than last time's extremely paltry one (something like 15% now up to around 35%). When a single mid-term re-election was called in one area, the stand-alone voting actually dropped to a 10.6% turnout.

I originally thought of this role as a kind of 'jobs for the boys' (actually, last time it was 6 women and 35 men). Based upon my rather unscientific attempt to get further documents, the old criticism that there was too little information to make an informed decision still seems to hold.

Perhaps this stealth uplift is part of an increased politicisation of the roles?

I suspect people have gone out to vote for their councils and seen there is an extra PCC paper to complete. Scan the list of largely unknown names and use their favourite party name (Conservative, Labour etc.) as the only guide. With nothing else to go on, that's the way the votes have turned. Of course the individually elected commissioners have to say they are non-partisan.

We shall see.