rashbre central: December 2016

Saturday 31 December 2016

foggy motorway shuttle

Home today after yesterday's foggy encounter with the M25. I only had to go around about 30% of it, but there were plenty of obstacles created from the fog and other motorway blockages.

It paid off in the end because I was able to meet up with some friends for our annual 'far flung' session, which saw me drinking copious amounts of diet Coke. There is a limit though.

Then back indoors by around 2 a.m. Not too bad really and practice for the upcoming new year.

Friday 30 December 2016

traveller's tyre travails

My summer tyres are rated Y and the winter ones are H. All manufacturer fitted. That means that the lower set is rated to 130 mph and the higher set to 186 mph. Both well in excess of the UK speed limits. Both sets are also rated for high loads, so I'd think that after one recent 60mph tyre blowout on the M25, I'd be okay for a while.


Another 55 mph blowout. Same side. Different wheel.

This was after they'd been checked in the workshop a week ago when I had the front one replaced. This time I was on the A69 approaching Carlisle. I could even notice that the pop was quieter than the front tyre, and I was able to pull off of the single carriageway 60 mph road into a turning.

Time for the space saver again and then back to a nearby tyre place.

These tyres all had plenty of tread, but I decided that it was time for a rashbre recall and so, probably to the delight of the service centre, I had the destroyed tyre and the other two offside tyres replaced. They showed me that the other two still looked good. Even raised the car so that I could walk underneath to look for myself.

But it's one of those piece of mind things. Instead of two more potential explosive devices along the driver side, I now have four brand new tyres, and an unplanned trip to my dealership to discuss the use of their premium MO homologised manufacturer specific tyres.

Thursday 29 December 2016

A suggestion for that missing MacBook Pro hub...

I've been travelling, and the blog has been somewhat spluttery. One of the little tasks to perform when back at base was the reboot of the MacBook Air into its new form MacBook Pro.

There's a useful bit missing from the MacBook Pro, which I will call the QacQoc. It's a sort of dongle that does everything like a Swiss Army Knife.

Three USB 3 outputs, a USB C charging input, HDMI and 1000/100/10 Ethernet, plus SDHC and SIM readers. It even includes a little storage pouch.

I deliberately got one with a 'fly lead' rather than something that plugs flush into the MBP, on the basis that I'd rather not put the equivalent of a large lever/screwdriver directly into one of the MBP ports.

So no drama as I migrate about 500 Gb from the Air to the MBP, with hardly a temperature rise on the gadget.

Although, at this rate, I may need to revisit the way I use the Cloud.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

adding an extra MacBook Pro charger

There's the usual need to buy more chargers and adapters with every new computer purchase. I decided to try one of the smaller multi use devices for both laptop and gadget charging. Rated at 60w, it is one watt less than the official rating of my MacBook, although when I boot the MacBook Pro the rated wattage seems to be 45w.

Suffice to say it works fine. The little charger is quite a lot less expensive than the Apple one, especially when considering it can be used for multiple purposes. A well-known brand in America, it has all the requisite short circuit, surge, over current and temperature protection too.

This way I can flexibly have my usual three chargers. One under the sofa. One in the home office and one for on the road. Although, the sneaky thing is that the cables for USBC also need to be PD rated for power distribution or they won't work. Clever, eh? New smart cables as well as new adapters.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

a few of this year's #xmasgames

The remote control for the telly hasn't featured very much over the whole festive season. Board games have certainly made a showing, including up-to-the minute topical questions from Trivial Pursuit's gambling version and a couple of vintage appearances from that game that involves uranium mining in Peru and Moon shots. That's the game where you have to balance happiness, fame and money to win according to your own secret formula.

Then there is Stockbroker, complete with its couple of specially developed extra £10 million pound banknotes because some of us get so good at the wheeler-dealering.

And, of course, there are the silly games, whether it's racing to dress one another in newspaper or clockwork snail racing. More here

Festive tidings to all.

Monday 26 December 2016

remembering to use Boom on new macs

I'm sorting out and simplifying my various technology. I notice today's New Yorker cartoon says "Everything is charged!" - which I still consider to be an imaginary state.

A current dilemma now is how best to simplify music collections. Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, actual CDs and vinyl. I'll start with something simpler - the sound replay. For many years I've used Boom as a sound enhancer on the various Macs, but I've only recently noticed Boom 2, which I assumed was a bit of a cash-in and ignored.

Oops. Wrong. It's a very handy compressor/equaliser wth multiple presets and makes a remarkable improvement to casual listening via whatever device is to hand.

That was easy. One sound control now does everything very well and is making Regina Spektor sound perfectly wonderful.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Santa speed calculations, NORAD tracking and links to Xmas games

Time for this year's Santa Calculations, which I first published back in 2006 and then updated in 2010. This year I'm still using 7 billion as the world population because the cocktails are already at work.

Firstly, here's the link to the Santa tracking system created by NORAD.

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

The most notable adjustments applied are:

- Santa delivers no gifts to naughty children (not even coal)
- Naughty to nice ratio is 1:9
- As confirmed by NORAD, one Santa distributes all of the gifts.
- There is only one family per household.
- Santa bypasses non Santa belief system houses.
- Reindeer have recently eaten fresh magic acorns.

santa claus
Calculation Assumptions:

- World population = 7.06 billion
- Children under 18 = 2.353 billion (Hmm may be higher)
- Global Santa based belief systems: 33%
- Max children requiring delivery therefore 784 million
- Children per household: 3.5 (may seem high?)
- Number of households requiring distribution 224 million
- Naughty to nice factor applied but not many all naughty households
- Remove all naughty households (25% 0f 10%) = 5.6 million
- Eastern orthodox using Jan 5 instead of Dec 25 = 16 Million
- Target Households = 202 million on Dec 25
- Estimated child bed time 21:00 (9pm) with 7 hours sleep.

(child sleep duration on Dec 24 may also require revision)

Gives circa 31 hours (24+7) for all deliveries
Time is 1860 mins or 111,600 seconds

Average number of homes to visit per second = circa 1810.
So average delivery per household is 552 milliseconds, which is why Santa normally appears a bit blurry (I previously thought it was the sherry)

Land surface minus Antarctica is around 79 million square miles. Distribute destinations evenly = 0.7 miles between households creating a total distance of circa 110 million miles.

So 110 million miles in 31 hours = 3.6 million miles an hour or circa 1000 miles per second or Mach 4770 at a linear speed.

This explains Rudolph's red nose because of air resistance creating around 20 quintillion Joules of energy per second, which would convert a non reindeer nose to charcoal at such energy levels. I think the acceleration and deceleration per household may also need some examination.

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

Friday 23 December 2016

rashbre year summary in 4 minutes

2016 Year End from rashbre central on Vimeo.

Yep, its the hurriedly boshed drag and drop year end video. rashbre 2016 in 4 minutes.

Thursday 22 December 2016

James and the Giant Peach

We managed to get along to see James and the Giant Peach over the Christmas period, at Northern Stage. Whilst not strictly a pantomime, it still features a couple of tyrannical aunts and some crocodile tongues, and is suitably bonkers in the way of Roald Dahl.

One of the moves in child fiction is to give the young characters freedom to act and Dahl does this by killing off the parents during an unfortunate shopping expedition, when they are trampled by a rhinoceros.

This was a lavish and high energy production, delivered in the round, and we happened to have some front row seats by the stage which felt almost like being part of the action.

There were many children at the perforce, and they all seemed to know the various cues to participate in different parts of the action. suddenly, when the giant peach was floating in the sea, we were treated to about half the packed audience donning shark fin hats. I would have too, but I didn't get the memo.

Further along there were some immersive underwater scenes, with bubbles and puppetry. All of the staging worked very well. And then the cast themselves. Full of energy, encouraging the audience, most of them playing multiple instruments throughout the action packed show.

Great fun.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

a loud bang

There was a loud bang as we drove around the M25.

I was already about to pull from Lane 2 into Lane 1, ready for an upcoming junction.

Yes, a high speed blowout of a front tyre. I remembered that thing about not braking but instead letting the car slow down as I indicated my way onto the hard shoulder. Also about parking diagonally with the wheels facing away from the traffic, so that I could get out of the driver door onto the hard shoulder instead of towards oncoming 70 mph traffic.

Hazard lights and all other lights on. Check for a safe place to stand behind the barrier.

I looked at the dead tyre. Behind it was a piece of wood with some nails. It may have been coincidence. High speed blowouts are usually caused by under inflation, kerbing the tyre or some catastrophic damage. I suspect the last case.

The tyre was well and truly popped. Time to call the AA and the very nice rescuer was along speedily to fix everything. Space saver tyre from the boot, torque wrench, correct inflation. And then we were back on our way at a maximum speed of 50 mph.

Later I was along at the tyre place and they read out the treads from my tyres. All six and seven millimetre, so plenty left, well above the three millimetre that I usually consider minimum.

Did I want to see the old tyre? Not really, although I'm pleased it was premium and kept me in a straight line.

Monday 19 December 2016

shard of light

Up the Shard for a jolly celebration, before the start of the complicated logistics around the festive season.

It is always fun to look out across London, even if this occasion initially included some of the now seldom spotted London fog.

There's a fair amount of mileage involved over the next few days and I'm sure there will be plenty of twinkly lights.

Sunday 18 December 2016

2016 cycling target achieved - now for the cakes

I reckon it's safe to say that the mince pies will kick in now and I should declare my mileage target for 2016 cycling as a modest victory. 4,200 miles is respectable and hits my 'Gold' target for the year. I set 2000 miles as Bronze, 3000 Silver, 4000 Gold and *ahem* 5000 Platinum. Maybe next year?

Garmin says I've clocked 127,000 calories to achieve this.

Cakes all round before I hit reset and start all over again.

Friday 16 December 2016

terminal velocity of snowflakes @livetheatre

I managed to get one of the nowadays rare tickets for Nina Berry's 'The Terminal Velocity of Snowflakes', performed in the Studio at the ever groovy Live Theatre.

It's a two-hander, magically performed by Dean Bone and Heather Carroll, using Nina's crisp and sparkling dialogue.

The story starts simply enough, with a glancing snowy encounter in Heaton Park, and progresses through the lives of the two characters, both separately and intertwined.

There's an underpinning idea of time's arrow and the adventure laden descent of individual of snowflakes. No wonder they all look different. It creates a simple and memorable life-lesson as the story unfolds, as well as the idea of starts, hope and the different ways that things can turn out.

That's not to say it's all warm and cuddly, there's some hard edges and audience tears as the story progresses.

As a studio sized production it is also very strong, with a stylish clean looking set design able to evoke snow, sunshine as well as the trippier moments of the narrative. Similarly the choice of music and the soundscape helps create an altogether well-rounded production.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

malcontent at the mall

A trip to the mall on Sunday. The big stores don't open until midday, although the smaller ones are open from 10am. We drove through sleepy London streets and parked ahead of many other shoppers, although by the time we returned to the car the surrounding car park had filled.

I discovered a few of the reasons for a decline in walk-in shopping.

The malls have long taken a kind of Las Vegas approach to the internals of the individual stores. Walk around a casino in Vegas and it's impossible to see daylight or the exits. A deliberate design to keep you there longer. In general the mall stores adopt a similar approach, except they don't serve free beverages.

Keep em guessing about where the checkout is. A stupid idea, which this weekend cost D*******s some sales created by the frustration of having signage pointing to non-existent checkouts.

Don't put staff in areas where there might be questions. Another large store favourite. I did see a few personal shopper types being escorted around, but they would have had a somewhat grander budget.

Display goods in the windows which are out of stock. The objective is to get people inside, right?

For clothing, include long racks of clothes with a 'From' labelling on the head of the rack. Ensure one item remains on that rack at the stated price, but boost the price on all the other items.

The above methods are laughingly called retail science, but the ironically named Gruen Transfer and similar tricks don't seem that far removed from snake oil sales.

I could go on, but I think I'll have a coffee and then hit online shopping.

Saturday 10 December 2016

lifestream (anywhen)

EM590102 Anywhen
Anywhen* I look at twitter nowadays I start to see the first claimants of the '10 years and counting' tweeters. The early adopters with low serial number accounts.

And opinion is divided as we see their reminiscences of the altogether simpler times, 140 characters, no emojis, nothing fancy. A limited audience and maybe 50 followers apiece and that specially delayed refresh time in the early days.

I still follow some of those early day twitterers, before the days of the managed hashtag, mute, advertising, GIFs and the progressive incursion of noise to the feed.

I recently sat in the Turbine Hall and looked at the installed screens, which are part of Phillipe Parreno's current work. An initial simplicity as I tuned in. I could sense alien spaceships, jet aircraft landing, a clicking language, some kind of industrial mayhem, water and birdsong. The sound and light scape ebbed and flowed. You really do have to be there.

I'm told that the room at the far end of the hall contains the science that makes it all happen. Sound and vision driven from a series of microphones and probes around the building, plus a life force that filters what we see manipulated by a living container of yeast.

Like many, I dallied awhile, but didn't feel the need to break open a laptop or smartphone to distract me from the experience. Others had more complex life streams and would be tapping away on virtual keyboards in the midst of the experience, tweet-echoes diminishing their attention towards the installation.

I, like many others, was caught in the moment and wonder of this vast and curious installation.

Anywhen is a South West of England expression. Perhaps I should move there?

Friday 9 December 2016

in which i go #konmari with the book line

EM590067 book line
I've been going through that tidying thing, with yet another skip about to depart from outside the house. Each one takes away another 6 cu meters of stuff and I'm now just around the point where something like the Kon-Mari method becomes practical.

I'm struck by the delightful Marie Kondo approach to tidying, which fundamentally involves only keeping things that spark joy. An obvious early part of the method is to discard things.

Yep. Hence the skip(s).

Then to work through various categories for tidying, in a specific order. That's about where I am now, although there's another part that says put all of a certain category together in one place. Okay. Could be difficult because of the sometimes haphazard nature of the prior 'filing system'.

My modest success so far has been to remove many items from indoors, hence the overflowing garage.

However, I could, with a little bit of re-arrangement, re-park a car in there now. I won't though, because I need the floorspace for 'sorting'.

Maybe I should get one of those hats?

Although, come to think of it, that'd only bring a short term spark of joy.

And that brings me to books. For some years now I've gone mainly digital with books. That's except for gifts or books requiring obvious pictures or diagrams. The Kindle works well for me and the ability to swap between devices like Kindle to iPhone to MacBook, creates a great flexibility, with the Kindle giving a pretty good reading experience as well as an ability to change typeface when the going gets tough.

So what to do with the thousands of real books? I decided that most can go. A few have a special history (spark joy), some are immensely practical and used, but many of the rest have already made their way to the local charity shops. I tried using a couple of those recycling points for books. One was completely full and the other only allowed books to be posted in about two at a time. Perhaps a sign of the times?

I can understand the TV cliché of ostensibly learned people sitting in front of big bookcases, but the digital native in me doesn't operate like that.

By the time I've stored, say, 1000 books, that's a lot of space consumed with paper.

I had several ex-indoor bookcases in the garage filled to the brim with stuff, but in the end decided it was better to also add the shelving to the skip.

Curation over quantity. Sparking the Joy.

Wednesday 7 December 2016

seasonal central London beach scene

EM590082 i do like to be beside the Thames
Here we are mid-way into December and the external thermometer is showing 12 degrees Centigrade. No wonder there's people on the sand along the edges of the Thames. I took this picture looking right across to the middle of the City. Spot St Pauls, The Cheesegrater and Cannon Street Bridge.

It's a contrast to indoors at home, where the central heating pump has packed up and needs to be replaced. The local plumbers are all saying how their phones are 'ringing off the hook' at the moment, so it's time for fan heaters to make a short term come-back.
Nevertheless, as I type this from a currently unheated part of the house I'm still getting a 20.6C degree readout from the digital thermometer on the smart meter.

Although, come to think of it, it's also showing 3.345 kW of power consumption, so there must be at least one heater running somewhere.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

EdgeGame in Westworld

Part of the programmed endgame of Westworld's first series again reminds me of the conclusion of Punchdrunk's 'A Drowned Man'.

For the avoidance of direct Westworld spoilers, the above picture is from the Punchdrunk show and shows the couple outside the caravan, behind which is a forest where onlookers can walk across the trampled leaves towards the small hilltop where a conclusion plays out. Punchdrunk's world for the show was huge, set across all the floors of a defunct Paddington Post Office sorting office.

Of course, it's still tiny compared with Westworld, although the viewing construct is fairly similar.

Back to Westworld and I also see the overlaps with the second series of Humans. We have robots breaking through from their programmed mind to discover some form of a conscious state. That's in both shows. It takes slightly different paths, one of which is more routed in the inner voice being developed as the result of catastrophe (Westworld). In Humans there's some hidden programming code which can flip the robots up to a higher level.

Westworld positions the idea of a bicameral (two-chambered) mind where an outer reactive being is able to modify behaviour (think) based upon discovered consciousness. Julian Jaynes' bicameral consciousness theory supposes that great catastrophes were the catalyst for the discovery of inner self. Jayne's theory uses the non inward looking Illiad as a reference point. I'm considering the Odyssey-like quests in Westworld too: Homecoming, Wandering, Guest-Friendship, Testing and Omens, maybe?

A scratchy description of this inner self discovery appears in the Westworld story using the consultants' favourite triangle diagram depicting a simplified Maslow hierarchy followed by a magician's trick turning it into an onion diagram. A-maze-ing ;-)

What is also interesting is the idea of the language processing needed to express the feelings that emanate from inner self. The stuttering broken synth called Odi in Humans discovers consciousness but struggles with its extended vocabulary.

Both stories could develop the idea of the other structures needed to make a synth-world which doesn't simply end in all-out conflict.

Anyway, here's Laurie Anderson with Language is a Virus, from the William S Burroughs 'Ticket that exploded' cut-up/fold-in novel about creating insoluble conflicts for the life forms on Earth.

In Burroughs' story the conflicts were put there to destroy, but maybe Westworld ascribes to Nietzsche along the lines of that which does not kill us makes us stronger?

Monday 5 December 2016

my cardboard virtual reality

I was at a gig recently which had professional VR filming set up using a cluster of GoPro cameras. So far it hasn't been released, but some of the people attending are already looking into the necessary equipment to get that immersive feeling.

Something like the Oculus Rift costs about £550, needs a separate PC to run and probably requires the hand controller to be upgraded for the serious aficionado. It makes going to the original music gig seem like very good value for money.

Then there's the HTC Vive, at a cool £685. It is probably close to the benchmark, although some of the demos are a little bit sketchy.

I decided to start at the other end and see what could be done for almost no money, to get the effect until the technology properly matures. Roll on the Virtoba Reality Viewer V2, which cost me the princely sum of £5. Yes, five quid.

Admittedly there is some modest assembly of the cardboard structure required, but it does include all the velcro, elastic straps and even a rather basic control button. It took me about 2 minutes to get a fully functional unit, including setup of the VR environment via my phone.

The system works by putting a smartphone into the box, and effectively using it to provide the stereoscopic moving pictures, much like a Viewmaster from the olden days.

And it works rather well. I'm sure it's not as good as the expensive models, but at circa 100 times less, its not only 1/100th as good.

In fact, I booted up a 360 degree version of a Mr Robot episode and it was eerily realistic sitting in the room next to Elliot. As I turned my head I got the corresponding change to the view of the room. This example plays with the format too, with the start looking like someone has taken some video on a phone in portrait, before spilling into a 360 degree room (look behind to the open window, or spiral up in the air to look down on the action. Later the same storyline goes outside to Coney Island we are soon on the chairs in that big wheel that features in the TV show. And right in the middle of the conversation.

I've showed my cheap as chips VR to others and had various reactions from 'Yay' to 'I don't like the way it is moving about'. Most people comment on the pixels, which are more visible than, say, watching the same kind of thing on television. It's a factor of the iPhone's resolution, which, despite retina, still needs a further boost for full-on VR.

Here's the Mr Robot 360 unwrapped, but it's much better to watch it properly immersed on a headset viewer like with.in.

So here's a few more with.in viewable extracts: They do boot onto a regular browser and give 360 viewability, but the headset version with the stereoscopic sound is still much better. Even if it did cost £5. And even if it does look rather silly watching VR with a cardboard box.

Saturday 3 December 2016


It was time to plant some crocus, snowdrop, daffodil and tulip to boost the garden for the spring. I say that, but it was really time to plant the bulbs about a month ago.

General guidance is to plant between October and December. I know it's December now, but the challenge isn't so much that the bulbs won't grow (they were already sprouting) so much as the civil engineering required to get them into the ground.

I'd managed to pick a sub-zero day to attempt to plant them, knowing that over the next few days it will actually get colder. I tried the usual gardening implements, which just glanced off the ground. I think I only imagined sparks, but suffice to say it was all rock hard.

I've previously mocked a distant neighbour who sometimes drills into the ground to plant bulbs, but that would be one gadget too far.

Instead, I headed to the garden centre to get some compost. How difficult could it be to plant the bulbs in a lovely fresh covering?

I heard that 'neep' sound as I headed to the stacks piled in the open air in the garden centre. I could have worked out that this wasn't a great idea when the door to section had to be specially opened.

Sure, there were plenty of bags available, but rock solid frozen with the bags welded to one another with ice. I hopped between feet, fiddled with the trolley and I tried to look as if I was in the wrong aisle. I could see the man who runs the place looking at me but deciding not to intervene.

Undeterred, I found another type that seemed to be in a more sheltered spot and, yes, I could even lift the bags. Some felt squidgy in a not full of water or ice kind of way.

Then to drive back home with the bags stashed in the car. 24 hours of shelter before deployment and yes, the next day I was able to identify and plant the various bulb types. For my purposes the crocuses look like small electric transformers, snowdrops are tiny, daffodils are like little onions and tulips are thin skinned and white.

Either that or they'll all come up in the wrong place.

Friday 2 December 2016

just before the meteor hit

EM590041 just before the meteor struck
My deliberately flared picture today was taken on the South Bank a couple of days ago. It could show the sunshine, but I can't help thinking it looks a bit like one of those meteor pictures in this case headed towards Parliament.

And kind of prescient, given that the stock market seems to be taking a bit of a tumble today, as more odd news creeps out.

Over in Trumpton, first we get the bankroller of Mad Max:Fury Road and Suicide Squad, Steven Mnuchin, to run the Treasury. Not enough? The President Elect has now appointed Mad Dog Mattis to be his Defense Secretary. There was much whooping' and a'hollerin' at the rally in Cincinnati where it was pre-announced.

Mattis is the one who made the quote: "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet." His favoured call sign is "Chaos".

Then there's the oil price 'agreement' with Saudi Arabia, which was supposed to bring stability to pricing, but has instead caused investor speculation everywhere. Add in the American payroll announcement which sets the stage for a rate increase in a couple of weeks, so maybe Trump should inherit Mad Dog's callsign? Mattis can revert to Warrior Monk.

In Europe the Italians are getting ready for their referendum at the weekend, which, if Matteo Renzi resigns afterwards, could further destabilise the already frail state of play in that country.

And here in Britain the news is finally sliding out via Hammond and Davis about the expected payments to the EU to remain able to trade. Quelle surprise. The EU has got used to the money from UK and is now looking at ways to continue having it post-Brexit.

Perhaps the Italian referendum or Austrian election this weekend will push another country towards a form of EU-exit? It's certainly knocking the shares around.