rashbre central: March 2017

Friday 31 March 2017

build a crazy wall to map the conspiracy?

With Mike Flynn apparently asking for immunity as he prepares to proffer information about Trump and the Russians, it becomes interesting to see whether anything new will really emerge.

The situation has already been decried as #fakenews by Flynn's son, in any case, so as with most of the so-called news from America it is almost impossible to tell what is really happening.

Flynn would need to add something new that can join a few of the dots, although much of the base information has been around for ages.

We knew last year that Trump's erstwhile head of campaign Paul Manafort had a long term and well-paid linkage with Putin's billionaire buddy Oleg Deripaska, the Russian aluminium magnate. It was ten years ago, however. Perhaps Manafort did only receive payments of $10 million to further the UC Rusal cause in the United States, but the fees go back far enough to be well and truly salted away now in far flung places.

Similarly for former senator Bob Dole and congressman Earl Pomeroy, who appear to have had lobbying interests via Alston & Bird, again to promote Russian interests in Washington.

Then there has been the PR lobbying for Russia and Russian state organisations such as Gazprom, from PR companies like Ketchum.

In fairness, Trump did relieve Manafort of his campaign role last August, and the sketchiness of Trump's inconsistent on-camera discussion of Russia (even when he was pretending to have proper conversations with Putin) make it look as if the Russian events were happening around him.

There's still the strenuously denied innuendo of an Ismailovskaya Brotherhood (aka mob) linkage of Deripaska and his bust-up with Manafort over the Ukrainian TV company called Black Sea Cable.

Then there have been the fancy bear and cosy bear hacks against the Democrat party, purportedly from the ГРУ, which is the Russian GRU or Main Intelligence Agency. Homeland security named the attacks Grizzly Steppe.

So we get a few public data points but insufficient information to really fathom what has been happening.

I wonder whether outside of any conspiracy theories, Flynn would really have the key to it all?

Even with one of those string diagrams they use in TV crime series and the movies, I'm doubting whether there will really be a way to unpick these well-paid but secretive relationships.

Somehow, using a crazy wall for any kind of Trump conspiracy seems some how almost futile.

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Blimey - c'est arrivé: now for pens, swords, quidlets and lots of words

La Première ministre britannique, Theresa May, doit intervenir devant les députés de la Chambre des Communes à Westminster mercredi 29 mars vers 12 h 30 (11 h 30 GMT) pour déclencher la procédure des négociations de sortie de l'UE.

Neuf mois après le vote des Britanniques en faveur du Brexit, cette annonce va précipiter le Royaume-Uni dans l'inconnu et amorcer deux années de négociations susceptibles de mettre à l'épreuve le bloc européen.

Die britische Regierung hat am Mittwoch bei der Europäischen Union den Antrag auf Austritt aus der Staatengemeinschaft eingereicht. Ratspräsident Donald Tusk habe das entsprechende Schreiben erhalten, hieß es in Brüssel.

I see the pen used by Theresa May to sign Article 50 is a Parker Duofold variant, made by a US company whose English production moved from Newhaven, Sussex to Saint-Herblain, France six years ago.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Battersea's Magic Kingdom

After yesterday's look around Battersea, I thought I'd once again check the plans for the area. There seem to be several names for the wider area now, including Nine Elms (that's really the area further east with the new US embassy). The Battersea area has been sub-divided with names like Circus West and Cringle Dock, as well as Electric Boulevard and Malaysia Place.

Some of the planned buildings have Norman Foster's London go-to modernity. Foster designed structures like the Gherkin, City Hall, The Millennium Bridge. Interesting buildings that both turn up on tea towels and keep London cool. If I found an updated Dan Dare comic, I expect it would aspire to Norman Foster building designs.

But surely a missing component in the real designs is a monorail? Or at least one of those Epcot style mass transit systems.

Across the way from Foster's designs are Frank Gehry's. Literally the other side of the street. And that single chimney view is no co-incidence. There's several pictures of Gehry explaining it.

Gehry designs buildings that look as if they have melted in the sun. His 'Centre for Brain Health' springs to mind. A variation I think he could have explored for London would have featured rain. Maybe some drips as well as the melting? What we actually get will be a kind of Hanging Gardens of Babylon theme.

Of course, between the architectural concept models and construction there will no doubt be some changes.

Perhaps they will leave enough room for my suggested monorail, although it is probably too late to ask for it to run right through one of the buildings? It's great to see bicycle routes shown, but perhaps they have missed a trick. I suppose it will depend whether the finished buildings represent money at rest or are actually used for housing.

As they say at the Contemporary : If you’re standing, please hold on to the handrails and stay clear of the doors. The monorail will depart momentarily for the Magic Kingdom. Thank you.

Monday 27 March 2017

a peek at the power station

Now they have more or less finished one of the front chimneys on Battersea Power Station, it is once again stating to dominate the skyline along Chelsea Bridge Road. It has been so long without all the chimneys that the whole structure almost looks bigger than before.

The sides of the building are now closely enclosed by the new housing development, which is restricting the view of the giant power station to only certain angles.

With the walkway along the Thames now opened, it is possible to legally get much closer to the whole structure too. I can remember when they would occasionally leave the riverside gates open and it was possible to cycle in for a naughty peek, but now it is turning into an area that will have pubs, shops and even something referred to as a village hall.
They are clearly targeting a certain clientele, what with the new gold-tastic finish on the entire west facing block of apartments. I'm not sure, but it looks as if they have built a new retaining wall along the trackside in gold too. I suppose it is to block the view into the apartments from the trains, and maybe to give new residents some gold blocks to look at from their windows.

Of course there will be a Dodd's organic gin distillery, Wright's champagne and lobster bar and a Flour Power bakery selling Hoxton rye levain, so the usual food and drink necessities of life will be covered.

It is interesting to see these new premises depicted on the sketch map, where the minor Sopwith Way (which currently has a black cab selling coffee parked at the end) is shown, yet the main A3216 Queenstown Road isn't.

Saturday 25 March 2017

spring colours of orange pearlescence

It is easy to tell that Spring approaches on the streets around Sloane Square.

The exotic cars were out in force. I was overtaken by a McLaren P570S on a 66 plate, which I believe is one of the more modestly priced cars from that stable.

In its understated orange volcano trim, the car overtook me, and then sat in a line of traffic until I'd steadily passed it again on those tricky one lane/two lane/three lane sections around the Cromwell Road. I couldn't really snap it, so here is another one outside Harvey Nicks in a more basic orange and on trade plates instead.

There were a couple of Ferraris (one red and one black) parked on Beauchamp Place and I noticed three Maseratis along Sloane Street.

By the time I parked in the underground car park the usual selection of Bentleys and fancy Porsche just didn't impress.

The tame Lamborghinis were mainly checked out somewhere although I'm wondering if some of them are being traded in for newer 2017 models. They still seem to do that thing where they drive without proper front number plates.

And it won't be so long before this year's other unusual number plates appear as the air freighted cars start to arrive for the Spring season.

Thursday 23 March 2017

evil can't win

I must have walked past the Carriage Gates to Parliament thousands of times. There's always police there and they present a friendly face whilst only allowing the permitted people inside.

My pictures here were only taken a few days ago.

The whole area is swamped with tourists for most of the year as well as plenty of people going about their business. The gates can be an area for tourist photographs, although there's also a priority to get cars usually containing ministers and high profile folk inside quickly because of the exposure.

Seasoned inhabitants of the area stride purposefully and can probably walk at about three times the speed of the tourists blocking the pavements.

Like many locals, I'll also select the west side of Westminster Bridge to walk across when going towards Waterloo. There's probably five times as many people on the other side of the road most of the time. The west side was the one used by the lunatic driver.

So when I saw the first tweet and then the periscope.tv unfolding of events on the bridge and at Parliament Square, it brought home the delicate balance of the systems that we all take for granted.

As a Londoner, I've been used to bomb threats, watching out for un-tended luggage and all the other signs of potential unease. We always had bomb alert protocols for our buildings, including what to do if one received a threat. We've been evacuated a few times too, over the years and had that Run, Hide, Tell drilled in.

Parliament itself has also had increasingly stringent security imposed. There's the concrete chicanes along the front of the building and for the access to the Lords' car park area. There's also routine armed police with big guns all around the building, with a finger resolutely pointed along the edge of the trigger guard.

Despite whatever the authorities can do (for example there's huge metal turnstile type bollards at the end of the route that the attacker took across Westminster Bridge) there's still a practical limit. The depraved perpetrators of these incidents use motor vehicles and kitchen knives to inflict death and destruction.

London will largely be back to its own amazing version of normal today, aside from the minute silence at 9:33 and tonight's vigil.

Sunday 19 March 2017

quantum entanglement and crate sifting

I've decided that the crate tidying is becoming something of a demonstration of quantum physics. It's that part where you have to describe the crates as a single whole rather than delve into the state of individual crates.

My upgrade on Schrödinger's equation with the cat is that these boxes are slightly see-through, so the presumptive state of an individual crate and its content can be determined through the translucent structure. Not quite as obvious as the paint can marks on the garage floor, but less opaque than a future-based alien language.

But that is only part of the story. I've decided that the crates practice quantum entanglement, where the merest change to one crate can have a ripple effect on other crates across large distances.

I'd go further and add that there are also examples of spooky actions at a distance, where something I'd done years ago might be affecting a crating outcome right now.

Schrödinger used a cat in his uncertainty example, but even with items that appear to be totally inert there's all kinds of hidden characteristics. My crates possess the normal particle physics properties. Up, Down, Bottom and Top. Oh yes, and Strangeness and Charm obviously.

But the extra properties that cause the quantum effects that ripple between the crates are the quark-like characteristics of joy, usefulness and occasionally dismay.

Here's an easy example: I open a crate. The contents represent a value. Let's say it is full of travel books. Except there's a transistor radio inside as well, and a pair of binoculars.

Yes, The ripple effect is already beginning.

In multiple directions, there has been an entangled shift within the crates.

It's still uncertain, but another travel book in a different crate wants to be reunited with the ones in this crate. The binoculars could be part of 'travel', but maybe should be with 'small domestic items', and that transistor radio could be allied to the binoculars, or maybe shouldn't be here at all?

And that's the paradox. If I try to measure this small element of the system, I am immediately confounded.

I need to view the whole crate system as a single universe (multiverse?) and expect the outcome to be predictable, but the inner machinations to be continuously varying.

But I can see all this thinking would land me in another black hole, so it may be better for me to put down the iPhone and get back to the rationalisation.

Yes, the next skip arrives Monday.

Wednesday 15 March 2017

triage of vinyl

Now for the vinyl rationalisation. I've invented some rules because otherwise this could be a very long process.
  • Allow an end budget of, say, 1 crate
  • Keep the albums that have a special memory 'Spark Joy' - (Wasa Wasa and other Edgar Broughton Band)
  • Keep the ones that are popularly considered classics (Sgt Pepper, LZ I, II, III, YBR etc.)
  • Keep the curios with special artwork - Ogdens Nut Gone Flake? - That Bad Japanese Michael Jackson picture vinyl
  • Consider making snapshots of a random selection of those that are borderline, but put them into the departure pile. Flickr time maybe?
  • Aside from Motown Chartbusters Volume III and the Stax Sound, remove all the compilations
  • Review those to be kept in light of CDs and remove those with decent CD alternatives (many Bowies - keep ZS, Changes, HD)
  • Re-curate the remaining Keeps so they would be an interesting assortment if on a shelf adjacent to a functioning record player
  • Grade the deselected into (a) charity shop and (b) worthy of further effort
  • Repeat the process for the 7 inch singles
Also, there's a myth that all album art was great. Some certainly were, but there was still an awful lot of utilitarian LP covers.

Below is a selection from the discards so far for any, or many, of the reasons above.

I've iPhone snapshotted a few more of the discards onto flickr for any sleeve rifflers.
Ex Vinyls - the ones that got away

Tuesday 14 March 2017

checking out and leaving the pop chart (life in fast lane surely makes you lose your mind)

Amusing to note that Ed Sheeran has managed to get 16 out of the 20 Top Twenty spots with the release of his recent album.

In the olden days artists would release one track from an album at a time up to maybe three in total for a successful artist. A sort of promotional extension of the album.

It seems that anything downloadable can now count, hence what must now be a lunatic ending for the official charts.

Come to think of it, Ed is on the Asylum label.

Even another Asylum best seller The Eagles couldn't achieve the same feat with their 16 million sales of the Hotel California album.

Monday 13 March 2017

brexaxation and priced in currency buffering (whether to use radians, degrees or ray guns ?)

I used to put all my pound coins into the storage compartment (once known as 'ash tray'*) on my car, to be used in parking meters and similar. That has changed over the last few years because most parking has now gone digital, with a selection of Ringgo and contactless systems replacing most non-bandit meters.

In the same theme as my general tidying, I suppose I'll have to find the remaining coins and spend them before the new £1 coin takes over as replacement legal tender by October.

The new coins have the edges sawn off, which could be seen as a representation of their declining value against other currencies. I suppose it depends whether one is buying or selling? Time to get the calculator out**.

Whilst Mrs May and Mr Hammond do Brexaxation things there's the less easy to comprehend foreign exchange impacts.

We might all be hearing talk of whether there will be a payment to Brussels of €60 billion or not, but the quiet re-pricing of the GBP has already been taking place. Something like 19% reduction since Brexit.

I suppose the argument about not paying any exit fees could be summarised to Mr Hammond as "We're already paying them, but no-one has noticed yet."

I don't blame Mr Hammond for the current plight. It was a work of sheer evil genius for the entire batch of reprehensible main players to quit after the Brexit vote was completed.

A common negotiating tactic before and after a big commercial deal is to 'change the players before the ink has dried' - something that smart negotiators will even guard against in their contracts. No such finesse in this case, although the rules would need to be different when it's your own side running the substitution.

The declining GBP value applies to other financial markets, although some of the dollar impact might actually be caused by the euro's own weaknesses.

But all of this is esoteric to many, who just want some disposable income and an occasional holiday after the main bills have been paid.

Meantime it is a slow drift for the economy, with less certainty than predicting long range weather.

*come to think of it, the glove box is still called the glove box by many

** the calculator shown is my old Prinztronic Mini Scientific (complete with degrees to radians switch). I found it captured in one of my recent slide scans. I shall have fun with some of these ancient photos.

Sunday 12 March 2017

time for some retro 35mm slides to digital

As well as the digitisation of a stack of old home movie VHS cassettes, I'm working through some packets of slide films. They were in a box in the garage although the projector has already departed creating a dilemma about what to do with them?

I remembered I've a transparency and negative scanner (in yet another small crate) and fired it up to convert at least some of the transparencies into digital. The scanner in question is an inexpensive one, and I suspect it works as a sort of glorified camera in order to make the digital images. Whilst not as fancy as a super high resolution scanner, this little Veho Smartfix seems to do the trick.

A regular 35mm scanner might make a couple of passes and could take a minute or two per slide. This only takes a few seconds to do three slides, and the image size it produces is 2544x1696 pixels. That is perfectly respectable for most of my uses of these old pictures. It seems to have some basic inbuilt exposure sensing too and although it came with a DVD of software, I'm happy using it straight from the packet, where it will scan direct to an SD card in the back of the unit. My only change was to put in a faster and higher capacity card.

I'm also reminded of some of the old analogue film challenges as I process these slides. Dust on the original transparencies. Marks on the equipment used by the original processor. Curious colour shifts on some batches of film. Curvature on the transparency affecting sharpness. Moisture trapped between the glass on the slides in fancy holders.

I've decided to blast through the slides without anything more than quick fixes. Rotation, quick colour shift fixes and the like. It seems to be working well enough and is fast enough to already have a decent stack of processed slides.

If any are that worthy, they could be reprocessed on another occasion. The initial objective is to get them catalogued into Lightroom. So far it's 633 slides captured. That's about 17 films. I've already found one packet containing snaps around the path up from the Eigernordwand, near Kleine Scheidegg and another pack of the martian invasion as a new motorway arrived in town.

Current configuration may vary from that shown in picture

Martian 'Arrival' on London outskirts, years ahead of the movie

Saturday 11 March 2017

way back in the 1990s - VHS to mp4

Way back in the 1990s. We made our own amusement then.

A slight rework of the old Incredible String Band song, which was set even further back.

Today I find myself wiring up a 1997 Sony SLV-E920 video recorder. Back in the day they cost around £500, or about £860 in today's money. Suitably rare, they pop up on eBay for about £60, although I found this one in the garage.

The purpose? To recode a few of the equally garage-based lost treasure VHS cassettes into digital. And how things move along.

Old VHS tapes can only be recoded at playback speed. Nowadays a DVD can run at 180 frames per second for conversion to mp4 or similar. So I still need to be selective about what gets converted. In the days they were created, the tapes would also be packed with multiple items, so there's a certain amount of fast forwarding required to figure out the content.

The line resolution of old domestic VHS is also quite low. 240 lines of interlaced signal. In modern terminology I suppose it would be 480i. Somewhat less than the typical 1080p of a modern set-up. I might whack the completed digital output through Handbrake later to squish them down a bit further in terms of file size.

As for the analogue to digital converter. I've been using the elgato video capture connector. It handles all the analog to digital conversion inside a little white 'blob' in line with the USB connection cable. I can remember using fancy PC cards to unreliably achieve similar goals in the past. Remember Windows driver conflicts?

Years ago, I used various Matrox RT systems, including RT2500 and RT100x. They were designed in the time of transition from analogue to digital video and cost more than the video recorders. Ironically, in those days when disk storage was still limited, one of the ways to output a storable image was to send it back to tape in DV format.

Now, for these conversions, I'm going straight from the tape to 'iTunes playable' format, so intermediate 'high quality' formats are really not needed. As home movies, the aim is for the 'Ahhh' factor rather than someone to examine the technical quality.

Sports Day, anyone?

Thursday 9 March 2017

terms and conditions

Like many, I've probably only skim read the T&Cs for iTunes.

Its around 26,000 words now, fully a novella in length.

Robert Sikoryak has made it easy for us, by turning the whole thing into a graphic novel featuring various unauthorised appearances by superheroes.

Now some areas are melt in your mouth simple to understand, whilst others might require a few stones to be overturned.

Even in the example above, it's clearly related to United States Law and would be different for International territories such as the United Kingdom.

Snoopy or Supergirl might need Dennis, Gnasher, Biffo the Bear or even Lord Snooty to clarify.

Inevitably, various forms of Steve Jobs appear, covering all manner of topics.

Of course, the idea will probably spread to further genre.

I see that the big league Trump collection is also on its way.

talking with the taxman about the art of redirection

The budget has come and gone, with Mr Hammond somewhat stymied by his predecessor's mess and the upcoming turmoil of Brexit.

The risk profile of self-employed is higher than of those in employer based work, yet Hammond is to reduce the offsets available, with the National Insurance realignment. Unless you are a backbencher ex-Chancellor now working for BlackRock, of course.

I've been playing with the entirely synthetic national household income as a way to get a sense of outgoings. We all get one of those customised HMRC profiles which shows personal contribution to the various direct taxation categories. I decided to reprofile it for the 'all UK household' case, driven from the Office of National Statistics figures.

In practice the ONS produce a quintile (fifths) breakout of UK incomes and although the middle quintile shows an income of £33,758, I decided that the 'All Households' blend, which includes the lowest and highest in the right proportions, would give a more useful figure.

On that basis I can also see that the 'all households' lifetime tax bill has risen between 1995-96 to 2015-16 from £447k to £826k. In 2000 it was £583k. I guess that is worth a separate plot at some point.

But my original objective was to get a sense of the 'All households' contribution into various tax categories, including the EU.

An interesting read. Welfare, Health, State Pensions, Education and National Debt interest make up 75% of the tax bill. And the EU contribution? Smaller than overseas aid(1.2%), at 1.1%.

Let's convert that into the 'All households' direct tax contribution. Of the £9,514 direct tax, around £105 goes to the EU. Welfare, Health, State Pensions, Education and National Debt contribution is £7,145.

So perhaps Mr Hammond was right to leave Brexit out of his budget speech, although the 19% reduction in US dollar foreign exchange rate still takes some explaining.

Sunday 5 March 2017

my garage tidying gauge is still at the dark star dense setting

I'm still in the tidying marathon, although today I decided to take a pause.

I've almost got the original three sides of the garage that were filled with clutter down to one (short) side. The 'to be skipped' pile is getting larger again ready to be pushed through the garage doors when I'm good and ready.

To be honest, the hastily snapped interim picture doesn't really do justice to the full scale of the situation. It was taken just before I demolished that desk unit and filled the space with more crates.

Indoors, the attic is clear although I have remembered that there is a whole stash of further stuff under one of the beds. Cupboards and wardrobes are still full and the music room has an entire department of various electronica, lighting and video equipment.

I decided to invent a guide to show my progress with tidying over the next few weeks.

The purple arrow is 'now' and the dotted one is where I started.

When we sold the central London place a couple of years ago, it was a much simpler process. Before that sale I actually drove to an IKEA and bought a few extra items. New table and chairs for the balcony looking over to Battersea Park. A couple of interesting IKEA tall light fittings so that the full range of switches was in use. Around £100 of IKEA soft furnishings. Okay, I did also replace the oven and dishwasher with state of the art slide and hide Neff and Miele ones.

Finally, the offer (after sale) to include all the furnishings for a very modest additional sum. It saved the entire packing and storage process and, really, we didn't need any of what was there and I didn't want to store it back here.

The buyers leapt at the chance to take everything so they now had a turnkey pied-a-terre in central London. Unlike the house-flipping politicians, and off-shore tax haven-ed fat cats, we duly paid the regulation amount of capital gains tax. I guess we are not as smart as some of the new world leaders who can dodge tax bullets.

Meanwhile, I'm starting to look at ads for short-term rentals in case we have to wait for our next place to be built.

Saturday 4 March 2017

spidery laws and de-duplication

I'm still going through the archaeology expedition in the garage.

I've adopted an approach which has since been copied by the American government. I call it 2 into 1. It is an intermediate stage of rationalisation, which should really be using the full Marie Kondo Spark Joy method, but I need to make enough space for that to be viable.

Hence take two of something with similar characteristics and reduce it by half. The Americans are supposed to be doing it with their legislation. I completely get what has happened and how everything has increased, much like the way that EU legislation has blossomed.

It is a lot easier to get busy around a new thing than to worry about all the repercussions in already existing things. That's how new laws get made but ancient ones don't get repealed. Actually even some fairly modern ones are a bit weird...The Salmon Act of 1986 made ‘illegal to handle salmon under suspicious circumstances’ and there's still that 'don't shake a mat towards the street' after 8am law in London.

Of course they are the more well-known examples; when all the Brexit stuff has to be adapted I suspect there could be a n awful lot more overlapping legislation. Perhaps some of the legal eagles will see this as a new business opportunity in the future. Rule reduction. Law lessening. Act adjusting. It'll probably be called something more complex like non-destructive reductive de-obfuscation. NDRDO. There could be a whole department.

And why the picture of the railway? It's at the back of the garage, although my iPhone pictures show that the spiders have been having fun around it.