rashbre central: May 2017

Sunday 28 May 2017

along the border

Further west for a few days, in the land of border castles, this time between England and Wales.

Aside from the castles, there's the examples of the battle-side camps used by knights. The example in my picture shows one with a comfortable four poster bed, and a separate sitting room.

I believe the medieval scheme was one of primogeniture, where the firstborn inherited the main land, the second born would go to the clergy and the third and so on would become knights. The knights could power up their status via judicious capture of opponents.
It was in the days before the armies fighting became fully systematised, and there was much money to be made from the return of valuable pieces (knights) to their estate, for the suitable payment of a ransom.

Also there was an idea where the code of chivalry would allow the return of a captured asset with a time allowance for the repayment of the ransom, to give the knight's estate time to raise the money.

A well known example was the capture of the French King John II, by the English, during the Hundred Years War. All manner of hostage swaps and financial arrangements were mads, although France didn't really have the funds.

Saturday 27 May 2017

air con

The improvised air conditioning worked surprisingly well. A freezer tray, ice cubes and a fan. Must remember to put everything back together before moving on.

Friday 26 May 2017

the difference of a day

After my comments about limited discernible difference in security, a day later the same scene now has a notable addition.

Look carefully to the right edge of the station entrance, spot the yellow high visibility jackets.

As well as police augmenting security staff, there's a now a couple of mounted police supporting the normal security.

offensive plays in NATO suitland

Aside from the dressing down he showboated for his domestic audience, the so-called face of the United States did that curious manoeuvre to get to the front for a Brussels photo opportunity.

Fascinating to see him manhandle the newest NATO member Montenegro’s prime minister, Dusko Markovic, using a US football run block, then adjust his battle clothes and blank the person he had just barged past.

The full sequence is definitely one for the analysts although by tonight it will probably have never happened.

Thursday 25 May 2017


Relaxing around Canary Wharf again this evening, this time with the full sunshine and Thursday evening crowd out in strength.

I'd wondered about an extended military presence here but it seems to be mainly the Canary Wharf security guards around in the busier areas.

Meanwhile, the bars and cafes are, this evening, rammed with office workers.

Wednesday 24 May 2017


Along the Thameside Path, then halting for a rather late lunch. Almost Wordless Wednesday.

Sunday 21 May 2017

living the high life

Great views of London from the Sky Garden. It's in the Walkie Talkie building, although I've heard some people refer to it as the Toaster. Ages ago, when first constructed, its shape caused some sun beams to focus down to the pavement and melt parts of parked cars.

They figured out how to fix that before too many vehicles were vaporised sci-fi style and nowadays it offers one of the best (and free) views of London.

We arrived before sunset, but stayed for a meal in the Fenchurch, two further floors up. One of those tasting menus with about eight courses. Yum.

Saturday 20 May 2017

stairway to Zédel

Just time to visit Zédel in Piccadilly Circus. Well, under Piccadilly Circus, which is where the bustling French brasserie lives. The entrance is via what looks like a much smaller cafe in Sherwood Street, but the secret is to take the winding steps on the left hand side, down to the entrance about 2 flights below.

Always good and a real hidden gem in the centre of London (Hint: We'd booked, and there can be queues)

Friday 19 May 2017

mixtape 90s

I watched another excellent Mixtape show on Friday evening. I can't really review this because of my connections, but let's say that the gang were on top form and gave Live Theatre a fun-filled evening with 26 sketches divided into an A Side and B Side.

This show was of 90's music, permitting references to Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Spice Girls, various songs with Boom in their title and much, much more. Jessica Dawson, Natasha Haws, Caroline Liversidge, James Barton, Steven Blackshaw, Dale Jewitt and Lewis Jobson all giving lively and comedic performances.

The writers comprising (mainly) Melanie Rashbrooke, plus Nina Berry, Lee Mattinson and Alison Carr vary their sketches from cryptic, through a few easy-peasy towards downright twisted, taking and rearranging song lyrics into a sketch, which usually has nothing to do with the original track.

Then, whether it's the Jesmond jetset comparing lovers, a curious period drama about farms or even a completely repurposed version of the Macarena, there will be something for everyone.

The Golden Mixtape winners managed to get close to a full score (58/65). Teams around me maybe managed around two thirds, which was downright respectable.

I had to keep quiet about answers, and for once was in the audience instead of backstage.

Here's one of my rehearsal studio shots before all the tech was added.
As usual, the show required huge amounts of cues and tech, this time adding even more lighting and smoke to the proceedings.

Next stop, The (brand new) Peacock, @PeacockSun.

Thursday 18 May 2017

fly flight algorithm edge detection defeat mechanism

Anyone who has seen that Breaking Bad episode about the fly will understand a recent dilemma. Usually wasp or bumble-bee trapped indoors will co-operate with the homeowner, if shown a path back to the great outdoors.

Less so with some flies which will simply fly around available rooms in large figure of eights. I know I could find a swatter or some of that spray, but I decided to see if I could defeat the fly based upon its limited functions.

Three main ones, and I'd be concentrating on the flight one. My hypothesis was that the fly would have great flight processing, including brilliant edge detection and some sort of vector direction seeking, the latter based upon an inbuilt delay in one of the video channels which could ensure that the fly was flying in the intended direction. It would be similar to that Google effect when the images blur as one walks along a google map.

So I designed the fly flight algorithm defeat mechanism. Its a bottle, cut in half. The trick would be to find the fly at rest, approach slowly and then centre the bottle's cut edge over the fly's eyes. All 800 of them.

In practice, this was surprisingly easy. I suspect that the fly's flight algorithm is used to seeing surfaces expand as it gets closer (i.e. at landing time), so this bottle edge may have just been enough to confuse it.

Succinctly put, it was easy to surround the fly with the bottle and then trap it (in the way one traps a spider) with a bit of cardboard. An adjacent beermat, actually.

Turn bottle over. Walk outside and release. The fly is once again mobile food for the birds.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

tilting the house of cards

Depending whose news one absorbs it would seem that Mr Trump did not fire director of the FBI James Comey last week. Comey resigned. Similarly, Trump didn't pass partially Israeli-sourced information to Russia's foreign minister Sergey V. Lavrov about an Islamic State plot. Oh, and Trump didn't attempt to pressurise Comey into shutting down the investigation of Michael Flynn.

So how much of the above is post truth? The problem is that everyone is scared of what Trump can do. With Republicans in Congress, no one-will want to tip 'their own' President out of office. No-one survives daring to contradict, maybe unless it gets to kompromat or an indictment - and even that would require Hatch-ing a jiggle around the Supremacy Clause. Bookies' odds, anyone?

Unconnected (of course) in a truly Baldacci-esque twist we saw the brutal gunning down of Seth Rich a few days ago. It's been attributed to a botched robbery although nothing was stolen. Rich was the Democrat National Committee staffer alleged to have leaked the 35,000 emails to Wikileaks, which Trump used notably during his election campaign.

Now that Trump is getting his administration stooged-up, the game is becoming increasingly slanted. On one hand, there's the opportunity of outrage at dubious choices. At the same time there's the risk that the increasingly tilted administration becomes unstoppable.

Monday 15 May 2017

you are a micro target

Tammany Hall vote-stuffing exemplifies dubious voting practices. However, instead of visiting multiple polling stations or being offered booze and a shave before revisiting the same location, the fraudulent systems have become more sophisticated.

Although even as recently as last September, it was blatant vote-stuffing, such as in Putin’s Russia. Turn up and empty a handbag of extra votes into the box. Or maybe bring a line of soldiers to vote out of area.

Information Technology and Big Data have made it all more clandestine. Hack the voting machines? Use Big Data to micro-target electorate with appropriate messaging?

Recent stories feature the Brexit vote influence from Cambridge Analytica (via its –ahem- non-subsidiary AggregateIQ).

Behind this chain of influence appears to be Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon, both showing form with Trump with organisations potentially involved in the tweaking of the US electorate vote through micro-messaging. There's other interesting names to link into this, but time will out them.

UK's Vote Leave spent almost £4m with Aggregate IQ, and its spokesperson Dominic Cummings extolls their virtues on their web-site’s home page. There's also curious funding associated with all of this - I wonder how much it costs to tip a ballot nowadays? It wouldn't be a huge sum to a billionaire or a state with a particular agenda. Wanna customise America? Or maybe break up Europe? Align your favourite deck of political leaders? Perhaps there's an evolving menu of prices?

To get the information to be able to work out the profiles of the electorate requires a few Groupby-Before-Join queries, to blend various data together. The smart propeller heads can make it all seem more complicated and talk about grid-based n-dimensional parallel sparse matrix-vectors and so on, but it's really like creating a whacking great mailing list.

Cambridge Analytica has access to Facebook behavioural data, so a blend of that with, say, mailing list magazine subscriptions and perhaps the electoral register would provide a rather interesting way to classify people.

I don't know how much of what I speculate is strictly legal, mind you, but I doubt that the Data Protection Act will get in the way.

So think carefully before completing the next Facebook meme to see whether you are more like a unicorn or a rainbow.

Of course, I’m making up the exact approach used, but anyone that has used mailmerge with mailchimp filters can see how this could work.

Admittedly the number of rows of data become quite large, but nothing that can’t be handled with some divide and conquer techniques.

Although, from time to time, you can see how it goes awry if you get one of those apologetic emails from a mailshot that shouldn’t have been sent.

So, where does this leave us all?

Disenfranchised and manipulated, maybe?

Sunday 14 May 2017

horsing around

The horses from the stables next door are currently at the near end of the field. We are now at least partly off grid, although access to a usable wi-fi assists with the creature comfort.

Most of the big stuff will have been transferred from the yellow lorry into storage by now and I've just filled the car with fuel ready for tomorrow's leg of the journey.

Later we'll head towards the lane to find a pub for Sunday lunch.

Friday 12 May 2017

if block systems then block chain; #malware #eternalblue #killswitch

The despicable cyber attacks on the NHS as well as Telefónica in Spain and other companies are still very active. Some, like Iberdrola and Vodafone Spain have simply told employees to switch off their computers.

There's advice about restoring from backups although there's a challenge with this because some of the Wana/Wanna type viruses used can lay dormant until invoked. Therefore a backup could already have been compromised,

This is somewhat akin to the olden days of burglary of VHS recorders, which would be stolen, replaced on insurance and then stolen again.

It is also annoying that one needs to buy all kinds of extra software and beefier hardware, simply to provide the cyber protection, using extra disks and cpu cycles just to run the protection.

Add in that part of the SMB file-sharing exploit used is from a US NSA 'weaponised' malware called EternalBlue and somehow 'stolen' by a ShadowBrokers, a malware brokerage.

That the most secure American organisation (National Security Administration) could be subject to theft from one of its most clandestine areas (Office of Tailored Access Operations -TAO) and of some of its most malevolent software is also noteworthy, yet goes mainly uncommented. As is the possibility that NSA worked with another party, such as Equation Group, who are known for their very strong crypto?

Then there's the related demand to use Bitcoin to pay the ransom illustrating that this open-source anonymous blockchain-based cryptocurrency is becoming the cash-substitute of choice for organised crime.

There's also a weird circle in all of this.

Cyber encryption to make cyber currency like Bitcoin. Cyber encryption to create a ransom-able computer.

Viral spreading of the Bitcoin message. Viral spreading of the ransomware.

Even payment in Bitcoin to scan online advert streams (i.e. to look like hits). Oh, and to buy dubious products anonymously.

There's a whole circle of dark and uncommented monetisation occurring at a rather organised level.

Thursday 11 May 2017

tread softly, new dreams being assembled

I'd almost forgotten what the inside of the garage looked like, when it would be used for its original purpose of storing cars, so 'Ta-Da!' here it is back to empty.

Over the years it had acquired random items from various other rashbre locations, to the extent that at some points I needed the skills of a maze-walker to get around it.

But then came the start of the great crating project. Admittedly it has run for a quiet month or two, but the end result has been mainly residual 'spark joy' items, compartmentalised into plastic crates.

And yes, I even created a spreadsheet of the crates. Simple process. Open the lid, iPhone snap. Find the label, iPhone snap. Transfer the results into Excel.

Around 50% of the available materials didn't make it, instead being donated or junked. That included a stash of vinyls, a table and chairs, a sofa, a bed and so many books that I had to spread them around different charities.

There's still a whole ton of stuff, but I think we've made a good start on the next adventure.

Monday 8 May 2017

a temporary deckchair heralds change

Another day of checklists. It has included the removal of some larger items that won't be making the journey to the next place. Plus dismantling, in stages, the various electronic systems.

Fortunately the main 24-way Gigabit switch could be de-rated to a simpler 8-way switch and now down to a single 4-way Apple time capsule. It means we still have the printer working although the scanner has already gone. I had to scan a couple of documents today and used that iPhone Scanbot Pro as a makeshift replacement.

The media centre will be next to go, but I've said I'll hold off on that until tomorrow. Maybe I'll watch some TV from the temporary deckchair.

Friday 5 May 2017

dolly mixtures

The packing continues and we have now reached the stage where there's a large quantity of self packed items in the garage, plus a selection to go to a man in a van and the rest to be placed into storage.
Along the way we've rationalised the kitchen, and even sent a consignment of spices to the North.
Some of the rooms are beginning to look a little empty now, although we have kept enough food to still be able to cook some decent meals.
By Wednesday evening we may well be thinking about eating out, but I suspect once that starts we'll be doing it for quite a time.
Although, come to think of it, we'll have decent range of venues and no doubt some entertaining choices ahead.

And meantime, I can report that the old dolls' house has found a new home, somewhere in Surrey.