rashbre central: December 2017

Saturday 30 December 2017

salt caked, but no smoke stack

I've had to slow the pace on the blog over the last couple of weeks.

I'm still on the road at the moment and my car looks like an asteroid racer after earth re-entry. Those trace lines of salt and rain all over it.

Now if only they perfected Astral Gates for high speed long distance travel. I seem to remember that 2021 is the first key date although unfortunately the gate adjacent to earth was involved in the Gate Accident.

Back to reality and it's looking like the whole discovery process has slowed right down with people distracted by other things.

By now we should have discovered Spatial Alternation Dynamics, based on the idea that our universe phases in and out of existence many times every second, blinking on and off like a strobe light. That Downsizing movie about miniaturisation of people is fun because it plays with America, but misses the phase difference space.

So while our universe is in its "off," state it is temporarily replaced by a more compact universe called Phase Difference Space, apparently 1/240th the size of our universe. That's smaller than (1/220) Z scale. Travellers timing entry and exit just right, can go 240 times faster within Phase Difference Space, creating the illusion of high-speed travel in our universe.

Earth to Mars in less than a day instead of six months? Meanwhile, I'll be driving back home tomorrow in my salt caked craft, after tonight's little shindig.

Sunday 24 December 2017

twiglets no longer

We broke into the twiglets, but discovered several differences.

The obvious one is that they are shorter. Then there's the colour, which is more yellow and less brown. The taste has been dialled down. Less Marmite and more burnt. And they are not sticky like the originals either. I expect my hands to be slightly brown, sandy coloured after a handful of twiglets.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

office party protocol: operational

Many offices are already running under Xmas operating protocol. The staggered time off to go shopping, The staggered evening drinks. The team lunch party which lasts all afternoon. The less-awesome-than-they-used-to-be big parties. Did we really used to hire Dodgems, a bucking bronco and those slammer slides? Yep we did. And we bussed everyone to the venue. Seems to have quietened down since those heady days.

Forget clean desk policies when there's analogue Xmas cards to be placed.

Like that rule of thumb about a desk being too busy when it was no longer visible. The 'see the desk' rule. The rule that can also be applied to cupboards (see the floor), fridges (see the back), rooms (again, it's see the floor).

I also have one for a laden car, which is 'see out of the back window'. It's a particularly useful adaptation at this time of year, although we nearly broke it on last week's trip. It turned out to be a mini-circuit of England, starting from Exeter, to Brighton, to London, to Newcastle, to Gloucester and so on.

That's just the first three hops depicted, and three more below.

My next stages are back across London and then to Swindon, before returning home, so we can keep things going almost up to Christmas Eve.

I can tell that many folk don't have similar rules. Witness the cars piled high with stuff in the festive jams.

Here's my annually blogged Chris Rea 'Driving Home for Christmas' filmed as we wend around Sloane Street, Pont Street, Beauchamp Place to around San Lorenzo, if you know your London.

Saturday 16 December 2017

It's #MixtapeXmas tonight @livetheatre

Yes, #ukmixtape tonight. The last chance to see the current delightful craziness, and only the merest handful of tickets left. And don't forget, there's also an afterparty @livetheatre.

Thursday 14 December 2017

cameras at the ready #showtime

Time for a bit of tech, setting up cameras and video for the show. It does mean my twitter channel has been a bit stuffed with show tweets for the last couple of days. Normal service will resume from Sunday.

Tuesday 12 December 2017

pushing the problem forward

Two things about air travel. One is the amount of noise generated by a passenger when trying to get an upgrade doesn't achieve better results. Proper gold cards (or above) always win. Second, there's a technique called that ground staff use which is basically 'push the problem forward'. Thus, at the gate, without a magic card, there's not much that a noisy passenger can do. Get on the plane or go home.

I can't help wondering whether the 27 remaining members of the EU are using an airline playbook? They each have a golden card, but our number 28 British one is already kind of suspended.

As for Theresa and and occasionally David - they are both letting the problems roll forward, making statements without tangible plans or solutions for what they are accepting. It might be occasionally noisy, but they are still getting closer to the gate without an upgrade.

Oh yes and there's another negotiating tactic, called 'get the boss out of bed' (a variation on the union negotator's 'send in the fish and chips'). Sound familiar?

Monday 11 December 2017


I was caught out last Thursday evening, when I had to be somewhere at 7pm, but hadn't anticipated the thousands of additional people on the move.

I'd headed to a usually empty car park, but on this occasion it was so full that there were cars queuing and blocking both the way in, and as importantly, the way out.

Yes, everyone was out for late night shopping.

Today was much easier to get around, even despite the 2 millimetre of snow that briefly melted over Central London.

Sunday 10 December 2017

Strolling around the Laines.

It already seems ages since I was walking around these Laines, although it was just a few days ago.

It's that weird compression effect that seems to happen in December. When the month starts it seems as if there is ages to go before Christmas, but then suddenly it all goes a bit panicky.

Or maybe it's just me.

Saturday 9 December 2017

monkeys go unbundling

More middlemen dreams of unbundling. Take a service, split it into components and sell them individually for more than the old total.

A couple of the latest attempts are removal of net neutrality (by creating a pay-by-service internet) and open banking, which provides fintech companies a way to resell and rebundle financial services and products.

Notably, the bit of technology that always works is the one that takes money from a wallet as softly as possible. Similar to keyless-go on a car, there's no need to even brandish a payment card.

These unbundling schemes are a form of 'cats eye' or 'patented wire-coathanger' thinking. To take a tiny sum from every transaction that takes place. A 100 million cents per day is still a lot of money, especially if there's another 100 million tomorrow.

From January, the new aggregators and payment initiators can get in the middle of transactions. Like the people that operate car parks on behalf of stores. Who hasn't had one of those threatening £70 summons from overstaying the time in a supermarket car park?

It may take months before the new twists emerge, but there's already monkeyrooms working out the angles.

Tuesday 5 December 2017

driverless crash testing

I see that the until-recently invisible David Davis has resurfaced to explain away that so-called sector analysis.

When it was first mentioned, I imagine a scene where he had to say something - anything. Perhaps he badly remembered a summary he'd seen? By mentioning it on the record he then had to produce a version of it. Perhaps by stalling for 2-3 weeks it gave him time to ask a roomful of interns to generate the necessary kilos of paper, which one of his team could then speedily redact?

My guess is that one of the 'paid pro-bono' (sic) consultancies produced the basis of the original analysis that Davis remembered.

If I had to plump for one I'd go with KPMG's work, which produced 57 snapshots as re-cuts of 19 industry segments.

The summary of the sector analysis looked something like the one above and was actually an amalgam of ONS and KPMG work. I know there's not 58 sectors in it, but it isn't too difficult to drum up 57 with a bit of table sorting.

Davis admits that he'd not read the main reports in any case, just a summary. He's also saying now that the summaries are qualitative, not quantitative. Although I suppose the use of facts or hard numbers in this situation might mean working more than three days a week?

Saturday 2 December 2017

in which I test Amazon Echo and Alexa with Clark Hutchinson's Best Suit

I'm just getting some of the home tech re-assembled. No Nest system at the new place, so the complicated balancing of smoke detectors and heating controls from the last place isn't needed. No more increasingly urgent sounding female alarm voice from the speakers whilst the cooking slightly overheats. That's even now that Google are giving away a 'free' Google home mini with their Nest temperature controllers.

I'll wait until the full HAL version of the Nest is eventually released. You know, with voice control directly on the unit. And an optional red 'eye'. Meantime the conventional 2-zone Honeywell system is doing fine.

Instead I've been re-instating the Amazon Echo controller after a seven month break. The big vendors are all trying to capture the whole market, so the latest version of the Echo includes a home hub inside, compatible with Hue and similar.

We already have the Hue lighting system, so no need for the new version, and the external Hue hub also works with Apple Homekit, so everything can also work simply from an iPhone.

That does lead to a slight battle of the Personal Assistants though, with Siri on the phone and Alexa in the room. Not forgetting that the Sony TV also seems to have its own voice recognition. Someone is bound to have made them all talk at one another...

We can see that both Google and Amazon are attempting some bundling to gain the upper hand.

And then, sometime in January, Apple enter the market with their HomePod.

Take a look inside HomePod and it is well specified, but it also looks as if it was designed by audio people. A good idea at one level - they have probably made a better job than the acceptable audio that comes from the similar sized Amazon device. Interestingly, they seem to have have used all the A8 cpu on sound. The device supports Wifi and MIMO, bu there's no home device control anywhere to be seen.

Apple have pushed the actual home control off to their devices that run iOS. Typically phones, iPads or increasingly watches. The other device becomes like a key to the home being managed.

I like the idea of sensible home control. Less so the more gimmicky extremes like cooker innards tv-monitoring and fridge door displays showing the contents.

We are also in a period where there is no obvious leader in this technology and just about all of the combinations leave out some of the functionality.

That's why I'm still using Amazon Alexa, which seems to work with my iTunes library as well as its own playlists, plus can control lights and basic television (via Harmony).

The "Alexa Play BBC Radio 4" type commands work well, and my recent test with the amazing 'Best Suit, by Clark Hutchinson' passed the 'Find a track that's not on libraries anywhere' test.

Yes, Amazon has learned my entire music collection and can voice recognise requests. It'll do for now and if I want to up the fidelity the smaller Dot device has a stereo speaker out connection.

Meanwhile I'm listening to more of the Clark Hutchinson second album Retribution and am slightly amazed to see that their third album, Gestalt (which I have on vinyl) is actually in the Amazon Unlimited library.

Friday 1 December 2017

Show of Hands at Exmouth Pavilion

Thursday night and we were along to Exmouth Pavilion to see Show of Hands performing at the end of their Cathedrals Tour.

My seaside sand covered boots were a sign that the parking was difficult for this packed occasion.

All worth it to see this utterly accomplished folk band play a lengthy and varied set. Steve Knightley and Phil Beer (Show of Hands) plus Miranda Sykes on double bass stormed their way through an extensive set.

Opening a cappella and walking into the venue singing, they started with a couple of fairly dark songs before livening things up. Superb musicianship and interesting songs which varied between ones written by themselves, by friends or indeed traditional ones.

There was plenty of imagery, from walks across Exmoor, of a priest on a rocky island, through the blue cockade of enlisting as well as varied advice on life and romance.

Part way through they brought in the Lost Sound choir, who provided sensitive accompaniment to a range of the songs. They ran the gig as a single set, too, with only the tiniest pause for the extensive and well-deserved encore.

Their own songwriting is crisp, the sounds they create are of high fidelity making the lyrics shine through.

It is obvious that they play many gigs; they made the musicianship look easy, despite many twiddly bits and clever harmonies. The set list was varied without a dull moment. A few times they paused for lighthearted banter.

At one point we heard why they like to finish their tours back in Exmouth. The band first met at a nearby folk club and can claim to have travelled the full 100 yards from their origin to where they were performing now.

Maybe there will be a pause for Xmas, but I'm sure there will be many more orbits embracing this part of Devon.

Here's part of their (old) Tour of Topsham, which they used to prepare for an Albert Hall gig.

And so pleasant to walk back from an excellent evening, along the shoreline, under the stars and, yes, with more sand on my boots.