Tuesday, 30 October 2018

on wide time's cusp of now


The new Doctor Who series poses an interesting question around 'returning to now'.

No longer the monochrome 'now' of Hartnell's era. After 37 series spanning 55 (!) years and 13 Doctors, we now have an altogether more anamorphic 4k version of 'now' with early 21st century Whittaker.

I'll also credit the good story telling and proper humour in the new episodes. Personally I prefer a bit of zaniness in this type of show, so the occasional throwaway quip adds to the fun.

Another fairly recently made show also tips that 'now' point. After Doctor Who episodes there have been BBC adverts for an impending series of Luther (played by Idris Elba) as well as suggestions to watch the original box-sets on iPlayer.

I decided to have a go and was intrigued to see that it is operating on that 'now' cusp, teetering into 'I remember'.

It was only filmed in around 2003. but it's long enough ago to mean that people mainly still use phones as - well - phones.

One of the policemen turns up in a big saloon car, which I initially though was some kind of Mercedes. No, it was a Ford Granada, which must have been just about to be discontinued.

There's some of those bendy buses in the London street scenes. Some of the computer screens aren't flat.

The London skyline features the Gherkin, but there's so much space around it. A few cranes maybe. That old building where the Cheesegrater now stands was still at that stalled stage whilst they figured out how to demolish its old vaults.

There's plenty of police procedural too, but with investigators stomping over crime scenes without those all-in-one zipper suits and shoe covers.

I know John Luther is supposed to be edgy, but some of the storyline is closer to old episodes of the Sweeney in terms of coppers' licence. Raid the stolen property cupboard for some items to help another case? Sure, the boss can look the other way, and so on.

It's still fun to rewatch and suits Halloween-week with some gruesome plot-lines as well as that delightfully unhinged Alice character, played brilliantly by Ruth Maddock. Then there's that sumptuous background music. Spot the Massive Attack chord sequences throughout the show.

Friday, 26 October 2018

another county


This time we're in the harbour. Across the county into Cornwall. It's a scene that might be quite well known to that deadpan television doctor, Doc Martin.

We even made our way around to his television house, which overlooks this harbour and is on another one of those steep roads which hardly has room for cars.

Then back towards the middle, where we could watch the seasons change.

One minute sunshine, but soon afterwards a sudden darkening sky, a mighty wind and the waves turned serious enough to be caught on my iPhone.

Then comedy sideways sleet as we looked out across a mixed weather system, sun, rain and small hailstones, punctuated with a piece of rainbow.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

a spot of local colour around #Topsham


These pictures are somewhat chocolate-boxy, and are 'spares' from a test run to take pictures for a local project.

It happened to be another very sunny day and mid afternoon the shadows being cast were very long and very dark. I'll visit again when the difference between in and out of shade is more muted.

These pictures are around the waterfront near little winding streets, some of which are too narrow for a modern car.

By the river, many of the boats are back out of the water until the spring and the next scheduled sailing across to the pub on the other side isn't until Easter, although I suspect there will be a few special cruises in the interim.

Outdoor life at some of the pubs is still in full swing although all of the hostelry are gently adjusting for the chillier season ahead.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

package roadrunner, baby


I can't help wondering whether this will change next year. A package is on its way to me from Germany. Nothing exciting, but 3.5kg of box with contents. It left the warehouse yesterday afternoon at 15:03CET. Here's the progress so far:

By the end of yesterday it had travelled at faster miles an hour for around 500 km. Slower than Google's estimate (as always), but it had also cleared the German export scanning system.

Then, onto a plane to East Midland Airport, which is the second busiest UK freight airport after Heathrow.

Because of the time difference with Germany, the package arrived in the UK only a few minutes after it left Germany. It was whisked through import scanning and onto a truck resulting in it being close to me by 7 o'clock this morning.

Now it's on a local delivery truck and will end up here before close of play. An example of crossing borders, paying taxes, handling export and import all in a very time efficient manner. Roadrunner, baby.

So will it be the high speed Boston video of that Modern Lovers/Richman single, or saxaphonically this, instead?


Gotta go, a big brown truck has just pulled up outside.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

automata, but not for the people


Mrs May has robotically dissed the Peoples' Vote protests and continues to rattle on about completing the withdrawal agreement by the end of March. "All your base are belong to us," as the cats might say.

She computes that we are at 95% complete, which is a phrase well recognised by project managers.

What's the old saying? Oh yes, "The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time available. The last 10% takes the other 90%."

Incredibly, it is already a year since those Maybot characters appeared around Westminster. It's so long that I've read and redistributed that John Crace Maybot book. I've decided it is time to take a look at investment exposure, because of the upsets coming over the next few months.

First some baselining with data from the Office of National Statistics. We'll start with exports and imports to the UK.

First, the UK imports around £580 billion of goods and services, of which about 54% comes from the EU, 41% from the Rest of the World and 4% from EFTA.

Understandably, trade between countries is driven by physical distance and size. The size of a partner economy matters, which is why we trade more with the US and China than smaller, closer economies.

Let's drill into the ONS numbers. Here's the EU imports to UK:

And here's the Rest of the World imports to UK:

Putting all the £4.5bn and above results into a pie chart, we can see the top 10 countries account for around 75% of the total.

Approximate top of the pops are Germany, USA, Netherlands, China, France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Poland, Japan.

Students of automata might venture that: "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's probably a duck."

Whether Mrs May has been programmed for Vaucanson could be a moot point? Selective reality could be a variant of virtual reality. Her cohort certainly know how to practice reality distortion, without even needing special screwdrivers.

Maybe the other trading direction is different? According to the ONS Pink book 2017, UK exports are around £548bn:

That's Rest of World 52% : EU 43%: EFTA 5%.

Notice the switch in the numbers, with Rest of World showing as a greater proportion?

UK already sells more by percentage to the Rest of World than to the EU, emphasised by UK's trade with the USA.

Skipping to the exports by country pie chart, it is something like this:

This time the top influences are USA, Germany, France, Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Residual Gulf states, China, Belgium, Spain, Japan, Sweden. My chart below illustrates:

We know that the USA wants to do a trade deal with the UK after Brexit. Another truism: "If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true." I think robots have to be taught these things.

UK needs to be careful not to get a trumped-up deal from the USA, which could notice that UK exports 50% more to the USA than it imports. As for the other top few countries, several of them are EU-based. Germany, France, Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Sweden.

But current Brexit talks are about withdrawal, not about the new deals which will need to be struck and which, by Eurocrat definition, cannot be better than the deals UK currently has with the countries involved. Computer says no, as Dominic Raab might say.

It means that the plan that's 95% complete is only really for the first bit.

Yikes.

A fast idiot computer might react that the nice thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. But wait, the computer can neither worry nor be depressed.

My look at the numbers is to attempt to fathom the next market effects. Some will probably be right at the last moment just like they were after the referendum result.

On of the prior effects was the sudden dip in the GBP compared with other currencies, such as the US dollar values.

It settled at a 12.5% drop in the value of the GBP vs USD and Euro (i.e. pricing Brexit into exchange rates)

It's like a £64bn question. That's about the amount that the foreign exchange variation represents on a year's exports. Way more than a year's EU contribution from the UK. Of course, this change has worked through the economy now although, at least until recently, the stock markets have continued to move upward.

Today, the FTSE 100 is back into the 69xxs. Maybe it's also the loose talk of the conflicting end of austerity and new ways to raise tax.

I can understand that, for Brexit, investing in the FTSE 250 isn't such a bright idea because the companies in it are largely serving the British marketplace, with maximum exposure and potential for volatility. There's a rub in that too, with lower investment creating a self fulfilling prophesy of decline. It does not compute, as an automat may say.

The FTSE100, on the other hand, has the bigger more international companies within it. They should tough out a UK specific issue. But as even the FTSE 100 is now dropping it would seem to signal a wider malaise. The markets are usually separate from the politics, but the 95% project has become such a basket case that it is almost impossible for the markets to ignore the erratic behaviour.

Another one to teach the computer: When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

These numbers are also where there's plenty of upscale vested interest. Onshore/offshore? Plenty of the big equity bets have already been placed. The Etonian moneyed won't want normal folks voices outside Westminster to interfere with their shed loads of money making schemes.

** Computer - find me a recent picture of a man with a shed **

Saturday, 20 October 2018

don't shred


With today's protest, it is good to look out for the best slogans.

I thought Jacob's Crackers was quite good, but now the Banksy-inspired "Don't shred the UK" has become my favourite. It fits with my last few posts quite nicely too.

The government and cabinet have presumably been asked to stay quiet/ignore the protests until it is all over and then to issue some revisionary spin.

Yes. The whole situation is crackers.


Thursday, 18 October 2018

fishing in the rivers of life


My last post includes a picture ostensibly of Banksy's maid, although I'm pretty sure the picture was taken in Shoreditch rather than Chalk Farm. Here's the Chalk Farm version, which does look different.

Now it could be that I did see one in Shoreditch, perhaps a copy, like the nearby cheeky Mona Lisa that lurked in the arches by the old Canvas club?

Perhaps the picture didn't last long, like Banksy's girl with balloon picture auctioned and shredded at Sotheby's for somewhere around £1m.

Was the triggered destruction a case of art in the making? Or maybe a KLF bonfire of the vanities moment? Time and valuations will tell. Art as a streamlined way to store unexplained money becomes an interesting element for a novel, perhaps?

But I suppose I could have used a different Banksy illustration for my prior post. The house with stars on it, that will soon have one less.

Although I can't help notice a cartoony skull shape emerging in the chipped away star?

And here's the director's cut (geddit) of that Sotheby's auction.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

May caught in an EU finger trap


No, it's not Mr Barnier and Mrs May caught in a Chinese finger trap. Or is it?

Brussels may all look glorious in supersaturated Technicolor.

Myriad microphones waiting to hear the imminent crash as the Prime Minister accelerates ever faster towards the cliffs.

"But it's the will of the people!" I hear some say.

The Daily Express bugles "Just get on with it" and exhorts that 17.4 million electorate can't be wrong.

The smug clowns continue to bicker and prior leaders of both parties are shouted down for daring to speak out.

Forget House of Cards. Substitute pack of lies.

No-one really cares about the detail although when they can't go on holiday in Europe through the fast lanes and need a different driving licence (1948 or 1969 variety?) for trips abroad, it will seem less convenient. I suppose it will put up insurance premiums too.

The first part of the current negotiations process only legalises the actual exit - just like the finger trap. There's still all the work to setup the new Terms and Conditions for Everything.

I'm one of the several hundred that have flipped through the Brexit collections which illustrate the effects of crashing out.

These particular papers don't deal with the costs, which are an altogether different story.

Rest assured it will accrue to a higher run rate than the nominal £8.4bn per annum (after rebates etc) that the UK pays to be inside the EU. I expect it will be higher than the £14bn per annum that the UK pays before any rebates.

Not to worry though, by ending austerity at the end of October (by borrowing and/or printing a load more money), the government can create more future debt. Right on cue, I see that the loud American has offered some kind of deal after the UK exits. I'm sure that'll be a really really sweet one. The sweetest.

It's a bit like the Osborne carpet bulge all over again.

Only bigger.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

theatre that should be enjoyed at maximum volume



Click anywhere on the picture above to check out thesixtwenty web site. It's been around for a long time, but is undergoing an overhaul for the current road tour.

Probably time to brush up on html.

Friday, 12 October 2018

mojave and iOS12 both just work


I completed the updates for the newest Apple operating systems a few days ago. I even started a blog placeholder heading about it until I could get around to typing something.

So now it's macOS Mojave for the Macs and iOS 12 for the iPhone. In the case of the iPhone it was actually a slight downgrade, because I'd been running the beta software for several months.

Instead of continuing with the latest beta 12.1, I decided to reset to the official version. Only subtle differences, but a couple of useful features didn't work in the beta, like SONOS Trueplay which tunes a speaker to its environment.

It's all working fine now though, as indeed is my now quite old iPhone SE. That't the one that is basically the iPhone 6 innards in an iPhone 5 case. I've preferred the smaller form factor, although I'm now the one with a phone that looks positively petite next anyone else.

The phone changes are subtle, as always, and so far everything continues to perform well. I had a short experience of sudden battery drain, but worked out it was the Waze google app that seemed drink heavily from the battery on long car journeys. Otherwise, all seems to be fine.

The macOS Mojave update has been slightly more fiddly. Mainly because it has further tightened security settings. It meant that my old Safari-based ad-blocker stopped working properly for a while and I've had to reset it and start again. Normal advert-free service has resumed with just a handful of sites giving me a hard time about advert blockers.

There's also been a slew of other security revisions, which has meant a number of cross application dependencies need to be re-established. That's actually quite a good thing because it gives me a chance to re-inspect what I'd previously set up. Although I could 'tick all the boxes' when in the settings menu, I've decided to let each application ask me individually. That way I can see when various facilities get activated and also notice a few settings that I no longer use.

The biggest thing for me is that here's another pair of updates that have gone through without any issues, and where everything still works at least as speedily as it did before the changes.

And I can say that with some confidence, having been quite intensively using Final Cut Pro, FxFactory, Lightroom, Photoshop CC, Logic Pro, plus the Microsoft Office 360 Suite as well as a wide range of plug-ins without any incidents.

I had to cross check Mojave on a map though. I've been to quite a few of the US west coast desert areas, but somehow missed this one.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

no seal, no deal?


A weird thing about running this blog for so many years is when some topics either repeat or develop.

I can remember blogging about the large financial black hole that was being generated after the last financial crisis and the way that derivatives were plugging gaps.

The sums involved were into trillions, and used to hedge financial risks, interest rates and similar complex financial instruments across the whole of the EU.

Risk insurers have been moving the business from London-based companies into new mainland European subsidiaries. But that isn't enough because most of the investment-bank backing for the hedges is still provided and cleared through London.

I originally mentioned that the sum held in outstanding contracts was into trillions, and nowadays the latest Bank of England estimate is around £40 trillion. That's more than double the market capitalisation of the entire New York Stock Exchange.

Nobody apart from Mark Carney appears to be talking about this particular cliff edge, where central counter party clearing could cease to function next March. The question becomes about whether the institutions involved have enough safety margin to withstand the jolts through a period of uncertainty.

I know it sounds esoteric, but rest assured that any bad impact will affect more than just the traders.

Yet not a peep on this one from any of the Brexiteers.

Image: representation of a sun-eating supermassive quasar

Sunday, 7 October 2018

creatures of the night


The last few days I've been involved with the show, which always involves becoming a creature of the night. The whole day shifts along by several hours with a later start and a much later finish.

Nowadays with intelligent phones and watches, it can be slightly alarming to get those Autosleep messages that say I'd only had around 4h15 sleep time.

After the Saturday show there was a party too, and then I'd already planned to head back home through the night.

Empty motorways are preferable, although my car has a driver alert beeper which will inevitably trip more than once in the wee small hours - showing a picture of a cup of coffee in the dashboard.

This time the Tracker security system didn't try to ring me to say that my car was being driven at an unusual time, so I think it has once again got used to my late night motorway routes.

And as for other creatures of the night, I'm drawn to remember the Science Fiction of Rocky Horror.

It was probably my first encounter with properly immersive theatre, back on the Kings Road, in the days when Tim Curry was Frank-n-furter.

Before the Rocky Horror show started, members of the cast used to slink around the theatre, climbing stealthily over the backs of the chairs. You knew it would be good, in a run-down and dilapidated theatre that nowadays would need to be specially designed to look that decadent.

The influence from shows like Rocky Horror and shows like Cruel Garden by Rambert at the Roundhouse set an inspirational agenda for theatre. We can celebrate the lineage from those days to the modern gig theatre that's just started its tour.

I mused on this on the drive back, to a soundtrack inspired by the last few days. As well as a stop-off in Sheffield, I started to think of Birmingham as 'past the middle' and Bristol as 'on the last leg', with just a further 80 or so miles to go.

There were a few other creatures out, and I decided they were mainly entertainers heading home. No tell-tale baggage of holidaymakers or pressed shirts of repsters.

As I reached home we'd still an ink dark sky sprinkled with stars. I looked up and can't be entirely certain, but I thought I saw a shooting star too, just for a brief moment.