rashbre central: November 2018

Friday 30 November 2018


It's only happened to me a couple of times, when travelling by road to Europe.

Operation Stack.

That's when the roads to Dover get blocked with lorries because of some kind of problem with the tunnel and ferries. I seem to remember that both occasions were because of worker action, which I think was on the French side of the tunnel.

I've tried plan B when this happens too. That's where a different route is sought. But it suffers the same phenomenon as M25 traffic jams. The alternative routes fill up with traffic trying to avoid the main congestion, so that the end effect is that it takes just as long on an alternative routing.

I've had a similar problem getting back by ferry, around Christmas time. I was travelling via Ostend. The port was jammed. I booked into quayside hotel which meant I could bypass the last part of the queues. No I couldn't get onto the ferries that evening, but was able to sidle out early the next day and bypass the still huge queue to get straight into the boat.

Fortunately the government has some work streams ready to deal with this for the period from next April. There's 18 work streams actually, which cover all the main forms of transport. Air, road, sea, vehicles, rail and infrastructure (so called cross cutting).

The Department for Transport consider that the work to support EU Exit represents a significant and complex challenge. That's once they know which of the options will apply.

They are already reporting their progress although their internal assessments of progress are, in most instances, more cautious than the progress it reports to the Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU).

There's also some inconsistencies between reporting systems which makes it harder for senior managers and central government to gain a consistent picture of progress.

It's not my opinion here, it's what the National Audit Office (NAO) concludes in the November 2018 Commons Briefing Paper.

This work is on 18 of the 314 work streams related to exiting the EU. It suggests to me that there might now be need for greater urgency. Here's the transport topic areas:
  • Aviation: air traffic management systems; the air service agreement with the EU; future access to the European Aviation Safety Agency; air service agreements with other countries; the future of security regimes; and UK participation in the EU- wide emissions trading scheme.
  • Roads: rights for UK private motorists to drive in the EU; rights for UK hauliers to carry goods in the EU; rights for UK bus and coach companies to carry passengers in the EU; and motor insurance and frictionless travel to the Green Card free zone.
  • Maritime: the Marine Equipment Directive; and future access to the European Maritime Safety Agency
  • Vehicles: vehicle type approval for manufacturers; and emissions and manufacturers’ CO2 targets
  • Rail: ongoing recognition of documentation of operators and drivers to support continuation of cross-border rail services.
  • Cross-Cutting: funding for projects in the Connecting Europe Facility, an EU-funding instrument that targets infrastructure investment; Operation Stack, the plans to manage traffic congestion on the M20 motorway; and transport infrastructure at the border.
The NAO makes a few more points about the seemingly compressed timescales.

This reminds me of that project manager dilemma about the rate of absorption of new staff into a programme. Too many at once and nothing happens. Yet, says the NAO, the Department needs to recruit more people to support the next phase of discussions. Considerable work still needs to be completed on contingency preparations and to significantly strengthen its capacity to manage the overall programme.

I know I shouldn't really be diving into these reports of progress, but it seems to be a way to gauge the state of overall progress, away from the banalities of the TV politicians.

It smacks of the 'driving to Calais' conundrum. I've done this route plenty of times, so know what can go wrong. Start at, say, St Tropez or Nice and calculate the time to reach Calais. Google says it's about 10h45m. That's an average speed of 110kph. I use the slower 80kph/50mph as my version. That's about 14h30m.

Now add a couple of traffic jams. Like today. One inside St Tropez. 30 minutes lost. One outside St Tropez. 45 minutes lost. A major roadworks and broken down car around Lyon. Another hour lost. Then, straightforward driving to Dijon, where its just busy traffic, so 45 minutes at 30 kph. And a similar holdup around Reims.

What has that done to the journey average speed? Nothing much to begin with, but the problems accumulate as you get closer to Calais and have less time to make up any discrepancy.

That's the project plan compression we are witnessing now for these varied Departments. Not enough time and throwing people at it won't work.

'Here's one I prepared earlier,' as a few might say. Others might just be looking for a way out of the whole situation.

Thursday 29 November 2018

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Time to invoke the "it was all a dream" clause?

Like Pamela Ewing waking to find Bobby in the shower, perhaps the whole Article 50 thing could be turned into a dream. It's certainly running along nicely as a nightmare at the moment.

This morning we had Philip Hammond using a 15 year projection to show UK in a slightly worse position post Brexit. It strikes me as a bit of a dodge.

Fifteen years is far enough away to mean that most people won't really take any notice of it at all (2033). There's also enough leeway to ensure that plenty of excuses can be wheeled out to change the end position.

What is more interesting to me, is the effect on the way to this 'slightly worse'. No one is asking that question.

I can project a few things though. The reason Philip Hammond had to go to 15 years was because it was the earliest point that things could be made to look acceptable again.

Whiteboard representation of scenarios: If it gets worse to start with, then it has to somehow get better faster to even meet at around 15 years out. Its spreadsheet trickery really.

Prior to hitting Phil's point of just slightly worse, we get large outward payments to the EU. Judicial uncertainty. Trading uncertainty. The government's own projection are now showing a 2.5% worse position using the best from Theresa May's negotiations. It drops to 9% worse off under a crash out scenario.

Yes, the 'will of the people' voted for something worse than they were currently experiencing at the time of the referendum. I see the Bank of England has weighed in now.

A crash out next year would create an 8% worse GDP. Higher unemployment. A 15% worsening in the GBP to USD.

Curiously, the government will get two goes at this. A vote, which will crash. A leadership challenge, which will achieve nothing. A further vote with some cosmetic changes to the current conditions.

The ongoing fostering of the big lie. The lie that Brexit is in some way triumphantly settled. It's just political posturing. But the political posturing is working. People are bored. They want the government to 'just get on with it'.

I can't say "Ready, Fire, Aim" because it was appropriated in no time flat by some smug consultants.

Monday 26 November 2018

down by the water

The seasonal ground rush has started.

One moment I'm still in smug October thinking that I've plenty of time to get to the year end, and then suddenly it's time to be rediscovering the faulty Christmas lights.

There's always plenty of excuses. This time I've been travelling. That stopped a few days ago and after I'd taken a sound desk back to a spot somewhere in the back of Leyton.

Back at home I've also been busy.

Beyond the inevitable return to admin there's been socialising. A couple of recent events have signalled the season. The fair on Cathedral Green. Then to an event in the independent shops areas of nearby Gandy Street.

Not forgetting the regular session at the pub on the river. That was Monday evening and we've worked out that there will be time for one more before the end of the year.

It's the same place that, in summer months, I've sat outside to watch swans skitter down the weir in the sunshine, but now, by around 5.30pm, it's already noisily dark. I can't resist that walk to the edge. Big fish, little fish, swimming in the water.

Sunday 25 November 2018

Amon Düül II - Tanz Der Lemminge

A German band who played around with themes which included this monster attacking London. Of course, the Dance of the Lemmings was one of their more well-known works. Here's over an hour of progressive entertainment.

Syntelman's March Of The Roaring Seventies; In the Glassgarden; Pull Down Your Mask; Prayer to the Silence; Telephonecomplex; Landing in a Ditch; Dehypnotized Toothpaste; A Short Stop at the Transylvanian Brain Surgery ; Race From Here to Your Ears; Little Tornadoes; Overheated Tiara; Riding on a Cloud; Paralized Paradise; H.G. Well's Take-Off; The Marilyn Monroe-Memorial-Church; Chewinggum Telegram; Stumbling Over Melted Moonlight; Toxicological Whispering.

Saturday 24 November 2018

balalaikas ringing out

I've been listening to the reissue of The Beatles White Album.

There's several albums where I listen to modern remixes and think 'Hey, what happened?' I guess one's ears get used to a certain version.

White Album 2018 doesn't work like that. There's so many recordings around, so I suppose I've got used to hearing all kinds of variants.

And I'd be kidding myself to think that my much listened to re-taping of the vinyl onto cassette to play in a Ford Escort gave authentic reproduction.

My take until this latest version was that the stereo and mono versions were like two separate albums.

The old vinyl stereo was proper stereo - less gimmicky than some of the prior Beatles, where you could chop out the vocals with the balance control.

However, in some places the original seemed slightly "narrow". It's hard to describe but on some of the tracks I have a vision of it playing in a V shaped valley. Almost like the recording wanted to be bigger than the available technology permitted. I don't mean compressed sound, nor image width, more like the edges of the sound were somehow chopped off to fit it into the record's grooves.

Weirdly, the mono version (from that old mix?) doesn't have the same effect. There's more bass and a more even spread of the sound.

Then I have to factor in my own hearing and tastes in music listening, which will have changed over the years.

So what about this new version?

My general impression is that my perceived 'valley' effect has gone, and the main sound now has room to breathe that was sometimes missing on the old vinyl.

It means some of the tracks do sound different. There's bits that I simply don't remember from my many times of listening to the album. Even places where they've quietened pieces I do remember. For me, this still works and simply creates a more modern sound.

Given that the original is now 50 years old, this careful remix still - to these ears - sounds fresh and modern. Slightly crunchier top end, minor twiddling with vocal presence, cleaner separation of the soundscape, clearer bass and drums, some previously unnoticed instrument and equipment noises. I suspect that audiophiles would be able to hear much of what I'm noticing on the original. For me, it's just made it all more accessible to notice and enjoy.

This adaptation (mixed by George Martin's son, Giles Martin) is a clear modern way to enjoy this album. As a triple CD it's also fairly priced at around £15.

Triple because the new version also includes the Esher sessions (pronounced by Americans as the 'Escher' sessions). Essentially the Beatles getting prepared for the main recordings. It plays like 'White Album unplugged' - an interesting listen and good enough to stand as an album in its own right.

Not sure? It's on Spotify too. Including all the outtakes.

Friday 23 November 2018

more snakes than ladders

I'm wondering how snakes and ladders the Theresa May Playbook looks for the next few weeks?

The nearby cast of clowns don't want the job of sorting it all out. They just want power. Maybe time to cue an emergency Prime Minister? Meanwhile, the opposition are trying to get an election. However, a swerve by the Tories would be for Theresa May to deliver something, declare 'job done' and hit eject.

Whatever shenanigans are about to occur, they will just add time into the process and create more market ripples.

The fat cats have already hedged. A cynical example is the slippery Rees-Mogg, who created a Dublin fund for his Somerset Capital Management investment business to provide improved and ongoing access to the EU. He's only one of many to do this, with Milan, Frankfurt and Paris (as well as Dublin) all popping up in recent company moves. Ironically his own company warns of the dangers of uncertainty during the Brexit transition. Ker-ching.

I scratched together a quick flow chart to help understand the options going forward. It'll be out of date by the time I hit enter, but it does serve to show that it is impossible to come out with a good deal.

The debate is once again about the least worst option. A politician worth their salt would stand to be counted if they thought that the 'will of the people' had accidentally led the country into a cul-de-sac. Sorry , I should say 'dead end' now (even if I'm thinking brick wall).

We can have worse trading with goods, worse trading with services, still be subject to CJEU justice, lose some of our security arrangements, create market uncertainty which affects share prices (a.k.a. future pensions) and mess up the GBP currency exchange. We get some new limits on freedom of movement, but that is also a two edged sword and could start to affect our own UK citizen travel at the end of the transition period. We wrap our new hopes and aspirations into wish fulfilment language. I'm not sure that will work with the negotiators of Brussels.

Ironically, Britain has maintained many unique characteristics from inside the EU. We drive on the opposite side of the road to Europe. We have our own currency. We measure things in miles and pints. Out electricity system uses different plugs and sockets from mainland Europe. I could go on.

Here's my chart. Click through for the readable version. Or not.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

curing TV jitters created by LED light strips

In our last kitchen, we had a set of LED spotlights which interfered with DAB radio signals. Annoying but then we moved house before I could get around to fixing it.

No such problems here, at least not until I installed some smart LEDs into a cupboard by the television. We started to get an almost imperceptible glitch on some channels. The tuner is cable TV through a Virgin box and the minor interference only happened when the Wifi and Zigbee operated LEDs for the cupboard were switched on.

Using radio knowledge I worked out it was probably the neatly tied cables that I'd created when I wired up the cupboard. I'd accidentally made a mini transmitter. Instead of a Philips Hue for this cupboard I'd used an INNR controller, because it was (a) compatible and (b)properly modular (c) inexpensive for the 4 metre length of LED I required. The modularity meant I could get away with a very small concealed drill hole into the cabinet.

The clue to the problem is in my reconstruction of the setup above. That connector wire and the switched 24v DC into the unit were both tidily coiled instead of cut to length. I reckon they must generate a tiny amount of interference.

Time for a shield. I considered using those clip on ballast things, but couldn't find any.

Instead, Bacofoil.

Placed around the coiled wires like a Mexican food wrap, making a sort of faraday cage to keep the waves inside.

Works a treat. No more glitches and a brightly lit cupboard.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

dawn ferry to tomorrow

It takes some time to work one's way around the documents of Whitehall. Often there's notes from a meeting that just say: "A meeting was held, some people attended and some stuff was discussed". Hardly minutes.

Now we have reached the Powerpoint stage for Brexit. I remember the consultants' credo "It always works in PowerPoint".

When I review something like this fresh Government PowerPoint deck, I'm drawn to the spaces. "in the spaces between the stars," as a Mersey poet might say. So what do we get?

Yes, we get a withdrawal agreement, about how to leave, but (in the spaces) not what actually comes next.

We get a set of separation issues, each with its own logo. I'm not sure how these have been prioritised although (surprisingly?) Euratom comes first. 'Spaces' seems an inadequate term to describe the things that don't get mentioned.

There's another four of these, described as 'other separation issues', but I'll summarise them using just their individual logos.

The next slide could be considered something of a stretch. It's about delivering stability throughout the implementation period. I assume stability doesn't mean the kind of 'strong and stable' environment we have right now.

Some of the ideas here could also be considered as wishful thinking.

Participation implies that the UK will be able to join in some of the EU meetings. There's a space around exactly what kind. Access to fishing rights is another area left dangling. Carry on as now until 2020 and then start an annual negotiation of fishing rights. That's with the EU unlikely to concede anything better than the rights provided during membership.

Then there's the legal/governance framework. It gets a whole slide and a special logo that shows that UK courts will 'pay due regard to the relevant decisions of the CJEU". Okay - so we're not really separated then?

Next we're on to the Protocols. Yippee some more management speak.

This is mainly the arrangements associated with Northern Ireland and the Island of Ireland. The main feature is explicit recognition in the Protocol is intended to be temporary and superseded by a future agreement. That's like another white space.

The 'uncomfortable arrangement' isn't resolved and is left until someone can solve the rest of the prime number series past 277,232,917 − 1.

After this area the PowerPoint switches to Political Declaration mode. In other words, everything else is tba (to be agreed).

It makes areas such as the economic partnership on goods fairly speculative.

It says zero tariffs, no fees, no charges, no quantitative restrictions, but this is political positioning, not an agreement.

If the approach to goods is speculative, then services and investment are even less defined, choosing words such as ambitious, comprehensive and balanced to define the relationship, whilst retaining regulatory autonomy.

Even as I write this I notice that from next March, European governments will access the €13bn-a-day MTS cash platform not from London but Milan. A desire to stay within EU financial markets has already inspired Refinitiv to say it is transferring its $300bn-a-day foreign exchange swaps business to Dublin. The €250bn-a-day BrokerTec repo trading operation, owned by CME Group, is moving to Amsterdam.

Plenty of white space being created in London office blocks as well as on these charts.

The slides go on to indicate that it can all be fixed in a couple of years, through to 2020. I'd say this seems very optimistic and may be a case of closing the door after the horse has bolted.

As for that couple of years concept. I'll use a different financial agreement as a comparator. Basel II/III, which is to regulate international financial settlements. Basel II started in around 2004 (before the banking crisis) and is still going strong with an implementation timetable stretching out (via the Basel III amendments) to 2022 for credit risk (and some other separated items that may drift) and to 2027 for its final parts. That's over 20 years, not including the Basel I part.

There's more on other matters including security partnerships and institutional arrangements and even a slide on areas of disagreement.

The closing section of the slide deck contains masterful slideware. It builds a new truth on top of the previous summarised political positioning.

The single logo-based "What Does It Mean?" slide. The one for the people who don't have time for the facts. Elevatorware/Liftware.

It's a 'work backwards' slide. What do we need to say? Now how do we revise some slides into a position which could support this?

It's also a highly distorted answer on a postcard which will be used to persuade Parliamentary votes, driven from this Government agenda.

I decided to make up my own preliminary version of that last slide, with a few comments.

See, I even left in the wiggly lines from PowerPoint.

And a whole lot of white space.

Saturday 17 November 2018

#oldmemes - The song "The Final Countdown" is now playing in your head

Working through a few countdowns:

34 days to shortest day
38 days to Christmas
45 days to 2019
132 days until Brexit
155 days until Easter

42 days minimum lead time to have a Conservative leadership election
90 days minimum lead time to declare and run a new election
280-385 days estimated lead time to hold a new referendum, if sanctioned

Charted like this, it looks like everything is painted into a corner.

Time to sit back and listen to the old tune by that band called Europe. Hey, wait a minute...
Do dado do do do
Doda do do dooo
Do dado do
Dado dodododo doo..

Friday 16 November 2018

The UK: Series Finale

Any pilot will tell you that you’re only as good as your landing. It doesn’t matter how splendidly you fly through the air: if you botch the end, it counts for nothing.

Brexit is coming in for its landing, and the cabin pressure is high. Maybe a landing is a controlled crash, but just how much control has really been taken back?

There's no more time or chances for correction; the rapidly approaching series finale will be the last impression we ever have of the characters we’ve grown to love to hate.

Some fans are worried it won’t live up to the hype, but we’re here to calm your fears.

The UK: Series Finale will absolutely live up to the hype, there's already rumours of a Scandi-noir version to follow it.

So let's look at some of the ingredients of the show:

1. Time and money

First and foremost, Brexit was not a rushed production. The government had an interest in getting the season out sooner rather than later, but they allowed showrunners David "Slowrunner" Davis and Dominic "Rab" Raab enough time to work on making the finale memorable.

They had over two years to get it perfected, which is longer than even a series of Game of Thrones. There's a staggering budget well into the tens of billions and that's just for the initial exit phase.

2. Absence makes the heart grow fonder

We don’t exactly know the outcome, and most of us have even forgotten the original plot-lines apart from maybe something about a bus.

The wait has been agonizing at times, but when that iconic 585 page document hit the table, we knew we were in for another spectacle of squabbles.

Some of the main players are already barely able to contain themselves. Those EU types have been parading the hefty paperwork barely concealing a smile.

The citizens are angry, and the slogans are as witty as we'd come to expect.

We’re going to have to savour every moment we have left with these characters as they hurtle towards the end of this story.

3. At long last, expect the unexpected

And what a story it’s been. Ultimately, we’ve no idea what will happen in the closing scenes. Will goodwill win out in some form or another, and we’ll all go home happy? ... or will we?

Many are already teasing that the ending to this saga will be “bittersweet,” and those shocking twists will just keep coming. All bets are off as we enter the endgame. (Except the betting for a new Tory leader)

After all, who'd have thought that the languid David Davis would heap scorn on the very paper that was created mostly under his jurisdiction?

Or that the loathsome govesome slithery backstabby one would turn down the chance to front the work that he'd set in play in the first place?

That May's replacement and pleasantly plausible stooge for Brexit would feel forced to hit eject just at a critical moment?

You couldn't make this up. I'm pretty sure that we still don't know how this tale will end only that it's not going to be all unicorns and rainbows.

Maybe some characters will survive but others won’t, and that’s going to keep things exciting. Even that riddle-speaking 18th Century hyphenated-millionaire is still in play. He's surely one of the undead, which is going to cause complications as he lines up others for his nanny-assisted chopping block.

I should really mention the left-tinged oppositional one, but he's still dithering on the edges after his scripted season break in Cuba.

4. Towards the end
It’s true that this govenment doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to satisfactory conclusions.

Other major series like Deadwood, Rome, or Bored to Death were cancelled before they could conclude naturally, and The Sopranos had an ending that was, to put it mildly, controversial.

At the same time, this UK show has made us reexamine how we think about democracy and government.

5. Will people see some parts of the series finale coming?

I'm guessing there will still be further tricks up its sleeve.

Considering how thoroughly they’ve pretended to prepare for it - yet singularly failed to do much more than accept a dictated convoluted paper for what - after all - is only the first stage. There's a Breaking Bad quality now as the a main protagonist becomes ever more disconnected from realities.

However, the behaviours are making me wonder if this show will be canned before a subsequent follow-on series could be proposed?

It has become a show with no predictable elements, except what seems to be a spiral ever further downwards. Maybe some countries would like this kind of thing, but I'd prefer something with some light and shade. A few upbeat moments could make all the difference.

We have to decide. Is it "Set the controls for the heart of the sun"? ...or maybe we'll need to use that old Dallas ploy..."It was all a dream"?

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Offer: fight club selling Britain by the pound (includes free fudge)

I suppose the idea now is to spin it positive. To make it look as if it's a good thing. That it's the best deal that the UK Government can get. To seem as if the will of the people is being carried out. To show that a project timescale has been met.

* Key Point: The EU won't have given the UK anything better than its members get. It will be worse. On principle.

* Old Key Point: The will of the people was based upon lies from both sides of the argument.

* Emerging Key Point quietly understated: The offshore funding of the leave campaign could have been illegal.

Now we get five hundred pages hiding a fudge dressed up in fancy words.

Pushing border management into a long term transition. Backstop Plus. One for attorney-general Geoffrey Cox to finagle wangle.

Chuck in a few words about "Control" but behind almost anarchic scenes there's whipfuls of impure moral suasion.

Carrot or stick? Who gets a peerage? What indiscretions won't be revealed? Come on down to Number 10 for your customised arrangement.

Ironically, the 'Rights of Englishmen' is being breached.

The new deal says there'll be money paid out to the EU and rule by the EU over UK matters without representation. I almost find myself agreeing with the Bojo the Clown on this.

Back in 1776 in the USA, the colonists wanted a local, representative government, for judicial matters and taxation. They even had a revolution against George III to settle it.

Now the UK gets Control. But it's a political control of the agenda. Rise of the maybots.

We get so-called exit options for the UK dictated by the government. They are a false choice. The over-stressed May (if she survives) will continue to be dogmatically deaf and blind to all arguments. Lock us into something with no gameplan for what happens starting 1st April.

Instead, stay in and re-elect some proper MEPs to replace the well-expensed tobacco and beer saboteurs. It's getting too much like the end of Fight Club.

Monday 12 November 2018

Hamilton at Victoria Palace

A chance to see the amazing Hamilton at the Victoria Palace.

It's one of those shows that is famously difficult to get tickets to see and ours were purchased back in January.

The theme of 'hard to access' continues with a queue to get into the theatre (even for ticket holders), sniffer dogs, two forms of identification and that's before we even get to the bar.

The show describes the ascent of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the USA. He was an influencer of the U.S. Constitution, and founded the USA's financial system. Wine in the bar included The Federalist, which was a reference to his political party

The storytelling in the musical moves at a break-neck speed, summarising his turbulent orphan time in the Caribbean in a couple of lines, pausing on a few key points as he gets together with Aaron Burr, John Laurens, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Hercules Mulligan who, together, decide he has a way with words.

This leads towards his revolutionary ways, where a brilliantly played foppish King George III turns from humour to menace on a sixpence.

We learn the ten commandments of dualling, see casualties and Hamilton's contribution at the behest of Washington towards the Siege of Yorktown.

It's a full-on and nuanced libretto, often performed in a rapping style, but with a clarity and intent that keeps the audience fully involved. Although described as a hip-hop musical, there's plenty of other styles included and some quite tongue-in-cheek moments such as a rapping argument complete with a drop the mike moment.

The detailed staging is pretty much the same scene throughout, although the multi-level choreography means that I was already thinking I'll need to see this again.

It's an interesting and vibrant story told with colour-blind casting, great music and thought provoking attitudes around complex parts of what is still intertwined into modern America.