rashbre central: 2019

Friday 27 December 2019

top of the world

An unusual retrospective today. As we hit the bump to the 2020s, it is interesting to see that this blog has been going long enough to look back ten years to the end of 2009 and start of 2010. Where were we? Eigergletscher, in Switzerland, having a snowy Christmas meandering around Grindelwald and Jungfraujoch.

It is a pretty amazing place with the railway to the ice palace and then the panoramas from the top of Jungfrau. I've visited it several times, but would still go back again.

There we were, staying in a little wooden hut, like Heidi's, but without the goats. Sitting on top of the world.

Tuesday 24 December 2019

Santa Tracker and Calculations 2019 (Mach 4770)

santa claus

Time to republish the Santa Calculations, which I first published back in 2006 and then updated in 2010. I'm using 7 billion as the world population.

Firstly, here's the link to the Santa tracking system created by NORAD.

For those of you who are more interested in the technology of Santa, NORAD's FAQs provide the following:
NORAD Sleigh technical data
I've again used the Joel Potischman and Bruce Handy calculations as the basis for the speed calculations, with my own adaptations:

The most notable corrections to be applied are:

- Santa delivers no gifts to naughty children (not even coal)
- Naughty to nice ratio is 1:9
- As confirmed by NORAD, one Santa distributes all of the gifts.
- There is only one family per household.
- Santa bypasses non Santa belief system houses.
- Reindeer have recently eaten fresh magic acorns.

Santa passes Big Ben
Calculation Assumptions (2014):

- World population = 7.06 billion
- Children under 18 = 2.353 billion (Hmm may be higher)
- Global Santa based belief systems: 33%
- Max children requiring delivery therefore 784 million
- Children per household: 3.5 (may seem high?)
- Number of households requiring distribution 224 million
- Naughty to nice factor applied but not many all naughty households
- Remove all naughty households (25% 0f 10%) = 5.6 million
- Eastern orthodox using Jan 5 instead of Dec 25 = 16 Million
- Target Households = 202 million on Dec 25
- Estimated child bed time 21:00 (9pm) with 7 hours sleep.

(child sleep duration on Dec 24 may also require revision)

Gives circa 31 hours (24+7) for all deliveries
Time is 1860 mins or 111,600 seconds

The average number of homes to visit per second = circa 1810.
So average delivery per household is 552 milliseconds, which is why Santa normally appears a bit blurry (I previously thought it was the sherry)

Land surface minus Antarctica is around 79 million square miles. Distribute destinations evenly = 0.7 miles between households creating a total distance of circa 110 million miles.

So 110 million miles in 31 hours = 3.6 million miles an hour or circa 1000 miles per second or Mach 4770 at a linear speed.

This explains Rudolph's red nose because of air resistance creating around 20 quintillion Joules of energy per second, which would convert a non-reindeer nose to charcoal at such energy levels. I think the acceleration and deceleration per household may also need some examination.

Luckily Santa has lots of special powers so these mere physics facts are no problem to such a superhero.


It's a tricky decision to have to make. Whether to stay at home or travel during the Christmas holiday? And also whether to seek sun or snow, if travelling? For 2019 we waited until the deep winter to travel to the sunshine, and the previous year we were in the Austrian snow.

This time, I think we'll stay at home throughout the season, unlike our new Prime Minister and girlfriend, who have decided to winter it out with the von Bismarks in Mustique.

I know the thinking though. Mustique is far away enough from Barbados, where Simon Cowell will be wintering away in Sandy Lanes. Mick Jagger has tried to get away from it all to his adjacent private island, but now that Cowell has access to a floating gin place, there's always the thought he could turn up unannounced.

At least Boris had the courtesy to tell Mick he'd be sunning himself nearby when he was at that alleged KGB spy and oligarch Lebedev's party after the election results came in. Champagne, triple wodkas and beluga all around.

Of course, Boris is showing the common touch with his choice of holiday spot. He's a winner now and needs to be seen in the right Phillipe Starck designed bars.

The country can run itself in his absence unimpeded by any sensible opposition. Boris has set the timer on his oven-ready solution.

Monday 23 December 2019

Cinderella and the Beanstalk - The Stand - Newcastle

Mayhem and madness as we attended the fabulous Cinderella and the Beanstalk. Two pantomimes for one! Fusion theatre? Affordable, alternative, amazing. Just a great dollop of Christmas fun, loved by cheering children and tippling adults alike.

There were baked beans jokes - one was right on the nose. There were 'look behind you' moments. There were ugly-on-the-inside princesses. Magical slippers. A rather inquisitive (SPOILER) golden egg laying goose.

The high-energy cast gave their all and had a blast; whether it was Lee Kyle's 'Giant' explanation of what to do when in a pantomime audience and of the terrible jeopardy in pantomimes, Hal Branson's quick princely beard change, whilst hunting with the magic slipper, Sammy Dobson's frequent costume changes between the Salt and Pepper sisters, or Hannah Walker's enchanting transformation from Cinderella into the belle of the ball.

Like all good pantos, there was a moral to the story. Or four different morals from the cast members. The whole thing performed in the underneath bit of The Stand Comedy Club, right in the middle of Newcastle.


Oh, and it is still on...Right through to 30 December.

Sunday 22 December 2019

your mind and we belong together

It must be annoying for thin controller Seamus Milne to have Dominic Cummings running the Conservative Party strategy. Cummings might not believe in the Conservative way of doing things, but he plays a tidy hand when it comes to strategy.

There’s a warped humour in the way Cummings rubbishes the Party’s intentions and at the same time helps them slogan their way to victory. No wonder he’s suggesting a Great Britain Futures department, which will, no doubt contain himself in some guise or other.

Haplessly, Mr Milne set a daft strategy to fight the top 50 Conservative seats instead of defending the marginals. It led to tears and the potentially decade-long demise of the Labour Party. Milne might have liked being considered as Corbyn's brain or secret policeman and manages to dodge his way into longevity, despite those around him falling or about to be pushed.

Even the working party that has been assembled to discuss and adjudicate on the reason for failure seems ill-judged, when so many doorsteps could probably explain it in a couple of sentences.

Still, it will deflect attention for a couple of months and perhaps some will forget the dominant issues.

It is also somewhat academic now because the Clown can do pretty much whatever he likes, removing judicial powers, stuffing the Lords with supporters and tipping a few more unelected into his Cabinet.

Everyman is happy now that Brexit can get done, shares are drifting up, the pound is getting stronger, so it must be all right for some people. The turkeys voted for Xmas and are oven ready, as Dom might joke.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

mendacity vs cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias

Along the Great Northern Way, through the red wall, noticing a symbolic landmark of the north as we passed Ferrybridge cooling towers.

Even they look forlorn nowadays, originally eight of them and an instant landmark, we're down to three now because the others have been demolished.

I won't look for symbols though, instead I'll now be forced to turn to the city pages to watch the next stages of the campaign unfold, unhampered by any leader-driven opposition. A case of the uppers vs the downers.

The press snapshot tells part of a story ~ on the left hand side is Carrie and to the right is the Artful Dodger. Only the Sunday Times seemed to capture the full mise en scène, maybe with airbrushed strings?

Saturday 14 December 2019

Friday 13 December 2019

aletheiometers all 'round

I've got a new new alethiometer. We're all going to need one now.

Boris 'Le Menteur' Johnson and his gangsters have been elected. 'Brexit is easy,' we're told and the pound is already climbing to new heights.

The update for the new model quite simple. Stand the old compass near to the new one and, much like an iPhone, it'll do the updates automatically.

Now, I asked it "what's happening?" and got "wild man, serpent, globe" from the first reading. It's trying to tell me that a maniac who falsifies is grasping great political power.

Surely not?

Thursday 12 December 2019

2019 and 2017 vote split

A quick scout around the statistics from the current election and the preceding one shows a few interesting things:

  • Conservatives achieved an increase in vote of a little over 1%. Labour dropped about 8%.
  • For Conservatives to get a seat, they needed around 38,000 votes.
  • Labour need around 50,000.
  • Last time it was Conservatives 43,000 votes per seat and Labour 49,000 votes per seat.
  • It illustrates the leverage of the last 329,000 votes to gain an extra 66 seats for the Tories. That works out to around 5000 votes per seat tipped.
No doubt the strategists had done these type of calculations ahead of the election.

Wednesday 11 December 2019

tom waits for everyman

There's a hole in the ladder, a fence we can climb
mad as a hatter, you’re thin as a dime.

Go out to the meadow, hills are a green
Sing me a rainbow, steal me a dream.

Don’t plant your bad days. They grow into weeks. The weeks grow into months. Before you know it, you got yourself a bad year.

Take it from me - choke those little bad days. Choke ‘em down to nothing.

Monday 9 December 2019

car park fenne lily

Sitting in the train station and listening to a song about a car park.

Friday 6 December 2019

wrapped in a pink sucker punch

I received one of those Spotify Wrapped summaries today.

It's a kind of sucker punch with the choices it's made (see what I did there?)

It is as if it took the last 2-3 albums that I played and then mixed up the tracks a bit. Here are the 30 second cuts of 'my' top tracks. There's 100 in the jukebox, feel free to scroll or play them...

Maybe I've worked it out. It'll be when I put on some chillout music whilst I'm cooking a Thai curry or something like that. Could it be when I accidentally left the Sonos running and went away for a few days?

The top selections compare very strangely with last.fm, where I used to use to track my music choices and which did a pretty good job of name-checking the right kind of bands. Regularly it would deliver a roll-call of the usual suspects. Well, my usual suspects, in any case. Not so with Spotify which must hunt around the streamed edges aligned to a marketing business model.

The wrapped cover art for my 2019 album seems to be Sigrid on a Tory pink album cover. My top track appears to be Beautiful Trash, by Lanu (ft Megan Washington) - though I'm sure I recognise that drum loop from something else?

It seems that others are just as mystified.

Maybe it is all of those long coffee mornings, when I'm listening to a playlist? Perhaps the miles of motorway driving to Absolution and Swordfishtrombone just don't get through to the hit-counter? Even my recent Billy Bragg revision appears to have gone unnoticed.

Or perhaps if it comes from my library instead of me streaming it? I don't know. I just don't know.

Thursday 5 December 2019

where's mobbutt?

More cynical propaganda from the Tories today. They've arranged postal delivery of a 'You & your family brochure'. It is A3 folded on matt 100gsm and printed in a selection of scorching neon colours and styled to look like a free magazine illustrating what, I assume, PR millennials think boomers will like.

It is so trite and Daily Mail styled that I felt affronted to have a copy delivered to our letterbox. There's miniscule thin writing on the front that announces that it comes from Alan Mobbutt on behalf of the Conservative and Unionist Party, SW1H 9HQ.

There's a need to hunt around the document to find this information, helpfully printed out of registration in a lurid pink section of the leaflet. I doubt whether most people even spot it. It complies with the law but hovers right on the thin edge.

Then try to find this publicist of the Conservative Party; does anyone know him? I reckon he is in hiding. Not in LinkedIn, Twitter or on Google. An incredible act of self-erasure. Perhaps he is ashamed?

Wednesday 4 December 2019


Well, the season of Christmas Parties has started and I found myself at my first Xmas lunch during the week.

A subtle change. We still had Xmas Crackers, but this year they were low-carbon-footprint eco-friendly ones. That meant, inside the exploded cracker was a joke and an interesting fact. Also a paper hat, but no small gift.

Instead, a picture of the small gift (which could be a thimble, a fake moustache or a conjuring trick). The picture included a description of the original item and an explanation as to why it was bad for the planet. Ah, the nostalgia of a Fortune Teller Fish...

Anyone who has ever attended an office party will recognise the paperclips, mini staplers and staple extractors, pencil sharpeners, mini-biros and packs of coloured pencils that formed the bulk of the cracker content. Like a short raid on the stationery cupboard. Here's a few of the jokes. Feel free to print out and cut up.

And of course there's always:
  • What do you call a fear of climbing down chimneys? SantaClaustrophobia.
  • or
  • How do you make Lady Gaga cry? Poker face
  • or even
  • Why did the protester let of steam? Because he was kettled
  • and perhaps
  • Why did the chicken cross the road? Because it was walking to work as it could no longer afford the train fare.
I'll leave the one about the difference between a foot spa and a bad drummer to your imagination.

Monday 2 December 2019

Nam June Paik at Tate Modern - it's a mass age

I wonder if there's a way to summarise the Nam June Paik exhibition at the Tate? I looked at the beginning of it. A Buddha, looking at a TV showing a screening of the Buddha, filmed on a small camera. How very Zen. Or maybe how very X Factor?

The majority of this show builds from this simple idea, which I did find somewhat monotheistic. A kind of 'god is in the television' which I couldn't help supplanting with an 'Idiot's Lantern' viewpoint.

For me Nam June Paik's theme was worried around, in some cases, it was deconstructed. For a while, it was blended with the playful interpretations of Joseph Beuys, and then, at the end of the sequence, it showed a kind of modern information overload. Noisy and multi-dimensional.

I could understand what Nam June Paik was trying to address, but this might be a case of "the medium is the message" stretched to breaking point.

Saturday 30 November 2019

Le Mans '66 - a 7000 rpm movie

I wasn't sure what to expect with the Damon/Bale movie about the Ford Shelby car construction. I didn't know the background except that Le Mans is where people drive round and round for 24 hours. To be honest, I'd got it mixed up with Nurburgring in my mind.

But the movie was fine. Gritty car action with a playful relationship between Christian Bale attempting a Brummy accent and Matt Damon attempting a Texan one.

The directors added Typhoo tea swigged from an enamel mug for Bale to boost the authenticity and a JR hat for Damon, but really, it didn't matter. The storyline was simple and un-nuanced. America needed to invent a car to trounce those troublesome Italians. Hence the `US name for the movie: Ford vs Ferrari.

It all played out predictably, including some epic car races, which really benefitted from all the immersive sub-woofers and surround sound available in the tiny 40 seater cinema. The crowd in the cinema actually cheered when Ford won the Daytona 500.

Sure, there was referances to bits of cars in it but it was playfully hot brakes and jamming doors that created the drama rather than ECU remapping. And I now know what the 40 in Ford GT40 stood for. And what the wooden wedges were used for.

Indeed, the whole movie was delightfully analogue with dials, buttons and small clock sized stopwatches.

A Saturday morning picture for the boys. Vrrrroooomm.

Friday 29 November 2019


I'm in a room tonight with blue lights flashing past outside the window. It's London, and I'm used to a certain amount of first responders going about their business.

Tonight it's different. It's once more because of another murderous terrorist incident in London.

As one of many, I've walked past the bustling area where it unfolded around five times in the last few days.

Like most Londoners, I'm used to the heightened state of awareness. The messages on public transport, "See it, Say it, Sorted," and the frequent and sudden disappearance of rubbish bins from train stations. That shared look on the Piccadilly line for the silly tourist that has left their airport luggage unattended. Bomb alert prompt scripts in the workplace.

When the last knife attacks occurred around Borough Market in 2016, I could scarcely believe it. Then we had the truck driven down the pavement on Westminster Bridge. I realise I'm getting used to it again, like when we used to get evacuated with IRA bomb scares.

Like many others, I've watched with casual interest as new safety bollards are added, and smiled that some streets get special flashy protective bollards styled like the ornate masonry such as along Parliament Street and Whitehall.

I'm used to seeing flatbed trucks carrying portable barricades around and dropping them onto a pinch point. There was plenty of that type of action for the Olympics in 2012.

And as I crossed over the road by St Paul's Cathedral the other day, I cast an eye along the road to one of the old blue Ring of Steel control points left in the road but unmanned since the end of IRA bombings.

It's almost impossible to predict this cowardly terrorism, but fortunately proud London's spirit is uncowed.

Thursday 28 November 2019

Dora Maar - strangeness and charm

I visited the Dora Maar exhibition at the Tate today. It was one of those occasions when I was struck by just how many excellent photographs she had created. I could hear my inner photographer saying "nailed it" time after time as I walk around the early rooms.

Maar moved from assignment photography towards surrealism later, and then across into painting, when she was also famously a lover and muse of Picasso. Born as Henrietta Markovitch, she adopted her well-known name around the time that she went into an association with Pierre Kéfer, a set designer and painter.

Then flows a series of portraits of the good and great of the French scene, all well-lit, posed, angled, focussed and cropped - hence my frequent thoughts of their good quality.

Later Maar went through a reportage phase using a Rolleiflex waist height TLR camera, before the eventual move towards surrealism and ultimately into painting.

It was the early works that stood out for me at the exhibition. It looks as if she developed and printed the majority of the pictures herself which explains their consistently high quality. Whether a stunning photograph for a fashion magazine, a street scene from London or Barcelona or a rabble of painters playing cards in a smoke-filled room, she captures the essence.

Maar brought an artistic sensibility to her technically clever pictures, filling the frame, using the lens to its full potential, so that whether the picture was targeted for a wall or a page in a magazine it would create an impact.

The middle section of the exhibition deals with the surrealism, which some would say she is most famous for, having worked with, for example, Picasso and Man Ray.

I'm less certain about this middle era, and even notice a small drop in her amazing technique on some of these pictures. But I guess I look through modern eyes and at the things that can be done with layers that Maar pioneering to represent with double plane negatives. I suppose 'Bravo' would be my better response.

Then, via a few portraits of herself, sometime self-portraits sometimes the work of Picasso, we arrive at her painting phase. Here she eschews the camera, but we can still see the compositional sensibilities in her artwork. Picasso's head was turned, with this his intriguing awkward picture of his partner Marie-Thérèse Walter with Maar, in The Conversation. Rememeber that portrait in Fleabag II? Possible homage?

And then, finally we see the mixed use of paint and photography. Elusive, mysterious and challenging. Elemental.

Wednesday 27 November 2019

a bulk delivery of boris one-lie-ners

Today I received my personalised mass-customised letter through the Royal Mail from Boris Johnson. It felt like opening one of those Black Friday offers. It opened with a lie about getting Brexit done and then waded through many more one-lie-ners about other topics. There was small print too, where it said it had been sent to me via DJ Jupp, who I think is the aspiring replacement yes-man for the county.

Mr Jupp, if that's how you start, then rest assured I will never ever vote for you. You realise that Boris will weaponise the cream tea if it is in his interests?

Slightly disturbing was that the letter referred to the fact that I was a postal voter. Somehow Boris knows I'm a postal voter and is able to mechanise postal mailing lists accordingly. Smacks somewhat of State monitoring?

I haven't chased this down, but according to The Mirror I see I the Conservative Party has been hoodwinking voters into visiting their website by paying Google to place links above official advice on registering for a postal vote. Naughty-naughty, it's like something gangsters would do.

Maybe the Tories are harvesting data from people trying to even register for a postal ballot? Curious because my postal vote is a long-standing arrangement.

More sinister is the way that the Conservatives are chopping up the demographics to facilitate sectarian campaigning. Back to Black Friday again. Special offer 50% truth.

Black Friday sales came the day after Thanksgiving and was named because the downtown traffic was bad, but was soon urban mythologised into the first day of the year that stores moved into profitability, hence black instead of red. That's the kind of repurposing that the Tories are looking for with Jupp's suspicious letter from Boris, with the equivalent of a built-in 'Up To' and 'From' sprinkled around the offer percentages. Brexit done? Nope. Only just started...

I'll be more wary of Tory stealth tactics with mystery personalisations bubbling from the slime of their deception-filled cellar.

Instead, give me the lost days of Filene's Basement anytime. Before they closed in the wake of the internet, they used to run a store in Boston, with an all-the-time sale, but it was straightforward. 25% off for 14 days, then 50% off for a week and then 75% off for another week. I got a great coat there.

Tuesday 26 November 2019

nanowrimo 71035

There's been an interlude in my writing for Nanowrimo.

Today I hit Compile for the first time on Scrivener and it's turned out a Word unproofed 300 pager. Time to sharpen the pencil now for an edit.