Thursday, 31 January 2019

up and over the Thames


I've been sleeping in the docks for a couple of days with this view and decided it was a good opportunity to continue trialling my 'Use iPhone only' photography. This little sequence was taken as I crossed the Thames via the 'Airline'. For a while it was my short daily commute across the Thames by cablecar.

The system is slightly different now. It used to be a special punchable ticket valid for 10 journeys. Now the journeys can be loaded directly on to my Oyster card, which costs less than simply using the Oyster as a touch-in/touch-out.

It was as easy as ever to get a complete cablecar to myself, and the TV system in the car had a commentary about the views from the ride. As a Londoner, I knew most of it, but there were still some interesting sections, particularly when it involved direct commentary from Londoners, such as a tugboat captain or someone working in one of the revamped dock areas.

Here's a serviceable picture of Canary Wharf and of the Dome, although I had to use the zoom obliquely across the glass bubble of my cablecar to take this one, hence the strange reflections and interference.

Then a picture towards Greenwich Peninsular, which also illustrates the growth of buildings - including several new apartment blocks with what will be a very quick commute into the centre.

Then there's the Thames Clipper dock, accompanied by Anthony Gormley's Quantum Cloud sculpture. It is reputedly taller than the Angel of the North in Gateshead, although doesn't somehow look it, maybe because of its foreshortened outline nature. Look at it from the right angle and there's still a residual figure inside it, based upon Anthony Gormley's body, which is something of his signature approach to public sculptures.

Then, above, my final snap from this leg of the journey. I should have taken a couple of steps further back to get the whole building in, although there was also some tricky road signage, which made it difficult to cover the building, cable cars and first mast all at once.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

icy days ahead?


Well, that went well. The third attempt to push Plan A attempted by Mrs May and immediately kicked back by the European Union.

The hypocrisy and skewed voting that left the process intact with no immediate ability to extend or stop Article 50 is foolish. The European Union negotiators can just hold their line now until the last minute. Mrs May has been painted into a corner.

The Throw Britain Under a Bus Manoeuvre is still holding as a basis for creating a faux Tory unity, although the Tory party are already showing signs of new fracture. The new target is Mrs May’s civil service lead negotiator, Olly Robbins, who has been constant through the bulk of the negotiation.

Eurosceptic MP Steve Baker has attacked the prime minister’s negotiating team saying trade negotiator Crawford Falconer should take over. A legacy name from the party, Iain Duncan-Smith, has started to argue for a politically led last stage to the negotiation.

Mrs May’s statement is along the lines that “The civil service team, which is led by Olly Robbins, remains the same.”

It’s more hypocrisy as she adds the de facto deputy prime minister, David Lidington, to the negotiating team along with the attorney-general, Geoffrey Cox.

Expect further PM-insisted legal hooks to be inserted into the already one-way valve of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Remember that the Withdrawal Agreement simply cuts the UK loose. The main terms for what happens next are in the so-called Political Declaration, the well-known 26 pages of aspirational materials to be negotiated in the months and years following the click of the Withdrawal Agreement.

I’m drawn to remember the subtext from the European Union along the lines that no Sovereign state leaving the Union should be able to attain better conditions outside the Union than of members within it.

There'll be a last minute battle for the photo opportunities. It can be spun either way with the right picture content. A bit like those NHS red bus pictures.

It's a pity that there isn’t really any usable opposition to what is happening.

Mr Corbyn has yesterday made a pronouncement that “The whole process looks like it’s running down the clock by saying, well, it’s either the problems and the difficulties of no deal or support a deal that’s already been rejected by the House of Commons.”

Too little, too late.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

in the thick of it


Tuesday I stumbled into this little ongoing event outside Parliament and decided to take a few iPhone snaps. It is interesting to see what is happening although it is also almost as confusing as the situation it is trying to address.

There’s that mix of reporters looking for someone to talk to and several factions loosely separated into individual clusters. It is made more complicated because each of the main groupings has some fringe outsiders as well as a few visible infiltrators from other groups.

There is little attempt at logic or rationale in arguments, instead there’s a few slogans and some chants. The amendment votes just keep the current plan rolling along, with a new attempt to adjust the sentiment of the agreements about the island of Ireland.

There's transparent cynicism to the Tory approach. Collective Tories are throwing the UK under a bus on the pretence of re-instilling a Tory unity. The tacticians' narrative about "poor ickle Britain pitted against The Europeans" is a trite way to try to reposition the debate, using the Backstop as the apparent Only Thing to be Fixed. All pure bunkum.

And worryingly little time left for more bust-ups.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Another bit for a spy novel.


It used to be simple to take a wire that had the wrong plug and solder a different connector type onto it. DIN Plugs, Loudspeaker plugs, Phono plugs...the list goes on.

I decided to take a quick peek at the ins and outs of a Lightning connector on a phone.

It is way more complicated. Both ends of a simple wire connector need circuits to make them work properly.

There's security (ie so that only authorised devices can communicate). There's MSV(Multiple Supply Voltage) circuits to ensure that the right current gets through. If you split the signal to provide analogue sound (to headphones) then there's a digital signal processor. Plus watchdog circuits for timing and other errors such as overheating.

Add some memory for the EEPROM to make it all function, a simple microprocessor, some basic voltage stabilisation circuits and and what used to be a 'wire' become an intelligent device in its own right.

I't made me wonder about the discussions of state-sponsored hacks into systems, like that recent suggestion about hacking 5G telecoms.

I'm guessing that some of these little EEPROM circuits could be another way to create a 'leaky' circuit to transmit data too? And if the circuit is built right into the cable - and reprogrammable - who'd even know?

Friday, 25 January 2019

All bound for Mu Mu Land?


I suppose this could go in a number of ways.

I was going to do this post as a Thursday Thirteen, but it got out of hand with all the Operation Yellowhammer undertones linked to the possibility Britain will leave the EU on March 29 without a deal in place.

I can't shake off the ship of fools, even with Marina Abramovitch's arrangement below.

Just look at the stuff on the table. It still makes a useful and edgy metaphor.

We all know it is negotiation posturing, keeping a hard end-date to avoid further procrastination, but still have a 'don't confuse me with the facts (or experts)' situation.

Here's my two pennorth.

    Money

  1. JPMorgan Chase & Co chief executive Jamie Dimon said the bank would probably use Frankfurt as the legal domicile of its European operations after Brexit, though jobs could be put elsewhere as well.
  2. HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver confirmed possible plans to move 1,000 jobs from Britain to Paris in case of a so-called "hard" Brexit, and said recent reforms from the French government would be positive, if enacted.
  3. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are planning to spread their operations across a number of cities including Dublin and Paris.
  4. Lloyds, Standard Chartered, Credit Suisse, Citigroup and Nomura are among the banks that are planning to expand or set up new offices in Frankfurt in light of Brexit.
  5. Hubertus Väth, the managing director of Frankfurt Main Finance said: “All in all, we expect a transfer of €750bn to €800bn in assets from London to Frankfurt, the majority of which will be transferred in the first quarter of 2019.”
  6. The City minister, John Glen, backed Bank of England estimates that Britain is likely to lose about 5,000 City jobs by the time the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019.
  7. Nomura Holdings has set up new offices for certain operations in Paris and Frankfurt as part of its Brexit preparations, but says it headquarters remain in London.
  8. Other Japanese firms, including Daiwa Securities and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, plan to move their main EU bases out of London.
  9. Stuff

  10. Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, said the failure to sort out Britain’s departure from the European Union was damaging Britain’s brand abroad and had joined a list of systemic risks to the world economy.
  11. Ford has predicted that a no-deal Brexit will result in costs of $800m (£612m) during 2019 alone, in the latest in a series of stark warnings over potential disruption to British manufacturing.
  12. The Swiss pharmaceuticals company Novartis has said it is stockpiling drugs in the UK before a possible no-deal Brexit, which it warned would be “hugely impactful” for patients.
  13. Jaguar Land Rover, the UK’s largest carmaker, informed employees on Thursday that it will shut down its four main factories for an extra week at the start of April on top of a previously planned maintenance pause because of “potential Brexit disruption”.
  14. Airbus manufactures aircraft wings in the UK and employs 14,000 people in the country. Chief executive Enders stated: “It is a disgrace that, more than two years after the result of the 2016 referendum, businesses are still unable to plan properly for the future.”
  15. The BBC is considering Brussels as the location for a new EU base after Brexit to allow it to continue to broadcast across the continent.
  16. Sony will move its European headquarters from the UK to the Netherlands to avoid disruptions caused by Brexit.
  17. Appliance maker Dyson recently announced it was moving its (small) headquarters to Singapore, from Malmesbury in Wiltshire, although it said it had nothing to do with Brexit.
  18. Panasonic has already moved its headquarters to Amsterdam, mostly because of tax issues potentially created by Brexit.
  19. BMW plans to shut its Mini plant for a month after the UK’s official departure from the European Union, to minimise the impact of a no-deal Brexit that it fears would cause a shortage of parts.
  20. Toyota has warned that a no-deal Brexit would affect investment and would temporarily halt output at its plant in Burnaston.
  21. Honda has already planned a six day halt in April to plan for "all possible outcomes caused by logistics and border issues”.
  22. Slush

  23. Prominent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has defended the move by a City firm that he helped to found to establish an investment fund in Ireland ahead of the UK leaving the European Union.
  24. Theresa May’s husband Philip May is a Senior Executive of a £1.4 trillion investment firm Capital Investment, which provides wealth management for UK investors, based out of Luxembourg.
  25. Originator of much of the Brexit turmoil, Nigel Farage confirmed two of his children have both British and German passports, which would allow them to take advantage of free movement rights post-Brexit.
  26. A quarter of the UK cabinet flew out to the Davos World Economic Forum on Wednesday at a time when the government is struggling to resolve the Brexit impasse, prompting the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to accuse them of wasting time at a “billionaires’ jamboree”.
Even the Queen has pitched in: “As we look for new answers in the modern age, I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek out the common ground, and never losing sight of the bigger picture."

All bound for Mu Mu Land
They're Justified, and they're Ancient,
And they drive an ice cream van.
(just roll it from the top)
They're Justified and they're Ancient,
With still no master plan.
(to the bridge, to the bridge, to the bridge now)
The last train left an hour ago,
They were singing "All aboard"
All bound for Mu Mu Land,
Then someone starting screaming "Turn up the Strobe"
(bring the beat back)
(Hey hey)
All bound for Mu Mu Land (justified!)
(Hey hey)
All bound for Mu Mu Land (ancients of mu mu)
Rap:
Justified and Ancient, Ancient and a-justified,
Rocking to the rhythm in their ice-cream van
with the plan and the key to
enter into Mu Mu
Vibes from the tribes of the JAMs.
I know where the beat is at,
''cause I know what time it is.
Bring home a dime,
Make mine a "99"

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Topsham wanderings testing iPhone snapshots

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Today's post is a result of a quick walk around the neighbourhood, trying out a few pictures from the iPhone. It is part of my test of an iPhone as a travel camera. The first picture above is SOOC (Straight out of iPhone camera) and the only tweak was that I focused it on the wall and knocked the exposure down when I took it.

Then the short walk to the waterfront. It was damp, late afternoon and the tide was out.

The resultant pictures load automatically into Apple's Photo application, but don't get recognised by Adobe Lightroom, even if I plug the iPhone into the Mac.

That's not a problem normally, when I only want to drag and drop a few pictures from Mac's Photos into Lightroom, but would be more irritating if I always had to do an extra manual copy as part of a Lightroom workflow.

I think there's a way around it with Lightroom CC on the iPhone, but I haven't tried it yet.
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The second lens corrected picture shows that we're an hour after low tide, and the high tide mark can be clearly seen around the walls.

My issue was that the iPhone lens splayed the walls of the building outward in a wide angle effect. I think it detracts from the original picture, shown below.

For casual snapshots this isn't really a problem, but I suppose I'm just a tad picky on this kind of thing and it would take quite some time to go through to 'correct verticals' and so on.
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Here's another 'tide out' picture, this time by the boatyard.

The format of the picture in the iPhone is something like 5x4 default and so this type of picture would have quite a lot of foreground unless I zoomed in. The iPhone digital zoom uses less of the sensor and so the end result would be somewhat jagged.

Instead I've cropped the picture to a more blog friendly aspect ratio. I'd probably prefer to have more control over the highlights too, and may need to set a slightly lower exposure, which ideally would be -2 or -3 for all pictures. I've also got some of that burned edge effect on the horizon, which seems to be more pronounced with jpeg than when processing raw.
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This one of the Boathouse looks pretty good, and the menu is readable, including the take-away offers.

Direct from the iPhone it also suffered from the slanted edges, and required some 'guide drawing' to get it to look straight. I'm guessing that the iPhone is quite sensitive to being 'off plane' when facing towards a scene. I'll set the guide lines to be on for the next tests.

I know these quick tests are different from the lifestyle and selfie tests that get reviewed in the interweb, but I suppose I'm trying to see how to use the iPhone as a travel camera, knowing the limits (iPhone and me!) and adjusting accordingly.

To be continued, as they say.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

all we are saying


A brief interlude in Liverpool, as part of a longer journey. Fortunately my friend would show me parts of the city, edited to finely balance any tourist experience.

For example, we headed to the free Double Fantasy exhibition in the Museum of Liverpool. It's the experience-packed John and Yoko exhibit, sharing their story and many extremely well-known artefacts.
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Close by was the ferry - yes THAT one across the Mersey. I'd have travelled it (which would be a first) but we've decided to leave it for my next visit.
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Onwards to the catacombs of St George's Hall, a complete jail underneath the defunct courthouse. A simple way to understand the 'send him down' as one tripped breathlessly from the cells up flights of steps to arrive in the opulent panelled courtroom above.

Then, in the catacombs, the Italo Calvino exhibit. Based upon his writings, the Six Memos, here were various artistic interpretations of his lively and thought provoking work.
  • "lightness" - the need to bear the gravity of existence lightly;
  • "quickness" - a deftness in combining action with contemplation;
  • "exactitude" - the need for precision and clarity in language;
  • "visibility" - the visual imagination as an instrument for knowing the world;
  • "multiplicity" - the exhilirating infinitude of possibilities open to humankind.
Ahah, but only five? Calvino died of a stroke before he finished writing them. "constancy" was to be the sixth. There were three lovely people to explain the show. A joy to chatter with and to ask them to share their differing favourite moments of the show. They asked me for mine too. I secretly thought it was chatting to them.

Of course we walked around many landmarks. I was staying at Jurys slap bang in the dock area, which had once been around six miles length of busy ships loading and unloading. Now it has a pristine finish, ideal for a flaneur around the waterfront.
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There's cafes and bars as well as interesting buildings and displays. There's the Liverpool Mountain just around the corner from the Tate in its modernised warehouse. The colours of Ugo Rondinone's sculpture are so supersaturated that they look unreal. A blast of colour, such that I'll use more than my average picture size to show it.
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And we walked along Hope Street, between the two Cathedrals for the divided religions, we could think that this was once the site of stresses in older Liverpool but now an area containing fancy restaurants and hotels. Then, a lovely meal and more chatter, before I headed back to my hotel, admittedly with another look at the ever-changing Mersey.
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Tuesday, 22 January 2019

plain sight traders


I've been watching that TV drama about cleaners doing insider trading based on overheard conversations. Some of it is a little far-fetched, but the old narrative about the best way to hide works well.

A common guideline is to wear a high-visibility jacket or look like a cleaner. In other words hide in plain sight. I guess it moves around according to exact profession.

As an example: Just suppose Brexit affects share prices and markets. The Prime Minister is steering things, but wait...

Who does she share a home with? Only a relationship manager for one of the largest and most experienced investment management companies in the world, Capital Group, and its UK badged subsidiary Capital Management.

It has the lovely 40 Grosvenor Place, London, SW1X 7GG office address, situated in a sensitive location, facing the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

The actual fund and its various subdivisions are a convenient “Société d’Investissement à Capital Variable” created under the laws of Luxembourg, managed by Capital International Management Company Sàrl (“CIMC”), a company established in Luxembourg.

This is jolly handy because, as the fund guidance states: Under current law and practice, CIMC is not liable to any Luxembourg income tax.

As a Brit trading these funds, except in limited circumstances, you'd also not be subject to any capital gains, income, inheritance or other taxes in Luxembourg.

The role of a CIMC relationship manager is "to ensure the clients are happy with the service and that we understand their goal."

It must be tricky to advise retirement fund clients when the Fund owns, say, 9.7% of all the BAE shares spread over two separate investment categories? That's the BAE that makes the Typhoon Eurofighter and Storm-Shadow missiles used in various recent brutal middle east conflicts.

But I suppose working in an investment advisory environment and sharing a home with one of the people most likely to influence markets doesn't have to raise conflicts of interest.

With recent top level decisions and tactics it is only foreign exchange, the FTSE and some bunches of individual equities that have become skittish.

There's another angle too. Just imagine if the freedoms that a country like Luxembourg deploys on its non-taxation and confidentiality were to be applied to the financial sector in the UK?

Oh. I see. Maybe that's part of the unchanged Plan A Mark III?

Monday, 21 January 2019

red and icy but no wolves


The instantly knowledgeable ones were talking about blood wolf super moons on the radio, so I decided to have a quick look.

A slight problem was the cloud, then the mist, oh, and the cold. I'll continue to think of the first moon after Yule as the Ice Moon, in the month with two faces. January. Janus and all that.

I pointed my camera skywards, although I was indoors through double glazing, so I've extra reflections and wobble. I think the first picture also has some rotation, although it's hard to tell now.

The main thing is that the moon looks a bit more spherical when photographed against a shadowy earth. Someone told me that 04:40 was the right time. My pictures are a little later, at sometime after 05:15 in the morning. There's the merest hint of sunrise at the top of the moon.

I tried first with a 300mm Nikon lens attached to an Olympus camera. That's like a 600mm. Then a shorter Olympus lens which was made for the camera and seemed to yield better results. The end results are all over-magnified and treated for noise, but I suppose that is part of the fun.

Here's Fireball XL5, including the epic tune "I wish I was a spaceman."

Sunday, 20 January 2019

picture this


I'm deciding how much photography I can offload to iPhone instead of DSLR. I think I've reached the technology crossover, at least for some types of picture. Looking back, one of my oldest surviving cameras is a film-based Olympus Trip 35. I didn't own it from new, but swapped it with a friend for (I think) some kind of hi-fi equipment.

The Trip was always very unassuming. It had a few basic settings but within its 35mm f2.8 lens it would usually take great travel style pictures using the circular metering cell on the front. The camera has a ring around the lens to adjust the type of picture and even the aperture, but mostly the automatic setting gave good results.

So now I'm thinking about when I can use my iPhone as a proper substitute for a DSLR. Can the iPhone really be the equivalent of the Trip 35 on a longer trip or holiday?

I've decided to play around with the iPhone and maybe look at some tutorials. I take plenty of pictures through the eyepiece of a DSLR, but I'm sure there are some different techniques when holding the phone like a postcard out in front.

Time to trial just an iPhone before my next extended trip away, to see how much I trust using a smartphone to take my main snaps. Of course, I've used phone cameras for years (right back to old Nokias) but I have noticed for the last 2-3 years how good the jpegs from an iPhone have become. It'll be a trade off between the weight and baggage of a 'proper camera' vs the lightweight nature of simply carrying the phone.

I've also just noticed the twenty or so tutorials on the Apple site about iPhone photography. It's got to be worth a look, and a play.

Monday, 14 January 2019

a glint of steel, but without the triumph


Various votes tomorrow as Brexit continues its zombie shuffle. Expect last minute go faster stripes and camouflage paint before the meaningful (sic) vote.

Assuming the Prime Minister takes a dive, we should expect new kerfuffles.

The emergent 'Brexit Plan B' is becoming ever closer to the one I speculated back on 28 June 2016. I called it BREFTA back then, a variant of the Norway/Switzerland approach. I calculated we'd still had to pay the EU ongoing money, albeit less than the current £13 billion per year. Then there's the little matter of the money we'd need to pay to be in a different club.

I suppose, if we were to actually do something 'managed' (other than Remain), then eventually the inconvenient truth about costs will resurface. At the moment politicians and pundits are talking about new intentions without fiscal constraint.

It's a question that should really be asked. What are the constraints? Set the bounds. Understand the oil.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

buffered


Fascinating to briefly glimpse the innards of the House of Commons on Friday afternoon.

A big debate in progress, but check my scene from around 11:50am to see there's only a half a card deck's worth of workers in the place. Friday, so maybe like some other professions they'd already gone to the pub or were back at home instead of continuing the Brexit debate?

Also notice that the front benches are almost empty. The big cards are mainly missing. Come to think of it, so are the jokers.

I mean, six days should've been plenty of time. This Friday Sitting thing was an annoying extension in any case. Who needs to be in Parliament on a Friday? These procedural points grate.

And being Friday it is important to get through the business by 3pm. Or 2:30pm to hit the buffers for the main debate. Here's a few quotes from the largely unreported day's discussion by a mix of MPs across parties and opinions.
  • "Probably the most important debate that the House of Commons will engage in in this generation."
  • "I want a quality debate, and so do our constituents, so let us stick to the facts, not the fiction."
  • (Speaker notes) "Let me say that there is quite a lot of chuntering from a sedentary position going on."
  • "Hotel California" (lyrics argument).
  • "We have been left with an angry country."
  • "Seventy-seven days to go and breaking up is hard to do — disentangling ourselves from 45 years of arrangements that touch every aspect of our lives. This is bigger than any piece of legislation, any Budget and anything that any of us has ever voted on. It is a big deal. This is existential stuff."
  • "We need a plan B to break this logjam, impasse, gridlock, deadlock, cul de sac."
  • "Blackmail Brexit with guns held to our heads."
  • "People have talked about improving the tone of debate, but we got to this position through betrayal, deceit and lies writ large on a bus, and through corruption and criminality that is still under investigation."
  • "But the big problem — and it is a very big problem — is that we have barely a napkin sketch of where we are going."
  • "Rather than setting us free and allowing us to take back control, this deal would tie the UK up in red tape, build a wall around the UK and take up the drawbridge. It fundamentally fails to take account of the reality in the world."
  • "As the Chancellor said about the referendum, people “did not vote to become poorer”, but that is exactly what will happen if we vote for this deal."
  • "Finally, it is a fundamental falsehood, deceit and insult to present no deal as the only outcome if the Government are defeated. It is not. For years people were told that they could not have the things that they need: a police service able to investigate and solve crime, a national health service that did not involve 20-week waits for standard appointments, and a solution to the housing crisis. The Government’s response was that there was no money and no deal. Now they find billions to waste on the no-deal Brexit, while people still suffer “neglexit” on housing, policing and the NHS. With this fundamentally fraudulent claim, the Prime Minister is playing Russian roulette with people’s livelihoods and jobs. The UK can and should revoke article 50, and I urge the Government to take that approach."
But wait. The Westminster Arms beckoned. The golden fuse that supplies the power to parliament was punctually removed.