rashbre central: March 2019

Saturday 30 March 2019

messing about on the river

Clear the head with a simple stroll along the riverbank today.

Most of the boats are still ashore, in the car park, ready to be lifted back into the water during the next month. There's a few further upstream, but it will soon be much busier.

Two of the black swans from Dawlish seem to like it across on this side of the river, and are frequently by the quayside. Here's an iPhone snap.

Yesterday I noticed egrets, herons, a swooping marsh harrier and some kind of pretty red headed ducks, when I was along the nearby River Clyst.

That is when my iPhone isn't quite powerful enough to take a usable photo. Instead, this picture shows couple of cormorants sitting on one of the boats that has remained in the water.

Here's some of the reeds which could make a good subject for a painting.

Across on the other bank there's a couple of other boats that seem to have been in the water a long time.

Friday 29 March 2019

thoughts on UK +++ #revoke #remain #reform

It's all so much clearer today. Almost impossible to think back to those heady days before the Referendum. The days when UK had negotiated its concessions to its EU membership.

Before the last two years, I thought of our agreement as Germany +++.

Better branding might be UK +++. I think it's still far better than any of the current offers on the table. Even now we might be better served with 'revoke, remain, reform'.

The UK formally pays in circa £14bn per annum to the EU but with rebates the resultant amount is closer to £8.6bn. That’s £165m per week. Or £130 per head of UK population, or £252 per year per taxpayer.

It’s less than the amount the UK gives to foreign aid and around 1% of the government’s spending bill.

In return (and as fifth largest global economy) UK gets access, membership and influence of one of the three biggest trading blocs and economies in the world. Kind of AAA status, notwithstanding some of the duff Farrige- style representatives we've fielded.

UK +++
Let’s recap some of the special things already available to UK:
  • The UK has an opt out of the Euro.
  • The UK has an opt out of Schengen.
  • The UK has a veto over new members of the EU.
  • The UK has a veto over Treaty change.
  • The UK has a veto over proposed EU army.
Then, a few more agreements secured by UK and to be written into EU treaties.
  • UK, under Cameron, secured an opt out from ‘ever closer union’.
  • The UK secured the proposal that if 55% of EU member states agreed they could block a legislative proposal from the European Commission.
  • The UK secured recognition that the Euro is not the only currency in the EU and that non- euro countries would not have to fund eurozone bailouts and they would be reimbursed from central EU funds that support the Euro.
  • There's more, but this gives enough of a flavour.

Now, I suppose if I ignore all of that above information, we have to start to think of the alternative UK outside of the EU.

An off-Europe deregulated tax-haven, run by Bojo, perhaps?

Thursday 28 March 2019

throwing dice along the wharf

Latest chicanery is tomorrow's blind brexit vote. Theresa May certainly has a lot of dice.

This attempt is for MPs to vote for the Withdrawal Agreement without taking account of the Political Declaration. It's unbundling and side-stepping MV3, trying to be a Speaker-proof third attempt at an unchanged Withdrawal Agreement.

It's a subterfuge because the EU extensions until 12 April/22 May are already validated under EU law. Theresa May needs to look as if she's tried something new, to get past the 12 April date. This isn't new, but passing the Withdrawal Agreement would locks down the exit date to 22 May. Better get the cheque book ready.

Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General says it is perfectly lawful. I reckon it attempts to bypass much of what is happening in the Parliamentary discussion over the next few days.

Game Over if this desperate deception gets passed.

Is it just me or is Ticketmaster Platinum ticketing just like scalping? @itvmlshow

A few interesting recent gig ticket buying exploits. A few days ago, I bought some tickets for one popular artist's gig via dice.fm. Totally fair. I paid the right kind of price for just released tickets without any hassle, in minutes.

Today I tried to buy a different artist via Ticketmaster. I had a pre-sales code for the relevant shows, logged in and was offered seats. Limited choices of so-called Platinum seats. It may sound good, but I wonder whether Platinum could be code for 'rip-off'.

It simply means the seats are dynamically priced by Ticketmaster. If you are fortunate enough to be a pre-sales person then Ticketmaster know you are probably keen to see the artist and they can mark the ticketing up. 100% or more.

I took three attempts to get some decent seats via the Ticketmaster site but the pricing increased even whilst I was doing this. First time £126, then £135, then £145. Ouch.

In the UK, touts are now forbidden from bulk buying. Ticketmaster had to stop its secondary market web-sites like Seatwave and GetMeIn and the support it provided to secondary ticket sellers through programs such as TradeDesk. It looks to me as if they now do the price hiking at source.

Here's how: Release tickets slowly on pre-sales at so-called demand-driven prices - which can be multiples of the underlying seat price. Don't declare a formal 'seat price' - after all they are 'Platinum'. There is nothing else special about Platinum seats. It's scalping, pure and simple. I wonder whether the artist or the venue gets any of the surplus cash generated in these 2x and 3x seat pricing scams?

The gov.uk site has a section about stopping touting, but it doesn't cover the original ticketing agency running this kind of rip-off. After all, Ticketmaster must have detailed experience to know what 'fair' seat prices are for a given artist and venue?'

My third attempt to buy tickets was via another card that I hold. It offered the same pre-sales for the same artist as the rip-off Ticketmaster, but far more fairly priced. Faster access, wider choice of seats and no hidden mark-ups. The seats were roughly one third of the price of Ticketmaster - same gig and similar seats. I didn't just try one venue, I tried three.

The UK Government attempt to fix the mark-up behaviour is documented on the gov.uk website. It doesn't work.

Here's some of Ticketmaster's own small print:

Tricky when they run a near-monopoly on some ticketing.

the security of this entire universe is in jeopardy

Maybe Buzz has the right idea. "To infinity, and beyond"? It's an option to just keep on voting now. "Suffragii ad aeternum"?

Some commentators seem surprised that there wasn't 'an answer' from that 8-way vote. It didn't occur to me that there would be a single result. More that it would indicate some direction.

My own predictions were off in scale, although the lack of any MP vote on many of the options reduced the percentages. With between 87 and 208 non-voters (including May's so-called Cabinet), it is not surprising that none of the votes cleared a 50% threshold. I can understand there's be a number of non-voters, but why did it vary so dramatically?

Then the results - I've used the IfG graphic as a clear representation of who did what.

'Confirmatory public vote' had a much higher score than I expected. The rest were fairly in line with my expectations, subject to scaled back numbers.

Customs union is still a grudging top choice, with the Labour plan getting its whipped bloc vote into second position, although there's almost nothing between Customs Union and Labour Plan. The Common Market 2.0 drops away. Tribal logic dictates that only the 237 Labour MPs would vote for their option in any case. Any of the 'adjustment of terms' options are anyway dependent upon a combination of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration.

Revoke Article 50 slightly got more than I expected, but still isn't really in play.

I notice the magician's art of deliberate mis-direction. Some MPs biasing the public away from some of the ideas on the table. Keeping the main debate about WA vs No Deal. Everyone in the well-publicised mug shot about future Prime Minister candidates has that agenda. Power and Party over People. Pah.

Time for some Nirvana (the original 60s group) - Rainbow Chaser, complete with the phased orchestra. Phased, now there's a thought.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

choosing the pinkest, fluffiest unicorn of them all

Bercow's down selection from 16 to 8 isn't so different from my prior guesses.

I'll use my original prediction percentages again, with a couple of adjustments for the smaller set. Labour has whipped 3 of the votes, too, which defeats one of the objectives of a free vote from Parliament.
  1. There's flavours of Customs Union (81%), EEA/EFTA (69%), Common Market 2.0 (61%), and the Labour Plan (47%), which are all variations of the same continuum, but has tactical voting from Labour, to skew the outcome. Some of these are also linked to the Political Declaration, which is post Withdrawal Agreement.
  2. The first set of options play against No Deal (64%) and Revoke Article 50 (I up its chances to a still lowish 42% in this new line-up). The big loss is removal of Revocation to replace No Deal, which could have changed the outcome. Without it, there's really very little change to the overall picture.
  3. Then there is a confirmatory public vote (24%). In other words No Second Referendum.
At this rate the first round of votes won't really do anything, but the subsequent time-line based down selection might.

By my reckoning, if the chicanery continues, its chances of winning are actually increasing.

down selecting brexit voting options and simulating the outcome

I feel a bit sorry for the renegade masters trying to work out the down-selection to be used in the next round of Brexit vote.

Just for fun I set up a simple model of the 16 options and then added some voting columns so that I could simulate possible outcomes.

Instead of Conservative and Labour, I used reduced numbers based upon removing the ERG and TIG and creating them as separate entities. I then used a lossy version of the votes from the remaining two main parties (for example 249 Conservatives *0.7 as a voting bloc for one of the outcomes). This is weird voting because it is effectively unconstrained except where whips are used.

After sorting the results, which are purely based upon my own shaky modelling, I get:

  1. A deal with a Customs Union (81%), or and EEA/EFTA without customs union (75%) or Common Market 2.0 (61%). These three results were akin to the Labour Plan, although the actual votes for Labour Plan in my model were only around 47%. It's all a bit late now though, isn't it - although I suppose it will be quoted as an example of something for the Political Declaration. That's the next stage, and one that Guy Verhofstadt is already suggesting could be ratcheted into something more binding.
  2. To respect the referendum result (69%), even at the expense of a No Deal (64%). To keep Theresa May's bluff to prevent Brexit from sliding off the table. I personally don't agree with this outcome.
  3. A unilateral right of exit from the backstop (47%). Not sure how this could really work? Wishful thinking?
  4. Revocation instead of No Deal would be stopped by Labour whip (31%). Otherwise it would be around 57%. Same problem withe the entirety of Revoke, which could be stopped by a Labour whip, purely to add to chaos. Revoke is the position being requested by those who have petitioned (5.8 million) and/or marched (1 million last Saturday), but it isn't being given much headspace with the hardcore parties - who ignore the 2 year delta since the lied-to will of the people decision.
  5. Second Referendum gets a low score(24%)

Now my quickly created POV model isn't much, compared to the pre-vote modelling by the strategists in the various camps. But they also want to get ahead of the outcomes, to plan the next moves.

D4 damager, with the ill behaviour, as some might say.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

who owns the board?

This 'Parliament takes control' twist is most likely to revert to gaming the outcome again.

If some strategising is applied then the moves become more obvious, particularly when some of the sixteen vote options really apply to the Political Declaration, rather than the Withdrawal Agreement.

Keeping No Deal (crash out) as the default option (even after it was voted down) means that the non-binding multi-vote outcomes by Parliament can be overruled. Most of the options amount to a grey rainbow.

Listen now for the phrases like 'It's a bad deal but I will reluctantly support it,' and 'The law of the land' linked with 'The will of the people'.

It's a simple move by the power seekers to reposition 'The one thing I will demand' to something less significant, as a way to go from 'have cake and eat it' to 'half a loaf better than no bread at all.'

Labour may decide to impose a whip on the supposedly free-votes, which can keep the full greyness in play, creating an ongoing unresolved chaos. That's more about their leadership's stress-behaviour driven cavalier desire not to solve Brexit but to force a resource-squandering General Election.

The seven or so votes to be selected from 16 are additionally a mix of cardinal and ordinal preferences, (i.e. utility choices creating value mixed with time sequencing options) so there can still be much confusion even as the votes take place.

It's because the planned vote choices create dynamic inconsistency. That's the situation where a voter's/MP's best plan for some future period will not be optimal when that future period arrives.

It creates a conundrum for those trying to vote with the agreed choices, because they are interrelated, include implicit hooks, and some have knock-on effects, all which influence the downstream outcomes.

Such a dynamically inconsistent game/vote is 'subgame imperfect'.

It presents a most likely scenario that by chicanery, the 'MV3 WA May deal vs Crash Out' will persist. It could be levelled up by changing the default from 'Crash Out' to 'Revoke', although Department for Exiting the EU said tonight : 'It remains the Government’s firm policy not to revoke Article 50.'

Instead, through brinkmanship it becomes increasingly likely that the Withdrawal Agreement gets accepted and we get have another minimum five years of Political Declaration negotiations.

Let's call the whole thing off

We seem to be entering the tap-dancing-on-roller-skates phase now.

Only very few can do it successfully.

The rest (such as the flagrant time squanderers) may get an eventual comeuppance, via a Public inquiry, which will probably conclude in about 2027.

In the meantime, here's a some skilful song and dance featuring potatoes and tomatoes and almost no edits.

Monday 25 March 2019

and with a single bound

Ignoring any brazen, pathological mendacity from the so-called US President, I see he tweeted that he was (in capitals) exonerated from the Mueller findings. Interesting choice of word, actually.

Mueller's 22 month investigation included 19 lawyers and a team of 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants and professional staff. The team interviewed 500 witnesses, executed more than 500 search warrants, 13 requests to foreign governments, issued 2,800 subpoenas and 50 wiretaps.

Mueller brought charges against 34 people, including Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Trump has always referred to the whole thing as a witch hunt. Recently he appointed a new friendly Attorney General, Bill Barr, ahead of Mueller completing the report.

Mueller was required to pass the report and summary to Barr, before any of it could go public.

Barr summarises it all into about three paragraphs: Yes, the Russians interfered with the elections. Yes, they hacked the Democrats. No, Mr Trump and anyone associated with him was not involved.

Barr's summary letter unilaterally reached a finding that the legal threshold for obstruction of justice would not be met even despite Mueller deciding after two years, not to do that.

Then there's a bit in the letter quoting some chapter and verse. "The relevant regulations contemplate that the Special Counsel's report will be a confidential report to the Attorney General. See Office of Special Counsel, 64 Fed. Reg. 37,038,"

I 'contemplated' the relevant section and those immediately around it. Despite the House voting 420-0 on March 14 that the report should be made public, the Attorney General could shutter the main report and close down all aspects of Mueller's investigations (64 Fed. Reg. 37,041).

Sunday 24 March 2019

a blog march for #revoke

I decided to hold a blog march using some of the placards from yesterday.

Of course there'd be a pie chart.

And some British rage.

Something from Devon and Cornwall (obvs.)

And that rage wouldn't Spark Joy, now would it?

No, we are skewered on a politician's arrogant view of what they think we want.

And, come to think of it, they didn't always tell us the truth, so it's not surprising we are in the current mess.

So let's try again, with a few more facts, even if that means some of the current politicians from all sides will need to step aside.

Then a reset. #revoke

After which we can go back to our Germany +++ model (Germany without the Euro etc) and never talk of it again.

I was going to include a song from the Sex Pistols, but I decided Skeeter Davis might be better at the moment.

Saturday 23 March 2019

voting models explained (without the B word)

Multiple attempts at moving target.

No option but to obey.

Shouty chaotic diffusion.

Populist cat (but notice the hidden wolf).

Friday 22 March 2019

Hollywood Tower of Terror

Since you asked.

we are all just prisoners here, of our own device

People keep saying "To be clear, though" when talking about current affairs. I can't say that I'm always following their line(s) of thinking.

There's an element of grasping at straws as some of these last minute ideas are tabled. Mrs May has locked down everything so that adjustments to the Withdrawal Agreement inspire fantasy. Here's a clutch of the latest...

It's all dependent upon how such a series of votes would be stage-managed and whether there would be transferrable voting as options are eliminated.

Kind of evolutionary game theory without any hyper-rational agents. In the prisoners' dilemma, at least there's a set of predictable behaviours.

For us, the Eagle's Hotel California is almost the safe option. Right now it's more like the Hollywood Tower of Terror, with the floor about to unpredictably send us off into some kind of Twilight Zone.

Eagle eyed can spot me in the orange tee-shirt.

small fact check

I noticed some of the sensationalist journalists looking at the petition database and making comments about the degree of hacking occurring.

Some lazy reporters have see a screen print of the .json file which lists the countries before the UK constituencies and drawn a scurrilous conclusion that most of the voting is overseas and faked by bots.

I decided to have a look for myself.

Download the latest .json of the results.
Grep it into a CSV suitable format to drop it into Excel
Run a couple of quick sorts.

Most noticeably, the non-UK portion is under 4%. That includes other nationalities from where you'd expect to see votes. France, Spain and USA are the top 3. 227 countries in total, but after the top 10 or so no-where more than about 1000, and a rapid drop into double digit numbers.

Here's the sorted data:

And yes, I know my total is lower than the current petition, but it was the most current .json when I downloaded it.

Just 3,295,009 votes, with 124,082 (3.78%) from non-UK nationals.

In my opinion, after some fact checking.

Thursday 21 March 2019

panic at the puppet show

With both the main party leaders out of the country today, it was interesting to watch two UK events. The squabbling of disenchanted MPs has intensified with the Bercow Blocker and Mrs May's slight from yesterday receiving attention.

Additionally, the populous is revolting. Admittedly on a small scale at the moment. The petition to #revoke Article 50 has gone up on the government petitions website. It would need 100,000 signatures to get a Parliamentary debate.


By lunchtime it's already around 850,000 and still climbing at around 1000 per minute. Maybe if media picks it up there will be a spike, although the government's petition site keeps crashing anyway.

Panic at the saloon/disco/palace/petition/puppet-show?

Wednesday 20 March 2019

yikes. big trouble.

Donald Tusk has said any extension to Brexit will depend on the UK approving its draft withdrawal deal. We can see that castigating blame games are being introduced. Phrases like 'The House', as if 'The House' has created the current situation. Craven.

It wasn't the House. It's a group of people scrapping for power and placing power and party over country and people. They are self righteously citing 'will of the people' as a blunt instrument to drive their own tawdry agendas.

Even today the letter sent to the EU was a tactician's grab. Box everyone into a corner, where it becomes about 'my way or the highway'.

This particular highway is a pretty low road, but the 3 Bs of bludgeoning, blackmailing and bribing Parliament to 'meaningfully' vote for the unchanged Withdrawal Agreement is still the plan. Meaningful Vote 3 just about exemplifies the doublespeak.

Tusk has played a decent hand, saying it's too late to discuss Brexit at this week's EU27 summit (of course they will), and that any extension is contingent upon an agreed Withdrawal Agreement from UK Parliament.

It could force the Parliament vote to revert to May's deal or crash out. Disaster or Catastrophe? I'll still say #revoke Article 50 is a better option although apparently that's not the will of the badly lied to people. Lets see what the Prime Minister does at 20:15.

My take is that revoking Article 50 would unplug the ticking clock from a failed project - then brace to elect some new MEPs and decide whet the UK really needs to do. Not least is the need to fix itself.

For example, how about a Plan? a review of the lessons learned? the possibility of proactive representation in Europe instead of saboteur led heckling? a recheck of the will of the people now that it is clearer what Brexit implies. Where have all the statesmen and stateswomen gone?

It won't happen whilst May or the shady Right still have a fingerhold. They see too much candy in the trough.

Tuesday 19 March 2019

quick iPhone photography assessment

About a couple of months ago I started my experiment to use the iPhone for taking my snapshots, instead of a DSLR. I haven't completely followed the process, but I'd guess that 95% of my pictures over the last two months were from the phone.

I should position it that I've used the iPhone more or less when I'd use a non-zoomed compact camera in the past. My mental model is a 35mm Olympus Trip, although that's probably too ancient for many people to recognise.

Something more recent would be a Fuji X100 or similar fixed lens camera. The iPhone does have a zoom range of around 10x, but it is purely electronic so all I'm really doing if I use it is enlarging the middle of the resolution and spreading it over more pixels.

What do I think?

  • The iPhone works very well for medium to well-lit pictures. As jpegs they are well-defined, crisp and detailed.
  • I know about many short cuts to fire up the camera quickly, but am still ill-disciplined to use them so occasionally have missed pictures when fiddling around with the start-up screens.
  • Apple has published a pretty good set of hints and tips videos in their own website. Many can apply to a wide range of cameras
  • I have several different camera apps, but have ended up using the Apple one the most. I will experiment further with others but don't think I'm going to find much advantage.
  • In low light it can work well for fireworks and produce surprisingly reliable pictures.
  • Low lit people can also look good, but require some practice to get the picture steady enough. This is where the small camera starts to drift away from what is possible with a DSLR.
  • Slight tilting of the camera can change the exposure quite significantly.
  • The automatic smart HDR is quite helpful on some pictures.
  • Music band and theatre pictures don't come out so good, unless they are posed or almost static. I couldn't use the iPhone for any real theatre pictures and certainly not if I needed a reliable set for (say) publicity.
  • The burst mode is good for outdoor action and can capture water droplets and fast motion. I have about a dozen similar to the one below.
  • The portrait mode works well and gives that ability to re-blend the background bokeh, which is something I'd seen a few years ago on a specialised camera, but is now becoming mainstream. It works on objects too, but sometimes with strange results.
  • There are dozens of casual pictures which I've taken with the iPhone where I might not have seized the same moment with a compact alternative. Here's some sashimi, and no, I don't usually take foodie pictures.
  • Holding the camera level gives pretty good verticals across the frame.
  • Cropping works fine for the edges of the picture. Less usable for a zoom into a particular part of the frame. The resolution shows its limits when zooming at probably around 3x.
  • Compared with using a RAW from a DSLR, the JPG files run out of data quite a lot sooner. There's less latitude to rescue a picture.
  • Some editing (eg of Portrait depth) is only available in the iPhone App. I still prefer to get the pictures into my standard catalog and editor (Lightroom), where I can use Adobe-style editing in a single workflow.
  • The synchronisation with Lightroom CC Classic works fine. Pictures can be moved to other catalogues and collections once synchronised inside Lightroom
The pictures in this post are a casual selection from my last few weeks of snapshots. My main test is whether they look as if they could have been taken with something more than a phone.

It increases my confidence to walk out with just the phone on considerably more occasions.