rashbre central: August 2019

Saturday, 31 August 2019

look what the ethical tote dragged in

I’d expected the rattle-some Michael Gove to be the first casualty in Boris’s Cabinet.

Along the lines of the Dominic Cummings inspired 'select scapegoat’.

Gove is a more obvious puppet of the regime and can be reliably dispatched to prattle on radio or television whilst holding the line.

Instead, we get the surprise of Dominic Cummings summoning one of Chancellor Sajid Javid’s special advisers (SpAds) to a meeting in Downing Street, where she was accused of leaking secrets about No Deal preparations to Philip Hammond, her former employer.

Despite denials and a formal refutation, she was fired, her security pass removed, and she was escorted out of Downing Street by an (armed) police officer. Sajid David wasn’t informed of this second member of his staff to be fired by Cummings.

Cummings is now operating bullying copycat Steve Bannon measures to attempt to secure his own authority.

Itemise the actions deployed by unelected Cummings to undermine Javid’s position: cancelling Javid's speech on the economy, pre-briefing on Treasury-led fuel duty cuts and firing two of Javid's advisors. Cumming’s paranoia is weeding out any advisors he thinks dicey as an looming precedent to more fundamental scraps.

Cummings likes loops*. He’s doing his best to remove certain players from his own twisted one.

* his considered OODA (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) loop is flailing though. He just executed PDCA(plan-do-check-adjust)

the bentley is in the post

They say the algorithms for selling things on the internet are getting smarter. All the artificial intelligence is being harnessed to provide a realistic profile of individual consumers.

Refreshing, then, to get the above purchasing suggestion delivered to my in-basket. It's an armoured Bentley Sports Utility Vehicle.

I'll confess, I was intrigued enough to go across to the website to see just how expensive it would be. That's where I noticed the more accurate description of the armour level.


That's the bullet resistant glazing standard that can take 3 bullets within a 120cm pattern from an assault rifle - to a total force of 3270 Joule. Or two DM51 hand grenades. That's 120 grams of German Nitropenta explosive. To be honest, I was a little disappointed.

It's the diesel cleanliness story all over again. BR7 was the top level, but when they introduced VPAM, the gangster and politician-popular BR6 and BR7 dropped to being only about half way along. Someone should tell the sales office.

Even the Prime Minister's car is BR7/VPAM8.

Now it is not as if I play RPGs on the computer, so I guess it must be some other profiling that has tripped me into this strange world away from the lawnmowers and sofas of generic advertising.

In other news my novel-based lottery fund has received an unexpected few shillings, so I'm back in the gambling game again, although I had to play a low-brow dice game to fill the meter up to a usable lottery amount. By deft dicemanship, I've another £7 which will keep me going for another couple of weeks.

It would otherwise take me some time to save the $500,000 for one of those cars. And that's without the recommended siren and voice options. They are having a laugh, aren't they?

Friday, 30 August 2019

trigger warning - it is a mind meld so we need to Fail Safe.

All our minds are belong to them.

A Cumming's bunker mind meld blended with hackneyed Johnsonian arm-waving distractions.

My gestalt isn't falling for it.

Just because Boris runs around opening lots of Dom Boxes with an excited 'Squee' sound, doesn't mean it is right. The press could be all over it, but have decided that the boxes are too interesting. Boris the Pro Rogue. 'Ullo Boris, Gotta new Agenda? Boris does Brussels.

As a cartoon series supported by a comedy penguin it could be quite funny.

Instead we get the driverless train careening over the cliff edge. Ego-driven opportunism by Boris. Crafted by Dom to take back control to the elite Eton messers, whilst the weak, bearded opposition dithers and sounds ineffectual.

Apply the safety cut-out before friends of Jacob Rees-Mogg convert the UK into a tax haven and freeport, using offshore money that can pick up UK enterprises at knock-down rates.

Make no mistake, whether it is a crash-out deal or a sneakily rebadged Withdrawal Agreement, the exit will create another few years of uncertainty and delays to the domestic agenda, plus an outgoing payment of at least £65 Billion.

Or, we pay the £8.5-£13 Billion per annum (70p to £1 per day, per taxpayer) to remain in the EU and continue as we are.

Press the button. Revoke Article 50.

Fail Safe.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Brompton, Frost and Sekers clip plus Carradice Nelson bag

I decided to see whether the Frost+Sekers Quicklock fixing would work with the Carradice Nelson saddlebag.

Short answer - Yes and for me it is better.

The challenge with the Carradice Bagman Explorer saddlebag support was that the metal from the Bagman frame stuck out about 30 cm and made the folded Brompton significantly bigger. It's ideal for any normal (non-folding) bike and I will repurpose it onto another cycle, where it offers stability and a really nifty click-in click-out system.

Meanwhile, the three leather straps that came with the Carradice were useful for the revised fixing to the Frost+Sekers handle. I could use two of them to thread the saddlbag onto the Quicklock handle.

Then remove the Brompton seat and its various pentaclip fixings, using a couple of allen keys.

I should comment that the saddle fixing has several washers and spring clips in its mounting and these need to be quite cautiously retained when replacing the saddle bolt. There's a comprehensive instruction set with the kit but it doesn't mention the washers.

The end result is a very neat fixing, which clicks into place and can as easiy be removed. There's a third leather strap (which came with the Carradice) and which can be put around the seatpost to assist stability.

well travelled lens

I've been mainly using my iPhone for photography recently, although a couple time I had to take cameras, lenses and lights along.

One was at a local museum, where I'd been volunteered to snap an exhibit.

Then, a first.

My Olympus 17mm F1.8 lens suddenly stopped working. A digital lens, akin to 34mm in 35mm SLR terms, it is computerised and servo-operated and I could tell that it was something that I'd not be able to fix. I did try re-loading the firmware and swapping it onto a couple of different camera bodies, but the lens was completely dead.

Time to check the warranty and send it back to the manufacturers. Bubble pack and auto-printed mailing slip and off it went, initially to Southend-on-Sea, but then to Spain, where Licinia carefully replaced the iris. Now it's back and 'as good as new'. Reassuring to know that the service was as effortless as this.

dropout boogie (basement and pavement scenes)

Johnny's in the basement, mixin' up the medicine. I'm on the pavement, thinkin' about the government.

Look out kid, don't matter what you did. Walk on tiptoes, don’t tie no bows. Better stay away from those that carry 'round a fire hose.

Well, I've signed the petition and written to my MP again. Unfortunately, someone has pulled the democracy plug out.

Look out kid, you're gonna get hit, By losers, cheaters, six-time users.

Time to listen to some dropout boogie, from the Edgar Broughton Band.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

comic book

It's a comic book democracy now. Suspend Parliament, operate in secret and keep quoting Greek history.

Defeat the Spartans.

Team Boris, orchestrated by the bunkered Major Dom, is borrowing ever more from the Trumpland playbook. This time it's the art of mis-direction.

Send in Sajid Javid with a laundry list of new ideas to spend money. Make it electorate friendly by headlining the NHS, Education, Social Care.

It doesn't have to add up to anything meaningful - no-one will notice - there's still Phil's Brexit contingency money to spend and the £39 billion the UK owes to the EU. That's £65 billion altogether, assuming the No Deal dropout. Come to think of it, Sajid just announced an extra £2 billion for Brexit contingency. That could be instead of Phil's £29 billion?

Less reported is the scuzzy politicians' way to renege on prior agreements. Why bother to settle bills with the EU? What could possibly go wrong?

It's okay, though. Short the $1.22 GBPound, move offshore, buy foreign stock. That's what Snooty Jake would do, and many of dodgy Nige's mates.

Boris and Dom have set the tracks so that No Deal will happen simply through inaction. Not content with driving the train over the cliff, its now about putting on a blindfold and jamming the controls. Even railway tracks have catch rails to prevent accidents, by derailing the offending wagons.

So I've signed the latest petition. To avoid the catastrophic outcome, the default position must become not No Deal but a revocation of Article 50. Set a catch point.

I watched a Punch and Judy show at our town's fayre recently. Punch (Pulcinella), is often considered the Lord of Misrule. I have another suggestion.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

in which I decide to go Brompton electric

I realised I've had my Brompton bike for about 10 years. I'm not sure if the serial number is a clue to its age, because I suspect it might have the date built into it somewhere. I found some incriminating photographs of the S6L from a London Skyride back in 2009, then a picture of me unloading it from my car in Belgravia

and finally a picture of it parked outside Parliament, along the Thames.

Of all my bikes, this one has stayed the closest to its original configuration, through time. I once considered changing the saddle to a Brooks B17, but then I realised that the Brompton one with it has a special cushioned underside, which makes the bike easier to transport 'on the shoulder'.

Such is the cunningness of the design that just about every angle has been thought through. I joined the Brompton Users Group to read through the comments from other owners and I was struck by how many talked about journeys and/or bags rather than performsnce tweaks. That was until the electric version appeared and a few folk began to trial them.

Conventional story-telling says that the bike is for urban-dwellers and commuters, and that the electric version might be more for people who have trouble getting up hills. I was already convinced that the sheer utility of a bike that would fold down into my coupe car without knocking the seats down must be a force for good.

I also decided that if the e-bike could supplant some of the car journeys to shops, then it would have achieved some of the green-ness that my German car manufacturer was currently struggling to support.

So welcome to Brompton 2. It's known as a M6L, which is Brompton speak for a 'medium' handlebar, 6 speed (2 derailleur & 3 hub), with mudguards, not a rack. Oh yes, and it is electric. To a non-Bromptonite, the two bikes look almost identical.My first one has the slightly more compact 'sports' handlebar and is finished with silver bits. The electric comes in a choice of two colours only - black or white and for the black version, various parts have been additionally blackened (which was a paid option on the original bikes).

As luck would have it, I had a special voucher to get a significant discount on the bike, as long as I went to a particular bike store. That was a belated present from moving house, where the housebuilders gave various energy-saving inducements to the purchasers.

"Will you be riding it now?" asked the man in the shop, when I picked it up. He'd demonstrated the fold and the various buttons. I asked him if many went wrong.

"Truthfully, quite a lot at the beginning. They've sorted it out now and the software for us here in the bike shop is a lot simpler to use."

I said I'd be a chicken on this initial trip. I wanted to find a car park or somewhere quiet to try it out. We'd been on a bike trip recently and someone had a conventional e-bike which sped off suddenly when they were crossing a lock-gate. Ouch and emergency first aid to the leg.

My first impressions were actually pretty good. I was worried in case the bike would take off suddenly, but I discovered that pedalling seemed to be the only way that the motor would cut in and that then it was progressive. Brompton explain that they used some Williams (of F1 fame) engineering ideas when designing the motor and the torque and cadence sensor, which is built into the bottom bracket. The little black hub motor contains a planetary gear mechanism too, which no doubt makes the torque more controllable, via a fast revving engine that then gets geared down.

I like to think that some of the design thinking of the Brompton went upstream into the Williams FW-EVX platform, which they are trying to entice car manufacturers to adopt. The Brompton, at least, has the same battery cells, and the motor technology scaled down to 74mm width, based upon the chunky motors from the e-car.

Indeed, the general sensation of the bike feels like travelling on the pedal only one, only with 20 years younger legs. That difficult hill near the rec. ground? No longer. A reassuring quiet whirr can be heard whilst I pedal up it. Make no mistake though, if I stop pedalling, or apply the brakes the motor stops too.

So similar is the sensation, that I nearly had my own canal lock incident. Embarrassingly it was around the back of the bus stop shelter. I was doing a left-right zig-zag and slightly underestimated my acceleration. Nothing more than a screech to a halt, but it's reminded me to be aware.

The same thing happened in reverse, when I cycled from home to a nearby hill, was about halfway up it when I realised that I'd left the power off. Puff.

I conservatively opted for all 6 of Brompton's gears, despite various recommendations that I'd only need the 2-speed or 3-speed option. Embarrassingly, on this bike I usually select a gear and can more or less cycle everywhere in it.

Electric bikes in the UK (and Europe) have a legislated speed cut-off at 15.5 mph. Realistically, that's enough. If I wanted a motorbike, I'd have bought one. The bicycle needs to be able to keep up with traffic and potter amiably along cycle tracks. It's not about hardcore speed. My Garmin average speed is somewhere between 10-14 mph, so the bike still fits well with this. If I meander down to the river or the sea, then I'd put the speed even lower.

As well as the 6 gears, the Brompton has three power outputs from the motor: 1, 2 and 3. Honestly, I'm mainly using 1 at the moment. I guess I'm used to pedalling so the motor is probably providing a modest increase in watts. I'm also a bit chicken because of the possible increase in acceleration. This may sound daft, but I'm really quite keen to be 'in control' of the bike at all times.

I can tell that the design point for this bike is to set a power level and then stay with it. I've seen other bikes with handlebar-mounted speed controls, reminiscent of a throttle. I'm far more comfortable with the intelligence accorded through the bottom bracket sensing pedal revolutions and applying a suitable amount of extra torque progressively.

As for battery consumption. My longest trip out so far is about 15 miles. That's about two blips of five- 40% consumed? They say the range is 25-40 miles. I'd tend to agree with this and am anyway re-assured that the bike is quite usable without power, more or less handling as a standard Brompton.

And anyway, it feels much more like cycling. So, what do I think so far? Love it.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Boris Pulcinella - the lord of misrule

I watched as Channel 4's Head of News, Dorothy Byrne, gave her forthright MacTaggart speech from Edinburgh's media conference.

That's the speech where she urges media to confront power with truth and to call out lies and cowardice.

'The mouth of truth/La Bocca della Verità' - Rome

Ms Byrne illuminates her proposition with some of the recent stories told by Boris Johnson and of the curious way he avoided getting involved in panel-based question and answer sessions.

That he then went on to broadcast his own, controlled, Facebook multicast instead of facing credible press questioning.

The aftermath of the speech was predictable. Boris has now boycotted Channel 4's interviews and their coverage of the Biarritz G7 summit.

It's a move direct from Trump's playbook and so surely it can't be that long before we start hearing 'Fake News' chants from his podium? -suitably adapted to an Etonian turn of phrase - maybe a few peeks at Theophrastus for some character traits?

Boris represents (using Bevan's words) "the small body of people who, whenever they have the chance, have manipulated the political influence of the country for the benefit of the privileged few.” He's the traits of a chancer, hell-bent on aggrandisement, using the tools of bluster, body bulk and buffoonery to make his case, the odds of which have slid from a million to one to 'touch and go' in a matter of days. Kind of like a cliff edge?

I realise he is becoming easier to read now, too. The poker-playing distractions can be edited, the expansive arm waving, the personal space invasion, the faux detailed knowledge, the Greek and Latin quotations, the smirking demeanor, the Gary Oldman Churchill impressions, the raggedy attire. He thinks he is playing a blinder at the moment, with the character notes scrawled on his cuffs:

1. Who am I? A chancer
2. Where am I? On the edge of reason
3. When is it? one minute to midnight
4. Where have I just come from? The depths of Tory indoctrination
5. What do I want? Power and the glory
6. Why do I want it? Mine is the Kingdom
7. Why do I want it now? I'd get rumbled
9. How will I get what I want by doing what? Whatever it takes, including suspending democracy.
10. What must I overcome? Vox populi, vox imperium

I doesn't always work though. Donald Tusk illustrates he can read Boris and then use a spot of Neuro Linguistic Programming to out-flank him at this press confrontation. Tusk leans forward, mirrors and goes wide to outflank. Boris the Dangerous gets Tusked.

Friday, 23 August 2019

jamming all frequencies with 'Wir schaffen das'

Come to think of it, the vision of the future was predicted.

The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn
All around the town.
Some gave them white bread,
And some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake
and drummed them out of town

The lion and unicorn is, of course, on the Queen's heraldic symbol.

And, naturally, on the gates to Buckingham Palace.

Unfortunately, the buffoon is still playing the plum cake and eat it game although the Germans and the French are, perhaps, familiar with the additional surviving stanza of the poem.

And when he had beat him out,
He beat him in again;
He beat him three times over,
His power to maintain.

So we get the comic bluffer citing Golden Age Pericles as his snobby Etonian preferred leader on his vapid Facebook show, "I'm glad you asked that question..."

Although Pericles may have built many of the surviving structures of ancient Greece, he did so by maladministration, pilfering the riches from the Greek Empire to do so. Then he ran a war as a diversionary tactic to get away from having his accomplices brought to trial.

Pericles' legacy is Athenian imperialism, which denies true democracy and freedom to the people of all but the ruling state. A bit like Etonian toffs using the country and its oiks as playthings.

Boris is having a clown laugh. The promotion of such an arrogant imperialism is said to have ruined Athens.

Now watch Boris ignore EU politicians and speak his own view over the top of theirs.

Symbolically, he puts his boot onto a table in the French Elysee palace. Hardly the studied diffidence of an OE.

The French were politely quick to say that this was no insult, although it illustrates the ruffian nature of Boris, and his wasted Etonian upbringing.

They say that through subtle things, such as F Blockers changing their own sheets, Etonians are shown that they are no longer children and any mess they make is theirs to fix. They didn't allow for this one.

It's a cartoon off! New Statesman vs The New Yorker

Has anyone else noticed, as I have, the remarkable similarity between the punchlines of this week's American dandified cultural commentator's gag and that of the slightly older British liberal sceptical hybrid's cartoon?

I wonder if they are, by any chance, related?


Thursday, 22 August 2019

in which i revise peaky blinders

I had to take a little walk to the edge of town recently, to catch up with Peaky Blinders, before the new season hits. It is quite like a Birmingham gipsy version of Sopranos, with a backdrop of off-track betting instead of - er- garbage disposal.

The sense of place is strong too, with Small Heath, Birmingham like a kind of steampunk Bladerunner set, with swirling mists and flames coming from every dark corner. Some say the accents are off, but to this Southerner's ear there is enough to position Birmingham when it's needed and clear offsets to Jewish and Italian London and Belfast Irish when they are required.

There's enough of a context of traumatised soldiers back from World War I in the first series and the casual ways that post-war guns and ammunition are in plentiful supply. We get the struggle as the gangster-like kingpin grasps his way to better things, with almost wild western undertones and despite the inevitable obstacles from police and rival gangs and even the New York mafia.

The women become an increasing force to be reckoned with. A honey trap set in Series one which blows away the end of that particular series, in the last 240 frames.

Then there's Polly, the woman who could probably run the entire empire if required, and we see her steely resolve play out in Series 2. There's something almost Brechtian about some of the scenes in pubs and the living room where the plots get hatched.

Brecht would have Pirate Jenny singing, but here we get an unmissable dark musical soundtrack from the likes of Nick Cage, The White Stripes, Anna Calvi, The Kills, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, Tom Waits, Laura Marling...the list goes on, and nearly all remixed to provide the visceral guitar and clanks that set the junkyard tone. Listen for that gun being cocked in the theme tune. Here's a spotify playlist of 120 of them, even David Bowie's Lazerus.

Will I have revised it all in time for the new series 5, which starts next week? I think so, and I'll expect it to be just as cinematic.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Brompton bike Carradice saddlebag

I've been musing about getting a saddlebag for the folding bike, instead of reliance on a backpack. It's a Brompton and therefore care has to be taken to select something that doesn't interfere with the fold. Brompton provides a front mounting hook as well as a rack, but I've talked to the people in the bike shop and they reckon that hardly anyone orders the rack fitting. (ie M6L etc).

I decided to look at a couple of options - the terminally hip Frost and Seker Otis (and priced so!) and the cyclists' friend Carradice Nelson long flap. They are both lovely bags, with pros and cons, but in the end I settled for the well-specified Nelson.

So why the Carradice? It could hold my laptop, whether the flap was extended or not. I quite liked the material too. A dark green duck material, which fluffs up in the rain to provide waterproofing. There's a couple of side pockets too, and a drawstring to pull the content tight.

The Carradice quick-release called a Bagman Expedition keeps it nice and steady on the back and the under-rail stops the bag from swaying. The instructions for fitting were way more detailed than I needed and the bag was fitted in about 5 minutes, complete with quick release. There's also a carry strap for the bag, so it can go across the shoulder when out and about.

Here's the rack fitted, and then another with the bag attached. I did have to make a few fine tuning adjustments once it was all assembled.

The click-in for the bag is very quick, although I'm wondering whether the amount that the rack sticks out at the back might interfere with the folded bike manouvreability?

It is good that the entire mechanism stays out of the way of the fold (which was something I was looking for), but the Frost and Sekers has dispensed with the 'rails' part of the design and added a strap around the seatpost. My folded view of the bike illustrates the way that the rack is mounted.

However, the profile of the bike with the bag is still quite elegant, so I'll see how I get along with this combination.