rashbre central: October 2023

Saturday 28 October 2023

Thursday 26 October 2023

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Tintagel from Arthur's Castle.

‘The island of Tyntagel’ – which was connected to the mainland by a narrow land bridge.

In May 1233 the younger brother of Henry III, Richard, Earl of Cornwall (1209–72), exchanged three of his manors for a small parcel of land on the north Cornish coast.

Richard proceeded to build a castle here, with an outer bailey on the cliff tops of the mainland and an inner ward with a great hall and chambers on the headland. But as castles went, this was a fairly small and unimpressive creation, and its location made it next to useless. What attracted the earl to Tintagel was something else, something literary: a reference in a text written in the previous century, the History of the Kings of Britain, by the cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth. Arthur mania is born.

Recollect: Uther Pendragon, is driven mad with lust for Ygerna, the wife of one of his barons, Gorlois of Cornwall. Gorlois prudently removes his wife to an impregnable stronghold on the coast, the castle of Tintagel, but then rather less prudently withdraws to another fortress nearby. The pursuing Uther and his men inspect Ygerna’s refuge and realise that no ordinary attack can succeed:

The castle is built high above the sea, which surrounds it on all sides, and there is no way in except that offered by a narrow isthmus of rock. Three armed soldiers could hold it against you, even if you stood there with the whole kingdom of Britain at your side.

At this point in the story, Merlin proposes a supernatural remedy: by means of a magic potion, he transforms Uther into the exact likeness of Ygerna’s absent husband. The ruse is entirely successful. The guards of Tintagel allow him into the castle, and Ygerna takes him into her bed.

That night she conceived Arthur, the most famous of men, who subsequently won great renown by his outstanding bravery.

Saturday 14 October 2023

iMac to Mac Studio

My  27inch iMac is around 12 years old and still works quite well. 

I only need to reboot it every six months or so and the main functions still work fine. However, it has a case of creeping obsolescence. I usually like that Mac systems will go to a certain point and then stop accepting the next twiddles and updates. It means the systems stay stable and run well, although some of the whizzier new things won't ever work. 

By contrast my Windows systems would last about 3 years after which point they would have so many new features that they progressively ground to a halt. Drivers? Registry? All of that kind of stuff. And yes I knew how to rescue-edit the registry back in the day.

Now I've been faced with the inevitable decision to update my entire desktop system. 

I know...Desktops! Sounds a bit like land-lines. We are supposed to be able to do everything on a smartphone nowadays. That's okay for consumers, but not the case for creators. We still need keyboards and BIG screens.

So I took the plunge and ran MacOS Migration Assistant, with a new pristine machine connected to my trusty iMac with a piece of ethernet cable and then with another ethernet connected by an old thunderbolt back to the main network. 

I managed to get about 133MB/s from this which still meant that transferring 3,300,000 or so files took over  a day.  If I'd been more thoughtful I'd have found an old Thunderbolt to new Thunderbolt cable but the Ethernet Cat 8 seemed to work fine. No checkpointing so it was a huge act of faith that it would all work.

And yes, it did. 

At around 3 in the morning of day two I checked the machines which confirmed they had run to completion. I fired up the replacement machine and was pleased to see my entire desktop and directories of apps had transferred across. I was genuinely impressed. Most stuff just worked straight away.

Then a few tweaks because of a Wacom tablet error and the need to reinstate Dropbox - which took about 2 minutes. I was worried about Microsoft Office - no need to be and my extensive Adobe collection which have been progressively freezing as un-updateable. 

I seemed to have a tragic amount of emails but the new system blasted through re-indexing them so quickly that I just assume I can still find anything.

Now, everything is back and I get to use the AI capabilities as well. I've an ever increasing collection of AI instances now and spent a few minutes speccing the new machine to have enough neural network processing. Like we used to do with c[us, then memory, then disks, then graphics.

Anyhoo. It all seems to work. So far! And the still respectable iMac can go into the music room. 

Sunday 8 October 2023

Luka and Artificial by Ed Adams


Finally, my Ed Adams Luka story hits the streets! It's the other half of Artificial and this time told from the AI's Point of View. 

We have Oliver Wells who gets headhunted to go to Geneva to work on the Brant Industries RightMind solution. It's the same company and lab that Matt Nicholson was hired to work in and they were even recruited at around the same time. Matt spends his time in stories such as An Unstable System and Jump, whilst Oliver creates and then educates an AI Large Language Model using generative text.

Suffice to say its not all plain sailing and I learned quite some things about AI during the novel writing. Oh yes, and and had some fun as well.

So prepare to read the full Artificial and then the relatively slim-line parallel volume of Luka.

Artificial,  by Ed Adams (on Kindle) - Oliver's Point of View

Luka, by Ed Adams (on Kindle) - Luka's Point of View

Cover art is by me, using a mix of Photoshop, AI and some modest oil-painting. Next I'm going to combine these two novels into an Annex to the Brant Manual of Peacekeeping Technologies.

Friday 6 October 2023

Back once again with Strava , Swift and Garmin


I'm more or less caught up with my 'on target' pace of reaching 4,000 miles by year end. When I'm behind I focus on 'the gap' rather then the target numbers. So when it got down to 9 miles behind and then eventually 2 miles ahead, I though I was beginning to have closed the 500+ mile gap.

Of course, my Garmin has played up as well and left me with a few unrecorded items and I'm still not entirely sure what happened. They seem to get to Garmin Connect but not into Strava, nor to any other systems. It seems to be a Bluetooth / ANT+ thing. Technology, eh? 

 I still need to keep it up for the next 9000 miles to declare 'Platinum' victory. I realise I've collected Bronze, Silver and Gold already! (admittedly they are my own targets). Your mileage may vary as the Americans say.

I actually prefer the graphic that Strava displays on the iPhone. It shows me my planned target to date and 'the gap'. Now the gap is going positive  I guess It'll be easier, although December is a hazardous month with more mince pies and not so many rides. Still, it's only 800 miles to go in roughly 3 months. 

And for next year? Maybe I'll change the targets to something that involves intensity. Less miles but more 'intervals?' It's difficult to work out what could be the most useful.

Thursday 5 October 2023

biting the dust


The long term aspirations of the crass Tory branding at their conference were bared for all to see. Cancelling a project started in 2009 ten years too late. But as J-RM says, all the new projects are 'front-loaded'. Of course they are. Spend as much as possible on the 'shovel ready' before anyone realises the project is going down.

Paper the plans with aspirational diagrams, like the one below.

It is all too much. I'm an ex-Waterloo commuter and have suffered thousands of delays of a half hour or more travelling the one hour journey to my then home in Hampshire. 

Let's see: 220 working days per year. One third of the time a delay on the homeward journey of maybe at least 20 minutes. Do the same for London to Birmingham and we can see that the 29 minutes saved slips away to negligible. Unless you're feeling lucky. 

Now glance at the originally guesstimated £37.5 billion cost. It's now estimated to cost a total of £107.6 billion, according to Oakervee Review. That's the low estimate by the way.

And opening the Stratford link to Birmingham trains would mean they could get right down to Dover. It's been fobbed off because of a purported need for ten extra platforms at Stratford. Stratford is already the 5th biggest station in the UK and has 17 platforms currently as well as considerable land around it, but was declared a non-runner by then transport secretary Justine Greening. 

Another example of the implementation of north south divide?

But let's follow the money. Spent already £22.4 billion on London to Birmingham. Magically found for 'The North' = £36 billion. Wait. That's the entire budget being spent again and the lumpy £22 billion swept under a bumpy carpet.

And its all about capacity too. Tube manages 2-3 minute intervals = 20trains per hour(mph). Fast trains are lower capacity. The Tokyo-Nagoya Bullet trains/Shinkansen manage 14 tph. And on our prestige lines like the Eurostar, we manage Ebbsfeet-Ashford at 8 tph.  

Another example of it always works in PowerPoint.

Wednesday 4 October 2023

The iron heel - a Tory trope?

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – for ever.’ Famously from George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. 

Suella Braverman illustrates the totalitarian trope by standing on a guide dog tail whilst talking  at the Tory Conference (she did later apologise).

But always – do not forget this, Winston – always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – for ever.

A picture of undistilled power, control, and oppression: the key themes of Nineteen Eighty-Four and much of the work Orwell wrote in the wake of his involvement in the Spanish Civil War. 

A current distillation of that type of power is illustrated below by a knowing heckler ejected from the conference and escorted away by police. Not a good look during your speech, Rishi.

Jonathan Swift’s 1726 novel Gulliver’s Travels  is said to have influenced Orwell. In Swift's Book IV, Gulliver finds himself among the Houyhnhnms, horses with reason and intellect who have perfected a kind of totalitarian society:

Their prudence, unanimity, unacquaintedness with fear, and their love of their country, would amply supply all defects in the military art. Imagine twenty thousand of them breaking into the midst of an European army, confounding the ranks, overturning the carriages, battering the warriors’ faces into mummy by terrible yerks from their hinder hoofs.


Tuesday 3 October 2023

mythical project control

With all of my writing recently, I've been neglectful of rashbre central and I think this is my 'worst year ever' for creating posts. 

Anyway, this time I'm back in the tar pits of project management. I've often mused at the silence of Jacob Rees-Mogg in all of the current government turmoil, but decided that he could be adopting a farmer's position over the various twists and turns. Then I stumbled across the Infrastructure and Projects Authority Annual Report for last year and realised his strident Minister of State at the Cabinet Office role means he is across all of the infrastructure projects. Remember Red Amber Green? as a quick way to signify that things are in good shape?

  • Red = eek
  • Amber = oh dear, we can probably continue to fudge our responses for a bit longer
  • Green = tickety-boo.
And remember in project management that a project is 80% complete for 50% of its lifetime.
I recall Frederick Brooks on man-months and later Barry Boehm on project stress.

Well, it is interesting to note that J R-M sits over half a trillion pounds of investment.  He probably describes it as successful whilst presiding over 5% Green projects and 78% Amber and 9% Red. By a stroke of genius, there are another 7% of project now classified as 'exempt' from this kind of troublesome scrutiny. Like some of the power station projects.

That 7% alone is worth £48.2 billion. Remember when things were measured in millions?

Using one of Jacob's own charts it come out something like this:

In amongst the projects listed are HS2, the schools rebuilding programme, Skynet 6, the Single Trade Window. To be honest, there are charts in the summary that don't add up. Take this chart below which shows whole life costs. Check out military and it says the whole life cost is £3.9 billion. Bong. That's not right. 

On this other chart it says it is £194.7 Billion.

No wonder they can't keep a handle on the projects when there are such large amounts of billions sloshing around in the spreadsheets. 

Of course the change to a three tier rating system has successfully buried the Amber/Red projects. No one wants to be the Project Manager who gets the extra scrutiny and so this could be seen as a master-stroke.

It is tempting to examine these numbers further. Let's use a simple filter for the Green Successes, and to be generous, we'll add the Amber/Green as successes too. Oh dear, from 2013 at 48% successes, we are down to 10% in 2022. Oops.

Still. with the debating skills of Eton, I'm sure this can be explained away. Otherwise use a few more charts to obscure the message. Then there's the Government Project Delivery Profession accreditation scheme. Oh yes.

Monday 2 October 2023

Andrey Kurkov - Grey Bees

I read ANdrewy Kurkov's 'Death and the Penguin' several months ago. It's set in Kyiv during the mid-1990s. The Soviet Union has collapsed and organised crime gangs are running the show in the newly independent Ukraine. The novel's protagonist is an unassuming writer, Viktor, who lives what he describes as a life 'neither good nor bad, just ordinary'. Although he does have a pet Emperor penguin - rescued from a zoo that gave away small animals it could no longer feed (something that really did happen).

I based much of Ed Adams 'Play On, Christina Nott', referencing a similar era, having my own direct experiences from my time in Moscow. 

Suffice to say crime, oligarchs, corruption, gangsterism. In Moscow and prior to that in St Petersburg. It was Putin, of course.

In Death and the Penguin, journalist/author Viktor takes a job writing obituaries for a local paper, which seems ideal for him - reasonably well paid, not too demanding of his time, and enabling him to write even if it isn't the novel he'd like to. But somehow the hapless author finds himself dragged unwittingly into a tangled mess of organised crime that becomes more complex and dangerous by the day.

The thing about the post-Soviet setting is that reality can be very bizarre, as well as bleak. It feels like a novel that captures the spirit of the time. Viktor is oblivious to things going on around him and his lack of curiosity about his situation and fatalism is understandable and even protective in a world where trying to understand things is likely to be impossible and definitely going to be dangerous.

The presence of the penguin might suggest a cutesy element, but the entire book is without any sentimentality. The ending I felt was a masterstroke. The penguin is a loveable character, but it is never anthropomorphised or seen behaving in a way that is not believable for a penguin that finds itself isolated in a flat with just a middle aged human for company. Even the arrival of a little girl is not a cue for domesticity - the child is treated much as the penguin; fed and cared for but not cherished. And the girl herself is as matter of fact and pragmatic as the rest of the characters.

And now, I just discover, Kurkov has written another book - about beekeeping in Ukraine. Set in the now, in the Grey Zone. Its already on my Kindle.