Wednesday, 22 February 2017

virtual reality and stranger things

Having recently turbo-cycled through the Stranger Things series on Netflix, it has been fun to spot the numerous references to other movies and genres during its episodes. A sci-fi show set in the 1980s, so before the prevalence of mobile phones and other gadgets.

Right from the Star Wars like montage of the promotional poster, it is clear to see that this series has many sci-fi and horror influences. A primary styling influence is E.T. with wider Spielberg hat-tips such as the 'drop of blood' Jaws component.

There's oodles of other references, from Alien face huggers, Firestarter psychic powers and nosebleeds, pre-cog tank floatation from Minority Report, Altered State morphing, Under the Skin's black event horizon (yep that is Scarlett Johansson below), clicking pre-striking Predator sounds, boy buddies like in Super 8. Then there's a short sequence which plays the melody line from Twin Peaks (I had to rewind to check I'd heard it) and the titles for the whole show come straight from the cover of any Stephen King novel.

The list goes on and we even get posters from other movies on various bedroom walls, in one case even declared 'inappropriate' by the Dad character.

In a movie like Under the Skin, the female lead gets a strong character part. In Stranger Things, despite including female lead roles there is also some utilitarian and unsympathetic writing. Without wishing to spoiler it, there's at least one unlamented disappearance.

It all makes the main plot line of the series a bit Scooby-Doo, with various episodic adventures involving scary buildings, bear traps and sundry weaponry. It's like a a few recent series I've watched which seem to break out guns and rifles just a bit too readily. I suppose the succession of episode writers are given a start and end position and x minutes to improvise with their characters and the locations.

There's even a set of those mysterious scientists that work in an anonymous building on the edge of town. And a quasi-governmental Agency able to do just about anything.

The series has clearly been popular and there's a current countdown already running for its sequel. I notice the countdown scrolls like a VR screen. Like any good scary movie, the obvious thing is 'look behind' and find the vintage television running an upside down show, which gives some further clues about Series 2.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

old phones for new? hey alexa, what color are your eyes?

As part of the ongoing tidying and clearance operations, I stumbled across this time capsule of old phones. They were tucked away in the back of the garage, in a crate. Ironic that this is the week that the owners of the Nokia brand for one of the phones announce they are to restart Nokia 3110 production.

I never had a 3110, which was the type that had the gimmicky plastic cover swaps. My professional 6110 and subsequent phones all had 10 day plus battery life and held on to calls even on one bar signal strength. They were brilliant for, yes, making phone calls and I had several generations that all fitted the same car kit. I remember buying that Ericsson 'World' at Brussels airport duty free when I was on the way to the USA in the days before everything worked everywhere.

Nokia's approach changed around the time of the 7110 with the Matrix style spring cover hiding the keyboard. Nokia changed the buttons to a roller and it just didn't work as well. But it had that predictive text system which worked okay if you only had a few keys. It still fitted the car kit though. But then we were all given a succession of Blackberries right up to when the iPhone appeared.

My question now is whether there will be a new demand for a simple phone based upon advances in voice recognition? For example, 'Hey Alexa' works okay, but is still somewhat temperamental when it wakes up unexpectedly in the middle of a movie when it thinks it hears its name. Like with the playful deliberate sequence in Mr Robot.

Meanwhile, my experimental holding of shares in Apple continue to go north. They are showing a 51% gain since I bought them last year. As well as the upcoming Chinese and Indian 5SE update, Apple are allegedly expecting an iPhone super cycle in September, when they release something that includes augmented reality and wireless charging. Has anyone else noticed the increase of iBeacons around certain areas (buses and tubes spring to mind)? But whatever they do with the next iPhone I bet it won't fit my current car kit.

Here's one of those Mr Robot scenes from S2E11, redrawn here in cartoon form via DSC. Dominique DiPierro is played by Grace Gummer (that's Meryl Streep's daughter). Alexa is the sightly weird North American Alexa.

As a footnote, this cartoon version doesn't trip Alexa, I think it's because of the rerecorded audio?

Monday, 20 February 2017

Alexa tries to join in a conversation with two other Alexas chatting on youtube

When I was preparing the Tuesday post, I noticed the 'two Alexas talking to one another video'.

It's quite fun to add a third one to the two already talking.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

fake reality: or maybe it was all a dream?

I watched the unfiltered full version of the aircraft hanger speech live on Saturday. It was interesting to see Donald re-running one of his pre-election speeches with a few extra pieces about press reporting added into the mix.

My problem might be that I have actually watched whole chunks of the live stuff. So when Trump talks about something bad happening in Sweden Friday night, I am intrigued. I can't find out what it was?

Watching it live gives the chance to hear directly what is being said rather than just absorbing a remix from a media site. Of course Fox, which seems to carry most of the stories and events, has its own 'friend of Trump' agenda, which I noticed loud and clear from my time in the USA last year when the conventions were taking place.

There are so many box-set worthy items to pick from. And yes, I know I have left a few out. Including Sweden.
  • The EPA unfreezing: Comprising the removal on Day One of the Presidency, of all climate change material from the White House Site. The later appointment of Scott Pruitt as the new EPA boss will ensure that climate change initiatives are rolled back.
  • The Affordable Care repeal: So called Obamacare repeal, putting 18 million Americans into an uninsured healthcare poverty trap, unless there is a new initiative put in place by next month.
  • The southern wall: signed off along with 10,000 new immigration officials to be added. Operation Cross Check has also just conducted targeted enforcement actions (raids) in at least 11 states, related to immigration and scooped up another 680 people. In Obama's administration, the rate of deportation was circa 300k-400k per annum.
  • Dodd-Frank to be repealed or at least reduced. This is the Act that was put in place to stop the banks from having a free-for-all approach to their conduct.
  • Immediate freeing up of regulations for Detroit and other car makers, along with threats that if cars are made outside the USA they will attract huge tariffs.
  • Re-pricing of the hyper-expensive F35 fighter, via negotiations with Lockheed Martin. The trumpeted $600m saving is small beer in the scale of the program where the US intends to buy over 2,400 planes for circa US$323 billion. And something else. It had already been negotiated by the Pentagon before Trump came to office.
  • UK special relationship - whatever that will mean
  • Changing the way the US Trade deficit is calculated, to support the need for deal renegotiation
  • The Mexican stand-off when the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto called off the meeting with Trump.
  • Ambiguous relationship with Russia, which includes the old footage of Trump saying he was talking to Putin, but which is now being denied. My speculation is that the old claims were in any case false.
  • That unfortunate shortened phone call with Australia
  • Family links to Russia for business.
  • Israel changes of direction
  • China one state/two state changes of direction
  • Trans Pacific Partnership deal cancelled (was already likely to go)
  • Trump's scorn of NATO has been rebalanced by Pence's visit and reassurances in Europe. All subject to everyone paying in their 2%.
  • Mike Flynn appointed and then sacked/resigns over Russian interests. Storyline from Trump has been haphazard but implied at one time a lack of trust.
  • Sean Spicer says it was the Obama administration that approved that January 28 raid on al Qaeda in Yemen that led to the deaths of a Navy SEAL and possibly civilians. But former Obama security official Colin Kahl says this is false.
  • The seven country immigration stoppage, where the countries were predominantly Muslim and the attendant chaotic scenes caused partly by not informing anyone in advance about the action.
  • Indefinite ban on Syrian refugees entering the USA and new 'safe' areas proposed in Syria.
  • Arguments between the government and the legislature, including the quotes about a 'so-called judge'.
  • A call by the President to investigate 2016 alleged voter fraud (could be interesting?)
  • Sally Yates, acting Attorney General was fired after not supporting the travel ban. She also blew the whistle on the Russian sanctions a long time ahead of it becoming general knowledge.
  • Hundreds of diplomats and officials signed a protest at certain new State Department directives. White House says they should quite.
  • Trump encouraging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to "go nuclear" and change Senate rules if required to overcome Democrats' opposition to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
  • Delays to confirmation of Presidential nominations for certain key posts.
  • Trump hinting at use of Fed in troubled areas, such as Chicago
  • Press spokesman for the President (Sean Spicer) losing cool in press conferences.
  • Fake News becomes news
  • Family links to Trump's ongoing so called 'blind businesses'
  • Use of Trump facilities for State business (such as Mar-a-Lago which has also now doubled its membership fees). Trump referring to it as the Southern White House.
  • Use of Mar-a-Lago for informal deal brokering, like the $20 billion wall. Trump startled member Richard LeFrak by suggesting he might contract to build it, albeit for a lower price. A whole new kind of swamp.
  • Still no news on tax matters.
  • Use of Presidential equipment (such as Air Force One) as part of his oddly timed 2020 aircraft hanger campaign presentation.
  • Steve Bannon as Manipulator in Chief, with access to just about everything.
  • Trump top team comprising mainly billionaire white men of a certain age.
  • The weird argument about who had the biggest inauguration crowd. And whether or not it rained.
  • That stuff about shoes in Nordstrom
Phew. Using any manipulation handbook, expect President 45 to start talking about deep state conspiracies next, followed by some selective sackings. That is, unless the Munich Bierhalle talk of the 25th Amendment gains any momentum?

And even after Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman Catarina Axelsson's attempt to get the information, I still don't know what that Friday Swedish thing was?

Friday, 17 February 2017

down by the water

Still checking out waterside locations. This one is very close to cycle route 2.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Two gold fish are sitting in a tank. One gold fish looks at the other and says: "Hey man, how the hell do you drive this thing?"

I saw this video a couple of weeks ago and have been waiting for a gap in my regular blog posts so that I could drop it in.

Yes, a goldfish controlled vehicle. Experimental imaging allows the goldfish to determine the direction of the cart.

"I'll drive, you take the guns"

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

six foot air gap

I know this is a totally posed vanity shot from that expensive Mar-a-lago resort. I'm sure that the shadowy uncredited image of the back of the Manipulator's head wasn't an accident. It is remarkable how often he is shown in shot within two metres (I suppose I should really say six feet) of the person allegedly in charge.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Monday, 13 February 2017

a different kind of rehearsal

A few days away.

Beach, waterside views, village, easy access to a city.

Maybe it is a kind of rehearsal?

Sunday, 12 February 2017

speculating with brexit numbers, because somebody needs to

Another week or more and I still haven't seen anything directly useful from the Brexit planning, so I thought I'd put together my own draft tables.

There's been various high level figures bandied about, but I thought I'd produce something which showed some sort of run rate of payments.

These are my basic planning assumptions:
  • The net contribution from UK to EU per annum is around £8.5bn after the rebates etc.
  • There will be an ongoing commitment to the EU post Brexit, particularly if we expect to do something relevant around tariffs.
  • There's an awkward pension gap which UK will be obliged to pay. I'm fairly appalled by this, especially paying ongoing pensions to the original UK representatives who saw their job to undermine the EU, and the eurocrats rushing to get Belgian citizenship, but it will still need to be covered.
  • There will be some kind of projects charge for things that UK has already inescapably committed
  • There will be some kind of 'pain of exit' charge. I have called it the Exit Fee - needed so that the EU can show other members that it is better to stay in. This could, in other ways be considered a bribe or a revenge factor.

Rather than produce one table, I've produced three, to get a 'snake in the tunnel' approach. A `UK aggressive' (minimum), a 'Typical' and an 'EU Aggressive' (maximum). The figures for the three come out as follows:

It gives a range of all-in costs of between €109bn and €174bn.

I can make the €108bn look like €83.4bn fairly easily by removing the pre Brexit run-rate of payments. It is still a long way north of the tabloid €34bn being speculated.

It is fairly easy to discredit the hypothesised €34bn because it is only around 4 years of the €8.5bn run-rate.

Here's the same table in more detail. Come to think of it, the raggeldy opposition should probably have done something like this, instead of being broken and ineffectual.

Of course my 15 minutes of spreadsheeting is unfinessed. There's probably more options to chip away at the numbers. I show payments staggered over a five-year period. This could also be tweaked as well as the start point could be re-phased.

Politically this range of options provides more ways to explain things as well as subtly continuing payments beyond the end of Brexit. Of course they are under a new guise and it is in return for the relevant tariffs to be easily agreed.

Doing a simple exercise like this at least begins to illustrate parameters and positioning.

There's a pretty hefty DExEU team now in place.

Roll on some observable action and, most importantly, outcomes.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

breakfast in the pub, with snow

Saturday morning, in the pub along the road, for breakfast.

Lightly snowing outside, but not enough to put off a couple of tables of walkers, ready to head off, complete with a dog.

It's part of one of my bicycle routes, so I know the area quite well.

We settled into our breakfast, me with the Eggs Benedict, more the English way than Delmonico's.

A few cups of coffee, some orange juice and general chatter. The pub gently filled and by now it was mid-morning. Some louder noises and I spotted the dog again. The walkers had been out, completed their entire walk, come back and were now ordering from the bar.

We must have been there longer than we thought.

Friday, 10 February 2017

post reality blank paper golden fleece manipulation strategies

I get the corrupt republic argument. "Only in a corrupt republic, in corrupt times, can a tyrant rise." Like the 'ambitious liberalism' argument that over-hugging can make everything go a bit hippy-dippy.

So we get the rise of populism. Differing degrees with Brexit and Trumpton. Voices of the generally unheard people protesting that life ain't good. Unless there's a selfie in it somewhere.

There's the irony then of electing billionaire bullies to prominence or placing unbelievers into roles where they must turn 180 degrees. There's also a free fall element to the whole set-up, where consequences are hardly considered and it becomes all about the activity rather than about a planned outcome.

The Americans are doing it with the rat-a-tat-tat of executive orders. Blank sheets that can say anything and can adopt the ready-fire-aim philosophy except there's really no guidance system beyond the murky rich white man circle now in power. More a case of feeding the swamp than draining it.

And here, in the UK, the ready-fire-aim continues, although our blank sheets remain steadfastly blank. We are managing with a preoccupation on whatever happens to be the current activity rather then the effect we wish to achieve. Busyness rather than business. The PM should, by now, be kicking over tables of the people running the teams that are supposed to be having the ideas to come up with something useful.

We have a few set-pieces coming forward. Trump visits the Queen. It reminds me of high profile business trips that include a 'jolly'.

A visit to a revolutionary new form of housing development with a side trip to the adjacent Monaco casino. Or a visit to the R&D facility in Texas the same week as SWSX. You get the idea. So presumably Trump will want to play nicely with the UK until he has added his trip in a golden carriage to the ego wall next to his Playboy cover. Thumbs up.

I was going to make a quick PS of Stevie and Donnie peeping out of the carriage, but I think I'll leave that one to the imagination.

The Steve Bannon cover of Time this week already makes the point about the economic nationalist manipulation behind Trump's desk.

Come to think of it, I doubt that Trump's entirely self-contained ego would ever admit it.

So instead of Trump already in the carriage, I thought I'd imagine the type of heraldic order he could borrow.

He clearly likes this sort of thing, what with his yellow and purple triangular coat of arms, surrounded by gold and with a big T in the middle.

It didn't take me long to think of something appropriate.

Originating from 1430s Belgium, but with distinctly Spanish overtones, along with the obvious gold finery.

Yes, the Order of the Golden Fleece.

I know, my Photoshoppery isn't up to much, but this is only intended as a rough draft. It's too early for Trump to be awarded the American Golden Fleece Award (which is all about wasting public money). He's been too busy as he puts it 'being smart' and not paying Federal Taxes.

I still remember my first visit to Trump Tower, many years ago. I was overcome by its use of blingy gold. Probably part of Trump's unsentimental approach. You can imagine the order 'Make it gold. Very gold. Good gold. Very very good gold.'

Back in those days we laughed it off as a kind of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The thing is, by the measures of money, business and politics, he has continued to be immensely successful since that time. That's even if some of his methods, like trash-talking opponents, bullying, lack of grace, misogyny, grandstanding, virtue trumpeting, not paying suppliers and re-inventing the truth wouldn't usually hold up to scrutiny.

Watch as populism turns into outsiderism.