Saturday, 23 May 2015

[Spooks] The greater good

I've got a secret stash of the Spooks series. It's in a CD tin, one of those 50 CD stacks and it takes up nearly the entire tin, being all ten series. It's all digitised as well so the secret tin has recently been in a drop to another location.

Naturally I was intrigued to see the movie version of the series, which even has a prefix in its title, implying a franchise. The use of the square brackets [ ] is well judged and true to the motif.

After the original 10 TV series, critics said the series had 'run out of ideas', but for me it was still pretty strong, with the exception of a few episodic bloopers towards the end. Most viewers will know that the series didn't leave any of its main players safe. Famously they brought forward the series finale demise of one of the popular characters. She barely lasted into the second reel of the first series.

Since seeing the movie, I've already had a quick spin through early series one again and there's a story, from 2002, about governmental policy towards immigration with a fringe politician stirring up the electorate. Hmmm.

The movie stays true to its London roots and still uses the familiar areas around the South Bank which aficionados have come to love. Okay, there's some Coventry ring road and Moscow as well, but it is a movie, after all.

I won't discuss plot or any of the set-pieces here, except to say it is still a fine extended episode.

My notes would include that they have made Spook Central a bit too much like something that Jack Bauer would inhabit. Harry Pearce used to have an office with pointless downlighters and glass crystal ornaments. That seems to have gone by the wayside in the new one. But then again, Harry gets to go out to play for part of the movie.

There's a few of the old gang who pop up too, and Kit Harington playing a new guy who is already bit disengaged and a loose cannon (naturally). He even has Hoxton mun* hair styling for part of it.

mun - not yet in Scrabble dictionary - Old English for Must or New English for Man-Bun.

Friday, 22 May 2015

pirates of the ring roads

These London streets may look empty of cars, but its been a difficult day driving around and about.

A feature over the last few days is the increase in cars broken down in a middle lane. The jams build up at the rate of the traffic flow, so in Central London that's a good 4-5 miles per hour.

I know, use public transport, and I'm pretty good with tube, trains, buses and even bicycles, but it sometimes doesn't fit the route.

There's also inevitable roadworks, and an increasing tendency for motorists to use lane piracy to try to beat the queues. Classic places where this occurs are at motorway and trunk road intersections. People drive along the wrong lane and then attempt to pull into the right lane at the last moment, creating huge tailbacks as a consequence.

If it were the occasion out-of-towner that was lost, I'd accept it, but this is calculated. It slows both the lane being targeted and the adjoining one and around London adds tens of minutes at each junction where this occurs. I suppose it gives my sat-nav some fun, adding little red cars and yellow cars all over the map, to warn of jammed areas.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Persona Synthetics in Regent Street?

Persona Synthetics advertisement
The adverts for Persona Synthetics have popped up along Regent Street, as well as in London print media.

It's mainly the advert for 'Sally' which, in this case, is shown as designed for childcare, cooking and personal training.

The advert explains the use of a 4CX-CNS Neural Processor and a fully customisable personality. Oh, yes and an all-day battery.

There's also Charlie, the male-looking version with the same skill set and an asterisk to show that the base station is sold separately.

I'm a bit old school when I think about robots. I start by assuming that the Asimov Laws apply, although in the interests of good drama, they usually don't work.
  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Whether it's Hal's pod bay doors, the skittish David in Prometheus who mickey-finns a human's drink, or any of the Robocop type machines, each inevitably goes berserk. Piecemeal developments of operating systems have a lot to answer for - all those Friday scrum sprints before the pub. Along the way, various folk have had a go at redeveloping the Laws including exceptions for military kit, but the originals are still a good baseline.

So when this new series come along, I'll be waiting for the first signs of trouble.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

does double filtering a flat-white really make a difference?

Eagle-eyed may spot that I've been around Hoxton on-and-off for the last few days. Always interesting, I was trying to describe a couple of the prevailing hairstyles to others less familiar with the area.

Most people know about hipster beards, which have been just that bit more pronounced in Hoxditch than elsewhere in London. It's been that perennial struggle to be proto-hipster before the image gets appropriated by vacuous trendies. Gandalf probably counts as proto.

But that's ever the challenge as beards, beanies, flat caps and turned up jeans with no socks rage through an area: the differentiation between the originals, the hobbyists and the fashion imitators is lost. Although, I have a sneaking suspicion that this recent selfie on twitter from a proper East London policeman is also the real thing.

However, beard-peak was charted as sometime last year, so like the long-gone Hoxton fin now only seen on a few television presenters, we are already entering a retro phase. How long before it becomes vintage?

Of course, we all know there is really no such thing as a hipster, but go with my self facilitating media node Nathan Barley-esque simplification for a moment.

There's a quick test. Talk Japanese novels or West Taliesin to a proto-hipster and they will up the game. Do the same to a trendy-hipster and they reply with a flat-white or a jam-jar of foaming gin molotov.

There's a similar trend amongst the signature looks for new bars blending the charm of Victorian squalor combined with -er- a sprinkle of Modern European cuisine. Give me a non-publicised fridge door leading to an unadvertised speak-easy any day.

But, back to the hair-styles. One of the Sunday papers produced this little reference diagram, as part of a piece about a new fold-out book called, yes, Haircuts of Hackney.

Monday, 18 May 2015

rickshaws around the square can only mean one thing #RHSChelsea

Chelsea in Bloom
It's the flower show this week, so the roads around this part of London are overloaded.

Last week there was a gas main under repair just at the entrance to Sloane Square. The northbound buses were diverted and I was on one where the driver somehow got lost and drove around a huge unplanned chunk of London to get back to a bus-stop (off route) near to Victoria. I abandoned the bus at that point and sought another route to my destination.

This week it is different. The gas main appears to be fixed, but the traffic in both directions is extremely slow because of the flower seekers. I passed by at least a dozen buses stranded in the jammed traffic after I'd decided that walking was best.

We've got the astroturf on Sloane Square, along with some Chelsea in Bloom promotions and even an extension of the Botanist across into the middle of the Square.

It also means there's a temporary outbreak of rickshaws in the area, although they'll all disappear in a dream sequence as quickly as the flowers from the show.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

photoshopping the Battersea future with built-in g-g-glitches

Battersea Power Station and Chelsea Bridge Wharf
A few days ago I posted a couple of pictures from around Battersea Power Station, illustrating the changes that are taking place. That's one of my pictures of the real thing, above.

I've also remarked that the changes are now happening faster than the artists' impressions.

The above example artist's illustration is of the work in progress. Behind the building reminiscent of stacked sandwiches with the crusts cut off, adjacent to the gas tower, is the temple-like structure of the QVC building, used to broadcast those fragrant channels selling cuckoo clocks, resemblance jewellery and curious home help devices. The kind of television channel that featured in Bridget Jones, the Movie.


It's gone. The below picture from the rashbre air force a few months ago shows the same area just as the first cranes arrived.

It's before the first chimney was knocked down on the Power Station, but look behind the power station and what can we see?

A big gap where the QVC building isn't.

No, it's being turned into another set of residential blocks, adjacent to the gas tower shown in this picture. They demolished QVC Marco Polo House and I think are planning some new 15-17 storey apartment buildings. And yes, they've left the crusts on these designer loaves.

So the artistic illustration below with the tidied up sandwiches, the reduced paths and the new ferry stopping point is also wrong.

See? the QVC has re-appeared.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

another Mixtape moment getting into the mindscape for #edfringe @FollowTheCow @UKmixtape #WTFringe

Getting into the Mixtape mindspace
Another gratuitous advertisement whilst we wait for the finger cymbals.


At the Underbelly, Cowgate
6th - 30th Aug 2015, 10.20pm

Join the Mixtapers for their hilarious bitesized theatre inspired by music. Part comedy show and part music quiz.

The Mixtapers perform from themes including Number Ones, The 80s, Brit Pop, Girl Bands vs Boy Bands and Rock'n'Roll.

The rules? The sketches will only use remixed words from the song's lyrics and can be no longer than the tracks that inspired them!

Guess what songs inspired the short sketches to be in with the chance of winning the night's highly coveted Golden Mixtape.

wild tales - six types of revenge

There's some circumstances that can make us all seethe, and there's a sort of therapy watching Damián Szifron’s 'Pedro Almodóvar presents Wild Tales'.

It's on release at the moment via Curzon, and contains several stories, which in Hollywood circumstances could each be a full 90 minutes. In this case we get shorts, each with different sets of unconnected characters.

They are revenge stories, set in a middle class Argentinian world of comfortable air travel, new cars, large family homes, extravagant weddings and gold-boxed cakes.

What starts in each case as a perfectly normal situation flips to one where the characters lose control and bad things happen. That's where the unrelated characters share some common ground. We see them spiral towards increasingly wild actions.

I can't really describe plot points or direct outcomes; it would create too many spoilers, although the result of watching the six pieces creates some enduring mental freeze frames.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

mixing trophy water with a whine

I'm still at the conference, which is talking about all manner of new ways to connect the world. Curiously the jargon level seems to have stopped at about 2013 levels and I'm not noticing too many new expressions around.

Sure, there's Internet of Things and gamification, but I don't really count them as new. The nature of the sessions here means there's more talk about the ideas than practical examples, what I call PowerPoint-powered rather than live demos.

It raises a few side questions about the reliability of the future too. The premise of the discussions includes devices talking to one another and the information and intent being properly interpreted.

We've all seen those movies where the protagonist walks along the clean streets of a future where the billboards change automatically to the right kind of advertising. Those intelligent mirrors that give time checks, fashion tips and news extracts whilst one brushes the teeth.

Well, I had a glimpse of the real-world state of the technology after I'd left the sessions today.

I dropped into a well-known chain shop to buy a drink. The huge shelves of water were part of a promotion linked to a particular newspaper, which I don't usually read. I reluctantly scooped up this 'deal' and headed to the automated checkout.

You already know what I'm going to say?

Yes, it didn't work. Now I am a regular user of automated checkouts. I get the occasional 'unexpected item in bagging area' or 'an assistant will be with you shortly' messages, which comes with the territory.

But this just didn't work. Two items; a newspaper and a water. I put the water through first.

Message to me: Did I know that there was a special offer and I could get this water 'free' with a certain newspaper?

Oh yes, that'll be my next swipe. After I've dismissed this message.

Scan the paper.

Message to me: There's a free water with the newspaper.

I know, I've got it. I'm thinking this isn't a very good advert for Internet of Things, cross selling or automation.

Subtotal for my 'wave and pay' appears. I almost pay it but notice an amount that can't be right. I realise that I've probably put the items in the wrong sequence and that the robot can't cope.

I decide to abandon the automat and head for the staffed till. But No. I arrive 1/24th of a second too late and a large group of school children buying assorted items beat me to it. This could be some time.

I look back to the automatic systems. There's one of the assistants with a tattered piece of paper printed with a bar code standing next to an unused automat.

I approach and explain my problem. Helpfully, he takes my two items as I do that walk of shame back to an automated till to be helped with my purchase.

Ahah. He has the same problem. These two items won't go through, at least not for the reduced price. He admits that they have been having some problems.

Then he does a sort of paper shuffle using his special tattered bar code. He puts the items through for a second time and then removes one again. I can't follow this card shark sequence exactly, but the amount at the end looks about right.

I wave my payment card in the designated area, pickup the receipt and exit.

I suppose the presenters at my session would say this is a perfect example of why the Internet of Things is needed? Contrariwise I'm thinking that if we can't get a simple 'special offer' right, then what chance of the new stuff powered by RFID, The Cloud, Big Data, heuristics and intelligent beacons?

As I gulp the water I'm musing about the sessions earlier where people are talking about monetising the new object platform and augmenting the user experience and I wonder if I'm standing in another parallel universe about to split from the current one.