Monday, 27 April 2015
The first stage of getting the mountain bike checked over. Cleaning it with Muc-off helped and has made the garage smell quite fragrant. Then I put it onto the spinny thing to realign the gears.
After I've reset the cables and the derailleur adjustments the gears are changing like a new bike. It has that SRAM system that lets the gears go up and down in 2s and 3s also, which was entertaining as part of the tests.
It does need a new chain though, the current one is occasionally skipping and I've worked out that it has stretched.
Still, I was expecting to have to buy several bits and pieces and in practice a new chain seems to be all that is needed.
Posted by rashbre at 18:22
Sunday, 26 April 2015
Aside from Cameron's picture of future Britain being a photoshop of the Weimar region of Germany, his displayed statistics are also questionable.
The one that leaps out says the deficit has been halved. If we are really talking about UK's national debt, then the Office of National Statistics shows different picture.
ONS shows a progressive increase in UK national debt from 2010 at £956n to now at £1502bn. How is an increase of £546bn (around 57%) shown as a decrease? I worry about these politicians and their math skills. Perhaps its just another Camerwrong moment?
Of course, the skilful Lyntonite advisors no doubt told Cameron to edit out the cracks in the picture of the road along with the spillages and skid marks, which were visible in the original. Clever choices, perhaps to airbrush away what is beneath the Photoshop.
Lynton Crosby and his chums, including that well known truth addict Grant Shapps have been masterminding behind the scenes for Cameron, including the count of seats to stay in Government.
If the current estimate is 272 or 273 seats for each party, then Labour plus the SNP could just squeak in with the needed 326 overall majority. An academic outcome because Milliband has already blown up his powder by saying he won't link with the SNP.
So Cameron will attempt "I'm king of the castle" to stay in Downing Street while hatching another back garden deal with Lib-Dem and some others to show that Conservatives have the upper hand. I'm sure the are inventing a few new cabinet titles to give away already.
At this rate we could get 'same old same old', amounting to a quiet Establishment victory maintaining the status quo.
Posted by rashbre at 18:20
A few weeks ago subtle software updates to my iPhone installed the Apple Watch configuration Applet on my iPhone's first screen. The first thin threads weaving another social linking mechanism. Is that a sweet siren's song I can hear faintly in the background, or only Siri practicing?
It is certainly adding more continuous location data and telematics, but at the moment I'm not sure.
The first Apple Watch is likely to be quickly replaced by one with better battery life and a slimmer form. I understand the idea of the wrist device for the various lifestyle monitoring applets, but I'm not sure that I want to be even more comprehensively interruptible.
I'm often an early adopter with technology, so I used a Pebble watch when they first appeared. It was okay, rather than good. The App interface was fiddly and the various alerts were interesting but hardly essential. There was a also an increase in battery drain to my iPhone, culminating in the day when I arrived at an office to find the iPhone battery had been almost emptied on the morning commute. The Pebble lives in its box now after just a few weeks of half-hearted use.
The best of the small wearables that I've used has been the Fitbit One, which I've used for a couple of years. The advantage of the 5cm Fitbit One is that it can be invisible, tucked in a pocket or clipped away somewhere unseen. Proper 'quiet technology'.
It sends the fitness data to either an iPhone or a PC/Mac for its re-sync to the Cloud. It monitors step count, flights of stairs, calories, distance, activity level, throws in competitions and awards, provides for quick chats with others, monitors sleep yet requires only a weekly recharge. Oh yes and it tells the time and features a silent alarm (which I don't use).
I tried the similar Withings gadget, which I don't think is as good as Fitbit at differentiating between activity levels, nor as good at reporting calories. The handy little heart rate and blood SATS was interesting for a few days, but the Withings eventually joined the Pebble on the 'not good enough' step. Maybe their wifi scales and other healthcare components will extend these capabilities in a useful way?
I've also been using the Garmin wrist-mounted Vivofit 2. As a user of Garmin Edge for my bike stats, I really want the Vivofit to be useful, but for some types of activity it gives the wrong results. The Fitbit hangs in there when I'm biking but the wrist-based Vivofit 2 relies on a type of motion that returns a null value from cycling. Fortunately my bike computer resolves all of this. As an example, today I've cycled about 30 miles. Fitbit will give me credit for that effort in calories, steps and activity level but the Vivofit tells me I'm well behind my daily target and need to get up and walk about some more.
It brings me back to the Apple Watch. If it is supposed to tell the time, a basic quality is to be 'always on', something that evades the 2015 battery technology. Although it can be left on, the battery life drops, so the activate option helps manage the power. It's only a simple wrist shake to wake it - either as a clock or on the last used App.
But I'm not sure how that affects the polite meetings test? That moment near the end of a session. Fiddling with the tech is somewhat more obvious than a glance at a proper wrist watch. I suppose more people twiddle phones during meetings nowadays, so the polite protocol's days are probably numbered.
But the other thing is the tactile response from a watch. There is something satisfying about proper downtime. I can take my 'work watch' off and that action itself becomes part of the feeling that I'm powered down. The new gadgets (whether the Apple Watch or the Garmin Vivofit 2) are more or less suggesting they should stay attached to the wrist. Actually, the Vivofit's one year battery life works for this, but the 15-18 hour Watch will still require removal for recharge. One of those lifestyle messages that says 'be 24x7x365'. Kind of shouty rather than quiet.
Still, only a few months before we get Siri as a home controller.
Posted by rashbre at 09:49
Saturday, 25 April 2015
A messy bike picture as I start to get machines properly functional for the summer months. I'm doing the London to Brighton again in June and am thinking about which bike I will use.
I've been riding the aluminium hybrid which has good pumped up tyres, sharp brakes and my own patent gears using combined SRAM Doubletap road and mountain parts. It's the same bike I use with the turbo and doesn't normally get long runs on the road.
The summer carbon bike is functional too. Although ready for action, it will benefit from a quick once-over on the bike stand.
I'm actually torn between the speedy well-maintained Focus Cayo for L2B and trying it with my in-need-of-attention mountain bike. The lightweight Cayo got suitable Oohs and Aahs from my fellow cyclists in Brighton last year, but might not be the best choice. My experience from last year was that the route can be quite slow, with quite a lot of standing around. The mountain bike has crazy low gearing and platform pedals which, given the amount of standing around, might be better so long as it has some slick tyres.
I'll have to consider this, as well some more hill practice. Unlike my companions from last year, I wasn't able to get up Ditchling Beacon without a pause. Some would say it was the extreme choked road conditions, but I'll also admit to a lack of puff before I reached the top. They all bought triumphal T-shirts, but that's one I don't have.
Meanwhile, I'm still quietly clocking miles, this year at 1,491 miles according to my Garmin readout. My rolling year average is still around 4,400 miles although that is about to plummet when May 2014 drops out of the averages.
Still, I'm on track for my personal Bronze(74%), Silver(49%) and Gold(37%) for 2015.
Posted by rashbre at 12:21
Friday, 24 April 2015
I've been one of the many with that cough and sneezy bug that seems to be running around at the moment.
As well as taking some medicine, a side effect has been listening to more talk radio than usual. It's filled with politics and I decided to jot down a few of the confusing phrases that are being used.
- austerity - a type of fiscal policy which politicians apply to the less well-off
- avoidance - applies to taxation of the rich, taxation of some politicians and also to answering questions
- balancing the books - an accounting practice that does not apply to political promises
- blukip - a type of ill-advised compromise creating a coalition of chaos
- bribe - offering something and expecting a specific outcome - such as cash for votes.
- coalition - a mix of politicians that nullifies prior promises
- coalition of chaos - applied to any cluster of politicians from different parties pretending to get along (see also blukip)
- damn lies - telling people something that is untrue whilst deliberately hiding the facts
- explanation - supposed to clarify, but used with good effect by politicians to muddy the water
- insurance - scurrilous stories stacked to be played over the last two weeks before the election
- I promise you - a phrase used by desperate politicians
- lies - telling people something that is patently untrue, perhaps when they have a way to know
- media clarity - randomly connected soundbites of equal duration per party, replayed with limited analysis.
- negativity - instead of focusing on the issues, focus upon the opponents' point of view and disagree with it
- personal attacks - frowned upon in civilised society but used extensively by politicians
- quantitive easing - government condoned printing of vast quantities of money which helps bankers and well-heeled hedge funds
- relentless negativity - as negativity, but focus on the opponents' personality and criticise it
- sham - pretending something is true when it patently isn't - as in the next government having a majority
- shut out the scots - a policy from the Conservatives attempting to stop a Labour coalition
- statistics - see lies and damn lies
- tax breaks - used by the well off to legally avoid paying their full proportionate share to support the economy
- trickle-down effect - supposed to add money to the less well off by giving it to the very well off (see also lies)
- truth - factual accuracy which is generally avoided in the latter stages of a campaign
- uk deficit - a huge form of debt created by UK politicians
Posted by rashbre at 23:35
Thursday, 23 April 2015
Time to do another one of those voting quizzes. This time I used Votematch. A different process for the questions in this one, although a similar outcome.
Here's the one I did a couple of weeks ago with whoshouldyouvotefor.com. It shows my preferences based upon the questions and my responses are closest to Green, followed by Labour.
Today I used votematch.com, which gave a similar result, although the lower ranked order changes, with UKIP (who I would never vote for) coming out higher than the Conservatives.
Of course, other due diligence beyond the question responses is also required, although these systems are not that sophisticated. The whole process is also somewhat academic...
When I look on theyworkforyou.com it becomes apparent that my vote has almost no power whatsoever. Here's the last few results from the area: The male icon means man, female icon means woman, blue means Conservative, red means Labour, yellow means Lib-Dem, etc.
Hmm. Not much change there, then. And here's how the prior votes have split.
The blue picture prevails. Maybe the European results would be different?
Maybe not. Or perhaps the local election results for councils?
Yikes. All the findings are the same.
In my constituency the democratic process appears to lead to a forgone result of Conservative. The Bookies have odds of 1/100 for Conservative. That's without them spending any significant campaign money around here either.
The democraticdashboard.com website shows the low spending and Ultra Safe classification of the seat:
So despite the telly debates and sloganeering, it's much easier for habitual voters to drive the outcomes without needing to think about any of the issues.
Posted by rashbre at 00:01
Wednesday, 22 April 2015
I spotted this on Diamond Geezer's website, but thought it was a useful addition here too.
It's the London Small Theatres Tube map, published by TfL and the London Assembly. It shows the best way by tube to get to the sub 400-seater theatres such as Royal Court, Theatre 503, The Rose, Menier Chocolate Factory, Rich Mix. Many are the type of theatres that get mentioned here on rashbre central from time-to-time and although the map is aimed at tourists, it's pretty handy for Londoners visiting the smaller venues.
Glancing around it, we could add (for example) the Leake Street Vaults and Udderbelly (both Waterloo), but I guess they are only seasonal, so perhaps that's why they don't get included.
Next, it will be interesting to see whether the map gets used or cross promoted.
Posted by rashbre at 10:24
Aside from Apple not formally supporting Blu-Ray on their systems, there's the extra faff when converting them to a digital image to add to iTunes. I've got a Blu-Ray reader/writer (which looks just like the Apple ones). Despite being faster and USB 3 enabled, there is the lengthy extra step to process a Blu-Ray. It goes:
- Use MakeMKV to pre-process the Blu-Ray into MKV format
- Use Handbrake to squish it to digital streaming H.264 compressed format
- Use MetaZ to add the tagging information to copy it to iTunes
The original image converts to a MKV with German dialogue and carried over English subtitles at around 29 Gigabytes. Compressing it with Handbrake to H.264 quality RT20 takes it to 9.6 Gb. The MakeMKV + Handbrake process to do this takes about 35+25 minutes.
A straight Handbrake DVD extraction to H.264 takes about 15 minutes, including adding the burned in English subtitles. It's about 1.3Gb.
- best quality: 30Gb, 35 minutes to convert
- high quality: 10Gb, 60 minutes to convert
- good quality: 1.3 Gb, 15 minutes to convert
For me it illustrates the trade-off between quality and simple ability to view. I'll still mainly stick with a 'utility' view that I'd rather watch the movie than see every last grain of sand captured during filming.
* 'whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history' : Grass, left, as described for his Nobel literature prize - here with David Bennent who plays Oskar Matzerath, the boy who stopped growing and film-maker Volker Schlöndorff
Posted by rashbre at 09:26
Tuesday, 21 April 2015
I received that text a few days ago to remind me to swap back to summer tyres. And yes, spring is indicated with a late night hedgehog in the back garden on the prowl again. There are certain - er- signs.
So, I'm dropping the car in for a pit stop today. I'm wondering if the summer tyres might also need an update at this point. They are certainly legal, but may be getting close to that 3mm point where they ought to be replaced. Foolishly, I forgot to get the measurements when the wheels were sent off to Poole for the winter.
It can be hard to get too excited about tyres, although they are the thing that keeps the vehicle on the road. Like in cycling, the rule is to keep the black bit pointing down.
I decided to take a quick look the web-sites advertising tyre replacements. There seemed to be several categories.
- The ones that imply "don't you worry about this, we'll handle it all for you whilst you sit in the lounge drinking coffee and using the wifi"
- The ones that scream "Price comparison - we have whatever you need cheaper than anyone else"
- The type showing racing cars and pumping music with a hedgehog being swerved around.
- The fancy films with complicated diagrams explaining long chain polymers for rolling resistance and efficiency, short chain polymers for cornering and braking, the silicates, carbon black and cross linking agent.
For me, the diagrams about stopping distance seem more important. Tyres grip loses efficiency geometrically with wear(slower at between 8mm-4mm then dramatically speeding up after about 4mm). There's a well known chart.
And the effect of the same thing on stopping distance...
So when I'm sitting in my comfortable dealer lounge waiting to get the car back, I'll be expecting something with all the right polymer chains, at a good price and that is kind to hedgehogs.
Posted by rashbre at 12:33
Monday, 20 April 2015
Ever since that polar bear on the tube's Arctic Circle line back in January, I'd been intrigued by the telly series Fortitude, which was delivered in weekly blips on Sky Atlantic. I even watched the pre-series trailers. The DVD set isn't making its appearance until June.
Sky spent plenty of money on stars such as Michael Gambon, Christopher Eccleston, Sofie Gråbøl and Game Of Thrones’ Richard Dormer as the police chief. There's a Met police detective too, played by American Stanley Tucci.
There's also great snow, mountains and lakes locations in Reydarfjördur, Iceland and Hayes, Middlesex. Oddly there wasn't enough snow in Iceland for part of the filming, so they imported loads of fake stuff from the world leading Snow Business based in Gloucester, England.
The budget for it all must have been magnificent.
The show started with promise, with some leading characters doing their thing in very dramatic climates, which, unlike some dark-scened Scandic-Noir, was mostly quite visible because of the cinematically brilliant whiteness.
Unfortunately, after about three episodes I found this wasn't something I felt compelled to watch each week. The series link recordings would stack up and I watched the series finale as a 4 episode binge from the Sky+ recorder.
I wonder if they'd ever intended it to be as many episodes?
The dominant viewing mode becomes one of icy anticipatory dread interspersed with the tungsten lit too-ings and fro-ings among the locals. Kind of snow-bound East Enders on steroids.
The main storyline plot points were generally signposted and guessable by late February, so there needed to be something else to keep the interest. They've been doing this with various slasheresque set-pieces dialled up to eleven.
"We're gonna need a bigger morgue," as one of the characters nearly said. "Let's do some Coen brothers scenes," as one of the producers might have said. They were positively buzzing with ideas.
And, in fairness, with all those glittering glaciers, there has to be an ice drill scene. "We're gonna need a bigger ice drill..."
Extra episodes would also account for some of the people and things that pop up and then disappear again part way through. Maybe the main actors were only available for a short section and other sections had to be scraped in, like a messily made jam sandwich. Try to eat it, it gets all around the mouth.
There's still some very effective scenes and proper surprises, once one has mentally switched to an appropriate movie watching mode (after mealtimes is best).
I've watched it all now and it's clear they are setting up Series two. For the survivors.
Posted by rashbre at 12:52
Sunday, 19 April 2015
40 years ago, on a small blue planet far away, it was polling day for the Clangers...
BFI are highlighting this 1974 episode which sees narrator Oliver Postgate trying to persuade the woolly creatures on the merits of party politics.
But the Clangers aren't taken with the prospect of a society ruled by one group - even though the Soup Dragon stands for election on a 'free soup for all' ticket and the Froglet just decides to oppose everything that the Soup Dragon suggests.
Click to play.
Posted by rashbre at 11:52
Saturday, 18 April 2015
Aside from not mentioning the true size of the UK national debt (£1.5tn) or the possible increase of VAT to 21% (yielding £5bn per annum), another topic that gets scant commentary is the options around UK's nuclear deterrent.
It's very much a binary discussion typified by 'Yes, spend £100bn' vs 'No, scrap, it'. I recently re-watched the movies Dr Strangelove and Fail-Safe, which are both about Mutually Assured Destruction. Both from 1964, shot in black and white, one billed as a comedy with Peter Sellars and the other with Walter Matthau playing a professorial hawk to Henry Fonda's president.
No surprise that in both movies it doesn't end well.
Today's major political parties don't want to mishandle this egg-basket ahead of the election so we don't get much real analysis. "Don't unbundle this argument" as the strategists will advise.
I decided to have a quick look at some costs.
Technically a part of Trident's replacement, the most recent aircraft carrier built by the UK is called HMS Queen Elizabeth, and was estimated to cost £3.9bn. The spend so far is over £6.2bm, some 60% increase over budget, in around five elapsed years. I'll use that 60% as a typical budget overrun figure in my later calculations.
Next I thought I'd look at the rest of the main elements allocated to Trident's Successor.
- 4 new submarines, to replace the existing Vanguards. These Successor class would cost (according to Tony Blair originally) £15bn-£20bn altogether. Originally it was thought that three, instead of four would be sufficient. The accident when nuclear-laden submarine HMS Vanguard crashed into a French ship and requiring a two-and-a-half years off the sea deep fix might have changed that somewhat.
- Add a second aircraft carrier (HMS The Prince of Wales?), say £7bn. (i.e. a similar amount to HMS QE)
- New missiles. Each submarine carries 16-24 missiles. The system will probably be based upon a lower capacity version of the latest American system, like the Vanguards, which use the Ohio mechanisms. Current Trident II D5 missiles cost about £16.8m, so a submarine full of them would be about £270m, before discounts for bulk. There's a standard size and shape for ICBM MIRVS, so I guess the new ones will follow the same form factor, only with more graphite coatings.
- New planes to put on the boats. Each aircraft carrier will have capacity for, say, 35 F-35B jet-planes and about 4 helicopters. The F-35B costs about US$235m per unit. The next version (the F-35C) ups that to $337m. I'm not sure whether these will all need to be included into the budgeting - presumably the old planes will still fit onto the new carriers? I'll allow 40 units at £200m each = £8bn.
The already built HMS Queen Elizabeth won't be ready for service until 2020. The pencilled in submarines won't see the first one in service until 2028. The existing Trident II D5s have modifications which keep them current to 2042.
This all represents a potentially never-ending sales model, linked to the Mutual Defence Agreement with the United States. It seems weird to sell stuff which can't be operational for such a long time that there is a real chance it will be outdated by the time it is operationally commissioned?
For example, I'd expected even more military planes to be smaller and unmanned in the future, like this reconnaissance Scan Eagle, which I spotted racked up next to a F/A 18E/F Super Hornet. Already in heavy use, the unmanned Predator is only one of a class of currently 15 distinct devices including the European EADS Talarion and the curious Italian Piaggio-Selex P.1HH Hammerhead.
But the conventional process is to sell the military some sort of container such as a submarine or a large carrier. Point out it won't do much unless it is populated with the relevant accessories (like a part-work magazine). Then sell or lease all the bits and pieces of missiles, warheads, planes and spares.
Leverage the technology and know-how (but not all of it) from the Americans.
If I add it all together I get something like:
2 Aircraft carrier: £14bn
4 Submarines: £20bn
40 (new) F-35Bs: £8bn
4 subs full of missiles: £1bn
But wait, we've already spent the first £6.3bn on HMS QE.
So £36bn * 1.6 estimation error = £60bn.
The other £40bn must be for spares and administration, I suppose?
That's if we want to get to that £100bn figure that is being bandied around. Not far from the £113bn TOTAL cost of the NHS in 2014/15?
The fact that all those expensive planes would then be floating around on just two expensive Palace of Westminster sized egg-boxes probably should not be mentioned.
The D5 missiles are spread over three or four submarines assuming no more shipping accidents. The missiles have a 7,500 mile range, can fly at 13,000 mph and have a purported accuracy of 120 metres at destination. The max per missile payload is 1.4 megatons, so a full submarine load could be as high as 22 megatons, which is about 4 times the power of all the conventional explosives used in World War II.
Like the movies, whether NATO or 'European Army', there wouldn't be much left if it kicked off.
The argument runs that there need to be a few sane nation states with control over nuclear deterrents, so that the nutty states are put off. Here's the list of who has what at the moment...Draw your own conclusions.
So for anyone that is interested in what a missile warhead deployment represents, you can try your own impact analysis here.
My example shows a single 1.4 Megaton explosion with 15mph wind-drift landing on central London.
No wonder the politicians are avoiding this topic.
Posted by rashbre at 22:42