Thursday, 19 January 2017

we're gonna need a bigger thumb

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Every time I walk past this fourth plinth sculpture I can't help but smile.

David Shrigley's "Really Good" gives the extended thumbs up to positivity. It is made of the same bronze as the other statues in Trafalgar Square, yet, to me, somehow this one looks as if it could be a collection of balloons rather than something weighing 4.5 tons.

Like Shrigley says, it is supposed to inspire positivity.
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Okay then, Everything's fine right now.


last day of america?

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

i get tricked by the supermarket twice


Dear Tesco,

Some time ago you sent me one of your on-line surveys about our local store.

I was generally positive, but did comment that occasionally, particularly with bakery items, I'd pick up something that was on its best before timeout date.

I didn't hear from you again about this and honestly I don't really think about it and still usually pick up the first available item without perusing all the date stamps.

I've also partially changed my shopping to use a nearby Waitrose, which doesn't suffer the same dates problem.

So imagine my surprise this week when I popped into your store on Sunday for some bread, got it home and noticed it was 'best before' the date I purchased it. Okay, it is still edible, and best before is only guidance, but somehow it didn't feel right.

Then, on Tuesday, I dropped into the same store after a train journey. Just some milk and a couple of other bits. This time, once home, I noticed that the long date 'Pure' milk was dated use by 17th. That's the date I bought it. I'll let you know if it makes me ill.

I looked in the fridge at my last long date Pure - it was dated 30th January. This time you'd somehow sold me long shelf life milk that was already about to expire.

That's twice in three days. I know I should pay more attention to the stuff on your shelves. I suppose you want to rotate the almost expired stuff out to the customers. Really it's a false economy. Others like me will just break the habit and buy stuff elsewhere.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

tune in, drop in

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It was business as usual around the central part of London whilst Mrs May was giving her Brexit speech in Lancaster House, just across the road from the Queen's place.
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I'd already passed a yawning Downing Street, quiet like the whole of Whitehall and Parliament Street, particularly since the newer traffic measures.

Usually when there's something big going on involving politicians around Westminster, there will also be a static helicopter or two overhead. The police will have one and sometimes there will be news agencies as well.
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Nothing this time until I counted three Apache attack gunships flying purposefully into the central area before making their way westward along the Thames.

Their flypast close to Lancaster House was around the time that all the diplomats would be emerging from the session. Coincidence, security measures, practice for something else or making a point?

Sunday, 15 January 2017

just finished reading I'm not with the band


I finished Sylvia Patterson's "I'm not with the band". A sprited account of Sylvia's time in the music business, writing mainly for the once epic Smash Hits.

Although I was more an earnest Melody Maker reader, even then we knew that the fun was taking place across in the rollicking Smash Hits offices.

There was a kind of madness to the way that pop music was treated, far removed from 2017's acquired earnest burbling of the beige wannabes on Cowell's sociopathic talent shows, such that Patterson's world is another planet.

The book describes the immensely well-connected Sylvia larking her way through encounters with just about everyone from the 80's and 90's pop scene.

Whether it's Beyonce, Prince, Morrissey or Madonna, she'll have tales to tell. Of Noel Gallagher in the living room of her flat whilst she was somewhat inconvenienced upstairs. The subsequent 3am departure to Gary Barlow's house.

It was pretty simple too, separating the pop stars with an attitude from the ones that were just plain boring.

There's also a many a positive spin to the tabloid elements. Instead of everything being negative and about put-downs, there's far more positive craziness.

Sylvia's story telling is far more about the people and their attitudes rather than the music. This provides its own layering which I suspect many modern day wannabe slebs probably wouldn't know how to handle.

The best bits of the book show the random and spontaneous nature of the people she worked around. A word springs to mind that is largely missing from much of 2017 pop.

Carefree.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Inside share price punditry


They were just re-running Wolf of Wall Street on telly and I remember the improvised Matthew McConaughey description of Wall Street trading.

The great fugazi.
Just add a dash of Bernie Sanders quotes and we can start to see that the next few weeks and months can be an unpredictable ride.

It's hard enough to make any sense, what with the weakening pound.

Sure, it boosts the apparent value of shares, but at the moment we appear to be at roughly the same rebased level as in 1999.

The end of year assessments from the learned financial advisors are coming in, and in some cases they have comprehensively failed to beat the market average.

That's where Matthew and Leonardo could well be right.

Keep the punters in the market.
Don't let anything crystallise.

Although it could be harder than it sounds with the bucking bronco about to kick in.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Covonia nights, Austrian fans, Nena and the impending discovery of the grand tour hoax

Noctua Fan
I decided to watch an episode of that Grand Tour. Truth is, I've been under the weather for a few days and wanted something mindless. The episode I picked was set in Stuttgart, which is somewhere I use to live.

Actually, although superficially similar to the main square in Stuttgart, the actual setting they used was a castle at Ludwigsburg, which is way to the north of central Stuttgart.

Now Stuttgart is also the home of Daimler-Benz, Porsche and even Smart, so I thought they'd have something to say about the great car companies on their theoretical doorstep. Admittedly Mercedes and Porsche did get a superficial mention, but nothing about the Mercedes factory test track, the Porsche museum, the refined customer collection experience where new vehicles can be handed over personally or even a couple of the futuristic cars sketched onto the walls of one of the restaurants. Instead they cut to film to look at a Honda and a botched up Clarkson ego vehicle which fell to pieces and was worth far less than he paid for it. At least they got that last part right.

For my Lemsip fuelled viewing the show was barely tolerable, being like a bad episode of the old programme with half of the features missing. A somewhat predictable red balloon failure prevented 1980s pop star Nena from appearing in the studio.

To my viewing the programme is now just about as contemptuous of its viewers as it can be whilst still churning out episodes. I shudder to think where all the money is being spent and wonder when someone will point out to the American paymasters that this series is really a gigantic hoax.

As a comparison, I found a newly aired 30 minute BBC4 programme by James May about re-assembling a 1960s Kenwood Food mixer comparatively entertaining.

This had been shot in a fake Barry Bucknell style shed with about £10,000 of artistically arranged tools and showed all the main stages of putting the pristine vintage mixer back into working order to then mix a cake. A curious form of television, I'm sure, but highly suitable when under the influence of Covonia cough syrup.

To the extent that I ordered the parts to replace the fans in my own Drobo disk drives.

The original fans have progressively become noisy, so I decided to swap them out for some high tech industrial ones from Austria. Inexpensive non PWM fans that can operate from 5.5v to 12 volts such that my Drobo devices are once again almost silent. 30 minutes per unit, and in my case with real soldering of the needed cable joints.

But, like replacing The Grand Tour with a food mixer re-assembly, I suspect this recent Nena live performance of 99 Luftballons is far more interesting than a picture of me soldering.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

nothing to do with russia?


There's a kind of irony to the current situation where black-PR kompromat has appeared linked with the Trumper.

Considering how many truth-free stories he launched in the campaigning stages before the US election, it doesn't seem too strange that a smattering of dodgy fake-news are now flowing in the other direction.

I guess it's another nail in the coffin for journalism. It's already often just warmed over newswire and PR stories in any case. Now we seem to be getting mainline channels running unverified codswallop.

Some of these stories aren't even new. It was always going to be a matter of timing about when they would get released, stacked up ahead of the swearing in of the new Presidente.

But the sloppiness of the coverage in the 'leaked' Company Intelligence Report takes things to a new level. Take Alfa Bank which is spelled as Alpha in the report. Yes, there is an Alphagroup too, the Spetsgruppa "A", but that is something else entirely, admittedly linked to the FSB's Spetznaz Special Forces.

That someone potentially multi-passported denies a clandestine visit to Prague? The Trumper distances himself from friendliness with Mr Putin and company? That from the podium Trump denies Russian dealings? Well, here's a picture of him in Moscow with Miss Universe.

Or maybe with Aras Agalarov, the Moscow tycoon? And the Russian pop singer Erin also in the picture?

Who knows?

Perhaps ex-campaign manager and self-professed 'King of K Street' Paul Manafort with his Russian and Ukrainian little black book ;-) has some insight, although since sacking by Trumpers a few months ago maybe replacement Steve Bannon with his Alt-Right agenda would shed a light?

I'd say the situation is unbelievable, but somehow that doesn't cover it. сокращение до абсурда / Sokrashcheniye do absurda, as they might observe in Moscow.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

flunkey failure and the single binary large object (it's big business, baby)


Maybe it's just me, but I seem to have noticed a change of wording emerging from UK government over the last few days? I suppose it is the 2017 reboot in action. Some of it is a kind of mis-speak, where a one-time bad idea is getting bundled up as if it is a good thing now.

It reminds me of an amplifier that has been turned right up but that there's not much real signal coming through. I'm wondering if it is deliberate attenuation as part of a negotiating tactic?

But then I'm surprised that the press doesn't pick up on, say, Mrs May talking about the need to remove UK from the single market unless UK gets its way on border controls. To me it comes across as reverse thinking; trying to make undesirable free-fall sound good.

I think I get the real situation:
  1. Equivalence: Either single market or an equivalent mechanism (like the WTO - except then it'd be Geneva instead of Brussels)?
  2. Customs Union: Inside a common one (less likely?) or outside and independent (years of hard work)?
  3. Transitioning: How fast the cutover? One year (free-fall) or ten (probably needed)?
The interesting thing about any of these moves (similar to what Treasury Select Committee Chairman Andrew Tyrie is saying), is that they can be used to put some metrics on the upcoming exit. Without some kind of numbers, the whole thing remains a single binary object, although that's what Mrs May appears to have been breaking down for the last 6 months.

It's disappointing that there still doesn't seem to be a proper plan or even a three bullet point list. That smacks of a fundamental lack of flair, ingenuity and imagination - which could make a sizeable difference in the current situation. I hope Mrs May is still reading this and will get the requisite talent on board instead of corridors filled with unimaginative flunkeys.

Another example. This weekend there were various commentaries, like Mrs May's own one about building a shared society.

Ironically, she put it on the inside of a subscription paywall in the Daily Telegraph, so probably a lot of the people it was talking about wouldn't be able to read it anyway. Haves and have nots. Flunkey failure.

We've also seen scrappy rebuttals of situations referring back to the last Labour government, which concluded some eight years ago. Notably that Jeremy who referenced the 'weaponising' of NHS. I know he may not have said it first, but he's still reinforcing a disdain for this society that he is supposed to be supporting. Calculated words to deflect arguments from core topics.

Of course, at the moment, the pound sinks and UK equities rise, more or less at the same rate with -7% GBP playing +7% FTSE. The FTSE100 is at 7270 right now. First half of last January it was around 5600-5700. An example of doing nothing whilst those with decent share portfolios are able to turn a few bob.

Over the last year, typical savings left in a 'premier' bank savings account would have attracted 0.10% AER, although I see that is due to fall to 0.05% AER on 25 January. Those with UK share bundles could have achieved (ignoring the crazy high yield ones) around 8%-12%. That's about 100 times as much as the deposit account saver.

That's where it also gets very tricky to work out the moves of those running things. It looks as if they don't know what they are doing, but maybe the subtelty is that they have many friends making quite a lot of money.

I decided to get past that Telegraph paywall and have a look at some potentially usable quotes, which I can store up for later. Here's the link to the-best-british-political-insults-rows-and-putdowns. Move fast though, or some other Jeremy will steal the quote.

And here's Kate Tempest, from Kex Hostel - Europe is Lost.

Friday, 6 January 2017

The Red Shoes


Part of a New Year tradition is to get along to Sadlers Wells to see the latest Matthew Bourne. This year it's the Red Shoes, based upon the Hans Christian Anderson story and the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger movie.

With other Bourne pieces, he may add in a further twist, like the overt 100 year time shift in Sleeping Beauty or, come to think of it, the vampire element. But for Red Shoes, there was already enough, with its multiple country touring ballet setting and a the twists between front and backstage.

The staging of 'stage within a stage' is used very flexibly with Lez Brotherston's ingenuity. The story is told entirely with dance and weaves the story of the ballerina consumed by her art, blending overt references to the film and then to Diaghilev and Najinsky. The score uses Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann’s vintage music which seemed, to my ear, to have been given plenty of unexpected twists.

Then there's the main story. I'll admit that I had to retune myself for ballet when viewing this one. There is the 'ballerina falls under spell of impresario' narrative that drives through the piece, although I had a slight suspicion that if I didn't know the original story then this one might have been slightly harder to follow than the average Matthew Bourne.

And there's some sharp stylistic changes, it may begin with a more conventional setting, but other dramatic framing blasts in at various points along the story. And suffice to say it's packed out until the end of the London run.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

mind the gap


A slight gap whilst I take some Lemsip. This was not the original plan.

Monday, 2 January 2017

starting my new year revolutions


I've just loaded a few targets into Garmin for 2017. I used to load monthly targets, but last year I worked from annual ones, along with some of the cycling training plans in TrainerRoad.

At this point the main thing is to get started, so I've clocked up a few creaky miles today as a way to signal that Ive restarted. Actually, Garmin wouldn't even let me log on, with some kind of password problem, so I can tell it's been too long since I was last on a bicycle.