Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kobayashi Maru

A class act.

Friday, February 27, 2015

the death of affect

I finally caught up with the first episode of Reginald D Hunter's Songs of the South (passim) which has introduced me the extraordinary murder balled "The Knoxville Girl."

The narrator meets a girl in Knoxville and spends every Sunday evening at her house. One day, they go for walk and, the next thing you know, he's at her with a makeshift club. She begs for her life, but he ignores her pleas, continues the beating even more viciously, and doesn't stop till the ground is awash with her blood. He dumps her dead body in the river, then returns home, fending off his mother's queries about his stained clothes by insisting he's had a nosebleed. After a tortured night, he's thrown in jail for life. His last words before the music fades out are to assure us that he really did love her.

Pondering this, I was wondering if the motiveless serial killer might turn out to be one of the USA's main contributions to the world's culture and mythology.

But hold on, according to Wikipedia:
It is derived from the 19th-century Irish ballad The Wexford Girl, itself derived from the earlier English ballad "The Oxford Girl". Other versions are known as the "Waxweed Girl", "The Wexford Murder". These are in turn derived from Elizabethan era poem or broadside ballad, "The Cruel Miller".
I guess the hillbillies are off the hook.

Prodnose: What's the matter, boy? I bet you can squeal. I bet you can squeal like a pig. Let's squeal. Squeal now. Squeal.
Myself: Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

'Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow'

In 1996, in response to the 1992 Russo-American moratorium on nuclear testing, the US government started a programme called the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative. The suspension of testing had created a need to be able to run complex computer simulations of how old weapons were ageing, for safety reasons, and also – it’s a dangerous world out there! – to design new weapons without breaching the terms of the moratorium. To do that, ASCI needed more computing power than could be delivered by any existing machine. Its response was to commission a computer called ASCI Red, designed to be the first supercomputer to process more than one teraflop. A ‘flop’ is a floating point operation, i.e. a calculation involving numbers which include decimal points (these are computationally much more demanding than calculations involving binary ones and zeros). A teraflop is a trillion such calculations per second. Once Red was up and running at full speed, by 1997, it really was a specimen. Its power was such that it could process 1.8 teraflops. That’s 18 followed by 11 zeros. Red continued to be the most powerful supercomputer in the world until about the end of 2000.
I was playing on Red only yesterday – I wasn’t really, but I did have a go on a machine that can process 1.8 teraflops. This Red equivalent is called the PS3: it was launched by Sony in 2005 and went on sale in 2006. Red was only a little smaller than a tennis court, used as much electricity as eight hundred houses, and cost $55 million. The PS3 fits underneath a television, runs off a normal power socket, and you can buy one for under two hundred quid. Within a decade, a computer able to process 1.8 teraflops went from being something that could only be made by the world’s richest government for purposes at the furthest reaches of computational possibility, to something a teenager could reasonably expect to find under the Christmas tree.
The Raspberry Pi is a credit card-sized computer that sells for about thirty quid. We have got one in the office (see Icons passim).

Earlier this month the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced the retail availability of their new board, the Raspberry Pi 2; a vastly improved spec for the same price, and on the same day Microsoft announced that they would support it with a free version of Windows 10.

Windows RT was a flop and the Pi is powered by ARM not Intel, but this does offer the promise of a £30 PC later this year when the next version of Windows comes out.

(Disclaimer: as of this morning our shares in ARM had gone up 245% since we bought them.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Bikram Choudhury is a yoga instructor and the founder of the Bikram yoga method, a wildly popular form of the practice that involves students working through 26 poses in a room that’s heated to 105 degrees. He has also been dogged by allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct for years, with some cases originating at the flashy, self-styled guru’s teacher trainings.
A number of those lawsuits are coming to a head, as the plaintiff in a sixth civil suit alleges that Choudhury raped her during a 2010 training. Another case, regarding a separate alleged rape during a training that same year, is also moving forward, according to The New York Times.
According to my training records I have been to 313 yoga classes since I started. At the moment I get a five sessions a month subscription at Bikram Yoga Wimbledon and generally go at 8 am on Saturday. I stayed in bed and didn't make it last week, and tried and failed to get up early for it again yesterday and now this morning. This means I have to get there three times by the end of Tuesday to get my money's worth. I wonder if there is a psychological element to this with all the controversy that is lapping around? I also suspect Wimbledon is moving away from the method's strict brand. They have started a one hour class; a move that was previously a no-no as Bikram insists on a standard 90 minute set of asanas that should be the same in any hot studio anywhere in the world.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Wearable tomato project

Training for a marathon? Shigenori Suzuki thinks you need more tomatoes in your system. That's why, in anticipation of yesterday's Tokyo Marathon, the 38-year-old Kagome Co. (a tomato and tomato-based product manufacturer and distributor) employee devised the Tomatan, a handsfree wearable device that sits on your shoulders and feeds you tomatoes at the flick of a switch. "Tomatoes is great for sports," Suzuki explains in a poorly-captioned video on his new technology. "If we would eat tomatoes every day, the lycopene levels in our bodies increases, increases antioxidant power, and helps us to maintain our physical condition healthy [sic]." With the ability to carry up to seven medium-sized tomatoes, this is one wearable you don't wanna be caught running without.
Dr Strabismus (whom God preserve) of Utrecht has been dating a girl with a lazy eye, but they have broken up because she was seeing someone on the side.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Arms Park

The Ruts end of season tour is firming up, we have managed to persuade Cardiff Arms Park to allow us to hire their pitch on Saturday 25th April. Cowbridge have confirmed that they will play us on this hallowed ground.

For the Sunday 26th fixture we are in the middle of organising a double header against two local Cardiff teams, Rhiwbina and Llandaff. Both are keen, just firming up final details.

Current provisional itinerary (though I am hoping that we can make the Blues Ospreys game on Saturday afternoon):

6.30pm Meet at the Club (eat pasta dinner)
7.00pm Coach leaves
9.30pm Nos Da Hostel (eat pizza)

10.30am Cardiff Arms Park V. Cowbridge
13.30pm Cowbridge for food (and a pint)
15.00pm Barry Island Pleasure Park
18.00pm Eat out in Cardiff

10.00am Triangular tournament with Rhiwbina and Llandaff (details TBC)
16.00pm Arrive back at Poplar Road

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Songs of the South

In 1997 Reginald D Hunter swapped Georgia for London, in this three-part music documentary series Reg returns to his homeland to explore its rich musical heritage and sample the new South, a world he left behind with mixed feelings. Reg’s adventure is tempered by original and thought-provoking ruminations on the southern issues of race, pride and identity. A beautiful, original and hot evocation of the cradle of American music.
I stumbled on the last five minutes or so of episode 1 of this series last night after the Bomber had gone to bed. I will try and watch the whole thing on the iPlayer today. On the BBC yesterday the continuity announcer said we could explore the music from the show with BBC Music Playlister on
Reginald D Hunter's Songs of the South playlist.

I had never heard of the BBC Music Playlister up until then, but it does seem to integrate with Spotify. I wonder if I can cherry pick a few tunes to add to my Route 55 list?

Saturday, February 21, 2015


The Bomber is due back from the school's half term Ski Trip to Sansicario, Italy around lunchtime today. I first took him on Bondy's annual trip in 2008, so he's been eight times. Skiing half his life; amazing.

I am off with Dave et al in a fortnight. I have been skiing three quarters of my life; amazing.

Friday, February 20, 2015


Ashdown Sales Ltd are your trusted local professional glaziers and stained glass specialists. We have a well established reputation all over Cardiff as a small business that nonetheless supplies the highest quality stained and regular glass products. Coupled with excellent standards of customer interaction and it's clearly evidents why we're everyone's first stop for glass and glazing services. Need a consultation or advice on any aspect of stained glass windows? Give us a call and we'd be happy to help - free of charge.

Originally founded in 1889, our business is famous locally not only for our longevity but the extraordinary attention to detail we go to on every job we undertake. Our highly qualified and skilled glaziers are more than happy to pay you a visit at home to measure up and start designing your glass installation. This service is offered free of charge and without obligation to all of our customers no matter the size of the job.

159 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff, South Glamorgan, CF11 9AH
Cardiff: 02920 221573

I tried calling mum yesterday with this information, but I couldn't raise her. This is as good a place as any to stow it in the meantime.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Geraint Watkins

Watkins was born in Abertridwr, near Caerphilly, Wales.
The 1980s and beyond found Watkins playing accordion and piano with The Balham Alligators, a band that has helped to keep the music of Louisiana alive in London's pubs, of which he is a founding member.
After time in the early 1970s at Portsmouth Art College, he returned to Cardiff and played with Red Beans And Rice and Juice on the Loose. The band, Red Beans And Rice, attracted attention and moved to London to further their career. When they disbanded Watkins played solo performances in London's pubs and with various bands, such as Southside United (with which he recorded an album), the Cable Layers, Klondike Pete and the Huskies, the band of Southend's, Micky Jupp on the 'Be Stiff Route 78' tour. He went on to record an album, Geraint Watkins & The Dominators (1979), produced by Andy Fairweather Low. Session work followed: recording and/or performing with Dr. Feelgood, Rory Gallagher, Andy Fairweather-Low, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, The Blues Band, Box of Frogs, The Stray Cats, Carl Perkins and Eric Clapton amongst others.
Route 55 now has a patron saint as well as an anthem. A new Welsh Born Icon is also inducted.

Easy to say "Bon temps rouler."


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Why go out?

AWS: Today we are making Windows on EC2 even more powerful by giving you the ability to seamlessly join EC2 instances to a domain that you have configured with AWS Directory Service. After you configure this new feature using the AWS Management Console, the EC2 API, or the AWS Tools for Windows PowerShell you can choose which domain a new instance will join when it launches. You can also seamlessly join existing instances to a domain.

Prodnose: Whatever floats your boat.

Myself: After you have joined your EC2 instances to a domain, you can use Domain Administrator credentials to access the instances via RDP (the generated local administrator password can still be used).

Sheila Heti: I wonder why I am up here on this stage when I’d rather be at home, when being at home would be so much more comforting.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Power of the Pickleback

The Wall Street Journal Feb 28 2013:
FEW DRINKS INSPIRE skepticism quite like the pickleback, the cult Americana-inspired whiskey shot whose signature ingredient can be a deterrent to the uninitiated.
The drink—a slug of whiskey followed by a bracing chaser shot of pickle brine, poured straight from the jar—has gained popularity in the U.S. in recent years as a novel way of making mediocre liquors more palatable.
Now the dive-bar staple is catching on across the Atlantic, with curious tipplers won over by the alchemy that occurs the moment the sweet and sour brine extinguishes the burn of the whiskey, leaving an unexpectedly meaty savor on the palate.
Rather than the anticipated two shots of pain, the drinker experiences something more like a liquid Big Mac.
"The pickle juice acts a natural reset to your throat and taste buds from the harshness of the whiskey," explains Jamie Berger, co-founder of London's Pitt Cue Co. barbecue restaurant, where the drink is the house specialty. To best experience the pickleback, he says, it should be made with "as rough a whiskey as possible."
Mr. Berger claims to have sold Britain's first commercially served picklebacks in 2011, from the Southbank food truck that was the restaurant's predecessor. Word quickly got out, aided in no small part by the drink's novelty. "People would come up and say, 'We want five picklebacks. What are they?' "
I am pretty sure (Icons passsim) that I got my copy of Pitt Cue Co. - The Cookbook before John, but he seems to have drunk more deeply from that particular well than I have. Thus, though I have flirted with the notion of brine and booze in the past (further Icons passim) I got my first real introduction to the wonder of the pickleback at his house last weekend. We need to get to the Pitt Cue Co in Soho next time he is up for the weekend. Saturday at noon at worked well for the Lockhart; we should do the same again for the BBQ joint.

In a not unrelated development, I have also finally worked out how to access JC's Nights of Drink and Dance playlist on Spotify.

It's name however is giving me a disturbing image of him dancing round his crib in his pants à la Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Shudder along below:

an audience with ..

Although I saw Wales squeak past Scotland by 26 to 23 in the Six Nations yesterday on my Jack Jones, I had already watched the England Italy game at Mum and Dad's in Cardiff on Saturday with my brother Vince and nephew Isaac, and after that drove down the M4 to Skewen to catch up with my brother John and nieces Mia and Jasmine as well as Ireland v France.

I don't get to visit family in Wales as often as I should, which is why it is good to see that the Ruts have organised a fixture against Cowbridge at 11 a.m. on 25 April as part of the end of season tour. That is near enough for any grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins of the Bomber to make it along to see him play if they fancy it.

Post Script: Oh hello, Dan Fish got a try for Wales against New Zealand in the sevens tournament in Vegas over the weekend.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


I am back in London in time to watch the Scotland Wales game. It will be on my lonesome at my gaff I am afraid, as all the locals (boozers and people alike) will be focussed on Arsenal in the FA Cup.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine

I'm out of town, and the Bomber is skiing in Italy with the school. In our absence I suggest listen to Time Out's 50 best love songs playlist on Spotify, you hopeless romantics.

Friday, February 13, 2015

This is now officially a thing

John, my brother managed to follow me and my Route 55 playlist on Spotify last night. I managed to follow him but drew a blank on his playlist. This one will run and run.

Playlists made me think of 2011 when I was reading Keith Richards' Life (Icons passim). I didn't really get that far with it. Not because it wasn't good - it was - but I was overwhelmed by all the music he name-checked and kept breaking off to listen to it. I thought last night what a great thing a curated list of all the tracks the book mentions in the order they are mentioned would be and - lo and behold - I fond one. It is embedded below.

This in turn led me to wonder about an audio book version and I found Life (Unabridged) [Audio Download] by Keith Richards (Author, Narrator), Johnny Depp (Narrator), Joe Hurley (Narrator). It won two 2011 Audie Awards – Audiobook of the Year and Best Biography/Memoir on 24 May 2011. Additionally, the audiobook Life was voted Amazon's No. 1 Audiobook of the Year for 2010.

Now that is an interesting proposition. I could get in from work, pour a couple of fingers of bourbon over ice, put my acoustic on my knee, kick back, start off the audio book and then switch to Spotify after any track is described.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


To set the scene, before work this morning I was on the recline exercise bike in Virgin Active, Kindle Paperwhite in hand, reading Catherine Mayer's notorious biography of Prince Charles.

At "location 2615" I came across:
There are dedicated teams assigned to the main royal brands; the Queen personally approved a slick royal website and separate feeds on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr that seem to dovetail nicely with her mantra of being seen to be believed.
The "I have to be seen to be believed" quote is from Andrew Marr’s "The Diamond Queen" BBC documentary, and is trotted out earlier in the book to explain Elizabeth II's fortitude in staying on the prow of the Jubilee Barge for hours, as it travelled along the Thames in 2012 in a freezing downpour, so that she could acknowledge the spectators who had gathered on the river's banks.

This then is praise indeed for the tone of the site and the feeds as they were originally conceived. Kindle location 2615 is in the book's much discussed chapter 5 "Wolf Hall" in which positive sentences are few and far between.

I am giving myself an anniversary pat on the back, for - coincidentally - we launched the website exactly six years ago today in 2009.

That was before internet strategy was decided by people like Shingy:
Shingy believes in storytelling—more story, less telling. A story can be anything—text or image, six seconds or thirteen hours. According to Shingy, we are no longer living in the age of information; it’s the age of social, and social is all about conversations. How does Shingy know? Because he is a digital prophet. Literally. His business card has a microchip embedded in it, and it reads “Digital Prophet, AOL.” ... read the whole hilarious thing in the New Yorker.
In this brave new world, we won't be involved in the next iteration.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

North of a Miracle

Wales wing George North has been left out of the team to face Scotland after his controversial concussion against England.
Liam Williams replaces the Northampton flyer in the starting XV - the only change from the side that lost 21-16 against England.
North has been given an 'extended period of rest' after seemingly being knocked unconscious during the England clash, with the WRU later admitting he would have been removed from the field if medics had seen the second of two incidents.
That seems prudent to me. The two knocks he got in the England game were brutal.

Closer to home, Year 10 including the Year 9 Bomber beat Wallington Grammar in a tight 8-5 game yesterday and he is playing them again on Thursday for Year 9.

I hope he doesn't pick up any knocks tomorrow as he is off to Europe skiing with the school on Friday evening. Old Ruts training is cancelled tonight, which does at least give him a day off between the two Wallington games.

Speaking of the Old Ruts, against the form book Chobham beat Chipstead on Sunday which has left the Ruts second in the league with a game in hand over third placed Chipstead. This also adds some spice to the Ruts' next league game which is a home fixture against a resurgent Chobham on March 1.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Straight Outta Compton

John and I were talking about the Straight Outta Compton album when he was up from Wales this weekend. I had no idea there was an NWA movie coming out. I just stumbled on this trailer yesterday.

Monday, February 09, 2015

St Peters

Two Ugandan sportsmen who vanished after the Commonwealth Games in Scotland have turned up - playing for a suburban rugby club in Wales.
Benon Kizza, 27, and 26-year-old Philip Pariyo vanished in Glasgow last August after they failed to fly home to Africa with the rest of their squad.
The Uganda government began an investigation into their disappearance after rumours they were working at a car wash in Glasgow rather than return.
But after claiming asylum, the pair - who had been in the African nation's Sevens team - ended up in Cardiff in a hostel for asylum seekers.
They saw nearby signs for the city's St Peters RFC and have now started playing with their mixture of office workers, students and builders in the local Welsh league.
Good Old St Peters. There was an interesting report on Scrum V last year about Mark Ring and Charlie Faulkner coaching there.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Old Ruts 33 Rosslyn Park 15

A harder test for the boys this morning than I had thought, but the bonus point puts us on 26 points after five games.

That is one more than Chipstead (top of the table going into this round of fixtures) have after the same number of matches.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Wales 15 England 21

Let's just draw a discreet veil over the whole thing, eh?

We still beat Papua New Guinea 41-0 in sevens with Dan Fish in the team. Glass half full.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

We've been livin' modern. Now we're gonna train old.

The wonders of the galaxy unfold before us, reaching infinitely outwards as star systems pass by. A feeling of weightlessness comes over us. Despite the building pain in our legs, Esquire feels serene, almost at peace.
Then, upbeat drums begin, sounding from the depths of the universe.
From somewhere – everywhere – in the darkness Keith Richards sings “Please allow me to introduce myself”*.
Then, with all the panache of a children’s TV presenter, the spin instructor yells “Are youuuuuu ready?” and we come crashing back down to earth.
The virtual universe is then replaced by a Windows Media Player-style light show as imagined by David Guetta, and we’re reminded that we’re a long way from space. In fact, we’re in Raynes Park at in the new ‘Immersive Studio’ at David Lloyd, just a short ride on the number 134 bus from Wimbledon tube station.
We’re here to experience the new Les Mills and David Lloyd Immersive Fitness indoor cycling studio, the UK's first workout (and one of only a handful in the world) to attempt to transport you to space, snowy mountains and video-game style environs as you cycle.
I could walk there from here, but I think I will probably give it a miss. There are more important things on World Nutella Day.

*Keith Richards sings “Please allow me to introduce myself”? Shurely shome mishtake!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Beans and Cornbread

These are early days, but here is the beginning of my road-trip playlist for what it is worth. (Louis Jordan died thirty years ago today.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Wales: 15 and 7 a side


Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), George North (Northampton Saints); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Richard Hibbard (Gloucester), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, Capt), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Paul James (Bath Rugby), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Liam Williams (Scarlets).

No surprises there, but I have also noticed that Dan Fish has joined up with the Welsh 7s squad in Wellington in round four of this season's HSBC Sevens World Series on 6-7 February.

Wales Sevens squad:

Jevon Groves (WRU Sevens)
Sam Cross (WRU Sevens)
Jason Harries (WRU Sevens)
Alex Webber (WRU Sevens)
Nicky Griffiths (WRU Sevens)
Lloyd Evans (Ospreys)
Ross Jones (Ospreys)
Craig Price (Scarlets)
Luke Morgan (Newport Gwent Dragons)
Dan Fish (Cardiff Blues)
Will Harries (Ealing Trailfinders)
Tom Williams (Blues)
Aled Jenkins (Ospreys)

Monday, February 02, 2015

Patriots 28 Seahawks 24

The Patriots profited to a large degree from an unfathomable decision by Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson to pass rather than run the ball in the dying seconds as the Seahawks, the defending champions, chased what would have been a game-winning touchdown. Why throw, from the one-yard line, with over a minute left on the clock? It was a question that the hordes of Seattle fans who flooded into Arizona found themselves asking long into the Phoenix night, as the resulting interception by Malcolm Butler ensured the glory was all New England’s.
There were questions asked in the early hours of the morning in London SW19 as well.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Manners Maketh Man

The Bomber and I went to see the new Kingsman movie last night. In extract above, Dean's gang member #3 is played by Cali, the guy who gave Ben and chums their parkour lesson back in 2008.

Time passes. Ben was a little boy then. He's as tall as Cali now.