Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Don't mock

I am one of the few earthlings not allowed to take the Mickey out of President Trump's epic fail in attempting to type coverage.

I have been known to sign off emails as Mock Browne rather than Nick Browne by hitting one key to the right of my target for the first two letters of my name.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

All Ireland

I was pleased to read that hurling is on until September. It is relevant to "dealing them off the arm"* of a weekend in a pub full of Irish folk.

Herewith the fixture list

* Dream Street Rose: Damon Runyon.

Monday, May 29, 2017


The British and Irish Lions squad depart for New Zealand this afternoon for their 10-match tour.

I hope they aren't flying on British Airways; flight chaos lessens after weekend of disruption.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

And there's more

Google systems based on neural networks can adjust their behaviour to improve, learn and evolve. For example, a voice recognition system could give different results depending on the person using it, for example by using their search history to help understand what the user has said. Ultimately it all comes down to reducing conversion errors, and probability plays a big role in this.
How Google Retooled Android With Help From Your Brain
WHEN GOOGLE BUILT the latest version of its Android mobile operating system, the web giant made some big changes to the way the OS interprets your voice commands. It installed a voice recognition system based on what’s called a neural network — a computerized learning system that behaves much like the human brain.
For many users, says Vincent Vanhoucke, a Google research scientist who helped steer the effort, the results were dramatic. “It kind of came as a surprise that we could do so much better by just changing the model,” he says.
Vincent Vanhoucke
Vincent Vanhoucke is a Principal Scientist at Google. He is a technical lead in the Google Brain Team and manages Google's Robotics Research effort. Prior to that, he lead Brain's vision and perception research, and the speech recognition quality team for Google Search by Voice. He holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and a Diplôme d'Ingénieur from the Ecole Centrale Paris.
Google owns Blogger, so I guess the Google Search by Voice network will now be aware that I am researching it. How's that for recursion.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Koo What a Scorcher

Myself: Alexa, what’s the temperature in the house?
Alexa: Inside it's twenty three point eight.
Well, that's new.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Machine Learning

Last weekend - regarding preparation for doling out burgers and hot dogs by the score in the Standard - I attempted to dictate the SMS message "I cooked a lot of onions last night" on my Android phone.

It was rendered as "I cooked a lot of onions Husserl" which struck me as rather odd. Then again, I had been reading a lot online - in Google's Chrome browser - about Edmund Husserl, the German philosopher who established the school of phenomenology.

I googled Callum quite a lot in the run up to the FA Youth Cup and the EUFA U17 tournament, and I also remember Google's speech recognition engine rendering his name for some completely unrelated utterance.

It is gradually dawning on me that Google must be drawing on all the knowledge it has of me to fine tune its speech recognition. I remember being impressed that it got Bronwydd Avenue right, but now I think it may have steered itself from my address book.

I am not sure I approve.

"Do no evil" Google is also suggesting articles to me because I "have shown interest in Katie Hopkins," a car-crash of an attention-craving loon even by the exalted standards of the Daily Mail. Please note, appalled fascination is not the same thing as interest. 

Whether I am concerned enough to devote any time to the study of Long Short-Term Memory Based Recurrent Neural Network Architectures for Large Vocabulary Speech Recognition remains to be seen.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Things moving quickly

Amazon has added more than 40 TV channels to its UK streaming service, including ITV and live sport for the first time. If the U17 EUFA Cup Final had been on this Friday rather than last Friday I could have just watched it on Eurosport on my Fire TV stick rather than going through all the aggravation of connecting my laptop to the television.

Speaking of Ben, Jonnie and Callum, here is an old Muay Thai photo I found. Callum is front row left, Jonnie is second row left and Ben is second row right. It seems like last week to me, but when I consider that Jonnie is now six feet five and Ben is six feet three tall I guess it can't be.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

woe to the person through whom they come

Matthew 18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!
Fairly clearly according the New Testament, you are supposed to cherish and care for children and not to massacre them with bombs. What a day, what a world.

Monday, May 22, 2017


We have got our first Amazon Alexa app in development/testing. It pulls management information out of our SQL Server DBMS.

Amazon has announced that a ‘Notifications for Alexa' feature is coming soon. That could fit very well with us extending the app so it tells us when we have any systems problems.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Épater la bourgeoisie, butty boy!

The Turned-On Biennale: An Orgy of Liberal Sex and Liberal Guilt Greets Visitors in Venice
The world in 2017 is a frightening and chaotic place: why not relieve your anxiety with some casual masturbation or perhaps some good old-fashioned sex? As a corollary to the heavy menu of post-colonial guilt, migration-related tub-thumping and an abstract, queasy panic induced by global capitalism, this year’s Venice Biennale is letting off steam with an abundance of carnal knowledge. From pagan fertility rituals to extreme genital modification: it’s all here for the taking.
Showing as part of James Richards’s exhibition for the Welsh pavilion, the film What Weakens the Flesh Is the Flesh Itself (a collaboration with Steve Reinke) explores the body as a work of art in itself. Besides a lingering tour through snapshots of cheerful young men hanging out at a festival, and footage from an erotic photo-shoot heavy on the squashed fruit, the film draws extensively on the private photographic archive of Albrecht Becker.
An actor and photographer arrested and imprisoned for homosexuality by the Nazis, Becker became obsessed with representation and modification of the body. Gradually the images shown of this mild-looking elderly man in his V-necked sweaters become more unconventional, revealing a body entirely covered in homemade tattoos and piercings. Fairly close to the top of Venice’s wince list this year comes Becker’s modified and elephantine groin, so swollen that the penis prods out like a little mushroom cap. From a bolt through his glans, he lifts great metal chains.
The Welsh Pavilion; nice. At last I see the value of devolution to the Principality. Couldn't be prouder.
Cardiff-born Richards’ interest lies in the possibility of the private amidst the public chaos of quotidian media. His work makes use of an ever-growing bank of material that includes fragments of cinema, works by other artists, stray camcorder footage, murky late night TV, film soundtracks and archival research.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Spain U17 2-2 England U17 (4-1 on pens)

Heartbreak as Young Lions miss out on European U17 Championship title on pens after injury-time equaliser

  • Callum Hudson-Odoi continued his fine form to open scoring for Young Lions
  • Chelsea starlet had previously scored in semi-final to help England beat Turkey
  • Exciting Barcelona full-back Mateu Morey then levelled after wonderful move
  • Phil Foden put England back in front in second half with strike from outside box
  • In sixth minute of injury time, sub Nacho Diaz headed a last-gasp equaliser
  • Match went to penalties, where Spain secured a 4-1 spot-kick victory in Croatia
Heartbreak indeed. Jonnie, Ben and Alex came to my house to watch the game. I it was just like when they were in primary school and those three plus Callum (or a subset thereof) seemed to be round all the time.

Anyway, here's Callum's goal. Also, I was surprised to read on the FA website that he still has to take his GCSEs even though he is away at the tournament.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Not a problem

For the last couple of months, every once in a while my boiler (and the heating) has stayed on after the Hive Heating schedule says it should have gone off.

What I have got used to doing is physically switching the boiler off for a couple of hours as this generally cleared the problem, and half filing it away in my head as a software problem.

It happened yesterday morning as I was waiting at home for the British Gas to turn up and give the boiler its annual maintenance check up. He investigated and found it was caused by a valve sticking. The valve was replaced and all is well.

I never tire in work of berating people for assuming that any and all problems relate to IT and warning them to entertain the possibility that the issue at hand may be more prosaic.

Hoist by my own petard.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

And there's more

That is Callum's goal from the semi above, as England move into the final of the EUFA U17 Championship against Spain at 7pm on Friday. That is going to be worth a one day £5.99 Eurosport pass investment methinks (

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Not the Sitcom

Due to incredible demand, David Baddiel’s rollicking comedy My Family: Not the Sitcom transfers to the Playhouse Theatre, following two successful stints at the Menier Chocolate Factory and Vaudeville Theatre last year. Packed with family anecdotes and brutally honest humour, the production runs for a limited season, opening March 2017.
My Family: Not the Sitcom is Baddiel’s hilarious comedy, detailing stories of his late mother Sarah and his dementia-ridden father Colin. Both riotous and thought-provoking, the show covers topics such as memory, ageing .......
I'm going to see it on Thursday. Fancy that. Maybe I will watch as well.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Amazon Echo Silver

It is an SNL sketch, but to me it looks more like a documentary.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Answers on a postcard

I forgot to eat anything yesterday. Because or despite the fact I was barbecue grilling from 3pm to 8?

All very mysterious and psychologically intriguing.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Hot Welsh

Having done my Bikram duty from 8 until 9:30 this morning I found myself wondering if I might be able to get my hot yoga fix on weekends I am down in Cardiff visiting Mum and Dad.

It turns out that - according to Google - there are two options Elite Fitness and Serenyoga.

I think I will try the 10am Saturday class at Elite a try next time I am back on June 3. The £7.50 price is the same as I generally pay for a day pass at Lifestyle Fitness, where my father was a member and maybe still is, anyway.

Friday, May 12, 2017

In which I am supporting England!

England maintained their 100 per cent record in the UEFA U17 European Championship to set up a quarter-final tie against the Republic of Ireland.
Jadon Sancho’s double and Callum Hudson-Odoi’s late strike in Zapresic ensured the Young Lions finished top of Group D ahead of opponents.
After two wins from their opening two games, coach Steve Cooper named the same starting line-up for the third successive match, but apart from Rhian Brewster almost benefiting from a Jasper Schendelaar slip in the Dutch goal early on, it was a tepid start from England.
However, they soon got into their stride and crafted an opening goal in the 23rd minute. Phil Foden set Hudson-Odoi free down the right and he played a neat pass across the face of goal for Sancho to tap in from two yards out
And Hudson-Odoi got in on the act with a deserved goal in the final minute of normal time when he was on the receiving end of substitute Emile Smith-Rowe’s clever pass from the right to smash in a low drive from six yards.
Steve Cooper’s side’s record of three wins from three in the group stages was only matched by Germany.
All looking good for Callum. Centre stage for two of the three goals while the other was a penalty. Other local interest is that the keeper Josef Bursik, who has conceded just one goal in three group matches, is from AFC Wimbledon.

The quarter final is at eleven o'clock tomorrow morning.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


As of this morning I am using MightyText to manage SMS from my PC.

Fascinating eh?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Dan Fish has been out injured since he tore a hamstring last September. That must be hard when, with Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny both with the Lions, he should have been in with a good chance of making the Wales squad for the summer tour.

As it is, one time rival (Icons passim) Matthew Morgan has been overlooked, but fellow Blues player nineteen year old Rhun Williams has been named in the Welsh squad for their two-test tour this summer. He is the only specialist 15 that I recognise in the selection. Suddenly twenty six seems old.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Monday, May 08, 2017

Concerning the Élysée Palace

Please file away (in the draw marked "things I have heard enough of to last me the rest of my life") the fact that the new French President's wife is 24 years his senior, along with the fascinating information that Theresa May (like not a few women) is rather fond of shoes and has several pairs.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Hope, Tragedy, Myths

I went to the Russian Revolution exhibition at the British Library yesterday. Reflecting on the printed captions under many of the items on display describing the country as backwards at the end of the nineteenth century, I found myself wondering if there is something about the British English that makes it impossible to write about Russians without patronising them. Between about 1860 and the 1900 you couldn't have thrown a rock there without a good chance of hitting a literary genius. Also the emancipation of the serfs was pretty much contemporaneous with the freeing of the slaves in the good ole USA.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Boxing, Family and Politics

Sadiq Khan's brother is the head coach at Earlsfield Amateur Boxing Club, not too far away. I am genuinely impressed.

Friday, May 05, 2017

"Alexa, open Arsenal."

We've become the first Premier League club to launch an Amazon Alexa skill that allows fans to stream live matches.

Get the most out of every match day with Arsenal FC’s official skill. With full support for pre-match build-up, live commentary and post-match analysis you can keep up to date with all the action.

To get started, simply say "Alexa, open Arsenal."

Options include:

Pre Match:
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the match preview.” - receive an overview of the upcoming match.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal who’s injured?” - find out who is injured.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the team lineup.” - available approximately one hour before kick-off.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the pre-match build up.” - listen to the official pre-match commentary, available around 30 minutes before kick-off.

During Match:
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the live commentary.” - listen to the official match commentary, available during a game.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the match summary.” - find out the score, bookings, injuries and substitutions.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the score.” - learn how we’re getting on in-play.

Post Match:
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the post match analysis.” - listen to the official post-match commentary, available for around 30 minutes after the final whistle.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the match report.” - hear the official Arsenal opinion of the game.

Surely Wenger's job must be safe now for next season.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Pay attention, you at the back

Ok, let's start trying to get this straight in our heads.

Jean-Claude Juncker is from Luxembourg. He is the President of the European Commission.

The President of the European Commission is the head of the European Commission (the civil service of the executive branch of the European Union, the function of which is to apply and enforce the Treaties). The President of the Commission is responsible for allocating portfolios to members of the Commission and can reshuffle or dismiss them if needed. They determine the Commission's policy agenda and all the legislative proposals it produces (the Commission is the only body that can propose EU laws).

Donald Tusk is from Poland. He is the President of the European Council.

The President of the European Council is a principal representative of the European Union (EU) on the world stage, and the person presiding over and driving forward the work of the European Council. This institution comprises the college of heads of state or government of EU member states as well as the President of the European Commission, and provides political direction to the European Union (EU).

Is that clear? In the run up to Brexit discussions, the distinctions and partitions of responsibility remind me irresistibly of:
Miles Massey: Baron von Espy, what is your profession?
Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy: [in outrageous French accent] Silly man. I am a baron.
Miles Massey: Yes, but do you not also hold a day job? Paying job. A, uh, a square job.
Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy: Well, one has to live. I am the concierge of Les Pantalons Rouges at Bad-Gadesbourg in the canton of Uri.
Miles Massey: And what does that job entail?
Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy: I satisfy such requests as the clientele may present.
Miles Massey: Towels, ice, et cetera?
Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy: We have bellmen for that. No, no, no. Such requests that, were you at home, you would address not to your valet but to your majordomo.
Adults In The Room: My Battle With Europe’s Deep Establishment by Yanis Varoufakis is likely to be essential reading over the next weeks and months.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017


I am due to start reading Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life of Shyness by Joe Moran today.

Don't hold your breath waiting for a review. I am likely to be too unassuming to tell you what I think of it.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Met Gala 2017: The Best-Dressed

All equally well dressed in my opinion. I don't really have a favourite. Perhaps I really do need an Echo Look after all.

Monday, May 01, 2017

It's that time of year again

John, I think this should be set as an unofficial deadline for us to finish building your bass.