Monthly Archives: November 2014

November 2014 Round-up

Hold on. What happened? Where has the year gone? Without any warning, November has had decided it’s had enough and is slinking off into history, facing us with the dreadful prospect of December arriving tomorrow.

Which means it has to be time for one of these thingies.


It’s been up and down like a busy lift this month

November 1: 218 pounds (15 stone 8 pounds, 98.9 kg)
November 30: 217.5 pounds (15 stone 7.5 pounds, 98.7 kg)

That’s a statistically insignificant drop of 0.5 pounds (0.2kg). But that’s better than the last couple of months.


I’ve been mostly well-behaved this month. Lunch has mostly been a single sarnie from the shop over the road from the office. Well, I may have added the occasional onion bhaji to that. And I may have had some quite large meals in London.


I did do some walking in London, but I’ve been a bit light on photo walking this month. Must do more, as I keep saying to myself.


This exciting report brings the monthly total to 40, which is on the low side. Must do more, as I keep saying to myself. Err, didn’t I just say that?


Not a lot of stuff this month. Though I do have something planned for mid-month…

Weight and Stuff Report – 30 November 2014

Randomly down again today.

I had the vague idea of going somewhere today, but couldn’t quite decide on anything, so I didn’t.

Here’s another item from the National Railway Museum – Richard Trevithick, who built the first working steam locomotive.



Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/4.7
Shutter speed: 1/25s
Focal length: 46.6mm
ISO: 6400
Taken: 7 November, 2014

Alastair Reynolds – On the Steel Breeze

Having taken ages to read Blue Remembered Earth, I was a little quicker in catching up with its sequel. This picks up the story of the Akinya family a couple of centuries later.

In the last book, a major discovery was made – unambiguous evidence of alien construction on an exoplanet. Together with the developments in physics leading to engines that can accelerate huge ships to a quite noticeable percentage of the speed of light, this has led to a huge colonisation plan. Massive ships containing millions of people are on their way to the planet that has been named Crucible.

In a slightly odd development, it was decided that the ships would burn their engines for longer, and so cut the journey time from over 300 years to somewhere around 250 years. This has the slight drawback that the ships won’t be able to slow down again, and the occupants are kind of sort of hoping that someone on the many ships will work out some even fancier new physics which will let them make even more impressive engines so they can slow down. This has been made more complicated after an experiment with some very exotic physics led to the complete destruction of one of the ships. It’s made even more complicated after a smaller accident leads to a clampdown on dangerous research.

The central character this time manages to be in several places at once – Chiku Akinya, niece of Geoffrey from the first book, has had herself cloned and her memories replicated, so there are three of her, none of whom can be sure who’s the original. Chiku Yellow has stayed on Earth, Chiku Red has gone on a desperate mission to locate Eunice, matriarch of the family, and possibly some advanced physics. Chiku Green is on Zanzibar, one of the holoships heading to Crucible.

At the time we join the story, Chiku Red is lost, presumed dead, and Chiku Yellow is attempting to restore a kind of memory link with Chiku Green, which will enable them to experience each other’s lives, with the slight time lag of a decade or two, due to the speed of light and all that.

All of this could lead to a fascinating and enthralling story, but this being an Al Reynolds book, there’s much more.

For a start, the machines sent ahead to Crucible to build cities for the colonists may not be operating to their original instructions. And for that matter, the data about Crucible, released by the artificial intelligence known as Arachne, might have missed out some key details…

There’s  much more to it than that, of course, but I’d rather not reveal too much. But I will say that the ending sets things up for the next volume, with great changes just taking place on Earth and in deep space.

Going off the rails again

You might recall the long sorry saga of how letting private companies run the East Coast rail service didn’t work out too well. In 2006, GNER ran into the slight problem of not being able to pay the huge amount of money they’d promised to the government, and ended up giving up the contract. Undaunted, the government of the time handed the contract over to National Express, who a couple of years later found that they couldn’t pay the huge amount of money they’d promised to the government and ended up giving up the contract.

But this was 2009, when the economy was still melting, and it didn’t seem like a good idea to find another operator to lie about how much money they’d be able to pay for the lucrative contract. And so, the service has been run since then by a state-owned enterprise. And would you believe it? Passenger numbers and perhaps more importantly, passenger satisfaction are up. Reliability has improved. Lots of money is being paid into the government. All in all, the way the East Coast line has been run makes most of the rail network look like the idiotic mess it is.

But this situation could not be allowed to continue, could it? Everyone knows that public sector is bad and private sector is good[1], so despite the success of the service, it was put out to tender again, and it’s been awarded to a consortium of Stagecoach and Virgin, who have promised to pay billions of pounds into the government. Haven’t we heard that before? Where’s that money going to come from? Will it actually be paid?

The government’s announcement talks about how the service will be improved by new trains, implying that these have something to do with the franchise holder, which is not strictly accurate[2]. The trains had already been ordered, and would have been used by whoever was going to be running the service.

I give it the usual two years from them repainting the existing trains to realising that they’ve offered far more than they can pay.

BBC News – Stagecoach and Virgin win East Coast mainline rail franchise.

[1] For an arbitrarily “brain dead politicians” value of “everyone”
[2] For an arbitrarily “big fat lie” value of “not strictly accurate”

Weight and Stuff Report – 28 November 2014

Down quite a bit after my little London trip, which is either totally random or slightly odd.

After yesterday’s #fitbitfail, normal service has been resumed, and it’s happily talking to my iPhone again.

Today’s photo is another from the archives:



Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/4.5
Shutter speed: 1/25s
Focal length: 27.9mm
ISO: 6400
Taken: 7 November, 2014

It’s one of the many old notices in the National Railway Museum collection. I wonder if anyone was fined for damaging it?

Stuff Report – 27 November 2014

And now I’m back from London. I’d love to give you my exciting step count, but the Fitibit’s battery died on Wednesday evening, so I can’t. I was reasonably sure I charged it last weekend, but I suppose I could be wrong. Either that, or it’s trying to tell me I need the new fancier model…

Getting home was only mildly disrupted – when I got to the station, trains were running late, but mine turned up and left on time, only to be held up by slower and delayed trains in front. But it was only 25 minutes late getting to Newcastle, so it wasn’t too bad. I suppose.

Here’s a photo from Durham.



Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/5.3
Shutter speed: 1/850s
Focal length: 62.4mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 11 October, 2014
Location: 54° 46.6263′ 0″ N 1° 34.5266′ 0″ W


Stuff Report – 26 November 2014

Had a busy day in the London office, moving people around, installing things, beating a misbehaving server into submission, and so on.

Back in the hotel now, and just thinking it’s time to go out and get something to eat.

At lunchtime, I had a bit of a walk, and saw the Dar Tower looming out of the mist.

The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower

Camera: iPhone 5s
Aperture: ƒ/2.2
Shutter speed: 1/500s
Focal length: 4.15mm
ISO: 32
Taken: 26 November, 2014
Location: 51° 30.9683′ 0″ N 0° 8.1627′ 0″ W

Weight and Stuff Report – 25 November 2014

Down just a wee bit today.

The day started far too early, as I had to catch a train to London, which oddly enough is where I am now. This photo, however, is of a wet day in Newcastle. It’s actually a screen capture of an iPhone video, which I think shows off the Seriously Heavy Rain quite nicely.



Weight and Stuff Report – 24 November 2014

And down again today. How exciting!

Here’s a view of a lovely day on the Tyne. Lovely if you like dull and grey, that is.

A dull day on the Tyne

A dull day on the Tyne

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/11
Shutter speed: 1/75s
Focal length: 18mm
ISO: 400
Taken: 15 November, 2014