Monday, 24 April 2017

Things You Don't Realise They Do For The London Marathon No38 - Runner's Clothes.

My walk back to the District Line takes me through St James's Park, unless the weather is horrible or I'm feeling especially knackered. This morning, something seemed to be going on, because there were policemen everywhere and people wearing jackets, and seemingly the London Marathon was coming through St James' Park to end at Buckingham Palace. Didn't it used to end at Westminster Bridge? Then I caught sight of this...


What is going on here? I asked a friendly person with an official jacket. All those plastic bags are the runner's clothes and other equipment. All bagged up and numbered, to be collected on finishing. The things organisers have to arrange. If you had asked me, I would have said that the runners turned up at Greenwich in their running gear, and were met at Westminster by friends and family with coats and drinks. On further reflection, I would have realised that was silly, and that yes, runners would turn up in coats, tracks suits and with stuff to wear on the way home. Also food, probably. Which they couldn't leave in Greenwich.

There were a LOT of these trucks.


The front runners were arriving as I was trying to get to St James's station. What surprised me was the size of the gaps between the front runners. There might be four in one little bunch, then a thirty-second gap to a single runner, then a twenty second gap to a pair pacing each other... it wasn't a steady stream, nor a large crowd, as I suppose would have appeared an hour or so later. The elite runners really are running each in their own bubble: high performance is not social.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

1892


Obligatory photograph of somewhere in Soho, with a backdated posting time, to preserve the illusion that I didn't lose track of the time over the Easter break, and don't have anything to say about much at the moment.

Monday, 17 April 2017

2017 London Restaurant Visit List

Avid readers will know that Sis and I like to eat out once a month, though we didn’t do too much of that last year because I had braces and eating was sometimes painful and always awkward. And then came Winter and Colds. This year I have my teeth back, and it’s April, and we want to do it properly this year.

There are two fixed points in our schedule. A summer trip up the Kingsland Road to a Vietnamese place - this is as much for the atmosphere and summer evening as the excellent food; and Rules  in the Game season, when at least one of us goes for the roast Bambi. Rules usually ends the supper season for us, as after that the weather gets cold and December fills restaurants with India and Thomas having their Christmas party.

We started doing this a long while ago, and is it just me, or have the better places got really pricey, and the reasonable places compromised slightly on ingredients? I assume the relentless upward march of London rents is one reason, but I suspect that those with money have quite a lot of money and can afford the higher prices, which serve as much to keep people like us out. There are dozens of high-quality small-exquisite-portions-on-white-plates places with equally exquisite prices, and chains outlets by the score, but no so many in the middle anymore.

Sis is tired of the lamb-shank-brasseries: the places that do well-cooked food, but the menu is steak, chicken, lamb-shank, liver, and a white fish. I’ll happily eat at somewhere like that before a show at Sadlers Wells, but if the food is the point, there’s no point in food like that unless the location is interesting.

Interesting location gives the Oxo Tower a pass, because the menu  is fairly ordinary. Maybe one weekend. Same for the River Cafe which would otherwise fail the lamb-shank test.

A lot of the places at the top the Time Out 100 guide seem to have a) long queues and b) long waiting lists, so Barrafina, Time Out’s #1 is out. So for that matter is the Ivory (Sis and I aren’t famous enough). However, #2 Counter Culture in Clapham sounds interesting, as does #4 Som Saa in Spitalfields, and #5 Hoppers in Soho. I have seen the queues outside #7 Bao and, no. Just. No. On the other hand, it would be nice to go to Tapas Brindisa on Broadwick Street, about fifty yards from Bao. I’ve eaten there before, but not with a full set of choppers.

Sis wants to go back to The Providores, which we went to in December 2012 (!), and I want to go back to Gauthier, which we visited in January 2012. She’s also suggested the Merchant’s Tavern in Spitalfields, which I do want to go to.

So here’s a list:

The Providores, Marylebone High Street

Gauthier, Soho

Merchant’s Tavern, Spitalfields

Counter Culture, Clapham (seats at the counter)

Som Saa, Spitalfields

Hoppers, Soho

Tapas Brindisa, Soho

Native, Covent Garden

Oklava, Shoreditch

Rules, Covent Garden

Tay Do, Kingsland Road

Eneko, Aldwych

The Shed, Notting Hill

The Holborn Dining Room, Holborn,

Gymkhana, Mayfair

Pizzaro, Bermondsey

Plus we have to consider The Ledbury, and then not organise it. Again. The Ledbury takes a lot of organising.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Windows Update Was Sucking The Life From My Netbook

I have mentioned my ASUS Eee PC 1005P Seashell that Amazon tells me I bought more than five years ago. It has the Atom N540 processor with 1.66GHz and a maximum of 2GB of RAM, which I have. It has Windows 7, and while it was okay when I bought it, running anything on it recently has been painful. The processor is too slow even for a modern full-weight Linux distro, and I was about to abandon the thing when I ran across a review of Linux Lite, a stripped-down Ubuntu version.

Oops! The minimum screen requirement is 1024x600, while Linux Lite needs a minimum of 1024x768. I went looking for another Linux distro, and though Lubuntu might have done the trick, I've just lost that hobbyist drive to mess around with installing operating systems. Using Macs will do that: the darn thing does just work so well that I'm not tempted to go poking around in the underlying UNIX to sped it up a bit, so I'm out of a) practice with hobbyist OS tweaking, and b) don't see why I should do it because MS or Apple or Canonical or whoever should just build the frikkin' thing right in the first place. But I really don't want to give up on the Asus - I'm cheap like that.

So I started it up, called Program Manager and looked at the CPU performance. 50% when I wasn't doing anything? WTF? Looking through the processes, there was a svchost.exe hammering away when my hands were not on the keyboard. So asked Google questions like "Why is svchost taking so much CPU" and similar, and back came a number of sites, which I read, did the bit where you can show the processes a service is running - highlight the service, right-click, Show Processes. Scroll, scroll, hah! It's Windows Update isn't it? Of course it is. I set Windows Update to Manual, ignored the warnings about my bank accounts being vulnerable, re-booted and... Yea! Now running Evernote with tiny CPU usage. Which is the way I've always heard it should be.

I've also set Dropbox to manual, although it seems to start anyway at boot-up, then read its settings, see it's not wanted, and shuts down. Running, it takes around 100MB (Wha! How?) and I only have 2GB of RAM, of which, as I write, I need 715MB for Windows 7 and Evernote. I'm not doing a lot of Dropbox-y-things at the moment. When I do, I'll take the RAM hit.

So yes, my poor Asus was being choked by a virus called Windows Update. Now look, I have more respect for Microsoft that many people with Macs. But to insist that Windows Update be live all the time, and then have it hog half the CPU cycles of a 1.66GHz Atom is just bad and / or lazy engineering. I'm going to check out what it does on Win 10 next.

So now I have my Asus back. You Tube loads and plays in a snap. Windows Media Player is updating itself off my NAS as I type. And I still have spare CPU cycles. Result.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Reasoning Logically, Being Rational and Thinking Scientifically

I stumbled across this short discussion between Neil de Grasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins - names which would usually would send me heading for a Scotty Kilmer car maintenance clip - and at one point Tyson says “[We] must have a great challenge before us to think rationally, logically, scientifically” as if the three were the same, or at least,very similar.



Except these are three very, very different things.

Reasoning logically has a narrow and a broad sense: the narrow meaning is using valid rules of inference to deduce one statement from others; the broader one is conducting an argument in which no two of your assertions contradict each other. The broad interpretation lets you use the full range of informal argument and rhetorical devices. The narrow one is for mathematicians and logicians constructing formal proofs. Most people reason logically in the second sense.

Being rational is not a way of arguing or thinking, but an attitude towards one’e beliefs. The dominant theory of rationality was confirmationism: my belief in something is rational if I have evidence for its truth. Of course fanatics can have evidence for their beliefs, and it really shifts the argument to what constitutes evidence. Try having a discussion with a religious fundamentalist who maintains that there is something called “spiritual evidence” for their bigoted beliefs. Or stand outside on a sunny day and tell me the sun is not moving across the sky: who you going to believe: Copernicus or your lying eyes? So in the 1930’s Karl Popper proposed a falsificationist account of rationality: my belief in something is rational if I am prepared to state the circumstances under which I would abandon that belief. Instant banishment of fanatics, ideologists, psycho-analysts, vulgar evolutionists and a classroom of others to the Naughty Step. The nice thing about this is that anyone putting forward a silly condition - such as an angel coming to the House of Commons and announcing that we should abandon our belief in abortion - tends to sound silly of their own accord.

Thinking scientifically is a process that aimed at finding explanations of empirical phenomena by using previously established explanations, deductive logical reasoning and mathematics, testing those explanations by experiment, and abandoning at least one of the inputs to the test if the experiment fails. (Notice that one of those inputs is: "the experimental result was calculated or measured correctly”. Experimenters can make mistakes as well.) What would non-scientific thinking look like? Usually it doesn’t refer to previous results. It has Gods that just do stuff with no explanation as to why they didn’t do something else. Or else it seems to be able to explain everything, no matter what happens. But above all, pseudo-science and myth are definitive and final. Science is never final and never definitive (except possibly in a grant proposal), it’s a process that aims to improve our understanding of the world, while recognising that at any time, something may come along that is inconsistent with what we think we know, yet gives better results.

Finally, how a scientist finds the explanations, or how a mathematician finds their proof, and where and how they get their ideas, is entirely up to them. They don’t have to follow rules or templates, though there are rules and templates to follow, they just have to be right.

A little later Tyson says that people who think irrationally “get along just fine in life, they live long lives…”. I get the point he’s making, but it applies as long as they don’t reason irrationally about buses, cholera, bullets, stepping out of fifth-floor windows, hungry tigers, drinking poison and other such stuff. Being dumb about the composition of the outer planets is fine, being dumb about running across busy roads is not.

But after that Tyson suggests that Van Gogh is “illogical” for painting Starry Night, and Dawkins suggests that the instincts humans allegedly developed on the savannah for surviving back in the day are also “illogical”. It’s at this point I leave them to it, because jeez! do people even still think like that?

Just because Van Gogh didn’t paint like a Victorian academician doesn’t make his art crazy, although you’re welcome to use words as you want, and if you think Starry Night is crazy, then I’d suggest to you that some good art is crazy. And as for tested survival instincts being “illogical”, well, same thing, if that’s how you want to use the words, then some “illogical” beliefs or behaviours are useful and prudent. As in all things, you do what works.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Crossing Kew Bridge


Really, I take photographs of the colour blue.

Monday, 3 April 2017

March 2017 Review

I finished the month with the Spring Cold. In the middle of these colds, I wonder if I will ever be well again. Will I be able to walk more than twenty yards without getting breathless? Will I be able to focus enough to do any work, even from home? Will I ever have an uninterrupted night's sleep again, and will that sleep ever be free of fever-driven obsessive imagery and stories? Intellectually I know it will all be over in a few days, that doesn't help me get through it now. I'm used to being clear-headed and physically on form, unlike the rest of you, who have hangovers, mysterious aches, low days caused by eating curries after too much lager, and dodgy sleep from having a row with your partner, or from the kids teething. None of that happens to me, so when anything breaks my serene routine, it's Literally. The. Worst.

I got in a training session in on the last Saturday of the month, and that was it.

I saw Personal Shopper at the Curzon Mayfair, and John Wick 2 at my local Cineworld. I went through half of Angel S4 at a clip, and then stopped. I will carry on, but I wasn’t in the mood.

I read James Salter’s The Hunters, Somerset Maugham’s The Merry-Go-Round, Wells Towers’ Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, David Szalay’s London and The South-East, and Svetlana Alpers’ The Vexations of Art. I can commend the first three, but Szalay's novel left me feeling like I needed a shower. Alpers' book on Velasquez is in that style of art commentary which mixes interesting history with that weird art theory that finds great epistemological significance in the fact that the painter stands in front of the canvas to paint.

Sis and I had her birthday supper at Picture, because we like it there, and I had an early supper at the Argentinian restaurant in Richmond with another friend of Bill and Bob. Between my teeth and the winter, this is the first time I've been eating out socially. I stopped by Gulu Gulu for their unique take on sushi the Thursday before The Cold.

I went to a delightfully arcane City ceremony called a "Wardmoot" in the Parish Hall of St Botolph's Without Bishopsgate. It's where the candidates for the Council of the Ward of Bishopsgate are elected and confirmed in their position. People who work in the City get to vote for Councilmen as well as the very few residents in the Ward. Most of the people there were officials and candidates, including a Beadle who shouted Oyez Oyez Oyez and called on us to attend, shut up and listen. I thought one of the people wandering about in fancy gowns looked familiar, to the point where I thought "That's Baroness Scotland", and then when I got the Agenda, there it was. Patricia "The Overspender" Scotland is the Alderman for the Bishopsgate Ward. The ceremony was full of people saying admiring things about each other, as often happens at these ceremonial events. There are six councilmen, and had been IIRC nine or ten candidates in February. Then four dropped out and there was no need for anyone to vote for anyone. That's democracy for you. The next one is in four years' time, when I might not be working, so I'm glad I had that little glimpse of City ceremonial arcana.

And was I the only person to spot a distant but important resemblence between Sir Tim Barrow



and Sir Thomas Beaufort as portrayed by the mighty Brian Blessed in Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V?

(Sir Thomas is on the left)

 I know that Sir Tim was only delivering a letter to a guy he saw on a fairly regular basis, but though it looked like this when he handed it over



what was really going on was this


History. Lived through again.