Sunday, January 08, 2012

Tarmac crumble.

The photo above shows the M.V Ardent, a general bulk cargo carrier that seems to have been a resident of Erith for what is now an age. If you look into the River Thames from pretty anywhere that has a river view in Erith, you will see the ship, moored what now seems permanently to a Port of London Authority buoy. It must be costing the shipping agents, Armac Marine Management of Rochester, and thus its' owners, Riverline Trading Ltd a pretty penny in long term mooring fees. I don't know the precise reason the ship has been laid up for so long; I heard a rumour some weeks ago that it had gearbox / transmission problems, but I have had no confirmation of this at the time of writing. I have Emailed the Armac asking the situation and I am currently awaiting a response. You can read more about the Ardent by clicking here.

The whole Stephen Lawrence case has dominated the national and local news this week, and not without good reason. The unfortunate fact is that there are still several guilty individuals at large, almost certainly still living in the local area. Whether they will ever be brought to justice is uncertain. I had a very minor involvement in the case. On the night of the murder, I drove down Well Hall Road a few minutes before the stabbing took place. I recall seeing a few youths hanging around outside the chip shop, but nothing else of note. After the murder hit the news, the Police put out an appeal for anyone who had been in the area at the time to contact them to be interviewed. I ended up giving a statement that I had driven past the site of the stabbing, and had seen some youths hanging around, but was not able to identify any of them. I could not give them any other information. I doubt that the lads I saw were anything to do with what happened a few minutes later, but I will never know for sure. Darryl, of the excellent 853 Blog has written a thought provoking piece on the murder, which you can read by clicking here.

What is it with some females and the colour pink? What makes certain women so obsessed with the colour? The old cliché is “Blue for boys and pink for girls”, but you don’t get blokes obsessing about blue in the same was as some women do about pink. Is it some kind of marketing, or is it something deeper and more subtle? Answers on a postcard please, or better still, leave a comment below.

I stumbled across a very interesting piece of research that a chap is doing; it certainly makes food for thought. As you may be aware, Britain is the world leader in the proliferation of CCTV surveillance cameras - we have more cameras per head of population than anywhere else on the planet. The whys and wherefores of this, and the debate in their use will go on for years more. One thing that has recently become much more widespread is the coupling of CCTV systems to computers running sophisticated facial recognition software. Very early versions of this were developed on behalf of the Police and Security Service in the mid 1990’s, mainly as a result of the IRA bombings. Their systems used powerful and expensive computers running dedicated custom written software. Nowadays you can achieve the same kind of results with a £300 CCTV system from B and Q linked to a home laptop. This begs the question, is it possible to defeat the recognition software without making it obvious that you are trying to hide your face, or end up looking like a berk? The answer, according to Adam Harvey, author of the CV Dazzle project is yes. Adam has developed a series of relatively simple cosmetic and hairdressing countermeasures which prevent a computer realising that it is “seeing” a face. Fascinating stuff – you can read more about the CV Dazzle project, and see some of the stealth face makeup designs by clicking here.

I read in the News Shopper online that there is a project to reduce the amount of air pollution in Manor Road, Erith; coincidentally a place that I wrote about last week. The idea is to spray an adhesive layer to the road surface that would trap dust and particulates and thus prevent them from entering the atmosphere; in theory this is a fine and laudable idea. In practice it is not. Please click on the photograph below in order to see a larger and more detailed view of it:

As you can see, the surface of Manor Road is in the process of rapidly disintegrating. When the new road surface was laid, back in May 2009, it was lauded as a real step forward in new road technology. The top layer incorporated materials that were designed to reduce road noise and tyre rumble, and thus make things a bit more tolerable for local residents. The ploy worked, and when the surface was firat laid, the passing traffic was measurably quieter than before. It would appear that the Highways Department and the civil engineering company that carried out the work did not take into consideration both the volume of traffic along Manor Road, or its' weight. Heavily laden HGV lorries and double decker 99 buses are regular visitors, and as you can see from the photo above, the road is falling apart in rapid order.  I took the photo below (which I have to say that I am rather proud of) from the opposite side of the road, as the precisely the section of carriageway pictured above was being laid, back late in the evening of May 31st 2009 at around 11pm.

I have complained to Bexley Council's Highways Department about the state of the road on a number of occasions; the whole of Manor Road is in a terrible state, especially in such a short period of time since it was relaid. At the time it was being done I had a chat with the Conway project manager. He told me that the revolutionary road surfacing material cost in excess of £1 million just for that road - and that did not include the labour and plant hire costs in addition. It would appear that the money was wasted. If the council had taken action when I first pointed out that the surface was failing, they would most likely have been able to claim under the warranty.  As it would appear that they have been sitting on their hands in the intervening period, any such claim would probably be outside the guarantee period now.

On my way to the office where I normally work, I take a short cut from Canary Wharf DLR station that takes me through the Canary Wharf Shopping Centre. If you have not visited it before, it is well worth a look. It features a lot of designer stores and very high end jewellers, as well as the more run of the mill high street stores that one would expect. There are also a surprisingly large number of cafes, coffee shops and places to eat. As I come down the escalator in the mornings, I quite often see staff at the large and popular Wasabi Japanese takeaway preparing for the days' food service. What astonished me the first time I saw it is the way that the hot dishes such as Ramen noodles and Japanese curry are prepared. The place has a large sign with the words "All dishes freshly prepared in our kitchens daily" on prominent display. I used to think that the food was therefore cooked by staff on the premises. What actually happens is that a few minutes before 8am a series of pallets arrive on a pallet truck; the staff then unpack the contents, which consist of giant ready - meal style plastic trays. The staff then empty the pre - cooked contents into bain marie style water bath type heaters and warm everything up. I have since discovered that this approach is common practice in many places - the food gets prepared and cooked in a centralised kitchen, then sealed into containers and delivered to the outlets. It makes a lot of sense in many ways; however logic and enjoyment of food don't really live on the same street. I must admit that I mentally turned my nose up when I saw that Wasabi was serving ready meals on an industrial scale. I am sure that if I had not seen the pre - cooked food being delivered, I would have been none the wiser.

On Wednesday morning, the prototype "Boris Bus" was displayed in Bexleyheath Broadway. Local photographer Justin caught a few shots of the vehicle that you can view by clicking here.

The New Year's honours list. I heartily approve of the honours system in general. People, often working for years in voluntary, charitable or public sector roles who get recognised with an award from the Queen for their hard work and dedication has got to be a good thing. I was proud to accompany my good friend Lt. Col (then Major) Steve Fraser to Buckingham Palace when he was awarded the MBE back in October 2008. Click here to see my photos of the day. What I object to is the knighthood awarded to Apple design supremo Jonathan Ive. I have nothing at all personally against Mr. Ive. He's done as much as anyone to give Apple a cool and desirable image to their range of products. He's British, one of the best designers on the planet, and the poster boy of the "coolest" brand around - so why would I object to him being knighted? Simple. He lives in San Francisco, pays tax to the U.S Government and generates vast piles of cash for Apple - one of the largest companies in the World - based in the USA. What exactly has he done for Britain that entitles him to a KBE? Bugger all actually. He's enriched the American economy to the tune of multiple billions of dollars, but it has not had a trickle down effect in his homeland, so why exactly was he awarded what is actually a rather high level gong, with the prestige such a thing bestows? It all rather escapes me.

FORGE (Friends Of Riverside Gardens Erith) are not the first pressure group to have campaigned for the river view to be maintained. The increase in industrial and commercial properties during the last forty years of the nineteenth century saw the watersides of Erith lined with factories; the river frontage of the High Street was blocked by the huge Cannon and Gaze mill, built in 1903. The author and artist M.A Wylie noted in 1905 that "No-one in the present day could call Erith pretty or rural; it is a place of gun factories, engineering works, and coal wharfs, where cranes, derricks and other engines of every shape and kind, scoop the coal from the holds of s many steamers. Row upon row of mean little houses, all built after the same ugly pattern, and countless gin palaces and grocery stores have sprung up everywhere". Nothing new then.

Another 30th anniversary this week. The classic 80's home computer, which still holds the record as the single best selling computer model of all time.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you the Commodore 64.

The C64 sold by the truckload in the early to mid 1980's, and actually only went out of production some years after its' far more powerful successor, the Amiga was on general release. The final C64's rolled off the production line in 1990. Whilst the marketing people behind the C64 said that it had 64k of RAM, the machine actually only had 38k of usable RAM. The rest was taken up with the OS and BASIC language, so it was not as memory generous as initial impressions gave. The C64 had (for the time) good graphics, with multiple colours and programmable sprites. It had an excellent, dedicated sound processor called SID, if a rather poor implementation of the BASIC programming language when compared to the likes of its' contemporaries such as the BBC model B. The one real weakness with the C64 was its' legendarily slow and rather unreliable 1541 disk drive, which was actually slower to load programs than by using cassette tapes using turbo technology. Overall though, it was a very strong machine, and deservedly a massive seller worldwide. You can read more about the Commodore 64 by clicking here.

The final video should appeal to most people; it shows a recipe to make a tasty, healthy and very cheap chickpea curry; the ingredients work out at roughly 70p per portion. Take a look and let me know what you think.


  1. Mr Pewty
    I visited your recommended article by 853 blog and I'm afraid I was quite disappointed to see that in that article he chooses to link the Conservatives to the BNP through a minor comment from a voter about immigration on a Conservative website. Its this kind of condemnation of public debate on immigration that the BNP thrives on, telling people that they are racist if they raise the topic and stifling their ability to express their concerns, and the 853 blog is rather stupidly promoting such censorship as well as linking mainstream politics to extremism. I wouldn't recommend an item as insidiously biased as this is.

  2. Pip-pip old boy, another riveting read.

    I found your link to the CV Dazzle article fascinating - although looking at their suggestions I think they have a way to go before they satisfy your own rather sensible criteria of 'not looking like a berk' though.

    Re the previous commenter's remark - I think they overstate (if not invent) the idea that the 853 'chooses to link the Conservatives to the BNP' ... Whilst I completely agree with that aforesaid esteemed previous commentator in that condemnation of debate is a bad thing, I have to say that as far as I can see all 853 does is point out a quote that the 2010 Tory Candidate displays on his website - there's no direct allusion made by 853 between David Gold (the candidate), or the quote itself, and the BNP. Nor any attempt by 853 to condemn debate.

    There's a screenshot of the quote on the 853 blog so it can be seen exactly 'as is'.

    And, in my opinion, it can also be seen for what it is, an offensive and cynical little piece of g*bshite. (To quote our Northern cousins, soon (perhaps) to relegate themselves to being merely our Northern neighbours).

    853 merely reports it, and ascribes nothing more to it than his opinion that David Gold 'sought to play on the area's reputation' when he reproduced it. a fair comment I'd say.

    If one examines the punctuation of the quote we see that there are in fact three separate sentences, no doubt written that way for 'denialability' reasons if anyone were to bring a legal challenge - but I'd be very surprised if Gold or whichever of his team came up with, or decided to reproduce this vile soundbyte, wasn't aware of exactly what they doing, and how the statement looks when it's read quickly.

    30 years since the C64 - makes a chap feel his age eh? Well, perhaps not, as Winston said - KBO!
    (Keeping Buggering On!)

    On that note - keep up the good work Sir!

    Best regards


  3. PS - I intended to mention - the image of the road works of which you say 'which I have to say that I am rather proud of'
    I concur absolutely - that is one fine photo, sir, and that is said in recognition of a photographer of your calibre, who routinely takes damn fine photos (as your blog and Flickr attests) - this one is absolutely Top-Notch!

  4. Hugh - sorry to contact you through the comments box but I cannot find an email address. You mention on the 853 blog regarding the Thames Gateway bridge and the heights under international law regarding airports. Do you have a link to this or could you tell em how high is not allowed? thanks

  5. Hello Keep up with the outstanding posts. Thanks