Freesteel Blog » Julian

Monday, August 12th, 2019 at 3:58 pm - - Flightlogger, Hang-glide

I thought I had published this long form article in the blog until I looked for it. Turned out I’d accidentally left it on github here. Text is below the fold.

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Monday, August 12th, 2019 at 3:32 pm - - Hang-glide

After many days at Interlaken, generally flying down from various takeoffs and ramps, I got the opportunity and nerve to finally fly at Fiesch, where I got to see over the glaciers.

Flight 1 was easy; up and across the ridge into the Goms valley, thus saving me from the landing field at the bottom of takeoff. At the end of the flight I was caught in the convergence in the middle of the valley that took me back to 2800m. The only way down was to go to the edge of the valley and circle down.

Flight 2 was harder as I had to get really high first and then there was no lift for miles along the side of the valley until I was saved by a very slow climb on a particular ground collapse. There were some moments of zero-G on that flight. No matter how high I got, there were still always rocks above me.

Saturday, July 27th, 2019 at 8:20 pm - - Flightlogger

I’ve been trying to use the BNO055 for hang-glider experiments for a while. My current serial micropython interface is here or here. The sensor contains its own dedicated microcontroller that continually reads the gyros, accelerometers and magnetometers at a high frequency, fuses them, and provides orientation in the form of a quaternion, and acceleration separated into it’s kinetic and gravity components. (I’d prefer a version where you set the device working, and it streamed the measurements down on the wire instead of needing to be polled every 100ms.)

After years of not really having a clue, I’ve got far enough to be able to make a movie with these frames from an overhead unit attached to the keel of the glider with the intention of measuring the control inputs (ie the pilot’s hang position which determins his weight shift) in relation to the aerodynamic response.

There are two objectives of this work — other than the byproduct of learning a whole load about sensors that ought make me useful for something.

Firstly, we’d want to quantify the hidden variables of a glider (eg glide angle, control responsiveness, etc) in order to better compare between them.

Secondly, I want to quantify pilot behaviour and rig this up on a flight by a top pilot who always seems to do well, and find out what they’re doing that’s different from what I’m doing in order to enable some form of effective coaching that would save me a lot of time. (Generally the top pilots don’t know what they’re doing as they merely report doing it by feel, and that feel very luckily for them happens to coincide with doing it right.)

However, I don’t really trust these accelerometer readings when I watched this. It seemed like it was sticky. That is, its mathematical filters sometimes hold one value until it is no longer valid, and then swings wildly to another other value.

GPS readings sometimes do this and have nasty discontinuities. This is going to happen when there are bimodal probability distributions of the error where there are two likely interpretations of the position from the same measurments.

Meanwhile, I was looking at namespaces in OpenCV and the function findChessboardCorners() caught my eye. I wondered what that was for. Turns out it’s used for Camera calibration — finding lens distortion and focal length.

Then I found out about ArUco Markers and tried to use them for measuring the pilot’s position (see above).

That didn’t work on half the frames because the light catches it badly.

This lead onto the amazing all-in-one charuco board technology which has an aruco tag in each white square of a chess board so that nothing can possibly get confused.

This is great, because it gives an external means of verifying the absolute orientation sensor. If I could get the numbers to agree, then I’ll have proved I’ve understood all the orientation decoding and would know the error bounds.

My code is in this Jupyter notebook, though the bulk has been moved into the videos module of the hacktrack library for safekeeping.

Here’s the procedure, with the unit up top under my thumb containing the orientation sensor, the video camera embedded in the main unit (with the orange light visible to show that it’s working) looking down past the randomly flashing LED light.

And this is what it looks like from the camera’s point of view:

The phone is running a very crude android app I wrote called Hanglog3 for receiving the orientation sensor data via wifi over a socket from the ESP32 attached to the sensor and storing it in the phone’s copious memory, so I don’t need to use a mini-SD card writer wired to the microcontroller that causes it to stall for up to 80ms when the data is flushed to it.

What’s that LED light doing in the view?

That’s used to synchronize the logged orientation data with the frames from the video. I’ve made an interactive function called frameselectinteractive() that lets you slide a box around the LED in the image, like so:

Then the function extractledflashframes() measures the mean red green and blue values in the box for each frame so you can see that there is a clear enough signal.

In this case, the 200 value in the red channel shows a clear enough signal, which can be converted to a boolean on or off, and aligned with the timestamped LED on and off commands in the flight data file that also carries the orientation sensor data. I’ve used the Dust measurement records from this to save reprogramming anything, as the Dust sensor no longer exists (it was a ridiculous thing to carry around on a hang-glider anyway; what was I thinking?).

videoledonvalues = ledbrights.r>200
ledswitchtimes = (fd.pU.Dust==1)  # one timestamped record for every on and off of the LED
frametimes = videos.framestotime(videoledonvalues, ledswitchtimes)

Since the LED flashes at random intervals, there can be only one way to align them, which allows me to assign a timestamp to each video frame, and consequently to any information derived from that video frame, such as camera orientation.

The function which extracts camera orientation from the video frame is findtiltfromvideoframes().

The code which does this from an image frame works like this:

# extract the DICT_4X4_50 aruco markers from the image
markerCorners, markerIds, rejectedMarkers = 
  cv2.aruco.detectMarkers(frame, aruco_dict, parameters, cameraMatrix, distCoeff)

# try harder to match some of the failed markers with the knowledge of 
# where they lie in this particular charucoboard
cv2.aruco.refineDetectedMarkers(frame, charboard, markerCorners, markerIds, 
                                rejectedMarkers, cameraMatrix, distCoeffs)

# derive accurate 2D corners of the chessboard from the marker positions we have
retval, charucoCorners, charucoIds = cv2.aruco.interpolateCornersCharuco(markerCorners, 
     markerIds, frame, charboard, cameraMatrix, distCoeffs)

# Calculate relative camera to charuco board as a Rodrigues rotation vector (rvec) 
# and translation vector (tvec)
retval, rvec, tvec = cv2.aruco.estimatePoseCharucoBoard(charucoCorners, charucoIds, 
                                            charboard, cameraMatrix, distCoeffs)

# Convert rvec to single vector of the vertical Z-axis kingpost
r = cv2.Rodrigues(rvec)[0][2]
row = {"framenum":framenum, "tx":tvec[0][0], "ty":tvec[1][0], "tz":tvec[2][0], 
                            "rx":r[0], "ry":r[1], "rz":r[2]}

Notice that this cannot work without accurate values for the cameraMatrix and distCoeffs (distortion coefficients), which in the case of this camera has been calculated as:

cameraMatrix = numpy.array([[1.01048336e+03, 0.00000000e+00, 9.46630412e+02],
                            [0.00000000e+00, 1.01945395e+03, 5.71135893e+02],
                            [0.00000000e+00, 0.00000000e+00, 1.00000000e+00]])
distCoeffs = numpy.array([[-0.31967893,  0.13367133, -0.00175612,  0.00153122, -0.03052692]])

These numbers are not fully reproducible. However, they do make the picture look okay with the undistortion preview where straight lines look straight. Maybe there are too many degrees of freedom in the solution.

Now the hard part. The camera and the orientation sensor are not precisely aligned.

First the vertical axis of the orientation sensor, whose values are given in quaternions (pZ.q0, pZ.q1, pZ.q2, pZ.q3) needs to be extracted to provide a tilt-vector (of the Z-axis):

r00 = pZ.q0*pZ.q0*2 * pZ.iqsq
r33 = pZ.q3*pZ.q3*2 * pZ.iqsq
r01 = pZ.q0*pZ.q1*2 * pZ.iqsq
r02 = pZ.q0*pZ.q2*2 * pZ.iqsq
r13 = pZ.q1*pZ.q3*2 * pZ.iqsq
r23 = pZ.q2*pZ.q3*2 * pZ.iqsq
pZ["tiltx"] = r13 + r02
pZ["tilty"] = r23 - r01
pZ["tiltz"] = r00 - 1 + r33

Then the (rx, ry, rz) vectors from the video camera images needs aligning to the (tiltx, tilty, tiltz) vectors from this orientation sensor.

I have no idea how I cracked this one, but it went a bit like this:

# kingpost vertical vectors from camera
rx, ry, rz = tiltv.rx[t0:t1], tiltv.ry[t0:t1], tiltv.rz[t0:t1]

# Interpolated orientation tilt vector (so the timestamps are the same) 
ax = utils.InterpT(rx, lpZ.tiltx)
ay = utils.InterpT(ry, lpZ.tilty)
az = utils.InterpT(rz, lpZ.tiltz)

# Find the rotation between these two sets of points using SVD technology
# a[xyz] * r[xyz]^T
H = numpy.array([[sum(ax*rx), sum(ax*ry), sum(ax*rz)], 
                 [sum(ay*rx), sum(ay*ry), sum(ay*rz)], 
                 [sum(az*rx), sum(az*ry), sum(az*rz)]])
U, S, Vt = numpy.linalg.svd(H)
R = numpy.matmul(U, Vt)

print("Rotations in XYZ come to", numpy.degrees(cv2.Rodrigues(R)[0].reshape(3)), "degrees")


# Apply the rotations to the camera orientation
rrx, rry, rrz = \
(R[0][0]*rx + R[0][1]*ry + R[0][2]*rz, 
 R[1][0]*rx + R[1][1]*ry + R[1][2]*rz,
 R[2][0]*rx + R[2][1]*ry + R[2][2]*rz)

In this case, the rotations in XYZ came to [ 0.52880368 0.96020647 -80.29792978] degrees.

Thus, since I am now thoroughly running out of time, here is the comparison in XY of the unit vectors:

And this is how it looks to the individual components:

I am totally going to forget how any of this works when I get back. It is this hard to validate an orientation sensor against a video image, it seems.

Next is to make a charuco board with a flashing light in it with its own orientation sensor and pin it to the back of the pilot’s harness. Then maybe I’ll be measuring the glider relative to the pilot rather than the other way round.

All of this is so hard, and the main objectives haven’t even begun. Why is it so hard to get anywhere?

Thursday, July 25th, 2019 at 6:29 pm - - University 1 Comment »

On 15 July I nipped across to Manchester for the evening, having picked up a flier in the Unity Theatre a month before for the performance of Tao of Glass by Phelim McDermott (twitter handle).

I made up for the price of the ticket by some very cheap train fares bought in advance. As I walked across the city in the summer air past a very long queue for a homeless soup kitchen (which should not be a thing in this day and age) I saw a statue of Queen Victoria covered in pigeon poo. It could never have been otherwise from the day it was erected, unless there were no pigeons in Manchester back then.

The Royal Exchange Theatre looks like the Lunar Lander parked indoors. I had never seen it before, but apparently it’s been like this since 1976. Initially I thought it was something they built especially for the festival, which was a problem for me at the start of the show where Phelim was sitting in the audience and recounting about all the amazing performances he’d seen in that theatre when he was young.

Here’s what it looks like inside. The stage is a massive turntable, so it can spin round and show you the whole performance even when the actors are not moving. I don’t know what it dos to their sense of direction.

Halfway through the first act I recognized the performer from something I’d seen before. It was from a random show I rather liked called Panic, on for one night at the Unity Theatre (just 2 blocks walk from my house), where Phelem played the Great God Pan with his three nymphs. There was a lot of mythology woven in. The goat-like god Pan suspiciously disappeared at the same time that the goat-like depiction of Satan emerged around the birth of Christ.

My favourite part of the performance of Panic was when Phelem was having an emotional crisis and began going through his collection of self-help books, pulling each one out of the box and progressively shrieking their titles. He specifically singled out Tony Buzan who, “every year writes a new book, and it’s always exactly the same as his previous book!” The quantity was overwhelming. He ended up pouring box after box onto the table.

The Tao of Glass went on about Kintsugi, which doesn’t work for smashed glass. There were some other allegories I’ve been unable to remember to look up. One of the reviews tracked down A Mindell’s theory of three conical layers of Consensus Reality, Dreamland, and Essence. I wish I’d taken notes.

I got drawn into the misdirection about Philip Glass, who helped write the performance with Phelem over a week of work-shopping near his home in New York, and was to appear at the end on a Steinway player piano that would reproduce his composition exactly.

But there was a final scene where Phelem lay down next to an old record player to listen to the start of Glassworks, which was the album with which he first fell in love with the music and used to play it at home on repeat (joke!).

At this point Philip Glass himself walked across the stage, joined the musicians in the corner, 4 seats away from me, and played it himself.

I am so lucky to be here. I ought to go to more shows near me.

Apparently there have been some revivals of the older Glass work, like Einstein on the Beach. I just discovered that there’s films of it online from a recent show in Paris. I can watch hours of it, like so:

I’d go traveling to shows of Philip Glass pieces, if I had a way to find out about them in time, like some folks do for Wagner Operas. No one else I know understands it.

It’s a shame I don’t have a video of a Panic or this show I can go back over and get the names of things I want to look up again. We need footnotes, or show notes, or a recording that ticket-holders are allowed to access after the run. How else are we supposed to get a self-education round here?

Thursday, July 25th, 2019 at 3:46 pm - - Kayak Dive

Stop doing and start blogging!

Yesterday I got out on the wreck of the Resurgam in 1879, which then sank while on tow in the Mersey Bay, only be discovered 116 years later. It was propelled by a coal powered steam engine and was lit by candle light.

You’d think that the people of the day would have seen that electric power had to be the way forward for submarines. The inventor, George Garret, appeared to have done a lot of marine tech in a life that was shorter than mine, but then emigrated to America in 1890 to become a rice farmer, which seems a bit of a waste.

I dived it with a half empty tank (on a 100bar) because I was too incompetent to fetch the right one out of the garage. Luckily it was a shallow dive and I could go easy on the breathing at the cost of giving myself a headache for the rest of the day. The water was pretty warm, so I skipped gloves, which meant that I got nipped by crabs when I forgot to look where I put my hands.

Here’s the remnants of the propeller in my hand:

Here’s the other pointy end:

Here’s the remains of the conning tower:

Maybe if I took off my tank I could have jammed myself down inside. It’s pretty tight.

There was one hole on one side by the sea bed, from which this lobster made a successful escape from the other diving pair who were trying to catch it for their dinner:

Then I bothered a tompot blenny by poking it out of its hole. It slipped round to the other side of the tower only to meet a second blenny who was not pleased by the territorial incursion:

I wonder if there’s been any experiments with territorial species to find out whether they use natural boundaries to demarcate their areas, and to what extent a nipped intruder understands where the line is drawn. Or maybe the animal territories are not actually areas, but instead single perching places from which to leap out and attack intruders that they can see, and that’s the key.

I remember a talk about fiddler crabs on the beach who have little burrows that they run back to for safety. The experimenter wanted to find out how they navigated to their hole and put down piece of sandpaper and fishing line which they used to quietly drag the unsuspecting crab away from its hole and prove that the crab used its sense of direction in a polar coordinate grid centred on its hole.

Then I surfaced and got fetched by the boat.

Wreck of the Calcium

Quick subsequent dive on the Wreck of the Calcium, also not deep, but with a proper fill in the tank.

First we fall overboard backwards so that our mask is not swept off by the water.

Who doesn’t love a good swim-through filled with fish?:

Here’s a short video of a flatfish with its funny bulbous eyeballs slipping away beneath a school of other fish.

There were a couple small shy conger eels in the boiler:

The lobsters were too numerous and brave to be frightened away and saved:

I used to think the gopro was a waste of money, but compared to the alternatives it can be a lot clearer. You can see the red camera light flashing on my forehead. All four of us divers had headcams.

At one point I lost my headcam (the retaining string wasn’t properly on round my neck). Here’s the episode of it falling off and being kicked around.

I found it quite enjoyable watching this video, though shame it wasn’t the right way up so it saw me coming back to fetch it. These blur-o-vision FPOV headcam movies don’t seem to be as engaging as you’d expect. Next time I’m on a dive where I’m absolutely sure I’m going to get back to where I started, it would be neat to just park it somewhere looking out so it could see the divers receding from view, leaving everything to the fish and wandering crabs, before gradually seeing the divers emerge back from the distance.

Reminds me of a trip a few years ago when someone’s helmet cam came off his head on a kayak dive in Loch Sunart, and it was filmed the perfect express elevator to the surface where it was picked up by Becka:

I got to think of some way to stop it floating off, and securing it to whatever I’ve made. Maybe I’ll have to line off from it to be safe. The jiggling on the line when the divers are out of sight might add a bit of suspense and anticipation.

I got back with a horrible Diesel fume headache, attempted to play underwater hockey, but gave up. Then went round to DoESLiverpool to check on my robot, which had gone offline because somebody had left it out of the charging dock.

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019 at 10:29 am - - Kayak Dive

Things go on. We did some excellent kayak diving up in St Abbs that was planned to take advantage of a student who could be in a sea kayak on the surface so we’d feel more at ease going deeper and further underwater than we’d normally venture on our own.

Our main mission was to see a wolf fish, frequently sighted on Black Carrs rock below 20m.

Here he is:

This was along the low cut down that runs due east from the rock, in a horizontal crack behind an upstanding rock. It’s probably always the same fish that everybody sees. He caught my eye as we were searching along the bottom, and I propped up a cairn on the spot so we could come back to him after pushing on a bit deeper to the brittle star carpets.

And here’s my cairn marking the spot of the shy fish’s lair.

My pics make it look a lot less pretty than what it was it was to be there in the water, but they work for me as evidence.

Our support kayaker (plus visitors) was present when we went down at this deep spot.

As usual they were nowhere to be seen when we came up. They tend to get bored and find something else to go look at, because it all seems well from the surface to non-divers who don’t know what disasters might be unfolding below the water.

The wolf fish dive was on the Tuesday 2 July 2019. It was a stiff northwest wind and swell that made it impossible to go near the coast and explore the caves anywhere further round towards Pettico Wick.

The weather and water visibility conditions had not been the best we had hoped for, but the trip had to fit into a narrow time window of people’s availability and Becka not being on a caving expedition.

We stayed overnight in a three bed shared room at Marin Quest, which was a little expensive, but it paid off well when on Monday over breakfast the boat skipper was able to give us the position of the wreck of The President at this spot: 55°52’10.0″N+2°04’25.0″W/@55.8694568,-2.0741817 in a very sheltered channel to the south of Eyemouth directly in line with a fence style.

Here’s us loading up the kayaks at the convenient concrete access path near Greenends Gully.

We overshot too far south on the paddle out. The cliffs further towards Burnmouth look well worth exploring, but we didn’t have time for that.

The dive on The President was excellent, progressively finding bigger and bigger bits of scrap steel until we finally hit the boilers. Otherwise, there was not much life.

Sam, our look-out student, spent the time watching dolphins doing leaps and flips close in.

Here’s a blurry shot from a Mark One blurry gopro to prove he saw something jumping.

After a tank changeover at the carpark, we hauled our kayaks against the wind and waves to the north of Eyemouth and into the shelter of Weasel Loch.

Sam took my wallet shopping for junk food as we did a shore dive out of the channel to look for Conger Reef.

We didn’t find the reef, so here’s a picture of a flatfish and small lobster in the rocky wasteland it was supposed to be.

We circled back to the cliff wall, which was spectacular, huge, deep and overhanging, and then found the way back in. I could spend all day shore-diving out of this loch popping in and out of the water trying to get my bearings. Maybe I’d eventually find this reef.

Back by the car we changed into wetsuits and I gave Sam a try dive, during which we saw a small lobster on a ledge at minus one metre.

Stepping back in time to Sunday, when Becka and I arrived in St Abb’s (before Sam came), we dashed out for an afternoon dive on Wuddy Rocks.

Becka managed to haul down the anchor at the start of the dive, but couldn’t stay down because she didn’t have enough lead.

Normally this is my fault for not putting enough on her weight belt, but this time it was because she’d forgot to put it on at all!

Once sorted out, we found the way into the tunnels where we tried out our new new diving torches, one wide and one narrow angle.

Up till now I’d been using a Dive Scurion Light, which Becka has appropriated into her caving gear. I’ve nearly lost or broken on a couple of occasions. I’m glad not to bother with that thing again, because a burn time of 12 hours is no use when dives are at most a couple hours a day. It’s huge and has a dangly wire between the battery and the headset.

Torches are a good investment, because one of the points of diving is to see things. Over the years they’ve become smaller and brighter, until maybe soon you’ll just have some bridge specks on the fingertips of your gloves that will emit rays when you cup your hand in a particular way.

Then we did a second dive and went looking for Cathedral Rock from the shore. Here are the instructions from Marine Reserve booklet:

To reach Cathedral Rock follow the main gulley between Broad Craig and the harbour wall. Keeping Broad Craig on your left and the training pool on your right, enter a narrow gully which drops down to approximately 5 metres. Swim to the right around the narrow gap and proceed until you reach a pile of angular boulders. From here head approximately 45 degrees to the right, passing over kelp forest on the way, until you reach a small rock face covered with dead men’s fingers. Swim past this rock keeping it on your left shoulder into a sandy gully. Cathedral Rock is on your right, just over a large boulder.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t find it.

The Lawson Wood diver guide (whose position for The President are out by 3 minutes of arc) describes the route like so:

Swim over to Big Green Carr [this is the wrong rock -ed]; keeping it to your left swim south in line with the reef. At the end of the reef you should see a low lying ridge extending at right angles in front of you; pass over this and you will meet a wall that curves to the left over a tumble of large boulders. With this wall to your right, you are now swimming east and you will reach Cathedral Rock in about 12 yards.

The problem with these descriptions is that everything is relative in terms of what constitutes a large boulder or a sandy gully. This is no use underwater where the visibility is such that you can only see one thing at a time. If you swim into a boulder that’s 2 metres tall, then it’s large if is alone on a rubble strewn plane, but small if it is surrounded by 8 metre high blocks. When you can see only than 5 metres distant, you can easily persuade yourself either way, and therefore the description is of no use. It might as well have said: turn left at the boulder that once had an octopus on it in 1998.

Had I realized that these descriptions were so utterly defective, I’d have looked online, and found this dive description:

The one thing you must do on this dive is trust your compass, so take your bearings and follow them!

On entry head right and at the end of Broad Craig there is an area of almost white gravel (actually shells and worm-casts); Take a compass bearing of 120degrees and swim approximately 30m to reach the site.

We had driven partway up to St Abbs on the Saturday and slept overnight in a layby on the A7 before seeking out breakfast in Berwick upon Tweed. The cheap eating place was packed out, so we wandered into town and hit upon the Mule on Rouge, which is where I’d be hanging out every day if I lived in this town. Unfortunately, Becka had just decided that we were now on an economy drive, because I haven’t been paying my house bills for a while, so we shared one single bagel.

On the Saturday I had been taking my telepresence robot around Makerfest Liverpool in the Central Library. It’s possible that this toy had something to do with the cashflow crisis.

Isn’t it cute?

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019 at 12:45 pm - - Whipping 1 Comment »

I just had a petition to the UK Parliament rejected on 20 June that I submitted on the 23 of May.

Now you could say that it was delayed because they were busy, but I went back through the list of rejected petitions, and found that they had turned down 320 other petitions in the meantime.

This tells you that they had a hard time finding a problem with it, and in the end just made something up.

Here is the text of the petition:

Legalise party political placards on street furniture during an election

The laws in the UK against fly-posting are so restrictive that, unlike in most other countries, elections are totally invisible to people on the street. Yet during the Christmas season the councils find time to put up decorations on every lamp-post to remind us that we need to keep shopping.
More details

In most countries (throughout Europe and especially Ireland) you can really tell when an election is on because the lamp-posts, bridges and traffic railings are festooned with coloured placards and banners, often with photos of the smiling candidates.

I used to be against it, but now I can really see the point in letting people feel there is something is happening. We have gone way too far in banning these notices. Trials should be run in selected parts of the country at the next election.

And the rejection notice:

Why was this petition rejected?

It’s about something that the UK Government or Parliament is not responsible for.

We can’t accept your petition because this would be a decision for local councils and not the UK Government or Parliament.

The law doesn’t explicitly prevent political advertising in this way. It does allow local authorities to remove any “picture, letter, sign or other mark painted, ascribed or affixed on the surface of the highway, or any structure or works on or in the highway.” It is up to local authorities how they use that power.

Obviously they are wrong, because Parliament makes the laws that tell local authorities what they can and can’t do, or indeed what the heck these institutions are.

If they’re claims were right, I would not be able to find in Section 5 of The Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015:

The Deemed consent for the display of advertisements

… deemed consent is hereby granted for the display of an advertisement falling within any class specified in Part 1 of Schedule 3, subject… to the standard conditions, except that paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 does not apply in the case of any Class 13 advertisement.

What’s that mean?

The way to read UK legislation is to know it for the tangled mess that it is. There ought to be an inquiry into why it gets so bad.

Schedule 3, Part 1, Classes of advertisements which may be displayed with deemed consent says:

CLASS 13 – Advertisements relating to an election

Description: An advertisement relating specifically to a pending Parliamentary, European Parliamentary, Northern Ireland Assembly or district council election.
Conditions: The advertisement is removed within 14 days after the close of the poll in the election to which it relates.

And then Schedule 1, Standard contions says:

Paragraph 4 No advertisement may be displayed without the permission of the owner of the site or any other person with an interest in the site entitled to grant permission.

To me, that looks like election posters can be put up without the persmission of the property owner. For “property owner”, you should think of local government property (eg lamp posts), not someone’s leafy garden lawn.

Sometimes posters do get cut down, but according to the reporting it’s seen as wrong because election posters are an important part of the democratic process.

The same is true in southern Ireland, where everyone knows election posters are important and simply considers them a necessary evil.

The law passed by the Irish Parliament is in Section 19 of the the Litter Pollution Act 1997:

A prosecution shall not be brought in a case in which an offence under this section is alleged to have been committed in relation to an advertisement if… [it] relates to a presidential election, a general election or a bye-election, a referendum, or an election of representatives to the Assembly of the European Communities, unless the advertisement has been in position for 7 days or longer after the day specified in the advertisement for the meeting or the latest day upon which the poll was taken for the election, bye-election or referendum concerned.

There’s also an Election Posters FAQ.

I’ve not looked up the Statute Law on the Isle of Man, but the Department of Infrastructure does “recognise that the campaign process for elect/on candidates may include the siting of posters and banners, and will allow for these providing they do not adversely affect the safety of the Island’s residents and visitors and those putting up the election material.[link]

Oh, but it’s different in the United Kingdom, you say — even though the first regulation I quoted there was laid before the UK Parliament and applied to Northern Ireland (which is still part of the UK at the moment).

Let’s look at that Regulation in more detail. According to its explanatory memorandum:

Parity or Replicatory Measure

Equivalent Regulations have been made in England [Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007], Wales [Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1992] and Scotland [Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (Scotland) Regulations 1992]

So, Regulation 6 of Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 says:

Deemed consent for the display of advertisements

… consent is granted for the display of an advertisement of any class specified in Part 1 of Schedule 3, subject to

(a) the standard conditions; and
(b) in the case of any class other than Class 12, the conditions and limitations specified in that Part in relation to that class.

So far so good.

Hit me with Class 12 from Schedule 3, Classes of advertisement for which deemed consent is granted:

Class 12 Advertisements inside buildings

Description:

12. An advertisement displayed inside a building, other than an advertisement falling within Class I in Schedule 1.

Humph.

There are no special cases for election posters listed anywhere here, or in any of the other versions of this legislation in the rest of the UK.

So, what are the consequences?

Posters on the street are the best thing for telling people of an event. Individual fliers delivered to houses take to much time, get thrown away and do not work. Online engagement is expensive and difficult and can only be undertaken successfully by experts.

There is nothing better for telling people that there is an event on or an election ballot within walking distance of their house than a sign on a lamp-post that they will walk past twenty times in a week.

I think people have to start putting up simple plain posters that there is an election on a particular date coming up at crossings and road junctions that do not state a party or candidate, but just reminds people of the date. As I said in the petition, it’s an important event, like Christmas. And just as the Council puts up gross plastic Santas that remind us to buy crap, but don’t say from which shop, they ought to have an equivalent set of decoration on every lamp-post to remind us to go vote, if they’re not going to let parties put up their own.

Update

Anti-politician posters seen in Belfast this March:

Probably quite illegal as they didn’t say what [real] party they were from.

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 at 1:35 pm - - Whipping

Someone who works on the railways told me that his Union, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) was one of the big unions in the UK that supported Brexit.

I wanted the check why, having recalled doing some research about railway policy and the EU (reported in a blog entry from May 2016) following some crappy speech from Boris Johnson about the nasty EU using an ECJ ruling to run their freight trains on our national tracks in preference to our patriotic privatized passenger trains.

The problem is that if a factory in Hungary wants to send 5000 tonnes of cheap sausage meat to the UK, they can put this into 200 lorries and drive them all the way to their destination on our roads, causing lots of pollution, and traffic jams getting in the way, and Boris doesn’t complain. But lord help us that they might possibly put this load onto a more efficient train and expect it to get through to its destination unspoilt.

You’d think that railway unions would be in favour of legally binding international agreements to increase the guarenteed capacity of the railway. But it turns out that Brexit stupidity is not all on the Conservative Party side.

In a Press release on 21 April 2016 the RMT wrote:

The European Parliament’s decision this week to back the opening up of all rail routes across the EU to more competition for private operators was just one more reason to vote Leave on June 23, transport union RMT said today.

Under the proposals in the EU’s so-called Fourth Railway Package, train operators would have complete access to the networks of member states to operate domestic passenger services.

The European Council had already agreed that mandatory competitive tendering should be the main way of awarding public service contracts.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said that the failed Tory privatisation of rail over twenty years ago using EU directive 91/440 was now being imposed on 500 million people by EU diktat without a mandate.

“This rail package is designed to privatise railways across Europe and its proposals are remarkably similar to the McNulty report on the future of GB railways, imposing further fragmentation and attacks on workers.

“McNulty, the Tory government and the EU share the business-led mania for privatisation and agree on the need to jack up fares and attack jobs, pay and pensions to pay for it, no-one has voted for that.

“It is impossible to make changes to this privatisation juggernaut inside the undemocratic EU so the only solution is to get out by voting Leave on June 23,” he said.

None of this makes sense.

How can we believe that the EU — every other country of which runs a nationalized rail service — is going to impose privatization on the UK whose railways are already privatized?

Also, I do recall that we had a Labour Government for thirteen years post-privatization, who carried on with the private railways policy at vast expense of money and political capital, only nationalizing the trackways themselves after a series of lethal accidents and a bankruptcy when it had no alternative. Now there were serious issues as to the democracy within the Labour Party during that time, which resulted in the RMT breaking from the party in 2004. This history needs to be remembered, because it indicates that the EU is not the source of our problems.

Later that year, after the referendum, the RMT wrote in November 2016:

MEPs have a critical vote on the future of our railways taking place on 12-15 December 2016. Privatisation of rail passenger services could be imposed on all member states if new EU regulations are passed into legislation. Even though the UK is leaving the EU, regulations in the Fourth Railway Package could still apply to the UK for years to come…

The Fourth Railway Package must be stopped. Please email your MEP before 12 December to let them know that you want them to vote against the Fourth Railway Package.

Oh yeah, what was that bit about the undemocratic EU?

It’s so bad and incoherent.

A fact checking organization looked at the case in June 2016, three days before the referendum, and concluded:

The pending changes to EU rail regulation, known as the fourth railway package, don’t require member states to privatise any aspect of their rail networks. Neither do they require any member to break up its national operator.

There was an initial proposal for rail infrastructure and services to be split into separate organisations, which would have meant breaking up national operators, but the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, directly intervened and it was dropped…

The new EU regulations promote competition for the market between rail operators irrespective of ownership structure, but not privatisation. As far as renationalisation is concerned the reality is that, unless the rules are interpreted in an extreme way, they do not make it any easier or more difficult than the structure in place at the moment.

The RMT did support a No2EU party that ran in the 2009 and 2014 EU elections garnering about 0.3% of the vote in the second poll, so was quite a waste of time.

What we’re seeing is an unreasoned, illogical, incoherent, counterproductive hatred of the EU from a large union who has a lot of sway with the current Labour Party. I can’t see where it comes from, because from the point of view of railways and transport, the EU and its structures are beneficial. They bring in a semblance of order, integration, interoperability, purpose and reliability that is essential for any transport infrastructure to serve society’s needs.

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019 at 11:57 am - - Flightlogger, Hang-glide

I think I’ve not been blogging ongoing projects are not working. A long running one that I have failed to report here is this dabbling with the RTK GPS system, which I learnt about by researching precision agriculture, having been tipped off about it by a guy from sixty-5 when I was working out of farset labs in Belfast earlier this year.

Anyway, in theory one can log the raw data from these ublox M8T GPS chips, use the open source RTKLIB software to process the rover GPS against a base station GPS to get a 2cm accurate time series (with a lot of help from the rtklibexplorer blog, and then plan to put one of these rover stations in each wingtip of a glider.

And this would have all been fine if one of the wingtips ESP32 devices that receives and transmits the UBX data from the GPS to my phone through wifi didn’t keep failing. I finally found out what it was: the tiny sheet metal antenna had snapped off so cleanly that you couldn’t tell it was missing.

Here is a picture of my three devices. The 2 rovers go into pouches with their own batteries and get tied into the wingtips.

Anyway, it was a rubbish and rough flight that I did last Tuesday, never getting higher than 2600 feet. Meanwhile, Becka was doing her Welsh 3000s walk across 15 peaks all of which were higher than I managed to fly, and got a photo of this Brocken spectre on the peak of Snowdon at 8am, having set off at 5am from the car.

I was tasked with being a few kilometres further down the road to provide the second breakfast and some sandwiches for her further journey.

No I wasn’t going to do that walk, after my experience with the Lakeland 3000s. Walking too far in one day is annoying, especially when you are constantly being told you’re not going fast enough.

The logical consequence of having more strength and always wanting to do more than anyone else is… that other people will want to do less, and this is going to be a disappointment.

So I went flying, and RTKLIB processed my one working GPS track, like so:


(Blue is the phone GPS and orange is the RTK gps.)

I was going to show some correspondences between the RTK GPS altitude and the barometric altitude when suitably filtered, but my interacting plotting system broke down. There are a lot of oscillations in the GPS, which I don’t understand. Will get back to it.

Monday, May 20th, 2019 at 11:57 am - - Kayak Dive

I’m carving out some valuable time from the other stuff to blog some notes and records.

The car failed its MoT inspection with 3 condemned tyres. (Some kind of bump in them that I couldn’t see.) I had an unhappy evening because I thought this had trashed our kayak diving weekend in Anglesey.

Apparently the dangerous bulge is in this picture here at bottom inside:

Yes, normally back in the 1990s I’d have driven the car anyway, because who’s going to know? But now with all the MoT records being computerized so you can’t shop around for a garage who might overlook the flaws, and all these automatic number plate recognition cameras on the motorways, I was for sure I was going to be busted by the police on our way out.

Fortunately Becka phoned up a kwikfit garage and I took it round in the morning for some new tyres at a high price, but it was worth it. We kept the fresh receipt on the dashboard as evidence that the issue had been addressed and didn’t encounter a problem. Even though we didn’t need it, it’s good price to pay for not to have this eating your mind during the whole drive.

After a stop off at Vivian Quarry for some air-fills (£4.50 for only 200bar and a long time to fill), we dropped in on the Astral Ship for an inspection.

We concluded that it wasn’t a robot friendly place, so I took it away and we were lucky to get my robot into someone else’s car for the ride back to Liverpool. More on this story some other time.

It was now 4 o’clock, and we got a kayak dive out from Cable Bay to the Euphraties, which was swarming with large spider crabs and had mounds of chain and other wreckage that blended in with the rocks so well you couldn’t tell, except by their form, what was natural or man-made.

Then we headed off late to the Tyn Rhos Camping Site Ravenspoint Road and ended up on the wrong side of a locked gate because we hadn’t approached it from Ravenspoint Road (idiot). The Liverpool Canoe Club were spending the weekend there and some of them had paddled to the Skerries durinig the day (one of the things on our bucket list). One of the other parties had passed us coming in while we were going out for our dive. They didn’t stop off to watch, as no one is particularly interested in kayak diving. In the morning we tried to see if there were any trips being planned that we could dive in the direction of, as it gives peace of mind to have a bit of company on the surface when you are underwater, but nothing presented itself. So we were back to our original plan of diving the Kimya, which I have been trying to get a decent dive on since 2004!

The wind had picked up from the northwest (it was supposed to be northeast on the forecast) and there was a bit of chop. The May bloom was overdue. It all looked like it would be another failure.

But we got there. After much anchor dragging of anchors, shouting and checking the GPS on my expensive phone in a pelicase (all my waterproof GPS’s are bust), Becka seemed to hook something at last. (After the dive she understood my outrage that it had been so difficult to hook — the wreck is massive and full of holes.)

Just as we were going down the line, a dive boat showed up. That made me feel more comfortable.

If everything went tits up, they’d probably pick up the pieces. It’s a 3km paddle from the nearest landing and there are no fishermen on the headlands, so it’s a pretty lonely spot round about here. No one is ever going to see you.


Becka collected the anchor from the bottom and carried it as we circled the wreck twice. I thought the lifeline to our kayaks was going to get tangled continually, but she skillfully kept it running free. I had thought at the start about tying the anchor to a good spot on the wreck, but it was so big you wouldn’t be sure of getting back to it again.


There were a couple of swimthroughs, and a huge hold that we sank down into towards the end of the dive. Luckily the divers from the boat hadn’t been in there to stir up the silt by then. Little splashes of bright colour from nudibranchs on any surface you cared to focus on.


And so we surfaced, climbed back on our boats, chatted with the other divers (who were from St Helens) and arm-power hauled our way back to Porth Cwyfan (the cove with the white church), and then hoofed the kit across acres of sharp low-tide rocks to the shore.

Now we would have had our tea at that spot, except that the place is very much in earshot of the Anglesey racing circuit, whose noise diary for 19 May 2019 gave their No Limits Motorcycle Track Day a noise category 2. It was pretty bad.

We drove to Newborough Warren where the guy collecting the £5 entrance fee had already gone home, and brewed up some tea just over a sand dune from the carpark (unfortunately melting the handle on the trangia tea-pot in the process).

Then, of course, we had to walk out to and along the whole length of Ynys Llanddwyn, scrambling up and down the rocks at the far end.

I was knackered.

Becka accused me of getting soft and complained that we had done nothing all day.