Hyper

A while back I started listening to audiobooks in the car. It started with books for the whole family and for long journeys. I pay a monthly fee to Audible to use the service and from that I get a “credit” each month to buy a book or audible title.

I have listened to the Percy Jackson series of books after the recommendation of a friend from Coventry and I just about tolerated those books. I am not a fan of the writing style of the author and really struggled to keep interested in those books. By the way, a friend from Coventry is just that, a friend, from Coventry.

I thought it worthwhile to start listening to books when I’m on my own in the car to compliment my podcast selection. I wasn’t really sure about what to read until I heard an advert for The Great Courses on the Scathing Atheist podcast. That made a lot of sense. I don’t necessarily have the time to keep reading books about sciencey stuff but I do tend to have quite a while driving the car. I have a yearning to keep learning, to keep trying to understand the world, all the while safe in the knowledge that when I die all that knowledge and learning will be made pointless from a universal perspective.

I chose to listen to a series of lectures on a subject I knew about to see if I could work with the audio medium. It was a trial series for me to decide if it was worth going with other lecture series.


Einstein’s Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists, 2nd Edition

By: Richard Wolfson, The Great Courses

I really enjoyed the lecture series and I learnt quite a bit about the history of the laws of mechanics. My knowledge from this has even informed my day job. This series of lectures is about twelve hours long in sections of thirty minutes. The whole system worked well.

For my next choice I decided to go for something with world history and also economics. If I could find a series that covers the world’s economy then I would also learn about the history of the world as the two are so perfectly entwined. A long while ago I had listened to the History Of The World In 100 Objects from the BBC and I was fascinated by how much trade is a central part of human success and history. Searching Audible I found the following:

An Economic History of the World since 1400

By: Donald J. Harreld, The Great Courses

It’s a series of lectures just over twenty four hours long. It took me a while to get around to listening to it and then months to get through the whole thing. It was well worth it though. Totally fascinating and perfect as a brief history of humankind along with plenty about the interconnectedness of economic success. I would suggest everyone listens to it. I don’t know enough about economics to know if the lectures are unbiased towards particular policies but my feeling is that all discussions were balanced.

My latest book is:

Hyperion

by Dan Simmons

I have read the paper copy of this book and it amazed me at the time. The whole Hyperion series was a massive operatic exploration of space and humans. I can’t wait to visit the stories again.

Dan Simmons is an author who has really made his mark on me. The first book of his I read was Carrion Comfort. I was in a real horror book phase as a late teenager and his book was a distraction from the standard Stephen King books and the scope of this book amazed me. From this I then read Summer Of Night. At some point I read Hyperion and then the sequels and they are a brilliant selection of science fiction.

Dan Simmons along with Stephen King and Iain M Banks are a few of the authors whose work has made me really challenge myself and think about the grander things in life. All of them are well worth reading. I shall probably devour the rest of the Hyperion series once the book is complete.

The Prologue [cue Up Pompeii sniggers] of Hyperion brought back so many memories and the horror of listening to descriptions of the Shrike! For many years the Shrike was such a figure in my conscious that a tattoo was considered, perhaps that will happen again?

Things Change

I watched Raiders Of The Lost Ark yesterday. It’s still a great film if you ignore the glaring inconsistencies and “Indy” problem. I think it’s one of those things you should just enjoy rather than tear it apart. Having said that I have an issue with it, something that had never struck me before but bothers me now.

Indiana Jones is a university lecturer who has young women swooning over him in lectures. This is made clear by the number of women in the lecture theatre when he is lecturing, this is 1936 and women weren’t commonly at university then, and the young lady with “Love You” written on her eyelids.

Later in the movie Indiana travels to Nepal to meet with his ex-girlfriend Marion. After an initial greeting she hits him [wrong thing to do]. This is the exchange just after that:

MARION: You son-of-a-bitch! You know what you did to me, to my life? This is your handiwork.

INDY: I never meant to hurt you.

MARION: I was a child!

INDY: You knew what you were doing.

MARION: I was in love.

INDY: I guess that depends on your definition.

MARION: It was wrong. You knew it.

Quite clearly in this situation we have a college lecturer taking advantage of his position of influence over a younger female student. She has every right to be angry at him. He’s even quite dismissive of her feelings in this situation.

You can see that in the early 1980s when this was released this was an accepted form of abuse. We now recognise the problems with this behaviour and treat it accordingly. Let’s be clear, I am not asking for the film to be withdrawn, I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch it but I am saying that times have changed and we need to understand how society is generally self improving over time [or at least the last seventy years].

Given the way things are going in this country and the USA I am worried that society will regress in acceptance and understanding of moral codes over the next twenty years. I mean I’m optimistic about it, but I do worry.

Sheer Fluke

The other day at work I needed to draw a circle on the whiteboard. I did it freehand and without thinking about it too much.

Not Quite Giotto
Not Quite Giotto

It looks pretty good, even if I say so myself. It’s a plan diagram of a car’s turning circle. The class were given the circumference of the turning circle and they had to work out the kerb-kerb distance even though in reality the question wanted the wall-to-wall turning circle distance.

Giotto did far better than me [so says the legend].

Am Port

I had a lovely time recently at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre in Hampshire. This was a weekend course in the wonderful setting of Amport House.

Frosty Hampshire
Frosty Hampshire

The weekend was spent with like minded people learning about personal development, emotions, biases, listening, understanding and respecting each other.

Hedge Shield
Hedge Shield

I know that a chaplaincy centre doesn’t really fit my overall view of the world but in all honesty it’s just a nice calm place to be. I didn’t have the room directly next to the church organ this time and in all honesty I was slightly disappointed about that! I did manage to fit a run in on the Sunday morning and that was pleasing. It only worked because we moved the clocks back to symmetrical time.

The pleached limes looked lovely with leaves and all that, but I didn’t manage to get a good enough photograph of them. Maybe next time?

Radio

Over the last two years the news has become increasingly depressing. I think that is because everything I hear goes against my views of what our society should be. All the politics since the EU referendum and election of May and Trump has been frustrating. I have often switched off from one of my twitter accounts because I find it depresses me, makes me worried for the future and makes me feel helpless.

I have tried to cut down the amount of news I consider. Recently I have found that listening to BBC Radio 4 a lot hasn’t helped my mood. The presenters don’t seem to approach the discussions in the way I think they should and they seem to miss all the important issues facing this country at the moment.

I went through a phase of listening to music in the mornings and evenings while in the kitchen and I am now at the point where I miss the voices. I like the music but I miss the discussion of talk radio.

So, I spent a little time last night trying to get a radio station from New Orleans play over my Sonos system. I am pretty sure that this station, WWL, broadcasts only to the USA and the website I get directed to doesn’t work properly in my browser. I don’t do any VPN type thing yet, although that might happen at some point.

So, I spent a little while trying to find the URL I could use to add WWL to my Sonos system. Sonos uses TuneIn Radio to connect to streaming services and WWL doesn’t broadcast over that network. However, you can add stations manually if you can get a streaming URL.

It took a little clever Googling around to find a source that would work but eventually I did it. I have now added WWL to my sound system. I am looking forward to, once again, learning about the weather in Louisiana and how the traffic is near the big lake.

A previous communication in 2016 covered this media switch also.

Why New Orleans? Because I follow their American football team, that’s why.

Shaming Farts

On a recent trip to Surrey I stopped off at Chobham services on the M25. You wouldn’t think I’d find much to comment on while having a quick wee break on a journey but “Oh My!”.

Every advert in the male toilets was for Shreddies and not the breakfast cereal.

Women Can't Fart
Women Can’t Fart

Now, I will look at their website shortly and comment after but my initial reaction was:

WHY THE FUCK CAN’T WOMEN FART? WHO CARES?

My immediate next thought was:

We’ve had plenty of period shaming on women and now we shame them into smelling nice and pretty all the time and won’t allow them to perform normal bodily functions.

Well. I hope that the adverts in the ladies’ toilets were all for fart-pants for men, but i am unaware of those facts.

This advert is appalling. Women must remain clean and sweet and smell of roses for men. Women aren’t allowed to fart. Women should be beautiful for men. Farting is bad.

FUCK this company. I found this advert and all the other similar ones in the toilets sexist and shaming of humans for doing NORMAL human things.

Now, I’m off to look at the website and I’ll comment below.

So, they do men’s stuff too. Most of the web page is products aimed at men. It’s still disgusting.

“Fabulous idea, a great quality product with great styling, this could save many a marriage! A much needed product, fantastic innovation.”

Fuck this company.

Being Bored

I have spent some time recently learning to be bored. I guess what I really mean is trying to learn to give up social media and put my phone down.

[I’d like to propose that mobile phones are no longer called phones, or telephones. They are now Portable Digital Devices and I rarely use mine as a phone. These devices need re-branding. The name needs to change to reflect their usage. I suggest PDA. This is controversial because PDAs were used in the early 90s and they died. They didn’t succeed because mobile phones came and took over. That is capitalism or progress I guess. So, Portable Digital Assistants need a revival. It more accurately describes the function of the rectangle of black in your palm.]

There are four main reasons that I have opted to try and get bored more often. One is Brexit, then there is Trump along with all the “stupid” and finally there is All The HATE.

I have a couple of twitter accounts. In one of them I follow a few people and use it to communicate with friends. The other account is full of random people and politicians who I follow for the news and pictures of aeroplanes. Over the last couple of years I have noticed that my overall personal mood has reflected the level of crap I see on twitter. I would look at my twitter feed every hour or so and catch up with what’s happening. But quite often the anger, rage and shock supplied by people on twitter was reactionary. It wasn’t considered or sensible.

I would react emotionally. I would re-tweet people I follow. I would become annoyed and enraged at the injustices I saw. It felt like everything I held to be good about the world was deteriorating.

When you read tweets about what racist shit the foreign secretary has said, try to understand trump, see the hatred towards minorities, see the hatred of the religious, see the twisted responses by people with internet-balls, see the hatred and such low level of discourse, then you start to feel worried about the state of the world.

If you can’t manage a walk to the corner shop without staring at your phone, then maybe you need to stop and put it down.

I removed the other account on from my phone about a month ago. I also have stopped the side-bar on my PC from popping up with that twitter account. I try to get my news from a couple of websites and the radio.

I constantly worry that I am missing out on a gorgeous photograph of an airplane. I worry that something might be happening in the world that needs my attention. This is FOMO I guess. I understand the troubles of generations younger than me who have never known anything else. That constant connectivity to a world of opinion and thought. Here’s the news for you people: humans aren’t “built” to cope with all that. Also, and this might be news to you, getting bored is a good thing.

I will add some provisos to that last statement. Make sure your mental and emotional health is good before trying to get bored. You don’t want to end up in a cycle of bad thoughts while out and about doing nothing.

Our best ideas and processing comes when we are bored. We have the chance to think and ponder and imagine. We should learn to put PDAs down. For an hour at a time to start. Then we can increase that. I’ve tried to leave my phone in the other room. I’m almost at that stage when I sometimes can’t remember where my phone is in my house. I hope to get better at this over the next while. Keep a book nearby, you know a printed book.

It’s important to switch off. To chill out. To wander the streets/countryside while pondering.

Lazy Headlines

A trend I have noticed more and more in the news these days is the use of quotations in a headline. This is probably because of two reasons. The first is that it is incredibly expensive to defend “libel” accusations in the English court system. This gags publishers to a certain extent. The second reason is that it makes headline writing easy and removes controversy because the publisher can say “we were using quotes”. Here are some examples from the best UK news organisation the BBC.

Quotation Marks Excuse
Quotation Marks Excuse

In the Toby Young article the term “regret” is used in quotation marks because it’s a feeling that an organisation is having. It’s obviously a bullshit term for the fact that the Office for Students’ were WRONG, but rather than admit to being wrong they claim the organsation has “regret”. Let’s face it, they were wrong.

“Intorlerance” is written because someone said it and the BBC don’t want to put any form of objective fact into the reporting. Also, this article relys on what MPs and Peers said rather than any form of what does and will work. It’s entirely opinion and therefore possibly wrong. Hence the quotation.

“Down to privilege” used in the third article is ammusing. Being in quotes means that it’s treated as an opinion rather than a potential objective truth. This saves the BBC from having to defend their wording for the article because all they are doing is quoting a scientific study, or maybe they are putting their own spin on it. It doesn’t really matter. What the BBC have done is shy away from stating an objective truth.

The world these days doesn’t seem to like the idea that some things can be known for sure and they are truths. We can test them. Hell, you can test them if you want to study for long enough. Other things are opinion. I’m not sure opinion belongs in headlines.

Not Risking It
Not Risking It

Look at these headlines. The BBC aren’t claiming the welfare system is at critical point. They aren’t being objective about it. They haven’t looked at the evidence and declared it is fucked. They have been lazy and just written down what someone said. It weakens the argument being made for investment.

“Lots to do”, if we were honest and objective then we could clearly state, without the need for speech  marks, that there is a ton of stuff still to do on Brexit. Once again the quotation weakens the argument being put forward. It lends a sense of opinion rather than reality.

“Cheating”, yeah. They were lying weren’t they. They spent more than they were allowed and yes they cheated. It doesn’t have to be in quotation marks. We know that’s what they did.

“Sexism”. This headline says that although someone accused Boris, the sexist, of being sexist, we aren’t sure and are really relying on the speech of someone else rather than declaring our foreign secretary a rascist, sexist idiot.

Just look at the US press. They accuse their president of telling “untruths” or being “misleading”. Bullshit. He’s a liar. Let’s call him that.

News agencies have a duty to report the objective truth as much as possible. The rising use of quotations means there’s less chance to offend people who can’t cope with objectivity.

Time At EGXH

I spent the weekend at RAF Honington for a competition the CCF had been selected for. It was good fun even though I spent most of Saturday with a migraine and in bed. I did manage to watch them become best dressed in the organisation and also saw their drill routine.

Here’s a few pictures of a proud base:

Rapier Hangar
Rapier Hangar

Sunrise
Sunrise

Just Hangin' Around
Just Hangin’ Around

Nuclear Strike Bomber
Nuclear Strike Bomber

Sorry there’s not a great deal in this communication.

Arc Light

00:26:04 – Arc Light. – What’s up?

00:26:07 – B-52 strike. – Yeah?

00:26:10 – What’s that? – Arc Light.

00:26:11 I hate that. Every time I hear that, something terrible happens.

00:26:15 Charlie don’t never see them or hear them, man.

One day, a momentous day for colour, I happened to think the place of work was particularly lovely. Fortunately I have a camera in my pocket and so recorded it for posterity.

Orange Grammar
Orange Grammar

My phone didn’t really capture the colour well as it auto-corrects the white balance and can’t cope. So, the above image, which I don’t process apart from cropping, is not really what it looked like. With that we could get into a lovely discussion about how we experience things and human memory but it’s probably best not to. Just to act as a contrast to the relaxed lovely image above, here’s what my work normally looks like:

What Work Looks Like
What Work Looks Like

This is the dullest part of my work. The best bit is seeing learning and understanding along with challenging views of people and trying to create a more progressive society that is accepting of all.