Youthful Revolution

There used to be a time when protesting caused changes. When a massive show of anger by the people caused politicians to stop doing what they were doing. I wouldn’t say they changed their minds because I honestly don’t think that’s what happens. Politicians cow down to massive disruption because they fear for their own futures and it makes them look as though they listen.

In 1981 there was the Brixton Riots. I remember the news of these. It scarred my impression of Brixton for a long time. But at then end of the riots there was an inquiry and things changed. The racist policy of stop and search was covered with a new code of conduct for the police. It didn’t do enough and nearly twenty years later the Macpherson Report pretty much said that lots of the previous recommendations had been ignored and the police were still institutionally racist. I guess change is slow, but it does happen.

The Poll Tax riots of 1990 caused the eventual downfall of the Thatcher government and the Poll Tax was removed by John Major and replaced with the council tax. In this situation the riots changed the direction of the government.

On the 15 February 2003 easily over one million people marched through London to protest the imminent Iraq war. Those people were right. But it did fuck all. Look at the shit we are in now with the middle east.

On 10 November 2010 over half a million people marched against the conservative policy of austerity [which has killed thousands]. It did fuck all.

On 20 July 2019 London’s streets were filled with people protesting the imminent leaving of the EU by the UK. Regardless of the fact that pro-Brexit marches can only get a few hundred people together this march has done fuck all.

When the political class is as entitled as they are [consider Rees-Mogg lying on the benches] then they don’t give a shit about what they are doing to the country. They will carry on with their idealistic policies whatever happens because there are no consequences to them. They don’t give a flying fuck about the poor, about the weak, about those struggling. They have a complete lack of empathy. They just don’t understand what actual real fucking life is like.

So. The world and this country needs to change. Radically. We can look after everyone while at the same time making sure that things will work for the future. It is possible. But it isn’t possible with the current political leaders in power. Revolution is needed. A fully written constitution and a decent respect for all people must happen.

Time to be revolting.

What The Future Looks Like

Dead. I hope I’ll be dead before the Water Wars start. That’s what I spend a lot of my time thinking about. There’s an impending doom heading for this planet and I’m just hoping I’ll miss the worst of it. I’m scared for my kids and the shit they are going to have to face. I feel helpless about it all and would rather live on in ignorance. But, I can’t, I probably should do what I can. But it’s too late.

I don’t have hope.

At this time I think the world is just past the positive-feedback-loop of climate change. Maybe forty years ago we could have made changes that would mean we could have stopped the current warming and saved the world. But I honestly think we’ve gone too far. Humans have known the problems of climate change for all of my life time. But no one has really done anything about it. My evidence that we’ve known comes from rock band Testament. They wrote a song for their 1989 album Practice What You Preach called “The Greenhouse Effect”. I learnt about this stuff when I was at school in the 1980s.

See the burnt earth and the figures crucified by the inaction of the older generation. I am part of that generation now. I’ve done nothing. I’m not sure I can do something. Our world is ruled by short-termism politics and individual gain. Those in charge don’t give a shit about the future. If they did they wouldn’t keep the ruinous policies of today. We have cars, planes, lorries, ships all burning carbon based fuels. We have homes where electricity is from carbon sources. Heating is from carbon sources. This world is slowly dying and those in charge can’t or won’t see it. It’s actually beyond them.

We Are Fucked
We Are Killing Ourselves

Unfortunately for the population of this strangled planet anything done now is likely too little too late. I’m convinced we have already passed the point of no return. There are no noises of politicians actually doing anything to solve this. They sit there probably thinking the same as me – “hopefully I’ll be dead”. Here’s a list of things we can’t solve:

  • Burning carbon based fuels
  • Melting of glaciers around the world
  • Ice sheets melting
  • Thawing of the tundra
  • Plastics getting everywhere
  • Ocean life dying
  • Reefs dying
  • Acidification of the oceans
  • Warming of the oceans
  • Increased storms
  • Fresh water supplies dwindling

Ideal feedback model.svg
By Me (Intgr) – Own work, Public Domain, Link

The positive feedback has started. Any actions we take now will only mitigate the changes. We might be able to slow it down. We might be able to stop the warming at a level that means only a billion dying but I suspect that’s not going to happen. I am not hopeful about the future of humankind.

Even that megaband Metallica wrote a song in the early 90s about how the world was fucked. It’s called Blackened.

I suspect we all like to think that in the future we will live in a lovely village:

A Village
A Village

Or maybe our future is more Blade Runner? Living in massive urban areas with amazing culture and increased wealth extremes?

The City
The City

Unfortunately I honestly think our future looks more like Mad Max.

The Wastelands
The Wastelands

Now it’s time for the young to rise and claim the Earth as their inheritance and remove the ruling classes from power. To save the world needs complete revolution. A massive change in the politics. A move to more future planning and doing the right things.

My parents’ generation did nothing and they’ll be dead soon.

My generation did nothing and I don’t think I can tell you how sorry I am for that.

Worldwide revolution is needed. Government for the future.

I don’t have hope.

Ad Astra

I went to the cinema. I feel bad writing this. I didn’t enjoy it. But let’s get the formalities out of the way first.

I went to the Cineworld cinema at Rochester. I went to an 18:00 showing and I was a little surprised at how empty the lobby was, normally on Saturdays it’s very busy. Maybe I was at that “just before” time when many are still thinking of going out. It was lovely and sunny and I made a mental note to check the state of the tide. It was high, nearly full. This pleased me as earlier in the day I had run by the river slightly further upstream and the river was low. I run pass the navigational section and then along the tidal section by Allington lock. Given I was running at around 11:00 and went to the cinema around seven hours later I expected a high tide.

As is also customary I rated the film on IMDB and then tweet the result. I pondered this for a long time and even had to check my own rating system which is explained within this communication. It’s weird looking things up on your own website. I often do it to remind myself what I thought of a film at the time or which bands I have seen and what I thought of them. Somewhere within these communications I mention that this might be a kind of diary.

So, here’s the rating:

I wanted to like this film, I like space films. But, I had to score the film 4 as I hated a lot of it and didn’t really care about anyone in the film. I stayed until the end but only to see what happened. I wasn’t fussed about it. It was more annoying than anything else. I don’t know anyone who takes my reviews seriously. I’m there as a curiosity, a method for people to know me better rather than expect followers to take me seriously. If you read this website’s homepage you will see this is really a vanity project. A thing I do for fun. I am going to explain some of my criticisms but I should warn you:

THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD

The space scenes looked amazing and I was really impressed with the quality of the graphics. This is possibly the only good comment I have about the film.

The entire voice-over on this film was shit. It was annoying and the film would have been better without it. It didn’t add anything to the film and it didn’t explain anything that a vaguely intelligent person couldn’t figure out. One day the director might come out with a version and remove the voice over, explaining it was put there for stupid people. I hated it.

WHAT WAS WITH THE PSYCH EVALS? I don’t understand what shit this was. You say a few sentences into a microphone and record your pulse and something somewhere declares you fit for spaceflight? I don’t think the writers understood humans for this part of the film. It was interesting that McBride was clearly fucking insane from the beginning. If you fall off a space tower and tumble to the point that you might die but your heart rate doesn’t go above 80bpm then you are a psychopath. I hated these parts of the film more than anything else. It was terrible.

I liked the [impossible] tower at the beginning. It looked pretty good. I liked part of the background stuff to do with space flight like the med centres and technicians everywhere. If Earth has a tower up to space then why are they still launching people into space using chemical rockets? I know rockets look cool but SPACE ELEVATOR. If the technology exists to build a fucking massive tower [searching for intelligence??] then it exists to build a space elevator.

The unintentional sky diving scene could have been better. If there was so much stuff falling from the space tower then the main character, called ROY ffs, would have been ripped to shreds during the fall. We didn’t see him steering away from the tower. We didn’t see him try to get away. What happened to the rest of the tower? Did the single switch Roy flipped save everything?

How do you go from being an outdoors technician on the space tower to being an expert in flight of every type of rocket later in the film? This man was essentially a “chap who fixes the tower”, even though they had robots doing this, and he was also someone who was a miracle worker with flying rockets and knew all the systems in every space craft. What shit.

We can’t send a secure comms link to Neptune from Earth? Why Mars? Just because I think. The director wanted to show spaceflight. I think he failed quite dramatically. I think it was meant to take nineteen days to get to Mars and yet the film was meant to show action. I don’t think he concentrated on creating the right things. Yes, I am being critical of an action film, No I am not a film maker. On the journey to Neptune we see the loneliness of space flight after Roy manages to kill everyone but that could have been built up all the way. It was all annoying.

The first time I got my phone out to make a particular note was when Roy was on the moon. Someone said something like:

“We need to get going soon because it’s nearly a full moon.”

Boring military person on moon.

Unless there is a lunar eclipse it is ALWAYS a full moon on the moon. The sun ALWAYS lights half the moon you stupid writers.

The Moon. Let’s talk a little about that. Roy takes a rocket trip to the moon like the Pan-Am flight in the film 2001. He launches using a chemical rocket and heads to the moon. I don’t know how long it took them but it is implied that is was less than three days, which was fine. But, when he gets to the moon it’s a major city with tourists and stupid shops etc. If everybody on the moon got there by chemical rocket then it would need thousands of rockets taking off all the time. The expense of getting that many people ot the moon would be prohibitive. I hated this part of the film. The journey for Roy looked exclusive but the moon was just a crowded holiday resort.

On the moon they make the first car chase explosion make a boom noise and then none of the others. Annoying.

On the moon the moon-car, which looks like the lunar rover from fifty years ago FFS, leaps over the edge of a crater and still lands safely. Gravity still accelerates objects on the moon and the buggy would have broken/spun/killed everyone. Annoying.

In the moon city everyone walked around like the gravity was a standard Earth Gravity but then outside everyone acted as though they were on the moon. WHICH IS IT?

I have one word for the space station rescue on the way to Mars. Shit.

Let’s blame the Norwegians for doing naughty animal based research on a space station. Really? I’m not sure the director or writer understands other countries.

Landing on Mars using a shitty bad graphic of a space ship leaned over at an angle. Terrible. It denies the complexity of landing anything. It was annoying. No one on Mars walked like there was a limited amount of gravity. Everyone walked like they were in a standard Earth gravity. Annoying.

Mars city had the same problem as the Moon city. Where did all those people come from? Why were they all there. How large was the infrastructure of the Mars city? It seemed full of empty spaces and large corridors. This is not how you build things in space, especially if you only have CHEMICAL ROCKETS.

Here’s an idea lads. Once we’ve built our expensive base on Mars why don’t we include a perfect sound-room for recording messages to space? We could really make a proper sound booth with egg boxes and everything. Who knows when we will need it? especially if we can’t record someone and use that recorded message as we’ve already scripted it. My desperation was high by this point. I hated a lot of this film.

It’s probably worth pointing out that if someone dies on a spaceship you wouldn’t push their body out of the airlock. This would put them into pretty much the same orbit as you and the body would come back eventually to hit you or another spaceship. It is a bad thing to have extra stuff floating around in space. You wouldn’t do it.

I have no idea how ROY manages to get into the spaceship on Mars. It isn’t really covered. I mean somehow he opened an external door just at lift off and then climbed UP into the ship while it was launching and accelerating UPWARDS. If the spaceshit accelerated at three g then Roy would need to lift three times his own weight up into the rest of the spaceship. Of course he manages to get on board but in the process the others are killed when the film gets the physics wrong again. The rocket stage gets ejected and so the spaceship would have gone from acceleration to zero g. The astronauts would have flown the other way in the spaceship because of their inertia. It was established that up was up when Roy landed the ship on Mars.

I honestly didn’t give a shit about the journey to Neptune or what happened when Roy got there. It was all pretty bad. Poor writing and lazy filming. Most of it had been done before but in a far better way. I mean, if you have to kill your father just to get over the feelings of abandonment then I guess you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

So, WHERE WERE THE SURGES COMING FROM? What about the inverse square law. What? How was this all happening? Why was there so much data on other worlds? Were these worlds within the solar system? Couldn’t the data be sent by comms link? Why didn’t we see any film of people shaving in space? How do you have enough food for eighteen years in space? How do you keep warm around Neptune?

Oh god this film got worse towards the end. I wasn’t sure that was possible but it did.

My last comment for now, I’ll probably think of more things during the day and I’ll add them to this page: It was fucking stupid to launch yourself from a radar spinning thing at a spaceship miles away and ACTUALLY MAKE THE SHOT, then when shielding yourself from the rings of Neptune with a shitty bit of metal the film fails to understand impulse and momentum. Every time a rock or thing hit the shield Roy would have slowed down. He wouldn’t have made it as far as his ship anyway. He would have died in orbit of Neptune. It would have made a better film.

Oh, the older couple next to me opening individually wrapped sweets slowly so the crackling noise was spread out over a long period of time, fuck off.

I feel slightly bad that I hated this film as much as I did. Just sitting here writing this stuff is making me remember more and more about the terrible bits of this film. I am going to read some positive reviews now to see if my mind can change. Anything written after this point is extra from later today.

——————————————————————————————————-

Inverted Layers

As mentioned previously in these hallowed communications I do feel privileged to live in this area. I don’t really live here by choice but the countryside is lovely and quite varied. The view out the back of my house is open and wonderful. I can see over the fields, down to the river Medway and then the rising hills of the northern edge of the Weald Of Kent.

I try to make the point of looking out over the fields first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I get to see the world change colours through the seasons and every now and then I see some amazing things; hot air balloons, satellites, Spitfires, migrations etc.

Yesterday there was a phenomenon I hadn’t seen before. A layer of mist had gathered over the fields in the hollow just north of Bushy Wood and looked spooky. That wasn’t the strange thing.

Spooky Mist - wide (ish) angle
Spooky Mist

When you look more closely at the layer of mist you can see another layer hovering above. It’s clearest to the right in the picture this side of Bushy Wood.

Mist Layers
Mist Layers

If it’s still not clear enough for you then I’ve circled the thing below:

Inverted Mist
Inverted Mist

It’s quite fascinating and I guess I was impressed enough with it to go and take a photo and then write about it on here. I don’t think it’s something I’ve observed that often because it stuck out at me and really made me try and think about what is going on. I didn’t come up with any answers to that. I did want to get out there and walk through to see what it looks like from within though, but I didn’t. I’m saddled with things like work that I’m required to do.

One day this view will be gone because, as far as I know, then entirety of what you can see in the pictures will become houses. The local area council have a requirement for houses and rather than put them anywhere near the more expensive areas of the borough they have decided to build on fields at the northern tip of their area. The bit no-one cares about.

TMBC Planning
TMBC Planning

From the above diagram you can see where the development is planned relative to where all the money is within the borough. Anything south of the M20 has plenty of money, it’s the posh bit. The area within the circle is mostly working class small villages filled with Victorian houses. The road connections are poor and they plan to build ALL OVER THE FIELDS. There are plenty of brown field sites around where the local industry has died but I guess that’s more expensive than developing fresh green fields into housing.

Now, this is where I struggle a bit because I know that development is needed. I know that these things are required. I’m happy for changes. If they wanted to put wind turbines in those fields I’d be happy. If they wanted to make a small development I’d be happy, I mean it might improve the parking around here. But they plan to put in 1,514 dwellings. I suspect there are only a couple of hundred in my village at the moment. Have a look at the following map:

Bushey Wood Development Area
Bushey Wood Development Area

That little pink bit in the middle is the existing village. That purple bit? It’s all the development area. Fucking huge isn’t it? Also, the lower part is flood plain. As I said earlier I don’t want to be a NIMBY but it needn’t be that large. This is a lovely area of the countryside. Not in twenty years I fear. The character will be altered beyond belief. It’ll change the whole feeling of the area. I want to point out that a small development, maybe even doubling the size of the village would be more acceptable. Not this monstrosity.

The area of land is owned by Trenport. Want to know how you know they could be dodgy? They don’t have a website. Google it. There isn’t a Trenport website. There are some other development sites but nothing about the company itself. The registered office address is:
2nd Floor 14 St George Street, London, W1S 1FE
I suspect the company is into some clever tax planning because there are another seventeen companies based at that single address. Trenport is a private entity. I suspect it’s a cleverly structured company to reduce its “tax burden”. The company seems to be owned by that Barclay family who live on Brecqhou and have ruined the politics of Guernsey. Please see the magazine Private Eye for more information about the Barclay brothers and what they do to locals.

I have very little faith in the borough plan and that any company behind the development will pay its fair share of tax.

Passion and Warfare – Steve Vai

Steve Vai? He’s a metal guitarist isn’t he? I’m pretty sure he played with Whitesnake and then some others. I should get this album. I think that was my thought process a long time ago when I bought this album on music cassette.

SteveVaiPassionAndWarfare.jpg
By Source, Fair use, Link

This album had problems with the record on the music cassette. I liked it, even though it was instrumental all the way, but the tape had some problems. When I finally got this on download or CD the sound was so much better. I didn’t take the tape to be replaced at the shop because that would require human interaction and I don’t enjoy that at all. This album and Back In Black both had problems which I never resolved.

I’d definitely recommend streaming this album. I know I’ve enjoyed it but I think the mood has to be correct. Give it a go yourself.

I grew up in the cross over age between analogue and digital recordings. My early memories of music was either vinyl or music cassette. At home there was a record player and I have owned two in my time. There was also a small “portable” music cassette player which was my mum’s and she had ABBA albums mostly to play on that. I do remember my dad having Oxygene by Jean Michele Jarre on tape but I don’t ever really remember them playing and enjoying the music. Strange that.

My first album was bought on vinyl. It was a big decision and my mum was quite insistent that I really wanted that album. The Ghostbusters OST is still considered a classic by those who grew up in the 80s. I don’t recall what my first music cassette was, it’s been a long time. I do know that the “purist” in me preferred vinyl to cassette and I would buy on vinyl and then self record the music to cassette for portability.

Compactcassette.jpg
By ThegreenjOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Both vinyl and cassette have issues with reproduction of sound. When Phillips and Sony announced the standards for the Compact Disk it seemed an exciting world. To me it seemed strange that we would soon have to adopt new music systems and spend more money. I think I often fall into the trap of thinking that the current life we lead should be static and things shouldn’t change, but change they do. Music reproduction had been improving for all the time music had existed and the five-track had been and died, the phonograph was being improved, digital was on the way.

There were digital tapes and mini-disks but the CD has proven to be true to time and works well. I can remember watching Tomorrow’s World when they described a CD and played one in the studio. I can remember thinking that the sound quality wouldn’t work over the analogue broadcast just before the presenter said that us at home wouldn’t be able to tell the difference because of the analogue transmission system.

Television is now digital and 5.1 sound is transmitted on many channels. Sound quality is improving all the time. New standards are developed and the march forwards continues. I doubt the file sizes can get any smaller because there’s a lower limit on compression of information but I do think that we are now heading the other way and some people will start moaning that all music should be stored at a lossless CD quality.

When I was a teenager my pocket device carried ninety minutes of music. My current device carries over six thousand songs and I’m not even halfway full of the capacity. It’s quite remarkable.

Advertising

In my few years as a skeptic I have started to make complaints about false advertising. It’s important that someone does this as advertising is a self regulated industry. Adverts aren’t checked before being shown, they are only investigated if someone complains about them. This is why Ryan Air have made outrageous claims and then been told to remove adverts, but by that point the adverts have done their job.

The Advertising Standards Authority “regulates” advertising but they only check something out if there’s a complaint about it. I’ve seen Virgin Media complain about BT Broadband adverts and vice versa.

Virgin Media rulings here.

BT Broadband rulings here.

You can see it’s like inter-ISP warfare with each company making outrageous claims and the other deciding to take them to the ASA.

In principle the ASA covers things like TV, print media, and internet advertising. Also they cover any claims made on websites and posters and leaflets. The cover the UK. There can be some issues where a website based in another country fails the basic standards of human decency but the ASA can’t do a great deal about it except inform their counterparts in the host country. Other countries sometimes don’t give a shit about the quality and factualness of advertising.

If there are specific claims in an advert then the company must have specific evidence to back those claims up. So, if I make ethically sourced soap then I must have the evidence to back up that claim or I risk censure by the ASA. I can still make those claims, I just need to worry about a complaint being made. You might argue it would be unethical for me to make false claims but you obviously don’t understand “marketing”.

Some words have no real meaning in term of advertising:

  • “wellness” isn’t defined in law and means nothing
  • “nutritionist” isn’t a protected term and anyone can call themselves one
  • “health balance” is bullshit terminology
  • “natural” doesn’t mean shit
  • “energy” doesn’t mean what you think it means
  • “traditional” isn’t
  • “good bacteria” it depends

And so on. When products or companies use certain words you might think they mean something specific but they don’t. The companies rely on the fact that you will think they mean a very specific thing but in law and advertising they don’t. How often do you hear the term “energy-balance” or similar? You might think it means something specific but it is a bullshit term and so advertisers can use that whenever they want.

Advertisements can’t make specific medical claims unless they have specific medical evidence and this is how the ASA became the arbiter of what is and what isn’t science in this messed up world. Let’s start with an hypothetical:

Suppose I had magical healing hands. I might use a radio advert to claim I can improve your energy-balance [means nothing] and that you will feel more relaxed and ready to take on the world [also means nothing].

Healing Hands Therapies

None of the claims in that advert mean anything specific in terms of advertising. It is perfectly ok to use that advert. I haven’t made any specific claims and I haven’t used any protected terms that mean real things. Now imagine if I made the following advert:

Healing Hands Therapy will improve your life-balance and also cure your arthritis. Our therapies are so powerful they can cure colic and even remove cancers.

Healing Hands Therapies

Those are some very specific claims and so I need to have evidence to prove that those things can be cured with the healing hands modality. If I can’t provide evidence to the ASA for the claims I have made then I will be expected to remove the advert from circulation. Meanwhile thousands of people may have heard the advert and be gullible enough to think it works.

SINCE THE 1930s NO ADVERT, by law, IS ALLOWED TO CLAIM TO BE ABLE TO CURE CANCER.

I have made two complaints to the ASA. One was a product advertised in a magazine and it claimed to help with teething issues with babies. It was a necklace for the baby made from amber beads. Now, I’m pretty sure putting something around the neck of a baby is pretty bad but then claiming the vapours it releases as it is warmed by bodyheat calm teething pains is utter bullshit. Like this one on a page I just found:

Amusingly on this page, just before the reviews section, the company makes clear that they aren’t responsible for any claims made in the comments. This is a lovely get-out clause but I think they are wrong. The company is publishing the comments on that page and so they are responsible. The comments clearly imply that people buy this shit for teething issues with very young children. Don’t put things around a baby’s neck.

My complaint to the ASA about the original company was upheld and they were told not to advertise in that format again. But, as we know with Goop, there’s an awful lot of bullshit out there and plenty of people unaware of how sciencey sounding claims might be bullshit.

I also made a complaint about a leaflet I found in a children’s nursery. It was for the John Wernham College of Classical Osteopathy in Maidstone. They made specific medical claims about osteopathy and they are wrong. I complained to the ASA and the College had to provide the medical evidence for their claims. They could not because Osteopathy is bulshit. The ASA told them they had to remove the leaflet from circulation. However all those leaflets were already out there.

The “College” still runs. I’ve just browsed their website and I can’t find any dubious claims, only a rather large amount of bullshit non-specific language.

A few years ago the British Chiropractic Association [chiropractic is like osteopathy but even more bullshit] sued Simon Singh for a minor comment he made. Eventually the BCA lost the case and had to withdraw all the claims they make. At the time they sent an email out to their members saying that chiropractors shouldn’t make any medical claims on their websites and to remove those claims. A computer specialist created a program to scour the internet for chiropractic pages, search them and look for certain medical claims. There were plenty. That person then reported all those chiropractors to local trading standards. Here’s The Guardian article about that issue.

It is only by having astute members of the public that harm within adverts can be defeated. Please be aware of the problems with advertising and please take take anything you see advertised as legitimate.

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?

A Few Rough Years

I wonder why the years of the late 80s are stuck in my memory so much? I think it’s because I was becoming aware of the world and humanity. I was at that age where you start realising that other people exist in their own right and that some people have it hard and bad things happen. The following events are ones that are pinned in my memory and made me think about the world:

  • Chernobyl – April 1986 [100 upto 4000 deaths, maybe]
  • Piper Alpha Disaster – July 1988 [167 deaths]
  • Heysel Stadium Tragedy – May 1985 [39 deaths]
  • Hillsborough Tragedy – April 1989 [96 deaths]
  • Bradford Stadium Fire – May 1985 [56 deaths]
  • Challenger Disaster – January 1986 [7 deaths]
  • Herald Of Free Enterprise Disaster – March 1987 [193 deaths]
  • Bhopal Disaster – December 1984 [more than 2259 deaths]
  • Marchioness Disaster – August 1989 [51 deaths]

These are pretty much the ones I can name from memory. I guess it’s quite sad that horrific events stick in our brains. I’m trying to think of “happy” events from those times and all I can think of are personal or family events. There aren’t any global happy events that bubble up from the depths of my brain, perhaps they don’t exist? I’m sure they are there. I guess there was the 1988 Olympics but I have become quite convinced that sports mostly exist as a distraction from the horrors from everyday life and how we as society don’t really care.

What is the human obsession with reporting death and disaster when compared to the good things or am I suffering from a massive case of confirmation bias? I guess as a species we need to know when bad things happen so we can learn and change the rules to ensure these things happen less. Quite often these lessons are learnt, sometimes those invested in making money and power do their best to subvert the reports and changes so they can continue to make money and stay in power. That could be the Achilles heel of the human race.

While writing this I’ve been thinking about disasters in the 90s and I’m not sure I can come up with any. They must’ve existed and that seems strange that I can’t instantly recall them. If I looked for them I suspect my memory would be jogged but why aren’t they there for instant recall. I’m going to ask around and see what other people think. It would be interesting to see if those of a similar age as me have the same collective memories. That would make sense.

A collective memory would also explain so much about politics and the way it cycles. As a generation dies out the memories of the horrors they faced die with them and History channel documentaries don’t really do it justice. Then the new generation start making the same mistakes and using the same kind of rhetoric that was to blame for the older horrors. Let’s see shall we.

Breaking The Bank

I was reading a local discussion group on an interwebs platform recently. I live in a little village at the base of the North Downs, it’s even in an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Having said that the village has an history of being for the working classes. There used to be a brickworks at the river and this village housed the labour for that business. As far as I know the bricks for Buckingham Palace, or some of it, came from the Burham Brickworks. The brickmakers have gone. All that remains is the wharf and a few foundations, there’s an old railway route that went to the quarry, other than that the villages here are the legacy.

The discussion group had an image of a four bedroomed detached house for sale in the village. It was on the market for slightly over £400,000. This already seemed over the top to me but the very next comment was:

Shame you couldn’t get more for it.

This made the left-wing me want to spout. This country has a problem with social engineering over the last forty years which insists that owning a house is good and everyone’s aim. The population has also been conned by the media into thinking that rising house prices mean wealth and that any increase is a good increase.

[I am writing this before Brexit. I suspect the whole shebang is going to hell in a hand cart post-Brexit. This country is on the verge of collapse at the moment. Financially. Socially. Politically. Environmentally. I honestly fear what next year will bring. We already know mental health issues are on the rise because of the Brexit concerns in this country. What hope?]

Let me write that number again. £400,000. For a house with no large garden. A house with four bedrooms. In a less than desirable village underneath the flightpath for a small airfield. I was and am still shocked. To afford this house you probably need to be earning more than £80,000. Maybe I’m in the wrong employment sector. I’m not sure how I personally judge what is over-priced. I don’t want a four bedroomed house. I can’t afford to move. Perhaps this is personally motivated reasoning that just because I am unable to move I feel annoyed. Maybe I’m biased? I’m not sure where this communication is going.

What’s surprising to me right now is I’m looking at the £400,000 and thinking maybe that’s not so bad. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe houses are worth that? Maybe my own prejudices are affecting my thinking. Maybe only people earning loads of fucking money should be able to buy a medium sized house? This is what the media and society have done over the years. They have normalised extreme house prices. They have affected how the population think. They have made all manner of societal expectations normal.

Here’s the thing. If children grow up in an area and then go to get jobs that are available locally shouldn’t they be able to afford a house in that area? Is this privileged thinking? I don’t know. Two bedroom terraced houses in the village are “worth” around £230,000. Nearly a quarter of a million pounds for a little house. With just two bedrooms. What? At a time when wages aren’t rising [many having gone down in real terms over the last ten years] this seems ridiculous. You need to earn £40,000 to afford even a two up two down house in this village. If you work in retail you aren’t going to be earning that. This market system is bollocks.

Now, if you consider the sell-off of council stock to private organisations this means there are very few affordable places for people to live if they are on a lower wage. They are then at the mercy of the buy-to-let market where landlords have all the protections because this country is full of Tory assholes. This country has been brainwashed over the years and we’ve all been turned into selfish empathy-lacking wankers.

Over-Acting Joystick

Do you ever watch action movies and wonder where reality ends for them? It’s always the little things for me. Those small aspects of controlling mechanical objects that films like to exaggerate and mess up. But, it’s not just film, I see this sort of thing in kids cartoons and other media.

Last night I was watching a submarine based film. It was terrible and had loads of parts to it that I hated. But in it they had a small rescue sub piloted by two submariners. While driving this craft along they, on more than one occasion, had to turn “harder” and then ever “harder”. So, what did they do? They pulled harder on the joystick and made grimacing faces to show that this took more effort than normal to turn this tight. What shit.

Here’s some explanation. When we [humans] first made mechanical devices we had rigid linkages to the control systems and if it was going to take more effort to move the control system then we would have to put in more effort to our hand sized device be that a control column, wheel, or pedals. There used to be a direct mechanical connection from one end of the system to the other. This is fine for objects requiring little force to move control systems as humans can provide that force for a limited time.

Then, over time, our mechanical devices became larger and required more force input to move the control systems. Engineers and designers soon realised that the pilot/driver/controller couldn’t provide all the force [push or pull] required to move the control surface and so they needed help. Also, if large effort was required over a long period of time the pilot would become physically tired very quickly. So, powered control systems were invented.

When a pilot/driver/controller moves the control stick/wheel/pedals they actuate a motor which helps to turn the control surface or device. Now, it starts to get a little complicated. There is required a certain level of feedback force to the pilot through the control column so that they can “feel” what is going on with the aircraft/sub/car etc. This amount of feedback is controlled very carefully to ensure that the pilot can understand what’s happening to their craft while also allowing them to maintain a high level of work without becoming over-tired.

So, in the submarine movie they had the pilots obviously physically straining trying to turn this craft but that would not be the case in real life. Once the control column is moved as far as it will go there is nothing else you can do. It wouldn’t take that amount of effort to maneuver and you can’t turn a little tighter by grimacing. It’s bullshit.

This trope is similar to driving fast in a chase. It always seems the vehicles have another gear to change in to or the driver can put his foot down more. If you are being chased why aren’t you going as fast as possible from the very start. It’s lazy filmmaking because they could do other things to make the action interesting. The producers just settle for the easy.

So, as a rough guide to powered control systems and feedback devices I would suggest that anything before 1950 would require effort to move a control surface. That is a very broad brush. Many bombers had powered control systems and so it’s not the absolute guide but it does set a rough idea of how to spot the crap in a film.