Sunday, July 30, 2017

Brexit: The Movie

This must be annoying for those who shout, 'Little Englanders!' or 'Racists!' It's all about getting out of a protectionist, destructive and failing bureaucracy with not one mention of immigration. It's about getting out of a anti-democratic trade-killing technocracy. Suck it up.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

After a long hiatus I’m back to reading and enjoying (sometimes) books. And really, rather than occasionally mentioning them on FB, I should start putting some reviews here.

People debate about what exactly a good book is. For me it’s did it engage me, interest me, did I care about the characters, did it satisfy me and simply, did I find it enjoyable. When I picked up The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi I already had a good idea how it was going to go, since I haven’t read a bad book from him. So it was again with this book. It’s the kind you sit down and read in the early evening, then find yourself halfway through before bedtime. It’s about as difficult as eating chocolate mousse –  it just glides down.

In the far future, humanity has left Earth to create a glorious empire. Now this interstellar network of worlds faces disaster - but can three individuals save their people?

The empire's outposts are utterly dependent on each other for resources, a safeguard against war, and a way its rulers can exert control. This relies on extra-dimensional pathways between the stars, connecting worlds. But 'The Flow' is changing course, which could plunge every colony into fatal isolation.

A scientist will risk his life to inform the empire's ruler. A scion of a Merchant House stumbles upon conspirators seeking power. And the new Empress of the Interdependency must battle lies, rebellion and treason. Yet as they work to save a civilization on the brink of collapse, others have very different plans


Update: And I have to congratulate him on getting 'cockwomble' into a book!

Get Over It

There is a perception, amongst some, that the world is going to hell in a handcart. A terrorist bomb goes off, the US dumps excess stock of cruise missiles in the Middle East, Putin does some sabre rattling and oh my God World War III is going to start! A tornado picks up a tractor in the US, a small town is flooded in the UK, climate activists issue another ‘it’s worse than we thought’ report and oh my God Earth is going to become Venus and we are all going to die! Corbyn got more votes than expected and Britain is going to turn into Venezuela! Students and opportunist thieves burn cars and break into shops in Hamburg and fascism is on the rise! Brexit will cause the economic collapse of the UK! We only have (select preference) days to save the NHS! The ice caps will all melt by 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 etc. and we’re all going to drown! While Trump is a fascist dictator!

It’s bullshit, mostly.

We like to join the dots and recognize patterns, even if they are not there. We like to tell stories. And the internet is perfect for these because more news is available and it is immediate. But you need to be selective if you want to put together a story. We are all addicted to confirmation bias. (I’m as guilty of it as anyone, and I’m guilty of it in this post.) You fear Islam? Well it’s easy to find numerous stories of Islamic atrocities all around the world and put those together as the fall of Western civilization. You dislike Brexit? Plenty of stories of how bad it is sure to be from partisan news media. You dislike socialism or capitalism? Easy to cite their catalogues of failures. You’re into the modern version of original sin? Plenty of stuff out there from the Church of Environmentalism to confirm for you how you are destroying the planet.

No, we are not descending into chaos. Shit happens. Shit has been happening forever. Natural and human-caused disasters have not, I would suggest, increased, while the political madness of the past with its putsches, exterminations and stomping of jackboots is not on the rise, in fact has been steadily declining since the World Wars. A hundred years ago religious fanatics were killing people, there was always a war somewhere (in fact WW1), natural disasters and diseases were wiping people out … only what you heard about these things was limited to newspapers, usually sometime after the fact. For example, if a tsunami had washed up on Sri Lanka back then would we have even known about it? Probably – a few column inches on page three of the Times a month after it happened.

And there’s another aspect to all this: bad news sells and is propagated while good news gets lost in the noise. People like bad news, probably because it’s life-affirming for them: hey, this terrible shit is happening … elsewhere and to someone else.

The reality: we are living longer more comfortable lives – compared to people a 100 years ago we in the Western world live like kings. Global poverty and starvation are steadily declining. Medical advances are steadily ridding us of diseases. Mind-blowing technologies are rampant and radically changing the way we live.

Life is good. Get over it. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Larsen C Ice Shelf

I remember the Cockermouth flood in 2009 when, without delay, protestors had their green wellies on and 'save the planet' signs up and were marching down the flooded street. It was global warming you see. As I have been doing on and off for 20+ years since I realised something stank, I did some research. Oh right, the earliest recorded flooding was in 1761 (when they were catching salmon in the high street) since then flooding had occurred in 1771, 1852, 1874, 1918, 1931, 1932 , 1933, 1938, 1954, 1966, 2005, 2008.

Now a huge iceberg is breaking off the Larson C ice shelf in the Antarctic and, oh my god, the planet is melting. But context is all. That ice shelf was only discovered in 1893 and we have only been looking at the Antarctic properly, by satellite, since the 70s (just as world temperatures have only been measured accurately since then). The berg breaking off of Larsen C is an example of calving, which has been happening forever. Buried in the hype you will discover little details like … the thing was getting thicker before it broke off, which of course doesn’t fit the narrative. So, if you're buying the hysteria and think this calving of huge icebergs has never happened before, think again (Thanks to Steve Goddard):

We are also told that warming is a long term thing and that we must ignore the last 20-year hiatus in it. Don’t get me wrong. The increase in CO2 does increase the greenhouse effect and does have an effect. It has, for example caused a greening increase in leaves on plants and trees equivalent in area to two times the continental United States. The real debate is not about whether this increase is true and causing warming, but about whether it is catastrophic. Catastrophists cite positive feedbacks that never happen, they cite computer models that are never right, they blithely tell us the ‘missing heat’ has, in defiance of simple physics, gone down into the ocean.

Take a chill pill.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Space Battles

So, if you wanted to see a picture of space battle scenes from the Cormac books, which ones would they be? Maybe Dragon hammering into Hubris in Gridlinked? The Occam Razor destroying cylinder worlds over Masada in The Line of Polity? Jack Ketch 'shitting laser beams' in Brass Man? Battle Wagon charging Erebus's formation in Polity Agent? Orlandine directing a black hole matter fountain in Line War? What do you think?

Facebook Catch up

Few bits from FB over the last couple of months...

June 6th
How many here have tried this online dating lark? I've just about given up now. No dear, clinically obese is not 'a bit curvy' and 20 or 30 is not 'a few extra pounds'. And seriously. In this age when just about any bit of hardware takes a picture, claiming you don't have a recent one is a bit of a joke!

June 8th
Right, election day is here and now I breathe a sigh of relief. I will not be posting anymore party political stuff - too divisive, polarising. I can't be doing with seeing the responses of 'friends', or some of their posts, and thinking 'wanker'. Back to science, books, writing and occasional embarrassing details about my personal life. 

13th June
I had a stinking cold starting the week before last and extending into last week. During that time my focus was mainly on trying not to feel like crap. I had some other work to deal with too and didn't get much of the latest novel done. Looking on the bright side, one of my escapes from feeling like crap (beside stuffing my face with comfort food) was really getting into reading again, which is great. But now I'm back on it: 2,000 words done yesterday and 2,000 done today.

29th June
Ooh, snippy. 'I don't like your opinions therefore I won't read your books anymore'. *sigh* Hell, if I took that attitude I would have missed out on a lot of great books, films too. I guess I'm as guilty, but people really need to look outside their sociopolitical bubbles sometimes.

3rd July
Aaargh! Bloody computers ... or in this case printers ... I think. Y'know, I've got a job of making up stuff, writing it down and keeping readers entertained. I really REALLY don't want to spend hours pissing about, searching the internet, trying and failing to load firmware etc ad nauseum. I really don't want my printer unilaterally deciding that, for one file, paper must be fed in manually, and then telling me about a non-existent paper jam! Aaaargh!

5th July

2,000 words yesterday but the word counts are dropping now. At 116,000 words I've reached the stage in the middle-of-a-trilogy book where I have to deliver a satisfying ending but also maintain the overall story arc of the trilogy. This has made me realise that something I have been signalling, even from the end of the first book, needs to be toned down. This ... event ... is the ending of the second book but it needs to be more of a surprise. Today I'll copy the document and start tearing it apart, excising stuff and sticking it back together again to see how that works out...

Corporatism and the TPD

Catching up with some blog posts. Here’s one I started some while ago and never posted:

Corporatism is defined asthe control of a state or organization by large interest groups’. Unfortunately it is one of those words whose meaning has been blurred by misuse (sometimes deliberate) and you can find lengthy articles about it. The best I’ve found, which simplifies and covers what I mean, can be found here.

 “Corporatism is the merger of state and corporate power with each side helping the other grow larger. Governments own, invest in, or heavily regulate every single company in this country and have enormous influence in business. Politicians and bureaucrats have their own friends and cronies in those firms as well. It’s the same for corporations as they have lobbyists in government to make sure that all those investments and regulations benefit them. Both are intertwined to form a government-corporate state that prevents capitalism from functioning efficiently.”

“That marriage has grown big government and big corporations at the expense of individuals, their small businesses, and the free market.” 

Corporatism is what we have now, not capitalism. Even Noam Chomsky, that darling of the Left, when asked what he thought about capitalism, replied, “I think it’s a great idea if we were to ever try it,” (Chomsky, 2002). 

The TPD (Tobacco Products Directive) out of the EU is a perfect demonstration of corporatism in action. In the development of ecigs there was massive innovation, numerous products from numerous small companies, and it's been a real game changer. Only the special interest groups - big pharma, big tobacco, those sucking on the teat of 'public health' - didn't like that. So, allied with an authoritarian regime seeing tax revenue disappearing, they pushed for regulation that kills innovation, kills those small companies that cannot afford to adhere to it (also by generally shoving up other costs), and, by reducing the nicotine strength of eliquids, kills the effectiveness of ecigs themselves.

It is still continuing with attempts to ban eliquid flavours because children might be attracted to those that have the flavours of sweets, despite the fact that children who use ecigs usually smoked before and that ecigs have consistently been shown to be a gateway OUT of smoking. The cry ‘think of the children’ is often an excuse for heavy-handed legislation.

And of course all this is working because now there are people out there who seriously believe it is better to continue smoking than use ecigs. I’ve met them and been baffled by such ignorance. I lot is being said about ‘fake news’ recently and the finger of blame points at the internet. In reality this is just a magnification of what has always been happening across all news media.