03
Apr
14

I’m thinking of voting UKIP…..

Why?

Why?

The other day I told a friend that I am against further mass immigration to the UK and she gasped. This was tantamount to racism! Well, it gets worse. I’m thinking of voting UKIP!

For decades I have voted either Liberal (now Liberal Democrat) or Green. The Tories are the party for the elite and old Labor were too engrossed in a failing ideology. New Labor betrayed the working class and put Thatcherism on steroids. Further, I have always respected what I perceived as the calm rationalism of many Liberals with their emphasis on liberty and pragmatism.

William

Liberty

To quote Sir William Harcourt, former 19th century Liberal Home Secretary and Chancellor:

“Liberty does not consist in making others do what you think right. The difference between a free Government and a Government which is not free is principally this—that a Government which is not free interferes with everything it can, and a free Government interferes with nothing except what it must. A despotic Government tries to make everybody do what it wishes, a Liberal Government tries, so far as the safety of society will permit, to allow everybody to do what he wishes. It has been the function of the Liberal Party consistently to maintain the doctrine of individual liberty. It is because they have done so that England is the country where people can do more what they please than in any country in the world”

Even when Labour accused the Liberal Democrats of betrayal by raising tuition fees I did not flinch. The Liberals didn’t win the election but were a junior partner in a coalition and so could not dictate the agenda and most of the people screaming betrayal did not vote Liberal. If they had prized low tuition fees so much they should have put their vote where there mouth is.

I don’t say that I love the Liberals, just that they seem the best of a bad lot. The fact that they are pro-Europe did not bother me as, very broadly, so was I.

But for some time now I have believed that England, and London in particular, are ludicrously over-crowded. There are too many of us. The roads and trains are horrendously congested, house prices are obscene and gradually, what was once spare communal space is being converted into private concrete structures.

Here’s the point: Though mass immigration may drive up national GDP it does not necessarily drive up GDP per capita and even GDP per capita does not place value on shared communal “goods” such as open space, personal space and time not spent standing on railway platforms freezing your fucking nuts off. In 2014 I may be richer in material goods than my grandparents but I am much poorer in space and in time.

However. I value free movement in Europe and can see that commons rules, a cosmopolitan society and various other Euro-paraphilia are advantages so I had thought that congestion is just a price I have to pay. Up until now I have accepted the pro-Europe stance. The world is coalescing into large power blocks. In a world of super powers Europe needs to stick together. We are economically and politically better off as we can get better deals if we negotiate as a united block. Sounds reasonable.

So what’s changed?

What’s changed is the abject failure of the leader of the main pro-EU party to mount any reasoned defense of the UK’s membership of the EU. What’s changed is that rather than Nick Clegg seeking to convince me with rational debate, he sought to bamboozle me with deceitful statistics, absurd slurs and patronizing rhetoric. (Try saying “wind the clock back” one more time Nick). Far from being a reasoned pragmatist I can see he is another arrogant establishment know-it-all who thinks the public are too stupid to understand the truth. He was TALKING BOLLOCKS and could quite easily have fitted in New Labour along with so many current MPs of all parties.

Of course there are right wing racist in Britain that we should be wary of and since parties like the BNP are going nowhere it’s probably true that some of these people will switch the UKIP.

But I am becoming increasingly aware of a different and equally distasteful form of bigotry that goes un-criticised, overlooked and is now so prevalent that it is acceptable even for national politicians. It is the bigotry of the Left. One only has to read the comments to articles in The Guardian or The Independent to recognise the hysterical and hate filled lunatics which slaver over each article attempting to connect Farage with Putin or brand the Tories as racists for daring to even consider an immigration policy. Many of the articles in these papers are not much better and some Labour MPs treat the allegation of racism like a dog smelling the blood of an injured animal. They throw the term racist about without thought and now even insist that merely wanting Britain to be out of the EU is racist. This is deeply stupid and deeply insulting to a nation that has accepted millions of people from all over the world.

Of course we should be wary of populist parties given what happened in Europe in the ’30s but populism is not a definite indicator of fascism. For years British politics was dominated by the Tories and the Liberals until the newly populist Labour party were propelled into power in the 1920s. Also, the main goal of Nigel Farage is merely a referendum on EU membership which, incidentally, should have been conducted before the Maastricht Treaty was signed. If a referendum were now held then, one way or another, UKIP’s raison d’être should evaporate.

I had heard much of the argument between Farage and Clegg before but Farage made one new statement that made me think. When the European Economic Community (EEC) was formed the world was comprised of separate countries with industries protected by trade tariff barriers. The creation of the EEC was a way to create a large free trade zone which encouraged trade and promoted prosperity. Partly because of the example of the EEC the whole world is tearing down trade barriers and entering free trade agreements. Given this, how did political union get onto the agenda?

Farage made some excellent arguments against EU membership but there are reasons in favour that Clegg (and mindless left-wing bigots) seem too stupid to discuss. However, I no longer believe that British membership of the EU is good by default. I need to be convinced and am  having a rethink. Prior to the upcoming election for the European Parliament in May I intend to do some research and perhaps the pro-European lobby will find someone who knows what the fuck they’re talking about.

It’s said that the main reason for “ever closer union” was to put an end to the devastating conflicts between Germany and France. Very good. That’s their reason for remaining in the EU.

What’s ours?

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22
Mar
14

Plastic, Plastic, Everywhere……..at ONCA

Steve McPherson

Steve McPherson

I popped in to the ONCA Gallery on St. George Place this afternoon. ONCA stands for One Network for Conservation and the Arts and they have an exhibition on which highlights the damage that plastic is doing to our environment. Works by Steve McPherson are made up of small pieces of plastic collected from British beaches. On one work Mr. McPherson lists the probable provenance of each item and the wide diversity emphasises just how dependent our society is on this substance. Other exhibits highlight the dangers that small plastics objects pose to sea birds and downstairs a short film discussed Charles Darwin‘s expedition aboard The Beagle.  Darwin catalogued numerous flora and fauna which led him to wonder about the power of Natural Selection – survival of the fittest. The film went on to describe the vast Trash Vortex which is collecting in the Pacific Ocean and may be three times the size of the UK. The film asked: what type of life would be fittest to survive in a world choked with plastic?

It seems incredible that, as a race, we were able to ban CFCs for the damage that they do to the upper atmosphere yet our society continues to churn out plastics which damages what might be termed the “aqua-sphere”. Surely by now we could devise plastics which break down over time or after contact with saltwater?

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22
Feb
14

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club

Last night I saw Dallas Buyers Club at the Duke of York. I was looking for anything; a film that wasn’t a silly action thriller and this seems a good candidate. Grabbed a large glass of red and we took seats half way down.

Ron Woodroof is a gambling, drinking Texan who is told by a couple of doctors that he has HIV. His friends ostracise him and the only treatment the doctors can offer is to put him on an AZT double blind trial where he wont even know if he’s getting the drug or a placebo.

The film traces his attempts to obtain various medication which had not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration. He teams up with a transgender woman (Rayon) and, to avoid prosecution for selling drugs, they set up a club to supply HIV sufferers with various pre-trial medication which will at least alleviate the symptoms of AIDS.

The one fault in the film is the way Woodruff suddenly morphs from alcoholic looser into an intelligent, organised and single minded powerhouse but this is easily overlooked and we gradually warm to this new character as his affection for Rayon grows through their shared struggle.

The major achievement of the Dallas Buyers Club is that we begin to understand how the United States medical establishment, though built to help patients was, in fact, an obstacle to alleviating their pain. The film brilliantly shows how the gay community came together to help themselves and how, eventually the establishment realised that its lengthy drug trial processes are a luxury that had to be streamlines for the emergency.

This is an intelligent film which avoids black and white characterisation of good guys and bad guys. As much as we cheer for Ron we also sympathise with the doctor as he rages that allowing patients to treat themselves makes it almost impossible for him to carry out legitimate (and it must be remembered, vital) drug trials.

Spilling out into the street we headed straight for the pub opposite, Circus Circus, which was quiet and where I learned that my friend had worked for an AIDS charity in the 80s. After a number of Kronies I found a £20 note in the Gents. A successful night I’d say.

st malo beach

St Malo Beach

31
Jan
14

Skiving rife at UK Met Office

boffins?

boffins?

Hundreds of staff at the UK Met Office have not attended work since early December and are spending the winter in luxury hotels in the Caribbean at taxpayers expense it was alleged today by a British blog site. The British boffins spend their days lazing by the pool, scoffing slap up dinners of Lobster Thermidor and quaffing magnums of champagne said a man.

The allegations came to light after boat owners observed that the gale warnings graphic on the Met Office web site has not changed for months. “It’s bloody obvious” said someone, “the bastards know that British winters are always crap and they’ve just pasted up a picture of constant gales everywhere and pissed off to the Bahamas”.

Nobody from the Met Office was available for comment.

No Change

No Change

Yachts

Yachts

16
Jan
14

Nikon release the Df – Bastards

In 1982 I bought my first Nikon, an FE. The SLR everyone wanted in those days was the Nikon F3 but that was too expensive for me so I bought an FE. An aperture priority 35mm SLR with a large bright viewfinder. I carried it everywhere, the controls became second nature and I loved that camera. I still have it tucked away in a cupboard having been replaced, first by a pretty miserable Nikon D70 and then by a full frame D700 just prior to the release of the magnificent 36 Megapixel D800 – Bollocks!

The D700 is a good camera but I still miss the manual controls and positive feel of my old 35mm SLR and last year I added a new compact camera, a Fujifilm X20. A little retro rangefinder camera with a neat manual zoom and some physical controls with a very nice feel to them.

But what I really want is a digital back for my old FE. Well I haven’t seen that yet but Nikon have just released what they deem a digital replacement for the F series!

Bollocks! Having already lost a chunk of money on the perfectly usable D700 can I really justify over £2000 for a Nikon DF?

Nikon Df

Nikon Df

Nikon FE

Nikon FE

Fantastic Art Photography

Fantastic Art Photography

04
Jan
14

Phones are smart but God would be cool

VALIS

If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him – Voltaire

What a miserable and irritating day in the office. Got out as soon as possible, pedal to the metal and switched on the vibes. Apple i-whatsit selected a good batch of loudness to blow away the office fug, kicking off with Sidewinders Sleeps Tonight (R.E.M), Walk (Neil Young) and Up All Night (Razorlight). It then started to mellow a little while remaining energising with George Michael and Aretha Franklin’s I knew You Were Waiting and by the time I hit Brighton was calming me down with a more contemplative Killing Me Softy by Roberta Flack.

How did it know what to play?

I have long suspected that there is a primitive intelligence built into i-Tunes but I have never bothered to investigate. If there is not then one day there will be. It would monitor number of plays, how far through the track you got before skipping, what other tracks were played on the same journey, how fast you were driving, how harshly you were accelerating and breaking etc. Technology is moving at breakneck speed, not so much in the invention of new technology (though this is occurring too) but in the integration and innovative use of what we already have based mainly on The Internet and Smart phones. The media bang on about how “powerful” smartphones are and they would have us believe that they “empower” humanity. Most absurdly they tell us that all this nonsense is“cool”. But is it?

A year or so ago I invented a system where the public could summon taxis via their phones. I say I invented it, I thought up the idea in a taxi after a night’s drinking but some young upstart got there first in the form of Hailocab. Upstart? Start up? What’s the difference? Good for them. Not to detract from the people who run Hailocab, as they are doubtless doing a great job, but the concept is bloody obvious and was just waiting for someone to cover it.

This is the state of much of our society. Gradually the instant communication and access to information is transforming society. Just this week I was told that one brand of smart phone can now be accessed from the touch screen control panel in my car and last week I noticed a Youtube button on my iPad and when I pressed it youtube migrated across to the telly. Then there are these bracelets which monitor your body and relay information to the phone and thence to the cloud and The (increasingly bizarre) Independent ran an article this week showing how heat maps of the human body can indicate different emotions.

Of course! Of course! Of course! Ubiquitous and seamless integration is what it’s all about. But away from the handset, in those massive data centres, two other phenomena are gaining ground. Big Data allows the system to understand massively complex datasets and Cloud Computing provides practically limitless power to crunch the data.

Put all this together and the office wallah of the future will still have a shit day at the office (probably an even more shit day) but when he gets to his car it will have much of the healing capabilities of Larry Niven’s Autdoc. The car will liaise with the person’s bracelet and embedded chip. It will access the company data and understand that the worker had spent most of the day on fucking Quarterly Reporting. Not only that but the nob-head who occasionally sits diagonally opposite had been at his desk that day talking shit like he always does. It will check the company restaurant data and realise that the fucking chips ran out and the coffee machine was broken again. It will analyse the workers bowel movements, check his diary for social engagements, check his medical records for past incidents, read the angry text messages from his girlfriend and gain a thorough and intimate understanding of our hero’s state of mind and body.

The car will then play the right music, set the right temperature, take the best route, hold the call from his mum and, as he nods off to a well earned snooze, deliver him home refreshed and with his mood much improved (MMI).

Good, good, excellent excellent!

Of course it wont stop there. All this will be going on constantly. This will not be a centrally controlled system. It will be a decentralised alliance of technology ostensibly under the control of each individual but, ah, there’s the rub. Maintaining control will be a pain and mean sacrificing functionality and oooooooohhhhh………we don’t like the sound of that do we. I bought a Smart TV last week and, after switching on for the first time, it asked me all sorts of impertinent questions and if I’d failed to agree to its Terms and Conditions “some functions may not be available” – Fuck That! – Click, Click, Click. Agree, Agree, Agree!

The system will, for example, learn that every time our man is in the same room as a certain woman the evening ends badly. It will therefore start “weighting” events which it suggests in attempt to do what’s best for him and it is in the “calibration” of such settings where things get interesting.

Our man could, of course, access some kind of life configuration screen and modify the thousands of parameters that have been set on his behalf but these could be mind bogglingly complicated. He’d attempt to tune it but would end up with a fridge full of spam fritters and taking the route through central London to work every day. “Reset it to the defaults” the help desk would advise.

Then there are the governments with their armies of techno-spooks who will attempt to rig the system either covertly, for their own ends, or overtly, for the public good. Recently the UK government considered tweaking the price of booze to stop us drinking. (Bastards!). In future this will not be guess work, it will be a science and it needn’t be the price that is modified, it could be a parameter named Tendancy2Pub which is used by all smartphones. Nudge theory and technology will coalesce and in the run up to the annual budget Jeremy Paxperson will interview a doctor on Newsnight who will advocate that the default value of Tendency2Pub be set somewhere between 12 and 17 while a representative from the British Beer and Pub Association will claim that simulations had shown that each point that the parameter drops below 25 means a loss of a thousand jobs. “Just look at Turkey where Tendency2Pub is set to 3 and which has massive unemployment. “Tosh” the doctor will scoff “studies have shown that Turkish unemployment is due to Respect4Education being set too low”.

Of course it wont stop there. The system itself will start to correlate Tendency2Pub and Respect4Education and all the millions of other parameters across all the nations of the Earth and will then consider that it knows better than the government and start tweaking the parameters by itself. Might it then be conscious? Alive? It will be interesting to see exactly when mankind realises what’s going on.

Sometimes I think that life may be no more than a lot of complexity rattling around making a nuisance of itself but the sticking point has always been self replication. It seems quite a feat for a lifeless molecule to suddenly start replicating and this is where the deities jump in to claim responsibility.

A recent TV program discussed the nature of DNA and appeared to suggest that replication wasn’t such a big deal after all and. If that’s the case, and life (and hence consciousness) is no more than the result of massive complexity, then we have to assume that the vast complexity of Internet connected paraphernalia must eventually become conscious. A Vast Active Living Intelligent System as the prescient Mr. Dick would have it.

So, rather than giving men the power of Gods perhaps the result of the explosion of technology will be confirmation of Voltaire’s aphorisms “Si Dieu n’existait pas, il faudrait l’inventer” (“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him”).

Now that would be cool!

End of the World with a Poppy

End of the World with a Poppy

18
Nov
13

The Science of Doctor Who – Light Entertainment

Leave it! - Just Walk Away

Leave it Coxey! – Just Walk Away.

Thursday night I watched The Science of Doctor Who on BBC2 with the (oh so trendy) Professor Brian Cox. As he frolicked around in an old fashioned lecture theatre I thought it must be one of those Reith Lectures and I paid keen attention.
They’d roped in a room full of TV celebrities which I thought odd. Inviting celebs to watch An Audience with Victoria Wood makes some kind of sense but The Science of Doctor Who portrayed itself as a serious lecture. Why should I give additional credence to a speaker merely because some soap actor is gawping at him?

I also wonder about the veracity of the science trotted out in this program. I’ve been into science since I was a kid. Planets, black holes and first contact were the stuff of my youth and I am always slightly peeved when programs such as these are made and I see that we do not seem to have moved on very much.

These programs rarely go deep enough! Two things in particular bugged me about Thursday’s program. While dripping out standard scientific dogma Professor Cox based his arguments on two claims but never backed them up with any discussion of the questions which necessarily arise.

Firstly, the idea that nothing can escape from a black hole because the escape velocity of a black hole exceeds the speed of light and nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. This is taken as gospel by legions of science groupies and I have argued in pubs about this before to no avail because once some famous figure, like Professor Cox, states this on TV everyone repeats it ad nauseam as if they too understand the principles on which it is based. Usually they are TALKING BOLLOCKS!

To explain: Matter has the property of attracting other matter to it and this is what we call gravity. A gravity well is the effect of gravity surrounding a body of matter. As gravity is a fairly weak force, the body has to be pretty massive before gravity is appreciable so we’re normally talking about planets, stars and whatnot. The escape velocity is the speed an object must travel to completely escape from the gravity influence of a body.

But why should one leave a planet or star at escape velocity? Why could one not simply decamp at a legal and pedestrian 4 miles per hour? Ask anyone who pretends to understand this and they will not be able to explain it but state emphatically that it’s impossible. They are TALKING BOLLOCKS! The Wikipedai entry on escape velocity clearly states “A rocket moving out of a gravity well does not actually need to attain escape velocity to do so, but could achieve the same result at any speed with a suitable mode of propulsion and sufficient fuel. Escape velocity only applies to ballistic trajectories”. By this they mean that if you lob something you must lob it at sufficient speed.

Given this then there the fact that the escape velocity of a black hole is greater than the speed of light need not dictate that it is impossible for an anything to ever leave a black hole and if this is true then the notion that a black hole is a “singularity” evaporates.

Secondly Professor Cox considered how light bouncing between two mirrors appears to travel at one speed between the mirrors yet if the two mirrors are set in motion the light moving between them must travel further (as it also travels along with the mirrors) and therefore the speed must be greater yet this would not be apparent to an observer travelling with the mirrors. This was portrayed as proof of Einsteinian relativity weirdness.

Well, duh! Obviously the light would travel further. Good old Newtonian physics would see to that as the light traveling between the mirrors would move in conjunction with the mirrors themselves (assuming that the whole palaver was set in motion together).

“But the speed of light can’t change, it’s always constant” whine the relativity pedants – Maybe so but the scenario portrayed in Thursday night’s program contributed nothing to this argument for or against. In the TV program the strangeness of Einsteinium physics did come through and it obviously beguiled the room full of media luvies but if one replaces the idea of light bouncing between mirrors with ping pong balls bouncing between bats then one can see that the movement of the balls is obviously different according to the motion of the observer which is what a lot of this speed of light weirdness is about.

I suspect that there is more to all this than meets the eye. An interesting thought experiment is to start from the idea that both mirrors or bats are stationary. Then one has to ask: stationary in relation to what? And this is where the whole relativity thing kicks in because there can be no concept of stationary without reference to another object.

But this is never discussed! Nothing said by Professor Cox on Thursday night explained why light must have a fixed speed. Since the scientific world, including, Professor Cox, bang on about this so much and since they base much of their arguments upon these two principles I suspect that there is truth in their arguments but I suggest that they underestimate the intellect and interest of the viewing public.

I recall a Reith Lecture fairly recently where they went deep and explained the background behind Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. It was fantastic! I understood and it opened doors for me to understand further. Sadly, programs such as these are rare and as my memory dims my ability to explain the mechanisms fades and I find myself shouting over the jukebox “Something to do with particles….” before putting my pint to my face.

The Science of Doctor Who was a let down. It set itself up to be a serious lecture but in the end it was no more than a bit of fluff to milk the celebrity of Professor Cox and make a lot of actors feel they understand science without doing any thinking.

st malo beach

St Malo Beach




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