Glad I’m missing the Olympics

Sometimes you hope that the theatrical spirit of “It’ll be alright on the night” will look after dear old Londinium this year. Unfortunately the odds are not looking wonderful. What with possible industrial action on the Tube, Border Agency at Heathrow struggling to man their desks and Zil lanes for the ‘dignitaries’ (Somehow that word feels dirty and vulgar in my mouth when I think about all the bloated plutocrats swanning about in their armoured personal carriers), with Surface to air missiles and snipers on the rooftops of various buildings, the whole affair will be an event to miss. Even if, as the Mash suggests, the MoD is resorting to ‘Surface to Air Cockneys‘. There will be too much security and not enough fun. On the other hand they could always make that part of the event See the authentic British ‘blitz’ spirit in this authentic re-enactment of wartime London! Queues! Rationing! Stiff upper lips! Boris on a Bike! Oh dear. Sometimes the fun never starts. I truly feel sorry for Londoners.

By contrast, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics were crammed with just about every type of armed enforcement officer from an RCMP Inspector to Prison Guards and private security all over the place. Yet Vancouver is way different from London because you can usually get where you want to go on the Transit regardless. No surface to air missiles, or snipers on rooftops. It was also heaps more relaxed, despite the presence of a patrolling cop or green coated volunteer on every street corner and cops on each carriage of the Skytrain. No Zil lanes though. The limousines had to take their place in the traffic. We’re very democratic like that on this side of the world.

Thinking about it, I’m wondering about the wisdom of roof top snipers in a city like London. All a terrorist nutter has to do is turn a corner and he’s gone. Add to that rush hour London’s notorious ‘people jams’ (Try Oxford Circus during peak travel times, with extra tourists). All a would be suicide bomber would have to do to cause maximum havoc is to join a queue, wait until he was in the mainstream and pull the pin. No sniper could touch him in that density of crowd, and the casualties from even a relatively modest detonation would make 7/7 look like a picnic. As for the surface to air missiles – that’s just window dressing. Firing surface to air missiles within a high rise urban environment? Which half crazed dingbat thought that one up? Think crashing aircraft and wayward ordnance in some of the most densely populated real estate in Europe – or rather not. I have to suppress a horrified prescient shudder at the merest inkling. Surely a better idea would be to stop the aircraft entering the populated area in the first place, rather than shooting one down when it was almost at its target. Burning aviation spirit and buildings do not mix – ask a New Yorker.

Personally I’m feeling fairly chipper because I won’t be watching a nanosecond of the London games. At home here in BC we’re cleaning the swimming pool ready for this Summer and although I shall be at a couple of conferences over on the mainland in July and August I’m looking forward to replenishing my tan during the mornings, and working in air conditioned offices in the afternoons and evenings. Then back home for a beer or whiskey with friends and maybe an evening barbecue and pool party. The past two Summers have been relative washouts, so local folk wisdom holds that this year will be better. I hope.

Update: With regards to certain officers of London’s Metropolitan Police censoring a rehash of the classical ‘Leda and the Swan‘ portrait drawn from the Greek myth. Which is no worse than some Perfume Adverts once splashed across advertising billboards. It tempts me to revisit Graham Chapman’s classic line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail every time I read the news about the UK; “On second thoughts, let’s not go there, it is a silly place.”

Perhaps the police concerned were bored and indulging in a little internal competition for ‘daft arrest of the week’. Swan upmanship anyone? I’ll get me coat.

What’s killing the mainstream media?

Sales are falling, the only thing keeping some media afloat is massive subsidy from parent groups, newspapers appear to be sliding down the slippery slope into a fiscal abyss. The ‘Dead Tree’ media is in trouble. TV stations are losing advertisers, but why?

At a recent literary event a few weeks ago, I was talking to a local poet who has been writing and working around mid Vancouver Island area for forty years. She vouchsafed to me that once a modest living could be made by writing, but no more. Now she didn’t run off at the mouth and blame the Interweb or new media, but made a few pointed comments about all the free content bandied about by various advocacy groups wanting to promote their causes. Lobbying companies and funding hungry NGO’s feed free sensationalised Fark and Churnalism to the news media, who, seeing a cheap way of getting content, cut back on real investigative journalism.

Now it seems to me that she has a point; I did a stint in PR back in the mid 90′s, writing hack pieces to promote the interests of the company I worked for at the time. Got a few bylines, nothing much. Wrote a lot I’m not particularly proud of, but hey, I was earning a crust. Now the practice is so widespread that it seems actually selling written copy is a dying artform. Far too much goes from press release to front page without critical thought or real fact (or spelling) checking. Actually coming across a reporter in print doing any in depth investigation nowadays is becoming rarer. Trying to sell original copy is likewise more difficult, as falling media sales occasioned by a dearth of original content encourage cash strapped editors to cut even more corners, to some extent appearing to exist almost solely on rearranged content, scarcely leaving their desks.

The real investigative journalists, at least the better ones, appear to still file copy but little of what they actually produce makes it into the front page, getting spiked or shunted into a less prominent position for more sensational stuff which junior, and less expensive staff, can unquestioningly regurgitate after minimal rephrasing to fit the relevant media outlets ‘style guide’. Normally these stories take the line that unless a certain course is taken (Usually involving a restriction or ban or some other form of draconian Governmental intervention), humanity is, even if only in a small way, doomed. Be afraid, be very afraid. Cower brief mortals.

Taken together this torrent of press releases paint a false nightmare surrealist vision of the world, where every solitary old person is a child stealing pervert, every kid in a hooded sweatshirt some kind of criminal mastermind, where every mouthful is so laden with bad things that you will die if you take just one small bite. The faintest sniff of smoke or lick of salt will kill you stone dead. Most of it is exaggerated, and the hyperbole is like pollution to the soul, it stains.

The real problem is that for every ‘World is ending if you don’t’ (Whatever) story, public reaction grows ever more cynical when the promised cataclysm does not arrive, or the timeline adjusted yet again. Rather like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Harold Campings once almost constant revising of the end of all things. Now we have arrived at the point where only the truly gullible and unquestioning will take a sensationalising report at face value. Be the story about CAGW (Sinking Titanic-like under the weight of its own bullshit), terrorist threats (Wildly overstated), dying Ursus Maritimus (Polar Bear population has increased and stabilised), new threat of an ‘orrible disease carried by sparrows (H1N1, ‘bird flu’ remember?), terrifying Asteroids or ancient cultures who died out before they could write another calendar. Humanity is assumed to be the cause of every natural disaster (Likewise not very often true).

So, faced with a fundamental disconnect with what they see happening in the real world, and what the traditional news media tell them, an increasing number of people are (Quite understandably) migrating their reading to the alternatives, or basically not bothering at all. Their attitude appears, increasingly to be “Oh God – what is it now?”

To give a little perspective; I grew up during one of the two hottest phases of the Cold War (Cuban missile Crisis, Vietnam), with nuclear Armageddon seemingly mere heartbeats away, every single day of the week. With the IRA leaving bombs on English streets and killing civilians. Yet here we all are. The Earth still turns to face the sun as it scrolls up over the horizon every morning. My putative grandchildren will one day glance back abstractedly and wonder what all the fuss was about. Perhaps all the hype will be dismissed as readily as modern historians discard the 10th and 11th century millennial ‘Second coming’ cults. Barely worthy of footnotes in the greater scheme of things.

I can foresee future archaeologists puzzling over the material fallout of the end of world predictions like the bases of collapsed wind turbines, and treating them as mere curiosities. Perhaps like Martello towers and other such defunct fortifications.

Yet where will the current mainstreams role be mentioned in the insanity that spawned them? Perhaps they will do what they always do, shrink, adapt, sensationalise, titillate and keep going. Even with the upcoming challenges from new media sources I think the major players will survive because some Murdoch or Hearst like figure will keep them going. Even if they fail, new ones will spring up because such publications fill an intrinsic human need for stimulation. Because even the most introverted and autistic must communicate. We are instinctively hard wired to seek out others of our kind and share our thoughts. Perhaps this is what Donne meant when he wrote that “No man is an Island.”

As the much-vaunted US President Francis Delano Roosevelt said in his inaugural address; the ‘only thing we have to fear is fear itself’ Indeed. The world will not kill us because we will adapt, it’s what humans as a species are really, really good at. The overwhelming majority of us will not be eaten, stung, or die horribly of the latest disease fad. Even if early demise is your eventual fate, what’s the point of cowering in a corner because some cheap intellectual bully gleefully touts the odds of your dying early to make their living? You’ll be dead regardless. To quote my father, who often told me “It’s a short life, but a merry one.”

Today I have spent time outside, writing in the British Columbian sunshine despite a chill edge in the morning breeze, watching the antics of a Rufous Hummingbird, idly wondering if I should spend ten bucks on a feeder to tempt it within camera close up. Youngest is on a road trip through the Southern USA and will return home within six weeks. Mother in Law is back from respite and less of a sleep problem because we’ve stopped pandering to her every self indulgent attention seeking moan (Even though her whining is an almost constant background noise). I will be ignoring her as much as possible for the next thirty days, after which we get our lives and home back. Good riddance.

Today is my first real day off in over a week. I’ve read the online media as much as I care to, and life, for the moment is good. The mainstream media stormtroopers of fear and guilt are far away, the birds and insects are busy with the surplus of spring, and another Winter is over. There is tea. There are bacon sandwiches. I’ve known things a whole lot worse.

Why ‘Smart Meters’ increase electricity bills

If you are one of those who are concerned about ‘Smart Meters’, here is a simple reason not to have one; It will significantly increase your electricity bill if you have any electrical appliances in your house or business like a washing machine, dishwasher, heat pump, storage heaters, air conditioning, hot water heater and / or pump, or full size electric cooker. See this article here for more detail.

Simply speaking, when any domestic electrical appliance is switched on, it momentarily draws heavily on the electricity supply. The key words to remember here are ‘surge voltages’. These surges at switch on can be several times the electrical rating of an appliance, and the bigger (and older) the appliance, the larger the surge. With the old meters this wasn’t an issue, as these surges are so short that the old electromechanical meters couldn’t record them. However, the ‘Smart meters’ being purely electronic, record every last milliamp, and report these directly to the suppliers via a mesh type network on a real time basis. Never mind being billed at varying rates for different times of the day.

Essentially what happens is that if you have a family that uses dishwashers two or three times daily, or cooks with electricity using an electric oven twice a day, and has gotten used to washing their clothes regularly, then your bills will soar, especially if you cannot afford to replace all your older appliances whose surge voltages are likely to be significantly higher than more electricity efficient modern equipment.

Using this technology has also raised concerns in the Security community, including the FBI, about ‘smart grids’ vulnerability to simple software tools which can in their simplest form, shut down parts of the electricity grid. Informed opinion is that these ‘attacks’ are likely to spread. The genie is out of the bottle, and the law of unintended consequences doing a happy little jig in the shadows.

The meters themselves are also laughably vulnerable to the notorious alleged ‘magnet hack’ (Look it up yourself), where two strongish electromagnets placed diametrically either side of the meter can slow it down. Simply covering the meters with a Faraday cage (or even common or garden baking foil) type structure can completely block a ‘smart’ meters RF frequency reporting. The trick for the householder of course, is not to get caught doing it, or blame someone else (Anti Smart meter campaigners, notorious ‘electrosensitives‘ – catch my drift?) when the RF blocking device (Faraday cage etc) is discovered (“Well I didn’t put it there.”).

To add insult to injury these smart meter roll outs are being subsidised by Government (actually ‘taxpayer’) as part of a ‘green’ initiative. Which rather makes a better case for smaller government, as all big government demonstrably does is create bigger screw ups on a grander scale.

For more in depth and balanced information on the full range of Smart meter issues, read this article thoroughly.

They do things differently there

Picked up on a couple of news items regarding an Albertan retiree who may face charges of assault after trying to get rid of a doorstepping political candidate who wouldn’t go. Apparently the Retiree in question had signs on his lawn indicating his intent to vote for the Wildrose Alliance party. Yet still the opposing candidate didn’t take the hint and whined when the old man ran out of patience and manhandled him off the property. Too busy talking and not enough listening seems to be the cardinal error here. A certain amount of offence-seeking and previous antipathy between Candidate and Retiree seems to be in evidence.

All the argy-bargy notwithstanding, that got me wondering exactly who the Wildrose Alliance were. So I went and had a look at their policy green book and was mildly impressed.

From my brief reading, their ideas and solutions for Energy development, Education, Free speech, Trimming politicians ‘Golden Goodbyes’, Law and Justice all seem relatively realistic and sound. Worth a deeper read.

Afterwards, Mrs S and I fell to discussing such matters, and our conclusion is that there is a firm dichotomy between predominantly Semi-Rural and Suburban lifestyles. The Suburban is complex, introverted, and safety seeking, while its opposite is simpler (But not always), more outgoing, and not so risk-averse. The Suburban are mainly pro statist solutions, letting ‘Government’ do all the heavy lifting, while the Semi-Rural tend to like less interference, and will predominantly seek their own solutions.

Blog admin

Nothing much happening I care to blog about, so today having mostly caught up on sleep lost since February, I’ve been doing a little sidebar admin. Links have been updated to people who’ve migrated their blogs, and I’ve added a few bits like the climate widget and some science links to various Auroral and Quake monitoring programmes.

The sun is shining, and the great Canadian outdoors is calling, and that’s one call I’m not going to “cop a deaf ‘un” to.

Meanwhile…. South of the border

While things aren’t all singing and dancing up here north of the 49th Parallel, Bill Whittle, a political commentator on the independent conservative PJTV station, gets good and angry about the ineptness of the current DC Administration. Whilst what he says is obviously highly coloured, he does ‘hit the spot’. My only issue with what he says is, the current frontrunning Republican alternative candidates aren’t going to fix the issues he talks about. Romney and Santorum both come across as sockpuppets (UK readers – think Cameron & Clegg). So if either of them get the republican nomination, by my reckoning there’ll be even less reason for ‘conservative’ or libertarian voters to turn out.

Our American friends need the policies of Ron Paul (apart from creationism in schools) to get them out of their economic Kamikaze death spiral, otherwise their collective pooch is so screwed. Which means ours will be too.

Oh well, what the hell, we’re all dead eventually. Today is gloriously sunny and the great Canadian outdoors beckons. I may even go to see my friends at the gun shop to talk firearms licences. Happy Easter. Moderation for first timers is off. Have fun.

End of Canadian long gun registry.

Just received:

Changes to the Canadian Firearms Program

On April 5, 2012, Bill C-19, Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act, came into effect. The key changes are as follows:

Removal of the requirement to register non-restricted firearms
Destruction of the existing non-restricted firearms registration records
Allowing the transferor of a non-restricted firearm to obtain confirmation of a transferee’s firearms acquisition licence prior to the transfer being finalized

Until further notice, due to a Court Order issued by the Quebec Superior Court, residents of Quebec are still required to register non-restricted firearms with the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program.

It is important to note that the new law does not change the requirement for all individuals to hold a licence in order to possess a firearm. The licensing, safety training and safe storage requirements for anyone who uses or owns a firearm continue to be in force.

The legislation also does not impact registration requirements for restricted or prohibited firearms.

Update: A subsidiary thought occurs that the new regulations on Ammunition storage are a business opportunity for the makers and fabricators of suitably sized heavy duty lockable boxes.

Children of thunder

I love the sound of hyperbole in the morning. One of my chief pleasures, if I can spend an hour or so to skim through the names on my blogroll and see what new perspectives they have to bring to a given subject, then my day is complete. Reading everyone’s amazement at how ‘thought crime’ now seems to be more important than real crime. How trainloads of taxpayer cash are thrown at pointless gesture politics. Exploring ways to fight an overweening top down system bowel bound bureaucracy. Exposing the faults of out of control statist systems. Talking about how individual freedom is leagues better than the ‘alternative’ of oppressive one-size-fits-all top down strategies. Poking holes in so-called ‘settled science’ with nothing more than simple facts.

These are the children of the storms to come. Harbingers of something greater and more wonderful than any real or putative ‘New World Order’. Better by far than political dogma. Relentlessly hammering out ideas on the anvils of their thoughts. Sometimes over reaching, but always trying. Persisting despite attempts to drown them out or shut them up by the socially inadequate and often sub literate they soldier on. That is what makes the members of my blogroll worthy of repeated reading. They have courage, chutzpah, and old fashioned guts.

Who are these dogged pursuers of the dream of freedom? These askers of inconvenient questions? All I know is the denizens of my blogroll are worthy of respect. Every last man (and woman) jack of them. I do not know the colour of their skins, their age, sex or religion. That is immaterial. All that is important is that they are standing up and claiming the right to speak and act freely, and by that single deed have earned those rights.

They give a damn. These are the children of thunder.