Category Archives: Musings

Back to the future

Well, we’re all set for our first odyssey to the fabled land of Oz, where according to some men who work, Where beers flow and men chunder. Flights are booked and paid for, visitor visa’s obtained, hotels booked and confirmed and cars hired. Eldest is taking care of SIM cards for our cell phones, so we’ll be in full comms less than two hours after clearing immigration and customs. So short of some unforeseen disaster or a direct nuclear strike we’ll be down under over Christmas and the New Year. In the case of cancellation we’re insured three ways to breakfast, so any financial losses by cancellation or delay will be minimised. Sometimes all you can do is try to stack the odds in your favour and let the cards fall as they may.

On the topic of cell phones, I sometimes look at all these handy little things that have so many Darwin Award contestants wandering across the road without looking, or getting killed driving while texting and wonder why they’re so fixated. What is it that’s so important they’re willing to court an untimely demise? It’s worth noting that some 16,000 of cell phone related road deaths were recorded in the USA alone between 2001 & 09 (I think – studies differ). In the UK drivers distracted by cell phone (Calls and texting) overtook the kill rate of all other forms of road death back in 2014. Allegedly (It was in the Daily Express). But even if it’s not completely true, that’s a hell of a lot of dead bodies just because dimwits can’t focus on what they should be doing. Specifically, keep their eyes on where the hell they’re going. If it was down to me, I’d set up a law that says if you were using a mobile phone at the time of a fatality causing crash, that should automatically upgrade to a manslaughter charge. But that’s just me. I’ve almost been run off the road many times because some tit behind the wheel simply can’t leave the phone alone. So colour me prejudiced. I don’t want my death certificate to read ‘Death by social media’.

Aslant to that topic, recently I’ve been suffering a bout of nostalgia for my old UK mobile, which even fifteen years after I bought it still does sterling service. As you can see from the picture below, I also have one of those rinky-dinky smartphones. The problem is that one of these devices is not really that much use to me any more. Guess which one it is, go on, have a wild stab. (Although not at me, I’m allergic to the sight of my own blood) Correct! it’s the Samsung Smartphone on the left. Yes it still does wi-fi and bluetooth, but so does my tablet. The main problem appears to be my version of Android. Now according to Samsung’s web site their devices will still support stuff like Whatsapp on Android version 2.3 up to 2020AD. The Samsung on the left has version Android 2.3.3 (and will update no further). Which might lead one to think; “Supported to 2020? Oh, that should be fine.” Only it isn’t. Unfortunately my network (Thanks a bunch Virgin) will not allow any of the new App upgrades like Google Maps and Whattsapp to update any more. So this all singing all dancing mobile phone, once a fully functional piece of kit, barely limps along. Not to mention the battery life being pretty crap. It no longer fulfils the purpose I bought it for and I’m still shelling out CAD$XX every month just for the privilege of connecting to my carriers cell phone network. Without the ability to make international calls, which is one of my chief beefs against Canadian cell phone companies. It’s not that phoning overseas costs, it’s just that my Canadian network block me from calling them altogether. Surely they can make more money if I’m allowed to call one of my overseas contacts like at 50+ cents a minute. Don’t they see that? Although perhaps they can, as an international ‘roaming’ charge is CAD$10 a day. Then they add your metered call costs on top of that. Sounds like a licence to print money.

“Well that’s okay Bill.” you might advise. “Go out and get a new phone contract. There. Fixed it for you. Off you go.” But honestly, as far as I’m concerned, a smart phone’s utility is limited. Especially if you’re prohibited from upgrading the operating system so that certain Apps can run. Yes, there are workarounds, but honestly, it’s a lot of faff for far too little return.

Frankly I’m buggered if I’m going to shell out for a sparkly new mobile phone every three years just so I have a functional means of communication. So the Samsung is going to be replaced by the phone on the right, my basic call and text only Nokia 6310i which plays no music or games yet after 15 years still has a battery standby life of over twelve days and three hours talk time and connects to any GSM network. For email, games, writing notes and general Interwebbery I’ll still have my Android tablet.

As for my new Windows 10 laptop. It’s not that wonderful. For onboard applications the ‘upgrade’ really doesn’t do a lot more than Windows 7, which was a worthy successor to the only other decent Windows platform, Windows 2000. The bundled application software like Windows Movie Maker are still better with Windows 7 than 10. Not sure what Microsoft are up to, but if Windows 10 is their best effort, then I’m distinctly underwhelmed.

Yes, yes, I could have bought a MacBook or iPad, I’ve got the funds, but I’ve never had the urge to be an Apple Fanboy. On the various occasions I’ve walked into an Apple store the customer service has been worse than useless. The only time I got decent service at an Apple store was because a mate was working as Tech Support Manager at that particular franchise. Every other time I’ve tried to attract the attention of an Apple store employee, all I got was a vaguely contemptuous look that said “What’s an old fart like you doing in here?” So I walked right out again. Which makes me wonder if there’s a part of the Apple store interview process that goes; “Are you a narcissistic fuckwit who loves Apple and won’t sell one of our darling devices to an over forty?”
If the answer is “Yes.” Trust me, you’ll be hired. At least if my previous encounters with Apple Store staff are any guide.

Anyway. My old Nokia 6310i. Is it unlocked for any network full size SIM card? Oh yeah. Does it work as a phone? Yep. Bluetooth compatible with my new stereo headphones and relatively new HK250 earpiece? You betcha. Does it pair with my cars satnav / radio / handsfree? Perfectly. Connects to any GSM Network? Dee-fine-ately. I’ve got a tablet, so why on earth would I need one of those new tiny screens to do my emails, notes and other general Interwebbery?

Answers on the back of a plain brown envelope please.

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A fall in Autumn

We’ve got snow on the deck! What the hell, this is sunny Victoria, we’re not meant to get snow until January! We’re still in Autumn for heavens sake! Looks a bit strange with the leaves still on the trees. See above picture of deck at 7:30am today. Damn. I may have to call Nanook of the North. And he charges like a bad tempered Rhino on LSD.

No seriously, nothing to see here move along, it’s just weather and part of the normal cycle of things here in the sunny south west tip of Canada. Every so often we get the odd fall of snow. Which is why we have Winter sports locations like Mt Washington in the mid island. Here’s the current state of the Tube run via webcam. Which is getting a huge inflated inner tube, dragging it to the top of a snowy slope and sliding in it all the way to the bottom and then some. Which is fun for non-skiers like me and works out way cheaper than getting all the kit and only using it once a year. According to reports Mt Washington had no snow last night, but I can tell them where it ended up if they’d care to collect. I had an inkling that we were due for a long cold Winter after the long and hot Summer we’ve just had. Simply because one usually follows the other. And no computer models needed consulting. They only get it wrong anyway.

No skin off my nose because our little SUV is kitted out and ready with all wheel drive and all weather tyres, and we’re on a main bus route which gets the snowplough first and regular clearings throughout the day and night. The downside of which means I may have to get out and go dig an exit through the icy berm they always leave in front of our drive. Or I could stay home today and stand in the front room with a nice hot cup of coffee admiring the view. (Pops into front room for a look – returns) No, no berm and the roads are clear. Well that’s saved me a job, and Nanook’s callout charges.

Our propane stove is now lit and pumping out all that healthy CO2 and a good tranche of heat. Which will prove a saving on our electrickery bills. Which can get astronomical because idiot politicians think that wind and solar power can replace even a few fossil fuel power stations. Or that an atmospheric trace gas affects climate in the long term manner they claim. Or that we don’t know that the CO2=climate is bad science being used to support one of the biggest wealth transfer schemes of all time. Fossil fuel stations we don’t use much because most of Canada’s electric power is Hydro based. Compared with other nations our use of fossil fuel and nuclear is tiny. To replace even one large power plant with wind power you’d have to cut down huge tranches of forest, at least in BC because what we do have is trees. Lots of them. Hundreds of thousands of square miles of trees. Just over 20% or the worlds boreal forests in fact. Cut down those to put up inefficient sources of electricity? I console myself thus; at least the trees can be replanted and grow back when this idiotic flirtation with retrograde technology is over.

So what’s going on in the big wide world? It the FT I see Gas (petrol) prices will rise because the Saudi’s are closing the spigot. Which may help the current misery of the Venezuelans, or maybe not. Maduro has big debts to pay before the extra oil money can trickle down into the rest of Venezuelan economy. Me, I think he’s cocked up big time and the country will be bankrupted before he’s finished. Despite their oil reserves. Up here Trudeau is losing popularity because he keeps on hitting working Canadians in their bank accounts and blocking pipelines while wittering on about how unfair it is about girls not being allowed to play in the big wide world. Which isn’t true by the way. Women can do just as well in commerce as men if they’re willing to pay the same price. George Soros is dying (I’ve seen recent pictures – no one looks like that and lives for long), which I think he knows, so has pushed USD$18 billion into his network of politically meddling non-profits. Just so he can go screwing up economies from beyond the grave. That Trump chap is motivating idiots to go and ‘scream at the sky’ on the 4th November because he won an election. One of them screams at me, I’ll simply laugh in their face and walk away. However, he doesn’t seem to let all the hit pieces and political sabotage get to him, he’s just doing what he said he would. And you have to admire someone like that, even if you don’t totally agree with them.

Update: Tesla shares drop over 5% with the potential end of US subsidies for EV’s.  Oh well, that’s that.  More EV’s for museum exhibits.

They’re everywhere…

Apparently November 4th is a day Antifa and friends, those fun filled little leftist scamps, will institute ‘A day of riots’. Oh my goodness, that is so coming back to bite them if they do. Not that it will because it ain’t happening. Why? because there’s just not enough of them for mass civil disobedience on the scale that is rumoured. Apparently they’re going to do this to fight those huge Fascist rallies. Of which the largest to date have numbered less than 600 and the average around 100, if that. Indeed, the only ones doing the rioting in their thousands seem to be those on the far left. And they have to be bussed around to concentrate their numbers. Same for all these ‘Climate justice’ marches. One demonstration I personally witnessed (Nanaimo 2010, Krall Plaza) was half a dozen locals (Mostly ‘street people’) and the rest getting off unmarked white buses just around the corner. Hmm.

But still, they’re everywhere aren’t they? Nazis and Fascists I mean. Everywhere I tell you. Look, there’s one goose stepping down your street right now singing songs of Horst Wessell! Sorry, no, it was just your neighbour walking his dog and listening to some 80’s music on his iPhone. But he’s a fascist because he doesn’t trim his hedge often enough, and didn’t pick up his dear little doggy’s doings yesterday, right? Yeah, and that Bangladeshi guy at the local store is a fascist because he didn’t give you the right change and gave you a funny look last time you deigned to try and shoplift a comic from his store. Or that hot guy / girl who wouldn’t give you the time of day, no matter how cool and edgy you feel in a bandanna mask, black hoodie, scruffy trainers and faux-proletarian accent. Then there was the old guy who gave you an annoyed look on the bus yesterday when you wouldn’t give up your seat to him, even though he was over seventy and needed a walking stick to get around. Or anyone else you don’t like the look of.

All these people are all Nazis and Fascists, who right (or more likely left) minded people should be out punching and kicking, yeah? All they have to be is ‘white’. Or Jewish (They’re all closet Zionists). Or not ethnic enough. Or too ethnic. Or male. Or dare to make a joke, any joke, or even laugh quietly to themselves in the hearing of some joyless extremist bigot. Or be men older than thirty five in which case they need to be attacked because, hey they might be thinking about becoming fascists or don’t agree with the confused medley of beliefs being pushed by a relatively small panties-in-a-bunch group of student activists barely out of their teens and still struggling with the aftershocks of puberty. The same for a number of their professors and administrative staff who seem to live in a very odd set of bubble realities. But that’s Academia for you.

If you listen to the extreme left even middle of the road old me is a rabid National Socialist despite loathing collectivist totalitarianism (Nationalist or Internationalist) with unconcealed venom and being a citizen of the world with diverse family connections spread out across the globe. As well as having relatives with darker than Nordic complexions (2nd Cousins by marriage, nieces, nephews, that sort of thing). Nor am I a supremacist of any kidney, well, apart from being morally superior to those who would attack random strangers for their ’cause’. Just in case they have a different opinion or harbour ‘National Socialist’ sympathies. By predominantly middle class white people who wear uniforms (Black bloc is a uniform) and smash stuff up. Which leads me to ask; who do they think they are, the Spanish Riot Police?

The extreme left are currently behaving like the post World War One Red Front (Rotfrontkämpfer) did back in early 1920’s Weimar Germany. Intimidate. Beat up. Attack the innocent. Then get all bent out of shape when the extremist opposition (Stahlhelms, later the extreme right SA) gets organised and does exactly the same thing. The then Red Front, one might observe, is extinct. Wiped out by the very Fascist system it’s street fighting tactics helped bring into being, based on the principle that for every violent political action there is an unequal and opposed reaction. Think of it as a Newtonian law of political motion.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that ex-members of the Red Front were also behind the totalitarian misery of East Germany during the cold war. Erich Honecker for one. Like his philosophically opposite numbers were ultimately responsible for the massive body count of WW2. As an aside; current sources list total World War Two casualties as a shade under 72,500,000 or the Wikipedia page total of as much as 85,000,000.

As yet another aside I’m tempted to observe that without the initial violence of the Red Front, the National Socialists, Adolph Hitler and his abominable clique might have forever remained a fringe minority group, of only fleeting historical interest to social historians. An anecdotal reference to the violence of the Red Front is found in this line from the notorious Horst Wessel Lied:
“Comrades shot by the red front and reaction”
Referring to the murder of a small number of SA members between 1924-29. Therefore it could be argued that the rise of the National Socialist movement was a direct result of violence on the part of the far left during the time of the Weimar Republic. Although the situation was a little more complex considering the destabilising effects of crippling reparation payments to the allies for WW1 and the subsequent social and economic volatility of post WW1 Germany. But in our era the recent rise of the extreme, or ‘alt’ right can be seen as a direct reaction to the violence and intimidation from far left groups and activists like Antifa.

In the words of Sam Clemens: History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme In some ways it looks like the 1920’s all over again, only this time the venue is the USA. The protagonists are the same; socialists all. All believing they are fighting for the ‘workers’. All believing it’s right to punch the hell out of and even kill each other. Which it isn’t.

So what is this poisonous disease of Fascism and how do we identify the real Fascists so that they may be de-powered? A good place to start is in the Merriam-Webster dictionary that carries this simplified definition.
Facism:

A political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the ‘Fascisti’) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

Sounds awfully familiar doesn’t it? But what are the outward signs of a fascist? How do we tell them from other types of socialists?

We’re told that those who use violence against political opposition are fascists, but is this true? Well not really. Violence in a political cause is more prevalent on the left of the political spectrum because of the undemocratic leanings of people who tend to join these factions. And they are factions because the only thing that separates Socialism and Fascism is nationalism. What they have in common is that they both end up robbing ordinary working people blind. Worse than those eeeevil capitalists in fact. A proof; there have never been any poor socialist leaders. Well, they deserve all the rewards for bringing the poverty that socialist methods of government create for the masses, eh? Yeah, right. For relatively modern examples I’d like to cite Fidel Castro, who had an estate of US$800 Million when he popped his clogs. Chavez wasn’t exactly impecunious either, to name but two.

As an aside I’d observe that neither the Nationalist or Internationalist forms of ‘ism’ are democratic. Unless of course you’re a member of the self-appointed ruling hierarchy. All variants are equally vile totalitarian gangster philosophies that lead eventually either to the Concentration Camp or Gulag with all your neighbours trying to grass you up so they can have your apartment or bread ration. But it’s all right isn’t it, because only ‘bad people’ get sent to these places. But; who defines the ‘harm’ or who is ‘bad’? Sooner or later you’ve got to the point where you’re the one quivering in your ickle pink bootees in case next doors kids decide to denounce you to the authorities for not giving them any candy. Like in the old Soviet Union and just about everywhere else where communist, fascist and socialist doctrines have been applied, whether ‘properly’ or not. All these shades of ism rule by feat and fear. If you knew nothing else about them, you’d know that they were pure poison to be avoided at all costs.

So, back to our definition of Fascism and how to spot one; well, they’re Socialist because they claim to be for ‘the workers’* and want a top-down directed society. But. And this is the big ‘but’, you cannot tell a National Socialist from any other type of collectivist Socialist. True, there are Neo-Nazi’s with shaven heads and gothic tattoos over every square inch of skin, but there are others with a hide as untrammelled as freshly fallen snow. Some clean shaven, others have beards you can hide a flock of sheep behind. Not all of them ‘white’ either. Contrariwise, I have also known people with tattoos all over who are no more followers of National Socialism than the Dalai Llama. Although some would argue he’s one too – which is a very interesting** point of view.

There is, to the best of my knowledge, no haircut is specific to such people, and Polo shirts? I wear them all the time, so do a lot of other people who are most definitely not of a National Socialist bent. Polo players for one. Although Golf shirts and jumpers are definitely worn by fascists. I mean come on – what are those awful loud chequered designs or brightly coloured trousers symbolic of? Blitzkrieg dazzle camouflage? As for that top pocket for their tees. Got to be for their party membership card, right? So Trump is one and that Tiger Woods another, and er, Obama too because he really likes playing golf, yeah? No? Oh. So how does one tell?

I think that shoe drops when the real fascists open their smug little over-privileged mouths and start gobbing off on how they in their role as ‘The Government’ always step into every facet of life. Like rules criminalising everyday modes of speech. Like Eugenics to fix the disabled ‘problem’ and mass confiscation of private property to make everything ‘fair’.   In short, anyone who offers the following as excuses; “For their own good.” or “For the good of the masses.” or “To make it all fair for the people.” Yet never mentioning the salient point that although these nasty pieces of work talk about big business being the bad guy, guess who ends up footing the bill for all this Government intervention?  The little guy. You and me.

Sorry chaps, but having been part of the ‘working class’ and made my living from the sweat of my brow and the skill (Or lack thereof) of my hands for almost a third of my working life, all of these activists, every last single one, are universally despised. Not to their faces of course, but where it really counts, in the whispering galleries of locker and lunch rooms. The soft damnation of “Oh gawd, it’s him / her / it again. What is it now?” Then going along with the calls for strike action because, well, “It’s a day off, innit.” or because they dare not disagree just in case they’re falsely accused of some ***’hate’ crime. Although afterwards the moans about lost wages from strikes (usually from spouses) can be heard for miles. Because too many people are a little slow to make the connection that all forms of collectivism are a massive wealth transfer con trick. Whoever has worked hardest loses the most. Not to mention that Socialism also creates new hierarchies which simply replicate the worst excesses of feudal societies and produce massive body counts. Over 120 million between 1900 and 2000 at the last credible estimate. Which does not include war dead from any of the major wars but simple murder and famine in the name of ‘the masses’ or ‘the party’. Heavens to Murgatroyd people, doesn’t this prove that Socialism in all forms and the identity politics that drive it are crap ideas. Bury them deep and let’s move on. Individuals solve problems, not extreme leftist politics.

*No, they’re for themselves – the ‘workers’ can go hang. Or be shot. Or gassed. Or worked to death.  Not much of a choice really.
**‘Interesting’ as in “Let’s hide all the sharp objects” interesting.
*** ‘He said vs. she said’

And now….

a massage from the Swedish Prime Minister, or rather not. Went for my first ever massage a couple of days ago. Generously paid for by my health insurance and told I had to go by my lady wife who’d made the arrangements. Today I am a bit stiff (Not in that way! Honestly, some people.) and creaky. Which is a tribute to the strength of my masseuse’s hands. I hadn’t realised how many kinks and knots there were in my back and shoulders.

Now I went for what’s called a full ‘RMT’ massage, which is massage as a treatment, not one of those wimpy ‘massage treatments’ with hot stones, seaweed douches and suchlike you get at spa resorts. No, this was the full nine yards where someone half my size took hold of a muscle or muscle group and dug their fingers in. Yes it does hurt a bit, but afterwards you stand a little straighter, hold your head higher and motion is less encumbered by all those little aches and pains that getting older leaves you open to. Oddly this treatment also makes your head spin a little afterwards. Not much, but just like the sensation you get after spinning around quickly two or three times. An old Hawkwind number was brought to mind

You also know this kind of massage is working when you get little sympathetic flashes of pain down muscles not currently under assault. For example; masseuse was working down from my shoulders and hit the centre of my back when a little lightning bolt shot all the way down from just under my kidneys to past my right knee. This reminded me of an injury I sustained thirty years ago in my lower back when one of my discs ruptured and healed aged twenty-something. Indeed, every incident from a very physical life popped it’s head up and said “Hi, remember me? You careless bastard.” Ouch. Even stuff I thought was fully healed years ago. Every time I’ve fallen off a motorcycle (Four), every work related muscle wrench (Dozens), every time I’ve been under the surgeons knife (Three) and every sports injury (Two major, dozens of minor). They all dropped by with a stab and a twitch. It was like a high school reunion when all the pains get together to remind you why you ignore or hate them.

The future of transport

There’s a lot of political motion about transport at the present moment. First there’s the ban on sales of Internal Combustion Engine powered vehicles from 2040, which California looks like replicating in order to ‘save the planet’. These impending bans to reduce air pollution due to ICE powered vehicles are all well intentioned but one is tempted to ask, what will said proscriptions actually achieve?

For practical purposes not much, because the nature of logistics within cities is already changing. But the future does not lie with self driving electric cars. Nor electric cars or any variant thereof. Except on an extremely limited scale. For reasons as discussed here. The changes that are coming are more far reaching than a simple change in how tin boxes are powered and controlled. For a given value of ‘simple’. Which has already turned into a whole different, and over-subsidised bunch of complicated.

For example; both Mrs S and I ‘telecommute’ every day using video and other online messaging services, rarely needing to physically visit clients or sites more than once a year. Up until ten years ago our jobs didn’t, couldn’t exist. But thanks to the dear old Interweb, we earn a reasonable crust and pay our way in the world without too much drama. Yes, we have a car, and in the next five years this will have to be replaced and a motorcycle added to our means of getting about two or three times a week. But we don’t need to commute every day. Which adds hours to our productive working days. Which means we can pick our time of day to go out to enjoy a bit of a drive. As well as keep things up to snuff at home without losing precious ‘us’ time. And there’s a growing number like us who don’t have to turn up at the office to put in a (very) full day’s work. We’re also contractors, so we don’t show up in public employment stats. Like the people who run small businesses off a laptop over a coffee shops wi-fi link and cell phone. There’s part of the future, and it’s already here.

The coming changes will be as radical as the migration of methods between travel by horse and the first steam powered railways and they are right on our doorstep. Indeed, delivery companies and start-ups are already experimenting with what was up until recently merely a toy. Especially in heavily congested areas. Particularly for small, highly specialised manufacturers and distributors. Amazon have been running trials and there are a bunch of other startups which recognise that where drones will really come into their own is in the short run courier business, at first as an adjunct to, then as a replacement for, inner city bicycle and motorcycle couriers. Point to point small packages, high speed and high security with the capability to home in on a mobile phone or tablet so that no matter where the recipient is within a given radius, they will be able to receive a physical document or critical replacement part at exactly the time the text or component are required. Or medical supplies on a Just in time basis.

As for personal transport, no matter how it is powered, as the ability to deliver to a precise location at an exact time improves, the need for someone to physically get in a car and drive across town to an appointment or to hire an expensive courier will slowly decrease, therefore so will the road congestion of the inner cities. In short, we’ll stop needing to drive everywhere quite so much. That’s where the future lies. Not Electric Self driving cars. Batteries will never be that good, but they will be good enough to transport small packages a hundred miles or so. Like John Hopkins Medicine managed with this trial, beating Team Roadrunners previous 97 mile record, set in May 2017. In the UK, Centrica have run trials for remote inspection of production sites out in Morecambe bay. And that’s only three examples.

This is the way real change for the better begins. Not with governments, but with people utilising an idea in new ways.

Now there is a major impediment. Legislation. Whether lawmakers fail or succeed to address the benefits of point to point lightweight deliveries. From a purely safety perspective, Drones with semi-autonomous Artificial Intelligence packages can be made to navigate crowded airspace to and from sensitive locations, but this must be mandated by clear laws that lay down a simple legal framework for the new technology to operate within. Simply banning their use does nothing but stave off the inevitable.

Of course, early adopters will (and probably do) already include your friendly local illicit substance provider and smuggler. A drone that can fly more than twenty plus kilometres carrying a kilo or two of whatever substance the market demands is no more detectable than a bird. The only real risks to drones being the territorial instincts of large birds, such as with Wedge Tailed Eagles in Australia, or the French and Dutch Police training Bald Eagles to take down unauthorised UAV’s.

On the topic of drone interdiction, Mr Trumps much vaunted border wall is no more use than the proverbial chocolate teapot at preventing cross border drug trafficking by drone. Short of shooting at everything that crosses a certain line, and that would be simply impractical. For example, two people with backpack sized controls and half a dozen drones could run rings around any number of border guards, eliminating the risks and expense of human ‘mules’ and couriers across say, the US-Mexican or US-Canadian borders. Who is to say this is not already happening. Because it already is.

Thus far, even prison walls have proved little use against drones, like with this smuggling operation into a prison. Although contrariwise, Enforcement monitoring Drones will be, (are and have been) used to remotely monitor and detect illegal activity so that flying squads of border agents can home in and make arrests. However, so far these drones are of the larger, military types and have so far proven uneconomic, but as quadcopter technology improves, the cost per enforcement unit will decrease. For example; Los Angeles Police Department is even experimenting with smaller drones.

What overall effect this technology may have on cities is covered in this interesting little TED talk by Julio Gil (See below). And he’s right. The technology is almost with us. In fact it’s so close early adopters are already using much of it. The rest is trying methodologies until we find one that really works.

I particularly like his idea of the mobile drone delivery platform. Post office or delivery van pootles down suburban or rural road while a squadron of drones busily drop mail and small packages off on doorsteps leaving the driver (and maybe a helper for the heavier stuff) free to concentrate on dropping off the bigger packages. Maybe even some form of pickup device could be provided to save on postal delivery people having to traipse around emptying mailboxes. Drone picks up your mail, reads a printed address bar code or number and pre-sorts it before the delivery van even arrives back at the distribution hub.

While much of the above may be conjecture one thing is certain; the future is almost here, and that future contains Drones.

Update:  You know that naughty man (Well, most of the lamestream pundits say he is) who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC?  Well, kiddies, he’s just signed an executive order enabling the testing of Drone Technology for deliveries and the FAA has just given CNN a waiver for camera drone flights to take place over crowds.  So yes, the future is closer than we think.  Cool.

I’m puzzled…

… by the behaviour of Madame Tracy over the BREXIT negotiations. First there was Florence, which was essentially seen as a climbdown, now in this morning’s FT I read of yet another backpedal where Juncker et al are demanding more and more to leave their exclusive little club. Whose cookie is beginning to crumble further around the edges in Austria, Poland, Catalonia and Hungary.

My own suspicion is that this is a bargaining ploy, a delaying tactic to keep the markets stable and see how far the Eurocrats will go to try and up the Ante before telling them to get lost and open the doors to other nations, who if they’ve got any sense already have their own low level negotiating teams in setting up trading deals for when UK Plc drops off the edge of Europe. However, I may be completely wrong and this may only be a ploy to feed to the Brexiteers that “Oh my God dwawleengs it’s too, too difficult to get out so we’ll have to stay in. Sorry, just not poss…etc.” But that would bury the Tories for a generation and leave the poor old UK to drop headlong into the hands of the weird and definitely not wonderful Corbynista’s and subsequent economic free fall. So what is going on?

The Catalan situation seems to be bubbling under, with two separatist leaders under arrest for ‘sedition’, also two Police Officers for getting in the way of the Guardia Civil riot Police. See the France24 video below for the situation as of 17th October. Can’t say I like the smug look of the Spanish deputy PM as she stepped up to the podium. There’s a cat that’s got first lick of the cream and no mistake.

Then there’s the Austrian election results. Which has the Eurocrats rattled. We’re told that the results are a victory for the ‘extreme right’ but how ‘extreme’ is not wanting to import unspecified numbers of welfare dependents for which the Austrian taxpayer will have to foot the bill?

As for ‘rising extremism’, how extreme is doing what the Americans call “Voting your cheque book”? Which is what electorates around the world are beginning to do. For example there’s a widespread view that the EU is a monster which has grown too large and needs to go on a serious diet. Same for the US Government. Too big, too much power, too intrusive and rapacious.

In Canada we’re still on the upslope of that statist bell curve with the Federal Government changing the tax regs to prevent ‘Income salting’ (Sharing tax allowances between family members) which will hit working families with stay at home mums the worst. Not the ‘rich’ like that idiot fop Trudeau in Ottawa says. Even Mrs S and I have been forced to formalise our business relationship so that everything I buy or do for her business is logged and subject to detailed internal invoice. Which is a pain, but these are the toothpaste tubes big government forces everyone into. Should they try and throw my invoices out, I will simply stop the forty or so hours a month I put in on my wife’s business’ behalf and close my ears to all the cries for help from the next door office because I don’t work for nothing.

A good edge

As someone who enjoys cooking, I like to get reasonable tools for the job. To be specific, knives. Recently I picked up some reasonable German made knives as part of an end of line promotion, which filled a gap in my culinary toolbox. I needed a decent Santoku for chopping, Japanese style, which was part of the set, but, and this is a big but, they’re not so satisfying to use as my ten inch wood handled full-tang Sabatier K, a handy Chef’s knife I bought when we were down in South Carolina on our 2016 cross-USA road trip.

There’s nothing fancy about it as a cooks knife because it’s simply a stamped and forged flat blank with a riveted hardwood handle. Yet none of my other cooking knives can hold a candle to it as far as holding an edge is concerned. Yes it’s heavy, the web of the blade is over 3.5mm (3/16ths of an inch) thick and the handle is pretty chunky and unrefined, but no other blade out of my serried collection of carbon and stainless steel cutting implements handles so well on the cutting board for day to day slicing and chopping. I’ve even sliced soft bread with it. Try that with a traditional cooks knife without squashing the grain of the loaf. Yet there’s nothing really special about it. Perhaps that explains why this particular piece of kit holds the place of prominence it does on my kitchen counter. Because of the sheer weight of steel in the blade it will also chop and hack as well as a light cleaver. Which is very useful for those days when bone or cartilage needs to be cut through with a single sharp blow. Yes it can and does cut beef and pork ribs. No nicks in the blade so far and it’s seen fourteen months of daily abuse at my hands. I’d say it was good kit.

Yes, and I’ve finally potted out my tomato plants which as you can see by the picture below are doing quite nicely.

So that’s it for the moment. The pantomime of BREXIT continues with the drunken lord making ridiculous pronouncements from stage left and the Demon King pops up and down through a handy trapdoor like a demented Yo-yo. Sterling is rising slowly again, well it has been over the last week, but no doubt one market panic will send it slithering back down again.

To close, I just saw the trailer for this amusing little Armando Iannucci movie which won’t be released over here. Which is a great pity. Rather like with Brian Cox in ‘Churchill‘, there’s no Canadian or US release date. There should be.

Because the cast is terrific and would make a welcome change from the usual Hollywood blockbuster bullshit.

Cognitive dissonance

Famous anniversaries post coming up. Some might have noticed, although I’d have missed it completely unless reminded that it’s fifty years since a blood soaked psychopath met his end in front of a South American firing squad.

A mass murderer and torturer executed? Good riddance to bad rubbish one might say, and you’d be right. Yet the very self same blood soaked psycho is lauded in some circles as a hero. Indeed, his likeness is found posted on many a Western Universities student union wall and t-shirt to celebrate left wing revolutionary fervour. Movies have been made of his life before he became a mass murderer. Yet this person is celebrated, even deified, despite the many evils he perpetrated.

So let’s look at his bio; Scion of a wealthy family, Medical School dropout, socialist revolutionary, Gay hater, child murderer, mass executioner. All of these things are absolutely true. Or to put it another way; a homophobic psychotic killer, rapist, racist and wastrel. A child murderer to boot. Not exactly the sort of person one would be inclined to invite to dinner.

Yet his image is deified in all places as the Winnipeg museum of Human Rights. I’ve seen it. Although I can’t be sure if it’s there as an exemplar or a warning. Even though it doesn’t flag up on the museums web site. Like the documentation of the Holocaust (11 million killed in death camps by the National Socialism) the Ukrainian Holodomor (12-20 million starved to death by the forced collectivism of Lenin and Stalin). The killing fields of Cambodia clocked up just shy of 1.4 million by Pol Pots communist regime. Well, that’s the actual number of dead they’ve found to date. Estimates of that era’s Cambodian atrocities head north of 3.4 million. Some simply for the ‘crimes’ of talking to western missionaries or selling produce to feed their families. Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Ba’athist (ostensibly Socialist) regime for mass murder of Kurds and Marsh Arabs in the late 1980’s managed barely 200,000 according to some estimates.

By the by, other 20th and early 21st century genocides by right leaning and religious governments have struggled to reach even Cuban levels. Which by contrast was small potatoes, barely reaching hundreds of thousands in body count. For which the icon of veneration below was partially responsible. We might as well venerate people like ex-Catholic Priest and Nazi collaborator Petar Brzica, an horrific individual who boasted of killing 1360 Serbians, Jews and Roma, as well as Croat and Bosniak dissidents, in a single session. With a knife, no less.

There is a strange cognitive dissonance native to those with extreme left or right wing political views, which says that killing people is the way to effect change for the better for a very strange value of ‘better’. In this way these extremists can be seen to be very stupid, because they don’t seem to understand that you can’t change the mind of a corpse, or kill an idea simply by first dehumanising, then murdering people. Because then they aren’t really people any more are they? And ideas can exist independently of individuals. The same can be said of various religious nutters from the Catholics of the medieval period to the modern resurrection of extreme Islam. In spite of the many religious wars and mass killings that flared throughout Medieval Europe, Judaism, Protestantism and Islam are still with us. There are still witches despite all those witch burnings and Cathars are still known in Southern France despite centuries of repression.

By way of contrast, it might be noted that one of the most, and rightly reviled political figures of the 20th century, also responsible for tens of millions of human extinctions, was a Europhile child and dog-loving vegan anti-smoking athiest(?) with strong environmentalist views. No prizes for guessing who that was.

All that the above have in common is that they wanted to force their chosen way of life on others and were more than happy to kill to do so. Yet leftist killers are applauded, venerated and even worshipped within some modern day seats of learning. Interesting, eh?

On the nature of trolls

Every so often in the Scriblerus group we get various types of trolling attacks. Which some justify with the WW2 derived dictum; “If you’re taking flak, you must be over the target.” Yes, we occasionally get abuse, which is why many of us have some form of moderation on our comments section because without it we’d be forever chasing our tails deleting dozens off topic comments intended to drag a discussion thread into a morass of a given trolls own unhinged obsessions. Whatever those might be.

For me this isn’t a problem, as I tend to have a rather simple ‘delete and ban’ policy toward provocateurs and police my WordPress spam filter assiduously. Theres also a handy feature in WordPress that blocks some anonymous proxies which I make use of to keep out the unwanted. My comments policy for this blog lays down some very simple rules which boil down to the following: if you’ve something to say and are willing to be civil, no problem. If you’re just abusively trolling just to see if I’ll bite, don’t even bother. You’ll waste your time and energy, not mine.

But what makes a troll? I’d call it a behaviour rather than a person. Someone who disagrees with me might indulge in a trollish attack, which in footballing terms would be called ‘playing the man, not the ball’ or if you prefer, foul play or underhand tactics. Lurking under bridges, attacking the unwary. Attacking the person, not addressing their arguments. Now that’s being a troll.

You can’t call someone Troll either simply for voicing an alternative or simply criticising a given point of view, as has been described by many of the more thin-skinned commentators out there. To them, any opposition is the work of ‘Internet Trolls’. Which isn’t true. At worst it’s heckling. A heckler openly tells you you’re being an idiot. A troll is the person who tries to push a speaker off their soapbox, throws rocks or tries to shut them up using the power of social media. Indeed, the Twitter and Facebook hate mobs who infest those benighted platforms are being trolls if they ‘go after’ someone for simply holding an opinion they don’t like, costing someone their job or damaging any other part of their social life. Which isn’t fair play by anyone’s standards.

In the words of Gomez Addams;

As for the Scriblerus group of bloggers, one thing we do when under attack is co-operate, acting as a mutual support group where an outside threat is trying to disrupt one or more of the contributors. This is a purely informal arrangement, but seeing as certain of our members have extensive experience of Interweb related stuff and a great deal of real-life experience, it works quite well. For any would be attacker I would point out that nothing on the internet is truly anonymous, just as there’s no such thing as a burglar proof house. There are only degrees of difficulty in tracking. So don’t be surprised if your nastiness comes back to bite you.

This is not to say that we in the Scriblerus group agree on everything (or anything), far from it, we might not fight like cats in a sack, but we can disagree without it turning into a mudslinging bitch-fest, regardless of style or content. It’s called maturity. We’re grown-ups (mostly). And we’ve retained our own individual senses of fun. With the emphasis on ‘our own’. So a little light ribbing between members does not lead to meltdowns or petty vendettas. Because we’re all (I think) about freedom of speech and opinion, in varying degrees. So long as it’s not destructive or abusive.

As for those taking umbrage at any point of view espoused within our loose coalition I’d say; “Just because you’re offended, it doesn’t make you right.”

Of course, this blog only reflects my personal view, you’d have to ask the other members of Scriblerus for theirs.

Ouch

Our Interweb access has been playing up. Despite an upgrade to our service it was still running like a heavily sedated slug. The modem worked, the Router was fine but Internet searches and suchlike were just slow and running at least 35-40Mbps slower than the service we’re paying for. Any old road up, we made a call and the cable guy brought us a new and faster modem. We had a little informed chat since we speak the same language about signal and network interference, the upshot being that a new Router was required. And one of the local stores was having a Router and wi-fi sale. Aaaaand what’s that Sooty? Allo, Bill’s got a new Router? Channelling Alexi Sayle in his manic heyday. (See below)

We didn’t put on the optional go faster stripes as they would have clashed with the decor, but it’s still bloody quick. What we now have is a dual band Gigabit which is blisteringly fast compared with what we had. As an adjunct, I upped our security as well to prevent anyone logging on and piggybacking our service. No guest accounts for one. Might add two later on the 2.4Ghz band, but otherwise not.

Oh yes, and I also went out and bought a motorcycle, a 2002 BMW R1150RT, delivery next week. Hey, it’s a little old and cheap, but then so am I. Posting may become even more sparse as I spend more time on the road and less at my desk. A little rearrangement of the garage may be in order. Next years travel plans also include a biking road trip down the coast to Califor-ni-a and back. Just because.

On the topic of vehicles, one of the problems I hadn’t thought about pertaining to Vehicles part or wholly powered by electrickery was the weight of their battery packs and the various problems this induces. Tesla’s for example seem to be particularly prone to suspension failures because the weight of their battery packs adds inertia to the vehicle, so that when the ball joints are subject to the additional stresses of hard (Some reports indicate merely gentle) cornering or braking, or even in one case a (reported) minor kerb bump, the risk of losing a wheel or suspension due to mechanical failure is magnified many times.

In comparatively small production runs the number of fires and failures reported for this class of vehicle seem disproportionate to say the least when compared to the more mature technology of the Internal Combustion Engine. Yes, yes, we know about development cycles, but over a hundred years to get this far? Especially with the government subsidies thrown at them since the 1970’s.

We should also not need reminding that GM recalled all its Electric Vehicles back in 2003 and had them all crushed. That was over ten years ago. Also that the most recalled Electric Vehicle is the Ford Focus EV (Also for suspension and transmission related issues) with the Fiat 500 currently a close second. Not sure what the figures are for the Toyota Prius.

While the recorded high rate of suspension failures can be tied to the extra weight of an electric vehicle’s battery pack and insufficiently robust suspension design, the fire problem mainly boils down to Lithium-Ion batteries. It’s well known that high capacity Lithium-Ion can be a fire risk, even when not in use if a manufacturing fault or wear has, like with the notorious Galaxy Tab 7, left the batteries prone to overheating, and like we have seen in many instances, can catch fire and burn spectacularly. The reason behind this is found in a peculiarity of Lithium-Ion batteries when they are charged.

Normally the rate at which Lithium-Ion batteries charge is carefully limited so that the Lithium within each cell doesn’t move too quickly – which, incidentally, is why batteries take time to charge. If charging is too fast, lithium ‘plates’ the anode, creating a potential short circuit which can generate heat. That heat, if allowed to build up, will go into thermal runaway and ignite the flammable electrolyte, and hey presto! – a very hard to extinguish fire and headache for the local fire department. Also if the battery pack gets too hot for any other reason, the Lithium cobalt oxide releases oxygen at high temperatures and the resulting highly-exothermic reaction with organic compounds in the cell proceeds at high speed and can result in thermal run-away, and yes, the local fire department have to be called. Now amplify that with the many high capacity battery cells in an Electric Vehicles battery pack. Any collision that ruptures a cell or cells in the battery pack can also do this in very short order. The casing of the battery does not even have to be breached.

Then factor in the known degradation of Lithium-Ion and Lithium-Manganese (Which aren’t so prone to catching fire but have lower capacity and limited range) batteries over multiple fast recharge / discharge cycles. We’re all used to laptop, phone and tablet batteries ‘wearing out’ in 2-5 years of even moderate use. Now factor that known degradation rate into the hundreds of cells making up the battery pack of an Electric Vehicle. The cost of replacement still hovering around USD$15,000 for the Tesla, a little less for Lithium-Manganese (Currently over GBP£11,500 or CAD$19,000 for L-Ion). Every five years. Eight maybe, for a very lightly used vehicle. Maybe.

For an honest comparison, I’ve just totted up the service costs on our little 6 year old mid range SUV over the first 5 years of its life which came to a gnats under CAD$5,600 (About USD$4,400 or GBP£3,400 at the time of writing). Total mileage slightly under 110,000km or about 68,3500. This cost includes two replacement tyres and two brake discs, pads and piston assemblies. Two tyres because of a blowout deep in the heart of Texas and the brakes discs the year before because we left it too long between services and dust seized the braking pistons in the calipers. Virtuously we are now ahead of the maintenance schedule – just. Add in the replacement cost of one OEM windscreen at CAD$700 (All right, GBP£420 or USD$550) which our insurance company paid over a half of and we still haven’t come anywhere close to half the predicted on-cost of an Electric Vehicle. Never mind that an EV won’t make even a third of the mileage we’ve put on our little SUV within the same time frame.

Incidentally, Tesla’s are known to go through a set of tyres in as little as 12,000 miles (A shade under 20km) while we have two that are still in good order at 110,000km or 68,000 miles. As are other Electric Vehicles and Hybrids. So being kind, let the average life of an EV’s tyres be 30,000km (Around 19,000 miles). Now look at the tyre life 110,000km plus of a mid range SUV like ours and the replacement cost for two full sets of around CAD$1350 (inc tax) each. That’s another CAD$2700 on top of any other maintenance costs like routine brake inspections etc. The like for like expenses just don’t stack up.

No matter how often I look at them, Electric vehicles appear a fine idea with all the subsidies (All that taxpayer dollar to discount the purchase price – yummy) the problem lies within the execution of the concept. Batteries as a primary power supply create more problems than they solve because of the volatility issues, recharge times, lifespan and overall weight so there has to be an alternative power source before any arbitrary ban on ICE vehicles is imposed. Even when you’re only dealing with UK distances.

As for EV on-costs, ouch, that’s gonna hurt.