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February

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment

I set my self 2 goals at the beginning of February.

The first was to start and maintain this blog; I think I’ve done ok in that respect. My original aim was to simply post once a week, I did however find writing it kind of addictive and so set myself an extra goal of posting every day. Unfortunately due to my tendency to start posts very late on in the evening many of them rolled over to the following day, and some personal circumstances this week have meant the blog has fallen off my list of priorities.

That said I did manage to post 14/19 days so not a bad start. My aim for March is to post once a day and if I manage that in April I think I will have earned the right to add the Post a Day Icon for the rest of the year.

The second was to save a fair amount of money for the month, again I didn’t quite hit the mark I was aiming for, in the end I came in about 50% below my target, but on the Plus side this was a lot more money than any other month, generally I am scrabbling down the back of the sofa for stray coins the day before pay day so having anything left is an achievement.

 The fact that I don’t have any dentist appointments this month coupled with what I did manage to save has given me confidence that this month should be a breeze.

I hope so at least, I’ve got a very non negotiable holiday to pay for at the end of April and this will also have proved my ability to save, meaning I can (finally, I’m sure my wife would add) start contributing to our House fund.

The Dentist wasn’t the sole reason for not reaching my savings target, I have defiantly spent money on areas that I didn’t need to and on occasion broken the £5 a day rule that I set myself.  I would however promote the £5 plan that I adopted to anyone looking to save.

On Pay day take out £150 and get it in £5 notes, at that point remove your card from your wallet and each morning take a crisp £5 note, place it in your wallet, that is all you have for the day, it really makes you think about what you spend it on.

Before you ask this didn’t include travel. I get a monthly train ticket; this is simply your spending money for the day, use this to purchase your lunch etc.

It’s amazing both what £5 can buy you and on the flip side how much of your pay packet you realise you spent on things that you really didn’t need.

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Fly me to the Moon

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Newt Gringrich (what a name) was bought to my attention whilst watching 10’0’clock live the other week.

In the sketch “Lauren Laverne’s occasional guide to terrifying republicans who might become president.”

Now these are 3 pretty special guys, but for me Newt really stood out. Not because he was crazier than the others, after all one of them baptized their atheist father into the Mormon Church a year after their death.

I simply liked him because wacky as his ideas are in the scheme of things pretty harmless, and I have always had a soft spot for the ridiculous in politics, after all who hasn’t read the  Monster Raving Loony Parties manifesto and found at least one point that they think is worth a try.

2. M.P’s Expenses: We propose that instead of a second home allowance M.P’s will have a caravan which will be parked outside the Houses of Parliament. This will make it easier as flipping a caravan is easier than flipping homes.

Anyway back to Newt so by now I am sure you are wondering (or have goggled) which of Newt’s ideas has tickled me, well Ill start the 3 shown in the aforementioned TV show are..

Build a permanent base on the Moon – I guess the question is why? I mean don’t get me wrong as someone who likes Science Fiction its kind of cool but does it server any real purpose?

“By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American,” he said. According to Talking Points Memo Gingrich went on to say that the base would be used for “science, tourism, and manufacturing” and to create a “robust industry” modelled on the airline business in the 20th century.

Shuttle rides for tax payers – Now this one I can buy into and it seems all I have to do is file my tax returns.

“The shuttle is already comfortable enough to carry anyone free of severe health problems into space, and the next generation shuttle will be even more like an airliner. We should begin with a candidate-selection lottery based on individual income tax forms and offer to send each year’s winner on a shuttle flight.”

Mirrors on the moon – To allow us to light up highways, I guess the humble street light just doesn’t cut it in the states.

Now to be fair to Newt, 2 of these 3 Ideas are actually from a book he wrote in 1984 called “Window of Opportunity: A Blueprint for the Future” and frankly an obsession with Space and the Moon is hardly a reason to write a candidate off, especially not in the states.

They did elect Bush twice!

Now don’t get me wrong these are perhaps unfair on Newt, I’m sure he has some genuinely good ideals.

Although upon further reading I’m not convinced.

However let’s give the guy some credit when it comes to putting his opposition in their place he knows what really matters to the American public.

I mean speaking French? That practically makes him foreign!

There’s no door there team

February 26, 2012 Leave a comment

A Conversation with a friend the other day about the re-emergence of some of many shows that I loved from my childhood, such as Thundercats, got me thinking about what other childhood favourites I would like to see return the Box.

The one that I settled on as my number one choice was

Knightmare

Imagine how cool this show could be now, with graphics like this for us the viewer to experience..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a setup like this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eg8Bh5iI2WY (for some reason I cant embed this but I suggest you check it out)

for the Dungeoner.

It would be an Epic experience both for the team and the viewer, and would tap very well into the current generation’s love of video games.

Not to mention the comedy gold that the show gave us, such as

 

Just think of the Memes that would be created.

I loved this show as a child, and as far I can tell there is anything on TV that is even similar, just as long as it didn’t end up like this

 

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

February 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Due to the short nature of my morning commute to work, I generally only read the Football news, but I will generally take a cursory glance through the main body of the paper, whilst reading the Metro on Tuesday I came across a story with the fantastic heading..

“Dolphins are people too”

And let’s be honest at that point there would need to be something wrong with you, to not make time to read that story.

So it seems that Experts in philosophy, conservation and Dolphin behaviour insist that Dolphins and Whales or cetaceans as they are collectively known, are smart enough to be treated as non-human “persons,” and so should be given many of the same rights as Humans.

My first question is what sets Cetaceans above other creatures? Why are we giving them rights and not the Aye-Aye for example, one reason is obvious, the Aye-Aye has a face even a mother couldn’t love.

In our rush to anthropomorphise dolphins have we credited them with powers they just don’t posses?

Intelligence is often defined as

“The Ability to reason, Plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experiance.”

Whilst there is tons of information and anecdotes of tricks that Dolphins have learnt as a general rule these can be put down to conditioning, it seems that Dolphins have shown no unusual skill for problem solving, an area that Rats for example excel.

Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins (Source)

Based on the principle of the equal treatment of all persons;
Recognizing that scientific research gives us deeper insights into the complexities of cetacean minds, societies and cultures;
Noting that the progressive development of international law manifests an entitlement to life by cetaceans;
We affirm that all cetaceans as persons have the right to life, liberty and wellbeing.
We conclude that:

  1. Every individual cetacean has the right to life.
  2. No cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment.
  3. All cetaceans have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.
  4. No cetacean is the property of any State, corporation, human group or individual.
  5. Cetaceans have the right to the protection of their natural environment.
  6. Cetaceans have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.
  7. The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.
  8. Cetaceans are entitled to an international order in which these rights, freedoms and norms can be fully realized.
  9. No State, corporation, human group or individual should engage in any activity that undermines these rights, freedoms and norms.
  10. Nothing in this Declaration shall prevent a State from enacting stricter provisions for the protection of cetacean rights.

Now I’m all for protecting animals of any kind against cruelty, but I’m pretty sure that a majority of countries have laws against this already, and whilst I’m no expert the ones at Sea World don’t seem to be to unhappy.

We have countries that on weekly, daily, hourly bases fail to conform to the “Declaration of Human Rights” and except in areas that there is enough political or financial gain the world takes little or no action to address this, so realistically how stringently would this be enforced.

Many Animals are considered smart, that’s not surprising animals can do many things that make humans look rather ordinary, many of them however are not cute and/or interesting and so are unlikely to make the news, and many them make a really tasty meal.

Armageddon – Episode 1

February 22, 2012 4 comments

The end of the world is imminent.

If you believe all the hype then December 21st this year is IT, so we better make the most of the 10 Months we have left.

With this is mind I thought what could be an interesting feature for my blog would be, on the 21st of eah month, to bring you the ten most popular theories on the collapse of civilisation as we know it, although to be on the safe side I think I shall post Decembers a day early.

With so many ways in which mankind could meet its downfall it’s hard to pick a top 10 and between now and December I’m fairly sure some new ones may well come along and there is every chance that I will change my mind as to what order they should go in, which makes the critical choice of which one to start with pretty daunting.

As it was this episode of Eureka that inspired this idea I figured I might as well start with this one.

NEMESIS 

Nemesis is a hypothetical Star, orbiting the Sun, somewhere beyond the Oort cloud

The idea was first put forward in 1984 to explain the cycle of mass extinctions which seem to occur roughly every 26 Million years.

This idea was put forward by two scientists (David Raup and Jack Sepkoski ) in a paper in which based on various time series analysis they identified 12 extinction events .

So what does Nemesis do? Why could it signal the end of our existence?

In Muller’s words, “Suppose there is a companion star that orbits the sun. Every 26 million years it comes close to the Earth and does something, I’m not sure what, but it makes asteroids hit the Earth. Maybe it brings the asteroids with it….”

Science at its best!

Critiques of the theory (SOURCE)

  1. The “regular” mass extinctions were never “regular” at all. In fact, there is really no periodicity to the data. Using much the same data that was available to Raup and Sepkoski, you get variance from the 26 million year cycles, with some occurring much sooner and others far longer than “average”.
  2. Astronomers can show that the predicted effect, that of Nemesis disturbing the Oort Cloud and causing a “rain of comets” which produced the extinctions, could have occurred from the many “close passes” or “near misses” by the many stars in our Sun’s neighborhood. As a demonstration of this, in about 10,000 years, Barnard’s Star will cozy up to our Sun’s Oort Cloud. Will this red dwarf cause a mass extinction? No one knows, but it is certainly a possibility, without any Nemesis existing at all.
  3. Neither a red dwarf nor brown dwarf companion has ever been detected for our Sun, even though IR surveys have detected brown dwarf stars as far away as 20 light years.

 

However it does seem that there is a chance that it does exist, after all SPACE is a really, really big place and the discovery of Sedna in 2003 by Michael Brown does lend at least some credit to the idea that there is something out there.

“Sedna shouldn’t be there,” said Brown. “There’s no way to put Sedna where it is. It never comes close enough to be affected by the Sun, but it never goes far enough away from the Sun to be affected by other stars.”Brown therefore postulated that a massive unseen object may be responsible for Sedna’s anomalous orbit.

As it stands there is no “Proof” that Nemesis exists, at the same time there is no proof that it doesn’t, however even if it does exist it looks like it has another 15-21million years until it is going to be close enough to do us any damage.

Good Reads

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment

As I mentioned yesterday I like to read. My favourite genre would be Fantasy.

Unfortunately whilst the number of titles that would fall into this genre is vast, the number that conform to what I consider fantasy novels is pretty small.

Source:Wikipedia

“Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common. Fantasy is generally distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the expectation that it steers clear of (pseudo-)scientific and macabre themes, respectively, though there is a great deal of overlap between the three, all of which are subgenres of speculative fiction.”

Fantasy can be split into to two types, High Fantasy, which would be my preference and Low Fantasy.

High fantasy is for want of a better word more “Fantastical,” the stories are often serious in tone and take us on epic journeys, battling against Gods, Daemons and generally the end of civilisation as we know it. High Fantasy is the realm of the Cliché; it’s where an unlikely hero lurks in every woodsman and a mysterious yet friendly hermit stands ready lead him on a journey of discovery, but at the same time it is the height of escapism, a new land where you can truly get immersed and forget about normality.

Low fantasy is generally set in the real world; it can of course still have unlikely heroes, it’s less likely however that they will be wielding swords and sorcery. Books such as the Borrowers, Five Children and It, even the Green Mile would all be good examples, essentially a fantastical situation occurring in the most ordinary of places.

The genre, like most is dominated by a few authors, unfortunately however when it comes to book stores they tend to only stock those authors and it’s not often that someone new breaks through, this means for someone with a book addiction like mine finding new titles in this genre can be challenging.

 My Computer room quite seriously has a better selection than the Waterstones website, which means that when it comes to choosing a new book in this genre, I often feel limited, standing in the store it is often a case that I have every book on offer.

So that is why I was so happy yesterday to stumble upon Goodreads, the original reason for this post, before I went off on a tangent. As an avid reader I’m surprised that this website hasn’t been on my radar before.

Upon signing up it asks you to rate a number of books that you have read, from your choice of genres. The more titles that you rate the more accurate list of suggestions the site will generate. It essentialy creates a “people who liked X also liked Y.” Within a few clicks I had about 50 books in this genre many of which I had heard of neither the author nor the title.

You can even link it to your Blog, Face Book, and Twitter etc and share your reads with your friends and receive recommendations from them.

So if like me you are a bookworm and looking for inspiration I highly recommend taking a look at this site.

King Rat

February 19, 2012 5 comments

As mentioned in my opening post I like to read, a lot.  

I have recently been working my way through James Clavell’s Asian Saga.

King Rat is set In the Japanese POW camp of Changi Prison. Clavell himself spent three years in Changi so this fictional story is very much informed by his own experiences, with the character of Peter Marlowe most likely being based on his younger self., and it is possible that the “King” is based on a real prisoner named Theodore “Ted” Lewin

The book centres on the exploits of two characters the “King,” an American corporal who has become the most successful trader in the camp, and Peter Marlowe an English RAF lieutenant.

When the “King” overhears Marlowe having a conversation with another Prisoner in Malay, the “King” sees and angle and sets out to befriend Marlowe and attempt to involve him in his black market deals. This friendship in turn brings Marlowe to the attention of Robin Gray the Provost Marshal of the camp who is obsessed with catching the “King.”

The book has some pretty disturbing parts in it and its portrayal of life in the camp is polar opposites to the dignity, self sacrifice and team spirit portrayed in other works about POWs.  

Through the beginning of the book it is easy to understand why Grey hates the “King” quite so much, whilst the rest of the camp is reduced to horrendous living conditions, the “King” somehow still has freshly pressed shirts, Fried Eggs and Coffee.

The “Kings” everybody for himself attitude doesn’t make him the most likeable character, but as you get to know him through his friendship with Marlowe you realise that he isn’t the thief and con artist that Grey would have you believe, and by the end you might just find yourself on the “Kings” side.

The book is a great insight into what we may be willing to do to survive and how a brutal situation can bring out the best and worst in people, whilst the story itself is fictional Clavell’s own experience really brings the camp and its characters to life.

King Rat was the first of the Saga to be published, but the fourth in chronological order. Whilst the books do not need to be read in order, (or can in fact be read standalone) doing so will defiantly add to your enjoyment and understanding, especially in the case of Tai-Pan and Gai-Jin for example.

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