Friday, July 14, 2017

Larsen C Ice Shelf

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

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

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

Take a chill pill.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Space Battles

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

Facebook Catch up

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

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

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

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

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

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

5th July

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

Corporatism and the TPD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Took a Walk

Last weekend I decided, rather than sit in the house and arse around on Facebook, that I should head off and walk somewhere pleasant, maybe have some lunch out too. I got in my car and drove to the village of Althorne, abandoned my car and headed down to the River Crouch estuary.

A stroll along the edge of here has been part of my walking routine but, from my house, that involves a lot of walking along the sides of the roads, which ain’t that great. Though I have to admit to some enjoyment since this is the first English Spring I’ve seen in 10 years.

So I headed down and along the edge of the estuary to Burnham-on-Crouch. It’s pleasant down there and I was reminded of the time when, at about age 20, I was training myself for a walking holiday in the Lake District. I had someone drive me out and dump me by Bradwell power station and walked back in, following the sea wall to where my parent’s house was located. This was about 20 miles.

I was of course writing stuff at the time and I made plenty of notes while tramping along and afterwards turned this into an article, which I sent to a walking magazine. I was young and naive then and unfamiliar with the ways of the writing world, so made the common mistake of becoming impatient and sending off a snotty letter when I hadn’t heard something for a while. The editor sent my article back telling me to shove it. Apparently he had been about to go and take pictures of the area to complement the article, which he was going to publish.

That would have been my first publication success had I not been a dick. I wonder now what course I would have taken if it had been published. Maybe now I would be a jobbing writer turning out articles for various magazines and newspapers while yearning to be a novelist.

Anyway, back to the walk… I arrived in Burnham after an hour and a half. My plan had been to have lunch there, but most of the pubs were still closed and, really, it takes a little while to cool down after a good walk and actually feel hungry. Instead I found a cafĂ© and had a cream tea. All very English and, I admit, the first time in my life I had ever eaten a scone with clotted cream and jam.

After whiling away a pleasant time I then headed back. A search on the internet told me this walk was 5 miles so, with the return journey, 10 miles. Others told me it was 3 miles but I thought no. Average walking speed is 3.1 miles (though dependent on a lot of factors) and I was walking fast. I plumped for 8 or 9 miles. Now having traced the route on Google Earth I find it was a total of 11 miles.

Yesterday I decided to head the other direction along the Crouch to a place called Fambridge. Again the internet told me this was about 5 miles. It took me 2 hours to reach a pub called the Ferryboat where I intended to guzzle a pint of something, but when I got there it was closed for refurbishment. Following directions I headed to a nearby marina bar and there drank a pint of Thatcher’s cider before heading back. My estimate of 10 miles was again upgraded by Google Earth, this time to 14.8 miles. I thought I felt a bit knackered.

And here I am writing an article in a different way. No waxing lyrical about crab shells stuck to the sea grass, dry and papery and rising about me like confetti as I walked through them. Nothing about sun and salt bleached driftwood taking on the appearance of alien creatures that had hauled themselves from the depths. Aliens and things of a crabby nature are elsewhere now.   

Friday, March 31, 2017

Vaping Rules

New laws on vaping in the EU coming in next month. A prime example of the aphorism ‘the Devil makes work for idle hands’ when it comes to a bunch of paper-shuffling bureaucrats whose only reason for existence is to make laws.

Maximum refill containers cannot exceed 10ml
This means more plastic waste, an increase in costs due to packaging, an increase in costs due to eliquid wastage (because you don’t get every last drop out of the bottle), wasted time and effort buying, refilling and generally buggering about.

Maximum nicotine strength of 20mg.
This means people can no longer buy base nicotine to mix up their own liquids. It also means that the eliquids available will not be strong enough to properly help you give up smoking. Since not smoking cigarettes was rather the point of the exercise this is a bit fucking stupid isn’t it?

Maximum tank capacity of 2ml
This means much more buggering about refilling your ecig. It means you’ll probably have to carry around one of those 10ml bottles too. It also means a lot of the higher performance vaping tanks will be unavailable

Product approvals, Packaging requirements, customer notifications and data reporting.
This means increased costs for compliance therefore increased cost to the customer. It means less variety, little innovation and, as with all the above, effectively hamstringing an industry that has been saving lives.

Congratulations to that bunch of misinformed, authoritarian butt weasels in the EU.  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

On Vaping...

I am constantly surprised by the prejudice I find in some against vaping – the unthinking bias and the fact-twisting. It’s taking millions of people out of a lethal habit, it’s saving lives, and in social situations it produces only the smell many already have pumping from numerous kinds of scent makers and air fresheners in their homes. My personal experience has been the loss of a smokers cough, a large increase in lung capacity (after a winter of vaping I was able to swim a mile non-stop whereas when I was smoking I could only manage a few hundred yards before stopping to cough my lungs up), loss of a skin condition, and no need to keep a Ventalin inhaler on hand so I could get to sleep at night and to jump-start my lungs in the morning. My risk of cancer, COPD and numerous other conditions is now in steady decline. In fact (though there are other factors involved), I am fitter and healthier now than I was 10 years ago.

But I shouldn’t be surprised by the prejudice.

The dislike of vaping is rooted in a dislike of smoking. Simple. Smoking is being made socially unacceptable and the tar brush (sorry, couldn’t resist) has smeared vaping too, understandably, because the second would not exist without the first. Many people find it difficult not to conflate vaping and smoking. Some are like people who have grown up in a heavy drinking culture, maybe seen friends and family turned into alcoholics, and learned to hate everything about it. Next moving on into life with a puritan attitude they now frown at someone sipping a glass of red in the evening. Others are ex-smokers whose hatred of smoking (and anything remotely like it) is a necessary part of their psychology to stop them smoking again. Still others are merely the product of decades of anti-smoking social conditioning – social engineering – and simply swallow whole and unquestioning much of the nonsense spoken about vaping, because, of course, it confirms their biases. They see something in the mouth and a cloud of something coming out and, to their simple minds, that equals smoking.

Another problem here is the inability of some to separate two things: nicotine and smoking. This is again understandable. Maybe for some of you this is before your time, but I remember adverts depicting a disreputable and nasty top-hatted figure handing out wads of cigarettes to children. He was called Nicotine. This has been the whole zeitgeist about smoking for decades: smoking is bad and the prime actor in this is Nicotine. Well, it isn’t. Nicotine in and of itself is not particularly harmful, but it’s problem was that it is addictive, and the further problem was that for centuries the main delivery system of nicotine could kill you. Nicotine is not the problem, cigarettes are. Taking burning leaves, tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and a number of carcinogens into your lungs (from 50 to 150 depending on your source) is the problem. Vaping doesn’t do that.

Vaping is drinking coffee from a cup. Smoking is injecting caffeine with a dirty needle.

It is sad that many in the medical profession, and many of our law makers, have responded with a knee-jerk reaction – the prejudice I mention above. Without thinking very much, without actually looking at the growing evidence and, in many cases, falsifying stuff to confirm their bias, they moved to stamp on vaping. They want every ecig development put through expensive medical trials, they want the nicotine strength of eliquids limited to levels that make them ineffective – they want to limit, control, socially ostracise and stamp vaping out of existence.

There are other reasons here: pharmaceutical companies making millions from NRT are not exactly pleased about vaping, cigarette companies were not pleased either (but soon jumped on the bandwagon), and governments are not pleased (Oh my god, how do I put sin taxes on something that is stopping people smoking!) and also instinctively want to seize control of and legislate for anything new. But it is some in the medical profession for whom I have the greatest contempt. They’ve had careers telling people to ‘quit or die’ and now cannot quite comprehend this level of harm reduction. I can only style their reaction as not only prejudice, but jealousy.

But the evidence is coming in despite them. Even some medical organisations that were at first completely against vaping are now agreeing that it is 95% less dangerous than smoking. Grudgingly, I suspect, because they are having to respond both to the evidence and the ‘wisdom of crowds’ – those millions who are now free of cigarettes and feel very strongly about the vaping that freed them, and are vocal about it, like me.      

Friday, March 24, 2017

Forbidden Planet Signing

Okay, book signing in Forbidden Planet…

I headed up to London aiming to arrive at the bookshop at around 4.30 where I was to meet the Macmillan publicist, Jamie-Lee Nardone, outside. The trip was fast so I ended up wandering down towards the shop at about 3.45. Not wanting to hang about there I stepped into a nearby pub and whiled away the time with a few whiskies.

I then met Jamie outside the shop and we crossed the road to eat burgers and drink a couple of beers before going into said shop. First order of business was to sign maybe 30 or so copies of Infinity Engine people had ordered. I managed to put a pen through the page of one copy, then spilled coffee on someone’s computer mouse. Maybe those whiskies hadn’t been such a good idea.

Out in the shop I signed plenty of books. I’m told there were about 30 people there but everyone had more than their copies of Infinity Engine. This I guess is my fault since I don’t do signings very often. Of particular note was the stack brought by Sharon Sasaki from Canada – it stood about four feet tall. And thanks for the pen Sharon!

Jamie took lots of pictures with people’s mobile phones and all was good. Thanks too to Adam? Gerard? ( Sorry, but while I can remember most details of 140,000 word book, I forget people’s names) and his wife who brought me a gift of a bottle of gin. Checking the label I see that it’s 57% proof so that’ll be an interesting experience when I start imbibing (not yet, I like a big space between my hangovers).

After signing the books people had bought and brought I then signed the bookshop stock. That was a nice quantity so if you want a signed copy get down to Forbidden Planet now. Next was a venture around the corner to The Angel where various fans plied me with beer. I don't think I was too disgraceful ... then again there are pictures yet to appear. I did my circulating but sorry if I missed chatting to any of you.

At about 10 I buggered off to catch a train. I got aboard determined not to fall asleep and end up in Southend like the last time. A guy sitting opposite me was having a similar problem – talking on his mobile phone with earphones then slumping sideways in his seat and snoring. 

I was fine and got out at Wickford. I then asked a woman sitting in the station about the train to Althorne. Apparently there wasn’t one but her brother was picking her up and that’s where she was going. Amy and Lawrence gave me a lift and dropped me off near my home. The kindness of strangers eh?

This morning I’m not particularly hungover. Maybe that was due to the ‘organic’ beer in The Angel. I just went for a 3-mile walk to collect my car and shall now slide back into the day job. Y’know, space ships to blow up. Ho-hum.

Cheers to those who took these pictures, which I swiped off Facebook. And my thanks to the staff of Forbidden Planet.