Thursday, 31 May 2012

Finally got to eat something for the first time in 48 hrs.

Solid food made it past my lips for the first time in 48 hours.

I made *HOT* chilli in record time.

Won a chilli cook-off in 1986 in Ann Arbor, Michigan with this recipe.
Beat a Texan! WooHoo!

Here's proof that I actually made it.
(Well as much proof as a stupid photo taken on a phone can be)

And inductive proof that I actually ate it:

The bread was a mix of Sourdough and Lebanese.
We had left overs.
Ben was hungry though, so a kilo or so of chilli vanished in minutes.

I had two buds.

Movie Review: "The Darkest Hour" 2011

Holy sh*t. Another sci-fi end of the world movie. Would you actually believe it?

Phhhhbbtttt. Of course you would!

Actually it was rather good. Set in Moskva and saving a shed load on special effects by making the aliens invisible (for the most part).

Really liked it. Maybe understanding enough Russian to get by helped... Embarrassed to speak it, but what the hell.

But seriously, if you want a light hearted take on sci-fi alien invasion 'beginning' (no ending here), then watch it. Kinda like "Battle for Los Angeles" (The good one not the cr*p one) set in Moskva.

Currently listening to Laibach btw. Loud.

I didn't frickin' believe it! Ron Jeremy is selling RUM!

Ok. I was driving home. Got behind a cab in the driving rain and stared uncomprehendingly at the ad on the back. Complete and utter brain fart.

No. Wait. What?

I grabbed for my iPhone to take a picture, but the moment passed too quickly.

So here is the link to the site:

You'll have to enter your date of birth of course, because, after all it *is* adult rum.

I have one thing to ask paraphrasing Johnny Depp:
"But why the rum?"

Movie Review "Iron Sky" (2011)

Just watched Iron Sky.

Frickin' splutter.
Frickin' watch this.
Frickin' it's the best sci-fi movie you'll watch all year.

Frickin' spluttering, laughed, cried and every frickin' emotion and LMFAO.
Frickin' go out and get the full edition with all the extras.
I'm serious.
Do it now. Do it!

Here's the UK link:

Give these guys who created a movie out of nothing but an idea some frickin' money.
Crowd source!
Wished we'd invested. Oh lordy, wished we'd invested.
And it was made just down the road from us.

Oh lordy, wished we'd invested.

You'll love the Downfall meme! LMFAO!
There are so many memes in this that'll you'll have an "accident".
Go get it.
Frickin' brilliant.

Love the fact that the first spaceship to out itself was Ozzie!
Oi! Oi! Oi!

I know you're thinking: "Don't blog when under the influence."
But seriously. Wine and Bourbon aside. I LMFAO.

And Seriously.
Go get this movie.
Buy the full, extended edition.
With extras!
The moment that the character grasped her glasses, I got the meme.

And started spluttering.
I need a shower after watching this.
I'm covered in bits of food and wine.

Get this.
Buy the DVD or Blu Ray special edition.

Frickin' buy this frickin' movie and frickin' watch it.

Buy the DVD or Blu Ray special edition.

LYOFAO. Laibach! Laibach! Laibach! And wait for the end of the credits. Mars?
Wait. What?

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Well. I'm frickin' starving and thinking of posing action figures in inappropriate ways.

Didn't get home till very late.

Ben's crashed out on the sofa downstairs with what is almost certainly some kind of flu.

No lights on. I almost knocked myself out.
That's gunna leave a bruise.

He's in pain, the poor devil, so I haven't the heart to tell him I'm frickin' starving having had nothing but some Garlic prawns 24hrs ago.
So no dinner for me tonight.


At least it's a "sort-of" diet.

There's always Bourbon...

Anyway, loads to do reading up on design patterns, and XCode4 and mobile websites and TitaniumStudio, and, and...

Actually I might post pictures of action figures in inappropriate poses.

Venom abusing War Machine for example.

What? (Spreads hands in abject horror)
You're offended?
But Venoms got whips! Whips I tells yer!

And here it is:

Oh. And Iron Man saying "F**k you" (With fire). Yes really. Cool figure.

Bugger. Don't have a photo. Soon. Soon.

Might actually open my (absolutely true honestly have one) Einstein action figure box. With posable chalk no less.

Wish I had the Hawking one. Then I could add a little bazooka to it and make him chase Einstein.


Nah. Later.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Movie Review: "Alien Western/High Plains Invaders" (2009)

A few weeks ago we stopped by one of those $2 reject shops and noticed this DVD.
Thinking it would be a good laugh, we bought it.

So over fish and chips we watched it tonight.
My Gast was completely Flabberred.
Truly I was expecting to be falling about laughing all the time.
Truly, ruly, ruly I expected to be choking on chips and sputtering wine all over the coffee table every five minutes.

But. Frickin' 'ell. It was actually *good*. Or maybe the wine, fish and chips are talking. Or the fact that I'm a fan of low budget sci-fi movies.

James Marsters (Spike from Buffy) was the main star. The direction was tight, the acting was excellent and although the CGI was not fantastic it was pretty damn good. The alien design was quite unique and quite nice. Four legged, millions of teeth laden mouths, guns in their tails, slow moving, utter crapoids hooked on eating Uranium. Kinda different from standard bi-pedal bugs intent in just eating humans.

Just how they could possibly operate a star ship is not the point btw.

The lighting not so good. But then it was probably filmed in winter in Canada by the look of it.

Script a bit hammed up but they're cowboys for Earp's sake!!! They're going to say "Say son, you look like you need a shot of whiskey" rather than "Pull up a chair old boy. Let's sample this Chateau Peridot 1847. The bouquet! Reminds me of spring in Lyon."

And some of the guns in use... well... not of the era... but... so what? It's a movie not a documentary!

The story, like cowboys vs aliens, was a bit on the 'Wait. What? No. Really?' kind of side, but who the hell cares. The fact that Spike hauled a lead box 4' x 4' x 3' filled with pitchblende (Or U-235 not sure) onto the back of a wagon was... let's just say... a tad unconvincing but who the f**k cares. It looked good!

(I have to say I have a soft spot for James Marsters so I'm probably biased... Twitchy. Twitchy)

If you liked cowboys vs aliens, go watch it.

Personally I'm waiting for cowboys vs ninja robots vs pirate monkeys vs predators vs aliens fused with spiders with wings. All at once. In Stalingrad. In 1942.

Embedded Jetty Runner now has a new sample

I added a sample that shows a very simple JSP/HTML5 boilerplate site that works on desktops and phones. Need to expand it.

Just follow the link from the top menu to get to github.

Anyone who wants to contribute, just e-ping me.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Frickin' Remotes!

Ok. I'll start by saying that I'm pissed. In both senses of the word.

We have a Mac Mini that served as our TV controller for quite some time. It was retired when we got a replacement and a Drobo. It was sitting in my office for some time turned off. I decided it was time to configure up a nexus repository for it. So I turned it on.

Keyboard failure. Frickin' bluetooth thing. They're too small to be useful in my not so frickin' humble opinion. But I bottle it up. Like most stupid UX things that happen on a daily basis. "Must Bottle It Up. Must Bottle It Up. Must Bottle It Up. Can't Make A Scene."

Anyway, we figured out that one of the batteries had leaked internally. So after much mucking about we got the batteries out and cleaned out the awful mess. Took ages. Luckily we have a fully stocked tool kit of weird evil looking screwey things and filey things that look like they belong in a dental surgery that made it possible.

Still no luck. iBrick.

So I found a replacement bluetooth keyboard. Popped new batteries in. Turned it on and up popped a window on the Mac Mini:
"Trying to connect to keyboard 00:c3:78:86:82:28:37:91:87:29:17:29:37:19:27:91:27:39:12:70:01:23:34:45:67:78:89"
Ok. Ok. I'm exaggerating. But you get my point.

"error: trying again in a minute"

No luck. And again. And again.

So I chucked a wobbly. Shouted at the machine:
"It's frickin' there. Look! You stupid pile of shit! Look. Where I'm pointing! Right there. 2 frickin inches away! You've got a camera! Use the frickin thing!"
No luck. Stamped my little feet, grabbed the keyboard, removed the batteries and chucked it in my 'frickin stupid hardware box' and went off to get a *wired* keyboard.

Worked first time.

Now. To the title of this article.

I went downstairs to watch a movie. I found myself staring at our coffee table. Not that I do that often I might add, but at that point and given I was about to have an aneurysm it just seemed to me that that this small table seemed to be groaning under the weight of TV remotes.

I lost my rag.

I probably need valium.

Or more Wild Turkey.

Or both.

Why the frickin' f**k do manufacturers create remotes with such massive over the top stupid frickin' complex devices that rival the devices they control in size?

We've got a TV, a DVD and a I-Don't-Frickin-Know-What-It's-Called-That-Controls-Sound thing. They all have remotes. HUGE remotes that look like they come off the set of Transformers. I'm not an unstable person, but sometimes I get the sense that they could easily morph into a ten wheeler or something.


Total number of buttons: 213.

213 buttons.

What the frickin' f**k is that about?
Ben tried to placate me saying I need to cope better.
Cope? COPE?

213 buttons.

In a typeface that makes it frickin' impossible to read without a microscope.

They're frickin' remotes!!! Wha? Why the frickin f**k do I need a an FM/AM button on a I-Don't-Frickin-Know-What-It's-Called-That-Controls-Sound thing? Or a T-Shift button whatever the frickin f**k that is? And what the frickin f**k is PDVD? or RAN? or Test-Tone?

Seriously you guys who design these things.... Take your hand off your... T-Shift... and think about your target market. For the most part all we need is:


Seriously... If anyone works in the 'things-that-make-you-life-work-nice-at-home-industry' then please, I'm begging you, have pity. Please. Pity.

PITY. Please. Please. I really, really don't need an aneurysm right now.

Book Review: "American Gridlock" by H. Woody Brock

Sorry. I can't help it. It was difficult to buy this book because of the juxtaposition of the authors name and the title of the book. I did, of course, mainly because of the sub-title:
"Why the left and right are both wrong - commonsense 101 solutions to the economic crises"
Ok. Let me state from the start. This guy is no dummy or just some hot head op-ed columnist. He's got a serious number of letters after his name. And given the number of endorsements (3 pages of them) worth taking seriously.

The book is written from the standpoint of a highly trained, articulate economist who "can't take it anymore" and instead of ranting and spluttering, presents bi-partisan solutions to the most pressing problems besetting the American political scene. For example here is the list of chapter headings:

  1. Dialogue of the Deaf
  2. Must There Be a Lost Decade?
  3. Resolving the Entitlements Spending Crisis
  4. Preventing Perfect Financial Storms
  5. Bargaining Theory 101
  6. Beyond Democratic Capitalism

One would be tempted to view this as a laundry list of "well, what I think we should do is..." but it isn't. Each chapter used rigorous deductive logic, theorems and proofs (Provided in detail in the appendix!) to show why simply shouting at each other across the aisle or letting media know-it-alls-who-know-nothing shout their opinions simply must stop.

By taking a purely deductive approach and using Nash, Marsinya, Arrow, Kurz, Mordecai et al theories (most of whom won Nobel Prizes for their work) he clearly articulates that the suggested solutions have been systematically and repeatedly ignored and *proves* (as in axiomatic) that they would work.

This doesn't seem to have the faintest whiff of Randism or Friedmanism to it btw.

I particularly like the use of the dialectic written as an imaginary conversation between himself and the President. The President repeatedly brings out real world objections, altruistic concerns, party politics, lobbyists, special interest group objections and so on. Each gets explained in an easy to understand way.

I do love his suggestions on using social media to gamify "Gotcha!" by trapping media talking-heads, phony liberals, policy wonks and op-eds in their insane and frustrating logical fallacies. I also love his suggestion for creating an "Idiocy Index" to be applied to White House economists and state dept nutters who let China Alpha-Foxtrot*1 the US for so long.

Finally, I'd like to suggest that even if you only pick this book up at a bookstore (if they're any left in your area), simply read the conclusion. It's only 3 pages and will have you optimistic, laughing and wanting more.

This is a remarkable book and well worth time reading. Especially *THIS YEAR* if you're American.

*1. Think about it. Like Charlie-Foxtrot can be applied to the GFC.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Book Review: "Free Will" by Sam Harris

Book? Well. Maybe. More like lecture notes or those pamphlets they used to write in the 19th century.
(Should do more of those. Authors take note please.)

In any case. I suggest you get it and read it.
A well reasoned if somewhat stream of consciousness discussion of what actually constitutes free will.

Summing up: Mental weather.

Valium might help. It did in my case... :-)

But having said that this is a well reasoned discussion of the illusion we all have about free will.

And having read it and examined my personal illusion of free will and the upbeat nature of the conclusion...
I can honestly say that I retract my initial thought that:
"If we are all mental weather machines, then it is just an easy jump for others to add the word 'just' to justify unspeakable horrors on the world."
I take it back. Sam Harris has addressed my concerns admirably.

Buy it.

Read it.

Let your mental weather take you where it wills.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Book Review: "Higgs Force" by Nicholas Mee

Not as advertised.

Having said that I enjoyed the book.

The first third of the book was a ho-hum of "how we got here" starting from Greece to the "Revolution of 1974." Nothing new. History familiar for anyone with a passing interest in HEP.

The middle of the book was very interesting providing elucidation and graphics describing Feynman diagrams, QED and QCD.

Learnt a lot here, but curiously kept noticing the use of the phrase "time represented vertically" with respect to Feynman diagrams where obviously certain particles where traveling "south" so to speak.

No discussion or mention of that. Time? Who ordered that? (in-joke. sorry)

No detail regarding exactly how force carriers mediate "force" either. Except in a nucleus where gluon interactions are described very well. But I felt Brian Cox did it better describing standing waves.

Then. Then! THEN! Peter Higgs is mentioned. On page 230. In a 300 page book.

Then dropped.

Only re-appearing around page 278 when a breathlessly exciting description of the ATLAS detector is provided.

Seriously. CERN has a website. If I wanted to know the internals of that specific detector I didn't need to read 20 pages of excitable description and pictures. I've been to the site. Multiple times. 20 pages?

Page 279. "The Signature of the Higgs" Page 279? Seriously?

Having said all that, it was an enjoyable read. But seriously. Higgs Force mentioned only briefly at the end of the book. And a thin description it is I might add. Could be summed up as "treacle that imparts mass." Wait. What?

If you want to know what the Higgs particle (was, might be, is), or what the field is, don't bother. If you want to have a fascinating account of the lead-up to the most fantastic, most stupendously complex machine ever built on this planet, then read it.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Movie Review: "Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol"

Mission Fricking-Stupid-Frickin-improbable.

I now understand why Nick Frost wasn't included but Simon Pegg was.
Because at every point in the plot Nick would have said:
"This Is Pure Bollocks"
And rightly so. This movie was simply a movie to have Tom Cruise prance about doing impossible, no... Improbable things. Had Nick Frost been involved then Thompson and Thompson would have stolen the movie. Easy given Cruises abysmal performance.

Impossible is so right. Ghost is right. It's abysmal at the most fundamental level. I walked away after 2/3rds of the movie and felt nothing.

Arse gravy. Bollocks.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Mothers day: My mother is one tough old bird!

The last few months have been quite tough and I suffered a lot of emotional stress.
Then I thought: Do I really have it so bad?

My mother is just short of 82. Born before WWII. Helped German and Italian POWs during the war as a child. Got married in 1955. Turns out not so good an idea. The man, my father, was a well spoken, educated and intelligent man. Unfortunately he was also deeply flawed. Psychologically and physically abusive to his children and his wife. Changed our family name and dragged us half way across the world to avoid being involved in some nasty business in the UK. Treated us and my mother like sh*t. And bragged about how he had made us all tough. We all left early.

Except my mother. "Better the devil you know..." she would say. So she stayed with him for 50 years enduring personal poverty while he wasted money on extravagant and just plain stupid projects that never made money.

Then he died. A sigh of relief. She was alone with him when it happened. In a caravan park in a tiny outback town in South Australia. Waited there while my siblings travelled thousands of miles across the country by car to get her, drive their car and caravan back those thousands of miles and arrange the cremation. I was in the UK and unable to help.

But she persevered and was still powering around making friends and getting stuff done. When her health started to fail, she moved to the Gold Coast to be closer to us and bought a house with the meagre results of her marriage.

Then she got a cancerous polyp in her nasal cavity.
Then her kidneys failed.
Then we found out she had an aneurysm this size of a fist on her iliac artery.
Then she had a cancerous growth on her forehead.
(Update) Oh. I forgot. She had to have her left big toe amputated. We drew dotted lines around it for the surgeon. My mum was amused. The surgeon was not.
Then the doctor said she had no more than 18 months to live.
Then we found out her lungs are on their last gasp.
Then she was put on the no resuscitate list so that if she started to bleed internally she would get morphine and be allowed to die without pain.

All of which had little or no effect on her outlook and sheer bloody mindedness to get on with life. I help when I can by taking her to dialysis and being present at medical discussions because she's almost deaf.

So at 81, she was carting a bucket of water out the back door and tripped up. Smashed her face into the outdoor table and broke her knee on the concrete. Undeterred and uncaring of her injury, she continued to do what she intended to do. Then went back inside and started a load of washing. And took out a basket of clothes and put it up on the line. "Because it needs doing for Gods sake!"

When the ambulance arrived she was still standing up pegging clothes. With a broken knee.

As I said. Tough.

So off to hospital. They don't use casts anymore, so she had this velcro thing around her leg. Two days later the nurse caught her walking up and down the corridors "To help heal the knee. Doesn't hurt *that* much." So we had to get her a walker. And every time I visited her she demanded that I take her downstairs for a smoke.

So frickin' what? She's 81. She's a grown woman with a mind of her own which is as sharp as a razor blade. I'm not going to argue with her. So off we went to the designated smoking area.

For weeks now, she'd been struggling to get into my car when I took her to dialysis. She won't accept help getting in and out. I wanted to, but she's a tad scornful of physical help. I could see she had some sort of back pain and knew she'd been taking the occasional panadol for it.

The we found out she'd fractured her spine. Months ago. Frickin' hell. She's been walking around, getting in and out of cars, having dialysis three times a week and even doing the shopping. With a frickin' fractured spine!

Again. Tough.

So the next time you moan about having to go to a Mothers Day lunch or complain about a stubbed toe think of her. 81. Tough as nails, full of life, making jokes and taking it on the chin.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Odd Question: If you had to say which TV character you most identify with...

I ask odd questions. Helps me think through problems.

Ben's had the entire series of Burn Notice running in the background while he works.

An odd comment caused me to go through many TV series and movies to see which character I think most embodies who we are as people. I'm weird like that.

After an exhaustive trawl I went back to Burn Notice. My initial thoughts:

Ben: Sam.
Reason: Ben is meticulous, purposeful, insanely insightful, inventive, practiced martial arts, can pick locks, smokes good cigars, has a good natured humorous side that captivates all whom he meets and has a cheeky smile which I adore.
I suspect that his beard picks up WiFi.
Mis-match: Ben hardly ever drinks.

Me: Fi.
Reason: I'm a kinda Get Sh*t Done girl who uses any means (or languages/systems) to do it. If I don't know it, I learn it.
Very fast.
I have studied Clausewitz and Sun-Tzu and have a cut-to-the-chase approach with business.
I also have an... Er hmm... 'interesting' past.
Mis-match: I have a fascination with Quantum Physics and Cosmology.

Update: After serious thought and cajoling by Ben, I'd have to say I'm a mix of Fi and Abby from NCIS.
After all, I dress a bit goth and still look reasonable at 56 (He keeps saying "MILF". What is that? :-) Also he wants us to have a goth wedding...

What about you?

Book Review: "Climate Wars" by Harald Welzer

That was the most depressing book I've read in a long while. It's a quite scholarly dissertation about why we've always been killing each other, still are and will again but for different reasons. This book is very, very well written. Understated, logical, historical, scientific with a huge dig at social and political science.

About my only beef is the phraseology. I'm guessing that some of this comes from the Author being German. So you do get some tortuously long and convoluted sentences. I was reminded of the incident when General Alexander Haig rushed into a press conference when Reagan was shot and said this:
"This is definitely not a situation I haven't been in before."
Which left the Journos speechless while they struggled to understand what he actually meant.

Basically the author is saying something like this:
Humans have always been slaughtering each other. The western nations have been enjoying a peace and prosperity bubble since WWII. It's nearly over. Our sliding baselines make us think that wars like Darfur, Somalia and even Bosnia are aberrations. But they're not. They're the norm and have been for millennia.  
And climate refugees will start pouring into southern Europe, across the US and Canadian borders and in rickety boats heading to Australia quite soon and in overwhelming numbers. And western countries are using more and more technological and political violence to make this invisible to their citizens. They are creating ever larger trans-national forces to "deter" refugees outside of the borders of their own countries and without media coverage.
What is considered shocking today, such as dropping failed asylum seekers off in the deserts of Algeria as is done now, will pale in comparison to what will come. And because it will happen in increments you'll come to think of it as normal. So in just a few years you'll watch unmanned drones bomb asylum seekers in boats off shore in their thousands and you'll be thinking "well at least I won't have to pay tax for the detention centre."
Yoikes. Stern stuff.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Movie Review: "Atlas Shrugged" (2011)

Ben and I were doing some running around on Saturday and noticed a billboard advertising "El Maco" from McDonalds. Now I am not a fan of Maccas, and haven't had anything from them for nearly a year, but it was a Mexican burger... And I like Mexican. The way the El Maco was advertised it was a big burger with spicy sauce and sour cream.

So on Sunday we stopped on the way home by our local and bought two El Macos and two large fries and when home, settled down to watch a movie. As it happens I had reviewed Ayn Rand Nation a week or so ago so it seemed appropriate to watch Part I of Atlas Shrugged.

We sat down and opened the bag. WTF. These burgers are tiny. Barely the size of a cheese burger. And flat as a tack. I stared at mine in disbelief. "You gotta be joking." Maco? MACO? El Decepcion more like. Sigh. Oh well. Maybe it tastes better than it looks.

Nope. Bland. Tasteless. Cardboard. Crap. No hint of spice at all. Maybe they mean for me to eat the container to add spice?

Much like the movie.

The production and filming was precise and clean. The actors well groomed. The dialogue... Stilted. The actors... Cardboard cutout people. Zero passion. Zero emotion. Flat. I remember reading the book in the late 70's and visualising the characters. Eddie, Dagny, Ellis, Hank and so on. I felt not so much inspired, but liking them in a strange way. They were so purposeful. Driven. And to me... Real.

I liked the black actor playing Eddie. That was a nice touch. And Graham Beckel as Ellis Wyatt was a good choice. All the others seemed like... Dunno. No depth. Just reading the script I guess.

I was reminded of the William Hurt version of Dune. After reading the book and watching the sumptious De Laurentius version I watched the William Hurt version and was under-whelmed. Now imagine that there was no De Laurentius version of Dune and all you saw was the William Hurt version. You'd be...

Under-whelmed. Felling Meh. With a side order of Humph.

And that is what Part I of Atlas Shrugged seemed to me.

I understand that Part II will be released later this year. I'll watch it. Just because I'm driven to complete whatever I start. But I hold no great expectations.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Book Review: "The 4% Universe" by Richard Panek

Now. Interesting. Came as a shock to find that I was 9 years of age before the universe existed.

I don't mean the theoretical universe. The Big Bang. But rather the experimental proof that a) there was a relic from the big bang called the CMB and b) that we live in a single galaxy amongst billions of galaxies in just our bubble of visible universe.

It was 1965. I was 9. Living in Wiltshire I think - bit hazy on that long ago. Countryside. Not the smoke filled cities of the midlands that I had in earlier times. Sitting alone next to ponds and hedgerows marvelling at the sheer fecundity of life. The smallness of it and the sheer frickin' scope of it. Ooo! Look! A tiny lizard. 1/2 inch long. England 1960's Imperial measures - get over it. Jesus F**kin Christ it was tiny, but it had ribs, lungs, a liver and kidneys and was an apex predator.

1965. Only 40 years after Quantum Mechanics came into being. Hubble had only died 12 years previously. COBE was 24 years in the future. My school bus went past a MOD site which posted the state of nuclear emergency. We were all going to die. Horribly.

1965. 4 years before the moon landing. LBJ just sworn in. Funeral of Winston Churchill. First American combat troops arrive in Vietnam. First nuclear power plant goes into orbit. Yes. Really. SNAP-10A.

1965. Australia announces it will send combat troops to Vietnam and then sends the poor sods. Oh. And Liverpool wins the FA Cup Final, beating Leeds Utd 2–1. (I was into football back then)

1965. Mariner 4 arrives at Mars. Cigarette advertising is banned on BBC. Watts - need I say more? Auschwitz trial sentences 66 ex-SS personnel. Tom & Jerry debuts on US TV. The Pillsbury Doughboy is created.

1965. World population. 3 billion. Half what it is today.

1965. The universe is proved to exist.

Anyway, I digress. This book is a wonderful historical romp through the politics, machinations, hatreds, lives and loves of a handful of scientists trying to turn cosmology from metaphysics into physics. From Penzias and Wilson to Perlmutter, Turner and Vera Rubin to Smoot and all the others. Nobel prizes, Gruber prizes, antarctic expeditions, Hubble Space Telescope intrigue, Deep Field and what not. I *remember* 1987a for f**ks sake, and was excited.

Love it.

So. Where are we now? Dunno. And neither do these guys, but it's a start. What a frickin' wonderful path we've travelled. What great things we've uncovered. Frickin' hell. I love this stuff.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Book Review: "Ayn Rand Nation" by Gary Weiss

I have to confess that I stumbled on Atlas Shrugged when I was a cab driver in the mid 70's and after reading it went out and got all the other books. She did speak to me, but mainly because of the fairly rigorous process of logical steps leading to her philosophy. For a while I became a bit rabid, but then after thinking through the inevitable outcomes of adopting the approach became less than enthusiastic.

I saw this book and since I hadn't read any of the Ayn Rand books for 30 years (I still have them all) decided to see how on earth she was relevant in todays world. I was horrified to see how deeply embedded her works are in the American psyche.

The author interviews some of the original 'cult' members, including the Brandens, and a raft of people who claim to have had Ayn Rand affect their lives. Many are active members in the Tea Party. Horrors abound.

As the interviews progress, it seems he is left more and more stunned by how little people know about Objectivism and how blind they are to the negative effects of following through on their beliefs.

I vaguely remembered that Alan Greenspan was one of the original 'cult', but had no idea how deeply intertwined his life was with Objectivism. In hindsight his handling of the Fed's response to various financial events makes it obvious.

Just so people understand what Objectivism means here is the quote from wikipedia:

Objectivism is a philosophy created by Russian-American philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand (1905–1982). Objectivism's central tenets are that reality exists independent of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive logic, that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness (or rational self-interest), that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights embodied in laissez faire capitalism, and that the role of art in human life is to transform humans' metaphysical ideas by selective reproduction of reality into a physical form—a work of art—that one can comprehend and to which one can respond emotionally.

Seems harmless eh? The individual rules! It also means government and all regulations (not laws) be damned. Which is why so many people get hooked on it. So the horror unfolds when, for example, a nurse joins the Tea Party, waves a John Galt banner demanding the government get out of the health business without the slightest understanding that she will:

- either lose her job or have to work longer hours for less pay
- walk home because there is no public transport
- on sidewalks that gradually deteriorate because there are no one to fix them
- through piles of garbage because there's no one to take it away
- buy food that could make her sick because there are no regulatory bodies
- knowing that since there are no public schools, her kids will likely grow up un-educated
- and get their first job at 10c an hour because there are no minimum wage laws
- die in poverty because she could never save enough to take care of herself in old age
- and you can see my point

Reality bites. And it bit Rand too. Her hatred for Medicare didn't stop her rationalising away her decision to sign up when she was broke, in her 80's and she couldn't care for her dying husband.

While I detest special interest groups getting special treatment from the government and the waste of the bureaucracy of it all, I would rather have governments and the regulations than not. I appreciate the taking away of garbage, clean streets, clean water, being able to buy food that I know can be trusted 99.9% of the time (given the recent KFC issue), traffic lights, cross-walks, road rules and all the other myriad ways that having governments and regulations creates a safe environment for me and you and your kids.

It could be done better, but to not have it at all? No thanks.