Archive for August, 2011
I have been doing an absolute ton of work recently, which utterly blows. I’m a freelancer who is paid by the hour, so I shouldn’t really grumble about 70 hour weeks, but fuck it, I am. Yah boo sucks to toil. Take that ‘sense of purpose’. It could be worse I suppose. I could be broke and forced to loot for a living. Or even worse, become an accountant or work 9 to 5.
Anyway. Because of all this grind, I haven’t had much chance to write. I have had a lot of time to read though, as I sit with all the other drones commuting across London. So here are some interesting statistics I read in Wired. I think they are cool. If you subscribe to this blog and are reading it on your kindle while commuting, I feel your pain. Hope you find these interesting.
Printer ink is a rip off that doesn’t even taste nice:
£0.13 – Price per millimetre of a bottle of Dom Perignon Vintage 2002 Champagne.
£1.63 – Price per millimetre of ink for an HP black inkjet cartridge.
Take this luddites and get with the times:
2.6 – Number of jobs created by the internet, for every job lost because of it.
Why am I going to publish an ebook?
105 – Number of ebooks sold by Amazon for every 100 physical books.
To be fair, this statistic probably holds true for all of us:
20,000 – Number of malicious emails targeting the UK government networks each month.
This figure could also read how much more likely a Mac user is a Guardian reader than a PC user:
80% – How much more likely a Mac user is to be a vegetarian than a PC user.
Here are some others:
‘The average woman spends 136 days dressing up, applying make-up, plucking and showering.’ (Daily Mail) I’m assuming this is over a lifetime and not per year.
Again, according to the Mail, we spend 27 days waiting for trains. I assume this is an average. The average Japanese person probably spends 27 minutes over their lifetime while the average Brit spends 27 days a year. At least.
I could go on, but I feel like this entry is a bit of a cop out. Anyone could copy facts from other sites and magazines. That’s why 92% of other websites are 28% worse than this one. Plus 78% of statistics are just made up.
Still, if you found reading this 0.01% more interesting than what you might have done in the last 5 minutes, it was all worth it.
Apparently there is going to be a scheme where people convicted of certain crimes, say looting or graffiti, are forced to work five days a week if they are unemployed. It will consist of four days of community service, cleaning stuff for example, and one day looking for work. I assume this means chain gangs of hoodies being forced to scrub walls down, hopefully in humiliating outfits. No one seems quite sure yet how this will work as it will have to be enforced somehow. I get the impression that the government wants to pander to people demanding that criminals pay back something to their communities – but without it actually costing anything.
I have to admit I am all for this. Like most people, I find myself getting more right wing as I get older. I think it is due to the fact that when you are young you want to go to illegal raves, take drugs, get drunk in parks, and generally embrace things you might think are cool. Like graffiti or skateboarding or just general loafing about pissing of the police and authority. When you are younger there seem to be more people telling you what to do all the time and you naturally want to rebel. As you get older to tend to have your own property, you possess more nice things, you want your neighborhood to be safer and look nicer.
When you are younger you might think that people living on the edge of the law are cool and sticking it to the system and exposing the flaws of our decadent consumer society that embraces greed and possessions. When you get older, you just want the prick who stole your phone to be beaten with sticks. I remember when I was 25 and worked my ass off to save up for a playstation. Then some wanker broke into my bedsit and stole it. I would still like his feet broken.
People sometimes bleat on that education is the key. Even given the fact that you can lead an illiterate twat to a desk but can’t make him learn, the education aspect doesn’t seem to be working. A level results have been improving every year for 29 years implying that we are ever more a nation of geniuses. Or that the exams are getting easier. Either way people seem to be learning things.
Nope, call me a fascist but I think amusing punishment is the key for low level criminals. Not prison where the more violent actually have a better time than the less violent, but more unusual and funny punishments. I think embarrassing chain gangs would be a good start. Make them dress up like morons while they do it. If a criminal smashes a window, make them wash the neighborhood’s shop windows. While dressed as a ballerina. If they are caught doing graffiti get one of those temporary tattoos that last a month and write ‘Twat’ or ‘Loser’ on their forehead. If someone loots JD Sports (one of the hardest hit by the rioters), make them do sport – 8 hours of hopscotch or something.
I do worry that my increasing hatred of crime and scummery will lead me to inevitably read the Daily Mail but thankfully I am all for immigrants or anyone that contributes to society. My wife is an immigrant for a start and she’s out working a 12 hour shift while I write this on the couch.
If you are a liberal type who thinks that Britain can be fixed with counselling and hugs then fine. You are probably a nicer person than me generally. Kudos to you. You’re going to hate it when I’m in charge though.
Exciting news! Or just news. It depends on the sort of thing that excites you. I’m positively gripped. The Word of Ward and www.scifiward.com are now available on Amazon Kindle and it costs less than a pound (or a dollar) a month. Which is a pittance. This means that every time I make a new post it is delivered automatically to your Kindle and you can read it on the tube or plane. It’s genius.
So without further ado here are the links.
If you are in the UK:
If you are in America:
So go on. Support the arts! Or at least help support a poor, starving blogger.
South Koreans are busy people but happen to be blessed by advanced technology. I say ‘blessed’, they just work hard at innovation and have created an infrastructure that encourages new technological development, but blessed is easier. Also, to be fair, the virtual supermarket in the video below could be done in Britain. Or anywhere that had reliable broadband, smartphones, and a reasonable 3G network.
Basically, Tescos has stuck up a virtual representation of supermarket shelves on a train platform and added QR tags (like a square barcode) so people can scan items with their phones. The items go into a virtual shopping basket online and the food is then delivered to their house. Genius. This would appeal to those who need to see all the products available on display and don’t like the way you shop online. Or people who just think it is cool and would buy stuff purely because you can.
I said that this would work in Britain but it obviously wouldn’t as people would mess about with the pictures and the QR codes. Draw willies on chickens and put people off or muck about with the codes. I was wondering if it would be possible to sabotage this even more. If the person is buying a lot of items they may not be paying much attention to what they are adding to their basket. If, say, I had a book on sale in the virtual shop (lots of supermarkets sell books and magazines these days), couldn’t I get a copy of the QR code, make sure it is the right size and stick it over the top of one of the other product’s QR tags? That way they will inadvertently buy a copy of my book and when they got their shopping assume it was a mistake. Even if they flagged it up with the supermarket it would be assumed to be a glitch in the matrix.
If you’ve ever shopped online you will be familiar with getting things you didn’t order. I once ordered two packs of 8 rashes of bacon. I received 16 packs of bacon instead. I was constantly giving bacon to friends in pubs like a carnivorous Milky Bar kid, I was very popular. Anyway, maybe this virtual idea would work if it was only behind a cover or in a country where people aren’t quite so criminally minded and dishonest like myself.
Here is the clip:
Thanks for letting me know about this clip Martin, I think it’s cool.
A load of twats in hats tried to burn London down. And because London leads the way, there were then riots all over England. It was like the film Rise of the Planet of the Apes out there – except that the apes in the movie are literate and you can understand their motives and empathize.
It seems to have calmed down now and people are analysing the aftermath. Londoners are a fairly resilient group and it’s business as normal.
I’m a bit annoyed with all this rioting shenanigans. They trashed a sushi place and a Dominos about 10 minutes from my flat. Some are saying that it is because they are poor and feeling frustrated and boo and hoo. In case you haven’t been to England, please don’t think that our poor are all under 25 and in hoods. Our poor actually come from all walks of life. Some are even old and quite a few are now homeless as their houses have been burnt down. The poor desperado looters are apparently angry at a consumer society where others get things that they don’t. Curiously though, these tracksuit wearing thugs used mobile phones to organise this attack which has largely specialised in looting sports clothing shops and mobile phone stores. Some even arrived in cars to maximise their looting efficiency and correct this imbalance.
This is just opportunism and fun for an underclass in society that doesn’t have much future, knows there will be no real comeback, and doesn’t really care about others. The people I feel sorry for most are those who are equally broke but have just lost their shops and homes. Because the looters don’t travel. They just trash their own underprivileged neighborhoods. It could be argued that the looters are so distanced from society and a sense of belonging that they no longer care. The fact that a lot of the crime was caused by local gangs somewhat negates that separation from their neighborhoods.
There have also been some tragic deaths because of this. A guy called Richard Bowes from Ealing died last night after he remonstrated with looters near his house on Monday. He was beaten so badly that it killed him. Also, in Birmingham three guys were protecting their business when a group of the poor disaffected types, who had a car, drove into them and killed them. Quite frankly, I’m surprised there wasn’t more loss of life but these tales are tragic enough.
Someone sent me a link to a Telegraph article which pointed out that this lack of ethics and morality are prevalent on high and well as down low. MPs are lamenting the poor morals of the young and broke and some are getting positively indignant about the lowlifes. Their hypocrisy is pointed out as several of these MPs were found guilty of claiming thousands in expenses. This is ethically on par if you are just talking about theft and barefaced greed. The difference is that after the expenses scandal, a lot of MPs paid the money back. An even bigger difference is that genuinely poor working people didn’t have their houses burnt down or were killed because of the greed.
People are worried that this sort of thing might affect the Olympics. It won’t. There are shopping malls in that part of town and these ‘disaffected’ dicks aren’t protesting or making a statement in order to get heard. They only attack shops.
What has been touching about all this are people getting together to clean things up. Groups formed on twitter which led to armies of people armed with brooms sweeping up all the smashed glass and discarded playstation boxes. That Malaysian student who got mugged by hoodies pretending to help has had a mini charity set up so that his parents can fly over from Malaysia to visit him in hospital. My local Budgens has pledged to feed the 100 or so people from Tottenham who were made homeless. These acts of kindness show that the English aren’t all bad, no matter what the rest of the world may be thinking given the images they have been receiving.
It’s all pretty ugly and unpleasant no matter what you think of the motives behind it. Are they mindless, looting, murdering pricks or has society let these morally void cherubs down? At least the press and bloggers and news sites can slag them off. The chances of anyone involved sitting down and reading anything are nil. I saw a funny tweet from Sky News welcoming all their ‘new viewers in Tottenham watching themselves loot on their new Hi-def TVs’.
Looting is pretty unpleasant anywhere as it tends to punish local communities of equally poor people who are just trying to get ahead in life. The only people who have benefited from this are the looters who got away with it and those involved in the phone hacking scandal and are no longer in the media’s spotlight. A sad consequence of this switch of focus is that other news is being pushed back a few pages. Syria is getting increasingly violent and in Somalia a human tragedy on a colossal scale continues to unfold. Kind of puts things in perspective a bit.
I’m sure you first read the title of this post and thought, ‘Huh?’ Then you looked at the photo and went, ‘Oh I see’. This was probably rapidly followed by something like, ‘Well that’s just a bit weird’.
Either that, or your brain works differently from mine and you thought it was quite cool. In which case I’m afraid, you are weird. And not in a cool kooky way either.
I just came across a link to this picture on twitter and thought I would share. Apparently you can get versions with a woman’s hand or a small child’s hand. Just in case you weren’t weirded out enough.
The only way this would be cool is if it were a demon hand. Or a wookie hand. Or a cylon hand. Or a skeleton’s hand. Or…
You get my point.
When Perry Makepiece and Gail Perkins go on a tennis holiday to Antigua, they meet a Russian gangster type called Dima and his family. Dima wants to make a deal with the British Government and to do that he needs the holidaymakers to get in touch with the “right people”. Or spies to you and me. Soon Perry and Gail find themselves in basements in London, assignations in Paris, and safe houses in Switzerland.
It sounds pretty cool. I was expecting ‘The Man Who knew Too Much’ but more modern and with spies and a John le Carre twist. Except the book isn’t like that.
Many have hailed this as a ‘return to form’ and I guess it is in that le Carre has returned to spies and all the backhanded dealings that go on. He is clearly pissed off with bankers and corporate money screwing up the world but at its heart this is still a classic piece of spy thriller action. It is highly readable and entertaining.
There are a few things I didn’t like though. The first were the main characters. They are likeable enough but for some reason le Carre wanted them to be more working class as opposed to his usual public schoolboy types. This is fine except that he seems to have trouble writing characters that apparently come from the working classes. Peregrine Makepiece is an Oxford Don who loves to ski and play tennis and cricket. Gail Perkins is a lawyer who inherited a flat in the very posh Primrose Hill. They go on a tennis holiday in Antigua for Christ’s sake. It just didn’t gel in my head. What made it more confusing was that their background didn’t really matter for the story being told. They might as well have been middle class, they could keep the same personalities.
I also wasn’t all that keen on the pacing. The first third of the book is told in flashback as Perry and Gail are debriefed in London. The story’s plot just felt a bit jumpy.
Having said all that, this is a good book. If you like le Carre’s work you will likely enjoy this. I may have been a bit tinted by the fact that the last book I read of his was The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Which is awesome and a lot better. So an entertaining and well written ’return to form’ indeed. Just not one of his very best.