Category Archives: Blog

My blog and occasional comment on current affairs.

Scottish iPhone 4s

I wrote recently about some pranksters reprogramming an iPhone 4s in a shop so that it swore at a kid. It was pretty damn funny. I then talked about Siri in general and how how it seems genuinely handy and can even help you find a place to bury a dead body or get a blowjob. More monthly events than daily, but still pretty cool.

My Scottish mate then informed me that it isn’t quite so helpful in Scotland. Apparently Siri, like the rest of the world, finds it hard to understand the Scottish accent. It doesn’t understand simple phrases like ‘Hoots! Hoots! Och aye the noo’ at all! (Apologies to any Scottish readers, I’m just having a laugh.) In case you don’t believe me, just watch this funny video.

 

Dogs bark the Star Wars theme

This is genius! Not much more to add really. I saw this on some site or other and thought I would share it. Enjoy.
http://youtu.be/6ntDYjS0Y3w
 

It’s called an Americano

What follows is a pointless rant about coffee. I wrote it yesterday while hopped up on caffeine.

I’m writing this in a coffeeshop and quite frankly it sucks. First of all there are about ten kids running around shouting while their parents either remain oblivious to the noise and its affect on others’ enjoyment, or they stare at them proudly, occasionally looking up presumably hoping to catch someone’s eye so they can say, ‘Isn’t my child just wonderful?’ Selfish bastards.

What has made it worse though, is an argument amongst adults at the till. An older gentleman is insisting on a “coffee”.

“I just want a coffee,” he pleads.

“What sort?” the delightful Eastern European barista girl asks.

“Just, just a coffee! A normal coffee!”

“Do you mean an Americano?”

“I don’t know, just a normal coffee.”

This is an Americano

It isn’t the first time I’ve heard this discussion/exasperated argument and quite frankly it annoys me.

I did a bit of research. All I knew about coffee was that it apparently came from Ethiopa back in the era of yore. This is pretty much true. The Internet is vague on precisely when ‘yore’ was but let’s just say it was around 1500 and became popular in the city of Mocha. In the early 1600s it spread to Turkey and Italy and the rest of Europe. It arrived in the UK soon after but the first coffee house wasn’t until 1651 in Oxford. It then went mental and rapidly spread through awesome cities like London. Apparently it was a place where writers, scientists, and political dissidents went to chat. Isaac Newton held a series of coffee evenings to discuss the movement of the planets. Byron and Shelley used to hang out and talk about poetry and getting laid. It sounded brilliant. Now they are just full of bloody kids.

This is standard coffee

Anyway, the vast majority of coffee was simply ground beans with a small amount of hot water chucked in. It was thick and viscous and left a layer of sediment. Think Turkish coffee. It pretty much stayed like this until the early 20th century. During the first world war American troops got a bit fed up with the bitterness and strength of standard coffee and started to add an equal measure of hot water to this ‘standard’ and thus was born ‘the Americano’. In the 60s and 70s percolators and drip coffee became all the rage after a few decades of tea obsession. It is the generation born between 1920 and the mid 70s that tends to have this argument about standard coffee. It’s purely because they forgot its true name.

I was born in 1972 and had almost a decade of drinking this so called standard coffee. By that I mean paying £1 – £1.50 for a smallish cup of filter coffee. Most of the time the coffee was fucking awful as it had been stewing for (if you were lucky) a few hours.

Then, at the end of the 90s came the advent of modern coffeeshops. Boo! They introduced that most hated of things to – choice. You have to pick the size and the type! Apparently this choice is too much and things were better before.

Ok, as usual I have gone on a bit here. My point is that coffee used to be the sludgy stuff for about 400 years. Then, for about 80 years they added hot water to it. Now they have lots more choice.

So someone saying, “I just want a coffee, a normal coffee!” is just referring to coffee as it has been made since the Americans invented the Americano 100 years ago. In reality they are probably referring to coffee since the percolator and drip – 50 years ago.

I was annoyed by the argument for two reasons. One was the arrogance of the gentleman in thinking that the way coffee was made from his childhood until the late 90s (in this country not the rest of the world) is the norm, and that everyone should know this. 50 years out of a 500 year history. I’m giving the guy the benefit of the doubt in that he had never been to a coffeeshop since the millenium and had therefore had never been presented with this irksome agony of choice. It isn’t too hard to remember ‘Americano’, so presumably he won’t have this argument ever again.

The other was the barista for not admitting she had had this discussion a million times and just given the guy an Americano. When people say they just want coffee, you do know what they mean, even if it’s annoying. Just politely explain that it’s called an Americano and always has been and please remember that.

If it was me I would be tempted to chuck some ground coffee into a small cup, add a small amount of water and hand the thick matter to the guy. “Here is some standard coffee as drunk for 400 years. Enjoy it. You might need a spoon.”

Anyway, bollocks to this place. Coffeeshops are rubbish to sit in these days. I’m off to the pub. Where I will have a beer. Just a beer, a standard beer!

 

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Blood and rice crazed Chinese scientists create Blood Rice

Fields of blood. The good kind.

Well, China is up to mad-science-that-looks-cool-but-suspicious-from-space yet again. I previously wrote about the huge but weird things they are building in the desert here. (If you missed it, check it out, it’s awesome.) The difference this time is that we know what they are up to and it’s incredibly beneficial to all mankind. It also can’t be seen from space. Yet.

I’ll stop beating about the bush. Chinese scientists have invented Blood Rice. I know what you’re thinking. ‘At last! That’ll be delicious.’ Sadly it isn’t destined to be a black pudding/ rice pudding hybrid. Because this is human blood. At some point, probably over lunch, the scientists came up with the idea of embedding human genes into the DNA of rice. As you do. Unbelievably this crazy idea seems to work. This could lead to unlimited blood that is untainted by any of the possible nasties you can get from blood transfused from one of us nasty humans.

Obviously a bit more research needs to be done but it seems possible that there will soon be huge swathes of red covering large chunks of the globe. When I think of ‘Fields of Blood’ I usually think of battles from olden times (up to WW1), when warfare seemed to consist of large groups of men forming up and charging at each other, followed by horrendous and tragic loss of life.

These will be the good kind. Weird yes, but good.

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Doomsday clock set one minute nearer Doom

Midnight

We’re all doomed! On the 10th of January 2012 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (acronym is BAS but BLAMS would be better) moved the Doomsday clock from 6 minutes to midnight up to 5. In case you are unaware of this clock, midnight means we have just blown our planet up and are all dead. Most of us anyway. The few that remain will be donning leathers, forming gangs, and sharpening their finest cannibal cutlery in a cool post-apocalyptic landscape.

This is just like in Watchmen when they have a doomsday clock that counts down to midnight. In the comic/movie the clock gets to 1 minute to midnight before… well just read/watch it. The nearest the clock has been before is 2 minutes to Doom during the cold war, when the superpowers were dicking about threatening each other over Cuba. The clock was last changed two years ago when, in a spirit of unbridled optimism, BAS moved the clock up to 6 minutes to Mass Death. The reason they gave was:

Two years ago, it appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats that we face.” (http://www.thebulletin.org/content/media-center/announcements/2012/01/10/doomsday-clock-moves-1-minute-closer-to-midnight )

They have since decided that not only have world leaders not bothered to do anything, in most cases the world is a bit worse. Lazy arses.

It all feels a bit like the scientists felt they were missing out on all the misery of recessions and wars and wanted to chip in to add to the general malaise sweeping the globe with some scientific pessimism. Thanks for that.

I will keep you updated on any more clock movements just to make sure you feel the appropriate levels of stress and anxiety as you go about your day. At one minute to midnight, I will be doing this from a bar on a beach. Post apocalyptic tropical islands will be nicer that post apocalyptic cities.

Just keep in mind: Be mildly afraid!

London post apocalypse

Thailand post apocalypse

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Japanese build robot farms

Danger! Danger! We need carrots

The Japanese are cool. When faced with a problem the average modern Japanese person will probably take a photo and then build a robot to fix it. Or maybe I’m stereotyping.

But that is certainly what they are doing to solve their post-tsunami food issues. They are going to spend £33 million on a 600 acre site that will be run by robots. How cool is that? The robots will plant, tend, grow, pluck and package the food. All they need after that is a robot chef. I can’t wait until they create a single robot that you could have in your garden or allotment that grows all your food and then fixes you a nice salad before you go to work.

Obviously they will inevitably rise up and attack you with potatoes but until then it will be pretty sweet.

The shot-gun wielding robot farmer will be a bit scary though.

Get off my land! You have 15 seconds to comply.

 

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iPhone 4S swears at a kid

 

The sassy new Siri

After the misery of my last post where I simply listed what happened last year, I thought I would start 2012 off with an amusing local story. In a Tesco supermarket in Coventry a 12 year old lad called Charlie picked up a display version of the iPhone 4S. He wanted to test out the new Siri system – where you can ask the phone a question and it replies with a sexless female robotic voice. It is supposed to answer your question, but not always it seems.

When little innocent Charlie asked ‘How many people there are in the world?’ The delightful android replied: ‘Shut the fuck up, you ugly twat.’ Naughty little virtual minx that she is.

Apparently some hilarious pranksters had fiddled with the settings of the phone. I’m just impressed that the iPhone 4S has an offensive sweary setting. I’m kind of annoyed that my old school 3GS is annoyingly polite. Stupid prick of a phone.

In case any Daily Mail readers stumble upon this and are about to bleat to the world how horrifying it must be for the kid and whine on and on in their pointless whingefest forums let me just point out the following. The kid was 12, he’s probably already seen porn. The kid was in Tescos in Coventry. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll know the air is riddled with swear words as people lament the fates that led them to be in Coventry. It’s a ghastly place which was completely flattened in the war and rebuilt entirely in cement by architects with no souls.

The final point is the kid’s mum. Upon hearing the swearing she was duly shocked and outraged. So asked the question again and got the same reply. Still shocked and outraged she then played the message yet again to the staff. So little Charlie heard the message three times and is now probably desensitised to the words anyway.

Intrigued by what Siri can actually do, I did some research. It seems to have a sense of humour and was clearly programmed by cool dudes into Scifi. In the film 2001 the main character suspects that the computer HAL is malfunctioning and wants it to open the pod bay doors. HAL refuses. Here’s what happens with Siri:

Here is Siri answering one of life’s imponderables with a quote from Monty Python:

Siri answers the meaning of life

Of course Siri can be helpful too:

Siri helps hide bodies

I then stumbled upon the following after typing in ‘What does Siri sound like?’ into google. She seems rude but capable.

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What happened in 2011?

I hope all my lovely readers had a superbly indulgent and alcoholic Christmas. And will do likewise for the New Year. Unless you don’t drink or celebrate Christmas, in which case I hope you are simply having a superb end of December.

Every TV and radio show is now poised to launch its end of year review show. Some will be funny, most will be depressing. It has been quite a momentous year all things considered. Charlie Brooker mentioned that if 2011 was an episode of a TV show, then it would have been an end of season finale. Good luck topping this 2012! Unfortunately it would be a fairly depressing and gritty show that not many people would want to watch.

Let’s look briefly at some of the bigger events:

Arab Spring

Arab Spring

Someone in the Middle East watched the original Star Wars or Flash Gordon or something and realised that dictators and oppressive regimes suck. So things kicked off and for the first half of the year one mental bastard after another was toppled from power. Thousands and thousands of secret police are now out of work. The whole thing has generally been seen as positive, obviously no one wants to be tortured at random by despots after all. It just remains to be seen how good the new fellows are and if they will sell us oil so we can fuck up the planet for less cash. So fingers crossed.

Osama bin Laden finally found and shot a lot

Keeping with the Middle East, the Americans finally killed Bin Laden! There was no, ‘Unfortunately, he put up a fight and we reluctantly shot him’ bollocks. I guess Obama just thought that as no one would buy that, just shoot the prick and be honest. I think this was a good decision. Why spend a fortune on putting him on trial and eventually hanging him, when everyone for once thinks the bad guy should definitely die. All over the World tedious boring people in pubs where hurriedly denying that they ever said things like ‘You mark my words – he’s dead already,’ or ‘They’ll never find him.’ Hah! Sussed!

Sad loner in Norway kills lots of innocent people because he is worried about increased Muslim… er… was fighting a crusade against… er… was a colossal fuckwit that should be ignored

In Norway an horrendous loser blew up a bit of Oslo then killed a load of teenagers on an island. He was complaining that his country was under attack from extremists or something. He wanted to draw attention to his moronic belief by the massacre of innocents. The press obliged and went on about it for weeks, thereby assuring any copycats that this technique works. Sadly they didn’t just shoot him and cover it up. Or publicly ridicule him until he becomes a twisted laughing stock putting fellows nutters off. Sad.

Disasters. Sadly there were lots

There were also plenty of disasters around the world. It was all very depressing and tragic. Flooding and mudslides in Rio killed 903 in January. More flooding killed 434 in Pakistan in September, Cambodia lost 207 in flash flooding in September, but the worst hit was Thailand (my past and probably future home) with floods killing 657 people. The biggest disaster of the year was of course the tsunami  off Japan. An estimated 15,840 were killed and 3,926 are missing. Other disasters included an earthquake in Turkey (604 dead), famine in Somalia and 1,249 killed in the Philippines by a storm. I could go on but I am getting down thinking about it.

The West’s economy gets fucked over by Europe. That doesn’t include Britain, we’re just next to Europe and join in occasionally.

Invest in 'defensives': gold, tobacco, and beer.

Economically the entire planet stayed pretty fucked. Even China’s rapid growth has shrunk to being very slightly less rapid. Although every country on the planet would probably dream of having this new reduced rate of 8.8%, so it’s hard to be that sympathetic. In Europe tons of things happened economically, with France and Germany doing the bare minimum to keep the EU going but without doing enough to actually fix anything. They did the maximum bleating about it though. Annoyingly I have to agree with Cameron using his veto. People argue that it might diminish our power and influence in Europe but as Cameron said he would go along with Merkozy et al if they agreed a few small concessions and they flatly refused, just how much say do we have anyway? Bollocks to them. Anyway, to conclude, Europe’s dicking about has caused chaos and misery.

Bombs

There were a lot of people blowing themselves and others up all over the place. I don’t know if this has been an increase or if it just seems that way when I look at news sites and statistics. Like all the above, it’s very depressing.

The Iraq war ended

Hooray! The Iraq war ended and happiness and peace spread throughout the land. Unfortunately the people who live there haven’t realised they are at peace and continue to have a horrible time. Afghanistan still has coalition forces in it though. Not sure why Iraq was a huge success but Afghanistan still needs work. I have been fairly disgusted with the whole thing for years now so won’t write more about it. One thought comes to mind though… if the West had just left Iraq alone and the Arab Spring had kicked off there too, would it be in a better or worse situation than now?

Science has cheered me up.

Science has had a good year. Which is a relief because having read all the above I want to be injected with longevity drugs, put in a spaceship and escape. The sad news was that the Space Shuttle project ended. On the plus side, this may open the way for others to leap into the inky (hopefully sexy-alien-filled) void of space. I wrote about these exciting new things here. In other science stuff:

The world’s first artificial organ transplant was done successfully. It was an artificial windpipe make from stem cells and is giving hope to smokers everywhere.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took photos of what looks suspiciously like proof there may be liquid water during the balmy summers on Mars. Liquid water means that there was highly likely to be life on Mars at some point. Religions around the world are hurriedly rewriting their beliefs to make it look like this somehow fits in with what they have said all along.

Juno, the first solar powered spacecraft is launched and is on its way to Jupiter. Also launched is the ‘Curiosity’ – the most advanced Martian exploration vehicle ever (due to land in August 2012).

Finally, the Large Hadron Collider dudes discovered a new particle. Those whacked out scientists captured the public’s imagination by naming it chi-b(3P). Awesome. It has something to do with matter apparently and will help scientists understand things most of us never will.

Conclusion

Apart from science things seemed pretty dire. Of course lots of great things happened too. They just don’t get mentioned. Things like the worldwide launch of www.scifiward.com. Other things like the Word of Ward getting 1 million hits from 50,000 unique visitors!

But most important of all. I published a book called The Uneven Passage of Time
on Amazon kindle. I know for a fact that not all the 50,000 visitors bought one so let’s change that shall we? Buy my trilogy of short stories and I may be less self absorbed next year. Think of it as a Christmas present. Click here to buy and support the arts this New Year. Or the tab at the top of the page that says ‘my books’.

If I’m happier, then maybe next year I will write about all the good things that happen in 2012. Stories like: The Mayans were wrong and world doesn’t end (although they didn’t predict that but who cares), or Everyone is still broke but triple dip recession is unlikely, or aliens are discovered but only want to enslave us, not destroy us. Or something.

Anyway, enough blathering.

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE WORD OF WARD AND SCIFI WARD! (AND MRS WORD OF WARD)!!!!!

 

 

 

 

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The Uneven Passage of Time

The Uneven Passage of time by Jason Ward

If you buy one book this year make it this one. And also read more, that’s pathetic.

I have always banged on about writing fiction but have never actually published any. It isn’t about the thrill of seeing my name in print – my first job was in journalism, so that’s hardly a novelty. I lived for a couple of years writing for magazines in Bangkok recently and it’s a good lifestyle but not really what I wanted to do. It’s a bit dissatisfying writing for an editor and being told what to do and having to conform to the magazine or paper’s house style. That’s partly why I like my sites as I can just dick about.

I wanted to write fiction and I’ve finally got round to doing it. It isn’t the book I’ve been promising since I was 10 years old but it is A book. A short book. Three short stories in fact. I’ve written tons of short stories, they are fun to write and you don’t have to plan as much as you do with a full length novel. So I decided to group a few stories together and sell each little group for a pittance. That’s right. A pittance. Surely you can afford that? It’s not an excuse if you don’t have a kindle either. You can download the kindle app for free and read them on your computer, your phone, your iPad or whatever. For the cost of a fifth of a pint I’ll be disappointed if you don’t and will probabby shun you.

I found three stories that already had a sort of theme – time. Although they concern our passage through time they are all set in the modern age. There’s no travelling back and fighting dinosaurs or saving Kennedy or anything. They are more about people. Here’s the blurb:

Product Description

Time, famously, is relative. In this trio of short stories journalist and fiction writer Jason R. Ward looks at three individuals and their unorthodox journeys through time. These entertaining tales blend the themes of psychology and perception with classic science fiction. 

Stephen Hawking once sent out dinner invitations to all future time travellers. No one turned up. But what if one had? In ‘A Date to Remember’ a young physicist is convinced he has worked out the secret to building a time travel device. Lacking the resources to construct the machine he sets a time and date for a meeting with his future self.

It is a truism that people remember the big events in life and forget the repetitive. For most people, their year skips by unnoticed, punctuated by birthdays, world events, big personal milestones or traumatic events. As you age life seems to speed up and you find that the years seem to fly past. ‘As Time Goes By’ is the story of Frank Gilbert who is experiencing this to the extreme. His time seems to be accelerating at an abnormal rate. Years of his repetitive life seem to go by in days. Can he break the cycle in time?

The final and longest short story is ‘The Man Who Loved Statues’. Captain Michael Pike is a man who has taken a bit of hammering in life. With nothing much to live for he volunteers for an experiment that is going to attempt to alter his passage through time and put him in stasis. Things don’t go quite according to plan.

So there you go. Give them a try. Here are the links.

For the US:
http://www.amazon.com/Uneven-Passage-Time-ebook/dp/B006MHSWI2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324264158&sr=8-1
For the UK:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Uneven-Passage-Time-ebook/dp/B006MHSWI2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324258518&sr=8-1

 

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Cryonics and being frozen in a cool pose.

I read last week that Larry King, the legendary American interviewer, stated that he wants to be cryogenically frozen. For years, I always said that I wanted a viking burial, where I am floated out to sea on a boat with all my treasured belongings and the severed heads of my enemies. Sadly that wasn’t practical. Being older, nearer death, and more sensible these days I decided that I now want to live for thousands of years and will consequently be frozen and brought back by attractive people in the future.

This decision has caused me to do a bit of research and quite frankly cryonics looks like an awesome way to go. I can’t bear the thought of being buried and cremation just isn’t for me (unless I’m on a boat that’s on fire with the theme tune to the 1982 version of Conan the Barbarian playing obviously). Getting frozen is looking increasingly practical.

Here’s why:

One of the problems with the process is that crystals form when you are frozen and this fucks you up. While researching a short story about a guy being put in stasis I came across a frog that lives in Canada and Alaska that freezes solid for winter. Solid. You could probably shatter one against a wall (if you were a psychopath).  It’s called a Rana sylvatica or Wood frog if you are interested. It does this by using chemicals in the blood that stop the crystallisation process. Since 2001 this has been possible with humans thanks to new developments. There are photos on weird websites showing the difference between brains frozen pre 2001 and now. Which means the first people to get ‘iced’ are probably screwed.

Numerous studies have shown that it is the structure of the brain that counts. Embryos are routinely frozen for years and humans have survived freezing temperatures that have stopped their hearts, blood and brains for up to an hour. After that, crystals form and you are doomed.

One of the main problems is tissue damage but with new advances in nanomedicine we are increasingly able to repair individual cells. Which sounds pretty cool. Loads more scientists are now seeing the whole thing as being plausible. There are only a couple of hundred people frozen right now but thanks to these advances there are over a 1000 signed up and that number is going up. Hopefully they aren’t all dull if we have to hang out together in 2312.

This will be my coffin. Inside I will be pulling a funny face.

It isn’t even that expensive really. The average cost of a funeral in London is over £4000 – add in lawyers fees, wakes, drinks, cars, and other costs and you are looking at £10,000. You could get your head frozen for that in what is known as the ‘cheap package’. I wouldn’t recommend the cheap option as they probably just cut of your head and chuck it in a freezer but there are better choices. From what I’ve seen, it will cost about £100,000 for the full body, with an extra £500 a year for electricity and polishing and so on. This is obviously a lot but I intend to be loaded and the rest of my money will go to family and starving people with diseases, so it’s all good. I will also chuck some money in a high interest account and reap the benefits in a hundred years (with more going to starving kiddywinks too, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise).

There are other reasons why it is looking increasingly feasible but I can’t be bothered to go on too much about it.

The main thing is, I’m an atheist. I think this existence is all I have and frankly I’m terrified of death. If I believed that when I die I went to a place that was just constantly brilliant forever and ever, I would probably look forward to it. Even if I thought there was an afterlife I would be too scared to pick a religion in case I got it wrong. Most religions seem to think all the other ones are going to be punished and have shit time for eternity because they backed the wrong deity. This doesn’t seem to bother religious types as the vast majority of them just pick the same faith as their relatives and ancestors and somehow convince themselves that coincidentally they definitely got the right one.

I think faith in scientists and the possibility of being brought back is much more believable. Even better, if I’m wrong I’m still just dead. If there is an afterlife then at least I wouldn’t have spent my life pissing off a god(s) for making the wrong choice. (Which is likely if you look at the odds of you being correct).

So the only thing left is to pick a pose. I would prefer a clear-fronted freezing pod otherwise the pose would be wasted.

At first I thought angst might be funny. There could be a caption underneath reading: ‘WHY ME!!! WHY YOU BASTARDS??!!!’

WHY??!!

I then thought it might be better if I struck a pose for the ladies.

Hello ladies!

I’m pretending like there is an option in my head. I’m a traditionalist and when I die at 120 will still be a traditionalist. There’s only one option. See you in the future.

The classic cryogenic pose.

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John Martin: Apocalypse at Tate Britain

Apocalypse by John Martin

 

Everyone loves a good Apocalypse and everyone seems to love John Martin’s work. I certainly did.

John Martin was hugely popular in the 19th Century and toured the world with his spectacular paintings of the end of the world and scenes from the bible of God smiting the shit out of everything. Obviously most of the paintings come from the Old Testament when God was going through his ‘angry phase’ and regularly destroyed cities and drowned the whole planet. Fortunately he chilled out a bit after that and started banging on about being meek and merciful as if all the mass destruction had never even happened.

Martin’s work focuses on these more exciting bits of the bible along with other scenes such as debauched feasts and epic battles. Man, the bible went downhill in the second half (apart from the epic destructive end scenes, but it was too little too late to save the book in my opinion).

At the time, plebeian Victorians flocked in their thousands to see the huge and exciting pieces of work. They were the blockbuster cinema equivalent of the time (it was boring back then, hence all the warfare and Empire building). Of course the intelligensia of the day slagged off Martin’s work as being distasteful and dubbed him the ‘people’s painter’. Intellectuals hate stuff that gets too popular and John Martin was the Michael Bay of his time. The main difference is that Martin is now seen as being ahead of his time, whereas I suspect Bay won’t be.

Sodom and Gomorrah after God gets pissed off

John Martin: Apocalypse
is well worth seeing. I loved it. There’s an added bonus near the end where a load of arty actors have done a voice over for a sort of mock up of the sensationalism that surrounded his tours. This consists of a triptych of pictures (three paintings in case you’re an oik) with lights and cool effects.  The left picture is of heaven and has cherubs lolling around fatly and pointlessly. The centre has Jesus being judgemental and condemning half the population to eternal torture. The painting on the right is of hell and collapse and general coolness. This is accompanied by the actors recreating the sort of cinematic voice-over sensationalism that was used to publicise his work. ‘SEE THE DAMNED CONDEMNED TO THE FIERY PITS OF HELL’ sort of thing. It was brilliant.

As I said, I loved it and so did everyone I was with. It’s on at Tate Britain until mid-January, so you have plenty of time.

Bizarrely, here’s a trailer:


 

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China is building massive secret spooky things in the desert

What the fuck, China?

Now that google maps can spy on every corner of the world, the unemployed can systematically check out every square foot of the planet. Consequently one of them has discovered some weird-assed stuff in the Chinese Kumtag desert near Tibet. These things are massive and spooky/cool. There are numerous theories floating around the internet already and these include some kind of targeting display (doesn’t really make sense), giant wind farm/solar power generator (doesn’t look like that), plans for new cities (minus the buildings), and a whole host more.

I have the answer. They are clearly military in nature and are either something to do with aliens or the groundwork for a doomsday device. The sort of thing a mad scientist like Dr Evil would build that induces earthquakes/ causes all volcanoes to explode/ has some weird magnet that would cause the moon to crash into the earth/ generally fuck things up. There really is no other explanation. We need Fox Mulder, Indiana Jones, and James Bond to investigate this now. Or even someone real. If not the internet may implode from speculation. The above image can be found here on google maps.

If you think the above pictures is odd, check out these.

This one looks like an airport. Two airports in fact – except one seems to be glowing. WHY? To help planes land at night? To guide UFOs in? The link to google maps is here.

 

One normal airport, one GLOWING one...

To stay with the airport theme, here is a weird circular thing. It looks uncomfortably like a massive target and if you go to google maps here, you can see that there are a few crashed aircraft on it. Almost as if to just freak you out.

 

Aliens aim here with your death mega missiles

 

 

To return to bizarre massive glowing things, here is a huge rectangle of the stuff. This is 10 miles long and 5 miles wide. It could be a reservoir but why the weird colour? Satellite problems? Also governments tend not to build reservoirs in deserts. It looks like a swimming pool for colossal aliens.Google link here.

 

10 miles long and all of it odd.

 

 

There are quite a few more but I will end with my favorite two. This one is an odd grid. It’s obviously an audio death device. If you go to google maps here you can see destroyed cars. These are destroyed cars, on a huge weird grid, in the middle of the desert. Just thought I would reiterate that point.

 

Big square. Smashed cars. Why not.

 

 

The final picture is of the biggest oddity. This is 18 MILES LONG and simply cannot be for anything normal. It really should be looked at on google, so click here. The only thing I can think of is a test track for filming a Chinese Top Gear. Or they are a really unimaginative take on the Nazca lines.

 

18 miles of madness.

 

 

So there you go. Mental. Internet spods with time on their hand are finding more of these things. Doomsday devices or something to do with aliens. Mark my words. Either is just as likely and just as cool.

Thanks to Gizmodo for the pictures and pretty much the entire story. You can read more here: http://gizmodo.com/5859081/why-is-china-building-these-gigantic-structures-in-the-middle-of-the-desert

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Occupy London – What would Jesus do?

Capitalism... Excellent...

I guess I felt like writing about this after being bored with all the news about the Occupy London crowd in front of St Pauls. First there was the Occupy Wall street lot in America and quite frankly they have a massive point. The USA has huge wealth inequality. Apparently the top 400 richest Americans have the same amount of dosh as the bottom 150 million. Real lords and peasants material. According to CIA rankings that is a worse situation than that suffered by say, Egypt. Who seemed pretty pissed off recently.

The majority of the protesters come across quite well. There’s the odd twat, there always is, who advocates bringing down capitalism or killing the rich, but on the whole the message is that wealth distribution needs to be more equal. There are even some quite decent suggestions on how to do this.

This campaign has spread across the world. Here in London the protest has made its point but feels like it is losing credibility. The message, which is a good one, is largely the same. Perhaps I’m just being a victim of biased selective press but our campaign seems to have a lot more pillocks being even more vague. I’ve seen a lot more interviews with protesters who are against capitalism itself. Others who just hate rich people – a common sentiment on this envy-ridden isle. I haven’t seen many coming up with any decent solutions, just pointless comments about how capitalism doesn’t work. What shall we replace it with then you idiots? We need solutions not vague whinging – we aren’t all students.

I’m not going to come up with a solution as I’m not a trained economist or someone who has even vaguely studied how the system works. So I won’t be so arrogant as to denounce the “system” because you know, people shouldn’t be so rich yeah? The decent and logical idea of supporting a capitalist system but one with more regulation and checks is thankfully present and supported by the intelligent organisers. I suspect they are the older and/or more educated. But I think they should stop now.

No they aren't, you dolt.

One reason is that the twats seem to be becoming more prevalent. People with signs like ‘What would Jesus Do?’ and ‘Rich beware your days are numbered.’ Their days aren’t numbered you moron. There will always be people better off than others and this has been the case since the dawn of time and in all societies. Getting rid of the rich will just mean that they move countries and we end up even poorer. London is one of the major financial capitals of the world and brings in billions into this country. It would be dumb to scare this money off as Britain will be poorer for it. What is needed is not redistribution of the wealth Robin Hood style, but tighter regulations and controls. I’ve fuck all idea how to do this myself but there are plenty of independant experts (some are among the Occupy London crew) who could certainly make an informed start.

Alas the morons are ruining it. Apart from mentals dressed as Jesus completely missing the point, and the anti capitalists and rich haters doing the same, there are other elements. Last night a 1000 protesters marched on Trafalgar square (a capitalist hotbed), presumably to complain about the nasty Lord Nelson stopping the lovable dictator Napoleon from invading and covering our streets in gold and socialist joy like he did to so many other parts of Europe.  Another group split off and headed for Parliament where they starting fighting with police and smashing things. Amusingly they were wearing those Guy Fawkes masks the dude from V for Vendetta wore seemingly unaware that each mask bought creates more profit for the huge conglomerate Time Warner (who owns the image). Way to stick it to the man!

What would Jesus do?

The final nail in the coffin for me is that the church are now chipping in. The Archbishop of York has started banging on about it. What the hell does it have to do with him? Does he not feel the slightest bit hypocritical that archbishops were the CEO equivalents across Europe for a millennium? The wealth gap was massively worse then. The upper echelons of the church in England during the middle ages, of which the Archbishop of York ranked second, lived in incredible unbelievable luxury when the vast majority of people literally lived in shit and starved. They made it worse by telling the superstitious peons to hand over cash or they would burn forever in hell. With that money they built things like hugely lavish cathedrals. Cathedrals that while admittedly spectacular seemed more to wow a medieval audience into parting with cash than anything Jesus probably wanted.

I remember a bit in the bible (I’ve read it and am an atheist – make of that what you will) a story where Jesus and his mates watched a rich man and a poor man give to charity. Jesus didn’t say, ‘Rich bastard’, he simply commented that percentage-wise the poor guy gave more to the pot.

To answer the question, what would Jesus do?

I suspect he would agree with lessening the wage inequality. I suspect he would be mildly exasperated that people still miss the point of nearly every point ever made. I also suspect he would marvel at the beauty and majesty of the building of St Pauls but would then be horrified when he found out what the building was for and how the church has been behaving in his name.

 

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Frozen Planet in HD

Run penguin run!

Last night we got back from the pub and were tucking in medium rare steaks wondering what to watch on the TV. This is just the way we live, don’t judge us. Predictably there wasn’t much on, so we turned on the Playstation and clicked on the BBC iPlayer. Annoyingly it wasn’t there instantly, there was a download for new features. I swore and paced and lamented that technology wasn’t yet instantaneous for the 20 seconds it took to download the upgrade and install it.

The first thing I noticed was the change in layout. It wasn’t too bad though and I soon found my way to something worth watching. Frozen Planet
by Sir David Attenborough. This is what I pay my licence fee for, not shite reality awfulness. The BBC, David Attenborough, and documentary, are all words guaranteed to combine into a TV show of epic awesomeness. So I clicked on it and we settled back to be awestruck. Then I noticed an option that was new. You can watch it in HD! I wasn’t sure if my internet connection was up to it but thankfully it was. Obviously it was only 720p, not the full 1080p as no one actually broadcasts in 1080p. Trust me, I work in TV broadcast.

But the picture was still astounding and so was the show. With Attenborough and the BBC you know you are going to see some incredible images and learn stuff you didn’t know. I wasn’t disappointed. Some of the images were so amazing it made me want to weep. You could freeze the show almost at random, print out the picture and could win a photography competition with it. Frozen Planet shows incredible almost alien landscapes and worlds. In this one they go deep under the ice in both the sea and under a volcano at the South Pole. You also see killer whales working together by swimming in formation and suddenly thrashing the water in unison to shatter a small iceberg so they can eat the seal on it. And, well, lots more stuff. I have run out of superlatives.

So IF you live in the UK and IF you have fast broadband and IF you have a playstation (or similar device) and IF you have a Hi Def TV, then you should check it out. Otherwise, I suggest you change your life and buy some new kit and move country. Because you’re missing out. Just watch the trailer below and try and tell me it doesn’t look amazing. You can even watch it in HD.
http://youtu.be/1Fshnu_SwAg

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Satellite to hit Earth

Duck!

Yes, I know. Again! Apparently they fall out of orbit every week but usually burn up in the atmosphere making pretty shooting stars. But last month a NASA satellite fell to the Earth and this weekend a defunct German ROSAT satellite is due to hit. What’s worse is that it will break up and scatter on its way down.

I know what you’re thinking – the odds of it hitting someone are small, right. Actually no, the odds according to the German Aerospace Agency DLR, are 1 in 2000 that it will hit someone. Let’s put that in perspective. Have you ever bought a Lotto ticket? The odds in the UK of you winning are 1 in 14,000,000. So it’s 4,375 times more likely that the satellite will squish someone than you are to win the lottery. If the pieces rain down on a city, entire buildings could be smashed with more than one person dying.

So the odds of you being hit by a chunk of satellite are, er, beyond me. But I’ve chosen to worry. If I was staff, I would call in sick just to be safe.

Why am I telling you this scary news? Well, partly because it’s fun. But also because I want you to have a good weekend. Not enough people live by the ‘Live for the day’ motto. Now that you know you might be twatted by a chunk of teutonic debris, I hope you will really enjoy yourselves this weekend. Essentially I am making the world more fun. No need to thank me.

Just remember: it could be you. Now have a tequila.

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Kindle review

I love books. I read about a book a week – that’s not a boast, it is a sad lament on how boring my job can be. They are marvelous things that make your house look cool and make you look smart. Even if they are just Clive Cussler or Dan Brown novels. (Well maybe, from a distance…)

This could be my flat in five years

Up until now, I have always loved the physical feeling of a book. Its weight, its smell, its hopefully exciting cover and blurb. The problem now is that I have hundreds and hundreds of the things. My parent’s attic has four huge boxes full of them (with more stashed elsewhere) and my mother-in-law’s spare room is similarly filled. My flat right now has piles of them everywhere, teetering in stacks. There was only one sensible solution: move to a huge house. Unfortunately I can’t afford that. Yet.

I love gadgets and recently downloaded the kindle app onto my iPad. It’s too big to fit in my pocket unfortunately, but I carry it nearly everywhere and hug it when I go to sleep. So I started reading books on it. Not as much as I would with actual books though. One reason for this is that like all computer screens it doesn’t like being outside.It’s a nerd at heart. I work weird hours and spend a lot of afternoons lazing around in parks, cafes and beer gardens and unfortunately that meant I couldn’t read on the iPad and had to carry a backup book. (I know, my life sucks.) Another problem with my weird hours is that I am often on trains late at night in London and while I am a tall, strapping and fearsome fellow, there is always the chance of attracting a mugger. I recently sat opposite four teenagers on the tube at midnight playing on my iPad and realised the attention I was getting was probably not due to awe of my magnificent hair.

I did realise  however that when I thought back to the book I had just finished (it was Sharpe’s Tiger and was awesome), I couldn’t really tell whether I had read it in book form or electronic form. Obviously I knew it was eBook form but the only difference was what I was holding when I actually read it. The experience wasn’t lessened in any way at all. It was a superb read.

The upshot of all this wittering, is that I bought a kindle and I bloody love it. I get just as lost in a good book as I ever did. It fits in my pocket and I can take it everywhere. I’m currently reading the second book of Game of Thrones and the paperback definitely won’t fit in my pocket. I guess an analogy would be someone who loves collecting vinyl but also has an iPod. The experience is different but a superb album is still a superb album and it’s damned handy to be able to carry a collection around with you. I will still occasionally lie on a beach or in the bath and read a paper book, but for my everyday life the kindle is just awesome.

The only downside is that it is so horrendously easy to buy books. What’s even worse is that they are now putting classic science fiction on kindle – stuff that was hard to find in book shops. I wrote about the new Sf Gateway site on Scifiward in this post. It’s costing me a fortune. I’m running out of cash. I’m now forced to stay in. Luckily I now have a lot to read. I also have a lovely new shiny gadget.

 

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Astronomers see furthest back in time ever

A really long time ago in a galaxy really far away

Astronomers seemingly have the coolest job ever. They get to gaze into the depths of space at stars and black holes and try to find life bearing planets and all other manner of inspiring stuff. It’s just a shame they are such an unimaginative bunch.

This picture is of a galaxy 13 billion light years away. Which also means that we are looking at the universe 13 billion years ago. Or to put it another way, the universe as it was when it was just 840 million years old (give or take a day). Which is pretty damned impressive. Astronomers have learnt all sorts of things like: back then stuff was really red. Also it was just hydrogen and then after a mere 200 million years it was, er, other elements too after a few suns had had a go at it. Or something. It’s all very fascinating and can be read about here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15275545

Of course the reality of looking for this sort of thing requires a certain type mind. One that is happy to work up a mountain or in a desert for years and going through frame after frame of images looking at tiny dots. When George Lucas thought of ‘A long time a go in a galaxy far, far away…’ his mind filled with space battles, asthmatic bad guys, and princesses with weird hair and no breasts. When astronomers saw this image they studied it for years and then called it UDFy-38135539. (Which coincidentally also sounds like a George Lucas film.) They could have called the Hades zone or something more exciting. The big telescope they used was imaginatively named the VLT which, I kid you not, stands for the Very Large Telescope.

Still, I shouldn’t mock or generalise. I’m sure some of the astronomers are fascinating down the pub. Even if not, they inspire the rest of us with incredible images. The good news is that they will soon be able to look back even further as they are building an even bigger telescope than VLT. Hopefully it will be named the Space Megascope 3000 or something. 

Nope, just checked. It will be called the ELT – Extremely Large Telescope. Still, the rest of can dream.

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England set to freeze

An entire week ago, I wrote how warm and pleasant England was. It’s now back to its standard grey drizzle. Ahh, normality. In fact, two days after the warmest October day ever, it snowed in Scotland.  Again, normality.

London for the next six months...

Apparently, though, this winter is going to be one of the coldest winters ever. From November onwards, for months and months, brass monkey will shedding extremities with abandon. Which sucks. I’m taking solace in the fact that the same people predicted that the summer was going to be a ‘scorcher’, when it was in fact ‘shite’.

In fact, I read somewhere (probably on the infallible internet), that if you predict that the weather tomorrow will be pretty much like the weather today, you will be correct about 70% of the time. Professional weather people get it right about 80% of the time. Which isn’t that much of an improvement. If you are thinking of going into meteorology it’s something to keep in mind. If you’re looking for a cushy number, it seems a winner. Plus you might get to be on the TV. Just saying “Yeah, more of the same…” for loads of cash.

I’m partly writing this as a warning in case you are planning a holiday to this soon to be blighted isle – or are lucky enough to live here. But mostly because I’m British and we are curiously obsessed with the weather. If you are a meteorologist and have been offended then I apologise. Feel free to point out my hypocrisy – my last blog entry could easily have ended: next entry, “more of the same…”

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England in the grip of nice weather

Brighton on the 1st October

The weather here in London is currently sunny, warm and pleasant. That’s an unlikely thing to write at the best of times, but it’s even more mental in October. The last week has been in the high 20s Celsius with the last three days hitting 29C every day. It was 22C in Algeria for comparison and Algeria has a desert for fuck’s sake. If it carries on like this, it definitely heralds the apocalypse. 

We all seem to be at a loss of what to do. Normally throughout the summer everyone skives of work and gets drunk in parks and beer gardens and are friendly and nice to each other. Right now is the time of year where we normally get mildly depressed by the prospect of approaching winter and the TV tries to distract us by pretending it’s almost Christmas. We stop all the happy friendliness of July and August and return to being aggressive and cold and starting fights in chip shops.

On my way to work last night I saw: a drunk couple arguing in the street, a guy shouting at a Starbucks employee for giving him an incorrect cake, some hoodies on a bench spitting, and a train carriage full of people desperately ignoring each other. This is all correct and as it should be for London at this time of year. Except: the drunk couple were arguing in front of a crowded beer garden full of wasted people already thinking up excuses for pulling a sickie, the Starbucks guy was in a vest and drinking a frappuccino, the hoodies looked hilariously hot, and the train still had attractive half clad women in it (they disappear for winter).

Thankfully by the end of this week, we will apparently skip Autumn and launch straight into Winter. Then we can return to normal. If there is one thing the British excel it, it’s bitching about the weather. Now it’s just confusing.

Just to end on a high note, here’s a random picture of Britishness taken from yesterday’s Metro newspaper. Enjoy. Next entry: Bloody Weather.

All British women look like this for two months a year.

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Stock Traders are Cowards

I know I have only been an adrenaline-fuelled, risk-it-all, balls-to-the-wall, living-on-the-edge stocktrader for about four months but I have decided to ostracize myself already by slagging of other traders. That’s just the way I roll. I take no prisoners these days. It gives me the edge. It’s where I have to be.

For some reason reason though, the whole trading lark makes me want to talk almost entirely in cliche.  It’s apparently part of the cut and thrust, the in it to win it mentality. I’ll stop now though as I’m pissing myself off.

So what have I learned with my vast new knowledge of the markets?

The first thing is don’t invest your tax money just before a global financial meltdown. It really blows when the taxman wants his bloodmoney and your investments have just tanked. Fortunately I work freelance, so was able to work myself into the ground and not have to sell my shares and still pay the goverment. It’s been awesome.

The second thing is that it isn’t quite as exciting as it is on the TV. Maybe it is if you’re a daytrader but they’re the ones who chuck themselves off skyscrapers when markets crash and I don’t want life to be that exciting. The first few weeks I was clued to little graphs and indices that flickered in exciting colours. Now I’m a bit more casual and just keep a vague eye on things throughout the day. That changed today though when my shares rocketed skyward, so maybe I’m talking shit and just can’t take bad news.

The main and most unexpected thing I have discovered is that independent investors like myself are the most optimistic people on Earth, while big movers-and-shakers trading types are jittery little girls. I once spent a sad hour reading the forums about a share that was worth 7p to start with, and then slid to 1p over a period of six months. It was sad to see the misplaced optimism the poor investing saps had in this share and they constantly bolstered each other’s confidence with ‘Company reports next week! Good news I hope! This share is about to skyrocket IMO’. Then the following week another drop. This unbridled optimism is almost touching.

On the flipside, this optimism combats the cowardly pussies that work for the big trading markets. These guys are like anxious meerkats on coke. For the first month I traded, I was caught off guard by the market’s temerity. One minute the news stated there were worries that Greece might default and suddenly the markets tumble. They are just worries that it might, you cowards. Any bit of news like this and all the major players suddenly shit themselves and cause a minor crash and then act all depressed.

‘There’s a rumour that the economy might not expand as much as previously estimated next year? Holy shit! Sell!’ Then the FTSE drops like a stone. The next day:

‘China’s economy is still strong though? Fuck! Buy any share!’

To be fair, whenever a guy who works for a big company does grow a pair, a bank seems to go down and they are led away in handcuffs.

I could be wrong in my colossal ignorance on practically everything that happens in the market but it feels like this is what’s going on. To be honest, a lot of it feels like barely informed guesswork.

So what have I learned? Not much, but from what I can tell, I’m not alone. It’s still fun though.

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