Wednesday, 9 November 2016

I Know What You're Thinking

I mean, if you're reading this blog(1), you're almost certainly thinking, again, 'how did this happen?'

I think in part it happened because we don't know how it happened. Cracked ran an article about the reasons for Trump's appeal in rural counties which was an eye-opener for many people, but not - I suspect - for the Clinton campaign. Hillary Clinton was the safe candidate, the seeming sure thing, but perhaps she was too safe. She alienated the left by not taking a stand, and rural America by being exactly what they expected to see: Another city politician who would look after business instead of restoring pride to the ordinary American people.

For the record, I have grave doubts that Trump will restore the dignity of the American people, but I think the key thing is that it was seen as a gimme that Clinton wouldn't. Trump might be a racist, sexist homophobe; he might be a wealthy arsehole politician; but he was a very different kind of wealthy arsehole politician. He might screw over the little guy; Hillary, in the eyes of the little guy, definitely would. As was once said of Margaret Thatcher in comparison to her successor: "She had personality. A horrible personality, but at least she had one."

I mean, that's one reason. Racism, sexism - especially sexism, I suspect - homophobia and idiocy all have their place, many of them tied up with the modern drive back towards nationalism that was so eloquently demonstrated in the Brexit vote. Britain stepped up by an overwhelming majority of about 2% declared that we wanted out of Europe because subsidies and bureaucracy and straight bananas and all that. 'Let's Make Britain Great Again', the campaign ran, and it's telling that Trump was on the same message: 'Let's Make America Great Again.' It's all someone else's fault that we're in the crapper. It's the left, or Europe, or Mexico, or Islam, or the International Court of Justice, and if we were only left alone we would be the greatest country on God's green Earth again.

I'd mock America more for this, but at least they have a chance. Britain's greatest greatness was as a colonial power and that ship has sailed, been impounded and set on fire for fear that we'd never get rid of the stink and make it usable again. We're not an industrial titan or a bread basket, we lack the capital to adequately exploit the natural resources that we do have. The USA at least has scale to work from, even if the great nation that might emerge from their isolation would be terrifying. They can close their borders and not starve; isolate themselves and not run out of oil in a week.

Of course, the real problem with this new nationalism, long term, is that someone is still going international. Corporations aren't about to withdraw their extramural investments and confine themselves to a single nation when they can exploit the lack of political internationalism to continue using tax havens, taking advantage of weak labour laws and threatening to withdraw their investments if they don't have the right to sue governments for making laws that hurt their profits by forcing them to pay a decent wage or install adequate safety equipment. I believe that we have never been closer to the sort of corporate hegemony cyberpunk has long predicted, because ultimately isolationism hurts nations when vast, corporate entities are free to be international.

I know that this is just me rambling. It's not a tightly reasoned or researched political analysis; just my thoughts and opinions, as informed as I can make them. And I know they are mostly going out to my echo chamber, although I am going to post this publicly. I just felt I needed to get this out there. To say it, as it were, aloud, because I'm angry. I'm angry with the short-sighted voters who put Trump in office. I'm angry with the system that meant that people had to choose between a pragmatic vote for Clinton or a third-party vote as a principled stand or long-term investment in electoral reform. I'm angry with the liberal smugness that let us - yes, us; I'm part of this - think that this, be it Brexit or Trump, couldn't happen. I'm angry that there will one day be a Donald Trump Presidential Library; that there will be a library(2), of all things, named in honour of this hymn to ignorance.

I don't wish Trump failure, because that would be disastrous for the US, and I won't wish harm on anyone, but I do wish him frustration. I hope that he fights a long and losing battle for every one of his hate-fueled policies and leaves a chastened nation only slightly fucked at the end of four regretful years. I hope also that his next opponent will break the mould of the smug, city politician without being a smug, hate-filled populist. I hope that Parliament maintains control of the exit process, and that the damned country comes to its senses before we burn too many bridges.

And I hope that I can have the strength to confront hatred with reason and fear with courage, and to turn my anger to action, even if only to speaking my thoughts on a wider electronic stage.

(1) I know this because mostly my blog goes out to my metaphorical echo chamber, so you're probably either a friend or at least someone on the same political page.
(2) I know it's not like a public library, but still. I do take some solace in the fact that it may be a 'Presidential Centre'.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Adventures in phone repair

I took my phone in to be repaired last Monday.

On Friday I got a text telling me the repair wasn't covered by my warranty, so they'd send a quote to the store where I handed it in. I spent the weekend geeing myself up for an argument.

On Monday I went into the shop. They have no idea why it's not covered, only that the fee quoted is £25.

I called the repair centre and found out that they need a proof of purchase for the warranty to apply. Nothing about the repair itself.

I went to the shop, but they don't keep records for more than a year.

I went to O2 and got a copy of my credit agreement, which I sent to the repair centre.

The saga continues, but the most aggravating thing is the transparent graft of it. Clearly they must pull this shit on most of their customers, who assume that returning the phone to the shop they bought it from will cover that whole proof of purchase aspect, and just count on some or most of them not bothering to check over the matter of £25.

Friday, 17 June 2016

2016 in Pictures - So what happened

Another Littleport Morning
 So, really the problem with 2016 in Pictures is that I pass the same things every day, so the remarkable stuff is usually too fleeting for cameras, like spotting the herons on their nest, deer in the fields or owls by the trainline. Another time, I was walking back to the station in Cambridge in the rain and something gave out, letting all the water collecting on the upper level of a building under construction cascade through the middle of the frame like a waterfall. It was beautiful, but over in seconds.

Death Hornet
There is also the limits of my ability with a camera. I took some pictures of Consall where the last No Rest game was, but failed to capture the precipitousness of the site. Gradients show poorly in photographs.

In a similar vein, the picture on the left really doesn't do justice to the size of the hornet I had to evict from the office twice.

On the other hand, I think it has achieved its goal somewhat. I do notice things a little more, if only in time to think: "That would have been a great picture." So there is that.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

2016 in Pictures - 1st and 5th April

Castles in the Air
Trees and buildings floating above the fog. A hiccup with the camera meant that I missed the shot I really wanted but this captures most of the effect.

Spring Sunset
This was just a particularly gorgeous sunset on the way home after the cinema on Tuesday.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

2016 in Pictures - March 29th

Stormy Weather
On my way to work today I got held up by a cancelled train. Sitting at Littleport station in the sunshine, I was surprised by spots of rain, and looked up to see the sky over the town turning slate grey. Thankfully that lot didn't break over us, but it looked ominous for a while.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

2016 in Pictures - 21st March 2016

So, the purpose of this project is to provoke me to note my surroundings more. Clearly it's not working, as yesterday I zoned out enough to miss my stop and spend an hour on Downham Market station.

This is a heron's nest; honest. Sadly, since spotting it the first time (when my phone was inside my jacket,) I've never seen either parent on the nest, let alone both together.

2016 in Pictures - 17th March

Fog on the Fens
Hurrah; it's Spring.


Bloody weather.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

2016 in Pictures - 14th March

Swan Sunset
This shot is notable for being taken from the rail replacement bus service, after a train failed at Littleport due to a collision with a swan. Now, I doubt this did the swan much good, but you honestly wouldn't expect a train to be that troubled by hitting even quite a large bird.

2016 in Pictures - 10th March

Grey Day
Another window landscape, just to demonstrate that Spring has well and truly refused to sprong.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

2016 in Pictures - 29th February

Lunchtime Reflections
Yesterday, my parents took me to lunch at Jamie's Italian. There was a crying child who had presumably just been informed that turkey twizzlers were off the menu, but other than that it was very pleasant. The food was decent, although we might avoid the lunch menu next time.

The building, on the other hand - the Old Library on Wheeler Street - was magnificent.

I should also have got a shot of the computerised seating plan, which looked like something out of an old adventure game. There ought to have been a dude in a pith helmet throwing boomerangs at ghosts.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

2016 in Pictures

Littleport in Gold
I took this one because I liked the way the sun was hanging directly over the church tower. Of course, in the photo you can't see the tower at all...

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

2016 in Pictures - February 22nd

Littleport Nights
Another amazing sky, captured thanks to an accidental shift in schedule (I didn't get out of work on time.)

2016 in Pictures - February 19th

The ex-dwelling.
Up until last week there was a house here.

Friday, 12 February 2016

2016 in Pictures - 11th and 12th February

Red sky at morning.
Okay, so I am now failing at weekly updates, but seriously; it's Littleport.

However, the lightening mornings means that I am finally starting to get some variant views as I go, such as this gorgeous sunrise from yesterday. Just in case anyone might think that the weather is getting kinder, below is almost exactly the same view, at the same time, but taken this morning, with the plants all rimed with frost, a fog along the horizon and, in fact, a strange glow in the sky.

On a cold and frosty morning

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

2016 in Pictures - February 2nd

This cardboard tank is part of a city-wide display on the graphics of war. 

Sunday, 31 January 2016

2016 in Pictures - January 31st

Littleport to Leeds 
This summer house in Leeds is floored with wood from the decking left in my garage by the last owner. Yes, I went to Leeds and took a picture of a gazebo. 

2016 in Pictures - January 28th

Littleport at dusk. 
I took a walk down the side road to get a better sunset shot of the church tower. The side road is closer, but lower, and the view was worse. I might try to take one from the main road when I'm back in Littleport. 

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

2016 in Pictures - January 27th

So, obviously I'm not hitting every day, and in part that's because I basically go to the same places at the same time every day. Then again, sometimes something like this happens:

The Vortex
I took the picture to try to catch the rain suddenly hammering down; the perfect swirl of clouds was happy chance.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Monday, 25 January 2016

2016 in Pictures - January 23rd

Into the Woods
So Much for Parenthood
Saturday's photo (nothing on Sunday, due to largely localised parenting) is of Arya disappearing into the woods at Thetford Forest. For those who are worried, she did come back.

Friday, 22 January 2016

2016 in Pictures - January 22nd

The Green Wall.
So, no picture yesterday, as I was largely confined to my flat waiting for an inspection.

Today, I present the Green Wall in the new David Attenborough Building, a carefully controlled array of planters resulting in thirty feet of greenery in the middle of a shiny new build. It's quite impressive, and apparently Sir David himself has offered to abseil down it to officially open the building, the home of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and its partners. Unfortunately, it wasn't really possible to get a shot of the whole thing; not with my camera anyway.
View from the landing.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

2016 in Pictures - January 20th

Chimney Tree
Yes, it's the view from my window again, but I rather liked the way the smoke seems to be coming out of the tree.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

2016 in Pictures - January 19th

Mackerel Skies
I was reading my Kindle on the train, looked up at the frosty landscape and the golden sunrise and thought: 'That's a gorgeous view.' Then I realised that was the point of this whole thing; to notice stuff like that. I got up, went to the door - no way I could get to the windows on the east-facing side of the train - and took a couple of pictures through the door as we pulled out of Waterbeach. This was the best of those.

2016 in Pictures - January 18th

I got into work very early yesterday, so I snapped a picture of the view from the window in the half-light. I shall try to limit the number of times I use this view, but I rather liked the one lit window in the foreground.

Monday, 18 January 2016

2016 in Pictures - Jan 17th

Moon Over Littleport
Thanks go to Andrew for spotting this one while we were walking with Arya. She's taken to asking where the Moon is when she can't see it, and in this case it was by the church tower at about one in the afternoon.

2016 in Pictures - Jan 16th

Daddy's Little Princess.
Weekends are obviously going to be a weakness of this project, since most of the time I'm watching to make sure Arya doesn't fall off things. Therefore, here is a picture of Arya dressed as Rey from The Force Awakens.

2016 in Pictures - January 15th

By any other name
And this is the shot that cemented the project - a single white rose blooming outside the University Accommodation Office in early January and in the coldest weather we'd had for months. It's just a shame there wasn't snow.

Again, the limitations of my camera come into play; I'd kind of like to have got a close up, but it was too far off and digital zoom is a lie.

2016 in pictures - January 14th

Cambridge in Gold
This is the first picture in my 'I take a picture of the world around me every day' project, and the view that inspired this whole thing. Sadly, it shows up the limitations of my phone as a camera and me as a photographer, but at least one of these things should hopefully end the year less of an issue than it is now.


It's late for resolutions, I know, but I like to be a bit different and this really only occurred to me last week.

Resolution 1 - Publish by 40

I'm going to finish a book and get it published before I turn 40 next January. It will be self- and e-published, but it will be published. That means working on my existing manuscript and having something ready to send to volunteer readers by the time I start on the next one at Camp NaNo.

Resolution 2 - Look at the world

In order to focus more on the world around me, instead of just inside my head, I'm going to aim to take one picture a day - and at minimum two a week - of something that interests me.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Old man, wonder if you'll ever know...

This song used to creep me out, and yet I loved it.
Correction: This song still creeps me out, and I still love it.
Ground control to Major Tom,
Your circuit's dead,
There's something wrong.

Can you hear me, Major Tom?

Perhaps since Superman II, I've been creeped out by the idea of dying in space. Since I'm a little too young to have caught the late David Bowie's 'Space Oddity' first time around, it was probably on Pick of the Pops with Alan 'Fluff' Freeman that I first came across and was creeped out by the story of astronaut and reputed junkie Major Tom and his highly desirable shirts. Unlike most songs that I found disturbing, however, I loved this one from the first, and perhaps that's why Bowie has retained a stronger presence in my mind than many other artists.

Part of me wishes I could share some story of the deep and profound effect Bowie's music had on me, and if nothing else the fact that I chose to discuss him here in my life blog instead of one of my more media related efforts shows that he did have some impact, but all in all I'm not the guy who is that into music. My tastes and my music collection have always been eclectic, and the dawn of the digital age freed me from the need to buy albums, but I've always been aware that Bowie was one of those artists who popped up from time to time, with something new; and actually new, rather than running on nostalgia and fame.

I mean, we're talking about a guy who recorded songs with Queen, Nine Inch Nails, Bing Crosby and Mick Jagger and has had two existential/mystical cop dramas (four if you count both US adaptations of Life on Mars) named after his songs; how many other people can say that*?

Anyway, in the absence of anything profound to add to the discussion, I shall simply include a link to perhaps Bowie's greatest work**.

* I haven't checked, but I'm pretty confident it's none.
** Seriously, I love this song.