rashbre central: September 2023

Friday 29 September 2023

Ed Adams : The Church : work in progress

I've almost finished my novel called Luka, and decided to make a start on the next one. It has a working title of 'Cozy 2' at present and is a direct follow on from 'Cozy'. I'll change the title when I can think of a better one (The Church?). 

This one is also set in Exeter and will be about a ecclesiastical man who is dragged into a world he doesn't fully comprehend. He's seen stuff on the margins, that's for sure, but this... 

I'll look for interesting characters too. I dropped Stéphane Gérard into the first Cozy novel, knowing I could use her again later. 

She arrived at the party at Magister Grange as a very close friend of Bettina Kübler, a Swiss researcher, at Brant, Geneva, working on eDefense. Stéphane works in weather systems using Théorie des Jeux to manage climates. It is typical Brant work and also typical Brant mischief. She is Swiss (or was it French?), but based in Exeter, which has those connections with meteorology. 

I was going to have her married to our new cleric, but I'm having second thoughts. I think the vicar  (Let's call him Leonard) may be married to Penelope Richards instead. She is a local landowner and viticulturist. 

You can tell Penelope is only a part-time farmer from her outfits. But that blonde hair will have to go. Too confusing. That vicar on the draft cover looks a bit gangster too, doesn't he?

Write On, as they say.

Thursday 28 September 2023

Picture it

I thought I'd post something that was a bit of fun. Well of general interest anyway. I see that Digital Camera World have produced a list of the top 50 photographers. Like any such list, there will be people missed out etc, but I thought it was a pretty good attempt to list them and to show illustrations of their work. Above is Henri Cartier-Bresson, complete with a brace of Leicas, and below is Annie Leibovitz, snuggled up to Mick.

 The whole list is impressive, with Ansel Adams, Sebastião Salgado, Bill Brandt, Julia Margaret Cameron, Irving Penn, Don McCullin, Margaret Bourke-White, Robert Capa, Alfred Stieglitz, Joel Meyerowitz, Edward Steichen, Bert Hardy, David Bailey, Man Ray, Martin Parr, Lewis Hine, Robert Mapplethorpe, Weegee... and so the list goes on. I can instantly think of pictures by everyone I've mentioned as well as thinking of others not in the list. Let alone some of the modern hot shots depicted below.

Thursday 21 September 2023

Climate forward with agreeable lunches

Now there's an interesting juxtaposition. The day after Rishi earnestly announces a roll back of the much vaunted Net Zero ambitions, there is an unrelated summit in New York about climate change. Called Climate Forward, it is about the actions needed, with an earnest agenda and an agreeable lunch.

Featured artists include Bill Gates, Al Gore, Robin Wall Kimmerer (environmental biologist) , Michael R. Bloomberg and Ebony Twilley Martin (Greenpeace exec director).

Most speakers get 30 minutes to make their points. I guess it's a drinking from the firehose event. 

It is good for the New York Times to show it has an international perspective, but will it become a landmark event? We shall wait to see.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Best get used to Chinese (simplified)

净零回滚?把那些不方便的事情推到遥远的日期,以后我们都会忘记它。 2030年?直到 2035 年。或者我听说过 2050 年?将所有东西喷成亮绿色。就是这样。将调度箱设置为绿色。真是一个想法。

汽车的所有这些部件。 9速变速箱、离合器、飞桨。开始按钮。就像一辆老式汽车,前面有一匹模型马。甚至让它们听起来像兰博基尼。好吗?



Less than Net Zero.

Net Zero rollback? Just push the inconvenient stuff to a date so far in the future we'll have all forgotten it. 2030? Make it 2035. or did I hear 2050? Spray paint everything Bright Green. That'll do the trick. Make dispatch boxes Green. Thats a barnstormer of an idea.

All those bits of a car. The 9-speed gearbox, the clutch, the flappy paddles. The Start button. Like old cars had model horses on the front. Even make them sound like a Lambo. Good innit?

Fuel costs. Don't make the energy bill comprehensible. Don't let people manage their bills. There must be so many other ways to roll back. Levelling Up means levelling down. And those mega projects. Let them run until the moneys all gone. Send in sluggish auditors when all the consultancy money has been spent. 

And that red wall. Call it a green wall. Make everything green. That's it. Control and certainty.

Monday 18 September 2023

Bicycle time


I've been doing my best to catch up with the 'gap' in my performance against plan on my bicycle. It is a combination of both road and turbo cycling and instead of going for the end of year target at the moment I'm simply trying to bridge the gap. 

It is unforgiving, in that I set myself an achievable 'Platinum' target of 4,000 miles this year, with 3,000 for Gold, 2,000 for silver and 1,000 for Bronze.

I'm currently at 2,495 miles, which is a respectable Silver and should make Gold by year end. Except there is the carrot of Platinum dangling there as well.

Of course my own mathematics makes this all very suspect, with  my target set before taking account of holidays and other down time. 

However, we can see that I'm tracking behind the curve but gradually making up the miles. I was 700 miles behind when I looked, and now I'm 331 miles behind. Of course that will increase today unless I hit the pedals.

I don't 'win' anything for these efforts and I realise my cycling will be more than some people travel in a car. I'm told the average car driver does as little as 7,000 miles in a year. 

And don't ask me why the tracking shows September as empty. This is right up to yesterday's figures.

Sunday 17 September 2023

Infidel : Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I had Infidel recently recommended to me via a book club. It is from 2007, autobiographical, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born Dutch-American activist and former politician. She is a critic of Islam and advocate for the rights and self-determination of Muslim women, opposing forced marriage, honour killing, child marriage, and female genital mutilation.

There were parts of the book that I found extremely disturbing (regular beatings, extreme violence and FGM under a Muslim belief system). She takes us through her childhood in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. She winds up in the Netherlands where she escapes an arranged marriage. 

I worked in Saudi Arabia and can recognise many of the themes she describes there, but she also elaborates on the clan system that exists in Somalian and other cultures.

She says in the book: "I first encountered the full strength of Islam as a young child in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the source of Islam and its quintessence. It is the place where Muslim religion is practiced in its purest form, and it is the origin of much of the fundamentalist vision that has spread far beyond its borders. … Wishful thinking about the peaceful tolerance of Islam cannot interpret away this reality: hands are still cut off, women still stoned and enslaved."

And the teachings are in Arabic, rote spreading a culture that is brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war with the ever present promise of the Hereafter.

The extremism of religion goes along with the class and education system often considered an Arab import. It goes way beyond women wearing a headscarf, veil, hijab or niqab. I used to think it medieval and that men treated women as property, much like cattle.

Ayaan eloquently challenges any claim that Islam is a religion of peace. She is forthright in her opinions from her first hand suffering. The Western world is still mainly blind to the realities of Islam – to their lack of women’s rights, free speech, and so forth. 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has written the second half of the book as a reformed non-believer take on the the Muslim elements of control. It is the same for many religions I guess. Not an easy read emotionally and mentally and she is still able to show appreciation of both sides of this complex argument. 

Thursday 14 September 2023

Busted Flush

It's not so long since we heard about taking back control. Of course that was from the mouth of a serial liar, so we knew it wasn't true.

Now we have strikes, train service disruptions, air control failures, inflation, crazy price hikes, health service discontinuities, incomprehensible energy prices, schools teetering with building decay, education disinvestment, sewage dumping, food banks, rampant mortgage increases and so the list goes on.

We've had a government which tried to skip around the law, particularly under the caddish Johnson, and we've seen esteemed members with their trotters in the trough. Theres a few politicians who smugly try to explain it all. They read the briefs, bet against the government and then cash in, mainly tax free.

I expect we can all identify a few decent folk left, but their voices get drowned by the haws from the Eton mess. And anyone else picking up the pieces will have to run the full length of a very muddy field in order to try to rectify things.

I used to be upset when I saw the Union Flag being flown upside down. Now I just accept that it was visionary.

Wednesday 13 September 2023

[RANT] Smart Meters still don't work

I've got two smart meters attached to this house. The gas meter has to communicate via the electric meter. Don't ask me why.

I was given a small consumer unit to read how much electricity and gas I was consuming. It has NEVER worked. We've lived here six years and had three different suppliers. My last supplier managed to get the electricity readings to work. And I can get better rates for overnight charging of my electric car.

It is still a scandal that the government and the electricity distributors said that smart meters were the way ahead and ploughed billions into a system that doesn't work. I should tell Martin Lewis, I suppose.

A recent example. I send in my electricity and gas readings as well. Quarterly. I agree I shouldn't need to send in the electricity readings, but I do because its simple enough as I have to take monthly photos of the gas meter numbers and the other box is adjacent.

A few weeks ago I was given a surprise bill. I owed a further £1,300 on top of the amount I'd been paying. Now I'd never throttled back the standing payments based upon my own estimates of the expected bills. Lucky for me because I could just cough up the extra payment. 

I've asked why and been told that the system needed to catch up with its billing. Or something like that. I don't properly understand and I suppose I'll spend a whole day with spreadsheets and a computer trying to work out what has been happening.

They spent £13.8 billion on this rollout. So far only 57% of houses have smart meters. By March 2023 around 9% didn't work. Despite assurances completion by end 2022, they also don't retain smart function when switching suppliers. Half a million may never work . And 37% of smart meter users claim an issue such as no automatic readings (me), inaccurate bills(me) and the in home display not showing readings (me). The snappily titled Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ) say this is an overstatement of the position. 

Not for me it isn't. Another example of a busted Britain.

Friday 8 September 2023

I've been travelling and my logins don't work

It's more commonplace now for my logins to fail when I'm travelling. 

I think they check the browser and its location and then make up silly reasons for not recognising my password. 

That and sending useless error codes.

Instead of saying 'access refused' - with a reason, they make it sound like it is an error, which just wastes time. 

It's happened with several systems recently, including some well-known big ticket systems. Then, when I'm back at base, it can be easy to log in again. 

Of course, there are a few systems that I don't bother to reuse after they've failed.