Thursday, June 13, 2013

UCI, fix Women's Pro Cycling. It's the right thing to do. And it is doable.

The UCI needs to insist on women's races in all top men's events.  The roads are already closed, the staff already engaged.  It works for tennis. Make it work for cycling.  Even above the Armstrong shambles, failing women racing cyclists and their fans is the #1 reason why McQuaid should  go do something else and let someone with true vision and guts make historic, needful changes to the sport.

If you doubt just how exciting women's pro racing can be, rewind the 2012 Olympic Women's Road Race.

Here's a very promising film on women's pro racing in need of support to film it --

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Welcome asymmetry: tiny self-sufficient act, big warm feeling

Today at the allotment I took a welcome break from weeding to build on request* a large frame with net to protect the broccoli.  I like constructing things. It appeals to my resourceful nature to use whatever materials are at hand, to do it *now* and not wait. Some unemployed 8" bamboo canes, twine and a net. A lot of plot holders use connectors (like a golf ball with tapered holes), use zip-ties or special poles. But I've completely avoided leaving anything plastic onsite (a tool is OK).  So I had twine and bamboo canes which I know can be insecure when the twine slides on the bamboo can which it can do if its not tightly bound. But was thee another way?

I thought about making the cane-to-cane binding on top of a separate string base which would handle the tricky binding to the cane. Should work. Testing the under-binding with a coiled spring shape, tightly pulled into the cane, I found this is hard to move up or down the cane. Perfect!  Putting it altogether has created pretty robust connectors, perfect for supporting the weight of the nets and perhaps the odd pigeon. Cost of the frame £1.20.

* by Sarah, my wife

Monday, January 7, 2013

Short Story : Precreation

"How, daddy?" she pleaded.  It was not that she could not be made to understand, but I didn't have time.  The ship was leaving soon and I had to go make sure all the equipment was packed and all the gene samples were stable.   But her senses were very fine tuned these days.  Since the educators had solved the major issues of learning it was my daughter's generation which had benefitted the most. They rapidly reach searing performance levels so quickly, so enduringly these days.  It's almost too effortless for them.  Emotional maturity is still an issue of course, but they learn that too. But it's so damn fast, it is simply not possible for any parent to keep pace with their children.  "Sleep darling. I'll explain everything when I get back".

That was a long, dry, airless age ago.  The "cel gel" inside me takes the longest to clear.  The training helps, but I'm still not used to it. I don't think anyone is. The immersion isn't long but the accelerations forces have gone way up as journey times are cut.  My organs all feel fine, the pressure was spot on, with a days rest, even my liver didn't hurt this time and getting the suit on is painfree.  Its annoying having to keep the ventilator on outside on this planet, but it has its advantages.  The animals have no chance of personalizing us. We smell and look the same, its perfect.

Today we make history here, but nothing here will ever know it.  All my training, my life has been focused towards this point.  Countless trials and successes with animal breeding and now this.  The evolution has been manageable for ages.  We know the animal blends are past the convergent threshold for the scale and profile to support the survival of the first of the new species.  I'm not volunteering for the monitoring crews and they won't need me, so I won't be back.  I'm overthinking this, just do it.  Clear my mind and press the button.  Except now it is our genes and these animals, specially chosen as they are to closest genetically to our race.  As I release it the system syncs with all the others, there's a small delay and then its done.  The teams are excited, lots of chatter on air.  I'm getting on the ship as soon as I can.  I know there is nothing I can do in the rest of my life (well the 78.3+ years I have left) that can get close to what I helped do here to make the first humans.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Short story : That nice juicy interior

I could smell the Kabluunak before my eyes saw him.  He is in some ice that is standing up, which surprises me, but I don't slow down.  I hear noises, not just from the mouth but also like a high wind.  He is not looking at me much but I will get him anyway.  My child will like him.  He is fearful but is not moving like the others. What is this thing?  There are gaps and I try and reach in but it is not opening up.  Once I get this strange ice open I will eat some before I drag him back.  I like Nattiq best but a change is good.  I see no black sticks, so feel little danger.  I cannot believe he is not looking at me!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Short story : Norovirus

The man had coughed almost wetly, a short gurgling cough, next to me in the carriage.  At the time I thought he might have that virus that was surprisingly widespread. Norovirus. I never remembered the spelling and had to look it up.  The day before the girl asleep in front of me, head on table, flat out in an odd way as everyone was leaving the train, had said on waking that she probably had the Norovirus.  I tried to be helpful by waking her, but I knew if she was right about the virus, then she was wrong to be going to work, which I let her know.  "It's ok, it's only one day in town this week" she said.  Afterwards I realised she shouldn't even be on the train. She should be home in bed, trying to get better.  But then, many people had tried that and look what happened. In the end it didn't help.  It spread too quickly.

"Norovirus is one of the most infectious diseases of man" Goodfellow, professor of virology at Cambridge had said. Things are relative, even bad things.  So how much?  "It takes fewer than 20 virus particles to infect someone.  So each droplet of vomit or faeces from an infected person can contain enough virus to infect more than 100,000 people". Gulp. Still as I read this it is shocking.  Almost everyone is gone, but no one saw this coming.  Even bird flu had more warnings.  The sheer speed of its spread had been shocking in the real sense of the word.  People were not reacting.  Some stayed home, in their beds, vomiting furiously into their toilets, but from the outside all seemed quiet.  At work, it was noisy, an odd rhythm of coughs and splutters that seemed to group together as though the people were even more effected when they heard those around them.  It was the first time anyone could remember people actually stayed home to avoid sick people at work.  It had never happened before on a large scale.  That should have been a clue.

When the end came, or at least when I realised there was no future, it was quiet.  The coughing had stopped.  But then they'd all stopped breathing.  The hospitals were long closed, shut full of the dead who could not be moved there were so many of them.  Everyone retreated away from everyone else.  People fled in cars, on foot, on bikes but mostly on foot.  Public transport had died, long before the majority.  It hadn't been real at first.  The news and alerts had sounded almost familar, like a film we were about to see. A disaster movie that was building itself.  It was when I heard a friend had died of the virus that it hit home for real.  Until then it happening to me, my wife, my family, my friends wasn't an option. It didn't compute.  The government was prepared. They had solutions. This virus was treatable. It would go away. Something would stop it.  It would peter out.  But then, people started dying, transport started failing, services stopped working. Society crumbled.  I was never a fan of science fiction books (although SF films intrigued me) but I'm sure they would predict that anything from the current world that was automated would last far longer in the final reckoning than anything that relied on human intervention.  And so it was.  The internet is still up, at least my end of it.  I write this in the hope I can post it to my blog, somewhere in the ether, on servers in the cloud so that others can read it. If not now, in the future. We can write our own epitaphs now. Perhaps even without the sadness that has plagued those few survivors you see who hide and run away from you.

I don't know what the future holds any more. Was I lucky enough to be part of the cleansed planet? Or simply by bad luck around to experience the worst that had ever happened to us. They managed to tell us where the surviving power was, where the food was, but we all know that sooner or later it is all going to run out. I realise we had learnt how to move forward, but how to live going backwards. I'm a sort of farmer now, my wife a farmer's wife.  We try to grow things, but in reality we're just harvesting, taking what is already grown.  And we have a lot of space around us.  I think we all have.  No one yet is moving and meeting up in significant numbers.  I haven't seen anyone since June.  It's just too risky.  The last advice, was it even authoritative?, was to sweat it out. That the Norovirus would die out.  Then it would be safe to gather together.  But they said that before, in the lull before the wave of deaths washed over us.

So we move further backward, losing our technology, using our hands, reading our books.  The days are getting lighter now and we can do more.  We sit in simplicitly, choosing our books.  Void of ambition as we knew it.  We wait out our days, hoping they are peaceful ones.  I enjoy turning the pages.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Adventures in language : Latin

Statement of Intent
Today I'm starting a blog post on my very personal adventure learning and using Latin. This is not a "how to" or advisory. It may help inspire folks (maybe you!) to follow their own path with language. I plan to append to this one blog post as I go along, whenever I have something to say.
Why Latin?
Having never being taught it at school, it was something other kids (and certainly not my friends) in some other kind of schools did. It felt implicitly a subject studied by a different class of person, very likely the kind that went to grammar and public schools, even minor ones. Latin also seemed dead apart outside churches and mottos, not very useful to me. But learning a little Mediterranean language and discovering their common root was Latin simmered away at the back of my mind til the other day when I saw this century old text book and was gripped by its style: "The Cases are six". "The Nominative names the Subject...
  The boy reads.--Who reads?--The boy.
   The fire burns.--What burns?-the fire.
Then boy and fire are Nominatives."
Enough for now. Time to stop talking and to just do it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

World Club Cup : why Chelsea lost

A number of reasons...
- they were up against a very good, on-form Brazilian Corinthians team
- there is a deep relationship between Japanese and Brazilian football (players go in both directions) which inspires Brazilians. The CWC is routinely held in Japan.
- only the Brazilian players in Chelsea  wanted to win the CWC very much. The vast majority of players (mostly non-Brazilians) not so passionate about winning it were in the Chelsea team
- Corinthians out-played and out-muscled Chelsea in midfield. They played with more force, style and assuredness. Witness the hesitancy from the three Chelsea players not attacking the ball which one attacker put past them. Rabbits frozen in headlights
- Chelsea as a team are in an  underperforming phase, given the player quality.

Is anyone at Chelsea genuinely over-performing?  Team spirit doesn't seem solid since Terry rose to prominence and influence.