Monday, December 19, 2016

Need versus right

In the run up to the recent US Presidential election the level of 'crazy' on the internet was at an all time high. In the 'post-truth' age it appears it is now okay to invent any old shit, post it on the internet and claim it is news. Loonies,  particularly those from the 'alt-right', made some frankly bizarre claims and worse yet a bunch of seriously dumb people seemingly believed every word.

However, fake news aside, it seems the election reinvigorated those pressing for 'Disclosure' - the term for official admission that the human race is not the sole intelligent species in the universe. The disclosure movement makes some fairly strong assumptions in pressing for 'D':

1. That there is an official body with the sufficient authority, and credibility, to make such an announcement.
2. That there actually is body of hidden information that might explain some UFO sightings, strange signals, aspects of human folklore ...and not just contribute more to the current confusion.
3. Somehow just knowing will make things better, we can stop burning fossil fuels, our governments will suddenly become legal and honest in all their dealings, and we can make ready to be welcomed into the galactic brotherhood.
4. The ETI are okay with this.

Now you will tell from my tone that I am somewhat skeptical of the Disclosure community. Not for reasons of faith, nor scientific reasoning - on balance science pretty much sees life elsewhere from Earth as a certainty and, if life, then why not sentient life?
There are also many, many more photos of UFOs than there are of God.

My thinking is this - the human race, in general, at this moment in history, has no need to know. People who can be swayed by lies and rumours are not the sort of people you go telling paradigm shifting news like “You are not alone’. You know the line ‘The truth, you can’t handle the truth!’ - well if the cap fits.

In military and intelligence circles there is a concept of a ’need to know’ - i.e. being officially briefed on some secret event, capability, source or method because that knowledge is necessary for your day job. If that knowledge is not necessary you don’t get to know. There is no automatic right to know - even if you have been cleared to handle secrets of such magnitude.

To get by, mankind does not need to know.

Looking back at earth’s history you will see that contact with more sophisticated societies has not ended well for aborigine peoples. Even if our visitors are benign and beneficent how can we sure of the reactions of the politicians, religious authorities, oil producers and the ordinary man in the street? If raving Brexiteers can build 'Johnny Foreigner' up into some banana straightening monster what chance has a little grey man with funny eyes got? Dalek is serbo-croatian for 'far, distant and, at a stretch, "alien"'.

In the meantime, if anybody can tell me what the strange, small, clothed creature in the centre of the video frame capture  at the top is, well don’t - I might want to know, but I have no need to.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Russian Roulette with a semi-auto pistol

This post is not about guns. It is about cars - or more specifically it us about 4x4 off-road capable vehicles. Some label these Sport Utility Vehicles although that term is increasingly being applied to so called 'Soft Roaders' - vehicles with all wheel drive and chunky looks, but sadly less capable away from the road than the humble 2CV.

There are two iconic 4x4 vehicles - the Jeep and the Land Rover.

The Jeep won its image helping win World War II and then, thanks to the wide availability of surplus vehicles, with US farmers both as an iron workhorse and a recreational back country runabout.

The Land Rover evolved from a rather more stoic and impoverished post-war UK where the appeal of the utility of the Jeep was recognised, but the rusting examples to hand, plus a shortage of steel spurred the development of an improved design.

Both icons have survived through iterative design and successive ownership in the form of the Jeep Wrangler and the Land Rover Defender. Neither are perfect - the Wrangler is sporty by US standards, but is ill-mannered on road. The Defender is agricultural, unexciting and bum-numbing to drive any distance. Jeep fuel economy is woeful - it has improved something like 14% in two decades. The Land Rover fairs better thanks to early adoption and iteration of diesel as its preferred power plant - but not in a sporty way. However, both can be driven into wilderness, where paved roads end, and, with care, made to do useful tasks then driven back again. They can do it again tomorrow, come rain, snow or shine. If your job means you had better get to work whatever, then get a Wrangler or Defender, maybe with some aftermarket attention, and laugh yourself incontinent at the drowned soft roaders or the spinning low profile tyres going nowhere brigade.

 <*/RANT ON*>
Both vehicles are now under threat from legislation to protect the world from man-made climate change and the stupid from the effects of stepping out in front of motor vehicles. The former is understandable - even if you cast doubt on the evidence for a primary anthropogenic cause for climate change it will still do no harm whatsoever to conserve fossil fuel and lower running costs. The latter legislation is just plain baffling when you consider that the equipment needed to save driver and passenger from the late night country road impact of a terminally stupid deer will likely not be that kind to a terminally negligent stupid old dear. Since when has it been the law's responsibility to overturn evolution and protect the fatally flawed? Cars go where cars go and if pedestrians choose to step in the way its a fair fight and the car wins. Roads evolved for carts and carriages and, ultimately, the horseless carriage - when you reclaim the streets you reclaim it for its rightful inheritor - the motor car! Give me pedestrian underpasses, wide sidewalks, bicycle lanes, Pelican crossings - just remember the car owners are paying for their roads.
 <*/RANT OFF*>

The upshot of new laws is that both vehicles need to undergo change. It is likely the front ends need more deformable plastic and designs that shed pedestrians in safe directions rather than hook them on the front or push them under chunky tyres. Yeah, good luck with that, and anyway that front mounted self recovery winch is still a mighty lump of metal thats going to f*ck with that plan good and proper. And no, we are not ditching the winch unless the respective governments of the world are offering a free helicopter recovery service to all off-roaders.

Weight needs to be shod - more so in the case of the Wrangler which, frankly, is a bit retarded in respect of using more modern materials. You can build car bodies out of nano paper and the Jeep is still, mostly, steel.

Engines need to improve -again, in the case of Jeep, more radically - the US has an ongoing love affair with dinosaur engine technology. The Hemi is an abomination before god when you consider what a decent European design house can do with an engine 1/3 the capacity and diesel to boot.

However, the biggest threat to the iconic status of these vehicles comes not from the legislation, but from management's reaction to it. Because the legislation is both a driver and excuse to neuter the two beasts and produce vehicles which respective focus groups have determined will appease the eco-maniacs and the pedestrian lobbyists and have "wider consumer appeal".

So let us re-write James Bond so he is no longer an urbane, over-confident, alcoholic, misogynistic, high functioning psychopath and instead recast him as a metrosexual, Guardian reading, neo-feminist who believes the world can be righted through a strongly worded letter writing campaign rather than the timely appliance of violence. No, lets not.

Let us remember that for both the Wrangler and the Defender that form follows function - that their appeal lies in having little in the way of concession to fashion. Its not that Wrangler and Defender drivers all like pretending they're soldiers - it is that their vehicles can actually deliver on the promises implied in those boxy bodies. There is a reason those vehicles look like that, that they're built like that and it has f*ck all to do with marketing and everything to do with ability.

The trick is to do some real work. Now is not the time to mellow appearances and shave of the legislatively tricky bits. Now is the time to work out how to get Range Rover road handling onto a wilderness worthy body. It is time to work out how to keep the wash down interior, but evoking (sic) the class of a Range Rover or a Jaguar. Now is the time to push the engines to the limit in technology - 40 mpg, 300 bhp, 450 fp torque? or something close. 0 - 60 mph under 8 seconds. Now is the time to understand what your real fans really like - like solid rear axles, flat windscreens, the ability to strip off the roof and doors. Now is the time to innovate - like fording ability to the door mirrors without aftermarket extras, LEDs for all the lights. Now is the time to strip off the dumb - lose the rusting chrome, the flaky paint on aluminium, the plastic bits that break off and keep it all solid and sensible. 

The management of Jeep and Land Rover are playing Russian Roulette with a semi-auto pistol. If they pull the trigger the result will be an inevitable need to clean and redecorate the ceiling. Land Rover will survive - there are enough footballers' wives, Russian oligarchs and rising Chinese business managers with no sense of history that the Defender could go and only the cognoscenti would mourn its passing. For Jeep, however, the death of the icon would be terminal - just another also ran subsidiary of a global conglomerate. Jeep trades on its history - obliterate its history and you kill the brand. These are difficult times requiring real leadership and truly forceful visionaries - can either survive in the emasculated uniformity of the modern motor industry? YMMV and will almost certainly be cheaper!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Times are hard

but not everyone is hard up. If you are amongst that lucky few then please consider loaning some of your good fortune to those who want to work to make themselves better. I've mentioned Kiva before - I am mentioning it again - try it for yourself.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Another New Nikon

The Nikon D4 is almost upon us. A thing of beauty to be sure. Probably too rich for my blood for a while, but very likely to be in my kit bag by this time next year. Image is of Nikon non-functioning engineering model - ignore the shiny finish.
What I hope it features:
Few more pixels than D3s
About the same low light performance
More weather sealing (is this possible?)
Wi-fi support
High-Eyepoint Viewfinder

What it will have anyway:
Thunderbolt connectivity
Better video

Monday, June 06, 2011

Belgium Connection

The venue was the Grote Markt, Ieper. The date was the 3rd June 2011. She was tall, slender, heart stopping beautiful in the manner of true, simple beauty. She was wearing a black top, grey/blue jeans, a green headband around her long, curling brown locks. She was half my age. She had sunglasses, but she could not decide if she needed them. She had a phone, which she messaged with of course, and she smoked with her left hand. She sat, not at the brasserie where I sat, the next bar along. Alone, sometimes reading a book Maya (or Mala?). She left before me, paying a call inside first. We passed on the street later as I made to take pictures at the Menin gate. I wanted to speak to her. To ask her if she wanted to be a model. To ask her if she wanted to be my mistress. To ask her if I could watch as she kissed another woman. There was a connection there - I did not photograph her although I could have sneaked a shot. But my heart would ache even more if i had. The moment is lost.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Feeling better abut myself (thank you Trin)

spare money - don't blow it on shit you don't need
don't hoard it
put it in Kiva - do some good with it
I did
I feel better about myself

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dr David Banner

You know, you may have noticed from posts ibid that my green credentials are somewhat brown and sooty. I was one who pointed to the flaws in the 'Global Warming' story long before the hack that exposed the dubious practices of the so called climate experts. I fail to see how trading in my ten year old gas guzzler for a new eco piss ant plastic and glass bubble will really help the environment - once a full environmental impact study of the making of the little car and disposing of mine is taken into account. In short I am not the idiot the government was looking for.

So sit down - I am going to surprise you. I have just bought into rechargeable batteries (electrical cells) in a big way. Thanks to a tip on t'internet I will be running my camera and flash on rechargeable batteries from now on.

Now actually my camera already uses rechargeable batteries - special Nikon ones that cost quite a lot unless you buy them from Hong Kong. They are good and I am not about to throw them away, but since they cost so much I don't have spares. I don't have spares for another reason - the batteries are Lithium Ion and lose their capacity over time regardless of whether you use them or not. I know an unused spare tyre can rot on its mount- but not as quickly as a Lithium Ion cell; a spare Lithium Ion cell is only worth having if you regularly need it; I don't.

Up until now I have carried disposable Lithium AA cells as a back-up (they also work better in extreme cold). I have two AA cell carriers for my camera battery pack and occasionally I raid one to replenish my SB800 flash gun. Which is good except the flash does not really like Lithiums - and they get very hot in use. But when my current set of AA Lithiums are done there will be no more. Because NiMH rechargeable has got better (in fact it did so about two years ago, but I'm a little slow).

New rechargeable AA cells (Eneloop etc.) differ fundamentally from their predecessors in that they don't go flat just sitting waiting to be used; actually they do, but in about the same time period as a conventional disposable cell. Which means I am happy to carry them in my bag. It gets better - my camera achieves its highest frame rate running AA cells and NOT the fancy Nikon batteries. It gets better yet - my flash recycles faster with rechargeable AA cells. It gets even even better yet (yet?) - the charger is comparatively cheap and small and flat so easier to pack for travel and less of a financial hit if I leave it in a hotel room. So traveling abroad I can now take two charged Nikon batteries and when they done switch to rechargeable AAs. Two sets of Eneloops means one can charge overnight, and the cells go in everything (and a cell filled charger can even act as a usb charger for my iPhone). Thank you internet - this is a tip I have followed and am happy to pass on.