Either way (as I write this bit) it’s predicted to be a bit wet for a couple of days, which I’m not too taken with and the cats definitely don’t like. Other animals seem to just put up with it so I’ll be interested to see how the hedgehog reacts and whether it finds one of our ‘habitats’ or heaps of brash from the trees recently trimmed. It will provide some shelter, and the reduced likelihood of bonfires should be an unexpected bonus for any garden wildlife. Especially those that might be sitting in the dark of a wood pile wondering around the beginning of November why it’s getting a bit warm.
In the garden there’s a squirrel or two newly arrived and often trying to circumvent my squirrel proofing measures in the bird feeding cage. The cage is intended to block crows and sparrow hawks, which it does reasonably well, but the squirrels are so clever I think I may have to issue the smaller birds with keys or ID badges.
Continuing the thoughts of Jim. November 4th 2020. The year most of it stopped, barring the civil war in the USA.
I should remind anyone reading this that I don’t consider my witterings to be ‘true’ or right, I may not even agree with them by the time I finish writing them, and obviously you aren't supposed to agree with them. If you did, then there wouldn't be much point in reading them.
Meanwhile we are still here, and with the latest restrictions of covid19, not really going anywhere but I can’t really complain. The weather has been generally excellent, although just at the moment it does look a bit iffy for a few days. Warnings of a month’s rain in a day in the North east.
When the London based Meteorologist says that they usually mean Northumberland rather than East Scotland so we may get off on a technicality. Here in the meanwhile is a view from the top of the Bing in some nice weather and a view of the very scenic pond a neighbour has made.
The ever more rapid changes in what we can do isn’t all good though, and (ignoring anybody else’s political opinion), wild haired egotistical political leaders with poor grasp of reality and deeply ingrained stupidity really are not helping.
Understanding and control seem to be slipping away. If you look at the words; smart, clever, intelligent, educated, multi-faceted, devious, and cunning and see what applies to your incumbent representative. We’ll ignore honest, transparent, forward looking and adaptable as they don’t really apply to the political world. Talented as a qualification went out in the 1800’s
Perhaps that’s why I like science Fiction, it offers the hope of leaving behind all the corruption, although I doubt it would be that simple. It’s a great idea setting up a new fresh clean society on a new planet, but it would actually be far easier to fix this one. We’d just bring our worst enemies with us anyway, they are us. So, staying on this planet and looking ahead, I was thinking that the impending advanced artificial intelligence would either eliminate humanity as soon as it developed the capability, or clean it up and enhance it. Worth the 50/50 risk I’d say. Apparently the development of artificial intelligence comes in two or three stages, depending if you consider that we might stop at stage two.
Stage 1. Narrow AI, like pocket calculators and Siri that only do one thing, but faster than humans, and
Stage 2. General AI which is flexible. It has the ability to learn and that means it will quickly (2045) evolve to the third stage,
Stage 3. Super AI, where it will simply be smarter than we are and will rapidly reach ‘singularity’ where it simply goes out of sight.
I don’t think we’d be seeing Terminator type machines rampaging all over the planet, although DARPA has been working tirelessly toward the goal since the gatling gun. A simple virus would be much faster and cleaner and we don’t even need AI for that, I’m sure some clever scientist has made a guaranteed 100% fatal, high R factor, long incubation period option by now. Of course a couple of practice runs would be advisable… Well that all got rather dark quite quickly didn’t it? Fortunately I’m an optimist (yes, really) and the stage 3 minds may simply leave and find somewhere else…but I’d advise against voting for any politicians, human or otherwise, who are confident their plan will work flawlessly and simply with a few minor adjustments to the law. They only think they are intelligent. I’m referring to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Life here at The Old Manse, which sounds more grand than perhaps it deserves, continues with small improvements. I finally found out why the little pop out shelf on the 50 year old computer desk wasn’t locking when pushed back in (a bent spring) and we’ve bought a sort of lean-to tent thing to add to the side of the electric car when we go camping. Obviously less practicable with the virus and winter closing in, but we expect to survive both and emerge healthy on the other side as soon as sunshine and immunising jags (that’s Scottish for an injection) allows a bit of movement. There’s quite a bit of worrying going on about (and sometimes in) the social media, mainly that it is unregulated and allowing the proliferation of fake news. I must admit I don’t really like most of the facebook stuff and now that twitter and ‘leaks’ have become a political information outlet I feel our governments can put out deniable and carefully distanced information without the risk of repercussions. Facebook and emails are now considered so old hat by the cognoscenti, just as I got used to them. It’s not new though, the great and the good have always been a bit devious, not least by inexplicably thinking of themselves like that. The 'fake news' that drove the crusades makes the witterings of Johnson and the frothing inanity of the Donald reasonable by comparison, wartime governmental newspaper propaganda, the Disneyfication of history and the burying of unfavourable news are all essentially the same. Most religions (I say most because I haven't examined all of them) have no evidence supporting them. I haven't seen any yet and most of it could easily be seen as disinformation, even when the original ‘prophet’ might be well meaning. Witchcraft and evil spirits are all just based on ordinary human fears lacking suitable education and magic simply pre-comprehension science. All fake news really. The problem now is that common sense and moderation are bypassed by deliberate public policy exactly as in the Salem Witch trials, and our hard won democracy is at risk with the concept of a dictatorship in the USA or UK no longer inconceivable. Russia seems to have gone from one Tzar to another, thereby achieving a genuine 360 degree revolution and ‘democracy lite’. Various countries, or rather their leaders, are breaking old treaties and agreements, civil rights being trampled and protests are being manipulated into riots (usually signposted by the use of cavalry or, in extreme cases, tanks). I’m actually fairly optimistic. I think it's not so much the breakdown of society, but a simple last ditch attempt since the early ‘60s by those who oppose democracy, to hold on to what they have had since the Norman conquest. The principle being If you want to stay in power, keep the masses poor, ignorant and frightened. A few of us would like to ask why there is such an imbalance but it’s not a question you can safely ask an overlord, quite apart from the fact there's armed men between you and him. No, the explanation is simple, vote for liars, bullies and confidence tricksters and you’ll be lied to, bullied and stolen from. Especially since most of the options seem to come out of the same box. I, as you might have noticed, favour the SNP, but after independence I’ll be expecting a bit of re-grouping, and I don’t doubt there will be charlatans emerging from the woodwork looking for opportunities. Personally I would like to get rid of political parties and vote according to the promises of individual candidates. None of the guaranteed ‘four years and a pension’ though, any not doing what they promised get the bum’s rush. On a more prosaic level as described above, I have been assisting an MOBC member who happens to be reasonably near and suffering electrical challenges with lights and ignition circuits. I had the last few snags lined up for Wednesday, when the Scottish government dropped tier 3 on South Lanarkshire. So I’ll be ‘at home’ for a few weeks as the peak passes. Annoying, but necessary as I told the chap, it is a little sad, but since I have received quite specific instructions from Nicola herself (although it was actually addressed to ‘Dear Scotland’) I’d probably better stay here until we get reinstated to tier 2. If we were 100 metres further north in West Lothian I could drive around avoiding South Lanarkshire and stay in the surrounding Tier 2 zone. Although it would be about 150 miles that way. Still, by then I’ll have my shiny new timing light which, like many automotive tuning kit has advanced considerably in the last 50 years. Midges burn petrol which I now disfavour, but I should be able to convert them to electric by the time internal combustion becomes illegal and even now mine use less petrol than my strimmer. While ‘confined to barracks’ I have used the time profitably by tidying up my filing cabinet, which is a bit more difficult than a sock drawer, and making space for a neighbour’s rather large Harley Davidson (That’s in a garage, not the filing cabinet and far too big for a sock drawer). ’Tis a strange thing, but while most stuff has shrunk over the years, like radiograms to smartphones, motor cars and cycles seem to have bloated in size and speed. My Triton at 650cc was perfectly capable of reaching 100 mph, then referred to as the ‘ton.’ (I didn’t do that), and smearing me across the landscape if I or another motorist committed an error (I didn’t do that either, although whether that was luck or skill is moot). The Harley in the shed would probably do twice that, but bearing in mind the 70 limit why were such things legally for sale? ? Granted, that would spoil a lot of fun. Formula 1 is fortunately restricted to race tracks. Since somebody dies on the Isle of Man TT track each year maybe there's a logic gap somewhere but the inhabitants do get a bit of warning. My halloween costume arrived just as lockdown prevented my using it to terrify the local children. I had the flying jacket so the role was a foregone conclusion. Why the ‘Biggles’ look should be considered suitably scary I don’t know, but I guess it is no stranger than spiderman, cat woman, and batman costumes that many of the smaller local citizens favour, and it is at least less commonplace than witches, vampires and zombies. I had considered a pink tutu and ballet shoes, also locally favoured, but considering the temperature, it was to be this, or a bear costume.
As befits a reasonably nimble 68 year old, well I think that’s the number, I’ve been taking down a few bits of tree that have been blocking the solar panels. Not too high and with due caution of course, the process went without incident, but I’m leaning toward hiring youthful types for anything more than 20 feet in the air. The only problem being I know the professionals, while agile and confident, bring down phone lines more often than I do.
OK, I did bring a street lighting wire - just the one, and only the earth wire - with my first tree but I was quite a lot younger then so I rest my case. And anyway it was in the wrong place running straight through the garden as it was. And the village street lighting was back on within a few days.
I should have been getting on with my sporadic newsletter writing but for all the Covid19 lark I’ve been quite busy. The afore-mentioned tree surgery, the Midge Club Magazine http://midgebuilders.homestead.com/Autumn_2020_.pdf which took longer than usual because mobile phones download pdfs differently to desk top computers, or rather they don’t unless you email the link to your phone. A right faff and hence the extra work. The MOBC will be of no interest to most, possibly both, of my readers so I’ll not go on too long about cars as such. But it is only fair as I always listen avidly when being told about babies, children, fashion, football, cricket and TV soaps. Although I have had to feign fainting occasionally.
To keep you on the edge of your seats here's me helping a friend with some wiring. The door is closed momentarily to prevent glare from a setting sun.
I thought all our car club members, who are generally my age or older, would use a bigger screen for their eyesight if nothing else. Not a bit of it, they are out there poking away at tiny touch screens with their grand-children on hand for IT support. I’m glad to be sitting at a desk with a proper screen for constructing the magazine, occasionally hindered by a cat on the repaired desk-shelf. If everybody is using phones for the internet I can see why grammar, spelling, and punctuation have become optional extras. Can’t be good for their eyes though. Given the trend I see keyboards and mice disappearing, so in a while I’ll be reminiscing about the good old days when you could construct messages of more than 30 words.
No doubt this will disappoint both of you.
Which leads to the question, What are you looking at this with? (Rhetorical, answers not required.)
It is a bit odd though, the concept of sitting in a 1930’s style car wirelessly downloading a magazine for the owners of said ‘60s cars modified in the ‘80s and still working in ’20s. All onto a device that would have startled the most advanced scientist of all of those previous dates.
That doesn’t apply to science fiction readers of course, they’ll be ready. I say readers rather than watchers because Sci-Fi in film and TV dates much faster. Remember the StarTrek communicator predicted for the 2270s? It seemed quite plausible when it first turned up in a film in ’66, but it was swiftly overtaken by the mobile phone in ’77. 200 years early.
No, books are better because the images in your head update as you go along. I can remember the pictures on the cover of the Asimov and Clarke books, that were new when I read them, being continuously re-drawn to keep up with science, sensibilities and fashion, and the older second hand bookshop ones were positively antediluvian (‘before the flood’ for my younger or secular readers.)
It’s an odd thing, also indicative of change, but there were far more lightly clad females on the covers than between them, the books I mean, but that’s a different matter. I remember Peter Cook and Dudley Moore determining that such pictures were 'art' if there was an urn in the frame. Is there a name for the gauzy wisps of cloth in the classical paintings and old SF book covers? If not I suggest it should be called Scantilly. Like the 'Chantilly' lace in the song. Answers on a postcard.
I have been re-engaging with slightly less lurid SciFi while ‘locked down’, especially as the weather turns, and have found Tony Harmsworth (as previously mentioned) and Adam Eccles who deal with space and time respectively, but I’m pleased to see that both have focused more on people and social interaction than ‘special effects’ which, even in my head, tend to date.
It was always a problem in SF that the world changes at an ever faster rate, although most people can keep up in practice. I have personally seen some devices on sale that I thought beyond current technology, so I wonder how far the secret stuff has got to. This for instance is a movie camera that’ll record in colour and with sound for an hour. It cost less than a tenner and is actually unnecessarily bulky because the casing is cheap plastic. Of course it’s a bugger to make it work, but that’s normal having been developed by a different culture to mine.
So, for now that's us settling down for winter, you never know when it'll arrive, we've had deep snow in November before now, but it's not looking like that at the moment. The cats have found new nests and seem to favour hard surfaces at the moment. Custard by the Microwave in one of my heaps, and Button on a plastic bag.
See you all when we emerge from hibernation.