RIP Alan Rickman

It’s been a bloody awful start to 2016 for celebrity deaths, hasn’t it? Two giants of the British entertainment industry gone with days of each other, both 69 and both had cancer.

Alan Rickman made even some pretty iffy films watchable (see Robin Hood) by his immense presence and always-entertaining delivery. He’s done some incredible work over the last three decades and he’s going to be greatly missed.

Twitter provided me with this extremely funny sketch – a rework of the famous Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen:

He’s on stage with 3 excellent comedians and outperforms them all (although Vic Reeves is particularly hilarious too)

BBC News – Tal Fortgang not sorry for being white and privileged

Princeton University freshman Tal Fortgang has been told repeatedly to “check his privilege” – to be aware of how his socio-economic and cultural background shapes his views – and he’s not happy about it.”The phrase,” he writes, “handed down by my moral superiors, descends recklessly, like an Obama-sanctioned drone, and aims laser-like at my pinkish-peach complexion, my maleness and the nerve I displayed in offering an opinion rooted in a personal Weltanschauung.”

via BBC News – Tal Fortgang not sorry for being white and privileged.

This article is an interesting read as it highlights some concepts that I learned while studying the systems thinking modules as part of my Open University degree. ‘Weltanschauung’ was a term used widely,  and while it doesn’t directly translate to ‘worldview’ it is a close-enough approximation.

Tal is displaying some understandable frustration with this ‘check your privilege’ meme that seems to be popular among on-line activists. However, he is also showing the limits of his own Welstanshauung. He does have an advantage over many of his American cohorts, and this is not due to any hard work on his part but by the luck of his birth. White males in the west are much more likely to succeed than  ethnic minorities – this is the ‘privilege’ that Tal should be aware of. It’s not his fault and it’s not something he can do anything about, it’s just a consideration – an epistemological awareness of his situation.

He is only 20 and has most of his life ahead of him. His views are limited by his life experience, just like everyone else’s, and his worldview will change over time. Perhaps he will look back at his essay in a few years and wonder why he expressed himself in such a fashion? Opinions based on a personal Weltanschauung are fine and all but that doesn’t mean that others cannot provide their own responses based on their own experiences and views.

Tal is wrong, he should ‘check his privilege’, as should we all. We would all make more informed decisions.

Mary Elizabeth Williams writes far more eloquently about this than I can over at The Salon.

But what people often don’t like – what Fortgang himself quite obviously doesn’t like – is when someone who hasn’t walked in your shoes tries to tell you your experience. What people don’t like is when someone who moves through the world with a particular set of advantages writes an essay that uses the word “empathize” but then confidently announces that he lives in “a country that grants equal protection under the law to its citizens, that cares not about religion or race, but the content of your character.” Young man, if you honestly think this country doesn’t care about religion or race, then you are privileged. You have grown up in an America that has enabled you to not know otherwise. And I don’t need to you to be sorry about it, because you didn’t create that. I’d just love for you to someday understand it.

It’s not much different over here in the UK with our political elite; educated almost exclusively in expensive schools they fail to understand why the proletariat think they’re an utter bunch of privileged, useless tossers. It’s almost like they’re living in another world that bears limited resemblance to the reality of existing in a normal job with normal problems.

A bit of empathy – from everyone – would go a long way to soothe much of the discontent that exists between people from different backgrounds.

Adaptive cruise control

I live in Nottingham but work just outside Coventry. It’s a great job but the daily drive up and down the motorways are a complete pain in the rectum.

The trauma of the journey is much reduced due to the availability of a few colleagues that live close enough for me to car share with. I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to not have to drive every day. The journey isn’t that long and arduous, or at least not as long as some poor sods have to put up with, but it really helps to be able to share the experience with others.

The other thing that really helps is cruise control. I like to get on the motorway, find a decent speed and switch it on. The car sorts itself out, generally, and all I’ve got to do is point it in the right direction. The only problem with the cruise control in my car (and most other people’s cars too) is that it doesn’t pay the slightest attention to how everyone else is driving around you.

For instance, I’m driving at one speed but the guy in front might be driving at about 0.05 miles an hour slower than me. Eventually I’m going to have to overtake but it’s going to be a tortuous manoever if I leave it on cruise control; I’m much better off giving the car a burst of juice to get past him. If the motorway is even remotely busy there are no end of drivers all driving at different, inconsistent speeds, and it really buggers up my desire to stay on cruise control.

Wouldn’t it be great if your car could adapt its speed to the vehicles around it? Well, apparently some very clever people in the good ole’ US of A have developed just such a thing:

Heading south on the New Jersey Turnpike, Ford Motor Company engineer Jerry Engelman swings his 2010 Taurus into the left lane to pass a semi. The Taurus hesitates, slowing down, and then Engelman adjusts his heading. The car takes off. “Larry,” he calls to his colleague in the back seat, “write that down!”

Engelman is driving, but just barely. The Taurus has a radar-based adaptive cruise-control system that lets him set a top speed and then simply steer while the car adjusts its velocity according to traffic. He’s been weaving and changing lanes, doing between 45 and 70 mph—and hasn’t touched a pedal in an hour.

Sounds fabulous to me. Do you think they could fit that in our Seat Leon by the weekend please?

Sensible advise about swine flu

The media are falling over themselves regarding swine flu. There are plenty of stories scaring us all into thinking that there are going to be tens of thousands of deaths attributed to the disease this coming winter, and it’s difficult to sort the facts from the fiction.

I worry about my pregnant wife. She’s obviously at a higher risk than most from this but she’s also asthmatic, making any infection more dangerous.

Luckily for me I follow Annabel Bentley on Twitter. She posted a link to one of her blog posts on just this subject. Some parts of the medical establishment seem to think that pregnant women should just stay at home and watch TV rather than mix with the infected hordes, or either wear a facemask.

My wife, a nurse of significant standard, has told me no end of times that these masks are a complete waste of time. Once your breathe on them they get wet, thus allowing whatever bacteria or virus you’re trying to avoid to enter into your lungs virtually unimpeded.

Annabel gives some very sensible advice:

The bottom line is that hand and respiratory hygiene measures are the best ways to reduce the risk of H1N1 flu in pregnancy. The conflicting messages about masks and staying at home dilute the key messages to everyone about hand washing, sneezing and disposing of tissues. So, perhaps when leaving the house, pregnant women would be better advised to take some soap or alcohol hand gel with them, rather than a facemask, and use it to clean their hands regularly.

This is something that the government, to their credit, have been saying all along. It’s just a shame that the message has been lost amongst a whole bunch of scaremongering by people that should really know better

Amsterdam. It’s anarchy!

Well, Amsterdam is an anarchistic, cesspool of corruption if you’re in the American religious right:

This makes you wonder just how many of these idiots have even been to Amsterdam. I’ve not been but the UK is close enough for me to know several people that have. They’ve all said that it’s a beautiful city full of laid-back, intelligent, friendly people.

I’m sure it’s not quite as utopian as the video suggests but it’s high on my list of places to visit.

One thing is clear: Bill O’Reilly and the dimwits from his Fox show just do not have a clue.

(found on that other cesspool of corruption: Pharyngula)

Nortel: shame on you

A friend of mine had been working for Nortel for a number of years and found out in March that he was going to be made redundant. This is a sad story in itself, but it’s made worse by the way that Nortel’s administrators Ernst and Young have implemented these redundancies.

They’ve chopped these UK employees out without giving any notice, nor giving them their contractually-agreed notice pay. All they’ve got is the measley statutory redundancy pay (as paid by the tax payer) and subsequent job-seekers allowance of £65 or so a week. All this while paying $23million in bonuses to some executives while these redundancies were being announced.

It stinks, and they’ve been protesting in London:

Watch this and hope that other employers don’t try the same thing.

The system is broken. If there’s money in the company to pay bonuses then there’s money to pay a fair severence to the unfortunate many that have been cast off. Shame on you Nortel.

links for 2009-01-23

  • In a recently introduced piece of bureaucracy, the Metropolitan police have started requiring live event producers across London to fill in the innocuous sounding “Form 696”.

    Here’s the catch: it requires four pages of information from event organisers 14 days before it takes place. If you need to make last-minute changes – tough luck, the event can’t go ahead. The Met police not only want to know the type of music to be played, but also names, aliases, phone numbers and addresses of performers. It will not only make putting on live bands very difficult for small venues, but also spell the end of impromptu open mic sessions.

    (tags: Music london uk civilliberties form696 waronterror terrorism bureaucracy)

  • The Macintosh – the first Apple computer to bear the name – turns 25 on 24 January. The machine debuted in 1984 and kicked off a product line that were Apple’s flagship computers for many years. The Macintosh helped popularise the combination of graphical interface and mouse that is ubiquitous today.

    (tags: technology apple computing news mac macintosh)