23 May 2012

Travel Blog

I'm in China right now. Check out my Travel Blog:

http://travel.andrewflemming.net

06 March 2012

Smart Meters ... of Death

Daniel Rutter (of the superb 'How to Spot a Psychopath') in his takedown of some idiots who are afraid of Smart Meters:
If you don't know what radiation is, and you don't know what chemicals are, and the inverse-square law might as well be the Collected Proceedings of the Vorlon Linguistic Society for all the sense you can make of it, then I implore you to seek education, and remind you that activist organisations of any kind are much more likely to be in the bullshit business than the education one. 
If you don't fancy the idea of education, I suggest you live a life of happy-go-lucky ignorance, taking cues from a housecat, or a domestic dog, depending on your preferences. 
Just please don't spend your time worrying about the terrible threat someone says is posed by technologies, cultural changes or particular types of other human whom you do not understand. Every minute you spend worrying about Islamists conquering the world, or commercial airliners spreading mysterious poisons, or electricity meters giving you cancer, does nothing but move you one minute closer to your actual death, and gains you nothing at all.
It's a long read, but well worth it.  Actually, all of Dan's work is a long read that's well worth it.

26 December 2011

The Noise

As the subtitle of this blog used to suggest, it is here to provide a glimpse into my mind. As I was on the train today, I thought I'd provide one such glimpse. Enjoy:

The unmistakable sound of something, somewhere, far off in the distance doing something that you can’t quite make out pierced the night with a deafening, almost inaudible thud. The intensity, and volume of it shook you to your very core.

You stopped.

Had you really heard it? Did you want to believe you had heard it? You certainly wanted to believe you didn’t believe it.

But you had smelled it. It was real.

You knew exactly what it was, and yet you couldn’t recall. It was there, on the tip of your mind, and yet it wasn’t.

The thing, the sound, the smell that you had imagined was like a fading memory. A reflection in still, unmoving water. Unmoving and still save for the waves. Waves of regret, of anguish. Large waves.

Waves of pure unadulterated pleasure. Of joy.

You smiled.

In terror.

And now, unsure, you step towards it. Slowly at first, then a trot, and finally a full gallop!

Are you a horse?

As a whiney escapes your lips, you realize: no.

But you may be a tree.

And so you are, a tree — but only for a moment.

You continue towards it. Again, at last, you are something decidedly other than a tree. Descending deeper and deeper with each step. As you draw nearer, the sound grows fainter; the smell grows sweeter; the light (which you had forgotten to mention) is gone. You are close.

As a tree, you were silent, and still. You were at the mercy of the wind. It could bend you, cause you to sway, tear pieces from you, but still it did not own you. You were firmly rooted; it could not defeat you.

You have arrived.

You are in a place not altogether unfamiliar, yet you feel as though this is your first time here. Deja vu? Perhaps. You make a note of the thought, and quickly bury it. Your task requires complete attention and concentration.

Your mind quickly wanders to a simpler time.

If your roots had been a brain, you would have been jealous of the sunflower. Were your bark a heart, it would have yearned to be one with the sun, and not the wind. The wind was cold, fast, and unforgiving, while the sun, slowly moving across the sky, offered a sort of peace — a calm.

You snap yourself back. You need to focus.

The warmth you felt upon arriving has quickly vanished, replace by a temperature quite warmer than cold, and quite colder than hot. Warmth.

It lays beneath you. The horrid sound is now louder than ever, you strain to hear it through the silence.

“Rainbow” says the noise.

Or was it “Eat”? You can’t be sure. And so you sit. To wait.

It is possible that you endured a lifetime as a tree. You are quite certain that you once fell to the ground as a seed of some sort, and yet you have no memory of it. It is altogether probable that you were once engulfed by the earth, yearning to shoot from it. Quite slowly. It’s all a blur now – vivid blur.

After some reflection, you become quite certain it said “Eat”,or perhaps you are hungry, and want it to have said “Eat”, and so you do. You feast on hay, and on toast, for that is all that is in the stable.

The realization that you are in a stable shocks you. You rise to leave.

After all, you are not a horse. Seriously.

Yes, it is almost definitely plausible that you grew from a not-tree into a tree. A large, or small, tree. Appearing magnificent to some, pitiful to others, but certainly existing. A life. Alive? A tree’s life, certainly. Long, but imperceptible to the tree.

The noise. Again. Loudly.

It is behind you, and some distance away. You go. This time it is not a long journey, but a journey to be sure. It takes days. Trudging through the snow, with the bright summer sun shining above, you enjoy the trip.

Arriving, you find yourself. A tree. No, no longer a tree. On the ground.

If you could have seen, you would have seen it. If you were capable of fear, you may have tried to protect yourself. If you could know anything, you would have know this was coming. You could have done something.

You couldn’t, you didn’t.

And so you sit, on your former self. Still hungry, but only mildly. You can wait. As much as you would like to eat, it is not a pressing need, and so you sit. On your former self?

Deja vu again. You make a note of it.

The sun rises. You are still sitting. You follow the sun as it rises. It is bright, but you continue to stare. You follow it rising from the north to the centre of the sky. As it begins its descent, you follow it still. Unblinking, you watch it set, until you are left staring at the empty Eastern horizon.

You sleep.

28 November 2011

My Car

I finally bought a car. Some of you know that this has been a plan/dream/goal of mine since I knew what a car was, so it’s a pretty big deal. I’m here to tell you that it’s perfect.

In love

So, I bought a Volvo S60. It’s a 2005, but only has 26,000 Km on it, and is in pretty-much-mint condition. It’s absolutely beautiful

I love to look at it, I love to sit in it and, most importantly, I love to drive it.

I love it.

When I drove Big Red to and from work, there was an amount of effort on my part. Not so any more. When I go out to my car to drive home after a long day of work, it’s a treat. I’m comfortably relaxing the entire way. An huge difference from Big Red, and from any new car I could have afforded to buy.

Easy

One of my most important points of consideration when choosing a car was automatic climate-control. I want to set the temperature, and forget it. After spending a week only driving the Volvo, I drove Halyna’s Civic the other day. I spent the entire time fiddling with the temperature/fan control! It was maddening.

In my car, I go out in the morning (or any time), turn it on, and away I go. It handles the rest – the only choice I need to make is whether I want the seat-heater on.

Performance

The Volvo feels like its favourite thing is turing. When you’re going around a corner, the car just sort of pulls itself through, with just the right amount of feedback on the wheel. It’s absolutely phenomenal.

As for power, there’s a fantastic amount of pick-up, and you can definitely notice the turbo kicking in. All-in-all, it’s not only wonderfully comfortable, but a very fun car to drive.

AWD

The car is also an all wheel drive. I expect this will be absolutely kick-ass during the winter, but I haven’t had any chance to put it through its paces yet. Once I have, I’ll share my experience here.

My Car

This is my first car, and while I’m sure I would have loved my first car regardless, this is something special. It was a hasty purchase, but one that I do not regret, and will certainly not grow to do so. Every time I get behind the wheel, it’s a treat.

I love to drive again.

Amazon

If you're planning on making any Amazon purchases in the near future, considering entering the site via the links near the top of this page.  Any purchases you make after using those links will earn me a (very small) kickback.

I know you people don't actually like me, so don't think of this as a way to give me something; think of it as a way to stick it to the man.

Amazon, come here first.  Amazon, come here first.

Say it with me:  Amazon, come here first.

27 November 2011

Advertising

I get it. You need to make money. It’s hard to get people to pay for things, so you resort to advertising. I know. I do it too; just look below this post.

I also understand that advertising has value — people who sell things need to get the word out. I know.

That being said, there are ways to advertise that are not offensive, and do not hurt the experience of the customer.

First, Choose

Ads, or paid. You can’t have both. If I have paid for a service, or for content, I do not want to see ads. I see ads as a necessary evil, which allow me to get some things for free (i.e. most of the web).

Newspapers fail at this. They charge for a subscription (or an issue), then go ahead and fill the paper with ads. It’s rude.

TV fails at this. You pay obscene amounts of money for your cable/satellite subscription, then they bombard you with advertising. It’s rude. Magazines fail at this. They’re one of the worst, because they’re stupid-expensive, and the ad:content ratio seems to be about 0.5.

This needs to stop. Content distributers need to decide whether they are in the business of selling content, or in the business of having content attract people to ads. I’d say that the best case (from the user’s perspective) is to give me the option. Give me an amount of money I can pay to remove ads from the otherwise free content. I would pay. In reality, this would be a bad solution. The lack of choice means you can’t focus on making the experience great one-way-or-another.

The only (mildly) acceptable way to have ads and charge for content would be to set a price, and offer the customer the option of reducing the price by adding ads.

Second, Get Out of the Way

If you decide to go with ads (and that’s fine) get them the hell out of the content. Ads can be around the content. In the case of a newspaper, they can be between the articles. In the case of TV, they can be before/after the shows. It should be obvious, but you are in the business of providing people with content. Do not allow the advertising to interfere with the content.

TV is by far the worst offender. For me, the content is destroyed by the advertising. The show is literally paused in the middle of the action to let some asshole yell at me about selling my gold. I can’t stand it, and it’s for this reason alone that I’ve decided not to have a cable or satellite subscription.

If I ever visit a website that shoves a full-screen ad in my face and tells me to wait or click for the content, I hit the back button immediately. Whatever you present me with, that’s your content.

I find it very odd that content providers go so far to ruin the experience of enjoying their content. I can’t watch TV; most websites are so filled with ads and social-media buttons that we’ve resorted to creating tools like Safari Reader to clean them up. These people are supposed to be in the business of distributing great content.

On Publishing

Newspapers were, for a time, making obscene amounts of money. Way more than they are going to make going forward. They controlled the stream of information. News, weather, entertainment, classifieds, job-ads. They owned the entire stream. Now they own a very small segment of that. News. And the only reason they own that is because they have a bunch of reporters and writers.

The value-prop of newspapers was once much more broad than it is today. Today, it is about good writing, and good journalism — that’s it. They simply are not going to make as much money in this day-and-age than in the past. It’s just not possible. Classifieds and want-ads (two of the historically biggest money-makers) are dead; weather, movies, entertainment (crosswords, etc) are all being consumed in other ways. So, they need to re-group in the new reality, or die. And if they die, new publications that are built around reality will take their place.

With the internet, they have a choice. Charge for superior content (relative to blogs, etc.), or have ads. They need to stop doing both, and get their heads out of their asses. Their organizations can survive, but they will be smaller, and focused around great content. If they can’t figure that out, they will disappear.

18 November 2011

Goodbye, Dear Locksman

I said goodbye to The Locksman on the Sunday Night blog.  Read it here.