Earth Hour

From https://www.earthhour.org:

Switch off & Give an hour for Earth this Saturday, March 23rd at 8:30 pm your local time. Together, let’s create the Biggest Hour for Earth!

The Worldwide Fiund for Nature (WWF), 2024 website main page headline.

We participated.

The thing is, if you want to save energy and set a trend it doesn’t really matter when you do it, as long as it’s done.

Onion

I planted and grew an onion, and harvested it (I think this is the word despite some misgivings based on the scale of this operation) a few days ago.

It started out about 2-1/2 months ago as 2 stems and roots split from one onion which was going off. One stem eventually flowered and was subsequently eaten by our local wildlife, but I somehow got one to grow.

I’m probably going to prepare and eat it later today, or sometime this week.

And here it is!

The Onion

Needs to be said: my wife planted and nurtured the tomatoes, with a little help from me (building the planters and filling them with soil & compost last year). The onion though, my tending consisted of occasional watering once a week and repositioning it when the stem drooped.

Now I was going to use this as a metaphor for and then mention stuff that’s happened to me in the last 5 years since I involuntarily absented myself from the pnut.io social network – enjoying its 7th anniversary today. But naah, this blog post will stand alone as a metaphor for growing plants without a clue!

Question Time

I’ve just watched a recording of this week’s BBC Question Time, a Thursday evening tv show that assembles a few people who can speak about whatever subjects the audience (both in the studio and having submitted questions beforehand) think are newsworthy. It doesn’t matter if they know nothing provided they can speak convincingly.

Gary Lineker is an ex-English football player who transitioned seamlessly into the profession of sports presenter. He’s articulate, witty, and universally liked. Well, pretty-much. He tweets about issues affecting the disadvantaged, i.e. those without a voice, who battle against a political and social system set up to deny them often basic human rights. He tweets about politics.

Some of his latest tweets mentioned the UK Conservative (right wing) government’s proposed law to prohibit people claiming asylum if they enter the country using any illegal means, with a policy to then deport them to another country without hearing any asylum claim. Crucially, when they are deported the UK will bar them from ever again applying for asylum.

Now of course this ignores the United Kingdom’s international legal obligations to treat asylum seekers fairly. And it implicitly defines ‘illegal’ as whatever the government says it is. And it makes things legal in this country that will be frowned upon by other more tolerant countries, and ignores the people who drew up our once world-class democracy.

Gary Lineker works for the BBC. His contract is as a freelancer so his political views are irrelevant when it comes to what he says outside work, a fact established as far back as 2016 after one of his Brexit tweets. But neither the assembled Question Time panel nor the chair (who also works for the BBC) mentioned this, or even alluded to it. Instead, speculation and opinion were allowed to muddy the waters. I’m certain the producers of the show would have the facts to hand, but to stifle the question at the outset wouldn’t have been as entertaining would it.

If he was a political journalist the rules would be different. But he’s not.

So what did he say when accused of having inflammatory views?

“There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”

The right wing backlash was immediate, from government ministers to the right-wing press. It actually surprised me how many people from all parts of the political spectrum espouse the concept of free speech for everyone whilst making it plain that Mr Lineker isn’t entitled to any.

And so, because the right wing now runs the BBC, the BBC told him that he can not resume his broadcasting duties until the matter is resolved. It “decided that he will step back from presenting Match of the Day until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media”.

There was a clear position, a precedent set in 2016 after his Brexit tweets, but the BBC ignored it this week.

And all of his colleagues, and everyone conceivably able to present, when asked to step into his shoes, declined. Because that’s the right thing to do. (More here).

1997-03-23 Internet

It’s 1997, March the 23rd to be precise. A Sunday afternoon. I’ve not long returned from PC World in Stretford England, the closest store that I believed would stock everything I need.

Everything I need: a US Robotics Sportster Flash “modem” & cables, and an Internet for Dummies book.*

I’ve plugged everything in, installed the driver software on my PC, and I’m ready to open the icon on the desktop: MSN, the Microsoft Network.

I’ve chosen the closed infrastructure of MSN just because it seems easy to get into, I don’t really care, I mean, it’s right there on the desktop! I’d read about the other United Kingdom “Internet Service Providers” (ISP) so I’m not totally in the dark. And I reason, once I’m running at a speed I like I can choose another ISP to suit my needs, at my leisure.

“ISP”. I’m one of the few people I know who understands what those 3 letters stand for, both as an abbreviation and as a concept.

This is a big moment. Big. I’m about to step into the slow lane of the Information Superhighway, to begin my small participation in the start of a golden era of unprecedented access to information, an era in which I know for certain it will be no longer possible to feign ignorance of a subject or to pass disinformation off as fact.

I’m breathless with anticipation, can’t you tell?

And after a few dings or dongs and a squawking raspy noise as the modem connects to the remote server, it works first time.

Now what?

Yes, I’ll browse the communities in Microsoft Chat, that’s what. “Browse” like in a shop, not like with an “Internet browser”, I’ve not used one of those before!

Looking in a couple of chat rooms I’m ignored, how rude! And then a third “What’s Cooking Online”, abbreviated to “WCOL”. I’m instantly welcomed by Norma (her real name) from Texas, one of the regulars and I guess a moderator, who throws a wall of text at me explaining the room’s purpose. I try my best to read that but the chat roils about me and it’s gone.

She’s from Texas, the USA, and I’m chatting in real time. Practically real time.

But I make my excuses and leave, I’m paying per minute for the privilege of connecting via the phone line, and while I’m “online” it stops all incoming calls.

Wow. It’s past midnight already, I’ve absolutely no sense of the passage of time. I’ll need to be careful how I manage things in the future.

Nothing productive happened the next evening either. Or the next.


*2023, February 22. A Wednesday evening here. Now.

I bought another book that day, the name of which escapes me now, but the Dummies one, wow, I learned a LOT from that one.

What’s just struck me, how did I know where to go and how did I know what things to buy to get online? It’s not as if I could open a browser window and search is it.

Magazines. Glossy, flappy papery things.


This post is prompted by Terence Eden‘s post Necroposting – blogging from before you started blogging – Terence Eden’s Blog I’m eventually going to change the posting date to the one you see right at the top.

Notion

💡 This is a test of publishing a public page from a private Notion, er… whatchamacallit.

I’ve been using the Obsidian notes/’second brain’ app for a few months and like what I’ve found. I triaged then imported all the notes I’ve made over the years in Evernote, OneNote, Apple’s iOS Notes, etc., etc., in short text files from many different times in my life.

There’s nothing missing from the user experience, there are many useful ‘community’ plugins to enhance the base Obsidian app.

But, there’s always a but: noticing someone in my Mastodon social network timeline running Obsidian and Notion in parallel prompted me to take a look at the latter. (I must be going through a masochistic period at the moment, I ran OmniFocus and Todoist task management services in parallel for a while before choosing the latter, at least for the medium term).

Notion has a lot going for it, not the least of which is because it’s a web based service I can access my texts on my work PC, and though Obsidian can be synced to more than one device, it still relies on the basic concept of having a local copy of all the Markdown files within one of its ‘Vaults’. I simply don’t want my notes escaping into a work environment.

Baz.

2023-02-17

Best ever gift

Prompted by the Free Talk Friday post in Reddit’s r/Browns on December 10 2022:

My best ever gift was a shiny plastic space rocket with a shiny red nose. A pointy shiny red nose. I’m sure it wouldn’t be allowed to be manufactured these days, it was so pointy.

Now we had a set of chairs with imitation leather cushions and a perfect amount of padding. Perfect for a small boy to puncture with a shiny plastic rocket with a shiny red plastic nose. What a satisfying sound it made each and every time I punctured the cushion in a pattern of dozens of obsessively-created holes.

Until dad found out…

I’ve no idea how many minutes I had the rocket, but I never saw it again.

Maybe that’s why I never made it into space, and maybe it’s why I’m a Browns fan.

Knocker upper

Frequently portrayed as a job most likely to be seen in the gaslit streets of the grim mill towns in the industrial north of England, but more likely a viable profession anywhere large numbers of people worked for large employers, a knocker upper was responsible for waking people from their rest each workday morning. Why? Well, the alarm clocks of the day, before radio or home telephones, were unreliable, untrustworthy, even if a home could afford one.

From the Industrial Revolution through to the 1950s in the United Kingdom, the knocker upper’s job entailed arriving at the appointed time and tapping on the subscriber’s window with a long pole until they appeared at it. Or a pea shooter with dried peas. Or gravel. Or maybe rocks, but they probaby wouldn’t stay employed for very long.

This morning, a grey and wintry morning in the once-grim, once-industrial north of England, as I waited for my car to heat up a little so I could scrape its windows more quickly and efficiently, I had a brilliant idea, one I just had to share with a near neighbour.

Instead of, in this age of ultra-reliable timepieces, a wake-up call, why not a service that arrives outside one’s home, starts one’s car and scrapes the ice from its windows.

I’m absolutely certain it’ll be big. I see cars throughout the wintry months with uselessly-small patches of cleared glass, just enough to look forward through; it’s obvious their occupants are far too important to undertake the finger-end-numbing task, and prefer other lesser motorists to take any necessary avoiding action during the journey.

So, what time is convenient for you, and what shall I pitch the weekly cost at?

And will you get up when you’re called to pay? Whether you do or not I’m still going to have to pay my legions of early-rising gloved and scraper-wielding slaves, aren’t I.

Computer book acquired

Some 8 years ago I asked the Internet for help finding a computing book I bought at the beginning of the nineteen eighties – over forty years ago. (I’m spelling those numbers longhand because it’s an age ago and that needs appropriate emphasis). Now I’ll always regret letting it go because it set a foundation of understanding, of a love of things of computing that continues to this day. This weekend, after a chance conversation on Mastodon’s Appdot.net instance, I found it again.

It’s ‘The Good Computing Book for Beginners‘ by Dennis Jarrett, the link goes to the second edition – available for loan from The Internet Archive. Not only that but there’s a copy of the second first! edition of the book available on eBay UK. Or there was, I bought it!

From the preface of that second edition it turns out that I bought one of the 30,000 copies of the first edition. It’s pleasing to recall my memories of the book are relatively accurate: it has a predominantly orange cover, a computer keyboard on the front, and a longer version of the most important thing I remember, mentioned in the 2014 blog post, a key phrase something like “computers are fast rule following idiots”. It’s not quite as US-centric as I recall but maybe that’s because it’s been updated to reflect the start of the UK’s early-eighties home computing boom.

Thanks @mdhughes, your tip proved absolutely invaluable!

Fandom

Call this my rationale for becoming a fan of the Cleveland Browns American Football team. Or even my credentials. It’s a mangled regurgitation of words I’ve written since 2015-ish, originally intended to be posted at the start of the 2019 NFL season but left unloved in my Drafts folder until today.

In the dim and distant past (the 1980s & 90s) I was a fan of the San Francisco 49ers when they won it all a couple of times (plus the talk of a ‘threepeat’). I then aligned with the rebirth and ascendancy of the Jones’ Dallas Cowboys, and then, then… went off the boil a bit (see below). I still watched the games with friends, went to see the Scottish Claymores in the NFL Europe league, even participated in a peripheral manner in helping out an amateur youth team and helping out with a fanzine.

A new century dawned and 2004 brought a trip to Ohio, for which I’ll add detail another time. An amazing week! It started with the Wauseon Indians High School team (they beat Swanton), following up with Bowling Green (they beat SE Missouri State), and culminating in an extraordinary day in the company of the Browns (who beat the ratbirds (Ravens)!) The icing on the cake: meeting Kevin Mack (who signed a practice ball for me), Dante Lavelli and his wife, and Sam Rutigliano and his wife. Yes, I was very much over-awed (and rendered part-mute by a miserable ear infection.) And a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I’ll admit I wasn’t an actual fan of any of the teams we saw over the week, but it didn’t matter, it’s football!

Back to the jersey. It’s a #57, Clay Matthews Jr., by any measure one of Football’s all-time Linebacker greats, but likely destined never to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame (I’ve visited there too!) He seems to have been in the wrong place (Cleveland) at the wrong time (all sixteen years before he left for the last three of his career); it’s got to hurt. As I originally composed this before the 2022 update his name was in the list as a supplemental potential pick after his full eligibility expired. He didn’t make it, which bothers me more than it should.

And then bang; I got married, we had children, and my hobby time evaporated somehow.

In 2016 I needed Football in my life again. I chose the San Diego Chargers despite my interest in the Browns purely because San Diego was the city I landed in way back in 1992 on vacation. They just failed to grip my imagination.

Mid-April 2019 I found my Browns jersey again. Not just any football jersey, but one bought at beginning of my life as a dad and the end of my life as a regular American Football fan. I have to say it must have shrunk in the box, it no longer fits in quite the same way as it did when I knew why I’d bought that jersey. So yesterday evening I searched here and the Internet at large and the reason became clear. Finding it, a replica #57 jersey, brought back memories of a road trip at the start of the 2004 season.

2018 rolled round and right now in 2022, heading into my fifth season as a Browns fan, I’m looking at Reddit’s r/Browns multiple times a day (even on the toilet, but shhh…), professing nothing but attempting in my singularly-inept fashion to absorb, er… stuff. It remains an uphill task even attempting to chat with folks bringing the conversation down to my level! So I tried the #browns IRC channel! It was friendly, quiet (ok, almost unused.) I’ve also looked for podcasts to fall asleep to, thinking I’ll be able to subliminally absorb chat and regurgitate on-demand.

Yeah… no.

The summary, before I overwhelm myself with words: I felt something stirring again.

I swallowed my concern at the cost and, after the week’s trial, signed up to the ‘Pro’-level of NFL Game Pass. Sure the Browns game was blacked out here in the UK, but I caught all the plays during the 40 minute version the 30 minute lunchtime the day after. It’s simply down to me getting old and unable to function like I used to after a game starting after 1am UK time!

The 2020 and 2021 seasons were eventful and stressful to day the least, everything affected by covid and far more devastating injuries than I remember from any of my previous seasons. But maybe my nerves were on edge throughout, so it seems worse than it was. And it was bad.

Anyway….

Now, as the 2022 season grows and controversy follows our team everywhere (more on this another time), looking back to 2018 when this started for me, we Browns fans are currently left with no Jarvis Landry, no Jabrill Peppers and of course no Odell Beckham Junior either, no Rashard (Hollywood) Higgins, no JC Trotter, no Jamie (The Scottish Hammer) Gillan, and most important for me, no Baker Mayfield – our inspirational quarterback.

This last loss hit me more than most for many many reasons, so much so that I scoured eBay for a suitable jersey to mark the time since I became a Cleveland Browns fan. I found it, a black ‘Color Rush’ Lights Out thing stitched throughout with orange numbers and… ok, so the NFL badge at the neck is misaligned with the central ‘6’ but it doesn’t really matter it’s off-centre – so am I.

Wordle (and a few other things)

I’ve had a fairly good run of success with the daily Wordle puzzles, so much so that I felt the need to fill the void between their appearance by completing the NYT Mini and the Guardian Quick crosswords. There’s an element of daily competition and mild bragging inherent in sharing the shortest number of tries at work; it’d be even better if I ‘won’ more. Heck, I even append the animal I think my block pattern most resembles to a shared tweet, with a so-far unique #WordleAnimal hashtag.

But Wordle is not why I started writing today. I’m here because, in common with every time I’ve thought of writing a blog post for the past couple of years, I’ve nothing to write about.

Well, ok, that’s obviously untrue; there’s far too much going on for me to pick a topic and do it justice. Far too much.

Not only has Brexit come and gone since I last blogged regularly, a victory of sorts accompanied by the rampant nationalism, casual and overt racism of those somehow certain they’re on the right side of history. Not only has a Conservative government been re-elected by people who believed the lies but who still don’t seem willing to realise the erosion of their rights started 10 years ago is accelerating.

Oh, and a worldwide pandemic. One during which some governments looked after their people by making sensible choices based on sound judgment, an appreciation of historic events, and a desire to be led by the science instead of pretending to be. But instead the UK government decided to prioritise keeping businesses open, keeping borders open, spending billions on projects designed ultimately to enrich their associates. Prior to Covid they’d assured us common folks that Austerity was a thing of the past.

Yes, I know it’s not over, neither Austerity nor the pandemic.

I got my first computer in 1981, forty-something years ago, and I got online in 1997, a quarter of a century ago. It didn’t take me long, heading towards a new millennium to realise, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we were entering an unparalleled golden age of access to facts. An age in which it’d be trivial to debunk lies that no-one would try to fabricate or twist truth.

And here we are, twenty-something years into this millennium. Society – I’m not sure what other words to use here because ‘civilisation’ seems a bit strong – is on what seems to me to be an inevitable decline. And yet…

My girls’ school invited us to donate to an appeal set up to help the children of Ukraine. Easy, and they freely gave their own money. And yet…

Where have the appeals been for Chechnya, for Syria, for Afghanistan, Yemen, all the other countries war has touched? I’m not saying Ukrainians don’t deserve the help, but it got me thinking. I mean, I don’t have unlimited funds to divert to charities, but yes, I’m feeling guilt I haven’t done more, whatever more is.

And the previous night, watching a documentary highlighting the heroism of the ordinary people of Chornobyl/Chernobyl, the ones who volunteered to make safe the nuclear plant. And to hear of the Russians shelling a Ukrainian nuclear plant prior to taking it over… chilling, desperate stuff. And a wife, invited to Moscow to meet the Russian premier who showed the state’s appreciation for her husband’s bravery by stating they’d be given funerals of heroes – ur her husband wasn’t yet dead. I’m just hoping now that the Russian state isn’t too big to fail, that the uncaring nature of such governments breaks apart with such shockwaves it alters the minds of those who see it as a viable method to govern.

But such a thing is reliant on reception by open-minded institutions run by people unafraid of their electorate learning that an collective absence of ability should have precluded them from ever reaching any level of public office. (I’m not about to say level of public service, there’s no evidence selflessness in the UK Conservative party.)

I saw a tweet earlier today, a photo or a still frame of an obviously northern English town. It was captioned something like “Sheffield, 5th of March.” The detail is unimportant. What is important though, I eventually figured the link to an early nineteen eighties film about a nuclear war. One in which an unimaginably large number of nuclear weapons killed an unimaginably larger number of people. ‘Threads’ it’s called. The clips I’ve seen show the terror of ordinary people dying in the streets, the shops, their workplaces – and in their homes, thinking that piling furniture up to form the rudimentary refuges government propaganda said would protect them singularly failed against the fury of…

I can’t help thinking that whilst all this is going on, the UK government is trying to pass or actually passing legislation that parallels the chilling effects of the Russian Kremlin. You know, like the one that says if you’re convicted of alarming someone whilst protesting you could go to prison for 15 years. I wish I was making this up, and I wish it wasn’t just one of the most recent attempts to cling on to power.

I see striking parallels with Russia of old, before Communism and the Berlin Wall ostensibly fell. Striking parallels with Trump’s Russian-led, propaganda-driven populist sleep-waking into totalitarianism. And here we are in the UK with evidence emerging that a sizeable proportion of Conservative MPs and the party itself accepted Russian money and apparently didn’t care to ask the obvious question ‘why me?’

Um…

Yeah, it’s another unfocused rant isn’t it. Perhaps this is why I’ve not written anything recently. Damned if I’m going to proofread this, I thought it’d be a bit cathartic but all I’ve got now is a desire to get hold of some potassium iodide.

Addendum:

Maybe I’ll add a few extra things which have gained deserved resurgence in popularity in recent times. Such as the resistance to the seeming inevitability of climate change.