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Friday, June 24th, 2016 02:22 pm
My current physio regime includes a certain amount of walking each day, which is slower than usual and therefore less interesting, but also hard work. So I've dug out Zombies Run again to keep me company. I'm only half-way through Season 1, but it's fun. Jack and Eugene provide occasional unintentional hilarity in radio mode, though. For example:

Shuffle: Plays Adam Lambert's Master Plan
Jack and Eugene: Talk about how they're getting misty-eyed at that last song and teared up a bit.

Jack and Eugene: This next one's a happening tune.
Shuffle: Plays S Club 7.
Friday, June 24th, 2016 02:02 pm

I was reading this two days ago. It needs saying today.

“Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles… not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another.” - George Orwell, 1943.
Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 07:10 pm

A story I was told at St Mark’s, a “high” Anglican church:

St Mark’s has a rather large contingent of de jure Roman Catholics in its congregation, who argued with the local parish priest or the Vatican and just decamped down the road. Many times this only gets discovered when they die and ask for their ashes to be interred in St Mark’s columbarium, whereupon the local RC priest turns up and objects.

So after this had happened a few times, they agreed that a small part of the columbarium would be dedicated as a RC burial place. And so that God wouldn’t get confused, they put a cardboard divider between them.

The person telling me this story concluded, “So apparently cardboard can block the Holy Spirit, just like alpha particles… wait. Don’t mitres have cardboard inside to keep the shape? I think we’ve discovered something here…”

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 01:01 am
Occasionally I just bang out an outline that looks exactly how I intended. (First drafts of Maya and Sarah/Cera/Serah/haven't decided what spelling yet.) (
Monday, June 20th, 2016 08:35 pm

If I had to choose either Strasbourg or Westminster to run this country, I'd choose Strasbourg. It has a better separation of powers. Someone asked what I mean by that, so I'll explain more fully.

A bit of civics background-- sorry if you know this already: There are three branches to every government: the legislature which makes laws, the executive which implements those laws, and the judiciary which deals with people who break them. In a carefully-designed system such as the American federal government, the three branches act as checks on one another's power. (In the US, executive=President, legislature=Congress, judiciary=federal courts.) This means that it's much more difficult for one or two people to fuck up the system.

But in the UK and the EU we don't have a complete separation of powers. In particular in the EU we have the executive (the Commission) having the sole power to propose bills to the legislature (the Parliament). This is undemocratic, and it's a problem. The legislature can veto bills, so it acts as a check on the power of the executive. But it cannot act alone.

In the UK, however, the problem is even worse. In our case executive=Downing Street, legislature=Parliament, judiciary=courts. Parliament was originally a check on the power of the King (when the King was the executive). But for the last few centuries, the Crown's ministers have effectively been the executive, and these ministers are always drawn from Parliament. A PM must necessarily almost always be able to order Parliament to do anything they wish, because they must belong to the majority party in the Commons, and MPs almost always vote as the whips tell them to.

So if for example we happened to get someone as PM who was determined to starve the poor and destroy the NHS, there's nobody at all who can stand up to him. In the US or in France it's routine for the legislature to say no to the executive (and vice versa). But it's near-impossible in the UK.


...there is, at present, one organisation which can say no to the PM.

That organisation is the EU.

That is why I'm voting Remain.


Monday, June 20th, 2016 12:12 am
cutting for those who don't care )
Saturday, June 18th, 2016 09:55 pm
I was once in a psychiatrist's waiting room and they had a coffee machine with enough buttons to belong to Captain Picard. You know the sort of thing-- buttons for white coffee, black coffee, cappucino, hot chocolate, and so on and on. But one of them was unlabelled, and THAT was the one I wanted.

It took a while to brew me a cup. When it had cooled, I took a sip. The stuff was utterly foul-- like a sort of hot instant coffee made with lemons and ammonia. I can still taste it in memory.

Just then, the psychiatrist arrived, and asked what I was grimacing about. I explained the story and showed him the button. "Right," he said. "That's the self-cleaning function."
Friday, June 17th, 2016 09:50 pm
The other day I went to a talk at the British Interplanetary Society about Reusable Launchers. If anyone in London is interested in coming to future events, I get a free guest ticket as a member. This one was aimed at people who are keen to see how we can get stuff into Earth orbit cheaply. It started off with a reminder of why people have been dreaming about this for a long time, and some ideas from the Fifties - colonies on the Moon, travelling to Mars, mining asteroids, giant space stations, etc. But all of them depend on getting things out of Earth's gravity well, either into Earth orbit or further out.

Cool space stuff )

It was all very interesting, and added a lot of detail to stuff I was vaguely aware of but didn't really understand properly. I think Elon Musk has a better business strategy with funding the next stage from the previous stage, though - convincing any big enough lender (which basically means a government or ESA) to fund the development of Skylon is a huge challenge. I hope they do it, though, as I'm now convinced that something like Skylon has a better chance of getting us to viable off-Earth colonies than the SpaceX Falcon/Dragon designs. But I wouldn't be surprised if in a decade's time, SpaceX find the funding to do something similar if Reaction Engines haven't already got there.
Friday, June 17th, 2016 07:24 pm
I went to the physio today. My exercises are going relatively well - I've been doing them, at least. And my symptoms have improved. So I got more exercises to do. Instead? No, as well. *sigh*