The other day I posted a call to ask me questions. Well, I already have quite a few! The first of these asks ‘how I met my wife?’

The year was 1889… actually it was July 2004. England had not long made their customary hurried exit from a major football tournament. The Cassini-Huygens probe entered orbit around Saturn. If we want to get technical, I’d started talking to the lady who would become my wife a few weeks before, online and on the phone, but I didn’t actually meet her until the 10th of July, 2004.

It was a hot day. I made my way from King’s Cross station to Fenchurch Street (previously completely unknown to me), and met her as she got off a train. Straight away I thought she was beautiful, but we were meeting as friends (in fact, the original plan was for a group meet-up via a web forum, that everyone blew out), and I wasn’t going to presume anything. I just wanted to have a nice day that would be different from the usual weekend fare, and if that led anywhere…

So, what did we do? My memories aren’t 100% anymore, but I recall visiting an art gallery, and having lunch at Planet Hollywood, which included an amazing chocolate brownie dessert thingy, that I took a photo of, and still had until recently. We wandered around Covent Garden and Leicester Square. I felt myself wanting to get to know this woman more. I was a little guarded back then – a few bad experiences made me wary of opening up – but she put me at ease. I could relax with her. By the end of the day, we were kissing, cuddling, and I knew I had to see her again. We parted ways, but that night, I could still feel her arms wrapped around me. It was the strangest sensation, the warmest and happiest feeling, and one I’d never felt before. Since then, we’ve had our ups and downs, as all couples have, but it didn’t take me long to decide I wanted to marry her, even if the proposal wasn’t the most elegant proposal! I don’t remember exactly how long it had been, but I knew I wouldn’t find anyone who would understand me quite like she did.

The rest, as they say, is history! Here we are, thirteen years later, and we’ve been married for nearly eight of those. We have a beautiful daughter, a happy home, and I have found my place in this crazy world.

There has been a lot of chatter about the now infamous Google Memo and its ramifications, plus discussion over whether the sacking of James Damore was justified. Was he merely exercising his right of expression? Was he treated unfairly? Is the content of his memo worth examining in any great detail for factual content, or is it unsubstantiated bullshit?
If you want to read the memo, you can find it here – you may need a PDF reader to view it.
For all the ideas that Google is somehow biased toward women (and there’s also a hint at a bias toward ethnic minorities), Google’s main employee base is still the white male.
GoogleDiversityLeadership

GoogleDiversityNonTech

GoogleDiversityOverall

 

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Damore goes on to suggest that ‘biological differences’ explain why men are better suited to leadership and status-driven roles. Unsurprisingly, women have reacted quite angrily to the suggestion they cannot do such jobs, and there is no reason to believe they can’t either – learning coding and other computer-based work is not a matter of biology – what the memo reveals is a damning lack of understanding of what it takes to be a woman in the workplace, especially somewhere like Silicon Valley, where women have to jump through hoops just to be heard.
Historically women have been forbidden from working in certain fields, due to the idea that they are too emotional, or too fragile, to handle them. Even today, in parts of the world such as the USA and the UK, women make up a small percentage of people entering into computing, yet in other parts of the world, women are demonstrating a passion for things like coding – Malaysia for example, and India. There is also no biological basis for the assumption that women suffer more from anxiety.
So whilst some folks jump up and down about the oppressive left and it’s evil views, it’s worth remembering that sexism is alive and strong within the computing and engineering field, and people like Damore encourage it, under the guise of rallying against political correctness. The reality? They don’t want to lose their privileged positions.

Trump is a man who doesn’t know what he’s doing – or maybe he knows exactly what he’s doing, hence his backtracking on his earlier backtracking.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Trump said:

“You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now,”

“What about the alt-left that came charging… at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? (…) There are two sides to a story.”

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Whoa! Hold the phone for a second! Does Trump seriously believe the opponents of the facism, racism and anti-Semitism that was on such open display are somehow equally responsible for what happened the other day? Which side came armed with guns and which side had a member who drove a car into people?

Trump is now drawing fire from his own party, who surely must eject him sooner rather than later, if they are to preserve their political future? Senator John McCain tweeted:

Whereas Trump has proven quite happy to jump to conclusions about radical Islam, his need to apparently wait for the ‘facts’ about this, not to mention suggesting there were ‘good people’ mixed in with the white supremacists, only goes to show that Trump knows who and what a large chunk of his support base is, and not only is he fine with that, he doesn’t want to risk alienating them by criticising their violent antics.

Trump is now effectively being open about his bigotry. He is the Bigot-in-Chief. To my American friends, and to any Americans that read this – consider the direction you want your nation to take.

P.S: Josh on his Friday Blog has written some excellent posts on why we shouldn’t be tolerating Nazis and their ideals, in case for some strange reason you think we should be open to listening to Nazis.

Since we first discovered that the pinpricks of light in the night sky were in fact, other stars, humankind has been gripped by the desire to travel to those stars and see for ourselves what they are like. The discovery of the first exo-planets only heightened this need, and as we found more and more earth-like rocks orbiting numerous stars in our local region alone, it soon became imperative that we voyage to those stars, to see if humanity could finally leave earth’s cradle and remove the possibility of extinction from our equation. The biggest hurdle were the laws of physics – nothing could travel faster than light, and even at the speed of light, journeys of forty years, in some cases even longer, would be virtually unsustainable, save for multi-generational crews and long spells in cryogenic sleep.

So the aim of many scientists was to somehow defy, or redevelop our understanding of physics and the laws of the universe that forbade faster-than-light travel. Science fiction had presented fanciful ideas of warp space, subspace, hyperspace and all kinds of means of ‘cheating’, but the reality of these methods, once examined with any critical detail, suggested the energy requirements were going to be beyond us for a very long time – perhaps forever. Either a new source of power was needed – or the laws of the universe would have to be broken.

It was in the early 21st century when Luca Martinez, an experimental physicist living in Idaho, USA, made his unexpected breakthrough. The idea had been to generate energy through atomic friction, and to that end, he had been making hydrogen atoms resonate with one another. The introduction of dense matter (degenerate matter, in very small quantities, intended to match the density of a neutron star) led to a highly controlled resonation that for a very brief period, moved the atoms from one area of the carbon tube to the other in less time than was possible under the speed of light.

Such was Martinez’ excitement that he dropped his coffee over his lap and had to put up with the suggestion from his colleagues that he had actually wet himself. Decades later, he would laugh about it – at the time, he was said to actually be quite angry. Nevertheless, the development would lead to further study, and refinement, and this led to the production of the first small-scale probes, to test if the Res-Drive (or R-Drive if you’re lazy) was actually viable. The probes were sent under highly controlled conditions from the earth to the Moon, then from the earth to Mars, and from Mars to Jupiter, to see if they were exceeding the speed of light without being subject to relativity. When the results confirmed that the light barrier had been broken, champagne corks were popped and raucous celebrations held. We had done it – but one final test remains. Human pilots will soon take to the first ships fitted with the R-Drive to see if it is safe for people.’

Roxanne closed the textbook and ran a hand through her strawberry blonde hair. It felt unnaturally short, but having it cut had been a requirement of the United Western Alliance Space Agency. ‘We don’t want any entanglements, literally or otherwise’, the committee had said.

It felt like a lifetime ago that she’d been chosen for this. Somehow, she’d beaten hundreds of other candidates to be the first human to go faster than light. The prospect made her dizzy with excitement and sick with fear, all at once.

There was no turning back now though. In the crisp orange jumpsuit (that was turn covering the thinner body-monitoring grey jumpsuit), Roxanne was suited up and sitting in front of the controls that would, at her command, launch her at unprecedented speeds toward Mars. A short hop was all that was needed today.

One of the engineers who’d help build the Magellan had explained to her about the power source and the technical details of the R-Drive, but she’d barely listened. She wasn’t a physicist – chemistry and biology were her fields – so talk of quarks and Fermi principles had been lost on her. All she’d wanted to know – and had been assured of several times – was that the drive itself was perfectly stable and the power source perfectly safe. Nothing about that aspect of the mission could go wrong.

T-minus five minutes. Final systems check.” Came a male voice over the comm link that Roxanne recognised as Director Campbell. It wasn’t too much of a surprise that he was taking a personal interest in this. “Fuel line?”

“Check.” She replied.

“Life support?”

“Check.” The oxygen filter was keeping her breathing. Air circulated around the cabin in a never-ending loop, filtered repeatedly by the sophisticated equipment. A backup generator would kick it if the primary failed, and her engineers had scoffed at her request for a helmet with an independent oxygen supply, but said helmet sat behind her in the small space available in the cabin. Roxanne wasn’t minded to take any chances.

“Sublight engines?”

“Check.” Roxanne tapped a couple of buttons on the grid in front of her. The ion propulsion drive was all set to give her a decent kick away from earth once the clock stopped ticking.

“Sublight navigational controls?”

“Check.”

“R-Drive navigational controls?”

“Check.” In theory, Roxanne could override the controls and set a new destination, but she didn’t dare. Everything had been pre-programmed and that was fine with her.

“FTL comm system?”

“Check.” Roxanne would have to trigger the beacon to confirm the success of the mission – and it was a convenient test of the R-Drive’s long-range communication principle.

“We look good down here in Control. Four minutes and counting.”

“Roger that.” Roxanne gulped. The butterflies in her stomach had morphed into mini dragons that were belching flame. “Deep breaths girl, deep breaths…” She recalled her Yoga and her training, though more and more she wished the mission was over already.

The Yoga was kicking in. She could feel the edginess in her subside. A gentle hum of instruments distracted her from what was about to happen, and the march of time was briefly forgotten.

“This is Control, hey Rox, just wanted to wish you luck.” Roxanne smiled. Her jovial boyfriend lifted her spirits.

“Thanks Fred. Don’t forget to have dinner ready.” She chuckled.

“Oh, well, I was thinking we should go out for dinner when you get back. Celebrate the mission, our engagement…”

Roxanne had to check her comm link. “En… engagement?!”

“Yeah, oh crap, I meant to do the other bit first – you know, ask you and everything…”

“Oh God… the answer is yes, a million times yes!” In the midst of the impending mission, a different kind of excitement overtook Roxanne. “Yes!”

“So as if you didn’t already have a reason to come back, that’s another one.” She could hear the smile in his voice – and it wouldn’t at all surprise her if Director Campbell was pissed at the sudden interruption to his orderly proceedings.

“One minute. Disengage the umbilicals.” Came the deliberately stern voice of the Director. Roxanne complied, and Magellan floated freely in space, no longer berthed to the station where she had been constructed. The craft’s independent systems kicked in.

Autopilot took the ship slowly away from earth, at a relatively sedate 2 km/s. As the R-Drive fired up, the ship seemed to hum with power. This is really happening…

“From everyone down here, good luck. We’ll see you on the other side.” The Director’s voice was softer.”

“Roger that Control, here we go…”

The Magellan seemed to oscillate for several seconds, and then vanished.

I ask the question because I’ve read, repeatedly (via Twitter) that the violence in Charlottesville was a clash between the left wing and… the left wing. This seems like an attempt by moderate and centre-right supporters to distance themselves from the actions of the white supremacists in Charlottesville (and elsewhere). The attempt is understandable in some ways – they don’t wish to be associated with the Nazi sympathisers who were marching so openly – it is also intellectually dishonest.

It is worth noting that describing the Nazis and their sympathisers as far right is not a reflection upon anyone and everyone who identifies as right wing.

Why the Nazis were Right Wing

It is generally agreed that the far right eschews egalitarianism; instead, there is a ‘natural’ (or in some cases a ‘divine’) order to society. The strong (in the Nazis’ case the pure) control the weak. In Hitler’s case, he actually tried to present the Nazis as a centrist movement, attacking the right and left in speeches, including this:

Today our left-wing politicians in particular are constantly insisting that their craven-hearted and obsequious foreign policy necessarily results from the disarmament of Germany, whereas the truth is that this is the policy of traitors … But the politicians of the Right deserve exactly the same reproach. It was through their miserable cowardice that those ruffians of Jews who came into power in 1918 were able to rob the nation of its arms.

The reality is, Hitler and the Nazis were far right. The far right favours elitism, and the Nazis, for all their rhetoric, were the same – Hitler was a dictator whose party elevated him, and he imagined a Third Reich that has uncanny similarities to the elitist ruling monarchies of Europe, despite claims to be different. The far right also prefers racial segregation – a common theme in Nazi messages was about preserving the purity of the German people from ‘undesirable’ elements (such as Jews).

The Nazis were also anti-immigration – a view often held by far right groups.

Of course, the far left has displayed similar characteristics – Stalin’s USSR is a prime example – what this serves to demonstrate is how the far right and far left are very similar, but make no mistake, whilst the outcomes are the same, they arrive at their destinations through very different sets of ideas.

There might be an argument that Nazis were left wing in an economic sense – but their social and political policies were anything but.

Originally posted on The Coalition of the Brave.

Sometimes it’s difficult to comment properly on a situation as it unfolds. Sometimes, it’s really really easy. What’s going on in Charlottesville, USA, is very easy to properly comment on. It’s about racists wanting to enable more racism, under the guise that they’re the poor, oppressed class, even though none of them have actually known true oppression.

This all started (or at least the excuse that will be given is) because of plans to remove a statue of US Civil War General Robert E. Lee, who fought for the pro-slavery Confederacy during the conflict. Plans to remove a pro-slavery symbol have been met by marchers – who appear to consist of almost entirely white men – protesting against… well, I’m not sure they even know. How exactly are they being victimised or oppressed? Will one of them strike up the courage to explain this to me?

Do they know that the symbols they march with – the Confederate flag, the Swastika – are in fact emblems of evil and violence? Surely no one can be so ignorant, not least of all when the history of these symbols are so well known?

I’ll probably end up writing about this a lot more – highlighting Trump’s weak attempt to spread the blame for this – and the scary and open displays of bigotry, but not right now. At the time of writing this, at least one person has died when a car ploughed through a crowd of anti-far right protesters, and that’s just too sickening. Worse still, Trump hasn’t had the conviction or courage to even mention this. Let’s just hope, no matter how bad this is now, it can serve as a lightening rod for those who wish for a better way.

There were not many rifles aboard Brent, and even fewer members of the crew knew how to use them with any confidence. Harkness had been joined by seven men, all older men, who had spent their lives at sea, and did not have families back home to mourn them. They were in various degrees of disrepair (grey hairs, old ankle wounds, bad backs and just plain old age), but they were willing to help Harkness, which was what counted.

Brent began to swing around just as the first 28-gun port-side salute lit up the darkening sky. That single salvo would have punched huge holes in Brent’s hull – but her quick turn saw her avoid every last one of the weighty cannonballs.

Glorieuse continued to close, now doing so at some speed as the wind was against Brent. What the crew of Glorieuse had not expected was for the galleon to raise her sails and swing hard toward her.

There was no time for the crew of Glorieuse to prepare another volley. Brent’s port quarter slammed hard into her own – shaking both ships and rattling their crews, but Brent’s crew had been prepared. Whilst several of Glorieuse’s crew were shook off their feet, Harkness leaped across from Brent and, landing with a thud on Glorieuse, immediately opened fire with his rifle.

His fire was joined by that of his fellows, who were also climbing across to board the Antyan vessel. Some of Brent’s crew were also firing from the rigging of the ship, trying to keep the crew of Glorieuse from getting organised.

Shouts and screams greeted Harkness as he glanced around the deck of Glorieuse, looking for the entrance to the armoury. The green-jacketed Antyan officers were quickly getting themselves back to a firm footing and so he moved quickly, kicking out at a guard that tried to get in his way and knocking aside the other man’s sword with his rifle. One of his own men fired off a shot that put down a guard trying to stab him in the back and as Harkness looked back at Brent, he saw Captain Wade’s next surprise for the Antyans.

Barrels, some empty, some filled with fermenting alcohol, were tossed onto Glorieuse’s deck, men with flaming torches lighting them as they went. Fire was every sailor’s worst enemy, a thing of much fear, and it would at the very least buy Harkness some time.

Some of Glorieuse’s crew were firing back, and Harkness heard the screams of his colleagues as lead pierced flesh. Those who had joined him were trying to find different ways below deck, diverting Antyan attention still further – Harkness himself smashed an onrushing Antyan guard in the nose with his rifle, and then swung a punch that sent the man sprawling. He kicked at one of the doors to his right, that he hoped would lead to the stored gunpowder.

When the door would not budge, Harkness shot the lock with his rifle. That had the desired effect.

Charging down the stairs, Harkness nearly made the mistake of not looking where he was going. A guard was coming up them, baynet fixed to his rifle, and Harkness almost impaled himself upon it. Instead, he stepped to his left, and slammed the business end of his own rifle into the other man’s chest. The man stumbled, and tumbled back down the stairs, bashing his head upon a thick wooden chest at the bottom. He groaned, semi-conscious, and Harkness drew his sword. The Antyan would not be given the chance to wake up.

The lighting revealed that he had, by sheer luck, found the armoury. Barrels upon barrels of potent gunpowder and stored round shot were neatly lined up along the walls. It was time to complete his mission.

Harkness reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a pack of matches. With a sigh, he scratched one against the side of the box and took in the significance of the flame for a split second, before laying the match to rest beside one of the barrels. A shudder told him that Brent had disengaged from the Antyan warship and was starting to sail away. That was good; Harkness lit more matches, placing them by barrels, but not-so-close that they’d go up straight away. Brent needed a little time.

Then the very air seemed to take on a chill. The flames that were starting to lick their way up the wooden barrels and across the floor seemed to waver, but Harkness could see no reason as to why, and nor could he fathom why the hairs on his neck stood on end and his heart started beating faster. From the corner of his eye, Harkness thought he could see something… but when he turned to look, whatever it was was still only in the corner of his eye.

Until a shadowy hand reached out and placed black bony fingers over one of the fires, extinguishing it.

For a moment Harkness recoiled in shock and fright. Something was stepping into view, black as night. By his reckoning it was as tall as a man, but the wispy, smokey figure didn’t have a face – so why could he feel a pair of eyes looking right into his, piercing his very soul?

The… thing, then stepped onto another batch of flames, and Harkness realised its intent. The remaining fires were beginning to gather pace but if the creature put them all out…

“Not another step demon!” He cried, aiming his rifle right at it. He had no idea if it would even know what a rifle was, let alone if it would hesitate, but he had to try.

The creature did seem to stop for an instant, as though it heard Harkness and was weighing up its next move – but then it started forward again, and Harkness, despite the increasing fear in his stomach, squeezed the trigger.

The bark from his rifle was accompanied by a bright flash as a pellet shot through the air and pierced the blackness of the demon. It actually staggered a little, and Harkness could see little droplets of black fluid spill to the floor. Then it let out a low, scratchy sound, like a cross between a hiss and a shriek, and began forward again.

Harkness screamed – he summoned up every last drop of courage and charged forward, dropping his rifle and drawing his cutlass again. He swiped from right to left at the creature’s midsection, and though there appeared to be nothing there, he certainly felt the blade go in, and sweep back out. The demon let out another cry, but did not go down – instead, a black hand crashed across his face, sending him sprawling, and sent his sword scattering.

The creature started forward, once again bent upon putting out his fires. Harkness, despite blood leaking from a small wound on his left temple, snarled and scooped up his rifle, swinging it round and trying to smash it around the demon’s head. The creature brought up an arm to block the blow, and kicked out, catching Harkness in the stomach. He grunted, but refused to fall, and poked his rifle at the monster’s chest, feeling it connect and seeing it stumble.

Now the remaining fires were gathering pace and the barrels were not going to hold out much longer. He only had to distract the thing for a little longer…

He hurled himself at the creature, punching and kicking as hard as he could. It made strange rasping sounds as it fought back, kicking him so hard he skidded across the floor, the breath knocked from his body.

A surge in the flames caught the attention of them both. The gunpowder was about to go up – Harkness was certain of that, and ready for death. Was the demon prepared to die for its cause?

Apparently not. As Harkness watched, it spread its arms wide, and the space in front of it shimmered like water on a lake, the edges swirling around. Shapes were starting to take form within the large oval portal – it was escaping, and Harkness would not stand for that.

“You’ll not find solace from me, even in Hell!” Harkness yelled, and as the creature tried to step into the gateway it had made, Harkness jumped it. The two of them wrestled, with Harkness punching it repeatedly in the face. As they rolled, they teetered on the edge of the abyss, and as the powder finally ignited, the explosion blasted both of them through…

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