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… so it might as well be now.

Reviews of 2013 I think might have to go by the board- I might yet complete that article but seems a bit late now March is well underway. (Doesn’t time fly!)

And 2014 has had it’s fair share of crazy goings on. As if we hadn’t enough turmoil in the world, now it’s the turn of Ukraine. I rather wish I could understand the whole business, but I only half remember the kicking out of some leader as part of the Whatever-It-Was revolution some years back and now they’re back for Round 2. (I really need to do more research.) What I do know is that there seems to be tension between the main part of Ukraine which is looking towards Western Europe for support, whereas the ethnic Russians in Crimea and the east are obviously still wanting to stick with the Big Bad Bear for support. That Crimea “should” be a part of Russia again seems only right to me- as it was only in the Soviet days it became transferred to what I presume was the Ukrainian SSR and stayed after independence. But, with Russian troops being sent in to protect their holdings, and what seems like a fair amount of intimidation and trying to force their hand by turning off the Ukrainian TV channels in favour of Russian ones- talk about objectivity? I think not!- this referendum looks somewhat likely to be skewed in its outcome.

It would seem that whatever the Western governments might say about it being illegal, international law is barely worth the paper it is printed on. After all are the same Western governments not also guilty- do we not recall that little thing a few years ago known as the Iraq War? Of course Saddam Hussein was, by all accounts, a thoroughly nasty piece of work, and Iraq was not <i>de jure</i> annexed by the United States or Britain. But an invasion, on shaky pretences which turned out to be false, of a country without waiting for genuine UN approval, is not something that I thought was done in the modern world. Yet when Russia decides to take back what was pretty much rightfully its in the past anyway, with what seems to be the backing of at least some of the population, in he midst of a chaotic and questionable turn of events in Ukraine, it’s all bad.

 

On the other hand I have started dabbling with an interest in the history of the Soviet Union and Russia in general. Whether I can find anything about the Ukraine or Crimea in actual book form I don’t know. What I have managed to get is the following:

- “Life in Russia” by Michael Binyon. Binyon was at one point foreign correspondent for The Times for the then USSR, and manages to get a mixture of his own experiences, some interviews, and even references to the Soviet press itself for what is a surprising look (given the Cold War era it was written in) at the pre-Glasnost USSR. It is quite well balanced, neither railing against Communism nor without a sense of its shortcomings, and demonstrating what life was like for ordinary people.

- “On Socialist Democracy” by Roy Mevedev, who was a Soviet dissident who was interested in reforming the system from within, and apparently agreed with a lot of what Gorbachev was doing, before history overtook matters. He is still thoroughly Marxist-Leninist, and therefore I would probably not want to hold entirely to his views, but he has a lot to say about the rigid bureaucratic nature of the system and its failings, and how dissent is necessary. He also heavily criticises Stalin and attempts to rehabilitate him posthumously.

Quite a few interesting arguments about democracy reside in this book, which could well form the basis for the article I mean to write on the matter some day. The idea being that, in a totalitarian system with no real freedom to offer criticism of the system, the system cannot function adequately. Of course I question whether that has to be in a movement like revolutionary socialism, which is ideologically constrained. In order for a truly democratic society, the people should be able to choose what direction they want their society to take and to do so without bloodshed. (Alas I dream.) Of course I would hope, as a Christian, they would follow in the ways of the Lord, impossible also under an atheistic ideology that only tolerates religion on sufferance and as long as it doesn’t rock the boat. (Or in other words, not too different from what the West is becoming with creeping secularisation and unbelief, albeit yet without any real persecution.) 

But I digress.

The book isn’t really history as such, but does offer an insider’s view of what was going wrong with Soviet Communism and how it could have been fixed within the system.

-”Survey of Russian History” by BH Sumner. Seems to be an overview of various aspects of Russian history. Dated now (written in the ’40s) but what I could find cheaply at the time when bought in a bookshop in York. I am sure my fellow members of counter-factual.net could recommend some better ones.

-”The Princess of Siberia” by Christine Sutherland. Bit of an odd one this and bought on a whim, it’s about a certain Princess Maria Volkonsky, wife of one of the leaders of the 1825 Decemberist Uprising who followed him all the way to exile in Siberia away from the Tsarist court. By the looks of it something of a romantic, idealist figure.

I don’t know what insight I’ll get with these books if I can ever get round to reading them all. But it is a start.

And, in all this, jobs are to be done. I wonder if I am slipping with the jobseeking habits, but I’ve managed to have some success from the mad push in December. Firstly I get no less than three interviews in one week. All unsuccessful, but with one coming from a speculative application and still managing to impress the employer and leave them willing to forward my CV to partner organisations and clients, another one willing to take me on for voluntary work/work experience, and then I get a part-time self-employed job distributing Betterware catalogues. I am seriously. seriously wondering whether I cannot simply make more of this and “sign off” the “dole” as the whole jobseeking thing and the Jobcentre is getting to me. Or, is that just me needing to wake my ideas up once more? I really don’t know what to think. I suppose I could make some money from this- possibly more than the “dole” on a good week, but it’s not a regular income and I’d have to work hard at it and really know what I was doing.

What I do know is that whatever I am doing now should ultimately be regarded as a stepping-stone to other things, and giving up applying for other jobs ought not to be something I should do.

Back to the Ukraine. I recall a rather interesting post Christopher Nutall, a fellow counter-factual.net member of note, wrote (http://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/a-lesson-from-the-ukraine/) about how the Ukraine should have kept its nuclear weapons for the day the Big Bad Bear threw out the rulebook and started giving it trouble. The idea of nuclear weapons has always been confusing for me- whilst I can see the deterrant potential, these wepaons not only have the power to destroy the world as we know it, worst case scenario, but what happens if every nation feels the need to have one? What about North Korea? And is not even the major powers and so-called “responsible” nations having it not encouraging such questionable regimes to pursue their own nuclear ambitions? Non-Proliferation Treaty or not, as I said, international law ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on half the time. Yet even the North Korean regime surely isn’t so irresponsible as to sacrifice its own self-interest by actually launching the few piddling nukes it has and essentially getting slammed hard by the Americans and the South, with probably China pulling the plug on support. So, why even bother with non-proliferation, especially since there are so many advantages to having nukes to defend yourself against a powerful and encroaching neighbour?

 

Maybe I should stop worrying about these things and start being busy with my own affairs, I guess. I waste far too much time on such matters. And other distractions.

 

Watch this space, I hope, for rants on the decline of Stockton High Street, more musings on religion, politics, current affairs, life, the universe and everything, and more anime reviews. I could at least do Wings of Honneamise, which was an interesting and quite unusual film sadly unreleased on DVD in the UK. (Like I care… I still prefer VHS*, heh, heh, heh…)

 

* I be a sad retro-obsessed fool, I be.

I would like to wish all of my readers a happy 2014, a year I hope holds considerably more promise than the tumultuous 2013 (and maybe, in my case, a job…)

Review of the old year to come, with possibly a little bit of ranting. I may just start from scratch instead of repurposing an old draft article I never finished, which I was going to use.

Well, the presents have been opened, the Midnight Mass has been gone to (at an old church I used to go to but left as wasn’t sure about it- but sometimes I bother to return…), and the relatives… haven’t arrived yet.

Still need to bag some for the others and write out the rest of the cards before they do.

And with the way things have been changing with benefits and the Jobcentre, I’ve at least had to search for a few more… it’s Christmas, beepit! But best to be on the safe side.

(Once I get any outstanding jobs applied for, I might just have a few things to say on that general matter…)

Well at least I got the June Christy CDs (currently playing in the background) and complete poems of Emily Bronte I was after. And a rather amusing “A Very Klingon Khristmas” book (yeah, one-time Trekkie here, sadly, who still watches it sometimes). [ERRATUM: I am told the Klingon book was from my sister, and the other presents listed were from my mother, when previously I had assumed they were all from my mother. This inaccuracy has been removed.]

(Who is June Christy, you may ask? By the seems of it, a now sadly neglected jazz singer. The fount of all knowledge tells all: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_christy)

Well if anyone should be reading this and wants to share their Christams experiences, feel free!

And a surprisingly quiet one, but for the odd premature firework.

Well much has happened since the Iron Lady’s death. The Boston Bombings, the woolwich murders, alleged chemical weapons in Syria… can the world get any worse? (Your mileage may vary on gay marriage, though. Or the re-introduction of Power Girl’s “boob window”.)

In other words, plenty to write about.

I’ve also managed to get most of my college work out of the way, which is one possible excuse for not updating this blog. I am supposed to be finishing CCNA stuff off- that’s the industry qualification provided by the company that makes all the networking equipment. And I’ve jobs to apply for- plenty to keep myself busy. In theory, at least.

But eventually we shall see some real meaty updates. 100% prime cuts I would like to hope. Including my thoughts on what might constitute the ideal democracy (very difficult to conceive of), the collective madness of society, and maybe some questions as to my own sanity, too.

Well, hopefully. One of these days.

Watch this space, anyway.

So Margaret Thatcher, the first female British Prime Minister, the so-called “Iron Lady”, has died today. And whilst some persons (including of course Cameron) are on TV waxing lyrical about how great she was and how much she will be missed, the people who were just waiting to use her grave as a urinal are already leaping for joy and coming out with the hate. Truly the Marmite of politicians.

Whilst it lasts, here’s a Youtube clip from the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’ showing a certain song. Whilst it lasts, see how many of the comments are inspired by the passing Baroness….

Respect for the dead you’d have thought might be in order, but not a bit of it. I guess the handling of the miners’ strike, her reputation in Northern Ireland, calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist, and the Poll Tax -sorry Community Charge- all do that.

But can’t it wait a bit, at least?

2012- what a year. A crazy one, which perhaps I should go over in another post. Many big occasions (Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Olympics in London…) good and bad things (civil war in Syria, school shootings…)

But nonetheless, let’s just celebrate another year, a new start, in which hopefully bad habits might yet be broken (yes I know, believe it when we see it and all that…) Let’s just enjoy the moment, for now, as the last fireworks blast their way to a short but beautiful end.

Happy 2013, dear readers!

Well, another month has passed, the mad pre-Christmas rush, plus the day itself, is over. (The world, contrary to what crazy New Age misinterpreters of Mayan calendars might have had us believe, is not, however.) Technically it’s still Christmas, but few seem to be that bothered during the lull between Boxing Day and New Year. When the latter comes, it’ll be time to put to bed any misguided ideas about Old Year’s Resolutions and start thinking how to make some ones for the New one.

And I said I was going to make some and update you on them.

Mentally of course I wanted to do loads- spend more time with God and reading the Bible, studying harder, wasting less time on the internet, buy less useless crap- but I never formalised any. Such, as one member of my church did remind me, is perhaps tantamount to legalism, when we as Christians ought to be free and not trying to live by rules- even self-imposed ones- to the letter. Probably quite right, but the bad habits need fixing and new ones put in it’s place.

About the only one I managed to keep up to now is, “Don’t buy any more comics.”

Yes, that’s it.

Not that this is a bad thing. At £2.40 a time, not to mention the danger of possibly forming obsessions of the wrong kind where Supergirl and Power Girl are concerned, it can’t be entirely a bad thing. Not that I haven’t tried reading other sorts of stuff, and haven’t tried enjoying it for the storyline.

Magazines I have almost kept to not buying to- until the allure of the Christmas Radio Times proved too much to resist. And the latest monthly special of the Micro Mart soon followed, as it might contain useful info on possible computing bargains and new tech to come- as a would-be budding IT person it would be wrong not to at least try to keep up. Possibly with a more up-to-date means than a paper magazine, but they have their uses. There is plenty of room for the old stuff.

Whilst I am being worried by that Sushil Yadav guy on the Powerswitch forums (look him up if you dare) suggesting “Industrial society Destroys Mind and Environment”- and that the only decent thing we can do is cut all production back to food, clothing, shelter and that’s it (yeah right) or the warnings of impending food crises elsewhere, plus the dreaded Fiscal Cliff that the States might fall over and lead to further economic turmoil nationally and internationally, perhaps it could be a wake-up call. Or perhaps I should not be worried so much as all that. Yet materialism I wonder could be going too far, no less so in my case.

But, as we learned a week ago gone Friday, it’s still not the end of the world, yet. And I hope we can make 2013 a slightly worthwhile New Year. I wish you all a good one.

Again we come to the end of another year… nearly. In fact we’ve actually got just short of another whole month before its end. The trouble is it seems to have gone awfully quickly, and I feel my life is little better now than it has been for the past quite a number of years. So, I’ve been thinking- instead of waiting a whole ‘nother month before making New Year’s Resolutions, how about finishing the old year the way you mean to go on? If one is really to make such a radical difference, why not start now and not wait until some arbitrary start-over time, which perhaps means you aren’t really serious?

It’s not just the problems in my own life I need to get right, of course- whether that be  putting ten times more effort into job-seeking and college work, doing stuff round the house and maybe even this blog. And spending less, and drinking less, and wasting time on the internet a heck of a lot less. I’ve been wondering about how screwed up the world is. I amongst all the arguments I’ve been having on YouTube about the merits or otherwise of free-market capitalism as opposed to Marxism and everything in between, wondering about the ongoing economic turmoil and the hopeless state of politics, whether we ought to remain in the EU or not, &c., it rather strikes me that there is something very wrong. Even if we are to assume that capitalism has played its part in development and reducing poverty- yet we should still realise there are still a lot of desparately poor people in the world, a lot of environmental damage, and that business is taking its share of the blame. But what drives business? Us. It only exists as long as someone is buying its good and services, if people want what it has to offer, or allow ourselves to be conned into believing so. I wonder what all these campaigns, all this politicking and so on is really doing. We need to change first. So, perhaps there is an even greater need to make a real difference than just personal ones.

Of course one can hardly escape a certain festival already being hyped up as part of Phase 2 of the silly season. And we are once again needing to be challenged as to whether it should really be about the baby in a manger who would grow up to be nailed to a tree, or the portly chap with the white beard, red coat and reindeer. And another video, being shared by a certain friend on a certain social networking site, certainly makes me wonder all the more. And whether we need a paradigm shift in the way we think. The video, by the way, is here:

Really the two representative figures could not be more different. One represents ultimate self-sacrifice and selflessness, and moreover, of the God we Christians are supposed to understand. The other represents the secular (if not pagan), materialistic, worldly side of things, that if it is selfless at all, gives to its own and rewards only those it thinks deserve it. (The man who died on the tree did it to redeem those who certainly deserved nothing of the sort.)

All this digresses of course from the somewhat trivial idea of making a few small resolutions in order to improve one’s own life. Perhaps indeed though one ought to start somewhere. The question is, exactly where? I shall perhaps give myself a little time to think about it, and return to it in another post in a day or two. Meanwhile, I must start by doing something positive and serious before the next 24 hours is up.

Meanwhile, a question- what would your Old Year’s Resolutions be? What suggestions do you have for mine? How would you have them not just to change your own life, but impact on others and maybe the world? (If we start small, it might build up…)

And by the way, the baby in the manger who grew up to be nailed to a tree and die is, of course, Jesus. I would suggest He also didn’t stay dead, but rose to new life, so that we too, could die and live again. That, I contend, is the essence of real change. The thing is, do we trust Him to do that? (If, indeed, some of us believe in Him at all?)

This is now the time of year where Halloween, Bonfire Night and Commercial Christmas all come upon us in one fell swoop. and this is the point where the collective madness gets into full swing.

Firstly, the shops display all manner of “spooky” Halloween related goods. Maybe some of the symbolism is really spooky- I mean, think about what those Jack-O’Lanterns really look like. And there is invariably an obsession with the dark and the macabre- withces, vampires, ghosts and all.I would rather not see this stuff plastered absolutely everywhere- severy shop, library, college and whatnot. You can’t get away from it.

I’m not even going to start on the alleged pagan connections, since I know little about the real facts, and all I will say about the macabre obsession is obsessing over the dark and evil seems unhealthy to say the least. If it isn’t linking in with the supernatural, indeed demonic. Just a bit of fun? Maybe. Or maybe not.

And then there are bound to be a few kids trying to knock on your door pestering you for money or sweets. Hence why I have all the lights off bar one- then they might think no-one’s in and it’s not worth bothering. Some wonder if letting kids out on their own on a dark noght is even a good idea, though this could be paranoid.

Either way, I sometimes wish I could ban the whole thing. Maybe that is an over-reaction, but I’d rather have the right NOT to see evidence of this sort of thing everywhere I go, thanks.

And then there’s always going to be one or two nutters who will insist on setting off fireworks at any time of the day or night, possibly with no regards to safety, even though it’s not November the 5th. thankfully I’ve only heard one or two this year- it’s actually getting better. Then, when you get to the night itself, I could swear the whole town turns into something closely resembling a war-zone, only with pretty lights. This does scare small animals, folks. Do bear that in mind.

And why exactly does the material worship that is commercial Christmas have to begin in October? If not September? Ah well, there’s plenty of Lebkuchen (German gingerbread) at Lidl… but I’m supposed to be on a diet. (Yeah, right.) and maybe mulled wine. Why isn’t this stuff available year-round?

End rant. It really was pretty un-profound and almost content-free this time.

EDITED: since me and dieting really don’t mix, and I therefore made a slip-up.

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