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Category Archives: Useless filler

Well, this is a short post just to let you know that I am alive, well and hope to start posting more of my thoughts on this here blog. (Oh yes and, people who didn’t know I have a blog, I have a blog. ) WordPress tells me it’s been nearly a year. Of course, you’ll say, we’ve heard THAT one before, haven’t we? Well, true. But there have been ceertain other reasons besides my usual sheer laziness. One of which is perhaps a year of spending a lot of time worrying about certain faith matters before getting to the point that, all things considered, maybe it would be better off not having that faith at all. That is to say, I have come to the point where if Christianity (at least in the sense I believed it) is going to be worth following, it had better be true: its demands are so great that it had better be worth it, and there had better really be a God out there able to make us into the kind of people who can follow it. But, on closer examination of reality, how much of the evidence seems to point the other way? Just which claims, interpretations of scripture, etc. are true and which are not? Is this God everybody claims is really there and working in their lives, really there, or is it just all coincidence and tricks of the mind? All in all, I concluded, it probably was not. Unfortunately not all of my Christian friends might no about this, and I have also been hesitant to make it public. Partly out of fear it might upset the faith of some, partly as a lot would try to react with surpprise, tell me I haven’t really stopped believing or try to bring me back into the fold. Well, I have no objection to you believing what you want, if it is true for you then as long as it harms no-one else, I have no problem with it. But do not expect me to believe any longer. I hope perhaps to address this in more detail in future posts. In the meantime, I have this whole EU election thingy (even if it ends up being last minute again and affects nobody’s opinion or vote) and reflections on certain very nasty murders that have taken place in the last week or so. Not much fun, sadly, but needs comment. In the future, who knows? Maybe I’ll write that big ideal democracy post (my ideas have shifted on that), some stuff about capitalism (short: it has many shortcomings and needs to be replaced, eventually), and maybe more fun stuff like anime reviews, wry observations, silly rants about inane nonsense… oh yeah, and I forgot that Jenny Everywhere story.

Watch this space.

(In memoriam to the victims of the Orlando shootings, Jo Cox MP, and all victims of senseless violence everywhere.)

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Well, I’ve been on holiday for two weeks in Florida. I had aimed at least to have a good time, try to get on well with my hosts (my mother’s friend and her family) and get all the books read I’ve taken with me, I suppose. So far I have only finished one- John Brunner’s Times Without Number, a sci-fi novel set in an alternate history where the Spanish armada successfully defeated the English and invaded, yet Spain itself was reconquered by the Moors; where time travel has been developed (deceptively easily, it turns out), yet travel in spatial dimensions is limited to the horse and carriage. I suspect in a Catholic society, the lack of Protestant work ethic discouraged any industrial revolution which might have lead to the development of the steam engine? I wonder. It is a world where aristocracy and slavery is the norm, where the Catholic Church wields considerable influence, and the Inquisition is considered humane for using truth-drugs and hypnotism instead of torture as a means of interrogation. But these are the good guys, aiming to prevent the misuse of time travel for personal or political gain, or the timeline from being altered significantly. The epitome of Deliberate Values Dissonance, for any of my fellow tropers who may be reading. Oh, and I’ve also started on Jane Austen’s Emma and a collection of sci-fi short stories from the sixties.

So, I’m now in Florida, and have been for about a week, along with my mother. The weather is certainly as warm as can be expected, but can be very stormy, with lots of lightning and at least a few power cuts. Due to issues with lost or delayed luggage (a nightmare for some) we haven’t yet done too much, besides shopping, Starbucks and a couple of trips to the beach. There is some interesting wildlife to be seen even in the extensive back yard of our hosts, including various birds, a squirrel, the occasional deer and raccoons and even evidence of a bear which left its mark on the fence. In the interests of privacy I will not share too much about my hosts save to say they’re pretty nice folks, if I must be reminded it is the GULF (of Mexico- we’re in southwest Florida) we have been to the beach of, not the SEA! (Presumably a customary distinction the locals make?)

Next week, possible boat trips to see dolphins and possibly a tour of the Everglades. Pictures I hope will find their way to this blog- minus, for the sake of privacy, any well-defined human subjects, as agreed.

My post on the Israel-Palestine conflict seems to have been viewed by at least one Palestinian- possibly someone who commented on one of my friend’s Facebook thread. I hope I didn’t disappoint him by being a little too pro-Israel. It seems the guy who was supposedly captured was actually killed in action. I forget his identity. Now, at last, it seems there is actually a more lasting ceasefire and the chance of some talks… or is there? And the fact the Palestinians have gone to the world courts? I wonder how that will lead. O world, when will you learn to stop fighting and wasting life in this way?

That said, the whole business with the oppressive, murderous “Islamic State” does make me think that some military action is necessary. A cautious approach, however- maybe a few airstrikes to limit effectiveness, arm the Kurds or Iraqis in general, aim to reconcile opposing groups within Iraq, and let them sort their own problems out. Don’t give in to the demands for all-out action at any price- this will only lead to more support for these radical groups and end in more waste of civilian life. And do our best to help those in need- do not ignore the Christians and others who they are persecuting.

Anyway, enough of this.

Hopefully I could before long get some books or videos reviewed. I have bought and hope to bring back a few VHS tapes which are unavailable in the UK, including the badly-dubbed version of Macross- Do You Remember Love? as well as They Were Eleven (mystery thriller in space), Explorer Woman Ray (Indiana Jones type fayre, but with a female protagonist?) and the Leiji Matsumoto classic Galaxy Express 999. Maybe I shall review the Moorcock and the Brunner.

And maybe finish the (currently long and rambling) essay on what might make an ideal democracy, if certain of my readers don’t mind yet more political fayre. (Note, ideal democracy doesn’t necessarily mean ideal political system.)

Maybe I’ll even have some ‘gators or dolphins to show you.

[This post has been edited from its original form for personal reasons.]

… 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 de jure 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.

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.

As you can see I have a new theme I’m trying out. It’s nothing spectacular I know.

I may try some more in the future.

And then have something worth writing about.