Michael Wharton There Is Always A Theory: politics, anarchy, religion, atheism and science. now with poetry!

8Jun/170

Environmentalism, Literature and Style

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Why has the environmental movement stalled when it is so close to its goal?

I wish I knew the answer to this question, all I know is that unless we figure out a panacea, all the disparate efforts of various individuals and groups will amount to no more than a hill of beans, similar to the EU butter mountain that I keep hearing about.

I would love to blame Donald Trump and his ilk, the baby boomers who think they have a god given right to defecate all over the Earth's surface and expect us to wallow in it with them. I would love to blame those with heavy investments in the fossil fuel economy. Unfortunately, it is not all their fault, some of it is ours, that is, the people shouting at ecological tyrants are not achieving anything, except for a hoarse voice.

What we need to do is to stop telling people what they should do, and what they should not do, and simply make it easier, and more financially viable to do the right thing. We know already from history that industrial regulation will always be flouted where the fine is less than the profit margin, no matter what the regulation. What we need to do is to motivate people with the carrot and the stick in proportional response to the behaviour of the worst offenders of that industry, if people are cheaply dumping illegally on conservation land, then undercut this cost with the cost of responsible disposal with subsidies. If a company is still producing a product in a package that can't be recycled, then subsidise the cost of the sustainable alternative until it is cheaper.

People on both sides may accuse me of suggesting that we coddle industrial tycoons and make it easier for them to do business at profit and hand-holding them to the brighter future that they should want to do for themselves. I have to respond by saying, you can lead a horse to water easier than making him drink it, leading a horse isn't shouting at it until it does what you want, it is to control it through physical force, coercion and to stand beside it the whole way. We need to show business leaders the way, and make it so that this is the only logical choice, that choosing any alternative would cost them dearly.

People who are wrong, rarely realise it by themselves, they usually require some form of external stimuli to benchmark how wrong they are. Let me be that external stimulus, let me tell you; YOU ARE ALL WRONG!

Hey environmentalists, go live up a tree! Hey you capitalist pig dogs, sell solar panels to hipsters! Hey, you rich multi-billionaires, build air ship greenhouses to grow food in and transport said food around the world! Hey deniers, go read a book, any book, then burn it, because you disagree with what books say. Hey intellectuals, stop talking about what people should be doing and do something about the fact that it is easier to do the wrong thing. Hey bloggers, stop writing inane posts about what people are doing right and wrong and start, oh...nvm.

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22Jul/150

Mike’s Playing Ingress!

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Mike’s Playing Ingress! Are You?

For the past few of months, I have been playing a great new game on my mobile phone called Ingress. At first I knew relatively little about the game, other than my sister and her boyfriend like to play it, and that they recently went to Cardiff to play with others in a large scale battle called an Anomaly. Well that was three months ago. I am now level 9 and ready to rumble! I got all geared up for another large scale battle called Persepolis, an Anomaly in Liverpool which was lots of fun!

I shall start at the beginning, for all you people not already playing Ingress, it began in 2012 with a company called Niantic Labs, who are made up of ex-googlers.

If you want to find out more about Ingress check out the wiki:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingress_(game

I would recommend the main website, https://www.ingress.com/ but it is a little story heavy, to just find out the basics and see if it is for you, I suggest you read the wiki. Essentially, it is a GPS location based game that is a turf war between two opposing factions, an MMORPG where the player is struggling for personal growth as well as team scores as is the case with other RPGs. Each team must capture either uncaptured portals, or those held by the opposing team, either way you gain experience (AP) and a little bit of local notoriety. Anyone on your team coming across your portal will know that you captured it, and either add modifications, or upgrade resonators or hack it for items (read the wiki if this bewilders you, or for more info on in game terms check out http://izziebytes.net/ingress-slang-lingo-terminology-guide/ ). If someone on the other team happens across it, they can also hack it for items, but they get zapped and lose XM (Exotic Matter, the "Energy" in the game)! They can also use weapons called XMP Bursters, or Ultra Strikes to neutralise your portal and then capture it themselves. You can link portals to each other into little triangles called fields and these are what determine the team scores. There are also lots of acheivement badges, which aren't essential to the gameplay, but help keep track of your progress in increments rather than simply having AP and levels.

New Portals are user submitted, and are usually places or structures of some historical or cultural interest or importance. Even particularly interesting graffiti is considered “portal worthy”, and good graffiti does tend to stay where it is, especially in cities like Manchester, where I live and play. I have had a lot of fun playing the game, and get a real kick out of submitting portals, and missions as this is a digital legacy that will live on long after I’m gone (in theory!). 

What I like most about the game is the social element, I have met up with dozens of people all thanks to being out playing a game on my phone, which is usually a solitary and isolationist experience.  Much like golf has been for hundreds of years, it is a great way to network and a great icebreaker to talk about with strangers. https://xkcd.com/1143/

 

 You can chat with other players on either team in the comms, and find out about local players by checking activity on your scanner, or if you play for a while, you may get invited to chat on a third party app (most commonly used is hangouts, which links well with Google plus).  You can even DATE other Ingress players! http://ingresssingles.com/

Other games like this, such as Facebook games, have an element of social chat, but mostly, this is so that the makers of the game can make more money, however, there is very little money involved in Ingress. So far, there have been various deals with high street shops that have not gone well, and some sponsored items in the gameplay, such as the AXA shield, or the MUFG capsule and the Soft Bank link amp. These are the ONLY ADS IN THE GAME! It is not a freemium game, or a game that lets people, who can afford to, level up faster or buy better gear. It is open to anyone, and also available for Android and the Apple iPhone IOS.

When I first started playing, I was unemployed, and only able to afford to play for half an hour a day on the FreeBee wi-fi you can get in Manchester for free for 30 minutes. Now I am working, I can afford to buy data bolt ons and it does tend to end up costing a fair amount every month, so I would recommend a decent data plan for people who play a lot.

If you would like an invite to play, leave a comment with your email address and I will send you one, you don’t need one, but I will get my recruiter badge if I invite you first!

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13Jul/150

Ironing: Why do we still do it?

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I don't iron any clothing and haven't for about 10 years now. Why do people iron their clothes? It certainly isn't to make them last longer, or to save time, or to make sure that people know that they washed them. Is it to make the clothing appear as though it is brand new out of the packaging? It could also be to make sure people are aware that the person wearing the ironed clothing is wealthy enough to afford to iron their clothes; and certainly wealthy enough to not have to work hard enough physically to crease said clothing. At least, that's why the Victorians still ironed their clothes.

People sometimes point out my creased shirt and ask questions, such as "Did you forget where your iron is?" or give advice like "If you roll your shirt up it won't crease up as much in your bag after you've ironed it!". I usually placate them with throwaway lines like "Well, I cycle to work and change when I'm here, so I don't bother.", but this is not the whole truth. I vehemently disagree with ironing on an ethical and ecological level. I am not just lazy...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ironing

After reading about the history of ironing, I am still bewildered why this custom and tradition is kept up. It is clearly a class issue, those of the upper classes used to be the only ones with ironed clothes, now the lower classes can buy an iron for less than two hours wages. However what is the ecological impact ironing has on the planet, and don't we all hate doing it? I am clearly not the only one out there with such questions:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/green-living-blog/2011/sep/02/ironing-save-energy-electricity-consumption

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/features/my-fashion-footprint-is-your-wardrobe-bad-for-the-planet-887027.html

An excerpt from the 2nd article in the Independent sums up what I had already felt on a more philosophical level, I always assumed that ironing used more energy in joules than even the mechanical energy required to spin them in the washing machine:

"A couple clicks of the mouse, then a figure appears at the bottom of the screen. Our household EDUs is 1,282. A breakdown shows that our actual clothing EDUs is quite low at 558. But then there's the laundry, which at 724 EDUs is slightly alarming. It includes 324 from washing and a whopping 400 from ironing.

The ironing is what did us in, more environmentally damaging than our washing. "It's like having the kettle switched on for seven hours straight," says Phil. But more shocking, if we add seven tumble-dryer loads a week. The figure more than doubles..."

Obviously the excerpt and the full article, (well worth a proper read) allude to the fact that tumble drying is also pretty ecologically harmful. I don't tumble dry myself, but I may on occasion have been tempted to as it is a functional device. We don't like to wear wet clothes, we may be forced to wear something soon after washing it, and it won't dry naturally quickly enough. I plan around the fact I don't have an iron or a tumble dryer by washing my clothes before I need to wear them by a few days (usually...). the article then goes on to give bulletpoint advice on improving the ecological impact of your wardrobe:

"iron only where necessary..."

When is ironing necessary? I can't imagine.

I am clearly not the only person writing about this issue:

http://community.babycentre.co.uk/post/a20837015/anti-ironing_campaign

http://h2g2.com/entry/A361522/conversation/view/F44694/T105842/page/1/

http://davewalker.cc/stop-ironing/

http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/housekeeping/a1840119-How-to-give-up-ironing-without-crunchy-towels-etc

If there is one thing to take away from reading this webpage, STOP IRONING!

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3Jun/152

Are You A Proper Cyclist or a Just a Bicycle Owner?

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What is the real difference between a cyclist and a "Pseudo-Cyclist"?

As a passionate cyclist, I take to the roads frequently and am amazed by the amount of other people who happen to own bicycles, who ride them like idiots. I must preface this with the fact that as a teenager, I did my cycling proficiency test at school. I learnt how to ride a bike safely, how to make sure drivers don’t kill me due to my own lack of care and attention. I check behind me and indicate each and every time I make a turn, often for up to 20 metres before the actual turn and use the appropriate signals to pull out or slow down to stop at lights. I don’t hop on and off the pavement at my own convenience and I don’t run red lights. I wear high visibility clothing; I have a front and rear reflector, front and rear lights, and a helmet of course.

I say of course, but the majority of "people who ride bikes" I see are riding around aren’t even a wearing a helmet. I use the term "people who ride bikes" instead of cyclist, because I believe that these people are not cyclists. In fact, they make cyclists look bad. We who make every effort to be seen, and to ride safe are undermined by these lunatics. My personal checklist for finding out if you are a cyclist or not, is as follows:

1. Helmet: If you are not wearing a helmet on your bicycle then you are a fool.

2. High-Visibility Clothing: If you are riding a bike on the roads, it makes a lot of sense for you to stand out to drivers, who are going to kill you if they don’t see you. Don’t let them get away with saying they didn’t see you. Not "essential" unless you enjoy being hit by cars.

3. Lights: I try to avoid riding my bike at night in the dark, but it is not always possible. I have a light set that cost very little compared to replacing a bike that has been mangled under the wheels of a car. Of course I will include front and rear reflectors, pedal reflectors and spoke reflectors here too, these are LEGALLY MANDATORY!

4. Bell: By law, all new bicycles are sold fitted with a noise making device or bell. If you do not have one on your bike, get one, fit it and ring it at pedestrians who walk in the bike lane and whenever you are about to overtake a fellow cyclist out of courtesy. I have a polite ding bell, and a klaxon for when people are still in my way after their second bell.

5. Bike Lock: I have seen obnoxious bicycle owners take their bikes into shops and fast food places and leave them in other people's way because they can't be bothered buying a bike lock. Inconveniencing others for the sake of one's own convenience is what narcissists do. Let alone kids who leave their bikes sprawled across the pavement outside shops while they go in to shoplift sweets. If you don't want your bike stolen, lock it, don't bring it everywhere you go.

 Why Do I Care So Much?

I do care. I care too much really; because I feel like I have to explain myself to everyone I tell that I cycle to work. People immediately think I am part of the growing majority of bike owners they have seen on the roads/pavements. I just told a colleague that I bike to work and her immediate response was "You're not one of them annoying obnoxious £#%@s are you?”.  I had to explain, that no, I am not; I am one of the good ones. I should not have to do this, I'm not saying proper cyclists should be revered or honoured in some way (medals would be cool...) but certainly not disrespected due to the bad behaviour of a few members of our peer group. I'm talking about anti-cyclist discrimination! I have heard drivers talk about the fact that we don't pay road tax therefore should not be on the roads, and that we don't deserve our own special lanes and why do we get so much publicity (aherm, we were on the roads first!). As if we are a nuisance! I have encountered nuisance bicycle owners; they have nearly knocked me off my bike! Hopping from pavement to road without taking the time to look behind them and check to see if I would have to brake hard and swerve dangerously to avoid rear-ending them! That is what prompted me to write this blog. Then it happened again. Then I noticed how many of the people I would have previously considered "Proper Cyclists", run through red lights, or pavement hop to get through them. I couldn't believe how few cyclists seem to signal and indicate properly, or even know which side of the road to ride on.

If you want to drive a car, you first must obtain a license and insurance and tax the vehicle. To ride a bike on the road, you just buy a bike and are let go on an unsuspecting public. I am not insinuating that there should be a test, there already is a test, it is called the cycling proficiency test, but there should be some form of governance. It is clearly not just their own lives they are risking, I have experienced my own life being staked on the ignorance of these pseudo-cyclists swerving in front of me like lunatics!

Other bad cycling habits I have covered in other blog entries such as wearing headphones, not using the handlebars on the road, texting/using the phone, there are plenty more I haven't covered as I had thought they were obviously wrong. Carrying shopping on the handlebars, trying to walk a dog whilst riding a bike (illegal by the way!), or trying to have a coversation with another pseudo-cyclist, cycling two abrest or worst of all, cycling the wrong way on a roadside bike lane.

There are also people who own bikes who are beyond "pseudo-cyclists" and have earnt themselves the title of "Suicyclist", people who are clearly trying to get themselves killed.  Wearing all black clothing at night with no lights or high visibility clothing, no/obfuscated reflector, like some sort of bike ninja. Invisible to the naked eye, these cretins are definitely self nominated Darwin Award candidates.

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29Feb/121

The Death Throes Of Capitalism: Anonymous Occupy Wikileaks; Theory

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Is Capitalism A Malevolent Force For Control Of Consumption?

I personally really dislike capitalism, let us just get that out of the way. That is my opinion, it is based on the fact that its principles of wealth acquisition causes a massive disparity between richest and poorest. The stark contrast between the consequences of success and failure leads to a control over material resources that we all need equally. Then there is the fact that resources are seen completely objectively, no matter how destructive or costly it is to obtain them.  There is no greater example for these factors than the oil industry. At each stage in the process of extracting and selling petroleum products, there is some form of evil added. Land is acquired many times under duress, defended militarily and the sea itself is plundered. Workers in some countries are threatened with violence and intimidated into working in poor dangerous conditions and for very little money. Oil as a toxin is released into the ocean, the by-products of petroleum refinement are toxic. The consumption of petroleum produces carcinogens which cause cancer and excessive amounts of heat and carbon dioxide, which scientists theorise may be causing a greenhouse effect; gradually heating the earth leading to freak weather and eventually melting the poles and flooding coastal areas. Oil is bad. It causes conflict everywhere it pops up, it probably has done for aeons of human history. Wars have been fought over oil for thousands of years, people have been killed, blown up, assassinated, assimilated, executed and oppressed. Does all this bloodshed and environmental damage increase the price of oil? No, it makes it a lot cheaper. Oppression and control of supply enables the worlds largest buyer and distributor of oil to keep prices down and maintain market control over any would be competition. When the price does go up due to a manufactured shortage, or any other kind of false scarcity tactic to drive the market, we all complain and moan, not truly wanting to face the reality of where the product comes from and what the true cost is.

Oil is a source of energy, other forms of energy are less easy to commodify and therefore market for a profit, therefore in a capitalist environment these energy sources are ignored. Solar power is not terribly efficient, but wind and hydroelectricity are both incredibly efficient and found in almost every populated area on the planet. The most efficient use of these technologies is on a distributed network amongst homes and businesses themselves, cutting out the energy companies. They spend a lot of money on massive windmills in the countryside and off-shore to prove that you still need them, but for a fraction of the cost they could individually kit out thousands of  homes in a distributed network that would power  thousands more. Companies would never do this though because they would be losing consumers. As much as it is the best strategy for resource efficiency and the best application of the technology to protect against power failure, it isn't very capitalism friendly.

Consumable commodities are the most profitable, products that your customer needs to replenish their supply of and therefore return for repeat business. Food is the best example of this, we buy it, we eat it, we want more. Due to a constant consumer demand for a variety of cheap food, we have begun to cut back on the ethics of the industry. The quality of the food we take into our bodies has suffered due to capitalism, whatever is cheapest and most profitable to produce, packaged in a way that has a greater market life and value. Our food comes from all over the world, more and more oil is used to transport our food over hundreds, even thousands of miles. Preservative chemicals are added to our diets, in order to allow for such mass transport over such vast distances. People in the countries that grow our food rarely see much profit from their efforts, and are often bullied and intimidated into growing a cash crop rather than food for the region. More and more people are becoming aware of where their food comes from due to public pressure from famous chefs, who have a higher standard than the average supermarket consumer.

(Due to technical difficulties I.E. the hacking of the admin area of my Wordpress installation the rest of this blog was written between  13/02/2012 and 29/02/2012)

Occupied: Update; The Internet Takes Over Real Life As Predicted!

Once again Capitalism is in the direct gaze of the public consciousness, the one percent are under direct scrutiny by the ninety-nine percent. So as far as I can understand, the Occupy movement is the public reaction to finding out that the people who caused widespread unemployment, poverty, repossession, fore-closures and bankruptcies, were bailed out of their debts with tax money from our governments and then they want to pay themselves huge bonuses out of that money. Money itself is the worst single product that capitalism spews out. Capitalism needs money to survive, if we all used barter, it would be difficult to acquire much wealth,(or create wealth from doing nothing more than picking up a telephone and barking coded messages to an underpaid underling).

The world could do without money I think, with a little science and technology. The Venus Project has aspirational ideals and hopes and dreams that seem very far removed from reality, however there does seem to be a global shift in aspiration towards a sustainable, fairer future.  Technology is being developed all around the world that seems to make all our lives easier, robotic assistants around the house are a great start, but robots have been taking over jobs and reducing the cost of manufacturing for decades. It won't be long until there are fully automated machines doing 99% of jobs while humans become the 1% on them. The futurists of history imagined humanoid robots that could do all of the jobs a human could do, but the current trends signify a shift towards specialisation. Automated vacuum cleaners, self parking cars, automated checkouts, driver-less vehicles, and even vending machines (not an entirely new threat, but more and more products are coming out of the bottom of them these days!) are all replacing human tasks in succession. We may well have servile humanoid robots in the future, to serve us personally, but the majority of labour will be divided between scores of devices engineered around their tasks.

The Internet shopping trend has also cost a lot of people their jobs. It's true, it is a sad fact. Retail and sales is a huge sector of the workforce globally, this sector is the most critically hit by Internet. As much as the Internet has created jobs for many highly trained and skilled professionals, these professionals created code to make a lot of jobs redundant as they created online shops. It was great for the capitalist model, it fit perfectly; you see a product on the internet, the place you spend so much more of your time now, you like it, you buy it and it gets sent out to you from a warehouse, PROFIT! What will people actually do for jobs in the future? Will there be any jobs in the future? What if every process could be automated, if every human effort could be replaced by an efficiently designed machine? What need of capitalism would we have then?

All those "middle men" cut out of the consumer experience have been racking up, but the capitalist model still seems to be making profit. Or is it? The juggernaut of capitalism is definitely slowing down and weakening. The need for a fairer system is ever more urgent, the money men, the ones who control vast wealth, are unscrupulous.  They use our money for the manufacture of their fortune from speculations they make on our lives, our successes and failures fuel their extravagant lifestyles while we scramble for a pittance.

Globally the iron fist of capitalist oppression is squeezing tighter, most reccently on the Occupy London, it won't be the end of the movement. May is traditionally an excellent month for anti capitalist protests and planning is going on right now to make this years Mayday protests even bigger. I'm really upset by the news of School of Ideas, how do we explain to children that we live in a big angry state that will come and get you if you threaten to oppose it, especially if you are trying to expose it's corruption and greed. In our country we are not really doing anything new. We are using new tools, like the internet and tent cities, but the tactics employed by the Occupy Movement, to me, are like an urban version of the environmentalist forestry protests where protesters occupy treetops. The main difference is our knowledge, we have serious amounts of information about the inadequacies of the economic system used to control us. We know how crooked our politicians  and how morally bankrupt our journalists are.  We have Wikileaks and Anonymous to thank for that, and maybe even our morally bankrupt journalists a little too. It is like the darkest parts of society all turned on each other, the media, the government, and the financial greed machine are all devouring each other in a bid to rule us supremely. In this moment we must seize our opportunity to stand as one and say "No, we shall not be ruled over by leaders with agendas and objectives for us. If we allow a state to exist, it must serve our agendas and objectives, it must serve us. "

The likelihood of humanity rising up against the archaic control systems imposed upon it for millennia , may have seemed insignificant even a decade ago.  This decade though seems to be one of serious thought towards the future, and why we're not there yet? What systems have been holding us back for personal gain and what should we do about it? A global revolution towards Utopian Anarchy could be great, but as long as there are haves and have nots,  there will always be a threat of capitalism and greed.  We need to figure out the limitations imposed on us by corporate entities, we need to provide for ourselves. Then we can survive without them.

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