My Cup

Maybe the stresses of the world we all lived through in 2017 (and for a few years before that it feels) are finally getting to us all. Maybe it is the accelerating pace of technology and the number of new branches and innovations that has us confused and bedraggled. Maybe it is because we are all getting older and a little more crunchy about the edges…

Where am I heading with this?

Three of the groups, organisations, communities, call them what you will, that I belong to and deeply care about have had some turbulence of late. To be honest some of it is old wounds left to fester, some is exciting new directions, and then there is that boundless puppy enthusiasm that is too harshly kicked (as old dog’s despise new tricks as just a repeat of the old trick with shiny bits).

However there is, one would say, some issue.

For me the biggest problem stems from that of simple discursive maturity, and let me elaborate on that.

Rationalism

Do a quick search on rationalism and you will uncover something akin to this:

ˈraʃ(ə)n(ə)lɪz(ə)m (noun)
the practice or principle of basing opinions and actions on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotional response.
PHILOSOPHY: the theory that reason rather than experience is the foundation of certainty in knowledge.
THEOLOGY: the practice of treating reason as the ultimate authority in religion.’

I personally am fond of the rational use of discourse. It allows us to talk freely about subjects in an open manner and often using concepts or positions that are unfamiliar, and maybe objectionable, to others. This isn’t to say that I forgive malice or abusive discourse, they are not rational so I abhor people who use freedom of expression as an excuse.

Nor does being rational mean that you have no emotion at all. There is always room for passion as long as it is about subject and not aimed at people after being weaponised.

It means that when someone holds a strong position, or more usually presents such an opinion just so that it can be discussed, I can engage with them and appreciate the discussion without seeing harm.

This is how we are to progress. This is, somewhat, in essence that Socratic view of Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis. We can have opposing arguments or positions and find a balanced position. A rationale.

So when someone presents such a strong position, but does it in an open manner, I try to engage with them in that same way even if I find their position antithetical to my own understanding. That is also how we learn.

Not only that. If we can discuss, and allow from that discussion a better understanding, and hopefully gain an agreement based on concessions from evidence of a superior position* then it is even finer.

*(Where superior means better for all and not dominant.)

Kingdom of the Kindergarden

However what I have seen a little of recently is too much of what I like to think is the Kingdom of the Kindergarden. The one ruler in the playpen who everyone must respect and no-one else should be heard.

There will be tears. There will be hair pulling and gnashing of teeth. There will be wails, grunts, cries of unfair, and they started it. There will be name calling and sometimes worse, there may be vengeful, painful, abuse.

We can all fall so easily into being the ruler of the playpen. We can all move our toys with velocitous speed from our crib with cries of displeasure and calls of unfair. Some of us may even storm from the room allowing everyone to hear our departure and allowing no one but ourselves to have the last word.

We can all do it.

Some of us do not.

Quiet Departures

When the Kindergarden rules the adults tend to try and calm the situation. They try to ameliorate, discuss, understand and compromise. When that fails, they leave. The adults quietly walk away and allow the children to cry and wail. They stop the discourse because that’s what adults do. Adults are not the masters of the playpen. They are not its citizens.

If there can be no rationality, there really can be no real discourse. The most reasoned voices are not the ones who win, they are the ones who left. A reasoned voice knows that community comes from compromise not from dominance.

They don’t throw a cup, with a beverage in it or not, at a wall. They drink their tea, put the cup in the sink, and walk quietly out of the door.

As for my cup?

Well I have just poured myself a drink and I am looking out of the window…

“It was the best of times…”

“…it was the worst of times”

For those of you in the know the quote is of course from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, it may have also been the start to some Victorian Novel by Charles Dickens called Tale of Two somethings-or-another.

So why am I using it?

Well it is simple, 2017 has been both a horrid and good year for me. I am going to Vaguebook a little and not fill in the exact details of what made it either bad or good. It just was.

This is just me off-loading a little to the world and saying that 2017 despite how it looked from the outside was pretty much a massive up and down period in which far too much shit hit the fan at the same time as having some excellent moments.

Is there a real message that I want people to take away from reading this? Probably not. Just that you can have both amazing and awful at pretty much the same time. You can have life-changing times where you learn from both the positive and negative things that occur.

How about 2018?

Well I wish I could say that there is some new dawn, a brightest time approaching, but there likely isn’t. It looks to be both up and down as well.

At this point life is a roller-coaster. I am affected by so many other forces that I cannot actively control the destination, but I am able to help navigate the path and in doing so maybe make it a road easier to travel.

So what was this?

Did you not read the part about vaguebooking? I am marking a point. It is the end of the year and I wanted to place a reference that it was bad, and also good. I wanted to remember that despite all the pain of 2017, there was also some massive highs.

In life we often focus too much on the lows and they can stay with us for so much longer. Especially grief and loss. So the good things that happened at the same time can become consumed by the bad.

So this is a marker to remind me that it wasn’t my horrible year (I’m not the Queen, I don’t do Latin). It was both good and bad. In fact it was probably both the best and the worst.

Little Mis-Interpretation

It was reported in the news yesterday that a survey into profanity used while driving revealed that fifty percent of women claimed they swore in the car a opposed to forty percent of males.

This, news, and I use the term very loosely was surprising as it went against a perceived grain. It also seemingly contradicts language usage outside of driving.

Several heads talked, comment made and conclusions drawn.

I couldn’t find the source of the original study, but I wonder if what the report really indicates is that women are just more honest about how much they swear when driving.

This study, you see, was a poll, not a study by observance with control groups. If you have done any level of research you know one thing. Polls need to be treated with real care, people often answer the way you want them to, not the way that reflects them correctly.

Just words…

<rant>

Random Tweet “…the police broke the arm of a man in a wheelchair who was protesting disability cuts…”*

So this annoyed me, for no real reason it seemed except the language colours it.

What does it matter that he was in a wheelchair?
What does it matter if he was male?

The words colour the sentence, it is wrong that the police injured any person, irrespective of age, gender, or perceived ability.

But if we said “…the police broke the arm of a girl with Down’s Syndrome…” it would massively colour how we react.

Is that in itself an issue?

Surely the main point of this is that it is wrong for the police to use heavy tactics on anyone?

Why should we feel less concerned by “…the police broke the arm of a male wrester who was protesting tha lack of Giant Haystacks memorials…” than we do to the original sentence?

So I guess I would be happier if the language was neutral, “the police broke the arm of a person protesting…” If then I was able to read further and discover gender, age and ability it may make the knee-jerk reactions less prominent and allow me to be more rational about the larger issue.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t protect the vulnerable, just that emotive arguments often lessen the point. The police should not be empowered to use great force on anyone exercising their right to protest anything they see as an injustice, whether it is disability cuts or Giant Haystack memorials.

</rant>

* Note that this isn’t a rant against the commentator, or even a judgement on their writing skills, it is all about me and how I oft times react.

Black, Pleasured, Beached

The Sad Failures of Blackpool Pleasure Beach

I have been going to BPB for a number of years and so have seen it evolve and change over time. I am also a big fan of theme parks and fairs and I think I probably have enough experience of them to contrast and compare.

Let me say that I like BPB. I have fond memories of it from my youth and I know many of the rides from frequent travel on them. But I think it has some crises of identity that need to be solved, and those crises reflect Blackpool as well.

Entrances

To enter the park you must first purchase your ticket or wristband for rides. If you are not going to be going on any rides then you must still pay five pounds to enter. Now I know many places charge an entry fee because it is an experience they are providing, but those other places also have more theming, which we will come to, and minor attractions. BPB does this, because they can, because people who want to be with their family but cannot ride anything are easy to fleece.

A further fleecing is the fast pass, some parks charge, some don’t. I don’t mind that they do but they try to sell it as a value, it isn’t. It is a way in which to make money. End of.

Also, many other parks have a parent pass. Two parents with young children who can’t go on rides are often allowed to use the fast pass so that only one of them need queue for the long wait part. Common in Disney and Universal and totally absent in BPB. They may as well say ‘fuck you, give us the money’.

In Security

Then we have security, and please forgive me while I fall about laughing. You are required to have your bag searched and to pass through a metal detector, a common piece of nonsense we all suffer with in a modern western world. But they did not search the pram I took in, I could have stored weaponry, in fact I could have sneaked in a modest sized rifle under our double pram.

They also confiscated my tripod. My mini tripod for my iPhone. I guess so I couldn’t use it as a weapons mount for the M16 under the pram, or so I couldn’t shoot professional film on my 5D MKII with a 100-400 lens that I took in without a blink. Also, I could have fitted my pro tripod under the pram.

Security guards walking around the site had flakjackets on and handcuffs, I mean wtf! I thought we had entered a barracks not a family themed (again please hear that in a sarcastic voice) area. If you need to stand guard over the fountains during a display you don’t send the security guards who look like Rambo, you send somebody with a pleasant smile who is backed by Rambo hiding out of sight. I don’t want to see that level of aggressive security, I don’t think it makes for a pleasant experience to make me feel that this place is so unsafe they need to wear armour to stop you running through a fountain.

Theme?

Now lets talk about the theming. The one section of the park they have got right is the Nickelodeon World. Aimed at younger children, full of safer rides and great theming. The staff put of children’s displays, have character photographs and song and dance routines. Excellent, well done.

The rest of the park is a mish-mash. Fit what we can in where we can. Place theming to the ride but don’t attempt to merge or style sections. If a ride disappears then leave a huge empty space that looks like the council would move travellers to. Just nasty. No attempt to hide the space with themed boards or displays or potted plants, just the debris of visitors and general dismay.

Tacky to the Last

The traditional fairground activities, tests of strength and skill to win a huge and more than piss poor tacky prize are also unwelcome. Why have such massive and silly gifts. Okay they amuse you for a short while until you realise that any five year old presented with this would have to have a strong diet of Japanese horror and manga to understand the need for such a torture piece. They are a melding of excesses and poorly aimed award. ‘Surely it is worth more if it is bigger’. I wouldn’t want one if they tried to give it to me.

What is wrong with a smaller prize. Size doesn’t make it better.

BPB, like other theme parks, are an enclosed space and they love to squeeze you a little more over the food. The one difference is they do have an all you can eat pizza which represents good value for families, it is a pity they don’t train their staff.

Totally Staffed!

And we segway into staff visibility and training. BPB believes that a small logo on a jacket (black jacket) is a good way to identify their staff. Well it is. If they are four feet or less away and no one is stood in front of them. The general staff visibility is poor. The training is laughable.

It was a warm afternoon and someone fainted nearby. When people looked around a staff member couldn’t be found. The staff member on a ride couldn’t or didn’t know they could leave their ride at that time, and so the person had to lie on the floor while passers by tried to round up staff. Someone was dialling 999 when a staff member arrived, looked worried and then that staff member left to find someone else.

I have no more words for that one.

Higher visibility of clothing for your staff, maybe a bright, fun and friendly colour so they are easy to spot.

Eugh, d’ Toilet

Finally, the toilets. Some of these are old so there is no baby change in the mens, meh, it happens. The modern block is nice. Gracefully tiled, new basins with automatic taps and fast dryers. Lovely floors and a giant metal trough to piss in. Well thanks for that, I want to feel like an animal, I want my, one day to be an 8 year old, to be intimidated by the openness and smell of your troughs.

If you are going to have condom machines, which I personally don’t think you should in a family park, could you not have ones that are for safe sex and birth control as opposed to ones that only serve a ‘tickler, glow in the dark, flavoured,’ or a personal joy, ‘novelty shaped,’ jhonnie?

Once more, What The Fuck…or in the words of my good friend t0m ‘what the ducking fuck’…

This is not the message to give to the nice new toilets next to your under-5s fantasy world you colossal fuck-wits.

I would say excuse my profanity, but they deserve this level of profane. Decide what the fuck type of message you want to give.

To conclude

BPB, you are an anachronism attempting to move forward and you are doing it badly. Stop catering to the potential profits of the Stag and Hen shite/nights. If they want to come and play at a family location then enforce sensible behaviour from them with exclusion on misbehaviour.

Stop indulging this.

Crappy displays of strength, piss troughs, excess charges, open wounds and litter…

You make us pay just to see inside, don’t then show us this, it is trivial and fairly easy to improve. I say this because your most popular area was the one world where you got it right, where you themed it well and offered less tacky gifts. You can change, and you can do it by stopping the advertisement of condom-flavoured seaside bawdy. That is an experience that only the most die-hard of retard would actively promote as a sensible business focus.

-mdk

21st Century Relationship*

So my head is currently wrapped by this notion that some people believe their relationship is more ‘modern’ than mine just because I got married, am monogamous, like my family and spend time with them, also I chose to have children.

They know nothing about my reasons to get married, or any of those other things, they just assume because they can label their sexual/personal relationships as ‘n’-gamy or ‘something’-sexual, or that they choose individual expansion in a complex and fluidly expressed environment and see that as a defining concept in a modern world, that it makes them 21st century and me some kind of troglodyte hitting women with a stick to drag them back to my man cave.

I have news for you all. They were doing the same as you in the classic periods and we have no real evidence to say different, but I doubt that primitive man had marriage and was probably pretty damn ‘n’-gamy or ‘something’-sexual 🙂

In other words, your notion that my marriage or anything else I choose is an anachronism, or archaic, or a primitive/simpler/traditional value, is in fact a huge pile of doo-doo.

I didn’t marry because of tradition. I married because of an educated discussion and deliberation with my wife. Yes, it sounds clinical (parts of it were, most of it wasn’t – there you go, we both also subscribe to that silly notion of love) but we ‘chose’ to get married. We discussed it and determined based on a number of factors, including Leigh’s love of the actual event and her belief in the good force that marriage represents and my belief that a promise is special and sharing that promise with family and friends shows how special it is to people (i.e. the event itself is special), to get married. Also, we really had a blast on our wedding day, if I had the money I would do it again and invite the same people they were all brilliant.

I think the fact that we both *chose* this, based on how we felt, and the other persons feelings means we have a modern relationship. Because our relationship is not just based on someones ability to define a term, or solely on some societal or cultural definition, it is based on an understanding of the other persons needs, desires and wishes.

We are both fully aware of many of the sociological, psychological and historical factors that determine relationships, interactions and traditions. We neither conform or reject them, we choose which ones are applicable to our status and what we wish to represent to others as our relationship. In some manner they shape that relationship by their existence, but they do not determine it and they do not define it.

Thanks.

(Oh, none of this is meant to indicate that your relationship isn’t modern, personally if you chose to do it, it is brand new and shiny, all of interaction is 🙂 ).

* This was originally posted on Facebook, then i realised that many people I know are not on Social Media places and I have no ‘real’ control over it there, so I placed it on here.

Twittequette

(Twitter Etiquette)

Okay so I saw this tweet (I removed the names and some of the details):

“Please stop retweeting your ——. They’re spoiling my time line.”*

And my reaction is now, “frack you, stop following them”. So why do I have this reaction?

I guess it is because of a few reasons and just let me spill out my thoughts in a lazy edit of semi-stream-of-consciousness.

1. There is a sort of understanding that when you follow someone you may disagree with what they say, so you say so to them.

2. You chose to follow them, if they piss you off, choose to unfollow them.

3. Isn’t it rude to tell people what they can Tweet about? I see tweets from the profound to the moronic, and my decision on what determines their importance is just that, my decision. My level of engagement. My opinion. It isn’t the opinion of the tweeter, it shouldn’t be the opinion of the tweeter. They get to make that themselves, if I don’t like it…unfollow.

4. If it is a retweet, you can still argue back, or say you don’t like the comment, but telling them what they can or can not post is wrong.

5. It could be tedious, it could be highly offensive, but the world is a vast collection of those things and we all have our levels of judging them. I might find peoples evasive use of polite language which masks their inner true beliefs more offensive than hate rhetoric, I might hate anyone talking about Pokemon, it doesn’t matter, I should still allow them to have that opinion and choose whether I follow or listen to it. But I don’t get to decide if they have the rights to their opinions, no matter how much I might disagree or agree with them. Equality of opinion is a burden as well as a blessing, there are costs to liberties.

I am of the opinion that there is a ‘twittequette’, you can use the social medium to block and ignore some things and if they roll out more filters maybe you’ll be able to block more, and you can also scan and hide Tweets, so asking someone to moderate their responses just because you think it spoils something is just wrong.

I have in the past been accused of posting -too many- things. Once was a mistake in judgement and I was politely called on it, the second I warned that I was going to Twitter-Bomb a set of posts so people could choose to ignore me for an hour or so, the third wasn’t so nice. Frankly I was called up for not being interesting basically, and so i have this level of bile that wells up to Tweets like this, and I think that this is rude and you should consider what you are saying…or not, hell it’s your 140 characters 🙂

(end rant).

* btw, I think in this case the original tweeter was being sarcastic, but it still gave me my knee jerk response.

 

Train Woes

Okay so once again the train is delayed and this means I will miss a connection, I get really dis-chuffed when that occurs. Then I will blame privatisation. But this isn’t a random blame.

Privatisation was supposed to bring us:

Lower Fares. It didn’t.
More trains. It didn’t.
Better service. Debateable, more customer service bollocks that’s for sure.
Increased efficiency – well let’s look at that.

How do we measure efficiency. Ask the operators and they may say number of people to destnation – in shortest time – on time. Ask the travellers and they would add a qualifier, they would put comfort while traveling as part of that.

Let’s face it, 150 mph in a boxcar with us jammed in like sardines would be efficient.

So comfort is a part of efficiency to the customer. Not just speed and on time, but do I get a seat, is there enough baggage space, etc.

Baggage Space, well that’s a joke, most trains have inadequate space and they now have no baggage car so there is luggage everywhere, especially airport trains which should have a baggage car, but that means an extra car, an extra person to manage it, loss of profit from fuel and personnel and time and oh gods that affects efficiency, so that’s a no go.

Seats. Even on regular routes with no issues there is often overcrowding and distressed persons, and this is compounded when there are delays that push extra people onto the trains. The solution is extra cars even if the figures do not justify it, but again this increases costs and yada yada yada.

So comfort is pandered to with a smiling smartly dressed staff member, who has no real power to alter anything, can only point at alternate routes, offer a form to make a complaint or request compensation or say sorry. There is no real method for change.

But this situation -could- be the same even if they weren’t private, I hear you cry…

Preston Station
Preston Station, so depressing not even a brightly coloured filter cheers it up.

Not the point, if they are making a profit at the massive expense of their customers there is an issue, and since we have no alternative that effectively is a monopoly, so I will complain and state that privatisation of the train industry was a joke that has led to nothing but a failure of promises.

There is an issue when we measure efficiency as a means test for quality, it isn’t. Efficiency is a test of just that. It never means quality of service, this thinking is applied to health, education and other large systems with the same failure. We want quality, we achieve that by measuring satisfaction of service, not by quantifiable metrics.

What a difference having power and a seat on a train makes to the mood of the weary traveller…so my argument about quality of service and amenities starts to gain more credence as my rage is ameliorated by the comfort i have found. I do however pity my fellow passengers who got on at Chorley and Bolton and are doomed to stand for the remainder of their journey, I doubt the delays and inconvenience are changing their moods at this present time.

Some of the trains are nicer though, so glad that we helped to pay for them with public funds!

Zingzillas lost their awesome

So having a small child changes you, for one thing you get to watch a lot more children’s television. Despite all your protestations that you will raise your child in a bubble of academic excellence and books only, you quickly start to use the excellent service that is CBeebies.

One of my favourite programs is ZingZillas,[1] but I have noticed an issue with this latest series, in fact they have taken what was a brilliant show and reduced it’s brilliance, they have taken the shine off and lost the awesome. Let me explain some of the changes.

  1. It is shorter and it shows as it feels very rushed.
  2.  Because it is shorter the coconuts drop quickly so no sense of build or narrative tension.
  3.  We have less story and virtually no character development or interaction which was a strength in the previous shows.
  4. The special guest performers are given less time and do not interact as much, they also have no place in the storyline.[2]
  5. The other characters, DJ, heads, chorus birds and Todd have virtually no place in the story, and less interaction with the main Zings;
  6.  They added dress elements:
    a. Zack has a cape that makes him look like a failed superhero;
    b. Pansy has been given a feather boa because you know she’s either a stripper or a drag queen;
    c. Tang has a cowboy hat that makes him look like he finally came out and just went full on camp;
    d. Drum has the only costume element that makes sense. She has some, in character to her, butterfly wings.

The last big element is that the Zings’ themselves know it has become less, they feel that they have lost their cool and brilliant selves, they no longer state at the end of each episode “that was the best big Zing ever”.

I want my best big Zing back, I want genius episodes like the Wishes episode whose story and song were awesome. I want the return of narrative tension, storyline and characters entwined within the development of the stories. I don’t blame the writers or the production crew at all, and the songs are still great, but it is too rushed, it needs to be able to breathe not be throttled.

Give our Zingzillas their awesome back, that’d be the best Zing ever.

—-

[1] Visit some of the ZingZillas sites:

[2] I am informed by the internet[3] that the actual ‘glade’ time and ‘performance’ time remains the same, and this I cannot question without examining two episodes, an old and a new. I am inclined to believe it remains the same but the ‘less interaction’ in the storyline, or less time spent developing the need for the guest performers to be there makes it feel as if they have less time.

[3] Specifically the creative force of Banks and Wag

Shiny, shiny, shiny toy

Like the steaming great hypocrite that I am I went out and got myself the Fondle Slab MkII. If you have been listening to me for a year I have been resisting this piece of technology with the claims that I prefer my laptop, it didn’t have enough functionality and what could it do that my phone didn’t do.

All of those were valid points and were true at the time, and still true now.

I was however seduced by the sheer experience and shininess of the iPad2, and so was Leigh. Then that was the end of my resistance and I caved in and we got two of them.

Of course, since getting it I have now found many ways to integrate it into my life. I am currently sat in a coffee shop, Ben has a book, Leigh is out shopping and while I wait for her I am writing this. Normally I would be reading on my phone or playing Angry Birds, but now that I have the slab and it is easy to carry about I have an electronic device to write with.

I know that I could use a notebook, my laptop is 17 inch and not easy to carry around for just typing notes, but these days I prefer to type out my thoughts as I have them. I have become used to using the action of my fingers typing on a keyboard to lull my sense of sight and allow my brain to de-focus the world and concentrate on the subject I wish to examine.

But, there is a sense that I am just finding ways to make this expensive, and did I say shiny, toy a valuable part of my life. Though, on the flip side, if it makes me write more and helps me with the organisation of my thoughts and my life then it is already worth the price I paid for it. 

It is also a really nice size for interacting with the web and social media, also nice for watching movies on, and the battery life is just great. So, there is a lot to value in the device. It is never going to replace my laptop, and if I need to do serious work I will pull out that or sit at a desktop where I can be far more productive. It is never going to replace my phone for instant always on convenience and five minute distraction filler in a small item, though the iPad is a very fast and smooth user experience.

It is however yet another tool in my burgeoning gadgetry arsenal. I love my gadgets, I always have, and to be honest using this pad makes me feel like I really am in the future, we may not have the rocket pants but we do have the always on world with a vast storehouse of always-on information, user interaction, the ability to talk or see almost everyone you will ever know and to share your life and experiences to a vast audience. That is e future, and it doesn’t feel anywhere near as stark and unemotional as some sic-fi would have had us believe.

This is how’ve me being euphoric about the new toy I have, in a future piece I may examine the cost of our increasingly connected and observed world and why, one day, grandfather’s bollocks might drive the bus.