How To Be Right: … in a world gone wrong – Reviewed

How To Be Right… in a World Gone WrongHow To Be Right… in a World Gone Wrong by James O’Brien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had some reservations reading this book, mainly because from the scant descriptions I’d heard, it was to be filled with transcripts of callers on the author’s LBC radio show. Thankfully, these transcripts are not the staple of each chapter, rather they appear in every chapter occasionally only to illustrate a salient point. The author does say he has tried to deliver the calls verbatim (he claims to his knowledge), I do wonder how much selective editing he’s done.

It is well written, though now and then it feels like James has flicked through a thesaurus for fear of repeating words. Who even says “interlocutor”? Seldom, there are a few typos but given the timescale to which this book was delivered, O’Brien can be forgiven for this transgression. His analytical writing style does make him come across as a logician. I did find it quite amusing how every time Kelvin McKenzie was mentioned, it was prefixed with “disgraced journalist”. However, he admits to telling a lie to a caller. If he’s admitting to lying once how do we know what he’s being truthful about? As a broadcaster this is especially important. Worryingly, the author does seem to call anti-imperialist protestors ‘silly’ in the defence of Churchill. Hopefully he comes to his senses about Churchill’s wrongs.

As O’Brien correctly states many times, when people claim their free speech is being stifled, what they actually want is to opine without scrutiny (see quote below). Sadly PC gone mad is not a boomer venting about problems with Windows XP. Instead it’s a bunch of easily offended reprobates complaining that people shouldn’t be so easily offended about everything. Most if not all of the stories in newspapers demonizing ‘political correctness’ are false or misrepresentations.

The author hits the nail on the head, when he lambastes the so called ‘gig economy’ such as Uber and Deliveroo. It’s all about using the deep pockets of venture capitalists to create artificially lower prices, deregulate the industry, wait for your competitors to go bust, then raise prices as a monopoly. In the process of course, the workers get less pay, than working without a middleman and less rights.

O’Brien’s solution is in the epilogue, it basically boils down to journalists doing their jobs and holding politicians to account. Challenging politicians to explain their views, not having people on who spout nonsense without evidence, empty chairing people who are scared of scrutiny. We’ve seen a little bit of this post publication but I fear we have a long way to go.

As O’Brien grew up with Catholic teachings, his knowledge of The Bible comes in useful poking holes in religious arguments against homosexuality. Jesus doesn’t mention anything about it and there’s only a letter from St Paul. Amusingly Leviticus uses the exact same wording to describe eating shell fish as an ‘abomination’ as it does homosexuality. Similarly with garments made of two different threads. But these zealots don’t bash lobster eaters or tweed wearers as much as they do the gays. Probably because they’re prudish conservatives.

The author does find quite amusing examples of honour killings and forced marriages in western civilization: the life of Henry VIII and Romeo and Juliet. Though I would counter by saying one is a work of fiction and the other is not exactly contemporary. Whereas, unfortunately honour killings and forced marriages are currently endemic in much of the Islamic world.

Often in the UK, politicians vociferously support an Australian style points system, whilst forgetting that the UK already has a very similar system already in place for non-EU migrants. As the author points out, having this system in Australia for all migrants doesn’t stop Ozzie residents complaining about the influx of foreigners.

On sexual harassment, the author notes that women will often welcome behaviour that may be considered sexual harassment, if they are attracted to the perpetrator. But he concludes that this is wrong and although I am sympathetic to this view, I will need to see the other point of view.

The book delivers on it’s eponymous promise. It’ll arm you with the tools you need to dismantle the nonsense arguments offered by gammon et al. That notwithstanding, O’Brien’s methods don’t go down too well with morons such as Rees-Mogg, where to the untrained eye it turns into a he-says, she-says. Lies delivered with conviction, simply asking why isn’t enough to show they’re full of crap.

The conflation of ‘freedom of speech’ with ‘freedom to say silly things without being challenged’ and, more, ‘freedom to insist that people have to listen to me even if they think I’m ridiculous and/or dangerous’ is rarely quite as glaring as in this case.

Only relatively recently did Schrödinger’s immigrant – the one who simultaneously steals ‘our’ jobs and claims unemployment benefit while leading a life of state-subsidised indolence

I learned that Section 40 of the Equality Act 2010, which required employers to safeguard employees against harassment from clients and customers, had been repealed in 2013 as part of the Conservative Party’s tabloid-friendly programme of ‘cutting red tape’.

It is always fruitful to point out to them that a forced marriage is pivotal to the plot of Romeo and Juliet and that Henry the Eighth is probably history’s most famous proponent of honour killings.

This ‘will’ [of the people’], apparently, meant that 17.4 million disparate and diverse people had all voted for exactly the same thing without realising it: namely, a Brexit which would mean whatever Paul Dacre, the billionaire owners of the Daily Telegraph and Jacob Rees-Mogg wanted it to.

Charged with defending an obviously flawed organisation against claims that leaving it would deliver utopia, they had nothing in their arsenal save a status quo that many found profoundly unsatisfactory.

This, though, is the ultimate aim of the war against ‘political correctness’. Its foot soldiers seek to silence opinions they find discomforting and to arrest social developments they consider threatening to a status quo that has delivered undeserved privilege to straight, white men like me for centuries.

Like ‘virtue signalling’, a term which seeks to ridicule the ideas of altruism and generosity by suggesting that they are only ever undertaken in search of admiration

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2020 in Films part 1

The Day Shall Come – Highly awaited with great expectations but sadly nothing spectacular. The problem with this film is, I would always measure it against Four Lions which would take some beating. They are similar genres of film. Only the laughs in the latter come at you like the rate of machine gun fire and with the former it’s like the trickle of a stream. Though early on, it was more like a river. In other words, there isn’t enough comic relief. I know for a fact that Morris has researched this film umpteen times and there are many true stories included here but the ending is rather banal and the whole thing feels rather pointless. On its own I’d say it was an ok film but with your hopes dashed that makes it worse. At least Anna Kendrick is some nice eye candy to stare at. 7/10

Star Wars:Rise of Skywalker – The film has similar critques to previous films, like cringeworthy goofy dialogue. That’s not even the worst thing though.How the fuck do you explain Palpatine being resurrected from the dead?! They say they cloned him but that wouldn’t restore memories. What a shit show. The film can’t recover after that I’m afraid. I heard they fired the original director half way through, which would explain the shit plot, copied from fan-fiction no less.Even though the cinematography was great with great action. Nice to Kylo-Ren turn though it was fairly obvious he would. What was the point of Snoke again? I have subsequently learned that the goofy dialogue is the fault of actors improvising. Some blame has to fall on editors for leaving it in. 6/10

Parasite – Why is it that all the Korean films I have seen, are of some really fucked up shit? This reminds me of Oldboy for reasons that will become clear. You can see where the film is leading but it doesn’t detract from the experience. The ending was amazing. 10/10

Train to Busan – Zombie horrors have been done to death but this one was actually a little unique. I like films which are constrained to one setting e.g. Speed . The businessman’s fate was saddening as was the big guy’s (even shed a tear). 9/10

Seoul Station – The prequel to the above. Standard zombie horror but the art style is good. Also the twist ending was nice. 9.5/10

Alien Covenant – Yet another alien movie. Nothing really felt new in this. I guessed the twist ending. What’s annoying is they used the lore of Prometheus which I didn’t like. Each time the Xenomorph is slightly different, I think this time it was the same? 6.5/10

Diego Maradonna – Maradonna is a piece of shit (who cheats on his wife), Diego is a slumboy caught up in the dangerous triangle of fame, money and drugs. It is really well made and the retro footage is unsettling. It’s quite amazing how he made Napoli win La Liga but also quite sad how they turned on him. He should have never got in bed with the mob. At least he got rehab and sort of turned his life around. 8.5/10

White Right, Meeting the Enemy – Attractive muslim lady manages to sedduce convince some Neo-Nazis that they’re wrong. The fact this is possible is uplifting. The sad fact is, many if not all of these individuals have hard lives and find solace in Neo-nazism, in the form of belonging, respect and community. 9/10

True Grit – The pluck of the young girl is inspirational, she truly has True Grit. Not your typical Western. 8/10

Unbreakable – Some idiot with brittle bone disease thinks there must be someone with the opposite disease as him (unbreakable), spoilers that’s not how medicine works. Why is he hydrophobic? Why does he have other powers? Probably to fit in with the capeshit meme. At least the twist was nice. 7/10

The Lovebirds – Has the dude from Silicon Valley in it. The plot is unbelievable and the whole thing is kinda dumb. It had its moments I guess. 7/10

Beyond Weird – Reviewed

Beyond WeirdBeyond Weird by Philip Ball
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading these ~350 pages I now feel like I know less about Quantum Mechanics (QM) than before I started. There were times when some of the concepts were beyond my comprehension (e.g. Popescu-Rohrlich boxes) but hopefully with some more reading and research, I’ll be able to understand them.

Ball starts to say, fundamentally that the crux of QM is that measurement on a system affects the outcome of measurements on the system itself. Quantization is not a requirement for QM. The book did solve a long held mystery of mine. How did Schrödinger come up his famous, eponymous, wave equation. He took the equation for waves and tweaked it using intuition, to what he thought would apply to particles. Miraculously it worked. Squaring the wavefunction of an object gives you the probability of finding the object at a given position when measured. QM is often misunderstood as a theory governing things only very small. However, entanglement shows that quantum effects can propagate over vast distances (non-locality).

Schrödinger’s cat, commonly misunderstood, is dispelled with swiftly in many ways. Firstly, in the way that Tegmark explains, the cat will die if in a vacuum, otherwise it’ll interfere with air molecules (the environment) and decohere and no longer exhibit quantum effects (wavefunctions of macroscopic objects can’t interfere or exist in a superposition if they aren’t coherent). Further, the notion of a superposition of dead and alive states is meaningless, unless we define what they mean in quantum terms and then calculate the wavefunction. As an aside, Ball explains that superpositions aren’t fragile. As they “decohere” their quantumness spreads out into the environment creating a large entity. System and environment merge into a single superposition. This effectively destroys the superposition as we can’t discern it anymore by looking at a small part of it.
Interestingly, physicists are actually trying to do this experiment dubbed Schrödinger’s Kittens, albeit with much smaller matter – water bears (think around mesoscale/millimeters).

QM teaches us that the order in which we do things (e.g. measurements) matters (non-commutable) dubbed Quantum Contextuality. In classical physics it doesn’t matter. This partly explains the double slit experiment, you are in effect doing two different experiments to elicit a classical or quantum outcome. In terms of the uncertainty principle, this explains why we get the results we do. You can’t know all the details of a quantum system, the more you measure, the more it will decohere. Until eventually it behaves as a classical system only.

The Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI), was devised as a way to deal with apparent wave function collapse and where it goes afterwards. So now you’ve created an even bigger problem, of a parallel universe, rather than the smaller problem of wavefunction “collapse”. Ball says the MWI is false because it cannot deal with the transfer of consciousness (to other “yous”) after universe splitting, as it depends on user experience. Arguments I find more compelling are as follows: science has always told us that the very fine details don’t matter and they should hardly be splitting universes. Proponents of MWI feel uncomfortable with proposals such as, Quantum Russian Roulette (if MWI is correct they shouldn’t). Finally for me personally, we can’t do an experiment to prove MWI correct, so it is unscientific in this regard. MWI does not tell us how the splitting occurs, only that it does.

I was pleasantly surprised to find several pages devoted to quantum computing (QC). Ball says that QC won’t necessarily revolutionise home computing. Although they may solve P=NP type problems quicker, breaking current encryption methods easily, they wouldn’t really speed up things modern computers already do well. QC is a long way off anyway, currently they can just about find prime factors of 21. It was interesting to learn how they worked.

Ultimately, Ball concludes QM is a theory about the representation and manipulation of information. Further, that the theory needs rewriting from the bottom up (Quantum Reconstruction) so that it’s not about waves or particles. That if you start with a few fundamental rules, properties do emerge that describe behaviour of quantum objects.

Concluding, Ball condenses QM down to 3 axioms:
1. You can’t transmit information faster than light (no-signalling)
2. You can’t deduce or perfectly copy the information in an unknown quantum state (no-cloning)
3. There is no unconditionally secure bit commitment (relating to cryptography)

Much of the problems talking about QM come from language. In that, we lack the vocabulary to accurately describe properties of quantum objects. We have to borrow words such as spin and entanglement.

Entanglement could be the key to the long-standing mystery of how to reconcile quantum mechanics with he theory of gravitation as supplied by general relativity

Not
‘here it is a particle, there it is a wave’
but
‘if we measure things like this, the quantum object behaves in a manner we associate with particles; but if we measure it like that, it behaves as if it’s a wave’

Not
‘the particle is in two states at once’
but
‘if we measure it, we will detect this state with probability X, and that state with probability Y’

What the MWI really denies is the existence of facts at all. It replaces them with an experience of pseudo-facts (we think that this happened, even though that happened too). In so doing, it eliminates any coherent notion of what we can experience, or have experienced, or are experiencing right now. We might reasonably wonder if there is any value – any meaning – in what remains, and whether the sacrifice has been worth it

When someone explains something in a complicated way, it’s often a sign that they don’t really understand it. A popular maxim in science used to be that you can’t claim to understand your subject until you can explain it to your grandmother.

The key difference between classical and quantum mechanics is that the first calculates trajectories of objects while the second calculates probabilities (expressed as a wave equation)

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Drawdown – Reviewed

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global WarmingDrawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a hard read, not only due to the dense technical information but also because of the harrowing facts and the task faced by humanity. Drawdown refers to a scenario whereby we have reduced our CO2 emissions so much, that we are removing more than we produce. Negative carbon emissions. Without reading the epilogue, I corrected guessed how to use the book. See what solutions to climate change I can incorporate, into my everyday life. For me personally, I’ve started cycling more/using public transport, investing in ethical funds, growing my own vegetables (with limited success), saving water, reducing food waste (reducing Methane production) and holidaying less (mostly incidental). I have looked into home composting and may do it in the future. I think the biggest change people can make is veganism, vegetarianism or even flexitarianism.

My top/favorite solutions would be educating girls, family planning, farmland restoration, agroforestry (maximising space with more than one crop), silvopasture (integrates trees, pasture, and forage into a single system), regenerative agriculture, managed grazing, walkable cities, bamboo, protecting forests and peatlands. I picked these because of the return on relatively low investment.

And the top coming attractions:solid state wave energy (harnessing wave energy without moving parts), direct air capture, and seaweed feedstock. I’m not overly optimistic about smart highways, because of its most notorious incarnation “Solar Freakin Roadways” was a bit of a joke. Some of the others in this section are pretty farfetched too. Maybe nuclear fusion will save us all?

Some of the best facts have been as follows, Methane is up to 34 times more powerful at warming than carbon dioxide over a hundred year period. This is why in part using it as Biogas has its benefits. When considered over their lifetime, solar farms curtail 94% of carbon emissions that coal plants emit. Plus none of the harmful pollutants are emitted. It’s astonishing for how long humanity has known about anthropomorphic climate change. Alexander von Humboldt described the effects of human induced climate change in the early 19th Century.

What I especially liked about the book was how on each page, it would delve into the history of whatever was being talked about. In one section, it explains how the world shifts between ice ages. CO2 is drawn down by bacteria and other organisms eventually lowering temperatures. Over eons active volcanoes emit CO2 to gradually warm the atmosphere.

Detractors often pooh-pooh renewable energy as unreliable but as the book says, when the sun isn’t shining the wind is often blowing. A multi-faceted approach to energy needs will satisfy the grid well. Plus there are some rather ingenious approaches to power storage such as trapping heat in molten salt, raising water table heights or even mine carts. Critics will decry electric cars, on the basis of the carbon emissions required to make them but over their lifetime they save more carbon, than that that is emitted. Further, that they’re running on electricity generated from fossil fuels. Whilst that may be true, ever more energy is being generated renewabally and electric cars are 4 times more efficient than their counterparts. Electric cars produce 50% less CO2 than gasoline cars when powered from the grid, if the power comes from solar, a 95% reduction in emissions. Not to mention the lack of nitrous oxide pollution.

I didn’t know artificial geothermal even existed, in that rather than using heat from springs you can just go down farther enough and it’ll get warmer, by virtue of being closer to the core. This can provide a stable source of energy. This source isn’t without problems however. Biomass and burning waste are bridge solutions to drawdown, they’re only emitting CO2 captured recently from the atmosphere. Once a champion of Nuclear Fission, the book shows how it’s a regret solution, because of the waste it generates and how expensive it is.

Fundamentally, it comes down to money. Governments and investors seem uninterested in investing in these solutions with the same rigor as non-sustainable projects. Frustratingly, there are so many simple things governments and individuals can do but don’t, they just bury their heads in the sand. People’s attitudes are that, the most catastrophic effects of climate change will be felt by the following generations, even though effects are being felt now.

Currently neo-liberal capitalism especially and perhaps capitalism in general, is poorly equipped to deal with global emergencies such as climate change. So much of which is premised on eternal economic growth, no matter the destruction of the planet. It won’t favor a clean slightly expensive fuel source over fossil fuels (which are often heavily subsidized). Powerful lobby groups and existing infrastructure don’t help either. Even when they are on parity, renewables get a tough time. This is when governments need to step in, whose approaches have largely been lacking and uninspired. The Green Revolution doesn’t need to be about losing jobs and a slowdown in the economy, rather the opposite. When you can invest in these old industrial heartlands with clean, green jobs. Modern farming practices are extremely bad for the environment. Firstly, the carbon emissions from livestock and processing. Secondly, slash and burn practices to remove forests and other carbon sinks. Then the intensive, fertilizer/pesticide driven factory farming degrades soils so that all the stored carbon is slowly released.

What Covid-19 has shown me, is the reason people act for that and not climate change is, people think climate change will affect other people and not them.

I think reading this book in 2016 would have made me an optimist but after Trump has decried Climate Change as a Chinese hoax and pulled out of the Paris Climate deal, it’s cause for concern. Especially as the Paris deal doesn’t go far enough. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we’ve got a lunatic in the form of Jair Bolsarano in charge of Brazil and he doesn’t shy in letting the Amazon rain forest be chopped or burned down.

More info at drawdown.org

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2019 in films part 3

Trainspotting – Rewatch, I forgot how good this was. Begby is a psychopath 10/10
Trainspotting 2 – I delayed watching this because, I see attempts to resurrect old films with sequels into a franchise as a naked cash grab. That aside, I was pleasantly surprised with this one. Initially, I didn’t like how it was different to the original but I grew to like it over time. So much so, that it’s on par with the original for me. Begby is even more pschopathic in this one, which I thought wasn’t even possible 10/10
Free Solo – People who do this are insane. It was a nice view into an esoteric world. The protagonist’s girlfriend was quite annoying (she knew what she signed up for) but also cute 8/10
The Hurt Locker – I saw some of this on a flight in 2009. I didn’t think much of it but made a mental note to watch it in full at some stage. This aspiration was realised a decade later and I wish sooner. Excellent storytelling, strong characters, suspense, humor 10/10
Where to Invade Next? – I thought this was a satirical film on where the U.S. would invade next to destabilse and exploit natural resources. Instead it was something better, how to make the U.S. a better country by taking the best ideas from other countries 8.5/10
Moonlight – I liked the first half of it when ‘Black’ was young. I didn’t like the direction the film went in and the ending was a bit of a damp squib 7.5/10
Midnight Run – Quintessential 80s action film. Good plot but I do notice the comic violence, which I assume must have been universal in films like these 8/10
The Manchurian Candidate – I had low expectations due to the slow pace of this but the storyline is unique and incredible, with a nice ending 8/10
Baby Driver – I loved the mood in this film, the music and the Vice City vibes. Lily James is an absolute babe in this. Shame about Kevin Spacey being in it though 9/10
As It Was – What happened after Supersonic. essentially how Liam Gallagher made a name for himself outside of Oasis 8/10
The Kid Who Would be King I love Arthurian Legend and was skeptical of a modern retelling of a classic tale. However, Cornish pulls it off very well. I found the Merlin character quite annoying, I don’t think the poor/mediocre reviews are justified 8/10
Drive – I liked the atmosphere in this film. Though Gosling does appear to be superhuman in this, which is my only criticism 8.5/10

Twas the Nightshift before Christmas – Reviewed

Twas the Nightshift Before ChristmasTwas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not as good as the predecessor but still good enough to read. It’s as though as the publishers gave Kay a call to say, “We need a book for Xmas and we’ll pay you handsomely. Any chance you could scrape together some anecdotes that didn’t make it in the first book?” Ok, that’s a bit mean. I think the problem with this book is, there’s no narrative like in the first one. It’s just a lose collection of anecdotes that don’t go anywhere.

The book was also very short.

I once asked a medical student to shave a patient before an ECG. Fuck knows what the poor patient thought was happening when the student came into his cubicle, removed his five o’clock shadow and tidied up his sideburns.

‘You didn’t ask the right questions,’ he says, every syllable a dunce’s cap thudding onto my head. ‘You see, 99 per cent of the time you’ll get the answer by taking a thorough history, before you even lay a hand on the patient.’
‘Have you recently been using a candy cane as a dildo?’
Of course! I’ll add that to my list of icebreakers.

A couple of paediatric nurses are running around, recruiting volunteers to be Santa for an hour or two in the grotto they’re running in outpatients.I make my excuses. ‘But . . . I’m Jewish!’
‘The kids won’t know!’ the nurse replies, then pauses. ‘Assuming you’re not planning on showing them your penis?’

I drive back home myself, five hours later and two hours late, covered in fluids that would give the most specialist fetish clubs in Berlin a run for their money

This is as close to fame as I’m likely to get: I’m never going to appear on Big Brother – if I wanted to share a sweaty dorm with people whose mental age was twelve I’d have become a scoutmaster.

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Straight Outta Crawley – Reviewed

Straight Outta Crawley: Memoirs of a Distinctly Average Human BeingStraight Outta Crawley: Memoirs of a Distinctly Average Human Being by Romesh Ranganathan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book’s subtitle is memoirs of a distinctly average human being. I am pleased to report that the memoir itself is slightly above average. The book shows in detail how hard it was for him to make it as a stand up. From humble beginnings to Maths teacher and finally a comedian. He also mentions what actually causes his right eyelid to be “lazy” or droopy: an infection as a child. He admits there’s no actual deviation there. He mentions, how he is often critiqued about talking about race too much. He responds on two counts. First, it’s up to him what he talks about, and given he is Asian, he’s hardly going to talk about being white is he? Two, if what he talked about wasn’t funny market forces would put him out of business.

My boss was shouting about how he had let down the school, his parents, himself … It was all very standard except that the boy, apart from looking sorry for himself, kept farting loudly every thirty seconds or so. What confused things further was that the lad kept apologizing, but I couldn’t figure out whether it was for what he had done or for the farts. My uncertainty was settled when my boss said, ‘Now go to bed or the toilet, or whatever the hell you have to do!’

‘Can somebody explain to me why somebody as unfunny as @RomeshRanga keeps managing to get on TV?’ And then I feel the warm glow of knowing that my very existence is making that person angry. The rage might even shorten their life. I feel so fortunate.

Have you watched any Eddie Murphy recently? It’s still amazing if you’re a fan of homophobia.

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Timeline of a failed Hard Drive

I’ve been getting random, non-descript BSODs for over 3 years now. Hey, no big deal Windows is just a buggy POS, I’d learnt to live with it. Only recently, sessions began lasting for less and less time. To the point last month, where sessions would last 30 minutes before crashing which was incredibly frustrating. I trawled the Web trying to decypher these cryptic bug check codes, as though I was Howard Carter trying to decode hieroglyphics. No such luck. Time and time again, WhoCrashed just said it was a software problem with the Windows Kernel and unlikely to do with a hardware issue.

With Windows shortly losing support for updates anyway, I thought it was time to cut my losses and make the inevitable transition to Linux. I’d stopped gaming seriously anyway. Plus I heard there was this new fangled support called proton which lets you play Steam games with built in WINE support. Luckily I had a Ubuntu partition, which I could easily dual boot into. It seemed to work fine. Only after a restart, something would break, (possibly related to updates?) and I wouldn’t be able to boot into Ubuntu. I can’t remember exactly but I think even GRUB was fucked. No biggie, I’ll just restore the install from Clonezilla and not update anything. Only, it would forcibly install downloaded updates after shutdown. A fresh install of Debian also failed.

Fine, have it your way, back to Windows then. So I got another BSOD, only this one was different. There was a more descriptive error message, something about the NTFS driver. Oh, it was a HW problem after all. Had my HDD failed? Checking the symptoms on the Web, they certainly correlated with a failed drive. Shit, guess I need a new one. Wait, I could be wrong, more testing required.

So I tested the drive under S.M.A.R.T., and it came back clean but a friend told me that S.M.A.R.T. is notoriously unreliable and to verify by other means. So I put Seatools onto a live USB (if anyone knows about failed HDDs it’s SeaGate) and ran the tests. On the first occasion, something crashed after 15 minutes and I had to restart. So I ran it again, this time for 6-7 hours and it came back clean. Hmph, inconclusive. So I did some checking in a Linux terminal but I didn’t really know what I was looking at, it seemed fine. I guess it could be the RAM? So I ran memtest for 10 hours and 5 passes and it came back clean. Ideally you’re supposed to run it for 8 passes but who’s got time for that? RAM is generally pretty robust anyway.

Next I thought of a test that would conclusively tell me if it was the HDD or not. I put in an old Win XP HDD into my computer to see if that would crash or not. It ran absolutely flawlessly. I was surprised how quick it was. Seeing the splash screen always made me laugh and I was impressed at being able to remember a password I thought up 4 years ago. Ok then, time to order a new HDD then. Might as well get a beefy SSD if I’m doing this properly. I managed to get a good deal from an arcane company, matching the Amazon price thankfully (fuck Amazon). I selected free standard delivery but it arrived the next day anyway, what a pleasant surprise.

I wanted to make a clean break. So I’d image my windows partition and just have it as a backup OS and use Linux mainly. The imaging failed under Clonezilla (that’s 2 hours wasted then), likely due to bad sectors. So then I ran CHKDSK, which merely confirmed the drive had failed. Great. Fine then, let’s image Ubuntu onto the SSD and just use that for the time being. I’ll worry about the data later. Same problem as before, after one reboot it would shit itself. Fine it’s probably just a fucked up install of Ubuntu or Ubuntu being shit. I’ll do a fresh install of Debian. Same problem. What the fuck is going on?

Have they sent me a faulty SSD? Highly unlikely as they’re so robust with no moving parts. Has something else failed and I’ve wasted $200 on an SSD? Is it the MOBO? Is it the SATA controller? Is it the cable? I tried a fresh Manjaro and Ubuntu install, same thing. It’s a shame because Manjaro looked super cool too. There was nothing in /var/log. It was something to do with Nvidia GPU drivers not playing nicely with Linux. Even during my attempted resolution, it crashed. Open sores at its finest. What the fuck do I do now?

Resigned to my fate I just went back to using Windows. So what if the problems with Linux were simply incompatibility with my GPU drivers? If that was true, then Windows should work fine. So I could do a fresh Windows install and test it but I’m lazy. Ok, what if I use a disk to disk clone in Clonezilla to restore my Windows installation? It wouldn’t let me do it. So I made a Windows PE environment which included BOOTICE. I used that to restore an AOMEI backup I had just created and it worked great! Now more than ever I was convinced the SSD was fine. The software even optimized the SSD sectors for speed too. So I lasted on this set up for about a week. I still didn’t have my data partition. So I used AOMEI backupper to do a partition clone. It took about 9 hours but it worked out fine. Only for some reason BCD shat itself. Good thing I had the foresight to have BOOTICE on the Live USB. So I reinstalled BCD and everything was fine.

Moral of the story? Open Sores is bad. Fuck computers.

This is Going to Hurt – reviewed

This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior DoctorThis Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been waiting to read this for about 2 years and I read it in 5 days. It’s the funniest book I’ve read. Kay lays it on thick with trying to be funny but he succeeds. He trained in the mid-noughties and he paints a grim picture. If that is what it was like under a Labour government, where the NHS got roughly what it needed, then I dread to think about what it must be like now, to be a junior doctor with the savage budget cuts.

Senior house officers are running clinics with consultants on the other end of the phone if needed. Clearly it shouldn’t be this way as one of Kay’s penultimate diary entries show. This is all too well demonstrated by the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba.

Sadly, the people with your lives in their hands are worked to exhaustion with no mental health support, drastically reduced social life and even have creature comforts like makeshift beds in the break room and pool tables taken away. Record numbers of physicians are retiring early and emigrating abroad where their skills and knowledge are more widely appreciated. And if these are not being replaced by foreign doctors then a crisis is brewing.

Patient OM’s favourite routine is to follow behind the ward round, his hospital gown on back-to-front, like a white coat (plus or minus underwear, for a bit of morning Bratwurst), and chip in with ‘Yes!’, ‘Zat is correct!’ and the occasional ‘Genius!’ whenever a doctor says something. Today he took a dump on the floor next to me so I sadly had to retire him from active duty.

Prescribing a morning-after pill in A&E. The patient says, ‘I slept with three guys last night. Will one pill be enough?’

My poker face has served me well over the years. It’s seen me through an eighty-year-old telling me about his use of a colossal butt-plug called The Assmaster and gently explaining to a couple in infertility clinic that massaging semen into her navel isn’t quite going to cut it, conception-wise.

Work has pretty much given me PTSD.

At least you get a warm bed for a few nights,’ I said.
‘Are you joking?’ he replied. ‘I’ll get bloody MRSA in here.’ It’s come to something when the streets outside a hospital have a better reputation for cleanliness than the corridors within.

Chronic glucose poisoning – Obesity.
Incarceritis – Onset of symptoms immediately following arrest.
Status dramaticus – Medically well but over-emotional.
Therapeutic phlebotomy – Gets better after a blood test.

I tell a woman in antenatal clinic that she has to give up smoking. She shoots me a look that makes me wonder if I’ve accidentally just said, ‘I want to fuck your cat,’ or ‘They’re closing Lidl’.

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Gotta Get Theroux This – Reviewed

Gotta Get Theroux This: My Life and Strange Times on TelevisionGotta Get Theroux This: My Life and Strange Times on Television by Louis Theroux
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining read. What surprised me most about this was how much of a pothead, Louis was in his youth and early adulthood. I enjoyed learning of his past and parents. And how he got his big break to be on TV through Michael Moore’s TV Nation. In fact, they nearly sued Louis for using the format in Weird Weekends. We learnt about Louis marrying his childhood sweetheart, then divorcing her to find his current wife.

What did annoy me about the book was his copious use of French words. Overall though he is a skilled writer. It was a pleasant surprise to learn Louis’s affinity for fame and that he enjoys twitter accounts such as “no context theroux” and “theroux bot”. It’s nice to know that Louis suffers from anxiety and his on screen persona is somewhat based on reality. Even to this day he gets nerves during filming, which show’s he’s human.

Of course, there are several chapters dedicated to Jimmy Savile. Ultimately, Theroux reflects his regret of not being to unmask the true evil side to him. Afterwards, he accepts that it wasn’t possible for him to unmask him. Even if he followed up on leads.

The book shed a light on why My Scientology Movie had those bizarre reenactments. For one Scientology wouldn’t agree to any interviews, two it was the bright idea of Larry Charles, a director they were talking to in the early days.

What slightly diminished my enjoyment of this book was the fact I had to read 300 pages in 10 days, otherwise suffering penalty of a library fine. Though I comfortably met this target in the end.

He was a deep sleeper and needed a lot of pushing and humping. Years later, when I mentioned this fact in an interview, Nick Clegg issued a statement: ‘I have no recollection of Louis Theroux waking me up in the morning.’ I didn’t mind, though it makes me wonder if I was humping him hard enough.

The pessimistic liberalism of Max Weber, the idea that lives in the West are becoming bureaucratized and regulated and imprisoning, that society isn’t progressing but getting worse

This may have been the weirdest part of Sarge’s critique of my performance – his disappointment at the consistency of my vomit.

‘No, not at all. It’s been a permanent source of regret that the one thing I’ve never been involved in is a sex scandal.’

– The immortal words of Neil Hamilton

Greater love hath no man than this: that he should not spray his friend with some kind of combination of piss and poopoo.

I was with my brother in the sauna and the man kept sauntering past and ‘accidentally’ letting his bathrobe fall open and then standing there with his willy out. (In this analogy, in case you are wondering, I am the elderly man and the Scientology movie is the man’s genitals.) But I deferred to Simon’s greater experience and agreed to go, let slip my bathrobe and dangle my willy-movie one more time.

‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Uh-huh. OK. Unless it leaves you in a wheelchair, with PTSD and feeling suicidal.

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