Monday, 21 September 2020


 I received this lovely message last week from a friend of mine. "Welcome to the joyless but effective world of South Korean motoring".

My old Citroen Nemo was written off following an accident and the insurance company took it away. My only other car is a loud and uncomfortable open top sports car, so shopping for a replacement was somewhat trying. I wanted to try an estate car, and ended up choosing a Hyundai i40. It's 8 years old, but even so, it's so low spec that it's laughable:

  • 16" wheels.
  • AM/FM Radio with CD player.
  • Leather gear knob.
  • Electric windows.
  • Adjustable wing mirrors.
  • Heated rear window.

That said, everything works (except the lock on the fuel door), it's smooth, quiet and easy to drive. It's also exceptionally boring.

Richard "Joyless but effective" B

Friday, 11 September 2020


 This weekend I took my boss with me to a track day. I'm trying to make a favourable impression on him to improve my chances of getting a demotion.

It was an odd day. The driving was arranged in sessions with the same group of cars each time. There were several long stoppages, but all for breakdowns rather than crashes. A turbocharged Westfield (why such a thing exists I have no idea) made a loud bang and briefly produced a large orange ball of flame. It then span off the track dropping an entire sump of oil on a fast corner. When it was pushed back into the paddock large components were dangling from the engine bay and scraping along the tarmac.

I did my best to correct the ratio of breakdowns to crashes. Towards the end of the day we were told that we would get just one more 30 minute session, but that we would be allowed to make a driver change in the pit lane. I was in a well maintained and trustworthy car, but I needed to determine when I had been driving for 15 minutes. I don't know how long it takes to look down at one's watch, but when I looked up again I found that I was completely off line and heading off the track, full throttle, at about 80mph. I remedied the situation without incident, but I didn't impress my passenger.

Richard "No lap timing" B

Write Off

 My brother came to visit for the weekend and within an hour of picking him up at the station I had put him into quite a frightening car accident. I made a U-turn and the car behind hit me. It was hard enough that the sill is bent out of shape, the door will no longer close, and an airbag that I didn't know I had in the side of my seat went off and gave me a good thump in the elbow. At the moment I'm working with the insurance company to work out if we can write the car off without having to go through the indignity and expense of having a garage provide a quote to repair the damage.

To cheer ourselves up went out for a walk and accosted a young mother and her son. They were trying to fly a kite, but didn't know how. We re-attached the string (correctly), launched it, flew it for a while and then handed it back.

Richard "nosey weirdos" B

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Funeral Pyre

 This week I went for Sunday lunch in a horror film. My mum is confused and forgetful, so she'll do strange things and then forgot that she's done them. Rectifying these situations generally involves nothing more than carefully searching for or replacing lost objects or repairing the things that she's broken. On Sunday it was much weirder and nastier.

The back of her car contained thousands of flies and a soggy slithering heaving mass of maggots. The smell was indescribable and I was only just able to keep control of my stomach and lungs. I shovelled the whole sorry mess into a bonfire, boot carpet included, and burned it. Instead of eating lunch I went home, stripped naked in front of the washing machine and put everything I had been wearing through a hot wash. I had a shower and washed my hands in aftershave. I still don't think I'm free of the smell of it, and my appetite has been severely damaged.

It turns out that my mum had picked up a squashed hedgehog from the road (as though it were litter) and had left it in the back of the car during a heat wave.

Richard "ewww" B

Monday, 10 August 2020

Chairman of the Bored

 My life is boring enough at the best of times, but in the pandemic, pretty much nothing happens to me. This last couple of weeks for instance I have mainly been sitting in front of Netflix. I have binged through all 22+ hours of "Avatar the Last Airbender" and it is quite brilliant!

It should be terrible: It was made for children. It was made by Nickelodeon (Americans) but in the style of Japanese anime, and there's a lot of it.

The only criticisms that I can level at it are that some of it is a bit slow, and that some of the dialog and storytelling is a little bit obvious. However that only bothered me when I was so involved in it that I forgot it was written for twelve year olds. The magical world that it conjurs up is as big, as detailed and as rich as The Lord of the Rings. The story is set at the end of a hundred years war, but there are thousands of years of history just below the surface.

Even though it's for children it deals with very adult topics in a mature way. It deals with war, genocide, loss, corruption, honour, divided loyalties, personal growth and redemption. There's never a drop of blood shown or a swear word spoken, but the impact and gravity of the situations is gripping. In amongst all this there is simple clean humour. "She's got a giant mole" "What are you talking about? Her skin is flawless" "No she rides a giant mole monster".

In the same way that The Lord of the Rings or The Sandman is long enough that radical character development can seem natural and moving, two of the main characters are massively transformed throughout the story in the most compelling ways. What starts out as a one dimensional textbook villain becomes the most entertaining and admirable character in the whole thing.

Richard "find a child and go and watch it" B

Monday, 27 July 2020

Political Shield

I spend a good bit of time at the weekend drawing geometrical surfaces trying to better understand political opinions.

I recently watched a fascinating youtube video, I can't remember its name but it was on the channel "Short Fat Otaku". It was about how you define political opinions. I think it's clear by now that the traditional Left->Right scale is missing a lot of detail. For example I see the historical German National Socialists as extremely left wing (massive state control and  provision) whereas others see them as right wing because of their strict racial standards.

The Political Compass Test has added another axis, authoritarianism, and while it gives a better picture it  still seems myopic.

SFO presented a triangle, the corners of which represent Freedom, Equality and Tradition. People who's highest ideal is freedom are in the Freedom corner. People who value equality above all else (whether it's sexual equality, financial equality, racial equality, ...) are in the Equality corner. People who prize some traditional view of governance (Traditional Britishness, Christian Morals, White Ethnostate, One nation under an ayatollah, ...) are in the Tradition corner.

This triangle seems useful because it does help us to understand some of the division and confusion that we see. The people in the freedom corner can barely differentiate between the Communists and the Nazis because they're both anti-freedom, authoritarian, and happy to silence political dissent. The equality advocates see the Freedom corner and the Tradition corner as the same because they both stand in the way of the radical new structure that they wish to introduce. Both the classical liberals and the traditionalists rail against the overthrow of whatever structure the equality brigade are trying to tear down (patriarchy, capitalism, western democracy, meritocracy). From the Traditionalist corner, the freedom people and the equality people look indistinguishable.

This is all well and good, and I think it's a useful lense through which to examine one's own prejudices and the opinions of others. However, it upsets my sense of dimensional analysis. You can't represent three axes on a flat triangle.

My first assumption was that the three axes are orthogonal to each other. That gives us a three dimensional space in which you can plot political opinions. That doesn't help, there's a point where you care about nothing, and a point where you care about all three things to the fullest extent. Neither really makes sense.

My second assumption is that you have to care "so much" and all you can do is point the direction in which you care. In other words there is an arrow, starting at the origin, which is 1 unit long (I give exactly 1 shit) and a description of your political ideology is the direction of that arrow.

The rest of my weekend was spent worrying about what that surface looked like, and where the graduations fall on it. (The lines of iso-sentiment if you will.)

Here's a rough sketch of the surface that piqued my interest.

This is a moderately accurate projection of it, to show how the lines and regions intersect.

When my father described the Mercator projection to me, I was told to imagine that we covered the globe with pasty, slit it down the Pacific, and then rolled it out.

This is the best I can do as a flat projection of the surface. It is symmetrical and the areas aren't molested too badly, but the angles are all shot.

Richard "projection" B