Month: June 2009


Michael Jackson



I have always thought that on a British [or any other country for that matter] ballot paper the option ‘None of the above‘ should exist.

Several countries have it and there are a number of different procedures should ‘none of the above’ actually win the election.

In the UK there is a registered political party [NOTA = none of the….] who want to put the option on the ballot but it is prohibited to call a party “None of the Above”.

The reason this would be good is that it would eliminate, at least partially, the ridiculous “if you don’t vote you have no right to complain” argument.

With ‘none of the above’ as an option you can say that you want to vote but not for anything on offer.

In fact, in some countries voting is compulsory and they don’t have a none of the above option. They are forced to vote for someone they may not want to. In that case democratic freedom becomes a sort of democratic tyranny even though that sounds somewhat oxymoronic.

It also might help stop politicians talking about how bad the public are for disengaging with politics. If we could all vote for none of the above we could say in a strong way that we in fact are interested in helping change things for the better… it’s  just that we don’t think you are.


Because the Irish have the temerity and sheer bloody-mindedness to occasionally ask their people what they think in a direct way [I think it is called a fairly-worded referendum or something like that] they have occasionally been threatened by the powers in the EU.

The majority of the rest of the citizens of Europe have been denied the right to vote on the treaty however Ireland’s constitution means that they must have a referendum on it.

So when, for their own benefit and all the rest of our benefits, the Irish rejected the treaty in the first referendum there were all kinds of reactions. One suggestion was the expulsion of Ireland from the EU – well, we can’t be having democracy now can we?

Another suggestion I saw was that the Irish government should just learn how to stick unpopular legislation on their people the way the other countries do.

However, in the true spirit of our times a ‘third way’ has been discovered. Oh manna from heaven. Let’s all rejoice.

The people of Ireland will now be offered in the second referendum a chance to shaft the rest of Europe whilst keeping themselves safe from it all.

According to the BBC...

EU leaders have agreed a deal they hope will secure the Lisbon Treaty a “Yes” vote in a second Irish referendum.

Ireland won legally-binding assurances that Lisbon would not affect Irish policies on military neutrality, taxes and abortion, diplomats said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said leaders had agreed to Irish demands that the guarantees would be given the status of a treaty “protocol”.

But he stressed it would not affect the other 26 member countries.

Well that’s a relief, isn’t it? The possibility of determining our own fate won’t affect the other countries.

You can also rest assured that the Irish people will be carrot and sticked into voting ‘yes’ this time much more vigorously than they were the last time.

It is actually unfair on the Irish in the sense that they have to carry the hopes of so many people on their shoulders. I say we remove that burden and we all have referendums ourselves. That way the people of Ireland can get on with their own business which, sooner or later if the treaty goes through with opt-outs or not, they won’t be doing in any meaningful sense.


Have been incredibly busy at work the last couple of weeks and this afternoon has been the first chance I have had to work my way through 100+ emails.

Have finally got the chance to do some writing for the first time in a while so in the meantime, one of the emails I got was about this…which looks like it might be an important film…


Here is an interesting little piece by Ursula K. Le Guin who I was always aware of but only got round to reading once [well in fact, long after] she had been recommended to me by the Curmudgeon.

A Rant About “Technology”

In an interesting and favorable notice of Changing Planes (which you can find elsewhere on the site, in Spanish and English), the Argentinean reviewer asserts that since Le Guin isn’t a hard science fiction writer, “technology is carefully avoided.” I stuck a footnote onto this in my translation of the article, and here is the footnote expanded — because this business is really getting my goat.

‘Hard’ sf is all about technology, and ‘soft’ sf doesn’t have any technology, right? And my books don’t have technology in them, because I am only interested in psychology and emotions and squashy stuff like that, right?

Not right. How can genuine science fiction of any kind lack technological content? Even if its principal interest isn’t in engineering or how machines work — if like most of mine, it’s more interested in how minds, societies, and cultures work — still, how can anybody make a story about a future or an alien culture without describing, implicitly or explicitly, its technology?

Nobody can. I can’t imagine why they’d want to.

Its technology is how a society copes with physical reality: how people get and keep and cook food, how they clothe themselves, what their power sources are (animal? human? water? wind? electricity? other?) what they build with and what they build, their medicine – and so on and on. Perhaps very ethereal people aren’t interested in these mundane, bodily matters, but I’m fascinated by them, and I think most of my readers are too.

Technology is the active human interface with the material world.

But the word is consistently misused to mean only the enormously complex and specialised technologies of the past few decades, supported by massive exploitation both of natural and human resources.

This is not an acceptable use of the word. “Technology” and “hi tech” are not synonymous, and a technology that isn’t “hi,” isn’t necessarily “low” in any meaningful sense.

We have been so desensitized by a hundred and fifty years of ceaselessly expanding technical prowess that we think nothing less complex and showy than a computer or a jet bomber deserves to be called “technology ” at all. As if linen were the same thing as flax — as if paper, ink, wheels, knives, clocks, chairs, aspirin pills, were natural objects, born with us like our teeth and fingers — as if steel saucepans with copper bottoms and fleece vests spun from recycled glass grew on trees, and we just picked them when they were ripe…

One way to illustrate that most technologies are, in fact, pretty “hi,” is to ask yourself of any manmade object, Do I know how to make one?

Anybody who ever lighted a fire without matches has probably gained some proper respect for “low” or “primitive” or “simple” technologies; anybody who ever lighted a fire with matches should have the wits to respect that notable hi-tech invention.

I don’t know how to build and power a refrigerator, or program a computer, but I don’t know how to make a fishhook or a pair of shoes, either. I could learn. We all can learn. That’s the neat thing about technologies. They’re what we can learn to do.

And all science fiction is, in one way or another, technological. Even when it’s written by people who don’t know what the word means.

All the same, I agree with my reviewer that I don’t write hard science fiction. Maybe I write easy science fiction. Or maybe the hard stuff’s inside, hidden — like bones, as opposed to an exoskeleton….


I have written before about anthropomorphisation,  which is the act of ascribing human emotions and forms to things that are not human.

It really shouldn’t be done. People like to think they know what animals are thinking, but we don’t.

A study has just been conducted that would appear to prove this…

Can dogs really look ‘guilty’?

That “guilty look” on a dog’s face is all in the imagination of the human owner, suggests research.

Dog owners have often claimed they can read the expressions of their pets – particularly that tell-tale look when they have done something wrong.

But researchers at a New York college tricked owners into thinking innocent pets had misbehaved – with the owners still claiming to see this guilty look.

The study found that the expression had no relation to the dogs’ behaviour.


The research, Canine Behaviour and Cognition, looked at how dog owners interpreted their pets’ expressions, when they believed that the dog had stolen and eaten a forbidden treat.

In a series of tests, owners were sometimes given accurate and sometimes false information about whether their dog had stolen the treat.

But the research, published in Behavioural Processes, found that owners’ interpretations of whether their dog looked guilty bore no reliable link with whether the dog had really stolen the treat.

When the owners had been told their dog had misbehaved, they saw this guilty expression, even when the dog had not really done anything wrong.

Where there was any change in the dogs’ expression, it was seen to be a subsequent reflection of the human’s emotions.

The whole story is here.