Thursday, September 30, 2010

Who models the modeller?

We have been exploring an exotic location. Somewhere that we have been to before but, in retrospect, it seems we have only passed through, like itinerant travellers too caught up in their destination to take note of their current surroundings.

Basically, it's where we live.

We don't seem to notice lotsa things almost in our own back yard. Stuff people come from all over the place to see, so it's a bit daft not to play the tourista in you're own ghetto, innit?.

And because we can't really afford a holiday at the moment, as well as having the cute, drooly shackle of a baby in the house, we are having a staycation. This is holiday speak for not going anywhere even though you've got a week of annual leave booked.

Well, this isn't exactly true.

When deciding on a staycation, you must still make the effort to go places, and to experience stuff that you know about yet rarely do, otherwise, well, you're just staying at home really.

For instance, about forty minutes from us is Bourton-on-the-Water, which has got a bird park and a model village.

Bird parks are cool. They've got birds in them, and birds are pretty interesting, especially if they talk, or scream, or are brightly coloured, or eat other creatures, or are bloody huge. In fact the best bird would combine all of these traits and be some sort of meat-eating, osprey-sized super parrot. I was excited.

They didn't have a carnivorous super-parrot, which was a touch disappointing, but on the whole it's a nice place. Lots of birds.

Model villages though. Are they cool?

Well, seeing as I have never, in all my decades, been to a model village, I didn't know. And as this one was right there and I had a kid with me, it seemed an opportune moment to go and have a look.

It messed with my mind man!

First of all, there is the ominous photos of your darling, tiny cherub looking like Sprogzilla:

I was tempted to 'Shop in some lasers coming out of his eyes, and then stick a tiny picture of Tom Cruise flailing about with his hair on fire, but when I say Phototshop I mean Microsoft Paint, and it's a bit of a faff. You'll just have to use your imagination.

Go on. Picture Tom. Picture his hair. Now . . . WOOF! And off he goes

The model village uses Bourton itself as a template, although only roughly as the ephemeral structures of humanity are wont to change, so it's not entirely accurate. I didn't see a tiny bird park, which was a pity. I considered suggesting they set one up, maybe using painted wasps as the birds for lifelike realism.

Other than that, the buildings are startlingly realistic, and it's a little surreal watching folk wander about, towering over them. As I hadn't got specific permission to show peoples faces in this blog, I have blocked them out with appropriate ogre masks using the magic of awesome Paint skillz, which I feel is artistically sensitive to the context:

The village had another trick up its sleeve, which I quite liked. In one corner, behind the model of the pub in which the model village is situated in real life, is a model of the model village:

Now, that was bit cool.

Hang on though. Look in the corner of the model model village:

It's a model of the model model village!

A model model model village.

And look! By Neptune's Soggy Beard, could it possibly be? Yes, yet another model of the model model model village:

Okay, my inner geek did like that quite a bit, and I might just have tried to get close to see if there was yet another microcosmic representation of the model village. But there wasn't. Or at least I couldn't see it and presumed that there wasn't, which raises a few existential questions about things being there if you can't see them.

This isn't the same as the question "If a tree falls in the wood and no-one witnesses it, does it make a noise?" because the answer to that is patently no. It makes lots of sound waves, which travel through the air as pressure differences, but only become audible when they hit a listening device such as an ear. Never understood why that was a conundrum. It's just a matter of physics. Which is possibly what everything is.

Anyway, my inner child struggled up past layers of fossilised responsibility and the diamond-hard strata of mature levelheadedness that usually make up my personality, to surface briefly in my psyche, and I imagined tiny people looking up at not so tiny people, who were looking up at slightly bigger people, who in turn gazed fearfully up at even bigger folk, and so ad infinitum, until at last they got to the pinnacle of the event, the ultimate being, the one looking down at all of them and their tiny lives, an indulgent smile playing on a beatific face, like the very sun itself looking down on them from on high.


With the universe constantly making us feel small by being all mind-bendingly huge and that, it was nice to be in a place which, quite literally, bigs you up a bit.

Oh, go on then:

Run, Tom, Run!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Security to the pussy aisle.

Continuing my recent intellectual sojourn into the world of law and order, where I suggested we might have a more individualised legal system, or possibly even a set of personal laws for every single person in country, I suddenly realised that, even if it came to pass, we might be our own worst enemy in implementing such a scheme.

You see, we know where we are with a set of rules. We like it. We like limits.

Why do we stop at red lights if we can see there's nothing coming?*

What would happen if red lights were treated as a Give Way rather than a Stop? Possibly not a huge amount, although if it did happen I'd take out shares in insurance companies.

Is the primary reason we stop at a red is because we are afraid of being caught? That the unseen police vehicle will jump out from behind a stack of paperwork and nee-naw you into submission, or that this set of lights is one of those evil HAL 9000 ones which record your transgression, and then if you try and get it to let you off just says "I can't do that Dave." in its monotonic yet strangely camp voice.

In some countries street signs, road markings and street furniture have been removed from towns as an experiment to see what happens to the accident rate, which is a noble pursuit and one I would heartily agree with as long as such a trial wasn't carried out in my home town. No one has right of way, no one knows where a street ends or begins, and the traffic lights were all taken offline.

Rather than the carnage one might expect, the accident rate dropped.

To zero.

Ostensibly, this was because drivers took more care, drove more slowly and were far more observant than if they blindly assumed they had right of way and therefore couldn't be blamed for any nastiness that might occur.

So, no rules makes people more careful, more considerate maybe?

Interesting argument for anarchy there.

Of course, the police have generally got far more important things to do than wait for red-light transgressions, and the lights themselves are usually empty of film, haven't had their memories erased for two years or are covered in graffiti, so it's unlikely that you will get caught should you decide to take your first foray into the criminal underworld in this fashion.

I do like to think though, that we don't generally burgle or murder other people (no matter how much we want to sometimes) solely because we're afraid of the consequences, but more because we realise it's intrinsically wrong, ethically as well as legally.

Policing the law depends on our goodwill, and our belief that, in general, we fair better with the rules, despite their occasional hindrance to us at a personal level, than without them. So we'll stop at the red light, even at three in the morning, when sensible people are having a kip.

So we should not obey our laws through fear, but because we think they are reasonable limits to our liberties that allow us to live together relatively happily.

The police are then faced with only a relatively small number of transgressors, which they can invest more resources into bringing to justice for us, and also making shows where they show lots of bad drivers being caught, and suspiciously few bad drivers getting away with it.

Because we have to live with them, it's important not to accept any old laws our glorious leaders put before us, especially those disguised as "for our own safety", or "to ensure our continued freedom". If something comes from authority, it is almost certainly untrustworthy, so it is vital that one questions its origins, its merits and its possible consequences.

This mindset seems rare today, with too many people letting the tabloids do their critical analysis for them, effectively letting sales-driven humanities graduates decide what's important in society. Do we really want someone who got a third in Communication Studies trying to tell us what laws are important, what homeopathic medicines cure cancer, and what science that they barely comprehend is going to save/destroy us, just because they have a loud voice in a paper?

Sorry, ranted a bit there.

Anyway, security is so ingrained in us that this supermarket I went to the other day realised it could save money by not actually having security guards in place, but just by placing their hats in a prominent position as you walk in, reminding us that they could totally secure our arses if they wanted to, even if security's not actually present at that moment in time:

Hats are better than real guards. They don't sleep, need breaks, choke shoplifters to death and rarely steal Double Deckers from the confectionery aisle and blame teenagers.

Just a quick buff and a peak-tweak and they're ready for the shift.

Unfortunately, there is a significant minority in the populace who feel that they can parasitize the rest of us, who can't compete with legitimate enterprise so they have to nick stuff. This is particularly a problem when items of extreme value are at stake:

Someone who desperately wanted a nice tin of Pussy drink but was too embarrassed to pay for it might very well take it into their dehydration addled brain to shoplift, and then what would the shop do?

Sometimes, you need more than hats.

*Most of the time, anyway.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Warm as a cucumber

For a few weeks now, our milk has mysteriously been going off before the use by date has arrived. Raspberries have been turning mouldy, yoghurt has starting blinking and Babybel cheeses have . . . well, stayed exactly the same because you could put them in a nostalgic time capsule, bury them in tarmac and dig them up to show on Blue peter in twenty years and they wouldn't have changed at all.

But lots of our fresh stuff has been displaying a remarkable grasp of comestible entropy, and I don't like it.

It's like living in the middle ages.

I wonder if they had use by dates in the middle ages?

Turnip. Display until sold. Use prior to decomposition.

Anyway, in this modern, technological world we've been living in since the Year 2000 heralded the arrival of the future, I presumed that the fridge I entrusted my perishables to would've have been able to fulfill it's primary purpose and stopped stuff, you know, rotting and that. Apparently not.

Still, it's a few years old now and, because nothing is built to last anymore, one must expect it to go wrong at some point.

First things first, I ate a space through to the back of the fridge so I could get a good look inside:

After rapidly considering the merits of a ham and cheese toastie, making it, eating it and then hiding my plate, I had a good look round for anything like a badly set temperature control in there that might explain the unseasonably warm innards?

There it is:
A dial labelled 'temperature' and set to 'low'.

Damn. If it's as low as it can go, then it must be broken, and you can bet your bottom salad shelf that it won't be an easy DIY repair, but some tiny, complex mechanism that can only be obtained from the Bupyeong province of Korea, where it is carved from the sternums of Asiatic black bears by artisan monks and costing the best part of fifty quid.

Sighing, I informed Mrs The Jules that, sadly, the refrigerator had packed up and we would need to spend cash that we didn't have on a new one, unless that one we saw dumped in the local Site of Special Scientific Interest was still there in which case I could just empty the badgers out of it, load it on the trailer and bring it home.

"What do the instructions say?" she asked, completely unreasonably.

I shook my head at her and her little ways, smiled gently and informed her that they would presumably tell me to get a qualified electrician in to fit a plug, to put food in it that you want to keep cold and to refrain from shutting children in it, even annoying ones.

"Presumably?" she asked, equally unreasonably.

"Well, I'm not actually going to waste time reading instructions when it's patently obvious that it's not working, that the temperature is set to as low as it can go on the dial and it's still quite balmy inside, am I? What's the point?"

I am suddenly aware that I am talking to nobody, as Mrs The Jules trots off and returns half a minute later with the fridge instruction booklet which I haven't seen for four years since we bought it, and pointlessly begins leafing through it.

I start wondering if I can afford a Smeg fridge, because who wouldn't want smeg in their kitchen. Unfortunately, we would need to take out another mortgage to afford one, and it would be ironic if we did get one and subsequently starved because we couldn't then afford to buy any food to put in it.

A few minutes later, the wife tapped the bottom of one of the pages, reminding me that the dials in the fridge would've been designed by engineers, and so one shouldn't take what's written on them too literally:

Apparently, Temperature Low is the warmest setting.

To make it cold, one must turn the temperature gauge to High.


I gnashed my teeth, shrugged my shoulders and held out my hands with thumbs facing outwards in the universally recognised posture of resigned exasperation, letting the universe at large know about the failings of people other than myself.

"Its a bloody good job they don't make altimeters!" I called to Mrs The Jules as she replaced the instructions back in whatever mysterious realm they came from.

A drawer probably.

Then I went and turned the fridge temperature down. Or up. No, down.

Definitely possibly down.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Flaw and order

September arrives in a flurry of unremarkableness, and I note that I appear to have become one of those bloggers who posts about every week and a half, sometimes even less.


At present, I feel I have achieved something if, at the end of the day, the children haven't been grievously injured, starved or rounded up by the social services child catcher protection unit.

Blogging has slid down my list of priorities, along with sleeping, socialising and going to the toilet.

I might write to my bosses to suggest they give me paid time off and a laptop so I can get a reasonable shot at spewing my random cerebral diarrhoea onto the internets. They're very understanding and only have our best personal interests at heart, so I can reasonably expect to be pleasantly accommodated.

In fact, it might behove me to write to my MP and ask for my own personal bylaw that says I have to blog, and anyone who stops me is in breach of my civil liberties. Yeah, there's a vote winner.

Thinking about it, having personalised laws might be a tad unwieldy. Every case would be setting a precedent, so there's a possibility of it not working.

How about a spectrum of law though, with each individual allowed to sit on a different part of that spectrum depending on how reliable and sensible they are?

I'm onto something here. Stay with me.

For instance, a particularly competent driver would be allowed to travel at 120 mph on the motorway and not be fined for it, whereas someone driving a Clio with racing cans, widened wheel arches and a fake gear dump valve sound would not be allowed to drive at over 30 mph, and they would have to keep the car in third gear at all times, even when starting off. Rover drivers would be told they must at least try and get up to the speed limit, even if they only get within ten or twelve mph of it. But at least they will have tried.

Someone who does lots of charitable work and donates their free time to the community should totally be allowed to shoplift, but the inveterate, unrepentant pilferer should have those collars they use to stop dogs biting out their stitches after an operation put on their hands whenever they go to Tesco.

Relatively sensible, happy, non-depressive alternative-reality enthusiasts should not be punished for taking drugs (which could be legally produced in government controlled (and taxed) hydroponics centres). Angry drunks should be limited to a glass of room temperature Liebfraumilch every alternate Thursday lunchtime.

Actually, that's probably a bit too draconian. Nobody should be forced to drink that stuff, and anybody who does so voluntarily should be offered free counselling to find out why they like to hurt themselves so.

Anyway, as the voices of reason and unfettered conscience of humanity, bloggers would obviously be placed at the top end of the law spectrum, and be allowed to get away with just about anything as long as they were going to write about it later on, strictly monitored by the Department of Blogging (DoB).

Common sense, really.

This plan could alleviate the overcrowding in prisons that newspapers are constantly haranguing us about whilst simultaneously gnashing their spleens over too short jail sentences. With my plan, someone accused, and indeed guilty, of an offense could be retrospectively promoted to a higher level on the law-scale, and thus instantly become not guilty of breaking the law. Everyone's a winner.

Except, maybe, any victims, but they don't really contribute to society other than to remind us what a bad place the world is, so we'd have to sweep them under the social shag pile. No change there then.

Of course, there is going to need to be sensible discourse on what laws are going to be kept, which ones repealed and how each person is judged as to their merit and where they should be placed on the law-spectrum. The arbiter would have to be a sort of super-judge, and particularly special. Somebody modest, humble and wise beyond their years, someone who can talk with crowds but keep their virtue. One who is able to walk with kings yet not lose the common touch.

A difficult position which should be amply rewarded in terms of fame and remuneration.

Can I reluctantly suggest myself?

This is obvioulsy a rhetorical question.

Of course, I realise that society changes slowly, unless it's gadget related, and thus the laws of the land are unlikely to be completely replaced by a novel approach for a couple of years yet, so I will just have to be patient.

In the meantime, as the old adage adages at us, rules are put there for the guidance of the wise, and the blind obedience of the foolish.

So, mostly blind obedience then.