Monthly archives: May 2014

Michael Gove just added some books to my ‘must read’ pile

I admit I haven’t read Of Mice and Men or To Kill a Mockingbird. Like Zelig and Moby Dick, I guessed I’d get around to it eventually. Now that I’ve found that Michael Gove doesn’t think they should be on the GCSE English literature syllabus, I know I should get around to it sooner.

(Full disclosure: I failed English Literature at O-level. We studied the Scottish play, Oliver Twist and the collected works of Robert Frost- a mix Gove would approve of. I like to think I was rebelling against the course’s insistence on telling us what to think about the books, rather than teaching us how to evaluate them for ourselves. But it’s possible that something less melodramatic and over-wrought than Oliver Twist might have held my attention better.)

By the time he was my age, Leonardo Da Vinci still hadn’t achieved much of note

Via this post, an interesting two part mini-doc on the “lost years” many artists go through before finding the style and techniques which will make them famous.

I’m off to do some writing, even if it turns out to be another of the stories that doesn’t quite work and ends up unfinished.

The Long Game Part 1: Why Leonardo DaVinci was no genius from Delve on Vimeo.

Petition to Insist Amazon Pay the UK Its Fair Share of Taxes

This presents a conundrum for me. I sell Kindle books through Amazon and, when I start making enough money from them, I shall pay tax on that income. Meanwhile, the company plays all sorts of games to make sure it pays the bare minimum tax.

I think Amazon should pay a fair amount of tax on the trade it does in this country, so I’ll be signing the petition. But I won’t be boycotting them. I hardly ever buy anything through Amazon at the moment, so the only boycott I could do would be removal of my own books from them, and that would hurt me, and the British economy, more than it would hurt them. If you want to join the boycott, please remember that my books can also be purchased from Smashwords and other sites.

Insist Amazon Pay the UK Its Fair Share of Taxes – The Petition Site.

Key swap party!!!

Key swap party!!!, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

Bike key, that is. Take a key, find the bike it unlocks, then ride it around Platt Fields lake. I was on the back of this tandem for a short way. We fell off twice. It wasn’t so bad when I was on the front.

The Moulton, as is its way, has shown me up by having a shredded sidewall on the rear tyre. People are still riding it though.

Germany Sets New Record, Generating 74 Percent Of Power Needs From Renewable Energy | ThinkProgress

On Sunday, Germany’s impressive streak of renewable energy milestones continued, with renewable energy generation surging to a record portion — nearly 75 percent — of the country’s overall electricity demand by midday. With wind and solar in particular filling such a huge portion of the country’s power demand, electricity prices actually dipped into the negative for much of the afternoon, according to Renewables International.

In the first quarter of 2014, renewable energy sources met a record 27 percent of the country’s electricity demand, thanks to additional installations and favorable weather. “Renewable generators produced 40.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, up from 35.7 billion kilowatt-hours in the same period last year,” Bloomberg reported. Much of the country’s renewable energy growth has occurred in the past decade and, as a point of comparison, Germany’s 27 percent is double the approximately 13 percent of U.S. electricity supply powered by renewables as of November 2013.

Observers say the records will keep coming as Germany continues its Energiewende, or energy transformation, which aims to power the country almost entirely on renewable sources by 2050.

Germany Sets New Record, Generating 74 Percent Of Power Needs From Renewable Energy | ThinkProgress.

The evolution of 3D guns

3D printed weapons are a scary prospect, and their development from idea to prototype to ever better versions has been typically fast. I was a relatively early advocate of the power of 3D printing, but even I wouldn’t have predicted practical firearms becoming a possibility so quickly.

How 3-D Printed Guns Evolved Into Serious Weapons in Just One Year | Threat Level | WIRED.

Shameless star Maxine Peake attacks Tory ‘untruths’ over leftwing library | Culture | The Observer

Shameless star Maxine Peake attacks Tory 'untruths' over leftwing library | Culture | The Observer.

I walk past the Working Class Movement Library on the way to and from work. I really should drop in and have a look around.

The surprising thing about this report isn’t that Tories would make such dumb statements about it, but that Salford actually has any Conservative councillors in the first place.

Pubs of Manchester: Lion & Lamb / Wrecker / Mariner, Victoria Avenue

The past is another country. One, it seems, where they take lots of drugs.

However, in 1971 it was gutted and turned into a bizarre shipwreck theme pub and renamed the Wrecker. This was after the maritime trick of luring ships to onto the rocks to loot, as the corner of Victoria Avenue and Chain Road with the pub was said to resemble a ship’s hull. Mike Morris remembers that the inside looked like a wrecked ship at an angle in a lagoon, with the ship mast in the middle of the bar area. There were aged portholes and a video playing of palm trees in the distance. This would occasionally switch to dark thunderstorms and real water would fall down from the ceiling. If you looked down the big ‘wrecked’ hole in the floor you would see a real alligator in the ‘lagoon’!

Pubs of Manchester: Lion & Lamb / Wrecker / Mariner, Victoria Avenue.

Pubs of Manchester is a great themed blog. I’ve found out about buildings I didn’t know used to be pubs, establishments I should have visited whilst they were still around and places I’m glad I never frequented.

Balcombe energy co-op: we aim to take power back from the corporations –

Community energy schemes sound brilliant. The country needs more money pumped into supporting them, but as they take money away from big businesses, that may take quite a fight.

Clean energy, generated locally. Surplus energy sold back to the grid. Residents free to invest as little as £250, and promised an annual return of 5%. Further profits placed in a community benefit fund to pay for local facilities or energy saving technologies for local people in fuel poverty. Britain’s community renewable sector is tiny but it is growing. More than 40 community schemes currently offer just 66MW of installed capacity but there is another 200MW of community energy in development.

via Balcombe energy co-op: we aim to take power back from the corporations | Life and style |

Vision of the future or criminal eyesore: what should Rio do with its favelas? | Cities | The Guardian

A fascinating look at the problems, and potential, of Brazil’s favelas.

For followers of post-modernism’s “new urbanism”, Rio is an exciting, infuriating place. As an urban form the favela is inherently robust, green and “sustainable”. It can offer high-density, low-cost living on locations penetrating the city centre and within reasonable reach of work. Its residents rely on walking and two-wheeled vehicles – taxis are ferocious motorbikes – creating close-knit, self-reliant communities in which ties of family and neighbour are strong. They delineate their own boundaries of loyalty and defensible space.

As a result the world flocks to study them. They have become intellectual works-in-progress to universities such as Pennsylvania, Columbia and the LSE. Pennsylvania even built its own campus “pop-up favela” for study purposes. A leading NGO champion, Theresa Williamson of Catalytic Communities, sees the favelas as the “ideal affordable housing stock”. Their buildings are mostly brick-built and sound, maximising every inch of space and fashioned to occupants’ needs. They are low-energy to a fault.

Vision of the future or criminal eyesore: what should Rio do with its favelas? | Cities | The Guardian.