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This is page 10 of my diary archives. Other diary entries can be found here, Page 18, Page 17, Page 16, Page 15, Page 14, Page 13, Page 12, Page 11, Page 9, Page 8, Page 7, Page 6, Page 5, Page 4, Page 3, Page 2 and Page 1, (oldest entry).

 

Daniel will be available to sign his best seller...

It's in the post. Not the cheque, but the contract for my first book. Really.

OK, it is not the best selling, Booker prize winning novel I had envisaged, neither the book on art history that becomes compulsory reading for every art history student for the next century, but it is a book, with my name on the cover.

The book is on video processing and is being published by a well known electronics magazines that sells all over the world, Elektor. Between 150-250 pages and I get 10% of all sales, and I am guaranteed one at least, but more importantly I get to see my name in print. There is even the chance, if it looks to be selling well, that it will appear on Amazon and in bookshops.

I will try and not let the fame go to my head.

Strange. Just after writing about the marginalising of atheists I find news of this student initiative, predictably supported by Richard Dawkins that is, for want of better phrase, fighting for our visibility and rights or at least getting our voice heard as loudly as all the religious interest groups are.

The messages being put on the side of the buses are, to me at least, too conciliatory. "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." Why probably? This concession to ditherers is unnecessary I feel, you don't hear Roman Catholics sitting on the fence like that, why should we. I would prefer, 'There ain't a bleeding god, get used to it'.

"University is a place where people think, a place where people evaluate evidence," the former Oxford don said. "Public statements of non-belief are treated as threatening, an affront to the religious, while the reverse is not true. More concerning is the enduring assumption that religious belief does not have to earn respect like any other view, an approach that has caused politicians and public figures across the UK to withdraw from asking the vital question: why is religion given such special status in government, culture and the media? Why is belief in a higher power an indication of greater moral fortitude, character and acumen? No opinion should be protected from criticism simply by virtue of being religiously held."

I like eating out and having had a good day and having a clean kitchen I dressed myself up and went out for dinner.

Eating out by yourself can be a bit lonely at times, especially if the restaurant is empty, but I don't like to read the offered newspapers or take a book so I indulge in people watching where possible or just making animal shapes out of the bread if it is not and wallowing in my own miseries.

Already when I arrived there was the corporate dinner party with the over-loud guffaws of forced enjoyment billowing out from a gaggle of plump red-faced men.

The first proper table to arrive was a couple of old ladies, unusual for a restaurant of that type and expense. I wonder what had brought that about as they both seemed out of their depth, the older of the ladies asked the waitress if potatoes came with the seafood linguine dish as she didn't know linguine was a pasta. When their starters arrived they spent what seemed like a whole minute mouthing a silent grace even though I would swear it was the kitchen that had actually produced the meal and thanking a mythical being for it is somewhat disingenuous.

The next table to arrive was a young Asian couple. The girl was relaxed and seemed out to enjoy herself, the man unsure and again out of his depth. He spent the first ten minutes ignoring his girlfriend's banter and with his head buried in the wine list, and more especially in the back pages where they have $400 bottles of wine. After prompting from the waitress he ordered two glasses of the house red.

As I munched my way through a couple of rather flavourless crab and prawn cakes, (that were arranged on the plate with a drizzle of chipotle sauce, some salad leaves and some chopped red pepper by what can only have been a chef with artistic dyslexia),  the waitress came to take the couple's order where I was somewhat surprised to find the girl was vegetarian. Curious then that her companion had chosen to take her to a place called 'Charcoal Grill', which in case you were in any doubt, was subtitled in large letters, 'Steak House and Bar'. She asked the waitress what they had on the menu that was vegetarian to which she offered two items that were not on the menu, including Pad Thai, which I guess did not use either fish sauce or dried prawns, thereby not making it Pad Thai, (Pad Thai is delicious but it is strange in some ways that the best Pad Thais are to be found in the inexpensive food halls of Bangkok department stores and not in the most 'authentic' of expensive Western restaurant whose chefs do not seem to be bothered to find out what it is that actually goes into real pad Thai, like tamarind or the aforementioned dried shrimp). She asked about the aubergine stack on the menu which the waitress had not mentioned although in her defence they probably don't get many vegetarians there given that instead of butter they offer beef dripping with the bread.

My New York steak arrived which was a little disappointing, although the meal was highlighted by the gorgeous golden beetroot in the vegetables and by a luscious brandy and peppercorn sauce. Stuffed to overfilling, as I finished my wine and waited for the bill, another young couple arrived who loudly pronounced to anyone who was listening - me - that this was their Valentine's Day as they had to work on the day itself as they have such busy jobs in the retail trade.

Luckily my bill arrived so I was able to leave as the couple started a Blackberry war to see who had the most urgent e-mails to answer. The girl called what I presumed to be work for no other reason than to check 'if everything was OK'. So essential this young girl must be to the shop that in the thirty minutes she had left the staff alone she expected the place to have burnt down taking all its customers with it as well as the neighbourhood Salvation Army centre and the orphan kids home. I wondered where she worked but not for long as the boyfriend cried out, 'oh no, (forget the name) wants to take a day off on Tuesday - how will I cope', and I hurriedly put on my coat.

As I left I noticed another man sitting by himself in the corner. We gave each other a knowing smile, the smile of the solitary people watchers.

Building a Star

I am not talking about American Idol or any of those shows that take untalented, self-promoting individuals that would otherwise find it difficult to get a job at McDonalds and turn them into talentless 'celebrities'.

No I am talking about about real stars, or to strip away the lay man's catch phrase, nuclear fusion. Of course we can pay lip service to more efficient light bulbs and wind farms and wave power and fermented bat's droppings, (not sure about the last one but research is probably being funded somewhere on it), but we have an answer to our energy problems already.

Thirty years ago nuclear fusion was thirty years away and still people talk about it being thirty years away, but as this article shows, actually it is nearly here, now; really! So why doesn't someone or some government take this work and fund it properly. A sort of rallying call like Kennedy's putting a man on the moon but this time without the political backdrop. The target is to have a working nuclear fusion reactor in ten years time that would produce abundant amounts of energy, is safe with no nasty by products, and doesn't require us to dig big holes in the ground to find the fuel. And its cool, the stuff of science fiction. When man's (sic) backs are against the wall  it is then we produce something, whether it radar or V2 rockets or putting a man on the moon. But all those things needed resources and a political will to trust the engineers and scientists and just let them do their job.

Ten years, maybe less, and our energy problems could be solved and we could shut down all those dirty power stations, stop burying nuclear waste in the ground, stop polluting the atmosphere and stop flooding huge areas of the countryside with dams. Too good to be true, eh?

I have nearly finished building the fireplace mantle, about a year after I started it. I just need to put some twiddly bits around it to pretty it up and maybe stain some of the wood a darker colour, but overall I am quite chuffed with it.

Ploy will be back home in less than three weeks and she sounded like she wanted to be back sooner. She seems to have been having the usual problem with her friends there whose back biting I just don't understand. Ploy bought some gifts for her friends before she left and it appears she didn't spend enough money on them. What sort of friend tells you that. Ploy sounded, if not upset, just disappointed because this behaviour is so predictable. This is the same friend that Ploy was willingly helping out in her restaurant when she was feeling sick. And these are not the north eastern 'working girls' that usually have this reputation, these are mature, middle class working Thais. Ploy should do what I do, not make any friends. I am in e-mail contact with few people, mostly ex-colleagues, but I have no Canadian friends - the nearest are the girls who serve at our local restaurant, (which is much better than that review would suggest), and the co-owners at our favourite Indian restaurant, who usually stop for chat if they are not too busy. But otherwise that is it, nada. And now I work at home in the basement my social life is limited to seeing the postman's legs as the post is delivered.

SingMai has been going along steadily. I have two new enquiries and I have an offer to write a book on video for a well known electronics magazine. I would get 10% of the royalties but it would also help to publicise SingMai so I think I will give it a go. It will be nice to see my name in print, if it is popular enough it might even appear on Amazon.

And I have slowly been working my way around the house tidying things up. Apart from the mantle I have been fitting baseboards and doing the tiling around the front entrance so it matches the back entrance. The bedroom's built in wardrobes have been re-organised with new shelves so finally everything actually fits in them. And work has started on the kitchen, albeit slowly.

It will be Ploy's birthday soon after she returns so I hope to have enough air miles to get a night at Niagara Falls. It will make a nice break, there is the casino and possibly a show. A few days after her birthday Johnny Mathis is appearing and Ploy likes him, especially after seeing this clip from YouTube where, if it is to be believed, he holds a note for 1m 43s.

Atheism and political correctness

It has occurred to me that it is hard work to be an atheist. In Asia, if ever the subject cropped up, and it seemed to often do so for some reason, it was always assumed I was Church of England and it took an effort to correct these thoughts. There was a sort of incomprehension about it - 'you don't believe in anything'. Nope, I would reply, nothing, no god, no ghosts (even of Phil's late, lamented dead cat), no afterlife, no Hell (at least not in the sense it is usually meant, there is Easington and American Idol after all), no rebirth, no virgin birth, no UFOs, (in the sense of alien spacecraft), and no alien abductions. All of that is either just a load of bollocks made up by people in charge of us to frighten us into doing what they want or a load of bollocks made up by ill educated, (the polite term), morons, (less polite term), who convince themselves these things are real so they can try and give some meaning to their meaningless lives. It does take a certain confidence in oneself to openly admit and to accept that our lives are but a near worthless spit in the vast ocean of pointlessness.

When you fill out forms for visas and permanent residency you are often asked what religion you are but there is often no box for atheist, we are demoted to 'other'. In Singapore however, presumably in a fit of political correctness and to avoid the blatancy of the term ATHIEST, we are given our own box called 'free-thinker'. Now I rather like that because of its probably unintended implications for everyone else, including all those people who 'follow' a religion because they are too lazy to not do so.

'...equally offensive to those Muslims who are just Muslims in the way so many Englishmen are C of E: because of an accident of birth and an affable inclination to go with the flow.'

The only thing that can be said for apologetic believers is they are not agnostic - that really is a senseless position to take. There may or may not be a god, but if there is I am too worthless and puny to chat to him before bed at night or pop round his house on Christmas eve.

The article I took that quote from is an amusing tirade against political correctness and in particular the pathetic apologies the various bankers, (cockney rhyming slang), are now making, (and I am also grateful to the article for introducing me to the word 'milquetoasts' - a timid or submissive person). We all know they are speaking out the crotch of their Armani suits so why say it at all. And as Michael Bywater goes on to say,

'That's partly why we felt dissatisfied with the Four Bankers on Tuesday. Coached by their PRs, they were too smooth, too comfortable with their dissimulation. We wanted to see them sweat, stare at the ground and finally apologise with absolute insincerity, through gritted teeth. (The other reason we were dissatisfied was because they may have gone through the motions of apology but we want them to lose all their money, just like they've lost all ours. Simply foregoing this year's bonus is not enough. We want to see them in council houses, on benefits, eating own-brand beans.) '

I have been a victim of this political correctness as it seems in today's zeitgeist, to use a popular term, to point out your manager or marketing prick has gonads for brains or is a sycophantic, arse-licking, (sorry for the tautology but it needed emphasis although I could have just repeated the word as they do in the Thai language but saying sycophantic, sycophantic doesn't have the same force in my opinion), tosser is just not the done thing, however correct it may be. It seems I should 'go with the flow' and not verbalise what most right thinking people were actually thinking. But unless people actually do start 'free-thinking' and not kow-towing to idiots nothing will change and these people will keep multiplying and breeding. Natural selection is no guarantee that the most intellectually fittest will survive at the expense of MBAs and Christians.

The Bearded Wonder

I was in the UK when Tony Blair was elected. I remember being slighted elated by it all, at last change, and change for the better. Not the same old politicians trotting out the same old policies, this was going to be real change, the country was going to be shaken out of its lethargy. But of course it didn't happen like that, did it, and now it looks like it will be worst affected of all the western nations and the slowest to recover from the economic slump, if indeed it ever recovers.

So now Blair trots his way around the world as a 'peace envoy', which clearly shows his lack of irony, and even worse, wearing his religiosity openly on his sleeve. Brother he has seen the light. All that time in office his spin doctors carefully avoided any questions as to his leanings, the cupboard door was slammed shut, but now he is free of those strictures the door is not just opened, he has bulldozed the entire thing down. Everything he did, as with Bush, he did with God's careful guidance.

So it is very worrying indeed that Obama is associating with this man and also spending a disproportionate amount of time securing his Christian credentials. I had hoped that reports of his Christianity were merely a sap to to bible belt but it appears that he too might well look to God for some divine guidance. In fact, watching his inauguration on TV, the commentator mentioned that in the sworn statement the words, 'so help me God' at the end were optional. Here was a chance to sign a real change, the decisions I make will be based on logical analysis of facts, maybe coloured with a little intuition, but not solely guided by a mythical bearded man with his head in the clouds. It was not to be.

This is so disappointing. So many things, like his appointment of respected scientists as advisors who don't appear to just be servants of the commercial interests, pointed in the right decision. But now we know, when the going gets tough, this man will always fall back on the 'it was God's will' excuse, and most of America will shrug their shoulders and nod in agreement.

There is, or was, only one bearded wonder, but he is now dead. It is a shame that our world leaders choose to listen to a mythical one rather than take example from the scrupulousness of the former.

California Blue

I am in California this week visiting my principal customer.

I was shitting bricks on the trip here, worrying that I hadn't done enough and they would cancel the order which, at the moment, is my lifeblood. Without Ploy to temper those emotions, it was with huge trepidation that I got in the car on Monday morning. But as I write this things have just got better as the week has gone along.

First, on the design review, they dropped a feature that was a huge amount of work for me. Then a block that I was having a lot of problems getting working properly they have assigned an engineer to help me with this week. Yesterday they confirmed they are going to offer me share options in their private company, and in my e-mail in-box this morning is another inquiry from Australia.

I found a nice Thai restaurant to have dinner last night; OK the food was not as spicy as I like but it was flavourful and nicely presented and it made a change from the local Italian, the only option within walking distance, (the hotel does a snack buffet dinner but does not have a 'proper' restaurant). I should make the effort to go the Mexican seafood restaurant I visited last time, but I am knackered by 5p.m. as I am still waking on Canada time.

Checking the weather back home I see it is -16degC this morning whereas here it is a very pleasant 55degF. I had to pay $85 to get someone to clear the snow whilst I was away. It is the law that we have to clear the public pathways outside our house but I also didn't want to get back at 10p.m. or so on Saturday and immediately have to clear 40cm of snow from the driveway just to be able to get the car in the garage and get to my front door. It amusing to read, especially now I live in Canada, of the total chaos that a little snow, as always, reaps on the UK. There really seems little that country can do properly, or do at all, anymore.

Although this week is hard work the positive outcome should re-energise me once I get back. I hope I can spend the Sunday relaxing and tinkering with a few things around the house before getting back into work on the Monday. It will still be a another month before Ploy returns but the time should go quickly, for me at least, and I still have that kitchen to finish. Another positive outcome of this week is I actually read the art history book I threw into my case as an after thought. It has got me thinking again about trying to free some time up for my own book. Just an hour a day would be some sort of progress.

But for now it is time for a quick breakfast and then to work.

The Kitchen

The one room in the house that we have done nothing with is the kitchen. It is a bit of an eyesore as when we sit down for a meal it stares out at us all the time.

We lost a bit of inertia on it as we have a perfectly decent, albeit small, kitchen in the basement; it doesn't help that there is much, expensive, work to be done. The kitchen was in a right state when we moved in with black mould on all the built in cabinets, which I guessed were probably original fittings in the house so were 60 years old, and a floor that was a fly-trap for your shoes; this was was room where we always wore something on our feet. There was also a rather unpleasant smell in the place; it is a wonder the previous owners were not permanently sick.

So we just gutted the room and washed it with a couple of gallons of bleach and that is how it stayed. Well now Ploy is not coming back until the 7th March I have decided to try and free some time up to work on it and have something done by the time she returns. It is a shame she can't help me choose some of the things, but we have spent a lot of time window shopping for the room so I have a good idea what she wants - the built in oven, the gas hob, glass door to the cabinets, green tiles for the backsplash, and extractor fan above the hob, a dishwasher, etc. etc. In any case it won't be finished by the time returns so she will still be able put her stamp on it.

The money will be a bit tight anyway until I get the payment in from the German company so there certainly will not be any appliances.

It also gives me a diversion from SingMai which helps pass the time in the evenings. So I have moved the old fridge which was the only thing in the room and bought some ceramic tiles and spent a bit of time on the Ikea website working out a plan for the room. I will need to get a plumber and electrician in at some point as there is absolutely nothing in this room that is to code or is even slightly practical.

I have to go to California to see a customer for one week at the beginning of February and I have a quite a bit of work to do before I go but I hope when I return I will be able to make a start.

All Change

The day after I wrote the post below Ploy called me to say she needs to stay in Thailand longer; everything is just taking too long. I needed to check that Ploy could get all her permanent residency stuff like her medical done in Thailand, and once confirming that I changed her flights so she now doesn't return until 7th March, a whole six weeks away.

After the initial disappointment I have decided to plan something while she is away, to lose some weight and get some stuff done on the house, like finish tiling the main kitchen. It shouldn't cost too much to get done and I should be able to free a couple of days once I have got the main orders out of the way. Setting goals in this way helps the time go past more quickly.

I certainly didn't need to have this man tell me to emigrate from the UK, especially as he is one of those parasites that probably contributed to all this mess. But the writing has been on the wall for a long time and I can't understand those who can't see it. In my teenage years I watched the coal mining industry in the UK be closed down, and watching the ranting of Arthur Scargill, it was difficult to find sympathy with their cause. Then British steel was sold off, unable to compete with foreign companies. And so it went on and so we moved to an over-reliance on services, especially financial services, that mean that the coffers are now, not just bare, but there is no source to replenish them.

The first car I owned was a Hillman Minx, made by a British company, Rootes. I loved that car, as you do your first car, but for my second car I bought an Opel Manta from Germany, and for my third a Honda Prelude from Japan. If at any stage I should have wanted to buy a British car, and by that I mean a car designed and manufactured in Britain, not just manufactured there as some Ford or GM cars were, my choices quickly became limited to quirky makes such as Morgan. The same story was everywhere from fridges to vacuum cleaners, from cars to nuts and bolts to semiconductors to chemicals, (have a read about Ferranti who made the first commercial computer, were at the forefront of the blossoming semiconductor industry and made the first ULA which was the forerunner to the FPGA, now a multi-billion dollar industry). But, we were told, this is modern times, we don't need dirty manufacturing, we can make more money selling virtual things.

It is difficult to pin the blame on any government regardless of flavour. They no doubt contributed; you only have to read about the enforced change of factory that Rootes had to endure which could have scuppered their new innovative Hillman Imp. But there were also the work-shy and lackadaisical workforce for whom quality and pride in a job well done was anathema. And then there is the management, my favourite bugbear. But were these not the same managers that brought these companies to where they were. What changed I wonder. Did the counter-culture of the 1960s instill a couldn't-care-less approach to life, to responsibility?

I read the blame for the current financial situation being bandied around, from the investors to the banks to the governments. What about the people that borrowed the money to fund their increasingly extravagant lifestyles. When the banks offered them these huge mortgages was there not someone within the family that actually thought, wait a minute, what happens if...? A nagging doubt should things not continue the way they were. Prudence. Now it has all gone belly up why are these people not taking any responsibility for what has happened? The banks shouldn't have given me that money, they cry. Well they couldn't have forced you to take it, it is not like they slipped the money into your account without you noticing - one day you are $4291 in the black and the next you notice you are $404,291 in the black, so you don't say anything and just spend it.

There is no responsibility anymore, no awareness that the decisions we make are our own decisions with their own consequences.  When we look at the list of movies at the movie theatre and have to guess which one we think is best we can end up choosing Disaster Movie. Who to blame; the movie theatre for showing the movie, the producers for making it, the actors for appearing in it, the writers for putting finger to keyboard. When we borrow a huge sum of money from the bank knowing that the slightest thing going wrong, like the washing machine needing repair, means we will miss a monthly payment, or we throw our cigarette but out the car window without wondering who it is that will pick that up, or we can't be bothered to pick up that dropped screw in the wiring loom of the car so we let it go expecting the fairies will fix it - whose fault are these things. The banks for forcing that money on me, the company for giving me a crappy screwdriver or making me work when I have this hangover, (the breweries' fault presumably), the government for not giving me my own personal litter collector who runs behind my car all the time. But not me, oh no. How could that be?

I go on through life in my own little bubble, oblivious to all around. Yes I say hello to my neighbours whilst being envious they have bought a new car. By the afternoon I am talking to my bank to borrow the money to buy a bigger car. I know my job is a bit precarious at the moment but that is the managers' fault, they are crap. Anyway I'll get my redundancy payout and the government have got to find me another job and pay me unemployment benefit. Anyway I need to show him. Perhaps I'll get that pool at the same time.

Greed and avarice. It is what got us to where we are now. But it is in all of us and until we take some responsibility for our actions there is no way back.

More.....

 

 

 

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