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Fun with magnets

Time to learn about magnetism, with the aid of some neodymium super-magnets, ferro-fluid, iron-filings and some magnetic putty.



Brexit is a result of the cowardliness of the Tories

The Leave-Remain compaign was never about sovereignity, it was always about xenophobia, pure and simple. For a tolerant country like the UK, founded on immigration and international empire, this xenophobia does not come naturally. Xenophobia was only a fringe movement on the right until the Tories decided to co-opt the language of racism in order to gain an electoral advantage over Labour. They thought they could repeat UKIP and BNP talking points against immigrants and the EU in order to pick up extra votes. It worked, but they legitimised a monster which has just proven willing to trash the UK economy in order to kick out Polish plumbers. If the Tories had had the moral courage to speak out against xenophobia early and strong, this would never had happened.

So what is gained by Brexit? Basically nothing. What the leave campaign didn't tell you is that the UK only voted against 2% of EU laws, so 98% of EU laws were put in place with the support of the UK government. All EU laws and regulations require the support of either elected governments or elected MEPs, so the UK still had a say over every decision made. Now it won't have a say, but it will have to abide by all of the laws and regulations anyway if it wants access to its largest trading partner. Bravo Leave campaign, you have just reduced the sovereignity of the UK. And if the UK decides not to be part of the EU trading block? Well the British pound instantly dropped 11% on this possibility, so get ready for a slow flight of capital out of the UK and into the US or Europe.

How about immigration? Again, it is disingenuous (i.e., a lie) to say that the UK lost control over its borders to the EU. The UK government was one of the leaders in the push to expand the EU to the east, and when Eastern Europe joined each EU member state was given the possibility to delay free migration. The UK was one of those countries that allowed immediate immigration - as a choice of the UK government. The simple fact is, the high level of immigration to the UK has nothing to do with the EU. It is driven by history, empire lost and the deliberate choice of the UK government to put economic growth over racial purity. So what will happen now? Well a bunch of Brits will lose their jobs in the EU, British retirees won't find it so easy to swan around in southern Spain, and French and German professionals will be discourged from working in London. That's it. The UK will still be a country of immigrants (sorry racists), and the only impact Brexit will have on slowing that process is if the economy collapses so badly that immigrants don't want to come any more.

What a disaster.

A noble woman, victim of xenophobia


Father's Day

While Lydia was away we went to the medieval fair in Porte de Hal (isn't it nice to have a castle in the park across the road?). Hayden dressed up as Captain Hook and I was Mr Smee. Okay, it wasn't exactly the right historial period, but we get points for effort, right? We put on puppet shows for each other, tried the archery and then went jousting!  







Weirdest perfume brand ever

Huh? Playmobil perfume? Who is this marketed at? Four year olds who have a refined taste for expensive perfumes? Completely clueless rich relatives? I just don't get how this exists.


Family portrait


Pike Place Markets, Seattle


I’ll be there to wake you up

Nausea roiled in her stomach and bile rose up her throat as she walked down the long metallic corridor, illuminated by a harsh artificial light. Could be worse, Jill thought.  For many, the longevity treatment left them puking in their cabins for days, racking up debt to the colonists. Jill could still work at least, long hours of systems analytics to repay her berth on this intergalactic cattle-car.

“Diff”, Jill acknowledged the dour man passing her, clad in the same grey overalls.

“Diff”, a grunt in reply, without eye contact.

Diff. Doing it for frosties. The emotion had drained from the phrase decades ago. For many, it had been said with irony and a tinge of bitterness, resentful of the inhuman requests imposed upon the crew in service for the colonists. For Jill, it had been said with pride and defiance. Like others in the crew, she was buying her way to the new world through lifetimes of servitude, while the colonists lay there cryogenically frozen, to be thawed upon arrival as if no time had passed in between. Unlike most, though, she harboured a love for two of the frozen. Jill and her husband wanted nothing more than to give their son a chance to grow up on a fresh planet, an opportunity to escape the stifling mass of Earth’s demoralised humanity. Every credit they were able to put together could only buy two colonial tickets, so Jill was buying her future as a member of the crew. It was the hardest decision of her life to separate, but she couldn’t bear to imagine her little boy frozen in solitude.

I’ll be there to wake you up in our new lives, Jill had whispered as her son had cried during the freezing procedure, scared by unfamiliarity. I’ll be there to wake you up in our new lives, Jill had promised her husband, as gave him one last savage kiss.  I’ll be there to wake you up in our new lives, Jill had told herself over and over during the mind-numbing first years aboard the claustrophobic hulk accelerating towards the stars. A lifetime later, and Jill could barely remember those moments. Like the rest, Jill felt more automation than person. Oh, Opportunity held recreation rooms and amusements, but Jill shunned those. The fools who used them would find their place on the new planet no better than that on Earth. No, constant work would buy a berth and the longevity treatments and no more, and Jill refused to start her their new life in debt.

Four centuries changes a person. Most learned to adapt. Longevity treatments sustained the body, but the human brain has a finite capacity for memory. When the old life was washed out, the new became normal. Others couldn’t take it, and spaced. A quick override of an air-lock was the easiest out, but others were less predictable. After a crew member in the cryogenics department spaced and started to smash life-support units, Jill gained a promotion and the hours of leisure time needed to live and love once again. The well-worn metallic walls were home now, and the crew were friends and enemies, with even a few ex-lovers.

The approach to Kepler-452b was causing Jill insomnia. Opportunity was her world. The steel shell was her protector. Its corridors she could navigate by memory alone, and every room held memories. Deceleration had started a hundred years before without fanfare, but tomorrow she was starting the unthawing process for the colonists. She was finally having to face the end of the voyage. Could she bear to live beyond the familiarity of these walls? The thought of being on-planet, with no protective steal between her and the void of space, scared her. How lost she would be without all she knew?

“Perhaps I should sign up for the return voyage?” Jill whispered into the night. Most of the crew already had. Even without her work in the cryogenics unit, which would be empty on the return, the pay would be significantly better, open access to more little luxuries. No skilled technicians on Kepler-452b looking to return to Earth. Jill still couldn’t understand why she hadn’t signed her contract, sitting now on her workspace. She could not imagine any other life, yet something inside her was holding her back. “Just sign, Jill, don’t be silly”, she told herself. Instead, without understanding why, she started crying, and sobbed into her pillow until sleep came.

The indecision still consumed Jill the next day. She shoved down the turmoil as she initiated the defrost procedure on the first batch of cryogenic units. Procedure complete, she turned to the second batch as the medical team moved in. She bit on her lip as she tried to concentrate beyond the rising noise of the bay.

“Jill!” the shout penetrated the fog of her mind just as a hand on her shoulder spun her around. An unfamiliar face laughed and bent in for a kiss. She staggered as she pushed away the stranger. Confusion joined fear as she saw the hurt on his face, “Jill, it’s me, what’s wrong?” Paralysis still gripped her as she was hit in the stomach, the full-force of an enthusiastic five year old jumping into her arms. “Mummy!”

Knocked down to the ground, overwhelmed with emotions and a little boy’s kisses, without understanding why Jill whispered, “I’m here to wake you up for our new lives”.


A spring day in St Truden


This escalates quite fast

Story from Hayden

I sometimes worry about what happens at school. "Daddy, today I wasn't punched in the face by anyone". Ah... good?

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