Category Archives: meaning of life

Simulate and activate your alternate

Simulation (Bk 2 in series): see PoP Travel

by

Tara Tyler

 

Would you really want life eternal? Just as when asked would I want to go to heaven, I think, hmm –might it not get boring after a while? Once you have done everything and been everywhere, what is there left to do? ‘Course if you are a megalomaniac you can always find some mischief – or can you?

This is really a story about cloning brains and robots and as I have been watching ‘Humans’ on TV, I can see the appeal of all the nice bodies you could have – imagine if you could sculpt away all your bad parts and improve all your good parts. I would be six foot tall, red-haired, slim and very athletic. I would have long slim legs with a nice thigh gap and my breasts would support themselves, I would definitely have a bikini ready body… oh well. I can but imagine what I would look like. But would I want to live that long? No, actually I wouldn’t. If you believe that every day could be your last, then you act as your best person. You do good rather than bad/evil. You assume that you may well die today/tomorrow and thus there will be no time to address your bad bits, no time to right those wrongs. Life eternal could definitely lead to selfish, self-absorbed, moralistically challenged people. You could use your clone (if you were still alive) to do your work, and to do all the things you don’t want to/ couldn’t/ wouldn’t normally, do. And this has got to be bad.

I sort of see why people might want to clone a beloved pet and this is actually now done – there is Britain’s first cloned dog – would normally cost £60,000 (!) but she won a competition for her.Britain_s_first_clone_dog

I found this book amusingly written but not as exciting or innovative as Pop Travel. I am giving this 3.5 stars – .5 for the humour.

 

 

Dear Agony Aunt: I really like this boy but…

Dinner for Two

By

Mike Gayle

A paperback!!! The first I’ve read in a while but was in a Turkish bath house and needed a physical book to read, so borrowed this one from my daughter.

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What do you do when you turn thirty, are married, have a cat, and your wife has a miscarriage, AND you lose your job as a pop music journo? Clearly you become an agony aunt for a teen girl’s magazine.

This book has a number of  ‘Ah’  moments – such as when Dave writes a letter to his 6 week old foetus, and his columns as the self-aware male for the women’s magazine are very well written, as are his responses for the Agony Aunt.

But then in real life,  Mike – the author – has been a music journalist; and then wrote himself for a teen magazine as the Agony Aunt. So he definitely writes from experience and his own self-awareness shows in this book.

The best book I have ever read that was written by a male for the chick lit audience. He nails it!

5 stars.

 

The Tigger’s 2015 in review: stats and more

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Now at the start of the year I made some a series of reasons why people should read this blog so that I could gain 1000 followers. I now have 385 that read this blog directly; 29 read through Tumblr; and 985 see my book reviews through my FaceBook page – https://www.facebook.com/elayne.coakes which does have other stuff on it too.

So what I said was:

  1. I don’t blog a lot about my health and moan about my family or the state of the union or be vehement about my politics or… I blog about a variety of subject matters that interest me and hopefully you, some of which, especially as the majority of my followers are from the US, may be unfamiliar to you;
  2. I write good grammatical English (UK spelling), properly punctuated, and I know how to use the apostrophe. I don’t usually write in stream of consciousness mode but nice precise paragraphs.
  3. I write about a good variety of subjects so you are very likely to find something to interest you in them  – from flowers and gardens, to crafts, to travel, to – in particular – books. Illustrated by my husband’s excellent photographs. As a European I get to a lot of countries you may wish to visit in Europe, but also have been to many more exotic locations such as China and India and these are  described here. More still to come on past adventures, but this year I shall be flying out to Boston and New York and cruising back on the Queen Mary 2; and also Ireland later in the summer for sure. [Sorry, 2015 has been dominated by books but still I did cover other items, and shall try to do better in 2016]
  4. I read a lot of books and write informative and well researched reviews that don’t give the plot away and are not summaries. There is no plot synopsis but a comment that will be relevant to the subject matter and will inform. [2015:This is absolutely still true and will continue to be so]
  5. If I can get over 1000 followers, I will be authorised by more publishers on the NetGalley site which means I will get to read yet more books that are just being published, and more books by new authors you may not yet have heard of. I shall endeavour to keep up the interviews with them that I have recently started. [2015:I now have at least one author interview a month, sometimes more, and I am recognised by several publishers as shown by my widgets including being in the Brash Priority Reveiwer’s Circle]

 Here are details of 2014’s activity to compare to this year’s:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

The busiest day of the year was January 21st with 75 views. The most popular post that day was Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?. In 2014, there were 60 new posts.

Click here to see the complete report. for 2015.

And do please comment and come and read more posts!

Feminist? Humanist? Means to an End?

Just recently, having watched Suffragettes the movie, and been reminded about how long it has taken for so many women to achieve human rights, I was again reminded by an email that starting in November, women worked the rest of the year for nothing. Equal pay has still not been achieved for so many women.

I am also now a member of a Refugee Action Group raising funds and awareness of the plight of refugees both here and abroad and one of the issues we see again here is the plight of many women who are now refugees fleeing from oppression, rape and war.

I also note that rape is not a permitted reason for the Northern Irish woman to ask for an abortion and that this has just been ruled as a breach of their Human  Rights.

So I decided to take myself off to a lecture hosted by the British Humanist Society on Feminism and Humanism at UCL. This was the Bentham Lecture for 2015 and was given by Professor Rae Langton of Cambridge.

Some readers may not be aware of what the British Humanist Society stands for let alone who Bentham was as you may only have come across him if you learnt about British social and political history, so I’ll give some brief introductions to them before going on to talk about the lecture as this helps set the scene.

The British Humanist Society is a charity that works on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical lives on the basis of reason and humanity. They promote Humanism, a secular state, and equal treatment of everyone regardless of religion or belief.

Now, despite what they say, you can also be a humanist if you are religious as the key to being a humanist is that you judge for yourself what is right and what is wrong based on reason and respect for others. You use empathy and compassion to try and improve the world for all.

I will come back to this meaning later as it was a core element in Prof Langton’s speech.

Bentham was a very interesting man. He was a philosopher who lived in the late 18th and early 19th century. He was a child prodigy being able to read a history of Britain as a toddler and started learning Latin at 3 years. He went to Oxford at the tender age of 12. He is mainly known for his doctrine which was intended to guide the law, practice and belief – the greatest happiness of the greatest number.

This was very much a utilitarian view of the world and humans – individually we are a means to an end. Also we are motivated by a desire for happiness and to avoid pain. Fundamentally we are only concerned with our own well-being – the community is a fictitious body merely the sum of the interests of the several members who compose it.

He was part of a group of philosophers who agreed that many of the social problems of the time were a result of an antiquated legal system and control of land and capital by inheritance and thus the landed gentry.

Professor Rae Langton has been called the 4th most influential women thinker in the world and was listed in Prospect magazine as the 18th most important thinker –  note the difference in numbers here between women and men… which of course is why the lecture was so important. She is considered such an important academic that she has a Wikipedia page.

Most of her work is concerned with speech and pornography etc and she has studied and written extensively about Kant. So I am going to make a short diversion here to also discuss Kant as without Kant her lecture on feminism and humanism could not be understood.

Immanuel Kant is an important philosopher with regard to Humanism. Kant lived in the mid to late 18th century and it is said that he lived a very boring life! He never left his home town and was extremely regular in his behaviour – such that his neighbours literally could set their clocks by him. From Kant we can draw a statement that Humanism is an end in itself and not a means to an end.

Prof Langton took this and other Kantian writings about how we can choose our behaviour and know its causation to mean that we are born with choices, we always have options. There is a wrongness in treating humans as things with no choice. If humans are things then we can oppress them – we can impose a role upon them externally to themselves. Thus we see the role of women being imposed upon them by men or by people being classified as slaves with no rights to their own-selves – they are objects.

The issue is that at times, as philosophers such as Simone de Beauvoir say, women may willingly conspire with this role as is easy to live with no choice and to have one’s behaviour and even thoughts dictated to one.

In the lecture it was agreed that one is not born a woman but becomes a woman through behaviour and belief. But if a woman is a thing, an object, one cannot have an authentic relationship with her – the ‘other’ remains alone in this relationship. The ‘other’ is the only human that counts in this relationship. Their will predominates.

Martha Nussman, another female philosopher with a Wikipedia page and to be found discussed in Prospect magazine has come out with 7 features which identify objectivism:

  1. instrumentality: the treatment of a person as a tool for the objectifier’s purposes;
  2. denial of autonomy: the treatment of a person as lacking in autonomy and self-determination;
  3. inertness: the treatment of a person as lacking in agency, and perhaps also in activity;
  4. fungibility: the treatment of a person as interchangeable with other objects;
  5. violability: the treatment of a person as lacking in boundary-integrity;
  6. ownership: the treatment of a person as something that is owned by another (can be bought or sold);
  7. denial of subjectivity: the treatment of a person as something whose experiences and feelings (if any) need not be taken into account.

Rae Langton added three more features to Nussbaum’s list:

  1. reduction to body: the treatment of a person as identified with their body, or body parts;
  2. reduction to appearance: the treatment of a person primarily in terms of how they look, or how they appear to the senses;
  3. silencing: the treatment of a person as if they are silent, lacking the capacity to speak.

Do you recognise any of these features in the treatment of women? Do you believe that objectification is always bad? How does it link to Feminism? Or Humanism? Or religion for that matter?

All these and more are questions we women of today should be considering. Just what in our familial socialisation makes us a woman? If we are not born one? Is it right and correct that we should be taught a different set of rules according to our gender? And just how do  we know what that gender is? What about transgender people? How would we know whether they are women or men? And remembering that gender is not so black and white but many shades of grey, are we or they, objects or means to end, or ends in themselves?

So look at the TV programme by Tyger Drew-Honey and think on these concepts of gender and wonder again, just what does being a woman mean?

 

 

 

Cutting you off

The Water knife

By

Paolo Bacigalupi

A NetGalley Review

 

The Southern USA has lost its battle with water profligacy and has become the desert it once was.

The Colorado River is even more embattled than it currently is and water is in such short supply that control over it is maintained by armies of private mercenaries who cut supply to towns as legal battles are waged.colorado 300px-ColoradoTexas_Watershed

This story is an extension of the current situation in the Southern States where already the Colorado River shows signs of running dry as is documented by Peter McBride and the National Smithsonian Magazine.

They say:

The Colorado River is the seventh largest river in the U.S., … It is also one of the most diverted, silted, and heavily litigated rivers in the world. The farmers and residents of the rapidly growing western states rely on the river for irrigation, drinking water, and electricity. This demand has permanently altered the river’s ecology. http://www.petemcbride.com/coloradoriver/

Beginning in the 1920s, Western states began divvying up the Colorado’s water, building dams and diverting the flow hundreds of miles, to Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and other fast-growing cities. The river now serves 30 million people in seven U.S. states and Mexico, with 70 percent or more of its water siphoned off to irrigate 3.5 million acres of cropland.

Climate change will likely decrease the river’s flow by 5 to 20 percent in the next 40 years, says geoscientist Brad Udall, director of the University of Colorado Western Water Assessment. Less precipitation in the Rocky Mountains will yield less water to begin with. Droughts will last longer. Higher overall air temperatures will mean more water lost to evaporation.

The Colorado no longer regularly reaches the sea.

Invasive plants, such as salt cedar and cattails, now dominate the delta, a landscape of seemingly endless mud flats where forests used to stand. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-colorado-river-runs-dry-

When we visited California ourselves we saw the dry and arid dust bowls that were created by the diversions – areas that were once farms in a desert. We also saw Californians watering lawns daily or twice daily in temperatures of over 30 degrees and planting water thirsty plants rather than aloes and agaves and cacti which would survive better as this is their native habitat.  So the outcome proposed in this book is, in many ways, not such an extension of what we can expect to be reality in not so many years in the future.

The self-contained blocks described in the book were an interesting application of modern technology which permits water recycling and conservation – we ourselves could have a grey water system installed from our rainwater conservation but at the present we don’t need to.

And we already see buildings like  the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design with six stories, 50,000 square feet, that won’t use a single watt of electricity from the grid, nor a drop of water from downtown Seattle – using ground pumps for heating and rainwater.

There is also a set of regulations in existence that govern a living building design but with water being provided by rainwater rather than river water

So the book started well but then got repetitive as we needed to move from what is a very real tomorrow possibility further into the future. I got bored around 50-60% through so I have downgraded this from 4 stars to 3.

 

Why Tuesday is Best

Tuesday Falling

By

I. Williams

 

A NetGalley Review

 

This novel was written for me personally – I swear.

S/he [profile picture shows a male but…] has picked all my favourite topics to write about, from a feisty young woman who stands up for herself – and others – against immense odds and some real nasty villains, to hidden London. And the Internet and world of the Dark Net and coding and…And all in an easy, acceptable, riveting [and amusing] style, that makes a story compelling you to read until the very end.

Williams says s/he got the idea Whilst travelling the London Underground and spying an indy girl with stay away eyes and F you clothing I immediately wanted to write a book with her in. And so he did.

For me this book ticked so many issues including what it must be like to grow up in such an abandoned area of social environment, where lawlessness has ruled for a long time and where retribution is unknown. A world in which you believe you deserve what you get and thus don’t protest or protect yourself from harm. The baby mothers who are just children themselves but are needed for their homes for drug trafficking in ‘comfort’. What is clear from the various UK Governmental deprivation indices available, is that these deprivations tend to occur as clusters – ie social deprivations go alongside economic, health, physical environment and activity deprivations, and have a tendency also to cluster crime within these boundaries of deprivation. In London the deprived areas are also clustered around the areas where immigration is a key factor such as Hackney.

Within these deprived areas, housing is an issue as is skills and education with many children not completing their secondary schooling due to health or other factors which can then lead to criminal behaviours to obtain money or to maintain a social role and standing within the peer group. And thus we gain a culture of crime being an everyday, expected and anticipated occurrence with no attempt to live outside the criminal mentality.

This is the setting from which Tuesday appears on the street as a young abused child, homeless but with a razor sharp intelligence that enables her to learn fast and to plan strategies with the best generals – Sun Tzu would be proud of her. She benefits from the online culture of today to assist her in her plan. Her plan, that has every move calculated precisely with all the potential outcomes also factored in and thus responses also provided. Her plan to help those abused like herself turn the tables on the abusers – with ferocity and determination that astounds all who encounter them and her.

 

So I went through the novel bookmarking madly.

Firstly there are all the computing aspects – which not all of which I knew about, and I do try and keep reasonably up to date here. For those less techno-able I have collected a few and will now try and explain very briefly what they are about.

  • Open-source hacking: if you go to the Internet you can actually find articles about how to be a hacker. A hacker is not just the adolescents who break into NASA but also the people who create new ideas within the software world – crackers break, hackers don’t. hackers solve problems and build things and believe in mutual help to solve problems. Open source software is software that doesn’t belong to a company such as Microsoft but is created free to use. Thus an open source hacker is using free to use software to solve a problem. In this novel, Tuesday is often a cracker rather than a hacker as she uses the software to break connections etc.
  • Mirror protocols: a mirror is basically just that – a second site or set of protocols that mirror – replicate – the original site or protocol so that the instruction goes to both and thus can be intercepted before action.
  • Spirit-slide: this seems to be something quite difficult to find but seems to be related to mirroring and shielding and routing in programming and you need to be able to program in C++ to be able to do it!
  • Silk Road: Now I already knew about the Silk Road but it had been shut down by the police and FBI in 2014. It was basically an online illegal (and anonymous) sales site especially for drugs and guns but it seems that it was so popular that Diabolus Market (cannabis only) immediately went into business as the new Silk Road [https://www.cryptocoinsnews.com/good-bye-silk-road-2-0-welcome-silk-road-3-0/]
  • Dark Web: I had also heard about this – [http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/how-to/internet/what-is-dark-web-how-access-dark-web-deep-3593569/] this site explains the dark web as a series of web sites that are publically visibly – such as the Silk Road – but hide the IP addresses of the servers behind them. They are thus effectively anonymous and difficult to police. The Dark Web can be useful for legitimate uses such as when you live in a country that has banned external contact, you can do this through the Dark Web, but mainly it is for illegal activities.
  • The Deep Web: includes the Dark Web but also all user databases, webmail pages, registration required web forums, and the pages behind paywalls. This means that every page visible on the internet has maybe millions of Deep Web pages behind it which can be accessed.
  • The Dark Internet are further networks, databases or websites that cannot be reached over the internet and are proprietary, niche, or very private.
  • BMR – ebay for dark Webbers – Black Market Reloaded – another illegal sales site.
  • Interzone: which is described as –scuba-diving through a police sea – in the book is the place where the internet’s heavy users inhabit. They live through the use of digital media and physical presence is secondary to virtual presence.

“If the Interzone as William S. Burroghs anticipated it represents a transitional phase in between, the Internet would then be an interzone between real life and the virtual life that creates the illusion that what you see is what you get” [The Internet as an Interzone by Laura Borràs Castanyer, (University of Barcelona), p5 2011?]

 

The second major aspect of the book is all about Secret and Underground London – and there is so much of this favourite topic of mine in this novel, that I am going to give this its own post and take my readers through the places mentioned and some more they maybe also hadn’t heard about!

I really can’t believe myself here, but I’m going to give this novel, 7 stars out of 5!

Must You Go?

by

Antonia Fraser

A diary and reflections on a privileged life with an exceptional man for a husband and luvvies for friends – not to mention six children!

So this is Antonia Fraser writing about her own life for a change rather someone else’s and using her diaries as the mainstay of the book. And this to me is where the book fell down. When Antonia Fraser writes her historical memoirs she researches them in great depth – too much depth for me in some of them – but here she relies on her notes and scribbles to tell the story. For me, it doesn’t. Perhaps because the initial sets of content seemed mainly to consist of who they went to dinner with – which doesn’t interest me as I am not one of those celebrity followers. And for me, seems to be a form of bragging even if it was her life at the time. antonia

However, I did find out some good things, which I hadn’t known before:

  • Harold Pinter (her husband), acted, directed, and wrote screen plays as well as poetry and theatre plays;
  • Harold was extremely left-wing and championed those who were fighting dictators;
  • The couple were fiercely anti the Iraq war (and thus not friends with Tony Blair);
  • Antonia Fraser has written a crime series as well as historical biographies; (just where does she find the time!!?;
  • There was an incestuous crow of luvvies who found work for each other – there was an in-crowd.

I also investigated the illness pemphigus as Harold suffered from  it. It seems it is an auto-immune disease that affects the skin and mucous membranes. There are 3 variants. It was first described I the 1960s and there are 0.68 people affected for every 100,000, so rare. It mostly affects women and the older population and Ashkenazi Jews are especially prone. It is triggered by environmental factors that include stress, tumours and nutrition. There is a mortality rate with treatment of 12& but age and frailty and the drug side effects can cause a higher risk of death.

Overall I gave the book 2.5/3 stars. The original rating was the beginning  of the book. It got better and more interesting in later sections but you did need perseverance to get to it. I only persevered because it was chosen for my book club.