Anthem for Doomed Democracy

The British Government, in the person of our current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has taken steps to radically reduce the time and space available for the UK Parliament to act in line with its function to attempt to make it impossible for the UK to crash out of the European Union without some kind of deal, a so-called “Hard Brexit”.

There are those that would argue that the number of procedural days lost through this extended prorogation of Parliament is only four or five, and that is hardly something to get in a tizzie about, but the bald truth is that the House was increasingly likely to vote down the conference season recess in favour of emergency business with regard to Brexit, and Johnson’s request to the Queen has essentially removed Parliament’s agency to put the country before partisan podium bashing.

In other words, Johnson has used Parliamentary procedure in a way that it has never been used in living memory, in order to subvert the sovereignty of Parliament, a concept that was fundamental to the tissue of lies from the Leave campaign only three short years ago.

I like many other people am incensed by his willingness to depart from convention and fair play to further his grubby little agenda of setting the country on fire in order to egregiously increase the wealth of his cronies and paymasters. These are the true “grey men”. They will use their already vast wealth to successfully bet against the UK in the coming months. They will bet against our currency and our industry, profiting to an unimaginable extent from the misery of the working poor and the undefended as our country’s economy goes into free fall as we plummet from the cliff edge of the Hard Brexit that no one seems to believe can now be avoided.

Truly the 28th of August 2019 will go down in history as an analogue to the burning of the Reichstag, as the moment when democracy was wrenched from the heart of the people and replaced with the stark, cold reality that those who believe themselves to be our betters will tell us how our country will be run.

Here are some photographs from the spontaneous demonstration outside the Palace of Westminster and Downing Street on the evening after the announcement came through.


So now I know why brakes are good…

So, I am ok…

The thing is that on the way to Buchlyvie a couple of days ago I came around a corner to be confronted by a slow-moving quad bike and a flock of sheep. This led me to put my foot gently on the brakes and plan to drop down a gear or two, but there was a surprise coming. My brakes did not work.

Literally, my right foot was buried into the floor and my Ranger was not slowing down at all, not even noticeably decelerating from my foot having come off the gas. Now when I learned to drive my instructor covered this eventuality, explaining to me that the gearbox and engine can be used very effectively for braking in case of emergency, and indeed getting me to practice doing it. I am very grateful that I had such a meticulous instructor.

I dropped the car into second and started to hope that I would slow down enough that I would not damage the vehicle or myself when I put it into the hedge to avoid committing mass murder on the sheep, and then fate smiled. To my left (if you are reading this elsewhere than the UK or a handful of other countries please try to remember that we, here drive on the left) there was a small lay-by, rather like the road equivalent of an oxbow lake, and so I threw the vehicle into it and completely missed the flock and their guiding shepherd without having to come to a full stop or use the hedge.

Clearly this was a shock; I had not expected my brakes to simply stop working, but I was a long way from anyone who could be of assistance and almost late to see my doctor, so I dredged up my knowledge of how to drive on the gearbox and engine and thanked my lucky stars that the handbrake was still working perfectly. The trip back from the doctor’s surgery was slow and careful, for one thing I did not want to have to do any emergency stops on the handbrake, but I managed to get back to Aberfoyle and put the Ranger, as directed, on the ramp at Trossachs Motor Services.

It took the guys there about 2 minutes to put some new brake fluid into the system and find the leak. I was explaining to Donald Jr. that I was on leave and did not need the vehicle when he very politely let me know that there was no way he was going to let me drive away in the damn thing any way (not that I wanted to), and we all had a good laugh about that, considering the single track road we live up.

So, the moral of this story?

If you put your vehicle in a ditch don’t just assume it’s ok, get it checked over. Oh yeah, and if you drive “stick” and you don’t know how to brake with your gearbox, get someone to show you – you never know when it might save you anything from a hefty bill to your life. So, get your brakes checked, learn to engine brake and use sunscreen…

Photo by Daniel Salgado on Unsplash


Loch Arklet

Loch Arklet (from the Western end dam, looking East)

I really don’t often show people my attempts at Landscape photography; I am rarely pleased with my efforts. This is an exception to the rule, so I hope that you enjoy it.


Protected: Shooting with Bree

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Protected: I got to shoot at Scott’s Place…

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Photos from The Second Patr(e)on Gig in London by Amanda Palmer (click to view on Flickr)

Amanda Palmer and Friends at Gatsby's Drugstore, London


RIP Michael Parks…

I hate to report that my cinematic muse #michaelparks has passed away. Michael was, and will likely forever remain, the best actor I've ever known. I wrote both #RedState and @tuskthemovie FOR Parks, I loved his acting so much. He was, hands-down, the most incredible thespian I ever had the pleasure to watch perform. And Parks brought out the absolute best in me every time he got near my set. From the moment I saw him steal the opening scene of #fromdusktildawn at an advance screening at the Sunset 5 back in the mid-90's, I said to @samosier "Could you imagine what it must be like to work with a Yoda of acting like that guy? I gotta write for him one day." It took me 15 years but my dream came true on Red State (for which Parks won Best Actor at the @sitgesfestival) and then again years later with #tusk. Only Michael Parks could have delivered the line "Is man indeed a walrus at heart?" and make it scary as fuck. My favorite memory of Michael is watching him and #johnnydepp act with and at each other, like a couple of dueling wizards, in their shared scene in Tusk. Parks was in Heaven that day, sharing the screen with another brilliant actor and creating an unforgettable performance. He elevated any flick or TV show he was in and elevated every director he ever acted for. I was so fucking blessed to have worked with this bonafide genius. But really, I was just lucky to have known him at all. My heart goes out to James (Michael's son), Oriana (Michael's wife), Quentin Tarantino (Michael's biggest fan) and any movie or music lover who was ever dazzled by the talents of Michael Parks. Farewell, old friend. I'll see you farther along… #KevinSmith #actor #genius #rip #walrusyes

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New developments on Plataea

I have been doing small amounts of work on my old Spawn base on the Minecraft Server that I administer.

I will try and do some better screenshots at some point soon, but basically here is the much overhauled structure, no longer just an ugly Cobblestone cube, it now has rooms and balconies and battlements and a covered area for the small farm, so that the water does not freeze.


Of Interest to (Programming) Geeks Everywhere…

So, when I was back in the UK and regularly attending Clojure meetups I got to know a guy called Malcolm Sparks. Malcolm was already an accomplished Clojurian, but he still came along to the dojos and I got to work on problems along-side him a couple of times and then to talk to him over a beer or two a couple more times. He and Bruce Durlingand a couple of other people (Neale, Jo, Bodil, Tommy — you know who you are and I am probably missing people out anyway) were really generous with their time, with me and many other people, even though I was a self-taught PHP developer (the horror!) who was trying to swim way out of his depth in something that plenty of people had told me was “hard computer science”, and that I should leave well alone. Now I’ll be honest, getting to grips with Clojure and Functional Programming was no picnic for me, but with some effort and with their help, I got my head around it. You know why I am still in love with it, still excited about it? It makes programming FUN, and it makes programming insanely productive. I’ve been programming PHP for 15 years, Python for 13, Ruby for 8 not to mention JavaScript the whole time, but no other language than Clojure has allowed me to do as much in as short a time and as low a line count.

Anyway… About a year, maybe eighteen months, before we left for The Philippines Malcolm and a friend of his, Jon Pither, started a Software Consultancy specialising in Clojure, both the development of solutions in the language and consulting for companies adopting it. Unlike a lot of organisations that simply list Clojure amongst the technologies that they use, Juxt are clear that they will only use Clojure and ClojureScript as the mainstay of any project that they take on (they use a variety of other supporting tools / technologies like ElasticSearch and Cassandra etc., but no other programming languages).

They are called Juxt

Recently they have been putting together a “Tech Radar” for the Clojure eco-system, rather than a more general industry-wide one like the one that ThoughtWorks do, and I was among the people to offer feedback before it went live, though I did not end up contributing as much as I gained by looking through the article. If Clojure has ever piqued your interest – you’ve heard it talked about but never given it a try, or you’ve dabbled but never connected with the community – then take it from me, as someone who owes the community a lot at the moment, as someone yet to give back to the extent that I have received, this Tech Radar is a very good place to look for inspiration, for an idea of the extent of the power and flexibility of the language(s) and as an example of how you can run a business, be successful, but at the same time put something very worthwhile and useful back into the community.

Seriously, check it out -> Juxt Tech Radar for Clojure 2016

These guys are at the top of the software game, and no mistake. Jon and Malcolm have spoken at major conferences around the World (and not just Clojure ones) and they have led some amazing projects – in short, they know what they are talking about. That said they are open about the fact that this Tech Radar is based on their opinions and the opinions of their associates within and without Juxt, which is a mark of their no nonsense approach to the whole industry that I for one feel marks them out as people who have something to offer rather than something to take. This Tech Radar, along with the regular blog articles that they publish about new ideas and case studies, when added to their involvement in the UK Clojure and Software communities through organisations like SkillsMatter and so forth tell a tale of an organisation that are interested in doing more than just making a buck. These guys are nurturing their corner of the emerging Functional Programming industry as well as their corner of the Open Source movement, and I know that they are doing it because building software in Clojure is fun and they want other people to have the fun too, just as much as they want to do good work and make a living.

(If you / your company is thinking seriously about engaging with a consultancy to get a greenfield or re-code project off the ground, then you would do well to give them a call, even if all you are looking for is mentoring and guidance for a team or teams that you are cross-skilling to Clojure, though from where I am standing the real win is in getting them to build you a team and your system, rather than just mentor and train.)


Supergenius…

My brother, Edward, has been making music for almost as long as I can remember. As you may recall, dear reader, I have been a staunch supporter of his many adventures in music, and this latest venture is no different. G’Wan, give it a listen – I promise you will not regret it 🙂