Me and EU

Dear EU,
I’m sorry so many of my fellow countrymen fell for lies pedalled by known liars. It looks like because of what amounts in my book to an act of treason we’re about to part ways, but need it be like that?

Just because the UK leaves the EU, does it mean that I have to as well? Won’t you please let me hang on to my EU citizenship no matter what?

Pretty please.

Send in the clowns (Don’t bother, they’re here)

I have been asked quite a few times on where I stand with regards to the EU referendum, and I have until now kept my own counsel. But I think it’s time to state my position clearly: I no longer give a shit.

Politicians – mostly Tory – have turned one of the most important events to happen in my lifetime into a fucking pantomime. With their lies and exaggerations they have made sure the British electorate have no idea where the truth lies and what the real issues are. They have muddied the waters so badly not only can we no longer see the trees for the wood, they’ve forced me to mix my metaphors.

I firmly belief that most people who started on one side of the fence and switched to the other did so not because they were dazzled by the logic, rhetoric and clear cut arguments of those politicians whose views they originally opposed but because of the complete and utter shite spewing forth from the mouths of people they were relying on to put over a well-thought out case on their behalf.

Frankly, it’s embarrassing.

Dear Wetherspoons, please stop discriminating against young people.

Dear Wetherspoons,

Myself, my two brothers, my sister-in-law and my nephew (amongst others) were enjoying a pleasant get together in the Velvet Coaster last Saturday. My nephew, who is 21, went to buy us all a drink and was only allowed to buy a drink for himself, because (and here I quote one of your staff) ‘we had to check his ID which means he might have been trying to buy drinks for people who are under age’ – which would of course be a criminal offence. This not only embarrassed my nephew who had to return empty handed and apologise to the rest of us, it seriously hurt his mother’s feelings. She, unlike your company, regards her son as a responsible adult who is not in the least inclined towards committing criminal acts.

When his mother and I asked the staff why they had treated my nephew like a criminal, they told us to our faces that it was the law. This, of course, was a bare-faced lie.

May I point out that anyone – regardless of age – who buys drinks might be buying them for someone underage? And that you should therefore by your own logic not serve alcohol to anybody ever?

My local Wetherspoons has recently been displaying posters exhorting young drinkers to drink in Wetherspoons rather than at home. There have been several editorials in the Wetherspoons house rag complaining about people consuming alcohol at home instead of down the pub and firmly laying the blame at the feet of the government. May I suggest that while Wetherspoons are discriminating against young people and undermining their self-esteem, at least some of the blame might lay closer to home?

The Mistreatment of Love Apples at the Hands of the Brits.

The tomato is perhaps not the most important food item in the world. Unlike potatoes, coffee, tea and bananas, no country in the world depends on tomatoes. No nation will find itself bankrupted and no war will ever start because a tomato crop has failed. Then again, a world without tomatoes would perhaps not be worth living in. Just imagine going the rest of your life without baked beans or tomato sauce! Doesn’t bear thinking about does it?

Of late, I have been thinking about tomatoes a lot. It began with a sojourn to the town of Fleetwood in Lancashire, where I decided to take lunch in the Thomas Drummond, a Wetherspoons pub. Being in a celebratory mood, I treated myself to a 12 ounce Aberdeen Angus steak.

Now when it comes to a steak meal, for me the only establishments in the UK I deem worthy of my custom are Wetherspoons pubs. In terms of quality and price I know of no other establishment on this sceptred isle that comes within a country mile of ‘Spoons.

I’m afraid a year of living in Dallas raised my expectations of how big a steak should be and how much it should cost. Before Dallas, I actually considered a visit to an English steakhouse to be something of a treat. Now you’d have to point a gun at my head to get me to set foot in one.

Admittedly, even a 12 ounce Aberdeen Angus jobby pales into insignificance against the dirty great slabs of dead cow on offer in your average Dallas eatery, but you’d be hard pushed to find a Dallas-sized steak in this country that wouldn’t set you back the price of a second hand car.

Anyway, the point is that my Wetherspoons steak was just fab. The Jack Daniel’s sauce was scrummy. And the onion rings were fine. The only fly in the ointment – or should that be in the soup? – was, rather inevitably, the tomato. To be specific, it was half a tomato. Not that I had any problem with the incompleteness of the fruit in question. No, my beef was with the fact that the outside was cooked and the inside was raw.

Yep. That’s right. Outside cooked. Inside raw.

Now, that’s exactly how I like my steak, but it’s not the way I like my tomato. If you’re going to cook a tomato – or even half of one – make sure it’s cooked all the way through, why don’t you?

Frankly, I wasn’t at all surprised that the tomato was only half done; in fact, I was rather expecting it. You see, there doesn’t seem to be a single eatery or hostelry in Britain that knows how to cook a tomato properly. Or perhaps they know and just can’t be bothered. Perhaps they think that because everyone else fudges the job they’re at liberty to do the same.

Throughout the length and breadth of Britain I have eaten ‘cooked’ tomatoes in pubs, clubs, restaurants, greasy spoon cafes and trattorias, and I don’t think I have ever once been served with a tomato that was cooked as a tomato should be cooked. I have even breakfasted at 5 star hotels (not at my own expense, I hasten to add) where for the most part the cuisine is way above par but where I have found myself confronted with supposedly fried tomatoes whose skins are cooked to a crisp but whose innards are cryogenicly preserved.

Why is it so hard for people to get it right?

Here’s a tip for the tomato cookers of the world: if you’re going to grill or fry tomatoes, use cherry tomatoes. They’ll cook all the way through in no time. Failing that, slice a beef tomato and throw the slices under the grill or into a pan. It’s not difficult and you’ll be helping to make the world a better place.

And while we’re on the subject, who the hell is responsible for inflicting plum peeled tomatoes on the world? Bleeuuuurrrrgggggh!!!!!!!

Ali, Boutros, Chadli, Daud, Ekram, Faisal, Ghulam, Habib, Ishmael, Ja’far, Khalid, Lutfullah, Malik, Nusrat, Omar, Quddus, Rashad, Sadik, Tariq, Uday, Wajdi, Yakub and Zafar.

Upon the occasion of his seventeenth birthday, Ali was taken to the tent of Hassan-i Sabbah, King of Assassins. The old man greeted him with an affectionate kiss on the head.

‘You are the most blessed of the blessed,’ he said. ‘You have pledged your life to Allah the most merciful. Your reward will be great.’

Ali bent his knee. ‘I thank you, my lord, for giving me the chance to show my love for Allah and my fellow muslims.’

‘Put this on. It is your passport to Paradise.’ Hassan-i Sabbah, the Old Man of the Mountains, handed Ali a suicide vest. It was pure goat skin packed with high explosive. ‘Die as Allah wills it and when you arrive in Heaven, you will have forty virgins waiting for you.’

Gladly, Ali donned the vest then followed Hassan-i Sabbah into an adjoining tent where other boys his own age were lined up. All of them wore passports to paradise.

‘Ali,’ said Hassan-i Sabbah, ‘let me introduce you to your fellow martyrs. Here is Boutros, Chadli, Daud, Ekram, Faisal, Ghulam, Habib, Ishmael, Ja’far, Khalid, Lutfullah, Malik, Nusrat, Omar, Quddus, Rashad, Sadik, Tariq, Uday, Wajdi, Yakub and Zafar. They, like you, have sworn to kill as many infidels as Allah permits. They will join you in Paradise…’

#

Ali was smiling serenely as he boarded the subway train. He was smiling partly in anticipation of the forty virgins he knew would be waiting for him in Paradise, but mostly he was smiling because of the pills Hassan-i Sabbah had commanded him to swallow before setting out on his mission.

In other trains in other cities around the world, the boys he had met in Hassan-i Sabbah’s tent had already taken their places.

Ali sat between a pregnant woman and a heavily made-up girl with pierced lips and a crucifix dangling from her neck. ‘Whores,’ he muttered, by which he meant every woman on the train.

As the train left the station, a bony finger pressed a button in Afghanistan and sent a signal that bounced off satellites and fed into the mobile phone systems of the world. In less than a second, the signal reached its many targets and unleashed the wrath of Hassan-i Sabbah.

Ali was blown to Kingdom Come at the exact same moment as Boutros, Chadli, Daud, Ekram, Faisal, Ghulam, Habib, Ishmael, Ja’far, Khalid, Lutfullah, Malik, Nusrat, Omar, Quddus, Rashad, Sadik, Tariq, Uday, Wajdi, Yakub, Zafar and hundreds of innocent people.

#

As Hassan-i Sabbah had promised, death didn’t hurt one bit. Dressed all in white, Ali found himself standing on a large fluffy cloud.

‘Welcome to Paradise,’ said a bearded man in a white suit. ‘I am the Angel Gabriel and it falls to me to see that you get your just reward.’ He waved a hand and a tent appeared. ‘This is to be your home for all eternity. I trust you will find it comfortable.’

‘And the forty virgins I was promised?’ asked Ali.

‘They will be your sole companions for now and forever. This way, please.’

Ali followed Gabriel into the tent, wherein forty virgins awaited his arrival.

‘Ali, here are your virgins,’ said Gabriel. ‘Meet Boutros, Chadli, Daud, Ekram, Faisal, Ghulam, Habib, Ishmael, Ja’far, Khalid, Lutfullah, Malik, Nusrat, Omar, Quddus, Rashad, Sadik, Tariq, Uday, Wajdi, Yakub, Zafar…’

Sybernika – A Cyberpunk Classic

My novel ‘Sybernika’ recently reached a milestone – namely 1,000 downloads on Smashwords. It is, of course, downloadable from other sites but I have no figures for them.

Curious to see if my work had made any ripples out there in Internetland, I did a quick Google on the term ‘Sybernika’ and was pleasantly surprised to come across two highly flattering reviews of the book, one of which describes it as ‘a cyberpunk classic’.

Before I preen myself by publishing the reviews here, I’d like to mention you can download a free  copy of ‘Sybernika’ from http://www.sybernika.com where you can also read it online.

And now those reviews (both of which come from the Web Fiction Guide):

A cyberpunk web classic. Violent, depraved, and weird!” – Fiona Gregory.

Short but sweet. The second review is more detailed:

If you’re a fan of horror and scifi/cyberpunk, I can’t recommend this story enough. I only intended to read the first handful of chapters, but I ended up blowing through all of Part 1 (about half of the completed story, from what I can tell). It was grim and creepy, and incredibly well written, both in structure and story.

The story is told in a lilting, almost poetic style. I thought I would get bored or annoyed with it at first, but after a while I realized it really adds to the building atmosphere of the story . . . and what atmosphere! The scifi hook kept me reading at the beginning, but as the author subtly and unrelentingly built up the dread I found it impossible to stop.

I would mention the flipside of such amazing writing abilities; with such believable characters the darkness of this story became increasingly difficult to read. The violence, the domestic, emotional and sexual abuse, and the overall dark tone was a little hard to deal with, precisely due to the fact that it felt so real. I thought it was perfectly appropriate to the story, but readers with more delicate sensibilities may want to beware.

Honestly I’m shocked at how real the emotions were while reading this serial/novel. Module (read: chapter) 10.0 was able to deliver an emotional punch to the gut, and it’s a single sentence long. It’s rare that I encounter a character that I truly, viscerally hate, not because they’re annoying or over-the-top evil, but because I can see them as an actual person, real enough to loathe. The antagonists of Sybernika fall into that short list of characters.

Long story short, Sybernika has its ruthless moments, but as long as you know what kind of story to expect going in it’s a marvelous work. Well worth my time.

– Maddirose.

The Hybrid Universe. My Theory of Everything.

OK, folks. This is the moment the entire scientific community has been holding its breath for. Here comes my well thought out explanation for why the universe appears to have begun with a so-called big bang when I have shown such a thing to be impossible.

Imagine, if you will, two separate universes drifting along in what we might call the multiverse and which we can conceive of as being a ‘something’ containing many universes. These two universes drift towards each other and then suddenly touch. At the point where they touch (which might be vanishingly small), they start to merge. This is the beginning of our universe, which is basically the bits of the two universes that overlap.

As an analogy, you might want to imagine two amoebae in a pond. They touch and one absorbs the other or – more precisely – they absorb each other, creating an ever-expanding zone that is a mixture of both creatures and their respective characteristics.

This overlap steadily grows which is, of course, why our universe is expanding. If we play the film backwards, the universe gets smaller and smaller until the moment at the beginning of time when it comes into existence. This is what gives the illusion of there having a been a big bang. It’s not so much a big bang as the start of fusion.

My solution to the big bang conundrum also rather elegantly explains why physicists have made no progress in being able to merge the two theories that explain how our universe works – quantum mechanics and relativity – into a single unified theory. It seems that the universe works according to two different sets of rules,  which perplexes most physicists as they firmly believe there should only be one set.

But, if our universe is the product of two other universes, each universe would have brought its own rules to the game in the same way each parent bestows his or her own genes on their progeny. In other words, we should look upon our universe as a hybrid.

Just a thought.

Those Sneaky Electrons May be Having a Laugh at Our Expense

My three questions concerning certain fundamental facts of the universe generated some interesting answers both on this blog and on facebook. Someone mentioned Richard Feynman’s notion that perhaps all electrons are the same electron. (It was actually John Wheeler who suggested it to Feynman who immediately shot the idea down. Or maybe not. Depends on whose version of the story you believe. As with all things to do with quantum physics, there’s a certain amount of uncertainty.)

The thing about electrons is that they are all the same. You pick an electron out of a deck, put it back in and shuffle the deck, and you have no idea which was your electron. There is absolutely no way of telling one from another.

For all we know, the electrons of the universe are forever swapping places with each other, like identical twins in a cheesy Whitehall farce. They could be mocking us – having a laugh at our expense. We have no way of telling.

And that’s the point of my asking why there is more than one electron. Somehow the universe manufactured zillions upon zillions of the little buggers without deviating from the original blueprint in any way whatsoever. If you’re not staggered by that fact, you should be.

We have factories that produce supposedly identical goods over and over again, and yet they’re not actually identical. Take a look at two Mars bars that have come off the same production line. They’re made by the same process according to the same recipe, yet even a cursory glance can spot differences between the two.

Not so with electrons.

Which is why it’s tempting to think that all electrons are the same electron popping up all over the universe at the same time. After all, in the world as we experience it, nothing is 100% the same as anything else. If you pardon my Zen, things that aren’t the same thing will always be different in some way.

Well then, supposing we follow our logic and accept that there is indeed only one electron. How do we explain the multiplicity and ubiquity of that one particle?

I have two possible explanations. (I actually had three until I sobered up.)

Let’s suppose there’s a huge multidimensional particle bigger than the entire universe which I shall call the super electron. Most of it exists in dimensions beyond the four we can directly experience. The bits that poke into our reality are identical because they’re bits of the same thing constrained by the same laws and parameters. These bits are what we call electrons.

This is a variant of string theory, whereby instead of each electron being the manifestation of its own unique string, they all arise from one string.

If this were true of the electron, it would hold true for all particles. And that would explain quantum entanglement.

My second explanation posits that the universe is a hologram, a projection of some other reality which is 2-dimensional in nature. (The idea of a holographic universe has been around for ages and is worth Googling should you be so inclined.) Suppose in this other reality there is only one electron (and one neutron and one proton and one of every other subatomic particle). If that electron is projected into our universe once, it can be projected many times over in the same way that a picture can appear on millions of television screens at the same time.

This is, of course, just idle speculation on my part and should be totally ignored. Maybe one day someone who knows what they’re talking about will give me a satisfactory explanation as to why there’s more than one electron. In the meantime, I’ll go on pondering the imponderable.

Three Questions I’d like answered.

1. Why is there more than 1 electron?
2. How much does the universe weigh?
3. What’s the speed of gravity?

The Big Bang Theory? Don’t Make Me Laugh.

Let me make it clear from the start. This discourse is not concerned with the television series The Big Bang Theory which is very funny and often downright hilarious. What I’m talking about is the scientific theory which supposedly explains the origin of the universe. It is one of the most ridiculous theories ever proposed and yet supposedly intelligent scientists all over the world accept it without questioning. What a bunch of plonkers!

What happened was this. Back in 1929, an astronomer called Edwin Hubble observed that every galaxy beyond our own was moving away from us with a speed proportional to distance. This, he and many others concluded, could only mean that the universe is expanding. If the universe is expanding, then it would have been smaller yesterday than it is today and even smaller than that the day before. In other words, the further back in time we go, the smaller the universe is.

That makes sense to me. I can so totally see the logic in that. But then comes the absurd bit. According to the Big Bang Theory, there was a time when the universe was infinitely small and infinitely dense. It was what is called a singularity.

You can see what the idiots did, can’t you? They did what the ancient Greeks so often did. They applied logic to known facts and reached an absurd conclusion by dispensing with common sense.

Sure, as we look back in time, the universe gets smaller and smaller. Some thirteen and a bit billion years ago, it was so small it was the size of a pea. Go back a few seconds and it’s the size of a grain of sand. Back further and its even smaller. And so on until logic says it must have been infinitely small.

Logic says. Common sense says otherwise.

Try taking the logic further and ask what the universe was like before it was this so-called singularity.  Surely, it must have been smaller than infinitely small. It must, in fact, have had negative dimensions.

That’s where the logic takes us and it is clearly absurd. But it’s the same logic that gives us a singularity. If we can’t have a universe of negative dimensions, then how can we have one of zero dimensions?

The scientists who propound the Big Bang Theory have a nice get out clause on this one. They claim there was no ‛before’. Time began when this singularity – which remember was infinitely small and infinitely dense – began to expand.

But hold it a minute. You have this singularity. It has zero dimensions and therefore no time (time being the fourth dimension). Literally nothing happens without time. But time doesn’t begin until the universe starts expanding but the universe can’t expand without time. Do you see the problem?

So does it really make sense to claim that the universe was once so small it was this funny kind of nothing that possessed the quality of infinite density?

Imagine a film of someone blowing up a balloon. If you play the film backwards, the balloon gets smaller and smaller, in just the same way as the universe would if you filmed its entire history and ran it in reverse. However, there is a point where the balloon stops getting smaller. And this comes as no  surprise to you or I because we’re not dumb enough to think that anything that gets bigger over time must once have been infinitely small.

As it stands, the Big Bang Theory flies in the face of common sense. I’m not denying that the universe is expanding. I’m not denying that the further back in time you go, the smaller the universe gets – up to a limit. But don’t give me that guff about it once being infinitely small and infinitely dense, especially when you can’t explain how your singularity ever came to be or what it was before it became a singularity.

If you’d claimed that the universe started as something the size of a tennis ball – or even a pea – I might have believed you but you had to go and get carried away with yourselves, didn’t you?

Silly people.

(In a future blog, I will expound an alternative to the Big Bang Theory which actually makes sense. So watch this space.)