Follow the reluctant adventures in the life of a Welsh astrophysicist sent around the world for some reason, wherein I photograph potatoes and destroy galaxies in the name of science. And don't forget about my website,

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Epic Fail 2

There goes another £103. In other news, today saw this blog's 1,003rd page view, so it's not all bad news. Mostly it is though.

Sigh. Having nothing better to do while my code is running, I suppose I should explain further. This time, I was all psyched up and drove merrily along on a lovely sunny day with the nicest examiner anyone could ever hope to meet (well, probably, I haven't met them all - yet). Despite making some right doozies in the lesson immediately beforehand, risk compensation kicked in and all went as well as I could possibly hope for. Even the route was close to ideal, since it has nothing very complicated and I've done it at least 3 times before. The scene was practically Disneyesque in its idyllicness.

So I proceeded happily enough, making the occasional silly but trivial error, until we came to the easiest bit of all - an open stretch of country dual-carriageway. I stress again that I've done this 3 times before. And yet, against all logic and rational thinking, I somehow did not turn enough during a fairly gentle bend. Had I not turned when the examiner reached for the wheel, we'd have ended up in a field.

That makes 3 failures, with 8, 10 and 9 minor faults each, plus one serious. That would be extremely consistent, were it not for the fact that the minor faults are different each time. This can only mean that there is some sort of conservation of driving skill, whereby learning from my mistakes causes me to also learn brand new ones. Bugger.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Defending the indefensible

Where did it all go so horribly wrong ? As late as 1930, the world map looked a little like this :

In 2010, it doesn't (of course, no-one today wants a single dominant power enforcing its will upon the world - supposing they were to attack someone without proper cause ?). And that's fine, we've moved on from an era of imperial conquest to national defense. All well and good, but there's a teensy-weensy flaw here : our current defense policy is daft.

For some reason our strategy still seems to be based around power projection, so that we can go and attack whoever we like, wherever we like, whenever we like. Well that's just marvellous, if regime change is your cup of tea. Maybe it's a good thing, maybe it isn't. Still, it's good to know that if any far-off countries decide to invade us, somehow, we shall be well-placed to stage a counter-invasion of our own.

Except, of course, that we won't. For starters we won't have an aircraft carrier for about 6 years, so we'd best hope that whoever feels our wrath isn't so well-equipped as to have anything as sophisticated as an air force. Or firearms (unless you want to launch an invasion without air support, for the lols...).

It's not all bad though. Because in 6 years time we'll have not 1, but 2 - count, 'em, TWO - shiny new aircraft carriers. With such overwhelming force at our disposal, we shall surely not even need to equip them with such vulgar decorations as actual aircraft. Which we won't for two more years after that. Presumably, should anyone be opportune enough to attack us in the interval, we can resort to good old-fashioned ramming tactics. It worked in Speed 2 with an ocean liner, so aircraft carriers must be even better.

Of course, the current theatre of war is a rather landlocked country, so maybe we won't need an aircraft carrier for a while. Not much use for the navy in attacking cave-dwelling terrorists. With this is mind, our wonderful leaders have decided to continue building no less than 6 additional nuclear submarines. A huge expense in the current economic climate (£1.3 billion a piece), but it's worth it. A nuclear sub lurking in the Thames will certainly prevent terrorists from bombing any more London buses. Especially given how incredibly advanced they are, being so sophisticated that the first one has already run aground in UK waters.

Just think - for the expense of this we could have built 12 Millennium Domes. Good thing we're not quite THAT stupid. On the other hand, we could also have built 9 space shuttles, or 1 Hubble telescope, or the entire LHC and then some. Personally I opt for building 12 inverted Millennium Domes and using them as radio telescopes. This would make the world a happier and more knowledgeable place than a fleet of submarines, I'm sure.

Fortunately, everyone else is in such dire financial straits that they too have weird defence policies. We're going to share aircraft carriers with the French, as apparently we'd never need to commit an aircraft carrier without France being involved too. Because of course we and France have never had any difference of opinion on military matters whatsoever.

So we'll have 7 nuclear submarines that won't do anything, two aircraft carriers that will float around randomly because half the crew isn't sure where to go and the other half can't speak the other's language anyway, and finally we'll have a ballistic missile shield that will keep us all really, really safe. It'll certainly stop all those pesky ballistic missiles getting through, I was getting quite sick of the constant missile attacks.

Finally the rocket attacks shall be a thing of the past !

Monday, 8 November 2010

Speed Reviews : The Star Trek Movies

I managed to watch 8 of the 10 Star Trek films in a weekend. Such a monumental feat requires a blog post.

Star Trek : The Motion Picture

The Voyager spacecraft is very angry that Earth hasn't called in a while, and the only way to stop it destroying the planet is for some random dude to have sex with a bald woman who's really a giant robot in disguise.

(could this be the last film to be promoted as a "motion picture ?")

Star Trek II : The Wrath of Khan

Best described pictorially.

Star Trek III : The Search For Spock

Doc Brown is a Klingon who's quite angry at Kirk because he won't give him the Genesis project, but Kirk won't stand for such nonsense and responds by blowing up the Enterprise, trapping the good doctor on an exploding planet and then stealing his ship. Most of which happens in the last 30 minutes or less.

Star Trek IV : The Voyage Home

Angry space whales will destroy the Earth unless Chekov can find some nuclear wessels.

Picard would have dealt with those space whales very differently.

 Star Trek V : The Final Frontier

Spock has rocket boots. Why don't I have rocket boots ? Oh right, because I'd like to retain both my legs.

Star Trek VI : The Undiscovered Country

Shakespearean Klingons become mildly irate over the death of their ruler, but threaten to get really quite cross until Kirk is dead.

Star Trek VII : Generations

Kirk and Picard ride some horses to stop Malcom McDowell and two Klingons with scary cleavage from destroying a planet no-one's ever heard of.

Star Trek VIII : First Contact

Patrick Stewart reprises his role as Ahab in order to stop killer robots from the future from killing Farmer Hoggett. You can't tell me that's wrong.

Star Trek IX : Insurrection


Star Trek X : Nemesis

Picard's angry young clone needs to drink Picard's blood which he can't do without turning everyone on Earth to stone. Also, Data sings.

Captain Picard does not approve of singing robots.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Epic Fail

Driving test take 2 ended in as ignominious a failure as the first : 10 minor faults but 1 serious. This time I blocked a side road by stopping in front of it in very heavy traffic. This caused someone who was trying to exit a delay of about 20 seconds. Apparently, that's serious. Well I can't think of anything more to say so I'll let this lol hippo explain things.