Wednesday, August 12, 2020

South Bank - some pictures :)

I've actually stuck to my plan and cracked on with my novel. Hence the lack of posts on here. I'm well over 60,000 words at the moment. So I'm hoping I'll have the first draft finished by the end of August. Just in time for the elections and second lock downs (?). It's also good timing as I'll have to crack on and get an actual job soon too lmao. Though with the economy so shot to pieces it's probably the first time in my life I actually have a decent excuse for not having one.

Anyway, with the unbelievable heat today I haven't done much work on the novel. It's been too warm to think. So I thought I'd post something instead. I had a walk to South Bank earlier and took a few pictures. So that's the theme.

For context South Bank is kind of a suburb of Middlesbrough, though it's also a place in its own right - if that makes sense. The little commercial heartland of the area is a bit derelict and rundown now, but there are some nice buildings and monuments. I remember going on a few nights out there when I was younger, but the pubs and clubs seem to be mostly closed down now. It's unfortunate. There used to be shipbuilding and whatnot back in the day, in the long, long ago, but since that has gone the place is now a little bit out of the way. So the footfall is focused elsewhere.

Firstly I have a few pictures of the war memorial. I really like this.


Next up a few Christian images;

(The Crucifixion of Christ)

(Someone who I'm guessing is Saint Peter,
replete with golden keys. Also note the little gargoyle)

(A close up of Saint Peter)

Now we have a few images of an ancient-style statue. I think it's Bacchus / Dionysus, but I'm not entirely sure. It's situated outside the Saabat Gallery. I really like the way the whiteness of the statue is offset by the colourful flower basket. Very cool.



Next some contemporary art. A very northern-looking sculpture by the artist Ray Lonsdale.


...and finally, this is the sign from the Fat Katz nightclub. I can't remember if I ever actually went there, though the name vaguely rings a bell. It's all a bit hazy. My main recollection of those nights out are of me being warned not to act like a clown by my more streetwise friends because the area was "a bit rough" and we might get beaten up or something. That and how far away from Middlesbrough proper it seemed at the time. It's funny how distances seem so much further when you're young. South Bank is literally just a half an hour walk away from where I live, but at the time it seemed like an adventure to some far off region.


That's one of the positive things to come out of the lock down to be fair. It's forced me to wander round parts of the local area for want of anything better to do. It's amazing what's on your doorstep really when you look.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Is Football Still Illegal?

Yesterday a friend messaged me saying that someone he works with is thinking of starting a 5-a-side football team, and asked me if I was interested in playing. It then turned out that neither of us were even sure if it was now legal to even play football 😅 (I'm still not sure, I haven't even bothered checking to be honest, the rules seem to change by the minute).


It highlights the craziness we now find ourselves in though. I guess you have to laugh. What else can you do.

It's made even more surreal by the recent news that the UK government has big plans to get everyone to lose weight. Including doctors prescribing bike rides apparently, amongst other things.

Exercise vs Fun

This in turn got me thinking about the difference between exercise and team sports (or fun activities in general). Something that I've often thought about before.

Firstly, unlike running on a treadmill or a hamster wheel, football and other team sports exercise everything. Not only is it a full body work out, but you're also exercising your mind as well. Reacting to opponents, interacting with teammates. Moving and thinking as well.

You need to be aware, whereas on a treadmill or exercise bike you can be in your own little world. Literally just repetitively going through the motions.

Then on top of that you have the enjoyment aspect too. When you play football you're in the moment, having fun. Just enjoying the game. When you're on the hamster wheel though you don't have that distraction or euphoria (though granted I'm sure there are a few people who do get tremendous joy from running, etc). Especially if you're doing it simply because you feel you need to get healthy.

You're literally doing the exercise thinking "I hope this stops me from dying". Even more so if you're constantly checking your heart rate and so forth.

This fixation on health and death can't be a healthy mindset to have ( - if that makes sense :p ).

..and finally, this is the difference between stress and joy. You might do a lot of physical activity at work for example, but if you're stressed and worried that might not be great for your health. So is it the same with exercise? If you're running on your hamster wheel worrying about dying then is that good exercise, or is it just more work ..and more stress and misery.

Something you genuinely like though. Like football, dancing, or just spending time in the great outdoors, etc. Especially if you're doing it with friends is surely much better for you.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Making it easier..

Just a very quick post to update something. Back in May I posted about masks, making the argument that in a free society the force of law should always be used only as a last resort. I even made a little list of avenues we should go down before we reach that point. Writing;

Normally in a free society we only force people to do things like this as an absolute last resort, and even then we should ideally only do it for the minimum amount of time and with the maximum amount of oversight. That's definitely not the case at the moment though.

In a free society there are a number of avenues we can exhaust before we even begin to think about going down the compulsion route. If we want another person to do something that they don't want to do we can: 
  • ask them - politely ideally :)
  • try to persuade them, with appeals to emotion or reason
  • give them incentives
  • pay them outright

Anyway, I missed something off that list, and that's simply the practice of making something easier for people. For example, giving people free masks would make it easier for them to wear one. So I thought I'd add it to the list in case I come back to this later.

  • ask them - politely ideally :)
  • try to persuade them, with appeals to emotion or reason
  • make it easier for them
  • give them incentives
  • pay them outright


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Word Counts in New Zealand

I haven't posted on here in a while. I'm keeping it low key. I've actually been quite busy. I'm finally knuckling down to finish the work of fiction I planned on writing. I'm being very self-disciplined and doing it during the day! Almost like a 9 til 5. Unlike my normal mode of writing which is usually done with a coffee late at night when people are in bed.

In fact, it's been a bit of an eye-opener. In the past when I've written books it's always been a long, drawn-out affair. So much thought, artistic moodiness, and getting the feel and timing right (or wasting time and putting things off should I say). Consequently, whenever I'd hear stories of these people that knock out three or four books a year I'd always think; how on earth is that possible?!

I didn't understand how people could be so prolific without just producing junk.

However, now I've found that when you make a 'day job' of it, you can be incredibly productive. If you produce just 1,000 words a day you can have a 60,000 word book in just two months. If you can increase that to 2,000 a day then just thirty days may suffice. So I'm rattling along at the moment. Sometimes churning out two chapters a day! Simply unprecedented! (..don't worry I'm not using this many exclamation marks in the book). It does mean that I've put general blogging like this (which I find so much more comfortable) on the back burner though.

Anyhow..

..the reason I'm posting is just to make a quick note. Yesterday I saw this tweet.


..highlighting this article; https://thespinoff.co.nz

Apparently, Arron Banks is getting involved in New Zealand's general election later this year. Helping out the New Zealand First party. Like the Irish election earlier this year this should be interesting to watch. So I'm going to start paying attention more. When my patience runs out with the book I may even start blogging about it. So I thought I better put a little mental marker down now.

As with the Irish election I know very little about New Zealand politics. I did read the '2020 New Zealand general election' Wikipedia page though last night to get to grips with their electoral system. So I've already cast a little bit of light to dispel my ignorance.

Currently the Labour Party are in a 'minority coalition government' with the NZ First party - with 'confidence and supply' from the Greens. I already knew Labour's Jacinda Ardern was the PM, but I had no idea about any of this stuff. So I'm already learning.

The election is in September. No doubt it'll get heavily overshadowed by the US election. It does mean I'll have plenty of entertainment if we get locked down again though 😵

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Sky, fields ...and carrots.

A little flag update. I found out this morning that the flag of the Romani people is very similar to the one I knocked up a few weeks back. In fact, in its original bi-colour form it's almost identical except for the specific shade of colours used. It even takes its inspiration for those colours from the same basic concept of earth and sky.

(The commonly used Romani flag,
with the red cartwheel or chakra)

(In its apparent original form
 - Wikipedia)

The flag consists of a background of blue and green, representing the heavens and earth, respectively - Wikipedia

(The one I'd came up with to
represent the Earth)

I now feel like I'm tapping into some kind of eternal zeitgeist :)

Apparently it's Gypsy Roma Traveller History month - I saw the flag this morning thanks to a post on Twitter. It's obviously quite fitting that a flag representing the Earth would be used to represent people that travel across it. So it's all quite neat. Reading further about it on Wikipedia I discovered that it's been associated with open borders in the past. Again, this makes sense with gypsies being a travelling people. Though often of course thinkers and intellectuals will take these folk meanings and attach a wider political vision to them (as I'm doing now I guess :p).
The charter adopted then suggested that green stood for "land covered in vegetation" and a "world without borders", with blue as a stand-in for "cosmos and liberty".
I might have shuddered at the communist undertones of such a statement just a few weeks ago, but I'm trying now to be less partial when looking at the overall picture. I want to marry the ideals from all sides, from left and right, into something that's good for everyone. Communists and other people I disagree with on issues generally want what's best for humanity, even if their methods are a bit meh. I need to keep reminding myself of that.

Obviously if another statue gets pulled down or something in the next few days I'll no doubt have another whinge xD - we're all somewhere on the political spectrum in regard individual events and issues. So I think it's good to speak your mind too and not just completely sit on the fence, attempting to be polite and impartial. It's just balancing the carrot with the stick 😅


Sunday, June 21, 2020

Living Space Addenda

Just a few little addenda to that last post. I'll be super quick.


Firstly, living space in someways can be seen as analogous to, or an extension of, personal space. Something we intuitively respect in regard other people. So that's a good avenue to go along when arguing in favour of it.

Secondly, the 'government' taking land or space and just giving it to people gratis sounds a little bit in the realms of communism. Or land re-distribution. (In fact, I guess you could say I'm trying to marry the ideals of communism with the ideals of property ownership here - an individual rights based communism in a sense xD). However, although it sounds very leftist in tone, the concept of living space rights would actually enshrine property rights further. Your home would be deemed unassailable.

Also, it would in a sense create a distinction between a person's primary residence and their further properties. Though people would be entitled to own land and property just as they do now, their primary residence - where they actually live - would be considered sacrosanct. Of course, in today's world we have things such as compulsory purchase where states can forcibly reclaim property from the individual as it's deemed in the greater public interest. Normally in fair societies a distinction would be made between say an abandoned property and a lived-in property anyway, but theoretically there's no limit. With living space rights someone's primary residence would be completely untouchable.

Another thing worth mentioning is that such a project wouldn't require that much land/space anyway. As the 'basic', freely given (or cheaply sold) homes would be very small. Plus there is also plenty of publicly-owned land available already, so such a scheme would in no way require any sort of land redistribution that would impact the individual directly.

Finally, given I'm arguing for a basic, specified minimum amount of living space an individual has a right to, I wonder if there could also be a maximum size. (I'm beginning to sound very communist here aren't I xD). There perhaps could be some type of calculated ratio that takes into account the overall amount of land and the overall population.

The total amount of land - (the population x the minimum sq metres of space per individual) = the maximum land that could be owned by any one individual

??

Perhaps you could begin by first of all removing an ascribed proportion of the total land for public space, national parks, etc.

Let's say half.

The total amount of land/divided by 2 - (the population x the minimum sq metres of space per individual) = the maximum land owned by any one individual

In reality that maximum amount would be owned by lots of individuals combined of course.

//////////////////

And finally, finally. I may start calling this concept Universal Basic Space. What with it being similar in theme to Universal Basic Income.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Living Space: the Ideal and the Practical

So, housing. This follows on neatly, and naturally, from the blog post where I stated you can't grow an orange on a laptop.

Once again the focus is space. This time living space. Now I've argued before online that everyone should be entitled to at least some living space, and that this should essentially be considered a birthright. By this I mean that everyone should be entitled to some space that belongs to them.

Of course, normally we refer to these 'living spaces' as homes - as in a property or a building. However, by thinking in terms of space it really helps to elucidate how unnatural our attitude to housing is. If you're fortunate enough to own your own home then great - you have your own space. However, if you don't, or are still in the process of paying for your home, then you're in a very unnatural situation.

You're essentially paying to have somewhere to exist.

A space to sleep at night. Somewhere to breathe in and out. Paying every week or month to simply have somewhere to be. It's like living in a hotel room, but we just accept it as normal. Animals don't have this problem. They're not paying another animal to be where they are. To be in the lake or up in the tree. They just find a spot and build their nest or whatever it is they do.

Their primary focus is spent on finding food and raising their young. Whereas our primary focus is to pay the rent. In order to then have the very space in which to do those things in. This is why humans are in a constant state of anxiety, because they're constantly worried that next week they may not have a space (a home) to exist in. This is why we can never just relax and live in the moment, at one with nature. We can never just be.

..and it's not just that we have to pay for the space we exist in. We pay a lot of money for it. For most people the rent or mortgage will take up a huge chunk of their income. They work long hours to pay for the space they sleep in when they're not working. It's insane when you really think about it.

Living Space: the Ideal and the Practical

Anyway, I've been thinking about how we could fix this situation. I have a loosely fleshed out ideal - a Utopian vision I guess you could say. Then also a more practical, halfway house solution. I'll begin with the ideal.


Ideally I would create a world where everyone was simply given a bit of space when they reach maturity. Theirs to own. To possess, i.e. somewhere to live where they need not pay rent or mortgage to anyone. ("What? you can't just give people a house!" I hear you say. Well, I am :) ..and if you really don't like this idea then don't worry, there's the more 'practical' plan coming up next, which isn't quite as heady and radical).

So how much space should someone get? What's the baseline?

I'm not too sure about the exact amount of space, but obviously it would be small. Enough to cover the basics. I wouldn't like to put a square metre figure on it, but basically a bathroom, bedroom, living room, kitchen type amount of space. A one person apartment essentially. Though you could theoretically quantify it by the metre if you wanted to get really technical.

I would then have a few rules.

1) Only someone who doesn't already own a property would be entitled to one.
2) They would have to be sold (or simply relinquished) when or if the owner buys another property.

..and I'm including the second rule here just in case it's needed, as I would imagine that under such a system it would be largely redundant anyway. Because..

a) Someone buying a larger property would naturally want to sell their little 'basic' home to help fund that purchase

and..

b) There wouldn't be much value in holding on to it as in a world where everyone already has a rent-free basic home there would be few people wanting to rent such a place. (Though there would perhaps be some market for people wanting to rent a second home, etc).

2 become 1

Another attractive thing about this scheme is that if two single people get together between the two of them they will effectively have a 'two bedroom' place. A small family home. Perhaps there could even be a way where such people could trade or swap their separate 'basic' apartments so they could get two that were next to each other or attached.

In a place with an extra bedroom you can raise one or two children. If you can afford to buy a larger home then you can have more children, but if not you would be limited by your basic means.

(Obviously I'm idealistically assuming that people would be responsible and live within their means here. So it's a little fanciful, but nevertheless I think most people would deem such a situation quite fair. Plus, after all, in modern societies people tend to have fewer children anyway. So it would suit people fairly nicely.)

the Orange Economy

This housing situation would also work in tandem with the idea of giving people access to creative space, as in the orange on a laptop article - i.e. space as an economic resource.

People would be entitled to a basic living space to live in, and likewise access to a certain amount of public space to create in. Grow food, etc. Like an allotment, or studio.

Make it happen..

Obviously this is all quite an ambitious plan. The state doling out homes to people fee, rent and mortgage free is a big ask. There are also no doubt numerous holes that can be instantly picked in this idea by anyone caring to read thus far. However, if it could be made to work it would surely beat living in a world where ninety-nine percent of people spend their lives struggling to pay for the bit of space they lie down in at night. So we owe it to ourselves and others to at least try to envision and enact something better.

It would be interesting to trial something like this in a small city or country. Get the government to build enough tiny 'basic' homes for an up and coming generation of people - say everyone who turns 21 in 2030 - then see what happens. See if it works. (I'm saying 21, but I think 25 or 30 would probably be a more suitable age to begin such a scheme, as younger people would just party in these places if the opportunity fell to them xD). It would be super-difficult to insulate such a trial from the wider world of course, but it could be done perhaps in the same way that Universal Basic Income trials are done.

If we can give people free money, why can't we try giving people free space?

The More Practical, Halfway House Solution

The more practical solution I promised I would share is pretty much the same as the above ..but this time the homes (or the spaces) are not free. They're just super cheap.

In fact, this is what I would do now were I in government. I would mass build lots of these basic homes or apartments. Massively subsidise the endeavour, and then sell them very cheaply. With the stipulation being that only people who aren't already home owners can get the discount.

When I say super cheap I mean basically the price of a car - i.e. the amount of money an average person can easily save in a year. So in this regard, even though the space would not be a free birthright, it would at least be affordable, and wouldn't require a lifetime of payment and toil. Once the process was started it would then create a conveyor belt effect, moving more and more people onto the property ladder.

Given an increasing number of people are on welfare of some sort these days it would also make sense for governments in the long run. As at the moment they're often the ones paying the rent or housing benefit anyway. If everyone has a rent-free bit of space then there is no rent to pay. So the burden would diminish and eventually disappear.

Likewise, once the initial 'basic' housing stock is built up to sufficient levels the need to build more diminishes. As noted earlier, if an owner of one of these properties then chooses to buy a nicer or larger home they can then sell the basic property on. In this halfway, practical situation they can sell it on to another person, or they can sell it back to the government.

In the 'ideal' scenario, where everyone is already guaranteed one of these rent-free homes, the government would simply buy it back, and at a nice cheap price because there would be little wider demand. It would then be ready to be doled out to the next generation.

So space, but not as we know it.