Friday, 14 July 2017

How we really live in the Kingdom that is still mostly United

If anyone is still considering moving to Britain, despite the Brexit situation, here's a few things that no one will tell you about, until you are living here. Take note:

The cold call nuisance in UK is officially the worst in Europe. Basically, it means that you have to hide from aggressive sales people with basic English skills and hard to understand accents who invade your privacy in your own home. Some of them are scammers after your personal details and money and they can legally call you and bother you because thanks to the wonders of telecoms you will never be able to find out where they called you from. And so your landline will always be on silent and you will miss that important call from the doctor's and you will stop answering calls from unknown mobile numbers on your mobile and so no one will ever be able to talk to you. Thanks, UK.

Most people who come to Britain have to rent a house first and this is when you discover that the rental market is heavily skewed to be as accommodating to landlords as possible. Of course the fact that any private landlord can give you notice to move out for such important reasons as no reason whatsoever and that there is no minimum standard which makes property rentable has nothing to do with the fact that many Members of Parliament are private landlords. No, of course not! Just a coincidence. Be prepared to have conversations about how mould is your fault because you dry socks on the radiator, how the ripped and dirty carpet became ripped and dirty during the two months you lived somewhere and so you have to pay for new carpets for the whole flat and the one next door too and how eight vertical lines that your cat scratched down the wall in a moment of huff cost 140 pounds to paint over. Thanks, UK.

And I have to mention the bloody taps. There will be one on the left hand side of the sink, that will spew boiling hot water (when it eventually travels up the pipes from some mysterious source that seems to be near the boiling centre of the Earth) and there will be one on the right hand side, that will spew icicles. One of your hands will be permanently semi-cooked and the other one - semi-frozen.There is some moronic explanation about how Brit folks in yonder times would plug the sink and mix the water, which is kind of hard to do when there is no plug and no standard size of a plug hole (if anyone wants any plugs, do let me know, I have a collection of the ones that wouldn't fit anything). Newer flats now have mixer taps like in normal countries but the gas-less nineteen century flats are still popular and this brings me to...

Central heating. It is 2017 and so you would assume, if you move from a so called civilised country, that it is a given. Wrong! In the aforementioned flats from nineteen century, and older ones, there often is no gas supply and so - no central heating. You will be reassured (by the private landlord) that electric heaters are the God's answer to this problem and so you will spend one truly miserable winter, torn between feeding the constantly beeping electricity meter with half of your wages and simply sleeping on the couch under all the blankets and cats that you have handy as frost forms on the abandoned bedroom windows. After which life changing experience you will shun any rental ads for flats with 'electric heating'. Thanks, UK, I've never experienced being cold inside the house before!

And one more thing - the blasted British obsession with gardens. Say you escape the city centre and you find a place within the suburbia, which has mixer taps and central heating and is quieter... until you wake up one Sunday morning, heart thumping in your chest wondering what woke you up... and then you realise it's 7am and your neighbour is busy doing something to the bushes which sounds like he's using a giant electric toothbrush. Then another one starts with cutting the grass and another one takes the radio out to do the Weeding. If you don't watch out, the mad pruning weekend party will roll across your garden too, leaving you with a Perfect Garden that you will never have time to maintain cause you know, you have a life... And in the afternoon, bbq-ing will commence. You genuinely start to pray for rain at the weekends. Thanks, UK...


If you read this and shrug, you sir or madam, are a strange person. Come join us in the madhouse!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Roots of restlessness

When you leave somewhere, and work hard to settle somewhere else, and then come back to the original somewhere for a visit, it changes something inside you.

You look around in disbelief, because your friends and exes and family members had the audacity to get on with their lives in your absence, to get married, convert to a religion, have children, start a cult, lose weight, start businesses, become alcoholics, grow a beard, grow old, become successful, die. Life moved on, when you were not looking.


And the moment you realise it, you join the tribe. The tribe of wanderers. The restless tribe.


From that day on, you will always be conscious that you are not, in fact, the centre of the world, or even of your own life.


That people out of your sight will do things that you planned to do with them, without you.


That places that your best memories are set in, now only exist in these memories.


That people will forget you, or remember you, at random.


That places will crumble, and streets will be renamed, and unstoppable suburbias will circle your home town until you barely recognise it any more.


That everything is in motion, constantly, unstoppably, and so, you realise, you should be too.


From that moment on, every new place in the world that you visit ,you will ask yourself - could I live here? And if the answer is 'yes' you add it to a map that you have  in your head, with all these places tagged, just in case. Everything you own is mentally measured for a suitcase and either on a 'take' or 'leave' list in your head, just in case. Your passport is always renewed. You travel whenever you can. You can't stop moving house even within the country you find yourself in. It's like an itch under your skin, it comes and goes, it burns and fades, and then one day it does not go away.


You do.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The future is now, maybe.

All the news headlines right now are screaming about UK general elections, Brexit, another Trumpian disaster across the ocean... 

But let's just leave politics aside for a moment and take a stroll through the latest medical science news. (Links ahead, if you'd like to read more about any of the things mentioned.)

Wow.

In the massive, scary, dark shadow of political fuck ups and crumbling economic stability across the world, some amazing things are happening.

In some hospitals, burn victims and post operative patients are already entering VR worlds to ease their pain. Others use them to control their PTSD and anxiety symptoms. And it works! And in some training hospitals doctors are using VR sets to train junior surgeons and other specialist doctors with great results.

Then there's 3D printing - custom designed 3D printed drugs are a few years away - apparently pyramid shape is the best for absorption, but how about paracetamol for children in the shape of a tiny dinosaur or a racing car? Heavily customised casts for broken limbs, that are porous and so there's no sweating and itching, are also a reality right now. Come on, NHS.

And did you hear about the newest hand prosthetic that allows the wearer to feel what they touch?

Oh, and let's not forget the nanotechnology - there's these microscopic fish shaped meds delivery devices that literally swim in your blood stream to deliver specified doses of medications to the target area. Die, tumours.

Alzheimer might also be a thing of the past in a little while, as there's a new drug going through last stages of clinical trials, that eats protein deposits in the brain that are causing it, but doesn't damage healthy neurons and has no known side effects.

It kind of feels like we're on a cusp of either a scientific utopia with healthy, nano filled, VR savvy, happy Earth-men and Earth-women ready to conquer Mars and  the rest of the universe, or a dark dystopia where messy-haired dumb warlords send super soldiers to fight battles for them, over some offensive Tweets.

Nothing to do but wait...

Friday, 9 June 2017

Me and my senile mobile

Me: I want to send an email.

Blackberry Bold, 4 years old: Ok.

Me: It didn't send.

B.: Did so, look.

Me: It didn't.

B.: Oh, right. Yep.

Me: Why??

B.:  *whistling and ignoring me, as I'm frantically digging around in the options menu*

Me: Ok, I have no choice but a hard reset then.

B.: Oh, come on.............. (the longest, most dramatic fading of the screen in the history of phones switching off)

Me: (switching back on) Right. Email. Resend.

B.: Done!

Me: (checking after two hours) Why does it now say 'all retries failed' after it was 'sent' before...?

B.: Don't know.

Me: Wait, where's the... what happened to the previous email I sent...?

B.: No idea.

Me: Send. This. Email. (googling Samsung phones)

B.: *SULK!* ('sorry but there is no internet access at the moment...')

Me: EMAIL.

B.: NO.

Me: (switching Blackberry off for an hour or so and back on)

B.: Hi! (Everything works just fine, email sent, emails received, internet access)

Me: *sigh*

B.: Oh and here's a bunch of emails from this morning! You're welcome.



Sunday, 12 March 2017

Dilemmas of predicting the future in a second decade of XXIst century

Hmm, so what if...

What if people of an island with a strong economy and robust public services got thoroughly manipulated by politicians lying through their teeth and billionaire media barons into blaming every wrong in their lives on the immigrants from neighbouring countries and shutting the borders and cutting the ties and making the economy crumble and public services dissolve, even after the lies have been exposed...


Oh wait, this is already happening....

So maybe, what if a mediocre businessman and a popular celebrity, who puts his name on everything in big golden letters and melts into temper tantrums on social media, so it's safe to say has some serious narcissist issues, gets elected, on the back of lying through his teeth of course, as a leader of one of the biggest and most military powerful countries in the known world and has no idea what to do with this power other than throw more tantrums...


Ha.


But, but, what if he was actually backed by one of the world's biggest powers, the one with shoddy record of sticking to human rights and a long annual list of disappearing anti government journalists and the government famous for lying through their teeth about everything in a language beautifully designed to skim around the subject, via said power's army of internet minions...?


Well, damn.


Return of fascism?


Nope, it's real.


A rise of global ignorance on an unprecedented scale, considering how wide spread internet is?


Read from the start...



It must be tricky to be a near-future-alternate-history-sf writer at the moment.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Books of 2016

1. Neal Stephenson - Seveneves - Multitude of characters  travelling through space to escape a catastrophe on Earth, with plot spread across millennia, is what the best space operas are about.

2. Brandon Sanderson - Shadows of Self; The Emperor's Soul; The Way of Kings Part I & II;Words of Radiance - Quickly, go read Sanderson's books, he's a rare fantasy author who writes faster than you can read.

3. Amanda Downum - Dreams of Shreds and Tatters - Sometimes I pick books for their titles. Sometimes it turns out to be a great choice. 

4. William Gibson - The Peripheral - I'll borrow this spot on description from Wikipedia's review "Like many Gibson books, The Peripheral is basically a noirish murder mystery wearing a cyberpunk leather jacket (...)"

5. Ken MacLeod - Descent - There's not many science fiction books set in Scotland, forget trainspottings and such, we need more Scottish sf like this one.

6. Ian Tregillis - The Mechanical; The Rising - French and Dutch empires fighting for domination on American soil, questions about free will and adventures of Clockwork servants. 

7. Jim Butcher - The Aeronaut's Windlass - Humanity living on Spires, miles about mist shrouded ground, monsters, flying ships and air pirates.

8. Nina Allan - The Race - An eerily plausible dystopia set in UK, with genetically improved racing dogs playing a large part.

9. Andrew Greig - Fair Helen - who would have thought that a retelling of the Border Ballad Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea could be so captivating?

10. David Barnett - Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon & Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper - More Steampunk! I seem to be slightly biased towards it - these are books 2 and 3 in the series and you find in them what it says on the cover and much more.

11. Jack Vance - The World-Thinker and Other Stories - Classic American sf. Just read them.

12. China Mieville - Embassytown - Embassytown is a city on an alien planet, where alien Hosts communicate using two mouths and so the only way to speak to them is via pairs of genetically engineered identical twins. And there's much more creative fireworks from a man whose books made 'New Weird' genre popular.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Displaced

And once again I feel like I don't have a place to call home.

It happens when you move country, of course, all of a sudden you have a house that you live in and a house that is your family house and this strange shadowy memory house that you, every now and again, long for when homesickness strikes. And yet, you feel strangely homeless. Displaced.

And then it fades and you make grudging peace with some of the annoyances of your new life and you make a conscious choice to say 'home' and mean 'the house I live in' and to say 'my parents' house' referring to where you used to live and it's fine. The feeling of homelessness passes. There is a future home you start building in your head, that will be a more permanent place.

And then it's gone. With one back stabbing political move I'm left drifting again, the house I live in is just a house I might lose at any moment, if I lose a right to work, if Germany or Spain or France decides not to play this round of game of politics the way British government wants them to. The dream of a house I might have had in a year or two or five is shattered and gone and I already moved away from my family home in my head. And it's confusing. And it makes me want to go and find my home, somewhere, again.

And do you know what the worst part is?

That now I will never be sure, if I go away and settle and live and make another place a home, that it won't all be abruptly taken away, again.

So I might never feel at home anywhere else.



Don't feel sorry for me. Just think about all the things that are going on in EU nationals' heads right now that no UK newspapers cover, no radio station talks about, no internet clip summarises. Talk to us. Ask us if we're ok. And listen.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Three examples on politics of cats being superior to politics of humans .

Politics of humans: We will only do this if the other ones do it first because if we do it first than we don't have a leverage. Stalemate! Impossibility!

Politics of cats:


Cat 1: Hey, move.


Cat 2: No.


Cat 1: Move.


Cat 2: No because it's my spot and if I move you will take it.


Cat 1: Yes.


Cat 2: No. You move.


Cat 1: Ok.


Cats swap places.



Politics of humans: We can not help vulnerable humans because they were born on another side of an imaginary line on a map.


Politics of cats:


Cat 1: Hey, kittens.


Cat 2: Yes.


Cat 1: Are these yours?


Cat 2: No, I found them in the bushes and they smelled hungry so I made milk.


Cat 1: Ah. I'm going now.


Cat 2: Yes.



Politics of humans: Posturing, posturing, empty promises, lies, posturing, posturing, rhetoric, empty threats, lies.


Politics of cats:


Cat 1: I don't like you and I don't agree with you sitting in this spot of sun.


Cat 2: If you approach I will hit you.


Cat 1: You hit me!


Cat 2: I told you!


Cat 1: I challenge you to a duel!!


Cat 2: I will hit you!!!


*scuffle, howling, flying fur* Cat 1 wins and settles in the sun. Cat 2 sits at the edge of the sun spot, furiously ignoring cat 1.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

The game of Civilisation

Remember these times when, during history lessons, you'd think to yourself "How could people, who were living then, not see this coming? How did they not do anything about it? Why didn't they object?" and shake your head?

Now is then.


Now we have to deal with a person who managed to run a casino to the ground running world's largest economy, holding hands with fascists. Now we have to deal with screaming crowds of online trolls, repeating slogans they barely understand in the name of alternative facts. Now we have to deal with trying to save our humane impulses towards millions of displaced by wars in the times of economic cirsis. Now we have to watch European Union crumble, Russia stretch, getting ready to pounce, nationalism in its ugliest form slay reason wherever you look.


The history is shaping right in front of our eyes.

And I have a bad feeling that some years from now someone pouring over whichever articles, posts, blogs, books, documents survive the next global crisis, will be shaking his head asking himself "How could people, who were living then, not see this coming? How did they not do anything about it? Why didn't they object?"


...


I don't like how this game of Civilisation is panning out. Can we reload the last saved game?



Friday, 13 January 2017

Healthy living AD 2017

I've been skimming the new-year-new-you articles that keep popping up everywhere in January. In 2017...

We should sleep for 8 hours a night.

Exercise for about 30 minutes a day.

Cardio!

And slow stretching.

Meditation is also very good for you.

And some exercises in mindfulness.

And spending time on your own to do these...

...but also being social every day with people you care about, because you never know.

Not online, that's bad. 

Oh, there's these brain training games & apps, to keep your brain plasticity going.

Reading books also keeps your brain healthy.

And sudoku.

And jigsaws.

And crosswords.

Let's not forget to eat, three meals and two snacks a day, balanced.

Preferably prepared from meat from the butchers, fish from the fishmongers, local organic fruit and veg, muesli made from scratch, bread baked at home etc.

Oh and don't forget to use reusable containers for your shopping.

And shop every day to eat fresh.

And do the soup diet every month for three days. Because, you know, soup.

And don't think about the money, stress is bad, stress kills. Bad money!

It's also healthy to sit down at the end of the day and write down what was awesome that day and what you are grateful for, like a diary. Pen and paper.

Not on a computer, blue light will mess up your 8 hour sleep.

Not in front of the telly, blue light!!! 

Seriously, stop thinking about the money.

And it's best to go for a walk after dinner to keep your fitness tracker ecstatic. 

Then sleep.

Sleep!!!

While I'm hunting organic aubergines, dragging jute bags full of organic goodness steadily stewing in the car fumes around me, doing my cardio at the same time and listing all the things I'm grateful for today in my head while trying frantically to make plans to see everyone important to me in the next month, I realise that I will miss facebook and blogging and Netflix and other 21st century escapist pods. Oh well, I might live to a hundred instead.