Mike Vickers' Blog

March 6, 2019

Goethe’s Advice

Filed under: Literature, Music, Strindberg, Writing — derryvickers @ 10:47 pm

Further to my blog earlier today

Every day at least to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words” – Goethe

Well this evening it was August Strindberg’s Miss Julie at the Studio Edinburgh (the Studio is a little theatre at the back of the Festival Theater) put on by Perth Theatre.

More than a little song and if possible, a few reasonable words.

Miss Julie is 1.5 hours of hard listening and viewing; very much in the style of Ibsen and Chekhov though much more direct and painful; Miss Julie cuts her throat in the finish. Just three characters; Julie daughter of the big house, Jean, the valet and Christine the kitchen maid, but also the lord of the big house, who is the grey eminence.

You can read more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Julie.

Or if you have time you can see it at the Studio till Saturday 9 March.

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Every day at least to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Music, Personal, Writing — derryvickers @ 3:32 pm

Goethe

In these trying times of Brexit and Austerity, worth a thought each day.

What can I do about it.

Goethe had the right idea

 

March 5, 2019

Frank Field – Independent Labour MP for Birkenhead

Filed under: Birkenhead, Brexit, Frank Field, Left Politics, Personal, War — derryvickers @ 9:04 pm

I was born in Birkenhead, well the posh part to the south, Bebington, not that that was that posh as it was just half a mile from Port Sunlight, the soap factory of Lever Brothers where just before going to Liverpool University I did a vac job for 2 months.

But back to Birkenhead, Field was after my time; after graduating I headed south wanting to go to Singapore with the IGY. No such luck, I joined the Scientific Civil Service near Windsor and moved into computing and spent my working life in many aspects of the subject. I am not complaining, computing was new and exciting in those days.

But again, back to Birkenhead, I can still remember cycling around Birkenhead Docks; there were docks in Birkenhead then for cargo ships that overflowed from Liverpool on the opposite side of the Mersey. The docks were exciting places to cycle around with ships from all over the world. But many’s the time I got my front tyre stuck in the embedded dockside railway lines and fell off.

It also built ships at Cammell Laird’s; I watched the launch of the aircraft carrier Ark Royal

You can get an overview of Birkenhead at wiki

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birkenhead.

Everyone worked in Liverpool, a ferry boat away, or you could risk your life cycling through the Mersey Tunnel; fine going down to the middle but hell cycling up the other side with lorries trying to inch past you; I did it for a year but after that got the ferry and the tram. I did well predate the Beetles

All that’s by the way, although I have seldom been back I still feel an attachment to Birkenhead and I am proud of Frank Field and independent Labour soul who chairs the the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

He is quoted “In December 2017, during a debate on Universal Credit, Field described the impact that Universal Credit changes had had on his constituents. His observations moved Work and Pensions Select Committee member Heidi Allen to tears”.

He is an avid supporter of Climate Protection and features the protection of rain forests; all excellent, but I cannot agree with his attitude to Brexit even though I can see where he is coming from.

But you might like a piece in today’s “I” on “Ending benefits freeze to ease poverty”.

You may admire a new sculpture in Birkenhead Part of the exhausted solder in remembrance of WW1.

March 4, 2019

Stephen Jay Gould – a great loss as a humanist and science writer

Filed under: Journalism, NOMA, Politics, Stephen Jay Gould, World Class, Writing — derryvickers @ 7:29 pm

Cleaning the bookcase out, I came across my collection of Natural History books by Stephen Jay Gould; some 20 in all. The first one I bought was perhaps his first ‘Ever Since Darwin’ at a small book shop in Santa Barbara, a lovely town with glorious Bougainvillea. It was a Sunday and I had a Sunday break from a conference in LA.

So who was Stephen Jay Gould; he died on 22 May 2002

From the obituary in Nature

“Palaeontologist and public face of evolutionary biology

Stephen Jay Gould, the world’s most renowned palaeontologist, died in New York on 20 May [2002]. His death robs the fields of palaeontology and evolution of one of their most provocative thinkers, and millions of readers of an entertaining and astonishingly productive commentator on biology.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/417706a

This describes him to me from his books completely. To me, he was the ultimate Humanist. He believed and publicized Darwin’s evolution and through his books (collections of essays over 20 years) the wonders of evolution are described, not as the progression of evolutary steps to man as the greatest, but as evolution by natural selection at all levels, unlike Dawkins solely through genes and Conway Morris as God directed. He saw evolution as moving forward in jumps, Punctuated Equilibrium, which if I look back in recorded history, is how civilisation has moved forward from Aristotle; he also invented ‘exaptation’, making use of features already there for one purpose to use for something different, he examples birds developed feathers to keep warm before they adapted feathers to fly. He was not popular with his colleagues, who followed Darwin precisely that evolution was gradual over many thousands / millions of years. He had numerous confrontations with Dawkins. He also battled with creationists who pumped out that Whites were superior to Blacks have in bigger brains; Gould successfully refuted this.

But Stephen Jay Gould is dead for almost 18 years and unfortunately, to me, he is gone from the bookshelves, replaced by Dawkins (thought even he is no longer so prevalent).

He was in his lifetime ‘canonised’ by the US Congress as one of America’s living legends.

Unsurprisingly he was not a Christian but he did come forward with NOMA, Non-Overlapping Magisteria

From Wiki
‘Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) is the view that was advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion each represent different areas of inquiry, fact vs. values, so there is a difference between the “nets”[1] over which they have “a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority,” and the two domains do not overlap.[2]

I personally have difficulty in getting my head round NOMA but never the less it is one way forward in a very difficult area.

Stephen Jay Gould was, for me, a great and erudite writer and a formidable loss to mankind at this time. He will retain a prominent place on my bookshelf,

March 3, 2019

Gina Miller to the Rescue

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Gina Miller, Personal, Politics — derryvickers @ 9:31 pm

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/03/gina-miller-eu-delay-brexit-no-deal

Matthew d’Ancona thinks it less likely but it does look like a way forward out of the swamp of the Brexit mess.
And as Ancona says Gina Miller has already proved she can bring about the Unexpected and she has the determination to do so.

So here he goes:

Armed with a legal opinion written by Kieron Beal QC and three other senior lawyers, the co-founder of the pro-remain campaign Lead Not Leave will argue that the EU council of ministers could itself, unilaterally, extend the article 50 deadline.

Why should it even contemplate doing so? First, because – as Miller’s legal paper points out – “the wording of article 50(3) presupposes that the European council take the decisive lead with the consent of the withdrawing member state”. Second, because the EU has a legal duty to all its member states to ensure that any such withdrawal is not damaging to what article 13(1) of the treaty on European Union calls the “consistency, effectiveness and continuity of its policies and actions”, or to the principle spelled out in article 13(2): “Pursuant to the principle of sincere cooperation the EU and the member states shall, in full mutual respect, assist each other in carrying out the tasks which flow from the treaties.”

Miller’s point, of course, is highly political as well as specifically jurisprudential. By circulating this opinion at the European parliament and in Brussels, she hopes to remind the EU that the legal, practical and moral obligation to prevent a catastrophic no-deal outcome is not confined to Westminster. Her message is addressed to figures such as Donald Tusk, the president of the council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, his counterpart at the European commission, but also to the EU body politic as a whole.”

“But she is reminding the 27 other member states that they cannot, as a matter of law as well as of supranational ethics, play Pilate and wash their hands of this mess. We are, to coin a phrase, all in this together

If she makes the case and the EU acts, then Gina Miller deserves a statue in Parliament Square alongside Churchill.

As immigration from outside Europe rises, hucksters foment racial hatred

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Immigration, Left Politics, Nick Cohen, Personal, Politics, USA — derryvickers @ 6:31 pm

As immigration from outside Europe rises, hucksters foment racial hatred

Nick Cohen in today’s Observer

A difficult read. I had to read it twice get the gist of what Nick Cohen was saying and when I did, I found his message uncomfortable for me to accept.

And what he is saying, wakes me out of my comfort zone.

Just a few extracts:

On this reading, our leftwing inquisitors who squint through mean, little eyes as they hunt for the tiniest traces of heresy, or conservatives who scream they are on the side of “the people” as they stuff their rich sponsors’ pockets with tax cuts, are US-inspired tricksters who divert their credulous followers from what matters.

Brexit is such an affront because it is a battle in a culture war as surely and pointlessly as Trump’s wall. It solves none of our old problems, just adds new ones.”

“America is no longer an aberration. America is our future. When Tony Blair was elected in 1997, 60% of the English population was white and had left school without A-levels. When Theresa May lost her majority in 2017, that proportion had fallen to 40%. Over the same period, the share of the English population who were university graduates, members of an ethnic minority group or both went from 17 to 40%. In Britain, as in the US, progressive politics will be drawn to appeal to minorities and the educated, while rightwing politics will be drawn to appealing to “the whites”.”

“From the point of view of Chris Williamson, though, “trolling the Jews”, as the Jewish Chronicle neatly put it, could help him if he runs for Labour leader. With both main parties taking away from MPs the power to elect their leaders and giving it to activists in US-style primaries, inflaming the prejudices of hardcore party members rather than appealing to the wider electorate is the opportunist’s way ahead.”

“But [Nick Timothy] can smell out the prejudices of the right like a tomcat smelling out sex. He told Telegraph readers that when the (black) MP David Lammy attacked May as “suburban”, it was a racist “dog whistle” to rally the left against the millions of suburban whites who support her. “Because what does he mean by ‘suburban’ if not white people?”

Lammy meant nothing of the sort. But notice how easily now the hucksters from right and left palm the race card from the bottom of the deck and resolve, that if you want to live in a halfway tolerable country, our first duty is to stop them.”

The full article

As immigration from outside Europe rises, hucksters foment racial hatred | Nick Cohen https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/03/as-immigration-from-outside-europe-rises-hucksters-foment-racial-hatred?CMP=share_btn_tw

BTW I note this is my 200th Blog.  But its taken a few years to do so!

 

Automation in Space

Filed under: Space, USA — derryvickers @ 2:55 pm

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/mar/03/spacex-crew-dragon-docks-at-international-space-station

Not a great enthusiast of manned space flight.

In orbit satellites and roving space mobiles can do a lot more for less.

Nevertheless having worked for ESA and alongside NASA I can get excited by Space X’s mission to the International Space Station where the capsule docked automatically with the International Space Station.

SpaceX has sent plenty of cargo Dragons to the space station, but Crew Dragon is a different beast.

It docked autonomously instead of relying on the station’s robot arm for berthing, which is how Behnken said it should work when he and Hurley are onboard. They may push a few buttons and will have the ability to intervene if necessary, he said.

As part of Sunday’s operation, the ISS astronauts sent commands to Dragon to retreat and move forward again before the capsule made its final approach.

The ISS astronauts offered congratulations to SpaceX as they got ready to open the hatches and collect the supplies onboard Dragon.”

March 2, 2019

Make America Great. Dvorak was there long before Trump, when the US was Great.

Filed under: Music, Trump, USA, World Class — derryvickers @ 8:01 am

The RSNO, last night, under conductor Gilbert Varga,  gave a magnificent rendering of Dvorak’s New Word Symphony No 6 at the Usher Hall.
Paul Philbert on drums and the signature tune with Amy McKean on cor anglaise.

I wonder if Trump has ever spent time to listen to the symphony. Dvorak’s music conveys an entirely different vison of the US, than Trump would understand.

For a little more see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._9_(Dvo%C5%99%C3%A1k)

March 1, 2019

Towards a 2nd Vote

Filed under: Anna Soubry, Brexit, Politics — derryvickers @ 11:03 am

Paul Waugh in today’s HuffPost

If you want to know the latest on Brexit you should sign up to Paul Waugh.

 Anyway here is his latest and you can then while away many happy hours through the links open to you.

Those pushing Labour to back a second Brexit referendum are still divided on whether they think Jeremy Corbyn’s conversion is real or a mere party management tactic. Last night, shadow cabinet minister Barry Gardiner told Question Time of his doubts about a People’s Vote: “I’ve always been clear that I think it is divisive, I think it does undermine trust, but I now believe it is the only way that we have to stop no deal.” That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, yet it’s a candid admission of just why many Corbyn supporters have been wary. 

The next step in the tortuous process of Labour’s party conference policy on Brexit is to back a second referendum in Parliament. Yet the wording of any amendment, and its timing, is crucial to its success. The Guardian has an excellent story on backbencher Peter Kyle’s latest formulation, stressing that MPs would be ‘withholding support’ for May’s legislation unless the public was given a confirmatory vote. This is an attempt to meet the leadership’s objection that Labour can never back May’s deal itself, while somehow allowing the public a final say. “This ticks every single box and is the only credible proposal on the table right now,” Kyle tells the paper.

The problem is that such wording may not tick every single box. If the amendment really does withhold support from May’s legislation, then it kills her deal. If it approves her deal while expressing objections, would that be enough for Corbyn? I’m told a rival plan is for the party to change the order of business so that MPs get to vote first on May’s deal and then retain the right to amend it immediately afterwards. Labour would whip an abstension on the May plan (which would delight  No.10 as it guarantees its passage even with Tory Brexiteer opposition), then whip for an amendment subjecting it to a public vote. It’s the age-old question of putting carts before horses, and it ain’t easy.

The other box that isn’t ticked is on timing. If this is all pushed by or before March 12, it looks too  soon for many Labour MPs who are still ready to back a second referendum. Some think that if the plan is tried, and fails, the chances of a public vote will be killed off for good. And they fear that’s the ultra cynical intention of the leadership. They would prefer Parliament to reject May’s plan, delay Brexit formally, then be left with a referendum as that famous ‘last resort’. The danger for Peoples Voters then is that a ‘Common Market 2.0’, which has a more natural majority across both parties, could well become the most attractive option. The Independent Group (with new ‘spokesman’ Chuka Umunna) may say more at its press conference today.

February 28, 2019

Linlithgow and Linlithgow Bridge Community Council

Filed under: Communications, Linlithgow, Personal, Planning, Scotland, Travel — derryvickers @ 12:10 pm

As a member of the Linlithgow and Linlithgow Bridge Community Council I have tried to set out what I see as our role in the following Mind Map.

Double click map to bring up as full screen.

I welcome comments from other Community Councillors in Scotland and the UK more generally.

BTW Linlithgow is a lovely place between Edinburgh and Glasgow from where you can visit Edinburgh and Stirling Castles. And we are only 20 kms from Edinburgh Airport.

Find more about us @ MyLinlithgow

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