We’re machines…

Men are PCs:

1. Utilitarian design
2. Often cheap
3. More likely to crash
4. Prone to viruses
5. Obscure methods of self-promotion
6. Perfectly adaptable to your needs

Women are Macs:

1. Attractive design
2. Better at multi-tasking
3. Accessories cost more
4. Hardware lasts a little longer
5. Better at advertising itself
6. Want you to do things their way


Depeche live, Kaspersky freeze, OnePlus refuge, Grenfell soreness

That hodgepodge of a post title is probably fairly unique on the internet, if also uninspired.

I saw Depeche Mode at the London Stadium last month and forgot to blog about it. Not the first time I’ve seen them (in fact, a good few times over 12yrs) but the first at a big outdoor venue (West Ham Football Club’s home). It was great. They filled that vast stadium with their particular brand of atmospheric electronic rock and everyone lapped it up.

The only sour end to the night was the London Bridge terror attack which was in the vicinity of the concert and had killed me and my girlfriend’s audio high as we looked at the news in shock. It’s terror like that that keeps me questioned when flying.

As for Kaspersky, well I use their Internet Security suite on my PC. I had been having some problems since the Windows 10 Creators update though, where a few minutes after booting the system would freeze and I would have to manually turn it off and worked out temporary methods to stop frozen reboots. With a bit of help from tech support from Russia I found out that it was actually Malware Bytes, sitting seemingly idly as a confirmation scanner, that was now causing a conflict with Kaspersky, and – what do you know – uninstalling Malware Bytes sorted me out. Just thought I’d share that for anyone who needs it.

OnePlus. I have a OnePlus 5 phone. Yes, I’ve moved from nearly 6 years of Windows Phone/Mobile to Android, and I’m totally happy. Not only am I on the most popular OS which has quenched my app desire but I have high-quality mid-range hardware to go with it. It’s all been smooth and I wish I’d left sooner as even Microsoft services excel (haha!) here over WP. I do have a fondness for my old smartphone OS choice but with decreasing support, no real new phones and an uncertain Surface Phone, I just wanted to float on stable waters.

I haven’t talked about the now-famous Grenfell tower. Partly because of immense coverage everywhere and some internal soreness over the issue. I used to live in that area from birth to around 18 months, not in that tower but exceedingly close. I have pictures of where I lived but I can’t connect it to real memories as I was so small.

I saw the tower recently while travelling on the Tube. You’d normally ignore it as any grey building, but currently that charcoal-black-warzone-looking wreck stands out ominously and everyone looks at it on the carriage. It’s worse up close, and even worse is that it’s seemingly the result of a cascade of errors. A friend’s grandmother lost an acquaintance there.

I hope that justice is delivered and that this never happens again. I also hope that I can avoid being immediately around bad news.

I’d write more but I’m feeling quite yawny already early this evening, in a summer that wants to be autumn prematurely.

Iron Maiden @ The O2, 28/5/17

Another weekend, another event. I and a friend were actually pencilled in for this long before last week’s and one next week.

When I saw Megadeth a couple of years ago, it was a day after the Bataclan shooting in Paris and I was nervous: I was seeing an American heavy metal band in Wembley Arena. It turned out fine though; in fact I was quite happy about given a quick frisk in security, given that people of my look are the guilty parties.

Now I was seeing Iron Maiden after the Ariana Grande bombing in the more closer Manchester. Some artists cancelled their dates and venues even allowed customers to get refunds for active shows. I wasn’t put off though, because I had come to realise that attending an event immediately after a terror attack is likely the safest time because of the alert. The O2 always had security machines to pass through but now I saw more police on patrols than usual.

This was the first time I attended a ticketless event – ticketless because Maiden did an honourable move to prevent touting where you could only attend with photo ID and the card you purchased with. Unfortunately, my card had been replaced because of use at a suspected compromised cash machine, and I forgot I needed that old card for Maiden before I scissored it up. I worked out that email confirmation would help me out but it wasn’t too clear where to go, but I was sorted out at the box office. And I was not alone as there were at least 30 others who didn’t have a valid card for various reasons.

We sat down just in time for the end of support band Shinedown, and as support bands go they were just another generic one. All I remember of them was fists in the air.

40 mins later, Maiden come on. Or, first, there was a little video of their mascot Eddie in some sort of Doom-game like-thing. Then the lights came up on their Mayan-themed stage (because recent The Book of Souls album is framed that way) and they went through mostly new songs with some older classics.

It has to be known that I’m not a huge Maiden fan. I mainly tagged along because a friend not usually in to concerts wanted to go and he turned it into a late birthday present for me. I prefer their energetic earlier stuff (Powerslave is my favourite album, I love every track on that) and think their longer, mid-paced, proggier stuff of recent times can sometimes test my patience (consider that my favourite type of metal is the more zesty American thrash). But as a whole package I thought it was a great show. It was very theatrical and you know you’re having fun when it seems like you haven’t had enough.

Singer Bruce Dickinson ended with a little speech about Manchester, pointing out that there are lunatics all over the world (Trump was quite emphasised) and that the house of Maiden is welcome to all (whatever colour, religion, sexuality or other persuasion) who come in peace. You could argue that it was schmaltzy but it was a good way of saying that if you give in to fear and you buy into division, we’re all doomed. Apparently, there were more people at this show than on the sold-out first London night.

Set list here. Also check out this fan vid of the song Powerslave live from there.

PS: WordPress informs me that this blog has reached its 10th anniversary. It’s limped along in recent years, but it’s alive.

Omid Djalili @ Hammersmith Apollo, 20/5/17

I don’t frequently see live comedy (any time I’ve been, including this, has been at someone else’s expense) but whenever I do I always think ‘why don’t I go more’? They’re often cheaper than musical events and you walk away just as entertained, and also a little less tired.

Omid is a British-Iranian comedian who is very visible in that he’s appeared in films and TV. One almost risqué quality of his material is that much of it is race-based – but not racist. His contemporary David Baddiel points out that he gets away with it because of his innocent naiveté (there’s no malice and he makes fun of himself too), and most likely because of his ethnicity. I once heard Omid describe himself as an adopted (South) Asian. And why wouldn’t we take him in when we’re happy for him to be a representative?

The 90min support slot was admirably supported by Boothby Graffoe with his guitar, and Omid’s jokes covered Trump, Brexit (yes, I found his anti-Brexit stuff funny) and any other thing that’s currently or timelessly topical. I would be interested in buying any possible DVD for this Shmuck for a Night tour – in which the Apollo was the closing date.

Going back to the material. I remember liking some comedy when growing up that was in hindsight racist. Why? Though race-based material can often be low-brow, it can still be funny. My thought process on viewing such things is “yes, this is a stereotype, and it’s even exaggerated. I find it funny not because I hate myself or that who is being targeted, but just because it’s an observation that can be used to entertain and not necessarily be malicious.” The problem only is in the intent of the comedian (Bernard Manning, for example, was pretty funny, but it seems quite clear that he genuinely believed other ethnicities are inferior). You could even have a fan that misinterprets what Omid says, but given that his liberal-left leanings are obvious in his other material there probably won’t be many of those.

And I don’t think being white disallows you from good-hearted race-based material. Al Murray pulls it off very successfully with his xenophobic Pub Landlord character.

There was even what could be seen as a sexist joke from Omid – but all the women were laughing. I remember in the 90s that there was a backlash against anything that could be seen as prejudicial, but I think the balance is just right with comedy at the moment: Be funny, by whatever means. But don’t be cruel.


On another note, the historian Tom Holland followed-up his previous documentary on the genesis of Islam with one that examined ISIS and the genocide of Yazidis. I didn’t watch this one. I thought the other one was fine, but on deciphering that he places human tragedies in ranking order rather than equally, I now find him a bit suspect, in terms of his conclusions rather than his research.

Bladed boomerangs always return injuries

My country’s turn again yesterday for a terror attack.

The only people who should be getting media coverage are the victims and heroes, not the attacker.

The other people who shouldn’t be given coverage are those using the event as some kind of evidence for their illogical politics.

If the attacker did represent all Muslims, London would have been reduced to a crater a long time ago. Why is Abdul Sattar Edhi not seen as representative of all Muslims? Click that link. No one represents anyone but themselves; Muslims, like people of other or no religion, are too diverse to subscribe to groupthink politics. And even where politics are shared, actions are not.

We shouldn’t worry about Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson either because if they held the common view of white Britons, London would also have been reduced to a crater a long time ago.

Most far-rightists and Islamists etc. are all mouth. Those who shed blood are mercifully even less.

Also consider this: Why did we worry about the IRA largely until the Good Friday Agreement? Why have we been worried about Islamists since then?

Bladed boomerangs always return injuries.

Lost in Trans-lation

Yesterday, The Times published an article (pay-walled, though free access is possible) by Jenni Murray titled ‘Be trans, be proud – but don’t call yourself a “real woman”‘ which explained that biologically and experience-wise there’s no real analogousness between a born-woman and a transgendered woman. It didn’t call for any hatred of transgender people, however.

Not entirely unexpectedly, the article riled a lot of people: there’s those who defend what Murray wrote (me included) and those who think that her pointing out a differentiation was alienating. While I’m sympathetic to transgendered people, at risk of sounding deeply conservative, I do think some things are getting out of hand.

It must be incredibly hard to go through life with a mental gender that is incompatible with your biological sex and that deserves sympathy and compassion, and certainly a lot of psychological support. But I think medicines and surgical techniques which were designed to treat, for example, intersex conditions, have been misused for gender reassignments. Not least because some people regret their transition, but because it’s very invasive and it still doesn’t make you an authentic woman (sorry).

A transgendered woman will not ever be chromosomally (coded) female. A fully-grown man will have a brain programmed by high testosterone, plain hips, an Adam’s apple and other male features that are not muted by gender reassignment. You can put on a dress, grow long hair or get a wig, but you’ll still easily be recognised as a male in denial by both men and women. This is also why some want gender reassignment to be offered to confused children because they can be better physically moulded, yet I don’t think a pre-pubertal child has the ability to make an informed choice.

I recently saw a photo of a gender-neutral toilet which was converted from a women’s toilet. There was no conversion of the men’s toilet or the disabled toilet (which is gender-blind anyway). Why? I can make assumptions: a) the company didn’t want to spend money on an extra room for a facility (transgendered people are very rare, I don’t know any), and b) because transgendered people are likely often men transitioned to women it’s easy to serve both women and transgender women by toilet bowels without urinals. However, as some women have pointed out, this rightly would unnerve many women. If a transgendered woman has a vagina, other women are not going to check for this and will be alarmed at someone probably in a dress, with an Adam’s apple and male hips walking in. If the transgendered person hasn’t had the operation and they just want to urinate, they’d be better standing in front of a urinal in the men’s toilet.

While transgender women feel an affinity with born-women, it’s not a mutually exclusive thing. Women can’t see a fellow sister in someone who is chromosomally male and grew up so. Their social and biological experiences are very different. Women who transition to men would find the same problem.

Intersex is a different thing. A child will likely have features that are more one than the other and will likely connect their gender identity to that. Not only is it easy to shape ambiguity it’s welcome when it’s done young. They will therefore always really be what they’re assigned.

It’s not different to preference for different ethnic features. The black activist Rachel Dolezal was criticised for having a very dark tan, an Afro-Caribbean haircut and conjuring up a story about her ancestry which helped get her job. While, she’s entirely free to modify her appearance, this does not make her a real black woman. Just like Michael Jackson’s skin-bleaching did not make him ethnically white.

The loss or acquisition of body parts doesn’t mean much either. If a woman loses her breasts or womb, she isn’t now somewhat male. If a man loses his testicles or prostate, he’s not now somewhat female. If synthetic hormones weren’t devised for HRT you wouldn’t see transgender operations as viable at all, which is why it’s a bit of a manufactured problem.

I think Murray is right to say that there are women and transgendered women and men and transgendered men. It is better to own the transgender tag because it is unique and you don’t feel alienated by the unacceptance from the gender you want to be and aren’t really.

Not beyond the doormat

A bit of coincidence and cockiness probably saved me from an undesirable scenario recently and I want to share it if it can help other Londoners (or indeed people from anywhere in the world).

Somebody rang my doorbell in the day and I ignored it, like I usually do, because I wasn’t expecting anybody. It’s usually people who have got the wrong number or nuisances like leaflet droppers and questioners from charities.

The person rang again and I considered answering the door because they might indeed need some help (as has happened a few times) and no one else seems to be attending to them.

Then I heard loud rapping on my door window and a hand through my letterbox with a voice asking for attention. The first subconscious thought was that this seemed a bit desperate and something told me to hold off answering.

Then the knocking and calling appeared at another window. I hesitated then decided to go there. There was a man in a hi-vis jacket who waved when he saw me. I waved back then proceeded to my front door where the man then re-appeared.

I opened my door with the chain lock on:

“Hello. I’ve gotta come in to read your meter!”
“But I submitted my meter readings a few days ago.” (a lucky truth)
“Well, we have to check them again anyway.”

I noticed he had no insignia of any energy company on his clothing. His ID looked very dubious too – lacking the name of any company or a sufficiently big picture. I went into red alert:

“Can you give me your ID so I can call my energy company to confirm that you’ve been sent out?”
“I can’t do that… Look, just have a look at my ID through the window.” [presses it against window]
“So you’re not going to give me your ID? Right, well that’s understood then.” [a kind of cockiness enters my voice]

You can see a look of hunter-looking-hunted in his eyes as I close the door. He doesn’t ring again, disappears, and no other ‘meter reader’ turns up again. Another reason for suspicion was that this wasn’t the first time I came across a dubious ringer but I had shoo’d such people away before a conversation even developed (you get used to this from nuisance phone callers).

There were a few other things in hindsight that came to mind:

  • He didn’t ring my intercom button, meaning someone else had let him in, perhaps with an excuse such as needing to come to leave a package with an absent household.
  • The guy didn’t even tell me what company he was from or ask for my name – I should’ve said “what’s the name of the customer you’re looking for?”
  • He didn’t have the electronic device to record meter readings on – in fact he had nothing.
  • Lastly, access to my property is a waste of time. My meters can be read by anybody via viewing windows beside the door. Also, no meter reader has been desperate to knock in such a way.

I called 101 (non-emergency) to register this very obvious dodginess (I hedge it was an attempt of distraction theft, based on recent memory of news) but I was miffed at how unarsed the person was. I later read that the Met Police regard 101 as a waste of time. But you can’t call 999 for a crime that didn’t happen.

A friend of mine has a smart meter installed (which I’ve learned is not free as its cost is spread across your energy bills) and he still requires meter reading visits because it’s company policy to do so for a few years to verify the new device’s accuracy. So I guess it’s this fact and that people don’t submit their own readings immediately that helps give these con artists a narrative.

In short, keep a look out. Here’s tips bullet-pointed:

  • If you experience anything like this, let your neighbours know (particularly if they’re elderly/vulnerable) – you have to look out for each other. Inform your local Safer Neighbourhoods team too.
  • If you have an intercom system and that’s not rung, see that as a yellow alert. The intercom is the first vetting point.
  • Ask any caller what customer they’re looking for, maybe be cunning: “Are you here for Mr. Smith’s meters?” “Yes.” “I’m not Mr. Smith.”
  • Ask what company they’re from if not obvious… “Ah, my meters, you’re from Brand X energy company, right?” “Yes.” “I’m not with Brand X, never have been.”
  • Ask for their ID, they must hand it to you. Don’t call any number on it. Find your supplier’s number online or on a bill. Don’t bluff that you’ll call ‘their company’, actually do it for peace of mind. Still not convinced? Then still don’t let them in!
  • If you have manual meters, submit them online as soon as your supplier asks for them. It takes 30 seconds and removes doubts when anyone does come.

Con artists I don’t think are synonymous with break-in-ers (I’m not doing good with finding the right words here), that’s why they’ll act friendly to get in. But if things do get more messy, just call 999. Break-ins are higher risk to criminals now because of the noise alerting the street and mobile video evidence is easy to create via passers-by.

Up to this point I had been a bit cavalier about utility visitors because I never had a dubious experience despite being aware of the possibility. Most people are good but because a few aren’t you have to be careful. I will continue to be.


The Orange Goblin

I watch the news, you watch the news, so, we know that the new POTUS has banned entry from 7 predominantly Muslim countries, temporarily, for alleged safety reasons. Notably excluding Saudi Arabia who are the global growers of Islamist terror and who, you know, have the deepest connection to 9/11. They’re also tied to Trump’s business interests.

Sure, it isn’t a blanket Muslim ban since not all Muslims are banned, but the move from measured screening of suspicious individuals is not only resource intensive but also very broadly discriminatory, which has produced justifiable global outrage. Not only does this give feed to Islamists it’s also bizarre on the grounds that the 7 countries are not historical US terror exporters. Although given the ‘favours’ bestowed on them you would not be surprised if they were. Also the funny thing is that the ban covers Muslim-heritage atheists like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and of course the vast majority of Muslims who hate fundamentalists as much as Christians do the KKK.

Given that most violent deaths in the US happen by gun-toting white males maybe all countries should ban them? Sounds ludicrous too, doesn’t it?

But let’s be clear, Trump has only been POTUS for a fortnight and while he is obviously an imbecile who would be extremely lucky to have another term, his predecessors (both Obama and Bush) form a contiguity. They have bombed Muslim-majority countries on alarmingly erroneous pretexts and banning is a rather tamer event than killing (but you can bet there will be a Trump war, though he’s not obviously as war-hungry as Hillary). It gets the news headlines because it affects events on US soil and not the camera-barren east.

It was easy to dislike Bush because he was a gormless Republican. It’s easy to dislike Trump because it’s hard to see a redeeming feature (unless you’re a redneck). But I find it easy to dislike Obama too because he didn’t exactly veer between his predecessor and successor, and I admit I was a huge flag-waver of his up until just before second re-election time.

Sure, it was momentous that we had a black president given the history of the US and then a Democrat after 8 years. And while he has done some good things (Obamacare, trying to ban guns) and is clearly highly-educated and statesman-like, he has as much blood on his hands. He gets an easy ride because he comes off likeable and is on a party allied strongly with morality (or was), but beneath the surface he’s just the same. Drone killings and wars that do nothing but fan the fires. He also banned Iraqis in 2011 temporarily but didn’t make the mistake of parading his signature to the cameras like the orange goblin did.

I made it clear that Trump and Hillary are not very different to me. Yes, the latter is smarter but she would do odious things too without looking like a pantomime villain. I actually still dislike her more.

The only good thing about all this is that it should hopefully get the Democrats to wake up for 2020 and for Americans in general to realise that the genie that they’ve unleashed isn’t going to ‘Make America Great Again’.

Were I a US citizen I would’ve voted Jill Stein following Bernie Sanders’ defeat. A wasted vote perhaps, but one I could really sleep at night with.


….And Mexico isn’t going to be paying for any wall.

Also, Brexit isn’t automatically equivocal with Trumpism. Yes, it could all become shambolic but that’s not guaranteed. Certainly not many horrors have arisen yet.

The Trump card

2016 definitely seems to have been a weird year. We’ve had an above average number of celebrity deaths and topsy-turviness in world events.

The ‘sequel’ to Brexit seems to have been the election of Donald Trump as the next POTUS. If I were an American I’d have voted the Green’s Jill Stein in order to shake up the ongoing Democrat-Republican power saga. More ideally I’d have liked Bernie Sanders to have been the Democratic candidate as his ideas are, well, really idealistically Democrat and he would have undisputedly beaten Trump.

While it would have been welcome to have a first female POTUS after the first black one, most correctly see Hillary as self-serving and with a taste for overseas conflict. Trump, I believe, will end up being an unremarkable Republican, not able to deliver on almost all of his outlandish plans (he’s already backtracked on many) and will likely only last one term. Hillary would’ve offered the same false hope as Obama with a little bit more blood on her hands. 2020 will hopefully be the year where US politics reconfigures and people have better and saner choices.

I think, like with Brexit (and I’m an open Brexiteer and I still have no regret yet as it’s yet to happen and the EU’s in danger of collapse or necessary remodelling) most Trump ‘fans’ are actually just Hillary-dislikers. All racists voted for Trump, but not all who voted for him are racist. All racists voted for Brexit but not all Brexiteers are racist. The convergence is in wanting to bang a fist at the standard path. I don’t think the USA is going to have a KKK administration and I don’t think we’re going to see a new Hitler in Europe. When things get awry economically this pattern is predictable but I’d like to think that we remember the lessons of the past and curb excesses and not walk blindly into things.

It’s not a dawn of chaos ahead but a little din before we work things out for the better. However, I’m not a seer, just an optimist.

I also hope to blog a bit more in 2017. I did good enough for half of this year.

I voted Leave

To many people (maybe most) around the world, the act of ‘Brexit’ looked liked severing off a limb to fall from a mountain to death rather than just perishing at the rock-face. It probably is true because I think there are perils either way, which is why the UK was so evenly split on whether to leave or exit.

I voted to leave, which is a move that bucked the trend of the capital and almost everyone I know who shared their voting aims with me. Why did I ‘shoot myself’ in the foot?

It’s important to remember that EU membership is not a left or right-wing thing. Although the referendum looked like a debate between factions of the Tory party, there was also the Labour Leave group and hostility to the EU has been cross-party for decades. Even Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn was anti-EU, only being pro-EU now in that he preferred reform.

There are of course racists who supported Brexit but that does not mean all Brexiteers are racist (indeed, you’ll find plenty of brown and black Leavers). UKIP gave too much focus on immigration which is but one facet of the EU debate, and instead of talking about the danger of unmanaged numbers, thereby stressing public resources and disserving both migrants and the existing population, we heard swipes at the Polish and the Turks. Anti-racists bought Brexit on either left or right-wing principles and only a few far rightists thought of it as some romantic purging of immigrants. While far-right parties elsewhere are also clamouring for exit, it is ironically EU austerity and unrestricted movement that has helped rather than killed these parties. Labour avoids the immigration debate entirely, and who does that feed?

I understand the benefits of the EU and I didn’t vote with extreme confidence (probably 51% of me!). But I don’t believe the EU would reform (Juncker said so) and I also think the EU project is going to end by the hand of other countries, so we might as well get a head start in diving through the troubles, which I believe are not long-term. Market horrors are due to uncertainty, the markets want certainty, believing only negativity from surprise. We haven’t triggered Article 50 yet and I think by the time we do and have fully exited we’ll have fixed the deals we still want to keep, so it’s like changing to a better phone network. Leavers are by and large anti-EU, not anti-Europe. In fact you get to be open to the world outside the EU too.

While the EU has some benevolent aims (at least in the formation) I’m not comfortable about the inevitability of joining the failed Euro currency, the unconfirmed idea of an EU army (you don’t need a continental army for defence, so it must only be for offence, to aim to be as powerful as the US as an aggressor, bringing terrorism to more European countries), and increasing decentralisation which effectively mutes democracy and benefits elites (who benefits from austerity and who triggered the financial collapse?)

Maybe I voted wrong but I made an informed choice that I’m sticking by. Nothing else we can do unless there’s an overturning of the referendum, but what kind of democracy do we have if we must overturn democratic decisions?

Sure,.there’s also a risk of breaking up the UK too (I don’t want that), but I’m not sure if it’s logical for Scottish independence in order to have the EU, a weaker country like that could become Greece 2. But they deserve another referendum as the terms have changed. Yet the UK is a logical construct for local landmasses, whereas the EU is not even about European countries anymore; the bigger it gets the worse it is.

Irish unity? I think Northern Ireland is too entrenched as a UK territory (though it should never have been taken) for that to happen. I don’t understand why the EU is given too much credit for the peace process.

Finally, TTIP was a bullet that the EU was certainly going to fire at the NHS. I’d rather have a few years of Tory bruising on it than a complete dismantling.

My prediction is that in a few years we’ll be okay, but Brexiteers look like the baddies today. Just have to hope I’m right.