Thursday, 16 March 2017

Stealthy alien invasion!

Story idea:

Venus is inhabited by clever and sneaky aliens who have been watching us for a long time. Being both clever and sneaky, they've managed to hide their presence from us.

They've had their eyes on our planet, so like their own, for a long time, but the climate is far too cold for them. So they've been nudging us along, giving us gifts of technological ideas (telepathically) knowing full well that we won't have the common sense to use the gifts wisely.

Terraforming (venuforming?) our planet by proxy by encouraging us to cause runaway global warming. Once we're all dead, they'll move in and get some extra lebensraum.

Nah. Could never work. Could it?

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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Blogroll addition...

Welcome, the acerbic writings of James Howard Kunstler.

I'm currently about a third of the way through an audio version of his latest book, Too Much Magic Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation (Unabridged).

Well worth a read/listen in my opinion. He's not someone to cloak his disdain in polite dissemblage. What he has to say is probably familiar ground for most readers of this blog.

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Friday, 10 March 2017

The land of everything there ever was...

Well, that's the internet, isn't it?

Once upon a time, if you wanted to find something out, you'd have to search for it, or work it out for yourself. Now, if you want to know how many cows there were in France in 1937, you just have to google for a few minutes, and the answer will be there somewhere.


But there's one thing I've never been able to find, that I'd really like to see again. So this is an appeal. Any suggestions would be welcome.

I'm looking for an animated film. I watched it, very late at night, on UK television, back in the early 1990's, although it could have been made a little earlier. It was in colour, and I think was made by a producer from Eastern Europe.

The storyline is ultimately noir. Evil wins.

The plot hangs on two characters. Good, and evil. Good is an artist, that wishes to make a pleasant, colourful, happy line of events. Evil is a skeletal, (hooded?) monochrome figure that constantly attempts to thwart the happy, colourful, good storyteller. Evil's efforts are overcome by the creative and happy ideas of Good, until finally, Evil cuts the line.

I have no clue beyond watching it, a quarter of a century ago, almost certainly while pissed and stoned.

Still, I'd love to see it again, if anyone out there has any ideas. If you do find it, it's well worth a watch.

Happy hunting.

A couple of bits that I vaguely remember...

Good creates something bright and beautiful. Bad drops a grey boulder on it. Good makes the boulder bloom in bright and beautiful flowers. Unremittingly happy, he is. Good is an avatar of the story's Author.

The end comes when evil manages to procure a big pair of shears or scissors, and after gaining access to the Author's castle (breaking the barrier between creator and created), snips the story line, preventing the author from writing new ways for good to prevail.

The author sits in a garret. He has a long thin nose, with a dewdrop on the end of it. His stone walled room is lit by candles.  He writes, with a quill, and what he writes is enacted in the world he creates.

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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

No pressure...

This is a post about the business of driving instruction.

There's been a bit of coverage lately about what's been termed "the gig economy"

If you delivered mail, like I used to do 25 years ago, you were an employee. You got paid, minus tax, and were entitled to certain rights, along with your obligations. We've moved increasingly towards a way of doing things where people are self employed. They contract to work, generally get paid a higher rate, but are responsible for their own tax, and don't get such things as sick pay or holiday pay.

It's nothing new. It's just been vastly extended over the last decade or so. If you were a small businessman, such as a roofer or a taxi driver, it's generally been that way for a long time.

And so it is with driving instructors. There are companies out there that will employ qualified instructors, and give them a wage, buut for the vast majority, they're working for themselves, and are expected to sort out their own tax and all the other gubbins you have to deal with as a self employed practitioner of your skills.

Getting work can be difficult, particularly at first. You advertise, or you pay the owner of a school to provide you with clients.

We're all prostitutes really, except we don't have to suck cock every day. We're friendly, often with people that we would not, in the ordinary course of events, choose to be friendly with, for money.

Helen, who's been paying me a nominal franchise fee for a good few months now, has got a full diary. She's now got people paying up front for blocks of lessons. Yet she's got a ticking time bomb in her life.

When working on a trainee license, you are confronted with 2 seperate limits. One is a limit on the number of times you can attempt to do your teaching test. (3 times). The other is a time limit. You must complete your training within two years of passing the first of the three tests you are required to sit. There is some leeway. If you've booked a teaching test before they time limit, but the test date lies beyond the time limit, it will be honoured. The entitlement to teach, on a trainee license lapses upon the expiry of the time limit though, regardless of anything else.

Helen's time limit expires in April. She has her first attempt at her final exam in early March. She's taken close to £1000 in up front payment for lessons over the last week or two.

She's stressing about this, although she's also done the sensible thing and banked the money, so that if she doesn't get through the test, she can pay back anything she's unable to honour.

I also think that the fact that people have chosen to give her hundreds of pounds up front says something about where she's got to as an instructor.

One thing I've wanted to do for a while has been to get her sitting in on a lesson with an absolute beginner. I'd managed to organise something a couple of weeks back, but unfortunately, she was ill, and couldn't make the session. Today though, I managed to get this to happen. I think she'll get a lot from it. Not just in terms of how to do a beginner lesson, but in terms of how to structure and pace things.

Being able to do the job, and getting through the teaching test are not one and the same, There are some potentially excellent instructors that, because of nerves or whatever, never manage to clear the hurdle. There are a whole lot of shit instructors out there that ticked the boxes and got through.

Still, having a good solid grounding in the real life nitty gritty job is going to give you a better chance of getting through.

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