Libertarianism (by )

I've long been fascinated by libertarianism. Creating social structures that are self-maintaining and do not require central control seems like a noble goal; things that are owned by organisations tend to end up either stifled by conservatism, destroyed by mismanagement, or fall into the hands of the greedy and end up taking advantage of everyone who has to use that service. The blockchain technology behind bitcoin is particularly interesting; it implements a form of democracy that requires no central body to hold elections and tally votes. Anyone can join the community of miners (although the cost of a sizeable vote is getting higher and higher with all these ASICs), and a proposed change will "become law" if you can convince the owners of enough of the mining power it's a good idea. This is vulnerable to somebody having enough money to buy enough mining hardware to dominate the system then being able to dictate their own terms to the world; but, fascinatingly, anybody who owns that much of the mining equipment will now have such a sizeable stake in the Bitcoin economy that it's very much in their economic interest to act in the interests of the Bitcoin economy as a whole - making it not vulnerable to abuse by the greedy; at most, it's vulnerable to abuse by the ideologically driven (somebody who's willing to spend a lot of their money just to destroy the Bitcoin economy).

However, "libertarian" has become a dirty word. A lot of the folks discussing decentralised social structures back when I first starting reading about them in the mid-1990s have turned into complete loons, ending up arguing for the replacement of every social structure by free-market economics, denying climate change, adopting evolutionary-psychology models of genetic competition to explain human mating behaviour in a way that fails to account for human free will and then allows them to justify misogynistic ideas, and so on.

Which is a bit of a shame. Can't we all get back to working out social structures that actually maximise individual liberty, rather than focussing on particular tools for that and elevating them to the status of worshipped idols?

I mean, free market economics is great in many ways. An ideal market will force suppliers to compete for the business of consumers, leading to better services and better prices. But that doesn't mean that abolishing government will lead to a Utopia as organisations scrabble to provide the best healthcare, protection from crime, social services, roads, and so on for the lowest possible price. Suppliers of products and services don't like free markets, as they introduce competition, and have historically shown great ingenuity and determination in disrupting the markets they sell into through anti-competitive practices. They will attempt to make their products hard to compare to those of competitors, lie barefacedly in advertising, use market leadership in one area to weight other markets (eg, Microsoft's use of its operating systems near-monopoly to bundle Web browsers that understood a different dialect of HTML, thereby pressuring the creators of web sites to target them to that widespread browser, thereby causing web sites to not work so well on competing browsers), and so on. Companies like Twitter, Amazon, Google and Facebook have a lot of control over the primary means we use to find out about and compare products and services to buy, so can easily give their own products an edge over their competitors.

Free markets only remain free (as opposed to capture by monopolies) when there's some body capable of setting standards through which comparable products can be fairly compared, enforcing advertising rules, and to stop monopolies. Left to their own devices, they stagnate.

High-profile libertarians seem to fall into a trap of hating government. They seem prone to sliding into extreme right-wing ideology; interpreting "using taxation to fund a welfare system" as "robbing me of resources I earned myself in order to fund people who, despite having the same opportunities as me, did not take them". They decry the compulsory nature of taxation as a removal of their individual liberty to choose to donate to charities or not, while failing to recognise that "were my parents rich enough to properly feed and educate me, provide me with adequate healthcare, and support me while I developed my business idea, rather than requiring me to go into the first job I was capable of as soon as I was educated enough to work at all" is hardly a good criterion for the fair distribution of the individual liberty this is all supposed to be about; they seem to fail to realise that we do not all have the same opportunities. Nothing is a better predictor of an individual's future economic success than the wealth of their parents. I see that as a terrible failing of society, and far more anti-liberal than having to pay taxes.

I suspect it's maybe just a "vocal minority" problem (Wikipedia lists many different forms of libertarianism than the far right wing stuff), but I think it's a shame that the actual search for individual liberty is being steamrollered by people who seem keen to enhance their own liberty at the cost of others'.

Halloween!!! (by )

On my Facebook Page I am having a bit of a halloween extravaganza :)

Through out today the spooky will play and I shall share stories rare of goblins and witch and monsters and kitch so sit back and relax have a bloody snack! On the hour every hour they will be here, stories to scare and bring you to tears! Images of the grizzly ghoul now get reading you fool!

enjoy (and don't forget the free colouring sheets!)

Spoogy Colouring In :) (by )

So a few years ago now I wrote a series of halloween poems for Jean who wanted something spooky but not scary and could only say spoogy as she was four or something. I then did a few more poems and typed it all up and did some illustrations the originals having been lost in a water drink spillage. And I got the Little Book of Spoogy Poetry which I put out as a down load, then I saved monies and got it printed and have been selling them and giving them as presents ever since.

Last year me and the yeti set out to do readings and halloween craft activities and the like so I sorted a couple of illustrations into colouring sheets which I am now posting on the internets for everyone to spread a bit of spoogy fun :)

Kissing the She Bear (by )

Tonight the 22nd of October 2015 is the launch of Kissing The She Bear by the amazing poet Anna Saunders - Anna's poems are dark and deep and whimsical and pull you into the other whilst wrapping the very real world and experiences around you. This time she has teamed up with the excellent Will Humphreys as the books photographer - Will's images are always emotion stirring and thought driving, he is one of my favourite composers within this art form. I am very excited about the combination of these two artists and will also be getting the chance to perform some of my own mythos based poetry at the event in Cheltenham - it is free entry at Copa.

Ada Lovelace Day 2015 (by )

Hot melt glue ada pendant

Ada Lovelace was a victorian lady who loved maths, she was also the astranged daughter of Lord Byron the poet, she has a computer programming language named after her and a day... the day is to celebrate women in science and technology. A chance to tell their stories.

Me and Alaric have written quiet a few stories of women who have inspired us or we feel are essential to where our current modern tech and meds are.

We have covered innovation, science, engineering, computing, medicine and technology. We love reading the stories that pour onto twitter each year.

But... that is not what I want to talk about today - not the successes but the struggles. As one of the most dangerous thing is not being allowed to fail.

If you are the role model, or figure head, or just in an environment where some aspect of you like gender or race or disability is highlighted continually and you are fighting to maintain your position... there is no room to fail, no space to just step back and go "you know I could use a little help here" because as soon as you do that it becomes because of that difference that marker, that things that makes you not one of the boys. And all those who have helped you and believed in you will be let down.

But if you can't fail, can't ask for help without undermining your own position then you can not progress as smoothly or easily and when the stakes are high it adds to the stress.

Because failure becomes not a little set back but a full blown retreat - a being chucked out the door.

When you can be a lousy scientist and it's just because you are lousy (or need more training) and not because of your gender, orientation, disability... - then equality isn't reached - until then it is just another stress to add to catastrophic collapses and retreats from the world of science and tech feeding the "leaky pipeline" we hear so much about i.e. why there are less and less women as you go higher and higher in science and tech even though the numbers are up and have been up for a decade or more at the lower ends like A'levels and undergrad degrees.

This is one of the reasons I actually hate quotas (I am not saying they are not needed) - I've seen good arguments for them but my personal experience of them has been being told I am not actually good enough - "you're only here because you tick three different boxes, you fill three quotas" this is crushing and if you are not careful it makes you feel that perhaps you really do not belong. You try and hide what subjects you are struggling with rather than just getting help with them and if you didn't "tick the boxes" then it would be fine to ask for that help - ask for it whilst being one of these groups and get told "this isn't the place for someone like you" and you end up having to threaten legal stuff and that just makes it all extra stressful. And how do you know you if you were good enough to get in?

Cheer yourself up with some of my puppet comedy involving Ada (not for kids this one!).

Also I made pendants, and key fobs and badges using the pictures of Ada I had drawn and hot melt glue straight from the gun! They are not the best - they were the first attempt at this technique but the girls loved them :)

Ada Lovelace picture cut out Ada lovelace picture flipped over and ready for hot melt glue Ada Lovelace drawing embedded half in hot melt glue resin Ada Lovelace beads and plaques made with hot melt glue

I was going to do cake but am saving that for the actual Bicentinnial in December.

Ada Lovelace pendent made with hot melt glue and fine liner

There is also a colouring in sheet people are welcome too, which I produced last year.

And yes I am grumpy - I never felt as if I'd left science, I felt like it was taken away from me and worse that I had let down those who had invested in me. I actually dread trying to talk to those people again but life is crock full sometimes. Maybe one day....

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