Mon 26 Dec 2016 – Sun 1 Jan 2017
2016 in a graphic:
I really am not someone who is superstitious or who gives meaning to things. Indeed I pride myself on being a child of the Enlightenment (though with a faith element thrown in). Though I love sci-fi and ghost stories, I know they are bullshit. Science rules. However, certain patches of time contain so many bad things coincidentally happening together that they can be labelled ‘bad’. There is no doubt at all in my mind that 2016 has not been a bad year but an absolutely dreadful one. The retards won out in the the Brexit referendum and in electing Trump. But darkness enables light to shine and so we move on.
Equally a terrible year of so many good people dying and so many bad ones still alive. Bowie, Caroline Aherne, Victoria Wood, Prince, Leonard Cohen. And just last week the deaths of George Michael, Liz Smith, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. The way to remember the dead is by creating a better place for those living. So shit 2016 dies and we move to 2017. I have no doubt that there will be nastiness and fights during 2017 but that is to be looked forward to. Time for muscular liberalism to fight back against Farage, The Sun, May, Trump, The Daily Express, Corbyn, Johnson, and The Daily Mail – the new establishment.
Interesting to think that there may be another dimension where 2016 was a classic year with Brexit defeated, Clinton winning, and Trump with Corbyn consigned to the dustbin of history.
Books and reading
Twas not a normal week with the office closed. So refreshing and reinvigorating to have this time off. OK I spent much of it catching up on personal and work emails. Indeed that really was my primary travel into the domain of digital last week. I’m still trying to get to that mythical time when I am on top of all my emails. But I also had lots of lovely time to read and listen. Thus I got through several books.
‘Ammonite’ by Nicola Griffith
This is a ‘sci-fi’ classic written by a woman and someone seen as a key part of ‘queer sci-fi and fantasy’. It is an interesting story about a planet where a virus has killed off all the men and, it turns out, enabled women to self-impregnate themselves. Will ‘the Company’ allow this situation to continue or end it via an antidote or bombs? An intriguing story though it is fascinating how many sci-fi writers are entranced by the idea of people reverting to primitive societies. Indeed the heroine is an anthropologist and, at times, the book is a bit too much a description of the sisterhood dancing around a bonfire.
‘The Three Body Problem’ by Cixin Liu
This book was first published in English in 2015 and received rave reviews. You don’t often hear about Chinese sci-fi and this is a good piece of literature. One of those books that traps and drags you in. Especially as at first it is very hard to see where the story is going or how it will evolve.
As with all sci-fi, it is very much rooted in the present. The roots of this book sit firmly in Chinese history bringing together much of the horror of Mao, the Cultural Revolution, and the period of the Emperors. At its heart it is about revenge. But there are also salutary warnings about bearing through hard times and also appreciating when things are good rather than looking for something better – the curse of wanting to live in interesting times (hello Brexit and Trump voters). But also addressing the dilemma about whether we should we try to contact extra-terrestrial life? Indeed, why do we assume it will be nice?
Dr Who audio adventures
‘Kingdom of Silver’ and ‘Keepsake’ (seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy + no companion)
More adventures set towards the end of the McCoy regeneration when he travels without companions. Though in both stories temporary ones arise for him to bounce off of. The first adventure features our old friends the Cybermen and it turns out that the tomb on Telos was just one of many planted across the universe. Also some great links to the famed Orion Wars which Dr Who geeks will know about. The second is a poignant tale about what happens to the Doctor’s companions once he has gone. Neither are classics but these are two well considered, thoughtful, and thought-provoking stories.
‘Brotherhood of the Daleks’ (sixth Doctor Colin Baker + companion Charley Pollard)
When the interviews with the main actors in the Extras say ‘this is a really difficult and confusing script’ then you know exactly what you’ve got. An entertaining but incredibly multi-layered story featuring a host of weird things such as hallucinogenic drugs, singing Daleks, and a communist cult. Much of the main problem is working out whether characters are Daleks thinking they are Thals or Thals thinking they are Daleks? Or Thaleks as they become known as. Love the companion Charley though the whole exercise is really stretched regarding her not telling the Doctor she will travel with him in the future.
Health and efficiency
One of the highlights of the holiday period is Channel 5’s ‘World’s Strongest Man’ programme. I love this and am always impressed by the strength of these guys. OK I also have a thing for large men but…
So I was inspired to do some good exercise last week overcoming the excess of Christmas Day. However I did weigh myself and the bad news was that I was up to the dreaded landmark of 14 stone. I don’t think I’ve ever been so heavy.
Gym twice last week – Tues and Thurs. Both days 10 mins each on the rowing machine and bike plus all-over weights workouts. I deliberately tried to push the amount of weight I was lifting using the WSM inspiration. No gym on Wed but I did a long purposeful work from Olympia all the way to Victoria.
Swim on Fri. Got to the pool about 9.45 and there were about 10 people in it. I left around 10.40 and there were only 2 people there. I felt really chilled and over the space of about 55 mins did 40 lengths. Mainly my slow backstroke but also the occasional lengths of breast stroke though I fear that aggravates my knees. Several lengths of front crawl / freestyle. I am getting a lot more comfortable with this. I don’t feel so much like I am drowning. But I do wonder if I should be able to adjust the side I turn to breath or even go several strokes before needing to breath.
Jog-run on Sat. I was thinking about doing this on Sun morning – New Year’s Day. But I was concerned that my route would be blocked for some reason. Also that the coffee shop for my warm up coffee would be shut. To be honest, it felt like hard work. I really had to push myself to keep going. But ultimately it came together with a fair time and pace though nothing very impressive. Several minutes over my best time.
Jog-run done. Hard work but managed to keep going. OK time and pace but nowt great. pic.twitter.com/mxMCs6Tmeh
— Billy Dann (@BillyDann1) December 31, 2016
Family and friends
Boxing Day I chilled around town and then went back to see my niece and nephew who were doing an overnight stay with nanny. Also stayed over with mum on Tues so I could do her laundry on Wed morning. Dave was working in-between Christmas and New Year though I wasn’t. So I spent days chilling on my own and catching up with him in the evening. I had several thoughts of going to the cinema but they came to nothing. Dave’s mate Pierce came over on NYE. He lives in Dublin but came over to London for the new year celebrations. He went out clubbing most night’s but popped in to see us. It was great to see him. He has been made redundant and is possibly going travelling – am I envious?
Languages and holidays
DuoLingo continues meeting my daily target though I didn’t do any on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. Both chilled but busy days. Me and Dave also spent lots of time on New Year’s Day thinking about holidays in the first half of 2017. Gran Can before May seems a certainty as does Berlin at Easter. I’m not sure about any mini-breaks before that. They are not going to be to warm places nor do I feel like I’ve had a break. Too often feels like a quick in and out dominated by travelling without real fulfilment.
How we can all contribute to a better world
My brother had big sort out of clothes and I took those bit by bit to the charity shops. People often think ‘what can I do to create a better world’. Two things, small but so what. First, have a sort out and take some good quality stuff to your local charity shop. Second, donate blood. The latter is something I would love to do but cannot because of the HIV virus. Singularly more blood (and organs after death) would be a big step towards a kinder society.