Things I have enjoyed this week

Here’s some things that I enjoyed this week.

Television:

The Detectorists (BBC4): This comedy is about two friends who share a passion for metal detecting, but it’s also about so much more. Lighthearted, funny, touching and very watchable.

Stranger Things (Netflix): Everyone in our house loved the first series. The sequel has so far met our rather heightened expectations.

Articles / Essays:

Orbiting Jupiter: my week with Emmanual Macron (The Guardian)

Addicted to Distraction (New York Times)

Paper Based Markup Systems (The Cramped)

Books:

Losing my Virginity by Richard Branson: I really enjoyed this. It covers the first forty years or so of Mr Branson’s life, including the founding of Virgin, the sale of Virgin Music to EMI and his famous record breaking adventures. The audiobook is narrated by the author.


Nakagin Capsule Tower

I’ve been fascinated by the Nakagin Tower for years. It was built in 1972 and consists of one hundred and forty steel capsules, each having just over a hundred feet of usable living space, connected to two central concrete towers (which deliver power and other facilities) by just four high tension bolts. Each of the capsules were fully fitted out before shipping, and could be independently replaced without affecting neighboring capsules.

National Geographic has some great interior shots of some of the tiny capsules which some people still call home. The photos in the article are by photographer Noritaka Minami. There are lots more on the artist’s site.


Replacing Goodreads

Goodreads is a social book cataloging site. At its most basic level it allows users to maintain a virtual library of the books they read. Users can rate and review books & participate in discussion groups. It was founded in 2007 and has around fifty million users.

I’ve been using Goodreads over the past seven years to keep a record of the books that I read. Over the past year I have been trying to reduce my Internet footprint; closing my accounts on all of the major social networks and in general just trying to keep as much of my data under my control as possible. Goodreads has been selected as the latest one to be led to the guillotine. I thought about this one a lot; it’s pretty harmless, doesn’t suck up mountains of time and I’ve had the account for years. It was a bigger wrench than closing my Facebook or Twitter accounts.

I do value the data that I’ve given to Goodreads, and I want to carry on maintaining it once the account is closed. Jamie Todd Rubin has created some crazy clever python scripts to parse and present data from a list of books held in a markdown file. I exported my data from Goodreads, bodged it into markdown format and used my very limited python knowledge to adjust his scripts so that I can track progress towards my annual goal.

The scripts are available from Jamie’s github repository. Take a look.

Here’s some sample output:

Year                                                    Books Pages
2017 ###############################+#+########           42  19732
2016 #####@#@#@########@####+#@####@#######@@#####        45  20584
2015 ##################################                   34  14494
2014 ##########################################           42  18537
Total                                                    163  73347

Statistical Summary
===================

Reading goal for 2017: 50
Years: 4
Books: 163

- Paper (+): 3
- Ebook (#): 152
- Audio (@): 8

Avg books/year: 40
Avg pages/year: 18336
Avg pages/book: 449

So, one more social network scrubbed off my list, I managed to export my data, and I’ve got a nerdy way to keep it up to date going forward. I’ll chalk that one up as a win.


The absolute state of the Labour Party

Politics in the UK is still mostly viewed in terms of left and right and the baggage that comes with them. I don’t subscribe to any strong views on either; good politics should pull ideas from across the spectrum and so I naturally gravitate to parties than govern from the centre. New Labour, under Tony Blair, was probably the closest that there has been to my ideal. It embraced capitalism and globalisation, but also enacted transformative social programs that improved the lives of the poor and vulnerable. It embraced Europe and was confident on the national and world stage.

I have voted in every single one of the four general elections that have taken place since I became eligible to vote. Labour has had my vote in all but the 2010 election, when I voted Conservative and helped to bring in the first Coalition government since the Second World War. The reasoning behind this vote was simple, the scale of government debt following the financial crash scared me, and they were they only party advocating significant reductions in government spending.

I voted Labour again in 2015 and was rewarded with a Conservative majority in Parliament. I joined the Labour party, the first time that I have ever been a member of a political party, and began to campaign for them. I delivered thousands of leaflets. I attended branch and constituency meetings. I even, albeit briefly, served as Chairman for my local branch. I sold the Labour message wherever I went, but then Jeremy Corbyn happened.

The Labour Party has now been out of power for seven years, having struggled to shake of the demons of the past or find a message that resonates with the electorate. It elected Jeremy Corbyn, a left-wing outlier who had never held or even sought high office as its leader. His MPs tried to overthrow him when it became clear that he was incapable of any form of leadership, only to bungle it and have him elected again under an even bigger majority. The Party now finds itself a perpetual and maddening turmoil. I cannot vote for Jeremy Corbyn to be our Prime Minister because he simply is not fit to hold that, or any other office of government. He is a third rate politician, of little genuine intellect but narcissism by the bucket load, buoyed by the cheers of his enthusiastic & devoted supporters to continue his bungled experiments with power. I cannot forgive him for the last eighteen months, where he has time and time again failed to hold the government to account while they succeeded in tearing up our membership of the EU. All of the evidence would suggest that the Labour Party is facing annihilation in this coming general election, and I whilst I genuinely grieve at that prospect, something good will have come of it if this maddening experiment is brought to an end.