10 December 2017

Brexit Phase 1 agreement

So I've had a look at the understanding reached on the 'divorce bill'. Here are my thoughts:
  • Protecting the rights of EU citizens already here is important, asking them to apply for permanent residency is an inconvenience, but a necessary one so we know who has a right to live here.
  • The Common Travel Area cannot be eliminated in the British Isles anyway, it's been there for too long. Customs checks are impractical - but perhaps there could be a 'clearing house' system allowing for bulk payments each quarter?
  • Any trade deal will likely involve us making some payments. There is no such thing as a free lunch in these matters.
  • The UK should adopt standards for goods equal to or better than the current EU ones. That is effective regulatory equivalence while not tying ourselves to the single market rules if we don't want that; some goods might have to be labelled differently when rules diverge.
  • This could still all go pear-shaped.

05 December 2017

Northern Ireland and Brexit

It seems that the main sticking point over moves to trade talks is what do about the Northern Irish/Irish border. A ‘hard border’ on the island of Ireland is going to be immensely disruptive. A border across the Irish Sea is also going to be rather disruptive for places like Holyhead (who will need a lot of building work done for customs facilities) and will put the whole of the UK under strain. No border at all i.e. staying in the Single Market and Customs Union is remaining in the EU in all but name and completely unacceptable to a lot of leaver supporters as it will mean accepting freedom of movement.

 

Theresa May is probably regretting having become PM now…

25 November 2017

Net neutrality

On 7 December, the US Federal Communications Commission is likely to vote to remove "net neutrality", the requirement that internet service providers treat all traffic coming through them equally and do not discriminate for or against a particular traffic source with different speeds.

This has got parts of the Internet, Reddit in particular, up in arms. With internet provision in the US largely restricted to four big providers (Comcast, AT&T, Verizon & Time Warner), with some areas only having access to one, they are concerned this will lead to sites that particular ISP doesn't like being throttled or even blocked, especially if the site doesn't pay what the ISP wants. Netflix has had this problem in the past. With US internet costs pretty high as is (like $120 a month) this is something that they are not happy about.

I don't want this to go - it won't personally affect me and there doesn't seem to be any danger of it happening in the UK, Brexit or otherwise. It will be bad for many start-ups - survivable, but still bad.

However, I sincerely hope that social media can also get as worked up about issues more important to all our future than internet speeds. Like climate change.

23 November 2017

54 Years of Doctor Who

Well, it's certainly been an interesting year for the show; Season 10 was on the whole pretty good and Capaldi was excellent - with Matt Lucas surprising in his quality as well.

Then we got the really big news. With Capaldi's departure, speculation over who would replace him was intense... and when it was announced after the Wimbledon final, the fandom went a bit crazy.

We'll be entering a new era come Christmas Day and I for one welcome our new female Time Lord...

21 November 2017

Exit Robert Mugabe

It looks very much like Robert Mugabe is going to be impeached and removed from office tomorrow after refusing to step down following the coup.

He won't be missed; his economic mismanagement turned Zimbabwe into a basket case for one thing. That and he was a dictator.

Hopefully his successors will be better; while the 'heir apparent' is seen as a hardliner, I suspect he will make some serious concessions to shore up his position.

15 November 2017

'Star Trek: Discovery' season review - Part One

The Vulcan Hello 

In what seems to be the first part of a two-part prologue we get a strong introduction to Michael Burnham, who is headstrong to put it mildly. The episode honours original Trek while taking it up a level and the 'new' Klingons look great.

 

Battle at the Binary Stars

They certainly didn't do battles like this back in TOS, that's for sure. Not quite as good as the first episode, but a strong part two in which Burnham's plan goes completely Pete Tong MBE. It's a pity that Georgiou is only around for two episodes, but someone had to be the sacrificial lamb here and Michelle Yeoh does a great job.

 

Context is for Kings

Lorca… seems rather untrustworthy. Our proper 'pilot' introduces us to a batch of the new queue, including some welcome comic relief in the form of Cadet Tilly, an intriguing story arc involving new technology that seems likely to end badly and some epic quoting of Alice in Wonderland. Burnham is annoyingly self-confident, but I think she's meant to be here and part of the "Discovery" of the title is her finding her tact.

 

The Butcher's…

A regular named character dies with relatively little warning, there's some questionable activity going on with this ship and we get a rather classic twist on the big scary alien. A distinctly average episode, but things are moving along.

 

Choose Your Pain

The strongest episode so far. We're really getting into the story now and amazingly Mudd manages not to be annoying. Deeply dislikeable, that's for sure, but definitely not annoying. Glad that one particular character didn't die and it's also clear that Lorca has some serious issues.

 

Lethe

An episode focussing very much on Burnham's own background, this is a well-written tale although arguably not the best. The 'Disco' T-shirts are hilarious – even many of the crew weren't aware of them. Interesting twist ending mind – Lorca is looking more suspicious now.

 

Magic to Make…

Definitely the most fun – and funny – episode so far. Works perfectly fine as a standalone and is arguably the most Trek episode so far. Harcourt Fenton Mudd again isn't annoying, which is amazing and it's nice to see the 'personal log' back.

 

Se Vis Pacem...

Another very Trek episode; this wouldn't be out of place in the original series, that's for sure. A lot of good twists along the way, strong material for everyone (including the Klingons) and a strong cliff-hanger.

 

Into the Forest I Go

A great fall finale, which ties up a good deal – but by no means all – of the loose ends. Some really great action throughout, some strong tension (one particular character has become much loved) and a superb cliff-hanger that I'm looking forward to seeing resolved.

Overall

Started fairly strong, got very strong. The characters are all memorable and recognisable on sight, which is a good thing. The visual update works and I'm looking forward to Part 2 in January.

11 November 2017

Remembrance 2017

I've just come back from a holiday in Malta, which was itself subjected to a two and a half year siege and thousands of air raids by the Axis powers during the Second World War. It was the most bombed place on earth in relation to its size. The RAF suffered huge losses defending a small but strategically vital island and 1,300 civilians themselves were killed.

It's not just soldiers who are victims of war - it never has been. Refugees, reporters, aid workers and others, all are impacted in some way.

We will remember them.