Exploring roads on google I’ve never actually been down.

The oddest thing just happened, although I’m not talking about what is going on in parliament. Long-term readers – if I have any – may remember me mentioning going up Giantswood lane in my powerchair when I lived with my parents in Congleton. It’s an old country lane backed onto by the housing estate where I grew up: I used to take my chair down it, trundling along it for hours trying to get to the Swettenham Arms. I haven’t been that way in well over a decade.

However, since I moved to London, a new bypass has been built around the north of my old home town. Not having been up there in two or three years (at least), I haven’t seen anything of it, and only know what my parents told me about it. Being quite a fan of Google streetview though, a few minutes ago I thought I’d see whether they had driven their famous camera-car along the new road: they hadn’t the last time I checked, but it was worth another look.

I think what I found was kind of uncanny, but worth noting. The new bypass is marked on the map, and came up blue when I selected streetview; so Google had obviously ‘done’ the new road. But when I selected the view from Giantswood Lane, it showed the lane as I remember it, with green, unspoiled fields on either side. It was only when I selected the view from the new road that I finally saw the bypass, with Giantswood Lane now running over it via a brand new bridge. Obviously Google have yet to send their car along the old road since it changed, so you can only see how it looked twelve years ago. It strikes me as strange to now be able to glimpse the same spot of land, divided by a decade and radically changed. It’s also strange to now explore roads on Google which I’ve never actually been down, yet which run under lanes I once knew quite well.

There To Get In The Way

I just turned my computer on, but I already think this will be the best thing I’ll be able to flag up today. I know I said I’d be steering clear of the COP conference, but the news that the largest body of delegates attending it represent the interests of the fossil fuel industry is just too stupid to ignore. “There are more delegates at COP26 associated with the fossil fuel industry than from any single country, analysis shared with the BBC shows….They found that 503 people with links to fossil fuel interests had been accredited for the climate summit. These delegates are said to lobby for oil and gas industries, and campaigners say they should be banned.” I wholeheartedly agree. How can we expect any progress on any issue, when people advocating the very activity we’re trying to curb are there trying to get in the way? Of course they’ll say they’re there to help, and try to present alternative solutions which won’t hurt the petrochemical industry quite so badly, but at the end of the day they just want to make sure they can continue to make fortunes by pumping harmful gasses into the atmosphere. Ultimately they’ll do whatever they can to hinder progress. The only way any conference like this will ever be able to move forward is if such lobbyists simply weren’t there. After all, as the article points out, “the World Health Organization didn’t get serious about banning tobacco until all the lobbyists for the industry were banned from WHO meetings.”

Startle Reflexes and Fireworks

A lot is currently being said on Facebook about fireworks scaring pets. I don’t know about dogs and cats, but this evening I’m jumping out of my skin every few seconds. I’m just trying to browse the web a bit, when I suddenly hear a colossal boom! from outside. Either I send my rollerball spinning or I completely screw up what I’m trying to type. Stupid startle reflex!

Utterly Contemptible

All I have to say today is, what kind of contemptible sleazeball is found guilty of corruption, then tries to use his wife’s suicide to make us feel sorry for him, as if her suicide was because of what was happening to him? The suicide of anyone is tragic, of course, but for Owen Patterson to attempt to leverage his wife’s death for sympathy, portraying himself as some sort of victim when the only thing we ought to be hearing from the outist p’tahk is a grovelling apology, is despicable.

Here is a man who was paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by private companies to lobby on their behalf in parliament, then acts as if he has a right to do so, as if government should turn a blind eye to such blatant corruption just because he’s a Tory. He only resigns after the press rightly turns on him and his Tory mates when they try to let him off the hook, preferring to save face than face the consequences of their corruption. Even then, Patterson acts as if he’s been hard done by, claiming that the press is portraying him unjustly simply because he’s a Brexiteer.

The behaviour of the people currently running the country really is sickening: surely we are better than this.

A Long Way From Home

If you want to see just how technically advanced Star Trek fan films are becoming, check this out. Obviously, the guys who made this short film don’t have the budget of Paramount Studios, so the CGI etc isn’t quite up to spec; but I have to say, given it was produced by amateurs during lockdown, A Long Way From Home is pretty impressive, If this is a glimpse of the production values of fan art these days, as well as a taster of where the movement is heading, I think it has an exciting future ahead of it.

Misdated Entries

Changing the tone after getting so heavy yesterday, this is just a quick housekeeping entry. A couple of times now, I’ve found entries in the wrong place; that is, my blog randomly changes the date of old entries so that they suddenly appear where they shouldn’t be. You might have noticed, a couple of days ago, an entry from about four years ago randomly appeared as my latest entry. I’m not sure why it happens, although it is easy enough for me to put right. If you come across an entry in my archive which seems to be out of step, please let me know.

Gender and Fashion

I think we can agree that there are attributes that are inherent to people, and those we can consciously choose. I am right handed and always will be; there is nothing I can do to change that. On the other hand, I wear a blue baseball cap: I wear it every day, but I could change it if wished. What you choose to wear comes and goes with fashion; the hand you prefer to use does not. Thus there are things about ourselves which we can change and those we can’t, sitting at either end of a continuum.

Yet where does gender exist on that line? We are usually either men or women, and I think most people are comfortable with that distinction. Sometimes, however, there are people who feel that they were born into the wrong body, or assigned the wrong gender at birth. They feel so uncomfortable with their assigned gender that they need to transition from one gender to another, often taking hormones and/or undergoing surgery to do so. In many cases it is a choice between that or committing suicide, the dysphoria is so intense.

Nobody has any right to claim such experiences are not genuine. In recent years, though, people have begun to view gender as more and more interchangeable: less an inherent attribute of people and more like a fashion to be selected as and when social trends dictate. These days we hear people describing their selves as gender fluid or non conforming, but apparently without having experienced the intense dysphoria transgender people describe. It seems to have become trendy not to conform, recalling the kind of cultural intrusion I wrote about here. Gender identity arises from a complex interweaving of biology and psychology, not politics or the conscious, socially motivated desire to break social barriers.

There’s no doubt gender is a continuum: people can be male, female or a bit of both. The problem is, people have started to treat that line more and more flippantly, like something they can play with or politicise at will. It has become politically fashionable not to conform, or claim that you don’t. Rather than being an inherent attribute of one’s personality, gender is becoming a political plaything which can be changed or subverted as fashion demands. People seem ever more eager to distance theirselves from positions of social privilege as if being white, straight and able-bodied disqualifies you from political activism: activists need something to rebel against, so they place theirselves into social categories they might not previously have done. That, however, seems to me to make a mockery of the experiences of those for whom this is not so flippant, but far more vital.

It’s Not That I Don’t Care

Truth be told I’m at a loss over what to write about what is happening in Glasgow. As a half-assed political blogger, the conference there is the obvious subject for blog entries at the moment. Yet I have no special perspective on environmental issues: I’m just as concerned about it as anyone else, of course, and wholeheartedly support the efforts to cut emissions and save the environment. Yet, as much as I love nature and natural history programs, conferences like this don’t really get my juices going as a blogger. I don’t feel there’s all that much I can contribute to the debates. So if I tend to veer away from the Cop conference over the next two weeks, forgive me: it isn’t that I’m not interested or don’t care; more a matter of just letting the politicians in Glasgow get on with it.

Do I Smell That Bad?

I had intended to just post a picture on here today to keep things simple, but something just happened in my local Tesco which I think ought to be noted. I was just there getting a few bits and pieces: when I need more than two or three bits of shopping, when I enter the shop I roll up to the counter and wait for a member of staff to become free. They know me in there now, and are used to the routine. Most staff members there seem happy enough to give me a hand, following me around the shop so I can select what I need. However, this afternoon something happened which I felt was quite hurtful: as usual, I rolled up to the check-outs and waited. I wasn’t in a hurry so that wasn’t a problem. Yet when one of the staff became free, she began talking to one of her colleagues in a language which wasn’t english, clearly trying to get someone else to assist me. I don’t know why, but she obviously didn’t want to help. Of course, I realise helping disabled customers might not be in their job description, but it felt like I was being shunned; like I was something dirty which she didn’t want to go near. In the end, another member of staff helped me get my shopping; yet in front of four or five other customers the incident was hurtful nonetheless, and I’m seriously considering taking it up with the shop’s manager.

ADDENDUM: I better add that, a short while after posting this entry, I needed to go back to the shop having realised I’d forgotten to buy cheese. The person who assisted me to pay then was the lady who had apparently refused to help me the first time, oddly enough. It could have just been a misunderstanding on my part, although this afternoon wasn’t the first time the member of staff in question has acted so abrasively.