Category Archives: Science

Removing the right of choice

Fox News had an opinion piece 2 days ago that only now met my eyes. Now, for the most, apart from some Guardian opinion pieces, I tend to stay away from them. Yet, this one caught my eye because not only was the situation upsetting. The issue that Americans use their right to free speech to deny others the right to choose (to some degree) is another matter and it became clear that I should give my view in all this.

The title ‘Is the West finally pushing Saudi Arabia to squelch its version of radical Islam?‘ First off, why on earth do we see the need ‘forcefully silence or suppress‘ the choice of Islam? Now, I am merely a Christian in this, but I do not see any reason here. In the second, the setting of ‘radical Islam‘ is equally an issue. What makes it radical? That is not me being clever, it is an actual question. When does any religion become ‘radical’?

Now, I am merely quoting Wiki here (just the easiest part), and important that as a Christian and not armed with a knowledge of Arabic, I might wrongfully quote her, so be aware of that. With: “In the 18th century, a pact between Islamic preacher Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and a regional emir, Muhammad bin Saud, brought a fiercely puritanical strain of Sunni Islam first to the Najd region and then to the Arabian Peninsula. Referred to by supporters as “Salafism” and by others as “Wahhabism”, this interpretation of Islam became the state religion and interpretation of Islam espoused by Muhammad bin Saud and his successors (the Al Saud family), who eventually created the modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932“, you see, my issue, perhaps partially better stated as my grievance with Nina Shea is not that she is a lawyer or a Christian, but that she is both. That one nation that has been hypocrite towards empowering outspoken Christians and Christian puritans at nearly every twist and turn of every American administration since WW1 is now speaking out against another puritan based religion? How screwed up is that?

And the fact that we also see in the Fox News pages that she currently is a leader of a campaign for Christians threatened with genocide by ISIS, is even worse. As American Presidents have refused to name the Armenian Genocide as such because of concerns over alienating Turkey, with former president Barack Obama being the latest weakling in that long line of individuals in denial. And when we get to alienating Turkey? Turkey alienated them self for a long time, going all the way back to 2001 and they only alienated themselves stronger with nearly everyone after that. So genocide is only recognised when it is in the interest of US political policies? How hypocrite is that? So even as this happened less than a year ago, we see: “But although ISIS’ genocidal intent has long been clear, the extent of the group’s atrocities has remained murky. Local authorities and human rights organizations have made some attempts to compile lists of victims. According to those lists, between 2,500 and 5,000 Yazidis had been killed by ISIS while over 6,000 had been kidnapped. But the UN has not yet been able to independently verify these figures” (source: www.foreignaffairs.com), so how should we see these differences?

Personally I have no issue with people and their religion, you see they can be a puritan as they want to be, and until they start pushing that onto us (read: me) they are fine. I have absolutely no regard for any Christian pushing their values onto others, in that I am quite happy to see the separation of state and church to be forever. There is in equal measure another issue, you see, puritan is often seen as ‘against pleasure‘, which is not always the case and that makes that discussion a lot harder, for what sets the definition of Puritan?

So when we see the quote from Nina Shea that gives us: “Now Europe is finding its voice with a new willingness to pressure the Saudi Arabian government to end its spread of extreme Islamic ideology, known in the West as Wahhabism“, so she has set ‘puritan‘ as ‘extreme version of‘. The question is on one side is what constitutes a puritan version as such and even if so, the Vatican forced Christianity into the world, whilst under its flag committed genocide by removing no less that 11 civilisations. The church and greed have gone hand in hand for centuries whilst the nobility, or should that be in modern tongue ‘Big Business’ have not been held accountable since before World War 1. The bible approved of slavery and in Matthew 19:14 and Mark 10:13 stated ‘Let the children come to me‘, Catholic priests saw that as an optional clear signal to fuck every young boy in town (whenever possible). So as the Holy See was considering thousands of priests actively taking the cherry from young boys for over 50 years, how many went to prison? In that light the media is equally to blame, until the movie Spotlight got the limelight in the Academy Awards, millions of Americans remained in denial. Even as the Boston Globe exposed it in 2002, it would take 13 years, until after the movie was released that the larger part of the media changed their tunes, the church still has that much power. So as we oppose one form of puritan religion, we see the outrages acts of our own religions and in that regard I have an issue with certain settings.

In addition we see: “As I told Congress in testimony last July, 16 years after the 9/11 attacks – led and carried out primarily by Saudis” we see yet another issue. In the first, this attack was done by Al-Qaeda, under the leadership of Osama Bin Laden, who was indeed born Saudi, yet he was banished from Saudi Arabia in 1992, 9 years before the event. More important, their family came from the Yememi Kindah, so another ‘faith’ altogether, in that regard, when we consider that Kindites converted to Judaism following the conversion of the Ḥimyarite kings, which happened roughly 1500 years ago, so why is she not blaming Israel in all this? It seems to me that Nina Shea has no religious agenda; she has a political one and is willing to play Saudi Arabia towards her needs. In the part that we accept that Al-Qaeda was made up from Islamic Extremists and Salafists, there is the legitimate question on how many of the members of Al-Qaeda are (still) Saudi, but is that even possible to grasp? There are so many splinter organisations, active all over the Middle East, In Yemen is gets even more of an issue where they are fighting the Houthi’s. The New York Post gave us two weeks ago: “An immigrant from Saudi Arabia suspected of applying to join an al-Qaeda training camp has been arrested on a visa fraud charge in Oklahoma, according to a report. The FBI recently discovered Naif Abdulaziz Alfallaj after his fingerprints matched those taken from a document found in Afghanistan“, it makes matters worse and less clear. It is not a clear picture for those getting all the information, for people like Nina Shea who are willing to ‘filter’ data before their presentation make matters worse, we do not only get a distorted picture, we get more non-truths (at times non-verifiable truths, or speculations) and as such the picture shift a little more. We can argue that to some Saudi citizens desire a life of ‘action’ in perhaps the wrong direction is preferred over whatever they had before. We have all had those moments. I myself have argued within myself to find 1-2 paedophilic priests and hang them in the nearest tree without trial, so should I join some anti-religion and blow up churches? Of course not, that would be just insane, but some might do just that.

So when we consider ‘members of the Ku Klux Klan planted and detonated dynamite at the 16th Street Baptist Church‘ we also need to see that J. Edgar Hoover had secret recordings that proving the involvement of guilty parties (according to some sources), he also ensured that a court could not use them as evidence to prosecute the attackers, making it more difficult to convict. For 14 years after the bombing, none of the men were prosecuted for their crime. The first one to be arrested (and convicted) was Robert Edward Chambliss in 1977. So we, Americans and non-American Christians alike have closets full of skeletons, perhaps when it comes to certain matters we should not be the judging or reforming parties in the matters of other nations.

Now, there are a few sides that do bare consideration.

Even if we agree with: “In 2010, a top U.S. Treasury counterterrorism official warned that without Saudi education reform “we will forever be faced with the challenge of disrupting the next group of terrorist facilitators and supporters.”“, Saudi Arabia is a sovereign state, it has its rights and it has forever been a Muslim state. You see, until the oil prices went down and the profits declined, America remained unwilling to hear any level of criticism on Saudi Arabia, making a lot of the matters in play hypocrite at best.

The next ‘wrongful representation‘ is “The West seems to be finally waking up. The new assertiveness shows official recognition of the link between Islamist ideology and terror, and our governments must keep it up“, you see, I see this as “as the profits are declining and as Saudi Arabia is now set to be a growing force beyond the petrochemical industry” we see issues because the ‘link between Islamist ideology and terror’ has been known for a long time and seen as such. Hamas, Hezbollah are the clearest ones. There is the Muslim Brotherhood, and plenty of others, whilst the PLO was delisted as a terrorist organisation is now again rearing its tail by no longer recognising the state of Israel, so that could escalate again. In addition we see that only the UK saw the Orange Volunteers as a terrorist organisation, I wonder why the US did not see it that way. So whatever makes that list is also very dependent on how they cross the United States of America (speculation on my side), so as the sovereign nation of Saudi Arabia is becoming a growing centre of commerce and an economic power we start seeing more anti-Saudi events. Yet the US will happily sell all the weapons and planes they can for now. Nina also refers to a report that was classified and forced into the open in 2016 regarding the Saudi textbooks (at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/08/17/international-home/document-state-dept-study-on-saudi-textbooks.html), it is 148 pages, so read it there (the PDF was too large to place here).

My issue in this is not the paper; it is the chance of comprehending it all, it is linked to hundreds of books, to hundreds or issues all linked to the Koran and to the rights that Saudi Arabia has as a sovereign nation. We might not agree and as Christians we might to a certain degree oppose outside of Saudi Arabia, but its sovereign rights are as they wanted it, linked to the Muslim faith. We need to recognise that we are not all alike, that others have their rights and they need not be based on democracy. However we must also recognise that ‘democracy’ in America and largely in Europe is set towards what the rich and powerful want it to be. If you disbelief that then try to change laws in America that makes Wall Street criminally accountable. Good luck getting that done within the next 50 years!

You see, in support of my view, I would like to call attention to page 3, where we see “The national identity of Saudi Arabia is deceptively simple. It is an absolute monarchy“, so what makes a monarchy absolute? The Netherlands is a monarchy, so is Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Spain and a few others. So as these are predominantly Christian monarchies, are they not absolute or dangerous? Perhaps they are merely seeing eye-to-eye with the US and not that much of an economic threat? The EU and the ECB simmered down the European nations as threats is another view and it is for people with better economic degrees than mine to make a call on that. Again a speculation from my side, but it seems to me that the US would prefer every nation to be a republic, so that the larger corporations can sweep in and reduce that national population into a spreadsheet and reduce the abilities of those being a hindrance, a non-consumer or a liability.

We can take any view on these matters, but in the end we see a person with a rightful opinion get the centre stage all the way to the US Congress, whilst we consider her quote: “Germany finally pressed Saudi Arabia to close the King Fahd Academy in Bonn in spring 2017, according to a 2016 Deutsche Welle report. It first came under investigation 14 years earlier for alleged ties to al Qaeda“. The question that is here is ‘It first came under investigation 14 years earlier for alleged ties to al Qaeda‘, so was that ever proven? That is the part that Nina Shea does not want you to know; in addition there is the part that was in the Deutsche Welle. ‘Now, the King Fahd Academy is about to close its doors of its own accord‘, which she did not mention. In addition (at http://www.dw.com/en/controversial-saudi-school-in-bonn-to-close/a-19511109), we see the clear mention of ‘Moving beyond oil‘, it seems that Europe and the US stayed very silent whilst the oil profits were flowing their way making a lot Nina states even more hypocrite. So as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is pushing stronger towards his “Vision 2030“, we see that slowly his reforms are catching hold, there is momentum and there is additional evidence that it is a worry for the United States, particularly the people who were having benefits on the matters before Vision 2030. When we consider the rumour from last month when we were introduced to “The new policy means Apple is administering collection and remittance of tax to authorities at a rate of 20 percent in Armenia and Belarus; 5 percent in Saudi Arabia; 18 percent in Turkey; and 5 percent in United Arab Emirates” we see the clear benefit for Apple to grow in Saudi Arabia, yet in that it could cost the US 20 cents to every dollar pushed to Saudi Arabia and as Apple tends to think in tens of billions, the US is about to lose out of a pretty penny they desperately need. In addition with Amazon and Google gaining tech hubs there, the loss of revenue and data is about to cost the US a lot more and in this greed driven economy that is what has been setting plenty of people over the rails and into the sea of chaos, frustration and outcry. So as Saudi Arabia ends up getting 5 data centres, how many will not be upgraded in the US or Europe in the near future? How much is that going to cost them?

These are all matters linked to the opinion of Nina Shea, because if that was not the case we would not have seen “These events are being driven by Western governments that are now pushing hard for the government of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to pull back from Wahhabist support – a push that appears to be working“, you see, the fact that (some) schools closed on their own accord was not mentioned, neither is any part of Vision 2030 which has been on the front page of the Saudi plans of actions for almost 2 years now and in addition, when we see “For decades European and U.S. leaders bit their tongues while the Saudi governments spent billions of dollars indoctrinating Sunni Muslim communities“, whilst not stating that the oil money flowing into these places was too good to ignore is equally an issue because it shows us to be hypocrite and it shows Saudi Arabia to be business oriented. OK, I will give you that the last part is not entirely correct, but why did Europe and the US bite their tongues? If they were so morally high we would have seen a lot more, an issue that never happened.

So who will Nina Shea blame for that? I reckon we will leave it non-mentioned (for now).

Finally we need to look at her statement “Tiny Belgium, population 11.27 million, has sent more Islamic fighters to Syria per capita than any other European country“, so when we see the Wall Street Journal (at https://www.wsj.com/articles/europe-balks-at-taking-back-isis-fighters-1518557328) where we see the quote “An estimated two to three dozen Belgian foreign fighters are in detention in Syria and Iraq, another Belgian official said“, so as we consider an unrelated statistic like “Hospital medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. That’s 700 people per day, notes Steve Swensen“, the fact that we see the mention of 36 Belgium fighters in Syria in a pool of 5000, seems to be too irrelevant to use as a focal point in her presentation, whilst in the US 700 people a day die in Hospitals through mere errors. She has the wrong focus as illumination in her presentations. You see, it would not have mattered if she had mentioned the number of Belgium fighters and the total pool of ‘extremists’ but she did not want that, she wanted the hypocrite limelight, so I will happily keep a focus on her and how she tries to misinform the people around her next.

In all this Fox News should get an equal share in the blame by not setting the stage properly. By leaving too much unstated we should consider that the reliability of Fox News and what they present is equally taking a turn downwards.

In the end

In the end this was less about speaking for Saudi Arabia (they can do that themselves perfectly well), then speaking against Nina Shea. I find this a hatched job that should not have been placed on Fox News the way it was. Whatever points she could have made was drowned out by the misrepresentation that I see them to be and in several fields in many ways. This requires me to add her mention of ‘Islamist terror has replaced chocolate as Belgium’s best known export‘, you see the best export the Belgium ever had was beer, the finest in the world. And even as we agree that their chocolates are the best, we need to see that terrorism is not their export, or their best known export. Perhaps their flaw was to have the most cordial of borders in Europe, together with Sweden, yet as Sweden is up in the north and Belgium is caught between the Netherlands, Germany and France, there is no doubt that whatever they get came initially from one of the three other nations and guess what, Nina made no mention of that either. Perhaps because she was in doubt whether it was a good idea to piss the other three nations off? Again, merely speculation from my side, but in the end, we have seen in evidence from reputable sources that the economy has been a central reason in creating extremism, a part that has hit Belgium and several other nations. That too remains unmentioned.

 

 

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A flawed generation?

I was browsing the Guardian, more important the movie section. Then a thought came forth. It made me grab back to a Ted presentation, one of the most moving ones from 2006. Sir Ken Robinson treated us to comedy whilst underlining one of the most important issues, or so it should have been, watch it at https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity, it will be the best 17 minutes of your week, so how did I get here?

So, I was browsing articles, some I have already read like (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/feb/05/the-cloverfield-paradox-review) ‘Netflix sequel is a monstrous mess‘. The few quotes that sprung out were: “disparate elements carelessly smashed together“, “most of them largely nonsensical“, and “the underseen ‘Life’ managed to combine thrills and ingenuity“. Yet this is not the only article. The second one is one that I had not looked at before (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2018/feb/05/black-panther-fought-off-a-toxic-ghostbusters-online-campaign-rotten-tomatoes), you see, I have mixed feelings on this movie. The trailer was awesome and I would love to see it, yet unlike the other ‘super heroes’, this is one comic I never read. Not intentionally mind you, you see whilst growing up in The Netherlands, the 70’s gave me some comics, but not all, so some franchises never made it across the Atlantic river. I did see the Black Panther as there was a guest appearance in like ‘Fantastic Four’, but that was pretty much it (besides Captain America Civil War). The other heroes are not a mystery and I had seen at least a few comics from each of them. So my mixed feelings are about not being able to relate it to the comics, so some of the background will be unknown to me. That’s all on that. The article became a larger issue when I saw “this attack was aimed at the most high-profile movie ever to feature a predominantly black cast felt racist” as well as “In an era when culture wars are predominantly fought on social media, this sort of down-voting can seem like an effective guerrilla tactic. Clicking on an angry red face or selecting zero stars is even easier than adding your name to an online petition“. It does not make sense to me to have hatred of a product you are utterly unfamiliar with; it counters art and creativity in almost every way as I personally see it. It goes on with the third article (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2018/feb/13/venom-trailer-tom-hardy-sony-spider-man), where you can read: “In recent years we’ve seen examples of movies that have triumphed at the box office almost entirely on the basis of snazzy advance publicity“, as well as: “fans were more interested in finding out what the new big screen version of Venom looks like than charting the next stage in Hardy’s career-long mission to channel the most eccentric human beings on the planet. And, on that count, they were left profoundly disappointed“. It was at that point that I remembered the Ted Talk with Sir Ken Robinson, the presentation that is still funny and legend after almost 12 years. What is more important that it is actually more to the point as an issue nowadays? When he states “Art, we get educated out of it!” he made a stronger point than even he might have envisioned. I think that this time was recently in the past and many of us have gone to a negative point past that. This could be considered on both side of the isle. The ‘haters‘ who seem to use whatever option they have to be toxic against whatever they want to be against using automated channels to ‘voice‘ it, or to merely spout their discriminatory bias. Yet on the other side, we see flaws too, with “Sony, of course, is facing a very different problem, in that its previous big screen incarnation of Venom was not beloved at all” we actually don’t get to see it, it is merely a reflection of a ‘failed’ movie, yet when you consider that they made $890,871,626 whilst the production costs were set at $258 million, I wonder what they are bitching about, because they took home a nice clean half a billion plus. So what gives? I think that Netflix, HBO and others are making the same mistake I accused Ubisoft of in the last few years. By relying on some business model with forecasting, a model set ‘to not get a failure‘ we are treated to the near impossibility of seeing an actual mind-blowing movie. If you are unwilling to move that could be a failure, you will in addition also miss out on making an exceptional win. It is like the line between genius and insanity, it is a very thin line and walking it is the only way to get something truly exceptional.

This is also seen in another way, most will not agree, or even be aware, but Ridley Scott is the person ending up making one of the most awesome and most amazing Crusader movies ever made. Kingdom of Heaven is seen as an utter failure to some, but the movie costing $130M still brought in a little over $211M worldwide. That’s still $80M in the pocket, I would instantly sign up for that. So as we see that ‘forecasting models‘ are becoming more and more the daily bacon of our lives, we are not moving towards better profits, we are moving away from exceptional achievements. There was a second reason to mention Kingdom of Heaven, you see, just like the Abyss, the trailers were actually bad, I consider them no reason to watch the movie, but the end result was in both cases spectacular. The dangers of marketing jives and kneejerk reactions to incomplete data, is that the studios seem to be overreacting. If it is not a positive Hype, it will not be a success. We see that danger to Venom, which would be somewhat of a risky choice no matter how you slice it, but in equal measure, the danger could to a much smaller extent also apply to Aquaman. It is a lot smaller, because Jason Momoa rocked it in Justice League, so he has created momentum. Another example will be seen when places like Netflix will grow the comic book Universe and add other characters, like for example Moon Knight, or more apt, as the New Mutants arrives in 2019, will the makers be willing to make Illyana Rasputin (aka Magik) dark enough? That is the question that the viewers/fans face. Even as the moviemakers are now direct enough (John Wick) and sexual tensioned enough (Spartacus, Game of Thrones) to take a leap to the edgy side, but when we see the absence of the edgy sides, was that truly the vision of the maker, or is that the forecasting model on how the prediction on what I regard to be unrealistic data to be setting the stage?

I cannot prove either part in this, but I am hopeful that outdated concepts are moving away further and further (John Wick is a nice example), but is it enough? You see, the more primal anything is, the more it links to our emotions and creativity (I personally believe that they tend to go hand in hand).

When it comes to the superheroes we tend to look at the legend Stan Lee and why not, he showed that creativity drives popularity and profit. The man has been around since 1922 and he was part of the creation of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Black Panther, the X-Men, Ant-Man, Iron Man and Thor, representing well over $8 billion in movie revenue. So the larger bulk is all on him. Yet, I also want to see how this creativity is seen by the new makers like David Wohl, Marc Silvestri and Garth Ennis who created the Darkness. Can the dark view of Jackie Estacado, be created in the really dark way? As a videogame it was well received and ended up being an interesting setting, yet how would that work for the big screen? The problem is that the setting is now no more about the art (mainly), it is about the profit. Stan Lee had the benefit that the art stage was powerful enough and proven to be strong enough that most ‘forecasting models’ would remain obsolete, yet that path would be much less considered for anything new and unproven. We have seen How Azrael and Knightfall Batman were well received as comic books, but Azrael and the order of St Dumas, as a movie, or Netflix series, would it even survive if the character and acts were not dark enough? Will the ‘fan’ still embrace it when the forecasting models push the makers into making it into some Disney angora woolen soft product version, would it then instantly flop? I personally hope so!

The Main event

So as we saw some of the franchises evolve for the big screen, there seems to be a tactical and business side, but less of an artsy side to this. It is almost like we can no longer do that proving the point that Sir Ken Robinson made in 2006. As we look at how much coin we can get from a comic book transfer, we see a similar danger that it is merely the reutilisation of something already made, which in this light shows how rare the movie Life is (apart from the fact that Ryan Reynolds can make most movies watchable). Even as it seems to have been down written in reviews, I found it very enjoyable, in addition to that, the work of the other main cast members Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Hiroyuki Sanada was excellent. The issue is not just what is original, but what could make it. To see that distinction, you only need step out of your comfort zone and take a look at the Japanese movie ‘the Audition‘ (there is only the Japanese edition with subtitles), so you can’t be dyslexic for this one, or you need to be fluent in Japanese. That is the nice part of primal sides in any movie. It is the dark and unsettling side. It is easy to get to the primal sides of lust, because sex sells, it tends to do so with the greatest of ease. It is the other side where we are bound through discomfort, where we see exceptional works rise, but these instances are extremely rare which is a shame. In comic book world the fans are hopeful that they will see a good version of the Sandman, but that is still the stuff of ‘questionable future events’. So how can we rely on creativity to bring us an exceptional original movie, that whilst there is growing evidence that creativity is moving out, out of nearly all our lives, how can we move forward? I actually do not know. I have tried my hand at creativity in many ways, but I was never a movie maker, a storyteller (like all others ‘working’ on my first novel, which is currently approaching 60,000 words).

Getting back to where we had it

So how can creativity be reintroduced to the people? Well starting to create something, or better start to create anything is always a first step. We tend to replicate, then emulate and after that create. It is these actions that drive movies, TV series and video games forward. For something to be better than a mix of two (like a Pokémon RPG), we need to see it where we create within ourselves. This is how I found an optional new way to sink an Iranian frigate, how I came up with the concept of the Elder Scrolls: Restoration (ES6) and how I got the idea on two different kinds of RPG, as well as a new solution to resolve the NHS issues in more than one nation. Yet, even as the ideas were seemingly easy to grow and adapt; how to get them into reality? I am not a programmer and equally limited in my drawing skills, hence I rely on storytelling.

We see part of this (at https://www.polygon.com/2018/1/31/16952652/david-brevik-it-lurks-below-announcement), where the maker of Diablo is now building something new. Even as it looks familiar and it has elements of Minecraft (or Blockheads), we see the growth of a new approach, just like I saw with Subnautica which is an awesome result to an entirely new approach on survival RPG. Even as David Brevik revamped the 1985 game Gauntlet, and added more famous characters to create ‘Marvel Heroes’, the span between the arcade machine and Marvel Heroes gave it not just a more fresh approach, it gave it a new dimension as you could grow different super powers/skills making the game very replayable. So, even as I came up with this ‘new’ RPG, I did remember my many hours in the 7 cities of gold game on the Amiga and that shaped some of my ideas. Even as some of these games have been forgotten, the Amiga was a leap forward in those days. It had hundreds of games that were innovative (for a system with a mere 64Kb), so the fact that some of these ideas have not been restarted and evolved is simply beyond me. Now, is that new and creative? That is a point of view, by altering and evolving a game, it becomes a different game, by adding to it, the game does not merely becomes bigger, it becomes more. Now even as some games are remastered and as such remain the great games they were (System Shock for example), yet some games were nice on the original system (example Escape from Hell, Masters of Orion, Battle Chess, Covert Action), nowadays, these games would be too small, too limited and too restrictive, no bang for the buck. This is what has forever fuelled my passion for RPG (and sandbox games), the idea and the actions to do what I want, where I want, and at times when I want. Yet, I also believe that there should be inhibitors, just getting every mission, every option makes even an RPG game grinding. With limitations, we make choices, opening some doors, shutting others. It is that part that makes a game replayable and more important, it gives a much longer lifespan to any game you get.

Yet as I see it, the game makers are getting more and more restrictive, it is either making us do a thousand things on the side (AC: Origin), which is still a good game that I enjoyed, or we get into the grinding mode (Monster Hunter), a part in gaming I really do not like. Even as the graphics are amazing, it is the grinding that gets to me (I played the game on the 3DS). In that regard, the makers aren’t really making it easy for us, with Horizon Zero Dawn being a novel exception. In 2018 a new look on Spiderman is keeping us interested, but the actual ‘new’ additions seems to be limited to Sea of thieves, God of War and Vampyr, these seem to be the only games that are actually new and God of War only makes that cut because it is in an entirely new setting with only the playable character remaining the same, whilst the game play has actually change (a lot) from the previous 3, making it basically a new game. So including Monster Hunter there are 5 new games, the others are pretty much franchises (I left PC games out of the consideration).

In the end

Even as it is most visible with games, there is also an issue with movies nowadays. I love to see something really new, I equally enjoy the DC and Marvel movies, but if we take these and the sequels out of the equation, I am saddened to see it boils down to Red Sparrow, Annihilation, and Ready Player One. The rest seems to be either sequel, remakes or an altered version for something we have seen before. That does not make them bad movies, it is merely not really new, which is the issue here, they come through creativity. Isn’t it sad that the innovative list of truly new works is not growing to the degree it is? Now, we can look beyond borders, yet the reality is in my personal view that we have become less and less creative and we are losing out in several ways. Even if we are not game makers, TV producers or movie makers, as an audience we are equally missing out and we need to find a way to repair that flaw. One of the psychology views is: “Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, its complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated“. Even as the shrink focusses on complexity, I do not adhere there, I believe that the creative mind becomes ever better in analysing complexity and simplifying it, and reducing complex matters it into something ‘manageable’. It is an ability every person can have, but I believe that as our creativity levels went down, we lost some of that. The ‘business results driven‘ educational world has done this to us. We see the results more and more around us. We are blindly relying on automation and process instead of common sense. I am not stating that we should not adhere to these elements. I merely believe that once an automation or process failed that it will take a lot longer for people to react and that is not a good thing. Westpac saw such a failure only last week. With: “The meteoric rise of automated credit card applications has been called into question after Westpac was forced to refund a total of $11.3 million to credit card customers. The refunds, which worked out as several thousand dollars per customer, were necessary because the bank’s online assessment process had failed to gather enough information about the customers’ financial situation“, when we consider “Corporate watchdog ASIC said the crux of the problem was that Westpac had relied on automated application processes” and “Westpac admitted that customers’ employment status and income may not have been “directly reconfirmed in the credit card credit limit increase application process”” could be seen as optional evidence that a more creative mind would have seen the flawed complexity and beyond that optionally saved their boss 11 million. That is merely my point of view, but I stand firm on our loss of creativity, it is all around me every day. It gives rise that we have become a flawed generation; we lost more than we bargained for. I reckon that the academics will state that this element was a separate question and they were not instructed to focus on that as they designed the education system of the 70’s and 80’s, we can go on that this flawed system is still in place today giving us the danger of a descending line of our creativity and actual new experiences in the arts, a frightening concept to say the least.

 

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Racing to last place

Even though it is less than 24 hours since my last story that involved the CPS, it is equally less than 6 hours since the Guardian gave us ‘Police outsource digital forensic work to unaccredited labs‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/feb/12/police-outsource-digital-forensic-work-to-unaccredited-labs). It is here that Hannah Devlin informs us of the issues that might plague the courts over the next 2 years. She decides to start strong with the subtitle ‘Market for data analysis called a ‘race to the bottom’, with trials failing because of evidence issues‘ and that is not all. Her article gets stronger paragraph by paragraph. I raised some of these issues yesterday, but that was in general before I even touched on the outsourcing issues. She removes all brakes with the quote: “Gillian Tully, the government’s forensic science regulator, said there is “no excuse” for police forces to continue to use unaccredited providers. “It’s clearly of concern when contracts are being placed with providers that are not compliant,” she said“. Hannah is right, there is a lot wrong at this particular moment in time. And with “The Met outsources digital forensics provision to a defence technology company, called Mass, which subcontracts casework to other private companies, some of which are unaccredited. City of London Police uses six external providers, three of which are not accredited” we see two additional issues. The first is that when a contractor decides to subcontract, they will only do that whilst there is still a profit, so the costing of this endeavour will, once highlighted make matters worse for the CPS. As it is crying on resources, we see outsourcing of outsourced materials. The second issue is that the chain of evidence is now all over the place, which could endanger the privacy of the accused, the victim and possible give additional cause for concern that the course of justice could be in theory end up being perverted in more than one way. This must be the ultimate wet dream for Rupert Murdoch, all that optional information without having to hack mobile phones. The call for an immediate public inquiry in this matter seems almost unavoidable. I think that even without a ‘digital forensic degree‘ the fact that I saw a failing within 5 minutes of reading certain matters in R v Allan is only juicing the frenzy for hard draconian actions in all this. Hannah is completely correct when she states: “In the past decade, digital forensics has evolved from a niche capability to a central element in the investigation of almost every serious crime. The electronic footprint left by suspects can help rapidly establish alibis, identify accomplices and expose spurious claims“, setting is fuelled further that it was not only on disclosure, the joint review gave me clear thought on the lack of actual investigation into the basic connections. That part took me LESS than 300 seconds; or alternatively less than 5 minutes for those less interested in precision. So when we see the BBC article (at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42417553) which gives us: “A computer disk containing 40,000 messages revealed the alleged victim had pestered him for ‘casual sex’“, we need to realise that checking text messages is done by using the most simple of computer find actions through <CTRL>-F and enter the place of transmission (phone number or identity) would have given the investigation the clue that something was amiss and that is something any IT technician or entry level helpdesk support representative could have done in under a minute, so when Hannah Devlin is implying that something is wrong she is not kidding, she is basically being slightly too diplomatic (a flaw I am fortunately not gifted with). This situation is almost like 30 people walking in on a man sledgehammering another person to death in full view of an audience of 30, and one of them states: “You might require legal representation“. Yup! That would be regarded as the quote of the year!

The article also shows an issue with the view of criminal barrister Andrew Keogh, who gives us: ““You’d be led to believe that there’s some magic in this accreditation and that if you’re not accredited you’re not good,” said Andrew Keogh, a criminal barrister based in Wigan and a visiting fellow at the University of Northumbria. “That’s not true at all.”“, actually, my learnered friend would be wrong in more than one way. You see that unaccredited office is simply ‘not good enough‘, because being ‘good enough’ is ascertained by the accreditation. Feel free to check with the Rt Hon the Baroness Tessa Blackstone on accreditation by the Bar Standards Board and ask whether there is any validity of hiring any legal counsel to represent you in a criminal matter who is not accredited by the Bar Standards Board.

So his view of ‘if you’re not accredited you’re not good’ might sound true, but it is not about being ‘good’, it is about being ‘good enough‘. The commercial sector has all kinds of accreditation, some are as one might think, a ‘load of bollocks‘, and some are essential for keeping afloat. It might merely be my personal view, but being accredited before being allowed anywhere near a life changing situation seems really important to me. Would you trust the first passer-by to use a non-automated defibrillator on you? I reckon that the situation that puts you in prison for life (or merely 8-15 years) requires to be handled by a person who has been checked for having the right qualifications and knowledge of how to deal with evidence. Call me old-fashioned that way, that just how I roll.

So basically I am in line with Norman Lamb who gives us: “The whole fragility of the market and what happens to samples that are suddenly in insolvency, we can’t mess around with this, it goes to the heart of people’s rights as citizens“, so the chair of the science and technology select committee (the person sitting on it) states that there is a flaw in the current tendering and it is leaving the sector vulnerable. I think that it in equal measure endangers the people accused and also the optional victims in all this. So when we consider that there is now evidence that Liam Allan (now 22) has been on bail for almost 2 years will have suing nature with the Metropolitan Police. Can we blame him? In addition, as we might feel for the woman connected to this, the stigma will haunt both. The messages shows him to be allegedly innocent (I am stating alleged, because I never saw the actual messages) and on the other hand we have a case on non-repudiation, because is there evidence that she actually send those messages? That part I can understand as I have had a few messages (from an unmentioned non linked source) where I was offered to ‘fuck her‘ whilst I know she had never had any interest in me in that way (or any other way for that matter). It took less than 5 seconds to realise that someone used her mobile trying to be ‘funny’. The entire forensic screw up gives, again, a wrong light to parties and it could have been prevented, a 2 year mess that could have been largely diffused in less than 2 hours. It now gives both the stigma that could have been avoided as well, and as we read that this work is done by unaccredited companies and people makes it an infuriating one because there are hundreds of people who are hoping to get justice through their day in court and they will be waiting for an additional longer time to get there.

And that is not all, the CPS mad it even worse with the statement: “it was decided that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction“, which in some measure implies that he was the man ‘who got away with it‘ and that is optionally a separate level of failure. That too came from the BBC in December 2017. So, even as we were given the ‘casual sex requests’ part on one side that does not prove that the woman in question was giving consent when they met. Because digital forensics failed, the stigma will remain and in addition they are empowering events where victims grow less and less certain that they will receive justice or get the protection that these victims are entitled to. That is a failing beyond merely the forensic side and that makes the entire mess even a lot larger than merely the academic view of accreditation.

Yet beyond Andrew Keogh, there is another view. With “Others dispute whether the accreditation system, widely used to assess DNA and toxicology labs, is readily applicable to digital work” we need to realise that this is a bigger basket of worms. One field of science is not the other one and the digital science part has been and will remain in motion for years to come, which also gives more considerations to the digital forensics field. Even as we can agree that there are basic needs, the fact that mobile technologies alone are in transit and in an in-usage evolution spiral, which means that the technology is evolving whilst the technology is used, so there are more issues even below the surface. You have to merely look at the Android and IOS updates a user goes through on a weekly basis to see that there are constant changes. The dangers are that these changes have two sides, the parts we see and the parts we do not see. The second one includes data streams and as these streams optionally change (or have additional digital parameters), there are moments when data is wrong, or better stated wrongly set. To view this I will give you two quotes. The first was: “Google is adding a real-time location sharing function to Google Maps that can be very useful. It can also be restrictive and annoying or, in a worst-case scenario, potentially abusive and controlling“, the second one is: “When we bought our house in 2011, Google maps placed it 1.5 miles south of the actual location“. So important that these are two different quotes, not related to one another. But the essence is that the mobile could have optionally given information that a mail was send from ‘another’ location given the perpetrator a ‘false’ alibi. That error could be the vital part in a defence setting a perpetrator wrongfully free. So in that one instance we see that accreditation is essential and in the second part that there is a supporting side that the DNA and toxicology accreditation might not be (completely) correct for digital accreditation. Without knowing more it is hard to completely agree with the given dispute, but it is clear that here is a possible agreement on that side.

So you would rightfully be left with the question, how anyone in this entire chain of organisations decided to make the call to just outsource it all and how those not passing any quality testing would have been allowed near the evidence in the first place. The implied issues as we see the articles from the BBC, the Guardian and the Independent give a rise to concerns all over the field, not in the least with the victims related to this. You see in light of the transgressor and the victims, the person being the victim in the end is not a given and raises the issue even further. If I can add a reasonable doubt to these cases, how far could I get, without the accreditation to add reasonable doubt to any murder case that relies on digital evidence? In the R v Allan case, I merely needed two minutes and knowledge on how to use an ASCII editor, what happens when a murder case gives me the digital data and optional setting of time and location? The ‘opportunity’ to add reasonable doubt because a lot of this data has no non-repudiation will add to the mountain of reasonable doubt that would add to a long list of acquittals, that is before any barrister can raise the lack of accreditation of the people processing the digital evidence in the first case. And these are all matters that happen before someone wants a proper list of decisions regarding the rules of outsourcing whilst looking at the documentations from the Metropolitan Police, the CPS and the DPP. It is pure speculation on my side, but I reckon that the list of issues would grow even beyond the scope I can see at present. You see, part of this is seen in the BBC article (at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-derbyshire-42453405). Here we read: “Judges heard police asked the woman to retrieve Facebook messages that they had exchanged. Three pages of messages had been printed and the woman, who cannot be identified, told jurors she had deleted some to free up storage space“. I have an issue with that part, because of the setting. In the first how many messages were deleted? What space was freed? I find the entire matter very debatable, especially as something that I noticed almost immediately, that part took the CPS and parties 4.5 year to figure out? OK, it happened 4.5 year earlier which is not the same thing, but the issue stands. How many cases have been bungled like that and what happens when the courts start to overturn murder cases because there is an issue with the digital evidence? Even if the digital evidence was not key; the chance of additional cause and effects could potentially be seen when there are retrials and they could give issues to a lot more damage. Consider the partial quote “jurors at the trial had been given an “edited and misleading” picture“, in a murder case that will have far reaching consequences.

I feel certain that the end of these events have not been reached and I reckon it will take the CPS several months to realise the full impact of all of this, which would be another worry altogether, because all this could potentially lead to a case load that is a lot higher than ever before and the claimed damages that the government faces could add up to a lot more than most could ever imagine. The latter part is speculation, but in light of claims already underway, I am unlikely to be incorrect on that matter.

It is not without concern that I wonder what other matters Hannah Devlin can raise in subsequent articles on this matter, because I am certain that in the near future we will see more, not less of these ‘evidence failure’ events.

 

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A sickly gamer?

The Guardian had an interesting article on Monday. It took me a while to get there, because I am intricately familiar with the subject and the issues. The name of the game is gaming, and in the article titled “‘Dangerous gaming’: is the WHO right to class excessive video game play as a health disorder?” has the interesting question.

So as we read (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/feb/05/video-gaming-health-disorder-world-health-organisation-addiction), which holds: “included “gaming disorder” in its draft for the next edition of its diagnostic manual, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), which is due for final release this year“, we need to wonder. In the first what constitutes a disease, when is something actually a disorder and more important, is it the first step in getting this label added to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 5, with an update which is supposed to come out at the end of the year. Even in the academic field there is doubt, which Netta Weinstein, a senior lecturer in psychology at Cardiff University voiced with: “I just feel like we don’t know enough yet and we feel we know a lot“. This is merely one voice. This part is important, as we see the following that matters: “the WHO was initially exploring excessive use of the internet, computers, smartphones and similar electronic devices, but determined that the biggest concern was gaming“, in addition we see: “The authors write: “These features clearly have their parallels with substance disorders and recognised behavioural addictions, such as gambling disorder“. They decided to make a dangerous step. As I personally see it, they are comparing apples with oranges, dumping the load into a basket named fruit and walk away. That view is not just supported, by others; Nena Weinstein gives us (paraphrased): “we found very small correlations, if at all, of symptomology with broader life wellbeing. So we actually didn’t find, for example, that symptoms correlated with health directly. It might be that something that we think of as addiction is actually just engagement and enthusiasm“.

That is the part that matters, gaming is about engagement and enthusiasm, now we can agree that some people go overboard. I for one have spent 5000 hours (not all at in one sitting mind you) in the Fallout universe and close to 3000 hours in the Elder Scrolls universe, I just love my RPG’s. The fact that this comprised a total of 5 games makes this the best value for money ever. I have played plenty of other games, and they were fun too. The fact is that the world is changing in several ways, a fact that the researchers are also ignoring. I also like the opposing view given by Prof Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University. With: “The bottom line is problematic gaming. Whether you call it ‘gaming disorder’, whether you call it ‘gaming addiction’, there is a small minority of people out there where gaming has completely taken over their lives“, he has a point there. I have more than once gone so deep and enthusiastic into Minecraft, so when I suddenly realised that I was really hungry and getting tired, I looked up to notice that it was 03:50 in the morning and I remember the sun being up when I started to play. This happens, and it rarely happens, but still it happens. The fact is that the body reminded me and I did not ignore it. I was less positive about his remark: “in extreme cases some people have played themselves to death, though such incidents are extremely rare“, this is a case I remember, some league of Legend player, high on energy drinks playing 23 hours in one stretch. When it happens once, or perhaps less than half a dozen times on a population of 8 billion, it is not a case, it is an extreme outlier. We could in the worst case state that the proprietor had a duty to set a maximum usage of lets state 12 hours per 24 hours. Was that point ever raised?

Weinstein goes on in the debate on why few get addicted. Well, because there are many types of players and there are in equal measure many types of games. We can argue that in my case one style could lead to addiction, but I have a life with other elements too and even as I might spend a large chunk of my weekend on my console, I have lived for the longest time requiring no more than 5 hours of sleep per day, these days are now alas over (hence less gaming), but choosing the fun of a game over wasting money on alcohol in a bar, wasting it on fake smiles in a casino seems that I have taken a healthier life style. The entirely other side is that I even had more time in the kitchen, making my life even better by making myself a nice steak with a salad, a pasta salad or even a nice Bambi-burger or sourdough. I would not go hungry. My only little squandering would be to ignore my Nespresso and go to the Coffee place up the hill (roughly 723.4 metres) and get myself a yummy cappuccino, extra-large of course, sometimes even splash out and have a big breakfast there on Sunday. A walk in the fresh air, sunshine optional and preferred, good food, caffeine for the veins and after that groceries on the way back and the rectangular entertainment from console or Blu-ray, a life of relaxed bliss!

The package could be seen as addictive, gaming is merely one element in all of that. So as people then go with the mention of ‘all that gaming‘, tell me to just watch some TV. So how does that work? Constant badgering from advertising whilst you get hammered by two screwed up reality settings from places like ‘My Kitchen Rules’, or even worse some ‘married at first sight’, so it’s not that the divorce ratings weren’t high enough, we now get some reality TV show where ‘experts’ know what we need, want or desire? How fucked up is the TV nowadays? It is the second part where I oppose her view. With; “at least some elements of modern video games are closer to gambling. The newly popular and increasingly controversial implementation of “loot boxes”, where players pay real money for unpredictable rewards, is increasingly drawing the attention of regulators“, she only has a partial point. As far as I can tell, this was introduced in gaming by the Mass Effect series (I apologise if I am incorrect). You see, that is an option, but the game gives clear warning that you can earn these boxes by playing. Yet some people cannot go that distance. So like Ubisoft who allowed you to unlock all elements of Assassins Creed multiplayer for less than $10, people had no interest to unlock the abilities, they want it all from the start, a level 1 steroid character. So yes, you can buy chests for real money, but the ones I saw have always allowed you to get those chests by playing the game, it merely takes a little longer to get them. The second element that she is not lingering on is what is in such a loot chest. The loot chest is very much like a CCG (Customisable Card Game), each package will cost you around $5 and the 10 cards will give you 1 rage (or legendary), 2-3 uncommon and the rest are common items. So basically after the first 10 packages you only buy them to get the remaining uncommon, rare or even the legendary cards. Loot boxes work in the same way. That origin actually comes from a CCG game called Magic and was introduced by mathematics professor Richard Garfield and introduced to consumers in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast. So, now as it is in video games 25 years later, now they want to regulate it? Oh please, go cry me a river, will you?

Yet Weinstein raises a gem of a point with: “concern about comorbidity (when a person has more than one condition): “We need to know that it is about the gaming itself, or we’re treating something that’s not the actual problem.”“, she poses an excellent issue. You see if we accept that gaming is escapism, knowing what it is escapism from, that becomes the golden question and that is not easily explained.

Prof Mark Griffiths brings another side to the table. With: “I can’t think of a single [case of] addiction where there aren’t any other comorbidities. The addiction is usually symptomatic of other underlying problems. If you’re depressed and therefore you drink heavily, then you treat that with antidepressants“, you see, in that view, if these people escape into gaming, they still might not have a gaming addiction, they merely escape to it and we see the dangers of a wrongful diagnoses. So in the time where the depression is not seen and as these people ‘are cured‘ by gaming less the depression could take over leading to additional harm and even fatality. The problem (as I personally see it) is where is the trigger, the threshold where ‘addiction’ is set at. It is a grey area that cannot be correctly quantified as there are other elements in play. As I see it, it too often relies on what others think is ‘too much’ and that is equally dangerous. The parent who grew up playing outside and as such, junior should be outside, not playing on his console. Do they realise he was playing with school friends in an online 4v4 battle? They are talking to one another on the headsets, so they are still communicating were they not? Our comprehension of several elements is shifting, as a gamer I see the shift, but the people around me do not (want to) comprehend that. It is icky, it is geeky, they do not care.

That part is equally ignored and that is a worry too.

You see social media made the bucket of issues larger, but the level of comprehension beyond using the tool has not increased. That is the danger, usage without knowing what it implies, means or ratifies. Consider the articles like: ‘5 Ways to Generate More Exposure for Your Content Through Social Media‘, to improve your personal PR, or ‘How to Scale Your Social Media Exposure‘, that whilst the people trying to grow followers and to be ‘cool’ have no concept of ‘engagement’ and the use of common sense for that matter whilst exposing themselves to all kinds of risks. Those people will happily sit in any ‘gathering place‘ and remain in negative judgement of a gamer. I remember a nice issue in 1996 in the UK. I was in a bar taking a rest from the ECTS (7 morning presentations on newly released games will do that), so as I was sipping coffee and nodding to someone I knew in the business. He was talking to some girl who was way too good looking for her own good. So when he mentioned he was into gaming, she walked away as he was nerdy. So as she walked away, she had no idea that this was the guy who just made 1.5 million pounds ending with 4 times that much at least over the 3-5 years that followed. You see, even as more and more people are no longer stigmatising ‘gaming’ and ‘gamers’, the issue is that most do it because it is now a $120 billion market and money is money, no matter how you slice it. The actual issue of ‘addiction’ cannot be set for various reasons because it relies on other elements on how you still function when you are not gaming. How you see the world when you are merely shopping for groceries, enjoying a movie, setting in a corner chumping down on ice-cream or engage in conversation with friends. Those are elements that matter and if you can still relate to non-gaming issues with enthusiasm (like how ambulances in Kabul are an excellent way to move C4 from one place to another), we might wonder about the scepticism in all of it, but for the most that person is still OK and unlikely to be a true game addict.

Wasn’t that what mattered?

You see, it is actually the end of the article that had the truffle that mattered; no pig was going to get that one! With “The significance of the WHO’s decision will depend on your point of view. Griffiths admits it’s “a vindication for three decades of research”. Trade bodies such as Ukie naturally resist suggestions that anything their industry produces could be harmful“, this part could actually become the invalidator to his work. Prof Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University seems to forget a few parts. In all this, I have been connected to games and gaming from before that. Gaming had several triggers over the last 30 years. First there is the arcade machines versus the home consoles (and home computers), there is an issue with any emerging technology and the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 are just over 20 years, before that it was all about home computers and the lasting time of a game was no more than one day of game time with only Loderunner to be a larger exception. Even in PC’s larger computers with larger games would be able to get finished in no more than 50-70 hours, and again there is an exception now, it was Diablo. Longer lasting games did not really get to the surface until multiplayer came out and it was not until the Unreal engine took off that people hid for a lot longer behind their computers (overly generalised). Now we can argue that those collecting games were indeed addicted, but were they? What data was there on them? I reckon that it was not until the sixth generation of consoles came out that we have the foundation for some level of actual addiction. Yet when we got back, we forgot the arcade machines. How much money did you pour into those machines? Was it to complete Donkey Kong? Was it to be in the top mention of Space invaders or Pac-Man? Does that make you addicted to gaming, or merely a person trying to pass time or dealing with OCD? I am not sure if I can give the right answer, but between generations 4 and 8 (1989-2012) the market has been in technological turmoil and that is disregarding the massive technological leaps PC’s had made over those years. I feel uncertain that with so many changes in a market that has not stopped running, how can anyone be correctly seen as addicted? For example, who would not spend their entire weekend finding the secrets that Tombraider brought in the first instalment? Who did not run to the shop (and claimed a sickie) the day that Tombraider 2 was released? Who did not drop their jaw the day Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots started on their PS3? That game can still hold up to the most that the PS4 brings to the table today. One view was: “The game has been considered one of the best games of the seventh generation of console gaming and among the greatest of all time“, a view I very much agree with. When perfection, art, challenge and achievement come to the table, the view we have changes, because exceptional quality keeps us at the screen. Just look at all those 4K nature movies Bing Lee sets on the TV’s they really want to sell, that’s not addiction, that is admiration/amazement. So in that all, I think that there is a case that Prof Mark Griffiths might not make the mark on this ‘addiction’ addition, there are just too many variables. And even if we recognise that an unhealthy devotion to games might be worth investigating, it would be to find the underlying cause to it all as Dr Netta Weinstein justifies. In that she is completely correct, so as we realise that Jo Twist, the UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) states the correct part with “We are very concerned about the inconclusive nature of the research and the evidence that WHO is using to base this potential classification on“, she could have (as not seen here) stated the matter a little better than what we got to read.

That is merely $0.04 on the matter (due to the FTSE Crash my $0.02 devaluated whilst writing this).

 

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Mining the Ocean

We might look at how Dow dropped 1175 points; we might in equal measure react to the act that Yemeni Houthi’s have decided to perform another attempt to send missiles into the Saudi civilian populations, all factual events of the last day alone. Yet that is not the initial issue that I am looking at. These are short term events and the media loves them because they get to report on the event, the proclaimed solution and the actual solutions. All follow up stories and the media loves them for the coin they tend to bring to their personal pockets. So it was nice to get a look at Saturday’s article by Jonathan Watts who gave us a look at an upcoming disaster (at https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/feb/03/day-zero-cape-town-turns-off-taps), not in Saudi Arabia, but in Cape Town no less. Yet it must be said that what is good for the one, could potentially hit the other as well.

So when you initially read the caption, you might think that the quote “In 10 weeks engineers will turn off water for a million homes as this South African city reacts to a one-in-384-year drought” is no big deal. Let’s face it, an event that hits once every 7 to 8 generations is not really a big deal is it. Yet that is not really the part that matters. You see, when you see the pictures, not on merely the empty swimming pool, but the image on the Theewaterskloof dam and how we see on what was and what now is. When we realise that ‘Day Zero, the apocalyptically named point when water in the six-dam reservoir system falls to 13.5% of capacity‘, is upon them just as autumn is ending, is in my view a much larger issue. When we see the people in queues with as many jerry cans as they can carry, that same point of befuddlement is reached when you consider why alarms have not been ringing a lot earlier, or were they ignored? They were not! The official Cape Town page (at http://www.capetown.gov.za/Family%20and%20home/residential-utility-services/residential-water-and-sanitation-services/Residential-water-restrictions-explained) gives us a lot. So as we see “A daily limit of 50 litres or less per person whether at home, work, school or elsewhere” we need to realise that 433 thousand people will still potentially drill down on 21.6 million litres of water every day. I am not putting any doubt on the 10 weeks until day zero, I merely wonder what else could be done to bring that number down and not to forget, that the WWF reported merely 4 days ago that only 39% of the Cape Town residents are adhering to these restrictions. The question becomes, when these restrictions began. For how long was there some plan of no-water, because the article gives us: “Greg Pillay: “We had to go back to the drawing board. We were prepared for disruption of supply, but not a no-water scenario. In my 40 years in emergency services, this is the biggest crisis.”“, it is fair that there was no plan and the fact that this happens once every 384 years makes the non-plan acceptable part, but the fact is that the empty dam pics should have been an alert stage when it had gone down to 50%, the restrictions to the degree as now might have been less severe pushing the reserves forward to a longer time. Now we see that the oddest thing will happen in 10 weeks, the taps will be turned off, no water from the taps. As seen the current 10%, who own up to 95% of all assets can likely afford, that each person buys a 20 ft. container filled with mineral water and ship it to their home, yet the other 90% will not have such an option setting a very dangerous situation, a very flammable and oddly fluid one to say the least.

the one good part is that Cape Town will start getting more rain by the time Day Zero approaches, so with April getting on average 300% more rain than the quarter before, and the steady incline in the months thereafter implies that the worst might be over, the dangers are that mother nature is a bitch on the best of days, so if they end up with a soft and warm winter the Cape Town goose ends up being most literally dry-cooked. There is just one other element. It is the one that they got to live with in Australia, these water catchments have no real purpose if the rain falls in the wrong place, so there is still that risk to look forward to.

So, why mention Saudi Arabia?

Well, Saudi Arabia has a similar drought pressures, yet they have additional issues as well. In Saudi Arabia, according to some sources groundwater extraction far exceed the level of natural recharge. The Al-Asha aquifer in the Eastern Province experienced a drop of 150 meters over the past 25 years. the National Geographic reported in 2015 that by 2012 80% of the aquifers had been depleted. That is one large setting whilst on taps the vein to find out in the first just how reliable those numbers are, but in the second degree as to how the impact on larger cities will become when the news brings them the story that ‘the fore mentioned source of water has been drained‘, because at that point the breakdown will be a lot larger when you consider 433 thousand in Cape Town versus 5.1 million in Riyadh. When that happens in one place, who long until Jeddah, Mecca and Medina follow? The problem is that there is no way to tell because there is no transparent oversight (an issue in many countries), there is no way to reliably forecast the issue and in all this the long terms impact of places that want to upgrade and maximise their economic potential sounds nice, but when the water level hits zero, everything stops, and right quick.

This might be the one long term danger that some are not looking hard enough at. so with: “Under the slogan “Bounties of our land,” Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih inaugurated the 12th International Geological Conference on Sunday and an accompanying exhibition at a local hotel in Jeddah“, is nice to propagate the Vision 2030, but it is still 12 years away and at present, the water mining issues as well as the water disruptions that are currently still happening (as stated by more than one source) would impact it all. The growth of infrastructures, the middle eastern heat that is about to hit Saudi Arabia for the next 6 months, whilst the rain will again decide to remain absent until December (speculated forecast), that alone would require a much higher priority to resolve water issues in Saudi Arabia, or at least give it additional priority. The fact that there are 27 plants in Saudi Arabia, creating millions of litres of water every day implies that perhaps it is time to see if this process can be improved upon and more important 9 more plants will be added to the need of Saudi Arabia. Now we can agree that Saudi Arabia has made massive strides here and the fact that they have upped it to 5 million cubic metres a day should not be underestimated. I am merely speculating that if someone finds a way to improve this process by 1%-5%, the impact for the water quality of life for Saudi’s would go straight through the roof, the impact is that large at present. In addition, the fact that for now the 36 plants would suffice in the short term, the long term is still not a given, that is because the need cannot be predicted. Here too it is about the data captured and to learn where the losses to the water cycles are found and how they can be prevented. More important, if mining is an initial issue now, how much of an issue will it be in 10 years, because depleted places could have other implications too, implication mind you! There is a lot that is not known, but it seems to me that both Saudi Arabia and South Africa will have issue to deal with over the coming year. Not just the water as needed for consumption, whatever else relies on water will also impact structural changes and even more drastic show an optional impact on infrastructure. Part of this was also seen last month (at http://meconstructionnews.com/27099/emerson-opens-new-tech-lab-in-saudi-arabia), where Emerson is set to a “new $25 million new technology and innovation centre at Dhahran Techno Valley, in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia enables the company to host Saudi students, entrepreneurs, researchers and industry stakeholders to collaborate with its technical experts to develop process automation technologies and design products and solutions that, “meet the country’s goals.”“. Yet how much priority is given to design new ways to give rise to measuring and monitoring production, distribution and delivery of water solutions towards data collection, designed to contribute to longer term forecasting of water needs. You see, most of these systems tend to be short term, or when they are longer term they lose reliability because of a number of factors, so what happens when we can map and monitor the factors themselves? It is one of the powers that 5G could bring to an automation system, automated drone technologies that monitor and feed. This reminds me of a 2006 paper called ‘Modular learning models in forecasting natural phenomena‘ by Solomontine and Siek. Now in the paper we see in the abstract: “Comparison of the algorithms based on modular local modelling to the more traditional ‘global’ learning models on a number of benchmark tests and river flow forecasting problems shows their higher accuracy and transparency of the resulting models“, now what if the plant is the source of the river and the pipes are the river themselves. What if losses and therefor risks of these pipe systems could be mapped and correctly categorised? Only last year the Saudi Gazette reported (at http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/500157/SAUDI-ARABIA/Water-supply-disrupted-in-five-Jeddah-districts), “Residents of five districts in southeast Jeddah have complained about disruption of water supply to their homes after the National Water Company (NWC) changed its supply schedule. The residents of Al-Musaed, Quwaiza, Al-Nakheel, Al-Raghama and Al-Obaid districts in southeast Jeddah were mainly affected by the supply disruption“, now there can be all kinds of valid reasons why this happens, yet the official response was: “it was beyond their control as the quantity of water they receive from Shuaiba plants was less than what they received before“, the question is not whether, why or the issues of delivery, it is whether quantity of water changes can be measured and set into data models that give better forecasting, this is seen as that nations will soon face provision from 36 plants and any plan to rely on full production and let things run will have longer term problems. Knowing where water is going and what losses are measured will also give rise to initial better information and longer term better water measurement. In my view it is the same with almost every port in the world. It is not how much you ship and how many vessels you service, it is the one place where idle time is not monitored, that is the place where the cost of it all spins out of control really fast.

As I see it, both South Africa and optionally Saudi Arabia have a flaw in the long term view of water, from the articles South Africa is already past the initial point of worry from what I have read and I am speculating that Saudi Arabia has an optional issue growing as it is working towards Vision 2030, because when those tech firms start rolling in in 2031, Riyadh with all its growth could potentially grow by at least 10% in the short term, the question becomes whether Riyadh would be ready to service a jump that is twice the size of Cape Town? I have no way of knowing and it is not yet the point where it is out there, but Vision 2030 is only 12 years away and desalinisation plants do not grow overnight, which would be awesome if someone could design one that did so.

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Disney’s Yemeni Cricket

Roughly 2 years, 10 months, 15 days and 3.4 hours ago, the Houthi’s decided to take over Yemen from the elected government. It is at this point that the then elected government seeks assistance from Saudi Arabia and whatever other allies it can get, this coalition has been at it since it all started. We see all the condemnation on how civilian bombings are happening, yet the part on all this that “Civilians say the Houthis are dispersing weapons in residential areas leaving people fearing for their lives” is not given the light it needs to be getting. You see, that is exactly the same tactic that Hezbollah has been using, yet the media gives little to no light to that element.

Now the game is taking another turn. This is initially seen though the Washington Post (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/yemens-war-is-so-out-of-control-that-allies-are-turning-on-one-another/2018/02/03/50d26426-05fe-11e8-aa61-f3391373867e_story.html) with: ‘Yemen’s war is so out of control, allies are turning on one another’, it is not an incorrect view. Certain alliances tend to not remain focussed unless heir is a true common goal and as for the most the Houthi’s have only had any technology to merely fire on Saudi Arabia, there is a loss of focus for the other allies in that coalition.

In addition, with: “But fighting in the southern Yemeni city of Aden over the past week revealed the extent to which Yemen’s war also is driven by other historical grievances that could pose serious obstacles to negotiating an end to the conflict, according to Yemeni and Western analysts”, which is an absolute given and one that many tend to overlook. The complication is seen with: “The uprising by UAE-backed southern Yemeni separatists against forces loyal to the Saudi-based and internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi could further complicate efforts to dislodge the Houthis from Sanaa”, you see, as the issues in Yemen grow ever more murky for the people in Yemen, the entire issue becomes a less stable and more dangerous place. With the Yemeni having no way to strike against the UAE, Saudi Arabia gets the brunt of all the anger whilst the UAE gets to focus on what is the most tactical way to move forward and can ignore what is the best path for all players around. In this Saudi Arabia could end up having to deal with the entire matter alone. This leaves them, unless the UAE changes its approach with the tactical question, should the Yemeni situation be resolved, or is it safer for the Yemeni people to annex Yemen into Saudi Arabia into a partially self-governing region? It is a dangerous question, not only because of the implication, but when the humanitarian dangers (Cholera, Polio, Measles and famine) are not just on the horizon, but now on the front door of Yemeni citizens, the iron hand required to save whatever citizens are left alive, it is one of the few historical times when annexing is starting to make sense, moreover, it might be one of the few option that soon enough remain.

Not only does it take care of the separatists, it shows a new side which will in equal measure strikes fear in Saudi’s other adversary Iran. When Iran sees the support and the consequence of its so called actions. Especially if in addition Saudi Arabia opens the doors to all UN humanitarian actions to give care and medical support to the Yemeni people, Iran will not merely have to fear Saudi Arabia, it will be hosted with the prospect of giving aid to escalation in UN humanitarian zones, one fact that would require Turkey to cut its ties with Iran or face massive sanctions from all NATO allies as well as all 28 European community nations, those who would side with Turkey would soon find themselves isolated and in a dangerous economic downturn, one that none of the 28 nations can currently afford!

There is an optional second issue that would evolve from that. As any positive humanitarian action within Yemen shows the good side of Saudi Arabia, the long term condemnations will need to write about other matters and even finally show light on the optional benefits of seeing Saudi Arabia as a place of growth and investment. Even as the Google Alphabet group is already looking at growing its presence, Saudi Arabia is set to grow in other ways too and as both the consumer goods and pharmaceutical groups are seeking growth, the need for manufactured goods for 32 million Saudi Arabians, as well as the options to facilitate to 35 million Iraqi’s and 4 million Kuwaiti’s from the relative safety of Saudi Arabia is an even better prospect for those catering to consumers. That is one way of obtaining growth and even as the falling out with the UAE is an issue for Saud Arabia, there is an optional path where Saudi Arabia could come out on top.

It is not a new concept. The solution had been voiced on a few times last year, yet in many cases there was the outlook of larger opposition from the UAE and Oman, now that the falling out with the UAE is an actual fact, the Saudi government could go into talks with Oman to facilitate some solution that make Yemeni Araba a mere temporary solution as a humanitarian implementation is found to protect the civilian population from further harm. By giving Oman a much larger voice in all this could prove beneficial to both Oman and Saudi Arabia, but only for the non-long-term future.

In all this it will not become a long term solution and all parties will be painfully aware of it all, whilst it does give rise to dealing with the insurrections in Yemen and at the same time show Iran that it stands a lot more alone in its inciting tactics than it previously bargained for. In equal measure it gives Turkey the clear message that it either changes its current course of finds itself in a falling out with both the US and the EEC, a situation that could stop whatever economy they thought they had for the next decade. Turkey could end up buying humble pie at $15 (or €10) per slice. In addition, t won’t just be “French President Emmanuel Macron has told his Turkish counterpart that there is currently no chance of Turkey becoming a member of the European Union”, it will be messages from at least 15 of European elected rulers and there is a chance that the number opposing Turkey as a full European member will grow to 25, with that in mind Turkey will also be out of any marketing race in the middle east making them no longer an interesting party to Russia, other than for the need of consumer exploitation for whatever they have for sale.

Now many parts of this is speculation, even as it is based on visible facts, the idea that Yemen becomes the corner stone of several linked issues is a lot wilder than Walt Disney could have ever imagined in any movie he ever made, including that movie of a boy with a growing nose and a conscience called Yemeni Cricket.

In this growth is already an optional given for Saudi Arabia as Google (with a plus one) is already in advanced talks to set up a tech hub in Saudi Arabia. His also partially confirms my initial view (a few months ago) that Saudi Arabia is ready to set the nation into a mobile 5G growth, making it soon a more technical advanced nation than the US will be in 12 months. Outside the states of NY, DC, Pennsylvania and California there is a growing concern that at least 10 states are nowhere near ready to become 5G players, giving rise not to mere net neutrality issues, but a larger technological downturn of the US as a larger nation, a view that has not been seen since America in the great depression (1929-1939). Do you think that this is wrong or me bluffing in some way? Consider how the budget is currently set and see which states can come up with 5-25 billion in the next 18 months to give rise to 5G, then also look what has to be cut to make such a level of investment a reality and then ask yourself how the US had not planned for this technological need. So when you see the next article on how 5G is overhyped and not essential, consider your next internet session and see what you could have done at 800% of the current speed, hat is beside all the other options hat 5G allows for. Should the US make it a national need, than the national debt will be clearly pushed past the 20 trillion mark! So the only way for the USA to be seen as technologically on par with Saudi Arabia is to dive into much deeper debt.

There are of course other considerations for Saudi Arabia to take a certain path, yet it must be one of the rare occasions where annexing might be one of the few humanitarian options left. A cease fire will not get the result and of course the question is equally important, whether Saudi Arabia sees annexing as an option at all, because that part is not a given at all.

There is of course the second part. If the UAE is able to get control of the separatists and get them on target in the direction the coalition wanted it to be and if the Yemeni separatists see what is their best solution than the entire matter diffuses and as such there is no further issue, yet that is still not a given, but as this situation merely escalated over the last week, there is still time to find a non-annexing solution, which is what suits all parties of that coalition best (personal assumption).

Still, with the other news that Al Jazeera gave a mere 20 hours ago (at http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/02/defence-minister-saudi-uae-intended-invade-qatar-180203091422735.html), makes the option of opposing issues between the UAE and Saudi Arabia less likely to simmer down. Yet in equal light the interview that Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah had with the Washington Post, where he is quoted with: “about Doha’s relations with Saudi’s rival, Iran, Attiyah noted that Qatar maintains “friendly relations with everyone”” gives rise that the ‘friend’ of my enemy, is not my enemy, which also means that softening relationships and new ties could change the dynamics of the Middle East as I personally see it. So as Saudi Arabia is trying to get along with everyone except Iran, it could push Iran into more isolation. Even as Qatar is trying to remain friends with all, it also means that Qatar is less likely unwilling to be some kind of facilitator for Iran, a path Iran really had not hoped for and that means that the onus of Turkey’s ‘friendship’ with Iran is now clearly with Turkey, which will push them in even deeper waters, as I personally see it.

So as we end this part of the speculation and forecasting, we will need to see on how talks pan out in the next 2 weeks, the only dangerous part is that the Yemeni civilian population is running out of time faster and faster and inaction equals in their case a diminishing amount of living civilians, a side pretty much all parties are against.

 

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Through an urban legend

It all started with me not getting any sleep. So as I was pondering in all directions, I remembered a really old issue. It was something I heard as a kid. The story was: ‘the laws of aerodynamics prove that the bumblebee can’t fly‘, as I have seen them and as I knew they would fly, I knew that the story was false, but the urban legend remained alive. It was much later when I learned of the full story and in my view, the consideration of non-flight, whilst the person had a limited knowledge of ornithology made it a bit of a comedy. So there I was pondering that event and suddenly I connected it to the principle of Archimedes. As I pondered ‘upon immersion an object receives a buoyant force equal to the weight of the water displaced‘, it is the first part you learn in ships engineering. It always fascinated me whenever I saw a large warship, all that steel and armour, and weight. So in that I realised the issue with these large boats. You see, the part that is keeping them afloat is almost set to a decimal point. So what happens when that changes? So there I was and CNN was giving me (at https://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/26/politics/iranian-boats-stop-harassing-us-navy-ships/index.html), on how the Iranians have their boat escalation and I was mindfully becoming creative. So as I went through the five stages of such a project

Design, Devise, Delivery, Deployment, Detonation, My mind became more and more creative. As I changed one element for the other, I suddenly realised that I had a new concept, something that is not stealth, but would not electronically register. It had the potential to take down a warship with them having almost no defence against it and the consequence was that this could be universally applied. It has limitations on where it would work, but wherever it does, it could be devastating. So basically I optionally solved the Iranian navy problem before there even is one.  Even in my own light I will use the word ‘optionally’, because I, like nearly all others am a flawed person, I never tested the solution for real (not enough Iranian frigates to test the solution on in Sydney) and in the end it was merely a puzzle for my mind to solve. Data, Engineering, Science, the puzzle does not matter, merely the need to solve it when I am confronted with one. The entire puzzle took an hour to solve; it was not as challenging as the NHS issue, but a nice distraction as I remained awake.

I went over every stage a few times. With every pass I improved the solution, I improved its effectiveness. It remains close to undetectable. The deployment system is slow but to some degree maneuverable and the solution could take out a frigate or destroyer. In theory it could also take care of a battleship. I do wonder if it remains ‘invisible’ with the upgraded electronics that a carrier tends to have.

So what do you do when you are sitting on a solution that could have such wide repercussions?

The idea, sell it or forget it?

I wonder how this is seen, in light of the revelation from Wesley G. Bush, as Defense News reveals today: “Northrop Grumman will form a new business sector focused on new, innovative technology once it closes on its acquisition of Orbital ATK this year, a top Northrop executive said during a Thursday earnings call“,  In this we get also “We believe that after the transaction has completed, our collective set of market-leading technologies and products, along with very compatible, innovation-focused cultures, will enable us to better serve our customers’ current and emerging needs“, according to Kathy Warden, President and CEO of Northrop Grumman. So, in light of the stated innovation culture that is meant to their customers and not the consumers at large, we wonder where their innovation will take them and as such the Defence spending bill of the United States.

In all this, I considered the length that the US went with the USS Zumwalt, versatile, 610 foot and $440 million for this dinghy. Here I am, coming up with a $5 million solution to sink it. It feels almost too comical to consider that it cannot afford the $1 million smart shell and this vessel cannot afford the cost of filling the 600 shell armoury. Here I am coming up with a nickel and dime solution to a high tech problem. A feat that was possible because these ships need to go into harbours, which is their weak link. They need to resupply and I considered the disadvantage the Iranians have at Bandar Abbas and how that plays into the hands of its enemies.

We seem to seek security, safety. We get lulled into some state of false safety, because the falsehood of all this is not about the high tech, it is what happens when the opposition goes low tech and all the technology leaves you without options, because the armistice race has all been about pushing forward, not look backward and solution nature had for a thousand years and no one sought to see an application for that knowledge. The danger of someone stating: ‘be clever about it‘ whilst the reality of a solution was to get back to basics.

That is shown with “For decades the Navy faced no major rival on the open ocean. As a consequence, it allowed its missile arsenal to shrink and grow obsolete, even as Russia and China developed better and better ship-destroying missiles“, so as they all sought more versatile and more intelligent missiles to do the work for them, I looked at the ceiling and came up with a low tech solution that was a solution almost 250 years earlier. I merely upgraded the concept to be partly biological in nature and upgraded it with the smallest amount of electronics, the mere 10% of a ZX Spectrum and not that much additional computation power. A solution that can down something 200 times its value. An idea that we got to see in the book and movie Charlie Wilson’s War. It is as I personally see it a simple and economic solution to end the impasse between superpowers. The Russian Hind helicopter, each at $12 million, versus the FIM-92 Stinger at $38,000 each. It really did not take that long to find a naval alternative. The solution, tested on several fields against whatever Northrop Grumman or Raytheon throws at the Defence spending committee and according to some sources with the upcoming cost of $1 million, per smart shell. So how smart is the envisioned solution?

I do not know and I actually do not care, but I wonder if defence committees all over the world need to reconsider the way they spend their money and that is all before that new behemoth will spend even more. It is called the EU Army and so far the people are lucky that the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Portugal and Malta have so far not signed up. Some idea driven by France and Germany, whilst the operational folly it could end up being is going to be devastating to economies in several nations, in that they should realise that even as Charlie Wilson’s War was an American victory, that same tactic could be pointed against any of them. And it would happen in a day and age that none of the nations can afford to become the victim of a tactic like that. Because that is how the law of Murphy tends to unfold.

Now realise that this was set in motion by remembering the fake fact on non-flying bumblebees, the mere application of creativity in action.

 

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