EU Referendum 2016

[N.B. Lack of proof-reading at point of publish]

With literally hours to go until making my choice in the EU Referendum, it would be fair to say I’m torn as to which choice I’m going to make.

In the hope that it will help me formulate my ideas further, I figured it was worth writing where I stand on various issues, to try and help establish a final decision by the morning.

For what it’s worth, I began on this trail as default “remain” as it seemed to be the position expected of someone in my demographic, along with being the least painful option. On further reflection, I started to have some inclination towards “leave”, and in the end feel I lie somewhere in the middle. I’ll try to break out my reasoning into separate sections below, before rambling on my own thought processes at the end.

I ultimately feel the result will be remain.

The Campaigns

On both sides, the official / mainstream campaigns have – in my opinion – been atrocious. A lack of any real form of fact (until required to rebuff the opposition); an over-reliance on playing on people’s insecurities rather than engaging in optimistic, positive campaigning; and some pretty horrendous individual choices / statements.

In their defence, none of the above (sadly) is unique to the EU Referendum, more a general reflection on modern politics in general.

Boris Johnson has done little but reinforce my belief that he’s a dangerous figure in UK Politics because he cares only for his own image and goals. This has long been the case, but this campaign has reinforced that.
Nigel Farage has done exactly what you might expect, and is tiresome.
Michael Gove is still pretty punchable.
Jeremy Corbyn has actually done a pretty reasonable job in my opinion, although I do feel he’s instinctively more out than his party line suggests.
David Cameron has similarly done alright, but I find it hard to marry up his indignation at the “intolerance” stoked up by the immigration question with his own previous comments on swarms and the like. It feels a little inconsistent.

Needless to say, whatever opinion I end up at the polling station with, I wouldn’t want it to be considered in any way aligned / justified by those mainstream campaigns. If anything, they’ve just added more smokescreen and made the decision-making more confusing.

Migration

Every time a discussion comes up, particularly if you car to play devil’s advocate and toy with “leave” as a valid option, the topic of migration unsurprisingly rears it’s head.

I’ve said a few times now – and genuinely believe it – that it shouldn’t even be a topic that’s considered as part of the debate, as it won’t (and can’t) change if a leave vote is to be handled in any way sensibly by those in charge of the negotiations (the government).
There’s no logical outcome for a Britain leaving the EU that results in migration levels being any different, and Britain not becoming part of the Schengen Zone as a result of post-referendum negotiations.

I believe in open borders. I believe in the positive effects of migration. It’s virtually undeniable that migration has a positive effect on a country as it allows different cultures to meet and merge, increases tolerance (overall), and brings diversity to everyday life.
I don’t buy into the blame games that suggest it’s the fault of migrants that we have had successive governments failing to plan adequately for housing demand. Nigel bloody Farage does not speak for me. But I’ll be damned if I’ll let my decision be shaped by the notion that someone I strongly disagree with plans to vote the same way.
Particularly in a referendum where you have two choices to make, it’s shameful that either side should suggest that if you vote the opposite way you’re “as bad as that guy”.

There’s a not unreasonable argument to suggest the migration issue (and certainly UKIP) would be quelled in the face of a “leave” vote, as it would prevent a British government from passing the buck, effectively saying “yes, it’s bad but we can’t do anything – bloomin’ Brussels”.

Greece

It barely matters which side of the fence you’re on here, but the simple reality is that the EU alone effectively over-turned the democratic will of  the Greek people following their referendum on whether to accept or reject the bailout package being offered (and the associated austerity measures) in order to protect its own economic model.
That, to me, is unacceptable. Whilst it can be argued (with some level of reason) that the circumstances were exceptional and the intervention required, it flies in the face of the European Union being a guiding force in protecting democracy, and suggests it has become a force for protecting neo-liberal economics.

Britain of course, was as much a part of the problem there as anyone else, but we alone don’t drive the EU’s diktat, and (at least from what I can gather – correct me if I’m wrong) the European Parliament – the sole truly democratic entity within the Union’s power structure, voted for by the people of Europe – had no consultation or say in setting the conditions of the bailout. To that end, leave campaigners complaints of an “undemocratic institution” carry at least some weight – the fact we vote for a European Parliament does not mean it has as much influence in European affairs as our own Parliament does in Britian’s affairs.

Independence

This is what originally brought me to questioning where I would place my vote.

Fundamentally, I believe in restoring the power associated with direct democratic action to the smallest common denominator. To that end, from a purely ideological perspective, I would support leaving the EU. If I were Scottish, I’d support Scottish independence from Britain. If I were Cornish, I’d support Cornish independence from England.
None of that means they would be easy decisions to make. Or that any one of them would be a magic bullet that will make all our problems disappear. I’m afraid I’m not that naïve.
But I do believe that longer term, increasing a society’s own democratic mandate is the right direction to take.

Make no mistake, I consider myself global, European, British, English, and Lancastrian. I don’t believe they’re mutually exclusive ideas. I pour scorn upon the notion that if I was to to vote leave I would no longer be able to consider myself “European”.
I don’t believe that a “leave” vote would or should result in a raising of the drawbridge, shutting ourselves off from the rest of the world. I would like to think that any subsequent negotiations around withdrawal would be led by a government that is fundamentally “remain”, allowing for the content to at least be a bit more rational than the bigoted “immigration is bad” line.

Leaving the EU does not, and should not, mean that Britain should no longer deal with Europe.

Security / Peacekeeping

This one really is interesting, and has been banded around by all sides.

If the vote were to leave, would we be less secure than we are now, and would we really be threatening continental peace (that’s been in place “since the end of World War II”) and raising the spectre of war?
I genuinely don’t believe so. As a planet we’re more interconnected now than we ever have been, thanks in no small part to the medium I’m using right now – the internet.

Are there risks? Of course there are, and in its fragile state there is a very real possibility that a leave vote from Britain would threaten the stability of the entire EU, which is one are that does give me cause for concern, and Matteo Renzi’s comments resonated with me.
There are already issues in places such as Greece, Poland, Hungary where “right-wing” elements have established a clear foothold and making some concerning choices with regards to freedom of the press amongst other things.

We do still have NATO.
We already have wide-ranging intelligence-sharing agreements with countries throughout the world – would Europe overnight become an untrusted partner (and vice versa)? I find it hard to believe.
We do still have the negotiations to come – is there any sanity in Europe taking a hardline against a “post-leave” Britian, in order to make a point? I would suggest (and hope) not. Because, think about it, if the EU chose to take an intentionally hardline against Britain, to make an example of a Britain democratically choosing to leave the Union, would it not reinforce the notion (which I don’t currently share) that it is actually an abusive relationship, rather than something that wants to promote peace and prosperity within Europe?
Such action would certainly provide a counter-point to the assumption that Britain alone would be responsible for any fallout / instability / security concerns that arise as a result of a “leave” vote.

The Economy, Stoopid

I’m no economist. From what I can gather in my reading, there is also no single clear leaning that “an economist” would take – it’s all down to schools of thought and – in our current societal state – which school of thought the most people believe.

That’s why our economies are ultimately sustained on imaginary figures and confidence, as opposed to something you can see and feel. It’s partly why revelations and dawning realisation can result in cataclysmic market crashes. And it’s why “the markets like stability” and certainty, and conversely why they don’t deal well with relative unknowns.

And, ultimately, that seems to have been the biggest argument so far in favour of “remain” – why bother taking a risk? There will be some fallout, because a period of uncertainty would follow a “leave” vote, and no one knows how long that will last nor how severe it may be. Everything coming out of the IMF, ECB and various think-tanks was very non-specific – lots of reliance on prefacing statements with the word “could” as opposed to will. The same is true of the Brexiteers (“we could do all this!”) – the reality is no one knows, and I’d wager neither side is close to reality with their prophecies of economic doom or mega-prosperity. Much like the Scottish Referendum before it, whilst it’s easy to get carried away with the hope and optimism, the reality is that there will probably be a number of years of difficulty, before ultimately ending up no worse off than if we were remain a member.

TTIP has some pretty concerning elements and ramifications to it, not least in the way its discussions have been conducted.
The EU’s conduct over Greece (above) is questionable to say the least.

Opt-Outs and Ever-Closer Union

For all the stick David Cameron got for his “renegotiation” with Europe last time round, I actually believe a lot of what was negotiated was as good as anyone might have reasonably expected, even if much of it was more clarification on existing positions than anything groundbreaking. The firm opt-out of ever closer union is an important one, particularly given it cannot be backtracked on.

 

One question I came back to on this question was by changing it around – if this were a vote to join the European Union, would I do it? I’m not convinced I would. In that regard, is it therefore selfish of me to vote to maintain the status quo because it will be the easier, less risky option?

I’m probably more confused now than when I first started trying to put these thoughts down.

Spoilt Vote != Wasted Vote

A spoilt vote does not automatically translate to a wasted vote. Nor is a spoilt vote equivalent to not voting at all.

Another important note to make early on is that I’m not writing this to encourage anyone to spoil the vote – but I would hope you would come out of reading this feeling encouraged to vote, in whatever form.

This morning sees the opening of UK Elections for the European Parliament. As has been increasingly predictable, much fuss has been made of the “threat” parties such as UKIP pose to the established mainstream parties (namely Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats).
The resulting social and conventional media storm has been somewhat hectic and infuriating. Understandable obsession that people may feel dejected with mainstream politics and forced into voting for one of the more extreme options; frustration at the apparent disproportionate airtime Farage and UKIP have been given; simultaneous over-reaching to shout racist and disregard anyone who would vote UKIP as being dated, past it, out-of-touch, wrong – yet still being scared of them winning a large portion of the votes.

I didn’t start writing this to debate the merits (or lack of) in UKIPs campaign, nor the fact they seem to lack any depth or breadth of policies (and they’re not alone in that, by the way), but I needed to mention it because one thing that crops up regularly is a comment along the lines of “worse thing to do is not vote, or spoilt ballot” or “there’s always something to vote against”. Presumably, you can already tell I disagree with this sentiment, at least the latter part of it.
I would be the first to agree that not voting is a terrible option, and doesn’t actually bring anything to the table, but why then do I believe a spoilt vote is any more valid an option?

The reasoning is actually pretty simple, aided by the way UK voting works:

  • If you don’t vote, the elected individuals can, with some justification, attempt to disregard your opinion in society as invalid – it’s nearly impossible to differentiate between apathy and indifference, or disillusion with the options available / protest no-votes. Simply put, if you don’t vote you’re not someone they can “win” a vote from, so they have no reason to bother trying.
  • In the UK, spoilt votes have to be counted and, often, announced. Just think about that for a second. That means that, along with every vote for a certain party, every spoilt ballot is also recorded. A spoilt ballot is as close to a “true” protest vote as we get.
  • Where spoilt ballots are in the tens or low hundreds, it can be easily put down to voter error. Where the numbers are higher it demonstrates genuine dissatisfaction with what the parties available offer.
  • In the previous Euro elections, UK turnout was just under 35% (15.1 Million) of the eligible population. In the last general election it was just over 65% (29.7 Million). It would be lazy of me to assume everyone who doesn’t vote cares enough to actually spoilt their vote, but it’s fair to assume that a reasonable percentage of those who choose not to vote do so through disillusion, frustration, and a feeling that their vote is irrelevant as it won’t change anything. To those people, I would urge you to consider spoiling your vote (as opposed to not voting at all).
  • Let’s take the last Euro Election:
    • Roughly speaking, 28.04 million eligible voters did not vote at all in the UK elections. 15.99 million didn’t in the General Election a year later. If we assume the everyone who didn’t vote in the last General Election won’t vote in any, that leaves us with 12.05 million no-votes to work with.
    • Presumably, if those 12.05 million, at lease some chose not to vote because they “didn’t see the point” or “didn’t think it would make a difference”. I’m no statistician, so I’m pulling numbers from the air here when I suggest that, maybe, 5% of those non-voters wanted to vote but didn’t think there was anyone to vote for. (Note: This is different to those who chose not to vote as a misguided EU protest / frustration with their “usual” part / etc.). That’s over 600,000 potential spoilt ballots – more votes than the SNP, who won 2 seats.
    • Even at that low (in my opinion) estimate of potential spoilt ballots, that is a huge figure, and registers that disillusion / frustration / anger officially.
  • It may not change the election outcome, but it does send a clear message that there is a considerable body of people out there in your electorate who are disillusioned with the political options they’re presented with- and care enough to actually go out to vote on election day and register that frustration.

Ultimately, I don’t care how someone chooses to vote come the day, come the hour. But I would urge you all to vote if you’re eligible. Without it, there is virtually no reason for your government to care about your opinion.

And, please, don’t be so quick to disregard those who choose to spoil their vote.

New Positions and Status End

New Job

I got offered a new contract the other week at work which came as both a surprise and shock. The contract I was offered was for the Field Support Technician role that had been put out and advertised a month or two back and which, to be honest, I had never dreamed I would have stood a chance for and so didn’t apply for. I also didn’t think when it was offered that it would come about as quick as it seems to be doing – official start date will be in two weeks time.

Basically, the new role will involve being half a step up the support chain from where I am now, heading out to the sites affected to troubleshoot and fix problems locally. To little ol’ me it’s pretty exciting, more hands-on, but with a hell of a lot to learn.
I’m a little nervous about it, but also pretty keen to get the most out of it and take the opportunity to really try and sink my teeth into all the bits missing from my knowledge of the setup. It could definitely make for some interesting times.

Not much more to report there really I don’t think, but it should be fun.

End of an Instructor Era

I made a pretty drastic decision the other day. Well, I say drastic, to be honest it’s been on the horizon for a while and is in no way related to the previous topic.

At the end of this year I’m going to suspend my PADI Teaching Status as an Instructor and start to be Non-Teaching Status.
For those unaware as to what that means, the clue’s in the names. Basically I’ll cease to be able to actively teach scuba diving courses as the sole instructor. Which is a shame, as I do genuinely love the feeling of satisfaction that’s derived from teaching someone new skills. But it had to happen, and has to happen, for a number of reasons:

  • I’m not actively teaching any more as it is, which means I lack confidence on the few times I do get the chance to teach and run portions of a class. This isn’t good for me, as it makes me feel incompetent, and doesn’t help the students, who aren’t getting the best education they could – and should – be getting.
  • I’m not, realistically, going to start teaching more frequently any time soon because, quite simply, I don’t have the time to do that and be able to do all the other things I want to be doing. This is more closely related to the new job scenario, as there’s plenty to do and a ton to learn which means, when it comes to time off, such as weekends and the like, I want to be making the most of it, whether that be heading off out to see friends, visit different places, spend some time playing EvE, or simply diving for my own pleasure and to increase my own diving experiences. it’s no secret that I’ve barely done any Mixed Gas diving since returning from Egypt, nor have I managed to really hammer myself in training scenarios to improve my own skills. With part-time teaching, I don’t have that capability and, by the same token, I don’t do it often enough to improve my teaching either – it’s lose-lose.
  • It costs. Many of us know the old jokes (PADI: Put Another Dollar In, etc.) which, whilst I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, is true – being an active member of PADI does cost (shock! Horror!) and, whilst it will also cost me to remain a member at a Non-Teaching Status level, it won’t cost anywhere near as much, and I don’t have to also cover Professional Liability insurance to the same level. Whilst those costs at the moment aren’t exactly crippling, there’s no point me paying them if I’m not getting the use out of them. I’d be better off putting that money saved towards gas, or equipment maintenance.
  • I can still partake and learn by helping out with courses as an assistant without being in Teaching Status – which basically means, should I reach a point where I feel I have the time and commitment to be able to start teaching again, I can get myself back into it gradually, putting the time in to help with courses and learning from those other instructors around me that have served as role models for so much of my time diving. The important thing is that I don’t have to be put in the pressure situation of already being Teaching Status whilst trying to learn this.

And those are about all I can think of right now. It’s a shame, in many ways, because I do genuinely enjoy teaching, but I also loathe the feeling of inadequacy I get from knowing I’m not providing the best teaching experience I possible can, purely because I lack practice and confidence. It ain’t fun.

Anyway, that’s that said.

NOT at Fanfest

The EvE Fanfest begins tomorrow, as I’ve been reminded by a few websites.

I won’t be there, although I would have loved to like the last few years.

Maybe next year.

Jealous, sir? Me, sir? No, sir. Not jealous, sir.

Bastards. Those that are going, enjoy! 😉

A Few (Good) Things

The evening is still (relatively) young, but already I’ve just sat listening to The Black Box of Jazz which, whilst I’ve owned it for at least 4 years, I haven’t yet listened through all 4 CD’s back-to-back like I did tonight.
Simply put, it’s brilliant, and there are some individual tracks on there that are simply outstanding. I’ve heard all the tracks off the box set at certain times before, but listening to it start to finish really highlights how good those tracks are.
Just figured I should share.

For the rest of my highly resourceful day, I’ve watched two films – Evan Almighty, and Blade Runner.
First up was Evan Almighty which, judging by the trailers I saw over summer, I thought could be a good laugh. Frankly, I was disappointed.
It was amusing at times, and probably in a group atmosphere there would be many laughs shared, but I just didn’t find it as funny as I guess I expected to. I was also struck by a strange thought – all the general impressions of what an Ark should look like strike me as fundamentally flawed: the thing has no apparent sails, and yet clearly doesn’t (shouldn’t) have an engine, which means the thing basically just floats. In a flood scenario, where there are potentially many hazards to hit, this strikes me as foolish to have effectively ZERO control over where it should be heading. Just a thought.

Second up, Blade Runner, a film I should have watched long ago but didn’t.
Again, to be honest, I found myself a little disappointed. Not too much, but enough to remember.
It has plenty of very good moments but overall it just seemed to fail to capture me in the way I thought it would. I can’t single out anything that’s particularly wrong with it, I guess I’d just leave it saying it didn’t do all I thought it could for me… 🙂
Still, I reckon it’s a film everyone should at least try, maybe it just caught me on an off-day, following so closely as it did to my viewing of Evan Almighty.

And that’s it really. I guess the subject line is a little off. It should probably read ‘One Good Thing and A Couple of Moderate-to-Pretty Good things.

Meh.

Cheap Laughs

Browsing the good old Scrapheap Challenge the other day and came across these little pearls within this Full-Of-Win Thread. Because everybody needs to laugh sometimes, and this first list had me literally crying with laughter. Crying I tells ya. I also couldn’t breathe. It was a rush. Anyway, here we go:

20 Ways To Annoy Your Public Bathroom Stallmate

1. Stick your open palm under the stall wall and ask your neighbor, ‘May I borrow a highlighter?’
2. Say, ‘Uh oh, I knew I shouldn’t have put my lips on that.’
3. Cheer and clap loudly every time somebody breaks the silence with a bodily function noise.
4. Say, ‘Damn, this water’s cold.’
5. Drop a marble and say, ‘Oh shit! My glass eye!’
6. Say, ‘Hmmm, I’ve never seen that color before.’
7. Grunt and strain real loud for 30 seconds and then drop a cantelope into the toilet bowl from a height of 6 feet. Sigh relaxingly.
8. Say, ‘Now how did that get there?’
9. Say, ‘Humus. Reminds me of humus.’
10. Fill up a large flask with Mountain Dew. Squirt it erratically under the stall walls of your neighbors while yelling, ‘Whoa! Easy boy!’
11. Say, ‘Interesting.. more floaters than sinkers.’
12. Using a small squeeze tube, spread peanut butter on a wad of toilet paper and drop the wad under the stall wall of your neighbor. Then say, ‘Whoops, could you kick that back over here please?’
13. Say, ‘C’mon Mr. Happy! Don’t fall asleep on me.’
14. Fill a balloon with creamed corn. Rush into the stall with your hand over your mouth and let out a lengthy vomit impression while you squeeze the balloon and splatter cream corn all about. Apologize profusely and blame it on the fettucine alfredo you had for breakfast.
15. Say, ‘Boy, that sure looks like a maggot.
16. Say, ‘Damn, I knew that drain hole was a little too small. Now what am I gonna do?’
17. Play a well known drum cadence over and over again on your butt cheeks.
18. Before you unroll toilet paper, conspicuously lay down your ‘Cross-Dressers Anonymous’ newsletter on the floor visible to the adjacent stall.
19. Lower a small mirror underneath the stall wall, adjust it so you can see your neighbor and say, ‘Peek-a-boo!’
20. Drop a D-cup bra on the floor under the stall wall and sing ‘Born Free’.

10 Things not to say in an Ann Summers Shop:-

10. Does this come in children’s sizes?
9. No Thanks. Just Sniffing.
8. I’ll be in the dressing room going blind.
7. Mom will love this.
6. Do you have this with a Aberdeen F.C badge on it?
5. No need to wrap it up, I’ll eat it here.
4. Will you model this for me???
3. Oh honey, you’ll never squeeze your fat ass into that!
2. 90 quid?? You’re just gonna end up NAKED anyway!!
1. The Miracle What??? This is better than world peace!! 

Pure win. Loved it.

In other news, looks like I’m missing out on the Power of 2 offer in Eve, because it won’t accept the fact that I’m from the UK when I’m accessing it through an Egyptian IP address. Feckers. Still, it saves me some money, till next year at least.

Back Home

Well, it’s hardly breaking news now given that I’ve been back nearly two weeks, but I’m back home and finally decided to sum up what’s gone on so far. It’s been a pretty cool first two weeks back and should make for a fun (if depressingly gloomy and wet!) summer. I’ve been and done a few things since I’ve been back, although admittedly spent a lot of time at home either trying to get things to work, breaking them, or just playing Eve! Sad? Moi? Anyway, I’ll try and put this in more or less the order it should be in…

New Bits and Bobs

New Laptop! (well, kinda…) – I finally got myself an IBM T41, picked up for a steal at £200. So most of my time since I got back has been spent playing on that. I installed a Hitachi GST 160Gb hard drive in it (and shocked myself at quite how easy changing the hard drive is in one of these – big change to the old PowerBook!) and went all out with putting Kubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) on it. The original drive that came with it had a legit Windows copy pre-loaded, but no disc, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a copy of Windows I’ll hardly use so I decided to stick Linux on there. 🙂

This is actually the first time that I’ll be running a machine booting only Linux, although I doubt it’s going to be too much of a struggle, seeing as I’ve been using it by and large as my main Operating System for quite a while. My only concern beforehand was how I was going to be able to abuse having an x86 Laptop by running Eve on it, but it appears WINE has solved that problem for me… :-D.

The laptop itself runs great, and I’ve been hugely impressed by 7.04, although I haven’t yet tried the normal Ubuntu version. Everything seems to work fine, although, admittedly, I’m more than likely using restricted drivers (although I haven’t double checked) – the honest reason being that, at the end of the day, I have a lot of stuff to do on here that for work meaning being able to use things like YouTube fully and read different files and, in short, ‘Just Work’, and if that means using restricted drivers on my laptop for now then, I guess, so be it. Oh, and I hate freedom… obviously… 😛

Either way, despite restricted drivers, I have to say I’ve been very happy with the laptop so far, and I’ve pretty much managed to get Eve running on it, although I think the lower specs of the machine are making it more difficult than it needs to be (my desktop runs it fine).

New Big-Ass Monitor – I sort of went a little bit wild with my ‘coming-home-spending’ this time and in addition to the laptop went and bought myself a rather tasty 22″ Flatscreen from Belinea. Simply put, it’s the balls. And, it’s perfectly positioned to let me watch movies easily from my bed, and probably even manage to play Eve in bed (* UNTESTED) – the possibilities are endless! 😀

Oh! It also clears up my deskspace a little bit (leaving me with more space for random crap).

Monkey: Journey to the West

[WIKIPEDIA]I went to see this last week when it was on at the Palace Theatre as part of the Manchester International Festival. To be fair, when I went in to seeing it, I really didn’t know much more about it than Damon Albarn was involved with it and that the artwork looked cool – probably not the usual yardstick avid theatre-goers would use, but then I’m hardly an avid theatre-goer… Still, it seems it paid off. It was a lot stranger than I had imagined it would be (in a good way) and the stunts being performed were super impressive. I simply couldn’t do it justice by trying to describe it more than that, but would truly recommend anyone to go and see it if it’s on near you. Highly entertaining.

LUGRadio Live 2007

Something I wanted to go to last year but didn’t manage it, I made it this year and had a blast. Full Write-up Here.

And that’s pretty much it really. Besides that there’s been quite a lot of Eve playing, a fair amount of alcohol, and tonight is cheese and ale night, the somewhat ritualistic gathering of a few friends to… well… eat cheese and drink ale. Oh yes.

Cairo Airport…

Nearly time for boarding the first of two flights that should (hopefully) allow me to land back in Manchester at just after 09:00 in the morning so I’m doing what any sane person with a wireless capable device would do and spending my last few minutes internet-whoring. I mentioned it in an old post along time ago, but the free and open wireless services Cairo airport provides is superb. Why more airports don’t adopt such a system is beyond me – all it takes is corporate sponsorship of the setup (read: the odd banner about the place letting you know who makes the service ‘possible’) and your away. Seeing as other airports already have this ‘other company’ tie in in the form of ‘Pay As You Surf’ providers this isn’t such a drastic change, except the role reversal is that everyone has the opportunity to have a greater guest experience within the airport. I know for me, the fact that I can sit and surf increases the likelihood that I’ll go buy a coffee and maybe some snacks, something I simply don’t do if I can’t surf (in those situations I just sit quietly in a corner listening to music and reading – probably more productive, but not as much of an earner for the airport services).
However, it seems to be a huge sticking point in the UK in general, the availability of open wireless points, and it still baffles me as to why. The extra benefits open to places offering free and open wireless connectivity seem to far outweigh any negative issues created by the hassle of setting it up / paying the bills.

But I’ll stop there before this turns into another full and pointless rant. If anyone has reasons why free wireless shouldn’t exist in all airports (and maybe even other transport stations as well) then let me know, because I can’t seem to find any valid ones.

I’m pretty excited about getting home this time, probably more so than on previous visits. Not exactly sure why specifically – got a few things lined up which probably form part of the excitement – but the flip side is that I also felt a little bit ‘bad’ leaving Egypt this time, something I never really got before. And, similarly, I have no idea why.
Don’t misunderstand, it’s not as if it was emotionally difficult (I didn’t quite break down into tears…!) but it just felt like I was really leaving another place I’m attached to, whereas on all previous trips my main thought was along the lines of… w00t! Good beer!
Maybe part of the reason is that, if all goes according to ‘plan’ then this will be the last time I’ll be leaving Egypt to go ‘on holiday’, as next time will be when I’m planning to return back to normality and the grind of ‘real life’… 🙂 Maybe.

Looking forward to getting home and opening and playing with all the little gadgets I’ve managed to spend most of my wages on already, especially getting the T41 up and running – think I’m going to go all out and leave it untainted by the smell of Windows and just stick a linux distro on it – probably Kubuntu 7.04 as I want to see how it performs on i386 (my experiments with it on PPC were good, but could have been better). Hopefully most of the components will be as the internet reviews suggested and will work out of the box. Main thing I can see needing to get working properly is the Graphics card, at which point I can fairly comfortably give Beryl a try, as well as seeing if I can get Wine to play with Eve Online and maybe even an older copy of Championship Manager… glory days.

Anyway, boarding should have begun for my flight, so I’d best go try and catch it.

Sorry for this falling into the oh-so-stereotypical Blogosphere ‘This Is My Life’ type post, but that’s the kind of blog this is… so deal with it.

LUGRadio Live in a week, Eve-Online tomorrow… oh yes.

Back to Basics

Well, not quite, but back to WordPress at least.

I played with Serendipity for a good while and, whilst it is pleasant, it just doesn’t do as simple a job of blogging as I find WordPress to do. So I thought I’d come back to what I know. It’s nice.

Still need to theme it and link it into the other pages yet, but that’ll be sorted soon.. honest.

Immense. Intense.

It’s been a tough few weeks. Virtually no time between one group of 20 leaving and another group arriving. Early starts every morning. Usually late finishes. A lot of diving. In short, I’m knackered, but it’s been fun and we’ve now got a few days to rest and relax and catch up on what’s gone on.

But I won’t talk about all three weeks, mainly because they’re a blur. Instead, I want to mention the last week’s group we had, which was a group from the UKDivers Web Forum, organised by Dave Willo. It was a great group and a super trip. Really nice people, and very fun to be around and work for.

We also managed to get some super cool dives done as the week went on, which always helps. Clearly, I don’t want to bore folks with all the dives we did, but there are a few that definitely deserve a mention.

Salem Express with Brad Williamson

This was the second dive of the trip, after a quick check dive at Abu Hasshish, and whilst it wasn’t my ‘biggest’ dive on the Salem Express (which is a wreck I don’t particularly get too excited about in general) but it was definitely one of the most fun because of the experience of diving with Brad again. This was fun as Brad was last out with us in September when I conducted the Open Water qualifying dives for him and Di, his mum. Basically, it wasn’t until this dive that I realized just how fun and rewarding it is to be able to just go diving and have fun with someone you (me), personally, I’ve been responsible for training.

Of course, I still have responsibilities and things to worry about not least of which is the fact that Brad’s only 11, but he really is a very competent diver for his age and limited number of dives. Over the course of the week we did a number of dives together and he continues to go from strength to strength, diving wrecks, swimthroughs, and even going scootering with us. Super cool.

Having the chance to dive with him again and to see someone you’ve trained getting such enjoyment from the activity is immensely rewarding, and made it one of the coolest 12 metre dives I think I’ve done so far.

Sha’ab Sharm with Dave Williamson

Day 2, first dive of the day, with Dave, Brad’s dad.

Now, I’ve dived a fair amount with Dave in the past already, and he did Tech 1 with AG at the same time as me, albeit within a different team, so it’s always good to go for a dive with him. This dive though was one to remember.

Over the night the wind had picked up so we were dropping in by Zodiac whilst the boat stayed tied up in the sheltered part of the reef. There was very little current to worry about so we pretty much could go where we liked. We headed out over the plateau and as soon as we got to it we were greeted by a White Tip Reef Shark – not exactly a rare sighting but still, always cool to see. Next to it was a small school of Barracuda. So far so good for 10 minutes in. We played around on the plateau for a bit longer, all the time hearing dolphins in the water somewhere, but without seeing them. Eventually I switched off to the noises and resigned myself to not seeing any as we pottered around on the plateau in around 30m of water for a bit longer, whilst the rest of our group moved on. After about 20 minutes we decided to leave and headed back off in the direction of the boat. I turned around have one last check of the plateau behind us when I spotted what I thought at first was a Manta Ray, although checking later it turned out to be a Devil Ray, which I haven’t seen before. It didn’t stay with us too long, just drifted past us and headed across the plateau. After appreciating it for a little while we carried on up the reef, finishing the stops before swimming off into the blue a little way to finish the dive under the boat.

At this point I hear the dolphins again. Loud. I signal to Dave and he returns that he hears them as well. I look around for about a minute and then I spot them swim past us, right below us, and then off under the boat and away. A nice way to end an incredible dive.

Sha’ab Maksour – ‘The Crack’ with Phil Osborn and Andrew Buglass

Day 3, second dive. Myself, Phil, and Andrew are taking the scooters out to dive the crack at the tip of the Northern Plateau at Sha’ab Maksour, to a maximum depth of 60m. Backgas is 18/45, carrying one Deco Bottle of EANx50. Planned bottom time 15 minutes, with 25 minutes of Deco for an average depth of 51m.

The zodiac ride out there was a bit of fun, with some big waves to handle, along with keeping the deco bottles and scooters comfortable. However, once we hit the water everything was good.

We tidied things off just below the surface due to the swell, and after a few minutes started our scooter descent down to the crack which, having looked at it from the 30m mark on my first dive an hour earlier looked, to use a favourite expression, the balls. What this dive is, basically, is where a huge piece of reef at the end of the plateau has ‘broken off’, leaving a divide in the reef and providing swimthrough opportunities and general diving enjoyment. I’ve tried to dive this particular dive one year ago with Hassan Adly, but with not knowing the site, we believed it to be further to the East and so we missed it. I won’t be doing that again…

As we hit the 30m mark the crack appeared right below us. I signalled to descend and hit the trigger on the scooter to propel myself right down into the gap in the reef, turning level again around 51m and scootering out of the bottom of the main break at a maximum depth of 55m. A few more loops around and general fun making around there and we were done. We headed off to the West (more sheltered) side of the plateau and scootered along the wall whilst moving slowly through our deep stops until the gas switch, at which point we packed the scooters away and decided to stage switch / shoot bags / deco without the scooters, due to personal comfort levels, which was cool. We started to move slowly with the current heading down along the reef whilst moving through the 21 – 9m stops. However, after 9 we found ourselves heading into a ‘white zone’ caused by the waves. It was still a fairly calm section but it meant visibility got reduced to nearly nothing. I opted to signal we should scooter out from under this section at 9m and then resume our 6m stops after we were out of it. This was agreed upon and we started to head off.

A minute or two later, and just out of the white zone we were greeted by a spectacular site: 9 Devil Rays swimming together right below us by what seemed like only a few metres. I couldn’t believe it and frantically signalled to the rest of the team. We all came off the trigger and watched the Rays cruise on past us and back up the reef, at which point we continued our scootering and headed up to 6m for the final part of the stops. A few minutes later whilst looking back to see how we were doing I saw the Rays again coming back past us and in the direction we were heading.

I couldn’t believe it.

This time I decided to stay on the trigger and just cruised along right above the group of rays completely and utterly awestruck. As they eventually turned back from where they came we all came off the trigger, shook our heads, and finished the remaining few minutes of Deco. I don’t know about the others, but I personally couldn’t wait to break the surface and start laughing / talking about the experience. A great feeling.

Surprisingly enough, the zodiac ride back to the boat and the subsequent dives were flooded with happy feelings. Immense.

 

And there we have it, a quick selection of some super dives, for a few different reasons.

Other than that, the week was fun on board as well, with plenty of jokes, parties, dancing, and general merriment, all of which meant that today, after about 3 nights with only a few hours sleep, meant that I slept like a sleepy thing, but that’s always the way when things suddenly halt instantly and you realise you don’t have to rush around doing things any more. Maybe now I can finally catch up on reading Roon’s bits and bobs, as well as seeing if I can crack on through The Idiot but Dostoyevsky that I’ve just recently started.

Hopefully I’ll also get the chance to add some more pictures from the last couple of weeks, so check out the Gallery to see if I managed to do that yet..!

Sun is shining, the weather is sweet, yeh. Maybe I’ll manage to head back down to Tundoba over the next few days (after checking emails and posting this stuff) and get some more dives in.