Learning about Tiny Houses

Learning about Tiny Houses is interesting. There are a number of features/documentaries online where people build their own tinyhouses either from shipping containers, trailers or other structures. The aim of these tinyhouses is to maximise space and reduce costs. Some of these homes are entirely off the grid. They collect rain water and solar panels provide power. The bedroom is often built above the kitchen and climbing wall holds are used instead of ladders or conventional stairs.

One home folds out from a truck to become a castle. One tower serves as a toilet and the second one serves as a shower. The space above even features a bath.

Another Tiny home is designed as a tree house providing a beautiful 360° panoramic view of the landscape around.

This tiny home is interesting because it’s built out of half a shipping container. For a change the bed is below and the living room is above. The kitchen and office are next to it and there is a shower from which to watch birds.

I have seen a lot of people speak about minimalist living, living off the grid and living out of cars, campers and other vehicles. By watching videos about tiny houses you begin to understand that there are certain basics that you need to have and that these basics fit in to small spaces. If you have a van, a caravan or other vehicle then you can live as comfortably as these people.

This last video would make for a perfect summer home for recent university graduates or high school graduates. It’s small, light and mobile. You’re self sufficient to a great extent and as long as it’s warm you have your own space. It’s amusing that in at least three videos we hear about people learning to be neater through living in such small spaces.

As a scuba diver, rock climber, cyclist and geek the biggest challenge for someone like me would be to find a place where I could store my diving gear and especially the scuba tanks. They’re bulky. Diving gear also needs to dry properly to avoid the smell of the lake (as I used to dive weekly in the lake).

My view of living in a tinyhouse has changed through the watching of these documentaries. It shows you that what you want is functionality rather than size. You want “gadgets” as these maximise how you use available space.

Great Britain and the Fourth Estate

When I think of Great Britain I think of the BBC and I think of the Natural History Units. I also think of radio programs like In Our Time, From Our Own Correspondent and Hard Talk. I also think of BBC World and the quality of their news coverage. I mention these current affairs programs because I believe that the British provide quality content. They also inform, educate and entertain us. That is their purpose.

In a healthy media environment the media should inform and educate their audiences. They should provide us with the facts and context for everything they write about. They should provide us with neutral and unbiased information. Radio and Television broadcasters were held to this standard until recently. With Video on demand services increasing in number and with the number of channels made available through satellite broadcasting and digital audio broadcasting opinion has found its way on air. This made it easier for satellite and television broadcasting to share opinions rather than facts.

“I think people in this country,” declared Vote Leave’s Michael Gove, “have had enough of experts.” His fellow Brexiteers were quick to back him up. “There is only one expert that matters,” said Labour MP Gisela Stuart, also of Vote Leave, “and that’s you, the voter.” Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, suggested that many independent experts were actually in the pay of the Government or the EU. All three reminded voters of occasions when “the so-called experts” had made mistakes.

source: Michael Gove’s guide to Britain’s greatest enemy… the experts

The role of journalists and the Fourth Estate is to understand the questions that people are asking and to understand what information people need. In the case of BREXIT for example if the campaign focuses on Migration then the fourth estate should provide facts and information about migration. It should look at the push and pull factors. It should also look at the goals that the European Union has set itself and how those goals can either help reduce or encourage migration.

Newspapers and politicians should never say “I think that people in this country have had enough of experts”. The raison d’être of the Fourth estate, of newspapers, current affairs broadcasts and expert opinions is to provide people with facts so that when they go to vote they have all the facts.

BREXIT on one side of the Atlantic, and the rise of Trump on the other, show that the fourth estate has failed. It has failed to keep people informed and grounded in reality and it has failed to keep emotion out of the debate. The politics of emotion are being exploited and this is having a negative impact on how countries are run. Alastair Campbell spoke of this when live on ABC news Australia.

To illustrate the challenge faced by modern politicians watch how Obama has to pause and think as he responds to the question.

Newspapers such as The Sun, The Daily Mail and other newspapers can publish anything they want and people will believe it. The Sun said twice that the Queen endorsed Brexit and twice they were shown to be lying. In a post-fact media landscape the lies are easy to spread but very difficult to negate.

London, Ireland and Scotland were not subjected to the same propaganda machine and their vote reflects this. They voted Remain because they understood the implications of BREXIT and the benefits of Remain. Their familiarity with the topic made Remain so easy to justify that certain people said of my generation that we “should not take what we have for granted”. I would encourage the opposite, that a dismantling of the EU should be unthinkable.

The Fourth estate has failed to do its job and the British people will now suffer the consequences for months and years to come. The rest of Europe and the United States should do everything they can to encourage people to keep up to current affairs so that facts guide their decisions rather than rumours and emotions.

Thoughts on British European Identity

For several weeks or even months I was afraid that the EU Referendum, BREXIT, would result in a bad outcome. On Thursday the British people went to vote. On Thursday night I was watching. When I saw Gibraltar vote to stay in the EU I relaxed enough to manage sleep. On Friday Morning British people around the world woke up to the news that our nation had voted to leave the European Union. Some people were shocked and never expected it to happen. I was terrified that it would.

For months before Brexit I commented via the social media that I was tired of seeing so many anti-European stories. When I read about refugees I said that the story should focus on the push factors rather than shame European nations. When we read about Calais and refugees I kept commenting that we should read about how it is the British that are blocking the refugees from coming, not the French oppressing these people. I was so tired of the Anglo-Saxon Anti-European stance, both from America and the United Kingdom that I moved towards reading French language news sources, just to change perspective. It worked.

From Friday to Sunday I spent hours reading article after article to keep up with current affairs. I looked at online conversations. In articles and in social media comments I kept seeing the word democratic used. Brexiters were using that word to tell “Remainers” to just accept the democratic decision by the British people. If the EU referendum had been democratic I would stay quiet. Two aspects make me think that this was an undemocratic process.

British Europeans were not allowed to vote unless they were registered to vote in a General election and as long as they had lived in England within the last fifteen years. As I lived in England for five years but between General Elections I did not register to vote. As a result of this I was not allowed to vote, as a European Brit, in the EU referendum. We are at least hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised EU brits. Wouldn’t it make sense for British Europeans to have a say in this, as they have seen the benefits and challenges of being British in Europe?

O is for Opinion: Expert opinion, to be exact, which was actively mocked and worse by Leave, and turned out to be largely worthless as a vote-shifter. 2016 has been a bad year for punditry on both sides of the Atlantic — commentators were wrong about Brexit, just as they were largely wrong about Trump. We can expect a barrage of economic experts deployed in any snap election too, with just as little tangible effect on the vote. The question with ‘post-fact’ politics, which Johnson will deploy again and again and again as he runs for Prime Minister , isn’t just how to fight it — it’s what happens if and when the experts turn out to be right about the devastating economic consequences of leaving the EU. (See S is for Stab In The Back).


During the weekend we saw mentions that we live in a “post-fact” world. The case for Great Britain to leave the EU was made through emotional arguments rather than based on facts. We saw that “people are tired of experts”. Every person in favour of Remain has been called names over the last three or four days. When we discussed Brexit and presented facts they were ignored or dismissed. How do you argue with people who have chosen to “believe” rather than “prove with evidence”? You can’t. To them we were scare mongers.

By Sunday at least two or three campaign promises by the BREXIT camp were abandoned as unfeasible.


What makes BREXIT so frightening is that 52 percent of the British people who voted in the EU referendum voted for a policy with no concrete action plan. When people campaign for something as drastic as BREXIT you would expect them to have a plan. You would expect them to be jubilant and to say “Here’s our action plan and here is our timetable”. What we got instead were rumours and more opinions.

We are the easyjet Generation. Many of us remember when every European country had its own currency, many of us also remember when borders were guarded and passports were required. Many of us remember traveling to a number of European countries. For many of us asking “Where are you from” meant “Which country are you from”. In this context I really struggle to see how people could be in favour of BREXIT. It goes against logic to have borders once again. What about university studies. What about scientific research, what about cross cultural productions, what about business. What about travel, friendship, and relationships?

I would expect a society living in the information age to look for facts rather than feel good rumours. I would expect a society in the Information age to be harder to trick and indoctrinate. The opposite seems to be true.  I feel sad and sorry for the 48 percent who voted Remain. I hope that the government does what it can to bring their lives back to normal as soon as possible.

The Daily Show – Trevor Reacts to the Orlando Shooting

I have been watching The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for a while now and I like the insight and analysis that his shows provide to current affairs programs. I like his shows because he provides a different perspective than other news. He is a South African who moved to the US and work on the Daily show.

In this show he explores cause and effect. He speaks about his childhood and tying shoelaces. He speaks about running and falling “a lot” and then about how his mother told him to tie his shoe laces. What I like about his show is that it is calm, factual and logical. He makes the occasional joke but it helps strengthen the point he has just made and provides a transition to the next point.

What is interesting about this comedy/current affairs show is that it also pokes fun at mainstream news shows and the way in which they try to deflect the conversation away from the key issues. News and current affairs should provide insight and analysis without worrying about what shareholders, lobbyists and other groups want the message to be. They should provide people with facts and context.

We are in the age of On Demand videos and it takes the average web user seconds to find the content that will provide them with the message or conclusions that they want to justify. Search for Orlando as a key word on youtube and you will find emotional video content.

Emotional content

In a healthy news environment you should have two main sources of information. Mainstream media should provide you with the facts and the context of what happened without prejudice or assumptions being made. Once these sources of information have been exhausted then we can shift towards the emotional talk shows, opinions and columns. What I see at the moment is emotion taking centre stage and obscuring reality.

Pay-to-win Futility.

Pay to Win games make casual gaming futile
Pay to Win games make casual gaming futile

Several years ago a friend told me about Clash of Clans and I began to play the game. The game is an enjoyable distraction for when you have a minute or two three. You perform a few actions and then you get on with your other tasks. When you play for free patience is an asset. You have to wait to get enough gold, elixir or gems before you can complete certain actions. The game is designed in such a way that you can play for years and still progress.

I like to joke that the Pay  to Win model is both encouraging and training people to bribe their way through life. If you’re impatient you pay a little supplement and you complete the action. Instead of taking a week for an action to be completed it takes seconds. Supercell has made millions this way as individuals spend more than a thousand euros. Those who are willing to pay get to the top of the leaderboard.

Two factors that discourage Paying To Win.

The first reason is that I come from the early days of computer games when you paid for a game once and you could play for as long as you had free time. It was a time when Civilization 3, Gunship 2000, Doom and other games were around. With games like Clash of Clans, you spend more than you would spend on a good meal and you only progress a little.

The second is that accounts are or at least, were, platform specific. I started playing Clash of Clans when I had an iPhone. When I switched to Android I lost my progress and had to start again. It has taken more than a year to get back to the same level. If you pay on ios your progress is not reflected on Android and vice versa. It’s nice to have two level50+ games but imagine if I had paid to get the game on both platforms to be at the same level.

Clash Royale

Recently they came up with Clash Royale. This is another Pay to Win game and as you can see from the screengrab above it is currently the top grossing app on the play store, at least in Switzerland.

They released the game to a restricted number of countries at first. Some players were at an advantage. They could play and progress in the game. We were easier to beat as we arrived later.  Now we find it easier to beat the newcomers, as we have learned strategies to be victorious more often.

People who are less patient, less humble have obviously paid a lot of money to progress. I prefer to wait and progress for free.


Comment on “The BBC is under threat because its success challenges market ideology”

Imagine for a moment that television did what other industries did. Imagine for a minute that every program you watched was so good you wanted to pay money for it. If people want to pay money to watch it then your content is valid and worthwhile.

Commercial peak time television is rubbish placed to fill the space between adverts. As a result when people say “TV rots your brain” and “Television is a waste of time” and “Television makes you dumb” they are for the most part right. I’m thinking of those endless copycat programs. There is little program diversity on commercial television.

I love specific BBC content. I enjoyed watching DR WHO which is rather low brow. I also love the output by the BBC natural history unit, so much so that I have bought all of these documentaries. I used my dissertation exploring Cousteau and Attenborough documentaries as an excuse.

The BBC is a cultural icon of what Great Britain stands for. It produces thousands of hours of radio and television content. As the article points out people listen to 18hrs a week of content.

I used to like listening to the From Our Own Correspondent podcast/radio program but have lost the habit as I have changed from one mobile phone operating system to another. I also listen to more audio books instead.

Murdoch bullies ceaselessly for a subscription system, to shrink the BBC to the tiny size of America’s PBS.

It has taken Murdoch 25 years to get someone like Cameron in power to undermine and try to scuttle the BBC. I sincerely hope that Murdoch and Cameron fail.

The BBC needs to be preserved for two key reasons. The first reason is the cultural heritage. They have hundreds of thousands of hours of material that need to be digitised and preserved so that future generations may access them. By cutting costs and corners now we stand to lose thousands of hours of material which future generations have a right to access.

The second reason is the factual legacy of the BBC. As I studied the BBC’s factual output and specifically the BBC natural history unit I saw how they hired camera operators to shoot and document nature before it is destroyed. That documentary brings to life parts of life that our children may never see. Look at deforestation in Madagascar and look at Attenborough’s commentary when he went back. He said something like “This row of baobabs is all that remains from a tropical forest. These are the only trees that remain after loggers took away the rest of the trees”. He goes on to speak about Lemurs and how their environment has shrunk.

When I was working on my dissertation on the BBC output I started to think of various documentaries as volumes of an Encyclopedia. When documentary producers have the budget to produce a documentary like that of the BBC they can afford to spend weeks or even months to get that perfect shot. Think of the Birds of Paradise segment as one example or the mountain leopard segment as another. Think of the knowledge and information that previous generations had in books and how that knowledge is now in audiovisual form.

BBC documentaries are produced with licence fee paying money at such a high standard that they can then be sold as documentary collections to private individuals as well as to other broadcasters. Blue Planet, Planet Earth and other documentaries are currently on Netflix Switzerland for example. Well produced content has a shelf life. People want to acquire the rights. When the BBC produces high level content that others want to purchase they help fund future productions.

As a last thought documentaries that are made for public service broadcasting rather than commercial television are edited to be watched 52 minutes in a row. They don’t need to waste 30 seconds at the end and start of a commercial break to remind viewers of what they are watching. Murdoch is already using an old fashioned model. If you record content on your PVR for later viewing you might as well go to the netflix model rather than feed Murdoch’s disinformation machine.

Low fossil fuel prices and the Environmental cost

I am happy to pay less for petrol when I fill the car or scooter but I am worried for renewable energy sources and how this will affect their adoption. After listening to David Hone I see the debate from a different perspective. I want oil prices to stay high so that clean energy alternatives are used.

What we save on fuel now will cost us ten years down the line when global temperatures increase and climate refugee numbers increase.

Oil price falls further on IEA energy forecast

Lima climate talks: Peru summit continues through night

In the long term the countries that arguing to be allowed to pollute in order to expand their economies are the ones that are going to be penalised most as environmental systems react to an increase in global temperatures.