bbtmn

Posts from January 2010

Cowardice

Saturday 23rd January 2010

This Christmas, I asked my parents for quite a few books. One of the ones that I asked for – and received – is The Grand Prix Saboteurs. This is a book about a few pre-WW2 Grand Prix drivers who served during the war as British secret agents. Despite the name and the fact that some of the main characters are people who were involved with Grand Prix racing, this book is absolutely not about racing. It’s mostly about the lives of the secret agents who worked in France during WW2, and it is an absolutely fascinating book. I urge everyone to find a copy and read it as soon as possible (and I’ll gladly lend it to anyone who knows me in real life). In fact I’d go so far as to say that it should be required reading for every school pupil, because it’s absolutely amazing. Some of the stories included in it read like something from a particularly clichéd spy novel, so to read them and realise that the people involved were real people – normal people who had volunteered for that work – is something that I found particularly amazing.

I’m not what you’d call a sentimental person. It’s very hard to move me emotionally – in fact my own Mother has described me as “heartless”(!). But certain things in that book really moved me. I found myself getting angry and appalled at the way the Nazis treated the spies upon capture. I was disgusted with the way certain people collaborated with the Nazis and “sold out” people who trusted them. But most of all I was amazed, astounded and inspired by the fact that these people were even there in the first place. They volunteered for an insanely dangerous task, and then worked in France under the constant threat of discovery, capture and torture. This wasn’t a good job. The Nazis had a special disdain for spies and a lot were killed in incredibly horrible ways. If they were captured, towards the end of the war they were selected for “special treatment”, a particularly sinister innuendo.

As I was reading the book I had conflicting emotions. I was amazed at the story, inspired by the things people did for their ideals. But it’s also slightly depressing. There’s a quote towards the end of the book from one of the surviving spies which perfectly mirrors the thoughts I was having. Talking about his colleagues (men and women, by the way) who were killed by the Nazis, he said the following:

“They gave their lives willingly, gladly, and they died happy, for they died with an ideal, with the feeling that they had sacrificed everything for something good, something enduring. They did not live to see the sham that it all was, to see the wasting of their efforts, the shameless scramble for personal satisfaction”

How sad is that? Doesn’t it make you angry? We really don’t know we’re born.

Anyway, read the book because it’s brilliant.

Posted In: Politics Tagged: | 3 Comments

Devil’s Advocate

Wednesday 20th January 2010

So it was announced today (well yesterday, but I’ve not slept yet so it’s still in my “today”, if that makes sense) that Cadbury’s are being bought by Kraft (who already own Milka, Toblerone and Terry’s). As far as I can tell, there’s been lots of negative reaction to this, but why? A business is (potentially!) being sold to another business, because it’ll make the shareholders money. The people who run the business have a responsibility to the shareholders to run the business to do make them money, so how can they be accused of “selling out”? A business exists to make money, and Cadbury’s is no different. Kraft say they want to invest in the site at Bournville (I suggest building a pub :-p) and maintain production elsewhere, and they also say that they want to bring more jobs to Britain, which can only be a good thing.

I might be missing something . I’ve been busy with revision and the like so I’ve not read the news too much, so if I am missing something, what is it?

Posted In: Random Tagged: | 6 Comments

The Relevance of Engineering

Thursday 14th January 2010

Exam Time. I have 3 next week, had one already this week. My last one next week is Structural Analysis, and a part of that is Finite Element Analysis. We first encountered this in the 2nd year (where it actually wasn’t taught to us as such, we just had to use the concepts for some coursework), and it’s pretty powerful.

Anyway, you’ll be more than aware that as well as being an engineer, I’m also an F1 geek. F1 teams use FEA too, to model various aspects of their cars. Earlier on I came across this on iTunes, an Open University thing about, uhm, how an F1 team uses FEA. This has got to be the best distraction from revision ever; not only is it F1 related and so therefore interesting, it’s actually vaguely relevant to what I should be doing anyway. More relevant than, say, watching past episodes of Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe on YouTube, which I of course haven’t done at all…

Posted In: EngineeringMotorsport Tagged: | 2 Comments

When Your Money’s Gone And You’re Drunk As Hell – 2009 Part II

Friday 1st January 2010

Well I covered January to June in the previous post, so now I’m going to jump right into the second half of the year.

July
A continuation of the Garden State theme from June here… The soundtrack has 2 songs by The Shins, so I also Spotify’d their stuff. Wincing The Night Away is the only one of their albums on there (and it’s my favourite), and I think at some point I mentioned them to one of my housemates who promptly retrieved three of their albums from the wretched hive of scum and villainy that he lovingly refers to as his bedroom.

I said at the start of this entry that the music I mention would be stuff I listened to a lot or that I associate with certain memories, and this falls into both camps. Wincing the Night Away was pretty much constantly on in my car during July, because it was the perfect soundtrack to my summer. I remember driving with the windows open, enjoying the fresh air rushing into the car and singing along (really badly!) to the music as I drove. It seemed perfect to me for those summer evenings, when the air has that weird, charged, “summertime” feeling and it takes ages to get dark, and the sky at dusk looks stunning.

August
This was the month of V Festival, so theres quite a lot to mention. Obviously I saw a fair few bands and artists there – Oasis, The Killers, a bit of Athlete, Ocean Colour Scene, Bjorn Again (hahaha), Fatboy Slim, and so on. The standouts for me though were Lily Allen, Snow Patrol and – weirdly enough because I’m not actually a great fan of their music – Pendulum. Oddly enough though, the music that sticks in my memory for August is actually not someone I saw at V. There are two reasons this sticks in my mind; firstly that it’s a stunningly good album, and secondly because it reminds me of driving back to Cardiff after V. I stayed at home for a family meal before I left for Cardiff, so I don’t think I left home until about 11pm and it’s a 2 hour drive to Cardiff. I was incredibly weary and just wanted to get back, and I remember driving through the night whilst listening to this album. For some reason it was one of those really nice moments I get sometimes whilst driving. It wasn’t a particularly fun drive, but it was one of those moments of clarity where I find myself completely focussing on the moment and forgetting about anything else. I seem to readily associate music with driving. I suppose that makes sense; the music provides a soundtrack to the drive and when those two fit each other, it sticks in my memories.

Anyway, the album is For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver. I actually first heard of Bon Iver from the Glastonbury coverage on the BBC earlier in the year and I listened quite a bit in July, but I didn’t listen to the album properly for a while. If you haven’t heard it, go on Spotify now and listen to it because it’s an absolute treat. In my opinion, For Emma and Skinny Love in particular are songs which are absolutely perfect in every way. Yum.

And I told you to be patient
And I told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind
And now all your love is wasted
And then who the hell was I?
And I’m breaking at the britches
And at the end of all your lines

September
Two choices this month. First, Radiohead. I’ve liked Radiohead for a while but I’d sort of forgotten about them, if that makes sense? I watched their set at Reading this year on iPlayer though and was blown away by how awesome they were. I ended up re-listening to OK Computer all the way through after that and I pretty much fell in love with it again. I travelled by train into Birmingham a few times to meet up with friends, and that album (as well as Kid A) kept me company as I travelled.

Second choice is Muse, mostly because thats when they released their new album. Which I thought was OK, but it also made me re-listen to some of their older work as well, and someone bought me a couple of their albums for my birthday. I vaguely remember ranting on Messenger about how good the earlier ones are to the person who bought them for me, whilst I was very drunk after a night drinking cider (which I don’t usually drink)…

October
At some point in October, one of my housemates recommended that I listen to the Stone Roses on Spotify. I did so and became slightly addicted. Actually I think we both were for a while, so it was funny coming out of my room listening to an album and hearing the same music coming out of his room…

This was the first month back at Uni since Spring 2008, so the memories are the typical student stuff. Lectures, work, socialising, sleep, lectures, work, socialising, sleep, lectures…. It stays like that until now really, so you can see why I’ve been so fed up of it. Pretty much all the people who took a year out to work feel the same, which I find fairly interesting. University is just boring!

November
We come to November and the first real mention of Formula 1! Jenson Button took the championship with a stunning drive at the Brazilian Grand Prix in the middle of October, and he was also on form at the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, on the first weekend in November. For the most part, the race wasn’t great. Hamilton looked imperious all weekend, but a problem with his brakes at the start of the race meant that, despite starting on pole, he didn’t manage to pull away in the manner that most people predicted. That meant that the race got more interesting for a while, because it was shaping up to be a good fight for the victory between him and Sebastian Vettel. Sadly, Lewis retired after his first stop (iirc) after his brake issues got worse. So mostly an average race, except for the last few laps. Webber and Button had a cracking battle for 2nd place – reminiscnant of the famous clash between Villeneuve and Arnoux at Dijon in 1979 – which made the last few laps of the 2009 F1 season pretty excing.

Anyway, BBC Sport ended their coverage with this montage of the season, which introduced me to Florence + The Machine. I listened to Lungs a fair bit after I heard that song on the F1 coverage, and I reckon it’s pretty good.

December
I think that I’ve partially covered this before, but there are a few extra things to add. Towards the start of the month, I discovered the latest Eels album, Hombre Lobo. I’ve liked Eels for a while, so I’m disappointed that it took me 6 months to listen to the latest album. Anyhow, it’s all pretty damn good, but I keep finding myself being drawn to the last 4 songs… The second thing is Mumford and Sons, and I listened  to their album a couple of weeks ago. One of my brothers needed to go to Cardiff for the day so I said I’d drive him down, which meant that I had a day down there with time to kill. I decided to look this album up on Spotify and I enjoyed it. I still enjoy it, although I realised the other day that the album is basically about religion, which sort of lets it down a bit in my book.

So there, some of the music I’ve listened to in 2009, and some of the memories that go along with that music. Mostly for my own entertainment, I’ve put together a Spotify playlist with some of the music mentioned here, but here’s the link for anyone who wants to listen.  With the exception of the last few months (because of Uni), 2009 has been pretty damn good. I’ve got 6 months of University to get through in 2010 and once it’s over I really have very little idea what I’m going to do with myself. I’m not sure where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing, which is both exciting and unnerving. A year of opportunity, hopefully.

Happy New Year :-)

Posted In: MusicStuff Tagged: | 2 Comments