The Tent Peg

Zac, at The Tent Peg blog, is writing beautiful essays about his various walks around nice bits of the UK.

I’ve bookmarked some for later in the year. It feels like such a long time since I’ve walked up a big hill.

Link: The Tent Peg

The Terror

The Terror is now streaming on BBC iPlayer, three whole years after the US release. I watched the first two episodes tonight and it’s every bit as good as I hoped it would be.

It’s based on the novel of the same name by Dan Simmons which tells a fictionalised account of Sir John Franklin’s expedition to find the North-West Passage. It’s terrifying, but one of my favourite books.

HMS Erebus in the Ice - Francois Musin. 1846.

HMS Erebus in the Ice - Francois Musin. 1846.

The real story of the expedition is a good tale on its own. Michael Palin has done as good of a job as anyone in putting it down on paper in ‘Erebus’, which is well worth a read too.

Dystopian Quote of the Day

“The truth is machines have not taken over, but they are here to stay. We need to make our peace with them.”

Nick Clegg. Head of Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook

Christ, Nick. That’s a bit much.

Fixed at the time of writing

I am not dismissive of those that believe in God. Faith is a powerful thing, regardless of what that faith is in. But my brain isn’t wired for that type of faith. I have belief in religion as a thing, but not in the things that underpin it - eg belief in an omnipresent, omniscient spiritual being. I find the decline of organised religion interesting as a sociological phenomenon. What happens when the structure and philosophy underpinning our legal and moral frameworks falls away? I guess we’re going to find out.

Church membership in the USA has dipped below 50% for the first time(1). That’s a big deal, because the USA is one of the most devoutly Christian countries in the West, and its religious leaders wield a great deal of political influence. The figures reflect what has been happening in the UK for decades—an accelerating decline of membership and attendance across all demographics.

The number of people in the UK self-identifying as Christian stood at 58% in 2011, dropping 12% since 2001(3). The average Church of England service now fills less than thirty seats(2).

No one can agree on why, but I think the following quote is as good an answer as any:

It’s not about churches not being able to answer questions clearly; the reality is just that fewer people believe in gods.

Freak_NL / Hacker News_

  1. https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx
  2. https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/what-is-happening-to-church-of-england-attendance/
  3. Wikipedia - Religion in the UK

Matt McConaughey talks to Tim Ferris

Matt McConaughey recorded a wide-ranging interview with Tim Ferris back in October last year. It’s a great listen and confirmed his place on my list of people I would like to have over for dinner. I’d never heard of him until True Detective, then I saw him later the same year in Interstellar and he instantly became one of my favourite actors. He’s an interesting bloke too.

In it, Matt speaks of the importance of introspection as a tool for personal change. He’s kept a journal for over thirty years, and explains how he uses it to help him navigate through life. I’m good at introspection, but I’m not good at acting on it. I’ve kept a journal since 2005. Sometimes I will go weeks without writing in it — but I’m still glad to have it.

He also speaks about the need for society to have shared values, and of politics and politicians not being good delivery vehicles for that sort of thing. I’ve thought about this a lot. Our shared values, traditionally, came from religion — but as religion fades, where do we get those shared values? We’re grappling with this now, but it will become more important in the decades ahead.

It’s a fun listen, and worth your time.

Link: The Tim Ferris Show #474

Valentines Day

The origins of Valentines day as a celebration are thought to have begun with the Roman festival of Lupercalia, where, to celebrate the mythological founders of Rome, the Romans would do very odd things.

The festival involved the sacrifice of a goat and a dog; the goat’s hide would be cut into strips and dipped in its blood, and priests, called Luperci, would then carry these strips and gently slap crop fields and women with them, with the latter being eager for this treatment as they believed that it would make them more fertile in the coming year.

Ancient.EU

That sounds more fun than trudging around looking for greetings cards.

Perseverance

We’re getting pretty good at lobbing robots across the cosmos.

The new photos from NASA’s Perseverance rover are incredible. I can’t wait to see what it discovers.

Looking out from the Hazard Camera - NASA

The view from Jezero Crater - NASA

Not a plant influencer

Zanib Hussain Alvi writes of her love of blogs as a part of her media diet:

The last best thing I read was the blog of some random British woman at the edge of the Cotswolds, writing about cross breeding heritage varieties of peas like Gregor fucking Mendel and how to save seeds to cross breed your own plants. Her last post was two years ago. There’s something about the longer format and distribution or, rather, lack of distribution that makes blogs so special. It was interesting to me because it was interesting to her. I didn’t have to like, subscribe, or make an ongoing commitment to continue to read her blog. She wasn’t selling anything. It felt so refreshing and wholesome to consume information that no one was really trying to actively monetize. She wasn’t trying to be a “plant influencer” but it did reshape what I thought was accessible to me. I have no idea if she’s conventionally attractive, nor do I care. The contrast makes all these apps and their onslaught of notifications seem so absolutely desperate. 

I can also get behind her views on podcasts. Why are they all two hours long? Who has the time?

Podcasts have absolutely no respect for my time. Most of them could be five minutes.