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Psychophant last won the day on October 9 2018

Psychophant had the most liked content!

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About Psychophant

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  • Birthday 10/01/1966

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  1. Psychophant

    So what happened to YOU today?

    Happy New Year to all. This year I have traveled a lot, (56 plane trips, and also both train and car trips) for work. And more than usual, for pleasure. That means there is a lot to do at home and in the office, and less time to visit here. My online presence, except Linkedin, has practically disappeared. I expect things are better personally this year, even if globally they may become worse. A looming crisis has that effect. A new WG book usually helps to bring us together, so I hope we can all see the publication, delayed though it may be.
  2. Psychophant


    Some Random. And some empowerment
  3. Psychophant


    The real problem is that it does not seem likely the employment situation will improve soon, if ever. Jobs with hard entry requirements still receive many candidates for one post, and not so stringent jobs get so many candidates that the salary is driven almost underground. Manufacturing and extraction, that are still one salary per family jobb, have moved in most cases to countries were a fair wage is well below poverty level in the First World. Service economy just means McJobs for everybody, because the sad thing is that is still a good salary for 90% of the world. Looking from outside, I cannot understand how the USA can have such nice looking statistics with so many horror tales about the new economy. I suppose the numbers are cooked, but I do not see why nobody pulls the blanket.
  4. Psychophant

    What are YOU reading?

    Reamde was my less favorite Stephenson, till I got Seveneves. He has been relegated out of the hardcover club. It does not really mean I only but hardcovers, as I usually prefer the airport paperbacks, but that I will usually buy it as soon as I can, no matter what other people say. Most people in the club are dead, but there are a few living ones. Less than used to be. Murakami, Gibson, Mieville, Swanwick, Martin, Wolfe, Cook, a couple Spanish authors, (Antonio Muñoz Molina and Javier Marías). Stross and Stephenson were kicked out a few years ago. I am sure there are others that do not publish that often. Maybe it is reading about both at the same time, but there are surprising similarities in the way to Tiranny of both Lenin and Caesar, using the two tools of loyal military units and mob rule. I suppose it is a fairly easy state failure mode, giving power to the one with the right tool for his own problem. Hitler, despite the existence of the SA, did not have the army, but the controllers of the army allowed him to push forward. As all the historyis a bit dry, and Mieville has so far avoided language acrobatics, I also started Noomik's Uprooted. A book for this times, and so far the right fairy tale for this generation. Let's see how it evolves. As I mentioned above, I read Gnomon in three days, which is actually normal for me with Harkaway, who I have realized is in a probationary hardcover status. As soon as I finished I started poking holes in it that did not crop during the read, swept by the abundance of shiny things to distract me. A good editor and possibly a wider reading circle would have helped avoid the obvious ones, and maybe improve the ending. At least I spotted the plot twist early.
  5. Psychophant

    What are YOU reading?

    I think I have all the "early" Keegan works, Face of battle, Mask of Command, Six armies in Normandy, the Price of Admiralty... I have been a wargame buff for forty years, so the books tend to pile up. He had a big influence in seeing the humans behind the wars, and listening to both sides of the story, when possible, though other writers like JFC Fuller were doing it already in the 1920s. It took me a while to realize that most war memories are terribly suspect, and often contain more fiction than truth. October starts quite dry, presenting the prehistory of 1917, but it condenses quite well the full can of worms that was the spontaneous Russian revolution before the politicians got their hooks on it. Maybe it is the world situation what has me reading history books. I also started Fuller's Julius Caesar: Man, Soldier and Tyrant, which deliberately ignores most modern sources to focus on the roman ones. Very interesting the link between weak governments and strong armies with civil war, and his hypothesis that the divine Julius was actually mad.
  6. Psychophant


    I wonder if some fan is so desperate to get the delayed manuscript of Agency that they are willing to use black hat tactics. Alternatively, someone values so much his futuristic abilities that they need to see what will be the next cool item before it hits the shelves, virtual or otherwise.
  7. Psychophant


  8. Psychophant

    What are YOU reading?

    Having been in a short while to Liege and Eindhoven, I got in the train station Antony Beevor's Arnhem, depite detesting Crete, the last book of his I have read. It is a battle that really interest me, highly constrained in space and resources, and a strange mix of atrocities and politeness. And the big casualty were the thousands of dutch who died of malnutrition the following winter. Despite its claims the German sources are weak and little used, so we have the typical allied view that all German tanks are Tigers and all guns are 88s. Well written, I already knew about the tactical and strategic aspects of the battlena dhe brings quite well the human aspects. With some inaccuracies, but forgivable ones. I am playing online the GMT game of the battle (Holland 44), so it makes much closer all the colored chits on the map. Next, China MIeville's October, his account of the Russian revolution. More historical reading.
  9. Psychophant

    The Car Thread

    For work reasons I have attended several seminars and fora on the future of automobiles, mainly focused on the tire aspect, as that is the part we are concerned with, and most people refuse to make predictions after 2030-2035. There are two big problems for predictions, oil prices with all the fracking/shale gas/renewable energies, as the interplay of decreasing supply and decreasing demand make price prediction a nightmare. Then the holy grial of safe high density batteries that is not clear when (if) it can be ready to outcompete gas as an energy source, in thermodynamic terms, even with the higher efficiency of electric engines. Expensive oil will push car use into a luxury, and it should bring a host of distributed fllet services where you rent a car when you need it. Less car ownership will strongly help the case for automatization and making human driving illegal in highways and other monitored areas. It will also push electrification of transport, that will be coming in cities in any case, but it is not a given in rural areas, unless batteries improve enormously. On the other hand cheap gas can keep competing with the electrics in areas where there is little concern (real or political) for the environment, will keep cars affordable, and force electrics to be competitive too. That may well delay the introduction of automated driving if there are many humans still on the road. Uber-like work is great for the capitalist owners because it is a low overhead (for Uber) service economy that creates jobs in a job destruction period. These political concerns may well delay any attempts at automatization. It will probably arrive in highway long haul transport, but anything else will depend on too many factors to set a timeline. CO2 reduction may be a factor in Europe, but probably not anywhere else, so it will not have a big impact , except if you own a car in a big European city, where sooner or later you will need at least a hybrid, or renting a car when necessary. As for tires, apparently we will see an inversion of the tendency to wide, low profile tires to narrow, high ones, specially as efficiency becomes critical for fleet managers, while profile use and automated driving reduces speeding and the need for high grip at high speeds. Advances in adaptative surfaces, road conditions measurements and probably tunable inflation mean that smart tires may have a good grip in almost all circumstances, and integrate in a fluid way with the auto pilots, as it will be impossible for a human driver to monitor all those factors, and assisted driving is only a step away from fully automatized driving. Cars will have pneumatic tires for the foreseeable future, however, barring impressive material science changes, but the number may change a lot depending on how many cars are on the road. Automated driving will probably make tires last longer as well. So limited or full crunch time as well for tire manufacturers. Pirelli has recently returned to bike tires, a sign that will at least keep a nice presence in the near future. Interesting times, and the statistics people are finding another factor, less and less young people own a car, partly as a cultural thing, but in many case simple economics, cars are too expensive with the typical earning power and debt situation of the young. So we may end up with a carless generation due to the greed and shortsightedness of capitalists.
  10. Psychophant

    What are YOU reading?

    Mixed reading. The last (maybe really the last, as he is quite old) Wolfe, "The Borrowed Man". Typical Wolfe, showing an apparently functional disfunctional future. As usual with him, there are several layers of meaning, with an untrustworthy narrator, indirect worldbuilding, and understated slavery. Seems like an inflated short story, so a good idea but too long and slow in the middle, and too many cardboard characters. Two P.G. Wodehouse books, "Something Fresh" and "Uneasy Money". Easy reading, mapping the elusive British humour. The problem is that he writes great scenes, but terrible plots. To take in limited doses, so the second book felt a bit repetitive, even if it is set in Long Island rather than an English mansion. I have also read a couple of Italian novels to try to improve my Italian. Still having some trouble with the dialect use. Last book read is "The Ninefox Gambit". The kind of book that is very hard to put down, but just after finishing, it starts to unravel and I begin to poke holes in the plot, the world and the characters. Fantasy masquerading as Sci-Fi, but well written and a likeable heroine. A tasty treat that however leaves me an empty stomach. I am not sure I will read the following books.
  11. Psychophant

    So what happened to YOU today?

    I am amazed that she asked. Though she may know you too well and just enjoys seeing your head explode. My best friend in my teenage years just contacted me after ten years. We did not break, we just drifted apart, distance, work, family. Last time I met his kids when they were toddlers and now the one in the middle is starting at our University, as it is one of the few in Spain with a Veterinary school. No social media, so it will be the old fashioned "meet up and drink a bucket of beer" and update on what has happened the last ten years.
  12. Psychophant

    So what happened to YOU today?

    Sorry to hear of the parents problems, and best wishes. It is an unfortunate fact that this is something that crops up often after a certain age. In our friend circle we had first a marriage epidemy, then baptisms, and now we are in our 50s we start with the family funerals, several a year. In 10 years we should start with marriages again (children) and maybe some funerals of our own. I am fortunate to still have mine (82 and 81) healthy and able to live on their own, supporting each other. But if one fails, the other will probably be unable to hold on. My mother in law, 84, still lives on her own and has become a minor Flickr celebrity, starting photography at 75, but we may have to have her stay with us for a couple of months because they will be modifying the elevator in her condo, and it will be impossible for her to climb to the 5th floor. With the advantage that all parents, my brother and the in-laws live within ten km.
  13. Psychophant


    Maybe it is location, and my own personal politics (becoming more conservative s I age), but I do not see them as too exemplary. This will be long, as I am in a boring telcon. Varoufakis, after he broke with his party, has become almost a professional lecturer and talk show guest, mainly against the kind of EU-skepticism that is shared both left and right. He has the right ideas, as national politics are derailing the EU project, so German interests crush Greece while saving Spain, just to minimize the financial sector losses. But he is now effectively rootless, so he has no real support beyond his personal charisma, and his recent position as economic advisor to Corbyn. His book, Adults in the Room, seems more a setting of accounts between factions in the Commission. Not that I am unhappy to see the bankers discredited. Corbyn is a traditional XXth century marxist, in a country where the only proletaries left are the disenfranchised inmigrants in the service sector, as manufacturing and all the classic Unions where he started 40-50 years ago are gone with the industries. In Europe Marxist is not an insult, generally, because without his criticism of Capitalism things would be much worse than they are, and we would have missed the golden years of the welfare policies, like minimum salaries, universal healthcare, worker's rights, paid holidays or unemployment benefits. But in a country with almost no unionized workers, because the new proletariat are the disenfranchised employees (mostly inmigrants) in the bottom rings of the service industry, and actual manufacturing workers are privileged members of the middle class (those that remain), due to the structure of Europe's work laws, not to mention the high rentability per worker and the work of 80 years of Unions that make sure salaries are high in industries. That means that many Labour voters are actually identical to Conservative voters, except for family tradition, and that includes being sensitive to the same nationalist rhetoric, anti-inmigrant racism, and even classism against the previously mentioned disenfranchised service workers that are not really represented in Politics by anyone. That is why Corbyn has always been soft on the anti-inmigrant rhetoric from Unions, or was divided, as the labour party itself, on Brexit. Germany, so far, keeps most of his manufacturing base, which means they still have a healthy middle class that is even willing to keep voting Merkel after she warned taxes had to go up to keep the budget. In most others unequality is increasing. Personally I prefer UK out of Europe, because without it we have a small chance of getting a meaningful regulation of the financial sector, while both Labour (New Labour, actually, but its corpse still represents more than half the party votes) and the Tories have vetoed any attempt to have meaningful change in the past. Reagan lovers may spin history, but what ended the Cold War in Europe was socialdemocracy. When you could have both state granted rights, like in a communist country (free healthcare, free education, subsidized housing and a guaranteed income) but with better quality, and a free market and private property. Seeing this example is what made people realize they were being lied to and to demand change. Now Megacorporations are dismantling it, but as many people remember how it used to be, they are fighting back, with mixed success, as they have been co-opting politicians and Media for years. There are many people fighting back, but I am not sure Corbyn is a good example of those who want to adapt the same system to the XXIst century and its global economy. Varoufakis used to be one, until Tsipras refused to call the bluff of the EU and he left the government. Lately, as I said above, he seems like the speaker for the revisionist side of the EU commission, a mild critic but still believing in the project. Antisemitism is a very complex situation, as just being critical of Israel, or supportive of a Palestinian state gets you labeled as one. And in Europe remain few jews to be politically significant as a block, and in any case they are as divided as the rest of society. It is also true that there are also countries with centuries old traditional prejudice, which resurfaces in times of stress. That is not something that will make or break a political career, except in Germany. But it is part of a package, anti foreigners-inmigrants-non chistians that my generation believed was over, but it is reappearing in all over the place and specially among the young. Maybe I was naive, but I did not expect Bosnia and Turkey to be kept out of the Union for religious reasons, but now I know better, and that was a big reason. By formation, I like to assign numbers, so I am partial to the Gini coefficient, or unequality index. It pains me to see it increasing in most European countries (with UK one of the worst) though fortunately it is improving in most developing countries. I find it also worrying than even the CIA does not recognize any accurate information for the USA more recent than 2007. A telling date.
  14. Psychophant

    So what happened to YOU today?

    We had several volunteers willing to travel with the container, to make sure it arrives. However we most likely will ship it to China and then take it by truck, even with the lproblems at the China-Mongolia border. It is a concrete setting accelerator, used in the big automated drilling machines. These machines spray liquid concrete right after the drilling section is made to make sure loose earth and other material does not fall over the machine. That means it has to set in less than 30 seconds. It does not need to hold much, just make sure it just does not collapse for a day or so that the actual prestressed reinforced concrete and more standard concrete is used. It has a lot of aluminium to make it harden a lot very quickly, which also means that it will lose strength very quickly. A French mining group is drilling a big mine in Mongolia. Which also means we are helping Western Inperialism. Or helping Mongolia's economic independence from its two overbearing neighbours. Depends on what you want to believe. But at the words Transmongolian I cannot help it but think of armored trains through the steppe.
  15. Psychophant

    So what happened to YOU today?

    The biggest problem is we are only three people doing sales, for a sales volume over 90 M€, and we are selling in aound 70 countries. So what we do is less conventional sales and more cat wranglers, as we have some thirty agents/distributors, all wanting to sell in some other geographic area besides theirs, and also with some customers wishing to jump their local agent, expecting a better price. That is what I have today, a big dutch group that consider themselves important enough to deal directly and not through our Benelux agent. They may even be right, but they did it in secret while our agent was visiting them, sending samples and doing all the work. We do have a few key accounts we handle directly, but usually it has more to do with technical complexity than actual volume. I spend some time I do not have finding out how some material from Lebanon appeared in Ghana, or how many steps take a pallet from Australia to Korea. Then I have a fun meeting with a transport company, trying for the third time to arrange rail transport for a container in the Transsiberian and the Transmongolian rail, entering the rail system in Riga.