We choose to go to the Moon, old boy. Pip Pip

It’s a (criminally) little know fact that at one point after WW2 Britain had a space programme not only did we succeed in putting one satellite in orbit but we also managed to build a series of launch vehicles. Some now sit in various museums alongside the V weapons and in London, Apollo 10’s Command module. To date we’re the only country to create a home grown rocket and launch a satellite then give up. Prospero (after the sorcerer who gives up his powers in ‘The Tempest’) was launched after the cancellation of the programme. A victim of the post war economy and a decision to abandon it in favour of US built rockets.

Britains space programme languished in a sort of purgatory from the cancellation of the original programme until the mid 1980’s when the government started the HOTOL project, however like every other attempt that too was marked top secret and shut down. Since then if you wanted to be an astronaut you have to go to the US, which is what Piers Sellers and Michael Foale did or be funded privately like Helen Sharman.

So that sad tortured history of false starts brings us to now, the days of the MoD, DTI and BNSC are long gone, the UK Space Agency now calls the shots and thanks to pretty healthy financial circumstances (the UK space industry was one of the few sectors to grow during the recession) we now have a proper astronaut slated to launch next year in November, the UK government is actively supporting Skylon which is the successor to HOTOL and is making good progress, and an announcement this summer about the construction of a spaceport in the UK is all promising that this time UK Space is on the right trajectory.

So this brings me to today, on November 19 a consortium known as Lunar one announced a crowdfunding appeal for £500 million, this would be used to fund and land a probe on the Lunar South pole. Today the overview of the scientific mission was announced. The Lander will drill 100m into the surface and return information about the moons composition and whether it would be feasible not only for a lunar base but also as a place to site telescopes away from interference from the Earth. Not only this but people can pay to send pictures, text messages and hair samples on the lander as a way of “immortality” now theres £460,922 pledged of £600,000 goal with 
9 days to go. So as you can see, so very near the goal, of having something British on the moon, and not just a few bits of metal on Mars and a sad legacy of what could have been. So in the words of Prospero:

“But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,”

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Flatulent Goats and Flowery Twats

  It’s a relatively crass name for a post and now the actual blog, so what the hell is going on?

It all started yesterday, but first we need to go back a bit. Unless you live in a cave or just  use Facebook for Candy crush and writing about how much you heart  celebrities you will  be aware of a page called “I fucking Love science.” It’s kind of a big deal with a website and  soon a TV show.

There’s a few critics of it, some (well 6,000) have complained that the many images on the  page have been used without the original owners permission. Others dislike how many people on it don’t actually “fucking love science” and just like pretty and often wrong pictures and Neil DeGrasse Tyson quotes and it’s more a pack mentality.

Either way I casually pay attention to it but really I can get the information in text form and actually understand the subject in more depth. It’s not to say I don’t like it, on the contrary. If it reaches one person and encourages them to read a bit more or even become more interested in Science so they truly fucking love it, then it’s served its purpose.

What I do prefer more is the profile of the actual creator of IFLS Elise Andrews. A woman who got the worst of the internet when those people who fucking love science only love it when it’s not been done by women. Now since I only follow it I just get the public posts. But these in itself deserve its own page. Peoples opinions online are like arseholes, everyone has one and they’re usually full of it. She must get an awful lot of abuse not just from genuine haters but also what appears to be an army of trolls. Most are the usual “God will send you to hell” but occasionally you do get a corker:
Now obviously we just mock these people, but what about the ones who are civil and not foaming? now the chances are you’re not going to change their minds. If that was the case Ken Ham would be the New Dawkins and not just a nutjob who doesn’t believe in evolution but thinks as a species we’re getting dumber, which would be a sign of evolution in itself.

I’ve been looking at creationists recently, mainly due to their vocal opposition and general butt hurt over the new ‘Cosmos’ and there was a “debate” of sorts with Professor Alice Roberts and a creationism over evolution. The poor soul must be smarting today because every argument about an intelligent designer was shot down, mainly by Professor Roberts showing elements of our physiology that was designed by an idiot, not someone intelligent. However both sides stopped and no-one has changes, Professor Roberts isn’t wearing sandals and condemning us to hell and “Christ21Cent” (Rather cheap for a messiah) isn’t in a lab coat preaching evolution.

This raises the question, what’s the point in rising to a challenge? Bill Nye and Ken Ham debated evolution and all that happened was Ham got more publicity and more donations. No-one changed their minds. This is the main problem.

If you hold a belief so strong that fact based evidence isn’t going to change your mind then you’re not going to be convinced by anyone, not even a world authority on the subject. You can try to change their mind but it will leave you exhausted and annoyed.

But in honour of these cranks, I’m pleased to reveal Blog 2.0 the awesomely named FLATULENT EXPRESSION OF TORTOISES!

Farewell Spartacus.

So with one expectedly bloody episode we’re about to witness the end of a legend, yes, the Starz version of Spartacus:Blood and sand/gods of the arena/vengeance/war of the damned is all but over.

There was a weird transformation in the show, the first series was undoubtedly all about men fighting, blood and inappropriate bellowing. Not to mention sex, nudity, foul language and absolutely no space for character development. Batiatus was a scheming shit in Episode 1 and remained so until his death. Crixus was a tank sized gruff killing machine and remained so until the end of the series. However a few episodes in, when the new gladiators have “look death in the eye, embrace it and fuck it”.” a transformation happens. The show stops being a 16 year olds wet dream and has the bones of a TV show.

Andy Whitfield

However by the end of the first series the star of the show, Andy Whitfield, was diagnosed with  non-Hodgkin lymphoma and production of Vengeance was delayed. However this gave us the brilliant “Gods of the Arena” a prequel showing the house of Batiatus before the massacre of slaves. And in it Batiatus isn’t a scheming shit, he seems almost human he enjoys the company of Suetonius (before his eventual betrayal and rather gruesome end) and seems to be rather happy. Even his wife  Lucretia isn’t as scheming. Of course the advantage of a prequel and the writers discovery that “hey there’s a story in here” mean this really was one of the better series and marked the transition from “300 the tv show” to fully fledged historical sword and sandal epic.

I’ll miss it I miss the dialogue, yes it’s “Jupiters cock this” and “fuck mouth with cock that” but it does pick up some subtleties with classical Latin, if you use a literal translation then this is how they would speak if they spoke in English. I hope DaVinci’s demons is a suitable replacement.

Now remove self from fucking sight, TV and I are set to purpose.

Richard III Society

If the events of the last week have proven anything it’s that Richard III’s followers, the Richard III Society are somewhat vocal in their admiration.

The society aims to “encourage and promote a more balanced view” of Richard. From it’s origins in 1924 as “the Fellowship of the Wild boar” to the current society who contributed funding to Leicester University’s archaeological dig.

However with the controversy over his final resting place brewing the society have become a caricature of themselves. It started with the Channel 4 documentary on Monday which followed Phillipa Langley, the woman who started the project to find Richard following “a feeling” she had in the car park. Opinions on Langley were mixed on social networks in particular Twitter. Opinions varied from her being completely unhinged to being madly in love with him. I prefer to think she’s passionate about Richard, she is after all writing a screenplay about him. However one section in the programme resulted in the presenter of the show – Simon Farnaby from Horrible histories- exchanging conversation with various members.

The questions were the usual “has he been misunderstood” “What about the princes in the tower” now anyone who is a member of a society which aims to present a more unbiased version of events could go into it and say there’s not much evidence to support the idea or dismiss it and it will need more scrutiny. However the members interviewed went into rants that make Alex Jones’ appearance on Piers morgan seem sane. Now I’m not a fan of people who distort history to fit their own views, it’s the same with scientific results or theories. I foolishly thought it was a one off, and that C4 had just picked up the more loopy fringe of the society.

Now before we go any further I should admit that while the Tudors are probably my second favourite historical area of interest (yes I do have a ranking system) I have always had an interest in Richard III, I think given his short reign and the almost damnatio memoriae of him to be a fertile ground for Historical research (quite a lot is done by the Richard III Societies more grounded members)

Wanting to look more at the society and what its members are like I went to the website which seems normal and has quite a lot of information about Richard, and is well worth taking a look at here. However the Facebook page is another matter, on there is a lot of criticism aimed at Leicester University for having the remains at Leicester Cathedral against Richards wishes (although I’ve not seen any evidence that he wanted a burial there other than giving money to the Minster which for the time isn’t unusual.) The Society members then attack the University for being ungrateful for the donations raised by the society to fund the dig, although they weren’t the ones doing the digging.

Other interesting comments centre around this belief that since Richard was given a sloppy burial at Greyfriars then it shows that they didn’t want him, completely ignoring what would have been a pretty hectic and confusing day in Leicester since Richard left the city in the morning and by midday was dead and on his way back. They also ignore the terms of the archaeological exhumation license which stated the remains should be placed either in the Jewry wall Museum, the Cathedral or nearest churchyard by 2014. Some go as far as creating some conspiracy that the Dean of York Minster – Very Reverend Vivienne Faull- who was previously the Dean of Leicester had something to do with it, especially since the Minster issued a statement supporting the internment at Leicester.

Others are annoyed that guides at the Bosworth museum are “Pro Henry” and some have “kicked off” and “educated” them and the others on the tour that Richard was a sweety and Henry a tyrant. It seems to present a non biased view of Richard some members have ignored reality and other historical research. If a society is judged on its members then as the more vocal members seem to be fanatical in their devotion to Richard it isn’t doing the society’s image any good.

This isn’t a situation unique to the Richard III Society and I only highlight them as they are now in the news following the discovery of Richard, but I can’t help but think that the facebook page in particular isn’t going to get them many new members, rather I hope they emphasise their brilliant website and the research carried out behind the shouting mob.

I once toyed with becoming a member, however now I can’t help but think of Groucho Marx and his “PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER” Anecdote.

Result!

After weeks of nervous waiting the moment of dread arrived. Sitting in my Inbox was a link to a page that would either make me happy, or tell me the last 9 months were a waste. Yes, it was result time. The good news was it was a Pass, the bad news was it wasn’t a high one. Granted a lot was happening over the last few months, with finally moving to a new flat on a leafy street in Sunderland and thousands of other distractions the result was going to be a low one.

I’ll still take the Pass and there’s still the issue of transferring all my previous study over if I can (although it would mean less time studying I’d rather start from scratch) But it’s nice to know there’s still life in the old dog yet.

Next decision is what to study next, looking at my transcripts from Sunderland there’s credits missing at level one and two but only one module starting in February which is the Level one Arts Past and Present which means I will have to spend a few months not mocking Art students until the “proper” History modules are starting.

E – Day

So after many months of toil tears and procrastination the day of the AA312 exam arrived, not for me the quiet confidence that I had it “in the bag” the mad scramble and reading the books on the metro to the venue will do.

And what a stroke of luck that one of the questions dealt with what I had studied. It feels weird that for the first time in nearly 8 years I’m not studying. I’m in a limbo, waiting for this result to see what I can do next, as a bonus the result day is just before Christmas so it’s either going to be happy. Or brutally crushing.

The addiction of Science

About a year and a half ago I was what society would label a “geek,” I owned a telescope and a pile of New Scientists that posed a serious  structural risk of killing a small child. I loved science, I watched documentaries constantly, read anything that was remotely linked to science and even began a degree in it. All of which I loved.

Then I got bored, one day it just didn’t click. I couldn’t get past a certain page in the course book and realised that what held me back was my poor grasp of Maths. Now don’t get me wrong, I was awful at school, luckily I forgot all I learned there and began to teach myself, adapting  it so I could understand it. But it wasn’t enough. As time went on I grew further away from Science and went back to my other passion which is History. Finally plucking up the courage to attempt to complete the degree I was already nearly finished with.

A part of me still yearns to dive into a paper on Physics or to look up and count the stars imagining what could be orbiting them. Recently I’ve begun to indulge it again, like an addiction. I’ve picked up the level 2 science books and started to work my way through it, without the pain of a time scale or exams and Essays to worry about. When I moved to History I told myself that I would go back to physics and at least work through it before paying to resit the courses. Of course life has a habit of getting in the way sometimes, in a way I’m thankful that the Government paid for my first course while I was on Jobseeker’s this is a brilliant Idea and I think is more useful than any work programme  and at least then I had time to do it all.

I’ve always had this problem of not being focuses my tutors at Uni always said it and so did my ones with the OU, I think trying to resist the urge to go back would be a bigger personal victory. Although I’m a year away from finishing the History one so there’s plenty of time. I just hope the standard model still prevails. I’d hate to have to learn a new one.

 

An AA312 moan.

Results for TMA04 of AA312 are in. I managed to take the exact same step backwards from the last one. I don’t know quite what is happening. I’m assuming its just boredom with the course, it’s very dry and the guidance on what to do is abysmal. Couple this with a tutor change who does things the complete opposite of the last one and it’s becoming a nightmare.

One of the main problems I have with the “Distance learning” approach is the lack of interaction especially with the staff, looking on the  message board for the course one or two of the tutors are very active, one puts a ton of notes and further guidance on the forum and if it weren’t for him most would have been further up the proverbial creek without a method of propulsion. However this is not without its pitfalls, I’ve followed his advice only to have the TMA come back and with dropped marks for following the guidance and can easily say what is a good pass for one tutor is a bare pass for another. In a way this inconsistency puts you at a disadvantage if your tutor isn’t active, yes you can get in touch with them on the phone or email but for me finding the time to get it done is a struggle. Some people rely on the information in the forums and can’t make the tutorials or “elluminate” sessions.

Luckily as with every other course the Facebook group is brilliant and always good for a laugh or a moan, and my experience with the set up for this course is no way indicative of the other courses I have done.

Next time I go with the Baldrick Answer (Degree Update)

So after a wait which was extended due to personal circumstances my result for TMA02 finally landed today. Now for a bit of background I had to apply for an extension on this and struggled insanely with it. The question related to whether WW1 was a calculated gamble on Germany’s part (FYI it was.)

Now I was expecting to fail this outright no matter what I couldn’t fit everything in I wanted to especially within 2000 words. However despite the nagging doubt I did manage to clear that magical 40 mark with room below it to put in a games room, maybe a pool table and a jukebox too.

I was quite happy with the mark, the work was pap, it was something a 3 year old could come up with. Instead of writing 2000 words I should have just wrote “It was because a man called archie duke shot an ostrich.”

Next TMA is due in next week about the barbarity of the first world war. Frankly a score lower than what I got today will result in me questioning everything about my self and what I’ve read since I can remember.

Up diddly up.

A day in Durham City

During a week off a few friends and I decided to have a day in Durham. When I’m there it’s normally with a specific objective, either to buy something or wait for a connecting bus to work ( I know which one I like more.)
However for a change I managed to just wander aimlessly around and take in the city. We hit on lucky, apart from a rather torrential downpour when we arrived it remained clear for the remainder.

The City is undergoing a lot of work in the marketplace replacing the cobbles and paving stones and moving the statues around. In my opinion I don’t like it. There’s been complaints that the road up to the Cathedral aren’t clearly defined, which is in fact true, the only way you can see the road is a small strip of different colour stones separating the road from the pavement

Spot the road (http://davidariley.co.uk/blog/?p=394)

The Marketplace is a charming place, sadly on one side the modern shop fronts have destroyed a lot of the lover features of the buildings which is a problem afflicting most modern town and city centres. However the regeneration of the market has completely obliterated the charm and historic setting that one gets in Durham For example the old marketplace looked like this:

Durham Market place (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Durham_Market_Place.jpg)

It’s quite sad that this has had to happen but I supposed the cash strapped council felt that a statue needed moving 10 feet forward and painted black instead of the battered green that comes with copper being exposed:

After (Peter Bainbridge)
Before

Moving away from the Marketplace we ended up at the highlight of Durham, that is the Weatherpersons at the Walkergate development, home to quality dining like “Nando’s” and “Chiquito.” After devouring a quick breakfast we headed up to the Cathedral. Now for me it’s the nicest place on Earth. There is nothing quite like a Norman Cathedral with such a magnificent history. (of which most of it will end up on here in the near future)

Durham Cathedral from Palace Green (Peter Bainbridge)

The green in front used to have lots of those little “keep off the grass” however the Lumière festival effectively voided that little suggestion and in the summer or a warm day is often filled with Students, tourists and the occasional me lying on the grass with a few friends sharing a bottle of wine or beer, or just simply watching the world go by. However as you can see it was rather wet that day.

On entering the cathedral first one must pass the “Sanctuary Knocker”,” although a replica the knocker was rung by a criminal fleeing from justice, on appealing for sanctuary the person then had  37 days to decide whether to face justice or head for the port of Hartlepool, board a cog and sail to wherever it is going, destined never to set foot on English soil again.

Sanctuary Knocker (Peter Bainbridge)

The hole in its head was allegedly formed when a rather over enthusiastic kingsmen shot it while attempting to apprehend a fugitive (More on the knocker at a later date)

A Quick look around the cathedral and it was time to climb the steps to the top of the tower

Durham Cathedral (Peter Bainbridge)
This way to tired legs and vertigo (Peter Bainbridge)

The view from the top is simply stunning. You can take in all of the Durham area into Tyne and Wear and to the west the site of the Battle of Neville’s Cross. It was on the tower the monks prayed for an English victory which indeed did come.

View over to the Castle (The Author)

The problem with the tower is it’s very dark, the steps are heavily worn out from 900+ years of use and you do get very dizzy walking down. What was interesting was the graffiti etched onto the walls the oldest I found dated to the 1950’s which proves that when older people say “Kids these days” it’s not an admonishment of society today but part of a larger sentence “Kids these days don’t know how to vandalise important heritage sites like we did.”

Following the trip up it was time for a drink in the Cathedral Cafe then a few pints at the Market Tavern.

A bit more:
Durham Tourism office 

Durham Cathedral

Market Tavern