Reasonablenews

Haven’t spent much more than a few hours in London, two instances both occurring in Heathrow Airport.

Until this week.

Arrived in London a little more than a day ago, seeing almost immediately that London, like any other large city, represents the world of humans, some subcultures sticking out more than others.

Sitting in our rental flat this evening, watching a bit of tellie, BBC coverage of the 2016 Olympics, I’ve quickly learned that the level of slick television journalistic professionalism of a small island like Great Britain or Ireland can’t compare to larger countries like the U.S., India or China, simply because of available population to participate in television production.

It’s like watching a state-level show on the tellie back across the Big Pond in the States, slightly rough around the edges but slicker than local community stations.

Beats the old days of the BBC, though, which seemed to show dairy farming films on every channel and those period pieces that all resembled one Jane Austen novel or another that never approached the quality of a Merchant-Ivory production.

With offshoring still a popular choice for employing underused humans, I’d think every electronic broadcast could have the number of bodies necessary to up the level of television production to the high quality.

Apparently not.

Maybe it’s like Uber, creating semiprofessional amateurs replacing a professional class of highly-trained personnel earning a good annual wage with workers who are good enough, earning a little extra spending money whilst trusting Google Maps rather than one’s memory for getting a passenger from Point A to Point B.

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Molly M

Alive a live o-oh, alive a live o-oh…cockles and mussels…

That’s the words I hear in me head when I’m standing in a pub, listening to traditional Irish music on a Sunday (soon-day) night with a friend and a room full of friendly strangers.

The moments we can’t capture on fil-um, when a pint of Guinness (or Murphy’s or some hoppy lager) fills your stomach and asks you to stay a bit longer.

Yes, those.

And these — the smiles we share when we’re clapping together in sync with the Celtic tunes almost as old as time, the bits and pieces we pick up from the instruments (accordion, pennywhistle, guitar, fiddle, voice), the singalongs and the drinkalongs, the couples kissing, the couples arguing, the singles dancing and the groups laughing together at an inside joke…

Yes, indeed.

Tonight was just such a night at a popular spot in Killarney, no need for photographs, living as one did in the moment, giving oneself to the performers, listeners and barkeeps (and some combination of them all (none of us giving much thought to quantum mechanics (probably (most likely (maybe)))))…

Wantin’ to relive memories from a decade ago, doing so, getting locked inside a pub with a singer, his daughter, and granddaughter belting out old tunes, acting as door bouncer meself for the tourists who di’n’t know better that a feller from Alabama was lettin’ them in after 11 p.m. at a Killarney pub he’d never set eyes on 15 minutes before.

What was the name of that pub?

Can’t remember, me bein’ alone and all, my previous night’s companion headin’ back to the B&B, full of diet Coke and wantin’ a full night’s sleep afore we take the RoK at 8 in the mornin’.

So there I was, all by meself, watchin’ the honest, heartfelt performance of three generations of pub singers and thinkin’ back earlier on the day when I showed a clerk behind the cash register at Bunratty Castle shopping centre a video of Jenn Nye and Travis Nixon dancing West Coast Swing, explaining to the clerk, who mistook me for Travis that I’d help Jenn teach a class of West Coast Swing and woulda kept doing so until me wife complained I was getting too familiar with Jenn, so, to show the clerk the difference between West Coast Swing and what the Irish call jive (since I’d seen the clerk dancing a bit of solo to a pop song playing over the PA system and her telling me she liked line dancing and then asking me if I was a dance instructor meself), I pulled me wife over and showed the clerk and her friend the difference between West Coast Swing and East Coast Swing (a/k/a Irish jive).

Days such as this I live for, making connections across the globe to complete strangers with whom I make instant friends.

No photos or vids necessary.

Life.

Preparation for offworld exploration.

Bit by bit.

What will tomorrow bring?

More of the same, and happily so!

How else are we going to explore Mars without an extemporaneous expository exposition?

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A most peculiar case

In the faces one meets on Planet Earth, the humans, whose ability to create many voices speaking the same language of the human body…

Their stories.

A school district where all the children receive free breakfast.

Traveling more than halfway ’round the world in order to find oneself starting a new life in middle age serving warm pretzels in an airport snack shop.

The children of such working as teenagers in the snack shop next-door.

Wheeling physically challenged customers from one airport terminal to another, dropping one off at the loo whilst you check your Internet tablet for your next pickup.

Growing up in the working class neighbourhood of a large, cosmopolitan city, happy to meet new people from all parts of the world as part of your job.

Selling all rugby team shirts but favouring Munster over Leinster, if truth be told.

Leaving the space travel to others more suited to mentally traveling well in a large canister to Mars for many months, perhaps not coming back, ’cause you’d rather stay on this planet, thank you very much.

All of us dependent on those invisible engineers and scientists who improve our working conditions via new technology, including the invention and improvement of language, creating new voices such as the sounds that ditch-digging equipment makes with more efficient gears, or the squeak of high-tech gloves holding a shovel…

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Guest post by Damien George

ello supporters of the original MicroPython campaign!

It’s been 10 months since the last update, and a lot of things have happened with MicroPython since then. Let me tell you all about it.

The biggest news is that I am now working on MicroPython full time! I finished my research in theoretical physics and transitioned to working on MicroPython-related things as my day job. I can’t tell you how great it is to have the freedom to make such a decision and to work on something that one really enjoys. Well, I also really enjoy physics research, and I still have an ongoing project in that area, and I will certainly keep up to date with the latest news in high-energy physics. But my main agenda now is to make sure MicroPython is as successful as it can be. There are heaps of things to work on, from hardware sales to software contracts to code improvements, and more. I am extremely fortunate to be able to maintain and work on an open-source software project that I created, and which can sustain itself — and thrive — from sales of hardware. The area of embedded computing and the Internet of Things is becoming more prevalent in mainstream society, and I hope that MicroPython can play an influential role in this arena.

To accelerate the development of MicroPython, Paul Sokolovsky and Viktoriya and I are currently running a second MicroPython Kickstarter campaign. You might have heard of the ESP8266 chip. It’s a cheap and compact little system-on-a-chip which has built-in WiFi, some nice GPIO, and is perfect for running MicroPython. The aim of the second Kickstarter is to raise funds for software development, to make MicroPython run like clockwork on the ESP8266. I know that some of you are already aware of this campaign and have backed it. Thank you! For those that did not yet see this MicroPython+ESP8266 Kickstarter, there are still 5 days left until the end so you still have a chance to be part of it! We have had an amazing response and are now way beyond our target, with 6 stretch goals already passed. If you are interested in this chip please go and check out the campaign and consider backing, to help us reach even more stretch goals. All funds go towards further development of MicroPython, so, even if you don’t plan to use an ESP8266, your contributions to this second Kickstarter are very welcome and will help to ensure MicroPython remains open source software of the highest quality. Visit the second Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/214379695/micropython-on-the-esp8266-beautifully-easy-iot

The MicroPython project has collected some impressive statistics since it started. On GitHub it has 2700 stars, 540 forks, 5200 commits and 90 contributors. It is in the top 0.01% of projects on GitHub, and ranks at number 60 out of all projects written in C (ranked by number of stars). There are 7800 posts on our forum, and searching for MicroPython on Google gives 66,000 hits. The pyboard is used around the world in over 65 countries. MicroPython is used in homes, schools, universities, research centres and labs, commercial companies large and small, by the young and not-so-young, as well as hobbyists and professionals.

A new version of the pyboard is now in production, PYBv1.1. This board is a (near) drop-in replacement for PYBv1.0, and has reduced power consumption in sleep mode (down to 6 microamps) and a place to solder a JST battery connector.

There is also now a “lite” version of the pyboard available, PYBLITEv1.0, which is the same form factor as the original pyboard, but is cheaper with a slightly lower spec MCU (STM32F411) and without an accelerometer. But it still has plenty of power and RAM to run Python scripts. There is also a version of the lite board with an accelerometer, PYBLITEv1.0-AC, if you need such a feature. Python code is compatible across all these boards, and you can find a detailed comparison at https://micropython.org/store/#/features

The MicroPython software is updated almost everyday, and the original pyboard from the Kickstarter is still fully supported! The software for PYBv1.0 gets all the new features and bug fixes that go into MicroPython, and this board is still very powerful compared to other development boards out there. If you haven’t upgraded your firmware in a while, and want to try out all the new features, then head over to https://micropython.org/download/

One of the most exciting things to happen in the past year is that I have been doing work for the European Space Agency to see if MicroPython is suitable for going into space! This project is nearly finished and involves research and development into MicroPython to make it more deterministic, robust and efficient, to port it to the SPARC architecture, and evaluate its use in space-based applications. Some of the development work coming out of this project is already available in the main MicroPython code repository; for example 64-bit NaN boxing and persistent bytecode. Doing this project for ESA I have gained confidence in MicroPython’s ability for use in critical systems and industrial settings, and some of the lessons learned have been fed back into the main code.

Another very exciting project is MicroPython running on the BBC micro:bit. The micro:bit is very similar to a pyboard: it has a microcontroller (Nordic nRF51822) with a USB port, an accelerometer, a compass, 2 buttons and a 5×5 matrix of LEDs. It only has 16k of RAM but I managed to get MicroPython running, and running quite well. In collaboration with Nicholas Tollervey, the Python software foundation, and an amazing group of volunteers, MicroPython on the micro:bit has grown into a really fantastic teaching tool with a child-friendly set of (Micro)Python modules to do things like make animations and play music. MicroPython is the official way to use Python on the micro:bit and very soon nearly 1 million UK school kids will have a micro:bit of their very own and have the chance to learn about embedded programming. You can visit the MicroPython-on-micro:bit GitHub page at https://github.com/bbcmicrobit/micropython

You probably know of the WiPy, a MicroPython board that has built-in WiFi and was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign by Daniel Campora last year. He has now extended the idea of the WiPy and started a company called Pycom which aims to make communication-related boards (think Internet of Things) that run MicroPython. They are also running a Kickstarter right now for their next board, the LoPy, which has LoRa capabilities, as well as WiFi and Bluetooth! Check it out at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1795343078/lopy-the-lora-wifi-and-bluetooth-iot-development-p .  It’s great to see MicroPython being taken and put into such new and interesting directions, and I look forward to seeing where else Pycom takes it!

I think that’s all of the major things that have happened over the past year. There are of course many other small things, but too many to mention in this update.

Remember that the forum is a great place to talk about MicroPython, ask questions, find answers, and get inspiration for using MicroPython. Please visit the forum at http://forum.micropython.org/

Finally, if you’d like to be kept up-to-date of further progress with MicroPython, please sign up for the newsletter at https://micropython.org/newsletter/ This will be a low-volume email with news and announcements about software and hardware things related to MicroPython.

All the best,

Damien.

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Because plagiarism is pluralistic, period

[from: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/economy/2016/02/global-shipping-slowdown-hints-recession-around-corner, accessed 13th Feb 2016]

The global shipping slowdown hints at a recession around the corner

Instability in China and tumbling commodity prices have devastated the world’s freight providers – a strong indicator of trouble to come.
By David Blanchflower

This is beginning to have the feel of 2008 all over again. Policy makers around the world are in denial once again as global stock markets dive. In 2008, the slowing of the world’s biggest economy – the US – sent the global economy into a tailspin. The concern now is that the slowing of the second-largest economy, China, may well have similar global effects. Chinese growth, which averaged 10 per cent for three decades through to 2010, has decelerated for five straight years and in 2015 slowed to 6.9 per cent, its lowest rate in a quarter of a century. The IMF is forecasting that Chinese growth will slow further to 6.3 per cent in 2016 and 6 per cent in 2017, which may well be overly optimistic. There is already speculation that China’s banking system may see losses even larger than those suffered by US banks during the last crisis.

The bad news from China appears to have already spread to the US, which has seen GDP growth slowing sharply in the last quarter of 2015. US industrial production and core retail sales are both falling, and there have been marked contractions in core capital goods shipments and private non-residential construction. Business fixed investment declined nearly 2 per cent last quarter. Despite the bad news, last week Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen astonishingly claimed that “the US economy is in many ways close to normal”. By contrast, Ruslan Bikbov from Bank of America Merrill Lynch calculates that there is a 64 per cent probability the US is already in recession. My expectation is the next move by the Fed will be to cut rates.

Company profits are tumbling as commodity and oil prices decline. BP reported a $3.3bn fourth-quarter loss last year while Exxon Mobil reported a 58 per cent fall in its quarterly profit. It isn’t just oil companies. Last week, Rio Tinto – the world’s second biggest mining company – reported profits down 51 per cent after commodity prices collapsed amid slowing growth from China. Company profits are also suffering due to a big decline in the amount of freight being moved, especially to and from China. Moeller-Maersk, the Danish conglomerate and the world’s biggest container-ship operator by capacity, last week reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $2.51bn.

DP World, one of the world’s biggest port operators, also says that global volume has slowed sharply. It reported that volumes at its ports rose by 2.4 per cent last year, compared with 8 per cent growth in 2014. Data provider Container Trades Statistics said this week that Asia-to-Europe trade fell nearly 4 per cent last year. Freight rates in 2015 averaged $620 per container on the Asia-to-Europe trade route. Typically, ship operators need more than $1,000 to break even. In February, the cost of moving a container from Shanghai to Rotterdam fell to $431, barely covering fuel costs. Figures released by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange show that the country’s 20 largest container ports grew by 3.7 per cent over 2014, compared to 5.5 per cent the previous year. The Hong Kong Port Development Council reported that throughput at the port of Hong Kong fell by 9.5 per cent in 2015.

The Baltic Dry Index (BDIY) – an index of the price for shipping dry goods such as iron ore and coal (oil is wet) – is at a record low of 290. It is down 75 per cent since its recent peak in 2015 and down 98 per cent from its peak of 11,793 points in May 2008. The collapse to 772 by 5 September 2008 (a week before Lehman Brothers failed) presaged the global recession and it is falling again. Capesize vessels, which are too big to get through the Suez or Panama canals, had an average daily hire last week of $1,484, compared with a peak of $233,988 in June 2008. Even though there is an oversupply of ships, global demand is collapsing.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released figures for global air freight, showing cargo volumes expanded 2.2 per cent in 2015 compared to 2014. This was a slower pace of growth than the 5 per cent recorded in 2014. This weakness apparently reflects sluggish trade growth in Europe and Asia-Pacific. “2015 was another very difficult year for air cargo,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “Growth has slowed and revenue is falling. In 2011 air cargo revenue peaked at $67bn. In 2016 we are not expecting revenue to exceed $51bn.”

The current contraction in rail freight is apparently reminiscent of the drop that started at the end of 2008 and carried on into 2009. China’s rail freight volumes fell by a significant amount last year. According to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), volumes fell by 11.9 per cent, a further increase on the 2014 slowdown, when traffic declined by 3.9 per cent.

In the western US farm belt, grain trains are so abundant you can’t give one away. Since the middle of last March, carloads of agricultural products, chemicals, coal, metals, autos and other goods have declined every week. Shipments of US coal, the biggest commodity moved by rail, declined 12 per cent in 2015, according to the Association of American Railroads. The cost of carrying spring wheat from North Dakota to the Pacific coast has dropped by a third in the past two years. In early 2014, grain companies with a train to spare could command $6,000 per car above the official railway tariff, traders say. Today, to avoid hefty contract cancellation fees, they are paying others to use their unwanted trains.

Manufacturing output in the UK fell for each of the last three months and is down 1.7 per cent over the year. The overly optimistic Monetary Policy Committee is forecasting GDP growth of 2.2 per cent (2.4 per cent) in 2016; 2.4 per cent (2.5 per cent) in 2017 and 2.5 per cent (2.4 per cent) in 2018 (the latest, broadly similar, OBR forecasts in parentheses).

So all is well then? Probably not. Mark Carney has run out of ammunition with the Bank Rate at 0.5 per cent, compared with 5.5 per cent in 2008, and has little room to manoeuvre. Negative rates and more quantitative easing, here we come. George Osborne has never explained what he would have done differently in 2008 – his plans for a budget surplus are already in disarray as the economy slows. I am not saying a recession is going to happen any time soon, but it well might.

David Blanchflower is economics editor of the New Statesman and professor of economics at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire

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