Friday, 27 June 2014

Men of Yore: Louis-Nicholas Robert

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

Louis-Nicholas Robert

Early and Family Life
Louis-Nicolas Robert was born to aging parents on rue Neuve-Saint-Eustache, 1st arrondissement of Paris. As a child he was physically frail and self-conscious, but studious and ambitious. He received an excellent education with a strong focus on science and mathematics at the hands of the religious order of the Minimes.[7] He felt guilty for being a financial burden to his parents.[1] At the age of 15, he tried to enlist in the army in order to support the American Revolution, but was rejected. He was accepted into the military four years later.[1]

On 23 April 1780 he joined the First Battalion of the Grenoble Artillery, and was subsequently stationed in Calais. In 1781 he transferred to the Metz Artillery regiment and was sent to Saint-Domingue, where he fought the English. He served in the military for 14 years (circa 1794), and rose to the rank of Sergeant Major.[6] Another account of Robert's military career suggests that he left the army aged 28, in 1790.[1]

Robert married Charlotte Routier on 11 November 1794, in a civil ceremony.[6] The ceremony was civil because of the post-Revolutionary decree that marriage be a simple civil contract, certified by a municipal officer.

Paper Manufacture Machine
In 1790, having finished with his military career, Robert became an indentured clerk at one of the Didot family's renowned Paris publishing houses. First working under Saint-Léger Didot as a clerk, he later switched to a position as "inspector of personnel" at Pierre-François Didot's paper-making factory in Corbeil-Essonnes[5]. This well-respected establishment had a history dating back to 1355 and supplied paper to the Ministry of Finance for currency manufacture.[6][1] Both Robert and Didot grew impatient with the quarrelling workers, vatmen, couchers, and laymen, so Robert was spurred to look for a mechanical solution to the manual labour of the paper-making process.[1]

In his book Papermaking: the History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, Dard Hunter reported that:
[Louis-Nicolas Robert] declared that it was the constant strife and quarrelling among the workers of the handmade papermakers' guild that drove him to the creation of the machine that would replace hand labour.[1]

Although Didot judged Robert's first plans to be "feeble", they showed enough promise to continue research, and Didot financed a small prototype model. This was completed by 1797, but it was also deemed a failure. Robert became discouraged, so Didot appointed him "superintendant of grain grinding" at a nearby flour mill. After a few months' rest from the paper factory, Didot encouraged Robert to reprise the paper machine, and put several mechanics at his disposal. The next model showed some improvement, and Didot therefore instructed Robert to make a full-size model, scaling-up to the popular 24 inch 'Colombier' width.[5] This machine was a success and produced two sheets of "well felted" paper.[1]

Patent Application
Following Robert's successful model, built in 1798, Saint-Léger Didot insisted that Robert apply for a patent. Prior to 1798, paper was made one sheet at a time, by dipping a rectangular frame or mould with a screen bottom into a vat of pulp. The frame was removed from the vat, and the water was pressed out of the pulp. The remaining pulp was allowed to dry; the frame could not be re-used until the previous sheet of paper was removed from it. Robert's construction had a moving screen belt that would receive a continuous flow of stock and deliver an unbroken sheet of wet paper to a pair of squeeze rolls.[4] As the continuous strip of wet paper came off the machine it was manually hung over a series of cables or bars to dry. With Didot's urging, Robert and Didot went to François de Neufchâteau, the Minister of the Interior and applied for a patent. In 1799, the patent (brevet d'invention) was granted by the French Government, for which Robert paid 8,000 francs.[5][2][4]
The patent specification and application for the continuous paper-making machine is published in the second volume of the Brevets d'Inventions Expirés.[5]
On 9 September 1798 (23 Fructidor Year VI[6]) Robert wrote a letter applying for a patent[1]:
For several years I have been employed in one of the principal mills of France. It has been my dream to simplify the operation of making paper by forming it with infinitely less expense, and, above all, in making sheets of extraordinary length without the help of any worker, using only mechanical means.Through diligent work, by experience, and with considerable expense, I have been successful and a machine has been made that fulfils my expectancy. The machine makes for economy of time and expense and extraordinary paper, being 12 to 15 metres in length, if one wishes.
In a few words I have set forth the advantages of my machine, which I have built at the home of Citizen Didot, manufacturer at Essonnes. It is here the place to say that in Citizen Didot I have found great help in the making of this machine. His workshop, his workers, even his purse, have been at my disposition; he shares generosity and confidence that one finds only in real friends of the arts.
I solicit you, Citizen Minister, for the patent of my invention, which ought to assure me my property, and work for myself. My fortune does not permit me to pay the tax of this patent at once, which I desire to have for fifteen years, nor do my means permit me the cost of a model. This is why, Citizen Minister, I implore you to name a number of commissioners to examine my work, and in view of the immense usefulness of my discovery grant me a patent gratuitously. Robert[1]

De Neufchâteau authorised the Bureau of Arts and Trades (Bureau des Arts et Métiers) to send a draughtsman, Monsieur Beauvelot, to Essonnes to document and build an improved model. The minister also authorised a member of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers to accompany him.[1] The Bureau des Arts et Métiers then declared:
Citizen Robert is the first to imagine a machine capable of making paper from the vat; this machine forms paper of great width and of indefinite length. The machine makes paper of perfect quality in thickness and gives advantages that cannot be derived from ordinary methods of forming paper by hand, where each sheet is limited in size in comparison with those made on this machine. From all reports it is an entirely new invention and deserves every encouragement.[1]
The Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers paid Robert three thousand francs to build another model for permanent display at the Musée des Arts et Métiers.[1]

In 1785, Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf invented the first machine for printing dyes on squares of wallpaper. The significance of Robert's invention was for more than mechanising a labour-intensive process, in also allowing continuous lengths of patterned and coloured paper to be produced for hanging. This offered the prospect of novel designs and nice tints to be printed and displayed in drawing rooms across Europe.[4]

Development in England
Robert and Didot quarrelled over the ownership of the invention.[5] Robert eventually sold both the patent and the prototype machine to Didot for 25,000 francs. Didot defaulted on the payments to Robert, however, and he was forced to recover legal ownership of the patent on 23 June 1801.[5] Didot wanted to develop and patent the machine in England, away from the distractions of the French Revolution, so he sent his English brother-in-law, John Gamble, to London.

In March 1801, after demonstrating continuous rolls of paper from Essonne, John Gamble agreed to share the London patent application with brothers Sealy and Henry Fourdrinier, who ran a leading stationery house.[5] Gamble was granted British patent 2487 on 20 October 1801 for an improved version of Robert's original machine. Thus the next development was financed by the London stationers. Gamble and Didot shipped the machine to London, and after 6 years and approximately £60,000 of development costs, the Fourdriniers were awarded new patents.[8] An example of the Fourdrinier machine was installed at Frogmore, Hertfordshire.[9]

Death and Commemoration
In 1812, in poor health, having both sold and lost control of his invention and the patent, with further exploitation being concentrated in England, Robert retired from paper-making and left Corbeil-Essonnes. He moved to Vernouillet, Eure-et-Loir and opened a small school, Faubourg St Thibault. The French economy was very depressed after Napoleon's defeats, and Robert was very poorly paid. He continued teaching until his death on 8 August 1828.[6][1] A statue of him stands in front of the church in Vernouillet, and the "Collège de Louis-Nicolas Robert" in the quartier des Grandes Vauvettes is named in his honour.[6]

In 1976, Leonard Schlosser discovered Robert's original drawings at auction and made facsimiles for scholars and friends.[10] It is not now known where the original drawings can be seen.


A piece of paper doesn’t look impressive.  It looks bland, unexciting.  A grand nothingness that does nothing and acts nothing.  Just sitting there doing nothing.  It is nothing special.  It doesn’t win awards for artistic contributions to society or civilisation.  It doesn’t give anything away.  It just is.  Yet it is so in-valuable that we could not be with out it; it’s quite as simple as that.  Civilisation is dependent on paper, a medium for the express communication of thoughts and ideas to other human beings.  We need it.  We need it’s blandness, it’s receptivity, it’s un-arousing nature, it’s complete lack of excitement, because we need to be able to imprint our creative mind on top of and into it, thereby giving rise to the great works of humanity - great works of art, great works of literature, great works of investigation (the critical disciplines), and so on - great works all around which are utterly dependent on its nothingness, on its passivity and its willingness to receive whatever we imprint upon it.  We need it.  We need paper.


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Man's Freedom in the Modern World

The modern world is hostile to men, it denies him his nature, which is to express himself as he chooses. It denies him this by limiting his options/freedoms and then telling him what he should do. This occurs in both a mental and physical sense. Mentally the dominant culture tells me that I should seek permission if I wish to build something new, that I should seek an authority figure if I wish to learn something new, that I should enjoy 'novelty' (quirky foods, holidays to foreign climes, unfamiliar sports activities) but not genuine newness/originality. Physically the dominant culture tells me that the built environment that I live in must remain unaltered, unchanged by me. If I do desire to change it, then I must ask permission from an authority figure. The government also takes my hard earnings, my labour (as tax) and then decides what it wants to spend it on. A hundred years ago tax in the UK as a proportion of GDP was about 8%, now it is closer to 40%. That equates to less freedom for each and every man as the government decides how to spend his money.

Being limited to this extent is not the way it is in nature. In nature animals are free-er than humans. Be it in the woodland, on the steppe, in the desert, on the tundra or wherever. In nature animals, insects and plants alter their surrounding environment freely, when they choose to do so. They don't need to seek an authority figure to gain permission. Elephants fell trees on the Savannah. Why? Not for eating or the leaves or using the trunk and branches, they do it because they want the environment to be tree-less, to be a grassland. They don't seek permission. They aren't told what to do or not do. They just do it. Because it is their Will. In this world, as it stands, I am not allowed to do that. I am discouraged and denied from doing it, and punished if I do it. This thus infringes on my nature as a man.

One of the rules of the so-called 'civilized' (i.e. domesticated) world is that a man is not allowed to exercise his own nature, ergo he must continually exercise self-restraint. If this rule is enforced too much, if man is tamed too much, then he will simply stop living in the modern world, the civilised world, and will opt out of it. A man who is not allowed to be a man will cease to be a man. He will opt out of it either:
If an opposing force is too strong for a man to bear then the man has three options: fight, flight or freeze. The modern world is an opposing force to man. It seeks to tame him while man seeks to be free. Thus the two forces are opposed to one another. They are enemies.

Rich Zubaty wrote that 'Cities are feminine. Nature is masculine', if that's true then it means that the modern world (that's everything from cereal farming on up) is incompatible with mans nature, which means that either cities must die, or man must die, or some other path must be chosen. If man dies, then the cities will quickly follow behind him, as cities are dependent on men in order to sustain them. But if the cities die then man will just revert back to being a farmer or hunter-gatherer.

So it seems that if people wish to continue to live in some form of high-technology, modern world with all of it's creature comforts instead of living in grass huts then the modern world must become more accomodating to mans need for freedom. It's either that or we end up following the critters in Calhoun's famous mouse experiment and end up with a behavioural sink followed by a population crash (VIDEO ~8 minutes). I don't think anyone wants that. So we'll look at some practical solutions to get the creative juices flowing:
  • Reduced population density (low-rise and detached houses, instead of high-rise and terraced houses) so that men do not feel 'enclosed' and develop a ghetto psychology.
  • Having more unowned spaces (reverting the 'Inclosure Acts', and having common land again) so that all men are guaranteed some areas to move around in that aren't controlled by society.
  • More freedoms in regards to planning regulation.
  • More cultural liberty and an ability to express oneself without the absurd risks of imprisonment or social ostracism.
If such changes are made then it may be possible for men to live in the environment freely and without any detrimental effect to themselves, and thus civilisation will be allowed to continue. If this change doesn't happen then men will continue to flee the city that seeks to neuter them, and civilisation as it currently stands will perish as a consequence.


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Men of Yore: Alan Turing

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

Alan Turing

Alan Mathison Turing was born on 23 June 1912, the second and last child (after his brother John) of Julius Mathison and Ethel Sara Turing. The unusual name of Turing placed him in a distinctive family tree of English gentry, far from rich but determinedly upper-middle-class in the peculiar sense of the English class system.
Until his father's retirement from India in 1926, Alan Turing and his elder brother John were fostered in various English homes where nothing encouraged expression, originality, or discovery. Science for him was an extra-curricular passion, first shown in primitive chemistry experiments. But he was given, and read, later commenting on its seminal influence, a popular book called Natural Wonders Every Child Should Know.
His boyhood scientific interests were a trial to his mother whose perpetual terror was that he would not be acceptable to the English Public School. At twelve he expressed his conscious fascination with using 'the thing that is commonest in nature and with the least waste of energy,' presentiment of a life seeking freshly minted answers to fundamental questions. Despite this, he was successfully entered for Sherborne School. The headmaster soon reported: "If he is to be solely a Scientific Specialist, he is wasting his time at a Public School." The assessment of his establishment was almost correct. 
Turing's private notes on the theory of relativity showed a degree-level appreciation, yet he was almost prevented from taking the School Certificate lest he shame the school with failure. But it appears that the stimulus for effective communication and competition came only from contact with another very able youth, a year ahead of him at Sherborne, to whom Alan Turing found himself powerfully attracted in 1928. He, Christopher Morcom, gave Turing a vital period of intellectual companionship — which ended with Morcom's sudden death in February 1930. 

Turing's conviction that he must now do what Morcom could not, apparently sustained him through a long crisis. For three years at least, as we know from his letters to Morcom's mother, his thoughts turned to the question of how the human mind, and Christopher's mind in particular, was embodied in matter; and whether accordingly it could be released from matter by death.
This question led him deeper into the area of twentieth century physics, first helped by A. S. Eddington's book The Nature of the Physical World, wondering whether quantum-mechanical theory affected the traditional problem of mind and matter.

Turing machine
In the years after college, Turing began to consider whether a method or process could be devised that could decide whether a given mathematical assertion was provable. Turing analyzed the methodical process, focusing on logical instructions, the action of the mind, and a machine that could be embodied as a physical form. Turing developed the proof that automatic computation cannot solve all mathematical problems. This concept became known as the Turing machine, which has become the foundation of the modern theory of computation and computability.  Turing took this idea and imagined the possibility of multiple Turing machines, each corresponding to a different method or algorithm. Each algorithm would be written out as a set of instructions in a standard form, and the actual interpretation work would be considered a mechanical process. Thus, each particular Turing machine embodied the algorithm, and a universal Turing machine could do all possible tasks. Essentially, through this theorizing, Turing created the computer: a single machine that can be turned to any well-defined task by being supplied with an algorithm, or a program.
Turing moved to the United States to continue his graduate studies at Princeton. He worked on algebra and number theory, as well as a cipher machine based on electromagnetic relays to multiply binary numbers. He took this research back to England with him, where he secretly worked part time for the British cryptanalytic department. After the British declared war in 1939, Turing took up full-time cryptanalytic work at Bletchley Park.

Enigma code
Turing made it his goal to crack the complex Enigma code used in German naval communications, which were generally regarded as unbreakable. Turing cracked the system and regular decryption of German messages began in mid-1941. To maintain progress on code-breaking, Turing introduced the use of electronic technology to gain higher speeds of mechanical working. Turing became an invaluable asset to the Allies, successfully decoding many German messages.  By the end of the war, Turing was the only scientist working on the idea of a universal machine that could plug into the potential speed and reliability of electronic technology. This led to the development of early hardware and the implementation of arithmetical functions by programming, and thus, computer science was born. Turing became well-regarded by the scientific community, as the director of the computing laboratory at Manchester University and an elected fellow of the Royal Society.

Turing test
Turing was also involved in philosophical debates over whether machines could think like a human brain. He devised a test to answer the question. He reasoned that if a computer acted, reacted and interacted like a sentient being, then it was sentient. [Related: What is The Singularity?]

In this simple test, an interrogator in isolation asks questions of another person and a computer. The questioner then must distinguish between the human and the computer based on their replies to his questions. If the computer can "fool" the interrogator, it is intelligent. Today, the Turing Test is at the heart of discussions about artificial intelligence.

Gross indecency
Turing had never been secretive about his homosexuality. He was outspoken and exuberant about his lifestyle, openly taking male lovers. When police discovered his sexual relationship with a young man, he was arrested and came to trial in 1952. Turing never denied or defended his actions, instead asserting that there was nothing wrong with what he did. The courts disagreed, and Turing was convicted of gross indecency. In order to avoid prison, Turing had to agree to undergo a series of estrogen injections.
He continued his work in quantum physics and in cryptanalytics, but known homosexuals were ineligible for security clearance. Bitter over being turned away from the field he had revolutionized, Turing committed suicide in 1954 by ingesting cyanide.
In 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly apologized for how the scientist was treated. And in December 2013, Queen Elizabeth II formally pardoned Turing. A British government statement said, "Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind" who "deserves to be remembered and recognized for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science."   
It is occasionally important to note the reasons, the motives, the life experiences behind the discoveries that men make: the personality traits, the pertinent life experiences, the emotions that they experience, and so on.   Looking at Alan Turing’s early life, his love for mathematics was driven by a love for knowing, understanding, the world, and the mechanics that underlies it.   Simple intuitive questions really.   True learning comes from inquisitiveness and enjoying whatever it is that one does, the subject matter is secondary.   Frank Whittle learnt about flight from playing with model aircraft, and Benjamin Franklin learnt about electricity from playing with kites.   Men can learn from anything. Enjoyment comes first, whilst the field or subject matter that they learn it from are secondary really.  Reading all of the theories in the world won’t help a man to understand the world unless his Will to understand the world comes first.  Schopenhauer pointed this out in his essay ‘On Thinking for Oneself':
Men of learning are those who have done their reading in the pages of a book. Thinkers and men of genius are those who have gone straight to the book of Nature; it is they who have enlightened the world and carried humanity further on its way. If a man’s thoughts are to have truth and life in them, they must, after all, be his own fundamental thoughts; for these are the only ones that he can fully and wholly understand.
The will to understand the world is a personal action (i.e. in a bedroom rather than a classroom, in quiet rather than in debate) that grows by enjoyment and inquisitiveness.

It’s also important to note that during his childhood his teachers rated him as only ‘average to good’ and that ‘[h]e was criticised for his handwriting, struggled at English, and even in mathematics he was too interested with his own ideas to produce solutions to problems using the methods taught by his teachers.’ (Source).   Isaac Newton was also a weak child who performed poorly at school, yet look what he went on to achieve. This tells us a few things:
  • That teachers aren’t all that hot at spotting geniuses.
  • That great intellectuals can be model students who learn quickly (like Mozart and John Stuart Mill, who learnt to play the piano and Latin respectively while still toddlers) or average students who learn slowly (like Turing and Newton).
  • That personal enjoyment and inquisitiveness (or curiosity if you like) trump rote-learning any day of the week.
So if you or someone you know is rated as 'average' or 'moderate' by men of learning (teachers, doctors, professors, and other academia dwellers) think nothing of it, because they don't have a great track record of identifying first-rate minds.  Just keep on trucking and enjoying what you do, just like Alan Turing did.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Havamal Snippets 146: If disputing or in sorrow, then sing for help

It goes somewhat against the cliched stereotype of the fieresome Viking doesn't it?  That a Viking who is in dire straits actually sings for help.  That he doesn't revert to picking up his spear to resolve his issues by aggressively destroying them, but instead he sings an emotionally charged song requesting help from another.  A song from the heart.

It demonstrates to us that a man can be both confident and aggressive, and emotionally humble at the same time.  The two aren't mutually exclusive.  They are tools, options.  There to be used when the situation calls for it.

Ljóð ek þau kann
er kannat þjóðans kona
ok mannskis mögr
hjálp heitir eitt
en þat þér hjálpa mun
við sökum ok sorgum
ok sútum görvöllum

I know the songs
that no ruler's wife knows,
nor anyone's son:
the first is called "Help",
and it will help you
with disputes and griefs
and absolutely all sorrows.


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Short Story: The Law

[Foreword: Another short story this week.  This time around the theme is freedom and laws, and how being truely free causes people to treat others.

As with the other short stories, the setting is the science fiction game world Frontier, but the details aren't important and the story can be read and understood without knowing anything about the game.  It's just an environment to experiment with different ideas, like a proverbial 'sandbox world'.]

The Law

Location: Solo Base, planet Williams, the Sigma Draconis system [Independent system]

Date: January 3212

   Northumberland stood on the concrete space-port landing pad beside a pair of medium-sized traders space-ships facing Diego who was another member of the 'Hole in the Wall Gang'. They were confirming the orders that they and the rest of the gang had arranged back at their hideout: To secure the Federation Storage Warehouse employees, locate the safety vaults, crack open as many safety deposit boxes as possible, steal the high valuable untraceable goods, & then hyperspace back to their hideaway and count their lootings. 
   The rest of the dozen strong gang were rapidly disembarking from the ships, armed with las-rifles.  One team would head off to the warehouse security room to incapacitate the small guard detail, and the other to round up the employees.
   This was their third major heist in as many months.  Money was getting tight.  Funds were getting low.  They needed the money to pay off a gang of marauders who had were extorting huge sums of money from them. 
   This was one of the downsides, pitfalls, of living where they did: in the 'freehood' solar systems (known to others as 'anarchies').  It was a place where law was actualised/realised by the same people who conceived it.  In such places law was considered a custom, a tradition, that was perpetuated only by those who wanted to do so.  That way any law that was not wanted was not perpetuated, and thus faded into the annals of history.  Law in the freehood was not viewed as an institution in the way that it was in the Federation.  In the Federation, law (the legislature, the judiciary and the police) was viewed as an institution staffed by a select few who devised, decided and imposed the laws on the rest of the population who had no say or choice in the laws.  It was almost seen like an idol on an alter.
   In the Federation this view of law as something imposed by a higher power onto subordinate people extended to the natural laws as well: the logical, the physical, and the biological laws were all seen in this manner.  The people saw law as unchangeable, something that you were subject to, could not alter or even object or speak to.  In the Freehood however the people saw law in a different light; even the natural laws.  They perceived natural law as something that they were a part of and could affirm it if they wanted or neglect it if they didn't find it useful to them anymore.  Though that isn't to say that there were hordes of wizards and magicians doing supernatural tricks, like making rocks dance a Viennese Waltz or something', simply that the view of the 'law' as something that one was an active member in perpetuating, if one so chose.
   Of course, when living in an environment where all of the people both 'make' and 'enforce' their own laws brings with it inherent risks: there is always the possibility that they will be subject to the laws of another person.  However, they can always try to negotiate a mutual accord with the person imposing their law on them.  This is unlike the Federation, where petitioning for the law to be changed is nigh on pointless, due to the elitist nature of the government which rejects most of the requests of the 'masses'.
   Northumberland and his men had been subjected to the laws of another, and were unable to reach some middle ground, even when using violence (in the form of las-rifles and rockets) to make their point to the other people.  Thus they were forced into a difficult position: finding large sums of cash.  Consequently they had to become thieves in order to find the money or risk being killed.  This Federation extra-territorial warehouse in the Indepedent system of Sigma Draconis was their last planned heist.  If all went to plan, then it's wares should be enough to pay off the extorters.  At least for the time being.

   Diego and the first team had moved through the corridors of the warehouse complex undetected, and were now outside the central security room, where the only guard detail was.  Diego leaned against the closed door to the security room and placed a small explosive charge on the door knob.  Then signalled for the other dozen guys to drop back behind one corner of the corridor to take cover.
   The gang raced back around the corner and stormed into the smoke filled room, las-rifles braced against their shoulders.  They were confronted by a group of four overweight blue shirted security guards: inexperienced, barely armed, professionals who wouldn't be able to mentally cope with the level of violence inflicted on them.
   The guards, one of them still holding a doughnut in his hand, were wide-eyed and complied with the demands without any retaliation.  The shock of the raid had overwhelmed them.  They were in trauma.  It was the psychological edge that all forceful, violent or combat situations depended on.  The ability to saturate the other person with terror to the extent that they get robbed of the ability to think or act (rather than animalistically react) in a cogniscent, sentient manner.  They effectively became rocks: deprived of their human capabilities.
   One of the guards was still in shock, he had the fright in his eyes. Diego went up to him, "Prick!" , and swiped the butt of his rifle across the guards nose, breaking it and sending a splatter of blood across onto the wall. 
   "Get down!"  He shoved the muzzle of the las-rifle in the guys face.
   The guard eventually complied, shaking with terror as he did so.  He was so scared he hadn't even made a noise, a yelp in pain even.
   Diego grinned in sadistic pleasure as the guard lay belly down at his feet, totally compliant.
   Two of the other gang members took out small syrettes from their pockets and injected it into the guards exposed hands.  The syrettes contained fast acting tranquilizers that quickly took effect on the guards and they slumped into a deep sleep.  It was less risky than just tying and leaving them on their own.
   With the security detail taken care of the second group could move on to the other employees, round them up and keep them secure whilst the rest of the gang searched through the safety deposit boxes.

   Northumberland headed up the second team, and took a contrasting approach to dealing with the warehouse staff.  He calmly walked into the office room that was staffed.  His gun clearly displayed but not threateningly pointed at anyone; then waited for the rest of his team to walk in the room, and then told the office workers matter-of-factly and calmly.
   "We're here to rob the security deposit boxes.  If you do as we tell you, no one will be hurt.  The security team have been sedated, so don't try to contact them, or anyone else for that matter, as we've disabled the main communication network.  My men here will escort you down to the central warehouse building where you will be held under guard until we get what we came for.  If any of you try to escape we will shoot you."
   Northumberland paused briefly, and looked at them to see that they were following what he was saying.  "Now, on my mark, I want you stand up, slowly, and form a single column against the far wall over there.  Once you have done that we will then escort you to the warehouse.  Okay.  One my mark.  One, two, three, stand."
   The office workers were slightly jittery, but wilfully compliant.  Northumberland and his team marched them through a long corridor and into the warehouse complex which was full of half sorted crates, containers and such like.

* * * * *

   Twenty minutes later, the gang were sorting through the crates to find the high-value goods they sought.  One of them was propped against the door frame to the 2,500 square metre warehouse.  It was Diego, he was observing one of the Federation captives who was sat at a desk.  The captive was looking rather too cocky for his own good.  He was in his late twenties, with moisturised skin, coiffured hair, wearing a thick woollen black overcoat, and a large oversized scarf wrapped conspicuously around his neck.  Judging by his appearance he was a typical Federation MC (middles-classer).  He'd probably acquired his physical possessions from the same MC high street as he had acquired his mental possessions (that is to say his behaviour and beliefs), so to speak.  Possibly even the same shopping centre.  He was sat in a chair, leaning back on its back two legs, whilst the sole of right foot was placed on the edge of the desk.  He was also sporting a smug smirk on his face, and had his hands clasped together behind his head.  A model of confidence.  But, balanced on only two chair legs, he was a totally unstable object.  A small knock would destabilise him and send him falling backwards and crashing on the ground. 
   There is a saying that 'the outer mirrors the inner': the external mirrors the internal, the body is a mirror of the mind.  A man walking upright with his head aloft is more confident inside than one who is leaning over with his head downcast.  So, as this Federation MC was unjustifiably confident in his outer, his body, that meant that he was unjustifiably confident in his inner, his mind.  It was this over confidence, cockiness, that Diego saw; and he decided that he was going to have some afternoon fun knocking him down to size.  He jauntily walked over to the captive wearing a  mischeivous smirk on his face.
   "I know what's going through your mind now pal."
   The MC half-laughed an anxious laugh. "Oh yeah?  What's that then, 'mate'?"
   You're thinking that some great power out of the sky is going to come and save you."
   "What are you talking about?!" The man scoffed.
   "The great quasi-deity that you call 'The Law'."
   "Okay." he said, tittering uncertainly.
   "'The Law', as you view it, rules over the galaxy and imposes, imposes, its will upon all aspects of your life.  And you have no choice but to obey it.  You are subordinate to it.  From the physical laws that rule the rocks under your feet, to the biological laws that rule your body, to the civil laws that rule your society.  'The Law' supposedly rules them all."
   "Really?  Okay, you're not making any sense at all.  What does a quasi-deity called 'Law' have to do with physical laws like gravity, biological laws like Mendelian inheritance, and civil laws like 'locking-up-thieving-bastards-like-you', have to do with me?"  He said with underlying bitterness.
   "It means that you view yourself as one who is subjected to the law, rather than one who makes and enforces the law."
   "Uh huh."
   "And that includes the civil law as enforced by the police."
   "So you reckon the police or army or navy are gonna bust the door down and come and save you like some fairy-tale knight in shining armour."
   "Oh puh-leaze.  First Gods and now fairy tales.  What's next?  Little red men with horns from the Betelgeuse system?!"  The MC joked.
   "And if it's some fairy tale story, in which the brave knight rescues the poor damsel in distress, then I guess that makes you the damsel in distress, don't it?"
   "Oh my God!  Oh my God!  Pweeze, somebwody helwp me!  Sa-aaave me!"  The MC replied,  imitating a cliched damsel in distress.
   "Or perhaps instead of 'The Law' saving you now, then you expect that 'The Law' will avenge you in the future."
   "You're making even less sense now than you were a minute ago."
   "It means that if you don't get justice from 'The Law' now, by means of the police, then you'll expect it later in the form of a trial and retribution."
   The MC looked at Diego but didn't reply.
   Diego knew he had him.  He knew that he had found the MC's weak spot.  The foundation-stone on which his confidence was placed.  He grinned a devilish grin in anticipation of what was about to come: to destruction of the MC's foundations-stone of confidence.  "So that's it then?  You expect that the me and my partners in crime will be arrested at a later date and punished by 'The Law', because that's what you believe: that 'The Law' rules over all."
   The man eyed Diego uncertainly.
   Northumberland walked over to the two men, stopping a couple of feet just behind Diego, who hadn't heard him.
   Diego continued.  "Oh yeah, I know it.  You think the heavens are gonna open up and send down legions of big-dick, gun-toting armed saviours gonna arrest me and my mates next week when we're back at our hideout.  You're still counting on 'The Law' to come and save ya.  Well guess what sunshine?  There ain't no 'Law' out here."
   The MC's eyes fell to the floor, then began to dart around rapidly, anxiously, trying to stop his world from being torn out from underneath him.
  "There ain't no law out here, Fed' man.  There ain't no law to protect you now.  You're all alone out here Fed' man."
   "There ain't no law in the Federation either Diego."  Interjected Northumberland.
   "There ain't no one gonna save you out here boy."
   "There was never anyone to save him in the Federation either Diego."  Northumberland replied again.
   "There ain't no law gonna avenge you in the future."
   "There was never any law going to avenge him anyway."
   Diego turned to face Northumberland.  He was narked off at the man who robbed him off his little bit o' fun.  His little bit of sadism.  "Northumberland, why do you.."
   "Why do I what Diego?"  Northumberland cut him off.
   "Why do you have to go and spoil my fun?"
   "Because it gains nothing.  You're just trying to scare him to get your rocks off.  Leave him be.
   "Yeah, but he thinks 'The Law' might come and save him.  Like they're some fuckin' super power or something."  He gestured at the MC.
   "You're a freeman Diego, a free man.  You know there's no Law anywhere.  The thing people think of as law is not 'the law', it's just tradition; our inheritance from those who have come before us.  They're mistaking it for authority, something superior or above them, for a deity who imposes its will on them.  They're free men but they don't know it.  They're living under the despotism of a non-existent external law.  A phantom, an apparition, an illusion.  You know it doesn't exist.  You know that the things people call Law is just inheritance.  So quit toying with him over it."
   "Delusion in his case." Retorted Diego. 
   "Whatever.  You're stripping anyway at his delusions, his clothes, mental ones, that have given him comfort.  He gets comfort in thinking that 'the Law' is always gonna be there."
   Diego turned his head to look at the MC with an air of disgust.  "Fuckin' comfort blanket more like.  Fuckin' babies."
   "That don't make you any 'fucking' better then, does it, Diego?  Sadistically taking pleasure in stripping away his securities, delusional though they be, and making him squirm in discomfort."
   "Ah fuck you Northumberland."  Diego was now really pissed at Northumberland for revealing his malevolent intent.  "What d'ya come over here for anyway?  You wanna piece of me?"
   "Shut up and go help the others search the container room Diego.  You're making a tit of yourself." Northumberland replied disdainfully.
   Diego walked up close to Northumberland, and spoke quietly. "One of these days man, I'm gonna knock your fuckin' head in."
   Northumberland turned his head back to stare the man straight in the eyes.  "Yeah, and I might just be there to see it."  He knew that Diego was more bark than bite, and rarely followed through on his threats.
   Diego walked past Northumberland, crashing into his shoulder.  It was a cowards method of getting even by avoiding face-to-face confrontation.
   Northumberland looked at the MC who was sat slumped in his chair, his arms and legs and shoulders and head curled in slightly; in a semi-foetal position.  The position that you take when you don't want your senses, nerve endings on the soft fleshy parts of the body, exposed to the world.  There was nothing Northumberland could do for the man.  His world had been torn from under him and he was destabilised, falling down some dark hole.  To provide reassurance would do nothing to help him.  It would only perpetuate the mental state he had whilst he was in the Federation: i.e. that someone will come to take care of you, provide you with a ground of security to stand on and a ceiling of authority to bang your head on.  Freehood was not like that.  It was the opposite of that: there were no limits in free hood, no floor of security, nor ceiling of authority, you were, are, unconstrained.  The only constant was you, standing in the middle with nothing above, nor nothing below.  That was what freedom was like.  And it was something that you had to experience first hand, for yourself, personally.  Which was why Northumberland couldn't, wouldn't offer any words of support to the guy.  He just had to leave him be and hope that he would find his own centre: himself.
   The raid went according to plan.  The gang found enough cash and valuable in the security boxes and departed the system and headed back to their home-base, back to their own world, back to the free-hood.


Friday, 13 June 2014

Men of Yore: John Loudon McAdam

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

John McAdam

John Loudon McAdam was born in Ayr on 21st September, 1756. His father was fairly wealthy but lost his money in a bad investment in a local bank. When he was fourteen he moved to New York City to work at his uncle's counting-house. His father's brother, William McAdam, had already established himself as a prosperous merchant. McAdam was taken into the home of this childless couple. After his uncle retired he took over the company.

By 1778 he married Gloriana Margaretta Nicoll, the daughter of a wealthy lawyer. When the America achieved its independence, McAdam decided to return to Scotland, where he purchased a house and estate at Sauchrie. As his biographer, Brenda J. Buchanan, pointed out: "John Loudon McAdam's enforced return propelled his career into its second phase, as a Scottish country gentleman and business entrepreneur. He became a magistrate; a trustee of the Ayrshire turnpike roads; deputy lieutenant of the county; and the officer in charge of a volunteer artillery corps when in 1794 a French invasion seemed imminent."

In 1798 the family moved to Bristol. He established a company that became involved in the chemical industry. In 1811 he helped to establish the Bristol Commercial Rooms, becoming the first president, and played a leading part in the campaign for a new prison in the city. He took an interest in road building and published a book, entitled Remarks on the Present System of Road Making. McAdam claimed in the book that his views were based on a study of the conditions found on his travels, covering, he claimed, over 30,000 miles.

In 1816 he was appointed surveyor to the Bristol Turnpike Trust. He remade the roads under his control with crushed stone bound with gravel on a firm base of large stones. A camber, making the road slightly convex, ensured the rainwater rapidly drained off the road and did not penetrate the foundations. This way of building roads later became known as the Macadamized system.

Brenda J. Buchanan has explained: "McAdam's recommended system of road construction involved the careful preparation of a well-drained subsoil, levelled, but with a slight fall from the centre of 1 inch to the yard. The roadstone was to be broken by seated workers with small-handled hammers into rough pieces weighing no more than 6 oz that would fit into the mouth. McAdam had observed that large stones were likely to be cracked by passing vehicles and sent flying, but that smaller, angular ones, applied to a depth of 10 inches and compressed by workmen, were consolidated by traffic to produce a resilient and impermeable surface which improved over time. These techniques were simple, effective, and economical."

By 1819 the Bristol Turnpike Trustcontrolled 178 miles, and McAdam's salary had risen to £500 a year. As his reputation grew McAdam was able to extend his influence further by becoming a surveyor or consultant to other trusts. By 1819 McAdam and his two sons worked for twenty-five trusts. As a result of his success, MacAdam was made surveyor-general of metropolitan roads in England. It has been calculated that between 1820 and 1825 McAdam received £6000 from public funds.

Gloriana McAdam died in 1825. Two years later he moved to Hoddesdon and married her much younger relative, Anne Charlotte Delancey (1786–1862). Although he left the Bristol Turnpike Trust he continued to work as a a surveyor.

The eighty-year-old John McAdam died on 26th November, 1836.


Like all great men throughout history, McAdam's work was added to, developed, enhanced, by later generations.  In the case of McAdams invention (macadam) tar was added to it, and it became known as tar-macadam, or tarmac for short.  A substance that is now used the world over, and helps all people to perform a simple activity: easily traverse the ground between two destinations.  It's an extremely mundane, unremarkable activity that many of us may take for granted, but it's an activity which remains difficult in places with unpaved roads which are at mercy of the extremities of the weather (like rain forests or arctic tundras).

While McAdam may not have invented high-quality road surfaces (for that was known to the Sumerians, Indians, Egyptians, Celts, Romans and others) he did re-introduce it to the modern world with improvements (a camber to let the rain fall off).  Sometimes it's not about making groundbreaking discoveries or mind-blowing inventions.  Sometimes it's merely enough to re-kindle them.  To re-ignite an awareness and interest in them.  To re-introduce them to the world so that other people can benefit from them.


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Havamal Snippets 145: It is better that it be not invoked than over-sacrificed

If you make demands on anything, be it Gods or people or animals or things, then that thing requires something back in return.  It's one of the traditions of the universe.  If the thing is a a God, then an offering must be given in return.  If a person, then a favour.  If an animal then care and attention.  If an inanimate object then maintenance.  Even something as mundane as a field (where crops are grown and harvested) must have something given back to it (fertiliser), otherwise the relationship will turn sour (i.e. the crops won't grow because the field is depleted of it's nutrients that the crops took from it).  This correlates to the view of the world as a one that requires balance: favours for favours, an eye for an eye, and so on.  It's a dualistic view, and duality runs strong in polytheistic belief systems (cf. Ragnarok, Norse end-times, an event where most of the Gods will have a dualistic opposite whom they will fight to the death.  The fight will result in the death of both entities, e.g. Thor and Jormungandr).  Though it's important to note that Duality is but one view of the universe.

It's something to be aware of in everyday life:  Aware of the demands that you make of things, be they Gods or anything else, and the payments that you must give in return.

Betra er óbeðit
en sé ofblótit
ey sér til gildis gjöf
betra er ósent
en sé ofsóit
svá Þundr um reist
fyr þjóða rök
þar hann upp um reis
er hann aptr of kom           
It is better that it be not invoked
than over-sacrificed,
the gift is always for the repayment,
it is better that it be not sent
than over-immolated.
So Thundr carved
before the history of the peoples,
when he rose up
and when he came back.


Monday, 9 June 2014

Elliot Rodgers, Two Weeks On

It's been about two weeks since Elliot Rodgers killed six people and injured thirteen others at Santa Barbara in the USA.  A variety of people have come up with a variety of theories about why he did what he did.  They focus on different areas like:  What aspects of the culture that he lived in influenced his actions; What aspects of his immediate family influenced his actions; What aspects of his own mind influenced his actions.  Are all of their theories right?  Are some of their theories right?  Are any of their theories right?  Who knows.

What we can say with certainty though is that different people frame the killings within the context that dominates their Weltanschauung. For instance feminists frame the killings within the context of misogyny because feminists focus on misogyny all the time , PUAs on the other hand frame it within the context of coitus because PUAs focus on coitus all of the time.  (Perhaps even when they're doing mundane tasks like putting their socks on, or opening the car door, or grocery shopping).

Napoleon Bonaparte's quote on history is pertinent at this juncture: 'To write history one must be more than a man, since the author who holds the pen of this great justiciary must be free from all preoccupation of interest or vanity.” (Source).  So, basically, a Buddhist-style detachment from reality is essential to enable the individual to view reality as it is, i.e. without any personal attachment or bias.  This approach applies to Elliot Rodgers, or indeed any analysis, because it requires a detachment from personal interest.  With personal detachment (which requires self-awareness, i.e. an awareness of one's own personality, likes & dislikes, loves & fears etc) comes an honest analysis.  Only then can one make any firm conclusions about why Elliot Rodgers killed six people that day.

Below are some of the various groups and their theories on why Elliot Rodgers did what he did.  Oh, and just because they are shown doesn't mean that I endorse them:
And there are almost certainly more theories out there.  It's just a shame that none of them can seem to take a step back, look at the scene from a wider perspective, and appraise the situation honestly, like a polymath might do.