Chernobyl

Some thoughts on the HBO and Sky television series Chernobyl, and it’s relation to other disasters.

I move to Houston Texas in August 2010 following living for three years in Aberdeen. Just before moving to Houston there was a massive disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, known widely as Deepwater Horizon, but known initially within the industry as the Macondo disaster. The incident featured a huge drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, suffering a catastrophic blow-out which lead to an explosion that killed eleven men on board.

This happened in April, four month before I went to Texas, but the effects were huge. By the time I arrived the company I was working for were changing the way they worked based on the preliminary findings into the disaster, and certain employees knew folk who had worked for or on the rig. Even more interestingly, was that BP employees were told to avoid telling local people they worked for the company - it was their well prospect that had blown up, despite many other companies involved. BP would end up having to pay out billions and billions to the communities on the Gulf affected because the explosion and deaths were just the beginning - it was the oil rushing out of the well and the inability to stop this from flowing that caused the massive amount of environmental problems for the area.

In 2016 a film starring Mark Whalberg was released about the disaster. I suggested it’d be a hard watch because of my links to the disaster, but when I did see it it turned out I was worried for no reason. The film was terrible - not well directed and badly acted in my view, but the biggest issue was the way that it approached the subject material. It turned a disaster into a hero film of sorts. It felt more like an action film than a thriller, one that made many of the panic and chaotic scenes that were likely horrifying in real life into, instead, action set pieces.

So it goes.

When I heard that there was a Chernobyl television series on the way I assumed it was going to be the same, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Chernobyl revels in the facts (despite shuffling some of them around) and presents a lot of the show as a horror film, turning a terrifying and awful disaster into a non-sensationalised essay on what happens to people in disastrous consequences.

It makes me wonder what a show like it on Piper Alpha would be like. It gives me pause when thinking about the other disaster films about real events - ones that have turned the real events into big action pieces, and that now with the success of Chernobyl maybe more shows will take this tack.

Sobering

I am not an alcoholic. I don't excessively drink. I do, however, suffer from harmful drinking, and what this means simply that when I drink my behaviour changes in a detrimental way. Without getting into it, I turn into a bit of a prick - or more of a prick, I guess - with alcohol being the excerbating catalyst. I have lightly touched on my anger issues in the past and to put it mildly I have a temper and alcohol seems to not help. 

Not at all.

Drinking and I have had an interesting and irresponsible relationship with each other. I've binged a lot when I was younger and found myself drinking alone when I lived in Texas. I used to drink the thing that would get me drunk the fastest and for the cheapest, like any good student, and certainly drank my fair share when I was a student and everything seemed like it was cheap.

When I first met Connie she explained she didn't really drink for her own reasons that I won't go into, and this rather naturally (slightly) reduced my own drinking. We have obviously still enjoyed having a drink together at times, but mostly the binging stopped - bar work nights out, Scouters weekends, and the odd trip to the pub with pals. 

Actually that makes it sound like it didn't make a difference, huh.

Hwmowever, what came next definitely made a difference. Since Joni and Etta, and then the move to England, my drinking kind of abruptly stopped. Gone was a Saturday night bottle of red and in its place was tea and Irn Bru - okay, let me be honest, mostly loads of Irn Bru. And chips/crisps. This change would actually lead to one of the scariest moments in my life.

One night, after unusually drinking a bunch with friends at the house, I went to sleep. I woke in the morning to find Connie a bit worried and scared - that night after we had gone to bed I'd woken up, drunk, and slept-dream-woke (I'm not sure how else to characterise it), pulling at the power cords down under my side of the bed, and then in turn talking vaguely threateningly to her in my drunken confusion when she asked what was I doing. 

I was appalled. And scared. As far as I knew this had never happened to me before. Not in the way she described it to me, and it frightened me. I stopped drinking a lot there and then, but have since drank a few times more, most notably a sharp uptick since relocation back to Glasgow what with friends again, baby sitters, and public transport. 

We really missed Glasgow.

So after a few heavier than usual drinking periods recently it has become clear to me a few things, the first and most important one being I need to take care of myself. My physical and mental health is poor - I weigh too much and certainly don't do enough exercise, so drinking is especially bad for me. Secondly, I act like a pure dick when drinking and everyone else has to deal with it. 

And thirdly, I actually don't really enjoy it anymore? I hate hangovers - I'd not get them at all when I was younger, much to the chagrin of my flat mates, but now I get a hangover even when we are out with other people drinking which is no fun. Beer has also became needlessly complicated and difficult to know what is "good", but that could be a whole other blog post. 

I just think for me the benefits are none. Why should I keep putting myself through this cycle of shame and disaster, and for what cost? A day lost to feeling sorry for myself, and making stuff feel worse impacting my kids? It isn't worth it. Literally - it costs £30 to get drunk out these days anyway.

The ultimate answer is this - I am trying to be better and my temper is a key aspect I'd like to control at all times, and if at any point I lose it then I've already lost. So I've decided to go sober. 

This isn't really an issue to be honest, day to day. Con doesn't drink so I don't either and we instead drink pop. This is, arguably, worse for you long term, maybe, but I don't feel like I'm losing control when I neck a pint of Bru. What it might do is make people feel like I am being not fun thanks to perceived bullshit social conventions, when they're out getting pished. That's on them, I gotta do me.

The only slight roadblock, regarding peer pressure, is a pair of long time best friend stags due this year, but I know what I want to do I just need to follow through. 

 Don't let this sound self righteous either - I'm not looking for sympathy or even agreement, just feel like writing this out might help me understand it, own it, and commit to it, and thusly help me on a slight road to change.  

I just feel, ultimately, drinking is something I don't want to do anymore and these are all just justifications for me, and it is a decision I know will be better for me, and most importantly my family. That, in the end, will actually be the reason for it being easy to follow through on, because it is as much for them as it is for me. 

Maybe Think About It

The recent revelations about artists being actual creeps means that you have an interesting dilemma. Do you still listen or watch their work?

As a kid I adored Lostprophets and would have said the their debut album was one of my favourites. Obviously I don't listen to it now thanks to his awful behaviour, and that makes sense to me. But I think it can't be prescriptive - it is your call.  

But then someone does this.  

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I mean, pick a better moment to latch your shameless plug on to, am I right? 

Listen to the Monday Graveyard every Monday night on Mixcloud.  

The Folly of My Phones: The 2019 Update

Back in the old days, in 2010, I wrote what would go on to be easily my most read blog post. No, it wasn’t some impressive warbling about Scottish Independence (for the record, I was still a No back then), nor was it some terrible tale of my working at Rock Steady - no, it was actually all about my mobile phones I’d owned throughout my short but expensive life.

Posted in May 2010, pre-iPhone 4 announcement, the list was intended to be a catch-all for my phones. The original post can be found here, and it is worth a wee gander.

Why the hell was it the most read, you are probably wondering? Well, when I used to use Google Analytics it was easy to find out that people were coming to my site for the images of the phones - namely, the Samsung Z105 and the Philips Savvy, of all phones. It was pure Search Engine Optimisation without me even knowing what the hell that was back then.

To this day it still appears in the top read posts, almost always found from searches.

I’ve always thought about going back and updating it, but it seemed churlish - I am not going for the clicks. So, to save the effort in case you didn’t click through the link up there, here’s the list.

Oh, and before we go any further - yes, the list is being added to in this very post! Yep, nine and a half years later. Timing.

The Original List - 2000ish to 2010

  1. Philips BT Cellnet Savvy

  2. Nokia 3210

  3. Sharp GX10

  4. Sharp GX10i

  5. Sharp GX20

  6. Nokia 6230

  7. Nokia 6230i

  8. Samsung D500

  9. Samsung D600

  10. Samsung Z105

  11. Nokia N80

  12. Nokia E65

  13. Nokia 6300

  14. Apple iPhone 3G

  15. Apple iPhone 4

  16. Apple iPhone 5

  17. Nexus 4

  18. HTC One (M8)

  19. Nexus 6P

  20. Samsung Galaxy S8

  21. Nokia 3

Note: I used for a while an HTC Desire X during repairs on my Nexus 6P. This is detailed below.

So that makes seven Nokia phones, including my current work horse, the Nokia 3. Four Samsung phones, and three Apple handsets.

Since the Original Post

So yeah, I went from iPhone 3G to the iPhone 4 as predicted in that 2010 post (this was when the iPhone 4 was yet to have officially been announced and was only taken from the now infamous Gizmodo iPhone 4 leak. I loved the iPhone 4, and it was replaced pretty obviously by the iPhone 5 in 2012 when it was launched.

But that would end my life with iPhones. The iPhone 5 was a fucking disaster. I went through five of them before giving it up. No one could explain to me what I was doing to them to break them - even the Apple Store people were absolutely stumped. I wrote about leaving the iPhone back when I did it, and it was… well, odd. A move I’d never regret - Android is my jam now.

I went with the mid-range and cheap Nexus 4, which was great. Just before Joni was born I went for the HTC One (M8) model, and wrote all about it here.

When I decided to move on from the HTC to the Nexus 6P, not only did I re-review the HTC One (M8), I wrote about the Nexus 6P at length.

The 6P died, in the end. I wrote the first part of a planned two-part series about upgrading from the Nexus to the Galaxy S8, but never wrote the second part - sorry! But the first part was good.

The Samsung was great, but I smashed it. I decided to move back to cheaper phones, so got a Nokia 3, which is where I am now. Ah well.

Hearing Again 2.0

Or Maybe That Should be Hearing 3.0…

In the summer of 2017 I was subjected to my first NHS hearing test as part of a drive I made to get it registered and changed with my GP. It lead, quite interestingly, to me getting a hear aid and, for the first time in maybe my life, hearing things properly. Who knew?

Since moving to Glasgow it has been a mild struggle to get my English NHS stuff translated to Scottish NHS, because the English system is paper based and as far as I can tell the two systems don’t talk well to each other.

In fact, Joni’s own medical records are still held here from when she was first born, whereas they never were in England. Either way, her vaccinations are constantly being questioned.

My hearing aid in England was a Phonak - and it was nice and flesh coloured (for me, admittedly). When I mentioned to the GP I needed to register has having one, they noted that they didn’t do that model here. When I eventually had my test this past week it was clear that my results were not going to be able to be compared to last years, because my records had not transferred.

My audiologist was happy that my hearing had got worse a bit, but not massively, and he did this by pulling the old profile off my hearing aid by plugging it into his computer. It was a clever thing to do, and good service, but after ten minutes he returned to be disappointed that they, in Scotland, couldn’t service my old hearing aid and it’d need to be replaced.

Hearing loss is categorised in two ways - volume and clarity. I have perfect clarity, but low power and need amplification. My old hearing aid was not powerful enough, and also had an open dome - what this meant was that my hearing aid was only doing part of the job - my ear was still hearing the sound around. In fact, the best option is for the new hearing aid to do all of the noise catching, so my new aid is more powerful, grey, and larger, but most importantly it blocks all sounds.

This is called a closed dome, and since I’ve started to get used to it, it is far more uncomfortable, but much much better at making me hear. In fact, the difference is pretty huge.

So that’s me, hearing better again, again. And that’s nice.