The Gromit Trail

Yesterday, on one of the final days that “The Gromits” were in Bristol, I decided to embark on the quest of finding some of my favourites. If you didn’t know already, I have been an avid Aardman and Wallace and Gromit fan for as long as I can remember. I have an outstanding collection of Wallace and Gromit memorabilia and collectables dotted around the house and I’ve probably watched each and every production in which Wallace and his best friend feature.

Tim Ford and Gromit in Bristol

 

I’ve spent absolutely loads of time in Bristol before now but today, I was going to embark from the Downs all the way to Cabot Circus by foot via Park Street for a cheeky taco (of course). I love Bristol for many reasons but when I heard about the dozens of large Gromits that were to be distributed around the city, I had to go.

I had a great day and despite probably being the only person over the age of 5 who was actively seeking photos with them, I’m glad I did it because they make for good memories and for what it’s worth, 5 or so seconds of embarrassment and I’ve got me a nice new profile picture and a little something to look back on. Especially seeing as they won’t be there forever, and I’m not quite sure I can afford to buy one when they go to auction. Although if I could, I’d buy as many as possible and place them in my front garden for all to see.

The application for the iPhone was pretty good as well. That said, the maps were driving me crazy because it kept defaulting to some Gromit as far out as Cribbs Causeway and that’s not somewhere I was going to venture having walked six miles and being absolutely shattered.

The only other thing I’d like to point out about the Gromits, is we did get a chance to see the Harry Hill (a man I despise) one which had been vandalised. I can’t understand why such heartless scum would do this. What can you possibly get out of it? What the Gromit Trail has done for Bristol is encouraged people to get out and go for a walk and see them. To give people a reason to go to Bristol and to embrace the already artistic spirit of a great city and these filthy, worthless, rats have decided to vandalise that. It’s something I simply can’t get my head around.

All in all a great day though! I’ve also decided to purchase the Wallace And Gromit Cracking Contraptions Haynes Manual because it’s absolutely incredible.

The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World – Daniel Yergin

This book, I came across whilst reading through TheGatesNotes. Bill Gates is renowned for his interest in reading and since reading a vast array of articles that all seem to say that if you don’t read, that’s not good enough and that most people who have done well for themselves read. I’ve always enjoyed reading and whilst I think reading for the sake of reading probably didn’t do anyone any good but if you take an interest it’s most helpful.

With that, I’ve embarked upon reading non-fiction for now. With the intention of broadening my knowledge of various topics. Energy companies, have for one reason or another always been hot topic in my household, family members have worked in the industry from subsea engineering on oil rigs, to management of energy companies. I have also spent the past two months working at a renewable energy company that provides 100% renewable energy to it’s customers.

Whilst reading through Mr Gates website, one of his recommended books for 2012 was The Quest by Daniel Yergin. With many positive reviews on Amazon and meaning to give a fairly decent idea of the energy industry from start to future, whilst including information on the politics and influence of oil companies, I thought it would be a great read to go with my foray into the industry. I actually started reading this book some time ago however due to other commitments had to place it down for a while but I thought I’d write a small review having just finished it.

The Quest is fascinating in that Daniel Yergin’s knowledge and writing style go hand in hand together to make the energy industry understandable without having much experience with it. I have learned all about energy, policy and security and brushed up on some ideas for the future of energy. Much of the history in this book I was unaware of, from the invention of the metering system in the UK, to the sheer size and power of the oil companies. I knew they had money, but having tens of billions of dollars available to develop pipeline after pipeline around the caspian sea blew my mind.

The book itself starts from the very beginning of energy and explains the industrial revolution and the effects it had on the world, climate change, natural gas, green energy the lot. It doesn’t just tell you why each type of energy is there either, Daniel Yergin provides an interesting story behind each and everyone of them. He includes references for each and every one as well.

The Quest is split into sections each a main topic and I found that to be useful in targets for how much I’d read each day as there was one point whilst reading the book that I was losing interest. This was maybe because some chapters are less page turner, more essential knowledge to get the general idea but overall the pages are very enjoyable.

The politics side of things was very interesting, whilst heavily being focused on the United States, European countries and the middle-east are represented in fine detail and discussions on each countries policies are often brought up throughout the book.

I did have a slight gripe with the book and that is how in some parts it would often jump dramatically between dates without much warning. That is to say you’d read three sections on solar power and before you know it your back at fracking and natural gas for the next two before randomly returning to solar. There did seem in place not to be much logic in that.

Overall I found the book to be one of the most comprehensive and informative industry specific books I’ve ever read. It provides a great grounding for general knowledge of the energy industry and in ways has supported my work and interest in the energy sector. Particularly the future of energy is something that takes my interest. I find the capacity for solar power entirely captivating and I enjoy the idea of an entirely renewable future though question it’s practicality.

From what I learnt of nuclear in this book has also changed my opinion on the buildings. Whilst the previous disasters have been catastrophic, it must be said each time we learn and whilst in certain countries, earthquakes are less likely to damage the reactors and as cooling technology gets better and contingency planning improves. Nuclear seems a more viable option.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the global energy market.

The Best Reading Chair Ever

Eames Chair

 

Of all the posts I’ve ever put up on this website, I never intended any to be like something one would upload on Tumblr. I don’t have Tumblr and if it’s like most social networks and I did have it, I probably would have quit in an angry rage and then returned to it by now.

The reason I post this chair is because recently, I’ve been living somewhere that houses one and it is without a doubt the most fantastic chair I have ever had the pleasure of reading in. It’s the perfect angle, it spins a bit and it has a foot stool. An original of the Eames Lounge Chair can cost upward of ¬£5,000 however many replicas are available around the ¬£350 mark.

Something I found captivating about this chair is that the design is so simple yet so elegant. It seems engineered whilst also seeming artistic. It also is functional and comfortable.

I know historically that bloggers have posted each every thought of theirs online. I tend to try and keep my posts down so that they only contain some of-quality content however this chair, I’m pretty sure has made me want to post and so I have. If only to remember to buy one for myself in the near future.

Elon Musk

At the age of 42, Elon Musk is quickly becoming an internet, business and technological superstar, a name synonymous with ground breaking technology and founder of companies renowned for disrupting industries. Many have likened Musk to the fictional genius Tony Stark

The South-African born Entrepreneur has a phenomenal track record for extraordinary talent. By the age of 12, Musk had already sold a video game having tough himself programming for $500. At an age as young as twelve it would appear that Elon was indeed a promising young prodigy. At the age of twelve it would be hard to see, given that this was 30 years ago that Elon would eventually contribute massively to the world in terms of the development of technologies that would lead to reduction in potential climate-changing emissions whilst also taking a research subject previously only really toyed with in the academic community and government based institutions.

Musks initial success came after selling his company Zip2 that he created with his brother which sold for $307 million dollars with a further few million in stock options for Compaq. So by the age of 28 Musk had already secured himself a rather large proportion of money to be able to continue on his ventures. Musk was no lottery winner, he was not going to take the newly acquired fortune and retire, go on holiday a few times a year and buy a nice crib (he certainly did that later). No Musk would continue on in 1999 to develop PayPal which so many of us use even today, day in and day out to make online purchases. By 2002, Elon had decided to sell the company to eBay, who continue to run PayPal to date. The company sold for $1.5 billion and Musk was one of the largest shareholders at the time.

Following PayPal and having already secured his place as a respected member of the Silicon Valley elite and an increasing asset to California in general, Elon decided to work on Tesla, the electric car company and Space X, the private space company. Elon maintains CEO position and chairman position at both of these companies. Both of which have come desperately close to going bankrupt since launching however are currently doing well.

Elon Musk has consistently out done himself by announcing ground breaking technologies through various mediums, only last week did he announce a gesture based system to design rockets, much like in the Iron Man movies we all know and love. When Tesla initially announced that it was not going to use the hybrid or the gasoline style engines, many in industry laughed at Tesla and dismissed it completely however now, after launching three models of purely electronic cars, people are starting to take Tesla seriously. It’s profiting, it’s paid back a government loan years before it was due. Through another of Musk’s ventures, Solar City, there has been a network of super fast charging stations developed from the west coast to the east coast and now, it appears as if mass production of electric cars is on the map. As much as one could argue that the energy productions has simply been displaced from the petrol pumps to the power plant, Musk has attempted to bring the emissions of California down by offering a solar based solution to powering the network through his SolarCity company.

Musk is a firm believer in changing the world for the better. He is known to say over and over that he wants things in the world to get better in the future and will always want the future to be better for everyone. Each development of every product he has worked on gradually gets better and better and often for the benefit of everyone. Traditional car companies like Toyota are now licensing technology from Tesla that Elon Musk has worked on.

He is not just  business man either, Musk is a scientist. From his background in coding to his degree in Physics, Musk has contributed to hundreds of academic papers and holds dozens of personal patents from his various projects. His hands on work with rockets and influence in designing a rocket that can launch and land vertically is expected to change how we look at space travel and the reduction in space waste.

It is with that we have come to Elon Musk’s most recent proposal. A mag-lev based frictionless transport system known as Hyperloop and the point in which many of the Internets various commenters and bloggers have come to disagreements with Musk. It is actually the first mass criticism of Musk as people are starting to suggest that he has created a brand around himself that leads to people investing in whatever he does because he has orchestrated it so people believe he can do anything. There have been suggestions that Elon is proposing an idea that’s just not possible. Some suggest the practicality of Hyperloop is ridiculous due to the fact that you can’t have stops, it would be one destination only. Others say that it can’t be powered the way he says it can, that there is too much heat produced and that would destroy whatever was around it.

There is a very ongoing debate on the online community as to whether Musk is actually like Tony Stark. An argument, I might say is pretty pointless but something I find profoundly negative has come from it, as often does with people who think big. A large amount of criticism to Musk himself. He is an active force for good. Yes he’s a billionaire but he’s spent much of that money, much of his time doing things for the greater good of many. The work on SpaceX is groundbreaking, something that could change the future of humanity, and that’s not me trying to be sensationalist. Every development in Space Science is critical to our future as a race, the planet, so long as it exists is volatile and in a sense, we can’t keep all our eggs in one basket or all our people one planet.
Solar City is bringing California towards a greener future, something the Californian government has been trying to do for decades and since the disastrous days of Smog in SoCal.

Musk has contributed to Google+ Hangouts to encourage entrepreneurship, he has proposed ideas with the possibility of them getting ridiculed but he’s put them out there. Hyperloop shows that if we think about things differently, there can always be a better way to go about things. Even if Hyperloop turns out to be dramatically overstated it may inspire some to go about changing things, it may improve current offerings dramatically in the transport area. Tesla has shown the mass market automotive producers that electric cars are a viable option and now others are making all electric cars such as GM, BMW, Toyota and Mercedes. I’m not suggesting this wouldn’t of happened if it weren’t for Musk but with the history of intermittence with the development of EV’s it was essential that a company came along with a lot of money and drove the idea and developed it and Tesla might of just happened at the right time.

The criticism of Elon Musk is harsh. Often people sit behind there desk, see a billionaire with a nice house and assume people are being irrational in their positive opinion of such a person and proceed to blast them and whilst I think it’s important to criticise and seek flaws in certain things, blasting Elon Musk and suggesting he shouldn’t be posting prototype ideas and isn’t that good is a disastrously negative view to have on things. Musk has made money yes, but he’s also bettering things whilst he’s at it. There a many other billionaires out there that are a lot less humble and have made money off things a lot less positive yet because their out of the limelight people fail to blast them.

I for one find him a fascinating person to follow, a credit to the technology community and will continue to follow the developments of his projects.