This is the month of January, 2018. Man, January is such a drag. There’s something about the return back from Christmas and New Year that turns everything to a dour trudge. It’s supposed to be an optimistic time. But the month itself is long, far too long. Somebody needs to do something about it. I say just ditch the whole month and start properly on the much more manageable (i.e shorter) February. It’s what everyone is already doing anyway.

Sleeping on the Job

January has dragged on so much hard working MPs are falling asleep on the job. Sir Desmond Swayne hit the news this month, when pictures of him taking a power nap during a speech by fellow Conservative Ken Clark surfaced. Sir Desmond has apologised for his sins; like everyone does now whenever they do something atrocious like falling asleep for a minute when you’re tired.

It’s not really a big deal, is it? Some guy taking a nap at work. I mean, he wasn’t operating heavy machinery. But for some reason, we continue to circle the twin bowls of public outrage generation and damage control. We’re at the point where anyone vaguely in the public eye is now a trembling apologetic wreck. Sinners have to explain every step of their outrageous actions. Sir Desmond has said it’ll never happen again. That’s right, he’ll never be tired during the day again. Right.

Look, it’s important to ensure transparency and call out terrible things as a way to tackle endemic societal problems. There is clear value to doing this. But there is a dark side to this goal; in that we are rapidly heading towards an obsession with shame culture on every element of human behaviour deemed unworthy by whatever group is the most vocal. Newspapers and media outlets know that outrage generates sales and clicks. Presumably this is why every news story now feel like it’s being delivered by a gossipy neighbour conspiratorially over the garden fence.

The problem is that is that if outrage is the default state, the important bits which are worth kicking up a fuss for get lost in the weeds of shouting about the state of Corbyn’s suits or whether Teresa May’s sore throat makes her a weak leader. It’s exhausting, and, more importantly, self-defeating.

Monkey Business

In Shanghai this month, scientists at the Chinese Academy of Science cloned some monkeys. Two monkeys, to be exact. Well, lots of monkeys, but only two were successful, to be even more exact. The aim: apparently not the first steps of an attempt to turn Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go into a reality. Instead they see it as a great opportunity to clone an army of monkeys to do lab tests on. They might have been created in a weird, roundabout way, but they were still born. They’re still alive, aren’t they. It’s no less unpleasant a situation to use these ‘lab grown’ monkeys as lab rats. I mean guinea pigs. Oh, you know what I meant. Experiments, right.

It seems like unimaginative thinking to me, anyway. If I had access to unlimited monkeys I’d set them straight off on every typewriter I could get my hands on to see what they can do. That, or attach wings to them and just lounge around, surrounded by my host of wing’ed primates, cackling randomly.

It turns out it’s hard to suggest things to do with monkeys that aren’t cruel. Who knew.

Graphics Card Shortage

Going from one news story I barely understand to another; the Bitcoin phenomenon continues along its merry chain-block. It’s amazing; stories about this continue to happen and I continue to stare dry-eyed at the words I recognise but fail to comprehend. Still, I’ve never been able to fully trust the idea of banking or investment with real money so perhaps I was never going to get on with this one.

Despite my inadequacy, enough people seem to understand it to be getting on board, to the extend that it’s currently very hard to find a graphics card without throwing fistfuls of your lifesaving towards the second-hand market.  Graphics cards, for the uninitiated, are bits of circuitry you stick in your computer. They’re specifically tasked with crunching the numbers needed to display all those fancy 3D shapes and textures that we like to see in our video games. It turns out they’re pretty good at crunching through the numbers bitcoin miners need to generate income.

It’ll be interesting to see where this all goes. I’m still a bit surprised there hasn’t been a bit more effort made to regulate or legislate this financial wild west. My guess is that, like me, none of the folks in charge really understand it either. At some point, it feels like a lot of people could lose a whole lot of money. Me? I’ve got a lovely second-hand graphics card for sale. Yours for only 2 billion Ethereum.

Going Ballistic

Speaking of Governments organisations being unable to handle modern day technologies, this one surely will remain a highlight for the year. Simultaneously managing to be hilarious and terrifying all at the same time, an emergency text message was sent to everyone in Hawaii this month, warning them of an impending missile attack. This, it turned out, was an error. The message was released during a regular drill exercise by accident, and was corrected 38mins later on, presumably by Govenor Ige personally going around sheepishly knocking on all of the bunker doors to apologise.

The panic can’t have been much fun to be in the midst of. For me, a distant outsider who has the privilege of finding the whole thing very funny, the sadder part of this is how possible this all seemed. Not just the error, which seems entirely plausible, but the fact that you could see a warning like this and straight off accept it as true. The real world is now just a place where an attack of some kind seems more likely than not. What’s that all about?

So that’s it for the month of January. Forget it, it’s nearly done anyway. Time to roll on the real first month of the year.

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