Category Archives: England

Pirate Party: success at last!

Pirates are thriving, and it may be a good thing.

On December 2, Iceland’s President mandated that Pirate Party Member of Parliament Birgitta Jónsdóttir form a government. In the October 2016 general election, the Pirate Party came in third, but the two top vote-getting parties, the Independence Party and the Left-Green Movement, failed to build a coalition large enough to run the country. It is now time for the Pirates!

Yes, Iceland has a Pirate Party. As the Pirate Party website notes, it is patterned after the Swedish Pirate Party.

The UK established a Pirate Party in 2009, again patterned after the Swedish party. Founded in Manchester, it espouses civil liberties, privacy, direct democracy, and other very sensible things, constrained only by the somewhat strange name. It has never managed to get anyone elected to the UK parliament, but a quick read of the pamphlet distributed in Manchester for the 2015 election demonstrates a very workable set of policies:

What is the Pirate Party? "We believe that being a pirate means you are independently minded and independently minded politicians are what we need right now. If you believe most politicians are crooks, then maybe it's time to try the Pirate Party. Think different, vote different."
What is the Pirate Party? “We believe that being a pirate means you are independently minded and independently minded politicians are what we need right now. If you believe most politicians are crooks, then maybe it’s time to try the Pirate Party. Think different, vote different.”
Platform of the Pirate Party: end mass surveillance, respect privacy, basic living income for all, openness and transparency in government, free health care, broadband for all, education as a lifelong right.
Platform of the Pirate Party: end mass surveillance, respect privacy, basic living income for all, openness and transparency in government, free health care, broadband for all, education as a lifelong right.

Given the state of recent political rhetoric in the UK and the US, consider the Pirate Codex. It lays out a simple set of principles that, despite being political, are remarkably non-partisan.

Other White Background

If you are really old, you may recall the song A Whiter Shade of Pale, by the English rock band Procol Harum. And if you aren’t that old, you can listen to the song on YouTube. At one point the song offers this:

<

p style=”padding-left: 30px;”>And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale

If you’ve ever wondered what a “whiter shade of pale” might be, you can, again, thank the English for that, care of this on-line form from a British website:

Other white background
The UK knows that the world is not just black, white, yellow, brown and red.
Is it too much to hope that most people select “Not Known” or “Other White Background?”

Send your poem to space

Humans can not only put people on the moon, we can also send poems to space. On Thursday, September 20, 2012, a large helium-filled balloon was launched from Weston Park, west of the University of Sheffield in Sheffield, England. Equipped with two cameras, a GPS transponder, a thermometer, a heating pad, and two poems, the vehicle cost £350 pounds, and aside from the cargo, consisted mostly of the balloon itself, string, duct tape, and a polystyrene box serving as the cargo compartment. Two hours and 40 minutes later the shattered balloon and its cargo parachuted back to earth, touching down 70 miles north of Sheffield in Linton-Upon-Ouse, after reaching a height of over 21 miles.

As the balloon rose, the cargo spun, taking photos in every direction. This panoramic view is composed of at least two photos.
As the balloon rose, the cargo spun, taking photos in every direction. This panoramic view is composed of at least two photos.

The launch took place before sunrise, but as the balloon rose it caught the early rays of dawn well before light touched the ground. Accelerating at almost five meters (16 feet) every second, the balloon expanded as the pressurized helium in the balloon met less and less resistance as the air thinned. In the very thin upper atmosphere, four times the altitude at which jetliners cruise, the balloon suddenly ruptured, and after falling into denser air, a parachute blossomed out, slowing the long fall to Earth.

Weston Park was not the most attractive venue for a launch in the wee hours of the morning.

Weston Park, very early on Sept. 20, 2012.
Weston Park, very early on Sept. 20, 2012.
Not surprisingly, there was no real crowd in the pre-dawn darkness.
Not surprisingly, there was no real crowd in the pre-dawn darkness.
Off in the distance, the curiously unartful Arts Tower looms over the University of Sheffield.
Off in the distance, the curiously unartful Arts Tower looms over the University of Sheffield.

One of the poems was written by Lykara Ryder. She composed it during a trans-polar flight from the UK to the US, looking down from her window seat as the snow and ice-covered fields of far northern Canada gradually gave way to signs of habitation.

Entries to the Your Poem in Space competition were submitted on oversized postcards. For launch, the postcards had to be folded for placement in the cargo container. Yes, this postcard has traveled 120,000 feet into the thin air, or four times as high as a jetliner at cruising altitude.
Entries to the Your Poem in Space competition were submitted on oversized postcards. For launch, the postcards had to be folded for placement in the cargo container. Yes, this postcard has traveled 120,000 feet into the thin air, or four times as high as a jetliner at cruising altitude. Click on the image for a larger view.

Window seat on a night flight

By Lykara Ryder

Beneath the sight-stealing white
mist, the lines of light
that mark the land are burned, like sun
spots, into my eyes until the horizon
smudges out. So
this grid of humanity below
has me puff and sigh, full of wonder
as crystals of water
chillingly robe
lives that span the globe
and days that cross continents.
I dream until descent
of posted parcels, Army
boys coming home, the debris
of broken homes being flung
across the sky, now strung —
just like these lights — crosswise
above the earth below my eyes.

Cameras mounted in the cargo compartment recorded the ascent. Note the increase in the size of the balloon as the balloon rises.

A barely seen ballon rises above the camera in the pre-dawn darkness, carrying poems, cameras, and a GPS transponder.
A barely seen balloon rises above the camera in the pre-dawn darkness, carrying poems, cameras, and a GPS transponder.
Once the balloon rises high enough, the first dim rays of morning illuminate it.
Once the balloon rises high enough, the first dim rays of morning illuminate it.
The yellow light of dawn strikes the balloon after it is several miles up.
The yellow light of dawn strikes the balloon after it is several miles up.
After rising even higher, the thin air can no longer support water vapor, leaving the sky black.
After rising even higher, the thin air can no longer support water vapor, leaving the sky black.
As the balloon rises, the air pressure on the outside falls, and the helium inside of the balloon stretches the skin to the limit.
As the balloon rises, the air pressure on the outside falls, and the helium inside of the balloon stretches the skin to the limit.
At over 100,000 feet, the pressure from the gas inside stretches the balloon to the breaking point, and the poem begins a long fall to Earth.
At over 100,000 feet, the pressure from the gas inside stretches the balloon to the breaking point, and the poem begins a long fall to Earth.
After the balloon breaks and everything starts to fall back to Earth, a parachute catches the thin air for the long trip down.
After the balloon breaks and everything starts to fall back to Earth, a parachute catches the thin air for the long trip down.
As the balloon rose, it caught the light of the coming day while the ground was still in darkness.
As the balloon rose, it caught the light of the coming day while the ground was still in darkness.
Several miles up, peeking over the curve of the Earth, the dawn of a new day approaches.
Several miles up, peeking over the curve of the Earth, the dawn of a new day approaches.
Several miles above the clouds and still rising, the camera catches the sun, just 93 million miiles away.
Several miles above the clouds and still rising, the camera catches the sun, just 93 million miles away.
Given the height of the camera, the clouds in the distance are well over the North Sea and the Netherlands.
Given the height of the camera, the clouds in the distance are well over the North Sea and the Netherlands.