Faux Environmentalism

“We’re tackling environmental issues by charging our customers more” seems to be a popular strategy right now for companies attempting to address environmental issues without actually making any meaningful changes. Pollution from discarded plastic and plastic based products is heading towards a toxic tipping point. Awareness of the issues of plastics in our oceans has been publicised since at least the 1980s, but until now the effect on habitats and wildlife has remained mainly the concern of environmentalists.

While some companies are truly environmentally friendly, as a species we really can’t do without plastics. The use of plastic is all pervasive and it is involved in virtually every aspect of our lives. However, this is not a post about ditching plastic entirely – that would currently be impossible, what it’s about is doing more to eliminate unnecessary plastic use.

But it has to start from the top – from the manufacturers, from big business and here’s why:

Here in the UK a “Latte levy” had been suggested which would be a tax on disposable cups used by coffee companies paid by the end user (the consumer or customer). Many disposable cups are made of a plastic/paper/card composite that is difficult to recycle in a cost effective way and so are not widely recycled. There was murmurings that it was a good idea to charge consumers to offset the cost of disposing of the cups. Notice I used the term “disposing” rather than “recycling” in the last sentence. That’s because the vast majority of plastics sent for recycling end up in landfill. So effectively the consumer will be be charged more for no real environmental gain.

Which brings us to the real question: why is the onus being put on the consumer, on the end user to resolve what is a design issue from the manufacturer? Why aren’t producers of polluting products being taxed at source to offset the cost of disposing of their end product? The conversation seems to go like this:

Big business: We’re addressing environmental issues by charging customers more help cover the costs of disposing of their packaging.
Sane person: Or you could just use recyclable packaging to begin with?
Big business: But that would involve extra costs for us that we would have to pass on to our customers!
Sane person: But you’re going to increase the price anyway to cover disposal costs which just increases plastics in landfills, without making any actual environmental changes!
Big business: It’s just not a cost we can absorb. But consumers will be helping the environment by paying the extra recycling cost.

And that is it in a nutshell: consumers do not get to choose how their product is packaged, the producer/manufacturer does that. They decide whether to use recyclable or renewable materials, not the customer. What customers decide is what/where to buy but while pretty much all producers package using unsustainable materials the consumer has no choice other than to buy plastics. As such it is patently unfair and duplicitous for recycling costs to be placed on the customer.

So here’s a message to companies out there: if you want to make a difference, start using alternatives to plastic in your packaging. Those companies that do this will see more consumer loyalty as people become more environmentally sensitive to the threat of plastics in the oceans.

If you know of companies that are producing or selling their products in environmentally sustainable/recyclable non-plastic packaging then please post them in the comments.

The Robots Are Coming

A burger flipping robot has started its first shift at work in a burger chain in California. For some it’s a great advancement, a step forward in robotics. For others…. well, it could be a portent of things to come.

First off, this burger flipping robot is not perfect and does make mistakes. This is something that the owners are willing to accept because “hey, if you spent your day flipping burgers you’d make mistakes too….” – which is not exactly what I want from any robot I come into contact with. Think of Hal9000 with a spatula rather than an airlock.

A robot is programmed to fulfil a task, if it fails to complete that task then is it really any more effective than a human? Cost-wise it’s probably cheaper (which is where this post is going) with an initial outlay of $60k then $12k a year to run. Ignoring any rogue spatula based catastrophes that require compensation to an unsuspected but perfectly grilled passing human, these robots are cheaper and less problematic to operate than a human burger flipper.

How? Currently, minimum wage in California is $10.50 per hour which works out at just over $20k per year (rising to $15 in 2022 – $29,250pa). Financially these robots will pay for themselves in less than three years because they don’t need holidays, aren’t entitled to workers comp, or any of the other associated costs to businesses that pesky employees attract.

Which brings us to the point of this post. For every menial, mindless, monotonous, boring job out there: the only reason a human does it is because there’s not currently an cheaper way for a robot to do it. While I 100% back increases in wages to keep up with the cost of living, on the flip side we’re also encouraging employers to mitigate those pay rises. No company enjoys paying wages and as is seen practically everywhere profits go to shareholders instead of investing in people.

The makers of robots and futurists say that while jobs will be lost to robots, other jobs will be created to replace them. However, you only have to look at the industrial revolution to see that with mechanisation came unemployment for skilled workers – as their jobs were replaced by steam powered mills and engines. People left the countryside for the cities in search of work, and many only found the workhouses. In more modern times here in the UK the shipyards, the steel mills, the coal mines have closed with thousands of people made unemployed and unable to find replacement employment.

There will come a time when practically every job will be done by a robot (unless we blow the planet up first), and I’m hard pressed to come up with anything that we can do that feasibly a robot could not. Although hopefully, in the future, we’ll be more “there are failsafes in place to prevent accidents” rather than “yeah, it makes mistakes sometimes”.

BBC News – Burger Flipping Robot


I recently played Prey, which is kind of an old release 2016, but considering I still do the Macarena it’s fairly current for me. It starts out in the usual fps tutorial way: you wake up and don’t have a clue what’s going on, but it’s okay because some disembodied “ally” voice is ready to guide you.

The graphics are great and the interface is fairly intuitive, and when you first run into those pesky mimics it is quite tense. Hint: always carry a turret with you.

The premise is .. well I’m not entirely sure. You start out thinking you’re on earth, even go for a little helicopter ride to the office because no one takes a taxi in San Francisco any more(?). But it turns out your on a space station that has been attacked by shape shifting alien space filth known as mimics.

The game is part puzzle, part shooter, part survival horror and the atmospherics, music and soundscape definitely make it an immersive experience. When I did my space walk I was actually concerned about floating off into nothingness.

However, it was shortly after that that I stopped playing. Maybe I quit too soon but following the spacewalk you’re given information that renders all future effort futile: your mission is to destroy the station, and you with it, to prevent the alien organism from reaching earth.

So that was it for me. Survival horror titles usually have that glimmer of hope that you’ll get out alive (even if you don’t). For me, this rendered continuing pointless.

And that’s it. Great looking game, battle dynamics are good, puzzles are logical, and maybe I quit too soon?

It would seem that perhaps I did: http://m.uk.ign.com/wikis/prey-2017/Endings

‘HELLO’ FROM AMAZON – Big Brother style review censorship

Amazon goes off half cocked again….


Dear Readers

A few weeks ago I woke up to this message:

Hello from Amazon.com images

We are writing to inform you that we have removed your review privileges and suppressed all of your reviews. Any new reviews written will automatically be suppressed. We took this action because you have failed to comply with our review guidelines and manipulated product reviews. For detailed information on the guidelines, please visit: http://amazon.com/help/customer-reviews-guidelines.

Surprised and curious I asked them for clarification on the matter but have had no personal reply to my appeal. Amazon removed all of the reviews I wrote: 1700 of them without discussion or ‘trial’. Eventually I received this:

Hello, images (1)

We’ve removed Customer Reviews left by your account because it’s come to our attention that you have violated our policies by manipulating Customer Reviews. Any attempt to manipulate ratings, feedback, or Customer Reviews is prohibited.

After reviewing your account, we’ve determined…

View original post 744 more words

Author Solutions and Friends: The Inside Story

If you’re a writer, then you should read this.

David Gaughran

ASandfriendsweboptAuthor Solutions has forged partnerships with a long list of famous names in publishing – from Simon & Schuster and Hay House to Barnes & Noble and Reader’s Digest.

Recent disclosures in various lawsuits, along with information sent to me by a Penguin Random House source, detail for the very first time exactly how these partnerships work and the damage they are causing.

Since a second suit was filed at the end of March, Author Solutions is now facing two class actions, with the new complaint alleging unjust enrichment and exploitation of seniors on top of the usual claims of fraud and deceptive practices. It also has a wonderfully precise summary of Author Solutions’ operations:

Author Solutions operates more like a telemarketing company whose customer base is the Authors themselves. In other words, unlike a traditional publisher, Author Solutions makes money from its Authors, not for them. It does so…

View original post 2,915 more words

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

I’m thinking of entering ‘Lament for the Living’ into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award thingy.  What is that? I hear you ask. Well my friend, I’ll tell you….

I don’t really know. I think it’s a lot of self promotion and blah blah blahing with some sort of prize at the end that may or may not result in fulfilling my wildest dreams. No, wait, thinking about it that was winning the lottery and becoming uncontested ruler of the world, which I think is outside the scope of the Breakthrough Novel Award.

Considering that the Amazon best sellers list ranges from romance to literary porn I don’t really see ‘Lament for the Living’ making much of an impact, but let’s give it a go anyway.

This is where you come in, oh faithful reader and confidante. I have to include an excerpt of the book in the application. So from you I would like suggestions of which section you enjoyed the most, what part had the biggest impact on you, what scene really gripped you?

You don’t need to remember what chapter, paragraph, line etc., just drop a comment saying something like “The bit where…..” and I’ll know what you’re on about.

Thanks for your input and your continued support.

All the best


So you got a Kindle for Christmas?

Or another e-reader such as a Nook, Kobo, Sony ereader or perhaps even an Apple iPad or Android tablet.  Whatever you got, Merry Christmas.

And I have a Christmas present for you too, whether you have an ereader or not. For today only (that’ll be Christmas Day 2013), you can download for free all my work.


The Deluge of EliasThe Deluge of Elias, a future dystopian short is only available on Kindle, and you can find it here: http://smarturl.it/TheDelugeOfElias



Hannibal House, a hHannibal Houseorror tale set in West Wales, follows a young American as he searches for his roots, but finds more than he bargained for. You can get this from Smashwords using coupon code: UE59Q to discount it to *FREE* https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/283929



Lament for the LivingAnd what about Lament for the Living? My first full novel, set three years after the destruction of society, Lament for the Living follows the survivors and their struggles with the past, present, and future. Oh, and it has zombies in. You can get this from Smashwords using coupon code: AZ25E to discount it to *FREE* https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/313539


All my titles are published by TBFmedia.com and are only available through the associated links. Lament for the Living is available in paperback via Amazon http://smarturl.it/LamentForTheLiving or if you’d like a signed copy then they are available direct from TBFmedia: http://www.tbfmedia.com/lament-for-the-living/signed-copies/

Remember, you can read any of these titles with or without an e-reader by using the Kindle reader App for your PC/MAC, or Adobe’s Digital Editions software.

Merry Christmas everyone