Machines like Me by Ian McEwan

This is an Audible book that I listened to recently while I was on holiday. Listening to an enjoyable story that is engaging makes long road journeys pass so much more quickly!

It’s alternative history based on the fact that Alan Turing wasn’t turned insane by taking oestrogen tablets to cure his homosexual urges. With this in mind we end up with a very different 1980’s. We have advanced sufficiently with AI to build completely life like humans that tests what it is to be human after all. They are an exercise in humanity as it teaches us whether we can accept machines into our lives as equals.

I loved the philosophical debates that Adam engages in with his housemates Charlie and Miranda. I also loved the technical, mathematical and physics details along with the anthropological studies. Adam raises a lot of interesting questions and provokes strong emotions which you wouldn’t expect a machine to be capable of. He is not really a machine though; but a conscious being capable of existing all by himself as along as he has the same comforts were used to like shelter, sleep and fuel.

This is essentially an exploration of the contradictions of being human. This is what every child has to learn and what autistics struggle with greatly. The same things that Adam can’t comprehend are also what we have difficulties with. There is however no real solution to these issues as life is such a messy business.

Best wishes

Angela

The Current War

This is a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch (yes him of the completely unpronounceable and unspellable name).

In this movie it seeks to understand the reasons behind the battle that took place between Edison’s Direct Current and Tesla’s/Westinghouse’s Alternative Current. Or as I explained to my husband, how the band AC/DC came to be;)

Ben plays Edison who we all know won the battle of who could light up America first. It was the first of the alternating technology battles (Betamax/VHS etc) that proved its not the best that wins but the one that is promoted the most and therefore more popular.

Social skills win over talent as people are much more willing to invest in a person who is like them selling them a dream rather than an engineer who can actually produce that idea. This is why Tesla loses out but it’s far more complex than that.

Of course in between the 2 remaining guys Westinghouse and Edison; they start to play dirty. They use underhand tactics to undermine the others reputation and products. Speed and efficiency are good but money is king in business. The Serbian immigrant is taken advantage of because all he has is his mind when he has sold his patents. As he is unable to communicate his ideas in a way that others understand they belittle him.

Watching a movie like this on a plane doesn’t do it justice. I couldn’t read the historical facts which are presented at the beginning and the end of the movie to separate the facts from the dramatization.

I definitely need to watch this again as the sound quality through the headphones was quite poor and in a movie that isn’t action based, you need to be able to hear the dialogue. I’m sorry I can’t give a very articulate review but I was only able to get the gist of the film.

Best wishes

Angela

Babies on Netflix

This is an in-depth look at the differences in children caused by parenting styles. It also seeks to find out about the social development of a child. It looks to see how responsive they are initially and incrementally.

In the first of 6 episodes they analyse oxytocin (the love hormone involved in bonding) counts in both mothers and fathers to see how it differs across pregnancy, child rearing, culture and whether the child has 2 dads, is a 3 parent family so 2 dads and the surrogate mum or a mum and a dad. Additionally they scan the brains of the adults participating to see the sizes of there hippocampus and whether there activated or not. This area is responsible for learning and is bigger in children with more distant parents leading to the refrigerator theory of the 1960s. This is not what causes autism and has since been disproved.

They also measure the cortisol (stress hormone) levels using the still face test. This is where the mum plays with and talks to the child, then sits back unresponsive to see how the child copes with this. The children notice immediately that something is different and then try to figure out what has caused. Eventually they all start crying and self soothe by putting there fingers in there mouths. When the parent returns to normal behaviour the children may over react initially but they gradually return to their happy selves.

I thought this may be the origins of thumb sucking, pacifiers/dummies, nail biting, over eating and smoking as this is all self soothing behaviour by sticking things in our mouths.

They go on to look at the other major aspects of a child’s life like food, crawling, first words, sleep which I thought they would have covered earlier and first steps.

I think this is going to be a fascinating series to watch regardless of whether you have children or not as we were all once children ourselves.

Athens by Dr Michael Scott on This is Greece

This is part 2 of a five part series on PBS. Part 1 is Northern and Central Greece, Part 3 The Peloponnesus, Part 4 is the Cyclades Islands and Part 5 is the The Dodecanese Islands .

I have been to Athens and I wrote about it previously when I visited at New Year. I haven’t been back since as it took some getting used to.

I must not having been paying attention when this was on in September and just recently during the week and on at the weekend. As it’s an American show I can’t stream it and I can’t find it anywhere else but I have written about The Parthenon which is a major part of the history of Athens.

Best wishes

Angela

The Peloponnesus area of Greece by Dr Michael Scott on This is Greece

It may not surprise you to learn that I have visited this area of Greece too in addition to Lefkás. My reasons are generally not so virtuous as those of Dr Michael Scott or David Suchet though who does the narration in This is Greece. This is a 5 part series which they recently repeated on PBS so I got to watch the rest which mysteriously vanished from the scheduling before I could write about it.

To recap he first went to Northern and Central Greece which I wrote about in This is Greece on PBS with Michael Scott. In the second episode he goes to Athens itself. In this episode he goes to the Peloponnesus area that surrounds Athens. Afterwards visits the Cyclades Islands (Circular) in the Aegean and then finishes in the The Dodecanese Islands.

I have been to Athens but not to the Cyclades or the Dodecanese.

Generally when we go on a road trip as well as history, it will take in at least one winery. This allows us to bring back a supply that is the freshest and since it is from the source it is the cheapest too. Considering how much we have to celebrate in our lives it is a worthwhile investment.

Best wishes

Angela

Cyclades Islands by Dr Michael Scott on This is Greece

This is part 4 of the series with him previously visiting North and Central Greece before moving on to Athens, The Peloponnesus area, and now The Cycladic (Circular) Islands in the Aegean Sea.

The Cyclades encompasses sacred Delos which is the centre, Syros which houses the capital Ermoupoli, tourist hotspots like Naxos, Mykonos and Santorini for the magnificent sunset, historic Milos and Tinos, religious Paros and out of the way places like peaceful Folegandros and Sifnos known for its many churches.

Our guide for these islands are 2 different Greek ladies, Cassandra and Sylvia as tourism is more prevalent here than history. Santorini is well known for producing the best wines in the area due to its volcanic soil. I personally know this having attended a wine tasting involving their wines. I’ve probably written about this years ago too.

The famous Venus de Milo statue was found on Milos.

He visits Tinos to talk about the islands dedication to Poseidon and to see the many dovecotes on the island. There is also the famous church where pilgrims crawl on their knees from the port to the entrance which is 700 metres. This is an island that is part Catholic due to its Venetian heritage and part Greek Orthodox.

For the last episode he visits the The Dodecanese Islands or 12 islands.

Best wishes

Angela

The Dodecanese Islands by Dr Michael Scott on This is Greece

This is the final part of This is Greece with Dr Michael Scott having first visited Northern and Central Greece, Athens, The Peloponnesus area of Greece, and, Cyclades Islands.

The Dodecanese (12) Islands contain Rhodes which is a fantastic historical island especially for someone like me who has an interest in the Durell family as Laurence lived there writing a book about the island which I’m yet to read. That one was called Reflections of a Marine Venus. You can visit his house Villa Kleobolus while your there too.

Rhodes was subject to many invasions over the years so it’s been fortified accordingly. It has been ruled by first the Romans then the British as part of the Crusades and the famous knights of St John or the knights hosiptaller, the Venetians spent some time here, it was owned by the Ottomans but they kept the locals ruling and it was later passed on to the Italians before finally gaining there independence.

Leros is the next stop on the tour but our guide is now an Athenian lady Elenor. There is Byzantine, medieval, Ottoman, Venetian and Italian history here just like Rhodes. Sunsets are of course a big selling point along with churches dating from the knights of St John. If your a film buff you will want to visit the island as it’s the inspiration for the film Guns of Navarone.

He also travels to Patmos famous for being the place where the biblical book of Revelations was written by St John with many churches dedicated to him, a monastery as well as its many windmills.

Symi turns up too. St Michael is the patron saint here with a magnificent church dedicated to himself as he is also patron saint of sailors in the Dodecanese.

As usual with American programs the first and the last are the most interesting with the ones in the middle being mainly composed on second grade material. He even gets other people to do tour guides for you!

Best wishes

Angela

What does Greek have against punctuation?

This is a clip that a friend of mine posted online with Greek and English plus an auto translation below.

What confuses me the most when trying to figure out the Greek language is where do you take a breath? There are no commas, semi colons or full stops. There isn’t even any speech marks, exclamation marks or question marks!

The Greeks also have a love of sentences that start with And. I think this maybe because they are trying to artificially add in punctuation in newspaper articles. It’s very confusing trying to figure out which words belong in which sentence since they run on forever!

Spanish I think may have the opposite problem of using exclamation marks at the beginning as well as the end. Kind of like the Spanish themselves being very enthusiastic.

I haven’t learnt sufficient about other languages like Russian yet, to be able to comment properly; but from what I’ve seen far they don’t seem to have the same issues.

Do you have any issues like this in languages you have learnt?

Best wishes

Angela

The Gift on Netflix (18)

This is the third program of this name but the one I’m referring to is the 2019 Turkish TV series Atiye not the 2000 or 2015 psychological thriller films.

This is an interesting looking series of 8 programs about an Ottoman era archeological dig in Anatolia based on a Turkish book and author that has been filmed for Netflix.

It’s Turkish originally of course but it’s available in English dubbed or you can have English subtitles. I personally find it jarring that when I was streaming it, the American voices are slightly out of sync with the actions. The actors and actresses are vibrant in their movements but since Turkish and English are such different languages it’s never going to look or sound exactly right. I tried turning the sound off and relying on the subtitles but then you lose so much of the program as your reading and not paying attention to what’s going on. If you however download it and put the subtitles on you can concentrate on what’s happening much easier.

It’s very modern and female forward which I’m surprised about but this is maybe Turkey trying to show to the world that it can live in the 21st century at least in a show that is about abstract art. If I didn’t know that they were speaking Turkish I would have figured it was perhaps another Middle Eastern nation like Israel who have participated in Eurovision each year since the 1980’s.

Best wishes

Angela