Why Thomas The Tank Engine Is Okay

I was recently linked to a story in the NZ Herald entitled “Why Thomas The Tank Engine Is Not Okay“. There were so many factual errors in the article, as well as a general lack of understanding that the fact that Thomas the Tank Engine is a commentary on British Railways’ policies in the 1940s and 1950s, that I could not let it stand.

Trains are sent to the scrapyard if they’re not useful. And we all know what that means – it means they’re executed.
[…]
There are no unions in Sodor, that’s for sure.

First of all, the human equivalent would be firing them (“making them redundant” in the capitalist jargon), not executing them. Secondly, unions don’t exist to prevent useless employees from being fired (except when unions have too much power), they are to prevent good employees from being taken advantage of.

The women trains are actually girl carriages.

Daisy (mentioned in the article) isn’t a carriage, she’s a diesel multiple unit (DMU). There’s a very important difference. In Britain in the 1950’s, DMUs were the future. Daisy is leading the way.

In addition, from a very quick look through the Wikipedia article, there are at least five female locomotives: Molly, Rosie, Belle, Mavis, and Flora. It’s definitely not a 50/50 mix gender-wise, and all of the original “Steam Team” are male, but it’s not zero. It’s just a basic lack of fact checking. Note that I’m not saying there shouldn’t be more female characters – I think there should be – but the article is just plain incorrect.

Either they have no personality (Daisy)…

This was the entire point of Daisy’s character. The Rev. Awdry (I believe) wanted to show diesel railcars as being unimaginative and dull compared to steam engines. This was a direct commentary on British Railways’ campaign to phase out steam engines on British main line railways in favour of diesel and electric propulsion. Steam then, as now, was seen as romantic and full of character compared to diesel. The character ‘Diesel’, the first diesel engine seen in the books, was rude and brash and nobody liked him – again, steam was better than diesel.

Every single character has a flaw in their personality. It’s part of the anthropomorphosis of the trains into people. Henry got bricked into a tunnel because he was too vain. James is rude and arrogant. They are all flawed, just like us.

wnlzm

Traction Engines are AWESOME!

A few weekends ago (on the 19th of July, to be precise) an anniversary celebration of the first traction engine in Tasmania was held. As part of this, five traction engines drove from the Bellerive Oval to the Tasmanian Transport Museum. On the way, they passed by Montagu Bay Primary School, where they stopped to take on fuel and water. I was lucky enough to be there, and to have a camera with me.

Enjoy (I certainly did)!

The Hierarchy of Internet Thought

I spend a large amount of time on the Internet. With that comes the opportunity to observe various phenomena in action. Recently, it occurred to me that all thought on the Internet has a value, but that value is not always the same. After a little thought of my own, I came up with a theory of what certain kinds of thought are worth – and how often you see them.

Ideas < Opinions < Analysis < Information
The Hierarchy of Internet Thought

On the bottom of the hierarchy is an idea. As discussed by entrepreneurial bloggers the world over, ideas are worthless (at least without brilliant execution). On the Internet, ideas are everywhere. They are cheap and nasty and you can’t give them away, since own ideas are better than everybody elses.

A well-crafted opinion is worth slightly more, since basic literacy is required to get your point across. Notice however that I said well-crafted. Generally, a well-crafted opinion will be found in it’s own post. They are very rarely found in comments. They are almost never found in YouTube comments.

If you have a very well-crafted opinion, and a famous name (at least Internet famous, if not real-world famous), you might be able to obtain some ad revenue from your opinion. But it’s not going to be a lot, because like ideas, opinions are everywhere.

Analysis of news, events, products and services is a rarer commodity than an opinion. Because it brings in facts, and tones down the emotions, they are harder for people on the Internet to produce. You may even need to be a good writer. Whilst opinions might be found on sites like WordPress.com, Medium or Tumblr, analysis will most likely be found on it’s own domain – this generally indicates a slightly higher level of effort, and thus a slightly higher worth.

Facts are what the Internet loves, hence the higher value of analysis than opinion. What if you could introduce more facts to the Internet? That’s where information comes in.

What do people go on the Internet to do? Many things (usually involving amusing images or naked women) but primarily to find out how to do something. If you have the answer to somebody’s question, you can get them to pay for that. This is why there are so many eBooks available these days. Because telling people how to do something is valuable, since it will save time, and time is money.

In conclusion? The Internet loves facts.

The Start of a Long ToDo List

BMW E36 318iS
The new (old) BMW after it’s first wash and wax.

Recently I’ve made a heap of changes in my life, one of which has been the car I own and drive. I’ve sold the 2007 Subaru Impreza I bought eighteen months ago with my ex-girlfriend, and bought a 1997 BMW 318iS (an Avus Blue E36 sedan with M44 engine, for the BMW aficionado). This achieved three purposes.

Firstly, I was able to save a bit of money by buying a car a decade older, which I used to pay off some debts. One lesson I’ve learned working for myself is that debt is something to be avoided at all costs, as it crushes the feeling of freedom you would otherwise have.

I also got a more interesting car to drive. Despite having less power (103kW compared to 110kW) and less torque, the BMW is a much better car to drive. Due to the flat cylinder alignment in the Subaru’s engine, it doesn’t produce much of that power lower in the rev ranges, where it is most useful. The BMW’s engine produces more power when you actually need it.

Finally, I have a new hobby. Because the car is a decade older, it has a lot of defects that need repairing. It needs a new roof lining, several body panels need repainting, bits of trim need replacing and the audio system needs an upgrade (I’ve developed an Onslowian response of hitting the head unit to make it pick up channels clearly).

Longer term, I’m also toying with the idea of building a carputer. Given the power and features I want to pack into such a device I’m leaving this until I’m flush with cash. My dream feature list includes such absurdities as shortwave and citizen band radio, GPS navigation, GSM back-to-base alarm system, and management and monitoring of the engine via OBD-II (and BMW’s proprietary extensions to said system). It’s a project that will never be finished, so I’ve decided it’s safer not to start.