28 February 2020

Weinstein found guilty

When I heard that Weinstein was found guilty I sighed a sigh of relief. No matter how powerful and rich you are, you can get convicted of sexual misconduct! I also knew the last word hadn't been said; his lawyers will appeal. But for now he is in jail and unable to keep committing crimes.

I said I was relieved. And I was! But should I be? What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Maybe he was innocent all along! And if he was, he should have been found not guilty and set free. So why was I getting ahead of things? 

One should not solicit sex from people over whom one wields power. If you are a movie mogul who can make and break careers, you should keep your hands (and other body parts) off young aspiring actresses. Weinstein never denied the sexual acts; he only denied it had been assault. But are you really free to consent to sexual acts with someone who decides if you will ever work in the industry again? Someone who decides if you can pay your rent? Me thinks not. So he had already admitted to things that to the best of my knowledge are criminal.  

Furthermore, there had been throngs of women who had stepped forward to accuse him. And entire books have been written about how he used his power and money to try to blacken their names! Accusing anyone is an excruciating thing to do. If you've just been humiliated to the core by some sleazy bloke, the last thing you probably want to do is talk about it. The last thing you want to do is give people the opportunity to remind you of it. The last thing you want is a hostile lawyer in court (if it gets that far) trying to convince everyone that you wanted that. That you are that kind of person. That you are a liar and a golddigger and someone who has had casual sex before so must be up for sex with practically anyone. So if there are literally tens and tens of women who are willing to suffer just that, that's not a good sign.

Yes I know that victims had kept in touch with Weinstein, and sent nice messages, and all that. But it is easy to say from your armchair (I've been guilty of this myself) that that proves nothing was amiss. What woman has not smiled in a threatening and humiliating situation in the hope of de-escalating things? Or just out of reflex, as that is what society teaches you? And how many women have ever wondered if they should speak out and relive the trauma and never work in their sector again, or just pretend it never happened? And then just kept the powerful man placated, if necessary with nice messages? Especially if they either didn't know so many others were suffering the same thing, or worse, if they knew lots of other people were suffering the same thing but nobody else dared speak out. Do you dare on your own? 

And yes it does happen that people make such things up, but that's rare. What is the probability that over eighty women make something like that up? In spite of the huge personal cost?

It's not a major factor, but still it doesn't help that he was a big chap and that your average Hollywood actress is rather petite. No I'm not saying that rape only happens to those who haven't bothered to become a black belt in karate so were asking for it. But it doesn't help, does it! When I expect trouble from a bloke who has problems with accepting 'no' I always try to guess how talented they would be in just using physical force to get what they want. It really is scarier when a bloke is big and heavy! And yes that is strangers and not people with a say in my career but still. 

So it really looked like he was guilty of criminal behaviour. But then there is the question of whether the legal system would deal with that in an appropriate way! I don't have enormous amounts of faith in how the justice system works when it comes to sexual assault cases. The reasons for that are from all over the globe, to be honest, while only the US legal system is relevant here. But knowing that didn't really help. Fear works that way! In the UK, conviction rates are pretty much negligible as the CPS will only take on the easiest cases. If you have been raped by some complete stranger who jumps from behind a tree and holds you at gunpoint right in  front of a CCTV camera and drops his passport on the scene you have a good chance he'll end up in jail. But in many other cases, you won't even get your day in court. 

And if you get your day in court, you probably need to agree to having your entire sexual history advertised to the world. You have to hand in your phone with all its personal information on it, and can't get therapy. No such restrictions hold for the defendant. And if you get your day in court, you can end up being blamed, because of the clothes you wore. Or because you didn't put up a physical fight (and end up beaten up in addition to being raped). Yes I know this is from all over the globe but as I said, this is about explaining my nervousness, not explaining why explicitly the US legal system is not always working properly when it comes to cases like this. 

And even if your attacker ends up in jail, it may only be for a very short time, because there is so much worry about their well-being, rather than yours. Or they are rich and powerful and get a nice lenient sentence in which they only have to be in jail at night. Yes I know, ten years later, that was rectified, but did it really have to take ten years? And I could go on and on!

Yes I know, there are cases in which the legal powers do what they are supposed to do, and there is proper care for victims. But it seems to be way too rare! So that's why altogether, I held my breath. Every time someone gets away with sexual misbehaviour, it is advertised to the world that you can just do those things and not much will happen, especially if you are rich, white and powerful. And sexual assault could happen to any of us! And being assaulted is bad enough, even if the legal system has your back. And if it doesn't, that's really, really bad. So I was really glad that the message this time is that maybe you get away with it for decades, and you may get away with some of it forever (a lot of it was beyond the statute of limitations), but you don't get away with all of it forever. And that's something. And that's why I was relieved. 

27 February 2020

Last round of pics?

With now every room in the house in use, I need a lot of pictures to festoon the walls! So I did what probably is a last push in filling these walls. I had had several framing sprees before but well, I have quite some wall space. I had been rummaging through my archive for good pics for a while, so I had amassed a fair few. And then I ordered a whole batch.

The Saturday after the pictures arrived was an Open Day. It was another windy day so I drove in. And that meant I had a car with me on a day I would be done at work during working hours. We send our visitors away at 15:30, so when we have done a debrief and tidied up, it's still before 5. So I went downtown! And found a nice dust basket in one charity shop (the spare bedroom didn't have one yet) and lots of picture frames in the next. And now I have so many I don't think I have to buy any ever again! Well, ever, that's a big word. But now I can have a final framing spree, and organise the pics in some aesthetically pleasing way, and then Bob is my uncle!

framed and ready to be hung! 

26 February 2020

Second trip of new group

There had been a bit of a gap since the first one but our second trip was upon us! And Kate was still in the SRT mood. She had chosen Wrysgan which surprised me a bit; the typical round trip only has a descent down a slab. But there's no need doing the standard round trip! There are more options. I had actually known that since 2013! And even as recently as December we had seen some newly placed anchors. But I'm a bit of a creature of habit and that's why Wrysgan surprised me as an SRT venue.

Initially it looked like it was going to be the same people as on the first trip, but then more were announced; Kate and James would bring three new people. We could be with eight! But Don mailed he couldn't come, Kate/Bob had come back from far away but was otherwise engaged anyway, and the three people pulled out. That may have had something to do with the weather being good! We hadn't had that for a while so I could see why people would want to enjoy that. So in the end, it was actually the same crew as the previous time!

We parked up, with difficulty, as with this kind of weather it can be busy. A forgotten helmet halted us for a bit. And then not one but two pairs of gloves left in a car. We weren't being very executive, but it didn't matter, as it was beautiful weather and it's beautiful there and we were in good company. But we did make it to the entrance. We thought we'd go in and then up the steps, which I hadn't done before. But when we reached them, there was a group of children right above them. Hm! Maybe better wait until they would be gone.

We checked out the bottom of the wormhole. A lot of water was coming down! As expected. We could have gone up there; the children would not venture on that pitch, but it would mean getting quite soaked early on, and with a perennially cold person like James that seemed a bad idea. We went back and saw the children weren't near the steps anymore. So Kate started rigging! And while she was doing that the children walked past us and waited in the same chamber, and an instructor appeared above our heads. And it turned out the children had done an abseil in the next chamber, and needed to come back up here. Oh dear! We were in the way.

Kate rigging

We hurried up and got up the pitch. We derigged and were out of there! And we explored a bit where we ended up; I hadn't gone that way before. And we went further up. And hoped to do a traverse there, but that was being used by yet another group of kids. Bad timing! Instead we stopped for a sandwich. And decided to go out and pop back in higher up. The idea was to go to and through the wormhole and then back out. Kate had not seen it since lugging scaff around for it and was keen to see it again! And we would be close to the entrance so we could just scoot out and be back at the cars before we would get cold. But then Kate began being bugged by an old injury and we decided to cut the trip short. We would just go out! OK with me. We checked another possible entrance, and James started pondering a different round trip, with lots of rope work. Sounds like fun! Looks like we'll be back...

With all that scampering we didn't think of coming up with a name. Oh well. There is no hurry!


Walking back down

25 February 2020

Busier and better Open Day

The first Open Day is always the hardest! So that one was thankfully done. And now we could do it better the second time around. And we better had as it was going to be busy!

Open Days are organised by a team of people: an academic (in this case me) who organises demonstrations and staff, an admissions administrator who books the rooms, organises the catering, deals with registration etc etc, the Peer Guide coordinator who sorts Peer Guides (also me), and the technical staff who make sure the lab is ready and the people doing the demos have everything they need. And I had just done one, the technical staff is a well-oiled war machine, but this would be the first Open Day for our admissions administrator. And that's stressful! I remembered my first Open Day and I was happy it was behind me.

I got in and started preparing. I made sure I had a schedule for the demonstrations, for either ten groups or eleven, and I brought monitors and a laptop to where they were needed, and all that sort of things. And then things started to go pear-shaped. The door to the lift wouldn't open, and we had people with mobility issues! And the computer in the lab wasn't working! And there was an UV light, that we needed for a demo, missing! And relevant people were nowhere to be seen minutes before they were needed! And not all Peer Guides showed up!

All got sorted, of course. We just plugged a laptop into the system so we didn't need the computer. Our administrator managed to fix the door. People appeared coolly in the nick of time. We recruited the person who needed the UV light as a Peer Guide. All worked out!

Then the visitors appeared and the hectic bit happened. I had to make the final group allocation and the final schedule! But when that was done and the groups were on their way it got better. We had quite a selection again; something with bioluminescence, ocean acidification, and tanks with everything from lugworms and nudibranches to crabs and starfish. And much more!

Visitors behind a tank with anemones

When everyone was being entertained I had time to eat some sandwiches. And I did some small chores. And then popped over to see how things were where the non-applicants (mostly parents) were. And got dragged into taking a group to a demonstration and to the ship. And then it was as good as over! It had gone rather smooth. Success! So we did a debrief, tidied up, and that was it! Our new administrator had done a sterling job but looked exhausted now. I understood! But with that, the second day was done! And then I could start organising the next one which will be in early April. I get to keep a few weekends to myself now!

24 February 2020

Solar panels, not porches

I wrote that Neuadd Ogwen was in scaffolding! And it is. But I thought that had something to do with it getting porches for the sake of sound-insulating the doors. But that's not it! It's getting solar panels. And these porches are in the pipeline but it could be a while. Oh well! Solar panels is a great idea too. Even better than porches!

23 February 2020

Parys Mountain with the students again

We do our Anglesey geology field trips roughly in chronological order. We had recently done the Precambrian and Ordovician rocks if Llanbadrig and Porth Wen. Now it was time for the Silurian hydrothermal vents of Parys Mountain.

The day before I went on a recce with Suzie, who had missed the previous trips we had done there. And teaching about stuff you see for the first time is hard. We were quick about it: it was crap weather! Luckily, that was the crap weather that had initially been forecast for the actual field day, but which had moved forwards. The forecast for the day after had improved dramatically! Only the morning was still forecast to have heavy rain. So we decided to leave two hours later than scheduled to avoid that.

On the Thursday we left at 11. We drove through some serious showers but when we got there, it was dry! But very windy. Everyone put on all the clothes they had with them. It was a cold wind!

When we got the Big Pit in view all students stopped to take pictures. I was glad they liked it! And at the viewing platform I talked them through the tectonic and temporal setting. And showed them the rhyolite with pyrite in. That was a hit! And then we made our way to the pit. On the side, from where you can see two fault lines (I think) we could pretty much lean into the wind. We didn’t linger!

When we got into the pit, the locked adit door drew a lot of attention. I told the students that the place has its own mine exploration club and that they welcome visitors. I wonder if some of our students will go and check the place out underground! They wouldn’t be disappointed.

We then looked at the central boss, and the sync line, and then sat down for lunch. I was hungry! And after lunch we looked at the black deposits, and with that the geology of the trip was done. Now we would add some bonus history! We left that to Dei, whose family has had involvement in the place for generations. We saw the buildings, calciners, flue, settling ponds, slag heaps, engine house and windmill. And then we had seen the lot! And we were back at the office by half part three. A successful day in the field! But then we’ll step back and go back to the Precambrian and Ordovician, when we visit Rhosneigr. Strict chronology is overrated!

Lunch in the Big Pit

Suzie talks Black Smokers

22 February 2020

Mr Jones

You wouldn't say from this blog but I like films! Well maybe there were some hints. The Aesthetica short film festival in York. The Tromsø International Film Festival. I enjoyed these! But my film heydays were in Amsterdam. You have a lovely arthouse cinema on every street corner! I saw quite a lot there. And here in North Wales we have, of course, Neuadd Ogwen that occasionally does films, and Pontio, and then in theory also Venue Cymru in Llanddudno and Galeri in Caernarfon. But I find there is a big difference between being able to casually bike to the cinema or having to either bike almost an hour, or to drive. So I don't go so often! And the variation in films on offer of course is still modest, even with four venues. But I had been alert to opportunities to get some more films in and Chris provided that. I had suggested seeing a film (none specified) a fair while ago, but there had been nothing that floated my boat, but then I heard of Mr Jones.

Mr. Jones (2019 film).jpg

It's a film about an actual Gareth Jones who was a Welsh journalist in the thirties. He was wondering how the Soviets managed to build planes and factories and whatnot when in theory, the country should have no money. He goes out to investigate! In spite of the Russians having their ways of keeping foreign nosy people out of their business. 


I was attracted to a real story, and I was intrigued about this Welshman I had never heard of, in spite of sticking my nose into lots of Welshness. (He was from the South; that may have had something to to with it!) And I know little about the antics of the Soviet regime in that time. And the trailer looked a bit Hollywood but my curiosity won. I suggested it! And Chris was up for it.

It would be a long day: full day at work, then Welsh practice, then quickly to Pontio to eat a pizza and then the film. But it was nice to try a pizza while leafing through the programme; we might go to something else as well if it looked good.

Then the film started. The main character is breaking his head over how the Soviets do it and tries to go to Russia. And he manages. He has a contact there, but he gets murdered before Jones even gets there. And that makes him even more determined to find out what he was uncovering. And along the way he meets an attractive lady. I already knew from the reviews the lady was fictional! But well, that's what happens if you let a commercial studio loose on a story like that.

Jones figures the Soviets are squeezing the Ukraine empty and he sets off to investigate. He shakes off his Russian minder and starts stomping through villages. And what he sees is not pleasant! Almost-deserted villages, dead people, more dead people, starving children, Soviet soldiers forcing the locals to load grain onto trains that swiftly move Moscow-wards. He knows enough! But he doesn't get to go home and report back; he is captured, and six British engineers are too. He is let go, but made perfectly clear that if he doesn't report back that all is well in the Ukraine, the engineers will die. But he knows that quite a lot more people will die if this famine goes unchallenged so he reports the truth anyway. The film doesn't mention what happens to the engineers. I also don't know if they were fictional too.

I sort of expected the film to end when he got home but it goes on; he accepts a job as a fairly insignificant reporter for a fairly insignificant newspaper, but still manages to get the attention of media mogul Hearst and get the story published. But the world goes to pot anyway of course. The attractive woman sends him a latter from Berlin, where she has been sent, and she's not optimistic about what's going on there. And Jones decides he is still needed and sets off on new adventures. And then it ends.

And then you get to read he is murdered, probably by Soviets, only a year or so later when he is reporting from Mongolia. That is so sad! But this film will help keep his memory alive.

So how was it? It was a bit heavy-handed. The barbarities he encounters are a bit overdone, his own difficulties a bit picturesque too (after two days he sleeps in an unclimbable-looking tree and eats bark), and the acting has, to my taste, too much overacting of the heavy breathing and difficult stumbling kind. He is perceptive or clueless depending on what the script wants. The soviets are totally useless when they spot him snooping around a grain train. It's a bit Hollywood!

Chris, being a walking encyclopaedia, noticed immediately that the town that plays Barry (South Wales) is not actually Barry. (It's a Scottish town.) And that Jones speaks North Welsh with his dad! I hadn't noticed. I had only noticed that James Norton speaks Russian that is very convincing (at least to non-Russian-speakers like me), and that his Welsh is perfectly believable too (he is English). I missed the subtleties! The film does not suggest there is a difference between Russian and Ukrainian, but well, that hardly distracts from the story.

So what was the verdict? I wouldn't go again. But I learned something. I prefer films a bit more subtle but well, this was only the first. I'm sure we'll see more!