Big Ink

I believe that conspiracy theories are popular, or certainly have a cult following rather greater (if possibly stranger) than GofaDM, and so I thought I’d try and launch one.

As we all know, printer ink (as opposed to printer’s ink) is, gram-for-gram, one of the most valuable (or, at least, expensive) items on Earth.  Woe betide any developing country which discovers massive deposits of printer ink beneath its soil as it will find an American-led coalition delivering democracy through their bomb bay doors before it can say the local equivalent of ‘Jack Robinson’.  I do find myself wondering whether intense aerial bombardment has ever delivered a fully-functioning, representative democracy to its beneficiary?  I believe the military will talk about bombing a country ‘back to the stone-age’ but have never heard any equivalent about it bringing the fruits of the Enlightenment.  Perhaps democracy isn’t a human invention at all, could it have arrived on a comet during the Late Heavy Bombardment of Earth some 4 billion years back?  Did the Attic Greeks merely stumble across some which had been exposed by coastal erosion?  Still, this is not the conspiracy theory I’m trying to start: though it could make for an interesting addition to the whole panspermia idea.

In my daily life, I often find myself booking tickets on-line: either ‘to ride’ or to enjoy some sort of cultural event.  Often these can be collected from the venue (or station), but sometimes one is required to ‘print at home’ – and so use up precious milligrams of ink.  In theory, a ticket could be pretty basic: a few details and a bar code, or similar, should be enough.  However, many issuers attempt to fill an entire A4 sheet (or several) with ink and use as many colours as possible: usually printing out adverts for miscellaneous tat and unwanted services.  The worst offenders used to be the soi-disant budget airlines, but they have recently had their crown usurped by another.

Last week brought the first occasion I’ve ever had to use an organisation called Ticketmaster.  Using their website, one is immediately transported back to the 1990s: such is its retro feel in terms of slow response times, busy screens of small print and critical navigation hidden from view.  Given that supply of tickets would seem to be their primary (perhaps only business) and there are a number of potential competitors, their internet ineptness seems oddly shocking with more than a seventh of the 21st century behind us.  Their survival might be partially explained by the rather high booking fees they charge and the fact that they even charge for the option to print your tickets yourself (a first, in my reasonably wide experience).  Not only do they make you pay up-front to print your own tickets, but they then place an extraordinary quantity of useless ink on the printed ticket.  I am forced to assume that they (along with the budget airlines) are receiving kickbacks from Big Ink.  In return for wasting so much of our valuable ink, these companies are paid a fee by an evil consortium of ink cartridge suppliers and so bolster their business models.  It is time that we, the public, start the fight back!  I feel that with a little image-editing software I should be able to blank out all the spurious printing, while retaining those elements which are key to the ticket’s functioning – or will I then find myself falling into the commercial clutches of Adobe?

Delayed gratification

An art which we are slowly losing (perhaps) in our impatient, always-on, easy credit society.  So many now expect their wants and desires to be satisfied NOW, not even in 5 minutes time.  I am no more immune to this process than the next man (or, probably, woman) – though whenever I am waiting impatiently by a printer I do try and remember the days when dot-matrix was the height of technology and the printing of a 10 page document was a major undertaking (rather than a 60 second wait).  Nevertheless, delaying one’s gratification can add significant savour to its eventual delivery.

A couple of weeks back, I was in West Wales aiming once again to ascend the greatest, if not actually the highest, of Welsh peaks: Cader Idris.  I last accomplished this feat (unaccompanied and without the use of oxygen – other than that supplied by nature) in 1983: I know this as I used some of the photos I took at the time in my AO-level Geography Project.  I’d hoped to repeat the ascent (by the pony path) when I visited the area in 2010 and 2011 but the weather had not played ball, with the peak shrouded by cloud, even on otherwise sunny days.  This year, I was determined – and the weather forecast positive – and so began the ascent despite the clouds once again hiding my objective from view.  Before attempting such a daring feat, I had (of course) fortified myself with cake from T H Roberts – the finest cake supplier in Dolgellau (and, for my money, the realm) – something I had missed these past three years (and all the sweeter for it).

As the ascent continued, blue sky began to appear on the horizon – but Cader itself remained stubbornly occulted.  As I reached the Saddle, I too was engulfed in the clouds – but there were occasional breaks through which the sun-lit view was briefly revealed.  On reaching the summit, these shafts of clear view grew more common and broader and the stunning scenery of Wales was revealed in ever larger chunks and longer glimpses.  This produced a truly magical effect, and made me (at least) appreciate the views all the more.  As the descent began, the clouds lifted and all was revealed.  Often the descent can be an anti-climax as you’ve already seen everything and reached the top – but on this hike, the views going down were all new which added to the whole experience.   I can truly say that the mountain did not disappoint, and it was well worth the 31 year wait!

I must admit that I was not alone on the mountain that day, though it was hardly crowded – well, unless you count the skylarks and meadow pipits who were out in force (serenading me, I like to think).  Some hardy souls were already coming down as I began my ascent – these foolish folk who had seen nothing but cloud should have enjoyed a little leisurely cake before their day began.  In this case, gratifying one desire to delay another paid dividends.  Never underestimate the power of good cake to make your day a better one!

I like to think that my gymnastic training was helpful on the hike – all that balancing on one leg was really handy – but it was by no means essential as I dragged both of my parents (who, in the traditional manner, when lacking access to a TARDIS, are a tad older than me and who had not indulged in similar training) up there with me.  Lest you feel I am overly cruel, I didn’t force them with the aid of a rawhide whip – though they hadn’t intended to make the whole ascent – it just happened and we kept thinking the summit was closer than was actually the case as (a) it was hidden and (b) it was more than 30 years since any of us had last made this climb.

To silence the doubters among the readership, here is a picture of me lolling insouciantly against the trig point at the summit (with one parent – the other was holding the camera).

Top of the world, ma!

Top of the world, ma!

I should also point out that like the heroes of those Republic Serials of the 1940s (think King of the Rocket Men), my hat did not leave my head at any point on the climb – however, energetic I was (though no frenzied fist-fights broke out in my case).  It is never a mistake to be stylish!