Thursday, November 7, 2013
In England, at least, we politely request that trespasses be forgiven. (As I recall, in Scotland we ask to be let off our debts. No wonder the country went bust.)
So let's extend that principle of forgiveness to him and his American namesake, Trespassers Will B. Prosecuted.
Friday, May 31, 2013
Having briefly covered reading, writing and 'rithmetic in the previous post I thought I'd start this one off with another popular triple: fear, uncertainty and doubt.
When you are uncertain how to handle a situation and doubt your ability to succeed in it, it is only natural to fear and avoid the situation itself. For example...
I have been afraid of fitting curtain rails for more than thirty years. I read the do-it yourself guides and the instructions are clear. You mark your target and drill into the concrete lintel using a hammer drill and masonry bit. Perhaps there's something wrong with my masonry bit. Whenever I try, I make no impression at all on the lintel. Though I make a tremendous impression on the (usually ageing) plaster, shaking it to dust for about an inch all round the drill. My curtains are, at best, precarious.
So it was more in sorrow than in anger that I heard the Beloved cry out in alarm from the bedroom window. Like a disreputable politician draped in the Flag, I found her draped in the curtain. So there was nothing for it but to hie me to B&Q, acquire the fixings and a new curtain pole and follow Henry V once more into the breach.
More in desperate hope than expectation, I tried something a little different this time. And, just for once, it worked. Like a charm. So here is my bit (geddit?) of advice:
If you are getting nowhere with a masonry bit, try a High Speed Steel bit. (And switch off the hammer action.)I don't seriously believe that my houses have all had RSJs over their windows. But they have all been over 100 years old, and perhaps in that time the concrete has hardened to a texture more like steel than brick.
It only took me something over 30 years to find this out.
There are plenty of other things I have been putting off because my tools and methods don't seem to work. I feel inspired: where to begin?
Too much reading
Not enough writing
Not enough 'rithmetic
I have loved a succession of Jimi wallets. These neat plastic cases hold five credit cards and four folded notes (three if you're American). Not just a wallet, but a minimalist philosophy of life.
BUT... folding notes takes just a little too long. It takes one more hand than I have conveniently available. It distracts me just a little too much from the transaction. On the other hand, the nice little snap-open plastic wallet often piques the interest of a bored sales assistant, starting a conversation and shining just a little light into a humdrum day.
My latest Jimi has come to the end of its life. They only last a couple of years. What to do? Replace it with another? Grow up and get a standard bloated leather wallet just like everyone else's?
When the Dutch aren't officiously sailing up the Medway and burning our fleet, they occasionally get quite creative. One thinks of the great master painters... the "good morning" mug... Schiphol airport... serious hydro engineering. And now, the secrid card holder/ wallet.
This ticks all the boxes: quirky, minimalist and takes notes without folding. And for bonus points, it prevents unwanted interference with your RFID cards. A tin-foil hat for your credit cards. Costs rather less than an expensive wallet but a lot more than a cheap one.
It arrived yesterday. I'm eagerly awaiting an excuse to take it shopping.
Now, about those Martians...
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
But he finished off with the snide jibe: "the Grateful Dead or the Bay City Rollers?".
Let me add my small voice to the avalanche of outrage at your sneer at Scotland's premier boy band.
Especially as they actually illustrate your advice rather well. They picked themselves and spent five years building up their local following before they were ever seen by Tam Paton. And if they hadn't been picked, there is no reason to believe that they wouldn't have carried on as semi pro musicians entertaining the locals for many years. Which I would consider a success.
Of course, the phenomenon of Rollermania was more about clever marketing than music. And that was very actively planned and executed. And had very little to do with the band.
Or was that your point: that when you're picked you become someone else's product?
If so, I apologise for being dense.
The name apparently came from Bay City, known for its rolling waves, or Bay City Rollers. And indeed, the wave of pop history rolled on leaving the boys high and dry.
The last word must of course go to Godin. He summed up the aching pointlessness of getting picked for a ride in the locomotive of someone else's gravy train:
Seth Godin May 1
alas, you were the only one
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Spotify very kindly suggested that I might like these chaps. Spotify knows me too well. Just give me a tune with all the notes in the right order at exactly the right time, and I’ll be happy… Is that too much to ask? Evidently not.
Friday, December 7, 2012
Notorious Atheist Sam Harris makes the case for applying scientific methods to questions of morality. So far as I can make out, his core arguments are:
- human wellbeing is a meaningful, objective concept
- if you pick any two responses to a particular moral dimension, you can in theory (if not in practice) scientifically assess which is going to lead to more human wellbeing.
- we have a duty to maximise human wellbeing throughout the world
- therefore we should challenge suboptimal choices in our own and in other societies
- in particular, we should not abdicate the concept of morality to religion, but should consider it scientifically.
All good stuff and hard to argue. He illustrates his talk with side swipes at a number of practices which he considers religiously motivated. These are less convincing, but should not distract from his core message.
He implies that we can determine a single metric for human well-being which can be assessed. This is where I lose him. It seems to me that there are a number of dimensions to consider. We can generally agree on which of each of the following is better:
- freedom – slavery
- sickness – health
- life – death
- a life of passive acceptance – a life of meaningful contribution
- respect – contempt
- safety – danger
- scarcity – abundance
- construction – destruction
- pain – pleasure
We can probably resolve these into a limited number of independent dimensions. If there are is more than one dimension, then the best we can hope for from science is that it can show us how to get to the envelope where increasing one dimension requires a trade-off in another. At that point, any further change requires a value judgement as to which dimensions we consider most important. Science cannot help us with this.
It is also not as obvious as it may appear that any society is actually far from the envelope already. In any case, to assess this, we need to identify a robust set of rigorously defined set of dimensions of well-being and models showing how they are constrained. Then we can sensibly discuss individual cases and value judgements.
This is so obvious that it must have been done, or at least worked on, already. Presumably Mr Harris can point me in the right direction?