Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: How the mind works

Monday March 20 2017

This evening I attended a talk at Christian Michel’s, about (and against) major increases in the human lifespan.

The speaker quoted luminaries saying that infinite life would lead to infinite meaningless of life.  People would just get bored.  It is death that gives life its meaning.  Immortality would drain the meaning out of life.

But from the floor came a different surmise, to the effect that the imminence of death, to some anyway, causes a slowing down, a draining away of zest.  Greatly prolonged life - accompanied by the enhanced and prolonged energy and zestfulness that would make prolonged life enjoyable, rather than merely bearable, or worse, unbearable - would surely cause many now considered old to get stuck seriously into new projects, confident that they would have a serious amount of time and energy left to devote to them.  Something like immortality would cause more lust for life, rather than less.  People who expect to die soon are now inclined just to sit back and wait for it.

When I first encountered a primitive version of the very word processing that I am indulging in right now, nearly fifty years ago now, I hurled myself into learning to type, confident that the investment of time and effort would more than pay for itself.  Had I been nearly seventy when I first encountered word processing for the first time, would I have bothered with it?  Probably, not.  If, on the other hand, I could now confidently expect another seventy or so years of active life, would I now be more inclined to adapt to new techniques and processes?  Yes.  I am pretty much certain that I would be more adventurous, more willing to invest time and energy, if the pay-off was going to be five or more decades of further potential impact rather than just the one decade or so that I now anticipate.

The speaker from the floor who expressed this most eloquently was Chris Cooper, who is giving my next Last Friday of the Month talk, on March 31st, on the subject of the rise of the robots.  Chris thinks they will become our robot overlords.

What I can say with confidence is that one of the reasons I don’t now get stuck into new ways of doing things, new ways that might greatly improve things for me, is that whereas the investment of effort and energy would be unchanged from what was required fifty years ago, the benefits I can expect to gain, now that death looms, will be greatly diminished.

So, if death did not now loom ...

Monday March 13 2017

The omniscient short-term weather forecasters have ordained that today’s weather will be very good, so I will go somewhere, and take photos.

Here is where I plan to go:

image

I am interested in Highbury Fields, from where I hope to be able to see Big Things, uninterrupted by the leaves that will spoil such views later in the year.  And I will also, if I have time, investigate the thin strip of green that goes through where it says CANONBURY, a little bit to the south east.  This is part of the New River, more northerly bits of which I earlier explored with Goddaughter One.

I now plan to go there, because I am so old I now need a plan, in order to get out of the house, good and early, in the first place.

Tuesday March 07 2017

So I had a look around Dezeen to see what’s there that’s interesting, and their most popular posting right now is about IKEA.  All I saw, for several days, was: IKEA.  So I ignored it.  But on close inspection, the posting is actually rather interesting.  Its title is: IKEA switches to furniture that snaps together in minutes without requiring tools.

Quote:

The fiddly ritual of assembling IKEA furniture is set to become a thing of the past as the furniture giant introduces products that snap together “like a jigsaw puzzle”.

The brand has developed a new type of joint, called a wedge dowel, that makes it much quicker and simpler to assemble wooden products. This does away with the need for screws, bolts, screwdrivers and allen keys.

My chosen destinations for furniture are charity shops, mostly.  That or basic second hand places.  Partly that’s an aesthetic preference.  I take pride in the cheapness of my living arrangements, that being my preferred look.  But part of that is because I have always assumed that flatpack furniture is indeed too fiddly and complicated to be relying on.  Also, frankly, I basically just don’t like IKEA’s furniture.

But for those who do like IKEA furniture, it looks like it is about to get a bit simpler to assemble.

Thought.  Does Lego make furniture?  I just googled that question, and google answer number one was this:

A company is making furniture that is like giant Lego for your home:

This furniture is designed to be taken apart over and over again.

It is called Mojuhler and is flatpack, modular furniture that can be changed from a chair to a table in minutes.

You can fund the project on Kickstarter from about £80.

Nice basic idea, but scroll down and you get to pictures of brackets and screws!  Screw all that, and not with a screwdriver.  It looks more like Meccano than Lego, I’d say.  It says on the right at that place that it failed to get its funding.  If that’s right, I’m not surprised.

This is more what I was thinking.

One of the basic drivers of design is the desire to own bigger versions of the stuff you played with as a little kid.  A lot of Art is like this, I believe.  So, why not furniture too?

Monday March 06 2017

But I do.  (Clue in the categories list.)

image

Click if you want slightly more context.

Photoed by me, earlier this evening, at Victoria Tube Station.

Sunday March 05 2017

Via this posting at the Scott Adams blog, I first learned, just now, about Robots Read News.

All the pictures in this cartoon series are identical.  Only the words change.  Yet, the words on their own would probably not be so effective.

I especially enjoyed the first two comments on the above posting:

AtlantaDude:

If the Robot knows he is superior, I would expect him to be more condescending, and less angry - insulting humans in more subtle and clever ways than simply calling us stupid meat sacks, etc.

Scott Adams:

I am going for insensitive not angry. Part of the joke is that objectivity is indistinguishable from hate.

My next Brian’s Last Friday speaker (March 31) will be my Libertarian Friend from way back, Chris Cooper, talking about the rise of the robots.  They will rule us, he says, if I understand him correctly.  But maybe I don’t because he and I are both meat sacks.  Maybe he is expressing himself badly.  Or maybe I am misunderstanding him.  Or maybe both.  That I am understanding him correctly suddenly seems like a one in four chance.

Thursday March 02 2017

In a BBC sound clip lasting a little over one minute, ex-Leicester City psychologist Ken Way, talks about Leicester City’s premier league success, and about who created it.  Claudio Ranieri, Way says, “inherited” Leicester City happiness, from predecessor Nigel Pearson.  Ranieri’s successor, Craig Shakespeare also creates lots of happiness, says Way.

So, was Ranieri making them miserable?  Is that why they dumped him?

Maybe that was part of it.  But buried in this report, on Leicester’s recent thrashing of Liverpool, is another potential clue.  Right underneath the big green graphic, there is this:

In keeping with Craig Shakespeare’s pre-match comments, Leicester returned to the style of last season, 4-4-2 ...

Could that be it?  Could it be that simple?  Does Leicester reverting to “4-4-2”, whatever exactly that means, explain their sudden return to form?  (If that’s what it proves to be?)

Maybe 4-4-2 was enough to make them happy again.

The Welsh rugby team is in a bad way just now, having just been hammered by Scotland, for the first time in ages.  The new Wales boss, Howley, is
a very gloomy man, who didn’t even try to be upbeat after this loss.  I wonder if his dour demeanour is hurting Wales.

But, what do I know?

Wednesday March 01 2017

As many times threatened here, this blog is going, more and more, to be about the process of (me) getting old.  As you (I) get older, your (my) grasp of the everyday mechanisms of early twenty first century life becomes ever more stuck in the late twentieth century.

One of the best known symptoms of advancing years is short-term memory loss.  In plain language, you do something or see something, and then you immediately forget all about it.  You put a remote control down, and seconds later, a portal into the seventh dimension opens up, swallows the remote, and closes again, and you spend the next ten minutes looking for the damn thing.  If I write with feeling, it is because exactly this just happened to me, when first-drafting this.  But at least when it came to this remote, I managed to persuade the portal into the seventh dimension to open and disgorge its prey, after only a few minutes of searching and brain-wracking.

Altogether more tiresome was when the same thing happened to this, about a fortnight ago:

image

As you can guess from the fact of the above photo, I eventually found this Thing again, but only after about a week of futile searching, through all the stuff in my small, one-bedroom home.

In the end, I had to give up, because I had instead to be preparing for the meeting I held at my home last Friday.  And then, in the midst of those preparations and much to my amazement, the above Thing revealed itself to me again.  It was in a place I should have looked in at once but failed to, but at least I found it.

What the Thing is is the electrical lead for my ancient laptop.  Time has not yet rendered this laptop useless, by which I mean not useless to me for my primitive late twentieth century purposes, but losing this lead might have this laptop useless even to me, if Maplin‘s had been unable to supply a replacement.  At the very least, I had started to expect a hefty bill, because people selling leads for such purposes know that they are dealing with desperate buyers, for whom a vital piece of kit will either resume working, or be forever useless.  Twenty quid?  Arrrrgh!  Hmmmm.  Okay, so be it.  (Bastards.)

I have a couple of bags entirely full of leads like the one above, In Case They Come In Handy, which of course they never will.  This is yet another category of stuff that you have to get used to chucking out, but being old, you find it hard to do.  Because, Sod’s Law decrees that as soon as you chuck one of these wires out, you will realise you do need it.

But, like I say, I found this particular bit of wire.  It wasn’t the best thing that happened to me last Friday.  (That was the meeting.) But it was pretty good.

Friday February 17 2017

You don’t have to believe that animals either have or should have rights to realise that people who are gratuitously cruel to animals are likely to be more cruel than usual to their fellow humans.  But what of fake cruelty to fake animals leading to real cruelty to real creatures, animal or human?  I imagine there is some kind of correlation there too, although my googling skills fell short of finding an appropriate link to piece demonstrating that.

Being cruel to a fake animal that another human loves is clearly very cruel, to the human.

As was, I think, this demonstration of fake cruelty that recently hit the internet.  That link is not for those who are squeamish about beheaded teddy bears.

And what of people who are nice to fake animals?

Here is a picture I took in my favourite London shop, Gramex in Lower Marsh, in which there currently resides a teddy bear who was recently rescued from sleeping rough, by Gramex proprietor Roger Hewland:

image

If you consequently suspect that Roger Hewland is a kind man, your suspicion would be entirely correct.  I agree with you that kindness to fake animals and kindness to real people are probably also correlated.

I sometimes drop into Gramex just to use the toilet.  Never has the expression “spend a penny” been less appropriate.

Wednesday February 15 2017

On January 20th I attended one of Christian Michel’s 6/20 meetings.  The subject was: The Meaning of Life.  To be rather more exact, it was: What kind of question is the question “What is the meaning of life?”

So, when I was making my way home, via Earls Court Underground Station, I guess I was in a Meaning of Life kind of mood.  Which might explain why I took this photo:

image

This particular message is a bit too sentimental for my liking.  Those little hearts put me right off.  But actually, I don’t really object to these little sermons that the Underground has taken to erecting at the entrance to its stations.  This is because something that is merely written, no matter how big the lettering, is easily ignored.  I think this is one of the things I like about signs and adverts and posters and notices.  You can pay them all the attention you want to pay them, from a great deal, right the way down to absolutely nothing.

This is in sharp contrast to those appalling underground train guards who insist on preaching sermons over the intercom, instead of just telling you about how you have stopped in between stations because of a train still stuck at the next station.  Those sermons are impossible to avoid.

See also those buskers who actually climb onto trains and play.  Both these buskers and the tube train intercom sermonisers are on my personal Room 101 list.

The above also explains why Modern Art is so successful, but why, on the other hand, Modern Classical Music is so profoundly unsuccessful.  It’s not that Modern Art is mostly good while Modern Classical Music is mostly crap.  Modern Art is also mostly crap.  But, crucially, when a piece of Modern Classical Music traps you (when played live, in between two bits of proper Classical Music), you are stuck with it until it finishes.  Modern Art, in total contrast, is, when it’s crap, crap that is easily ignored.  Even when it ambushes you in an Art gallery, you can still just walk right past it.  Or, you can photo it, and then walk right past it.

Tuesday February 14 2017

What is it about taking out the rubbish that makes the task so very unwelcome?  I live alone, so do not get nagged to do this, but reality itself nags me.  Take the rubbish out.  Why can’t I do this simple thing?

Partly, there is the procrastinator’s constant enemy, which is that fact that a little more time will make very little difference.  Spill rubbish on the floor and it must be cleaned up at once, so cleaned up at once it is.  But most rubbish has its own intermediate, organised, official place.  Why bother with it tonight?  Tomorrow morning will do.  Tomorrow morning, tomorrow afternoon will do, and so it goes on.

The current rubbish crisis is different, because I have been doing some clearing out, and about four loads of rubbish have assembled themselves.  So procrastination is not such a good option.  Trouble is, each load of rubbish involves a trip down and then up the stairs again, and I have it in my head that it all has to be done at the same time, because if not this situation will drag on for ever, and that means going down and up the stairs four separate times.  Things aren’t made any easier by having to check beforehand if there is still any room in the rubbish bins for the recycled rubbish.  Am I supposed to do a separate trip just to find out?  Often, yes.  I meant to check earlier this afternoon, when I was out doing something real, but forgot.

The worst thing of all is that some of the rubbish isn’t really rubbish.  It’s perfectly good stuff that I am just never going to use and which is taking up space, and which I don’t have the time or the social media savvy to find a home for.  Ah, finding a home.  For rubbish.

Perhaps blogging this through here will in some weird way change the way I’m thinking about this, and I’ll get it all done.  Mostly what blogging about this rubbish make me think is: this is rubbish, get it done.  There you go.

Saturday February 11 2017

When there are great big thick elaborate sandwiches going for a quid each at the end of the day in Strutton Ground I am sometimes tempted to have one too many, i.e. two.  I did that yesterday, and although I love these sandwiches, they hate me, and when there’s two of them, they can act on this hatred.  Which meant that my internal organs were in no state to confront the ferocious rugger game between Wales and England this afternoon.  England eventually won with a well taken but still somewhat lucky (for England to get the chance I mean) late try.  But for most of the game Wales had looked better and England were consequently, for most of the game, behind.  (The more usual procedure is for England to look better and for Wales then to win with a late try, Wales having been behind for most of the game.) I’ll take the win, but it would be nice if, one of these weekends, England could simply race away to a nice big win.  As it was, when I fret about a game on the telly, I often console myself for probable disaster by deliberately doing something else, to put it in perspective, to distance myself, to consume irrelevant aroused energy, blah blah blah.  Today I got several quite significant household tasks done.

The other Six Nations rugger game today had involved Italy.  Let’s just say that the Georgian rugby team, if they were watching, must now be feeling even more pissed off.  They would surely have done better against Ireland than Italy did.

Tomorrow, I expect France to slaughter Scotland.  If they do, England will be top and the only unbeaten team.  If Scotland win, well, jolly ho Scotland.  Rugby remains a very important game. 

Football, on the other hand, is only a game.

LATER: France didn’t slaughter Scotland but they did defeat them, and England are indeed now the only team with two wins from two.  France and Scotland both looked good, and England beating France is looking better and better.

Tuesday February 07 2017

From about 6pm London time last night until some time very early this morning (guess: 3am), this blog was down, again.  This has happened quite a few times lately, or so it seems.  I’m starting to think that a major re-arrangement of some sort that is extremely unclear to me may have to be unleashed, although first I would have to work out what that ought to be.

Here I am back again, but I am starting to fret that were I to say that the problem has been solved, I might be exaggerating.  When it comes to the management of this blog, I am now in that lowest-level-of-problem-perception state that I refer to as “SFGO”.  This stands for S(omething) F(unny) G(oing) O(n).

Saturday February 04 2017

This weekend, the first weekend of February, is one of my particular favourites.  The Six Nations begins, and on Sunday night, there is the Super Bowl.  Mind you, France nearly spoilt it by nearly beating England at Twickenham, but in the end, all was well.  England pre-announced that they were going to play attractive rugby, blah blah, but in the end, they settled for playing unattractive rugby and winning.  The commentators all said England played badly, but I reckon they were understandably wrong-footed by France being so very good compared to recent years.  It’ll be interesting to see how well France do in the rest of the tournament.  They had all kinds of huge runners, some of whom were about eight foot tall by the look of them, and also a certain Louis Picamoles, who was out of the Six Nations for the last two years, but who today was declared to be the Man of the Match.  I reckon England won the game in the first half, by being even at half time instead of twenty points down, as they well could have been.  Oh, and Farrell kicked all his conversions with the accuracy of a champion golfer.  Daly is apparently a long range specialist, and he kicked a penalty too, from long range.

And hey, Spurs have just won ugly too.

Aside from the sport, the other great thing about this time of year is that the days are back getting longer.  Even now, only a month into the new year, the days are already an hour longer than they were.  And by the time the Six Nations finishes, they’ll be another hour and more longer than they are now, with more photography time in proper light.  Lovely.

Tuesday January 31 2017

Recently, word reached me, via his daughter, that one of the regular readers of this blog (such people apparently exist) – I’ll call him “Tony” (on account of his name being Tony) – was greatly entertained when he followed one of the links on the left, in one of my interminable lists of mostly obsolete internet destinations to Chase me, ladies, I’m in the cavalry.

I say greatly entertained.  The report was that Tony’s head exploded with fluids and splutters of all sort.  Basically, his face and mouth and throat all stopped functioning in their usual fashion and instead suffered a sort of biological combination of an earthquake and a meltdown and a volcanic eruption.

Following this report, I took another look at CMLIITC myself, and for a while, as I meandered through his archives, I was merely quite entertained.  But then I read this posting ...:

VIBRATING AB BELT CHANGED MY LIFE
I recently bought an All-Star Deluxe Ab Belt.  Three months ago I was a fat cunt. Now I’m a fat cunt with a vibrating belt.

… and the exact same thing started happening to me.  Until that moment I had not realised that I wasn’t fully well, but I found myself trying to laugh and cough at the same time, and the same disgusting fluids and substances started bursting out of my face as had burst from Tony’s face.

imageI think that, aside from its wit, it was the brevity of the posting that wrongfooted this.  Because of this brevity, the punch line sucker punched me in the face earlier than I had become used to and before I had in any way been able to surmise what it was going to be, as I surely would have been able to do if I had had longer to prepare my defence against it.  This is a regular comedic method, I think.

What Harry Hutton looks like now makes very good sense.

Sunday January 29 2017

I am reading Prisoners of Geography, by Tim Marshall, a new name to me.  (He has also written what looks like a rather interesting book about flags.) Today I read this (pp. 116-117), about the size of Africa:

The world’s idea of African geography is flawed. Few people realise just how big it is. This is because most of us use the standard Mercator world map. This, as do other maps, depicts a sphere on a flat surface and thus distorts shapes.  Africa is far, far longer than usually portrayed, which explains what an achievement it was to round the Cape of Good Hope, and is a reminder of the importance of the Suez Canal to world trade. Making it around the Cape was a momentous achievement, but once it became unnecessary to do so, the sea journey from Western Europe to India was reduced by 6,000 miles.

If you look at a world map and mentally glue Alaska onto California, then turn the USA on its head, it appears as if it would roughly fit into Africa with a few gaps here and there.  In fact Africa is three times bigger than the USA.  Look again at the standard Mercator map and you see that Greenland appears to be the same size as Africa, and yet Africa is actually fourteen times the size of Greenland!  You could fit the USA, Greenland, India, China, Spain, France, Germany and the UK into Africa and still have room for most of Eastern Europe.  We know Africa is a massive land mass, but the maps rarely tell us how massive.

I guess that part of the reason why Africa has tended to be regarded as smaller than it is, in recent decades, is that Africa has not counted for all that much, globally, in recent decades.  We can expect to hear many repetitions of the above observation, as Africa develops economically, towards being the economic giant that it already is physically.

LATER: I see that I have written about this before, in a posting that proves what Marshall says about all the countries that will fit inside Africa.