Monday, 31 March 2008

Friday, 28 March 2008's Obama, apparently

I read with surprise that Obama is virtually now assured of the Democratic nomination.

Surprise because I had no idea this was the case, in fact from my hurried scans of last weekend's papers it seemed that Clinton was in fact favourite, especially given these 'revelations' about Jeremiah Wright.

Perhaps I was distracted by charts showing that against McCain, Clinton was well behind, and Obama still behind but less so. Anyway, it appears Obama will be the Democratic candidate.

I think I'm pleased, I don't really know why. I think it's because I want people to like America again, an only Obama can do that, in my view. I can't bring myself to fully trust Clinton. She looks and sounds a bit shifty, and definitely desperate. And she likes Heather Mills.

There's only one thing funnier....

than someone getting the giggles. That's a serious Radio 4 news reader getting the giggles whilst reading someone's obituary.


Wednesday, 26 March 2008

My new favourite number: phi

This number phi makes pi look like an unemployed layabout from Wrexham!

I read this here and it should interest all photographers, designers, mathematicians, and probably Dan:

Phi is the ratio underpinning a division that has become known by various names: golden rectangle, golden ratio and golden mean among them.

If line A is divided into two sections, one larger than the other (B and C), the golden ratio is achieved where A/B = B/C.

This ratio is 1.6180339887

The golden ratio features in nature and the dimensions of the human body, from DNA right up to the solar system and has been used by man throughout architecture, art and music. The Egyptians understood it when erecting the great Pyramids and the Ancient Greek buildings are full of these golden ratios.

Although this ratio has been rediscovered throughout time, one undisputed milestone in its history was the Fibonacci number series. In the 12th century Fibonacci produced a series of numbers by adding together pairs of numbers.

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144,

(0+1=1, 1+1=2, 1+2=3, 2+3=5, 3+5=8É)

The ratio between each successive pair gets closer and closer to Phi as you progress through the series.

Once you start splitting a golden rectangle by the ratio, you can keep sub-splitting it down forever. The spiral this produces exactly matches the growth of the Nautilus shell in nature. Yes, it's all getting a little freaky now.

far and away

I was exploring the murky world (to me, at least) of RSS feeds and came across Awasu who claim to be:

"far and away one of your best choices"

A less than ringing self-endorsement?

Monday, 24 March 2008

The language of...Microsoft?

For reasons I won't go into, I'm reviewing lots of presentations (in Powerpoint) at the moment. And I've had to create a few too.

What struck me is how easy it is to fall into the way of thinking that the templates encourage. In other words, title, big heading, the host of supporting bullets. Maybe some clip art. Even a photo if one is feeling really dangerous.

Foucault argued that language structures thought, and that therefore language structures and limits thinking.

Could the same be true of Powerpoint? Or is this just a cultural problem; a user error?

The Curse of Cursing

Is that like Tourettes?

Furniture Village

It's a village of furniture.

The Curse of Powerpoint

For years I've railed against Powerpoint - I was doing it when it wasn't even trendy, like it is now. But this slide pack on the brilliant Presentation Zen blog does the job so much better than me. Hilarious.

Now here's the real thing. Enjoy.

Saturday, 22 March 2008


I listened to a broadcast by Paul McCartney last year. I'm not even going to START on the whole Heather Mills thing, but he mentioned this band, the Guillemots and so instantly I went out and bought the album. It was pretty good at the time and I really liked it.

Two or three weeks ago I put it on again and my GOD. It is so good now. Like wine, it seems to have come of age. I cannot stop listening to it. It is heartbreaking and gorgeous and I recommend it to everyone. They have a new album out too, I think, as a sort of bonus.

But love was not enough to hold my grip
Can't you just feel my fingers slip
Into those oceans in the sky where people swim
Oceans in the sky calling me in
Oceans in the sky I tell myself
Though I'm not kidding anybody else
They know I'm leaving
They know that I'm leaving this behind

So I'm leaving my best friend
Just for the hell of it
Just for the sake of it
But how much I loved you

I think we're alone now it isn't.

This is very much how I play football too...

I was Neston Nomad of the Year in 1988, after all.

Happiness and meaning

When talking about happiness, psychologists distinguish between hedonic pleasure and eudaimonic pleasure. Hedonic pleasures might be what we understand by being 'happy' and eudaimonia might be what we understand by 'content' or 'satisfied'. One is charatcerised as pleasure (eating, sex, laughing) the other achievement (satisfaction of a job well done, overcoming difficulties to succeed, experiencing 'flow').

We often look down on hedonic pleasures, as though they are somehow less rarefied or worthy than eudaimonia. But psychologists have shown that the two are in fact interrelated. Eudaimonia is consistently accompanied by feelings of happiness. Enjoyment is routinely paired with eudaimonia. Indeed, 'flow' (the feeling of being completely absorbed in a task) is more likely to occur if one is in a happy mood. Happiness appears to heighten an individual’s capacity to discriminate between meaningful and meaningless experiences.

Why is this?

Nature rewards us for activities that are essential to survival. Those activities tend to be hedonic: eating, drinking, sex. Happiness in this form is often sneered at, perhaps because there are characterised as lower or vulgar pleasures.

But happiness is also linked to meaningful activities. Being absorbed in a task, trying, winning from a difficult situation, achieving something - these are all activities which have an evolutionary cost in terms of energy and time. Yet nature rewards us for doing them.

Happiness may play a role in enhancing the experience of meaning .... lending hedonic reinforcement to these eudaimonic endeavors
Professor Laura King, 2007.

In other words, nature rewards activities that it favours. By rewarding meaningful activities, it reinforces them.

Truly, humans are unique in this respect. Nature rewards survival and procreation. But it also rewards effort and being exceptional. To be truly human, we must strive to achieve.

The Curse of Emoticons

It seems strange that people allow other people to get away with emoticons. Emoticons are fine for anyone under the age of about 25. Until that age, the cost of someone mistaking something you write (e.g. taking it seriously if it's a joke and vice versa) is perhaps too high. Your social standing at that age is crucial, so I can understand it to an extent. Second, your writing skills are probably not fully formed so once again it is a little more permissible. But after the age of 30? It's worse than grammatical errors.

But everywhere I see it. From women and men, irrespective of age. It combines with this trend too, which is worrying.

Those who defend emoticons often say that it helps us understand what the writer is trying to convey. Well that's great, but we seemed to manage pretty well without them before this wretched epidemic. Shakespeare didn't help his actors by writing:

All? What, all my pretty chickens and their dam At one fell swoop? :(

Jane Austen didn't write:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife ;)

No. Writers relied on their own skill and the intelligence of the reader to deduce their own meaning from what was written. In Shakespeare's case, this has led to glorious reinterpretation throughout the ages and a deepening of understanding of what it is to be human.

Emoticons are a safety barrier for toddlers, designed for those who can't write properly or don't trust the intelligence of their readers. Give power back to the reader and to the written word. Cast them off, and bravely step back into the future.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Band of the Noughties...

1960s - The Beatles
1970s - Abba
1980s - U2
1990s - Radiohead
2000s - ???

Suggestions on a postcard please.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Do I shop well?

Due to the interest in the items in my trolley, here is the full list of purchases for tomorrow's delivery. How do these rate in terms of lifestyle choices and value for money? I'd be interested to know.

Products you've ordered

1 Bleach Waitrose £0.72
2 Bold Bold Spa Minerals Liquid Bottle £4.53
1 Bonne Maman Berries & Cherries Conserve £1.75
2 Bottlegreen Lemongrass with Ginger Cordial £3.31
1 Calgon Express Ball Tablets £6.99
2 Colgate Total Advanced Fresh Toothpaste £3.22
1 Courgettes Waitrose £1.09
1 Denbies Surrey Gold £5.49
1 Forest Feast Dried Berries & Cherries £2.69
1 Green Giant Sweetcorn Niblets £0.64
1 Kellogg's All-Bran £0.99
2 Loyd Grossman Tomato & Chargrilled Vegetable Sauce £3.48
2 Loyd Grossman Tomato & Chilli Pasta Sauce £3.48
1 Mixed Peppers Waitrose £1.38
1 Phillips Classictone White Round Lustres 40W SES £2.69
1 Reduced Sugar Blackcurrant Jam Waitrose £1.19
2 Right Guard Time Released Anti Perspirant Original £4.78
1 Seeds of Change Organic Garlic&Chilli Pasta Sauce £1.78
2 Ultra Soft Toilet Tissue White Waitrose £5.50

1 Activia Cherry Fat Free Yogurt £1.57
3 Activia Fibre Kiwi £4.00
3 Activia Raspberry Yoghurt £4.00
2 Broccoli Waitrose £2.78
1 Bunch of Salad Onions Waitrose £0.59
2 Cauliflower & Broccoli Florets Waitrose £2.08
1 Cucumber Waitrose £0.69
3 Cup Mushrooms Waitrose £2.37
1 Flora Pro-Activ Spread £3.99
1 Spinach Waitrose £1.09
6 Vegetable Curry Waitrose £14.44

4 Perfectly Balanced Tropical Sticks Waitrose £8.60


Now, I love being a student, and I love many things about students. But some of them are monumentally stupid and / or detached from reality.

Today I listened to some students at Strathclyde University responding to the Budget on radio 5. One was doing a Phd in Accountancy and he argued that it was merely tinkering at the edges and that:

1. Instead we should look at stopping 'imperialist wars'.
2. We should look at the 'prevailing culture of unemployment'.
3. Students are living in poverty and would stop drinking if the prices go up.

No doubt he also wants an 'end to all wars' and 'money for jobs'. Anyway, truly ludicrous on all counts.

Monday, 10 March 2008

For all those with special dietary requirements

You'll be pleased to know that tasty Ocado fuses now come free rom Gluten, egg, wheat, milk / lactose, nuts and yeast. Another load off your mind.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Lend me some sugar! I am your neighbour!

Sometimes I wonder what my neighbours think of me when I sing along (very loudly) to various tunes. I do like a good singalong when I work, and sometimes this must be strange for those walking past my window.

I'm f*cking Peter Kay

Thought you should know.

Lists and inaction

I resolved to blog more in 2008, and I am not doing so. This could be taken as evidence that lists don't work, and by extension that resolutions are useless.

I disagree.

The simple fact is that 'write blog' is no longer appearing on my to do lists. I am simply too busy, and I am recognising this fact on a daily basis. It is not the priority it was, because I have new priorities.

This supports my contention that we must review our to do lists with absolute rigour. To do lists represent our life. Would you be happy with today's to do list as a template for your life? As an obituary? Does it contain the main themes which you want represented in your life? Does it reflect the style in which you want to live your life?

I am not blogging regularly, because blogging has become slightly less important to me than other things. It is this decision which needs analysis, not the practice of list making or goal setting itself.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


Hello, my People. I do consider you my people as well. You may have noticed that I have not posted for a while and that, indeed 2008 has been a complete washout in terms of both quality and quantity of posts. 2007 seems like the golden age of blogging.

What I wonder is whether the gap between posts is at all normally distributed? In other words, if I were to time the gap between posts would I have a few that followed immediately, a few more after a day and the most after, let's say 1.35 days (my approximate 2007 average) and then a steady decline?

I think it probably is normal, with two exceptions. It's probably more likely that if I post I am slightly more likely to post again immediately than to post in half a day as would be expected in a normnal distribution. Second, after a certain period (let's say a week?) I am statistically less likely to post again for another week which would leave me with a 'long tail' in my distribution. This is what happened in February.

I realise that this is utterly pointless, but Dan might like it.