Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kitchen Naming

So looking at Kitchen brochures; I commented to friends there at the time that one, a concoction of black shinny plastic and fake marble was certainly one for the would be city banker-bachelor loft apartment, complete with the Porsche in the basement car park.

This then lead one friend to insist we renamed the range of kitchens, from "Tiverolli" and "Mocca Studio" to the more realistic naming criteria.

Purple plastic and grey marble effect worktop - newly made bachelor wanting to look trendy and cool
Gloss black doors, with chrome handles - pony tailed tosser
not so glossy black door, with wooden surround - wannabe pony tailed tosser
lime green doors with light gray work tops - Look-at-me kitchen for your thirty-something never married
coffee coloured units and doors - I don't actually use the kitchen, it is to look at, hence this impractical colour is fine
white units, white top, with built in door handle - bought by the builder as "deluxe kitchen".

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Modern lack of communication

In other social worlds there were rules.

Fish eaten on Fridays.

Only horses sweat.

Stand up when a lady enters the room.

Take your hat off in church.

Now we have e-mail - perhaps we should have some rules - for e-mail, for chatting, mobile phones etc.

1. Do not text while talking to someone face to face. Devote your attention to one thing at a time and actually you may actual effectively communicate.
2. E-mailing someone three lines about a subject is not actually working on something. Stop using e-mail as audit trail back covering exercise.
3. Do not start mails with no salutation or any personal touches - we've all done it, it is not nice
4. Do not use chat instead of walking over to someone to talk
5. or to use it to pretend you are working
6. cc'ing your boss on all your mails is not big, not clever and not a substitute to writing your reports or communicating properly.
7. Flaming is a bad idea. Really. You will be scorched. Move away from the keyboard!
8. Passing a mail to you to someone else to answer for you is rude - reply saying you getting someone else better qualified/less busy to deal with it please.
9. Never ever ever hit reply all without checking the circulation. Ruthlessly cull your own circulation lists. Limit the traffic.
10. Less is more. Send less mails or even Stop Mailing some people. Really try the phone or in person. Because, think what you are doing. What people now do all day is send each other memos or read them. Not even twenty years ago, we actually did this thing called work at work. Think how long you spend all day going through the slew of e-mails, demanding, pleading or simply the two liner to show involvement. Stop adding to this tidal wave of drivel! Write what needs writing. Ruthlessly cull you circulation list. Major cause of project over runs - reading all the two line e-mails from people trying to appear involved in the project.

Two postings in one month. Too much

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Philosophy while Running

Unlike lawn mowing, deep thought whilst running, does not have the same risks - such as mowing your own feet or more seriously, mowing part of a shrub and having to explain this fact to the head gardener (She Who Must Be Obeyed).

It does have the risk of missing oncoming traffic - if you happen to cross a road (which, as I am in England this is highly likely) or share the route with other users. Horses are very large animals. Having been nearly run over by a trotting hunter am now taking this as a serious risk. The other is dog walkers, or rather the dog, who thinks either a) this is jolly good game to chase you or b) decided you are a risk and chases you. You then have to translate the barks - is that angry woof or playful woof? Either way stopping is often required - in order for the owner to recover the dog

It has given me a business idea. Exercise your dog - I run and the dogs chase me like idiots for a hour. But I think the chances of being bitten and losing dogs too high, for it to be viable.

These aside, running early in the morning - 7:00 AM, when most sensible people have just hit the snooze button on the clock radio, is peaceful. Morning dew turns spiders webs into silver necklaces, draped gaudily around branches. Soft golden light, playfully illuminates the woods and the turning leaves. You are alone - in fact I have even seen the milkman parked up and not moving.

I do have a music player thing with me, but do not use it. Firstly to listen out for horses or dogs, secondly as lost in thought.

And I find I very quickly retreat into thought, mainly as your legs begin to ache, you need to not think, "I have hardly gone any distance" or "why am I doing this?" or "I am far too old to do this".

The regular rhythm of feet hitting the leaf strewn path, the puffing steaming breaths, the jangle of keys in pocket sooth - like a train running on a track, like a steady hypnotic chant.

Having run the route many times, it is familiar, so you do not look so much- and if you were not thinking of something else, you'd be thinking of the pain in your legs, not on the fauna and flora (Deer mainly. No chance of hitting them, they run away as soon as see you).

Possibly this explains the series of trips and falls - not the poor state of the bridleways. Too busy musing on the unbearable lightness of being you miss the large tree root or pot hole and end up flat on your face (four times now in seven months). I have scabby knees and an interesting scar on my hand to attest to this.

But I still think deep thoughts. As it is space - my space - in a busy day, in a busy world. No e-mails to answer, no calls to answer, no one else to attend to. And really that is all one needs - time and space, possibly the most valuable commodity to anyone.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Philosophy and lawn mowing

Mowing the lawn and thinking do go together quite well. As long – if using electric, you do cut your own cable, or slice your own toes off, pushing a mower up and down the grass it is a good time to drop the brain into another gear, and ponder the great unknow-ables of life the universe and if Phylis in accounts is having an affair (again).
With a ride on – no too hard to drive and think I feel, but does depend on terrain.
As I attacked again, with aid of said electrical grass cutting implement, the patch of thorny scrub laughable called a lawn, my mind wanders, it that detached idle way around issues, and does the mental equivalent, of taking the back off the TV to work out where the funny noise is coming on
Perhaps not always a good idea, but it satisfies the curiosity- that itch to know and to explore. And hopefully nothing goes bang.

(note. Unless you are a TV engineer this will invalidate your warranty. In the case of buzzing TVs)
I have just, sold my house. So the lawn was actually my landlord's not mine. So my original house, which I spent years sorting out and spending money on is sold.
And this made me think about home and Homes. Because in English, home is not just a house, it can be a whole country, or a city or a street not just a house. We do not have “the mother land”. We have home. Which is more, well, cuddly, cup of tea and biscuit relaxed and dress down than the patriotic, hard line, dress smart and stand up straight, social realism of “motherland”. Nor is in Chez Nous – my place. It is not so hip, cool and casual or French.

Home is where you wear slippers
Home is where know where the mugs and tea is stored
Home is where you sit and just are, not having to do anything

It is not appreciated as it is rather like a comfortable old jacket you wear at weekends (I'm English. I wear jackets.). Comfortable – familiar, worn. Maybe stylish but, most of all it fits and feels well. But not thought about.

Perhaps that is a man thing? Women will wear shoes and clothes that are uncomfortable, because they look good.
Men wear stuff that fits. Then looks good. No man would do to his feet what women do to theirs with high heels. Men are either to wimpy or not insecure enough. Or possibly too lazy...

And then I run our of lawn and the Philosophy stops.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Essays 4: An End to Universities

Well another pop at another sacred cow. (This is turning into the seemingly dropped radio show Heresy). Universities the home of enlightenment, of elucidation or education.

Only of course it is not, which is why I say, down with it. Having survived its mangling, I feel I have a valid standpoint on this. The joke is always given:

A means of the information in the lecturers notes passing to the students notes, without the information passing through the brain of either.

Which people laugh at, as it is ridiculous. But this is how it is. As a student I was part of a compliant at one of our lecturers, as he was so bad. But really we should have fired 90% of them. The could not speak publicly, they cared little if they got their message across and the actually practical application of anything was beyond them.
These are the sort of people who complain of “dumbing down”. These are the people who say you “read a subject” at university. These are the smug so and so's who ruin education. Because they keep it a competition.

Rather than trying to get everyone educated – that is all understanding things, universities are an exercise in proving who is good at cramming for exams. And yes there are essays, and The Thesis, but exams are really it.
All universities tend to teach is how to pass written exams. Want actually someone who knows something, then universities are not the best places. Find someone who makes a living out of it, tends to be a better bet. Even in really practical subjects like computers and engineer, the real clever people are inventing Yahoo- how many of the internet pioneers were actually university professors and how many clever youngsters. How many professors were involved in designing Concorde? The Channel Tunnel? Inventing mobile phone networks? Start very successful companies? Very few.
Ok, it is a very sweeping generalisation, and not really true. There are lots of clever professors making money. And the universities have clever people in them. But universities are rigged not to help you learn, but to test you. You have to spend days getting a reading list. You have to research yourself things. No one shows you how to do anything. Most lectures are just the lecturer repeating his book at you – which is oddly the course book and costs £40.
So when these graduates come out what can they do? Well they can sit for three hours and regurgitate facts and formulae no problem. Actually rewire your house, fix your car, find a cure for some disease – then my faith in the system falls down. Truly stupid people get degrees. Really clever people sometimes do not.
The problem in England, which has spread I fear is that universities have some scared glow that rubs off on graduates. And actually no one asks -”So what does that mean you can do?” that is until the get to a work place and find, “oh dear I have to solve a real problem not regurgitate a known answer”.
In a meritocracy you are judge by your merit. Your worth to that society. Universities were born in the medieval period and hang overs from the class and rank system are still there. The value thing is “pass this test to prove you are clever”. It is not “pass this test to prove you can do x, y, z”.
I have a degree, actually. Makes me no better than anyone else, until I use that education to do something better than other people. Which I do not do. Most of what I studied does not affect my daily working life. Like a lot of graduates.
So the degree thing is like a club. A badge. A show off thing. And it makes me laugh when an estate agent or Bank Manger has BA (Hons.) or BSc (Hons) after his or her name on the business card. Because it proves nothing apart from you have bought into the “I passed the exams so I am clever” lie.
No, you are just good at sitting exams. If you could sell my house or arrange not to not lose my current account then you would have merit.
So what would I change? Make universities actually educate so people can do something other than pass exams.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Essays 3: Let's get rid of Religion - but please don't cut off my head

There are many things wrong with the world: global warming; corrupt dictators; and the propensity of certain pubs to sell ’pies’ which are actually casseroles with jaunty pastry caps on top. However , if you are going to change something, then let’s change something that will have a big affect.

Religion. (I have now a mental sound track playing, from Fiddler on the Roof. It is stuck on everyone singing “Religion! Religion!”). The problem with saying ‘Let’s get rid of religion’ is that some people take it very badly and threaten to cut your head off – which sort of makes my point.

Religion – ‘It is the opium of the people’. A saying of Karl Marx often quoted, though his argument is a lot more complex and of its time. People remember this particular part because it has a truth to it. A little religion, like a glass of wine with your meal may well be a good thing. A small prayer here, following most of the commandments especially the stealing and murder ones; all very good and beneficial.

Overdose on religion and the affect is more dramatic. People drunk on religion start stoning certain people, because, say they happen to be have slept with the ‘wrong’ person. They start to think that they are the ‘chosen people’ and everyone else is lesser people and not ‘special’ like them. They even blow themselves and innocent bystanders up in ‘holy wars’.

Religion, at least the organised type, is about putting a social order and control on the people. It has very little to do with thinking about the meaning of life and much, much more about your place in life and how you should live it. Hence, all the rules over shellfish, pigs, sexual activity and prayer times. Really – if there is a God (and I am not discounting the prospect incidentally) – do you think the supreme being, who is outside time and space even cares what you eat? Who you sleep with? And when or even if you go to a place of worship? You may say ‘you cannot know the mind of God’, I am going to take the radical step of assuming God is neither mad nor stupid – which means anything that hurts no one is not a problem for God.

So then, who came with all these rules? Oddly enough, I think it is the people who have the robes and do the chanting. After all, they benefit. If we just had ‘Think before you act and do as little harm as possible’ as the one commandment, it would rather cut down the need for priest types, wouldn’t it?

Cut out the bells and smells and “moral lecturing” they would be stuck doing useful stuff, like helping the poor maybe?

Now we could have a long list of the good and bad that religion has done, which actually is not my argument. (Though one for my list, is the refusal of the Catholic Church to allow the use of condoms. This has helped HIV/AIDS spread and kill so many people that it is tempting to call it mass murder.).
Why would I change Religion? Because it is a method of thought control and social conformity. It really is an opiate of the masses – you don’t have to think or reason or try to do the right thing yourself. Just do as the good book and the priests say and you are just and pious, no matter how idiotic. Kill the infidels, don’t allow blood transfusions, gay people cannot be adoptive parents, make women cover themselves all the time. Just Shut Up and Do as you are told. Which is just plain stupid. We are humans, because we think differently from the other animals. So we should use our brains, possibly God given, for making life and the world a better place. Not for trying to stick to silly rules or fighting over who’s God is best.

Religion is like an over protective parent. It treats people like very small children, with a list of ‘you must do this and not that’. In truth, with the widely educated societies we are becoming, we don’t need ‘Do and don’t do’ and rituals that control us. We need solid values and rational reasoning to help us in life. Not dogma, cant and patronising.

We need to be allowed to think as when we think we are human. When we do not we are just another dumb animal.