Life Stuff

Who are we?

Some mornings when I’ve been on WP for too long, I get to thinking I may have “Imposter Syndrome”.

Looking it up on Wikipedia, I got to the “see also” section and found “Dunning-Kruger Effect” which is on the surface slightly more interesting. Here’s an excerpt by way of the nub of the thing,

The psychological phenomenon of illusory superiority was identified as a form of cognitive bias in Kruger and Dunning’s 1999 study “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments”.

The identification derived from the cognitive bias evident in the criminal case of McArthur Wheeler, who, on April 19, 1995, robbed two banks while his face was covered with lemon juice, which he believed would make it invisible to the surveillance cameras. This belief was based on his misunderstanding of the chemical properties of lemon juice as an invisible ink.

(Wikipedia: Dunning-Kruger Effect)

McArthur Wheeler: now you see him, now you still see him

1999 may not seem that long ago until we recognise that WordPress only came into the public domain as recently as May 27th 2003.

Blogger, probably its closest rival, was utterly a non-entity while McArthur Wheeler was free to roam and out shopping for citrus fruits.

Had Kruger and Dunning only waited half a decade more, their study material would have been more ubiquitous. Things might even have been too obvious to warrant a study in the first place. They were ahead of the curve but not by much to make it an impressive find in the timeline of psychiatric disorders. Wheeler was simply an extreme individual on the spectrum of normal human cognitive bias.

Incidentally, I remember having a book for Christmas; one in a series of Ladybird publications for children. I can’t recall the title but it explained a set of “experiments” kids could perform at home with everyday items, and one of those was how to make invisible ink with the juice of a lemon.

I bet Wheeler had that book too. It’s fascinating how common threads run through us all.

2020: a blogger’s review

Chronos and his child | Romanelli

I see on my travels through WP today, some blogs have posted thoughts on blogging this past year. It’s not someone I normally do; it shocks me to see I’ve been at this continuously since 2017 – and I’d put money on it that it was only last February! Good job I’m not a betting man.

Here’s a few things I can remember.

I started a new blog about my real life experiences, titled One Hundred Miles West a name which refers to having spent the latter half of my life 100 miles west from where I was born and raised. It is the first time I have written specifically about me as the subject.

In light of that decision, I created a new profile, getting away from the obvious anonymity of previous blogs.

This new profile had me doing away with – subverting, if you like – the methods laid down for us by our hosts for their benefit. I do not follow other blogs by clicking a button, thus adding to their statistics. Instead, I chose to do things old-school and more meaningful, I think, by remembering whose blogs and posts I enjoy. It keeps it to manageable human levels, about twelve to fifteen places I can visit daily, or at least every other day. Nothing gets buried in an inbox avalanche; and summarily binned in a desperate tidy-up.

I use a blog reader which helps me remember my favourite blogs by storing them in its search history. It also makes the reading experience uniform and better; sorry, if you spend time on personalising your blog’s web appearance – I do too; or I used to. “Themes” are so overrated, and the WP ones aren’t that good anyway, in my view.

I think I’m a Block Editor convert. With reservations. It’s six of one, half a dozen of the other in terms of pros and cons. Since finding work-arounds to the lack of full functionality in a few of the Block Editor’s blocks, I’m pleased with the way it works on the whole. And there are some advantages over the Classic way.

I’ve been tempted to take up a paid plan on at least two occasions. I’ve found the antidote in procrastination: two days after, I find enough wanting in the idea to dismiss it for another time. My cash remains in my account and not adding to that of some billionaire.

I’ve considered packing it in for 2021. I can do this as I haven’t paid (and another good reason not to). Blogging takes up a lot of hours daily. It’s not just the writing and making the post presentable, with editing and adding appropriate images. It’s reading all my favourite blogs too, and commenting.

I have faced up to the indisputable fact that “social media” has infiltrated blogging and it is no longer how it was. Together with the blatant commercialism, monetisation and the get-rich-quick idea underlying much of blogging these days, I wonder if I shouldn’t do something else altogether. This is not the vision of the world wide web Tim Berners-Lee had; nor is it mine. It’s beginning to stink of cynicism.

However, I still have a desire to write and, despite searching, haven’t found a good alternative to park my writing where it can be seen, for free.

I dream that a small bunch of similar amateur writers get together to create a space of minimal running costs and with no intention to profit by it. If I wasn’t such a lazy sod, I’d do it myself.

Three Youtubes and a Phone Call

Antisocial Buddhism

“Once you feel you are avoided by someone, never disturb them again.”

I’m not big for posting quotes but one evening, I was idly perusing Youtube‘s recommended offerings and found a slideshow of sayings attributed to Buddhism. I don’t know if any of these were Gautama Buddha‘s authentic words or not, but this one made me smile. It seems so modern; and maybe it is.

Blast from the Past

Youtube sometimes highlights gigs I ought not to have missed. For me, live recordings often don’t match up to the live event. There must be some trickery used in the recording studio which makes a studio recording superior to a recording of a gig (what am I saying! Of course there is; that’s why we buy the damn pop records).

I’ve watched this one before, some years ago, but it resurfaced amongst the recommendations this week. It’s Steve Marriott’s Packet of Three playing at the Camden Palace, a venue in easy reach of me during the mid 80s. I could’ve been there* and wished I had been. Still, unlike most live recordings, the energy still shines bright on this little gig, I reckon.

I’d watched a documentary about The Small Faces earlier in which Ronnie Lane said of their beginnings, none of them could play [their instruments]. They hit the floor – or the stage – running.

It’s a shame they didn’t make any money, or much as much esteem as is granted some of their contemporaries. Marriott, evidently still the cheeky cockney, artful dodger persona, both in the included interview and in exchanging bon-mots with individual members of the audience, still sings an ad-lib line about being a short, fat, balding has-been. God bless him.

Whatever happened to the man interviewing Marriott at the end of the video? Nicky Horne. If memory serves, he was one of the originals on the start-up of Capital Radio, London’s own officially independent and legal radio station. It was good and much needed in the day; don’t know much about it these days, probably obsolete.

(there’s an extended version of the show here but as with a lot of embeds, playing it outside of Youtube is prevented by its owner. Check your embeds, folks!)

(* actually, no, I couldn’t have been there. On reflection, I was living and working in Sydney.)

Sort of Interesting

Keeping hold of self-effacing for a moment longer, and dismissing Buddha entirely, Daniel Brown is now top of the charts for Youtube narrowboat vloggers. Oh, I wish I had the credentials to Vlog!

I understand he is the original: double you-oh-oh-oh! Original narrowboat vlogger, that is. They had him turn on the Christmas lights in his home town of Oswestry, in Shropshire – a town which appears brutally truncated in the crease between opposite pages in my copy of the AA Road Map of Britain 1993 (all new revised edition featuring three additional road signs).

In 2021, it’s predicted he’ll be a star celebrity on Strictly Come Dancing. This is where you heard it first.

O, Mrs. Raven!

Do you remember Mrs. Raven? She was the GP’s receptionist in the silly superhero sit-com, My Hero. The character was superbly played by Geraldine McNulty but credit too to the writers for sure as I can’t remember a comedy stereotype depicted so close to reality as her doctor’s receptionist.

I’m reminded of this after a brief and terse phone conversation with my surgery following a text message offering me a jab at their flu clinic. The woman couldn’t be less helpful or more inconsiderate if she was fully-trained to be so – and who’s to say they aren’t? They’re all alike! Stereotypically.

The Future is Nigh: it’s grubs grub and make-up

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.

I have recently finished reading Hag-seed, Margaret Atwood’s retelling of The Tempest. I’m only just getting around to experiencing Shakespeare’s plays (curtailed, unfortunately, by the current Covid crisis) but I’ve yet to see The Tempest performed. This didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel; Atwood writes a good story.

Our jug kettle succumbed to the rigours of builder’s tea-making during our kitchen renovation and this week it entirely gave up the ghost. Actually, it was more in line with taking on a daemon spectre; the thing would continue boiling well past its safe limit, ignoring its thermo-switch, and then began to emit a noticeable odour of burnt plastic. We feared for our new kitchen so set off to the nearest Argos Catalogue Showroom to click-and-collect a new one.

As it meant going into town, we stopped at the out-of-town butcher’s shop afterwards and bought some dog food. This is minced from the odds and offal which are deemed unsellable to humans, but the dog isn’t fussy. We also bought a shoulder of pork for us for Christmas Day.

As Covid is still out there, I stayed in the car listening to the radio. I didn’t know what to expect but there was some sort of magazine programme on Radio 4, presented by a woman’s voice; a patronising one, I thought. She was interviewing a young man who was selling make-up for men. It was agreed by both voices that this was nothing new; men had been wearing make-up at different times throughout history. I wondered if this made it okay.

Make-up is used to enhance and to hide. The man himself admitted to suffering from negative perceptions of self-image, beginning with acne in his teens which he covered up with his sister’s foundation. And so the idea formed: make-up products specifically designed with men in mind.

Next up was a scientist – clearly highly educated though still talked down to by the interviewer – who had taken part in some Extinction Rebellion protests. She had two dependent children yet still thought a spell in prison could be a good thing if it helped the cause. She sounded proud to have broken a window in the Dept. of the Environment building, justifying it by claiming unspecified crimes committed by our government against the environment. This may be so but you wonder how busting in a pane of glass helps. Someone will have to clear it up, hopefully with conscience take it to recycling where the fragments will at some cost be made into something useful – aggregate bedding for new roads, for example (ironic for an environmental cause?) – but not quite as good as a perfectly sound and otherwise long-lasting window.

Back home, I was asked via email to give my view on a Channel 4 advert for dog food, (coincidentally). This was an unusual product being made from “insects”. After I’d answered questions on the effectiveness of the advert, it showed a longer piece of infomercial about the food. The insects are actually fat larvae fed on an industrial scale on waste vegetation. These are then cooked up with potatoes,other vegetables, and added minerals, and formed into nutritional dry pellets to feed to cats and dogs.

Apparently, there are more dogs in the developed world than citizens of the United States and 20% of the west’s meat production goes to feed pets. Meat production, as a whole, always risks either being too intensive – bad for the animal, bad for the product – or using far too much land when considering “ethical” farming, such as free-range methods. Not to mention the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock.

It starts with the dogs but I guess we’ll all be eating fat grubs ground up with potatoes, and fortified with vitamins and minerals, in time.

Some thoughts on Time

So the clocks are going back an hour this weekend. Please note.

They say it’s to save daylight. How can that be? Clocks don’t control the amount of daylight.

We need to talk about… Time.

Before The Big Bang, Time didn’t exist; it wasn’t even a thing. So I wonder if it’s even a thing now.

Before we came on the scene, Time, if we can call it that before we came on the scene, was sensed by the rotating of the Earth and its orbit around the Sun. It took roughly 365 rotations to circle the Sun once, and that was basically good enough for the protozoa and the elephant.

Of course, all that rotating and orbiting affected the light levels which affected the way life grew and developed and ran its business. There was night and day, and seasons. Much of life reacted to this without being reactionary. Only when we arrived on the scene did things change. We measured the rotation and the orbiting of the Sun with simple sticks casting shadows and great stone monuments and things.

Imagine being brought up on a different planet. A planet that orbits the Sun sooner than it rotates once on its own axis. Wouldn’t that upset the train companies! You’d have a wristwatch which was like a calendar and a calendar which was set out like a watch: Pirelli would have a different nude for each hour; blink and you might miss it.

When it was decreed that the old Roman Julian calendar was to be superseded by the Gregorian version at midnight, Thursday, October 1583, the very next day under the new calendar was Friday, October 15, 1583. Thus the simple people felt they were having ten days stolen from them, despite the names of the days of the week remaining in the same order. You can’t divide seven into ten without leftovers and so whatever Day it was didn’t mean a thing then, and shouldn’t now. A Tuesday is a Sunday and a Thursday, whatever. This suggests that weeks have no meaning either, outside of Bible stories.

Months are more reasonable, being tied in with seasons and the phases of the moon.

Hours are okay too. But why twenty-four little hours? Allegedly this was the fault of Sumerians who counted in base 12, and which the ancient Egyptians took on board. Why base 12? Well, we might count things on the fingers of both hands – base 10 or decimal. The Sumerians used only one hand to count and counted the knuckles of its fingers, three per finger, twelve altogether. No thumb was included for whatever reason; they were opposed to the thumb, the opposable thumb! (geddit?)

Minutes are all well and good when boiling a soft yolked egg, and seconds when taking a pulse but other than that, hours are as fine as we need to go for most things. When asked the time, I often round up or down to the nearest half hour. Sometimes it annoys people: “What’s the time?” they ask. “Half eleven,” I say. Then they go to look at a clock and come back, “Hey, it’s only just gone 11:23!” they complain. “That’s right,” I say, “and when it’s coming up to 11:37, it’ll still be as good as half past eleven.”

Since giving up work, I don’t wear a watch: when the battery died last time, I didn’t bother getting it replaced. In the Western hemisphere, you’re never more than three minutes away from a device which gives you the time.

Make sure it went back an hour this weekend though.

Sleep well.

Five Things: Stress busting

Five things I might do to reduce stress or anxiety? A prompt from Dr. Tanya at Salted Caramel.

1. Drawing (or painting)

Or doodling. I’ve always drawn. If I see a pencil, I pick it up; it feels good in my fingers. I find there is nothing quite like drawing to take my mind off and away into a different sphere of consciousness for a couple of hours.

2. Walking

I first started to walk as a teen, having to wait for buses which never came. This is London’s suburbia. You’d take a chance walking on to the next stop, the fare would be cheaper. Then, if still no sign of a bus, on to the next stop. Occasionally, you’d arrive at your destination before the bus. Then you’d work out there were shortcuts the bus couldn’t take. It was enjoyable. You’d start to walk everywhere and at anytime: homewards from parties, well after midnight, the streets were safer back then.

Though it’s better here in the countryside. Nature, fresh air. A two hour walk can get a lot of weight off your mind.

3. Getting it down on paper

Working it out; order; making a list; sketching it out; any graphical representation of a problem. Seeing it more clearly. Owning it. Mastering it.

4. Yoga

Most rigorous exercise will help, I find, but there’s something intensely focussing about yoga practice which makes you forget about what’s happening elsewhere.

5. Tasking

Often, if I just say, “I’ll at least do these three things today”, no matter how simple they seem, the satisfaction of having crossed them off the to-do list is tremendous. It might be tackling the unruly garden hedges, it might be tidying a neglected room, or a workbench or a desk, it might be making that important call, it might be remembering to do one of those things above.

image: “The Desperate Man” (self-portrait) by Gustave Courbet

O, Pinterest!

I opened a Pinterest account some years ago as it looked a good site to collect inspirational images. I was taking painting and printmaking classes, but also rekindling my interest in art generally.

As with most of these things, I got to the point where I’d saved all the things of interest and fewer additions were being made. I still go there from time to time and the email notifications and suggestions keep coming in.

But what’s this!, and what possibly could I have done on the web recently to warrant it?

It’s tough being a man in today’s world, then. I suppose they’re grateful advice is readily on hand these days, unlike before when you had to resort to a letter to some Agony Aunt (never an Uncle) in a tabloid paper or dodgy magazine.

Let’s see, the top left depends on whether you’re the man answering the police detective’s questions or asking them. And the state of your socks.

The top right is easy: it’s his shoes! A gentleman never wears brown in town…

(all right, second go: the lady’s handbag is vulnerable to snatch thieves on mopeds and the bloke is unprepared, slouching along with his hands in his pockets, anxious about his shoes. He should be Sir Galahad, taking up the right side, sword hand free. Unless he’s left handed, whereby they’re no doubt walking in the wrong direction and he should take her gently by the shoulders, turning her 180° and going back the way they came.)

The number 1 grooming mistake is having your temples shaved. That’s a give away. When has any man asked for a short back and sides and a little off the temples, please? That’s bound to be in 10 grooming tips every man should know. The others include avoiding barbers who wear Dr. No style thick black rubber gloves (maybe okay in the pandemic crisis only).

No. 1 easy thing to do to become more attractive is to wear a crash helmet when riding a motorcycle because no one finds brains on the tarmac a turn on. Unless he wants to attract sirens, though not the kind who draw sailors to their death.

The one which has “be the best dressed but never overdressed” has a head for a logo sporting a waxed handlebar moustache. Irony?

My curiosity is up but I dare not click on any of those links else what will they suggest for me next.

Fandango’s Provocative Question #80

“Is the concept of “you” continuous or does the past “you” continually fade into the present and future “you”? Considering that your body, your mind, and your memories are changing over time, what part of “you” sticks around?”

The concept of me is, I think, the only part that sticks around. The “idea” that something identifiable as “me” is moving through a short space of time uninterrupted. Everything else is perceived and probably illusional.

We can’t trust our memories, or the memories others have of us. That’s disappointing, and maybe shocking to start with, but it’s true. What’s really disturbing is the propensity for false memories slipping in unawares. As the molecules of our bodies change over time, memory is the one thing that links the previous versions of us with the present version.

I feel there are two ways around it without going bananas: accept the truth you’ll never really know who you are (and it doesn’t matter) or just ignore the question entirely.

in answer to Fandango’s Provocative Question #80 here

An irresponsible introvert in blogland

If I get to 100 followers, I’ll strike the plate with the mallet, sending the knob up the tower and striking the round red bell at the top.

Maybe I could phone through for a ten-gun salute. Would the number be in Yellow Pages; under “Celebrations” or “Guns & Ammunition”?

Maybe I’ll bake a cake.

Maybe I’ll duck down an alley; put the pedal to the metal and jump the lights; give them the slip; give the rearview mirror some scrutiny; shake ’em off.

Find a safe house; lie low; in a couple of months, I’ll obtain a new identity.

Smarter Technology For A Dumber Mind

In the local Museum In The Park there is a small room marked “Collections”. In its centre is an antique, glass-topped, mahogany display cabinet with a stack of drawers below. The glass topped display features pages from nature notebooks: drawings and watercolours of plants, pressed ferns and flowers etc., but it is the closed drawers which interest me.

I love these small local museums: they are usually unattended and this invites me to nosy around and be tangibly involved with the exhibits, something you may not feel free to do in a national museum.

How many visitors open these drawers? Not many, I bet myself. Sliding the uppermost one open, it reveals a collection of small seashells in little boxes. The next one down has larger shells. I go for broke and pull on the bottom drawer thinking, who would bother crouching down to try this if they wouldn’t even bother with the top ones? It doesn’t yield to any amount of tugging. It’s not locked as there is no keyhole; the antique wood has expanded over the years and has wedged its drawer tight.

I try the one above which opens with difficulty. It contains prehistoric tools: an array of delicate looking needles, flint arrow heads and spear heads, scrapers, a great stone axe blade, and a huge, smooth pebble-like stone blunt at one end which looks as if it may have been a mallet or a hammer. There are several pieces of antler, horn and bone too but it’s not clear what these were for.

I stare down at the tools, imagining the minds of the people who made and used them, how their intelligence, perception and awareness compared to ours. It’s easy to believe they were inferior minds, naive, childlike in comparison to us but back home, looking into this, I find it might not be true.

There is an academic school of thought which hypothesises man’s intellectual capacity peaked millennia ago and has since been in decline. Even in early hominids with smaller brain cavities, analysis shows these brains to have been as complex as modern man’s.

What’s to blame for our intellectual decline? Well, ironically, probably tool making. The more advanced the technology we use, the less intelligent the user needs to be.