Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Never mind the full stops

Something is shared by Melvyn Bragg, Bill Bryson, Robert Burchfield, Anthony Burgess, Lewis Carroll, David Crystal, George Orwell, Stephen Pinker, John Simpson and Lynne Truss. They all seem to be passionate about clear communication. But I don't entirely agree with them.

I agree that incorrect spelling is ugly. Misplaced apostrophes are hideous. So I do preach the gospel of clear English. I hope that when I want a statement to say something then it does so without equivocation. Unfortunately I sometimes aspire to hide sub-texts, and a punny word will often jump in place of an obvious one, but the principle holds true.

Yet as I have admitted before, I know very little formal grammar. I was never lucky enough to learn Latin at school. I did not even get the chance to study English Literature beyond the age of about fourteen. I found Dickens and Hardy to be impenetrable. Yet I genuinely like the sound of Shakespeare and Chaucer. Perhaps it is because they played so loosely with the rules of grammar, perhaps it is the patter of iambic pentameter, perhaps it is the tortured rhyming, perhaps I just like the stories!

So I will never get there, but I will aim in that direction. Sorry the grammar may slip, forgive me my trespasses, is it really obvious that English is not my mother tongue?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Not Charlie Brown

A daily blog note starts with some little trigger that I have seen or heard or done within the last 24 hours, then heads off to some generalisation or attempted witticism about the world. It is not often that trigger leads back to little old me.

Yesterday I met up with a few old friends from school. Which school? About two years is the most that I ever spent in any one. From east London to Essex to southern Africa to south London back to India to the north of England, I've experienced every different kind. And I got on ok at every single one. I was not bullied. I have no traumatic childhood experiences to relate. Yet when I refer to my school, there is only one that I mean.

Woodstock is a strange little community in the hills of northern India. Though only a tiny fraction of the size of any comprehensive in the West, it housed the most diverse group of kids from every corner of the globe. From children of christian missionaries to Indian expatriates to foreign diplomats to refugees to locals to those who just couldn't cope in the lowlands, we had every kind of freak that you can imagine.

And so it fit perfectly :)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

More than a PLC

I'm going to stick with this advert theme for a moment.

This morning, like most Sunday mornings, I played football on the other side of London. Unlike most Sunday mornings, I came back on the tube.

As I travelled up the Victoria line in my amateur football kit, I was struck by the huge numbers of people in Emirates shirts, presumably heading up to the Emirates stadium. The league season has not started yet, and they didn't look like they had their footie boots on so I guessed they were not players, and were going up to contribute money to the impoverished players and sponsors at that new stadium in Islington.

I'm probably being harsh on the genuine fan who supports the club not the sponsor, but when the name of the sponsor is so much more prominent than the club badge then it is a fair target. Though it is probably not fair to only pick on Arsenal. They play great football. And all big clubs sell out nowadays don't they? No, not all do.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

This is not an advert

Despite what my wife thinks, I do not watch much television. But after dinner almost every weekday evening, I will sit down and wind down in front of the set for an hour or two. And I always have something interesting to watch.

We had the full cable package for a while. Hundreds of channels. But the old cliché felt true - there was so much choice but it was all rubbish. You could never find exactly what you wanted. And when you've just plonked down on the sofa, do you really want to get up again and go ploughing through stacks of video cassettes or DVDs? And even if you could find something to watch on one of the more obscure channels, the programme would have already started or be so littered with advertisements that watching would become a chore.

I am not here to recommend specific products, but a Freeview hard disk recorder really does change your life, well your TV viewing life anyway. You do not need Sky+ or V+. Integrated boxes from Humax or Sagem cost barely more than a basic Freeview receiver. Flick through the weekly schedule, tag things that look good, a few will be. Watch what you want, when you want.

Never hire another DVD for the rest of your life. Never sit through another television advertisement for the rest of your life.

No wonder the marketing industry is worried.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Ha ha lal

It does not happen often, but I'm going out for a meal this evening, hence an early posting. When choosing somewhere to go, if the menu proudly displayes a "halal" message, should that affect your decision to eat there?

Most of us care about the welfare of animals, how they live and how they die. Halal meat is not killed according to the latest things that we have learned about pain and consciousness, but instead killed according to an old superstition.

Would a cut to the throat, however clean, stop pain as quickly as a bolt to the head? Think about it. Can cells continue to function for at least a few seconds without a blood supply? Use your brain.

A one page blog is not evidence. But even if all scientific and medical officers said there was evidence of less suffering to the animal if it was stunned before cutting, would you believe them, or would you wait for a mullah to give you his new enlightenment first?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

This is a mad way to leave

My company exists, in the words of its own slogan, to help companies change to be even more successful. It is what I do.

I was working in a leased building, an old factory recently converted to offices. The advice that I gave inside that building must remain confidential - the client paid for it! But I also gave them some advice outside the building, and it is far too obvious to be confidential.

On leaving the car park, security insisted that we drive all the way around the building to exit. Presumably they blindly followed the dictum that one way streets are safer than two way streets. But driving round the back, you were forced to drive through a giant lorry park and right past the entrance to a very busy warehouse. This immediately struck me as madness. I wrote to the building supervisor with a diagram proposing a new route out, and a couple of weeks later new markings and signs went up instructing traffic to go exactly as I had suggested.

Is it only a few odd people who always look to make things better? Who knows how long workers had put up with a ridiculous system simply because "that is just the way things are"?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Reason or treason

Things that are valued are limited. Most people value uncluttered fields and woodland, the traditional British countryside. But if you believe that some people should have privileged access to that woodland just because their ancestors beat up your ancestors, then you are denying us those limited resources. You cannot claim that every child should have equal opportunity if you also claim that some children should have privileged opportunity.

By the way, tourists do not come to Britain to see the royal family. Tourists do not see the royal family. But imagine how many more tourists would come to Britain if they could walk around the actual rooms where the royal family used to live!

The Queen may be doing a good job, a well rewarded job. But imagine that the Queen, Charles and William were in a terrible accident. I'm not sick, you're only imagining, not hoping. I guess then we would be subjects of King Harry. Would you bow before him?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

No title here

Someone may be born into royalty but not deserve national adulation, but someone deserving national adulation may need to accept royalty to accept the title.

Just as when eating somewhere new I am searching for the perfect meal, when standing on the edge of the penalty area with the ball at my feet I am searching for the perfect goal, so when writing here I am searching for the perfect way to blog.

Many people would say there is no perfect way to blog, every meal ends up in the same place and every goal counts the same in the end. But I still believe that it is worthwhile to strive for it.

And I have said before that I am concerned about the placement and usage of every word in every post, but unfortunately that has not always been the case with the titles. I tend to write what I need to say, then slap a title on at the end.

However, occasionally some titles just fit properly. Just look at the last few. The last question tied in the hype and mystery surrounding the last Harry Potter novel with what I think is the epitome of the short story. The dyslexic Belgian was a term coined by the Bengali comic who was the subject of the post. And Representation was perhaps the purest example of a word that exactly conveyed the essence of the article.

But I still haven't got a title here. A tabloid editor would have started with one, and a big donor to the ruling party would have ended with one.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Last Question

There was apparently a long-awaited children's book published at the weekend.

A few years ago, I did read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Sorry JK, but it was tedious crap. And so so obvious - the evil house had slithery names and malformed badguys, the good house resonated with heroic imagery, supposed difficult incantations just looked like mis-spelt Latin. It was as if the whole thing was written for 11-year-olds.

Apparently the later books are a bit more sophisticated. Anyway, some children's writing is great. The curious incident of the dog in the night time was a blaze of magnificent writing. Yet Harry Potter just seemed like a kids' version of Lord of the Rings.

But Lord of the Rings was tedious crap too. I barely got a hundred pages into the book or an hour into the film before nodding off. I just don't get the fantasy stuff. Keep it real.

Yet the best fiction is not real. It does expand the horizons of the mind. So maybe I should read some Asimov. Does a bee care if the last question is not answered?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The dyslexic Belgian

Last night I went to see the comedian and if.comedy.award finalist Paul Sinha give another preview performance of the show he is presenting next month at the Edinburgh Festival. I cannot really give an objective review - my parents have known his parents for forty years and we were part of the same little community in South London in the 1970s. So I'll just say the show was bloody excellent ;)

The title of the show is "king of the world", not a grand analysis of global empires, but reflections on those brief instants when you've just pointed out something funny that no-one else had noticed or got a little personal compliment, and just for a second you felt absolutely untouchable.

My thought for the day - I think everybody has those moments. We all have new and strange experiences every single day. But the main difference between the good comic, or the good blogger, and everyone else, is that they store that little nuance and share it with the world - most of us just grin and move on.

Time for me to grin and move on.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Efficiency at work

One thing I dislike about pictures on the web is the size of them compared to text - it all comes down to usability again - when it comes to loading pages, we all like speed.

Despite the usual absence of pictures, I do care about how these posts look as well as how they sound and how they read.

But occasionally a picture helps to prove a point. So I drew one.

We had an all day workshop today, in a room that we often use for meetings, and one thing that I keep saying in these sessions is that my team is there to help to make things run more efficiently, like good traffic lights.

The details of how today's action points will affect our work will be picked up again next week. And they may be company confidential anyway. But I can't help myself on this efficiency thing, just look at how the room is laid out...

Now the presenters are always at the head or point of the table near the screen, otherwise everyone would need to keep turning their heads

but the layout of the table, narrower at the big screen end and wider at the back, makes the presenter constantly obstructed by other people's heads

the screen can't be easily moved, so why the hell don't they just turn the table around?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

To HR dept, managers and colleagues

The Prologue

Whan that cliente, with hise offeres soote,
The droghte of cashe hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

At nyght al come to that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felaweshipe, an droydes were we alle,

The Captain's Logue

A knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To riden out, followed chivalrie,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie.

Ful worthy was he in partneres werre,
And therto hadde he riden, no man ferre
And tho his port not meeke as a mayde
He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde.

The Epilogue

For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lye,
I saugh nat this yeer so myrie a compaignye
The sothe is this: the cut fil to this knyght,
Of which ful blithe and glad was every wyght.

So lat me wend, and herkneth what I seye.
And with that word I ryde forth aweye,
As we bigan with right a myrie cheere
Our tale anon, and seyde in this manere.

How to leave

It's not easy to know what to say when leaving somewhere after being employed there for the best part of a decade.

If leaving voluntarily, you are likely to have been offered more money elsewhere, but it's not easy to say that in a subtle manner which would not sever any ties. Perhaps you could also briefly describe the things that you have liked and disliked about your job. You should probably also welcome everybody for a few leaving drinks.

It might even be possible to place into your leaving note the precise trigger that made you depart, and maybe even refer to the actual time and place where you made your decision.

And all this should ideally be said within about three short paragraphs, my self-imposed "haiku" note ideal. Oh, I've past my limit now, will have to give an example tomorrow…

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Usability Sex Speed

We have recently heard a lot about the different preferences of men and women when it comes to designing and viewing web sites. I do agree. Perhaps this is oversimplifying, but women generally like bright colours, curved lines, organic forms, pictures of people, smiling faces, while men tend to prefer clean straight lines. Any commercial mass market site should ideally appeal to both.

This isn't exactly a web site, but in terms of the guidelines presented to us, I don't suppose you can get any more masculine than this. And the real websites I created earlier have followed the same lines. Does that mean that to broaden appeal I will be sticking in reams of poncy graphics to fluff up the site and slow down page loading? Does it hell!

Every site has its own style. Mine is simple. Plain. Fast. The ultimate male ;)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Der Inder und das Bier

The recent stuff has been all about big issues and deep questions. Time for a genuine little aside about the family.

Not having a proper pension, since retiring my dad has kept afloat with the odd minor role in a few TV shows such as Eastenders and the Bill and the League of Gentlemen, adverts for Natwest and Drifter, and also the occasional one-off such as the Moonstone and Murder in Mind and Syriana. But he's not famous, no-one outside our community would recognise him.

He recently returned from a short trip abroad with a few press cuttings. Attached. The text is in German. The contents slightly surprised me.

A colleague and friend recently left here to return to his home in Germany, and he just called me from his office in Munich and confirmed it. My dad is apparently very well known throughout Bavaria as the star of a major advertising campaign that has been running for five years!

Not bad for a formerly homeless penniless refugee.


Probably back to serious issues tomorrow.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Flesh and blood

OK, a "cheery" thought ;)

Imagine someone you know is in a monstrous accident. I'm not sick. You're only imagining, not hoping.

This is not your average car crash , but an enormous splurge of blood and guts, the like of which is only seen in X-rated movies and video games. Perhaps one saving grace, the head and brain are instantly crushed to a pulp, so instant death and no pain.

However, the rest of the body is splattered into a thousand pieces, with bits of flesh and bone and bone marrow all over the place.

Now, if you are the sort of strange person who thinks every potential human life is a life worth saving, then every bit of that bone marrow needs to picked up and cared for separately. Because each individual bit could have individual stem cells that could grow up into completely independent human beings.

Dumb eh?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Liars and jokers

Yesterday I got some serious questioning along the lines of "just because the Astrology didn't work for you, does not mean that it doesn't work for anybody".

However unpleasant and smelly the word, that is bullsh*t. I'm not weaseling out with "maybes" and "probabilities".

If you say that you have a special superpower, that you've received the divine gift of flight or telekinesis or telepathy or you've decided that an ancient public book correctly predicted the exact date and time and location of all of today's main news, then you are joking. Or lying.

And sorry but I am not going to examine mental illness and psychotic delusion here.

I have not tested you, I have not seen the evidence with my own eyes, I have not read every line of text and studied every chart that you claim is proof. An anecdote is not proof. What you are saying is scientific nonsense and therefore it is nonsense until proven otherwise.

Sorry this was a predictable post. And I'll try to stay off this subject for a while now; it's crap, that's it.

The value of clear space

These are short paragraphs, words should have room to breathe, but I also value clear space in a more physical manner.

For example, if you keep a non-running non-classic car on your driveway, it simply gets in the way.

Perhaps your argument is that if you eventually found the time to get it going again or tart it up a little then you might be able to make a few bucks out of it.

But why wait for that time instead of disposing of it now? Think of the value of the freed space. Don't people pay a lot of money in search of extra living space?

Isn't the value of that space likely to be more than any notional value you might get from selling what is a basically a ton of scrap?

Quite apart from the aesthetic value of seeing a ton of slowly rusting metal outside your door for months on end.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Information at work

It is true. I like collecting data. I have epic spreadsheets full of data.

But I don't really like collecting data. That is just an essential prerequisite. What I like to do, what I need to do, what any manager needs to do, is to be able to process vast reams of information - to filter it, to sort it, to categorise it, and then to work out where it is leading or where it is all coming from.

I am not very good at collecting data. But I am good at spotting or working out the trends and the policies from it.

That is management, and the more senior your role, the more information you have to process and the harder it is to pull out the key messages. And the better you are as a manager, the more information you can process, and the more likely you are to be able to work out the necessary direction.

It's sometimes called "being decisive", it's sometimes called "cutting through the crap", but the key point is that you need to have absorbed the data to do it, you cannot have ignored the data to do it.

Jake Bullet, Cybernautics

I've already written a second post describing my detective work, but as we get more senior in organisations, more time is spent working in traffic control rather than in the CID.

Business school and business books have spent a lot of time on the differences between being a manager, a delegator and a leader. Ideally more emphasis should be on the third.

Is that really like being a traffic signal?

You have to choose the appropriate direction for the cars or people or information to travel. If you choose the direction well, then they will get where they need to go without noticing you. But if you were not present, they would not know where they were meant to be going, or they would crash.

Equally, when there is a blockage in your path, then a good traffic signal at that location should allow the obstructions to clear permitting you to continue your journey with minimal delay.

Isn't that the type of manager that you would like to see?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Venomous verbs of ruthless candour

Generally speaking, this is a blog for original thought. And generally speaking, it tries to cover big issues or new ideas. Occasionally though, somebody else manages to capture a trivial little sentiment so perfectly that it seems right for me to simply quote it. So this is the DJ, professional comedian, and star of the "Now" show Mr Jon Holmes referring to his most significant musical memory …

It was called Assassing, and it was spat out of the mouth of a 6ft 5in Scottish former lumberjack called Fish. The band were Marillion. It was 1984, and Duran Duran were still poncing about on a boat, but everything was about to change. In front of us, a great big sweating jester with a terrifying painted face burst through a wall (of paper) and screeched into the camera that he was "the assassin, with tongue forged from eloquence". It was rock music, and it spoke to us even though we didn’t understand a word of it. "Listen as the syllables of slaughter cut with calm precision," whispered Fish. "Patterned frosty phrases rape your ears and sow the ice incision." Do they? Blimey. We had to be a part of this. Mr Le Bon could take his Rio and her dancing on the sand and shove it up his upturned yacht.

From: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/live_reviews/article1861509.ece

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It's elementary my dear wilson

A few days ago I mentioned the fictional detective disguised as a TV doctor. And around the same time I also described my work. And I regularly refer to the power of spirituality.

When there is a problem at work, whenever you need to figure something out, when there is no obvious answer, there is really only one way to get to the bottom of it. That way is the scientific method.

Even if the whole issue appears unsolvable, you need to break it down into smaller components. You cannot always replicate history to fully prove every theory against every scenario. But if you have a hypothesis that could explain the result, it is only worth anything if it can be replicated or tested. The problem must be reduced to common sense.

Professional scientists might grumble about the broadness of my definitions. And I'm only talking about how to resolve the daily questions of "my report shows 250 units, I was expecting 200" rather than the direction for evolution of the human race.

Or am I?

Beyond double deckers

It was a few weeks ago that Airbus unveiled their new jumbo aircraft. Initially the hype was not so much about carrying more people per aircraft, but mainly about getting double beds and casinos and bars for long haul flights. Well airlines could easily put those extra amenities onto planes right now, but instead they would rather squeeze on more passengers.

When the airlines squeeze on more passengers onto each plane, the flying experience becomes more unpleasant for each passenger. Obviously. Tall passengers get their knees thumped, unless in a premium priced seats, you can't recline as far as you'd like, it's almost impossible to squeeze past the people next to you unless they get up. You could be losing hours of sleeptime anyway, yet you are regularly told to straighten seat backs and buckle up for takeoff or landing or turbulence. If perchance the guy sitting next to you does nod off, he will inevitably spill into your space.

Is there another way?

In the centres of crowded Japanese cities, there are a number of "capsule" or "pod" hotels. If each flying customer was in an individual pod, these could be stacked up against the sides of the plane at least three or four high. This gives each customer more privacy and also the opportunity to stretch out and sleep for the entire journey. Certainly for the "red-eye" flights, I'd prefer that. Even without the space or weight or cost of individual pods, why not have stacked bunks as they do on some sleeper trains. Then there should be no requirement to be forced to sit upright for takeoff and landing if you accept being strapped down at those times.

This idea has got to take off. The only question is what they will be called. Skypods? Flypods?

Flying Windows

This is certainly not about Bill Gates' damn screensaver, in fact it is not about computers at all.

Recording the highest pre-order numbers ever, Boeing have just released their new "Dreamliner". It does not look like a revolution in design, but it is expected to be lighter, faster, safer and more economical than current planes.

The first modern jet airliner was the De Havilland Comet, and every structural engineer today knows that they crashed "because they had square windows". Probably not the full reason, but the tiny cracks of metal fatigue were initiated and exaggerated around the window corners where the sheet metal had been cut. Basic science. That is why modern planes tend to have rounded windows.

But even circular windows are not ideal. Obviously the pilot should have good all-round visibility, but the many windows down the side of an airliner are a major inconvenience for the aircraft designer. An aircraft wall with windows is much heavier than an equivalent one without. It would be cheaper to build and cheaper to fly. An airliner without side windows would also, remember the Comet, be less prone to structural failure and therefore safer too.

On the ground where we spend most of our time, natural conditions are a good thing. Broadly, we should be more in tune with our local environments. Maximising natural light and minimising energy consumption are fine goals for your home. However when flying through the air at hundreds of miles per hour in a giant metal tube burning gallons of fuel every second, then a little extra power to light inside the plane is insignificant. And we have already said the plane would be less heavy thus more efficient anyway.

When we travel long haul, our body clocks are invariably disrupted. Jet lag is not pleasant. During a long east-west flight, day and night lose their meaning, or at least become severely distorted.

It would be good if the lighting in the plane could help us to compensate for that. Imagine, the whole ceiling of the plane could be a uniform grey as it leaves the UK and gradually become a bright blue as we near the tropics.

With fewer windows, we wouldn't have people with blinds open with searing sunlight spoiling our inflight movies.

And we would have cheaper, safer air travel.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Working in your footsteps

Part of my job is to be the guy who minds busy intersections, critically there to prevent accidents and to direct the traffic, but the more unobtrusive that one can be there then the smoother the process will flow. Ideally I should be barely noticed but people should still end up getting where they need to go, and then wonder how they got there so quickly.

Another major part of my job is to be a detective, called in when things go wrong to try to find out the cause. This is probably the most difficult part; needing the most experience, the most application, and the most rational thinking in the face of irrational pressures.

There is also a small part that needs to be the enforcer, hauling people up to face the consequences of their actions.

Of course I'm not in the police.

From houses to holmes

Hugh Laurie stars in a TV show, he looks like a doctor but it is a well documented fact that he is basically following in the tradition of Columbo and Poirot and Morse and CSI. And I was reminded that there is something great about detective shows.

I don't pretend to watch these shows to try to figure out the crime before the detective does. It is just entertainment. But the entertainment only works because the process works - unless the writer can provide enough rational steps to the conclusion, the viewer will feel cheated.

Basically, as Grissom keeps saying, it's all about evidence. These shows all have the same formula, but there is infinite variety. There is always something incredible, something that defies explanation, something that might have been caused by some supernatural freak occurrence. But there was none.

There is always a logical explanation. Yes the final explanation can be complicated and tortuous and involve the strangest aspects of our fleshy bodies and animal desires. But ultimately the answers are all in there.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Fit women in short skirts

In the occasional break between rain delays, the tennis at Wimbledon plods to its million dollar conclusion. I'm not going to compare the general level of pay for top sports performers with that for soldiers or nurses, nor discuss the effect on society of such gross differentials. But this is the first year that Roger Federer (I'm going out on a limb here) is going to receive the same prize money as the winner of the competition that is restricted to ladies. Can that be right?

The usual justifications were about 3 sets versus 5 sets. Anyway the first few matches for the top female players often end 6-0 6-0 within 30 minutes. That doesn't happen in the men's game. Adding another set would achieve nothing in those circumstances. Sound reasoning, old arguments.

At a more basic level, isn't it still nonsense to insist that a competition restricted to ladies should have equal pay to a competition that is simply designed to find the best tennis player - regardless of age or race or gender?

There should be equal opportunity, in tennis as in virtually everything else. It's true that some women can beat some men. So if a woman wants to compete in an open tournament and wins, good luck to her!

But the ladies cry foul. Because on average the typical man is faster and stronger than the typical woman, then there must be a separate competition for them. So should we have a separate competition, offering equal prize money to the main one, for those who are born with an extra X chromosome? Or for those born with Down's Syndrome? Those are genetic differences too. But there aren't so many of them so it doesn't matter?

There are loads of Chinese and Indians though. So if the average one is at a disadvantage to the average white or black guy, does that mean that we should have a separate competition for those ethnic groups? Well isn't that broadly the same principle as giving their own tournament to those missing a Y chromosome?

If ladies want to have a separate competition, fine. If men want to watch them, fine. If they want to dress in revealing attire, fine. But if it's a separate competition, judge it on its own merits. Reward it on its own merits. Does it have the same value?

Thursday, July 05, 2007


It probably looks like I haven't got the hang of this instant posting thing. However I carry the baggage of many old-school journalism lessons. Even in this new webworld I cannot "publish" anything without being reasonably confident of the spelling and the grammar and also the general "sound" of the piece.

As I think the finest English writer since George Orwell said in the preface to his latest book, in writing as well as in speech, sentences should still resonate to "the music of language". Whether you read it out to yourself in your mind or get your gorgeous wife to read the draft to you, that flow is still important. Experts in English literature (I am not one) would probably refer to iambic pentameter and suchlike. I don't know about that, but I can still sense a rhythm.

And looking back (again pretending to be the literature student that I am not), perhaps my last note did follow some kind of extended haiku structure - three or four little paragraphs each starting with a different slant but ending on the same theme, with each getting more and more pithy, ending in a single wrap-up line. Perhaps that is the ideal structure for a blog post?

But that's all style bullshit - what really matters is content ;)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


I recently showed a friend some ideas that I had for explaining some basic concepts in data analysis. He told me, quoting exactly, that he "showed some of it to my colleague and she says you've got a job if you want one!". Of course that's just friendly banter and not a formal job offer, but I appreciate the sentiment.

We all absorb and consolidate ideas from different sources, but I would be perturbed if a whole presentation of mine were to be shown to someone else without at least some acknowledgement.

There is a fine line between representing earlier research and re-presenting earlier research.

The hyphen is a fine line.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

I still haven't figured out RSS

Another little note about this facebook thing. There are people who make films about the making of films, there are people who write books about writing books, so this is just another post about the art of posting. As a start, perhaps I should clarify the references in the last note.

Firstly, Milan Kundera wrote a famous novel in the early 1980s, and the English translation was called "The Unbearable Lightness of Being". I never finished reading it, but got far enough through to understand that the main obsession of the narrator was the issue of sentient existence and in particular the living nightmare of not being able to know the true consequences our decisions until they have actually been played out. Hence the need for a second life. Hence the reference to the internet. Bring on Web 3.0

I suppose I should mention at this point that my actual posting was spurred by a comment on my facebook wall. In the world described by Roger Waters in an album released in 1979, the Wall is a barrier behind which we can stay isolated from the "cruel world" outside. But once again the internet has caught up with us. The wall is now not just a place to hide behind, but a place for the world outside to record their thoughts too. So it is a way of letting people in and not a way of keeping people out.

Anyway, although this particular comment on my wall was a single four letter word that is shocking and offensive - no problem, it was perfectly fair and true! Though I had a valid explanation, I couldn't explain myself in just another word or two, so it needed a full "note" for it. And then I think that note might need explaining… it goes on and on… yes I see how this blogging idea could really take off :)