29 January 2010

Today's Haiku

a tabby cat
searches the bedroom
glass of water

28 January 2010

Magnificent Maps

Image by courtesy of The Guardian.

Thanks to IanVisits I've just spotted what looks to be a fascinating exhibition at the British Library, from April 2010.
Maps can be works of art, propaganda pieces, expressions of local pride, tools of indoctrination … Opening in April 2010, Magnificent Maps showcases the British Library's unique collection of large-scale display maps, many of which have never been exhibited before, and demonstrates why maps are about far more than geography.
And it's free!  Has to be worth a visit.

Lewis Carroll and Photography

Just spotted this interesting looking lecture at the British Library in London on Saturday 6 March ... Lewis Carroll and photography: Exposing the truth will be given by Carroll scholar Edward Wakeling.

27 January 2010


I’ve just signed up for this year’s Thing-a-Day which means I also now have a Posterous account.   Aarrrgggghhhhh!!!!  Yes this is another blogging tool I really didn’t need.  But hey, ho!

This is really by way of a test message to see how posting by email to Posterous actually works – and where the results end up!


Posted via email from kcm's posterous

26 January 2010

My Friends Meme

My Friends Meme, originally uploaded by kcm76.
This week's Flickr meme is to use the first names of 12 friends and see what we get.

So I chose: Gabriella, Sue, Stephen, Rob, Tom, Christine, Malin, Ziggy, Prue, Les, John and Katy.

1. Don't Go Yet, 2. Sue W., 3. tempest three, 4. Very sticky flip-flops that don't flop!, 5. Naked Bill But Still Beautiful, 6. In A Dream With You, 7. encadrée, 8. Angelic Fruitcake, 9. Parisian Stories 5 - The Brawl 15, 10. NYC - MoMA: Pablo Picasso's Head of a Sleeping Woman (Study for Nude with Drapery), 11. INTO THE SUN. PAINTING BY JOHN P. BUTLER, 12. Katy Kitchen

As always the photographs are not mine so please click on individual links below to see each artist/photostream. This mosaic is for a group called My Meme, where each week there is a different theme and normally 12 questions to send you out on a hunt to discover photos to fit your meme. It gives you a chance to see and admire other great photographers' work out there on Flickr.

Created with fd's Flickr Toys

Quote: Dreams

Be careful what you wear to bed at night,
you never know who you'll meet in your dreams.

23 January 2010

Today's Haiku

filigree birch
green parrot chattering
black crow

22 January 2010

Today's Haiku

two brothers
new baby sister
Victoria plum

21 January 2010

Today's Haiku

alfresco lunch
bread, cheese, mint ice cream

20 January 2010

The Dawkins Delusion

As regular readers will know I don't do God or gods (of any gender).  In fact I don't do dogmatic belief systems at all, preferring to find my own way and my own ethics, intellectually.  Which of course does not mean that I can't appreciate many of the great things which have been done in the name of religion; that I don't abhor the many bad things; that I am amoral; or that I would ever deny anyone's right to believe whatever they wish as a crutch to get them through this life.

I am not a theist; neither am I an atheist.  I prefer to say that, while I find the notion of some all-supreme being inherently unlikely - literally fantastic - I simply do not know; and further I doubt that we can ever know.  Which should not stop us seeking and pushing back the intellectual envelope.

I am as suspicious of atheists as I am of theists.  For atheists are just as bigoted - sometimes more so - than theists.  Richard Dawkins is a case in point.  His aggressive "new atheism" is just as dogmatic, inflexible and demanding as the belief system of any theist fundamentalist.  Indeed I would go so far as to label Dawkins himself a fundamentalist - albeit one who doesn't fly plane-loads of innocents into office blocks.

I was pleased therefore to see in next week's Radio Times (23-29 January) the most measured and comprehensive demolition of Dawkins and his ilk under the title The Dawkins Delusion.  It was written by novelist Howard Jacobson who presents the first programme in Channel 4's series The Bible: a History.  And it isn't that Jabobson is a believer: he describes himself as an atheist "who fears all fanaticism bred by faith" which includes Dawkins et.al.

Sadly the Radio Times article isn't on their website, but I feel sufficiently enraged by Dawkins's bigoted anti-bigot stance that I've broken the rules and put a scanned copy online here (although it will be removed forthwith if I am requested to do so by Radio Times, or if I spot that the article is available elsewhere online).

Jacobson's opinion, although not new, is important and deserves a wider airing.

Law and Lawyers

Law and Lawyers is a new weblog, devoted to interesting UK legal things.  In the first post the writer quotes from Utopia by Sir Thomas Moore (1478-1535).  It bears repeating here:
They have but few laws, and such is their constitution that they need not many. They very much condemn other nations, whose laws, together with the commentaries on them, swell up to so many volumes; for they think it an unreasonable thing to oblige men to obey a body of laws that are both of such a bulk, and so dark as not to be read and understood by every one of the subjects.

They have no lawyers among them, for they consider them as a sort of people whose profession it is to disguise matters, and to wrest the laws; and therefore they think it is much better that every man should plead his own cause, and trust it to the judge, as in other places the client trusts it to a counsellor.

Every one of them is skilled in their law, for as it is a very short study, so the plainest meaning of which words are capable is always the sense of their laws. And they argue thus; all laws are promulgated for this end, that every man may know his duty; and therefore the plainest and most obvious sense of the words is that which ought to be put upon them.

UK government please note!

18 January 2010

All About Animals Meme

This week's Flickr meme is all about our favourite animals.

First here's my usual slightly off the wall take; interpret liberally:
1. favourite mammal: pussy
2. favourite primate: nubile
3. favourite fish: mermaid
4. favourite marsupial: giant hopping mouse
5. favourite insect: wasp
6. favourite bird: parrot
7. favourite reptile: my physics teacher (excellent teacher and nice guy, but he did look a bit like a juvenile tortoise!)
8. favourite amphibian: (pissed) newt
9. favourite dinosaur: dragon
10. favourite invertebrate: (raw) prawn
11. favourite animal name: Emperor Haile-Selassie (a rare pedigree wire-haired Abyssinian tripe hound)
12. if you could be an animal, what would you be? nymphomaniac

1. Lady Lula's Bright Eyed Stare, 2. Natsumi, 3. Sirenity, 4. Wallaby
5. New wasp nest in shed., 6. Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, 7. Tortoise Yoga, 8. Palmate Newt
9. Chinese Dragon, 10. Prawns, 11. HM Supreme Emperor Haile Selassie I, 12. PZ HalloweeN Ball

And here, for those who realy want it, is a more serious version:
1. favourite mammal: cat
2. favourite primate: lemur
3. favourite fish: koi
4. favourite marsupial: thylacene
5. favourite insect: wasp
6. favourite bird: parrot
7. favourite reptile: lizard
8. favourite amphibian: newt
9. favourite dinosaur: ichthyosaur
10. favourite invertebrate: lobster
11. favourite animal name: Zen (for a cat)
12. if you could be an animal, what would you be? cat

1. Lady Lula's Bright Eyed Stare, 2. Ring-Tailed Lemur, 3. We call the big white guy Jaws, 4. Thylacene
5. New wasp nest in shed., 6. Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, 7. Lady, Please!!, 8. Palmate Newt
9. Ichthyosaur, 10. Lobster, 11. Sleeping Cat, 12. IMG03898

As always the photographs are not mine so please click on individual links below to see each artist/photostream. This mosaic is for a group called My Meme, where each week there is a different theme and normally 12 questions to send you out on a hunt to discover photos to fit your meme. It gives you a chance to see and admire other great photographers' work out there on Flickr.

Mosaics created with fd's Flickr Toys

Today's Haiku

Gloomy day dawning,
Prevailing wind, warmer rain.
Snow slowly melting.

17 January 2010

Today's Haiku

The first in a new occasional series.

Frosty night moonlight
Lovers cuddle dreamily
Vixen screaming.

16 January 2010

Things What I Don't Do

Over recent months I’ve come to realise that there are whole categories of things and activities which I just do not do and cannot engage with. These are things which the vast majority view as important, if not life critical. In general these are things which, contrary to majority opinion, I think are boring, actually not important or (in a couple of cases) just plain wrong. Here’s my controversial list of things what I don’t do ...

[Aside: Before you lay into me, remember that these are my personal opinions.  I'm not saying they have to be your opinions too.  You are free to believe whatever you wish as long as you don’t expect me to join you!]

Golf. Pointless. Expensive. Over-hyped. Environmentally damaging. And time-consuming.

Boats. I never could relate to water. I hated learning to swim. Don’t even like putting my head under the shower to wash my hair. Something to do with being in control, I think. And anything to do with more than a small dingy is only standing under a shower tearing up £20 notes. Boring.

Twitter. I might take some notice when someone can really, rationally, explain to me what the point is. Actually totally unimportant. Just because we have the technology to do something doesn’t mean we should do it.

IVF. In my view this is fundamentally wrong. If a couple cannot have children then generally Nature knows there is some good reason they shouldn’t. I also suspect it is being over-used just because your modern girlies can’t conceive easily as they’ve all been on the pill for too many years. Again, just because we have the technology ... And no, this isn’t sour grapes just because we don’t have children: we planned not to have children.

Stem cells. For me the jury is still out on this. Yes, I see the apparent medical benefits. But I’m not convinced it isn’t going to turn out to be something with unforeseen adverse consequences. And I’m also not convinced of the overall ethics. Again, just because we have the technology ... But mostly I don’t do stem cells because I find it a deeply boring field of study.

Climate change / global warming. This is another which falls into the deeply boring bucket. I know the theory is that it’s important, and maybe it is. But as soon as politicians get involved there are instantly too many vested interests and parochialism. But for me it is just deeply boring, because it is so ubiquitous.

Africa. See comments above about things being ubiquitous and boring and the involvement of politicians. We (white man) has basically fucked up Africa over the last 2-300 years. Perhaps the most respectful thing we can do now is to stop meddling and let the Africans sort themselves out, like we should have done from the start. But most of all this is in my deeply boring bucket. I’ve been assaulted just too much about this over the years -- I have issue fatigue.

Elephants. Well for me they just go along with Africa as being deeply boring and so over-done that again I have issue fatigue. Yes OK so they’re endangered. That doesn’t mean I have to take them to my heart. Similarly for polar bears; and even tigers are getting to that bracket.

iPod, Wii, xBox etc. See comment above about Twitter. Really what is the point? Just totally, totally, unimportant and irrelevant.

Mainstream classical music. Boring. Dull. Overdone. Tinkling audio wallpaper at best -- especially Mozart and Haydn. With a very few exceptions. Some music pre-Bach or post-Beatles is interesting, but even then by no means all. And no, it isn’t that I don’t like music; I just hate what everyone else likes.

H5N1 Avian Flu. In general I find odd and emerging diseases interesting, in a forensic way, but this appears to have been blown up out of all proportion. More cynical vested interests? Politicians trying to frighten us to keep the great unwashed under control? I don’t know. But as it appears to have been a knee-jerk over-reaction -- which does the scientific/medical community no favours -- I can’t get interested. The same with H1N1 Swine Flu.

Cars. Oh dear. No, sorry guys, it isn’t necessary for everyone to drive and have their own car. Neither of us drives, we never have done. OK, I accept we live in a city, which helps, but we do OK without driving. We have a good relationship with our local cab company and give them a lot less money than we would spend on running a car. And we get a lot less stress and hassle -- not to mention that not having a car is much greener. Again it is all down to politics and vested interests: we have to make and sell stuff to keep the world turning. Err ... maybe if we didn’t do this we wouldn’t be in the climate change mess we are? Let’s put the money into decent public transport (and that includes taxi services, ‘cos you can’t run a bus from here to everywhere). Oh, and sorry, cars are deeply boring too.

Yes I know I’m mad; eccentric. Just remember: "blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light".

15 January 2010

Changing Your Mind is not Indecisiveness

Sorting through some old work papers the other day I came across an item which was obviously originally posted on a forum somewhere. Sadly I hadn’t noted the source or the author. However reading it struck a chord so here is a (slightly edited) version, with apologies to whoever the original author was!
There is an interesting corollary to the "fog of war" which I [the original author] came across in Robert Cialdini's Influence.

In a chapter on "Commitment and Consistency" he quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson:

A foolish consistency is the Hobgoblin of little minds.

Usually we think consistency is a good thing, but the foolish rigid variety is not. Now, automatic consistency is really useful most of the time, since we often need to be able to behave in appropriate ways without thinking. A dilemma. And the only way out is to know when such consistency is likely to lead to poor choice. Cialdini says there are two separate signals to help tip us off.

The first occurs in the pit of our stomach when we realize we are trapped in to complying with something we know we didn't want to do. It's probably happened to you a hundred times. Cialdini recounts his experience with a young woman carrying a clipboard who knocked on his front door. She tells him she's conducting a survey. And he, wanting to make a favourable impression on the young woman, stretched the truth in his answers to her “survey” questions. Then using his answers against him, she tells him that she "can save him up to 1200 dollars" if he joins the club membership she is selling. "Surely someone as socially vigorous as yourself would want to take advantage of the tremendous savings our company can offer on all the things you've already told me you do!" she says. And he, feeling trapped, feels his stomach tighten. He actually complied with her request although he defends himself saying that it was before he started his study of influence.

The second is not so clear. It's in your "heart of hearts" and can be heard in answering the tricky question: "Knowing what I know now, if I could go back in time, would I have made the same choice?" Sometimes circumstances change, and with those changes, is your original decision still valid? Changing your mind or acting inconsistently with your previous actions is not indecisiveness. If the answer to the knowing-what-I-know-now question is "No" then reversing or changing your position is the responsible thing to do. This strategy can help tremendously when re-evaluating those sunk cost decisions. Especially for revisiting decisions to continue with projects that may no longer be viable.

I try not to tie my ego to my original position, and remember that it's okay to change my mind.
Moral: know when to change your mind!

13 January 2010

Green Woodpecker

Green Woodpecker, originally uploaded by kcm76.
This Green Woodpecker was visiting my west London suburban garden earlier today. I certainly don't see them regularly, maybe just 2 or 3 times a year, and they are always a delight especially when they stay for a few minutes to feed, as this one did.

It's not a brilliant photo as I was trying to hand-hold my biggest telephoto lens, in poor winter afternoon light, while leaning out of the window.

11 January 2010

Advice for Pond Keepers

BBC News today has an item suggesting the the freezing over of ponds is actually good for them, contrary to apparent logic.

I see the basic logic behind the article, emphasising that freezing over could increase the oxygen levels in the water, although I would like to see some evidence of this being true.  However as a long-time pond keeper (aka. fish keeper) and as the moderator of an online aquatics forum, I would not agree with a number of the ideeas and suggestons made in the article which I think are potentially misleading (or worse) ...

Received wisdom says that pond owners should break a hole in the ice to allow oxygen to reach the water.

NO!  Never break a hole in the ice.  They get it right later: "make a hole".  Do this either by keeping an area clear (eg. with a football or a pond heater) or by melting a hole with hot water.  Never, never smash the ice if there are fish in the pond: the shock wave will likely kill the fish.

Making a hole in the ice makes very little difference to the amount of oxygen in this water

This is probably true, but a hole could make a difference if there is a concentration of other unwanted gasses in the pond water.

The only time that pond owners should intervene is if they own fish, or the bottom of their ponds are full of silt and dead leaves.  Then it is worth stirring up the water

Again I would disagree.  If you have fish, do NOT stir up the water.  The water may be layered into thermoclines with slightly warmer water at the bottom which will benefit the fish.  Moreover if you have fish and a silty bottom (!!) then disturbing the debris can release potentially toxic gasses like ammonia – it may also disturb hibernating amphibians.  If you're going to stir up the bottom of your pond to remove detritus, then do it in mid-summer.

Story of My Life Meme

Story of My Life Meme, originally uploaded by kcm76.
This week's Flickr meme is to design the book of your life, giving each of the chapters a title. And what could be more appropriate for my birthday!?

1. Title (front cover): Zen Navigation
2. Introduction: Evening, All
3. Chapter 1: Family History. Tragically I was an only twin
4. Chapter 2: School Days. Rocking-horse brains
5. Chapter 3: Idle Students. Information is the flotsam left by the tide of entropy
6. Chapter 4: Research. Faultless inaccuracy
7. Chapter 5: The World of Work. Bean counters and biro command
8. Chapter 6: Everlasting Love. If you don't concern yourself with your wife's cat, you will lose something irretrievable between you
9. Chapter 7: Anthony Powell Society. Keeping the ball running
10. Chapter 8: Retirement. Large print audio books
11. Epilogue: Some things were never meant to make sense
12. Back Cover: Utterly forgettable

As always the photographs are not mine so please click on individual links below to see each artist/photostream. This mosaic is for a group called My Meme, where each week there is a different theme and normally 12 questions to send you out on a hunt to discover photos to fit your meme. It gives you a chance to see and admire other great photographers' work out there on Flickr.

1. Boating, 2. Police officer G20, 3. twins (only not really), 4. WW12: Rocking Horse Head, 5. Urban Relics, 6. Ammonite Parkinsonia dorsetensi , 7. Look We've Got Pens, 8. Shasta | Gone Home | 3/9/00-3/28/08, 9. Macro marbles, 10. "Nature Combined with Nurture Makes People Mature!" :), 11. Quite a Yarn, 12. Backlit Red

Created with fd's Flickr Toys

07 January 2010

Flexible Working

Jilly, over at jillysheep, has touched today on the cultures which is part of current working life; cultures which mostly shouldn't be there!  What follows is verbatim my comment to her post, reflectng my experience of this in a large IT company over the last 10-15 years.

I agree with your comments on working life. Flexibility should be a "no brainer" for most employers. It is 1991 since I worked in the same office as my immediate line manager; well over 10 years since I had my own desk; and 5 years since I went in the office out of routine. On average over my last year working I think I went into an office (not even my base office) just once a month. I could do everything from home with a laptop, broadband, instant messaging, phone, and audio-conferencing phone number (we didn't even need video-conferencing!). In the rare instance I was sent hardcopy mail it was simply redirected to my home address; but 99.999% of everything (even payslips) was done electronically. And I was managing $5M projects with a team spread across the world - some of whom I never met face to face!

When you put the cost of the technology required against the cost of office space, employee morale (from increased flexibility), efficiencies, savings on travel (cost and time), etc. the payback is probably about 1 year, maybe less. Flexible and mobile/home working actually means you get more work done because people will do a bit extra here and there as long as they are trusted not to abuse the flexibility.

The killer is the long hours culture. And not just long hours in the office, but also people feeling that they have to work long hours at home too -- evenings and weekends because it is always there. I used to regularly work a 50 hour week; easily done by starting a bit early, taking little time for lunch and working a little late. I was fairly disciplined about the hours I would and did work - and was still reckoned to be one of the most efficient and achieving project managers in the team! Anyone who needs to work 70 or 80 hours a week (and many of my colleagues did) is either very inefficient (=ineffective) or is being abused by their management with way too much work.

OK, there are of course jobs you can't do remotely. Anything where objects, food, drink have to be handled (and that's everything from factories and farms to hospitals and pubs) you need warm bodies on site. But that still doesn't preclude flexible hours providing you can get the people scheduling right. But anything office based should be easily done from anywhere with current technology.

The challenge is the huge cultural change; let's not underestimate that. Management have to learn to trust their people to do the hours to get the job done. The company has to be prepared to invest up-front in the technology (and some support staff); that's an investment usually over several years but with significant paybacks in efficiency (not necessarily overall fewer jobs, just different ones). The people have to learn to do without the office; you have to find ways of allowing people to continue to have a virtual coffee together and gossip. People also have to learn to be trusted, which means not being closely supervised all the time and being a "self-starter".

Of course, as with anything else, there are people who cannot hack the cultural change; who need the office because (typically) home is too distracting. And this is no respecter of age, gender, role or seniority. I know secretaries who happily work from home and senior directors who have to work in the office; and vice versa.

How the working word has changed even in the time I've been working! And what was the prime cause of all this? Ultimately I suspect the PC.

Dumb Blonde

Dumb_Blonde_44 Wandering Pussy, originally uploaded by age.morris.
An interesting reflection on our life and times? Well it amused me, anyway!

05 January 2010

Professor Edward Schillebeeckx RIP

Yesterday's Times carried a full page obituary of Professor Edward Schillebeeckx, who died just before Christmas at the age of 95.  Schillebeeckx was probably the greatest Christian theologian of our time and one of the influential thinkers behind the work of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

Although I'm now a non-Christian atheist, I was in my younger days for a while close to the Roman church and Schillebeeckx was certainly an influential thinker amongst more liberal and intellectual Catholics along with the even more controversial Teilhard de Chardin.

I am unworthy, indeed insufficiently knowledgeable, to make further comment and will leave you all to read the Times's most interesting obituary of Professor Schillebeeckx.

04 January 2010

Animal Lovers' Meme

Animal Lovers' Meme, originally uploaded by kcm76.
This week the Flickr meme is for animal lovers. We were asked to choose our favourite (or in some cases scariest) animals:

1. favourite animal of all time: cats (all of them)
2. favourite pet: cat (I'm convinced they're magic and know where the 7th dimension is)
3. favourite zoo animal: meerkat (pure comedy)
4. favourite farm animal: geese
5. favourite animal from where you live: brown hare (they're even more magic than cats)
6. favourite creepy crawly: hymenoptera (bees & wasps)
7. scariest animal: (wo)man [fx: big grin]
8. scariest creepy crawly: maggots (they really turn my stomach)
9. most fascinating animal: cephalopoda (octopus & squid)
10. favourite endangered species: tiger (just so majestic and so powerful)
11. favourite carnivore: all big cats but especially leopard an jaguar
12. favourite herbivore: parrots

As always the photographs are not mine so please click on individual links below to see each artist/photostream. This mosaic is for a group called My Meme, where each week there is a different theme and normally 12 questions to send you out on a hunt to discover photos to fit your meme. It gives you a chance to see and admire other great photographers' work out there on Flickr.

1. Sleeping time, 2. Ginger pussy cat wants another drink please bar keep, 3. Meerkat Lip-pursing, 4. Amsterdam Goose, 5. Brown Hare - mg_6330, 6. Ready to land, 7. I love being nude, 8. Fat 8 Maggots, 9. Untitled, 10. Hungry Tiger, 11. Leopard - Panthera pardus, 12. Hyacinth Macaw Cracking Brazil Nut

Created with fd's Flickr Toys

Where Am I?

Here, I guess ...
There's a trick to the 'graceful exit'.  It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over and let it go.  It means leaving what's over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives.  It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up, rather than out.

[Ellen Goodman]

Pity the Poor Wage Slaves

Just for all you wage-slaves out there!
Now tell me why I retired, please ...