Tuesday, 29 December 2015

What is the Measure of a Day's Worth?

When you get to the end of the working day and you get home to be met by your partner and asked 'Did you have a nice day?' how do you arrive at your answer? (Assuming that you do not give the all too frequent, bland and automatic response of 'Oh. Fine.')

Do you, evaluate your day by...

...how much you have done?
(That could be either how much you have done for your employer or for yourself in your employer's time!)

...how much you have earned or been paid?

...how little you have done (while still getting paid the daily rate)?

...how many (or how few) people you have seen?

...how mentally stimulating it has been?

There are many more suggestions that one might make. Perhaps the real question is 'Do you evaluate your day or just get through it without giving it much thought?'

As you start a new year, asking this question may put things into a different perspective.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Why are you here? - 2

Last month, I asked 'Why are you here? - 1'. I ask again with a different response.

How about...

"Your job in life is to seek and find the one thing that is enduring; the one thing that will not go away - that cannot go away - that cannot let you down."

And with that...


Thursday, 17 December 2015

Epictetus - 9

From: The Golden Sayings of Epictetus (translated by Hastings Crossley) - from Project Gutenberg.

Pittacus wronged by one whom he had it in his power to punish, let him go free, saying, Forgiveness is better than revenge. The one shows native gentleness, the other savagery.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Advice to a young poet... and to others

I found this interesting, even enticing. In this season of gregariousness, it is worth considering the following.

"...What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours - that is what you must be able to attain. To be solitary as you were when you were a child, when the grownups walked around involved with matters that seemed large and important because they looked so busy and because you didn't understand a thing about what they were doing.

"And when you realize that their activities are shabby, that their vocations are petrified and no longer connected with life, why not then continue to look upon it all as a child would, as if you were looking at something unfamiliar, out of the depths of your own world, from the vastness of your own solitude, which is itself work and status and vocation? Why should you want to give up a child's wise not-understanding in exchange for defensiveness and scorn, since not understanding is, after all, a way of being alone, whereas defensiveness and scorn are a participation in precisely what, by these means, you want to separate yourself from."

So what if you are not a poet. That's only what a grownup would say.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Found (source unknown)

"First, the question of why there is something rather than nothing is neither silly nor just of interest to philosophers and 'armchair speculators'. Second, like all good philosophy, by the end of the journey the prize is not necessarily getting an answer, but rather consists in gaining a much richer and more nuanced understanding of the question."

(Found among my loose notes made years ago.)

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Another Sisyphus

Sisyphus was condemned to forever push a rock up a hill only for it to roll down the other side and for him to start pushing it back up all over again. This story was the inspiration for the title of Albert Camus' book 'The Myth of Sisyphus'. I remember how, when I was young, the first season of football that I followed was very exciting. Especially as my team - Spurs - started an unbeaten run beginning with the first match that I ever saw. As a result of this run, they won the FA Cup that year (1967). With subsequent seasons, the excitement waned and I now sometimes wonder what all the fuss is about (especially among those who are not making vast sums of money out of it and may even be spending huge sums watching 'their team' each week).

Remembering that Camus was once a footballer - in particular, a goalkeeper - might the Sisyphean footballer be one...

Condemned to kick a ball into a goal over and over only for it to be replaced on the centre spot and the cycle to start again (until the final whistle, that is, after which one awaits the next match when the whole process begins again - a Sisyphus with breaks).

Perhaps Camus, as a goalkeeper, was condemned to be the one who had to keep picking the ball out of the back of the net.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Why are you here? - 1

The question of the meaning of life is an old one and perhaps an unanswerable one. For various technical reasons, it may not even be a valid one. Even if it is not a valid question as such, it does provide pause for thought...

...and having paused and thought, to come up with some suggestions (each of which with their own snippet of value and/or usefulness).

Here is one such suggestion:

"Perhaps you are here to understand your own particular bit of the universe... and to do what comes of that understanding."

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Epictetus - 8

From: The Golden Sayings of Epictetus (translated by Hastings Crossley) - from Project Gutenberg.

Whether you will or no, you are poorer than I!
"What then do I lack?"
What you have not: Constancy of mind, such as Nature would have it be: Tranquillity. Patron or no patron, what care I? but you do care. I am richer than you: I am not racked with anxiety as to what Cæsar may think of me; I flatter none on that account. This is what I have, instead of vessels of gold and silver! your vessels may be of gold, but your reason, your principles, your accepted views, your inclinations, your desires are of earthenware.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Barcode - 22

And finally...

Tthis is the last of a set of barcodes (and the like) I made over four years ago and have been publishing sporadically since. This is a Telepen barcode:

Thursday, 5 November 2015

5 - For November 5th

During a trip to Edinburgh in August, I came across the work of Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) for the first time. This was at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Amongst other pieces, I was able to see 'Five Modular Structures (Sequential Permutations on the Number Five)'. What is not immediately obvious - but which makes these structures particularly interesting when one knows this - is that they all have the same 'footprint': they take up the same two dimensional outline and space on the floor, yet are each quite different given the addition of the third dimension.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Old Fashioned Teaching

I noted in a previous post how I am somewhat 'old fashioned' when it comes to academic matters. That reminded me how, on various occasions, I have pointed out at my university department's staff meetings, when I did a course in education, one of the first things my cohort was told was that we were there to teach, NOT to be liked. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort on the part of the student to learn. It takes sweat certainly; tears sometimes (although, ideally no blood)*. That, I have been told is a thing of the past. It is now important that the students are kept happy. (This is because it is important to get a good score on the National Student Survey.)

Unfortunately, there are different types of happiness. There are students who are only happy if their teaching is thorough and challenging. They want it to require of them an effort. (As you can guess, these are my kind of students.) There are, however, students who want it all to be quite straightforward and set out for them in easy, non-taxing steps. (If not, woe betide, the lecturer.) I am not aware of any survey that makes a distinction between these different types of happiness - or student. If they did, institutions that deliberately cater for the latter would be seen as rather suspect. They would not be seen as at present, as successfully fulfilling students needs.

* That said, I do remember having to have blood samples taken in certain laboratory sessions. (Other fluid samples were also provided by other students.)

Friday, 23 October 2015

Hilbert's Space-filling Curve

Devised by the mathematician David Hilbert (1862-1943) in 1891, the following is a quite simple idea but a lot less simple to explain (but I'll give it a try).

Take a square, divide it in four and connect the centres of each of these squares without the connecting lines crossing. (There is only one possible pattern that can be generated when doing this.) Divide each of the previous four squares into four and repeat the connection of the centres, as before, this time modifying the previous pattern to include these new connections in the process. Repeat ad infinitum.

The following diagram is perhaps more explanatory.

(From Wikipedia: Hilbert Curve where the process is also animated.)

The process is also possible in three dimensions. Here is a screenshot from Hideyuki Hotta's web page at the University of Tokyo, where an animated 3D Hilbert space-filling curve can be seen. (Of course, mathematically, one does not have to stop at just three dimensions.)

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Epictetus - 7

From: The Golden Sayings of Epictetus (translated by Hastings Crossley) - from Project Gutenberg.

—"O! when shall I see Athens and its Acropolis again?"—Miserable man! art thou not contented with the daily sights that meet thine eyes? canst thou behold aught greater or nobler than the Sun, Moon, and Stars; than the outspread Earth and Sea? If indeed thou apprehendest Him who administers the universe, if thou bearest Him about within thee, canst thou still hanker after mere fragments of stone and fine rock? When thou art about to bid farewell to the Sun and Moon itself, wilt thou sit down and cry like a child? Why, what didst thou hear, what didst thou learn? why didst thou write thyself down a philosopher, when thou mightest have written what was the fact, namely, "I have made one or two Compendiums, I have read some works of Chrysippus, and I have not even touched the hem of Philosophy's robe!"

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Barcode - 21

This is a Royal Mail 4-state Barcode:

Monday, 5 October 2015

Academic Language

There is, I was not entirely surprised to find, a word 'academese'*. (Even though the spell-checker has just put a wavy red line under it.) Across the web, there are numerous humorous digs at the way academics speak - not least this one at the PhD Comics website.

I recently experienced something much more subtle. I hear a speaker - a historian - whose talk I was attending, refer to what he was currently 'working on'. I don't doubt his scholarship - his talk was most interesting and informative - but as a scholar, I would have preferred that he told us what he was currently 'studying'. I am, I believe, not being as pedantic as it may appear. There is a significant pressure on academics to produce and show that they have been working. Hence, many slip into 'working on' rather than the 'studying' way of speaking. I find this a pity but as I am often reminded, I am rather old fashioned.

* Not to be confused with 'academise', which, despite having a meaning originating from the Nineteenth century, is coming to be used of the process of turning a publicly run British state school into a privately run academy (so-called).

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Artificial Intelligance

Forget the Turing test, now that Microsoft has brought out Cortana to rival Apple's Siri, leave them alone in a room together and eavesdrop. If between them they can initiate a conversation and keep it going for 10 minutes, then I am willing to consider that they have artificial intelligence.

A friend of mine asked Cortana how to uninstall itself. It gave no answer. I suggested he look at Asimov's Laws of Robotics. Perhaps Cortana's inaction was intended to prevent my friend from coming to harm.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Squares but no right-angles

Here's something that peeks my fascination with right angles, yet without there being a single right angle present.

I got this simply by doing a Google search, having come across the game tredoku - a three-dimensional version of sudoku. Do the search and you will see numerous variations of the layout, all lacking true right angles but all implying them.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Epictetus - 6

From: The Golden Sayings of Epictetus (translated by Hastings Crossley) - from Project Gutenberg.

When a youth was giving himself airs in the Theatre and saying, "I am wise, for I have conversed with many wise men," Epictetus replied, "I too have conversed with many rich men, yet I am not rich!"

Friday, 11 September 2015

Barcode - 20

This is a QR Code (ISO 18004):

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Something about you

Here is an quote that is perhaps worth mulling over at length:

"If, during your lifetime, you don't find out something about yourself, then surely you have found out nothing worth knowing." 

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Attaining Education

I recently caught part of a late night discussion broadcast on BBC Radio 3. It was a discussion primarily about liberal education. The point of a university education was raised. It was, one commentator suggested, about learning to write: it is through writing that one clarifies one's ideas and makes them complete.

One starts to write with the supposition that one's ideas are complete, in need only of expression. However, during the process of writing one finds this not to be the case; they are more of a jumble and mishmash in need clarification than originally thought. One's ideas need expression in ways that both writer and reader understand.

One might argue that all education is about learning to write but at different levels. The level to which one ascends within the education system is about the depth and clarity of thought to which one wishes to aspire.

Just because they are at the top of the education system, it does not follow that writing in universities is at the highest level attainable. (Clearly, there are poor standards in many universities these days but that is not my point.) Significantly, one can always take one's standards beyond the level of one formally reaches in education. Thus, after university (or instead of it) one can aspire to much higher standards of writing and much deeper levels of understanding than even universities can reach.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Epictetus - 5

From: The Golden Sayings of Epictetus (translated by Hastings Crossley) - from Project Gutenberg.

No labour, according to Diogenes, is good but that which aims at producing courage and strength of soul rather than of body.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Barcode - 19

This is a PDF417 (ISO 15438):

Wednesday, 5 August 2015


In the early days of home computers, there was a lot of talk in advertisements about the amount of memory a computer had. That is still the case but the terms RAM (Random-Access Memory) and ROM (Read-Only Memory) are not as prominent as they once were. While computers are great tools, there are still things that paper can do much better. It occurs to me that paper can be described as a Random-Input Medium (RIM). When I write on paper - especially when making notes - I write in different directions all over the page. The text is sometimes small, sometimes large; depending on the importance of what is written. Asterisks, dots, dashes and underlining is common; again, denoting relative importance. Ticks, crosses and text struck-through with a light single, heavy double or wavy line also appear.

So, after the high tech RAM and ROM, there is the decidedly low tech RIM. Of course, let's not forget REM, which was used in the computer programming language BASIC to denote a non-executed REMark statement and RUM, which is a drink.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

A Fourth Anatomy Lesson

This is the second of the two renditions of The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632) by Rembrandt, I recently found on Flickr. This is from ThinkItem's photostream:

Thursday, 23 July 2015

A Third Anatomy Lesson

I recently found on Flickr, two more renditions of The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632) by Rembrandt. Here is the first from Eelco's photostream:

(Another follows on 29th July.)

Friday, 17 July 2015

Epictetus - 4

From: The Golden Sayings of Epictetus (translated by Hastings Crossley) - from Project Gutenberg.

In theory it is easy to convince an ignorant person: in actual life, men not only object to offer themselves to be convinced, but hate the man who has convinced them. Whereas Socrates used to say that we should never lead a life not subjected to examination.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Barcode - 18

I still have a few left; I'll finish them over the next few months. This is a MicroPDF417 (ISO 24728):

Sunday, 5 July 2015

7th July 2005

Ten years ago this week, I was working in Austria. Sometime on Thursday 7th July, we heard that there had been a bomb attack in London: the attack now known as '7/7' to chime with '9/11' (even though in Britain we tend to number our dates differently to the Americans).

The bombs explored in places I knew well and had frequented countless times. On reflection what is most poignant for me is the fact that I may have once seen one of the victims. She worked at a place I visited a couple of times. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I ever met her or spoke to her - and she certainly didn't know me - but I have the faintest recollections that I glimpsed a girl with bright blonde hair through the open door of an office as I walked down the corridor. When I saw her photograph and read who she was and where she worked, I put two and two together.

I could be mistaken, of course, but I am left with the effect nonetheless. For me, this news story has something more real about it than usual. Amid the terror and the suffering, the dead and the dying, there was somebody with whom I could identify. When I read her obituary, of her hopes and expectations and of those she loved and who loved her left behind, I cannot help but be moved by the loss of somebody I never knew.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Round Teabags

If you want round teabags then you have to go to the trouble of cutting out the bits between the circles.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Approaching Philosophy

If you are going to teach philosophy as a subject then knowing what a particular philosopher thought is important - otherwise you have nothing to teach; nothing to convey of their ideas. If you are not going to teach philosophy but be an active thinker - even going so far as to call yourself a philosopher - then a different approach is needed: you should read the work of others for the ideas and inspiration that can come out of that reading. One then does those thinkers the favour of using their work and having their ideas built upon. To disagree with another thinker and, in so doing, come up with something that is new and advances a particular field of enquiry is a form of contribution; the one disagreed with continues to contribute. No genuine thinker wants their work to be spouted ex cathedra as if it had some immutable authority.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Epictetus - 3

From: The Golden Sayings of Epictetus (translated by Hastings Crossley) - from Project Gutenberg.

The beginning of philosophy is to know the condition of one's own mind. If a man recognises that this is in a weakly state, he will not then want to apply it to questions of the greatest moment. As it is, men who are not fit to swallow even a morsel, buy whole treatises and try to devour them. Accordingly they either vomit them up again, or suffer from indigestion, whence come gripings, fluxions, and fevers. Whereas they should have stopped to consider their capacity.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

The social medium really is the massage

In the late 1960s, Marshall McLuhan wrote a book which was to be entitled 'The Medium is the Message'. When the proofs came, the title had been misspelt to read 'The Medium is the Massage'. Rather than 'correct' this, McLuhan felt it made a point. (For a brief but informative video, visit the BBC's 'History of Ideas' pages.)

If further proof were needed, here is a similar mistake from the BBC News app.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Somewhere in the middle?

I was puzzled to see this street sign in the Staffordshire town of Tutbury in late April this year. The first two words seem to cancel each other out; should the street not simply be called 'Street'?

Friday, 29 May 2015

A Reminiscence

It must have been on Monday 9th October 1978. The first thing our professor told us in his first lecture on 'the neurological basis of human behaviour' was that "reality was a state of mind brought about by low blood alcohol concentrations". He wasn't the first to say something like this; it is borrowed - and adapted somewhat - from N.F. Simpson. I tracked down the original quotation to him when I heard it used in an obituary after his death in 2011. The line appears in A Resounding Tinkle. (Reference can be found to it in Martin Esslin's 'The Theatre of the Absurd'.)

I suspect that everybody thought prof. very witty to come out with such an idea. He was somebody in whom we were all in awe. Few of us thought then that he might have 'borrowed' it from elsewhere. In lectures, he rarely, if ever, cited his sources. Once, in a dissecting class, a rather odd pelvic structure was discovered. The lecturer in charge hadn't seen anything like it before and asked somebody to go and get prof. to see if he knew what it was - adding somewhat wryly that even if he didn't know he would still come out with something that sounded definitive.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Giant Parisian Sundial

Most recognise the star shape of this well-known Parisian landmark - hence Place de l'Étoile - but what about its sundial qualities? Do any of those working in the area use the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe to tell the time?

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Epictetus - 2

From: The Golden Sayings of Epictetus (translated by Hastings Crossley) - from Project Gutenberg.

And to this I reply:-- "Friends, wait for God. When He gives the signal, and releases you from this service, then depart to Him. But for the present, endure to dwell in the place wherein He hath assigned you your post. Short indeed is the time of your habitation therein, and easy to those that are minded. What tyrant, what robber, what tribunals have any terrors for those who thus esteem the body and all that belong to it as of no account? Stay; depart not rashly hence!"

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Professor Socrates

As previously noted, Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) had a dim view of professors and professorial chairs. Perhaps the same might have applied to Socrates (470/469-399 BC), had there been such things as professors in his day. I cannot see how he could ever have accepted a professorial chair given that his wisdom and insight was such as to reveal his relative ignorance in the face of the sum of all things. By this token, no one who has genuinely made this humbling realisation (and is not also a hypocrite) could accept such a position. So, there is clearly something else at play in the 'professorial mind' - or, at least, those desirous of the title. (Perhaps, after the position is attained that mind changes?)

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Appealing or Cheating?

There is something appealing about a blank, colourless Rubik's cube. No matter how it is twisted and turned, it is successfully completed. Or is it?

If Rubik's cube is about aligning the colours, is having all the colours the same cheating? Or, is there another word for this?

Perhaps, even when there is just a single colour, one should still return to some putative starting position in order for  'completion' to be claimed. Which starting position though? The one that the cube had when it came out of the box or some other - the one at the start of that day's twisting, perhaps? How would one know either of these things?

Also, is there, I wonder, another arrangement of the colours so that two or three sides have the same colour and there is more than one solution. That is, more than one way of getting to, what I have called above, the 'starting position'? In which case, it would be a "getting to" rather than a "getting back to". So, has it been completed or not?

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Unattributed quotes

The thing about unattributed quotes is that one can only look at the words; the reputation of the person who made the comment is out of the question. Thus, somebody you don't like and who would have normally been dismissed out of hand can be allowed to say something that you consider to be wise and meaningful. You are allowing yourself to benefit from the thought conveyed alone and not letting your prejudices to get in the way. With that in mind, here are some more.

"There are things to see but more importantly things to think."

"If you were somebody else, would you be jealous of who you are?"

"He was, what they call, a 'self-made man'. Had he known where all the bits belonged, he would have made a much better man of himself."

"I have successfully avoided the burdens and distractions of success by avoiding the attainment of what others erroneously think success to be."

Friday, 17 April 2015

Drawing from Epictetus

I recently read 'The Golden Sayings of Epictetus' (translated by Hastings Crossley), an electronic copy of which I found at Project Gutenberg. A number of the sayings I found interesting and thought-provoking and so made a note of them. I thought that I would begin sharing them.

But God hath introduced Man to be a spectator of Himself and of His works; and not a spectator only, but also an interpreter of them. Wherefore it is a shame for man to begin and to leave off where the brutes do. Rather he should begin there, and leave off where Nature leaves off in us: and that is at contemplation, and understanding, and a manner of life that is in harmony with herself. See then that ye die not without being spectators of these things.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Unreadable Books

Not long ago, I visited an independent library. I had a very enjoyable time. As well as enjoying the atmosphere, I found a number of nineteenth books about subjects in which I am interested. It was particularly interesting to see how these subjects were treated in the past - not least by amateurs. For example, I came across Philip Henry Gosse's Evenings at the Microscope (or, researches among the minuter organs and forms of animal life) which approached microscopy in a very different way to that I encounter nowadays.

There was one book I happened upon which was published in 1887. I don't remember its title or its author. I know that it was not about a subject in which I am particularly interested but for some reason it caught my attention and I took it down to have a look. What was most memorable - more so than either its title or its author - was the fact that it cannot have ever been read. That is, that particular copy could never have been read. The pages of this book were left ragged and uncut as was often the case back then. Significantly, the folds along the top edges of the pages had not been cut either meaning that the pages could not be fully opened and could not therefore be seen in their entirety.

This has got me wondering about the point of a book that cannot be read. It may have value as a collectors item. Being largely unopened, it must be in almost pristine condition. It may even have value as a curio; an unreadable book. There was a book plate in the front with an inscription naming who had given this book to the library. He may well have been a collector who have donated this book from his collection. He certainly could not have been a reader of the subject matter of that book given the impossibility of opening the pages.

So, is there any point to an unreadable book? And what of a library with an unreadable book? Or, a library of (nothing but) unreadable books? If a library is going to have one on its shelves why not any number of such books? Why not an entire library of them? A library in which none of the books can be read must still be a library, by definition, or is it? Is a library primarily a repository of books or of the ideas within them?

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The goodly fere to this day

On this Easter Sunday, the closing lines from Ezra Pound's poem 'The Ballad of the Goodly Fere' seem appropriate:

If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.

I ha’ seen him eat o’ the honey-comb
Sin’ they nailed him to the tree.

The full text of the poem can be found at poets.org. First published in 1909, it was a poem written as a deliberate contrast to the somewhat unmanly depictions of Christ that can be found in art and literature even to this day; a style that may be summed-up in the often pejoratively used phrase 'gentle Jesus meek and mild'. The title of the poem is, in effect, 'The Ballad of Our Good Mate'.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Another Anatomy Lesson

A few years ago, I posted an image of what I described as a "witty pastiche of The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632) by Rembrandt." Here's another, that was recently sent to me and which I find even more witty:

Monday, 23 March 2015

Solar Eclipse - Friday 20th March 2015

Here is a photograph I took of the solar eclipse of Friday 20th March 2015. It was taken from Hawarden in North Wales. I wasn't timing things precisely but it was taken at around maximum cover (as seen from my vantage point). There was a certain amount of cloud cover which, contrary to expectation, I found advantageous as it cut down on some of the light of the sun. Using various filters over the camera lens - and wearing two pairs of sunglasses and looking through filters - I found that the haze from the cloud could be largely eliminated and the crescent sun could be seen through the cloud more clearly than I could have imagined.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The Cube Eraser Puzzle

I found this image at instructables.com as part of a demonstration of 'How To Make The Cube Eraser Puzzle'. There the image is the other way up - I strongly suspect it to have been taken at a strange angle or published upside down. Either way, I prefer it this way up.

Looking into this puzzle, I find that there have even been videos posted online demonstrating how to do solve it. I must get one sometime and see if it really is as hard as all this proffered help seems to suggest.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Four unattributed quotes

Here are four more unattributed quotes. I can't say where they came from but I think that they are too thought-provoking to waste:

"Not only are their questions in search of an answer, there are questions in search of being asking."

"It is a terrible thing when you have ideas and nobody with whom to share them. It is infinity worse when that is the case and you happen to work at a university."

"It is easy to make worthless activity feel valuable. All one has to do is feel tired at the end of it."

"Like everybody else, I make mistakes. The only difference is that my mistakes are at such a level that most people around me can never spot them."

This final quote is not necessarily as conceited as it sounds. If the author of that comment were, in fact, conceited he would never have uttered it in the first place; he would not have admitted to the fact that he made mistakes. Rather, this quote reflects what should surely be everybody's aim: not to make no mistakes at all but make instead only those mistakes that come when probing the limits of understanding.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Where to find your meaning

Beverley: Well, there are studies that suggest that many who go into the performing arts suffer from an external locus of identity.

Penny: Yeah, I don’t know what that means.

Beverley: Well, it means you value yourself only as others value you, which is often the result of unmet childhood emotional needs.

From: The Big Bang Theory - Series 2 Episode 15 (The Maternal Capacitance)
On the whiteboard in our office, my colleague and I used to have a version this piece of dialogue on our whiteboard. We put it up to see if (a) any of the students who came to visit would read it and ask what it meant and (b) to see if one of those students (a part-time pole-dancer who was very much concerned about her appearance) would notice that we wrote it up thinking of her. (Nobody seemed to read it - certainly nobody asked about it; the part-time pole-dancer was one of them.)

Monday, 23 February 2015

Spot the Pun

I spotted this while walking through Sydney a few years ago. Can you spot the pun - of sorts?

Image source: realcommercial.com.au
Clue: Juxtapose the name of the house and the type of shop.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Two consecutive thoughts

"First, the question of why there is something rather than nothing is neither silly nor just of interest to philosophers and "armchair speculators". Second, like all good philosophy, by the end of the journey the prize is not necessarily getting an answer, but rather consists in gaining a much richer and more nuanced understanding of the question."
I found this in some of my notes having found it - I don't know where - some time ago. Although I cannot attribute it to its proper source, I offer it nonetheless considering it too good to waste.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Drawn QRCode

Continuing my bazaar interest in barcodes and the like, I thought that I'd draw a QR code on squared paper and see what whether it would scan. It did.

Here are the original QR code (ISO 18004) and the drawn - both saying 'Marginalia55', as usual:

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Changing the World

"You can't change the world but you may be able to pass on some useful ideas that prove helpful to others and so change their world."

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Two (or three or even four) similar thoughts

There is a remark attributed to Gertrude Stein (1874-1946). When commenting on a nondescript American town, she said "When you get there, you discover there's no there there!"

Another similar though comes in the following:
"When you get there, you'll discover that you've been there all the time."

One could, perhaps, go further and make reference to T.S. Eliot's East Coker (from The Four Quartets) in which he muses upon the phrase 'In my beginning is my end' and concludes with 'In my end is my beginning'. (This later phrase being something Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587) embroidered on her cloth of estate while in prison in England.)

Furthermore, in Burnt Norton (another poem that comprises The Four Quartets), Eliot also muses that "Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present in time future/And time future contained in time past."

Friday, 23 January 2015

Erroneous Memories

When I found the picture of 'The Den' from an old Eagle annual many months ago, I also found a copy of an Eagle cutaway drawing that I had had on my bedroom wall for many years. It was nice to see it again and remember the past. However, I also discovered that the drawing was not, as it stated, of the Black Knight rocket but of the Black Arrow. The difference is not easy to spot and the artist's mistake understandable. The outlines of each rocket differ in their proportions.

After many years, I found that there was something in my past that was mistaken. How many other errors are there in our pasts that will never be corrected?

Here's the erroneous drawing. Look carefully. It is dated 23rd January 1965. Fifty years ago today.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Big Bang Theory - 4

The fourth of my Big Bang Theory quotes. It speaks for itself. (Thus says a biologist!)

Penny: So, what's new in the world of physics?

Leonard: Nothing.

Penny: Really? Nothing?

Leonard: Well, with the exception of string theory not much has happened since the 1930s – and you can't prove string theory. At best you can say, '“Hey, look! My idea has an internal logical consistency'.

From: The Fuzzy Boots Corollary
BBT Transcripts
Wikipedia Episode Guide

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Utility Bills

I used to work in the British National Health Service (NHS) at a time when eletricity, gas, water and the Post Office were publically owned utilities. I could never understand why hospitals had to pay electricity, gas and water bills, for postage and for telephone calls (the Post Office then ran both of the last two utilities). The same goes for the bills each utility paid to the others. It cost money to circulate money from one part of the same (public) sector to another.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Where will this year lead?

This year could lead you somewhere new and exciting or you could end up going around in circles and, in effect, staying put.

Visit this link and avoid doing the same... but, at the same time, stay puzzled: that's what life is all about.

Happy New Year!