Category Archives: Observational

The wrong turn, the right result

One of the things we’ve missed out in recent busy months is the random wandering across the countryside that you do in the interest of Sunday adventuring. Pick a place that sounds pretty, drive out, and have a walk! Such was the plan this Sunday, and, minor bits of Internet research complete, we headed out…

Of course, as Amanda knows the area pretty well, SatNav was kept in his box and we struck out confidently in roughly the right direction… and ended up turning off slightly too early on our route to scenic Kingsclere (our original destination), ending up in a tiny but beautiful village called Hannington. Discovering a map of local walks in the Lych-gate of the village church, we struck out on a cold and misty morning and had a lovely (short, and cold) walk, miles off the beaten path, meeting no-one other than two local villagers and their dogs out for the morning tramp around.

The pub, the Vine, is possibly one of the nicest country pubs I’ve been to in the area and the food was amazing – Emily even thought so, eating her way through a portion of pasta big enough for a 7-year-old. Wonderful.

Here’s to more countryside adventuring in the weeks to come…

House hunting

West Witterings - ChichesterIt’s important to dream. On our annual jaunt to West Wittering to stay with our infinitely patient and generous friends, we took a walk down the street ‘hunting’ for that dream property (knowing that its a pretty unattainable distance for our income bracket).

The vast differences in style – from the uber-modern to the Bilbo-Baggins-esque – was astonishing. Virtually every single house we saw could have featured on Grand Designs at some point – although some of them would have earned derisory comments from Kevin McCleod…

It’s a nice dream…

Five rules of debating

These apply to 1:1 discussions and not if you have an audience. If you have an audience, these rules can more or less reverse (depending on the audience). This list isn’t exhaustive.

  1. Confidence by itself generally loses out over evidence when all participants are equally reasonable.
  2. Not all people that seek out debate in casual conversation are equally reasonable.
  3. Don’t confuse prejudice with argument, and never make a personal comment part of your debate – you cede all authority.
  4. If you can’t resolve the debate in the cold light of sobriety it won’t suddenly make sense intoxicated.
  5. “Let’s agree to disagree” is a polite way of saying “I have no desire to pursue this conversation” and gives any participant in an argument the option to gracefully exit without giving up their perspective.

I’ve found myself in the position of defending people, products and positions I’m not particularly a fan of recently because people violate these rules in conversations with me. I’m not one to generally take a stand on random principles these days, but do find it hard to let totally unreasonable, unfair statements about anything stand. One of life’s little ironies.

What will become of the books?

My newly organized bookshelfA minor lamentation, noted as I read this on Simon Waldman’s blog; as passionate as I am about all things digital, I will miss the sheer physical presence of some of my stuff as it evolves its way off the physical plane.

Not DVDs or CDs; the convenience factor of the digital format there is just vast – but with books, the comforting, colourful, aesthetically pleasing albeit inevitably dusty presence across the room as they sit solidly in a bookshelf… well, their future absence will be noted.

I do occasionally still buy print books – for anything Amanda needs to read, or Emily (my girls are old school and the tactility of books is awesome and necessary for Em) – and occasionally for a long running series of books or novel I know I’ll end up sharing.

So Terry Pratchett, Raymond Feist et al, will continue to be bought in print. Because I’m faintly obsessive compulsive, I’ll also probably complete any series of novels I started to buy in physical form – Peter F Hamilton’s ‘Void’ trilogy was one case in point, despite the enormity of those hardbacks. Fortunately, I read my way through all of George R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series in digital format, so  was spared the 1,000 page monster of the new book as a bookshelf counterweight.

But there are some shelves in our house that may end up with ornaments and niknackery on them instead of books. Which – as someone that’s spent a decade without enough shelf-space – is something I find strange in the extreme.

Winter is coming

Fresh BreathWhen I was a kid I was fascinated by the way breath misted on exhalation when the weather was cool enough. It was a frustration to me that it didn’t happen in Malaysia.

Yesterday, for the first time since the Summer proper began, my breath misted. Which doesn’t quite have the same exciting cachet it did when I was 10 and first visiting the UK, marking as it does the decline of the summer.

<sigh>. At least we have one more summer break to the seaside planned – looking forward to it, Damo!

Summer commuting

Summer commuting has been significantly more tolerable. Whether its because everyone’s on vacation or people are leaving later, the journey into work at least is less crowded, less anti-social, and comes with a guaranteed seat. The journey home is more or less the usual scramble, but when you’re travelling for 2.5 hours per day, you’ve got to count your blessings where they come…

This is why I suck at learning lyrics – study on computers and memory

Read an interesting study on Wired on memory. A small scale study has shown that if you know you have access to data, you’re far less likely to remember it:

If you think a fact is conveniently available online, then, you may be less apt to learn it.

This is amazingly true. I frequently note that people referencing articles they’ve read to me can’t remember the article title, author or where it was published, or the detail of what it said or why it was interesting or funny. But they can remember the search sequence that got them there and find it via Google. Which is a fascinating insight into human psychology, right there – the journey is more memorable than the destination.

This is one of the reasons why I’m uncertain on social search. People like the solidity of search; the only way to make sure that social search improves on regular search is to somehow confound this pattern – making sure that social search is only a marginal improvement on general, unfiltered search – otherwise people will get frustrated by not being able to find the same things when on different machines.

Talking to traffic

TrafficI’m not mad. I just find it better to vent my frustration at inconsiderate driving by talking at it – well, grumbling at it – rather than letting it work me into a frenzy of internalized stress. It is – very possibly – a trait I’ve picked up from my aunts, who pretty much all do it.

When some people hear me talking to traffic, it raises concerns about my stress levels… but I find it quietly cathartic.

Do you talk to traffic? /I’m not mad.


Collapsed whilst relocating campsiteWatching the footage from Glastonbury took me back four years to my first trip to the festival. I was overweight and underfit, struggled with the camping, and knackered each day by the tramping about in wellies. I hated not feeling clean and I felt properly wiped out by the cost of everything.

But I had fun, after a fashion, and in most respects thanks to Amanda’s amazingness -  and its funny how – looking at the footage – the discomfort in itself acquired a sort of nostalgic charm.

I’d like to go again, or to another festival – better equipped this time – if we can work out a way of making it fun for Emily. I’ve had the Big Chill and Bestival recommended to me as family-friendly, will need to give it some thought….