Countries where the Head of State and Head of Government is the same person

Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Burundi, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Congo (Republic of), Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Equador, El SAlvador, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Kiribati, Lebanon, Liberia, Malawi, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Suriname, Turkmenistan, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Oh, and the United States.


On Habits. (An excerpt from 2312)

Habits begin to form at the very first repetition. After that there is a tropism toward repetition, for the patterns involved are defenses, bulwarks against time and despair.
Wahram was very aware of this, having lived the process many times; so he paid attention to what he did when he traveled, on the lookout for those first repetitions that would create the pattern of that particular moment in his life. So often the first time one did things they were contingent, accidental, and not necessarily good things on which to base a set of habits. There was some searching to be done, in other words, some testing of different possibilities. That was the interregnum, in fact, the naked moment before the next exfoliation of habits, the time when one wandered doing things randomly. The time without skin, the raw data, the being-in-the-world.
They came a bit too often for his taste. Most of the terraria offering passenger transport around the solar system were extremely fast, but even so, trips often took weeks. This was simply too much time to be hanging around aimlessly; doing that one could easily slide into a funk or some other kind of mental hibernation. In the settlements around Saturn this sort of thing had sometimes been developed into entire sciences and art forms. But any such hebephrenia was dangerous for Wahram, as he had found out long before by painful experience. Too often in his past, meaninglessness had gnawed at the edge of things. He needed order, and a project; he needed habits. In the nakedness of the moments of exfoliation, the intensity of experience had in it a touch of terror – terror that no new meaning would blossom to replace the old ones now lost.
Of course there was no such thing as a true repetition of anything;ever since the pre-Socratics that had been clear, Heraclitus and his un-twice-steppable river and so on. So habits were not truly iterative, but pseudoiterative. The pattern of the day might be the same, in other words, but the individual events fulfilling the pattern were always a bit different. Thus there was both pattern and surprise, and this was Wahram’s desired state: to live in a pseudoiterative.But then also to live in a good pseudoiterative, an interesting one, the pattern constructed as a little work of art. No matter the brevity of a trip, the dullness of the terrarium or the people in it, it was important to invent a pattern and a project and pursue it with all his will and imagination. It came to this: shipboard life was still life. All days had to be seized.

2312, Kim Stanley Robinson.

Répondez s’il vous plaît, Parasite!

A “news article” on BBC Breakfast last week caught my eye. A bride had issued a distantly-related couple with an invoice of $70-odd for the food at her wedding because they had not showed up. Yep. *rolls eyes*

This is the link to that “news article”:

The crux of the problem seemed to be that they had RSVPd ‘yes’ for the wedding and then had not contacted anyone on the day to cancel.

One talking-head they had on telly to give his opinion was a self-styled ‘Etiquette Guru’ *rolls eyes* who I’d usually have no time of day for, but who made a point that the people who RSVP and don’t show up are usually people who are never hosts themselves.

I see this as parasitic behaviour, defined in a biological/ecological sense; i.e. parasitism as a non-mutual symbiotic relationship between species, where one species, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the other, the host.

As the host of more than 100 events for Manchester Hiking, I often see this kind of behaviour. It is very rude in this era of mobile phones and internets not to let people know if you are going to stand them up and inconvenience them and others. Most will agree that any group is better off without such parasites. Thankfully there are also a lot of members who understand the spirit and ethos of a volunteering group and pitch in with time and effort once they get familiar.

Ever since I was a child…

Act I, Scene I

Actor: Hello, Chris Tarrant’s home.
Agent: Chris, it’s Dan here.
Actor: Sorry, who?
Agent: Dan here. From NMP. Your agent.
Actor: Oh, hi Dan, sorry, I didn’t recognise you there… err… (pointedly) It’s been a while. A long while.
Agent: Right.. er.. yeah.. talk about it… Anyway, we’ve got something new and interesting for you.
Actor: Great news! That’s what we bloody want to hear! What’s it about?
Agent: This’ll be just the thing to get you right back centre-stage!
Actor: Brilliant! So.. what’s it about?
Agent: Are you free this pm? We can get the papers looked over and signed asap.
Actor (suspiciously): What’s it about then?
Agent: It’s a brand new documentary on Channel 5..
Actor: Channel 5? Jeeez! Ok, what’s the documentary about? I always fancied myself as Sir David’s replacement [chuckles].
Agent: Oh, it’s not animals. Oh no, far easier to work with. It’s a new documentary about trains.
Actor: Trains? I hate trains! And what’s new about trains?
Agent: It’s a brand new documentary.. called Extreme Railways.
Actor: Extreme Railways? Extreme?? What’s new or extreme about trains?! Jeez! Is there really nothing else.
Agent: Nope.
Actor: But I hate trains! And they’ve been done to death. It’s always “Railway this” and “Railway that ” wherever you look on the telly.. I’m frankly sick of hearing about them! And I’m hardly the most natural choice to present this, am I? It’ll seem desperate!
Agent (mumbling): This is a different angle.. brand new concept..
Actor: And Channel 5? Jeeez!
Agent: Listen, Chris, nothing would give me more pleasure than to bring you a new show to host, but offers aren’t coming in. Of any kind. The barrel’s empty Chris.. the barrel’s empty… and you’re right, I’ve scraped right through the bottom here, but it’s still telly work…
Actor: …

Act I, Scene II

Actor (To camera): Ever since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by the railways, the throbbing lifeblood of a nation..

I imagine that’s how we got this:-

Under One god

I used to think that the idea of everybody believing the same thing was preposterous.

But now I’m coming around to it.

Imagine the whole world united, believing the same thing!

Everybody in harmony.
Everybody in touch with their better self.
Everybody reading the same books.
Over and over again.

Everybody in tune with the right opinion, handed down.
Everybody eating pancakes on a Tuesday.
Everybody munching beaver during Lent
Everybody doing the same damned thing.

(Oops, can’t say “damned”)

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Imagine you try to do a Jihad on your neighbour, and he’s doing one on you!
Imagine you go knocking on someone’s door, and meanwhile they’re round at yours, knocking away as well!

What a kerfuffle!

But a price worth paying to see everybody bowing their head in the same direction.

Some art will have to burn.
Couple of museums as well, actually.
And yes, there will be those oddballs that will need dunking to check for witch-hood.
Hellooo! Oddball Alert!
Inconvenient, LOL!

I can’t believe nobody’s tried this before(!)

Sex with a gorilla.

The quote goes: “XXXXX is like sex with a gorilla. You don’t stop when you want to stop, you stop when the gorilla wants to”.

As a child I loved the imagery of the ‘sex with a gorilla’ part.

Nowadays I struggle to recall which gorilla is taking its time with me.

Transaction-based approach vs Relationship-based approach

In business school we were taught that there were two approaches to conducting business; one that focused primarily on making the most of the transaction each time, and one that focused on building a relationship geared towards increasing number of transactions.

We were told that, broadly speaking, the relationship-based model was favoured in the ‘Orient’ (an example being the Asian corner-shop who will often allow a payment shortfall in the knowledge that the customer will clear it the next time around), whereas the transaction-based approach was synonymous with a ‘Western’ approach to business, (imagine Tesco doing that!).

In reality, of course, mixtures of both should be and are used. But is the situation read correctly each time?

The smart negotiator is one who makes sure the other party has a reason to come back to the table the next time. This would encourage a relationship-based approach. Unless there is a certainty that the other party will/can not come back to the table again. In that case, negotiate for the best deal possible at the time.

Recognising this, is it in the best interests of both parties to pretend to be in for the relationship while hoping to conduct a single transaction?

Between ‘Advanced Speciation’ and ‘Multi-disciplinary Generalisation’

More and more professions in the world are getting highly specialised. This is very true in the case of research and practical sciences; and therefore it seems that apart from any gains to be made from one particular field, progress is more likely to come from combining and borrowing works from several, probably disparate fields. These works can be for example technical advances such as measuring / detection methods, engineering advances such as materials / procedures as well as strategies and theoretical frameworks.

In such a climate it would seem that only ‘multi-disciplinists’ or ‘generalists’ will possibly be able to spot opportunities for ground-breaking collaboration between various fields by connecting the nodes at the ends of different branches.

If there is any advancement to be achieved in this manner, two things are required:

1. Each specialised field to contribute to a shared body of work that explains key concepts of their disciplines in a manner accessible to the layman and a updated register of key contacts within each sphere.

2. A mechanism to select and enable potential collaborative ventures and to allocate funding from a joint revenue.

Both of these will require the services of what I call “Sci-fis” (Science Facilitators) to bring about.

Seeing as it’s my idea, can I be one?

J.B.S. Haldane – An anecdote

Evolution sceptic: Professor Haldane, even given the billions of years that you say were available for evolution, I simply cannot believe it is possible to go from a single cell to a complicated human body, with its trillions of cells organised into bones and muscles and nerves, a heart that pumps without ceasing for decades, miles and miles of blood vessels and kidney tubules, and a brain capable of thinking and talking and feeling.

JBS: But madam, you did it yourself. And it only took you nine months.

-Taken from Richard Dawkins, “The Greatest Show On Earth: The evidence for evolution”

Memoirs of a master forger – William Heaney

“..I looked at the hardness of my own heart and I looked at this great capital city, where we have no leaders and no one to admire. Our government ministers are fraudsters, liars and deceivers without conviction, whose only ideology is to cling to power; our captains of commerce are wolves dining out on blood and bone; our religious prey on small children and feed us stories of nightmare; our media poison us with consumerism, a hideous bloated worm eating its own tail; our football heroes beat their wives and rape young girls; our movies stars and our models are junkies and drunks; our poets are incomprehensible.

I rage! I do! I rage when I see the lives of ordinary people squandered. The lives of young men and women, weak like me, going under the tidal sludge of drugs spilling across the sink-estates of the nation; the homeless drifting like wraiths; people eating themselves into oblivion and doping themselves with bad television; brave boy soldiers sacrificed in deserts for the ambitions of the insanely rich. I do rage! I weep! To see life held so cheap! And all I have as antidote as I stand lost in the middle of these leaders who are not leaders, these demons hidden in the souls of men and women, are my humanity and my rage.”

I could not help typing these words out.


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