Knowing when you’re beaten – Su Do Ku

There’s a quality called ‘knowing when you’re beaten’.

And I think I should learn this.

That statement might make it seem like I’m endowing myself with all these seemingly-positive attributes that are associated with the phrase… like “fighter”, “survivor”,”warrior”…

But to say you know when you’re beaten means you recognise the limitations of your ability to solve a problem. From which you might start to ask for opinions, change strategy, dump preconceptions… all which sound good when the objective is to solve a problem.

I have a love/hate relationship with sudoku (I have some withered pages torn out of newspapers in 2008 that I haven’t solved. I haven’t ever revisited them, but all the same they are still, by me, unsolved.) If you ever watch me and spot a missing number, keep it to yourself because I will motherchucking gut you if you try and help me.



Every time I hear the word ‘Purgatory’ I feel the need to say the following:-

There is no such thing as Purgatory.

There is no mention of it in the Bible (and if people who claim to be religious actually read that book they would know).

It is a Medieval Italian construct, made up because people were asking what the point of praying for a dead person was if after death the judgement was made to send them to Hell or Heaven. And priests were making shit loads of money (still do) for paid intercessions on behalf of dead people, so they invented Purgatory as a kind of holding pen where the dead could wait while the priests and church and choir and altar boys would pray for God’s leniency. For a price.

P.s. Purgatory is also a great song by Iron Maiden from the ‘Killers’ album with Paul D’Anno.

Two recent changes

I’ve noticed that two changes have made quite a difference to my life recently.
1. The theft of my motorbike means I visit my friends much less frequently, i.e. never. I’m happy commuting to work with my bicycle, but popping over to friends seems to need a motorbike. Indeed I used to complain about not having enough people I could vroom my bike over to. But now I have to pedal, everyone is too far away.
2. The closure of Abdul’s means I’m no longer comfortable staying out too long drinking in town. Abdul’s was the guarantee of quality food (which somehow still felt like rat meat the next morning) I could grab on my way home. Without that safety blanket I seem to prefer heading home and securing a meal before it becomes too late for me to bother.

Tribute or Crass Commercialism? You gotta have faith.

I heard two George Michael songs today.

Both were played out loud on retail premises; one a clothes-retailer founded by a musician, and the other a large food-retailer. My first thought, given the recent news, was to wonder whether these premises had always played those songs, or whether they were tributes. Or. Something. Else.

Since, through familiarity, I was confident enough to rule out at least one of the premises having ever played a George Michael song recently, it got me thinking about the coincidence/probability of having heard those two songs the day after his death.

Then I remembered the nature of truth is that it is ephemeral. That there can always be a line drawn that connects any two chosen extremes, and the truth will be somewhere along that line. Closer to one point than the other, but probably never exactly at either point.

But I have a feeling someone somewhere decided to crank up the George Michael because he has just died.

Because there are gains to be made from this.

The first Irishman I met made me cry

Gosh, it must be almost twenty years ago now.

My sister and I were travelling to Moscow from Mumbai; almost-adult fledglings in the departures hall at the airport waiting for a delayed flight, we were leaving our Indian family home for our Russian student one with our heads full of tales of caution about the crooked ways of strangers and the dangers of the wide world.

He was flying on from Moscow to Dublin; a small, quick person, carrying a sort of banjo and talking to all and sundry. He was inquisitive (nosey! I thought) and chatty (suspicious! I thought) and I tried to ignore him politely.

Then he started playing and singing songs of his home and we were captured in a sad and sweet trance. I can’t remember a word nor a tune, but I remember how I felt that day, when the first Irishman I met made me cry.

Funny how the thought of him just popped into my head now.

Poetry in a Scots dialect

The idea is good, as is the expression of it. Read it aloud, as poetry is meant to be.. and feel the Scottish dialect. The author Robert “Rabbie” Burns has spotted a louse on a lady’s hat in front of him while attending church. These is his gentle musing, that ends with a kicker.

To A Louse:
On Seeing One On A Lady’s Bonnet, At Church

Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho’, faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn’d by saunt an’ sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her-
Sae fine a lady?
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.

Swith! in some beggar’s haffet squattle;
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle,
Wi’ ither kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Whaur horn nor bane ne’er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.

Now haud you there, ye’re out o’ sight,
Below the fatt’rels, snug and tight;
Na, faith ye yet! ye’ll no be right,
Till ye’ve got on it-
The verra tapmost, tow’rin height
O’ Miss’ bonnet.

My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an’ grey as ony groset:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I’d gie you sic a hearty dose o’t,
Wad dress your droddum.

I wad na been surpris’d to spy
You on an auld wife’s flainen toy;
Or aiblins some bit dubbie boy,
On’s wyliecoat;
But Miss’ fine Lunardi! fye!
How daur ye do’t?

O Jeany, dinna toss your head,
An’ set your beauties a’ abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie’s makin:
Thae winks an’ finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

Yes, I’ve blogged this before:

David Cameron, seen as a Middle-Management lackey:

In this scenario, David William Donald Cameron is but a middle manager,and a middling one at best; answering to far wealthier and more influential people, having to appease a bloodthirsty public on the one hand and blood-letting paymasters on the other. Just another middle-manager, emailing and meeting-ing his life away, knowing it means nothing, yet gaining pleasure in being above the not-middle-management people. Deliberately forcing out the platitudes and false sympathy while privately acknowledging his hand in the catastrophe he’s eulogising…

I pity the fool. I pity all those fools.

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.