Sunday, December 30, 2012

Life of Pi and Allotment shed intruders

On Friday we went to Richmond and visited the Odeon there to see 3D Life of Pi, having read the Yann Martel book a few years ago and being greatly impressed with the story I was most intrigued to see how Ang Lee would visualise  what is a to all intents and purposes a very challenging cinematic project. The news is that it is very loyal to the book and a great triumph. I'm still slightly puzzled by the conclusion I should draw from it. I'm not sure how much the 3D added to the enjoyment but I did enjoy some of the 'tricks' it allowed (things coming out of the screen as you might expect).

 New Hasp
So around this time last year the allotment site where my plot is was robbed of various copper and metal fittings this Christmas we had our sheds broken into again (I  lost a few bits and pieces this summer too) nothing notable taken but damage to shed again and others nearby - not sure what the answer is -might be easier to leave it open but the risk then is of people sleeping there or youngsters using garden tools for untoward purposes- some points on the problem  here. I've fitted a new hasp hopefully there won't be too much damage next time it's broken into!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas and # 26 Imagination

Christmas has pretty much been and gone - nice meal at The Prince Stoke Newington and then a bit of telly watching and opening of presents (see here).
Christmas of course a mixture of many festivals but it does make some think f religion and one guy who I think has a similar view (in some respects) to me is Don Cupitt
Don has done some work around religion and who speaks here about Jesus (don't worry I've not turned into some sort of tambourine shaking sandal wearer) who for me could have been a practical 'philosopher' and who after his death had his history re-written Don makes good points here about what he says as  opposed to the myths that came later (my interpretation).

And back to big Ideas, today it's number 26 Imagination.

Crofton notes that Imagination is inextricably linked with the twin pillars of Memory and Creativity.It appears that imagination sets us apart from the other creatures in the animal kingdom. Art is a product of imagination being a manifestation of the imagination. Romantics in the early 19th Century (people like Worsworth and Coleridge) were big fans of Imagination.
Imagination is important in our formative years and it used by children to help them understand position themselves - this podcast (from Philosophy bites series) with Alison Gopnik on the subject is illuminating.
Various parts of the brain are involved with the imagination depending on the context these include the occipital cortex (visual cortex) which is used in creating works of visual art but ascribing particular physical locations of the brain to imagination can be difficult as the imagination can be differently interpreted .The value though of knowing an area of the brain that is associated with visual creativity might be considered limited and analogous to the knowledge we gather about imagination in knowing the physical location of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas is nearly here

Christmas now very near -picked my first load of sprouts which are meant to be nice with bits of bacon scattered around- we'll see.
Windy ahead?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Art and History exhibits in Ealing

This week I finally paid a visit to local Pitzhanger Manor and was pleasantly surprised by the experience. What I knew (20 or so years ago) as the local library is now a partially restored Manor house and a home for art exhibitions.
Currently on show in the gallery are 'The Light and Dark Fantastic' by Tsai and Yoshikawa  and Material Girls by Andrea Tierney and Amarjeet K Nandhra.
As well as the works in the gallery there's a tree that's part of the work by Tsai and Yoshikawa but you probably can't tell from the photo' but if you go here you'll see a tree and learn more about this Taiwanese/Japanese collaborative team.

Friday, December 21, 2012

#25 Truth

Truth is characterised as having two varieties

1) Objective - that which is true is always true, linked to Skepticism

2) Subjective (relative) there is no such thing as 'truth' see Plato’s dialogue Protagoras (man is the measure of all things).

But is truth merely a linguistic construct?

And here's a guy who is answering a religious view on truth

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Touch of the Mondrians

Much as when you get a new car of a particular make and model you seems to notice others of the same type today whilst out ' Christmas shopping' (nice summation here) I noticed in the Bentalls centre Kingston a Mondrian resonance - not sure if it's worthy of note? The trip went okay as I managed to get a pair of shoes I should be able to tolerate when I finally throw out my thinning  at the sole Clarks desert boots (Grey).
This evening BT called offering SuperFast broadband
seems for a small additional sum (ongoing and one off) I'll get something like 40mb/s down and 10mb/s up (from Jan 14th) quite a dramatic improvement in what was around 4 mb/s until fairly recently.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tate Modern

The Way Out

or is this it or the way back?
War Art (Vietnam)
One of Bridget's


There's rather a good series of TV programmes I'm catching up with on BBC iplayer at the moment it's narrated and presented by Brian Cox and is about some of the products that helped with the british economy and empire particularly in the 19th Century it's called. The series is called Addicted to Pleasure and the first show was about Sugar which almost neatly brings me to the Tate Modern (financed I suppose by the deadly Sugar).  
The Tate Modern is an amazing place and during the week out of school holidays  it's not too busy.   
Just across from St. Pauls via what used to be the wobbly bridge is this cathedral to modern art.
There's a lot to see but I try to avoid getting too much of a cultural overload.
Some things I noted were
1) Picasso pictures are very recognizable and perhaps somewhat of a kind.
2) Mondrian are interesting from a psychological point in terms of how the brain works from what  I read on the notes there.
3) Bridget Riley's Op art is engaging and looks like it was designed to be LP cover art (Like Faust LP here).
Some snaps here and some  Names that I noted were
Joseph Beuys (German Fluxus) - great use of an Ironing board!
John Heartfield -German anti Nazi and pioneer in use of photo-montage.
Lee Ufan -Korean Artist (blue and yellow one down the bottom was by him).
Gerhard Richter - 80 years old still going strong- his are what I'd describe as the messy ones

There's currently an exhibition on the third floor that shows some of the recent genrés of modern art and there are a lot of them with what seem to be shorter and shorter half lives.

Wrapping stuff

Is it art ?

I know what I like

Monday, December 17, 2012

New Wagamama in Ealing to Open on 20th December

William's, Bond Street 
It's coming up to Christmas and perhaps given the economic climate it's a little surprising but there's a glut of new eateries that we need to get around to sampling. After what seems forever Maria has sold the Chinese restaurant (Premier Peking) in the Avenue W13  it's had a bit of a revamp and is now open for business (below).

Now it's Cafe Nero
And just up from the new Mexican is Wagamama's (described some places as Japanese?)  which will be giving competition to the excellent (and good value) Hare and Tortoise and the pricier Tuk Cho 
Happy Eating peeps.

The Bond Street that lies at the heart of Ealing has been home to many restaurants from Japanese to Nando's (with plenty in between) -the new kid on the block is William's. It looks as though it has a simple value menu with well priced house wine - expect a review soon.

Now of the coffee chains Nero is and has been my preferred choice for many years and they've now got an alternative to the premises opposite the town hall having taken over the sadly departed Café Chai (below left).

An example of the death of the local pub is the creation of a home for the chainsome Mexican ChimiChanga where was once a fairly lively pub (called the Three pigeons before Parkview  one  I think)

(ChimiChanga means deep fried burrito - which sounds slightly appealing).

Ealing's New Mexican atery

New Wagamama in Ealing to Open on 20th December

Saturday, December 15, 2012

# 24 Epistemology

Epistemology is concerned with the study of the nature of knowledge.
In fact there are a number of podcasts on the subject which you can look at here.
And here's an intro from Professor Stephen Hicks

Thursday, December 13, 2012

New housing in West Ealing and # 23 Dialectic

West Ealing building

Where once was the West Ealing Multi Storey car park is now a major new housing project - I'm not sure if it is appropriate and how it will meet the needs of the community but it does have a nice non linear style to it.

What was there before

As you can see the building it replaced was no oil painting!

Big Idea Number 23 is Dialectic

The Socratic method is  a method of critical investigation typically using dialectics.

Online I found this definition (Merriam which sums things up nicely,
Dialectic is

 : discussion and reasoning by dialogue as a method of intellectual investigation; specifically : the Socratic techniques of exposing false beliefs and eliciting truth.

Hegel is a big name in the dialectic you can hear Robert Stern talking about Hegel's Dialectic here

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thumbs up for Optical Express and # 22 Free Will

Westfield Skating Rink 
This morning having had a nice hot bath I went to wipe my spectacles clean and blow me down if they didn't split neatly in two across thew bridge - at times like this you go and find all the spare pairs that are stuck in various drawers and discover that they're either reading only (I'm used to varifocals) or that they are  tinted ones for the beach which make December very gloomy and me very posey.
So I called Optical Express (where I'd bought the glasses) and found they had no record of them, they advised me to go to Westfields White City outlet (where I'd bought them in April). When I found the shop I was expecting to have to pay loads of money and wait for a week or so -Imagine my incredible pleasure at the young woman there finding they'd got the frames in the shop and then proceeding to swap the lenses from the broken frame into the new frame all under the guarantee. That really is top service and am so please I've e-mailed their Customer Service!

And now Number 22 Free Will.

Free Will is a counterpoint to Determinism (some would say) and has a few interpretations,as you'd expect there's a lively debate (related to what the mind as opposed to the brain is too) if having listened to the Philosophy bites podcast with David Eagleman  you might want to reconsider your definition of free will.
On the podcast David spoke about Phineas Gage and also the case of a brain Tumour which altered a 40 year old man's attitude to his step-daughter (pressure exerted within the brain is thought to have created in him a  paedophiliac tendency).
This is significant in Determinism and free will, if the physical changes in the brain can alter behaviour is it right to punish them for the physical constitution of their brain? It is common to blame people for abhorrent crimes but perhaps they have 'no choice'.
If you have some time (about 8 minutes)  take a look at the Youtube

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

#21 First Cause

Number 21 First Cause

Nice explanation of First Cause here - to summarise  from those of a religious view on life this indicates there's a God by virtue that the world that man (kind) observes with his/her senses must have been brought into being by God as the 'first cause'.
Aristotle was of the mind that the universe had always existed and prime mover was something like 'pure thought'
But the argument against (from h2g2)

(1) Everything that exists has a cause

(2) The Universe exists

(3) Therefore the Universe has a cause (from 1 and 2)

(4) Nothing can cause itself

(5) Therefore the Universe was caused by something outside itself (from 3 and 4)

(6) Only God can exist outside the Universe

(7) Therefore God created the Universe (from 5 and 6)

(8) Therefore God exists

The first problem is that this means that God must have had a creator (from 1 and 8) that cannot be himself (from 4). Furthermore, 1 is undermined by modern physics, e.g. vacuum fluctuations. The argument can be rephrased in various ways, all of which fail for similar reasons.

Current/recent thinking is Big Bang (not the TV programme) is where everything came from- this is some pretty big stuff, some way away from what happens in the brain.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Thermal Socks 'Feet Heaters' being tested and #20 Determinism

Citrus Fruit 2012 

I bought some rather long socks at (£4.00) Ealing Primark yesterday, it's the first pair I've seen with a Tog rating (2.3) as I was at the allotment this morning I got a chance to test them while bonfiring/incinerating and moving citrus trees into my small greenhouse - they seem to work and I might just  get another pair or two. (Using an incinerator is great fun!)
Others are rating them too and seems you can get then at Amazon as well (£3.95 there).

And Now Number 20 Determinism

With Determinism we're again in controversy land,  is stuff pre-determined? Newton and other scientists made progress in determining laws that predicted the future and or behavior of events (like an object falling under gravity) this was disputed by Hume and further scientific discovery in the 20th Century has seen what appears to be random behaviour in sub atomic particles.
Have a think (if you want or if it is predetermined) - Nice site on the subject here.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Finally Improved Broadband Speed and #19 Change and Motion

Ah Ha  am actually able to report improved connectivity and successful  follow up from BT - it was more of  a struggle than I'd liked it to have been!
I now have in excess of 8 Mb/s which is over double the previous speed (last week) - have used this tool (as well as BT's own) to check the speed.

And Now #19 Change and Motion

Two guys from the 5th Century BC Parmenides (influenced Plato) and Heraclitus(thought to be a bit of a miserable git)  are names that stand tall in discussions of Change and Motion. Parmenides believed that change was illusory while Heraclitus held that all was change and we were in a constant flux (great phrase to use around this debate is ' you can't stand in the same river twice').
This resource is a useful one  (Heraclitus and Parmenides are here) with rather good podcasts.
And here's an (only) slightly useful video which is  quite amusing and fun.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Contrasting 3 firms and #18 Mind

So recently I've had the chance to interact with 3 or 4 firms and consider that most of them have some good points about them (excluding Carphone Warehouse who I find only good in that they reply to my letters).

1) Amazon - Amazon's star is undoubtedly in the ascendancy, it's been a slow burner but it's time has come.

Amazon scores by constantly outperforming it's promise, it says it will deliver by a certainday and it generally (in my experience) arrives early.
It's prices are reasonable and it has addressed the irritating postal charge issue. It's suggestions and reviews are good it is easy to purchase from.
The down side is that it's impersonal - nothing really indicates a human being, the only figure I know at Amazon is the impressive always cheerful Jeff Bezos  look at the sort of guy he is here. I hope he gets across the issue of UK corporation tax paying too.
Verdict 9/10 but  may wish to appear more Human.
2) Kwik-Fit - Kwik Fit work in a sector where expectations are not high (car repairs specifically items like replacement  Tyres , exhausts and batteries) - Kwik fit too (in my experience) have exceeded expectations, getting my tyres faster than anticipated and they explaining billing and their staff are courteous. It places great emphasis on training of staff.
Verdict 9/10 grweat staff but needs to retain focus on it's core values (service and brand leadership in this sector)  having lost it's charismatic founder some years ago this will likely be a challenge particularly as it's (retail) ownership has already changed a couple of times and is now in the hands of the faceless sounding Japanese ITOCHU Corporation.
3) BT -BT have been trying to upgrade/deliver their broadband product as specified (by them) to me. They have some good people who work their phones but (and like J-Lo it is quite a butt) they promise more than they can deliver - have the feeling not all staff have signed up the the 21st Century and if they could go that bit further they would be a very strong Telco.
For me the work they have done has impacted badly on my service- my broadband is limping along and the move to what they tell me they can deliver (over 10 Mbps has actually seen the service go from around 3.25 to a sporadic 0.5 Mbps) - will see if they can fix in the next few days.
Verdict -5/10 they need to walk the walk - if  they say they'll call you in 24 hours it needs to be done, they need to step up to the mark, Sky are snapping at their heels.

And now number 18 The Mind

So what is the mind - It is not the physical constituent of the body but something more but how does the mind relate to the body (the mind body relationship).

If we look at the brain it is is a physical entity which we can observe but this does not explain consciousness.

You can listen to Tim Crane talking about the Mind on this podcast and addressing the issues of dualists as something of a rebuttal of the argument of  Gilbert Ryle and his disparaging  'Ghost in the machine'.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The economy and big idea #17 Consciousness

Now on Tuesday I heard(on Newsnight where else??) that whatever he said  in his economic statement the UK Chancellor (finance minister)  George Osborne was toast.
So what happened on Wednesday? George now seems to have got away with it and Ed Balls is the one having a hard time.
In truth external factors have meant that much of the blame for the continuing lack of growth in the UK economy are as much to blame as George's fiscal incompetence but had he been luckier I'm sure he'd be taking the credit for his savoir- faire.
And what is the outlook? seems it's doom and gloom for people who might vote Labour (if they could be bothered/realised it was in their interest or accepted that it's the right thing to do as things stand.

And now on to Number 17 Consciousness

We're above other animals in our development (some would say) because we are conscious of external factors as well as what happens within our own minds.
The Jury is out (one might say) on how much of this is down to 'quantum events' within the brain.
If it can be observed then predetermination can not be far behind - i.e. if our subsequent behaviour is a clear result of preceding events then all is lost in terms of free will and we are little more than biologically created(?) processors.
If we look back at  Consciousness in the canon of philosophy key figures include:

Locke, (nice bit here on the locked room)
it's a hot topic and religious people (believers)  will have a different take which sees a connection between an external (higher life?) form that might guide us but this does little (for me) to overcome the fear of a deterministic world/universe.
There might be some hope in that physicists (probably of the sub atomic genré) might find at such levels as they work that there is some randomness but this (as you'd expect) will probably raise more questions than answers.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

John Lloyd makes bid to be BBC Comedy Controller? and #16 Identity

Last night was the London Section of the Royal Television Society's Christmas lecture and this year it took the form of a conversation between veteran comedy Producer John Lloyd and Anthony Wall the acclaimed series editor of the long running BBC's Arena strand. Two ex Cambridge boys of the club-able variety. Here's John at another event obviously  veteran of sharing his wisdom. I would have really like to hear him talk more  about the problems he had mentioned recently on Desert Island Discs where he spoke about mid career blues  where he was unsure what it was all about.
  There was  a theme running through their reminiscences and it was that there is now too little clarity within the BBC, this might be seen as a little like sour grapes as Lloyd is now required to 'pitch' to various figures he evidently has little respect for- times change and the new broom who brought us such fine diversions as not the 9 O'clock news and Blackadder (and now QI) is evidently unhappy with the structures that he must now navigate. Was I alone in detecting a small hat being thrown in the ring to champion new comedy at the BBC?
I was amused by John speaking about how he'd been hoping to talk with Princess Anne after a BAFTA award but this had been stymied by Rowan Atkinson who spent too long answering the question Anne posed to him 'which do you prefer Film or Videotape (Rowan's degree is in engineering).

And now Number 16 Identity

Identity in terms of philosophical questions asks us how we can recognise things as being the same through time - this can be a challenge- am I the same person I was 25 years ago, although much of my body has been replaced and my views and opinions have altered a common sense view will still identify me as Tim Bourne  similalry we can think about Trigger's Broom  conjured up in Only Fools and Horses (derived some say from the classic thought experimentr Ship of Theseus) or perhaps our old school when it has all different pupils, fresh teachers and a new campus? Is it still Socrates High School?
What is Identity then?
Good podcast on the subject of Personal Identity from Philosophy Bites people here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Recycling/compost and #15 Existentialism

Now Wednesday is our regular waste collection day at home (in Ealing) and often by 9:00 a.m. both our recycling  and refuse have been collected. Of late we put out a half full green box (papers, tins  Tetra boxes and bottles) each week and a black plastic bag every 2 weeks or so, I'm mystified by other households that regularly put out several bags - what are they up to?
Ealing council have started an annual charge for removal of green rubbish (garden stuff) which seems counter-productive to me as I would think it is something a council should do. Admittedly we're not affected as if we have too much biodegradable waste at home (small plastic com-poster) then I take it to the allotment. Compost is the ultimate recycling solution - getting something good with no input bu waste - please do it if you can otherwise separate as much recyclable stuff as you can for the services to take away.

Now a good one - Number 15 Existentialism

As we mentioned the other day there's a school of thought that considers life 'absurd' - existentialism is posited as the method we might choose to deal with this life.
If you go along this route you will probably need a big overcoat and a sombre expression.
Big names include Kierkegaard (1813-55), Nietzsche (1844-1900) and Heidegger  who is a more recent figure who died  in 1976.
Take a look at the 10 minute video below on the subject.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Vine planting and #14 Being

Soaking first
The planted vine
 Yesterday I received Lakemont Vine that my brother had kindly given me for my birthday. After soaking roots and digging a hole  in the ground  which I then lined with compost I planted as directed with the union well clear of the soil. Hoping to have some grapes and in a year or two and then  will start the Chateau Ealing.
One of the things I remember from my horticultural course it that dead slaves were buried by vines as a good source of Nitrogen - hopefully this will not implicate me in the future. You can find out more about the history of growing wine in UK here.

No 14 is Being

This thing  being is a big topic gfor philosophy and Ontology is the posh word for it- it's all about things existing or not
There's a debate (which won't surprise you too much) this one is between the seemingly down to earth realists and nominalists who are far from being realists and think it's only in the name.
Parmenides  (born around 515 BC)  is a big name in the field of Ontology - see him represented in the pictureon the  left - this is a detail from a work famous to many Philosophers/Philosophy students and it's called 'The School of Athens' it's got a lot to it take a look further at this guy Andrew May's account here.
And here's an explanation- ish of Ontology

Monday, December 03, 2012

Passing of former ITN Chief Engineer and # 13 The Absurd

When I was a mere youngster of 21 I applied for work in the TV industry and was lucky enough to get the opportunity to work for the commercial TV news supplier ITN  (then based in Wells Street, W1) the people interviewing me for the job were Norman King and Peter Ward the Deputy and Chief engineers respectively.
In those days broadcasting was a very different business with only 3 channels in the UK and nothing like a 24 hour service - news was shot on film and VTRs used 2"  tape (it was colour though).
Peter was a most professional and patrician figure - it was a great time where the industry was well staffed and money was not an issue for pay or equipment (Thank you ACTT).
After over 20 years since he retired I saw Peter earlier this year at an ITN engineering reunion  and he remained the same charming guy.
I was saddened to hear of Peter's death (Norman died some time ago),  there are many people in broadcasting who had the good fortune to come into contact with him who will reflect on the changed nature of TV news and the broadcasting industry.

And now big idea Number 13 The Absurd.

The ascension of scientific fact over religion (things like Darwin's 'On the origin of Species' ) and the loss of confidence engendered by the first and second world wars led a dearth of faith amongst the intelligentsia.

So came about a tendency to view life as Absurd.
Some of the modern figures around The Absurd (and existentialism) are Albert Camus and Samuel Beckett
(Waiting for Godot is cited as an example of absurdist theatre) and from ancient times 'The Myth of Sisyphus" as referenced by Camus see above.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Christmas Carols and #12 Purpose (teleology)

On Friday night I went to the biennial event that is the RTS (London) Christmas Carol concert at St Bartholomew the Great. The church has a long history of being used for TV and film and the event is quite jolly with some popular Christmas Carols followed by food, mulled wine and chat amongst the attendees.
I learnt a few things from the Vicar this year
1) That the replacement (american) organ is going to cost around $2.0M
2) That a Rdiley Scott film, The Counselor  used the church recently, it features Cameron Diaz (described by the vicar as gorgeous) Ridley of course recently lost his brother Tony and shooting was suspended for a while due to this.
3) That the 'Carol'  Good King Wenceslsas is an Easter Hymn not really a Christmas carol.
Looking at the words of the hymns and considering the nativity story I am rather thinking that this is not the only thing that has become altered through the years even those within the church have some issues.
If you're interested in what might be facts around the life of Jesus Wikipedia is not a bad place to start you research. A factual biography and account of his life  using what history can be verified could make an interesting book.

Now number 12 (already) Purpose (Teleology)

Many people think that life is too tidy to not have some sort of purpose.

Teleology is defined as any philosophical account that holds that final causes exist in nature, meaning that design and purpose analogous to that found in human actions are inherent also in the rest of nature.
Here's a bit of a taster on the theme

Podcast on the subject Teleology here.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Toilets on TV and #11 Metaphysics

Toilet Man -Ifor ap Glyn
Yesterday via the magic of BBC iplayer I watched a great BBC 4 TV programme about toilets, amidst all the furore against the BBC and worries over the media intrusion it's easy to forget that TV can actually be enjoyable and tell you things didn't know.
So what does the Levenson enquiry tell us about media regulation? One key aspect we can ascertain is that there is no easy to striking a balance between a free 'press/broadcast media' and to respecting public figures.
In truth most people think that dodgy vicars, politicians and media figures who fall out of West End night clubs are fair game to having their lives revealed (and are of interest).
Admittedly the Saville nonsense was not revealed by  Sunday papers but perhaps we should make it easier for such scandals to be made public? In fact the media is already subject to the law of the land and as phone hacking is illegal retribution/punishment can follow.
There is for me a fear that those in positions of responsibility and or power use (already) mechanisms to hush up what they do not want to be public  - Like this guy I'm for a free(ish) media!

Today is Number 11 Metaphysics

Now you might have thought that Love, Nature and History were too important for such brief summaries but that's nothing (?) compared to Metaphysics. (Meta Physics meaning literally Beyond Physicality) Metaphysics can be as the philosophical study of being and knowing - and as you reflect on this I'm sure you'll realise this is quite a tall order!