Friday, February 28, 2014

Food and Memory at UWL Ealing

Sadly Universities do not reach out more often to their host communities and celebrate the chance they have to create dialogues for residents to take part in. An initiative in  Ealing means that there is a semi-regular session of public lectures where guest speakers have a platform to speak on  matters of the day, last year I went to see Torin Douglas speak about Commercial Radio and I have subsequently registered for further talks there,

On Wednesday evening I went along to the former Ealing college where these talks are held  to listen to local resident  Yasmin Alibhai-Brown speak about 'Food and Memories' as one would expect the talk referenced her own book The Settler’s Cookbook heavily, the book sounds intriguing with its' mixture of ethnic recipes, 'repaired UK dishes' (where her mother would bring life to bland dishes like Shepherd's Pie)  and the evocations from the smells left on her Mother's Cooking Cardigan likening them to the recollections that Proust's Madeleines triggered.

The UWL flyer
Yasmin who came to the UK from Uganda in the 1970s spoke about the food of her childhood the effect of an African upbringing on her as an part of the dispersed  UK colonial  diaspora. She spoke about how food affected her second marriage (helping her to win the heart of Colin Brown) and how food affects  her children as well as the connection with food with the loss of her mother. 
Other things that were touched on but not fully explored included her mother's attachment to Princess Diana, the sadness around the fate of her Brother and Sister, her brother being a victim of alcoholism and her sister still alive but living with problems of mental health. 
Next Talk

The next talk in the series at the UWL is scheduled for the 20th March it will be given by  Professor Nick Braisby and is on the subject of  Making sense of our world (a big subject).

On the subject of Making Sense of our World -BBC TV's Horizon this week  How You Really Make Decisions this programme took it's lead from Nobel prize winners' Professor Daniel Kahneman  analysis of our biases  The thesis he has is that we have  two ways of thinking, it threw light on the way the brain works quickly  with out clear logic (method 1) and then justifies with the reasoning method 2 .
-It was  very interesting and further information to add to philosophical musings.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

More on Schopenhauer

In the Philosophy course I attend in central London this week we took  a look at Arthur Schopenhauer, named Arthur apparently after careful consideration by his father who felt  it was the sort of name a cosmopolitan businessman could operate with - but Arthur chose a different career.
After the early death of his father in Hamburg in 1805 by what was possibly suicide Arthur  first worked towards a commercial career but in 1809  he began studying at the University of Göttingen, first as a student of medicine and later in the field of  philosophy.
Arthur apparently felt it his mother was the cause of his father's death and the relationship between mother and son was not a good one.
Arthur did not marry although he  was keen on female company and was a man with both temper and energy.
There are more biographical details of the man here.

Now onto his work and ideas:
Arthur was of the view that there was one process with this being made up of two aspects the  'willing' and the physical action.
 Schopenhauer considered that the universe is a rational  place and that the human condition is one of suffering he looked at how we should live and felt  that Art was one of the few temporary releases from continued desire.
Scott the course leader related to us  how we (as humans) were concerned with the shoe that pinched and that life is indeed suffering which when discussed did seem difficult to refute
 Schopenhauer felt that while the sight of a beautiful women  was a figure of desire the artistic work depicting her was somewhat removed from this. One of the great works of  Schopenhauer was concerned with  Aesthetics.
Unusually for the time  Schopenhauer a well traveled man was concerned with animal welfare and believed that England was a place where animals were relatively well treated.
Arthur Schopenhauer continues to cast a impressive shadow over the field of philosophy and his ideas and outlook have been sen as forming something of a link with the relgions/philosophies of the east notably Hinduism and Buddhism.

Spring and feeding the birds.
One for Mary Poppins

I had an hour or so on Plot 202 as I wanted to deploy a bird feeder (as an homage at Arthur?) it was pleasant so see signs of spring there too.

I have also started some Moneymaker Tomatoes indoors at home.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Reacting to Art - National Gallery The Sunflowers and Sainsbury Wing

Yesterday having something of a reaction to the discussions around Schopenhauer (more in the next post) I felt somewhat obliged to visit The nearby National Gallery both as an antidote (Schopenhauer on Art “Treat a work of art like a prince: let it speak to you first.” ) and a confirmation of his central thesis that  'Life is Suffering'

On arrival I was at first somewhat concerned at the numbers but once inside found that there was sufficient space and activity to mean that this was far from a problem.

Having seen in the press that there was a rare  opportunity to see two of Van Gogh's  Sunflowers side by side I  chose to join  the necessary queues to enable me to see this - it's interesting how The National Gallery was able to ration this viewing to make it a practicality, the nature of 'free' things (of which this was one) is that demand is likely to reach unfathomable heights this was easily managed by the Gallery by simply making it mildly inconvenient.
What I drew from the two images was how similar they were, what we tend to see here  is two paintings by one of the World's greatest artists but it is worth considering the context of Van Gogh who worked  for an Art dealer and tried to join the church before he became an artist. And as an Artist he sold only one painting during his lifetime, he was not aware that he was producing iconic works and that his life as a tortured artist would be celebrated. Here's a review of the works together.

Looking around at the undoubted riches I was (again) taken with Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando by Edgar Degas (it's a great title too).

I am  intrigued and enjoy the works of the 'Pointilist' Seurat and was taken with another artisits's Pointilist painting Washerwomen by Signac (1886)

It is striking how influential the 30 years or so of artistic development between 1884 and 1914 is I was also drawn to  George Bellows Men of the Docks  (1912)  A painting of New York activity (amazing to see the cost of this was around £15m and was funded from the largess of the late JP Getty II).


Klimt's  Hermine Gallia 1904 showing a rare and haunting but distanced beauty..

Religiosity at the Gallery
Sainsbury's Local at National Gallery

 I am not sure if I've before appreciated how much of the National Gallery is given over to what could be broadly defined as devotional Christian works certainly the 20 year old Sainsbury Wing has an amazing selection largely European created and reflecting a European perspective and evocation of the characters, for this reason :

Adoration of the Kings by Vincenzo Foppa  (painted around 1500) stood out and I liked too 

The Supper at Emmaus by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio  who lived from  1571 to only 1610,
what I like about this is the way the arms of Christ and one of the other diners seem to  show life beyond the frame of the picture as opposed to the missing glance from Christ's apparently closed eyes .

I am much taken too by Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (Velázquez) partly I think because of an explanation of the parable given to me recently but also because of the experimental nature of the painting within a painting delivery of the story.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New TV channels - does more mean less or can we use the extra capacity to enrich lives?

This year ITV has a new female slanted channel ITVBe  and in 2015 a new pay to view service ITV Encore.
The BBC is going to provide a Plus one service for their main popular national TV and The co-production between BBC and The Arts Council  known as The Space is meant to relaunch before too long.

We (that's Londoners)  will soon (March 31st is the date for the service to start) have the long awaited London Live Local TV and that's not taking into account the constantly increasing IPTV services that are getting screen space on Smart TVs and the new wave of STBs like Now! TV.
Five for sale?

Oh yes and the Local TV service is going to open up a further two 'quasi national' TV  channels which will provide further choice to the happy viewers.

Does this fragmentation worry Jolly Richard Desmond? Well the conventional wisdom is that having removed the excess fat and returning the network to profit he's going to sell off the 5 portfolio before too long.

Well what do we want from our TV that we haven't got and can it pay its way? Perhaps we could see some major Educational and Arts  initiatives that could seek to  address an appetite amongst some for life long learning - The Open University is looking to make more material available and has now what is known as  a MOOC (Massive  Open On-line Courses )  provider in Futurelearn.

The big advantage of broadcast is that the cost doesn't really increase with more viewers educational delivery for young and old could be delivered at next to no cost  and  broadband can offer the chance of  enriching the experience - any ideas out there?


Monday, February 24, 2014

Allotment charges offer value for money (to me) - Placebo TV

Yesterday I had a few hours on my plot and today (coincidentally) I got the invoice for my full plot for 2014/15 - it's well over £100 but I'd say this is pretty good value when you consider what being a plot-holder  gives you-
A less pleasant part of the hobby

An allotment plot can be a cheap source of fresh fruit and vegetables, and help you have a healthier diet.

The food you grow will mean you have less contact with pesticides if you choose to grow organically.

An allotment gives you the excuse  to spend time outside enjoying nature and looking busy

Each year you'll probably  learn something new about the natural world -growing, the climate and even ornithology  are just some examples.

Studies have shown that allotment horticulture causes a  reduction in stress and  in times of trouble it can give your mind something positive to focus on, this can give you a sense of achievement and well-being

Group activities on a site  help community spirit and offers an opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.

Gardening is a good form of exercise and as well as being cheaper than a Gym you get something healthy to eat. Maintaining a shared site has environmental benefits that come from  providing green spaces and enriching wildlife habitats.

I regularly have a nice surprise with things I'd forgotten I've planted or given up on, yesterday we had our first home grown roast parsnips which tasted great.

A nicer surprise
It's not all fun, you can get scratched and dirty, mud gets under your finger nails and there's heartbreak when animals get your crops before you.

You have to contend with people breaking into your sheds as well as fighting  against rain, drought and pestilence (on my last visit I had to remove the remains of a dead rat)

Here's a bit more about the good things allotments give plot holders..

BBC's Horizon continues to delight

BBC 2 had an interesting Horizon on Placebo effect last week - seems that for a researched product to work as well as the placebo effect is not always easy to achieve. Placebo effect is even seen when used as control in surgical interventions. Research does show that the expectation of a 'drug' causes releases in the brain so it is in that interesting physical mental zone - the programme was well put together (as you'd expect)  and very understandable without being patronising.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Scottish Independence at what cost?

The debate ahead of the Scottish referendum seems to be hotting up with everyone from Rock God David Bowie to European politician José Manuel Barroso offering input.

Is Alex Salmond an honourable man who believes wholeheartedly that an Independent Scotland offers a better way of life to his countrymen or a deluded egomaniac?
I don't know but to me he seems a shifty politician who appears to believe that having cake and eating it is the prerogative of those splitting from the rest of the country.

One would imagine that even to a politician it would be logical to realise that somethings will need to be given up as the price of independence,  and I would think that monetary independence would mean that the Scottish would need to have a different pound (or Euro), some definitions of an independent country take a currency as being part of 'going it alone'.
A man of the people?

The other issue for the Scot Nats to resolve is the question of entry into the EU - of course within the EU there are countries such as Spain who would worry about making it look like the Basques could carry out a similar change of status as the Scots but this does not mean that the EU membership is a non-issue.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Kant and A Tiger in Ealing

Almost as famous for his awful writing and superb timekeeping as he is for his illuminating Philosophies the rather short Immanuel Kant.  Born in 1724 in the area of Königsberg and  died 1804 in the area of Königsberg - it's said he didn't travel more than 10 miles from his place of birth in his whole life Kant  was one of the first Academic Philosophers to really cut the mustard.
Kant was the man of the Categorical Imperative, that is a concept which is pretty hardcore and perhaps  reflects his religious upbringing which was full of piety.  The idea of  Categorical Imperativ e (from  Encyclopedia Britannica)  is that:
Immanuel to his friends

“Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” is a purely formal or logical statement and expresses the condition of the rationality of conduct rather than that of its morality, which is expressed in another Kantian formula: “So act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in another, always as an end, and never as only a means.”
There are of course problems/challenges  carrying this out in the real world, the question do I look fat? May not get a response that keeps everyone happy but it does reduce the hypocrisy that many of us dislike (or think we do).

Kant's work is described as part of the Copernican Revolution in Philosophy which is summarised here.

Kant is not an easy figure to approach through his own writing, there's a theory Kant's writing is so poor because he was worried that when he really got writing in his late 50's he was worried that time was running out (life expectancy was not so great in the late 18th century).

Kant's view was that there was causality but he saw a problem 'conceiving of first cause' and he added a further level to the distinctions around synthetic and analytic definitions take a look here if you're feeling brave.

And if you're not so brave run through this..

A Tiger in Ealing

After over a month Tiger in the Ealing Broadway centre has reopened, what's puzzling me is how it took them so long to make such small changes?
The shop's brighter and some small changes to the layout and addition of a drinks fridge with seriously over priced canned drinks (Blimey! they're £2.00 per can)  - still quite like the shop though.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Call me an old so and so (Sow and Sow)

Well we're beginning to see the days get a little longer and some occasional glimpses of the sun so I've come to the conclusion that I should be starting a few seedlings and getting prepared for a growing season.
This is my fisrst full year with a complete plot and although I will be hoping to manage things so we have a good supply I'm also planning quite a bit of experimentation and hope to be able to give away a few of the things I grow and plants too if I have enough. .
Today we've actually planted some seeds and I've moved some fruit bushes into pots (I fear the ground is too wet for them at present) - the fruit bushes are  two off   Redcurrant Ribes Rubrum
The Redcurrants I'm aiming for

The seeds we've sown are all starting indoors, they're

Onions Ailsa Craig I've used Onion sets in the past and have planted some sets  already but it does feel like cheating and I did grow a few from seed last year which was not too difficult.

Cauliflower - I like cauliflower and think as well as tasting good they are attractive to look at (?)

And in  a propagating tray I am growing  Aubergines (Early Long Purple 3).
We've got some little growing kits from a  pound store for early Iceberg Lettuce and Spring Onions which Debbie was in charge of sowing so these should work okay.

Next on the agenda will be Tomatoes, Broccoli and Radishes.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Consumer Driven TV -what is it? (and what's TV?)

Yesterday was a hectic day (for me) amongst other things I did was attend a presentation  organised by the RTS London Section at  what used to be LWT and is now The Television  Centre.
Not the best seat in the house

The venue it is  on London's Southbank  and the subject to be covered was (some of) the  issues that some attendees at CES thought relevant to the TV industry.

The format of the presentation was to first of all identify the theme, take a few personal views and then finish with something of a 'Q and A'.
The theme identified as we move to so many screens PC TV. Tablet and phone was what is TV  one Uber Geek admitted to possessing 11 screens which unless he's a TV shop owner seems a little excessive.

The presenting group were a diverse bunch brought together by Terry Marsh and were:

Ken Blakeslee,  an American who is  Chairman of  WebMobility. Ken identified the stand out topic of CES as wearable tech - not a look I personally am planning to adopt anytime soon.

Ali Shah, Head of Technology Direction, BBC a technical expert who was not averse to wearing Google Glass despite fears (his own) of looking a Glasshole (I can see that catching on) he did try (of course) to embed the quality aspects of the BBC in all that will succeed. He sees (have we heard of this before??) more immersive and personalised TV , perhaps tied to sport and the refinement of recommendation engines (like Amazon you've watched this how about this etcetera) 

Phill Stevenson, Senior Researcher, ACB (Actual Customer Behaviour), ACB carry out research around how families use TV, it's surely a rich field but beware there might be some Snake Oil Salesman interpreting some of those 'findings', ACB have done recent work around one of the biggest US TV's set pieces Superbowl seeing how the multiple screens are used to 'expand the moment' (I'd say that's another nice phrase to throw in to your TV conversations).

Katarzyna Mastela, a  journalist and  MA student in Media Management at the  University of Westminster (looks an interesting course)-  Katarzyna  was not an industry bigwig but had some thoughts on how TV is used amongst the group she knows (international Students in London) she had created some new groupings that provided another angle on how TV is developing. I think what  Katarzyna  was saying is that we use TV differently and (me here) use what we say about how we use it to impress others - I'm a multi- tasker who never watches Eastenders for example.

Vibeke Hansen who is Head of User Experience and Product Design, Arqiva,   Vibeke did not give  personal presentation and I was slightly amused to find she too was part  of the success of BBC iPlayer when she was there - how true it is that 'Success has man fathers'.

So was there a thread we can draw together from what was poked and picked? For me not too much TV is getting bigger ands smaller, more solitary and more communal and social - what is it - it's not easy to define in words but most of know it when we see it.
Your thoughts please
For me the Elephant in the room (or rather not in the room) was a voice from Samsung (other Global TV  producers are available) - they have such a big influence and role that their view would carry some weight and challenge some of the broadcast TV's sacred cows (any thoughts?)

[Look out for the presentation as a video it was recorded as a multi camera shoot]

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

First visit to Richard Hamilton at Tate Modern

2014 seems to be the year for celebrating Richard Hamilton who has been given the mantle of the father of Pop Art the Tate Modern show is definitely worth visiting and offers an ideal opportunity to see the breadth of the vision that Richard's work covers.

The early 'Pop' works still have a freshness and vitality which must have hit like a fluorescent neon disco when it was revealed  and Interiors I and II with their use of reflections are brilliant iconic examples of Hamilton's  Draughtsmanship .

You need to see this in the flesh to appreciate the chair.
Along with paintings he was involved in  three dimensional works which you can enjoy as you walk through the collection and you can see how he approached the Beatles design brief for their 1968 double LP.

As well as the humour  the work's insight into consumerism exhibits there's a far more political passion than I had anticipated before seeing his work collectively.  I have seen The Citizen many times at Tate Britain but when it is hung with the other works related to Northern Ireland it's message can  not be avoided.

The Blair of  'Shock and Awe' is a powerful swipe at the recent Middle Eat adventures  and Maps of Palestine  makes the case against the Israeli land grabs that have followed the 1967 war clear and unambiguous -

On his place within artistic firmament his work often speaks for itself although his admiration for Duchamp is perhaps at a more philosophical level then majorly influencing his own style and output.
[Such was the artistic debt that Hamilton felt he owed to Duchamp required him to painstakingly recreate The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors in 1965.]

 Although he was rejected at an early stage of his career for not benefiting from teaching once he became appreciated  within the Art world Hamilton used his position to champion the next wave of Pop Art which included Hockney and Blake and he was a valued  teacher to one of Pop's (music)  most aesthetic figures Bryan Ferry.

Passage of the Bride reminded me of David Hockney and the Polaroids and  multiple Jagger and Monroe prints show a  relationship to what Warhol was also examining in Pop (arts) heyday.

[The exhibition is on until Mid May at Tate Modern]

Hamilton's Passage of the Bride

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

BBC drama about Further Education classes to come

View to St. Paul's today
After the philosophy class at CityLit today (the challenging Kant) I went along to a drop in session where a couple of people from BBC TV drama were gathering reflections from students on what courses had done for them.
The BBC people one who was called Matt (a writer) were interested in our experiences and what came out of the discussion was how much the opportunity was valued by those who went along - I think a commercial organisation getting such positive feedback would be very content.
One of the points I made was that although there was not any testing or judging ahead of the courses this did not appear to be a problem - courses are not dumbed down and even without exams people were achieving. Other attendees spoke of the high standard of teaching and the positive 'vibe' that was in residence.
It was illuminating for me to hear people from varied backgrounds and on a mixture of courses saying how they valued the chance to widen their knowledge.
Those who I saw at the BBC/CityLit session included students of dance, performing (including comedy), ceramics and language all felt fulfilled and enriched by their participation in adult learning - what a shame so many people do not have the same chances.
I will keep an eye out for the drama (which I think will be quite some time away).
[It was great to get my camera back from CityLit security today too- thanks to them]

Monday, February 17, 2014

'Equitable Life Payment Scheme' need to learn Communication Skills and A lovely sunny Sunday in February.

Communication is an important and vital life skill in the days we live, be it verbal written or that which we enjoy during face to face meetings it should always aim for clarity.

It is great to use flowery language in prose and poetry that paints pictures but in day to day letters and e-mails top priority should be reserved  for 'understanding'.

When we talk or read we assume (too much) and anticipate that the recipient is in tune with what we're planning to get across.

Recently I got a letter indicating that payment would be sent to me in the 'next few days' - now I've not received this payment as yet and it's now about 3 weeks since the letter was sent to me, I've written asking if the 'warrant' was sent and what 'a few days means' to them, the response has been even less illuminating, saying they will write when payment is due and  suggesting I visit their website- carefully avoiding (perhaps) to actually provide any information as to whether the payment has been sent and what 'a few days' is or indeed that they're sorry for any confusion they may have caused.
My letter I think was clear and referenced but to my mind the response is poor and incomplete.

So I would adviser those working on the Equitable Life Payment Scheme please state clearly what you mean.

Nice Sunday 

Wow! A nice day on Sunday the first time for quite a few weeks that I've been able to get out on the allotment and what a pleasure it was, I was actually able to dispense with my jumper it was so warm.
February sun on the shed

Ground not as saturated as i expected and planted two Apple trees a Bramley and an eater I am crossing my fingers that they both survive.
Also did some weeding and trimmed some of the trees that are by the
Bramley bought at Wilkinson's


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Edward Hopper Artist and some challenges on how we look at life

Edward Hopper is both an interesting figure and an influential artist. Who amongst us that have seen reproductions and pastiches of  his paintings including the iconic Nighthawks has not been intrigued and formulated their own narrative for the figures in his works?

I like this 1941 painting 'Summertime' but I find that it is not (for me) about isolation and loneliness adjectives typically used to describe the themes of his works.

This conventional wisdom that Hooper's paintings were about isolation has perhaps an some truth but looking at a selection of his works in a book here it seems that there is indeed more to consider within the world that he captures so vividly, that something to me is about the anticlimax what follows a big event.
Hopper was a sophisticated and cultured  man who was described as secretive he famously said of his work "The whole answer is there on the canvas" but what is that answer?
This enigmatic artist  was a reader of the works of  Ralph Waldo Emerson the American writer who rejected traditional ideas of God  in favour of an "Over-Soul" or "Form of Good," his ideas  were considered at the time he revealed them as being highly contentious. Hopper too was influenced by the  ground breaking European  Psychologist Sigmund Freud (here's a link to an analysis document  on Hopper I found - but I'm not so sure if the the dislike of cities that is mentioned is fact).

 How to live and think

Before there were professional academics who pursued Philosophical studies there were Philosophers who advised informed and lived the lives they thought others should.

This highlights for me for me the challenge for philosophers living today on how they operate at a practical level should they choose to practice a scheme of live arrived at by their study  as opposed to studying and discussing  of the field during their hours of employment? .

Through the years there have been characters like Diogenes of  Sinope, aka Diogenes the Dog - Dog in Greek being the word Cynic which of course is what his philosophy became known as, who have embraced a way of life that sets them aside from  the norm that most of us choose to adhere to.

 Diogenes of  Sinope for example took the decision to pursue  something that was to him akin to the truth (whatever that is) and rejected hypocrisy for what many would consider a more difficult life.

Others following a  religious way of life have grappled with the central tenets of their faiths like
St Thomas who attempted to synthesise an Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity.
 St Thomas didn't consider
himself a philosopher.

Thomas was  a child of an aristocratic family  and was born at a time  in Europe which was enjoying the wealthiest period  since the fall of  the Roman Empire. Universities were being formed around Europe and Thomas went to the University of Naples where the Dominicans influence was felt by him, he became something of a radical even though his family tried to turn away from this path.

 St Thomas of Aquinas  didn't himself think that he was a philosopher but  followed Aristotle in thinking that an act is good or bad depending on whether it contributes to or deters us from our proper human end that is the 'telos'  which can be considered the utility, the purpose, the motivation and intention or logical reason at which all human actions aim.

That 'telos' is a sort of happiness, where “happiness” is related to completion, perfection, or well-being. Achieving happiness, however, requires a range of intellectual and moral virtues that enable us to understand the nature of happiness and motivate us to seek it in a reliable and consistent way.

In 1270 and 1277 he was condemned by the Roman Catholic church (by Étienne Tempier a Paris Bishop) but 50 years after his death on the 18th of July 1323, Pope John XXII  pronounced Thomas  of Aquinas a saint,

St Thomas Aquinas believed that we can never achieve complete or final happiness in this life. For him, final happiness consists in beatitude, or supernatural union with God. Such an end lies far beyond what we through our natural human capacities can attain. For this reason, we not only need the virtues, we also need God to transform our nature to perfect or “deify” it, so that we might be suited to participate in the divine beatitude. Moreover, Aquinas believed that we inherited a propensity to sin from our first parent, Adam.

While our nature is not completely corrupted by sin, it nevertheless suffers 'sins stain', as evidenced by the fact that our wills are at enmity with those of a Christian God’s. For this reason we need God’s help in order to restore the good of our nature and bring us into tune with his will. To do this, God imbues us with his grace which comes in the form of divinely instantiated virtues and gifts.

 So as an example of someone who tried to live his live by his beliefs of original sin (although differently from that which was the later interpretation of others  including John Locke).  Thomas is perhaps a fine example of trying to live as he felt he should but it must have been quite a challenge.

When I was a kid playing football for the 90 minutes or so of the game that was what existed and at the end of the proscribed time there was a return to the more routine way of life, as I've got older I have found that it is still possible to lose oneself in tasks and entertainment, a two hour film can flash but hours gardening go to nothing.

But at the end of the suspension one returns to the 'life' and compromises, on the return from the 'game' it is not just that time readjusts but the perception of life changes too, a different version of reality  fills the horizon, that was a great film now I need to get home and I'm getting wet and I'm tired ..

So the thought is even if we knew 'the truth of life and how it should be lived' would we choose it?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Eating out at David's and changes in popular music production

14-02-14 has a nice symmetry about it and as it is also Valentine's Day it was a chance for us  to go out and have a pleasant celebration meal.
We went to  Chez L'ami David in Pitshanger Lane Ealing it's local and a fairly genuine French Bistro type place, it was of course packed (even with the god awful weather we had) Valentine's Day  is after all one of the few evenings that Restaurants can be all but  guaranteed a full house (along with Mother's Day).

The "Maître D" named  David I presume that is his name was quite entertaining and tending to split his conversation 50/50 between English and French, the guy on the table next to us made a really good effort with his ordering using the French language skills he had available to him.

Food was nice and my first real chance to have something with foam (With the Granite, what's all the fuss about?) - really enjoyed the Asparagus in my salad  starter but my feeling would be that they could have 'milked'  the occasion a bit more - perhaps a rose for the lady etcetera.

Popular Music

This morning I listened to a radio programme all about technological changes in music production, "All You Need Is Lab: How Science And Technology Inspired Innovation In Music" it was well crafted and of interest to me.
Yesterday morning I listened to Rubber Soul – it really is an amazingly good album.
I would be very (and genuinely) interested to hear something as diverse and playful being created in the field of popular music now or recently.

What (of many things) that blew me away was the musicianship, Ringo is such a talenteddrummer always it seems producing something appropriate not dominating but adding to the whole. It is also easy to forget what a fine melodic lead George provides tasteful flourishes and adornments are liberally sprinkled through this album the first by the boys which is all self penned (principally by John and Paul but with George and even Ringo getting credits).

Here too you feel the group being egged on and abetted by their producer George Martin – George adds so many keyboard parts including a mucked about piano made to sound Harpsichord like on one of John's stand-out songs In my Life.
The album has such a diversity from the folk-ish Norwegian Wood to the quasi- soul of 'The Word' I can almost hear this as a  Gospelly number ringing out from a Southern Baptist church with Preacher screaming at the congregation (or is that just me?).

Anyway until that happens here's Paul re-visiting the song in Spain in 2011

Friday, February 14, 2014

Smart Shopping and warming shopping - That's shopping that's personal and impersonal at the same time

I've mentioned that I am without my camera at the moment and while I was visiting Tesco's today  I took my phone out to take a snap or two - I found my phone camera was brought to life by a bar-code  which struck me as interesting.
Offers products and big data

How would it be if when I did this with a Smart-Phone it came back and told me that this item was cheaper at Asda or advised that it contained additives that someone in family was allergic to, could it help with those blessed coupons?

There have been occasions where we've been shopping with some voucher that only kicks in after a certain amount of money has been spent and we've actually tried to keep a running total - I suppose this is not much of a challenge to do in the cloud.

This really is quite a battlefield  when I was at BT we were working with some big customers whop were looking at 'in store' and 'in mall' TV type services and some of these could go as far as suggesting when you bought some beers a few crisps would go nicely with them - it might be a nudge but nudges can be pretty effectivce when the right amoubnt of suggestion is used in the correct situation  - I would think Google Glass might have some application around these transactions too.

And personalising

Not all buying is about value, speed and efficiency undoubtedly there's emotion playing a big part too.
I got a nice surprise today as I received (by first class post) my signed insert for the recently acquired The News by Alain de Botton, it's perhaps a little unexpected that a personalisation of what is very much a mass produced  item can change the nature of the transaction between the producer and consumer. The item has become more valuable (personally and in money terms) and the nature of the purchase feels more human, we are all of course at the very least (or most) human and this feels like a small but tangible example of this.
To be stuck in.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Organising a library .. (one day) and when you're getting your petrol

Where does this go in my
Alain de Botton is sometimes castigated for his approach as well as audience and his willingness to participate, as I started my initial probings of Kant I sought an easy way in and Googled 'de Botton' and Kant, I should have realised at the enter key that what I was doing was merely postponing the struggle.
My Googling go me to de Botton to a Philosophy Bites (it was rather worryingly identified because within the interview Alain says what a pity it is that Kant was such a bad writer) .
[Interestingly while preparing for next weeks' top philosopher Kant I find that in the set work of Magee {video/book} the consensus is that Kant is a poor writer but excused because he was writing in a hurry due to his advanced years (58 old was old in those days)]
What listening to the podcast reminded me was what a capable communicator de Botton is, as he says he's upsetting a vested professional interest (largely academic philosophers within the state controlled education sector) , reducing the barriers of entry to the business of being a philosopher.

This took me to look to see if I had de Botton on Proust - I think I have but I can't find it, I did though find an author signed paperback by him which indicates how things have now improved for him, I do I found have a somewhat (to me anyway) surprisingly large number of books that could fit into a philosophy section along with Media and Gardening specialties.

When one visits a shop, a gallery or a museum one is actually looking at a curated exhibition so it is a matter of  some import to structure one's own collections to be able to make the most of them.

Although when I've spoken to librarians (scary in itself?) they've tended to dis the Dewey Decimal scheme but it seems to haver at least the virtue of being widely used and understood - I intend when I need a further diversion to start to categorize my own collection along this pattern.

This had the best price for me today

Petrol Pricing

It might be stretching it to say it's reasonable  but the cost at the pumps doesn't seem to be going up too much at the mopment - If you're going to fill up and you don't spend too much time behind the wheel might be worth trying this site Petrol Prices .Com put in your postcode and you get local Petrol pricing

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Losing it (and then finding it) - how my brain works/ed .. More books to read..

If you look at a few of my blog entries you'll notice that there's often some sort of illustration in the way of a photo, most (but not all) of these photos are taken by me and yesterday lunchtime on my way home I thought I'd take a quick picture (I'm not sure what it was of) and noticed it was not there -  I thought about where I'd been and what I'd done and came to the conclusion the camera (a Canon compact digital number) could be at home but I also tied in the thought of the sound of something near me (somewhat unexplained at the time) during my class earlier at CityLit.
My little photographic friend

When I got home I emptied by bag and pockets and looked around to check that the camera was not in these places. Having established that it wasn't I emailed (perhaps optimistically) the CityLit asking them if the camera had been handed in.

 I really like the camera an IXUS 75  which I've had for over 6 years and although I could take pictures with my phone (Nokia Lumia 710) or my Playbook it would not I fear be the same type of photo - I had started looking at other models and the special offer Canon IXUS 132 (with WiFi inbulit) was looking attractive at Currys.

Today I was delighted to hear from them that it had and that I could retrieve it, the fact that I had somehow let it fall from my bag but that it was handed in is really good news - thanks to whoever handed it in and  CityLit for responding.
This 'event' feels like it has given me an insight into my  'human behaviour'  it being interesting and another example of another way that the  Turing test would be unmet in a similar way.

Henri Bergson, Alain de Botton and a dictionary 

 Of late I've been raving about Michael Foley and when I was ordering a dictionary of Philosophy I felt compelled to order at the same time from the excellent series of slim volumes from The School of Life a book by Foley on Henri Bergson.
More from Foley
Bergson it seems was all about the process and as well as a Nobel prize winning author  he was a noble prize winning author declining at the time of the French Vichy collaborators government  an opportunity to deny his lineage on the offer of being granted the right to be an Honorary Aryan.
I will read more Foley's interpretation of Bergon's philosophy with interest.
Connecting the Foley book I've got Alain's book on the News - Alain is the founder of The School of Life.
Yet again Amazon have delivered ahead of schedule - it's great to have your expectations exceeded by a massive company -there are many others I could list here who are far  more likely to fall short and to be unaware of their failings.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

This week's Philosopher is David Hume, Petitions might work & The Photo of the week

This week we looked at David Hume who is revered as one of the great philosophers writing in English and he also seems to have been quite a down to earth sort of a guy (for a philosopher) and after, as a young man  suffering from some Psychosomatic illnesses  he became a stout ruddy looking adult. For a proper philosopher the analysis would of course be about the themes but I am very far from this and am interested in the life and character of the people who are considered important  - on finishing the class today I picked up Ayer's book Hume: A Very Short Introduction from my local library to find out more.

David Hume

David Hume lived from 1711 to 1776  when he lost his life to Cancer. Hume was an interesting Scottish guy who went to university in Edinburgh at the age 12 which during the 18th century was not so unusual he went with his elder brother John who had inherited the Hume estate following  the early death of their father. 

The Hume/Home family were later to have one of their antecedents become Prime-minister of Great Britain in 1963 (although for less than a year) he being Sir Alec Douglas Home.

David Hume spent time away from Scotland working in Bristol as a clerk after it seems getting

Sir Alec
a young lady 'into trouble' he also with a view to making his meagre annual income stretch spent time in France including some time at La Flèche where Descartes had been. Hume was labeled as an atheist but had good relations with many people in the church in Scotland and abroad during his life.
Despite this his religious views meant that he missed out on a couple of University academic posts including the chair of Philosophy at Glasgow.

Hume is considered a Sceptic and Empiricist, his books on Philosophy were not big sellers during his life but his history of England was lauded by many.

In the philosophical discipline his considerations of many themes including Causality and also Identity are now seen as incredibly significant.

[ On the way back from CityLit as I went down the escalators at Holborn tube station  on the up escalators  I saw a figure very much in the news by himself without any minders the former Labour  Culture minister who as Lord Smith is hitting headlines as a result of his job as Chairman of the  Environment Agency and looking fairly untroubled]

So petitions might work

Yes I am questioning  of the influence of petitions perhaps they seem a little too easy - again I'm finding that they do help highlight causes in this case action regarding the horrors of female genital mutilation (FGM)  has been highlighted and a petition has caused a reaction from the Secretary of State for Education..
Following my support of the petition against FGM here's what I got today from Fahma Mohamed 

I have good news -- Michael Gove has responded to our petition and agreed to meet me! 
I'll be meeting the Education Secretary and Children's Minister Edward Timpson at the end of February. Read about the news in The Guardian.
It is so exciting to get the opportunity to speak to Michael Gove face-to-face. I'll tell him what it is like to be a young person worried about FGM in the UK today. 
At the meeting I will be handing over the petition. If we want him to agree to write to all schools about FGM we need to show him this is an issue of national concern. We already have 178,000 signers -- let's aim for 200,000 before the meeting. 

[do offer your support if you want to see this barbaric behaviour stopped]

More good news with the agreement to curtail industrial action by the RMT hope the negotiations continue to progress here's the story from the now national LBC (today)

And away from these big things  here's my 

Photo of the week

Monday, February 10, 2014

Retail starts picking up & Waitrose is playing with the big boys

Retail news from the high street is good with the number of  reported empty retail units down - locally Robert Dyas are preparing to reopen in the Ealing shopping centre  after a brief absence from the town, although to me it looks like the new premises will be smaller than those they vacated.
Soon be back in Ealing

Stephen Fry famously stated that the purpose of Sainsbury's was to keep the 'rubbish' out of Waitrose but I note from recent visits to the West Ealing store  that  there are changes now  underway at what used to be a slightly posh supermarket .

More big lorries
More offers
Waitrose are doing a few things that might surprise customers at other supermarkets, they're playing hardball with Tesco matching their prices away from 'Special offers', For loyalty card holders they're offering money off shopping when selected newspapers are bought and the cost of groceries is £5.00 or more (this can mean I think a free Sunday Observer at £2.30), they're also giving a free cup of coffee and various promotions with an extra 10% on some everyday products.

Is this what loyal Waitrose customers want? For example how badly will the newspaper offer  hit local newsagents and (to a lesser extent) the  coffee shops in the immediate neighbourhood?

Weekend dining at home
All the best pots and cutlery

It isn't so often that we dine with visitors at home this weekend we actually went to the trouble of preparing a 3 course lunch which made a nice change, the wine we drank (with red meat) was a young (2012)  Pont du Diable 2012 and I enjoyed this one and thought it complemented the Lamb we had well.
It's a bit like  hard work entertaining at home, getting food prepared for more than just the two of us and taking the best plates out etcetera  but ultimately it is a clear sign of some effort on our part.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Weather and Technological Determinism

The wind is powerful too.

I've been away from the allotment for most of 2014 so far largely because of the weather (it was raining) or because  the plots were very
Before the flood
muddy (as it had been raining).
Yesterday I popped down to take some material from composting, largely tree trimmings that had been mulched), what I found on my plot was a damaged "lean-to" green-house, a hole I'd made for an Apple tree full of water and some very muddy ground, nearby other plots looked even worse with several having large areas of water on the surface.
Nearby water-logging on paths

Now I suppose this is all very parochial to my patch, but if you think about how bad it is here and how it'll impact on the few vegetables I grow scale this up for the farmers of the UK - this is not going to make food cheaper that's for sure.
Is this change 'in the weather' down to what  we're (that's mankind) doing to our environment or is it factors outside what we're really affecting that are giving this wet terrible winter ? I suppose to some extent the question should be moot we should act responsibly with regard to our home planet at the very least.

Determinism as reported by the media.

For one of my postgraduate degrees I studied Mass Communication and one of the concepts we covered was Technological Determinism, I suppose it's not too surprising that with my background I have a bias towards this.
This morning I watched (via BBC iPlayer) an old version of Click which was heavy on the issues of Security Versus state snooping and also covered the buzz around Google Glass and the like - it all looked very now and exciting, I felt very much of the now.

I then went and performed my ablutions (and felt much better for it), I listened to the BBC radio 'A point of View' it was by Adam Gopnik who I'm not really familiar with  but his perspective offered a very timely rebuttal of the idea that we live in times that are wholly shaped by the technological developments which we can take advantage of.
What Gopnik said was (to summarise heavily) was a lot of the the things we do are what we'd have done despite technical advances and uses such things as the work of Dickens as examples of things that would not really be improved in quality or quantity by the use of todays' modern aides.

Having said that do be careful of what you choose to share on-line and if you think it's applicable use something like PGP (or others) to protect (to some degree) your privacy, check what it known of you on-line  and do find out how Google Glass will change your life. (also note how powerful Google Location is)

Saturday, February 08, 2014

You can start a petition too and a great Blackberry Playbook Offer

Yesterday I mentioned an online petition that had been launched to highlight some of the issues about the proposed update of Ealing Broadway Station (in London UK) in light of the Crossrail project and the stations use as an interchange.

Ben Rattray Change Starter
Well it seems (and you know I have doubts about the outcomes) anyone can start a petition using here's what they've told me lets anyone, anywhere start a petition. It’s free and can be about anything you want to change.  Start your petition now.
Together, we're powerful. The more of us that join together in support of a campaign, the better the chance of being heard. (You can share Save Ealing's Centre's petition now on Facebook, Twitter, or via email).
This works. With support from people like you, hundreds of campaigns are won every month. Click here to see some of the most inspiring victories.
we started hoping that it would bring people together to make the world a better place - we’re so excited that you got involved. Thank you welcome to! is a US outfit that now operates in many countries you can find out a bit more about how thew organisation works here.

Blackberry Playbook Offer

It's over a year since I bought a Playbook at what I thought was an incredible price well today I got an email from itj direct with what I would say is an absolute steal (they're not paying me!)

The device is a lot of fun and good for email, catch-up TV and Radio (for me it works well with BBC iplayer radio which I use a lot).

I know Blackberry have troubles but this to my mind is a 'steal' (but the units are refurbished).

I reckon this is a good offer


We've now had a bottle of the Selvascura Principe Strozzi 2011 from
Laithwaites it's a fairly full bodied red which to date is not my favourite  (by any means).
Having said that some of the reviewers here obviously have different taste buds from mine and the bottle is attractive.