Look and see

When you take hold of a pound coin, or any coin, what do you see?

This is speculative question, the object could be anything, anything at all. In some ways, what it is matters least important. What you see, the paths it carries your mind along, is what I want to know.

What do I see?

Forgery. Reading some news article that a dutch forger has perfected the creation of a forged pound coin. Where does that lead to? Devaluation. CSI style investigations? Court cases? And reactive efforts from the Bank of England to deal with the impact on the British currency? How to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. New types of coinage, to combat the possibility of it happening again.

What do I see?

History. From battering in the early history of man, to modern day banking. Royalty. Approval of the crown. When did they first approve the English pound. And decimilization. 1971.

What do I see?

Metal. Shapes. Patterns. Atoms. A forge, making irregular, yet regular coins of old. Gold, silver and other precious metals, mixed in varying degreees with varied success to make hardwearing lasting currency. And atoms, molecules, bound, by forces of nature, cooked, melted, hammered and pressed.

All around us is complexity, complexity of modern products, of civilisation. Each small part a cog in some huge machine of man.

What do you see?

Easy Start

In my late teens and early twenties, i had a variety of different vehicles, cars and motorbikes, all in some state of disrepair, aging, creaking machines, nursed along, sworn at sometimes, relied on to carry me and mine from place to place.

On frosty mornings, or sometimes just plain old regular mornings, if they refused to spring into life, stubbornly draining the battery with each attempt to turn piston, crankshaft, valves to produce self sustaining combustion, then a familiar can would come out of the toolbox. East Start. Sweet smelling, blasted into the air intake, flowing through, mixing with the existing air and petrol, flowing into combustion chambers, prompting the spark from the plugs to explode the high octane mix, to create that rush of metal parts, flowing, turning, rotating in a symphony of internal combustion.

Energy drinks are like that for me now. I ought to stop drinking them, but somehow my own internal biology has become reliant on them to get the cogs of my brain turning.

And the reason for this mechanical analogy today, I have started reading an old, new book….Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. Quite profound and insightful.

I would rather be ashes than dust

Jack London said, “I would rather be ashes than dust. I would rather my spark burn out in a brilliant blaze than be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor; every atom in magnificent glow–rather than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man-woman is to live, not merely exist. I shall use my time.”

The longbow and English supremacy on the battlefields

I recently sat and watched the new “Amazing Spiderman” movie. In my early teens I was an avid reader and collector of the Marvel comics and Spiderman was my all time favourite.

As I watched him swing from his webs, it reminded me a little of Tarzan and it occurred to me that it was a bit of a backward step in evolution. After all, if we descended from apes, then somewhere in our genes is that ability to swing from rope to tree, etc, though we have forgotten how and our modern lives no longer build up the required muscles.

What has this to do with the English Longbow, you may be thinking? Well, it is about building a set of muscles from an early age and maintaining them.

Back in the 12th century, the Welsh developed these Longbows that enabled them to kick English butts in battle. We adopted them as our own and for several centuries, until the invention of cannons, they made us almost unbeatable across Europe.

The longbow was a formidable weapon. It could pierce a knights armour plating from 200 yards. Previously the knights had been almost invincible to arrows, requiring hand to hand combat with other similarly dressed knights, slogging at each other with massive broadswords. And knights were noblemen, in comparative short supply.

There was a catch though. A Longbowman had to begin training at the age of 7 and continued practising, every day, for the rest of the lives. Only in this way, could they build up and maintain the required set of muscles in the arms and shoulders to give them the strength to draw the arrow back. The build of the muscles must have given them a lobsided appearance in normal life. And it wasn’t just brute strength either. To consider themselves a longbowman, they had to let loose 10 arrows per minute. Quite a feat. I would be able to draw the arrow back in the bow once!

The next time you see someone and they appear a little lobsided, consider for a second, that perhaps their distant ancestors defended this little island from the rest of Europe.

 

 

The thing

Decisions, decisions

I am torn.

Divided.

Do I go right or left. If I make the wrong choice, I will suffer for months, no years, it could be painful to get through.

I am, of course, talking of my choice of mobile phone.

Contracts typically run for two years these days. A scandalous length of time. And I have been waiting, and waiting, in anticipation of this day.

But, I like my little blackberry device and was planning to wait to see how Blackberry 10 turns out at the end of January. They have built up a certain amount of loyalty with me. I love having a full keyboard, this blog post is written on one. And I have a matching Playbook tablet.

And yet I find myself tempted to jump ship, to upgrade now, to a new and pretty 4G device. Not to Apple’s walled garden. There is something about iPhone that just does not sit right with me. Perhaps it is the way Apple tightly define what you can and cannot do. And I like messing with settings and suchlike, being able to try different things and understand the impact they have.

The temptress is Android. To Jelly Bean no less (that’s versions 4.1 to us mortals). Two devices are on my radar. Both Samsung. The S3 and the Note2. A nice shiny, early xmas present to myself. The Note 2 especially draws my attention. It is effectively tablet and phone combined. And with the stylus I could perhaps completely ditch pen and notepad.

So very tempting. My precious!

But could I live with the immense size of the thing. And the little bits of Android quirkiness. And no physical keyboard. These are all critical elements of the decision process.

I suspect I will procrastinate. I love technology. And occasionally fall for the marketing hype. But I don’t like parting with my cash either. And on my staff plan, my company will pay a sizable chunk towards the cost of the phone, for such high end monsters as these, I would have to stump up a size-able amount of cash too.

What do you think? So should I upgrade? Or wait it out? What is your phone of choice?

Now then lad

I’m a reader. Even as a young lad, wherever we went, I normally had a book with me. We went to an airshow once and I don’t know whether it was boredom at the planes, or simply that it was a nice summers day and the current book was particularly rivetting, but I didn’t actually see much of the display. As my mum commented, I had my head stuck in a book as usual, which normally meant I was away on an adventure, somewhere far away.

My old man wasn’t much of a reader at the time. The bloke next door taught me to play chess and when we moved I needed a new sparring partner. Dad kept promising to learn the game, he didn’t though, so in my wisdom and youthful optimism, I bought him a “Teach yourself chess” book for his birthday. He never did read it, nor learn the game. Shame really.

In his old age, he has acquired a taste of a bit of reading though. Early this week, he brought down “Now then lad”, by PC Mike Pannett, something he thoroughly recommended. He wasn’t wrong. Over the last few days, I’ve started and finished it. Humurous and engaging, real life tales of a local bobby, told in a self depreceating manner about life as a PC in our very only North Yorkshire. 

If you get the chance, give it a whirl. I will be looking out for more tales from the author.

Slow down

Last night my wife ran a bath for me. I was just finishing some work and wanted to have a relaxing, wind down and a bit of a soak. As I was getting in, my mind was still on whatever bit of work I had been dealing with, some programming challenge that I was thinking through. The water was hot, too hot, the type of temperature my wife likes her bath to be.

“Bloody hell” I realised about at the point when I was almost fully in. “That’s way too hot” I gasped and ran the cold in. I had slowly eased myself in without my brain registering the heat until it was too late, I was already full committed as it were.

Later, I was out walking somewhere. Normally, I walk pretty quick, I have always been the sort of person in a hurry. Whether walking, working, writing, everything is full on, intense, focused and done with the optimum methods in mind.

I forced myself to slow down, to walk with a a measured pace. I started to think about the phrase “Live every day like it was your last”. Maybe because Dad had been round earlier, and it is a miracle he is still alive almost a decade after his heart attack and triple bypass operation. If I lived every day like my last, we would be broke tomorrow!

Occasionally I have thoughts like this though. I realise that I am working too hard, moving too fast, my eyes and thoughts focused on the destination, not really appreciating the journey itself.

We all get like that I suspect. Life just happens to us. Stuff gets thrown at us. We deal with it. We rush around, particularly with the pace of modern life, and this doesn’t give us time to appreciate the things around us.

So take a moment today. Pause what you are doing. It will still be there when you hit play again. Look and think about the things around you. Take a little time to appreciate them.