Autumn afternoons, classical music, Dutch, and impromptu trips to Italy

Autumn afternoons, classical music, Dutch, and impromptu trips to Italy

Before you begin reading this (if indeed you begin at all), please do me a favour and humour me with this small little request. Click the link below, load the video, allow the music to begin to play, and then continue reading this post. This way, you’ll be reading along to the same music that I heard when writing this, and we might be a little closer to being – as it were – on the same page. Worst case scenario, you lose 4MB of bandwidth. Best case scenario, you discover a newfound piece of beautiful music and add a new dimension of depth to your life. What’s the downside? Here you are:   (For the musos and/or Francophones amongst you, feel free to read the music and/or lyrics before the rest of this post, or just leave it on in the background. Either way, it’s an incredibly beautiful piece of music.) Listening? Great. Let’s plough on. As I write this, the only sounds I can hear are Lauridsen’s “Dirait-on” (see above) and a gentle murmur of wind rustling the leaves in the trees outside, with a low-level of distant traffic as a calming white noise in the background. I just returned from a walk outside, where the air is fresh but not yet acerbically sharp, and the last of the autumnal sunshine glows between the golden leaves still clinging to the trees. The Japanese actually have a dedicated word – komorebi, or 木漏れ日 – for this particular phenomenon of the interplay of sunlight through the leaves, and it always makes me think of the more subtle differences between different languages. It’s this almost enigmatic quality about experiencing different...
Why I give a shit about learning

Why I give a shit about learning

For the past few weeks, I’ve been deeply immersed in various subject matters that I consider to be extremely important, and the need to express those thoughts has become greater and greater until this morning I found myself sitting down to begin this paragraph. Instead of one huge rambling post (although I can’t promise it will be entirely ramble-free…), I’m going to attempt to tackle different topics in different posts for the sake of brevity.   The educational system – functional or flawed?   Today, I felt the need to discuss the education system and how it’s already evolved exponentially even within my own lifetime. I would even venture to say that in the approximately seven to eight years since I personally left secondary school, the landscape of education has already changed dramatically.   The strange thing about the traditional learning system is how much it seems to foster a dislike of actual learning within a not-insignificant portion of the students. This is something which, left unchecked, is obviously highly problematic in terms of student attitude and how much this could potentially have a devastating snowball effect on millions of still-unfolding lives.   Yesterday, I found myself watching snippets of the classic 1996 film “Matilda” (based on the excellent book by Roald Dahl, which I also re-read yesterday evening in a fit of nostalgia) and being particularly moved by the scene where Matilda, growing frustrated at the blasé attitude of her lazy and dislikeable parents, takes herself off to the library. (She’s four and a half at the time. Give her kudos for that.)   It’s a beautiful scene...
Christmas in Rotterdam

Christmas in Rotterdam

Just a short one today, folks. I’m posting this from a little pub in Rotterdam (as the ship internet isn’t working at all at the moment, and even when it was, it was terrible) but I have to head off in a second so I’ll keep it brief! I took a few photos of Christmas on the ship, mostly for family to see – you can find them here. I’ve spent the last few minutes trying to find a decent plugin to embed the images directly into the post from Flickr, but it’s a bit late now. Another time! It’s the 29th of December today, and our contract finishes on the 6th January – I’ve got to say, this is the first contract I’ve done where I’ll be quite glad for it to finish. Nothing personal, it’s a fun gig – but I’ve been gigging solidly every single day since November 3rd (with one day off, which was Boxing Day), and had two weeks off before that after a month-long Scandinavia tour, and then had 45 days previous to that on a boat – so whilst I’m very glad to be busy, I’ll enjoy the time off! I’ll be home by the 7th, and then on the 9th I’m flying out to Germany to visit some relatives of mine (who I haven’t seen in waaaay too long). I get back on the 16th and I leave literally the next day for France to visit my dad and stepmum. Then I’ve got a few days off and then back up to Newcastle to spend the entire of February on a...
Backups, redundancy plans and kaizen – Part 1

Backups, redundancy plans and kaizen – Part 1

I can’t pinpoint exactly when this started, but over the course of the past few months, I’ve noticed myself getting more and more fascinated by the way people deal with the unexpected things in life. I suppose there’s a direct connection here with the fact that I’ve also begun to notice that I’m trying, more and more, to start attempting to build redundancy systems into my life in an attempt to mitigate for the fact that when life throws inconveniences your way, it always seems to be at the most inconvenient moments (of course). It’s at times like this when I always remember the phrase “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”. It seems to be a rather solid philosophy upon which to build one’s life – a sort of practical, realistic optimism. More and more, I’m beginning to feel that the more prepared you are for the multitude of inevitable misfortunes that crop up throughout life, the more the outcome actually begins to get better – just as much, in fact, as directly trying to improve the outcome. It’s very much a reflection of Charlie Munger’s philosophy that doing the smart thing is, in fact, very often actually more a case of avoiding the stupid things. If you try to avoid the stupid things, you manage to guarantee some sort of baseline set of results upon which you can build in your pursuit of getting the eventual smart result. When I talk about dealing with the unexpected, I’m not necessarily talking about huge problems, either. I really do believe that an accumulation of small irritations can be just as...

Information overload, inversion, and redefining life

I’m going to state upfront that this is going to be a bit of an ADD post in that it’s likely to be a bit of a brain-explosion – all over the place and without any set structure or fixed moral at the end, so bear with me… [EDIT: It’s also a long one – around 2500 words. I’m not going to write a TL;DR. If you’d rather not read, the back button is a single click away.)   The Big Questions   I just had a chat with a friend of mine about the directions people tend to take in their lives and it really got me thinking, and thinking hard. I think it just resonated with me as I’m sort of entering what I’m semi-affectionately thinking of as my quarter-life crisis, and from the moment I wake up to the second I go to sleep, the question of “what do I actually do with my life?” is at the very forefront of my mind. The obvious answer is that there is no answer – there is absolutely no fixed way of answering this, and the only answer that there can ever be is: it depends. Depends on what? Well… that depends.   Mental Models and Information Overload   Being the unashamed nerd that I am, I’m constantly reading all manner of material that enables me to view the world in a different way. One of the biggest realisations of the past couple of years has been the discovery of “mental models” (which you can read about here) and one of the models that’s been coming up a lot in my recent...
Een Nederlandse Experiment

Een Nederlandse Experiment

(ENGLISH TRANSLATION BELOW DUTCH ARTICLE) Vandaag wil ik iets in het Nederlands schrijven. Helaas kan ik de taal nog niet zo goed gebruiken, maar ik vind het heel leuk en het is echt spannend om nieuwe talen te oefenen. Ik heb het Nederlands voor een paar weken geleerd, en hoewel het moeilijk voor mij is, wil ik het in het echte leven gebruiken en niet alleen voor nadenken – dat is niet praktische. Ik heb een paar veranderingen in mijn leven gemaakt – ik heb de taal op mijn telefoon veranderd, en op Facebook ook. Daardoor kan ik de taal elke dag zien, en ik kan ook leren zonder denken. Op Facebook zie ik de woord “berichten” en met de verband weet ik dat het in het Engels “messages” is. Er zijn ook veel zinnen die ik geleerd heb – “verwijderen”, “instelligen”, “x vind y leuk”, enzovoort. Leren zonder denken – dat kan een goede zaak zijn, indien het nuttig is! In de tweede plaats probeer ik Nederlands elke dag gebruiken. Het hoeft niet veel zijn, maar ik moet minstens een beetje van de taal schrijven of praten – gewoonlijk schrijven, maar dat is iets dat ik moet veranderen, denk ik. Ten derde probeer ik het Nederlands met echte mensen gebruiken. Doordat leer ik de woorden die ik niet weet (en het moeilijkste zaak is dat je niet weet wat je niet weet!), en ik kan ook de zinnen van anderen studeren en sneller leren – het is geen “snelkoppeling”, maar het is een makkelijke manier om de belangrijkste woorden te leren. Ik kijk op die woorden die ik gebruik en dan kan ik hopelijk...