On the connectedness of ideas

30 09 2012

There’s a theory that every person on the planet is “connected” via no more than 6 degrees of separation. i.e you know someone that knows someone that… well, you get the idea.

Ideas are the same. One idea leads to another, that in turn leads to another, and you end up pretty well at any idea you like. Tell me you’ve surfed the web and not had that demonstrated in spades. Or shovels. Or diamonds if you prefer card suits to garden implements. Or perhaps trowels if you’re only a small time surfer. See? We’re ever so good at grabbing connections out of the air and linking things. Edward de Bono wrote a whole book on it: Lateral Thinking.

Richard Dawkins had the concept of a “meme” – an idea that follows the evolutionary concepts laid down by Darwin. Good memes grow and prosper spawning better and better memes, lesser ones are driven out of the meme pool and shrivel up into the idea fossil record. Hm… I buy it in large part, but there are some really, really bad ideas out there that look pretty strong to me. But let’s leave politics and religion out of this post, shall we?

So how did I get here? Well – I was following up, reading blogs of those who have honoured me with following this quite irrelevant Quieter Elephant. In a comment to one recent posting, I read this unassuming line:

We only accept the love we feel we deserve.

It stopped my eyeballs in their metaphorical tracks, and I wasn’t sure why. Eventually I realised it was because it reminded me of another gem I’d heard in person.

We teach other people how to treat us.

Quite a powerful idea really. That we are in control of how other people behave towards us. The same is true of the earlier quote. That we are in control of how well we feel loved. Others may be gushing warm and fuzzies all over us, and we may simply be not recognising it because we don’t feel we deserve that love. Or perhaps that type of love. So I looked up the phrase (it seemed like it might have been a quote). It turns out that it is used in the book The Perks of Being a wallflower which is now a film, I believe. This was wry smile inducing because this book was suggested to me by the person who proposed the second thought – that we teach others how to treat us.

And then a song came into my head. A Mother Mother song from their new album The Sticks: Love it Dissipates. I’ve had the album on constant loop in my car since it was published a couple of weeks ago.

This song begins with the lines: “If you were a country, I’d be your flag”. Because Mother Mother are a bit quirky, the song continues a little non-standardly (I’m on a roll making up new words tonight! If Shakespeare can do it, why can’t I? Don’t answer that MM) on the imagery front, but still in the same vein: “If you were a smoke, I’d be your drag”.

By the end of the song though, we’re on “Oh baby, if you were a convict, I’d be your cell” and “If you were a housewife, I’d be your living hell”

We finish the song with the thought that “I mean what I say; When I say; Love it dissipates”, leaving us with the thought that love that was once close and mutual can become torture for at least one of the people involved.

Hm. Well, perhaps. But so can many things. Unless we value them enough to work at keeping them. I think that’s the crux – we take a lot of things we value for granted, and stop TRYING.

If we learn to value ourselves, we can more easily come to feel we deserve all the love that is offered. And that in turn can allow us to teach others to love us all the more.

There – that was a load of late-night bollocks wasn’t it? Thoughts anyone?

What Do You Expect?

30 09 2012

I was sent this video this evening.

It made me cry I was so proud to be even a small part of this.

Yeah, it’s set in London’s inner city, but it could be any city in almost every country on the planet.

What did you do today?


A gang of inner-city youths journey to the city limits in search of…..?

Starwarigami – Advanced Star Wars Origami. Original designs by Martin Hunt

30 09 2012

There are some very very clever people in the world.

There are some very idiosyncratic people in the world.

Sometimes they’re the same person.

Meet Martin Hunt a Maths graduate and software engineer (do I hear sighs of “figures”?) from the UK.

His niche in life is making origami models of the various Star Wars objects we all (well some of us) know and love.

Check out his awesome web site Starwarigami.

Starwarigami – Advanced Star Wars Origami. Original designs by Martin Hunt.

Starwarigami - Advanced Star Wars Origami. Original designs by Martin Hunt

R2-D2: Starwarigami – Advanced Star Wars Origami. Original designs by Martin Hunt

And who are you again?

29 09 2012

[Heavy Introspection Warning – lower humour quotient than usual. You have been warned!]

At first sight, the recent studies by Canadian scientists that male DNA can persist in female brains seems to be rich pickings for jokes of the “get out of my head”, “you’re always on my mind” kind.

Vancouver Sun – Male DNA found for first time in female brains.

There are a few theoretical ways a woman can absorb male DNA – from a male child, a male twin, even potentially an older male sibling via their mother’s womb (It’s rarely disputed that males are bad at clearing up after themselves – maybe it starts pre-birth!). The study also hints at a potential link to Alzheimer’s disease resistance.

But the interesting thing for me is the implications of “self”. Now I’ve never studied biology, psychology, or as the old BT advert with Maureen Lipman would say: any other “ology”. But even I know that we actually exist in what we blithely refer to as our mind – basically the software running in our brain. Now what this study shows is that the hardware itself – the brain – can have elements in it that are not even originally from our own body. Not just chemical, like a drug say, which is affecting how our own brain is functioning. No this is actually bits from ANOTHER body.  The study was limited, in that it was looking for male DNA in women because that was easier to spot than the DNA of their own daughter, but it’s a profound piece of data. This is different to our DNA being the result of our parents’ DNA being diced and spliced. This is separate DNA alongside that recipe we used to think of as “me”.

Not only can we change through the influence of new experiences, emotions and “data” for our mind, but perhaps the very hardware we’re running on is changing underneath us. Influencing the way we process that information.

This leads me to another discussion I recently had. One I’ve had a few times actually, about what we really are. I have this total fear of waking up completely paralysed and unable to communicate in any way. Being totally conscious and being able to sense and process my surroundings, but in no way being able to communicate with it. It frightens me. Mainly I think because I measure my worth as somehow being how I relate to other people. The implication therefore is that without being able to contribute my own thoughts, I become worthless, despite being totally cognisant and able to still generate novel thought and ideas. Would there be someone “out there”, outside my mind that would still value me? Somehow still be able to connect with me. Would I want to continue with no way of expressing myself to others? Yes – my mind has some dark little places in it. I rarely open those doors, but it’s dangerous to let things go too long without facing them.

So then if we take a less extreme situation and talk about mind-changing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, or even just getting old generally, we see the situation where one is still interacting with the world, but perhaps in a different way to what you used to. So are you still, well, you? Arguably a different you (not meaning to prescribe any relative value here – just a different you). It’s easier for someone who never knew the previous you to accept you as you are now, but this can be a really tough transition for family and friends that have seen the differences and can contrast them and inherently place a judgement of better/worse versions.

And this makes me wonder why. Every birthday marks off another year lived. Survived. Trains, cars and rock falls avoided. But also another year of experiences absorbed and processed. These experiences change us. We may see new perspectives, feel different emotions. Many things. Perhaps we know of people who didn’t survive that year, or just barely – that impacts us too. So are we tangibly different people? If so, it’s not just an annual occurrence. We change by the day, hour, second.

And in the end, does it matter?

I think so. I think we should spend a little while every now and then and just look around. Smile at a stranger. There is only now. In a moment you’ll be a different person.

To paraphrase Crocodile Dundee: Now THAT’s a 3D printer!

28 09 2012

This bad boy can “print” objects as large as 7′ x 7′ x 11′ out of corn-based plastic. Whilst there are no immediate plans to commercialize the technology behind it, the Dutch architecture firm DUS currently has the printer open for use by the public four days a week in Amsterdam. Scratch the wooden keyboard – I want one of THESE for my birthday!

World’s Largest 3D Printer Opens To Public | Earthtechling.

It seems Americans are starting to chat up gingers more and more…

28 09 2012

So according to the venerable Aunty Beeb, British terms are invading common American English usage just as much as English English is being influenced the other way! Darwinism at work?  😉

BBC News – Britishisms and the Britishisation of American English.

Even President Obama has used “the long game” – which comes from the game of whist.

The article has some interesting little graphs of how terms like “ginger” for a red-head, “chat up” for hit on and “sell-by date” for expiration have steadily made headway into the American usage.

Interesting stuff!

Check out fellow blogger Ben Yagoda‘s contribution at Not One-Off Britishisms

Ska or Betelgeuse?

26 09 2012

So I came by a new pair of socks the other day.

I love socks.

Not just any old socks though. No – I prefer loud, retina-scorching designs and colours. (Probably comes from eating too much spicy food – dulled my senses.) This has a downside though. North America tends to prefer white, black or grey socks for men. Sorry – “gray” socks. Even spelling it wrong can’t make it interesting.

Thankfully there is a more recent trend to change things up a little and I have actually seen a few more stripes and patterns appearing. Mainly in the heal/toe area where it’s not actually seen, but it is a start, and we should give credit where it’s due. So I was quite pleased with these locally sourced socks. Along with my particular choice of ties (i.e. that I even have them), my socks often garner attention, and these were no different. “A little Beetlejuice” was one comment. I thought more Ska/2-tone myself – what do you reckon?

Sorry for the washed out colours in the BlackBerry photo. They’re actually a rather fetching lime green, in between the black.