LGBT flag triple take

As I walked in I noticed the LGBT rainbow flag flying over the humanities building. My immediate happy reaction was: good!

Instantly this was followed by a second, unhappy thought as I reflected that these days, flying the rainbow flag is about more than just LGBT rights. Equally, it’s a statement of which side you are on, which public figures you approve of and which you disapprove of. How depressing.

And then my thoughts took a third, bitter turn. Who’s to blame for polarising us? It’s Trump and the Republicans.

All this in five seconds upon seeing that rainbow flying in the breeze.

[28 January 2020]

Song game

I don’t exactly often write notes of the kind you might find in the family section of a newspaper. But Kate and I have stumbled upon a delightful game and we’re thrilled to have found it. Try it next time you and a friend are on a drive for a few hours.

Simply pick a word or a theme and take turns choosing songs that mention the word or touch the theme. The magic is, nowadays it’s easy to call up any song on your smartphone and play it over the car speakers. To play the game, the driver drives and the passenger manages the electronics, but you take equal turns picking songs.

We’ve had half a dozen drives like this so far. The theme of “cities” led to Molly Malone, Brownsville Girl, and Jamaica Farewell (along with twenty others of course). “Work” led to the Lumberjack Song, Easy Wind, and 9 to 5. “Sky” led to Penny Lane, Over the Rainbow, and Clouds. “Railroads” gave us King of the Road, This Train, and Casey Jones. We’ve done flowers, girls’ names, animals, American states,….

Happy driving!

[22 January 2020]

Arabic script and music

حصلت على هذا البرنامج النصي من جوجل ترجمة

Arabic script is beautiful, isn’t it?

I find it fascinating that readers of Arabic are incapable of seeing the script as I do. Of course they too can see beauty, but it will be beauty of a different kind, for they can’t turn off the message.

For me there’s a similar effect in the gulf between musical pieces I know and those I do not. I can get pleasure and even emotion from listening to a piece I don’t know, but it’s a formless experience, without any of the meaning that takes over when I’ve heard the piece ten times. Listening to a piece I know is much more satisfying.  But once I know it, I’ve lost the ability to hear those sounds as sounds and nothing more.

[3 January 2020]

Everyone goes to heaven

In the spirit of Occam’s Razor, I’d like to propose a simplification of the current system of rewarding the good with heaven and punishing the bad with hell.

The good spend their days on earth in sober industry, avoiding all excesses of food, drink, sex, and high spirits. Then they go to heaven for an eternity of the same.

The bad break these rules. It seems to me that as punishment, it suffices to send them to heaven too.

[31 December 2019]

Why we have committees

I’ve long had the view that there are three main functions of a committee:

(1) Generate good decisions;
(2) Spread responsibility for decisions;
(3) Groom participants for future leadership roles.

[16 September 2019]

My Sputnik ambition

I remember when Kennedy was shot. I was home after school watching Queen for a Day with Mrs. Arnott. The show was interrupted with the news, and I called my mother to tell her. It’s possible the Tufts University English Department first learned that Kennedy had been shot thanks to a phone call from an 8-year old.

More remarkably, I believe I remember Sputnik. One evening — I would have been just 2.1 years old — my father called me to the back door in the dining room. Look, he said, see that moving light in the sky? That’s the Russians’ new satellite, Sputnik!

I can’t be sure it’s valid, but I’ve long had this memory.* To be visible to the naked eye, the moving light would presumably have been not Sputnik itself but its larger rocket booster, which also went into orbit. If this memory was burned into me at such an early age, it must be because I sensed how important the occasion was to my father.

So here’s my Sputnik ambition. I’d like to be the last person alive to remember having seen it.

[11 September 2019]

*Confirmation!  My sister, who was 4.4 at the time, says she remembers this too. So now for a start I’ll need to outlive Gwyned.

Another angle on Trump’s narcissism

At the computer just now, I am ashamed to admit, I checked Google Scholar to see how my citations are doing. Pretty well, thank goodness.

This got me thinking about our President, who famously spends half his time monitoring what people are saying about him. It occurred to me that my April 2011 note “Square root of the population” implicitly makes a quantitative prediction. Trump should be 100,000 times as self-absorbed as I am.

Assessed on this relative basis, he doesn’t look so bad.

[8 September 2019]