Thinking with your own ink – and baby dragons

Well, 2017 has been a rocky one so far.  Over a few short months I have been quite literally hands-on performing an autopsy on our pet horse (my first and hopefully only time), seen the last of my side of the family leave town, started psychoactive drugs for paralysing nerve pain that I then found was being caused by (only) an abscessed wisdom tooth for the last 9 months, been in a car crash that ended in a write-off for our car and nearly a fight in the street in front of my family, and been in the thick of it for a very, very public emergency at work while my boss has been talking since February about disestablishing my job.  And that’s only the highlights.

So I’m making pictures of cartoon dragons and having a damn good time doing it.


Picture is courtesy of my 7yo’s artistry (the one on the left hand side).  Yes, my 3d rendering and design is laughable from a technical pov, but I have only been learning Blender for a couple of weeks.  And I’m happy to post this embarrassing pic because at this stage of “the curse of 2017” I just don’t care anymore.  As I tell my daughter, “no you’re not bad at this, you’re just a beginner”.

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Quote – New Years diary

“Having omitted to carry on my diary for two or three days, I lost heart to make it up, and left it unfilld for many a month and day.  During this period nothing has happend worth particular notice.  The same occupations, the same amusements the same occasional alterations of spirits, gay or depressd, the same absence of all sensible or rationale cause for the one or the other – I half grieve to take up my pen, and doubt if it is worth while to record such an infinite quantity of nothing.  But hang it!  I hate to be beat so here goes for better behaviour.” Sir Walter Scott – 1st January 1829 (The Journal of Sir Walter Scott – edited by W. E K Anderson).


Commonplace book review – Matthew Day(s?)

What does it mean to be remembered?  In around 360 years will someone be reading your words only because, by chance, a single page of your notes had a passing reference to some person, or event that history decided was “noteworthy”?


What if that is history’s only memory of you?  Despite what you think is worth remembering?  Do you care if your thoughts are remembered but you are not?  Or if they are remembered but people are not sure if it was you who said them or someone else… your son, or maybe your father?

Around the early 1600s, either Matthew Day, or Matthew Day, wrote a utilitarian commonplace (you can find it here), in a satchel-sized, gold-embossed book…  Continue reading

Re-living the past at one minute per minute

I have an embarrassing secret.

I listen to podcasts on one-and-a-half speed.

To be honest, you don’t notice it after a while – your brain just switches into gear and it becomes the new normal.  You only recognise how strange it all sounds when you accidentally leave the earphone plug halfway out and the tinny voices start jabbering into the no-mans-land of social etiquette that is the supermarket aisle.

Startled heads turn and you frantically paw at your coat pocket to put your thumb over the offending speaker which you know is 50% faster and more efficient at reaching something truly embarrassing and potentially reportable when heard out of context.  Like the end of a Moth story, or an investigative news interview about ISIS practices, or – worst of all – a Joe Rogan rant.

It’s about efficiency.  The 1 1/2 speed.  Considering most of my podcasts of interest are about information transfer, it means I can be 1 1/2 times more informed and knowledgeable than I otherwise would.  Or so the theory goes….

… which falls to pieces when I stumble across a good version of one of the ‘other’ types of podcasts, which I guiltily listen to for no other reason than because it is fun (“what a waste of time huh?” my frontal cortex says in a mock-ironic tone to my lizard brain, which doesn’t get the joke).

Listen to an emotional Moth podcast at 1.5 speed and you’ll get the info alright, and you’ll get the gist of the emotion.  But try listening to 1.5 speed podcasts for weeks and then one memorable Moth at normal speed.  What comes back?  Inflection.  Tone.  The sound of the speaker’s breathing changing as their throat tightens.  What you get back most of all is the understanding that the gaps between the words is the most important part, or the sound of a hesitation mid-sentence.  Or the chill you share with the invisible audience when the ambient noise you had all but tuned out reduces and you take a collective breath to give the person at the microphone space to say that one… small…. comment, that you knew was coming but which hits you like an electric current.  Because at that moment it was not about transfer of a packet of information from the speaker to the hearer.  They were just being the moment, the moment crystalised again in front of you, lived again through that channel of an individual,  and you all – speaker, audience, podcast listener, were all just along for the ride.

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The Notes Matrix – thoughts in public

So here’s a quickie about what I have been thinking.  We usually hear general comments about notetaking being the same, e.g.

– A blog is a virtual commonplace book

– Facebook is a modern scrapbook

– What’s the difference between a journal/notebook/diary again?

Here’s the way I see it.  The main questions are:

1. Are you writing the content just for yourself?

2. Are you writing the content so someone else (family, friends, the whole world) can see it?


Notetaking Matrix

Commonplace books?  I don’t agree with the idea that blogs are the modern commonplace books.  A blog is a public persona.  A commonplace was a private internet, a private tool to help someone present a persona.  Showing someone your commonplace book seems the equivalent of showing them your shaving kit.  You wouldn’t want people to see the commonplace itself if the idea is that you make it (‘it’ being your wit, knowledge, ability to quote poetry/prose) seem natural.

But then again it’s that “man behind the curtain” element that I think makes commonplaces so interesting for me.  What type of personal tool would someone from different countries and different eras find essential to present their impression of the best “public persona”?  What specific quotes would they want to memorise for exactly the right time?  What events do they want to recall quickly in a social setting, with the help of their essential little leatherbound book?

It’s different for everyone, of course.

Alan Turing’s notebook, <$1m sale

After being discovered as roof insulation, Alan Turing’s notebook is up for auction.  The Guardian reports a petition has started to keep the document in the UK.

After being granted an apology by the British government in 2009 (leading to posthumous pardon by the Queen in 2013) the purchase of his notebook would be a good step.

Granted, the timing of the sale alongside the Hollywood movie seems a little calculated (pun intended), but at the end of the day this is will be forever a piece of British – and world – history.  I can’t recall who said it, but there is a quote that 10,000 years from now, only one person’s name will be remembered from these times.  That quote is about Neil Armstrong.  But in terms of impact on the course of science – not to mention the course of WW2 – Alan Turing is also near the top of the list to remember.

Bonhams auction:

The petition website: