Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fortnum & Mason, OFCOM local TV multiplex licence c/w # 46 Ethics

Fortnum and Mason visit today

The shop

Fortnum and Mason Coffee
London has some fantastic, iconic retail outlets- Selfridge's, Hamley's, Harrods and Liberty are all well and truly on the tourist map and I have been a customer at them all but today I realised I hadn't been to Fortnum & Mason and decided it was time to see what the fuss is all about. Some way down from the Ritz in the classy part of town it really is by appointment to the royal set. Although they've been a target of tax protestors (they're far too classy to have to pay taxes like other retailers do)  the  store retains the air of establishment calm you'd expect. I bought some fruit and coffee that was on  my shopping list and had a wander through the bits and pieces that the store has for sale - it's worth a visit but not much that you can't get in other shops and it is expensive. Unlike other posh shops it does seems to be (not overtly) keeping people out and feels less democratic than many other iconic establishments.

OFCOM moves forward with UK Local TV

 Ofcom have awarded the local TV multiplex licence  to new outfit  Canis Media Comux.
The comux company is described as a not-for-profit co-op of local TV licence holders and Ed Hall is the Chief Executive, they're said to be in talks with Arqiva  (another company that's  rumoured to be using tax avoidance strategies in the UK see FT here ) about a speedy roll out of the necessary technical infrastructure to support the local TV and 2 new quasi national channels.

Big Idea number 46 is Ethics

Ethics is a big one, it even has its own sub genré and Ethics permeates much of the talk around professionalism and societal behaviour. I've even got a book with the title Ethical Theory and Business on my tome laden shelves here at Bourne Towers.
As I trailed it yesterday Ethics is a genuinely important topic and is considered by many as a cornerstone of civilised living, Anita Roddick may have devalued some of its lustre with her Body Shop retailing concession but to declaim a doctor for behaving unethically is a slur that will cut them to the quick.

Ethics  also termed as moral philosophy is split into 3 areas namely Metaethics, Normative Ethics and Applied Ethics.

1) Metaethics is the  abstract area of moral philosophy. It deals with questions about the nature of morality, about what morality actually is and what moral language means.

2) Normative Ethics  is concerned with providing a moral framework that can be used in order to work out what kinds of action are good and bad, right and wrong. There are three main traditions in normative ethics:
a) Virtue Ethics - this emphasizes the role of one's character and the virtues that one's character embodies for determining or evaluating ethical behaviour
b) Deontology  (not to be confused with the early 60's singer Dion)- describes a methodology that judges the morality of an action based on the action's adherence to a rule or set of rules.
c) Consequentialism  is used for normative ethical theories holding that the consequences of one's conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgement about the rightness of that conduct

3) Applied Ethics is the most down to earth area of moral philosophy. Applied Ethics relates normative ethical theories to specific cases to help inform us what is right and what is wrong.

Kant with his famous Foundations for the Metaphysics of Morals is a dominant figure of Moral Philosophy.
The BBC's everyday ethics podcast for January 13th  is worthwhile for those who might like to consider further how Ethics impacts modern life- What do we think of Lance Armstrong's behaviour as one of the protagonists on the show points out 'he's not Hitler' but to be mentioned in such terms may mean the sporting superstar will remain apart from true sporting greats@

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Changes at Philips, BT and ITV and not # 46 Essex

There are some interesting changes in some of the long established traditional media companies and telcos as 2013 gathers pace.

Audio tape innovator
1) Philips selling more of its consumer media business - Philips who were for many years a producer of broadcast equipment, trailblazers of the audio and video cassette 'solutions' .

BT challenged
2) BT share price put on 'hold' BT share price has risen steadily of late but there are concerns about the costs around the infrastructure rebuild and the challenges for further staff reductions. BT is investing in the media side of the customer proposition. When I worked at BT in the late 90's to mid 05 I had seen BT Media miss the chance of purchasing the BBC technical division when the BBC outsourced this  (in hindsight I think BT probably had a good escape).
My feeling is now that BT needs a partner to provide expertise and scale, I don't know if ITV and BT could work together on this and offer some competition to BSkyB?

ITV studios needs a refresh?
3) On this subject I see that 'ITV buys the lease on London Studios' this means that the attractive piece of land by Festival hall where LWT set up shop in the late 60's  is now under the ITV control rather than their landlords - I don't know if this means that a rather old building will be replaced or refurbished?

Big Idea 46 is ethics...

but it's such a big one that it'll take some thought in the meantime have a look at the great TV show about Essex that Mr Meades did.



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Science Museum - Turing along with # 45 Language and Thought

Apollo Module
On Monday I took myself  to the Science Museum.
Although it's the Science Museum I suppose it's really more a partial Museum of the history of science, having said that it has a lot of interest to the enquiring and curious mind.
The Apollo 10 module is not as I expected it to be, now more than 40 years since it returned to earth is looks more Jules Verne than a technological  artefact, closer to the James Watt era than the Apple iPod.
At the Natural History Museum I had seen a sample of moon-dust and to see a space capsule nearby was a further reminder of the exciting space voyages made in the 60's
On which subject the for me true heroes of the museum are  the engineers and scientists who have very directly  impacted our lives like James Watt and Alan Turing.
It is difficult to over emphasise the effect the industrialisation of Britain has had on us and the modern world and James Watt was a major figure inventing and developing steam engines.
The Turing story is one that also evokes a bygone age (just over 100 years since his birth) now he's credited with having paid a pivotal role in the allies victory over the Nazis in the second World War. Turing was during his short life prosecuted (and persecuted) for his homosexuality and is thought to have taken his own life in 1954.
Turing is viewed by many as the father of the modern computer as well as a leading code breaker working out of Bletchley.

Big Idea number 45 is  Language and Thought

Question do we need language to be able to think?
Answer no.
Let me extemporise a little are we able to think without the use of language, well the simple answer is no but in fact as with so many things this is a multi- layered question as it does (of course) depend on what we mean by thought.
If I want to think about a mathematical equation (fairly unlikely I'll admit) then I will need the necessary language to allow me to do this as if I'm thinking about music I will need some reference to allow me to do this - but are infants able to think yes they can but perhaps at a limited level.
There's a hypothesis that covers some of this stuff called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Also a rather timely radio programme Technicolour  (today) considers the effect of language on the perception of colour.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wagamama Ealing along with # 44 Language and Meaning

A typical Wagamama layout
Yesterday we had our first long delayed visit to the relatively new (to Ealing) Wagamama. As we chose Sunday lunch I guess it was no too much of a surprise to find it populated by many young families with buggies and the tables supplemented by high chair additions. Wagamama is unusual in its almost canteen style of long tables which are mean that you're eating area is shared by people who are not in your 'party'. This although not what many would necessarily choose is probably not a bad thing encouraging us to move outside our regular comfort zone.
Wagamama is up against fairly tough competition in Ealing as it is an area super served for eateries (I would put Tuk Cho,  the enlarged Ealing branch of Hare and Tortoise and Coco Noodle Bar in the same niche).
So what marks Wagamama out from the others (apart from on the day of our visiting a non-functioning male toilet)? Well it's food is at roughly the same price point and the menu perhaps shorter than the others, the food we had came pretty quickly but they do make clear that it comes when it comes and they're not starters but 'side dishes' so things like our (delicious) spare ribs arrived after the delivery of the mains. Service was efficient and they do always make the point of asking if all is okay during the meal.
So would I go again - answer is yes but not with amazing enthusiasm, it's a consistent brand but is does not vary the fare or offer  good or bad surprises ideal for a quick noodle fix.
(by the way I didn't realise previously that Wagamama means in Japanese  'naughty child' certainly one there when we visited.)

Language and Meaning takes the position as No 44

Say what you mean and mean what you say would sound like good advice to many solid citizens and this might be an area where you immediately jump to the conclusion that mere common sense is enough.
A young Elton?
In fact as with so many of Crofton's Big Ideas this is more complex than it first seems - as he points out that although Reginald Dwight and Elton John might describe the same character they offer a different perspective, if  I ask from a church pulpit  'if everyone is having a good time?' the meaning and perceived 'everyone' is different from the meaning that is taken when a rock star asks the O2 audience the same question (the everyone being taken to mean the O2 audience in this instance).
As Wittgenstein pondered (him again - will look at him more soon)  language games can be all about context.
Philosophy Bites podcast here on the subject is worth a listen.
Something to consider as we stumble around what we say and what we mean.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

More fruit trees and # 43 Paradoxes

New fruit tree
It's probably not too clear from the picture but I've been planting more fruit trees, two further Cherries and a Victoria Plum on the Allotment and a Bay tree (in a pot) at home.

As I've now got a few trees I'm planning to see how I can encourage bees to do their work - I've got a bumble bee nester box to put down on the allotment (February) but I guess there are other things I can do too?

Idea number 43 Paradox

There's a phenomenon known as  Sorite's Heap which is exemplified by such real life cases as when can a balding man be determined as bald or when drinking wee drams of scotch when do you get drunk?
The actual original comes from when several grains of salt become a heap.
Wittgenstein also had thoughts on this challenge.
A really nice discussion around this can be found in Matthew Sweet's visit to the rather excellent  Philosopher's Arms (podcast here).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Alfred Wallace rediscovered and # 42 category errors

Natural History Museum
How lucky are UK school children who live within a reasonable distance of London and whose teachers make the most of the wealth of museums, galleries and places of interest?  Pretty damn lucky is the answer I'd give.
On Thursday  I travelled a few miles to Kensington to the fantastic Natural History Museum, mainly to pay homage to Charles Darwin but in the event found out much much more.
You might have heard in the news about Alfred Wallace who ploughed much the same furrow as Darwin in terms of work around the theory of evolution, for long overlooked his contribution is currently being reassessed.
Darwin - evolution theory man
The work of the Natural History Museum goes far beyond a mere museum with the amazing research work is it  involved with along with the stimulation methods of reaching out  to visitors and scholars.
I visited the Darwin centre and saw some of the imaginative ways that the natural world is being explained to visitors NaturePlus was just one of the great tools used at the centre.

The facts that I picked up (I think) were things like there are something like 450,000 types of beetle - which helps me realise how important and  significant the work around describing the living world is.
Some of the 'treasures' are pretty mind blowing too, like the illustration from the most expensive book in the world (Birds of America).
But what really got me thinking was the display showing the evolution of man  from Apes/monkeys to  what we are today - I'm not too sure how those who take the bible as a literal  work view this but the evolution for me raises so many questions about what we (the human race) were, what we are now and how we might further evolve.

Big Idea Number 42 Category Errors

A Category Error or Category Mistake is defined by  the British Philosopher Gilbert Ryle. (He also coined the memorable phrase Ghost in the machine)

A Category error  occurs when someone acts as though some object had properties which it does not or cannot have. The reason why it cannot have those properties is because the properties belong to objects in some other category or class.  

In Ryle's 1949 book the concept of mind  he gives the example of Category mistake  which details a  student at Oxford where he had seen the library, the classrooms and various facilities, then asking, "But where is the university?", illustrating that it is a different place. The student fails to see that "university" and "library" are terms that belong to different categories.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Home made Oven Chips and # 41 Syllogisms

Feeling chipper
Today I finally gripped the bull by the horns got out my chip cutter and had some home grown oven chips.The outcome was surprisingly good, with fairly crisp chips downside was the time (over 30 minutes) and the fact that they stuck slightly - method was from BBC website. Not sure if oil was insufficient or temperature of pan not hot enough at onset -could be that chips were not dry enough. Will persevere. If you have advice let me know (Potatoes were Maris Piper).

Big Idea Number 41 Syllogisms

Syllogism is the term used to describe  a formal logic argument.
The Syllogism uses a form of reasoning in which a conclusion is drawn from two given or assumed propositions these are the premises. The premises will each share a term with the conclusion, and it will also share a common or middle term not present in the conclusion.
Here is an example of a Conditional syllogism from the Fibonicci web site.
Major premise:   If Johnny is eating sweets every day, he is placing
                              himself at risk for diabetes.

Minor premise:   Johnny does not eat sweets everyday
Conclusion:       Therefore Johnny is not placing himself at risk for
And here is an example of a disjunctive syllogism from the same source
Major premise:   Either the meeting is at school or at home.
Minor premise:   The meeting is not at home.
Conclusion:      Therefore the meeting is at school.
The third type of syllogism is a categorical syllogism The basic for this syllogism type is: if A is a part of C, then B is a part of C (A and B are members of C). An example of this syllogism type will clarify the above:
Major premise: All men are mortal.
Minor premise: Socrates is a man.
Conclusion: Socrates is mortal.
Both premises are known to be valid, by observation or historical facts. Because the two premises are valid, the conclusion must be valid as well. Be aware that this conclusion is based on logical reasoning and thus it doesn’t have to represent the “truth” always.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Death of education for fun and # 40 Logic and Argument

As a way of connecting with others interested in Philosophy I've been looking at what's available for Adults in terms of short courses - finally happened upon City Lit course which seems to fit the bill for me as a starting point (1 day Saturday - 'A Taste of Philosophy') and have applied for the 2nd February instance -will see how that goes as a 'gateway'.
The search made me think how in years gone by there was a wide variety of courses from Wine tasting to French for beginners offered at reasonable cost in ones immediate locality - There used to be a pull out in the local newspaper and queuse of people at the September registrations -what's happened to make this change?
As well as local councils organising courses at Schools and colleges the WEA held many worthwhile sessions.
I trawled the Internet to see what wisdom I could find on the change and found Sue Blackmore's Guardian piece The death of learning for fun as well as this report by Geoff Mason, Mason's report (Page 54) shows a marked decline in the Leisure education numbers from the 1992 figures to the 2003.
My take on this is the increase in costs to run these courses and the cost straight-jacket imposed on local councils by Westminster limits what councils can offer and support. Also there is now an urge from the powers that be for education to become synonymous with training (actually quite a different thing). Thirdly of course the effect of the opportunities for self paced learning offered by the web can not be discounted from the demise of community based adult learning.

Topic Number 40 is  Logic and Argument

Crofton notes that Logic focuses on Arguments  be they valid or not. Arguments need to make a conclusion from the  premises. 
There are two main types of Argument:

Deduction - is also known as  top-down logic and outcome of such arguments can be implicit. 

Induction - the outcome of these is non implicit and as you might have guessed this is know as  bottom-up logic.
This is a useful video on the topic

Music footnote - listening to Sheila E earlier (Track: Belle of St Marks) which led through a youtube search to the posthumous  induction of George Harrison (as a solo artist) to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004  take a look at a fine guitarist and Showman pay his respects.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Going Wireless (NANO USB Card) and #39 The Other Minds Problem

Speeding up Desktop on BT Infinity

at the end of last year I was moaning about my poor broadband speeds and high cost now with BT Infinity I'm pretty happy, I have noticed though that speeds vary depending on the device in use. I've been getting over 20 Mbps on Tablet and Debbie's laptop PC (wirelessly) but been hovering around 11 Mbps on Desktop PC and at TV (still far faster than it was). I'm also not sure which is the best 'speedtester' . (I like this as it's connected to Channel 5's Gadget Show)
Nano- USB Dongle 
Well I thought that that the problem with lower speeds was probably the Powerline adapters and although they reckon on the box/description that they're 85 Mbps  I wasn't finding this. So I've spent £7.99 on a Wireless Adapter (ordered on Thursday arrived this morning) from e-bay seller Power Bay Inc
Dongle (which is tiny) came with CD ROM and is delivering at this moment 29 Mbps download and 7.84 Mbps upload according to BT Speedchecker.
The dongle uses IEEE802.11n Standard so had to make the change on the BT  Home Hub to  Channel 13 hopefully the Laptop won't mind (the Tablet doesn't).
So for me I'd recommend WiFi as opposed to this fence sitting article
Technology continues to deliver better solutions at lower prices- the complexity and reliability is amazing and makes me wonder what we'll have within the next 10 years.
Also I've now found with higher speed I'm already exceeding my download allowance  so will go to 'unlimited' option (this cost a little extra) and I believe the upper speed for this is 79 Mbps .

Number 39  The Other Minds Problem

 This is an interesting one - how can I tell that anybody else has a mind? It can be linked to Zombie-dom.
My understanding of this is how do I know that there are other sentient beings out there? All we can see is the external behaviour of others and this means that we don't know of other peoples minds ( if they don't have  minds they could be zombies).

Friday, January 18, 2013

Snow Shovel from Maplins and #38 Phenomenology

39 Highview Road today
 Winter arrived with a vengeance (well some snow in London anyway) and gave me the chance to road test (literally) my £4.99 Maplin's collapsible shovel  - quite happy with it too. I bought it 2 or 3 weekends ago and keep it in the car in case bad weather occurs.

Big Idea number 38 is Phenomenology

Phenomenology is the philosophical study of the structures of subjective experience and consciousness Edmund Husserl is the main man and creator of this strand of thought.
It has it's own online resource at
Phenomenology says there are two types of knowledge, Direct and Indirect.
One of his catchphrases
You can share some insights on Husserl from the Partially examined Life here

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Trees and #37 Logical Positivism

tree feller
Bay Tree
This was the view from our kitchen window earlier today a Tree Surgeon, removing a tree - I'm sure there was a good reason for it but as far as I'm concerned there aren't enough trees. So I'm again in planting mode and have a couple more Cherry trees and a Victoria Plum to deploy at the allotment  ( waiting for the frosts to pass) and a Bay tree for the garden to look nice and supply Bay Leaves.

#37 Logical Positivism

Logical Positivism was a school of thought  that formed  in Vienna After World War One it was  centred  and had a scientific basis. The movers in the group met on Thursday evenings and included  many dedicated socialists and many with Jewish roots. The main members of the group included Moritz Schlick, along with Hahn and Neurath.
Albert Einstein was a hero of the group which focused on what could be proven by observation and the use of clear thinking.
It was opposed to religion and superstition considered too limiting in hindsight

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Marx Memorial Library along with # 36 Pragmatism and instrumentalism

So having visited Freud Museum last week decided to make a pilgrimage to Clerkenwell home of the Marx Memorial Library - For your information they're open 1-2 pm for visitors (not groups though). Although links for the building with Karl are unproven his disciple Lenin was there and I got the chance to see the famed Lenin Room which was knocked up to provide some sound insulation from the printing presses before his 1902 visit. The building had been used to print  many left  leaning publications and had housed shops on the ground floor, although it had an impressive façade the building is not deep and curating so many items is not easy as well as being used for research, education and meetings
(Francis) John Hastings 1935 Mural
The building has a fascinating history and strong links with the working class movement in several forms from a school for the Welsh working class in London to its present use as repository of posters books and working class ephemera.  Through the years much has been donated often by those who had little  to spare. The brief tour was brought to life by an animated woman who wore her heart on her sleeve (particularly when talking about Margaret and Dennis Thatcher). The mural by John Hastings later Viscount Hastings showed key figures in the hoped for new dawn (Marx, Lenin and William Morris) as well as war damage.  
No 36 Pragmatism and instrumentalism
As you might expect the schools of thought around Pragmatism and instrumentalism are of American origin and owe more to functionality than a catch all philosophy. First came Pragmatism which was arrived at by CS Pierce   and this was followed by John Dewey's Instrumentalism (by the way he's not the guy who brought us the Dewey Decimal system) . Dewey's Instrumentalism was more concerned with the usefulness of outcomes of theories than their fundamental truths. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Now HMV and #35 Common Sense

Sad to see that HMV (His Master's Voice), another heritage high street shop is likely to cease trading in its present form. HMV with its famous 'Nipper' logo is  a victim of poor management strategy and too little investment when times were good.  Although many commentators will point at download trends and Amazon's  aggressive pricing  (and of course the benefit of accountants who are able to shift its tax liabilities) there was a time when HMV as a long term trusted business could have made the changes to protect and grow the business, those days are sadly gone. (nice commentary here)
Anticipating that the customer acts rationally why would they pay more for a good from a limited stock when the purchase can be made more easily, from a wider choice at lower cost? Many of us decry the death of the high street  but unless the game changes then expect to see more retailers exit in the next years.
Perhaps Superdrug have got it right - I got my Mouthwash there today on a buy one get two free deal- don't know if this has an equivalent term to the usual BOGOF.

Number 35 Common Sense

Common Sense is (of course problematic) it is something that needs to be considered with Epistemology. We can see that Common Sense has been an issue for Philosophers for many years (from Aristotle onwards) and it is important that Philosophy tackles questions rigorously rather than blindly accepting the current beliefs, as Crofton points out the ideas that the world is flat and that the sun rotates the earth  were seen as common sense by many  educated people for hundreds of years.
Here's the  Lord Bragg 'In Our time' on the Subject of Common Sense (great stuff) guests include Anthony Grayling.

Monday, January 14, 2013

BT Infinity and #34 Scepticism

Monday was designated the day that BT would provide my Infinity at home.
Many reminders were sent (and received) warning me that I needed to be at home between 08:00 and 13:00 (possibly even longer) and that I needed to have power available at the 'Main' BT socket as this would be where the new equipment was located. I also had a delivery ready for the day of install.
New BT supplied modem
I got a call from the BT engineer at around 11:00 and was told that he'd be doing some work at the cabinet ahead of visit to the home and that this would be around 20 minutes or so later. The engineer arrived as he said he would. He was a pleasant guy who took his shoes off (snow here in London) and ran through what would be done, he was in fact able to put the new Openreach modem and Hub at one of the extension sockets which was far more convenient and the whole operation took I reckon less than an hour. Broadband speeds much improved and only thing I had to supply was an extra 13A outlet for the new Openreach modem (this connects between new BT faceplate on socket and  BT Homehub )  modem. I do now have a spare Homehub 3 and a load of ADSL filters which I understand are not required. The engineer told me that the fibre runs to BT cabinet (I estimate about quarter of a mile from here) and from there the connection is copper. Have tried various of the speed testers that you can find and maximum has been around 28 Mbps download - have noticed that the Powerline adapters do not cope as well as I'd expect. (about 14Mbps currently on this desktop with adapter that is designated 85 Mbps)  BT advise that the speed can improve after the initial install so will check over the next week or so. Must say I'm favourably impressed by the work and very pleased that I don't have to add further etherenet or power cabling as I had feared.

And if I'd been sceptical about the work I no longer am.. (number 34)

Lord Bragg
Defined as  a personal disposition toward doubt or incredulity of facts, persons, or institutions. In philosophy scepticism is considered  the idea that it may be impossible to know anything with absolute certainty. Ideas on Scepticism were formulated by ancient Greek philosophers.
Socrates said that the only thing he knew for certain was that he knew nothing.
Great radio programme from Melvyn Bragg on the topic here.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Freud Museum and #33 Causality

Freud Museum
 On Friday I visited in Hampstead, North London what was Sigmund Freud's final home and is now the Freud Museum in London. Freud was the father of Psychoanalysis and his work was carried forward ( by his daughter Anna she was noted for her work with children's  psychoanalysis.

Another blue plaque
I really found the visit interesting and moving- you can get a taste of the place here- if the weather had been better (Spring /summer) it would have been possible to look a the garden too. You need to consider that this was home to Freud for only the last year of his life when conditions in Nazi occupied Austria made life there unbearable for him. The fact that Freud was forced to leave when in when in his 80's and suffering from poor health is an example of the inhumanity of the Nazi occupation of Austria and the strong anti Semitism.  As this was a short part of Freud's life the interest in the museum is in the artefacts and the way that his Austrian practice conditions were recreated in London. The Video that's shown in the Museum describing his exile to London was very moving for me and was a great example of London providing exile to a  brilliant thinker. Freud's grandchildren included Clement Freud  the one time Liberal MP (Ely) and chef as well as Lucian the celebrated artist, his great grandchildren include Emma and Matthew who are both well known, Emma as a broadcaster and Mathew as a figure in PR.

Idea number 33 is Causality

Causality relates to the cause of an event and is the cornerstone of determinism although proof of this is difficult (as recognised by Sceptic Scot Enlightenment Philosopher David Hume) there can be a relationship that is referred to  as a 'constant conjunction'.
Quantum Physics has even removed the basis of causality from science.
Below is a video that might get you thinking about causality

Friday, January 11, 2013

Jessop's still trading and #32 Empiricsm

Jessops -Still trading in Ealing 10th Jan 2013
I've been taking photo's since I was about 7 (Kodak box brownie to Canon Ixus 75 with lots of others in-between). At secondary school along with Tony Arnold and Nick Forbes I developed a real love of photography. My father too was always a keen photographer and with some kindness from my Uncle Harry (art editor at the Leicester Mercury at that time)  I  got various free film and flash bulbs/gun accessories.  When I lived in Wethersfield, Essex I used to print my own pictures using a Johnson's 'postcard enlarger which I used in my 'darkroom' (actually a former stable at our house). So What? Well I actually find the end of traditional photography epitomised by the slide of Jessop's into receivership rather sad - and not just because it brings back such memories for me. Photography was a craft and stories like this epitomise a romance that present photographs are unlike to elicit.
Happy days in the darkroom.
So much of what we (many of us anyway) is mediated by PC (or Mac) and we continue to lose the ability to understand and 'hack' what we use, the replacement of so much 'craft' to the digitized zeros and  ones is not without cost to our ability to engage in so many ways.
Idea 32 is Empiricism
 Empiricism is knowledge that is derived from experience  - Francis Bacon (1561-1626 and not to be confused with the 20th century artist of the same name) is a big name in Empiricism having been an advocate of empirical methods which was vindicated by overarching laws like those of Newton. Following Bacon Locke is considered the first Philosophical empiricist.  Locke is also famous for his thoughts around economics and 'value and price'.
Here's Stephen Fry talking about the E word


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Rough Sleeping and # 31 Rationalism

An allotment shed but a home for someone.
I Know I go on about my allotment but this is about more than this. Yesterday following an e-mail from our Allotment site manager a group of  us met up with her and had a walk around the site. The Plan was to agree priorities and next steps to improve the use and state of the site. A number of plots are available for new plotholders and there is a waiting list of over 100 who are interested in taking on a plot. As well as people no longer able to look after their allocation or having moved on to new locations there are some who feel unsafe on the site.
One of the reasons for this is that there are 'rough sleepers' who take up residence in sheds there (see picture), during our walk such a person was discovered and asked to move on (they were told they were expected to have gone within 10 days).
The fact that in 2013 someone is living in a shed in winter in a fairly affluent area of London raises many questions- is it safe? Is the person here legally? Do we all share responsibility for this? One of the others in our group put forward to me the possibility that this person was able to save on rent sand send home money for their family - perhaps this is the case, but is this person living the off the grid with no NI, or status in the UK? The site has no electricity or toilets and running water is off  during the winter.
Even if they are doing this partly by choice, it doesn't seem too good a life, and how many of these IIs (if that's what they are)  live here in London? I saw in this Guardian article here that this way of life is not just chosen by those whose legal status in UK is questionable.

Anyway that sort of leads me on to #31 Rationalism

Crofton writes how Descartes arrived at this through  (I would say) rabid reductionism - looking at the pone thing he could be sure of  which was that he was thinking - thus Cogito Ergo Sum - pretty amazing!
This view was disputed by the empiricists  their catchphrase was not so good 'knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience' not sure how Roy Walker would manage this one.
Anyway here's a summary of rationalism

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Thomas Hardy, The Idler and Me

Hardy's home in Westbourne Park Villas
Yesterday met brother Nick at Royal Commonwealth Club and had a good lunch including the opportunity to see  the political journalist Peter Kellner  doing likewise at a nearby table. Nick was recently in Vietnam and brought a rather tasteful Tin-Tin T-shirt back as a gift for me.
As I was in town decided to make an excursion to see the Idler bookshop in Westbourne area on the way passed by Thomas Hardy House. Hardy is well known as author of Jude the Obscure and Far from the Madding Crowd amongst others. It seems very sad that we might be losing any fresh plaques as a result of the current 'Austerity' squeeze I would think Simon Burns the Tory MP and rail fares minister  using public transport could finance quite a few of these! Seems he's a  heavy smoker and doesn't mind the plebs picking up the cost of his commute.

Nice Pub The Westbourne (no relation)
Westbourne area is not one I know but had a nice pint of Adnams (in a pub) near The Idler book shop and bought a birthday card as a mark of support. The Idler is a bit in the same business as School of Life shop in Camden and to be applauded. Noticed in Ealing more than one instance of late Christmas illuminations- hope they don't cause bad luck 

Idler shop

Monday, January 07, 2013

Rhubarb Rhubarb and #30 Postivism

Down on the allotment briefly this afternoon and pleased to report Rhubarb is looking good as are Broad Beans and Garlic, Peas not so exciting but have some more at home if needed. Chance to turn over the compost and also pick some more Sprouts.
Big Idea Number 30 is Positivism
August Comte  (19 February 1798 – 5 September 1857) who despite having a girls middle name (Marie) pretty much invented Positivism.
Positivism is a rejection of mystical and the unexplained it is philosophical system that believes that all  rationally justifiable assertions can be scientifically verified or are capable of logical  or mathematical proof, it rejects metaphysics and theism. We can see that its allies in the philosophical field are empiricism and materialism. 

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Williams Restaurant and Dymo Labelwriter 320

Yesterday I went hunting for a new label printer - what's rather sad is that I find such a device really useful for holiday postcard and Christmas greetings and I was under the impression that my present Dymo was redundant and not supported in the later Windows versions - I didn't find anything suitable as replacement.
LabelWriter 320 works on Windows 8
But (very) happily I found that there is a driver (actually some new features too)  for the LabelWriter 320 printer which works just fine with Windows 8, also I have quite a stock of blank labels too.

So what better way to celebrate the joy of not having to replace something that works just fine than have a meal at Williams  one of the new restaurants in Ealing I mentioned a few weeks back?
The review is fairly positive - I suppose this time of year is quiet (as we discovered also when we visited the replacement to Premier Peking in The Avenue before Christmas) and Bond Street does have quite a few eating places but to be honest we were one of only 3 couples dining there during our time eating which is worrying (this was a Saturday night).
2 courses for £11.95 is not a bad price these days and service was very good.
Apparently they've been open a couple of months (formerly a Lebanese coffee shop) and some evenings they've been full  (it seats around 36).
Food was hot and freshly cooked - slightly off-putting that the background music was Country 108 but it wasn't bad enough to give me indigestion and the coffee at the end of the meal was a not bad Cappuccino.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Kensington Gardens, Memorials and demonstration allotment

Recognisable as a Henry Moore
Peter Pan Statue
This week's Gallery was the Serpentine in Kensington Gardens- not sure If I've been to the gardens before if I have it's some time ago and at a different time of year- it's a great open space with lots of impressive things (like the Peter Pan Statue - think I saw the one in New York too). There's an impressive Moore there as well (I like the way it sounds as though I'm cultured there). The Serpentine Gallery  has been home to modern art exhibitions since 1970 and a visit there is free and you get a copy of the overpriced Independent  too (I quite like this but not sure it's worth £1 more than the i or 20p more than The Times). Currently they're exhibiting a retrospective of the 90 year old Lithuanian born poet and doyen of the Avant Garde Cinema Jonas Mekas. Not sure if he's intrinsically a  great artist but seems to have lived a long and happy life after a tough  war. He's been around some key counter culture figures in New York too including Lennon and Ginsberg.When I tried to get a snap of some of the Jonas Bolex cameras one of the gallery folks told me I couldn't take photo's (which really made me want to).  So instead I took an ironic picture of the toilet out of use signs outside (I think it should say apology for the lack of convenience). Odd that Jonas exhibition which was themed around his (often) daily filming would not allow pictures to be taken

Serpentine (not turpentine) Gallery


Sign of things to come

Apology card
A great over the top memorial
Work on the new Gallery

Poor Diana
After the gallery I walked up to Albert Memorial and then Diana Fountain - bloody hell the Albert Memorial is great - amazingly over the top with gold bits and very much an epitome of British Victoriana and Empire how it puts to shame the awful underwhelming monstrosity that commemorates Princess Diana - don't know what it says about the heart and care that we're showing but I hope someone does (or has done) something better to create something to reflect the passing (15 or so years ago). This sums it up quite well for me 
Welcome sign Kensington Allotment

And On to something that was worth seeing a great allotment in Kensington Gardens - who would have thought it  - I'm going to add another compost enclosure to mine and follow the procedure they use! Only wish I could have chickens too.
Chickens welcome me

3 Step process to great compost

Tidy Allotment site