A silver horse, a wasted youth.

I complain to my daughter that she spends too much time on her smartphone.

Then I remembered something I did when I was a boy in the 1960s in East Anglia.

We had basically 2 TV channels available.


Our ITV channel was Anglia Television.

Anglia Television children's programs started at something like 4:30 p.m.

When bored, I switched on the TV at 3:30 p.m.

During the day, when no programming was on, Anglia TV would broadcast a rotating knight in armour astride a horse. Handel's Watermusic was the sound track.

And I would watch it from 3:30 till 4:30. Around and around and around.

So however much my daughter spends on her cellphone, at least she does not spend an hour watching a model knight in armour go around and around. And around.

It's a miracle!

A bit bored and hunting around for something to look at under my microscope I found a tiny dead fly in the cat's water bowl. So I used a piece of paper to lift I out and have an examine: 

What you can't see in the above photo is the inner organs moving, which they were. It lives! I doubt that it has much of a "brain", but maybe enough to suffer. Maybe not. Anyway I put the piece of paper out on the balcony, the fly could not move much because it was held prisoner by surface tension. Half a day later I went back to see if it was still there. The paper was dry and the fly had flown.

I imagine it flew back to it's friends and said: "A miracle! I thought I was gonna die! Drown! Then somehow I ended up in the open air on a damp surface which dried up. There must be a god!"

Which reminded me of a young bloke I saw on Italian TV who'd just been selected from, I think, something like 20,000 other young blokes to attend the Pope (Benedict XVI) at a ceremony in Rome. "This proves that God exists!" said the chosen youth to the TV cameras. You wally, I thought. You mean that the other 19,999 unchosen ones have suddenly become atheists? How faith destroys reason.


Bad Comedy, Bad Conceptual Art, Good Comedy, Good Conceptual Art.

There was an exhibition in London earlier this year of conceptual artists who use glass. Well, to be honest, it was an exhibition of conceptual artists who ask skilled crasftmen to make things. And one of the exhibits was an internal combustion engine made of glass. "Oh how clever. Oh how interesting. A robust thing make of a delicate material. Now that is a concept worthy of the name." the critics blathered. Opposite as a high art concept.

Bad comedy is like that. Some bad comedies are based on the fact that a character does or says something and another character or object, does exactly the opposite. And the whole 30 minutes is full of that repeated concept. Opposite as comedy. Here is one:

But there are some good comedies, I don't know how they work, but they do. Intelligent, interesting, novel. Here are a few of my favorite radio comedies, you can find them on the  BBC iPlayer Radio Comedies web site..



Concepts before Language.

Chomsky says that it was likely that concepts arrived before language. And I thought: how could it be otherwise? If there were no concepts what would we have talked about? Hundreds of thousands of years ago, when we were not quite human, the concept of "I agree" was probably communicated to the boss of the monkey troop/tribe by movements, postures, gestures. Then maybe the word "yes" came along. Then another more complex concept occurred to the animal/humans, and afterwards a word was invented for that concept.

- You're an expert are you Owen?

No, just saying. Like. But it strikes me that many people have not really thought about language and yet say you need language for concepts. This idea is rife in Italy, where Latin, though slowly losing it insane grip on intellectuals here, is still considered a neccessity for civilization.

Look at these words:

Solar System

and think about their meaning. Did you hear a voice, or see an image in your mind? Even the most rough and ready explanation of the Solar System is clumsy (as a thought) compared with the image (as a thought).

The following paragraph is a quote from Chomsky and just serves to separate the words above from the image after the paragraph.

"The speed and precision of vocabulary acquisition leaves no real alternative to the conclusion that the child somehow has the concepts available before experience with language and is basically learning labels for concepts that are already part of his or her conceptual apparatus. This is why dictionary definitions can be sufficient for their purpose, though they are so imprecise. The rough approximation suffices because the basic principles of the word meaning (whatever they are) are known to the dictionary user, as they are to the language learner, independent of any instruction or experience."

Do you hear the voice or see the image?


Color Names and Pure Water

I had an argument with a web designer about a color scheme. The color scheme used by the web designer in a web site could be summarised like this:

I offered an opinion that shades of dirty blue grey were not ideal, especially when used in other components of the web design. It looks like a sky from the end of the world as envisioned by a teenage heavy metal fan, aspiring satanist. The web designer retorted that the colors were not dirty blue grey but were mixes of, wait for it,...

  • Queen Blue
  • Dark Skate Grey
  • Japanese Indigo
  • Moonstone Blue
  • Space Cadet

Now look at the image again, knowing the names:

Does it look a bit nicer now? Maybe. But that does not solve the problem (of the dirty grey blue) because a viewer of the web site would not know the names of the colors used, and so would not be affected by them.

Like homeopathy, the magic doesn't work unless you label it.


Go! Stop! Stroop!

There's a test somewhere on internet which tests reaction times, or recognition times, of the names of colors. It is a test of the Stroop effect. For example you have to say what color is the text of a word, but the word is green, and maybe it is written in red.

When you do the equivalent test in black and white people are generally more accurate and faster. The problem, presumably, is because the brain recieves two messages...

  1. The color of the letters
  2. What the letters say.

...and has to conciously decide which is correct.

A red arrow stop sign in a traffic light is a place where a shape and a colour disagree. This is why I don't like these traffic lights...

I did not like them even before I heard about the Stroop effect. The red stop arrow I particularly dislike, because an arrow, to me, say "GO! GO! GO!" while the red color says "STOP!"

So, combined, they confuse me. But maybe it is because I'm limited, as my "friends" and "family" hint every now and then. I like simple clarity:

"So how does one indicate direction?" I hear you ask. Well a board above the traffic lights with arrows and pointers and destinations used to be considered a sensible solution...

And here is a traffic sign where shape and colour do agree:


Pet Heaven

I've heard some pet owners say they have this fantasy, or maybe belief, that when they pass through the gates of paradise, all the pets they've ever owned will come rushing up to them, happily miaowing and woofing.

And I ask them if all the cows and pigs they've eaten will be there waiting for them too...?