English: Holiday in village

English: Holiday in village (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I should imagine that going on holiday, for many people would be a relatively new thing. While those with money might decide to shift operations from home to another location, which might or might not be near a beach, those who work from them would mostly have no respite from day to day toil, since their employers would still require looking after as usual.

As ordinary people became wealthy, and the old social structures faded away for the most part, it would have become more usual for ordinary people to go away, just as their employers used to.

Rangiputa, Karikari Peninsula, Northland, New ...

Rangiputa, Karikari Peninsula, Northland, New Zealand. Rangiputa is a beach and bach (holiday home) community on the west side of the peninsula (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The word “holiday” itself is a  contraction of “holy day”, and on holy days there were celebrations and less formal work. The word has come to mean a day on which one does not have to work. Most countries these days would have statutory holidays on which which people would not have to work. There may be other restrictions, such as legislation that shops should remain closed.

It’s understandable that some countries require shop closures, as this means that shop staff get the holiday too, but many countries these days allow shops to stay open if they wish and some of the best retail days are on statutory holidays. Usually shops that stay open are required to compensate staff who are required to work.

English: Brixham - Harbourside Shops These sho...

English: Brixham – Harbourside Shops These shops mainly cater to the holiday trade who visit the harbour. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Holidays are disruptions to normal schedules. When one goes away, one is in a different environment and one has to make do. Even something as simple as making a cup of tea may be complicated by the need to find a spoon, a cup, and a teabag, not to mention the need to figure out the operation of a different jug!

These things are not an enormous issue, and in fact draw attention to the fact that one is on holiday. All schedules are voided and one can do whatever one wants. Often this may amount to doing nothing.

A “holiday industry” has evolved, which provides accommodation, and resources for those temporarily away from home. It also provides entertainments or “attractions” if the holiday maker doesn’t just want to lay on the beach. The holiday maker may do all sorts of things that he or she doesn’t usually do, from the exciting (bungy jumping or similar) to the restful (a gentle walk around gardens or maybe a castle visit or may a zoo).

These facilities are all staffed by helpful people who arrange things so that the holiday maker can enjoy his or her self without worries. These people are of course employed by the facilities, but many of them enjoy their work very much anyway. It’s a sort of bonus for helping people.

English: Ultra Dynamics Dowty Turbocraft water...

English: Ultra Dynamics Dowty Turbocraft waterjet boat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Holiday makers must also be fed, and this has become a huge industry too. In any seaside towns so-called fast food outlets can be found in abundance, along with more up market restaurants and cafés, for more leisurely eating. For many people one of the advantages of being on holiday is that one doesn’t have to cook, and one can choose to eat things that one doesn’t normally eat.

Holidays can be expensive. Since we are close to the Pacific Islands, like Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, many people fly out to the islands on their summer holidays. This means flight and accommodation has to be booked and paid for.

English: Great Frigate Birds (Fregata minor) o...

English: Great Frigate Birds (Fregata minor) on Johnston Atoll, Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the holiday makers arrive at their destinations, they have to pay for food and entertainment. Other expenses may be for sun screen cream, snacks, tours, tips, and the odd item of clothing which may have been accidentally left at home.

Holiday entertainment may comprise guided tours, or visiting monuments or zoos. Amusement parks are often an attraction as are aquariums. All this can cost a lot, but unless you are content to veg out on the beach, you’ll have to pay for it. Even vegging out on the beach comes at a cost, from sun protection through to drink to offset the dehydration caused by the sun.

English: Roller coaster, M&Ds Theme Park, Stra...

English: Roller coaster, M&Ds Theme Park, Strathclyde Country Park The larger and older of the two roller coasters, at the very southern end of the park. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, why do we throw over the usual daily regime, and drag our family on an often uncomfortable road, sea, or plane trip, to a location where we know little of the environment, which will cost us money, to spend the days traipsing from “attraction” to “attraction” spending more money and feeding on often costly food of unknown quality or provenance?

Part of the answer is that the daily regime becomes boring and descends into drudgery. Removing ourselves from the daily regime allows us to escape that drudgery for a while. As far as the cost goes, well, one is prepared to spend a certain amount of money to escape the drudgery for a while.

Money for All

Money for All (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Removing ourselves from the usual means that we can try the unusual. We may try Mexican food, or Vietnamese food. Or even Scottish cuisine if we choose. The world is our oyster.

We can try sports and pastimes that we have never tried before. Bungee jumping. Skiing, water or snow. We can visit a “Theme Park”, ride a roller coaster, or other ride. We can scare ourselves and excite ourselves.


Skiing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We can experience different cultures, different scenery, but at the end of the day we know that we will be returning to our mundane lives. We have at the back of our minds the cosy ordinariness of our usual lives, as a sort of safety harness.

We know our comfortable house will be there for us to return to, and while we may enjoy the beds in our hotel, motel, holiday home or tent, we look forward to the return to our own beds. We look forward to drinking the brands of coffee and tea that we prefer and fill the fridge with the foods that we prefer to cook.

English: Hotel room in the Waldorf Hilton, Ald...

English: Hotel room in the Waldorf Hilton, Aldwych, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Few people would want to live in hotels and sleep in strange beds as a way of life, but there are some people who do so. While we enjoy being on holiday, as a break from our usual lives, we would probably not want to live that way for an extended period. Those who do are unusual people.

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Late Again

II am still writing the post for 29th January. we have a relative staying with us so there may be delays in my posts for a few weeks. I still intend to post one per week, even if the post is a couple of weeks late! Currently I haven’t posted the 29th January and 2nd February posts.

Update: Make that 2nd February and 9th February.

Update: I have posted for 2nd February. One behind!

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Winner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone likes to succeed at their endeavours, but not everyone is able to succeed for a number of reasons. People have varying drives to succeed, with some having little drive and others have a high level of the drive to succeed.

Maybe “succeed” is not the right word here as what I am referring to is the drive to create a company, or an artwork, or some other goal. Some people seem to have this urge almost from birth, such as top sports people, and some have some sort of “Damascene Moment“, where some event gives them reason to achieve some goal.

the Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus...

the Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus as painted by Michelangelo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actually St Paul is probably not a good example of what I am talking about as he already had a goal (persecution of the Christians) and his goal was changed dramatically. Many others, however, have experienced conversion events to many different religions. Some however have experienced more gradual conversions.

It is not my intent to argue that sudden or gradual conversions to any religion or creed are real mystical or religious events. They may give the person a life long belief in the creed or religion, but in many cases such conversion may moderate or fade over time.

English: Parish church of the conversion of Pa...

English: Parish church of the conversion of Paul the Apostle, Vrhnika, Slovenia. Slovenščina: Župnijska cerkev spreobrnitve Sv. Pavla na Vrhniki (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the big religious revivals in the US such as those run by Billy Graham people at the rallies were encouraged to make a public declaration of their faith and millions did so. The pressure and excitement engendered by the event most likely resulted in people being swept along and making declarations and later reconsidering.

People who succeed in things are focussed individuals who have a clear goal, and do not see or discount the difficulties in achieving their goals, whatever they might be. Others, who are less driven would more likely see the difficulties, and indeed, such difficulties may be overwhelming.


Depth-of-focus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The media is happy to promote success stories, such as this one, and they are supposed to be inspirational. The person mentioned in the article appears to have been successful, with a high powered job and a similarly high powered lifestyle, only to lose it all. The story ends on an upbeat as the person succeeds in turning her life around.

This little example shows a couple of things. Firstly, although she was successful, her life crashed and burnt, and secondly, she turned her life around but her goals were now set much lower.

Many people who attempt to become successful crash and burn like she did both before and after becoming successful. Also, she was successful in turning her life around, achieving a different sort of success.

That’s an interesting point – one form of success is to acquire lots of money, property, possessions. Another form of success is to be able to enjoy oneself in a hedonistic way, usually as a result of acquiring money, property, etc.

English: "The" Cranstal Cottage (now...

English: “The” Cranstal Cottage (now vacant and for sale) near Cranstal, Isle of Man My grandfather came from the Isle of Man to Missouri back in 1852 and became a successful farmer. We (my wife and I) have visited the IOM twice and love it! We were looking for property to buy and found Cranstal Cottage, the same one shown in the photo with the palm tree in the front, taken front on back in 2005 [33942] Now it is quite overgrown with no one living there and for sale. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, such successes may not provide happiness, and indeed money may not buy happiness for many people. To achieve happiness one may need to give up such worldly wealth and adopt a simpler life. Others may find other ways to achieve happiness, for instance, in a job which they enjoy, and achieving happiness may, in many cases, equate to achieving success in life.

Personal success can come as a result of success in other fields, of course, and worldly success, such as starting and running a successful business, is almost always considered to be any achievement worthy of public approbation.

English: A Chinese man going about his business.

English: A Chinese man going about his business. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However many newly started businesses fail. This does not hurt just the entrepreneur, but also anyone who has come to depend on the new business and those who have invested in the business. Normally a start up gets finance from friends and relatives in the first place and only wins finance from other sources later.

Some entrepreneurs have a history of failure. Some fail multiple times causing severe financial distress to friends and relatives. However, if such start ups were banned, this would severely hamper the evolution and growth of businesses. Such companies as Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Facebook, and Google, not to mention Amazon and similar would perhaps not have come about.

However, it is worth noting that Richard Branson, whose Virgin companies are well known, and who is now trying to conquer space commercially, came from a fairly well to do family. Mark Zucherberg, also came from a fairly well to do family. Bill Gates of Microsoft had a similar background. It seems that having a well to do family helps one succeed as an entrepreneur.

Of course, that’s a sweeping generalisation and would need a lot more data to justify. It might be that the reason, if there is one, for such a correlation, is genetic, and successful people may often come from families that have an entrepreneurial gene. It may be that the reason if cultural, and that children of successful people learn from their families how to succeed.

English: Renowned speaker, author, entrepreneu...

English: Renowned speaker, author, entrepreneur and artist Jewel Daniels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If there is a correlation, this doesn’t bode well for the children of the less well off. They either don’t have the genes for success, or the don’t have the environment for success. Nevertheless some of them do succeed, against the odds.

A successful businessman or woman is like a successful athlete – an athlete is more likely to be successful if he comes from a successful sporting family. Such a family is more likely to provide the support that any aspiring athlete needs and will have provided a successful gene set to their sporting children.

English: Owen Hamilton represents Jamaica in t...

English: Owen Hamilton represents Jamaica in the 800 meter track and field team event at the 1984 Summer Olympics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A family that knows how to compete will be able to inspire in their children the will to succeed if they follow in the family footsteps. However the child will need to have the intrinsic ability to perform, if he or she is to approach or even exceed parental achievements.

I think of this whenever someone points to someone who has achieved success in business or their life and remarks that this person shows what dedication and hard work can achieve. The implication is that anyone who does not succeed isn’t dedicated enough and is lazy.

This implication is just not true. No matter how hard I try, if I trained every day, there is no way that I could become a top athlete. Such athletes are anomalous phenomena. They are gifted individuals, and this should be recognised. In business, as in athletics, it takes more, much more, than hard work and dedication to succeed. Thomas Edison‘s adage is true, but without the one per cent inspiration, which comes to few, it is all just sweat.

None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.

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Space – the Final Front Ear

Portrait of William Shatner

Portrait of William Shatner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry about the fabricated mondegreen, which obviously references the Star Trek series of films and TV shows. Captain Kirk saw space, or more correctly distance, as a barrier, but it really is one of the factors that determines the structure or shape of our Universe.

It is interesting to me, that, although the Universe is finite, if it derived from a Big Bang, there is a human urge to explore outwards, as if it were infinite. That is probably one of the factors that led scientists such as Fred Hoyle and others to support a Steady State Theory of the Universe.

Personally, I believe that there is no such thing as a steady state in anything. When we see something which appears to be in a steady state or equilibrium state we should look for the feedback factors that are keeping it that way. For example a pendulum hangs straight down when at rest because any deviation from that position results in gravitation forces pulling it back to the rest position.

If friction is low the pendulum will actually pass through the equilibrium position and swing to the other side, whereupon gravity will slow it and draw it back towards the equilibrium position again. Eventually friction will slow the pendulum down and the pendulum will again hang vertically.

De :en:Image:Pendulum.jpg

De :en:Image:Pendulum.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So we have two forces, gravity and friction, resulting in the pendulum returning to the equilibrium position. No pendulum lasts for ever, as the pivot will wear out or an elephant may step on the thing, so the equilibrium will only exist for a finite time, but it will last long enough for us to use in clocks or in scientific experiments.

Space is itself expanding as I understand the theories and some of it is out of our sight, over an event horizon, which is a locus where everything is moving away from us at the speed of light. That doesn’t much our location special – it is true of any point in the Universe. LGM on a planet around a star that is over the event horizon from us have their own event horizon, and while they may be able to see a star inside our event horizon and we in theirs, we cannot see each other.

Alien (creature in Alien franchise)

Alien (creature in Alien franchise) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Space separates us form the LGM, but it also separates from things local to us. Ben, our dog, is over there, about 3 metres away. My cup is mere centimetres away. It is fair to say, I think, that this is the essence of space – it is hard to conceive a universe which doesn’t incorporate a spacial concept. Or rather, a separation concept to allow things to be different from one another.

Space is not the only “separation concept” that I can think of. Things can also be separated in time, so two different bodies can exist in the same spacial position, but just not at the same time. Time is so connected to space that Einstein and others were able to link time and space into a complex space/time concept.

Time dilation spacetime diagram06

Time dilation spacetime diagram06 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The similarity between the space dimension and the time dimension is striking. You can even measure distance in time units as astronomers do when they talk about light years. We also do it when we say that a distant town is three hours away.

We less frequently talk of time in distance units, for example, when we say things like “six laps later”, to describe the time between two events in a car race. At some level we acknowledge that time and the space dimension have a lot in common.

English: MMTC workout. 10 of 1 mile laps witho...

English: MMTC workout. 10 of 1 mile laps without rest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Space in the sort of concept that everyone knows and experiences but no one thinks deeply about. There’s no doubt that space separates events from one another. You can’t have two solid objects occupying the same space at the same time, without catastrophe ensuing. Scientists have been trying to achieve this for years, with the aim of harvesting the energy generated from the ensuring nuclear fusion.

Space appears on the macro (normal) level to be continuous. We appear to move smoothly from one location to another when we walk, incidentally forcing the air out of way as we do so. There is no sudden jumps that we notice, we don’t hop from point to point like a chess piece on a board.

Animation of the Knight's tour

Animation of the Knight’s tour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The philosopher Zeno came up with a number of paradoxes related to movement, that is getting from point A to point B. For instance, the athlete Achilles could not overtake a tortoise in a foot race, because Achilles would need first to reach the tortoise’s starting point, by which time the tortoise would have moved on. Achilles would then have reach the point that the tortoise had reached now, by which time the tortoise would have moved on. And so on, ad infinitum.

Of course Achilles does overtake the tortoise, and I believe the main issue in this case is related to the summation of an infinite number of decreasing distances, which intuitively one might this would sum to an infinite distance. In fact the sum of the distances is a finite number. If Achilles runs 10 times as fast as the tortoise and they start 10 feet apart then Achilles overtakes the tortoise after he has travelled 11 and 1/9 feet exactly.

Triumphant Achilles in Achilleion levelled

Triumphant Achilles in Achilleion levelled (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Zeno’s paradoxes still inspire debate, but his conclusion was that movement, the smooth transition of something from one place to another is an illusion. One of the assumptions used is that distance is a continuously varying property, but it may be that it is not, and there are hints of that at the quantum level. The Planck length is the smallest distance about which statements can usefully be made and it is impossible to determine the difference between two locations less than one Planck length apart. Perhaps we do hop from place to place like chess pieces, or at least our atoms and their constituent particles do.

Max Planck 1910

Max Planck 1910 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Space and time enable events to happen uniquely, and without collisions. Events may happen in the same place as long as they happen at different times. It may be that events of different probabilities happen at the same place and time, so long as the sum of the probabilities of all events is one. It may therefore be that probability is a dimension with the same sort of status as the space and time dimensions. This would require that our view of probability, of one event out of many being the one that actually happens is an illusion and that events of all probabilities happen in a sense.

English: The probability pattern for a single ...

English: The probability pattern for a single electron atom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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This title is secret

Everyone has secrets. Even a hermit in a cell has secrets, not the least of which is what made him become a hermit. His overt reasons may be plausible, but it is likely that for most persons his overt reasons would not be quite enough to drive them into seclusion.

I don’t believe that anyone can be completely open and still be sane. It may be that a person, while being non-racist in actions and philosophy sometimes has thought that is racially biassed. The person will probably then suppress those thoughts as wrong or unnatural.

Thoughts in the Night, Dreams During the Day

Thoughts in the Night, Dreams During the Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Couples often claim to be one hundred percent open with each other, but this is unlikely to be true. One person may have eaten the last chocolate, and remains strategically silent when the other partner remarks that they thought that there was one more left.

One partner may prefer Indian cuisine but may silently go along with the other partners desire for Thai or Japanese if he or she has no strong feelings about the matter on a particular occasion. Over time however partners will know one another’s preferences and a compromise will be reached.

Pad Thai at Sarah's restaurant in Toronto, Canada.

Pad Thai at Sarah’s restaurant in Toronto, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Families may have secrets – the skeletons in the cupboards. Very often the emergence of such secrets may be disturbing or traumatic and may shake the family to the core. The secret may be something that the family knows but which is get from outsiders, or one or two family members may keep from the rest : “Well, Aunty P and Uncle Q were never formally married, you know.”

Firms often have secrets. A firm may fail, and few people outside the firm may have seen it coming. Either the firm purposefully has been optimistic in its accounts and its presentation to the outside world, or the accounts may have been in a mess and the warning signs missed both internally and externally.

Intellectual Property Owners Association

Intellectual Property Owners Association (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Firms have other secrets, such as the exact processes that are used to produce their product. Such secrets are believed by the firm to give them an advantage over their competitors, so they do all that they can to prevent the competitors from learning their secrets.

Often a firm will keep a yet to be launched product a secret, again so that competitors can’t steal the ideas. This has led to big launches and product announcements that are covered by the media, often for products which are not significantly different from previous products already released.

Of course, one firm will know that another firm has secrets, and so firms will spy on one another, there will be leaks of information, and all sorts of skullduggery will ensue!

There will be political secrets too, and a great deal of energy is put into uncovering such secrets and exposing them for political gain. The media are always searching for political secrets, simply to sell more publications.

World wide governments spy on each other. While this information can be used to find out if another government has hostile intentions, it can also be used to assess the threat that the other government poses.

The 33 convicted members of the Duquesne spy r...

The 33 convicted members of the Duquesne spy ring (FBI print). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An example of this was spying on Iraq gave the United State government an excuse to invade Iraq, because spying had been said to have revealed that “Weapons of Mass Destruction” had been developed in Iraq. This turned out to be untrue, and whether or not spying had really erroneously indicated that such weapons had been developed has been a topic of debate ever since.

Governments routinely spy on their own citizens too. If a government suspects that certain of its citizens are secretly planning revolt they may keep a close watch on them. Also, governments may take an interest in someone if they are suspected of planning to commit a crime. In many cities around the world it is almost impossible to walk down the street without passing a number of surveillance cameras.

Shot of the perpetrator by a surveillance came...

Shot of the perpetrator by a surveillance camera in the lobby of the Serena Hotel in Kabul. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indeed such surveillance cameras are common these days. People have been accustomed to seeing them on the roads and in shops, and most are accepting of them. The argument is that if you have no secret to hide, then the cameras are not a concern, and people believe that if there is a camera, then this will frequently deter people from misbehaving.

This is more or less true, though there are enough videos on YouTube of idiots doing silly things in front of security cameras. Those people don’t have any secrets from them!

English: A payload surveillance camera made by...

English: A payload surveillance camera made by Controp and distributed to the U.S Government by ADI Technologies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes secrets are good. You would not set a password and then tell everyone about it, of course, and your password keeps your stuff secret from any possible attackers. Before the rise of Internet banking things were kept secret by locking them up in a box or safe. These days your password might be what is kept in the safe!

Cryptography is looked after by Alice and Bob and friends. These characters, invented by cryptographers, are forever exchanging secret messages, which are usually something like “This is Alice”. They use various cryptographical messages means to keep their secret information secret, usually using things like “private keys” and “public keys”.

Public key making

Public key making (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cryptography has arisen as a result of the Internet’s total lack of security or secrecy. When the Internet was built no one could have predicted the need for security. After all, it was only a tiny network connecting a few research and educational institutions and joining it was by invitation. Everyone knew everyone else.

Pretty soon, though, the Internet grew too large for everyone to know everyone else and security was needed. At first login accounts were all that way necessary, but soon that was insufficient. Black Hat hackers joined the Internet, and they were interested in breaking into your account to read your emails to your girlfriend, your mother, or your cannabis dealer.

English: A stereotypical caricature of a villa...

English: A stereotypical caricature of a villain (i.e. generic melodrama villain stock character, with handlebar moustache and black top-hat). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Password requirements got stricter and stricter as the Black Hats got cleverer and cleverer at breaking password security but people still use passwords like “password” and “12345”. There are now so many people connected to the Internet that there is a certain safety in numbers. Just like birds flock together so that an individual’s chances of becoming prey are small, so an individual’s private information is probably safe, unless by chance, they are the one in the millions who is picked on by the Black Hatter.



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Friends, Romans and Countrymen

(A little late this week, but this time I have an excuse – my daughter and her partner were staying with us, which makes writing a post difficult).

I’m going to write about friendship here, and not about Julius Caesar, conspiracies or murder, in spite of the above title. Friendship is where two or more people like and trust each other and form a bond between them.

Most often friendship is a same sex thing, but not infrequently friendship happens between people of opposite sexes, and also between groups of people. However the most intense friendships seem to arise between two people of the same sex.

Someone coined the phrase “bromance” to describe a close relationship between two heterosexual men. Such friendships can sometimes be stronger in some ways than those between men and their female spouses, to the extent that “the boys” go fishing or boating or to the football or simply drinking coffee or beer together while their spouses are left at home, usually fuming.

However, when “the girls” get together, talking babies, make up and other women, or simply drinking coffee or wine, then it is the men who are left out in the cold to fend for themselves.

Korea. Kisaeng girls (?). Seven girls posed, f...

Korea. Kisaeng girls (?). Seven girls posed, full length. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obviously there’s a lot of stereotyping above that is in no way justified, and in many ways is false and misleading, but it does demonstrate that friendship can be as strong if not stronger than a marital bond between spouses. As suggested by the awful stereotypes, above, to strike as balance between friends and families can be a difficult task, but I don’t think that it can be denied that both are required for people to feel satisfied in a relationship.

Español: Taxi en Bogota

Español: Taxi en Bogota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Friendships and familial relationships appear to be support structures. Friends can have interests that the spouses do not, such as an interest in sports or politics or a particular genre of films. Friendships allow one to enjoy something in company that the other spouse does not enjoy. This makes life easier for partners or spouses to enjoy as they do not have to totally give up any interest that they might have, and can share them with others.

Although a couple would probably share a lot of interests, it can feel restricting in a relationship if a particular interest bores or irritates one’s partner, and friends who share that interest can ease those restrictions by providing an outlet for the interest.

Friends can also provide financial assistance by means of a small loans, but it is not wise to regularly borrow from friends all the time. Friends can be there to supply a few coins for the parking meter, or similar small costs, but bigger loans between friends can easily become a source of contention. Benjamin Franklin said :

Lend money to an enemy, and thou will gain him, to a friend and thou will lose him.

The reason behind this is obvious – everyone knows the friend who has always left his wallet at home, or who has run out of money, or who disappears when it is his round. Friendship is based on trust and, unless you are prepared to forgive and forget such behaviour, such a person may not long remain your friend.

As I mentioned above, same sex friendships are very common, but it is possible for persons of opposite sexes to be friends, but if they are of the same age group, this is often slightly dubious – the inference being that such friendships might become more intimate. Platonic relationships are deemed very likely to develop into sexual relationships.

Some research has been done into this, but it is, at least to me, unclear as to whether or not it is true that platonic relationships between friends of opposite sex tend to develop into sexual relationships. On the face of it, this is not so, otherwise men and women would not be able to work together successfully. However, other influences, rather than sexual attraction, may moderate any sexual attraction between platonic friends, in a work situation.

Friendship, Göteborg, Sweden

Friendship, Göteborg, Sweden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These days many people may make friends on so-called “social media”. One’s social standing can be assessed in some quarters by the number of Facebook friends one has. Facebook friends (and friends or the equivalent on other social media) are frequently in different parts of the world.

In the Facebook world friendship is based on what is written rather than spoken and Facebook friends may not ever meet, and this is perhaps a good thing in many cases. People have met physically after meeting virtually on the Internet and it has not always gone well. Some people have even met up, become engaged, all before physically meeting.

Others have married after meeting physically meeting (and presumably become engaged). This seems to me to be incredibly risky, but for a growing number of people this works. But one reference that I found reckons that one third of US marriages have followed “online dating”. There is even a suggestion in that article that such marriages are in fact happier.

Discussions on Facebook tend to be very “robust”. This is because of the separation that the Internet provides means that people “say” things on the Internet that they would not say face to face, and they may use more “robust” language.

Facebook friendships may not last as long as face to face friendships, as it is a matter of a click to de-friend someone, whereas breaking a real world friendship could be complex and time consuming. On Facebook, where people tend to “speak” more robustly, it is common for someone to take offence at something “said”, and de-friend the person who said it. Often it is only a misunderstanding and any insult or slight is unintentional.

Facebook as a forum allows people of different political colours or world views to meet and interact. This could be a good thing, but unfortunately what often happens is that both sides in a discussion become entrenched in their views, becoming more extreme, and the arguments becomes contentious and extreme, leading to no meeting of minds.

Français : gravure d'un assassin confronté ave...

Français : gravure d’un assassin confronté avec sa victime (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eventually the argument will peter out. The world views of the racially tolerant and the racial supremacist briefly collide, then part again, with no real passage of understanding between the parties. This is somewhat sad and implies that extreme or divergent views will always be with us.


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Home grown

Chauvin, Louisiana, 1972. Woman selling home g...

Chauvin, Louisiana, 1972. Woman selling home grown produce. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I often wonder about the economics of “growing your own”. Usually you have buy your plants, buy compost, fertilizers, and some times special food with added stuff to encourage growth. Then there’s water, which you may get charged for in some locations.

Then the crops may not be that heavy, the fruit small, maybe bug eaten, and weather battered. It makes me wonder if the effort is economically worth while, and that is before I’ve considered the fact that the cost of the labour that you put in is not inconsiderable.

English: Home grown tomatoes, Omagh One enterp...

English: Home grown tomatoes, Omagh One enterprising occupant of a house in Georges Street proves that these plants can be still successfully grown in a small greenhouse, despite the continuous overcast skies [565288] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, people reckon that the taste of home grown vegetable is better than those bought in a shop. That may be, but it is difficult to justify the amount of work that home grown produce entails on that basis.

Others worry about the pesticides and growth additives that are added to commercial produce and it is a justified concern, but many, many people never eat home grown produce and it doesn’t seem to seriously affect the majority of them.

Genetic manipulation has given such people something else to worry about, but really, crops have been genetically modified for millennia, by selection of certain strains. Also, people have subjected seeds to toxic substances such as acids and alkalis, which has the effect of changing the genetic structures of plants.

In particular, the grains that are grown commercially have been manipulated in such a way as to cause a doubling of the genetic material in the plant and such plants are termed tetraploid or octoploid, depending on the number of times the genetic material is multiplied in the seeds.

English: The edge of a wheat crop south of Cla...

English: The edge of a wheat crop south of Clanfield In the green strip beside the wheat were some oat plants. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those opposed to genetic manipulation rarely if ever mention the multiploidity (a word I may just have invented), and raise a nightmare scenario where all so-called “natural” crops are displaced by genetically modified plants. This is a scenario that I find to be extremely unlikely.

If you have ever been around farms you will see the farmer working very hard to support his specialised plants, genetically modified or not. Some genetically modified plants, modified to give higher yields, require insecticides to keep down the pests which may devour them. Other genetically modified plants have genes inserted to deter pests from eating them.

This image shows the coding region in a segmen...

This image shows the coding region in a segment of eukaryotic DNA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Outside of the cultivated fields, in patches of unusable land, grow plants which are escaped crop plants, but they don’t resemble the crop plants very much. Over just a few generations they have in the main reverted back to ancestral types, and that common leggy plant with yellow petals and lumpy seeds pops is such a plant. It may well be an escaped brassica, or wild cabbage, or maybe an escaped oil seed rape plant, the cultivated version of which supplies canola oil for margarines.

Wild growing plants are vigorous growers and over power or inter breed with the escaped crop plants and the more delicate genetically modified versions lose out to the ancestral varieties. Of course, there is a one in many billions chance that a genetically modified plant might supply a gene that causes the loss of other ancestral genes, but it is much more likely that I win a lotto jackpot! The odds are astronomical.

Brassica oleracea (Wild Cabbage) - naturalised...

Brassica oleracea (Wild Cabbage) – naturalised population growing on seacliffs below a mediaeval monastery at Tynemouth, Northumberland, UK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is sheer hubris to believe that our first forays into genetic modification would produce organisms which are more robust than those produced by millions of years of evolution. It is slightly more likely that genetically modified genes might find there way into ancestral organisms, conferring some advantage on those organisms. The likelihood is, however, as I said above, that modified genes would be lost in the genetic battle between genetically modified and ancestral versions of an organism.

Modern crops, even the ones which have not been genetically modified, need a lot of tending. They need (in many cases) irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, and that’s after the preparation of the land and the sowing of the seeds. It is big business and the margins need to be considered at every stage.

Furrow irrigation system using siphon tubes

Furrow irrigation system using siphon tubes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because the produce is grown in standardised conditions, to maximise yield it is pretty much all the same size and quality and this is pretty much become the standard. Consumers have come to expect uniformity in their produce and producers have been driven to provide this.

Grape tomatoes.

Grape tomatoes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Home grown produce is usually much more variable. Tomatoes may vary in size and shape, and may even be misshapen. Potatoes may vary from large to really small. Peas and beans may have variable numbers in the pods. People who are used to shop bought produce may be disappointed in home grown produce.

I’m told that great satisfaction can be gained from growing your own crops, and indeed, we have raised beans, silver beet, spinach and some other things, and we have enjoyed them as much if not more than shop bought stuff. But I’m no gardener. Gardening plays havoc with my fingernails!

English: Fingernails, about 2mm long Deutsch: ...

English: Fingernails, about 2mm long Deutsch: Fingernägel, etwa 2mm lang (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those who do decide to produce their own crops, I feel that they should do it for the satisfaction of the act, rather than for any perceived economic reason. The economics are debatable, as I suggest above. As I also say above, the taste of home grown food is supposedly superior to that of shop bought food.

It is certainly true that the flavours of home grown food can be stronger than those of shop bought food.

English: Produce grown at organic community ga...

English: Produce grown at organic community garden in Santa Clara, Cuba. Most of the workers are retired. Profits are shared based on how much time is worked. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Home grown tomatoes, for example, tend to be fleshier, or more solid, than shop bought ones and, although they may vary in size and colour, they do taste good.

One big advantage of the home grown movement is that a section of the movement has taken on the task of keeping alive the ancestral strains of various vegetables and fruit trees. This means that if commercial produce production were to experience an apocalypse that perhaps ancestral strains could be used to rebuild the produce industries.

English: Well tended fruit trees Wimpole Hall ...

English: Well tended fruit trees Wimpole Hall walled garden. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also, people in the home grown movement have maintained varieties of vegetables and fruits that are slightly different to common commercial varieties – such as purple carrots or yellow tomatoes. The more variety that we have in our vegetables and fruit the better, even if it means that some people get their fingernails dirty!

Carrot diversity

Carrot diversity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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