D is for Death

D also starts a lot more words, but having a dark mind, death was my second choice. I am not a  medical doctor, so disease was a touch specialised, even for the drivel usually published here.

Death is a useful one to discuss, being a taboo. It makes us generally a bit uncomfortable. Possibly because it reminds us we will all die, and most of what we do, did, or will do, will be of no real lasting impact or consequence.

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Generally speaking, other than immediate family or friends grieving, most of us will not even be a footnote in History.  Accept this, and enjoy life day by day.

I read a article about someone dead relative a while ago, which resonated somewhat. It mixed in with other unrelated articles, and fermented in the dark space of my mind. Here I will attempt to decant what’s left into a coherent thing.

It is an indisputable fact that I will die. The actual time left is an unknown, as is other details, like cause and location. Fact is, death is inevitable. Once I stop being, some other poor bugger has to tidy up after me.

So first aim is to not leave too much of a mess behind.  There is a bit of a mix with the minimalist philosophy here. The next of kin of a hoarder has a mountain to climb, but even an average person collects too much junk and other detritus through their lives. Myself included. I hope as a society we are slowly moving away from the compulsive consumerism, and understanding things are not as important as people and experiences. So this aspect of mess is the pile of possessions left behind. Some things are inherently useful to someone else, I still use my some of the Grandfathers tools, and he has been dead for almost forty years. Most of your own possessions are going to be of little use and you have a duty to not give that problem to someone else.

The other mess is paperwork. Officially dying involves sending back various documents , like passport, drivers licence, various certificates etc. There are legal matters to attend to, bank accounts to resolve, the list in horrible. Try to get all this junk in some form of order.

Dealing with the aftermath of your own death is not your problem, but you can make it easier for your loved ones by organising your affairs, and your stuff.  

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F is for Freedom.

Freedom, liberty, no oppression, a fine ideal.

Living in Western Europe, specifically on a rather nice island to the west of mainland Europe, we enjoy a lot of freedom.

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We are free work or not. The actual work is not specified because the freedom is the freedom to work, not a specified job or career. Times are changing, automation is on the increase, and will spread to all sorts of sectors. Jobs and careers are a lot more fluid, with a large rise in short term specific task contracts, the gig economy. We don’t pay any income tax until earnings are in excess of £11000.  If we are not able to work, the system will pay basic frugal funds. Not enough for a full life, but the basics are covered.

From Birth to death, the system provides. There is no regulation on who can reproduce. The only requirement is to be female. Fertility can be helped, sperm donors are available to those with a suitable mate. At least when you adopt a rescue dog, you get a home visit to assess suitability, an interview, and of course a suitable donation.

All through pregnancy and early years, support is available to ensure development is progressing at a arbitrarily determined level. All provided free to the end user.

Education is provided free from about four to eighteen. You are free to take advantage of it or not.

We are free to make poor choices, and it follows we are free to live with the consequences, whatever they are.

We are free to vote for whichever MP wants to put themselves on offer. You are free to stand as an MP if you can find the deposit, about £500, and persuade ten other voters to sign your form. Given we elect every five years, that is slightly cheaper than a weekly lottery ticket, and better odds of winning.

You are free to follow any religion you like, free to believe anything you want. You are even free to remove yourself from the job market, by choice, and you will still get supported by the state.

You are also free to leave, but we make it nice and comfortable if you stay. You don’t even have to speak English.

I have a modest theory about the current drift left towards Socialism and it’s nasty cousin Marxism.

We have too many choices. The Education system and media does not equip people with the reasoning skills to make correct choices. Only experience can do that. As a person who has made some poor choices over the years, I have the advantage of hindsight. A second strand to this line of thought struck me on a visit to DDR museum in Berlin. In the DDR, a lot of the practical things were taken care off. Housing, healthcare, jobs etc. Not perfect by any means, but, those who accepted it, and went along with the restrictions on their personal liberty, survived and thrived. Limited choices, basics provided for. Sorted.

I am of the opinion that many people actually want that. I am also of the opinion many leaders in governments, health, education, to name but a few, also want that.

Freedom is a wonderful thing, but it has a cost, and with freedom comes responsibility, and a duty to fulfil your own personal potential. That is just too difficult for some people.

You views are welcome.

 

K is for Kilter.

As in “off kilter” or “out of kilter”.

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When tired, or jaded, it is quite common to feel not quite up to speed with anything going on around you.

It’s a bit like the keyboard of life has shifted a few inches to the left, and your just not hitting the right keys. When your backspace delete button is almost worn out, and no matter how much you try, the word ordinary just looks wrong.

When you find you carefully parked car is now parked in a space that is only marginally longer than the length of the car, thanks to the actions of other drivers, and the ebb and flow of parkers. When you consider the possible 50 shunt maneuver to extract said car, then realise its longer on the diagonal, and ain’t going nowhere.

When you boil the kettle and then find there is no coffee in the jar, or pour cereal and find the milk bottle is empty.

When you haven’t left enough time to shave, and then find its the day you have meeting with the Boss. When you wash your hands, misjudge the tap, and cover your trousers in water.

You are out of kilter. It’s important to recognise this, and behave accordingly. Know that on these days, everything you touch will turn to sh1t.

There is no cure for this, it simply has to be endured, and consider damage limitation tactics where possible.

These days are not good days to do anything vaguely important. Try to avoid involving yourself in significant financial deals or new commitments. Order the house red at a restaurant, it will be drinkable and a safe bet. Avoid marriage proposals at all costs. Defer till tomorrow for better decision making.

The out of kilter day will involve spilling soup on your tie, leaving your glasses somewhere, forgetting your PIN number, and in extreme cases, wearing mismatched shoes.

And if you do make it home without serious injury, your car, the one that was physically impossible to move earlier, will now probably have a ticket on it.

STOP.

Leave the car and ticket where they lay. You have drunk most of a bottle of red, as your potential spouse fled in disgust or tears when your declined their proposal at the restaurant. Just go inside, re match your shoes, find some clean clothes for the morning, throw out the soup stained tie, they never clean well, go to bed and hope for a better day tomorrow.

Out of kilter days just suck. Try to avoid them.

O is for Open University.

No longer the preserve of strange Black and White TV programs in the 1970’s, the Open University has developed into a very credible alternative to bricks and mortar Universities.

University funding, and student loans, are under review at the moment, here in England. Despite being part of the United Kingdom, which is a bit of an oxymoron, University funding is different and significantly more expensive to the individual in England.

Student tuition fees were introduced in the late 1990’s by the New Labour Blair Government. They were originally set at about £1000 per year. That is the same as about £1300 today.

They are now £9250 per year for students starting this year. For a typical student living away from the family home a bill of £50k is not uncommon for a three year degree course.

So the student loans company was set up to provide eye watering amounts of debt to aspirational students. Given the target customer is only 18 years old, they are quite easy to fob off. You will only start to pay it off when you earn over a certain amount. You won’t notice the monthly repayment. All your mates are doing it.

Context. It is not the Universities funding the loans. They are the ones selling the courses, and taking the money. The secondary and higher colleges are part of the sales force. The Universities bear no risk here, no motivation to get the best out of their clients, no motivation to ensure their clients get the best careers, the higher earnings, to pay back the money.

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This is where I actually feel sorry for my daughter, who needs degree level qualification for her chosen ambition.

There are four options.

 

  1. Take a University place anywhere. Move there, get the loan for fees and maintenance, hopefully get a higher degree, and move into career, start paying it back.
  2. Take a local University place, as luck would have it, we are within easy commute for two Universities, get a loan for fees, hopefully get a higher degree and move into career, start paying it back.
  3. Reevaluate life goals, consider apprenticeship route to similar but potentially less rewarding career.
  4. Have a long hard look at the Open University.

 

Everyone’s circumstances are different, but, if your chosen path doesn’t not involve significant time in the lab, or playing with lots of expensive hardware, then OU is worth a look.

Your course fees for a degree with OU are just under £19000, not just under £28,000.

You still have a tutor.

You will still develop and hone critical reasoning.

You will still have to work hard

You will demonstrate much more self motivated disciple, time management and commitment.

You will demonstrate a finer sense of financial acumen.

86/100 FTSE 100 companies use OU to further train their staff.

It is a very well respected University.

Perhaps most important of all, it has the largest student body of any University. Your fellow students will be a mix from all age and social groups. A much wider skills and experience base to interact with.

A common complaint is that it’s too hard. Shall we think about that? If that is a common view, how does your OU degree look to an employer? Determined, strong, committed, motivated, ambitious, hard working, intelligent.

Are we really encouraging adults into starting in the workplace with a £50k mill stone hanging over them?

Is the three more years in school really worth an extra £31k in debt?

How many thirty somethings are still paying for a teenagers decision?

 

It is worth a critical look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P is for PO, Life Skills 101 #3

PO is for Pissed off, not Post Office

No, I am not pissed off,  This is an internalised and destructive feeling I would most strongly recommend you strive to avoid.

At the end of this Micro article we will be helping to identify why we feel PO, how to minimise the effects, how to recognise external PO factors and impacts, and how to push through this fairly negative and self inflicted condition.

PO can be caused by a number of factors, far to many to be totally inclusive in a minor blog post, that basically exists to try to get my writing muscle exercised. We could broadly lump the factors into two piles, Internal and External.

Internal factors are, if you like, the imaginary cartoon characters that sit on the shoulders, one good, one bad.

The Good one, sits on my left shoulder and whispers gently into my ear. “ You would feel a lot better after a run. Get the heart and lungs working, build up a sweat, let those wonderful endorphins rage for a while.“ The watery grey mush that is my brain processes this, and agrees it’s a good idea. For whatever reason the runny sweaty thing does not happen.

The Bad guy then starts ranting in my ear, “ You really are a waster, lazy slug, are you auditioning for the Michelin Man?”

The grey mush also processes this, and it leads to feelings that include less than complimentary self worth, a negative body image, and some internalised anger against myself.

If you like, I have beaten myself up, and various conflicts between the bits of me that want to wear less tight and expansive jeans, and the bits of me that want cake, have caused an internalised feeling of PO. I could now be described as PO with myself for not managing some slightly arbitrary and self imposed goal.

Other internal factors are available.

External factors are legion. We live in a tight little part of the planet that sustains life without too much technology. A host of beings competing for space and resources. Like rats from a shipwreck, clinging to a piece of wood, fighting for space, tumbling over each other, pushing off the weakest or the unlucky. Often, we are not as well behaved and orderly as those imaginary rats. We are a dark, savage and violent species, but that’s another story.

In a typical day, we are not shipwrecked and pushing others into shark infested waters, despite secretly wanting too…..

We are however subject to unthinking actions of other people. Actions that impede your actions. You have a plan, keeping it simple, for example, you are driving to work. That is your plan, to get to your place of employment.  You have already accepted the punitive costs of having and using a car on a much degraded road network, but you want to eat, so you go to work. You need to exchange your time and abilities for money to exchange for food, shelter and so on.

It is the random chaos of life.  A thing that is real, and a thing you have absolutely no control over at all, not even a little bit.  An event occurs that impacts on your ability to move yourself from where you are, to where you need to be.

It could be Mrs Muggins has spotted her neighbour, and wishes to share information about the price of bread at a previously unconsidered retail location, and in order to do so, has pulled her car over in a less than considerate place, obstructing you from moving towards your goal. It is of no importance to you, but clearly is to Mrs Muggins, so much so, that it trumps your important mission.

It could be one of the many utility companies have to repair a piece of infrastructure helpfully buried under the road, and have set up a surprise set of traffic lights.

It could be that some previously unconsidered yet critical part of your car has failed, rendering the whole thing useless till repaired.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Many factors can spoil your plan of getting to work, and you have no control over them, but they will still cause you to be PO.

Being PO is destructive, can cause feeling of stress, anger, rage even. How many times have you seen some poor bugger leaning continually on his horn, which seems to be the motoring equivalent of a primal scream. Has no effect on the cause, and its value as a vent is questionable.

A couple of tools that work for me, your mileage may vary.

Anticipation. Recognise its a crowded planet, and other people will be sharing the space you need to use. You may be able to cover your commute in ten short minutes if no one else is about, but it is unrealistic to expect everyone else to stay off the road just because you want them to. Leave early. Travel and arrive relaxed. Listen to the gentle melodies on the radio, not thrash metal. Try it, even if just one time. It works for me, and the analogy of driving to work can be adapted to many other situations.

You are basically preventing or minimising external factors from impacting on you, and thus causing internal feelings of PO as well. It’s a win win situation.

Acceptance. Accept the path of your life will be mined, dug up, confused, covered in effluent or worse. Your control over your destiny is mostly an illusion. Accept that no one else cares about what you want right now. It’s not their problem. It may help to think of them as puppies, or unruly children, or homicidal maniacs, or basically unpredictable, illogical, unthinking, and mostly unintended. They have their own goals, their own priorities. They might be impeding you, but that doesn’t always make them bad people. And, always remember, you are quite possibly the cause of someone else feeling the same PO emotions.  

As for self induced PO, try being mindful of yourself. After a few years as a adult, you will have slumped into a number of behaviours which are unhelpful or even harmful. Perhaps I should go for that run, but would it help to try some brisk walks first. Little and achievable victories really help. You cannot go from multiple years of cake abuse to a perceived body ideal in a matter of weeks. But if you start to eat less and move more, it will become attainable, eventually. It is beyond the scope of what I am ready to write today, but mindfulness, marginal gains, and habit forming are all things you could look up, to see if these will trodden paths can help you.    

Anticipation and acceptance. That is today’s message, even if only to remind me, that I am but one of many.

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Have a gentle day.  

Q is for Quandary.

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The whole alphabet thing was started on this blog as an exercise to get myself up off the mental couch and get writing. Everyone has a tale to tell, and a blog is a useful way of getting started

My tale will be told gradually, if for no other reason than it is a life lived, to a lesser and sometimes greater degree.

I am a Pratchett fan. What is that? A Pratchetter?  Sir Terry talks about many things in his “Discworld” series, which I was pleased to stumble across in the mid 1980’s. Many of his apparently made up theories, dispensed as wit and wisdom from a variety of colourful characters, have a basis in science or just common sense.

One of the best, in my humble opinion, is the Trouser Legs of Time. Essentially, your trousers will only really go on way way. Two legs won’t fit down one hole, unless they are not your trousers, or rather, not your time line or your reality. Trousers could be put on back to front, but then you will be uncomfortable all day, literally, in the wrong reality.  To really kick this analogy a bit further, we all have a pair of trousers.

Why is it a pair of trousers? You don’t refer to a jumper as a pair of jumpers. You do refer to socks as a pair of socks, and shoes as a pair. This is more logical, both comprising of two seperate things.  Is is a south of the waist thing? Please don’t get smart about a pair of gloves. They fit on your hands, which fit in your pockets, of your trousers, and thus below the waist. QED. Why am I even thinking about this, or worse, writing it down.

We all probably have a pair of trousers, literally, we all have our own life’s, our own realities. Some are frayed shorts, some are tailored on demand to suit the wealthier wearer, some are denim, some are a nasty mix of plastic and cheap cotton. People’s realities are their own, and those who realise these tend to be more relaxed.

You have to live your own reality, however crap it is. If you want to change it, for better or worse, you have to take action to make the new trousers fit. I represent an obvious analogy at this point. Personally speaking, my reality is that my 36 inch waist jeans are getting little tight.

I may yearn for the days of 34 inch or even 32 inch. There have been too many cakes, curries and pints of beer consumed, and not enough hours running, or cycling or otherwise getting sweaty for the 34 inch reality to exist.

Two realities loom in front of me now, literally, it’s a trouser legs of time moment. Peering down one leg, a decision was taken, and the whole sweaty thing was matched with a reduction in the consumption of cake and curry. In this leg, it was accepted that effort would lead to a result, and that a decade of inhaling cakes and biscuits is not cleared up overnight. At the end of this leg, there is a gentler fit on the 36 waist trousers, or possibly a new pair in size 34.

The other leg leads to a more relaxed attitude about buying a 38 inch pair of jeans, being happy with cake and beer, and shutting down that nagging voice in the back of your head that has been screaming about heart disease, diabetes, and outrageous blood pressure.

Both realities can exist, but you have to be in your own reality at any given time. It’s not enough to made a decision. Action is required. You will not be forced to do it, there is no one who will drag you off the sofa, and chase you down the road to get you moving and sweaty on a regular basis. You have to want to take action, to want to make changes, to choose the best trouser leg for you.

Not to be confused with Reality TV, which has nothing to do with reality, but is cheap TV fodder for the feeble minded, or possibly a social scientist.

The Quandary in this micro article was what to write about starting with Q. The rest of the alphabet is pretty much covered, with one or two exceptions. J and I are looking weaker than my ( low ) average, but there are a few days in hand yet. Quandary roughly fits the Pratchett model of self determination, or Trouser Legs of Time, so we’ll leave it at that.

 

 

S is for Simple

KISS.

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No, not that sort of kiss, but KISS.

Keep It Short and Simple, or even, Keep It Simple Stupid.

Your preference probably says a lot about your character. I lean towards Stupid. 

Complicated has its place, and is sometimes necessary. Mr Musk, NASA, ESA and others do not reliably sling tons of expensive metal into orbit with simple. Complicated can be made simple, just depends how many steps your prepared to break it down to. 

But I want to keep this simple. I try to keep life as simple as possible, and would advocate the same to another.

Many aspects of life are within your control, to a greater or lesser degree. These are the simple things. By keeping these things simple, you can free up your mind to tackle more complex issues at work, or in your own creative projects.

Keep It Simple folks….