Maybe

Sometimes you just want to write something. Maybe you have something specific to say, maybe not. Maybe you have nothing to say at all, but just want to get something out there.

Maybe you’ve set yourself a target, and having missed a day (and being aware that you’ll doubtless miss others) you’ve decided you want to keep the average up. So that at the end of 2017 you’ll be able to look back at at least 365 posts in the year.

Maybe at the start of the year, that was about as many posts as were on your blog in its whole history. So it’s a major challenge. But maybe you keep going, even with nothing to say.

Whoops!

OK, I missed a day. Obviously it had to happen sooner or later. But yesterday I just totally forgot.

Oh well. We pick up and keep going.

Brain Explain

Interesting article on psychology wherein Robert Epstein tells us that “Your brain does not process information and it is not a computer.”

It is, as I say, interesting. But it’s also profoundly annoying in the way he asserts that the human brain is not an information processor, but then makes no attempt to explain what it is, instead. 

He asserts that the brain does not hold a copy of a song it has learned, for example, but instead “is changed in a way that allows the person to sing it” (I paraphrase).

But isn’t that just another way of saying that it has stored a copy? If that change does not in some sense denote making a cåopy, then what exactly does it mean? What is the brain doing when the singer recalls the song? Inventing it anew, exactly (or not) as the original composer intended?

I don’t doubt that what he calls “[t]he information processing (IP) metaphor of human intelligence” has its limitations; but he has completely failed to explain them or provide an alternative explanation.

The truth is we don’t understand much about how the brain does what it does; and this guy knows more than most of us. But he’s a psychologist. He no doubt has a deep understanding of the workings of the human mind. But I think if you want someone to explain what we understand of the workings of he human brain, then you want that person to be a neuroscientist.

It’s Not Tomorrow if You Haven’t Gone to Sleep yet

Yeah, OK, so I missed my deadline: I’m typing this after midnight. But it’s still the same day I got up in, in sleep-cycle terms. Also in terms of how the TV listings mags give the days, too. Which can actually get a little bit confusing sometimes.

It stems, of course, from the days when all TV would have stopped by midnight or shortly after. Yes, kids, I know it’s hard to imagine, but TV stations used to “close down” at night. One or other of the channels used to even have a wee programme that was actually called Closedown, if I remember correctly. I think it was one of the weird religious things, where a priest or minister would come on and give a Thought for the Day kind of mini sermon.

Anyway, and still on TV, apparently the best comedy show around, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, is having that annoying recent habit, a mid-season break. We have no idea when it will be back. And… well, if you’ve watched it…

No, I’m not going to say any more about it. Just hurry up and get back, guys.

I may actually backdate this post, just so my daily posting doesn’t show a gap. After all, I’m treating it as still Thursday 16th of February, even if the clock doesn’t.

All the Things in the World

Do you ever look around and think how amazing everything is? How it all got there? And I’m not talking about the grandeur of nature, the glory of the universe, and all that. I’m talking about all the human-made stuff.

I have often found myself in the middle of a city, or looking out of a train window at a bridge or power station, and thought, “Wow: people built this. Just ordinary people, like me, actually made all this.”

Look at ancient buildings and you realise that they used to do it without the help of modern machinery, too.

And then think about the infrastructure that’s carrying these words from where I’m typing them to where you’re reading them. Hundreds of miles of fibre and copper cables across the country. Thousands of miles of undersea cables. Satellites, and the rockets to launch them.

We’re pretty amazing sometimes, us humans.

Like I say, I’ve often thought about this kind of thing. But today, while not at work because I’m a bit under the weather1 I had a slightly different version of it.

I had a sudden, overwhelming sense of how much cultural work we have created. Specifically stories and TV and films. Though in fact it was comics that really triggered it.

As I say, I’m not at my best, so I wanted something simple. I ended up reading a bunch of comics on Marvel Unlimited. And no matter how many I could read in a day, I could only make the tiniest of scratches in the surface.

And in TV, Netflix seem to have a new original series or two coming out every week.

It’s not all great, of course. But just think of all those people, writing away, acting, filming. Making things.


  1. I have a vague memory of someone in a film or TV programme mis-saying that as “beneath the weather,” but I can’t think who, or where. I kind of want it to be Josie in Twin Peaks, but I’m not sure. []

Why Are MPs Doing It?

This is the burning question of the day: why are our elected representatives in parliament behaving like idiots, frankly?

I wrote most of this a few days ago, but the question still stands.

The “it,” in case it’s not obvious, is waving through the bill to enable to government to trigger Article 50. They did so with very little scrutiny, and without accepting a single amendment. Now as I’ve made clear, I’m firmly of the opinion that Brexit must be stopped. But it’s looking increasingly likely that it won’t be.

We in the populace may have to accept that fact. But members of parliament don’t. They are (or were) exactly the ones who could have stopped it all.

It’s like there’s a bus full of schoolkids. The driver has lost control, and it’s careering towards a cliff edge. The driver jumped out and somehow survived. But the kids can’t get off. Luckily there’s another adult aboard. She grabs the wheel. Hooray, the kids will be saved as she swerves and brakes.

But wait: oh no, she isn’t braking. She’s steering more directly towards the cliff, and putting her foot down.

And all the people who could stop her are at best letting her go on, at worst egging her on. Even the ones who said they didn’t want to go over the cliff in the first place.

This simile may be getting out of hand.

Brexit Hope?

A very small hope. Brexit—take back control by the improbably-named Jolyon Maugham, suggests that a court ruling could be achieved which would ensure that we can back out of Brexit at the last moment:

The effects of an Article 50 notification are not fully understood—and not only because May is still peddling a blind bargain, a Brexit pig-in-a-poke. We do know that, should we ask and the other 27 member states agree, we could remain. But it is brave to assume that two years of exposure to the negotiating skills of Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis will not generate even one hold-out. […] The preponderance of legal opinion is that we could, after all, decide to remain. That we could, having notified, withdraw that notification. But, given the magnitude of the issue, our parliament must know more than what the answer probably is. It must know what it actually is.
[…]
only the court to which we all subscribe can give an answer: the European Court in Luxembourg.

He/she (I’m guessing “he,” from the writing style) says:

But a case which—along with Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley, Steven Agnew, a Green member of the Northern Irish Assembly and Keith Taylor, a Green MEP—I am bringing in the Dublin High Court seeks to give us the power to travel back if we need it.

And he explains that:

We access it via a national court. And it can’t be one of ours. One of the complaints in the Dublin case is that the other 27 have breached the Treaty by excluding us from Council meetings before we’ve notified under Article 50. And that complaint can only be made by a court in one of those 27. The Irish court is the natural choice

Which all seems fair. The idea seems to be that the European Court of Justice could rule definitively that we could revoke our triggering of Article 50 at the end of the two-year negotiating period. And if the deal is bad, or especially if there isn’t one, parliament is likely to call another referendum in those circumstances, wherein we’ll know exactly what we’re voting for, and get it right this time.

A small hope, like I say. And it doesn’t protect us from the damage that’s being inflicted in the meantime.

But a small hope is better than none at all.