I just finished reading @jonronson's The Psychopath Test. It’s a book that’s fascinating and worrying in equal measure and with a strong identity of its own - there’s no way anyone on any of the sides portrayed in the book could possibly claim it’s propaganda for one of the other sides. It even calls into question the motivations of its author.
The only thing I noticed is that the incidence of psychopaths in the general population - one in a hundred I believe - seems very low. You just need to walk down the street or catch a bus to end up on the blunt end of monumentally-selfish non-empathic behaviour. Maybe these people aren’t actually psychopaths but they seem to share many of their traits.
It seemed to be something of a trope in 70s (and sometimes later) sitcoms that something was promised or was going to happen that would change the lives of the characters forever only to be snatched away at the last minute just before the end of the episode.
There was always a sense of genuine despair when this happened, the moral being “Don’t dream, you haven’t got a hope. Don’t even try.”
Yesterday I had a slightly odd experience whereby a déjà vu I experienced was so strong that it actually contained the sensation of having had the déjà vu before as well. I even tweeted about it as it happened.
Then today on the way into work I was reading Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett. I used to read all his novels as they came out but in recent years lost any sense of urgency. I only just got around to this one now even though it was first published in 2009. I think the subject matter of football comes to-Ankh Morpork was putting me off - but I shouldn’t have worried; it’s just as Pratchetty as ever.
Then I suddenly came across the following sequence:
"After ten minutes of reading … she experienced déjà vu. Moreover, the déjà vu was squared because she had the feeling of having had the déjà vu before."
As anyone who has seen my Twitter stream recently may remember, I have of late been reading and enjoying Neal Stephenson’s Anathem. Nearly finished it in fact which is a shame as I will be sad to leave that world.
One thing that struck me was how many topics I chose to blog about over the past couple of years concerning Many Worlds Theory, its relationship to quantum reality and how this is linked to the nature of consciousness, are discussed in the book. Stephenson seems to have been thinking along the same lines I was and has managed to integrate them in a fascinating and entertaining story.
Given that the first publication of the book predates any of my blog entries, people might think I ripped him off, but that’s the odd thing. I’ve only just read it now.
However, I did buy the first edition hardback upon publication and it’s been sitting on my shelf since 2008. It’s almost as if some of the ideas within escaped and started floating around my flat before finding a new home in my brain.
Or perhaps in an parallel existence (or a different world track as the novel would describe it) I read it immediately after buying it and so the ideas were already in a version of my brain not too distant on the probability axis. They leaked into this reality and I wrote blogs about them.
If only I could steal ideas from books that haven’t actually been written in this reality.
In 2011, the British Con-Dem coalition government imposed massive cuts to public spending, ostensibly to reduce the national deficit. The funding shortfalls produced by this austerity programme were to be met by opening up essential public services –schools, hospitals, universities, hospitals, libraries, and so on – to corporate investment and, where the profitability was likely too be too small or too distant in time, voluntary work within the affected communities. This latter option, known as the Big Society initiative, met with little success and was quietly dropped from political and news agendas. Not, however, before introducing the country to an array of costumed crimefighters and, eventually, a handful of genuine heroes.
Memos and recordings of secret high level meetings leaked to the press in 2015 show that, in an attempt to reduce the cuts to the police service, senior officers conspired to provoke the wave of protests sweeping the UK into violence. They reasoned that the greater the threat to property – one tape reveals officers agreeing to use ‘public order’ as a euphemism – the more likely corporate bosses were to pressurise politicians into maintaining, perhaps even expanding, the police budget. This strategy proved disastrous. Many aspects of police work were suddenly opened up to competitive tender, with tax-payers’ money diverted into the coffers of multinational security consultant companies. The size of the police force was massively reduced. Many former officers found themselves employed by these new ‘security providers’ as freelancers or on short-term contracts, doing the same work for little more than minimum wage. Only the least profitable of police work – crimes against people, particularly in the poorest sectors of society – were left to the police force.
Meanwhile, the Big Society initiative encouraged neighbourhood watch schemes and other community groups to police their own streets. And while many people were concerned about the violence and injustices this introduced, the media lapped it up. Steven Seagal presented four seasons of the reality TV series Have-A-Go Heroes, a ratings hit that inspired numerous imitators, including Ross Kemp’s Britain’s Hardest Heroes and Danny Dyer’s Village Vigilantes. Richard Branson, Simon Cowell, Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Alan Sugar joined forces to produce Britain’s Got Talents, a show which uncovered the nation’s would-be superheroes, and The X-Factory, which followed each season’s finalists as through superhero boot camp. For a while, every school-child wanted to be the next Wicca Man, EastEnder, White Van Man, Hammer or CiderMan, the west country cyborg.
A poem I found inexplicably frightening as a child.
Also I was bothered by the inconsistency in lines six to nine - following the logic of the rest of the poem the final noun in a couplet should be the first noun in the following couplet (so in these lines it should have been “when the belt…" and "when the tail…”).
What is “double deed” anyway?
There was a man of double deed,
Who sowed his garden full of seed;
When the seed began to grow,
‘Twas like a garden full of snow;
When the snow began to melt,
‘Twas like a ship without a belt;
When the ship began to sail,
‘Twas like a bird without a tail;
When the bird began to fly,
‘Twas like an eagle in the sky;
When the sky began to roar,
‘Twas like a lion at my door;
When my door began to crack,
‘Twas like a stick across my back;
When my back began to smart,
‘Twas like a penknife in my heart;
And when my heart began to bleed,
‘Twas death, and death, and death indeed.
If you order something online and it never turns up, is there an expectation that the company from whom you ordered the items should refund or replace even if it wasn’t their fault and the item was just lost in the post?
Any problematic contract is between them and the Royal Mail. So it’s up to them to sort it out. That’s how I’ve always looked at it.
Apparently not. Having just complained to a local company about £45 worth of undelivered goods I have been told to take it up with Royal Mail myself. Surely that’s not my responsibility?