Posts

The Memorial Mile

After the 2012 Olympics in London, I was involved in a number of local sporting initiatives. One was The Memorial Mile - a commemoration of the First World War Armistice, on the sad anniversary of the start of that war. The Memorial Mile is a run - a mile dash, along our local canal, in St Johns, from one bridge to the next. I conceived the idea when thinking about the mostly young people who lost their lives in that war, and wondering what they might have made of the world 100 years later. Much of what I have read about those people - and heard first-hand from some - portrayed a sense of fun, mild recklessness, and exuberance that I recognised as eternal associations with youth. Running along the canal it occurred to me that the distance between two bridges - the second being in the village - was about a mile: and I idly mused that you could run it as a mile 'dash'. I thought, those young people, if they came back to see the world 100 years later, would recognise a mile das…

Being like Mike Jones

Mike Jones was a lecturer when I was an undergraduate student: and as with many of my lecturers, later became a friend when I went on to a PhD.

Mike taught me statistics: or failed to - I should say I failed to learn statistics from Mike, because he was a compelling and diligent lecturer who provided clear and copious notes. He had amazing handwriting - a beautiful copperplate italic style - and he hand-wrote his notes. I used to weep - literally - over my failure to understand statistics, and Sarah would be unable to understand why: "but he has such lovely handwriting".

Like other people in my life and career, I think of Mike often as someone who helped me learn a valuable and important lesson - just not one about statistics. Twitter recently reminded me of Mike, and of what I learned from him: first, by talking - as one does in these times of Covid - about statistics (which I do now understand); second by the annoying habit some Twitterati have, of dismissing contemptously…

Slowing Down

A year ago I organized a panel discussion on exercise and motivation. We had three local people with varied expertise and experience in exercise and psychology. It was a fascinating discussion, very informative and interesting: but one question made me think.

One of our good friends is a real runner - fast, looks the part, always out running. He has been running almost every day since he was 12: he is now in his 50s, and still runs almost every day: rain or shine. Not like me - I am a fun runner, I do it for enjoyment but I don't much push myself, and although I did learn to lead other runners and know a lot of background and techniques I am not myself a very good runner - apart from the fact that I do it and enjoy it still.

His question was unusual: "How do you stop?"

His explanation was that as a habitual runner - and a good one - he found running an essential part of every day: it didn't feel right without it. But also, as he aged, he was coming to realise that no…

Shy of retiring

Being 'self employed', it is not so easy to retire.

Not only because it is hard to tell the difference between retirement and just not finding work, but also because it's actually quite hard to make the step.

I have been privileged for many years to work at what I would basically choose to do if I didn't work. I love what I do, and what it does. DSP is an acronym for Digital Signal Processing, which basically means just about anything you want it to - specifically, combining computing, physics and maths for practical applications. So you get to learn how the world works, how to work out how the world works, and how to change the way the world works (that last, just a little bit..).

I've had a lot of fun and a lot of 'interesting' challenges: speech synthesis and recognition; digital audio; digital camera and TV design; the 'streaming' technologies; medical imaging using magnets, sound and radio; surveillance; controlling things ranging from the engi…

The kindness of friends

A little while ago I was inspired to join the Big Issue Foundation's Big Bristol Sleepout - an event where we would sleep out, to recognise, draw attention to, and raise money for the incerasing numbers of homeless people in Bristol.

The event was last Friday night - which happened to be the coldest night for  years - well into sub-zero, with snow and freezing wind.

I got a call from the Big Issue Foundation on the Wednesday, after I had packed my spare socks and gloves with my sleeping bag, but before I had set out, telling me the event was cancelled because the First Aiders could not guarantee the safety of sleepers in severe weather conditions.

I travelled to Bristol anyway, as I was working there on Thursday and Friday. It was indeed freezing cold - bitterly so - and I was lucky enough to catch the only train apparently leaving Bristol on Friday morning (having gone to the station early to check the services), so I got home. My journey was fine - an extra couple of hours due t…

Bread and cocktails

A cocktail has as many calories as half a loaf of bread.

This is the kind of statistic The Meejah love.

How many calories are there in half a loaf of bread?
What sized loaf?
What kind of bread?
What sort of cocktail?

I am left bemused by this kind of statistic, which is almost but not quite totally devoid of meaning.

It is what I would call a 'factoid': a fact that is at the same time surprising, seemingly dodgy, but probably - within its own logical scope - true in a sense.

Actually it isn't a real factoid - a factoid is epitomised by my son James's factoids, which are totally true, quantitative, specific facts that are, however, surprising either in being contrary to what one expects or (better, for a good factoid..) just the sort of fact you never thought you would ever need to know or wish to know. James is, and always has been, good at factoids: a photographic memory combined with attention to what most of us ignore equips him to store factoids, and is probably a …

Sleeping Out

Although I live in Woking, in sleepy Surrey, I visit Bristol quite often for work.

Usually I travel by train to Brunel's Bristol Temple Meads Station (in the Engine Shed of which my office once was..). I stay in the Bristol Novotel - a nice mid-range hotel, very comfortable, with good food, where through my many stays I now know and am nicely welcomed by many of the staff. Due to my frequent visitor status I am welcomed with a free drink - which is indeed welcome, as it comes after what is usually a late evening train journey of two or three hours.

From the hotel it is a few minutes' walk along the river to the modern office building in Glass Wharf. Just after exiting the hotel I walk past a little park where homeless people sleep.

If I stay three days, Sarah often comes with me and we stay at 'luxury apartments' (luxury is relative...) in Easton - one of Bristol's less well presented districts. From Easton we walk through a little park where homeless people sleep.…