Culture, Trips and Extremism

For the next two weeks posts may be somewhat erratic as I will be doing some traveling. This week I will visit Barcelona where I am the keynote speaker at a conference. I shall have my work to do as not only am I giving the keynote on Wednesday but will also present again the following day. However, I have been to Barcelona once before and as I recall it is a magnificent city so it should be a nice trip. The following week, I am going to Budapest where I am giving a two-day workshop and then attending a big conference. It’s all go.

I like to travel – less so perhaps now than when I was younger but it is a bonus to get to visit other places as part of your job. While the EU can be criticized for a lot of things, it has made traveling around an extended Europe much easier than it used to be and in some parts of Europe, passports are no longer required. Very civilized I would say.

One thing though that has become noticeable to me over the last 25-years is the erosion of culture. When I first visited Paris, finding a french restaurant was easy. They were on every street corner! These days, its the KFC or MacDonalds thats on the street corner and finding a genuine french restaurant in between the pizzerias and pasta places, is pretty tough. To me that’s a huge loss. Unfortunately, its the same almost everywhere. Fast food and brands in favour of local culture and great food.

So, as I head out on my trips this next two weeks, I will be avoiding the fast food places and seeking out some local flavours – both in terms of food and everything else. Local is good. We should celebrate our differences, our languages and our culture. We should work to preserve and protect them.

The other side of this coin though is ugly. Its nationalism. The recent EU elections showed the soft underbelly of this obscenity in all its ugliness. The National Front, Greek Nazis, The UKIP and all flavours of this horrendous evil that should have been caged for good at the end of WWII were out on display. It seems that people often want not just their own culture but they don’t want anyone else to have a different culture. Yes, celebrate our differences, celebrate culture .. not just your own but others too.

Cultural-Awareness-Flags

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Science is Never Proven

If I had a quid for every time some punter on TV or in the media or even a politician has said “The science is proven” when referring to global warming, I’d be a very wealthy man indeed. I have to tell you, as a Ph.D. scientist myself, every time I hear this I literally cringe. The person saying it or writing it cannot then understand the philosophy of science as no scientist who does would ever utter such a stupidity. Yes – stupidity.

Today, I read an article by a scientist on CNN about the big bang. Please read with me the following excerpts…

“Everyone wants to be right. Most of us sure hate being wrong. But scientists know that new discoveries often change or even invalidate earlier ideas. Being wrong can mean we have learned something new.”

and…

“It’s the way science progresses. You put an idea out there and your colleagues — many of them good friends and scientific collaborators — try to shoot it down.

A scientist’s first reaction to a new idea is often: “That’s wrong because….” To which the proponent replies, “No, you are wrong because…” And so the debate begins.

No matter how much a scientist might hope to be right, nature holds the answer. One theory may be more beautiful than another, or more complicated, or more elegant, but nature doesn’t know or care. The job of a scientist is to find out what the real answer is, not to advocate for any one point of view.

We do that by making careful measurements and assessing the accuracy of the result.”

Later..

“That’s one reason the debates will continue until one side convinces the other. But most scientists really don’t care about the “win” — we care about understanding nature.”

And finally..

“Controversy and debate may be messy but that’s how we make progress in science.”

Excerpts from an article by Meg Urry – the Israel Munson professor of physics and astronomy at Yale University and director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics.
You can read her article here.

Yes. That’s how science works – should work anyway and there can never ever be a 100% definitive right position… just a working hypothesis. So please, next time you hear someone tell you that there should be no FURTHER debate on global warming because THE SCIENCE is PROVEN.

Please educate them.

1. Science cannot ever be said to be proven
2. Without debate, there is no science.

science

Lazarus

Memories fade as the years gently pass
The urgency of attraction has gone too
Wished fond goodbye as the years flew
But Lazarus sings still from time to time

Our bond slowly strengthens bit by bit
Shared experiences and the pass of time
Takes care of that my dear partner in crime
As our Lazarus makes his soulful reappearance

Who would have ever have given us a chance at all
The unlikely impossibleness of such a meeting
Our differences should have made our time fleeting
But beautiful Lazarus was our siren song

Kept us together all along.

It’s All About Marketing

As I cycled on the bike that doesn’t go anywhere this morning like a rat in a cage trying to keep down the middle age spread (can I say that at my age?), it struck me that almost everything I do these days requires marketing. It’s not longer good enough just to do something but now you have to find a way to tell people about it too. Ok, probably, it’s always been that way to some degree but now with social media and the way the world is, it seems that the louder and more effectively you sing your own praises, the more success you enjoy.

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But is it really that simple?

On the one hand, it is. You must confidently and unflinchingly go forth and use every opportunity to tell the world about whatever it is you are doing if you want success. It doesn’t matter if this is the software business, an investment opportunity, a book, a movie or whatever. People need to know – they always did – but now, there are so many other people shouting you have to find a way to shout louder or more effectively simply to rise above the noise. The playing field has been leveled people – anyone can get visibility and everyone now has a shot at 30 seconds of fame – if you just know how to sell yourself.

On the other hand it isn’t. Shouting confidently may attract peoples attention but you won’t keep it long if you don’t deliver. It’s not JUST about marketing but about delivering too.

I have done a lot of brand work and strategic marketing with my clients and what I just wrote above really translates into the following;

1. You must have a brand – a brand is an ‘image’ if you will that can be experienced by an audience.
2. The brand must resonate with the intended audience and it should be attractive and have brand promise – it promises to deliver something the market wants.
3. Finally, people’s experience of the brand must be true to the brand promise and leave them wanting more – the experience of the brand must build brand loyalty.

It’s part 3 that a lot of people forget. Shouting and appealing to people to come and visit your blog for example, isn’t going to build a following unless you actually write on that blog and write compelling articles that reinforces your brand promise and brings people back for more.

So, we can all shout and shout loud. We can be effective at reaching a market but if we don’t deliver what we promised, it is all for naught.

Knowing all of this, I have often likened people to brands. In fact, people are complex as they actually develop multiple brands – father, brother, son, professional, drinking buddy etc. These are all brands and we promise things to our friends and family through them. But if we act differently to what we say about ourselves, people quickly see through the act and instead of building good, solid relationships, people see you as false, untrustworthy and an actor on life’s stage.

Anyway, I am trying to build a brand as an author. I am shouting and I hope I am delivering the what I shout about too. So, here is one shout – please go along to my new author Facebook page and like it – maybe even share it. Help my shout out reach a wide audience please. If you could do that for me then its up to me to do the rest and deliver what I promise….

Thanks a lot.

Painting with Words

Before me
A blank piece of paper
I paint with words
Swirling deep vowel hues
Pictures emerge
With every word I choose

It’s a thrill
To slap those words around
Messy fun with letters
Alliterations
Descriptive nouns
Verbal variations

Masterpiece
Letters joined together
Similar sounding sounds
Discordant vibes
A mixed vocal pallet used by
Artistic scribes

paints

A Childlike Reality

Children often bring a smile to our lips. Their worldview unfettered by outside influence and devoid of any political pressure often provides us with laughter and sometimes remarkably powerful but simple insights into our complex world.

I have played more than my part in terms of aiding this phenomenom having fathered four children to date and each and everyone of them has taught me something valuable or brought a smile to my face in terms of what they did or said. All kids are different too right from the very beginning. Having watched my twin boys grow up I can say that… different from the very first second of life outside the womb. Obviously, it is my youngest child that now alone has this childlike ability to point out glitches in the matrix as my three sons are now all grown and have lost their childlike innocence.

Just the day before yesterday, as we drove to the store, I was moaning about the lack of sales for my books and explaining that I would really like to have one of my books (if not all) sell in the thousands or tens of thousands and not just the hundreds. Deni told me that I should write about something different like Lions or Tigers and if not that then about my life. I explained that my life really isn’t of much interest to other people and that I doubted that book would sell. Deni’s response – “it will if you put pictures of me in it!”

child

This childlike confidence might not seem like very much but if you think about it, if thoughts have the power to create reality, then why do we not get what we want? The answer to that question is because no matter how much we try to convince ourselves that we are thinking positively and believing completely, we also know that we are not. As adults, we have been told so many times that we can’t or we shouldn’t that it has become an inbuilt mechanism to ensure our failure and the failure of the becoming reality of our thoughts. I start out all positive and confident that my thoughts are of best selling books or a vacation in Mexico. I am sure that this will happen if I just keep picturing it, believing in it and seeing it. a couple of hours later though, it starts. “Don’t be bloody daft,” says that initial passing doubting thought. To be followed by internal bickering no doubt and ultimately failure. The child though has yet to be programed for failure. The child still knows how to believe without self-doubt. The child ought to be able to really create their own reality. It’s a shame Deni can’t help me create mine.

I hear resonance of this when I think of the words by Jesus about entering heaven. He says that whoever wants to enter heaven must first convert and then become as little children. I would see heaven as the state that Humans should aspire to and conversion would be to understand this. To become as little children would restore our inner confidence and ability to believe.

To become childlike has a meaning to me that involves cutting away the baggage that has been placed upon me and being truly what I was meant to be. A similar analogy is the Fool and to be foolish. In essence being childlike and being foolish share some key characteristics in that our ego is as yet under developed and our outlook unfettered by the jaundiced views of life’s experience. To the point where, many years ago, one of my sons walked out of the bathroom and across the house past numerous assembled visitors with his trousers round his ankles to ask Dad “Can you wipe my bum please?”