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When The Obvious Is Not The True Answer (Or - Why Life Can Sometimes Seem Like One Large Game of "Only Connnect")
8/19/2016 12:03:46 PM

There are times when you need to look under the surface before you can get to the facts.  There are also times when you need to abandon all your previous ideas and just take a totally radical approach.

A case in point is the mirror in the above photo.  It has been around for as long as I can remember.  However, the story behind it was a little stunning when I heard it.  In fact, that mirror has been mentioned in a blog post before - for that very reason.

I remember standing in what is now my back room with my Granddad when he asked me if I could tell him the object he had got for his 21st birthday.  I had a couple of guesses before I gave up.  Let's just say that a mirror which has always reminded me of a ship's portal was one of the last objects in the entire house which I would have associated with him.  He was happiest on dry land - in fact, to my knowledge, I have never seen him anywhere near a seagoing vessel of any kind.

However, you would really need to know me to know the connection between that photo and this one below.

You could say that there is a kind of watery connection between them.  You could also say that there is a kind of family connection.  You would be correct on both counts.

The watery connection being the North Sea.  The closest family connection actually being my Dad.  Well, he did marry the daughter of the person who made it.  (Yes - I had to get my Oma into my house in some way.)

However, the kinds of connections I am really interested in reading, learning, and writing about are the ones which seem to escape all known logic.

Here is a question for you - what connects the following;

Lemon juice


194 years


Royal Navy

British Board of Trade

(I got this little fact from "Black Box Thinking" by Matthew Syed).

Would you believe that three teaspoons of Lemon juice per day were prescribed to sailors on one particular ship sailing to India in 1601 - and were found to prevent scurvy on that ship (one of four sailing to India at that point)?

That isn't the worst part though.  It took 194 years for the Royal Navy to get round to ensuring that all sailors on their boats were given the anti-scurvy treatment.

If those two weren't bad enough - the next fact will probably horrify you.

It was only in 1865 that the British Board of Trade got round to ensuring all Merchant ships used the anti-scurvy treatment on their sailors.

(Just imagine the uproar if modern "cures" for things like cancer took that long to come into the Healthcare system nowadays.  There would be petitions and questions in both Parliament and the Mainstream Media.)

We can be thankful that there are people who "solve" as yet unknown problems with a mixture of "sideways thinking", frustration, and perseverance.  Take - James Dyson and his bagless vacuum cleaner for example.  We can also be very thankful that inventions and discoveries of new ideas don't take 264 years to come to our notice these days.

When I was little I used to love those "Join the Dots" puzzles - I still love things like wordsearches and arrowword puzzles (as well as those frustrating puzzles where you get a list of words and a grid to fit them into).

If you have spent any extended amount of time in my company you will probably have found that I can confuse people very easily at times.

The worst thing - though - is when people just think they know what they are looking at when they see me - only to be totally flummoxed when I either say or do something which they do not expect.

The worst example of that was when I attended a job interview.  I was asked a question which I answered very honestly.  The question was regarding the last film I had seen - I told the interviewer that I had problems with going to the cinema due to the fact I am Registered Partially Sighted.  I could have said or done something rather drastic when the interviewer said "you don't look Partially Sighted".

Please accept my humble apologies for attempting to live in the same way as everybody else and not wandering around with a White Stick.  I know people who use a White Stick - I also know there are people who do not dare to use White Sticks in certain areas because they know that doing so raises their risks of being attacked.

Look beyond the surface to find the real facts - and do not be afraid to ask if you do not understand.

Things I Wish I Had Learned At School (Or - The Really Important Life Lessons Nobody Dares To Teach You)
8/19/2016 11:03:03 AM

I don't usually like mixing my blogs but I thought I would make an exception this time because I got such a good reception for this post when I put it on the simplesolutionsconsultancy.wordpress.com/ website.

I suppose this is going to be a "Back To School" blog post with a twist.  (The inspiration for this blog post came from a book I really recommend reading called "Black Box Thinking" by Matthew Syed.  The book explores different ways of thinking about things - and it uses interesting, and sometimes horrifying, real life stories as a starting point.)

The first thing I wish I had been taught at school was - it is OK to be yourself.  You don't have to compete with everyone else.  We all have different talents.

The second thing is - before you can expect others to accept you you have to learn to be comfortable spending time with the one person who can turn into your best friend for life - yourself.  School forces us to interact with people who may decide to make life extremely difficult for us.  If you can actually spend time with your own thoughts in silence you will learn to become comfortable in your own skin.  This will end up being more useful than you think.

The third thing is - failure is a learning opportunity.  I couldn't care less about the difference between "fixed mindset" and "growth mindset".  There is always an opportunity to learn from your mistakes.  Not only that but things you find difficult at first may just have a special key that - when you find it - will make it simple for you and only you.

The fourth thing is - Don't be so busy trying to achieve the impossible that you don't take time to see your previous achievements.  This may sound crazy but I only realised exactly how good I am at acting almost exactly like a "normal sighted" person when I was in earshot of a Consultant who turned round to my Mum (after testing my sight to see if I was actually eligible for extra help at Secondary school) and said "Get her out of here - she is wasting my time".  Until that point I had been convinced I would never be like my friends.

The final thing is - qualifications are not as important as everyone wants us to believe.  It is the personal experiences as well as the things like empathy, being non-judgemental, caring, honest, reliable, etc, which will be the most useful to you.

Blessed Are The Creatives For They Can Tell Us What's Going On! (Or - Why Words And Pictures Are Sometimes Better Than Numbers And Scientific Theories)
8/12/2016 1:16:14 PM
I could have given this a subtitle nicked from my favourite Bee Gees song - "It's Only Words And Words Are All I Have".

There are times when I wonder exactly what the "Powers That Be" are thinking of when it comes to this idea of "Social Mobility" and how we as a society are supposed to (a) achieve it, or (b) enable more people to make full use of it.

There is another strand to the debate about "Social Mobility" which everybody appears to have completely forgotten about.  Not everybody can become the world's greatest Scientists or Academics and - if you ask me - we have got too many people who are over-qualified for most jobs (PhD in Plumbing anyone???) and nowhere near enough people who have been streamed into the "Vocational" careers ( I don't mean becoming Nuns or Priests either).

As someone who has never been what you might call academically inclined I prefer my knowledge (in whatever format you choose to present it to me) to be as easily accessible as possible.

This is where the Creative Arts come in very useful.  Yes - those subjects which (apart from English) seem to be in danger of being squeezed out of the curriculum because they are not seen as being remotely useful.  Or rather - they are not seen as being anywhere near as useful as subjects like the Sciences, IT, Maths, etc.

I wish we could all just take a step back and see exactly how the "Creative Arts" actually inform every other subject known to Humankind.  Maybe then we would be able to elevate them to the correct level (which - to me - is at least the same level as the "Academic Subjects").

I remember watching a TV programme about John Craven when "Newsround" was mentioned.  For those of you who may not know what "Newsround" is (or was) - it is a TV news programme for children which was started off (and originally presented) by John Craven.

What I hadn't realised prior to watching that programme was that the style of presenting the news and reporting on it is different depending on whether your viewers are adults or children.

The quote which sticks in my mind from the programme about John Craven was from Martin Bell.  During the Falklands War the BBC reporters were shared between the "adult" news programmes and "Newsround".  Mr Bell said that he ended up being thankful that he reported for both "Newsround" and the "Adult" news programmes.  This was because when he reported for "Newsround" he had to make his reports as easy for children to understand as possible.  This helped him to make the reports he did for the "Adult" news programmes easy to understand as well.

What a pity we are usually served up important news items in one of two ways.  Either they are simplified almost beyond the point of useful comprehension or - they are made to seem so complicated that the particular reporter charged with enabling us to understand might as well interpret the facts using the medium of expressive dance (the chances are we would still be none the wiser but at least we would be marginally more entertained instead of having to sit through reports which are extremely boring).

However, I digress slightly.

As you will probably know by now - I love language.  Not just the English language either.  It doesn't matter whether or not I can actually understand or speak the language I am hearing or reading - I just find the patterns of letters and sounds fascinating.

There are other forms of language as well.  As I am typing this blog post there is a man sitting in the next chair but one to me who can "speak" photography.  As in - he can take photographs which tell their own stories without using a single word.  (According to me - if you need to have text with a photograph which tells you what you are supposed to see in it the photographer should be shot.)  Even photographs which are out of focus (and make you really need to think about what you are looking at) are a lesson in seeing things from a different perspective or viewpoint.  Or they could just be a lesson in what I can see without my glasses on - especially if they are blurred beyond recognition.

My second favourite medium of aural communication can seem extremely complicated to the uninitiated.  A good piece of music can transport you to a different place, mood, or time, as you listen to it.  The best music doesn't even need lyrics except as an additional "garnish" to complete it.

As I said near the beginning of this post - we need to be very careful otherwise we will end up sidelining a large group of people who will never amount to much academically but who still have a very big role to play in helping us to understand the world around us.

I may not have had a very good result in maths - mainly because the most dangerous instrument to put in my hands is a protractor (I cannot compute angles for love nor money even with one of those flipping things).

However, I do have one question which I have never found a satisfactory answer to.

Who decided that one plus one is two yet one and one is eleven???

Yes - I am proud to classify myself as a "sideways thinker".

I am just fatigued and nauseated by the idea that society appears to consider me to be less "effective" because I am not "out of the box" when it comes to my way of interpreting the world.

Education Versus Brainwashing (Or - Be Very Careful Who You Believe)
8/5/2016 8:39:36 AM
Earlier this week I had a rather interesting conversation with someone.  One of the topics was how the other person switched between their day job and the reason for us sharing airspace at that moment.  The fact that the two things - as far as I could see - were not all that different was apparently beside the point.

You see - they both involved a mix of theoretical knowledge and two kinds of practical experience.

Allow me to attempt to explain what I mean by that.

The theoretical knowledge part is easy to explain.  It is what we learn every time we attempt to do something new.  This can either be the stuff you learned in an official "Educational Establishment" or from reading the manual on your latest and newest gadget.

The two different sorts of Practical Experience are a bit more complicated.

The first sort is where you begin to put into practice what you have learned in your "theoretical knowledge" sessions.  It could be a case of finding a native speaker of Chinese and attempting to speak to them in their own language when you have just done a GCSE course in it).  Or driving on a motorway.  Or using your new gadget for the first time.

The other sort of Practical Experience is the one I am most interested in.

This is the one where you either don't have the theoretical knowledge to start with - or you find yourself having to bend the theory to the conditions and circumstances you currently find yourself in.  Then finding out that the theory and your current circumstances do not match - and probably never will.

A good example of this would be when my Dad drives in The Netherlands.  He passed his driving test in England - his automatic reactions tell him to drive on the left, oh and his brain is hardwired for English road rules.

My Dad has considerable experience of driving in The Netherlands.  However, it still takes him some time to adjust and "flick the switch" as it were when he puts his front wheels on Dutch tarmac.  Let's just say that driving on the left in The Netherlands is not exactly the smartest idea in the world.  Although - one of my favourite memories of him driving in The Netherlands was when one Dutch driver had taken one look at the English numberplate of our car at one point and decided that Dad would be the typical English courteous driver (and let the Dutch car off the small ferry we were on first).  I can still picture the look on the Dutch driver's face as we zoomed past them.

What happens when you find yourself in a situation where you do not have the benefit of theoretical knowledge before you gain practical experience???

This can be the most dangerous situation of all.  The gap where the theory should be is either a total vacuum waiting to be filled with inaccurate "knowledge" or it becomes filled with what you find yourself having to learn through practical experience alone.  This means that the "recieved wisdom" theory doesn't get any room.

This also means that it can become extremely difficult to translate your practical experience into theoretical knowledge that other people would be able to understand.

For example - hand me a camera, hand an amateur photographer a camera, and hand a qualified professional photographer a camera.  Then stand all three of us in the same place at the same time and tell us to photograph the same view.  The chances are you will not only get three different photographs but you will also get three different explanations of how and why we took them.

The two photographers who have some theoretical knowledge will probably be able to bore you about the composition they used, the lighting, the choice of film or digital, the shutter speed they used, etc.

Me???  Well - my monologue on the photograph I took will not include any of the above.  My monologue will probably include why I took it in the first place.  I have three main reasons - I liked the view I saw with my own eyes and I wanted to capture it and show other humans, I had a problem with seeing the view with my own eyes and I wished to make it easier to see, or I saw something the other two wouldn't understand and I wished to show them.

In plain English - I sometimes use my camera as an extention of my eyeballs.  If I have difficulty reading things (and I am in a place where I am allowed to operate a camera) the zoom function suddenly has a very practical function indeed.  (The other two photographers would probably tell you that the zoom function on a camera is the spawn of Satan.)

There is also another danger concerning the battle between practical and theoretical.  It is called the Mainstream Media.

These beings all have some kind of agenda to push regarding life and how we should all live it.

We have all read and seen reports about such things as Disability equalling "Benefit Scrounging", Immigration equalling "stealing jobs from the native unemployed" (or even Immigration equalling "Everybody who comes into our country is a Terrorist", or worse "Everybody who comes into our country wants to live by their own rules and not mix"), and an Armed Police Officer going into a supermarket to buy their lunch equalling "Imminent Armageddon via indiscriminate firing leading to genocidal-scale mass murder".

Those of us with practical experience which proves how wrong all three of the above statements are find ourselves being drowned out.  For example, I have only claimed what I was entitled to (and I did that reluctantly), if you have ever had the pleasure of meeting my Mum you will know she fully submersed herself in English life and played by the same rules as everybody else, oh and I have been up close and personal with an Armed Police Officer on my own and survived the experience without injury.  I also follow a few Armed Police Officers on Twitter.  They are almost friendlier than the non-armed Officers in some cases.

I could ramble on about how my practical experiences of the world around me do not match up to the theoretical knowledge presented by the "Mainstream Media" until I am blue in the face.  I could also round up a few of my friendly "Human Library Books" and get them to tell you their side of the story.  However, until there is a major culture shift - resulting in a Society where everybody's practical experiences of the world as we know it are treated as being equally valid to the received wisdom theory of how the world works - I honestly cannot see a way forward to a more just society.

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