Category Archives: Creative Arts

The Value of Work

Do you ever simply put real life ‘on hold’ while you think about the meaning of a word? I do it frequently. This time it was “work”.

I haven’t been going ‘to work’ for the last couple of years. You might argue that when I am writing, I am “Working At Home” and that if I ever have a book published, I’ll be paid for that work. What if I don’t? Does it stop having been work then? Obviously not, because people volunteer to do ‘voluntary work’, just as I am writing this blog post with no realistic hope of financial reward. I’m doing it because there is an idea in my head that I want to put in other people’s heads. They might like it.

I thought I wanted to write. I was surprised to discover that I wanted to think. I’ve been paid to think for years – but to think about what They told me to. It had become increasingly difficult to be interested in some of their boring, self-inflicted problems. I wanted to explore my own ideas.

Perhaps work is when you do something you hope someone else will value, even if you aren’t sure?


We broke social

I discovered something alarming yesterday: social media is losing to messaging.

There must be a drift back, from open collaboration to closed channels, from thinking in the open to “Can I have a word in my office, please?”. It isn’t healthy for anyone to be in control of The Message, or for conclusions to have been agreed before meetings begin.

Everything I have done in the last couple of years has led me towards networks, away from the control mechanisms of hierarchy. Please let us not give up now, just because being more open is harder work for dishonest people. If good team players are better, imagine what the awesome creative power of players in multiple teams with overlapping goals could achieve.

Through the Triangular Looking Glass

I still haven’t got the hang of this self-promotion, so today I’m going to tell you about something I’m bad at again. It’s triangles. I cannot, for the life of me, think in triangular grids

I already knew that. When my daughter decided she wanted to be an architect, I realised how little I knew about architecture. I added Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes to my list of obsessions (nothing ever leaves), though they are arguably “machines for living”, so are structural engineering rather than architecture. When I tried to build models of domes, I found they broke my head. I can make them with my hands but I struggle to envision even the simplest of shapes. They seem to snap back into a rectangular grid while I’m fetching the next imaginary line. My daughter can do it. I guess that’s why she’s the Architect. My son didn’t get his ability to paint from me either. It’s like children’s futures aren’t predetermined by their genetics or gender. Weird!

Yesterday, for reasons we don’t need to worry about, I discovered I can’t even do triangles in 2D. I wanted to divide a triangle into triangular pixels, as you do. Same thing. As soon as I draw a line at 60 degrees to horizontal, my brain starts to interpret it as an over-keen isometric projection (I have a Technical Drawing ‘O’ Level. See, I CAN show off!)

I’ve wondered for a while what made early man give up building out of circles and triangles and move to verticals and rectangles. Perhaps it was this, or maybe my life in rectangular grids has trapped my thinking in the 90 degree corner. “Don’t put Baby in the corner!” They put Buckminster Fuller in the corner but he was very short-sighted, so he didn’t know and he built his kindergarten house out of triangles.

Have you ever considered whether the “Wonder” in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ referred not to wonderment but to wondering? I hadn’t until yesterday.


Sub-atomic Idea Collider – too much WIP

Long-time readers of this blog may remember when I build the SIC out of recycled Internet meme-pipes and any random noise I had lying around. The basic engineering principle was that creativity happens when ideas collide, so by maximising the number of streams, then crossing them, I could get the Internet to super-charge my creative process. In no time at all I had started three different books.

Lean practice puts a maximum limit on Work-In-Progress. The less you do, the faster you will achieve, the quicker you will deliver value.

The Bad News:

  • You can either be creative or efficient.
  • You can be really competitive or really care about quality.
  • You can be decisive or know about the details.

Compromise is balance. It’s a Yin and Yang thang.

I shall probably continue to oscillate between the two, attempting to optimise cadence. I may come back to cadence when I feel I really understand what it is.

Slack(er) in the system

Someone told me recently that there is no point in ‘knowing’, as other people only value you for what you ‘do’. While I’ve been writing, the two have been intimately linked.  I’ve experimented to confirm my hypothesis that the less focused I am, the more conceptual connections I make and creative ideas I have, suggesting that in any period of time, productivity and creativity lie in opposite directions. I grow ever more certain that creative ideas are what allows humans to make our great leaps forward, so that things we thought needed to be done efficiently become irrelevant.

Society should be more tolerant of us slackers, dreamers, artists, pure researchers, collectors of tales; those who are interested in odd things to an unhealthy degree. Productivity kills innovation. Efficiency drives stifle improvement and increase entropy.

WARNING: Too much ‘management’ may be harmful.

Joining the Sets

I admit that I can, on occasion, be obsessive. That isn’t entirely true. I’m obsessive most of the time, but about a wide variety of these things, so to the casual observer I can look like a fairly rounded person. I made a list once and it gave the impression of someone who had traded his marbles for any uncollected items at a pawn-broker’s that were small, spherical and intellectually shiny.

One of my ‘Things’ is the enjoyment I take in finding connections between apparently unrelated people. Imagine therefore my unbounded joy when I discovered a historic house in a town I thought I knew quite well that I had previously been completely unaware of. I’m going to leave it as a puzzle for the reader to identify a couple who would have had as visitors the following:

Lord Byron, father of Countess Ada Lovelace and his mistress Lady Caroline Lamb, believed to be the person who coined the phrase “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” about him, on their first meeting.

Sir Walter Scott who wrote the book ‘Rob Roy’ about the man who built canoes and made the only sport I’ve ever taken seriously popular in Britain. Also the reason I know the town.

Josiah Wedgwood, Staffordshire potter and member of The Lunar Society of Birmingham, Lichfield and Walsall.

Queen Charlotte, mother of Princess Charlotte after whom I think the famous rock pub in Leicester was named, where I saw The Von Bondies for the second time in 2 days. They were also the first band I saw 10 times. Which ISN’T WEIRD!

Obviously none of this was a coincidence. I take it as new evidence that in every place and era, the interesting people with ideas find each other and find somewhere to hang out together. I bet the Kardashians know Lord Sugar. Of course, a title has always helped to make you appear more interesting. I must find out where you buy those.


It appears that quizzes are not a big hit on my blog but in case anyone is interested, the couple were: The Ladies of Lllangollen.

Their house is ‘the new place’ and it’s valley garden on the Autumn day we visited was both beautiful and Tolkienesque.

Inside the Virtual Box

After its Autumn maintenance shutdown, the Large Idea Collider is back up to operating temperature. I’ve run a few simple tests in the shower this morning (the cooling system?)

A link provided by video provocateur showed a dancer interacting with a digital grid, projected onto an invisible net box in which she performed. It reminded me of a band called ‘Mad Action’, that I saw in about 2003. They were a 2-piece who performed inside a 3-sided white box onto which were projected the shadows of 2 other virtual musicians, probably also them, who were also playing on a pre-recorded backing track. Their ‘real world shadows’ were also cast onto the sheet. The audience experience was a combination of reality and projection from a virtual world and different from those trapped inside the boxes, arguably more ‘real’.

For quite a while, I’ve been using the Internet slang IRL (In Real Life) fairly sarcastically, as a large proportion of my life seems to take part in this semi-virtual domain. Obviously, I’m not alone here, @euan regularly talks about his networked life,

As already reported, the time-shifted video of Hal Abelson’s ( 6.001 course at MIT re-enforced my belief that process (and therefore software) exists outside of our gravitational field. It is a world in which, he argues, we can do anything we can imagine. He must lack imagination but we can do ALMOST anything.

The question then, is: where is the Human Computer Interface now? Forget that question! Half of the computational machinery I use is virtual too. Where is the boundary between reality and our (almost) wildest dreams?

Here’s a woman dancing in a virtual box. Or is it the other way around?

p.s. Is this what famous mathematician Charles Dodgson was grasping for, in his philosophical book about mirrors?