Wang Wei

Returning to Songshan Mountain

Clear river belt long thin
Cart horse go idle idle
Flow water like have desire
Dusk birds another with return
Desolate town face old ferry
Set sun whole autumn hills
Far successively Song high down
Return come for now close shut The limpid river runs between the bushes,
The horse and cart are moving idly on.
The water flows as if with a mind of its own,
At dusk, the birds return to perch together.
The desolate town is faced by an ancient ferry,
The setting sun now fills the autumn hills.
And far below high Songshan’s tumbling ridges,
Returning home, I close the door for now.

The Facts Are In The Fiction

Every writer will tell you that they cannot think of plots as convoluted, outrageous and bizarre as the things that happen to people in real-life. The old comic line ‘you couldn’t make this up’ has made people roar with laughter on more than one occasion. In fact sometimes we go so far as to say that the truth is far better than the fiction especially when dealing with the powerful and the famous.

Science is not fiction, that is its one great strength over religion, but at times in seeking for evidence we may find ourselves looking for those things we consider evidence. In terms of science this is a methodology of experiment that others can understand and copy so as to verify. Though interesting it doesn’t always answer questions that a philosopher would ask such as why, for instance, do atoms and space seem to be largely emptiness?

The reason being for scientist that something like empty space (if indeed it is empty) would be the result of physical properties and chemistry rather than a pointer to anything specific. Yet, symmetry is deeply ingrained in nature as string theory supports and truth is not beyond the eye all the time.

Emptiness rules our lives, and ‘nothing’ is worth writing about.

The Wizard of ID

I have a small collection of what we lovingly call in this house ‘American funnies’, cartoons which have appears as series in the newspapers in the US. Amongst them The Wizard of Id is hilarious, populated by a medieval townsfolk lead by a corrupt king, a cowardly soldier, a fairly inept wizard, a drunk juggler and a beautiful woman everyone loves.

Amongst them the King suggests to his steward that if anyone runs off from the kingdom in future their land will be forfeit and be taken over by the crown. The steward, justifiably surprised at a reasonable measure says as much as tells the king he will draw  up the papers and have them ready to sign. The king looks at him and tells him that there is no way he would ever out his name to a measure that was as reasonable and just.

Or the army on maneuvers practicing three ways to surrender.

Or the wizard’s wife who is so ugly even the demons in his spells are afraid of her.

But the star has to go to juggler who is juggling away and the steward says that he is really quite good. The king tells him he should have seen his act half an hour earlier. When asked why the king replies, “Because he sobered up.”

Internet Privacy

There has been a lot said this past week about Google changing its privacy policy and I thought I would share with you thoughts that were taught to me ten years ago. If you go on the world wide web, there is no privacy.


Anyone who wants to find you will be able to.  Static Ips are assigned to a name and address, dynamic Ips are assigned to a range and usually a country. Many years ago a man was annoying a woman on a forum and he did not listen when moderators told him to stop. To teach him a lesson they traced him to his street within half an hour, then phoned him on his home phone and warned him they would post his address and details to everyone on the forum unless he behaved. This man was not going by his real name, nor did he have an e-mail address used for anything but the forum.

The point is not everyone is looking for you and if they do you only have one defence, to know how they work and know what they are looking for. That won’t stop them finding you but it will limit the damage.

Just remember if you have put your real name and address anywhere on the Internet you can be found, and even if you haven’t Government officials have. Census details, whois databases, voter registers…that’s you.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As king fishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.


If you find him difficult to read, listen to some native Welsh speakers speaking English and copy the lilt of their voices. Hopkins was a Welsh language speaker.

Something Survives

Was very interesting learning about the animals that are still with us on the planet that have ancestors in the fossil records that stretch back to the origins of life 3.5 thousand, million years ago. I would say billion but for the fact a billion is actually a million times a million, the Americans love to shorten everything!

The reasons this is fascinating is because there are significant changes, not just Ice Ages but the meteorite they know killed off the large dinosaurs and the flows of lava that lasted millions of years that made seas toxic yet these animals still survived: because their habitat was not drastically affected living on the margins and in the depths, because the were generalist feeders, because they were able to deal with toxins, because they were suitably armoured and able to survive horrific injury. It was also interesting that three such animals live in and around Hong Kong’s waters, which says something about how unaffected by the extinction events those seas have been.

We can add another adaptation to these which is the use of intellect which is also highly adaptable but in the realms of the unexpected large animals like us do not fair well. And the extinctions we are now responsible for will still leave these smaller animals living on waiting, one may suppose, for one of those chance episodes which leaves them once again, the only survivors.

Let’s Get Through The Day

I have heard many scientists talk about blue-skies research and how the modern world is made on the discoveries of men and women who used their imaginations. I have written a little about it on my daily thoughts. But actually the role of human imagination is far deadlier and far more extensive than we suppose.

From day dreaming to thanking the  gods of the universe for things that happen, to complaining to the wiles of those same gods when things go badly. From prayers to planning for tomorrow and working out what might happen, the human being is wholly dependent upon the imagination. The way in which we all instinctively understand that the way in which our nations are governed feels misguided but we feel powerless so we imagine greater powers visiting us and any number of hidden agendas.Even to the ways in which we extend the act of sex with each other, all of this relies upon our imaginations.

And all of it gets us through a day, charts a course for us to follow so we can live and not be too despondent about our labour and our struggle. Like a vast, self-administered drug the imagination makes us optimists in the face of decadence, cruelty and indifference which we also find inside ourselves. As if nature has fitted us with an endless excuse by letting us play make-believe.

The Self in Selflessness

There are some people who never give a thought to what they do for others because they just get on and do things, and not only for family but with a deep sense of community. It is just the way they are. I heard today new lottery winners being asked what they are going to do and it was buy this, and go on holiday there. And there seems nothing wrong with this way of thinking, it is imprinted on us from birth that this is what society is all about – get lucky and spend on yourself.

Is this really the best the capitalist system has to offer us – a series of buyers and consumers? Is a human race with thousands of individuals who want to win the lottery so they can spend the money on feeding starving children and protecting innocent victims of other humans beings, so very hard to imagine? Have we really become no more than myopic, self-serving individuals all fighting each other for goods and services?

But this is where the money society leads us because no one has room to breathe and be anything other than partially or wholly selfish because society will eat them up and spit them out. With no room to be giving how can we ever teach our children to be better than we are? Because hardly any of us would do anything else if we won the lottery.


I have often looked and seen in nature programmes what biologists think is animals playing but there is no animal who plays and seeks out entertainments as often as human beings. Partly as a result of our brains needing to learn how to ‘game’, and partly because team work is a learned skill and games help us to bond and partly, it seems, out of sheer boredom.

It is quite a strange behaviour to go to a theatre to ‘be entertained’, or to watch other people dance or otherwise show their skills at some form of movement. We gain a lot from it, we gain appreciation, understanding and a measure of time passed. But it is an interesting part of our minds that we take these forms as relaxation and blue-collar work and all we do in the work place as labour. Almost as if going to see people show their skills, taking part in games, has now an added attraction that it helps us take our minds off what we do at work – which seems an even stranger outcome to the way in which we live. Surely we should want to think about what we do for most of our lives, in times of reflection, so we can better prepare ourselves for working?

Instead we seem to work to earn the money to enjoy ourselves.

The Art of Spying

Ever since a human being had to confront another human being the practices of spying must have been around: how to size up your opponent, think ahead of time what they might do, out-think what they are actually doing. I know that most people think of spying as something Governments do against each other, and something the military employ as a strategy war, and sometime during peace. But it is actually something we all do.

Everyone running a business has to be aware of what others in their line of business are doing, to make sure they do not price themselves out of the market place. Artists are the greatest observers, as Collette once replied when asked what makes a writer, regarder, watch. And that is what spying is all about, watching. Asking the right questions to get the answers you need to write your book or thwart the attack on your positions or inhibit the flow the information to an enemy state.

If we are not watchers we miss all the cues that help us to live successful lives. If we sleep-walk through decision making, allow others to make decisions for us, consume without growing anything, we imperil ourselves and our children.

Spying is an art of survival.

Shänne Sands

Emily Brontë


On bleak Yorkshire nights,
As winter’s air soured your broken chest
Did you turn to your sisters and that brother
Who, drunk and slightly mad, still make you smile –
Did you discover through them what it was like to love?

You were not touched by any man,
You are not passion-sucked or vain
With being loved – you are only ill and coughing –
When nights came with their mists and nightmares,
When hunters rode the moors and no lover’s face
Invaded the room where you spat blood –

But you loved more than anyone –
Who more than you knew of hands and fingers,
Eyes and hair, who more than you could write
Lovers into pages taken from the vales and hills
Of Yorkshire’s wild winds and thick black rain.

You more than your sisters understood
In so a few years the heart’s most secret beating –
Virgin and bothered with high fevers
You flowed always like some great river
Through the vales and mists of passion
And by God you loved!


My sister used to moan about how marriage was just a certificate imposed upon us by a state ruled by the machinations of a defunct religion, and in fact if you love someone you will stay with them and have children with them and that is the marriage; the staying together. I actually agree with most of that though as you dig into the thoughts there are others one has to clarify such as, is having one partner natural and isn’t it possible to love more than one person in a lifetime? Obviously it is otherwise we wouldn’t have divorce.

But I am actually of the opinion that you have to have a certain mind-set for a marriage to work. It is not a mind set than all men and women have and in fact the world is a better place for the fact that about half the human race are not suited to marriage at all (if divorce statistics mean anything.)

The problem is the very state that requires marriage to enhance tax regimes, and settle habits in its population because that state tries to force people to think in the same ways, and that is always a mistake. It’s a bit like a millionaire telling you anyone can make money, palpably untrue. Just because one marriage works, or a million work, doesn’t mean all will work or particular ones are worth striving to save.

The Mad Hatter

One of the brilliant things about writers is the way many of them have tapped into the sentiments or imaginations not just of their own generation but of all generations since they were writing, and we may suppose for many generations to come. Every country can boast its favourite cartoon, its greatest villain its fondest form of heroic saga.

In the UK Charles Dickens has given us a score of remembered characters we all need to see again and again on the TV and film; readers still love Lewis Carroll and Oscar Wilde though he was probably more loved than any of his characters apart from the The Happy Prince. Hobbits are now considered to be part of England and many bears are called Winnie or Paddington.

Of course many of these characters have few dimensions and that is probably their attraction – they are the impossible but so recognizable. Conan Doyle did try to kill Holmes he got so fed up with the public’s love of the sleuth and found he had to bring him back to life. And although he tried to flesh out the character the overriding brilliance of his deductive reasoning is his attraction. Many of these creations  become part of the dictionary.

It is a tribute to readers that we can also love the occasional loser and coward.

Clothes Make Us

I have always loved the feel of new clothes, and I come from a mother who always washed clothes before allowing anyone to wear them. The interesting thing about the Adam and Eve story in the Bible is the fact they felt a sudden sense of nakedness and how they did not wish to be naked in front of each other. That does not speak of an Eden but of a very human response both to clothing and to nakedness.

I often thought when I was  young we started wearing clothes to keep warm but if we were walking around warm climates the reasons for adornments were far different. They are a sign of how we think about ourselves. A demonstration of how we want others to view us. Even in hot climates today the children run around naked but for a thread here, or a little piece of jewelry there. We knew about clothing long before we needed to keep warm in cold climates.

We knew about fabrics and how the make cheap and expensive clothes and how clothes give eminence and take it away. Most of all we knew the difference between being dressed and naked, of being in a  community and alone. The creation of clothing has been mythologized into our nature as a departure from perfection but clothes tell us everything about how we think and who we want to be.

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

I am told we are wired up in our brains to be attracted to a particular kind of look which we will find ‘beautiful’. They have done a lot of work with symmetry and facial features to try to pin down what all the elements of beauty actually are but basically sex is facilitated by beauty.

And what, I have to ask myself, is the purpose of that? Does beauty outrun the predator faster, enable people to get more food to feed their family, have a higher survival rate than any other physical features? It is absurd to suppose that a beautiful person’s instincts and abilities by virtue of beauty lead to greater survival except when you consider that the human brain is made to discern patterns, and the way it works is what determines what it considers beautiful and in history the attraction of a beautiful person for a powerful human being has indeed been, though a two-edged sword, nonetheless an advantage.

Beauty is one of those by-products of our minds and yet you would think it fundamental to our survival the way we enslave ourselves to it. I am beginning to realise that habit has far more to do with how society works than common-sense or intellect.

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