The Stultifying Inertia of “Normal”

Cambridge Dictionary

have your cake and eat it (too)

to have or do two good things at the same time that are impossible to have or do at the same time:

You can’t have your cake and eat it – if you want more local services, you can’t expect to pay less tax.


You can’t have your cake and eat it

You can’t have your cake and eat it (too) is a popular English idiomatic proverb or figure of speech. The proverb literally means “you cannot simultaneously retain your cake and eat it”. Once the cake is eaten, it is gone. It can be used to say that one cannot have two incompatible things, or that one should not try to have more than is reasonable. The proverb’s meaning is similar to the phrases “you can’t have it both ways” and “you can’t have the best of both worlds.”

For those unfamiliar with it, the proverb may sound confusing due to the ambiguity of the word ‘have’, which can mean ‘keep’ or ‘to have in one’s possession’, but which can also be used as a synonym for ‘eat’ (e.g. ‘to have breakfast’). Some find the common form of the proverb to be incorrect or illogical and instead prefer: “You can’t eat your cake and [then still] have it (too)”. Indeed, this used to be the most common form of the expression until the 1930s–1940s, when it was overtaken by the have-eat variant. Another, less common, version uses ‘keep’ instead of ‘have’.

Choosing between having or eating a cake illustrates the concept of trade-offs or opportunity cost.


I’ll make a suggestion, and this is that the bulk of humanity is afflicted, to an extent, by the above syndrome, it wants to have its cake and eat it too.

What do you think do many people want to keep “their” precious cake and eat it?

A version of this is playing out in UK politics at the moment. Old people want to keep their capital, tied up in houses, and get “free” social care. They do not want fully means tested social care provision. A million quid house could pay for a lot of social care.

It seems reasonable to some that the old and rich get subsidised by the young and poor. It is a bit of a con…

If you look at the post two previous , seventy years ago, just after a truly massive world war, the Tibetan was hoping for a brighter less materialistic future. His hopes have not materialised. We are more materialistic than ever and now there is also a vast swath of the population obsessed by the plasticity of image.

Not only must we consume we must be seen to consume and in ultra-HD.

Over the last 18 months or so I have heard many, on the TV, say that they want to get back to “normal”. Let’s get back to status quo ante. But you can’t!! You cannot step into the same river twice and whether we wish to believe it or not the world will never be the same again even if there is a post-Covid time.

Trying to be normal is trying to remain stuck inert and unmoving. It aspires to be average. What were we before the pandemic? We were complacent and ill-prepared for a pandemic. Do we want to go back to this complacency?

People do not want climate change, but they also want to keep their highly materialistic and “normal” lifestyles.  Is that not another example of wanting to have cake and eat it too?

It is normal to demand a sunshine air miles holiday. When they change the travel traffic light list the great British public complains.

Do you want to have foreign travel and no imported coronavirus mutants? Cake?

It is not fair mummy; I can’t have both the things I want!!

There is a vague hope that technology will find an answer to climate change. Humanity has ingenuity, so it might help the problem.

Climate change is caused by materialism. It is not simply the fault of big companies, nor countries. It is OUR fault for being so materialistic. Herein lies the cause and perhaps the seed of a solution.

The economic paradigm of continuous growth upon which many western economies are based is illogical. Why? Because the planet is finite. This means that it simply cannot sustain continued growth ad infinitum.

Unless we curtail our consumerism in the light of an ever-increasing population something will pop. I don’t need a crystal ball to see this, nor do you!

 It is not a case of IF rather a case of WHEN.

Do you want to have the very latest smartphone, foreign travel and no global warming?

Is this a very normal aspiration in our times?

Cake, cake, cake

Tacit Assumptions

I’ll make an assumption that people tend to assume a whole bunch of stuff which just is not accurate.

What do you think of my assumption, is it valid, is it accurate, is it presumptuous?

This morning the lady at the place where we were registering for Breton classes heard where the wife hailed from and said that one can fly direct from Brest to there. Implicit in this is a tacit assumption that she may indeed wish to not only ‘phone home as per ET but go “home” too.  Now I am assuming that she, the Breton lady, is fond or at least attached to family and that she was perhaps projecting this sense of familial devoir. Alternatively, she might just have been making conversation.

I’ll make a statement or two.

In the last year I have had only one “social” SMS message to our shared ‘phone.

In the last five months I have had two “social” email exchanges comprising one email each way.

I have had no “social” telephone conversation in the last eight months, not one single ‘phone call.

I cannot remember the last time I spoke with anyone “socially” on the telephone, it could be over five years or more.

I have had no Skype, Zoom or whatever exchange, either, during this eight months’ time frame.

I have not met anyone {other than the wife} face-to-face for “social” purposes in over a year.

I have had only one such meeting in the last 18 months.

I’ll make a tacit assumption that many of you will find this hard to believe and even imagine that I am making this up for dramatic purposes.

Do you think that I am telling the truth? Is it even possible in this day and age?

I’ll make another statement I have not spoken on the telephone or had any face-to-face meetings with any of my former colleagues for over 12 years. If they claim to have spoken to me and hence perhaps for me, they are lying.


What do you assume from all of the above?

What are your tacit assumptions?

Is Life More Than an Extended Game of Top Trumps?

There is a human tendency, based in comparison mind, where people often compare themselves to others. Some want to feel better than others at least in one dimension. Others compare themselves to others and then beat themselves up because according to the chosen metric they are worse than.

This kind of comparison is the basis of the rather inane game of top trumps, in which you are dealt a hand of cards about cars, football players or some other trivia. One then chooses a category and challenges the other players.

Using the cards below if you chose top speed then the Porsche 928 would be the top trump you would win a card from each player. If however, you chose lowest vehicular mass then VW Sirocco GTi would win.

I am not overly fond of games like this, but some people carry them over into real life. They always have to have something with which to trump another.  

Where we lived last, they used to make very fast boats. Literally over the other side of the farmyard this boat was made, and it was back there with smoke generating accoutrements the morning after the London Olympics opening ceremony. The bloke actually driving the boat is the son of our landlord and a professional boat designer and racer.

One of the guys there, at the boatyard, was fond of fast cars as well as fast boats. He had an Audi TT. I bought a Peugeot 208 GTi and he was really excited. We had a long chat and because I knew that he was a humble man, not a dickhead or braggard, we could talk about our respective toys without metaphorically getting our cocks out. The top speed of the TT was a tad higher, and he said he nearly crapped himself when he did it on the Autobahn.

This who is the best, who has the highest ratings is part of higher education assessment and just like top trumps a university can spin itself. We have the highest research assessment exercise rating, our students have the highest satisfaction levels with teaching, ours students achieve the highest median incomes etc.. A real-world version of top trumps is used to market.

People play top trumps about a whole host of things:


Well junior got two As and a B…

That is nothing Jane got two As and an A*


Henry is going to UCL

Jack is going to Imperial


My dad is an Astronaut

My dad is a Buddhist monk


My dad won the Nobel Prize

My dad can drink a pint of lager in under four seconds!!


Do you get my drift??

As a little exercise / experiment over the next week or so see how often you play top trumps and see how often people try to play top trumps with you.

Then if you are bold, the next time someone tries to play top trumps simply do not engage.

What do you think will happen?

Genetic Discrimination – A Possibility?

I have been speculating a little on the future. The future as dramatized in Logan’s Run {see a couple of posts back} seems quite contrary to what is happening in the west. We might call this the Grey Crisis and no I am not talking about aliens a.k.a. the grays. The population is ageing and as a consequence the medical bills are rising, soaring even. We can say that our generation not only foxtrotted up the planet but now we want the “youth” still in work to pay for our health and social care too! To my eyes they have every right to be pissed off with us.

We could have a schism along the lines of age.

We, the ageing, still have some power and the dystopian imagination could have some kind of old fart vampirism where we, the old farts, are plugged and plumbed into a “youth” to keep us alive in some bizarre form of pseudo-symbiosis.

This afternoon we were up at the hospital for the wife to get an X-ray. For once it was my turn to wait outside in a covid secure way. I got to watch the comings and goings. There were a lot of greys {vide infra}. We were still close to the bottom of the age range of the clientele. And when we metaphorically said au revoir, I knew we would be back there and with an increasing frequency.

If you think about it genetic discrimination is already here, it is called racism and/or anti-ginger sentiments.

That kind of discrimination does not need a PCR test. Never before in human history has humanity taken so many PCR tests. We have become quite accustomed to them. I had one. People also do DNA testing for tracking down ancestry. The child support agency in the UK does paternity testing as a matter of routine before chasing either the actual or supposed fathers for maintenance payments. Genetic medicine is here. Any close blood relative of mine has an enhanced risk of colon cancer. People with certain genes have a higher chance of breast cancer and some choose prophylactic mastectomy. Your genome contains many pointers at your putative futures.

If you are, for example, a competitive and ambitious person and you believed that your genetic make-up might offer you an advantage in a job interview then it is not beyond the bounds of belief that you might submit to the collection of your DNA. There could be a “black market” in pre-interview DNA testing. Recruitment consultants or head-hunters might scan DNA databases to find the ideal candidate. If you were appointing say a proto professor to bring in a large and continuous amount of research income, you would not want one who would croak it late forties, before her most revenue generating years.

If you were offered a, let’s say £250k job, and as a part of the recruitment process you had to submit to DNA profiling, would you go for it?

Science fiction can point at future realities…

Never before in human history has humanity taken a so many PCR tests…they could become even more common in years to come.

A conspiracy theorist might say covid was a pretext for mass DNA testing and profiling…I very much doubt this is the case.

We already have biometric passports and now vaccination passports…

What a brave new world we live in…

The 99% Rule

This rule is very helpful and in many ways.

The rules says that 99% of people think only of themselves 99% of the time.

It is of course a slight over statement, but the principle is valid and applicable. This means most people rarely ponder on what the implication(s) of their wants, actions, desires and “needs” etc. are on others. They are focussed only on what it means for them and on what is “in it” for them. It is a way of saying people tend towards selfishness and not selflessness.

Companies, businesses and organisations are not as altruistic as they might want us to think. Good PR is of course important for brand image and hence revenue. A warm heart is not needed for a fast buck.

The rule also suggests that people will miss whatever it is you might do, say or arrange, because they are self-absorbed, they can miss marvellous acts of wonder and magic happening under their very nose.

For example, when I asked that VC if he believed that he deserved the lion’s share of equity at a funding round, I was not asking him to justify his position but to discern from the tone of his response if he really was a greedy and avaricious man. His response reeked of greed and justification, so I thought “foxtrot this for a game of soldiers” and gave my shares back. It never, not for one nanosecond, occurred to him that my question was a part of a decision-making process, which led directly to my exit and indirectly to his loss of investment.

The 99% rule applied.

Another aspect of the 99% rule is that if you worry about what other people think of you, you can invoke it. 99% of people think only of themselves 99% of the time. Ergo it is unlikely that they are really thinking about you a lot, they are more concerned with their own sphincter so you can chill out and stop worrying so much.

This morning I got an email from the Times Higher saying that the Global University Rankings were out. I followed the link, but the web site was having difficulties because thousands of people were checking their position in the league table to see if they had gone up or down. The first port of call is where are we and then one has a look where the “competition” is.

It is really funny for me now that I don’t care where my previous institutions are anymore.  I have worked at / for four of the top four UK universities, if only briefly in some cases. The place I did my Ph.D. at was totally niche with the highest per capita Nobel Laureate number density anywhere in the world.

I like the word institution because it has a hint of insanity to it.

Wow, far out man!!

Today I went to the beach and put up a moveable partition.

I have just found out that there is a specialist Lasers and Optics recruitment consultancy here in France. There are some jobs going where one has to speak top notch English. I had a fleeting thought to bash off a CV. But then I thought I would, in so doing, be causing them a problem.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot do I do with a CV like that?

So, 1% of the people do think about others at least some of the time…

Do We Re-invent The Wheel?

This is prompted in part by my look into some Stoicism quotations yesterday.

If for example you were educated in the British public, or in other words private and fee paying, school system it is likely that you will have had considerable exposure to the classics, Latin, and Greek. As such because of this kind of programming you would be more open to the words of the Greek and Roman philosophers than say those originating in the Indian subcontinent or the far East.  You may even imagine that the Roman and Greek philosophers were presenting original ideas. It would not occur to you that they might, if stoic, be plagiarising Vedic or Buddhist thought. It would not occur to you that there has been a rebranding of someone else’s ideas so as to gain kudos and fame.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that those in Greece had exposure to the above ideas and Zoroastrianism as well. Yet there is a tendency to laud those who have geographic origin closer to home. The Greek philosophers were great!! What about the Persians, and dare I say it, Iranians?

I’ll posit that the basic philosophises of not being greedy, not getting angry, trying to understand that opinion is just that and that perception is that and not ultimate reality have run through history and are simply being recycled and rephrased time and again. Those unaware of their historical origins think these ideas are new, but they have been resident thought forms for millennia. It they are written down in Swedish or German or French they sound different, but the essence does not differ.

A wheel remains a wheel whatever the name.

It does not take a brilliant logician to state that greed causes unhappiness and suffering and cannot ever be truly stated. Logically greed is not a good thing, yet the planet is positively swarming with greedy and avaricious people, who therefore by definition are also illogical.

The basic wisdom even at the level of common sense is ageless, it is just recycled and repackaged down the ages. This wisdom pertains to the human condition with all its peccadilloes. The knowledge of science and engineering grows, the wisdom pertaining to the quirks of humanity does not. This is because although our knowledge and intellect are on the move our behaviour as {anti} social beings is not evolving as fast and by a long shot.

So, when someone says something along the lines of,” the best kind of revenge is not being so petty as to seek revenge” it is not radical nor modern it is just recycled and rephrased.

Wisdom is wisdom even if it is over 2000 years old!

Yes, humanity does reinvent the wheel and by this I also mean the wheel of rebirth. In not learning the lessons one remains tied to the wheel of rebirth…. a wheel is wheel whatever the language.

Being Stoic and Anaesthesia

Less than three hours ago I was unconscious and coming to in the recovery room. Since then, I have had a glass of wine and cooked lamb chops, boiled potatoes and carrots.

The ordeal of bowel preparation which required some stoicism and most of all a sense of graveyard humour, has faded into the mists of yesterday. Funny how toilet paper can feel like coarse grain sandpaper coated with scotch bonnet chillies and sulphuric acid, after a while.  I have had my cancer follow up and in a foreign language, to boot. Now we await the histology of the biopsies thus harvested. There is nothing I can do but wait.

I cannot control the outcome.

The nice people at the hospital commented that my command of French is good, which makes me think that the general level of Brit. French is shite.

When we discussed the likely outcome of today, I said that they would find a few polyps. This has been proven accurate, they found four. Which means that I have a rendezvous with the chimney sweep three years hence.

It is better from a participant experience to be fully sparko. I did miss watching it all on arse-cam and critiquing polyp type and quality, but it was much less traumatic to be unconscious. Less PTSD with induced coma, perhaps.

Tomorrow is another day and in ~ten days’ time, they will slice a potential laser induced basal cell carcinoma out of my left hand…

A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.


Are You Possessed By Your Possessions?

There are two additional questions:

Do your possessions have power over you?

What is the longest period of time that you can actually “own” anything from within the socio-political notions of ownership?

~ 120 years at a push…if you live that long.

The item which I am currently wearing on my left hand is likely to have the longest longevity of anything which I, according to human socio-political law, own. This is because it is a ring made from a non-reactive metal namely Welsh gold. My ring even has Celtic writing inside which says “cariad”. Unless it comes into contact with heat, pressure or mercury it will stay intact long after I have popped my clogs and done my bit to aid global warming with the fiery oxidation of all “my” molecules.

By flipping the question from do you possess your possessions to the title I have perhaps perceptually turned the world on its head. Many people are enslaved by their possessions. If there was a threat of loss many would be very unhappy and perhaps scared.

What would happen if you lost your house, your SUV or any other of “your” paraphernalia? Do you really own these items? Do you own “your” image and “your” kudos?

What exactly does “own” mean?

It is likely that your house will outlive you. So, when you die what happens to this notion of ownership?

People cling to their possessions and because of this, it is not unreasonable to say many are technically possessed by their imagined possessions. Whatever you cling to has power over you and something else, some other being, could use that clinging to leverage you. The metaphor of demonic possession by worldly goods is not so far from the truth for many.

This is why the “Precious” of Sméagol – Gollum is such a biting piece of satire on human obsession with power and material artefacts.

Power can possess one too. One can imagine that one is in control of one’s power. When in fact power itself has power over one. One starts to take on Gollum like thinking patterns.

“Nasty, sneaky hobitses…”

As a follow up question: which of your so-called belongings do you cling to the most?

What would happen if it/they were taken from you?