Category Archives: annoyances

On washing machines…

It is a beautiful sunny day here in Luxembourg. I’m sitting here with a cup of tea, listening to the dulcet tones of Air via my computer and the somewhat less sweeter tones of the washing machine.

I love the washing machine. I love it like I love my bed, my sofa and the three sets of bookshelves that arrived yesterday. But I especially love the washing machine.

Mostly I love it because I own it, but also, because it works properly.

It works properly, because it’s pretty much brand new. I bought it two months ago. I own it.

I don’t want to go on at length about it but I have never actually owned a washing machine before. I have had washing machines in my rented houses in Dublin. Some of them have been good, some of them have been bad, one or two of them have been downright awful and not much newer than a 1950s roller washer thing.

This one was bought in the sale, with about 25% knocked off. It was a brand I recognised (generally good), and more importantly, it is a doddle to use. I think it’s got a timer on it but that doesn’t really bother me because otherwise, I put stuff into it, I press the button, and it then tells me how long the wash is going to take. It even has a 15 minute wash for those quick needs.

I haven’t tried that yet.

The thing is, when I pointed out to people that in Luxembourg, it was going to be a tall order to get an apartment (it is) and what’s more, I’d need to furnish it, I was greeted with horror. Wasn’t that going to cost money? Well yes. But you know what. I own the washing machine and it works and I have the instruction book.

I once lived in a house with a washing machine that was so old, the instruction manual was not on the internet. In this day and age, that’s fairly Jurassic.

I don’t mind the whole furnishing thing. Here’s why. I chose the mattress. It’s comfortable and I can sleep on it. I chose the washing machine. It washes my clothes properly and quickly. I wonder sometimes if Irish people would not be better off learning to deal with unfurnished accommodation and getting more autonomy over their furniture. I mean, I’ve been in some houses with fairly desperate furniture options and requests to remove it have been met with flat refusals. Take or leave the house.

In the meantime, the light coloured wash currently decorating the soundscape of my Sunday afternoon will be done in 30 minutes. It’s wonderful.

Saturdays on the buses

Since I have moved to Luxembourg, every Saturday, the city bus service has been free. As in gratis. As in not charged for. I have not yet worked out whether this is a regular thing, or whether it was just for Christmas and the sales

Anyway.

Even if it is not, they have an interesting pricing set up around here. A short term ticket will cost you 2E and a long term ticket will cost you 4E. And they are valid across the entire Luxembourg public network. Buses and trains. The difference is the 2E ticket is valid for 2 hours. The other ticket is valid until 4am tomorrow morning.

A monthly card for the city of Luxembourg will cost you 25E unless you are with a really big employer in which case you may get it free. A monthly card for the entirety of Luxembourg will set you back 50E. You can by annual versions of these passes which I think charge 9 months rather than 12.

The population of Luxembourg is about 550,000. The population of the city is around 100,000. It has 31 local bus routes and another twenty or so of the national network can pick up and drop off within the city area.

What am I driving at here? Why should it matter? Well one of the news stories from Ireland which penetrated my consciousness lately is the Bus Eireann issue. I happened to get a number 51 bus from Cork to Charleville at Christmas. It was packed. The line was on the list of lines threatened with closure lately.

I lived in Dublin for 17 years and to be honest, one of the things which increasingly drove me up the wall was trying to navigate the city. It was expensive, journey times were wildly unpredictable; enthusiasts seemed to think all I needed to know was what time a bus might arrive to me. I wanted and needed to know what time my bus would get to where I was going.

Paris has lately had a few days on which public transport has been free, mainly to try and get people to leave their cars at home and try and keep pollution levels down.

Luxembourg is not a big city. The country is not without its moments of “seriously, you are kidding me. People smoke that much?”. But it seems to me they have an objective of enabling people to move around by public transport. To that end, the buses are seriously prioritised over cars, they are comprehensive, they are regular and generally reliable. They have a pricing system which feeds into enabling people to travel by bus and making it economic for them to do so. I spent 25E a week on bus fares in Dublin and it completely wrecked my head.

In contrast, it seems to me like Ireland isn’t. Public transport is underfunded. There isn’t a coherent supply side structure and i terms of interoperation of fares, it took years and it still isn’t there perfectly. In Dublin, at least, there tend to be ongoing turf battles between bus operators demanding access to the Dublin Bus route network. The building of the tramlines has tended to feature considerations of Yerrah we don’t really need undergrounds anyway. Metro North is still lost in transit. And now this Bus Eireann saga. If I had to make any conclusion from all this, the State, or its government are not interested in the environmental ramifications of getting private cars off the road, not interested in making the lives of people living in the bigger cities better. Owen Keegan is pouring his efforts in Dublin into bike lanes, probably because he doesn’t get to make the decisions about public transport. Sure the Luas will carry 13 million passengers but the re-routes of buses to allow for bike lanes around Trinity College will discommode a similar number of bus users who re already held up trying to get across O’Connell Bridge most days.

At no point is someone going to decide “okay, buses on Saturday will be free because long term it is better that we…”

At this point someone is going to point out that Luxembourg is smaller than…and I know. It’s smaller than County Cork. But

Last time I got a bus in Cork, that Number 51 I mentioned up above, it cost me 12E one way. A similar journey in Luxembourg would have cost me 2E. IF someone, anyone, had vision in Ireland, they would look at applying the Luxembourg model on a county level. Maybe start funding public transport more effectively. That there is the problem. We do as little as we can get away. I know there is only so much money in the pot but seriously, Luxembourg is smaller in population than Ireland is. Maybe a regional model in transport might help. Give Dublin City Council some control over public transport Take regional bus services away from central government. Have a vision for making life easier to organise around public transport and allow our cities to breathe better. Stop  using sticks and start using carrots.

Cannot see it happening.

Impossible to commute by car in Dublin

This doesn’t really affect me all that much any more since I left Dublin a month ago but the Independent had some words from Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan, on the subject of life after Luas Cross City goes into operation. Effectively, it will become impossible to commute by car across the city. This, he says, will be an effective congestion charge. You can read the piece here.

“Increasingly, the private car as a commuting option is going to be squeezed out.

The problem – as I see it – is that the replacement is hardly going to exist for a lot of people who commute by car. I commuted by car and looking at the plans for Dublin traffic post LCC, I’d still have to commute by car as LCC would not have helped me at all, but the planned re-routes would have made my life hell.

I’m aware that Owen Keegan is an advocate for cycling. I hate the activity. I’d prefer a functional public transport system and with all due respect, LCC isn’t going to turn the mess that is Dublin public transport into something usable any time soon. I recognise his hands are slightly tied given that central government gets to decide whether money would be spent on Metro North or not (well not any time soon anyway).

I hated driving in the city of Dublin for a few reasons. The drivers there are unfamiliar with how traffic lights and junction boxes operate. Cyclists have death wishes. People park in buslanes which causes some hassle to buses yes, and the knock on is chaos in the general traffic lanes. I think people like Owen Keegan need to realise that running a double buslane across College Green isn’t going to get the city moving any faster. Reroutiong the 16 bus down the keys is a material disimprovement to a major service. I spent sometime reviewing the College Green plans and came to the conclusion that there was an unspoken policy to favour bikes over absolutely everything else. You could see it in the documentation. Cyclists featured heavily as benefiting from the proposed changes.

When I see Owen Keegan suggest the private car will be squeezed out, I am disappointed. Buslane infrastructure in Dublin is awful. College Green and Dame Street changes, plus the changes knocking on elsewhere (Parliament Street for example), will not improve commuting for many people. Luas Cross City is not going to have a massive city wide impact. In a normal world, I’d prefer to see less sticking plaster, cosmetic things done. I’d prefer to see wider bus lanes and, if we’re not going to get serious rail based public transport in Dublin – which I doubt for the next 20 years t least, serious prioritisation given to bus operations in the city.

This requires cooperation between Dublin City Council, Transport for Ireland and the bus operators where the core objective is to put bus passengers front and centre of change. I can’t see it happening because mostly, these result in turf wars. You can see it already with ticketing. I live in Luxembourg city where 31 bus routes are operated by at least 4 different operators, there isn’t even a single brand identity for the bus service and individual routes can be operated by 2-3 different operators; there is a single ticketing system. A monthly city card costs 25E. A national transport card costs 50E per month. And as far as traffic planning is concerned, the buses are prioritised over everything else. Plus they are building a tram.

Owen Keegan can’t fix Dublin public transport on his own. I appreciate this. But he will have to stop pushing bikes and castigating cars and start dealing with public transport if he and anyone who holds the job in the future want to be doign anything other than applying sticking plasters to their mass transit issues. Owen Keegan is not in favour of an elected mayor for Dublin. You could argue that well he would say that, wouldn’t he. I’m not in favour either because I don’t think the non-urban parts of Dublin would be benefited by it.

But if Owen Keegan and his team don’t start dealing with the mass side of transit, all the bike lanes in the world won’t fix his problems.

Youtube videos, making house moving easy

Youtube hasn’t yet learned that my favourite video at the moment is this one on how to assemble a Jattene box from IKEA. It has truly brought light to my life in the past few days in a way that nothing else has managed. The video is in German, but if you are ever severely under pressure, and urgently needing to assemble one of these boxes, he’s the only man.

I own twelve of these boxes and have a deep desire to have them full of stuff for Declan, the man with the van, to take away in two days’ time.¬† I’ll be glad when it is all done. I’ll be hugely relieved when it is all done.

Meanwhile, the car continues to challenge. It is an inanimate object, but the last month or so have pretty much been along the lines of “how most can I spite this owner of mine and make her life as full of hassle as possible.”

Don’t trust cars. They know when you are planning to break up with them.

The shredder is picking and choosing when it cares to work.

Impressively, I have a pile of dictionaries – which I love – in my living room, stacked and waiting for boxes. The pile is about a metre high and it includes several English dictionaries, a couple of thesaurii, a French dictionary, 2 German dictionaries, the dual Finnish English Finnish set, Slang and Untranslatables. I’m carting things downstairs at the moment because the shredder is being finicky and I’m getting through not very much shredding before it dances a fandango and demands a rest.

The car is sick. Expensively difficult to find the problem but can’t drive it sick. I’m very disappointed in it. I’ve had it 10 years and now it has neurological problems. I really only needed a week out of it and it could hardly have chosen a worst week to oh, spew a mad lot of steam out from under the bonnet. It’s scary, you know, when you are stuck in traffic watching your car behave like a kettle on which you forgot to put the top.

Next to the pile of dictionaries is what I think is my compete data viz and data presentation collection. At least, the hard copy version of it. The art stuff. TBH, I was surprised by how little of that. I know the How To Draw Dragons book is in Charleville, and, the four “How to Give Up Drawing Dragons Immediately because Elian Black Mor is so much better than me at Drawing Dragons” are there too. Surprisingly. I have not yet accumulated/unwisely spent as much money on How To Be A Better artist books as I did on “Look, I suck at being a photographer, Michael Freeman will make it better”.

I have beautiful photography books though, two classics in particular; a collection of Robert Doisneau and an Ansel Adams portfolio. Bearing in mind I spent most of my time photographing kitesurfers it might be surprising to know that they were my two favourite photographers.

At this point. the shredder has just visted another heart attack on me by springing into life. Most kind of it. Now I have to go and shred more of this pile of papers. It’s like it’s been snowing in the dining room. The hoover is just going to LOVE me.

Moving house is fun.

Movement motivation

In the way that you do, at 5.30 in the morning, I found myself looking at running pins on Pinterest this morning. I’m reasonably sure that I did not find what I was looking for but that’s life on the internet. What I did find were a lot of motivational quotes. They varied in quality. The one that sort of stood out this morning was this one:

No matter how slow you’re going, you’re still lapping people on the couch.

Or words to that effect. Anyway, it was nice and snappy and had an image, so I drew two people, one on a couch, and one running. I’m not very good at humans but we’ll leave that aside for the moment. The point is, while I was planning out the drawing, it occurred to me that this was a fierce judgmental way to go about things. And a lot of the motivational quotes were of a similar vein. If you go running, you will be better than other people. There were a few where they went with “the old you” being the other people you were better than but I’m not sure that’s any better.

I’m not getting anything near enough exercise at the moment. This I know to be true. But I do know from when I used to, that starting off is hard work, and then it gets enjoyable. I didn’t really see this anywhere in the motivational stuff for running.

And there’s lots of it. Run to beat yourself. Run to beat others. Run to be healthy. Run to reduce the risk of [some illness].

All good laudable things. But the most effective way to get yourself to do something is to enjoy it and very little around running involves the words “at some point it will get more enjoyable”. It must do but when the motivational quotes include “It won’t get easier; you’ll get stronger” well that’s really not motivating.

It’s the same with swimming. You see articles like “Why do we swim? It’s really hard. Why do we overcome this?”

Well personally, it’s because I enjoyed it. I actively like swimming and even though it’s rough going when you’re not fit and it’s been a couple of years, even the individual lengths are enjoyable despite not being fit enough to chain very many of them together. It’s that little spark that keeps you going.

I was browsing magazines in Easons a few weeks ago while waiting to get a train south, and picked up something that focused on trail running. I’m more interested in that than anything else. In it there was an article that pretty much hit the problem from how I could see it. No one talks about running because it’s fun. It’s not fun. If you haven’t run for years, it’s not fun. And if the big selling point is “you will a) get used to it and b) feel sanctimonious in some way”…

I can’t believe that this is all there is. If someone asked me, I’d say “look, swimming is hard to start off. No word of a lie. But, you know what, if you’re making it too hard for yourself, you’re not doing it right. What matters isn’t so much how far or how fast you swim, but how often you do. Just keep on going to the pool. Do one length, do 4, go up, go down. Just keep on going.” Three months later, I was doing 64 lengths.

Meanwhile, running motivations are “start thinking about the treat, like a massage, or a smoothie or a….whatever”. You need to be bribed to do this? Every single time?

And running gear. Art is a bit like this. “Oh you don’t need much. Just a pair of shoes and somewhere to run”. Sounds incredibly easy, doesn’t. Fantastic. Dead fecking easy.

And then there’s this kind of fabric top, shorter shorts, longer things, stuff to keep you warm, stuff to keep you cool. I read one piece on habit forming this morning that said “lay out your running gear the night before cos if you have to rummage for stuff, you will put it off.” Strictly speaking, this is true. I have two swimming bags so that there is always one ready to go and one drying if I am swimming daily. I need a new swimsuit but we’ll deal with that later. She then proceeded to list an amount of gear for running that was a bit kind of long to say the least.

It’s not very helpful in my opinion.

So, this long essay on motivation. What is it going to do for me? Well sometime ago I figured that I needed to start building time into my life to get more exercise. I’m going to be honest and say that while other people manage this, I struggle in Dublin. My efforts to find 2 hours a day to go swimming (time to get there, change, shower before and after and all that) have been seriously kiboshed by the fact that Dublin sucks as a city to try and move around in. Whether you’re driving or bussing, you’re losing a lot of time. I started walking early in the morning and while that has benefits in that there’s a marked lack of traffic and it’s reasonably quite and I did it on occasion even if it was raining, the truth is it was also concrete jungle.

But I want to trail run and to at least be able to run trails when I can find them, I need to be fitter than I am now. I need to walk more and I need to run more. And I have figured, having looked at what the running world has to offer me, that the best way to approach it is the same way as I approached swimming. Always do it. Never trash yourself for doing worse this time than you did the last time. You only ran 400m this time when you ran 600m the last time? Treat your body like it’s your partner, not your enemy. It’s a journey, not a war.

As an added bonus, I’m leaving Dublin and I expect the change of scenery; the novelty of nice European buildings will make it a more entertaining activity.

 

Notebooks and sketchbooks (again)

I’m just back from my holidays during which time I visited three countries, two capital cities and an ancient Roman ruin.

I’ve realised that the internet, and the always on internet at that has changed how I pass my free time. So while I was away, I did not get much written in my journal which goes everywhere with me, and as for the painting, well despite the fact that I packed 24 water colours, the fact is I spent most of my time doing my marker journal instead.

At least I did that.

When I got home yesterday, I made a start on the travel journal and during the course of a conversation – online – with a friend, I realised that I did not actually know how many active sketchbooks I had at the moment. When I say “active” mean “not finished, and currently being used for some purpose or other”.

Back in the day before I started drawing, painting, using markers, I used to carry around my journal. That was it, Mostly it was an A5+ Clairefontaine or, since I settled in Ireland, as likely to be a Paperblanks journal. I also used to have a total of 4 good ballpoint pens and about the same number of fountain pens. They’ve all been engaging in serious orgies in the last few years so I think i have about 8 amazing ballpoint pens (used to be classified good), as many again good ballpoint pens (less expensive Caran D’Ache pens in other words), at least 14 Lamy fountain pens, two Caran D’Ache fountain pens, and a bunch of good Faber Castell ballpoints with matching mechanical pencils plus loads of other mechanical pencils, mainly Kuru Togos or Pentel Graphgears. I think there are a bunch of Caran D’Ache mech pencils of various flavours too. I’d like a Rotring or five but being honest, I can’t manage what I have at the moment. Usually I call this having a stationery problem. Today I’m inclined to think part of it is a living in Ireland problem. Anyway.

Back with the whole travel journal thing leading to musings about sketchbooks, I have the following in operation that I know of:

  • Stillman and Bern was supposed to be a general sketchbook but somehow isn’t. Should take watercolours and markers but doesn’t
  • Rhodiarama webnotebook, handbag, basically the “so I always have a sketchbook” sketchbook. I drawn into it with a fineliner (currently a Pigma Micron and we will talk about fineliners later)
  • Rhodiarama webnotebook, homeless, markernotepad and “mixed media” where mixed media includes “stamps I like”. Somehow travel stuff sneaks in here too because of the whole stamps things.
  • Moleskine WC Travel journal: this is supposedly my travel journal but I somehow tend to draw into it from photos on my phone after I get home.
  • Moleskine WC TravelMemory journal for those trips I did before I started drawing and painting
  • A3 cartridge: bought to do detailed architectural drawings and detailed pencil drawings. Currently there is a bit of a lighthouse in there.
  • A4 cartridge: bought to learn in
  • A4 Hahnemuhler sketchbook: houses last year’s Inktober, was an attempt to find a nice journal that handled watercolours. It’s not bad with water colours per se, it’s just not excellent either.
  • Square Hahnemuhler: visual diary for personal stuff. Not sure where it is
  • uhem
  • A5 cartridge: bought to learn in. Mainly pencil stuff
  • Provence journal: this is a Fabiano Venezia, bought to depict my imaginary life, the one I’d have if life was fair, in other words, as opposed to the one where Paris Hilton is fabulously wealthy and I have to work.
  • Craftpaper journal: this is the beige coloured paper journal
  • Moleskine black sketch pretend A5: this is the black paper journal.

That’s a useful census to have done; it’s almost certain I have forgotten.

One of the big, big problems with all this is that I now have sketchbooks everywhere because apart from the one which lives in my handbag, these things broadly have no permanent place. I don’t have adequate shelving or storage of any other class for these things, and not for the art stuff. The art stuff arrived very late into my life, at a time when I had developed certain habits and choices. It isn’t yet fitting in very well.

While I was on holiday, another set of notebooks arrived, a set I had backed on Kickstarter (I don’t usually do this but) and while it is exactly what I ordered, the truth is I backed it months ago and now, my life is still kind of not fitting it. I like the idea but I still need shelf space. The list above doesn’t include all the new pads I haven’t used yet, or the blocks which I use for “good” paintings, the ones which I haven’t found a way of displaying either.

I’ve spent some time looking online for how other people solve this problem and to be frank, it seems to me that they don’t. I see pictures of piles of sketchbooks, and piles of markers, and piles of paintboxes. I never had a reputation of being particularly tidy but I am organised (yes, that sounds contradictory) and while things might not have looked tidy, they were orderly in the way of “things had a place and that place was where they were kept”. As a result, despite apparently being untidy, I almost never, ever lost everything and I made a good fist of keeping things together that logically belonged together. I’m utterly failing to do this in rented accommodation in Dublin.

Mainly because I didn’t get much choice about the furniture here tbh.

So if I were going to say anything, I probably have a sketchbook problem. One of my friends told me the other day he likes how I organise the drawings across different sketchbooks. I like that he likes that because in a very serious respect, that’s how I like organising stuff. It’s just that on the actual physical side of many sketchbooks I feel hunted, seriously hunted. The sketchbooks are generally scattered across four locations and I tend to have to go moving stuff around the place to ensure all the art stuff I need is in the same place as I want to go painting, drawing or whatevering.

 

Coloured pencils and black paper

Learning with the coloured pencils. #bubbles #planets #pablo #carandache

A photo posted by Me (@wnbpaints) on

I have quite a lot of art gear lying around the house (so much for the idea that it would take up less space in my life than camera gear did), and amongst it are coloured pencils by Caran d’Ache, from the Pablo series. For a long time, Pablo was their top of the range dry colour pencil (as opposed to their water colour ranges) until the eye wateringly expensive Luminance pencils came out. I have about 4 of those but they aren’t quite doing it for me yet. I like the Pablo pencils for stuff like the above.

Anyway, I had previously gotten some metallic Derwent pencils which weren’t really doing it for me so I passed them on to my small niece, but kept the black paper which came with them for “experiments” of which this was one of the first. I think it was inspired by something I saw somewhere or other on either instagram or pinterest and it was a huge experiment. I don’t think it turned out badly and I have a couple of friends who did double takes before realising it was drawing. I liked this drawing on black paper lark so I went and bought one of the Moleskine black sketchbooks, the 8×5 ones because I tend to prefer sketchbooks rather than loose leaf sketches. I am having serious issues trying to figure out what to do with them.

I’ve done a few things on the Moleskine paper now, mostly in coloured pencil, but some in gel pens and while I’m going to finish it out, it is unlikely that I will buy another. The pencils – while not shockingly expensive Luminances, are good soft pencils – but the white really struggles to stand out on the Moleskin black and the blue pencils just don’t feel right. I didn’t have this issue with the Derwent paper which I don’t hugely like because it’s on a gummed pad (and therefore is basically looseleaf) but it is easier to draw on.

The Moleskine sketchpads are not cheap. I have a handful of the watercolour ones which I would describe as being “mixed” in terms of how pleasant they are to paint on. It’s a pity they appear to be the default of their kind here. I think I have an A4 Fabriano black spiral bound pad floating around – I certainly picked up one and coveted it anyway – and if I am lucky, it will turn out to be better and I will switch in that direction.

The quest for knowledge

First up, I am going to recommend a book which I am in the process of reading called The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan and it is the history of civilisation and trade geographically from the Middle East rather than from Western Europe. It is absolutely fascinating. I bought the paperback the other day because to be frank, it is one of the rare text dense books which is worth having a hard copy of rather than loading up to your kindle. By the way I need new bookshelves.

With that said, one of my guilty pleasures lately has been reading below the line on Guardian articles regarding the impact of the UK vote to leave the European Union – I will not call this Brexit – I did not much like the term Brangelina either. The Guardian was broadly in favour of rejecting the referendum to leave and it has a bunch of columnists who are ready to write reams on the impact. So far, they have not yet found any benefits although below the line, there are plenty to say “we got more sovereignty”.

Before the vote, I questioned an online interlocutor based in the UK how he was able to convince himself that voting to leave the EU would gain him in democracy since the Head of State was a hereditary monarch and their second chamber was also unelected and part hereditary. Plus, they have that awful first past the post system which is designed for “stability” but means that they get sea changes rather than stable incremental changes. It was a start, he advised me, pitifully.

I’ve tried to understand his argument, particularly in the context of him favouring the so called Norway Solution where you have to comply with a bunch of EU legal instruments, pay into the EU and allow all four pillars of the single market, specifically freedom of movement of labour being the contentious one in the UK at the moment.

You could write reams on the unintended consequences of the UK referendum result – for me one of the fascinating one is that it has pre-empted a change in views across Europe with EU membership currently gaining in favour in countries like Finland where the True Finns party is now desperately trying to shore up support for a referendum in the face of a population which has looked at the UK, looked at their borders and gone, you know what…things could be a whole pile worse.

Within the UK, though, the comments pages of newspapers are a fascinating reflection of the different facets of British society. Even if you choose not do discuss the geographical differences, there are clear differences in understanding the issues. Because I have friends who work in the academic research sector, I happen to have somewhat more of an interest in the impact on research budgets so I tend to read pieces on that. There have been a few lately because grant proposals are being prepared for Horizon 2020 – a huge European research funding program – and uncertainty about the UK’s position in Europe over the next five years – is causing grant applicants grief. Do we apply with UK based researchers even though they might be out before we draw down funding or start the project? The answer is increasingly “wait and see”.

This was forecast pre vote. Like a lot of forecasts, it was written off as fear mongering.

I do not especially want to talk in detail about the impact on science funding, or the impact on jobs or what will or will not happen with immigration and points systems. These are all details. What has struck me most about reading below the line is the absolute certainty of people who cannot accept that voting in favour to leave the European Union has huge costs associated with it. From the ones who point out that the UK pays more into the EU than it gets back but who still can’t work out that if their economy takes a hit, the money won’t be there to finance the science that historically got money from European budgets – and getting funding from UK research budgets has become increasingly difficult.

This kind of certainty worries me sometimes. It is indicative of people who are far too willing to reject other people’s experience in favour of what they know to be true. Very often it is indicative of a closed mind. One of the biggest problems the Remain campaign had was that explaining reality was generally rejected. Even now, as things are starting to rise to the surface in an none too positive way, there is still a strong desire to reject reality in favour of what people know to be true when in fact, what they know to be true is a) untrue and b) based on some misinterpretation and or misunderstanding.

There is some evidence to suggest that there is a correlation between those who left school early and those who voted in favour of exit. One of the things which interested me – and stunned me – about the UK as I was growing up was that it was more or less common and socially acceptable to leave school at what was then O-level stage, or 16 for the most part. People doing A-levels seemed to be sort of special butterflies.

The UK has recently updated its legislation to make sure that young people stay in full time education or some sort of training until 18 now.

Online discussions become heated because a lot of people – particularly and often on the wrong side of a debate – refuse to take a step backwards and ask “could I possibly have gotten this wrong” whereas people on the right side of the debate frequently do, and frequently own their lack of knowledge, and they also demonstrate that they are willing to add to their knowledge.

I suppose this is where I am getting down to the crux of the matter. Where do people learn to step back and question their own knowledge, and where do people engage in certainty so certain that demonstrating to them that they are wrong has no impact?

It seems to me that people who have a greater knowledge are more open to a) adding to that knowledge and b) updating that knowledge than people who have a lesser knowledge. You see this in any debate online although a few generate a lot more heat than others.

If I had one question for the world today, it would be: how do we get people interested in learning more and recognising the limits of their knowledge (and then pushing them back) rather than hiding in their comfort zone of certainty.

It’s not a question of making information and sources available there – this is already done although sorting valid sources from invalid sources is increasingly hard – but it’s something in education and something in media. What is fascinating is that…it works for some people. And it doesn’t work for some people.

How do we get people on a quest for knowledge that changes attitudes and dogma in this way? In my opinion, if the UK is to respond effectively to its decision to leave the European Union, it needs to do this for its population as a whole because it otherwise will not develop the agility to respond to its new place in the world order.

In the meantime, The Silk Roads was number 2 in the UK non-fiction chart last week. That desire for knowledge does already exist. Harnessing it now…that’s the next question.

Hyperrealistic drawing

Or, photorealistic drawing.

I am not saying I fully aspire to it (currently I aspire to “vaguely accurate”) but I came across a discussion online (where all the best/worst discussions take place) in which the skill required to do a hyperrealistic pencil drawing in graphite or charcoal (I’m equally bad at both) was basically denigrated as not being art.

I love drawing. I love painting. While I was in London lately I bought more pencils to draw more dragons with, and more paints because they were good paints with a near 80% discount (always welcome). I remain completely impressed at people who can do the whole hyperrealistic thing because they clearly have very strong drawing and value skills.

I sometimes wonder if denigrating people who apply their skills in that way is based on envy more than anything else.