Whenever I am tempted to do something stupid I generally proceed to do it. I have just done so again, today. Not really something very, very stupid, or even very stupid, but still something stupid nonetheless. Then having done something stupid, despite having thought about it being stupid prior to doing it, and despite having told myself that it would be stupid to do it while there was still time to decide not to do it, I tell myself that it was stupid to have gone ahead and done it, and I ponder why I did it. The answer to that conundrum may possibly be that I am stupid. This sequence of events will doubtless happen again, in some stupid form or another. The simplest way to deal with it may be to conclude that it clearly demonstrates that the notion of free will is an illusion, for were I truly free I would clearly not choose to do something stupid in the full and prior knowledge that it would be a stupid thing to do... unless I am stupid. I hope to be more sensible tomorrow, trusting that past events are not necessarily a reliable indication of likely future events in similar situations, even though they generally have been through all the many years of serial stupidity leading up to now.


Abstractions and practicalities

I was lecturing about the hybridisation of electron orbitals, a rather abstract and technical concept, and the young woman - just 18 - was confused, asking, "but what is an orbital?" Shortly after I had tried to explain, and while she remained somewhat puzzled but was clearly drawing closer to understanding, she pulled her vibrating phone from her pocket, examined it, and said "sorry, I have to go to calf a cow." I did not quite pick up what she had said though, and did not understand, so I asked her to repeat. "To calf a cow," she repeated, adding, "my granny is alone on the farm and a cow has started calving and she doesn't know what to do." As she got up and rushed away I told her that I was impressed, which I was. Then I went back to talking about the hybridisation of electron orbitals around atomic nuclei. I hope to see a photo of the calf tomorrow, and will show her some images depicting electron orbitals in return.


Old stone in Edinburgh

The accidental learner

Students have a knack of always having an answer that turns the tables on you, even when they don't have the answer they actually need. I present in evidence of this generality the specific instance of the lad who had performed his calculations in a practical report all wrong today, but when I presented the meaningless disaster to him he wailed that he just did not understand how to do these things. And when I reminded him that I had lectured on how to do these things and that the explanation was also available on my online site he said, "but I just don't understand it." So, leaving him for a while, I went to retrieve a previous report of his, took it back to him, laid it out before him, jabbed my finger at the relevant place on the page and said, "Look, here, a few weeks ago, you did exactly the same sort of calculation completely correctly."

He looked. He pondered. He shook his head a little and then declared, "Well that must have been completely accidental."

I gave up.


In perspective

Each one of these has many thousands of millions of stars, yet occupies not even a pinprick in the wide sweep of our big sky, among endless other not-even-pinpricks, and yet we think we may be important? Well, either we are astonishingly important, that is, we are alone, or we are not even a speck of dirt in the universe's eye, which leaves me not knowing (whether to laugh or cry).

Not my photograph, I admit - a passing phantom just dropped it

Good words

They don’t just come when commanded,
they have to be born by themselves,
but when they come good they come easy,
as if created by somebody else.
The flow is dictated by rhythm,
the thought is dictated by mind,
and once here they are often discarded,
awaiting for someone to find.


Old young me

These are some of the chemistry researchers at the University of Cambridge Chemical Laboratory in 1978, and right in the middle there is old young me, second row from the back, fourth row from the front, and noticed now because this fuzzy close-up was cropped from a larger image I found high on a stairway wall during the process of returning to the Chemical Laboratory to be interviewed for a profile story about my life's adventure that will appear in the Cambridge Chemistry magazine very soon now - Winter 2016 issue - and with a much clearer photo, I am sure. Forgive this self indulgence, but the memories are making me feel rather odd, and the life has come and gone, mostly, although I have been told that the best may yet be to come. I am not sure if that faith was being expressed for my work as my real self, or as this alter-self that rambles here, or for all and everything in general, but I will keep trying, until I can try no more.

A song for Seanso

As sung boldly but badly out of tune by Don QuiScottie de l'Ecosse (sounding much like a cuckoo in the kookkaburra tree)

The Grim Reaper is The Grim Healer
He cuts your trouble from sight
with one swipe of his clean sharp scythe
And everything that ever mattered
and bothered
and troubled
and tortured you
will be gone...
with one swipe of his clean sharp scythe
And the sweet Healer will come
so do set today’s troubles aside
‘till the job of his healing is done
with one swipe of his clean sharp scythe
with one swipe of his clean sharp scythe.

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