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Wednesday, 14 January 2009

An Inspector Calls........(subtitled Seven Minutes To Midnight)

After contemplating, and reflecting, on my conversations with Wil, and having read a few lines of the synopsis of his book, I realize that without knowing it, my own work has taken on somewhat of a philosophical bent. Indeed, I share many of the attributes of the Great Philosophers - I am perpetually broke, I have a large number of physical accidents like stubbed toes and banged heads and I am always walking into doors (a sure sign that my mind is on higher things), and I do loads of writing. Some of my entries on the LFC fan sites have caused threads to go on for days.

With that in mind, I can announce that my latest work is to be called "Thing Thoughts or JUst Dunkin' Donuts? - A guide to Doing it Write (Thinking)". THe misssppelling of "Write" is entirely deliberate, and represents a pun, as there are not enough of them in Philosophy. Although not finished, I can reveal that my book contains great advice on how to think, and enters the Philosophical fray around the concept of categorization. IN my case, I have adopted a practical approach to this age old question and just written a few lists. For example, here is my list on Good versus Evil:

Good :
Carpenters/ Cats / Anyone called Brian / Nova Scotia /Internet/ Fleeces

Evil :
Plumbers / Most people called Phil/ Surveyors/ Architects / Business Lawyers / Cats / 401 Through Toronto / Leeds/ Cardigans / Buttons /Nova Scotia

At a glance, I think that the number of people who may get help from this list, and other similar lists in my book will be literally uncountable.

Other news in our house is good and bad. The Good news is that we had a massive day in Leeds on Monday, and bought our kitchen from IKea, in Leeds. It was a long day, and we cheerfully resolved NOT to behave like every other couple that you see wandering this store. Couples who have just arrived are cheerful, laughing, each holding a cappuchino, bright eyed and optimistic. One of the couple - the one most averse to shopping has vowed NOT to get impatient, but is under the impression that (lets face it) HE has agreed a strategy with his partner, a strategy designed to minimize shopping time. Knowing that the visit will be mercifully short, our victim adopts a positive attitude, safe in the knowledge that he'll be back at home in time for the 3.00pm kickoff. Laughing as they walk, holding hands and playfully swinging the odd scatter cushion at eachother, the expedition begins.

By 3.30pm the grins have been replaced by a Thousand Yard Stare on the part of the football fan, and a pinched determined expression on his partner's immaculately made-up face. The coffee has been replaced by bottled Swedish water as dehydration sets in, and she's wishing she'd worn flats, although in the current circumstances he is the last person in the world she would tell. The football fan is collapsing on chairs every time they stop (again) in the bedroom department, desperately texting friends to find out what the score is in the vital match, and the couple have argued over every minor grudge that has ever arisen in their relationship, from the behaviour of his family at Christmas to the ease of assembly of the Linnlangue (a top-of-the-range occasional table).

Reg Haired Boffin and self did not succumb to any of the above, but after setting off for Leeds at 10.00am, it was a very long day as we eventually unloaded back at Large Villas at 8.30pm. Cats were not amused.

Purchase of this kitchen would be all very well if we had somewhere to put it. Unfortunately for us, a personage representing the worst fears of builders everywhere had called some two days earlier.

"You'll have to do it again. Replace it all. And that.." he said pointing. He looked almost apologetic as he spoke.

The "it" you see, is the floor of our new extension. And the "that" is the roof of our new extension. Previously, yours truly had produced a floor in record time, working closely to the architect's specifications. At this juncture, it may be germane to the issue at hand to explain why we need an architect. After all, the design of the extension has been all our own work. Similarly, we have specified most of the technical details, including wall thickness and amount, and type, of insulation to be used, in order to achive the 'U-values' aspire to. 'U-values' are simply a measure of how insulating a wall is. However, translating these details into technical drawing requires expensive computer programmes, and there are some gaps in our knowledge, in that UK Building codes have undergone massive revision since we left this country. While familiar with the Canadian way of building (which can be summed up as "Build it as quickly as possible before Building Control see it"), the Englsih system requires periodic checks by the Building Inspector, probably because English houses are so complicated, and so heavy, that it is very easy to have a structural disaster on one's hands even if you are not trying to operate as a cowboy. Ergo, we employed an architect, an expert in specifying technical details who would translate our requirements into an acceptable form for Building Control.

In the case of a floor, the problem is an inch. The floor an ceiling of our extension, although constructed correctly have been made from 2" x 5" timbers. Local Building Control, it transpirse, began specifying 2" x 6" timbers some time in the last few years. The whole thing has to be redone. Readers of this blog may be aware that when I split open my water main with an errant brick some time ago, I laid claim to being culturally North American by my use of "oh My God, Oh My God, Oh My God", instead of the more European expletives I could have chosen. AFter the Building Inspector leaves I delve into a cultural connection I have always denied, possibly using every Anglo Saxon word available to me, including the perfectly harmless ones that just mean "Bread". So my beautiful thing (pictured below) has to be ripped up and started again. No small amount of work. Especially by Jan 31st with three exams, my taxes, two term papers and a bathroom to squeeze in as well.

We continue to be busy elsewhere. I am writing my final book review of the first semester. A helpful hint to anyone thinking of writing a book review for University is that you should choose a book with the longest title you can find. Therefore, if selecting from a series of anthropological texts, for example, do not choose a book such as "Amazonia: A Study". Instead, go for "Paradigms and Transference: A Social, Cultural, Evolutionary View Of Modern Gifting, Reciprocity and Sharing in The THousand Islands of MIcronesia". It is even better if the title then goes on to list the THousand Islands, because in a book review of two thousand words, every unnecessary word you can legitimately add to the paper reduces the amount of thinking you have to do.

I also did some freelance work recently, installing the stage for the Annual Conference of a large department store chain. Having attended several of these events before, I had always assumed that the nonsense spouted by CEO's was just made up on the spot, fuelled by a couple of stiff drinks before their speech, but on this occasion, I am forced to watch the rehearsal, and discover to my surprise that this particular CEO, at least, is rehearsing the speech. This means that they actually have to think about what they are saying at these corporate events. Even more astonishingly, having rehearsed the speech, and therefore presumably had a chance to review the verbiage they emit, it appears that they go ahead and deliver it anyway. Totally without irony, the CEO, who is remunerated millions of pounds per year, says that she expects her store clerks ( these days called 'Partners') who are paid in the range of twelve to fifteen thousand pounds per year, to be as excited about the "brand" as she is, because if they are, sales will increase. All she is asking for is a one percent increase, and this she reminds them, is how they get their bonus.

The mechanism for increasing sales this year is by pushing the company's eco-policy. The strategy is simple. Purchasers are encouraged to support the environment by buying more and more and more dirt-cheap throwaway goods (made in a sweat shop in India) thus fuelling massive growth. If they do this, the company will give the shopper an eco-friendly shopping bag, and air miles so that they can go and visit the former rainforest in India that has now been given over to growing cotton which supplies the sweat shops. Continued growth, it appears, is the only solution. To everything.

The CEO hesitates for a minute, and pauses, confiding in an aide that she is not sure what demeanour to adopt when delivering the next bit. The "next bit" is eventually delivered seriously, but not too seriously. It transpirse that due to the credit crunch, the described growth of the company is vital, and if this eco-fuelled massive growth does not continue then everyone will be out of a job. The way the British economy is going, the sweat shop looms large in everyone's thoughts.


Bill Hall said...

Hey up! I'm a Business Lawyer who wears cardigans - but with Velcro not buttons, thank goodness. What's going on?

MJN said...

Under the terms of definitions of "Think thoughts or just Dunkin Donuts", you would have been described (by me) as a 'Legal Eagle' and therefore exempt from categorization, therefore like most of us, you would be neither good nor evil, but the category that lies inbetween. This category is known as "persuadable".
As for cardigans - you are not alone - in common with RHB, Will, Sal and just about everyone I know, you admit to donning the garb. All I can say to all of you is dont blame me when civilization ends tragically in a cloud of radio active dust on account of a cardigan related accident.

Bill Hall said...

I'm sorry, but I have not fallen in to the trap of allying myself with the philosophical murmurings of the Large clan and their various dependents.

There's nowt up with a bit of common sense. Was it not Neitzsche who had it " In the Land of Cardigans he of the advancing fingers is King"?

MJN said...

In the words of the genius, Mr Howard, "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me". Not really relevant, but a favourite quote, none the less.
I should explain - I have a phobia - fear of b***ons. It is usually a companiable little quirk, but sometimes it causes problems. A velcroed cardigan is, in my silly world, a sensible and practical garment. A b***oned one is an object of fear. Hence, my dislike for the apparel. Similarly, shirts, suits - anything fastenable really that utilizes devices other than zips, velcro, toggles, elastic, or, in the case of corsets, long pieces of string.

Court appearances are therefore difficult for me - I have the choice of either appearing in my Liverpool shirt (a certain route to the slammer) or in a wetsuit ( a certain route to the nuthouse).

I admire your choice of quotation, and I agree plain old common sense is not to be undervalued. As Marx said "There's nowt a muckel makes a mickel".